Leaving Atascadero, CA, we headed east on US 46, a windy road through the orchards, vineyards, and horse ranches of the area and hooked up with I-5 towards San Francisco. From Fresno on, you could really see the effect of the drought on this agricultural area. Instead of green grass , everything that wasn’t irrigated was brown and dead looking. There is a lot of pasture land in that area but there is nothing for cattle to graze on this Spring. Kind of scary to see in person.
We reached the Sacramento Delta area after a couple of hours and headed for a Coast to Coast park near Isleton, CA. The park is located on the Mokelumne River near the confluence of the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River. It is interesting territory but looks very different from the coastal areas we have been in lately. The soil is very rich and they grow lots of hay, more vineyards, and sod farms. The roads in the area are mostly levee roads, which are elevated, narrow, and twisty. When we finally reached our destination, we discovered since we had been there last they had raised the road 3 feet and the downhill driveway to the park was quite steep. It was a bit scary going down into the park and all I could think of was, OMG we have to go back UP that when we leave. Yikes.
Because we were on the River, Ed inflated his boat and was able to get out fishing on several occasions. No catching, but lots of fishing. We explored the area a little and one day drove into the little town of Rio Vista and had dinner at a small place called Fosters Bighorn. The food was good, but the main attraction was the hundreds of trophy mounts from all over the world on every square foot of wall space. Almost all of the mounts were caught by one guy (the previous owner) back in the 1930s,40s, and 50s. All kinds of exotic animals too, including most of a giraffe and the head of an elephant, plus every other animal, fish, sea creature you could think of. The place was really like a museum with framed narratives and photos from the guy who shot them. Kind of cool, in a creepy kind of way, especially when you felt like hundreds of eyes were watching down on you as you ate. We splurged and ordered homemade blackberry cobbler with ice cream for dessert and did not regret it. Yum.
We were there Easter Sunday and drove into Lodi to a Methodist Church to celebrate. It was a nice service and the church was full, which is encouraging. So many of the Methodist churches we visit are lacking in attendance. Lots of vineyards and orchards in this area and it was a pretty ride into town. We were suppose to leave on Monday as we had reservations at Lake Tahoe which was only about 150 miles to the east. But two things happened to thwart our plans. First, the weatherman was predicting a big storm with lots of rain for the area we were in and a big snow event for the Sierra Nevadas (Lake Tahoe area). Second, I got sick for the first time on this trip with some sort of flu/cold thing and was feeling pretty miserable. We decided to drive to the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas while the weather was still good and then hang tight until the storm moved past and the roads would be clear.
So we drove about 60 miles east to Placerville, CA and stayed 3 nights at a very nice Elks Lodge where there was full hook-ups and level sites. Turned out to be a good decision on our part as the storm dumped about a foot of snow in Tahoe and they had chain restrictions on the roads into the mountains and it rained hard all day on Tuesday. A first for us in many months but we were happy to see it as California is in a severe drought and need all the moisture they can get. I layed low for a couple of days until I felt better and fortunately we weren’t going anywhere so it didn’t matter.. Ed ended up getting it too, but as usual, he was only sick for a day or two. We are both still coughing and stuffy, but are feeling much better.
We really enjoyed the Placerville area and probably wouldn’t have ever stopped to explore the area if we hadn’t had to hole up there. The area is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range so it was hilly and populated with lots of fruit and nut orchards as well as vineyards. Beautiful territory and apparently popular for its fresh, organic produce. It is also known because it is the home town of Levi Strauss, John Studebaker, Thomas Kinkade, and Spider Sabich (if you are under 50 you probably don’t know who that is so Google him). It was established in 1850 right after gold was discovered on a nearby branch of the American River that started the California Gold Rush of 1849. There is a state park on the site now and we drove there one day and walked around where the old mill was at Sutter’s Creek. We had no idea this is where it all started and it was fun to be at this historical site.
We’re nervous about heading up in the mountains as we have heard the descent into South Lake Tahoe is steep and you know we don’t like those downhills. But we are looking forward to seeing Lake Tahoe so we’ll cross our fingers and keep our foot off the brake as much as we can. Wish us luck.