Missisippicalifornia - 1

June 7th through June 11th 2013

In early February, Sportsmobile forum members Marc & Christine (alias Twogone on the site) were in the midst of planning a trip from their home base of Taylor Mississippi to sunny California. If youíve ever lurked on the forum you may have seen some of the videos Christine has put together featuring a few escapades of their travels throughout the US. IMO they are TV worthy and all my friends and coworkers look forward to her next Hollywood handiwork. I was sure the west coast trip video would be another hit. The trip was looking to be a route through several mid and southern states ending somewhere along Californiaís lower coastal region that Marc dubbed ďThe Six Week Great West Tour???. In scheduling such a long road trip, there would be plenty of America to delve into. One of the highlights of their trip would be a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Even though the Grand Canyon alone would fill much of an adventurerís plate, most folks would also want to get in the most of what the lower 48ís southwestern states had to offer. I know that I would.

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Reaching out to forum members, Marc posted their tentative stops while also asking for any advice on some of the unique areas to visit on the journey westward. As usual there were numerous suggestions from the group including a few spots out west that Iíd visited in the past. Of course with Yosemite being a common destination for those visiting California, I wondered if it was on their itinerary. I got the word that neither of them had been to the park and it sounded to me like they both showed some interest in seeing Californiaís little gem.

Yosemite

A few weeks later, Marc E-mailed me stating that Yosemite was now on their list and asked if I wanted to join them for a couple of days in or around the park. He also said they both wanted to meet an acquaintance from the bay area whom they had developed a friendship with over the last year. Suzann was the fiancťe of one of our forum members who unfortunately had passed away due to a fast oncoming illness in 2012. Jamie, known as Ultrasport12 on the Sportsmobile forum was one of the Administrators and is missed by all the members who knew him. Marc and Christine kept in contact with Suzann during his Illness and got to know her quite well. Although I had never met Jamie or Suzann in person, I was more than willing to meet her and I thought Yosemite would be the perfect spot to do so.

Although the park is somewhat of a tourist trap, it is one of Americaís prime destinations. With the thought of some backcountry travel thrown in, I assumed Marc & Christine would appreciate at least one or two nights away from the crowds. My suggestion was doing the highway 108 loop to Yosemite. Also known as Sonora Pass, highway 108 is one of Californiaís most beautiful drives and offers much better camping opportunities compared to Tioga Pass which runs through the park. If all went good I could meet M&C up on Sonora Pass for the first couple of nights and then move toward Yosemite within the next day or two and meet up with Suzann. After making camp somewhere around or within Yosemite, we could all spend the next few days exploring the park together, and take in what the lower section of the park had to offer. After that, Marc and Christine could leave out Tioga Pass to see the upper portion of the park on their way out to highway 395 and the LA area. I sent the maps and suggestions to Marc before they had left.

Engine issues

Well things never quite work out the way you want, and during M&Cís trip out west they ended up having engine problems. Not only were they having trouble, I was hit by multiple issues prior to them making their west coast trip. The complications I had turned into what I called the 10,000 dollar tribulations of 2013. My 6.0ís wiring harness failed, my brakes rotors were toast, and the lousy air conditioner compressor flew apart. As an added precaution on resolving my electrical issues, the fuel injection control module needed to be replaced. It was a pricey scramble to get things in order to make rendezvous to say the least. Marcís issue was an engine fan intermittently sticking which would plague them through their entire trip. At least I was dealing with the trouble at home. There is nothing worse than being far from home with engine problems. As Marc and Christine left the Grand Canyon all was looking good but that wouldnít last long. Marc phoned and said it was California or bustÖif his fan failed heíd deal with it. I was told every time he was close to a dealership the fan would operate correctly. Myself I was still going through a myriad of problems, most of which I hoped to be resolved as they approached. No matter what, I was gonna meet up with M&C even if it was in a pickup and sleeping in a tent. You just have to try to make sure inconveniences donít ruin the ambiance of the trip.

There were a couple more problems that could change the trip. Even though they were ahead of schedule, their fan did continue to give them problems. Being that Sonora Pass has a 26% grade and because they were driving into one of the summers warmest heat waves, I was concerned whether or not highway 108 was a good idea. To make things worse, all the campgrounds on Tioga inside the Park had not opened for the season except Tamarack which had been loaned out to a individual group. Only one campground open other than those in the valley and the park service let a private group have it? What dumbass park manager approved that?

A day later Marc called me at work claiming they were in Yosemite desperately trying to find a campsite. I told him the bad news about all the campgrounds being closed in the upper portions of the park and they should look closely at Saddlebag Lake. He explained it was closed due to snow and then said ďweíre in something called the valley???. Yosemite Valley? Talk about ahead of schedule! Apparently they had found something up on top of the pass the night before but it wasnít what they wanted. He said they were so close to the neighbors RV they had problems opening the side doors and definitely didnít want to end up in a similar situation again. In Yosemite Valley during this time of year, if youíre without reservations the only hope is a cancelation and thatís rare. The sites arenít as bad as what they had endured the night before, but itís still a zoo. Myself I hate the valley during the busy season. All I could do was to send them to one of my better boon dock spots close to the Yosemite.

I gave Marc some options, one being a really nice boon dock spot just outside the park that I had been to just a few months  prior with another forum regular cellularSTEVE. I could only hope they would find it. Once they left the valley, cell service is spotty so Iíd probably never know if they made it or not. Hopefully they would be able to spend a few days by themselves exploring the area and enjoying my private spot by in seclusion. I told Marc that I hoped it was up to their standards and that Iíd try to make it by the weekend or earlier if possible. My schedule hinged on the vehicle repairs.

As mentioned, California was going through a heat wave. It would be a hot spell with 105+ temperatures but the repairs would never happen on time. Word came in that it would be a few days and I feared the meet was going down in flames.

Friday 6/7/13

In a desperate move I decided to take the pickup to do my initial meet with Marc and Christine. Hum, maybe I could make the first meet a memorable one. DevilOK, call it a dirty trick, but I decided to grab my California Fish and Game hat, an official looking shirt and an old west badge that said CALIFORNIA RANGER on it. Pulling into camp (yes they found the boon dock spot) I saw a Sportsmobile down in the draw. My vehicle is white and I figured Marc didnít know fish and game vehicles are green, so as I pulled up I hoped Iíd be able to pull this off. In my best Ranger Rick voice I said ďExcuse me, are you folks camping here???? Marc asked if I was Dave B. I again said ďExcuse me? Youíre not camping here are you???? Marcís eyes were looking at the hat then dropped to the badge. There was a definite ďOh??? followed by ďnow this buddy told us itís OK to be campin here???. The look on Christineís face went from a big smile to something like an OMG look.Surprised smile I tried to go further but was shaking so hard wanting to laugh I just had to let go. Marc yelled ďYou are Dave B!??? He had seen me in a few pictures on this site but I donít usually show myself much and the costume did the trick. Itís something Iíll remember for the rest of my life. For the next 4 hours we sat shootin the bull and Iíll admit it was about the fastest 4 hour of my life. Of course I got the full tour of their vehicleÖitís what all SMB owners do.

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                                       (Christine showing off the van)

I hated to leave but my van was supposed to be ready later that day and I wanted to get back up there.

Back home I sent Suzann a detailed map showing the meeting location. She had planned to attempt to meet up on Saturday but I advised that Priest Grade may be an issue during the heat wave. Although nothing like highway 108ís 26% grade, Priest Grade was being hammered with temps reaching 106 to 109 degrees during mid-day and itís a fairly long and steady climb. Itís one of those sections of highway where you always see somebody pulled off to the side with the hood up. Being there was no way she could make Priest Grade by early afternoon Saturday, Suzann planned to leave out early Sunday instead. Later that night I got the news my rig would be ready by mid morning. Happy daysÖthings were finally coming together!

Saturday 6/8/13

Saturday I left out of the town late morning way behind schedule. I was also worried about highway 132 and its steep grades but what a perfect chance to test the air conditioner. My vehicle reached the highest water temps Iíve ever seen at almost 250 degrees. At least if I were to have problems I was within towing distance of home. I did make it though, and it was nice to break out into pine trees where the outside temps dropped to a balmy 95 degrees.

Pulling into camp was nice. Asking how their days had been, I was informed that Marc had an incident with a rattlesnake down by the river but overall they were both highly pleased with the site.

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                                         (Damn, I almost got bit)

There was also a mention of bigfoot and some evidence of something big moving throughout the area. Nope, just Buffalo chips and Buffalo that go Moo.

After setting up my camping spot, I got to show off my rig because… itís what all SMB owners do! I guess the weather is nothing like back east with those high humidityís cause M&C thought it was nice out. It was one of those nights where I didnít even think a fire would be enjoyable at all, but chats around an unlit campfire were welcome. I had eaten prior to coming up, but that evening Christine and Marc slapped some stuff on the stove that peaked my interestÖ buffalo! Hum??? It had been a while since Iíd had it and it sure was good but I wondered if we had some rustler’s near by.

 

 

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As the sun set, here came the damn mosquitoes. Not bothering me much, Marc claimed he was a magnet to em. With water nearby, itís the nature of the beast. We all crashed a bit early with me draggin out my fantastic fan. That thing is worth its weight in gold and I donít think I could have slept without it. Not only did it keep the mosquitoes at bay, it was in the mid 70ís outside. To me thatís way too hot to sleep without a breeze. I even like the sound the fan makes, and speaking of which, I made sure that I had parked far enough away so they didnít hear the fan or the bear growlin in my vanÖI hoped. That sucker is one big dude Iíve been told!

Sunday 6/9/13

Sunday morning the temps were nice and just right for a cup a Joe. Although tea is my choice of morning rituals at home, making espresso is one of my favorite routines while camping.

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Thankfully the forecast was for much cooler temps but ďseeing is believing??? and what the rest of the day would bring was questionable. Marc said they needed ice and I told them about a store located not far down the road. Unable to find what they required there, they drove to Groveland, 25+ miles down the hill. Groveland is a fairly large community with several businesses including a typical supermarket.

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I was happy to kick back in camp just in case Suzann showed up while they were gone but it didnít take long for them to get back. Besides ice, Christine brought some really good microbrews that were welcome in the unusually warm weather. Mug

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Suzann came pulling in early afternoon and it was a good meet up as anticipated.

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Again the van tours began becauseÖwell you know. As usual the talk alone made time fly.

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We all sat around camp that day sipping drinks or adult beverages, and eating fantastic finger food.

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In the evening they all made up a dinner that was to die for.

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I made up some Kabobs using Linguica, something Marc had never had and he claimed to enjoy it. Maybe I should have brought the extra hot stuff.

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Iím not used to eating so well while out on the trail much less at home.

Nightfall was much cooler and having a fire certainly rounded out the evening, but for me the drop in temperature made for more palatable sleeping. It was much easier to catch forty winks than the night before. Time for sawing logs!

Monday 6/10/13

In the morning the same coffee ritual whet into effect with some Baileyís to boost things up a bit. Like dinner, the breakfast they served up was way above the level Iím used to having out in the field. Suzann asked if anybody wanted toast and although I have a stovetop toaster she brought the real thing; a home style electric toaster. Life can be good.

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This was our day to do a little sightseeing. Marc and Christine had looked over the much of the park the day they arrived, so a trip to something they hadnít checked out seemed in order. A drive to Glacier Point would probably work and supplies a unique view of Yosemite Valley and surrounding area. Rather than all of us taking our vehicles, Marc suggested we all pile into mine. Besides I could be the Docent.

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Christine doesnít do good riding in the back so she claimed the passenger seat while  Suzann and Marc grabbed the bench seat.

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Iím glad it went down that way because the conversations were enjoyable with us all packed into one van.

There were a couple of stops along the way. Our first was a spot that supplies a good view of Half Dome and El Capitan.

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Alas, Half Dome which makes this background so famous was enveloped in cloud cover. Next we stopped by Cascade Falls and even though there wasnít much water running itís a nice vista point.

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There was this bum trying to hitch a ride by the side of the road.

 

 

 

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I donít know what he was saying but the gals were laughing at him.

Smile

 

 

 

We decided to pass up Bridalveil Fall even though it was quite active. If we had time maybe we could check it out on the way back to camp. Nevada and Vernal Falls were also out of the question due to time restraints but are visible from Glacier Point. Suzann and Christine wanted to do a hike and after seeing Glacier Point, and there are several in the local area.

On the way up we stopped at Washburn Point.

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This pull out is a very scenic vista point that offers some classic views similar to Glacier Point. The weather was stormy, with strong winds and flashes of lightning.

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The temperature was in the upper 50ís to low 60ís and although it seemed nice to me and Suzann, Marc and Christine didnít appreciate the cooler weather.

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The view of the Falls were quite spectacular.

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                                                 (Nevada Fall)

Damn, I was enjoying Mother Natureís air conditioning but our southern couple ran for cover and scrambled to the van. Time to go I guess.

Glacier Point was the next stop and at least the air currents coming up out of Yosemite Valley made for a milder climate zone. At least nobody needed a heavy Jacket.

 DSCN0326-j We all had a good time out there. The point is a much larger area the Washburn and there was plenty to explore.

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As the Merced River meanders down from the higher range of the crest of the Sierraís, it flows through Little Yosemite Valley above Nevada Fall which is the upper fall shown on the right. Next the Merced plummets over Vernal Fall as shown in this image and then finally cascades down the canyon to the floor of Yosemite Valley. This is what make Glacier Point so spectacular but there is much more to see.

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The vistaís looking down into the valley are perhaps the most rewarding. This is where the park service had done the the Firefall from. There is an old TV video telling about it and Glacier Point done by Huell Howser. Itís something I grew up with and miss dearly.

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It does give you a sense of height looking down. Also views of Yosemite Falls are quite rewarding.

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                                   (Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Valley)

Both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls generally loose their flow early on depending on the winter snows. This year was a dry one and regrettably the falls were showing it.

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I had an incident at work that didnít actually prep me for this trip. I fell out of an aerial lift bucket truck to the ground and contacted the bed of the truck with my knees on the way down. It kinda jacked me up. I didnít want to be a let-down, but walking around Glacier Point was killing me. If they wanted to do a hike, I wasnít even considering it. I was happy to get back to the parking lot and climb into the van.

As we headed out, the gals said they did want to do a hike so I suggested Sentinel Dome which wasnít far from GP. Itís a nice little 2 mile or so trek and leads to one of the best vistas in the Park. I was happy to bow out on this one. But hey, it did give them a chance to be with each other without me being around and it did give me a chance to catch up on the Forum. Yup, I had internet access.

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I canít wait to see Christineís video. They said that a large amount of low level cloud cover moved in as fog. Maybe I should have tried the walk. The cloud cover even made to the parking area and I wondered if they were all freezing. After the clan got back we headed down the hill and back to camp.

We did swing through the Wawona tunnel pullout back on the way down.

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This is another classic photographic spot in Yosemite. It gives you a great view of El Capitan on the left, and the Three Brothers on the right with Bridalveil Fall below.

Slightly pushed for time we really didnít have a chance to do much exploring but we did stop by a few of the iconic stops to shoot some pictures. 

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Not the best view of Yosemite Falls but I didnít want to fight the crowds. Looping back out of the valley there was only enough time to make one more stop.

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Time to head back but I did look forward to our last night around the fire.

We pulled in kind of late. For me, well I had to set up camp again but it only took a few minutes. It is an disadvantage of a Sportsmobile but raising the top is a snap unlike dealing with a tent or trailer. It was a repeat of the night before except much cooler around the fire. The meal was great as usual and we all had a good time. As the night waned, I realized  the trip was quickly coming to an end.

Tuesday 6/11/13

In the morning we had out last hurrah. Again we had a great breakfast to start out with some of the sausage we had for dinner the night before and some eggs and what not. Everything really hit the spot.

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They finally cut up a watermelon I brought which was refreshing.

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Although I usually rely on paper plates, there are times when garbage can stack up and standard plates are best to break out for use. Alan Feld, the owner of Sportsmobile West had given me a set of bamboo plates they plan to sell on their web site store to field test. I figured Marc and Christine would be more incline to use em, so I gave them the set to test. Maybe they will do a little review video. Sometimes vivid colors help make the food look better but generally out in the sticks I donít worry too much about that. Besides the way everybody was cooking, I could have eaten off cardboard and been happy.

I thought the method M&Cís used to wash dishes was quite unique though.

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The pump up spray bottle Christine has in her hand here really does help to conserve water and is quite handyÖgotta get me one of them! Hell, it would double as a cooler on those hotter days.

Time to pack up.

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We had looked at the maps to figure out the best route for Marc and Christine to take toward Southern California. Each path down there had its pros and cons but in the end Marc took the most direct route which was highway 41 toward Fresno and 99 through the central valley. On the way down they had the option of looking over Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Both Suzann and I were on our way home but I was setting up for a trip with my buddy Don where we might have the possibility of catching Marc and Christine in the Sequoia area. Sadly that would never happen.

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After we all said our goodbyeís, it was time to hit the trail.

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This area is truly beautiful and as we drove down the trail I had hoped everybody had as good of a time as I did. Kinda sad to see everybody drive off.

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As soon as I hit the highway I flipped on the A/C. Hot air, it was out again.

Wonderful!

Summary

This was a fantastic trip but I wished my vehicle didnít have complications so we could have had more time together showing them the Sierraís. I really wanted Marc and Christine to drive the highway 108 route because itís about one of the most scenic drives in California. Camping at Leavitt would have been a real treat. At least they were able to see Yosemiteís high country, Yosemite Valley, and our little drive to Glacier Point with Suzann was very enjoyable. I was happy everybody appreciated the backcountry camp. As it would happen, I was never able to make it back in time to see them in the sequoia area.

Maybe one of these days we will all meet up again. This trip will be one Iíll never forget. Like I said, Iím looking forward to seeing their video. Iíll post links to them as they are posted.

Here is the link to their video of the tour out west. The video is long being about 40 minutes so prepare for a long download but as usual itís well worth the wait.

http://vimeo.com/79245294

The two links below are of their rafting trip down the Colorado.

http://vimeo.com/70297222

As a little side action, one of Marcís group posted this GoPro video. Marc wrote:

One of the new clients was the girlfriend/fiancťe of Ian, a police officer from Yorkshire, England (and a really fun/jovial ol’ bobby) who had traveled with us to this point. He is wearing the Herocam.
This happens within a couple hours of all the new people getting on. Ian’s girlfriend had no prior rafting experience. Everybody lived.

Here are some of their past videos; check them out, theyíre great.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GE9JOnt8x8E#  

http://vimeo.com/54725858 Goin to Thanksgiving up north

http://vimeo.com/56212678 Taylor parade.

http://vimeo.com/51941125 Car show.

http://vimeo.com/34372382 New England Vacation.

http://vimeo.com/48038349 Goin to New York

http://vimeo.com/42044972 Bad alternator.

http://vimeo.com/41798076 Trip to St Louis, Texas, and friends from Colorado

 

Hope you enjoyed the post and maybe Iíll see ya on the trail.

Dave Boyer.

AutoRamblings.com/Sportsmobile 4×4 Adventures

 

 

Update

Unfortunately in August 2013, the Rim Fire which grew to become one of the largest wild fires in the stateís history completely engulfed the region we stayed at. I doubt much is left of my little camp much less the surrounding area. The fire was so intense that Iím sure it will never be the same in my lifetime. There are times where some of the larger trees are saved and I can only hope some were spared. I will post some pictures of the area if itís not closed off for good.