Saturday, March 31, 2007

3/26 - 4/1/07 An Introduction to 1000 Trails

Rancho Oso is a 1000 Trails membership camp in the mountains north of Santa Barbara and just east of Lake Cachuma. Wow. It was way back in the mountains, on a one-way road with giant mirrors installed on very tight curves. Again, Mary Ann drove from Orange County to the camp. Leaving downtown Santa Barbara for the mountain pass to get into the inland valley, we climbed into the clouds. It was almost a zero-zero fog. You could see about 40-50 feet ahead of us, and hardly nothing to the sides, nor up. Mary Ann was very tense. As we climbed into the pass, the road curved this way and that. Occasionally, we’d go through four-way intersections that you hardly saw, except that the centerline disappeared for the distance across the intersection. Did I say Mary Ann was tense? Well, to ease her mind, I gave her a ‘quick’ civil engineering lesson on roadway and intersection design – the bottom line: just hold the wheel steady when the centerline disappears and it will [probably] reappear next to you in a few seconds. Hmmm. She seemed tense – did I say that?

As we got to the top of the pass, we were still in the clouds. No, we were not “walking on clouds.” After all, how could you do that when Mary Ann was so tense – oh, did I say she was tense. Well, a few moments later, as we started down the far side of the pass, Dave pointed out the window (to the side of the coach!) that he could see the sky!! And, if you looked over the edge of the road, well, there was nothing to see but more clouds and a bit of sky – below us. We had driven onto a very long bridge, hundreds of feet in the air, near Cold Springs Tavern, an old stagecoach stop with great food and cold beer. You might say Dave’s remark must have made Mary Ann a bit tense. Well, even more tense. I thought we were going to again have a sweating problem, but unlike in Julian, this one was going to be human in nature.

On the far side of the bridge, the clouds dissolved and bright sunlight, blue skies, and rolling hills were our reward for the long drive. The road in was also a slow drive with Mary Ann wondering if we were going to drag the tow car into the side of the mountain on each turn. It made her tense. Did I tell you she was a little tense already? Finally we pulled up to the gate at Rancho Oso.

The camp had such a sense of “home” and security, and many, many wonderful, friendly people. This was our first jaunt using our recently purchased (on Ebay) membership-only RV parks. It was, and has been, a terrific investment. And, for the first of what reportedly has been many times since, some of our RV neighbors applauded when they realized Mary Ann was the driver. Very, very few of the wives drive, or even try. Feeling a little tense (now I know I might have mentioned that before), she let me park the coach while she unwound.

One of the reasons to do shakedown trips before the full-time portion of the Malkoff Grand Adventure, is that you always learn something new. Like, laying a 10-foot patch of rubber in the street at home, as we pulled away the first time using the new tow bar and pulling the Chevy Malibu Maxx, our toad (also called a dinghy). The morning we left home for Rancho Oso, I was so concentrating on doing all the hookups of arms, power cables, safety lines, and installing the Brake Buddy (a mechanical, inertia-activated braking system for the toad) that I forgot one small detail – putting the car’s transmission in neutral. When you weigh 31,000 pounds (yes folks, that is not too many zero’s), it is nothing to drag (rolling or not!) a 3200 pound little car – screaming for those ten long feet. Hmmm…another lesson learned. And the naming (personalized plates) we did seemed ever so apt: the coach is WLD REYD [Wild Ride], and the tow car is MR TOWDS [Mr. Toad’s]… so, as you (undoubtedly) pass us on the highway, you read the toad’s plate and then the coach’s as Mr. Towd’s Wild Ride. Yup!

The camp was a lot of fun, with all-you-can-eat breakfasts (which only Dave managed to wake up for in time), a horse training lesson (the lady must be the original horse whisperer – she was marvelous in the bareback handling and riding of her horse), and a demonstration of dogs herding cattle and sheep… and Sarah got in the corral for a turn as well. No, when you look at the photos, she’s herding the sheep and talking to the dog, not the dog...well, you get the picture.

We loved having a tow car. It allowed Mary Ann and I to go off and celebrate our 20th anniversary in a hotel on the water in Santa Barbara. We all took a day trip to the beach (four people and one very happy, and later very wet, dog) and on to Kathleen and Tim’s place for a visit. Having the second vehicle means you get to set up the coach, the plumbing/piping/power cords, once, and not touch them until you leave for the next destination – and can use the car to explore the neighboring towns, parks, museums, beaches, and so on. And it allowed us to watch the sun set from an old castle high on the ridge above the valley.

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