California Part 2: Central Coast and closing in on San Diego!

Getting out of the San Francisco area was no small (or cheap) task. Chelsea routed us through what she thought would be the most direct route, forgetting that the bridges were tolled and we had an extra axel (which more than doubled the tolls). Her route, however, did take us over the famous Golden Gate, and the view was worth it.

After we exited San Francisco we plunged back into fantastic California coast scenery, again taking many chances to stop and wander. We tracked down one of Chelsea's favorite campsites from her trip up the coast years ago, and it was just as magical this time around. Butano State Park, if anyone is interested. 

Surprisingly light California traffic.

Surprisingly light California traffic.

Golden Gates.

Golden Gates.

Butano State Park.

Butano State Park.

More outstanding California surf.

More outstanding California surf.

A few spots were ludicrously beautiful.

A few spots were ludicrously beautiful.

After staying in Butano, and paying the hefty $35 fee (it honestly feels like a fine for enjoying nature) we were very motivated to camp for free for a night. Unfortunately, much of the surrounding National Forest was burnt and the roads were closed to anything but moving thru-traffic. We found a nice parking spot and made dinner, and were even visited by some fantastic travelers who couldn't help but stop and gander at our rig.

We made dinner, walked Loulou, and basked in the waning light of a beautiful sunset, until a county official drove by and told us to move on or risk a fine. Alas, stealth camping doesn't always work! We found a pull-off down the road and gave camping another try, and thankfully weren't bothered through the night.

Getting ready for the sunset show.

Getting ready for the sunset show.

We've been trying to adapt Loulou to a harness. It hasn't worked.

We've been trying to adapt Loulou to a harness. It hasn't worked.

A nice spot to park and make dinner, but we were run off by the officials. Dang!

A nice spot to park and make dinner, but we were run off by the officials. Dang!

I was in awe all evening. The Sunset was truly magical.

I was in awe all evening. The Sunset was truly magical.

Waves, sunset, and the highway.

Waves, sunset, and the highway.

Little Foot posing.

Little Foot posing.

Just the best spot to make dinner.

Just the best spot to make dinner.

More sunset. More Little Foot.

More sunset. More Little Foot.

Just before we were ran off, Chelsea got out her tripod to start shooting some night photos. Quite nice!

Just before we were ran off, Chelsea got out her tripod to start shooting some night photos. Quite nice!

The next day we were running low on oil, and our pre-occupation regarding finding more 20w50 led us to forget about our fuel level! We ran Little Foot dry, and had a rough time getting him started again. Luckily, we were on our way to see a Pinzgauer Mechanic, and he took our calls and talked us through restarting our rig. In doing so, however, I drained our truck batteries, so I had to swap in our house batteries and re-rig all our wiring. I took us over two hours to get Little Foot running, but run he did! The problem lay in priming the carburetors after they ran dry. It required removing the air box, and capping the top of each carb individually to allow the suction to draw fuel. Now we know for next time!

After that we made it to Morrow Bay and rolled into an RV resort. we were beat, and we didn't mind paying for camping because it allowed us to shut our brains off. We cleaned, plugged into the grid to charge our batteries, did some laundry, and watched shows on Netflix/HULU. Sometimes you need some TV, even on the road.

Let the wrenching begin. God gave us a nice place to roll to a stop, though. Safe, secluded, and quiet.

Let the wrenching begin. God gave us a nice place to roll to a stop, though. Safe, secluded, and quiet.

Batteries out, swapped, air box off, diagnostics happening. Finally he roared to life!

Batteries out, swapped, air box off, diagnostics happening. Finally he roared to life!

Morrow Bay, a nice RV resort!

Morrow Bay, a nice RV resort!

Between San Francisco and San Bernardino, we happened to stop at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church for a bible study and a Sunday morning service, which was excellent. They are a remarkably welcoming congregation, and their church is beautiful. After the service, we found a note on our windshield, asking us to come a visit a gentleman who found Little Foot quite interesting. He too is a collector of the best kinds of vehicles, and was happy to show off his collection of International harvester Scouts, Travelletes, and old army trucks. Very cool!

Me drooling at the IH trucks.

Me drooling at the IH trucks.

Outside San Bernadino we camped and waited on our mechanic, Mr. Jim Laguardia of Goatwerks Garage, to have some free time to inspect Little Foot. The local Walmarts don't allow overnight parking, so we camped up a ragged dirt road, that really and truly stretched the limit of "dirt". There wasn't a speck of dirt, but rather 3 miles of jagged, sharp California granite scree. It was terrible, but at least the views were nice! We arrived in the dark and couldn't appreciate our views until the next morning.

We spent a day waiting in San Bernardino, blogging and updating things, and camping in the driveway of a relative of one of Chelsea's college friends. We are remarkably thankful for the generosity of all the folks on the road who take us in. We couldn't do what we do without you!

Once Jim had a little time for us, we found his garage and he got to work. I specifically wanted him to look at our carburetors, for while I thought they were running fine, he is known as THE Pinzgauer carb guy. And, as it turns out, our carburetors weren't running fine. He told us that not only were they broken and underpowered, but they were essentially ticking time bombs. He fixed us up with a new throttle body, some new parts, a handful of new jets, a carb balance, and a simple tune up. We were out the door with loads more power and more confidence! Time and money well spent! Thanks Jim!!

Camping above San Bernadino because the Walmarts wouldn't have us.

Camping above San Bernadino because the Walmarts wouldn't have us.

At Jim's with the daylight fading and wrenches flying.

At Jim's with the daylight fading and wrenches flying.

Little Foot in the company of his own. Again.

Little Foot in the company of his own. Again.

Jim on the left working, and me on the right figuring out how I can be like Jim when I grow up.

Jim on the left working, and me on the right figuring out how I can be like Jim when I grow up.

California Part 1: Northern Coast, Redwoods, and Expedition Imports

Northern Coast of California

Heading out of Oregon and into California was a big deal. Borders for us have been both finish lines and starting lines. With Oregon behind us, we started on what will HOPEFULLY be our last US state for a while, and definitely our longest. Our route, with no detours, would have us driving nearly 900 miles from north to south. With that in mind, we started in on California.

Northern California was nearly as beautiful as The Oregon coast, with a few spots that were beyond gorgeous. We took short walks where stopping wouldn't do a view justice, and we paid for camping where we had to. A note to travelers: California camping is expensive! Most state parks are at least $35 a night, and even trashy county parks are $25. Plan and beware.

Having fun.

Having fun.

Loulou exploring at a campsite. She gets to walk around once we park for the night, but we have to keep an eye on her.

Loulou exploring at a campsite. She gets to walk around once we park for the night, but we have to keep an eye on her.

We took as many coastal detours as we could, mostly because the roads were slower as we got closer to the coast. One of our many side excursions was on the Coastal Drive out of Klamath, CA. Definitely worth it. The road is a winding, one way snake of asphalt that leads to nothing but beautiful views. There is a small day-use park, the High Bluff Overlook picnic area, that is very worth the drive. There are a few view areas at the one bluff, and a 30 minute walk around will load you with Instagram and Facebook fodder.

Posing with a coastline At High Bluff Overlook. This is me looking greasy.

Posing with a coastline At High Bluff Overlook. This is me looking greasy.

It was windy!

It was windy!

The panoramas don't do it justice.

The panoramas don't do it justice.

Chels shooting the sea, looking majestic.

Chels shooting the sea, looking majestic.

Redwoods

After driving along the coast for days, we veered inland to visit California's beautiful redwood trees. Go once in your life, because these trees are enormous and they require visiting. Many are hundreds of years old, hundreds of feet high, and eerie, in that they don't really look like any other trees you've seen. The crowns start hundreds of feet in the air, so the forests are wide open on the floor but dark as can be from the thick canopy above. Its fantastic.

There are multiple pockets of redwood forests along the drive, and I do recommend visiting one or all. One morning we made a fantastic breakfast on the road under the emerald canopy thanks to the numerous and very large pull-offs that dot any road going through the forests. The municipalities, the state, and the federal government know that people want to pull over and stop here, so there is room for it to happen.

Walking in one of the many, many small redwood groves accessible off the 101.

Walking in one of the many, many small redwood groves accessible off the 101.

Fashion shoot!

Fashion shoot!

Standing inside a living, burnt-out redwood. Very cool.

Standing inside a living, burnt-out redwood. Very cool.

The light was magical at times.

The light was magical at times.

There are a handful of named, noticeable trees, including Big Tree.

There are a handful of named, noticeable trees, including Big Tree.

The redwood forests were punctuated with gorgeous lengths of coastline. Like a spaceship visiting different worlds, we rolled between entirely different ecosystems, one day walking on black beaches next to thunderous surf, and the next in nearly silent , 1000 year old forests.

One of these beaches, just above the Lost Coast, held a special memory for Chelsea, as it was one of the places her family had stopped on their camping trips. We stopped there and played in the tidal pools and climbed some rocks and said a prayer or two for Chelsea's late sister and dad, as they were there decades ago enjoying the beach as a family. We're thousands of miles from anything we've called home, and yet we consistently manage to find glimpses of places that hold familiarity and comfort for us.

Parked near tidal pools.

Parked near tidal pools.

Visiting the tidal pools she'd played among as a child.

Visiting the tidal pools she'd played among as a child.

We stayed that night in a pull-out on a road that would eventually dump us back into the Redwood State Park. It wasn't ideal, but there wasn't much traffic (and it all seemed to be local anyways) and no one hassled us. We got moving early the next morning and stopped only to make breakfast once we were among the giant redwoods.

Breakfast with the giants.

Breakfast with the giants.

We rarely have photos together, but a kind lady offered, so we took her up on it.

We rarely have photos together, but a kind lady offered, so we took her up on it.

Christian…being the fire.

Christian…being the fire.

A massive fallen redwood and the split wood that resulted. 

A massive fallen redwood and the split wood that resulted. 

As we approached San Francisco we ran out of viable camping options, but luckily with a little asking we could still find spots to "stealth-camp" in relative solitude. We asked a local merchant, the purveyor of fine goods at the Elk Store, in Elk CA, if he knew anywhere to park overnight, and he offered up his store's parking space! What a guy. If you are in Elk, CA, we recommend checking them out for some smoked tuna or salmon jerky.

The next morning we vacated our roadside campsite and headed down to one of California's many lighthouse for breakfast with a view. Our breakfasts rotate between quick and easy oatmeal (plus spices, raisins, almond milk, peanut butter, etc) and banana oatmeal pancakes. The pancakes dirty an extra dish, but the light house view called for extra effort!

Enjoying a sunset in Elk, California.

Enjoying a sunset in Elk, California.

Our view from the camper that evening.

Our view from the camper that evening.

Banana oatmeal pancakes by the seaside.

Banana oatmeal pancakes by the seaside.

The ladies sitting outside.

The ladies sitting outside.

Loulou enjoying the sun and the view.

Loulou enjoying the sun and the view.

Expedition Imports

Tucked away in a light industrial district of Vallejo California is a purpose built warehouse compound filled to the brim with Pinzgauers, Unimogs, G-Wagons, and all the parts you might need to keep one running. Expedition Imports was our destination since entering California, as we knew we needed spare parts for the most common breakdowns. I planned on buying some small rebuild kits and picking the collective brain of the guys at the shop, but we were in store for much, much more.

Scott, the owner of Expedition Imports, invited us into the compound and listened to enough of our story to know we needed help. Immediately he told us to drive Little Foot up onto his lift, and started in on a full diagnosis of our rig. With help from his mechanic Brian, the identified some weak links in Little Foot's current state, and started putting together a basket of goodies for us to bring on our trip.

The guys noticed that my muffler had a common wear/damage spot, but also recognized that Chelsea and I aren't the expensive-new-muffler kind of people, so Scott hooked us up with a deal. If we could tear the muffler off a parts truck out back, we could have it for a discounted price. Sounds good to us! As the sun set on central California, we grabbed some tools and got to work.

"Is this a problem? Is this a problem? Is this a problem?" - new Pinzgauer owner.

"Is this a problem? Is this a problem? Is this a problem?" - new Pinzgauer owner.

Little Foot on the lift, next to a 712M to the left and a really expensive Unimog to the right.

Little Foot on the lift, next to a 712M to the left and a really expensive Unimog to the right.

Parts parts parts!

Parts parts parts!

The guys offering me a good looking new/used muffler.

The guys offering me a good looking new/used muffler.

Putting in the wrench time for a discounted part.

Putting in the wrench time for a discounted part.

A panorama of all the rigs including Mogs spanning three decades, original Steyr-Puch G Wagons, and a handful of 4x4 and 6x6 Pinzgauers. It was beautiful. We felt normal!

A panorama of all the rigs including Mogs spanning three decades, original Steyr-Puch G Wagons, and a handful of 4x4 and 6x6 Pinzgauers. It was beautiful. We felt normal!

We worked for a full day under the lift. It was great. The exhaust played nice for the most part.

We worked for a full day under the lift. It was great. The exhaust played nice for the most part.

I don't think the guys at Expedition Imports know how much they helped Chelsea and I. I also don't think they need our endorsement, as they run a great business and offer an excellent product, but I would feel remiss if I didn't sing their praises at least a little. If you need parts, or more specifically a parts solution for your weird and awesome rig, call them. They are a wealth of knowledge, they know their vehicles inside and out, and they are very willing to talk you out of a purchase. That, to me, is the hallmark of an honest business man. You may want a truck, and you may be ready to buy one, but Scott and Brian won't sell you one until they have ripped those rose-colored glasses right off your face.

So that's that for the first half of California, next week we'll try to summarize the southern half, because we're getting closer to the border and more excited every day!

Oregon Part 2: Portland to the coast.

Chelsea got her big camera out of the drawer this past week and it shows. The following post contains some great images in the latter half. We both mostly shoot on our iPhone 6+ cameras, partially because they are always on us and partially because they produce above average content, but when Chels brings out the DSLR, it shows.

Portland was fun. We saw some of Chels's old friends, visited the previous owner of Little Foot, and slept on the streets with the homeless van-dwelling population of the city. More importantly though, we went to Ikea and Chelsea finally got the mattress she's been dreaming of for an entire year. (That's right, we've been sleeping on sleeping pads since we did the build out on Stubbs the bus!) 

Friendly IKEA instructions!

Friendly IKEA instructions!

Everyone in the city was friendly, homeless included, and while driving around city streets is stressful in any vehicle, it's that much more in a 34 year old military surplus van that likes to start in 2nd on the flats but needs to start in a non-synchorized crawler gear on hills.

Toby, the previous owner of Little Foot, welcomed us back and assessed our work. He also offered us MUCH needed showers and a fantastic breakfast. On our way out, he also surprised us by hooking us up with a an expert european car mechanic who tuned our carburetors quickly, pointed out some things we needed to fix, and told us we've got the right idea about hitting the road and escaping. 

A shot of Little Foot adorning the on-street parking outside his old home.

A shot of Little Foot adorning the on-street parking outside his old home.

Little Foot joined the ranks of the car/rv-dwelling homeless for a few nights on the Portland streets.

Little Foot joined the ranks of the car/rv-dwelling homeless for a few nights on the Portland streets.

Powell's Book store…always a favorite, but Portland's 90 minute parking limit meant we had to browse quick!!!

Powell's Book store…always a favorite, but Portland's 90 minute parking limit meant we had to browse quick!!!

Brady, a wonderful mechanic in Portland that the previous owner of Little Foot put us in touch with to check out our carbs.

Brady, a wonderful mechanic in Portland that the previous owner of Little Foot put us in touch with to check out our carbs.

After leaving the city we headed towards the coast for beauty, and stopped along the way for cheese. Tillamook, OR is like a gateway city to the coast, and also home to the world famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. We had to check out the cheesy automation, factory lines, and of course the cheese samples. It was fantastic.

Another glorious campsite, this time in a State Forest.

Another glorious campsite, this time in a State Forest.

Checking out the cheese line!

Checking out the cheese line!

After the cheese, we started driving down the coast, making many stops along the way. Chels had us stop at a beach she'd been to on her previous trip up the coast four years ago that had a cool tunnel through one of the sea cliffs.

Ocean!

Ocean!

Ocean tunnel?

Ocean tunnel?

Ocean tunnel!

Ocean tunnel!

Oregon's coast is AMAZING. Go there.

Oregon's coast is AMAZING. Go there.

This is my lighthouse dance.

This is my lighthouse dance.

Breathtaking views everywhere.

Breathtaking views everywhere.

Breathtaking seagulls everywhere?

Breathtaking seagulls everywhere?

Little Foot posing by the Pacific, no big deal.

Little Foot posing by the Pacific, no big deal.

Views.

Views.

Loulou views.

Loulou views.

More views.

More views.

More Loulou views.

More Loulou views.

There were a million places to pull over, and we pulled over at many of them. We couldn't not play by the beach a little. The Oregon coast has a power you can feel from hundreds of feet above the shore as you drive on highway 101, and when you're down on the water's edge that power becomes incredibly apparent in an immediate sense. The waves are large, and the signs warning of playing near the edge of cliffs are certainly necessary. Explore wisely.

Playing by the seaside.

Playing by the seaside.

The wave action, both crashing in and draining out, was phenomenal.

The wave action, both crashing in and draining out, was phenomenal.

Me playing like Mickey in Fantasia's  Sorcerer's Apprentice .

Me playing like Mickey in Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice.

We found a deserted campground up a forest road that night, and settled in. Loulou got to explore the forrest floor, Chelsea had some fun with crosswords, and I tried to split and set fire to REALLY wet wood. Everyone was successful, except for myself.

Maybe wet wood will light for me? Nope.

Maybe wet wood will light for me? Nope.

Loulou acclimating.

Loulou acclimating.

One of our best free campsites to date…thanks to some intel from a National Forest Ranger.

One of our best free campsites to date…thanks to some intel from a National Forest Ranger.

We went for an amazing walk the next day, through some very-near rain forest and right down to a deserted beach. The walk, which was short, really illustrated the craziness the Oregon coasts' ecosystem. One moment in a lush rhododendron forest, and the next moment walking on sandy shores. 

A near fairy tale walk.

A near fairy tale walk.

More stunning Oregon coast.

More stunning Oregon coast.

I can't help but play in waves! I was chasing them. They chased back.

I can't help but play in waves! I was chasing them. They chased back.

Walking back up.

Walking back up.

Admiring the forest.

Admiring the forest.

I ran ahead and hid, and then Chels found me. This is my mischievous face?

I ran ahead and hid, and then Chels found me. This is my mischievous face?

Little Foot's first covered bridge!

Little Foot's first covered bridge!