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Running on Empty

Corning, California: A fairly restful night in the Thunder Valley Casino parking lot last night - never mind that busy train track. We feel bad that we did not go into the casino, but we have been there before. Still, it's just not polite to park free at an establishment and not go inside to spend/lose some money. Especially if you are a Person of The Wal-Mart.

I publicly apologize.

After a leisurely morning coffee/internet session, we hit the road north. We were determined to take it slow, stop for fuel, keep off the main roads, stop for lunch at the Wildlife Refuge to bird-watch and meander around until we felt like stopping for the night.

Things do not always go according to plan. We did stay on the back roads and we did enjoy pretty farming scenery. Miles of stone fruit and almond orchards. Beautiful meadows thick with Red Winged Blackbirds. Views of the snow-capped Sierras. But one thing missing on the back roads? A truck stop. The Magna Peregrinus was running low on fuel. I punched the requirements into the GPS and were led onto Highway 99 where we found many gas stations - none quite capable of handling a 45-foot-long customer, and several that did not offer diesel. We kept trying and finally found a lovely, large fueling station - as the needle headed towards the bottom side of EMPTY.

The station was closed! Yellow CAUTION tape surrounded the pumps.

The situation was getting a bit desperate. And by desperate, I mean: Where the heck are we going to pull-over on a rural road when we run out of fuel? We were closing-in on 800 miles since our last fill. Did you know it isn't good to get down to the dregs of your diesel? Diesel isn't pretty. Sometimes there is crud and drek in the fuel and it settles to the bottom of your tank. When you get down to the bottom of your fuel tank, that crud and drek goes into your fuel filter and then - well, you need a new fuel filter. (Or so we've been told.)

By now, we were in Chico - a cute little college town and there were bound to a zillion gas stations in Chico. We had given-up on finding a truck stop - we were now forced to stop at the next gas station, even if was in front of a convenience store. Fumes drifting into our engine, DT pulled-into a teeny no-name Mom & Pop gas station. We had to unhitch the Honda to make the corner and if our bus was an inch taller, we would have smashed the canopy over the fuel island.

It's funny NOW.

I went into the station to give the clerk my credit card. (Most pay-at-the-pumps shut-off after $50 or $100... and we needed a little more - which the clerk can authorize.) DT started fueling... and then he started thinking... and then he started remembering the few times we had purchased "bad" diesel was from teeny little gas stations that don't go through a lot of diesel. Maybe he didn't want to fill the tank with fuel of questionable quality? On the other hand, we were still pretty far from a truck stop. In the end, he bought only 50 gallons. DT eased out of the gas station and I followed him to I-5, and we finished fueling - 40 miles later - at the truck stop at Rolling Hills Casino.

Ah. That's better.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at Rolling Hills. We never did stop for lunch. Never saw the wild life refuge. We decided to call it a very early day - Rolling Hills Casino has a RV park!! We are going from casino to casino today... and we won't go into this casino either, but at least we are paying to camp. You may remember Rolling Hills has a self-service RV park. The sites aren't numbered and you pay at a kiosk - similar to a parking lot. Your ticket "expires" at 11:59 the next morning. Love it! America needs a huge chain of no-frills over-nighter-specific RV parks. McCamper? RV-Lite? RV R Us?

Not hard to imagine how stressed out tired we were after our short day! We took a walk and enjoyed the many Red Winged Blackbirds in the adjacent meadow. We also enjoyed these pretty strawberries. Yippee - the berries are ripe in the San Joaquin Valley.

The berries are huge.

And the berries are sweet and red-ripe throughout.

Dinner was a flavor-fest of low-fat goodness. I made a huge salad with romaine, celery, cucumber, tomato and avocado and dressed it with my Almost Fat-Free Blue Cheese Dressing. DT grilled boneless chicken breasts and I tossed the cooked chicken breasts in a little Tabasco sauce and placed a piece of chicken on top of our salads - a Buffalo Chicken wing-ish flavor, with a healthy slant. Delicious! A super-easy healthy dinner.

Until my next update, I remain, your casino correspondent.

Question: Have you ever run out of fuel in your RV?

RV Park: Rolling Hills Casino RV Park - Self-service. $25. All sites are gravel pull-throughs with 30/50 amp, water and sewer. Most sites are long enough that you won't have to unhook your tow vehicle. Casino, restaurant and motel on-site. Showers/laundry are at the adjacent truck stop. Very quiet. Very nice golf course also - with a discount for RV campers.