Merced, California: Backing up a few days, I wanted to post a photo of the fire along I-5 in Corning:
The fire did start directly across the freeway from the Rolling Hills Casino, and it burned a narrow strip along the pavement south for about one mile. It did not seem to destroy any structures or billboards, as there were none to burn. I guess a fire next to a freeway is convenient for firefighters, as the wind was howling. Luckily the wind was blowing straight south, or the fire could have been disastrous.
We filled-up at the casino truck stop before leaving Corning. The credit card was pre-authorized for $500, and the pump shut-off at $490. Our tab for diesel - so far - is $1915... or about the same as two round-trip flights to Eugene.
It's just a two-plus-hour drive from Corning to Sacramento, where we checked into a site at one of our usual stopping points, Cal-Expo RV Park (gravel parking lot with full-service sites, $50) at the state fairgrounds. When Dave shut down the engine, there were no odd ceiling lights illuminated. All systems were normal. Maybe our gremlin decided to remain at the casino in Corning?
I prepped a big salad, put together a few appetizers, and then drove to our niece, Meghan’s house - stopping to pick up pizzas on the way. Meghan is due to deliver a baby girl in just a few weeks. No way did we want her (or her husband) going to any work to feed us!
Ian knows all his colors already, but was a bit confused when I told him a duck says GO DUCKS, instead of quack. We had a great time at dinner and then spent the evening out on their patio, watching the rug-rat go down his slide and blow bubbles... until it was bedtime for
Wednesday we drove out to Gina and Brother Steve's ranch near Lincoln. Gina's garden is once again/still producing like crazy. She sent us home with so much produce, and prepared a meal where the only item NOT grown on the property was the steak.
Gina grows so many herbs, several varieties of tomato, asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers of all sorts, chard, kale, lettuces, corn, carrots, peas, beans... well, everything. They also have an orchard with apple, lemon, lime, peaches, plums, figs, etc. They also take huge boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to the local food bank weekly. So generous.
Besides the potatoes and grilled flank steak, Gina made pistou, and a Caesar salad with home-grown romaine. Even the centerpiece came from her garden. Gina is such a fabulous cook and creative in combining what is on-hand/ripe to produce their meals. (I am just perplexed as to what to do with the vegetables in my CSA box!) Look at the size of this head of garlic:
We came home with a lot of greens, oranges, garlic, shallots and potatoes. Another great day at the ranch!
That dang gremlin must have Übered down to Sacramento overnight. When we started the motorcoach this morning, our front (leveling) air bags did not fill. This is (we are pretty sure) the first time we have encountered this fluke in the system. Happily, we know the remedy is to simply reset the hydraulics. One switch flipped, the front of the coach magically lifted, the bus leveled, and we hit the superbly-bumpy Highway 99 south to Merced to visit Ginger and Brother Billy.
If you have been reading Ye Olde Blog for any time at all, you know we suffer trying to find a decent place to camp when in Merced. There is really nothing, and really nothing nice. We have stayed way south of Merced, in Chowchilla, in a RV park that has a dry well. No water. No bueno. Usually we stay at the RV park on the long-closed Castle Air Force base. It is only a back-in parking spot with full hook-ups and built long before RVs were over 25 feet long. We have even "camped" in Brother Bill's cul de sac. Imagine our happiness when we discovered there is a RV park outside of Merced, operated by the Merced Elks Club, that allow non Elks to stay! It is such a nice park too, and only $30 per night (and we are paying a $5 premium because we are not Elk members). Perfectly maintained, with a lot of lawn and fruit trees. (The actual Elks Club is downtown Merced.)
Billy prepared another repast fit for a magazine photo shoot. Ask him what was in this dish... well, he may not exactly recall, but he grilled marinated chicken thighs and breasts and served the chicken with a variation of a tzatziki sauce, on a bed of mixed greens and cucumber ribbons garnish. Green peas were involved. Absolutely delicious, served with a warm pasta salad. You will have to believe me about this stunner of a meal, as I was too busy feeding my face to snap a photo.
A busy three days enjoying time with family! One more night on the road, and hopefully we will land in La Quinta Saturday afternoon.
Until my next update, I remain, your Central California correspondent.