It is now two decades since we are regular visitors to the US .My American dream has definite contours now and I hope to fill its myriad contours with every ensuing visit to this amazing land. Last year, we visited the world famous ancient Redwood forests of California .We were looking to recapture the magic of a road trip and hence set out in a RV into California’s Redwood country which reveals amazing truths about gigantic redwood trees. . The acronym RV in North American English, stands for ‘recreational vehicle’ and RVs are literally homes with motors in them. Travelling in a wheeled abode is something many of us eagerly look forward to! Before starting out, we had much home work to do. The day before our departure we rented a 29- feet long RV and the guy at the RV rental walked us through all that we needed to know – operation of the gadgets in the RV ; hooking up to electricity, water; dumping sewage water etc. Drivers were told to check the number of RV hookup sites, as well as the type of electrical connections offered in the various RV camping grounds. Other features included looking for multiple dump stations, restrooms with showers; and the nearby attractions and activities.
We made sure that we carried plenty of RV camping supplies and kept ticking off our check –list. Needless to say we carried a good quantity of provisions, ‘ready to eat stuff’ snacks, ‘idli batter’ , clothes , camera, books, etc. until my daughter finally put an end to the long list of stuff we wanted to carry, reminding us that it was only a three-day trip!
You may be curious to know how the interior of RV looks like and how it functions! The interior of the van is practical, with a workable kitchen (a mini fridge, three burner electric counter top and a micro oven) and the main entrance is the front of the van. The dinette area converts to a bed room, as the dining table gets converted into a bed. We have a wall mounted TV too! It has a compact but a cozy double bed area, with a curtain, a bunker bed, which requires a little agility to climb in, but once you are there, it is fun and the kids love it. There is a curtain that closes off the entire bunk compartment and it turns the bunk into a personalized, private space
At the rear of the van is a small ‘green room’, with toilet, shower, mirror and wardrobes. We are advised to use the toilet facilities in the campgrounds and to use this toilet sparingly. Water from the toilet and kitchen get accumulated in two different tanks and on getting filled up they are to be drained into a sewer provided in the RV parks. It is important we check that all hoses and other equipments are placed in their respective places after each operation.
Having meticulously done our home work, we set out in our RV singing, “Three jolly good fellows……”, even though we were six of us! For our own safety, everything in the spatially limited environment had to be stowed, when moving and kept tidy while camping. We made sure that the cupboard and refrigerator doors were latched before our take off.Leaving Fremont, north from San Francisco, during dusk with the agenda of driving through Highway 101 we were bound for the Redwood country between Eureka in California and the Oregon border. Coast redwoods are America’s most famous natural treasures, and they are the earth’s tallest trees. I was excited like a child as our RV made its way through the roads. The ‘daring’ driver who opted to drive this long and big vehicle was our own family member. Even experienced drivers feel intimidated the first time they find themselves driving a motor home! I had placed the pressure cooker just under my leg and one turn around the corner of the road and off it went rolling!! Fortunately there was no food stuff in it! After a couple of hours, we parked our RV in a campground in Calistoga and had a good night’s sleep in our RV.
Following day the landscapetransformed into fog-strewn temporary wilderness. We spent the day in Calistoga, which sits at the end of the Napa Valley. Calistoga is a cute little spa town, with natural hot springs and mud bath spas. We went to Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot spring resorts for a mud bath for pure relaxation and felt extremely fresh and rejuvenated!
On our return ‘home’, we fixed our meal of idlis, chutney, rotis and sabji. Umm! Nice aroma of Indian cooking in our RV! A good nap and then hot steaming tea and off we are to Old Faithful geyser. Welcome to a show of California’s Old Faithful, a spectacular, nature-directed performance-prime example of geothermal action! Scalding got water and rising steam declare the geyser to the outer world. Old Faithful throws out a column of few thousands of gallons of hot water towards the sky. The hot water, 350 degrees shoots approximately 60 feet into the air for a period of three to four minutes and then recedes. Repeat performances average 40 minutes apart, day and night, year after year!
We planned on driving down to Eureka for a night halt and spotted the Shoreline RV Park in Eureka which has hook-ups for RVs. Reversing a RV can be an intimidating manoeuvre even in broad daylight and especially so at 10 pm! Low down obstacles may not show up in the mirror and so the best way to reverse into a campground site is to have someone stand outside and guide it with hand signal, which is what I did, while the driver reversed. We played a game of bridge and the kids watched their favourite cartoon on the portable DVD player. We hooked the water supply to fill up the fresh water tank .After a few minutes, we kept hearing some pop up sounds. On investigating we noticed that there was a huge hump in the floor of our RV! As this was our first RV trip, we were unaware that we were filling the reserve water tank wherein the inflow was faster than the out flow. Luckily the tank did not burst! Coming back to reality, dirty clothes accumulated while RVing! The next day we gathered it all and hauled it to the laundry facility which is provided in the RV parks. Some RVs do have washers and dryer but they take up a great deal of room.
Another exciting day dawned after an enjoyable night well spent in our RV and we set out to the most awaited Redwood forest. Near the California and Oregon border, we were surprised to find foggy weather, rocky beaches and many types of campgrounds situated in the heart of the dark, ancient redwood forests. Here are some of the untouched and impressive groves that stagger the senses with their size. Humboldt County, home to the tallest and largest stands of old growth redwoods offers scenic drives and nature trails to experience the giants The photos which I took there were not very impressive as I could find no way to capture the majestic size of the trees. Each tree stood prouder and straighter than his neighbours in the never-ending competition for sunlight. The scenic Highway 101 winds for hundreds of miles up the West Coast, but the best stretch is through the redwood forests of Humboldt County. On one side you see giant Redwood trees, and on the other is the old US Highway 101, a scenic highway. We travelled on this world-famous scenic drive, which is by far the most outstanding display of giant trees in the redwood belt, with easy access to trails, historic town and a drive-thru tree. We also drove through the ‘Klamath drive-thru tree’, which was an unforgettable experience. The hollow base of the giant tree has an opening carved, that allows a car to travel through, much like a traditional road tunnel. Really a marvellous masterpiece!
The redwood trees are in various peculiar shapes and sizes- Some look sinewy like the ropy wrists of an old man; some trees act companionable themselves, with conjoined bases that make it look as if they are holding hands; some are a tan-pink in colour; some are grey etc. etc.
Walking through a redwood grove on a fog-shrouded morning was a pleasant experience. Sounds were reduced to the musical gurgle of water trickling amongst ferns and mossy rocks. Light ebbs with the somber mist and shafts of sun, hung like cobwebs. Stillness and peace weaved their spells upon the traveller. We then drove through downtown Eureka and saw several charming Victorian homes which remain today in their original elegance and splendour.
Vacationing in an RV is economical and provides more time to relax and bond with your family. Wherever I went I could feel the great American spirit, the sense of pride for their country and their unquenchable thirst to be the best. I can emphatically say that my RV vacation was better than my best traditional vacation, needless to say that the memories of our RV camping trip will last us a lifetime. Anyone who is possessed with wanderlust and who travels by RV even once is in serious danger of catching the travel bug!