We have driven in, around and through LA traffic during the 20 years we lived in Southern California, so we thought we were well prepared for our two day drive up to Sacramento today which would start out by driving up the I-5 freeway through LA. With that understanding, we bundled up LeuC and headed out from our lovely campground nestled in the Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park this morning around 9 AM. After stopping to flush out our grey and black water tanks at the sump dump, it was actually 0930 by the time we were on the road.
We thought by leaving after the dust was settled from the rush hour traffic, we would have a better time of negotiating LeuC through the maze of cars and trucks that always fill the freeway. However, we did not realize that the freeway was still under construction after 25 years. Back in the early 90s, the State undertook a massive project to expand the I-5 freeway running from Orange Country to North of LA County from its original 4 lanes to, in areas, up to 27 lanes. While much of this construction is now completed, we discovered that there were still many places where it was not. Ugh! These under construction areas were pinch points that jammed the traffic together and that turned the freeway into parking lots as we all jockeyed for position in working our way through this mess. It was not fun!
It took us 3 hours to go the 90 miles from San Juan Capistrano in southern Orange County to Valencia, in northern LA County! The traffic was bumper to bumper the whole way and we ranged in speed from 0 to 60 mph. The pictures that Mary Margaret took while we fought our way through the traffic gives you an idea of the fun we had!
To go north from LA to Sacramento, one has to cross the Tehachapi Mountains, going over the 4100 foot high Tejon Pass. As you come off of the pass, you go down a 5 miles long, 6% grade which is known as the grape vine. Back in the 1950s, before the freeway was built, the grapevine was a narrow, windy two-lane road that was infamous for trucks plunging off the road and crashing down into the steep ravines far below. Now, it is just a very steep grade with gentle curves. However, the vista of the expansive San Juaquin Valley far below is very impressive.
LeuC is made by Tiffin and Tiffin is known as one of, if not the best, manufacturer of RVs. From top to bottom it is made with quality components. A couple of these components are the Cummins 450 HP diesel engine and the Allison 3000 MH 6-speed automatic transmission. Armed with these, LeuC just purred up and down the Tehachapis and coasted down the grape vine barely breaking out a sweat. I watched as we passed a number of big semi-trucks struggling to get up and then down these mountains. Not LeuC, no sir!
Once down in the San Juaquin Valley, the I-5 Freeway straightened out and with much thinner traffic, we began making miles. The speed limit was 70 mph for cars but trucks with three axels or vehicles towing it was only 55 mph. I set our speed control to 62 knowing the CHIPs usually uses a 10 mph buffer before they pull you over for speeding. At that speed, it was not until 1500 when we turned off the freeway, arriving at our night’s destination: the Harris Ranch, near Coalinga.
The Harris Ranch is a large beef ranch and it is famous for its high-quality Angus beef that you can buy in supermarkets around the US. It has built a large hotel, restaurant and store near its private air strip where people traveling the long San Juaquin Valley between LA and San Francisco can stop along their way. For us, they offer a large area where trucks and RVs can spend the night for free.
We are the only RV here, but we are sharing the area with about a dozen trucks. The area is very large so we are tucked along a tall hedge, all by ourselves.
We walked over to the complex where I enjoyed a delicious prime rib dinner and Mary Margaret enjoyed a roasted turkey with apple stuffing and homemade cranberries dinner. This is her favorite meal and she thoroughly loved it. My prime rib was one of the better cuts of beef I have had in a long, long time. Yum!
We also went to their store and bought some beef that we will grill on Monday for our friends Carolyn and Joyce. We will be parking LeuC at their house in Carmichael (a suburb of Sacramento), while we drive our little Fiat down to San Ramon in the Bay Area on Sunday to attend our granddaughter’s Baptism.
Tomorrow, we just have a 4 hour drive before we arrive in Carmichael and since it will be Saturday, it should be an easy drive.