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Collins Lake

Maiden Voyage of 2006: February 17-20

Pat’s job at JCPenney makes it impossible to go anywhere from the 1st of November to the 1st of January. His work schedule during the holiday shopping season rarely allows for two days off in a row and vacations are just plain banned. The holidays themselves are difficult: he has to be in at work at 4:00 A.M. on the morning after Thanksgiving and again on the morning after Christmas. So for those two holidays we never go anywhere from which we can’t be back home by eight in the evening.

And just as we’re nearing the end of December, Pat usually gets his first theatre production prop list for the coming season which keeps him busy for the first six weeks of the new year. Hence, for me, by mid-February cabin fever has set in and I’m chomping at the bit to get out of Dodge.

The lakeshore was just 100 feet in front of us.

Pat signed us up for a membership with Rainbow RV, a gay group of RVers, last summer and we went on our first outing with them on Halloween weekend to Olema Ranch Campground in Point Reyes. We had a fabulous time and were looking forward to the next outing with them. In early December we received an email with the 2006 camping event schedule, picked out the ones we wanted to attend, and put in for the needed vacation time with Penneys.

Our maiden voyage of the new year was scheduled for Presidents Day weekend at Collins Lake, northeast of Marysville. There were only three counties left in California that I hadn’t been to and Collins Lake was in one of them: Yuba. Only 145 miles from the house, the trip would provide a good shakedown cruise for the Bounder and was close enough to home should we encounter any more motorhome system failures. Last year was a disaster with the Bounder yielding a serious problem and hefty repair bill after every trip. I swore I wouldn’t take Blue Boy out of state until he could return from one local trip problem free.

Wheezie relaxes in Pat's lap while we take a break from the cold and wet weather.

Pat put in for Friday the 17th and Monday the 20th off from work and after trading a shift with a coworker the previous Sunday, had only a half day of work on Thursday. Even though he was home early, neither one of us had the energy to ready the Bounder for Friday’s departure.

Friday morning we were both up by 7:30 and the schlepping from the house to the Bounder began, being careful to close doors behind us to ensure the cats didn’t get out. By nine o’clock we were ready to go and Wheezie and Mouse were already secured in the Bounder’s bedroom. But Samantha knew something was up, wanted no part of it, and was hiding somewhere in the house. By 9:30 we were tired of looking for her and strongly considered leaving her behind.

The problem with that scenario is that Samantha is the cat with cancer that requires a daily pill and I knew Pat would never be able to enjoy the trip knowing she wasn’t getting her medication for three consecutive days. We hunted some more and finally located her inside the box spring of my bed. We literally had to disassemble the bed to get her out.

With a string of half-million-dollar coaches parked end-to-end in front of us, we felt like the poor cousins at the group site.

For the past two weeks we had enjoyed unseasonably warm and sunny weather with temps reaching the mid to upper 70s. But by this Friday morning, a cold front was moving down from Alaska that promised rain and snow possibly down to sea level and temperatures in the upper 40s/lower 50s. I sure hoped the Bounder’s furnace didn’t fail us. And, with any luck, Pat would get to see snow falling for the first time in his life.

It was 10:05 when we pulled away from the house under a gray sky with a temperature of 52. Maybe it wasn't going to be as cold as the weather forecasters had predicted. The three cats were buried under the blankets of the bed in the back, but within ten minutes one of them started wailing in protest. One hour out we stopped at Camping World in Fairfield and by then, all was quiet aboard. After an hour of shopping we got back on the road and arrived at the campground at 2:00.

Even the Canadian geese consider Collins Lake a good campground.

We found our way down to our group’s campsite and the earlier arrivals directed us into a slot with hookups (which we weren’t expecting). With levelers down, hookups engaged, and the awning rolled out, my nose starting running like an open faucet and I suddenly realized I had a cold, or worse, the flu. Fortunately, Pat had put a bottle of Excedrin onboard and I went into the bathroom medicine cabinet to get some. Not the best thing to take for a cold, but certainly better than nothing. Next to the Excedrin I found an unopened box of Sudafed which neither Pat nor I can recall ever having put in the Bounder. Godsend!

The temperature hovered around 49 and it started to rain… hard. The Bounder’s heater worked just fine. The water heater worked fine. Everything worked fine except the cats who were still seeking refuge in the bedroom. No matter. Pat and I fixed some sandwiches, he laid down on the sofa with his Tab Hunter Confidential and I sat in the entryway’s captain’s chair with the latest edition of Lighthouse Digest. We read for a few hours while the rain droned on. Wheezie wandered out from the bedroom and took turns sitting in both of our laps. Samantha and Mouse stayed hunkered down under the covers in the bedroom.

The infamous slush machine. Friday night it cranked out margaritas; Saturday night and Sunday morning it made mudslides.

A meet & greet was scheduled for seven o’clock with margaritas and hors d’oeuvres, but as darkness, temperatures, and rain continued to drop it seemed more unlikely anyone would want to wander outside their thirty and forty-foot cocoons. For me the Sudafed had kicked in alleviating the sneezing and runny nose, but overall I still felt pretty miserable. Pat heated up some New England clam chowder for me and I felt much better almost immediately.

Pat & I load our plates at the potluck. Note the silverware I brought along in my pocket.
--Photo courtesy Mike Shaughnessy--

Around seven o’clock we noticed a few folks walking by in the subsiding rain and began to wonder if the meet & greet would be held anyway. By ten after seven, we bundled up and went outside to check, not wanting to be the only ones who didn’t show up. Ten people were already gathered under the shade canopy set up in front of John Cerato’s RV, plates of appetizers were filling the picnic table, and the slush machine was busy auguring the margaritas. And, the rain had stopped entirely! Pat headed back to the Bounder and returned with a plate of cheese and crackers while more and more people wandered out of their rigs and gathered around the margarita machine and the campfire.

These queens were having a party and the weatherman damn sure better cooperate! Within the first half hour the stars replaced the passing clouds. John Cerato was the host who had put this event together and it was our understanding that the majority of the attendees would be from the Sacramento area. However, the more people we met, the more we discovered who were, like us, from the Bay Area. The party started to break up around nine and by ten, Pat and I were in bed with three cats who were not pleased with having to share the space they had adopted as their own.

Chuck & Gordon's plate


Jack & Jo's plate

The rain returned during the night and with the temperature down to 39 at bedtime, I wondered if it would change to snow by morning. Up at eight, Pat started the coffee pot and peeked out the curtains. No snow, but we still had light passing showers. We each had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, then Pat took a shower. By ten, the rain had stopped and we ventured out into the group camp to socialize.

Mike Shaughnessy was the only member we recognized from our previous RRV outing at Olema Ranch and we decided to join him, Mark who had the Air Stream parked next to us, and Jerry for an exploratory hike around the lake. We headed down to the lake shore where kids were kayaking, fishermen were trying their luck, and Canadian geese were flying from one side of the lake to another in search of a more ample breakfast.

Jerry, Mark, Mike, & Pat

Collins Lake Dam

Ron & Kaban, John Cerato & Juan, Don & Chula

We hiked across the earthen dam and followed a trail through the scrub oak woods for about a mile along the eastern shore before turning back. Halfway back across the dam we encountered Ron, John, and Don walking their three dogs. Back at camp we gathered around Chuck and Gordon’s campfire and chatted with Cherrie and Denise who were bundled up in defiance of the 46 chill. A passing squall peppered the ground with tiny ice pellets.

Dam spillway

Rocks along eastern shore trail

Lone fisherman

Parked directly in front of our Bounder, Jack watches his outdoor plasma TV. TLC appeared to be his favorite channel.
--Photo courtesy Mike Shaughnessy--

By one o’clock my cold had worn me down and I headed off to the bedroom for a four hour nap. By the time I got up, Pat was putting his frittata in the oven for warming up in time for the six o’clock pot luck. It was raining again, but like Friday night, the rain stopped at the appointed hour and the masses started making their way to John Cerato’s shade canopies. This time the slush machine was cranking out mudslides and we carried a third picnic table over to accommodate the crowd.

The three picnic tables were aligned end-to-end and each had its own patio heater to quell the chill. The two tables closest to the slush machine were laden with food dishes down the middle of every variety: barbecue tiny dogs, macaroni & cheese, ham, roast beef, salads, casseroles, even a blueberry cobbler.

Like the previous night, the clouds disappeared at the appointed hour to be replaced by a gorgeous canopy of stars. By nine o’clock the night chill was getting to us and we invited our newfound friend, Deb, back to the Bounder where the three of us chatted away for the next two hours in the warmth and comfort of the inside of the coach. Wheezie joined us in a round of musical laps and even Mouse made an appearance, but Samantha remained as elusive as ever.

Sunday morning breakfast. Thank God somebody likes to cook!

Sunday morning we awoke to blue sky and sunshine. After a bowl of cereal, we did a little reading while drinking our morning coffee. It was about nine o’clock when we noticed the first person ambling through the campsite and when we invited him inside for coffee, he asked why we weren’t at breakfast. Breakfast? What breakfast?

We headed down to John’s shade canopies and discovered the slush machine cranking out a new batch of mudslides, an electric skillet filled with some of the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten, two electric grills busy cooking blueberry pancakes, a third grill browning link sausage, and a cappuccino machine.

“You guys are late!” someone said.

“Nobody told us about breakfast,” I shot back.

“We announced it three times at dinner last night!”

The fact is that both Pat and I are lazy cooks and most of our meals are something we can scrounge from the refrigerator or cupboard and heat quickly in the microwave. Our best meals are eaten when someone else has done the cooking and this was no exception. Best breakfast we’ve ever had outside a Dennys!

Deb, "Don't call me Debbie!", in our Bounder.

George, "Call me available," in Deb's rig.

After breakfast we invited ourselves into Deb’s rig for coffee with her and friend George, whom she had brought along in lieu of her partner who had to stay home and work. An hour or so later, having expended what little energy I had with the cold in full swing, I returned to the Bounder and took another four hour nap.






Now if you’re still reading this, you must be bored out of your mind because it is one of the most bland stories I’ve ever committed to type. However it does speak to how miserable I felt and my determination to have a good time in spite of the cold (biological and climatic).

Sunday night’s potluck was even better than the previous one: Swedish meatballs, sliced pork roast, enchilada casserole, Dutch apple pie, mocha ice cream… just to name a few. Of course, the slush machine was still happily serving mudslides. After dinner a few of us went over to Jack & Jo’s to watch a Charles Pierce DVD on their outdoor plasma TV. Never having seen the great impressionist myself, I listened intently while others recalled his shows they had seen and their backstage encounters with him.

We’d been advised of the long lines at the dump stations, so early to bed, early to rise was in order on the last night of our stay. Monday morning we were drinking our coffee by 7:30 and by eight o’clock, Pat was putting things away and cleaning up inside while I rolled up the awning, put away the chairs, and disconnected the water and electric outside.

At one point the awning got stuck and it appeared that the best solution was for me to climb to the roof to remedy the glitch. As I started to ease my way across the roof towards the edge of the coach I suddenly realized I was standing on a solid glaze of frost. Plan B: gingerly make my way to the backside ladder, return to the ground, and resolve the issue there.

Our first and only problem with the Bounder on this trip came when I tried to retract the levelers. Despite a visual check that verified otherwise, the indicator light on the dashboard continued to flash and beep… the electronic admonition, “if you try to drive this rig right now, you’re going to rip your levelers right off because they’re still down on the ground, you idiot!” After the initial panic of “oh crap! we’re not going to get out of here without having to call AAA,” I turned the ignition off, then back on again. Voilá! Flashing red light and beeper stop and we’re good to go.

Mark, Mike, Terry, & Randy at Sunday morning breakfast.

By nine o’clock we said our goodbyes and had seven volunteers simultaneously offer backup directions to the main road. Pat thought I was going to hit a car that I could clearly see in the side mirror and everybody else was worried about a tree copulating with the back of my roof. Eventually I made it unscathed to the main road out of the group camp. The dump station was a quarter mile past the entry gate of the campground and five rigs were already lined up ahead of us.

When our turn came it seemed our gray water tank, which indicated 100% full on the dashboard indicator, would never finish emptying. Pat, forgetting that we didn’t have a sewer hookup at the campsite, had let the water run during his entire shower on Saturday morning. By ten o’clock, we pulled out onto Marysville Road and started the 145 mile trek home.

The cats were asleep in the bedroom and we never heard a peep out of them. At noon we pulled off I-80 in Cordelia to gas up at the Arco station with $2.26/gallon bargain fuel we had seen on the way up. Unfortunately, they only took debit cards, so we headed two blocks up the street to the Union 76 for which we had a credit card and paid a penny more. While I did the fueling, Pat ran next door to the Burger King and brought us back lunch which I drove us down the street to the Camping World parking lot to eat.

We arrived home in front of our house at two o’clock. ‘In front of’ is the operative phrase here: no one was parked in front of our house on a weekday! In fact, there were no cars parked along the street on either side of the block! By 2:30, Blue Boy was backed snugly into our driveway, a feat we had expected would have to wait until early evening.

After nearly two years of owning Blue Boy we had finally done it: a trip out and back without a single system failure or major problem! It was the first time I had returned from an RV adventure where I could go to bed that night and not have to think about taking the Bounder in for repairs the next morning.

Our only disappointment came when we watched the local news recordings our DVR had captured while we were gone that showed snow covering the ground from one end of the Bay Area to the other. In the ten years I’ve lived here, it was only the second time I had known of snow falling locally. Once again, Pat, lifelong Californian, had missed seeing snow fall from the sky.