We are closing in on the end of the westbound leg of our cross-country-and-back journey on the open road. Our last camping stop is to be at Ocean Mesa at El Capitan, on the Pacific Coast in Goleta. It is about 250 miles west of Indio. We were a little apprehensive about traffic, since it was Memorial Day, and we were traversing the legendarily overcrowded and sluggish Southern California freeway system. But we still took our time in the morning and were ready to roll at about 10:00.
Then we hit the only truly annoying Dutch Star malfunction to date. After getting everything ready to go (leveling system retracted, slides in, electric, water, and sewer lines disconnected and stowed, awnings in, all outside compartments closed securely, etc.), whenever the ignition switch was turned to either the accessory or run position, there was a piercing warning beeper sounding – on and off on about a 2 second cycle.
Naturally we assumed we had done something wrong, so we went back through the whole process again – extend and retract jacks; slides out and back in – still beeping. I made a phone call to Newmar – yes, I understand it’s Memorial Day, but thanks guys for letting me leave that message on your supposed “emergency” line, that’s real helpful. Ok, I’ll call John Dyer, the salesman at North Trails RV who sold me the RV, he’s always been as helpful as can be. He answers the phone and gives it his best shot – he thought it probably had something to do with the leveling system, since that is known to give off warning beeps if the jacks aren’t retracted. So I double check the jacks (all up), pull the fuse (no difference), get out my screwdriver and take out the control module and disconnect it (no difference). Then I call Spartan (the chassis builder). The nice lady didn’t have a lot of technical knowledge, but took all my information and promised somebody would call me back. So then I decide to try to locate the stupid beeper and disable it (smash it with a rock if necessary). Both Therese and I try to figure out where the blasted thing is hidden, but the cacophonous beeping seems to come from everywhere. I take the dashboard out (which is easy), but it’s not behind there. Therese looks doubtful of my sanity, and even more doubtful that the Dutch Star will recover from my fiddling.
A guy from “Coachnet” calls me back, apparently they are the fallback when nobody who actually knows anything at Spartan is available. He knows far less than I do about the problem. Says to check the leveling system. Thanks, checked that, any other ideas? No.
I decide to see if the coach will drive correctly, so I take it around the block with the beeper blaring away. It seems perfectly normal, – all gauges normal, no warning messages and no warning lights on the dash so I decide the heck with it, we’re launching, maybe it will fix itself. Therese, convinced that such a horrendous beep can only indicate certain destruction of the entire unit, is shaking her head and saying “why don’t we stay here another night and see if the local RV dealer can fix it”. I, of course, reject such obviously sensible advice, on the theory that if I can’t figure it out, surely those knuckleheads won’t be able to either, and confident that the beeper will eventually melt itself down or turn itself off or something. Besides, I wanted to make sure that we actually made it all the way to the west coast, which Indio isn’t but Goleta is.
So, I overrule her objections, hitch up the Jeep, and we pull out of the lovely Motorcoach Country Club with the &@%& thing beeping away with the most annoying possible frequency, volume, and cadence. Therese is not happy, except she is looking forward to telling me that she told me so when it all turns out to be a colossal mistake.
After all that fiddling around, we hadn’t hit the road until 12:00. I am pretending that I can’t hear the beeping for a while, and traffic isn’t too bad for the first 15 miles. My prediction that it would stop, however, proves horribly wrong (beep-beep-beep-beep-beep in the most annoying possible frequency, volume, and cadence continues). I commandeer Therese’ horrendously uncomfortable earbuds and put Pink Floyd on my iPhone, almost but not quite loud enough to drown it out. Therese goes to the back and gets some cotton for her ears. That has the twin benefits of making it harder to hear the beeping, and stopping some of the steam from coming out.
Then, after being on the open road for about 20 minutes we hit horrendous traffic just short of Palm Springs and suddenly we’re on the horribly congested road instead. We’re down to sub-10 mph (the beep-beep-beep-beep-beep in the most annoying possible frequency, volume, and cadence is even more annoying while crawling along). The slowdown lasts over an hour, during which time we traverse 13 miles. The covered wagon guys probably went faster, and they sure as heck didn’t have that beep-beep-beep-beep-beep in the most annoying possible frequency, volume, and cadence driving them batty. On the other hand, the outside temperature reads 113 degrees, and at least we are in air conditioned comfort. All the while, traffic is moving at speed in the other direction, so I am considering turning back. But of course I am too stubborn to admit the obviously incorrect decision, and, drawing deeply from my vast reserves of patience (and with the help of Pink Floyd mostly drowning out the infernal beeping), stoically keep my cool and pretend not to notice either the traffic or the beeping, or the discomfort of the earbuds (amazingly, that is actually true – ask Therese!)
Finally, we get rolling a little faster – up to all of 40 mph, but it’s a huge improvement! Then the phone rings – good thing I had those earbuds, or I’d have missed it, although I feel a little guilty that Therese is hearing the infernal beep-beep-beep-beep-beep in the most annoying possible frequency, volume, and cadence more than me because she has only cotton to ward it off. A guy from Newmar is (finally) calling, and he can hear the beeping, and knows instantaneously what it is. “Did you have the foot rest of the driver’s seat out when you were last parked?” “Yes.” “Is it possible that it isn’t fully retracted?” “Well, I suppose so.” “Give it a push back with your foot.” Beeping stops, this guy from Newmar is my hero, the idiots from Newmar who thought it necessary to deploy the most annoying beeper on earth because the footrest isn’t all the way retracted have my eternal contempt. There is no way on God’s green earth that that’s a dangerous condition requiring such an irritating warning. If the footrest is out far enough to affect the ability to safely drive the coach, you can’t possibly miss it. Utterly unfathomable. And you think they might think to mention it somewhere in the &*@% manual (which I have actually read)? You can be sure I will permanently disable that “safety feature” when we stop for the day.
So we continue on in blissful silence (except every time we hit a bump it comes back on and I have to give the footrest a little kick again). And not only is the beeping gone, but the traffic gods smile on us and we traverse the Los Angeles freeway system with minimal slowdown all the way to Goleta, arriving at about 5:45 with the odometer reading 5922. About 50 miles short of Goleta on US 101, we get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
We’re staying at Ocean Mesa at El Capitan, which is a nice RV park less than a mile from the Pacific, directly across Route 101 from El Capitan State Beach. It’s the greenest park we’ve seen since Natchez, Mississippi, with real trees and plentiful green ground cover. We had tried to get reservations for the previous day, but no such luck over the Memorial Day weekend. But with the long weekend over, just about everyone has left, and we are sharing the park with perhaps 5 or 10 other campers, with the other 90 sites vacant.
Although we are only 250 miles from the inland desert, it’s a whole different climate here – about 60 degrees (~50 degrees cooler), damp and misty. While Therese is making supper, I take the 1 minute and 42 seconds it takes to forever disable the “footrest warning device”. After supper (we drove straight through, skipping lunch), we took a walk. We found a nice path that wound out of the RV Park to the State Beach.
After less than a mile walk, we were actually on the beach, walking along the sand with our feet in the Pacific Ocean (well Therese did, I couldn’t risk it), watching the sunset. You can bet I told Therese “I told you so” on the decision to launch that morning.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay another day, since we had to get the Dutch Star to its California home for the next three months at Chatsworth RV Storage. We spend the morning getting the coach ready for its hibernation – removing the food, shutting down the refrigerator and plumbing system, cleaning all the bugs off the front, etc. We finally get everything ready a little after noon and set off for Chatsworth. That’s almost 100 miles back the way we came, but again the fabled southern California traffic fails to appear and we get there about 2:20, with the odometer reading 6020 (for those keeping score, we covered 4230 miles in our month on the open road). However, it is a glacial process to check in there, and we don’t get out of there until just after 4:00, missing lunch again!
Satisfied that the Dutch Star is safely stored away, we drive the Jeep to Ventura (50 miles back towards Goleta) to visit Therese’ sister Patti and her husband Scott. (We also put 1933 miles on the Jeep so far). They have graciously agreed to host the Jeep for the three-month break from our travels.
Just as we are getting within a quarter mile of Patti and Scott’s , we saw a low, brownish cloud cover. We couldn’t quite figure out what it was, until we encountered a sign that said “Prescribed Burn in Progress”. There was a crowd of people along the side of the road, watching the fire and the helicopter that was firebombing to get it started. We spot Patti and Scott among them, so we pulled over and joined them watching the 30 foot flames were shooting up from a 100 acres of hillside scrub. The burn was within a quarter mile of a dense residential area, with the objecting being to burn off the fuel and thus decreasing the fire danger in the dry season.
Once that excitement was over, we went out to dinner at Lure Fish House in downtown Ventura for a very nice dinner.
On Wednesday, May 31, Patti and Scott took us to the Reagan Library, which is about 40 miles from their house, in Simi Valley, California. That turned out to be a very enjoyable stop. The permanent display is (of course) about Ronald Reagan’s life and his career as a General Electric spokesperson, radio announcer, actor, Governor of California, and President of the United States. The “Great Communicator” as he is frequently called, led a more interesting life than I was aware of.
On display is also the Boeing 707 that served as Air Force One from 1972 through 1989, and a Sikorski Helicopter that was Marine One, both of which visitors can tour.
There was an exhibit with the Presidential limousine (this one’s a 1983 Cadillac) and some of the motorcade vehicles that accompanied the limousine during a visit to California in the early ‘80’s.
The Reagan Library also has a large area for visiting exhibits. Last year, Therese visited with her parents, and there was an interesting exhibit about the Vatican. This year’s exhibit, which had opened quite recently, was about the Titanic. I had not been aware that the discovery of the wreckage by Robert Ballard in 1985 was actually a secret Navy-financed mission whose true objective was to find two sunken submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher. Once both were successfully located, Ballard was given the green light to look for the Titanic, and when that was accomplished, it became the cover story for the mission.
The story of the Titanic has fascinated the public since its sinking on April 15, 1929. I guess that’s because it was (at the time) the largest ship ever built, and despite being billed as “unsinkable”, it went down on its maiden voyage. There have been a number of movies made about the sinking, the best known of which is the 1997 James Cameron epic, “Titanic”, which happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time. There was quite a bit of memorabilia from the movie as well as from the original discovery.
To end the day, we stopped at Patti’s “office” – she works for the University of California at a research farm near Ventura that was established by the Hansen Trust. They’re currently housed in a fascinating old mansion (built 1894) on a 27 acre farm. However, that property (which was never owned by the Hansen that established the trust) isn’t ideal for their needs, so there is some discussion of selling it and moving to a larger tract of land.
The house and grounds were a delightful end to the tourism of the day, and after a good dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Therese dropped me off at the Los Angeles airport for an overnight flight home. She is going to stay in California for a while longe rto visit family, while I head home to help with our Lions Club’s annual Chester County Blues Barbeque.
Stay tuned, we’ll be back On the Open Road in September!