As Good as It Gets

(or "We told you to join the Elks")


Ellen continues to recover from her heel bone spur surgery in July. We appreciate your prayers. For three months she went from casts to a walking boot to special shoes. Pain not decreasing, the doctor did a ultrasound that showed a tear in the achilles tendon. Back to a cast for three weeks and then to a "crutching boot". With the next appointment a month away, we had a chance for a short road trip.

Having sat for six months, we felt like RV newbies and reviewed our New Owner Tips: Craig's Rule, don't pay after dark, don't reserve, and pay for one night only.

We have never tried to "Visit the USA on $5 a day". In the last 13 years we have stayed at over 550 places. We have stayed 54 times at Walmarts for free. Most Walmarts in California do not allow this.

We have stayed at the best parks in America, like Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, California. One night in 2018 will cost you $114 to $211 per day, plus $20 management fee and 13% bed tax, wow!

But with Ellen on crutches our only activity is riding electric shopping carts. So it makes sense to minimize our RV park expenses. The Elks lodges are looking good. Our only destination for the month was Emily and Chads home near Oroville. With no plan, we headed up the 101 to Gilroy and stayed at the Elks. $20 for 50 amps and water. [?] Craig's Rule 146 miles, 2pm but only 1 day.

The 2nd day found us at the Citrus Heights Smashburger which we think is the USA's best burger. Crossing over the American River near Rancho Cordova, California.

2nd night at the Rancho Cordova Elks after a 159 mile drive. [?] Craig's Rule 159 miles, 2pm but again only 1 day.

3rd day was 94 miles to reach Emily and Chad's. So we broke Craig's Rule, a little tired of driving daily, but now we stay for a week and get well rested. Ellen, on crutches, finds time to solve sudoku puzzles with Zeb, Coralyn and Mandy.

Hannie, not yet doing soduku rests in Mandy's bed and then waits for the next big event of the day. Yes, of course we spent lots of days and nights with Chad, Emily, Micah and baby Davie.

After a week we moved to Redding to have Cummins find why our Check Engine light keeps coming on. We would have stayed at the Redding Elks, but we needed to be at Cummins each day at 8am, so we dry camped at Donnalee's house. That was great: free stay, good fellowship and of course, plenty of card playing. The engine problem turned out to be a $900 fuel pressure sensor, who knew?

While the Carr Fire was huge and devastating, the areas of Redding that we frequent were left untouched. Leaving Redding we spent a few more days with Em/Chad and then visited DeMartini, our motorhome dealer in Grass Valley. We purchased a few parts and Tim offered us a free stay in his "campground". This view is only 1/3 of his lot. There are more motorhomes (100's) on his lot than we have ever seen anywhere.

We spent the next day looking at new motorhomes. "Oh no, you're not replacing the MotherShip?" No, we are not. Pete's sister Donnalee is considering purchasing a motorhome to use for six months during the summer. We are looking with her to find the model that best meets her needs. This Forest River FR3 is a Ford V10 gas model 30DS. It is 30 foot with two very deep 36 inch slides. It is roomiest 30 footer we have ever seen. We will continue to look trying to find one she likes even more.

The next day's travel was 5 miles to the Nevada City Elks Lodge. It is a beautiful mountain setting with 30 amps and water for $25.

From Nevada City we were headed down Highway 49 to Placerville until Emily called. Chad, Zeb and Micah were going to the "cabin" for the weekend. This left Emily with Coralyn 3, Hannie nearing 2 and Davie 3 months. That's a handful! So we changed our route and met her at the Carmichael Elks after a 60 mile trip.

It is a great place for the kids with grass, a pool and even pickleball. While the pool water was very chilly, Coralyn and Hannie still dipped their toes in. The Elks has 50 amps, water, a dump station, pool, pickleball and showers for $30.

On Sunday Emily set out for home and we got back on our route to the Placerville Elks. This Elks is really in Shingle Springs. It was a pleasant stay in a mountain setting with 30 amps and water for $25. Mileage from Carmichael was 26.

After two days we began our Hwy 49 trip toward Jackson. This part of 49 is reasonably wide.

Our two day stay at the Jackson Elks was nice with sunny 70 degree weather. The setting is off the main road with farmland behind. Daily rate is $20.

We only stayed one day as we wanted to visited Jackson Rancheria RV Park, just 6 miles away. This is the road that Google Maps put us on. Not good! Very narrow and a lot of opposing traffic.

But it was worth the trip. This RV park is as nice as many of the ownership parks we have stayed at. All sites, back in and pull thrus, are on level, double-wide concrete with top notch grass. Mandy loved it.

Facilities include a year round warm pool, two spas, golf putting green, bocce ball, horseshoes, dog park, table tennis, meeting room, solid walkway around the entire park, free rides to the casino. $55 for 50 amps, water, sewer and limited cable. The casino owned fuel station has a brushless RV wash big enough for the MotherShip! Hwy 88 is the southern entrance and the road you should take.

Leaving Jackson you are treated to a beautiful ride down Hwy 49. New Melones Lake, 4th largest California reservoir after Shasta Lake, Lake Oroville and Trinity Lake.

Hwy 49 goes right through Old Town Sonora. No problem: go slow and watch the cars move to avoid you!

Highway 49 from Coutlerville to Bear Valley is not for the faint at heart. This was our 2nd time on this road. But the first time we were coming North and did not have to drive just two feet from the cliff's edge. First Highway 49 trip. This road is now checked off our bucket list (twice) and we will not take it again!

After a very, very long 129 miles (4 hours) we arrived at the Oakhurst Elks. These photos are from our visit in September 2010. On today's visit there were three RVs parked, but we saw no people. And the lodge was closed. At $20 it did not seem to be a good value. So, we left.

We rolled down Hwy 41 for 26 miles and landed at the Escapee's Park Sierra near Coarsegold. This is a nice park where we stayed in 2011. This day no sites were available. We dry camped for two days. The second picture is the view from our dry site. Cost? First day free, 2nd day $5. Nice!

We are heading home, but not too fast. 49 miles got us to Fresno. We picked up motorhome filters at Cummins and parked at the Elks. These pictures from 2012 are nice, but today the grass is mostly dead. Still a nice view out our window overlooking the water run off pond.

What is this? Ellen has a Monday morning eye doctor appointment with Dr. Chaffe. Our plan is to park in front of his office on Sunday night or until the police chase us out. Free!

Total camping costs for 29 days was $297 or $10 per night. However, not all RV travelers can stay at relatives houses. Take away the 10 free home stays and it would be $16 per night. Not $5 a day, but pretty good! Over 13 years, visiting 122 Elks lodges for 973 days camping has saved us between $15,000 and $20,000.


As Melvin Udall said in the movie: "What if this is as good as it gets?"
For us, it is not, there is much more.

Elks information: Elks lodges with photos, Elks list of 92 lodges, Elks Organization.
With love, Pete, Ellen and Mandy

Photos from November 2018

The Full Time Motorhome Living Guide

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