Friday, June 20, 2014

California: Chico, Rolling Hills Casino, Redding to the Coast

Greg's May 2014 journey continues: After my hot springs journey (Read Part 1) I continued on my way after a pleasant soak and overnight RV camp-out at Sierra Hot Springs.

My next destination was Chico, California.  After heading back to Truckee, I took highway 80 to Auburn and headed north-west on a pleasant foothill road to Yuba City and then on to Chico.

Karen and I spent a year living in Chico while going to Chico State University.  Chico is a college town and has the fantastic Bidwell Park that runs through the town and up into the foothills.  Bidwell Creek is a beautiful creek that runs through the park and the town.  I spent many happy hours bicycling up Bidwell Park and hiking in the wild and scenic upper park area when we lived in the area.

After parking Humphrey in the upper park area, I went for a great hike along the canyon rim that overlooks Bidwell Creek.  It had not changed and was still a beautiful area.
Bear Hole swimming area in Bidwell Park, Chico California

Salmon Hole swimming area in Bidwell Park, Chico California


Chico itself has changed since we were there in the early 80's.  I noticed a lot of fairly creepy looking characters mulling about all over the downtown area.  I didn't feel very comfortable there.

There really isn't a good place to camp or boondock in the Chico area.  I probably could have stealth camped, but didn't feel comfortable trying it there. Instead, I had read about a casino off Interstate 5 that had a nice RV park, a good buffet and great showers.  I read about it in Overnight RV Parking.

After a great hike and then a cruise through Chico's downtown area, I headed for the Rolling Hills Casino near Corning.  [Location]


Rolling Hills includes a truck stop with a large trucker overnight parking area.  As I drove into the truck area, a young well dressed women in shorts was walking along the line of trucks.  She was obviously "working" the truck stop.  I thought that was a rather bad sign, but it turned out to be a great stop and I never saw any other dicey activity going on there.

Rolling Hills has a nice RV park and I decided to pay the $28 bucks (full hookups) for a nice spot.  After plugging in my electric, I headed for the showers.
Rolling Hills Casino RV Park

Sparkling and spacious shower room at Rolling Hills Casino


Overnight RV Parking had notes about the great showers.  They were not kidding.  The showers are huge, super clean and amazing. They cost $4 with RV camping.   Ah, that felt good after a strenuous hiking day.

If you need a good, long, clean and comfortable shower stop on your trip on Hwy 5 in northern California ... this is definitely the place to go.

Overnight RV Parking says you can park your RV for free in the truck stop parking lot.  I didn't see any RVs doing this. The truckers filled the lot. You might be able to find a place to park an RV overnight, but I didn't see where.  Maybe you could park in the regular casino lot or on the side of the property somewhere.  I suppose you could just park in the truck lot, but it filled up pretty early with truckers.
Rolling Hills Truck Stop Area.  This camper arrived in the morning. It was completely full with trucks at nightfall.


After an excellent shower, I headed for the casino buffet.

Rolling Hills has a simply fantastic buffet.  I had amazing prime rib and turkey.  I would rank it as one of the top buffets I have ever had and I have tried quite a few.

Back at the RV park, I had a great night's sleep.  The park was very peaceful.  Next door was a field of waving grasses that RV folks were letting their dogs into for a bit of stretching and fun.

There is a nice place to drop off your pet while you head to the casino or showers.  I had a nice visit with a couple of the doggie inmates.
Rolling Hills Casino doggie daycare pens

I would definitely return to the Rolling Hills Casino.  It was a really great stop.

Next, I headed up Hwy 5 to Redding, California.

Redding has a very pleasant bicycle/walking trail that runs next to the Sacramento river.  I parked in a dirt lot, pulled down my mountain bike and jumped on the trail.  [Map of area with the river trail. I parked along the looping circle road in the center of the map.]

I rode across the unique Sundial Bridge.  It was Mother's Day.  Everybody and their mothers were on the bridge and picnicking in the parks along the way.  I did a lot of weaving around folks on the trail.  It was a very pleasant ride, regardless of the traffic that day.
Redding's Sundial Bridge is considered a work of art
Riding along the beautiful and fun Redding River Trail

After the ride, I headed west on Hwy 299 to Arcata on the coast. This road takes a long while to cross over to the coast.

My plan was to go up the coast on Highway 101 to the Redwood National Park.  It got dark on me and I had one hell of a time trying to finding a camping spot.  I went up more than one long winding road looking for campsites. The signage in the area is just terrible.  At one point, I had gone up a dark road, through a flooded swampy area and gotten myself stuck in a dead-end situation and had to back out a ways.  During the backup, I somehow hit something.  (I still don't know what I hit, probably a big rock.)  It put a nice dent in my back fender, but luckily it didn't hit my mountain bike which was hanging on the rack in the back.

Poor Humphrey.   He is not pristine anymore!

I drove and drove and drove and finally gave up heading north as it was getting way too late. I was tired and completely frustrated.

I had seen a rest stop miles back and decided that was my best bet at this point.  After a long drive back south on 101, Humphrey pulled into the rest stop.  There were a few other cars and trucks already there over-nighting. I pulled into a car spot, made the bed and was asleep quickly. [Location]

California allows over-nighting at the rest stops.  I believe the rule is that you can stay eight hours.  This rest stop was in the redwoods. It had a nice little walk with picnic tables and a view of the ocean through the tall trees.
A nice Hwy 101 (Redwood Highway) Rest Stop
Now that I am looking at Google Maps of the area, I noticed there is an Indian Casino near this rest stop.  It's called the Cher-Ae Heights Casino. Casinocamper.com says Overnight RV's are allowed.  I should have parked there, now that I think about it.  But it worked out nicely at this rest stop.

Update: This is called the "Trinidad" Rest Area.  Freecampsites.net has info on it: http://freecampsites.net/#!8670&query=sitedetails

At dawn I was up and on the road quickly.  I had seen a Denny's on my way, returned to it and had a nice breakfast.

Next up was a pleasant drive down the coast on Hwy 101 and Hwy 1.  The road from Hwy 101 to Hwy 1 (south to Fort Bragg) started out very, very curvy.  [Map of  this curvy section of hwy 1.]  It seems that a larger rig would have a really hairy time on this section of road.

My plan was to blacktop-dock at the Jenner Visitor's Center, but there were signs in the parking lot with the "No Camping" slash through the tent sign.  It was clear to me that camping, including van camping wasn't allowed there.  I had read in freecampsites.net that vehicle camping was OK.  I'm pretty sure that is not a good idea there.

I kept driving south and found the Sonoma Coast State Park campground called Wright's Beach.  It's a very pleasant campground right on the beach.  It was nearly full when I arrived that Wednesday evening.  There were three sites left.  You must check a list posted in the window at the entrance shack to check which sites are still available for a single night.

The states website says that maximum length is 27', but I swear I saw some bigger rigs along the beach front sites.
Wright's Beach from my quadcopter

California beach campgrounds are expensive.  I payed $35 for a "non-premium" site with no hookups or nearby showers.  I guess you are paying for the view!

There was time for an evening quadcopter flight out over the beach.  [Flight Video]

This is a very pleasant campground.  I would return if in the area again.

Another cool RV site (private) for larger rigs is north of here up the coast a ways.  It's called "Anchor Bay Campground" in Gualala south of Fort Bragg.  If you can reserve one of the spots nearest their beach, that would be ideal.  We tent camped there when we were in high school and had a fabulous time.  Anchor Bay beach is outstanding.
Anchor Bay Campground beach area


Next up: Stealth camping in Santa Cruz, Walmart blacktop boondocking in Sacramento,  a bike ride in Sacramento,  visiting friends and family in Sacramento and Concord, Samuel P. Taylor State Campground,  back to Sierra Hot Springs, across Nevada on the Loneliest Highway in America,  Great Basin is great!, visiting family in Salt Lake, soaking and camping at Orvis Hot Springs in Colorado, Home.








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