Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Heading North

Well, the Rains are on the road again and since we are back to traveling, I guess I will fire up this travel blog once more. Things may be a little disjointed at first since there were a few stops last fall that we never covered, so I may go back and fill in some blanks over the next few weeks. We will see what catches my fancy.

The new home (along with new Forester toad)
We spent the winter in Aguanga,CA at Jojoba Hills, the co-op RV Park we joined the previous year. Many of the readers of the blog are members there, so I have avoided spending too much time describing it. I may do an entry on it somewhere down the line. The most important piece of interim news for those who are not aware is that we have upgraded our living accommodations. Now, instead of a 36 foot Allegro we are driving a 45 foot 2010 Monaco Dynasty. After traveling with Christopher all last summer, the Allegro was feeling a mite cramped. The new rig is considerably more spacious and elegant.
A little more spacious and elegant
We hit the highway on May 3 and headed north, aiming to spend this summer in the Pacific Northwest. Our first stop was in Tehachapi, which was also our first stop when we first started full-timing 2 years ago. It is a pleasant little mountain town whose claims to fame are a spiral train track known as the Tehachapi Loop and the lovely state prison. See my previous ruminations on Tehachapi here. We stayed in the Mountain Valley RV Park which is right next to the local airport. You might expect this to be a problem but it really wasn't. During the two days we were there I think one plane landed. There are a bunch of gliders tied down next to the runway so I suspect this airport is used mostly for weekend recreation.

The last time we were here we noted the presence of the local railway museum but did not take the time to go inside. We decided this time to go ahead and take the tour. The museum is housed inside what is supposedly the old historic train station however this is kind of a myth. The old train station had become considerably run down back in 2006 and the decision was made to restore it and install the museum. They had a bunch of old railroad artifacts in storage and spent two years of all volunteer work fixing up the building. Then, just before they moved all the stuff in, some local boys playing with fireworks managed to set the newly restored structure on fire,
The Tehachapi Depot Museum - not really that historic
reducing everything to ashes except for one end wall. There were a few fortunate aspects to this story. First of all, the exhibits were still all in storage and were not damaged. Second, the building was a standard Southern Pacific rail station design, so they had access to the original plans and material specifications. Thirdly, they had the good sense to insure the place so the rebuilding expense was covered. So they wound up building an entirely new building on the same site from the same plans and the station you see today is not really the original.

Did they utilize the one remaining wall? Well, sort of. It was too fragile to use as the end wall of the new building so they actually encased it inside the new wall that they built. So that 100-year-old wall is still there, you just can't see it.

Station master's desk
This is a tiny town and the railroad museum is about what you would expect under the circumstances. A ticket window, the station master's desk, some train signals, the usual assortment. What made this museum stand out was the two little-old-lady volunteer docents who personally toured us through the building and answered any questions we had. They were eager to please. I probably could have gotten them to make us tea if we had wanted some. They, more than anything, made this an above average museum experience.

Among the nuggets of information we got at the museum was the fact that an average of 30-50 trains a day go around the Tehachapi Loop however Monday is always track maintenance day
Tehachapi Loop (Aeriel photo from the museum)
and no trains would be allowed on that section of rail until three o'clock that afternoon. I wanted to try and get a picture of a train going around the loop this trip and figured there would probably be multiple trains waiting in line to go through the signals after three. So we drove up to the lookout point above the loop at about 3:30 and kept watch, but after waiting at the lookout point for 45 min. I finally gave up and we drove back to camp. What the heck, we will probably be through this way again at some point.  If you really want to get a feel for this engineering marvel, someone has posted a video of a train going around the loop using a helicopter drone here.

Here is my photo of the loop sans train


  1. 45'- it's kind of like driving a train down the highway when you're that long. But wow is it beautiful. It's amazing how hard volunteers work in some of these small museums. I agree - the docents really make the difference.

  2. Yeah,a train with a little green caboose at the end. The biggest challenge is getting around corners safely. It would be nice if it would turn in sections like a real train.