Friday, 30 June 2006, San Francisco, CA
On leaving Yosemite Friday afternoon, we decided to take a detour south-westwards to Monterey before heading to San Francisco. We thought to drive until we were tired and then look for a place to stop. The drive, once we left the Stanilaus Forest, was through rolling brown hills. In places these hills were totally bare; in others they had quite a lot of bushy green trees. We got the impression that the bare ones had been clear-felled long ago.
Eventually we joined the 152 that would take us most of the way to Monterey. We passed very few campgrounds and those that were signposted were always on lakes (usually reservoirs) and in our experience, these are usually booked out on weekends, by people who want to use their boats. A few miles before Hollister we encountered a traffic jam. After several miles of stop and go we came upon Casa de Fruta, where diesel was advertised at $2.99, which was considerably cheaper than we had seen for a while. We decided to stop for fuel, which turned out to be the price for trucks at the back of the service station - the price for cars at the front was $3.27! So we pulled up in the back and pretended to be a big truck and filled both tanks. Once stopped, we were loath to join the traffic jam again and decided to check out the RV Park. Casa de Fruta is a giant Highway stop with everything the souvenir hunter could possible desire - and all with the name Casa de ___; Casa de Wine, Casa de Sweets, Casa de Fruta, Casa de RV Resort and we even bought our diesel at Casa de Diesel!! The RV Park suited out purposes, since it was almost 8.00, and we managed to get a site right at the back, away from the road. We thought we were in for a relatively restful night - there was no hidden train line at the back. However, we hadn't bargained with peacocks, which were in the trees directly behind us, calling to each other most of the night. We just can't win with RV parks!
On Saturday, we took our time about leaving - used the laundry and also updating the diary writing about our visit to Yosemite - we weren't interested in their internet for $10/day, since we only pay t-mobile $20 for 1 month's access, and the majority of RV Parks give it to you for free! We were then back on the 152, minus the traffic jam, and on our way to Monterey. Immediately upon merging into the traffic on the highway, our truck started blowing light grey smoke. Couldn't really work out what the problem was, only that the engine seemed to be burning oil, but it was still running and sounding ok (no knocking from damaged bearings, etc.), so we kept on driving taking extra care. Calling road service here is not really much help in situations like this - they will either jump start you if you have a flat battery or they will tow you to the next garage. They don't seem to have a team of mechanics like in Australia, who can tell you if it is safe to go on driving or if you will blow up your engine if you do. So we made our own decision...
We managed to make it to Monterey early Saturday afternoon to discover that it was one of their busiest weekends of the year, with the annual blues festival and sundry other things happening, and almost all accommodation was booked out. The helpful lady at the visitor centre suggested that we immediately try the public campground at the Veteran's Memorial Park, which is almost in the middle of town, but up quite a hill. We didn't want to drive any further if we could help it, so decided to check out this first come - first served campground. Although we expected the worst, we managed to find one vacant site and quickly paid for 2 nights occupancy. We knew we couldn't get the truck to a mechanic until Monday, so were basically stuck until then. We decided that we could use the weekend to check out Monterey.
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