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“Best way to live in California is to be from somewhere else.” – Cormac McCarthy

We're here, and you know it because we've reported our arrival in this fabulous state of California, the 15th we've visited. We'll be spending a month here before entering Mexico in early October.

Mount Shasta welcomes us in California

We've seen a lot of fabulous sites and places in Washington and Oregon. But California is mythical! It was funny to read "last stop before Californian Prices!" as we passed the last gas station in Oregon. And yes, we can confirm that this is the case for high process. For example, diesel that used to cost under $4 US a gallon in the Midwest is now hovering between $5.50 and $5.80 US a gallon, which puts us in the $2 CAN a liter range, which is pretty much the same price if I compare it with the Outaouais region as of September 1st.

Food prices are also more than 20% higher after the first grocery store than in other states. Sales tax is at 7.5%, but many districts add an extra sales tax that can go to over 10% in some places. We'll continue to manage the budget tightly and the boys have figured it out 😊

One thing that's free in California is sunshine. We've noticed that all new home construction systematically includes roofs clad with solar panels. We have experienced cooler than normal over the last few days since the mercury usually hovers in the 35–40-degree range. There was also a bit of rain yesterday and this morning, whereas it's been sunny every day for weeks. To think that part of California was hit by floods last summer. This year, it's the forest fires that we have to contend with (and the air quality) that are affecting several states including Washington, Oregon and California.

We have been driving through places affected by forest fires in previous years, and it's impressive. Of course, Quebec, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories are all affected this year but they have lived through similar fires seasons in the last few states that we've driven through. This is my first time driving through areas that have been burnt to a crisp. We establish routes, but we're always on the lookout for different warning systems for forest fires, hurricanes and so on.

For the "Paule Houde" of statistics, we're a bit over 10 weeks in and have camped in over 30 different places for 72 nights so far, covering almost 9,000 kms. From national parks and monuments like Yellowstone to state parks and private campsites. The average cost of our stops was $52 US (about $70 CAN), but three short hotel stays inflated the average price. Living costs us an average of $7500 US a month, but that includes everything: food, restaurants, campsites, diesel, activities, souvenirs, RV repairs, washing, road tolls, starlink, hotspots, cell phones, etc. We could tighten up our spending, but for now, we're on target. However, I had underestimated mileage by a good 15-20%. Also, the Canadian dollar was relatively strong at the start of the summer, but it's been falling for the past 10 days, which will be another factor to take into account. The good news is that revenues are higher than forecasted since Stephanie is jugging a few "surprise" contracts on the road. I'm really impressed by her ability to work anywhere! Communication technology is expensive, but it allows Stéphanie to keep in touch even in the most remote places.

But back to the main program. Stephanie trumpeted our arrival in California with the impressive welcome of Mount Shasta (oddly enough the three glaciers on top of it have doubled in size since the 1950s) but there were some gems to report as we wrapped up our time in Oregon.

First, we stopped at the last Blockbuster in the WORLD!!!! It was in Bend Oregon. It was on our way and everyone saw the Netflix documentary about it. It was fun to wander the aisles, think about our Friday nights and...see Russel Crowe's artifacts (Robin Hood’s hood, Cinderella Man tights - but not his jockstrap, which got misplaced... between the penultimate Blockbuster in Alaska and the one in Bend...). It has to be said, while we were there, a lot of merch was being bought, but not many films were being rented! I can also tell you that the special vintage of Blockbuster beer was so-so, a dark beer with a hint of black "twizzlers"...

Be kind Rewind!

Also meriting mention is the Little Crater Volcanic National Monument, still in Oregon. The drive was hell as we crossed the Guiford-Pinchot National Forest (thanks Google Map!) not far from Mount St. Helens. Not only were we driving high up with NO guardrails or barriers, but the road narrowed to a single lane, yes ONE SINGLE LANE. A real ordeal that went from bad to worse. In all, 40 miles were problematic, but for 15 miles this road became a dirt and gravel road. Passing motorcycles, ATVs, bush pick-ups, we were the only ones in an RV in this mess. We were really worried about getting a flat tire, but we managed. Any photos? Nah nah none, because I was clutching my steering wheel and Stephanie was too busy making sure our 6 wheels stayed in line with the road, especially over the passes. Meanwhile, our two kids were having a bouncy ride in the back. We came across other vehicles but luckily we were in manageable places that allowed us to squeeze by them.

It's really impressive to see the number of (dormant) volcanoes and calderas that have shaped the American landscape. The Newberry Volcano created Little Crater Lake. Once again, the volcanic landscapes and crystal-clear waters were on display, and we had our own private beach! Mount Rainier was impressive, but so was Mount Hood, another 11,000-foot volcano. Even though it's hot in Oregon, being at altitude changes the game at times. At Mount Rainier, we had temperatures in the low 10s overnight, but at Little Crater, the mercury dropped to 5-6 degrees at night. The propane heater was in full operation.

Leaving Little Crater, we headed for Collier Memorial State Park and although the road was "normal", this park was burned down by a huge forest fire in 2020 so it felt like we were camping in stark and supernatural terrain. All that was missing was Gollum to greet us. But even in this desert of burned wood, my wife found a museum of forestry machinery to bring the kids to...

We're now in Sacramento, a superb city. We found a campsite on the banks of the Sacramento River with a marina. It is super quiet despite it being Labor Day weekend. We spent some time visiting the historic section of Sacramento (which is the capital of California). The Science Museum and the California State Railroad Museum were really impressive. Sacramento was the hub of gold rush in 1849 (the "Forty-Niners" were the gold seekers who flocked to California in 1849, and I confess that I now understand the name of the San Francisco football team) and the construction of the transcontinental rail link to the West (between Sacramento and Promontory Summit in Utah) between 1863 and 1869.

Our next stop will be San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Some Americans that we met discouraged us from going there, given the problem of homelessness and petty crime in certain parts of the city. After doing our own research, we found that there are some bad neighborhoods, but as long as we stay in the right areas, we should be okay. After all, if we can't get to San Francisco, we're going to have a problem with Mexico and Central America...

Yosemite, California's iconic national park, will also be another stop.Between San Francisco and Yosemite, we'll be servicing Caravan Guard and trying to sort out that right-wheel speed sensor that keeps acting up.

N.B. Do you know why the campers at Collier Memorial State Park all have their car hoods wide open? Quite simply because the bloody Chipmunks have taken the habit of climbing under the hood to eat away at the motor wiring and hood insulation. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, I had Chipmunks all over the RV trying to access the engine, and I'm not even kidding!

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