GART – Leg 4 Grand Canyon to Yosemite

I’m way behind in my comments. I’ve been trying to catch up on getting the photos posted, and of course Lady CurbCrusher is doing a great job of keeping everyone up to date on what we’ve been doing each day. I’ve changed to just limited my comments to the driving and the stuff that I do, of think needs to be added to her comments. So to catch up, here are my thoughts from the past week or so.

The fourth leg of our trip was scheduled to be from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite National Park, a distance of about 700 miles, with a stop in the Fresno area so that we could visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park before finishing the trip to Yosemite. Because we had done everything that we had planned in the Grand Canyon, we started out a half a day early and broke up the trip a little more. We left the Grand Canyon around noon and headed down AZ-64 to Williams which is located on I-40. We stopped in Williams to fill up the tank (the most expensive gas on the trip so far) and then drove as far a Needles, California.

The drive on I-40 was uneventful. The road seemed in fairly good shape, until we got to California. The first 15 miles of so of I-40 in California seemed to maintained in a manner that makes one want to turn around and leave California. Interestingly enough, there is no welcome station in California, but there is an “inspection station” where some guy (or gal) ask you if you have any fruits and vegetables in your vehicle.

After about 230 miles we stopped in Needles at the Desert View RV Park (our pics). This was a very nice park, something about it made me want to just stay for a week or so. Maybe it was the fact that for the first time in four or five days the temperature was in the 80s. The park has a mixture of gravel and concrete roads, and full hook-ups (water, sewer and electric) at the sites. Sites are separated by an oleander hedge that runs the entire length of the site, making for a private setting. There is a pool and laundry facilities making this pretty much a full service RV park. The host were friendly and talkative, and we even met the owners a little later in the evening.

One thing we have noted as we’ve headed out west is the abundance of rental RVs. El Monte, Cruise America, Chepa Campa, and so on. It appears that a lot of these are rented by Europeans and they visit the parks and sites of the American West. I know in our camping in Florida and on the east coast, it seems like we rarely see a rental RV. But, every park we’ve stayed in out west seems to have had a least half a dozen of them.

We slept in a little the next morning and then headed up to Visalia, California, another 350 miles closer to Yosemite. The drive was on I-15 to Barstow, then CA-58 to Bakersfield and CA-99, which heads north to Visalia. While I-15 seemed to be in good repair, the cross winds between Needles and Ludlow made this one of the more white-knuckle driving experiences of the trip. It was even worse that the winds had been in Arizona when we had been driving between Winslow and Flagstaff. CA-58 from Barstow to Bakersfield was a nice drive. The road goes back and forth between a four-lane and two-lane highway, but is smooth enough and there are not a ton of little towns that slow you down. The final stretch was up CA-99, which is a four-lane limited access highway that runs through town after town. All the merging gets a bit tiring, but the road is decent for the most part, and was not too crowded.

We finally ended up at the Visalia KOA. It was a typical KOA, it had a pool, propane, playground, pull-thru sites with full hook up. Nothing exciting or overly attractive about it, but nothing that made you want to leave either. It was located in an industrial area, but that was not a big detriment. The sites were big enough to put out slides and the hook ups were close enough to use the short water hose. (Our pics)

We used the stop in Visalia to take a “rest” day and visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. The park is located about 60 miles from the KOA. We visited the park in a loop, driving east on CA-198 to the entrance to the park, then through the park. We returned on CA-180 west and then headed south on CA-63 to finish the loop back to Visalia. We took most of the day to complete the trip, and Lady CurbCrusher has documented our activities and such in the park, and our pics are here.

The final drive of this leg was from Visalia to Yosemite Valley, an approximately 130 mile drive. We choose to approach Yosemite from the south heading up CA-41 into the park. When we left the KOA in Visalia, Lady CurbCrusher entered the destination in the GPS as Yosemite National Park. This caused the GPS to show that we had only about 95 miles to drive, which made me ecstatic. As we headed up CA-99 and then switched onto CA-41 the driving was not bad. The road was wide, not much climbing. When the GPS showed about 36 miles left, the road got a little narrower. When we got to about 17 miles left, we started climbing and turning a bit. As we went on, the road wound around and climbed more, with little drops here and there. When we reached the entrance station, I was a bit disappointed, I still had about 35 miles to drive. We stopped at Wawona and had some lunch and then continued on to the Yosemite Valley. CA-41 through the park is a bit of a pain. It winds a lot, not switchbacks, but lots of curves (you turn left, then right without any straight-away in between), and the road is narrow. There are just the two lanes, no real shoulders. Lady CurbCrusher was convinced that I was going to hit the motorhome mirrors on the snow poles that are on the side of the road. She also didn’t like that the curves on the road were banked,
so that as your turned into each curve, the motorhome leaned a bit. All in all it wasn’t too bad, the downhills take some getting used to, but the grade brake in the motorhome worked as advertised, so I didn’t have to ride the brakes.

Finally, we get to THE tunnel. The sign says 10 foot 1 inch at the curb. I’ve read that motorhomes and busses have no problem getting through this tunnel, but still this is scary. I stayed as close to the center line as I could in the tunnel, and you can tell that the sides go higher at the side of the road, but there are still rocks sticking out in the tunnel that cause you to pause. We finally emerged from the tunnel in the valley, seeing the famous tunnel view for which Yosemite is known. Now it was just a matter of finding the campground, which was at the other end of the valley. Since the valley speed limit is 35, it takes a while to get to the campground and check in.

The campground we are in is Lower Pines. There is also Upper Pines and North Pines. Of the three, Lower Pines seemed the least crowded. We fit in our site with a bit of a problem. The length was fine, but we were not able to put out the living room slide because of the tree that was right next to the site. There are no hook-ups, so there are no hoses or wires to worry about. You are allowed to run your generator for 45 minutes at a time, up to two hours a day. That was plenty of time to charge the batteries and keep the rig running fine. Pictures of the campground are here.

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