Travis Air Force Base & Concord, CA

We had set aside five days near Sequoia National Park, but we didn’t feel like we were really enjoying ourselves with the heat and potentially overheating car concerns. So we packed up and headed out after four days, bound for Travis Air Force Base where we had a week long reservation, and Rosemarie’s sister’s town of Concord, nearby. We made the decision to head for the base a little too late to adjust the reservation for our early arrival; their office was closed for the weekend, but prior experience and online research suggested there were likely a few walk up sites available.

Our drive would take us quite close to sister Dolores’s house, which is why I did not realize until I was practically in her neighborhood that I had plugged in her address rather than Travis AFB into the GPS! Ah well, the suburban roads were plenty wide for the motorhome, so we pressed on and ended up dropping Rosemarie off at the house while I continued half an hour up the road to check in at the base and set up camp. Travis’ Family Camp did indeed have a couple of open spots for the night, though the next day I would have to move to the site assigned for our original one week stay. This was no problem since it was a pull through site and I did a minimum set up.

The FamCamp is a decent place in a convenient location near the San Francisco Bay area. It provides full service sites at a typical AFB campground price of $25 a day, which seems so much more of a subsidized bargain in this high demand area than that same price in some of the out of the way bases at which we have stayed. The park is decent, though unremarkable by AFB standards, and there is a noticeable difference between the front and rear halves of the RV loop, with the former significantly better landscaped than the sparse back section. This disparity has been quite apparent since at least as far back as far back as our first visit hear in 2017, and the word appears to be out among the California military RV community, and so it was unsurprising that both our one night stay and our week long reservation were in the back forty.

We have stayed at over 25 different military campgrounds, enough to know and appreciate the significant variation in services, maintenance, and amenities. This one, located as it is on a full size Air Force facility, is pretty well maintained and has the full range of traditional base services, including a large commissary and exchange, on base gas station, thrift store, playgrounds, and in different times, a gym and pool. However limited the views and campground d├ęcor from the RV sites, Travis FamCamp is in an expensive, touristy area and yet provides all the amenities you could expect from a military base at a market crushing $25 a night. We have stopped even looking at private or state park options when in the area.

Over the course of the next week we spent most days enjoying company, catching up, and making a few outings to local fun spots. Rose spent probably half the nights at Dolores’, while I kept the cat company on the base. Since both Josh and Dolores are quite allergic to cats, we make whatever adjustments are necessary when we visit.

We had timed our stay to overlap Rosemarie’s birthday, on which Dori took us to Mount Diablo State Park, a nice place for day hiking and picnics about 15 miles southeast of Concord, though the drive takes an hour due to the moderate, zig-zagging climb into the hills. We had a great day on a couple of the short trails, scrambling on the interesting sandstone formations and admiring the views from the lookouts. Tamiry helped me find a local geocache near Elephant Rock, an unusual formation with an obvious entomology (though it looks more like a bison to me.)

We finished the day with a nice celebration with just the five of us. I made pasta and clams, and after some negotiation, ended up with one of Whole Foods’ famous Chantilly cakes for the traditional candles, singing, and dessert. Those are some top notch cakes, but I don’t think anything will top the strawberry shortcake we got for her birthday back in Maine two years ago.

While in town Josh took us to his Mom’s house in Oakland for a late lunch along with two of his brothers and their kids; a small portion of the Foster clan’s local extended family. We had great food, a bit of wine, and conversation: I don’t get a lot of opportunities for “sports talk” outside of our Key West winters, so it was cool to have enthusiastic discussions and debate, particularly since this was during the NBA playoffs, with the LA Clippers looking to end their status as NBA perennial post season losers. We also visited the nearby Lake Merritt Saturday open market, a frenetic event that combines the vendors options of a farmers market, the pop up casualness of a swap meet, and the energy of a block party. We loved it.

Since Rosemarie was spending a lot of time and nights with Dolores and Tamiry, I occupied myself with geocaching in Fairfield and a couple of the other towns near Travis. Even without getting into the more esoteric aspects of the hobby, geocaching tends to take you to places you might never have known existed, like the Cold War missile bunkers some of us cached near in the Lower Keys. But if using multi-billion dollar satellite networks to find Tupperware in the woods is not sufficiently interesting to you, the hobby provides many options for increasing the challenge, adventure, and fun. Enjoy puzzles? There is an entire cache type just for that. Into geology, history, or earth sciences? Try doing some Earth Caches.

One of many historical plaques I have run across during geocaching. This one was part of a mystery puzzle cache requiring the use of information on the plaque to solve for the final coordinates.

I have been working on my “Jasmer Challenge,” which involves finding a geocache placed in every month of every year since the hobby started back in 2000. I started casually working on this and my “Difficulty-Terrain Matrix” two years ago in Florida, and now I am in the habit of checking for qualifying caches in each new area we visit. This is what led me to the decades old “Lifesaver” cache near our campground in Sedona, and half a dozen back in the Asheville area. Here in California, I filled in several holes on my Jasmer list during a couple of days of local caching, including one in which I did 23 caches in one day.

A modest hike up to the top of a hill and along the ridge in a county park took me to this cache location.

Though we paid for a complete engine rebuild and installation earlier this year, our drive across the country had made clear that we needed to put some additional work and money into both the 24 year old tow behind vehicle and our 14 year old motorhome. We decided that the rest of the summer we would pay for whatever needed doing on both vehicles, even if it busted the budget for a couple of months, and come fall we would start making up for it, financially.

A hawk on Dori’s roof.

Our eight day stay in Concord allowed the time for a couple of appointments, and in the process of getting the smoky smell from the Geo’s catalytic convertor area looked at, the mechanic pointed out that our shocks were completely dead and rusting through, the rear brakes were overdue for new pads, and one of the front axle components needed replacing. We settled on a critical work plan that accomplished most of his recommendations, though kept a couple off the list so that I could explore my options.

Near the end of our stay Tamiry stayed the night with us in the camper on base, which involved having to find all the parts for and install the rear seat to the Geo Tracker, which had been in deep storage under the RV for two years or more. Honestly, I can’t recall the last time we had it installed. In any case, it was good to find all the parts and do a little maintenance on them as part of the installation process. Tamiry enjoyed staying with us despite so man of the cool things on base (swimming pool, splash pad) being close for COVID.

Yes, it’s an old and very basic car.

This was a fantastic stop. We had the joy of family, a full service and affordable place to stay while there, plenty of things to do in a modern and energetic metropolitan area, and time enough in one place to take care of a few important repairs. Next up, we begin a series of National Park visits on our way north.