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Defrosting in the Sacramento Valley

One of the best things about traveling by RV is that you can drive to the season you want. Most RV travelers naturally gravitate from north to south in winter, but we have chosen this year to enjoy an extended fall season by traveling to the northwest. I’m glad we did, since the northwest was full of interesting places and living things. But having done that, and endured inches of rain and many chilly nights, I’ve been looking forward to getting back to summer.


This morning was a good motivator to get moving. Our heat pump froze up around 4 a.m. This is the first time we’ve encountered this issue. When the temperature gets down into the 30s and there is high relative humidity, ice can form on the outside coils and prevent the heat pump from working. We’ve been having heavy dew each morning, but not until today did the magic combination occur that would cause the heat pump to stop producing heat. The cold air on my ears woke me up and I found it was 47 degrees inside the trailer. I flipped on the furnace and went back to bed, thinking it was time to head south and downward in elevation.

We said goodbye to the McDills, who are also heading south, and promised we’d all meet again on Tuesday in California. Partially because of our influence they are modifying their travel plans to include Yosemite. I think (after a holiday break) they’ll end up being on the road much longer than they originally thought. This lifestyle suits them well.

Because we had the wheels off the trailer (again), our drive down I-5 was periodically interrupted by my obsessive lug nut checks. Losing a wheel will do that to you. The road climbs up to the Siskiyou Pass (around 4,000 feet) where the weather can be dicey, and then descends slowly, first past Mount Shasta and the gorgeous Trinity area, then into the Sacramento Valley. Suddenly the temperatures soared to 80 degrees, the air smelled of growing plants, and we were back in summer.

Our goal today was the home of Doug and Sandy Keister in Chico. Doug is a photographer and author who has written several definitive books on travel trailers and motorhomes, and occasionally contributes an article or photo to Airstream Life. Sandy is a superior court judge. Doug and I been acquaintances for about three years, running into each other at Tin Can Tourist events and exchanging email, but have never had the chance to really sit down over dinner and get to know each other. So that’s what we did last night.

Doug and Sandy have a vintage “Safari” canned-ham type trailer that they hardly ever get to use. Being a prolific author (about 36 books so far), Doug is constantly traveling around the world and so he seems to live mostly on airplanes. At some point they plan to settle down more and travel in the trailer, but not any time soon.

Our stop here on the street in front of their house is necessarily short. It’s a quiet suburban cul-de-sac, but we aren’t really supposed to be here. We’ll move on in the morning and continue warming up in the glorious sun of the Sacramento Valley for a couple more days.

2 Responses to “Defrosting in the Sacramento Valley”

  1. sadira Says:

    Hey…that’s where some of my family live…give them a big wave for me!

  2. Barry Says:

    Our Safari has the heat pump/A.C. combination as well. Our heat pump ran while we were out this weekend, and froze up, but went into the ‘defrost’ mode, where the refrigerant reverses to thaw out the condenser coil. It runs like that for 15 or 20 minutes, then reverses and comes back with heat for the Airstream. It doesn’t sound like your heat pump is doing a reverse cycle. It may be something (else) to check out, but hard to do in hot weather.