Portland to Palm Springs

casita in tehachapi

We left Portland as planned, on Friday, February 26. We took a leisurely, four-day ride through southern Oregon and northern and central California. Oregon sent us on our way with some pretty crappy weather, which lasted until we drove past Mt. Shasta on Saturday morning. Since then, it’s been mostly sunny, warming up considerably here in our first extended campground in the Palm Springs area.

We stayed in three parks on the way down, in Yreka, French Camp, and Tehachapi. They were all clean and pleasant, but our favorite was clearly the one in Tehachapi. As I noted over on my photo blog, I had been through Tehachapi many times over the years, but had never stopped. It’s a beautiful area, and our park was rustic (but with water and electric hook-ups) and well-situated on a small plain above the valley. The elevation of the park was 3,500 feet, so it was chilly when we went to bed, and I was happy to have one last blast of cool before we hit the desert heat of Palm Springs. (Susan was ready for the heat.)

First trip
Our route (click to enlarge)

Our route was straightforward. We kept on I-5 through Sacramento, then along CA 99 and CA 58 down to Bakersfield and Barstow. After Barstow, we wound through the mountains and high desert and down to our final camp at the Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area, a county park in La Quinta. We’re staying in an equestrian camp area, and there are only a few people here, which is very nice.

That final day’s travel was lovely and remote, skirting San Gorgonio Mountain (there was no way the Casita was going to make it through the pass over that mountain), through Lucerne Valley, Yucca Valley and Desert Hot Springs. Our only real trip goal was to avoid Los Angeles traffic entirely, and we were very glad that we did it that way.

Nerdy trip stuff

We drove 1,152 miles from Portland to La Quinta, averaging about 290 miles a day. We stopped for gas six times with an overall MPG of 15.0, which is pretty awesome for hauling a trailer. Our average price per-gallon cost of $2.48 wasn’t so great. Even when you factor in buying gas along the highway (which is generally more expensive), California prices were anywhere from 50 cents to $2 more per gallon than Oregon. (One place wanted $3.50 a gallon. Ummmm… no.)

Both the Casita and the FJ handled really well throughout; the FJ was a trooper, slowed by the big passes, but otherwise, it hummed along around 2,000 RPMs for most of the trip.

The plan (for now)

We’ve been in the Palm Springs area for a week now, and will be here for a few more days (we’re ready for something less crowded, although our campground is awesome). We’re spending some time with Susan’s brother and sister-in-law (who are down from Minnesota for a while), and doing a little bit of exploring, a little work, and some resting. We went to the big horse show in Thermal, California that I’ve always wanted to go to, and got to see my old friend Kimber compete in one of the jumper events, which was nice. We’ve also weathered a wind storm, and seen plenty of sun (sorry Portlandians!).

The next place we’re heading to is Joshua Tree; both of us have wanted to spend time there, and we’ve heard that the wildflowers are pretty amazing this year up there, so it should be a blast. (We scoped it out earlier this week.) We’ll be out in the wilderness, dry-camping, which is something we’ve both been looking forward to. Then, it looks like we’ll be heading to campgrounds in Nevada and Utah, with our final destination of Moab, before we head home for the wedding of our friends Pete and Michelle in late April.


We’ve posted a few photos of our trip to California below; just click to see them bigger.

6 thoughts on “Portland to Palm Springs”

  1. I hear Death Valley is experiencing a super bloom because of the rain they’ve had. Looks spectacular, the colors are amazing. Didn’t know if you were headed that way.

    1. Not this time, Becky. Unfortunately, Death Valley is in the opposite direction of where we’re headed, and I think they’ll be gone by the time we’re done at Joshua Tree.

      I wish I had thought to check before we left — we could have done a nice little detour on the way down. We’re still getting the hang of the ‘where are we going next’ thing.

      Joshua Tree is in the midst of a nice bloom, and we’re headed to another high desert area tomorrow that supposedly has some amazing blooms too.

  2. Great photos & nice report. You’ve had a while to live in the Casita, any modifications you’d make? (Or made?)

    1. Hi Mark,

      We’re actively working through everything, and talking about what works and what doesn’t. It’s very interesting, even more so because we still have time to make changes in the build of our ultimate trailer (the Escape 19′ model we have on order).

      I hope to write a little bit about the things we like and don’t like about the Casita, probably as we get closer to the end of this first adventure.

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