Monday, June 20, 2016

San Francisco Area

9 June we pulled up stakes and made our way to Larkspur, CA.  They tell me we're about 10 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The drive was only slightly challenging.  There was significant traffic as we approached the bay area but it mostly kept moving.  One of us maintained the death grip and I drove.

Our home for a week will be the Marin RV Park.  At first glance it appears to be nothing more then a parking lot.  And mostly it is nothing more then a parking lot.

But a very nicely maintained parking lot run by very pleasant, helpful people. Unbeknownst to us, our site was way narrow so they gave us two sites.  That made things much better  And, it's oh so cheap. Just pennies shy of $500 for 7 nights.  But lets be fair.  It's San Francisco, nearly.

One of the reasons we (you know, Debbie) picked this place is because it's an easy walk to a ferry terminal where we can board a ferry to San Francisco..  The other reason is that Aubree and Elizabeth used to live nearby.  They recently moved to the Seattle area, but we decided to keep it on the itinerary anyway.  So after we got settled we walked to the ferry terminal to check it out.  It'll be easy to get on the ferry and go.

Day two we hung around the camper and did stuff.  You know some banking, pay some bills, make some calls.  Adult stuff.  Debbie feels compelled to remind me that we (you know who) still have a life to manage.   Adjacent to the ferry terminal is a hip shopping/eating area so that night we moseyed over there for some health food.  Onion rings and pizza!  The best.

Saturday we drove to Point Reyes National Seashore located up the coast from San Francisco. It is 53,000 acres of glorious coastal terrain.  It's one of those areas where you must applaud the folks who set it aside for generations of enjoyment. Maybe the primary destination within the park is an 1870 lighthouse.  The structure strikes me as average among lighthouses

 but what a spectacular setting.

In addition to the lighthouse there are miles and miles of trails, shoreline, 100+ year old dairy farms and endlessly beautiful scenery.

I'm sure the locals really love having this jewel in their backyard to enjoy over and over again.  Time very well spent.  That evening we had a great surprise. Fireworks!!!  I had to check my watch.  Was it the Fourth of July?  I mean a massive display launched from somewhere very near the campground. Only later did I learn it was a celebration at a local park.

Sunday we got ourselves on the nearby ferry for a ride into the city.  The fare is not necessarily cheap, about $40 for the two of us RT, but certainly much easier then driving.  We spent the day walking.  I mean a lot of walking! I think it's reasonable to describe myself as a fairly motivated hiker, but believe me, Sunday was a full day of walking. I thought we would walk by the many piers to Fisherman's Wharf and way beyond. Well, we didn't get  nearly as far as I might have anticipated but it was still a mighty full day.  For you Fitbit fans, Debbie had 20,000+ steps before we got back to the camper.  We spent some time at Fisherman's Wharf, a madness of people.

We ate sourdough bread,

enjoyed the sea lions

and got out of the madness.

Something I must share that I thought was way cool.  I noticed several different bicycle rental companies, some with unique names.  Blazing Saddles was clever enough but the best was OUTSPOKE'N. Cute, huh?  If I could add a smiley face I would! The San Francisco ferry terminal houses many eateries.  For about bout $35 we got a couple burgers and fries. In all fairness, they were great burgers. Ferry ride home was pleasant and uneventful.  I guess I could have summed up our day by saying "we walked around all day".

So San Francisco really is full of interesting sights and people.  But you may have noticed that we didn't do some of the traditional San Francisco stuff.  We didn't because some years ago we vacationed in the city and did the more traditional activities.  Also, we didn't really want to deal with driving/parking in the city.  Additionally, it was really "cold" and windy many of the days we were in the area so we wimped out on things like walking across the bridge and blah blah blah.  OK OK, enough of my excuses and dribble.

Monday.  Muir Woods.  Huge Trees.  Beautiful!

 Love that brevity.

Tuesday we did a day trip to the Golden Gate Recreational Area,  It's a mere 80,000+ acres.  It does include Muir Woods, but much of it was military real estate that has been turned over to the National Park Service.  A huge portion of it is north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  But also to the north is Mount Tamalpais State Park (appears to be monsterous and pristine)  and Point Reyes National Seashore.  To the south is the Presidio.  If you're looking at a California map you'll see that there is a great deal of green space adjacent to San Francisco. Our day was spent at the Marin Headlands located within the Golden Gate Recreation Area which includes Forts Barry, Baker and Cronkhite.  The military presence is everywhere with a great many military buildings, bunkers, lookout positions, and gun emplacements. So we spent our day wandering.

If you're a fan of american military history, my guess is this is a treasure trove. Interestingly, given the huge military presence and fortifications, nary a shot was ever fired at the enemy from these locations. So the placards tell me.  Nonetheless, one must be prepared.  Beyond the military stuff, there is beautiful scenery, miles of trails, animal habitat, great views of the Golden Gate Bridge

and another cleverly situated lighthouse. It was closed, but we do have pictures of it from afar.  It's a very cool location.
Pt. Bonita Lighthouse
Speaking of cool, it was like omg cold and windy while we were there.  But, I'm thinking, that added to the enjoyment?

Really a great day.  Editorializing: that is one of the great aspects of this type of traveling. You do what you can do.  If you don't see it all you simply look forward to moving on to the next location.

Wednesday was far more laid back.  We drove a short distance to Sausalito, CA. Cute, ritzy, seaside town with hillside homes that look like they're built on top of each other.

We strolled, lets call it promenaded, ate a treat,

 and went home to do some laundry.

Now, I know you're dying to ask, " how are the dogs doing?"  WONDERFUL! When we're traveling with them in the truck we often ask each other, "did we forget the dogs?"  They virtually never make a sound. In the camper, they are under foot a little, but nothing even annoying and certainly no more then we expected.   We're successfully leaving them now for up to 8 hours and not an accident or eaten sofa of any description.  As traveling companions they get multiple walks and tons of attention.  If you asked them, I believe they would tell you that they are mighty pleased!  


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yosemite National Park

Sequoia National Park (really Three Rivers, CA) is disappearing in the rear view mirror and we're on our way to Yosemite National Park.  It's about 9 am.  Fairly prompt for us.  The distance will be about 175 miles.  El Portal , CA will be our home for the next three nights.  El Portal is no more then a gathering of a very few businesses on the southwestern side of Yosemite NP.  We arrived about 2 pm. Our campground, Indian Flat RV Park, is nothing special but it will satisfy us just fine.

After we get settled we head for the park.  It takes around 45 minutes to get to the park, through the gate and well into the park before you start to encounter the premium attractions.  In one of the visitor center movies we watched, a park ranger stated that it's the water that brings the energy to the park. Mostly, I must say he's about half right (they didn't know to confer with me).  As you enter the park the Merced River, which flows adjacent to the road, is RAGING! This sucker, propelled by snow melt, is screaming out of the valley.  It's a beautiful sight!

Now for the other half.  As you enter Yosemite Valley the massive rock walls of the valley appear.  I mean really really massive rock walls.

And over some of these walls pour some of the most impressive waterfalls you'll likely ever see.

Bridalveil Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

Nevada and Vernal Falls (from Glacier Point)
So I'd say it's the combination of water, coupled with the rock walls, that produce the energy, or better yet, the aura of Yosemite NP. Phew, that was some exhausting verbiage!  The two most accessible falls, which means easiest to view, are Yosemite and Bridalveil. Both required a modest hike, really no more then a stroll.  Both will get you a little wet from their spray and both are marvelous (darling).  Other highly notable waterfalls include Vernal and Nevada. If you look closely as you travel through the valley and beyond , you'll see other, less notable falls finding their way over a ledge.  I must point out that we were there maybe at the peak of the waterfall season. It's my understanding that, by late summer, these waterfalls largely disappear.  So day one was a success.

The next morning we started our day at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Another clarification. Summer is a very very busy time at Yosemite.  Busy means there are a zillion people everywhere.   Busy means you'd better get there early or you'll be struggling to find a parking place.  Busy also means that you must be patient.  But we got in without incident and on with our day. We spent a fair amount of time at the visitor center then caught a shuttle to hike to Mirror Lake.  We didn't pay attention to the shuttle routing so we enjoyed the first 17 stops equaling about an hour before we got to the trail head. Brilliant!  Yes?  The hike was a bit of a dud. There were some pretty views, any outdoor exercise is good, but the lake was maybe a glorified pond.  We then went home, took care of the dogs and headed back to the park with our bicycles.  That worked out very nicely.  There are miles of paved bike paths that wander through the park.  They carry you through busy areas as well as out to the middle of nowhere.

So we enjoyed a wonderfully pleasant evening just tooling around the park.  As the sun was setting I did have some anxiety about figuring out where I parked the truck but obviously enough we prevailed.

Our last day at the park was primarily devoted to making our way to Glacier Point. During the busy season, during the busy part of the day, they only allow you to drive two thirds of the way then you must board a shuttle.  It was all quite easy. Glacier Point is summed up in one word VIEWS!  Really stunning views!

We stayed at Glacier Point a couple hours, got back on the shuttle and returned to Yosemite Village. The Village includes the primary visitor center, hotel, and numerous stores.  Had to get a T-shirt. You know, we may soon be naked.  Oh yes, and a bag of chips!  Enjoyed a pleasant evening, worked on the blog and looked forward to moving on to our next stop - San Francisco.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Getting Up to Date


We wrapped up 2015 and now we're moving on to 2016.  Hopefully you found something interesting in the "gee we decided it was important to update you with all of our travels since the last posting in June 2014" edition of See Ya When We Get There.  So it's a new year and I'm going to continue the saga and bring you up to something that resembles today.

My father moved from assisted living in Florida to assisted living in Ohio October, 2015.  My brother Danny and sister-in-law Lorraine, their children and their children's children all live in northeastern Ohio and it made great sense for my father to be there. In February Debbie and I went there for a visit. Had a great time with Danny and Lorraine and a wonderful visit with my father.  Proved to be a mighty important trip.  My father fell, cracked his skull and died April 12, 2016.  He was 87.

The following week Debbie and I went to Carlsbad, CA for a previously planned timeshare week to enjoy the greater San Diego area.  Debbie had never been there and I had been only related to work  We had a very nice time.  No surprise the weather was great (I think it always is).  A real bonus was hooking up with my cousin Anita who I hadn't seen since 1999.   We spent a wonderful evening with her and Diane.  This included lots of talk, laughter and hugs.

The rest of the week we did tourist stuff.  We took a train, The Coaster, from Carlsbad to San Diego and spent the day doing a hop-on hop-off bus tour. We went to the San Diego Zoo as well as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Both were great  We saw Giant Pandas as well as many other wonderful animals at the zoo,

but the Safari offered us something a little special.  While at the Big Horn Sheep "coral", we watched a mother sheep introduce her 1 hour old calf to the world.  But it gets better.  Another mother decided to deliver her own new calf while we watched.  Pretty cool!

If you look closely you may be able to see the new baby to the left of the mother's head.  Sorry we didn't get a better photo.

On the more sedate side of activities we picked fresh strawberries one day,

and visited acres of blooming flowers that were being raised to harvest the bulbs

Most nights we took long walks along the beach and watched the sun set.

Another day we visited the affluent seaside community of La Jolla. It's Cove is famous for it's natural beauty,


Brandt's Comorant
 and cute sea lions. They were a delight and highly entertaining.

We're not "foodies" so even when we travel we don't eat out much. We did organic burgers (it's California) one night,  pizza another and scored a great Chinese buffet. We went out several mornings for breakfast and one afternoon Debbie got her all time favorite Hawaiian  Shave (no "d") Ice.  Think snow cone only much much better! So it was a week of transition for me.  Adjusting to my father being gone (my mother died years ago) warranted a great deal of personal reflection. I'm an emotional guy but a realist.  It's life.  All is well.

The first several days of May we were back in Ohio.  We had previously set this time aside to go visit my father and the rest of the family so we kept it on the schedule.  Another nice visit which included seeing my father's sister, Aunt Betty, who is 93 and looks wonderful!  We put my father's ashes where they belong, in the ground next to my mother's.  Thank you for listening about my father.

17 May the camper is loaded and moving down the highway.  Just a little about the camper.  "Little" being the operative word.  It's a 24 foot box with a 3 foot tongue so it's classified as a 27 foot camper. It has one slide which houses the dinette.  The spaces are  compact but quite functional.

It's Debbie and I plus 3 dogs.  That's not a typo, we are traveling with 18, 28 and 72 pounds of mostly very well behaved dogs.  They're also on the old side (of course we are not).  Thirteen, 12 and almost 9 years of age. Some folks have asked if the dogs will be a bother, inhibit some of our activities and physically be in the way in a small camper.  The answer is emphatically, YES!  But lord knows we love our dogs so we will be patient (mostly) and make it work.

Back seat of the truck has been converted to the mobile dog house

Found taped on our truck window the morning we left.  We suspect our good friends The Reids 
If all goes well (a huge question) we'll be on the road until at least mid-October. The itinerary includes a week at the Grand Canyon, a week in Las Vegas, June in California, July Oregon, August Washington, September into Canada then back to the states and parts beyond.

As previously stated, 17 May we hit the road.  Our adventure starts with a one week stay at the Grand Canyon.  The primary purpose  of this is so that I, with my good friend Bill, can hike rim to rim of the canyon.  I did this last September.  Bill and I completed our hike 20 May.  Rim to rim presents some logistical challenges. The trick is how to be on one side of the canyon, hike to the other side and have transportation and lodging.  Often hikers have someone drive around to pick them up.  But it's about a 4-5 hour drive and we didn't want Debbie or Rena (Bill's wife) to have to make the drive.  So Bill and I put together plan B.  The 4 of us set up our travel trailers at Trailer Village on the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.

We were welcomed by numerous elk in the campground

We stayed there Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday, Bill and I took a shuttle to the North Rim. It was $90 each but was a very pleasant ride.  Thursday night we shared a great cabin that was positioned nearly on the edge of the North Rim.

View from the porch of our cabin

It was pricey, about $125 each but that was the only thing available when we made the reservations. We enjoyed (with some moderation) a great buffet that night then worried a bit a about the weather. It was working on being colder then we expected and the wind HOWLED!  It seemed like hurricane strength winds. We were up about 4 am and took a 5:30 am free shuttle from the North Rim Lodge to the trail head.  Almost immediately the weather settled down and was pleasant the rest of the day. We successfully completed the traditional hike with a brief side trip to Ribbon Falls.

Total hike was about 24.5 miles. It was a great event with a great hiking partner!

Debbie and I then spent 8 days in Las Vegas because it's there and we always enjoy ourselves. Remember, we're now in the camper. We set up at Nellis Air Force Base.  Very nicely maintained and oh so spacious!

Probably the largest campsite we've ever been in

En route to Nellis our truck started to misfire.  We also had a check engine light that came on occasionally and the exterior lid of the gas tank compartment was coming apart.  It's a 2012 F150 that we bought in September last year.  I'm not pleased but things must be addressed.  The evening of our arrival I hustle to a Ford dealership, plead my case, and make arrangements to be there first thing in the morning.  I'm truly the first guy in line and I'm out by noon.  $900 later the problems appear to be fixed. So Vegas was great fun.  Hot, but our little camper took good care of us.  We gambled little and lost almost nothing. Primarily we're there to see shows.  They included:  Vegas The Show, Jersey Boys, Terry Fator, Mat Franco and Rock of Ages.  A review of all the shows would be too lengthy, even for me, but if you want my critique, contact me and I'll freely share.  We also toured the Neon Museum. It mostly resembles a large yard with lots of old rusty neon signs.  That's it except they all came from old casinos and places of interest in Las Vegas.

Oh how we loved the Sahara!  Sorry to see it gone.

Surprisingly interesting due in large part to our truly excellent guide!

So now we're about to become current.  1 June we drove close to 400 miles arriving at Three Rivers, CA early evening.  This is a little community outside Sequoia National Park. Our mission is to see Sequoia as well as Kings Canyon National Park.  But there's a problem upon our arrival. The water for the campground stopped flowing just before we arrived.  The end of this story is it doesn't come back on until about 7 pm of the following evening. Everything about the well had fried as a result of an electrical short.  We were not traveling with any water in our fresh water tank.  We made things work, were not particularly fresh for a day but all's well.  Back to the parks.  They are HUGE!  Only a small portion of the parks is accessible via automobile.  This is particularly true of Kings Canyon.   The evening of day one is spent settling in and fretting about no water.  Day 2 we drive about an hour into Sequoia to an area called Giant Forest.  For those of you who have not been here, not every tree is a Sequoia.  But you will know one when you see one.  I'm at a loss to proportionally describe the size of these trees. Surprise.......we do have some pictures.

Almost impossible to get a picture of the entire tree 

Maybe this gives some perspective.  See  Duane at the bottom of the tree?
In the Giant Forest, The Congress Trail is an easy 2 mile hike to view the Sequoia's

Fire damage. But the Sequoia's survive. 

Day 3 we hang around the campground.  Day 4 we load the dogs into the truck and head for Kings Canyon.  We simply drive (for about 8 hours), frequently stopping to enjoy the sites and take a few pictures.

That evening we join our friends, Tom and Fannie, from our community in AZ for dinner.  They are on their way to their summer home in Washington.  Dinner lasted 3 hours!  It was great catching up.

Day 5 we return to Sequoia specifically to see Moro Rock. Again, the pictures must speak for themselves.

You can drive ot take the shuttle to Moro Rock, but we chose to do the 2-mile trail

More sequoia's along the way

Finally we see Moro Rock.  We're hiking up there?

Along the way we took a short side path to Hanging Rock

Finally we start the climb up the rock

It's about 400 steps

Almost there

At the top - - 6,725 feet above the canyon floor

Gorgeous views
 By the time this segment of the blog is posted we will be at Yosemite National Park or beyond.

Hope we're not boring you.  Please comment freely.

Duane, Debbie, Bo, Laska and our newest addition, Bailey.  I'll tell you about her in our next installment.