Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 6, 7, & 8 October

Tennessee, next to last state. We need to get half-way across to visit an old friend of Jean's. We got underway at about 10:40. Weather was sunny and cold, the front has finally passed  us. We arrived in Tullahoma about 5:00. We began off the interstate, and never got back on. What a relief! No trucks.

We went through farm country (cotton and soybeans) and small towns. We don't cover as many miles, but it is more relaxed.

Having arrived at a reasonable hour, we could settle down for lots of conversation and a home-cooked meal (fairly rare on a trip like this).

 Next morning, our hosts took us to an old mill which has been converted to a good restaurant for lunch.  After a pleasant meal (the women had Mimosas, the men were driving) we walked out and saw the pond and the flume --- the turbine has been removed and is displayed in the parking area. Then we bid them our fond adieus and headed northeast to catch up with Gene's brother and his wife.

This part of Tennessee is hilly. It makes for more pleasant driving.

We didn't get back on an interstate until just before Harriman (where brother Mike lives). To begin with, we got a late start, then we crossed the last time zone (immediately lost an hour), and then we got turned around a little in Harriman. So  we finally got together with them at Cracker Barrel about 8:00 o'clock. More conversation, to the point that we closed the place down. Mike and Heidi went home and we stayed in the Cracker Barrel parking lot for the night.

Rain overnight. After  having breakfast in the restaurant, we headed out on the last leg home. The last leg always seems to be the longest. It didn't help that we were in and out of rain all day --- and it was cold. We saw that the trees were beginning to change; it was definitely time to get home.

After a late lunch in a rural Subway, we drove into the yard at 6:27, home at last.

This is actually being written on October 9, so we wish you all a Happy Leif Eiriksson Day.

Some statistics for those that may be interested:

Total number of days: 45
Miles driven: 10,193
Fuel consumed: 543 gallons (priced from $3.29 to $4.89)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday, 5 October

Another straight travel day. We're feeling the attraction of home.

Woke to the sound of light rain. That soon turned into heavy rain and thunder. It was also cold again. The storm has caught up with us. When it was time to pick up our gear and head out, Gene found that the power pole and the shore cable were in a big puddle. He flipped off the breaker and was then able to recover the gear. All of it needed to be cleaned and dried before it could be stowed.

We got underway early for us (9:45). We stopped down the road a bit and had a hot breakfast, then found a Walmart to pick up the other two prescriptions that weren't ready yesterday.

Back on the road, we eventually got ahead of the rain, into cloudy but windy weather. Then we even saw some blue sky and warm weather. It was interesting to see the usual progress of a cold front run in reverse.

There were warnings of road work with delays ahead, so Jean found us a parallel road, which we took. It was the first time since Los Angeles that we got off the interstate and drove a country road. We learned that farms in this part of Arkansas grow mostly cotton and soy beans. Just before we got back on the interstate, we stopped at McDonald's for more Coke and a snack. Then Gene took a half-hour nap.

Back on the interstate, the beginnings of the cold front were catching up with us again, --- overcast and some light rain. We hit Memphis at about 6:00 o'clock. Light traffic downtown, a piece of cake; but the outskirts had lots of traffic. Everything settled down in time for us to find our campground. The office was closed until Monday, so we did an after-hours check-in and settled in for the night. We were getting low on water, so Gene set up the water. It began to sprinkle so he decided to fill the tank and then break down the water right away, in case tomorrow began like today. He ended up breaking down the water just as a thunderstorm arrived.

Lots of rain and thunder and much cooler after. Will we drive through it again tomorrow? Will we be playing tag with this cold front all the way home? Keep tuned.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wednesday & Thursday, 2 & 4 October

We may start packing days together, since we are not sight-seeing or visiting anyone for a couple of days.

Wednesday we had breakfast at the campground cafe (the first one we've seen), then headed for Amarillo. We got to Discount Tire by about noon. As suspected, the tire couldn't be repaired, it needed to be replaced. And since the other three tires have 45,000 miles on them, the prudent thing was to replace in matched pairs. After some discussion, Gene opted for a pair of Cooper HT's, 10-ply tires. The advice, based on recent tests by Michelin, was to place them on the rear as actually being safer. So that was what we did. Again, the hardest part of the job seemed to be removing and replacing the spare.

We left the tire place about an hour and a half later and $378 poorer, but with more confidence in our tires. That lasted until we were out of town and into a strong cross-wind. The motorhome was very squirrley and hard to keep tracking straight. This on a high-speed road cluttered with trucks. We stopped at a nearby Information Center and Gene checked tire pressures. He had told them three times that the van took 80 pounds on the rear and 55 on the front. They had moved the left rear tire to the right front to get both new tires on the rear. The rear tires showed 85 pounds --- probably from heat buildup. The right front showed 85 pounds, while the left front had 59 pounds (again, probably from the heat and driving). So Gene bled the right front down to 59 to match the left. On the road again, the motorhome behaved much better, though we were still being knocked around by the strong wind (not unexpected).

The rest of the day went uneventfully, and we managed to run 283 miles and cross into Oklahoma in spite of the delay.

Thursday dawned cold and windy. We both needed to dress warmer than recently. The weather forecast was for a cold front to come through with 15-25 mph winds. It apparently had arrived. It was cold, windy, and overcast as we left the campground. Gene needed to get a number of prescriptions refilled, including two that had expired. We stopped briefly at a Cherokee Trading Post while Gene tried to get the phone number of one of the doctors. No signal.

When we got to El Reno, we found a convenient Super Walmart where we were able to get help from the pharmacist, buy some groceries, get fuel, and get some lunch. They were able to fill one prescription, and got faxes from both doctors, but needed to confirm with them. They said that we could pick up the other two prescriptions at any Walmart along the way. That stop took two hours, but we were all set to scoot for Arkansas.

As we went, the winds seemed to die down. We hit some light rain (at the frontal boundry?) and even saw a little sunshine. In the lighter wind, the Roadtrek was behaving normally. We seemed to be outrunning the cold front. In fact it was quite warm when we checked in to the campground in Arkansas. We hope the front doesn't catch up with us during the night.

The countryside gradually changed from dry flatlands in Texas and much of Oklahoma, to greener, more forested, rolling country in the eastern part of Oklahoma.

In fact, the campground just over the line in Arkansas, was on a creek, interesting enough to rate a picture. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday, 2 October

Today we were heading for Texas. We didn't make it.

About half an hour out of Santa Fe, we got a flat tire. We had pulled over to take a picture; when we were ready to leave there was a low tire warning on the instruments. Gene got out and walked around. The right rear tire was flat. Since we were on a hill, he drove slowly down the shoulder until we were on more or less level ground. Then he called Roadside Assistance.

About an hour and three-quarters later, after a visit from a state trooper, help arrived. (Some adventures are more boring than others.)

It turns out that the hardest thing about changing a tire on a Sprinter is getting the spare out. After some time banging on things and jacking up the side of the van, the tire was retrieved. After that, mounting it on the wheel was a piece of cake. It turns out that the spare (which is a steel wheel, the rest are alloy) requires special lug bolts (which are in the standard tool kit).

Looking at the flat tire, we found a hole in the tread. It looked like it could be repaired until the service guy found a soft spot in the sidewall. Apparently driving on the tire, even slowly, damaged the side wall so that the tire will have to be replaced (which really means two tires will have to be replaced).

Two hours and 45 minutes after calling for help, we were on our way. This part of New Mexico is hilly (or low mountains). The scenery is very pleasant.

When we got back to Interstate 40, we were back on the flats (the Great Plains?). A marker sign said that this is some of the flattest land in the country. Not very scenic.

We checked in to a KOA in Tucumcari, expecting to see NCIS. Jean turned on the TV a few minutes before 7:00 to find the channel and saw the last few minutes of it. It seems it plays at 6:00 in Mountain Time. Grrrr! At least we got to see NCIS-LA.

Tomorrow we drive to Amarillo and buy a couple of tires.

Monday, 1 October

We have a problem. We found a minimal campsite last night --- in a overflow area. This weekend is the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, and there's hardly a campsite available for 100 miles. We decided we needed to get out early and move fast to get clear of the area. That means probably no sight-seeing today.

First problem. We could get online to write last night's blog entry, but it was slooooow! At least as bad as dial-up, maybe worse. By the time we had the blog up and Jean did some necessary banking, we had spent over an hour. Then we had to dump tanks (stand in line) and get more propane. Nights are cold here and we have been running the furnace part of the time. Plus, we needed to get some groceries. End result, we didn't leave Gallup until 1:00 --- and we still had to find the right kind of dog food.

Jean had tracked some down to a Petco in Albuquerque, so off we went. The countryside heading toward Albuquerque featured an endless series of high, steep bluffs on the north side of the road. They were flat on the top, and were varying red and grey sandstone. At about Grants we ran through several miles of lava fields. Then through the hills to Albuquerque.

Thanks to the GPS, we found the pet food store on the north side of town. While Jean was getting the dog food, Gene tried to see if he could get a campsite in Santa Fe. Success! there was a space available at a KOA south of town. Good, we wanted to go to Santa Fe anyway. So off we went.

Santa Fe is a very old town; there is a Trading Post there that claims to have been there since 1603. The town was formally founded in 1609/10. We drove in to the town center and found a parking place outside of the main drag. Gene put two quarters into a parking meter before he discovered it was broken. Being 5:30 at that time, we gambled that no one would check, and walked into the center of the old town.

It certainly has that Colonial Spanish feel. All the buildings look old, mostly adobe types. The shops in them are quite modern (and expensive).

There is a plaza, and down the street the requisite church.

Along the side of the plaza is the old Governor's Mansion (very early 17th century).

After walking around and looking in a couple of shops, we had dinner in an eatery along the plaza; Indian fry-bread tacos.  Then it was time to find our campground in the dark. We were 13 miles south of town. Finding our campsite in the dark was a challenge, including backing into a steel post. One more dent in the back (but just a little one). Next stop, Texas.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sunday, 30 September

Another day, another desert. Yesterday, as we approached Flagstaff, we were driving through trees and shrubs and flowers. Today, east of Flagstaff we might as well be in a different state. The land is flat and the mountains are much farther away. There are no trees occurring naturally. The ground is covered with grass and a few low shrubs. This is the short-grass prairie. We could spot last night's campground miles away because they had planted trees.

The campground was only five miles from Meteor Crater, so that was our first destination. In 1969, when Gene was crossing the country on his motorcycle, he was heading for Meteor Crater when his transmission blew up. So he was finally able to make it 43 years later.

Meteor Crater is an impact crater about 3/4 of a mile in diameter and 700 feet deep. Due, no doubt, to the desert climate it is extremely well-preserved, considering it was formed  about 50,000 years ago.  There is a visitor center, a museum, a 10-minute film (made from about 3 minutes worth of film), and guided tours are offered. We looked at the crater and saw the film, then pressed on.

Driving across the flat-land, we decided to stop for a quick look at the petrified forest. We ended up spending about three hours.

 On entering the park, the first thing you see is the dramatic part of the Painted Desert. Where there has been extensive erosion, it has revealed that beneath the flat, dull surface are layers in different colors, mostly reds and greys. Thus the name.

At the southern end of the park are the petrified trees. The area was once apparently fairly swampy and well forested. As the trees died and fell, they became buried in the sand so that normal decay was stopped and the cellulose in the tree was gradually replaced by silicas. Eventually erosion revealed the trees, now turned to stone.

The ground in places is littered with broken pieces of trees, and even logs.

The ends reveal different colors of hard material, which can be polished to reveal shapes and colors.

By the time we left the park, it was time to find a campsite. We did make it out of Arizona just across the border to Gallup. Tomorrow, New Mexico.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday, 29 September

We roll out of the Kingman area fairly early --- earlier than we think because we changed our watches when we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, not realizing that Arizona doesn't switch to Daylight Time (so we were essentially still on California time). Well, that's one way to get an early start.

As we drove toward Flagstaff, we were steadily gaining elevation. We went through valleys and mountain ranges, but always trending up. This was shown by the gradual changes in plant life. From the dry conditions of yesterday, we saw more and more grass, mostly dry but more and more showing green. In the valleys, there were ranches, though we didn't see a lot of cattle. Trees became more common and taller. Even in the valleys, there were always mountains not too far away.

Just before Flagstaff, we turned off onto highway 89A. We drove through pine forests until we went around a corner and a big canyon opened up before us. This was a canyon with high rock bluffs, and mostly pine trees where there was enough soil.

We did see a few oaks scattered among them; which was good because it's Oak Creek Canyon. The road wound down the canyon, literally. The road follows the canyon for 23 miles to Sedona, and loses 3,000 of elevation in the process. Around every bend was an "Oh Wow!" moment. Pictures cannot do it justice.

Toward the end of the canyon, the rocks became red. Sedona is located at the mouth of the canyon and is surrounded by amazing red rock formations.

We found ourselves in an absolutely mobbed road, choked with traffic and not a parking place to be found anywhere. Then we realized our situation: it was a beautiful Saturday and it seemed like everyone for three states around was taking advantage of it.

And who can blame them. No matter where you look, the town is surrounded by fabulous vistas.

We managed to find the Visitor's Center and get some good advice, including where to find a pet store to get some food for YumYum. That took us out of the tourist madness. We did our shopping (but no dog food of the right kind) and headed out of town by a different route.

Even leaving town we were surrounded by amazing red rock formations. A truly amazing place.

We managed to bypass Flagstaff entirely and ended up in an RV park just outside the Meteor Crater. We know where we will start tomorrow.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday, 29 September

We're on our way. We said goodbye to Bill this morning and got underway a little after 10:00. It was so good to finally leave the smog of LA behind, but we weren't so lucky with the traffic. The first interstate we took (I-15) is the main route between LA and Las Vegas. It was full of cars and trucks. This was Friday after all, the start of the weekend for some people. We didn't think the trucks were going to Vegas to gamble, but we suspected many of the people in the cars were. That seemed borne out when we got to Barstow and switched to I-40. Many of the trucks were still with us, but far fewer cars.

Once you get over the mountains around the LA basin, you are in the desert. The scenery is mostly flat, with mountains in the distance. The vegetation varies from place to place, but there are usually low plants, possibly sage. From time to time we passed areas of broken-up black rock which we presumed were lava. The road is usually straight and level. Jean pointed out that it was very similar to South Dakota, but it was more interesting --- what with the mountains and the variety of plants. There were very few birds in sight.

We had an interesting example of the dynamics of fuel pricing. We pulled off the interstate in Barstow to find some diesel. Went through beautiful downtown Barstow on old Route 66. It was interesting but didn't yield any fuel. When we saw a sign directing us back to 15, we turned. At the top of the hill, just before the interstate was a Chevron station with diesel. Not knowing of any other, we pulled in and filled up --- at $4.89 a gallon. When we were finished, we drove across the bridge over 15 and there was a Valero station that had diesel for $4.29! Grrrr! But that is frequently the situation when you need to find fuel in a strange place.

Later in the day we went in to Kingman in search of a pharmacy. There was a Safeway that was selling diesel for $4.09 (with a Safeway card, which we have). Having burned off nearly half a tank by then, we filled up again. Then we found a pharmacy and got our errand done.

We ended the day in Kingman, 315 miles from where we started. Not a bad day's run (for us). Tomorrow we hope to go to Sedona, on Lavonne's recommendation. Hopefully, more photogenic.

Wednesday and Thursday, 26 & 27 September

We're still in LA. We didn't realize how many friends and relatives we had living in the LA/Santa Barbara area. We have been in visiting (rather than sight-seeing) mode for the past week.

Wednesday we drove from Santa Barbara to Westminster in the south of the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. (Metropolitan Los Angeles consists of about 85 smaller, contiguous municipalities.) To simplify things, we did the trip (about 133 miles) on freeways. One supposes it is the most efficient way to move around the large, urban area. But it doesn't seem to be the fastest. We were not traveling in what one would suppose was the "rush hour" (why do they call creeping traffic "rush"?), but we still ran into lots of slow-downs and traffic jams.

In Winchester we visited with Lavonne, an old friend of Gene's, and her husband. Later on, Gene's nephew, Kevin, joined us for dinner. The night was spent in pleasant conversation, and later they  played back the new season openers of NCIS and NCIS-LA which we had missed the night before. A most enjoyable evening.

Next morning we went to the Westminster Mall to do some shopping, and then headed for Chino to see Jean's cousin, Bill. We programmed his address into the GPS and it took us via city streets, no freeways. We don't know why, but it turned out to be an interesting trip, with not much traffic. We went through Carbon Canyon, a twisty country road. Not as bad as some we've been on, with only two hairpin turns (stacked together).

We had a long, pleasant visit with Bill, mostly him and Jean reminiscintg about the old days in Forest, and catching up with what has happened with people since. Of course, we went out for a delicious dinner. The time spent in LA has been marked, with other things, by lots of heavy eating. We may have to diet on the whole trip back.

Speaking of the trip back, tomorrow we bid adieu to Southern California and head east. Time to head back to the barn.

We will be following Interstate 40 most of the way back. We have no one to visit before Tennessee, and we don't know of as many sights to catch on the way,  so the trip home may not take as long as the trip out. As Gene's cousin Harold said about the TWA pilots, "When they're homeward bound they bend the throttles." So I guess we will be bending the throttles soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday and Tuesday, 24, 25 September

Another two-fer.

Monday Jean and YumYum both got haircuts and Gene hosed the worst of the dust off the motorhome. Then we just laid around and relaxed for most of the rest of the day. As 6:00 we all went down to Burbank where we met Holly's sister, Dori and her husband Steve and daughter Sadie for dinner in an Italian restaurant. We are trying to combine visits since there are a lot of people to see in L.A.

Tuesday we headed back to Santa Barbara to catch up with Gioia and Mark, who we hadn't been able to see the first time through.

Beautiful Santa Barbara

The town is very pleasant and we like it, though we are not as pleased with the oil rigs a couple of miles offshore.

We spent much of the day at the Santa Barbara Mission, called "the queen of the missions." It is still an active, Franciscan church.


We took the self-guided tour, which was very complete.

The sanctuary includes a couple of niches with large statuary.

Afterwards we went to a shopping center where we had lunch, bought a couple of Tony Hillerman books and some groceries. Then we went down to the waterfront until it was time to meet Gioia and Mark. We walked out on a long wharf and spotted a sea lion swimming alongside. One more creature for our list.

After a pleasant dinner and visit, Mark gave us a map he had marked with places where we could park overnight. A most enjoyable day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saturday and Sunday, 22, 23 September

We have been spending the weekend in Valencia with Jean's cousin Holly, her husband Derek, and son Tyler. Tyler, who is now 10, is an amazing child.  From the time he was four until two years ago he fought serious cancer. He went into and out of remission at least two times in that time. One of the things he got interested in while in hospitals was the cooking shows on television. Once he got out he became seriously interested in cooking. Not just hamburgers and mac and cheese, but fairly exotic stuff involving spices and sauces --- all done from scratch. Two years ago he published his own cookbook, Savoring Life. The book contains Tyler's story and recipes that he developed. If anyone is interested it can be ordered online from <http://pages.lightthenight.org/los/SClarita12/hcordova> (all profits benefit the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society).

Saturday Tyler and Derek spent the day at a UCLA Bruins football game (UCLA lost) so Holly took us to see whatever we wanted in LA. We spent much of the afternoon in Olvera Street. This is where the little pueblo of Los Angeles was started. The original Spanish land grant was 1781, the plaza was moved twice due to floods and eventually ended at the present location in 1822.

Today, much of the area is given over to small stalls, like a village market. Many of the buildings are very old.

The original church of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels is located there and has this beautiful altar.

There were lots of small groups busking in the area, mostly doing traditional music. The oldest tradition was represented by a couple of men (a drummer and a dancer) in Aztec costumes. All the announcements were done in Spanish.

After touring and shopping and getting some lunch, we went on to experience Angel's Flight Railway. This is the shortest incorporated railroad in the world. It goes one block,  up the side of a hill in downtown LA. It operates on a 33% grade. The two cars share the middle rail except at the halfway point where they diverge enough to pass. One car balances the other, so both move at the same time.

The cars are designed and built specifically for this service, so the seats are level.

Sunday, Holly drove us and Tyler to Malibu where we spent the afternoon on the beach. Tyler and the women enjoyed the water while Gene enjoyed relaxing on the beach and checking out the nautical traffic with the binoculars.

We stopped for lunch on the way back to Valencia, and then relaxed before a delicious supper of coq au vin that had been simmering all day (Holly's recipe, not Tylers). A most pleasant weekend. What will tomorrow hold?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, Friday 20, 21 September

Took a while to get going. We went to Albertson's for groceries, then to downtown Morro Bay for brunch. Our plan had been to stop in Santa Barbara to visit some relatives of Gene, but we had not been able to get in touch with them, so we reluctantly scrubbed that part of the plan. That seemed to give us some time, so we back-tracked a bit and went to Hearst Castle.

The castle is built on the top of a hill, and the bus taking us up there had to stop for a flock of African goats called udads. Part of Hearst's private zoo that still remain on the grounds.

William Hearst used to camp on the hilltop near San Simeon when he was young, but when he got older (and inherited a fortune) he decided he needed something a little better. So he hired this woman architect and together they spent 26 years designing, redesigning, and building some better accommodations.

Hearst had spent a fortune already collecting old art in Europe (like whole rooms --- he had a thing for fancy ceilings) and much of it got built into the house. To give and idea of how big it is, Clark Gable (I believe) wanted to sleep in a different bedroom every time he visited. In all, he slept in 40 different bedrooms, and didn't run out of possibilities.

 The grounds are gardened with a great variety of plants: trees and flowers. Lush against a background barren, dry hills.

The tour took most of the afternoon. When we got back down to the visitor center, we learned that there was an elephant seal sanctuary a few miles up the coast, so we went to look. We pulled in to the  parking lot. There were a lot of seals laying on the beach a long ways off, and we were about to walk over as close as we could when we heard a loud snorting below us. There were two elephant seals sparring in the surf.

After we left we got a call on the phone from one of our people in Santa Barbara. So we were able to set up a quick get-together after all.

We drove in to Santa Barbara and were able to connect with Gabi Cardi and her two-year old daughter, Gianna. We spent a pleasant night visiting, and then just spent the night parked in front of her house,

Next morning her mother, Mari, showed up and we all went out for breakfast (basically turned into brunch) down at the waterfront. We also got a call from Gioia, the other person we wanted to see, and made arrangements to come back Tuesday afternoon to visit with her.

After breakfast, Mari found a place where we could dump our tanks. So we went back, picked up the van, did our duty, and headed to Valencia to catch up with Jean's cousin Holly and her family. Will be spending the weekend in the Los Angeles area. Details on Monday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday, 19 September

Ah, back to the coast! Jean had read that there were lots of sea lions to be seen in Moss Landing, so we went there. It is an interesting little fishing town, but, alas, no sea lions. Someone there suggested Monterey, so we were off again.

There is lots to see and do in Monterey, but Gene wanted to skip most of it and head for Pt Lobos. Still, we went in to town in search of sea mammals. We lucked out and found parking some distance from the madding crowd.

A stroll along the shore gave us a glimpse of some harbor seals.

Then a hawk (what kind is it?) flew in and perched on the fence right next to us. Pretty blase about humans.

It was cold by the water, but walking in to Cannery Row got us out of the wind and into the sun. Jean did a little shopping, and we stopped at the "oldest historical eating place in Cannery Row" for some lunch. It took a while to get service, and when we did we ordered sandwiches. They turned out to be very large and served on sourdough, along with fries and cole slaw. Neither of us could finish ours. Looks like a light supper tonight.

Outside the restaurant was a bay overlook, and there just offshore was a sea otter relaxing and grooming himself. Just what we wanted. What luck, parking and sea otters!

Pacific Grove, next to Monterey, is a wintering place for monarch butterflies (we thought they only wintered in Mexico) but that doesn't happen until October. So we headed for the famous Seventeen Mile Drive. We found it and also found it is a private road and it cost us $9.75 to drive on it. The road is bordered by fancy houses, some absolutely palatial. But the real interest is the scenery. Much of it is along the coast, with the ocean on one side and golf courses on the other. So this is how the other 8% lives.

We drove right in to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a very artsy community. Gene knew one of the more famous local artists years ago, the late Geza St. Galy, who worked in tiles and mosaics. Originally from Hungary, he moved to California from New York, he claimed, to avoid having to buy winter clothes.

Outside Carmel is Pt. Lobos Nature Reserve. Years ago, Gene went there with Geza and took some pictures of a wind-twisted Monterey cypress there. We wanted to see if it was still there, and take some more pictures. But they don't allow dogs, not even in cars; and it would cost $20 even if they did. So we pressed on.

California 1 is a very scenic drive, with dramatic views of the coast. The passenger can enjoy them, the driver had better focus his attention on the road if he doesn't want to become part of the scenery. The road is very twisty and the drop to the ocean is frequently long.

We needed to make contact with the people we planned to visit in LA, but there is little or no cell service along most of this coast. Consequently we passed up many primitive campsites and pressed on to Morro Bay, where we arrived after dark. We got a campsite and were able to begin making arrangements.

We have enjoyed a leisurely drive down the coast, but in a couple of days we will have to plunge into the madness that is El Pueblo Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (to give it its orginal name).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yosemite, 16, 17, 18 September

As usual, we were unable to get online in a National Park, even though both of us could get a good signal on our cell phones. Thus this longish, catch-up post.

Thanks to some computer help from Gene's son Bruce, we were able to score two nights in a Yosemite Park campground (cost: $20). So we filled the fuel tank and headed out from Vallejo Sunday morning (9/16). It was cool when we left the Bay area, but as we proceeded across the Central Valley the temperature rose into the high 90's. Crossing the Valley, we drove through lots of farms, made possible by irrigation.

When we got further east (away from the rivers) the landscape became dry and rolling. There were some cattle, but lots of empty-looking land.

 We followed California 120 into the mountains. There was a long stretch of very twisty road perched on the side of the mountain. We climbed to over 5,000 feet before things leveled out a bit. After going through a tunnel, we came to a viewpoint where we got our first look at Yosemite Valley in the distance.

Then the road descended to about 4,000 feet. Yosemite Valley is deep and narrow, following the Merced River. On either side are granite walls that rise sheer for 3,500 feet. It is an area almost unique in the world.

The floor itself is covered with tall pine forest, so the only place you get a good view of the walls is in the occasional meadow. The iconic symbol of Yosemite is Half Dome, which can be seen from most places in the valley.

We checked in to our campground, which was almost at the base of Half Dome. The Park Service provides a free shuttle service around the valley to minimize auto traffic. Judging from the parking areas, if they didn't the whole valley would be in gridlock during the high season. We parked the motorhome for two nights and used the shuttle to go where we wanted to.

Monday morning we caught the shuttle to Yosemite Village, where we got some information at the Information Center, visited the Ansel Adams Gallery, and got some drinks and trail mix from the  store there. Then back to the campground to check on YumYum, who didn't seem to be welcome much of anywhere.

Gene had checked the Village area with his hot-spot finder and found about 15 active hot-spots, all but two of which were secure. There was an open one called Free Yosemite --- goody! So when we went back to the area we took the computer. Unfortunately, Free Yosemite only provides information about Yosemite, you can't get online there. The other open hot spot required a password, so once again we were frustrated in trying to get online and write the blog.

There is a small museum with artifacts from the local Miwok Indians. They did incredible basket work, weaving watertight baskets in which they cooked their acorn-meal mush using hot stones. They also did beautiful work involving tiny beads. The Park Service has also created a sample of a Miwok Indian village. The homes the Indians lived in varied, depending on contact with whites, but they used a temporary shelter that looked like a teepee made out of incense cedar bark that would be good for about two years. There was also a community building and a sweat lodge.

On the way back to the campground we stopped at a bridge that provides perhaps the best view of Half Dome. It was certainly popular, with photographers crowded around and shooting with everything from an iPad to a Hasselblad. Naturally, Gene had to join them.

A full day --- though much of it involved shopping and viewing man-made items you could see in a city. But enjoyable nevertheless. Next morning (today) we broke camp and headed for the coast. On the way out we stopped to take some pictures of El Capitan.

While doing that we were made aware of one or more climbers on the face of the cliff. You could only see them with binoculars. One of the activities that you can do in Yosemite we had no desire to partake of.

Driving to the coast was pretty much the trip in run in reverse We took a different road out of the park, one that was not so hairy. So we are finally back near the coast. Tomorrow we go in search of sea lions.