Bend and Depoe Bay

From Chiloquin we moved on to Bend to meet up with a ex-work colleague from M&D times, Robert Goff (RG) and his wife Judy.

I first met RG when he was part of the M&D development team that produced Millennium which we then converted to work on computers in the UK. He lived in Natick, Boston then, but he and Judy retired to Bend, Oregon on the other side of the USA and they have not regretted it.

Scandia RV Park, nice site all on our own.

We arrived at Scandia RV Park in plenty of time, so we agreed to go to RG and Judy’s house to meet up, and go out with RG for a Mexican meal as Judy had choir practice that evening. We had, after all, a lot to catch up on. Judy had also been busy and planned what we should see over the next four days.

So we relaxed over the Mexican meal and found out what we had all done in the intervening years.

The next day as promised Judy drove us around Mt Bachelor to Elk Lake and Hosmer Lake. A lot of the land around Bend is covered by old lava fields from volcanos that are now extinct.

Lava field.
Winter transport at Elk Lake.
Elk Lake
Mt. Bachelor from Hosmer Lake
RG, Judy and Anne enjoying the view.

We then returned to Bend where Judy and RG took us on an impromptu tour of downtown Bend, and we ended up in a shoe shop as Anne needed new trainers after all the walking!! RG and I took the opportunity to try out some beer samplers at Deschutes Brewery!!

Artwork on our tour.
This was in Gas Alley. Apparently the art work is changed on a monthly basis.

After a meal Judy drove us up Pilot Butte which is a extinct cinder cone 480ft high right in the middle of Bend. We were lucky it was a sunny evening, so we got a 360° view of Bend and it’s surroundings.

Cannot really see the detail but it gives you an idea of the views.

 

The following day Judy had planned another journey via Sisters to Sahalie Falls and Clear Lake.  The reason we went via Sisters, was it was on the way anyway, but it also contained Sister’s Quilt Shop, so you can probably guess who wanted to pay that a visit. RG and I walked around Sisters while the ladies were in the shop. Interesting place with some old buildings and a Clockmakers that actually still hand makes clocks, some of which he has actually exported to Switzerland!!

Smoke House.
Lots of ironwork around Sisters.
A rival to Blackpool’s pink princess carriages!!
One of the older shops and more ironwork.

Next stop was Sahalie Falls. Not sure how much water was pouring over these falls but it was quite a sight.

Below the Falls.
Above the Falls.
RG trying to hide behind Judy.
No hiding place!

Clear Lake lived up to its name, the water was crystal clear and you could see some of the petrified tree trunks in the water.

Clear Lake.
Petrified tree stump in the clear blue water
Colours in the lake. Brown is water over sand. green is weed showing through and blue is clear melt water over rock.
Another tree stump. Nice reflections.

After a long day we had a very enjoyable meal at the Pine Tavern in Bend.

Saturday saw us getting up early to go and see a race called Pole, Pedal, Paddle. It also should include run but it doesn’t begin with P!! Competitors start at the top of Mt Bachelor with a 200yd sprint uphill in snow carrying either skis or a snowboard, then they ski/snowboard down Mt Bachelor’s Leeway trail (about 2 miles), then they cross country ski around a 5 mile course, then they swap to bikes for a 22 mile ride to Bend, then they run again for 5 miles, and then switch to a canoe/kayak for a paddle over a 1.5 mile course with upstream and downstream legs on the Deschutes River and finally ½ mile sprint (in my case it would be a crawl if I ever made it that far!!) to the finish. It was exhausting just watching them.

Kayaks and Canoes lined up ready for the Competitors to arrive.
And more. They must be mad!! Quite a lot of Charities supported plus local Sports facilities.
The eventual winner, he was quite a way ahead of the others.
The ladies winner, think she was either 5th or 6th overall.
This looks like hard work!!
Got very busy when the rest of the field arrived.

After this we adjourned for lunch and watched the rest of the field from a restaurant!! We then went back to RG and Judy’s as they had arranged an evening dinner to which they had invited RG’s brother Ed and his wife, plus some cousins that also lived nearby.

Anne and I went to the High Desert Museum, just outside of Bend on US97, on the Sunday morning. Very interesting place with lots of exhibits and some amazing birds.

Local porcupine.
Bobcat
Local tribe Tipi
Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
Look carefully by the big tree trunk, there is an owl hiding.
Very interesting talk on raptors, plus a kestrel.
Steam powered saw mill, which they only fire up on certain days, unfortunately not Sundays!!

We then went back to RG & Judy’s. Judy had some tickets for a concert in Bend in the afternoon which she and Anne were going to. RG and I decided to try the Cider sampler at Atlas ciders. Must admit I preferred the ciders to the beers and the less fruity ciders (raspberry and other red ciders not to my taste!!). Then had a pint of the real stuff, before we adjourned to a restaurant called Greggs Grill for  a very nice evening meal. We then returned to their house where RG managed to phone John Landry (ex M&D head of development) and it was nice to catch up with him.

Regretfully after this we had to leave, as we had to get up early for a long drive to Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast the next day. We really enjoyed meeting up with RG and Judy after all these years, and if you are both reading this, thank you for your hospitality over our four days in Bend.

Then onto Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast, almost 200 miles to the West from Bend. The journey involved driving through some magnificent mountain passes.

Couldn’t quite get the top of the mountain in!!

And we arrived at the Sea and Sand RV Park to these amazing views and sunsets.

View from the RV
Sunset over the Pacific Oregon coast.

We had two days here before we moved onto Portland so we decided to go North on the first day and South on the second.

Well all I can say is Oregon has some huge beaches with hardly any people on them, and some marvellous scenery on a par with Grand Sur. Perhaps we were a bit early in the season as they were almost empty!!

Bit grey in the morning but it got sunnier.
Almost empty sand!!
Talk about a long beach!!
Lots of offshore islands.
Manzanita Beach
Magnificent.

The journey South didn’t disappoint either. We went down as far as Dunes City and stopped at various places on the way.

Sea Lions.

And we spotted whales!!

Look at the open patch in the foam, that is a whales back.
This one is better, thar she blows!!
Just diving.

Amazing thing was they were only about 300yds offshore!!

So after two days of driving, luckily we then had a short drive to Portland, our next stop and my next post.

 

 

 

 

Into Oregon, Chiloquin and Klamath Falls and Crater Lake.

There are going to be quite a few updates over next few days as I am 3 stops behind so I hope I do not bore you all too much.

On the way up US-97 we passed Grass Lake. Rather aptly named as unless you look closely it looks like grass rather than a lake, but it is there!!

Look carefully and you can see water!!
It was huge and looked like a green pasture.
Parked in the Rest Area.

So we entered Oregon on US-97 on the way up to Bend but our first stop was just outside Chiloquin at Waterwheel RV Park and Camping. What a lovely site right next to the Williamson River, with  views up and down the river and loads of local wildlife, from Canada geese (they get everywhere!) to freshwater Pelicans (didn’t even know they existed until we got here).

Driving past Klamath lake, another huge one that was created by a dam.
Our site at Waterwheel RV Park
Our view out the front window!!
Some of the wildlife!!
I think the waterwheel is a bit worse for wear!!
An Oregon sunset

For the first day, as the weather forecast possible showers, we decided to wait until the following day, which promised better weather, to see Crater Lake . So we drove south past Lake Klamath to the town of Klamath Falls. Now when we mentioned this to Nancy the lady who runs Waterwheel RV Park (she is a mine of information and a lovely person), she said “Well I hope you are not expecting to see the falls!!”.  Apparently it is a local joke that people come to Klamath Falls to see the “Falls” but there are none!!

We arrived and wondered where everyone was as the main street wasn’t very busy.

Klamath County admin offices, with porticoes!!
A very Art Deco First National Bank now a Mexican restaurant.
This is where everyone in Klamath is,  in the park at what we would call a Fete!!

It was at this Fete as we were walking around we came upon a local beekeeper called Katharina Davitt. She is German, having met her husband who was in the US forces in Germany, married him and returned to US with him. Thanks to her we discovered what those little boxes in California were for, as they turned out to be used to turn virgin Queen bees into mated Queens so they can start a new bee colony. Apparently every hive has special queen cells where queen larvae are fed exclusively on royal jelly, which is what makes them Queens rather than ordinary worker bees. Now they tend to all hatch at once, and then fight to kill each other until there is only one left to be mated to become a Queen. So a lot of Queens are killed which is not good in an area that needs lots of bees like California. Now experienced beekeepers can spot the virgin queens hatching and they put each of the virgin Queens in a separate little box as in the picture so that drones can find them and mate with them to produce a mated Queen. Apparently the mated queens can be sold to other beekeepers to attract a swarm and start a new hive and they sell for up to $35 each!! The field we saw had 2 or 3 thousand boxes, so if you do it correctly there is quite a lot of money to be made!! By the way the boxes are all different colours so the Queen can recognise her own mini hive!! So what we had seen was a Queen bee mating area!!

Katharina Davitt is a fascinating lady who knew an awful lot about bees and has even written a book on bees and is a member of the Klamath Basin Beekeepers Association . If you visit the Public Outreach menu item in the left menu you can see what Katharina is doing to educate people on bees.

A Southern Pacific train in the park. Just for Bob J!!
A blossoming cherry.
The park was right on the edge of the lake.

When we returned to the RV park two freshwater pelicans had taken up residence on the river.

Arriving opposite our RV.
Settling down for the night.
They must have well insulated feet as they stayed here all night and the water wasn’t very warm!!

Next day we were off to Crater Lake, but before we left we noticed only one of the pelicans had left and the other had stayed as it appeared to have a damaged wing.

You can see its wing hanging in the water. We let Nancy know and she said she would phone the local wildlife rangers.

On the drive up to the lake we passed an area that has a very steep canyon that contained fumaroles caused by the immense eruption of Mt Mazama (the volcano that blew its top to create Crater Lake). Super heated dust and pumice filled in the valley and the river was buried but turned to steam in the heat and created the fumaroles as the steam escaped. Over time the dust and pumice was washed away leaving the harder fumaroles.

The fumaroles are sticking out of the far canyon wall.

As we drove on there was more and more snow on the side of the road.

And then at the lower visitor centre there was even more snow.

Now above the cars.

And then we reached the rim of the Crater and it was very deep. They get an AVERAGE of 44ft per year!!

Snow drifts around the back of the visitor centre.
And still up on its roof.
These poles are to guide the snow ploughs. they are at least 25ft high.
The road around the rim beyond Discovery Point was still closed and not ploughed, not expected to open until late June.

And then we saw the lake. Wow, what a sight, almost indescribable, so I will just let you look at the pictures.

The island in the middle, called Wizard island, is the remains of the volcanic cone.

The lake is the deepest in the USA and is also the clearest, objects can still be seen 142ft from the surface.

It was a beautiful day and with no wind on the lake, as you can see the rim was reflected in the lake all the way around.

More reflections.
And again.
The remains of the cinder cone on Wizard Island.

An amazing place. If you ever get the chance to visit on a day like ours DO NOT MISS IT, your breath will be taken away the moment you see it!!

One thing that amused me. Apparently they only plough up to the edge of the roadway where the poles are. So they constructed these tunnels so you can still access the restrooms when the building is completely covered in snow. Ladies left, Gents right.
Unfortunately the wing damaged Pelican was still there when we got back.

On our last day we took a journey right around Lake Klamath (about 65 miles) and it just so happened there was a quilt shop on the other side called Quilting Sisters in a place called Rocky Point. Haven’t got any pictures, Anne has, but it was an interesting place run by an 80+ year old lady, who told us “kids” to drive safely!!

A designated burn on the way. It means an official burn to clean up the forest floor.
Looking back at the lake and towards Crater lake with the designated burn to the left.
Another pelican further round the lake.
Canada geese goslings feeding on an island on the river at the camp ground. The pelican was still there at the top of the picture.

And that was the end of our stay and we never did find out what happened to the pelican although he/she was looking better and flexing its wing when we left.

We then moved on to Bend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orland, North California, almonds, olives and wines.

From Yosemite we moved into Northern California. California seems to have been going on forever, and this was going to be our last long stop in the state before we moved on to Oregon.

We had heard that this was a place to visit as it was renowned for its olive oil, almonds and most importantly wine!!

We booked into Parkway RV near Orland and again we managed to get into a very nice campground. lovely shady pitch, well off the Interstate, so nice and quiet at night. Needed the shade as the temperatures were rising again (92F/34C) and it turned out they had a nice swimming pool. It was while I was in the pool in the evening that I found out from some Canadians there was going to be a wine tasting run by the wife of the park owner.

It was an interesting experience and I returned to the RV having tasted a few local wines and without pictures as I had forgotten my camera!!

Pull through site so plenty of room and shade.
Spark parked behind.

The next day we then set off to explore the area and found a massive dam called Black Butte Dam and behind it was an equally massive lake called, you guessed it, Black Butte Lake!!

Black Butte Dam
Dam across part of the lake
You can fish, canoe, kayak,  almost anything except swim.
Map of part of the lake. in total 16 miles long.
On the way back we spotted hundreds of these in a field. Bet you can’t guess what they are. See my next post in Oregon.

The next day we decided to go East from Orland instead of West. We drove to a little town called Paradise and what should we find – it is built on a Butte called Butte Creek Canyon.

Now some of you may not know what a Butte is. Picture those western films with the hugely high rocks all alone in the desert. This one wasn’t quite as magnificent, but quite remarkable as it was long and thin and had a road going up it to Paradise.

The Butte and the valley extending into the distance.
The road that runs along the top of the Butte with sheer drops either side.
Looking down the valley.
A view across the valley to the Butte the other side. The valley floor is over 1,000ft straight down.
What can be found in the valley and on the Butte.

In Paradise itself there was a local Park called Bille Park that had been built on the side of the Butte with lots of unusual trees and plants and an ornamental creek with cast iron bridges. It was very a tranquil place just to sit and relax.

One of the bridges and guess who.
A view up the park showing the creek and one of the bridges and a cupola.

On the way back we thought we would explore the valley floor and came across something we were not expecting. There always seems to be something around the corner in America, and this was the longest 3 span covered bridge in the USA, called Honey Run Bridge. It is no longer used as a bridge as in the late 1950’s someone crashed into one of the supports but it was repaired and preserved, and can be used for weddings!!

Honey Run Bridge entrance
Inside the bridge showing the main span.
The bridge covering that was put on to preserve the bridge deck.
One of the main beams showing how it was encased in metal.
Anne and I in and on the bridge!!
The bridge that replaced it, not as pretty!!

The temperatures even in the evening were quite high so we ate outside.

On the next day I did some RV maintenance and Anne decided the light was so good she would use some of the fabric she had been buying. We also went into Orland and bought some local almonds and olive oil.

And the day after that we left Orland and headed to our last stop in California next to Mt Shasta.

A lake in Northern California just off I-5. The blue water is snow melt.
The rest area near the lake.
Parked up for the night.
Mt Shasta in the sunshine, the view from our RV.

 

Mt Shasta with the sun setting on it.

And the day after we left California and entered Oregon.

Yosemite

From San Francisco we travelled across country to visit Yosemite National Park. I had booked us in to Yosemite Pines RV Park which is close to the town of Groveland.

Looked lovely on the website (as indeed it was as you will see in a minute) but what I hadn’t realised was it was 3,000ft up in the mountains and to get to Groveland you had to use US120 which climbs up the side of a mountain along a twisty road with quite large drop offs on the side of the road. I wasn’t someone’s favourite person!!

We came up that!! And we have to go up and down it to visit some of the interesting places in the valley and do the grocery shopping.

As I said though the campsite was well worth it with a lovely position halfway up a hill in amongst the pine trees.

Level site with full service hook-ups halfway up a hill.
In the middle of a pine forest.
Another view, lovely place.

The next day we decided to explore and go up to the entrance of Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately the weather got gradually worse, with low cloud and fog and then it started to hail, so we decided to turn back and visit some of the towns in the valley.

On the way into Yosemite and why we turned back!!
On the way back down we saw the results of a massive fire in 2013.
Lake Don Pedro
Attempt at a selfie, sun in eyes!!
The lake, caused by a dam, swallowed the town of Jacksonville.
We visited Jamestown, a historic town with wooden sidewalks.
On the way back to the campground it got a bit foreboding!!
And this happened, a massive thunderstorm!!

But by the next morning it was all dry.

Next day we decided that we had left the laundry too long and the forecast didn’t look good. Although to be honest it was a nice day and it gave us a rest!!

So the day after we tried Yosemite again as the forecast looked good, and sure enough it turned out to be a lovely day and Yosemite didn’t disappoint. Now, I am at this point going to have to apologise as this post is going to get really picture heavy, as no amount of words are going to explain this magnificent place. Wherever you looked stunning views, vistas and ……… so here goes.

The entrance sign.
Almost the same place as two days ago, but a world of difference in the weather.
Half Dome in the distance, nearly there.
Bridalveil falls from a distance
Cascade Creek Falls on the way to the valley, above the road.
And below the road.
Bridalveil Falls, getting closer.
And closer.
And finally almost underneath getting soaked!!
El Capitan. The road into, and out of Yosemite, goes in a one way loop, so this was taken from the road farthest away.
Looking back at Bridalveil falls.
El Capitan again.
Yosemite falls photographed across a lovely meadow.
Same falls close up.
And a wide angle view.
Falls from a wooden bridge across a river that had trout in it. A very peaceful place.
Getting closer to Half Dome at the end of the valley. Even though it is called Half Dome geologists do not believe it was ever a full dome.
Closer still.
Snow on top of the Dome.
Yosemite falls on the way back, close to the Visitor Centre.
Granite rock peaks behind the Visitor Centre (that’s its roof).
A view back down the absolutely stunning valley.
One of the many smaller falls.
El Capitan closer up. A sheer cliff that rises to 3,000ft above the valley floor. Remember that finger of rock half way up.
A bit further round showing both faces
A rescue helicopter. This was called out because there were 8 (yes 8!!) climbers on the face of El Capitan that day and one of them had fallen about halfway up the climb just above that finger of rock. When he fell he broke his ankle, so his partner was now trying to get him and all their kit back to the ground. Bear in mind they started at 8am and this picture was taken about 2.45pm, so it was touch and go.
And this was another group of 3 climbers at about 2.45pm. You see that big bag under the top climber, it contains a larger balcony structure that just before it gets dark they fix to the sheer face and they sleep on it overnight so they can start again next morning. All I can say is rather them than me!!
Bridalveil falls from the other side of the valley.
Looking back down the valley, El Capitan on the left and Bridalveil Falls on the right.
Leaving this most magnificent place was rather sad but the wonders continued with a picture of the river leaving the valley.

As I said when I started, words cannot really describe it but I hope my pictures have given you an idea of what it is like. And if you ever get the chance to visit it yourself you will NOT be disappointed.

Back at the campground I finally got a picture of a blue scrub jay. There was quite a lot at the campground and they are a beautiful blue.

Our last day was spent touring Columbia Old Town State park. This town has been preserved much as it was in the heyday of the Californian Gold Rush. Here though they used hydraulic mining, using high pressure hoses to wash all the mud and sediment into the gold sluices.  Between 1850 to 1870 they reckon over a billion dollars of gold was found and at one time Columbia was the second largest town in California.

You can take a stagecoach ride around the town.
Brady the haberdashery.
Main Street
The blacksmiths.
Coffee and chocolate brownies in the old coffee shop.
The hand pumping fire engines.
Another view of Main St.
Penny whistle player. Lots of people in costume all over the place.
The gold sluices.
We were puzzled when we were driving in why the entire countryside for miles around Columbia had loads of exposed rocks like this. This is, of course, what you get when you wash all the soil and sediment into the sluices with powerful hydraulic monitors. Imagine very high powered hoses!!
A hydraulic monitor that shot the powerful jets of water at the gold diggings. Eventually this type of mining was stopped as it was too destructive and anyone downstream of the diggings suffered flooding and sediment problems.

That was our last day at Yosemite, so we moved on (back down that incline!!) and further north into the northern valleys of California where almonds, olives and grapes are grown.

I have updated  our RV Map but it is a bit ahead of the blog as it show our route to Bend, Oregon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco, Alcatraz and Vallejo

Arrived in San Francisco and set up at Tradewinds RV in Vallejo in what we in England would call the “suburbs”. I had already booked us on a trip to Alcatraz at 12pm midday the next day, so needed to discover how to get there!!

We found out that down the road about 3 miles away was the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, which had parking for $5 for the day, and the fares in and out of San Francisco were $7.50 per “senior” each way. That matched very nicely to the 25 mile drive, $10 tolls for the bridges and $25 per day parking so we decided to take the ferry as there was one at 10.00am that got in at 11.00am.

Very interesting “ferry”!! Sets off gently down the river at 8 knots and then after about 10 minutes accelerates up to 33 knots for the rest of the trip to San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

Vallejo Ferry Terminal
You can just see the double hulled ferry on the other side of the pier (sorry haven’t got a better picture).
Seating on board in the upper tier.
Hell of a wake at 33 knots.
GPS Navigation and speed in case you didn’t believe me.

 

One of the many bridges around San Francisco, this the Bay Bridge, 5 miles long and dual tiered.
Golden Gate Bridge from a distance.
San Francisco skyline.
Nearly there, 1 hour later, dead on time!!

Then we walked from the Ferry Terminal to the Alcatraz Tours terminal. By the way an FYI if anyone else decides to do this. Make sure you book through the OFFICIAL Alcatraz cruise site https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ as there are all sorts of other sites on the internet that charge you anything up to $15 extra per person to book the same trip!!.

Boarding Line, boats are every 1/2 hour.
The Alcatraz “Cruise”.
Alcatraz Island
Do as you are told or else!!

After you land as it is a National Parks Service site your ferry is greeted by a National Parks Ranger that tells you all the rules for your visit and then “enjoy yourselves”.

I have chosen a few pictures to try and do Alcatraz justice, but if you get the chance do it yourself it is well worth it and my pictures cannot show everything we saw.

Just in case you didn’t realise what the purpose of Alcatraz was.
A guard watchtower and someone being watched!!
The permanent warder staff on the island had gardens.
The gardens terraced along the hillside.
A typical cell, not very salubrious!!
The library, a perk for the inmates who were good!!
A warder that was killed when four prisoners tried to escape, holding warders hostage and demanding their keys. This guy refused!!
The marks in the floor are caused by grenade fragments after US Marines stormed the building to stop the attempted escape. They don’t mess around in the USA!!
A typical Warders uniform.
Alcatraz lighthouse.
Golden Gate bridge from Alcatraz.
One of the cells where 3 prisoners used dummy heads to fool the warders, made famous by the film “Escape from Alcatraz” starring Clint Eastwood.
The services duct they climbed up to the roof.
One of the terraces looking over the Alcatraz gardens, and it also shows the steep climb.
Two visitors
Back in San Francisco.

We returned to main ferry terminal and caught the 5.15pm ferry back to Vallejo.

The next day we did the same ferry trip but this time stayed on it as we hadn’t realised that it docked at the main ferry terminal and then hopped down to Pier 41, which would have saved us the walk!!

Then we did our usual thing and bought a Hop On Hop Off Bus San Francisco tour for 2 days. We did the complete 2.5 hour trip first to suss everything out.

San Francisco electric trolley cars
Picture speaks for itself!!
Tallest building.
Main Ferry Terminal from the other side.
If you have corner lot how do you build on it? Simply build a triangle!! The offices in the point must be cramped.
Church window.
Closer to the bridge!!
Alcatraz from the bus.
San Francisco version of the Kew glass houses.
Older houses “Victorian” that survived the 1906 fire.
More survivors
City Hall. It is complete isolated from the ground on gimbals, so it will survive an earthquake.
This the gate that the prisoner railcars boarded the ferry which also had tracks, and unloaded to tracks on the island. Thus the prisoners never had to leave the train.
Anne’s shop.
The famous Fisherman’s Wharf.
Sea Lions at Pier 39. No one know why they adopted this Pier, they just turned up!!
Riding back to Ferry Terminal on an electric trolleybus.

On our second day we decided to go all the way to Golden Gate bridge and take the bus that went across the bridge and then went through the “city” of Sausalito and then back across the bridge. We also drove the Spark in as it was Saturday and the ferry only had four sailings back and forth.

A pair of legs I wasn’t quick enough getting on the previous day.
We’re off across the Golden Gate bridge. Glad I am not driving, traffic is horrendous!!
One of the bridge casements, not a very good picture as I was downstairs going this way across the bridge, there was no room upstairs!!
Cyclists!!
Sausalito with houses on stilts built up the hill, hope they have got the earthquake calculations right!!
San Francisco on the way back, got on the top this time!!
Bridge Ahoy!! I felt silly, there is me in a polo shirt and shorts and all the Americans have thick coats and hoodies on!!

 

Nearly there.
This thing is huge and why isn’t it painted Gold!!
Nearly halfway across.
Outside City Hall not sure why.
Old convertible Cadillac, lovely red leather.
Entrance to Chinatown.
In the restaurant in the evening.
View out of the restaurant window.

And the next day was …., breathe and take a rest although we had to do the laundry, clean the RV inside and out, and check the oil (engine and generator) and all the mundane tasks that go with driving an RV!!

Next stop Yosemite!!

 

 

 

 

 

Hearst Castle, Monterey and the Big Sur.

It is amazing how when one lives a lifestyle that you forget that other people may not know the vernacular you are using!! For instance I was asked “what is a KOA?”. Never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know. Well it stands for “Kampgrounds of America”, not quite sure why it is not COA but it could be that name was already registered!!

We left the National Parks and headed west to a place called Greenfield, which is midway between Monterey and Paso Robles on RT101. We needed to access the North and South of RT1, the Pacific Highway, but it is closed in the middle near Gorda because of a landslide that took out 1/2 mile of road.

The drive to Yanks RV Resort was very interesting indeed. I decided to use a California highway (CA198) all the way, but there were warnings that some of the bends were a bit twisty and some of the grades could be steep. As it turned out it was a lovely drive along what was classified as a Scenic Route and there were far bigger lorries than our RV using it.

Don’t go too fast around the corner you may topple over!!
This is a narrow road in the USA. Looks like a UK A road!!
Quite hilly!!
Parked up half way along CA198.
Beautiful scenery.
Must have a cup of tea to calm the nerves!!

Really enjoyed the drive and we arrived at Yanks RV Resort about 2.30pm and wow what a site. It is a new site with concrete pads and very nicely done landscaping.

Lovely site, with concrete pads so easy to level the RV.
Beautiful views and very quiet.

Hearst Castle had to be booked so we booked it for the Saturday. We decided to investigate Monterey and the Big Sur on Friday.

Monterey was busy with the start of the Sea Otter Classic which is one of the largest cycling events in the US, but on the Friday wasn’t too bad and we got into Monterey early in the morning (note to self don’t go into Monterey Saturday/Sunday!!).

We found a meter close to San Carlos Beach which was close to the Coast Guard Pier. On the Pier, especially at the far end was a huge colony of Sea Lions and the noise was tremendous.

San Carlos Beach
The end of the Coast Guard Pier with the Sea Lion colony.
Sea Lions on the rocks on the edge of the pier.
More Sea Lions.
And under the Pier. Picture taken from the Café we had coffee and a cake in.
Water was very clear, here is a jellyfish.
A massive 75 ton boat lift at the dock.
Wouldn’t look bad moored in Burnham-on-Sea!!

We then set off down the coast from Monterey on Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, to see the coastline known as the Big Sur. We didn’t quite make the bit where the road is closed but nearly did, and there were some spectacular views on the way.

Low cloud on a headland.
Camera balanced on the car!!
Looks like Cornwall on a sunny day!!
One of the many bridges that cross the inlets on the coast.
At the top of a headland, Anne didn’t like cliff edges.
High up on a cliff, notice the lack of guardrails so don’t go off the edge it is a long way down!!
Point Sur lighthouse “island” (it is connected to the coast by the sandbar). The surf was crashing on the beach.
Pont Sur close up showing Light House and the road to the top cut into the hill on the left. Looks a bit like St Michaels Mount, except no hotel.
The farthest south we drove. The road was closed just beyond the point in the background.
Panoramic view of a beach.

Beautiful drive and lots of pull-ins so you can stop and admire the views, although be careful of drivers in convertible Mustangs and Dodge Chargers who seem to use the road as race track!! Driving back with the sun setting in your face was an interesting experience, definitely needed sunglasses!!

The on Saturday we went to Hearst Castle. Built by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, with the help of his architect Julia Morgan it is a spectacular “castle” (more like a French chateau than a castle) perched on a hill with views out over the Pacific coastline. Took him 28 years to get it to its current state, but apparently he never finished his complete dream, as ill health stopped the building work. After his death in 1951, the family obviously thought it cost too much to maintain and gave it, plus some of the surrounding land, to the State of California which it is why it is a California State Park attraction. Mind you they kept the other 82,000 acres so I don’t think they are on the breadline yet!!

Hearst Castle from the bottom of the hill.

Now no amount of photos are going to do this place justice, so I am going to try to give you the essence by choosing a few from the many I took.

The views down the hill to the Pacific are EPIC!!
The buildings are amazing.
The main building, the Casa Grande.
A guest cottage!!
Grounds are full of artefacts from Hearst’s personal collection. Egyptian figures.
The front entrance to the Casa Grande.
It has a fine collection tapestries from all over Europe.
All collected by Randolph Hearst.
And another.
Statues galore.
Many religious paintings.
And the ceilings were also from Europe.
Unfortunately the Jupiter pool was closed for refurbishment. It was leaking badly, and in a state with drought problems this was not good. Imagine swimming in this, it actually has statues in the pool!!
And if the outdoor pool wasn’t good enough for you, how about the indoor one!! That is a diving platform halfway up the arch.
And in case you were wondering all those tiles in and out of the pool are gold leaf!!
Not your average fish pond. The board bottom right, was to allow Hearst’s dachshunds a way out when they fell in the pond.
Another guest cottage with its own patio!!
One of the many fountains with statues.
A door, all gold leaf again!!
Tennis anyone?
One of the many handsome alabaster lamps.

Sorry if I have bored you, but if you ever visit California, you just must visit Hearst “castle”, magnificent doesn’t cut it!!

We took the Sunday off and on the Monday we went back to Monterey. We drove a bit further on and visited a Mission in Carmel (Clint Eastwood country!!). By now you will know the story of the Missions in the Southern USA, established by the Spanish to convert the local people and control the area. Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo is no different except that it is probably the best example we have visited, and it was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

The altar.
Mary and baby Jesus in a side chapel.
Plaque commemorating Pope John Paul’s visit.
Living quarters as they were in early days.
Courtyard and bell with plaques showing who was involved in the restoration.
Mission courtyard.
Many plants in the courtyard but these Birds of Paradise flowers were really beautiful.

We then drove back up the coast to Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach, you can’t quite see the famous golf course as it was a bit foggy.

And then back to Monterey where we had lunch at LouLou’s.

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle.
Anne ordered Fish & Chips!!
Trawler offloading its catch.
Which was squid (calamari).
Sea Lions sunbathing by keeping their fins out of the water to heat the blood in them.
Does this remind you of someone?
The marina, a few thousand dollars worth of boats.
Think I would quite like to work there.

And then we returned to Yanks RV for our last night there. Lovely campground, one of the best we have been in.

View towards the Pinnacles National Park.
And another
General view of the campground.

Well that is the end of this post. The next day we moved on to San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks

Before I start I have updated the Our RV Map. It is a bit ahead of the Blog as it includes our route beyond San Francisco and I am afraid I am a bit behind with the updates of the Blog!!

After leaving Los Angeles we headed almost directly North to a town (although as usual it is a City in the USA) called Visalia which is on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and close to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks which are home to the biggest trees in the world, the Sequoias.

The RV Park was a KOA on the edge of Visalia that was very quiet and secluded with nice gardens.

 

Our Site

On the first day we went for a bit of an explore up to the Sequoia National Park, without going into it as we knew that would take too long. Found a very nice restaurant near the National Park and decided to have lunch there.

Quite a backdrop to a very good meal.
The bridge downstream.
View of the river.

Later on we discovered ………….  EXETER!!

Not a City with a population of  10.730!!

A very pretty town(city!!) which was actually founded by a guy who emigrated from Exeter.

Caption to the mural of the Founder

For such a small place this was a beautiful, clean little town with some absolutely marvellous murals painted around the town and the smell of orange blossom made it even better.

View of an orange orchard, makes you believe you are there!!
WWII US Bomber command memorial in a car lot.
Raisin capital of the world.
Original settlers.
Exeter early 1900’s
Railway Station.

All the murals (and there were supposed to be more than 30 of which we saw about 20) were absolutely beautifully done and really added a lot to the town.

The next day we set off for Sequoia National Park and the home of The General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.

A very interesting drive it was too, with a twisting road up into the park from 2,000ft to 8,000ft plus. Anne will say she didn’t enjoy this bit as some of the drops off the side of the road were quite immense!!

Tunnel Rock, look carefully the road used to go under it!!
An immense round rock face called Big Baldy!!
Yes, that is the road down there twisting around the mountain, we came up that.
Two baldy’s together!!
Panoramic view of the mountain range.

It is at this point I have to sing the praises of the Spark. You buy a car and you hope you have made the right decision, and in this case (touch wood) we seem to have done so. It has not missed a beat since we bought it, and we have taken it up mountains, across deserts and dirt track roads and done thousands of Interstate miles in it, marvellous little car. It handled these mountain roads like they weren’t there and we passed quite a few people with overheating engines that didn’t like the climb!! Spark rules!!

Then we reached the Sequoia forest. What can I say, but marvel at the immense size of them, plus the beautiful rich red colour of their bark.

And this is not the biggest one!!
Another!! But this gives you a sense of scale, look at the person and the bench at the base.
Three together with the road splitting though them..
Getting bigger still!!
The base showing fire damage.
There are two of us!!

And then further on I walked down to The General Sherman. Anne decided not to join me as the walk went down a fairly steep path, which you had to walk back up, and at 8,000ft that made you puff a bit!!

General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.
Diagram of the trunk at the ground.
What makes it the biggest.
The General and a twin Sequoia next door.
Another view of General Sherman. Tiny people at base.

The views around the park from 8,000ft plus were absolutely magnificent, but a camera shot doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Normal trees and snow capped mountains.
More snow capped mountains.

We were supposed to be going to Kings Canyon on the next day but overnight a low front came through, and it snowed above 2,500ft so much they closed the roads into the park for the day. We had seen notices saying weather conditions can change quickly be prepared, but didn’t realise it could happen quite that quickly. So we looked around Visalia and found a tractor museum and a group of volunteers cleaning a decommissioned B17 Flying Fortress.

Iron rimmed wheels and a transverse engine, most unusual.
RV belonging to the restoration group.
The shiny B17.
Polishing the aluminium hull.
Bomber was part of the 379th Bomber Group that was awarded the 8th Air Force “Grand Slam” Award for the greatest tonnage of bombs delivered in April 1944.
Cockpit all clean and shiny.

By the following day with a rapid rise in temperatures the roads into King Canyon National Park were open again and we went to see the General Grant, the second largest sequoia in the world, which is over 3,000 years old.

Evidence of the previous days snow on the way up.

The General Grant tree is one of many imposing sequoias in a grove called the Grant Grove.

Part of the Grant Grove from the car park.

 

And more.
A fallen hollow sequoia that was lived in. Because of their high tannin content which is what gives the red colour, they are very resistant to rot.
General Grant.
Top of the General Grant has a lot of canopy.
Fire scarring, tannin also makes them resistant to fire.

 

What idiot wore shorts in the snow!!
Anne at the base of the General Grant.

We then drove on to see Hume Lake, as beyond that King Canyon was still closed for the winter (funny I thought it was Spring!!).

The road was quite narrow and had huge drops off the side.  There was over a 1,000ft drop here.
How the lake was formed.
Hume Lake

That is the end of our visit to the Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks, the next Post will show our cross country trip to Yanks RV Resort.

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles

We arrived at Acton / Los Angeles North KOA after what seemed a long drive in almost continuous traffic, especially around Los Angeles where yet again another US interstate is being dug up and improved. Can’t fault them for improving the Interstates (wish we would do the same to our road infrastructure in the UK!!), but we do seem to have hit our fair share of roadworks!!

The campsite turned out to be in a canyon north of  Los Angeles called Soledad Canyon. The site itself was a bit open but still quite nice and the people running it were very friendly. It was bit close to a railway track, but the trains were not very frequent so no real problem. And, as it turned out, quite fortunate as it was a short (in American terms!!) drive to the local station where could catch a MetroLink train into Los Angeles for the princely sum of $7 per person for an All Day ticket, that would also allow us to use the Metro Subway and all the buses in Los Angeles!! Oh it should be so cheap in the UK!!

Our Site.
And another.
The surrounding canyon.
The trains are close!!
The MetroLink double decker carriages, and very cheap.

So we decided to try out the train on the Sunday and have a quick look at Los Angeles. Catching the train was fine, but we should have looked at the timetable more closely as we ended up eating in Los Angeles in order to kill 3 hours after we misread the timetable!!

The station, notice the passengers walk across the track, that would be against ‘ealth & safety in the UK!!

The journey in passes quite a few famous stations.

Burbank Station

Union Station is quite a spectacular station inside.

One of the side halls.
Main concourse with seating.
Plaza outside

There was a Mexican market going on in the area just across the road from the station.

More Inca than Mexican!!
Two trumpeters from a Mariachi band.

So, as our tickets covered the subway as well, we headed out to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame thinking we just had time before the train home left!!

The station ceiling at Hollywood & Vine, notice the film canisters.
Apollo XI
Here’s looking at ?
Taylor and Burton side by side!!
Typical street sign, in your face!! Notice the tag line is a registered trademark!!

So we returned to Union Station only to find out our mistake and our return train had just left, so we had a Mexican meal close to the market and then someone used the seating until the train was ready.

However, sitting there was an experience!! Los Angeles has a huge homeless problem (some whole streets are just lined with people sleeping rough and some of the parks look like tented villages), so the station had continuous patrols checking the people seated were catching trains, and not using the station as sleeping quarters, and we had to show our tickets numerous times, and at least twice the police were called to eject people. Got back to the RV at 10.30pm slightly later than we had planned!!

Part of the reason for being slightly North of Los Angeles was to visit Joshua Tree National Park. So the next day that is what we did.

This is a Joshua tree, apparently named by the Mormons who thought the branches resembled the description of Joshua in the bible. I quote from the guide book. ” Legend has it that these Mormon pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travellers  westward. “

However, although home to thousands of Joshua trees it also has some spectacular rock formations, which apparently a lot of people come to climb.

A typical rock formation.
A bigger one, down which, from the highest point ….
This guy and this ….
And this lady were abseiling!! Rather them then me!!

There was also a viewpoint that was at 6,500 ft up and had some spectacular views.

Panoramic view.
It was a steepish climb
Attempt at a selfie using my camera!!

Very interesting place, well worth what turned out to be quite a long drive and a long day.

The next day saw us back on the train into Los Angeles to do the Hop on Hop off tour. But that turned out to be more complicated than we thought because Los Angeles is a spread out city and they have 5 tours, each of which are 2hrs plus.

So we settled on the Hollywood tour and while we waited for the bus looked at more of the Walk of Fame and the Foot and Hand prints outside the Chinese theatre.

Meryl Streep
Various
Michael Jackson

Then we boarded the bus. Because of the traffic the 2hrs was definitely an optimistic estimate!! But we saw most of the sites we wanted to see.

This carriage diner has featured in many films.
The famous Beverly Hills sign. However most of the road was being widened and the lovely gardens had fences all around them.
And again.
The Brea Tar pits
The actual tar pit.
Part of the shopping area (there was lots of this).
The famous sign.

After that we didn’t go back into Los Angeles as I think both of us were a bit underwhelmed by it. Wherever you went the homeless problem was very evident and around the Walk of Fame etc. the people trying to sell you something were quite aggressive. Begging was rife and the newly legalised use of cannabis was self evident wherever you walked, the “whacky-baccy” smell was everywhere including the subway.

All in all I think we were glad we had only booked a 4 days stay.

Next time we will be in two National Parks.

 

 

San Diego

 

Arrived in San Diego on Saturday 24th March and checked in to Rancho Los Conches RV Park. It is an interesting place laid out in tiers down a valley side with lots of trees and nice shaded sites. We had a back-in site on the lowest tier in the valley and behind us ran a little stream.

Our site, awning out as it got quite hot!!
General view of our tier.

On the Sunday we had arranged to meet up with a friend of Anne’s, Zeina Guoin, from when Anne did her degree at Aberystwyth University. We drove to  Del Mar, north of San Diego to meet her there in a restaurant and after a meal we had our first proper walk along the Pacific Ocean.

Zeina , Anne and myself.
Pacific Ocean.

We had booked a longer stay in San Diego, firstly to get the first oil service for the RV, but also because our first fault had developed. Just after we left Monahan Sands State Park the RV developed a steering squeak, which turned out to one of the main bushes on the steering arm had basically disintegrated!!

Ooops that isn’t supposed to look like that.

So on Monday I rang a few dealers to find someone to fix it. The local Winnebago dealer could do the oil service but was booked until August for other service requirements. They suggested another dealer and when we went there they said they didn’t do heavy Ford chassis repairs and suggested Precision Tune Auto Care in El Cajon. I spoke to them and they agreed to order the part and could also do the oil change. I got some pictures of the steering arm bush to make sure we had ordered the right part, and good to their word they got the part in for the next day. So we agreed to take the RV in on the Wednesday.

Then on the Tuesday we took a trolley bus tour of San Diego and realised there was a lot to see!!

USS Midway. Better pictures later.
The Maritime Museum
The bridge to Coronado. Someone doesn’t like heights 🙂
One of the older houses on the Tour.
Little Italy district.

The Wednesday arrived and we took the RV to Precision Tune Auto Care and the new steering arm was fitted. You cannot just change a bush, they come as part of huge 2ft long piece of metal that connects the steering cam to the nearside wheel and weighs about 30lbs. Basically an RV is a static caravan on a truck chassis so all the parts are truck size!!. Well after about 3hrs the new arm was in place and had been inflated with grease and the oil and filter had been changed, and the RV was “good to go” for another 5,000 miles. Thank you Manny at Precision Tune Auto Care you did a great job at short notice.

So Thursday dawned and first on the list was USS Midway CV-41 that was launched in late 1945 and commissioned just after the Japanese surrender. She was in service for 47 years and until 1955 was the largest ship in the world. Saw service in Vietnam, Korea, and finally in Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1992.

If you are going to visit this ship give yourself a day as there is an awful lot to see, from the engine room, through the carrier decks to the flight deck and the operations island, where the captain and flight operations was based. It is also HUGE so make sure you have good walking shoes, and some of the steps between decks, especially in the island, are steep and narrow. But don’t let me put you off as it is well worth the visit.

View down the side of USS Midway.
Hanger deck
Phantom F4 on main flight deck + 1 crew member!!
View from Flight Control in the Island.
Flight Commanders chair and his deputy.
Your ready to LAUNCH!!
Main Island which houses Flight Commander and Captain etc., but it shows the width of the flight deck with TWO runways.
Guess who!!

Next we met Zeina again at Balboa Park. This is very large park in San Diego that was gradually built and extended from 1868, but really came into being as part of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition when most of the current buildings were built. We visited the Museum of Man and then walked around a small part of the park before having lunch at Prada.

Museum of Man
One of the many pedestrian streets.
Ponds by the Botanical Gardens
California Tower and dome

We decided we needed to come back again as there was so much to see. Zeina also kindly invited us to Dinner on Sunday 1st, my birthday!!

On my birthday we had a long Skype conversation with ALL the family who had assembled in Burnham-on-Sea.

Everyone in BOS including Tim and Emily from Vancouver.

And then we had a lovely evening at Zeina ‘s where we met her ex-husband, Terry and their son Dale. After a lovely meal I had a birthday cake!!

More than enough candles!!
Lovely cake, thank you Zeina .

On the Tuesday we decided to look around Balboa Park again, including the Botanical Garden which had been shut on our previous visit as it was a public holiday. It had some absolutely stunning examples of my favourite flower, orchids.

Never seen this type before.
So many colours!!

All housed in this building, a wooden version of the Kew glass houses.

But what are they all looking at I hear you ask!!
This and …
This!!

No amount of pictures are going to do it justice so I suggest if you are ever in San Diego visit Balboa Park.

Fountains
Pretty flowers !!?
Rose Gardens

After a nice lunch in the Prada restaurant Anne wanted to visit the San Diego Museum of Art and I wasn’t so keen so I visited the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Interesting place and they even had a World War II exhibit that featured the RAF.

Biggin Hill with a Spitfire in the background right.
Get the old kite ready there’s a good chap!!

But we can’t leave Balboa Park without showing you the Medusa cactus!!

Looks like a load of writhing snakes!!

Then on the Wednesday we visited San Diego Old Town State Historic Park the original area which was settled and dates back to the 1820s and includes many original buildings. At the end of a long day we also visited the Mormon Battalion Museum which commemorates the march of over 2,000 miles of 500+ Mormon soldiers to fight in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848, but by the time they got there it was all over. They also created, as part of the journey, a southern wagon route to California, that allowed more settlers to follow them to open up California.

Map of the site which is quite extensive.
A replica Butterfield / Wells Fargo stagecoach
The main square.
Mormon Battalion
A Mormon Battalion soldier and a new recruit who thought she had walked 2,000 miles that day!!

And on the Thursday we used our last day of our Trolley Bus ticket to take us to the Maritime Museum. They have some interesting ships here including the Star of India (the world’s oldest active sailing ship), HMS Surprise (used as the set for “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe), a couple of submarines, one of which a Russian B-39 submarine is definitely showing its age, plus other sailing boats and steam launches.

Star of India, still sailing.
Someone knows how to varnish – a beautiful finish.
Think this Russian sub has seen better days, Anne decided NOT to tour it!!
HMS Surprise.
The Californian.

In the afternoon we visited the beaches leading to the “island” of Coronado. I say “island” because that is what they call it although technically as it is joined to the Californian coast by a spit of sand it is a peninsular!! And then to make our tour of the San Diego area complete we visited Point Loma which has some lovely views of the San Diego bay and is also the home of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which is a Federal Military Cemetery like Arlington in Washington DC. It is  a huge cemetery on both sides of the road for at least 2 miles.

This went on for miles!!
The Coronado Hotel that the original owners of Coronado built in the hope it would attract visitors!! Place was packed so I think they succeeded.
Coronado beach with 2 Brits in the foreground.
View back to San Diego from Point Loma.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego Bay side
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Pacific Ocean side.

And as Friday had to be put aside for such mundane tasks as laundry and food shopping, that was the end of our stay in San Diego, a beautiful place to visit. My next post will be from Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

1,359 miles and 24 days later ……

1,359 miles and 24 days later we reach San Diego, California and finish our journey West, and prepare to go North.

It seems ages ago since we left Dallas, but we have had a very interesting trip across 4 States (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California) and two time zones.

At the end of my last post we had just arrived in El Paso. We were staying in El Paso West RV Park, which as the name suggests was on the western edge of El Paso, a city that was a place of contrasts. It sits on the side of the US border with Mexico and as you pass through it you can see American affluence on one side and Mexican poverty on the other. No wonder the Mexicans are always trying to get across the border when all they can see from what looks like shanty towns is the much greener grass on the other side. We saw the first signs of the famed  “wall” although this is the existing one and not the Donald Trump promised one.

Our first trip out was to the Wyler Aerial Tramway, a Swiss made cable car that whisks you over 1,000ft up in 4 minutes, along a 2,600ft cable from the bottom station to the top station sat at 5,632ft on Ranger Station.

View from the top down to the bottom gondola station.

From the top is panoramic view of El Paso, Mexico, and the huge US Army training area of Fort Bliss where all the US troops going to Afghanistan are trained and then flown out.

From here you can see the Rio Grande, the US/Mexico border crossing point and parts of the “wall”.

X marks the border crossing point, the Rio Grande (the small river) snakes away to the left and the “wall” can be seen on the US side of the border.
The “wall” heading out towards Las Cruces.
A better picture of the Rio Grande and the “wall”.

The following day we visited the White Sands Missile Range Museum  and the White Sands National Monument.

When we showed up at the front gate of the former we thought it was closed. But it turned out that you had to have your passport and identity checked and then you could walk into the Museum which was about 200yds inside the base perimeter. I think US citizens could drive in but us Brits had to walk.

Inside was a museum that plotted the course of US Missile technology from the V2s brought from Germany in 1945 to the rockets and shuttles that took man into Space, with every other type of military rocket thrown in for good measure. If you are ever near this, do not miss it as it is well worth a visit. It also includes an area that shows how the first Nuclear bombs were built and tested here.

A plaque that sums everything up.
An original bomb casing designed for “Fat Man” the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan at Nagasaki.
Patriot missile defence system
An early Cruise missile.
The forerunner of the rockets used to take man to the moon and also to power the ICBM Titan missiles.
Just a small part of the hardware on show.

We then moved on to the White Sands National Memorial. This is an area of pure white gypsum sand formed by the rain washing the gypsum down from the surrounding mountains into this natural basin, and the wind forming the sand dunes from the deposited gypsum. Our pictures do not really do it justice as it had started to get cloudy and overcast, so they don’t really show how white it is.

Entrance to White Sands National Monument.
A boardwalk you can take deep into the sand dunes.
Pristine white sands with a snow covered mountain the background.
It really is snow!!
More Dunes.
And again with the ploughed back road in the foreground.

The following day we had to do the more mundane tasks of travelling in an RV, shopping for groceries, laundry and cleaning everything. It amazing how much dust gets in and on a moving vehicle and the tow car. Then we set off for our next destination, Tucson via an overnight stop at a place called Lordsburg that can only be described by that American saying a “one horse town”. So pleased it was only an overnight stop, completely gravelled camp ground and nothing to see except a small main street and the railway tracks!!

View from a mountain pass Rest Area on the way to Tucson
RV, Spark and Co-Captain parked up in the Rest Area.

Tucson, however was another story. Firstly we met up with Anne’s cousin Elizabeth (Liz) and her husband Tim on the night we arrived at Valley of the Sun RV Park (which by the way lived up to its name and was very sunny). Had an Italian meal and talked to them for ages about what there was to do around Tucson, which turned out to be quite a lot!!

Liz, Tim and us outside their house in Oro Valley, Tucson.

Our first day in Tucson was spent visiting the Saguaro National Park which is at the heart of the area where Saguaros grow as they only grow around the Tucson area.

What are Saguaros I hear you ask? They are those iconic cacti you see in the Western films standing up straight and looking like pencil men with arms!!

A typical Saguaro
And there a lot of them, look in the background.
A much better explanation.

We spent ages walking around the exhibits and hearing how the local Indian (“native Americans”!!) believe that they represent their ancestors so are treated with respect.

There was also a drive through loop which turned out to be an unpaved road more suited for a 4×4 than a Chevy Spark but I managed to avoid any major potholes and the Spark survived!!

Track in the foreground and Saguaros as far as the eye can see, even, if you look carefully, on top of the hill.

We also walked around a fascinating nature trail that wound around the park through the Saguaros and other cacti, although the “Beware of rattlesnakes and scorpions” signs were a little bit disconcerting, but we didn’t see any!!

A very tall one with multiple arms. They do not develop arms until they are at least 75 years old and can live for over 200 years.
Bird nesting site.
It was hot!! 90F / 32C
Unusual 3 tiers of arms, they normally have only 1.

The next day in complete contrast we visited Tombstone the scene of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Very interesting town making the most of its infamous history. The Main street is much as it was in those days although the shops have changed into multiple gift shops and the Saloons are now restaurants.

Main Street
The Stage is in town. This is the Tombstone equivalent of the Trolley Bus Tour.
The Crystal Palace Saloon, I missed the 3 cowboys sat at the bar!!

Further down the street we found the OK Corral site and watched a re-enactment of the gunfight.

Animatronic version of the gunfight, which is why they look a bit stiff.
Morgan Earp and the Clanton brothers.
Left to right, Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp. The person playing Virgil Earp looked remarkably like Sam Elliot who played Virgil in the latest film version.

Very interesting day, especially later in the day when the wind got up and started blowing the dust around in Main Street.

The next day we took it easy and hosted Liz and Tim for a meal at the RV as they had treated us to a meal at their house. Not sure a steak meal cooked on the Weber lived up to the Chicken Tikka Masala they served up for us, but it was an enjoyable evening and they got to see the RV.

Trying out the Driving seats!!

The day after we visited two contrasting places, the Titan Missile Museum and the San Xavier Mission.

The Titan Missile Museum is the only fully intact example of an original Titan Missile Silo as all the rest were blown up and destroyed as part of the Nuclear Disarmament Treaty. If, like me, you like missiles, electronics and all the gizmos this is a great place to visit on one of the guided tours, but I am not sure Anne was as enamoured as I was. The guide was an ex Air Force technician who had worked there when the site was operational.

Titan Missile Museum
Main control room and our Guide.
Looking down into the silo at the Titan II missile.
To prove it was a decommissioned site as part of the Nuclear Disarmament Treaty they had to remove the rocket engines.

The San Xavier Mission is like the Missions around San Antonio, a Spanish Mission set up to integrate the local population into the Catholic Church as part of the grand plan to tame Arizona. This one, though, is in a class of its own with a magnificent church and absolutely fabulous interior decorations.

The Mission, the bell tower on the right was never completed.
Looking down the interior to the Alter
The artwork on the dome.
The main Altar
Viewing Gallery decoration.

Next on our list was a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, another place like the Dallas Aquarium is misnamed as it is much more then a Museum!! Zoo, Gardens, Museum, Natural Sciences and much, much more. If you get a chance to visit it do so, but make sure you have the whole day as if you don’t you will not see all of it.

A panoramic view of the Museum. All the exhibits are the trails that wind through the gardens.
One of the many free ranging squirrels that live in the museum.
A deer asleep.
Mountain Lion, he had seen something, perhaps the squirrel!!
Vultures
Prairie Dog
Cactus Garden
Otter
Duck – not sure what type!!
Cactus bloom, smelt beautiful and attracted bees.
Humming bird
Nesting Hummingbird. Nests are made with spiders webs to hold it together and on the branch.
Another Hummingbird.

And after one last meal at Liz and Tim’s house we left Tucson realising there was still lots to see. For example this fleeting shot of the Boneyard, where old planes are stored.

You can just see the planes, but it is a huge area full of old planes.

We then moved onto Phoenix where we met up with Pei Tao, one of the early students who worked at the SALC for Anne. We had a great evening with her husband Kevin and a Japanese student who they were hosting, at a Tapas bar in Phoenix.

On the recommendation of the person who helped me park the RV at Phoenix Metro RV Park we visited the Coconino National Forest and Sedona, more commonly known as Red Rock Country. Wow there are some big Red rocks.

Speaks for itself!!
Red rocks in the distance.
Red Rock Country

Then we moved onto San Diego via Yuma where we stayed in a lovely campground called Villa Alameda RV Resort. The RVs were parked amongst multiple fruit trees and the park had lots of flower gardens, all of which on an evening with no wind smelt absolutely wonderful. You could pick any of the Oranges, Lemons and Grapefruit from the trees if you wanted fresh fruit!!

Shiny RV (washed in Phoenix), trees and a flower garden.
Sun going down.
Sunset
Evening with LED Palm trees!!

Now in San Diego where we will be while we get the RV Serviced (Oil change and Filter) and fix a steering bush, all of which will be in the next post.

The Pacific at last.

Sorry this is so long but had a lot to write up. Will also update our Our RV Map