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.
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.
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!!
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.
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!!
Next stop was Sahalie Falls. Not sure how much water was pouring over these falls but it was quite a sight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And we arrived at the Sea and Sand RV Park to these amazing views and sunsets.
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!!
The journey South didn’t disappoint either. We went down as far as Dunes City and stopped at various places on the way.
And we spotted whales!!
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.
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!!
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).
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.
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.
When we returned to the RV park two freshwater pelicans had taken up residence on the river.
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.
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.
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.
And then we reached the rim of the Crater and it was very deep. They get an AVERAGE of 44ft per year!!
And then we saw the lake. Wow, what a sight, almost indescribable, so I will just let you look at the pictures.
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.
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!!
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!!
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.
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!!
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!!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
And the day after we left California and entered Oregon.
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!!
As I said though the campsite was well worth it with a lovely position halfway up a hill in amongst the pine trees.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
We then drove back up the coast to Pebble Beach.
And then back to Monterey where we had lunch at LouLou’s.
And then we returned to Yanks RV for our last night there. Lovely campground, one of the best we have been in.
Well that is the end of this post. The next day we moved on to San Francisco.
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.
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.
Later on we discovered …………. EXETER!!
A very pretty town(city!!) which was actually founded by a guy who emigrated from Exeter.
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.
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!!
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 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!!
The views around the park from 8,000ft plus were absolutely magnificent, but a camera shot doesn’t seem to do it justice.
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.
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.
The General Grant tree is one of many imposing sequoias in a grove called the Grant Grove.
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!!).
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.
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!!
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 journey in passes quite a few famous stations.
Union Station is quite a spectacular station inside.
There was a Mexican market going on in the area just across the road from the station.
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!!
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.
However, although home to thousands of Joshua trees it also has some spectacular rock formations, which apparently a lot of people come to climb.
There was also a viewpoint that was at 6,500 ft up and had some spectacular views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
All housed in this building, a wooden version of the Kew glass houses.
No amount of pictures are going to do it justice so I suggest if you are ever in San Diego visit Balboa Park.
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.
But we can’t leave Balboa Park without showing you the Medusa cactus!!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!!
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!!
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!!
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!!
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!!
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.
Further down the street we found the OK Corral site and watched a re-enactment of the gunfight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Sorry this is so long but had a lot to write up. Will also update our Our RV Map