Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yosemite National Park, CA: Timing Is Everything!

Our final destination of the six-week trip was Yosemite National Park -- a trip Philip has dreamed of since he was a teenager and mooned over famous photographer Ansel Adams' beautiful black and white photos of this gorgeous area.  We had a full day to see a mere fraction of the park ... but boy were we glad we got there when we did.  Because the following day, 3 separate wildfires totaling 2,200 acres broke out in Yosemite, and the road/entrance we needed to use was CLOSED!  The webcams in the park showed heavy smoke and we were so grateful that we had been able to see the beauty of the park .. because a day later, we would have been out of luck! To compare ..............

El Capitan --- our photo from July 25

El Capitan --- webcam photo from July 26
Yosemite Falls --- our photo from July 25
Yosemite Falls --- webcam photo from July 26

Half Dome --- our photo from July 25

Half Dome --- webcam photo from July 26

So, the bummer was, we couldn't go back into Yosemite after our one-day visit on July 25, but the good news was that we really enjoyed our day there -- hiking, picnicking, sightseeing, and perfecting our French accents, since  for some reason it seemed that 95% of the people in Yosemite were visiting from France.

Bella made friends everywhere she went.  It seemed everyone visiting Yosemite had left their dogs back wherever they came from and were eager for some canine kisses.  She was seriously mobbed everywhere we went and patiently submitted herself to all the attention.

Though wildlife was nowhere near as abundant as it had been in Yellowstone, it fearlessly could care less about the humans around.  We were about two feet from this deer and he just kept on munchin'!

We got quite lost at one point (I would like to have a word or two with whoever's in charge of the lame signage at Yosemite) but it was fortunate because then we got to drive through Arch Rock, which we wouldn't have seen otherwise!

One of our favorite adventures in nearby Groveland was going to a very small outdoor concert held in a combination plant nursery/photo gallery/reading room/coffee shop/caterer/concert venue called Mountain Sage ... only in Northern California would all those things come together successfully and charmingly!

The setting was straight from the 70's and the crowd at the concert was disorderly in the best possible way ... everyone was extremely free-spirited, incredibly friendly, and people-watching-worthy!

But most importantly, these people wanted to DANCE their pants off!  All night long!
How could we do anything but join in?

Our new friends Christian and Anne ... getting married August 16!
The band "California Honeydrops" was awesome and played what could only be described as, uhhhh, upbeat New Orleans-style rockabilly!  If that genre exists! And they finished their first set in true New Orleans style, takin' it out into the crowd.  So! Much! Fun!

Our other fun Groveland adventure was to throw one back in the oldest continuously operating saloon in California, established in 1852.

Here is what it looked like back in the day ....

And here is what it looks like in 2014.

And here is what it looks like inside!

All the wads hanging from the ceiling are dollar bills.  They have a special way of wrapping the bill around a quarter and a thumbtack so that it becomes a little missile, which you pitch up and it theoretically sticks into the ceiling.  

Everyone who risks life and limb (and more importantly, the life and limb of people around him or her) by doing this receives an invitation to return for a special fundraising event in the spring that benefits local schools.

 Our trip to the Yosemite area was complete, and with it, our final destination. 
We drank a final toast to "The Road" and prepared to head back to Scottsdale, where it was a record 117 degrees yesterday.  Sigh. 

After 3,718 miles and six weeks, we knew that this had truly been the Trip of A Lifetime.

Though I am not going to miss getting multiple fraud-prevention text messages as we trolloped our way across the Great American West.

After seeing hundreds (if not thousands) of RV's in our travels, I was shocked that only one other RV we ran across was "named" as the Lucky Charm is, with the name emblazoned across the back like a boat.  How cute is "Southern Eggsposure"?

More things we learned on this trip:

(1) In an RV, eating things that take up the most space in the tiny fridge take priority over things that are going to expire.

(2) The ancient, 30+-year-old Maytag agitator-style washing machines found  in every RV park laundry room get clothes WAY cleaner than the fancy "high-efficiency" front loader in my laundry room at home.

(3) Given enough time, even Sirius radio repeats the same songs over and over.  Particularly if they are by Jackson Browne.  Or are "Levon" by Elton John.  

(4) Always close the toilet lid in the tiny RV bathroom because 99% of the time when you open a cabinet, SOMETHING is gonna fall in there.

(5) 250 square feet doesn't seem that small when you are with some you adore and whose company makes the adventure so much more fun!  Thanks, Philip Miller! <3

Lastly, of all the bumper stickers we rode behind (or, more accurately, who passed us as we were chugging along at 40 MPH), this one was our favorite!

Our states map is a lot more complete, but we are already excited about planning another one!
Remember, those who wander are not necessarily lost.  :-)
Till next time .....!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Redding, CA: A Tale Of Two Lakes ... Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake

Week Five: we left Redwoods and the coast, and headed inland to Redding in far-northern California.  Redding is nothing to get excited about in and of itself, but the nearby Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area make this location the perfect base for things that interest us:  great biking trails, cool breezes, and the opportunity to get out on the water!

What up, world?
Lake Shasta is HUGE and beautiful, but the water level was so low that it honestly seemed like somebody pulled the plug on the bathtub.  Everybody in the area blames everybody else in all the OTHER parts of California for “stealing their water” and “being greedy bastards,” but I am not getting involved in those politics.  You can see how far down the water line is in the photo below … it should be all the way up to the trees!

One fun activity was visiting Lake Shasta Caverns, amazing caves which were formed millions of years ago.  The little symbol on the sign had me worried … would we really have to crawl on our knees?  Wear headlamps on our heads?  Would dangerous icicles hanging from the ceiling mess up my hairdo?  Should I have brought kneepads and flare guns?

But alas, it was a civilized walking tour, though rather than “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” it was “Boats, Busses, and Stairs” to get there ... a ½ mile walk down to the shrunken water line, then a boat ride across the lake, followed by a bus ride up a very steep 1.5 mile road to the cave entrance, and then a guided tour which included 609 stairs throughout!  It was very cool!

Walking, walking, walking ..... all the way down to the boat.
The things above Philip's head are called "cave bacon." 
Stairs and lots of stairs.  This was not disclosed in the brochure.

Having the doggies along on this trip has made us very attuned to finding activities they can do with us.  Certainly, they could stay in the RV by themselves (and have, for up to 7 hours at a time) but Philip tires of me asking, “Do you think the doggies are OK?” every 10 minutes.  So, we try to do things they can experience along with us.  In nearby Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, we were able to rent a pontoon boat that Bella and Sprinkles could also enjoy!  

Are there cocktails on this pleasure cruise?

Sprinkles guarding us against kayaking pirates boarding the boat.
Boating is hard work!  
Back on land, the ghost town Old Shasta has remnants of the times in the mid-1800’s when this area was important to the gold rush era.  The remaining brick walls along Main Street are all that are left of retailers, clotheries, banks, assessors, groceries and more that were here back-in-the-day.  

Excellent historical placards and signs made the buildings come to life, but I just felt like crying … knowing that these walls used to be somebody’s dream come true, THAT very building and THAT business idea and THAT passion, now reduced to just plain rubble!  Sob!  (Time to get my hormone levels checked again.)

This handsome building is the oldest Masonic Lodge in California and the fraternal order of Masons have had continuous meetings here since 1854, which continue to this day in this same building!  That’s 160 years of combative old men meeting in secret within these very walls!  (Or, is that just in Dan Brown novels?)

In downtown Redding, we visited the world-famous Sundial Bridge, which was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the world’s premier bridge designer.  We were told the glass floor (see it below?) is illuminated at night, when it is at its most stunning.  However, since it doesn’t get dark until after 9:30 here, that would cut into our movie-and-ice-cream-in-bed time, so we had to be satisfied with seeing it in the daytime.  

It is actually a working sundial; HOWEVER, it is exactly accurate only one day a year on  the summer solstice of June 21 or 22, which seems pretty lame.  Shouldn’t it be accurate always?  Like a Timex?  Anyway, the tip of the shadow moves at approximately one foot per minute so that the Earth's rotation about its axis can be seen with the naked eye, so Christopher Columbus would definitely approve.

The Sundial Bridge also forms the gateway to the Sacramento River Trail, a 35-mile-long trail completed in 2010 that extends along both sides of the river and connects the bridge to the Shasta Dam.  After fighting hills, narrow shoulders, windy roads, hostile/aggressive drivers, and road debris while riding along the coast of Oregon last week, Philip was thrilled for a safe and relaxing way to “get his bike on” on this gorgeous, designated bike trail.

You may be wondering, how in the world can you have taken six weeks off from work for this trip?  The truth is:  we can’t, and we haven’t.  Philip is involved in the land development of 16 different projects right now, including a huge 2,600-acre project in North Las Vegas.  But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, our RV is retrofitted with everything we need for it to be a rolling branch office … cell service, a signal booster, printer/scanner/fax machine, and the ability to get and answer emails from virtually anywhere.  And I do mean ANYWHERE!

Philip Miller Consultants on the water ..... 
Philip Miller Consultants in the RV .....
Philip Miller Consultants at major landmarks.
We have one final major destination before pointing the Lucky Charm’s nose back to the barn.  Heading to Yosemite National Park, we are excited to experience the beauty that photographer Ansel Adams made famous.  We are also excited to soak up as much cool weather as possible before heading back to Phoenix, which was 116 degrees yesterday!  Come along for the ride in our next, and final, installment of the 2014 Great Western Adventure!