musings from the
keyboard of Joni
Palm Springs, CA to
McKenzie Bridge, OR
Southern Route /
New Orleans, LA to Santa Fe, NM
Farmington, NM to Las Vegas, NV
Kingman, AZ to Scottsdale, AZ /
Palm Springs, CA to McKenzie Bridge, OR
Portland, OR to Kallispell, ID /
Glacier NP to Fargo, ND
Bloomington, MN to Toronto Canada
May 17th to 22nd
Palm Springs, CA
Saturday, May 17 - Scottsdale, AZ to Palm Springs, CA
No coffee made with love for me this morning. I had to settle for the coffee in the reception area. We got on the internet in the reception area and Fred downloaded the info for the web site while I checked e-mail. I didn’t get much checked because the computer
I was on was slow.
Whenever we are in a capital city, we like to visit the capital building. Some of them are exquisite and all have interesting history. Since Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, we drove downtown to get a picture of the capital. The original capital was a territorial capital and built in 1900 for a cost of $136,000. "Talk about your lesser capital," Fred quipped.
Timing is everything and today our timing was perfect. The original capital building is now a museum and it was International Museum Day so admission was free. There were informative volunteers in several of the rooms explaining the exhibits. Arizona became a state in 1912.
Several rooms displayed information about the USS Arizona. Another room displayed items received on the Gratitude train. The Gratitude train or Merci train was sent to the US in 1949 by the people of France and contained a boxcar for each state as an expression of thanks from France for our help during WWI and WWII. The guide told us that some people didn’t have anything to put on the train so they painted stars. Others sent plates, metals, teacups. One display showed a handmade lace collar with a note that said, "For a girl or young lady will you accept a very little gift from a French mother." This is something I had never head about and I was surprised by this display because I never thought France was thankful for anything. I wonder what happened to the boxcar that was sent to PA?
Another fascinating display was the Phoenix Mars Mission of which The University of Arizona is involved, the first by a public university. The Mission control center is located in Tucson. The launch was in Aug. 2007 and the landing on Mars is to be May 25, 2008.
The Phoenix Mars Mission is trying to determine the presence of water on Mars. The lander (not a rover) will have a digger attached. The guide was proud of Arizona’s involvement.
Other rooms were restored to what they looked like back in the 1900’s including the room where the Arizona constitution was passed and the original governor’s office complete with a life size governor sitting at his desk.
Across the street from the capital is a memorial park with displays from wars, the first women pioneers, etc. The 9/11 memorial was creative-the sun reflected through a metal roof cut with letters cut out so the message was shadows on the concrete wall underneath.
By now the thermometer was approaching 95 degrees so we headed back to the car to our next stop. McDuffy’s, one of the bars on our list is located in Peoria, a suburb of Phoenix. Traffic was heavy and we were wondering if we were wasting our time because the original McDuffy’s reviewed by Sports Illustrated had been in Tempe. Fred freaked out when we pulled in the parking lot because at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon, it was packed. No worries, plenty of room inside. It was Preakness Day so we were hoping to watch the race but we were finished with our meal way before the race started. McDuffy’s looked like it could be a fun place. Free buffets Friday in the lounge, happy hour specials, over 50 TV's and located right across the street from the Mariners training complex.
It took us almost four hours to get to Palm Springs. As if gas prices are not high enough, we had to run the air conditioning in the car. Wisely we filled up at the last town in Arizona because the gas in California is 20 cents per gallon higher.
The timeshare in Palm Springs is ok but not nearly as nice as Scottsdale. We unpacked, walked to the Ralph’s grocery store (where I had to join yet another store to get the discounts), and made salads for dinner. I am enjoying the WW popsicicles Jamie left us in Scottsdale. They made the trip, albeit a little smashed but they still taste good. This just might be a new treat.
Sunday, May 18 - Palm Springs, CA
The weather here is balmy – only 98 degrees when we went for a walk/run this morning at 8:30. But as everyone claims-it is a dry heat. What does that mean? It is still hot. We started off walking. I knew Fred wanted to run so I suggested we run through the sun spots (to get thru faster) and walk in the shade-our own interval training. We did that until we turned the corner to head back down Sunrise and then Fred ran the rest of the way. I did too but I was huffing and puffing falling further and further behind but I did make it. Back at the timeshare we jumped in the pool and boy did that feel heavenly.
We were wiped out from the heat so we had a nice breakfast and then relaxed inside the timeshare. Around 4 we ventured to The River-a shopping area with a river(fake?) and waterfall area that I had read about in one of the guidebooks. Very nice area with lots of shops. We split a sandwich at Babe’s Bar-b-Que and Brewhouse where we met Drew and Grace from Newberg, Oregon who had just bought a vacation home in Rancho Mirage. They gave us their phone number and told us to call them on our way to Portland. They live on 10 acres in the middle of wine country in Oregon. They also have a homemade driving range on their property.
Since being inside was cooler than being outside, we went to the movies-Narnia-Prince Caspian.
Monday, May 19 - Palm Springs, CA
Only a high of 110 today. I went for a walk in the morning to get a pastry for breakfast and while walking back I was zoned out in my own world thinking, and walked 3 blocks past our timeshare before I realized it. I was not lost just enjoying my own little world.
Fred and I played tennis and then jumped in the pool. This is the one time I love the water. It felt good and we had the pool to ourselves.
In the afternoon I worked on my QuickBooks Certification while Fred went to see the WWII plane museum in Palm Springs. He said it was great. There were two big hangers-one had the Pacific theatre planes and the other had the European theatre planes. There was also a third hanger that had a B-17-one of only 12 working B-17’s in the world. He also got an oil change which included a much needed total car wash. Our vehicle was sparkling inside and out. I hardly recognized it!
We took another walk in early evening and then checked out the gym. Fred was showing off lifting 35 pound weights and I told him he was going to be sorry. We had dinner at the timeshare. Leftover spaghetti sauce we had frozen from what Barry had made us last week in Scottsdale and it was just as good. Time to lounge and watch Roman Holiday on TV with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Tuesday, May 20 - Palm Springs, CA
Fred made us eggs for breakfast while I caught up on the journal.
The Aerial Tram in the San Jacinto Wilderness was our tourist destination for today. The tram whisked us up to an elevation of 8,516 feet in 11 minutes. That is impressive considering we started at 2,643. The tram is the longest 360 degree rotating tram in the country and the views are magnificent.
It didn’t matter where you stood, the floor rotated 360 degrees on the ride up the mountain taking us through 5 eco zones in the Sonoran Desert. From the top we could see the entire Cochina Valley including the windmill farm that we had toured in 1999.
There is a 1-1/2 mile Nature trail but I wanted to do something more remote so we spoke to a ranger and hike into the backcountry. The trail started along a creek that contained snowmelt flowing downstream over rocks providing a musical send off to our adventure. The first section of the trail was uphill and I started thinking that maybe we had tackled too much especially when we were both huffing and puffing,
as much from the high elevation as the climb. I thought of turning around but after a discussion with Fred we continued on.
I am glad we did because all 5 senses were brought into play throughout the day. We smelled the pine trees, heard the babbling creek, felt the cold snow, and saw the towering peaks. For the taste sense, I wanted Fred to eat a bug but he said tasting water would suffice. As we hiked along, we crossed over the stream and some snow covered the trail. Yesterday we were playing tennis in 106 degrees and today we are hiking through snow. Amazing.
When we reached the 1.8 mile mark the trail leveled out along the ridge for another 1.1 miles and we started to feel good.
We are lucky that high elevations do not affect us as severely as some people and we are usually able to recover. It was surprising that we were hiking in sandy soil at this high of an elevation. Fred saw a good example of how the forest regenerates and took a picture of a small pine sapling in front of it's dying ancester.
The third part of the hike was a very pleasant 1 mile back down to the ranger station. Fred stopped to talk to a tree and I continued on. I love hiking out in front and feeling like I am by myself out on the trail. Unfortunately, I would be afraid to actually hike alone (for 2 reasons-I might get lost and you never know what kind of weird-o you might run into) but knowing that Fred was several hundred yards behind me, I could thoroughly enjoy my solitude with nature as I hiked along. Fred was nice enough to hang back for a while knowing how much I was enjoying the feeling.
After we got back to the ranger station, we continued onto the 1.5 mile Desert View Trail and Nature Trail.
This trail had interpretive signs and
lookouts where we could see the entire Cochina Valley along with mountain peaks.
At one of the signs, we met Jeff. A Jeffrey pine, his distinctive reddish brown bark had hints of butterscotch and vanilla. Yes, we smelled a tree!
We were tired but feeling good as we labored up the concrete switchback to get back to the tram for out exciting ride down into the valley.
On our drive back down to Palm Springs, we had the windows down in the car and could feel the heat increasing with every mile we drove. I can see why the Palm Springs residents enjoy the tram. In 11 minutes, they can go from 110 degrees to a perfect 70 degrees.
After stopping for a Jamba Juice smoothie full of fruit and a vitamin power boost shot, we headed back to the timeshare. We had been planning to go out to eat this evening but decided instead to stay in, cook, and play a game.
As I was writing the journal for today and looking at the map, I realized that if we would have planned ahead we could have hiked the 12 miles round trip to the 10,834 San Jacinto Peak. That would have been quite an accomplishment. Maybe next time, if there is a next time.
Wednesday, May 21 - Palm Springs, CA
Much cooler day today, only a high of 91. Fred went to the bakery and got me coffee (with love) and a carrot pumpkin muffin this morning. I finished my book about Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter. Late morning we went to the gym to do some arm exercises and finished up the food (salad) we had at the condo before leaving for the golf course.
By the time we arrived at Dessert Willow golf course, the wind had kicked up to 40-50 mph. It was blowing so hard we debated whether to play. Of course, we did and it was really windy for the front nine but fortunately the wind settled down on the back nine. Just like Arizona there were jackrabbits everywhere. They must like the grass.
We had played the Mountainview Course at Dessert Willow on our trip in 1999 and I had written in the journal that it was one of my favorite courses of the trip so far. The wide fairways were cut out of the dessert. The landscaping on either side of the fairways looked natural. It was all sand but filled with cactus and some colorful yellow bushes and the orange/pink blossoms I had seen in Scottsdale. Hole #6 was interesting with water down the right side and water behind the green.
Fred enjoyed walking down hole #18 after hitting a good second shot on the par 5 looking at the palm trees and listening to the water flow over the rocks.
We did not have to wait on any of the holes and finished in under 4 hours. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the view while sipping a beer (Firestone-another to add to my list). It was a beautiful afternoon.
For dinner we stopped at a pizza place Fred had noticed on the way down. Upstairs was a separate bar with an awesome Happy Hour special - $1.00 drafts. When we went up to check it out we realized it was a gay bar but as Fred said, "For $1.00 drafts they can pat my ass if they want to." The bartender was outgoing and obviously gay. He told us that he and his partner owned a 12 room hotel in Palm Springs but he got bored and decided to work as a bartender 3 days a week. He loved his job. I asked him if he was always so cheerful or did he have a dark side. I found out more than I wanted to know. We drank our bargain drafts and went downstairs to pick up our food, take it back to the condo, and sat on the front porch eating our food and enjoying a view of the mountains.
A rousing game of Chinese Checkers rounded out our evening along with a brownie with nuts Fred had gotten at the bakery. Exciting stuff. What has happened to us?
Thursday, May 21- Palm Springs, CA
Fred thought we should take a run this morning before breakfast so that is what we did. After the first 3 minutes I was ready to quit but I am glad I stuck it out because we ended up jogging for 25 minutes and it was easy for both of us. After being in the heat for the last couple of days, it felt good to be running in 70 degrees. Breakfast at Maxy’s Grill at the shopping center that was just down the street from our timeshare. I am starting a new diet plan and I left 1/3 of my potatoes on my plate. Of course the potatoes covered half the plate.
We hung out in the afternoon, played tennis, and packed. Our plan for the evening was to walk to the artist street fair in downtown Palm Springs and then go for a nice dinner. We dressed up but drove instead of walking because a storm looked like it was approaching. Bad idea because as Fred was backing out of the garage where we had the car parked, the mirror caught on the wall and broke. Crap. Where is the super glue?
The vendors must have heard about the bad weather also because they were all packing up when we got there. Later we heard that there had been a tornado warning that sent them all scurrying.
We walked to Copley’s and got a reservation for 7:30 so we would have some time to check out some of the bars in downtown. Blue Coyote Bar and Grill was our first stop. What a cute place with outside courtyard seating and multiple separate rooms and areas to hang out. In back there was a room that looked like a Tiki Hut and another room painted in a fishy theme. There were two dessert scene paintings on the wall-one at night and one during the day. They looked like framed pictures but upon closer inspection we realized that they were painted directly on the wall but in such a way with shadows that they both looked like framed painting hanging on the wall. The atmosphere was awesome but the drinks were pricey.
Walking down the street, it did not take long to realize that many people here believed in an alternative lifestyle. Many of the guys were gorgeous but alas they were only looking at each other. As the sun was setting, the light being cast off the mountains was beautiful as we walked to Copley’s. Copley’s was the former estate of Cary Grant. We enjoyed our meal and a bottle of wine. I got the roasted beets and goat cheese salad with pears and walnuts which was delicious. Fred even tried it.
Thousand Oaks, CA
Friday, May 23 - Palm Springs, CA to Thousand Oaks, CA
We ate at the timeshare and had the car loaded and on the road by 10:15. We don’t buy bottled water, we use the Brita to refill our bottles but we did have milk and soda bottles. I asked at the desk and they said they do not recycle yet but are starting a program in June. I got directions on where to take it but unfortunately they were bad directions so now we have 2 plastic bags of bottles in our car.
Talk about the American Consumer being gouged. We passed a gas station where two days ago the gas was $4.12/gallon and today that same station had gas for $4.45. The best we could find without going out of our way was $4.09 per gallon. Ouch. The first time we had to pay over $4.00. As we were pulling out of the gas station, the road was confusing and Fred ended up on the wrong side of the median strip going down the wrong side of the street directly into traffic. Fred said SHIT, I looked up and we both just about had a heart attack. Two lanes of traffic were coming directly at us and we were stuck beside the median strip. Fortunately the guy who was coming directly at us in our lane was paying attention and was able to stop. There we were sitting bumper to bumper. He looked as shocked as we felt but pulled over into the other lane and we were able to get to the intersection and into our proper lane before any more traffic came.
On Route 10 we passed the windmill farm. What an impressive sight. Over 1,000 windmills catching the breeze that blows through the valley. We had toured the windmill farm when we were here in 1999 and it was not even 1/10 of the size it is now. There is a strong wind coming down through the valley and all the windmills are going at full speed.
At noon it was 56 degrees and raining. Does not look good for golf but we have a tee time scheduled on one of our 50 under 50 courses. Today is our day of gonna do. As we were driving on Route 10 we were going to see the Rose Bowl in Pasadena but the exit was not marked. Then , we were going to go to the Skateboard Museum but got on the Los Angeles Blvd after the museum but because of time constraints did not feel like turning around. Then we saw the Reagan Library on the map and were going to go there. Somehow we missed the road so that did not happen either. We were determined we were going to play golf.
By the time we arrived at the golf course, it was still chilly but not raining. We got an earlier tee time at Rustic Canyon. They were nice enough to still give us the twilight rate ($34) but let us go off early. I cannot say enough about this course. Starting from the first hole, we enjoyed it. There is a putting green beside the first tee box which is a good idea and the yardage markers are marked with front, center, and back yardages to the green. We were allowed to walk and they had deluxe pull carts for rent. The pace was perfect. The fairways are wide but a strategically placed waste area or pot bunker made position important. The greens were huge with closely mowed collection basins in the front. A bump and run shot was the perfect approach. Add in the surrounding hills and natural grasses and we felt like we were golfing in Scotland. Even the weather was Scottish-like, slightly overcast.
Hole #4, our first par 3, had a huge green with the flag positioned just below an undulating knob. I was on the other side of the green and had a fun putt down a slope and over the knob.
Afterward the pro told us that the course was created in 2002 and had won numerous awards. The golf course is part of a State Park and has to obey their rules. He explained that is why we did not see huge stone tee markers or directional signs on the course. The cart paths were not paved which we liked because it seemed more natural. And, just like a park, the gates close at dusk. He also told us that because the course is in a valley with mountains on both sides, the greens follow their own rules. You can see what you are sure is a sloped downhill green but if it is facing west then it is not downhill no matter how much it looks like it. Vice versa for an uphill putt that actually plays flat. We wish we had know that before we played because we both remember hole #16. Fred chipped and his chip ran way past what looked like an uphill hole. I could not make myself believe the hole was not uphill so I putted for what I saw and my putt ran way past also. At least we now know there was a reason. It was a real challenge but a lot of fun putting today.
The Regan Presidential Library sits on top of a hill and we wanted to at least get a picture but when we got there the gates were closed.
Our hotel is a Town Place Suites. Fred had trouble getting our reservations for the next three nights because it is Memorial Day weekend and most places wanted a 3 night stay. We are doing three single nights to play three golf courses. For dinner we walked to Chilies from our hotel.
Morro Bay, CA
Saturday, May 24 - Thousand Oaks, CA to Morro Bay, CA
Santa Barbara kept coming up in conversation with strangers and in stuff I was reading, so that is where we stopped for breakfast. There is nothing built on the beach side so it is totally open for recreation. People were jogging, walking with babies, and hanging out. We didn’t have a lot of time but we did walk out onto Steans Wharf.
Homeless people had blankets set up on the sand. One display had a dinner table setting and a sign that said hopeless but not helpless with a bucket to entice tourists to toss money off the pier. At the end of the pier, a talented guy designed a sand sculpture of a soldier holding a fallen comrade. The detail was incredible.
Los Alamos CA the landscape is gently rolling hills. We passed a vineyard with acres and acres of neatly planted grape arbors as far as the eye could see.
Our golf course for today, Monarch Dunes, was touted as a links course but compared to the experience we had yesterday, it fell short. For one thing there were way too many houses on the course for our taste. That is one of our pet peeves but most golf courses are built to support the housing development and this one was no exception. One thing I will say is that the developers did do a nice job of putting in walking paths, sitting areas, and landscaping for the residents.
As for the course, the greens were fast like a links course with a few closely mowed areas around the greens. Club selection was critical especially on approach shots. You needed to land short and roll on because if you landed on the green, forget it, you either rolled off the back or if you landed to the fronts of the green your ball rolled back down off the front. It was one of those courses where you would think you had a perfect shot and the ball would slowly start to roll and roll and roll. Fortunately we played with two guys, Paul and Jim, one of which had played the course before. Paul’s local knowledge was extremely helpful. I would call this course a golfer’s course meaning that the holes were interesting and challenging and strategic. We enjoyed it and would play again although there will be even more houses in the future.
After golf we had a 45 minute drive to Morro Bay where we had a hotel booked called the Sea Air Inn. Nice name but we were concerned when we drove up because from the outside it looked a little scary. On the inside it was ok-old with sandpaper thin towels but clean.
We walked 1 block to the waterfront and lucked onto our very own private deck at a fancy restaurant. We were not in the mood for an expensive meal but wanted a water view. Windows on the Water had a small balcony with 4 rocking chairs with an incredible view to the water and Morro Rock (a 530 foot rock in the water).
As we sat enjoying a cocktail, we watched kayakers paddle by silhouetted in the setting sun, sailboats coming into the harbor and a sea otter swim by doing the backstroke. The sea otter was adorable. We were enjoying the ambience so much that we ordered another drink and some clam chowder soup. Our waitress was so nice. Fred made me laugh when as we were watching the setting sun he said, "I wish they would move that rock, it is in the way of the setting sun.."
It was getting chilly so we went 2 blocks up the street into town to go to the Morro Bay Brewing Company. It felt like we were in someone’s basement and we did discover when talking to our server that this brew pub was the owner’s hobby. John the owner only brews and serves in the brewpub. We had the sampler and a $2.95 taco that burnt Fred’s mouth. He said it was the one of the hottest things he has ever eaten. The burning mouth made the beer taste extra good.
As we were getting ready to leave I went up to the bar and started gave me a sample of his Porter Yard Sale Beer.
He named it that because he bought all the ingredients and the recipe at a yard sale. Ken, the patron, had creative labels on his beer. He was from Clovis and was in town as a consultant to the power plant. He just happened to have some samples of his brews in his hotel room so he ran across the street to get them. He had creative labels on his beers. Each beer was named after one of his dogs and he had a story about each one and how the name of the beer was created. I am going to have him e-mail the stories to Tara and Roger because I know they will enjoy the stories of Three Dog Brewing.
Pacific Grove, CA
Sunday, May 25 - Morro Bay to Pacific Grove, CA
Breakfast at Dorn’s on the bluff at Morro Bay. I was feeling just a little under the weather due to too much late night fun last night at Morro Bay Brewing. I had the fruit platter and Fred had a $9.00 omelet that did not even come with potatoes. $9.00 for eggs-I guess we were paying for the view.
We had forgotten how dramatic the Route 1 coastal drive is. The coast of California is stunning. Fred had to keep his eyes on the curving road but I did not know whether to look left or right. On the right side were rolling hills and on the other the Pacific Ocean. Both were awesome. We had allowed ourselves 2-1/2 hours to make the 120 mile drive but that was not enough between only going 25 miles
per hour on the curving road and stopping at viewpoints. We were surprised traffic was so light on Memorial Day weekend but when we arrived at Elephant Seal Point,
we found all the other tourists. This area is home to Elephant Seals and we watched them play in the ocean, sleep, cover themselves with sand, and just generally look cute. There were many stops we would have liked to make but we had a tee time awaiting at Pacific Grove.
We arrived in enough time to grab a sandwich before teeing off. We were paired with Kris and Anya from the Bay Area. They had played the course before so were helpful in directing us where to hit our tee shots. However, they had no clue with the greens nor did we. Anya was a basher with her putter. With the speedy greens, she constantly putted 20 feet past, and then seemed shocked that her putt did not go in.
Pacific Grove is a quirky municipal course that is known as the poor man’s Pebble Beach.
The front started off with two long par 3’s. The back nine, created by the same designer as Pebble Beach, is a links seaside course. Wind and native vegetation made some of the holes challenging. As Kris told us, it did not matter how you played on the back because the views of the ocean were all that mattered. Deer roamed the course and always had the right of way.
Our hotel, the Lighthouse Lodge and Suites, was minutes from the course. We unpacked, turned on the heat, and went in search of food. We saw a water front restaurant but it looked upscale and we were not in the mood for an $80 meal. We drove through Cannery Row and finally settled on Carrow’s-a diner. It was a dry evening.
May 26th - 27th
Yosemite National Park, CA
Monday, May 26 - Pacific Grove, CA to Yosemite National Park
We had breakfast free at the hotel and were on the road by 9:30 for our drive to Yosemite. I am so excited because Yosemite is my absolute favorite National Park. Last time we were there, it touched my heart and spirit. I remember it as being stunning so I hope a re-visit does not diminish my memories.
On the way we passed Castroville, the Artichoke Center of the World. Every year in May they crown an Artichoke Queen. The first Queen was none other than Marilyn Monroe. The next town, Gilroy claims to be the garlic capital of the World.
We stopped at San Jauan Batista, a Mission Founded in 1797. It is one of the few early missions that was never abandoned and is still being used as a Parish Church. The grounds had a rose garden, fountain, and seating area that looked over the valley. Roosters roamed the grounds.
Next stop was a reservoir state park that explained the water system in California with the canals and aquaducts. Especially interesting was a topography map showing California and the mountains lining either side of the state with the valley down the middle.
In one town we drove through, gas ranged from $4.09 to $4.29 – crazy.
We decided to have lunch at In-n-Out burger in Merced in honor of Jamie. She raved about In-n-Out burgers. For only $1.95 we got large juicy burgers with some kind of sauce that was very tasty. As for the fries- we prefer McDonald’s.
El Portal is the last town before Yosemite and we just saw gas for $4freakin95 per gallon.
Timing is everything. We stopped to take some pictures and enjoy the powerful Merced River. It was full of rushing white water. I picked my way down over the rocks on the bank to have a seat and enjoy the beauty of the river and just then two kayakers came down the river. They were amazing to watch. There is no way that would be me with as fast as the water was moving and as many rocks as they had to negotiate. They were obviously experienced and crazy because not only did they make it through two different sets of rapids, they were even able to wave at Fred who was shooting pictures.
I am overjoyed to be back at Yosemite. As we approached the park, we caught our first glimpse of a waterfall and El Capitan. People were pulled over with binoculars watching the climbers on El Cap. Thank you Mr. Clarke and John Muir, the two people responsible for protecting this gorgeous area and making Yosemite a National Park.
Last time we were here we stayed in Curry Village; this time we are staying at the Lodge. There were a lot of people and cars and traffic so by the time we got to the check-in, I asked the girl to please give us somewhere quiet. She did a good job – we were in the back of the Adler Building with a balcony that looked out over the walking path and trees.
After unpacking, we took a walk to orient ourselves and go to the Visitor’s Center to get maps and plan our hike for tomorrow. There were a bunch of other people around – some of them annoying – so Fred started calling them carbon units.
I was anxious to see the Yosemite Falls so we took the trail to the Lower Falls. Being spring, the snowmelt was flowing at a fast pace and the rushing falls were loud and powerful. We walked along another trail that circled around the forest, over a bridge, and ended at another view of the Lower Falls. We were by ourselves and even with hearing the thundering falls, it was peaceful. Soon a father and two sons walked up and we asked them to take our picture. We chatted with them and then continued back on the trail. It had lightly sprinkled earlier so the ferns were a brilliant green. It was dinnertime and slightly chilly which must have sent everyone else inside because once again we were alone. To me, that is the best way to feel the wonder and beauty of nature.
We avoided the noisy cafeteria and had chips and salsa and a chicken wrap in the Yosemite Lounge along with some micro brews. The Lounge was an all glass enclosed room with about 20 tables, a bar, and a fireplace. Sarah our server was spending her second year working at Yosemite. She was there because she was a climber and what better place to hang out.
As I was reading some of the information about the park and hiking, there was a warning about the bears. I read aloud to Fred, "If you encounter a bear on the trail do not give him your food". Fred started laughing and said, “I’m sure that is no problem for you. I can just picture you if a bear tries to take your food. You and the bear, both of you tugging on the backpack, and you bopping him on the nose”.
The hike I wanted to do tomorrow was an ambitious climb to the top of Yosemite Falls. If we made it the whole way, it would be 8.2 miles round trip. 8.2 miles is not that big a deal except that it is a 2700 foot elevation gain. That is a lot of climbing. We talked about it, waffling back and forth because we both have trouble with our knees. I woke up several times in the middle of the night thinking about whether we should attempt this hike.
Tuesday, May 27 - Yosemite National Park
Fred woke up this morning and asked me if I heard the hammering last night. He said he woke up twice and it sounded like someone was hammering outside. I joked and said that it could have been a Woodpecker, but I don’t think they peck at night. As we were getting ready to go to breakfast, Fred heard it again. I quietly opened the door to step out onto the balcony and sure enough there was a woodpecker in the eaves of the wooden building. He was amazing to watch-rat-tat-tat as he pounded on the wood.
During breakfast (which was crowded, expensive and just ok taste-wise), we discussed the hike again and decided to at least go to Columbia Rock which was 1 mile up and then see how we felt. I packed enough water and food just in case we decided to go all the way to the top.
Fred said no way were we taking the shuttle, so we walked the ½ mile from the Lodge to the Upper Yosemite Falls trailhead. As we were walking to the trailhead, we passed a large boulder where some beginner climbers were being instructed. Sometime I would like to try climbing especially after hearing how enthusiastically our server from last night talked about it.
The hike starts immediately with a series of 60 switchbacks. When we started out we were pretty much by ourselves except for a girl hiking alone and two other couples. We kept a good pace and passed all of them within the first 10 minutes when they stopped to rest. Then we stopped to rest and they all passed us. Then they stopped again and we passed them. We also passed some other people that started out earlier than us. Everyone was quiet, concentrating on breathing, with just a nod or smile as we passed each other.
We were surprised at how quickly we covered the 1st mile and reached the lookout at Columbia Rock. Here is where we ran into a group of kids and adults that definitely deserved to be called carbon units. They were annoyingly loud. We did not linger at the overlook as we had decided to continue on to the next viewpoint and wanted to get out ahead of the noisy carbon units.
We passed a girl wearing lipstick and what Fred said were slippers and we were determined not to let her pass us. We continued on huffing and puffing stopping every so often to take a little break to catch our breath.
Walking along, sometimes alone, sometimes seeing other people, I was stunned when I came to the first vista, the base of the upper falls. Fred had stopped to take a picture, so I was all alone. This sounds corny but it was so beautiful that I got choked up. Emotion overwhelmed me. I was filled with gratitude at being here and felt sheer joy at seeing the splendor of Yosemite falls above me and the valley far below. It was a spiritual moment that I will never forget.
The weather alternated between clouds rolling in and then sun. Just as we felt chilly from sweating, we would go through a patch of sun and warm up. At one point, it drizzled and then the sun came streaming through the trees making the water glisten on the ferns.
It felt like we were hiking through a rain forest. Then, I hit the wall and thought I was done. We took a break, sat at a mini waterfall by an immense granite wall, had a snack, Fred talked me through it and we continued on. I am so glad we did because I got my second wind and by the time we reached the 4.2 mark at Yosemite Overlook was feeling good again.
It was incredible being at the overlook. A precarious climb down rocks where at one point you are holding onto a railing with only a foot wide path of stone for your feet, gets you to an overlook directly beside the rushing falls. The Yosemite Falls, at over 2,400 feet, are the highest falls in the Northern Continent
and we were standing on top of them looking down. I didn’t think I was afraid of heights but I was holding onto that railing for dear life with both hands. I was impressed that Fred climbed down because he does have a fear of heights. It was a rush.
We had lunch on the Overlook sitting on a big rock with a view of the falls on our left, the granite cliffs on our right, and the valley below us.
There were many carbon units at the Overlook so we crazily continued on to the bridge and Yosemite Point which Fred told me was only another 1/2 mile but turned out to be 1 mile (adding 2 miles to our already long hike).
At the bridge we were standing over the Yosemite River and it was so cool to see it flowing into what looked like “off the face of the earth” and knowing that it was thundering 3,000 feet below.
When we reached Yosemite Point which was another 300 feet higher than the falls, we were there with just one other group of people. None of the other carbon units ventured this far. The other group left and we were alone.
We stayed for awhile savoring the view and then started the trek down.
It was not long before it started to rain. Not heavy, just a light drizzle but it made the hike down seem even longer and more dangerous. We had to tred carefully over the rocks. Every so often we would stop, look up, and see how far we had come. Needless to say we were beat by the time we descended.
But it was sooooo worth it!!!!!!!!!
For dinner we had beer and pizza.
Wednesday, May 28 - Yosemite, CA to Berkeley, CA
We took one last look and picture of the falls before departing. They looked completely different in the brilliant morning sun. It was very hard for me to say goodbye.
The drive after leaving Yosemite went through the National Forest along a curving, winding road. We stopped at the Oakdale Cheese Market where we saw a video of how they make Gouda Cheese and bought some gouda cheese, mustard and cherries. We also passed a small windmill farm on Route 580.
We had lunch at Ricky’s, the #2 Sports Bar on the SI list located in San Leandro, California. This was a sports bar through and through. Owned by Ricky Ricardo, Jr., the bar had been built by his father. We did not meet him but did meet Tina, his wife.
Tina gave us a tour and enthusiastically told us all about various sports icons who have stopped in at the bar. Autographed jerseys, photos and other sports memorabilia line the walls. Ricky’s is obviously a favorite destination for fans and players alike. One photo showed former Raiders players gathered at Rickys to celebrate the team coming back to Oakland. Tina told us they gathered at Ricky’s the day the announcement was made-they just started showing up.
We would love to be here for a Saturday college football game. Each college’s set of fans has their own TV and section of the bar. Tina said the fans go crazy bringing mascots, dressing in their colors, and sometimes even bringing a band. Penn State gets the main bar room TV.
Thank you Tina for giving us a personal tour. Ricky’s is by far our favorite sports bar.
After leaving Ricky’s we continued the short drive to Berkeley. After checking in at the Rodway, we set off to walk around the Cal campus and find the Bears Lair, #24 on the SI Top Sports Bar list. We were not impressed with the CAL campus. It was nondescript. There was no continuity to the buildings. The description in SI about the Bears Lair had us thinking
we were going to enjoy the evening there.
When we found it, it was closed and located in a small building on the end of the food court on campus. I asked a janitor inside the food court why it was closed. He said they close for a week to clean up after the school year is finished. From what we could see, the description in SI could not have been correct. As a matter of fact, we wonder if anyone from SI even visited the Bears Lair.
It was too late to go back to Ricky’s so we had a salad and pizza in Jupiter, a micro brew.
Wednesday, May 29 - Berkeley, CA to Eureka, CA
This morning we were lamenting the fact that we were right by a Bart station and could have gone into San Francisco last night if we would have thought of it. We can’t believe we are this close to San Fran and not going into the city. We did get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from across the bay.
We passed by Calistoga and some other small towns on the way to Napa Valley. (just passed the 8,000 mile mark of our trip).
We drove through the wine country on Route 29, stopped at a few wineries, did some tasting, and got a few bottles of wine for when the family comes to Portland. The California Napa Valley has a 180 day growing season while the Bordeaux region of France only has 90 days. This is a pretty area.
For lunch, we stopped by the side of the road at a vineyard for a lunch of cheese, apples, and cherries.
The next town that called us was Medocino which had a feel of a New England fishing village but definitely a California culture. Located on a peninsula that juts out into the water, the scenery has been an attraction for movie directors including East of Eden with James Dean, Murder She Wrote and a host of others. At an art gallery showing "Art to make you Laugh", the proprietor told us about the film festival that was going on all weekend and told us we should stay. We would have liked to but we had too many miles to cover in the next two days to call it a night here. Another town to come back to someday …
The drive through this area does not go quickly. The road is winding and we cannot go fast. In Navarro River Redwood State Park we stopped to get up close and personal with a giant redwood. If you want to feel insignificant, go stand by a redwood. We passed through Humboldt Redwood Park, 53,000 acres of forest, 17,000 acres of ancient redwoods tall as 360 feet and live for 2,000 years
What is left of what was once the greatest forest on earth.
We covered 310 miles today. Found a room in Eureka at America’s Best Value. It may be the best value but it was not our favorite. We went down to see the Eureka waterfront and check out the sunset. They are trying to refurbish this area and eventually it will be very nice.
Friday, May 30 - Eureka, CA to Bandon, Oregon
Breakfast was ½ a muffin-"breakfast" at the hotel.
First stop Trinidad, an old fishing village perched high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. This is what you would picture when you think of a small northern California fishing village. Boats in a rocky harbor overlooked by a hundred year old lighthouse.
Stopped in the Prairie Creek Section of the Redwood National Forest to hike. ZigZag#2 was ½ mile up switchbacks to the ridge. Fred joked "No more switchbacks"! It felt good to be hiking on mulched soft earth instead of rocks.
It was so quiet in the forest that even the insects sounded noisy. We hiked another half mile across the ridge before turning back. We really felt isolated up here. I'm sure 90% of the people who stop here stay on the trails by the road. We discovered that, ironically, even though these trees are among the largest on earth, the pine cones they produce are among the smallest. Mother Nature sure is a strange lady.
We stopped at Crescent City for lunch and I am not going to say where we ate because it is embarrassing to admit that we ate at a chain. We did do a little drive through town and could not find a quaint local café so Moon over My Hammy it was.
It was time to take a gander at the Oregon Coast. It was windy on the overlook and a plastic bag blew out of the car. I went chasing after it the whole way through the parking lot. Whenever I got close, the wind whipped it up in the air just out of my reach. As I was running and jumping around trying to grab it, I was laughing so hard at how silly I must have looked and felt.
I did win and finally corralled it.
The southern Oregon Coast is different from the California Coast that we just left. Large sand dunes cover the Oregon coast and huge rock boulders jut out of the ocean close to shore. The first beach we stopped at had 6 foot high dunes. We pulled into the Boardman Scenic Corridor overlook and took a path down to the beach. The beach is covered with drift wood and the sand has a black grain. We frolicked on the beach in 40 mph winds for as long as we could. We were the only people on the big wide beach.
We finally arrived in Bandon and did a drive through to see if we could remember where we had been in 1999. Back then, after we had played Bandon Dunes (the first year it opened when it was affordable-not like now where the greens fees are over $250), we came into town and hung out at a local bar with the friendliest people. Bandon has always held a special memory for us. The town was prettier than we remembered.
Along the highway we saw a group of older people gathered all waving American flags and signs that said, we support our troops. We could not figure out what was going on until we saw people on the opposite corner all dressed in black with Vets for Peace banners protesting the war. We figured the flag
wavers had come out to protest the protesters. It all looked friendly.
We found a lovely room at the Sea Star Inn. It was situated right across from the harbor in
the middle of old town. A perfect setting, and although it was cold we set on our deck looking at the boats.
After checking in we decided to drive the ocean view road. Although we didn't make it to that road we dicovered the cove area and lighthouse.
This spot was beautiful. We later discovered that some movie scenes were filmed here although I don't remember from which movies. We arrived here just before sunset. It was an amazing area of town we didn't discover last time.
After taking pictures of the setting sun and lighthouse, we went to the Boat Club Restaurant located directly on the water. In the bar we met a guy who works as a mower at Bandon Dunes. He was a regular and was trying the escargot the owner had made especially for him. Everyone was so friendly.
We were just finishing our beers when a couple walked in with motorcycle helmets. I said hello and we discovered they were from Australia. Steven and Tanya had been in the states for several weeks starting with an Alaskan cruise. Then they went to Utah to buy a motorcycle, a 20 year old Gold Wing that was 40% cheaper in the US even with shipping it home, and have been touring around on their bike. We started talking and drinking and before we knew it the Boat Club had last call. We told Tanya and Steve that we were going to the Arcade, a local joint that we had been to last time we were in Bandon. They came also and we had a few more drinks together. They seem like a fun couple.
Fred and I went back to our awesome room (especially in contrast with last night).
Saturday, May 31 - Bandon, OR to Eugene, Oregon
We awoke this morning to the wonderful sound of bagpipe music coming from the harbor. By the time I got dressed to go outside, the music had stopped. Since I was up, I took a walk on the Pier. It was a slightly overcast morning.
To me, Bandon is exactly what I picture when I think of a quaint fishing village. The population is only 2,800, the people are friendly, cute shops line
the old town harbor area, and I doubt if anyone locks their doors. Everything about the harbor was friendly and welcoming. To enhance the image, I saw a young lad on his bicycle
carrying a fishing rod this morning. A 4th grade class painted wooden fishes and starfish that were hung along the wooden railing on the harbor.
As I was walking along the waterfront I ran into Fred who had also come out for a walk. Together, we went and got coffee and a bagel sandwich at a local café.
At the first overlook, along the highway on route 101 just north of Coosbay, a group of bicyclists were gathered with some police officers getting their picture taken. I asked what was going on and found out that a group of police officers including two bobbies from London and two officers from Coos Bay were riding from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The father-in-law of one of the Coos Bay officers was following them in his large RV. They planned to be in Jamestown, VA by June 26th.
We then stopped at Dunes Park to walk in the sand. This is another unique landscape we have not found anywhere else in the country. You hike down from the overlook to the sand and then it is another mile through the dunes, through a forest, and then to the beach.
We drove 101 as far as Florence and did a quick drive through. (One of many towns we are driving through that we would have liked to explore further.)
Along the way we detoured to visit Iris Hill Winery. I pictured grape vines and Iris gardens and what we got was a long drive down a dirt lane and a closed tasting room. Next we tried Noble Winery. Fred swore we were driving to someone’s house when we went back the lane. The tasting room was behind the house beside the family swimming pool. These are small vineyards. The price list said $5.00/flight and beside each wine description was printed $5.00/glass so Fred thought that meant each taste was $5.00. He only sampled one but I couldn’t believe it was $5.00/taste so I sampled 4 different wines.
We bought a bottle of Pinot Noir Sunset Ridge (and were only charged $5.00 for the sampling).
Upon arriving in Eugene, we took a drive to orient ourselves. Stopped and took a walk around the University of Oregon. We liked the campus with its interesting old buildings and plenty of park-like space with trees, and nice landscaping. A relay for life event was going on at the quad.
It took us awhile but we finally found Hendricks Park. I read about it in the AAA book-a small park in the middle of the city containing 6,000 Rhododendrons. We spent some time strolling the paths surrounded by blooming rhodos in purple, pinks and reds.
We didn’t have a reservation for the evening so the hunt for a room began. Fred wanted a Chinese buffet because he was craving broccoli.
We passed one just down the street from America’s Best Value Inn. Since I had a coupon for that hotel we got a room. WHAT WERE WE THINKING? The room sucked, easily our orst of the trip. No more super Values! We tried to walk to the Chinese place and soon realized that we were not in the best part of town. After walking several blocks and not finding the restaurant, we decided to go back for the car because we did not want to be walking back to the motel in the dark.
We found the Jade Palace. The buffet was good. Our personable waiter was going to be acting in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight. After our meal we were too full and too tired to go to the show so we went back to our crappy room where we could hear every car going by and everything going on in the room next door. Quite pleasant-NOT!
McKenzie Bridge, OR
Sunday, June 1 - Eugene, OR to McKenzie Bridge, OR
Missed breakfast at the hotel because it ended at 9 unlike most other places where it was 10. That’s ok it was probably lousy anyway. We found the Pancake House and it was good.
It was only an hour drive to the golf course so we had time to find our lodging for the evening. After our experience last night, we were nervous. Fred had booked a cabin at McKenzie River Resort but you never can tell from the internet what the digs really look like.
Mapquest directed us to turn onto Rose St. It was an alley and when we rounded the corner a junkyard dog came barking and snarling at the car until he reached the end of his chain. Another dog came barking and biting after our tires. I thought we were going to hit him. Beside a rusted trailer with junk everywhere in the yard stood a scruffy bearded shabbily dressed man who never uttered a word to call off the dogs.
If our cabin was back this road,
we were not getting any sleep tonight. It was a scary scene right out of the movies.
The alley circled around to the main road again and we found our cabin across the bridge and across the river, far enough away from the junkyard dogs. The owners were not there yet for us to check in but we knew we had Cabin #5. We peeked in the windows; it was adorable with a fire pit outside and a view of the river.
Since we could not check in yet, we drove to the golf course and were able to get an earlier tee time. Tokatee Golf Course is located in a valley. The opening holes have generous fairways and being 35 years old they are mostly straight back and forth. The course was pretty in a natural kind of way.
There was no planted landscaping except for the rhodo bushes at hole #1. Hole #17, a par 3, was the only hole with elevation. Blue wildflowers and miniature wild daisies grew out of crevices between large rocks that lined the pathway to the tee box. The walk from the tee box to the green wound down through a woodsy path sprinkled with wildflowers.
We stopped at a general store on the way back to the cabin to get hot dogs and beans to cook for supper and cereal for breakfast. We foraged for wood and were determined to have a fire so we could roast our hotdogs. Fred did a great job of getting
the fire started but not so good roasting his hot dog. He lost 2 of them in the fire. We kept the fire going for over 4 hours. It was slightly chilly but pleasant sitting by the fire and listening to the sound of the Blue River.
Inside the cabin, the main room had a fireplace and a pine covered wall.
Outside the window a pink rhododendron bloomed. When we went to bed, Fred came flying across the room and flopped in bed. Did we get a surprise! His side of the bed crashed to the floor. The look on his face was priceless. His new nickname is FA.
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