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Alabama Hills, CA 9/26/19

This post will be long on both words and photos because, damn, we were in some beautiful and unique areas. Oh yeah, gremlins got in the way too.

We arrived in Bishop, CA, and set up at a nice, if a bit sterile, RV park. We spent a nice day wandering about the area and taking a walk in a small canyon called Happy Boulders, not to be confused with Sad Boulders which is about a quarter mile away. This area is known for its bouldering opportunities. Bouldering, in case you don’t know, is essentially how one practices rock climbing relatively safely. Climbers walk up the canyon with large pads on their backs that they lay below them when climbing, the idea being that they’ll fall onto to the pad for a gentle landing instead on the hard ground for a less gentle one. Looked like it would have been fun a decade or two ago.

A day or two into our stay we lost our automatic transfer switch. This gizmo is critical. It automatically senses if we are plugged in and, if so, allows the power to pass into the coach providing us with all that electrical goodness (like air conditioning). If it doesn’t sense power it defaults to passing our generator power (when running), allowing our batteries to stay charged and our ice cream to stay frozen. As I said, critical. To make a long story short, I ordered a new one from Amazon, we moved to the next, more generator friendly park (in Lone Pine, CA) a day early, and a mobile technician came and installed the burnt out unit. Five days without shore power, but actually very little impact to our lifestyle. Could have been worse.

The Lone Pine area was very cool for many reasons. One of them was the fact that we were able to duck quickly into Death Valley National Park for a look around. We saw “Star Wars Canyon” (actually Rainbow Canyon) where Air Force and Navy aviators practice extreme canyon flying and the public can actually look down upon them as they streak through. Sadly, not the day we were there. We also saw real sand dunes and found ourselves at sea level for the first time since leaving home. It was a nice day.

The coolest thing in the area are the Alabama hills. The eastern slope of the Sierra Mountains rises dramatically on the west of the valley and the east side is bounded by the Inyo Mountains. Both the Sierras and the Inyos were pushed up by geologic forces a long time ago, but in between them are the Alabama Hills. These “hills” were left behind and look as they did back before the two ranges were formed. The differences between them are readily apparent. The weird geography and massive boulder formations were a magnet for Hollywood movie makers. Many westerns and even classics like “Gunga Din” were filmed here. It’s also very popular with the bouldering community. We spent a couple of days poking around here and wandering up the Mt. Whitney Portal road. It’s a really beautiful and wild place and we will certainly return.

On a more somber note, we also visited Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp. It was a sobering visit in this desolate location with way too much resonance with current events. I wish I could say we left with the thought “Never again” running through our heads, but it’s happening again as I type. Enough said.

Enjoy the photos.

On the way to boulder. Happy Boulders, 9/20/19

Happy Boulders, 9/20/19

The entrance to Star Wars Canyon, Death Valley NP, 9/27/19

The exit from Star Wars Canyon. A pilot recently crashed into the canyon on the right of this photo Death Valley NP, 9/27/19

Mt. Whitney viewed through an arch. Alabama Hills, 9/26/19

Welcome to the Alabama Hills! 9/26/19

Alabama Hills formations in the foreground, Sierras in the background. 9/26/19

Death Valley NP, 9/27/19

Death Valley NP, 9/27/19

Slacklining in the Alabama Hills, 9/28/19

Bouldering in the Alabama Hills, 9/28/19

Monument at the Manzanar Internment Camp, 9/23/19

 

As we’ve been driving around this country we have noticed a consistent phenomenon. We’ll be behind the wheel, either RV or truck, and come around a corner or over a hill and we’ll spontaneously say “Oh, wow!” Everywhere we go are things of natural beauty or, less often, works of man that blow our mind. It’s happening multiple times a week and it never gets old. There’s no need to look any further for reasons why we’re doing this.

During our stay just south of the eastern entrance to Yosemite we had an overload of those moments.

But first a comment on weather. Since leaving Florida we have seen tropical storm strength winds a couple of times, experienced multiple hail storms, and even set up camp in the snow. On Memorial Day weekend. Sheesh. Being from Florida we have experienced strong winds many, many times. Numerous hurricanes and even more tropical storms have hardened us to strong winds. (BTW: the wind, although annoying, is not the worst. It’s the unrelenting noise it creates. It drives us crazy.) But in Florida our concrete block houses don’t rock and roll. Our RV does. Lots-o-fun.

A view of McGee Creek. 9/16/19

While at McGee Creek we got hit with a very strong windstorm. So strong that the power company killed electricity (unannounced) across a large swath of California. This was the first in what has become a pattern for the locals. We learned that a) our RV can live without power as long as our generator has fuel, and b) the campground’s water was fed by a well. A well that required electricity. Fortunately we had a bit of fresh water in our on-board tanks to hold us over. We came through the event okay, although the RV got a bit sandblasted. (Surreal note: sitting in the front of the coach watching the wind blow when suddenly two horses trotted a bit frantically through our site. About 5 minutes later, two frazzled guys with ropes came through. We told them which way they went. It was pretty weird.)

Anyway, two days later we had planned to go to Yosemite, but another wind event was called for that afternoon. We went anyway, but left very early and only did the eastern portion of the park. We only went as far west as Olmsted Point, spending time in Tuolumne Meadows. Wow. Just … wow. The photos that day were awesome. The early morning light on the cloud capped mountains, mist on the lake waters and in the valleys as seen from above, and the spectacular views from Olmsted were just insane. Although our visit was short, it sure was sweet. I can only show you a few of the many gorgeous shots I got. We will definitely be back.

The real prize is that this was unplanned. I had no idea that there was an east entrance to the park until well after we had made our plans. Cool.

While in the area we also visited the extremely salty Mono Lake, again on a very windy day. There are these weird formations called tufas that, well, are better seen than described. Again, pretty cool.

Just another week on the road.

Another good morning in the Eastern Sierras. Driving to Yosemite. 9/18/19

Driving to Yosemite. 9/18/19

Early morning in Yosemite. 9/18/19

Early morning in Yosemite from Olmsted Point. 9/18/19

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, 9/18/19

A chilly morning in Yosemite. Tenaya Lake is under the mist in the center. 9/18/19

That haze in the distance is dust in the wind. Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

Tufas! Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

Mono Lake, CA 9/16/19

A campground visitor. McGee Creek, CA 9/16/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

We had made reservations in Reno for a few reasons. One was to (finally) get one of our levelers replaced at an RV shop that had fit us into their schedule. Maybe we’d also see a show, go to a museum, explore the area, whatever. Then we discovered that the weekend that we were there was the Reno Balloon Festival. Balloons!

The day before the festival officially started we went to the launch location and did a bit of a walkabout. I spoke to a volunteer trying to find a good location to see the early morning launch without having to deal with the large crowds that were expected. He pointed out a neighborhood that looked down on the site that had a nice road to park on. We checked it out and it looked too good to be true. Easy access, easy parking. What the hell, we’ll give it a try.

We decided that the sunrise launch was a bit early for us, so we planned on getting up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the site before 6:30 (7:00-7:30 mass launch). As we left the park, Patti saw the “Dawn Patrol” in the air: still dark out and there were 5 or 6 lit up balloons in the air. It was surreal and only the beginning.

We arrived at the viewing location and there was plenty of room. It was also fantastic. Looking down on the field with more than 60 hot air balloons spread out on the ground was pretty cool. We watched them fill their envelopes with hot air and start rising in twos and threes until the sky was filled with them going in many directions. Many came right over our heads and landed beyond the small hill behind us with the tops of the balloons just peeking over the rise. Several landed right in front of us. And the sight of all of those balloons at about our altitude was mind-blowing. Crazy. An experience we’ll always remember. And totally worth setting the alarm for 4 AM. By 10 AM we had gotten breakfast and were back at the RV having had a full day’s worth of memories.

Oh yeah, while in Reno we also went to Virginia City. Saw camels. Drank a beer over lunch. Just another day on the road.

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Reno, NV Balloon Festival 9/6/19

Camels! The camel races were taking place while we were there. Virginia City, NV 9/7/19

 

We reluctantly headed out of Bend and started our meander south with a goal of hitting Vegas by early October. We really liked Bend and will certainly return, but we need to keep moving. Our first stop is an interesting park located smack in the middle of a working ranch. Seriously, we were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cattle, coyotes and lots of birds. We spent two nights there and did a lot of nothing. We took several walks, I shot some mediocre photos, and we generally just relaxed. Very nice.

From there we started down US Highway 395 which we will stay on the length of California. We spent a week at a golf resort in Likely, California. And by golf resort I mean a pleasant little course surrounded by lots of nothing that had an RV park in the middle. (We were held up by a cattle drive taking place down the middle of the road into the park. Cowboys!) One of the attractions of the place, beyond providing the opportunity to frustrate yourself by whacking a tiny white ball with expensive sticks, is the darkness of the sky at night. You know they’re serious about this when you notice that the date of the new moon is listed each month on their events calendar. They even have pads set up with power provided to support folks with their telescopes. I made my first stabs at night photography by taking some shots of the Milky Way and a “Star Trail” shot of the Northern sky. They came out OK. More to come on that front.

After some walks to waterfalls and around lakes we headed on down 395 for some more adventures. They just keep coming.

My first ever Milky Way shot. Likely, CA 8/28/19

And my first ever Star Trails shot. Likely, CA 8/30/19

Blue Lake near Likely, CA 9/1/19

Mill Creek Falls near Likely, CA 9/1/19

This post will be short on words, long on pictures. We saw a bunch of animals while in the park which is as expected. With only a 200mm lens I didn’t have the reach to even get a shot at many of them (I’m looking at you, wolf) and many that I did get from extreme distance don’t make for compelling photos (mama and baby bighorns, several bears, etc.). Others I got so many excellent shots that it’s hard to whittle them down. I captured so many of the coyote that virtually walked right up to me that it is truly difficult to choose. I should always have such problems.

This elk was just hanging out to welcome me on my first morning walk into the park. Yellowstone NP 6/17/19

And this elk stopped by for dinner. Taken from the front seat of the RV. Gardiner, MT 6/21/19

Mama and baby Griz. I could have used a longer lens since this was about as close as this city boy was going to get. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Fun fact: both male and female bison have horns. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Fun fact #2: the baby bison are called “Red Dogs”. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Getting side eye from a bison was a new experience. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

This was NOT taken with a long lens. I thought I was going to get up close and personal with this coyote. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

Looking for lunch. Yellowstone NP 6/20/19

The 1st of our many new homes, Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/18/19

Yesterday we finished up packing the RV, pulled it out of storage, and set it up at our site in Wickham Park, our home for the next 3 weeks.

We are now full-time RV’ers.

Holy crap.

We’ve been considering doing this for almost 8 years, planning it for 6, and, since my retirement almost a year ago, implementing the plan. We’ve been busy scanning a lifetime of photos and documents, giving away or selling most of our belongings, and trying to figure out how we will fit the 10 lbs of our stuff (clothes, kitchen, gear) into the 5 lbs of available space on Sybil. We seem to have succeeded, but only time will truly tell. Now it’s time to execute the plan.

Waxing philosophic for a moment, this is obviously a huge change and challenge for us. It wasn’t easy disposing of a lifetime worth of stuff but the difficult decisions have been made. It was easier than we thought. Now we face the reality of living in (very) close quarters with each other pretty much 24/7. The reality of not being quite sure where we’ll be next week/month/year. The reality of needing to find a place to stay when we do decide where to go. The reality of closely monitoring the weather in case we need to run away or hunker down. The reality of dealing with significant obstacles while on the road. It will be a lot more work than simply hanging around the house. We understand all of this and believe we’re ready to embrace the new lifestyle we are throwing ourselves into. Again, time will tell.

On the other hand, we anticipate great rewards as a result of this choice. Beautiful scenery. Interesting people. Adventure. Swashbuckling.

OK, maybe not that last one.

We are pretty excited to be heading out finally. We will miss our most excellent friends and family, but it’s never been easier to stay in touch and have them share our journey. Some of them we may run into out there on the highway. Others not until we swing by wherever they may be. We’re never farther than a cell call or internet reach out away.

In the immortal words of the great scholar and author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel: “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”.

The view from our home. Thanks to the Bradys for the gift that keeps on giving…quality rum. Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/17/19