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Before we left the area, we made another trip up to Mt. St. Helens and took a couple of nice walks. It felt great to be out again, seeing sites and taking photos. There are lots of great hiking trails and photo-ops. It was good for our morale to be back in the woods again.

We finished up our quick visit to Washington with a short hop to a nice rv park on the Columbia River. We had a pull-in site that allowed us to sit in our front seats and watch the traffic on the river floating by. It was a bit jarring to see large, open-going vessels gliding by so far inland but we quickly got used to it. My neighbor turned me on to an app called Vessel Finder that I found to be pretty cool. I was able to identify the boats I was looking at or see when a big boy was going to come by easily on my phone for free. Fun. After a week or so I was actually recognizing the specific tugs shoving barges up and down the Columbia.

Southwest Washington is a beautiful part of the country. When some semblance of sanity and safety have returned to the world we will be back to more fully explore this region.

Coldwater Lake, WA. 6/14/20

Spring in Washington. 6/14/20

Hummocks created by the volcano. 6/14/20

Cedar Creek Grist Mill & Covered Bridge 6/19/20

Cedar Creek Grist Mill 6/19/20

Party at the river on a random weekday. 6/24/20

Watching the traffic go by. 6/17/20

Looking for a meal. 6/17/20

Up until now we have, by choice, travelled fairly slowly. This was primarily due to the fact that Nora, our late cat, did not care for travel days. She would be kinda stressed while moving, lightly sleeping but mostly just hanging out with her eyes closed. When the slides came out at the end of the drive, she knew we were done. She’d eat, and then pass out for the rest of the day. She was old enough to have earned some leeway, so we kept our preferred trip durations/mileages as short as possible and stayed several days, preferably a week or so, before moving on.

Now that we have a Nora-sized hole in our RV, we can be a bit more nimble. We still prefer to limit our road time on any given travel day to 3 to 4.5 hours and to stop for several days before moving on, but there are exceptions to every rule. Like last week. 1002 miles in 5 legs over 6 days. The reason? Temperatures of 104 degrees where we were, 60 degrees where we were going. So, Bakersfield to Mt. St. Helens in one swift movement. We were tuckered but happy when we were done. We were back on the road!

So here we are in the Pacific NW until September. As I type it’s raining, it’s been raining, it’s going to keep raining. But at least all 3 air conditioners aren’t running full bore all day. We are running the electric heaters pretty often, though. In my book, a fair trade.

Didn’t take many photos on the way up here, so I’ll toss a few of Mt. St. Helens that I got between downpours.

Stay safe, y’all.

A beautiful moon last week welcomed us back on the road for our West Coast Dash. 6/4/20

Mt. St. Helens in the morning. Overcast & rainy. 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens that evening. Beautiful. 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Mt. St. Helens 6/10/20

Momma told this critter to stay put. 5 days old. 6/9/20

 

Palm trees in our Palm Springs rv park 2/14/20

We’ll wrap up our hiatus from the road in this post since we’re finally about to cover some miles. After some health delays, we finally left the San Diego region in mid-February and headed to Palm Springs (again) followed by visits to the Salton Sea and the L.A. area, ending with what was to be a brief stop in Bakersfield. From Bakersfield, we were to wander north via the coast (Big Sur and some wine country) and then the lovely string of national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, etc…), ultimately hitting the Pacific Coast near Tacoma, WA and sliding down the coast back to Northern California. Plans were laid with the highlight of hooking up with our good friends for almost 3 weeks in SW Oregon. A potentially great summer.

Yeah, well, the best laid plans.

View from our roof 5/25/20

We saw the writing on the wall and decided that Bakersfield was the place to isolate for awhile. Our rv park had great cell coverage (needed for internet), beautiful monthly sites with blooming orange trees inches from the coach, and good infrastructure for food, mail, etc. We’ve been here since March 6 and it worked out well. Now we’re ready to leave.

And so leave we shall.

We’ve decided that it was safest to not move too often, so we’re going to bolt up the west coast to southern Washington near Mt. St. Helen’s for 3 weeks or so, then to the Oregon coast in Tillamook for a couple of months. It will be very nice to see green again and get some relief from the heat this week. The forecast is over 100 degrees for 5 days running, with one day’s high expected to be 111 degrees. Yeah, we’ll be happy with the Oregon coolness after that.

Here are a bunch of photos from between San Diego and Bakersfield. Hopefully, I can get back to shooting regularly soon. Stay safe, y’all.

Bombay Beach on what’s left of the Salton Sea is an odd place full of odd art. We liked it. 2/18/20

Sitting in someone’s yard in Bombay Beach. 2/18/20

Near Slab City, itself an odd place, is Salvation Mountain. All built with found & donated supplies, it’s pretty much the work of one guy. 2/28/20

Salvation Mountain 2/28/20

Evening at the Salton Sea 2/28/20

Some of the oil fields in and around Bakersfield. These pumps are everywhere, including business parking lots. 5/20/20

We had orange groves and vineyards to walk in next to the rv. Here’s one of several active wells in these fields. 4/4/20

Drilling for oil in the vineyard. 4/29/20

Our home. 3/21/20

Here’s a handful of shots from one of our favorite spots near San Diego: Point Loma. We went there three times, including once at the end of our time in the area. It turned out to be the last “fun” thing we did in San Diego. The first couple of times, the tide was in so we weren’t able to enjoy the famed tidal pools since they were under water. We specifically timed our last visit near low tide and we’re totally happy we did. It’s a very cool place where you can be close to nature and still have views of San Diego and the Naval facilities.

The Point Loma Tidal Pools at high tide. 12/16/19

The Point Loma Tidal Pools at low tide. 1/23/20

Point Loma 1/23/20

Point Loma 1/23/20

Critter! Point Loma 1/23/20

Home! Point Loma 12/16/19

Final stop with a view Point Loma 12/16/19

Point Loma 12/16/19

Inbound. Point Loma 12/16/19

 

 

As promised, here are some shots from our two trips to Joshua Tree National Park. What a weird, desolate place with a rugged beauty. Nice place to visit, but….

Cottonwood Spring, Joshua Tree NP 11/14/19

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree NP 11/14/19

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree NP 11/14/19

Joshua Trees, Joshua Tree NP 11/14/19

Joshua Tree NP 2/25/20

Joshua Tree NP 2/25/20

A really old Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree NP 2/25/20

Petroglyphs, Joshua Tree NP 2/25/20

 

Our last stop before heading to San Diego for the holidays was in the Palm Springs area. Our first stop after leaving San Diego was … Palm Springs. I’m combining both of these stops into this post because, quite frankly, I need to catch up!

We both liked the Palm Springs area. There was lots of natural beauty to enjoy, some good dining opportunities, and the people watching was fantastic. Among other things, we enjoyed a gondola ride to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, visited the Coachella Preserve a couple of times, and went to Joshua Tree National Park twice (more on that in the next post). The weather was mild and it was a nice place to wind down after a season on the road as well as to wind up a couple of months later to get back into the rhythm. When the chance presents itself we will be happy to return. Again.

The ride to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. The view below is of Palm Springs with some of the many wind farms to the left. Mt. San Jacinto SP, 11/11/19

The view from the top. Mt. San Jacinto SP, 11/11/19

The view from Mt. San Jacinto SP, 11/11/19

The view from Mt. San Jacinto SP, 11/11/19

The view from Mt. San Jacinto SP, 11/11/19

The Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Preserve 11/21/19

The Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Preserve 11/21/19

Palms lining the year-round spring in the Indian Canyons 2/21/20

A spring in the Indian Canyons 2/21/20

A Native American shelter in Indian Canyons 2/21/20

 

As I mentioned here, between Patti heading back east for family duty and the cat requiring an inordinate amount of attention, we missed doing a couple of items on our Vegas hit list. So, back to Sin City it was so that we could, among other things, go to Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire State Park. It was totally worth the return, so much so that we will go back again when given the chance. Beautiful country, enjoyable walks, even getting up close to some bighorn sheep. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Petroglyphs, Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Red Rock Canyon, 11/4/19

Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Gibraltar Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

“Trail Marker” near the Gibraltar Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

More bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Another bighorn sheep, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Petroglyphs, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, 11/5/19

Riding in style. Grand Canyon Railway 10/19/19

When we were making our plans we had a couple of weeks to fill between our stays in Las Vegas. Looking at a map we realized we were within striking distance of the Grand Canyon so we said, “What the hell” (or words to that effect) and decided to shoot over there for a quick visit. We also decided to splurge a bit, so we made reservations in Williams, AZ, for a week, along with first class seats on the daily train from Williams to the South Rim. What a fun day that was. Riding in style with comfortable seats, morning and afternoon snacks, cash bar and access to the observation car and rear deck. Upon arrival we took a very interesting bus tour of the area, peered over the rim at several locations, and enjoyed a nice lunch at the lodge before re-boarding for the return trip. All in all, it was a nice leisurely day with beautiful sights. It’s hard to take a bad photo in that part of the world.

While in Williams, we made a quick jaunt to the east and visited Meteor Crater. I had wanted to visit this place since I was a small boy (jeez, that was a long time ago) so when I realized it was only an hour or so away it was a no-brainer. Privately owned, it has a very nice visitor center with tours included in the admission price. For obvious safety reasons, access is limited to a small area on the north side of the rim, but that was more than enough to appreciate the magnitude of this hole in the ground and to be thankful we weren’t around when that rock dropped from the sky. If you’re in the area I can recommend this for a quick stop.

Needless to say I took way more photos during our brief Grand Canyon stop then I can show here. It also goes without saying that we’ll be back to this area for a longer stay.

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim 10/19/19

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim 10/19/19

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim 10/19/19

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim 10/19/19

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim 10/19/19

Roughing it. 10/19/19

Meteor Crater Visitor Center 10/23/19

Meteor Crater Visitor Center 10/23/19

Meteor Crater 10/23/19

Meteor Crater 10/23/19

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