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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

Moving on from Williams, we headed down to Prescott, AZ. Patti has an old friend who lives there now so we swung by for a visit and we’re glad we did. She was not only able to catch up with her friend, but we were able to enjoy this little piece of the historic west while staying in a great RV park amidst boulders and hiking trails. We enjoyed some excellent meals downtown, including one at a vintage, old-school saloon that had the best Caesar salad ever. A field trip to the old mining town of Jerome was very interesting. The town was certainly more vertical than horizontal!

(As an aside, my plan was to finish up our 2019 travels before we left our winter stay near San Diego for the 2020 season. Alas, this was not to be due to pesky life issues getting in the way. The hope now is to spit out several posts quickly in order to catch up. We’ll see.)

View of Wilson Lake. My morning walk straight out of our campground. 10/25/19

Wilson Lake. 10/25/19

Wilson Lake. 10/26/19

Wilson Lake. 10/26/19

The approach to Jerome, AZ 10/28/19

Jerome, AZ 10/28/19

The view from Jerome. 10/28/19

 

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

Our parking spot for 2 weeks. Nice. 10/4/19

After running down 395 in Eastern California, we spent a couple of nights in Barstow doing nothing much before heading on to 2 weeks near Las Vegas, right on Lake Mead. Our site was fantastic, a pull-in overlooking the lake. Beautiful and relaxing. We went to Vegas so Patti could catch a flight back to Baltimore for some family obligations. She was gone for 5 nights while the cat and I hung out. While Patti was gone, I took some nice walks and played some poker (successfully, I might add). Between her being out of town and our taking the cat to the vet (sucking up several days) we really couldn’t explore the area together to our satisfaction. So, we took the easy and obvious solution and made plans to return for a week later in our wanderings.

Flexibility is a wonderful thing.

Here are a few shots from Las Vegas and the surrounding area. We enjoyed an awesome full moon while we were there. As always, enjoy!

Really enjoying the view out the window. 10/11/19

Peeking over the ridge. 10/13/19

These guys fed every afternoon just off the main road into Boulder City. 10/7/19

Boulder City. 10/7/19

Nice view. Lake Mead, 10/8/19

The historic railway trail/tunnels that led from Boulder City to the dam. 10/8/19

Lake Mead. The RV park is in the middle-left. The lake’s water line used to come right up to the RV park. 10/7/19

Hoover Dam, just a few miles from campground. 10/7/19

Donny! Marie! Ya gotta love Vegas! 10/6/19

 

We have been posting about our wanderings in a chronological order, until now. This post is a bit different. We are in San Diego, our final destination for the year and where we will remain until late January. We’ll spend this time relaxing, visiting with friends and family, and getting some much needed repairs to Sybil. We thought we’d take this opportunity to look back at our journey thus far.

Since we pulled out of our home county back in April, we have:

  • Spent 230 days on the road,
  • Put 6,196 miles on the RV,
  • Made 42 separate moves,
  • Spent the night in 14 states,
  • Visited 8 national parks and many national memorials, recreation areas, forests and conservation areas,
  • Took 2 unplanned and 1 planned flights (ya gotta love the expense of buying a plane ticket two days prior to departure),
  • Visited 1 emergency room (here’s a solid recommendation for the Sheridan, Wyoming ER),
  • Visited one RV service center (Reno) and were visited by 3 RV mobile technicians (for a price),
  • And saw tons of cool sights and had many, many awesome experiences.

We’ve had some difficult times, mostly concerning issues with the RV, but the good times by far outweigh the bad. We’ve learned how to drive in the mountains (a non-trivial lesson for someone who has lived at 14′ elevation for almost 40 years), how to plan a route that includes an easy truck stop to fill up the gas tank, how to find good places to stay, and how to take a walk 4000-7000 feet higher than we’re used to (answer: slowly). We’ve learned to appreciate the benefits of humidity and have suffered from the lack of it. We’re learning that there are interesting things to do and people to meet in even the most rural spots. Most importantly, we’re learning how two people can live in very tight quarters without driving each other batshit crazy (answer: respectfully).

So, a traveling season behind us and another ahead. All we know about next year’s journey is that we have a wedding to attend in Montana in May and Florida friends to rendezvous with in June/July. Other than that: we’ll see. If you stay tuned, you will, too.

Now, a sample of sights we’ve seen from inside the RV in no particular order:

We love Corps of Engineers campgrounds

Green! Much green!

Snow! Much Snow!

We’ve even seen outhouses! Hopefully this one is not functional.

Horses!

Elk!

Hail!

Sleeping horses!

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

From Reno we continued south to Coleville, just south of the Nevada/California border to a very nice KOA located at the base of … a cliff? A bluff? Whatever, it provided a really nice view for our stay. We actually didn’t do much while we were here except to visit two lakes, one well known, one not so much.

The known one was Lake Tahoe — known for its beauty and for its recreation options. We can see why. We came in from the east through an easy pass and were immediately wowed by what we saw. Moving counter-clockwise around the lake we saw lots of beauty and then lots of people. Holy crap, the south end of the lake is jammed with hotels, tourists and all of the support businesses you would expect. It reminded me of Kissimmee, Florida, gateway to Disney World and (editorial hat on) one of the least attractive places I have spent time (editorial hat off). Leaving that mess behind us, we did a bit of the west side as far as Emerald Bay, snapping pictures and taking walks along the way.

Interesting side note: on the way home we took Rt 89 South across a very twisty-turny pass back to 395 and home. When I mentioned to the park owner that it was an … interesting ride, he got a strange look and told me that the locals don’t use that road but rather a newer one that is much easier, but not as well marked. Lesson learned: Talk routing with locals.

The second lake was Topaz Lake. Located right at the Nevada/California line, it is a very beautiful little lake with a nice-ish campground. No shade, but a few full hookup sites and really nice views.

Other than some nice walks along the base of the bluff, that’s about it. Another lovely stay along Rt 395.

Eastern California Moonrise, Coleville, CA. 9/11/19

Topaz Lake, 9/11/19

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, NV. 9/10/19

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, NV. 9/10/19

Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe, NV. 9/10/19

Lake Tahoe, NV. 9/10/19

Lake Tahoe, NV. 9/10/19

Abandoned, Coleville, CA. 9/13/19

Coleville, CA. 9/13/19