January 23, 2020 Death Valley NP

I woke up early and decided to head over to one of my favorite places.  Zabriske point overlooks the gold canyon, and after today I think it is my favorite view in the US.  I have been thinking about places that I really enjoy, and Zabriske point at sunrise is hard to beat.  My writing style (military log book may be the best description) does not allow me to do justice to the beauty of Zabriske point at sunrise.  The way the light cascades over the desert and hits the different colored light is magical to me.  I could spend days on end watching sunrises there and never tire of it.

I do not have the photographic skills or equipment to do Zabriske at Sunrise justice.

Now that I was up early I had to decide what to do until my first planned event of the day which was a ranger talk at the old borax production site and mine.  I headed over to the visitors center to watch the park movie to get some ideas.  The movie was good and I enjoyed it but I did not get any ideas.  So I finally just started driving north up the valley to see if anything drew my attention and before I knew it I was near Beatty Nevada which is the closest source of reasonable fuel so I decided to head over there to top off Scout.  The fuel at the center of the park is $5.37 a gallon which must be close to the most expensive fuel in the US.  There are two gas stations in Beatty one was $3.20 and the other was $3.09 when I tried the $3.09 the pump told me to go see the cashier.  The cashier told me that their system was down and they could not do credit transactions, I asked about debit and she told me with a bit of an attitude that it was the same system and today was cash only.  I went down the street and paid the higher amount with a credit card.

I ended up being late for the ranger talk due to my running around Beatty.  I watched the last few minutes.  A lot of the people at the talk were like me attending every talk while they were in the park so I was beginning to recognize faces.  One guy told me I had to try the Indian Fried Bread Taco at the Timbisha Shoshone reservation in the park.  The Timbisha are the native Americans who lived in this area.  I decided to follow the recommendation, though I doubt this is really traditional fare of the tribe  as beans, cattle, and corn would not have been native to this area.  But as some one in France when I asked if a dance was traditional, he said no, but it could be in a hundred years.  So Fried Bread Tacos may be traditional Timbisha food in 100 years. I now have had one, and I can cross it off my list.

One of the original 40 mule team wagons used to haul Borax out of the canyon in the 1880’s, the rear wheels are over six feet tall.  The rear wagon is a water tanker as there was only water source on the 10 day trip.

I spent the afternoon hiking Mosaic Canyon a nice flash flood canyon with interesting rock formations.  The road to the trail head was a mess and gave Scout a workout, but the first 400 yards of the trail were worth the drive.  The ability of water to carve the rocks in the west never ceases to amaze me.   The rest of the hike was nice but not super spectacular.

Mosaic Canyon had about 300 yards where water has cut down to the bedrock which is quite pretty.

I ended the day with a nice ranger talk at sunset at Mesquite dunes.

Mesquite Dunes.

January 22, 2020 Death Valley NP

I started the day by heading over to the visitors center to see what ranger talks were available today.  I was there as they opened and one of the Rangers was running up the flag for the day.  I talked to her on the way back in after the flag was done, she told me there were two talks for the day and she was leading one of them.

So with a little time to kill until the first talk at gold canyon, I decided to do a little exploring.  I had noticed a sign for another campground above the one we usually stay in here. The problem with Sunset campground is that there is no electricity so all of the big RV’s run their generators all day to power all of the stuff in them.  They require generators to be shut down from 7pm to 8am, but nothing ruins sitting outside to enjoy the sunset than the buzz of three or four generators running around you.  The Texas Spring campground costs $1 more than Sunset but is generator free and prettier so I moved up here and bought two nights.

Part of Artists Pallette Drive.  A really nice one way drive in the park on the way to Badwater.

The first talk of the day was in gold canyon which is one of Ton and my favorite hikes in Death Valley.  The person leading it was not a ranger but a young man on an internship at the park.  He took the duty very seriously and one thing I learned is that some of Star Wars 1 The Return of the Jedi was filmed in the canyon.  Besides that I learned a great deal about fan canyons which Death Valley is famous for.

Gold Canyon.

The second talk was at Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 280 feet below sea level.  It is one of the must stop photo stops in the park.  Besides being the lowest spot in the West it is also an interesting salt flat, and does have a spring which is 4 times saltier than sea water.

Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere.

I returned to Texas Springs for sunset and climbed a hill above the campground to watch the sunset.  Since the mountains on the west side of the valley are about 5000 feet higher than the valley but quite close, sunset happens about an hour and a half before the light fades which is kind of weird.  

January 21, 2020 Death Valley NP

The original plan was to drive to Tonopah NV which was about 250 miles.  I woke early and while I took my time getting going and doing a trip to Walmart to get some supplies I was still on the road at 8:15.  

The route thru central Nevada goes thru some more remote land, though not quite as remote as yesterday.  The roads are pretty good, straight as an arrow and posted at 70mph.  I took it easy and cruised at 65mph, and while there was not much traffic it was all faster than me including tankers and semi-trucks.  

I ‘m not sure what this thing was, but I was diverted to the shoulder so it could get past, and it had another truck hooked to the back to push.

The highlight of the drive was a giant gold mine at a place called Round Mountain Nevada.  Gold was originally discovered there around 1880 and it was a very large and initially easy strike as it was surface gold.  Over time while there was quite a bit of gold still around it became much more difficult to get at, and according to the signpost at the mine all of the different techniques for gold mining have been used there.  At one point it was abandoned, but as mining technique became more sophisticated the mine was reopened and now it is quite a spectacular operation.  It is now a pit mine and there are extremely large trucks moving the dirt form the hole to the site where it is processed.  I stopped and watched these oversized dump trucks run up and down the hill for a while before moving on to Tonopah.

The Round Mountain Gold Mine with one of the giant dump trucks moving dirt from the pit to the processing area.

It was only about 12:30 when I got to Tonopah, and thanks to the miracle of satellite technology I was immersed in the Arsenal v Chelsea game on the radio so I decided to press on to Death Valley today.  This turned todays drive into 380 miles.  I arrived about 3 and went into the visitors center to register when I realized I was now eligible for the Golden Age pass which is a lifetime pass for all of the parks in the US.  It also gives you 50% off at campgrounds.  So taking advantage of my senior status and $80 I now have lifetime access, and half off in the campgrounds.  Publishing this is probably going to be delayed as there is no internet at the campground, and really marginal phone service.

Sunset looking at the Panamint Mountains from the campground.

January 29, 2019 Burns OR

Today we drove across the great basin of the US.  The great basin is an old inland sea that covers most of Nevada and Utah, and parts of California and Oregon.  Ton and I have always enjoyed the area.  To give you an idea of how remote and varied this area is we drove 600 miles and the largest town we passed thru was Winnemuca Nevada which has a population of 7500 people.  Generally it is about 100 miles between towns, and in between towns there is very little to see but mountains and deserts.  We started the trip at 200 feet below sea level in Death Valley, and reached an altitude of just over 7000 feet near Austin Nevada.  We drove a ridiculous distance today, but really enjoyed ourselves.

We woke up early as we had both fell asleep very early the night before.  Since we were up we decided to head on out.  We hit the home button on the GPS and it told us it was 896 miles to home following the quickest route.  We usually pick a place we are heading for but today we decided to just follow the GPS and to find a place to park for the night when we ran out of steam.  

A desert scene near Death Valley.

Everything was going as we expected following highway 95, when we drive to Las Vegas we follow US95 from Reno to there so we knew this route, but in Tonopah the GPS told us to turn off 95 and follow US6 instead.  We decided what the heck and followed her directions.  She had us turn onto Nevada 376 which had us a little worried, but the road looked good so we decided to go ahead.  It turned into a fun decision.  We found the kind of road we love, heading thru wide open country with high mountains on either side.  Towns were few and far between.  Near the town of Round Mountain, we came across an immense gold mine which ran for about 8 miles along the road.

This picture looks like an impressionist painting, but Ton took it with her iPhone.

Eventually we came to US50 which we followed for about 30 miles to Nevada 305, another wide open road thru a valley called Antelope Valley for about 120 miles.  The highlite was another mine which was even bigger than the one at Round Mountain, but we think was for Copper.  At the town of Battle Mountain we joined I-80 for about 50 miles before turning north on US97.  We followed US 97 to the Nevada/Oregon border and at that point had about 480 miles under our belt.  We talked about parking up there, but we were on a roll and decided to keep going.

Ton is very proud of this picture, though it looks like a black and white picture it is color.

The last 120 miles were on US97 and OR78 was actually the most remote part of the road yet.  For an 80 mile stretch the only man made structures we saw were a Road Maintenance station and a military radar site.  When we rolled into Burns it was dark, and the RV park we had stayed in previously in the winter is now closed for the season. We had to scramble for a place to stay, but it was worth it.

Another Impressionist picture from the trip.

January 28, 2019 Death Valley NP

We are both still struggling a little bit with our medical issues so it is time to head home so we can see see our proper Doctors.  Ron prefers to drive home east of the Sierra Nevada mountains rather than deal with the heart of California so we left San Diego and headed north and east towards one of our favorite National Parks to spend the night.  

The drive to Death Valley was pretty uneventful, even the traffic from San Diego to San Bernardino while dense was moving pretty well with no significant slow downs.  After you get out of the southern California metropolis, you quickly get into the Mojave and go from bumper to bumper freeway traffic to almost no traffic as you travel thru the desert.

When we arrived at Death Valley we checked in to see what had reopened after the shutdown.  It turns out only a couple of the campgrounds have been re-opened so we are in a big gravel lot across from the visitors center with about 100 other RV’s.  We took a walk and Ton got some nice sunset pictures, and we had a couple of short conversations with some of out other campers before settling in for the night.

Scout at sundown in Death Valley.

January 27, 2019 San Diego CA

Today is Dylan’s birthday so we planned a big day around town to celebrate.  We started out with a seafood brunch at Point Loma Seafood.  It is part fishmonger and part restaurant, definitely a laid back California experience, but the food was really exceptional, and was a good start to the day.

Our next stop was Cabrillo National Monument on a bluff overlooking San Diego harbor. This was the first day it was open after the government shutdown and a lot of people were coming out to use the facilities.  It is an interesting place located on former military property with stunning views of the harbor and the ocean.  The monument has exhibitions on Spanish explorers, as it is believed the monument contains the landing place of the Spanish explorer who was the first European to land in San Diego.  It also has a whale watching platform, some nice tidal pools, and exhibits on the military uses of the area.  We really enjoyed it.

The Cabrillo Monument to the first European to see San Diego Harbor.

Next we headed over to another San Diego brewery located right next to Point Loma Seafood.  We had a couple of rounds of really excellent Lagers and IPA’s and were quite impressed with Epigg Brewing.  Our next stop was going to be Pariah brewery for Pizza and beer.  When we got there Pizza was not available so we headed down the road for a great Mexican meal to wrap up the day.  Thanks Dylan for a fun week in San Diego.

The shore line at Cabrillo National Monument.

January 26, 2019 San Diego CA

Dylan suggested we head up to San Juan Capistrano to visit the mission there.  It is about an hour north of here and you have to transit thru Camp Pendleton.  The Marines were out playing today.  There was an amphibious ship off shore, and we saw some ship to shore movement including some helicopters, and amphibious tractors.  It brought back some nice memories for Ron.

A CH-53 helicopter stopping traffic on I-5 as it passes thru Camp Pendleton.

San Juan Capistrano is one of the best preserved of the California Missions.  When the Spanish were colonizing Alta California in the 1700’s they built a string of missions along the coast about one days horse ride apart.  Each mission was part fort and part Catholic church.  They were designed to encourage the native Americans to convert to Catholicism.  California uses the missions as part of the 4th grade curriculum for elementary schools.  We remember helping Alex with the construction of his model mission when we lived in California.  The mission at San Juan Capistrano used to be famous for an annual return of swallows to the mission.  These days the swallows are going some where else due to urbanization around the mission.

The interior of the chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

After the mission we stopped at a couple of breweries, and swung by Walmart to by a new water hose for Scout as our old one gave up the ghost yesterday.  We have been really impressed with the quality of the breweries in San Diego.

January 25, 2019 San Diego CA

This morning Dylan came over to give us his car for the day.  We planned a shopping trip to stock up for the ride home, and to pick up a couple of things only available in California.

After spending the morning shopping on the Navy Base, we joined Dylan for a nice pizza lunch in a restaurant in his neighborhood.  After lunch we headed over to Costco to pick up Ton’s favorite noodles that are only available in California.  When Dylan finished work he joined us at the RV park for dinner and a couple of good Oregon micro brews we had brought down.  We had a nice chat for a couple of hours before turning in for the night.

The good news is that the government shutdown is over, and Dylan will be able to return to a normal schedule on Monday.  He was telling us that he attended a conference in Washington during the shutdown, and despite the shutdown they arranged for him to get a tour of the Department of Interior headquarters.  He said it was quite weird walking thru the empty building with the Christmas decorations still up in mid-January.

Sunset in San Diego.

January 23, 2019 San Diego CA

Not a very interesting travel day.  Both of us have been dealing with nagging medical issues so we decided to use today to go by a clinic and get them looked at.  We both had our diagnoses confirmed and got some prescriptions to deal with the issues.  

In the afternoon we went to downtown San Diego for dinner at Melvin’s.  We had a great dinner of Thai Curry.  This brewery is originally from Wyoming and was the house brewery for a Thai restaurant, which is an unusual way to found a brewery.  Their beer is considered one of the best micro breweries in the country.  We then finished the night by taking a walk around downtown San Diego.

Ron and Dylan in front of a monument to craft beer.

January 22, 2019 San Diego CA

Today we shifted to San Diego to see our other son Dylan.  The drive over was pretty uneventful. 

Ton and I were talking about the difference in how we treat distances here versus Europe.  We decided to take it easy driving on the trip.  Taking it easy in the US are 300 to 400 mile drives each day.  As an example the drive to San Diego today was 328 miles.  Our easy drives here would be 500 to 600km drives in Europe which is much farther than we would ever consider driving there.  Some of it is the nature of the country.  The next closest town to Las Vegas would be San Bernardino which in itself is about 180 miles, so there would be no short drives.  When we come home it is interesting how quickly we can switch to the American sense of distance.

We met Dylan for dinner and went to a nice brewery.  We had an interesting conversation about the government shutdown, as the office he works is closed though he is getting paid because he is working thru the University of Montana. 

Dylan and his dad.

January 17, 2019 Fallon NV

After getting up we both felt a little better so we decided to push on.  We planned an easy day down to Fallon, and Ron optimistically commented that if we got to Fallon too early we could go on to the next town so we would have a shorter drive into Las Vegas the next day.

The weather was supposed to be rain with a chance of mixed rain and snow at the passes.  They were mostly right, and the first 150 miles from Klamath to Alturas was just that.  The next leg was about 80 miles from Alturas  to Susanville California.  As we climbed up to the pass the rain turned to mixed rain, and then turned to just snow.  Before we new it we were on snow covered roads and in 4 wheel drive.  After about 5 miles the lane we were driving in was suddenly clear of snow though the other lane had about 8 or 10 inches covering it.  It turns out we were behind a snow plow.  We lucked out and followed him for about 20 miles until he turned off.  We covered the last 15 miles or so to Susanville in 4wd.  While it was slow we made the trip without any real drama, though we did see one accident.  Once we descended to Susanville we were back in the rain for the rest of the trip.  

The snow plow we followed for about 20 miles.  Thanks.

Because of the snow Ron’s optimistic hope of going past Fallon was dashed, and his back was pretty stiff from driving so we decided to spend one more night in a hotel.

August 21, 2018 Las Vegas NV

Alex had to teach so we had a day to kill in Las Vegas.  We are not gamblers so we decided to have an easy day taking in a movie and doing a little shopping in Costco and another Mexican Supermarket.

Later we met Alex for dinner at one of his favorite place in Las Vegas Nacho Daddies. As you can guess from the name they are famous for their Nachos. They have been featured on one of the restaurant shows on the Travel Channel.   Alex and Ron had big plates of Nachos while Ton ordered soup and ceviche.  

Afterwards we did our favorite thing in Las Vegas which is watch people.  It is a great place for people watching, and our favorite place is the outside arcade in the old town.  We enjoyed a nice walk and the people did not let us down providing great free entertainment.

The Fremont Arcade our favorite place to people watch in Las Vegas.

August 19, 2018 San Diego CA

Our final day with Dylan on this trip was the San Diego Zoo.  Dylan is a member of the zoo so we were able to tag along for free using his membership.  The San Diego Zoo is world famous and rightfully so.  We spent 5 hours going from exhibit to exhibit.  We hit all of the big animals and really enjoyed ourselves.

Impressive big cat at the San Diego Zoo.
The San Diego Zoo specializes in taking care of elderly elephants.  This one is over 40 years old.

Our other priority for the day was to find a fan.  Our roof fan has decided to stop working and probably needs a new rain sensor, as it seems convinced it is raining and will not open.  After the zoo we went to Costco and Ikea and they were both out of fans as it has been unusually warm here.  Finally we found a fan at Target.

Dinner was another great meal at a seafood market and restaurant.  It is an old part of town, but the food was really outstanding and the line to get in never ended while we were there.  San Diego has really been a good food experience on this trip from the unexpected Thai Hamburger to the great sea food.  It was good to see Dylan and we really enjoyed ourselves here.

August 18, 2018 San Diego CA

Dylan swung by to pick us up about 930.  After a breakfast of noodles prepared by Ton we headed off to our first stop of the day the Tijuana Slough Wildlife Refuge.  It is one of the areas that the office Dylan works in manages.  He took us on a nice walk through the slough and he explained some of the challenges of managing wildlife refuges in a metropolitan area of nearly 3 million people.  

Tijuana Slough Wildlife Refuge.

The next stop was some shopping at the Navy Exchange and Commissary in San Diego where we saw a food cart advertising Thai Hamburgers.  Of course we had to go see what Thai Hamburgers were.  Well they are not hamburgers at all.  Dylan actually guessed that the “rolls” would be sticky rice and he was right.  The meat is barbeque pork that Thai call Meu Ping, and it was delicious.  The three of us split a “hamburger” and pronounced it a messy but delicious meal.

The final stop for the day was to join the Timbers Army San Diego group to watch the Timbers.  They were going to meet in a pub downtown so we headed downtown but were quite early.  We wandered around for a while and blundered into one of Ton’s other items on her list, Oscars Mexican seafood.  We each had  an excellent Fish Taco, and some ceviche.

The game was a huge disappointment as the Timbers looked listless, and were never in the game.  We left a little early to head back for the night.

August 17, 2018 San Diego CA

Today we headed into San Diego to spend the weekend with our son Dylan who is working there for the Fish and Wildlife Service.  We had a slow start as we wanted to wait for traffic to die down before taking off.

Ton saw a Mexican Grocery next to the hotel so while Ron went to get some fuel for Scout she had a good time shopping for good cheap vegetables and a Mexican pastry for breakfast.  She was very impressed with the quality, variety and cost of the vegetables.

The drive into San Diego was thankfully uneventful and we arrived at the Navy RV park we will be staying at around 130pm.  Dylan was able to get off work a little early so we knocked off two of Ton’s items from the agenda.  The two breweries she wanted to visit in San Diego were fortunately only a couple of blocks apart so we were able to visit them both.  The first was Alesmith and we were quite impressed with both the facility and the beer.  The next stop was Mikkeller Brewery.  Mikkeler is an interesting operation as they are from Copenhagen Denmark.  They consider themselves gypsy brewers who work out of different breweries around the world.  The brewery in San Diego is the first brewery they have had that is their own.  The beer was interesting and the art in the brewery was very nice.  When it came down to voting on the best beer Dylan and Ron picked Alesmith and Ton declared a tie.

Dylan enjoying a taster at Ballast Point Brewing.

We ended the day with a nice meal at the campsite.

August 16, 2018 Victorville CA

Today was a travel day.  We wanted to avoid Los Angeles so we decided to head east and go around LA.  So we headed east and across the central valley.  We are always impressed when we drive across the huge central valley.  We have a good time trying to identify all of the different crops and trees we pass by.  Truthfully we spend most of the time going that is a tree but not sure what kind of tree unless there are big orange things hanging on them, but we have fun nevertheless.

An “Okie” display in the central valley.

Today we stopped at Blackwells Corner Store.  It is famous as the last place James Dean was seen alive when he filled up his Porsche there on his way to a car race in Salinas.  He was later found a few miles down a back road having wrecked his car and killed himself and his passenger.  Ron commented that he never really got the obsession with James Dean, Ton said it was because I was never cool enough to get James Dean.

Ron was not cool enough to get James Dean!

As we headed into Victorville we realized we were surrounded by pretty large thunderstorms.  Ton checked the weather app and we learned that there were flash flood warnings for Victorville so it was a good time to park up for the night.

August 15, 2018 San Luis Obispo CA

Today we started the day visiting one of our favorite places in central California.  Near San Simeon there are beaches that are covered in Elephant Seals.  We have visited this site three times previously and always enjoyed ourselves. This time we again enjoyed ourselves though as advertised there were fewer seals than normal, though many of the full sized males were there and really impressive.

The elephant seals at San Simeon.  Some of the males are 16 feet long and weigh 5000lbs.

After visiting the seals again we had a nice burger at a general store that had been in the same family since 1916.  It was an interesting set up as they had a burger place selling Hearst Ranch burgers, a high end wine tasting bar, and a post office all in one large room.  We split a burger as it was quite large.  

A wine bar and post office.  Only in California!

After heading over to Paso Robles to get some fuel we eventually headed back to our campsite and had a nice dinner.

August 14, 2018 San Luis Obispo CA

It was time to finally leave our friends Pae and Supachai.  For our going away Pae prepared a great Thai breakfast of Cao dom.  Ron really loved it.  Thanks to our good friends Pae and Supachai for hosting us and showing us around the bay area.

Ron enjoying a beer at Central Coast Brewing.

Heading south we camped up in San Luis Obispo.  We visited a really nice brewery called Central Coast.  We enjoyed a couple of beers and were really pleasantly surprised when the bill came as we did not realize it was happy hour and the beers were $2 off.  The last stop for the day was the Madonna Inn.  It is a hotel that has been the place to be in San Luis Obispo for decades.  Trip Advisor describes the decor as eccentric and Ton says they are right.  Below are a couple of pictures that prove her point.

The dinning room at the Madonna Inn.  That is a lot of pink.