February 5, 2020 Cathedral Gorge SP NV

I decided to begin pointing towards home last night.  I am beginning to miss Ton.  But I wanted to try one more Nevada Park before leaving.  A couple of years ago Ton and I swung thru Cathedral Gorge State Park without stopping.  I wanted to check it out so that was the target for today.

The day began with a bit of a mishap.  I woke up just after dawn so I decided to take a walk to enjoy sunset as it was only a three hour drive.  It was a nice walk and the red rocks of Valley of Fire were spectacular.  When I arrived at the campground I met a nice couple from Washington out walking their dog.  We chatted for a while about different places before I went in to finish up preparing to leave.  I needed to brush my teeth and I reached into the bag I keep the toiletries in and instead of grabbing my toothbrush I grabbed my razor and managed to cut the end of my index finger pretty deeply.  I threw a band-aid on it and started to finish up packing.  While I was putting up the electric cord I noticed my finger was bleeding considerably, so I grabbed the first aid kit and tried to stop the bleeding.  I finally got the bleeding somewhat under control and was heading out when I saw the couple from Washington waving at me vigorously, I thought how nice, but then they shouted at me to stop.  I had forgotten to close the door, and left the steps down on Scout.  How embarrassing, fortunately my finger was starting to drip blood to show the reason for my incompetence as a RV’er.  

The drive to Cathedral Gorge was uneventful.  When I arrived at the park around 12:30 I debated  whether to stop, it is going to be cold tonight and since I am heading home why not get in another 3 or 4 hours towards home?  I drove in and after checking the excellent campground complete with electricity I decided to stay.  

The Tower in the center was built as water storage in the 1930’s.

Cathedral Gorge is another beautiful site.  It is a box canyon with interesting sides eroded to look like cathedrals if you have imagination.

Some of the “Cathedral” in Cathedral Gorge.

In the 1930’s during the depression the Civilian Conservation Corps built some interesting structures including a water tank and a picnic area that have survived until today.

This picnic area made of Mesquite trees and roofed with Willow branches has survived since the 1930’s.

They also have a nice trail system that is well signposted and easy to follow.  Someone did a nice job with interpretive signs describing the flora and fauna of the area.  It was a nice easy walk to make the day.  As I am typing this I am watching a beautiful sunset to confirm my decision to stay was the right one.

Part of the trail system with a grove of Mesquites.

February 4, 2020 Valley of Fire SP NV

Valley of Fire State Park has been on my list for this trip since the beginning.  Ton and I stopped here last year and it is really spectacular.  The name is apt as the hills in the park are a bright red.  

The drive over was even windier then yesterday and the temperature has fallen nearly 30 degrees.  The sky is blue but the wind chill is at or a little below freezing.  Scout was getting blown around pretty good on the highway as I made my way thru the desert from Laughlin to Las Vegas.  I decided to by-pass Las Vegas by cutting thru the Lake Mead Recreation Area. I do not have to pay the entrance fee with my senior pass and there is no traffic on the scenic highway thru the recreation area, making for a much more relaxing drive.

When I got to the Valley of Fire I had to pay my entrance fee (no free entry for State Parks, only National Parks.)  When I went by the visitors center to check things out and pay the fee, the ranger told me that as it was so cold there may be a couple of spots available in the full hook up area with electricity, but if I was interested I needed to head right over there.  Since it is going to below freezing tonight having electricity to run the heater seemed like a good idea so I hustled over there and claimed the last electric spot.

Enjoying the Petroglyphs, picture courtesy of a nice German tourist.

A few hundred yards from the campground is a Petroglyph site.  It is pretty high up a canyon wall so they have built a nice ladder and platform so you can observe the Petroglyphs.  As i climbed down I saw a group clustered around a rock a couple of hundred yards away so I wandered over there to see what they were looking at.  It turns out it was another large set of Petroglyphs at ground level that the park does not advertise.  It was fascinating to try to interpret the symbols.  Some are pretty obvious and some are not obvious at all to me.  

The platform for the Petroglyphs.
Part of my walk.  The rock in the left center reminded me of a throne in 3 dimensions.

After warming up for an hour or so I took another short hike to a display I saw off in the distance.  It was late afternoon and the wind was getting even stronger and the display was disappointing so I called it a day and returned to Scout, turned on the heater, cooked supper, and put on The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen.

January 31, 2020 Organ Pipe Cactus NM

I slept in a little this morning before heading out to explore some more of the Monument.  As I was walking around I saw a European camper with Netherlands plates.  I asked them how they liked traveling in the US and they said they were enjoying it tremendously and were looking for ways to come every year.  I told them about our van in France and it started a long conversation about how we arranged things in Europe, and they asked questions about purchasing here in the US, as they are thinking about buying an American RV.  It was an interesting conversation, and I learned about some places they really enjoyed in Europe to add to our future travels.

The campground tucked into the desert at Organ Pipe.

I spent the day doing a couple of drives along the other two scenic roads.  These roads were interesting as they showed different environments in the Sonora.  One was dominated by Saguaro cactuses.  The other was a road that paralleled the Mexican border for 14 miles to a small natural pond fed by springs.  The road was heavily traveled by construction equipment as they are building a section of the wall here.

Trumps Folly, a scar on the Sonoran Desert and a scar on the American Soul.

I returned to the campsite which is one of the best I have seen in the Park Service and is very well managed by the rangers.  There are a couple of trails that leave from the campground so I walked the desert view trail and enjoyed the expansive views, and the quiet that you get when you are far away from civilization.  The Park Service had put out very interesting plaques describing how the native American and early European settlers used different plants for medicine and to produce household goods.   This place is special, the views are incredible, often the only sound you here is the wind, and both the day and night skies are pristine.  

A Saguaro forest on the desert view trail.

When I returned to Scout for the evening I ran into Harry and Erna and we spent some more time over a couple of beers talking about traveling in North America and Europe.  I also said good bye to John and Yvette my neighbors with the Tiger and thanked them for their advice on the blog.

Once again I finished up my day by attending another ranger talk.  Tomorrow I am reluctantly off to civilization as the food cupboard is bare.

January 30, 2020 Organ Pipe Cactus NM

The plan for today was to drive the Ajo Mountain Road and hike a couple of the trails along the road.  I woke up about 6 am and thought I would go out and watch the sunrise after I made my morning coffee.  I made my way to the top of a hill and enjoyed the quiet of the desert morning.  The sky was crystal clear which made for a pretty but not spectacular sun rise.  I ended up wandering up into the desert and ended up with a nice walk while enjoying my coffee.

I tried a little artistic shot of an Organ Pipe at sunrise, but I miss the real photographer in the family.

After returning to Scout and puttering around for awhile I bought another day for the campground before taking off for the drive.  The Ajo Mountain loop is a 21 mile gravel road up into the Ajo’s.  Both hikes are near the base of the mountains. One is called Arch trail and is an easy 3 mile out and back, though I never did see the Arch.  The other trail is two trails that connect to lead you to an overview that gives you views into Mexico, and back towards Ajo.  When I got to this trail I was feeling a little lazy so I decided to hike the flat part and skip the 1000 foot climb to the overlook.  I was able to follow two Park Service Rangers out looking at plant life.

Two nice examples of the namesake cactus of the park.

The park is being significantly impacted by the current government immigration policy.  A large portion of the wall is being built across the valley floor at the base of the Monument.  

These signs are abundant in the park.

It was early afternoon when I returned to the campground for lunch.  I was planning one more short hike from the campground for the afternoon, but instead I ended up talking to my neighbor John for a couple of hours about Tiger ownership, military experience, and blogs.  John and Yvette’s blog is www.theturtleandthetiger.com, it is their adventures full timing in a Tiger around the US.  

This bird was singing up a storm when I went by.

Before I realized it it was dinner time and time for me to do my evening catch up with Ton.  I ended the day with another interesting Ranger Talk on how nocturnal animals navigate in low light.  The Ranger talks are one of my favorite things about the parks, and the young men and women who share their passion for the parks and nature always gives me a warm feeling.

January 29, 2020 Organ Pipe Cactus NM

Today I reached the target for the trip.  When I was looking for places to go both Ton and Dylan my son said that I should visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  So I am here now, and I am really glad they recommended this place.

I was pretty low on fuel so the plan was to find a gas station before I left Yuma.  I plugged the Monument into Greta and she gave me a different route than I took yesterday but I figured there would be a gas station on the way.  The route took me through an extensive agricultural area in the desert.  I learned why the Proving Grounds tested bridges in the desert as the Colorado River runs thru Yuma.  The agricultural area is a result of tapping the river water.

The green of the fields against the desert mountains was jarring.

I ended up on the Interstate without gas and I really needed gas so I got off at the first available fuel.  When I pulled up to the pump they were really gouging so I put in enough to get me to the exit from the freeway.  A little further up the freeway I saw fuel at a reasonable price so I filled up.  With the fuel problem solved I headed on down to the Monument.

The drive thru the back country was pretty quiet, with no towns for about 70 miles until I came into the old mining town of Ajo.  My family has a connection with Ajo as my sister lived there for a few years.  On the way out I plan on stopping to check it out.

The drive into the monument is lined with all types of cactuses not just the Organ Pipes that the monument is named after.  On arrival I was a little worried about campground availability so I headed up there but there was plenty of room and the Ranger told me I could pick any spot that had a green card on it.  As I was driving in I saw another Tiger like ours which is pretty rare.  The spot next to it was empty so there are two Tigers parked side by side.  The couple is from Massachusetts  and they are full timing in their Tiger.

Scout parked up next to a large Saguaro cactus.

Once I settled in and finished lunch I decided to head for the visitors center along a walking trail where I got an introduction to all of the different types of cactus in the Sonora desert.

There are four types of cactus in this photo if you look carefully.

They were giving a Ranger talk when I got to the visitors center so I caught the end of it.  After I consulted with one of the volunteers and made a plan for the next couple of days I headed back to Scout to prepare dinner.  After dinner I spoke to my other neighbors who are also from the west side of Portland and finished the day with another Ranger talk on coyotes.

A flowering barrel cactus.

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.

May 16, 2019 Garmisch- Partenkirchen GE

The day began with indecision.  Thomas’ offer to attend his brewery event on Saturday was very tempting, so we began the day by looking at options to do around Reichenau until Saturday.  The other issue is the weather.  Today and tomorrow are the only two good days forecast in the next 12 days.  After today and tomorrow the Weather Channel App shows 10 consecutive days of miserable weather for Southern Germany, actually for most of Germany.  Ton even researched weather in other parts of Europe to escape the cold and rain.  Right now Oslo has the best weather, but it is a bit far away.  The interesting thing is that the temperatures are going to be warmer in the North of Germany than in the South, also the forecast showed slightly less rain in the North.

St. George Church, our last stop on Reichenau Island.

We still really wanted to take Thomas up on his offer so we talked about options including Switzerland (really expensive), just settling in Reichenau but we needed supplies mostly LP gas.  With the cold weather every night we are using a tank of LP every 4 or 5 days ( for comparison we used two tanks in 6 weeks on our trip to Spain).  After looking at options around the region we finally decided we needed to get going North towards the less lousy weather, so today we are in the Alps near the Austrian border.

Mountain valleys with many small farms, and villages.  The population is much denser in Germany than in Spain or France.

When we punched Garmisch into Greta Garmin she told us it was about 3 hours to drive the 250km’s, we add 30 minutes to all of her estimates as we are usually under the speed limit.  It still sounded like a pretty reasonable day.  The first problem is around Freidrichshaven we ran into really heavy traffic, so the first 100 kilometers of the trip took 2 hours, after we broke out of Freidrichshaven traffic thinned out, and then we found ourselves on the autobahn so all looked good.  With about 80km’s to go I noticed a sign that said we had just entered Austria, did not know that was going to happen, after a few minutes I remembered that Austria requires a vignette to drive on their roads.  A vignette is a sticker you buy in place of paying tolls, many countries require these ( one of the reasons we did not go to Switzerland is that they require an annual one that costs 40 Swiss francs).  So now we were outlaws as not expecting to enter Austria I did not research how to get a vignette or how much it would cost.  I decided to press on as our final destination is in Germany as I figured we must just be cutting thru a corner of Austria.

The dandelions were out in force as we drove thru Austria.

All was looking good as we had spent the last hour in Austria driving thru magnificent mountains and gorgeous valleys carpeted with flowers.  We passed back into Germany without getting fined, when we were 8km’s from the campsite for the night we came to a barrier across the road.  This was in a narrow mountain pass, so there was no local by pass.  Much cursing because when we turned down this road about 30 minutes earlier there was no indication that it was closed.

Typical of the roads in Austria, the mountains were spectacular.

So I told Greta to find us another route to Garmisch, her alternative was 80 km’s!  Lots of cursing now, as we are literally 10 minutes from our destination, and the detour is going to take nearly 2 hours.  So back up the road illegally into Austria again.  The next detour routed us thru a national park with narrow steep roads with views of  glaciers and glacier fed lakes, not a fast route but really gorgeous and nearly worth the trouble. 

The large glacier fed lake in Brentanwag National Park on the road we took on our detour caused by construction.
Another view from our unexpected detour.  

After 6 hours of hard mountain driving we arrived in Garmisch, and just before the turn into our campground we saw signs for a US Military compound.  After settling in we took a walk down there to see what they had.  It turns out it is a recreation center complete with hotel, 3 restaurants, and big American washing machines.  We had a beer and nachos while watching American sports. We are planning to return tomorrow with a load of washing.   A nice end to a hectic day.

Another view of the mountains around us tonight.

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.

October 16, 2018 Rota SP

Last night we had to do some soul searching about what direction to go next.  When we arrived 6 weeks seemed like a long time, but as we have progressed thru the trip we find we have to keep making hard decisions about next steps.  After some discussion we decided to head back almost to Seville to hit some of the coast line and to visit Gibraltar.  We picked a place called Rota to pick up the coast because Ron knew of it from the US Navy base located there.

We woke up to a pretty steady rain, but by the time we got organized to leave the rain had let up.  The freeway system in Spain is quite good, and unlike France largely free.  It was mostly developed in the 90’s and 00’s.  As a consequence the old national roads which are two lanes and generally of good quality are almost empty except for local traffic.  The gps for reasons unclear decided to route us most of the day on one of the national roads instead of the Autovia (freeway).  We actually enjoyed it as we were able to see more of the countryside, and some of the White Pueblos of Andalusia.

One of the white pueblos of Andalusia with the Cathedral in the center, and an Arab fort in the mist on the right side.  We are going to be tempted to double back into this area.
Cotton fields as we approached Rota.

We arrived in Rota and swung by the Naval Base to do some shopping.  After that we headed to an aire located 100 yards from the beach.  Ton whipped up a late lunch early supper.  After we were done Ton declared siesta time for a couple of hours.

In the evening we walked down the beach towards town.  It was a nice beach, and in addition to the ocean we could see the port of Cadiz in the distance with a cruise ship and a large ferry entering.  The most interesting thing were several large man made  rock walls that went into the ocean.  They were obviously quite old, Ron guessed they were used for fishing and he was right.  They are the fish corrals of Rota, and are a National Monument in Spain.  They date back to the Roman times and were used until the 1950’s.  They are designed so that they trap fish at low tide making it easier to catch them.

Part of the fish corral of Rota.
Our first Atlantic sunset in over 30 years.

September 22, 2018 Chateau de Chambord FR

Well, plans change. We had originally planned to go to Orleans for the day, but last night we discussed spending a few days in the Loire Valley.  When we woke up it was spitting rain and a little windy, The Weather Channel said it was going to improve as the day went on so we decided to skip Orleans, and head to Chateau de Chambord.

Ron plugged a GPS coordinate into the Garmin which was supposed to be for the motorhome parking at the Chateau and we took off.  The Garmin said it was only a 68km drive, and the roads were good.  Right at the end we started to think something was amiss as we suddenly started to get on smaller and smaller roads and this is maybe the largest tourist attraction in the Loire Valley.  At the end the GPS proudly announced we had arrived, but we were looking at a field next to a little village.  Either Ron inputed the coordinates wrong or the coordinates were wrong in the app we use to find places to stay.  Anyway after a little more research we were on our way to the Chateau.

Thirty minutes later we arrived and what a first impression.  The chateau is magnificent in scale.  As we walked up to the entrance Ton said that this must cost a fortune to maintain.  This would become a theme of the day. 

The first view of the Chateau, it really is immense.

The Chateau was originally constructed from 1519 to 1547 by King François I.  It is built in the Renaissance style and has 11 towers on the roof that are supposed to look like Istanbul.

The rear of the chateau from the immense gardens.

While it is really something to look at it is indeed difficult to maintain.  When you watch the movie of the history of the Chateau it goes something like this, François builds it, and then loses interest in it and it deteriorates, another king gives it to someone who spends a fortune on it and then loses interest and it deteriorates, it passes to another owner who spends a fortune etc.  In fact it may be the greatest white elephant in France.

The ceiling on the third floor, the salamander was the symbol of François I.  

It is now maintained by the French National Park Service and they are clearly spending a fortune to restore and maintain it.  Hopefully they will succeed as it is worth keeping.

These gardens were just restored last year.

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 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.

April 23, 2018 Saintes Marie de la Mer FR

Today was about Flamingos.  After some muddling about in the morning and doing some laundry we were off to the Camargue which is a large delta where the Rhone River empties into the Mediterranean.  It is a famous bird sanctuary.

There is an ornithological park as you drive into the delta, and we decided to stop and take a look not knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a great walk where we were surrounded by many different kinds of birds but the star attraction for the average Joe (or Pierre) were the flamingo’s.  There were hundreds of them on display.  Ton wore her battery out shooting pictures of them.

The bodies are slightly pink, but the wings are quite striking as this bird is showing.  These are Rose Flamingo’s native to Africa, and Europe.

It was a really nice walk and in addition to the flamingos there were a lot of Heron’s.  In fact the serious photographers with the long lenses were ignoring the flamingos and shooting the Herons.  There must of been something significant over there, but we did not figure it out.

All of the serious photographers were concentrated around this area, we are not sure what the attraction was.

After a couple of hours of exploring and pictures we headed down the road to the sea to visit the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer.  Driving in it did not make much of an impression on us.  But when we pulled into the aire we figured there must be something  to the town as there were easily 70 or 80 RV’s in the aire.  We took a walk and it was a seaside resort, not a particularly fancy one, but pleasant.  We decided that we would have dinner tonight to compare French seafood with Spanish.  Spanish won.

The Mediterranean is apparently warm even in April, as the water was full of kids playing.

April 20, 2018 Pont du Gard FR

Today we needed to get serious about going east.  Our plan for the past few days has been to head to Provence, but we never quite got ourselves going that way.  So today we abandoned our backcountry roads and jumped on the motorway for almost 200km’s to get to Pont du Gard.

This site is one of the most famous Roman sites in France, and features on a lot of travel sites advertising France. We decided that this would be a good place to begin our visit of Provence and southeast France.   

We arrived in the early afternoon and it was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the high 70’s low 80’s.  After a nice lunch Ton declared it was siesta time and Pont du Gard could wait.

Around 4 pm we wandered down to see the site.  Pont du Gard is a three tier aqueduct that was built around  19BC.  It stands over 160ft high above the river Gardon and was used to supply the city of Nimes.  The aqueduct that the Pont du Gard supported was over 30 miles long.

The aqueduct at Point du Gard.

It is quite an impressive structure and very beautiful.  The French are certainly much more laid back about managing historical things like this, and the atmosphere was more relaxed and informal than we are used to.  People were swimming under the bridge picnicking on the grounds around it, there was not a policeman or ranger in site to keep order.  

We walked back in the evening to get some more shots as Ton thought the sunset would be pretty there.  She was right!
Sunset.

April 13, 2018 Orcines FR

Today we reluctantly left Burgundy.  But before leaving we wanted to take a look at some more of the Beaujolais country.  Somewhere around Julien we made a wrong turn and quickly found ourselves on some small mountain roads heading into the Haute Beaujolais.  It turned out to be a nice mistake as it is beautiful country.  The Haute Beaujolais looks like it is dairy country with lots of valleys full of pastures and a pure white breed of cow we do not have in the US.  After a while of wandering around and completely unsure of exactly where we were (reminds me of a line from Band of Brothers when one soldier asks if they are lost, the officer replies we are not lost, we are in France), we decided to punch in our final destination for the day and let the GPS take us there.  

This breed of white cow is pretty large and all over Burgundy.  We have never seen anything like this breed in the US.  The background is typical of the country we drove thru today.

After a couple of hours and our first accidental experience of a French A road (think interstate with tolls) we ended up at Le Puy de Dome.  It is an inactive volcano cone, where you are supposed to be able to see 11 departments of France from.  The weather was not ideal as it was cold and windy, with high clouds.  But the views were there to see, just a little gray from the clouds.  The wind made it a little uncomfortable but we completed the circuit around the dome.

The view from the top of the Puy de Dome.  Not a great day for photography but we will not be back on this trip.  We think it would be spectacular on a bright day.

At the top is the ruins of a roman temple to Mercury built around 124 AD.  The Puy de Dome apparently has been a tourist attraction for quite sometime.

Some of the ruins of the Temple of Mercury on Puy de Dome.  Puy means volcanic hill in French.

After a week with Francoise it was time to fill up for the first time.  The cost was $129 for 19 gallons which is $6.78/gallon.  The good news is the distances between things to do are a lot less, so our daily cost of fuel so far is less than at home.  On this trip our biggest cost has been admission to sites.  Interestingly we are spending less per night than at home for campgrounds and we have not really tried to find free spots which abound around here.

François is the RV in the middle.  Taken from the top Puy de Dome.

February 13, 2018 Bandon OR

Our last day in California on this trip was magnificent from a weather point of view.  The skies were blue and it was relatively warm at about 60 degrees.  The views going up the coast were spectacular.

The coast line of Northern California and Oregon are wild and spectacular.

Todays drive though was not about views but about brews.  Let me say that on these beer tasting days we are very careful to only have a small tasting of tray of 4 or 5 shot sized glasses.  I do not want anyone to think we are overindulging.  Todays first stop was at Arch Rock Brewing in Gold Beach.  This was by far the smallest brewery we visited.  The tasting room was an alcove inside the door of the warehouse.  In addition to tasting the beer we were able to observe a business meeting between the owner/brewer and some suppliers.  The beer was truly terrific, particularly their porter and lager.

We continued north to Bandon which is one of the cutest towns on the coast.  A brewery had opened there in the last year.  The facility is really nice and the beer was good.  They were a little optimistic and had the garage door open to the outside seating.  But with a light jacket it was fun to pretend like it was summer.

Bandon Brewing.

Ron was still fighting the effects of the flu so we decided to stay in Bandon for the night.  Our campsite is at Bullards Beach State Park near the ocean in Bandon.

Scout and Ron at the park.