January 20, 2020 Winnemucca NV

Winnemucca Nevada has been on my radar since last year when we passed thru on the way home.  I liked the name and it had an interesting history.  It got its start as  a railroad stopover on the intercontinental rail road.  Their are several large gold mines in the area, and one of it’s banks was robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  It has a Basque heritage, and boasts of five Basque restaurants in town.  The final reason is that it was only 230 miles from Bend and seemed like a reasonable distance for the day.

Windshield shot of the loneliest road in Oregon.  Don’t worry about my safety, I was in the middle of a 10 mile straight stretch of highway without a car in site in either direction.

The first 150 miles of the trip was on Oregon Highway 78 which has to be one of the emptiest highways in the continental US.  About 30 miles outside of Burns is a gas station and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT, it comes up again later!) has put up a sign warning motorists that there will not be any fuel for the next 120 miles.  Ton and I have driven this road several times in our visits to eastern Oregon and we always comment on the lack of man made objects.  This time because I was by myself and had nothing better to do I paid attention, and for a 48 mile stretch of OR78 there are no visible permanent man made objects except the road and the power lines adjacent to it.  For a 100 mile stretch of OR78 and US95 there are six man made objects, I kept track.  In this stretch all you see are 2 ODOT facilities for road maintenance, 1 radar site for either the military or the FAA, 1 cell/microwave tower, and 2 very lonely ranches.  It is hard to envision the emptiness of south east Oregon.

Typical scene along OR78.  Sagebrush desert virtually unaltered by man.

Last night while researching things to do on the drive today I came across an entry for Paradise Valley in the Nevada tourism site.  It had an interesting history as a gold mining town in the 1880’s and was billed by Nevada tourism as a living ghost town.  The blurb showed a couple of interesting pictures.  It was close to my route so I decided to swing over for lunch.  I know that selling tourism in north central Nevada is tough but they really exaggerated the ghost town.  What is there is a small farming community with a couple of well maintained churches, a few nice houses and some derelict buildings that are old.  It is certainly no ghost town, and really shows the power of what a good photographer can do to make a mundane site look interesting.

The “ghost town” of Paradise Valley.

I arrived in Winnemucca around 1:30 and checked into a very nice campground a couple of miles out of town.  I was debating what to do for the rest of the day but I had noticed that there was a brand new sidewalk all of the way from town to the campground, so I decided if Winnemuca had gone thru all of that trouble to build a sidewalk I should use it.  The walk into town was nice as I spent a lot of it chatting with Ton.  The town itself was kind of disappointing.  I expected more, but it looks like Winnemuca’s downtown has suffered from the suburbanization of it’s shopping so there was not much going on downtown.  The tourist information office/museum was closed, and none of the other stores looked interesting.  The restaurants looked shabby, and they do not brew beer in town.  So after walking around a while I headed back to Scout and cooked up some of Ton’s Larb, which is my favorite Thai food.

October 18, 2019 Amalfi Coast IT

Yesterday was a bucket list item for me, and today was a bucket list item for Ton.  Before every trip Ton gives me some places we must see, and we took care of one of them today, visiting the Amalfi Coast.  

One of the many stunning views on the Amalfi coast.

The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular 40km stretch of road strung along a peninsula.  The road is carved in cliff side, and the views are spectacular.  Part of the fun is watching the drivers deal with the hundreds of switchbacks on what is effectively 1 and 3/4 American lanes.  RV’s are forbidden which allowed me to enjoy the views and the chaos on the road as a spectator.  It was worth every dollar we paid to not be driving.  

A relatively straight section of the road, of course we are on the same road looking across at that stretch.

To give an example of Italian driving from today.  Our driver did not speak English.  At one point we were crossing a bridge and I saw a little village and harbor tucked under the bridge and pointed to get Ton’s attention.  Next thing I know the driver pulled over into the on coming lane (there were cars coming), threw the van in reverse, and backed to the middle of the bridge where he parked, turned around and looked at the 5 of us in the back seat and said “Picture”?  The five of us looked at each other and said why not? So we got out of the car while cars going in both directions dodged around us and the van.  The funny thing is this did not seem to faze any of the Italians in the other cars, vans and busses in the least, they all just shrugged and maneuvered around us like it was perfectly reasonable to stop in the wrong lane of a narrow two lane bridge to snap a few pictures.

The view from the bridge.

Our tour included  three towns and a tourist attraction.  The first town we saw was Positano which is the jewel of the Amalfi.  Steinbeck wrote a short story about it, and it has been featured in several movies.  It is a beautiful sea front with the town flowing up the cliffs.  Tourism is the main, (possibly only) industry in the town now, but the setting makes it worth dealing with all of the people.

Positano as we are dropping in on the road.
The harbor in Positano with ferries and tour boats coming and going.

The next stop was at a tourist attraction called The Grotto.  There were six of us on the tour, two other Americans, and a French couple.  None of us were quite sure what we were getting into, but it turned out to be a short tour of a pretty underwater cave.  

The light for the Grotto comes from an underwater entrance to the cave.  It is natural.

We next stopped at the largest city and the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi.  In many ways it felt a lot like Positano.  A small harbor leading to another town carved from cliffs.  Amalfi did have a really beautiful cathedral though we decided to pass on the interior as we are getting a little jaded about cathedrals.

The exterior of the cathedral in Amalfi is really spectacular.

The final town for the day was Ravello which was up in the mountains of the Amalfi away from the sea. It was clearly the most prosperous of the towns, and looked like it dealt with a higher end clientele than the other two towns. 

Ravello way up in the mountains of the Amalfi coast.

We enjoyed poking around in a ceramic store with the French couple.  At the beginning of the day they were pretty quiet as neither one speaks English.  But by the end of the day we had a fun time communicating with them using broken English, broken French, broken Italian, sign language and smiles and laughter.  They have been traveling extensively and it is a shame we cannot communicate better as Ton and I would love to talk to them about their travels in Morocco and Greece.

This is the high end ceramic shop in Ravello, some of it’s clients include Mark Rufallo (the Hulk), Steven Tyler (from Aerosmith), Mariano Rivera (NY Yankees), and Rod Stewart (the singer). 

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.

October 25, 2018 L’Ampolla SP

We finally did some serious back country driving today.  Rather than take the freeways back to the coast we decided to cut across the mountains of Aragon to the coast.  The drive was up and down and for about 35 km’s on a pretty rough one and a half lane road.  The good news was that the roads were not busy at all and most of the time we could take our time traversing the many switch backs and curves.  While it was a lot of work we were rewarded with some incredible views and the most remote terrain we have seen anywhere in Europe.  We saw a great town right out of the movies called Morella which had an immense hilltop castle with a walled town under it.  The castle was originally built by the Knights Templar to defend against the Moslem kingdom in Andalusia.  While it was beautiful and remote it was obviously poorer than the areas we have been traveling in with none of the modern homes and apartments we have seen everywhere else.

We are not sure of the name of this town, but we eventually passed thru it on the road near the top left of the photo.  Miles and miles of the hills also had the terraces you see on the lower left side. We are not sure what crop they grow there.
We also saw our first fall colors in Spain.  The mountains were full of cottonwoods.

Tonight we are parked in the town of Ampolla which is adjacent to one of the largest estuaries in Spain.  After the long drive we took some time to rest before going out to explore the local area.  Adjacent to the campsite is the estuary which is one of the major rice producing areas for Spain.  It is also a wildlife sanctuary hosting a wide variety of birds including flamingos even though we did not see any.

After dinner we walked along the boardwalk into town.  It is a pleasant little seaside resort, which was largely abandoned during off season.  We continue to be very impressed with how the Spanish set their towns up to make walking a pleasure with wide sidewalks.

Sunset on the Mediterranean.

February 5, 2018 Joshua Tree NP

Today we visited one of our favorite national parks.  Ton really loves cactuses and Joshua Trees.  It was originally in our plans for the trip with our friends last fall, but we cut it out due to time constraints, so we decided to head over on our way to the coast.  

Near our campsite in Joshua Tree.

The drive took a little longer than we thought, and we ended up driving around for over an hour looking for a place to spend the night.  At that point Ron realized that we probably needed fuel, so we ended up driving back out into town to the Marine Base to get fuel.  The fuel there was 50 cents a gallon cheaper than in town.

Part of the trip was along an old section of Route 66.

We got back to our campsite just in time for sunset, and had a nice walk shooting pictures of the sunset, rocks and Joshua tree’s.  It was also fantastic weather, clear and 79 degrees, so for the first time on the trip we will not need the heater.

August 5, 2017 Wanapum SP

The plan for the first day was to head from Portland taking Forest Service Road 25 and US-12.  FS-25 is a summer only road that goes between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. We were looking for a new way to head east and this was new to us.  FS-25 was a very rough road built just for Tigers.  While paved there were areas of very high disrepair that required paying attention to what was going on.  The drive was pretty but the views were spoiled by the intense smoke we are currently getting in the Pacific Northwest.  A combination of a severe heat wave and very large wild fires in British Columbia made for very poor air quality and visibility. 

A very smoky Mt. St. Helens.

In typical Corbin fashion we blew threw Yakima, Ron missed the campground and ended up driving an extra hour until we spotted Wanapum State Park.  A little pricey compared to the Forest Service Campground we planned to stay in but having full services is nice as it was in the mid 90’s when we pulled in, so the AC is getting a test run tonight.

October 13, 2017 Pendleton OR

Today we started our trip in our rental RV which has been named Elephant for the trip.  It is a 30 ft Cruise America Rental RV.  It is certainly a different driving experience than Scout, much wider and also slower to turn.  

Joining us on the trip this time are three of Ton’s best friends from Thailand.  They are three sisters Jeap, Noi, and Dang.  This will be their first time traveling in an RV so it should be an interesting experience for them.

We left early expecting a slow start with Portland traffic, but got a lucky surprise and shot out of Portland pretty much without slowing down.  As we left Portland we ran into the after effects of the major fire which had burned in the Columbia River Gorge for a significant part of August and September.  It has left quite a mark, and roads and parks in the gorge are still closed due to the after effects.

For the day we made stops in Hood River at a nice orchard, and walked around downtown Pendleton.  The girls enjoyed the cowboy town and the turn of the 20th century architecture in Pendleton. We also stopped at the Pendleton Woolen Mills which is one of the landmarks of Pendleton.

Double rainbow in the Columbia River Gorge.

Tonight we are staying at Emigrant Ridge State Park where it apparently snowed seven inches last night.  The camp host assured us that things were going to return to normal, even though it was flurrying when he told us this.  We are going to give the Cruise America heater a good test tonight.

June 6, 2015 Lake Owyhee SP

Today we started up Steens Mountain thinking that the loop to the top of the mountain was open. But when we got to the next gate above our campground we discovered it was still closed.  So fortunately we headed towards the Owyhees early.  It was about 150 miles to the beginning of the road  that would lead us into the Owyhees.  This drive is one of the most lonely we have been on.  I commented yesterday about the empty roads, but todays road OR-78 is even more empty.  There was about a 50 mile stretch of this road with no buildings at all, and maybe only two crossroads to indicate there may be people around.

Long, straight, empty highway.

We arrived at Succor Creek Highway about noon which is the beginning of the Succor Creek-Leslie Gulch Backcountry Byway.  Calling the Succor Creek Highway is a bit optimistic, it is actually a mix of 1.5 lanes of good gravel, and 1 lane of dirt for the 50 plus miles.  When you include the 30 mile roundtrip into Leslie Gulch it makes for a pretty good dirt road drive.  However, it is worth every bit of the effort.  

Parked on the Succor Creek “Highway’.

Ton was very excited about going to Leslie Gulch, I did not know really what to expect.  In a word Leslie Gulch is fantastic.  The rock is volcanic and has been shaped by water and wind into fantastic shapes.  Ton took a bunch of pictures that she does not think does the place justice.  

We took a chance and drove to the other end of the road to Lake Owyhee State Park, thinking it would be empty like the other parks this trip.  We were wrong!  There were two fishing tournaments going on and it looked like we were going to have to drive back out, but at the last minute someone said that at 7pm the handicapped spots were available if they had not been claimed, since it was 6:50 we ended up spending the night in a nice flat space with all of the amenities.

Part of the views going into Leslie Gulch.

January 21, 2020 Round Mountain NV

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 30, 2018 Caliente NV

I love the west.  Today we drove a ridiculous distance thru the Mojave Desert.  We wanted to position ourselves to see the Blue Blood Super Moon eclipse tomorrow and decided a good place we had never been before would be Kershaw-Ryan State Park near Caliente Nevada.  So to explain tomorrow is a blue moon, the moon is supposed to turn red after the eclipse, and it is a super moon.  The only problem it was over 400 miles away.  But we decided to go for it and if we were tired in Tonopah we would shorten up the trip.  

The drive from Reno to Caliente is thru mostly unoccupied desert.  Quite often you do not see anything built by a human for miles and miles.  Our route once we got clear of the urban area around Reno was US 95 to Tonopah, US 6 to no were in particular NV351 to a small town we forgot the name of already and US 93 to Caliente.  We are familiar with US95 from Fallon to Tonopah as it is the route we take whenever we go to see Alex or to Death Valley, we had one of our flat tires on US95 near Hawthorne a few years ago.  We had never been on the rest of the roads on the trip but they were fun and really isolated.  Route 6 goes thru long empty valleys with nothing to stop you. The roads are straight as an arrow for miles and miles.  Ron began looking at how many miles it was before curves in the road and we had stretches of 11, 14, and the longest of 16 miles of perfectly straight roads.

This stretch of highway was 14 miles without a curve.

NV351 is also known as the extraterrestrial highway as it skirts Area 51 where everyone knows the government is secretly keeping the aliens that come to earth.  The businesses along the road know a good thing when they see it so they have set up souvenir stands.  We of course stopped and bought a magnet to put on the fridge at home.

Ron could not resist getting his picture taken with an alien.

Our stop for the night was at Kershaw-Ryan State Park, Ron was a little worried about arriving late in the day as it is a small park.  There was no need to worry as we have the place to ourselves.  it is a pretty location in a little canyon, and all of the facilities look brand new.  We went for a short evening stroll, and the Blue-Blood-Super Moon gave us a little preview.

The Blue/Blood Super moon at sunset.

August 24, 2015 Reno NV

Ron had once read that US 50 thru Nevada was the loneliest road in America.  Great Basin is on US 50 so we got to drive it today.  To tell the truth it was not that lonely.  We probably passed about 100 cars over the 250 miles.  There are only three towns on the route and very few structures in between so it is pretty far between people.  The road crosses 7 or 8 mountain ranges with passes in the 6500 to 7300 feet, in between are large valleys on average about 30 miles across which are at 6000 feet.  It was a pretty interesting drive, but not that lonely.

We planned to stop in Reno for the night at a Casino.  It was a parking lot park with no soul, but it turned out to be interesting.  We got there early and had time to catch the second half of the Timbers Soccer game which was a disaster, but there was something interesting going on.  As we have traveled thru the west in the summer you encounter lots of European tourists in RV’s.  Today at the casino we witnessed one of the places where they pick up the RV’s and observed the process of orienting them and having them practice driving the RV’s.  It was kind of fun to watch them learn the in’s and out’s of slides, levelers, dumping their tanks, and driving a vehicle which is the size of a commercial truck in Europe.  We also noticed that a lot of the campers had colorfully and unconventionally designed bicycles, it turns out that they are heading to Burning Man.

The loneliest road in the United States.

February 5, 2018 Joshua Tree NP

Today we visited one of our favorite national parks.  Ton really loves cactuses and Joshua Trees.  It was originally in our plans for the trip with our friends last fall, but we cut it out due to time constraints, so we decided to head over on our way to the coast. 

Near our campsite in Joshua Tree.

The drive took a little longer than we thought, and we ended up driving around for over an hour looking for a place to spend the night.  At that point Ron realized that we probably needed fuel, so we ended up driving back out into town to the Marine Base to get fuel.  The fuel there was 50 cents a gallon cheaper than in town.

Part of the trip was along an old section of Route 66.

We got back to our campsite just in time for sunset, and had a nice walk shooting pictures of the sunset, rocks and Joshua tree’s.  It was also fantastic weather, clear and 79 degrees, so for the first time on the trip we will not need the heater.

November 5, 2017 Pacific Coast Highway CA

Ron was very excited as we were going to take one of his favorite drives, the Big Sur.  The plan was to drive down to the point were the road is closed.  Last winter a giant land slide took out a large part of the road so at this point you drive down about 60 miles along the coast until the road is closed.  It is a wonderful road with incredible views.  We also intended to visit San Simeon to look at the Elephant Seal colony that has taken up residence there.

The weather was perfect, and probably because of the closure traffic was light.  Big Sur lived up to Ron’s expectations though he was worried that Noi and Dang were not impressed.  Ton assured him that Dang thought it was great, Noi slept a lot of the way.  The detour was a one and a half lane road over the mountains and thru Fort Hunter-Ligget.  It was a tough drive, but fortunately we had abandoned Elephant in Monterey and took a rental car for the day.  Ron enjoyed the challenge of the road, and everyone else endured.

Part of the Big Sur along PCH,

On our way into San Simeon we passed thru Paso Robles.  We decided to stop for lunch at Doce Robles winery. Ton, Dang, and Ron split a bottle of wine with lunch which perked everyone up.  We headed to San Simeon where the juvenile elephant seals were in residence, both the adult males and females are off in Alaska.  They are still an amazing site and worth a visit if you are in the area.

Juvenile Elephant Seals play fighting.

We ended the night with a great dinner at Monterey Fish House.  This was our farewell dinner as tomorrow we are splitting up, with Ron and Ton heading to Oregon, and Dang and Noi heading home to Thailand.  We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously as the food was outstanding, and even Noi enjoyed a little wine.  If you are in Monterey I highly recommend the Monterey Fish House.

October 14, 2016 Mammoth Lake CA

Today we took the long way to Mammoth Lake.  We decided to try two of the Sierra Passes from east to west that are closed for a great deal of the year due to snow.  They were both open and it was probably our only chance.  We were hoping to see some fall colors at altitude also.

The first pass is California Highway 4, also called the Ebbets Pass Scenic Highway.  And while very scenic and fun to drive, long stretches were unstriped asphalt 1.5 lane road, the colors were disappointing.  There has been a lot of wind the last couple of days and a lot of leaves have been stripped.  The west end of the road is in Calavares County where Mark Twain hung out during his California Gold Rush days.

View from Ebbets Pass Scenic Highway.

The second pass is California Highway 108 also known as the Sonora Pass Scenic Highway.  This road wound thru miles of evergreens and was like any mountain road in Oregon until about 15 miles from the end there was a sign stating that the next 10 miles had a 27% grade.  This road has special meaning to Ron as the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center is located on the east end of the road and highway 108 is actually used as the access road to the training areas at the top of the pass.  In the winter the road is closed with up to 20 feet of snow on it and the Marines have free play in the area.  In the summer they share it with the campers and the local traffic.  Ron spent two winters here training as a mountain leader and climbed around on the local mountains and skied down route 108 with full gear and a M-16.  It was a lot easier with Scout.

Fall colors along Sonora Pass Scenic Highway.

Tonight we are in a forest service campground within the city limits of Mammoth Lakes.

April 25, 2015 Sequoia NP

Today we planned to move on to Kings Canyon NP, but in keeping with our history with Scout we woke up to snow.  We decided to push on anyway and drove thru a mixture of snow and rain to Kings Canyon.  When we arrived we stopped to see the status of the roads and were told that the first couple of miles were snow covered, but after that it would be ok as we descended into the canyon.  So we decided to move on, within the first mile we came across 2 cars that had slid off the road, but Scout was tracking with no problem.

The road into Kings Canyon.

As we descended into the canyon we did not regret our decision as the scenery was spectacular and the mist and the snow cut the visibility but made what we did see was  really beautiful.  After driving to the end of the road in Kings Canyon we returned to the visitor center at Grants Grove.  As we were pulling in the snow plows were arriving which made things easier.  When we got to the trailhead for the Grant Tree we were met by a volunteer who was going to lead a Ranger talk.  The Rangers were all busy dealing with a bus that had slid off the road, no one was hurt, but they had a bus load of kids who needed to be entertained.  So we had a personal guided tour of the Grant tree which was really nice.

At this point we decided to grab a spot in the campground and hunker down and watch the snow.

We were caught in an unexpected winter storm.

April 23, 2015 San Luis Obispo CA

Today we drove the most famous stretch of PCH from Carmel to San Simeon.  The weather was perfect for the drive.  Ton was very impressed with the trip and I was less so.  For me it was less impressive than I expected, and for Ton it was everything it was built up to be.  I think the difference is that for me as the driver it was just another cliff side drive, and in fact is less challenging than the stretches north of Mendocino, and between Point Reyes and San Francisco.  For the passenger who can look out the window the cliffs are higher and the vistas are grander so the view is incredible.

The famous bridge on the PCH that is featured in so many car commercials.

We stopped at what I think was a private home that had planted flowers and had some art by the road near Pacific Valley.  It was really spectacular and Ton spent nearly an hour taking pictures there.  Not only where there great flowers but the views of the ocean were also tremendous.

Near San Simeon we came along to a beach with thousands of elephant seals.    It was fascinating watching them from up close as they lay on the beach.  This colony of seals is recent with the first ones showing up in the early 90’s and growing  up to 15,000 seals.  This time of year the colony is mostly made up of females and juvenile males.  The males are in Alaska.  They come down to the colony twice a year in the spring and the late fall.

The elephant seal colony. They are just resting before swimming off to Alaska.

The last stop was Hearst Castle which is now part of the California State Park system.  I guess it is interesting what unlimited money and time can do.  To me it is a little over the top excess, but there are a lot of interesting art pieces that were brought in from Europe.

April 21, 2015 Monterey CA

Today was a kind of lazy day as we were a little slow getting going.  We picked up PCH and followed it down the coast to San Francisco.  Initially we were following Tomales Bay instead of the coast.  We noticed a lot of advertising for BBQ Oysters but as we were running late there was no chance to check them out.  We may have to come back in the future to find out how they taste.  Near the bottom of Tomales Bay we came across some mud flats teaming with birds and seals.  

The mudflats on Tomales Bay were teeming with birds.

After Tomales Bay we climbed back up for some more cliff top driving until we crossed into San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge.  The traffic was pretty tame for San Francisco so we were thru the city pretty quickly and back along the coast heading to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.  Despite living in the Bay Area for two years we had never followed PCH from San Francisco to Santa Cruz so it was new for us.  Our tours of west coast lighthouses continued  as we stopped at Pigeon Point lighthouse which California State Parks took over from the Coast Guard.  Ton was excited to find a whole new bunch of wild flowers.

Flowers and high surf at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Tonight we are “camped” with our back to the Monterey airport, at a Navy Campground, but the price is right.  Tomorrow we are going to stay in the area and explore a little bit, before heading for Big Sur. 

April 20, 2015 Petaluma CA

Today the weather was tremendous, the nicest weather we have experienced since we bought Scout.  In addition there was exceptionally high surf along the whole coast which just added to the views along the PCH.

Really high surf today made the coast even more spectacular.

The drive today was slow but, really beautiful.  The combination of the bluff top views and the surf made for a fun drive.  Scout handled the twists and turns of PCH very well and we were rarely the slowest vehicle on the road, turned a couple of heads when we would catch up with cars moving slower than we were along the highway.  It was a really happy day for Ton  as in addition to the beautiful weather, the wildflowers were out at all of our stops. 

In addition to the spectacular sea views the wild flowers were out on all of our stops.

In Gold Beach we met a Chinese couple who had a rental RV, we did not speak much with them beyond helping the husband find the place to check in as their English was limited.  Yesterday we saw them a couple of times and today when pulled off in Bodega Bay I looked up to see the wife waving at me as they drove by.

After checking in at the Coast Guard base in Petuluma for the night, Ton pointed out that Lagunitas Brewery was located in Petuluma so we were off.  Good Beer, Good Weather, and a Good Band made for an enjoyable night and the end to a great day.

Lagunitas is one of the biggest independent brewers in the US.

August 20, 2016 Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

We started out by returning to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to take the road down into the canyon.  We had skipped this road the previous day because it was late, and it looked like it was going to rain.  The road into the canyon is paved the whole way but quite steep at 16 degrees.  (A steep grade on an interstate is considered to be 6 degrees.)  It turned out not to be too bad and Scout had no problems.  The bottom was quite beautiful.  The road comes out at the entrance to the 5 mile diversion tunnel that was built to move water from the Gunnison to the valley for farming.  From the base of the canyon it is fun to look up to the top and imagine the early explorers who came down to see what was at the bottom.  Those were men.  After another trip along the rim road we headed out towards Monument Valley.  

This time we took the San Juan Scenic byway thru Ouray and Silverton.  Our original plan was to stop and walk around Silverton, but when we got to the visitors center the hostesses were the most unfriendly we had ever run into in a visitors center, apparently they were having some sort of dispute with the manager and had no time to help us.  We decided to skip Silverton.  The scenic byway ends in Durango, and the change in scenery is incredible.  Up to Durango you are driving in the Rockies with trees and a very green environment, and within ten miles you are in high Desert brown and red  without trees and large vistas with Rocky outcroppings.

Near the entrance to Monument Valley.

We arrived at Monument Valley late, but headed over to the visitors center for sunset.  We were a little disappointed because there were thunder storms in the area so Ton did not get the pictures she was hoping for, but some of them are still nice.

August 10, 2015 Three Forks MT

We decided to start our return trip west to Portland by heading due east over the Beartooth Highway.  This drive is absolutely spectacular and you really must include it in any trip you take to Yellowstone.  It is one of our favorite drives in the US.  A lot of better writers than I have described it so I am going to pass.  All I can say is make sure you do it at least once.

One of the many scenic views on the Beartooth Highway.

After coming down from the Beartooth we jumped on the interstate and headed west towards Bozeman.  The place we had picked out to stay was full, so we continued headed down the interstate until we came to Three Forks where we ended up in a commercial campground.