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Archive for the ‘Road Trip 2010’ Category

California Sure Is A Big State

25 May

We ended up staying in Merced, CA for three nights then headed to Ukiah, CA for no other reason other than I wanted to go to San Francisco and Ukiah and go over the Golden Gate Bridge and Ukiah was on the way toward Oregon. The guy working the desk at the hotel in Merced strongly recommended the Ukiah area not because it was in the Mendocino wine country, but because it had breweries. He seemed to know a lot about breweries and I had no real reason to want to go to breweries but I listened and booked the room in Ukiah. We didn’t go to any breweries, but driving through wine country was really pretty and we found a nice casino that Jim let me play at for all too short a period of time. I won a little though.

The guy at the Merced Hampton Inn teaches Jim's duck about breweries in Ukiah

The guy at the Merced Hampton Inn teaches Jim's duck about breweries in Ukiah

The Pacific northwest wet weather started for us somewhere south of San Francisco. It was still fun because we took a few wrong turns and ended up in the downtown area. Jim kept asking if I wanted to stop but, well, I wasn’t smart enough to pack wet weather gear and, well, it was raining pretty hard. We parked for a little while at the Presidio where you could (even through the rain and fog) see Alcatraz Island without getting out of the car. After watching the rain and the island for awhile we crossed the bridge.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the rain

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the rain

It seemed to take forever to get from Merced to Ukiah. I guess I never thought about how long California really is. The coastline is beautiful and I loved Mendocino county, but when you’re on a trip like this, you get kind of anxious to move on to the next state after you’ve seen what or who you’ve come to see. There’s such a big difference between Southern California and Northern California though. That made the whole trip through one of the more interesting parts of the whole trip.

Jim's duck visiting Ukiah, but not the breweries

Jim's duck visiting Ukiah, but not the breweries

 

If He’d Just Let Me Plan These Things…

22 May

So, it was Jim’s brilliant idea that we stay in Tonapah, Nevada after visiting Death Valley, then head through Yosemite National Park to Merced, California to spend the night. Sounds like a cool and well thought out 5 hour trip, right?

Well if he had just let me use Google Maps I could have told him that sometimes the Tioga Pass through Yosemite National Park which Jim intended to go through was closed. Well, okay, it’s almost always closed this time of year. As a matter of fact, so were the next three passes through the mountains. We stopped to talk to a park ranger who drew us a quick map that showed that we had to go way north and take the Carson Pass which is not in Yosemite then go way south to get to Merced where the room was booked. I should note here, that the park ranger really didn’t know how to draw maps and we were temporarily heading down a closed road. The little 5 hour trip had now become an over 9 hour jaunt. Let’s not mention that the Carson Pass should have been closed too because it was a near blizzard conditions through there. Yesterday we were in Death Valley at 115 degrees. Today we were in Yosemite and it was 24 degrees.

Merced was just Merced. The only real benefit it offered was being reasonably close to Yosemite so we added an extra night so we could have a whole day in the park. So, we headed out the next morning to explore the park in all its glory…on a cloudy, damp day.

To get a good view of Bridal Veil Falls, you follow a short paved path to a viewing area. Between the rain and the mist of the falls, by the time we got to the viewing are we were pretty well soaked but it was a kind of soaked that made me really happy. I’m not too sure Jim was as happy as I was. He seems to think water might melt him or something. Here’s what it looked like at the viewing area.

The Mist At Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite

The Mist At Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite

There were a lot of waterfalls in Yosemite and each had its own character. I liked the way this one cascaded then cascaded again:

Another Waterfall In Yosemite

Another Waterfall In Yosemite

Steller's Jay Feasting On A Hamburger - Yosemite

Steller's Jay Feasting On A Hamburger - Yosemite

For Some Reason Jim Insisted It Was Too Wet To Stand Inside This Sequoia

For Some Reason Jim Insisted It Was Too Wet To Stand Inside This Sequoia

 
 

Death Valley Was Infinitely Better Than Las Vegas

21 May

We checked out of the Embassy Suites in Las Vegas on May 21 after two nights and one full day of realizing that I really hated Las Vegas. I couldn’t leave that area soon enough and while the name Death Valley is rather daunting, Jim really wanted to see it so I figured I should let him. After all, there was always a chance that I would run into another casino that wasn’t in Las Vegas and that I would really like.

Before we even got to Death Valley, Jim and I stumbled on some ruins that looked like they could have originally been used as cave dwellings by Native Americans befpre being taken over by miners later on. We’re not sure. There were no signs other than a warning to be cautious so it was apparent that we could explore. It was really interesting that such a site could exist without even a simple explanation of what they once were. Jim explored. I stayed back a bit due to a fear of rattle snakes and such.

Jim checking out some ruins we stumbled on near Death Valley

Jim checking out some ruins we stumbled on near Death Valley

The temperature soared as high as 115 degrees in Death Valley and the wind was intense. In some places it actually made you stumble when you tried to walk. I resorted to taking most of my photos from the stillness of the car, but Jim was braver and got out of the car for a few minutes at a time. I even forced him to take some photos. You have to make him feel useful sometimes, you know.

A view of Badwater Basin in Death Valley

A view of Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Along the way we passed a lot of people that actually did get out of their cars and walk, but between the wind, blowing sand, and heat, I’m not sure how they stood it. Even opening the car window for a few minutes to snap a photo was uncomfortable. Some areas, though, were so indescribably beautiful that I just had to get out. One of those areas was called “Artist’s Drive” which was a narrow one way road that looped through colorful rock formations. The colors were difficult to capture with my camera but the rocks were shaded with pinks, blues and greens.

Artist's Pallete in Death Valley

Artist's Pallete in Death Valley

It was also astounding to find flowers blooming in such a harsh dry place. This little flower seemed so delicate and was being jostled so badly in the wind that getting it still enough to snap the photo was difficult. It was really hard to believe it could even survive. It’s the only one we saw. I hope another one popped up so that many more can bloom in the future.

A Delicate Flower Blooms In Death Valley

A Delicate Flower Blooms In Death Valley

After visiting Death Valley, we returned to Nevada to spend the night at the Best Western Motel in Tonapah. Tonapah was a cool little town in that it seemed almost as if the whole town was a museum. There were pieces of mining equipment and mining related relics everywhere. There was also a small casino (Tonapah Station) that was much better than any in Las Vegas. That made me happy. The restaurant served a mean prime rib that was better than some I’ve tasted in the most expensive restaurants.

Jim's Duck at The Best Western in Tonapah, Nevada

Jim's Duck at The Best Western in Tonapah, Nevada