A Travellerspoint blog

Santa Barbara to Huntington Beach

Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside!

There is sure to be much beauty and fun awaiting us on this next leg.

Did I say beauty? Our friends in Noosa, Greg and Andrea, who moved from Santa Barbara recently, asked their good friend here in Santa Barbara, if we could stay for a night or two. We arrived at Paul Schulte's ranch, Rancho Dos Pueblos and took the directions given by him which led us down through the ranch and onto a private beach. Just us, a beach, a deck, palm trees, Hawks flying overhead, Blue Jays in the trees, geese, white heron, a few flocks of Terns, the crashing of the ocean and a seal came in close by too, as well as some grey Pelicans bobbing up and down in the ocean. Oh, also a beach style pub area. Oh man!!! We did not want to move from this position at all, it was just so private, special and so beautiful. Google it, it is amazing!

Considering we had moved from a very busy camp before, where we had been packed in like sardines, this was heaven, to be all on our own.

Sunset at Rancho Dos Pueblos

The beach was just beautiful

We awoke to another beautiful mist free day at our private sanctuary and enjoyed watching the ocean, whilst having breakfast. We could have stayed here all day, but we needed to go and see Santa Barbara. We were about 12 miles north of the town. Eventually we found a suitable parking spot for the RV; no parking of RV's on the beachfront as apparently they block the views! So we parked in town for $20 all day parking. Greg had told us about the good views to be seen from the courthouse and he was right, they were amazing, 360 degree views. The highest structures being church spires.

From there we took a shuttle down State Street, this street is where the majority of shops and the restaurants were located. We had a lovely walk along and around Stearns Wharf, watching the fishermen haul in lots of Mackerel. We chatted to a local fisherman who told us that for some reason 'The fish were running the best in a long while'. We were headed for the very long stretch of East beach front, when the wind came up even stronger than earlier and a huge sand storm started and eventually we decided to rather head up State Street and wander through the shops; good call. Guess what.....H&M had a few items just waiting for me to purchase. The courtyard shopping area of Paseo Nuevo was well laid out and again, a very Spanish feel about it. We found a camera shop in State Street and I was able to replace the lost lens hood, which I had replaced in Carmel with a cheap one which did not work. When will we learn!?

The impression we had of downtown Santa Barbara was chic dress, no obesity, clean and tidy. A nice place to visit and although not busy at all, quit a few tourists around.

Santa Barbara Warf

Courtyard Area in shopping Mall in Santa Barbara

When we were walking down Anapamu Street, back towards where we were parked, I noticed what I thought was a grasshopper. What attracted me to it was the fact that it was emerald green. I thought 'wow our grasshoppers are not that pretty' and then I realised it was a tiny Hummingbird. Of course, true to form, by the time the lens was on it, it flew away, not to be seen again. These Californian birds will just not allow me to photograph them.

The ranch on which we were camped, is also used as a wedding venue and the reason we could only stay for two nights, was that a wedding was to take place over the coming week-end. When we returned from the city visit, the crew were out in full force, banners were up, lights strung between trees etc. it would certainly make for a wonderful wedding setting. I took a walk back up the road, to the barn, leaving Chuck in charge of the bbq. The barn was a buzz with about eight men working furiously, putting in false flooring and stages, lights being strung up, curtains hung up and all being overseen by a party planner. The barn was taking shape really well, but heaps of work was still to be done, this was 7pm and it would need to be complete by the following afternoon for the wedding on Saturday. Mmmmm.... I could see why they're working overtime.

Lights in the Barn - heaps more to finish before the wedding.....

We so enjoyed our last night in our little piece of paradise with the last rays of sun twinkling on the crashing waves. Due to the fact that the seaside areas get very busy and camp sites booked up over week-ends, by the locals, we headed for the hills, to avoid the crowds.

Last view of the beach

We didn't have too long to drive, only around 30 miles north east. We stopped in at the Danish town of Solvang. Wow, we really liked this pretty Hansel and Gretel type layout and I spent ages trying to spy 'our Mary', but she must have been in the real Denmark with Freddie and the family. We meandered in and out of the lovely shops, visited the Hans Christian Andersen museum and failed at getting into the first RV Park we tried, 'The Flags RV resort'. We knew we could get a space at Lake Cachuma but hoped we would be able to get a better site, here in Solvang. The weather the last few days had been very warm and it was actually very hot walking the streets of Solvang. We were both absolutely taken with this village, packed with bakery shops, antique, gift and Christmas shops, cafes, coffee roasters and windmills. The streets were named such as Copenhagen, Kroneburg etc.

Solvang - Always thought the windmills were a Dutch thing, but seems the Danes do them too

We needed to secure somewhere to camp, so we left Solvang and drove to the state park at Cachuma Lake. They had heaps of space for us as it was a large park. Although we could not see or smell fire, this was one of the areas which had been burning up until very recently. The firemen were using the park as their base, to keep watch on the fires and be able to move in, if and when needed. So we felt very safe having the forces on hand. We found a lovely camp site and spent the afternoon bird watching. We were surrounded by more birds, seen in one space, since being in America. The tree above us had a hidey hole in which a family of Blue Jays was nesting. The Woodpeckers were peck pecking in the trees, Hawks were flying low over us and there were other birds flittering around. Very good experience for my ornithology.

Due to the extreme drought conditions, it was very dry here. The 'grass' was just remnants of brown and there was a fair bit of dust flying around, the lake was not at all full either. But having said that, it was a lovely park to stay in and we had no close neighbours, such a bonus. The Santa Ynez Valley (wine area) and Solvang both on our doorstep and only a short distance back to Santa Barbara made this a good stop. As the sun began to set, the small birds all made their way to their homes and then the hoots of the nocturnal owls began....so special to be at one with nature.

We awoke to birdsong and the pecking of the Woodpeckers.....had breakfast watching the squirrels popping in and out of their burrows.....but we needed to move on. Charl checked our schedule and found we were running two days behind. We must have enjoyed ourselves somewhere and overstayed the welcome.

.....Aaaahhhhh....but in the end it is always the call of ocean that we yearn for so we headed south to Ventura. Once again, we climbed up steep roads and then had to step on the brakes for the steep and winding down hill approach, passing vineyards and very interesting topography of the area. As we approached the south, along Highway 101, it became greener, and the highway was lined with Plumbago and Oleanders which led us into the seaside town of Ventura, the gateway to the Channel Islands.

We had conflicting reports about this place, some said yes and some said no. But given it was a week-end we didn't have much choice, we needed a night here before we could move on to Malibu, our first choice, but which was booked out until Sunday. Well our take on it.....yes and no. It was a good stop, we enjoyed our twenty four hours here, but it was not a 'must see' destination. There were some odd street names around here:
Santa Claus Road, Screaming Eagle Highway, and Purple Hearts Trail.

We found another pool noodle use. There were many cyclists to avoid on the roads and one clever chap had a bright pink pool noodle jutting from the side of his bike, about a metre into the road. So not only could one could see him very well in the distance, but also it forced the cars to keep the obligatory one metre distance from the bike. Clever.

There was a surfing competition taking place at the beach, so we watched the surfers having a great time in wonderful surf breaks. The annual Noosa Surf Festival organisers, would give anything for breaks such as these. We got back onto the scooter and tried to find a cafe to have a sundowner, but all the parking (even for scooters) was paid parking at exorbitant rates, so we headed back to our own little spot for an evening 'spot'.

Wall of surfboards making a fence at the Coffee Shop in Ventura

Another beautiful morning to wake to. We had a later than usual check out time; times vary between 10.00 am and 12 noon, the most common being 11.00 am. Check in is usually around noon, but we had one place where we could only check in after 4pm. We took the scooter and had one last look around the town, then back to camp to pack up and then drove along the Pacific Coast Highway and further south to Malibu. We had to begin on Highway 101 and though the traffic was so congested, our coast road choice was a great one. We passed some lovely beaches and found a little spot to park, where we had our lunch overlooking Leo Carillon beach.

View from our lunch Stop

Our RV campsite in Malibu was stunning. On a cliff top overlooking the beach and not a busy camp at all, which is always a bonus. A while back I mentioned that we may have to invest in an electric barbecue, due to the extreme fire danger. We have managed well with using charcoal and even wood fires in some areas. However at this place absolutely no fire of any description allowed. Fortunately we always have something in the deep freeze that can be heated, for those 'in case' moments.

Once settled here, we took the scooter along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at a few beaches and eventually the Malibu Pier. We needed to do some people spotting so headed to Nobu, but guess what? Saw Nobudy!!! Heaps of fancy cars, Porsche's by the dozen, Mercs and Audi's and most being valet parked, we sure hit the spot of the celebs!

Very upmarket eating and drinking places

On our way back to the park, we passed an area, belonging to the university, which had many, predominantly American flags flying, so we stopped to look. There were over 4,000 flags, each one 'planted' in memory one of the poor folk who lost their lives in the September 11 tragedy. It was a very sombre time as we looked at the flags from different countries, thinking of those innocent lives lost, the families affected, who will never be the same again....sad, but a wonderful tribute to these people whose innocent lives were taken for no rhyme or reason.

One Flag for each loss of life in 911. Mainly American, but quite a few other Nationalities also

On a happier note, our next door neighbour to be, Jacqui, backed her van and car in, next door to us and we got chatting. This lovely young, confident lady of 33 years, has taken to the road all by her lonesome. That is one heck of an achievement and I could never dream of doing such a thing. She is a travelling nurse, so she can work wherever she decides to stay for a while, what courage that must take. You go girl!!!

We decided to take the easy way out, in order to see a few things around the city of Los Angeles, and that was by doing a tour. They would collect us at the park and we could sit back, relax, not have parking worries and just enjoy the sights, which is exactly what we did.

We were collected at 9am and driven to Santa Monica, where we started the tour. Goodness, we saw a lot. Beverly Hills suburbs were similar to Peppermint Grove (WA) and Bishopscourt, Cape Town. We drove past Century City, Fox Studios, LA country golf club, saw Hugh Heffner’s house, also where Jackson, Presley, Lucille Ball, Peter Falk and Charlie Chaplin lived, to name a few.

A typical Beverly Hills type scene

We drove along Route 66 for a short while (it is 2 000 miles long), drove through West Hollywood, stopped at the Farmers Market for lunch. Walked the walk of fame and saw the Gabriel Mountains, Hollywood mountain sign, and walked down and around the beautiful shops of Rodeo Drive.

The Walk of Fame - lots and lots of stars. This is where it all began

Since it was 35 degrees and we did a fair bit of walking in the sun, we were both absolutely exhausted when we got back to our RV some seven hours later in the day. Oh dear, perhaps we need a holiday?? Even the cupboards had heated up that much that when we took out a packet of crisps, the packet was very warm - I guess said cupboard faced the setting sun.

And of course it would not be complete without the Hollywood sign

Another hot day to awake to and onward to Santa Monica. We had it on good authority that Arni cycles around the Santa Monica pier.....we looked and looked but no Arni to be found. He was most likely working on his upper arm muscles and not cycling whilst we were here.

Paul, our best man at our wedding has a twin, Gaston, who lives in LA and we had arranged to meet up with him whilst we were here. We met Gaston at Ye Olde Kings Head, Santa Monica Boulevard for lunch. Oh what a wonderful call back the past catch up this was. We were only so sorry that his wife, Theresa was not able to join us. Unfortunately too soon we had to move on to our next stop, and so had to say au revoir, and hope to catch up in the not too distant future, either if they visit us in Noosa, or if we link up in CT. Can you believe that on the way to our stop, we had traffic congestion on a six lane freeway? We certainly did, but we were in no rush and in holiday mode.

A Selfie at the pub with Gaston

Arrived at our RV camp on Dockweiler Beach, right on the beach! There were lines of fire pits placed in the sand for all and sundry to make fires. A loooooong boardwalk situated between the park and sand which extended for miles and miles. So we settled in and down and then a while later, took our chairs and sat on the beach watching the sun set - magical.

Sunset at Dockweiler Beach

Later in the evening, when I opened one of the cupboards, I could smell alcohol. Now I have a penchant for sniffing the good stuff, but it should be in a glass and not in a cupboard. Where was this coming from? I thought it rather strange to be in the cupboard. It transpired that with the previous day being so hot, a bottle of wine which was stored in the cupboard, had exploded due to the heat and that had caused the new aroma in the cupboard. The fact that we were now one bottle of wine down was tragic, we are not always close to bottle shops, never mind the cleaning up that was needed. The good part of the story, is that it could have been far messier had it of been a bottle of red wine! Yeah, I know you are thinking 'why the heck was the wine in a cupboard and not in the fridge?' Easy answer.....the fridge is, in comparison to size of the RV, not your standard household size fridge and we are limited as to what we can and cannot stock. The men would like the booze to take precedent, but I'm afraid the food takes number one in my fridge.

Another hot start to the day and even hotter after a lovely brisk walk along the Marvin Braude boardwalk on the beach. The council have kindly built a long cement walk, shared by cyclists, so one doesn't have to get sand in ones shoes, all very civilized and the boardwalk extends for miles.

We took the scooter to Venice Beach to check this famous beach out. There were two options of getting there. The three mile boardwalk or the 8 mile drive, (which, due to traffic congestion, took a half hour each way). Weird hey? Not as weird as the odd bods hanging around Venice beach. We've never seen so many odd, stoned people in a short 1.5 mile stretch of walk before! The most entertaining for us, was the beautifully designed skate park. Now, not to offend any of our skate boarding friends, but often weirdos hang out at these parks, but here, they were the nicest, friendliest, best dressed people!

Beautiful mural at Venice Beach

Also spotted Arni/Orni...but not at the pier....but here....we got the incorrect info that he was at our previous spot, but there he was supposed to be for real, unlike here!

Arni - not the real one!

I am no prude but last year our two youngest grand-daughters did this same walk and I am very pleased, due to some of the smutty slogans, that they were too young to read at the time!

Skateboarders at Venice beach

We both had a great time at this stop, felt very comfortable here and if there had of been more for us to see and do, could easily have lingered longer, but, it's time to hit the road Jack....oops sorry...Chuck!

On the road again.....to Huntington Beach.....Highway one, with a short stop at Rodondo beach. OI VEY!!!! Gladys, our GPS, must have taken some of that good stuff from Venice beach yesterday, (although she wasn't with us on the scooter), because she was all over the place with her direction!! She caused us so much stress and we were at one point, in eight lanes of traffic, in the fastest lane, with her telling us 'to keep left, keep left' there was no bloody place to turn right Gladys!! From now I guess you are gone girl, to be replaced with another voice, perhaps one that will give us better directions! We will alter her voice to that of a man, child, cowboy, whatever it takes to get rid of her nonsense!

After we settled into the camp site we went for a lovely evening walk along the beach. We have found the beaches along this part of the coast, to be very deserted. We were not happy with our site as we got a strong sewage smell and as it was after office hours, we had to call the owner in. His attitude was neither aggressive nor sympathetic, rather a bit of 'could not care less' but we changed sites and we were much happier. However a total rip off for this site at $85 per night for a place that was full of permanents, had no view or anything much to offer and in dire need of maintenance. Never mind.....upward and onward....and we made the best of the situation. Also a no BBQ campsite, but fortunately we had heat up meals in the deep freeze. There were fire pits on the state beach across the road, but quite frankly I would not have felt happy there, given the few homeless we saw hanging around earlier in the day and the lack of people on the beach.

I disturbed the birds at Huntington Beach

The scooter has really come into its own along the coast. Charl is a good driver, but even so, I am beginning to think I am not earning a medal, but a gong!! I'm only used to short hops on a scooter in Noosa, from home to the beach, which is about 3ks along a 50km/hr speed limited road. However, we have been clocking up much more than that and on three lane roads at between 80 and 90km/hr.

Today we set off for Newport Beach and Balboa Island. Balboa Island is one of three manmade islands in the Newport Beach area. It was a pleasant 'scoot' and we both loved the area of Newport. Very fancy upmarket homes, lovely area. So many huge yachts; well, Newport is famous for its yacht building.

Beautiful homes on Balboa Island

The obligatory amusement park

We found a small parking spot for the scooter and took the very efficient three car/passenger ferry across to the island. The ferry, (not sure exactly which one of the three), was featured in the 1949 movie, 'The Reckless Moment', starring James Mason and Joan Bennett. Due to the fact that there was more than one ferry, there was no wait time at all. After our excursion over there, spending most of our time watching young skim surfers, we headed onto Highway 1 and found the Shake Shack, a little further down south. Andrew and Debbie, we could imagine you and the girls sitting there, last year when you were in this area, very pretty views and lovely shakes too. All in all about 25 miles covered.

Skim Surfers - they run from the shore and skim into the huge shore-break

Chuck has enjoyed a few swims and I a few beach walks, so all in all the Californian coast has been good to us. Now, not to make our grandchildren jealous, but our next stop may well be Disneyland. Nothing booked, update in the next blog.

Posted by Taqui 23:30 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Carmel and the Big Sur

The Big Sur and Hearst Castle

It was an easy drive from Santa Cruz. Passing acres and acres of farms, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli - no they were not giving off the smelly egg smell! We left that behind!

We had booked ahead into Carmel by the River, rather than Carmel by the Sea, thereby avoiding the mist. This was a lovely camp site, each site bordered by hedges, so we had privacy from neighbours. The entrance was a bit of a challenge, one tiny narrow stretch of road of about 1 mile long used by both incoming and outgoing traffic....given the sizes of RV's you can imagine the challenge of meeting another RV on a very narrow road. Okay, so who is going to reverse all the way back to let us through??

Happiness was....Our friends from Noosa, Jocelyn and Ray, called us as they were in Monterey. They were on holiday in Los Angeles, and decided to include a short road trip north. And could we meet up for coffee? Oh to see familiar faces again! We had a great chat with them and Molly, their daughter and then they were off to make their way back to LA. Thanks for making the effort, it was great to see you three.

A Selfie of our coffee meet with our friends from Noosa, who were also travelling in the USA. Jocelyn, Ray, Molly, Taqui, Chuck.

After the going over in San Francisco, the scooter seems to be over its troubles – yay!! We tried to do the 17 mile drive on the scooter but the gate guard said 'sorry no scooters allowed'. Certainly nothing to do with speed - the limit is 25 mph. We can think of no other reason except perhaps that they were trying to keep noisy Harley Davidson's out. So we had lunch at the beach front followed by a walk around the beautiful little town of Carmel. Stunning strip shopping area with very upmarket boutique shops and a lovely feel about the town. Gorgeous buildings, great architecture with a very European feel. Nothing modern, all very neat and tidy. Lovely to see. Replaced my lens hood here.

One of the very quaint cottages in Carmel - this one used as a Lolly Shop

We could be forgiven for thinking we were in a part of Spain and not America with road names such as Mallorca, Carmelo, San Carlos, Rio Road and Camino, to name a few. We also heard a lot of Spanish spoken.

There are many ways to skin a cat..... the next day we drove through the entrance to 17 mile drive in the RV. That was allowed, thankfully. It was a great drive; to be absolutely honest, when one has been to Cape Town and Australia......it was the emerald green, well-manicured golf courses that stole our hearts rather than the sea views. There was a tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Club, every car space was taken up, so we were not able to stop for a look from their restaurant. We did get glimpses of the course as we drove on the road above it, as we exited the drive.

17 mile drive - Golfers had some huge challenges on the Lynx Course

After the 17 mile drive, we headed for Highway 1 and began our Big Sur road trip. For our Australian followers, think Great Ocean Road/12 Apostles. For our Kaapie followers, think many, miles of Chapmans Peak and Misty Cliffs. Hey, I was not far off the mark when doing the Bodega blog and mentioning the mist and that Play Misty for Me could have been filmed there......The Bixby Bridge was featured in Play Misty For Me! The bridge is one of the world’s highest single span bridges; built by prisoners, completed in 1932.

Bixby Bridge

We had an awesome drive stopping here and there along the first leg of the Big Sur, until we reached our camp site; Big Sur Cabins and RV site....thanks to Jocelyn and Ray for this recommendation; it was absolutely fantastic!!! We were camped amongst the huge Redwood trees, alongside a river and just lined with Redwood trees, many Blue Jays flying around.......beautiful, we felt so at home here.

Bliss - us camped amongst the Redwoods

The next day brought day two of the Big Sur - Onto Highway 1 again and the Big Sur, which did not disappoint at all.

We first made a stop at Big Sur Bakery and two things occurred whilst making our purchases. We were slowly sprinkled by ash from the fires. I also overheard a chap (who, I may add, looked a bit sus, probably even more so, because I heard him talking to his friend about his intake of cocaine). Anyhow, he was giving information about a tree in the courtyard. As we were about to leave, I asked him what was so special about the tree, besides the fact that it was large and looked quite beautiful. He informed me 'that it was a Santa Lucia Fir and one of the last remaining. The area used to have so many of these trees, but with evolution they have almost all died'. The Santa Lucia Fir is the rarest fir in the United States and perhaps the world as it only occurs in limited groves as it is endemic to the Santa Lucia Mountains. It was only when I began to write this section, when I realised what a fool I had been, to not photograph the tree!!!

The Big Sur drive was about 85 miles in total of winding beautiful road, bridges of various designs and, a lot of mist on this leg of the journey. We had read so often 'that this drive is to be taken slowly and to not rush through it'. We had the time, so we took it slowly and enjoyed every minute of it. The mist did not hamper us too much. In fact it added a fair amount of drama to the land and seascape. We stopped at various and many turn out's to enjoy the vista's; a few were so shrouded in mist, there was nothing below to see. We could even hear, at one point, from way up where we were and looking far down into the ocean, the barks of the seals. A lovely rugged coast with so much beauty to offer.

Big Sur - some areas shrouded in mist

The fires were still burning down this end but the Firies had been pushing them east, away from harming homes and state parks. Quite a few state parks had 'closed' signs and we could only imagine it was due to the fires. Chuck chatted to two Rangers who were reopening Julia Pfeiffer Reserve and they gave us all the fire information. This was the first fire here in over 100 years, and started by an illegal camper who made a fire!

Big Sur - the Everywhere Man appeared!

During the drive, and due to my comment in the last blog regarding how many Mustangs are on the road, Chuck decided to count them. In the 85 miles of single lane road with not much traffic (it was Monday); he came up with a total of 46. No wonder it is taking so long for those who ordered them in Oz to get delivery – the first only arriving in April this year.

This in a parking area - 2 Mustangs together. Not an uncommon sight.

Morro Bay is a lovely town. Its main feature, the huge Morro Rock, which is a volcanic peak, rises dramatically from the ocean floor and dominates this lovely bay. There is a chain of rocks 'The Nine Sisters' apparently a chain of 9 rocks which are 21 million years old, and Morro Rock is one of them. The chain of rocks stretches from Morro Bay way down south to San Luis Obispo. The small waterfront area known as the Embarcadero, was one long road filled with souvenir shops, art galleries, motels, wine bars, American craft beer tasting and restaurants.

Morro bay - Chuck found Marilyn Monroe

On our second day in Morro Bay, we began with another wander along the Embarcadero and to see the rock, hopefully, not shrouded in mist. It is amazing what one can see on a mist free morning! The two photos below are, on the left, the Rock taken on the previous afternoon. If you could perhaps try to 'part that mist' you might just see the outline of a rock. The photograph on the right taken the next morning, is the rock in all its glory.

Big_Sur_7D.._misty_rock.jpg Big_Sur_7D.._Morro_rock.jpg
Misty one day, and clear the next! Makes SUCH a difference

This was also the day on which we had booked a tour at Hearst Castle. We had to double back some 29 miles, but we knew this when we booked Morro Bay as it was the closest camp we could get, to the castle. The organisation at Hearst Castle was extremely slick and we got a good tour of the grand rooms. My goodness, William Hearst, was certainly a man with vision on a very grand scale. One could imagine many debauched parties which took place here at what he called 'his ranch'.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle - There were numerous tapestries. They had such detail. They must have taken years to do

Californian road surfaces leave much to be desired, so we were both happy to have a new surface without bumps and dips, causing rattles and shakes, on which to travel this shortish stretch. We could wax lyrical about this area, namely Highway 1 and the Big Sur, but it's now onward to Santa Barbara via Highway 101, having left Highway 1 behind us for the moment. There is sure to be much beauty and fun awaiting us on this next leg.

Posted by Taqui 21:35 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Bodega Bay, San Francisco & Santa Cruz

Yay - Back to the Ocean!

We left the serenity of the valley behind us and we were soon onto four and five lane highways; skirting around the outskirts of Sacramento - oh we don't like heading towards the big cities! Give us the quiet roads any day.

Chuck had to concentrate really hard, because together with the extra traffic, we had crosswinds to contend with as well. As we approached Sonoma, we saw so many cherry trees and then in Napa and Petaluma, we began to see huge areas covered by grape vines.

We arrived at Porto Bodega and I could pat myself on the back for choosing this spectacular RV site. We were parked on the edge of the marina and could, if we wanted to, step right onto a boat, but perhaps we would have been prosecuted for trespassing?

Our position could not be better!!

....Oh my goodness we felt we were being swooped upon....scary......yes, no....oh ok we understand now, this is where the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film 'The Birds' was shot. They could well have filmed Play Misty for Me here too, as it was quite often misty, but that's the coastal areas around San Fran for you!

The Birds Cafe

We had to move from site No. 46 to No 49 then we walked around the tiny town. Had coffee at Sandpiper and then walked 1.2 miles to The Spud Point Crab Company and lunched on clam chowder and crab cocktail, delicious! A short walk down the track from there we found this very long pier so we had a walk along and saw a grey seal and some very hopeful fishermen.

The very long jetty to nowhwere

Big shock arriving in this bay, as somebody stole our sunshine! Daytime temperature was about 19 degrees and we had been warm all the way since Mt Rainier, definite shock to the system. We had to dig our suitcases out from the depths of the van boot and haul out our wintry clothes, the sum total of which was a jacket each and my wrap. We were only about 75 miles from the city of San Francisco so hoped that even the small amount of miles between us, may yet provide some warmth and sunshine.

On the second day here, we awoke to another misty morning, yet again everything outside was dripping wet, including the tablecloth, which was covered by the awning above it; a mystery. We walked up the road and found the best coffee we had had in a while. The cafe was so snug and warm; we stripped off our layers and caught up with the local newspapers.

Around mid-morning we decided to take Highway 1 (I'm getting like the Americans and sprouting off the highway numbers, just as they do), up the coast and in search of finer weather and then the 116 to see redwood trees in Guerneville. A local fisherman must have known of our boredom, so to add a little excitement to our day, he had run his fishing boat aground at Salmon Creek Beach the night before. We spotted this from the road, Chuck quickly found a parking space and we walked along the beach to see the boat more closely. After chatting to one or two locals, we found out that the fisherman had fallen asleep whilst out at sea and the next thing, he was on land. We stood there for a while, raptors soaring above our heads; must be thanks to that Hitchcock movie. And dolphin jumping out of the ocean whilst surfers caught waves.

Don't go to sleep when you are at anchor - not without a crew member on watch...

So with this local knowledge, we set off further up the coast, stopping at every pull off that we could, because around each corner, it looked more spectacular than the previous stop had. The coastline was very rugged with many rocks and that fisherman was so lucky that his boat had landed on a beach, and not onto the rocks. At Cermet beach we stopped yet again and I made sandwiches for lunch, whilst Chuck chatted to some old chap who was out on his Sunday morning jaunt. He told us that up in Guerneville, there was a jazz festival happening.

Really rugged coastline - lucky he went aground on the beach

Being keen jazz listeners, we headed off to Guerneville, meandering along a winding road, covered with canopies of Maple trees and following the Russian River to our right. Sure enough, we found the music but it would have cost $65 per person for entry. This was around 2.30 p.m. and the music was due to end at 5p.m. We said 'thank you but no thank you' and headed onto a pedestrian bridge, from where we could see and hear the music for free. The festival was held in a park alongside the river. We walked into the little hippy town to see what we could see. Luckily we found a second hand book shop with a coffee shop attached. We both needed a book and a coffee was a bonus. There was absolutely no mist inland, but as we headed back to Bodega Bay, the mist once again appeared. We went from toasty warm back to being chilly again.

Jazz festival on the river in Geurneville

It's a weird feeling to know we were sitting on top of the San Andreas Fault; just had to hope it didn't 'fault' whilst we were visiting!

We hit the road for San Fran. As we worked our way slightly inland we started to leave the cold and mist behind us. I am convinced, although there was only one version of the GPS which we bought, that we got the 'cheap' version. 'She' will insist on sending us via farm back roads and often we see another vehicle, which was just ahead of us before our turn off, then we see him later on, ahead of us again, having made no turns! They must have purchased the deluxe model GPS!!

We travelled along Highway 101 and eventually reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Would you believe it? More mist again, so those photos of the bridge were shrouded in mist, and went into the 'trash' basket. We reached our park and had to put on jackets, as it was so cold getting from the RV to book in at the office. The very helpful lady checking us in said 'mist and cold?' 'Oh this is San Francisco in summer, it's always like this'. Apparently Mark Twain had said "The worst Winter he had ever experienced, was summer in San Francisco". Oh dear we are both warm weather people. On the plus side, we were given a sea facing site with no other vehicles in front of us.

Since arriving in California, if I was to be given a $ for every Mustang car we have seen, and Chuck has pointed to, it would be as if we'd won the lottery. They are everywhere! Bet Ford Motor Company did not expect this sort of success in their wildest dreams!

Happiness was waking up to a mist free day - yeah hah!!!!! Headed into town and onto Highway 101 to get the scooter to the repairer - this thing is becoming the bain of our lives!! Hairy trying to find parking in the city, we took up two parking meters and I just hoped Mr Plod did not come along to fine us, whilst Chuck was booking the scooter in. We decided that it would be better to park the van back at the RV resort and take transport into town.

Whilst we were getting ourselves backed in at the RV site, our neighbour beside us, who had checked in a couple of hours after we had, the day before, came over to say 'hello'. Would you believe, Arnie and Brenda Mohr from Cape Town? I figure somebody from CT who reads this blog, will know them. So we shared an Uber and went in to the city together, where we then split up and continued to do our own things.

We started off with the bay cruise, which at $30 pp was money well spent. We had a lovely cruise (around the bay with personal audio); under the Golden Gate Bridge, passed Alcatraz and we saw and heard much about the various areas and places.

Alcatraz - 'The Rock'

We had a long walk around Pier 39 which was filled with shops and eating places and lots of very lazy barking seals lolling about the place. From here we bought tickets for the hop on hop off bus which would last us 48 hours.

Pier 39 - middle of the day, and this couple dancing to the sounds of the busker. Brilliant

We decided to remain on the bus for the entire tour, as we had hopped on late in the afternoon, see everything and then decide which places we would like to hop off at, the following day. The tour took over two and half hours and was really fantastic. We saw beautiful old Victorian homes with lots of embellishments, drove up Haight Street which is famous for being a hippy area. There was an entire Japanese area, with authentic buildings; in fact a Japanese architect had designed most of the area. Italian eating area, Chinese eating area, and so it went. The bus driver pointed out to chaps with backpacks and guitars sitting on a grassed area, where they were spaced out on marijuana. Quite legal here and we thought their dogs too must be high from constantly being in the smoke.

Victorian houses - all immaculate

The bus trip only ended around 5.40 so we hopped off once again at Pier 39 and went in search of sundowners and dinner. This was not easy, because all the cafes we had seen earlier in the day had almost no patrons or atmosphere. We eventually found Seafood Marina, which was full of people and even managed to score a window seat. Chuck had clam chowder which was served inside a large bread loaf and I had salmon salad, both meals were delicious as was the wine and beer. Then an Uber home and time for bed.

A real yummy Salmon Salad for me

And a Chowder in a big Sourdough Bun for Chuck

And on the way home, one of the bridges lit up at night

Another yeah hah day.....no mist.....so lucky!! It was a beautiful day and not much wind either, another bonus. We decided to take an Uber into the city again and what a pleasure our driver, Ronaldo, was. He was very caring, wanted to know if the temperature in the car was perfect for us; there were water bottles 'just help yourself' and 'take care, don't rush' etc. As we approached the city he asked if we had been to the famous crooked Lombard Street. We told him that it was our plan to get there and he said 'no worries I will take you'. He dropped us off at the top of Lombard, we walked down and he met us at the bottom of the street and then dropped us off at our planned Pier 39 stop. Lombard Street, or as it is famously known 'the most crooked street in the world' was very winding and the home owners very proud of their well-manicured gardens. One lady was out with her clippers tidying the hedge. The road has eight hairpin bends and the recommended car speed is 5 mph as the grade is 27 degrees - not to be driven by the feint hearted or those with a dicky heart!!

Lombard Street - Crookedest Road in the World

We arrived at the Pier, did some people watching and then hopped onto the topless bus. Being a perfectionist and always in search of the perfect photograph, we needed to go over Golden Gate Bridge for the fifth time, just to make sure that at least one pic would be good enough.

Golden Gate Bridge

We stopped at Golden Gate Park which was a very impressive park. Sculptures, flower gardens, conservatories, tree ferns, you name it, could be seen within the park. I was absolutely blown away by the Dahlias. My dear late dad was a proud grower of Dahlias and he would have loved to have seen these gigantic flower heads of all colours, stripes and dots.

The Dahlias in the Golden Gate Park


And a few Close-ups - they were spectacular

Chuck wanted to walk down Haight Street and pretend to be a hippy. I could just see him, visualizing himself 40 odd years ago with his bell bottomed jeans, material inserts to make them more flared and hippyish....... We had a few laughs at signs, enjoyed the vintage wear second hand shops and just enjoyed walking around the hip area. We saw more selfie sticks in San Francisco than we had so far on this trip. Will keep a lookout and update if another city beats this one on selfie sticks!!

Legs out window - A store in Haight Street

San Francisco has many hills and the houses almost seem to cling onto the sides of those hills. We had one last look around Pier 39, an ice cream; (love the sugar waffle cones in the states) and then made our way back to the RV park and took in the beautiful sunset. Cheers San Fran., we enjoyed our visit to this lovely hilly, clean, graffiti free city, filled with helpful and friendly folk.

Sunset from our RV Park

We started off the morning by doing a grocery shop before leaving San Fran and happiness was??? Finding Rooibos tea on the shelf! The reason for our stay in Santa Cruz was to see the famed Redwood trees. Talking of trees some of you may know that one of the highlights for me, on this trip, would be to photograph 'the fall' which I believe will be best seen in NYC. However, we are beginning to see changes in the trees, so we may be lucky to see fall colours before we hit NYC.

The start of Fall

It was an easy drive to the State RV Park in Santa Cruz. We checked in, had lunch and then drove down to Santa Cruz beach and Bay...'of barking seals'. This was a lovely seaside town, long beach, fairgrounds - a kid’s delight with all kinds of fun rides on the beach front. We opted for a walk along West Cliff towards the lighthouse and then in the opposite direction along the pier, from where we could hear the barking of the seals.

The Santa Cruz Bay - all the fun of the fair

Whilst photographing these lazy animals my trusty lens hood, (which had a split in it and Chuck had mended with super glue), fell off the camera and onto the seal platform. The seals were startled and barked more and jumped a bit and there the lens hood sat! I have no idea why, but not one person, (not even Chuck), volunteered to go down the few steps to the platform to collect my lens hood - maybe it was their large teeth??..... We watched for a while as the lens hood got flung back and forth by seals flopping into and out of the water and eventually it went in and sank to the bottom.....

🎶🎶🎶Good-bye my trusty friend,
you had a split which we tried to mend,
but the Pacific you chose in the end,
you were old, tired, expired and difficult to mend... 🎶🎶🎶🎶

The Seal and the Lens Hood

We headed back to our campsite, and realised just how very special this forest was as we were nestled deep in the woods, surrounded on three sides by oak, and pine trees, we could only hear and see nature. Quite different from the outer city park we had left behind, where we were crammed in like sardines, (with great sea views), but that's city life for you.

....I talk to the trees....We had a short hike to the Redwood tree's passing two deer on the way in and a fox on our return. We had noted to beware of Poison Oak and Rattle snakes in the area but fortunately missed out on those. The giant redwoods, the largest trees on earth were amazing. It was fantastic to finally walk amongst these huge red barked giants, better than what we had seen in the brochures. They are very straight trees, with such interesting bark, some have 'warts' or burls which are a mass of natural dormant buds from which new foliage can sprout. These burls give the trees amazing character too.

The photo of me standing in front of the tree known as The Giant grows to 83m and over 5m wide! What is fascinating is that the tree started out from a seed the size of a piece of oatmeal.

Taqui and the Giant Redwood Tree

After taking in these beauties, it was time to head off to the town of Santa Cruz. The town was lovely and we even found Andy's auto supply here. We had woken in the morning, to the smell of rotten eggs. At first we thought it was something smelly in the camp, then I blamed Chuck, and he blamed me... But then it dawned on us, we had read about the secondary battery 'smelling like rotten eggs when it begins to fail'. So fortunate that we were in a town where we could replace the battery.

A week or three back when we free camped, we noticed that the RV water pump and lights were not working as efficiently as they should, when operated by the secondary battery and, on looking up what could be the cause, we had found the information regarding the smelly egg syndrome. Phew, let's hope we left that smell behind.....

Posted by Taqui 20:55 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Yosemite National Park & Plymouth Wine country

or Jou-se-mity

My planner was too clever in organizing the trip to Yosemite; we entered from Lee Vining which was the north east entry to Yosemite. So we were able to drive all the way through the park. In six miles we climbed some 3 000 feet, stopping here and there before we arrived at Upper Pines camp where we had a reservation for two nights.

The drive began so stark with huge granite rocks everywhere. I had said in previous posts that we may be all 'laked out' but now I was beginning to think we will also be all 'rocked out' by the end of this trip.

We also stopped at Tuolumne Meadows to hike along the John Muir Trail to Soda springs where the water literally bubbles out of the ground, and from here we could see the Cathedral Range and peak, which was beautiful. There was also a very interesting museum there Parsons Museum.

Soda Springs

Cathedral Peak in the distance

Parsons Museum, built from rock and timber in the area

Thank goodness I know Chuck is fit and that I had extensive heart checks before leaving Australia, because at times I've been gasping for breath. Then I realized, that Chuck too was not breathing as easily as normal......it's because we were so high above sea level. We also stopped and walked a little way up Lembert Dome, which was in the same loop.

Lembert Dome

Who would have thought we would find a beach in Yosemite? There it was alongside Tenaya Lake, which is where we had lunch, at a picnic table on the beach, with 360 degrees of stunning scenery to take in.

Tenaya Lake

The vegetation began to alter as we went further into the park; we came across Lots of Fir and Pine tree and then Oak trees and eventually through a series of tunnels, before seeing lots of scrub where obviously a fire had been, quite recently.

As we neared Half Dome Village, (for those who have been to Yosemite, names have changed and this is what was previously known as Curry Village. We almost got one.....decap....itation (pedestrian, but she quickly ducked her head) before we saw Elcap....itan!'
Chuck was SO excited to finally see Capitan my Capitan; he could tick another off his bucket list. We spent ages looking at this great rock before us, very high up and in the very far distance, we could see about five people climbing it.....gave me the shivers!

El Capitan - tick for Chuck on his Bucket List

To give an idea of El Cap's size - the climbers taken on a 400 lens are just alongside the dark spot at the top right of the above pic

When we were driving into Yosemite, I said to Chuck 'I can picture we will have a great camp site and good neighbours'.

We were assigned camp No 82 but when we arrived, there was already somebody camped in our spot. Chuck spoke to him, Herr... somebody from Germany, who was in fact parked in the incorrect spot. Herr somebody moved and as we backed in Chuck said 'ein bier bite', me directing Chuck with reversing had to chirp in and added 'ein trocken weis wein bite'...the next thing Herr somebody was over holding two beers and apologising for being in the incorrect spot.

Each spot was assigned their own 'bear box' and we had strict instructions that we were in bear country, they roamed around at night and more so to protect the bear than the human, we were to lock anything food away. Into the bear box had to go anything scented, any food and even unopened cold drink cans. This did apply more for campers than RV's and caravans, but we needed to be very careful.

Bear Country Warning!!

Once we were sorted we took a stroll to Half Dome Village to see what went on there. When back at camp, we sat outside and had a sundowner. Chuck started to chat to our neighbours to our right side, Gayle and Michael; a really nice couple and we four hit it off immediately. Next thing they headed over, drinks in hand for a 'show and tell'. They wanted to see inside our van and we would see inside theirs. Then they refilled their glasses and came over with very generous portions of cheese and biscuits to continue chatting. Yet another neighbour, Kurt arrived, carrying a flagon saying 'do-ya alls want some apple pie?' Apple pie turned out to be some liquid which tasted just like apple pie but had one big kick to it! The kick in the juice was called Everclear, apparently almost 120% proof alcohol. Then Kurt's wife and friend arrived and we all chatted until quite late. A great evening was had by all.

Kurt, his wife and friend at morning breakfast - he cooked up a storm

We certainly got the good camp site and lovely friendly neighbours that I had envisaged early on in the morning. I'm sure, because nobody had internet, it made it so much more social, as everybody was out and about and ready to meet new friends and converse.

We had planned to do the Mirror Lake hike the following morning, and so had Michael and Gayle. They suggested that not too early in the morning, we tee up and do the hike together. Earlier on in the evening, I had told them about my early rising for Monday golf and they wanted to make it clear that it would not be THAT early.

Chuck, Gayle & Michael on the hike to Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is what Yosemite was for me; I dearly wanted to photograph the lake. So we set off, chatting away, and eventually arrived at the sign 'Mirror Lake'....somebody had stolen the water and left a puddle for us to see! Hence no mirror from the mountain into the lake; darn!!! We did pass a family of deer along the path, which was quite special.

We then went onto Yosemite Village and checked out the Ansel Adams gallery which I was very keen to see. From there we visited the museum, walked through the Indian Village where we saw our first ever Woodpecker. As we meandered along the path, I heard a tuck tuck tuck and thought, 'that must be what a Woodpecker sounds like', and sure enough there it was. Just like the squirrels and Blue Jays, (they must have all attended the same school), he was far too quick for me to get a good photograph, but the best photograph is in my head.

Best I could to to capture the Woodpecker

We walked around the Indian Village - a reproduction of what it would have been years ago. We had a walk along 'swinging bridge' from where we could see across the meadow and also towards a small river and beach.

We also went to the theatre and watched a documentary on Yosemite, which was very informative. Then we hopped onto a shuttle bus and headed for the Majestic Hotel. Very colonial with lovely huge fireplace, lots of Kilim’s and whoop whoop!, free internet where we hastily downloaded our mail.

Majestic Hotel - for the 'Elite'. Totally different to the rest of Yosemite

I mentioned the shuttle bus; there were stops throughout the park, so one did not have to use ones vehicle. We walked to the nearest stop and waited for the correct bus to stop, for the place we needed to get to. They run from 7am to 10pm around every 15 minutes, and service the entire park. All this was built into our $30 cost for the time we were in Yosemite. What a great deal.

Bridle Falls - The only falls that had a little water. It has been so dry

Gayle and Mike had to leave their site next door to ours and move to Lower Pines, as our camp was full. So we had a quick stop to check they were settled and a glass of champers with them. Also we could report that we had seen the Majestic Hotel, which is where their evening dinner was booked for. A bonus for us, was that from their new site, Half Dome was very visible. So whilst they were out later in the evening we headed back, we sat in their chairs at around 7pm and I photographed Half Dome as the sun set.

Half Dome at Sunset

When we returned to light the bbq, Kurt headed over with a large bowl of salsa. He was a cook of note! He and his wife told us that whilst we were away, we had missed a stampede of deer which came through the camp. Kurt enjoyed cooking so much, he enters cooking competitions and would not let me have his secret salsa recipe. He clearly loved both food and cooking and talked more about food than anything else. He was a lovely generous, friendly man.

During the early hours of the morning, our last night in Yosemite, I heard the bear box rattling, some movement about and what sounded like ice in an esky being moved around. I was sure Yogi bear was around. Kurt's wife said they had been raided by chipmunks, so she doubted it was a bear.

Yosemite was a beautiful national park, tranquil and full of history and beautiful scenery. One moment we would be facing a huge granite rock face and the next we could be in a meadow with the rock face in the distance.

The peak opposite Half Dome at Sunset

People we meet are always totally lost and fascinated by us. They find out we are from Australia, then ask which company we are renting our RV from. Charl tells them it is owned by our son, 'oh I get it your son lives I America, that's the connection'. Us 'no, he lives in Cape Town'....very blank looks, 'oohh, how does that work'......

Wow we can see why California has so many fires! The countryside is bone dry. There has been no rain in this area since April.

Look how dry things are - in fact this place's actual name is Drytown

The drive out of Yosemite was interesting, again a pass to negotiate and this time we had five miles of hairpin bends to contend with as well as a narrow road. Chuck does very well under these stressful situations.

We passed through Sonoma, Jamestown where Lake Tulloch is situated and which was a very pretty area. However the blue lake was bordered by absolute barren stone banks with a few trees dotted here and there. At one point the GPS took us off the main highway and through farm lands, we shuddered and shook our way along those back roads for about eight miles before finally finding good road systems once again.

We passed by a town named Copperopolis, the name comes from, yes you are right, copper mining, even though we are in the heart of California's Gold Country. We stayed here, not for the gold panning, but for the wine tasting which was also in this area.

We had a fair amount of housekeeping to do whilst in Plymouth, given that we had been out of Wi-Fi range for a few days. We needed to book into our next two stops, Bodega Bay and San Francisco. This was no mean feat! We went round and round in circles, so many camps we had chosen, were already booked out.....week-end was looming and week-ends are always a problem. We finally secured both bookings. Quite funny really as the Bodega Bay camp we originally emailed in the morning and a bit later, when we had coms, we phoned and secured a booking. However, later in the day, the email reply told us 'we are full' but the call made an hour earlier, had secured a site for three nights....huh?? Right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing as the bookings were done by two different people.

After the housekeeping stress we needed to get out and explore. We started at Safeway for much needed pantry and fridge restocking and then filled up with gas and then on our way to the wine route for some much needed fun.

We started at Drytown Cellars (see pic above, as to how dry the area is) - well we waited for a while in the reception, not even had the dog moved, or lifted her head when we walked in. Chuck went to find somebody to assist us with wine tasting. A young bloke arrived; he clearly did not want to be there and he admitted that the owners had gone off to lunch, leaving him to crush grapes and be cellar master. He was as sour as an old shrivelled up grape that had been kicked about whilst laying on the dry land for years. He even admitted that he worked to earn his cheque, that was it. I still don't know why we tried to make small talk with this person. Anyhow a little while later we softened him up and got him talking. We found out about the school he attended and that 'nothing ever happens here so what brought you two into our valley? We left with two bottles, we thought a sale may cheer him up and make his day. Just prior to leaving, another worker walked in, he had so much personality, an absolute character and the other one was moaning, 'oh he's always got stories to tell moan moan'.....

Drytown winery

So we decided our day had to get better. The next stop was Prospect Cellars in the Main Street of Plymouth. Here we met the original owner, his daughter and an assistant. We had a great chat to all of them whilst quaffing back a few. We mentioned that we were looking for a winery with a view. They steered us in the direction of Shenandoah Valley and said Helwig Wines have an awesome view from their patio.

Prospect Winery

So off we set and we were welcomed by two gorgeous young men, Jack and David. We began tasting and then chatted to the only two other people who were tasting, Jean and Larry who were up sampling wine from Sacramento for the day. Jack was a very social chap and he confided in me that he had a 9 week old baby boy who he cared for whilst his fiancé worked in the evening and they also had a 3 year old boy; Jack worked 10 hours a day and was whacked, so he joined us in sampling to relieve his stress. Jack was also a keen Lacrosse player before he started a family and we four learnt about the game. By now it was closing time so Jean, Larry, Chuck and I headed out onto the patio and continued our chatting until around 5 pm.

Helwig Winery

We managed to stock up on a few bottles!

We both felt very comfortable in this Amador Wine Country and if we could not have secured bookings for Bodega Bay, we would have been happy to spend another night or two here before moving on. After all there were still more wineries to explore and a flower farm which was on our list, but which we never had time to visit.

Posted by Taqui 11:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Lake Tahoe & Lee Vining

We left Virginia City behind after a morning walk around and a good coffee too. We drove down the pass and then through Carson City and faced yet another pass ahead of us. We got to an elevation of 7,000 feet and at the crest, ahead of us, we saw this enormous blue which could have been mistaken for the ocean. NO, it was Lake Tahoe. So much larger than we had anticipated as was the town we drove through, which was so much larger than we had thought, we expected a small town, not casinos and miles of shops.

Tahoe Valley RV resort is a large area. Had a pleasant book-in and got a lovely site, with no neighbours, which was a great bonus. Booked in here for four nights. The lake was about 3 miles away, which, considering the vastness of this place was fine.

We had space all around us - loved it!

🎶🎶🎶....If you go down into the woods today be sure of a big surprise, for every bear that ever there was...🎶🎶🎶.....were deep in the woods at this park and it was in bear territory! We hoped not to encounter one lurking in our backyard. There were signs telling us what to do in case we should encounter any ....there's no way you would catch me out in the open park in the dark of night!!

Excitement on day two of our stay here. We were headed to the town of Lake Tahoe when we saw the traffic lights flashing and heaps of police and traffic directors around. We soon found out that Obama was in town, one highway had been closed for his cavalcade and other roads were being manned, so that he could get through with ease. What lengths people go to, to see us is amazing! Oh, we later found that he was there to praise environmental efforts, and not to see us.

Lake Tahoe

Had a great sundowner at Camp Richardson's Beacon bar situated on the beach. A plus is that a band was playing so we sat and relaxed watching the sunbathers.

Some drinks at the bar - Beacon Bar at Camp Richardson

We took a long leisurely drive around Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay, where I had hoped to do a hike, was so busy with tourists, that unfortunately there was no parking for our RV. Perhaps Chuck had organised said tourists, he's not that keen a walker!

Allways a Bear - this one in Tahoe City

At Meeks Bay, we sat on the beach for a while before heading to Tahoe City to investigate. Here we found a very nice beachfront park and had lunch. From there we decided to continue around the lake. We were travelling west to east and stopped at Sand Harbour, which had a lovely outcrop of rocks, not dissimilar to Bakoven or Camps Bay. The beaches and coves around the lake reminded us of both Majorca and Mauritius.

Meeks Bay

Sand Harbour

The yellow jacket bees were out in full swing during our time here. They are more elongated than our bees, they also like to give one a little nip and Chuck can tell you, that the after effects of a sting, last around 4 days!

There are lots of them - here is one of many Bee traps in Tahoe city

Our last day at Lake Tahoe, we moved camp to Zephyr RV resort. We decided to have a change of scenery and also we had booked a dinner dance on the MS Dixie paddle wheeler boat, which departed from Zephyr Cove. It all made sense to us, to change parks. We were able to see the lake across the highway and it was a short walk to the beach. The Steller Jay birds, also known as long-crested Jay are what we have been seeing since arriving in this area, but way too quick for me to photograph. They are a beautiful blue with a dark almost reddish brown crest. Just gorgeous.

Stellar Jay Bird - example from the internet. They would not sit still for me!!

The dinner cruise on MS Dixie was wonderful, although it almost never happened.....more excitement! Early on in the afternoon of departure, we went to validate our tickets. At which time we were informed the 'MS Dixie lost the use of one engine on the afternoon cruise, they are working on it at present, but no guarantee that she will go out this evening'.

The MS Dixie - going again

Fortunately all turned out well and by 5.30 pm she was set to go. We were seated at a table of six; the other four were already seated when we arrived. We thought they were one party; Mom, Dad, son and his girlfriend, but it turned out they were two separate couples. We all got on so well and they shared with us, places to visit, down the Californian coast, which were off the tourist track.

Our friends for the evening - Kayla, Colton, Jaime, Debbie, us. The passer by who we asked to take the pic had had a few drinks - you can see!

We had a lovely three course dinner together, then headed to the upper deck to get photos of Emerald Bay from outside, here we split up and Chuck and I went down a level (I know what you are thinking - so to speak - not in degrading, but a few steps down) - to listen to the band. All in all a very worthwhile trip on the lake, beautiful views.

There was plenty to see and do around Lake Tahoe, we figured many people were attracted here by the casinos, it was Labour Day long week-end and the parks were full.

Emerald Bay at Sunset

We had good news on our Esta/visa debacle. Charl, (had to use his official name here being a government department), finally managed to track down a supervisor at Phoenix airport. He informed us that as we will only be two days over our stay, which is within the 'grace period', we should have no problems. Our problem may be if we try to enter the USA at some other stage, they may then query why we overstayed our visa. Me being the pedantic one was not happy enough with this answer. So I asked Chuck to photocopy each and every document and reference we have on trying to have this visa extension done, so that we have proof if we are asked at customs when we leave. Some 25 pages later, this should cover any queries that may arise!

The drive from Lake Tahoe to Lee Vining/Mono Vale Lake - (we will be 'all laked out' by the time our trip is complete), was scenic and up and down two passe;s Devil's Gate summit and Conway summit which brought us up to 8,143 feet.

We went through yet another inspection station during this part of our trip, as we had left Nevada and re-entered California again. They didn't get anything from us as we had learnt from the previous stop; 'all our forbidden goods had been purchased in Susanville, California' which made the very nice gentleman at the station happy. Not all true, but both parties were happy campers.

The town of Bridgeport was quaint and they even had a rodeo happening. On top of Conway summit, we stopped here to overlook Mono Lake (one of the oldest lakes in North America, a salty lake) and basin. It was just beautiful! To the right of the hillside was an outcrop of Tufa towers, which were towers of limestone rock. The view towards the lake was lovely with different colours in the foreground and outcrops of rocks within the lake.

Mono Lake from lunch stop

The camp site we were in was full of campers in tents, large RV's, smaller RV's similar to ours and small caravans and larger ones too. In the early morning there was a bustle about with car boots opening and closing, eskies and gas cylinders being packed in, and off they went. Everybody taking a different route to find whatever they could, to play in and on out there. Hikers, mountain bikers, bird watchers and some setting off for a day in Yosemite; they were all doing their thing. It was quite beautiful being amongst the volcanic craters which were in this area, adding to the beauty of Lee Vining area.

We took a drive down to Navy Beach on Mono Lake to see the Tufa Towers. The Tufa towers are outcrops of very interesting stone formations, (towers), from limestone which have formed over the years, from freshwater springs which bubbled through the carbonate rich lake water. The towers were of varying sizes, some with spires, and some with knobs. Some peeping out from the lake water and some on the dry land. We could look at them and make our own forms....one looked like a poodle, another like a couple of Meerkat, quite fascinating.

Tufa Towers in the lake

I was in total awe of the landscape and 'lakescape" in the area and my photos don't do enough justice; also been having a few problems with my wide angle lens. In The foreground was the yellow, green and brown colours from the scrub (fynbos) and sagebrush, leading ones eye up to hills, craters and mountains, setting off hues of green and blue and a touch of white from snow on the mountains, and also the lake, which had its own colours of blue and white, just spectacular.

Close up of Tufa Towers

Mono Lake

After visiting Mona Lake and South Tufa at Navy beach, we drove a few miles in a loop around the various lakes in the area. June, Gull and Silver lakes on our right hand side, with mountain and some ski lifts to our left, tree lined with poplar and pine trees. The towns had wooden chalets both as lodges and small motels. Chuck and I both agreed that we preferred this area to Lake Tahoe; 'different strokes for different folks'.

So far we have driven 2,077 miles since leaving Seattle. And now over the Tioga Pass, and on to Yosemite....

Posted by Taqui 08:52 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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