Monday, 30 December 2013

Into California

From Brookings, we headed down Hwy 101 into California. We had seen Crescent City, but we couldn't resist visiting the Sea Lions in the harbour as we passed by. They didn't disappoint, but talked and played as we watched.
Seals still there to entertain us
There were several on a second dock, and we could get quite close, but a local woman cautioned us. Apparently they can move very quickly using their flippers,
and would chase us if provoked.
They look asleep, but can move very quickly

We decided to take a the scenic Newton Drury Parkway
Driving through the redwoods
then follow Hwy 101 for a while, and then take the Avenue of the Giants. This is the old highway 101 through Humboldt
Redwoods State  Park, just 2 lanes wides which winds through the redwood trees.
We stopped at Ancient Redwoods RV Park. There was a gate across and we thought we'd have to keep driving. However, when John went into the gift shop for directions, it turned out they were closing on the weekend, but opened up for us.
They discovered that their water pump was broken, but we had about 1/3 of a tank, so we were OK overnight, right in the middle of the redwoods. The next morning we discovered a small puddle of water in the hallway just outside the bathroom. We had been using our own water with the pressure water system for the first time in a couple of months. We had seen some water the last time too. So we figured we'd need to get it looked at by the dealer near LA. 

You can see the axe where they tried to cut it down, and the jagged top from lightning
We drove on down through the Redwoods
I feel so tiny!

The size of Redwoods never ceased to amaze us
and Highway 101 to Willits KOA.

The next day we drove to the coast to see what the Highway 1 was really like. The road was beautiful, but it twists and turns for about 40 km, and up mountains and down.
Travelling down the winding road
We were very glad we had not brought the trailer! When we got to the coast,

we initially went south towards Fort Ross, but decided it was too winding, and our time was limited. So we drove up to Mendocino, a beautiful little town, where "Murder She Wrote" with Jessica Lange was filmed. The homes are unique
There were several homes of this type
and the small harbour delightful. Many of the homes have their own water towers.

We walked around Willitts

All down the coast were unique Drive-thru coffee shops- you could not walk up, just drive

Beautiful homes with lots of flowers still in bloom
and inspected the Skunk Train, which went past our KOA each morning. It is an older train, with the second car like a flat-car, where folks just stand, as the train takes the trip to the coast along the winding tracks.
The Skunk Train

with the Skunk on the side
Our next stop was Petaluma. We used it as a base to visit San Francisco, Sonoma Wine Country and Bodega Bay on the coast. To get to San Francisco, we drove to the Larkspur Ferry and took a fast ride across the bay past San Quentin
San Quentin, from the Ferry

Prisoners exercising in the prison yard
San Francisco from the Ferry
San Francisco from the Ferry
to the Ferry Terminal, near the Bay Bridge. On our first visit we walked and explored the Ferry building
The Ferry Building- a market inside
with its interesting booths and restaurants, the Wharf area, along The Embarcadero from  the Ferry Terminal at Pier 1 to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at Pier 47. [The odd Pier numbers are North of the Ferry Building and the even Pier numbers are to the South.] The Ferry Building itself is like a market, a long hall with small shops and restaurants on each side. There was on which sold mushrooms, a couple of coffee shops, a book store, several fish markets- one with an oyster bar-, a wine bar, a shop selling a variety of garden things- books, trowels, plants-, and a small hamburger cafe, that always had a line-up!  Pier 39 had a huge Christmas tree on the sidewalk,

and was very touristy, but fascinating none-the-less. It was a long pier with all kinds of shops on each side and a merry-go-round at the end.

Then there was the treat of viewing sea lions at the end of the pier on their own little docks entertaining the crowds.
Looking back at Pier 39 and the seals from Pier 41
You could buy an oyster, guaranteed to have a pearl inside, postcards, any kind of food or drink, any kind of souvenir you might think you want, and high end clothes or shoes.

There was a type of a carousel of monkeys, which flew only around if you kept up a steady rhythm on the drums.
If several people beat on the drums, sticking out from the base, the monkeys flew!
Some of the Piers were empty, others held a variety of interesting restaurants and historical displays. At Pier 47, we toured the Balcutha,
built in 1886, a three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship built to carry a variety of cargo all over the world. A group of Grade 4 and 5's were on a field trip, role-playing the different crew jobs. They were spending the night on board as if they were the crew, and having a wonderful time.  

Our second day, we took the California Cable Car up to Nob Hill,
It is a long way down

Top of the Mark
walked around a bit, and took the Hyde Street Cable Car to Victorian Park. John was so excited about the views from the trolley, that he took it back to the top of the hill, took pictures of the narrowest street, then walked back down.
Narrow switchback road down the hill, looking towards The Bay Bridge

From the top of the hill- Baclutha to the left in the harbour, Alcatraz to the right
Meanwhile Sue enjoyed the sun in the park, and wandered in and out of the shops around the Ghiardelli Square. There are a number of street cars from all over the world. An Historical society buys them from other cities, refurbishes them, and puts them on their tracks. We took one of the street cars back towards the Ferry building, but decided to stay on to the end of its run, and see some more of the city. We took another one back down Market Street to 5th Street and then walked back to the Ferry. We had planned to go to Alcatraz; however, the last trip in the 'winter' is 1pm, and we thought it was 3pm. 
Model of Alcatraz

One day we drove out to the coast, to Bodega Bay. There were many cattle grazing on the sides of huge, unusual hills. The changes in geography fascinated me almost as much as the mountains and coasts.
Driving to Coast, cattle just over the hill

Interesting Outcrop beside the road

Many of the hills were completely barren

The big difference from the Oregon coast is access to the ocean. In this part of California, many beaches were  smaller, and often at the foot of cliffs or rocky hills.
One of the  bigger beaches, but you had to climb down

Beach in a cove at the bottom of a cliff
A beautiful beach, but difficult access

 Eucalyptus trees lining the road in several places

To go on the beach, you had to pay. There were some State Parks on the Coast, but only a few had washrooms. 

In the Sonoma wine country, the hills and fields were covered with tidy, neat rows of grape vines, many wrapped around the hills, others marching across fields.
Vines at Imagery Wines
Miles of Vines
We made a couple of stops. one at a smaller, boutique winery, Imagery Wines. The staff was very knowledgeable, and the wines were unique and interesting. 

Since by now, we were into December, and we were becoming conscious of needing to get down to our friends' in Barstow. So we travelled over the Golden Gate Bridge,

as we headed south again. Looking through "Camping in California", "The Good Sam Camping Guide", "KOA Kamping", and on line, we discovered a unique campsite just outside Monterey. 

Along Hwy 101 to Monterey

Standing on this Cliff, we saw Pelicans at play

Pelicans catching the updrafts and gliding up the coast

Then, playing follow-the-leader, they soared back

It is a Monterey County Park, located at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway.
We were in luck, firstly- there was lots of room,
We had our pick of sites
Looking toward the coast from the campsite

and secondly-Mercedes had rented the track for a week for their AMG Driving Academy courses. We were just in time to watch owners of a Mercedes-Benz with the
AMG performance package take the Basic and Advanced Courses.[] When you by a Mercedes AMG, you get the Basic Course free. If you pass, you have the option to pay to take the Advanced Course. If you pass this one, you can pay even more to take the Pro Course. We spent part of each morning at the Course watching. The first day we watched the drivers practise on the skid pad and slalom course on a section of the Raceway. The next day we drove right up to the top beside "The Corkscrew", where we got a perfect view of the cars coming off the "Rahal Straight" and into the famed "The Corkscrew". What a 'rush'! 
Top of "The Corkscrew", around turn 1, into turn 2
Into turn 3 of "The Corkscrew"

We drove into Monterey to get info on the district, and around Carmel, then headed down to Big Sur.
Looking over the edge of the cliff

Interesting, sculpted hills

The road, looking back towards Monterey- I am now on the inside!
It is a spectacular section of the coast. However, once again, we were glad we had not tried to tow the trailer on this section, although many sections of the drive were inland. 

On our next visit to town, we drove into Monterey,
An Inn, just outside Pebble Beach

A typical home- tile roof, windows facing the ocean
Monterey Visitors' Centre
planning to park and walk around the Cannery District and see the aquarium. However, this part of the city was packed, and there was little  parking, none within walking distance. What there was, cost $18! So we contented ourselves with a drive around the city, and into Pebble Beach along the 17 Mile Drive. This too was beautiful. It is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula, much of which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous golf courses, mansions
One of the unique homes
Most homes were more on this scale, though

One of the beautiful beaches
and scenic attractions,

including the Lone Cypress
, Seal Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees.
Seal Rock

Seal Rock, right off the coast

Home on a cliff, overlooking the ocean, beside the Cypress trees
Towards the end, is the Pebble Beach Golf Course. We went into the club house, and out on the terrace by the 18th Hole. There sits the bench where the deal was concluded when Americans bought the course back from the Japanese owners.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, often known as Carmel, is a delightful, small city. It has many quaint cottages and shops, from Coach and Tiffany to smaller shops selling souvenirs, interesting restaurants and artsy boutiques for both men and women.
A Local Church

A typical store
There are several great little coffee shops, one grocery store [off the main street], several hotels, and wonderful unique stores, many with the bottom half of the door closed and the top half open. This is an area known for its artists, so boasts many different Art Galleries. Since it was close to Christmas, the whole town sparkled.

The next day we headed south to Paso Robles, then east on 46
Hwy 46 is straight
with just a bend or two
to Hwy 99 and south towards Barstow. On Hwy 46, there was nothing between Paso Robles and Bakersfield, just straight road. Since we couldn't make it in one day, we stopped in Bakersfield at the Bakersfield Palms RV Park. The Overnight section was excellent- flat concrete pads, with an interlock patio and picnic table, full hook-ups and your own palm tree. 
Just a few of us enjoyed this level Campground.
We got away fairly early for the last leg of this part of our journey. Part of our drive gave us lots to wonder about, and try to figure out- trees as far as we could see. It looked like a series of orchards, but with no hint of what kind of trees they were.
Finally we came to a crossroads with a gas station and a store. John went in. To our amazement, the first sets of orchards were pistachios,
and the ones we were coming to, were almonds! The next sets of orchards we knew- oranges, then oil donkeys,
then vineyards! In every case, for miles along the highway, and as far
back as we could see, on both sides of the highway.

Then it was up and over the Pass,
Climbing toward the Pass

Getting closer to the snow

Snow at 4000 feet

The Tehachapi Summit, 4064 Ft, and town exit
and down - almost immediately, into desert.
Desert -not all flat- look at that Big Blue Sky- warm too...
Flat, flat with creosote shrubs and sage bushes, and hills in the distance. We drove along the boundary of Edwards Air Force Base for miles. The desert has its own beauty, in its starkness, wide open expanses, and blue, blue sky.

Soon we were in Barstow, turning off on Route 66 to our friends' house. 
Run-Around-Sue in the back yard

While there we drove into LA twice, once to see Sue's sister in Torrance, and to check the Dealer in Corona where we were having the leak looked at and a couple of other warranty issues fixed. Since it has been colder than normal in Barstow, going below zero at night, we decided to store the Airstream at the Dealer's while it was being fixed, and we were up in Canada. The landscapes continued to fascinate me going along Hwy 15 from flat, cacti and sagebrush covered desert,
On Route 66, on the way to LA, bottle sculptures of every kind

up into snow, and down into the smog on Hwy 91
LA Smog
and freeways of LA.

On the way in, we passed a "Total Wines" store. John had not been in one, so we noted where it was, and stopped in on our second trip to deliver the trailer. He was like a "kid in a candy store"- so many choices, such good prices, and a knowledgeable staff!

There were many tight corners in the drive through the Basin
While in Barstow, we played Tourist with our friends, visiting Rainbow Basin, Owl Campground and then to Calico, the mining ghost town. Owl campground would be a wonderful place to stay, warm open, with beautiful vistas of interesting rock faces.
Owl Campground, each with its own sun shade
Rainbow Basin is amazing. The colours, shapes

Greens and reds mixed with beiges and greys
All the shades of beiges, taupes, browns, and green
and play of light and shadow on the rocks, fascinated all of us. The colours are incredible, every imaginable shade of beige and brown, but also greens, oranges, reds and burgundy. Some rocks are smooth,
others lifted and buckled, others rugged as mountains.
Buckled, Folded rugged rocks, with light and shadows

Calico is a delightful ghost town. 129 years ago, it was a mining town, bustling with prospectors searching for mineral riches. Silver was king. In 1881 Calico had a population of 1200, with its 22 saloons,
China Town

redlight district,and over 500 silver and borax mines in the area.
Mine Entrance


House of Bottles

Miner's home
 carry items similar to those sold in the late 1800's, others house displays or are vacant.
When the price of silver dropped, it became a ghost of its former self. It is now one of the few remaining original mining towns, thanks to Walter Knott, of Knotts Berry Farm, who donated Calico to San Bernardino County.
It is now operated as a State Park. Some of the buildings, such as Lil's Saloon [now with snacks, beverages and beer] the Print Shop [with books, maps, postcards and posters], The General Store [with clothing, hats, candy, food items, and snacks],
Display hanging from the rafters in the General Store

The General Store's shelves are well stocked

From Calico, we headed for Las Vegas,
Flat desert roads

Fields of Judas Trees in the Desert
Heading over the Halloran Summit towards Nevada
Just before the Nevada border we passed the Ivanpah Solar Project. BrightSource’s LPT solar thermal system is currently being deployed at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California’s Mojave Desert. [] A 377 megawatt net solar complex uses mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers, to generate steam, driving steam turbines, generating electricity.
Ivanpah- mirrors concentrating sunlight on Solar Receivers

This is what you see from Highway 15

Once we checked in tot he hotel, we spent the evening driving The Strip, and exploring our hotel, [ok and gambling at the one and five cent machines].
Our Hotel- the Rodeo Championships were just finishing as we arrived

one last sleep in the warmth, before flying
Las Vegas from the Air- The higher buildings in the centre are "The Strip"
back to the cold and snow to visit family and friends in Toronto and Montreal for Christmas. 

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