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Nice place to spend a week….however

Dec 20-28

We arrived in Desert Hot Springs (DSH), shortly before 1 on Saturday. We left Mickey and Fantasyland far behind as we settled into our new resort for 9 days over Christmas, Sands Golf and RV Resort. It is a nice resort with plenty of Canadian’s mainly from BC and Alberta. It has close to 500 sites, but I would say only 250-300 are occupied. Our friends the Hilliers would like it as it has a nice 9 hole golf course (5-par 4; 4 par 3).

The park occupants are quite friendly, as you would expect Canadian’s to be. They have a great pool and two large hot tubs that we have enjoyed all week. They also have 3 dog parks which Jazz has thoroughly enjoyed getting to chase her ball and also getting a chance to “sniff” the neighbors as they sniff her.

We weren’t sure what the climate might be like here and we have experienced quite a variable week. Two things for sure, we have not seen a drop of rain and every day has had clear blue skies. The first couple of days we had mid 60’s weather dropping to low 50 at night. Monday the temp was up to 80 with Tuesday around 75 then it started to decline on Christmas Eve – still in mid 60’s. The last few days have been in the mid 50’s and last night as we went to bed it was 34 deg out! There was more snow visible on the distant mountains this today. Besides that, the area has several hundred wind turbines….nope we didn’t miss that experience either! On Christmas Eve, the winds started up and continued for about a day and half. Well at 3 am on Christmas Eve, we still had our awning out ½ way so Kathy and I ventured out to put it away. It’s a good thing we did, as about ½ hour later the winds really picked up. The seasonal neighbors say this is quite common and it can last for 5-6 days with constant 60 mph winds. Now we know why the turbines were installed here.

On Tuesday we biked into DHS to check out what they had. A K-Mart, a couple of grocery stores, some fast food and Walgreens. That was about it. DHS is on a bus line about 8-10 miles away from Palm Springs, so it must be a bedroom community for the workers in Palm Springs – resorts, restaurants, stores.

On Wednesday, it was time for me to hit the links to see if I could find some birdies. I used a few loaner clubs on Monday at the driving range and fared OK, so I was hopeful for a better set when a played a round.  As it turned out, Christmas Eve morning was not busy at all so I was out solo for 9 holes. Hit the ball fairly well. After 1 ½ hours I decided I may as well pay for another 9 since I already had the rented clubs and went out for another solo taking about 1 ¼ hours. I think I will be set when Bryn and Melissa get here next week. Bryn golfs a lot more than I do!

Christmas Day in the afternoon, we joined about 90 other park residents and had a pot luck dinner at 2 in the afternoon. It had quite a selection of food and we ended up sitting beside another couple that had a lot in common with us. They were from the San Francisco Bay area and had just retired in October, bought a Class C motor home similar to ours, sold their home and where going full time RV’ing for 2 years. They were maybe a couple of years older than us. We had lots of interesting discussion.

On Saturday we decided we needed to explore Palm Springs to see what all the fuss has been about with movie stars, directors, producers and other rich elite creating this posh haven for the past 70 years. We biked to DHS leaving at 9:30 and put our bikes on the front of the bus (new experience) and a dollar and 30 minutes later we landed in downtown Palm Springs. We actually locked up the bikes and walked the main strip (Palm Canyon Drive), enjoyed a coffee in the sun watching the interesting mix of people and what they were wearing. Afterwards, we took one of the marked bike trails through the north end looking at many very unique and I’m sure expensive homes and estates. Beautiful streets! It was now 1:30pm so we biked back to the downtown and grabbed some lunch (Eggs Benny) at an outdoor café watching the crowds that had increased since the morning.  We caught a bus and arrived back home by 4:30 and Jazz was relieved to see us. Down to the dog park for some fun and “relief”! Palm Springs is a unique spot with the many top notch golf courses around and is certainly a beautiful setting. There is plenty of shopping for tourists and locals (highend art shops) who can afford these things. I guess it’s a great get away for the rich and famous to leave LA or other large suburban places behind. We’re quite happy with Lake Erie!

Sunday is our final day in DHS and there are many chores to be done prior to leaving tomorrow for a resort outside of San Diego for a week. Our son Bryn and his girlfriend Melissa are flying in tomorrow to San Diego to spend a week, so we are really looking forward to that. No doubt some sightseeing and golf will be on the agenda for the next week.

Until we meet at the perch again, keep squawking!

Oh and by the way, Happy New Year and all the best in 2015!!!!

Jazz-loving the big dog park
Jazz-loving the big dog park
"Suntime" - in the desert"
“Suntime” – in the desert”
Not Palm Springs - this is our street called "Burning Tree" after a golf course
Not Palm Springs – this is our street called “Burning Tree” after a golf course
Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs
More money.....dripping - but are they happy?
More money…..dripping – but are they happy?
Beautiful residential "money" streets
Beautiful residential “money” streets
Odonnell Golf Course(Private) right in town-PS
Odonnell Golf Course(Private) right in town-PS
No shortage of palms heading into the ritzy area
No shortage of palms heading into the ritzy area
At the PS Hyatt
At the PS Hyatt
Palm Springs downtown
Palm Springs downtown
Mountain range behind park
Mountain range behind park
We like our fireplaces in the winter, so Christmas Eve we found a "Youtube" fire to put on TV
We like our fireplaces in the winter, so Christmas Eve we found a “Youtube” fire to put on TV
All set for Christmas - our tree inside and a lit parrot outside that Jazz was observing
All set for Christmas – our tree inside and a lit parrot outside that Jazz was observing
What a sunset with the glowing rising over the mountains
What a sunset with the glowing rising over the mountains
Day after arrival to DHS-warm weather coming
Day after arrival to DHS-warm weather coming
Sands Resort Pool and Hot tubs
Sands Resort Pool and Hot tubs
Sands Pool
Sands Pool

 

 

 

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Mickey, Goofy and Santa

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December 16-19, 2014

We arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon and we were very happy we had decided not to stop and have lunch on the way as by the time we entered into LA it was already after 2 pm and rush hour had begun. Had we left it any later the traffic would have been much worse. It took us well over 1 hour to get through LA and we arrived at Anaheim Resort RV Park around 4 pm. On the way, we drove past Santa Claus Lane (see pic) which made it feel even more like it was the Christmas season.

Our RV Resort’s slogan is ” It feels like we’re camping in Mickey’s Backyard” and that is very true. We are just a few blocks from Disneyland and we have a shuttle that takes us right from our RV park into Disneyland every 20 minutes all day long. At night we can watch the nightly Firework display clearly from our park which means we don’t have to stay at the park that late in order to see the show. Jazz is happy we are with her when the Fireworks start as she is very afraid of the noise.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday in Disneyland going on a lot of rides and seeing the shows. Rob met Goofy yesterday which was a highlight for him (see pic). We really enjoyed the Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean and Matterhorn Bobsleds. I thought my days of going on Roller Coasters were behind me but boy was I wrong. Most of the rides we went on were roller coaster type rides. Thursday by the end of the day I was feeling like I had been both shaken and stirred!  (And Linda – it wasn’t even Martini night! lol)

We ended that day by taking in the performance of Mickey and the Magical Map at the Fantasyland Theatre and then we rode the Monorail all around the park so we could see all of the beautiful Christmas lights everywhere. Then it was off to Downtown Disney for dinner at The House of Blues, and then back to our RV Resort for a lovely and much needed hot tub.

Today – Friday we are having a quiet day at the RV resort enjoying the pool and hot tub and tonight we have tickets to see Dave Koz and Friends Christmas in concert in nearby Cerritas, CA. We will grab a cab and go out for dinner before the concert so it should be a wonderful evening!

Tomorrow we head off to the Desert – Palm Springs here we come for a 9 day stay at The Sands RV and Golf Resort. We are looking forward to spending a relaxing Christmas week at the resort and enjoying the many things to see in the area.

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from our perch to yours and may the magic of the season bring peace and happiness to you and your Family.

Squawk to you again after Christmas.

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We have arrived at the Happiest and Merriest place on earth!
We have arrived at the Happiest and Merriest place on earth!

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The best looking Pirate ever!
The best looking Pirate ever!
The beginning of the Christmas Disney parade
The beginning of the Christmas Disney parade
Hi Mickey and Minnie!
Hi Mickey and Minnie!
And Tigger too - whoohoohooo
And Tigger too – whoohoohooo
Frozen
Frozen
Santa has arrived in Disneyland
Santa has arrived in Disneyland
Rob being goofy with Goofy!
Rob being goofy with Goofy!
It's a Small World ride
It’s a Small World ride
Walt and Mickey in front of the beautifully lit Castle
Walt and Mickey in front of the beautifully lit Castle
Main Street Disney at night
Main Street Disney at night
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Pismo Beach Update

Dec 14-15

Our final couple of days at Pismo Beach were laid back and rather uneventful. Sunday morning I headed south about 2-3 miles on the bike heading towards “the Dunes”. Biking on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) – yes there is a bike lane – I passed the Butterfly grove, Grover CA then arrived at Oceano CA. Oceano is a small village that is all about the Dunes. Beyond the gates at the beach, this is a CA state park. If you want to take your vehicle on the beach you pay $5 and go at your own risk. There is quite a bit of activity out there so if you get stuck, run out of potable water, need some air for your tires, it’s all out there for a price. They recommend that you lower your tire pressure before entering the beach to about 20 lbs so your vehicle will go over the sand better.

I biked down the beach for about 1/2 mile then met a creek that I wasn’t going to try to bike through, so I couldn’t get any closer to the RV/ATV village further up.

After I got back to the RV, we walked into town looking for ” the T-shirt” and found them. Over to the pier to watch the surfers, then a cold drink overlooking the beach – Sunday afternoon!

Monday, was a day to regroup and do some future planning, laundry etc..

Off to see Mickey tomorrow!

Pismo Pier
Pismo Pier
"Cali boys" surfing beside the Pismo Pier
“Cali boys” surfing beside the Pismo Pier
A faithful bird in the nearby lagoon - a Black Crested Night Heron
A faithful bird in the nearby lagoon – a Black Crested Night Heron
Miles of beach
Miles of beach
ATV rentals is a big business in Oceano at the Dunes
ATV rentals is a big business in Oceano at the Dunes
An RV and "offroad" community down the beach - I couldn't get to due to a creek
An RV and “offroad” community down the beach – I couldn’t get to due to a creek
Massive Dunes - Oceano CA
Massive Dunes – Oceano CA
RV's on the Beach! Not ours...
RV’s on the Beach! Not ours…

 

Late afternoon silhouette - Pismo Beach
Late afternoon silhouette – Pismo Beach
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It’s Christmas time….Santa is everywhere

Dec 9-13

We are in the region where it seems like Santa is everywhere – Santa Lucia Mountain range, towns and cities – Santa Margarita, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara….

The area we have been parked in since Tuesday evening is a string of popular beach and surf towns along the “central coast” as they like to be referred to.  We are in Pismo Beach, which seems to be the hub for the area and to our north is Shell Beach and Avila Beach and directly south (1/2 mile from us) is Grover Beach. Grover Beach has a ramp onto the beach where for $5 you have access to several miles of beach if you want to drive on it. A couple of miles down there are supposed to be massive sand dunes where you can rent ATV’s, dune buggies and go wild. I intend to bike down there today (Sunday) to check this out.

On the Wednesday after arriving, we walked around town to orient ourselves and found one of the popular places in Pismo – the bakery with their famous cinnamon sticky buns. A couple of coffee’s and a large bun in hand, we headed to the pier/boardwalk area to soak up the sun and enjoy the treat. This time of year is much quieter with the cooler weather, so the boardwalk and street were pretty quiet.

We went back to the RV in the early afternoon and had a quick lunch. The weather was supposed to be turning on Thursday with a big storm coming, so with the nice weather we walked over to the Monarch Butterfly Grove to check this out. It was free (my favourite 4 letter word!) It is about a 10-15 minute walk directly south of us. As we approached the grove was strong fragrance of eucalyptus as the grove was predominantly these trees. When you first look up you see a few monarchs flying around then some of the guides point out the clumps of butterflies in the trees. See pic’s. A sign as we walked in had an estimate in the grove of 30,000 monarchs. They also had a few telescopes set up to get some real good close-ups.

For the next day and ½ the main talk was the Monster storm hitting from the Pacific. We did get rain all night Thursday and it ended in the early morning. Thursday night as we watched TV, the winds picked up a lot and the RV was rocking pretty well to the point that we had to take down our Christmas tree from it’s over the cab location.

Friday we walked over the local Outlet Mall to do a bit of shopping in the morning then after lunch we biked over to Grover Beach to a beachside restaurant called “Fins” that I had found the day before. When we got there it was closed as they had lost their power. So into Grover Beach we went and found another nice place for lunch. When we got back to camp, there was quite a few RV’s coming in for the weekend – locals with their families, dressing up their RV’s for Christmas.

The sun was shining brightly on Saturday, so later in the morning we decided to bike to the other end of Pismo Beach(north) and beyond. We ended up in Shell Beach and saw some pricey looking homes right on the coast. We never did see a beach as we were beside 150’ cliffs. After a 6-7 mile bike ride we were back in Pismo for a late lunch at an outdoor eatery. Pismo was a bit busier being the weekend. On the way back we picked up some firewood for an early evening campfire as there had been many around over the past 1-2 nights. At night the temps are going down to the high 40’s and low 50’s. Some days we have seen temps up in the mid 60’s with plenty of sun. All is good.

Sunday, Funday!

We’ll squawk later in the week.

Clumps of Monarchs
Clumps of Monarchs
More monarchs
More monarchs
More
More
Trees full of butterflies
Trees full of butterflies
Pismo sunset
Pismo sunset
The Christmas tree at the end of Pismo Pier
The Christmas tree at the end of Pismo Pier
A Saturday night lighted golf cart parade in the park
A Saturday night lighted golf cart parade in the park
Coffee and a sticky treat at the pier
Coffee and a sticky treat at the pier
Pismo Pier
Pismo Pier

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drive the beach for $5 or head over to the dunes
drive the beach for $5 or head over to the dunes
Looking at the town of Shell Beach - where's the beach?
Looking at the town of Shell Beach – where’s the beach?
From Shell Beach looking back towards Pismo and the dunes beyond
From Shell Beach looking back towards Pismo and the dunes beyond
Resting and soaking in the rays
Resting and soaking in the rays-Saturday
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4 miles north of San Simeon – Elephant Seals

December 8

Our day at Hearst Castle was over but the day wasn’t. A short drive up the coast we arrive at the Piedras Blanco Rookery – home of the Elephant Seals. To read and learn about these seals is quite fascinating. Again, I will try to be brief. When we arrived, there were 150-200 seals. The males start arriving to this beach late November through December and the females mid December to mid January.  The males can get to be upwards of 5,000 lbs. (no I didn’t add a zero) whereas the females are up to 2,000 lbs. When they come to shore they fast from Nov to March(males) where the bulls can lose up to one ton of their weight. The females arrive pregnant from the previous Feb/Mar and give birth in the Jan-Feb months. The female will give birth to a 70 lb baby feeding it for 4 weeks where the infant will quadruple in size and the mother will lose up to 40% of her weight. After 4 weeks, the female will mate several times and shortly after leave the coast. Family life is over. The infant is now on its own! The males will stay around until all females have left then head to the sea. During their time at the rookery, the seals are quite social but once they leave, they are out to sea on their own, especially the males. For the next 8-9 months they will dive and eat usually never coming onto land. They will dive several thousand feet, staying at the surface for only a few short minutes at a time.

Ok, thus ends today’s lesson!

From the rookery at around 3:00pm, we headed south about 50 miles towards out next week stay at Pismo Beach.

That’s the daily poop!

Our first view of the "rookery"
Our first view of the “rookery”
A Bull and his harem
A Bull and his harem
On of the Bulls
One of the Bulls

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A social gathering
A social gathering
One of the bulls
One of the bulls
More
More
Pismo Beach sunset at arrival
Pismo Beach sunset at arrival
PB Sunset
PB Sunset
Males fighting for dominance
Males fighting for dominance
More fighting - last only a few seconds, then they rested
More fighting – last only a few seconds, then they rested
Morro Bay - The Rock!
Morro Bay – The Rock!

 

 

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Going Coastal….

Dec 8th

On Monday morning we left our week long retreat in Bakersfield and once again headed towards the coast. After stocking up with supplies including a live 3’ Christmas tree from Walmart (and lights), we headed towards Paso Robles for a night. The park was only 2 years old and very nicely constructed with stamped concrete sites and lots of space and gardens between sites. We headed for the pool and hot tub in the late afternoon for some of the final rays of the day. The only downfall of this park is that it is located right beside Hwy 101! The row we were in was the closest to the highway – my estimate was 150’ away. Our sleep that night wasn’t too quiet or restful.

Anyway, it got us closer to our main destination the next day which was Hearst Castle at San Simeon, CA. http://hearstcastle.org/ I have listed their website here for those interested and I will try to be short in the narrative and let some of the pictures do the talking. William Randolph Hearst was an eccentric man who was a media baron owning 26 newspapers, magazines like Harpers Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Good housekeeping, and a movie production company. He had a rich father and when he was 10 he and his family toured Europe for 1 ½ years, which is where he got all his grandeur ideas for the castle he was to build later in life. When Hearst owned the castle, which is now managed by the California Parks Commission, they had 250,000 acres. The acreage has now been reduced to 82,000’ which the Hearst family still raise cattle on. Back to his story….briefly. He started building the castle back in the early 1900’s and ran out of money at the time, but by the late 30’s he was back at construction with the help of a architect from San Francisco-Julia Morgan. After 15 years of construction, it was at the point where he could move in, but it was by no means finished – still unfinished today. He was an avid art collector and with his wealth he was able to bring literally boatloads of art and items to use in the construction. He would find abandoned church’s, etc and disassemble entire ceilings, pews etc. to be used later. See pic’s. The tour we took was the Grand Rooms tour. The main house called Casa Grande is 68,000’ with 38 bedrooms and 30 bathrooms. There are 3 “cottages” ranging from 2,500’ to 5,300’. The tour began in the Assembly Room. Often he would have weekend guests, usually rich business people or movie stars (Charlie Chaplin – often) and in the evening before dinner they would “assemble” in this grand room having happy hour waiting for their host to arrive. He would arrive and mingle a bit then it was off to the Refectory (dining room)-see pics. After dinner the guests would continue on to the Morning Room (also used for morning coffee) to wait for the staff to clean up the dinner. At that time, they all would go to the theatre, including staff, to watch home movies or feature films.

After our tour, inside, we were free to roam the gardens, pools and the rest of the outdoor property. It was beautiful and just kept going on and on. Incredible! In his time, Hearst had the largest private zoo in the U.S. The remnants of that now are Barbary sheep and a herd of Zebra that roam the range with the cattle.

Hopefully I haven’t been too wordy and I’ll let the pictures provide more insight into this man’s vision.

Santa Lucia Range
Santa Lucia Range
Towards the Billiards Room
Towards the Billiards Room
The Morning Room - a poinsettia tree
The Morning Room – a poinsettia tree
Refectory-dining room
Refectory-dining room
One of the tapestries in the Assembly room - at least 15' x 20'
One of the tapestries in the Assembly room – at least 15′ x 20′
Assembly Room
Assembly Room
Assembly room
Assembly room
In the "Assembly Room"- the fireplace
In the “Assembly Room”- the fireplace
The "view" from 1,700'
The “view” from 1,700′
front doors
front doors
Barbary sheep
Barbary sheep
a 4 1/2 mile winding drive up the hill (zoom lense)
a 4 1/2 mile winding drive up the hill (zoom lense)

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Heading North - just a little bit
Heading North – just a little bit

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Billiards Room
The Theatre
The Theatre
A sconce?
A sconce?
Thousands of European artwork everywhere - many dating back several centuries
Thousands of European artwork everywhere – many dating back several centuries

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Terraces
Terraces
More terraces
More terraces
Even more......
Even more……

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Neptune Pool-drained for repairs
Neptune Pool-drained for repairs

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Gardens everywhere
Gardens everywhere

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Doorway to the Indoor Roman Pool
Doorway to the Indoor Roman Pool

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Roman Pool
Roman Pool
Gold inlays in the floor tiles along the pool
Gold inlays in the floor tiles along the pool

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A few more miles north to the Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancos
A few more miles north to the Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancos
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Just chillaxin……..

Dec 1-7

Our first – a week in one spot!

We have been thoroughly enjoying a restful and quiet week in Bakersfield CA. Bakersfield is in the mid/south central valley of California. They are known for “ag” and “oil”. Neither is doing well at the moment with the depressed world oil prices and the state of California has been in a drought condition for over 3 years, so growing fruits and vegetables is a challenge as well. We are certainly enjoying the lower gas prices as we motor around the nation!

The park we are in has about 2/3 rds “long term” residents in the 120 sites. As we continue to find, there are many transient workers on contracts, etc. that occupy RV parks. This park has been recently constructed and was well done with paved streets, cement patios, grsss and trees, a very nice pool and hot tub (it’s our as no one else seems to go), store, club room, etc..

We haven’t done too much all week. We have had the bikes out three times as on the other side of the Kern River there are 30 miles of paved trails. The Kern River has been dry for at least 3 years due to the drought, so we have to walk the bikes across the river bed to the other side to access the trails. See PIC. Weather has been great all week with the day time temps going into the low to mid 70’s. Unseasonably warm according to the locals. We’re not complaining.

One day we biked over to “downtown” Bakersfield. Nothing too special in a city of 400,000. Tired and quiet. There is  a local country watering hole called The Bull Shed, so we checked it out one night. Probably more exciting later in the evening, but as “retiree’s” we had to be home early.

Other than that, we took the RV out on Thursday for an oil change and check the house battery. Not too much exciting.

Only other thing to report is that there was a small RV Rally here this weekend (about 24-30 people – not sure what they do) and they brought with them all their Christmas decorations, trees, etc.. So when I dug out the 6″ x 8″ box of decorations for Kathy to put up, they just didn’t cut it! I guess we are doing a little shopping tomorrow when we leave here.

Back to the coast tomorrow.

Sunday, Funday – Squawk!!!

 

Going for a bike ride.
Going for a bike ride.
Biking on the Beach?? - Nope - it's the Kern River "riverbed"
Biking on the Beach?? – Nope – it’s the Kern River “riverbed”
Bakersfield sunset - Dec 7
Bakersfield sunset – Dec 7
Flip flops and sunshine......soaking it in FINALLY!
Flip flops and sunshine……soaking it in FINALLY!
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Winding roads, turkeys and pictures worth a 1,000 words…

Nov 26-30

We left the city of Napa on Thursday morning, the US Thanksgiving Day, heading up to much higher grounds. The plan for the next 4 nights was to drive up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range and camp in Groveland for 2 nights then a short drive into Yosemite National Park for 2 nights during the US Thanksgiving weekend. We were only spending 2 nights in Yosemite as we were “dry” camping. No electrical or water services. We had our holding tank and generator, but were still somewhat limited.

The Groveland park was about 120 miles from Napa and drive was good until the last 20 miles or so as we met the elevation. Going around 12 miles of that at about 15-20 mph so it was a long and winding road to 3,000’. Luckily we were greeted with warm and dry weather that day and on their Black Friday. When you can wear shorts and T-shirts and blog and play board games outside, all is good!

When we arrived around 2 pm the park was not full, but the ones that were there all had their deep fryers out for cooking their turkeys. We didn’t partake in those festivities. That night, at 3,000’ it cooled down fairly well, so we left the camp fire until the next afternoon. Many campers left during the day on Black Friday, for the day, so it was real quiet in the park which suited us fine.

Saturday morning we were up and out early heading to one of the grand daddies of National Parks. We had heard of snow expected at elevations above 6,000’ but our camp in Yosemite Village is at around 4,000’ so we thought we wouldn’t see any. That wasn’t the case! What we didn’t know is that we had to climb from 3,000’ to over 6,000’ that morning and as we did, guess what – big snow flurries. Shortly after this we began our descent to around 4,000’ which is where the Yosemite Village is located amongst the valley floor, surrounded by monster mountains.

Needless to say once on our way and when we arrived, the “shutterbug” was in engaged. There is too much to talk about covering the next 2 days, but I will try to surmise the visit. Needless to say, everywhere we turned, awesome sites abounded. Once we settled in on the early Saturday afternoon, the bikes were out so we could orientate ourselves around the village. We headed off to see Mirror Lake and Halfdome. Mirror Lake is a dry lake until winter snow and spring runoff fill it up, so that day we walked the lake bottom. It was basically a big beach. For those that know the clothing line “The North Face”, the Halfdome in the logo was inspired from here. See pics.

We did some more roaming around that afternoon then headed back to camp for a fire to warm us up. Temps at night went down to the high 30’s so we were glad to be high and dry and warmer in the RV. The next day we had booked a 2 hr bus tour to show us all the sites on the “valley floor” beginning at 10 am. It was very informative. One item I’ll share here is that these sheer rock faces are a Mecca for rock climbers world wide. One rock face is called El Capitan. There are a couple of pictures below, one were you will see a small red highlight with a dot above it. Zoom the picture if you can and you will see a climbing platform suspended by ropes were climbers will sleep during the night – at around 1,500’ elevation. El Capitan is 3,000’ in height and the tour guide said the average time to climb it is between 2-7 days. Some have set records though at under a day. Looking at the sheer size of the rock face and this little speck is incredible. Try to zoom the pic and you will see the platform/tent and several ropes nearby.

There was lots of wild life around, mainly deer but bears were prevalent in the area, so any tenter’s had to keep all food products, coolers, etc. in a bear box which you will see in the picture of us by the campfire.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story on our exciting time in Yosemite National Park.

On Monday we head off to much lower elevation heading south to Bakersfield to relax for a week – at one site! That will be a first and we are looking forward to it as we have exceeded 5,000 miles (8,000km) so far. I estimate another 6,000 miles for the next 5 months, so obviously it will be at a much slower pace.

Until then, we’ll be on the perch for the next week.

Climbing the Sierra Nevada's around 3,000'
Climbing the Sierra Nevada’s around 3,000′
US Turkey Day! Yosemite Pines - Groveland (warm and dry)
US Turkey Day! Yosemite Pines – Groveland (warm and dry)
Saturday on the way to Yosemite - vegetation disappearing at 6,000'
Saturday on the way to Yosemite – vegetation disappearing at 6,000′
First glimpse of Yosemite's awesome views
First glimpse of Yosemite’s awesome views
On the "edge"
On the “edge”
Small tree's with deep burgundy trunks and bright green leaves - what are they??
Small tree’s with deep burgundy trunks and bright green leaves – what are they??
Some of the steel grey granite that almost looks fake
Some of the steel grey granite that almost looks fake
winding our way to Yosemite
winding our way to Yosemite
Dry camping in Yosemite NP
Dry camping in Yosemite NP

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Real or fake?
Real or fake?
Mirror Lake - at the base of Halfdome. It's dry until the first snow and the spring run off
Mirror Lake – at the base of Halfdome. It’s dry until the first snow and the spring run off

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Raven's - huge birds and smart. They also make several different sounds, one which sounds like a turkey
Raven’s – huge birds and smart. They also make several different sounds, one which sounds like a turkey
A ponderosa pine and our bikes
A ponderosa pine and our bikes

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Lower Yosemite Falls
Lower Yosemite Falls
Buck!
Buck!
El Capitan - 3,000 of sheer rock face straight up
El Capitan – 3,000 of sheer rock face straight up
The climber's rest and sleeping pod - at 1,500' suspended by ropes
The climber’s rest and sleeping pod – at 1,500′ suspended by ropes
Look for the dot to the middle left, right above the red line I inserted
Look for the dot to the middle left, right above the red line I inserted – climbers rest spot suspended by ropes

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A view in Yosemite Valley and all the different mountains within it
A view in Yosemite Valley and all the different mountains within it

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Halfdome - the "North Face" emblem
Halfdome – the “North Face” emblem
The North Face - Half dome logo and it's inspiration behind me
The North Face – Half dome logo and it’s inspiration behind me
Checking out the bark on a "baby"  Sequoia tree - very thick and spongy bark
Checking out the bark on a “baby” Sequoia tree – very thick and spongy bark
Upper Yosemite Falls
Upper Yosemite Falls
Jazz and me out for a walk
Jazz and me out for a walk
Happy Isle Bridge
Happy Isle Bridge
Campfire - rain was sprinkling thus the umbrella's. Note the bearbox in the background for tenter's to keep their foo/coolers inj.
Campfire – rain was sprinkling thus the umbrella’s. Note the bearbox in the background for tenter’s to keep their foo/coolers inj.
Heading south to the San Joaquin Valley
Heading south to the San Joaquin Valley
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When is wine country……..

November 23rd and 24th

Our first full day in Calistoga began with beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the high 60’s. We took Jazz for a walk through the downtown and checked out the local Visitor Information centre to learn what all the area had to offer. Lots of wineries of course!! The downtown  had a lot of shops similar to what is in Niagara on the Lake but on a larger scale. The population of the town is approximately 1600. The town has a lot of Hot Spring Spas to enjoy and many great restaurants. Once we had our bearings, we returned to the RV, dropped off Jazz after grabbing a bite to eat and we took off on our bikes to go on a winery tour. Our first stop was at Lava Vine Winery. This winery is owned by 3 guys who were quite entertaining the whole time we were there. Their wine was not bad but the whole experience itself was a lot of fun. We continued on our wonderful bike ride through wine country stopping briefly at Clos Pegase Winery, Sterling Winery (which we decided we would check out thoroughly another day as it was very big and busy) and finally we ended up at Twomey Winery which was a great stop. The tasting server was extremely informative and we learned a lot about the winery and the Napa Valley in general while we were there. He even gave us 2 free really nice wine glasses . Sunday night we enjoyed pasta at Boskos’s Trattoria for dinner. As we were walking back to the RV we found live entertainment at the Hydro Grill being performed by a  group of 7 Swing Musicians performing Jazz music. The music was great and it was a perfect way to end our day. Monday morning we again woke to beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. We set off on our bikes again, this time taking a totally different wine route. We first went to Chateau Montelena . In 1976 Chateau Montelena helped put California at the forefront of the wine world. That year a who’s-who of the French wine and food establishment gathered for a grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. Four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. When the scores were tallied, the French Judges were convinced that the top-ranking white wine was one of their own. In fact, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines. The results proved that Chateau Montelena could produce some of the world’s finest wines, and that California’s wine industry had come of age. This is how California became famous for it’s wines. Check out the movie Bottle Shock (made in 2008) which tells the story. We watched it this past week on Netflix and really enjoyed it. After Chateau Montelena we rode to Bennett Lane Winery as well as Envy Winery and enjoyed tastings at each one. Again we learned a lot about wines and the region from the people at each winery. It was time for lunch and a bit of relaxing at the campsite after all that wine! We knew we still had more wineries to visit and more sampling to do the next day so we had to get ready for that! On Monday, November 24th we packed up the RV and headed down Hwy 29 toward the city of Napa where we would spend 2 days. On the way, we revisited Sterling Winery which was very impressive. To get to the actual winery you take an aerial tram (Gondola) which is the only one of its kind in Napa Valley, offering stunning views as visitors ride up to the winery. You are greeted with a glass of wine to enjoy while you stroll through art galleries, overlooks, and elevated walkways that allow guests to follow the winemaking process from grape to glass. Along the way, motion-activated flat-screen televisions provide detailed explanations. This arrangement lets guests tour the winery at their own pace. It was an amazing tour and we came away from there with some delicious wines which we will do our best to try and keep to age awhile before we enjoy them. Next stop was just as impressive but in a different way. We went to Castello di Amorosa which is an authentic Tuscan Castle modelled after a 13th Century castle built by Dario Sattui in Napa Valley because of his passionate, all-consuming desire to create something extraordinary to honour his Italian heritage. It took 15 actual years to construct. It is 121,000 square feet (3 acres of rooms), has 5 defensive towers with battlements, 2000 pound hand-hewn doors from Italy, 107 distinctive rooms – 95 of them devoted to winemaking and 8 levels – 4 of which are underground which makes 2/3’s of the Castello underground. Our server told us that every rock and or reclaimed brick used to construct it came from Europe. You will see from the pictures how many would have had to have been shipped over. It was an amazing place to visit. Check out the website: http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/   if you would like to learn more. The wine they make is only sold at the Winery so of course we had to buy some there as well! Last stop before we arrived in the city of Napa was at the Robert Mondavi Winery. For those of you who know me well, you know that Mondavi’s Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon is my absolute favorite wine to drink. So, I could not have possibly driven by and not gone in for a visit. We were at the Mondavi winery back in 2000 which is when I first discovered his wines and that is where the story began. Anyway, we had a great time there as well and of course we had to do some more sampling. We arrived in Napa in the late afternoon and set up camp in the Napa Valley Exposition Fairgrounds RV Park which was very similar to the Fairground RV Park we had camped in in Calistoga. These RV parks in Fairgrounds are a great idea. They come with all hookups including free Wifi and we quite enjoyed our stay in both parks. The following morning we set out on foot to explore the downtown area of Napa. Napa is quite a big city with a population of approximately 75,000 people. The downtown had a lot of restaurants and shops in it. We saw a lot of buildings which were damaged in the earthquake that just happened there this past August which measured at 6.0 in magnitude. Many of the damaged buildings were their government buildings – the Post office, courthouse etc. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at The Bounty Hunter BBQ restaurant. Then we returned to the RV and spent the rest of the afternoon reading our books while enjoying the sunshine. No wine that day!!! On Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.) we hit the road and headed in the direction of Yosemite National Park. More to follow on this in our next Blog. Let’s just say it was another eventful drive with me at the helm again.

On the riverside in Napa
On the riverside in Napa
Mural in the City of Napa depicting the city's early days
Mural in the City of Napa depicting the city’s early days
More vineyards as we are leaving Napa
More vineyards as we are leaving Napa
We have arrived at Mondavi Winery
We have arrived at Mondavi Winery
Winetasting at Mondavi winery
Winetasting at Mondavi winery
Entrance to Robert Mondavi Winery
Entrance to Robert Mondavi Winery
The Great Hall
The Great Hall
The Courtyard
The Courtyard
The Chapel
The Chapel
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa
The drawbridge at the castle
The drawbridge at the castle

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The Sterling gondola ride
The Sterling gondola ride
View of the countryside from up at Sterling Winery
View of the countryside from up at Sterling Winery

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Us in front of the Chateau
Us in front of the Chateau
In 1976 this wine put Napa on the map.
In 1976 this wine put Napa on the map.
View from up in the Gondola at Sterling winery
View from up in the Gondola at Sterling winery
Vineyard shot from bike path going back into town
Vineyard shot from bike path going back into town
Chateau Montelena
Chateau Montelena
Orange tree at the Chateau
Orange tree at the Chateau
Close up of Sterling vinyards
Close up of Sterling vinyards
Entrance to Sterling Winery
Entrance to Sterling Winery
On our first wine tasting bike ride.
On our first wine tasting bike ride.

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