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Old 03-02-2012, 07:19 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2011
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Default while you were working (or whatever) part 10

Trip C (continued) Feb 4th to March 1st, 2012 9796 to 12575 trip miles

remember: <wow> = fill in your own superlative, we’ve run out : )

We had a nice 4 day stay with Marti’s high school friend Cathy and her husband Mohan in Arroyo Grande CA. Their beautiful home is inland a few miles, but up on a hill, and there is a gorgeous view of the city and the ocean from there. It had been 35 years since they last saw each other, so there was a lot a catching up to do, despite staying in touch all those years.

We watched the “Super Super Bowl” on Sunday; Marti is so happy for Giants Coach Tom Coughlin! Maybe they’ll have another parade for him this summer in Waterloo, NY (his and Marti’s hometown), like they did in 2008. He is so modest and unassuming that he passed up on riding in a convertible, and instead walked the parade route, stopping and shaking hands with many in the crowd. Someone painted a huge mural of his high school sports exploits (varsity all four years in football, basketball, and baseball!), college sports, and the Super Bowl, on the entire side of a building to honor him, and he autographed it at the end of the parade. BTW, Marti also likes to point out that Waterloo was the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866.

While we in Arroyo Grande, we went down to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pismo Beach; quite small, but thousands (maybe tens of thousands?) of Monarch butterflies winter and breed there. Marti is happy again! We don’t have many butterflies in Western New York anymore, and she has planted various things to try to encourage them to visit us. On this trip, we’ve picked up a lot of seeds of various ilk’s in the hopes there’ll be more visiting our home. We also did some sight-seeing, driving the coast a bit, and looked at a few houses for sale.

After our visit to Arroyo Grande, we drove down to Lompoc (by Vandenberg Air Force Base) and the quaint little Danish town of Solvang. I know, I know, I’m always knocking touristy towns like Carmel, but this one is pretty nice and not “oppressive” like many. Couldn’t find the cable car (or similar) that was parked somewhere in town back in 1971; I remember ringing the bell in it back then. We headed back to Morro Bay, and looked at a house there too; we’re still suffering from “sticker shock” out here. While in Morro Bay, the heavy fog that we’re told is there for most of June, July, and August rolled in for a day, and “you could cut it with a knife”. Not sure we’d like to put up with that real often. Also while we were there, we hit 10,000 miles for this trip.

Eventually, we were on our way again, but not south or east, say to Death Valley, or Zion, or Bryce Canyon, which are on our list along with many other things, but instead taking a 2000+ mile detour back north. This time we mostly zipped up US 101 rather than the much slower (but phenomenally scenic) CA Route 1 along the coast. And we skipped fighting our way through San Francisco this time on 101, instead detouring through nearby Oakland up to San Rafael, and thereby back to 101. Route 101 can be anything from a two lane road in some rural areas (sometimes winding and steep, sometimes going through small towns), to a ten lane highway in urban areas, and in San Francisco, it is just plain city streets for awhile; very eclectic. We stopped for the night in Petaluma (the KOA there is very nice), and drove around town a bit, looking for the real Mel’s Diner and/or other places that American Graffiti was filmed at, but we didn’t find any obvious ones. American Graffiti is one of our favorite films, especially the scene where they tie the rear axle of the police car to a lamp post <tee hee>. Anyway, while it is widely believed the film was shot in Modesto, it was not, but rather mostly in Petaluma.

We continued northward to Eureka, stopping for the night, and then on to Crescent City, where we again stopped for a couple of nights. Between those two towns we detoured off 101 to the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood Grove Trail, part of the National Park Service stuff. The road from 101 climbs very steeply: think San Francisco street, but for 2-3/4 miles, rising about 1500 feet total. But then there is a very nice (and very easy) 1 mile hike around the grove, and well worth the gallon of gasoline (really!) that it took to get the Roadtrek up to the parking lot.

In Crescent City, we again talked to another realtor, and looked at a few homes. Hmm ... Had lunch/dinner at the Chart Room Restaurant on the harbor and watched the seals; amazingly, they weren’t bothered by our walking just a few feet from where they were lying on the rocks. Also talked to mortgage broker about financing a house (eek, can we really afford that?).

Then on north into Oregon, and we stopped at the Arch Rock lookout, just south of Gold Beach. We stayed at the great campground at Bullard’s Beach State Park, Bandon OR. The next day we stopped at the Coquille Lighthouse, and then on to Yachats (pronounced “ya-hahts”), Waldport, Newport, & Depoe Bay to drive by homes we might be interested in. We met with our (soon to be, favorite) realtor, “Miss Vickie”, and then stayed at the Beverly Beach State Park.

The next day, Miss Vickie took us to actually look at some houses that we were interested in seeing inside; wow! Who cares if it rains all the time here! We eliminated all but one of the houses, and since it was currently a rental property, we rented it for five days, to “kick the tires” and “try it on for size”. We did due diligence, and investigated it well, talking with folks at the county and assessor’s offices. Making a long story short, we put in an offer to buy the place. Are we crazy? Yes. Can we afford it? No. Does it have great views of sunsets, the beach, and the ocean (at least when it’s not raining)? Yes!!! And yes, it is about a quarter mile inland from the beach, and over a hundred feet up a hill, so it is high enough to be very safe should a Japanese sized Tsunami come.

The truth is that I had found this place on the internet when we were still down in Arroyo Grande, and pretty much decided that it was worth driving 1000 miles north to see it. And we pretty much decided down in the “central California coast” area, that as wonderful as it is, would be too dry and brown in the summer for our tastes. It takes rain to make everything green, and so we’ll “put up with it”, just as we have been doing in the Northeast. What we won’t have to put up with is snow, except maybe a trace now and then. Unfortunately, our offer was not accepted, and so we looked at other places in the Waldport-Newport area. Many had “possibilities”, but none hit that magical chord (not just yet, anyway); we hope Miss Vickie will keep looking for us, and that correct alignment of the stars will happen. We stayed in the area for a dozen days (mostly at the nice Beverly Beach State Park), and are still hoping we’ll find and buy the right home there. Our stay was long enough that we finally learned (we think) how to say “ore-GON” or even “or-GUN” correctly; it’s NOT, we were told, “OR-e-gon”, as us Yankees (and apparently most of America) say.

Part of the plan was to see this area during what might be the worst weather of the year; if we could like the area now, it wouldn’t be a big problem the rest of the year. While in the area we went to the Wine & Seafood Festival in Newport (emphasis on wine, not seafood, and pretty expensive) and the Yaquina Lighthouse. We also made a round trip to Philomath/Corvallis on Route 34, along the scenic Alsea River, and then back on Route 20. And we squeezed in walks on the beach and other sight-seeing too!

So after spending most of February house hunting, we finally bailed out, heading south and east towards Death Valley in southeastern California, a 1000+ mile trek depending on route. Rather than heading down the coast again, silly me decided to hop over to the flat valley where Interstate 5 runs north and south. Except it is nowhere close to a flat valley! We left mid-afternoon in a BIG rain/wind storm, but had no problems on Route 20 across to I5, and then traveling down I5. We stayed overnight at a rest stop along the highway, and in the morning we were greeted by snow. As we went south on I5, we went up and down over various passes in southern Oregon and northern California, ranging up to around 4000 feet, and occasionally hit some ice on the road. But it had nice grooves in it (the better for traction, my dear), probably cut by the truckers who had used their tire chains overnight. There were still a few trucks running chains when we went through, but many other trucks without them, and as far as we could tell, none of the cars were using them, and so we didn’t take out our brand-spanking-new-ones. It was still very windy. I was sorry that I hadn’t checked better on the elevation through here before crossing over, but on the other hand we had much spectacular scenery. There were beautiful pine (well evergreen anyway) trees on rugged hills, all decked out in snow, and so it was well worth the minor hassle.

I had had thoughts of heading up over the Sierra Nevada mountains (perhaps on I80), and coming south on “the backside” (east side) of Yosemite, etc., but talked myself out of it real quick after seeing the elevations that we would be up to (over 7000 feet) if we went that way. Good thing as we found out later that they had a major snow storm up there; rain tends to do that up in the mountains. So we continued down I5, and eventually dropped down into California’s central valley, a huge area, perhaps big enough to swallow up some of the eastern states. It isn’t dead flat, but we only went between approximately sea level and 600 feet the whole time in hundreds of miles on I5. Mile after mile of all sorts of fruits and vegetables are grown here. Fortunately we were finally south of the huge storm, and the weather was fine. Eventually, we went east on Route 46, stopping the night by the side of the road. Oh, we did 660 miles that day.

In the morning, we continued on 46 until we hit Route 99, and went south to Bakersfield. Just east of that on Route 58, we stopped at the Murray Family Farms which featured lots of incredibly great and super fresh fruit; most of it is grown right there on their farm. Hadn’t even heard of various kinds of “blood oranges” (kind of a contradiction of terms, eh, but they are still orange on the outside, just the inside is deep red) before; they were wonderful, albeit a tad messy. Right after that, the road climbed fairly steeply for mile after mile, going up (and occasionally down) until we got to about 4000 feet before dropping back down to 2500 feet and the relatively flat Mojave Desert. We hit strong winds again (or more correctly, they hit us), even kicking up light sandstorms for awhile.

We meant to go north on Route 14, but missed it. But that was worthwhile as we stopped at the visitor center at the “Borax” mine and refining plant near Boron CA. This is a 3 mile long, 800 foot deep open pit mine, where, if I heard correctly, 40% of the world’s supply of various Boron compounds (a LOT of compounds) come from. It’s a BIG operation. My favorite “get-the-grease-out-from-under-your-fingernails” stuff, “Boraxo”, comes from this stuff, although they sold that operation and brand to another company. Back in the late 1800’s, this stuff was mined in Death Valley, and with no railroads, was hauled out by wagon trains pulled by 10 pairs of mules, hence the laundry soap name “20 Mule Team Borax”. What is amazing is that they trained some of the mules to step over the center chain to the outside of a sharp curve so that the wagons were pulled around the curve properly.

After a short distance more, we turned north on Route 395, so now the fierce wind was a side wind rather than the more beneficial tail wind; ugh. And then we took Route 178 north to Route 190 east into the park. We had bounced up and down in elevation a bit on these roads, but were at about 1500 feet when we started the steep 10 mile climb up to Death Valley National Park. Say what? Isn’t Death Valley below sea level? Yeah, but it is ringed by mountains, and we got almost to 5000 feet before dropping for 17 miles to the valley floor. I have no idea how those mules ever hauled stuff out of here, and their trails wouldn’t have been quite so nice as this road. The road, BTW, was very steep, but not narrow and so winding as those in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.

Dick, Marti, & Glen RT09/10C190P “no more deadlines”
Allegany NY (currently in Death Valley)
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