Thursday, June 5, 2014

Final Thoughts

June 5, 2014.  Home sweet home.
You know, I always love to go on a trip.  There's always some adventure to experience, places to see, things to do, and to eat good food.  But, in the end, there's no place like home.  I always enjoy getting home and sleeping in my bed.

The flights home went just fine.  The 3 hour layover at San Francisco turned into a 5 hour layover, due to delays by United (I'll try to avoid them in the future).  But once on the final leg home, the flight was a bit bumpy, but it went well.

At RDU, we disembarked, went to the baggage carousel, and in just a bit, our luggage arrived.  Called the GF and she picked us up and we went home to Clayton.  Got home about 1am, so we were tired but happy to be back.

Over the course of 13 days, we drove 2,651 miles with the rental car.  It was an adequate car, but lacked some punch once underway.  But it gave us no problem or cause for concern, so all was good.

The weather was just wonderful.  Only a couple bits of rain, and they came at times when it didn't interfere with our activities.  I think the trick is to carry an umbrella so it won't rain.  We both carried one, and they fended off the clouds and rain very well.  We also lucked up on very little fog along the way.  The Pacific coast is famous for having cool, foggy days anytime of the year, and we had just a little fog a couple of days.  We could still see the ocean, so it was very light.

Food was good everywhere we went.  I think Big Sis had one meal she didn't like; I think the pigeon strutting around, casing the joint and us, was part of the reason she was not fond of the meal.  Mine was good, but I didn't like the pigeon trying to get my food, either.  Otherwise, all the meals were good, and some were excellent.  I think the brunch of eggs and razor clams might have been my most unusual and one of the best meals of the trip.

Scenery was unreal.  From the cliffs over the Pacific to Mt St Helens to the huge trees, the scenery was simply beautiful.  I think my favorite spot was on the dirt road near Crescent City, CA, where the ferns covered the forest floor and gigantic redwoods formed a canopy over the land.  It felt like being in a sacred place; so peaceful and calm.

Alcatraz was a great visit.  Listening to the voices and noises in the earphones provided by the NPS, seeing how the inmates lived, and realizing just how isolated they were on the rock made me appreciate freedom again and made me thank my mother for teaching me right from wrong.  I would not like to be locked up in that place.  I'm sure it was cold all the time, and the cells are so small.
 It was a good place for the worst of the worst criminals.

And, again, Big Sis was such a pleasure to travel with.  We talked about childhood and growing up in our family, things each of us did.  Laughed at the things that we did for which we never got caught.  And wondered together about a lot of people from our childhood--where they were, how they were doing, and how their lives had been going.  She is such an easy traveler, she doesn't complain, she gets ready to go in a hurry, likes adventure and doing goofy things, and truly is a great person to travel with.  I am so glad that she agreed to go to Alaska ten years ago when I asked her if she was interested in going.  We've now spent 10 weeks together on the road, and still actually like each other!  That's pretty amazing, in my opinion.

I"ve posted a few pics in this final post, just to let you see one last glimpse of what we saw on the trip.  I'm hoping we'll be on the road together again in 2015!  Ciao....

Monday, May 26, 2014

San Diego

May 26, 2014.  Our last day on the Pacific Coast.  

I think I'm running out of gas, because I have very little to write today. We both are tired. 

We got up, got dressed, and ate breakfast at the hotel. I had promised Bar that we'd go to a Goodwill store today if we could find one, so we went to 3 Goodwill and 1 thrift stores between when we left our hotel until we checked into tonight's hotel.  She found several items that she had to have, and I found some kitchen items that I liked and a couple of surprises for my GF.  I just hope I'm not overweight in my checked bag...  

Because of fatigue, we decided to rest and pack bags this afternoon and evening rather than sightseeing.  I think it was the right thing to do. 

Our hotel for tonight is located very convenient to the car return area, and they have a shuttle to the terminals, so tomorrow should be easy to turn in the car and get to where we need to be to fly home.  Our flight leaves San Diego at 10:15am and flies to San Francisco.  Then we kill 3 hours in the airport before our flight home takes off.  We're scheduled to arrive at RDU at 11:03pm.  GF is picking us up and we'll go to Clayton for the night. 

Big Sis and GF each go to their homes on Wednesday. 

So, the trip is almost done. But not the blog.  I'll write a final post before the weekend to record some overall thoughts about the trip as well as to record some trivia for the final post.  

BTW, I'll post some pics of earlier times so you will have something nice to look at to compensate for my pitiful writing.  Enjoy!  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

LA to Oceanside

May 25, 2014.  
Today was the day for our city tour of Los Angeles.  
We did it; it was good, and we enjoyed the tour, the scenery, and the information.  Hollywood Bowl below.
 I took the Ipad, so I have pictures to show.  Me and Big Sis at Hollywood Bowl.
 I'm not going to write about the tour; it's probably best to just post pics.  Where the pretty people spend their money.  Bar and I didn't buy anything...

After the tour, we walked back to the hotel, retrieved our car, and drove south to Oceanside Beach, where we're staying tonight.  It was another pretty day in California.  

Tomorrow--last day in California.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Felton to Los Angeles

May 24, 2014.  Today was a day of travel mostly.  We had a good breakfast at the hotel and hit the road south, headed to Los Angeles.

A few miles down the road, I pulled into a parking area to take Big Sis down to the water so that she could feel the temperature of Pacific Ocean water and be able to answer the question others might ask:  "How cold is the Pacific Ocean water?"  Only she can answer that question now, but I can say that she did not tarry while her pinkies were submerged in the water.  Her shoes are shown behind her to show that she actually did get her feet wet. But I also have to say that she did it only under duress...

From there, we simply pointed the car southward and drove down Hwys 101 and 1 to Los Angeles.  

We decided last night to do a city tour in LA if everything worked out. We looked on the web to find a tour that we liked, and found one that suited our tastes.  And I looked on the map to see where the pickup place was located.  So, when we were approaching town, I pulled off the highway and drove to where I thought we needed to find a room.  Whew, traffic was packed bumper to bumper as we approached some hotels.

The one I was looking for was not there or had changed hands, so we pulled into another one. Long story made short, we found one that met our needs but almost broke the bank!  Expensive, to say the least, but it's only money, so we stayed there.  Tomorrow, we'll not need to move the car until we leave town, and we can walk to the pick-up place.

After checking in, we decided to walk down to Hollywood Blvd to see where the pick-up place was located.  Man, what a mix of people.  People of every description everywhere!  Packed sidewalks, people in costumes, all races of people, and all nationalities of people. It was crazy-wild.  Not dangerous at all, but just a huge mix of people everywhere.  Quite a show.

We stayed for about an hour and then walked back to the hotel for the night.

I forgot to carry the Ipad with me, so I have no pics of the people to share.  I'll have some for tomorrow.  Instead of pics from today, I'll post a few from earlier in the trip.  Enjoy....

Tomorrow--City Tour.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oakhurst to Felton, CA

Sorry, but another twofer.  Yesterday was a long, tiring day,.

The day started with a good breakfast.  Eggs and sausage is a good way to start any day.  I love a good breakfast (or lunch or dinner)!!  After breakfast, we drove the 15 miles to Yosemite National Park, used my permanent pass to enter, and drove to a grove of the huge trees.  
These trees are known as the Sequoias, slightly smaller cousins to the Giant Redwoods seen earlier.  To me, they looked the same, huge, with deep bark, and all the foilage way up high in the trees.  Beautiful trees.  And, it was pretty cool; 51 degrees in the grove of trees.

A jacket was necessary to be comfortable.

Then to the main attractions; the features known as Half Dome and El Capatain.  To view them from a great angle (accoprding to the literature), we drove to Glacier Point, where a huge valley (the Yosemite Valley) separated us from the Half Dome.  Awesome is what it was.  Just awesome.  I can't describe how huge the granite monolith comprising Half Dome.
 It is something to see.

Then back to the main road to enter Yosemite Valley, to be able to see El Capatain.  The drive was nice, and in a while, there it was, all 3,000 feet of solid granite just off the side of the road.  I think what really gets me amazed is the size of the granite cliff, and knowing it is one solid piece of granite.  
In most places, the granite is in many smaller pieces, but here, it's all in one piece.  Huge doesn't describe it well.

We saw what we came to see, so we headed back across the state.  The central part of the state is agricultural in nature, and we saw a lot of big agricultural operations.  Strawberry fields as far as you could see, orchards for literally miles on both sides of the road, other crops we could not determine what was growing.  Big, big operations, all being irrigated along the way.  I knew California provided a lot of vegetables and fruits for the nation; now I see where they were grown.

Finally, back near the coast, we went through a city that Bar's sister in law lived in years ago, Sunnyvale.  A neat, pretty town from what we saw.

Then southwest towards the coast.  We got on one road, Old La Honda Road, that had no lane or side markers, no guardrails, but was as crooked as the Tail of the Dragon, a world-famous motorcycle road in western NC.  I was enjoying the drive until we met another car in a hairpin curve and missed it by mere inches.  Very close call.  That happened two more times in the 5.5 miles of the road.  Pretty unnerving, to say the least.

That road emptied in La Honda, a small community not too far from the ocean.  By now, it was getting dark, and we needed a place for the night.  Using the gps, I found a motel near Santa Cruz where the office closed at 9pm.  I reserved a cabin, and took off for the motel on dark, curvy roads.  Even though we had an hour, and the motel was 54 miles away, and I drove absolutely as hard as I could on the mountain roads, as we looked out for deer (saw 2), we got there at 9:08.  Thankfullly, they waited up for us.  Whew, that was close.

Once in the cabin, we crashed for the night, both very tired.  
Last night's dinner was a bag of peanuts and a granola bar for me, and a granola bar for Big Sis.  We were too tired to go into the little town to find anything to eat.

this morning, we slept in a little, and left the motel, rode into town, and found Rocky's Grill for breakfast.  Yum!  Bacon and cheese omelette for me, and pancakes for Bar.  Actually, I ate one pancake, too.  Very good with delicious coffee.  A great start for the day.

Then down to US 1 to go south on the coast.

The first 25 or so miles were not on the coast, but instead, through medium sized towns and busy areas.  Finally, the road became a two lane road again and meandered onto the coast.  Through Big Sur, and on southward, with the road following the cliffs over the ocean below.  The road was from 50 feet to about 700 feet above the water, with sometimes only a couple of feet between the pavement and the cliff.  

Big rocks protruding up from the ocean floor, it made for a beautiful drive.  Big Sis liked this a lot.  So did I.

Near the night's destination, we stopped at Elephant Seal beach, where hundreds of elephant seals laid like sunbathers on the beach.  Big ones, little ones.  Black and brown; they were quite a sight and sound as they bawled at each other.  
We watched them swim in from deep water and stop in the surf, waiting for another wave to help push them ashore.  Once ashore, they used their front flippers to flop onto the dry sand.  They would squirm a few feet, stop to rest for a few minutes, and then wiggle a few more feet.  After several stop and gos, they stopped and went to sleep.

Just a few miles south, we stopped for the night.  

It was another very good day with perfect weather again.  We've had outstanding weather on the trip.

Tomorrow--down the coast to Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

San Francisco to Oakhurst, CA

May 21, 2014  Another day in Paradise!  Today was a good day with perfect weather again.  We got up, got dressed, and left the hotel. Since we did not do Lombard St yesterday, it was first on our list for the morning.  In case you don't know about Lombard St, it's billed as the crookedest street in America.   It's straight up a very long hill.  at the top, the road starts downhill with a series of hairpin turns and undulations.  The road surface is made up of brick, and each level of the road is planted on the sides with beautiful flowers and shrubs.  It's just a unique ride down the hill.

After doing Lombard St, we headed to the San Francisco REI store.  It was across town, taking us through the business district into an industrial looking area.  In the store, the customer service desk was friendly, looking up my account and asking what I wanted to do about the problem.  I told her I wanted another pair of pants, so she sent me to get what I wanted, allowing full credit for the pair that was broken.  I found the more modern equivalent to the pants, took them back to her, and she charged me only $11 for the replacements.  

The original pair of the pants were bought around 2005.  I took them to Alaska, and the zipper broke while in Anchorage, so I took them to the store there.  They allowed full credit for the original pants and the replacement pants were exchanged for no cost at all.  But they were exactly the same as the original pants.  So, in essence, I got this pair, nicer than the originals, for $11.  That's why I buy from REI.  You pay a little more, but they stand behind their merchandise.

From there, we crossed the Oakland Bay bridge, a high, long bridge that has 5 lanes going into San Francisco, and 5 lanes leaving San Francisco.  They are on top of each other, with those leaving San Francisco being on bottom, and those going into on top.  Leaving San Francisco is free.  You pay to go into the town.

Then, we rode east to Oakhurst, CA, just south of Yosemite to stay for the night.  

I took no pics today, but, to keep this post interesting, I'll post some pics from earlier in the trip. 

Tomorrow will be Yosemite.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

San Francisco

May 19 and 20, 2014,  Well, here's another twofer.  Both yesterday and today were long, busy days, so I'll just hit the highlights.  

We drove the coast south, taking in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, with huge rocks and cliffs, combined with blue skies all the way south to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Just before getting on the Golden Gate Bridge, we pulled off 101 to get a better look at the bridge.  I'm in awe every time I see it; not really gold in color, but magnificant in its size and height over the bay.  
Then back down the hill to go across the bridge.  When we got to the bridge, we learned that they no longeer collect tolls prior to crossing; they bill the owner for the toll.  I hope the bill is not too high when Bar gets the bill from Avis.  Oh well, that's a change from when Gary and I crossed it just a few years ago.

We found a hotel near the tourist part of town and crashed for the night after walking a block to an Italian place.

Today, we got up and talked to the clerk at the desk of the hotel about ground transportation to the Fisherman's Wharf.  After some discussion, she said we could walk a few blocks, catch a city bus, and pay $1 to ride there.  And it was possible to return the same way.  While the walking was a bit more than I expected, it still worked as she told us.

Down at the wharf, we went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions that lay on low platforms down on the water.  
There were at least a couple hundred sea lions out on the platforms, barking and playing king of the hill as we watched.  Quite entertaining to watch and listen to them.

Then we decided to go to Chinatown so that Big Sis could see and experience this unique place.  It was a long, hard uphill and downhill walk to Chinatown.  It just about did both of us in, going up those steep hills that you used to see in "The Streets of San Francisco".  

We walked a couple of blocks in Chinatown, and I could tell that she was just about to throw up from the odors, so we turned the corner to see the general merchandise they had to offer.  Much more pleasant!!  

Since it was lunchtime, we walked a couple of blocks to the Mona Lisa Ristorante, the same place Gary and I used when we were here.  Delicious as I remembered!

Then we walked back to the waterfront and Pier 33, where we were to pick up our tickets to Alcatraz.  We got there early, but since we were both pretty well bushed, we decided to rest there for an hour or so.  A good decision.

When it came time to board the ferry, we got on-board and enjoyed the 1.5 mile ride to the island.  

On the island, we walked up the long hill to the prison itself, got our audio tour headphones, anddid the 45 minute tour.  Quite interesting and entertaining.  
It was all I had been told it woudl be.  Very well done, with good narrating sound effects to enhance the story.  

But it was time to catch our ferry back to terra firma, so we did just that.  We met a nice couple from Australia who was at the end of a 8 week visit to the USA.  It sounded like they had visited everywhere that is good to visit, and were planning a visit to South America or Russia for their next excursion.  Talk about world travelers...

Back on land, we walked back to Pier 39, found some dinner, and after asking for directions, walked the 8 or 9 blocks to the bus stop.  The bus ride was great, and we got off about a block and a half from the hotel.  Two tired, but happy tourists.

So, the day was good.  We didn't do the cable cars; we just didn't have time, and we were disappointed that they were not the same as we pictured from pics made earlier.  Maybe tomorrow, or maybe not at all.

Tomorrow--Lombard Street hill, REI (to deal with broken zipper), and east to Yosemite NP.