Tag Archives: California

2014 Adventure Wrap-Up

image_map.gif We’ve now wrapped up our 2014 Adventure.  Our destination was the great northwestern United States with a focus on the Pacific coast.  It was a wonderful trip – really, everything we hoped it would be.  Early in our journey we found southeastern Utah to be a pleasant surprise.  We’ve heard so much about the vicinity of Moab; especially Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  These were even better than we expected and some of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever been.

P8019712.JPG We spent a couple of months visiting different places along the Washington coast and then another month along the Oregon coast.  We loved it all and I especially enjoyed the splendor of the Oregon coast.  If a person loves nature they will love that area.

We continued into northern California and soon moved inland to the Sacramento area and points east and south.  After wearing jackets and even needing heat in the camper the warm temperatures were a shock to the system.  Still, camping along the whitewater of the American River and then staying in the high country of Yosemite was a real pleasure.

P9259743.JPG It was with some sadness that we turned east and headed for Arizona because that meant we were now winding down our big Adventure.  Still, we’re talking about Arizona here; long one of our favorite states.  We spent a month there, working our way from the northwest corner of the state to ultimately exit at the southeast corner.

Before long we were back in Texas – enjoying the splendor of the state’s southwest.  We’ve always liked the Texas State Parks and it was a pleasure to visit three of them, especially Davis Mountains State Park, as we worked our way east.

After almost seven months we’ve now arrived back where the Adventure began: Lake Conroe Thousand Trails. We towed the 5th wheel about 6300 miles and then drove about the same distance sightseeing and “just living.”  We stayed in about 40 different campgrounds, generally for a week and a half at a time with several shorter stays when we were in “repositioning mode.”  In January I’ll release our budget figures but we pretty much stayed on target through the year.

It was a great trip and I’m already looking forward to return visits to and through these areas.

Shortstop: Mountain Valley RV Park – Tehachapi, CA

PHOTO_20140922_162438.jpg We don’t like doing one nighters but once in a while we need to move to what I call “repositioning mode” and it’s such a move that brings us to Tehachapi, CA; just east of and considerably higher in elevation than Bakersfield.

The town and campground are in a nice mountain valley. For us it is the reward for pulling 20+ miles up the mountain – climbing from 400 feet to 4000 feet. The campground is on the southern side of town and away from Highway 58 but right by the local airport. In fact, you can walk out to the runway from the campground. There are several gliders parked by the runway and it must be fun watching them fly.

This is a nice campground with level, pull through sites, 50 amp electric, and water. There are no sewer hookups, but there is a dump station. There is also a small laundry and clean restrooms with showers.

If you are traveling California 58 this is a good spot for a few days.

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Campground review: San Benito Thousand Trails, Paicines, CA

100_3291.JPG San Benito Thousand Trails is around 25 miles south of Hollister, CA in a quiet valley away from the sounds and lights of the city. One travels south on Hwy 25, then turns off of it to drive a road that meanders through fields and vineyards before entering the hills. If you are looking for a quiet, away-from-it-all campground, this is it.

100_3288.JPG This is a big campground with hundreds of sites and two pools. There’s a camp store and a restaurant. Just about all the sites are full hookups and there’s a fairly large 50 amp section. There are several pull through sites, some back to back. We heard a lot about the local bobcats but didn’t see any. We did see prairie dogs, quail, deer, and lots of red-headed woodpeckers. Being away from the city we enjoyed sitting out at night counting the satellites as they glided overhead. We even spotted a few shooting stars.

100_3276.JPG The electric boxes on many of the sites have big red dots on them. That means there’s no working electric at that site. Someone told me that the campground is working through those sites and fixing them. Obviously, there are more sites than there are campers but it is frustrating to see a potential and empty site only to then see the dreaded red dot. Hopefully, more and more sites will be returned to service soon.

100_3271.JPG Also, there are plenty of annual residents in the campground. The campground is pretty much flat and open, but if you look around a bit you’ll note that the residents have gyrated to the sites that offer a bit of afternoon shade. Again, this is a big campground so most everyone should be able to find a suitable spot in spite of the “red dots” and the annuals. If you don’t need 50 amps and don’t mind being a bit of a distance away from the main activity center you might want to look at the area nearer the small adult pool and adult lodge. There’s a section there with some big, shady trees and you would pretty much have the adult pool to yourself.

The staff is friendly and helpful. We were able to get Verizon 4G and satellite TV. It’s hard to believe that the coast with all it’s hustle and bustle (and Pacific beauty) is only 25 miles away over the mountain (and 60 miles away by highway). All in all, we like this place and hope to return.

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Pinnacles National Park and Monterey Peninsula

IMG_2924.JPG Our visit to the newest U.S. National Park, Pinnacles NP, was a fun adventure.  The park is located about 20 miles south of our campground and around 40 miles south of Hollister, CA. There are actually two sections to the park and we visited via the eastern entrance.  The western entrance is quite a bit farther from us and the two sections of Pinnacles aren’t connected by road.  After seeing the visitor center we drove on to where the road ends and began a 20 minute hike to Bear Gulch Cave from there. This is a talus cave which means it was created by boulders and rocks falling and choking the narrow canyons creating ceilings, passages, and rooms (http://www.sfnps.org/talus_caves). The trail to the cave is fairly easy in spite of there being a few narrow passages and moderate inclines. We were only able to go into the lower half of the cave.  The cave is home to Townsends Big-Eared Bats, a protected species in the State of California.  This time of the year there are still bats in the upper portion of the cave so the public is kept out of that area.  We did see two bats on the ceiling in the public area of the cave.  There are many hiking opportunities in this national park, several appear to be rather challenging.  The short hike we took, though, is only considered to be “moderate” and, really, most any reasonably able person should be able to do it.

PHOTO_20140919_120043.jpg Our other sightseeing adventure was a day trip to the Monterey Peninsula.  The area is only 25 miles or so directly west of our campground.  However, because of the mountains it is actually a 60 mile drive on some rather busy highways.  We started our tour at the Museum of Monterey. The admission is free for the month of September. The first floor is filled with works by local artists. I especially liked the stained glass pieces of art. The second floor has historic memorabilia from the early Native Americans and other early settlers and immigrants. The Maritime historic memorabilia is quite impressive. There’s a captain’s quarters, items used on the sailing ships, and a variety of scrimshaw that is interesting.  Nearby is Old Fisherman’s Wharf with several restaurants, whale tours, and shops. Of most interest to us were the many sea lions that are resting on the supports of the wharf and also swimming below us.

PHOTO_20140919_142110.jpg After having lunch we took a leisurely drive along Ocean View Blvd. stopping at several public access places along the way to watch the ships, wildlife, and the waves. The views are amazing and there are many places to stop and soak it all in.  We saw more sea lions, a few dolphin, and a wide variety of birds.  At Asilomar State Beach we took a stroll down to look at the tide pools.

This was our last visit to the Pacific Ocean on this trip before turning east and beginning our slow journey back to Texas.

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2014 – A day in San Francisco, CA

PHOTO_20140910_130317.jpg We’ve been looking forward to seeing San Francisco and it lived up to its billing. As much fun as being there was using the excellent bay area public transportation systems for the entire trip. After driving through morning traffic to San Jose we paid $5.00 to park in the SAP center then walk the short distance to the Caltrain station where we paid the $18 senior San Francisco round trip fee. We rode in a nice commuter very full of people and families, hearing lots of chatter going on around us. I noticed that the seats with tables are very popular and then realized those seats have electric plug-ins available, very nice for those using electronics. Although we stopped at every town along the way I enjoyed the view; seeing the homes, businesses, and some lovely train depots that have been there for many years. Upon arriving we bought day passes on the San Francisco MUNI.

100_3241.JPG We took the street cars from the Caltrain station to Fisherman’s Wharf. There are many restaurants, shops, and street performers. We walked along the boardwalk and looked over the bay. We could see nearby Alcatraz, ships and boats of every kind, and The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. It’s an awesome place! Pier 43 is the National Liberty ship Memorial. We walked past saw the USS Pampanito, a WW II fleet submarine, and the SS Jeremiah O’Brian which is one of the last remaining WWII Liberty Ships.

We toured the National Park Service’s San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park Museum. It has lots of memorabilia from historic San Francisco dating from the early Native American inhabitants up through the 1800s. There are several dioramas, films, and audio stories of the early settlers. Hyde street pier, which is part of the park, contains Historic Ferries and vessels including a square rigger sailing ship. Walking toward Ghirardelli Square we saw the Aquatic Park Historic Landmark District where people were sunning on the beach and swimming in the bay.

100_3238.JPG Although they no longer make the chocolate here nearby Ghirardelli Square has a variety of shops and restaurants along with several Ghirardelli Chocolate shops. The Ghirardelli shops sell their chocolate as well as dipped ice cream and coffee to drink now and buy for later.

100_3248.JPG We headed back to the Powell-Hyde cable car where we waited between 15-30 minutes to get on. We were lucky enough to be allowed to stand on the back with the driver and see the view as we went up. It’s an amazing ride that I would do again. We got off at Union Square where you can find Macy’s and similar shops and then caught a bus and rode through China Town where we walked a little and got some lunch. It’s an interesting area with open front stores selling a variety of Asian foods as well as items for tourists.

100_3254.JPG After another short bus ride we walked up an extremely steep hill to the bottom of the very crooked and steep Lombard Street, nicknamed the “Crookedest Street in the World” and spent a few minutes watching cars turn and twist their way down.

PHOTO_20140910_165514.jpg We then took a couple of buses to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was considerably cooler there with wind and a foggy mist coming in. The bridge is an amazing structure and you can read about the history and construction in park right beside it. I was very pleased to know that the Golden Gate Park is under the care of National Park Service with rangers ready to help you with information about the park. From there we began our trip clear across town back to the Caltrain station, taking the bus and then a streetcar/subway. It was supper time and we stopped to eat. Once we got back to the train station we saw that there is a Panera Bread restaurant right beside the Caltrain and wished we had waited and gotten sandwiches to eat on the train. The train we caught was an evening train which was about full but emptied out as we continued the hour and a half to San Jose.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and tiring day. Some may prefer doing the more costly on/off bus tours around the city, especially for a one day visit. Really, with so much to see, a person could spend several days in San Francisco and not see it all.

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