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Tales from Toad Haul

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S: Tales From Toad Haul...

BC: Life is not about the destination - it is about the journey. All you need on your journey is an open mind, an open heart and the open road. There is no end to the adventures you can have if only you seek them with your eyes open.

FC: Tales From Toad Haul... | Another chapter in Roy and Claudia's Great Adventures December 2011 to February 2012

2: Well here we are - our first night on the road! We are parked in Walmart in Omak. Just a short drive today. A late start after a bunch of running around and last minute errands. We bought a phone in Omak at Wally's and some time. Phone is charging now and we'll hit McDonalds in the morning to get online and activate it. Hope that is an easy task! Dinner tonight at a little Mexican place in the mall after some window shopping at Big 5 and JC Penny. We had yummy fish tacos and this tiny little dessert made of a taco chip with a tiny taste of strawberry ice cream, a dollop of whipped topping and a bit of strawberry sauce. Service was excellent - we were "amigos" to all the staff! Walked back to the motor home and here we sit listening to the rain on the roof and the furnace going full time. Turns out we only have a quarter tank of propane. Can hardly wait to see if we run out in the middle of the night. Hmmm... maybe we should have filled up when we got gas. No hookups so we are running the generator for power and using our tank water. This is called boon docking or dry camping. We don't plan to do it too often but the price is certainly right! No problems staying in the Walmart parking lot. They said we were welcome to stay as long as we parked away from the store. Almost late enough to crawl into bed to read :) Will post this tomorrow when I have Internet access. | On the road... | December 29 | Osoyoos to Omak

3: It rained pretty much all night last night. Not a great sleep with the traffic from the highway, the rain on the roof and the furnace going on and off all night plus worrying we would run out of propane. Woke up early and eventually got up and went across to McD's to use their WiFi and get some coffee and breakfast. Got the phone activated with no major problems. So we are now cellular. We even tried out the long distance and it works great - no extra charge - just the airtime. Delayed our start due to kind of icy roads in Omak. Got propane - yes, we made it through the night - just - then headed down Hwy 97. We were originally going to take I-90 through Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle but it seems they got snow there last night so we are back to our original plan of going through Portland. Roads were great - bare and wet then bare and dry. No snow anywhere, even up on the tops of the VERY long hills we climbed. Lots of new snow up on the mountain tops. Three or four long climbs up (it's a drag when the trucks all pass you!!) then long descents after. It was like driving through a desert...bare and miles and miles of nothing as far as you could see. Only really interesting view was of the windmills up on the hills - dozens and dozens and dozens of them. Reminded us a lot of Drumheller or Lethbridge areas. Made it to Yakima around 2, found a tacky little RV park, pulled in and got all settled in. Roy hooked up while I made lunch. Not quite as cheap as our free stay last night but not bad. We are right by the freeway so lots of traffic noise but at least it is buffered somewhat inside the motor home. There IS WiFi here so that's a bonus. We took a short walk to the neighbourhood casino - just a card room so not much of interest to us. Back at the MH now and settled in for the night. Cable is hooked up so maybe we can find something on tv tonight. Otherwise, it's back to my Christmas books. Through Satus Pass tomorrow morning then on to the Portland area. Hope it doesn't snow up there tonight! Hmmm... New Year's Eve in an RV Park - how's that for something different? Expect we'll probably be asleep before midnight. Happy New Year to all of you who will be celebrating!! | A long day today... | December 30 | Omak to Yakima

4: A day of not much but driving! Started out at about ten this morning after unhooking then filling up with gas (ka-ching). Travelled down Hwy 97 and up over the Satus Pass. We were pretty sure there wouldn't be snow but you don't actually believe it until you see it or in this case, you don't see it! Most of the first part of the trip was like traveling though the Okanagan - very desert looking. Then as we rose to the summit, it changed to pine forest. After the pass we came down a long, long hill and off in the distance and all around us were hundreds of windmills - again. Wow - they must generate a lot of their power from the wind. Up close - they are HUGE! We crossed the Columbia River at the bottom of the big hill into Oregon and merged onto I-84, which is a nice wide, double-lane divided highway. So no worries about holding up traffic. Roy's getting very good at pulling into the truck lanes and pullouts to let traffic go by. We're doing 85 to 90km/hr but that's well below the speed limit and way below the speed some people want to travel! Travelling I-84 was like traveling Hwy 1 from Hope to Chilliwack...west coast rain forest looking with lots of evergreens and dead-looking deciduous trees. We followed the Columbia River all the way to where we are tonight. Quite an amazing river with lots of barges, small fishing boats (must have been a run of something going on), and even a few sailboats. The river is huge and it's interesting to look across the river and see another highway running parallel on the other side in Washington. Riding in the MH is quite enjoyable. With the huge front window and being up high you really do get a panoramic view! Best view today had to be of Mt Hood, which could be seen off in the distance from just after we got through the pass. It is huge! I kept trying to get a picture of it through the front window but it just looks like a blur off in the distance. It was cloudy and gray so not much in the way of pictures today. And I haven't yet got out the other computer to load pictures - can't be done from my iPad. | December 31 | Getting closer to our first destination... | Mt. Hood

5: We're discovering one of the joys of motor-homing - you can just pull into a rest stop, throw on the generator to use the microwave, make lunch, use your own bathroom and be back on the road in no time. The rest stops are great with long parking spots for big rig trucks and motor homes like us that are towing a car - which is referred to as a "toad". While towing the toad, it is impossible (nope, not difficult - impossible - without destroying the gears on the car) to back up so you needs to make sure there is enough room to turn around or that there is an exit that you can get to without backing up. Parking takes some thought, particularly when going into malls. We've been fortunate in the RV parks to get "pull-through" spots so that we don't have to unhook the toad. Once we get somewhere that we plan to stay more than one night, we'll unhook the toad and use it to explore. Tonight we're in Fairview, a small suburb/town about ten miles east of Portland. This place is huge - 407 spots! Of course there are probably only about 60 or 70 units here so it looks kind of deserted. Nothing fancy - small clubhouse with books, games, puzzles and a pool (closed for the season) and showers. Reasonably quiet here so maybe a decent sleep tonight! Tomorrow we will get to Long Beach, WA our first "destination". We plan to spend a few days there - looks like tons of great stuff to do. We'll unhook the toad and spend several days exploring. Hope you all have an enjoyable New Year's Eve - ours will be spent quietly here, we'll probably be asleep long before it's time to ring in the New Year. (I apologize to those whose emails I've been unable to answer. I've actually answered but I keep encountering wifi services that won't let me send to some people - will try to send them again tomorrow.) Late addition...tried some photos through the window while moving - unsuccessfully! Better ones to follow - I promise! | The Columbia River

6: It was a rather long and tense drive today. Started from just outside Portland and headed north BACK over the Columbia River - back into Washington. It was VERY windy - felt like we were going to blow off the bridge! And it was a long bridge - about two miles to get across. Good thing it was a three lane highway. Once across the bridge, the wind died down and we were good as we traveled north to Longview. Had a beautiful view of Mt St Helen's (at least I think that is what it was) but unable to get a picture. At Longview we got off to head towards the coast. We decided to shop at the Walmart we could see from the road we were on, sure we could find our way to it. Missed the turn by a few feet but of course, couldn't back up so had to drive around the block until we could find a wide enough spot to turn around. Eventually we made it into the parking lot, parked across ten or twelve spaces and went in to shop. Bought our groceries and a few other items then headed back on the road. The next bit of highway took us back across the Columbia again - anyone counting how many times so far? Then we got on to a windy, fairly narrow road with tons of traffic on it. Not too many places to pull over to let people pass so it was kind of nerve-wracking. Lots of up and down, big long hills...fortunately there were passing lanes. Roy didn't much enjoy the drive today up to this point and then it got worse! Once we got to Astoria, WA, we had to cross the river yet one more time. This river is enormous. It has to be twenty miles across at some points. In Astoria there is a bridge that crosses back into Washington at a narrower part. Built in 1966, the Astoria Bridge is 4.1 miles long. It has the longest truss span in the USA - 1232 feet - and is believed to be the longest continuous 3-span series bridge in the world. It joins Oregon and Washington across the Columbia. Driving across was white-knuckle time. Only a single lane each way, windy and just plain scary. The bridge gets up really high, then drops down so you are driving on a part that is floating on the water. Very scary for Roy and equally scary for his white knuckled passenger. I hope you can see what it was like from the pictures. We were both glad to finally reach the other side. | January 1 | We made it! | Astoria Bridge | Anderson's RV Park

7: The rest of the drive was narrow and windy until we got into Long Beach. There are quite a few people in Long Beach. It looks like a summer community but the place was packed downtown - lots of traffic when we went through. After a stop for gas, we made our way to our RV park - and we both agree it was worth the drive. The people who signed us in were so nice, even came down to help Roy get parked. The park is very basic but backs on to the beach. Because it is quiet, we are parked down at the beach end. In busy times, you pay a premium to be so close. We can hear the surf when we are outside; wonder if we'll hear it tonight while we are in bed! After settling in, getting hooked up and having some lunch, we took a walk down to the beach. It was amazing. Reminded us of our trip to NZ last year. The beach is 28 miles long with huge breakers crashing in. (They claim it is the longest in the world but I think the people in NZ might claim that 90 mile beach is longer!)There were lots of people on the beach - both walking and driving. Apparently the beach is actually a state highway - and there are lots of cars driving on it - maximum speed is 25mph. Quite funny to see them all. There was also a fishing boat not far off shore. We wondered for awhile if he was in trouble because he was quite close in to the surf and was rolling side to side like he was almost turning over. Then he'd head out towards the open sea and drift back in again. Eventually he headed out and kept going but he kept a few people entertained watching him. We figure he must have been fishing. Took a short drive in the toad - it's now unhitched - explored around Long Beach a little, bought some chowder for dinner and headed home to relax. Lots of television stations to choose from and the WiFi is pretty good. Still can't figure out why my iPad won't send email to some people. Oh well...Tomorrow we are headed to Cape Disappointment and Lewis and Clark State Park. It looks amazing. Hope everyone had a Happy New Year! | Our backyard beach

8: Our backyard - Long Beach, WA | Fishing boat in the surf

9: January 2 | Woke up this morning to a very windy day - the motor home was a-rockin'! The sky was overcast but soon the sun peaked out under the clouds and it looked like it was going to be okay out. Not. By the time we'd had breakfast and packed a lunch the skies were gray again and the second we walked out the door, the rain started. We drove into Long Beach and stopped at Dennis Co. the local hardware store. It had almost as much stuff as our Home Hardware in Osoyoos! I bought new slippers as the ones I brought are pretty much done. We also bought a cute little Webber barbecue that I hope to use one day soon and picked up our park pass.. Next stop was the tourist info centre where we picked up a local map and brochure and some info on the Oregon coast, which is where we'll head next. By this time the wind was howling but it wasn't raining too hard so we continued with our plans to go to Cape Disappointment. It is a huge park area on the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. First stop was the North Head Lighthouse. A short walk down a paved path got us to the lighthouse, which is perched high on a cliff and totally exposed to the winds coming in off the Pacific. Wow - we nearly blew away. I was holding on to my glasses - remembering what happened to them in NZ last year in the wind! Some interesting facts...winds have been clocked at 160 mph there! Also, it's a myth that the lighthouse is haunted by a woman who threw herself from the cliff. We didn't stay too long in the wind before jumping back in the car and driving to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Centre. The centre documents the cross-county trek taken between 1803 and 1805, at the request of President Thomas Jefferson. It was the biggest and most important American exploration ever. You see signs for the Lewis & Clark trail route all over the place and historical markers everywhere along the Columbia. They started in St Louis, followed the Missouri River, then a bunch of other rivers, finally crossing the mountains and finding the Columbia River which they followed to the ocean. The displays were quite interesting and told of the hardships they encountered and the two-plus years it took them to complete the round trip journey. Upstairs, the centre also houses a bunch of US Lifesaving Service nautical equipment, as well as the original lens from 1822, that was used in the cape's lighthouses. There were telescopes and binoculars set up but it was so rainy and windy we couldn't really see much out the windows. Too bad because I think the view out over the Pacific would be amazing. What we did see was the huge waves crashing on the rocks below. We opted out of hiking down to the Cape Disappointment lighthouse - maybe later in the week if the weather improves. | Blustery and wet! | North Head Lighthouse

10: Also in this park is a coast guard station. Because it guards some of the world's most dangerous waters, the station is often called upon to assist foundering ships and their crews. It also is an ideal place for training in rough water rescue techniques. Unfortunately, it isn't open to the public and there didn't appear to be any evidence of training going on. This area along the coast is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific...almost 2000 lives and 700 vessels have been claimed by treacherous seas off this 28 mile-long strip of land - more than almost any other area in the world. Looking at the waters around Cape Disappointment, that is not a surprising fact! By the time we were done at the centre, it was long past lunch so we found a parking lot where we sat in the car to make and eat our lunch. The wind was rocking us back and forth and blowing the rain horizontally across the parking lot. Not a good day for outdoor pursuits so we continued to tour the peninsula in the car. We drove into Ilwaco - tiny town at the south end of the Long Beach Peninsula...not much there - then we drove to the northern end of the peninsula to a tiny settlement called Oysterville. Oysterville has eight houses from the late 1800's that have been bought and restored/preserved by private owners. There is also a church, which was open but we didn't get out of the car, a school house that we could see down the road and an old cannery. We passed lots of beautiful old clapboard houses - like you'd expect to see in somewhere like Martha's Vineyard or another eastern seaside town. We stopped at the Oysterville Sea Farm to look around but didn't buy anything as dinner was already planned. We drove back via another road, through the small communities of Ocean Park and Surfside with a short stop at a golf course and a short stop at Jack's - which was like another Home Hardware - but not as good as the first one we went to. Got back to the MH, cold and windblown. Crawled under the blankets while we waited for the furnace to warm the place up. Shortly later, Peter, an old friend from Edmonton now living on Vancouver Island, arrived to spend a few days with us, kicking around the peninsula - and - hopefully getting in a round of golf. ...Dinner is eaten, dishes done and put away, nothing but reruns on the tv so time to dig into another book. Wind seems to have died down a little - we no longer feel like we're in a boat at sea - tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same - yuk - I remember now why I didn't like living on the coast! It's supposed to improve on Wednesday.

11: Cape Disappointment State Park

12: Wow - it was a busy day today! The weather was a little more cooperative, although the forecast was for rain. We decided we should do our outdoor stuff before the rain did show up. First stop was Marsh's Free Museum, where we met up with Peter. Oh my, this place brings new meaning to the words "too tacky for words"!! Every possible piece of junk, trash, and tacky souvenir is in that store. They promote it as a "museum" with a two-headed goat and Jake the alligator man, with fancy old music machines and nickel peep shows. Oh brother! Google it if you are interested - I was wandering the place trying not to laugh out loud. I had to be shown "Jake" and the two-headed goat as they were both too well hidden amongst the junk. Fortunately we didn't stay long. We had a good laugh when we got outside. After a quick stop at the bakery and deli for some lunch fixings we headed down to the boardwalk, which made some national television show's list of ten best boardwalks in the country. It's very short - less than a mile long - but very nice. It was windy of course but the rain held off until our return trip. There were lots of signs with info about the flora and fauna and a gray whale skeleton. Just before we got to the end of it, the rain started so we hustled back to the car, found a covered picnic area and ate our lunch. After lunch we ditched our car and took Peter's for a drive - first on the beach!!! - then on real roads through Ilwaco and into Astoria. It was nice for Roy because he got to look at the sights as we went back over the 4 mile bridge. It wasn't nearly as windy so the waters around it were relatively calm. Once in Astoria, we headed up to the Astoria Column. This is a 125 foot column with a 360 view from the top - 164 steps to be exact. Roy bailed after 60 steps, remembering he hates heights. I bailed even sooner because I found it very claustrophobic. Peter went to the top and we took pictures of him up there. We still got good 360 degree views from the parking lot. Next stop was the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which was really amazing and well worth a visit. First stop in the museum was back outside to the wharf to see the "Columbia" which was originally a floating lighthouse. Men would work 6 weeks on, three off. Six weeks in a hundred foot boat flopping around in the high seas off the mouth of the Columbia where the ocean crashing in creates the most deadly seas in the world. Not my idea of a good time. | January 3 | A full day today!

13: Back inside the museum we started with a video about the area and how they pilot big freighters in and out over the mouth of the river (called the bar). The pilots train by memorizing every inch of the river, the currents, the contours of the bottom. They have to know literally every inch of it in order to guide these huge ships safely over the bar and up the river. After the video we entered the coast guard display area. There was a recording of an actual distress call and the ensuing rescue. Brought goosebumps to my skin and tears to my eyes listening to it. There was a model of the coast guard boat that they use - 44 feet long - got a picture of it - and a video showing the rescue training they do at the station at Cape Disappointment. Watching the video was enough to make you seasick - just imagine a 44 foot boat in 40 to 60 foot swells trying to rescue a dummy out of the water. Very powerful video. The rest of the museum held displays of ships, a display of tattoos and men covered in them, with stories of how tattoos were so much a part of the lives of seafaring men. There were also some life-size fishing vessels and just about everything else nautical you could possibly think of. A great couple of hours! We drove back to Long Beach and made a quick tour of the Kite Museum. Apparently it's one of only 8 in the world. It was small so the fact that we got there 45 minutes before closing wasn't a problem. They had all kinds of very cool kites and a bunch of videos. Some of the kites were huge and some were used for interesting kites, moving targets for gunnery training. Some were even flown over unguarded merchant ships during the war. They were attached by piano wire that was deadly to any plane that got anywhere near the ship. Out for a seafood dinner with Peter then back to the motor home for bed. I'm pooped - it was a long and very busy day. Hope to go golfing tomorrow, although the weather doesn't look good at this point. But the forecasts change every couple of hours so it could all change overnight! | Astoria Column | Long Beach Boardwalk

14: Astoria Bridge | Columbia River Maritime Museum

15: January 4 | Woke up to rain pounding on the MH and the wind trying to blow us over...kind of put a crimp in our golfing plans. Seemed like a much better idea to lounge about with coffee and my book. Poor Roy had to get out and dump the tanks in the rain but I stayed inside and caught up on emails and made us breakfast. Decided maybe going to a matinee of Sherlock Holmes was a better idea so we agreed to meet Peter at the theatre. We made a couple of stops on the way and got there only to discover that on Wednesdays they cancel the 2:15 showing and have a senior showing at 1:00 instead. Oh well, a day late and a dollar short...we'd about exhausted the inside activities around here so decided we'd check out the museum in Ilwaco. On the way we came up with a way better idea - I'd discovered that there are outlet malls about 20 miles south of Astoria. Knowing Peter was looking for a Nike outlet, I sort of "mentioned" there was one there. The two boys quickly decided that going shopping beat the heck out of another museum so that's how we spent the rest of the day. The guys bought stuff - shoes, shirts and I found the Carters and Osh Kosh stores. Carters had grandparents day so I got an additional 10% off on what was already a great deal. When we got back to LB we decided we'd go out for fish and chips somewhere. We ended up choosing Doogers - I know that sounds kind of too much like Boogers - as it was recommended to us. The place was packed and the parking lot was full. Roy ran inside and put our name down then we went to kill the 20 minute wait. When we got back and entered the place, I think the average age dropped twenty years. Every senior in town was eating there! While we were waiting, I met a couple of delightful octogenarians who proceeded to flirt and chat me up - of course they assured me they were too old to be anything but perfectly safe and I'm sure were quite flattered that I was chatting with them instead of with the two young guys I'd come in with. Turned out that one of them had even heard of Osoyoos. Unfortunately our chat got broken up when our table was called. When we sat down we discovered why every senior in town was there...apparently Wednesdays is half off EVERYTHING but liquor for anyone 60 or older! I realize I cheated by a week but we took advantage of it anyway, had a great meal and got out of there for next to nothing. I had a big bowl of steamer clams - yum - and the guys had the combination plate, which had every kind of seafood you could imagine. | Wet and windy...

16: As we were leaving, one of my new friends waved goodbye. So I waved back at him. Poor guy in front of him thought I was waving at him so he waved back...he's probably still trying to explain to his wife (who didn't look very pleased!) Kind of reminded me of our trip to Mexico, Giselle & Esther:) Anyway - back at the MH now, catching up on this - sorry no pictures tonight-unless you want a picture of what I bought Jazmyn (really cute)! I'm going to curl up with a book and fall asleep reading it. Tomorrow we pack up and head for Tillamook, Oregon, our first stop on the Oregon coast. Despite the crappy weather, we've had a great time here, seen lots of cool stuff and had a great visit with Peter. Late note: last night some woman drove her car on the beach and left it parked with the lights on while she went for a walk. The tide came in and someone called the coast guard to tell them there was a car with its lights on in the surf and maybe they should check it out. So I guess they showed up but left quickly once they discovered it was unoccupied. As long as no lives were in danger, they had better things to do...Who leaves their car on a beach, with the lights on, and goes for a walk on the same beach and doesn't notice that the tide is coming in - not only on her but on her car too?? | Last day in Long Beach...Oregon here we come!

17: Heard pounding rain and high winds in the middle of the night but was delighted to wake up to blue skies and sunshine and very little wind. Quick breakfast and then Roy unhooked everything while I made sure the insides were all secure. Hooked up the toad and we were on the road by ten. Made a short stop to put some air in the tires then headed for the Oregon Coast. The drive over the Astoria Bridge was much less white-knuckled with hardly any wind. Got through Astoria and then made two quick stops, one at Staples to check their camera department for a charger for Roy's camera and then a quick stop at Costco for coffee beans. On the road again...back through Seaside, past the Outlet Malls and on to new vistas. We have this really great Oregon Coast publication that tells you everything you ever wanted to know, mile by mile down the Oregon coast. Mile zero is Astoria and Mile three hundred and something is at the California border. We made a stop at Ecola State Park for lunch. We turned off the highway and started following the signs. Road was narrow and hilly and twisty and went through beautiful forested areas. We were kind of nervous, worrying that there wouldn't be anywhere to turn around. (Don't forget there's no backing up with the toad attached.) We got to the kiosk where we had to buy our Oregon park pass and the host assured us there was plenty of room in the parking lot for turning around. It was SO worth the drive. A short hike took us to an overlook where the views were spectacular. I am going to attach Roy's pictures because his camera is so much better than mine. There is a lighthouse there, about 12 miles offshore. We could see the waves crashing into the rocks and the spray going halfway up the sides of the lighthouse. Looking south, you could see Cannon Beach and the famous Haystack Rock. We headed down from Ecola Park into the town of Cannon Beach (named for a cannon that washed up on the beach in 1846). The town is full of character and even the newer homes have been built to look like shingled seaside New England houses. We followed the main road through town, had a moment of panic when we sailed past the sign that said "return to highway" but continued on and discovered the road joined the highway again in several spots. Phew - navigator was off the hook! Only downside was we missed the great view of Haystack Rock - which is kind of THE Oregon coast landmark - but we did see it again from further away when we pulled into a rest area. | January 5 | Finally a nice day! | Road to Ecola State Park

18: Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach

19: Beaches at Ecola State Park

20: The highway continued south through numerous tiny seaside towns and past many, many state and county parks. Just outside of Wheeler, we encountered what we think was a Coast Guard training exercise. Several people had stopped at the side of the road to watch and we were fortunate that it was right where there was a turnout. There was a helicopter and a boat and they were doing some kind of rescue moves. The boat was foundering around in really strong currents and swells coming out of the bay. The helicopter dropped a line with a basket and hovered over while it looked like the people on the boat were going to load it. We didn't stay to watch it to completion but it was very cool to see them at work. The next stop was at the Tillamook Cheese Factory where we did the self guided tour, tasted some samples, bought some extra strong cheddar and some cheddar/pecan spread then ate yummy ice cream cones...caramel butter pecan for me and vanilla chocolate chip for Roy. It was beautiful and warm - must have been over 60! Felt like spring. Back on the road again with a turn to the coast in the middle of Tillamook and another six miles to our little RV Park in Neharts. Unhooked the toad and hooked things up then took a short walk. Started to rain so here we are inside in our slippers and settled for the night. Will start dinner shortly. Park is kind of tacky - at the back there are lots of permanent residents and there have been pick-ups pulling in for the last half hour. Guys getting home from work, I suspect. But it is quite quiet and they have WiFi and laundry. What more could you ask? Tomorrow we'll take the toad and do some exploring. | Coast Guard training exercises

21: Today began with a little sunshine and some clouds but rain was in the forecast...seems to be a recurring theme. After coffee and computer in bed and a relaxed breakfast, we headed off down the road to do the Three Capes Loop in the toad. First stop was Oceanside, about two miles north of here, with a quick stop to take some pictures of the magnificent view. We drove into the tiny town, which was an interesting contrast of shabby beach houses on the lower level and magnificent three-story cliff houses above. We stopped briefly at the beach-side parking lot, walked down to the beach and took a few pictures then continued on down the road - destination Cape Meares. Cape Meares is a large day use park - no overnighting. It houses the shortest lighthouse on the coast - only 38 feet tall but I guess its perch high above the water gives it the required height to be seen by mariners. The paths are nicely paved and every few feet there is a sign explaining something about the various birds that nest there. Wintertime is not the best time to see them! We saw a few seagulls but that was about it. Good thing we were not trying to do our Big Year! Also at this park is the Octopus Tree - a huge Sitka Spruce with 7 trunks all growing out of the same spot. (Yes, I know an octopus has 8 arms but one of the arms looks to have been chopped off.) At any rate the tree was huge - 46 feet circumference! After leaving the park, we headed back on the highway which followed around Cape Meares, then stopped at a long spit that lies at the opening to Tillamook Bay. We walked for a bit but decided it wasn't that interesting so continued on into Tillamook where we stopped at Fred Meyers for groceries and Radio Shack for a camera battery charger (still no luck). | January 6 | On the road in the toad... | Oceanside | Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge

22: Heading south from Tillamook we stopped at a rest area for lunch then drove the south end of the loop. The road traveled through forests and was quite hilly but eventually dropped back down to sea level just as we got to Cape Lookout State Park. We drove through the park and got out to walk down to the picnic areas and beach but alas, the rain began so we hustled back to the car. We did a quick tour through the camping area, just to see what staying in a state park would be like. The sites were quite nice, level and treed, some with full hookups - water, electricity, sewer. Nothing there, though - just the campsites. We continued down the road and arrived back at Netarts, having made the full circle of the Three Capes Loop. OK - we only saw two capes, not three. We missed out on Cape Kiwanda - oh well. The rain began in earnest so we decided it was a good time to catch up on laundry. Roy's been running back and forth to the laundry facilities in the rain - what a good guy :) I keep forgetting to mention how green it is here. I actually saw a little flower blooming today and when we were in Long Beach, I saw veggie gardens - with veggies still growing! Still not very warm but it is green! Also - note the new blog title - thanks Peter - you're so creative. I hope you all read Wind in the Willows in your childhood :) And one last thing...this may be it for a few days as I don't think we will have access to Internet. | Cape Meares | Octopus tree | Cape Meares Lighthouse

23: Travel day today. Got the utilities disconnected, the toad hooked up and the motorhome ready to hit the road and soon left Netarts in our rearview mirror. First stop was for propane- forgot to stop before we went to Netarts so we were kind of worried for the last two nights that we'd wake up in the middle of the night with no furnace and our butts freezing off. Need to stop doing this... The drive today was quite good - lots of wide highway with only a few narrow windy areas. Lots of pullouts and passing lanes - a good thing because there was a lot of traffic on the road. We traveled through forest and then through long stretches of farmland with small, rundown-looking towns dotted along the way. Seemed to be a fair bit of river fishing going on in some of the rivers we passed - something must have been running. Stopped at a few rest areas to admire the view. Somehow I never get tired of looking at the ocean crashing in on the shore. First community of any size was Lincoln City. Locals claim they have the world's shortest river - the D River - 120 feet from Devil's Lake to the Pacific. But it turns out there is another river in Montana that is only 53 feet long so Lincoln City doesn't make the Guinness Book of World Records. We stopped for lunch in Depoe Bay, which is known for its whale watching and for having the world's smallest harbour. We found a spot to park and walked back to the main commercial area of town. There is a whale watching centre where you can go in and use binoculars to watch for whales. On their southern migration, they are three or four or even five miles out in the ocean so seeing them spray is hard with the naked eye. We watched for a bit but couldn't see any so headed off to see the rest of the harbour area. We crossed under the highway and came out overlooking the tiny harbour. The entrance is REALLY small - maybe 40 or 50 feet across at the most. It would have been very cool to see a boat navigate the narrow channel. Lunch done and dishes put away and we were off again. Our destination for the day was Newport, which seemed like a good place to stop with lots to see and do. We were only 15 miles from there so we decided we'd get settled in and then backtrack in the toad to see some of the things we passed on the way in. | Lots of great things to see today! | January 7 | Depoe Bay | Otter Loop Bridge

24: Once settled in we headed back to do the Otter Loop, a very narrow, windy strip of road that used to be the actual highway. It is now a one way strip that is barely wide enough for one car. We made several stops along here. The first was at Cape Foulweather lookout, which is about 500 feet above the ocean. It was named by Captain Cook during a bout of stormy weather. There is a small gift shop with a funny little sign outside that says, "On this site in 1897, nothing happened". The second stop was Devil's Punchbowl State Recreational Site. We hiked down 100 stairs to the beach which was miles of flat sand surrounded by these very cool looking rocks. There were a few surfers out in the waves and we watched them for awhile before hiking back up the stairs to the parking lot. Otter Loop joined back on the Highway at this point and we headed back towards Newport. One more stop...Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and the Yaquina Lighthouse. We stopped briefly at the Visitor Centre but decided we didn't have a lot of time before the park closed so headed back to the car and out to the end of the point to the lighthouse. Yaquina Head Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. It was built in the early 1870's and was manned until the 1960's. There are 114 steps to the top and we climbed 111 of them. (You can't actually go to the very top.) Seems like it was a day for stairs...we continued the pattern and headed down another 100 or so steps to the beach. The beach was absolutely amazing with big tidepools full of all kinds of interesting creatures and lots of seals on the rocks. We enjoyed watching the seagulls pick up sea urchins, fly up and drop them on the rocks to break them open. We stayed until the sun dropped into the ocean giving us an incredible sunset. The park workers were hustling people out of the park because the gate closes at sunset. We weren't the last to leave but close. Others were also trying to catch that perfect photo of the sunset. Back to our RV park, which is okay - it's a nice clean park but no wifi even though it says they have it in their website...oh well we'll have to find a McDonalds or a Starbucks tomorrow. Dinner of crab cakes and salad and a quiet night. More exploring tomorrow... | Yaquina Head Lighthouse | Surfer at Devil's Punchbowl

25: Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport | Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

26: Sunset at Yaquina Head | Sunset over Newport Bay near the RV | Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

27: Woke up to blue skies and not a cloud in the sky - absolutely gorgeous! After figuring out the wifi, which is only available in the office and laundry room and hard to pick up, I got Saturday's post up with a few of the pics. We have so many, it is hard to pare them down. Our first stop today was the aquarium. What an amazing place it was! I think it is probably the best I have seen. The displays were done so well with huge walk-around tanks and underground walkways and tunnels. It reminded me of the Hong Kong aquarium we visited when I saw the jelly fish tanks. They had several open displays, including a big touch tank. They also had several outdoor displays including an aviary with many of the species one might see on the coast were it spring. The common murres were so much like the little blue penguins in New Zealand. They would be of the penguin family except that they can fly. The otters were so cute, lying on their backs snoozing then waking to wash their hands and feet then going back to their snooze. You will have to look closely at my pictures - it is probably hard to figure out what you are looking at! There was a display called Underwater Passages that was a series of walk-through, 360 degree tanks. One was full of sharks; others had salmon and mackerel and umpteen different kinds do rock fish. There were even SCUBA divers swimming around the fish. Roy got some great shots! The displays ended with a nature walk around a part of the inner harbour where lots of birds were in their natural habitat. After the aquarium we headed back to the motorhome for lunch but got sidetracked at a funny little marketplace with all kinds of junky stores selling trinkets and trash. There was a glass blowing shop, however, where we watched a guy make a beautiful platter. It took him about a half hour with the assistance of two other people - it was like watching a well-orchestrated dance! The end product was beautiful but way too rich for our blood! We eventually did make it back for lunch, taking a route that went through the old harbour front, which was a mix of old canneries, fish shops, tourist traps (wax museum, Ripley's Believe It Or Not), restaurants and souvenir shops. We decided not to stop but carried on past the fishing boats tied at their piers to our happy abode. | January 8 | Another great day! | Newport Aquarium

28: After lunch we headed for historic Nye Beach, which is a collection of old and made-to-look-old Cape Cod cottages on the shore. Most have been turned into shops or B&Bs. Took a walk on the beautiful beach then wandered through the Visual Arts Centre and into a few gift shops before heading off to the area's other lighthouse park. Neither of us had our camera so no pics...well actually mine was in the door of the car but I didn't realize it until we got back! The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is located at the mouth of the Yaquina River, near the north end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Built in 1871, it was decommissioned three years later in 1874 after the construction of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse (the one we saw yesterday). It is the only lighthouse in Oregon with attached living quarters, as well as Oregon's last remaining historic wooden lighthouse. It is believed to be the oldest structure in Newport. Our final stop for sightseeing was the south jetty. You can drive quite a ways out but then you can walk and walk much farther. We watched some surfers and watched a few fish boats come home up the channel until the sun set. Could see the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse across the river. Not nearly the sunset of the night before but still pretty. We took in an early movie - We Bought a Zoo - light fluff, not likely to win any awards! Stopped at a local burger joint that, up until 1998, had actual car hops. The special was two cheeseburgers and two fries for $3.99...hard to make dinner for that price. Even with Roy's extra burger, we were still under six bucks! Burgers weren't bad...

29: Glassblowers | Sunset on the jetty at Newport

30: Left this morning at ten. We're getting pretty quick at de-camping and hooking up the toad... The road was really good so we made great time...only a few twisty spots. The highway ran through long stretches of forest areas but still close to the ocean. You could see miles and miles of white crashing waves. In some places, the road went inland a bit and all you could see was miles of forest, a lot of which had been clear cut or was in the process of being logged off. We stopped at a big state park just out of Florence to deal with holding tank issues and once that was cleared up we backtracked into Florence to grab lunch and fill up. Gas was considerably cheaper at Arco than anywhere else - when your tank is this big, you pay attention! Today it seemed like there was a state or national park every five miles. Wow - haven't seen so many so close together. I guess in the summertime, they are all packed. After Florence, we entered the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We definitely will take the toad back to see some of those areas. I could see huge dunes just beyond the trees at the side of the highway but it was too hard to really get a good look. Lots of tiny towns between Florence and Coos Bay but we didn't see anything we absolutely had to stop for. We gave the Sea Lion Caves a miss - saw lots of seals already. A couple of pretty spots - Winchester Bay for one - we may go back in the toad. Cape Perpetua might have been worth stopping for but I think it might have been tough in the motorhome. We also didn't stop for Haceta Bay Lighthouse - stopped in a pullout to let traffic by but it was a little foggy so hard to get a picture. Oh well, so much for my plan to get pictures of them all. Originally we were only going as far as Florence today but made such good time we ended up heading for North Bend/Coos Bay area instead. We are parked in a really nice RV park attached to the casino/hotel here. The park faces out into the bay. We took a spot at the back, rather than pay extra for "the view" - but there is no one in front of us so we have the view anyway. Internet here is okay (not great but at least it works in the motorhome) and we have access to everything in the hotel - pool, hot tub, weight room etc. We're settled in and going to wander over to the casino a little later to check it out. Sorry no pics today - I only took one and it isn't worth publishing. | January 9 | Travel day today...

31: Woke up to another beautiful, blue-sky day. We look to the east from our motorhome so we saw the sunrise for a change. Up to now, it's been only sunsets. Last night our furnace refused to come on. This was the second time it happened. The first time we were able to get it going again but this time, it has refused to come back. We're stymied as we had it totally overhauled before we left. By ten pm (when we realized it hadn't come on for awhile) it was getting rather cold. Fortunately, Coos Bay is a fairly big town and we found a 24 hour Walmart so we were able to buy a small space heater that kept us toasty all night. In another week or two, hopefully we won't need heat at night! Decided we would like to see some of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area that we passed on the way down yesterday. Before we headed out, we made a brief stop at Radio Shack - still trying to find a charger for someone who forgot their camera battery charger - no names mentioned. There isn't a single camera store on the entire Oregon Coast! And the universal charger doesn't seem to work and we are now with a totally dead battery in the good camera. We made a quick stop at Pony Village Mall - the largest covered mall on the coast - not really that big with 50 stores but it did have a JC Penny, a Ross and a Big 5. Success at the latter two - a new pair of sandals for me and a present for Kirsten. We headed north back across the Conde McCullough Memorial Bridge. This one was built in 1936 and spans Coos Bay. It is almost a mile long and is REALLY high - high enough that the big ocean freighters can travel under it on their way in and out of Coos Bay. (We saw one heading out as we were leaving this morning.) The bay is huge, the largest harbour between San Francisco and Puget Sound. There are three cities on the bay - North Bend, where we are - Coos Bay and Charleston - more on those to follow. We turned into the southernmost end of the Oregon Dunes NRA and followed the road to Horsefall Dunes beach access. This is a huge park with several different camping and day use areas. It caters heavily to ATV riders but was totally vacant today. Wasn't really much view of dunes there but we took a nice walk on the beach and watched the crashing surf. | January 10 | Best sights we've seen! | Oregon Dunes NRA | Cape Umpqua Lighthouse

32: Jumped back in the toad and headed north again, this time to Umpqua State park where we got a better view of the dunes as well as a coast guard base and another whale watching area. Quite windy today so couldn't have told the whitecaps from a whale spouting if we tried. We continued on this road to Winchester Bay which has a huge harbour and tons of rv sites. Road continued back to the highway where we headed south again, back to North Bend. In North Bend we headed west to what is probably the most spectacular area we've seen. First we stopped in Charleston, which is basically a commercial fishing town - population 700. While we ate our lunch we watched a crew unload fish, pack them in big crates they then filled with ice. A couple of seals and a lot of seagulls hung about waiting for handouts that never came. We continued on the Arago Hwy past a county park, beautiful big ocean front homes and great views of the mouth of the bay. The first state park we came to was Sunset Bay, a sheltered beach area that, judging by the size of the parking lots, must be packed in the summer when it provides one of the few beaches north of Santa Barbara that is suitable for swimming. Local legend says pirates hid out here. Across from the beach a road leads to Sunset Bay Golf Course. We took a quick look and if it is warm enough tomorrow, we may play nine holes. We stopped at the Cape Arago Lighthouse lookout down the road a few miles. (The lighthouse itself is on native land and not accessible to the public. It was built in 1934 and is actually on an island that was/is a sacred burial ground.) The coastline here is quite amazing with huge rocks and reefs where the waves crash and spray bigger and higher than we've seen so far this trip. We also stopped at Simpson Reef overlook, where we could see sea lions and elephant seals on the rocks below. Another few miles and the road looped around at Cape Arago State Park where we watched some surfers in a reasonably quiet bay way below us . | Cape Arago Lighthhouse | Umpquoa State Park

33: On the return trip we stopped at Shore Acres State Park. This place was amazing! The rocky bay below was spectacular with the waves crashing in on the big rocks and water spraying up twenty or thirty feet in the air. This park is set on the grounds of what was once the property of a lumber magnate, Louis Simpson. His mansion is gone but the groundskeeper's cottage is still there and they have developed a botanical garden that must be incredible in the summer. The place is also lit up from Thanksgiving to New Year's with thousands of lights. We walked through the gardens and really didn't expect to see much but there were actually flowers blooming, including some beautiful roses! There was a nice gift shop manned by a local volunteer with tons of historical info about the place. Made our return trip via Coos Bay. We wandered about the boardwalk on the harbour. There were several big tugs and numerous pleasure craft tied up - no big freighters that we could see. There is a nice display of info boards showing some history of the area and a restored tug boat on display. There were a number of big wood chip piles waiting to be loaded on freighters bound overseas. Wood chips are Oregon's primary forest-product export since raw log exports (which made Coos Bay the world's busiest lumber shipment centre in the past) are now prohibited. Final stop (after checking out a few stores) was for coffee - decaf lattes and the most incredible warm brownie with peanut butter icing - to die for! Sorry no pics of that - don't want anyone drooling on their computer screen. Dinner and an hour or so at the casino and we're tucked back in for the night. | Shore Acres State Park

34: Shore Acres State Park | Coos Bay inner harbour

35: Woke up to another beautiful day. Thanks to a house call from the RV doctor, we now have a new thermostat and a functioning furnace. Thanks, everyone for the birthday greetings and phone calls and good wishes as I hit the big 6-0. I know, it's the new 40... We are currently sitting here in the motorhome in Brookings-Harbor, Oregon, watching the last of another beautiful sunset over the Pacific. Covered a lot of territory today - 107 miles to be exact. Doesn't sound like a long ways but in a motorhome, traveling at lower speeds and stopping a lot, it takes time. We left Coos Bay at eleven, a little later than our usual start but we had to wait for the RV guy. The road was great, lovely and wide with beautiful forests and the odd bit of farmland tossed in. Our first stop was Bandon-By-The-Sea. A few quick groceries and we were headed for a scenic side trip through Bandon, along the coast. We drove through Old Bandon...lots of shops and restaurants. Bandon is quite small and has kind of an interesting history. The town sprung up in the early 1900s as both a summer retreat for people living up the Willamette Valley and also as a stopover for steamships with their thousands of passengers traveling between San Francisco and Seattle. This all ended in 1936 when the entire business district burned to the ground. The cause of fire was some gorse weed that ignited in a stiff wind. The weed was introduced by the Irish immigrants, as was the town's name. Those of you who golf will dislike gorse for an entirely different reason... After leaving Old Town (all three blocks of it) we headed for the Beach Loop - oops we missed the turn and ended up at the Jetty Park at the mouth of the Coquille River - fortunately there was a turn-around or the "nagivator" would have been in big trouble...even the fact that it is my birthday wouldn't have helped. Oh well, another lighthouse to add to our collection as well as a spectacular view and some entertainment watching the locals down on the beach searching for agates. At least that is what l think they were doing...we've seen agates for sale in lots of places...they must be a hot commodity! These people would wait for the wave to wash back out to sea and scour the pebbles on the beach, occasionally reaching down to pick something up, then scoot back out of the way as the next wave came in. It turned out to be a good spot to stop for lunch. | Just when we think we've seen the best... | January 11 | Beach Loop near Bandon-by-the-Sea | Coquille Lighthouse

36: After we ate, we managed to navigate our way back to where we'd made the wrong turn and picked up the scenic route once again. Heading along this road was absolutely spectacular. I'm sorry my pictures won't do it justice and unfortunately, Roy's camera battery is dead. I hope you get an idea of the beauty - I can't possibly find the right words to describe it. At the beginning of the four mile loop there are some pretty incredible newer houses. These soon fell by the wayside and the view improved dramatically. We pulled off several times to look and take a picture. It turns out there were still houses, we just couldn't see them. The pullouts weren't actually pullouts - just the tops of driveways. You couldn't even see the houses built into the side hill below the road without hanging over the edge! The locals must just hate tourists! We didn't stay long in any of them and finally managed to find a real pullout. Along this stretch there are rocks with names like Table Rock, Elephant Rock, Garden of the Gods, and Cat and Kittens Rock, I assume named for what they resemble. The most stunning one is Face Rock. You will see a picture of this and I hope you can see the face looking upwards. Legend has it that a beautiful native princess was turned to stone by an evil sea spirit. These rocks are mammoth and just seem to rise out of the sea just off these beautiful sandy beaches. Quite a different seashore than what we've seen up to now. Off the loop and back to the highway, which was fairly nice drive for the rest of the day's journey. The next bit was pretty unpopulated, just a few very small communities, a bunch of cranberry bogs and mostly inland forests until we returned to sea level at Port Orford. We didn't stop there but did stop at a pullout just south of town to answer the phone for birthday greetings from home. Once through Port Orford the highway climbed high above the shores. Lots of state parks and lookouts and not much traffic. The shore could be seen far below, through the trees. When we got to Gold Beach, our original destination, we decided we could do a few more miles so stopped at McDonalds for their WiFi, booked a spot in Brookings-Harbour and hit the road again. | Face Rock

37: The road climbed again for a bit outside Gold Beach and went through an area with parks located every couple of miles it seemed. We crossed over the Thomas Creek Bridge - 345 feet above the creek bottom. I could see the ocean a LONG way down the cliffs. I think it was a mild version of what I imagine the Big Sur coast to be like - except there was more shoulder between me and the cliffs. We eventually came down again to sea level and the change to the coastline was dramatic - very different from anything we've seen. The waves are not as angry looking and the shore is miles and miles of sandy beaches with the odd huge rock plopped down. There are no cliffs or hills above the ocean; it's almost the same level as the highway. We didn't stop anywhere so I took some shots through the window - sorry for the poor quality:) We arrived in Brookings around 3:30 and (once we could get away from the very chatty owner) got settled in. He regaled us with tales of the after effects of the Japanese tsunami and how it ran up through their harbor creating havoc and wiping out several boats and wharves. We've seen tons of tsunami warning signs and escape route signs all up and down the coast, not really paying much heed to them. Hmmm... I guess tsunamis do happen here...hope we don't hear the siren tonight!! Driftwood RV park is nice - clean and well cared for - with good Internet. We can just see the ocean from the park. We had a lovely birthday dinner at a seafood restaurant on the waterfront just across the street from our RV park. Clam chowder, Caesar salad, a shared seafood platter and dessert - carrot cake for me and Roy had the honking big piece of chocolate cake. Neither of us finished so the leftovers came home in a box. | Driftwood RV Park in Brookings-Harbor | Roadside Pullout near Port Orford | Sunset in Brookings-Harbor | Coastline just north of Gold Beach

38: January 12 | Golf Day... | Not a very exciting day today for you non-golfers...Another beautiful day so we decided to try out the local golf course that is about 4 miles from here. The drive was nice - followed a river up the valley - saw lots of people parked down by the river fishing. Roy says the steelhead are running. Couldn't believe how many people there were. The golf course was beautiful. There was a frost delay and we went out after the ladies club (all 7 of them). It was slow - we waited on every shot. The scenery was beautiful; the course is carved through a valley. There were deer on several holes, munching the fairways. It was odd to see so much green. Lots of tree trouble to get into and the fairways were so narrow you almost had to walk sideways! Roy played much better than me with a 79 to my... never mind what mine was. It was quite pleasant in the sun but later in the day on the back we were in the shade and it was cool. The car thermometer read 8 degrees but there was still frost on some of the greens so I think it was colder in the shady spots. Drove back into town to fill up the toad. We may backtrack to top up the motorhome tomorrow also as apparently gas is 40 cents more as soon as we cross the California border. When we got back to town the thermometer read 12 and it felt quite pleasant. Apparently Brookings is in a banana belt with winter temps in the 60s and 70s not uncommon. Flowers bloom all year round - seems funny to see bedding plants in the stores! Smith River, just south of here, produces 90% of the world's Easter lilies. I noticed on growing beside someone's MH. I'll try to get a picture of it tomorrow. Roy finally put together the barbecue tonight and in keeping with our seafood trend, we had barbecued salmon for dinner. Sorry not much in the way of pictures today. This is our last night in Oregon so ends another chapter of our journey. The California border is a mere six miles down the road and more adventure beckons...

39: Another great day today. Quick breakfast and unhooked all the utilities and hooked up the toad and we were ready to go. I took a quick trip down to the office and grabbed a shot of the Easter Lily in bloom beside someone's trailer. Plus I got a shot of the lighthouse that I forgot to mention is on the hillside right next door to us. We nipped back into Brookings...I finally figured out there are two communities - Brookings and Harbor - and they are usually referred to as Brookings-Harbor. (We actually stayed in Harbor.) We topped up with gas and hit the road...California here we come. First stop was at the border where we were queried about our fresh produce, making sure no citrus was sneaking in. It was quick and painless and we were soon on our way again, following the coastline through green flat farmland. We zipped through Smith River, the Lily City...we didn't see a single one but did see one sign for a lily farm. Other than that, not much to see until Crescent City. The last five miles into Crescent City was on a 4 lane freeway through the middle of nowhere! Crescent City was a brief stop while we visited the tourist info place. Got a couple of maps and some good tips on what to look for. The woman sent us on a scenic loop in the Redwood National Park that we would otherwise have missed. It took us off the freeway and onto a narrower but still pretty good road that had virtually no traffic. It traveled through a beautiful redwood forest. There were all kinds of pullouts with trails to follow. We stopped at two of them and took brief walks into the forest area. | January 13 | Some great sights today... | Entering California

40: The second stop was called Big Tree Wayside. A hundred feet down the path was a HUGE redwood. I'm sorry that my pictures just can't do justice to these trees. They are gigantic - not as big as the kauris last year but still big enough to give you a kink in your neck trying to see the tops. These trees can grow to over 350 feet tall and live for 1500 to 2000 years! One more stop for lunch in one of the state parks and we were soon on our way again. The scenic loop re-entered the highway a mile or so down the road. The rest of the drive was pretty amazing, through huge forested areas, down to the coast at Klamath, back up into the redwoods on a four lane highway, then a long climb back to sea level. Parts of the single lane road were kind of scary, with trees right beside the car and virtually no shoulder but fortunately these didn't last long. Once back to sea level, we began to see these huge lagoons, miles long and across. Lots of parks along the way. The last bit of the trip was back on a four lane highway again, through what felt like miles and miles of suburbs to a big commerce, just residential areas. We passed the seaside communities of Trinidad, Clam Beach and Westhaven and we were soon in Arcata, our destination for the day. We ended up in Eureka, which is a couple miles farther, at the Shoreline RV Park. (I don't think you can even see the shoreline from here.) Park is quite full...pretty basic but nice clean laundry/showers and good wifi. We aren't far off the highway so there's a bit traffic noise. | Redwood Forest

41: Eureka is a fair size - it is the largest coastal town north of San Francisco. It feels kind of industrial here - we could see signs of a big factory on the harbor - and it also has a big fishing industry. Crab season opens here tomorrow and the crab traps are lined up on the wharves. 90% of the state's crab and and shrimp and 2/3 of its oysters come from here. Roy was particularly excited to stop here because he discovered that they had a camera store. After settling in at our site (we are getting very quick at this stuff), we jumped in the toad and headed downtown. A moment of devastation when we saw boards on the windows of what we thought was the camera shop, but a closer look soon showed it was actually next door and it was open. And - yahoo - they had the right charger...hallelujah!! So, after today, the pictures will improve again. I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. We went exploring in town, looking for Old Town and saw some great sights en route. The house in the picture below is absolutely stunning. It was the original home of William Carson, a lumber baron back in the late 1800's. It is now a private club - we assume for the rich and famous of Eureka, although I can't imagine that many of them living here. The city is just not that big and it's not very prosperous looking. We found Old Town and went for a walkabout, stopping in a couple of bookstores. I managed to find a Rough Guide for California and Roy picked up some new reading material. We wandered around - it's kind of a cross between Vancouver's Gas Town of years bygone, and Edmonton's Whyte Ave - same kind of shops. We meandered down to the waterfront and along the boardwalk...then back to the car and back to the RV park. Time to get dinner on the go then a relaxing evening before we head off again in the morning. Tomorrow we are headed to Garberville and the Avenue of the Giants, a side road that crisscrosses the highway and travels through great stands of redwoods. | Ingomar Club | View from the roadside stop near Klamath

42: Old Town - Eureka | Harbor at Eureka | Paddlers in Eureka

43: January 14 | Left Eureka at ten this morning. The skies were gray and it was kind of foggy. It took awhile to get through town - there was a whole lot of it we didn't see yesterday - seemed like one big long strip mall for miles! They even had a Kohl's - drat we missed it!! The first part of the drive was through flat, green farmland. It seemed funny to see recently tilled fields and green sprouts of crops coming up. The road was great - 4 lanes and mostly divided highway. We traveled though a few small towns - kind of seedy looking - but when you are on a freeway, you only see the back sides of them. It didn't take us long to get to the turn-off for the Avenue of the Giants, which is an alternate route that goes through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It runs parallel to the highway on a narrow, tree lined, single lane road for 31 miles. We had previously read that this route wasn't for motorhomes but the woman in the tourist info centre in Crescent City said she thought it was fine so we gambled that she knew what she was talking about. The road crosses back under the highway a couple of times and goes through tiny communities along the way - ie populations of 50 to 200. There are several spots to stop and walk trails, although they aren't very well marked. At first, I wasn't really impressed. The trees weren't nearly as big as the ones we drove through yesterday. But we eventually stopped at a spot with a half mile loop trail that went through an area where the trees were humongous - and yes, then I was impressed. It was hard to take pictures of these trees because they were so tall. I took shots of one tree and it took me five shots to get the whole tree from top to bottom!! I hope Roy's newly charged camera captured them better than mine did. Along the road were a few tourist stops - a permanent treehouse, some chainsaw sculptures, and the usual collection of tacky souvenir shops. But the drive itself was lovely and we were glad we did it in the motorhome rather than backtracking in the toad. By now the sun was out, although it was very dark under the canopy of trees. The best stop was definitely the loop trail around the Founders Tree, which I think is the Deyerville Giant. (The map/guide is nice looking but not very good!). The tree fell in 1991 and the crown is now in pieces but it is estimated the crown was 74 feet across. It topped out at about 360 feet and had a circumference of 52 feet. It weighed more than a jumbo jet - 1,000,000 pounds. Some of the other trees on this trail were also very impressive. I still have a kink in my neck from trying to see the tops. You'll maybe get an idea of the size of the trees from the pictures of the roots. While we were stopped at one spot, we met two couples in motorhomes who were from BC and Alberta. One couple was from Okotoks and the other was from West Kelowna! Small world! So far these are the only people we have met. They said they could tell we were Canadians because we were friendly. | Long, long day today... | Avenue of the Giants

44: We came back on to the freeway at Garberville, near our original destination, and arrived there a lot earlier than we expected so we decided to continue on. Stopped at a pullout for lunch just south of Garberville then continued on with a plan to end at Willits, another 50 miles down the road. The highway remained pretty good, switching from four lane divided to four lane undivided with a few stretches of single lane tossed in. We traveled up into mountains at one point (hills I guess at 1800 feet). There were signs warning of icy spots but fortunately none of them were flashing. You could tell from the sanded roads and the great patches of frost on the sides of the road that these roads had been icy not long before we went through. It was kind of tense there for a few miles! We soon came down the other side of the hill but the going was so good we zoomed right through Willits and on towards Ukiah, which appeared to be about the same size as Eureka. Roy was in the groove with his driving and the roads were great so he was unstoppable. Ukiah soon became a thing of the past as we headed on for Santa Rosa! Of course, we didn't plan to be in Santa Rosa so hadn't called ahead for a RV park. I knew of two so we pulled off as we got into Santa Rosa and tried to call. No answer...and meanwhile we'd pulled into a parking lot that Roy was unable to make a turn in so we had to unhook the toad and re-hook it. Good thing we are getting quick at this! Meanwhile, it was beginning to get dark and we had no idea where the parks were or if they even had a space for us. We headed to Rhonert Park, just south of Santa Rosa, to where I thought one park map and no Internet to google a map...we finally stopped at a Shell station to ask directions. No one had any idea where the street in question was. There was a very nice man getting gas who eventually found us a city map in his car. Well, wouldn't you know it, the stupid street was ONE BLOCK away! In fact, I can see the Shell sign if I look out the window of the motorhome now! Fortunately for us they had one spot left. We got set up and went out for Chinese food - the chicken hadn't thawed and we were both too frazzled and worn out to cook. Two valuable lessons learned takes more room than you think to turn around a motorhome with a toad attached and...always make sure you've got a spot booked ahead and directions to find it! It seems like three days since we left Eureka. We covered a lot of ground today - 225 miles - our longest leg so far. I'm looking forward to not moving tomorrow. We are only about 50 miles or so from San Francisco, which will be our next stop after here.

45: Avenue of the Giants

46: Had a nice slow start to the day today...we even slept in. After breakfast we hit the road in the toad, heading west to the coast. Our route took us through a rural area with a few small towns. We stopped at the first town, Sebastapol, where we took in some local colour at the huge swap meet. Lots of people there and lots of junk. Small world - we ran into the nice man from the gas station last night - too funny! Didn't spend long there because there wasn't much catching our attention. We drove through Forestville, which was a nice looking little town. There was a farmer's market right in the centre of town that we didn't stop at and lots of cafes, shops and markets. It was quite active for a Sunday morning. We continued on through farmland areas that soon turned into forest. I was glad we were in the toad as the road got quite narrow and twisty as we got closer to the coast. Passed through another neat looking town, Guerneville, which also had a swap meet going on, then a couple other tiny settlements and were soon at the mouth of the Russian River. (Lots of guys fishing there.) Out at the coast the wind picked up and even though it was ten degrees, it was cold. We ate our lunch in the car then walked along a path out to a point above the ocean and it was so windy I was afraid I was going to get blown off. We decided it was just too cold to walk far so jumped back in the car and headed down the highway to Bodega Bay a few miles down the road. The bay is huge with jetties going out on each side. The jetties almost meet in the middle so there is just a wee opening to the ocean. Lots of people around, a few kites flying, some para-surfers and even some horses on the beaches. We drove out the west jetty and stopped for a bit to watch some guys fishing and for Roy to take some pictures of the birds - lots and lots of different kinds - we really could be having our "Big Year"! | January 15 | Nice easy day with lots of good sights... | Sonoma Coast State Park

47: We headed for home but decided to go back a different way. We ended up in Petaluma, which is about ten miles south of where our current "home" is. We were just heading out of Petaluma when lo and behold we discovered there were Outlet Stores. Roy bought a watch (like he needs another watch) and I bought some knives for the motorhome. Didn't see anything I wanted or needed so was happy to window shop. There was no Izod but I know - Esther and Giselle - you'd have been in the other stores shopping your hearts out! We met up with my friends, Rod Warters and Beth Case for dinner. I used to visit them regularly when I worked at the University. They took us to a lovely Italian place in Petaluma and the food was wonderful. We got home kind of late so I'll post this and there will be pictures added tomorrow sometime. We don't have far to go - 30 or 35 miles so just a short hop. We won't leave until late morning so that we can miss the San Francisco rush hour! | Bodega Bay

48: January 16 | Nice relaxing day... | We had a nice lazy start to our day...late breakfast, paid for our previous night's accommodations. I didn't mention much about this park...we were glad to get a spot BUT...they have people packed in like sardines! The sites are so small you almost walk into the next vehicle getting out your door. Good thing we don't have any slides! We couldn't have opened them. The 30 amp electricity hookup kept turning off because of a loose connection so we had to use the 20 amp - managed to not blow any circuits but probably because we didn't use anything more than a toaster and a coffee maker, and never both at the same time. The host/manager was very nice and easy going and people seemed friendly. A lot of full time residents... Anyway, we went back to the gas station to fill up on gas and propane and headed on our way. Drive was okay - a little nerve wracking for Roy in the traffic - five lanes of it going our way at one point - and except for one wrong turn down a dead end street near the park - we turned a block too early - we made it without incident. Sign in at the office was an experience! There were three of them and they were ALL fountains of information and ALL willing to share it. We got directions for the ferry, the buses, driving - to get into San Francisco. We got maps - they circled all the good spots and gave us directions. They were great! They even knew where the bike paths were, although I expect none of them had been on a bike in eons! The park is very nice - looks immaculate. I haven't visited the bathrooms, showers and laundry areas but I expect they are spotless. They have a small pool which is closed for the season and there are a number of full timers but their spaces are clean and tidy. The spaces are small width wise but okay for depth. We had an empty one beside us so lots of space to maneuver ourselves into place. When we got back it was occupied so we had very close neighbours. Met the people, who are from central Oregon but come here often. They had some tips for places to see. We are quite near the highway and we can hear traffic at the office but back here in our spot, it is quite quiet. We are booked in for three days - at least - depending on how the weather is. Right now it is sunny but there is rain coming in the next few days. | On the road again...

49: After setting up and a quick lunch, on our bikes we went...rode into Larkspur to the ferry terminal. We had to walk our bikes across the bridge (BIG signs) - right beside a big exit ramp - but once across we joined up with the bike path. We stopped briefly at the ferry terminal then rode past there until the path just became part of a busy road near the entrance to San Quentin. I've been here before - Rod and Beth (the people we had dinner with last night) live about five miles away - so it was sort of familiar to me. When we ran out of trail, we turned around and followed it back, going under the bridge this time and ending up on the other side of the highway from where we live. The path went for a couple of miles, following a little river, on a nice paved multi-use trail that was packed with people. It's Martin Luther King Day today so a holiday for most people. Decided we needed some groceries so headed down the road to Trader Joes - it was a madhouse so we left and searched out Safeway. I sent Roy into the mall while I shopped - a much better experience without him trying to speed up the process. How do you know if you need something until you see it?!! Took the groceries back to the motorhome, put them away then headed back out to check out a couple of stores. Found a really nice outdoor store - where I could have outfitted Jasper with a ski jacket for about $160 or so - half price. Very nice but very expensive - welcome to Marin County, which has the highest per capita income in the country. Did manage to find a couple of books at the used book store so we didn't leave empty handed. Saw another mall down the road and decided to check it out but unfortunately, it turned out to be across the highway and actually just a mile or so down the road from our park. We drove there but, as most of you know how much I love shopping (not), we decided we really didn't need to visit all these high end stores...Big Nordstroms, Macy's, Banana Republic, etc....not my style. We circumnavigated the parking lot and headed home. We are now back at the motorhome, relaxing, catching up with emails and just plain taking it easy. Tomorrow we head for downtown San Francisco... | Our bike ride in Larkspur | Commuter Ferry - Larkspur to San Francisco

50: January 17 | San Francisco - lots of great sights! | Made a quick itinerary this morning and headed off to the ferry. It's about a fifteen minute walk so we decided we'd take the car so it would be there when we got back. Unfortunately, our plans went astray a bit when we got to the terminal and the parking lot was full. We were already cutting it close and an extra ten minutes to find a spot and park wasn't planned. We walked very fast from the car and got to the terminal in time to get our tickets and run on board with about one minute to spare. The ferry ride was about 35 minutes and we sat outside for most of it, taking pictures and looking like tourists. Caught a good view of San Quentin and all the inmates in their orange jumpsuits out in the yard getting their exercise. Not sure if it will show up in the pictures but that's what those orange dots are. We went past Angel Island and Alcatraz and could see the Golden Gate bridge off in the distance. We got a great view of the downtown skyline as we arrived at the terminal. San Francisco isn't all that big - I didn't realize - it's only seven square miles. But they sure can pack the people and buildings into that space! We got our day muni-passes in the ferry terminal, allowing us to go anywhere on the buses, trams, cable cars, BART etc. Took a tram to Fisherman's Wharf then caught a bus to Coit Tower. Roy got some good shots from there. It is up on Telegraph Hill and can be seen from a long way away - we could see it from the ferry terminal. | Golden Gate Bridge | San Quentin | Alcatraz | Port of San Francisco | San Fran tram

51: Telegraph Hill was originally set up as a signal tower so people could be notified when ships were arriving. Coit Tower was built on Telegraph Hill in 1933. It stands 250 tall and was paid for with a bequest from Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Lillie was rescued from a fire at age eight. She became somewhat of a mascot for the fire department and eventually became a volunteer firefighter. Found this interesting tidbit: 'Firebelle Lil' Coit was one of the more eccentric characters in the history of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Through her youth and adulthood Lillie was recognized as an honorary firefighter. She was buried with a firefighter's gold shield. We caught the next bus back to Fisherman's Wharf and since it was time for lunch, decided to eat there. There is one strip of small outdoor seafood booths. They also have indoor restaurants but the price doubles to go eat inside. The booths all sell the same stuff. We settled for crab and shrimp sandwiches. They take a great hunk of sourdough bread and stuff it with crab and shrimp. I ate my stuffing with a fork and had a few bites of the bread. Roy ate the whole sandwich and it was a good chew! They were delicious. Lunch done, we headed off to the cable car station. We had to wait for a bit but once on, we traveled up and down and up and down the huge hills of San Francisco, through Chinatown, past Nob Hill, caught a brief glimpse of Lombard Street (the world's crookedest street), and went past Union Square, where amongst the palm trees they were dismantling their skating rink. We eventually ended up at Market Street, which is kind of THE shopping street in SF. Every store imaginable was there from the high end ones right down to a Ross Dress for Less. Nope, didn't even step inside - we were on a mission - to find MOMA...SF Museum of Modern Art. | San Francisco from Coit Tower | Coit Tower | Murals at Coit Tower

52: MOMA was an experience, much more enjoyable for Roy than me...I'm too much of a critic and don't appreciate art - at least not all of it. Some of the stuff was beautiful, striking, moving but some of it, I just don't get how someone convinced the right people that it was "art". There was everything from op art to pop art to abstract to landscape to minimalism to transformation - not that I recognized much but the Picasso and Matisse pieces. After a couple hours, we'd both had enough and decided to head back. We had wanted to go the Exploratorium but just didn't have enough time. So we got back to Fisherman's Wharf, wandered for a bit and lo and behold there was and In and Out. I admit we were both weak so it was a very early dinner of junk food burgers. The tram back to the Ferry Terminal was just around the corner so we caught the next tram and rode to the terminal. We got there about eight minutes before the next ferry was to leave so rushed AGAIN. I bought a return ticket in the morning but Roy had only a one way and needed a ticket. We just got on under the wire...good thing the ferry workers were so helpful! Wow - this ferry was a high speed one and we flew back to Larkspur. It was getting dark so we sat inside and relaxed - enough being a tourist for one day! Not nearly enough time to do everything in San Francisco! We didn't go to Alcatraz - neither of us has ever been - it just seemed like a long time to commit out of our day. Maybe if we stay until Thursday we'll consider it. We would also like to see Sausalito and drive to the Golden Gate Bridge in the toad if we have a chance but that may all end up as a good excuse to return. Tomorrow we plan to golf at a course near here. So much to do and so little time! | MOMA | Lunch at Fisherman's Wharf | Riding the cable cars

53: January 18 | Took advantage of our last day in San Francisco to golf. Looks like lousy weather is heading this way...We played with Beth at a nice course near where they live, about ten miles from here. It was cloudy and cool but the rain stayed away. We are heading out tomorrow...on to Monterey. Weather doesn't look great for the next couple of days there. But we plan to stay for three or four days so hopefully we will get some sun! Can hardly wait to get somewhere warm. Sorry no pics today but I think yesterday's load makes up for it:) | January 19 | Today was the big day to drive through the San Francisco Bay area. We waited until rush hour had ended and headed out about ten. It was a complicated drive through a huge megalopolis area with lots of lane changes (not always easy in a motorhome), merges onto new highways etc. Needless to say it was stressful! We started by crossing the Richmond bridge, which runs forever! Fortunately, the lanes were wide and there was an emergency lane beside me on the right so there was lots of room. Kind of a cool bridge...eastbound traffic drives on the lower lanes and westbound drives above on a second level. The traffic was fairly heavy right through to San Jose, with lots of trucks passing us, taking up more than their share of the lanes. We traveled forever it seemed, city after city all running into each other. Then finally, just south of San Jose, as we left behind the last of the spaghetti interchanges, the countryside began to look a little less urban, and the traffic began to thin out some. The highways here are showing signs of California's poor financial state...they were filthy, the sides of the roads covered in litter and garbage. It wasn't until we got to Morgan Hill that we saw workers out cleaning up...someone obviously had adopted this section! After San Jose, we drove through some very flat farmland areas as Highway 101 headed south, through a few small cities. Morgan Hill looked like it was nothing but shopping malls. Gilroy was acres and acres of garlic...they claim to be the garlic capital of the country. Just after Gilroy, the highway headed west through a huge eucalyptus forest then began to roll downhill back towards the ocean, through a couple more small towns, a bunch avocado farms and finally into Monterey. We managed to find the RV park with no difficulty and no wrong turns. We are staying at the Monterey Fairgrounds RV park. It isn't fancy by any means but it is a lot cheaper than staying at the others by thirty to fifty dollars a night. It has water, sewer and electricity but no cable and the wifi is iffy. We are across from a military golf course and, we’ve since discovered, somewhere near an airport. Fortunately, planes don’t come often because they certainly do fly low! | Driving day... | Richmond Bridge | Beach at Monterey

54: We had some lunch, took care of some RV stuff and still had a couple of hours of daylight so we decided to go exploring. It will probably rain the entire time we are here but I hope we will still be able to see the area, even if it is from the car. We drove to the downtown area - easy to get to with only a couple of turns - and stopped at the tourist info booth for a few pamphlets. We headed out towards Pacific Grove, which is a community in itself but right beside Monterey. There is a monarch butterfly sanctuary among other things and a golf course that we might play if we get a decent day during our stay so we thought we’d check it out. On the way, we stopped at the beach for the view. It seems like we haven’t seen the ocean in ages even though it’s only been a couple of days. The view was lovely with waves breaking over craggy rocks, big tide pools and some nice sandy beaches lined with gnarly cypress trees. There were tons of different kinds of birds along the beach – more for our Big Year were we doing one. We continued on and found the golf course, which looks lovely – right on the ocean - a poor man’s Pebble Beach and only about $40 to play. This area has several famous golf courses... Pebble Beach, Spyglass, The Links at Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills to mention a few. After a short stop at the golf course we drove around the southernmost point of Pacific Grove, past a surfing beach and past a wildlife sanctuary that looked like it had some nice trails through the dunes. We passed one of the gates to 17 Mile Drive (we’ll do that another day), then looped back towards Monterey. The ocean front drive is lined with beautiful old Victorian houses, almost all of which have been turned into bed and breakfasts. We did find a small outlet mall, which (finally) had an Izod store. I LOVE their 85% off racks and yes girls, I did shop and even bought! Roy got a couple pairs of pants and I got two golf skirts and two golf shirts – each item of mine was under ten bucks! Not much else in the outlet mall of interest...the usual stores but only a dozen or so of them. The place looks like it is on a downhill slide. Even the parking lot was no longer charging as far as we could tell...a kiosk with no one in it and no ticket machine, despite warnings to get your parking ticket validated in the mall. We took a detour down past the aquarium and along Cannery Row. Cannery Row is a strip of what used to be sardine packing canneries. This area was used a lot by John Steinbeck as settings for his novels. Somewhere there is a Steinbeck museum but we think that might be in Salinas, a short drive from here. Anyway, the area is now gift shops, restaurants and galleries...your basic high end tourist trap. Throughout our trip along the waterfront and through town, we could see the Coast Recreational Trail, a multi-use path that goes for miles and miles along the waterfront. It is paved and flat and I hope we get some decent weather so we can use it! There are also a number of parks with paved routes around them that would also be fun to explore on bikes. The light was running out and it was starting to rain so we headed back to our humble abode for dinner and a quiet evening. There is no cable but we did manage to catch up on a couple of shows we missed last week by watching them on my computer. The internet crashed a few times but we did manage to get to the end of them eventually.

55: January 20 | Lots to see today... | We were expecting rain overnight and for the next few days and we got it. Woke up at 5:45 to the sound of a very noisy, large jet plane flying overhead and raindrops on the roof. Didn't look like it would be much of an outdoors kind of day so we had a leisurely bacon and eggs breakfast, coffee and time to catch up on emails. By ten thirty the rain had slowed to almost nothing so we decided we'd venture out and do some "inside" exploring. We headed off to Carmel-by-the-Sea to visit the Carmel Mission. By the time we got there, the rain had pretty much slowed to a mist with the odd drizzle mixed in. The mission was beautiful. It is a monument to Padre Junipero Serra of the Order of Franciscan Friars. He became president of the California missions and established this mission in Monterey in 1769. It was moved to Carmel near the river the next year. In 1771 he moved into the newly finished mission, which was made of wood. The early years were hard and they relied on the Indians for supplies until their crops became more sufficient. As they became more successful, the wooden buildings were replaced by adobe structures and eventually the buildings were replaced with sandstone. Father Serra never got to see the finished church - he died before its completion in 1797. He is buried in a tomb in front of the altar. The mission underwent a huge and painstaking restoration beginning in 1937 after lying in ruins for more than eight years. Reconstructed basically from the foundation and a few feet of wall, they've done an amazing job. In addition to the chapel, the complex also has three small and interesting museums depicting the lives of various people associated with the mission. It was quite a fascinating couple of hours. Of the course there was the inevitable gift shop at the end where they sold every possible religious icon and doodad that you could imagine. We bought a couple of round coin-like medallions but opted for the ones that said golf, rather than the saints or prayers. I wonder if it is sacrilegious to use those as ball markers? | Carmel Mission

56: We decided to do the scenic tour of Carmel. But first a few tidbits on this tiny burg. First off, it is VERY expensive. It's a tiny little spot where shopping is pretty much limited to designer stores including Tiffany’s and Coach – nope not the outlets, the real thing. Carmel has a reputation as a high end resort area but it didn’t start that way. It wasn’t until the 1906 fire and earthquake in San Francisco that a number of artists and writers came here to get away from the city, forming a bohemian colony that became famous for its wild and free lifestyle. By the 1920s this group had disbanded but wealthy San Franciscans had begun to holiday here. The main industry in Carmel now is tourism - for the rich I think – I know I couldn't afford to stay here! Carmel Beach was beautiful - turquoise waves rolling in over a beautiful white sand beach – miles of it – surrounded by wind-bent cypress trees and gorgeous homes. Further down the seashore we came to Carmel State Beach, and a huge lagoon and bird sanctuary all of which unfortunately, due to California’s lack of funds, are closed. Just for fun on our drive we stopped and checked out the feature sheet on a house across from the beach. It didn’t look like much, despite the fact that is was 7000 square feet. The price tag was a mere 7 million and it looked like it could use some work! Our drive took us back through downtown Carmel and past the designer shops, galleries and restaurants. Roy wouldn’t stop and buy me a bauble from Tiffany’s so we continued on to Monterey where we stopped at the mall to check out movie times, grab a quick bite and ponder how we'd spend the rest of the afternoon. The weather was still gray and drizzly so not a good time for much outdoor activity. We opted to do 17 Mile Drive. There aren't many places where they charge you to drive through a residential area but here they do - to the tune of $8.50 - not a lot but considering the number of cars driving along the seventeen miles, they must do all right! Your money gets you a guide to the place and as much time there as you like. There are about 20 or so marked sites for stopping plus loads of pullouts to enjoy the views. It really was an incredible drive and definitely worth the price of admission. | Mission at Carmel

57: The scenery was spectacular and we stopped in to check out the pro shops at all the big name golf courses. We opted not to play as it was still pretty wet and drizzly - ha - we couldn't afford most of them anyway! Pebble is only $495 plus a cart...Links at Spanish Bay - a mere $260 plus cart and Spyglass just $360 plus a cart! There were a couple of private courses as well. On the seaside part of the drive we saw some incredible sights. There was a little island that was covered in seal and sea lions. There were loads of birds. I was fascinated watching a pair of pelicans that I assume were fishing. They flew about six inches off the waves, following the waves until they curled and broke and then soaring up into the sky before coming down near a new wave. I also noticed three or four dolphins not far off shore leaping and diving in the waves! And on the way home, although it was getting hard to see, I'm pretty sure I saw a whale offshore - saw what looked like a couple of big blows and then what looked like the flip of a tail. As we got nearer to Pebble Beach, there was a noticeable difference in the houses. These places were just obscene they were so big. The guest houses and servants quarters were twice the size of my house! They were really incredible and the views from those on the water side must have been stunning. Pebble Beach, when we finally got there, was amazing. The course is so green and lush. The place is like a little city - it has its own bank, a market, several restaurants, two golf shops - one ladies/one mens, and a pro-shop (complete with leather armchairs and a fireplace) which carried ONLY men's stuff, displayed like Harry Rosen's. On the way home we took the exit gate that went out to Pacific Grove, where we drove yesterday. We retraced our steps, enjoying the scenery again, headed back through Monterey and towards home. We looked for a grocery store and decided that people in Monterey just don't buy groceries! We finally found one after driving around for a half hour. Turns out it is not far from where we live - figures! We're about to have a bowl of soup for dinner since both of us is still semi-full from lunch. It's raining again and the weather looks about the same for tomorrow so not sure what will be in our plans. | Carmel Beach | Lone Cypress | Seal Rock | Green at Spyglass | Pebble Beach | 17 MILE DRIVE

58: January 21 | Busy day! | Last night it rained so hard you could hardly hear yourself think! And WINDY - wow - the motorhome was shaking. Woke up this morning to gray skies and soon heard rain on the roof again. But by 9:30, the sun was trying to peek through so we had a quick breakfast and headed out. Today we did the walking tour of Old Monterey - The Path of History... Armed with a map and a brochure, we headed downtown for a parking spot. Managed to find a free two hour spot right near the street we needed. Had to run back to the car for my rain jacket as it started to drizzle again and then began to rain in earnest. We ducked under cover for a couple of minutes but the cloudburst was soon over and the skies began to clear. Didn't see rain again all day! The walking tour was somewhat interesting with stops at several old adobe buildings that had been homes, stores, a courthouse, the town hall, a jail and California's first movie theatre. Monterey went through several incarnations from a remote Spanish outpost to a Mexican farming community to US Statehood. It was the capital of California at one time and one of the buildings was the site of the signing of the state constitution. Unfortunately, Old Monterey is a state park and due to cutbacks, many of the sites were closed up, with little information available beyond the very limited amount in the brochure. There were a couple of places open that were managed by the city and therefore still staffed - by volunteers, who were happy to share their knowledge. The town hall was very nicely done with original stuff under glass and other "props" placed about the place to give it a feeling of authenticity. | Monterey Harbor | Walking tour of Old Monterey

59: We ended our tour down at Fisherman's Wharf where there were displays, music and people milling about. Today was Whale Days and there were lots of activities going on. Couldn't figure out if they were anti or pro whaling but we weren't that interested in getting in the middle of it to find out. We headed back to the car, having almost exhausted our two free hours of parking, and headed to Pacific Grove where we had a tee time. Got to the golf course around 12:30 or so and got the twilight rate - good deal...$20 - now that IS the poor man's Pebble Beach! The course was lovely despite the wind. The first nine was kind of a park course with lots of trees and more deer than you could count! Then the back nine crossed the road to the ocean side where the scenery was stunning. I'd like to blame the wind for all my bad shots but I think it was more just chipping off the rust. We played in just over three hours so it was a quick round. Very long holes from the reds - hardly any advantage at all. There were two par fives that were over 500 yards and two par threes that were close to 200. Add in the wind and it made some of the holes rather long! By the time we left the golf course and headed back to the motorhome, it was close to 4:30. Suddenly Roy remembered that we had wanted to drive down the coast to Big Sur, during our stay in Monterey. We had about an hour's sunlight left so we thought we'd give it a go, or at least go a ways so we could see how the road might be tomorrow for the motorhome. Got several miles down the coast and saw some great crashing waves but decided we didn't want to have to drive back in the dark so we turned around. It only took about ten minutes of driving for Roy to decide we are NOT taking that route tomorrow. The road is windy and narrow and there is a lot of traffic - not ideal conditions for rookie motorhomers. So we'll see the very southernmost bits of Big Sur when we head north to Hearst Castle from Morro Bay, our destination tomorrow. We'll be taking the inland route which is a little farther to drive because we go inland a ways but probably not much longer time wise because of better roads. | Colton Hall | Larkin House | Bear statue at town hall

60: Golf at Pacific Grove

61: We left this morning around ten thirty and after a slight detour due to a slight navigational error we were on the road. (Totally not the navigator's fault - the entry to the highway we needed was in an inconvenient spot, right under the entrance to the OTHER highway we ended up on and not accessible from the entrance we used.) It was a fairly short drive from Monterey to Salinas on a good road with not much traffic. In Salinas we hooked up with the 101 and were on there for almost all the rest of the trip. Salinas was a big sprawling farming community, population about 150,000. It is well-known for its rodeo (not by us) and as the birthplace of John Steinbeck. (who else had to read Red Pony and the Pearl in junior high?) We didn't stop, although the Steinbeck Centre probably would have been interesting to see. This area provided the backdrop to some of his novels - East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath...must dig some of those out when I return, now that I will be able to picture the scenery. Salinas is also known for its labour disputes, due to the huge gap between the migratory, low paid manual labourers who pick the produce and the wealthy owners of the huge farms. The area's main crop is lettuce and you could see acres and acres - no, make that miles and miles of fields with the crops in varying stages of growth. It is a huge valley and the fields went as far as you could see, right up to the surrounding hills. Being somewhere near Salinas wouldn't have been complete without Willie Nelson wailing out his version of Bobby McGee so Roy made sure that tape (yes, we actually have a tape deck!) was playing as we went through. Hope you "young" readers get the reference... Highway 101 was a double lane divided highway all the way so the driving was pretty easy for Roy and not too tense for me:) The flat-as-a-pancake row-crop fields soon became interspersed with vineyards and eventually all we could see was vineyards for miles around. Then the agricultural areas ended and we went through a huge oil field area with a big refinery and hundreds of oil pumps dotting the hillsides. We passed through a number of nondescript towns; the only one I recognized was Soledad and I have no idea why. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the side of the highway that had a bunch of posters/signs with info about the area, its history, the missions, the agriculture. (It used to be wheat farming until they discovered row crops had quicker turnover and so provided a better return.) The stop was brief and we were soon back on the road. Our next stop was for gas and propane in Atascadero at our turn off to Morro Bay. The road to Morro Bay was a little narrow and windy with a fair bit of traffic and no pullouts but fortunately it was only a short distance. The RV park was easy to find and we were checked in and settled in no time. | January 22 | We LIKE this place! | Somewhere near Salinas... | Very Okanagan looking

62: As we were setting up, I kept hearing this sound, like barking dogs. It took me a minute to figure out it was actually barking seals and sea lions. That's how close we are to the sea - could hardly wait to get across the street to see it. The RV Park is lovely. It's quite large and also fairly full. The sites are big compared to anything we've been in so far. We have a picnic table and a fire pit and an incredible view of Morro Rock. I have to admit when I was researching this area, I did notice that there was a big rock in the bay here but this is NOT what I pictured! This thing is huge. We could see it from miles away. Morro Rock is the northern most visible member of the Nine Sisters, a string of ancient volcanic cones stretching from here in Morro Bay south to San Louis Obispo.The rock is 576 feet high and sometimes referred to as the Gilbraltar of the Pacific.The rock was quarried for years but in 1968 it was declared a State Historical Landmark. It is now a refuge for endangered Peregrine falcons and climbing on it is illegal. It was first sighted in 1542 by a Spainish explorer Juan Cabrillo who named it El Morro, which means crown-shaped hill. That's exactly what it is and that is what we look out on from our rear window. It was only 3:30 by the time we were settled in so we decided a bike ride would be a good way to fill the time. We cycled for an hour or so on a really great bike trail that ran north, parallel to Hwy 1 then through a park and a beautiful wetland and finally on a boardwalk that went out to the beach. On our return trip, we continued on past our park towards town. I'd had enough when we came to the big hill into know me - I like it flat! And speaking of flat, one of my tires needed air so when we got back we pulled it off the bike and decided to make a quick trip into town. On our trip into town we discovered another bike trail that goes from downtown all the way out to Morro Rock. We drove out there in the car; the place was full of cars and people going or coming back from surfing or stand-up paddle boarding. The road is blocked off at that point to cars but it looks like you can walk or bike out to the outer part of the rock. On the way back we stopped at the Visitor's Info place and discovered there are two golf courses nearby. The visitor info guy tells us Morro Bay Golf Course is the poor man's Pebble...seem to be a few poor man's Pebbles...guess there are more of us poor...Also figured there's enough stuff to do to keep us busy for a week if we like! Tomorrow it is supposed to rain so I think we are heading up the coast on Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle. | Our backyard and beach in Morro Bay | Bike ride - Morro Rock in the background

63: January 23 | A full day jammed into a half day! | Wow - did we get rain!! It was like monsoon season most of the night and late into this morning. Thought it would never stop. We scrapped our plans to go to Hearst Castle because it was raining so hard. We figured the tour would have been okay but walking in the gardens in the rain might not have been much fun. So we lazed about all morning - it was kind of nice not to be on the move. Lunch rolled around and the sun began to peek through, even though there were still lots of ugly gray clouds lurking about. By this time we were bored with sitting around so ate lunch and headed out for a car tour of the area. We headed first to the post office so I could buy some stamps for the postcards I bought weeks ago. Then we headed to Morro Bay State Park where, just at the entrance to the park, you turn off to the golf course. We stopped in to grab a scorecard and have a look. The course is and lush, lots of elevation change, big trees and cheap...twilight starts at noon and costs $18. We'll be back. Shortly into the park is the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History, which turned out to be a real find. The museum is very hands on, designed for kids of all ages, with lots of displays that you have to manipulate in some way. It's not very big but what they have is very well done. The museum is built on a volcanic hill and after exiting the museum, we took a short climb to the peak for a great view of the entire bay. Morro Bay is huge, with a long sand dune spit and the big rock providing natural protection from the open ocean. We continued on through the park, catching a peek at another part of the inner harbour and skirting the edge of the estuary. We turned in when we got to Los Osos, just to see what was there - not much, actually - but we did find a small farmer's market where there were all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies. I sampled dates and figs (and bought a handful) - Roy declined - we bought some salad fixings and moved on to bigger and better things. | Pelicans up close and personal right on the wharf! | Morro Harbor

64: We headed back into Morro Bay and back down to the rock...decided that we would walk around the end, just in case we didn't get back with our bikes. The tide was running out of the bay and at the mouth there were all kinds of birds on the water, a few seals playing and a few brave surfers. The rock is even more impressive up close. There are two pairs of peregrine falcons nesting there, one on each side of the rock. We think we saw them, soaring in the wind, but I haven't got online to see if that is what we were actually watching. We could see patches of birdie doodoo high up on the rock and assume a falcon perch was nearby. There were also lots of my lovely pelicans flying about. Roy was busy snapping pictures, hoping for a good one. Too funny...we left there and stopped at the public wharf to see what time the fish and chips place closed, took a short walk onto the pier and lo and behold there were a half dozen pelicans just standing there on the wharf on top of the garbage bins! We were so close it reminded me of running across the penguins last year in New Zealand. Of course Roy's camera was in the car and my batteries chose that exact moment to die! Roy went back and got his camera and the birds waited patiently for him. I hope you'll agree, it was worth it! We left the area, me having had my Kodak moment of the day with the pelicans, and headed into town. War Horse was playing so we took in the matinee, grabbed fish and chips after and brought it home to the motorhome. We're now settled in for the night and as soon as I can upload some pics, we'll catch the latest House on tv. | Morro Bay critters

65: January 24 | Another great day! | Wow...lots to talk about today! Our first stop was at the park office to pay for another two nights. While I was paying, I noticed a DOT release on the counter announcing that Hwy 1 is closed indefinitely due to a big rock slide about fifty miles north of here. Glad we didn't take that route, although we would probably have been through the area just prior to the slide. If not it would have meant backtracking and taking the inland route anyway. Today we were able to get as far as Hearst Castle and beyond with no problem...did not even see any signs about the slide until we were at the last possible place to bail out on another highway. The road was nice...single lane but wide and mostly straight. It was quite scenic as we followed the seaside for the first dozen miles. The highway turned inland for a bit but was not ever far from the ocean. We traveled through farmland, mostly ranching, right up to the turn off to Hearst. Since we were early for our tour, we went to see the elephant seals a few miles further north of the castle. was amazing to see these creatures!! The beach was covered in hundreds of them, huge males, females and recently born pups. Roy took so many pictures it will take him all night to sort through them. Winter is the elephant seal season of birthing and mating. We were so fortunate to see it all right before our eyes. In December, the first males arrive, returning from their long swim to Alaska and back. They have spent months bulking up for several months of fasting. As they arrive, they begin the process of determining the hierarchy on the beach. A massive male weighs in at as much as two tons. The male has a long dangling nose, that looks much like a short elephant trunk. They fight for their chosen spot on the beach, bellowing at one another, belly bumping and sometimes biting each other on the neck with their sharp canine teeth. The males have a callus on their neck that protects them somewhat and although teeth can puncture it, there is seldom much damage. The pregnant females begin arriving in mid December, each finding a comfortable spot on the beach to give birth. They have also bulked up in preparation for a couple months of fasting, birthing and nursing. Usually within a week of arriving, the female gives birth to one pup, weighing in at 60 to 80 pounds! The birth lasts only a half hour or so. The first thing that happens after the birth is a conversation between mother and pup, vocally bonding so that they recognize each other's voice should they get separated. I can imagine that not being uncommon since there are hundreds of them and they all look alike! The birthing season lasts right through January and in fact, we saw a very recently born pup. The seagulls kept attacking it and the mother kept swatting them away. I thought they were after the pup and felt so bad for the poor barking mother but I was relieved to read on one the signs that they were after the placenta, not the pup. | Belly bumping males | Big male elephant seal | Hundreds of elephant seals

66: The pups nurse for about four weeks and gain a much as ten pounds a day. For every pound the pup gains, the mother loses two. By the end of the nursing period, the pups weigh about 300 pounds. The pup must be fat enough to survive for eight to ten weeks after it is weaned, while it teaches itself to swim well enough to head north to forage for food. Four weeks after the birth, the males are back in the picture. There must have been lots of four week old pups as the males were making the rounds. Each male can have as many as 40 females in his harem and mates with each one after her pup is weaned. The female weans the pup abruptly, mates and heads out to sea, leaving her pup to fend for itself. It was fascinating to watch males fight for "ownership" of the females. The beach was a cacophony of sounds...the deep croaking male voices, the barking females, and the yapping was a VERY noisy spot but what an opportunity and a privilege to see and hear it all. We still had a bit of time before our tour so we dropped into the state park and walked out on the pier. It was beautiful. This big long pier stretched out over the could watch the waves break right underneath you. A couple of people were fishing on the pier but otherwise the place was deserted. We crossed the highway and drove up into the parking lot where our visit to Hearst Castle was to begin. Got our tickets and a quick bite to eat then boarded a bus for the trip up the mountain. It was about a fifteen minute drive to the top, accompanied by an audio commentary about the things we were passing. The castle is literally on the top of a mountain. The family would arrive at the bottom and hike to the top, mostly on foot and horseback, laden with all their supplies. I can't imagine them bringing in all the stuff to build it! We spent a few hours at the castle and I can only begin to tell you what it was like. First of all, they are very strict on visitor food or drink other than bottled water is permitted. Chewing gum is forbidden. You may only walk on the designated carpets inside the castle and you may not touch anything - except the concrete or metal railings. Photography is allowed; no flash inside and it is only for personal use. Publishing photos without permission is banned. I am classifying my blog as personal, btw, and if our internet ever improves, I'll be uploading a ton. William Randolph Hearst never called this place a castle. He always referred to it at "the ranch at San Simeon" or "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill). It began as a childhood dream after a year and a half trip he took through Europe with his mother when he was ten. He was fascinated by the churches and chapels and other majestic buildings he saw throughout Europe and brought home a dream of building a place that incorporated all the beauty of what he'd seen. | Contented cow? | Cape Blanco Lighthouse

67: After inheriting the 250,000 acre ranch, he hired architect Julia Morgan to help him build his dream on the top of a mountain. It took over twenty eight years from 1917 to 1947 to build what is here now. Hearst collected art work and parts of buildings from all over Europe and had them shipped and integrated into his castle. The plan was for much more but it was never completed. What stands now is a 69,000 square foot home (not counting halls and bathrooms) built of steel and concrete to be earthquake proof. And that is only the main building! There are three "cottages" as well, that housed his many and frequent stars and moguls as well as children. You got a date to arrive on your left when you wanted. The Casa Grande (main house) has 115 rooms. It has twin bell towers and a teak gable, all purchased and shipped in from Europe. It is faced with white limestone and has antique carvings that were inspired by a Spanish cathedral Hearst had seen in his travels. The first part of our tour was guided through three of the main floor rooms. First we saw the drawing room, which was about 50 feet wide and 75 feet long and probably 25 or 30 feet high. The walls were covered in huge antique tapestries; all the original furniture is still in place. The room had the biggest fireplace I've ever seen. Our guide said that Hearst employed two men whose only job was to tend the fireplaces. Second we saw the dining hall, with a table for about forty people. All around the room were choir seats bought from some church, that served no purpose but to decorate the room. Above, near the ceiling, an arched walkway from a chapel in Europe had been transformed into a frame for several windows. It was all very dark and medieval looking. We traveled then through the games room, complete with a couple of pool tables. The ceiling in this room was very ornate with individually painted wooden tiles covering it. On the other side of this room was the "theatre" where every night at 11 pm, Hearst showed a movie. We watched a short movie...clips of black and white photos taken of his various big-name guests. After the movie ended we were on our own to tour the rest of the outside of the castle. There was a lot to see but I'll try a brief summary. First we saw the Neptune Pool, named for the statue of the Roman sea god. There are ancient Roman columns and a bunch of statues surrounding the pool. The water is crystal clear and you can just imagine all his wealthy visitors having a dip. It holds 345,000 gallons of water. Stairs lead up to a bath house with 17 dressing rooms. The view of the valley on the back side of the mountain is spectacular. | Hearst Castle | Games Room Neptune Pool

68: We then wandered around the three cottages...Casa del Sol. Casa del Monte, Casa del Mar, each named for its view (houses of the sun, mountain, sea). The main plaza sits between the cottages and the main house and provides spectacular 360 degree views of the ocean and the valley. Everywhere you turn, there is another statue. The last part of our visit wandered past the tennis courts. Under the net, the surface was made of glass blocks to allow light to pass through to the Roman Pool below. The Roman Pool was the only portion of the gymnasium to be completed. It is ornately done with marble and gilt covered tiles. Because it was never finished, it was never as popular as the Neptune Pool. That ended our tour of the castle itself. We took the bus down the hill listening to another audio tour and got to the bottom just as the 45 minute movie was starting. It was really interesting, outlining the building of Hearst Castle from the man's childhood dream to its current state. When Hearst died, he left the ranch to his estate in a trust, to be managed by his corporation, ensuring that his children would never be able to change what he intended the place to be...a museum to be shared with everyone, not just a select elite group. Interesting...he didn't trust his children?? We took a quick tour of the gift shop with the usual trinkets and trash and headed out the door and down the highway back towards Morro Bay. We decided to fill the rest of the afternoon by heading to San Luis Obispo, a short hop south of Morro Bay. We made a quick stop downtown and then decided we just had to see the Madonna Hotel, which we'd heard described as bringing a new meaning to the word "tacky". All reports were accurate... this place was too tacky for words. The theme was "pink" and it was glitzy with lights and had the tackiest bathrooms imaginable. A quick stop for groceries and we were home for barbecued lamb chops and a quiet evening. Internet here sucks at night so not many photos uploaded. More to follow in the morning I hope. | Another beautiful sunset at Morro Bay | Roman Pool under the tennis courts | Neptune Pool

69: January 25 | Golf Day... | Sorry not too much to report on today... We woke up to gorgeous weather. Sunny and warm - 20 degrees - first actual WARM day we've had. It's about time. It was so nice that we decided to get in a quick bike ride before going golfing. We put the bikes in the car and drove into downtown and rode the bike path out to the Rock. It wasn't a long enough ride so on the return, we kept going out to the other end of town. Not a very big bike lane and some idiot in a truck almost hit me with the trailer he was pulling but other than that it was a nice ride. Back to the MH for a quick shower and then we headed to the golf course. We teed off at noon as that is when the twilight rate started. It was a lovely course with a view from pretty much every hole. It was kind of windy of the first nine, which was higher up the hill. The back nine was closer to sea level and a little more protected by large eucalyptus trees. The smell was lovely...the ocean plus eucalyptus...mmm. We won't talk too much about the scores but I did get my first birdie of the season and, suffice it to say, Roy owes me money. But I'm keeping really quiet or next time he won't give me so many strokes. We have some scenic shots to post but the internet is unpredictable so I don't know if I will get them up tonight. If not, I'll try in the morning when it seems to work a little better. Off to LA area tomorrow - we think... | Golf at Morro Bay

70: January 26 | Just a short hello... | It was a driving day today... Did exciting things like catching up on laundry, cleaning, tidying etc. How boring! On the road at about eleven for our 150 mile trek. Nice highway all the way. It's been a few days since we moved so Roy had to get back into the driving groove. It was quite windy and the MH was blowing around for the first twenty five miles or so. Passed back through San Luis Obispo and connected back on to Hwy 101. Drive was through rolling hills for most of the way, inland and through a few small towns then through Santa Maria, Buellton, Solvang (You may remember these two towns from the movie, Sideways. Buellton is also famous for Andersen's Pea Soup - I know kind of an odd thing to be famous for but it's supposed to be good.) We've been here before so just boogied through and stopped at a rest station to make a quick lunch. We were in this pass surrounded by cool mountains. I remember this road from a few years ago when we spent a couple weeks in Lompoc. Not much at this rest area but washrooms and barely enough room to park a couple motorhomes and a dozen or so cars. We ate and moved on. The ocean was in view again shortly and the road was right beside it for the rest of the way. We made a short detour through Carpenteria, where my sons will remember going with their grandparents one summer. Then we were here in Ventura. The RV park we are in seems nice. No cable but the internet seems to work. Too bad I have almost no pictures...guess I could give you a few dozen more seals or scenic seasides..but I won't. The park is nice but right by the highway so lots of traffic noise. They have a pool and hot tub that we might check out tomorrow. Got all settled in and Roy had the urge to go shopping. So we headed off down the highway to the Camarillo Outlet Mall, where we've been several times before in past years. Bought a few things and stopped at the In and Out before heading back. No cable here so I watched last week's Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice on my computer. Tomorrow I think we are golfing again..oh boy, no pics AGAIN...what kind of a blog is this??? | Highway south of Buellton and Solvang | Rest area

71: January 27 | Golf Day - but some exploring too | We booked ourselves a tee time for just after lunch today so tried to get in a little sight seeing in the morning. We are not far from downtown Old Ventura. We found the tourist info place and got some info and directions. The area around Ventura/Oxnard/Camarillo is very flat and has a substantial agricultural industry. They grow a lot of strawberries and veggies that, in season, are sold at many roadside stands. (Too early for us, I think.) The ocean is about a five minute walk from where we are parked. Downtown is not very big...the main street is Main Street (go figure) and it is a collection of little shops, galleries, book stores and a lot of second hand stores like Goodwill. We saw a number of homeless people wandering the streets and sleeping in the parks but only a couple of panhandlers. There is a newer area around Ventura Harbour that is trendy, high end shops and much more touristy. Ventura has a beautiful beach and several county parks right on the water. (California has closed about 40 of their state parks so most of these aren't open.) They also have a big pier that stretches a very long way out into the bay. We managed to find a free parking lot near the city hall so parked there and headed on a walking tour of downtown. City Hall itself is quite an impressive building, big pillars and a kind of white limestone looking exterior with a bunch of smiling faces on it. There are 24 of them, representing the 24 padres who ran the local mission over the years. There was also a large bronze statue of Junipero Serra in front of City may remember him from the mission in Carmel. Our first stop was the mission and another interesting self-guided tour. It is called Mission San Buenaventura (St. Bonaventure), Mission by the Sea. This was to have been the third mission in a chain of 21 that Padre Serra planned to found but somehow it ended up being the ninth and last one founded during his lifetime. It's surprising it is still here...The first church building was destroyed by fire; the second was started and abandoned after a door gave way and the place crashed down. The current one was started in 1792 but wasn't completed until 1809. In 1812 a series of earthquakes and a tidal wave forced the padres and their Indian converts to flee into the mountains. Then six years later they had to flee again, hiding sacred objects and taking refuge in the surrounding hills, this time to elude a pirate who was pillaging the missions. The mission was actually sold off at one point but when California became a state, the church petitioned successfully to have it returned, proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. | City Hall | Mission San Buenaventura | One of the 24 smiling padres

72: The church has been modified and modernized over the years and, in more recent times, has been restored to is original form. It still has the feel of an old mission church. The church itself is beautiful inside, big like the mission church we saw in Carmel. They still hold mass every day, twice on Saturday and five times on Sundays. Two masses on the weekends are in Spanish and one is in Latin. Confessions are available in Spanish and English - as proclaimed by the signs over the confessionals - a reflection of the local population. We happened to run into the priest while we were walking through the gardens and had a nice chat. It is a beautiful spot but much smaller than the mission in Carmel. There were a lot of statues with burning candles in several places both inside the church and out in the gardens. Not sure who all the statues were...not enough Catholic upbringing I guess. We crossed the street (as per the directions from the lady in the mission gift shop) and went in search of the local museum. We came across a fire fighters museum...bunch of stuff in the window...but couldn't find an entry. We wandered into a small hotel and asked and one of the staff offered to take us to it. She led us through a maze of hallways and ended up at that same window...she said that was it, there was no entry. So, we walked back along the streets to our car. Turns out...we discovered much later...the real museum was next door - a fairly big building with a big sign...not sure how we missed it or how she didn't know it was there! Oh well, never saw the inside. By then it was time to head to the golf course. As we were leaving downtown, we spied the original office building where Earl Stanley Gardner kept his law practice and wrote his famous Perry Mason stories. We took a nice route along Ventura Bay and found the golf course without getting lost. Golf was nice. Very flat course and the wind was blowing, first off the land and then it switched and was blowing off the sea. It was nice because it was warm out and not so nice because it tended to blow a few shots off target. We played with two guys from LA that were about the slowest players I've ever played with. But they were friendly and it was still enjoyable. How bad could it be, it's January and we were golfing in shorts?!! We met our good friend, Steve, at Yolanda's in Camarillo, for dinner. Carol is out of town but we hope to catch up with them later on our trip. We had wonderful Mexican food, ate too much and are now back home deciding what we'll do tomorrow. | Mission San Buenaventura

73: January 28 | Stayed an extra day... | We decided to stay in Ventura an extra day. We got online and checked the roads and there was a high wind advisory for the road we planned to take to bypass LA. It recommended that RVs, trailers and big rig trucks avoid travel. THAT didn't sound like much fun so we decided we'd travel tomorrow, which, being a Sunday, will be better getting through LA anyway - we hope. So, we got a late on our biking gear, unhooked the bikes and hit the road. There is a bike trail that starts right here at the RV park and goes all the way to the far side of Ventura Harbor. The first part of it ran down beside a "sometimes" river...right now it is pretty empty until you get to the estuary. Then we hit the path along Ventura Beach. It was kind of like riding the seawall in Vancouver except (thank goodness) it was flat, flat, flat! We stopped to watch the dozens of surfers at Surfer's Point. The path was crowded with runners, walkers, bikers, even the odd electric wheel chair or scooter so it was slow going getting around people. There were the dumbest people there...oblivious to everything but themselves. They'd stand in the middle of the path gawking at something then step right in front of you without looking. Or they'd be walking the same direction of you but right in the middle of the path so no one could possibly get around them. Used my bell a lot - but just got odd looks for doing so. Guess they don't use bells here, just like they never honk in their horns. We rode past the pier - wow, it goes out for a long way! Couldn't get to it without parking our bikes and hiking up the stairs so we just kept going. We rode past the busy beach on more paved trail and then had to ride in a bike trail on the road. It was okay except in the spots where the bike trail was between the centre lane and the right turn lane and you had cars on both sides. But other than that it was a great bike path. We rode all the way to the Channel Islands Visitor Info Center (didn't have to miss it after all). You can see the Channel Islands from Ventura but they are a long way offshore. It would make an interesting trip to take a charter out to see them but none were running this morning that I could see so we didn't really make it a priority. We have to leave some things for another trip. | Ventura Harbor

74: The Visitor Centre had a small area of displays of the local critters. A big NO-touch tank with huge starfish, other fish, lobsters (I didn't know they existed on the west coast) and miscellaneous other sea creatures. They also had a skeleton of a Pigmy Mammoth - sounds like an oxymoron to me. Upstairs on the third floor there was a walk-around observatory where you could see out to sea or into the inner harbour. Wow - couldn't believe how many boats there were! The ride back was uneventful...had to stop for a few rests as my butt was sore (oops forgot those padded bike shorts!) and my legs were tired. The trip was over 25km round trip - that's a lot for me. We made our final stop at Surfer's Point and watched the para-surfers. There were three of them and it was amazing to watch them ride the surf attached to these huge kites. They'd ride all the way in to the shore then turn and go back out. They must have incredible upper body and arm strength to steer themselves. Rode the last couple miles back to the RV park, made ourselves some lunch and took a well deserved rest. Sat outside and read for a bit but it was quite windy and just not quite warm enough to be just sitting. We walked down to the pool, ordered a soft ice cream cone and sat by the pool, out of the wind, to eat it. Someone (not me) might have even had a little nap poolside. One last thing to do before leaving Ventura and that was to walk out on the pier - see we didn't miss anything! We took the car down and parked not far from it. Hiked up those stairs (my legs didn't cry too much) and walked all the way out to the end. It must be a half mile! There were lots of people walking and riding and several fishing or crabbing. The crabbers were all using chicken drumsticks as bait! Must have been a good sale on drummies. Back to the motorhome for barbecued hot dogs and a quiet night. We are leaving early tomorrow so we can get through LA without traffic. I have to say, I'm not really looking forward to navigating the bowls of spaghetti they call interchanges here. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, we're stuck on a freeway somewhere driving in circles. | Surfer's Point

75: Ventura Pier

76: We made it out of LA! | Well, we finally had to tackle the trek through LA. Neither of us was looking forward to it. We were on the road by 8:30 after a quick stop for gas. We decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu to Santa Monica then take I-10 east the rest of the way. The drive on the PCH was very pretty, along the water once we got through Oxnard. Lots of surfers out, even at that early hour and hundreds of cyclists. Obviously a popular place to cycle. We kept seeing them in groups, some with a dozen or more riders. The road was two lane most of the way so we didn't have to worry about holding anyone up. We drove through Malibu (waved to Steve & Carol's place on the way by), past Malibu Colony (where all the really rich and famous people live), past Cher's house (the only one we knew) and past some beautiful shacks on the beach. At Santa Monica, we got a brief glimpse of the pier with all its rides just before we turned off to the next highway. THAT part was easy. Then we got into the spaghetti bowl...unbelievable how many roads can intersect in one spot! At some points there were four levels crossing over each other and at one point we had six lanes going our way and six the other. We managed to veer off at the right spots, although at one point we were two lanes too far to the left and had to get way over in a very short span to exit right onto I-10. California drivers have different approach...they just go hard and ease in and out and no one ever honks. They don't slow down to let anyone in, and don't expect anyone to let them in - they just find a way! Once we finally got on I-10 it was clear sailing and we could breathe a little more spaghetti bowls. The traffic wasn't too bad since it was Sunday morning but there was still a fair bit and it didn't really die down for most of the way to the turn off for Hemet. LA seemed to go on forever and once we were out of the city itself it was just suburb after suburb after suburb as far as we drove. We turned south about 16 miles west of Palm Springs and drove south another 15 miles or so to the town of Hemet. We managed to find our RV Park without difficulty and are settled in. The park is okay, nothing fancy but we do have a nice outdoor pool and an indoor hot tub plus there is an exercise room and a room with a couple of pool tables plus a big clubhouse. We are thinking of parking here for a month. We have had a month of travel and now want to see what it's like to live in one spot for a month. There are several golf courses around and we are checking them out over the next couple of days to see which ones have monthly memberships and which one we like best. We can day trip from here to Palm Springs, Indio and the towns around there. And we may take a few days to go to San Diego and do a few other one day trips. But mostly, I think we'll be parked. So...blogs will be a little more sporadic...I know, I know, how will you manage to start your mornings without a little vicarious travel? Not that any of you are reading this at work. I'll try to keep you posted if we do anything of interest beyond golf:) | January 29 | Road to Santa Monica | Nearing Hemet | Lots of cyclists!

77: Well, we have settled in here in Hemet...paid for a month's rent and a month's golf. Been golfing every day. We wanted to try out the courses before we joined. We ended up joining at Diamond Valley Golf course which is about 15 minutes drive from here. It is a beautiful course and in reasonable shape for this time of year. It is HARD! Long par fours that I can't reach in regulation, greens that are fast and undulating - some putts are just plain scary. The fairways are narrow and funnel down into the middle but if you miss a fairway, you will find yourself at the bottom of a big valley. It was the most picturesque course and certainly the most challenging of the ones we played. Our golf membership includes a cart and unlimited golf Monday to Friday. If we want to play on weekends we just pay $10 each for a cart or we can walk and play for free. Roy took some pictures today so they will give you an idea of the scenery. Hemet is in a broad valley surrounded by mountains. One of the mountains has snow on it! It's been sunny and warm and I'm starting to get back some colour in my skin. Time to get out the sunscreen. Our park has organized activities that so far we have not joined. Last night was movie night. Today was Taco Tuesday but we were off golfing. Tonight was bingo - we went for a hot tub instead. Nice hot tub, indoors, and a nice outdoor pool that I will try out one of these days. Sunday there is a Superbowl Party and a chili cookoff. Last night we met up for dinner in Temecula with some friends from the golf course in Osoyoos. Nice to see familiar faces from home! Tomorrow night is senior's night at the movies. | February 1 | Golf day... | Diamond Valley Golf Club

78: Hello strangers! It's been awhile... So far, we've had a fairly enjoyable couple of weeks parked here in Hemet. We've golfed eleven times. We got a one-month membership at Diamond Valley Golf Club, which is a nice but difficult course. It is long with several par fours and fives that I simply can't reach in regulation no matter how well I hit the ball and a couple of par fives that are over 500 yards for women. Oh well, lots of challenge. On a disappointing note, we've been robbed twice since we got here! While we were out for dinner in Temecula the other night, our bikes were stripped of their wheels and Roy's seat, which he forgot to take off after his bike ride earlier in the day. Oh brother what a pain. We filed a report with the police, just in case we need to deal with the insurance company. THEN, a couple nights later, the buggers came back and stole our handlebars, and anything else they could get off. Our bike frames look pathetic! So much for locking your bikes to the rack and the rack to the motorhome. What's done is done so no point fretting about it...just no more bike rides. Unfortunate because it looks like some nice places to ride. Anyway, I thought I would give you a quick update on our weekend exploration...of course the real reason I do these is so I have a record of our travels and adventures. But I'm happy to provide a diversion for you armchair travelers, too. On Saturday, we decided we would drive to Idyllwild, CA which is about 40 miles east of here. It is WAY up in the mountains. Hemet is at 1600 feet and Idyllwild is a mile high...that's 5280 feet in case you've forgotten how many feet in a mile. Actually it is at 5308 feet to be exact! The day started out gray and cloudy and the mountains where we were headed were pretty socked in. We thought we might encounter rain. We climbed up and up and up this winding mountain road. Great views of the valley we left behind until we got up into the clouds and fog. But the clouds didn't last long and suddenly we went from gray and dull to a bright sunny day as we broke through the clouds and neared Idyllwild. | February 13 | Just touching base... | Idyllwild landmark | Cahuilla Vista

79: Idyllwild is the oddest little town. It reminded us of Kimberley or 1960's Whistler with lots of chalets, mountain cabins and alpine looking houses. It is in the middle of a national forest with beautiful big evergreens. We have since been told that usually at this time of year it is buried in snow! Obviously a tourist spot with lots of gift shops and antique stores. But we couldn't figure out the attraction. It looks like a little ski town but there is no ski hill and we could see no apparent source of industry other than tourism. It was bustling though, even had a tour bus arrive while we were there. We were wondering if it is a summer getaway spot for residents of Palm Desert trying to escape the heat. We headed back out to the highway and continued east, our eventual destination the Palm Desert, Palm Springs area. The landscape changed dramatically as we crested the summit. On the downward side we were back to scrubby pine trees - it was like driving into Princeton. Then the trees disappeared and we were in the middle of a mountain desert. We stopped twice for the most incredible views. The first stop was at the Cahuilla Vista which overlooked miles and miles of mountain desert. There was a trail there with interpretive signs showing how the native Indians had lived there in such a desolate environment. Also lots of info about the plant life and the many different cacti and other plants growing there. Hard to believe anything could survive in that environment. We didn't stay long - the temperature was only about four degrees and we seemed to be in some sort of wind tunnel. Another few miles and we began to descend...fairly quickly. About ten miles from Palm Desert we pulled into another lookout. This one was packed with cars and a big motorcycle group (old farts like us). The view was spectacular. To the southeast (through the haze) you could see a faint outline of the Sultan Sea, an inland salt lake. Below us you could see the road snaking down, back and forth with several hairpin turns. And below that was Palm Desert, a bright green oasis, surrounded by the barren mountains and desert. It's easy to tell that their economy is based on tourism and the golf industry. Every spot where you could see green, was another golf course. When you drive into Palm Desert, you can almost smell the money. It looks rich. Beautiful big houses and streets lined with big palm trees. Everything is gated so it's hard to see the residences but the ones that we could see built into the hills were pretty spectacular. Lots of high end stores and shopping malls and dozens and dozens of restaurants. Not nearly so many closed-down businesses as we've seen in other places. We stopped briefly at a golf store where I was almost tempted by a new club, but escaped with all cash intact. At this point the temperature was back up to 23 and we had a beautiful sunny day. | Stop in the high desert

80: We continued on and soon found ourselves through Cathedral City and into Palm Springs. There really is no division between the cities; they just all melt into each other. We took the roundabout way back to I-10, passing through downtown Palm Springs. We caught the tail end of a bicycle race but fortunately it didn't hold traffic up too badly. As we headed out to I-10, we were stunned by the sea of windmills beside the highway, literally thousands of them. As we got closer, we understood why they were there. It was the windiest stretch of highway we have encountered. Sure glad we weren't in the motorhome. We stopped at the side of the road to get a picture and when Roy opened the window we were blasted by sand - I'm still picking it out of my hair! Needless to say he got one quick shot and that was it! We battled the wind for about ten miles or so as we headed west, passing the outlet malls we visited last week and eventually turning off at Beaumont and heading south to complete the loop back to Hemet. My pc has crashed and burned so I have no way to upload pictures. I will add them when I get home. Hard to believe we'll be ready to head home in about two weeks! Miss you all. | Coming into Palm Desert | Thousands of windmills outside Palm Springs | Golf courses galore! | Lots of Palm trees

81: We are on the road again and it feels good to be homeward bound. It will be nice to sleep in our own bed again and see our family. We started day one early, hoping to miss traffic and get a good chunk of our journey done while it was still light. Unfortunately, the best laid plans and all that...we didn't bank on hitting early morning fog! Thick as sea poop, as they say, for the first hour or so off and on. Managed to get to San Bernadino and once through there, the fog disappeared. All was going well until just north of San Bernadino. It was quite windy and we heard a loud clunk suddenly. We looked back on the road and didn't see anything, pulled over and checked around the motorhome but couldn't see anything. So, we started up again and shortly heard the same loud clunk. I looked out the side window and noticed that the awning had come loose. We crawled a couple hundred yards to the exit and pulled into a closed gas station where, after some manual searching and my mechanical wizardry, we managed to reattach and secure it. Hmm...seems someone had the awning out and "forgot" to re-secure it. Oh the joys of being rookies. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. Drove up and up through a lot of desert and eventually reached a plateau near Victorville, a sprawling community in the middle of nowhere. Stopped for gas in a small town called Big Pine, which was surrounded by beautiful mountains. Another climb and other than this, the scenery was VERY boring...miles and miles of nothing but sage, tumbleweeds, antelope brush, sand and rock...the Mojave Desert. It went on forever! We crossed into Nevada and in the late afternoon, reached our destination for the night...Hawthorne, NV. Stayed at a nice RV Park with pull-through sites. We didn't even unhook. We ate an early dinner then went inside the office to watch the Oscars until the office closed, headed home to watch the end on our pipsqueak tv and tucked in early. | February 26 | The trek home begins... | Miles and miles of nothing! | Big Pine | About as interesting as it got!

82: February 27 | Day two of the trek home... | Day two began early also...but we did wait for first light before taking off. Quick to unhook since we'd only plugged in for electricity, we were soon back on the highway. The first part of the day took us past a lake, mostly dried up and frozen. A few pathetic cows nibbled at the almost non-existent grass, poor things. Not sure how they can survive in a place like this. The scenery was just more of the same...miles and miles of nothing...a couple of tiny towns that looked almost uninhabited, a few Indian reservations and not much else. We stopped in Fallon for gas, pleasantly surprised to see the price considerably lower than it had been in California, then continued on. Highway 95 connected with Highway 80 north of Fallon and it was a double wide freeway for the next few hours. We passed through towns we've never heard of...Lovelock, Winnemuca (think I might have heard of that one but not sure how) and a LOT of empty space. Back on 95 at Winnemuca after a stop for coffee and on to stop at McDermit for lunch before crossing into Oregon and continuing for several hours on to Jordan Valley, where we stopped for gas again. After Jordan Valley we turned north again and the scenery started to improve somewhat with a river and a valley then a climb up through another pass. Stopped for a quick look and some pictures on a pullout on the long hill down into Marsing, Idaho, just west of Boise. Once down the big hill, the scenery took on a whole new flavour...miles of farmland, flat and fairly boring but at least a little greener...before 95 hooked into 80 and we hit the four lane freeway. We calculated we could make it in daylight to Baker City, our destination for the day. It looked good for awhile, as we crossed into Washington at Ontario, but the road soon began to climb and wind on the back side of the surrounding hills. We quickly lost our daylight behind the hills but managed to get to Baker City just as it got dark. By the time we called and got to the RV park, it was pitch dark. They had room for us with electric and cable hook ups and good wifi but no water as it was freezing. The manager told us our timing was good for the rest of the trip through the mountains as the snow was not supposed to start until the following evening. Early dinner, quiet night, early to bed in preparation for the last leg of our journey. | Finally signs of vegetation | Coming into Baker City

83: February 28 | Day three began early. We were up by 6:30 and on the road by 7, ensuring we'd stay ahead of any bad weather. As we were still on 80, the road was excellent, double lane and not much traffic at that hour. We passed through Le Grande and then began the big climb over the Cabbage Hill-Deadman pass near Meachem. The climb up went on forever as we began to see frost on the trees and then lots of snow on the roadsides and treetops. There was none on the roads - they were bare and dry - thank goodness! We'd been warned by the RV park manager that this was the steepest downhill west of the Mississippi at seven degrees. She was mostly right - the posted grade was only six degrees but it was steep just the same, much steeper and shorter than the climb up! Several steep hairpin turns later, we came out to the flat, prairie-like surroundings of Pendleton. We continued on 84 for another hour or so, exiting to 82 towards Kennewick. In Kennewick, we looked unsuccessfully for a gas station but found none on our side of the street and were soon back on 395 heading out of town with a meager supply in the tanks. Just how big were those tanks, we wondered, as the miles flew by with no sign of civilization or a gas station in either of the two tiny settlements we passed?? We were running on fumes and nervous energy, I'm sure, by the time we spotted a gas station just off the highway in Othello. A full tank later and a few hundred dollars poorer, we were headed west again. We zipped through Moses Lake then stopped in Soap Lake for lunch at the city park on the lake. The next leg took us along a fairly narrow and windy road with big cliffs right beside the car and a lake on the other side of the road - not that much room if a semi approached! We eventually crossed to the other side of the lakes and followed them for a few miles. Then, near Coulee City we turned west and climbed up and up...and then up some more...a single lane road and we don't think the semi riding our backside appreciated us getting out in front of him. At the top of the hill, we turned off, back on to 395 and rode the rest of the way on a single lane highway with virtually no traffic. The road eventually met up with Highway 97 and we were back in familiar territory and really on the last leg of our trip. The miles flew as we approached the border. Our border crossing was amazingly fast. A few quick questions, a few quick answers then, asked about fruit, we told him what we had. He pointed us to a freezer near the building, told us to dump the apples and that everything else was good, have a nice day. Wow - it was faster than a trip to Oroville for groceries. Five minutes later we were parked in front of our house, ready to unpack. Home sweet home! Five states and 1500 miles in three days - that's a lot of travel. Makes those early days when we did a hundred or two seem like nothing! | Final day of our trek home... | Up and up and up into the snow... | ...and finally back down again

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  • By: Claudia W.
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  • Title: Tales from Toad Haul
  • Motorhome trip down the Washington, Oregon, California coasts.
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  • Published: almost 6 years ago