Thursday, April 30, 2015

CA Adventure Part 5–San Francisco

 

We headed out of Yosemite into the endless flat farmland of the central valley. Not much to say about that. We ended up in:

 

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Modesto!

We stayed at a hotel right in town. ON the way in I had looked up a place for dinner, and Yelp recommended a pizza place attached to a motorcycle shop. When we checked in we mentioned it to the guy at the front desk to get a local’s opinion – ‘oh, that place, no, that’s a dive. Besides, it’s too full of kids and families. I’ll tell you where to go…’ He gave us the name of another place. When I looked it up on Yelp, people pretty much said it was a dank dive bar. We went with the pizza place, and it was good!

 

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Not much to say about Modesto, but in the morning we had a walk around and saw this historic mansion right behind our hotel. Kind of cool. Unfortunately, not open on Mondays.

 

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We continued the long, boring drive back to civilization.

 

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One of the things on my to-do list was to drive over the Marin Headlands and get a picture of the bridge from up high. There were a surprising number of people doing the same thing, and the pull-offs were actually packed full! I was really happy with this shot though.

 

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We continued up to this old battery Rathbone – McIndoe.

 

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Back around to the bridge, we took another loop up to see if we could stop at any of the other overlooks, but they were packed. Though we had some nice views of the beaches.

 

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There’s something about seeing that iconic bridge that is breathtaking every time. It’s so amazing to be looking at it in person!

 

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We finally headed across it to spend some time in the city before heading to San Jose for our flight.

 

 

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The Palace of Fine Arts. We walked all around the outside. They were between exhibits, so they only had a tiny inside area open to the public.

 

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Dave found a Weeping Angel. Well, maybe not, but a bit creepy, all the same.

 

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Down to Fisherman’s Warf…We wandered around and stopped for an In & Out burger then went and found a bench to eat at while watching the bay. We actually planned this lunch specifically to have one of those before we left CA, because we kept hearing how great they were – it was the most bland burgers we’ve had! Now I have to question the taste of anyone who tells me they thing those are awesome. They were the same quality I would expect out of your basic cafeteria – nothing to write home about.

 

 

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With lunch out of the way we went and drove that steep windy road, because we hadn’t done it before, and it seems like everyone should do it at least once! Then we went and checked out the tower on the hill. But time was running out, we had to head back to San Jose.

 

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This is how the San Jose Airport greets you. Is it just me, or are the disembodied hands kind of creepy? It’s not just me, right? Up close it was kind of a cool artwork. It was mesh panels with round white pieces – think of large pop bottle caps stuck into a chain link fence –that were the pixels to make up the image. Creative!

 

 

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The airport had this crazy piece of security art. It had cameras and screens showing what it’s cameras saw, and the insect-like body rotated around as it took in everybody in the area. It was pretty fascinating.

And that was it. Well, almost. Dave missed a quarter in his pocket, causing him to get singled out for the rubber glove treatment. Once they discovered the quarter, it seemed a bit punitive to continue feeling him up, but hey, TSA’s got to do what they got to do. Soon as they were done with that, we were back on a plane identical to the one that had started our adventure, and a short time later were back on the tarmac at PDX. Picked up the dogs from Scott & Sherry, and went back to our regular lives.

It’s so hard to go back to work and sit in a cubicle after having an adventure like this. Hopefully we will squeeze a few more in before summer is over.

 

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

CA Adventure Pt 4 - Yosemite

 

The next morning we got up bright and early, packed up and piled into the rental, and headed off to spend our day at Yosemite. Because we had had a big dinner, neither of us was interested in breakfast yet, so we headed straight for the park.

First thing you see as you come into the park is this cool granite tunnel. Would an Airstream even FIT through there?!

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Initially I was frustrated because I knew there was a great view of the valley, and as we followed the road in, I understood where that view was, I just couldn’t see it from our side of the loop road. It is from an overlook that you only see on the road on the way OUT of the valley! So we drove in and stopped at the sights along the way as we wound our way back there.

The first sight once you get to the main loop is El Capitan across the meadow on the other side of the river..

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And Bridalveil Falls on the road side. We didn’t walk back to it, we’ll save that for when we have more time.

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Lesson 1: Everything at Yosemite is bigger than you ever imagined! It’s breathtakingly HUGE, and around every corner is another jaw dropping, amazing mountain of rock rising up impossibly high. It’s just stunning.

We continued along the loop and as soon as there was a place to turn around we went back towards El Capitan Meadow, stopping there for a few minutes to look around. Now we could see Cathedral Rocks and Spires, which we couldn’t see from the other side of the loop when we were at their base! Again, they are impossibly huge and imposing.

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Dave snapped a picture of me searching the walls around El Capitan for rock climbers.

Stef

 

Bridalveil again, but from the other side of the river…

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We continued down the road and missed the turnout, had to park and walk back to it – we finally found Valley View. THAT’S what I was waiting for!

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I could have looked at this all day.

Dave snapping a picture of El Capitan

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We finally got going back on the loop towards the visitors center, and stopped to pull off at the Swinging Bridge with a view of Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Dome.

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Grabbed a friendly stranger and had them snap a pic of Dave and I

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Continuing past the visitor’s center we finally got a great view of Half Dome on the right, and Royal Arches and North Dome on the left.

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Again, just so so big. So big. I don’t even have words for how impressive all this is. If I had time I would have liked to just pull out a chair and sit there all day watching the light and shadows change on the rocks as the sun moved across the sky. But this trip was just going to be a quickie.

We headed back to the visitor’s center, talked to a helpful person at the desk and decided to take the Mirror Lake trail after lunch, as a way to get off the main road and see a bit more before the day was out. We went in the visitor’s center and watched a short movie about the history of Yosemite. After watching it I felt so grateful and touched that people so long ago had worked to preserve it for us to visit today!

And here’s the other thing. I know it was partly because we were there in the off season, but it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. There were a lot of people there, but it didn’t really feel that way at any of the stops. It wasn’t annoyingly crowded anyway. Lots of foreigners, which was interesting, it seemed like every person we heard talking was speaking a different language. But still, when we wanted to stop and just stare in wonder at something, we could do it and didn’t feel pushed to hurry up and move on.

After resting at the movie, we tried to swing by the deli and pick up lunch, but everyone had the same idea at the same time, and the place was slammed! There was a little store there and so instead we picked up some pre-packaged snacks – jerky, a muffin, chips, some drinks, etc, and jumped on the bus to get to the trailhead for Mirror Lake.

The path to Mirror Lake was beautiful. It wound through tall trees, and giant boulders. It was an easy walk, reminded me of the trails at BG Lake.

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Mirror Lake was really just a wide spot in the river.  There was a big stone out there, and the lake reflected the granite walls of the valley.

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The river went over a little natural dam and down some rocks, and we sat on a boulder at the bottom of that and ate our lunch and watched people carefully pick their way across the log jam, waiting to see them fall in!

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This was one of my favorite shots of the trip. They made it!

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We headed on back, and I took a picture of Dave on the trail

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Right before a giant rock fell on him – ha ha

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Nah, just goofin’ around! Here I had him pause on the trail to give some scale to the boulders on either side. I couldn’t believe we were just walking through this amazing rock fall.

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Along the way we stopped and watched as this couple decided to wade across the river.

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Back through the tall trees on the way back.

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Unfortunately, this was all the time we had, we needed to get started back towards San Jose before it got too late. We rode the shuttle back to our car and headed out, stopping at Valley View one last time for another picture now that the sun was lighting up this side of the cliffs. It’s so magnificent, it’s just amazing.

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We headed out of the valley, up a long hill, and along the way we saw a couple pull offs. We stopped at the last one before it looked like we would be over the hill and gone. We looked back towards the valley and what did we see? A breathtaking view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Cathedral just over the ridges.

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The pull out had a marker with a 3D Half Dome to compare to the real thing.

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And that was our last glimpse of beautiful Yosemite Valley. But we’ll be back again. I definitely did NOT see enough of Yosemite.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

CA Adventure Part 3 - Fresno, and beyond

 

We woke up Saturday morning somewhere outside of Fresno, conveniently near a Casino which took some of Dave’s money the night before.

 

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We headed for our next stop – exciting Fresno!

 

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Lots of flat open farmland, not much to see but the weather was beautiful, and heating up a bit!

 

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Once in Fresno we found a place called the Fresno Breakfast House, and it had this adorable outdoor courtyard! I loved it, and the cool fountain SmileSo Dave snapped a picture of me. Check out the cool long hair I’m sporting now.

 

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After breakfast we went to the destination that had brought us all the way here – the Forestiere Underground Gardens. Head to their website to check out the details, but basically Mr Forestiere back in the early 1900’s started carving out his amazing home, eventually expanding it to cover many acres, all underground where life was cool and breezy. It’s really an astonishing place, and so ‘green’, it’s actually seems like he was years ahead of his time. Recycling his water for plants, capturing rain, staying out of the sun and using the natural flow of air to cool. It’s just amazing!

 

His first love was orchards, and he bought the land intending to grow fruit, but the land was too rocky. Above ground there are these wonderful fruit trees. As a NW Native, it blows my mind to travel a few hours south and see Oranges, Grapefruit, and Lemons growing on trees in March!

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This lovely pergola covered the waiting area to enter his home.

 

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Just a few shots of the amazing underground home, and the open courtyards and trees growing in the sunshine. It was like some transplanted bit of Mediterranean paradise. And it was much cooler underground, so much that it was instantly noticeable when you came back up. This guy really knew what he was doing. I’m so glad his family was able to preserve some of his home so we could enjoy it.

 

After Fresno we headed up to visit another Casino Dave wanted to try out. As we were driving up to it we were seeing something coming up on the horizon, then I realized this town we were driving up to seemed to sit at the very base of a HUGE dam, with the spillway aimed right at Main Street! As we got closer the highway turned away from the dam, so it only looked like it emptied out on the highway.

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That was Friant Dam, and behind it was Millerton Lake. We drove to the edge of the parking lot, but as you can see, the edge of the lake was nowhere near. There were boat launches that were high and dry, and the actual shore was WAY, WAY out there. You would have to drive quite a ways on what should have been lakebed to get to where you could put in. All that green stuff should have been covered in water.

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After losing some money at the casino we headed back to Fresno, ate lunch at a Boston Market, which is one of our favorite places, but we don’t have them in our area anymore, and then headed for Yosemite.

 

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Lots of this purple bush blooming along the roadside.

 

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There was a section of road wiped out, and we had to sit at a stoplight for a long time while we waited for the one-lane temporary road to clear for our turn to go. We pondered all the other folks who had been in the same predicament, and spent their time decorating this sign.

 

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We finally laid eyes on the Merced River, but it was getting awfully late. We stopped and checked in at our hotel, the Cedar Lodge. It looked clean and neat.

 

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We turned right around and drove on into Yosemite, just to get a feel for the place. By the time we got to the lodge, it was dark. We walked around a bit, but it was very confusing, and things were farther apart than the maps on the signs made it look like. Finally we retreated to our car and drove out, and on the way past El Capitan I could see the twinkle of lights high up on the wall. Were climbers really up there after dark?!

We got back to El Portal and the grill was about to close, so we hurried over, to find a line of about 30 other late eaters waiting to put in an order! Luckily the kitchen stayed open until everyone was served. We secured some chicken strips and fries and headed back to our room, where we stuffed ourselves and watched a Tom Cruise movie on the TV. We were out of cell phone range, and Wi-Fi was expensive, so we couldn’t research for our trip the next day, we had to just chill out and relax, and see what would happen.

 

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