The Long Way Home

We decided to return East by way of Nebraska and Iowa. Our first stop was North Platte, NE home to the Bailey Yard and the Golden Spike Tower.

The observation deck of the tower gives a commanding view of Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. They claim to be the world’s largest train switching yard.

The yard covers 2,850 acres and is eight miles long.

The repair shop services 300 locomotives every day.

We left North Platte and headed down US 80 to checkout Lincoln NE.

The Nebraska State Capital Building was built between 1922 and 1932 of Indiana limestone.

Sage advice as you enter the capital building

Entry door detail

Nebraska is the only State with a unicameral legislature. Since we were there on a Sunday, not a whole lot was going on. We did manage lunch at an excellent brewery and a visit to two small museums.

The Sheldon Museum is a small contemporary art museum on the University of Nebraska campus with an excellent collection.

Lincoln is also home to the International Quilt Museum.

The Museum was featuring quilts of India…

…and Liberia

We entered Iowa on US 80 but quickly left the Interstate in search of a few roadside attractions.

We made our way to Elkhorn and it’s working windmill.

The large Danish community purchased the windmill from Denmark in 1970, had it disassembled and shipped to the US. It was reassembled using volunteers and is the only Danish windmill in the country. Shortly after it left Denmark its government outlawed the practice.

No trip through Iowa would be complete without a visit to Audubon and the world’s largest concrete bull, Albert.

As we headed to the Cedar Rapids area for an overnight stay we went through Templeton, home to one of our favorite rye whiskeys.

Sadly they were closed.

Cedar Rapids was a pleasant surprise, good restaurants, interesting architecture, friendly people and an excellent independent bookstore.

Our ultimate destination was Chicago to spend some quality time with these buggers.

As we always do after a long trip, we stopped at the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center OH for some routine maintenance. While they were working on the Tincan we took the opportunity to bag another state high point.

While we love the “road trip lifestyle”, it is always nice get home in time to enjoy summer in Buffalo. We have a few short trips planned over the next few months BUT we are taking a break from the blog until our next trip south. Visit us in Buffalo soon!

Home at last!!

The Other Utah

We continued along US70 toward Moab to meet up with our Denver friends Barbara, Roger and Genevifka. US70 enters Utah through the San Raphael Swell, a ruggedly beautiful area.

We arrived ahead of our Denver friends and did a bit of touring in Canyonlands National Park.

The plan was to hook up with Barbara and Roger and two other families at Dead Horse Point State Park. We were unable to secure a camping spot in the park so we booked a space @ the KOA in Moab.

We had a blast with these intrepid campers.

And a Big Apple Getaway

Our nephew Keegan was selected to be part of the Whitney Biennial. We weren’t going to miss an opportunity to celebrate with him and his family.

Ellen, Rory, Eamon and Keegan

“Blue Door”

“Outside”

“Incoming ”

The work is amazing. The photos don’t really convey the complexity of these paintings.

Detail from “Outside”

Ellen, Kitty and Larry

We took the NYC Ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook to visit Keegan and Eamon’s studio. The ferry is a great way to see the city and couldn’t be easier.

Studio Eamon

Pat, Rory and Keegan

A rare photo of Shelly and sisters Ellen and Andrea.

After a whirlwind four days it was time to fly back to Denver to pick up the Tincan and continue East.

This is what greeted us in the morning. No matter, the road beckons.

Are You Lonely Tonight?

Highway 50 runs through the middle of Nevada to the Utah border. The Highway starts in Carson City and passes through five towns (two have gas stations) before leaving the state. As a result the road has earned the title of “Loneliest Road in America “.

We took our time moving through Nevada, being sure to top off our gas tank whenever possible. These small towns had their heyday in the late 1800’s during the area’s mining boom. The town of Eureka at its height had population of approximately 8,000 people, currently about 600 people live there.

Opera was how miners entertained themselves in the 1800’s

At one point in it’s history Eureka had a daily newspaper. It’s former home is now a museum which documents the the town’s history including the newspaper’s.

The only remaining 5 hole outhouse in Nevada.

Our next stop was in Ely – one of the larger towns on the highway, population 4,060. We set up camp just outside of town at the Ely KOA.

The KOA was surrounded by mountains with miles of trails to explore.

We spent a few nights on the road and met lots of friendly locals and fellow travelers. Our main goal was a visit to Great Basin National Park. We arrived on a Saturday and set up camp just outside the Park in the town of Baker, population approximately 385.

The Tincan made some friends in Baker.

Where else would you eat when your on the road? The food was excellent.

The Great Basin is one of four deserts in the US, the driest (an average of 10 inches of rain a year) and highest (5,000 plus ft in the valleys) it extends from the California border in the West to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah to the East. It stretches North into Oregon and South below Las Vegas with the mountains getting as high as 13,000 ft.

The Basin began life as a large shallow lake 500 million years ago. 40 to 20 million years ago volcanoes erupted spewing lava and ash throughout the Basin. Over the past 25 million years the Basin has stretched 50 miles East to West thinning and cracking the Earth’s crust. This resulted in North-South faults with uplift along these faults forming a series of mountain ranges and basins.

Great Basin National Park is home to two groves of ancient bristlecone pines. They grow at an altitude of 10,000 ft and with snow still deep and the last six miles of road to the trailhead closed-we had to content ourselves with this example in the visitor center.

Bristlecone pine is among the longest lived life forms. Some trees live thousands of years, the oldest being 5,000. We hope to go back some autumn to see these elders in their home.

The other big attraction @ the Park is the extravagantly decorated Lehman Cave. We signed up for a tour. The cave was unusually wet this year and the formations were glistening.

In spite of the snow we did manage to get some hiking done.

The Great Basin gets water from snow melt that percolates to an underground aquifer or runs to low spots in the landscape. It doesn’t leave the Basin via rivers or streams. Residents have been in a decades long fight to keep their water local.

The sun sets on the Great Basin and we continue East.

In the Footsteps of John Muir

The mountains are calling and I must go.

….John Muir

The Yosemite Valley was formed 30,000 years ago when glaciers scoured the landscape. When the glaciers receded 14,000 years ago they left behind granite cliffs, waterfalls, meadows and the Merced River.

We set up camp about an hour drive from the Valley. This meant getting up early so we could get into the park and secure a parking spot. Even in the off season this is a very busy park. On the upside, we did get drive down this spectacular canyon every morning.

The park is large and the Park Service provides a shuttle service for visitors. We brought our bikes to avoid wasting time waiting at shuttle stops.

Biking allowed us to get around the Valley and maximize our time there.

Upper Yosemite Fall

Lower Yosemite Fall

The trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls is a grueling 7.2 mile round trip hike. We opted not to go to the top but aimed for a more modest destination-Columbia Rock. The trail switchbacks up the face of the mountain for 2 miles and provides excellent views of the valley below from a rock ledge.

There are many ways to experience the Park. For those wishing to be pampered there is the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahanee). Built in the 1920’s the place oozes rustic elegance.

Not far from Half Dome is the trailhead for Vernal Fall.

The exceptional snowfall this winter has supplied a lot of water to the valley. Rivers and creeks rage and the waterfalls are roaring.

On our bikes we where able take in many of Yosemite’s iconic sites.

Half Dome

Bridalveil Fall

El Capitan

We left Yosemite and headed north to Chico to spend a few days with our friends Will and Carrie.

Chico is home to Sierra Nevada Brewing. The original micro brewery?

Carrie grooms and shows English Cocker Spaniels.

Photo courtesy of Will

Chico is not far from Paradise where the Camp Fire raged. We took a ride up to check out the recovery efforts.

The fire was 100% contained on November 25th 2018. The devastation was astounding. These few photos don’t come close to conveying the scope of the devastation. The cleanup has started but has a long way to go before they can start rebuilding Paradise.

We had a fun visit with Will and Carrie. They are wonderful hosts and it was nice to relax and chill for a few days-BUT-soon it was time to turn the Tincan toward home. The road beckoned us east on Route 50 through Nevada.

Waterfalls and Big Trees

Our move to Three Rivers in the foothills of the Sierras happened to coincide with Spring Break and Easter Weekend. This meant camp spots were at a premium. We booked a spot at a private park 25 minutes from the south entrance of Sequoia NP. We arrived on a Thursday and by Friday this was our view.

But at the end of the weekend the park emptied out.

The appeal of this spot is its proximity to the southern entrance to Sequoia NP. The park is massive and includes Kings Canyon at the northern end. The park elevation ranges from 2080ft to around 7000ft. The southern entrance allows for easy access to some wonderful hiking in the foothills.

Spring is in full bloom with fast flowing rivers and flower filled hillsides. We enjoyed a couple of waterfall hikes. The first was along Paradise Creek.

With such an amazing display of wildflowers, you’d expect to see pollinators.There were lots of bees but these little blue butterflies stole the show.

We shared the trail with this guy.

The hike to Marble Falls came highly recommended from a Ranger working the Foothills Visitor Center. This is a 7 mile round trip hike along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. It’s an uphill hike that takes you high above the Marble Fork. You can hear the river roaring for the entire hike.

The trail is narrow and zig-zags it’s way up to the falls.

Wildflowers greeted us around every corner.

The trail passed through a fragrant grove of Bay Laurel.

The hike culminates at series of rapids at Marble Falls.

As we walked back down, the wildflowers continued to delight.

The draw for most people coming to Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP are the BIG trees and of course we wanted to walk among the Giant Sequoias. These trees grow at altitudes between 4000 and 7000ft. It was a very snowy winter and most of the campgrounds were still closed as well as many of the hiking trails. Route 198 through the park twists and winds up to the Sequoia Groves.

In spite of the snow the Park Service made it possible to hike and get to the big trees.

This is the General Sherman tree- the biggest tree in the world. This designation comes from the volume of its trunk. The tree is 109ft around at the ground. The top of the tree is dead and won’t get any taller but each year the trunk gets wider.

There are a lot of downed limbs and trees throughout the park. Some of these limbs are large and in their shattered state reveal the inner beauty of these trees.

The leaves of the Giant Sequoia

These Giants start life as seeds the size of a rolled oat that develop in cones like this.

The Tunnel Tree

Pat is always on the lookout for our next adventure.

The San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles Express

We dragged the Tincan from Pismo Beach State Park up to the El Chorro Regional Park just north of San Luis Obispo.

A short walk from our campsite is the trail up to Eagle Rock with panoramic views of the surrounding “Irish” Hills.

All this talk of the wildflower “super bloom ” made us eager to find a place we’re we could do some flower peeping. We were not disappointed.

El Chorro Regional Park is located on CA Highway 1. Highway 1 runs up the coast of California and we used our proximity to checkout the many vista points and beaches near us.

Elephant Seal Point

After a long winter at sea the seals return to this rookery in the spring to molt and rest up. These mammals are huge, males are 3,000 to 5,000 lbs. and females weighing in at up to 1,800 lbs..

If you time the tides right you can explore the numerous tide pool along the highway.

Morro Bay was a short drive up Highway 1 from El Chorro. The Morro Strand and Morro Rock Beach were too enticing to ignore.

The Strand offered lots of shore birds for watching and sand dollars for the taking.

The Morro Rock is a dominating landmark on Morro Bay. The rock is actually a volcanic plug and one of nine extinct volcanic peaks in the area.

Morro Bay is also home to an Elfin Forest.

The forest preserve protects a group of Pygmy Oaks which can range in height from seven to twelve feet tall.

The boardwalk through the forest offers great views of Morrow Bay and the surrounding mountains.

The town of Cambria is located off Highway 1 and is home to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve with its scenic Bluff Trail.

We had a great time exploring the area around El Chorro Regional Park and we are sure to return. It’s time to move inland for a few days and checkout the Paso Robles wine country. We opted for a private RV park that put us close to the action.

Those are vineyards behind the Tincan.

Wineries in Paso Robles are abundant. We spent an afternoon cruising the back roads to checkout the local offerings.

This is a beautiful grape growing area.

Dilecta is one of the smallest producers in the area, 800 cases annually. The owner-vintner conducted the tasting and his Mom did the label art work.

A rare sighting of us together at the Tablas Creek Vineyards which produces excellent Rhône style wines.

Paso Robles isn’t just about wine. Beer culture has made some serious inroads. We visited Firestone Waker, Barrel House Brewing and Silva Brewing. All three are offering up some tasty brews but to our taste Silva was the best of the group.

Of course, all the beer gardens are family friendly.

The sun has set on Paso Robles and the Sierras are calling.

Going Coastal

The past two months traveling in Arizona have been great. However, it’s time to move West to the mid coast of California. We mapped out a leisurely pace and planned on checking out some new places.

Our first stop was the Needles CA KOA on old Route 66. Not every stop is scenic. Remember, it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important.

After a night in Needles we moved on to Tehachapi CA and a small private RV Park next to the Mountain View Airport. The Skylark North glider school is located there and provided us with morning entertainment as we drank our coffee.

Tehachapi is a small mountain town without many attractions. After a bit of digging Pat found out about the Tehachapi Loop, one of the civil engineering wonders of the world. Completed in 1876, the Loop is a .73 mile spiral through the Tehachapi Pass. Any train of sufficient length will pass over the end of itself as it emerges from a tunnel 75 feet below the upper tracks of the Loop.

After a scenic drive through the San Joaquin Valley and over the mountains on CA 166 we arrived in Pismo Beach, a place we last visited in 1978.

We set up camp in Pismo Beach State Park. There are many Eucalyptus Trees in bloom throughout the campground providing a wonderful aroma as well as home to nesting Black-Crowned Night-Herons. A short walk over the dunes takes you to the Pacific Ocean.

The sand on the beach is firm enough for bike riding which we took advantage of.

Ice Plants

Pismo Beach Pier

A mornings haul of Sand Dollars

About 40 minutes up the coast from Pismo Beach is Montana de Oro State Park. This park features a dramatic bluff trail, tide pools and a Eucalyptus grove.

Tide Pools

Anemone

We encountered a wide variety of wildlife.

Turkey Vulture

Western Alligator Lizard

Great Blue Heron

Marmot

After four days on Pismo Beach it’s time to move a short distance north to San Luis Obispo to explore another section of California’s Central Coast.