The Final Stretch

Final stretch back into Canada, Hermiston Or. to Grand Forks BC,  a 285 mile stretch of grassland and highway.   From Hermiston we continued to follow hwy 395 for 103 km, and then turned north onto hwy 21 at Lind, which took us right into Grand Forks.  This drive today reminded me of driving across Saskatchewan!  Straight for miles and miles, then what appears to be for no reason, a turn in the road,  then straight again.  Several miles from the Columbia River the road woke us up again as we went up over the hills and down into the valley to the Columbia River, where we crossed the river on the Keller River Ferry.  We could have continued up the road, and crossed at Grand Coulee, but we’ll save that for our next trip.

A very quick and convenient way to get across, and as its part of hwy 21, its free!   The drive was pretty uneventful, and I all but fell asleep a couple times!  We arrived at Gary’s Brother and Sister-in-laws in GF late afternoon and spent a couple nights with them catching up on the events since Christmas.  Then we were off again for the next leg of the trip North to Blue River BC for the night, making a stop in Kelowna for lunch with my brother.  With piles of snow everywhere and below zero temperatures there were no RV sites to be found open, so we elected to stay at the Glacier Mountain Lodge in Blue River, it was a 592 km day.   The hotel was full of snowmobilers and the next morning we woke to the sound of them getting their machines fueled up, and geared up to hit the mountains…but it wasn’t too early, it was time to get moving ourselves.  It was a beautiful cloudless day, I’m sure they would have a blast sledding in the spring like weather.  Back in BC we were rewarded with the beautiful mountains, the rushing rivers and fortunately still NO snow on the roads!  It was fantastic driving.  Then we crossed into Alberta, arriving at our daughters place in Teepee creek early evening, close to 500 km behind us for the day.  The Grandchildren were just about as excited to see us as what we were to see them!

We spent Saturday night, and Easter Sunday with our family and friends at Teepee Creek, and then headed home Easter Monday,  it was time to go home…and get back into the real world.

Since our first road trip (4 states in 2 weeks) I’ve really enjoyed the concept of just flying by the seat of our pants. We did what we wanted when we came across things, and when we were done for the night we got a motel room. But traveling with our accommodations on our back was a little different. First of all, when we first left Canada, it was not nice, it was freezing hard at night, and so packing of food was not a good idea…found that out the hard way.  Secondly, we left too early for many of the RV sites to be open in Canada, and some were closed in the Northern States as well.  Although we were only in two hotels on the way down and one on the way back, it would have been nice to just stay in the camper the whole time.  Packing up and going into a hotel was a pain.  Many of the things we wanted to see and do were not open  at all at this time of year, so WHEN we do it again, I think we’ll wait that extra month, or plan to go further south for longer.  Also I think making reservations at specific spots, at least a couple days in advance would be a smart idea.  Takes the worry out of “where to stay” especially if there is no Walmart in the area.  Was never a huge problem, but would have been easier with reservations.  Which of course means, having some type of 2 – 3 day itinerary on the go,  which wouldn’t be bad either.  The last several days of the trip were a bit boring, with little to be seen, or done.  We hauled the barbeque down and back, without ever staying in one place long enough to sit back and enjoy, which is no ones fault but our own.   We survived a month together in an 8 foot camper, and our marriage is still intact, life is good.  I vow to learn and explore from start to finish next trip, and eager to keep learning as we go, we’ll make new blunders because that’s part of the adventure, but for now, we’ll just make sure there will be a next time!

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Lakes, Fields, and Farms Oh My!

The drive today was 416 km.  It was a long day, straight roads and not much to see but farmland, cows, more lakes and the occasional small farm community. We passed into Oregon, and went half way up the state before stopping.  The sun was bright, for the most part, and although we encountered some wind, and a few raindrops there was nothing of significance.  Goose lake is in both California and Oregon. It is considered a pluvial lake, which is a body of water that accumulates due to water availability due to changes in temperature or precipitation, rather than rivers or creeks flowing into, or out of it.   Again high concentrations of salt accumulate on the shore lines as the water evaporates.  It was obviously high water as you could see farmers fences a long way out in the water, and the water fowl was abundance.

The next beautiful lake we came to Lake Abert.  With the lake on one side, and cliffs on the other, it was a spectacular drive down the east side. The fields across the lake were like a moon scape, so opposite of the rocky cliffs that ran the length of the lake on the highway side.   Lake Abert is large at 15 mile  long and 7 miles  wide at its widest point and true to the area it is a shallow alkali lake. Although the lake is known as the Pacific flyway, as its an important stop for migrating birds…we didn’t see any the whole length of the lake.  Again, likely too early!

Throughout the day the highway weaves its way up and down with many long straight stretches of fields.  Occasionally we were driving over hills, through national forests (sometimes with a little snow in the shady spots) and then  back down into the fields/desert like scenery.  It was an interesting day in that I didn’t realize how much farming went on in the northern parts of California and Oregon, and even Washington. And of course their national forests are not quite what either of us consider forests having grown up in BC.   We’ve always travelled the coast, we’ve never given it a second thought what these states would look like inland.  For miles upon miles, and hour upon hour I was amazed on just how much ranching was going on, something I always have associated with states such as Montana.

We arrived in Pendleton  early evening.   We found the KOA campsite, and pulled in.  Again, we  found a spot – the only one left, filled out the registration and went to drop it in the box. It was only then that we realized the campsite was FULL.   There was nothing in the campsite we chose, however, someone else with truck and camper?  Gone for just a couple hours.  I’m sure they would have been displeased to arrive back to find their campsite full! Now to find another RV site.  There were actually 4 other campgrounds, so with positive attitude, we plug the first address into Joe, and off we go.  There were spots at the next site,  but I think every site that was taken had people living at them,  garbage everywhere, and the “wash” trailers looked like they would fall down off their stilts any moment.  So, another address punched in, we head the few blocks to it.  Same thing, only there were NO sites available. The other two sites were the same.  It appeared this may be a cheaper way to live than a house or an apartment because most site were full with full timers, and they are hardly comparable to the sites we saw in Arizona, or California!   Back to Joe again, we plugged in Hermiston, and found Hat Rock Campground, a Good Sam member, actually phoned to reserve a spot – and headed the 43 miles with Joe guiding us.  Joe is new to this I can tell.  He still thinks we want to be touring about in the quickly fading daylight.  He had us on the scenic route, twisting, winding through all the creeks the whole hour to Hat Creek. His route was about 10 miles longer than had we just got on the freeway  – but again, its an adventure, and we arrived set up later than what we had anticipated for the day, and Gary started studying the map for our next day of travel.

 

 

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Virginia City, Nv

The next morning we decide to move the camper just up the road to some free parking, rather than ask for a late check out. We moved around 8:00 a.m. Maybe only two blocks closer to up town…but we were not on any time restraints. What a disappointment as we wondered up one side of the street and then back down the other side. EVERYTHING was closed, some opened at 10, others not until noon.  Got photos of Wild horses in town, and that of the churches and school. I love the last photo in this set,  possibly the carpenter spent more time in the Saloon next door than he should have, although I’m sure its age and weather.

We found one teeny tiny restaurant open, so went in and had a coffee to kill time, and watched as the town began to wake up. Within 10 minutes the restaurant was packed with other tourists looking for a bit to eat and coffee. A group of 7 came in, Grandparents, parents and three children. I couldn’t believe it when I overheard the 2 oldest kids, maybe 5 and 7 order 7-up with their toast and eggs! Really? With things opening so late, I was not sure how long I would be able to keep Gary in Virginia City. When we left the restaurant I noticed the museum across the road was open, so that was our first stop.  They had everything imaginable. It was quite a step back in time. Every piece of mine equipment imaginable was on display.  Dolls in period clothing, cards, bullets, medicines, stoves, desks, menus, pickle jars, bathtubs, if it was used in Virginia City, they had samples there!

Once done in the museum, we walked out to discover that more people were around, and more shops, museums etc. had opened.  However, many of the places were not open during the off season, including the Mark Twain Museum and the Pipers Opera House, both of which I wanted to see.  Note to self, check when touristy “things” open in the spring!
Samuel Clemens  spent just a few years in Virginia City writing for the Virginia City Daily Territorial Enterprise. It was while writing for this newspaper that he first used his pen name Mark Twain.  So Virginia City is known to be the birth place of Mark Twain.    John Piper,  bought his first theater in 1868, however when the great fire of 1875 blazed through the city burning a square mile of the town, that opera house was in its path.  Several years later, he built a new theater, which also succumbed to a fire.   Again, in 1885 he built his third, and final opera house and it is the one standing on the corner of Union and B ever since. Its the one pictured in the photo below.  Anyone who was anyone wanted to play the opera house.  It never hosted opera, but had boxing, town meetings, and performers such as Al Jolson,  Harry Houdini, John Philip Sousa,  and lectures from non-other than Samuel Clemens. In 1940, Errol Flynn stood on stage at the opera house and auctioned off historic Piper memorabilia, as an introduction to his new movie Virginia City.   Apparently this opera house is also haunted…  but from outside, we didn’t see it as being anything other than a beautiful, old building.

We did get into the famous Washoe  Club. According to the show “Ghost Adventures” and “Ghost Hunters” it is one of the most haunted places in the West.   We didn’t go on the tour that covers all three stories of the building, but we did go inside and saw the bar, the pool room and the back parlor, as well as the crypt.  No, we didn’t see, feel or hear anything out of the unusual this time either!   In its day its members were the elite of the elite, and it was quite the place to be seen.  You can find more history, which I found to be exceptionally interesting  here.  Although others felt they could sit up at the big old bar and have a “cocktail”, just like the 7-up kids, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to do that at 10:30 in the morning but what a grand place.

Before leaving town we went into the Palace Saloon for lunch before hitting the road.  It was fantastic food, and the atmosphere was absolutely stunning, with the old bar, and photos everywhere.  It was another instant trip back in time, you could almost imagine the activity during the rush.

With full bellies, and longer in Virginia City that someone wanted to be, we hit the highway heading north towards Reno.  The road was as twisty and winding as it was going in.  But soon we were over the hills, and going down into the Valley with Reno in Sight.

We drove on the outskirts of Reno, following 395.  Just north of Reno we passed White Lake.  I thought it was dried up mud, but it was waves, on very white muddy water.  Was the strangest sight that obviously my camera did not pick up on.
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Just before turning on 395, and heading north on Standish Buntingville road (a shortcut) we went past Honey Lake, yet another huge terminal  lake laying at the bottom of a valley. They used this valley (lake)  a bombing test range prior to world war 2 and for ordinance demolition and testing  into the mid 1950s  I was pretty amazed at how many large cattle ranches and farms were right on the road between  Buntingville to Standish.  Beautiful country, but a long ways to civilization.

Approximately  225 km behind us for the day, we find a quaint little campsite on the edge of Alturas Ca. Sully’s RV Park was just what we were looking for.  Nice little camping area, with all the facilities.  Nothing special but exactly what we needed. It was about 7 degrees, so we settled in knowing we didn’t need to use the furnace for the night again.   North to Hermiston Oregon tomorrow.

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Wild West, here we come-Virgina City Nv

I was awake bright and early the morning, and went for a short walk in the desert to enjoy the sun. I was rewarded with beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains!

Within the first few miles after leaving our camping spot we started climbing into the mountains again.   Just before loosing the views behind us, we stopped at a pull out for the spectacular views back down the valley towards Bishop, and a preview of what to expect as we continued.  Again, another beautiful driving day.

Seems as though we did a great deal of ascending and descending today.  Vegetation changed in every valley, and every mountain top….although at the higher altitudes the snow was the same!  The first lake we came across was Lake Crowly.  Absolutely stunning with the snow capped mountains behind it, and the desert landscape for its shores.  It is a reservoir on the upper Owens River.  The Long Valley Dam (126Ft) was built in 1941, on the upper Owens River creating this lake with a surface area of the reservoir being 21 sq. Km.  It is a well used lake with opening day  for fishing alone bringing  between 6 and 10 thousand people to fish, a little too crowded for my liking.  A 26 pound brown trout, was the largest caught in the lake.

Several miles up the road, and yes, we were gaining altitude againm we come to the turn off to Mamoth Lakes.  Never been before, and we needed fuel, so we turned in.  The town is only a couple miles in, and there wasn’t a chance at getting into the gas station it was so full.  We pulled into the parking lot across the street, and I went into the drug store – I got some funny looks as I walked across the wet, snowy and icy parking lot in my flip flops! What?  I came from a warmer climate and had no intention of getting out in the snow!  Once we crossed over into the gas station/convenience store and I realized why it was so busy.  There was a mini mall that shared the tiny parking lot. They ran snowmobile tours, and also rented skies etc.  Probably crowded all day long. It wasn’t long after we left Mammath that we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Mono Lake.

This lake is very large, and coming down from the mountains, you can see just about all of it.  It covers approximately 180 sq. Km. and is 15 km long.  The Lake formed at least 760,000 years ago and as is Crowley Lake, is shallow  with a high saline content and is considered a terminal lake, with no outlet to the ocean.  There are three creeks/rivers that flow into the lake,  and the water basically evaporates and leaves the salt behind on the shores.

Next time,   I would plan to stay the night close by in the town of Lee Vining and do some hiking and exploring.  Looks very interesting.  But onward hoe and up over yet another mountain of snow and back down the other side into more desert like conditions.

Back down into the desert, farmlands and forests we go past another beautiful lake, 1-08Topaz Lake.  Again, a reservoir which was created by damming the West Walk River in 1922 which had the water backing  up into a smaller, natural lake.  The existing lake covers approximately 2410 acres.  The Nevada Government stocks the lake with trout, and it is also popular for boaters, swimmers and water skiers.  Its still winter, we didn’t see anyone enjoying the lake today! I am beginning to think that there are no actual “natural” lakes left in the state of California.

We continue on, skirting the East side of Lake Tahoe.  Obviously a place to visit on a future trip, later in the spring or summer.   We follow 395 into Carson City, and then head East on 50 before turning north again on 341 to Virginia City.   We came to a  Y  in the road,  and with warning that large, or heavy trucks, campers etc. continue to the right, that’s the way we went.  Not sure why it was the truck route… it was narrow, steep grades and there were corners that we could see our tail lights on Needless to say we did join up with the main road again, but we did miss driving through Silver city and Gold Hill.  Next time?

Virginia City sprang up in 1859 with the first major silver discovery in the United States. During its hey day, mid-1870s the estimated population was in excess of 25 thousand, however 8 years later it started to decline and now is less than 1000.

There is so much history in this little city, it was as though one had stepped back in time driving down main street in search of our camping spot for the night. I couldn’t wait to start exploring.  We got our spot in the Virginia City RV Park,  and as the attendant promised, “…its a site with a beautiful view –  of the cemetery”.  That it was, although we did have to look around a few pine trees!

It was 4pm by the time we got plugged in, heater on high and set up. We expected town to shut down around 5, as most things do this time of year, so elected to visit the cemetery instead. We shall leave exploration of the town site until tomorrow.  It was about -5 when we headed down the hill to the Silver Terrace Cemetery and wonder around while the sun was still shining.

This cemetery was not the first in Virginia city, however, as the population increased, so did the need for a larger area than what was being used.  The Silver Terrace Cemetery is located below Virginia City on steep side hills, lacking almost all vegetation. In the beginning of the 1860’s groups established burial yards on this hillside, it was closer to the town site and easier to perform funerals, which with underground mining, were an almost daily occurrence.  The Masons, Knights of Pythias, Firemen, Roman Catholic, and the city and county among others all had their areas to bury the deceased. Most of the graves are fenced or surrounded by some sort of boarder, being wood, cement, steel etc. which was typical of the Victorian period. The characteristic features of this burial place reflect the extent of styles during its long history. Markers are made from all types of material,  wood, which most are no longer decipherable,  metal, granite and other cut stones. Very few of those buried in the cemeteries were born in the State of Nevada. Many were not even born in the United States. Birthplaces from all over the world are found here. It seems Canada had a great deal of miners relocate to Virginia City, which would have been relatively easy to access, compared to those from overseas such as did Irish, which there are also countless graves. Life was hard in the mining community for everyone, including children.  Many infants and young children buried in these cemeteries, on occasion several children from the same family.  With such poor, primitive medical care measles, scarlet fever, diptheria and such would run ramped through the town killing many of the children.  But some people lived to the ripe old age of 80 years old, which was not common back in the 1800s.

Weathering, vandalism, theft, and the lack of maintenance  have all taken their toll on these cemeteries.  It unfortunate that so many graves are unmarked (maybe they always were) or that the headstones are no longer legible, however, The Comstock Cemetery Foundation is in the process of cleaning it up to give those laid to rest there the beautiful resting place it once was, and which they deserve.

Tomorrow…..A tour of the Virginia City, Wild West Nevada!

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LA and Family

The drive into LA started out great, was still warm and sunny and after giving Joe (my GPS guy with an Australian accent I might add)  the address  in Covina we were off.  About an hour into the trip we run out of wifi in the truck, and Joe was no longer communicating with me. I didn’t panic, I just started doing it the old fashion way, following the google map, but it doesn’t quite show the freeway lanes as well as what we would need…and without a proper paper map, we resorted to purchasing more wifi.

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The further north we went, the cooler, and cloudier it got.  Even a few sprinkles of rain.  I was thinking another couple days in the San Diego sun would have been good, but Gary was anxious to start heading back to Canada.  With Joe and I back on speaking terms, he took us right to my Aunt and Uncles house. They have just moved back to Covina from the High Desert of Rimrock (Pioneer Town) so we had never been here before. But as per usual, the Canadian Flag was fly proudly in front of the house, we knew we had arrived! And imagine that,  just in time for happy hour!  That night we went for dinner at the Clearman’s North Woods Inn. Such good food. We first came to this restaurant in 1986, it was as good now as it was then.

The next day had us taking a late morning of visiting before heading down to a shopping centre where I would take advantage of picking up some art supplies at a Hobby Lobby store. I’ve not yet seen one in Canada. I hadn’t imagined the size of this store, and the merchandise that they carry. I could have spent thousands of dollars in that store, but restrained myself, and walked out with only what I intended to. We did spend over an hour in the store, and did find a perfect gift for one of our son in laws. After a great deal deliberation on what a steal of a deal it was, and how we would store it in the camper I left the decision to Gary. He declined. We didn’t have much time back at my Aunt and Uncles before departing for Brea to meet up with my cousins at Buca di Beppo, a fabulous Italian restaurant. My cousin Russ, his wife Wendy and their twin children Riley and Parker arrived soon after we got there. Their twins are only a year older than my granddaughters! Bobbi arrived shortly after. It was a great mini reunion. Although we had just seen my Aunty, Uncle and Bobbi in February, we just don’t get to see some family very often, so it is so nice to reunite with them. Bobbi’s sons and husband couldn’t join us, but maybe Next time! The food was exceptional, as was the company. It was a wonderful evening with lots of laughs, and memories shared.

Once again, it was not an early start to the day, but it was a day we would hit the road and head north.  We said our goodbyes, and got into the truck, Gary decided  we would go back to Hobby Lobby and get that gift for our son in law.  So a right turn, instead of left was made, my Uncle probably thought we  were lost right out of the gate!  In any case, there was only one, and it was gone!  The girl even went to the back to see if there would be one “tucked” away to replace the show model, but no such luck.  I’m sure Gary will find something as unique when the birthday rolls around.

It was still a little grey and damp when we left Covina, but as previously decided, highway 15, then  395 north.  May not be the quickest, or even the most scenic, but it was a straight line on the map!   Once we are out of the city, and up into and over the mountains, the grey skies began opening up to a cloudless, windy day. Sometimes the wind would catch the camper  and give me a bit of a start, but it was all good. Lots of straight road and desert, marked with the occasional farm town or farm.

We pull into the beautiful picturesque town of Lone Pine. It is flanked by both the snow capped Sierra Nevada Range on one side and the Inyo Mountains on the other. We did make a stop at the Museum of Western Film History, and it was a great stop to get out and stretch our legs. We did sit through the short 15 minute film that they show on the hour, and it was very interesting too. So many artifacts to see and read about from the “wild west”. If you’ve got the time, it is worth the stop.

There is a list of films that were created in and around Lone Pine Area here.  It is a pretty extensive list including the likes of Jack Hoxie and Will Rogers in  1919 – 1920’s up to 2013 – 2014 when the town was invaded by the likes of Johnny Depp, Gareth Edwards, and Jamie Foxx.

Unfortunately it was getting later in the day as we went by Manzanar, which is one of 10 camps in which the American Japanese were held during world war 2. Although there is not much left of the “camp” there are monuments, and a visitors centre with information and artifacts that would have been interesting to see.  They are in the process of recreating some of the towers, barracks, etc.  So maybe “next” time we go that way there will be more to see as well.

A few miles down the road and we whip through the little town of Independence.  I realized where we were at the last moment and was able to get a snap of the Inyo County Court House, just as we were going by.  The world was more than aware what was occurring  in that building in the summer of 1969!

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We continued on to Bishop Ca.  The winds had not died down at all, and was still making the truck and camper sway as we moved down the road. The Brown’s Mill RV site was on the other side of town, about 8 miles away so we continued through the sign that warned of high winds, and advisories for trucks and campers to not continue. I have to admit, I was a little nervous a  couple of times when the gusts of wind would hit us from the side, and now with the advisory, I was anxious to get off the freeway and stopped at the campground for the night.  Hopefully leave in the morning before the winds picked up again.  The campground was down in a hole, right by the creek, and was busy enough for this time of year with everything from tents to big motorhomes.  Lots of fishing in these areas, so much so that the wash house had a fish washing station.

 

The sun was setting quickly, and we didn’t sit outside as it was about 32 degrees, but there were a few people outside with fires whipping around in the wind.  Didn’t look like much fun as we sat in our cozy little camper, swaying back and forth in the wind, and thankful there were no leaves on the trees;  the noise would have been deafening.

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Heading for the Pacific

We drove down the highway until we found a campground in Oak Creek. Nothing special about the site, but it was clean and we were able to have a good sleep.  We have found that arriving after 5pm at the campgrounds/RV resorts this time of year, they close early.  Many leave packages at the door to explain the sites that are available, the cost, and wifi passwords, codes to enter laundry and bathrooms.   This one had nothing!  But we parked anyways and would worry about it later. We woke up to the sun shining bright, it was going to be another great day.
IMG_3220After registering and paying the next morning we were given the codes for showers, laundry, wifi etc.  we had showers and packed up to head the few hours to  San Diego, finding a terrific park at Mission Bay.  It was early, so decided for a short jaunt around the sea wall/park, about 4km.  Going around the point we were very curious about all the old, decrepit homes in the trailer park.  Hundreds of homes with million dollar views.   It was like ghost town right on the shores of San Diego.    This property is bordered by mission bay.  Some of the homes, were at some time, absolutely gorgeous, with evidence still visible of well manicured and beautifully landscaped yards.  However, there are some that are in total disrepair. I finally asked a woman we met walking, and she happened to be a local and she explained, the city and the owners were in a battle.  A judge ruled they should receive relocation fees equal to 4 years rent.  The city, which started to evict the residents in 1979, argued they don’t deserve relocation fees because they don’t own the property.  Needless to say, some have moved their trailers, while others have been left for demolition at some point.  Sad really that so many people were displaced, and moved from their homes and yards that obviously they so lovingly cared for.   Regardless of the ongoing battle, I did do some research and discovered, thankfully that this property will be used for a park, and other recreational venues as it was given to the city from the State for that purpose.

The next day we went to Old San Diego. I have to admit, a bit of a tourist trap, but it was a nice day to wonder through the stores and museums on the property.  We did go into the Famous Whaley House, which according to America’s Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures is one of the most haunted houses in California,neither of which I’ve seen.

The house was built where several people had been hung, and where a graveyard once was. It was home to many businesses over its time including the Whaley’s general store, San Diego’s second county courthouse, and was also the first commercial theater in San Diego.  Its a house that has witnessed more history in San Diego than any other house.  The stories of the Whaley’s ghosts wondering through the house are pretty incredible. Not saying I believe or not, just that they are good stories.  In any case, nothing made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and not one apparition appeared in any of my photos, DARN!  Unfortunately the school house was closed down, but would loved to have gone inside there as well.

Arriving back at our camper we were able to catch the setting sun as we finally took out our chairs and enjoyed a cool brewski.

IMG_3243Our plan for the next morning was an all day excursion to the USS Midway battleship/museum. We were there when the doors opened, and basically “hurried” through the last hour to see everything before closing at 5pm.  We did discover as we were leaving that we could have had our tickets stamped and returned the next day for no extra cost, but we had plans, and I think we saw most everything on the ship. But if you have more time, I suggest checking into that so you aren’t rushed, and look around the grounds there too.  It is a self guided tour on the ship, with narrations from former Midway sailors/pilots delivered via a small receiver box that you place close to the signs you are interested in, it beeps and you put it to your ear and listen!   There are approximately 60 different narrations.   Many funny stories are told, and then some that are not so funny, but it was all life on the ship for thousands during war and peace times.  We went from the very top, where the captain and crew stood to navigate the boat, down into the bowels of the ship to see the engines, boilers, and sleeping quarters. Of course the higher ranked you were the higher on the vessel you slept!  It truly was a small city at sea carrying approximately 4500 on board. The ship was in operation for 47 years, seeing action in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm. If ever in the area this is a must see. You can check out some incredible numbers regarding the ship here.

Being married to a man of aviation (helicopter pilot when we met) I literally have hundreds of photos of the jets and helicopters in the hanger, and on the deck, although I don’t think I need to include them all in the blog for you to realize the size of the ship, nor the importance of the ship.  However, if you are interested message me and I can send them all along to you!  As usual, it is set up so well to move people.  Best way to see it is go there yourself!   Of course it is likely busier later in the season, but we found it quiet enjoyable wandering around viewing all aspects of the ship. We were  entertained by paratroopers landing on the deck that afternoon at 1.  It seems like a large ship, but I expect when you jump out of a plane, the target is pretty small, but of course they all came in, zooming right over the crowd to land gracefully, some with flags attached to one of their legs.

Unfortunately it was around 5:30 pm when we got back to the truck and camper, so we decided to head up the highway before it got too dark  so we did not get a closer look at the statue other than from the ship.   It stands 25 feet tall and is made of Bronze. The couple’s well known embrace can be recognized from a photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt and was used on the cover of Life Magazine in 1945.  It was the end of WWII and the Victory over Japan.  The story took place in Times Square was that of a young soldier grabbing a completely random nurse in the street, and kissing her.

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Once back in the truck we moseyed up the coast to the Paradise By the Sea RV resort. It really is only a 2 minute walk to the Pacific.  It was getting to be dinner time, so we walked up the street a several blocks and found a Pizza joint,  The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza, which just simply was the best pizza I’ve eaten in years!  Of course the beer was ice cold too which didn’t hurt the atmosphere on the outdoor patio.

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After dinner we stood in the wine bar next door and listened to the end of a comedians show…it was hilarious. Who knew that was occurring in the middle of the week. We would have been gone in there when we first arrived and caught the whole show, but didn’t realize the two places were combined.  Next time!  Back to our house on our back, we had a few more cocktails, played a few games of cards and headed to bed relatively early.  Many Km of walking in the sun, up and down stairs, ladders and gangplanks, we were just a little exhausted after spending all day on the USS Midway.

In the morning I asked at the desk if we could have a late check out so we could at least walk down the beach for distance.  As I said, the parks are not that busy this time of year, so they didn’t have a problem with it.  We strolled up the beach until we couldn’t any more, and then up onto the road, which led us back to a beach drive …which took us right to the Oceanside Pier, a wooden pier extending 1,954 feet out into the Pacific Ocean.  It was a beautiful walk out to the end watching people fishing, and just strolling along.  Surfers trying to catch that perfect wave, and kids playing in the shallow waves on the beach. Pelicans were everywhere…and me without a hat!  Rubies Diner is at the end of the Pier, and as we don’t rise and shine too early on holidays, it was almost lunch time when we arrived, so we went in and had a wonderful meal with a spectacular view.   By the time we strolled back to the camper we had clocked over 7 miles, so I suppose it was more than a stroll, but with the waves, and the sand, was glad I wore my flip flops and shorts.  Unlike someone else I know.

 

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Arizona Family, Friends & New Friends

We drove from Winslow to Tonapah the next day. We stayed with my husband’s cousin and his wife for a couple of nights. It was great to exchange the snow, ice and wind for the warmth and family in the Arizona Desert! We met one of their friends which care takes over the summer months, and found him to be a wonderful story teller. Having spend time in Vietnam during the war I had many questions, that were answered with    “ he’s been there” opinions, and was just mesmerized by his stories of the not only the war, but his life in the Arizona Desert!   Our second day in Tonopah was not hot by any means, but warmer than home. The rain sprinkled, so they said, but I felt maybe two drops! Watching the goats and chickens were great, just basically free range, and they do get into some predicaments. We did take a drive out in the desert and saw some wonderful places to build, and/or purchase, but I think it’s just a little too “Wild West” for me, although, we really did enjoy dinner at the pub up the road…”Tin Roof” which proved to have awesome food, great Karaoke, and cold cold beer on tap! Always so good to spend time with family, and friends. Makes it extra special when they are great cooks too!

March 11th we were back on the road again on a short drive to visit our long time friends, and our travel companions (on more than one trip) in Casa Grande Arizona. They were not at home when we arrived, but made sure we could get into the house, to enjoy the warmth and view from the patio. We drank a few ice cold brewski’s and were entertained by golfers hacking their way down the 17th fairway as the sun set.

It was a great evening spent reminiscing and planning the next few days. Unfortunately, time just didn’t permit us to wait a week to travel to Mexico with them, but I think that may get serious consideration on our next road trip to the south.  The 12th had us traveling down the highway, out to Montana Mountain near Superior, with another couple to side X sides. We found the staging area, which was an adventure in itself, and that is always the fun of it!   The desert is hard to navigate in, after awhile, it begins to all look the same.   After unloading we headed up into the hills. My Garmin said we clocked over 60 km that day, and the views were spectacular around every turn, and over every hill. We went through such different vegetation as we continued our ascent.

We found a lookout near the top, where we stopped, unloaded and had our picnic lunch overlooking the valley. The views do not get any better than this!

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The next day, our friends had plans, so we had a day of leisure, which was wonderful. Sometimes the go, go, go of traveling can be exhausting. We decided that our tires were wearing a little quicker than we liked, and after having seen a fellow changing a tire, on the driver’s side, with vehicle, at 70 miles an hour driving past him we decided to put new boots on the truck and did some laundry. I made it an early night, and got a wonderfully long, comfortable sleep and was ready for our next adventure. Maureen had plans to hike Picachu the next morning, and having done the hike a few years earlier, I elected not to join her and her friends. The day was pretty relaxing, and had Derek, Gary and I going to the Thirsty Donkey for lunch, (we thought about Maureen on her climb with the tarantula wasps, that live on Picachu for only a minute before we started pouring beer into ice cold glasses. It is such an interesting pub/bar. One could actually try about 70 different kinds of beer on tap, which of course you picked and chose which beer, and how much you wanted by holding a paid token up to the beer you choose, and putting only as much as you wanted into your glass. Needless to say, we didn’t try the Peanut Butter Beer!  The food was pretty spectacular as well, If in the area, I would suggest checking the Thirsty Donkey!

Sitting around, and checking out things to do, it was apparent I should cross one more thing off my bucket list with a tandem Sky Dive in Eloy, just minutes down the freeway from Casa Grande – so I phoned and booked a jump for 10 a.m! Gary and Derek thought it would be a wonderful idea, and texting Maureen to see if she wanted me to book a spot for her, it was only seconds before the NO was text back! Looks like I was going it alone.

Once Maureen returned home, and showered up from her hike up the mountain we headed out to some outlet malls in search of Children’s cowboy boots. We didn’t find any boots, but we did find a Dairy Queen, which is always a great stop and rest in the Arizona heat!   On our way back we did find another store that we pulled into, and they did sell boots, exactly what we were looking for, although the price (60 American) was a little steep for this grandma to purchase 3 pairs, which the kids would outgrow after one season of rodeo’s and stampedes!   Needless to say, they did not have any size 5 or 6 anyways, so we shall continue to search, possibly going across the border into Algodones Mexico as we arrive in that area. Although a little windy, it was warm and we sat on the patio to watch the sunset again, had some laughs, and then went in for a wonderful barbequed steak dinner! Derek has got to be one of the best chefs at the barbeque that I know…..

I have to admit, first thought on my mind when I woke in the morning was the thought of jumping out of an airplane. However, I did get myself calmed down and got ready for the day, which I thought pants and t-shirt would be a better choice than a sun dress or shorts. It may be a little chilly, and windy, leaving the airplane at 13000 feet, and free falling for 60 seconds before pulling the chute! So long story short, we arrived at the site, I did the short course, which was a video, and filled in all the paper work to say my family, or really anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life, would be content not pursuing a lawsuit if I splattered on the ground. There was a lot of reading, initials and signing! Then we sat and waited, and waited and waited. It was pretty interesting watching all the jumpers, some coming down as quickly as they went up, others floating around, taking in the views. Long story short, there were some clouds in the sky, and the wind came up, and at 2:30 they cancelled the tandem jumps. I was not angry as I know it was for the safety of all, however, I was very disappointed.

We did say goodbye to our friends in the parking lot, and we were on our way on Interstate 8 to Yuma to meet up with more friends that winter in an RV park there. Arriving in Yuma, we pulled onto a side road to contact our friends. As it turned out, we just needed to drive down the road another ½ mile, and pull into their park! We got a site across the street from them, and went to get a few groceries before coming back, setting up and joining them for a wonderfully home cooked meal of stew and homemade buns! I love homemade buns! It was a wonderful evening visiting and catching up. These snowbird parks don’t look so bad, and have all the amenities that anyone could ask for, including the warm weather, desert plants and views.   We said goodbye on the 17th, and moved a little southwest of there to Somerton where Gary’s cousin and wife from Tonapha were camped out. After setting up in the yard of their friends, we got in Kelly’s truck and headed to over the border into Algodones Mexico.
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What a crazy little place this is. Thousands of Canadians and Americans alike come across the border here to get teeth fixed or replaced, eyeglasses, prescription drugs etc. There appears to be hundreds of outlets for all sorts of these things. The worst part is people on the street, about every 5 feet, try to give you cards to get new teeth! Just the the guys in Vegas giving out cards for the escorts!  But alas, we were in search of kids cowboy boots this time! I found a great deal of art to purchase, however, as usual, didn’t buy any of it. We did however find some boots. Again, a little more than what I anticipated spending, but, we have them, and the search can cease! Real leather, and awesome looking boots.   Hopefully they will be able to wear them at least a season and a half, although at 2 and 3 years old, I don’t expect that will happen.  I was not the only one to spend money. Others were wanting to spend money south of the border as well.

IMG_3192 With our shopping done, we sit down at an outside pub/restaurant for a couple of cold cervesas. Before we even order, I hear what seems to be an ice cream truck, but only seconds later, I realize its “Scotland the Brave” on bagpipes! As they come out onto the main street I see it’s a parade of Canadians in kilts, playing bagpipes, and banging on their drums – just not what I expected to see in Mexico!

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Arriving back at Danny and Mindy’s we go around into the back yard and enjoy a pleasant evening with the hosts and others that had gathered for a few cocktails, around the glass fire pit, and finished off with hotdogs, and a few more cold ones.   It’s a beautiful house and yard, and trees of almost every description, including grapefruit, which were in full fruit, and ripe for the picking, which Gary did for breakfast!

The next morning we went a short distance to visit Pat and Liz.  Again, cannot believe the hospitality we are shown. Always good to be able to visit with those we don’t see enough of at home!   Just as we were leaving there, the jets started on their warm up missions for the Air Show. I thought we would stay a few more hours in the area to partake in that event, but Gary was anxious to move down the highway a few more miles.  Pacific Coast here we come!

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Four Corners & Petrified Forest

After going through Monument Valley we went through the town of Kayenta,  circled back around and set up in the town of Bluff for the night.  The next morning heading out to Four Corners monument which is where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet.  Nothing much there, except the monument, and the little booths where the locals sell their beautiful arts and crafts.  Apparently during the tourist season you can wait up to 45 minutes to get a photo…we got lucky as there were not many people around.

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We made it  short day, and after leaving New Mexico, we set up in the town of Holbrook for the night, about 20 miles from the Petrified Forest National Park. we travel the few miles back, and enter  the Petrified National Park. At first glance, it appears to be fallen trees strewn all over the fields, maybe some sloppy logger had been in there.  Some logs appear to be cut with a power saw, as if someone possibly bucked them up for a fire, or for stumps to sit on, but we know THAT wasn’t the case.   There are full size trees, stumps and shards of rock everywhere! During the Triassic Period, 225 million years ago this whole area was tropical, with vegetation and many rivers with fish, clams, snails and crayfish making meals for the dinosaurs that roamed through the areas. Over the past 200 million years, the climate changed, earth moving, and areas uplifting, the river, along with plants and animals were buried in sediment.  Years of wind, wind and temperature changes transformed the lay of the land, molding and sculpting the area, and eventually removing some of the sedimentary layers, showing us the secrets of the past.

We stop at the visitor centre, and the fellow shares some of the information of the “Off the Beaten Path Hikes”, giving us several topigraphical maps of a couple hikes as they are not on the main map. We decide on the Onyx Bridge hike, again, we pick the longest hike in the park. Leaving from the Painted Desert Inn, the 6.4km (4 miles), starts out with a very deep descent down into the grassland and dry washes below. I’m happy we left in the cool of the day, because once on the valley floor, the temperature rose quickly. Hiking was pretty easy, however, we needed to use our route finding skills once down onto the grasslands, when the managed trail disappeared. All along the hike, petrified wood spotted the landscape. We followed the written directions and the topographical map and then had to pick one of the washes to walk up, and the first split in the wash stay to the right, the second split stay to the left, and then climb up a rock fall to the Onyx Bridge. We followed directions, but still not sure we were in the right wash, we made it! We were more fortunate than the couple that went before us that said they climbed through several of the washes before finding the right one. We got it on the first attempt, which is so unlike us!   We sat on the rock log, and had some water and a snack before scrambling back down, and up the rocks and heading back to the Painted Desert Inn sitting high above the desert floor.


Thousands of fossils have been found in the park, and can still be found today. Pottery and arrowheads indicate human history as far back as 13000 years ago. The area also has sites where petroglyphs are drawn on many rock faces, we stopped in a few of these areas. There is little information as to most of their meanings at this point in time, however the solar calendars are very distinct as they mark the summer and winter solstice while others mark the equinoxes.

Once back at the truck we continued on through the park arriving at the trail head to the Long Log and Agate house. With the park closing at 5, we did pass a few sites that we may have gone to see had we left more time, but as usual, it was the “next time” scenario. Most of the trails are short, and easy jaunts, as this one was, however, not all trails are marked well and we found ourselves wondering off looking at bigger logs petrified out in the desert! It is an incredible sight to see all this ROCK in the middle of the desert. Many of the logs have been petrified with the bark, making it even that much more amazing to visualize the miles of forest, water, and trees, with nothing left but sand, some grass and petrified trees. Throughout the entire walk we did not come across any pieces of wood, other than those that had been transformed into rock.

Leaving the park we drove down the highway, past Holbrook and the wonderful KOA Campsite that we spent the night before in.  We drove through a few “sketchy” RV parks and continued down the route until we decided to camp with several dozen others in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Winslow Arizona. There is something to be said about camping in a parking lot. As far as we were concerned, this was the safest place to camp in this town.

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Arches National Park

We finally wake up to endless blue skies and sun shining brightly on the morning of the 5th.  Although still cool, it seems the best type of weather for a hike and we head out to Arches National Park.  The park sits on a salt bed, which is responsible for all the arches, spires, balancing rocks and sandstone fins.  The drive to the end of the park road is spectacular as you drive the winding road up and over hills, around outcrops of rock.  There is something to see around every corner.

The Three Gossips in the center of the photo

All the parks that we’ve visited in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California seem to have a knack to move people.  Although the road is narrow, which I assume is to prevent people from pulling over just anywhere, it has been resurfaced, and wonderful to drive on.  There are many viewpoints to stop at along the way and we took advantage of a few.  I think this is the perfect time of year to visit this park as I would imagine during tourist season it gets very congested.  During our hike both of us commented that during the summer months it would be unbearably hot with temperatures reaching  the low 40’s.  We elected to hike the Devil’s Garden Trail, which at 11.6 km (7.2 miles) is the longest in the park, and classified as Difficult.  It wasn’t so bad.  Yes, a little rock scrambling, and yes we did get a little off the trail, but basically an easy go of it.  Most of the trails are well marked, and easy to navigate, but as we head onto the section called primitive trail, it is only marked with little rock carons….and some are very small, and difficult to see across the large rock fins, and bolders that you are walking on.  Not only that, but there is nothing stopping someone, other than a park ranger, from creating these carons, or of course kicking them away making  it difficult to navigate.  Yes, we did get off track a couple of times, and probably hiked more than 12 km, but what a beautiful hike it is, I highly recommend this hike to anyone going through this area. The landscape Arch (seen below) is 306 feet long.  In 1991 a slab of rock 60ft long, 11ft wide and 4ft thick fell from the underside of this arch.  Proving that not all changes occur over hundreds of years, although erosion caused this split, the change occurred quickly, and I am assuming very noisily!
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Hiking around all these spires, fins, boulders, and rocks is incredible. Up over a fin, or around a boulder, through a wash…something new to see.   Many of the formations have names, which are very obvious, and easy to see. Wall Street, Court House, Balanced Rock, Pot Hole Arch (which is horizontal not vertical) as well as Parade of Elephants are only a few. Many of the scenes feature the snow covered LaSal Mountains in the background.

The morning of the 6th we woke to the bright sunshine and cloudless skies. It was still just above freezing, but hiking yesterday afternoon, we knew it would be another perfect day for a hike.   We drove back into the park, to the Delicate Arch trailhead. Having driven to the viewpoints the day before, and walking up the .5 mile trail to the high viewpoint, we knew this hike was going to be an uphill battle.

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The hike is clocked at 3miles/4.8 km which they have rated as difficult, simply due to the elevation gains of 480ft/146m with open slick rock and no shade. Again, hiking this trail in the dead of summer would make it very difficult. The last few hundred yards of the trail are carved into the side of a red rock hillside. As you round the corner, the Delicate Arch comes into view, and it’s a stunning site.

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We elected to go back a different way…not sure if that was allowed, but others were doing it, so with the idea of not backtracking, we head around the arch, which you want to have really good hiking boots so as not to slip down the steep embankment, and down the rock to the moonscape below.

After following the tourist made trail, we were back on the park trail in no time and back down the hill. A few hundred yards from the parking lot gives way to a couple of spur trails. The first trail takes us past Petroglyphs created by the Ute Indians.   These drawings were done between 1650 and1850. The Ute Indians moved into this area around the 13 hundreds – and Utah owes it names to these early settlers.

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The next spur trail takes us a short distance off the trail to view the homestead of John Wesley Wolfe. Wolfe moved into the Salt Wash, and with the grassland, and the water built a coral, and a one room cabin which they lived in for over 10 years. At that time his daughter and family moved with them, and she was able to convince her father to build another house, with a wood floor. (pictured below)   The whole family lived there for another few years before returning to Ohio. This cabin is small, and basically a table and chair inside, so cannot imagine where 6 people slept!
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Upon returning to the truck, we drove a short way and turned onto the road which would take us to the Windows Section of the Park. There we were rewarded with short jaunts to the North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch and Double Arch. The weather still was beautiful, not too hot yet for the uphill climbs to these spectacular views.

Once we returned to the truck we drove back down the road towards the park entrance, pulling out to the viewpoint of “The Garden of Eden”. Not sure why it was named that, but was a good place for lunch, and to watch some rock climbers. There are specific places that you can get free permits to climb and go canyoneering in the park, but we elected to just hike the established trails, although at times, as stated earlier… we did wonder off the trails unexpectedly!

Our hiking in Arches National park over, we head south with our destination being Kayenta, the route which will take us through Monument Valley at sunset. We left Moab, and found a car wash, so took the time to get the dirt and salt off the truck and camper before continuing down the highway through Blanding, Bluff, Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley. We saw some wonderful scenery before reaching Monument valley, and as the sun set, we rounded a bluff to see this spectacular view.
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Road Trip 2018

With the thoughts of getting out of the snow and cold in a few days, we load the camper on the truck and head out with travel and weather advisories on February 28th.  The roads and weather were fine for the few hours down the highway to Grande Prairie.  We were hoping to stay ahead of the snow, but stayed and watched the grandbabies at gymnastics the next morning, had lunch, and headed out for Olds Alberta.  The highway was good most of the way, but getting on the four lane, heading south to Olds proved the weather had caught us.  Some people just don’t slow down….seems the highway signs say 110 km/hr, so that’s what some want to do. We came upon several multi vehicle incidents, which was apparent by the vehicles lined up along the highway with dents, bumpers falling off, and many others in the ditch.  With the number of people wandering around a couple of these sites, I’m thinking we were lucky enough to have avoided the chaos.  We got lucky at one point… I was busy looking at road reports etc. on my phone, and looked up to see brake lights on a vehicle just in front of us and maybe a little too loudly said ” Brake Lights”, Gus was able to get stopped in time!  We made it into Olds, and found a hotel room for the night.  Things would have been just too cold yet to stay in the camper!

The next morning, the 2nd, looked much like it did the night before,   headed back out onto the freeway to tackle the trip through Calgary.  It took forever, we thought we would go around the city quicker on the circle route.  It started out great, but then traffic got slower and slower….again vehicles in the ditch everywhere, some recent, some from the night before.   We then came to a complete stop when we approached the “Closure”.  Now we were rerouted through the city….and drove around looking for the freeway again.  Once back on the freeway,  I only had one occasion that had me grab the “Oh Jesus bar” When accelerating up a hill we went sideways down the freeway,  we drove on to Helena Montana, again wimping out and getting a hotel room!

The next morning the forecast was much the same as it had been.  We left Helena with the thought to stop at an RV park just north of Salt Lake City. We were in and out of bad weather, but it was never good. People don’t slow down here for bad road conditions either.  At one point a cop went by us with lights flashing and siren blaring, so we knew we were going to come upon something wonderful!   After a few miles down the road we came around the corner to see the cop car just pulling back onto the highway from the shoulder of the road…thinking control was lost on the black ice he the car ended up off the road!  Rounding a few more corners….a vehicle on its roof.  With several other vehicles stopped, we continued by slowly, soon after leaving the black ice behind.

As we neared Salt Lake City,  we decided to continue  to the other side of the city, as the traffic was not that bad, and the roads were decent.  They were calling for a dump of snow, so better to get through the city while the roads were good.  Stopped at a KOA campsite in Provo for the night.  First night that there was no snow on the ground, and relatively warm out, well considering what we had gone through the few days before.  It started to rain soon after we got organized in the camper, and I commented on how nice it sounded!  Wouldn’t be good if we couldn’t hear anything because snow makes no noise.  Soon we were lulled to sleep by the rain in our cozy little abode.  Not sure what time it turned to snow…

We had a slow start to the day, wondering if we should just stay and wait this weather out or not.  But by 11, after checking the highway web cams, we headed out down the highway.  Again, the weather was not perfect, but we did come across sunshine in a few places, and could see more than 1/2 a mile off the road!  Several miles South we left the freeway at Scipio heading East onto highway 50, which was two lane, but a great road which would take us up over several mountain passes before joining up with interstate 70, taking us to our destination of the day, Moab, Utah…and the hiking trails of  Arches National Park.  We did drive through several snow squalls, but basically a wonderful drive.

 

We found an RV site just south of the park entrance, and pulled in for the night.  The temperature was only 2 degrees, so likely to get cooler as the night progressed, however…stars were shining, so the likelihood of  waking up to snow was slim.  March 5th – started out beautiful…not sure what the rest of the day has in store for us, but with the sun shining bright, and no clouds in the sky I expect its going to be better than what we have been experiencing.  I love sunrises in the desert!

Let the Hiking Begin!

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