Although I tried to capture this beautiful mountain for over an hour it was from the hotel room in Langley that Gary was able to catch a great shot.  Of course, he had the luxury of not traveling down the freeway at 100+ km/hr!  While driving up the coast we had decided it was best to arrive in the Vancouver area as close to the weekend as we could in order to see my Sister-in-law and Nephew in New Westminster.  We went across the border into Canada at Peace Arch around 8:30 pm.  With no one expecting us because we didn’t know where we would be and when, we got a hotel room in Langley and made phone calls, texts etc to see the best way to see the most amount of people.  Claudia had to work Friday, but that was no problem but we entertained ourselves in the big City of Vancouver. We arrived at Claudia’s a little before she got home, so walked the Fraser River boardwalk and had a refreshing Cold one at our all time favorite pub on the Quay – The Paddle Wheeler Pub

It was great to spend time with them both.  Our nephew is growing so quickly, we just do not get to see him enough.  We look forward to a time when they will venture north again, but it might take another family wedding!  We did spend Saturday afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium.

I have to say last time there I was probably 10 – maybe younger.  Of course it has changed, but what hasn’t changed are the excited children running around enjoying all the worldly creatures an aquarium has to offer, my nephew was one of them.  It truly is a brilliant exhibition.  Loved the frogs exhibit, but my favorite, beyond doubt were the jelly fish!   They had created a pool in which sting rays could not only be viewed, but touched!  They were not at all slimy like I had imagined more like a feel of velvet.

We did spend some time just sitting and visiting, delaying the  inevitable, the end of our road trip.   On Sunday afternoon we went to Langley to visit Gary’s cousin and wife.  It was such a wonderful visit once we found their place!  Yes, although we were back in Canada, back in BC we did use little Suzie to help guide the way, however, she got extremely confused, and we had to text Jack several times for directions.  Geez, she even had us on the wrong side of the freeway! Not sure if Jack was just trying to make us feel better about being directionally challenged or not, but he did say GPS’s seem to do that in that area. Could it be BC’s own triangle?  Having had a few cups of coffee, and discussing their big road trip and ours,  we decided to go for a walk along the river in Fort Langley, but not before Robin and I checked out what the Little White House had to offer.  Such unique items in such a unique setting.  We walked across the bridge, and then onto a trail which we followed to the end, a point into the river.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, and with the trail not being busy often we were able to walk four wide. Yes, we were back in BC with the old growth forests which give way to such beauty while dying and giving new life, they do that you know? The mountains! Never enough mountains!  We finished the day off with a great dinner on the patio of the Fort Fraser  pub along the River.  Great food, great visit, with wonderful people.

We went back to my sister in laws early enough to visit with Fisher before he went to bed.  He did not spend a great deal of time conversing with Gary and I, but it was evident that next morning, before we all left to go our ways  that he didn’t want us to go away. I am hopeful it won’t be so long before we see them again! The next morning we were all up early as Claudia had to go to work, Fisher to school, and we were catching the ferry to Vancouver Island.

Vancouver island, here we come.  Once again, it has been years since I’ve been on the ferry to the island. I would like to say it was likely during the same occasion we visited the Vancouver Aquarium. I do remember going to the Wax Museum in Victoria, but that wasn’t on our itinerary this trip!

We arrived at the Tawassan ferry terminal in Vancouver about 20 minutes before boarding, and were on time arriving at Duke Point terminal in Victoria. After giving Suzie our destination address, which was Gary’s “adopted sister” Jean, we hit the road again.  I loved the rain forests along the way; everything so green and flourishing, huge contrast to the rest of our journey.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, but we were anxious to get to Jean’s by the scheduled time so didn’t stop for photos.  As it so happens, there are several ways to get to Duncan from Duke Point, and we, unknowingly, took the more scenic route! About 45 minutes into the trip we decided this route would put us on yet another ferry over a slough, a marsh or some other body of water.  Once we realized Suzie’s mistake, headed left to get back on highway 1, and continued on it to Duncan where we again put a street address in and Suzie took us straight to Jean’s door.  Jean’s daughter Jennifer was there so we had a good visit with her, and before she left for home in Victoria we made plans to see her on Wednesday afternoon for a hike.  We spent two nights in Duncan with Jean, and then it was time to head back into Victoria, where Suzie took us right to Jennifer’s with nary an incident. We did go for a short hike in the Oak Bay area, which in its day was an affluent part of the city along the ocean.  Houses were old, but refurbished beautifully and although they were not large houses, they were very grand sitting along the ocean.  We walked along the beach for the majority of the hike, through sand, over rocks and logs. I’m not complaining, we could have stayed on a sidewalk, but I chose the beach!  We were heading for the Oak Bay Beach Hotel which Jennifer thought would be a nice place to have lunch.  Before we arrived at the hotel we passed the Glenlyon-Norfolk school; obviously it was lunchtime.  It was comical watching the primary/elementary students out in their school uniforms playing on the boulders, rocks and logs – throwing small crabs and seaweed at each other during their free time!  We sat on the balcony, overlooking the ocean, and had a wonderful lunch.  It was windy and cool, but the view made up for it.   Returning to the car we elected to walk along the road, which gave us a closer look at all the beautiful old houses and yards. Going past the school again it appeared to be the older students out in kayaks, maybe a PE class?  Here we cross country ski or snow shoe there they Kayak!

Before heading back to Jennifer and Ian’s house we made a detour to pick up Maddie at the day care, then went back to the house and took Maddie for a walk to the park.  It was a beautiful day, and so nice to be out walking.  Jean met us at Jennifer and Ian’s for supper.  Spaghetti! What a wonderful home cooked meal.  All the home cooked meals were very much appreciated on the trip!  As you can well imagine, we ate plenty of restaurant food, and even though someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning up it gets rather repetitive and not so enjoyable after awhile.  With dinner over, we waited for Gary’s cousin Kathy to phone saying she was back from Las Vegas so we could go over and have a visit with her.  As we had a few things to pick up we said our good-byes to our wonderful hosts for the day and hit the road.  We did get in touch with his cousin, and obviously there was misunderstanding during the previous call.  With her having to work the next day, and us with a time limit to get back to Teepee Creek for our grandson’s baby shower, we discovered a visit was not going to be possible this time.  We checked the time, and realized we could still make the last sailing, back to the mainland!   Arriving back in Tawassen, we headed out a new road Jennifer had told us about that would take us around the city, and out to the highway 1.   It’s a good thing we followed the directions given to us, because Suzie had us out in a field or marsh and obviously had not been given this new information as to the quickest route back to Highway 1.   We made it to Abbotsford that night, putting more miles behind us than we anticipated.  The next morning, we headed for Teepee Creek (Grande Prairie).  Gary was like a horse heading for the barn; he had 3 grandchildren to see.  We contemplated which route to go, and decided through Jasper would be quickest, knowing it was still early in the season for too many tourists to be clogging up the park road.  On previous trips through the park I’ve seen Elk, and a couple bears beside the road, but this was the right time of the year and the mountain sheep were on the move.

They could have cared less that there were several vehicles parked watching them, we didn’t stop – but was able to get what I thought was a great photo.  And of course Mount Robson – such a beautiful day!  Once we hit Grande Cache, we headed North on highway 40.  We arrived at Teepee Creek around 21:30 Thursday April 7th.   We stayed to visit for a few days, and for our Grandson’s Baby shower.  We headed home Sunday April 10th, ending our month long road trip.

This was our second road trip covering several states.  Our first road trip, which had us also traveling in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah, took place in 2011.  I have decided to blog the highlights of that trip in the weeks to follow. If you are interested in Death Valley, hikes in Zion, and the Grand Canyon stay tuned for my “Four States in two weeks” blog.  It was such a memorable experience, one which spawned this trip, and incidentally has me planning another!  We had not planned to be away for a month this time.  In fact, I believe our initial plan was another 2 week trip. However, our first road trip had us fly into Las Vegas, rent a car, tour and then catch a returning flight home on a specific date, so we were on a bit of  a schedule.   This time however, leaving home with our vehicle, it was fly by the seat of our pants.  We only booked one hotel room,San Francisco, in advance – reasons being somewhat obvious….the rest of the time, no real problem getting rooms. I highly recommend traveling this way, if you have the time.  Although we had destinations each day, if we didn’t make it – we changed it.   It just seemed a shame not to visit with people, and see things while we were in close proximity, and in doing so we came across plenty of interesting places along the way.  We also came to the realization that a plan to go back to certain areas would, in all probability not happen. Missed a lot of sites and people along the way,  but I’m sure we’ll see them eventually!  So being newly retired, and having the time, and most importantly our health – we HAD to just go for it while we still can.



Eugene to Langley BC

From Eugene we headed north on I-5.  We made a short pit stop in Salem, only 66 miles up the interstate.  I had done a little internet surfing the night before in Eugene, and discovered that the Oregon State Hospital was located in Salem.  It was established in 1883 as the Oregon State Insane Asylum and is still in operation as a  Psychiatric Hospital today with much of the original structure  being used.  The main reason I wanted to stop was that the  main floor is a Museum of Mental Health.   Of course Gary wasn’t as interested until I told him that it also had a full wing dedicated to the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which was filmed at the hospital in 1975.  (Incidentally, they also used a harbour in Fort Bragg in the filming).  Once again, disappointment awaited us as we arrived at the hospital to find that the museum was open Wednesday and Friday, but NOT on Thursday!   We did enter into the foyer, and look around the grounds, as in most hospital settings, and old buildings, it was beautiful.

Although Beautiful, sometimes one forgets about the ugly side and history of such beauty.  As do most state mental hospitals, Oregon’s also has a sorted past, but they are in fact trying to right at least one wrong that was done so many years ago.  In 2004  –  3423 copper urns containing ashes of patients who died at the hospital between 1914 – 1971 were found on the grounds.  As the cremains were unclaimed, they were stored for decades in a building which was the hospital’s original  crematorium.   The small  brick building at the front,which was transformed into the memorial, contains the original emptied copper urns.  Although the public can not go into the building, there is a Plexiglas window  which allow seeing inside.  Most of the urns  have been  corroded from decades of neglect.  As you can imagine, the urns are stacked from floor to ceiling. We did not go into the memorial, although  we did drive past it – and did research on arriving home.   All of the  cremains have been transferred into ceramic urns and housed in a columbarium wall at the site.  Each new urn, embedded in the  wall is marked by a perforated circle engraved with patient’s name, urn number and lifespan.  If cremains are claimed  from the wall  the state replaces the urn with a  brass hollow tube. (There is a list on the hospital web site of the cremains  on the site –  to date, cremains are still being claimed).


Although beautiful, I do know that many people suffered unnecessarily  in these  institutions.  I believe that the in most cases the suffering was not intentional on any persons part.   Yes, there were nurses, doctors and other such staff that were negligent in caring for the patients – but in general, procedures, medications and care was done to assist the ill, and to come by a means that worked best for each illness. Its unfortunate a number of treatments, and medications did more harm than good – but those that did work well are helping millions today.    Its those patients that were, and still are pioneers in the treatment of mental illness. In 2056 will the treatments and medications  in which we deal with mental illness in 2016 seem barbaric?

As we rounded the back of the building, across the field was the Oregon State Penitentiary, they are everywhere!   Maybe next time we’ll hit Salem during the opening days and hours?   But for now, back in the car, on I-5 heading north.  During the drive north we were trying to decide if we should go to Port Angeles and then take a ferry to Vancouver Island, or continue on I-5 across the border.  We couldn’t find the sailing times, days etc. quick enough so  elected to continue on I-5 across the border at Peace Arch into Canada.




Fort Bragg to Eugene

Having had a great sleep, and big breakfast we again headed north on Highway 1.   Another beautiful day  to see the ocean at is bluest, Of course we could have done without so much wind!


We traveled as far as Crescent City, 217 miles, and then headed east on 199 to Grants Pass and headed North from there on  I-5.  Such Beautiful scenery.  We could have stopped around every corner and captured mother nature at her best, but alas – we were on a mission.   We followed the Smith River for Several miles, and could not believe the White, the blue and green so beautiful.


We did travel through the Redwood Forests, although we did not make any stops at the, as Gary calls them, tourist traps.  Maybe next time!  Trees are not JUST TREES when you are travelling through this park, the trees are ENORMOUS!

After 435 miles, with some very twisting and winding roads,  we found the Days Inn at Eugene Oregon and called it a day.  We could have travelled further, but what would be the point of a road trip, if you travelled in the dark.



Golden Gate Bridge North Bound

After leaving Haight-Ashbury we headed North, and a quick stop at the Golden Gate Bridge.  Yes, it is a magnificent piece of architecture.  It took  4 years to build, and 11 lives were lost. The bridge opened in 1937, and at the time was the tallest structure in San Francisco.

We decided to go on a short hike that led us to the  “Torpedo Wharf” constructed in 1908.  Initially  a wharf was built to help with the construction of Fort Point.  Its been rebuilt over the years, and was named “Torpedo Wharf” when the army  put a depot there for submarine mines. They used it to plant underwater mines as part of their defense in the bay.  It was very windy, so we didn’t stay very long, although it was interesting watching the people fish, and crab.  Apparently you do not need a license to crab off this wharf!    We headed back up the hill, and headed towards the bridge.   Along the trail we passed Battery East (1876) and continued through a small tunnel, at which point we arrived at Battery Lancaster (1898).  We elected not to continue on to Fort Point, and turned around heading back to the car.  It was a short hike, but beautiful and now we were ready to get in the car and cross the bridge, North bound.

Shortly after crossing the bridge, San Quentin Prison is off to the right.   Do you remember I wrote that it was “prime real estate”?


We continued north to Geyserville, and then headed west to the coast along Stewart’s Point Skaggs Spring Road, which started off taking us past Lake Sonoma, which was created with the construction of the  Warm Springs Dam in 1982.  The road got crazy after that.  Poor Suzie was getting dizzy, and she actually lost us a few times!  Miles and Miles of rolling hills, and vineyards and wineries.  We didn’t stop at any, wine and the tight corners  would not have made for a pretty picture!

Once we broke through all those corners, hills and dark forests we were welcomed by the beautiful sites of Stewart’s Point and the Pacific Ocean. The point was named after a family which settled in the area in  1856.  The post office was established in 1888, and still is in operation today.  A view of the Ocean! What a magnificent site!  We were so lucky the weather was holding for us.  Although extremely windy, the skies were clear, bright and sunny.   Travelling along the coast with its beauty, also comes danger.  Every dip down to cross a creek, a river, or low lying area the Tsunami warning signs greeted us. Of course, on the other side, when you reached a safe height, they also posted a sign that you were out of the danger area!   Water is such a powerful force.  One can not assume to win against Mother nature should she decide you wont.  Apparently many people do not heed the warning signs and succumb to the fury of the ocean.

When we arrived at the Navarro River, we made a a pit stop and drove a short distance to the Navarro Beach.  Although we were at the Tsunami warning level, we thought we would chance it.   What a beautiful area, with high cliffs behind us and the ocean in front.  The arch is called the Navarro Arch, however, I believe it to be the “Elephant Rock”.   The winds had not yet died down, but the seals didn’t seem to mind.

We continued up the coast to Fort Bragg, where we decided to call it a night. This community of approximately 8 thousand was founded prior to the Civil war and was a military garrison, not a fort.  In 1856 the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established, and in   June  1857, a military post was set up on the reservation with its purpose to maintain order on the reservation.  Getting closer to Canada by the day…

Pier 39 & Haight/Ashbury

We arrived back on the mainland with plenty of time to do  more exploring, and being down by all the docks,  we decided to take a short walk to the famous Pier 39.  Everything imaginable there.  From fine dining to fast food, and lots of places to shop. I’m not a shopper, but we were hungry so we settled on a nice restaurant looking over the water, and the sea lions of course. I did HAVE to pick up a few trinkets for the Jenga house and a couple outfits for the kidlets back home.

Don’t ask me why the photo of the seals is sideways, it is fine on my computer, but uploads this way to word press… but had to include because is iconic of Pier 39!

Then off we went to find the  cable cars. The cable car systems in San Francisco were built in 1873 and are the last working system of its kind in the world. With Electric street cars being brought in around the end of the 19th century, cable cars were beginning to phase out.  The final blow  in the  cable car system was the earthquake in 1906, which damaged a great deal of the cities infrastructure.  However, today 3 routes still run.  We boarded the last Powell – Mason car, not sure where we would end up, but that’s all part of the adventure!  Its not like we were on a time table. It took us 23 blocks, up over Nob Hill and Russian Hill, and past the Sir Francis Drake Hotel to the Mason Market turn table.  We rode on the side, standing, because that is the best views! Although a little jerky at times, it was a fun ride.

From there started walking in the general direction of our hotel.  It was starting to get late, so we thought we would pick up a few cold ones to take back to the room, and then grab a cab.  You wouldn’t think finding a liquor outlet would be that difficult in a city such as San Francisco – but it was. Not sure how many blocks we walked up, and over, but it was many, and as you can see from the photos – its a work out!    Finally we found a place, grabbed some beer, and went out to find a taxi.  I couldn’t believe finding a taxi was as hard as finding a liquor store!  I would never have imagined.  In any case, after walking another 6 blocks or so, I was able to hail a taxi!  Was a little tuckered by this time. Throughout the day  I think we walked at least 50 km !  Back at the hotel, a shower put feet up and enjoyed a few, well deserved cold ones!

The next day its check out time, and time to put Suzie to the test to find Haight/Ashbury.  What a trooper. Parking was not an issue, we parked at the end of Haight Street by the Golden Gate Park Entrance. We arrived early, shops are all still closed and gated up, and the streets were relatively free of tourists – except us ! What a beautiful area of the city.  The morning rush had not started yet, so it made it that much more enjoyable.

Something to do with bringing a creative antidote to visual “noise” that over powers the urban landscape.

Although the summer of Love was in 1967 – 49 years ago, we still heard phrases such as, Peace out, Far out and Groovy several times while wondering the streets!  Not sure if some of those people were hired props or not.  And just like other cities throughout the world, there were some people just waking up, and it appeared some had been there since the 60’s  still looking for love on the streets!  Yes, back in he day there were shops that openly sold LSD and weed…don’t know about now, but didn’t see any signs advertising it.   Once again, I was amazed at the architecture, it was simply  beautiful, many building being redone, but stayed true to the neighbourhood.


In its time, Haight-Ashbury was a relatively inexpensive place to live, which was enticing to the young people.  The Summer of Love in 1967 was a social event that occurred when at least  100,000 people converged in the Haight – Ashbury neighborhood.   It was the centre of the hippy movement.  The public considered the gathering as a social experiment because of the different lifestyles that these young people chose to live, communal living and of course free love to say nothing about the psychedelic drugs.  It only lasted the summer, as most went back to school, colleges and universities in the fall.  When they left, they took new ideas, ideals, behaviors, and styles of fashion to most major cities in the U.S., Canada, as well as other countries. The hippy movement spread.  Those that remained in the Haight-Ashbury District staged a mock funeral on October 6th of that year to signal the end of the scene!

Flower children, AKA hippies were a very diverse group of people.  Most were very suspicious of the government (and that’s wrong? ) , and openly apposed to the Vietnam war. Politics was an interest with some groups, however the arts, such as music, painting, and poetry were the big interests.  Everyone was ready to try something new, and make it part of their daily lives.  Of course, with so much free love spreading it didn’t take long to attract those that would prey on the naivety and innocence of the young that had flocked to the area.   The Hells angels set up shop  for a time, as did Charles Manson.  It is rumored that the SLA  also had a “pad” there, and Patty Hearst was kept there, against her will of course, after she was kidnaped.

Of course many a musician called the area home as well.  Grateful Dead (who lived directly across the street from the Hell’s Angels) , Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane,  to name only a FEW!  Janis Joplin lived in several different locations over the years. At one point she was only a few houses from the Grateful Dead,  and  the Hells Angels.   Jimi Hendreix was basically on the corner of Haight & Ashbury!

dscn0413a I hadn’t known this before, but some comedians also got their break in the Haight-Ashbury District in the 80’s. It became the spot for the SF Comedy Scene when a  coffee house on Haight and Cole Street called The Other Café  became  comedy club helping to launch the careers of people such as Whoopi  Goldberg and Robin Williams. The building is now named “Crepes on Cole”.


So interesting to have read and heard stories, DSCN0428to see the movies, and then to see it all up close and personal.  Of course, it wasn’t quite like it was in 1967 – but we walked the walk!  Just couldn’t bring myself to to talk the talk  although we did hear a few of the sayings several times!  Once again, I was a  little late for the time, but another cross off my bucket list.   Its time to leave the time warp.  We’ve left a great deal to do if we ever get back. What we saw, which was only the tip of the ice berg, was in one word – extraordinary!  We’ll head north, starting with the Golden Gate Bridge!




TransAmerica Pyramid in financial District  and the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

 We arrive at the pier on Sunday Morning in plenty IMG_0902of time to catch the boat to Alcatraz.  There are a lot of people milling about, and the “wait for ticket line” is long….Again, thankful we had wifi, and that  I got my tickets early!  It was Easter Sunday, and imagine who shows up just before we leave the dock!?  Did much better than I would have on that paddle board!



For  years this prison has been on my bucket list of things to see up close and personal.  I’m not sure if it was all the movies, or the fascination that such a place existed that was so close, and yet so isolating for the prisoners. I’m not the only one with a fascination, over a million people visit the island each year.



The weather was perfect for our tour.  After disembarking , there is a very steep walk up the hill and into an admission room where prisoners were first taken when they arrived.  There they  showered, were deloused and given a “new” set of cloths.  We were given a system with headphones in which we could listen to stories and explanations from the people that lived there,  guards, inmates and yes, children. They  LIVED Alcatraz.

It wasn’t always a Prison.  The  U.S. Army considered Alcatraz as a great defensive position for the bay and started to build a fort in 1853. Construction started with a wharf,  shops, housing and offices. The island was very rocky, and rugged and they used that to their advantage in creating tall walls around the island.  The lighthouse, which was the first on the West Coast, was completed in 1854.   In 1861, the island was officially used as the military prison, which covered the area from the Rocky Mountains and West.

In 1933 the army was convinced that Alcatraz was to expensive to operate and talks began for the transfer to the Bureau of Prisons.  J. Edgar Hoover pushed to have a prisonIMG_0917 where the inmates could be controlled easily, escape would be impossible ( or was it?) and instill fear into anyone favoring the criminal side of life. It was at that time that it became the prison that it is most famous for –  The Rock!  One warden is reported as telling  new inmates, “If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison; if you disobey the rules of the prison, they send you to US”

I told my Uncle that I would get my photo by Al Capone’s Cell, but the truth is he was in different cells during his stay there, including solitary confinement.  When Al Capone came to the realization that he would be treated like the rest of the prisoners on Alcatraz, he said, “It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked.”  Apparently they used to have the names on cells, but now, not only are the names gone, but the cell numbers appear to be out of order.  Some cells did have stories posted to them, and narrations gave more information.

I realize that time and weather can damage anything, and does it so much quicker with the salty ocean playing its part.  Alcatraz is deteriorating rapidly. The rust is eating away anything in its path, and the cement is crumbling after years of weathering abuse.


And just like everything else that is old, and has history, the public wants these type of sites to remain, as do I.  And so for future generations to enjoy its history and the stories for years to come, restoration is on going.  However I am happy that we were able to see MOST of it as it stands today, without the new white wash, without being fixed, and too modernized.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to say the least  that I was not able to climb to the top of the bleachers  in the exercise yard to see the view of San Francisco the “kings” of inmates had, although I can only imagine it added to the misery of being locked up. On New Years Eve if the weather was just so,  inmates could hear the festivities on the mainland – a reminder of one more year behind bars completed. Inmates that were well behaved had privileges such as keeping the prison garden tended to. The door out of the yard is where these compliant prisoners were able to temporarily escape the confinements of the cement walls and work in the prisons garden. They would exit the exercise yard, travel down approximately 100 concrete steps to the garden, the whole time under the watchful eyes of guards, that carried loaded rifles!  Although still confined, I can’t imagine the freedom, the freshness they must have felt leaving through that door.

Volunteers now keep the gardens in beautiful condition year round.  No guards, rifles or locked gates needed.

Of course safety must be a concern, and there are areas that are closed now due to  hazards, however…they were all such grand buildings, from the cell blocks, to administration buildings and the apartments  that the guards and their families lived. The Wardens house  must have been a magnificent place to live, looking at the skeleton of the building, you can only imagine the splendor it once was.

Another building that was built as the Military Post Exchange was turned into a Social Hall.  It was used for a variety of events for the civilians that worked on the island. Again just a shell of a building, but one can imagine the festivities, and the grandeur of such a building from what remains.

It was not only prisoners that lived on the Alcatraz.  Guards and their families also made the island their home.  However, families were restricted to where they could go on the island when inmates were not in their cells.  Not all the inmates were hardened criminals.  Those that were there for things such as treason, desertion etc. were locked up, but also could earn privileges such as  cook, clean and sometimes even babysit for the families that lived there.  The children that were of school age would  board a boat each morning to attend school in San Francisco.  There are plenty of good reads  about children on Alcatraz Island.  It sounds as though it would be a fascinating way to grow up, and knowing who, and where the criminals were , and knowing there was gun protection at all times,  probably a safer place to live than in San Francisco.

Touring through the cell house, the library, the mess hall, and offices was so interesting,  the stories that we listened to on the head sets gave you directions to specific areas, and explained the relevance to that area in the case of  riots, an escape or two attempted, where grenades were dropped through the roof  during the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946 and such.   They do have a couple cells that are opened, for photo ops I would imagine.  I did enter into a solitary confinement cell… and even though both doors were opened, it was such an eerie feeling standing in there. Maybe it was knowing the physiological hell some men went through while spending time in the hole. Nineteen days was the maximum allowable to spend in the hole, other than at meal times, it was 19 days of darkness and complete silence. In the morning when breakfast was delivered  you put your bedding between the barred door and the solid steel door, and there it stayed until night, nothing but the springs on the bed, a toilet and sink.  Don’t get me wrong, I know people go to prison for a reason, and in reality, maybe it should be a little more like that now!    I snapped a quick photo and got the hell out of there!

My opinion as that maybe prisons should go back to the way they were, basics of survival, especially for those repeat offenders.  I can not believe how many prisons we drove past, or near too on this trip.  And some sit on prime real estate, such as San Quentin …what a waste of ocean side property THAT is!  I highly recommend this trip to anyone that is going to be in the San Francisco area.  BOOK EARLY, and enjoy the experience.  Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary ran from 1934 to 1963.  After 29 years  Alcatraz closed on March 21, 1963. The island was then occupied by Native Americans from 1969 through 1971 and taken over by the National Park Service in 1972.


The experience of going to Alcatraz was something that will stay with me for a long time. Crossed off my Bucket List!



Next on our San Francisco  agenda, Pier 39 and a flashback to the ’60’s ! 

Santa Nella and On to San Francisco

The drive to Santa Nella was simply beautiful. Unfortunately we could not do the tour of Edwards Air force base…apparently they only do 1 tour a month, and so it books up several years in advance.  I’m sure the tour would have been very interesting, next time!  We did get fairly close to Concoran, and we all know the famous person that is housed  there…right?   We did stick to our route and continued up I5 towards Santa Nella.

Our night in Santa Nella was good.  It was a relatively early in the evening so we wandered down the street to have dinner at “Pea Soup Anderson’s“.  Neither of us had any soup, but I do recall the meal tasting very good.  There was a wonderful gift shop, and I neglected to purchase anything – but it was a wonderful place to browse.  With the wind mill, you can  imagine all the Dutch souvenirs  in the shop.  But I controlled myself, and headed back to the hotel with a full stomach, and empty hands.


The next morning we left Santa Nella for Gilroy. The road took us around the San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir, built in 1947 stores water which comes from the   San Joaquin – Sacramento River Delta . The water is actually pumped  uphill into the reservoir  and  continues down along the aqueduct and is used as needed for irrigation, among other things. Different times of the year the water levels change but it is about  nine miles long  and five miles  wide.  After leaving the reservoir we started the climb up to Pacheco Pass following Route 152.  Beautiful Farmlands, wildflowers and rolling hills, simply beautiful where ever you turned.

We continued west from Gilroy through Hecker Pass…again, the scenery was breathtaking.  As you can well imagine, driving along the coast were views that surpass anything we’ve seen so far.  This road trip has totally met all my expectations with just the Desert and Ocean scenery.   Going through Santa Cruz we did come across a street sign that just described Gary and I to a  T.    At this point I had not crossed anything off my bucket list!

We left the coast at Half Moon bay and travelled in to the 280, which took us right into the heart of San Francisco.  I just loved to old buildings with their fire escapes. Right out of the movies! The gardens and parks we went by were just magnificent so lush and green. I’m sure there was so much more to come into bloom over the next few months. So gorgeous. Such a sense of Humor with their signs in California, although I’m sure they are meant to be serious!

To say the least I was pretty excited. We had only gone 158 miles that day, but with many stops to enjoy the scenery, it took us a little more time than it normally would have.  The first thing we did was drive down Point Lobus Avenue to the beach.  We did attempt to find parking at the Lands End Lookout, but that wasn’t going to happen, so continued down the hill to Ocean Beach. It was very windy, and the Kite boarders were going at it with great force!  We managed a 2.5 km walk down the beach and then back to the car, which was nice after sitting for the day!  Two windmills were built just off the beach.  The first one completed in 1902, and the second one followed soon after.  They were used for pumping as much as 1 ½ million gallons of water daily.


Time for check in at our hotel. We wanted something close to Fisherman’s Warf, but didn’t get a big ol’ fancy one, we had no intention of spending a lot of time in it. Once again, Suzie took us right to the front door with no excitement.  It was a pretty good view, and just down the hill from the famous Lombard Street.  After check in  we decided it was still early enough to head out and be tourists.  Lombard street was only a few blocks away, but it was a jaunt to say the least.   On our walk back to the Hotel we spotted Alcatraz between all the buildings! It was a pretty magnificent sight to see.   As we continued, going down hill  we found a strange little lounge, and by little it maybe had enough seating for 30. But it was cheery, and everyone seemed to be having a great Saturday night.  We had a couple cold ones before heading a couple more blocks to the hotel.

Of course I thought it was early for “tourist” season, and  getting tickets to Alcatraz wouldn’t be a problem, and I didn’t want to tie us to any specific dates along the way, but as we were leaving my relatives place in Rimrock, my Uncle asked if we had tickets.  My  heart sunk.  As soon as we drove out of their driveway,  I hooked up to the wifi and checked for availability – I was close to tears when they were sold out, next available tickets, April 3rd!  Too many days to wait around.  Of course the web page explained that you could line up, starting around 5 a.m. and hope there are no shows, also to check back as they do, on occasion put in extra sailings .  About an hour later, I checked back – and they HAD opened up for the Sunday.  I quickly started putting in all my information to purchase two tickets.  This was no easy task travelling down the freeway at 75mph!  We did eventually pull off so I was able to move my curser accurately, and type easier -Voila…Two tickets to Alcatraz!  I also made reservations for our hotel immediately after that  to ensure we were in the area we wanted – and printed both the reservations and tickets at the hotel in Santa Nella that night!   Whew….technology does come in handy, and to think our wifi was not working in the car when we left!  Alcatraz tomorrow!








Visiting, Joshua Tree Park, San Andrea’s Fault and Hinkley

Once again, what a great visit we had with my Aunt and Uncle in Rimrock.  Always a treat to visit with as they love the desert as much as I do – such marvellous hosts!  Its  so nice to just take a few days of rest and relaxation on road trips, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to stopping to visit good people along the way. We did go on a tour with them to Joshua Tree National Park and up to  Key’s View. What a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley it was. We stayed for two nights, and I was a little sad to leave, but once again…the road was calling us.


We travelled North from Rimrock, to Barstow.  There we headed west on the the Bakersfield/Barstow highway to continue our journey.  Just a few km from Barstow we left the highway for a  detour through Hinkley.  Having enjoyed the movie, “Erin Brockovich” I  HAD to stop and take a look at what big companies can get away with.  Pretty devastating to say the least. Hinkley was a relatively small farming community in by the ’90’s.   As the movie depicts, residents found out that their ground water was being contaminated with the cancer causing  Chromium 6.  PG&E had been “dumping” into unlined ponds since 1952. It was  seeping into the water  table for years.  Although PG&E settled with the residence for over 3 million dollars, and have bought up over 300 properties, it is still an ongoing concern for those that live in the vicinity.  Now, contaminated water is seeping into the lower levels of the water table.

It was very apparent that people left their homes and some belongings in a hurry. You could see drapes still hanging in some of the windows, toys in the yards.  It was  disturbing to see all of the homes and businesses that were abandon and boarded up due to the negligence of a huge company in contaminating the communities water sources. In 2013, reports indicated that the plume had expanded in length to 6 miles long and 4 miles wide.  In 2015 more studies were performed and PG&E received another order to clean up and decrease the discharge of their chromium waste. At the time of 2015 report the plume had increased to 8 miles in length through the Hinkley  and  Harper Dry Lake Valleys.  If you watch the Movie – don’t think its over. Lives were lost and ruined and are still being ruined today.

We got back onto the highway and heading west drove through Bakersfield and headed north on the I5.  We got as far as Santa Nella and decided to call it a night.  Not a bad day of travel – 382 Miles behind us, and the Pacific Coast tomorrow!




BaseBall, San Andrea’s Fault and Salton Sea

On our last day in Casa Grande we decided to try out a baseball game. Between the four of us, none had been to a professional game, so in 35+ degree weather we head into Dodgers Training camp at Glendale to watch the Dodgers and Mariners play ball at Camelback Ranch.

The most important thing of the whole day was to first find the hotdog and beer vendor, because that’s what you do at a  ball game!  It was more interesting to see live, as is most sports, however, I think it would have been more comfortable sitting in an air conditioned sports bar drinking affordable ice cold beer eating pretzels.   But, we went to experience it, and it was great, but not sure I would go back – unless I got a shady spot!   It was hard sitting in the sun watching them, I can’t imagine them playing ball in that heat. Have to admit, we snuck out after the 7th inning, but I don’t think anyone noticed!

The next day, March 22, it was time to pack up and leave our friends in Casa Grande.  It was a wonderful visit, with great hospitality, and fun once again with the Wilson’s.   There is so much more to do in that area, and we only just touched the tip of it.  We’ll be back to the south again!

We didn’t get away too early in the day but early enough to get to Phoenix to visit with Harold again, and after all this time, meet his Daughter we’ve heard so much about, Virgina, aka Gini.  We didn’t get to visit too much with them as they were expecting a conference call with Lawyers, so we sat in the back yard, by the pool and had a glass of ice water, which was appreciated so much!  Again, the weather was just fabulous.   We were there for a couple of hours before we left, having a great visit and hoping to see them both again on a return trip through Arizona.

After leaving Phoenix we headed west  into the Desert to find Gary’s Cousin  near Buckeye/Tonopha!  Of course Suzie came in handy again, and basically got us right to their place – out in the middle of the desert, or so it seemed!   Had a great visit with Kelly and Donna.  They had just got back from Mexico, and were getting ready to head back north theirselves.  Even though it was windy, it was very hot.  Their place seemed to be very isolated, but I could see the attraction to living there, with good water, and freedom to move about in the desert.  As we left, there was a little pub only a couple miles away, definitely a liveable place.   We were invited to spend the night, however, our clock was ticking, and we did have miles to make before the day was done, so after a few hours of visiting and lots of laughs we headed west, crossing the Colarado River into California and staying in Blythe for the night. Only 211+ miles with driving around Phoenix and then Buckeye/Tonopha – but so worth all the visiting we got in.

The next morning we headed west on I10 towards Yucca Valley and Pioneer town, with a couple little detours.  First, about 72 miles west of Blythe, we turned south onto Box Canyon Road.  What a welcome this two lane little road was after all the freeways since we left Teepee Creek!  As we proceeded down the road I soon realized that this was part of the San Andrea’s Fault.   All along this road you see  examples of the  upturned strata which is associated with the southern segment of the fault which begins near Bombay Beach California.  Happily, we didn’t feel any rumblings beneath our feet there!

After several stops along this Canyon Road we come out into the Coachella Valley at Mecca, and headed south to visit the Salton Sea.  It is one of the world’s largest inland seas and lowest spots on earth at -227 below sea level. It was created in 1905 when high spring flooding on the Colorado River breached the canal gates leading into Valley.  For 18 months the  Colorado River flowed into the Salton Trough.  By the time the flow was stopped the Salton Sea was 45 miles long and 20 miles wide!   For a time, in the  60s and 70s it was paradise, a booming resort town. People flocked to the Salton Sea, a paradise in the desert. However, few people occupy houses in the area today.  There are Hotels and houses that have been abandoned, and are just waiting to be swallowed up by the desert, and the sea.

We enjoyed our visit of the Salton Sea, as destitute as it was – but it was time to carry on to our days destination of Rimrock, in the High Desert just above  Yucca Valley.




Dancing x2 – Pickleball – Air/Space Museum

True to her word, on March 17th – a Thursday night no less –off we head to the St. Paddy’s Dinner and Dance.  I guess no one had to get up and go to work the next morning, so every day is like Saturday.   It was fun!   The band consisted of people that lived in the community and practice regularly, some pretty awesome musicians I might add. Singers,  6 – 8  all lined up in front of the stage with microphones, and words, and all sported their St. Paddy’s green attire to celebrate the occasion.  It was a great meal, dance, and company again.  Our Hosts with the most just kept us amused during our stay, even though we assured them we didn’t expect them to keep us entertained !  It was fun touring  with them though.


They actually got us out to play several games of, you guessed it – Pickle Ball!  The four of us were way to busy to snap any photos, but it was an experience!  I just don’t see how it can be tagged as a Seniors sport!  Way too big of  a speech just to serve the ball, then ya have to worry about hitting the ball, and staying out of the kitchen, and using your front not back hand, looking to see if a ball is out of bounds,  AND keep score!  I somehow ended up being on a winning team a couple times, and occasionally still hear “Move forward!”  and “forehand” in my sleep!   Apparently they play it here now, we’ll have to get our own pickle ball paddles, and head down to check it out!

We also all went over to have a cold one with Robby and Tracy who brought their horses down to Maricopa. We didn’t realize exactly what Robby meant when he told us to bring our dancing boots and drinking arms, but soon found out it was a huge going away party/dance for all the snowbirds soon to be returning North.

Again, so hot we appreciated sitting in the gazebo.  Dinner was served, and then the start up band began to play – Robby was on drums, I didn’t know he played drums!   We had one dance, and decided it was time to leave.  It was such a fun time….would have loved to stay longer, but out of the four of us, no cowboy boots or hats, and there wasn’t even a belt buckle in any of our attire, time to head back to Casa Grande.

We also hit the Prima Air & Space Museum.  Gary was pretty thrilled with that tour.  Again our hosts had already been there, so we went it alone. We did the tram tour, which I highly suggest as its so informative, and the signs at each aircraft do not give the stories, just descriptions.  We didn’t spend too much time walking around the out door exhibits after the tram tour as it was just too hot, we would walk around for about 1/2 hour, then head for a hanger, which was considerably cooler – although after 20 minutes or so seemed just as hot as outside.