Friday, March 30, 2012

Home, Spring and new beginnings!

"Road Trip 2012" is in the books.  We arrived in Oakdale Thursday evening, in the midst of a good ol' fashioned rainstorm.  This year's stats: 5,532 miles, 8 states, 36 days. Once again we enjoyed great weather, good driving conditions and some of this country's most spectacular scenery.

We've been  home for a week already - I don't know where the time as gone.  I will share some of the last pictures from the trip. We drove to Albuquerque to visit our good friends Peg and Dave. Only one night, but with good friends it's a treat anyway.  The next morning we headed up through Colorado and Nebraska. On Thursday we sawsome of the hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through Nebraska and stopped for a few pictures :-)

Since we've been home, we've had a chance to spend time with the kids and grandkids and just got back from the cabin.   Most of you know that we are building a new cabin on the site of our old one.  Things are moving along quickly and we will have a spectacular summer up there!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dallying in the Desert

dal·ly/ˈdalē/ - To act or move slowly

 Today is Monday, March 19.  We have been traveling for 33 days and put 3660 miles on our car so far.  It's about time to head back to Minnesota - we have had a fabulous trip.  

Over the past week we've hiked, lounged in the pool, participated in several happy hours, went to a wedding in Yuma and took a quick side trip into Mexico!

The cacti are just beginning to bloom, in another week it should be spectacular here in the desert.  I'll try to get a few more images today.
A couple more "travel observations":*Meeting new people is such a treat! I'll never get tired of it. And it's so interesting to see where paths have crossed. Last fall we made are first trip through Astoria, OR - at the wedding we sat with a couple who live there.  Pete's nephew is married to a young woman who worked at Metro Deaf School when I was working in NSP - we attended at least a few conferences together!

*We sometimes complain about the newscasters in MN, but oh my! We talked about this in San Diego with Dan and Mickey too - after a reporter started his story about a robbery hiding in the trees behind a house.  I thought Phoenix would have been a bigger market and better writers, not so much.  The other day they reported an accident victim was "taken to the hospital in pretty bad shape."  And that a particular councilman (or something) had "lawyered up" and was no longer talking to the media.  Really??  I miss Frank and Amelia!!

Today is laundry, repacking the truck and trying to figure out how the heck to get to Albuquerque to see Peg and Dave and maybe one more happy  hour!!
There is a foot or 18" of snow up by Flagstaff, they are predicting more snow and rain and part of the freeway is closed already.  That route would also mean driving thru Phoenix rush hour.  We could cut through the mountains by Payson, but that means two lane "scenic" roads through the mountains.  Looks like we may opt for the extra 100 miles and head down to Tucson and Las Cruces....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

Wednesday, March 14
Today is my Mom's birthday! When I grow up I hope to be as beautiful, active and talented as she is, you're my hero, Mom. The Feine's are visiting Harlingen this week, so in addition to the bike ride, quilt meeting, an extended and active swim time, and visiting friends (i.e. showing off the grandkids) in the park, there are probably some birthday activites planned as well? South Padre and lunch at Dirty Al's perhaps? Enjoy a wonderful day, whatever you do!! Love you Mom!!
Our pace here in Casa Grande has slowed down a bit. The weather has been great, in the 80s most days, altho it cools off at night considerably. I think it was 43 degrees when I got up this morning. We've done a bit of shopping, at the Mesa Market and the outlet center. The Mesa Market is a covered flea market with something like 1600 vendors. It has 4 aisles that total a mile and a half. We generally get a good walk in each day. I need to bring my camera one of these days. The desert critters are all over the place, lizards and quail and birds galore. But they are all kind of skittish.
We spent a nice afternoon with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Ron in Surprise, northwest of Phoenix. Kathy makes the best gin and tonics! That night Bob, Lowell and I stayed with Bob's niece Kathy in New River and yesterday the boys went prospecting and I drove back down to CG and went shopping with Jean. The shopping was more successful than the prospecting. When you shop down here, many stores give you a discount for being old! Just another perk.
This weekend we'll head down to Yuma for Pete and Ed's wedding celebration and are looking forward to that.  The desert is just beginning to bloom - I am hoping that another week will give me the opportunity to get some good blooming cacti images. 

We'll head to Albuequerque next week, probably on Tuesday, spend some time with Peg and Dave, and then head home.  We are missing the grandkids (and the cabin activity!) and it sure sounds like spring has arrived in MN!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From Apple Pie to the Zoo and everything in between!

It's been a week since I've posted and we have been busy every day so this time you'll get a lengthy slideshow and some random thoughts while exploring all that the San Diego area has to offer.
In between all of our sightseeing, we compared iPad apps with Dan and Mickey and did some Facetime and Skyping with our grandkids, kids and Mom and Dad.  Technology is an amazing thing!!
One of the apps Dan shared is called "1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die" in addition to some amazing photography, it was fun to see many places we've actually visited.  One of the places listed is the San Diego Zoo -- what a fabulous zoo!  We spent the day checking things out. It is a pretty traditional zoo, but they have some very unique animals - the oryx and okapi, for instance!  Two new words for "Words with Friends!"  Next time we'll do the Wild Animal Park, which is more like the Minnesota Zoo.
San Diego has a fascinating early history - we toured Old Town, the site of the first settlement, and the Gaslamp district, which was notorious for entertaining sailors back in the day.  This was kind of a story telling walk - I've included pictures of many of the buildings, the architecture is so cool!  Check out the Yuma Building.  The story goes that it was a thriving brothel, and was the target of the first raid when the city decided to get tough on that industry. This is what the Frommer's guide has to say, "The striking edifice was built in 1888 and was one of the first brick buildings downtown. The brothel at the Yuma was the first to be closed during the infamous 1912 cleanup of the area. In the end, 138 women (and no men) were arrested. They were given a choice: Join the Door of Hope charity and reform or take a one-way train ride to Los Angeles. One hundred thirty-six went to L.A. (many were back within days), one woman was pronounced insane, and the last became San Diego's first telephone operator."
On a beautiful Saturday morning, the hills east of Poway provided some geocaching and the route to the little town of Julian - where we had the most delicious pie!! The Twin Peaks trails took us through some great ($$$$) neighborhoods in the Poway hills and gave us enough of a workout to justify all the great food we have been eating. 
We also took this opportunity to reconnect with Lowell's cousin Jimmy, who has been out here in the Escondido for 40 years!  We had dinner with Jimmy and his wife Linda, it was so much fun to catch up and reminisce!!   We really do need to stay in touch.
Sunday (3/4) was our last day in San Diego - and the weather couldn't have been better!!  A trip to Cabrillo National Monument on Point Lomas provided spectacular views of the city. Dan and Mickey said it was one of the clearest days they had seen from that viewpoint.  We did a bit of tide pool exploring and had a picnic on the beach to complete the day.
When we arrived, Mickey showed of a list of Things to Do  - this is the list and what we did in our 12 days here:

San Diego - walking tours of different areas, each with it's own history and architecture 
Old Town - original settlement
Gaslamp Quarter - late 1800’s to early 1900’s
Balboa Park - late 1800’s to present
The Embarcadero - the waterfront
Hotel Del Coronado and Coronado Island
Drive the coast, see all the beach towns, stop in La Jolla 
Birch Aquarium
Hiking through Torrey Pines State Park and along the coast
Cabrillo National Monument - Point Loma, 
Explore the tide pools on Point Loma
Mount Soledad
Torrey Pines Gliderport -  watch hanggliders &  paragliders jump off the cliffs and fly over the ocean
Seaport Village - shops & restaurants, good souvenir shopping
Leo Carrillo Ranch - a 1930’s ranch get-a-way for a Hollywood actor
Visiting vineyards with wine tasting
San Diego Zoo 
San Diego de Alcala - 1st Mission of California
The Midway (tour a decommissioned aircraft carrier in the harbor) 
These are the things we DIDN'T do (this time!)
Maritime Museum (tour 7 ships)
Sea World
Wild Animal Park
Whale watching
Harbor tour

Yesterday (Monday 3/5) we drove from San Diego to Casa Grande with a quick stop at Pete and Ed's place in Yuma for a salmon salad lunch (they were our hosts on the Kenai in Alaska last summer).  We arrived and got settled into our little park model here is Casa Grande.  This little spot is a 12' x 40' mobile, with a little living room, kitchen, bath, one bedroom and a nice little deck.  It will be comfy for a couple of weeks!

Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and enjoy a loooong slide show this time!
(if you are looking at this on an iPad, you won't see the slideshow, sorry!  I need to find a different website to post to get the slideshow and just haven't gotten that figured out yet! Sorry)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

San Diego Part II

Sunday - 2.26.2012
Today is Wine Country Day - We chose 3 vineyards to visit and do a bit of wine tasting.  The first stop was Sunshine Mountain Vineyards. Dan and Mickey had not been to this one, so it was new to all of us!  We arrived a bit early and Ed gave a very nice tour of the gardens and explanation of how this particular vineyard got started. Ed is the owner and wine maker!  It was a really informative tour and ended in the sales room with a great tasting.  We had at least 6 different wines, with cheese and crackers and some flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegars!!  The wines were terrific, but are only sold at the winery or to their Wine Club Members - we won't be finding them in any liquor stores ... So we left with several bottles. :-)
Next stop was Orfila - where we bought our wine glasses and got to try 6 different wines, while picnicing on the grounds and listening to music!  Nice wines, not as good as the SMV though.  Last stop Cordiano Winery -- this time we just bought a glass of wine and ordered a pizza.  Great views and great pizza.  What a relaxing day. 

On Monday, all the weather gurus here were worried about this winter storm - cold temps, rain and snow in the mountains.  Mickey, Lowell and I spent the day running errands - Target, CVS, Costco - getting some wash done, etc.  The rain started about 2 and continued through the night.  When we got home from dinner, there was even some hail!  Brrr.....

Tuesday 2.28.2012      Today we headed to Balboa Park for the morning. The park was established in 1868, and many of the buildings were put up in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition and in 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition.  Great Spanish architecture and wonderful gardens.  We were a little early for the gardens, but the Botanical Building had the most beautiful orchids!! 
For lunch we headed to Geroge's in LaJolla for yummy fish tacos and then strolled the oceanside cliffs again to watch the seals, sea lions, pelicans and gulls.  Before heading home we stopped at the Torrey Pines Gliderport to watch lots of gliders floating in and out. 

I got a new iPhone yesterday, so spent lots of time playing with it and experimenting with the camera :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

San Diego Part 1

Dan and Mickey have been wonderful guides out here in SoCal!   Each day we have a list of places to go - and we have pretty much hit them all by the end of the day!

One of our first stops was the USS Midway Tour in San Diego Harbor -- The carrier was used from 1945 to 1991.  The tour included the flight deck and the bridge, where all the flight control happens, the "city at sea", where everyone lived, ate, slept, etc.    There was a variety of planes and helicopters on the flight deck.  Lowell and I spent almost 4 hours on the carrier - and missed the engine room ! AECHHHH - we (or at least Lowell) might have to go back for that..
USS Midway

Next day (Friday) - The Leo Carillo Ranch, Torrey Pines State Park, The Mission San Diego de Alcala....
Dan was able to take the day off, so we had a full day of touring.
Leo (aka Pancho, of Cisco Kid fame!) was an actor in the 40's who owned a huge ranch in Carlsbad.  It was very fancy for it's time - a pool and guest houses for all his Hollywood pals! Today, most of the land has been developed, so the drive is through a couple of neighborhoods, into a little valley with the house and out buildings.  The ranch is now a park and being restored.  Peacocks wander freely - and the flowers were blooming.  Movie posters and memorabilia decorated the walls - a fun little excursion!
Pancho's Ranch!!

Torrey Pines State Park adjoins the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course - we took a great hike up the hill, down the cliffs and along the beach. Beautiful vistas and a nice workout as well!   By the time we left there, the clouds were rolling in so we headed to the Mission San Diego de Alcala - the first spanish mission in California.  It was founded in 1769 by Padre Junipero Serra.  The Mission was used for a variety of purposes after the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, including being a military post.  It was abandoned for many years, but is now in the process of restoration and is currently an active church.
Torrey Pines State Park
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

After a long day of sightseeing, we headed to The Brigantine restaurant for dinner - Oh My!  Fabulous food - we had great dinners, but the real treat was a Shrimp & Crab Fondue appetizer!!  We were able to talk the chef into sharing the recipe - after swearing that I did not own a restaurant or catering company.   We were pumped! Until we got home and realized that it will take a bit of adjusting - it calls for 9 pounds of cream cheese!!!  I guess it might work for a Koch gathering, but we're busy dividing....

Saturday - A picnic in La Jolla, walking the waterfront there and watching the seals and sea lions on the beach, listening to the protestors argue the dangers/merits of people sharing the beaches with the seals!  La Jolla is a great little town - we wander through the town and went into a couple of photographers galleries - Thomas Mangelsen and Peter Lik. Both are great landscape photographers with very different styles.

Last stop, before Mass, Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial - on one of the highest, peaks in San Diego 822' above sea level. Another beautiful monument with amazing vistas!

It's a lazy Sunday morning here - we went to church last night, so are enjoying catching up on newspapers, pictures, etc.   Today's adventure includes wine tasting and watching the Oscars - we are all participating in a pool - thank you Jodi - and so will be cheering for various films that we have not seen!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beach time....

Wednesday, February 22
We spent the afternoon at Coronado Beach, soaking up the sunshine and walking through the beautiful Hotel del Coronado.  The hotel and grounds and gardens are beautiful and filled with a rich history.  The hotel was build in 1888 and was intended as a resort destination. It has been through it's ups and downs, different owners, etc., but certainly is that "destination" today. 
 It was a treat to have Mickey take us on the tour and fill in some of the history - including the fact that this is where Dan and Mickey spent their luxurious honeymoon in 1974!  Ask her about it :-)

Hotel del Coronado

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hoodoos and Canyons

Monday, February 20
We left the sleepy little town of Tropic, went about 8 miles toward Bryce Canyon National Park and TA-DA, we found the tourist town!!!! Bryce! It really doesn't show up on many maps, but had 4 or 5 big hotels, camping, restaurants, etc. We were probably better off in Tropic as it turns out because there was a big winter fest happening, cross country ski racing, etc. it was a very busy place at 8 am. The park had gotten several inches to more than a foot of snow on Sunday, so the main road was closed about 2 miles in. But talk about an awesome part of this county!! That red rock we had seen in Arches was here too, but the canyon is filled with hoodoos and spires and walls and windows. Hoodoos are the rock formations that really kind of look like garden gnomes, a gazillion of them in all sizes. We drove to and then walked the rim to several overlooks. It was absolutely fascinating. From some of the overlooks visibility can be as far as 145 miles!!!
Those of you who know me well, know that I have real problems with heights. I can't stand to look over the edge of big drop offs, high buildings, etc. So, getting out on these observation platforms took some serious self-talk. But I did it and have the pictures to prove it. Only one of the trails down into the canyon was open, we considered it, but it was hard packed (read: very slick!) snow and had several areas of ridge walking, I just couldn't do it. Hopefully we'll get back another time, when the trails are dry and then maybe I can do it.
We left Bryce about 3 and headed toward the east entrance of Zion National Park.
I so wish I knew more geology. Utah is a geologist's heaven I think. Everywhere we visit I read about prehistoric seas, layers of different rock, earthquakes, volcanos, erosion. Whatever, God and Nature have carved some amazing landscapes in this state.
 Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion is less than 100 miles from Bryce, so it was a pretty quick drive. The east entrance to Zion is on the high plateau, then you go thru a 1.2 mile tunnel thru the mountain and take a series of switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon. This park is viewed mostly from the bottom of the canyon. We figured that since we still had some daylight we'd drive the park road and decide what we wanted to see and do today, and then we'd be in the park for some nice evening light. In one area we saw a group of about 6 or 8 photographers getting set up on the river bottom. Figuring they know what they were doing we stopped too! Must be a good spot right? Oh it was!! As we descended the stairs to get down by the river, a herd, yes a herd, of mule deer crossed the path in front of us. There must have been a dozen or so. Lowell followed them as I made a second trip back to the car. First for my tripod, second for a clean memory card....
We spent about half an hour there, the other group was a group of Asian tourists. I'm not sure they knew any more than we did, but we all took lots of pictures. They left before we did, we wandered back to see the deer again and as we headed out, a gray fox decided to check out the brush in front of us! I got my first images of a fox!! My camera was all set up for landscape shots though, so there are some interesting "transition" shots as I was scrambling. After all that excitement we headed to the town of Silverdale, right outside the park. Plenty of places to stay and a cool little town that probably really is hopping during the summer.
Tuesday, Feb 21
Today was our day to explore Zion's canyons. We took a couple of 2 mile hikes, and one short half mile round trip. These didn't have the elevation changes like Arches, Capitol Reef and Bryce, but we did have some snow packed trails.  One went back to a waterfall and pools, one went along the river deep into the canyon, and the short one went up to what they call the Weeping Wall. I just can't tell you how beautiful this park is, I found myself just standing there in the middle on the trail looking up and thinking, or telling Lowell, "This is so awesome".
We also found the deer herd again, and they were quite cooperative, we stood by the road and took lots of pictures, way more than we needed! We'll see tonight what they look like. We left Zion about 3, drove through Las Vegas by 5 and our intended stop tonight was Barstow, but we just called Mickey and are going to drive right to their house tonight. We should be there before 10, YEA!!
 Zion National Park

Seeing 4 National Parks in 4 days might sound crazy. In some ways it is, you could easily spend 2 or 3 days in each. But seeing them in quick succession really highlights the personality of each. Arches was wide open, with those huge amazing windows and arches. Capitol Reef was a pleasant surprise, rough and rugged. Bryce, looking down at the canyon fairyland was different from anything I've every seen. And Zion is so majestic. Again, I wish I knew more about geology!

I'm typing this as we drive, I'll try to get the pictures up loaded early tomorrow (Wednesday) and get this posted then.
The updates will probably be a little farther apart now, as we spend time visiting Dan and Mickey and exploring the San Diego area. I imagine there will be a thing or two to take pictures of there as well.....

Arrived at Dan and Mickey's at 9:30 last night - too busy today to get this finished :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two days, Two National Parks!

Saturday, February 18
 Arches National Park is probably the most famous park in Utah. It's depicted on Utah license plates, at least it used to be. We spent the day at the park, lots of walking and rock climbing.  We hiked a mile into the Landscape Arch, but chose not to hike the 4.2 miles into Devil's Garden, maybe another time.  Also took a 1/2 mile hike to a view point for the Delicate Arch, The hike into the arch is 3 miles.  The 3 and 4 mile hikes take 4 to 6 hours! We figured if we did the long hikes we could only do one for the day and we wanted to see as much of the park as possible.  I have to keep telling myself that "a mile is a mile is a mile", but these miles, with elevation changes and rock climbing sure take longer than the mile from my house to Inwood Avenue!   Beautiful blue skies & 50 degrees -
Arches National Park

 Sunday, February 19
There was a fairly big winter storm predicted for northern Utah, 5 to 8 inches on the I-15 corridor so we decided to take the southern route over to Bryce Canyon and figured it would just be a travel day. We ran into some snow and rain shortly after we left Moab, but then the weather cleared and the road took us through Capital Reef National Park, The Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  What a beautiful drive! We even hiked a bit at Capitol Reef. 
Capitol Reef National Park
Grand Staircase Escalante

Monday, February 20
You are all enjoying warmer weather than we are this morning! It's 0 here in the Bryce Canyon area - brrrrr.  We'll head out shortly to the park and to try to find breakfast.  We stayed in the small town of Tropic, just east of the park last night.  One hotel - America's Best Value Inn, undergoing renovation; one restaurant - open until 7 PM; one gas station and no breakfast options.....  The room is clean and warm, so we're fine. These little towns are so quiet at this time of the year!!

Today we'll explore Bryce Canyon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Road Trip 2012

For the fourth winter since our retirement, we are taking to the road to see a little more of our fair country.  This year we decided to take advantage of the mild winter weather and drive the northern route - through Denver and Utah - to visit my Dan and Mickey in San Diego. Today we drove through Denver  and the Rocky Mountains.  Considering the lack of snow in Minnesota, it was nice to see some of that white stuff, especially since the roads were dry!!
After leaving the mountains, we headed toward Moab, Utah. Instead of taking the freeway/highway route,  we traveled the scenic route on the east and south sides of Arches National Park. That road follows the Colorado River through some spectacular red rock country.  We'll spend tomorrow in Arches National Park and then probably drive toward Bryce Canyon National Park.  We hope to see Zion as well.  After some time in San Diego, we'll head to Casa Grande to catch up with friends there. 
So, here are a few images from today's drive.