Sunday, August 25, 2013

We're home!

We got home last Tuesday, August 20. It only takes about two hours to drive from Bakersfield and once we got started we didn’t stop! It was nice and cool when we got home – what a treat! My brother thought I mentioned the heat too much in my last blog – but that’s the way it was!

Anyway, since I have no travel news for our last day, I thought I would just share some general impressions before I say good bye until our next trip.

Some vacation impressions:

I have been surprised that fewer people seem to be speeding. Most of the speed limits have been less than 65 mph and people seem to be staying at that speed. We no longer have everyone on the freeway passing us!

It was so cold and foggy during our trip up the coast. Then, as soon as we turned inland the weather started getting warmer. Now that we are in the central areas, it is quite hot!

I love the fact that so many towns are interested in their history and are preserving their historical buildings. They are even preserving family businesses, so people are staying in their communities.

Almost every Walmart has a “No Overnight RV Parking” sign, but they say they do not enforce it. Are they trying to reverse their camper friendly policy?

There have been so many different kinds of wild flowers along the road. I wish I knew all the names. I picked some and have them in a bottle on the dashboard. They are so pretty.

I was surprised that Oregon has no sales tax. I had also forgotten that the gas stations are not self service – they all have attendants.

A lot of cities have pay stations for the parking. You can put your money or credit card in the machine and get a ticket with the amount of time you have paid for. Then you can move your car and use the time in another spot if you want!

We are leaving for Norway next week - so, I think I will be writing a blog during that trip. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Last day of vacation - August 19, 2013

All I can say is “It’s too darn hot!” We spent last night in Modesto and it never got below 88 in the camper. We were up early today to check out a stitchery shop I found on the Internet, have breakfast at Perkos (the same chain we started at when we began our trip), and visit the Blue Diamond Almond Factory. We watched a movie on almond production and bought some almonds. We found out they have quit using 4 lb cans to sell almonds in because the metal is too expensive!

Then it was back on highway 99, heading south. I was amazed at the number of trucks – even more than we encountered on I-5. This is the San Joaquin Valley and the middle of farm country. Maybe they are bringing our lettuce to LA! We stopped at the outlet mall in Tulare and it was really dead. There weren’t many stores we were interested in and it was too Hot!

So, now we are in Bakersfield (the armpit of the central valley – we couldn’t even find a decent restaurant nearby) at a fairly nice campground with air conditioning turned up full blast! I would love to sit outside and read, but it’s too hot! So, I am sitting inside writing my blog. Otherwise, it has been a lovely day! Oh, and the wind has been blowing up a storm (literally and figuratively). Another reason to stay inside! Heading for home tomorrow (Aug. 20).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Our day in Sacramento CA - Aug. 18, 2013

We spent Saturday night in Sacramento CA. We have been here several times and stay in the RV park at the State Fair Grounds. Luckily the State Fair is over, so there was no problem getting a site. It was so hot – we appreciated the air conditioning!

Even though we have been here before, we found a couple new things to do. I wanted to go to mass on Sunday, so we went to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacramento. It is right in the middle of downtown, one block from the Capitol. It is a beautiful church, built in the 1800’s with lots of stained glass, wood, a large crucifix hung from the ceiling, and wood choir stalls and chapels behind the altar. It has a 218 foot bell tower. From the outside it looks very much like one of the California mission churches, which I am sure was an influence in its construction.

Afterwards we decided to visit the Crocker Art Museum. Sundays are free (donations encouraged), which was a bonus. We had not been to this museum and we were pleasantly surprised at how large and interesting the collection is. The Crockers started their art collection in 1869. They built a gallery connected to their mansion in 1872. These buildings and their art were donated to the city of Sacramento. In 2010 another building was added, making the entire complex into a U shape, with two floors of art, and a lower floor of offices, performance spaces, and study rooms and a gift shop, of course. We didn’t see everything, we got tired. So, we looked mainly at the modern or contemporary art. It was all so different and interesting. So many different twentieth century artists were showcased – more than I have ever seen in one museum. The changing exhibition featured Jesse and Robert Duncan and many of their contemporaries. What a treat to look at all of this work. I would definitely recommend visiting this museum.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

California Here we Come

It is beginning to feel a lot like home! On Friday we hoped to visit another National Monument near Merced OR. However, we could not find the visitor center, so did not know how to get there. It is called Cascades-Siskiyou NM. Anyone been there? I guess we will have to come back when we figure out where it is.  

So we did some shopping in Merced and headed south again on I-5. For some reason the trucks did not seem so bad and the drive was fairly painless. There were some long steep grades over the mountains. It reminded me of the Grapevine near LA. We caught many glimpses of Mt. Shasta in the east. We stopped in Redding CA – the gateway to Lassen NP. We did make a stop at Shasta Dam (actually it is on the Sacramento River). It has the world’s largest spillway and was quite a lovely spot.

On Saturday we spent some time exploring Redding. It is on the Sacramento River and has a beautiful city recreation area called Turtle Bay. There is a nature center, arboretum, museum, playhouse, etc. The prime attraction is a walk bridge over the River, designed by Santiago Calatrava, called the Sundial Bridge. It is one of those bridges that is supported on one side by a massive column and cantilevered out with guy wires. The floor of the bridge was translucent so you felt like you were walking on the water. We enjoyed visiting it, but did not want to pay for the other attractions so we left!

The temperature was approaching 100 deg, and we couldn’t leave the dog in the van, so we decided to continue our drive to Sacramento. We switched over to Highway 70 and we did make a stop in Oroville. We followed the Greenline tour (an actual green line painted in the pavement that led you to all the tourist attractions in this small town on the Feather River). I am beginning to appreciate how hard some communities are trying to strengthen their economy by attracting tourists and providing beautiful places for the locals to visit, also.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Last day in Oregon - Oregon Caves National Monument

In keeping with my collecting of National Park stamps, we decided to visit Oregon Caves National Monument today. We had never heard of this park, but people told us it was very nice and a good day trip from Grants Pass. It is located in Siskiyou National Forest, at about 4000 ft., an hour and a half drive from Grants Pass. We had another beautiful, windy drive through pine, madrone, big oak, and spruce forest. The cave was discovered in the late 1800’s by a hunter and his dog. It has been under the park service since the 1920’s. There is a beautiful and historic chalet where guests can stay (similar to Yosemite Lodge). In the 1930’s the CCC did a lot of work on the trails, retaining walls, fountains and pool (for the stream coming from the cave). It was a very beautiful spot.

We bought tickets for the cave tour. I was not sure I could do it – over half a mile walk with about 500 stairs in 42 deg temperature. However, I did do it with Don’s help and was so glad. It was an interesting and exciting journey through a fairyland of geological formations. The cave is a marble cave (most are limestone, but marble is just limestone that has been hardened by more heat and pressure). The formations are still formed by the action of the carbolic acid in water. We saw them all – stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flows, riffles, popcorn, and maybe others I have forgotten. Before they would let us on the tour we had to verify that we had not been in Mammoth or Carlsbad Caverns in the last 8 years. White nose syndrome is a fairly new disease that has devastated the bat populations in Europe and some places on the east coast. They are trying to prevent it here.