Monday, December 23, 2013

A turkey, a Meteor Crater and 2 historic hotels

Just in time before the year ends, our last travel of 2013:

Thanksgiving this year was in Arizona, at Claudelle's house.  Daughter Jenn and son-in-law Jeff, flew in from Seattle to get some of that Arizona sunshine.  It was sunny and nice during the day with temps in 50s- mid 60s, but very cold at night, down into the 20s.

Thanksgiving Day was a beautiful warm, sunny day.  Turkey and trimmings, prepared by "chef Todd", Claudelle's boyfriend, were shared by family and local area friends.  It was a time of good food, discussions, card games and lots of dish washing ( Jenn and Jeff tackled much of that).

All too soon our week with family was over.  On our way out of town, we headed to Flagstaff and dropped off Jessica at her dorm at Northern Arizona University.  Quite cold up there, at 7,000 feet altitude, brrrr.  Low clouds/fog as we left town and headed east.

Despite the weather, we stopped at the Meteor Crater which is just about 40 miles east of Flagstaff.  Great exhibits inside, plus both inside and outside viewing of the crater.  Did you know that the Apollo astranots actually trained here from 1964 -1972, since it was thought to most resemble the moon surface? The crater was designated a Natural Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1968.  The museum gave us a fascinating look at rocks affected by the meteor and information about other meteor crater sites around the world. There is a one hour guided tour that goes out along part of the edge of the meteor crater.  Not something we wanted to do in icy, misty fog and not something I wanted to try so soon in my hip recovery.  If you enjoy odd unusual phenomena, then this will be interesting to you.

Meteor Crater

Just a short drive away we bedded down for the night in the historic La Posada Hotel, located in Winslow Arizona.  The architect Mary Colter was hired by Fred Harvey in 1903 to design fine hotels, restaurants and gift shops along the Santa Fe Railroad lines.  She used the idea  of a Spanish / Southwest family style hacienda when designing La Posada.  Unfortunately from 1930 when it opened till 1957 when it closed, it did not do well financially. It is now a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The rooms are named for either actors, actresses, famous writers or other theatre folks.  We slept in the Diane Keaton room, which was really nice with a sitting room even.  Dinner that night was incredible with great food and great service.    Fred had osso bucco and I had a varied plate of quail, elk slices and bbq beef ribs, all delicious.  A special order of chocolate souffle to die for completed our dinner.  The dining room faces the rail line, so you get to enjoy dinner and a show as there is lots and lots of  activity on the line.  Renovations included great insulation, so you are not bothered by the sound or feel of the trains. und proof windows, so it was a show without the trains being annoying at all.  After dinner we bundled up and went out to watch a train coming our way and got a toot and wave from an engineer!

Inside and out, the hotel was decorated for Christmas, which added even more charm  to this warm and inviting hotel. The library for example had lots of comfortable seating and  a large fireplace to warm yourself after being outside. What we found especially interesting was that there were used books of all kinds, throughout the hotel, even in our room.  This contributed to the feel that it was a home, not just  a hotel.  We highly recommend this as a stop either for the night or even just for a meal.  We really loved it and will definitely do it again on some future trip to Arizona.

Mary Colter Grand Canyon

La Posada and Mary Colter

As we continued on our way home we had another historic hotel to spend the night.  This time in Van Horn Texas, about 100 miles east of El Paso on highway 10, El Capitain. Now this one did not have the same comfort and family feel to it, but it was still a really nice place to stay.  It has a Southwest style with lots of original tile, iron hand rails, arch ways inside and out and a courtyard foutain entrance.   Again, we found another really good place to eat with a varied menu.  We had a front balcony room, just under the EL C of the hotel facade sign.

El Capitan history

So, time to get this out before Christmas eve, which is tomorrow.....

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our family and friends!
Love from,
Michelle and Fred

Traveling the country so you don't have to!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

last blog for this road trip

 Since I last wrote Fred had driven many miles and taken us through two states.  He has been doing all the return trip driving due to my hip and knee issues. 
We laughed at dinner tonight about the stale bread of our sandwiches and Fred said it was " not a wonder since it had been bought two states ago".  

So what did we see you ask.  Well first was BEAUTIFUL Salt River Canyon as we drove from Globe to Show Low, AZ.  Towering cliffs cut thru by the Salt River and offering many spectacular views as you drive thru.  This was our first time here and we are glad we decided to go this way.  In the one day we went from the desert floor around Phoenix up to Show Low,about 6000ft.  A really nice drive to take.

Forest Service Salt River Wilderness
Salt River Canyon
Show Low AZ

The following day found us in New Mexico driving highway 60.  We passed by the Very Large Array.  The movie Contact with Jodi Foster had some footage from this area. There is a visitor center but we did not get to do the visit.  Another trip.  

Very Large Array

Continuing along we stopped for a late chili lunch in Socorro.  We had been through this town before, I think maybe two years ago, when we came to see the new Mission Museum that was built near here.  Unfortunately,  that museum was full of replicas, no originals, from various Missions in the Southwest.  

We camped for the night in nearby San Antonio NM, near the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.  "Special" camping here, a gravel lot with 19 full hookups for RVs. We were the only ones in the place.  See below the Hilton connection.  Fred wonders how often Paris Hilton comes to town?  Not much in the way of bird watching since we got hit with a big storm in the early evening when the birds would normally be active.  We did hear sheep and cows complaining in the fields around us!

which spot is the best?  the one we are in!

bosque del apache wildlife refuge
Hilton in San Antonio

Zooming along the next day, we find ourselves heading for Clovis NM.  This is where Norman and Vi Petty started recording lots of new comers to rock and roll- Buddy Holly & the Cricketts among others.  This was the rock and roll of the 1950s.  A museum has been established here and a yearly festival takes place in September.  

rock and roll in Clovis NM

A drive of just a few minutes out of Clovis, we find ourselves back in Texas. Tonight we are camped in San Angelo State Park.  Saw a few of the buffalo herd that is here in this very large state park.  There is also a long horn cattle herd, but we did not see any.
Tomorrow we are back home in Somerset.  

We have had a great road trip in Mr B.  This has turned out to be a great way to travel.  I can't tell you how many times folks have come over to talk to us about Mr B and asked if they could see inside.  There is often then the comment about "needing to get one of those to make travel easier".  We can only agree.  It has been better than even we hoped it would be.   
We are a bit sad to end the road trip but happy that we will be home tomorrow.
Stay tuned for whatever will be our next adventures.

Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!
Salt River Canyon

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Sierras and the deserts

Leaving San Mateo was pretty uneventful.  Most of the traffic was going into town, so we had no delays as we headed towards the general direction of Stockton.  Our route took us up highway 99 till we reached the cut-off for highway 4 which was a small road up and over the Sierras.

We expected beautiful scenery, which we got plenty of and not a lot of traffic.  We passed through some great little logging towns, Murphys, Douglas Flat and Arnold, as we headed up into the Sierras.  Some of these towns are having some sort of logging competitions during Labor Day weekend, so if you are in the area, it might be a fun trip.  Once thru the towns, the road got narrower and we came to a point where anything over 25feet was not advised.  Not to worry we think, Mr B goes easily on small roads.  That is why we have the B, so we can be off the main grid.  Oh my......We climbed all the way up to 8,900 feet at Ebbetts Pass.
Ebbetts Pass

The road was wonderful new pavement, with side stripes but no center line, so road condition was very good. The road had lots of ups and downs with sharp turns and with extremely little or no visibility of any oncoming cars.  Thankfully there were very few cars coming or going on this road.  Only once did we creep to a stop when we had an oncoming car and tree slightly into the road.    The views were incredibly gorgeous, with sunshine, high white clouds and blue skies.  

The descent was something else, a long 25% grade down.  I am not exaggerating- 25%.  Even though we were in 2nd gear, at one point we had to stop and let the brakes cool down.  
This drive took many hours, much longer than we ever expected. We ended up having to go into Nevada, almost to Carson City to avoid taking another road with another pass (as we were really "passed out") to get to highway 395.  After many false starts trying to find camping, we found a really nice place by 5pm.  Quite the day!

That road is one we can check off our list, not that it was ever on our list.  It is a car only type of road.

rainbow view from our camp site

The next day we took it easy and drove highway 395 south.  We had hoped to stop in Bodie State Park to visit, but the road was closed due to fires.  Bodie is a ghost town in the Sierras.  We have been here many years ago, so it was disappointing, but oh well.
Bodie Ghost town

Our road continued on down to Mono Lake.  We had a wonderful vista stop to get a good view of the lake.  This is a large migratory bird area, which we did not know before. Stormy looking skies gave the scene a special look.  

Mono Lake

We continued from there to Lone Pine, CA.  This is where lots of movies, mostly westerns, were made in the 1920s-1960s.  Sierra backdrop was a popular feature. Anyone remember the the opening shots of The Lone Ranger TV show?  Well he was riding over trail and rocks here in Lone Pine, with the William Tell overture playing  in the background.  Movies such as Bad Day at Black Rock, Tremors, Ironman (standing in for Afghanistan ) and others also had scenes filmed here. We visited the Movie Museum which is here and it was well worth the visit.  Lots of posters and memorabilia to see.  
Lone Pine is not for the faint of heart at this time of year as this is a hot area, with the high the day we were there of 104.  Once again, Mr B pulls thru with the AC and it is quite cool inside the van.  
Be sure to check out the travel opportunities offered by the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce in my link below.

Lone Pine, CA
Lone Pine Film Festival 2013

On our way to Joshua National Park, we stopped in Boron, CA.  This is where borax hand cleaner, which some of us older folks may remember, comes from the boran mined here.  The company has an interesting visitor center which tells you all of the things that are used with borax. It's an enormous open pit since 1956, but had first started out as an underground mine.  It is the largest boron pit in the world.

Boron CA history
Borax uses

Next stop was Joshua Tree National Park. We have camped many times in this park, but never at the top in what is called the Jumbo Rocks.  Not a lot of people this time of year, other than Germans on vacation and not all the camping open due to the heat.  Jumbo Rocks was open, so we were happy.  It is a series of 120 campsites spread out among the rocks.  The rocks help to give shade and some privacy depending on the arrangement of the site.  It was a very quiet night in the desert, this is part of the Mojave.  Unfortunately, not much in the way of star gazing since we had quite a bit of cloud cover due to storms in the area.  We sat out in the dark and watched lightning way off in the distance.  

breakfast table

Today we left California, after a week, to arrive in Wickenburg Arizona.  Not much here of interest that we saw as we passed thru town, though have to admit we were both hot and not too interested in sightseeing.  We are in an RV park just outside of town, which is just okay, but much better than the other one in town.  We need showers...need I say more.  Anyway, this is really more of a mobile home park for old folks, not us, I mean really old folks.  Fred says it's like being "in God's waiting room".  

Wickenburg history
Wickenburg current day views

Tomorrow we move on, with one more night in Arizona.  Then we head for probably two nights in New Mexico as we seek out good eating places for green and red chilies.  

Time for showers and then dinner.

Keep following as we travel the country for you!
Michelle and Fred

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another week, another state

Monday, a week after leaving the Seattle area, we were still in Oregon.

Found a new, to us any way, camping area at Diamond Lake just 26 miles north of Crater Lake.  Spent two days there and enjoyed warm days with pretty cool nights, we were at 5,000ft plus.  This is a large lake with an older lodge and cabins.  They all have a bit dated look and could use a bit of paint, but nothing horrible.  There are two restaurants in the lodge and a pizza place a bit further along the lake. During the weekday in August, when we were there it was not crowded at either the lodge or the campground by the lake.

Yesterday we left Diamond Lake and headed to Crater Lake for some sightseeing.  It has been many years since we had visited the area.  There were crowds there. We had to wait in a line of cars to get through the ranger booth entrance and then along the vista stops around the rim.  Unfortunately, there was also lots of haze due to fires that were south of us, towards Nevada possibly.  We did a bit of the looky look, but decided to move on, away from the crowds.  Mr B, took the road south out of Oregon and on to warmer weather.

California bound.  Yesterday, at mid-day we finally crossed into California, by Cady, which is roughly north east of Lassen.
Not much happening in this area, other than wide open space with cattle and big ranches.  Spent the night in the Modoc National Forest at a forest service campground.  These are wonderful campgrounds to find for folks with Senior National Park passes ( yours truly), since they offer the camping for half off.  The camping last night in the Modoc at Howard's Gulch campground was only $6.  It is had some of the cleanest pit toilets, including seat covers.  There was water available, though you have to be careful since most forest service campgrounds do not have water.  No one else there for most of the evening.  Lots of birds as this happened to be a bird watch area.

Howard's Gulch Campground

This morning we got up to chilly, but sunny morning, so had our breakfast sitting inside Mr B.  Once the bed is made up, we have two couches that face each other, with a flat table like space between, so it is easy to eat inside.  By the time we started off, the sun was starting to get quite warm.

It's warm in bed and cold out there.

We followed back roads down to the beginning of highway 49, in the Gold country.  Beautiful road, but with lots of curves and ups and downs.  Did not get as far as we thought we would, but still doing okay.
We are in Auburn Ca, which is just a bit northeast of Sacramento.
Gold country rv park

 Tomorrow we will easily make San Mateo for our time with family.  Looking forward to rest of our scenic drive along highway 49 and then the mad rush to get thru the Bay area.

Check in with us again,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!