Road Trip……..day 6, final day
October 6, 2017

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Just north of Barstow on I-15 we pulled off the road to see Calico Ghost Town. It was an old silver mine from the 1800s. There is a few tours you can take that lead you underground (reminds me of Echo Bay Mines at Port Radium, Canada where I worked for five years), and through different mining operations from that time.

From here we headed through the Morongo and Yucca Valleys home. Our total mileage 1554 miles or about 300 miles a  day. We wanted to see as much as we could in the time allotted. Some areas I would definitely return to and spend the whole time in that place. It’s always nice to be home when you get there. Just recognizing another sign of appreciation when you open the door to home.

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Road Trip……..day five
October 6, 2017

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After the continental breakfast included by the hotel, and frost on the car windows, we were on the road by 7:00am. Even though it was only 42 degrees when we left Mammoth, we wore shorts and a T-shirt because we knew the day would be much warmer in the valley below. Overall  the day temperature was a comfortable mid nineties. We passed Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and entered Death Valley. Most of the roads we’ve travelled on this trip were either in great shape or newly paved this year. I really enjoyed the topography, ups and downs, ascending and descending from all the different elevations. Our first stop was Father Crowley Point. The view from here was vast and endless with an empty simplicity. Most noticeably, there was an incredible quiet.

Next stop was Stovepipe Wells Village, where we stopped for lunch. Two bread sandwiches (oh, forgot there was a paper-thin slice of meat in it), and a coke came to $18.00. Sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch, outside the general store and eating the sandwiches though, made the experience……actually fun.

After lunch, we headed for Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes (reminded me of the sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands where we’d go and slide down on the dunes on our backs or stomach….I was 17, and much younger then) and the Harmony Borax Works.

After this, we headed for Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but being a Sunday it was closed. Next destination the Devil’s Golf Course. The landscape looks like a golfer had left thousands of divots strewn over a few thousand acres. These divots are mostly composed of salt deposits. I took a close-up photo of one below.

Badwater Basin was next on our list.

Artist’s Drive is a one-way road through the mountains that looks like it has been painted with hues of red, green, blue, rust and purples. There are steep dips and turns on the road and Disneyland modelled their car ride in California Adventure after this Drive. This Artist’s Drive is much longer and four times the fun. The scenery of the mountains and colors are outstanding and even breath-taking at some points. Our photos don’t do it justice. A real must do if you get out this way.

Just after this drive we headed back to the main road. Shortly after the junction on the main road, there is the historic Oasis Hotel. It is undergoing a major renovation at this time. It is in the middle of no-where and looks like a mirage oasis brought down from heaven. Exotic palms and trees were being planted around the site and it’s a stark contrast to the landscape. It is going to be the place to stay when it is finished. The photo below is the way it looked before the renovation.

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Moving on, our next destination was Zabriskie Point.

After this we were going to go to 20 Mule Team Canyon, but the road in was long and not in good shape (very rough gravel). Not worth the damage it might do to the car. So, we headed to our last Death Valley site; Dante’s View. It’s a long way to the top with hair-pin curves and a steep incline. When you get to the top, all you can smell is the burnt rubber and hot oil from vehicles engines.

This ended our stay in Death Valley. We were heading east now to Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House. It has a long history and I’ve borrowed the link from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hotel

Our final destination for the trip is Pahrump, Arizona. We headed east and arrived around 5:00pm. We figured we’d stay at one of the casino hotels, have a good meal and head back to Palm Springs tomorrow. Below is a chuck wagon outside our room in the courtyard and a photo of inside the casino.

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip…….day three
October 3, 2017

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Coffee was all we needed on our third day start. We left the hotel and hopped on the 101 North. We wanted to make it to the Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel. From there we’d head east to Merced and stay the night there, so we’d be able to have an early start to Yosemite on the following morning.

 

 

The Central Valley is just amazing. Our route took us through Atascadero, Paso Robles, King City, Greenfield and to Salinas. There were endless fields of every vegetable, nut-tree, fruit tree and vineyard. Just knowing that it supplies over half of all the nuts, vegetables and fruits for the United States is reason enough to be in awe. And we just take it for granted. It gave me great respect and appreciation for such a fragile commodity, just driving through this area. The fields and orchards are an endless sea of beauty. And although, there are plenty of opportunities to take in wine tastings at the many numerous vineyards, we’re saving that for another trip when that will be the main focus.

At Salinas, we headed west towards the ocean. By passing Carmel and Monterey for now, until we returned. We headed to our furthest North destination, the Bixby Creek bridge and Big Sur. Big Sur is as far as we could go on the coastal road because of the landside that removed the road further up, earlier this year.

 

With a short stop in Big Sur we headed back to Carmel, the Seventeen Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.

 

Pebble Beach and its famous homes and golf courses are everything you can imagine wealth can bring. Partial views of private mansions hugging the ocean, equestrians on horseback, golfers on the pristine links and beautiful hotels and people make this area all that is written about it real, but distant, at the same time. Got money? We stopped at the Point Pinos Lighthouse for thirty minutes, and listened to volunteers tell us its very interesting history and current use.

 

Ending up close to Monterey, we travelled into the beach area for a bite to eat. We found Lalla Grill, a contemporary waterfront restaurant in Cannery Row. There were breathtaking views of the ocean and surroundings, including a cruise ship moored just off the coast, from the front windows where we were seated.  We treated ourselves to lobster and shrimp rolls. Sounds better than it tasted. The Mornay sauce on the seafood masked the delicate taste and overpowered the lobster and shrimp. A simple lemon butter sauce would have been better. But it was a much-needed break from the long drive so far. By 3:30pm, we were on our way west towards Merced.

Not very good photos, but wanted to remember the unbelievable prices of fruits and vegetables from stands along the roads. We saw large Haas avocados, 6/$1.00, a whole flat of giant strawberries for $10.00 , corn, 6/$1.00, and on and on.

With traffic and only a two lane highway, we ended up at our destination of Merced, four hours later at 7:45pm. This began our one night stay at the Motel (6) From Hell.

Bordered by a one way street in front (next to the freeway) and the loading docks of Costco in the rear of the building, we finally found the entrance to the motel, hidden behind a Carl’s Jr. parking lot. Not yet dismayed, we checked in and asked for a room as far away from the freeway as possible. The manager accommodated us by putting us in the inner courtyard, next to the pool. We weren’t hungry so we settled in and watched a little local TV before bedding down.

It wasn’t long before we were woken by the sounds of someone in the room above us making loud sex, accompanied by the freeway traffic noise. This went on for a while, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, until there was a sudden stop in the noise. And then, a huge THUD on the ceiling above us. One or both had fallen out of bed. It was a Friday night and people have to have fun. Things seemed to quiet down upstairs after this and we heard them discussing getting some ice.  Their door opened and closed loudly, and one person left to get ice.

Now there was a new noise….a train going 90 miles an hour with its whistle blowing. Who knew there were train tracks next to the freeway. It sounded like it was coming right through our room. The trains continued into the night about one every half hour, mixed with the arrival of eighteen wheelers at the loading dock of Costco. Every hour there were the soft sounds of the beep, beep, beep, beep as they backed their trucks into position.

The gentleman returned to the room above us (let’s call him Sam) with ice, but the door was locked. He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked again, and still no answer. Then we heard “Ruth open the door”. Still no answer. Continued knocking with phrases like, “Ruth please open the door”, and “Ruth, open the door”. Then Sam began to bang on the door, “Come on Ruth, open the f**king door”, and shortly afterwards saying, “Ruth, sweetie, please open the door”. “Ruth, don’t be an a**hole”. “Open this f**king door”. Their next door neighbor upstairs, then came out, a lady with the sweetest voice and she tried to get Ruth to open the door. No luck. Then Sam threatens to get the manager to open the door. Still no luck. Along with the above phrases and some worse ones, accompanied with pounding and kicking on the door, an hour and a half passed. Finally, Sam got the manager (3:30am) to open the door and there was no Ruth.

We managed to get a couple hours of sleep. The trains and eighteen wheelers had subsided and the freeway now sounded life a soft muffle. The saving grace? We found a GREAT Denny’s (who knew?) a block away where we had a breakfast special, great service and coffee and was just a block from the freeway entrance to Yosemite.

Bringing The Ocean To The Desert
July 13, 2017

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Artwork I just finished.

The Old Man
February 25, 2010

 

I was seventeen and I was on board the Empress of Canada. I was on my way back home after spending ten months hitch hiking through Europe, part of Asia and Africa. A purser showed me to my bunk below the water line. There was an old man in the room when I got there and we exchanged pleasantries. He seemed like he wanted to talk, but I excused myself because I had met someone on the ferry ride to the ship who had invited me to meet the entertainment crew. I remember it had been a long ride to the port of Liverpool from where I’d left in Scotland and I felt tired. I really just wanted to rest. I felt a little overwhelmed from all the travelling and sightseeing and I was also looking forward to just going home. It was the beginning of the seven-day Israeli war and you could cut the air in Europe with a knife. It was this event that had determined my reason to return.

Over the course of the seven day ocean trip back to Montreal, the old man continued to ask me questions and would begin to strike up a conversation. Each time I made an excuse and would leave or say “I was too tired”. One particular time I came into the room and he had a photo album out and he was thumbing through pictures. He asked me to look at some of the photos and started to explain how he was an important figure in the peace agreements of the arab communities many years before. There were heads of states and arab leaders all dressed ceremoniously, copies of the agreements all on these orange brown faded photographs. He had so many things and stories he wanted to tell me. But again I faded fast in interest. I just wanted to be home.

Too often, opportunities present themselves and we’re so pre-occupied in our future, we miss the moment. This incident has always bothered me because of my selfishness. I’ve always carried the feeling that there was something to learn from this old man. What could I have learned that I missed? Would my life have changed? That’s my regret. I’m older now and I think, will people listen to what I can tell?

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