Beautiful Napa Valley! I cannot say enough about how pretty it is here. Miles and miles of green rolling hills covered with vineyards and grass and trees. After our trek through the arid southwest, the greenery is so welcome.) We camped in Calistoga, which is right in the heart of wine country. I debated whether to take a guided wine tour, or just go to a single winery or two or three on our own. I decided to start with one winery and see how it goes. (Ed is not a wine drinker, so this was pretty much my show.) We went to Castello de Amorosa which was just down the road. It was a beautiful Tuscan style castle with vineyards and winery. The castle was like a museum, complete with grand ballrooms, many wine cellars and secret passageways and even a torture chamber with some interesting artifacts on display. This is an upscale winery that does not sell in stores. You have to order it directly from them. They were selling barrels for $10,000. We passed. After touring the castle we had a tasting. We each got five choices. Ed and I chose different wines so that I could “help” him with his samples. I am glad I decided on a single winery because I was quite tipsy by the end of the tasting. Ed was designated driver today. We had lunch in Calistoga and that was the end of winery touring for me. Later in the day, we took a short ride over to California's Old Faithful and were able to watch a geyser erupt about every five minutes or so. It wasn't Yellowstone, but it was quite impressive. On our last day in Calistoga Ed got his chance for a tasting. In addition to all those wineries, Napa Valley has several great microbreweries. We chose the Bear Republic Brewing Company in nearby Healdsburg. We had a great lunch and Ed tried a “sampler” of seven of the house specialty brews. He enjoyed them very much. I was designated driver on this day. Claudia
As much as we loved the wilderness in the National Parks, it was nice to get back to civilization again where our cell phones and Wi-Fi once again worked. We started off our visit to San Francisco by taking a short walk from our campground in Greenbrae over to the Larkspur ferry that took us for a half hour trip to San Francisco. It was a great ride, right past San Quentin Prison where the prisoners waved to us as we passed by. Once in San Francisco we took an old time cable car ride to Chinatown where we had some lunch. Then it was back on the cable car until it was time to switch cars and we decided to take a walk down to Fisherman's Wharf. Once there we walked around, just taking in the sights and sounds. We did enjoy a couple of crab cakes from one of the dozens of vendors. We eventually jumped on to one of the historic trolleys for a trip back to the ferry terminal and headed back to the campsite. The weather was perfect and we had a great, although tiring day. The next day we decided to take a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge where we parked and took some pictures. We wish we could have spent more time there so we could have walked or rode our bikes across the bridge. Next we moved on to our next campground in Calistoga, about an hour north knowing we were going to return to San Francisco in a few days since we couldn’t get Alcatraz tour tickets while we were there. We did return a few days later by getting up early and heading back into San Francisco for our delayed tour to Alcatraz. We couldn't find a parking space at the Larkspur ferry terminal so we ended up having to drive into the city. The drive in actually wasn't that bad and we were able to park for less money than the ferry would have cost us. We also got there early enough that we were able to walk around Pier 39, one of San Francisco's great tourist spots with lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It also offered a great view of both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. At one stop along the pier, we looked out at and watched hundreds of sea lions basking in the sun on wooden rafts, less than a hundred feet away. After that, we took our tour of Alcatraz and weren't disappointed. We walked around the island and inside the prison, took an audio tour that walked and talked us through the entire prison building, explaining things as we walked around, including some of the famous attempted jail breaks, complete with sound effects. The audio tour definitely made the trip a highlight. Unfortunately, the traffic back wasn't as kind as on the way in but we did finally return to the camper after about two and a half hours on the road. Stella sure was glad to see us when we returned. It was a 10 hour day for her but she did great. Yes, it was nice to get cell service back and we loved San Francisco but we’re looking forward to returning to less populated areas. Ed
California National Parks
After seven months on the road, we finally made it to California. We started our visit to California by visiting four National Parks. The first park we visited was Joshua Tree. What a surprise that was. We expected loads of Joshua trees and a lot of desert. We got that and a lot more. This place was loaded with beautiful boulders, stacked on one another and spread out. We took a couple of beautiful hikes, one into a box canyon that at one time was used by outlaws to hide cattle that had been rustled. After Joshua Tree, we headed off to Shoshone where we camped while we toured Death Valley. Shoshone was a tiny little town with 17 residents, an Inn, a campground, one gas station and a restaurant. It was a beautiful location looking out at the mountains. On our only full day in Shoshone, the three of us headed off into Death Valley by car. Again, I’m not sure what we expected but it was another gorgeous area. We’re starting to call these “wow” days because it seems that’s what we’ve been saying over and over as we drive through the area. This time it was more of a painted desert with painted mountains. We took a couple of side roads into places words just can't describe. There were mountains of every conceivable color. And off in the distance, the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountain range. We were so alone at one point we felt like we were the only living creatures until two coyotes peeked over the shoulder and wandered over to our car as we slowly drove by. Once it came time to leave Shoshone, we headed off in the RV towards the Sequoia National Park. Since we consider this trip an "adventure", we decided to take the scenic route through Death Valley rather than the main highway. On this trip, in the RV and towing the car we hit two separate areas with elevations near 5000 feet. The elevation was not as much of a problem but the switchbacks and sharp turns through jagged mountain passes tested all my RV driving skills. Claudia said that when she looked out her side window at times; all she could see was space. My eyes were glued to the road, praying that another RV or bus wouldn't come around the corner as we hit some of those turns. The vistas at the top however were breathtaking. Needless to say, we made it to our next campground safe and sound where we camped while visiting Sequoia. We started off with a drive through Sequoia and as we've encountered at each of the National Parks we've traveled through so far, we were delighted by what we saw. Even though we have seen pictures of the giant sequoias, we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the forest and all the giant sequoia's as we drove at an elevation of close to 7000 feet. We took a beautiful mile long hike into the forest in order to see General Sherman, the world’s largest living tree that is approximately 2200 years old. We also took another hike up to Moro Rock. This was a climb of over 400 steps in order to arrive at the top of a huge boulder where it seems you're standing at the top of the world at an elevation of 6,725 feet with a 360 degree view. It was just another beautiful day. Now it was time to move on to Yosemite National Park. Unexpectedly, my driving skills were once again tested as we made our way to Yosemite. There were plenty of twists and turns across a variety of elevations with drops on either side so steep we couldn’t see down them. On some turns we could see our car beside us. We did make it safe and sound to Yosemite however and began a trip through what turned out to be the highlight of our California National Park tours. There were waterfalls, rock formations, trees taller than most buildings and views like nothing we've ever seen. Add to that the fact that the weather was gorgeous with deep blue skies and the visit was just wonderful. We took three trips to the park. On day one we traveled through Yosemite Valley, visiting such beautiful sights as Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. At Yosemite Falls we climbed up the rocks to get as close to the lower falls as possible. On day two, just as gorgeous as day one, we returned to the valley. We started out by taking a 4 mile round trip hike to Mirror Lake where we could see images of the mountains above us perfectly reflected in the lake. Words can’t describe the stillness and the deep blue skies. Once we returned to the car, we pulled out our bikes and saw the park from a different perspective as we bicycled through the valley. On day three, we decided to take a trip up to Glacier Point, an overlook into Yosemite Valley from an elevation of 7,214 feet with a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and the High Sierra’s. It was just a magnificent way to end an absolutely awe inspiring visit to four of the most beautiful parks in the country. And best of all… we’ll be back. Ed
Arizona was all that we hoped for - lots of sunshine and warm temps and desert scenery. Our first excursion was to Tombstone, which really hasn’t changed that much since the Earps had their famous shootout at the OK corral. We had lunch there and took a trolley tour and stopped at Boot Hill to see the graves of the famous and not famous. We planned to have some service done on the car, so next day we hung around the camp. After that we went to Saguaro National Park-West and enjoyed the unique landscape of that desert. Besides the Saguaro cactus that only grows in AZ, the high point of the trip was that we actually saw a real roadrunner! (No Wile E. Coyote.) We also went to Old Tucson, which is the setting of countless western movies and TV shows. It was really fun to see and touch all those props and sets and see lots of characters in period clothing strolling about the town. While in the desert we discovered there were other problems with the car, so it was back to the dealer next day. However, they gave us a cute little red Chevy something-or-other on loan for the day. We were able to see the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which was another great take. While in Tucson, we got to visit a friend that I have known since I was about five or six years old. Our families were very close growing up and we spent many weekends together over the years. I hadn’t seen Donna in over 30 years, but it felt like it was just last week. After Tucson, we went to Phoenix and visited with our friend Harriet, who moved to Scottsdale several years ago. The three of us plus Stella took a great hike in Lost Dog Wash Trail. It was more beautiful desert scenery. Then next day Harriet and I went to the ballet in Phoenix. That was a real treat! While in the area, Ed’s cousin Richard (who we visited in VA) happened to be Scottsdale taking care of some business for his mom. We got together and took another hike and had a bite to eat. Besides the beautiful scenery of Arizona, we really enjoyed visiting with friends and family we haven’t seen in a while. Claudia
Ed and Claudia always dreamed of retiring and travelling the country in their motorhome. They retired in 2013 and this is the continuing story of their adventures on the road.