Tuesday, June 27, 2017

From Desert to High Sierra… A road trip (part 2) Yosemite in a Day, and the drive home.




The trip’s original plan was simply to get away for a few days together, to see how we traveled together, and to introduce Gael to Yosemite…  And this would be her first time in the Valley… John Muir’s Valley of Light, Ansel Adam’s muse in Black and White… and one of my favorite places…
But this year, in Yosemite, both the Valley and the high country is not normal… it is a wet year… after an extended drought.  And with water Yosemite’s waterfalls are spectacular… spectacular in ways that they haven’t been for many years.  The High country still has snow… snow along the road to Glacier Point… snow on Tioga Pass so that road is still closed.
We were staying at Wawona (aka the Big Trees Lodge) nearly an hour out of the Valley.  The entrance to the Valley via Hwy 140 was via a tunnel… a tunnel through solid granite, which opens onto a spectacular over view of the Valley… from a pull out called Tunnel View…   Ansel Adams took and iconic photo from this place… Gael had seen the Valley from above the evening before.  Now she was entering this special Shangri-La for the first time.
The overview was spectacular as expected, but possibly less dramatic, as a result of the previous evenings overview from Glacier Point.   The overview was crowded with tourists… some in cars, some in busses… Others searching for their Yosemite experience… The parking lot is full but not quite overwhelmed.
We regained the Jeep, then descended into the Valley… pulling off at Bridalvale falls… a parking lot… with little available parking… with a long line for the restroom… for more people love Yosemite than Yosemite can support… this is the first place we see this… It is a short walk to the base of the falls… Bridalvale has a small watershed… and while running full is not unusually spectacular… the rocks at the bottom that usually are full of rock hoppers are wet and so abandoned… I suspect that most visitors don’t understand what they are seeing…
Back to the Jeep… Lines to the restroom are still long and overwhelming… we head along the south road, into the valley with its views.  Views of the Three Brothers… Views of El Capitan… El Cap… the massive granite face… a face her son has climbed…
We continue up the south road… stopping at Swinging bridge.  This is a familiar place… a place my family gathers every other Thanksgiving for a cookout…  part of an Biannual family reunion… A reunion which claims its origin to the 1940’s… but is better said to have restarted in 1968… when I first visited Yosemite…

Today Swinging Bridge is in flood… the water above the bottom of the bridge… the path from the north side of the bridge to the Lodge (the Lodge at the Falls… previously Yosemite Lodge) flooded.   We walk across the bridge… I take the path towards the lodge… two feet deep in water.   The river is at near flood stage, full and overflowing… fast but strangely not seeming to threaten…
Back across Swinging Bridge… pausing at the restrooms which do not have a line…
Back to the Jeep… on to Curry Village, hiding the Jeep in the “15 minutes to check in” area… Curry Village is sadly now Half Dome Village.. sadly with the name Curry on the iconic wooden arch changed via a vinyl sign tied across…  Silly corporate games are screwing with history.  We walked about… looking at Stoneman Lodge where we would be staying over Thanksgiving 5 months from now… Finding where we might find coffee (coffee is important). Looking at tent cabins, explaining “bear boxes,” getting a sense of the place.
Back to the Jeep… we head towards Misty Isle… finding a place to park at the old dump site where they once had grandstands to watch the bears feed on the human trash… then hiking towards Misty Isles where the river was raging but not in flood… we found a bench to pause for lunch, but found that we had forgotten the crackers… so I went back to the jeep to retrieve them. Then we headed up the trail towards Vernal Falls…  It’s a steep trail… busy and paved… and steep…
Along the way there are views of both Yosemite Falls and the more elusive Illilouette Falls… both giving excuses to pause and look… excuses needed on this steep trail.  We made it to the bridge over the Merced… Here the river was angry… full and dangerous.  Beyond, up hill was the Mist Trail… we chose to forgo that, instead taking selfies with the water falls then headed back down the (steep) trail to Misty Isles where there were lines for the shuttle, for the bathroom and for the drinking fountain…
Back to the Jeep… then over to the stables and North Pines to look about… (mostly we saw parked cars) then back to Yosemite Village and on to the Ahwahnee Hotel (now the Majestic, thank you very much Delaware North) to walk about then have a drink in the bar…  The space is spectacular… we need to eat her next November…
On to Yosemite Village… walking through the store with its bear shot glasses and such… Along with cold beer, wine, cork screws, chips and crackers, fire wood and anything else you might need… all with long lines… on to the Ansel Adams Gallery where some jewelry may have been purchased… and finally on to the Visitor Center… then back to the Jeep… then on, into the traffic headed west… out of the Valley…
We stopped and parked near the base of Yosemite Falls… hiking up to the viewing area at the base… the bridge near the base was wet… as if in heavy rain.  Here the water was not just raging… the mist of the falls a thick raging swirling fog… it was spectacular… the spectacular that we hoped for.  It was for both Gael and I a new experience…
Back to the Jeep… back into traffic… a ranger was directing traffic at the Lodge… (once Yosemite Lodge, then Lodge at the Falls… not sure what it’s post Delaware North name is… )   Pausing at Climber’s camp…  there was a deer beyond in a meadow… the only deer of the trip…  then again at the base of El Capitan… to look at the face for climbers… Gael’s son is a climber and has climbed here.
Beyond we climbed regained Hwy 41 and climbed out of the Valley… through the tunnel and back to Wawona… We dined, sat outside our room on the porch, and headed for bed and sleep…
Tuesday arrived… We got up, packed up, then headed out of the park… now heading home… only a few miles outside the park we took a small road down to the old saw mill site… now a collection of vacation cabins… I was looking for a road to some redwoods beyond, but failed at that mission, then back to the main road, stopping in Oakhurst at an overwhelmed Denny’s for breakfast...
Then down the road to Fresno, to Hwy 99, to Bakersfield then east towards the Tehachapis… We paused for gas at a station that was the opposite of the infamous Brady’s Market… clean (spotlessly so) and nice and surprisingly inexpensive… then over the mountains… there were few trains in evidence so we didn’t stop at the loop… heading down the mountain past Mojave and into the desert… Past Boron and the 395 junction we were surprised to find the new freeway beyond was partially open speeding our passage on to Barstow…
At Barstow we took old Route 66 through town… stopping at the railroad station… a grand station with its Harvey House, now in part a museum of Route 66… a museum that I have never seen open… We had our final picnic of the trip on a bench overlooking the railroad yard eating cheese and crackers and the last of the roast beef.  
Leaving Barstow Gael took over driving… learning the quirks of the Klinger the Jeep…  We were now pointed home towards Las Vegas… Until we became distracted at ZZXYZ…  We left the highway to explore the one time desert community… the product of a snake oil salesman…  Today the Desert Studies Center…  academic site meets abandoned resort… palm trees marking the place.  

Back on the road arriving back in Las Vegas just before 6:00 pm… We have discovered that we are compatable traveling companions… a wonderful gift…

Sunday, June 25, 2017

From Desert to High Sierra, part 1...



From Desert to High Sierra… aka from Las Vegas to Yosemite and return via Death Valley… A road trip (part 1)

Gael and I are exploring… our relationship, the world, each other… 

This had lead to a short road trip… in part a test… how do we get along when on the road… for other trips are planned… and still exploring each other and what works… There is a larger, longer trip planned… to Alaska… a cruise… but before we fully commit a shorter trip is in order… Gael had never been to Yosemite… and this is the year of the falls there… so we planned a quick road trip to see the place… then added a night on the way in Death Valley… 

We left about 3:00 pm… (am would be just crazy) from Las Vegas… from Gael’s house… heading west… to the Freeway, to the road to Pahrump… and from there to Beatty then to Rhyolite a ghost town…

Rhyolite is has a bottle house… ghost concrete buildings and an intact railroad station… a railroad station with a caboose body… a caboose body that would fit into the collection of my railroad museum.  As well as an outdoor art museum… An outdoor art museum with a labyrinth… out front as you enter… Gael is something of a labyrinth expert, a promoter… and this is the second we have unexpectantly discovered… Beyond there are several white ghost sculptures… one referencing the last supper… a second with a bicycle… a third with a paint pallet… There is a telephone pole with shoes… all wondrous…

We spend the night at Panamint Springs… in the Panamint Valley… Panamint Springs is a weird but wonderful place…  An Australian style Road House along a road in the desert… We have reservations staying in a tiny house on the edge of the camp ground… overlooking the valley with its own fire pit… We dined at the bar/cafĂ©… a burger and a patty melt… beer & wine… wonderful service (Gael works within the Graduate School of Hospitality at UNLV and understands service…. We discuss service several times over the course of the trip…) Beyond dinner, we sit by a fire… then letting the fire die, watch the stars… there are three shooting stars noted… 

We head west early Sunday… westward… passing the site of the U-2 “Joshua Tree” album cover shoot… We did not find or stop at the sacred site… (note to self… if we ever find the spot, it would be a good place to create a labyrinth…) 

We stop for gas at a Mobil station… Brady’s Market…  along Hwy 395 in Inyokern…  just before the Hwy 395/14 split… a creepy weird place, where they ask for donation for using the restroom… a restroom with broken bathrooms… In the market there are wart masks and silly cheap magic stuff for sale but with a broken coffee machine…  Another visitor to the place on yelp noted that they were selling Nazi flags… I didn’t see those but they seem in character.  After discussion we have declared We agreed that Brady’s Market might be the worst gas station in the world, ever… not just bad but aggressively bad…  A new standard.

Having purchased gas we detoured east, finding coffee… a clean working rest room and solace… 

We headed east… over Walker Pass… into then Kern River drainage… finding  a picnic site.. picnicking then heading on to the Kern River canyon… There are memories here… my memories from trips to the family cabin… and musical memories… Merle Haggard’s Kern  River… about white water and death… 

On to Bakersfield… then north on Hwy 99 for a fast transit to Fresno and Hwy 140, then into the foothills and Yosemite.  We were staying at Wawona… the former Wawona hotel but due to a copyright dispute now the Big Trees Lodge… 

This was Gael’s first trip to Yosemite…  She noted how the landscape changed as we entered the park… It does… in part because you loose the roadside development, but also because the NPS boundary is special, and a hard line between the just wild and the special wild.   

We checked in… carried bags and a large cooler upstairs to the room (the cooler had to come inside… for there be bears here… (of course we didn’t see any… )  The Wawona is an old hotel… dating to the 1870’s… with bathrooms and showers around back… with upstairs and downstairs porches wrapping about the building.

We wandered about… across the covered bridge to the historic village then beyond to the camp ground where people had horses… then back to the hotel for dinner… then on a whim up to Glacier Point… for sunset… We reached Glacier Point well before sunset… walked to the edge and Gael had a “Grand Canyon” style first Yosemite experience… below Yosemite, Vernal and Nevada Falls were all raging… As the sun fell the Alpenglow light first Half Dome, then the other faces… Everywhere there were people with cameras, people with tripods with cameras mounted… a Ranger appeared and began his evening talk… we wandered off… the place was beyond anything a talk could improve.
The drive back down was slow… 35 mph speed limit which at time seemed too fast in the dark.  Returning to the hotel, we sat on the balcony for a bit… then I sat by myself a bit longer… 

The next morning we arose (this is a good thing) then after showering went down and had breakfast, then packed a lunch and headed for the valley… 

Part 2 to follow

Sunday, June 11, 2017

North to Carson and return… A weekend road trip




Late Wednesday Evening: Henderson Nevada (aka “home”)

This weekend there is a railroad history conference in Carson City, so early tomorrow, I will first go to my weekly Rotary meeting, then stop by work, then drive north… north from Boulder City pausing to leave the dogs at the kennel, then, through Beatty, through Goldfield, through Tonopah, through Hawthorn and along the west shore of Walker Lake… on to the Mason Valley and the town of Yerrington (the conference is dedicated to Mr Yerrington and his many 19th century Nevada business ventures.)

Then though the Dead Camel Mountains to Ft Churchill, then through Dayton and Mound House to Carson…  Google says it is a drive of some 455 miles, and should take about 7 ½ hours…   That assumes about 62 miles per hour… I will likely drive faster… but it also assumes no stops… and I will likely stop… to look at a Best Tractor that has recently appeared in Goldfield, maybe at the ruins of the salt mine at Rhodes Marsh… 

Beyond the conference, Carson City is also the home of the headquarters of Nevada Museums… I shall stop by the office and say hi… and turn in some papers.  For least one afternoon the conference will be held at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City… the sister museum to mine in Boulder City.

Of course there will be conversations with friends, over meals, and likely over drinks…  that after all is why we meet and hold conferences.

So now as I head for bed, the car is packed...  the suitcase is packed… the garden is watered, the dishes and laundry is done… I have done what is needed to be done, and should be able to leave without concern.

Now, 6:05 am Thursday… the dogs are fed… there are a few things put in the jeep… then in a few minutes off.. the sunrise, at 5:15 am was particularly spectacular and colorful… all is ready…
Home has a strong pull… There are responsibilities…  they exert a pull that can making leaving hard…  Today I first head east instead of north… to a Rotary meeting, then stopping at work… then back west and north… I am on the road by 8:50…  dropping the dogs off at the kennel and back on the road by 9:10… Traffic was light across Las Vegad  and by the time I reached India Springs I was averaging 62 miles per hour…  so on time per the Google plan… 

Leaving Las Vegas on Hwy 95, I am free of town and into the desert quickly… The road through the center of the state is largely unpopulated…  and those places along the way small…  Beatty has just over 1.000 souls… Goldfield, the largest city in Nevada in 1908 is now home to less than 300 people… Tono,ah has a bit less than 3,000, while Hawthorn, an hour north has just over 3,000, the largest population until I reach Dayton, less than 30 miles out of Carson, with not quite 9,000 people… 

I pause in Beatty at the gas station and candy store… It’s a modern incarnation of the Stucklies that used to be found on I-10… home to date milkshakes…   Then in Goldfield looking for some old iron (and not finding it), taking a few photos… Then on to Tonopah… Between Goldfield and Tonopah there are wild burros to be seen along the road… Tonopah has gas and is roughly half way so I stop… This road is remote and planning gas stops important…  Beyond, in Mina traffic is stopped… dead stopped… there has been an accident.  

Once we start moving, traffic is thick, all of one hour’s worth of cars and trucks and motor homes bunched, all restrained by the slowest of the turtle people.  Passing when able… threading through… the drive becomes exciting… a chess game… knowing the road helps…  Set up for the opportunity… bring the revs up… check for oncoming traffic… pass… pass one car, or pass three… on to the next blockage… 

I clear the blockage just before Shurtz… on the Rez… the Nevada Shoshone  Reservation…  Then east through Yerrington and the Mason Valley…  then over the Dead Camel Mts with a pause at Churchill to check out our traditional group campground… its flooded… I watch a cow swim across the campground… 

Then on to Carson and the conference… and friends and conversations… 

We have presentations on railroad history… I discover that I am expected to speak on railroad paint… I discover this at 7:34 am… and am expected to speak at about 8:00 pm… a prepare a presentation while eating lunch… friends make jokes… but I am ready… We explore my sister museum at Carson…  I approve their deposits… We discuss transferring rolling stock… all is good…
That evening I speak about research on paint on depots and different company traditions… Andrew hands out paint cards… We do well… 

The next day we explore Virginia City and several mills and mines…  It is a about mining and milling and advances in milling and how that affected the Comstock…  Then more presentations that evening that evening … 

This morning I join others at breakfast… There is snow in store for the Sierra near Tahoe… today’s hike is canceled…  so, I head south heading for home… leaving at 10:00… or so… taking the dirt road from Dayton to Churchill along the nearly flooded Carson River… there are quail and rabbits in abondunce… then back on the paved road beyond…I pause in Hawthorne to look at a possible railroad building, again in Tonopah for gas… then the hard run south… 

It’s windy… way too windy… I drive through a dust devil… it nearly throws me off the road…   Cross winds increase in velocity and severity… I slow… It is dusty and visibility is drastically reduced… there are dust storms…

Now late… now home… I have watered the plants… Gael is coming over… all is good.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blogging again and travel planning with a firend



After a period whence I spent a sedentary life, ignoring the blog, resetting my life, building a house and home, resetting expectations, I am once again thinking of travel… The blog may benefit…

Two day from now I will hit the road, heading for points north… to Carson City for a conference… a conference on railroad history…   A trip which would likely have happened in any case… but beyond that there are two new trips to plan.

Only a week later there is a road trip… to introduce a friend to Yosemite…  a quick trip… long on miles… to a special place with waterfalls and granite cliffs and spectacular views.  We may end up one night in Death Valley… in the desolation which is the desert on the way.

A month further on there is a third trip… to points north… to Alaska…  There will be a ship, a train (I have a reservation in place on the Alaska Railroad!) and several jet planes… Glaciers and whales… we may sneak a moment to visit a railroad locomotive in the Alaska State Museum… I was a consultant on it restoration and display planning…

I am finding great joy in planning these trips… not joy at the escape from everyday life which is something I enjoy and find fulfilling, but joy at the adventure and the possibilities and the companionship.

I might blame a woman, but that would be unfair… She is not to blame as much as she is an inspiration.  (you can be my Yoko Ono, a reference to a song by the Bare Naked Ladies... who are neither naked or ladies..)  The two of us are experiencing what might be called “young love” but we are neither are young or inexperienced… but both are remaking lives… and looking for something more… We had both been successfully married for many years… Both of us have children, now heading out on their own, independent lives… We both have houses and lives… Neither marriage ended in violence or betrayal… But each’s marriage ended none the less…

Together we have talked, exchanged notes… I contacted a travel agency I used before in a different life, which strangely is at least at first glance more likely associated with her life…  (Insert the Arkansas Razorback Yell)…

So after several weeks of emails exchanging ideas we booked the cruise… then spent last evening introducing our dogs to each other (low on drama.. they are compatible beasts)  eating pizza, sitting on the sofa two computers open… looking at options… booking flights and rooms and trains (I booked the train)  Houston, we have a trip, a journey, a vacation…

By the way, her name is Mary, but she is commonly known as Gael… 

Randy