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Have DeLorean Will Travel

Summer 2012

Blog Day 60

August 26, 2012

The down side of a room in the Radisson is that the window only goes to an atrium so there was no way to tell what the weather was doing.  Lucky for us the weather was good.  The first thing we wanted to do is to check out the Milling Museum.  Minneapolis started life as a sawmill town.  The availability of waterpower here also brought the development of flour mills.  General Mills, Pillsbury and Gold Medal, among others, all had mills here.  Unfortunately for us we were a little early so we went next door to the performing arts center and walked through the building.  The French architect did some interesting things when designing the building, including a cantilevered span projecting towards the Mississippi River.  



The span also has a clear floor panel.  It is interesting to watch the reactions of peoples as they walk over this panel, or not, as the case may be.  We had a quick bite at the cafe next door and went over to the museum.  The museum is an old mill that was abandoned in the 60's and partially destroyed in a fire during the 90's.  It was cleaned up and made into a museum fairly recently.  The original tower has multiple sets on various floors and the service elevator is a moving seating area.  As the show starts, the elevator moves to various floors to see different displays and narrations.  There were some great hands on displays for kids on water flow for the powering of the mills.  There was also a baking kitchen with hot fresh stuff coming out of the oven.  This is definitely a must do.  From there we went over to the Walker Art Institute. The display going on at the Institute was related to 80's politics and not that artistic for the most part.  After a bite to eat back at the hotel we returned to the performing arts center to see "The Sunshine Boys".  Unsold tickets are sold at low prices, so we bought a couple of tickets and treated ourselves to a show.  It is a Neil Simon plays about the reunion of an old Vaudeville team and was well performed.  We headed back to the hotel after that, I'm afraid I didn't make it to Rick's Cabaret.


Blog Day 59
August 25, 2012

The day started off overcast with a little rain.  We went into Alexandria to the Runestone Museum.  This museum contains a runestone that was discovered in Minnesota in the late 1880's.  The stone is inscribed with Nordic runes describing events that took place in 1362, well before Columbus landed.  Unfortunately for the discoverers, they were laughed out of town, the daughter leaving home at 16, the son committing suicide.  People at the time said it was all a hoax.  More recent evaluations as well as new evidence confirms the arrival of Goths and Vikings around 1000 AD.  The museum has lots of other exhibits including a Viking Long ship reproduction and was a real pleasure to go through.  We went across the parking lot and went to the Maritime Museum in Minnesota.  OK it sounds strange, but this was another great little museum that goes over the history of Chris Craft and Larson boats as well as fishing history of the area.  I guess I felt a little dated too as the motor, a Johnson Javelin, similar to the one on one of the first boats I ever owned was on exhibit.  I admit it was old when I had it, buy I never expected to see it in a museum!

We headed out of town and southeast on I-94 towards Minneapolis with a short jog off the trail at Sauk Centre, the home of Sinclair Lewis.  We ate lunch near the visitors’ center and went through the detailed exhibit there that related his life and writing process.  This author was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature.  We cruised into the town and past his house and went southeast on the Woebegone Trail going by Freeport which might be the model of his radio hometown Lake Woebegone.  

We stopped off at a rest area and we did a little online checking and ended up booking a room at the Radisson for less than it cost us in many other places (Yay, Hotwire.com).  We had dinner at Brits and packed it in.


Blog Day 58 
August 24, 2012



I discommend the breakfast at the Red Roof Inn in Sioux Falls, runny gravy and watered down OJ.  We got on the interstate headed north for Fargo, ND, although Mom was ready to say, "Let's not and say we did.” We got to the visitor's center in Fargo where they had the wood chipper from the movie with a foot sticking out of it.  The two behind the counter seemed more interested in net surfing than helping anyone.  I went to Sheel's, a sort of super Cabelas in search of an air mattress, but still did not find what I wanted, neither did Gander Mountain.  I gave up and went to the Red River Zoo for a change of pace.  Wolves, camels and red pandas, oh my!  It is a small zoo, but they try hard.  After the zoo we went to the flight museum at the airport.  We ate lunch at their staff table upstairs after I told them I helped out with the CAF B-25 in San Marcos.  A great view of the hangar from up there.  They had two Corsairs, an Avenger, a Mustang and a few others in the hangar and a DC-3 outside.  The fighters are in flying condition according to the information. 

We tried to do a tour of the historic area, but road construction closures and detours put an end to that so we headed east to Alexandria, MN where we found a Super 8 to spend the night.  Dinner was in the local bar.  Shall we say it was indescribable at best?


Blog Day 57
August 23, 2012

I'm more than a little hacked off today as I write this up.  I ran afoul of the law and the law won, but I'll get to that in a minute.  We got up and I asked where the nearest grocery store was.  The motel clerk told me the Dakota mart was just a couple of blocks away.  When we walked in I was a little surprised to see the grocery store had a basement level.  This is where the husbands must go when the wives are shopping.  There was fishing and hunting rear, guns and ammo, live and dead bait and camping equipment, what a place!  I have to mention the kindness of the fruit and vegetable manager.  I was looking at the last two sacks of Ranier cherries which were looking a bit tired when Larry, the manager shoved them both in my hands and said, "Take them and tell the cashier Larry said they're free."  I don't know if you have ever had Ranier cherries before, but they are like candy.  They have a very short season, and aren't cheap, but try them.  Thanks Larry!

We got our supplies and headed south back the road we came in on last night.  A few miles down it we turned east on a small road (1806) that took us past pastures and fields as well as a small herd of bison, to the banks of the Mighty Missouri.  All these wide-open spaces seemed strange so close to the state capitol.  We followed this road to the southeast going by Lake Skarpe on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. We went over the dam crossing the Missouri southeast of Lower Brule.  The drive along 34 was a nice change from the interstate as we went by fields of sunflowers, corn, wheat and pasturage.  We stopped in a little town called Woonsocket where we had lunch by a town park with a small lake across from a big Catholic Church.  I think it was the biggest building in town apart from the high school.  I swear those fish in the pond were teasing me.  I saw at least three bass jumps out of the water striking at bugs on the surface.  I filled up with gas at the local station and I think the word went out that here is a tourist ripe for the pickings. Just out of town the local law pulled me over and said I was doing 84 in a 60.  He even had it on his radar.  Funny, my radar detector never made a peep and I have a VERY good radar detector (a Valentine One), furthermore, I might be guilty of 65 but no more.  The speedometer in the Delorean only goes to 85 and I damn sure know when I am about to peg it.  I saw there was no point arguing, and I found out I was able to pay my ticket on the spot (funny how that works) and $85 later I was on my way. I also noticed he never reset that 84 mph reading to zero (probably saving it for the next sucker).  So if you ever are in the town of Woonsocket...well just don't go through there.  If it were in Georgia he would have said, "Yew ain't from around here, are ya boy!” We rolled in to Sioux Falls, another town with a river and a pretty little river park too.  The town is about ten times bigger than Pierre population wise with about 155,000.  We went by the visitors’ center and ended up going by St. Joseph's Cathedral.  The inside had recently been redone with nice windows, paintings and the trail of the cross-placed around the walls.  The only negative was the large chandeliers that, while lighting the place well, were in the way of the windows.  I would have liked to hear the pipe organ play, it looked like a nice one. 

We found a room at the Red Roof Inn and checked in before going back down town for a bite to eat.  The strip with the bars, restaurants and stores also had sculptures placed along it.  You could actually vote on the ones you liked best and they ranged from whimsical to abstract.  We had a nice dinner sitting outside on the street while the car got a lot of looks.  We did a little driving around having been too late to make the sound and light show at the river park.  Back at the room I did some writing and guitar playing then went to bed.  Mom went to sleep while I was playing.  I guess that's the effect my music has.

Blog Day 56
August 22, 2012

We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel breakfast and went back into the park in daytime.  The scenery sure looked different in the daylight, but just as immense.  I don't know if it was the daylight, or going back in the other direction, but it sure seemed harsher as we went deeper into the badlands instead of coming out of it.  We drove back through the park stopping at almost every overlook (who knows when I'll be back?) and taking lots of photos.  The sky started a little overcast, but burned off soon after.  I am so glad the air conditioner is working now.  After leaving the park we stopped off and got tickets to visit the Minuteman control center.  The tour wasn't for another two hours so we went to Kadoka to get gas and find a grocery store.  We had no luck with the store, but buying gas around here is interesting.  Regular is 85 octane and will make the D knock (I tried), plus has alcohol in it and will mostly not knock, but the gas mileage goes down, it is however priced a little less than regular!  Premium has no alcohol, but costs a good bit more.  We ended up eating in the car by the launch control surface support buildings.  The tour started right on time and we were shown through the support buildings first.  Security forces, supervisor and the cook were based here.  The launch crew of two stood a 24-hour shift in an underground chamber.  This room is suspended on shock isolators to allow it to move two feet in any direction in the case of a near miss.  There were also backup on backup to be able to launch the missiles when necessary.  If the site was destroyed, another launch facility could launch them.  There was a delay before the launch unless two launch facilities worked in tandem with four people authenticating the launch orders.  They could also be launched by radio.  Once launched the missiles were on their own with no self-destruct or other way to abort them.  Each missile carried a warhead that was over a megaton, much bigger than the ones dropped in Japan, and could fly over the North Pole to a target Russia in 30 minutes.  The rapid launch time of these rockets would allow us to respond even after the USSR had launched.  Talk about mutually assured destruction!  These Minuteman II silos were decommissioned in the 80's, but many more Minuteman IIIs with multiple warheads are still on line.  I wonder what the targets are now?  If a terrorist sets off a nuclear device that they have smuggled in through our borders, who do we retaliate against now?  China is too busy taking over the US economically to bother to use the missiles they have.  I hope Russia hasn't sold any of their old ones to the wrong hands.  North Korea?  Who knows about those guys?  The farmers in the neighboring property must have had mixed feelings about those facilities as well as now being a target for a preemptive strike.

We headed east again to the capitol of Pierre where we found a room at the River Lodge.  I found the car wash and cleaned all the dirt from the dirt roads, off the car.  I know I will need to do the air filter soon too.  The clerk sent us to Mad Mary's steak house where the waitresses all posed with the D.  We were back to the room fairly early and I caught up on writing and Mom sacked out after a shower.


Blog Day 55 
August 21, 2012

I wanted a second look at the road we drove over last night, so we drove back over Iron Mountain Road in the morning.  The sun was also out so we went back to see Rushmore first before we headed down 16a again.  It had a different look in the morning.  I'm not sure what, but it seemed less brooding or contemplative somehow and more optimistic.  I also learned that there was a Hall of Records that was partially built in the mountain behind Lincoln's head.  Some ceramic tablets were recently placed in a time capsule in the partially finished hall.  The tablets contained copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and information on the four presidents.  On the drive back over Iron Mtn. Rd I stopped and took pictures at some of the overlooks.  I also took pictures of the pigtail bridges.  These timber bridges were constructed by a team of 16 people, if I understood the information correctly, out of logs, and are still in service today.  At one of the stops there was information on one of the early movers in the area, a man named Nebleck.  He was a water well driller born to the area before S Dakota became a state.  Interested in protecting the resources of the state, he was responsible for establishing the Custer State Park (one of the largest state parks in the USA as well as getting funding for Rushmore and the Iron Mountain Road.  He was also later responsible for establishing the Grand Teton National Park.  More pictures and a nice drive on 36 to 79 to Rapid City.


Once in Rapid City we headed east on I-90 to Elsworth Bomber base and went through their air and space museum.  We took the bus tour through the base, which is home to the B-1 bomber and the flight control end of our remote piloted vehicles.  We did see a B-1 take off beyond the hangars, but there went my dream of taking a picture of the D in front of a working one.  Guess I'll have to use the one on display.  The tour also went through a training facility for a Minuteman II missile silo at one time.  This set up was different than the Titan II missile facility I had seen south of Tucson.  The rockets were solid fueled the launch center controlled 10 silos that were spread out over the prairie.  A docent that had been a Caribou pilot in Vietnam took us around and talked about all the planes.  There were many heavy bombers including a B-29, since that is what Elsworth is home to, but there were also some Korean era fighters and bombers on up through Viet Nam era.  The B-52 that was there was so big and flexible, that the skin wrinkled on the wings and body while it was at rest.  When in the air, the wings would lift and loose their sag and the wrinkles would disappear.  After finishing the tour and the hangar display, we moved on.  If you are an airplane buff, go see the museum in Tucson, they do not have a B-1, but they have everything else and a lot more besides.

Lunch was at rest stop that was also an information center, where I gathered information on local attractions.  We went to Wall where we went through the Famous Wall Drug in all its incarnations, and bought a couple of stickers for the car.  I figured we would stay in Wall, but the afternoon was relatively young so we headed in to the Badlands National Park.  Just inside the park we headed west on the Sage Creek Rim Road.  We went past deer, antelope, prairie dogs and wild turkey on the 24-mile washboard road (let's see some guy in a Lamborghini do that!)  The contrast from the grassland to the north and the eroded badlands to the south is stunning.  Tables (low mesas) were in accessible to livestock when it was being ranched so ranchers would hoist up equipment to cut hay, bale it and then slide it down a cable to where it could be hauled off.  We exited the park to the west and went south to get onto 44 where we went by fields of sunflowers that were not following the sun!  It was almost sunset so maybe they were facing east to get ready for the morning.  We went through the little burg of Interior, which seemed to consist of a bar/restaurant and two motels.  We reentered the park, took some sunset shots before heading back to Wall on the Badlands Loop Road.  The deer were out in force and I came way too close to one of them.  I stopped in a couple of places trying to film the badlands by moonlight, but the camera wasn't quite up to it.

Back at Wall we found of room at the Motel 6 (yes they left the light on for us) and a bite to eat at the only restaurant open past 10.  I also found out I didn't care for pike, freshwater fish that look a bit like a barracuda. 

Blog Day 54 
August 20, 2012


The started with a lot of overcast.  We were going to go by Mt. Rushmore and see it in the morning light, but there was no point.  Instead we took a drive to Custer City where we took a walk around to stretch our legs and drove a little further east on 16 to the National Museum of Wood Carving.  I'm not sure that it represents national woodcarving, but it is interesting.  All the displays are the work of one man (whose name escapes me at the moment) who was a retired doctor.  His claim to fame is that he animated his carvings with clockwork mechanisms.  He assisted Walt Disney in the animatronics at Disneyland.  Most of the carved caricatures you see are based on this man's work.

We went into Custer City to have lunch at Sage Creek Grill, which was very good.  After that we went to the Jewel Cave National Monument where Mom hung out in the car and had snooze.  The cave is over 90% dead, but is very extensive with five layers of passages that measure over 162.03 miles in total length.  They have other tours by lantern and exploration tours, but unless you are doing one of these I would go check out the Wind River Cave.

We drove up 89 from Custer City and went right on 87 through the Needles.  This narrow windy road goes by lots of really unusual rock formation including the Needle's Eye, an oval slit in the rock.  There are lots of great viewpoints looking out at the rock monoliths as well as other formations.  The road continues into through Custer State Park where we drove the wildlife loop.  We saw some deer and a few more bison, as it turned dark.  I took a wrong turn and almost ended back in Custer City before I caught it.  We had to go back into the park where a ranger stopped me because he said he could not see my permit.  I think he just wanted to look at the car.
 
We did get back to 16a for the back to Keystone up the Iron Mountain Road through tunnels and two "pigtail" bridges.  The tunnels were designed to face Mt. Rushmore as you drove through them. We also went over two "pig tail" bridges.  The grade was so steep and the area so tight that the road makes a loop on top of itself using a timber bridge that is both curved, changing grade and banked.  We finished off in the dark seeing the monument lit up in the distance.   We stayed at Super 8 ate at a local dive.


blog day 53
August 19, 2012
South Dakota

We drove into South Dakota and cruised up scenic byway 14A. 
We ran into a woman's marathon event coming the other way.  
Lots of people were out for a Sunday drive and the scenery was nice.  
We went by the area where they filmed some of "Dances With Wolves" 
and into Lead where a dark energy experiment is being held.  (Remember dark energy from an earlier blog?)  We stopped in Lead (pronounced Leed) to do some laundry first.  I added some Freon to the car while the wash cycle was going and caught up on the writing during the drying.  After leaving with clean clothes, we found the S Dakota Sanford Underground Laboratory but tours were by appointment only and the place looked like it was locked up tight on a Sunday.  We went south on 385 to turn off at 244 to go to Mt Rushmore.  On the drive down we stopped off at a winery.  Turns out all the grapes are grown at the other end of the state; the only reason all the wine tasting places are here is due to the tourism.  I guess there isn't much to go see in SE South Dakota.  Here's a hint, you can buy better and cheaper just about anywhere else.

Mt. Rushmore was fashioned into the Memorial it is today over a span of only 14 years, with no lives lost.  The artist, Gutzon Borglum did die before it was finished leaving his son to complete directing the work he began.  The museum and movies are all worthwhile and you should make sure you have the time to go through it all.  I did not realize how many times the memorial changed while under construction due to poor rock, artistic considerations or lighting.  The bulk (90%) of the rock removal was done by blasting the granite away with dynamite.  The President's Trail hike is paved with steps and gives you great views as well as information on Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.  By the time we left the faces were all in shadow.  It would probably have been better to come in the morning for better picture taking.  It is a place that you will always remember.  We had a late lunch here and went back out 244 and south on 385 to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial. 

Korczak Ziolkowski, an assistant to Borglum of Rushmore fame, was asked by the Lakota Sioux to create this memorial and one day it will represent all Indian tribes.  The work to date has been done without any government funding, only private donations of money and equipment.  Most of the is done by the Ziolkowski family now that Koczak has passed away.  The head is mostly complete, but the statue has a long way to go before it is finished.  Millions of tons of rock still need to be removed let alone sculpted, but the bones of it are there as are models it can be compared to.

We headed to Rapid City where we got a room at the Lazy U Motel.  A nice place and where the host sent us on our way to The Colonial House for dinner.  This is a great little family restaurant with good food, reasonable prices and cold beer.  What's not to like?  Bed soon called and we were gone.

Blog Day 52
Aug 18, 2012
The Cozy Motel

The morning started of with a bit of a headache that got worse as time went on.  The only good thing that happened was breakfast Next door at the local diner.  If you stay in Moorcroft don't go to the Hub for dinner, it was awful.  The "lightly seasoned" pork loin was so salty it was uneatable and Mom's was not much better.  I don't remember the name of the place we went for breakfast, but it is next door to the Cozy Motel.  Anyway, the night before the antenna mast came out of the electric antenna, luckily the retainer nut fell inside the car so all I had to do was put it back together.  I noticed the leak from the cooling system I thought I had fixed was still leaking.  That's when I found out the plastic tee connector had cracked.  Lucky for me the hardware store next door was open and I made a brass Tee from plumbing fittings, much better.  While I was doing this, the neighborhood kitten was rubbing up on me and trying to hop in the car.  I got it together and we were off for Devil's Tower.  At breakfast we had heard there was going to be a car show there too.  We arrived and sure enough there was a car show hosted by the Texas Trail Riders (how appropriate!) with about 80 or so cars.  What could I do but enter.  After entering I found I had won the prize for farthest traveled to attend.  The prize was a set of aluminum jack stands and an aluminum hydraulic floor jack!  I made room for the stands and they promised to ship the jack.  I sure hope they do, it's a nice one.  After the show we entered the national monument.  The first thing you go by is the prairie dog town.  They look a little fatter than the Meer Cats of TV fame, but seemed to act in much the same way.  We drove up to the tower, which is quite an imposing structure.  It is the solidified magma throat of an old volcano and the softer rock has eroded from around it.  It rises over 800 feet from the base and is a haven for rock climbers.  A ranger said the record was 18 minutes by a free climber.  The guy must have had wings!  

I walked the loop around it while Mom hung out at the parking area.  The walk was very nice and the lighting was perfect for pictures.  The Indian legend has it that 7l Native American girls were being chased by a bear and jumped on a rock. They prayed for the rock to save them.  The rock grew and grew and the grooves in the sides are from the bear trying to claw his way up the rock. Finally the girls were left up in the sky and became the Pleiades.  Back in the car we headed east and found a campsite in the national forest.  I doctored up some stew with some jerky and red wine added a dried fruit salad and had cookies for desert.  I also did a little "voluntary" car work.  I changed the orifice tube in the AC unit and blew out some excess oil and dye.  Since I blew it out with freon at both ends, I hope the minor amount of air that might get in will have little effect.  It has got to be better than none at all.  I also found the guys that balanced my front wheels torqued the lug nuts so tight I had to do some creative engineering to get them off.  (Yes I did both sides). I also got to use my brand new jack stands.  

Blog Day 51
August 17, 2012
Devil's Tower

Today was a travel day as we headed out of Cody on 14.  We were headed towards Devil's Tower, a 1,200-foot monolith in northeast Wyoming.  The drive was a continuation of yesterdays until we got to Buffalo and got out of the mountains.  We got a bit of a late start as Mom did our laundry and I did some car maintenance and we got bills paid.  We stopped off at a little overlook just past the town of Shell maybe 15 miles west of Greybull.  The road was going down a narrow little canyon and the overlook was the perfect place for our lunch.  There was a steep little path down to the water and I took a few more photos.  A few miles past that, I discovered an area of paved paths that featured some beautiful waterfall views and a good explanation of the local geology.  I wish I knew the name of this park, as I can't find it on the map.  We continued east over Granite Pass at 9,033 feet and into Sheridan where we stopped for information.  Driving to Moorcroft we passed a big grassfire.  It is very dry here.  We are now in high plains.  From there we ended up in Moorcroft where we stopped at the Cozy Motel.  The dinner wasn't worth mentioning, so I won't. Did three days of blogging and went to bed.

blog day 50
August 16, 2012
Cody Motor Lodge

Wow, fifty days and I'm only halfway around the country.  This trip is going to take longer than I thought…

We had only gotten halfway around the lower loop, so we had lots to see today.  We were slowed down a little bit by waiting for the new tend to dry.  The tent itself, an REI 2 plus tent is mostly mesh so the condensation from your breath collects on the inside of the tent fly.  I also am still working on the best way to pack this one solo.  Set up is easy, but folding up the fly takes a bit of doing and they only talk about setting up the tent, not taking it down other than saying it should be put away dry.  We left as a few more pictures were taken of the car (if I had a dollar for all the pictures taken I would have all the gas money and beer money I needed.  Yesterday I heard a Harley rider say, "I can take a picture of a waterfall anytime, I've never gotten to take one of a DeLorean before."

We drove to the West Thumb geyser basin located on the west side of Yellowstone Lake.  This lake is about 20 miles long and 14 miles wide at West Thumb.  There are mostly hot springs at this location, but some geysers vent steam steadily.  Temperatures of the springs vary with a high of about 160 degrees F and a low...well we saw some geese swimming around in one (yes all the jokes about getting your goose cooked were made).  The deepest hot spring, "The Abyss" was located here too, with the throat of the spring going down about 75 feet.  Some of the geysers form in the water just off shore.  In the winter, hole in the ice indicate the presence of underwater hot springs.  The otters use these holes to dive in and get food during the winter. 

We moved on and I hiked down many a boardwalk in search of the Paint Pot I remembered.  Still no luck.  We did make it to Old Faithful, and of course it was erupting just as we entered the parking lot so it was quiet by the time we walked up.  Another one, "The Lion", began erupting in the distance.  Many of these geysers erupt on no set schedule with the dormant time between eruptions ranging from minutes to years.  The only one they offer a forecast for is Old Faithful.  The next eruption was to be in about an hour so we went to the visitors’ center and saw some videos.  There are benches set up all around one side of Old Faithful, so Mom hung out here while I went for a quick walk.  Lots of hot water streaming into the river.  I met up with Mom and almost to the minute of the forecasted time, Old Faithful erupted.  Each eruption throws 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of water out.  We had a bit of a wind shift during the eruption and we were showered with water from the geyser.  The water had already cooled by the time it had gotten to us though so the people that were red as lobsters were only red from sunburn.  On the way north we passed some bison.


There are often little one way or dead end side roads that are often the only way to get to some of the features of the park as well as picnic areas.  We had lunch in one such nook.  By Fire Hole Drive and the Lower Geyser basin, I found my paint pot!  It sure seemed smaller than what I remembered, but I was bigger too.  I didn't remember all the guardrails from the last visit, but there weren't as many lawyers then either.  The gray color was as I remembered, but it seemed much drier and not as colorful too.  Information there indicated that how "wet" it was varied with the season.  The colors, well that may have just been my memory, still this is a very dynamic park and lots of things change over the years.  A lot has changed since the park was first established in 1872.  Continuing up the west side of the north loop to Mammoth Springs.  The area here has limestone, which was dissolved, and re-deposits to form travertine terraces that look like pictures of ones I have seen in Morocco.  Be sure to do the upper drive loop too.  The walk up from the bottom ends up in the same place, but there are other vantage points on this loop worth seeing.  We headed east across the top of the park toward the northeast exit. On the drive out, we passed a huge heard of bison.  Some were stopping traffic, crossing right in front of the cars.  We popped the doors on the D as we idled by some not more than 10 feet away.  Further along we saw more cars stopped in the road. 

Blog Day 49
Montana
August 18   2012

We left Ennis fairly early and made good time for the west entrance of Yellowstone.  A cold front had blown through during the night and though we had no rain, the skies were blue again.  Hopefully the people in Idaho got some relief from their fires.  On the way we passed Quake Lake.  For some reason I never think of Montana or Wyoming as quake central, just west coast.  It makes sense though, the Rockies are the result of the Pacific Plate sliding under the North American one and that is still happening today, still it is always the San Andreas and California I think of when I think of quakes.  Anyway the lake was formed by n earthquake in 1959 that caused a slide to block Madison River.  It looked like a neat place to camp some day in the future.

On to Yellowstone!  We stopped for groceries and ice at West Yellowstone and drove in the west entrance.  There was more traffic than any of the parks I had been to, even Yosemite.  We stopped at the information center in Madison and figured out our plan of attack.  Yellowstone is the caldera of a giant volcano, what geologists call a super volcano.  The geologic record indicates it erupts about every 600,000 years or so.  It's been 640,000 since the last one, but I don't plan to get too worried about it while I am there.  When it does blow though, it will make Mt. St. Helen look like a mild sneeze!  The park is basically located in the caldera of this volcano. 

Groundwater percolates down through fissures to chambers and cracks where it is heated.  The heat is generated by magma that is present below the caldera.  The water turns to steam and either it is kept trapped by constrictions in the path to the surface until the pressure is great enough to force it's way through the water above it forming a geyser, the flow is unrestricted forming a hot spring, or flashes to steam before reaching the surface forming a fumarole.  In some places the sulfur you can smell near just about any of these discharges, makes sulfuric acid which dissolves the rock and the resulting glop bubbles evilly away like a simmering witches cauldron called a mud pot.

The park has roads that form two large loops like a figure eight and roads from five entrances, one north (this has the Roosevelt Arch), two on the east, one on the south and one on the west.  The bulk of the geyser basins are on the south loop of the figure eight so we started doing the bottom loop first going across the middle.  I had visited here on one of those summer road trips our family used to do when we were kids.  (Two weeks in the station wagon and the most important thing to us then was whether the motel had a pool).  I think I was about seven when I was last here so it was interesting to compare the memories to present day.  The problem with that is the park has changed in that time too.  There are several geyser basins around this bottom loop, each containing multiple geysers, fumaroles, hot springs.  When we were here as kids, I remember a quake had upset the routine eruption schedule and had even thrown off Old Faithful!  The Paint pot stuck in my mind for some reason and I remember a big (to a seven year old) crater filled with gray mud and other colors would bubble up such as pink (that's what I remember anyway) in a wet goopy glop. 

We started visiting various geyser basins as well as stopping at waterfalls along the road.  The place called the Artists Paint Pot looked nothing like I remembered so we kept going.  We had lunch at a little side road that went by the Virginia Cascade.  A great spot with some nice falls. Yellowstone has a lot more than just geysers, the waterfalls, geology, and wildlife are all reasons to come visit.  We stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with its upper and lower falls. No one is going to be riding kayaks down this, as the upper and lower falls are just over 100 feet and 300 feet respectively.  The hike down to the top of the falls is smooth, but you descend about 600 feet that you have to climb back up on the way back, you are also at between 6,000 and 8,000 feet of altitude pending where you are in the park.  The view is worth it as you can see the Yellowstone River carving out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  There are many overlooks and all give you different views.  There are also roads that go to overlooks on both sides of the canyon.  We drove down to Lake Village and Mom checked for rooms, as I expected, there were no rooms in the park, but there were a few camp sites nearby at Bridge Bay so that is where we headed.  The site was kind of exposed, but beggars can't be choosers so we set up camp back by the few trees at that site.  I was getting ready to set up the kitchen and cook when Mom said she wanted to eat fancy!  That ruled out my doctored up freeze dried stew, that's for sure.  We went back to the Lake Hotel for dinner.  It was worth the 45-minute wait, especially when you are waiting on a porch overlooking the lake with a glass of wine in hand.  The bison tenderloin melted in your mouth. 

Back at camp, Mom went to sleep on a brand new air mattress.  Mine still had a tiny leak, but it only put me on the ground once during the night.  I noticed something interesting though, when I was inflating it in the middle of the night.  As I ran my band over it in the dark of the tent, I could see where my fingertips rubbed the plastic glow.  Some kind of static discharge due to the dry air I guess.

Blog Day 48
aug 12, 2012
Mt Helena 


What a bid difference a good night's sleep will make!  My knee was better; we were clean and well rested.  Back on the road we headed south.  They don't call this big sky country for nothing!  We were over the Rockies and into the wide-open plains.  The mountains could still be seen to the west as we headed towards Yellowstone.  We stopped off in Browning, just east of East Glacier (you have to go east, in order to go south) to get some groceries and headed for Mt Helena on our way to Yellowstone.  On the way I had my fill with the AC system and decided to get an alignment and front wheel balance while getting the AC system checked out.  The alignment and wheel balancing was the easy part.  I found out from the AC man that I had a restriction on the high-pressure side.  I think I know what it is, so I will get the part, install it, and get someone to flush it, evacuate it and charge it.  We had lunch at the Harvest Bakery, which is a great little place.  We continued south towards Yellowstone and stopped off at the Lewis and Clark Caverns.  Tressa, our guide, filled us in on the colorful history of the cave, unfortunately part of that history included under the board tours that damaged portions of the cave.  Usually the cave has much more water running through it, but due to the drought it was almost dry.  There is a smooth hike up to the opening, if a little steep in places.  The tour through the cave descends through the mountain to a very level path out.  One should keep in mind that you are over 5,000 feet high where you go up the slope.  After the cave we headed for Ennis where we got a room for the night ate off our supplies.  On the way in to Ennis it looked like we were driving into a fog.  Wildfires in Idaho were sending smoke so thick the sun was nothing but a red dot.  Off to Yellowstone in the morning.

Blog Day 47 
August 8, 2012
The Lodge on Lake McDonald

It was not a night of good sleep!  Both of our air mattresses had a slow leaks.  I know she slept till midnight.  I. on the other hand only slept from 1:00 to 5:30 am.  Where upon I awoke and promptly dumped my air mattress in the garbage.  We saved Mom's, because I thought I knew where the leak was.  It was a cold night and Mom couldn't wait to get in the car and get the heater cranked up.  I packed up and we went over to the lodge on Lake McDonald for a cup of hot chocolate.  I figured that would warm her up if anything would.  Between breakfast, a warm car and hot chocolate, Mom was back to normal.  We drove east on the "Going to the Sun" road.  It actually goes by a mountain called “Going To The Sun.”  After yesterday’s bus trip, I knew where I wanted to stop and take pictures, there was also road construction going on and traffic in one area was slow and one way.  I was able to cruise along with my door up for a good bit of the way taking in the sights.  Once to Logan's Pass at the Continental divide, I went for a hike to the lookout point and Hidden Lake while Mom hung out at the visitor's center.  There were lots of people around on the hike.  The path is well established; a lot of it is boardwalk with steps where necessary.  I would recommend it, just remember that you are at altitude here, so take your time if you are not used to it.  On the way up I saw marmots and pikas (a small slinky rock dweller, gray in color and like a weasel or mink in shape.  At the lookout point you could look west from the continental divide and see Hidden Lake lying below.  

I did not have time to hike down to it as that would have been six miles and would have blown the morning and most of the afternoon.  On the way back I saw a mother mountain goat and her kid, but they were not near as well groomed as the one I had seen the day before.  When I got to the car at the visitor's center I saw several people pointing up a nearby mountainside.  I dug out the binoculars and saw five big horn sheep basking in the sun.  Not bad for a short nature hike!

We cruised down the east side of the park stopping at waterfalls and vistas.  By the time we got to St. Mary Lake, we were both hungry.  We found a picnic spot by the lake and took care of that.  I had to go wading
 to test out the water (it'll take your breath away and leave you with numb feet!).  After that we drove south to Two Medicine Lake and reentered the park.  We stopped at Running Eagle Falls, which was named after a woman clan leader of the local tribe who was said to be brave in battle, noble in ruling and generous to all.  She died during a raid on the Flathead tribe (remember we went by Flathead Lake?) and was said to be buried within site of the falls.  We drove up to the end of the road and cruised back southeast to East Glacier.  This was the town that the Burlington Northern stopped at before there were roads to this area.  Mr. Hill (the RR magnate) established his first lodge here and if you drive through, you should at least stop in for a drink and to check out the architecture.  Unpeeled logs were used extensively and in the great room the logs reach up at least three stories.  I also liked the way they used smaller logs to finish off the tops of the main supports in the configuration of Doric columns.  (See Steve, I learned something from you!).  This place is a full service resort equipped with golf course and pool among other things.  It was a little out of my budget for this trip, but it would be a neat place to stay.  We ended up at a small cabin nearby, just north on 49.  (Look for a red A frame office.)  I found the leak in the air mattress and hopefully patched it (we will see).  We went into town for dinner at the local diner.  I hope people around here eat better than what they were serving!  When we got back to the room were both ready for a shower and a soft bed after the deflating air mattresses of the night before.  My knee had started to hurt; I guess I stressed it too much on the downhill hike from Logan's pass.  I packed it with ice and took some Advil.   Nothing was going to keep me awake. 


Blog Day 46 
Aug 12, 2012
Glacier National Park


It was hard to get up this morning.  I lay in bed as long as I could before getting moving.  We did a quick breakfast in the room, packed up and headed to Glacier National Park.  As we went by Kalispell I couldn't resist the lure of a car wash.  I got the D cleaned up and we also stopped by a grocery to get some supplies.  There was a very short line to get in and as soon as we were in we headed to the west visitor's center.  There were no rooms available in the park for that night.  I booked a tour for us in the classic old red open topped touring buses.  The tour did not start until the afternoon so we went for a little drive towards Logdepole Bridge.  The bridge burned down during the last forest fire and was replaced by a concrete one.  We went back to a little nature trail by the park entrance and had lunch on the curb.

I didn't want to go back to Kalispell so I decided to try our luck on a campsite.  The Argapta Campground had plenty of open spaces and I found one right by the bathroom just for Mom!  We set up camp and took it easy for a bit, then we went to our bus tour.  These open topped busses originally started life in the park about 1936.  Around 1998 they were shut down as being unsafe.  The busses were donated to the park service and they found donors to help with the reconditioning of the buses.  Ford ended up being a big donor replacing the engines, frame and drivetrain and dropping the old bodies on top.  The busses are driven by a wide variety of people from a 22 year old to an octogenarian from all walks of life.  They drivers fill you in on the history of the park, which was mostly started by a railroad magnate who started Burlington Northern.  They drove us up the Avenue to the Sun road to the visitors’ center at Logan's Pass.  This road is closed most of the year due to snow.  It is also being replaced.  The sites you see on it area timeless though.  The glacier cut valleys and the melted snow created inspiring waterfalls and MacDonald Lake, which is close to the west entrance and is over 10 miles long and a mile and a half wide.  There are accommodations there if you reserve in advance.

 Anyway, it was nice to be a passenger for once and take all the pictures I wanted to without worrying about staying on the road.  At the upper visitors center I  for a walk and had a mountain goat walk right by me.  He looked like he had just come from the groomers he was so clean.  The marmots were also posing for photo ops.  After that, we returned to the Argapta Transit Center and drove back to the campsite.  Mom got to experience my cooking and we enjoyed a nice little merlot we got on sale from the store.  A little guitar playing and blogging by the fire and it was time for bed.  I hope all goes well with Mom tonight.  It's been awhile since she camped out with my brother Shane.


Blog Day 45
Aug 11, 2012
The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University

The morning came with blue skies and we went and had the free breakfast at the hotel to get us kicked off.  Spokane is a town of about 200,000 and the home of the Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  It was built in the first half of the 20th century and, unlike the ones built in Europe, heavy equipment let them build it in less than one lifetime.  It has nice stained glass windows, a large pipe organ and a 49 bell Carillion.  Definitely worth a look see.  The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University has some nice Chihuly glass work as a highlight, but rest of it won't take it long to go through since the whole place was two rooms and a highway.  The neatest part of our visit to Spokane was a visit to the downtown park.  The river runs through the park and has a number of waterfalls.  There was a hydroelectric plant installed early last century and it is still humming away today.  The cable car shut down just when we got to it because the temperatures inside the cars were hitting 100 degrees.  Our pleas that we were from Texas and could handle it went unneeded!  We had a bite at the Irish pub nearby.

We took off after that and continued east on I-90 through Coeur d'Alene and into Montana.  We turned off on MT-135 and headed east to Flathead Lake where we found a place to stay right on the lake.  This lake is BIG!  About 25 miles long and up to 10 miles wide.  I talked to a couple of guys working on the railroad distressing the tracks so thermal expansion won't impact the alignment or the gauge of the track.  Dire was next door with the band cranking away.  Someone was setting of some fireworks so we had a nice show.  Back at the motel I got a little guitar practice in and caught up on the blog.

Blog Day 44 
August 10, 2012
Toutle River Valley


The morning came too early, but we packed and had groceries bought by 8:15.  We headed east on 504 to the Johnston Ridge Visitors’ Center.  Once again the national parks pass came in handy.  The day started off extremely overcast, but by the time we drove up the Toutle River Valley it had burned off.  I had last visited here about 15 years ago and I wanted to see the changes that had occurred over the years.  The mountain is actually visible from the visitor's center near I-5 and there are two other visitors’ centers on the way to the Johnston Ridge one that covers different topics.  Both the videos shown at the Johnston Ridge Center are well done and end with a great view of the volcano.  When the volcano blew on May, 1980, the explosion was so violent, it sends a plume of ash around the world.  Near the volcano damage was due to three main causes: the largest landslide in recorded history, the blast wave from the eruption, and the mudflows from the snow and ice melted by the eruption.  There was enough warning that relatively few lives were lost.  The initial landslide relieved the pressure that was keeping the eruption in check allowing the volcano to blow out sideways where the pressure had been relieved.  Debris charged down the slopes overrunning smaller slopes and ridges thought the bulk of the mudflows ended up going down the Toutle River Valley.  In some places over 600 feet of ash and debris were deposited.  Trees were snapped off and hurled by the force of the eruption blast wave.  Further away the trees were stripped of there bark and left standing.  The eruption wiped the original old growth forests off the face of the map.  This was a new beginning though for a new ecology to get a toehold.  New wetlands were established in the valley bottoms due to ponds created by the ash and snowmelt as well as water from the river.  Burrowing species of animals such as frogs, mice, salamanders and moles survived and spread seeds from their burrows.  The sun was now reaching what used to be the forest floor allowing new growth to begin.  The place is a living laboratory and lots of study is taking place by naturalists who are getting to study the dynamics of the new systems.  Lots of erosion is also taking place and is being monitored by geologists.  The amount of new plant life is amazing too and they are already seeing the plant ecologies age and new species are taking over as conditions change.

We drove to Coldwater Lake where we had lunch.  This is a beautiful little lake with tables that are fairly sheltered from the wind.  There is only one way in to Johnston Ridge at this time, so you must backtrack to get out.  We made it back to I-5 and went east on US Hwy 12 toward Yakima.  We were headed to Spokane.  On the way we passed Mt Ranier.  We went north on I-82 and west on I-90.  The terrain goes through some major changes as does the climate as you get out of the mountains.  The area is much more arid, however irrigation allows crops, orchards and vineyards to grow.  You pass a couple of spectacular view such as the look into the valley after crossing the Umtanum Ridge and the overlook down on the bridge crossing Lake Wanapum.  

We made it into Spokane and found shelter at the Comfort Inn.  The Shogun next door supplied a Benni Hana style dinner with a great show by Kong and service by Sidney.  After that it was time to get clean and go to bed.

Blog Day 43 
August 9, 2012
Vancouver


The dawn broke with clear skies.  You could see Vancouver across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We were having a quick breakfast in the room and packing the car when we could see a wall of fog rolling in from the Canadian side.  It caught us as we were heading out of Sikiu.  We went back into the park and went to the Hoh Rain Forest.  There were a couple nice walking loops from the visitors’ center that we took.  The Hall of Mosses was a neat hike with most of the trees draped in different mosses, lichens and other epiphytes.  These flora take their sustenance from the air moisture and supposedly have no impact on the tree.  Hard to believe when you see how they are covered.  Their are also places where when trees fall down, new ones start to grow atop them.  These "nurse" trees let sunlight in when they fall down and the new trees start atop them to reach the sunlight.  The nurse tree eventually rots away leaving a line of trees with a hollow at their base where the nurse tree had been.  We also took the Spruce Nature Trail for a total of two miles.  Both trails are easy to walk with the Hall of Mosses having maybe 50 feet of elevation change and the other about six.  The spruce trail shows the different stages of forest development as the river shifts and the forest begins to move into the plain left behind when the river shifted.  I also walked right past a big black tailed deer on this trail.  The Hoh River runs right by a portion of the trail and you can see all the silt it carries down from the glacier field that feeds it.  Taft Creek also runs by the trail and this creek is spring fed so it is crystal clear.  The path moves from the more mature areas of spruce and hemlock to younger areas of alder trees then finally to the brush that closes to the river.

Once out of there we drove to Kalaloch where we could walk down to a big wide beach and stick our toes in the chilly (ok, so I'm a wuss.) Pacific.  We had a picnic lunch at a table above the beach and said goodbye to the Pacific.  We headed to the Mt St. Helen's visitor's center just east of Castle Rock to get some info.  We made in time to see the video on the May 1980 eruption and get the info we wanted.  We found cheap lodgings at the 7 West motel and drove into town to have dinner at the "Big O" where the dinner menu specialized in hot dogs (not bad either).  I also had to taste test a couple of local beers too.  (Nothing like a Moose Drool!)  The owner was from Dallas, but had moved there nine years ago and the bar had just opened two weeks ago.  If you are in the area stop in and see Rene and buy a beer and a dog, you can't miss it.

Blog Day 42
Aug 8, 2012
Cape Flattery


I got up early and repacked the car.  Mom's leg was a little tender where she had gotten a cut on the boat so we did a little doctoring and hit the road at about 10:00 am.  We headed to downtown Seattle and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  We stopped off in Bainbridge to do a little grocery shopping.  We drove from their north and west to Port Angeles where we stopped off at the park visitor's center and watched an artsy video about the parks area.  The weather was a little iffy and I had the first rain of the trip.  It was light, but it told me I needed new wiper blades (it's always something!).  We went up the road by the Elwha River.  This river used to have two hydroelectric dams on it, but it is being reclaimed and the dams are being demolished.  I was told the salmon are already coming back to it.  (I wonder who is supplying the power now?)  we had a picnic lunch there and went west from there on 112 to Neah Bay and to Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest I could get.  It was a good 60-foot drop down some sandstone cliffs to the water so I didn't get to stick my toes in the water.  On the little hike to the end of the land I also got to see three bald eagles arguing about something, but I wasn't quite fast enough to get a good picture.  It was neat to actually see them in the wild.  We managed to get a room near Sikiu and went into town for a bite at the only cafe.  The crazenberry pie was hot out of the oven and a dollop of ice cream put it over the top. 

Blog Day 41 - 38
Aug 7, 2012 
the Olympic Peninsula


Not a lot to talk about the past few days.  Mom and I stopped off in Woodinville to see an old friend, Mike and his wife, Linda.  While there I was determined to take care of all my front-end issues.  With Mike’s help and tools and moral support from my Mom and food from Mike and Linda I tore the front end apart and replaced the lower ball joints, the lower control arm bushings, the sway bar bushings and the upper left a frame.  Toby at DMC NW was a big help with parts and advice.  What a difference in handling!  The only problem was I was still getting this awful popping noise from the front end.  A lot of the smaller noises had all disappeared though.  After thinking about it I walked out and found a bolt that holds the body to the frame was loose.  After tightening that my last popping noise had gone away.  I also replaced the clutch master cylinder and the heater valve and put in fresh antifreeze and did oil change.  The clutch had run low crossing the border and at Mikes house it was empty so I knew I had to fix it.  After figuring out the last noise we headed out for the Olympic Peninsula. However by the time we left it was a little late so we stopped off at my sister in laws in Seattle and spent the night.




Blog Day 46 
Aug 12, 2012
Glacier National Park

It was hard to get up this morning.  I lay in bed as long as I could before getting moving.  We did a quick breakfast in the room, packed up and headed to Glacier National Park.  As we went by Kalispell I couldn't resist the lure of a car wash.  I got the D cleaned up and we also stopped by a grocery to get some supplies.  There was a very short line to get in and as soon as we were in we headed to the west visitor's center.  There were no rooms available in the park for that night.  I booked a tour for us in the classic old red open topped touring buses.  The tour did not start until the afternoon so we went for a little drive towards Logdepole Bridge.  The bridge burned down during the last forest fire and was replaced by a concrete one.  We went back to a little nature trail by the park entrance and had lunch on the curb.


I didn't want to go back to Kalispell so I decided to try our luck on a campsite.  The Argapta Campground had plenty of open spaces and I found one right by the bathroom just for Mom!  We set up camp and took it easy for a bit, then we went to our bus tour.  These open topped busses originally started life in the park about 1936.  Around 1998 they were shut down as being unsafe.  The busses were donated to the park service and they found donors to help with the reconditioning of the buses.  Ford ended up being a big donor replacing the engines, frame and drivetrain and dropping the old bodies on top.  The busses are driven by a wide variety of people from a 22 year old to an octogenarian from all walks of life.  They drivers fill you in on the history of the park, which was mostly started by a railroad magnate who started Burlington Northern.  They drove us up the Avenue to the Sun road to the visitors’ center at Logan's Pass.  This road is closed most of the year due to snow.  It is also being replaced.  The sites you see on it area timeless though.  The glacier cut valleys and the melted snow created inspiring waterfalls and MacDonald Lake, which is close to the west entrance and is over 10 miles long and a mile and a half wide.  There are accommodations there if you reserve in advance. Anyway, it was nice to be a passenger for once and take all the pictures I wanted to without worrying about staying on the road.  At the upper visitors center I  for a walk and had a mountain goat walk right by me.  He looked like he had just come from the groomers he was so clean.  The marmots were also posing for photo ops.  After that, we returned to the Argapta Transit Center and drove back to the campsite.  Mom got to experience my cooking and we enjoyed a nice little merlot we got on sale from the store.  A little guitar playing and blogging by the fire and it was time for bed.  I hope all goes well with Mom tonight.  It's been awhile since she camped out with my brother Shane.


Blog Day 45 
Aug 11, 2012
The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University


The morning came with blue skies and we went and had the free breakfast at the hotel to get us kicked off.  Spokane is a town of about 200,000 and the home of the Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  It was built in the first half of the 20th century and, unlike the ones built in Europe, heavy equipment let them build it in less than one lifetime.  It has nice stained glass windows, a large pipe organ and a 49 bell Carillion.  Definitely worth a look see.  The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University has some nice Chihuly glass work as a highlight, but rest of it won't take it long to go through since the whole place was two rooms and a highway.  The neatest part of our visit to Spokane was a visit to the downtown park.  The river runs through the park and has a number of waterfalls.  There was a hydroelectric plant installed early last century and it is still humming away today.  The cable car shut down just when we got to it because the temperatures inside the cars were hitting 100 degrees.  Our pleas that we were from Texas and could handle it went unneeded!  We had a bite at the Irish pub nearby.


We took off after that and continued east on I-90 through Coeur d'Alene and into Montana.  We turned off on MT-135 and headed east to Flathead Lake where we found a place to stay right on the lake.  This lake is BIG!  About 25 miles long and up to 10 miles wide.  I talked to a couple of guys working on the railroad distressing the tracks so thermal expansion won't impact the alignment or the gauge of the track.  Dire was next door with the band cranking away.  Someone was setting of some fireworks so we had a nice show.  Back at the motel I got a little guitar practice in and caught up on the blog.




Blog Day 44 
August 10, 2012


The morning came too early, but we packed and had groceries bought by 8:15.  We headed east on 504 to the Johnston Ridge Visitors’ Center.  Once again the national parks pass came in handy.  The day started off extremely overcast, but by the time we drove up the Toutle River Valley it had burned off.  I had last visited here about 15 years ago and I wanted to see the changes that had occurred over the years.  The mountain is actually visible from the visitor's center near I-5 and there are two other visitors’ centers on the way to the Johnston Ridge one that covers different topics.  Both the videos shown at the Johnston Ridge Center are well done and end with a great view of the volcano.  When the volcano blew on May, 1980, the explosion was so violent, it sends a plume of ash around the world.  Near the volcano damage was due to three main causes: the largest landslide in recorded history, the blast wave from the eruption, and the mudflows from the snow and ice melted by the eruption.  There was enough warning that relatively few lives were lost.  The initial landslide relieved the pressure that was keeping the eruption in check allowing the volcano to blow out sideways where the pressure had been relieved.  Debris charged down the slopes overrunning smaller slopes and ridges thought the bulk of the mudflows ended up going down the Toutle River Valley.  In some places over 600 feet of ash and debris were deposited.  Trees were snapped off and hurled by the force of the eruption blast wave.  Further away the trees were stripped of there bark and left standing.  The eruption wiped the original old growth forests off the face of the map.  This was a new beginning though for a new ecology to get a toehold.  New wetlands were established in the valley bottoms due to ponds created by the ash and snowmelt as well as water from the river.  Burrowing species of animals such as frogs, mice, salamanders and moles survived and spread seeds from their burrows.  The sun was now reaching what used to be the forest floor allowing new growth to begin.  The place is a living laboratory and lots of study is taking place by naturalists who are getting to study the dynamics of the new systems.  Lots of erosion is also taking place and is being monitored by geologists.  The amount of new plant life is amazing too and they are already seeing the plant ecologies age and new species are taking over as conditions change.


We drove to Coldwater Lake where we had lunch.  This is a beautiful little lake with tables that are fairly sheltered from the wind.  There is only one way in to Johnston Ridge at this time, so you must backtrack to get out.  We made it back to I-5 and went east on US Hwy 12 toward Yakima.  We were headed to Spokane.  On the way we passed Mt Ranier.  We went north on I-82 and west on I-90.  The terrain goes through some major changes as does the climate as you get out of the mountains.  The area is much more arid, however irrigation allows crops, orchards and vineyards to grow.  You pass a couple of spectacular view such as the look into the valley after crossing the Umtanum Ridge and the overlook down on the bridge crossing Lake Wanapum.  We made it into Spokane and found shelter at the Comfort Inn.  The Shogun next door supplied a Benni Hana style dinner with a great show by Kong and service by Sidney.  After that it was time to get clean and go to bed.


Blog Day 43 
August 9, 2012
Vancouver


The dawn broke with clear skies.  You could see Vancouver across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We were having a quick breakfast in the room and packing the car when we could see a wall of fog rolling in from the Canadian side.  It caught us as we were heading out of Sikiu.  We went back into the park and went to the Hoh Rain Forest.  There were a couple nice walking loops from the visitors’ center that we took.  The Hall of Mosses was a neat hike with most of the trees draped in different mosses, lichens and other epiphytes.  These flora take their sustenance from the air moisture and supposedly have no impact on the tree.  Hard to believe when you see how they are covered.  Their are also places where when trees fall down, new ones start to grow atop them.  These "nurse" trees let sunlight in when they fall down and the new trees start atop them to reach the sunlight.  The nurse tree eventually rots away leaving a line of trees with a hollow at their base where the nurse tree had been.  We also took the Spruce Nature Trail for a total of two miles.  Both trails are easy to walk with the Hall of Mosses having maybe 50 feet of elevation change and the other about six.  The spruce trail shows the different stages of forest development as the river shifts and the forest begins to move into the plain left behind when the river shifted.  I also walked right past a big black tailed deer on this trail.  The Hoh River runs right by a portion of the trail and you can see all the silt it carries down from the glacier field that feeds it.  Taft Creek also runs by the trail and this creek is spring fed so it is crystal clear.  The path moves from the more mature areas of spruce and hemlock to younger areas of alder trees then finally to the brush that closes to the river.


Once out of there we drove to Kalaloch where we could walk down to a big wide beach and stick our toes in the chilly (ok, so I'm a wuss.) Pacific.  We had a picnic lunch at a table above the beach and said goodbye to the Pacific.  We headed to the Mt St. Helen's visitor's center just east of Castle Rock to get some info.  We made in time to see the video on the May 1980 eruption and get the info we wanted.  We found cheap lodgings at the 7 West motel and drove into town to have dinner at the "Big O" where the dinner menu specialized in hot dogs (not bad either).  I also had to taste test a couple of local beers too.  (Nothing like a Moose Drool!)  The owner was from Dallas, but had moved there nine years ago and the bar had just opened two weeks ago.  If you are in the area stop in and see Rene and buy a beer and a dog, you can't miss it




Blog Day 42
Aug 8, 2012
Cape Flattery


I got up early and repacked the car.  Mom's leg was a little tender where she had gotten a cut on the boat so we did a little doctoring and hit the road at about 10:00 am.  We headed to downtown Seattle and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  We stopped off in Bainbridge to do a little grocery shopping.  We drove from their north and west to Port Angeles where we stopped off at the park visitor's center and watched an artsy video about the parks area.  The weather was a little iffy and I had the first rain of the trip.  It was light, but it told me I needed new wiper blades (it's always something!).  We went up the road by the Elwha River.  This river used to have two hydroelectric dams on it, but it is being reclaimed and the dams are being demolished.  I was told the salmon are already coming back to it.  (I wonder who is supplying the power now?)  we had a picnic lunch there and went west from there on 112 to Neah Bay and to Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest I could get.  It was a good 60-foot drop down some sandstone cliffs to the water so I didn't get to stick my toes in the water.  On the little hike to the end of the land I also got to see three bald eagles arguing about something, but I wasn't quite fast enough to get a good picture.  It was neat to actually see them in the wild.  We managed to get a room near Sikiu and went into town for a bite at the only cafe.  The crazenberry pie was hot out of the oven and a dollop of ice cream put it over the top. 


Blog Day 41 
Aug 7, 2012 

Not a lot to talk about the past few days.  Mom and I stopped off in Woodinville to see an old friend, Mike and his wife, Linda.  While there I was determined to take care of all my front-end issues.  With Mike’s help and tools and moral support from my Mom and food from Mike and Linda I tore the front end apart and replaced the lower ball joints, the lower control arm bushings, the sway bar bushings and the upper left a frame.  Toby at DMC NW was a big help with parts and advice.  What a difference in handling!  The only problem was I was still getting this awful popping noise from the front end.  A lot of the smaller noises had all disappeared though.  After thinking about it I walked out and found a bolt that holds the body to the frame was loose.  After tightening that my last popping noise had gone away.  I also replaced the clutch master cylinder and the heater valve and put in fresh antifreeze and did oil change.  The clutch had run low crossing the border and at Mikes house it was empty so I knew I had to fix it.  After figuring out the last noise we headed out for the Olympic Peninsula.  However by the time we left it was a little late so we stopped off at my sister in laws in Seattle and spent the night.



Blog day 40
Blog Day 39
Blog Day 38


Blog Day 37 

August 3, 2012
Comox to Nanaimo


My phone was dead, so no alarm, but I woke early anyway and we got underway.  It was only a short run back to Comox and we loaded up on diesel.  A week of cruising and only $600.  I think I've come close to that in a week driving the Delorean, Shane did a great job of tucking us into our designated boat slip and we started the cleanup.  A couple of hours later we were checked out and having a late breakfast.  What do I see but an old BMW Isleta?  Don't be surprised if you never heard of one of these.  They were the first cars made by BMW afar WW II and were about as minimalist as you could get.  The car is smaller than a Smart Car and is barely made for two with a front door that opens from the front.  When the door is opened, the steering comes with it!  Just don't rear end anyone!  We drove from Comox to Nanaimo with a stop at the visitors’ center along the way.  The ferry was late, so instead of missing it we made it on with hardly any wait and in less that two hours we were back in Horseshoe Bay.  What a beautiful part of the world, and seeing it by boat meant no traffic jams too.  I have seen other areas as spectacular, but half the fun is getting there (LOL).  It was time to do laundry, charge up all the electronics and get the blog caught up.  Tomorrow Mom and I head back for Seattle.




Blog Day 36 
August 2, 2012
The  Malaspina  Peninsula  and   the  Thulin  Island  Passage


We slept a little late the next morning before we headed out of Squirrel Cove.  The rainbow sheen from leaking oil was still everywhere, but not as heavy as the day before.  The high winds that had been forecast the day before failed to materialize and we had a gorgeous day with clear skies and light winds.  The weathermen here are as good as they are anywhere else!  We left Cortes Island and headed SSE to the Malaspina Peninsula and the Thulin Island Passage.  On the way we stopped of at the Copeland Islands Marine Park.  This delightful little set of islands is just off Thulin Passage.  There is a fairly well protected anchorage just off the passage that gets a little wash from some of the boats in the passage and one or two other anchorages that are just big enough for a boat or two.  We anchored stern to in the main anchorage and Shane and Waltraut got to be the stern line crew.  Shane and I took the dingy across the passage to go look for oysters, but had no luck.  Something about that habitat was not favorable for them.  We had lunch on the boat and after I took the dingy and went exploring.  I putted off between the islands to see what I could see.  I found a baby seal resting on the rocks with it's mother in the water nearby keeping watch.  She looked me over suspiciously then ignored me after I took out my camera (just another damned tourist).  On my way around the islands I found one of the local navigation hazards typical of logging country.  A log had gotten so saturated it was floating on end with just a foot or two above water and all the rest of it hidden below the water (think iceberg and Titanic) bad news for anyone who doesn't have sharp eyes.  I also found an oyster reef full of dead oysters near some tidal pools.  The tide was starting to come in, submerging the pools.  I went tramping around in them, but all I saw were starfish and dead clams and oysters.  The islands are so steep and rocky; it is easy to imagine this terrain continuing beneath the surface.  The water is clear enough when it is calm and you are moving slow to spot the shallow areas, but easy to miss under any other conditions.  That granite doesn't budge and I can see why the Canadian Coast Guard is so busy around here.



Back at the boat, we loaded up the dingy and we made our passage across the Straight of Georgia to Denman Island and Henry's Bay.  We anchored there about 45 minutes before sunset and dropped the dingy in the water to go explore Sandy Island just off the NW tip of Denman.  The full moon was just rising as we came around the trees covering the end of Denman Island.  The moon was reflected in the water and I did my best to capture with my camera.  The last of the sun was still lighting up the clouds at the same time with all the colors of the rainbow.  No way I could catch that worth a dang.  At we headed back to the boat the incoming tide was washing across the flats and we needed the motor to get back, no rowing tonight.

Blog Day 35 
August 1, 2012
Homfray   Channel


We got up early as planned and headed out of Roscoe Cove just after the top of the tide.  Waltraut got up long enough to help me with the anchor and like the smart woman she is, went back to bed leaving Shane and I to head the boat back up Waddington Channel to head up Toba Inlet.  This was one of our longer days of cruising and we had lots to see.  We are far enough north up here that many of the mountains right by the water still have snowfields on them.  The snowmelt from the fields make some absolutely amazing waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides and in some cases straight into the water near us.  I was able to stick the nose of the boat into a waterfall!  The water in Toba Inlet carries a lot of silt, which comes in from the Toba River as well as the various waterfalls we passed.  The watercolor changes due to the silt and gets a lot greener.  The other thing that happens is that the depth finder can't get through the silt so you get a false reading.  It is initially a little unnerving to be piloting someone else’s boat that you get to pay for if you damage it, knowing it draws about 5 feet and having the depth finder tell you there is only about 8 feet below the sensor even though you know you actually have hundreds of feet below you.  The weather was overcast this day and the sun really only broke through once.  We had a good time though cruising up the inlet past logging operations and by waterfalls.  On our way back we stopped by one of the falls and had lunch.  Another boat did the same and had a guy on a stand up paddleboard go over to see how close he could get to the falls.  After lunch we headed back out the inlet and turned down Homfray Channel and took and alternate route back to Squirrel Cove where we had anchored the first night.  On the cruise back one could clearly see how the glaciers had cut many of the valleys into a smooth U shape as opposed to the V shapes cut by rivers.  There was also a lot of drama going on Channel 16 on the VFR radio.  Someone found himself or herself high and dry on a rock as the tide went out and someone else had hit a rock and was sinking.  It hammered home that these could be dangerous waters, especially with a tide that can be over 13 feet.  A passage that is safe during one time of day can be dangerous six hours later.  We got there late in the afternoon and when we cruised in we noticed oil all over the water.  A boat had sunk at anchor that day spilling its diesel all over the cove.  No oysters tonight, that's for sure!  We anchored stern to the shoreline with Waltraut and I being the dingy crew again.  We had arrived near the top of the tide, but there was still quite a current rushing into the little salt-water lake attached to Squirrel Cove.  I took Mom in the dingy and we rode the current into the lake using the oars.  I figured we would come out again after the top of the tide of all else failed.  The lake itself had tiny little islets in it, great for kids to explore (no matter what age).  We putted around the lake and when we got back to the opening the tide was still rushing in.  The lake was still equalizing its level.  I gave a shot at getting out using the outboard since the water was deep enough, but the current was still too strong for our little outboard.  I rowed around one of the islets and landed on it to stake my claim.  After getting my rowing exercise and discussing cabbages and kings with Mom, I fired up the outboard and gave it another shot with a good running start.  We just made it!  Once to the other side of the channel the water was like glass and I started rowing again to enjoy the quiet and be able to talk to my Mom.  She started bragging how she used to row when she was a kid.  I said it was like riding a bicycle and offered her the oars.  Sure enough Mom rowed us back to the boat!  Waltraut had been busy doing her cooking magic and she had used some salmon jerky I had bought to create a pasta sauce.  Good stuff!  We headed for bed to get ready for a long day of motoring the next day as we were going to have to turn the boat in the morning after.  

Blog Day 34 
July 31, 2012
Roscoe Cove


We went to Penderell Sound to a day anchorage at the head of the sound at the north end of East Redonda Island.  Although this was supposed to be a no wake zone and a shellfish marine reserve, there seemed to be any number of small boats blasting through there water skiing and towing tubers.  We had a boat come up and anchor next to us.  The captain did all the mooring single handed, lowered the Zodiac in and only then did the "little" rich kids appear from below, give the captain grief and take off in the Zodiac.  This sound is supposedly the warmest water in the area.  Even though the tide changes may be up to three or four meters, currents in the areas we were cruising in were always mild.  Shane and I did some swimming and diving off the boat and rocks before it got crowded.  We headed south out of Penderell Sound and further south down Waddington Sound and turned into Roscoe Cove and anchored so I could start cleaning and shucking oysters.  Our neighbor thought we were to close to his anchor and asked us to move.  To maintain good international relations with Canada, we did so after I got my shucking done, then another oyster feast.  S & W went for another dingy cruise and a short hike up to the lake above the cove.  They said it was very beautiful and the trail was almost manicured with water lilies in the warm fresh lake and a deer that walked by no more than 25 feet away.  We went to bed early to ship out on the 6 AM high tide since this cove can be land locked during a low, low tide.  

Blog Day 33
July 30, 2012
Prideaux Haven


All of us loaded up in the dingy and went to the outlet to Lake Unwin.  There some very nice campsites there and it was a short fairly level hike to the lake.  There are lots of logs where you hit the lake, but there is a trail all the way around it.  The water is surprisingly warm and I wish we would have more time for a swim.  We headed out of Tenedos Bay, but not without some fits and starts.  I went ashore and cast off the stern line, but the port davit line jammed then came off the winch spool.  Shane played mechanic with Waltraut as assistant while I watched the boat and went and found a hacksaw from the neighboring boat.  Thanks to Shane, an hour later we were better than before.  There had been too much cable on the winch spool and it was obvious that there had been problems before.  While on the way over from Lake Unwin we stopped and Waltraut and I gathered up more oysters so it looks like my wishes are answered as long as I don't mind being the sucker!  We headed over to Refuge Cove to pick up some groceries and ice.  The fuel dock and tiny marina was packed, but we finally got in and picked up water and gas for the outboard.  I didn't want to get caught short again.  Mom and Waltraut went shopping and after we had the water loaded, we headed out and anchored.  We took the dingy back to pick up the ladies and had lunch on board.  While I was there of course I had to get a Hootchy Kootchy or two (fishing lures for you non fishermen) not that it did me any good later.  Shane took the helm and we headed for Melanie Cove, an inlet on the mainland.  We came through the main entrance and Prideaux Haven outside the cove and Melanie Cove were both pretty full.  Prideaux Haven was full of BIG boats.  We found a spot after one aborted anchoring attempt and once again W and I ran the stern line ashore.  Shane and Walraut went for a cruise in the dingy and did a hike over to the adjacent Laura Cove and I caught up on the blog.  



Blog Day 32 
July 29, 2012
Tenedos Bay

A light breakfast and we headed out of Squirrel Cove to head to Cassel Falls.  On the way out we putted by the mouth of the tidal lagoon.  The waters were really rushing out of the channel, as the tide was really low.  I got to play captain and steered up the Takaerne Arm to the falls located on Redonda Island.  People there already anchored right at the base of the falls so we went to the next anchorage just around the point.  This was our first shot at anchoring and tying to shore.  The anchor set in one try, but we had to get the dingy in the water, the aft mooring line untangled and wrapped around a tree.  Waltraut played mountain goat while Shane was dingy captain and I kept the boat in place till they got done.  A little local boat was having engine problems (dead battery) and tied up to us while I was keeping the boat in place.  He finally managed to pull start a 140 horse outboard.  I was impressed.  We got our stern line in place and while the tide was still low Shane and I took the dingy and went and got fresh oysters for lunch and dinner.  We motored over and took a quick look at the falls.  We brought the oysters back on board and I shucked enough for lunch.  Good stuff!  After lunched we loaded up and went back to the falls.  The falls are a 90-foot cascade of fairly warm water so Shane went in for a shower and I went and joined him.  A nice pounding massage in water much warmer than what I swam in at Yosemite.  We dropped mom off back at the boat and tied up at the dingy dock.  We did a short hike inland to Cassel Lake and went for a dip.  I swam about 1/4 mile across the lake to the far side and the water was comfortable all the way.



Back at the boat the tide had come up quite a bit and covered the oysters on the rocky shore.  I hoped I had picked enough.  Shane got to do the acrobatics this time and untied the shoreline.  We got the dingy loaded and headed back down Lewis Channel to Tenedos Bay.  We anchored just south of the Unwin Falls.  This time Shane stayed on board and Waltraut and I brought the stern line ashore.  We were a little more organized this time and had the dingy in the water before anchoring.  We were able to tie to a tree that Waltraut did not have to play mountain goat to get to.  I shucked the rest of the oysters and the big ones tasted every bit as good as the small ones.  Dinner was on the back deck and I think we went through about $500 of oysters at Houston prices.  It was a great meal and I hope we get to do it again before we're done even if I have to be the sucker!


Blog Day 31 
July 28, 2012
Comax Marina.  

We were all up fairly early and waited for the maintenance people to get in and fix a few things and we headed out of the Comax Marina.  We headed SE to clear the Comax Bar then NE to cross the Strait of Georgia.  We continued on this route until we had crossed the open water.  It was cloudy and cool, but not too windy.  There were three-foot seas or so in the middle of the strait.  Once across we passed north of Harwood Island we got into the Thulin Passage and headed up to Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island.  The cove is very protected and there was sufficient anchorage for all boats present.  We took the dingy over to Squirrel Cove Village, but on the way there with Shane and Waltraut the motor ran out of gas.  



Never trust marina people.  We were lucky and some people going by gave us some gas.  We motored back and grabbed the gas can just in case it was further than one fill could get us.  We got back to the village and it turns out that Marilyn's Salmon no longer exists.  Luckily I had half the shrimp left from yesterday so I made pasta with shrimp and though Shane said he wasn't very hungry, he managed to polish off his share before I did!  Shane and Waltraut made into Squirrel Cove Lagoon and paddled about in there.  This is a salt-water lagoon the ebbs and flows through a little channel.  Lots of funs to kayak through or maybe float through.  Mom and I tried it a little later but the current had increased as the tide was going out, also a busted oarlock on the dingy didn't help.  I walked up to check out the other side though.  Back at the boat I tried some fishing, but no bites.  A little guitar and off to bed.



Blog Day 30
July 27, 2012
Wow! A month on the road

What have I learned?  How to pack the car, a packing system that let's me find things, people are friendly and usually helpful, this country has lots of things to see (and I'm not even halfway around it), I never have enough time, the D has the things go wrong one would expect from a 31 year old car.  By the time I get back all the things that are going to break will have done so and been repaired and the D will be in great shape!


Blog day 29 

july 26, 2012
To nanaimo


We packed up Waltraut's car and headed to the ferry to Nanaimo.  While we waited in the ferry line I walked over to the marina and bought a 5 day fishing license.  (Ever the optimist.)  The ferry ride was about an hour and 3/4s and the day was cloudy and cooler compared to yesterday's sunny skies.  We rolled ashore in Nanaimo and headed NW up 19 to Comox.  We arrived before Desolation Sound Yacht Charters was ready for us so we grabbed some lunch in a little cafe and checked out the used book store for some boat reading material.  Back at the boat we had the equipment check out and found a couple of things wrong that we would take care of the next morning.  We had the navigation chart check out outside with a couple of other crews.  They emphasized heavily that the GPS was based on a chart that was only accurate to 120 feet so the margin of error around a hazard was up to 240 feet.  The autopilot was also disabled so if anything bad happened, it would while you were steering the boat!  We had some snacks on board for dinner that night and went to bed.  

Blog Day 28 
July 25, 2012

Slept a little late and helped my sister in law with some chores.  I jacked up the D and found out my cable had broken and that one was available at DMC Northwest.  I will get it in the morning to install it.  We ate lunch over at a friend's house and saw one of our ballistic missile subs from Bremerton headed out to sea.  Went over to REI (their flagship store is in Seattle), to replace my old tent of some 18 years as well as a more packable sleeping bag and some sock liners (no more blisters on the hikes!).  Dinner was at a nearby restaurant and I found that if I wasn't careful, I was going to put back on all the weight I had lost during the trip!  Spent the rest of it preparing for the trip to and out of Vancouver.  I will be joining my brother and sister-in-law and my Mom on an adventure to the Desolation Islands NE of Vancouver for a week.


Blog Day 27
July 24, 2012

Wow what a day!  I saw lots and drove even more.  I left the Lake Siskiyou Campground after things dried out and headed up the mountain.  I stopped by the hatchery museum, but it was not opened until 10:00.  It is always a pleasure driving the mountain roads in the D, but I can definitely tell it is down in power at this altitude.  I also have to fuss with the idle.  Probably more I have to learn about the Megasquirt system I installed.  I went up the park road as high as I could go and ended up at a parking area with 20 or so Japanes tourists on a van tour.  When they finally left I could appreciate the view in silence.  The mountain is quite majestic and someday I want to do the climb to the top.  Depending on where you start you are looking at a 7,000 foot altitude change, but I would like to do it.  It is a majestic mountain.

After a little solitude, I headed back to the town and  went north up 97 to Oregon.  Lot's of road work causing delays.  I got near Crater Lake and stopped at Anne's Falls and ate lunch.  I hit the visitors center for some information and headed out to the East Rim drive.  Crater Lake is a collapsed volcano.  It was originally Mt Mazama.  There was a huge eruption, one that dwarfed Mt. St. Helens, and once the lava that was supporting the mountain was vented, the mountain collapsed.  One thing I read said it fell over 6,000 feet in24 hours (how they judge that I will never know).  Rainfall and snowmelt filled up the crater forming the lake.  Portions of the lake are over 1,900 feet deep when it was measured.  I don't know what the water level was at then.  The water is an amazing blue that I have usually only seen when out in deep water at sea.

There is a loop that goes all the way around the crater with many scenic overlooks.  It is time consuming, but it is worth stopping at them all.  In some cases just moving a few hundred yards gives you a completely different aspect of the lake.  High amounts of yellow pine pollen covered the water in areas and made it look like high lighter ink was staining the water.  I went around the loop until I got to Wizard Island, a volcanic cone that formed after the eruption, from there I headed north and out of the park working my way west on 138 next to the Umpqua River.  So many of the views of the river made me want to stop and enjoy them and I did now and then, but I had a long way to drive to make Seattle.  I think I was lucky and saw only one or two highway patrols that night, although I was probably conservative for the latter part of it as I watched my speedometer needle bounce and go dead.  I made good time, but it wasn't until 1:00 am that I rolled into my brother and sister-in-laws house in Seattle.  My nephew Skye, came out to greet me and showed me where dinner and a bed was!


Blog Day 26 
July 7, 2012
Ambush !

Had a bit of a thrill last night.  I was busy working on my blog postings and I heard a big commotion from two campsites over.  I heard what sounded like hissing and banging and all sorts of noise.  A few minutes later one of the neighboring campers came by to tell me a mountain lion had walked into their campsite.  The hissing I heard was the cat and the rest of the din was them driving it off!  Evidently they had just finished cooking some meat and that drew the cat.  It didn't keep me from going to sleep however, and I was out until the car's alarm went off in the morning about 5:00 am.  Yuck!  It was probably a pine-cone landing on the car.  I went back to sleep and made some apologies to the neighbors in the morning after the rushing of the creek and increasing car traffic on 299 woke me up.  The air here was a lot dryer so I did not have to wait for things to dry to pack up.

299 was a fun drive.  Californian's (drivers anyway), are spoiled by all the fun twisty roads they have to drive on...but then the city dwellers get to deal with a rush hour nightmare too.  I got into Weaverville and picked up some groceries and ice, gas, and checked at NAPA to see if they had a heater valve I could use.  Some of these mornings are pretty chilly.  No such luck, they did not have it in stock and no one nearby did.  I ended up ordering the bushings for the suspension, a new clutch master cylinder, and a heater valve and having them shipped to a friend's house in the Seattle area.  I cranked up the GPS to see what tourist attractions were around and ended up at Shasta Lake Caverns.  These are private the $24.00 ticket included a lot of steps, a boat ride, more steps, a bus ride with some great views, more steps and a cave.  The cave has a lot of different types of formations in a short tour, but is prepared for lots of steps and inclines if you go to it.  These people also do a dinner on the lake which sounded like fun too if you can time it right. 

Google Shasta Lake Caverns and it will tell you more than you want to know.  I continued on to the town of Mt. Shasta and found a private campground on Lake Siskiyou that was very nice with hot shower and a little beach.  I was just in time, and had cell coverage for once, to do my weekly call in to Larry Payne's radio show.  I checked out what they were catching trout on (trying to anyway), took some pictures of Mt Shasta, then cleaned up and cooked dinner.  There are enough people here I don't think mountain lions will be an issue.

Blog Day 25
July 22, 2012
Ocean Camping

The sound of the waves on the beach woke me up this morning and I got up fairly early.  The humidity had condensation on everything.  I packed what I could and went for a walk on the beach while the tent dried out.  The beach was black sand, well dark gray anyway.  The rocks stuck up like monoliths and I walked over to check them out.  The tide was mostly out and there were tons of mussels exposed on the rocks.  Just looking at them made me hungry for my brother's steamed mussels.  There were starfish of various colors among the mussels and a crab or two tucked back in a crevice.  Different kinds of seaweed dotted the rocks too.  A man who was getting some mussels for bait told me most were edible and what kind was used to make the wrap used in sushi.  His son pointed out one called surfers sponge used for exfoliating the skin too.  I finished packing up the tent and wen on my way.

The rugged California coast is breathtaking in many places with vista point after vista point.  This being the weekend it was crowded with locals getting away for the weekend.  There was also Reggae on the River festival that was keeping all the campgrounds full too.  I went north on Hwy 1 until just south of Hwy 101.  That is where the world famous giant redwood with the tunnel through it is located.  I had to go see that as well as the one log house.  I was going to drive the D through it with the doors up, but it was tight enough that I did not want to take the chance.  Someone was kind enough to take a few pictures as I drove through it.  The tree itself is worth a look all in itself.  It had a more pleasing (to me) shape then the big sequoias I had seen earlier and was every bit as majestic.  I got onto 101 heading north and stopped for gas.  Across the street was the one log cabin.  The one log cabin was carved into a section of trunk and was at a roadside store.  I stopped in to buy some smoked salmon and check it out.  Tight quarters, but doable!  Back on 101 I saw an alternate route that paralleled 101 and went through more redwoods.  Definitely worth the detour.  Just don't be in a hurry.  A narrow windy road make a leisurely drive much more enjoyable.  I stopped in Eureka for some odds and ends at Kmart and finally headed east on 299.  Everyone should make the drive up the California coast.  There are so many things to see here and definitely worth leaving home to go enjoy them.

I headed east and at 4:00 I saw a little campground in the Six Rivers National Forest.  Rather than push it and get to Shasta late I decided to make camp early.  The site had a creek with swimming holes a short hike away.  I was ready for it.  The last few nights left me pretty grubby.  I made my way to the swimming hole where clothing seemed to be optional (no I did not take a picture).  It felt good to get clean and I used the solar shower to finish up with.  It was warmer than Yosemite, but still plenty brisk.  I had some cheese and French bread, cooked some stew with a little salmon jerky, and had fresh fruit and a little chocolate for dessert.  I was finally starting to fall in to a routine.  I was no longer spending most of my time looking for stuff.  Everything has found a logical spot (to me anyway) and I'm not wasting near as much time setting up and tearing down camp.  Tomorrow off to Shasta!

Blog Day 24
July 21, 2012

I finally woke up much later than my usual (I wonder why?) and made a quick breakfast.  The tent had gotten too warm to sleep in.  The guys next door were making breakfast and swore that anything said the night before had no relation too reality.  I said my goodbyes and got back on the PCH.  This is a fun road to drive, but there is a lot of traffic.  The knock I was hearing from the front left suspension seemed to be getting worse so I decided to find a spot to give it a close look.  A beach access parking lot proved to be just the place, well sheltered, paved and equipped with an outhouse, what more could a guy need (ok, beer helps, but it was a bit early for that).  I jacked it up and checked all the nuts and bolts and all appeared tight.  More shaking and wriggling revealed that the ball joints seemed to be good, but the 30 year old rubber bushing on the upper A arm appeared to have a lot of play.  At least I didn't have to worry that it might come apart on me.  Been there, done that. As I was checking things out a van stopped by and the driver lent me a hand checking things out.  I practiced some rusty French on his wife when I heard her accent and got a smile.  She was from the area near Burgundy.  A local stopped by to see if I needed any help and asked if I was headed to the car show nearby.  I said I wasn't, but I could be.  I headed down the road knowing what parts I will have to order. 

I crossed the Gualala River bridge and signs for the car show were right where the guy had mentioned.  I parked and walked over to where the cars and motorcycles were being shown.  I mentioned to one of the motorcycle exhibitors about the DeLorean and he introduced me to David Susalla, the executive director of Gualala Arts and also a car nut (www.GualalaArts.org).  Someone said he also made fuel systems for NASCAR race-cars.  Sus, please comment if I got this wrong!  As a result I found myself entering the D in the car show.  I parked between a Plymouth Roadrunner and a Mclaren. What an eclectic mix of vehicles!  The “we're model A's,” custom rods and T buckets, motorcycles, Fiats, Alphas, an MG, a land speed record car (the driver lies on his back and looks through a periscope to drive!) as well as many more.  There were four old AA fuel dragsters that they fired up too.  These really shook the woods and I could feel them in my bones! The D was a big hit, especially after I turned on the flux capacitor (Thanks Brendan!).  I headed out around three or so and went looking for a camp site. Everything was full mostly due to the weekend traffic.  As I pulled out of one campground, I saw steam blowing out of the back in huge amounts.  I pulled over and shut it down.  Within five minutes, four of the local gear heads stopped to see if I needed some help.  After the car cooled down I was able to see that my brand new heater valve had broken.  I have no idea why.  One of the guys went to get some large bolts to use as plugs on the heater hoses once I remove them from the heater valve.  I might not have heat, but it would get me back on the road.  I wrapped the bolt with some Xtreme tape (great stuff, it can even patch a radiator hose).  I plugged the other hose with my 3/8" extension and filled it up with water I had with me and was back on the road.  I finally found a campground near the beach, set up camp and watched the sun set.   Dinner was nothing special, but the Ranier Cherries are in season and boy are they good.  I caught up on the blog and was out.

Blog day 23
july 20, 2012

Joanne headed off to work and I caught up on the blog posts.  Eugene came by with a couple of the next generation took check out the car.  I finished packing and headed into San Francisco.  I had been there a couple of times over the years and done most of the touristy stuff, so I had just one goal in mind...Lombard Street.  There is one short section that supposedly has more turns than any road in the US.  I've driven around the Arc de Triomph in Paris, this was another must do on my bucket list.  Times square will come later on this trip.  Unfortunately there were so many cars that we crept down the road.  Still it was fun and the D was a photo op for a lot of people.  Not having any power steering could be felt too.  There was a parking area at the bottom so I went back for some photos.  The D didn't like the steep decline for some reason and the engine died.  It had 3/4 of a tank so I don't know why it died, but it fired up after getting back on flat ground.  

Climbing the steep hills with the stop signs on the top was a challenge, but the car met it with fine style as I headed of for the park at the base of the bridge.  The parking fairy was watching over me and there was a spot for me when I got there.  It was a bright day with no clouds and great for pictures.  May pictures later I had a lunch of fresh strawberries and cherries at the park.  I got back on the freeway and drove north over the bridge and took more photos from the other side where I had never been before.  I headed north on 101 in the middle of the Friday rush.  What a jam.  I finally got off the freeway and cut over to the PCH by point Reyes again.  A couple of the camp grounds were full, but I finally found a private one with space and made camp.   Brats boiled in beer were the main course and they were tasty too.  A small salad went with it and some dark chocolate for dessert.  


My neighbors were three local guys Ethan, Greg and Blake who were doing a little salt water fishing.  They treated me with generous hospitality, plying me with food and drink, among other things.  I brought out my guitar and played for my liquor. Funny, as more liquor flowed, I sounded better and better! Conspiracy theories and fishing stories started to fly as the night grew longer.  All of a sudden it was 1:00 AM and I hit the sack.

Blog Day 22 
July 19, 2012
Point Reyes Lighthouse,

A few more house projects, car maintenance items, and loading most of the stuff back into the (clean) car and I went off on a little adventure to Marin County.  I drove off to see Drakes Bay Oyster Farm (Drakesbayoyster.com).  Of course I had to sample the wares while I was there.  This is located in the Point Reyes National Seashore and there are a number of historic ranches there too.  Drake's Bay is named for Sir Francis Drake who was one of our earliest European explorers (1579) in this area.  Drakes Bay is believed to be his most likely landing spot on his way around the world.  The area was long inhabited by Indians prior to that.  The oyster farm has been in operation for over 100 years and continues to turn out great product (personal testimony).  Oyster spats are placed in tubs with a number of what looked to be PVC tubes (with ridges) that have been pained with a shell coating to give the spats a place to fasten.  The tubes are either hung over racks or placed in bags and allowed to grow for a year.  They are then brought in and clumps of shells broken up with air chisels.  The separated oysters are place in milk crates and back in the water for a while so any killed by the air chisels can easily be sorted out.  This operation supplies the bulk of the oysters for the Bay Area.

I drove to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, but the fog was so heavy, I couldn't even see it.  Good reason for foghorns.  I was able to see down to the water where you could see and hear a whale that had been feeding near the overlook point.  The Coast Guard had one of its early bases here and rescued crews from many a ship wrecked on this coast.  Not without some costs to themselves though and there is a cemetery/memorial to them in this park.  It brings home their unofficial motto, "You have to go out, you don't have to come back."

I drove down to the Pinnacles, trail and went for a short hike.  The blisters from Yosemite kept me to a slow pace, but the liquid bandage Eugene supplied, helped quite a bit.  On the short hike I saw deer, fish eagles, elephant seals and harp seals.  Definitely worth the discomfort!

It was after 6:00 when I headed back.  A nice drives, though the park road is a little rough in places.  The road crosses several historic ranches where grass fed dairy and beef livestock are raised.  Be careful as you pass these areas of the turn off to the Pinnacles, as it is open range.  There are also numerous deer to watch out for.  I got back to Joanne’s house and she treated me to dinner.  I really have to get out of this place before I have to roll out the door!  Dinner was great, soup with lobster and shrimp, lamb sausage and crème Brule for dessert.  After that I could hardly keep my eyes open.

Blog Day 21
July 18, 2012

Today is a short day blog wise.  I went over to my cousin Eugene's house and gave the car a good bath as well as doing some maintenance things around my host, Joanne’s house.  I also took care of some niggling problems like loose weather stripping and adjusting the opening spring on the passenger door.  The clutch continues to weep just a little.  I think I will pick up a new clutch master cylinder when I get to Seattle if it is still leaking and install it at my friends Mike and Linda's house.  Eugene was a great help and had all the tools I didn't have with me. 

That night another cousin Peter, and his wife Marge, Eugene and Diane and Joanne met for dinner, unfortunately Marge had to hurry off for a prior commitment.  Good food (more than I was used to, these people are going to make me fat!) and conversation.  It's funny how I always thought of us as being a small family, my two brothers, and Mom and Dad.  My Mom's sister was over in Belgium, with some relatives over there that I had met over there at one time and some of the ones here in California I had met when I was a kid or seen once at my brother's wedding.  I get here and there is a whole horde of them!  I hope I get to meet more of them soon.  One has gone to work in Houston recently, so I will have to let her know she has family in town.  Even within the same area, family can lose touch with each other.  They really didn't know much about the children of my uncle.  Another mystery to explore.

Blog Day 20
July 17, 2012



Boy it was cold at that campsite.  Nighttime temperatures were dropping into the 30's at that altitude.  I had put my bag liner in the bag and I was warm enough, but I did not want to get up!  (Hint, stick the shirt and pants for the next day in the bag with you so they are warm when you put them on.)  I also found out my patch on my air mattress was holding.  My other incentive for getting up was to pull the plug on the air mattress while I was laying on it.  It empties faster and the hard ground keeps you awake.  I was packed and gone by 7:45 though so I did not waste too much time.  I decided to dive to the northeast entrance and see the mountain meadows.  On the way I stopped at Olmsted overlook and ended up doing a short little hike to the overlook point, flip-flops, blister and all.  Worth every grimace.  The view was great and the walk easy and just a few tenths of a mile.  More photos and then I drove up to see the sub alpine meadow (largest in North America and the kicking off point for ancient glaciers at one time), as well as cool my aching feet in a lake located by the road.  Speaking of glaciers, you could see certain portions of the granite that were polished by the glaciers as ground forward over the eons, most other areas had weathered away leaving only rough surfaces.  Lots of great views on my way to the other entrance, and then I headed to Hatchie. 

This is the location of the drinking water reservoir that supplies 85% of San Francisco.  It was a bit of a drive, but so nice you don't even notice.  There is no swimming or boating on the reservoir, but the water is so clean it needs only a minimum of filtering and disinfection and it tastes great too.  I had a picnic lunch in the day use area sitting at a table that was overlooking the valley below the dam.  After that I was on my way to see my relatives in SF.  A couple of hours later I was there being treated to a hot shower, a washing machine, dinner and a soft bed.  What more can a guy ask for?

Blog day 








Blog Day 19

Yosemite

Gremlins!  I had the car all packed up and ready to hear over to the North Dome trailhead.  I got in the car and the clutch pedal went right to the floor.  I could see where some gunk had spewed out of the clutch master cylinder and into the cab by the pedals.  I checked the reservoir and it was empty.  Of course I didn't have any break fluid either and there was no cell phone coverage.  The cold morning air was already warming up and I if I was stuck, then this was a good place to be stuck in!  There was a payphone and AAA got my first call in about 20 years.  (Knew I kept them around for something.)  Her first challenge was finding the campsite on Google Earth or something.  The Yosemite Garage was to come out and bring me three bottles of brake fluid.  I was surrounded by kids as a couple of families started taking over my prime campsite by the water.  They were very nice and invited me to lunch as I began to get the car set to bleed the hydraulic clutch.  Of course lunch came first, and with a full belly I set to work with a will.  I cleaned of the clutch reservoir, loosened the bleeder screw and slipped some plastic tubing I had over it so I wouldn't make a mess all over the campsite.  While I was waiting I installed the new fuel pick up hose and fuel pump I had bought in LA at the DMC shop.  I was just getting that buttoned up when the AAA man showed up, a little later than estimated, but hey, it's not like I wasn't busy.  I had the help of the AAA guy to step on the pedal while I operated the bleeder and flushed all kinds of nasty looking brake fluid out.  By about 2:00 I headed out with a nice firm clutch pedal.  If it doesn't weep I may leave it alone, hopefully it was just some particle contaminating the seal in the clutch cylinder.  If not I will order one up and have it sent to a friend’s house in Seattle and I will change it there.  On my way out I passed a couple of cars with riders that couldn't believe some nutcase drove a DeLorean down that road.



I headed to Porcupine Flats to see if I could still do my hike to the North Dome.  I thought I did as it was close to the campsite.  I should have driven to the trail head parking instead of leaving out of the Porcupine Flats campground as the ranger suggested.  That added at least two miles to my hike.  The ranger that suggested the hike said it was about 3.5 miles one-way.  It was more like five plus a bit.  On the way I started to jog the downhill portions ( I thought I was doing pretty good for a 54 year old from 60 feet of altitude up here at 7,000 feet plus).  It wasn't my lungs that gave me the problems, a combination of jogging in new shoes and the wrong socks and I ended up giving myself some blisters.  I kept going as they didn't feel that bad and kept meeting people returning that said the view was worth the hike.  They weren't kidding  I was out on the North dome all by myself and felt like the king of the world.  The Half dome was right across from me with beautiful views up and down the valley.  It was a heck of a drop off at the edge though, so no backing up for photographs.  The pictures I took don't come close to reality, but I tried.  It is hard to tell how big everything is unless you have some scale.  I could see a line of tiny cars in Yosemite Valley.  They weren't even as big as ants.  I headed back up the trail, slogging up the hill.  I stopped for a few minutes to call in to Larry Payne's radio show while I still had a phone connection from Yosemite Valley.  I talked a bit about how the National Parks seemed to be fairly recession proof, at least in California.  Talking to the park rangers and the AAA driver, they thought more people decided to see what was close to home instead of going abroad.  After the break the trip back seemed to go faster until I got to the road.  I decided to walk back along it instead of the lower trail believing it would be faster.  Boy was I wrong!  Those blisters made that walk back seem like five miles instead of one.  I finally got to the car and there was a cold beer waiting for me in the cooler with my name on it.  Ambrosia!


I had originally planned to drive to San Francisco to stay with relatives, but when I was done with the hike I was in no shape for it.  I drove across TIoga Road to the Porcupine Flats campground and found a spot.  Once again I heard a variety of languages in the campground.  I was able to cadge a glass of red wind from the campers in the next site, two teachers that were driving across the country and sight seeing on their summer break (it was my fee for having a corkscrew) and used some of it in the freeze-dried beef stroganoff.  Not bad if I do say so myself!  (Thanks Mina and Amy.)  I went to bed with a full belly and was out like a light

Blog Day 18
Yosemite Creek campground

I was up early at the campground, something set off the car alarm.  I'm sure everyone loved me for that.  I was packed and on the road by 6:30 and headed to Yosemite.  I got their early enough and this being a Sunday there was no line to get in.  I used my park pass and entered through the south from Hwy 41, which is evidently the busy end.  I picked up some information and went to the grove of Sequoias on the south end to read it as it was nearby.  This park has over 800 mile of hiking trails so if you want seclusion you can get it, but you have to work for it.  Some of the campsites are reservation only, but many are first come, first served.  One of the park rangers directed me to the Yosemite Creek campground.  Before heading do the campground I drove the Yosemite Valley loop.  What can I say...there is a reason why this is a National Park.  The panoramas are spectacular with huge sheer granite cliffs.  The place is packed with tourists.  It is easy to see why Ansel Adams as well as so many painters love this place.  My pictures don't do it justice.

I headed for the campground after making a reservation for dinner at the White Wolf Lodge nearby.  A very rough four miles later and I got there.  Someone at one of the stops had recommended site 55 by the creek and that is where I headed.  I had my own private swimming hole right in front of the site and I filled up my solar shower as well as taking a long soak, (it's really not that bad once you get used to it) and got myself cleaned up for dinner.  I am not only dreading the four miles out, but the four back will be worse in the dark and downhill.  Any car with normal clearance should have no problems, but it will be a challenge for any large vehicles.  I have no reception here so I have to head out soon to get gas and catch dinner. Dinner was Thanksgiving in July, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  I bumped my way back down to the campsite with my foot on the clutch most of the way.  After getting to the bottom it was hard to shift.  I thought the carpet had slipped under the pedal, but it had not.  Guess I will look at it in the morning.


Blog Day 17

King's Canyon and Sequoia

Another day of sensory overload and good reason for taking parks and museums in bite sized quantities.  I got up early had some breakfast and headed for the General Sherman parking.  Still half asleep I went straight instead of left and was headed out of the park.  I went far enough to gas up which I needed to do anyway and drove back into the parks.  King's Canyon and Sequoia are almost adjacent, but separated by National Forest.  I parked the car and took a walk down the paved path to the giant trees.  They are so big I need to stitch two shots together.  On this path there are only a couple you can walk up and touch.  Some of the big ones are behind fences and after seeing all the stuff carved into the ones you can get to, I can see why.  Early in the morning there are not many people and plenty of time for photos.  General Sherman is the largest tree in terms of cubic wood.  The diameter of the trunk is amazing at somewhere around 40 feet.  The people near the tree lool tiny in comparison (and they are!).  

This tree is over 3,000 years old and in makes you think about how transient life can be.  We won't see a fraction what these trees have seen.  After misplacing my keys and having a small panic, I found them and headed to the Crystal Cave.  The first tour of the day is nice because you don't have to worry about people driving out on the twisty narrow road.  This cave is very much alive unlike what I saw in Carlsbad.  Water runs through it all year long but penetrates in different places depending on the rainfall and snowmelt.  It is nowhere near the scale of Carlsbad, but neat to visit with nice formations and Kristin, the park guide did and excellent job.


On the way back to the campsite for lunch I stopped at several other sequoias, I think sometimes the D got more pictures taken of it than some of the trees did.  A quick lunch and then a long drive to "Roads End" at the head of King's Canyon.  The first stop was Grant's Grove where the tree General Grant resides.  This fire scarred veteran is still going strong, but there were a few that had fallen with the center burned out making tunnels.  I finally was far enough away from one I got the whole thing in one frame!  One of these giants had been hit by lightning and was climbed using an adjacent tree, a hose pulled up and the fire put out.  On down the road and more spectacular views again.  I stopped near the site of another cave where I walked down to the King River to put my toes in the water.  It was warmer than I thought.  I drove finally to the road's end with many stops for photos.  At the end a short walk took me to Mirror Rock where the water flows clear and deep.  A dip in this river will clear the cobwebs out!  If you go, go with lots of sunshine to warm the rocks and you after you get out.  There are also many campgrounds at this end and with the river nearby, I can see why, it's a kids paradise no matter what age.  It is also the beginning of many trails.  Refreshed, I headed back to camp and took my time, the park police were busy.  One note, when pulling onto some of the gravel parking areas, be sure you are going slow.  The gravel is very loose and you will not stop fast.  It gave me one thrill I didn't need!  Back to camp, dinner, blogging and for once I have a fire.  Good night. 
 

Blog Day 16
redwoods



Fresh fruit for breakfast feels way to healthy!  I was packed and on the road by 7:30 am.  The Nasciemento Road continued through the national forest and dumped out into a valley.  Wildfires had burned their way through here too.  I wound my way through on small roads that you either hate or love.  Me, I loved them!  Twisty and fun, but lots of blind corners so you have to be careful.  The road took me past an Army base and I took at least one wrong turn before realizing I had the iPad connecting to the net so I could check my location on a map.  I would have gotten there, but it did save me a few miles.  


I headed south for just a few miles on 101 before heading west on 198.  It started off with a few twists and turns, but soon flattened out to road headed east.  I crossed I-5 and after a stop for gas, groceries and freeze dried food I had crossed vineyards, orchards and cropland.  Melons were being picked as I passed through.  I finally got near the Sequoia National Park and stopped for fresh fruit at a little stand, which is so much better than store bought.  I made it to the park and bought a ticket to the crystal cave for tomorrow morning.  The only campgrounds open were 20 plus miles into the park.  On the way I passed the cave and the Giant Forest.  The sequoias are massive trees for having only a shallow root system.  They are not the tallest, but they are the biggest.  The trunk is so thick that it resembles a club.  There are other trees that are taller or broader, but none contain as much cubic wood.  I drove the 28 miles to the campground, which is in King's Canyon and cruised around till I found a spot.  It was a summer weekend so the place is packed.  I had filled up my solar shower at the HQ and made good use of it.  Dinner was a creation of a chicken tomato basil sausage with compote of peaches and apricots for a twist. I was hungry and it tasted great.  

It was a short day today with a lot of driving and some great views.  I have to admit that after a day of expansive breathtaking views it was almost a relief when the fog rolls in.   All that spectacular scenery in a day is like trying to see the Louvre in a day.   You just get overloaded especially if you stopped.

Blog Day 15
driving up the coast


I left the campground and drove up the coast stopping off in Cayucas just to walk down the dock and see what the guys were catching.  One of them had brought up a huge starfish that wouldn't let go of his bait.  The car had a four-legged admirer there. 



I went to the Hearst "Castle,” which Hearst called "Casa Grande." Building this was William R Hearst's greatest pleasure. "The Chief" as he liked to be called, started with a large fortune and made it bigger.  His father got rich in mining, copper and other minerals and one of his investments was buying the San Francisco paper as buying a ranch around San Simon.  When Hurst was young he traveled Europe with his mother Phoebe to see the great works of art.  But growing up, the ranch was one of his favorite places to camp.   He made a fortune in the paper and in similar businesses.  He became a well-known art collector, encouraging his mother to collect as well.  In 1919, immediately after his Mother died, Hearst began building the little getaway with room for a few friends.  This building was never quite completed.  He used a woman architect, which was unheard of at the time.  She was the second female registered architect (I'm not sure if this was in the whole US or in California), educated in Europe, she had a feel for the Mediterranean he wanted to achieve and was willing to work with a person who was to be very involved in the design process (read, lot's of changes).  Initially he built a smaller house and others were added while the big house was being constructed. These houses were named for their views of the sun, the sea and the mountains.  

Hearst lived in Cala del Mar until Casa Grande was complete enough for him to move in.  All the structures were built with reinforced concrete for earthquake protection with marble facades.  Much of the interior was from old churches in Europe, which Hurst bought after WWI.  The castle boasts many original works of contemporary art and antiquities.  Hurst was also quite an entertainer.  He flew in actors and other famous people to his famous gatherings.  As a result, he was able to rub shoulders with anyone that came to visit, from Lindberg to Lombard, politician to servant.  It sounds like he enjoyed the place until failing health kept him away.  


On a practical matter, if you go to see this place, be prepared to spend money and time.  The tour of just the main rooms and the grounds is $25 dollars and if you want to see the upstairs or smaller houses that will cost you more.  Once you are up there you can lounge around the 345,000-gallon Neptune pool and feel like a movie star for as long as you want (too bad no swimming).  No food other than water is allowed at the mansion.  The Hearst family continues to operate the ranch and sells their products at the visitors’ center.  Zebras from Hearst’s extensive private zoo were never recaptured when the zoo animals were given to various public zoos and can still be seen today along with some other grazing animals.  Be sure to cross the street and go down to the cove and pier where building supplies were brought in by ship.  It is a beautiful area with a nice beach and a marine wildlife outreach building.  Great for a picnic.

I went up the coast after spending a lot more time here than expected.  Be sure to fill up with gas in Cambria because the prices after that jump at least $1.50 a gallon.  I stopped off at the elephant seal overlook where the male seals were lounging around in the sun.  The females are off taking care of the young and they don't associate.  You have to stay behind a fence because they can be aggressive.  

Entering the park

That said, I was plenty close for pictures.  I headed further up the coast and turned in a little black-topped road over a cattle guard that took me into a National Forest.  I ended up stopping there and camping instead of pushing it to get to Sequoia National Forest.  I ended up talking a long time to Rob, a Vietnam veteran, about travel, the economy, and cabbages and kings while I treated him to an adult beverage.  The car picked up some more admirers too, this time from Germany as well as some locals.  A little creative cooking and a little guitar playing and I went to bed with the sound of a creek babbling in the background.



Blog Day 14
Baby This  is L.A.

Got up ahead of the kids and did a little blogging.  It's maxing how much time that can take if you are trying to do decent entries and there is still so much you end up leaving out.  Alarick had already headed out and the kids started moving around.  Elizabeth came down and in my honor made chocolate chip pancakes.  We discussed my route options and I packed up the car.  They had tree trimmers working on their trees that morning hanging from a tree wielding chainsaws and lowering the limbs gently down.  Not a job I would want!  I headed too Hollywood and checked out the area.  I parked at the Hollywood Bowl for free, walked up to check it out I was just going to miss Garrison Keeler by three days.  Que sera sera.  I had visions of Bugs Bunny on top of it playing havoc with an opera singer.  I walked down to Hollywood Blvd. where people were dressed up as movie characters making a buck as photo ops for the tourists.  The stars were on the side-walk and I walked past Grauman's Chinese Theater till I Found Michael J Fox, I never did spot Christopher Lloyd.  The place was quite of melting pot of tourists from all over the world with people dressed from shorts to the nines.  Lots of people watching.




I got back to the D and it was once again views.  It took me took Hwy 1 and I spent most of the day driving up the coast and stopping at the start of several conversations as I looked at the map.  I drove west on the 101 and exited Topanga Canyon south to Mulholland Freeway, a windy little two lane that was fun to drive with great overlooks.  I did not get as far as I thought I would and ended up camping in a little regional park that had open sites.  The other two parks I visited were full up and reservation only.  I set up camp to the ping of aluminum bats in the nearby softball field.  Cooked dinner and went to bed.

Blog Day 13
Still on central time but headed west...

I got up before most of the rest of the campground, still on Central Time I guess, and saw some antifreeze under the car.  I had installed all new, super duper, lifetime guaranteed, silicone hoses and either the clamps had loosened or the hoses were compacting a bit.  I tightened all I could reach, made breakfast and broke camp.  I went off to the DeLorean Motor Company California Facility.  Don Steger took me around and showed me some of the projects they were working on.  There were two Back To The Future reproductions there, one of them belonging to Dan the manager.  Don showed me his immaculate EFI DeLorean (got to ask him again about those coil packs) and of course while I was there I picked up a part or two (spare fuel pump and fuel pick up hose).  I showed him my set up and we compared EFI notes.  While I was there the Snap On Tools truck came by and I ended up buying a few tools to make life easier too.  Don mentioned a few routes to consider and then went back to making a living after the whole crew posed in front of one of the BTTF cars.  

Don, Dan and Francisco were all very courteous and know there stuff.  I recommend anyone coming through the area to stop and visit.  I had lunch nearby at Angelo's, a local place with tremendous sandwiches only a couple of blocks from the shop.  I headed for a drive along the shore and ended up having lunch at the car in Long Beach looking over at the Queen Mary.  There are many beach parks along the coast, which is a lot different than what I am used to as they are mixed in with the working port and the city.  So many people and so many cars!  Driving in LA traffic is interesting too.  It had been a while since I had been in California and forgot that motorcycles could "share" lanes as they went zipping between cars.  I've ridden for a long time, but this really seems like roulette since you are depending on others to be predictable and signal their intentions.  I had a Ferrari have to show me how fast he was after he checked me out.  I think he was mad that the D was getting more looks than his Ferrari.  




I headed up to Venice beach where the tourists were flocking and I joined them.  I still can't get used to how cool the air is and cold the water is. Didn't seem to bother the kids though.  I walked along the beach and watched the people.  


The skateboarders were packing the skate park with a captive audience.  It was amazing that there were no collisions as many people as there were.  I don't know how many times they would try a trick, but they would make it eventually.  I walked along the pedestrian path by all the shops and did some more people watching.  I heard languages from all over, Spanish, French, the King's English, Japanese, and many more.  BTW, the cheapest parking is the city parking right on the beach at $9.00. There are lots of others that charge up to $15.  

It was getting late and I headed over to my hosts for the night.  LA traffic makes any trip an adventure.  Tonight I am staying with my friend Laura’s sister Liz and her husband and two kids.  Laura is my website designer and her niece and nephew, Anna and Noah were waiting for me and Liz’s husband Alarick showed up soon after.  Alarick is a car nut and filled me in on the local car scene.  After dinner, he took me out for a night run up Mulholland Drive.  The stretch between Coldwater and Laurel Canyon was the scene of lot's of racing in the 70's and 80's before the homeowners and police shut it down.  All the turns are named and have a little story to go with it.  Carl's is the turn where some guy (named Carl, LOL) drove over the edge seven times.  I guess the seventh one was enough or he ran out of money for new cars.  Off to bed and I get to sleep in Anna's room while she bunks with her brother.  Lots of pink!

Blog Day 12
CA Here i come !


Left Yuma on my way to San Diego and made as detour north to Salton Sea.  What a barren place.  I went up the east side and there is nothing there.  The state park was closed so I drove into a little trailer park and down by the water.  All the water that drains into this area has no outlet so the salts accumulate.  There must be fish because there are pelicans and seagulls, but I did not see them.  I headed back to I-8 past a failed RV park through the hot desert and made it to San Diego.  I drove that car as far as I could and parked it at the Ocean Beach dog park.  I stuck my toes in the water and knew I had made my first milestone.  Somehow the traveling I had been doing did not make it feel like I was driving around the country till I got here.  Now it feels real.  

I walked the beach watching the lifeguards practicing jet-ski rescues in the surf.  I did a lot of wandering around on the various reloads around town and stopped of at a coffee shop to connect to the world.  (Wish I drank coffee!). I planned the first night's route up the coast and started north.  What a LOT of people.  After the time in AZ and NM I am not used to this many. People.  Some guys in a tackle shop mentioned a state park near San Onofre.  It was just past the big pair.  After passing the two domes on the nuclear plant I knew exactly what they meant.  I camped in the San Mateo state campground.  I knew I was in California when I had to pay $35 bucks for a campsite and had to pay quarters for my shower! The Delorean gathered it's usual number of fans at the campsite and lots of pictures were taken.  Camp was made, dinner was cooked and I was out like a light.




Blog Day 11
the Titan II Missile

I headed out of Tucson on Sunday, and made a slight detour down I-19 to visit the Titan II Missile Museum.  These missile silos were spotted near I-10 in various locations.  All of the 54 missile silos were de-commissioned in the mid 80's.  This one has been preserved intact with a missile still in the silo.  The warhead was removed from nosecone, but a casing can be seen at the Pima Air and Space Museum.  The missile itself was also sent on the Gemini missions into orbit.  This thing was fueled with an oxidizer and an asymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine.  Nasty stuff, but it could be safely stored in the rocket an order to launch came in, it could be done in short order.  The docents show you around above ground first, giving information on the static displays of rocket engines, reentry vehicle and a view in the half opened silo (covered with glass) still containing a missile.  After that we went below ground into the launch facility.  The docent described the extensive security procedures used to enter the facility by each crew and we walked in.  The steel and concrete door was an indication as to how ruggedly the place was built.  All the equipment within the facility was built to absorb the shock from a near miss of a nuclear warhead.  Just about everything was sprung or hung from shock absorbers including the whole control room.   It was sobering to think about could have happened during the Cold War.  There was enough destructive force in the warheads of the USA and USSR to sterilize the Earth.  Somehow we avoided receiving the Darwin Award and survived till the end of the cold war.  That is not to say that we don't still have this much fire power (we do), but we no longer have the Titan II missiles. These were expensive maintain, which was one of the main reasons they were decommissioned.  They had the accuracy to hit a one mile radius after traveling up to 5,500 miles.  Luckily this event never took place.  The guide ran through the launch procedure and all the fail-safes that were in place the led us down a long cable raceway to the silo where we had another view of the Titan II Missile.  Shades of Dr. Strangelove! (For those of you who have never seen it, rent it!  It ranks up there with Casablanca and the Princess Bride.)  Up to the fresh air for a few more shots and the off to the west.  I took State Road 86 past the Kitt Peak National Observatory.  This is not just one telescope, but also a complex of 26.  The initial construction of the facility was begun in 1958 after obtaining permission from the local Indian tribe.  The tribe elders were initially skeptical having their own relation with Mother Earth and Father Sky, but after seeing the moon viewed through a telescope, they readily gave permission for the facility to be built.  The guided tour fills you in on the history of the place and you can tell the docent, Brian, has a passion for astronomy.  Some of the telescopes are seldom used, but most are.  There is a telescope specifically for looking at the sun located there, which had a whole new set of challenges when being designed (think cooling), but since has tremendously advanced our knowledge of the nearest star, our sun.  Three of the telescopes have daytime viewing areas that visitors can enter.  There are also night and overnight programs available.  

Check out www.NOAO.edu.    While on top a thunderstorm moved through bring with it some light hail.  I moved the car into the lee of some small trees and waited for it to let up.  The rain brought a change in temperature and dropped it about 20 degrees.  Heading down the mountain I ran into a real surprise.  You know those falling rock signs you always see?  Well here they are serious about it.  There was a 600 lb. boulder in the middle of the road that had been washed down by the storm.  We tried to move it to no avail, luckily one of the cars that stopped was a National Observatory car and they radioed back what had happened.  I drove around the rock and continued on my way keeping my eye out for wayward rocks.  Back on 86 I continued west picking up some gas in Sells and hitting I-8 in Gila Bend.  I arrived in Yuma after dark and stayed at a local motel.  No place to camp and too hot to want to.

Blog 10
Tucson and Sabino Canyon


Another day in Tucson….I hiked Sabino Canyon.  This is an area where Indians farmed in 1,200 AD.  In the 1870's the cavalry used the swimming hole in the area. In the 1930’s the CCC built bridges and roads.  I saw many seguaro cacti here as well as a variety of other flora. 

In the afternoon I went to the Pima Air and Space Museum.  Tucson is a very dry area and the US military has chosen it to mothball many of it's aircraft.  There are row of F16s, C-130s, and KC-135s and I'm sure much more is stored their. 

The museum has benefited from the proximity of the Davis Monthan AFB.  Many of the planes they have were originally scheduled for the crusher but were thankfully spared and given a new life in exhibits here.  There are also space and some civilian aircraft on display, but the bulk is military.  I unexpectedly ran into a piece of my personal history when I saw a B-36 that I had seen as a kid at the Southwest Airport in Ft Worth.  That plane was subsequently shipped to Tucson and reassembled.  This enormous aircraft was even bigger than my memories.  There are more exhibits than you can see in a day if you like that kind of thing. Go early so you can ride the tram around the outside exhibits.  

Every plane has a story, and the museum tells that story.  The original interiors have been left but there are some aircraft outside that are a little sun bleached and many that have not yet been restored. 
Back at my host's I had some dinner and worked on planning the rest of the trip.  To make my date in Vancouver I will have to trim some things off the trip.  Just an excuse for another road trip!

Blog Day 9
july 6, 2012
the   Stewart     Observatory    Mirror      Laboratory

I woke up early to do a little job hunting and applied for a position.  It is amazing how lengthy these online applications can be.  Still it is much more convenient than the old method.  After my host headed for work I headed to the hardware store for some hose to siphon out the bottom of the tank and to assist in some home chores.  Back at the house I jacked up the car and had the discovery that the lug wrench supplied with the DeLorean (and had never been used) did not fit the lug nuts!  Luckily I had sufficient tools to take care of that, but added it to my list of things to upgrade on the car.  Wheel off, I slid it under the frame to provide a jack stand and changed the fuel filter.  I discovered the Bosch fuel filter had a check valve on the inlet and I suspect that it was sticking.  Neither of the new filters had such a check valve.  After replacing the filter I yanked the fuel pump and swapped it for the newer one.  While the tank was open and slanted to one corner, I siphoned out about half a gallon of gas from the low point and only got a few drops of water.  The gas went back in the tank and I buttoned up the car, which was now purring like a kitten. 

I headed over to the University of Arizona to the Stewart Observatory Mirror Laboratory and meet Professor Peter Strittmatter.  This lab is at the cutting edge of making the huge mirrors that are now used in telescopes manufactured today and Peter was kind enough to give me the cook’s tour of the facility.  Their technique is brilliantly elegant and straightforward, but that doesn't mean it is easy to make these large, light (in comparison to other mirrors) mirrors while keeping the cost and schedule reasonable.  

About 20 tons of glass is needed for an 8.4-meter diameter mirror, and not just any glass.  The glass used is similar to Pyrex, but much more pure.  The borosilicate glass is manufactured in Japan and is typically used for camera lenses, so you may have some of this glass in your cell phone or digital cameras.  The need for pure glass is for consistency, both while manufacturing and for long-term behavior and durability of the mirror.  Impurities which can come from contact with air or the equipment it is processed in are minimized by a batch process used by Ohara, the manufacturer.  Most of the raw material used for the borosilicate glass comes from the USA.  The silica sand comes from Florida and the borax from California.  Why not use glass from Owens Corning in the US or Schott in Germany?  These companies use a continuous process, which allows more surface area of the glass to be exposed to handling equipment or to air.  The output from these methods is a long cylinder and much material would be wasted to get at the purer material at the core.  O’Hara uses a batch process where the glass is formed in spherical clay containers.  When the glass cools the clay mold is broken off and the outer surface of the glass is chipped off to remove impurities imparted by the clay or air.

So, take a giant turntable and cover it with ceramic insulating tiles, bolt a set of ceramic hexagonal cells through the bottom tiles and carefully place a very specific amount of glass pieces on top of these cells.  After the glass is emplaced, the lid to the electric furnace is placed on the turntable and the whole furnace is heated to 1,180 degrees and begins to spin. As the glass melts it flows in to the interstices between the hexagonal cells and the area beneath them.  This forms the honeycomb structure and backing that gives the mirror it's strength The forces generated by the spinning furnace also throws more glass toward the edges.  The height of the hexagonal cells have been predetermined and specifically placed so at the specified rpm (typically between 4 and 7.5) the layer of glass remaining on top is about an inch thick throughout the top layer of the casting.  If you want to demonstrate this at home, bring out your home mixer (it has to be a counter type mixer because you need the turntable the bowl spins on), place a pan with some water in it on the turntable and just spin it by hand.  As the rpms increase, more water is forced up the wall of the pan and the thickness in the center decreases.  Spin it slow and the curvature across the water surface from one edge of the pan to the other will decrease, spin it faster and it will increase.  Once the glass has melted and flowed into place, it is cooled rapidly from 1,100 degrees to about 500 degrees. From 500 to 400 degrees is cooled much more slowly as this is the temperature region where the glass goes from a plastic state to a solid and the internal stresses are minimized by the slow cooling.  After it solidifies it can be cooled more rapidly.

So now you are left with this honeycomb structure 8.4 meters in diameter and weighing over 20 tons due to the hexagonal cells and bolts that have to be removed.  So how do you move it without damaging it?  Go down to your local Ace Hardware and buy a bunch of RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) also known as silicone rubber and glue it to a frame.  Then it can be picked up, placed in a support ring and handled.  So how do you get those cells out of the casting?  The alumina silicate used for making the cells, while strong is very soft and can be dented with a fingernail.  A pressure washer is used to blast the soft material out the glass honeycomb that has been formed.  The bottom of the cell is the diameter of the washer used on the bolt so when the cell is gone, the bolt and washer can easily be removed.  The blank is then moved to the grinding station where a computerized grinder grinds a flat surface on the back of the mirror.  The mirror is flipped over and placed in a polishing cell.  The flat back of the mirror can now be supported by force actuators that can vary the amount of support in any area.  The polisher uses diamond grit to do the final shaping before polishing.  The grinding has been minimized by the spin casting for symmetrical mirrors, but new telescopes are using multiple mirrors to form a parabola so the outer mirrors are asymmetric. so in some cases more grinding is required as the glass left in place on the surface of the mirror is more than one inch.  I also had the chance to see a casting that had two mirrors of two different focal lengths integrated together.  Grinding of large amounts of glass was required to achieve the inner mirror's curvature and achieve a final mirror thickness of approximately one inch.  The mirror is then polished at another station to its final finish.  The reflective coating is applied once the mirror reaches its final destination.  This is not unusual because the reflective coatings used (typically aluminum or sometimes silver) degrade over time and the observatory has coating facilities. 

So why the desire for thinner, more accurate mirrors?  The practical answer is that they are cheaper, less glass is used and less grinding and polishing is needed.  The less polishing done, the less glass you have to buy and at a cost of almost a million dollars just for the glass, this can be a considerable savings over traditional mirror.  The higher precision also allows a shorter focal length and therefore a smaller telescope.  The shorter focal length ultimately reduces the size of the building housing the telescope too.  The scientific answer is that the thinner mirror will reach ambient temperature faster so there is less distortion caused by the difference between the air temp and the mirror temp.  This increases observing time.  Older telescopes with their thick glass mirrors may take an hour to equilibrate.  

The laboratory has just taken on the challenge of casting, grinding and polishing the seven mirrors needed for the new Giant Magellan Telescope.  Each mirror will be 8.4 meters in diameter and six of the seven will be asymmetric.  I could go on about adaptive optics that bend the mirror to correct for atmospheric distortion, or the equipment used to polish the mirror or check it's accuracy, but I would probably get things wrong!  It is neat stuff though (OK, I will always be a bit of an engineer geek).  Go to their web site at http://mirrorlab.as.arizona.edu and check them out.

So what does all this science do for people like you and me?  One of the things they are working on is solar power.  Think about it...instead of using mirrors to concentrate faint light to form an image on an instrument, use the technology to track the sun and focus it on a photocell.  The typical telescope mount can be adapted to a mount made just to track the sun.  The mirrors don't need to be of the quality required for a telescope to concentrate solar power.  Now how do you handle that intense solar power without melting your solar cells?  First use a lens that will shape the light into a beam with a uniform intensity to evenly light an array of solar cells.  Keep the photocells cool with a fin fan cooler (think radiator from your car) that keeps the photocell within 20 degrees of ambient.  So why go this route instead of a lot of solar cells?  Cost and efficiency, of course.  Photocells have dropped in cost recently due to flooding of the market by the Chinese, but are still not cheap and they are not that efficient (10% to 15%).  Mirrors and a tracking systems to follow the sun are inexpensive once in mass produced, and fewer photocells are needed with the system reaching 26% to 28%.  I was told that an area of100 miles by 100 miles would be sufficient to meet the US power demand.  Spread that around so we are not totally at the whims of the weather in one place and now your talking'!


Blog Day 7 – July 4

One Week on The Road

Hard to believe I have been on the road for a week already!  Today is the 4th of July, a day of tribute to those who won our independence in 1776 and honor the birth of our nation.  It is also a day to thank all those who keep us free.  Thank a service man, but don't forget to thank those who stay behind and keep the home fires burning.  Not just service families, but the industry that keeps us going and able to hold on to our freedom.  Until I hit Ft. Davis I felt like I was in a hurry to get somewhere.  But today, I awoke and decided to take my time.

I had camped out at Elephant Butte State Park, getting there late and blogging in the dark (at least the iPad doesn't attract too many bugs!).  I played a little guitar after a cold dinner.  I didn't get up until 8:00 and believe it or not I did not work on the car.  I was told about the breakfast special of two eggs (any way you want 'em) bacon, and toast for $3.00.  Who could resist?  Breakfast was good, but I think they made up their profit in the glass of orange juice that cost me $2:50!  I went down to the lake and did a little swimming and a little fishing with no luck.  It was probably too hot and those white bass had moved deeper into the cool waters.  I thought as hot as the temperature was, the lake would be warmer, but it was still very refreshing.  I went to the park office to pay for another night and found out that I could only get the next four nights as a minimum with no flexibility.  I guess I could have moved to the beach, but if I figured that since I had to pack up anyway, so I might as well hit the road. 

I decided I was going to go see the Chiricahua National Monument recommended by the park host.  I headed south on I-25 towards Las Cruces again, but exited near Caballo onto State Road 152.   Let me say this: if you like windy roads and great views, this is the road for you.  I was tempted to drive parts twice.  Once for the scenery and once to enjoy the drive, (I did restrain myself) but any road with corner warning speeds of 15 to 25 mph has got to be fun!  Especially in the DeLorean.  As I was driving through the south end of the Apache-Sitegreaves, I stopped for a picture near Emory Pass. I know I had been almost as high in Cloudcroft, but for some reason I was lightheaded as I stepped out to enjoy the view. After my head stopped spinning, I enjoyed the cool air, the bird-calls, and the cool breeze.  I had passed one National Forest Campground and decided to check out the next one.  It was about 3:00 pm and I started thinking about those high temps if I decided to camp down by the Chiricahua Nat. Monument.  I couldn't resist.  I set up camp with no one nearby and only the occasional rumble of a car going down 152.  For once, I was not going to be in a hurry.  I had plenty of water, a couple of cold beers, and some food to cook.  OK, it's that freeze dried camp food from Mountain House, but given my limited space I think I am doing pretty well with my little cook stove.  I set up the tent and it seemed to attract lots of butterflies who didn’t get a meal, but which I got to enjoy.  I made a late lunch, worked on this blog and kicked back listening to the wind blowing through the pines and oaks.

Blog Day 6
White Sands National Park


I woke up and lay there trying to figure out my next steps.  I checked the plugs to see if I had a good spark and whether I had been running lean or rich.  Diagnosis was good spark and lean.  I had had problems with how the fuel injection computer was reading the oxygen sensor, but after talking to Matt over at Megasquirt, he was able to talk me thought that problem.  After that the laptop started giving me good info and I could see the system was running very lean.  I started thinking about that bad gas again.  I went to town to see if there was another fuel filter available, but the only parts store in town was closed.  Too bad, because he had some other manly stuff that looked neat (knives).  I filled up and added more fuel treatment and headed downhill to Alamagordo.  On the way the car started running great.  When I got there I decided to hedge my bets and picked up a couple of spare fuel filters.  I had a burger at the Hi D Ho and headed west again.  



I stopped off at White Sands National Park.  The sand there is from gypsum (think sheetrock) deposits in the mountains that dissolve in rainwater and flow to a basin with no outlet.  Gypsum crystals form and the wind erodes the soft crystals.  This stuff is softer than your fingernails.  The dunes they form aren't as white as snow but they sure can look like ocean waves.  While I was there some long awaited rain arrived.  New Mexico has had its share of wildfires too and it was much needed.  The sand actually feels soft compared to beach sand and kids go sliding down the dunes on saucers (wish I had one!).  The wind began to pick up and I headed out.  On my way to Las Cruces I stopped off at the White Sands missile testing facility.  It was a little too late to go through the museum, but I walked through the rocket park.  It was quite a history from the V2 to the Patriot missile system that had been used to shoot down SCUDs during the Gulf War.  A friend and I were having a discussion the other day and we thought it interesting how certain cultures seem to develop technology as a result of finding a better way to kill each other.  GPS is a wonderful thing that everyone uses these days, but was originally intended to park a missile on the Kremlin's doorstep so to speak.  I got mauled by a couple of big red ants that got into my sandals and thought they did a great job of driving me off with no tech!



I drove through Las Cruces and north to Elephant Buttes State Park to camp for the night.  A nice long shower made me feel much better and gave me the energy to catch up on the blog. Camp is made and it is time to cook.

Blog Day 5

Brantly Lake

The car has been running a little fussy since I left Ft Davis, usually after as long down hill run.  I think I picked up a batch of bad gas.  The guy at the Carlsbad Autozone helped me out with some gas treatment and it seemed to help.  After a warm night of camping at Brantly Lake I headed for the Mecca of all UFO devotees, Roswell!  I got there just before opening and I had to go in and check out the UFO museum.  While they may have no hard evidence, they have an amazing number of sworn affidavits that make you think something must have happened around there that was more than a weather balloon.  I headed west out of Roswell with a six pack of Roswell Alien Amber Ale, while I won't say it's out of this world, it was pretty good.  As I approached Alamagordo the car began to act up again losing power.  I picked up some supplies and more gas treatment and checked out the rocket museum there.  A nice exhibit and well done for a small museum.  It was so hot in Alamagordo that I headed to Cloudcroft 16 miles away and some four thousand plus feet up.  I barely made it.  I found a nice flat spot to work in an empty lot and decided to have it out with the fuel system.  The fuel system won.  I swapped fuel pumps and changed tank pickups to no avail.  I did have one guy stop by who had a friend that had a DeLorean and offered very kindly to tow me if I needed it.  It was just as bad when I finished. I limped to a National Forest campground and tried a few other things as well as calling my support staff in Houston.  (Thanks for trying Owen!)  I was the only one in my end of the campground and the ranger even helped me set up my tent.  It was cool enough the sleeping bag was needed and after actually cooking dinner on my camp stove I was out like a light.

Blog Day 4

Devil's     Hall

I was up and had the car packed early, however I couldn't resist the chance to stick around for Betty's home made blueberry muffins and a home cooked breakfast.  I may have hit the road later than I had planned, but it was worth every minute for such a great meal!  (Yes, I love food, no excuses.)  I went back up through Balmorehea where they have a huge spring fed swimming pool.  The cool water is refreshing in the summer. I hit I-10 I headed west to Van Horn then north on 54 to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home of the highest mountain in Texas, Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet.  I had hiked up it once before and it was late in the day to start that hike as it takes about 6 to 8 hours to do it depending on your condition.  The view at the top is worth it as is the view of El Capitain the adjacent peak if you want to try your luck.  I opted for the Devil's Hall hike.  Someone had nicely left a walking staff behind which I made use of, and fortunately hiking path was shady and there was a cool breeze and not a soul in sight.  The hike took me up a wash to a natural staircase, a quarter mile past that it ended at the Devil's Hall.  This is a narrow slot with vertical walls, worth the sweat, I mean hike.  On the way down, I met a family I had seen at the visitor’s center.  Our late starts made for a very private hike as these were the only people I met.  On my way down I had my first blow out.  The sole of my show came right off! Sometimes you get what you pay for.  I made it to the car and had a light lunch trying to keep off some of those calories I had recently collected, left the staff for the next hiker and headed towards Carlsbad.

Carlsbad Caverns are amazing.  Even though the cave is 95 percent dead (no water bringing in fresh minerals) the place is spectacular.  The scale of the place is amazing.  The main cavern is the size of 14 football fields and even though only a little is growing, the formations are still breathtaking.  I just wish I had been able to get on the private ranger guided tour, but those require reservations...ah well just gives me a reason to return.  I headed north through the town of Carlsbad (new hiking shoes) and camped in Brantly Lake State Park.  This is a nice facility even though the water in the lake is low. The tent is up so I will say goodnight.

Blog Day 3
The 4th of July on the 30th



A knocking on my door woke me up and believe me, I did not want to move.  We moved the car to the parade staging area and started decorating from all the supplies my friends had.  Everybody who wants to be part of it can get in, I think.  Floats, motorcycles, horses, you name it.   We decorated the car and Sherri and I took our spot in the parade line up.  People from miles around show up, as this is one of the big events of the year.  We were tossing candy to the kids and avoiding horse apples (the horses went first).  What can I say but a good time was had by all, from a staged shootout at the bank, to all the food and crafts.  A little siesta was needed and after that I helped my hosts on a few projects around the house.  I didn't make it back to the observatory, but I was thinking of time machines (since I was driving one LOL).  The Yanagisawa family has significant ties to time travel as my now deceased father was instrumental in creating the technology used at the McDonald Observatory.    Telescopes are time machines too.  The further they can see the further in the past they are looking, so I had to take a picture of the car by the Hobby Everly Telescope (HET).  I hope you checked out their website.  Now dark energy...my understanding is this, the astrophysicists have made their calculations and their original theories don't seem to match what is being observed.  The universe is expanding.  The original theories said the expansion would slow down and begin to collapse.  Instead the expansion seems to be accelerating.  It's called "dark energy" because we don't know anything about it (think dark ages).  The HETDEX is an attempt to observe things that happened early in the universe and maybe get a handle on it.  According to more recent modeling, their is much more dark energy than their is of the type we are familiar with.  It should be everywhere!  Don't count on it as an alternative energy source in the next few years though.

After doing a little car maintenance we headed out to the high country on my friend's ranch.  The ladies had packed a picnic dinner and we bounced our way up a newly cut road to a small lake where we enjoyed a cold one and onto Horsetail Falls where we ate dinner.  Reality will be cold and harsh when I have to camp out after this!  The falls only occur after a rain, so they were dry during the visit, but it was neat to see the granite bathtubs that had been carved out over the centuries and water was still in the pool at the base of the falls.  Last year’s drought and wildfires had taken a heavy toll on the vegetation, but it was still beautiful.  It was very peaceful their and Grant told me the story of his meeting with John DeLorean, naturally that caught my interest.  JZD had left GM and had not started the car company yet.  He was promoting Grand Prix USA, which sounds like it was a vitamin fed version of Malibu Gran Prix and was looking for investors.  Grant did a test drive, but it was not the kind of thing he was interested in (and with good reason...anyone ever hear of them?).  We sat on top of an overlook point and had a 360-degree view of the mountains and plains; I pulled out my guitar and provided some entertainment.  Going back down that road at night was an adventure, but much better than the old road.  It's still a work in progress.  Back at the house we were looking at the night sky and using iPads to help us identify stars and planets (yes there are apps for that).  I said my goodnights and walked to my door.  On the way I had a little surprise...think four legs, black with a white stripe.  Pepe LePew wanted nothing to do with me and I felt likewise so we went in opposite directions without further incident.


Blog 2
June 30 2012
 
Fort Davis and The McDonald Observatory

Ft Davis has a close association for my family.  This is the home of McDonald Observatory operated by the University of Texas. Thirty some years ago the director, Harlan Smith asked my father to develop equipment to observe faint stars.  My Dad had helped to develop night vision technology during the Vietnam War and  welcomed the chance to do something that was non-military.  As a result, The Yanagisawa family we has been part of the Board of Visitors at the McDonald Observatory for over 30 years.  Checkout the McDonald Observatory website.  These days everyone has heard of “dark energy” and these people are on the cutting edge of this investigation.  In a year the HETDEX (Hobby Everly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment) should be going on line.

Now I have to say more about my gracious hosts.  (I may stay longer than planned.) I am in Ft Davis tonight. - a place that has played an important role in the history of the investigation of the Universe.  I spent the evening being feted by Ralph, Betty, Grant and Sherri, who drove me out to watch the fireworks and drink Chardonnay. Looks like I will be in the parade tomorrow too.  Celebrations around here are spread out around many communities so everyone can partake.  I may stay here a bit longer given the excellent food, clean sheets, and wonderful company.

A Little Yanagisawa Family History........
Day two started off with a whimper.  I got in the car at 7:00 with the intent to make it to Enchanted Rock State Park by nine.  When I started the car the volt valve meter was sitting on 11 volts, again not good.   I yanked the alternator and bummed a ride from my more than understanding hosts and got the alternator checked out at the nearest Auto zone (no they are not paying me, yet anyway!) where it got the green light. After a call to John at Special T Auto he reminded me that if the battery light did not light before starting then the battery would not charge.  Sure enough, the future of my road trip hung from a filament that was thinner than a thread. (I'm sure there is a moral to this like the sword of Damocles or a chain is no stronger than it's weakest link.)  It turns out that the voltage regulator takes it's measure from the current draw across the low battery light.  I actually knew this, but forgot it under stress.  Sure enough this was due to light giving up the ghost and a new bulb had the system charging.  I was out of New Braunfels around 11 am and on the road.  Once I hit I-10 west of Fredericksburg the speed limit went up to 80 mph and I obeyed it in excess as it were.  I had originally planned to go to Fredricksburg and Enchanted Rock State Park, but the charging issue had put me behind schedule.  I must say that the Museum of the Pacific in Fredericksburg is extensive and takes a couple of days if you don't want to get museum overload.  It is worth all the time you spend there even if it takes you away from the biergartens.  It is a wealth of information of out activity in the Pacific Theater during WWII.  Enchanted Rock is also worth a visit, especially if you line in Texas  (or other places East, as it is the first place you really see the land change (Hill Country) lots of rock climber cut their teeth in this park.  Anyway I headed down I-10 at a high rate of speed and at exit 209 went south through Balmoreagh to Ft Davis.

Blog 1
June 29, 2012
It Begins……


After some fits and starts the day I finally started my trip. I had planned to hit the road earlier in the week, but it was worth staying around for a job fair.   It was the job version of speed dating, four interviews in an hour.  It was interesting to see the different styles various companies have when doing these things.  Some show up with five or six people and interview everybody and anybody interested whereas some show up not quite sure if they need anyone and interested in the right people for whom they will make a slot even if nothing is posted.  Anyway, on the way home I had the battery poop out on me.  Luckily had jumper cables and got it going and home.  By the time I got home, -3 miles later- everything was fine except the air conditioning.   I did a little work, found the problem a missing o-ring and the AC was good to go.  It was disconcerting but ultimately a good thing since it led to fixing the AC –a must for a summer road trip through the Southwest.




I did not get out the door until about noon.  As I was driving away I checked the volt-meter and it was sitting on 10 volts, not good!  I turned the key off and on and everything went back to normal.  Time for some research, but I think I have a relay going flaky on me.   The AC was working great and I headed west on I-10.  Due to the late start, I just did a short hop to New Braunfels to spend a night at a friend’s house where I now sit writing under the shade of some pecan trees sipping on a cold Shiner Wild Hare.  This is a pale ale that is kind of malty with some lighter notes to it.  Readers be warned, I'm an ale/porter/stout kind of guy. Definitely worth buying if I see it in the store.  The early stop let me get a little more organized since instead of worrying what to take, I was organizing what I had.  It has also given me some time to do a little research to figure out where to stop on my way out to Ft. Davis and McDonald observatory, my first big stop


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