Monday, May 28, 2012

Lemoore Naval Air Station, CA - Monterey, CA (May 28, 2012)

Memorial Day usually has a lot of traffic and we did encounter quite a bit on I-5, but it wasn't too bad.  The 166 mile 3 1/2 trip went without incident and we arrived at the Naval Post Graduate School RV Park just a bit after noon. The park is located off the main campus and is adjacent to the Schools golf course. A very nice park in a beautiful town.

What will be visiting while here? Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lemoore, California (May 23-28, 2012)

Our main purpose coming to Lemoore, CA was to establish a base for some day trips through the Sequoia National Forest. Once we had the truck and RV cleaned we packed up everyone on the next day and headed up the mountains to see the giant redwoods in the Sequoia National Park. Another task we had hoped to accomplish was to get to the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states so we could say we have been to the lowest point and stood next to the highest point. We soon found that would not be possible due to it's remoteness. Well, we did see it and made it to about 25 miles, as the crow flies, to its peak.

The giant redwoods in this part of the forest only grow between 5,500 and 7,000 feet above sea level so we had some climbing to do and that we did. Quite often the access road was so narrow two large vehicles would be hard pressed to pass one another. One section of the road had major construction and it was closed to two-way traffic so we had to wait almost an hour for the road to open in our direction. Once moving we saw the construction was on a cliff side bridge that had collapsed and the construction crew was rebuilding it.  Another white knuckle drive. With that passed we resumed our ascent into the park.

Our first sighting of a Sequoia was eye-popping to Joyce and the boys. I had been on this tour before, but it was still an amazing sight to see these majestic specimens. The boys were the ones awed the most, though.  They could not keep their eyes off of them and they kept looking up to see the tops which were almost out of sight, but wait everyone, these are the small ones and the bigger ones are yet to come.

 The main road through the park, Rt 198 and also known as The General's Highway, follows to ridge line of the mountains at the elevations the trees grow in. There were many stops along this road where these giants offered the perfect opportunity to take pictures and just wander through the groves in awe. At times we would just sit a gaze while listening to the quietness interrupted once in a while by a car or a deer. Peaceful.

We had spent quite a bit of time in the park so we started to head back home for we did not want to be in the mountains when it got dark.  Believe me, the ride down the mountains, in the daylight, was just as nerve wracking as the trip up, maybe even more.  It was a wonderful day touring these wonders of the earth, but a good stiff drink, once safely in my easy chair, culminated the experience.

Holy Crap, Rosco!! Do you see the size of that tree?  Hope your bladder's full.

Some of the smaller Sequoias. Notice Joyce and the boys at the base of the tree.

Rosco looking for the giant squirrels that must live in this giant tree.  Hope he doesn't find one.

Whew, Rosco.  I'm empty. You?

"The Sentinel Tree".  It is 28' wide, 36' around, 2200 years old and 237' high. Notice the person at its base. This tree is an average Sequoia. The big ones are deeper in the forest.

After a day of rest we started out exploring again.  This day we headed south of the Sequoia National Park into the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest. Our route took us through Springville, CA on Rt. 190 and along one of the branches of the Tule River. This road was not much different than the ride into the Park, except it was windier and not as well kept. To exasperate the drive, the weather turned very cold and the fog and mist set in. Man, am I a sucker for this or what?

All-in-all the drive was good, but very slow. Not only did we run into fog and mist, but as we climbed higher we ran into snow. Luckily, it was not sticking to the roads and once over a mountain we ran out of it.  We did stop, though, and let the boys play in it for a while.  Wow! Big trees and now snow.  I think they love this place. There were many beautiful sights to see on this tour and we are glad we did it.  Just got to make sure I am hyped up for them, though. Narrow mountain roads are starting to not be my best places to be, especially when the traffic behind you wants to do well over the speed limit. Did a lot of pulling over.

Tomorrow we will do some shopping at some of the local farms and restock our pantry and fridge in preparation for our move the next day.  This part of our journey will bring us to Monterey, California where we will spend a week touring the California Coastal Highway and the towns and places along this beautiful part of the country.

Tule River Canyon Road
Yuccas on the mountainside
Man, it is getting cold out there.

Uh, oh! Not good.
Now snow?  Definitely not good.
No s*** Shakespeare.

Pretty though.


OK.  This is fun.

The Kern River Valley in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

North Las Vegas, Nevada-Edwards Air Force Base, California-Lemoore Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California (May 22-23, 2012)

Our next destination was the Lemoore Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California located in the very fertile San Joaquin Valley. The 420 mile journey was a bit more than we wanted to travel in one day so we decided to stay one night at the Edwards Air Force Base RV Park and then finish our trek the next day.

The 225 mile journey to Edwards Air Force Base in California took us a bit over 4 hours and brought us through the lower part of the Mojave Desert which was some of the most desolate country we have traveled through yet. It reminded me of the massive deserts in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Sun, sand, but no surf.

Edwards AFB occupies a very large area and is the home of several important missions including the Air Force Test Center where they train test pilots and test new aircraft.  This is where Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 and is, also, where NASA's alternate landing destination was for the space shuttle. Would liked to have spent more time here, but a schedule is now preventing us from doing so.

The next morning we began our final 195 mile leg to Lemoore NAS. The day was clear, but the wind was quickly picking up and we hurried to get on the road as soon as possible. By the time we departed the base and got back on Highway 58 the wind was gusting so hard as to move our trailer sideways on the road. I slowed to a crawl (<40 MPH), but that was not helping much. We had barely gone 15 miles when we had to pull over.  The wind was gusting so hard even the big 18 wheel trucks were pulling over.

We sat beside the road for a while listening to a local Mojave City radio station when we heard that the Santa Anna winds had suddenly come up overnight and were now gusting up to 80 MPH. Most traffic on the highway was not stopped so went hunkered down for a bit hoping the wind would abate. If it did, even for a short while, we would be able to make it the 17-20 miles to the Tehachapi Pass on Highway 58. We heard ony the radio station the winds were not bad there due to the mountains blocking them. We waited another few minutes and, all of a sudden, there was no wind at all.  Taking the opportunity, we started out for the pass which we could see from our parked position. It took us about 20 minutes to get there and as we did the winds started to pick up again. Once we were in the pass behind the mountains all became quite.  It was still breezy with 15-20 MPH winds, but we and the other large trucks could handle that. While driving up the pass we both had flashbacks of our horrible experience in Deming, New Mexico.

The remainder of the ride to Lemoore was without incident. We set up and inspected the truck and trailer only to find that the wind had driven the sand and dust into every crack and crevice there was.  Looks like tomorrow will be a cleaning and maintenance day.  This, hopefully, is the last of the desert environment we will see for a long time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Las Vegas, Nevada (May 1, 2012- May 22, 2012)

Our temporary home for the next three weeks is Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Nellis is the home of the Air Force's famed Air Demonstration Squadron, the"Thunderbirds". Its RV Park, the Desert Eagle RV Park, is one of the prettiest and well kept military parks we have been to so far. It had everything one needs to include a very large, "grassy", fenced-in dog park.  Guinness, Rosco and we are going to enjoy this as much as we can.  Guinness and Rosco, especially, likes the grassy part.  It had been so long since they have had grass to do their business on.  They are in heaven, but first-things-first.

When we arrived on May 1st, we had to scramble to save the food in the refrigerator from going bad. With that problem in hand we pulled out the the next morning for the local Camping World. Naturally, it was on the opposite side of the city so it took a while to get there, but once there the serviceman found the refrigerator was down for the count.  A repair would take 3-4 days with one year warranty, but a new one would only take several hours with a three year warranty. The price difference would be about $300.  New One, Please!

We dropped the trailer and headed out to the Vegas Strip to re-familiarize ourselves with the city.  It had been almost two decades since we had been there together and that was when we got married.  More to come on that.  Anyway, the Boys had never experienced the thrill of this city and did they ever.  Just riding up and down the Strip several times their eyes were glued to everything that was going on outside. They certainly did enjoy it.

With a new refrigerator we now found our food stuff was much colder than we had before.  That's good.  We, finally, got settled in and spent the rest of the late afternoon at the doggie park and lounging around the RV.  Not the way I would like to have spent my birthday, but what the heck, it's really just another point in one's life and I have done enough celebrating my birthday in the past.  These days a simple "Thank You, from above" suffices for us perfectly.

The next entire week we spent catching up on email, sorting pictures, resting and re-organizing the RV for the next leg of our journey across America. In the second week we started to do some sightseeing in town. Like I mentioned earlier, we had been here before, but the whole town has had several major facelifts since then and it seems to be twice the size.

We started mid-morning walking the Strip and going through each casino.  That is a major effort in itself since there are so many of them. It took us two days to accomplish this.  Neither of us gamble so we did not stay long at each one, just long enough to take in their individual motifs. We enjoyed this very much for, at least, half of them were built since our last visit. I will not bore you with lots of pictures for I could not decide which ones to post.  I took well over 700 pictures in and out of the hotel/casinos along the Strip. Go there to see it for yourself.  This city has something for everyone and it is extremely family friendly. Not so dog friendly, though.  Seems the panhandlers, which were everywhere, ruined it for everyone else. This article explains it. Click on the following link: Animals Banned From Vegas Strip.

Our next excursion was with our Boys and it was into Death Valley National Park. The park is about 150 miles from where we were staying so we started out very early. It was a scenic, but desolate ride.  There were many stopping points and we did, sort of, a loop through the park. We and, especially, the boys were amazed at each stop with the different smells in the sand.  Lots of borax and salt along with other strange smells they had not experienced before.  They enjoy these explorations as much as we do.  They now can say the stood in the lowest point of elevation in North America, Badwater Basin, 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level.

On the way back to the park we took US 95 which took as legally close as we could come to Area 51.  Sorry, no extraterrestrial sightings.  All-in-all our day trip was about 370 miles and took us over 9 hours.  Tiring, but awesome day.

Notice the elevation....-190 feet below sea level.

Harmony Borax Works remains.

Salt from an evaporated lake.  Extremely salty.

Dry salt lake bed.

Leaving Death Valley

No comment needed.

Our last week in Las Vegas was doing maintenance on the RV and truck, mainly the truck. While traveling between Green River, Utah and St. George, Utah we noticed the front disc brakes chattering and fading a lot during the steep and very long descent of the the San Rafael Swell. Neither the brakes nor rotors had been changed since we purchased the truck in 2006 so it was time.

I inspected all four wheels while doing an oil change and lube at the airbase auto craft shop and found the rear brakes and rotors in very good condition, however, the front brakes and rotors were not. I went to a local truck accessory shop and found a pair of rotors, drilled and slotted, that many RVers used for their trucks in these mountainous areas. The brakes they suggested were ceramic mixed composite disc pads designed for heavy duty use. Since we had a lot of hills/mountains to go up and down before we returned to Georgia I figured this would suit our purpose. Once installed, I immediately felt the difference.  Good advice.  OK Rocky Mountains, here we come.

Just before we moved on, we decided to go into town late and visit the original casino area, Fremont Street.  It was a circus and free, except for the reasonable parking fee. A must see stop. From there we moved on to the Strip and the Rio Hotel/Casino to partake in their buffet and a show, The Rat Pack is Back. Needless to say the buffet was more than awesome (never again though, no self restraint) and the show was spectacular. Here is a link to a promo video: The Rat Pack is Back.
The video does not compare to the actual show and the group impersonates the originals so well you think you are watching them 60 years ago. Highly recommend this show.

Ok, one more visit to town.  Several decades ago Joyce and I flew from Baltimore, Maryland to Las Vegas, Nevada on a Friday morning for a four day stay. We had a purpose for the trip and it was not gambling. We arrived in the morning after a long delay in Cincinnati, Ohio due to aircraft maintenace problems.  With the aircraft fixed we continued our flight to Vegas. The route took us over the Grand Canyon and the pilot got permission to fly low. We, actually, flew below the rim of the canyon for a brief time and we could see, very clearly, rafters on the Colorado River, He banked the plane from side to side for everyone to see.  That was exciting, but once we came back up to approach altitude, we started to experience turbulence. Extreme turbulence.  The day was clear and very warm, so the thermals and high winds were play havoc on our landing. The last few minutes were very nail biting, but obviously, we landed safely, thank God.

We had a rental convertible waiting for us and drove to our hotel, the Luxor, and checked in. It had been recently rehabbed and it was stunning. We were like kids in Candy Land.  So much to see and do, but we had a mission. We got back into our rental car and drove into the town center to the Clark County Courthouse where we we parked and found the line waiting to get in.  This line was comprised of all kinds of folks in all kinds of attire.  Many had tuxedos and wedding dresses on, for you see, this was the line to getting a marriage license. It took about two hours, but we finally had our turn and obtained our license. Back to the hotel for a walkabout.

The next day, June 20th (first day of summer) we got our fancy duds on and made the short trip to the chapel.  We had chose the first and oldest wedding chapel in Vegas, the Little Church of the West. It was only a bit after 9 AM and it was already over 90F. No problem, at least not yet.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by the chapel staff and brought to a room to make sure we were prepared for the ceremony.  Joyce was primped and given the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and I was primped to make sure I was photogenic. Our march down the aisle began exactly on time and the Reverend (a real one) performed the beautiful ceremony. Afterwards they took many pictures and we went on our way. It was, actually, a wonderful, memorable experience. So, yes, we have a close tie to this city.

The church has since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and will, forever we hope, be preserved.

Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format.

Tomorrow we will make our final trek west before we start heading north. From here we will travel through the Mojave Desert for a one night stay between Barstow and Bakersfield, California at Edwards Air Force Base's RV Park and then onto the Lemoore Naval Air Station RV Park in Lemoore, California. Hopefully, that will be the last of the desert we will experience for a long while.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hurricane/St. George, Utah-North Las Vegas, Nevada (May 1, 2012)

Short and easy 2.5 hour/130 mile trip to the Nellis AFB RV Park in North Las Vegas, NV. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry and did not get to enjoy the scenery to much, although, it was mostly barren desert all the way. Seems our refrigerator was on the blink.

When we got up this morning we noticed the fridge was not quite as cold as it had been. By the time we had packed up and  ready to go it was getting very warm. By the time we arrived at the Nellis RV Park things were defrosted in the freezer. We immediately went to the PX and bought several styrofoam coolers and packed our food in them to keep them from going bad.  The temperature was in the low 90s and the fridge, now, was not working at all and it had an ammonia odor to it. Not good.

We called the local Camping World and they said they would look at it the next morning. OK. Nothing else we can do until tomorrow but eat out our frozen foods.  BBQ tonight.