Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cambria, California

The area around the Hearst Castle has a lot to offer in its own right.
Following our tour of the Castle we spent a couple more days exploring
the local area and its special sights.

On Saturday morning we took a tour of the Point Piedras Blanca Lighthouse.

First lit in 1875 it has been guarding the point since then.
Damaged in 1948 by an earthquake 6 miles off of the point - the upper light and
several floors were removed to lessen the weight on the foundation.

A smaller - but just as powerful light atop the lighthouse continues to function
and provide its nautical duties.

Looking North from the lighthouse - you can see Big Sur some 50 miles distant.

Looking up the stairs from below.
We were not allowed to climb the stairs due to safety concerns.

Just about a mile south of the Lighhouse is the Piedras Blanca Elephant Seal Rookery,
the largest on the West Coast.

Over 25,000 Elephant seals call this beach home at one point or another.

This time of year was mostly molting seals.  They are losing thier fur coat
for the new one underneath.

Below two seals discuss beach politics.

West coast sunsets are always nice since the sun is setting over the ocean.

Sunday kept us closer to home and we explored Cambria.
They have a nice boardwalk along the ocean so we took the dogs along
for the walk among the wildflowers.

Ever present along the coast, we spotted a couple of seals swimming in
a calmer area inside of the surf line.

These beautiful purple flowers were everywhere.  As best I can tell they
are called the Pride of Maderia.

The oceanfront boardwalk weaved among the twisted Cypress Trees
which provided a nice windbreak to the strong Pacific Ocean winds behind them.

Tomorrow morning its time to say Goodbye to Ron, Maxine, and the coast.
We have a deadline on Thursday in Walla Walla Washington about 900 miles north of here.

The Map below shows our next 4 days travels.

So tomorrow we'll head about 8hrs north to Red Bluff, Ca.

Then Tuesday another 5hrs or so to a State Park outside of Bend, Or.

Weds we have a few hours to an Army Corps campground on the
Columbia River in Washington.

And finally Thursday a short hour or so drive to Walla Walla where we will
shut down for 4 days and drink some wine with friends.

After Walla Walla, I'm off to a state park in Wenatchee Wa for a week or
two while Kate flys to Chicago and visits with a friend.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hearst Castle

We left you last in Las Vegas.
On Monday I picked up the custom brace for my knee and I am
pleased to say that while I was skeptical - it has made quite a difference.

I was on my feet all day yesterday and almost no pain.

Before we left Vegas I figured we'd bring the Doodles one more time to the pet wash.
I had never been there so I wanted it give it a try.

After the wash and dry - another brushing and combing.
 Then I gave them another haircut.

This is before the haircut.
They are super soft and fluffy now.

While in Vegas we took a day trip out to Lake Mead NRA and I picked up
my long anticipated Geezer Pass.   The lifetime Senior National Parks Pass.
So I guess I am officially a Geezer now.

I'd also been having some trouble with the water softener all winter.
It was not providing as much - or as soft - a water as it had been previously.

I had suspected rust fouling of the resin bed, so I had been using rust out powder the last several
regens  in an attempt to clean the resin of the rust.

While it improved the softening a bit - it was still not acceptable so I finally  decided to
replace the resin with a new bag that I had purchased from the manufacturer.

As soon as I started to remove the old resin from the tank I knew it was a smart decision.

Below you can see the new resin on the left and the old on the right.

The resin was completely coated with Iron as you can see and is a dark amber color.
The new resin is a light gold color.

After replacing the resin the softener is back up to snuff.
I think going forward I shall use a spoonful of rust out each regen as a preventative.

On Tuesday we packed up and headed back west to the Pacific coast.
Our destination was San Simeon State Park in Cambria, California.
We met Ron & Maxine here.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Hearst Castle,.
It was built by Newpaper Magnate William Randolph Hearst, starting in 1919 
and was never completely finished.
Construction was halted in 1947.

All I can say is Wow!!

Riding the bus up the 5 mile driveway you ascend 1,600' above the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way you get glimpses of the castle on its Mountain Top Perch.

Ascending some stairs from the bus stop we saw this beautiful home which I first thought
was the castle but learned it was only one of the several guest houses on the estate.

This guest house was used in the movie Spartacus.

Turning around - behind us was the "Neptune Pool" currently drained for repairs.
The temple in the center is a 2,000 yr old Roman Temple that was moved from Europe and
reassembled here piece by piece.

Continuing on our tour we climb some more steps and the Main house (Casa Grande)
dominates the view.

A focal point throughout the buildings and grounds of this estate are the thousands of artifacts.
WR Hearst was a prolific collector and his massive collection remains today
just as when he occupied the Castle.

Walking the grounds you will see objects as old and rare as 3,500yr old Egyptian Statues.

Entering through the Castles main entry leads you to the reception room.
It was here that guests would gather for a 7pm happy hour, surrounded by
16th century Tapestries from Europe.

At 9pm dinner was served in the Main dining room.
Mr Hearst would sit in the middle of the table rather than at the head.  
When asked why he replied:  "anywhere that I sit is the head of the table"

800 year old ceilings throughout the castle were purchased and removed from the
Great Halls of Europe and the rooms here were built specifically to accommodate the ceilings.

One of the two tables in the billiard room, again surrounded by 16th century tapestries.

A tapestry behind one of the pool tables.

There are numerous tours that cover different areas of the house.
Our first tour was the Great Room Tour.
Next time we'l like to see some of the more personal areas of the house.

Perhaps my favorite part of this visit however was simply walking the grounds.
After the tour concludes you are free to wander, and our visit was perfectly timed
for the spring flowers that were on display.

As we strolled about the air was filled with the scent of Rose and Jasmine.

A panoramic view showing a guest house (center) with the Pacific to the left of the
guest house, and the steps to the main entrance to the Castle to the right.

A better view of the Pacific Ocean, 1,600' below the guest house patio.
Not a bad place for a guest house!

The blooms were everywhere.

There were many activities that guests would enjoy when visiting.
A movie theatre, and a Zoo complete with exotic animals were just a couple of diversions
that one could partake in.

A heated indoor pool was located below the Tennis Courts.

Gold inlaid tiles adorned the floors and walls.
A true Gentleman could not expect to swim in anything less after all.

After our visit to the Castle we headed back down the mountain to take in the salt air.
The Central California coast is quite beautiful and in many spots has a feel to me
much like the Oregon Coast.

Heading back to camp we stopped to view this herd of Zebras grazing in the field.
These are descendants of the herd that used to be part of the Zoo that was on the grounds
of the Castle.

This afternoon we took a trip south for a couple of hours to visit Morrow Bay, Ca.

It was a good day for the surfers and they were out braving the cool waters.

We stopped for a seafood lunch along the picturesque waterfront.
Eating my Halibut brought back memories of our Alaskan Trip, and kindled
a renewed urge to go back.

Photo by Kate

A pair of sea lions were lounging on the rocks outside of our lunch stop.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the Cambria Farmers Market.
The produce was fresh fresh fresh.  
Most looked as if it had been picked only hours earlier.

 Back at camp its late Friday and the weekenders are starting to arrive.
This is a dry campground - no utilities - and its been real quiet here with the sites
only about 20% filled.
Now the folks are arriving with their generators so we'll see how quiet it remains.

Fortunately the generator hours are 10am to 8pm (and enforced) so there will be no all night
running for CPAP machines like there sometimes is out in the desert.

Tomorrow we have an AM lighthouse tour, visits to Sea Lion areas, and more
activities but they will have to wait till the next blog.

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Another good-bye

Since leaving Grand Canyon we have traveled south thru
Arizona and into California to San Diego.

Our first stop was Buckskin Mountain State Park.
You may recall that we were here earlier this year before Quartzsite.

While here we celebrated my birthday.
I have finally qualified for my "Geezer Pass"  the $10 lifetime
Senior Parks pass.   I hope to get many years of good use from it
when we are somewhere that I can purchase it.

The group greeting me the morning of my birthday.

After Buckskin, we headed south to Imperial Sand Dunes in California.
We had planned to boondock the night there but a storm was coming in from the coast
so once we arrived there we decided to move onward to our final destination - San Diego.

One of our highlights was a visit and self guided tour of the USS Midway.

Looking down this passageway (they are not called hallways on ships)
has that "Get Smart" effect...  (remember the TV Show?)

When the retired Chief Petty Officer who was the tour guide in the engine room learned
that I served in the Navy - he opened up some restricted areas of the engine room
and gave us a special tour.

Up on the flight deck, the girls practiced giving the launch signal.

 While in San Diego we had Raclette one night.
Raclette is a Swiss meal of assorted vegetables, meats, and
melted Raclette Cheese.

We had it while visiting Switzerland last year and bought ourselves the proper
machine to prepare it here.    Finding Raclette cheese can prove to be challenging
at times but I've found that Whole Foods usually has it.

We also visited Sea World San Diego while here.

We took one of the rides that gave us a good soaking.

Dolphins peer over the edge of the pool

A Beluga Whale

We stayed at the Chula Vista RV Resort on the shore of San Diego Bay.
It was a very nice park in a great location.

This was the view behind our bus.

While here I decided to make some Pancakes for the girls.
Simple Buisquick Pancakes...  put some water in the jar, shake, and cook.

While shaking the jar - I got a bit to enthusiastic and all of a sudden the screwed on cap
poped off and the contents spewed all over me, the microwave, the stove, and elsewhere.

The girls got a good laugh out of my unintended antics.

On Weds night we went out to the Gaslight District of San Deigo for a
final farewell dinner.

The district is full of great restaurants and the streets come alive at night.

By day

By night

Michaela had picked out a great restaurant - The Greystone Steak House.
Wagyu Beef is served for $20/oz.  A 16oz steak is $320.

Needless to say I went with the US 21 day aged Prime NY Strip
and still had a terrific meal at a more realistic price point.

After Dinner....


 On Thursday morning it was time for sad good-byes.
Its always sad to say good-bye to our traveling companions but this time
was especially hard.

We have seen a lot and shared some amazing sights over the past 7 weeks.
 One thing I will always remember will be the sight of Marcels face when
he saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, only to be repeated later by
Michaela and the girls when they arrived at the rim.

The map below shows our track over the past 7 weeks starting in Riverside, Ca
and ending in San Diego.

2400 miles of some of the best the Southwest US has to offer.

After saying good-bye we headed north east back to Las Vegas.
We are here so that I can pick up a custom brace that was made for my knee.
This brace will hopefully delay the inevitable knee replacement that is down the road.

We are back at the LV Motorcoach resort thru Monday.
On Tuesday we will head back north west to the California coast
where we will meet up with Ron & Maxine for 5 days.

After that we are headed north - eventually to Walla Walla Washington for
our annual spring release wine weekend.

We are sad to say goodbye to our Swiss friends but as Marcel said - "after the trip
is before the trip"   There will be more adventures down the road.