Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Days 84 to 92, Tuesday, October 27, to Wednesday, November 4, 2009: In Coarsegold:
Supposedly, Coarsegold is “near” Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, and Sequoia National Forest. We’ve visited each of them individually this week. (The round trip to Kings Canyon alone was 275 miles.) Interestingly, when you go to Sequoia National Park from this side, you first enter Kings Canyon NP for a few miles, the go through the Sequoia National Forest, for several miles, and only then enter Sequoia NP. In Sequoia NP, they are doing road repairs, and there are half-hour waits at a few places. Not a lot of fun, but they give you fair warning. In any event, the trips were very worthwhile. The views in Kings Canyon are breathtaking,
and the trees in Sequoia are immense and fascinating. (The General Sherman tree, the largest in the world, is as tall as the Statue of Liberty---including its pedestal.)
We had dinner in Mariposa with one of Becky’s UCSB Delta Gamma sorority sisters
and her husband---Cathy and Doug Chappell. They own and operate a vineyard and winery.
Not coincidently, their label is their last name. They have a tasting room in the town of Mariposa and their home (with its connected 32-acre vineyard) is about five miles outside of town. This area is best known for red wines. So, a case of Chappell cabernet sauvignon was added to our wine cabinet. On Saturday morning, Becky and Pat headed off to Yosemite National Park.
It was a 160 mile round-trip drive. They visited the Wawona Hotel and the usual suspects on the valley floor (Half Dome, El Capitan, Ahwahnee Hotel, Visitor Center, etc.), hiked to the top of Vernal Falls,
and said hello to a former Grand Canyon employee who works for Delaware North’s Camp Curry operation. Bill and Richard spent the day watching college football. Unfortunately, but predictably, both Michigan and UCLA lost. But, on the plus side, USC was thrashed by Oregon State. On Sunday, the four of us went to Fresno and took a 16-mile spin on its wonderful bike paths (and those of its neighbor, Clovis). There are several spots where you cross a busy street. There are signs that alert you to the fact that the traffic on the crossing street does not stop for bike riders. In fact, the locals were very courteous and everyone stopped to let us cross. It was remarkable, and welcome.

Day 83, Monday, October 26, 2009: Leaving Acton, California:
Today we broke camp and headed for the Park of the Sierra Escapees park in Coarsegold, California. The park is beautiful and we have a magnificent site. The trip here was memorable only because of the climb up and down the “grapevine”---it seemed as though every truck in the tri-state area was on that road today.

Days 74 to 82, Sunday, October 18, through Sunday, October 25, 2009: In Acton, California:
Part of this week was spent going to Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and Acton to shop for various items of mundane stuff (e.g., Bill had the brakes on his car re-done). The highlights, though, were: (i) A trip to the William S. Hart Park in Newhall for a picnic and tour of his home—a beautiful ‘20s Spanish house located at the top of the hill overlooking the park and the entire valley;

(ii) A trip to Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library---a beautiful facility located on a mountaintop, and a terrific tour down memory lane (I attended his first inaugural in 1981);
and (iii) A trip to Los Angeles to show Bill and Pat our Las Palmas home (which was also the house in which Josh Groban grew up after we sold it to his parents in 1984), our Pasadena home (which we soon discovered is now for sale), our Los Feliz home (which is still owned by the chap to whom we sold it in 1998), the Rose Bowl and its environs, Union Station, and Olvera Street, and we had lunch at Philippe’s, a Los Angeles landmark French dip sandwich place. The four of us had dinner (Mexican) that same evening in Pasadena with Becky’s father, two of her sisters, one of her brothers, and Barbara Coad.

Day 73, Saturday, October 17, 2009: Leaving Mohave Valley, Arizona:
We all headed for the Soledad Canyon Thousand Trails preserve outside Acton, California, this morning. As expected, the price of diesel skyrocketed since we were in California. At Thousand Trails, you select a site, rather than being assigned one. We were informed that several of the sites had electrical problems and that we needed to test the power at a site before we settled in. At one tentative site, one neighbor said the power was OK, but another neighbor said it was bad. We moved on to other sites. We finally found two adjacent sites that were perfect for us.

We were also told that the proximity of the preserve to the Angeles National Forest meant that the local water was unsafe to drink because of the recent fire that had raged in the forest. In theory, we had to boil water for cooking and drinking for the duration of our stay. In fact, we used bottled water for both activities, so we did not need to boil anything.

Day 72, Friday, October 16, 2009: In Mohave Valley, Arizona:
Today was our time to visit the “real” Laughlin, Nevada, with the Wheelers---about a 50-mile round trip. We had a nice lunch at a Mexican restaurant--- connected to one of the casinos, naturally. Then we all took afternoon naps. It’s such hard work being retired.

Day 71, Thursday, October 15, 2009: In Mohave Valley, Arizona:
We realized it would be hot today (big surprise) so we went for a 9+ mile bike ride early in the morning---ending up at the Avi Hotel and Casino for what turned out to be a 99-cent breakfast (for each of us, not all of us). We didn’t technically qualify, since we weren’t staying at the hotel, but they gave it to us, anyway. Bill Wheeler is one hell of a salesman. The Avi is officially in Laughlin, Nevada, just across the Colorado River from the metropolis where we are staying, but in reality it’s in the middle of nowhere, about 15 miles from the rest of Laughlin. Just as we were riding back into our RV park, Pat’s front tire blew, so we had to make a trip into Bullhead City to get a replacement. For what is not much of a city, it seems to go on for miles. This afternoon, we travelled to nearby (30 mile round trip) Oatman, an old mining town that was on Route 66 until the highway was rerouted in 1952. It’s still operating as a tourist attraction---there are friendly burros wandering freely in the street.

Besides the burros, there are T-shirt shops, ice cream stores, and a few bars. There is also a relic of a hotel where Carole Lombard and Clark Gable spent their honeymoon in 1939. Tonight we just relaxed.

Day 70, Wednesday, October 14, 2009: Leaving Williams, Arizona:We left this morning for California (near Bullhead City). The drive was interesting, because we followed some instructions that were not the best. But we prevailed and arrived at a nice RV park in Mohave Valley in mid-afternoon. The Wheelers were parked right next to us, as usual.

Day 69, Tuesday, October 13, 2009: In Williams, Arizona:Daisy had a follow-up blood test. When she had her teeth cleaned in July, the vet said that her blood work had some elevated levels. All is well and blood levels are within normal limits. We relaxed after the flood of activity with the relatives.

Day 68, Monday, October 12, 2009: Back to Williams, Arizona:
This morning, with our rigs, Bill and I headed back to Williams. On the way, I stopped at The Grand Hotel to say hello to Ana and the rest of the gang. They seem to be able to operate the hotel without me. I guess I'm not indispensible. This time, we stayed at the GC Railway RV park instead of the Railside RV Ranch. That day, Becky took a picture of a fabulous rainbow. (The rig in the picture belongs to Larry and Claudette.)

The girls took Barbara with them by car, with a side trip to Flagstaff for whatever they needed to do. (We didn’t ask, but it was volunteered that they took a tour of the lava tubes near Flagstaff.) At 9:00 PM, I put Barbara on the shuttle for the ten-minute ride from the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel to Williams Junction, in the middle of the forest outside Williams, to get her back on the train for LA.

Day 67, Sunday, October 11, 2009: At the South Rim:
The reunions started at about noon. Everyone was exhausted but elated. Emily, who had been scared into not wanting to go on the mule ride, ended up having a great time (and, we found out Monday night, also somehow picked up the swine flu in recent days). The nine of us rested up and had a going-away dinner at El Tovar that night. All was delightful.

Day 66, Saturday, October 10, 2009: At the South Rim:
Pat and Becky left at 6:00 AM, hiking down the South Kaibab Trail toward Phantom Ranch---at the bottom of the canyon.
Bill and I met the rest of the gang for breakfast at 7:00 AM at the Bright Angel Lodge. At 8:00 AM they all gathered at the corral to meet the mules and get their instructions from the head wrangler.

They finally headed down the Bright Angel Trail at 9:00 AM. Since no one would be returning until about noon on Sunday, Bill and I settled in at my trailer for a day filled with football, chips and dips, and beer. All of our favorite teams lost. The mule riders arrived at the canyon bottom at about 3:00PM.

The mule and hiker gang met at Phantom Ranch for the overnight.

Day 65, Friday, October 9, 2009: At the South Rim:
Today was arrival day for the Phantom Ranch gang. Barbara Coad had arrived in Williams by Amtrak from Los Angeles at 4:30 AM, and had taken the shuttle from Williams to the South Rim, arriving at Maswik Lodge at about 9:30 AM. She was booked into the Bright Angel Lodge, but it was too early for her room to be ready, so Becky picked her up and we spent a few hours at our trailer, catching up. Donna, David, Meghan, and Emily arrived by car from Park City right on time at 5:00 PM.
Some Los Angeles friends of Barbara’s (the Espinozas---with their two daughters) had come with her on the train, and they joined the rest of us for dinner at The Arizona Room in the Bright Angel Lodge.
Somehow, Becky found out that the two senior Espinozas had gone to the same high school I had, so I had to break out in song---our alma mater. Strangely, I was the only one who remembered it. (“From the valley’s purple mountains to the golden tinted plain, from the Padre’s sacred fountains reaching to the bounding main, stands our noble alma mater, stands the high school that we love, and our noble aspirations are inspired by Heaven above, etc., etc.”) It comes with senility, I guess.

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