Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fresno Fun??

Fresno, as it turns out, is just as bad as people told us it would be. However...the BB's brakes checked out fine so today we went to Sequoia National Park. In all honesty, it was beautiful but very much like every other park we have been to in Cailfornia. Lots of big pines, big granite mountains, big hills to drive up and down! Very pretty drive there but it took almost two hours to drive the "50" miles "they" say it is from Fresno to Sequoia.

We did a nice hike along a river that was in the valley between two large granite peaks and eventually lead to a waterfall. The hike was about 3.5 miles round trip. I can only imagine how great this fall would be in the spring, as it is 1200 feet high! Not a whole lot of water at this time of year. Enough to create a vision, anyway...

We did see the huge sequoias. Tough trees....they are disease and insect resistant. Even fire resistant. They grow like weeds. But they have one fault...shallow root systems. So when they get too big, they simply topple.

Jeff doing his bench press

On the way out we drove by these monsters. As a reference, I included the person and car in the photo...
And this isn't even a "big" one!

Back at the BP, Jeff made a fine dinner of pasta and sauce. We will head to the west coast tommorrow. Probably end up around San Louis Obispo. I am really looking forward to SHORE in place of MOUNTAINS. Not that I don't like the views, just tired of the driving. Time to walk the beach, smell the salt and sea spray!
Pretty Bird!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back in Civilazation

We have been completely out of touch since leaving for Yosemite Tuesday morning. A little less than 3 days....seems like 3 weeks. So I will back up to Monday night when we finished off our tour of Lodi and got out to one of several local Sandhill Crane Refuge's and saw the big birds coming in for the night. There were hundreds on the ground and hundreds still flying in. And like I said, this was just one spot (of about 4 in the Lodi area). Impressive...

Tuesday, we did not really hurry as the trip to Groveland (the town we would be camping in) was only about 120 miles from Lodi. I called in the morning to assure a spot at Yosemite Pines campground and carefully looked at the route, comparing it to our handy-dandy book that lists any roads with height/weight restrictions or any that are deemed big-rig "unfriendly" (big grades, winding roads, etc...). The initial hour and a half went fine. We actually were traveling through what appeared to be a hilly version of Kansas. All gold meadows and vast fields. That came to an abrupt halt right around Chinese Camp (actual town name). We started up the "preferred" route to Groveland which is Hwy 120, avoiding the notoriously bad Hwy 49 and any other passes listed in our bible. Well....lets just say this. Both Jeff and I had to down scotch by the time we got to Groveland and the BB was STEAMING hot! This "highway" was A) under construction, B) wound up the mountain like a Z, C) had no guardrails and was narrow and D) had at least an 8 percent uphill grade for 6 miles!!! By the time we got to the campground , Jeff,I and BB were all groaning. I then proceeded to completely melt-down on the owner, and basically told her she could have WARNED us as she knew we had a large fifth-wheel. Her response was....tour buses and large RV's make it up all the time no problem. OK. So I am a pussy. I admit it. I was literally scared to death and Jeff was not to happy having driven this hellish road. Needless to say, the campsites were small, sloped and difficult to navigate (which prompted a second rampage on office lady). Anyway....we did get settled in. I think it was probably 6 or 7 by then, so we had a good dinner and were in bed by maybe 9.

Get off my bed...seriously.
Wednesday we actually had to go backward through Groveland and into Oak Flats to get gas before heading out to Yosemite ( And thank God we did. Gas just outside of Yosemite was $4.99 a gallon and there is NO gas in the park itself). Even from Groveland it was a hike, probably 35 miles to the park edge and another 17 or so before you're really IN the park. Initially, all I saw were more hills and more pines. I was still not in the greatest mood from the previous days adventure ride, and said something to the effect of "There better be more than this"...oh there was indeed. Since I can't even begin to describe the enormity and splendor that is Yosemite, I will simply add pictures, which we all know is worth a thousand words...

The road into Yosemite

El Capitan

Bridal Veil Falls

Were we watched people rock climbing...
left side, mid rock, whitish spot surrounded by gray.
Yup, WAYYYY up there!

Anyway, it was absolutely amazing and well worth all the previous days hell. Though next time (and there will be a next time) we will leave BP far behind in the valley and just stay in a hotel or something near Yosemite as you really need several days to even drive around it, much less hike. We had about 5 hours in the park and it wasn't nearly long enough but we did not relish the thought of driving back to the campground in the dark. Way to many deer and they have zero fear of people, cars, etc...

Today we fearlessly faced the ride DOWN the fabulous Hwy. 120 from Groveland (Ha!). Same grade, same winding road, same construction....only this time BB's brakes were smoking. And I mean SMOKING. And this was about halfway down. It was at this point we had to stop for the construction as the road became one lane. Which meant we sat there, for probably 15 minutes,  on a decline, with Jeff's foot pressed hard on the brake and the smoke is just pouring from the rear brakes. Great. We did make it, obviously, unscathed and the BB will be going to the brake doctor tomorrow for a check-up.

Our plan for today was to go to Fresno. I know. I know. Fresno??? But we did have our reasons. We did want the BB to have a brake check, possibly new brakes, the BP needed a bath big time and we would be fairly close to Sequoia National Park, which we would love to visit. So we wind our way back from where we came only a little south and as soon as we get to Hwy. 99 south....dead stop. Road construction, God only knows where but the iPhone showed a jam for the next 50 miles or so. Detour time. And boy did we detour. What is another 120 mile trip from Groveland to Fresno took 5 hours. On the plus side we really got to see some California country side and small towns. It actually was kind of fun and at times, very beautiful. I never realized the diversity of California produce...we saw apple orchards, nut farms, vineyards, cotton, corn, hay,  something that looked like lettuce (??), cows of course, and many unidentifiable crops. We got to Fresno and went directly to the truck wash where both BB and BP got hand scrubbed and all buffed up.

So now we are tucked in at the Viking RV park in Kingsburg and will see to the brakes in the a.m. Saturday we will day-trip to see the giant sequoias and Sunday head to the coast. No more mountains for awhile...PLEASE!
Xena chillaxin after a long day!

Momma's version of chillaxin after a long day.
The mug (a gift from my buddy Marty) was to be my cork cage for the trip...
it's full.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stuck in Ole Lodi?

Not stuck...just enjoying a couple of pretty quiet days of Wineries, soaking up the sun, bike rides and general loafing around. We really (really!) only went to 4 wineries. I have a habit of falling for the tasting and investing too much in bottles. Case in point...Today we went to Van Ruiten. Nice wines, so we bought two bottles. The "Old Vine Zin" at $22 and the "Sideways" Zin at $35. Later in the afternoon we stopped at an actual liquor store for Jeffs sake (beer) and lo and behold, they have the Old Vine $13.99! Boo! anyway, lesson learned.
Micheal David Winery
Home of The 7 Deadly Zins

Klinker Brick's cat
Obsessed with my purse!

Best part of Lodi (other than the Zin) is how flat it is. I took off on my bike yesterday morning and probably rode an eight mile square without one single hill (I do hate hills). So Jeff went with me today and we repeated a hilless bike ride before the heat of the day. Came across this on our ride...

Tommorrow we are off to Yosemite where we have been warned to expect no internet, no phone, no cable/satellite. Pretty much a dead zone. It's fine with me as I plan on filling my senses with the beauty of Yosemite...not The Real Housewives!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Am I happy to be in Lodi? You betcha!!! Xena didn't even seem to mind as we packed up this morning. I think she even wanted to leave Redding! We left about our standard 9:15 and were in Lodi by about 1:30. Super easy day on the road. We were set up in about 1/2 hour flat and headed to our first winery by 2:30.

 We went to Woodbridge Uncorked which does tastings for about 7 wineries that don't have thier own tasting rooms. Good stuff....all of it. I even liked the sparkling Pomegranite and the white blend. So here we are in this tasing room with the sweetest "bartender", another couple who lived about 1/2 hour from here and a single guy from Sacramento and we end up having the greatest time and good conversation with this group. It was a blast. The couple even invited us to thier house for dinner! How sweet is that! So different from Redding.
Woodbridge Uncorked

The Maley Zin....outstanding!
Even Jeff enjoyed his tasting. And because the 6 of us were so enjoying each others company, the "bartender" was very generous (if you know what I mean) and we all stayed a while having an extra "taste" or two!

Though we didn't take the other couple up on thier dinner offer, we were kind of hungry and in the mood to keep exploring Lodi so we found ourselves at another microbrew pub in downtown Lodi...

GREAT brew and great dinner. We can hardly wait to explore more wineries tommorrow. Plan was to be here 3 nights and days but....may be here longer. Everyone we met has just been so nice. We even scored a free beer glass from Lodi Beer Co. thanks to our wonderful waitress.

May have to go back to Woodbridge and get the "I Love Lodi" tee!!! Sitting outside now with my Maley Zin and husband. Clear skies, 80+ degrees at almost 9 p.m. LOVELY!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday Jeff's foot felt better enough to attempt a bikeride. So back down to the Sacramento River Path we went and he did great. Better than me for the most part. It was a pleasant ride along the river, winding through the city and outskirts. We even saw a Buck! Right in suburbia! We came home and rested a bit then went out for dinner (to Chevy' was the best we could find and that's not saying much). Last night the city of Redding was lighting up the Sundial Bridge pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We tried to circument the choas at the bridge itself by driving up Hilltop road where we were told you could see the couldn't. Oh well!
Today Jeff was feeling even better, either that or he was just bored. We drove to Lassan National Park about 45 miles east of Redding and was it BEAUTIFUL!!! we entered via the west side and the highway basically continues east, then turns due south through the park. We took about 400 photos and I filled my camera memory card! Lassan is another ancient volcano that was last active in 1915. A man named Lassan (duh) took a series of 6 photos of the volcano erupting, which was a lot back in those days. He then spent the remainder of his life working at the park and photographing Mount Lassan.
Mount Lassan
Photo taken at 8150 ft
Peak over 10,000 ft
After photographing the shit out of this gorgeous peak (and by the way, there were snow banks everywhere but 56 degrees), we proceeded down the road to this quaint little lake, Lake Helen.

And just around the corner we came to our prime destination and the one hike we really wanted to do...

Really and truly named Bumpass Hell. Named after a real guy (can you even imagine having the last name Bumpass) after he hurt himself on the trail and declared it HELL. We thought it was heaven. The trail was pretty flat, though we were at an elevation of over 8000 feet. Total distance was about 4 miles round trip.

 But the real draw to hiking Bumpass Hell is it's final destination. The geothermal pools and underground steam vents from volcanos long gone. This is what greats you as you round the bend...other than the stench of sulfur!

It was very interesting and super fun to see the boiling, steaming, sizzling pots of goo, fools gold and milky green water.

Yup, definately cool (or hot if you were stupid enough to touch this stuff). This entire area was just full of these pools. You walked around them on an elevated boardwalk and when you got to the end it was like the Garden of Eden...

Lovely day!!

Tommorrow we leave Redding and already hae reservations at a park in Lodi...or as I call it Zinfandeland!!!
I am SO ready to leave Redding and very excited to get to Wine Country.

Xena tuckered out from her long day!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Horses and Wine

Jeff was still in pretty bad shape this morning and we researched his malady a bit and decided it was probably a heel bone spur that had caused some soft tissue damage. Nothing much to do except rest the foot and by using heel pads in his shoes and wrapping the heel, prevent future repeat injury. Knowing that today was the only day I could get out to the Wild Horse Sanctuary (they are open Wed/Sat only), Jeff gave me his blessing to go ahead without him.

After tending to my wifely/nurse duties I headed out. The Sanctuary is outside of a town called Shutterville, about 30 miles east of Redding. Beautiful ride out on another winding country road through a combination of high desert and horse pastures. The couple that runs the facility have been doing so since the 70's. What happens is the US government, in it's infinite wisdom, decides how many wild horses there can be in this country based on horse per free range acre. But as they keep cutting the "free range" or public land acreage, the numbers are decreased dramatically every year. The horse "caught" are then sold, but of course, not all are sold or even sellable. Some are old, some are injured or lame. Some are just not sold. Currently there are 40,000 wild horses being held by the US government and they pretty much plan on destroying them if they can't find a home for them. That's where the refuge comes in. They take as many horses as plausible and allow them the run of thier 5,000 acre ranch. Yes, some have to be euthanized if they are sick or suffering but most just live out thier final years as they were meant free spirits. They are allowed to breed naturally as well but the babies are rounded up ( as they had been last week) and auctioned off to support the ranch and research projects. Super nce people that have taken on this project and they obviously care a great deal about the future of Wild Horses.

The "babies" were particularly adorable and as they had been wild up until last week, were full of piss and vinegar. They were having thier stalls cleaned when I came around so they were getting free time in the corral two by two. Funny little horsies!

The sanctuary is self-supporting but accepts donations. If anyone feels inclined, I would highly recommend this worthy cause. You can send to Wild Horse Sanctuary, PO Box 30, Shingletown, CA 96088.

On the way home I stopped at Anselmo Vineyards. Another beautiful spot out in the back country (has everyone taken thier drinks?? I know I have used "beautiful" at least twice so far!) I just walked the grounds a little bit and did not even do a tasting. That's no fun by yourself and I had to drive home besides. But the grounds were ....gorgeous!
The deck at Anselmo Vineyards

Anselmo gardens

Made a couple more animal friends at Anselmo. Never thought I'd say this but I liked the Billy Goat much batter than the little lamb (he wanted to eat me and was filthy!)

Got home about 3:30, fed the invalid, and then did a nother Walmart run for some heel pads and a new ace bandage. I can not seem to get on Pacific time...I always seem ready for bed by about 9 O'Clock! Or maybe it's the large glass of Klinker Brick I am sipping on. Who knows!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Great View=Bad Owie

We had plans to hike the 4 waterfalls in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area today. Whiskeytown (GOTTA love that name!) is about 12 miles due west of Redding. Really pretty mountain drive out to the park and as we turned into the visitor center to buy our pass this is the sight that greeted us...

We drove completely around Whiskey Lake to access the trails to the first two waterfalls. The first was a "warm-up" hike of about a half mile one way to Crystal Creek Falls, appropriately named because the creek was, in fact, crystal clear. I wanted to drink the ice-cold water from the base of the falls.

After the brief hike back to BB we drove up the road to hike the 220ft Whiskeytown Falls, just "discovered" by a google earth map in the 80's. We got about 200 yards (of a 1.7 mile hike) down the path when Jeff slipped, skidded, or something and twisted his ankle, aggravating an already sour heel. He was immediately incapacitated and in a lot of pain. He really had to struggle back to the BB, limping and hopping the whole way. That was one long 200 yards. We inspected the ankle for any apparent injury (there was none) and put his foot on an ice pack.  Bravely, he decided we could continue with, at least, a vehicle tour of the park so we drove around Whiskeytown Lake and had our picnic at a beautiful beach area.

After a good picnic lunch, one shared beer (Sinister from 10 Barrel), and a smoke...we headed home so Jeff could get his foot up on ice and down a bottle of Ibuprofen. Being the good wife that I am, I made sure he had all he needed (TV remote and such) and left him to do a solo tour and a teeny bit of shopping (remember the TJ Maxx iin Redding?). I also found a World Market that graciously had my Klinker Brick on sale as well as a warehouse liquor store called Bev Mo that had Jeff's fav Cascade Lakes beer. 
You know, by the way I write about alcohol every other sentence. you'd probably think that all Jeff and I do is drink. Well, not really. But we are enjoying the local beers and wines of the Pacific Northwest, that I admit. Anyway, I was gone a couple hours and had a chance to see alittle more of Redding. I stand by my first impression of this town. It is extremely unattractive. This LONG boulevard that led to TJ was just a compilation of every chain hotel, store and restaurant you could name. I was keeping my eye out for a place to maybe go have dinner one night and, honestly, unless we wanted an Applebee's, Marie Callander's, or Taco Bell....forget it. Nothing good to say about Redding. It's just....boring. And definately not Bend.

Tomorrow we had planned on going to a winery and wild horse refuge as well as Lavaland National Park but we will have to see how Jeff's foot is feeling. By the way....I thought of a good drinking game for anyone reading our blog (here I go again). Every time I write "beautiful", "gorgeous" or "beer"....take a drink. Then y'all will catch up with Jeff and I !!!!