A Travellerspoint blog

Dang Republicans!

Oct 1/2, 2013

So this entry will encompass two days as...you may or may not know...the republicans forced the shut down of the government, closing, among other things, the National Parks. Our hostess in Coarsegold told us they were looking at having an emergency vote so we had hope that even tho one day was lost, we may be able to see Sequoias or King's Canyon the next day. That was not to be...so here is what we did end up doing. I feel really bad for what looked like thousands of people camping at Yosemite, and our hostess who said she was already having cancellations. I can't imagine planning to spend a week or more or even less at one of these National Parks only to have your vacation shut down. The disappointment would be crushing. I was kinda upset about the places we wanted to see and couldn't, as our chance of returning to California is fairly slim. We were just very lucky that we did get to see Yosemite.

Well, since we were in no hurry to get to our bed and breakfast in Lemon Cove (Plantation B&B - about a 2 hr drive away) we sat and chatted with Ginger for a few hours about anything and everything. I always like having time to chat with locals about animals, politics, things to see...very nice lady and had fun watching the hummingbirds at the feeder.

Around 11am, we decided to head into the town to pick up a Styrofoam cooler for our perishables and had lunch at Subway. Then off to Lemon Cove. Along the way, we came across a large shopping area and decided to stop in and check out Target and Kohl's and hit Best Buy so I could get an adaptor so I could listen to my ipod on the car stereo. I think we were on the fringes of Fresno. We arrived at our 'Gone With the Wind' themed B&B around supper time. The owner told us where we could find some food nearby, or to take a 15 min or so drive to the town of Exeter, pop approx 10,000. We wandered around the downtown where the claim to fame is some truly amazing murals painted on the buildings - there were a few dozen of them, very nicely done. We had supper at a diner - finally had a 'homemade' meal with mashed potatoes and a glass of milk...if I recall I had turkey and Darrin had a hot roast beef - it was HUGE! But so nice after what felt like days of French fries. Back to the B&B to await hopefully news that the parks were going to reopen...

...but it was not to be. I don't want to sound like a downer, but there is not much else to do in the area. We could have driven the hour or so back to Fresno, but that didn't interest us. We drove to the entrance of the park...and then attempted to drive to a hiking area our host told us about...not part of the park, but he failed to tell us it was down a really bumpy narrow dirt road - I was afraid that we were going to bottom out the car or have a tire pop...so after 15 min or so, we were able to turn around and crawl our way back (and he assured us he does this road in his little Mazda Miata?!). Back to Exeter to check out the murals in better light, visited a few shops, had lunch at a take out place, then we decided to drive to nearby Visalia. We parked and wandered what seemed to be the main street, in and out of a few shops, but we just couldn't get in the groove. Popped into a Walmart and found a pizza place - which was just OK, and very noisy. Back to the B&B to watch tv and curse the government.

I did want to mention the lovely breakfasts we had at the B&B. Morning 1, she made baked acorn squash (!?) with a spinach soufflé mixture in the middle of it...now mind you, Darrin wouldn't even try it (I told her not to bring him one). I'm not much more adventurous then hubby, but I thought...she went to all the trouble so I'm gonna try it (I have never in my life had squash). It wasn't bad - I ate about 3/4ths of it. It reminded me in texture of potatoes. They also had fresh squeezed oj, maple walnut muffins and this amazing homemade granola and yogurt. They sell a cookbook with all the recipes in it, but I cheated and snapped pics of the ones I liked (including the granola) with my ipad. Morning 2 was a potato and cheese frittata (along with the oj, granola and I'm not sure what it was - kinda like a cornbread type thing - very good with the homemade raspberry jam!). Darrin actually tried the frittata and ate half of it, I had about 2/3rds - it was very rich, and our breakfasts usually consist of juice and cereal.

Next day - back to the coast! At least they can't shut that down...

Posted by u2traveller 15:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Breathtaking day at Yosemite

Sept 30, 2013

It was up bright and early to head for Yosemite, with a bit of bad breaking news from our hostess. The Republicans were talking about shutting down the government over the health care act, which would in turn shut down the National Parks...including Sequoias and King's Canyon, where we were heading the next day, but that there was some hope that they would work it out...well, you know how that turned out. We had a non-cancelable room booked for two nights, but still had hope they'd work it out.

So back to Yosemite. First thing...the famous 'Tunnel View'. And you know why it is famous...just magical when you come out of the mountain tunnel and see the view that you have seen so many times on paper. I have a few friends who just say...why travel when you can stay in the safe comfort of your own home and see pictures or videos of these places...nothing, I mean NOTHING can compare to seeing it with your own eyes. El Capitan and Half Dome...I wish I had more time and energy to hike to these spots.

Our first stop had been going to be Bridalveil Falls, and easy walk from the road, but being a dry autumn, our hostess told us they were dried up and not running at all. The perfect time to visit I imagine is in May/June. The Falls are not running very well in Sept, that's for sure. So we headed into the village (Curry Village) and had some pizza at the restaurant located at the village. It is very well set up for hikers and campers. Some stores selling well priced supplies, souvenirs, showers/toilets, a few restaurants selling basic fare - pizza, salads, burgers. And lots of 'bear' boxes for keeping your food. And lots of fat squirrels running around.

We decided to do Vernal Falls hike and walked maybe 20 min along a nice gentle flat road to the start of the hike. There are a few buses that do a loop of the park stopping at the major spots and they are free. The guidebook said it was strenuous uphill hike...I just didn't realize HOW strenuous! At least I had on proper footwear this time (my New Balance sneakers), and the path was mostly paved/packed dirt, but the bulk of it was uphill, on a very hot day (high 20's). Some people passed us wearing sweatshirts or carrying backpacks - it must be nice to be young and in shape, I don't know how anyone could be wearing long sleeved shirts in the heat. I'm not horribly out of shape, but a few times I had to stop and catch my breath as I thought I was going to pass out. Taking water with you is highly recommended. Though it was probably about 30 min for us to get there (and 20 min for anyone in half decent shape) it felt like an hour. It is a 1.3 km hike to the Vernal Falls bridge, where you can get a view of the falls (317 ft high), which again, were not super impressive as it was pretty dry, and another 1.1 km of even steeper hike to the top of the falls. Darrin was contemplating going the rest of the way...I told him he was free to do it, no way could I - and he wasn't in much better shape then I was. There are fountains/faucets at the bridge to get some water, and I liberally splashed/soaked my face (I knew there was a reason I didn't put makeup on that day!). He wisely decided against it. So it was time to head back down the trail, which was almost as hard on our legs as going up was on our hearts/lungs. I actually jogged in a few places as it was easier to jog down the hill in my nice bouncy sneakers - less stress on my legs. But Darrin had on hiking boots, not great for jogging. Hot feet caused me to stop once and take off my shoes and socks to cool off my feet (I think some good Teva sandals will be on my shopping list next time we plan on doing a hike in the hot weather). Once we got to the bottom of the hill, I decided to take off my shoes and dip my feet in the river. Well if you've ever eaten something cold and get the 'brain freeze' - that is what it felt like on my feet! About 5 seconds in the water was about all I could stand - but I dipped them in a dozen times...sooooo cold! Darrin decided to join in, and soon our feet were cool, and we put our shoes back on, and with an extra bounce in our step, we headed for the bus and back to the car to go to Glacier Point.

Back the way we came, we just had to stop at Tunnel View again for some more pics. It was a bit of a drive from Curry Village to Glacier Point. At a height of 3200 feet above Curry Village, it afforded some spectacular views of the Valley. It was a very twisty road with lots of hairpin turns and scenic look-offs. We could see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, which are above Vernal, and another very strenuous hike for those young in shape people...lol. We spent about 30 min there admiring the view and squinting to try and see the crazy people climbing the Half Dome. It was starting to get late, we still had an hour or more drive back to our room, and hunger was setting in. Back to Oakhurst and picked up some hamburgers and had a late supper (8pm or so).

A very busy tiring day, but so worth it.

Posted by u2traveller 15:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Drive to Yosemite

Sept 29, 2013

So we said farewell to San Fran today. Into the city center near Chinatown to pick up our rental car from Hertz. Everything went pretty smoothly. (Thanks to our airbnb hostess who helped us decide the best place to pick up the car from more then a dozen choices - she was right - easy in, easy out!) A friend had lent us his GPS, but luckily I emailed the directions on how to get out of the rental garage to the Bay Bridge and on to Yosemite, as it took awhile (and me putting the GPS up on the window instead of messing around with it in my lap) before the GPS kicked in, about 10 min. Luckily, it was early Sun morning (about 10:15 or so when we left with the car) and there was nary a person to be found. Mostly a straight shot from the rental place to where we were going, and we were on our way to Coarsegold, where our accommodations were, about a 30 min or so drive to Yosemite on a twisty road in some spots (about 30 km).

We made fairly good time, stopping for lunch at a Carl's Jrs (our first time eating there) and arriving around 2pm. Uneventful and not really scenic drive. Our hostess, Ginger, had a very lovely newly built home. She had lots of cats and one crazy pug, as well as assorted birds and hummingbirds flying around the property. Heard coyotes yipping in the evening, and I woke up around 5am and went out on the porch with the lights out - the stars were amazing as we were out in the countryside - I wish I could have gotten a picture to do them justice. But Ginger told us we'd have time to go see Mariposa Grove as it wasn't too far in the entrance to Yosemite and it was still midafternoon. A $20 entry fee, good for 7 days, kinda hurt a little as we were only going to be there for 2 days, but...

So, into Mariposa Grove and the giant sequoias...just, wow Again, photos cannot do these amazing trees justice. There is no way to fit them into a shot...even standing beside one it's still hard to explain the grandeur with only a photo. We spend about 90 min walking around (unfortunately, I failed to change my footwear to shoes from sandals, and the path was rather dusty - my feet were just ugh) and marveling at the size and age of the trees.

On our way back to our place (it had a kitchenette - yay) we stopped in Oakhurst at a grocery store and picked up some spaghetti, sauce, cheese, bread for supper and lots of snacks for the road since we now had a car - doritos, cheesy garlic bread Lays (why don't they have those in Canada!?) and some Coke and Dr Pepper, as well as a few other snacks - crackers, gum.

I also forgot to mention the heat - it was soooo warm...for the end of Sept, the weather was pretty much what we have in Nova Scotia in July - it was glorious, but I tend to wilt. At least it was cool in with the sequoias! And my other observation - either rental or owned - I have never seen so many Ford Mustang convertibles! I guess it's a Cali thing - but once we started noticing them, they were EVERYWHERE! Sometimes 3-4 in a row...lots in Yosemite and on the PCH.

Posted by u2traveller 15:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Last full day in San Francisco

Sept 28, 2013

So today we had a really busy day planned. We had to try and cram in all the little things we wanted to see as the next day we were heading for Yosemite. Another gorgeous day dawned, perfect blue skies, just right temperature. First stop, the 'painted ladies'...no, not what you think.

We got off the Muni stop right near a dog park - that was our highlight every time we had to go by - watching all these dogs, big and small, chasing balls and each other, so we lingered for a few minutes. Then a bit of an uphill hike to see the ladies. It was already getting pretty warm out, and not even 10am yet. And all of a sudden, there they were! Alamo Square and the painted ladies. The architecture around was quite interesting, and trying to find the best angle for taking pictures was a bit hard. You always want the iconic shot, but parked cars and lots of other tourists doesn't make that easy. We walked right up and looked t them to see the interesting details - a lot of the homes in SF have gates that go across the porch/door...this was no exception - one had a butterfly shaped gate which was pretty awesome. Then it was time to head for the waterfront...we were going to walk back t a Muni stop, but were just feet away from a bus stop when a bus pulled up that said 'Ferry Bldg'...so we kinda give the driver a quizzical look and he waves us back...our citypass also covered the bus ride. We were very lucky as we would have probably had a 15 min walk back to the Muni. (We are much more subway people then bus people...buses don't always stop at every stop, so we get confused easily...lol)

So we get off a few blocks before the ferry building and hit Starbucks for breakfast, and have another stroll thru the local artisans selling their wares. I found a great necklace from a fellow 'etsy' seller, and saw lots of amazing thing for sale. If only we had bigger (and emptier) luggage.

Off to the Exploratorium at Pier 15. After the crazy sardine experience the day before on the f train, we decided to walk, taking in some lovely views of the waterfront and the bay bridge (which we would be crossing the next day). So, let's just say the Exploratorium is like crack for kids. We were there on a Sat, so of course it was overrun. There were some very interesting things to see and do, and honestly if you wanted to experience it all, you could spend probably 3-4 hours there and pace yourself. I was getting a little worn out after our two hours or so there, but very interesting and cool displays.

Off we went to Pier 39 (with another stop at Johnny Rockets for lunch!). We wandered down to watch the sea lions basking in the sun and play fighting (at least, I think they were!). But we had a Yellow and Blue Cruise to do, as part of our CityPass booklet, so we thought we'd better load up and watch the sea lions later. The cruise was about 1 hr and went out under the bridge and back then around Alcatraz. We debated going to Alcatraz, but time constraints prevented that. The wind on the bay was blowing really hard and was very cool. Make sure to take a sweater or jacket. I stayed out on the deck the whole time to get some good shots. Lots of sailboats and other vessels in the harbor, and my eyes watered so much from the wind! But amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Fran skyline.

Then back in to watch the sea lions some more and explore Pier 39. It was quite interesting - again, lots of shops and restaurants...a good place to waste a few hours.

We managed to find an 'F' train that wasn't packed and went back to the ferry terminal building after having pizza for supper. Walked along the waterfront and admired the light show on the Bay Bridge, which was pretty cool. Then back to our accom to get ready for Sunday and the car rental! We did, beforehand, find out where the rental pickup was at so we could determine where to get off the Muni and how hard it would be to get our bags there - fortunately, it was only a few short blocks away and mostly level.

Posted by u2traveller 15:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Another day in San Francisco

Sept 27, 2013

Woke up again very early. We made it out the door by 8 am. The Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate park had free admission between 9-10 am. It is regularly $7 per, and honestly, it is a gorgeous garden, but after 35 min, we were thru and ready to go. The price is a little high...but if you can't go early for free, and you like Japanese gardening, then pay. But there are some great sights - the Moon Bridge was really cool - and you could climb it, but you need to be nimble! The landscaping was gorgeous.

After that we decided to explore the park a little more, being harassed by amazingly cute squirrels (no food! Oh no!). Wandering up to the high point on Strawberry Hill and seeing some amazing views, tho some of the better ones were blocked by trees.

We then made our way down to the ferry market building where we had a little time to look around. There was a large open air market we hope to return to, with local artisans selling everything from jewelry, ceramics, photography, paintings. I had the most delicious banana cream pie tart at the ferry building...drool.

Then we had to head down towards Pier 39 and Fishermans Wharf to take our tour to Muir Woods and Sausalito. But first...to be passed by by one crammed F train, only to sardine ourselves onto the next one. I was literally squeezed against the door, but after two stops, it cleared out mostly. If we had've realized that it was maybe a 15-20 min walk at the most, we would have hoofed it. So we saw, quickly, Pier 39, but were ravenous so had some lunch at Johnny Rockets...we last ate there, a few times, when we went to Washington. We found where the tour was leaving from, wandered around for 20 min...then off we went. We had a fun, four hour tour with Grey Lines.

First stop was out to the John Muir woods...amazing huge redwoods. We had about 75 min there and it was very peaceful. A nice easy walk...if we weren't busy tripping over our feet because we were craning our necks up to looks at the amazing trees. After the woods, we had an hour to spend in Sausalito...really not much time to see anything...wandered down the Main Street, admired to San Francisco skyline. Had an ice cream. Back on the bus for the photo op of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Got some great shots there...really is an iconic sight. I thought it was a good value for what we got, and if you don't have a car, you may want to look into a day tour.

After we were dropped off we decided to go to Lombard St to see the 'crooked' part. It was quite a hike up the hill...such a steep angle. We spent a few minutes taking pictures and watching cars come down...after the climb up the hill, we were too winded to go to the top of the steps. On the way down, we were noticing all the drivers side door dings on the cars parked along the road, as they park side by side...there is no way you couldn't let your car door go flying open when you got out...I would hate to park a new car there! You would have to bubble wrap it.

Back down the hill and we watched as they brought the cable cars over and turned them around on the wooden circle platforms...all by hand. We had to wait thru two cars...there was such a long line. We ended up standing inside when car number three came...we were near the end of the line and of course the outside and inside seats filled first...we could have hung on outside but I thought I was too tired for that and we didn't want to wait for the next car. So overall that was a little disappointing...couldn't see anything, but I guess I can say we were on one.

After a quick meal at a mall food court...which was actually really good....a chicken cheese steak sub...it was the long slog back to the room to prepare for the next day.

Posted by u2traveller 15:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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