Tag Archives: travel

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

      

Click through for pictures and video from our attempt to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (oldest living trees on Earth!) while on our Owens Valley road trip in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle in mid-May.  Unfortunately, the remaining snow from this winter’s very heavy storms kept us from driving all the way and then we attempted to continue on our mountain bikes but it was just too much snow!  We stayed up there two nights though and got to watch the sunrise spread over hundreds of miles of the Sierra Nevada from the vantage of that fantastic Sierra vista point up there:

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Revisiting Manzanar

  

Darlene and I spent several hours at the Manzanar National Historic Site on our visit to the Owens Valley in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle in mid-May.  I went to high school in Bishop in the 80’s, so I’ve certainly seen Manzanar before, but it’s quite different since I last visited.  They’ve converted what had become a county storage shed but was originally an auditorium in the internment camp into a very impressive and engaging interpretive center.  You can now see some of the belongings and artifacts of the people who were forcibly relocated there during World War II as well as hear recordings of their stories and enter restored versions of some of the camp buildings. It’s an incredibly well done exhibit and all the more relevant today with all of the new fear mongering going on.  It’s definitely worth half a day or more to visit.

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A Week in O’ahu

As much as I’ve enjoyed the rest of Hawaii, I had yet to visit O’ahu and was always put off by pictures of busy Honolulu and Waikiki.  However, as part of Darlene’s “birthday month”, off we went – and while it doesn’t compare to Kauai or the Big Island, it was still quite enjoyable!

A short video montage of our week in O’ahu (under six minutes, 119 MB)

We rented a condo in Waikiki for four nights and then spent the remaining two nights at a place on the north shore.  We walked the length of Waikiki (and up to the top of Diamond Head and back), snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, spent a rainy day at the Pearl Harbor exhibits, visited some of the south and eastern shoreline, navigated Dole’s “world’s largest pineapple maze”and enjoyed more snorkeling in the north bay.

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To Universal Studios Hollywood

Darlene and I made a quick, three-day trip down to Universal Studios Hollywood last week — to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, of course!  While we were there, we also visited the La Brea Tar Pits and Griffith Park and tried to get to Mann’s Chinese Theater (but it was closed off for a movie premiere) – all places I hadn’t seen for 30-40 years and new for Darlene.

   

The main attraction was of course Universal Studios and we decided to buy their “VIP Tour” tickets.  These are guided, 12-person tour groups that start with early access to the park after an included breakfast.  You get an extended tour of the back lots (two hours rather than the normal 45 minutes) via a single-car trolley instead of the usual tram.  This back lot tour includes getting out and walking around some of the sets and potentially sound stages and working sets (depending on the activity that day) as well as visiting part of their props and costumes warehouse.  You get escorted “priority” access to the various rides and shows (bypassing the lines or enjoying reserved seating) and a really wonderful buffet lunch in a separate VIP dining area.  The VIP passes cost nearly three times as much as the normal pass but we had read reviews from a lot of folks saying it’s a fun and worthwhile experience and now we would agree.  Here’s someone’s detailed description from 2012.

We also took a nice tour of Paramount Studios the following day before catching our plane home.

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Ski Utah!

      

Here are the pictures and video from our annual week of skiing and tabletop gaming, this year back at the Cottonwood Canyons in Utah with a full house: Jon, Jim, Stan, Lewis, Tom, Bill, Kat, Darlene and myself. We were fortunate to get quite a heap of fresh snow early in the week and sunshine for the rest as we visited Alta, Snowbird and Solitude over five days.

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Five Days on the Sonoma Coast

Here’s some pics and video from our longest run yet with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – five days on the Sonoma coast from Bodega Bay to Fort Ross, coming back home on New Year’s Day.

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After another rough start with the cats (they still aren’t too keen on being trapped in the big, noisy moving house) and after cleaning up a messy episode with Pan, they eventually settled down for the journey.  We spent a couple of nights at the Bodega Dunes campground exploring the area on foot and finding a few geocaches by day.  On the following day we only ventured up the coast a few more miles and overnighted in an overflow area at Wright’s Beach.  We then continued on to visit Goat Rock to watch the crazy surf, check out the harbor seals at the mouth of the Russian River and hike out to the mammoth rubbing rocks.  We got to Fort Ross just before closing on New Year’s Eve and slipped in the exit gate to run around and check it out before they kicked us out.  On New Year’s Day, we started making our way back, watching for whales far off-shore as we made leisurely progress heading home via the Russian River valley.

The cats seemed to be doing well with slow speed travel and frequent stops and they definitely enjoyed a nice, extended lunch stop off-leash on some empty, grassy school grounds in Santa Rosa.  After five days in the traveling cat adventure vehicle, it was really going well and seeming like this was ready to work for extended trips.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of mishap just before getting home.  One of the solar panels came loose and started smacking around on the roof before we realized what was happening.  It broke free before I could get off the freeway and we ended up pulling over to assess the damage.  Before I knew it, Darlene was off running across the freeway to retrieve the lost panel and then we attracted a highway patrolmen who came over to scold us (and see if we needed assistance).  The noise and drama was all quite traumatic for Pan and a lousy ending to an otherwise promising start to future extended traveling cat adventures.  (And of course now I need to redo the solar panel installation.)

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Little Cat House on the Coast

After Thanksgiving day, Darlene and I loaded up the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and headed down the coast south of Monterey.  My intention was for us to stay a couple of nights at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground, but I forgot it was still closed from the impact of the Soberanes fire earlier this year.  D’oh!  So we kept heading south as the sun set (there’s no overnight parking allowed along the highway here), passing several alternate, full campgrounds until we found space at the San Simeon State Park campground.  We walked to the beach in the rain the next morning before heading out, stopped to let the cats out for a scary adventure when the rain let up later, caught a tour of “Nitt Witt Ridge” in Cambria and made it to Morro Bay by nightfall.  On Saturday night, the campgrounds were full so we found a nice out-of-the-way spot to boondock for the night. On Sunday, we visited the bay, the rock, the natural history museum and the Monarch butterflies before heading home in the evening up 101.

      

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Bavarian Road Trip

Earlier this month, Darlene and I were able to get away for a little road trip in Bavaria, the southern region of Germany.  Darlene used to work summers in Bavaria and so she organized a little ten-day itinerary for us to see some of the sights.  We flew into Frankfurt and visited several locales before flying back via Munich.  We ended up skipping Frankfurt entirely when our inbound flight was delayed half a day, but we had a day seeing castles in the Rhine River valley, two nights in Heidelberg, a day visit in Bamberg, two nights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, day visits to Aalen and Augsburg, three nights in Oberau and the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area, a day visit to Hohenschwangau and then a final two nights in Munich.

Some highlights of the trip:

Visiting the lovely Heidelberg town and castle

Visiting the lovely Heidelberg town and castle

Visiting Rheinstein Castle on the Rhine River

Visiting Rheinstein Castle on the Rhine River

Walking around Bamberg

Walking around Bamberg

Exploring the enchanting walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Exploring the city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Hiking up through Höllentalklamm gorge

Hiking up through Höllentalklamm gorge

Ascending Zugspitze

Ascending Zugspitze

Visiting Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles

Visiting Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein

Visiting Munich

Visiting Munich

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Bed and Breakfast and Elephants

Two weeks ago, Darlene and I enjoyed a weekend stay at the Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas, CA.  It’s a facility that keeps and cares for a host of 100+ various exotic and domestic animals.  Their prime business used to be training and providing animals for use in the film and television industry, but with the increasing use of computer-generated, all-digital animals, they’ve turned more to adopting at-risk or retired animals, doing more educational programs and training programs and transforming the facility into a fully, open-to-the-public zoo, “The  Monterey Zoo”.  This effort is still in progress and so they’re now only open for short, daily, guided tours while they build out larger, more engaging enclosures for their animals.  However, they also run a bed and breakfast service based on several cabin-like tents situated on the property and provide a number of up close encounters with various animals, particularly a couple of retired circus elephants who greet you at your cabin as your breakfast is served.

You can read more about the history of the facility, stories about their numerous animals and information about their various educational efforts on their web site.

A video montage of our visit.

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California Railroad Museum

For Darlene’s birthday this year, we went to Old Town Sacramento for the weekend and stayed on the steamboat-turned-hotel “Delta King”.  We spent a good part of Saturday checking out the fantastic California Railroad Museum which makes up almost all of the pictures in my gallery:

   

No pictures, but we also spent time wandering around Old Town and checking out the shops.  That afternoon we participated in another “escape room” and successfully solved “The Study” at Escape Sacramento and then, after dinner, went to a fun play put on by the B Street Theater in town.  (Take note: skip the Suspects Mystery Dinner Theater option on the Delta King – it gets terrible reviews on Yelp and TravelAdvisor.)  Sunday was filled with a long bike ride out and back along part of the 30+ mile bike trails along the American River.

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