Monday, July 30, 2012

A Step Further from the Luddites

I've been accused by one of my friends of being a Luddite which I find a bit hard to believe. There's enough geek-speak in this post to get me kicked out of any Luddite convention! The kids (can you call someone who's 40 a kid?) complain about the speed of the Internet connection at the house (which has been based on DSL for the past 10 years) but they don't call me a Luddite.

Last week we suffered from multiple connectivity outages. That, combined with a desire for faster service at a better price and better connectivity when we travel, led to a Friday morning order of a 3G/4G hotspot from Millenicom. Chris & Cherie, who live, work, and travel in a 50 year old GMC bus have been singing their praises for a long time and I can see why.

This little gizmo showed up in the mail today.  It's a NovaTel 4620 "MiFi" using data services from the Verizon network that Millenicom resells at a much more competitive price.

The battery charged while we were fixing dinner and then we fired it up and set up all the wireless enabled devices in the house to recognize it as their primary access.  Then we turned off and unplugged the DSL modem & wireless router.  A couple phone calls is all it is going to take to move our land-line phone & DSL service, and our expensive but poor performing ISP to the "remember when" category.   No more land line - hope it means fewer political calls at dinner time!

The advantage is that we can take it with us when we travel.  The disadvantage to our sometimes house-sitting daughter is that we'll take it with us when we travel!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Green River Dreaming

I'm back at work after a wonderful but way too short trip to the Northwest. With the re-org at work, there's not much to do and too much time in which to do it. It's too soon to start counting since retirement from this job is still 22 weeks away.

Sunset at Fort Bottom - 2007
The Green River trip is still nearly two months away. It's the ninth time I've done a flat-water section of the Green, and the eighth time for BJ in the past 12 years. Group size has varied depending on other demands - everything from two of us the first year to as many as ten in other years. This year will be tied for the biggest group, but includes most of our favorite river people. Eight have done the trip before. Of the others, one did a different multi-day trip with us, and the other has lots of multi-day backpacking experience and has been invited so many times that she finally decided to join us.

BJ - Going with the Flow
It's going to be lots of fun! Six days on the river, drifting through the canyons of the Stillwater section  of the Green, finishing with a jet-boat shuttle back up the Colorado river to Moab. It's still too early to tell, but based on current river flows, it looks like it's going to be a (very?) low water trip.  That will make for lots more campsite possibilities.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

7.22.2012 Home Again

We stayed at the Lake Mead RV Resort in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area last night.  Without a park pass, access to the recreation area is $10 in addition to the site fees.  The park is primarily permanently located manufactured homes and spaces intended for seasonal occupancy by winter visitors.  They do maintain one area for short term visitors and it's one of the only places on the southeast side of Las Vegas with full hookups.  Electricity is essential for this area in the summer with the temp yesterday indicating 111 in the shade when we arrived.  In addition to the full hookups, they have free wireless (throttled but a good signal), restrooms and showers.  The showers are free, but drain to the center of the restroom - an architect apparently needs a season of cleaning restrooms before they design another facility!  They are a Good Sam facility which very nearly offsets the taxes.

As we traveled around the north and east side of Phoenix, we could see the storm building to the east, getting darker the closer we got to home.

Official greeting by the dog who was left home was the first order of business.  Big thanks to our daughter for taking care of him and keeping an eye on the house!

It didn't take long to get the trailer back in it's place, beating the potential rain in the process.  We'll pull it out next weekend, scrub the bugs off, and wash it.

We drove 4,763 miles (3,638 towing), averaging 14.95 mpg towing, and stayed in 15 locations during the 25 day trip.  We crossed 20 passes with the trailer, 12 of which were over 6,000 feet.  The Indian Canyon Scenic Byway in Utah topped out at 9,100 feet - lots of work but a beautiful route!  All in all, a wonderful trip.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

7.21.2012 Lonely Road

We made a change yesterday afternoon as we started observing the geography. For the past several days we’ve been bouncing around the 6,000’ – 8,000’ elevation. Our planned stop for last night was at Four Jeffries, a Forest Service campground at 8100’ located about 10 miles west of Bishop. The only catch is that Bishop is located at about 4000’ and we really didn’t want to climb up to a cool camp just so we could come back this morning.

The end result is that we forfeited our reservation and found an available spot with power (30 amp,) water, and shade at the Millpond Recreation Area, operated as a County Park, just north of Bishop. Clean restrooms and showers. Showers required a $1 token for 7 minutes of hot water.

This morning, we took California 168 to cut across from Big Pine, CA to Goldfield, Nevada, just north of Death Valley. I know that Nevada is proud of Highway 50's designation as America's Loneliest Road, but California 168 could give it some competition. Three mountain passes, about 80 miles, and we only saw about three or four cars on the road (in either direction!) until we got past the halfway point. Even Highway 95 in Nevada was pretty quiet until we got within 50 miles of Las Vegas.

We're settled in for the evening with a view of Lake Mead, and trying to avoid thoughts of going back to work!

7.20.2012–Bodie, California

Our home for the last couple days was nicer than I’d anticipated. We stayed at Paradise Shores RV Park in Bridgeport.  They had good reviews online and deserved them. Gravel pads, 30 amp, full hookup, great wireless, laundry, clean restrooms & showers, and a Good Sam discount. It seems to be primarily people who return every year for a month or more, but everyone was very friendly. Because of the manager’s recommendation, we took time this morning to visit Bodie before leaving.

Bodie was a famous gold mining town, with over 10,000 residents by 1879. The mines operated until WWII.  Less than 10% of the buildings remain. It’s now a State Historic Park where they try to maintain it in a state of arrested decay.

We were one of the first to arrive this morning, but lots of people were making the 13 mile drive (10 paved, 3 very washboardy – how’s that for a word?) to peer in the windows and walk the streets.

Some of the houses were still furnished.

Lots of the houses had outhouses, but some had rudimentary inside plumbing.

The Methodist church was still standing, but the painted (on oilcloth) Ten Commandments that used to hang behind the pulpit had been stolen – obviously, someone didn’t read the whole list!

The bank was gone except for the vault which was constructed of clay brick, three layers thick. BJ noticed that inside the vault was a safe with the artwork still intact.

Some of the houses had bay windows, and one had a glass sunroom. BJ had fun taking pictures through the sides of the bay window.

I enjoyed looking at some of the millwork and architectural detailing. The weather is taking it’s toll, but the craftsmanship is still obvious.

There was a lot of machinery, tools, and equipment – everything from ore wagons to steam engines set up to drive a large set of gears. 

I’m really glad we took the time, and would love to go back when the schedule isn’t pressing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

7.19.2012 Yosemite

View from our campsite towards Yosemite this morning
We'd tried to get reservations at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground the minute they were available on line but didn't have any success so we've stayed outside of the park on the east side.  Today was the day for my first visit to Yosemite National Park.  We woke to dark  skies suggesting rain, and by the time we reached the top of Tioga Pass (9955') it was raining fairly hard.  By afternoon, the rain had cleared and temps warmed up to high 70's in the valley.

Tuolumne Meadows

Back of Half Dome from Olmstead Point

Roadside Attraction - bugs for breakfast

Half Dome from the front side before dropping into the valley

Bridal Veil Falls

Meadow from the "swinging bridge" that doesn't swing

Could be a nice place to be a volunteer

Curry Village cabins

Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite

Part of the El Capitan Wall

Pretty much says it all

Across the valley from El Capitan

Tenaya Lake 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

7.18.2012 It was an Up and Down Day

We crossed several passes passes today including some that weren't indicated on the map, starting with a pretty steep up & down between last night's camp and the big town of Susanville. The tallest one for the day was Devil's Gate Summit on 395 but that won't hold a candle to Tioga Pass tomorrow. The nice thing is, we won't be towing the trailer tomorrow.

Last night's camp turned out to be a nice quiet place, once we got there. The road in from the north was quite narrow and twisted in every direction possible. The campground was a Forest Service facility that accepts reservations, but was only about 25% full. Most sites were back-in, and for reasons I couldn't figure out, well over half of the sites were angled the wrong direction to facilitate backing in. The restrooms looked like pit toilets from the outside but actually had running water and tile on the floor and walls. Cost without the senior discount was $20 which seemed over-priced. Verizon 3G was available but very, very weak. It was located directly on Eagle Lake which might be a redeeming factor for a boater.

We stopped at the Sierra Trading Post Outlet in Reno, complements of a sign along the road. We've used their online and mail-order in the past but this was our first visit to their store.  It was fun to wander through but they didn't convince us to buy much. BJ found a super deal on a pair of hiking pants, and I found something for the Green River trip in September but I can't disclose what it is.

We'd fueled in Carson City, Nevada thinking prices would be better than California prices. We just didn't realize how much better nor did we have a tank big enough for all the running around we want to do in this area. Now I'll admit that this section of 395 isn't the most highly traveled, but it was a bit shocking to see regular advertised for $4.99/gallon. We got the best deal in Lee Vining where the three stations varied by 40 cents/gallon between the Chevron & Shell stations with Mobil taking the position smack dab in the middle at $4.79!

Since we have full hookups for the next couple days, BJ decided to make muffins in the toaster oven that we haul for such relatively rare occasions. In order to pre-heat it, she read the instruction manual, fiddled with the knobs, and then decided that it needed to be plugged in for it to work. We've been cooking with gas too long apparently.

I'm very pleased to report that the muffins were great and she hasn't read this post yet!


Another long drive today, but before we got started we had to stop near Diana’s place to take a picture of a former stage stop. While taking the picture, I spooked three doe that were feeding in the tall grass near the buildings. A bit later, just south of Bend, we had three buck decide to cross the road right in front of us.

Much of the drive was through Ponderosa Pine country, with a lot of beautiful specimens near the road. I intended to push through, since it was going to be another 300 mile plus day, but serendipity got in the way. We spotted the sign for Oregon’s Collier State Park Logging Museum and had to stop.

In addition to all the logging equipment, they had also collected a number of log cabins. While the workmanship and chinking style of each varied, and they had been collected from a relatively wide area, it was surprising how consistent they were in size, varying only by a foot or two either direction.

They had a fairly extensive collection of steam tractors and a VERY large steam engine that had powered the Long-Bell mill in Weed, CA. from 1917 through 1964. This 2000 hp engine had a 6’ wide, 3 ply drive belt that required 639 cowhides to construct!

The collection also included a number of graders including this Austin “Rip Snorter” (loved the name), a wide variety of early bulldozers, and some very rare rail mounted equipment.

They had a number of large wheel logging arches, some with wooden spoke wheels, and this later version that used a hydraulic lift.

There were a couple WWI era Bulldog Macks, and then some mid-century equipment as well. I especially liked this early yarder, complete with a 1938 Ford grill and a Ford flathead engine.

Apparently, Father’s Day is the time to be there since had have a number of the units operating that day. In some ways, the best part of the stop was talking with one of the park volunteers who gave me the business card for the Park Ranger/Museum Curator who also organizes their volunteer staff.

Further down the road I managed to take a wrong turn in the town of Adin, CA. and spotted this barn. I loved the various angles reflected in the roof!

We’re settled in a Forest Service campground among the Ponderosa at the south end of Eagle Lake. Tomorrow we’ll pick up 395 and continue south.

7.16.2012–Central Oregon

Today was a 325 mile day but we completed it much closer to Google’s time estimate since Oregon has a lower speed limit than the neighboring states. We bypassed breakfast in favor of breaking camp and managed to hit the road just as the rain started in Wenatchee. It rained fairly hard over Blewett pass, but we broke out into sunshine just south of the Kittitas County line, and enjoyed sunny skies the rest of the day.

We stopped for fuel and breakfast in Toppenish so that we could use McDonald’s free WiFi to post yesterday’s blog and then continued south.

It was interesting to note as we approached the Columbia River that wind power seems to have become the new crop to compliment the wheat that was looking like it was ready to harvest.

I’m loving the two lane roads that wander through the middle of each small town, with properties along the way whispering, “you should be here.” I must be getting more mellow – I actually enjoy slowing down and rolling through each burg. The towns today seemed much more healthy than some we transited earlier in the trip.

Tux is getting his hooves trimmed
We’re privileged to be parked in the yard of one of BJ’s bestest (spell check doesn’t like that but so what!) hiking buddies. Not only a chance to visit, but it also allowed BJ to drop off all her hiking gear for the hike they have planned together at Glacier National Park in September. Diana and Audrey have a beautiful property where they raise championship mules and board horses.

Besides that, they have a superb view of all three Sisters!  Super big thanks to Diana & Audrey for the hospitality!