Foreign Lands

After traveling around and camping in the US for the past four months, John and I decided to add a bit of international flavor to our trip. So, we jumped on our bikes (from our current base in Carson City, NV) and headed off to the Sovereign Republic of Molossia, a scant twenty miles away. 20160416_115956Never heard of Molossia? I’m shocked!

It all started with an article from Atlas Obscura, which I read just a day or two ago. (I urge you to read this, so you will understand why we needed to make the long trek to a foreign country). It seemed only reasonable to bike up there to see what Molassia is all about. The article linked above indicated that tours would be given on April 16, which just happens to be Obscura Day (whatever that is). We even brought our passports, in hopes of getting the coveted Molossia stamp, which was also referenced in the article.

Well, the welcome mat certainly was not rolled out as we had expected. 20160416_120155No Trespassing signs were everywhere. We were warned not to cross the clearly marked US/Molossia Border, without permission, which we didn’t have. 20160416_120105Inside the Palace or Official Residence, we could hear somebody vacuuming (presumably the President, First Lady, or one of the 31 other citizens of Molossia). We were hesitant to approach.20160416_12032020160416_120426From a distance, we could see the business center of Molossia, which seemed to consist of a Post Office, bank, some kind of t-shirt shop, and a few other sites which were too far away for us to clearly see them. 20160416_120220Fred, the guy at the Border Control station was distinctly unhelpful.20160416_12012020160416_120207After propping our bikes up for a few photos, we sadly pedaled away. 20160416_120251Perhaps if President Kevin Baugh would send the Official State Limo to pick us up, we would consider another visit. Until then – Bah!

On the bright side, we pedaled about 40 miles – checked out Dayton State Park, had a superb (and cheap!) lunch at Compadres in Dayton, and sneaked a peek at some of the treasures stowed away at the Dayton Historical Museum.20160416_130122Here are a few other shots of our day’s adventure around the Dayton/Molossia area.20160416_10365520160416_11185620160416_12564020160416_124921It was a pretty good day.

 

Deep Blue

Sadly, we left the Redwood National Forest, and pointed the Fireball east for the first time in months. Got one last photo of the giant tree in our campsite ‘backyard’. 20160410_174110As close as we could measure this with our Stanley 10′ tape measure, it was nearly 38′ around.

One last pass through Crescent City was in order, as this was our last view of the Pacific Ocean as well. The old lighthouse there (still operating), sitting on its picturesque island is a beautiful sight for any camera lens.20160410_12025720160410_120232 McArthur-Burney Falls State Park was our next stop for a brief overnight. The never-ending county road took us through the Siskiyou Mountains. Bet our average speed for a 40 mile stretch was no more than 25mph, but what a gorgeous route. Sometimes, it pays not to be in a hurry.20160411_112513The campsites at McArthur-Burney were large, secluded, and barely populated.20160411_175254 We wandered down to the spectacular falls. Not only does water thunder over the top of the falls – it also pushes through the bedrock walls on each side of the main falls.20160412_090844 I’ve never seen anything quite so dramatic. Water flow was good, and we could hear the falls back at our campsite, even though it was probably 1/3 mile away. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through this point, so I even got to walk a few hundred yards on this trail, perhaps made most famous by the book and movie “Wild”.

An early start was in order for the next day, as we wanted to check out Lassen Volcanic National Park, and (hopefully) get in a brief hike. Closed!! Even the Visitor Center was closed for the season (doesn’t open until Memorial weekend). We wandered around the area, checking out the early seismograph located there.20160412_101516 For miles around, there are huge chunks of volcanic rock – although I don’t know the history of this volcano, it must have been one enormous eruption, or series of eruptions. It’s a gorgeous area, and we were sad not to be able to explore.20160412_10294920160412_104056 Even the State Highway is closed for the season at that point – we had to backtrack to get to Lake Tahoe, our next destination.

This was one of the rare times we really didn’t know where we were going to ‘land’ the Fireball. We had pinpointed several campgrounds in the nearby National Forest, but all are closed for the season. We finally found one state park on the west side of the Lake, which had probably a dozen open campsites. So, Ed Z’berg Sugar Point Pines State Park became our home for three nights. What an interesting spot. This is a huge State Park with over 175 campsites. But, we were the only campers there. Showers were all locked up, but we did have flush toilets. Solitude, very cold windy nights, and a huge starry sky. Bonus – we woke up on Day 2 to snow.20160414_071457Lake Tahoe is deep and cold. It holds 39 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the state of California with 14″ of clear, drinkable water. It’s an amazing sparkling deep blue color.20160413_121931image The average depth is 1600′ feet, which I find incredible, since Lake Superior has an average depth of less than 500, and is about 1350 at its deepest spot. We hiked, biked, and wandered everywhere we could. It was difficult not just to sit and appreciate our good fortune for being able to land in such a spectacular spot.20160414_11345820160414_104152One point of interest was Vikingholm, a large Scandinavian style home built on the southern shore in the 1920s.. Dappled light made photos difficult, and I was disappointed not to get a great photo of the snow-covered sod roof which covers a section of the home. 20160414_12284320160414_12231220160413_124015Completed in 1929, it now is part of the Park, but was closed (nothing apparently opens until Memorial weekend). But what a pleasure to walk around.

Saw this notable cedar of some type with its curly bark, and a large pine tree with an unusual repair job to cover up a wound.

The rest of our time was spent viewing the lake from every possible elevation and angle. With the bright clear skies brought on by the prior night’s snowfall, it was a photo dream. I could probably post a hundred photos, taken just because I wanted to imprint these images on my brain.

Lake Tahoe was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and part of them took place right on the trails in our campground. How could we resist taking our mountain bikes (and rifles – HA!) and heading out to the biathlon course?20160413_114121 We got off to a great start, but soon ran into old icy snow piles. Wham! Suddenly I was face-planted in the cold icy stuff. Luckily John didn’t see it, but he did ask me to recreate the scene for a photo. NOT! I managed to biff a second time before we came to a huge (50 yards long) deep muddy hole. There’s no way we could tell how deep it was, and there was no way to bypass it, so we turned back. Yes, I did fall once again on the return. For my efforts, I have a sore knee and a bit of ice burn on my leg. Badges of honor on an Olympic course – I’m proud.

The Donner Party met its demise in this area, so we headed to Donner Lake State Park to see the new Museum there, which just opend in Fall 2015. The Donner Party was a group of 89 pioneers headed to California in 1846-47. They took a ‘shortcut’ which didn’t turn out to be that, and bogged down for months. The upshot was that about half died along the way, and their bodies were consumed by others in a desperate attempt to survive. Only 47 of the original 89 survived that brutal winter, the worst in 100 years. Other areas of the museum are dedicated to the Chinese laborers who cut the railroad tunnels through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1860s. The labors of these workers are finally being appropriately credited to them, after years of silence for this achievement. The Museum doesn’t really lend itself to photos of these exhibits, but a statue outside, dedicated in 1918, pays tribute to all those California pioneers.20160414_145408We left much unseen in the Lake Tahoe area, in the hopes that we’ll make a return trip.image 20160414_121830Hard to believe, but we’re already feeling the pressure of moving eastward to make our deadline of being in Maggie Valley, NC on May 18. How are we going to cover all of those miles in a mere month?

We’ve rolled into Carson City NV for a few days. No more camping in the woods by ourselves – we’re in a crowded RV park.20160415_141906 But there’s WiFi! Showers that aren’t coin-operated! Electricity and water. All the things we haven’t had but for a day or two in the last two months. If it wasn’t for all the traffic noise, other campers, and barking dogs, it would be great!

The trek eastward continues.

 

The Big Views

This is going to be a hasty post, as we’re camped out in the library in Mendocino, and they close in an hour. Must hurry!!

It was both sad and a relief to leave San Francisco – loved having the city sights to see, but there was added stress in that we couldn’t ever quite agree on where to go, what to see, and whether to walk, ride, or bus from spot to spot. Guess we are just better off when we hang out in the woods.

So, we crossed the Golden Gate with the Fireball in tow – MUCH less stressful than cycling across! Our destination was Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County. 20160327_144936Once again, it’s one of the older campgrounds in the State Park system – it was crowded, but so pleasant. Lots of campers, but no generators – kids on bikes and campfires. Just what camping should be. Our campsite even had its own personal redwood tree, or redwood-in-training, as it was less than 200′ tall.

Can’t

wait

for

the

really

tall

ones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first day, we decided that we needed to cycle to Fairfax to visit the National Museum of Bicycling, and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Lots of crazy stories about the startup days of mountain bikes in Marin County, home of Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Ritchey (of frame-building fame), and so many other greats. The Larkspur Canyon Gang, as they were known started with mountain bike, downhill racing time trials. From there, they never looked back.

Check out the gigantic chainring on this downhill bike – 66 teeth!20160324_140019Or, this Cannondale which was specifically built for the World Championship Downhill Mountain Bike races.20160324_140525Nearby Point Reyes (Rye’ Ess) National Seashore was our destination for the next two days. Fierce winds slammed us around the first day – gusts of 40+mph made photos blurry, and breathing difficult. The Lighthouse there was especially in a gusty location. 20160325_133632Check out the hair of the woman standing next to John!20160325_134328We went back a second day to hike out to Tomales Point, the northernmost point of the Park. Everything is so unbelievably green and lush.20160326_15093820160326_15191520160326_153818Dairy farms have been on this peninsula for more than 150 years, and the pastures now are home to several family-owned organic farms. Wildflowers of every color and variety wave in the wind – iris, calla lilies, a few leftover California poppies, and white, yellow, and purple tiny ground flowers of every sort.20160329_11064520160326_142710These Queen Anne’s Lace are on very hearty stalks – some were over 1/2″ in diameter. The damp ocean breeze curves the cypress trees (where they exist) to form natural windbreaks.

While we were at Point Reyes, we also explored the Earthquake Trail. The story is in this single photograph. The fence here was one single piece, until the 1906 Earthquake caused one section to jump 16 feet! In the middle of these two pieces the San Andreas Fault runs. John tempts fate here by putting one foot on each side of the fault. Amazing.20160325_120823Before leaving the area, we had one more day to hike, so we climbed up to an old fire outlook in the hills surrounding the Park. Amazing views.20160327_12282420160327_12223220160327_121948Pushing northward to Mendocino, we passed Fort Ross State Historical Monument. 20160328_11470320160328_120743This compound was built in the 1830s by the Russians, as part of a chain of supply posts for their Alaskan fur-hunting settlements. Did you know that Russian sable is actually sea otter? (I thought it was a mink-type of animal). The entire compound is encircled by an eight-foot fence, and is well fortified.20160328_11492020160328_120422Our current campground is at Russian Gulch State Park is Mendocino. Getting here was a chore for me – Route 1 is a twisty-turny road, not a happy place for one who so easily gets carsick.20160328_110509 I fortified myself with Bonine, but was still fairly green after hours winding our way north. Thank goodness for stopping often to soak in the gorgeous views.

We’ve hiked and biked here. Today, we got to watch a pod of whales make their way north. For the first time, they came out of the water time and time again – it was magical to see.

Going to quit now and just fold in a few photos. They’re going to toss us out of the Library soon, and we have no access of any sort at the campground. It’s REAL camping.20160329_17070720160329_16431520160329_12453220160329_12310520160329_111157

We did have one ‘incident’ involving some of the local population. Right after we first got camp set up, I noticed a huge banana slug near the picnic table. It was about 5″ long, and as big around as my pinkie finger. John grabbed and stick and commenced to fling it into the bushes, but it got away from him, and he flung it right onto my neck. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

It’s going to be hard to leave this beautiful spot. Mendocino is the perfect beach community. But, we’re stalking the Coastal Redwood, and there aren’t any here. We’re going to hike another day, then push north again on Friday.

San Francisco Days

San Francisco….Alcatraz, Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Nob Hill, Candlestick Park, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf. So much to do – we actually experienced most of this (and more) with a couple of glaring exceptions.

First of all, are we the only people who didn’t know that Candlestick Park had been demolished? When we reserved our spot at Candlestick RV Park, we had visions of watching pink sunsets on the iconic ballpark, perhaps hearing the ghostly voices of Willie Mays or Juan Marichal chuckling at stories of great times in the Good Old Days. Such a shock to find that the park no longer exists – it’s a huge excavation site soon to be decorated with luxury apartments. 20160323_071518.jpgDid you know that the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3500/month? How can this be?

We chose this RV Park because it’s close to a metro line for transportation, and within cycling distance of the city and all the things we wanted to see. Good thing, because for our $100 a night, we sure didn’t get any ambiance! We are packed in here like bikes in  Amsterdam. (Google photo).

See us wedged in there?

You can probably see San Francisco from a double-decker tour bus or car (god forbid), but pedal power plus sandal power really is the way to go. With a few notable disagreements about where and how far to go, we explored the City. Many places, especially on the weekend were packed – teeming with tourists. Cars and people are crowding the bike lanes, bikes are on the sidewalks, strollers and skateboards are everywhere – it’s chaos. Waiting time to see the murals at Coit Tower >one hour. No thank you. So, we looked at the outsides of places.20160320_15294820160320_14025120160320_13401720160320_13400620160320_12041720160319_14562720160320_11243020160320_113121Had to chuckle at these Asian tourists trying to figure out the pay toilets.20160320_115724Chinatown is a feast for a camerahound.20160320_11085820160320_110634Monday was a problem. We decided to split up for the day, because we just couldn’t agree on where and how to get there. John got off the trail near the Pier, intending to go to Alcatraz. Ha! Booked until March 31. My goal was Golden Gate Park, so I stayed on the train for several more stops, and got off to wander. City Hall – home of many famous weddings (Marilyn Monroe/Joe DiMaggio being one of the most notable), was my first stop. 20160321_11004820160321_110537Up and down, through both good and sketchy neighborhoods, I plodded westward toward the park.20160321_114808In the (at times) pouring rain. Except for my $200 cycling rain jacket, I looked like any other homeless person moving along the sidewalk. Wet and miserable.

Finally, I get to the Park, which is loaded with spring tropical flowers and feels like a jungle. The Conservatory of Flowers is my first stop. Closed! (Monday). Crap! 20160321_122118So, I move along to the DeYoung Museum, intending to commune with my ancestors (my maiden name is DeYoung). Closed! (Monday) Crap! The only thing open is the Japanese Tea Garden, a serene beautifully-manicured sanctuary. 20160321_12381820160321_124156About that time, I’m seriously wet, and John texts – would I like to meet for lunch at Tadich Grill? I think I can bus/subway it there in about 45 minutes. If you go there, order the cioppino. We did, on advice from John’s brother, and it was fantastic. We sat at the long narrow bar in the center of the room, and we curtly greeted by our waiter – a sixtyish dour gentleman. “Wine?” “Red or white?”  “Two cioppino? Want some creamed spinach with that? There are no vegetables in cioppino.” John bet me $50 I couldn’t get him to smile. HA! Who does he think he’s dealing with. That guy and I are now best friends. After lunch, John went home, and I wandered for a while more.20160321_152838One thing we both agreed that we MUST do was to bicycle across the Golden Gate. Tuesday was the perfect day for such an endeavor, being the first day with a sparkling blue sky. 20160322_12203120160322_12294520160322_122743It was fun, and harrowing at the same time. Imagine hundreds of people on rental bicycles, most of whom have no real sense of cycling. The bike careens left and right with each pedal stroke – you know the kind. Hell, maybe you are that kind. But, it makes for an interesting ride. Picture it….all these bikes, combined with hundreds of people on foot, dozens with their selfie sticks, randomly stepping out into traffic to take the perfect photo of themselves. It’s crazy. And scary. Glad we did it, but I’m not anxious to do it again. I struck up a conversation with a former bicycle messenger who mentioned that he had only struck pedestrians twice in 30 years of cycling the bridge. It must happen every day. Yikes.

We explored the Presidio, stopping at the San Francisco National Cemetery.20160322_132744In the distance, we could see the curious dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, so we detoured to take a look. Built in 1915 for the purpose of exhibiting art for the Panama-Pacific Explosition, it’s an amazing structure.20160322_13510620160322_13542620160322_135349 The classic pillars glowed in the sun. What a fantastic sight.

We had some San Francisco failures, too. The icky clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf. The disappointing lunch in Chinatown. Lots of places we just didn’t see, some of it because we just were too wet to wander anymore. Wish I would have gotten a photo of the double-decker sightseeing bus with the passenger on top who had one of those clear rain ponchos wrapped around her head. It was that kind of weather for a few days.

This post isn’t what I had hoped for either. The WiFi here sucks, and most of my photos didn’t upload. It’s time to move on, so this will have to do.

Oh well.

 

 

California Dreams

Before we move on to a new spot, I wanted to share a few more photos of the gorgeous Monterey area. We’ve got a bit of WiFi now, with bandwidth to burn, so here’s a bit of California eye candy. It truly is a magnificent area. Also, if anyone’s interested, I found that the video of the elephant seals in the previous post was not the one I had intended to insert. The one there now is different, so go back and look, if you are so inclined…..20160312_10540920160312_11115420160312_12295220160312_12321020160312_13025420160312_13100020160312_13245520160312_133054Without really leaving the Monterey area, we moved on to a new campground north in the Laguna Seca Recreation Area. The campground there is located near the Mazda Laguna Seca Racetrack. We had a choice of being in a site nearer the track, or one nearer the shooting range. We decided that Jezzy would appreciate racin’ more than shootin’, and picked a site accordingly. Our front row seat was run for a couple of days. Loud, but fun.20160315_094709The first day was motorcycle racing. These guys are nuts! The fastest time we clocked was 1:37 around the 2.3 mile track. Day 2 was two guys running practice laps in Ferraris. Equally nuts. The high point for us? On the evening of Day 2, it was bicycle night on the track! A mere $10 got us and our bikes on the tracks for as many hot laps as we could stand. What a hoot! The track has a very steep climb, followed by an equally steep corkscrew downhill – first an inside turn, then an outside turn – into a long straightaway, and a couple of hairpin turns. Yowza – we had a blast.20160316_18013420160316_175748The LSRA is bordered by the Fort Ord National Monument, so there were miles and miles of gorgeous open trails for hiking and mountain biking. From our start point, the trails were beyond my mtb capabilities, in addition to being horribly washed out by the torrential rainfall of the previous week the start was STEEP! But, Jezzy and I enjoyed strolling along – even though we occasionally went ankle-deep in mud.20160315_091835Nearby Salinas is the home of the National Steinbeck Museum. I decided to pedal the 15 miles there,, and it was a rewarding ride. I passed acres of farms, which still hand ponds of standing water, even though the last rainfall was four days prior. One fieldhand was hand-shoveling soil into pools of water between strawberry rows. I could see many ripe strawberries buried in mud as I cycled past. What a mess.20160316_115201The Steinbeck Museum itself? Not so interesting. We really didn’t find much to catch our attention for more than an hour, although we did decided to hoof it over to the cemetery to see Steinbeck’s burial site. A plain marker. Ha – joke on us. It was a four mile round trip on foot. Loved the little sign pointing to the burial plot, though….20160316_133841Two days was enough time camping at a racetrack, especially since there was a big sportscar race coming up for the weekend. We headed north to Sunset Beach State Park, quiet and beautiful. The Fireball is right in the middle of this photo…20160317_14022120160317_19002220160317_19074120160317_191736_HDR20160318_11214620160318_11310620160318_113449We rode our bikes down, and pedaled along the sand for miles each way. For the most part, we had the entire beach to ourselves. Such a pity that Jezzy was not allowed on the beach to join us.

The pine trees there have an unusual cone formation – they grow in clumps, as well as individual cones. Perhaps, they were just rainsoaked, but some of the clumps were surprisingly heavy. I believe these are Monterey Pines, but am not certain of that.20160318_172900This  State Park is in Watsonville, which seems to be the strawberry capital of the world. Bordering the campground were acres of strawberries – again with some severe water problems. For the days that we were there, the farmer had pumps and generators running 24/7, trying to remove the excess water from the fields.20160318_11130220160318_111128We’re now camping in San Francisco – time to move our bikes and boots into the city. This segment of our adventures will require its own separate post, but let me just say that our rain gear isn’t getting any rest. Enough!!

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