Friday, November 27, 2009

Joshua Tree to Arizona

Palm Springs, our planned stopover for a few days, ended up being a one nighter and source to gather supplies. Our RV site was very comfortable and folks very friendly (lots of British Columbia snowbirds) but the once very popular spot for weekend get-a-ways from LA LA land has seen better days. Of course, the sidewalks still have the "stars" cemented in their centres which we observed during our morning run. However, we were too young and had not had enough plastic surgery to warrant staying longer.

We both agree in our 4.5 months on the road that the most enjoyable stays have not been in the cities but rather away from the bustle. So off we escaped again, to Joshua Tree National Park. The Park contains parts of both the Mojave and Colorado deserts. We decided to camp at Jumbo Rocks famous for it's stacked boulders and picturesque joshua trees. There were no roadrunner sightings and luckily no rattle snakes either. The daytime temperatures were ideal for running and hiking though the nights and early mornings were quite cool. A memorable hike up Ryan Mountain (5461 feet or 1664 m) gave us great views and the cell coverage to leave a birthday message for my friend Diane. Time definitely slows down when we have no phone, internet, tv or radio distractions. After several days we needed to replenish our water and supplies so reluctantly we left our spot at Jumbo Rocks.

Indio, our destination to gather supplies was great. Temperatures were very hot and the RV Park was a resort with an inviting swimming pool and hot tub. We met some Californians who had just purchased a large "A" coach but had not travelled outside their own neighbourhood and were impressed to hear our tales. Next morning before heading out to "Slab City" we had a great 10 km run (my fastest in a year) through Sun City (a planned retirement community).

A description of the Salton Sea and Slab City (where we boondocked) that does it justice is hard to do with words alone. Hopefully the added pictures will help.

The Salton Sea is a saline, endorheic body of water which means water runs in but not out which in this case means polluted water in and increase saltiness due to evaporation. What was hoped to be a resort lake in the 60's in now a desolate area of boarded up motels, wrecked playgrounds, ramshackled trailers and shorelines of dead fish. Despite this it is one of the major wintering spots for birds. It was here at the Salton Sea in the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge that we finally saw roadrunners.

We dry camped at the Slabs. A de-commissioned World War II base now populated by a mixture of those who want off the "grid" either full-time or just wintertime.

One notable character is Leonard Knight who has been building his monument to God for the past 20 years. It is made of odd pieces of timber, hay bales, adobe and donated paint and aptly called Salvation Mountain.

Our final stop before leaving California for the last time on our trip was Quechan Indian Reservation. Our campsite here was just a short walk across the border to the small Mexican village of Los Algodones. So for American Thanksgiving we crossed the border to savour tacos, barbecued chicken, rice, refried beans, salsa, guacamole and of course cervasa. The village serves Americans and Snowbirds without drug or dental coverage. It has streets lined with dentists, opticians and pharmacies.

Arizona next.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baker to Big Sur

The new Nanna and Poppy are back on the road. It has been a little hard to concentrate with the distraction of our little treasure back in Canada. However, the internet is a marvellous tool and we get updates as well as pics to keep us going.

After arriving back in Las Vegas we picked up Moho who had a great rest and fine tune up and we headed west back to California. With jet lag and still feeling the emotions of our trip home we did not make it very far on the first night. Actually we got to Primm about 40 miles west of Vegas. The one and only RV park had closed and we resorted to a Casino parking lot with a few other travellers. I will add that we were too tired to spend a few quarters inside.

A good night sleep gave us energies to hit the desert again. We found an ideal camping spot with its own Ghost Town - Calico. Though it's population in 2001 was 8 people, at it's peak in 1887 it had 1200 and was a flourishing silver mining town. It also has a famous cabin constructed from bottles.

The next day was interesting driving as we passed Edwards Air Force Base (space shuttle's second home), 100's of windmills, California City (a planned city with paved roads and no houses that never quite made it) and Bakersfield (the end of the road for many migrants from the east during the depression) finally arriving in Santa Maria to commence the Pacific Coast Highway. We made a few pitstops along the way. The first being Trader Joe's (Don's new best friend and favourite supermarket) and Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo. Bubblegum Alley is a narrow laneway and major tourist attraction where people have been sticking their chewed gum for many years.

We finally arrived in Morro Bay and decided to break for a few days as we try to stay off the roads on weekends. The park was small and the couple who were the owners were energetic and busily replacing most of the concrete pads with interlocking bricks. We took the opportunity to utilize the biking trails through town and did a couple of runs. The location was excellent in that we could stroll through downtown and along the waterfront boardwalk. There were many fish and chip restaurants but we opted for Giovanni's one night and purchased fresh fish from his market to cook ourselves on another night.

After four days it was time to move again and drive what is said to be "the most beautiful drive in the world" the Pacific Coast Highway section from Morro Bay to Monterrey passing Big Sur. It was indeed beautiful and the winding cliffside highway presented many views. The town of Big Sur was a little disappointing and in our opinion the entire drive did not match the Oregon Coast experience. We did not tour the Hearst Castle thinking it was not worth the $48. but took pictures from a distance and viewed the massive Visitor Centre outlining the contents of the Castle.

Before leaving the Coast we had a great RV park in Monterrey. It was situated high on a hillside in Laguna Seca Recreation Area adjacent to the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. We had fun watching the practice runs and the incredible speed of these cars.

On to Palm Springs..............

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stella Emmalene Lewis

We had planned a stopover after the New York Marathon in Toronto before returning to Las Vegas. Our plan was to visit with Kirsten late in her pregnancy and celebrate with a baby shower.

But Baby Stella had other plans. She decided to arrive while all the family was together. Two weeks early! Our visit with a very pregnant Kirsten became a visit with mother and baby instead.

Stella Emmalene Lewis arrived on

November 4th weighing 6 lb. 12 oz.

We were able to spend 5 days with Stella, Kirsten & Jeff before returning to Las Vegas. Thank you Stella......

Friday, November 13, 2009

New York Marathon

November 1, 2009

It's a day I won't forget anytime soon. The New York Marathon! After 9 long years, 13 marathons and back surgery I finally made it to the start line. People said it was an emotional marathon and they weren't kidding. Close to 44,000 ran and I'm sure each had their own goal and reason to run. Of course there is a lot of hype but the logistics of moving that many people to Staten Island for the start was pretty impressive. After a subway ride to the Ferry terminal I said my good-bye to Don (the best and patient Coach ever) and boarded the 8 am boat.

The first person I chatted with was originally from Vancouver but living on Manhatten and sat next to her were a couple eating Tim Horton bagels (new to Times Square). We shuffled our way to my Blue Corral for my 10:15 wave. Here I met a mother/daughter team from Ottawa. It reminded me of Alicia's first marathon in Vancouver, Kirsten's first marathon in Tampa and Erin's yet to be decided. Time actually flew by and we were quickly herded to the start and the crossing of the Verazzano bridge. A strong wind whipped across the bridge and I thought it was going to carry me over. This was going to be a long day! However with the multitudes of people and the various types of music I soon got into a groove even forgetting my own Ipod. The miles went by and on the bottom of 59th Street Bridge, as promised, there was a familiar smiling face, Don. A hug and picture moment and I was off to the finish. New York was supposed to be my first marathon..........will it be my last.......only time will tell!

Next day we walked Central Park/Times Square to remove the stiffness and shopped a little for the grandbaby soon to be born. Off to Toronto later in the day to see family and friends that we had not seen since July.

Bryce - Zion - Valley of Fire

We arrived in Glendale, Utah to set up camp before our company arrived. The location was ideal in verdant Long Valley in the fall of the year. Our RV Park was on a working farm in Glendale complete with apple orchards, donkeys and llamas. The family had worked this land for generations.

While waiting for Erin, Brad, Rachel and Dylan to arrive we completed the final runs before the New York Marathon. Hopefully all this training at higher altitude will produce rewards when running the marathon at sea level.

We woke the next morning with cold but sunny weather and drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. At 8000 to 9000 ft. it was colder than we had anticipated. Thankfully we were able to visit here before the approaching winter set in.

We drove to the end of the road and on our return stopped at many viewpoints each

more breathtaking than the previous. The most

spectacular was Bryce Point where we had our first view of the complete Bryce Canyon


At Sunset Point we hiked into the Amphitheatre starting along the Rim Trail, dropping down into the canyon at Sunrise Point along Queen's Garden Trail and climbing back out to Sunset Point through the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail. This is touted to be "The Best 3 Mile Hike in the World". While on the trail we had lots of discussion about this ranking but all in the group decided it was one of the most beautiful hikes we had been on.

That night after all the hiking we walked to the uniquely decorated Buffalo Bistro to savour Wild Boar and Bison ribs with cheap Pitchers. With Utah's strict liquour laws the owner told us they were able to get a beer licence but it was too much hassle to get a wine or cooler licence.

The next morning we all piled back into the rented mini van for our visit to Zion National Park. We had expectations of warmer weather as this time we would be on the floor of the valley and not on the rim. The drive to Zion Valley passed through unique landforms on it's way to a one mile tunnel and multiple switchbacks into the Valley.

Along the way we stopped for a short hike to the rim of the canyon to catch our first glimpse of Zion. We toured Zion Valley the first day that private vehicles were permitted to drive after the busy summer season. We did two hikes and even though water levels were low the fall colours were beautiful. It is amazing that the present slow flowing Virgin River could have created this beautiful valley but I guess it had a long time to do it.

Rachel and Dylan left us the next day but not before picking apples for the road. The remaining four of us had 2 days to make our way back to Las Vegas. On the way we visited Pipe Springs National Monument, an early Mormon settlement in the desert. We camped at Valley of Fire State Park and wished we had more time to spend here.

Next off to New York and Toronto.........