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Adventures in the Villa

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2021-06-07 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 12 – Fruita, CO

Today we return to the Colorado National Monument to see more of its beauty…

On our way to the entrance we crossed the mighty Colorado River…

The Colorado River is the major river of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Its headwaters are in Rocky Mountain National Park where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. It flows southwest through the Colorado Plateau country of western Colorado, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona, where it flows through the Grand Canyon. It turns south near Las Vegas, Nevada, forming the Arizona–Nevada border in Lake Mead and the Arizona–California border a few miles below Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada and Needles, California, before entering Mexico in the Colorado Desert. Most of its waters are diverted into the Imperial Valley of Southern California. In Mexico its course forms the boundary between Sonora and Baja California before entering the Gulf of California.

We re-entered the Colorado National Monument.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department. The National Park System has since expanded to 423 units (often referred to as parks), more than 150 related areas, and numerous programs that assist in conserving the nation’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Park Service manages all of the various “units” – Parks, Forests, Monuments, Historic Sites, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas, Scenic Trails, and several other designations. The first parks were Yellowstone (1872), Sequoia (1890), Yosemite (1890), Mt. Rainier (1899), Crater Lake (1902), Wind Cave (1903), Mesa Verde (1906), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915). Colorado National Monument was established in 1911. The different desinations have to do with how they are created. National Parks are created by acts of Congress. National Monuments and most other designations are created by the President via Executive Order. Thirty States have National Parks; the States with the most parks are: California (9), Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).

We began our visit with a ranger talk in the picnic area where we had had dinner last night…

We learned about the geology of these magnificent cliffs and canyons, plus a little of the park history. The man behind the creation of the Colorado National Monument was John Otto, who settled in Grand Junction in the early 20th century. Otto was the first white man to explore the area.

Prior to Otto’s arrival, many area residents believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. Otto began building trails on the plateau and into the canyons.  As word spread about his work, the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Junction sent a delegation to investigate. The delegation returned praising both Otto’s work and the scenic beauty of the wilderness area, and the local newspaper began lobbying to make it a National Park. A bill was introduced and carried by the local Representatives to the U.S. Congress and Senate but a Congressional slowdown in the final months threatened the process. To ensure protection of the canyons President William Howard Taft (who had visited the area) stepped in and used the highest powers available to him via the Antiquities Act and presidential proclamation to declare the canyons as a national monument

John Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park.

For many years during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps. built roads, tunnels, trails, and other features of the park. The CCC left in 1941; the major Rim drive was completed in the 1950s.

Following the Ranger talk we visited the Visitor Center. I liked the fact that it is built from the native sandstone…

After we had seen a few exhibits in the Visitor Center we drove the Rim drive for 23 miles, all the way to Grand Junction. We saw 23 miles of rocks.

Here I liked the walls made from the natural sandstone… These walls are several hundred feet long, and they occur at many of the pull-outs along the Rim drive…

After we left the park we drove through Grand Junction again. We found truck fuel and DEF. Tomorrow we will return to Fruita for some final grocery shopping before we enter the wilderness of Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge Dam, and the Grand Tetons National Park…

It was 97 degrees again, but we have good, clean power, so both AC units are running in the Airstream… At 5:00 we took a walk around the lake in the park.

We also saw the Colorado River again, adjacent to the park…

Unfortunately, we walked out of the park and around the outside of the park, and finally had to go totally around the park and walk in the maim entrance…

After a short break we joined other caravaners for happy hours. We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…,

2021-06-02 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 7 – Colorado Springs, CO

Another exciting day is planned for us again! We will go to the top of Pikes Peak and ride bicycles back down!

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The ultra-prominent 14,115′ peak is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike, who explored the area in 1806, although he never reached the summit… The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.

The band of Ute people who called the Pikes Peak region their home were the Tabeguache, whose name means the “People of Sun Mountain”. It is thought that the Ute people first arrived in Colorado about 500 A.D. In the 1800s, when the Arapaho people arrived in Colorado, they knew the mountain as Heey-otoyoo’ meaning “Long Mountain”.

Early Spanish explorers named the mountain “El Capitán,” meaning “The Leader”. American explorer Zebulon Pike named the mountain “Highest Peak” in 1806, and the mountain was later commonly known as “Pike’s Highest Peak.” The mountain was later renamed “Pikes Peak” in honor of Pike.

The first European-American to climb the peak came 14 years after Pike, in the summer of 1820.  Edwin James, a young student who had just graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, signed on as the relief botanist for Stephen Harriman Long’s expedition. James and two other men left the expedition, camped on the plains, and climbed the peak in two days, encountering little difficulty. Along the way, James was the first to describe the blue columbine, Colorado’s state flower.

So today, we were up before 5:00 am and we left the RV park at 6:15. We boarded strange looking Jeeps, and we were transported to be fitted for bicycles, helmets, gloves, etc.  

Bicycles, gloves, and helmets were selected…

And soon we were ready to go!

Bikes were loaded onto the van and we were off!

The views were marvelous on the way up!

In 1895, Katharine Lee Bates was so awestruck by views of Pikes Peak that she penned a poem, the words of which have become the lyrics of “America the Beautiful”:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

The Visitor Center at the summit (14,000’) is under re-construction, so we knew that we would not be starting from there.  However, we were stopped at about 11,000′; the road ahead was closed due to ice on the road.  So we had a restroom break and waited a bit, letting the sun melt the ice.

We were eventually allowed to continue up to about 12,000’ elevation.  We stretched our legs, claimed our bicycles, and readied to ride down the mountain… 

The ride down was exhilarating!  We road the brakes to maintain our speed, and to keep from running off the road at the curves.  Unfortunately, it’s way too hard to take pictures while riding a bike at up to 30 miles per hour! We stopped several times, to regather the group, and to drink some water. 

At the bottom of the hill we had lunch at the Wines of Colorado. We dismounted, turned in our bikes and helmets, and enjoyed some hearty cheeseburgers…

The ride down covered about 8-10 miles, with an elevation drop of about 5,000 feet!

We were exhausted!  We returned to the Villa and took a well-deserved nap.  Early in the afternoon we drove to Garden of the Gods Park.  We stopped into the Visitor Center and booked a Jeep tour of the park.

Garden of the Gods is a public park located in Colorado Springs, just about one mile from our RV Park. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.

The Garden of the Gods’ red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter.

Multiple American Indian Nations traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes’ oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods.

In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins’ death in 1909, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs, with the provision that it would be a free public park.

So we toured around and saw more red rocks…

We stopped at an overview of Colorado Springs in the distance…

Whilst we were enjoying our vacation and caravan, our daughter and son-in-law and their children were enjoying a vacation in California at Leo Cabrillo State Beach…

We returned to the RV park in time for a GAM – we met a few more new friends… Then the obligatory Driver Meeting…

We returned to the Villa and fell into bed.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-23 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan…Traveling to Las Vegas

This is an exciting day! We are leaving for our first caravan in two years! Our last caravan was Springtime in Kentucky, which was completed on May 16, 2019. Today we head towards Estes Park, Colorado; the Springtime in the Rockies caravan will begin on May 27, 2021.

Yesterday I brought the Airstream home, and parked it in front of our house. We don’t do this often, because the street is narrow, and it curves. And the trees! They have been trimmed up over the street to a height of 10′, so I know we clear. But it is always a challenge to get parked close to the curb and avoid parked cars. But it’s a real convenience to be able to load for a long trip such as this. We will be on the road for 36 days, returning home late June.

Springtime in the Rockies will bring us to all the scenic points in the Rockies, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Pike’s Peak, and Yellowstone National Park, among many others. We will do some hiking, some white water rafting, and we will ride bicycles on Pike’s Peak – down, not up! They will bus us to the top, we will have breakfast, we will climb on bikes and coast down 26 miles, and then they serve us lunch. Sounds like fun to me!

So we left home at about 10:5 am today. Our destination is Las Vegas – a cheap RV park in North Las Vegas. No casino hopping for us!

Quite by chance we “met” on Facebook another couple traveling to the caravan. They are from Nebraska, but they were spending a week or so in SoCal, visiting family; we are traveling with them. We met up in a rest stop just outside Baker, CA. We traveled along with them to Las Vegas.

The Mohave Desert is quite am amazingly stark place! Note to people who thing Eastern Oregon is a desert: This is what a desert looks like…

We found the unique crossroad of Zzyzx:

We drove the freeway past Las Vegas. ‘Nuff said…

We found the Hitchen’ Post RV Park, and set up quickly. We met our new friends for Happy Hours and turned in for the night.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-29 – 05-03: Airstream Club Rally – Newport Dunes RV Resort…

Thursday: Newport Dunes is a beautiful resort on the Back Bay of Newport Beach. We arrived a little before 1:00pm and we were quickly in our site. I did all the set-up, then I left to visit my optometrist in Irvine. I was picking up a new set of glasses and having my sun glasses clips adjusted to the new frames (which are identical to my old frames…). It was a quick errand, and I was back in the resort well before happy hours…

There are about 10 Airstreams here today, with 10-15 more coming on Friday, the official start of the rally. Tonight we have reservations at Bayside, one of my favorite Newport Beach restaurants. Back in the olden days (2002-2009) I came to Bayside for lunch 2-3 days per week, always bringing an employee. I sat at the same table with the same waiter… It is the kind of restaurant I would come to every day if I lived in the neighborhood. (And, if I lived in the neighborhood, obviously, I would be able to afford it…) We are able to walk from the resort…

We had a great dinner with another Airstream couple that we did not know well. It was a great way to make new friends.

Friday dawned bright and sunny and warm – unusually warm for Newport Beach… Lynda went window shopping on Balboa Island with an Airstream friend. She found a cute sundress for our upcoming vacation in the desert…! I, in the mean time, strolled the park and walked around the back bay. Happy Hours were at another Airstream across the way, where we were able to catch up with friends we had not seen in over a year!

Saturday: We had an easy morning… at about noon, we walked the mile or so to Fashion Island, a giant shopping center catering to the Newport Beach crowd. We didn’t see anything we had to have, so we returned empty handed. But we got in a great walk. Saturday evening we shared some happy hours and great wines (Ridge MonteBello and Aubert) with Airstream friends. The club provided a great Cinco de Mayo dinner of tacos, rice, beans, and churros – perfect!

Sunday was overcast, windy and cool. We walked over to Balboa Island and circumnavigated it. It is always a very pleasant walk! Happy Hours were at our Airstream, sharing with Airstream friends old and new.

Monday was our last day. We hitched up and headed for home, arriving about 12:30. And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-24 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Bakersfield to Redlands and Home

We had an uneventful trip home today. We left Bakersfield, stopped for fuel in Tehachapi; Very windy! We arrived home about 2:00 pm.

Happy hours ensued; we ordered Italian take out for dinner…

An enjoyable time was had by all…

We leave for the “Springtime in the Rockies Caravan of May 23, 2021!

2021-04-23 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Los Olivos to Bakersfield

It was 43 degrees at sunrise in the vineyard. As the light hit the solar panels I switched on the furnace to warm up the place. We treated ourselves to bacon and eggs for breakfast, along with coffee. After a relaxing while we hitched up, locked the vineyard gates behind us, and aimed the rig towards Bakersfield! Bakersfield? Yes. In Bakersfield there is a very large house by Frank Lloyd Wright and two smaller houses by Richard Neutra. In addition, there is some celebrated ecclesiastical architecture, the last operating Woolworth’s lunch counter, and several fine dining restaurants. Bakersfield is not to be missed!

To get to Bakersfield from Santa Maria is a 100 mile long lonely road, through the towns of New Cuyama and Cuyama. Finally we arrived at the town of Maricopa, population 1,229. This fine church stands at the center of town:

This church was built in 1908 by C.H. Hoogenboom, my grandfather. I have a snapshot of the church taken by my grandmother in 1908. It has not changed one bit!

We pulled into the River Run RV Resort, right alongside the Kern River. The Kern River has not one drop of water in it… But there is a nice pool and lots of shade. It is 80 degrees this afternoon…

We had lunch, a short dip in the pool, and a quiet dinner in the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-22 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Monterey to Los Olivos

We pulled out of Marina Dunes RV Resort a little after 10:00am, headed back to the 101, and drove south for many hours. Traffic was light, scenery was beautiful, with the hills still showing green, but not for long. We stopped of the side of the road, made a quick lunch, and ate in the car as we drove…

At a little after 1:00 we arrived at the El Camino Vineyard, owned by Saarloos and Sons Vineyards. We pulled in and parked next to a giant oak tree. This will be our home for the night…

We were amazed by our surroundings… We thank the Saarloos family for letting us camp here…

We drove the 3 miles into Los Olivos and stopped in at Saarloos and Sons and at Wayland to buy a few bottles. You can never have too many bottles of wine… We walked around the block a few times to get some steps in, then returned to the Villa to prepare for dinner.

Dinner tonight is at Bell’s, in Los Alamos, CA. Bell’s used to be a quaint little French bistro until the recent unpleasantries. When indoor dining was banned, they cleaned up their patio, and now serve just a few tables per night; reservations only, prepaid deposit with reservation, 5 course prix Fixe dinner, and mandatory 20% gratuity. We had been here last August, and we were so impressed that we had to go again tonight. Our dinner consisted of:

1

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

mille crepe

2

Salad of Finley Farms Lettuces

shallot & medjool date vinaigrette

3

Vitello Tonnato

crispy veal sweetbreads, caper berries

and

Omelette

asparagus, truffle noire hollandaise

4

Croustillant of Bar Raye’

charred fennel puree, beurre noisette

and

Steak au Poivre

5 oz. coulette, Steve’s peppercorn sauce and frites

5

Lemon Custard

creme chantilly, pistachio crumble

We enjoyed a bottle of 2016 Land of Promise Terra de Promisio Pinot Noir and 2017 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, both from Sonoma Coast. Service was top notch, the patio was delightful, sitting under the evening sky. A perfect evening.

Then back to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-21 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Redwood City to Monterey

Easy day today. We spent a leisurely morning in the Villa, then headed out from Redwood City at about 11:30. Destination: The city of Marina, just north of Monterey.

We traveled down the 101 through San Jose, on to Morgan Hill, then onto the 156 through Watsonville and Castroville, finally to Marina. Marina Dunes RV Part is located right between Highway 1 and the dunes. This is a very nice park; they have just recently added a new addition, and this is where we were to camp for the night.

After unhitching and setting up, we left to do our research. First, though, we needed fuel and DEF. (For those who don’t own a diesel vehicle: DEF is Diesel Exhaust Fluid, a liquid that somehow lowers the emissions and makes the diesel engine run cleaner. I need to add about 5 gallons every few thousand miles (sometimes more often…). It’s very unpredictable; usually the warning light comes on just AFTER I have refueled at a truck stop (where it is very easy to add at the pump); often if comes on when I am in remote places, like in northeastern Nova Scotia, like I was in 2017 (where it can be hard to find…). There is no way to check ahead of time, because there is no gauge…) Anyhow, we bought DEF and then we went looking for Moss Point KOA. Moss Point is a quaint seaside village adjacent to a marina. The campground was very nice, but small. We were welcomed nicely and they would be happy to host our caravan next year. (It is about 1/2 the price as Marina Dunes, and is adjacent to restaurants and other seaside attractions.)

Our next stop was another KOA, this one near the highway, and not nearly as nice. Good place, as all KOAs are, but not what we are looking for concerning our caravan next year. So we drove back to the Villa.

We walked across the street and onto the dunes:

The path was fenced in, keeping the fragile ecosystem safe; it is being restored, mainly by killing off the ice plant, which is very invasive and kills all other vegetation. Again, thanks to the Coastal Commission, these lands are kept as pristine as possible, and the coastal access is not impeded.

Just over the crest is the beach and ocean.

We stood and enjoyed the beauty as long as we could. IT WAS COLD!

We went back to the Villa and hunkered down, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace. We enjoyed some pate with fine wine for happy hours, with a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-20 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Traveling Forestville to Redwood City

We said farewell to Forestville and the Riverbend RV Resort; we drove south, just past Petaluma, where we stopped in at The Land of Promise. We shared a few glasses of wine with this wonderful family, picked up our lasted wine shipment, and discussed our planned visit next year. This is a “must do” stop on the caravan.

Further south we stopped in at the Marin County Civic Center, the last major project designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLlW) before his death in 1959. The building was completed in 1961, with some additions coming later…

It is a remarkable building, and it will be our first stop on the caravan to see architecture. I was very pleased that the building is very well maintained, and that updates (signage, furnishings, computers) have been sensitively integrated. As you may have noticed, the theme here is circles!

Unfortunately, there were no docent-led tours, so we followed their “self-guided” tour handout. It was a great building to see and experience, and we were only denied access to one area, and kicked out of another…

After the fun of the morning we drove south for a grueling time in San Francisco Bay Area traffic. We ignored the GPS telling us to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge (we had already done that in 2011…). We drove over the Richmond Bridge and headed south through Oakland to Hayward, then across the San Mateo Bridge and on to Redwood City. The Redwood City Trailer Villa was spartan, but well-located. We will stay here if we can confirm a tour of the Hanna house (FLlW) in Palo Alto. As soon as we were set up we drove to Menlo Park and caught the CalTrain into San Francisco, another option for our caravaners. I needed to see how it worked. Once in San Francisco, there was only one place to go:

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, Tadich Grill is the oldest (1849), continuously run restaurant in California, and third oldest in the United States. Long ago, when I was working, I visited Tadich once per week for over a year… Yes, I know – 3,000 great restaurants in San Francisco and I went here every time…

We enjoyed a few Old Fashioneds, Clam Chowder, and Ciopinno. We made the 8:09 CalTrain back to Menlo Park; an enjoyable time was had by all…

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