Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011

Journey’s End

Eight days in Ventura doing Thanksgiving, visiting, and attending to other matters.

We left Ventura yesterday afternoon at 2:00 in bright sun and warm winds.  Felt like summer.  East to I5 and north over the Grapevine.  Light traffic.  All the holiday traffic was over.  As soon as got over the hill and hit the valley floor the season changed – to winter.  FOG.  Low but not so low as to affect visibility. Went on up the valley to Apricot Tree Restaurant on Panoche Rd about half way up the San Joaquin Valley.  The restaurant allows overnight RV parking in their lot.  Very handy.  By the time we got there (about 7:00) the fog was starting to roll across the freeway and filled the parking lot.  Ready to stop.  We left this morning under high fog.  By Stockton it was gone.  Outside temperature never did get above 45 degrees though.  We stopped in Roseville for gas and groceries and then home.  Spent the afternoon emptying the carbus and now to get back to the home rut.

Miles driven:

Carbus  9351.5

Car       1929

Total   11280.5

Map of our 2011 journey.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011

On Hold in Ventura

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  We are still hanging out here for a bit longer.

Here is an updated map of our trip to date.  One piece yet to go.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Novenber 21, 2011

To Ventura

If one has to travel the LA freeways on Monday morning there are two good ways to do it.  One is leave at 2:00 in the morning.  The other is to start in the middle and travel out of town which is what we did.  Our trip from Burbank to Ventura was pretty much smooth sailing @ 50 mph plus all the way.  Staying away from the right hand lanes at freeway intersections (basically one slow moving parking lot joining another even slower parking lot) traffic was fine.  This pleasurable experience was made more so by the clean air.  Again the rain.  Today was sunny and crystal clear with blue skies.  the mountains were clean and clear and looked like cutouts pasted on a blue backdrop.  Again something not seen much in So. Cal.

We are now parked in the driveway at Sue’s mothers house where we will be through Thanksgiving.

November 20, 2011


Sunday.  A better time to travel Southern California freeways.  It is never good but Sunday morning is better.

When we left in the morning the sky was overcast and it was chilly.  Started to get occasional sprinkles about Pasadena and as we arrived at Michaels house in Burbank about 11:00am it was just beginning to rain lightly.  We parked the carbus in his driveway, visited for a bit, had lunch, and visited some more.  All the time the rain was increasing.  He suggested visiting Griffith Observatory.  Off we went.  By now the street gutters were all full to the point that flowing water reached a quarter way into the streets on both sides creating one lane residential streets and two lane main arteries that usually are four or six lanes wide.  We crossed over the LA River, normally a very wide dry concrete ditch.  It was full and flowing fast. As we went through the park the first road to the observatory  was closed for construction.  Skip around the hill to another road.  We start up this road with water rushing on each side of us and often across the road.  The storm drains are expelling water rather than taking it in.  A mile or so up this road we find it closed – water and slides.  There is a third road.  We take it.  Still lots of water and some rocks on the road but passable all the way up.  Best time to visit Griffith Observatory is in the middle of a heavy rain storm – at least for parking.  Got a space right in front.  Can be a half mile walk on busy days.  Of course seeing sun and stars is hampered but there is still much to do and see.  The observatory just completed a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion a few years ago.  Lots of interactive exhibits and displays.  Lots of education available with out realizing it.  There is also a state of the art planetarium.  We watched a 30 minute star show and another show in a brand new underground theater that was donated by Leonard Nemoy.  About 5:00 we went outside.  The rain had stopped and the clouds were lifting.  We were treated with something many LA residents don’t get to see.  Crystal clear view of Hollywood and Los Angeles with all the lights and the sun just setting.  The rain had washed the air clean and we could see for miles.  Pretty neat. 


DSC04773 DSC04778 DSC04779

The sky was actually much darker than these pictures indicate.  The camera compensated and I didn’t get a chance to fix them.  Easier to see detail in these though.  That is not a reflecting pool in the lower picture.  It is water in the parking lot.

Down the hill and out to dinner at a BBQ diner.  We spent over seven weeks in the heart of rib country and go to Burbank to get some.  Go figure.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 18-19, 2011

California Bound

Spent a very pleasant evening Thursday at the home of lifelong friends, visiting and having dinner.  We don’t see them very often and it was fun to spend one on one time with them.

Friday drove over the mountains to Prescott.  Nice, wide road with some noticeable elevation change but very doable for even big rigs (trucks).  The road south out of Prescott is the fun one.  True mountain road.  Two lane road of comfortable width.  There is a sign just out of town saying trucks over 40’ prohibited.  Soon found out why.  Twisty turny road with MANY tight turns and hairpins rated at 20 mph or less.  And the turns are banked to achieve that even speed .  Ups and downs but no great elevation change ‘till the last part when descending to the valley.  Carbus did fine and fit the turns with no problem.  Best asphalt roller coaster yet.  :)

Once back at lower elevation, the boredom of Arizona roads returns.  LONG, straight stretches with little scenery change.  We stopped in Quartzsite and parked in a BLM area that is several miles north of the freeway.  Very quiet and dark. :)

This morning it was ten miles to California (we are back the same time as all of you) and then 90+ miles of desert.  We are at an ELKS lodge RV spot for the night and then on to Burbank.  Hopefully Sunday traffic will not be too bad.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 16-17, 2011

Across New Mexico and Eastern Arizona

Not much to say about western New Mexico.  High desert.  Sage brush and dry grass. 7000’ high.  Flat, wide open expanses that stretch for miles.  So flat and wide open (and remote) that there is a National Radio Telescope Very Large Array  in the middle of it.  Nothing to get in the way.  Near the border hills start to develop.  We crossed the Continental Divide at over 7700’  and went over one summit over 7950’.  In shade protected areas there was still snow from a fall storm about two weeks ago.  The mountains are pretty.  Eastern Arizona is the summer resort area for Phoenix residents.  At this time of year many things are closing down for the winter.  All the state parks are closed in the area and many of the private RV parks are closed or cut way back. 

Camping at over 7000’, in the middle of November, with a steady breeze (wind?) blowing, did not seem desirable to us so we pushed on another hour and 2000’ lower to Payson.  Bustling little town (it does have a Wal-Mart) that is close enough and high enough to be an easy summer escape for Phoenix Valley residents.  Not a problem at this time of year though.  Stayed in a nice little RV park south of town and a mile off the highway.  Very quiet.

From Payson north and west to Cottonwood.  Again climbing over 7100’ before dropping to the valley.  More roadside snow along the way.  Before dropping down the road overlooks the valley.  We got a graphic picture of how Cottonwood got its’ name.  One section of the floor of the valley is filled with Cottonwood trees and right now they are all yellow or light green/yellow mix. 

Right now we are in a small RV park on the bank of Oak Creek.  Google ‘Oak Creek Canyon’ for a description of the scenery associated with this creek.  Thousands of people come to this area  in the summer.  Right now, in this spot, we have it all to ourselves.

IMG_0001001 Outside our door

IMG_0002002 Far bank of Oak Creek.  Near side bank of creek is less than 40 feet from the back if Carbus.


In front of us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011

White Sands National Monument

Two years ago when we were in southern New Mexico we somehow missed seeing White Sands Nat. Mon.  We corrected that this trip and avoided some Interstate at the same time.

Miles of fine white gypsum sand dunes in the middle of the desert.

IMG_0001001 IMG_0004002 IMG_0005003 IMG_0007004 IMG_0008005 IMG_0009006

From White Sands, north and west to Socorro, NM.  People say traveling across Texas is boring.  Traveling through most of New Mexico has Texas beat hands down for boring.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011

El Paso

Two hundred mile drive to the western most city in Texas.  Not much to say.  Large city.  Combined population of El Paso and Juarez is over 400,000.  There is a mountain just north of the city that has a scenic drive.  Below are pictures from there.


Downtown El Paso.  Juarez, Mexico in background on hillside.



Juarez in distance


Looking south into the Rio Grande valley.  Building in front is a high school gymnasium.



University of Texas, El Paso

Updated map of trip

November 13, 2011

Along the Rio Grande

Forty five miles from the campground to the west entrance station.  Changing desert all the way.  Ten miles further and we began a sixty mile journey along side the Rio Grande River.  Like the desert we were in, the road changed constantly as did the river.  Sometimes wide and flat.  Sometimes rolling hills and washes that made the ride feel like an asphalt roller coaster complete with banked turns.

 Highway 170 along the Rio Grande

This item is found in many of the wash areas that roads go through.  Would be interesting to see in action but think I will pass on driving this area in the rain.


The river was always slow and shallow but the banks varied.  Broad with lots of trees, sandy bluffs, and occasional rocky mountain sides.  Always changing and always pretty in a desert sort of way.  Highway 170 along the Rio Grande

Highway 170 along the Rio Grande

Highway 170 along the Rio Grande



Leaving the river we went north for sixty miles through wide open high desert.  High enough that cactus was replaced by sagebrush.  Probably the least interesting stretch of the trip so far.

Hwy 67, Presidio to Marfa

There were a couple of interesting views in the high desert.  The top picture is called ‘Elephant Rock’.

Lincoln's Face, Hwy 67, Presidio to Marfa 

   I will let you guess what the formation in the second photo is called.  If stumped scroll to bottom of this entry.









We located in a small RV park in Fort Davis.  After situating we toured the Fort Davis National Historic Site.  Frontier fort that was active off and on in the last half of the 1800s. Quite large with lots of buildings and extensive grounds.




It is called ‘Lincoln Profile’  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 11-12, 2011

Big Bend National Park

Thirty eight mile drive through desert to reach the northern entry station of the park.  Twenty five more miles at 45mph to reach the visitor center in the center of the park.  Twenty one more miles to reach the campground on the banks of the Rio Grande River.  Nice oasis in the desert.  Actually used to be the location of a decent sized farming operation with extensive irrigation. IMG_0030002

Road runner in campground

In the afternoon we drove to site of a former hot springs ‘resort’ and then the other direction to an overlook of the river.

The ‘Grande’ part of ‘Rio Grande’ must refer to the length of the river.  Certainly not the width or depth.  The Pecos river was much more impressive than the parts of the Rio Grande we have seen.  Both spots we saw today could be crossed by wading ten to fifteen yards and not getting your knees wet.  Mexican nationals do it all the time.  They wade over and leave an assortment of trinkets on a prominent rock along with a price list and a receptacle for money.  Some of them sit on the other side and watch the action at their ‘tables’.  I had pictured that a river that was the border between two countries would be more substantial.  The Feather, American, and Sacramento rivers are far more impressive.  There is one place that is very impressive  but the smallness of the river was the eye opener.


Hot spring in foreground.  Not very inviting.  Rio Grande just beyond.


Rio Grande River.  Note Mexican leading horse.


‘Merchants’ coming to check on their wares.


From overlook.


This kid did not want to get his feet wet.

On Saturday we drove the rest of the paved roads in the park and twenty mile section of unpaved back road.  The key word in ‘Big Bend’ is BIG.  This place is vast.  Large expanses of desert with mountain ranges and isolated peaks popping up everywhere and plateaus dropping dropping to desert plains with rivers (mostly dry) running through them. 





Plateau overlooking river valley.  Note notch in plateau beyond.





Note the notch


Mexico on the left.  USA on the right.  Rio Grande River in the middle,

  IMG_0101017 IMG_0102018 IMG_0103019

Interesting what a little (a LOT actually) sand, water, and time can do.



This abode is in the middle of the desert.  We were twenty miles into a gravel back road.  The man who lived here did ranching and farming.  He had several wives and many children.  He died in this house at the age of 108.


Formation called ‘The Window’.  Looking into the desert from within a mountain range in the middle of the desert.  Whole different ecosystem in the mountains.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 9-10, 2011

Across Texas

No other way to put it – Texas is BIG.  Even when you start part way in and are going to the closest western border it still takes a long time.  From San Antonio, about a day and a half of comfortable driving to get to Marathon, Tx which is about 40 miles north of Big Bend National Park.  I will say this though: as you move across Texas from East to West the landscape is constantly but subtlety changing.  Each area with its own special beauty.  Flat to rolling hills to rounded mesas to flat with river canyons to mountains with different geology than fifty miles earlier to desert and on and on.  Yes it is big and takes a long time to traverse but if you look around you, you will never be bored.

Tomorrow we will go to Big Bend.

 IMG_0008002 Pecos River



Bridge over Pecos River.  Highest highway bridge in Texas there is a railroad bridge over the same river that is a bit higher.

IMG_0015004 In Langtry, TX - actual “Courthouse” of Judge Roy Bean. Legendary  dispenser of ‘Law West of the Pecos’. 


Photo of building when in use.


Stovepipe of ‘Courthouse’ building.  Note extra ventilation holes. :)


Updated map of this trip

November 8, 2011

San Antonio Downtown

This morning we walked the downtown area.  We began with The Alamo.  We strolled the grounds and read the informational postings scattered throughout.  A walk through the church and a picture of the front and that was it.  Interesting to learn that the iconic church building, made famous in pictures and movies, was not the site of the battle.  The fighting happened in the walled plaza area adjacent to the church.  That area is now almost all gone and covered by the infrastructure of downtown San Antonio.


Next we walked the River Walk loop.  Much of our stroll was in something unusual for this area – rain.  Not very hard and not very steady but enough to put a damper on all the outdoor riverside restaurants and the river tour boats.  Still fun to see again. 

We followed the River Walk into the Hemisfair park grounds and saw what had been done with the facilities.  Last time we were here the actual  Hemisfair was going on.  Now it is a business/cultural park with lots of fountains, pathways, and grass.

When I get to them I may put a few more pictures on this day so check back.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7. 2011

San Antonio

We said goodbye to all the deer (not really) and drove south for an hour to the outskirts of San Antonio.  Gas at Costco (first Costco this trip) and a couple of groceries.  A few more miles and we stopped at a RV parts store for a part for our TV antenna.  While there I asked if maybe they could change the oil in the carbus.  This was Monday morning and they were swamped but he said ‘No problem’.  He moved some RVs around and put a guy (two actually) on our RV and were were on our way in 30 minutes with fresh oil.  Very nice people. 

We are now situated in a park/resort south of town.  Tomorrow we will visit downtown San Antonio.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 6, 2011

Drought and Johnson City

Yesterday we left Houston, headed west, and started to get a feel for the extent of the drought in Texas.  We drove by fields that once had crops but now are large plots of dirt.  Pastures with cattle in them trying to eat burnt grass that has already been eaten to less than a quarter inch.  Many dried up ponds, some quite large.  Along the way we stopped to visit the old homestead of some friends of ours in Auburn.  As we walked the property the grass crunched under our feet and we had to watch for deep cracks in the ground.  We ended our days travel at a RV park/resort in a large lake.  The lake is down over nine feet.  The manager (who had ties to Auburn area) said there are lakes that are down over 50 feet.  An interesting feature of this park is that the deer population is at least as great as the people population.  Possibly due to proximity to water and availability of grass (in landscaping) to eat.  Do not know that I have ever seen does and bucks together but they are here, Don’t know if it is the breed of deer but these are all quite thin.  Can see a hint of ribs on most of them.

Today we took a side trip to Johnson City, lifetime home of Lyndon B. Johnson (when he wasn’t in Washington D.C.).  In town is a visitor center and a walking tour of Johnson’s boyhood home and his grandparents homestead.  Fourteen miles west is the combined state and national parks that encompass the Johnson Ranch.IMG_0018002

At the visitor center we watched a very good movie on Lady Bird (there is one on LBJ also) and then took the walk.IMG_0006001 

LBJ boyhood home.


Neat to see the original buildings, many built in the now recognizable to us ‘dog trot’ style.


At the ranch in the state park portion, we first watched a movie on LBJ and the Texas Hill Country.  We then visited a real gem.  The state park contains an actual farm.  All original buildings on original sites and restored to condition of most activity (1900-1940).  And it is operating.  Every day of the year there are docents doing all the functions of a farm.  Not just on special days.  This is an on going operation so you can experience the flow of farm life.  This might not sound too impressive unless you know that electricity did not come to the Hill Country ‘till the mid ‘40s.  Everything was done by hand and all heat was by wood.  The docents demonstrate many gadgets and techniques used to process and prepare foods getting maximum use of everything they touch.  Fun experience.   We spent over an hour just there.

The state park is the entrance portal for the national park administered Johnson Ranch.  they give you a map and loan you a tour CD. No cost.  The tour is an interesting showcase of LBJ life outside of D.C.


House where LBJ was born



Johnson Family Cemetery.  Very simple.  Nothing ornate or massive.


“Lady Bird’ and Lyndon Johnson.  Most ‘real people’ presidential grave we have seen.


Johnson referred to this plane as ‘Air Force 1/2’.  Small jet used to take president from large airport in Austin to landing strip on the ranch.


‘Texas White House. ‘  Johnson Ranch family home.  It really was a ‘White House’ (seat of national government).  The wing on the left behind the 400 year old oak was the equivalent of the Oval Office.  Johnson spent 25% of his presidency on this ranch.


This is the Pedernales River that runs by the front of the ranch house.  Normally it is full and flowing and has been known to flood to a level behind where this picture was taken.  This year it is sand only.