Thursday, October 29, 2015

To See the Marines

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My last post, I left off with Kathi, AJ and I at the Sequoia National Park. AJ thought it was like a magical forest. I guess I feel the same. You do not see many trees that tall in other parts of the country. I remember some tall pine trees in east Texas, but none with the height of the redwoods in California or the girth and volume of the sequoias. I will never forget the picture I took of AJ standing with his six foot seven inch frame with a felled sequoia root system behind him. He was dwarfed by the tree. Losing my camera was trivial compared to losing that picture. It was a special day for all of us.

We put AJ on the bus back to San Francisco and we prepared to leave for Twentynine Palms, CA to see the marines as they arrived back from Iraq. The date was September 3, 2005 and it was a Saturday. We left the Visalia/Fresno KOA in Visalia and headed south on CA 99 through Tulare and Bakersfield. We were following directions from our Copilot software and ended up going through Los Angeles. Even on Saturday traffic was atrocious. Going around the mountains and up and down the mountains – all the while knowing we were headed the wrong direction was exasperating, but I was hesitant to turn around not knowing if I would find a better route, so we trudged on following the GPS directions.

We did see some big farms and fruit or nut orchards alongside the road in the Delano and Bakersfield area. Farms are always a pleasure to see, but I wish we knew more about agriculture so I could recognize what was growing. I recognize corn and cotton and not much else.

We passed a grassfire burning on both sides of the highway. We tried to stay in the center of the highway, but could still feel the heat from the fire inside the motorhome. Talk about a scary feeling. Fire crews and police support was great keeping the highway open and keeping motorists from getting caught in the blaze. We were escorted through the fire area by a guide vehicle. It felt adventurous, but is not an experience we are eager to repeat.

We finally got to Twentynine Palms and set up at the 29 Palms Golf Resort and RV Park. We had a few weeks to wait before the marines returned. We spent the time grocery shopping, catching up on laundry and reading. We stayed inside out of the heat as much as possible. It was still warm in the desert.

We got a call from Christopher and he had just completed a mission in Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. He thought that would be his last mission before returning the USA. We hoped it would be and felt the marines deployed with him would all return safe. We were ready to see them

Click on pictures to enlarge them. 

Pistachio tree in Visalia

Evergreen trees in Yosemite, as seen from a mountain top.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wine and Sequoias

Kathi and I are still at the Green Caye RV Park in Dickinson, TX. We have been here since just before Thanksgiving last year. We still have a few commitments here, so will be here for a while longer. We may take a week off to go to see Dick Albritton in Choudrant, LA to get some RV repair work done in the next couple of months. We are still awaiting arrival of our new Michelin tires at The La Porte Tire Center. We have been waiting for two months, so far.

Meanwhile, I will get back to our 2005 travel story. In my post ten days ago, I left off on August 18, 2005, with Kathi and me visiting our son, AJ in San Francisco and seeing Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf. We were going to be in San Francisco until the end of August, so we still had more things to see.

We spent Friday at home and got a call from our youngest son, Christopher who was deployed in Iraq with the Marines. He told us he had only five or six weeks left on this tour before he would return home. We were anxious to get him back in the USA in a safer environment and looking forward to seeing him.

On Monday, August 22 we picked AJ up at his apartment and drove to Napa and Sonoma to see the vineyards. The vines were full of grapes. We could not see the actual grapes driving by the vineyards. We had to stop and get out so we could peek underneath the leaves of the grape vines. Grapes were in big bunches, so we assumed it was going to be a good year for wine. It was a little warmer than usual, but a beautiful sun-shiny day.

We drove back into the city and were looking for a place we could all agree on for lunch. We finally stopped at a Mexican food restaurant in Pacifica and the food was really bad. Mexican food is just so much better in Texas. None the less, it was a fun day together and we got the opportunity to see some new things in the process.

Friday, we drove back into San Francisco to see the new furniture in AJ’s apartment. It filled up the rooms, but it all looked very nice. He and his mom made some good choices. We went to Olive Garden for lunch. It was another nice afternoon together.

Monday I spent preparing our motorhome for travel. Tuesday night AJ rode the Cal Train to Redwood City to spent the night with us, so we could travel together to see Sequoia National Park the next day. We moved to the Visalia South/Fresno KOA in Visalia, CA on Wednesday and got set up in the RV park. That park is near Sequoia and a good home base to park and drive to see the big trees. We had a good day Thursday looking at the big sequoia trees. I had some great pictures, but lost my camera on the trail to see the General Sherman tree. I really regret losing the camera, but losing the pictures was worse. We had a great afternoon and really enjoyed the open air, even if it was warmer then San Francisco.

We put AJ on a Greyhound bus back to his apartment and San Francisco on Friday. It was time for us to move along to see the Marines and time to let AJ get his life back to normal.

Grape vines on the hillside

Grape vines beside the road

Vineyard on the hill as seen through the windshield.

AJ sitting outside the restaurant

More grape vines

You can actually see the grapes at the bottom of these vines.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Life -- October 19, 2015

I am sorry I have not written a blog in a few days. It feels like a lot of turmoil going on in our family right now. I am not sure if my excuse is tiredness, laziness are if I am just down a little with all the sickness going around.

My brother-in-law, Larry Clark is still in remission from acute myeloid leukemia, but has had a problem with head congestion for about six weeks and still not eating enough to build up his strength. To make it worse, his wife, Andrea has the same problem with congestion and flu like symptoms, but like a trooper, she went to work every day anyway. Last night Larry started running a temperature and Andrea took him to the Methodist Hospital emergency room in the early morning hours today. Larry now has pneumonia and struggling to combat it with his weakened immune system.

Kathi’s stepfather, Jim Hathaway has been struggling with a pinched nerve in his hip. It has prevented him from walking and he has fallen several times. He is too heavy for the family to lift him and they called EMTs each time he fell. The last time, they took him to Patients Hospital in Pasadena and he was diagnosed with pneumonia and a urinary tract infection. He is 87 years old and moves very slowly on a good day. His daughter, Becky Boyd is spending time with him and helping supervise his care. The nurses at Patient’s Hospital are not nearly as proactive as we are used to seeing at Methodist.

Larry’s oldest son, Wesley has been having some heart issues and seeing doctors and going to hospitals for outpatient testing to determine the extent of his heart issues.

Kathi has been feeling poorly the last few days and has a stuffy head and chest congestion. She has been using Aleve to fight off the achiness and possible temperature rise. I took her to see Dr. Deepak Pattanaik in Pasadena this morning. She got two shots and two prescriptions and has spent the afternoon in bed. Kathi has been a lot of help to Larry and Andrea and always keeps the rest of the family informed about the current situation.

We stopped by Starbucks for hot chocolate and a croissant on the way home from the doctor’s office. This afternoon I am in charge of myself, which includes lunch preparation. Kathi took out a can of chicken noodle soup for herself and I ordered Domino’s pizza. She ate two pizza squares and the soup is on hold. I ate the rest of the pizza. I am not sure why Domino’s cuts their pizza in squares instead of slices like everyone else. The people at Domino’s do not know why either. I am prepared to heat the soup, if Kathi demands a hot meal. She always treats me better than this.

A couple of days ago we ate lunch at Bubba’s Seafood on I-45 south in League City. This Bubba’s location just opened a few weeks ago. It is located in the same building that used to be Sudie’s Catfish. We agreed that Bubba’s prices were too high and the food was not as good as some of the other seafood restaurants in the area. We had tried the Bubba’s location on the water in Bacliff a few years earlier and our thoughts about the food were the same as this trip to the new Bubba’s location. It will not be a restaurant we will frequent. Too bad.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf

On Thursday, August 18, 2005, we awoke to a beautiful day of sunshine and called AJ to let him know we wanted to do something outside. We were beginning our second week of a three week stay in the San Francisco area and feeling very much like tourists. We picked AJ up at his apartment in San Francisco for a fun day viewing some tourist attractions. We started off at Fisherman’s Wharf to catch a ferry ride to Alcatraz. The prison has been closed for many years, mostly because it was too expensive to operate. Now, they make a lot of tourist money for their tours of the island.

Fisherman’s Wharf begins at pier 27 in the Embarcadero Financial District on one end and pier 39 at the other end. Fisherman’s Wharf is a combination of warehouses, restaurants and tourist attractions, including street mimes, myriads of tourists and other facilities designed to entertain tourists.

We got to see and smell the sea lions. I enjoyed watching them, but they really stunk. The city has placed platforms off the wharf for the sea lions to stay. I think the odor was repulsive, so we did not stay in the area for very long. The ticket booth for the boat ride to Alcatraz was adjacent to the seal area. We bought our tickets to Alcatraz and wandered around on the wharf for a couple of hours while we waited for our turn on the boat.

The boat ride across the bay to and from Alcatraz was the best part of the trip for us. We got a different view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city itself. The boats are well used and made dozens of trips per day. Alcatraz Island was relatively small and the prison covered most of the island. The prison was much in disrepair, dirty and unkempt. We saw no effort to improve conditions for tourists.

We ate lunch at Chic’s restaurant on pier 39. Chic’s was a seafood restaurant that served nice looking plates of seafood to tourists. I grew up near the Gulf Coast of Texas and ate a lot of seafood during my life. I much preferred the Texas Gulf seafood to what was offered in San Francisco. Kathi enjoyed her lunch of baked salmon and AJ and I ordered fried shrimp. It was an enjoyable lunch, but for me it was mostly because of the atmosphere and company.

Next post: More San Francisco Attractions

Alcatraz Island and Prison

Bubba Gump Restaurant sign

Carousel on Fisherman's Wharf

People waiting in line for their boat ride to Alcatraz

Golden Bear is one of the shuttle boats to Alcatraz

Seal pier on wharf

Tin Man -- He moves and allows pictures for money -- a regular on the pier.

Closer view of Tin Man

Sunday, October 11, 2015

San Francisco with AJ

We were staying in the Trailer Villa in Redwood City on Monday, August 14, 2005 while we were in the Bay Area visiting our oldest son, AJ. We did our laundry on Monday and stayed in the Redwood City area. It was cool. This was the first time in months we enjoyed doing laundry, mostly because of the summer heat in the desert areas. When other parts of the country are basking in the sun during summer month, San Francisco temperature stays in the sixties. It is jacket weather almost every evening. There is some fog and many overcast days to contend with, but the sunny days are spectacular.

Now San Francisco does have some warmer weather. It might get into the seventies in September and October with mid-fifties in the evening. Most locals depend on public transportation and dress in layers of clothing when they are going to be away from home all day. AJ loved being in San Fran and the weather had a great deal to do with that choice.

We picked AJ up from his apartment on Tuesday morning and took him shopping for a couch and a rug. He moved into town with no furniture and we were slowly helping him furnish his apartment. He and Kathi made some good choices with furniture and arranged for delivery. Then we went touring. After looking for a couple of hours we were all hungry and agreed on Olive Garden for lunch. The San Francisco Olive Garden is in the Stonestown Mall near 20th Street. Some people refer to the mall as Stonestown Galleria. I am not sure what difference it makes what you call it, it is still just a shopping mall.

Wednesday Kathi arranged for someone to come to our RV and steam clean our carpets. That took a little over two hours. While the carpets were drying, Kathi and I went to find something to eat. Many of the restaurants in the area were located on US 101, so we drove south and found a Red Lobster in San Jose. Lunch was great as usual – we always enjoy Red Lobster. After lunch we took a southwesterly route to the coast and ended up in Santa Cruz. From there we decided to take Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway back north and drive along the coast. We saw fields planted with strawberries and cabbage on the east side of the road and cliffs, ocean spray and rocks on the west side of the highway. What a great drive -- oohs and aahs all the way.

We pulled off the road several times to stop and watch the ocean banging against the rocks and cliffs. We took CA 92 back east at Half Moon Bay and made the loop back to Redwood City. This day still lingers in our memories of our many great California excursions.

Next post: Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf

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View from a pullout along highway 1

Pacific coast beach

Ocean spray from hitting rocks

View of coastline

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Redwood City

Monday, August 8, 2005 we left Winnemucca behind and moved on to Reno – “the biggest little city in the world.” It was hot outside but the drive was nice and we stayed cool inside the motorhome, at least in the driver-passenger area. The back part of the RV was too warm for living. We parked at the Silver Sage RV Park and got set up. It was too hot to stay outside and the motorhome would take a couple of hours to cool, so we went downtown to the Silver Legacy Casino. We started off with a good meal in the buffet and spent the next few hours playing penny slot machines. It was cool and fun inside the casino.

Tuesday, we spent most of the day inside the Silver Legacy. We had the buffet again and it was great two days in a row – one of the better casino buffets and we always recommend it for travelers in the area. We spent the evening at home watching TV. We planned to move on to Redwood City, CA on Wednesday and we already had a spot reserved at Trailer Villa San Mateo, which is actually in Redwood City. Trailer Villa is a trailer park with a few spaces for RVs traveling through.

We had a beautiful drive from Reno to Redwood City. The drive across the Sierra-Nevada Mountains using the Donner Pass was better this time. The last time we went that direction I let my speed downhill get too fast and had trouble slowing down before we got to the bottom of the mountain. It scared me and petrified Kathi, so I was on my best driving behavior for this trip. We got our RV set up and took our car into San Francisco to pick up AJ. It was good to be with him and see him looking happy and fit. It was cool in the Bay Area and cold in the evenings -- a real change from the deserts of Nevada. After a few hours we returned AJ to his apartment and went home for the evening to get some rest.

The next day AJ rode the train from San Francisco to Redwood City and we picked him up at the train depot. We took him shopping to buy a few things he needed, mostly cleaning supplies. We also bought him a VCR/DVD player. After shopping we enjoyed lunch at Red Lobster. AJ and I had fried shrimp and Kathi had grilled trout. We enjoyed the lunch and conversation. We stayed home and did some housework on Friday.

Saturday we picked AJ up at his apartment and drove north of San Francisco to the Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods is in Marin County on Mt. Tamalpais and is a protected forest area. Driving through the wooded area was pleasant, but the main parking lot was full and we did not want to walk a mile for our afternoon pleasure, so we took a drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway. The cool weather in this area just makes everything else more pleasant. The drive along the Pacific Coast highway was spectacular, alternating between forest areas and outstanding seascapes. If I ever have to drive to work again, I want this to be my daily route. Kathi had packed a lunch for us, so we ate a picnic lunch at a pullover overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This never gets old.

Bank along Pacific Coast looking from the beach.

Kathi took a picture of AJ and me beside the ocean in San Francisco.

Beautiful view of the Pacific from the beach.

Waves hitting the rocks.

Sea Shore along Pacific Coast Highway.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Winnemucca, Nevada

Today I am writing a continuation of our 2005 travel adventures, picking up on August 5th. We were in the Wendover Nugget RV Park in Wendover, UT and were moving toward California to see both sons. The next stop on the trek was Winnemucca, NV. The trip was about 235 miles and I anticipated a 4-5 hour drive. We took I-80 west and passed through several small roadside communities, including Wells, Halleck, Battle Mountain, Valmy and Golconda before getting to Winnemucca. While in route, Kathi made reservations at the Winnemucca RV Park.

It was August in the desert and it was hot. Our vehicle air conditioner and two fans were going and I was still sweating driving down the highway. I fought overheating the engine on the motorhome climbing every mountain. There were no snow-capped peaks in the distance on this day. Climbing up the mountains I kept slowing and downshifting to keep our engine RPMs up to cool the engine as much as possible. On long grades we had to pull off the road before reaching the top to let the engine cool. We discussed unhooking our tow vehicle and letting Kathi follow me to ease the strain on the Caterpillar engine, but we decided we had no need to hurry, so we parked and idled at 20,000 RPMs several times during the trip.

After arrival at our destination, we got set up in the RV park and had lunch at the Taco Bell inside the Model T Casino. We tried slot machines for a little while, but soon agreed we were too tired to have a good time, so we went home for the evening.

We spent the next couple of days trying out other casinos in Winnemucca and hit a few small jackpots to keep us interested, but no notable winnings. The casinos were warm and we felt cooler in our RV in the afternoons. We did our laundry on Thursday and it was so hot, Kathi got sick at her stomach. When we got home we decided not to spend next summer in the desert, thinking Montana and the mountains might be better. We knew we would be cooler in the Bay Area the following week when we went to see AJ in San Francisco. Knowing we had just one more stop in Reno before the Bay Area made us feel cooler.

Winnemucca as seen from a mountain to the south.

Antennae serving the Winnemucca area.

More antennae and dishes serving Winemucca.

A winding road up the mountain.

Desolation around Winnemucca. a few houses are at center fight.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wendover and West Wendover

Sunday, July 31, 2005 we left the Fort Bridger RV Park in Fort Bridger, WY and moved south and west along I-80 headed for West Wendover, NV and the casinos therein. We went south through Evanston, WY before crossing into Utah. I-80 turned south at Echo, UT then through Coalville and Salt Lake City. It was a great drive across Utah with some snowcapped mountains and some steep climbs, but I did fine driving and the motorhome met all expectations. We have a 330 horsepower Caterpillar engine in our Alfa and it did fine. I was still learning the shifting patterns of the Allison 6-speed transmission. It was automatic, but did not shift gears when I wanted it to, so I shifted myself when climbing and going back down mountains.

After passing through SLC we drove along the southern edge of the Great Salt Lake and passed the Bonneville Salt Flats and into Wendover. Wendover and West Wendover are the same town with the same city officials. Wendover is in Utah and has no gambling. West Wendover, NV is just across the state line and has about six large casinos and a few smaller ones. We stayed at the RV park at the Wendover Nugget Casino. We were in Wendover in the RV park in Utah and walked about 100 yards to the casino in West Wendover, NV.

Kathi inquired about lottery in Utah and the store clerk thought she was loony, since they had no gambling in Utah. Guess whose cars were in the casino parking lots. Some governments are delusional, just like some people.

We spent a little time in the Wendover Nugget and had no luck at all. Within half an hour we moved from slot machines to video poker machines which were a little less expensive to lose money while playing and having a good time.

Monday we went to the Peppermill Casino to try our luck. We spent a good portion of the day staying mostly even with our money. The buffet was mediocre, at best. The best part was getting to eat in the casino atmosphere. When you enjoy food like I do that was not much consolation. It was a cool windy day and overcast, but no rain.

Tuesday we went to the Montego Bay Casino to try our luck. Notice we did not give up trying. Kathi hit four deuces playing video poker, which gave us enough money to play for a while. I like it when she shares with me. The win boosted our confidence and made us feel like winners on a streak, so we went to play other machines and lost it all almost as quickly as it arrived. I vote nay on short winning streaks. Kathi may reconsider sharing winnings in the future. The buffet at the Montego Bay was better, but too expensive for lunch. They had enough variety that I was able to get my fill.

Wednesday we stayed at home all day. Kathi made reservations for us in Redwood City, where we were headed in a few days. We spent the day with a little light house work, home cooked meals, reading and working puzzles.

We spent Thursday at the casino and used points on our player’s cards to pay for lunch and dinner. No winnings to speak of, but another fun day with my best friend.

Our bedroom in the Alfa RV

Clouds hugging mountains in Utah

Our flag at Layton Mall in Utah

Snow capped mountains in Layton, UT.