This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Tioga Pass, and Bodie

As mentioned in my last post, we did drive to Glacier Point after lunch on Tuesday.  From the vista is a grand view of the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.  I can't get over how beautiful this place is.  There is no way to appreciate this National Park in a weekend.  If you come, you will only be wasting your time unless you plan to stay at least a week.  We will have seen almost everything we wanted to in two weeks, however, we are old so we take a day off after each big outing.  If you want to be on the go everyday, all day long, it can be done in one week. 

On Thursday we took a relatively long trip to Tuolumne Meadows in the northern portion of the park.  It was only around 55 miles but took almost 2 hours, not because of traffic (that was rather light), but because of the winding road, steep grades, and stopping for photos.  Tuolumne Meadows is at an altitude of about 8,500 feet while Yosemite Valley is around 4,000 feet.  The park facilities (camp grounds, visitor center, store, etc.) all closed for the winter today, September 23, so we made the trip just in time.

Continuing on to Tioga Pass, a few miles beyond the park's eastern gate, we reached an altitude of about 10,000 feet above sea level.  The scenery on the drive was fantastic as usual and I had to pass up some photo ops because of the time.  The trip took us a total of 7 hours including our stops.

We broke our rule of resting every other day and took the same route on Friday as we did on Thursday, with the exception that we went all the way to Bodie, one of the country's best preserved ghost towns.  It was a product of the 49'er gold strike.  Prospectors found gold on land that became Bodie in 1859.  By the 1870's Bodie supported three breweries and almost a hundred saloons and dance halls along a one mile long main street.  There were only two church's in Bodie.  I suppose that tells you that it was a rather wild place.  There was even a red light district.  In 1879 the population of Bodie was about 10,000.  Two fires, one in the late 1800's and the other in 1934 reduced the number of buildings to about 150 by the time the mine played out and the town was abandoned.  There are now about 100 buildings still standing.

Bodie is a California State Park and is maintained in a state of "arrested decay".  In other words, there has been no reconstruction of buildings or safety modifications made.  You see the town pretty much the way it was when the last person left.  Many of the towns peoples' possessions that they could not take with them are still right where they left them.

From Bodie we drove south on CA-395 to the South Tufa Beach on Mono Lake.  Mono Lake was an inland sea many eons ago.  It is feed by springs and snow melt but has no outlet, other than an aqueduct that provides water to Los Angeles.  The lake is very salty so the aqueduct collects the water before it actually reaches the lake.  Due to the salt and alkalinity of the water, large limestone formations developed around under water springs.  After the aqueduct was built the water level of the lake was drastically reduced, exposing these "Tufa" formations, which do look a little "other-worldly".

This afternoon we are driving over to see the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which provides San Francisco with water.  It is said to have been as dramatic as Yosemite Valley before the dam was built.  Hetch Hetchy is not very far from the campground.  On the way back we are stopping at Evergreen Lodge for dinner.  If you recall, we ate lunch there the day after we arrived in Yosemite.  A great place.

Tomorrow we are heading down to the southern end of the park and the Mariposa Grove, a large grove of Giant Sequoias.

I have a lot of photos from the above excursions to post, however the internet is extremely slow today so I will have to post them later.  Time to get ready for our drive to Hetch Hetchy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yosemite Without the Hantavirus

We arrived at Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails RV Preserve on Thursday afternoon.  Many of our friends have asked if we were not afraid of the Hantavirus.  Most of these same friends also thought we were crazy for going to Mexican this past January-February.  No, we are not worried about the Hantavirus, as its source has been narrowed down to only a certain area of insulated-wall tents.  Of course, the virus can be contracted from smelling the feces of infected mice but I don't anticipate that being a problem.  I've never had any desire to smell mouse feces and would be very concerned for anyone with such a problem.

We took Friday for some rest and relaxation after the very tiring drive down from Tahoe (I believe I mentioned it - 166 miles in 5 1/2 hrs for a 30 mph average speed).  Our other friends from the Mexico experience, Gunther and Candace joined us on Saturday, delayed by a couple of days with a broken radiator fan and serpentine belt while crossing the Mojave Desert (could have been very bad!).  They made it to Bakersfield, CA and a Cummings service center.  A computer readout of the engine parameters showed that the engine temperature had reached a high of 255 degrees F but the engine block had no cracks or other damages as a result of the high temperature.  Did you know that the radiator fan on their Cummings engine is made of PLASTIC!  Maybe they all are.  I'll have to check my CAT.  It's hard to believe that a critical part that is exposed to high temperatures and "road missiles" (aka rocks thrown up into fan) would be made of plastic.  Another way for the RV industry to save weight and money I suppose.

Friday, before Gunther and Candace arrived, Bruce and Karen and Carol Ann and I drove over to Evergreen Lodge, just outside of the National Park on the road to Hetch-Hetchy (more on Hetch-Hetchy after we actually visit the place).  The Lodge is set way back in the Ponderosa Pines and is quite an upscale resort.  There are over 80 nicely appointed cabins, a very "serious" restaurant, a nice tavern with "pub grub", a general store, large game room with computers for internet, a civic center that hosts classes, speakers, movies, and other group activities, a children's playground, an outside dining and dancing area, live bands, and a swimming pool.  Everything is well camouflaged by the pines so it doesn't appear to be a very large place.  We had a great lunch on the patio and enjoyed a nice mountain breeze while we took our time eating.  I'm not going to say it was expensive as, so far, everything we have encountered in California is expensive!

On Saturday morning the four of us drove over to Groveland, CA for the annual 49'er Festival and Chili Cookoff.  We spent a few hours there enjoying a very good bluesy, southern rock band (name unknown, unfortunately) and looking through the many vendors tents to make sure we didn't miss out on anything we needed.  We bought a couple of T-shirts and some homemade jelly and then had lunch at the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest, continuously operating bar in the state of California.  It's been going strong since the 49'ers and the Gold Rush. 

Yesterday the six of us rode, very comfortably, in our Chevy Traverse into the park and toured through the Yosemite Valley, which is just one of the 4 or 5 very distinct areas of the 12,000 square mile park.  I took a few shots of El Capitan, Half-Dome, and Upper Yosemite Falls (very little water this time of the year) although the lighting was not right.  We ate lunch at the Grill in Yosemite Village then watched a movie in the visitors' center about the seasons in the park.  After the movie we browsed through the Ansel Adams Gallery located next to the visitor's center.  Gunther pointed out an Ansel Adams original that had a $30,000 price tag on it!  I went over to look at it and noticed that the $30,000 did NOT include the frame!  They also had reproductions of the original print for $30 and I hate to say it, but I couldn't tell the difference.  Certainly not $29, 970 worth of difference!  While there, I did reserve a place in next Tuesday's 4-hour photo walk called "In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams".  I'm looking forward to the experience.  For those of you wondering who Ansel Adams was, he was a very famous landscape photographer, especially noted for his photos of Yosemite back in the first half of the 20th Century.

Each afternoon we gather under the pines for the "cocktail hour", which is not necessarily limited to one hour.  We have become friends with 3 female ducks and a couple of Stellar Jays that have us tagged as a soft touch for a free meal.  Two of the three ducks will eat from your hand.  All of them, ducks and Jays, will walk around beneath your chairs and feet looking for handouts.  I've been feeding them dry cat food!  It's probably better for them than some of the processed food we humans snack on while enjoying a little taste.

After lunch today we are driving south in the park to Glacier Point, a high vista that provides an impressive panorama of Yosemite Valley.  In the days to come we will go across the northern portion of the park (Tioga Road) and out on the eastern side to visit a couple of near-ghost towns, Brodie and Lee Vining.  There will be a lot of extraordinary scenery en route.

Here are a few shots I have taken in and around Yosemite so far:

From "Rim of the World" Vista

Rainbow Pool

Rainbow Pool

Tree Above Rainbow Pool

Rainbow Pool

Rainbow Pool

Rainbow Pool

Rainbow Pool

Upper Yosemite Falls

El Capitan


El Capitan on left, Half Dome in center

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slowest Internet in The World

I have not posted anything lately for one main reason. The Internet connection in this RV park is slow as hell! I get so frustrated while waiting that I could throw my laptop out of the RV if pushed just a little bit more! It doesn't help that I have been under the weather for the past few days. Tomorrow we head out for Yosemite. Let's hope I can find a faster connection there. I'm using my iPhone's 4G service right now. Unfortunately, AT&T service is not available at Yosemite.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No News is No News

I didn't want to bore anyone with useless drivel so I haven't posted anything for a couple of days. The Labor Day crowds are now gone and we will emerge from our cocoons tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Weekend at Lake Tahoe

I don’t mean for this to sound like a theme, but we slept in again this morning.  But that’s okay because we are retired!  The temperature was still in the 40’s when I got up at 8:30 AM.  On weekends the RV park offers an outdoor pancake breakfast so we went over for breakfast about 9:30 AM.  While we were eating, Carol Ann told me to look at the table next to us.  Here is what we saw:

Kind of destroys the appetite, doesn’t it.  One thing about an RV park is that you see people from all walks of life.

Before this trip I removed the CrossFire pressure equalization systems from the rear dual tires because they were leaking air.  This morning fter breakfast I took them apart and replaced the O rings with new ones that the company sent me.  I’ll install the systems tomorrow and see if they still leak. 

This afternoon Carol Ann and Karen went to the super market and Bruce and I went to NAPA, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Radio Shack.  I was looking for valve extensions and Bruce for batteries.  Bruce found the batteries he needed but I couldn’t find the valve extensions I wanted.  If the CrossFires work okay I shouldn’t need the extensions anyway.

We grilled outside for supper tonight and sat out chatting and drinking wine for a while.  When it  got too cool we retreated to our motorhome for dessert and a board game called Jokers and Pegs (aka Jokers and Marbles). 

This being Labor Day weekend, Lake Tahoe and the RV park are very crowded and the traffic is terrible.  A lot of these people will leave once the weekend is over and we will get out and do more without the crowds.  Tomorrow night there will be fireworks over the lake, which should be quite spectacular.  I enjoy photographing fireworks because they can give you some really dramatic images, if you can find the right spot to shoot from. 

Sorry for a less than exciting posting, but that’s not necessarily bad when you are just taking it easy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lake Tahoe is Something to See

Thursday morning I was rudely awakened at 8:15 AM by a helicopter that sounded like it was landing on the roof of the motorhome.  They are extremely loud and seem to make an awful lot of noise to move so slowly.  We are only a mile and a half from the airport, which is where a couple of helicopter tour companies are located, and we must be right below the flight path when these helicopters land and take off. 

I spent the morning cleaning my camera gear and loafing about, enjoying the almost perfect weather.  At noon it was 75 degrees and sunny with a pleasant breeze.

For lunch we went to The Beacon restaurant, which is located on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.  We ate outside on the front deck, shaded by huge pine trees.   

A sandy beach filled with sunbathers lay between us and the clear cobalt blue water of the lake.  We saw very few of these people actually go in the water, probably because it is very cold.  There was a marina next to the restaurant and a lot of very nice looking boats were moored there.

After a leisurely, but expensive, lunch we rode with Bruce and Karen up a winding highway that gradually worked its way to a vista called Inspiration Point, which overlooked a portion of Lake Tahoe called Emerald Bay.   The only island in Lake Tahoe is located in this bay.  The view was fantastic.

And now for the history lesson.  Lake Tahoe is a very old lake.  About 25 million years ago the Sierra Nevada Mountains were formed by geologic faulting, a tremendous uplifting, dropping, and shifting of land.  The land that sank created a valley that later became the Tahoe Basin.  .  Lava from Mt. Pluto on the north shore formed a natural dam across the basin’s outlet and the basin gradually filled from the rivers and streams flowing from the surrounding mountains.  The “modern” lake was shaped during the last ice age, less than a million years ago.  There are 63 streams now flowing into Lake Tahoe and only one outlet, the Truckee River.  Unlike most bodies of water in North America, Lake Tahoe’s water never reaches an ocean.

It is a large lake, 22 miles long and 12 miles wide with 72 miles of shoreline.  The surface of Lake Tahoe is 6,225 feet above sea level, the highest lake of its size in the United States.  It is the second deepest lake in the United States, the third deepest in North America, and the tenth deepest in the world.  Its maximum depth is 1645 feet.

During February and March the water temperature usually cools to 40 to 50 degrees, but it never freezes.  In August and September the lake warms to 65 to 70 degrees.  That’s why you don’t see too many people actually IN the water.

Lake Tahoe’s water is very clear, its water clarity is about 70 feet, down from over 100 feet in the late 1960’s.  It is slowly loosing its clarity due to erosion depositing sediment in the lake.  It is estimated that Lake Tahoe is filling in with sediment at a rate of one foot every 3,200 years, so that in 3,158,400 years the lake will become a meadow.

The lake has a retention time of 650 years.  That is the average time that water, or some dissolved substance, spends in the lake.  In other words, if you dumped pollutants in the water, it would take an average of 650 years for all of it to leave the lake.  In comparison, the retention time for some other lakes in North America is 7.2 years for Lake Powell, 99 years for Lake Michigan, and 7 days for Lake St. Clair.

For thousands of years the lake was occupied by Native American tribes.  There is evidence of the presence of the Washoe Tribe at Lake Tahoe over 10,000 years ago.  Native Americans camped, hunted, and fished at the lake without outside intervention until General John C. Fremont “discovered” the lake in 1844.  In 1859 the Comstock Lode (silver) was discovered in Virginia City, Nevada and Lake Tahoe became a center of commerce involving the silver mines and the Central Pacific Railroad.  All of this activity resulted in a very large-scale deforestation of the Tahoe Basin.  It is estimated that over 80 percent of the Basin’s forests were clear-cut during this time. Today's residents are much more conservation minded and are doing a very good job of protecting the Lake Tahoe environment.