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December 2012

2012 Thanksgiving Road Trip - 11/20/2012 - 11/21/2012 (Part Three)

We left the Best Western in Novato for the second time on the morning of 11/20/2012. It was raining, foggy and damp. It stayed that way the entire day. No complaints from this traveler! We drove to our gas station, filled up, and then headed north of highway 101. We took the south Novato Blvd turnoff. We spotted a Auto Parts dealer and popped in to get "Sea Foam", an additive I found on the internet when googling the car's stuttering problem.

We headed back to Pt Reyes National Seashore by following the road we left it yesterday. We followed the Pt Reyes/ Petaluma road to Pt Reyes stopping now and then to take photos of the beautiful rolling green hills, the gnarled oak trees, scrub oak and other exotic (to our eyes) flora.




The rolling hills have dairy cows and farms. We stopped off at the "Cheese Factory" a road side store cum tourist attraction specializing in local bries and other soft cheeses. It had a nice pond filled with Canadian geese, and picnic tables. We browsed, signed the book and headed for the road.

We decided to bypass the Bear Valley Visitor center that we saw briefly yesterday and head out towards the light house. The road we took was called the Francis Drake Road that runs parallel to the Tomales Bay - a wonderful protected inland bay. We saw numerous bufflehead ducks.

I took a nice picture of a grounded boat/ shipwreck.


The roads are narrow and winding. Once you get out towards the point it becomes more open, and grassy. Still lots of cows. We saw a herd of deer - probably black tailed deer.


These are indigenous to this area. Fallow and axis deer were introduced to the region in the 1930s and 1940s. The mist/ fog really got thick. We pushed on to the lighthouse in spite of visibility being less than mile. It rained and the wind blew, but we were not going to let that get in our way. We climbed out and made a mad dash down the path to an overlook. But it was completly fogged in, and very windy, so we retraced our steps, holding onto our hoods. Spotted a number of banana slugs, which Kevin had to photograph.

Here's Kevin at the overlook.


And here is the Banana slug...


Got back in the car and tried to dry off.

Then we made our way to  the seal overlook at Drake's Bay. Slighly clearer in Drake's bay. I saw my first Surf Scoters! Western Grebes played in the surf. Saw gulls, and other unidentified birdies. Watched from above as the elephant seals bugled below.


We started to retrace our steps. Kevin decided to take a road to our left. We took the road to south beach to see the crashing waves. It was very windy, but well worth it. The rolling hill sides were covered with succulents of differing colors. Had some fun with photography. I decided to grossly underexpose to increase the color saturation.



It was really wonderful to see the ocean.


Kevin on the beach...


And on our way out...


On our return drive we had to decide - it was rapidly approaching 3pm and we had made no plans for accommodations. Kevin had picked up a flyer at the Bear Valley Visitor's Center for the Abalone Inn. So we decided to give it a whirl. We arrived, to luckily a vacancy sign. Innkeeper is Donna. Very nice and friendly. Checked in, paid - cash. No credit cards. Very quaint and comfortable inn.

We then decided to head for Pt Reyes Station for a late lunch (our only meal). I had read about the Station Cafe. So we went there. Kevin had the Fish Taco, and I had a very nice fish and chips. I also needed some hot tea to warm up.

We ambled around Point Reyes Station - took photos and popped into a really nice gift store. Then we headed back to the Abalone Inn. We had the place to ourselves, so we had a relaxing time sipping sherry and browsing a nice selection of reference books kept in the Inn's common room.

For more information about the Inn... go here.


We had a very nice comfortable sleep  at the Abalone Inn. Queen bed was very comfortable and we didn't hear or were disturbed by the fridge in our room. We woke up, and showered. And had fruit, toast, and 2 hard boiled eggs each. The eggs were courtesy of Innkeepers hens which we met later.


The sun was shining. and we were eager to get going. So the morning of Wednesday 11/21 we left the Inn and we decided to return to Pt Reyes National Seashore.


High voltage turkey vulture.

We wanted to see Limantour beach. We hadn't had the opportunity to see it yesterday as we ran out of time. We had a leisurely drive south, and then to Limantour. We stopped off in the parking lot, and had a wonderful time birdwatching in amongst the trees. Kevin had a fine time photographing a little sparrow bathing in a puddle. Turkey vultures and crows soared overhead, causing the little birds to flee for cover. We saw an osprey in the distance. We have had good sightings of Red Tailed hawks, I've seen a Coopers hawk and I think I saw a Red Shouldered hawk lazily floating over the green hills.



Above is the little sparrow that bathed in front of us.

After birding at Limantour we decided to head out north on the ocean highway (Hwy 1) north to Bodega Bay. It was fun following the coast line of the Tomales Bay, and then watch the changing landscape as it opened up to the Pacific.


Bodega Bay was very touristy. We were feeling peckish so decided to stop by at the Tides Restaurant. Made famous with Hitchcock's "The Birds". Very mediocre tourist trap food. We shared a burger and a seafood appetizer sample. It really was not good.

Then we went to the Bodega Head because I had that this was a good birding spot.

We were not disappointed. I spotted Marbled Godwit - actually huge flocks of them, with Willets intermingled. A first for me! Also nice flocks of Western Sandpiper.

We walked down a long dock to see if there was anything interesting. We saw a fin in the water, and we got very excited. Turned out it was a seal that was toying with us - and only because I managed to spot the whiskers. We are such land lubbers!

Headed towards the Bodega Bay Head, and had a lot of fun photographing the crashing surf, and the sun and light hitting the waves just so. Spent quite a bit of time, photographing the surf here.





Then we decided to meander northwards towards Jenner. We didn't get far when distracted by a sunset, we started photographing that. I got a wild hair, to try and find us suitable accommodation. I didn't want to have to drive all the way back to Novato! So I called and booked at the Best Western Plus at Santa Rosa.

2012 Thanksgiving Road Trip - 11/19/2012 - Part Two

We left our Best Western the morning of 11/19 after an excellent night. Kevin checked to see whether the Hotel had availability since we were approaching the holiday week. We were told that they had availability, but were fully booked over Thanksgiving.

Here is a photo of the Best Western Plus Novato Oaks hotel, Novato California.


And here is Kevin - we have arrived in California!


After checking out, we decided to head southwards towards Golden Gate bridge. We didn't get that far. Instead we got kind of "lost" but ended up following winding narrow roads through some very interesting suburbs. We even stopped by a Seminary and took pictures of the beautiful church.


We took Lucas Valley road to Fairfax. From Fairfax we followed College Ave to Muir Beach.



The beach sand was a dark grey. Not a white beach at all. I saw my first black phoebe at Muir Beach. A very common bird here, just not found in Colorado.

After that we headed to Muir Woods National Monument. We drove through some nice winding roads, through rolling hills, covered in dense scrub oak. The narrow road approaching the National Monument was lined with parked cars. Kevin took the bull by the horns and snagged a parking spot from a departing vehicle. I am glad he did. Because the parking lots were full full full. We visited the center - I got some postcards for Jane, and a California bird book. Kevin picked up some road maps. Then we asked advice from the cashier - who advised if we wanted to see it within an hour to do the 2nd bridge loop. And so we did.


The loop walks through the redwoods on a nice flat paved road. Lots of chances to stop, ooh and ahh, and take photos of these magnificent giants. It was surprisingly busy.




And here's more.. my favorite photo...


On way back to our car we spotted the Western Scrub Jay (Coastal) also very common, but a first for us.

We then we discovered we were extremely hungry. We left the National Monument and got on Highway 1 towards Stinson Beach. This road was in excellent condition, but narrow and windy. Spectacular views of the ocean, and at certain angles look back on N. SF area. Saw many boats and ships passing. Stacks of turkey vultures, and red tailed hawk riding the air streams. Lots of small chirping birds - titmouse, chickadees or something!! I wish they would sit still long enough to be identified. But no such luck there!

Drove into Stinson Beach, and went to the the Parkside Cafe for a bite. I had calamari, and Kevin had the mussels. Calamari were deep fried, and completely over cooked. It was like eating rubber bands. Kevin's mussels were nice. But they were covered in grated parmesan.

I felt queasy after the deep fry. So we pressed on the Point Reyes Station, in the hopes of finding somwhere to stay. Point Reyes looked really interesting. We stopped by a pond to look at some 30 American Widgeon ducks.

We then decided that we would head back to Novato (via the Costco) for another night at the Best Western.

2012 Thanksgiving Road Trip - 11/16/2012 to 11/18/2012 (Part One)

We have a tradition. Over Thanksgiving - a time traditionally spent over Turkey, stuffing and gravy- we head out on a road trip, just for the heck of it. It is a wonderful time of year for this kind of thing, and often ends up being surprisingly free of crowds.

This year we decided we wanted another road trip to California. In 2010 we did a road trip to central California - entering the state through Las Vegas. We loved that trip. This year we decided to explore northern California.

Night Zero: Friday 11/16/2012

We left Fort Collins after work and drove to Rawlins, WY to overnight at the Ferris Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Psychologically we like the "night zero" getaways. Even being 3 to 4 hours closer to your destination really helps.


For more information check out their website here.

We stayed in the Blue Room - everything was very comfortable. Our Innkeeper was warm and friendly, and we got introduced to the household pet ferret called Miss Daisy.

Breakfast the next morning was tasty and filling - fruit, juice, coffee, toast, and an egg bake. We left for Day One of the road trip feeling refreshed and ready for the road.

Here is Kevin making toast.


The next day we headed west on I-80. We passed through Salt Lake City, and I had to take photos through the car window of the salt workings visible from the road.


We made good time through Utah and then into Nevada. Kevin had read good reviews of the Best Western in Elko NV, so we spent Night One (11/17)  there. We make it a habit of always asking the motel front desk for  food recommendations. We had dinner at JR's - a very good family restaurant (attached to a casino - naturally- this is Nevada) that served very good burgers. This restaurant was in walking distance. Their sweet potato fries were superb.


 We left Elko the morning of Sunday 11/18 leaving around 9am.  We drove west along I-80. Very interesting landscape. Out of Elko - rolling mountains.  It was also raining on and off during our drive.


Then it opened up into those flat straight roads that you expect NV to have. As we passed small towns, we passed towns inviting us for casinos and ... $10 lap dances. Charming! We grabbed a picnic lunch at a rest stop. Very dry and arid. At the rest stop there was a sign explaining the "Forty Mile Desert."

Then we pushed on to make it to Reno. We had been worried about the weather forecast and getting over Donner Pass. We decided to try it. I couldn't stand the thought of having to delay our arrival into California by a day. Just before the pass just outside Reno- Sparks - at a gas station we swapped drivers. Kevin drove the pass - on the NV side it was just fine. Then on the CA side over the Donner Pass proper - that is around the town of Truckee. - we went through rain and snow. Kevin did a magnificent job. Just drove slowly. No need for chains. 


Rain turning to snow.



And warnings of snow removal equipment!

At a rest stop after we had come down the pass at around 3000 ft we swapped again, and I drove to Davis or near there. Then Kevin called our Best Western in Novato to book for the night. He drove the 1.5 hours with the help of Google Maps navigation to get to Novato.

Very comfortable room. Went to Wild Fox - a restaurant adjoining the Best Western for a burger. I also had a glass of wine, a Wild Fox Chardonnay. Kevin seized the moral high ground and ordered a salad instead of fries, and he avoided the burger bun.

We are very pleased we managed to get to CA on Sunday. We thought that we would have to wait it out in Reno.

Coyote Ridge

I was going through some of my photos, and I came across these photos of a hike we did at Coyote Ridge Natural Area in October of this year. Coyote Ridge is just up the road from us.


I really like this one.

Before we decided to turn around (our fitness levels are not quite as they once were) we came across a herd of about 15 mule deer.


This guy was not far from us. You can see he has settled down for the night.

It's been a while...

It's been a while, several months in fact since my last blog post. I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Sometimes things just get busy.

There are a number of times I thought, "I must take this photo, and blog this!" But then things get busy, and the weeks fly by, and then that moment is gone.

Blogging activities to resume... shortly...