Memorial Day Weekend - Road Trip

We were inspired from Arden's visit to go on a roadtrip. The kind of roadtrip we love - pack up the car, throw in the maps and point the car in a direction and simply make it up as you go along.

I took Friday off. We left around 10am-ish, and decided to head north. Kevin had an idea where we were going to end up for the first night. We decided we wanted to go and see Devils Tower. It took us about 5 - 6 hours to get there. Kevin called our Best Western in Hulett, WY to secure a room. We were glad we did. There is nothing worse than arriving tired, and then not having a place to stay. We immediately went to Devils Tower to look around. It was cold, cloudy, misty, and windy. But it was very atmospheric.


I took this photo with my little point 'n shoot, and then converted it to black 'n white.

Here's another one...


For a more "normal" photograph...


There is a very nice trail around the Tower. It is paved and reasonably level. We started it, but then decided to come back the next day. Access to the Tower is from a parking lot. There is a visitor's center (which was closed by the time we got there on Friday) with some nice restrooms.


 Hulett, WY is about 9 miles away from Devils Tower. It is a wonderful small hamlet. There is a newish Best Western that is very comfortable and quiet. We ate a dinner of burgers (I had the cheeseburger) at the Ponderosa Cafe in Hulett. The cafe is a favorite stop during the Sturgis bike week in August. Our burgers were good, and the service was friendly and prompt. In fact we found all our interactions in Hulett excellent.

Saturday we went back to Devil's Tower. This time we had time to stop off and take more photos. We had time to walk the trail around the tower. They estimate about 45 minutes. We took longer because we stopped frequently. We also had time to visit the Visitor's center.

This is the view of Devils Tower from Hulett.


Kevin and Devils Tower.


The tower is collapsing.


Devil's Tower is regarded by Native American tribes as a spiritual place.  It is not hard to see why. There is a sign post as you begin the walk to be respectful of prayer bundles.

More of the tower and Kevin...


On the way out there is a large prairie dog town, with many signs urging tourists not to feed them. I find it hard to get excited about prairie dogs. But they did have their babies, and they did come out to play. So cute prairie dogs (I can't believe I just said that!)

This photo is a colored version of the view of Devils tower you see when approaching it from Hulett...


 At the entrance of the park is the Trading Post.


We went back to Hulett for a nap, and a browse. We found a great museum and gallery called "Rogues Gallery". We met a local artist called Bob Coronato. I was impressed with the quality of his work we saw displayed in the Best Western. I ended up buying an etching of his of Devil's Tower, and a few other items that were interesting. We had a wonderful browse through his museum. A really great fascinating collection, and a great conversation.

Sunday we were sad to leave Hulett. We decided to head east towards the little town of Aladdin. We stopped in at the Aladdin Trading Store. Kevin bought a book on pie making.

From there we headed to the Vore Buffalo Jump. 

It was closed, and very windy.

We picked up a newspaper that had some biker recommendations for scenic drives. We really enjoyed the Spearfish Canyon Drive. We ended up finding a picnic spot and having ham and cheese sandwhiches. There were little birds singing in the trees around us. I got a very quick view, but I think they were redstarts.


A quick photo of the Spearfish Canyon road. Very scenic...


We continued to drive towards Lead, and then on to Deadwood. Deadwood was very touristy, and I can see that it would be unbearably crowded in the summer. We managed to find a parking spot for 50c, (it was metered) and then ambled the streets. I was really put off by the slot machines everywhere, but I guess without gambling, Deadwood would be a ghost town.


We then decided to take the road to Mt Rushmore. I really don't approve of defacing landscapes, but I guess you have to go there once. You can actually see it quite nicely from the road. They charged $11 per car for the joy of parking. It was busy, but I would hate to see this during the summer.

This is a photo from the road...


From the viewing platform... (aka this is what $11 gets you.)


We then drove to Custer to find a motel. We ended up at the Comfort Inn.

The next day (Monday - Memorial Day) we checked out and made our way into Custer State Park for some animal viewing. We were not disappointed - we had close encounters with Bison (too close for my comfort.) Kevin took a photo of this, I'll blog it later.

This time of year we saw lots of babies. We also experienced a burro jam.

Baby bison...


Burro jam...


and pronghorn...


Kevin has some better photos that I'll blog in a separate post. We also took video which I'll try and post later.

We drove home taking it easy, stopping frequently and switching drivers. We took a slightly different route, and found the oldest town in WY- Hartville.




The Sunrise Art & Museum, Hartville, WY.




Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 9

We woke up on our final day on this fantastic road trip at the River Terrace Inn in Green River, UT.


When we checked in the night before, we were urged to follow the Motel breakfast rules. We even were issued these breakfast rules. We were more used to the usual Motel approach to breakfast - and so we were intrigued. We woke up especially promptly to make our way to the breakfast.


We were met at the breakfast area, and we had eggs made to order! We could also help ourselves to a wide variety of breakfast sides. 

Inside the Motel...

and outside...


It was a good idea pushing all the way to Green River. It made the trip home relatively easy.

Here are some photos of going through Glenwood Canyon...





Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 7

We checked out of our Best Western, Exeter on 11/25/2010. We had read that Exeter had a number of murals in its down town. We had the town to ourselves. Exeter has approximately 28 public murals, with some additional murals located inside businesses. Because of the holiday, most businesses were closed.


This mural located: NW corner of Pine and E Street. Artist Ben Barker, Susanville CA. (1997) The Yokuts Harvest portrays the agrarian lifestyl of local Yokuts Indians collecting sour berries during the spring.


Orange Harvest. Location: SE Corner of Pine and E Street. Artists: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, Visalia, CA & Morgan McCall, Farmersville, CA. (1996) This mural features a scene of orange pickers in the 1930's. Entire families worked together, while children played. The artist's daughter is included in the mural.


Packing Ladies. Location: 119 S E St just south of "Orange Harvest." Artist: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, Visalia CA. (1997) This mural features the Exeter Citrus Packing House circa 1950 shows ladies packing and grading oranges.


Poppies & Lupine. Location: 121-1/2 S E St. Artist: Varian Mace, Visalia CA. (1998) This mural features California poppies in the foreground and purple and blue lupine.

We then headed out towards the Sequoia National Park to see some Giants!

En route to the giants...


In order to gain access to the park we had to carry tire chains. This meant turning around and heading back to the tire chain rental place, to hire chains.


You have to leave a $100 deposit, which you get back when you return the chains. The cost of rental was $30. Then you pay $10 to have the tire chains demonstrated. This is all because California doesn't want to be sued if you slide on ice and have an accident. Coming, as we do from Colorado, I found this attitude incomprehensible. I was also extremely annoyed that no one seemed to have heard of snow tires. Crazy Californians!!


On the way up we have nice dry tarmac, and spectacular views. I was muttering the whole way up, due to idiocy of the tire chain rentals.

We even saw a very lethargic looking bobcat. (In fact I thought it was sick.)


Then we get to an area, with a little bit of snow where everyone is putting on their tire chains. Even 4wd'S!! Of course, being freedom loving, law abiding citizens that we are we put on our tire chains. Then we have to continue, with chains on relatively dry tarmac up further.

I was not a happy camper!

We have to continue through road work, and then we start to hit the real stuff - nice compacted ice, snow, in amongst the Giants.

Now ya talking Baby!!

Giants, and more giants...

in an amazing winter wonderland...

and more,


We were running out of time, so we had to say goodbye to these amazing giants and head down the hill. Last shot:

On the way down we took off our tire chains as soon as we could see tarmac. We also stopped occasionally to take in the beautiful vistas.




On our way down not far away from a campsite we came across this bear...

It looked like this bear had been tagged once, and given its proximity to a campsite, I couldn't help but wonder whether this bear's day were numbered? A bear that loses its fear of humans, is a dead bear.

I would have loved to spend more time in the Park. We really didn't have time to drive to the Sherman Tree, or see some of the other spots that are open in winter. Many roads to close for the winter.

We headed back towards home. We ended up at the Best Western Country Park in Tehachapi.

We had been keeping an eye on the weather, and we were concerned about a storm heading for the Rockies on Sunday. We didn't want to get caught trying to come over Vail Pass in a storm. So we opted for pushing home Friday and Saturday, to try and make it home on Saturday, before the storm.



Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 6

We checked out of the Best Western at Carmel-by-the-sea. It was really difficult to tear ourselves away from the sea, and our wonderful Point Lobos State Reserve. What a special place! We headed back there for one last look.


On this trail by Bird Island we saw these magnificant vistas. I also saw the Townsend Warbler in one of the groves. Gorgeous little birds.

We then had to head on out. We drove up Highway one to Monterey, and then we headed east towards a little town of Exeter, just east of Visalia. En route we stopped off at the Casa de... everything fruit stand.


And brussel sprouts by the stalks...


We ended up at the Exeter Best Western.


Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 5

We woke up in Big Sur, in amongst the Redwoods.


We had had such a huge dinner last night, we headed out without breakfast. We headed up the coast towards Point Lobos State Reserve. Kevin had found some interesting write ups about this state reserve. It is well worth the visit, and if possible, try and spend as much time as you can. It is $10 per vehicle entry fee. With purchase you can get access to other state parks in Big Sur.

We went immediately to the Cypress Grove. It was raining and quite chilly. But we were not deterred. This Cypress Grove is one of the last remaining Cypress Groves in USA.



The trails are well marked and quite easy. It was raining on and off the entire time. So we did get soaked. It did scare a lot of people away.

And then we rounded a bluff and entered this secret garden...


more ...




Holiday decoration...



We were cold, wet and hungry. So we decided to head into Carmel-by-the-sea. We were not expecting much. This is a very ritzy, very exclusive place. But we were pleasantly surprised. It was gorgeous, and self consciously quaint. It made Aspen, and Vail look positively tatty. Again, I think we were lucky because there was no one around.

We found 2 hour free parking, and headed out into the quaint streets of Carmel-by-the-sea. I could smell a wonderful smell of rosemary and garlic. I followed my nose and found Nico's. We sat by the window and I ordered a hot chocolate to warm up. Kevin had a burger, and I had a chicken sandwhich. Pricey (to be expected) but yummy.


My Chicken sandwhich (above) and Kevin's burger (below.)


 After lunch we headed out for the streets to walk around. We ended up finding a very nice Best Western and extremely good rates (best of the whole trip, much to our astonishment.) We checked in, and then decided to head back to Point Lobos. At this time the rain had cleared, and the sun came out. 

On our second trip to Point Lobos, we stopped off at the Whaling Museum. There is a small Whaler's Cabin, and some exhibits giving the history of the cove. In the cove itself we spotted a number of egrets fishing on the kelp beds.


Whaler's Cabin...


We then went to Seal Rock point. On the trail there we spotted these harbor seals sunning themselves.



Seal rock in the distance.


Kevin and Seal Rock.


In the late afternoon light we drove around the reserve. There are a number of different trails following the coastline.



Gorgeous light.

Then we headed back to our Best Western. Then we walked into town and went to Flaherty's for dinner. I had the linguini con pescatore, Kevin had the linguini and prawns. For dessert we shared a loganberry/ raspberry pie. It was gorgeous. Food was excellent, but pricey. Service impeccable.


Can't forget the pie...(to die for!!)




Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 4

We checked out of our Best Western at Morro Bay, after grabbing a quick breakfast. We headed back to Morro Bay to do some more exploring, and to see it in the morning light.


Brown Pelican.




Morro Rock. 

Then we headed up highway 1, aka the Pacific Highway towards San Simeon and the Hearst Castle.

We decided to drive up to the Hearst Castle visitor center. There are 4 choice of tours. But you are trapped in the Visitor Center - lots of curios, and snacks and things to eat until the buses are ready for the trip up. There is a brief exhibition with photos if you are feeling cheap, and you do not feel like parting with the $24 per person price tag for one of the tours. The Hearst Castle is a hideous architectural monstrosity, a testament to man's ego over common good sense. Well, that's my opinion. No surprises we did not pay for the tour. I took this photo of said monstrosity from the visitor center.


Nasty. You would think with all the Hearst millions that the least they could do was hire someone like Frank Lloyd Wright to do something cutting edge. Hearst donated the house and surrounding land to the state of California. It is now a state park.

We continued northwards up the coast. We found this Elephant Seal colony viewing site.


We continued up the coast towards Big Sur.


We had wonderful coastal views...

We stopped by the Big Sur Spirit Garden.


Big Sur Coastline.


Another amazing Pacific Big Sur Sunset.

We ended up overnighting at the Big Sur River Inn. Rooms were pricey, but we had the place to ourselves. The room was comfortable, although it was very chilly - no direct sunlight, we were surrounded by coastal Red woods.  Our room had individual heating - and we really needed it! We ate at the Big Sur River Restaurant. I had a delicious lamb shank.


Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 3

We left La Quinta, Pasa Robles the morning of 11/21/2010 and decided to head for the coast, specifically Pismo Beach. We had done some reading that this is the time of year to spot the wintering migrating Monarch Butterflies. A once in a lifetime experience.

We took the 101 south to Pismo Beach, and came across this wonderful Monarch Butterfly viewing site quite by accident.


These butterflies migrate from the north to winter along California's coast. They cluster in dense groups on eucalyptus groves. You have to tread carefully, because you are never sure where the butterflies may be perching. The night before there was heavy rain and hail, and many butterflies were lost, or thrown from their perches. But they spend the warming morning drying out, and flapping around.


I spotted this one on the ground getting some sun.

There are approximately 10,000 individuals at last count, with a 60/40 male/ female split.


The butterflies are everywhere. Some flap around lazily, and some cluster in tight groups looking like dried up dead leaves.


There are a number of docents present who are only too happy to tell you interesting facts about these butterflies. There is a small caravan which sells t-shirts and other odds and ends, the proceeds go towards Monarch butterfly conservation. I bought a T-shirt and some postcards.

There are binoculars and viewing scopes pre set up. But it is a good idea to bring some good binoculars. There are 2 small picnic tables too. I could hear warblers cheaping in the undergrowth, and spotted the yellow backed warbler enjoying its winter in California.


We left the Monarch Butterfly viewing and headed into Pismo Beach to walk around, explore, take some more photos and grab a bite to eat.


This is the peer at Pismo Beach.


We ate fish 'n chips at Chele's. We didn't have the patience to stand in line for Chowder at the Splash Cafe which all the guides rave about.


We then drove to Morro Bay. At Morro Rock we had an extremely good siting of a threesome of Sea Otters playing in among the kelp.


We spent some time at Morro Rock - walking along the beach (at low tide) and watching the sea otters, and the various birds - sea gulls, curlew, sparrows and numerous comorants, and brown pelicans.



We decided to go back into the town of Morro Bay to see if we could find a hotel. We found a Best Western, not far from the bay. For an extra $20 we got a room with a sea "view". The room was clean and the bed was comfortable. 

After we checked in, we headed out to the bay to take more photos, and to take in our first sunset over the Pacific.

While we were at Morro Rock we saw an old time clipper ship come into the bay. I framed this photo of the ship, and the power station.


Old and the New.

We then headed to the northern side of Morro rock, and went onto the beach to take photos of sun setting.






Kevin taking a photo of the sunset...

We ate dinner at one of the restaurants in Morro Bay. I had prawns and scallops. Kevin had prawns.



Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 2

We checked out of the Holiday Inn Express on the morning of 11/20. We were right next door to a large railroad switching station - squeaked all night. And we had people above us that seemed to stomp around all night. Ah well, not the best night.

Barstow has a portion of the historic Route 66 running through it. So we were eager to see what Barstow was all about in the light of day. There was still a drinking ban in place.


Barstow definitely looked better at night.

We then decided to go and visit Johannesburg, CA. Johannesburg is just north on road 395.

Johannesburg, Randburg and the mining district are all named after the Johannesburg, Randburg in South Africa, and named after the mining activity that established both. Johannesburg, CA is very different to good ol' Johburg, South Africa.

Here is a photo of the Johannesburg Post Office, cum gas station, cum general store.


And Joburg Junque...


There was not much remaining of Johannesburg, CA.

We left Johannesburg and pushed west through the Mojave Desert.


Joshua trees and the Mojave.

And we had a rainbow...


We continued westwards on the 58 towards Tehachapi passed wind farms.


Another view (again I am photographing while Kevin is driving.)


We stopped off at Murray Farms where I was fascinated with these very odd looking fruit called Buddha Hands.


Buddha Hands symbolize happiness and long life.

We hooked up with highway 99 at Bakersfield to head north just a little ways. At Wasco we took the 46 west. We loved this area - fertile farms, and cut flower farming at Wasco. We stopped and got out the car. We stopped to take photos and experience the fragrance from the flowers. 


We continued west on the 46 which connected to the 41. We ended up at the La Quinta in Pasa Robles.


Thanksgiving Road Trip - Day 1

We left 11/18 after work and drove to Rifle, CO for our night zero getaway. I recommend the Comfort Inn (formerly the Super 8) at Rifle. Very comfortable motel.

The morning of 11/19 we left Rifle, CO after a quick breakfast, and headed I-70 west, and then we took the I-15 to St George, through Arizona, Nevada, through Las Vegas and onto Barstow, CA.

The roads were perfect for a major night driving push. We had perfect weather, and great conditions. Traffic was a little crazy through Las Vegas, but that is to be expected, I guess.

This is a photo taken at one of our favorite overlook spots.


And this was taken through the windshield of the car while Kevin was driving.


Because we were feeling good and alert, we decided to push all the way to Barstow.

We ended up staying at the Holiday Inn Express, Barstow. We were not allowed to drink the tap water, even to use it for cleaning teeth. We were given complimentary bottles of water.


Nice comfortable room.


With a public service announcement.



2010 Challenge - 10/3/2010 - Fall Color Day 2: Leadville

We overnighted in the historic (and some say haunted) Delaware Hotel. We ate breakfast at the Golden Burro Cafe next door.

Entrance to the hotel.


Lobby of hotel.


Leadville is a town that was established out of the boom/ bust cycle of various mining stories. Leadville has the Museum of Mining and Hall of Fame. This is an extensive museum and really deserves a look. 


We drove around Leadville and ended up finding this view of the town with the mountains in the background. Leadville is high at 10,200 feet, so be careful.  I ended up selecting this photo as my photo of the day.


Shot with a Panasonic point 'n shoot. 1/250, f/4.4, 21 mm ISO 80.

For any return back to Denver, I had to take this photo of Eisenhower Tunnel. Kevin was driving.