September 2018 – Road Trip – Girls Day Out: Grassvalley & Nevada City, CA

Today, September 28, 2018, Colleen and I were up and out the door heading from Vacaville, CA to Grassvalley, CA to spend the day with our friend Teri from high school. We all grew up together just up over the mountain in Truckee, CA…..We have been Facebook friends for a few years now but we have not seen each other in about 45 years.

We arrived at Teri’s home, a lovely older home in Grassvalley. After big hugs, smiles and so good to see you we chatted a bit and made plans as to what we wanted to do for the day. Teri suggested a tour of Grassvalley, Nevada City and lunch at Tofanelli. Colleen wanted to make a stop in Nevada City to show us the memorial plaque at the plaza near the Wayne Browne Correctional Facility which bears the name of her dad, a California Highway Patrolman who was killed in the line of duty in 1963 when Colleen was just a little girl. Teri then mentioned that there is a plaque with her dad’s name, hanging in the lobby at the Wayne Browne Correctional Facility as the Project Manager who helped build and design the building. So we headed off to Nevada City….it was such a special moment to be with these two awesome friends as we came to honor and remember two great men who have passed on.

Then off to lunch at Tofanelli’s

We took a tour of the old Holbrooke Hotel located in Grass Valley, CA. The hotel was built in 1862 in the mid-19th century Mother Lode masonry architectural style. Stephen and Clara Smith built the Adams Express Office and the Golden Gate Saloon which were destroyed by fire in 1855 along with most of Grass Valley. The Smiths rebuilt the saloon as a one-story fieldstone building with a brick facade, making it safer from the threat of another fire. The Golden Gate Saloon is the oldest, continuously operated saloon west of the Mississippi River. In 1862 a relative, Charles Smith built the current hotel and named it the Exchange Hotel for its convenience to the local Gold Exchange. In 1879 the hotel was purchased and name The Holbrooke after its new owner, Daniel Holbrooke. Over the years the hotel has had many famous guests that include Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield. Prizefighters “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Famous authors Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Jack London. It was also frequented by entertainers Lola Montez, Lotta Crabtree, and Emma Nevada. Many of the rooms are named after these famous guests.

Then it was back to Teri’s place where we took the last dip in the pool before it was being closed up for the winter. It was a great day and so much fun!


September 2018 – Road Trip – Knights Ferry, CA

After leaving the Cowboy Museum in Oakdale we stopped at the sandwich shop and got ourselves some lunch to take with us to Knights Ferry. Upon arriving at Knights Ferry we were looking forward to eating our lunch at the picnic table near the river. We no more sat down and started to unwrap our sandwiches when we were invaded by bees. We were so bummed and quickly jumped back in the car with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner going and ate our lunch.

After filling our bellies and surviving the bee invasion we headed down the short trail to the ruins of Knights Ferry flour mill/hydroelectric plant and the covered bridge.

Knights Ferry was first settled by Dr. William Knight in the spring of 1849.  Dr. Knight, being a doctor was also a prominent fur trader that founded other towns in Northern California such as Knights Landing.  The site of Knights Ferry was chosen as a good location to establish a ferry that would cross the Stanislaus River, and provide Knight a profitable venture in a yet undeveloped part of California.  Knight partnered with a local named James Vantine, and with the help of an old whaling vessel, they built a ferry.  Located between the port of Stockton and the Sierra foothills which were rich at the time in gold, Knights Ferry became a hot-spot to cross the river during the gold rush. Unfortunately for Dr. Knight, he was murdered in the middle of town in late 1849.  After Knight’s death, James Vantine operated the ferry alone until he formed a new partnership with John and Lewis Dent, brothers to President Ulysses S. Grant’s wife,  Julia Grant. In the late 1850s, a man named David Locke built a flour mill and eventually bought out the Dent brothers and retained control of crossing the Stanislaus at Knights Ferry. Instead of keeping the ferry, Locke suggested the idea of putting in a bridge and in early 1857 the first bridge spanning over the river in Knights Ferry opened.  During the spring of 1862 with a heavy winter and early warm spring, rains created an abundance of water in the Stanislaus River, and floodwaters raged through Knights Ferry at levels that nearly reached the top of the cliffs.  The bridge was built sturdily, and the water did not take it down, but upriver the bridge at the two-mile bar was not built as well and it washed down and destroyed the Knights Ferry Bridge along with the flour mill. In 1863 a new mill was built by David Tulloch as well as the present-day Knights Ferry covered bridge, it spans 330 feet and is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. At the turn of the century, Charles Tulloch, David’s son converted the flour mill into a hydroelectric plant. This was California’s first hydroelectric plant and what you see today are the ruins of that plant. The covered bridge was closed to auto traffic in 1981 and is accessible to cross on foot.

Many of the relics of the gold-rush, the old mill, the covered bridge, the fire station, as well as the general store and hotel, can still be seen in present-day Knights Ferry.  The general store has been in operation for over 100 years as well as the local bed and breakfast.

September 2018 – Road Trip- Cowboy Museum Oakdale, CA

One of the stops Colleen and I made on our trip to Yosemite was a stop off in Oakdale, California to the Cowboy Museum. Oakdale is a city in the San Joaquin Valley. As professional rodeo men and women moved into Oakdale, the interest in rodeos grew. The Saddle Club started putting on rodeos in the spring, and the city became known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World”. The museum is small and free, only asking for a donation. It was well filled with cool cowboy memorabilia and lots of information on the growth of ranching in the area.  There were a lot of great saddles that were won in competition over the years. The staff were really friendly and directed us to a nice spot up the road called Knights Ferry to see some history from the gold era. It’s less than 10 minutes off the highway also on route to Yosemite and worth stopping at.



September 2018 – Road Trip Yosemite National Park

While visiting my best friend, Colleen, in Vacaville, California we decided to make a trip to Yosemite National Park together. Colleen had been to Yosemite before but there is always room for return visits to our beautiful national parks. Yosemite had been on my bucket list for a while and I had thought a couple times that I was going to get to go, but each of those times other factors of life intervened and I was unable to make it. So when I knew I was making this road trip and the route I would be going would be taking me near Yosemite I put it on the list.  A few weeks prior to leaving Phoenix at the end of August there were reports coming out of California of fires at and around Yosemite as well as several other places in California. My heart sank as I thought of another opportunity that was going to fall through, but I decided to stay optimistic as it was going to be several weeks before I would be in California and hopefully things would change and the fires would be gone. So here I was finally in California on the morning of September 25th jumping in the car with my best friend heading for Yosemite. We left Vacaville about 9:30 AM and we had plans to make other site seeing stops on the way…..but those will be in another blog. We arrived at Yosemite at about 4:00 in the afternoon from Hwy 120 at the Toga Pass Entrance, it was a perfect time of day, and the weather was just right with blue, sunny skies. Yosemite was beautiful as we drove along the route with the ever-changing scenery of forests, meadows, majestic peaks and domes. We made several stops for photos and of course a picture with the “Yosemite” park entrance sign.



As the sun was starting to go down we made our way to “Tunnel View.” Tunnel View provides one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley below, El Capitan to the left, Half Dome in the middle and Bridalveil Fall to the right.

As the setting sun concluded we made our way down to the valley floor and to Half Dome Village to our lodging for the night. We had gotten a room at the Stoneman House. These rooms are small and rustic with a bathroom and shower, electric wall heater, lights, and wall outlets. No phones or TV. I thought they were very nice rooms and decorated perfectly for the location. In the late 1800s, David and Jenny Curry were both schoolteachers who had dreamed of visiting Yosemite but felt they could not afford the luxury hotels. The Curry’s eventually did visit Yosemite and decided to create affordable lodging options. This led to the establishment of Camp Curry, now known as Half Dome Village when concessioner Delaware North took over. The original camp was comprised of a dozen tents with a central dining area where guests could gather together for meals. In a short time, its superb location and affordability inspired its rapid growth—ultimately growing to several hundred tents. Not long after, a dance pavilion, pool hall, swimming pool and ice skating rink were added. The dance hall was later renovated into what is now the Stoneman House lodge with 18 motel units.

The next morning we were up and ready to start our day exploring as much as we could of Yosemite and making our way back to Vacaville. Our day started with breakfast and then a stop down the road at the main village where we walked along to check out the shops, the general store and a stop at Ansel Adams photo gallery where you could purchase books and reprints of his photos that he took of Yosemite. We next drove along making stops for some photoshoots.

Our next stop was The Majestic Yosemite Hotel…….Such a beautiful hotel made of stone, steel, concrete, wood, and glass which opened in 1927 that sits right below the granite cliffs and beautiful valley floor. Originally named Ahwahnee Hotel the name was changed in 2016 over the trademark name with Delaware North when their contract ended and Aramark became the new hotel concessionaire.

We continued to wander along stopping for photo opportunities of the beautiful granite cliffs, the valley floor, Merced River, and Bridalveil Falls. The water levels were very low this time of year and only Bridalveil Falls had a trickle of water. I definitely would like to come back in the spring when there is more water flow.

We then wandered and made our way to Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias which was 36 miles from Yosemite Valley along Hwy 41. On the way, we came across an area that had been burned in the recent fires that had come through parts of Yosemite and some surrounding areas in August.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was just opened on June 15, 2018, after a 40 million restoration project. A new parking area welcome plaza was constructed at the park’s South Entrance. A free shuttle bus provides service from the Mariposa Grove that departs every 10 minutes. There are several trails and hikes you can take to see the Sequoias……We took the short loop and saw the “Fallen Monarch”. The Sequoias are so big and just beautiful.

From here we exited the South Entrance of the park on Hwy 41 where we stopped in Oakhurst for lunch, we continued on our way along Hwy 140 and made a stop at Merced Fruit Barn before catching Hwy 99 on into Vacaville. The Fruit Barn was a fun, cute shop where you could get a soda, deli sandwich, fruit, gift baskets, and unique gifts. The highlight I enjoyed was all the barnyard animals (Dolly the Llama, Taz the pot-bellied pig, Jolly the Nubian Pygmy goat, Bonnie, and Clyde the Emus, Blu the Peacock, as well as the Birds (MaCaws and George the Cockatiel).

We finally arrived back home in Vacaville at 9:30 P.M. It was a great two-day adventure and so much fun!

September 2018 Road Trip – Oregon: Multnomah Falls, Bridge of the Gods

August 26, 2018, I was up and on my way early Sunday morning. I had a 4 1/2/ hour drive to Fallon where I would be seeing a couple of friends from high school and staying overnight. Over the next few days, I stopped off in Reno and spent time with more friends from high school, then headed up to Washington State via Susanville, Klamath Falls and on up over Mount Hood into Portland Oregon on Thursday, August 30th. I decided to take a drive to the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls. I had the opportunity to make a few visits to this area over the two years that my son had lived in Portland. Last year in September of 2017 the Eagle Creek Fire went through the area and I wanted to see how things looked. I discovered that the exits to Crown Point/Vista House were open as well as a couple of nearby smaller falls and hiking trails. Beyond that Highway 30 scenic byway was closed to the larger Multnomah Falls. So I got back on I-84 and drove to the exit for the Multnomah Falls. I pulled into the parking lot and made the short walk through the tunnel that goes under the freeway……it was good to see that the Lodge and the falls themselves had come through the fire unscathed. The parking lot on the side of the falls, of the freeway, was fenced off as well as a portion of Highway 30 that goes beyond the falls. Tourists are still able to make the 1/4 mile walk to the upper bridge but the trails beyond that are closed due to fire damage. The falls as always were beautiful and I never tire of seeing them. It was really sad to see so much of the area closed off and the fencing which took away from the natural setting and beauty of the area. After leaving the Falls I got back on Highway 84 and made my way to the Bridge of the Gods. Along the way, I saw the exit to one of the state parks and the fish hatchery was closed off, I could see for miles where the upper hillside was burned as well as some areas where the fire came all the way down to the freeway.

The drive from Multnomah Falls to The Bridge of the Gods is just 13 miles. The Bridge of the Gods is a steel truss cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, Oregon and Washington state near the Bonneville Dam. There is a $2.00 toll to cross. There is a Native American Legend about The Bridge of Gods you can find at this link

After crossing the bridge I made a left onto Hwy 14 and followed the scenic route along the Columbia River Gorge to Washougal where I then caught I-5 to Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula/Olympic Peninsula area to spend 3 weeks with friends and family.

September 2018 Road Trip – Nevada: Elko, Lamoille Canyon

My next stop was Elko, Nevada to spend a couple days with my cousin, so I headed out of Las Vegas about 1 PM as I had a 6 1/2 hour drive to make. Because I can not drive that many hours straight without a break and because that stretch of road is long and nothing for miles I knew it was going to take me longer to get there, plus I ended up feeling really tired and just needed to close my eyes for a bit, so at one of the rest stops I fixed myself some lunch and slept for about 15 minutes. After that I was fine but I did not get into my cousins until 9 PM that night.

The next day, Saturday, August 25th my cousin, Walt and his wife, Lynette took me on a drive to Lamoille Canyon….21 miles outside of Elko. Lamoille Canyon is a glacier-carved canyon in the Ruby Mountains and is one of the most beautiful ranges in Nevada. The scenic drive is just 12 miles one direction with self-guided interpretive signs describing the geology of the canyon. It’s hard to believe after traveling through much of Nevada that is desert, rock, dust and pretty barren that one would find this beautiful canyon. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore with Island Lake being an easy two-mile hike. I wish I was in better shape and did not have bad knees so I could do more hiking and get into the backcountry a bit more. In addition, there are places to camp as well as picnicking which is what we did, we brought some lunch and found a really awesome place nestled in among the trees after a short trail walk. A few weeks after my visit a terrible fire went through this Canyon so before you pay a visit be sure and check the updates.

September 2018 Road Trip – Las Vegas, Nevada

I classify myself as an RV traveler, even though at times I am stationary for several months as I work at whatever current job I am doing. As I have mentioned in other blog posts I came to Phoenix in January of this year to take a job here. One of the things that I am lucky to have with this job is “flexibility”. One of the agreements I arranged with staying and working here was to only work 75% of the year so that I could go visit my family, friends and pursue my “adventurous” spirit. So with that in mind, I spent several months saving up funds to take a 5-week road trip which turned into 6 due to my car breaking down (more on that later). For this trip, I was not taking my RV, but just going in my car because for one it was cheaper and I was going to have plenty of places to stay the majority of the time. This was my first summer in Phoenix and the heat was downright miserable, so by the time August 23rd arrived (my departure date) I was more than ready to hit the road and get to cooler weather. On my departure date, I worked until 11 am……I had been packing for a couple of days so everything was ready to go except for a few last-minute items, so within a half-hour, I was in the car and on the road.

My first stop for the night was Las Vegas……The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is about 4 1/2 hours but I don’t ever seem to make it in the time frame that mapquest says I should. Maybe it’s because I don’t drive hard and make too many rest stops. I just like to drive at my own pace and take in the adventure and the scenery. To me taking a trip isn’t just about getting to my destination as fast as I can, it’s about the journey getting there. So for me to get to Las Vegas to my hotel was about 6 hours. I had booked a room at the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino online through “Hotwire” for $57.00. I had originally looked to get a room closer on the Las Vegas strip but the additional casino fees were expensive. Boulder City has the casino fees as well but they were cheaper. So anyway the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino worked out just fine. It was really nice, I had a big room with a king-size bed and my window overlooked the pool. I right away got into my swimsuit and went to check out the pool which was really nice also. The water was a little cool getting in but once in, it was fine.

Boulder Station was built on 27 acres at the corner of Lamb Boulevard and Boulder Highway.  The site was chosen in 1986, as the company believed that the east side of Las Vegas was under-served and because of its easy access from I-515. Groundbreaking of the $85 million Boulder Station began on August 5, 1993. The project’s ultimate cost was $103 million. Boulder Station opened on August 23, 1994, with a fireworks show.  It was the first new hotel-casino to open on the east side of Las Vegas since 1979. Boulder Station’s design is of Victorian architecture.

Day 2 – I was up about 9 AM as I had a ticket for 10 AM to the Neon Sign Museum which was only about a 10-minute drive from the hotel. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. The museum campus includes the outdoor space known as the Neon Boneyard, a visitors’ center which is housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses additional rescued signs and is available for weddings, special events, and photo shoots.

My next stop was to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. I had my first visit to Las Vegas in March 2016 when I met up with my friend Becky from Washington to celebrate her birthday. We had 4 great days and did and saw so many things and one of our stops was to the Bellagio and I just loved the Conservatory. The Bellagio has 5 seasonal themes throughout the year and I wanted to see the new one on display which was called “That’s Amore 2018” which was a French/Italian theme and it was beautiful.