Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Giant Redwoods and Shelter Cove, CA

We stayed in Garberville, CA which is about 200 miles north of San Francisco so we could tour the giant redwood trees in the area. These trees are truly amazing. Orinda and I knew they were large, but we had no idea as to the size. Rising some 250 to 300' tall, they are unlike any tree we have ever seen. Here you can see a "smaller" tree next to the HHR.

Orinda really enjoyed the Avenue of the Giants drive which is about 30 miles of road that meanders through grove after grove of huge trees.

At the visitor center, this log was displayed that showed is was about 839 years old when it fell. Wow, this tree was hundreds of years old when Columbus came to America.

We took the morning to tour the redwoods and then in the afternoon, we decided to take a side trip to Shelter Cove which is on the Pacific. The small town was only about 22 miles away, but on a VERY twisty, narrow road and took us about 45 minutes to get there.

Upon arrival at Shelter Cove, we found this lighthouse that was retired in 1951. While it looks pretty short, it is installed on the top of a 400' cliff above the ocean, so ships could see it well away at sea.

The sea was spectacular! The waves crashed against the rocky coast and was wonderful to watch.

The waves hitting the rocks sprayed up quite a ways, and really crashed in. The spray flew a long ways!

We even saw some sea lions sitting on the rocks around the kelp beds. Beautiful animals. This was a great day!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Visiting the Jimmy Doolittle Air Museum at Travis AFB

We found that the nearby Travis AFB is home to the Jimmy Doolittle Air Museum and of course, Rick had to take a look. This free museum is super and has a great collection of aircraft and related components. Additionally, Travis hosts some of the heavy lift service of the Air Force and as evidence, Rick got to stand next to this C5A transport engine. WOW -- this thing is massive.

Here is a fully restored WWII B-29 that is very impressive. If addition to this aircraft, there is a complete section on the restoration of the plane which was quite a project.

We enjoyed the large, outdoor exhibit area where many different aircraft are displayed. Many of these are in the air lift category (the B-52 could also be called an "air lift" platform I guess!) which are often not seen in museums, so this was quite interesting.

Inside, there is a wide range of exhibit, including a complete room on the Doolittle Tokyo raid which was fascinating. There are many hands on exhibits as well, so Rick got his chance to "try on" this jet trainer! He was ready to give it a spin!

Finally, there was a room featuring engine of the past and current times. In addition to the huge C5 engine above, there was this WWI Liberty engine. In its day, this was a marvel of engineering and Rick really liked it!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Exploring Vacaville, CA -- with factory tours!

We had a wonderful time exploring a couple of local factories that offer tours -- the Jelly Belly jelly bean company and the Budweiser brewery! First, Jelly Belly!

Here is one of the excited kids getting ready for the tour. Note the spiffy hat that we had to wear as we took a very interesting, free tour. Wow -- I had never imagined so many jelly beans!

Not to be outdone, Rick shows how good you can really look while wearing this nifty head gear. I am ready to see how the confectioners get it done. The tour was about 45 minutes and really described a rather complex process.

AHA! Orinda is done with the tour and has her reward -- free jelly beans! Plus, they make high-end chocolates, so we had to try some of those as well. Good stuff!

Rick says enough of the candy already. Let's go just down the road to the large Budwesier Brewing facility.

While they were not packaging the beer today (they were in a regular cleaning mode), we still got to see the large facility and see how they can fill some 1,800 bottles of beer a MINUTE! Wow, that is alot of beer.

This is where the beer is brewed. There are 120 of these huge vats where the beer is brewed and aged. Orinda is holding up the beechwood chips that are used in the aging process. Fortunately, Rick was able to get a couple samples of this too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sacramento Railroad Museum and Old Town

All right! We are ready to tour the Sacramento Railroad museum! This looks like an amazing facility and is in Old Town Sacramento. This is where the Central Pacific Railroad first got started and is a beautifully restored area.

Many of the cars and exhibits are available for review and inspection. This is the Pullman car which converts into a sleeping car at night. The car looked like new and was set up for use.

One of the great moments in the building of the Central Pacific was the incredible feat of building 10 miles of track in one 12 hour period! The track crew handled over 4.3 MILLION pounds of materials that day to complete that feat. Needless to say, this has not been duplicated since.

This is the first engine used on the Central Pacific ... the C.P. Huntington. Shipped around Cape Horn, this engine was used in the construction of the railroad in 1864. It was fun to see such priceless artifacts.

While railroad history is great, Orinda was ready for lunch. Fortunately, Old Town offered many options, but the hotdog offered all the way with chili was the winner for Orinda! It was fun to eat at the table outside and watch all the folks wander around.

Finally, it was time to head back to Cody who was holding down the coach. We did take a short detour and drove by the impressive State Capitol building. Apparently, things are pretty busy in the capitol these days as the legislature tries to figure out how to keep the state out of bankruptcy! Still, the building is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Utah Capital, Bonneville Salt Flats and Nevada

We had a great visit to Salt Lake City and enjoyed touring the area. The state capital building (Orinda likes to visit each one!) was super and very well worth the stop. This beautiful structure is on the very highest point in Salt Lake City and overlooks the mountains on several sides.

Inside, the capital building is truly amazing. This dome is over three stories tall and features murals depicting the history of the state.
Here, Orinda stands at the base of the incredible marble staircase (there were two of these) -- notice the skylights above. This capital reflects the great optimism of the state and was a joy to visit.

Leaving Salt Lake, we traveled west on I-80 and after about 60 miles, found ourselves next to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats and the land speed racing course -- very cool! You could not see the enire course due to the curvature of the earth! This is a very FLAT place!

Shortly after Bonneville, we stopped for fuel and found ourselves surrounded by NASCAR trucks -- apparently there was a race west of us and they were convoying to the next race site. There were some spectacular trucks and paint jobs -- although I wish I could have seen inside the trailers.

We spend the night in Minden, NV which is in the middle of the Carson Valley -- a very green valley which stands in contrast to the desert leading up to it. Just 15 miles away (and 2,500 feet up), to the west, is fabuolus Lake Tahoe, which we enjoyed touring around.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wyoming State Capitol and the Ames Monument

We stopped at Cheyenne, WY and really enjoyed looking around. This town was established during the construction of the Transcontinental railroad (the Union Pacific side) and was a real boom town in the the 1870s and beyond. There is still a large Union Pacific operation here and one of the focal points of the town is the magnificent, restored depot right downtown.

In the waiting room is a wonderful floor tile representation of the original railroad route showing many of the main towns that were established. Orinda is standing on Cheyenne and looking west!

Our next stop, just up the street, was the beautiful Wyoming State Capital. Similar to the SD capital, this building portrays the enthusiastic outlook of the early west and is a beautiful creation.

Orinda stands next to the gorgeous wood staircase leading to the upper floor. I would love to know how much this building would cost today (it was built for $225,000 in 1889).

We left Cheyenne and headed west on I-80, following the original route of the railroad. As we crossed Sherman Pass (about 8,000')m we came across the "Tree in the rock" which we also saw in a picture in the Cheyenne depot museum. Wait a minute -- could this be the same tree??? The answer is YES! This is the same tree travelers passed in 1869 as they traveled on the Union Pacific Railroad. Legend has it that the train crews slowed down and tossed a bucket of water on it as they went by.

After looking at the Tree growing in the rock, we mount up and follow the UP roadbed west.

Rick saw a sign for the Ames Monument -- Oliver and Oakes Ames were heavily involved in the financing of the Union Pacific, so he had to take a look. Unfortunately, the road quickly turned to dirt, and a narrow dirt road at that! BUMMER! Here, Rick gets to unhook the HHR so he can very carefully back the coach into a dirt driveway and turn around. Took a while, but he was successful!

As we drove back by the Ames Monument, Rick stopped the coach and took a picture of the monument that caused all the problems! All in all, it was well worth it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Register Cliff and the UP BigBoy 4004 Locomotive

A short drive from the Wagon Ruts is Register Cliff, where literally thousands of Oregon Trail travelers carved their names into the rock cliff face. This resulted in a very interesting and amazing listing of names from about 1840 on.

Here are a couple of signatures from the 1857 era. Apparently, travelers left their names in the cliffs so friends coming later could see that they got at least this far.

Rick and Orinda left the coach at a parking area and took the HHR to see the cliffs. After we got there, we realized we could have driven the coach up there, but it is no problem to drop the car and tour that way.

I wonder what happened to G.O. Willard from Boston after he passed by in 1855. He still had a very long way to go to get to Oregon.

From covered wagons to railroads! We traveled from Register Cliff to Cheyenne, WY where we spent the night. However, we were able to see the Union Pacific locomotive #4004, also known as the BigBoy, since it was perhaps the most powerful steam engine ever built. Cheyenne remains a major UP service area and we will be checking out the restored depot and State Capital building as well.

Orinda thinks this thing is HUGE! Located in a city park, this is an impressive sight.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hart Ranch and Following the Oregon Trail

We stayed for three days at the very nice Hart Ranch RV Park located near Rapid City, SD while we had some work done on the coach. Hart Ranch is a membership park and we took the very low pressure (and interesting) marketing tour which actually looks like a good deal if you would be in this area for a couple months each year.

After leaving, we headed south on SD 85 into Wyoming where we drove to the Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Trail_Ruts_(Guernsey,_Wyoming) in Guernsey, WY.

Orinda and the Wonder Dog are getting ready to hike back to the actual ruts.

This accessible area is fascinating and well worth the stop. There is a paved walk up to the preserved ruts which look like this:

Yes, these ruts are actually worn down into solid rock! Apparently, several hundred thousand travelers came through here and their wagons literally worn down the rock.

Here, Cody shows how deep these ruts actually are -- they are several FEET deep. Imagine how many wagons it took to wear this down like that! We remarked that we have a bit easier time of it in our coach!