Friday, 29 January 2016

Laughlin, Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada is like a smaller version of Las Vegas, only on the Colorado River; on the other side of the river is Bullhead City, Arizona.   We’ve stayed in Laughlin a couple of times in the past, so off we went.
A paved path, the Riverwalk, runs in front of the casinos along the Colorado River the views across and along the river are gorgeous.

The Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall

The Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino

We thought we’d see if we could win our fortune on the slots but now it’s all computerized and the days of inserting a quarter and pulling the lever are long gone.   Quite honestly we just weren’t that interested in figuring it out, so we walked on by.   

Diesel and groceries are far more expensive on the California side of the Colorado River, as we needed both we decided to pick up both in Bullhead City on our drive back.  

So that particular day we went from California, to Nevada, to Arizona and then back to California, by the time we got back we weren’t at all sure which time zone we were in! 

After a few days in Needles we moved on, stopping for diesel we treated ourselves to some mini cinnabons, (cinnamon rolls) they were absolutely scrumptious but not exactly what I’d call ‘mini’! 

As you can see two ‘vanished’ as soon as the box was opened.   Amazing that!

Have fun, we are!

Old Route 66 to Amboy

Leaving Paso Robles, we took highway 46 back to Bakersfield, it’s a good road, but scarily once again we drove right across the San Andreas fault, I think I’ve been reading too many reports talking about how overdue ‘the big one’ is!
After an overnight stay in Bakersfield we drove back over Tehachapi Pass.
It’s a long drag with the fifth wheel, especially if you get stuck behind a truck and can’t pick up enough speed to overtake, luckily we didn’t, get stuck behind a truck that is.   I think we timed it right as a couple of days later another winter storm dropped several inches of snow on the tops.
Our destination was Needles about 300 miles away, it’s further than we usually drive in a day, but as we didn’t particularly want to stay in Barstow again, we just fuelled up, got coffee and carried on.   I40’s pretty desolate in places between Barstow and Needles.
It was an easy journey and we arrived in the late afternoon and got nicely set up before watching the sun go down.   

The next morning we planned to drive to Amboy.  At the Old Route 66 exit on I40 the road was closed as heavy rains had washed out the road.  We followed the detour which took us back along I40, to the Kelbacker road exit.  Once we left the interstate we drove through a whole lot of absolutely nothing, although surprisingly my cell phone worked!

Even though water had to be trucked in from 50 miles away, Amboy once had a high school,

motel, service station and post office.

When the interstate passed it by in the 1970’s Amboy became a ghost town.   All that exists now is a post office and Roy’s.  

Roy’s is an iconic landmark and has appeared in commercials and movies.   You can still buy gas and diesel here.   
The reception area looks as though everyone just walked away and left things as they were.

The motel rooms at Roy’s.

While the kitchen at Roy’s is long closed you can still get drinks and snacks.   We got some very welcome hot chocolate and cookies.

As we left Amboy the caretaker told us that Old Route 66 had re-opened almost all the way back, just follow the detour on the final stretch before rejoining I40.

Further along the remains of the diner in the almost deserted town of Chambless were visible from the road.

As we drove over Cadiz Pass there were more deserted buildings, although should you need a rest one does have an armchair.

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Around the coast, sort of......

As we were so close to San Luis Obispo (SLO) we decided to drive over and visit the mission, continue through Port San Luis and then drive back around the coast through Montano de Oro State Park to Morro Bay. 

Well, we found SLO mission, what we couldn’t find was anywhere to park the truck!   For one thing we didn’t have enough change, yes I know, most parking meters take credit cards, but there are so many reports of these types of card readers being compromised that I just don’t trust them, so it’s cash or nothing.   And, yes I do realise that this probably makes me a dinosaur. 

For another we simply couldn’t find a space that was actually big enough for the truck!   We’ve got so used to the places we visit having plenty of parking that it didn’t even occur to us to check out parking in SLO.   Oh well! 

So, we gave up and headed to the beach, between Avila Beach and Port San Luis we parked by some steps leading down to a lovely beach.  

As we walked along we passed quite a few RV’s overlooking the beach. For $50.00/night you can boondock, there is also a small section with water and electric as well as full hook-ups over-looking the beach.

It’d be a lovely view to wake up to, although when a winter storm blew in a few days later I was glad we weren’t quite that close to the ocean. 

We stopped for an early lunch at Fat Cats CafĂ© near the pier in Port San Luis, and discovered that according to USA Today Travel’s it’s one of the five can’t miss eateries on the Pacific Coast Highway.   It was very nice. 

Afterwards we took a stroll along the pier,

some harbour seals on a barge loudly made their presence known,

sea otters lazily floated by, these looked a lot warmer than the ones we used to watch when we were in Alaska.

This cute little seal was on the lookout for any left overs from the fishermen,

as was this pelican,

and when a fishing boat docked it was absolutely beseiged by pelicans, seals and gulls.

On our way back to the truck, the only road we could see that looked as though it led round the coast was closed and marked ‘Authorised Personnel Only’.   We had no idea why, so we decided to approach Montana De Oro from the other side. 

We were pleased we did as it’s a lovely spot, by this time it was late afternoon and as almost all the parking areas are well away from the beach it was too late to follow the path through the dunes to the ocean.   There were some excellent views of Morro Bay and the rock.

During WWII Montana De Oro was a training camp for troop manoeuvres and weapons practise and as there is a possibility that there could be unexploded ordnance lying about, signs warn you not to stray from the established paths.

Further round we were able to park by this beach,

as you can see it was very gritty sand and the tide was coming in very fast.

Talking to one of the rangers at Montana De Oro we discovered why the road from Port San Luis is closed.   The power station on the map isn’t just any old power station; it’s a nuclear power station, with all the idiots about these days no wonder the road’s closed. 

This whole area is lovely and SLO looks like a charming town, we’d like to explore more, maybe one day we will, who knows, but if we do we’ll definitely research the parking situation for the truck beforehand. 

Have fun, we are!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Mission San Antonio de Padua

The last mission we visited, San Antonio de Padua, is the 3rd of the California missions.   It’s situated in quite a remote location, high in the Santa Lucia Mountains in a valley studded with oaks, and as it’s not really on the way to anywhere it’s somewhere you actually have to want to visit.
San Antonio de Padua is also right in the middle of a military reservation, and it’s not always possible for non-US citizens to visit historical sites if they’re in active duty military areas.   Erin, one of the very helpful ladies at Vines called and checked; there are no restrictions as to who can visit, so off we went.
It’s a lovely drive up into the mountains and as well as being remote, San Antonio De Padua is quiet and peaceful, exactly how I expected a mission to be.
At present the mission is undergoing extensive restorations which should be completed by 2017 at a cost of about $15M.   Our directions told us to look out for a blue tarp and take the road on the left when we saw it, so that’s what we did.  

On 14 July 1771, Father Junipero Serra hung a bell in an oak tree and called the Indians to the founding of mission San Antonio de Padua.   In 1773 because a better water supply was needed the mission was moved to its present position. 

Juan Bautista De Anza stopped at the mission on 6 March 1776 on his overland expedition from Sonora, Mexico to Monterey and San Francisco. 

The olive tree by the church was planted by the Padres in about 1836.

The plaza is lovely and very peaceful

for a while we simply sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet in the afternoon sunshine.   Visitors can come to the mission on retreat and I can quite see why.
We entered the church from a beautifully decorated side door in the plaza.

Inside the church

An added bonus is that because the mission is so remote the remains of a lot of the surrounding buildings haven’t been built over. 

This is what remains of a stone threshing floor, where grain was separated either by mules or threshing.

Close to that are the remains of tannery vats and the millrace.

This is the original mission well, in 1823 it was reported that it contained exceptionally good drinking water.   It was re-opened in 1954.

The reproduction bell marking the route of El Camino Real.

Sadly when we visited, the museum was closed as part of the restoration work but we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to San Antonio de Padua.   I’d like to return when the restoration work is complete. 

Have fun, we are!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Hearst Castle

We weren’t at all sure what to expect from our visit to Hearst Castle, but my goodness it’s absolutely amazing, one of those places you really have to see to believe.   Once one of the many homes of William Randolph Hearst it just shows what you can achieve when you have billions of Dollars to play with.
The ornate main entrance to the castle, visitors go in through a side entrance.
Although the Hearst family still use the castle and its grounds a few times a year; it’s now a California State Park and only accessible to the public on guided tours. 

Another view of the castle, this time I was able to get both towers in.

The castle and grounds are full of antiquities from all over the world, and the marble statues around the outdoor pool are about 3,000 years old.   W R Hearst must’ve been a dream client to auction houses like Sotheby’s; in fact he spent so much money on artefacts that at one point he borrowed cash from his mistress. 

Apparently, the outdoor pool which is currently being renovated; has always leaked and despite all of W R Hearst’s billions, neither he nor the State of California have been able to fix it!  

One of the terraces at Hearst Castle, there are fabulous views across the Pacific Ocean.

The statues in this photograph are Egyptian and thousands of years old.

W R Hearst referred to the castle in California as his ‘ranch’, our guide told us that Lauren Bacall once refused an invitation saying she’d been to lots of ‘ranches’ in California, she was never invited again.   Winston Churchill and his wife, along with many famous people and film stars, have also stayed at the castle.

One of the ‘guest’ cottages, imagine arriving at your destination and discovering this was to be your home for the next few days! 

The fireplace in the Grand Salon, they were starting to decorate for Christmas when we visited in November last year.

The dining room; if I remember rightly, the fireplace and tapestries came from an old French chateaux and the wooden choir stalls came from an old Spanish or Italian church.

How about this for a private indoor swimming pool?   Real gold leaf is embedded into the handmade tiles.  

It looked so inviting.

Hearst Castle once had a private zoo that was home to many exotic animals, today only the animal enclosures remain.   However, one species thrived and still lives quite happily among the cattle herd, so if you happen to be driving along the Pacific Coast Highway you could be forgiven for thinking you were seeing things.  

Yes, that is a Zebra.

As I said we really didn’t know what to expect from Hearst Castle, but we’re really glad we took the time to visit.

Have fun, we are!