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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

LAST LAPS


Yes this trip does feel as if we have driven in circles & we are on own last few loops before heading home. After a really hot night (did I say that last time – yes it was sooooo hot) we get up early & drive. Even driving is hot because our air conditioner has given up the ghost completely. Follow the motorways through dry, hot, barren land on to Las Vegas. We did intend to drive straight through with only a short stop for fuel, but we saw flashing lights behind us. We sure haven’t been speeding, so what can he possibly want from us. We leave an HOUR later. Very frustrating. This cop sure has a chip on his shoulder. All he could find wrong was the fact that we had 6 extra number plates on the back of the vehicle (way up the top). He spent ages typing out a warning and lecturing John. What an arrogant idiot (woops I’m supposed to be forgiving. We think maybe he had an Aussie wife who divorced him)

Meant we ended up driving through Vegas rush hour. Just keep heading on and on. Out of Arizona and into California. We are heading to an Isuzu Truck workshop in San Diego. Hopefully they will be able to order an air compressor. Traffic is crazy around San Diego so we don’t arrive until after 6pm. And YAY they are still open and very excited to see us. Quite a boost for John after that crazy cop! We spend the night in their yard and the next morning John finds a good used compressor in a wrecked truck and fits it to our truck, gets it regased and all is perfect. DOUBLE YAY!! We leave mid morning with nice cool air blowing on our faces. We will return to leave GR2 here in a few days time. They are going to look after her when we go home.

Next destination is Richard & Debbra’s house. They are our American friends who stored GR2 for us after our Mexico trip, and who came over to Queensland for a few months. But first we have time for a scenic drive through San Diego taking in Coronado & its beach front, the old city centre & the waterfront. We hug the busy coastline for ages until we get sick of the traffic & jump back onto the motorway. Arrive at the address, but eventually realize that they have moved!! Thank goodness Richard checks his emails regularly as we don’t have his phone number – finally on to see them in their new house. Lots of catching up, plus we use their washing machine for our last huge load of washing.

Now we head north – we want to catch up with Clive & Karrin – part of our Pinder family – in Paso Robles. So we head through the humungous city of Los Angeles – on the huge motorways. We have no intention of winding through back streets here! Hours later we reach the other side. Now we can hug the coast for miles & miles. Sea mist is still straggling over the hills. The roads are lined with parked cars – locals visiting the beach & the car parks are expensive. Even the State Parks require a fee for day use! We had planned to camp on Pismo Beach as recommended by Richard, but we stopped and Skype our gorgeous Grandkidlets and so are not going to make it. Instead we investigate the State Camps on the waterfront. The first 2 are closed because of an oil leak, & the next 2 want to charge us $45. Crazy! It will be dark soon so we find our own spot.

We are not far from the very Danish town of Solvang – so head there for a scrumptious brekkie of pancakes & a big explore. Continue exploring the coast stopping at Pismo Beach where there is a very chilly wind blowing before moving on to the lovely Morro Bay. Such a pretty place, but that wind is still chilly. We stop to watch the cute sea otters – bigger here than the ones in Alaska. Decide to head a bit further up the coast before turning & heading to Paso Robles. Means we get to stop & watch the seals sunbaking on the beach.

Our last weekend we spend with Clive & Karrin getting very spoiled with fabulous food & wine. I will be waddling home this time! All good things come to an end. We head back down to San Diego to leave GR2 tucked away at the Isuzu workshop. We know they will take good care of GR2 – even start her up now & then to keep her batteries going. Tomorrow morning we head up to Los Angeles for the long flight home. It will be great to see our family, hug our grand kids & catch up with friends.

We will be back to USA later this year (we are excited about seeing the Polar Bears!)

Adios Amigos.

 

 

LAST LAPS - PHOTOS

Driving back to California - hot & dry

Misty morning over the bridge at San Diego

The Rock at Morro Bay

Cleaning time for the Sea Otters

The lovely beaches

Sunbathing time

Flicking sand on my belly

Karrin, Clive & John at the Farmers Market - serious business selecting food - it all looks good to me - pity we are going home soon so no need to stock up

Visitors at the house at Paso Robles

Heading back to Los Angeles

Lovely evening for a drive

Last day in San Diego

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UTAH ROCKS


This State is amazing – we love it. It is a Pinder Paradise with so much natural beauty & very few cities. Chock full of rocks in a kaleidoscope of colour. We are trying to squeeze in as many of the National Parks as we can, but there are so many. We exit Colorado, and enter Utah - routes planned. Fingers crossed for continuing sunshine.

We turn off the Highway to take the scenic route - & boy is it that. First the ghost town of Cisco, then follow the Colorado River along yet another stunning gorge, all the way to Moab. We see lots of rafts on the river & decide we will have a go.  We book our trip & try to find a camp spot in one of the numerous camping areas beside the river. But it is Saturday & they are all full. So we head along a side road & find a free spot where rock climbers head out to climb the Castle. The next morning we have time for another scenic drive through the La Sal Mountain National Forest before arriving in Moab for our raft trip.

We have a blast. The river is pretty full & brown, so not really white water rafting, but we get a few fun rapids, a fabulous lunch & John swims (as John does!) in the river. Back in town at 4pm we decide we have time to explore Dead Horse State Park – really just a series of outlooks with only a few short walks – but it does look good in the evening light (see photos), before we find a spot on some BLM land (our favorite kind of camp spot – free)

Today is huge. Not one, but two large National Parks. Exhausting!! We head in to Canyonlands National Park by 7am (we did camp just down the road) and spend the next few hours or so driving the scenic roads & doing lots of the hikes. It is as usual spectacular (see photos). After a late lunch we decide to head in to the incredibly popular Arches National Park. Even more scenic driving and lots more walks – and it is getting pretty hot. After lots of arches I am pretty pooped (John is never pooped!!) We leave by 8pm. Dinner in Moab. We can’t be bothered leaving so stay in the restaurant  carpark for the night.

Time to head off - There is still more to see & do here, but we are out of time on this trip. Moab is just that kind of place, rather like Queenstown in NZ. We head north to the motorway, west & then turn & head southwest to Hanksville. Next destination – Capitol Reef National Park. Yet another WOW! More magic driving & more walking (Phew) There is a scenic drive inside the park that deteriorates in to dirt – we had planned to go that way, but were warned at the ranger station that the road was pretty slushy & there were flash flood warnings out for tonight, so we turn around when the tarseal ends & head back out. The camp ground is full – so it is BLM land just outside the national park tonight. Quite a few tents there too!

Another day, another park. Today’s one is Escalante. But first a drive through wet misty mountains. Stop at all the lookouts and then at Boulder. The local cafĂ© has their Wifi code pinned to the wall, so we make use of it to catch up. While we are there one of the many who stop to chat highly recommends the Burr Track in to Escalante – so we head in. The first part is sealed & we wind through another great red gorge. Then on past more multihued hills. When the seal ends we decide to carry on! First down a set of very tight hairpins & then on into a river valley. Here we find the mud. John checks it out – it looks OK. Into 4x4, and off we go. There are signs of flooding everywhere. Even our walk comes to an abrupt end with a river in full flow. We make it out & head down to Lake Powell – there is a ferry, but too late today, so after exploring Bullfrog (which really is a huge marina) we head to the free camping beach. Great views & a great fire. Just going to sleep when a storm rolls in - and what a beauty!! Flashes of lightening that turn night into day, wind gusts that shake us about (those poor tents get a battering) & then heavy rain.  The next morning the red dirt is extremely sticky. Just walking around I grow a few inches with layers of mud. We put GR2 into 4x4 again – it was dirt road access into the camping area – and we have a ferry to catch.

Ferry! What ferry. It has broken down – it will be the long drive for us. Fortunately we don’t have to go back through Escalante – that road would be impassable after the storm. More red rock canyons before following the White River to where it reaches Natural Bridges National Park – yes we are overlapping our route when there are so many roads to choose from!! Back down the Moki Dugway, on through Mexican Hat, pass Monument Valley & on to the other end of Lake Powell. A huge driving day – we finish right on the waterfront at Lone Rock Beach, with lots of other campers. A great spot.

Stay longer than usual – just chilling out on the beach. John goes swimming of course. Lots of ski boats are out. Anyway time to make a move. First stop the dam to go on an excellent tour. Our plan is to head back in to Escalante to explore a bit more (but all the roads are dirt). All enquiries we make are negative. The roads will be pretty wet & chewed up. We decide instead to head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as it is pretty close. Yes I know that is Arizona – but we will be returning to Utah. When we visited the States with the kids many years ago we did the South Rim – so this will be different. We head off! It’s a long drive so we stop for the night in the forestry area just outside the park, as recommended by the ranger (so we are legal). We are disappointed that we are not on the canyon rim until we go for a walk & discover it not very far away at all. Amazing – camping on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

The next morning we head in with lots of others. And we thought this side would be quieter! We do the usual driving & walks (but not the long 11miles into the canyon – that needs a few days!) Out again as the carpark is full! And camp back in the forest at a different spot.

On last National Park in Utah as we are nearing the end of our trip. This time Zion. We think it will be busy as it is Sunday. And it sure is!! We remember the magic drive and the tunnel (but not the streams of traffic. We can no longer drive our vehicles along the scenic road into the canyon – but there is an incredibly efficient bus system in use most of the year. In we head with lots of others. It is hot today so we settle for a few of the shorter hikes. If anything the day just gets hotter & hotter. When we get back to GR2 we decide to drive – way too hot to do much else. Our air-conditioning has been on the blink for nearly all this trip & we really could use it now! Oh well. Can’t keep driving so pull over at a Walmart in Mesquite. There are signs up forbidding camping – we move on to the Casino instead. Then head to an air conditioned restaurant for the next few hours. Followed by a hot hot night. Time to head to the coast.

 

 

UTAH ROCKS - PHOTOS

following the Colorado River to Moab

Our camp spot beneath the Castle Tower

Rafting on the Colorado River - brown water rafting

Dead Horse State Park

Looking down on the Shafer Trail - not this time!!

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands

More great views in Canyonlands

Arches National Park - this area called Park Avenue

Yes an arch!!

More Arches

Our final arch!!! Delicate Arch...everyone wants to see it at sunset

Driving out of the park

Driving in to our next park - Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Yet another Arch

Driving in to Escalante

The overlook at Escalante


Shall we carry on

Hmmmmm

See the zigzags behind us - pretty hard to see - but they were pretty tight

John checks it out! Verdict - all OK

Bullfrog on Lake Powell

Camping

An overllok over the Colorado River

The Colorado River again - at Horseshoe Bend

Lake Powell Dam & Bridge

Camping at Lone Rock Beach


Lake Powell Bridge

Navajo Bridge - the old & the new!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The North Rim - Grand Canyon

Monday, June 15, 2015

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH


We have circles all over our Colorado map – these being places that would be nice to visit, and we have another list of suggestions from our friend Johan. It is going to take some planning to weave our way past all these incredible destinations. Weather will be another factor. There has been an incredible amount of rain & snow, so I check online to see what roads are closed. Currently Ridge Rd in Rocky Mtn Nat Pk, Pikes Peak, Evans Mtn & Independence Pass are closed.  Well that cuts our list down!

John has been researching too & found a great 4x4 road through Phantom Gorge to the old mining town of Cripple Creek. So we head off via a few scenic roads (this time there are too many trees!) When we arrive in Florence a local tells us Phantom Gorge & the Shelf Rd are closed. At the next town – Canon - we check with the police. Yes both roads are closed. We will have to use the main road. On our way we see the third road is open so we head that way. It looks as if it has just been cleared. Cripple Creek is a great town to explore – heaps of old mines. The Heritage Museum is great – way more info than we can possibly absorb. Then head on to the even more amazing Victor. Smaller & less touristy, but we can explore so many more old mines, and even drive up into the new gold mine to have a look down into the massive open cut mine. When a local lady we meet tells us that The Shelf Rd has just reopened, we decide to drive it straight away! So we head off on 16 scary miles at 6pm. First into a canyon, then along a ledge. Guess whose side the drop was on! It is just getting dark as we pull in to the Shelf Recreation area – where the tarseal starts!

Because we have been driving in circles we end up back in Canon. A good place to get a grease & oil change done on GR2. When we finally leave we follow the Arkansas River for miles. Lots of great gorges, some pretty crazy water & lots of rafts & kayaks. We are heading to Independence Pass, which reopened a few days ago. A magic drive up into the snowy mountains to 12,095ft.Then the road drops down to the ritzy town of Aspen. A drive through will suffice for us. It is getting late & we want a spot to camp. We end up beside the Frying pan River – another great spot. (Just a note: we heard that there was an avalanche at Independence Pass that took out a few cars!!!)

Another check on our maps shows that this side road goes right through – so why turn around & go back to the motorway. It soon turns to metal & eventually peters out. There are 3 goat tracks – they look wet & muddy. We turn around, but on our way back see another side road with signs to Eagle, which is out by a main road – decision made – we will head that way. The gate is open & a sign says “Road closed in the wet”. It’s dry, so we carry on. It gets wetter & then snowier!!We plough on, stopping at a gorgeous lake for coffee. Then more snow & slush until finally we reach a LOCKED GATE!! We haven’t seen any other traffic for about 40 km. Fortunately it is only a mile walk to the ranger station at Sylvan Lake to get help. The Forest Service has to be called in to open the gate – our adventure for the day. Eventually we reach the motorway – easy driving for the rest of the day! Stop at the very posh Vail to explore. It reminds us of Whistler – full of resorts, shops & restaurants. Can’t stay here the night so head to the river for the night. Again BLM land.

The day starts cold & gray. We are heading to Rocky Mountain Nat Pk. Hopefully we will be able to see part of it, as the Ridge Rd is closed. But when we finally arrive we discover that it opened yesterday. YAY!!! It is Sunday & there are heaps of cars, but that doesn’t matter. This place is magical – look at my photos. We stop to watch herds of deer, walk numerous tracks (including one lake surrounded by snow) and drive the amazing Ridge Rd through walls of snow. AWESOME.

At the end of the day we exit the park at the very touristy town of Estes Park. Heck, where will we camp. We decide Hotel Walmart will do, so simply head to the nearest one. The GPS takes us through an amazing gorge to Loveland. Tomorrow we are going to see our friends Johan & Anne at their home in Denver. After some chores we head there. We spend 2 nights with them chatting & generally enjoying ourselves. We visit the great Clive Cussler Car Museum not far from their house, and spend a day exploring Boulder & the surrounding scenic countryside. But time to head off – more places to tick off our list. We head to Red Rock Amphitheatre, which Brad visited last year while in Denver & then the huge factory outlet shops (great fun). All good things come to an end – much to John’s relief. On to Colorado Springs to visit Garden of the Gods at sunset. Magic.

Today’s destination is Pikes Peak a world famous hill climb track – John is looking forward to driving the same route as countless racing cars. Only the last mile is not open, which is pretty good – a few days ago it was only open halfway. Needs to be cleared for the race at the end of June! An amazing drive – especially all those hairpins. Back to the main road again – time to head west through more lovely countryside, then a bit of backtracking, and on to Gunnison, with yet another snowy mountain pass.

We find a tire shop in Gunnison that will balance the wheels tomorrow morning. They recommend a great spot for the night – right up in the hills with trekkers, mountain bike riders & dirt bikes. Hartman’s Rock Recreation Reserve – we wouldn’t have found it on our own. Heaps of spots to camp.

Again another cold, gray day. A few more scenic roads to take (these are from Johan’s list) after our visit to the tire shop. We head up Kebler Pass – another dirt road – there was a back route we looked at but it was impassable with snow. Lovely drive, eventually reaching the very European looking ski resort of Mount Crested Butte. We continued along the dirt road to Gothic, which was a mining town but now is a research centre. Retrace our steps & head into the historic town of Crested Butte. Such a pretty place we stay for lunch. The weather turns nasty for the rest of the day as we drive through more mountain passes & on to Glenwood Springs. Finally pull over in Avalanche Creek State Forest for the night – right beside a mine.

Our final day in Colorado today. Head on to Glenwood Springs. Our last “to see” is Hanging Lake, but we decide the rain & walking don’t mix to well. We head onto the motorway. Utah here we come (again)

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH - PHOTOS

The old mining area at Victor

The new gold mine

Amazing ruins to exlpore

More ruins

Inside the gold mine

Again inside the gold mine

The Independence Pass - recently opened

At the top of Independence Pass



Camping beside Fryingpan River

The road gets worse!!

The lovely lake at the mountain top

And yes the road gets even worse!!

Oh dear!! The road is closed

Sylvan Lake where we got help

A Pronghorn deer - keeping up with us easily

Inside Rocky Mountain National Park

So cute....they just sat there. At first I thought they were not real. Chip & Dale!

Carpark at the top of the mountain at the visitor centre

Great driving


Down the other side

He already he a good set of antlers on him!

Our walk around the lake

Johan & Anne - the best hosts in Denver

Red Rock Canyon Ampitheatre

Devils Garden

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

 

Camp spot just out of Gunnison

Ski resort at Crested Butt Mountain