2020 October COVID Adventure Part Eleven: Last days — Draft

Another Day Poking Around Bishop

On one of our last days, we drove up to Rock Creek Canyon, which sits north of Bishop about 20 miles. Rock Creek Lake is another 10 miles through the canyon. The aspen trees sported their autumn coats, and a breeze ruffled their yellow leaves.

Sunburst shines through green and yellow tree leaves
Sunburst shines on fall colors

The Big Meadow Campground was open for day use only. Jon would have liked to stop and fish along the creek, except he had never purchased a fishing license for 2020. So we drove on.

Yellow-leafed trees line a road
Entrance to Big Meadow Campground

We continued to the end of the road at the lake where we had planned to eat our lunch. Unfortunately, the road to the lake was closed, so picnic tables for eating and taking close-up photos of the lake were impossible. A few hardy anglers hiked down to try their luck. We didn’t think it was a good idea with the smoky skies.

We remembered a turnout near a western red cedar. No cars nearby, so we parked and ate our lunch while admiring the tree.

Western red cedar pine tree alongside a road.
A fine specimen of a western red cedar

Always curious to see where roads lead, we took a detour on our way back to Bishop. We passed through farmland and ranches in Round Valley and drove by Rovana. The US Vanadium Corporation established the Rovana housing tract for its workers at the Pine Creek Mine. By 1951 there were 85 houses and another 50 added later. All the homes are still in use.

The smoke wasn’t too bad along U.S. 395, but it grew thicker as we approached the mountain. When we reached the end of the road, we could barely see the peaks.

Road leading to mountain peaks shrouded in smoke
Pine Creek Road

With the sun close to setting, we returned to the fifth-wheel to prepare for our departure the next day.

On the Road Again

We left the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop on October 28, 2020. Hwy 120 through Yosemite was our usual route when the road was open. A requirement to have a reservation just to drive through kept us from taking the scenic route. A few more days on the road wouldn’t hurt and the Sparks Marina RV Park sounded like a good idea. So north on U.S. 395 we drove.

As we passed by Mono Lake, we pulled off the road to take a photo of the blue waters. From this view the tufa towers (limestone formations) weren’t visible, only the smaller forms poking out of the water near the shore. To learn more about Mono Lake and the tufas go here to see our post titled “Summer 2018 Tour – Mono Lake.”

Blue skies over Mono Lake's blue water, flowering shrubs and grass in foreground
View from west side of Mono Lake

The Bridgeport Inn looked like a good place to stop and break up our drive. The 1877 Victorian inn began as the Leavitt family home and stagecoach stop. Today the Peters family owns the property which they operate from mid-March to mid-November, providing rooms and dining for travelers and visitors to the area.

White Victorian era Bridgeport Inn and Restaurant
Bridgeport Inn and Restaurant

It was past noon, so we enjoyed a relaxing lunch as the only patrons in the dining room. It’s the sign of the times when the one thing on the table is hand sanitizer when you enter a restaurant. No place settings or bottles of condiments in sight. The wait staff delivers those items after you order.

Wallpapered dining room with cane seats and rectangle tables
Bridgeport Inn Dining Room

Kitty corner from the inn stands the 1881 Mono County Courthouse, another example of Victorian architecture in town, which is still in use today.

Victorian era Mono County Courthouse
Mono County Courthouse

Sparks, Nevada

We weren’t in the mood to do any sightseeing while in Sparks. Instead, we hung around the trailer and walked to the marina to check the construction progress since our last visit. The first thing we noticed was the view out the fifth wheel’s back window. Here is what it looked like during our 2017 stay.

Fluffy clouds over brown hills, line of trees, gravel mound, and brick wall
View from our site at Sparks Marina RV Park in 2017

And here is the view in October 2020.

Apartment building, blue sky, trees, over behind brickwall
View from our site at Sparks Marina RV Park in 2020

Another notable change was an abandoned building down and across the street from the RV park. The photo below shows the corner in 2016.

Abandoned concrete building behind chainlink fence
Southwest corner of E. Lincoln Way and Harbor Cove Dr. in 2016

In the October 2020 photo, the abandoned project vanished and luxury apartments sprouted in its place.

Waterfront at the Marina Apartments Five story luxury apartment building
Waterfront at the Marina Apartments 375 Harbor Cove Dr.

New construction also appeared along the lake’s shoreline. In 2017, the blue and white building in the photo below was mixed use with retail and businesses on the bottom floor and condos or apartments on the upper floors. There were a few businesses that made a go of it, others were not so lucky.

Blue three-story mixed use building, brown hills, cloudy sky, lake, marina
Shoreline development at Sparks Marina Park Lake

And now the Waterfront Apartments dwarf the small blue building (on the right in the photo below). The once blue building was undergoing a facelift, a promise of better times ahead for the property.

Apartment buildings reflected in Sparks Marina Park Lake
Additional shoreline development

It was sad to see that our view out the back window was a three-story apartment building. Yet I understand the need for housing in Sparks. For the past twenty years, manufacturing, distribution, and technology companies have poured into the Reno/Sparks area. This made jobs plentiful, housing not so much. Reno, known as the “Biggest Little City in the World,” is not so little anymore as housing mushroomed in all directions. I guess that’s the price of progress.

Home Again

On October 30, 2020, we drove the rest of the way home. As we listened to the news, we heard that COVID-19 cases and deaths broke records daily while Trump and his campaign insisted he vanquished the virus, “It’s a beautiful thing.” One report stated once infected, you are immune for months while another report said that was not true. Nobody seemed to know what was going on.

And then we pulled into our driveway and look what was waiting for us.

Pumpkin on doorstep of blue house with white trim
Welcome home and Happy Halloween

Thanks, Chris and Laura, for the homegrown pumpkin. It was just what we needed to push the bad news from our brains and focus on Halloween. Will parents take their kids out trick or treating during a pandemic? Do we want people coming to our door? Should we buy candy?

We were tired and had a lot of work to do unpacking the trailer and washing clothes, so no candy for the brave parents that let their kids dress up and beg for treats. We turned out the porch light, turned the volume low on the television, and watched a movie. If we’re home next year, we’ll pass out candy.

And with that our 2020 October COVID-19 Adventure comes to a close.

Up Next:

We have nothing more to share. Homebound describes our life since the end of October, and until we receive the vaccine and places open up, we don’t see the situation changing much.

So, I’m taking a break from posting on the blog. We’ll be back as soon as we can venture out and explore again.

Until then, stay safe.

Personal Virus and Vaccine Update

On December 3, 2020, San Francisco Bay Area health departments put us under another stay-at-home order. They released the restriction on January 25, 2021. Hooray haircut time!

Today the virus is still among us. New variants pop up weekly. Vaccines are in short supply. Distribution has been sketchy. Eligibility to receive the poke in the arm has changed more than once. Ineligible individuals are jumping the line. Appointments aren’t easy to get. More vaccine is due this week. It’s Wednesday night already. Where is it?

Jon has an appointment on Tuesday, February 9, for his vaccine. I check every day without success to procure one for myself but will keep trying.

Like everyone else out there, I can’t wait until this ordeal is behind all of us.

October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure Part Seven

Welcome back to our 2020 COVID-19 Adventure after the holiday pause. I thought I could finish up the series of posts this week. Silly me. With twelve more days of travel and sightseeing, there was no way I could fit it into one post. This week we focus on Alamo, Nevada, where we made a three-night stop on our way to Bishop, California.

Before we left Utah on October 18, 2020, we stopped in Cedar City so Jon could get his second shingles shot at Walgreens and a supply of Blue DEF for the truck. The next day in Alamo, he woke up with mild reactions to the vaccine that lasted about half the day. This reduced our poking around time, which turned out okay. We found only two places to explore while in Alamo.

Extraterrestrial Highway

The Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada SR 375) cuts off of SR 318 at the Crystal Springs Rest Area and continues for about 98 miles to US Route 6 in Warm Springs. At about half the distance sits the area of Rachael, where travelers will find the Little Al’e’inn restaurant, bar, and motel.

Road, two tall trees, blue sky, and hills
Crystal Springs rest area at the Y

The rest stop was a good place to eat lunch. It’s near the ghost town of Crystal Springs. Before white settlers entered the area, a Native American village used the spring. People traveling the Mormon Trail stopped there to replenish their water supplies. The thermal spring, with an 81 degree Fahrenheit temperature, still supplies water to ranches and farms up to 5 miles away.

Heavily vegetative site
Crystal Springs hides in the vegetation

The Alien Research Center is easy to spot from the road. Look for the giant metal alien figure on top of a hill and in front of a Quonset hut. The center is nothing more than a gift shop for the delight of tourists and alien seekers. It’s worth a stop to see all the items they sell, even if you aren’t interested in buying anything.

Aluminum space alien statue in front of a Quonset hut with woman standing up to its knee
Alien Research Center Gift Shop

Our next landmark was the Black Mailbox. Not sure what we were looking for, we stayed alert and watched the south side of the road, trying to find the box. A bare spot up ahead caught our attention. Sure enough, there was a black mailbox out in the middle of nowhere.

Black mailbox in the desert
The Black Mailbox. A link to Aliens from outer space?

So what is so special about the mailbox? Apparently beginning in 1973, Steve Medlin, a local rancher, used it to send and receive mail. Sixteen years later, Bob Lazar claimed the Airforce was hiding alien spacecraft that crashed in the desert near Area 51. ET-seeking enthusiasts swarmed the region and turned the mailbox into a communication device, leaving messages for Aliens and expecting return mail.

Black mailbox, broken stand for another black mailbox, and painted rock.
Who thought a plastic mailbox was a good idea?

Since then, visitors shot up the mailbox. It was replaced with a white box. Someone stole the white box, and it was replaced, then it was vandalized and replaced again. It appears that Mr. Medlin long ago gave up using the mailbox as his own.

Snacks, rocks, and random stuff inside a black mailbox
Random snacks, rocks, and cans left for the Aliens?

You’d think we would have been disappointed by what we found. Not so. We had no expectations starting out and enjoyed the ride through the lovely desert.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

The next day we visited The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, which gave us an opportunity for an easy hike. Along a creek, we enjoyed the abundant flora and fauna along the way.

Tree, dirt road, and sign for Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
The Pahranagat Visitor Center was closed
Dike , creek, and shrubs
A dike in the Riparian Habitat

Thousands of migratory birds and endangered species use the refuge as a waypoint on the Pacific Flyway. The refuge includes three distinct habitats that provide rest, food, and nesting spots for the traveling birds.

Yellowed plants lining a gravel trail
The trail connects the Upper and Lower Lakes

Cottonwood and willow trees grow at the lake shores and springs, inviting birds to nest and feed. Meadows and grasses attract rodents, reptiles, and small mammals that find shelter and food in the desert uplands. Coyotes, raptors, and roadrunners find plenty of prey to satisfy their hunger in all three habitats.

Yerba Mansa plant and spent flower
Yerba Mansa
Branch covered with spider's web
Spider’s web?

The Desert Uplands portion of the refuge contains lava rock hills and yucca trees and other cactus.

Lava rock hill covered with dry grass and yucca plants
Lava Rock Hill in the Desert Uplands

None of the fifteen free primitive camping sites were available. The sites are spaced along the east shore of Upper Lake. Good luck finding a spot. There were none when we were there. And come prepared because there is no electricity, water, or sewer facilities, only vault toilets. Many of the sites can accommodate RVs or multiple tents. The campground below was a cluster of campsites at the end of the lake.

Large trees, an RV, cars, and canopies
A campground cul-de-sac

Seasonal boating, fishing, and hunting are available. Or enjoy guided walks and wildlife observation at Pahranagat.

Lower Lake of Pahranagat NWR with row of trees and yellowed grass
Upper Lake
Trail on the top of a dike, bunch of trees and brown hills.
Trail across Upper Lake
Birds on a branch
These little birds (finches?) did not want to pose. They preferred flitting back and forth.

There may be more to Alamo, Nevada, than what we found during our three nights there, but we were ready to move on.

Up next is our 7-day stop in Bishop, California, which served as our base camp to see Manzanar National Historic Site, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and other locations.

Stay Safe

2020 COVID-19 Adventure: Zion National Park Part One

We counted the trip to the California coast a success, so it was time to map out our next adventure. Initially, we planned on a week or two in San Diego to visit our son, Kevin, and his better half, Bailey. They had other ideas in store for us. When they mentioned Zion and Bryce, we said, “Sure. Let’s go.”

With the trailer loaded with food and clothes, we made our first leg of the trip to Barstow, California, on October 3, 2020. Smoke from the California fires filled the skies until we reached the Tehachapi Summit. I switched the AC from recycle to fresh air and we took big deep breaths as we descended into the Mojave Desert.

The next morning we left Barstow at sunrise, which wasn’t all that early, only 6:50 a.m. It sure looked like smoke or dust or something had shaded the sky with orange and yellow hues. The iPhone 8 captured a surreal image.

Sunrise in the desert
Desert Sunrise

In Las Vegas, Nevada, we caught our first glimpse of the new Raider’s Allegiant Stadium from the freeway. Bitterness that the team left Oakland, again, still exists in the Bay Area, although I’m sure fans in Las Vegas are happy about the move. The stadium should be a boom to the City of Las Vegas once we come out of the pandemic, and fans are let back into the sports arenas.

View of Raider's Football Team's Allegiant Stadium
Raider’s New Nation

The quick breakfast we ate that morning had long worn off when we hit Las Vegas, which would have been a good place to stop and have a bite to eat. We try to avoid the big cities for our stops because it’s too difficult to maneuver through traffic and find a place to park with the rig. So, we sucked it up and drove the next two hours to St. George. That Cracker Barrel sign never looked so good by the time we arrived.

Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot and sign
Breakfast, here we come.

In the Bay Area, dining options were limited to takeout and outdoor seating. In Southwestern Utah, they offered inside dining or takeout. Since we hadn’t been inside a restaurant for seven months, we chose the takeout. Cracker Barrel isn’t usually my first choice for a restaurant. I much prefer to buy food from an independent store or a local chain. Jon, on the other hand, loves their pecan pancakes. We put on our masks, locked up the trailer, and set out to order our meals.

We were leery about all the people waiting outside, rocking in the chairs on the porch or standing next to the railing and ignoring the six feet of distance we had practiced since March. Only half of them wore masks. At the time, wearing face coverings was only a suggestion, not a state mandate. The state now requires masks in all state-owned buildings and individual counties may have their own requirements.

We kept our distance the best we could, stepped up to the podium, and ordered our meals. A few minutes later, we were inside the trailer, chowing down on the best Cracker Barrel breakfast and cup of coffee I had ever had. Either the cooks do a better job at the Cracker Barrel in St. George, or I was so hungry, a dog bone would have tasted good to me.

With our bellies filled, we drove the remaining thirty minutes to WillowWind RV Park in Hurricane, Utah, where we had booked three nights. Kevin and Bailey arrived a few hours later.

Rv and truck parked in campsite
Campsite at WillowWind RV Park

On our first day in Zion National Park, we checked out the situation for catching the shuttle (we couldn’t get tickets for the park shuttle, so paid for a private one) and renting equipment Kevin and Bailey would need for their river walk the next day. Then we drove to the east end to see other sections of the park and find a place to eat our lunch.

People taking selfie at foot of arch in the making cliff
An arch in the making
Zion cliffs with white tops
Reverse view from Arch in the making
Cliffs in Zion NP and shadows of people
Look at that view

We passed the Canyon Overlook Trail on our way to the tunnel, and there were no parking spots. So we kept driving and found a place with a bit of fall color to eat our lunch and take a break.

Two men and one woman in a desert setting
Shootin’ the breeze
Pine trees and mountain formation
Navajo sandstone
Closer view of trees and red cliffs
Fall is near
Rock formation with trees
View from picnic site

Checkerboard Mesa is a good place to stop for views. There is plenty of parking, information signs, and plenty of sites to see. Unfortunately, the position of the sun made it difficult to capture the checkerboard feature on the mesa. Earlier in the day would have been better.

Checkerboard Mesa mountain formation

Checkerboard Mesa

The sun was coming from a better angle, so the colors pop in the photo of East Temple.

Mountain Formation in shape of a wedding cake
East Temple

And here are two more views along the road.

View of mountains and cliffs
View of mountains and cliffs
Geological formations
View of geological formations

Outside of the park on the east side is The Get and across the street is an RV and tent campground and cabins to rent.

Rock cliff looms over building
The Get sells a bit of groceries, sandwiches, gifts, and souvenirs.

On our way back to the west side of the park, we scouted around for a parking space at the Canyon Overlook and ended up having to stop and wait for one-way traffic to clear. When the west-bound vehicles started flowing, a car just ahead of us pulled out, and we slipped right in as if it was all planned perfectly.

View from Canyon Overlook Trail

At first we thought the overlook was close by. It turned out further than we thought. I brought my water bottle with me, but no one else did. We hoofed it most of the way, at least to the section where the cave was and we could peek down into the canyon. So, word of caution: come prepared for a hike, not a short walk.

Zion cliffs, yellow flowers i the foreground
View from Canyon Overlook Trail
Horse head rock formation
Anyone else see a horse’s head?
View of cave opening
View of cave from Canyon Overlook Trail
View of canyon opening
A place to rest
View from cave into canyon

Heading west through the tunnel gives a person a good view out the windows. Luckily, no one was behind us, so Jon stopped the truck for a couple of seconds so we could capture the view with our cameras.

Zion cliffs from tunnel window
View from one of the tunnel windows

After the tunnel there are a few places to stop and take in the views and spot the windows in the rock walls.

Cliff in Zion showing the makings of a natural arch
Another arch in the making
Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel window

Next up we have another day of more fun and games in Zion.

Stay Safe

Lake Mead and Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City was our destination on November 9, 2019, with a plan to visit Hoover Dam. It had been twenty years or more since our last visit. With a new freeway and a 25% increase in population since our last visit, we were unable to recognize anything we remembered.

We selected Lake Mead RV Village as our home base. No lake-view sites were available so we squished between the units on either side of us. We planned to spend our time poking around so it wasn’t like we were going to spend a lot of time at our space.

Lake Mead NRA Alan Bible Visitor Center

The Hoover Dam website warned of no tours due to maintenance on November 18 and 19 when I checked before leaving Lake Havasu City. Disappointment set in when we headed to the visitor center to learn the maintenance had begun early and there would be no tours for the duration of our stay. We’d have to find other things to do while in the area.

Boulder City boasts a vibrant historic downtown region with a diverse assortment of galleries, antique stores, shops, and restaurants. By historic, we’re talking the 1930s when the town was built to house workers during the construction of Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover Dam in 1947). It wasn’t until January 4, 1960, that Boulder City was incorporated and it remains as one of two locations in Nevada where gambling is not legal. Gamblers need not worry, though. The nearby Hoover Dam Lodge and the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino gladly accept deposits of hard-earned paychecks.

Hoover Dam Lodge and Casino

Boulder City residents are serious about their art. A collection of 67 statues and murals grace the sidewalks and buildings of downtown. At the BoulderCity.com website, download a walking guide for a tour of all the statue and mural locations, or download their app, which contains walking, driving, history, adventure, and retail tours. The two statues below are a good representation.

Afternoon Breeze by Roy Butler

Hitchin’ a Ride by L’Deane Trueblood

Someone somewhere needs Jake & Elwood Blues to grace their den.

Sherman’s House of Antiques

We’ve seen a number of gas station conversions before, but Two Wheels Garage Grill wins the award as the best. Seating is available inside and out with a mister that cools the air on hot days.

Two Wheels Garage Grill

We selected Evan’s Old Town Grille for our night out and were not disappointed. I chose the salmon and was glad I did. It’s not often that salmon is cooked to perfection, but the salmon at Evan’s was the best I’ve eaten in a long time.

The Historic Railroad Trail kept us busy for a few hours as we walked the nearly five-mile roundtrip gravel road through the five tunnels, stopping occasionally to marvel at the views of the lake and search for bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep checking out the people walking

The sentry

The rocky cliffs triggered my imagination and I soon saw shapes that morphed into faces and animals in much the same way as clouds do when I look up at the sky.

Gruesome face, ape face, or a Bells Palsey afflicted face?

Tunnels are 300 feet by 25 feet, which were large enough to accommodate the large equipment. Seventy-one people operated the systems over the standard-gauge 90-pound rails with nine steam and four gas locomotives.

Tunnels are reinforced and some include cargo containers to protect hikers from falling rock

Restrooms and a picnic table are a welcome sight at the end of the line.

End of the line

One the way out

This section of the system was used as a set in the 1977 motion picture “The Gauntlet” starring Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke. In the movie, assassins in a helicopter chase the Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke characters who are riding on a motorcycle. Motorcycles aren’t allowed on the trail, however, tour helicopters buzzed overhead as they took off from their landing pad and returned after their flight over the lake.

Catch helicopter rides at the Boulder Lodge

The mostly level trail is accessible for small children, strollers and wheelchairs with benches along the way to rest. Dogs are also allowed on leashes.

After our hike, we drove to the Lakeview Overlook for another perspective of the trail, the lake, and a view of the city.

Historic Railroad Trail

Lake Mead and the marina

Trailhead parking and visitor center to the left and Boulder City in the foothills

I guess Hoover Dam and Boulder City is a place we will definitely arrange to come back to. Taking a tour of the dam is still on our list of things to do.

We headed home after leaving Boulder City, stopping at the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield once again where we enjoyed another magnificent sunset.

Sunset over the orange grove

This post wraps up our Fall 2019 Tour. In the next one, we will share a local favorite, the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

Safe Travels