Saturday, January 30, 2010

I found a bunch of photos on the 'cutting room floor' that I thought deserved some attention.
So here are some of them, not necessarily in chronological order.
Early morning sushine on the highway. What a day to be out here!

I found myself a small backroad to explore as I left Willits, Oregon.
The first half of the road was paved and winding and led to a lot of houses, farms and ranches.
But then it got interesting!

Narrow (very narrow in places), water covered,
one laned,
clinging to hillsides above creeks and little bridges,
under overhanging canopy of branches, in some places almost dark.
There were a few residents along the road, watching the silly tourist.
Till eventually the little track leads back down the to the main highway.
And then into the Redwoods National and State Parks.
Where the trees are tall and the sunlight barely finds it's way through. Same thing for satellite radio signals, tho Sirius is way better than XM for that I have found.
Then, on the way out to my oceanfront camping spot, there was a goat on a 'goat house'.
And some cows lining up for the evening milking time.
And, some more water on the trail!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I bought a great 'back roads' and topo maps atlas for Arizona this year and found it to be a great asset in finding new places and exploring off-highway areas.

So as soon as I got to California, I started to search for the equivalent. I found one, though not from the same company as the Arizona version.

From Pismos Beach, I looked for a change of scenery on the trip north. The map showed this great looking coastal road, so I thought I would give it a try.

Except when I got to the junction, there was this very official looking security gate! Undeterred, I ventured to the gate to see what it was all about. After all, I had had to pass through a military security gate last year when passing through the Hunter-Leggett road back to the coast. I thought that it was perhaps the same here. Well, the (private) security guard was evasive on the reason, but said that I could not go on the road. Eventually, he told me that it led to a nuclear power plant! Now I get the picture. "Tomtom, where to now", I said.

The coast was eventually reached again and it went north of Cambria, and the Hearst Castle (which we had visited in March last year), and past the Elephant Seal beaches. Some were closed to public access like this one,
but others had the designated viewing platforms where you can actually get plenty close to the animals, but without disturing them - or getting eaten. Which is a good thing. Unlike the smells and the sounds.
There was no snow for them to play in, but it appeared their favourite activity, next to sleeping and grunting, was to throw sand in each others faces!

I also stopped to check out the State Park Campground just north of Cambria. I'm pretty sure when I stayed here last year the price was 20 dollars? This year the price was 35, and the campground was - empty. Sounds like an obvious cause and effect to me?
Sorry, but my dollar sign key on the laptop is broken! I can use the other 4 on the number pad, but there is no other dollar sign! I guess I could find one somewhere else and use cut & paste?
Gosh, this blogging gets tough some times.

Incidentally, before I forget, it appears that several states down here are in severe financial crisis. It is so bad in Arizona that they have closed many of their highway rest areas, and are planning to close about 20 of 27 State Parks this summer.
Back on the road, it was witness to the neverending battle between CalTrans trying to attach roads to sheer cliffs and slumping mud banks, and nature, trying to return it all to the sea.

I had just passed by one of these major projects, when a large chunk of sharp rock about a foot in diameter fell and came to rest on the centre line of the highway in front of me. No time for a photo, but I quickly got out and moved it off before some unsuspecting little car came around the corner and got launched into the ocean.
I watched the rocks from above as I did so, recalling the time back at work in Yoho National Park when perhaps a hundred tons of rock, mud, and trees had come down such a bank at me - onto the Trans Canada highway, which was open for traffic at the time. Needless to say, I closed the highway that time. But this time I saw a few more pebbles and small rocks coming loose in the rain, so I wanted to get well down the road before this one was closed as well.
At the point Sur Lighthouse, security was also (apparently) paramount.

After all, you would not want someone taking in an unathorized view! Check out this line of padlocks! In their defense, they do give tours.And this 'security guard' was demonstrating on that poor little bush what he would do if someone climbed the fence without authority.
Carrying on into San Francisco, some riders were out enjoying a ride on the beach.

No mention of horses being swept away, so I guess they were OK!
I avoid most of the main roads in San Fran, and sneak up to the Golden Gate from the west side - much more scenic that way.
And took the obligatory photo after crossing over. No tolls when northbound!
And no photo of the Bay area would be complete without at least one photo of Alcatraz. We took the boat tour right past it in March!
And once again northward, to a secluded little ocean-front spot I have utilized quite a few times while travelling through here. It has it's own little resident group of seals who hang out across the river mouth on a sand bar.
If memory serves me correctly, the beach has changed here a lot in the past couple of years. This chunk of beach used to be a lot larger, and had tons of driftwood stacked on it. I guess the winter storms have taken their toll and moved things around quite a bit! And once again the crab (?) boats were out just offshore working through the night.
Whew, that's enough for today ....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brrr, it was almost like being at home - seeing this snow around. I suspect there is at least 3 feet on the ground at home by now, so I won't complain.
I headed west from Palmdale on the N2 highway through the Lake Hughes area, through a fairly high area of the Angeles National Forest. The roads were mainly dry, but had been plowed within a day or two.
It was a quiet road, and these friendly horses watched me go past.
There was a private bird hunting reserve, and I saw a line of hunters moving across the field in the valley below.
Still have some good Arizona firewood with me - in case a campfire breaks out somewhere.
Coming off the N2 and descending to join Interstate 5.

There were a lot of cars stopped along the side of the road, as I got down closer to the interstate, and the occupants were just out walking in the woods - looking at the snow!
In Tejon Pass, on the interstate, every available pull-off and side road was like a parking lot!
Click on the photo below, and you will see wall to wall vehicles parked, and people and kids all over the hills, trying to toboggan, build snowmen, and having snowball fights.
Gosh if they want snow, they can come and take it all from my drriveway, yard and lawn at home. It's free, too!
Then the interstate drops way down as it comes out of the mountains.
As soon as I could, I got off the interstate again and headed towards the coast via Cuyama and Santa Maria.
I was a little low on fuel, so I did not go up the Sierra Padre road to my 'normal' camping spot, but I found a perfectly adequate overnight spot on the Cottonwood canyon road.
There was only one distant coyote to keep me company.

Monday, January 25, 2010

When I departed Quartzsite westward for Blythe, I had intended to likely head north on 95 towards Needles. But, like most of the roads around here after the storms, it was marked as closed to through traffic!

I tried several side roads off the Interstate, but everyone was blocked - as below.

Eventually, I exited at Desert Center, and found a side road that only said it was flooded, not closed that provided a quiet place for the night. Back in California and on Pacific time again, my phone had automatically changed to the correct time. A bit disconcerting at times!
North on 177, I pulled over to look at a historical plaque describing a number of military training camps established in the area during the second world war.
This back road to Palen Pass was obviously washed out, and didn't really need at sign.

The road was a quiet drive north first thing in the morning, but there was a military jet or two performing some advanced maneuvers for a free air show!
In the distance, now westbound on 62, the San Bernardino mountains sported a fresh white coating of snow.
And some normally dry lake beds were now full of water! Both sides of the road.
Yep, that's snow all right.

Tomtom (the navigator), is not nearly as good looking as the one I had on my Alaska/Yukon trip this summer. But in spite of this shortcoming, it has proved to be a handy reference to have along on the trip. On occasion, not having had the chance to update the maps, it does not pick out the same route I would, but overall it is certainly an asset.

Many times you may pull off the main route into a town or city for food or fuel, and drive around a bit finding what you need. While you are certainly not lost, the fastest route back to the highway may not be evident or well signed. Simply punch in the name of the next town down the road, and Tomtom will find the way in no time at all. Similarly, driving through a major city on Interstates, you may know roughly where your turnoff is, but without a human navigator watching the map and knowing exactly where you are, it is easy to miss some turns. The navigator always knows your exact location, and whether the exit is on the left or right side, and what type of intersection it is.

In the photo below (you can click on any photo in the blog for a larger view), we are just at an interchange in Victorville, getting onto I-15 southbound. It shows my the whole layout of the interchange, and marks my route in green, as well as lots of voice prompts and reminders.
The upper right corner even simulates the highway sign that I should be looking for.
The bottom left corner shows that it is a right-angle left turn, 190 meters ahead.
This thing even knows the speed limits on most of the roads, shows your speed, and will remind you if you are too much in excess of that speed! Many times I watch as we pass a change of speed sign on the side of the road-most of the time, Tomtom is right on with the correct speed.
Here it shows the speed limit of 65 (40 miles/hr), and it shows my speed as 0, because I am sitting at a red light.

Like anything else, whether GPS based or human, you have to use some common sense, and only use these devices to assist in the decision-making, not to replace it.
Tomtom shows many tiny sand trails in the desert and even knows their names, and some roads that have yet to be built, but sometimes it also misses the obvious. I wanted to go from Yucca Valley to Victorville, and clearly the most direct route is via Lucerne Valley. But for some reason, it wanted to go all the way down to Interstate 10 and 15 to get there? I overruled it and eventually, when we were a long way up the correct route, it re-calculated and selected the route I was already on.

Slowly headed back for the coast and eventually, the cold north ...