Monthly Archives: April 2014

April 25, 2014 Santa Rosa, California

We awoke to the sound of rain which normally wouldn’t have been a big deal but since today is a move day for us, it wasn’t a welcome sound.  Luckily by the time we headed outside to do our outdoor departure preparations, the rain had stopped.  We made the short drive through fairly heavy traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Santa Rosa and once again the rain started up making for poor visibility with the fog.  The trip to Santa Rosa took about an an hour and a half and when we pulled into the campground the clouds were dark and threatening and we did get more wind and rain later in the day. Our time so far in Northern California has certainly included some chilly days.  As Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”

Our main reason for stopping in this area was so Bill could attend the taping of several audio shows at the TWIT (“This Week in Tech”) studio in Petaluma, about a twenty minute drive from our campground. 20140429_161120 The web site for TWIT is here if you are interested in their technology based discussions. Bill has listened to the owner and host of TWIT, Leo Laporte, since 1999.  Leo and his team tape these free shows every week such as “The Tech Guy” and “This Week in Google”.  They can be watched live or downloaded later to your listening device.  Bill downloads the TWIT audio programs (called netcasts) on his phone.  While we were in the area Bill was able to attend five tapings which included a call-in help radio show, the weekly summary TWIT show, a show on android phones, “This Week In Windows” and “This Week in Google”. Three of the taping were recorded in Leo’s office and Bill was allowed to sit by his desk.


Sunday’s TWIT – two co-hosts were skyped in

There were tourists in the audience from Australia and Canada watching the Sunday taping.


TWIT has adopted fez hats








Monday our plans including visiting Muir Woods and Sausalito.  It was actually easier to drive there from Santa Rosa than from our campground outside of San Francisco.

The drive to Muir Woods National Monument was easy until the last 10 miles which then turned into narrow, steep, and curvy roads.  Parking is at a premium at Muir Woods and since the parking lot is small and is it a popular place, it is not unusual to have to park a mile or so away from the entrance.  Luck was on our side this day and we secured a parking spot in the closest lot as someone was pulling out and we drove in.

Muir Woods is a coastal redwoods forest with towering redwoods which can be seen as you walk along a boardwalk or take hikes through the forest.  The coastal redwoods only grow on a 500 mile strip of Pacific Coast from southern Oregon to Big Sur CA because they need moisture from fog to flourish.  Most ancient coastal redwoods have been cut, but some are protected in national and state parks.  Redwoods can reach a height of 379 feet and be 2,000 years old.  In Muir Woods the tallest tree is 252 feet tall and some are at least 1,000 years old.   Most are between 500 and 800 years old.   IMG_0124 We listened to an informative ranger talk on the history of the park.  In 1905 William Kent purchased the 611 acres of land for $45,000 with the idea of preserving it for the enjoyment of his family and friends because he was alarmed at the amount of forest being destroyed by logging companies.  After the devastating 1906 earthquake, the need for redwood to rebuild was at a premium and logging companies began to take even more redwood forest land.  They wanted Kent’s land and filed an injunction to acquire the land due to need for the wood.  The courts agreed with the logging companies and ordered the land turned over.  Kent contacted President Theodore Roosevelt and offered to donate 295 acres of the land to the federal government if it would be protected.  Roosevelt agreed and it became a national monument.  Kent asked that it be named after john Muir, a wilderness advocate.  Muir was also responsible for convincing Roosevelt to set aside land which became Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Mt Rainier national parks.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks.”  John Muir

We walked along the boardwalk IMG_0102 IMG_0101 IMG_0100 IMG_0096 IMG_0093and took a mile trail which led us further up into the trees which was very serene and we could see the people walking on the boardwalk below us.  IMG_0123 IMG_0117 IMG_0115 IMG_0113 IMG_0109 IMG_0107 IMG_0099 IMG_0097

In 1945 delegates from all over the world met in San Francisco to establish the United Nations. On May 19 they traveled to Muir Woods to honor the memory of President Franklin Roosevelt who had died a month earlier.  President Roosevelt believed in the value of national parks as a source of inspiration, and it was hoped that the beauty and serenity of Muir Woods would inspire the delegates to pursue world peace as they met to establish the United Nations.  A plaque quoted the thoughts of one of the delegates, “Persons who love nature find a common basis for understanding people of other countries, since the love of nature is universal among man of all nations.” 

We would strongly agree with John Muir since it has been while hiking and exploring nature that we have met many people from other countries.

After our time at Muir Woods which included a picnic lunch, we drove to Sausalito.  It is a picturesque little town, but a bit too much of a tourist trap for us.  If you like to shop, this is the  place to be. IMG_0137 We enjoyed walking downtown and took in the views of San Francisco across the bay, but we were eager to move on.

Next we drove to Hawks Hill which included a steep climb and more winding roads IMG_0152 after which we were rewarded with a gorgeous panoramic view of the San Francisco area, including Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. IMG_0141 IMG_0134 IMG_0131 IMG_0130 We thought the view from Twin Peaks our first day in San Francisco was amazing, but this view definitely blew us away.  We continued driving which including going down an 18% grade, and came to a former missile site.  We drove by the Nike Missile Site SF-88 which is a former Nike Missile launch site at Fort Barry.  It opened in 1954 and was intended to protect the population and military installations in the San Francisco area during the Cold War.  It closed in 1974 and is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  The visitors center there is open Thursday thru Saturday.  Unfortunately for us today was a Monday.  We then rode down to Rodeo Beach where just like everywhere in this area, there were surfers out catching waves.  The sand in this part of California is brown and coarse and not the soft white sand we are more familiar with in Florida and southern California.

April 24, 2014 Alcatraz, San Francisco, California

We really looked forward to touring Alcatraz Island.  Luckily we went online ahead of time and bought our tickets which included the ferry ride over and back because tickets usually sell out a week or more in advance.  For example when we went on Thursday there was a sign at the ticket office that the next available tour was Sunday.

Once again we rode BART into the city and our first goal of the day was to ride a cable car.  When we went into the city the first time, the line to ride the cable car near the BART station was very long and we didn’t want to take the time to wait.  Luckily today the line was shorter and we only had to wait about 10 minutes.  As the cable car fills up you have to wait for the next one to come by.  We wanted to catch it at the BART station and ride it to Fisherman’s Wharf.  At $6.00 one way, we wanted to get our monies worth! Once the cable car arrived it was very interesting to see how the conductors get out and turn the car around.   The ride was really cool as we sat sideways while the car climbed up and down hills. IMG_0055 Once we got off at the end of the line, Fisherman’s Wharf,IMG_20140424_103037 IMG_0064we walked down to Pier 33 which is where we caught the Alcatraz ferry. IMG_0068The ride over was quick and it wasn’t too cold to sit on top and see the beauty of the area.

The island is owned by the National Park Service and they had a very interesting and informative tour which included a self guiding tour using an audiotape with former Alcatraz inmates, correctional officers and residents reminiscing about their time there.  The tape was very well done and it was nice to be able to pause the audio if we wanted to spend longer in an area.  It was both fascinating and very sad to spend time there.  Fascinating to hear about the history of the island and prison, but very sad to see how the men lived there and spend their last days.    As we pulled up to “The Rock”, I imagined what must have gone through the mind’s of the men as they arrived here and saw the desolate island and large guard tower and lighthouse.. IMG_0083 IMG_0072 Several times the audiotape mentioned how the men could look out the windows at San Francisco just across the bay and see what they were missing.  On New Year’s Eve, if the wind was blowing just right, they could hear the party goers celebrating the New Year.  Yes, these were hardened criminals, including Al Capone, but it still struck me as very very sad.

The island has an interesting history including being an army fortress and a military prison.  It became a famous maximum security federal penitentiary in 1934, many people who worked at the prison also resided on the island, including the children of the workers who would ride a ferry each day to and from school.  One such child, now grown, talked about growing up on the island and how it was a really a nice childhood in which children of the workers all played and went to school together.  They did not see or come in contact with the prisoners, though occasionally they would hear them if they caused a ruckus.  There is a theater area on the island with a 17 minute film detailing the history of Alcatraz.

The prison closed on March 21, 1963 due to deteriorating buildings including a lack of a sewage system and high operating costs.  One interesting fact was that several Native Americans from 1969-1971 took over and occupied the island in an attempt to take back some federal land.  IMG_0075 IMG_0073

The main area to explore was the Cell House and we had to walk up four rather steep hills from the dock to get there.   IMG_0084


One prisoner per cell

In the 29 years that Alcatraz was open, 36 prisoners tried to escape.  All but 5 were recaptured or otherwise accounted for.  Three who were never found were immortalized in the Clint Eastwood movie “Escape From Alcatraz” in 1962.  The two main reasons why escape was practically impossible was the strong currents and very cold water which surrounded the island.  An interesting and rather humorous tidbit is that in 1974 at the age of 60, fitness guru Jack LaLanne swam from just outside the perimeters of Alcatraz to the Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shacked and towing a 1,000 pound boat!  He wanted to leave directly from the Alcatraz pier but the prison refused to allow him to come onto the island for security reasons.

After taking the ferry back to shore we caught a streetcar back to BART and rode home, grateful for such a fascinating experience.


April 23, 2014 Walking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

One thing we wanted to do while in San Francisco was walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  I did some research and found out where we could park.  Even though the day was beautiful and sunny, knowing how the weather in San Francisco is windy and the fog rolls in quickly and the temperature drops in a matter of minutes, we bundled up in layers including hats and scarfs and headed to the bridge.  There was a very nice visitors center and paid parking lot at the south end of the bridge.  Many people walk or ride their bikes across and there is a nice wide walkway which walkers and bikers share.  As it turned out it really wasn’t that cold and the views were beautifulIMG_0025 IMG_0026 IMG_0037 IMG_0033including a view of Alcatraz.  IMG_0040We saw surfers in the water belowIMG_0027 and watched a helicopter fly under the bridge. IMG_0046 Another dream marked off the bucket list! IMG_0050





April 20, 2014 Computer Museum, Mountain View, California

Sunday we drove from Pacifica over to the Mountain View to tour the Computer Museum.  Bill’s college friend Tom and his daughter toured the museum will Bill.  The museum opened in 1996 with the goal of preserving and presenting artifacts and information about the information age, the computing revolution, and its impact on society through the years.  It has the largest and most significant collection of computing artifacts in the world, including many rare and one of a kind objects.

One of the first methods of memory for computers - little magnets

One of the first methods of memory for computers – little magnets

This is a mechanical hand cranked calculator, about the size of a soup can

This is a mechanical hand cranked calculator, about the size of a soup can

In 1977 Radio Shack came out with the TRS 80 computer

In 1977 Radio Shack came out with the TRS 80 computer

The 1977 Apple II computer

The 1977 Apple II computer

This is the IBM Personal Computer, which came available in 1981.

This is the IBM Personal Computer, which came available in 1981.

There is a 25,000 foot square exhibition called “Revolution:  The First 2,000 Years of Computing” which opened in 2011 and covers the history of computing through twenty galleries of displays with everything from the abacus to the internet.  The galleries included “Calculators”, “The Birth of the Computer”, “Early Computer Companies”, “Analog Computers”, “Networking and the Web”, “Personal Computers”, “Computer Games”, “Mobile Computing”, “Computer Graphics, Music and Art”, and “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics”.  One highlight is a working Difference Engine designed by Charles Babbage in the 1840’s.P1050102

This engine was designed by Babbage in 1849 but not built and verified until 2008.

This engine was designed by Babbage in 1849 but not built and verified until 2008.

April 18, 2014 San Francisco, California

After a short drive from Lodi which included waiting in a long line of cars and paying a toll, P1050063 we crossed the Bay Bridge P1050067and saw the San Francisco skyline come into view!  P1050075

We arrived at our next destination which was the San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica, about 40 miles from downtown San Francisco.  Our camping spot had a great view of the Pacific but the spots are

View looking North from our campsite

View looking North from our campsite

very close together.  They manage to crowd a lot of people into a relatively small area.  But this is the San Francisco area, and if you look at the high density housing everywhere in this area, it is not surprising that the campground would be the same way.  Immediately we notice a change in temperature to chilly and windy.  The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Pacific.  IMG_20140420_175735IMG_20140420_175650P1050112P1050110

Saturday we decided to do a scenic drive around San Francisco.  We debated whether or not to pay the high price to take the sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off bus around San Francisco, but the campground office gave us a map of a self guided 49 mile scenic drive which highlighted famous San Francisco sights and we decided to give it a try.  If the drive didn’t give us a good overview of the area, we could always do the bus later.   The first stop on the map was Twin Peaks, which provided us with a gorgeous view of the entire San Francisco area. I kept hearing the sound of Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in my head.P1050091 It was extremely windy up there and we felt as if we were going to be blown away!  We drove through the streets of San Francisco and went to Nob Hill IMG_0059 IMG_0058 and drove down Lombard Street which is the most crooked street in the world. 20140419_155232 We actually had to wait in a line of cars to drive down the street.  We loved driving through Chinatown, 20140419_152021 Golden Gate Park and across the Golden Gate Bridge.  IMG_0022

Monday we took the BART into downtown San Francisco and rode a streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around Pier 39 where we came across a sea lions viewing area with sea lions barking and sunning themselves. 20140421_144819 We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe where Bill picked up a shirt to add to his Hard Rock collection.  By the time we headed back to the BART station the streetcars were jammed full and we were sandwiched in like sardines.  Just as it seemed as if another person couldn’t possibly fit in the door, one or two squeezed themselves in at each stop and we bumped and jerked our way down to BART.  Since traffic is heavy and parking in San Francisco is at least $6.00 an hour, not to mention the price of gas IMG_0063 it turned out well for us to ride BART from our campground and take public transportation in the city.  Plus, riding the streetcars is fun, even when jam packed!

April 12, 2014 Lodi, California

We belong to an RV group called Escapees.  There are several great reasons to be a member of Escapees including discounts on many campgrounds around the country and RV information and resources, but most of all is the opportunity to have fellowship with wonderful RVers around the world.  When we went to Mexico in February we went with an Escapees group called Mexican Connection.  Escapees has national events, state events and even local chapter events.  Bill noticed that the western region of Escapees was having their regional rally in Lodi, California at just the time we would be passing near the area on our way north.  So we decided to add four day stop in Lodi and join the rally.

It was a little far to drive from Santa Cruz to Lodi in one day, and we always like to take our time, so we decided to make a one night stop on the way.  We strongly considered doing what many RVers do and stay in a Walmart parking lot overnight.  We have done that a few times and have always found it a safe place to stay with night security and it allows us a chance to resupply.  Usually that is not a problem, however most city ordinances in California have decided to forbid any overnight parking.  So Bill found a place at San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area where we could stay for only $18 a night.  It would be dry camping, but that is what we had planned on anyway.    We arrived late afternoon and pulled up to a nice spot overlooking the water.  Now I ask you….if you could choose this setting or a Walmart parking lot, which would you choose?   P1050059 P1050058 P1050060

We loved this camping area and will return if ever in this area again.  Our concern was a very windy area with signs on the road warning of gusty winds.  The wind seems to whip down the mountains and across this valley.  The reservoir is a popular area for boaters and they have a revolving light which warns boaters of danger with red meaning winds of 30 MPH or stronger and therefore no boating allowed.  When we arrived the light was flashing red, and it certainly felt like the wind was at least 30 MPH.  We kept the slides on the RV in to minimize feeling the wind and we did feel the wind buffeting us through the night, but nothing scary or alarming.

We arrived in Lodi the next day where the WARE (Western Area Rally of Escapees) was being held at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds. IMG_20140415_115651 Lodi is a sweet little town surrounded by vineyards and wineries. IMG_20140415_115547 We were warmly welcomed by the parking crew and parked in a nice grassy spot with electric and water.  This rally was smaller than other rallies we have attended, with fewer people, vendors and seminars, but by the end of the rally we agreed it has been our favorite.  I think the small size had something to do with it since it gave us a chance to meet and get to know many people.  Larger rallies are often busier and with so many people it is hard to really get to know anyone well.  Escapees are known for their 4:00 Happy Hours and the tradition continued here!  Each evening they had games in the pavilion and every night we played cards.  There was always someone new coming in to play and you can really get to know someone over a game of cards.  One lady we played cards with every night was a true inspiration to us.  She is ninety years old and her husband is ninety-two.  He stopped driving two years ago as macular degeneration began to take his sight.  So Minnie drives everywhere from the California freeways to the narrow roads on the Pacific Coast Highway in their 30 foot RV while also towing a car.  Over the years they have traveled across the country and I believe she said they have  visited every state.  She taught us a new card game and her mind is as sharp as a tack.  It was clear to see how much she is loved by everyone as people often came up to hug her and speak with her.  We also met an Australian couple who spend six months of the year in the United States and six months back home in Australia.  They bought a small RV here in the U.S and they use it to travel around the country.  They then store it for six months and when they get back to Australia they have a home and another small RV so they are able to travel around Australia as well.  They have been going back and forth now for three years.  This year they are traveling to Alaska and will leave their RV stored in Vancouver since they are traveling back to Australia on a repositioning cruise.  What a life!  We played cards with her each evening and got to know her husband during Happy Hours.  They have invited us to visit them in Australia and we hope to do that in the next few years.  We met many other people who exchanged contact info with us and since they all live on the west coast, they encouraged us to contact them should we have any problems during our travels.  Though it is always exciting to get back on the road and travel to our next destination, we were really sorry to say goodbye to all our new friends.  Amazing what wonderful new friends we gained on such a short rally!

Another exciting thing happened during our time in Lodi.  I was able to visit my friend Leslie who I hadn’t seen in 42 years!   Back in the early 1970’s Leslie’s mother and my mother worked together at the County of Albemarle in Virginia and were the best of friends.  When Leslie and her family moved to Buffalo, NY, my mother and I visited them there and then later in Toms River, New Jersey.  In the 1980’s they moved to California and we lost touch except for our yearly exchange of Christmas cards.  Leslie and her husband Jim live in Elk Grove which is thirty minutes north of Lodi, so on Wednesday Bill and I drove up to visit Leslie.  We had a wonderful visit and lunch with her in her lovely home and it was as if all those years just melted away.  It was so good to catch up with her and hear what is going on with her family.  We took a selfie before leaving.  20140416_150128_2 As I have said before, being able to see old friends and meet new friends is one of the best things about this lifestyle.  Some of you have commented that we are on a perpetual vacation.  This is not a vacation, it is a lifestyle.  We still have things to repair and laundry and dishes and bills to pay.  We just do it all while moving around the country.  Is it a wonderful lifestyle?  YES!  Is it a perpetual vacation?  NO!

April 9, 2014 Santa Cruz, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Monterey, CA

We left beautiful Big Sur and headed toward Santa Cruz along the coast.  We could see wisps of fog and sea mist along the coast. P1050007P1050013 The road eventually took us inland and we began to see huge fields of strawberries and farmland with beautiful wildflowers.  P1050008  We arrived at the KOA in Watsonville, a short distance from Santa Cruz.  KOA’s are not our favorite place to stay as they tend to be expensive and the sites are close together.  Since KOA’s are family oriented they also tend to be crowded and rather noisy.

We headed first to Santa Cruz to explore the area. P1050039 We drove down to their pier which is very much like an amusement park with all kinds of rides and food booths. P1050026P1050016 This boardwalk and pier did not appeal to us as much as the one in Santa Monica.  We did drive to an area where we spent some time watching the surfers. IMG_20140410_150123 P1050032 P1050033The first surfing in the mainland U.S. began in Santa Cruz.  Apparently in 1885 three Hawaiian princes came over and made surfboards out of redwoods planks.  The surfboards were made in the shape of traditional Hawaiian o’lo boards which in Hawaii was reserved for royalty.  The three princes had been taught to surf by their uncle on Waikiki Beach in Oahu.  Some Santa Cruz locals saw them surfing in the waters and the fad caught on. Some say much of this is local lore, though some or most of it is believed to be true.  Regardless, we enjoyed watching the surfers and seeing the beautiful views.  P1050023 P1050028

The next day was overcast with sea mist and not a great day for sightseeing.  But since it was our last day and we can’t always expect beautiful weather every day, we drove to Carmel and Monterey.  First we went to Carmel-By-The-Sea and drove through the small, elite village of Carmel.  Clint Eastwood was mayor here for 2 years back in the 1980’s and it is home to Doris Day, Brad Pitt and many others.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any of them.  We did drive through Pebble Beach which is a famous “17 Mile Drive” which took us by beautiful homes and several golf courses. P1050046 P1050048 We expected the drive to be along the coast but to our surprise much of it was in a forest called Del Monte Forest.  There were some beautiful views along the coast and they had a brochure with 21 points of interest to see along the route.  Our favorite was a lone cypress tree which is over 250 years old. Pebble Beach uses it for their symbol.P1050041 P1050043 We did not get great pictures of out travels this day because it was very cloudy.

We ended our day with a rather hurried trip through Monterey since daylight was fading fast.  We did see the famous Monterey cannery and pier.

We are certainly enjoying our time in these beautiful coastal areas!  On Saturday we left Santa Cruz and headed northeast.  We stopped at Moss Landing and had brunch with Bill’s college friend Tom and his family.  Bill and Tom went to undergraduate engineering school together in Florida in the 1970’s and last saw each other 11 years ago!  Bill certainly enjoyed seeing Tom and catching up on how he is doing,  and I enjoyed meeting Tom, his wife, son and daughter.

April 6, 2014 Big Sur, California

Our two days in San Simeon went by much too quickly and we set out for Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  It is hard to imagine a more beautiful drive than the one up the coast north from San Simeon to Big Sur. IMG_20140406_125547 IMG_20140406_125531 IMG_20140406_123834 P1040899 The only downside were the narrow, curvy and mountainous roads (sound familiar?) but the view was well worth the nails I chewed off. IMG_20140406_125017 IMG_20140408_015256 IMG_20140408_015451 P1040913 P1040924 I think it would have been much worse on my nerves if I hadn’t already been broken in by those treacherous Mexican roads.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has been named one of the top 100 state parks in the country and it is easy is see why. P1050002 It is a beautiful park with towering redwoods, some are more than a thousand years old, P1040976 and many hiking trails of varying difficulty.  This was a dry camping experience for us but Bill was able to reserve a sunny spot among the redwoods for the solar panels and satellite dish.  Our neighbors were German and we encountered several German speaking people during our stay.

The first day we drove around the Big Sur area on the Pacific Coast HighwayP1040940 and stopped at several overlooks where we saw sea lions on rocks P1040937and dolphins swimming. P1040938 We went to Pfeiffer Beach where we had to drive two miles on a one way road to get to the beach area.  There were turnouts along the two miles where vehicles going in different directions could pass.  Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches we have ever visited.  The waves have worn away the rocks in places creating interesting arches, and in places the sand has a purple color from the minerals in the nearby rocks.  P1040975 P1040971 P1040957 P1040954 P1040952 P1040951 P1040948

One day we took a “moderate” hike to the top of an eight hundred foot vista where we could look out to the Pacific Ocean.  The view was somewhat obscured by sea mist, but it was still lovely.  We then continued hiking down to a beautiful falls, very peaceful and tranquil.  P1040999 P1040996

The next day it felt like every muscle in my body hurt from the hike, but Bill felt no soreness or pain at all.  It took me a day to recover but the soreness went away surprisingly quickly.  The experience was worth every ache and pain!

Big Sur is definitely a place we would love to come back to again.  There were many trails left undiscovered.  As we drove away from Big Sur we could see fog and sea mist hovering over the mountains and we encountered another amazing bridge that opened in 1932.  P1050003 P1050005