Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We are Home

Yesterday we made it back to home in McHenry.
Total miles traveled was 6,068 in 40 days away from home.
Everything was fine here except the weeds were having a ball in our flower garden. The grass will need to be mowed as soon as I can pick up the branches and twigs from all winter and spring collection.
It is good to be back.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Crossing Wyoming

Today we drove across the state of Wyoming on I-80, traveling from Salt Lake City to Cheyenne Wyoming (430 miles). Most of the scenery across the flat of Wyoming is quite similar. Take a hard look at the following picture. Then to see the rest of the trip across the state, close you eyes and repeat the image about 300 times to see pictures from the rest of the trip. To be fair to the state, there actually are some scenic views as you cross as well as some major up and down mountain passes. Few extreme circles on scary mountain sides, but at one point I saw an altitude sign that said we were at 8,640 ft. We also crossed the continental divide on the route.

Typical scene down highway I-80 heading east.

This is the Wyoming State Capital in Cheyenne. We were over a day too late to tour the inside (Saturday pm at about sunset). One advantage to taking pictures this time of the year is that the leaves on the trees do not block your view.

Statue outside the capital. Anyone remember the symbol on the Wyo state car license plates.

Chicago had their Cow states. Cheyenne has their Boot statues. They are about 10 ft high. This is a photo near their Visitor Information center in Cheyenne. They are supposedly scattered all over Cheyenne.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Salt Lake City Tour

Today we did our tour of Salt Lake City. Our motel was within walking distance of the Temple Square and also the State Capital so we headed out on foot in the morning 40 deg air. With a light jacket and walking we kept warm.

In 1994 the State Capital underwent a very significant upgrade to do needed maintenance and significantly more resistant to earth quake damage by rebuilding the support pilings to add shock absorbers. They claim the building may sway 2 feet now if needed during an earthquake.

In the afternoon we drove about 20 miles SW to the Bingham Canyon Mine. This is the largest open pit mine in the world and is visible from the Space Shuttle. It is more than three quarters of a mile deep and two-and-a-half miles wide. The main product is copper and (more than 17 million tons since the origin of the mine) and much less but significant amounts of gold and silver.

Tomorrow we are off to cross Wyoming to Cheyenne. I left my travel plan at Scott's so do not have the exact mileage at hand anymore.

Salt Lake Temple

The gardens in Temple Square are at their peak spring bloom right now.

This is the inside of the Tabernacle where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs. The shinny gold in the back are the pipes from their pipe organ. They were doing practice run on the organ when we entered so got to hear the organ and the acoustics of the building.

Close up of the Pipe Organ

State Capital of Utah
Designed in 1912 by Richard Kletting and completed in 1916.

Inside the State Capital
The chandelier is hanging from the center of the dome

The center of the Bingham Canyon Mine

A close(er) up look at the ore trucks. Note the size comparison of the standard pickup truck to the ore trucks.

A close up of a loader with the ore truck on the far side of the loader.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Salt Lake City

Today we made the drive from Reno to Salt Lake City about 520 miles across Nev on I-80. Yesterday we drove from Fremont Ca. to Reno passing through the Donner Pass area with no problems with snow. We could see that there had been snow there from the piles along the side of the roads, but the roadways were perfectly dry for us. In Reno we did make a pass at the down town area where they have the various casinos. It seems quite small and blah compared to Las Vegas. We never even dropped a dime in their machines so we both came out even.
The trip across Nev on I-80 yielded some very nice scenery as shown in some of the samples below. The lush green hills of Calif. are not in Nev. They look like they are quite a ways behind in spring growth and also look as though they never will be the green we saw in Calif. The Calif hills were probably about a green as they will be all year as they have had much rain recently and while we were there.
Tomorrow will be a day looking around Salt Lake City. Then Sat drive to Cheyenne and Sun on home to Mom's. Weather looks good and expecting mid 60's tomorrow. See the fluffy clouds we saw today while in 55 to 62 degree range.

Nevada scenery from I-80

Heading East on Nev. I-80

We made a stop at Salt Lake. Had to walk about .2 miles out to get to the water edge. The shore is very very flat and long. The lake may be only about 6 inches deep by the way it looks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Snowed in Fremont

If we were on plan, I would be telling you about our drive from Fremont to Reno. However, there has been a big snow storm up in the mountains and our planned route I-80 is snowed over and almost closed. In fact it was closed to west bound at one time and then the only east bound had to have chains or all 4 wheel drive with snow tires to travel the road. We had neither so have just stayed in Fremont at Scott and Rosi's. They are treating us very well and have been enjoying the time with Gemma so we have delayed the trip by 2 days. That means we will be heading out on Wed am if the roads seem passable. I have been watching the weather radar closely and there is one spot on this side of Truckee that has had snow falling all the time I have been watching it. It may be just radar snow, but who wants to risk it. I guess it is near the area known as Donnor Pass. I remember Ralph H was quite worried about it last year and that was a month earlier. I have been watching the Calif. highway web site as well to get road status.
We did have a easter egg coloring party here and Gemma got to color her first easter eggs. I am not sure if we have started a tradition or if Rosi will try to forget the experience. No dye was spilled on the floor/rug so it could not be considered that bad. Gemma seemed to enjoy it as well. She landed some eggs in the color cup a little hard, but they were eaten quite soon so no matter. See attached photo.
We made a side trip to the Golden Gate Park in SF and went through the Californina Academy of Sciences as well as some of the garden areas. See attached photo.

Monday, March 29, 2010

North to Morro Bay via Santa Barbara

When we got to Wilma and Bruce's as we were forewarned, we found Bruce working on recovering from either food poisoning or the flue. He was not moving very fast, nor eating much. Each day we were there he made good recovery so by Mon when we left he was looking pretty good again. While there Wilma let us do some work on her yard that included some trimming and planting here tomato crop for the year. The guy at the store was giving her a bad time about being so late at planting tomatoes. Did not seem late to us since we will not be planting for 2 months in Illinois. Sun Wilma guided us on a road trip to the ocean side near Malibu for a good Fish lunch at Gladstone's and a look around. The way over there took us through Hollywood and Beverly Hills as we drove westward on Sunset Blvd nearly all the way from Burbank to the ocean. Some interesting scenery and houses on the way. We enjoyed the visit with Wilma and Bruce and were sorry that Bruce was not up to more activities, but we were happy to take it easy at their home after all our travels to that point.
This is a rose from Wilma's backyard

Today we drove from Burbank to Morro Bay and spent most of our spare time in Santa Barbara visiting Chase Palm Park, the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and the Santa Barbara County court house.
When we got to Morro Bay it was near sunset, but we were unable to see it or the rock in the bay that the area is so famous for as it was very foggy here. We hope to take a second look tomorrow morning and see more of the bay area.
Tomorrow we head north to Fremont to visit Scott, Rosi, and Gemma for a few days.

California Poppies at the Botanical Gardens

Botanical garden flower

Santa Barbara County Court House

View from up in the Court House tower

Inside the court house

Thur 3/25 Catch up

On thur we headed north towards Burbank. We spent some time in La Jolla Bay just north of San Diego on the way. The first photo is of a beach area that is hard rock but has channels and holes in it like a sponge (only made of hard rock). Interesting look.
Further on we visited Birch Aquarium at Scripps in northern La Jolla. I took several pictures of their fish tanks with the thinking that I can make my own screen saver (you know the one with fish) by doing a slide show of all the pictures. I took them all without a flash so with the slow shuter speed any moving fish came out as a blurred fish. So much for that idea.
After driving through LA expressways at about 4 pm with minimal traffic problems, we made it to Willma and Bruce's where we stayed for the weekend to take off again Mon.

La Jolla Bay beach with the unusual beach

One of many Fish tanks at Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Tank with Jelly Fish

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to the bay

We spent the entire day down at the San Diego Bay area where we did a tour of the USS Midway, took a 2 hour bay tour, and visited the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Again, the weather was nearly perfect, except for a little haze that made some of the long range view and pictures a little hazy. We were amazed at the size of the Midway. We were up and down all kinds of stars all over the ship. The flight deck contains many aircraft that would have been used on this ship. It was put out of commission in 1992 and they have made it into a very interesting tourist attraction.
To see the bay area we took one of the bay tours. Some pictures are included below. There is much naval activity in the bay area including major re-furbishing of ships. The USS Ronald Reagan which is a nuclear carrier was docked across the bay for re-furbishing.
Tomorrow we end our visit to San Diego and head north to visit Wilma and Bruce in Burbank. We are looking forward to visiting them and Wilma has even offered to let us have a change of pace by working in her rose garden. We are ready for that change after all the tourist activities.

Flight deck of the USS Midway

Looking back at the city and the Midway from our bay tour boat.

Another bay side view of the Midway from our tour boat.

This is the USS Ronald Reagan in port for refurbishing. They say they only have to fuel the nuclear ship about once every 22 years.

This is the bay view of ships in the Maritime Museum. From right to left you see the Star of India (red under side), HMS Surprise (as seen in Russel Crow movie), and the B-39 Soviet submarine (just the end).

Rigging of the Star of India

In doing the tour of the B-39, you had to crawl through several portals as shown in this picture.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

Last night the weather guys were predicting a good chance that we would have rain today. In the morning when it was supposed to be raining, we looked out and the ground was dry and it was overcast. A look at the weather radar on the computer indicated the rain has gone past us and over to Phoenix by early morning. Looked like the day would be good for the zoo so off we went. The zoo is next door to Balboa Park so no problem finding it. By the time we got there it was clearing up and we even left our coats in the car. The day turned out perfect. Around 68 to 70 and sunny all day. That is the weather San Diego is so famous for.
The zoo is very big and complex to navigate because it is located on a very hilly and tree covered area. They have maps of course but they are not to scale and it takes a little work to get where you want. They even have at least 2 stretches of moving walkway to assist climbing up some steep hills. There is a tour bus that can be taken to any one of their 5 stop points. We did ride that for one trip. The ride we took that I was not excited about was the overhead tram. Any ride that hangs like that one usually does not get my approval. Well it was free so I had to try it. We survived. We got there about 9 am and stayed until after 5. I do not think we covered everything, but saw most of the major areas. Walked several miles in doing it. We are both showing a little color (red) from the all the sun we were exposed to over the past days here and in Scottsdale.
I have attached a few sample pictures below. They were quite excited about a baby Panda bear that they have. We sorta saw it. It was up in a heavily leaf covered tree so could only see enough to tell there was something there. A peak later in the day and he was down in a hammock like bed with just a little fur showing.

This is not the baby or mother of the baby. It is eating bamboo. When we came back in the late pm it was still feasting on bamboo.

This tiger was asleep nearly out of sight when we first got there. A scheduled talk and feed by his keeper brought him out for pictures.

These are included for my sister's parakeets to see.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Balboa Park Day

Today was Balboa Park day for us. We retraced a trail we blazed to the park yesterday with little difficulty except the GPS was not happy with our trail. Traffic was no problem at around 9 am when we were on the road. Parking was easy to find. In fact at lunch time we went off site to eat and returned to a closer in parking area.
Balboa Park consists of 1,200 acres total including the Zoo. I took many pictures of the buildings that housed various museums. They are said to be Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings. See some of the photos below. We spent all of our time covering all the grounds that included for us the Botanical Building, Cactus Gardens, Rose Gardens, and Palm Canyons plus much more. We did not go into the Zoo today. That will be covered tomorrow or the next day. I must have liked what I saw as I took about 160 pictures today at the park.

This tower included a set of chimes that would ring on some routine basis.

This was typical of the outside decor of many of the buildings.

The effect observed looking down the outside entryway hallway of one of the buildings

This is actually not a picture from the cactus garden, but includes flowers and cactus as observed in the official cactus garden.

Pictures of orchids in the Botanical Building shown for my sister. They must have been having a special orchid exhibit as they were all over the building.

The flower of a Bird of Paradise plant. There were several groups of them in the park.
Most of them seem to be at their peak of flowering now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Travel to San Diego

Our visit with Al and Jean in Scottsdale went very quickly. We enjoyed the visit and opportunity to just relax together. The weather was nearly perfect all the time we were there with the highs the first day about 85 and all the others in the mid to high 70's. It was just like walking into the middle of spring. The fact that all the little league baseball teams were playing on the various fields in the local parks made it easy to think spring with a touch of summer.
Today we drove from Scottsdale to San Diego (373 mi) with a fairly early start at 8:30. We got to our motel at around 4 pm. After unloading a bit we took off for a reconnaissance of the area. We drove past the Zoo and Balboa Park as we are fairly close to them. Then we drove down to San Diego Bay and parked the car and walked up and down the dock area. We took a few pictures and have attached a sample.
Will be whipping the computer some more this pm and work more on activities for the following days we are here.

Looking back towards the city from the harbor

U.S.S. Midway in San Diego Bay

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Yesterday we made the trip for Las Cruces to Scottsdale as per plan. We took the northern route on Hwy 70 and through Globe Az vs. going down around Tuscon as the GPS (Tom Tom) wanted to do. It was a scenic drive through NM and Az desert and the best part of the drive was over and down the mountains from Globe for about 20 miles towards Phoenix. This area has some very steep rock lined canyons and curvy road way. Further down towards the valley the desert and hills are very green now from all the rain they recently had. Very lush looking for the desert area.

Today Al and Jean took us over to Fountain Hills the home of a very large fountain. Today they had a special display an noon for St. Patrick's Day. See the photo to see what they did.

The weather was very nice today. We had clear blue skys, a fairly strong breeze and and about 85 deg. top today. We are showing some red color from being out in the sun generating that vitamin D today.

This is the fountain in the center of a 28 acre lake in Fountain Hills. It has a 560 foot tall plume that can be seen from a long distance. We were right on the edge of the lake to observe it today.

We will be in the good care of Al and Jean up until Sun am when we head for San Diego so do not expect many updates for a while.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Carlsbad Caverns

Today we made the tour of Carlsbad Caverns which is about 25 miles south of Carlsbad NM. If you have any interest in caves, this is the one to see. They have what they call the "Big Room" and it is really BIG. They say it is a 8.2 acre Big Room and could hold multiple football fields.
The way we did it was to do the self tour starting by entering at the natural entrance. This is the same entrance that all the thousands of bats fly in and out of at dusk and dawn. They migrate south to Mexico in the winter and are not back yet so we did not see them. We rented one of those tape machines that give you little messages at various numbered locations through out the cave. The guided tours were sold old for the next week because of activity from spring break. Our self guided tour worked fine. In total you travel on two 1 mile tours that takes about 2 1/2 hours total. We got there fairly early and were surprised to see how crowded the parking lot was when we got out. It was a good day to be in a 56 degree cave as it was cold and rain outside. Northern NM had alot of snow and having trouble as a result. No snow here. After the cave we drove past the Guadalupe Mountains which are south of the Caravans. To explore these mountains you need to do some long hikes and we were not ready for that so just stopped by the visitor center and headed on to Las Cruces NM where we are settled for the night. Tomorrow we will drive to Scottsdale to visit Al and Jean for a few days.

Cave entrance for People and Bats

Looking down into the entry way

One of many formations observed in the cave

Guadalupe Mountains area