Category Archives: Exploring

This is where the interesting places are discussed as they are visited.

Laguna Seca

140502_0395The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series showed up at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey over the first weekend this May. So did I, Airstream and all. Monterey County Parks department has a couple hundred old campsites nestled within the coastal live oak trees which surround the racetrack. My campsite looked all the way to Monterey out the back and it was 50 yards from my folding camp chair that looked over the track. Perfect.

The Tudor USCC is a new series in professional auto racing. Well, it actually is two previously existing racing series blended into a single “united” championship. TUDOR is a brand of wrist watches, or something equally beyond my price range, providing the hefty series sponsorship fee. It’s the same as the Sprint Cup, Nationwide series, and Camping World series in NASCAR racing.

Flying Lizard R8

Flying Lizard R8

The TUDOR USCC is the current combination of the Rolex Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series of professional road racing series championships. The minds behind the scenes of those two organizations realized they were much more attractive to the television folks as one series rather than two. Two lightly viewed racing series would supposedly create one moderately viewed series. A good idea in the board room, I suppose.

By the end of the weekend, there were winners in the Ferrari Challenge, the Barber Miata  series, the Porsche GT3 Cup, the four or five or six categories of USSC racing, and probably more I’m not recalling. It was three days packed with racing, practice, qualifying, autograph sessions, paddock strolling, great sounds, and really cool cars – lots of cool cars. It was a slice of heaven. The weather was great, too, as were the sunsets.

Laguna Seca is between Salinas and Monterey in a spectacularly beautiful section of California’s central coast. The drive over the Sierra Nevada range, across the San Joaquin valley, up and over the Coast Range, and through John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas was 284 wonderful miles each way. It took six hours one way. The Mercedes-Benz diesel engine in the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled my rather portly 25′ Airstream with little effort all while delivering 14.5 MPG. Pretty good, huh?

Racing gets in some people’s souls and I’m going to head to Monterey again next year.

Alumafandango 2013 – Solar Power!

From 2013 and 34' to 1962 and 16' - it's been a treat!

From 2013 and 34′ to 1962 and 16′ – it’s been a treat!

Sixty three Airstreams. Yep, that’s how many I counted. I might have counted one or two twice or not at all as counting Airstreams all lined up 30 feet apart in three rows is a bit like counting marbles in a jar. No matter the actual count, the turn out has been very good.

The Trunk - Designed by me, envied by many, scorned by purists

The Trunk – Designed by me, envied by many, scorned by purists

I’ve met many nice folks and it seems the biggest hit of the event may just be The Trunk. I’ve had so many people stop by and ask about it, take pictures of it, want to see inside, and even wonder if the Mother Ship knows I did it. It’s been very popular and I’ve sure enjoyed talking to people about it.

Neil, a very enterprising man, announced he is going to copy The Trunk and sell a ton of them. That reminded me of the guy who sold millions of the Opti-Grab eye glass holder in The Jerk and made Navin a multi-millionaire from royalties. Maybe royalties are coming my way! Ha!

The weather has gone from Sacramento Valley hot to Oregon coast cool with a little rain shower to settle the dust. If it could just settle right in between there, I’d be ecstatic. The weather here is near perfect, all things considered.

I just attended a great conference on solar power for RVs presented by Thom from Sutton RV and Dave of Battery Systems. They both promote the Zamp Solar products and as a happy Zamp user I understand why – no worries – ever. They were touting Zamp’s portable solar panel arrays which come in 40, 80, 120, and 200 watt configurations. They fold in half, have their own semi-hard sided carrying case, and Sutton RV will wire them to a female 7-way trailer plug for no-brainer connections. The Alumafandango show price is great and I’ll probably buy an 80 watt for my trailer.

The two 90 watt Zamp Solar panels I have hardwired are excellent and my batteries are always freshened except for when I park in the shade. For those times, the 80 watt portable system would be just perfect. Most Airstream owners will probably opt for the 120 watt which is a great all-round system. Since I already have 180 watts of solar on the roof, the 80 watt portable would fill the gaps just right. I’ll fashion a 20’ security cable to keep honest folks honest, but the risk of losing a portable is still quite real. For me it’s a reasonable risk.

Rhonda Coleman starting the Airstream cookie decorating event

Rhonda Coleman starting the Airstream cookie decorating event

Rhonda Coleman of Airstreaming.net led the crowd for an Airstream cookie decorating class which my diet precluded me sticking around for (they were so cool!). A fun time for everyone.

Artists at work...

Artists at work…

 

 

 

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Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite

 

Tuolumne Meadows - 8,900'

Tuolumne Meadows

The natural magic and sheer immensity of Yosemite National Park goes far beyond gazing up at Yosemite Falls and El Capitan from the valley floor. That part of the park is about 11 square miles in size – 11 miles long and an average of about a mile wide. Of course, that’s the area of the park that draws the crowds and rightfully so. It is breathtaking.

However, the entire park makes up a vast 1,169 square miles making the magnificent valley floor seem, well, like 1% of the park.

As a comparison in size, Rhode Island, according to Rhode Island, is 1,045 square miles, and Washington D.C. is about 69, so Yosemite is larger than United State’s 13th state and all of D.C., combined. Lots of hiking to do.

Yosemite has several sections which include the famous valley floor, the Mariposa grove of sequoias, Badger Pass ski area, and the north half, Tuolumne Meadows, where John Muir herded sheep in 1869 as a recent immigrant from Scotland looking for work. That’s the half of the park I visited.

Getting There

I live in Minden, Nevada which is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range about 100 miles north of Yosemite. These’s a back entrance to Yosemite from the east on Highway 120. The highway begins at the little town of Lee Vining, California on Highway 395. That’s right at Mono Lake for those who like landmarks.

8% Grade

8% Grade

The trip up Highway 120 to the Yosemite entrance gate is beautiful, but not for the faint of heart. Lee Vining is at 6,780′ and the Tioga Pass entrance of the park is 9,945′.

The road  climbs 3,200 feet in just 12 miles. That’s an average grade of 5%. A 6-mile stretch of the road is inclined at 8% which is way steep if you’re in search of a technical term. The Jeep with its Mercedes-Benz diesel engine pulled the 25′ Flying Cloud with all my belongings and a load of water up that grade at about 35 miles per hour. I was impressed.

Going back down that grade required some old truck driving skills and great brakes which is exactly why I use Hawk HPS brake pads and racing brake fluid to prevent fluid boiling (and thus no brakes).

Camping

The horror stories of getting camping reservations at Yosemite are generally true, at least if you’re trying to get a spot on the valley floor at Upper Pines, Lower Pines, or North Pines campgrounds. There are other campgrounds around the park, but due to their locations on the valley floor, these campgrounds are usually booked within seconds, yes SECONDS, of being offered for the spring and summer months.

Tuolumne Meadows campground where I stayed is different. Reservations are reasonably available though there are no site-specific accommodations. You can sign up for a certain size of trailer or RV or tent and the rangers will assign a site when you arrive. Not sure I liked that part as I like to find my own piece of heaven rather than let someone else choose it for me. A minor detail.

Tuolumne Meadows campground hasn’t seen a Federal dollar spent on it since 1963. Or so it seemed. The road to the little check-in shack was rutted, dirty, and poorly marked. The rangers were friendly, as most rangers are, and I checked in with no problem. They decided I would stay in site number B-35. This site was heavily wooded with Tamarack pines and backed up to the staff canvas cabins behind the gas station. The two roof-mounted Zamp solar panels were able to gather enough sun to keep the batteries charged.

The sites was not as bad as it sounds, but the road to get there was fierce. Potholes galore; the road appeared to have been washed out repeatedly over the years and never repaired. It was maybe one-lane wide and sporadically lined with occasional orange cones.

The campsites have never seen a tractor or grader and no one had a level place to pitch a tent or park a trailer. The campground was old, neglected, and poorly managed. This was at the second most visited National Park in the country.

For the price of just one U.S. Education Department conference, one General Services Administration conference, and one IRS conference, the whole campground could be rebuilt and made amazingly beautiful for you and me – U.S. taxpayers. A rebuild would have lasting value for Americans for years, quite unlike these government morale parties the bureaucrats like to throw.

A sternly-worded letter to the Department of the Interior and my U.S. Senators will ensue.

Hiking

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center built in 1933

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center – 1933

On Friday morning, I loaded my daypack with a bunch of water, camera gear and all the usual emergency stuff one might need if they get hurt or stranded in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. My destination was a high mountain camp called Glen Aulin.

Part of the trail was the Pacific Crest Trail which felt kind of good for no other reason than to know I was on the PCT. The trail started near the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center and crossed the Tuolumne River heading north. A little log hut marked the location of Soda Springs where animals and years of visitors stop for the mineral water’s medicinal properties. I didn’t stop.

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To Glen Aulin June 2013

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Tuolumne River

The trail follows the Tuolumne River and is an excellent path. It’s all wild in this part of the park and is essentially undisturbed since forever. Yeah, but I expected more from the non-wild campground; I’ll save all that for my letters to D.C..

The river’s channel crossed amazingly beautiful territory and then started falling. The falls roared like continuous thunder. There were falls for what seemed like miles – one after another. The sensation was just “riveting” (a little AS humor…).

Tuolumne River

Tuolumne River

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At the first bridge

The trail dropped in elevation along with the river and around each bend the sights were worthy of a photo. I did take pictures with the hog camera (Nikon D7000) and they will be posted in the Gallery section as soon as I get that part figured out.

 

All photos were taken with an iPhone 4s.

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Glen Aulin Falls

 

As I approached Glen Aulin, the falls seemed to have extra power. The picture here is of those falls though it just doesn’t do them justice.

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Pack mules

Glen Aulin is a high mountain camp where folks can stay in some comfortable surroundings. The camp is supplied by pack train which travels back and froth on the same trail I hiked. It was exciting to see a pack train going up and down the trail, but dodging the “mule exhaust” was never pleasant.

Lunch Falls

Lunch Falls

I hiked past the camp for about a mile and found a beautiful hideaway on the river. You cannot seethis from the trail, though the falls can be heard. I was getting tired by this point and knew I had 7 miles to go to return to the Jeep. I stopped for a lunch break and named it Lunch Falls.

On the way back, I found more beauty and kept taking pictures. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trail as I did. Please try to go to Tuolumne Meadows. If the campground is in good condition you’ll know the letter writing campaign helped.


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Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!

Lake Tahoe Vikingsholm Hike

May 4, 2013

I joined 22 other Meet Up hikers from the Reno, Carson and Minden area on a 13-mile hike along the shores of Lake Tahoe. We started at Emerald Bay Vikingsholm State Park and pressed on to D.L. Bliss State Park for lunch. Fast hikers and no stops along the way, but beautiful nonetheless.

Meet Up on 5/4/13 IMG_1247 IMG_1248  IMG_1257 IMG_1261 IMG_1265 IMG_1267 IMG_1264 IMG_1269 IMG_1270 IMG_1272 IMG_1274 IMG_1275 IMG_1276