White Sands and Organ Mountains National Monuments

March 23rd, we left Oceanside, CA, to head to new Mexico and Texas for 6 weeks. Our first stop was Tucson, AZ, to get the RV serviced at Freedom for a few days. We decided to stay longer in Tucson at the Voyager RV Resort to play pickle ball and relax. Then on to Las Cruces, New Mexico, stayed at the Hacienda RV and Rally Resort, it is close to Old Town where we explored one day. Our first outing was to see the White Sands National Monument just north of Las Cruces in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. It’s known for its dramatic landscape of great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand that engulf 275 square miles of desert. We stopped to see the White Sands Visitor Center designed in Pueblo Revival style, built during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. We drove along Dunes Drive, a loop road to the Heart of the Sands to hike the Alkali Flat Trail, a 5 mile loop trail. What beautiful white sand, it is so fine you could slide down the dunes, and finer than beach sand. The whiteness of the sand in contrast to the brilliant blue sky looked surreal as we walked along the trail. Then we did the Dune Life Nature Trail, dotted with interpretive exhibits on plants and wildlife that live here. On the way back we stopped in at the White Sands Missile Range Museum and Trinity Site, the place where the first atomic bomb was tested in 1945, but we didn’t have ID to get inside the compound. When we returned to Las Cruces we stopped for a beer and a bite to eat at the Spotted Dog BreweryClick on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Mammoth Mt Ski Trip

This year the Chagrin Valley Ski Club went to Mammoth Mountain in January from the 27th to Feb 3rd. Bob and I drove to Mammoth from San Diego, a six hour drive and we arrived at the Condo before the bus did. We were staying at the Juniper Springs Lodge with our roomies Karen and Bruce, within walking distance to the Eagle lift. Unfortunately, the bus with all the Chagrin Valley group hit a rock and broke the transmission, and had to get towed, the group got another bus but they were delayed by about 4 hours. We finally met everyone at the wine and cheese party that night and collected our passes for the week. The next day was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we took Karen and Bruce all over the mountain.  The conditions, however, were not the best as the mountain was lacking snow and chair 9 was almost bare in spots. We had fun going to the summit and seeing the view of the mountains, then skiing down for lunch at the main lodge. Where we sat outside in the warm sunshine eating lunch and watching the snowboarders in the half-pipe. For dinner we went to a sushi restaurant in Mammoth Lakes. Continue reading

Cedar City, Utah

Our next stop was in Cedar City, Utah, staying at Cedar Breaks RV Park from October 19th to 24th. We tried to get into two other Parks closer to Zion National Park but both Parks were sold out. You have to book almost six months in advance to get into those Parks. We were happy to be in Cedar Cedar because we were closer to Bryce Canyon National Park where we were going to do a hike. Here in Bryce Canyon is the largest collection of hoodoos in the world and we wanted to spend more time seeing them up close and personal. We choose to do the Fairyland Loop Trail, 7.4 miles, beginning at Fairyland Point. We saw spectacular hoodoos and beautiful scenery along the rim and into the canyon. We took the side trail to Tower Bridge before heading back up to the rim. It was a steep downhill to Tower Bridge from Sunrise Point but well worth it. We had great views of the China Wall in the distance. Tower Bridge, you can’t get that close to, but you can see it through a break in the trees. We continued on the Fairyland Loop Trail from here and had better views of Tower Bridge as we ascended up the trail. As we hiked along the wide open trail the clouds disappeared and the white sandstone against the sapphire sky was incredible. This was a great hike, where you really get to see the beautiful hoodoos up close and to experience the wonders of Bryce Canyon. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Heber City, Utah

We arrived in Heber City, Utah, on October 12th,  staying at the beautiful, five-star, Mountain Valley RV Resort until October 19th. We took a four-wheel drive road into the Wasatch Range and drove forever along the dirt road until we realized we had missed a turn somewhere. The fall colors were beautiful, and we got lost in the scenery. We ended up coming out near Sundance Ski Resort and drove to Bridal Veil Falls on the way back to Heber City. The Falls are right next to  Hwy 189 in Provo Canyon, and fall 600 feet through a double cascade to a wide lacy veil into a small, shallow pool at the bottom. The Falls are very impressive all year long. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Bend Oregon

Our next stop was at Bend Sisters Garden RV Resort near Sisters, Oregon. We drove to the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway past Mt Bachelor to Sparks Lake where we had great views of South Sister across the Lake. We also stopped at Devils Lake and walked around the lake, a beautiful shallow lake, with waters an exquisite turquoise color. Devils Lake provides access to the Three Sisters Wilderness where we started at the Devils Lake Trailhead, to hike up toward South Sister (10,358 ft) and Moraine Lake. The views of Moraine Lake from the snowfield was awesome , and then we hiked down to the Lake before heading back down the trail. We met three guys on their way down the mountain who had hiked to the summit, they were exhausted. It is a great hike and maybe the next time we will hike to the summit also. Our reward for this hike was a stop at Next Level Burger where we ate delicious vegan burgers. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Mt St Helens, Cape Disappointment and Mt Hood

We left Vancouver on October 1st, and headed south to Mount St Helen’s National Volcanic Monument for a few days. We stayed at Silver Cove RV Resort, Silverlake, Washington and drove up to visit Mount St Helen’s. Prior to to the 1980 eruption, Mount St Helen’s was the fifth-highest peak in Washington, at 9,677 ft, now the summit is 8,363 ft. The first recorded sighting of Mount St Helen’s was in 1792 by George Vancouver, and he named it for British diplomat, the 1st Baron St Helen. Mount St Helen’s notorious eruption in 1980 was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the US. Killing 57 people, and 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railway, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. We visited the beautiful Visitor Center and then went on the Harry’s Ridge Hike, 8.5 miles R/T. This trail is the best for getting a sense of the total devastation from the 1980 eruption, and we were blown away by the destruction, as the crater looked so close to us. Then the trail turned to head up to Harry’s Ridge, where we had a view of the crater and Spirit Lake, with logs from the eruption still floating on the lake. It was such a clear sunny day that we could see Mt Adams and Mt Hood in the distance from the top of the Ridge. We returned to the Visitor Center and waited until the full moon appeared in the horizon, great ending to a perfect day. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Tuscany, Italy-VBT

September 15th we started on our VBT Bike Tour along The Tuscan Coast. We met the other riders and the tour leaders at the Hotel Tornabuoni in Florence. There were 14 people on our tour and the two trip leaders, Massimiliano Cenni and Paolo Cossovel. We hopped on the van and drove to Collemezzano to the Agrihotel Elisabetta, where we will be staying for two nights. Our Agriturismo is family run, owner is Luigi Brunetti, who has a passion for farming and wine making. After our warm-up ride, Bob and I rented E-bikes, the group had a guided tour of his wine Cantina, sampling some of Luigi’s varietals. We finished the evening with a sumptuous feast for dinner. Click on thumbnail to view images Continue reading

Florence Italy

On September 13th, 2017 we took the fast train from Rome to Florence. Traveling by train from Rome to Florence is quick, easy and affordable and takes about 1 1/2 hours. We took a taxi to our Airbnb and went to explore Florence. We are staying near the Piazza di Santa Croce where we saw the Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church in Florence and the largest Franciscan church in the world, completed in 1385. We walked to the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge to wander through the shops and have dinner. The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone closed-arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for having shops built along it. Butchers initially occupied the shops, now the present tenants are mostly jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. Continue reading

Rome Italy

On our first day in Italy, we met Kevin and Ericka in Rome and took a tour of the Colosseum. We booked our tour through Caroline Wallace  and our guide took us down side streets to see unique churches before arriving at the Colosseum, an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete and was completed in AD 80. Going with a tour guide we did not have to wait in the long lines. Once inside you could see the enormity of the amphitheatre, it is estimated to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, and executions. Continue reading

Sardinia, Italy

Italy here we come! On September 7th we arrived in Sardinia with Kevin and Ericka to attend Chris Dore and Lisa’s wedding. We landed in the town of Alghero on the northwest coast of Sardinia, Italy. We are all staying at the El Faro Hotel, a beautiful resort overlooking the sea in the Regional Natural Park of Porto Conte. The setting is perfect for a wedding. When we arrived we were so excited to see Tony and Darlene Dore again after many years and of course, Chris and Lisa and Tony. We hung out by the pool reminiscing and meeting their friends from Ohio who came for the wedding. In the evening the dinner was in the hotel with all the family and friends of the bride and groom. Eric finally arrived for dinner and we spent the rest of the night partying with the young. Continue reading