Category Archives: Throwback Thursday

Central California – Throwback Thursday

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

John Muir

Yosemite National Park has always been high on our list of places to visit, but seemed out of reach for an RV trip in our working days.  In early 2005, we happened upon round trip tickets to Sacremento from Chicago Midway on Southwest Airlines for $99 each, so we made plans to head west and check it out without the RV. After touring the California state capitol, we headed to Yosemite.  Our base while we were in the area was the unique Penon Blanco Lookout bed and breakfast in Coulterville.  One of the great features of Penon Blanco was the stocked refrigerator in our room.  Each day, we would head out with our cooler packed with their drinks, and they would refill the fridge each day…no additional charge.  They would even replace the beer and wine!  (That policy appears to have changed since then, per their website). We stopped at the local deli each day to stock up on food, which allowed us to picnic outdoors.  As a result, we felt like we were still on an RV vacation!

When we arrived in Yosemite Valley, we were awestruck.

  

Yosemite was everything we had hoped it would be.  The vistas were simply amazing.  As a bonus, we were fortunate to be able to experience the valley with the waterfalls flowing heavier than they normally would be in the summer months.  This was due to the heavy snowpack in the Sierras from the previous winter. What a difference between then and the drought conditions that exist now!

  

Here is El Capitan standing proud against a gorgeous blue sky.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Yosemite, El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world.

  

From the lookout at Washburn Point, visitors really get a sense of the magnitude of the valley.  Here is a profile photo of Half Dome as viewed from the west.

  

Looking north from the northern edge of Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls can be seen across the valley.

  

Looking back east, the valley appears in all of it’s grandeur.  It is easy to see why Ansel Adams loved to use Yosemite as a subject of his photographs.

  

Yosemite is also home to a stand of Giant Sequoia trees.  Some of the trees in the Mariposa Grove are 3000 years old.  Looking up at one of these beauties really puts things in perspective, in terms of a human’s lifespan.

While we were there, we decided to spend one day exploring the eastern side of the Sierras.

  

On our way across on Tioga Road, we saw this view of Half Dome from it’s eastern side.  Most Yosemite visitors don’t get to see this side of the landmark.

  

Heading across Tioga Pass, we encountered leftover snow from the previous winter.  It is always fun to see the white stuff in mid summer!

  

Our destination for the day was the old mining town of Bodie, California.  Now a state park, Bodie is well preserved by the dry conditions that exist on the east side of the Sierras.  We definitely want to spend more time in this town!  On our way back, we encountered a young couple who were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  They had gotten off the trail to get supplies, and we’re trying to get back to camp before sundown.  We had rented a Ford Expedition and had plenty of room, so they got a ride from us back to camp.  They were fairly ‘ripe’ from hiking, but it was fun to talk with them about their experience. We don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, but it seemed pretty obvious to us that they were thru-hikers.

Once we left Yosemite, we headed to San Francisco for a few days.  Our base in the City By The Bay was the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf.

  

Here is Lombard Street, which is billed as the ‘crookedest street in the world’.  It was fun to walk down the sidewalk, and was even more fun to drive!

  

Getting a chance to ride one of the famous cable cars was a special treat for us Midwestern kids.  🙂

While we were there, we ventured up Columbus Avenue to a restaurant called Mama’s.  Our breakfast that morning became the benchmark to which all others are measured for us.  Simply outstanding.

  

Across the street from Mama’s is Washington Square Park.  Each morning, the local residents begin their day with Tai Chi.  It was fascinating to watch.

Once we left San Francisco, we headed north along the coast.  The coastal fog was very thick that day, so we asked a local if there was any chance at seeing the sun.  We were told to drive north to Tomales and if the fog hadn’t lifted by then, head east to Sonoma Valley and skip the coast.  That is what ended up happening.

Sonoma was enchanting, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  We toured many of the shops in the area and visited a couple of wineries.

  

We took a tour of the Benziger Family Winery, which was very interesting.  Here is a photo of their cellar.

  

It was here that we learned how a winery uses the topography of it’s property to produce various types of grapes.  It all has to do with the amount of sun a vine receives each day as to what variety is grown on a specific parcel.

After we finished up at Sonoma, we headed to Napa Valley to tour more wineries.  Once we got there, we realized that Napa was geared more towards production and was not as quaint.  Next time through, we plan on focusing more of our time in Sonoma.

So thanks to some great airfare, we made a trip that might have otherwise been delayed until our retirement.  John Muir’s words struck a chord with us, and we are glad we followed in his footsteps.

Acadia National Park – Throwback Thursday

“Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me.”
Will Rogers

Every three years, from 1986 through 2010, we would make our pilgrimage from Michigan to Maine. (We missed 2013, as we needed to stay closer to Diana’s mom.). Just driving across the border into Maine from either New Hampshire or Quebec, we felt as if we were ‘home’. Our ultimate destination was Acadia National Park. From the first time we set foot in Acadia, there was something about the place that spoke to us.

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It is at this geographical point that the Appalachian Mountains meet the sea. Acadia is located mostly on Mount Desert Island (pronounced ‘dessert’, as the French explorers noted that the tops of the mountains were deserted…or devoid of trees). In national park terms, Acadia is rather small. It is also known to be one of the most heavily used parks in the system.

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With that being said, we have never failed to find solitude here when we have sought it. Acadia is also unique in that they allow dogs on the hiking trails. Our favorite hike has always been the summit of South Bubble Mountain, which overlooks Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

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Here we are with Jenny in 2010 at the summit. This is a hike that can be done with all ages and a good set of athletic shoes. Our friend’s four year old, Billy, did it with no trouble at all.

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Jenny absolutely loved it up there, as did our two previous Golden Retrievers, Katie and Dakota. (Katie’s full AKC name was Belisle’s Acadian Sunset, a testament to the love we have for this place). Maine is chock full of wild blueberries in early August, and Katie was an expert at picking them off the bushes on South Bubble. Dakota, on the other hand, would try to devour the entire bush and would end up spitting the whole thing out. :). Our advice for this hike: get there early, and you won’t see another soul for hours.

Another story I am compelled to share occurred in July, 2004. We had just lost both Katie and Dakota to cancer in May and June. Before we got Jenny, we made the trip to Acadia dogless. As we were coming out of Trenton on Route 3, there above the island was a beautiful double rainbow. Yes, indeed…this place speaks to us.

Acadia boasts of having the highest point on the eastern seaboard; Cadillac Mountain. While it is only 1530 feet high, that is from sea level…and the sea is within view.

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The summit of Cadillac is the first place in the continental US that sees the sunrise each day. Every morning, weather permitting, people make the trek to the top for the spectacle. With Acadia being on the extreme eastern edge of the Eastern time zone, it requires getting up really early! We did it one time with Kate and Dakota. Our preference has always been the sunsets from up there.

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A great spot to watch the sunset is the Blue Hill Overlook. It is there that we learned (from a Kodak representative who was set up there) the trick to stick around for a half hour after the sun actually sets, as the clouds erupt with color and provide a spectacular show. It only works if there are some high clouds. Next time you watch a sunset with a crowd, watch everyone leave when Old Sol disappears. Stay put with the few who know this secret. You won’t be disappointed.

MDI is dotted with several lakes and ponds.

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This photo is of Bubble Pond. While it looks small, it is deceptively long, and it is crystal clear. While there are usually quite a few people present on the northern shore of this pond, it is rare to find anyone with their kayaks on it. We took the time to get our boats off the truck and paddle it one time, and we were not disappointed. Our favorite paddle is Jordan Pond. Even though this body of water is surrounded by a well used trail, there is a certain sense of solitude once you pull away from the shore. It is on Jordan Pond that our kayaks got their names, Catsup and Mustard. (Ask us around a campfire about that). Just a note to anyone wanting to paddle the ponds on MDI: these waters are public water supplies, and body contact is against the law. There are local water officers that are authorized to write tickets. We wear wetsuit boots to get in and out of our boats, and we have been personally thanked by the officers for doing so.

In the previous photo of the top of Cadillac Mountain, you can see a four-masted schooner with red sails. That is the Margaret Todd. The first trip we took to Maine, we took an evening sail with Captain Steve Pagels on his two-masted schooner Janet May. Each trip back, we made this a tradition. After a few trips, Captain Pagels had sold Janet May and renovated a fishing schooner to become the three-masted schooner, Natalie Todd. A few more trips down the road, and he stepped it up to build a four-masted schooner, Margaret Todd.

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As you can see, his cruises have become quite popular.

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He employs a young crew who spend their summers in the area, and he enlists the help of passengers to help raise the sails. These trips are always a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.

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A favorite destination is Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. While it is not open for visitors, it is a great spot for photographs.

Most of the visitors to Acadia limit themselves to the Park Loop Road….but Acadia is so much more than that. The park has hundreds of nooks and crannies to be explored, some of which you will find complete solitude. Most of the trails are easy hikes, even up the mountains. Some are strenuous, and some are even technical. A visitor can go from complete serenity to the nightlife of Bar Harbor within minutes. It is possible to go from seeing a lobster boat in a fishing harbor to seeing the Queen Mary II in Frenchman Bay. A cyclist can navigate their mountain bike on the fifty miles of carriage paths left by John D. Rockefeller (no cars), and sunbathers can spend the day at Sand Beach. A visitor can climb on the rocks with the crowds at Thunder Hole, or explore the quiet side of the island with no one else around. For our 25th wedding anniversary, we chose to celebrate by hiking to the top of Penobscot Mountain.

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I couldn’t think of a place I would rather be than up there with my sweetheart. 🙂

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As you can see, Maine and Acadia have become second homes to us. We could write volumes about our experiences there. Even with our numerous two week trips to that slice of heaven, we have only scratched the surface of the many things to do there. We have caravanned with our friends Karen and Bill and their children Nina, Christine and Billy twice, and with Mike and Cindy and their boys Brian and Eric once. They loved every minute of it. Diana and I chuckle when we meet people who tell us that they spent the day there and ‘saw everything there was to see’. We have yet to become bored with Acadia, and we discover another layer each time we go. We have to agree with Will Rogers, as Maine has been, and will continue to be, pure enjoyment for us.

Dunedin to St. Pete – Throwback Thursday

“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.”
Anonymous

Back in our working days, we would grab a week (or two or three) and head to some very fun places. We are going to feature those in a Throwback Thursday post every now and then. Today, we head to Florida for spring break!

One of our favorite spots to head was Dunedin, which is located south of Tarpon Springs and north of Clearwater. We had discovered the Dunedin RV Resort, and stayed there a few times with our Sunline travel trailer.

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They had a great pool (no hot tub) that they shared with the Blue Moon Inn that was out by the road. Both facilities were owned by the same family, and have since been purchased by Carefree Resorts.

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After using the inn one year for Diana’s family, we decided trying to haul the trailer from Michigan to Florida for 10 days was too much. The ice and snow we ran into on our way back the last trip confirmed that decision. We started flying to Tampa after that and staying at the inn.

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The deluxe rooms were a treat, as they had these jetted tubs…

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…and walk in showers. They also had a nice breakfast every morning, especially when the family owned it.

The resort was very close to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Bike Trail, and also Honeymoon Island State Park. The causeway to the island was a great place for a stroll, and the island itself offered decent access to the Gulf.

A favorite restaurant of ours in Dunedin was Kelly’s For Just About Anything.

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Copyright 2015 Kelly’s

The atmosphere can best be described as ‘eclectic’, and the food is outstanding. We have eaten there more times than we can count, and we have yet to be disappointed. We recommend eating on the back patio. It is a great experience. They are open from breakfast through dinner (and beyond). They have a full bar.

Another spot that was recommended to us was La Trattoria da Gaetano.

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Copyright 2015 Examiner.com

This place is in a non-descript strip mall in Dunedin. When we ate there, we were the only ones for the entire evening. When we came in, the owner greeted Diana by saying “Señora, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!” He then brought out a cart of raw meat…

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Copyright 2015 Yelp.com

…and proceeded to tell us what he could make for us. No menu, so we were unsure what it would cost. It was outstanding. I had Veal Marsala, and I could hear him in the kitchen, pounding away at the veal to tenderize it. If you go, look for the peephole in the painting on the wall. It goes through to the kitchen, so he can see who is coming in the door, or when you are ready for your next course. We got out of there, with wine and a healthy tip, for around $100. That was a good 10 years ago.

Our favorite beach spot in that area is Caddy’s On The Beach.

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This little gem is located in Treasure Island/Sunset Beach, immediately north of St Pete Beach. It is a 25 mile drive from Dunedin, but well worth it. Parking is $5, and you get a $5 coupon for food or drink. The chair attendants work for tips only. Quite often, we would get there at 10 AM and stay until 6 PM. You are allowed to bring buckets of beer from the bar to your chairs. As long as you kept your towels on your chairs, you could leave them unattended and not worry about losing them.

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We could walk quite a ways south…

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…or quite a ways north.

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The food was always decent for a beach bar, and there was usually a musician playing island tunes. Definitely a great place to lose yourself for an afternoon.

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And it was tough to beat the view!