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.

Frankenmuth

On our way back from Florida, we received word that our friend Mike’s father had passed away on Easter night.  So, we spent one night in Byron Center before heading to the east side of the state.  Mike and his wife Cindy both grew up in Essexville, at the base of Michigan’s thumb.  Mike’s dad was a hard working farmer and was well loved, as was evident by the packed funeral home the night of the viewing.  His red Farmall tractor was parked out front with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the seat.  What a great send off.

Our go-to campground in that area is the Jellystone Park in Frankenmuth, which is about 1/2 hour south of Essexville.   At first glance, this park appears to be high priced, somewhat tight and geared towards kids…all of which is true.  But, there is so much more to this story, especially for us.

  

Yogi has taken care of us over the years.  When Diana’s dad was suffering with terminal cancer in Flushing (just to the south), we parked our travel trailer here and Diana used it as a retreat to come back to and regroup.  The staff was as good as gold to her.  They also have one of the best indoor pools you will ever find at a campground.

 

It comes complete with an excellent climate controlled environment, huge whirlpool, and an evening adults only hour.  Nice.

Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria.  Settled in the mid 1800’s by Immigrants from what was Germany’s Franconia region, Frankenmuth has become one of Michigan’s prime tourist destinations.

 

  

Most folks come for the family style chicken dinners at either the Bavarian Inn…

  

 

…or at Zehnder’s.  Both are great, but our favorite is Zehnder’s.  We both have a lifetime of experiences in this restaurant, from our early childhoods until now.  :). There also is a brewery/restaurant in town, along with other popular food destinations.

If shopping is your thing, Frankenmuth has an array of quaint stores with plenty of offerings.  Perhaps the grandest shopping experience in Frankenmuth is Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. (Wally Bronner wanted to make sure people remembered the holiday was Christ’s birthday, hence the case-sensitive spelling.)

  

Bronner’s bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store.  It is open 361 days a year and is loaded with every kind of ornament imaginable.  They also have outdoor displays that are lit year-round.

  

And even though the focus is Christ, Santa Claus is also well represented. But perhaps one of the most compelling features of Bronner’s is the Silent Night Chapel.

  

The chapel is a 1:1 replica of the chapel in Oberndorf, Austria.  The hymn ‘Silent Night’ was first played on Christmas Eve in St. Nicholas church in 1818.  After the church was razed, the chapel was built on the altar site.  Wally Bronner travelled to Austria in the 1980’s and obtained permission to construct a replica in Frankenmuth.

  

Surrounding the chapel are these signs displaying the lyrics in over 300 languages. The speakers in the surrounding landscaping continually play different versions of the hymn. Pretty nice tribute for a simple but powerful tune.

So if you are ever driving up I-75 in lower Michigan, be sure to check out Frankenmuth.  It is definitely different than what you would expect from the area.  The people of Frankenmuth should be no suprise though, as they are as hard working as most of the rest of area’s residents…people like Mike’s dad.  You will feel very welcomed here.

Musings from our trip back to Michigan

While our trip back to the Mitten State was largely uneventful, there are always things that catch your interest and are worthy of a mention.  Here are a few of our observations.

 

We originally saw this Uhaul and trailer in Gainesville on I-75.  He was doing about 60 MPH, and the rear tire on the other side of the trailer was shredded and sparks were flying everywhere.  We slowly passed him. Diana informed him he had a flat, and he waved that he knew.  35 miles later, he pulled into the rest area behind us.  We are not quite sure how that was even possible!

 

We saw this rig in Alabama.  That is a Ford F-350 single rear wheel truck, just like ours.  We are just under the truck’s limit wth our fully loaded 31 foot trailer.  I have to believe this Ford is overloaded.  Situations like the above two scare us, as they are jeapordizing other people’s safety.

  

We saw this rig in Nashville near the Grand Ole Opry.  It makes us wonder just what country music star it belongs to. 🙂

  

Another GMC motorhome!  We saw it in almost the same location as the last one.  Great to see them, as I said before.

 

We always love to see newly built highways.  So new, in fact, the Garmin thinks we are driving across a field.  Time to update.  Recalculating!

 

 

When hanging out in Florida near the Everglades, do as your wife does and wear bug spray.  Here is one of my chigger-ravaged ankles.  I drove all the way back to Michigan in sandals, as socks drove me nuts.  🙂

A couple of other notes we want to pass along:  We updated our Harvest Hosts post to include Diana’s candlelit video of the sounds of the ranch.  So, if you saw the post before the video was posted, it is worth it to go back and check it out.  Also, we added some photos this morning that our niece took to the Al Kaline Delivered post.  She took some great family pics that show what a great time we had.  🙂

So, as uneventful as the trip was, there was plenty of interesting things to take in.  We love being able to travel, and are thankful for this nomadic life of ours.  We hope you enjoy riding along with us!

Harvest Hosts

Friday morning, we left Naples, Florida with the intention of driving to the state’s panhandle and staying at a Yogi Bear park in Madison. Along the way, we encountered heavy traffic, as the snowbirds moved north.  Spring breakers were headed south, resulting in miles of vehicles sitting still on I-75.

  

  A lot of those people on the other side had just driven straight through from Michigan.  That is not our idea of fun.

Along the way, Diana looked on the Harvest Hosts website to see if there were any farms or wineries in the area.  For those of you not familiar with this, Harvest Hosts is a U.S./Canada-wide network of wineries and farms who allow people to spend the night on their property in their RV’s.  In exchange, it is customary to support their business by purchasing their goods.  I selected our one year membership (normally $44) as a door prize at the RV-Dreams 2014 Fall Rally, and Diana selected our GoVino wine glasses for her prize, which brought about a few good laughs!  Anyway, Diana found Golden Acres Ranch, just about 1/2 hour past Madison in Monticello, Florida.  She called to see if they had room, and they did!  We pulled in just before dark and got set up for the night.

  

  

There was a big ol’ full moon rising above the live oak trees. The ranch was absolutely beautiful, and the sounds of the animals was a welcome change from the highway noise.  We were a good 10 miles off of I-10, so we didn’t hear any traffic.  What we did hear was guinea fowl, bullfrogs and Great Pyranees barking in the distance.  What a welcome change.  Before turning in, we purchased some farm fresh eggs, homemade Mayhaw jelly, a bar of locally made lavender soap, and a jar of Tupelo honey.  Even with all of the interesting sounds from the livestock and the frogs, we slept extremely well. 

Click here to listen to the sounds on Diana’s short YouTube video.  Enjoy the candles on our table.  🙂

In the morning, we ate some of the eggs we purchased, then we toured the ranch with Bobbie Golden.  She and her husband Fred started the ranch as an encore career, and have quite a lot on their plate!

 

Here is a photo of Bobbie with one of her Tennessee Fainting goats.  These goats stiffen when startled, which makes them appear to faint.  They make great pets!  This beauty has blue eyes.

  

They are adorable!

 

 

Here is Diana holding one of the baby goats.  That made her day!

 

 

They also have sheep on the ranch. We learned that sheep tails go down and goat tails stick up.

  

There were several guinea chickens running about, and they could really move!  Bobbie and Fred also have several Great Pyranees dogs to guard the livestock.

 

They are beautiful dogs, and remind us of our male Golden Retriever, Dakota, who passed in 2004.

 

These three were born last fall. And they loved Diana.  🙂 

 

 

What a great place to park for the night!  Be sure to check out their website to understand the uniqueness of the Mayhaw trees and pond, and to learn about the upcoming Mayhaw festival being held at the ranch in May.

Part of the Harvest Host experience is boondocking.  For those of you not familiar with this concept, boondocking is when you park without hookups…no water, sewer or electric.  Some RVers have generators to produce electricity and some have solar panels on their roofs.  RV’s have large fresh water holding tanks and sewer tanks. Depending on your set-up and how miserly you are dictates how long you can boondock.  We don’t have solar or a generator, so we are limited to how long we can stretch our house battery.  Many of our lights are 12 volt, along with two exhaust fans, and our water pump.  Our stove runs on propane, as does our water heater, furnace and refrigerator.  We lit candles in the evening and used battery powered lanterns, so our battery was still full when we left. Just in case, we unplugged the truck from the trailer, so as to not run down the truck batteries.

Once we left the ranch, we decided to take a different route, in order to avoid the interstate traffic.  We took a route that Diana’s dad used to rave about, and one we never had a chance to try.  We drove north from Monticello on US-19 to US-84 and west to US-231.  On 19 and 84, this is what the road looked like:

  

 

Wow.  Barely a car in sight, and four lane divided highway the entire way….all posted at 65 mph outside of the few towns we encountered.

We ended up for the night at one of our favorite stopover campgrounds on the Michigan/Florida route:  Deer Run RV Park just north of Troy, Alabama.

  

It is a beautiful setting, and the campsites are spacious.

  

 

We ended up with a very nice pull through site that allowed us to stay hooked up to the truck.

So, what started out being a hectic drive up I-75 ended up being one of the most relaxing experiences we have ever had.  Many thanks to Bobbie and Fred Golden, two of the most delightful people we have ever met.  And thanks to Don and Kim Greene of Harvest Hosts for donating the membership to RV-Dreams!  We will definitely be renewing it! 

Last full day in Naples

Today was our last day before heading back north.  While we would love to stay longer, we are so glad we made the effort to push this far south.  We love this area.

I didn’t post yesterday, because it was an errand day.  We upgraded our phones at Verizon, went to Whole Foods and Publix, came home and made barbeque chicken and mashed taters and veggies.  Mmmmm……

  

Here is my first picture with my iPhone 6.  🙂

Today was another beach day.  We went to Delnor-Wiggins State Park.

 

Nice beach with plenty of parking and restrooms.

 

 

Even the dolphins were having fun!

 

 

We had our beach setup going, and we did not get burned. It is just not worth it to us to do that.  I have to tell you, that beach cart earned it’s place in our trunk, for sure.

After the beach, we headed over to Pincher’s in Tin City.  The latter was built as an area of commerce in the 1920’s along the waterfront.  Today, it is an assortment of eclectic shops and restaurants.  Pincher’s is a local seafood place with a lively atmosphere.  We both had grouper.  My gluten-free version came broiled with cole slaw and apple sauce, and Diana’s was a traditional deep fried sandwich with a mountain of fries.  We laughed how no one could possibly eat all those fries…except possibly me in my old gluten days.  🙂

After dinner, we had a chance to walk the park at Club Naples RV Resort tonight and get some photos.

 

 

Here is an example of how the rigs back up to each other.

 

 

This is an empty lot that someone recently pulled out from.  The rig goes on the sand next to the patio.

 

 

And here is one where the entire lot is paved.

So while the park is close quarters, it is very, very nice.  Everybody loves it here, which is a great sign.  Their community areas are first rate and well maintained.  The staff is extremely friendly. I am sure we will be back someday.

Tomorrow, we start back north.  We will be taking our time on the way back, as the trip down was a bit of a push. We will do our best to post on our travels!

Just a dandy day…

We are in Naples, Florida enjoying our first full day here in two years.  We’ve always loved this part of Florida, as it is ‘far enough south’ to escape winter.  We are staying at Club Naples RV Resort.  We still need to check out the entire park before giving a full review, but I will say that it is tight.

 

They pack ’em in here.  I’m not sure how they even got those rigs turned into those spaces!

 

As you can see, we are sort of wedged in.

 

But the pool and hot tub are amazing!  The laundry is beautiful, and the community room is very nice.  All of the landscaping is well done, and the park is clean.  We really want to look farther back into the park at some of the other sites, but we remember them to be tight from our last visit here when we toured the place.  First time visitors receive a 10% discount.

Late this morning, we headed to the beach!  This has always been one of our favorite activities.  When we were deciding what we were going to carry in our rig for full time RVing, our beach gear was right up their with our kayaks and bikes.

 

Tommy Bahama beach chairs, cart and umbrellas, and this nifty sun canopy we found at Costco.

 

I bought this beach cart online.  It hauls everything…coolers, umbrellas, chairs, towels…everything but the canopy.  If you get one, get the wide beach wheels.  They really make a difference in the sand.

 

I noticed that our Tommy chairs are perfect for the west coast of Florida, as the water bottle pouch ends up on the north side of the chair, and is out of the sun.  🙂

Because of the cart, we were able to park three blocks from the beach and walk with all of our stuff…no problem whatsoever.

This evening, we went to Collier Seminole State Park to see my cousin John and his wife Karen.  They are camping there with Karen’s sister Gail and heading back to Michigan tomorrow.  It was good to see them again!

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  Today is the final day of the challenge!

  

For my photo today, I chose a picture I took in 2012 on our way out to Yellowstone.  This photo is at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and was taken on the Presidential Trail at the base of the mountain.  I liked how the trees framed the sculpture of  George Washington.

The challenge is simple:

For five consecutive days, you need to post a different black and white photo you have taken.

On each post, you need to challenge another blogger to carry on the fun!

Today I nominate Peter at Life Unscripted.  Peter writes a daily blog that takes the readers on his and his wife’s journey through their lives.  I start my day with his blog each morning and have come to love it.  He also takes great photos!  I hope he accepts the challenge!

 

 

 

 

A move farther south for a few days

We finished up our stay at Recreation Plantation in Lady Lake, Florida today.  We thoroughly enjoyed the resort, along with the people who both work and reside there.  We wish it were farther south, but it would be worth considering for a winter location.  And it was clean. The nightly rate was a bit pricey at $50, but first time visitors get the first night free.  That made the 3 night stay more reasonable.  Seasonals rates are competitive with other parks we’ve seen in Florida.

We then drove down I-75 to Naples.  We are staying at Club Naples RV Resort.  It is right on the edge of the Everglades…as in, next stop past the unit to the east of us is Fort Lauderdale … 81 miles away.  :). We will give our review of the park after we have been here a bit.

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  Today is Day 4.

 

This is a photo taken through a catwalk support on the pier at Grand Haven, Michigan a few summers ago.  We would go out for the evening with our dog Jenny and walk out to the end of the pier and watch the sunset.  In this photo, it is setting approxametely over Sheboygan, Wisconsin…a good 90 miles across Lake Michigan.

Today, I nominate Ingrid at Live Laugh RV.  Ingrid and her husband Al are fulltime RVers, and have visited many beautiful locations in North America.  Be sure to check out their blog to see her amazing photography!

The rules of the challenge are simple:

Post a different black and white photo of yours each day for five consecutive days.

Nominate a fellow blogger on each day to continue the challenge.

Hopefully, Ingrid accepts the challenge!


RV-Dreamers get together and an Upcoming Rally

Today was a marvelous day!  Last September, we met Fred and Bonnie Lee at the RV-Dreams Fall Rally.  Fred has followed our blog ever since we published our first post, and we got in touch this week after he noticed we were headed their way in Florida.  They stopped by our place today, and we went to a place in The Villages for lunch.

  

Man, it was great to see them!  Bonnie recently retired, and Fred has been retired for a number of years now.  They just purchased a beautiful motorhome, sold their home and are doing what we are doing.  They are yet another couple that went to one of Howard and Linda’s rallys and ended up hitting the road!  And they are loving every minute of it.  :).  Be sure to check out their blog HappiLEE RVing.

Speaking of RV-Dreams, Howard and Linda are holding their fall rally this year in Lake Leelanau, Michigan.  The Leelanau Penninsula is near and dear to our hearts, and we highly recommend both the rally and the location it is being held in.  If you are thinking about possibly pursuing this lifestyle, this rally is for you.  Leelanau County is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and was voted as the most beautiful place in America on Good Morning America a few years back.  It really is a special place, and the rally is being held in peak color season.  Go to RV-Dreams and click on the 2015 Fall Rally on the sidebar.  Our work camping job will be very close to the rally location, so we will be sure to stop in at some point and say ‘hi’. 🙂

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.  This is Day 3 of the challenge.

 


Today, I chose a photo I took in 2005 in Yosemite National Park in California.  We tease (tongue in cheek) about Ansel Adam’s photos, as how could anyone not get an amazing photo of this natural magnificence! 

The rules of the challenge are simple:  

Post a different black and white photo you have taken for five consecutive days.

Invite a new blogger each day into the challenge.

So today, I challenge Fred and Bonnie to join in the fun on HappiLEE RVing.  🙂 


Al Kaline Delivered and Day With Family

This morning, we drove to Diana’s brothers house and delivered the Al Kaline photo.

  

That was many years coming, and we are glad it is back where it belongs.  🙂

Later in the day, we had the family over to our place for a cookout, some horseshoes, shuffleboard and time at the pool.  

 

Here is Diana’s brother Dan enjoying the  offerings.  

  

Our niece taking a selfie with her daughter.

  

A true Detroit Tigers fan is never without his Olde English D.

  

Chillin’ with Great-aunt Diana.  🙂

 

Our great-nephews taking over the pool! 

 We all had a great day!

Recently, I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.

  

 

For my Day 2 photo, I chose a photo that I took in 2012 in the Tetons in Wyoming.  There is something that draws us to that magical mountain range.

As part of the challenge I am to nominate a fellow blogger each of the five days to join in and take part. So today I nominate Gin from Darwin On The Rocks And Around The World.

The only rules of the challenge are:

1. On five consecutive days, create a post using a recent or past photograph in black and white.

2. Invite another blogging friend each day to join in the challenge.

I hope you enjoy my photos, and hopefully Gin will accept the challenge!

 

Made it to Florida, and a Challenge Accepted

“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.”

Jerry Seinfeld 

We rolled into Florida 10 minutes after we left our campsite in Alabama.  Six hours later, we pulled into Recreation Plantation in Lady Lake.  That’s one of the strange things about entering the state on the western end of the panhandle:  it is hundreds of miles of driving east before even getting to I-75 to begin the southern descent down the Florida penninsula.  We will be here for three days visiting with family and friends.  More on that tomorrow.

About the challenge:

I was invited by Rob at Rockiesoutdoors to take part in a five day black and white photo challenge.

  

 

So for day 1 of the challenge I’ve chosen a photo I took a few summers ago of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, Michigan.  What makes this lighthouse special to me is that my great-grandfather, John Peter Schmitt, built it in 1892.  I was on a State of Michigan fundraising committee a decade ago to get it reopened to the public.  We succeeded!

As part of the challenge I am to nominate a fellow blogger each of the five days to join in and take part. So today I nominate Debbie from Down The Road.  Debbie and Steve visit amazing places in their travels as fulltime RVers, and they know how to find the best each location has to offer.

The only rules of the challenge are:

1. On five consecutive days, create a post using a recent or past photograph in black and white.

2. Invite another blogging friend each day to join in the challenge.

I hope you enjoy my photos, and hopefully Debbie will accept the challenge!

kathy knull

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