We made it! We’re back at the “dirt farm” in Casa Grande, AZ where we’ll stay parked until we get back from our trip to Germany on the 11th of January.
We made the circa. 290 mile trip from our overnight boondocking spot at the Red Earth Casino located next to the Salton Sea without incident. We arrived at my brother Steven & Cheryl’s ~5 acre “dirt farm” in Casa Grande, AZ before dusk. I wrote about why they call it the “dirt farm” in previous posts HERE and HERE.
Stilla even took over driving duties for the last 100 miles or so 🙂
Here’s the Urban Escape Vehicle in front of Mom’s house.
A few pictures around the “dirt farm”:
We’re expecting to have a bunch of relatives and friends here for Thanksgiving, so we’ll enjoy that while we get prepared to leave for Germany on the 3rd of December.
I was able to find a couple round-trip tickets for just under $1,200 so we’re all set to spend the Christmas and New Year holiday(s) with Stilla’s family. And, more importantly her father’s 85th birthday on the 8th of December.
I’ll post again in a couple/few days… there’s lots to do before we leave: I’d like to get the oil changed in the Coach, plus we still need to top off the fuel tank and dump our tanks… Check back soon 🙂
Happy Monday! My new favorite day of the week since retirement 🙂
We’re on the road again headed south to the “dirt farm” in Casa Grande, AZ. The “dirt farm” is a term of endearment that my Mom, Stepdad, brother Steven & Cheryl call their ~5 acres where they keep horses, chickens, dirt, etc., 🙂 We need to be back there before Thanksgiving because we have a lot of family coming to visit over the holiday, plus we are making plans to leave the Urban Escape Vehicle parked there while we travel to Germany to visit Stilla’s family over the Christmas holidays. We need to be in Germany for Stilla’s fathers’ birthday on the 8th of December.
We sure would have liked to stay at Bill & Patti’s but we have to hurry down to Casa Grande as I said earlier. We’ve dawdled enough and better get down to the dirt farm to help out with things before Thanksgiving.
Thanks again to Bill & Patti for their hospitality! We said goodbye with hugs and ‘see-ya-laters’.
We traveled about 200 miles yesterday (Sunday) after we left Bill & Patti Figge’s house in Thousand Oaks, CA. We needed fuel… Bill turned us on to a nearby Chevron station that had easy access. Thanks again Bill! We put in a couple hundred dollars worth of diesel and continued on. We stopped at the Red Earth Casino (map below) for an overnight stay. It’s free as long as you stay away from the slot machines 🙂 We stayed here once last year on our way to Pomona… it’s not bad here, but there’s dry-camping (boondocking) only.
The fine (sic) roads around Los Angeles took their toll on the drivers-side sun shade (below). The little bolt that holds the arms to the shade loosened itself up and fell out due to all the bumpy roads and vibrations from the concrete freeways. Luckily, a rest stop wasn’t too far away. I was able to find all the pieces and put it back together 😐 I also took the opportunity to tighten the others, i.e., side-window shades and the passenger-side windshield.
And here we are at the Red Earth Casino (←link). We made the rest of the days trip without incident 🙂
Here’s the rest of our intended route for today (map below). 291 miles to go… check back later to see if we make it 😉
It’s been a couple days since my last post. We stayed an additional day (Friday) at the Elks Lodge in Pismo Beach to enjoy the nice weather. I also took advantage of the extra day to wash the Silverado and the Harley… they were looking pretty bad after driving around on the beach and the rain from previous days.
On Saturday, we drove the 160 miles south on Hwy-101 to Bill & Patti Figge’s house in Thousand Oaks, CA. Along the way, we made a small detour in Santa Barbara where we followed a tip from my cousin Phil to take Shoreline Drive and take in the views. Nice… Thanks for the tip Phil! We had to dodge a few low-hanging palm trees, but it was worth it.
We contacted our friends from the Alpine SoCal group (Bill & Patti Figge), who offered to let us stay at their beautiful house in Thousand Oaks. So we plugged their address into the GPS and pulled into their driveway around 2PM.
Bill directed us onto his RV pad next to the house. Wow… 5-Star amenities with full hook-ups! Their Coach is at the shop right now… unfortunate for them but fortunate for us 🙂
Here we are with our nice backyard views.
Our view this morning 🙂 We even had hummingbirds outside the windows.
Little ‘Coach’ really likes the backyard, but he wasn’t too sure about the lawn decorations.
Views of the beach across the street (Hwy-1) from our patio dining seats:
And here we are! (L to R) Patti, Bill, and Stilla.
It was great catching up with Bill & Patti. What great friends! I just hope we can return the favor sometime in the near future. We look forward to seeing them again in January at the Alpine Coach “Desert Rat Rally” in Quartzsite, AZ.
Now we need to head on south and get ourselves to Casa Grande before Thanksgiving… a lot of the family is gathering again and we better get there to help out. So time to hit the road again… stay tuned 🙂
BTW – Here’s a map showing all the locations we’ve stayed at during our last year and a half of travel. There’s a lot of gaps… guess we better get busy, eh?
Here’s a little history about the lodge from their website:
Many years ago, probably in the 1940’s, there was a real estate office located on the corner of Highway 1 and what is now Pier Ave., just up from the Lodge. It’s unique design included a three story tower that Harold Guiton, the developer, used to enjoy relaxing in. When it was no longer needed, the office was torn down, however, the tower was moved to a vacant lot across the street from the Lodge where it laid for several years. In the early 1950’s the tower was incorporated into a new drive-in built across the street. The drive-in was called Skipper’s. Built separately up the street was a bar, called The Sands. Eventually Skipper’s closed until a local cook leased the building. He added a dining room and opened a Mexican restaurant called Spanish Seas. He eventually built his own restaurant on the corner of Highway 1 and Pier. This popular restaurant is still going strong, now called Juan’s Cantina. After the Spanish Seas moved, the building and the bar next door sat vacant until a few men looked into opening an Elks Lodge in the Five Cities area. They eventually got the charter and leased this property on a lease-buy agreement. The 564 charter members were initiated on March 23,1974 at the Arroyo Grande High School.
Our Lodge, located within easy walking distance of the beach, and with a large RV area, is a popular place to visit. We currently have just over 1200 members. We have many activities on the calendar and many ways to volunteer.
After breakfast we walked the beach again and enjoyed the day. Later on we drove around the area to check things out and stocked up on some groceries. Then we walked around the beach some more:
Stilla stayed on the beach walking ‘Coach’ while I did a little wading.
We closed out the day at the Pismo Beach Pier.
Out on the wharf.
We’ll probably head on south today (Friday). Check back to see where we end up…
Sounds like a fairy tale right? But really! We went to Hearst Castle today, saw some (sea) lions, and the Hearst estate actually has zebras, right here in (somewhat) sunny California.
When we left the San Jose Elks Lodge on Monday, we headed south on Hwy 101 and landed at Camp Roberts (Army FamCamp) located just north of San Miguel, CA. Full hookups, and 50 Amp power for only $10 a night. Granted it’s not the nicest park… right next to Hwy 101 with a good number of folks that appear to be parked here for an extended stay based on all the “stuff” around their rigs, but it’s conveniently located and very affordable.
Click the link above for the official national guard website and HERE for the Wikipedia® link which gives the following information:
Camp Roberts is a California National Guard post in central California, located on both sides of the Salinas River in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, now run by the California Army National Guard. It is named after Harold W. Roberts, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient. Nearby communities include San Miguel, Heritage Ranch (Lake Nacimiento), Oak Shores (Lake Nacimiento), and Bradley, all unincorporated. The nearest incorporated city is Paso Robles. Camp Roberts is adjacent to Fort Hunter Liggett.
Camp Roberts is host to annual training to almost every California Army National Guard unit and it is also used by the British Army.
Camp Roberts is undergoing major renovations, including demolition of World War II-era barracks, which have been plagued with mice, asbestos insulation, and lead paint. Demolition of nearly all the World War II-era structures facing US Route 101 began in 2012. (ref. Wikipedia®)
We passed the Camp Roberts Historical Museum (←link) which claims to be the largest Army museum in California. It’s only open Thursdays and Saturdays so we didn’t get a chance to check it out. 🙁
Here’s our first view of the Camp Roberts RV Park. It’s a mile or so from the main part of the Army post and located right next to Hwy-101. Surprisingly, not much highway noise though.
On Tuesday morning, we woke up to frost and a little ice on the Silverado… we need to hurry up and head farther south.
Our RV site at the Camp Roberts FamCamp:
We decided to stay a couple nights here at Camp Roberts so we could check out (the somewhat nearby) Hearst Castle and a little bit of the coast on Hwy-1. We drove 57 miles to get to Hearst Castle.
Views of the coast after crossing the mountains (hills) on CA-46:
There were a large number of zebras grazing with the cows near the entrance to the Hearst Castle Visitor Center.
We parked the Silverado in the Visitor Center parking lot and cracked all the windows so little ‘Coach’ would be comfortable. It was a balmy 60° at the most.
We had purchased our tickets online the day prior, $25 pp, So we checked in, got a snack, and got in line for the bus.
The bus takes a 4.2 mile winding road uphill to the Castle.
The bus dropped us off below one of the cottages where we met our tour-guide to start our 90-minute tour.
We read in the literature, and now the tour-guide reiterated that photos are encouraged for personal use, but written permission is required for anything to be published, therefore, in the spirit of compliance; I am only posting pictures of the outside of the castle, the gardens, and the swimming pool out-building. This was also the case on our tour of the Winchester Mystery House (posted HERE) where they only allowed picture-taking outside of the house and in out-buildings.
Click HERE for a link to the Hearst Castle website.
Our tour-guide took us through the estate grounds and then led us into a side door of the castle. What an impressive place… I took lots of pictures, but again, in order to stay in compliance with their policies, I won’t post any inside photos on the blog. But, here’s a few photos of the outside gardens and surrounding area that we took during and after the tour:
There were lots of statues and fountains.
Entrance door to one of the cottages.
The front door to the castle.
The tennis courts (below) were built above an indoor swimming pool.
The indoor swimming pool with the tennis courts on the roof.
We were told that gold was used in the tile work.
If you’d like to see pictures of the inside of the castle, just do a search online… I’ll let others get in trouble (if any) for posting pictures.
After our tour, we boarded the bus again for the long winding trip back down to the visitors center.
View back up to the castle from the access road.
Portion of the 4.2 mile access road to the castle. Only accessible by tour bus.
The visitors center has a nice viewing area of the castle on the hill.
Zoomed-in from the visitors center.
After we got back from the castle, we went back to the parking lot to walk little ‘Coach’ and then went back inside the visitors center to get a little lunch and check out the huge gift shop.
Then we watched the informative 40-minute film in the 5-story tall ‘big screen’ theater.
This was a great “must-see” attraction. I highly recommend it (at least once) if you’re in the area.
After our castle tour, we followed the signs north up Hwy-1 to check out the Elephant Seals:
After taking a hundred pictures (or more) of the seals, we headed back south to the William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach.
Sunday was another great day of get-togethers and reunions. It was also our last day here. First of all, we drove over to visit with fellow Alpine Coach owner’s and friends John & Marlena Schierholtz. They live in the San Jose area.
We navigated our way over to their wonderful home from the San Jose Elks Lodge RV Park where we’re still parked.
We greeted John and Marlena with hugs and spent a short time catching up before we went out for breakfast together.
Check out the cool 21-window bus that John has in the garage. Nice… I think John should set this up to tow behind the Alpine. 🙂
John & Marlena took us to breakfast at Alice’s Restaurant located on a hilltop in scenic Woodside, CA “where you can get anything you want” according to their website. Sometime during the 1960’s the restaurant was bought by Alice Taylor who renamed the restaurant after herself and the now famous Arlo Guthrie song of the same name.
It was a cool day with gusty winds – especially on the hilltop where the restaurant is located, but that didn’t deter a few bikers from getting out.
This popular restaurant was busy and we had to wait for seating.
None of the customers wanted to sit at any of the outside or open porch tables because it was too cold and windy.
Notice the huge redwood tree growing through the deck.
We found seating at the bar and enjoyed a good breakfast with good company.
Afterwards. we visited the gas station / gift shop next to the restaurant.
This time, I found a cool t-shirt to add to my inventory.
We took the scenic route back to their house and stopped at a nice viewpoint along the way.
View of the San Francisco Bay.
We spent some more time visiting with John & Marlena at their house before we said our ‘see-ya-laters’ with hugs and handshakes. It was great getting to spend some time with them during our stay here… we hope to see them again at the next Alpine Coach “Desert Rat Rally” in Quartzsite, AZ in January. Thanks for everything John & Marlena… see you soon!
We made it back to the Elks Lodge with just enough time to pick up our little dog Coach so we could continue over to my cousin Philip and Tina’s house for our previously scheduled 5 PM dinner date. We made it just in time for the arrival of the pizza, pasta, and salad dinner. Here’s cousin Beth (below) performing delivery duty.
We enjoyed the rest of the evening with family at Phil & Tina’s wonderful home.
The girls (Daria, Faith, and Anya) had to finish up some homework before they could play. 🙁
We closed out the evening with some board and dice games…
while the girls talked in the living room.
It was another great family get-together that we were privileged to be a part of! Thanks again to Keith & Beth, Phil & Tina, and Aunt Donna for putting up with us and showing us around 🙂 We hope to get back this way again soon.
We’re finally going to continue our drive south today (Monday) with the goal of getting to Casa Grande, AZ before thanksgiving. Check back to see where we end up next…
We left little dog ‘Coach’ in the Coach since we planned to be back before suppertime.
We made good time getting to Santa Cruz on CA-17 and parked on the street opposite the Natural Bridges State Park (←link) parking lot, therefore saving ourselves the parking fee. It sure is great to have local tour-guides! 🙂
I took a picture of Stilla, Cousin Beth, and her husband Keith in front of the entrance sign…
then Keith returned the favor and took a rare photograph of Stilla and I.
Informational placard at the entrance to the State Beach.
The park website says that the Monarch Grove in the state beach park provides a temporary home for up to 100,000 Monarch butterflies. From late fall into winter, the Monarchs form a “city in the trees.” The area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove provide a safe place for monarchs to roost until spring.
We took the Monarch Trail in search of butterflies.
We came across the strangest tree while walking the trail. The tree had grown onto itself… don’t recall seeing that before.
We continued down the trail in search of butterflies… if anyone told me years ago that I’d be doing that – I’d call ’em crazy 🙂
We reached the boardwalk area of the trail:
And we soon found the butterflies… they were hiding behind all the people:
A lot of folks take their butterfly watching seriously; there were people with telescopes, binoculars, and cameras with telephoto lenses…
This guy really got down with the butterflies (literally) 🙂
We sat down with Beth & Keith to enjoy the show.
More informational placards:
And some pictures of Monarch butterflies:
After getting our fill of butterfly watching, we walked over to the visitor center.
There were a few neat “live” displays in the visitors center:
OK, this one (below) wasn’t “live” but the caterpillars (above) were.
Beth aced the ‘Monarch Madness Quiz’ on the wall of the visitors center. I missed a few of the questions 🙁 But in my defense, Beth is a teacher by profession.
And as we have all come to know; all visitor centers have their exits through the gift shop:
We walked down to the beach from the visitor center:
It was a really nice beach. We hung out for a while.
Here’s the only remaining natural bridge (below) that the beach was named after. There were originally three of these.
Wikipedia® (←link) says that wave erosion carved the arches and then cut away the cliffs leaving only islands. Of the three original arches only the middle one remains. The outermost arch fell during the early 20th century and the inner arch collapsed during a storm in 1980.
Here’s a few ‘action’ pics of the waves breaking on the arch:
I even got a chance to get my feet wet while we checked out the beach.
We watched some younger folks that seemed to be going through some sort of initiation ritual, possibly a college fraternity.
We headed over to the Santa Cruz Wharf for lunch. You may recall that Stilla and I met an old Army buddy of mine here last Tuesday, I wrote about that in this post.
The Mystery Spot is a ‘gravitational anomaly’ located in the redwoods outside Santa Cruz according to their website. Check out what Wikipedia® says about this place by clicking HERE.
The entrance fees were pretty reasonable.
Our tour-guide led us up the hill after entertaining us with a lot of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor.
He demonstrated that a couple boards laid out on the concrete slabs were level…
then he asked for volunteers to stand opposite each other and take note of who is taller than the other…
then he had the volunteers switch sides… and to everyone’s amazement; the person on the downhill side would ‘magically’ appear to be taller.
A couple other volunteers tried it out as well:
Beth & Keith checked out the ‘anomaly’ after the crowd left… I’m unsure of the result!?!
We marched up the steep concrete walkway.
Our tour-guide demonstrated some more ‘anomalies’ outside the tilted shack that he said slid down the hill to it’s present position… not quite sure I believe that one, do you?
Here (below) he demonstrates how a cue ball appears to roll uphill away from the shack. He demonstrated the same thing by pouring some water onto the board as well.
Then we got to play around in the tilted shack:
This heavy metal ball (below) was suspended from the ceiling. It was harder to push away from the wall than it was to push towards the wall from its natural level position. Weird, huh?
I was climbing the wall (literally).
We got one more demonstration regarding ‘perspective’ and some more bad jokes from our nice tour-guide, then he passed out bumper stickers.
At the end of the tour, we made the trek back down to the bottom of the hill… much easier going down 🙂
And then we did a quick tour of the gift shop:
After that unique and interesting experience, Keith & Beth drove us back to the Coach. We made pretty good time with not too much traffic. What a great day… I have to give Beth & Keith an A+ tour-guide rating. Maybe they should look into starting a side business as local tour-guides 🙂
We made plans to get together again for dinner at my cousin Phil’s house on Sunday evening. Check back for more on that…
Friday morning we drove over to my cousin Phil’s house in San Jose and transferred ourselves to his car for another fun-filled tourist day of sight-seeing. But this time we have a local tour-guide (my cousin Phil)!
We drove south on 101 towards Carmel. But along the way, we stopped in Monterey for lunch at the Turn 12 Bar & Grill.
This place had a cool motor-sports vibe and motorcycle motif going on. Their website says it is designed to pay homage to Laguna Seca Raceways 11 turns. I liked it. And lunch was good too!
We did a short drive through Monterey and headed over to the north entrance to 17-Mile Drive.
17-Mile Drive (←link) is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in California, much of which hugs the Pacific coastline and passes famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions, including the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees.
We drove south along the coastline and finished in Carmel. We didn’t do the inner coastal road. Maybe another time…
Here’s another good map that I found on a “Pin It” site courtesy of hotelcaliforniablog.com. This map depicts most of the scenic viewpoints we stopped at.
Follow along for a picture tour…
It appeared that seals or sea-lions took over one half of the island rock (below) and birds took over the other half. So much for desegregation in California, eh? 🙂
Wonder how much these homes cost!?!
The Ghost Tree.
We finally got to the south end of 17-Mile Drive (see arrow in pic above) and drove over to the Carmel Mission.
Click HERE for more info on the mission from my good friend Wikipedia®.
We had to pay a $6.50 entrance fee that helps support the Mission.
I don’t have much time to spend on today’s posting about our Thursday tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Cousin Phil has taken Friday off from work and we plan to meet up early this morning so he can spend the day with us. We’re looking forward to having our own personal tour-guide. 🙂
Be sure to at least read the placard (above). Learn more about Sarah Winchester and the Mystery House from the Wikipedia™ link HERE.
We chose to take the “Best Value!” Grand Estate Tour and paid $84 after receiving a $4 military veteran discount.
Here’s the entrance to the house tour (below), next to the green screen where they take your picture before going in. There were basically two tours included in our admission price. Both tours are docent-led and after we finished our tour of the house, aptly named the Grand Estate Tour, we met another guide in the garden for the second tour that was named the Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
There were no pictures or recording devices allowed inside the house. So all the pictures today are of the outside of the estate and in a few of the out-buildings where we were allowed to take pictures during the Behind-the-Scenes portion of the tour.
The website describes the Behind-the Scenes Tour as a 55-minute guided Tour which shows much of what made the estate run. Tour stops included the Stables, Fruit Drying Shed, Garage, Greenhouse, and the unfinished Ballroom… the highlight of the Behind-the-Scenes Tour is a journey down into the basement which houses the oil burning furnace and an original hydraulic cargo elevator. The basement is also the location of many ghost sightings. We didn’t see any though 🙁
Garden-side views of the mansion:
Fruit Drying Shed:
Old picture (pre-earthquake) of the Mystery House.
The garage and car wash building:
Our tour-guide points out a photo of the Winchester Estate carpenters.
Our tour guide tells us about some reported ghost sightings. The guy on the right in the picture (below) has been seen pushing a wheelbarrow in the basement by more than just a few folks.
Front view of the Grand Estate:
The christmas decorations are already going up throughout the estate. Many of the rooms we toured had their trees up already.
The front door. Reportedly never used.
Many areas of the house that were under construction at the time of Sarah Winchester’s death were abandoned and never completed:
More exterior photos:
Look closely at the windows in the pics below for any ghosts that may be looking down on us:
The door to nowhere. It’s a long step downnn…
Notice the vines growing where the brick chimney used to be. The brick chimney was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake.
Sarah Winchester’s bedroom where she passed away in her bed on September 5, 1922. All construction stopped immediately after her death at the age of 83.
What a crazy house with stairs that go nowhere, skylights in the floors, and doors that open up to walls! It was a really neat tour, I highly recommend it if you’re in the area. I wish the tour fees were a little more reasonable though.
Of course, our tour wasn’t complete until we checked out the Winchester Historic Firearms Museum located in an out-building:
Some revolvers: (These are for you brother Steven)
The WInchester rifle “Commemorative Series”:
After our tour of the Firearms Museum, we wandered through the huge gift shop:
Great tour, great day! We basically spent our entire Thursday here.
We returned to the Elks Lodge RV park with just enough time to walk our little dog ‘Coach’ before we met up again with my San Jose relatives for dinner.
We decided to take advantage of dinner inside the San Jose Elks Lodge. We went into the lodge with my cousin Beth, her husband Keith, and their daughters Daria and Anja. My cousin Phil joined us shortly thereafter on his way home from work.
The lodge had a veterans support event going on and was raffling off some quilts as we finished up our dinners:
We had three great choices for dinner which included a full soup & salad bar. The choices were Sirloin Steak, Fried Shrimp, or BBQ ribs. By all reports, the meals were delicious and they were all reasonably priced as well 🙂
Another great finish to a great day 🙂 Check back tomorrow to see where and what we get into with my cousin Phil acting as our local tour-guide…