AZ to WA, My Van Adventure Begins!

My goal the first three days of travel: drive from the hot desert of southeastern Arizona to a cool forest of northwest California and begin a coastline adventure of Oregon and Washington.

Day 1: 

There is a blue-winged warbler in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Since I am passing the place then no reason not to stop and find the bird! Well it was off the interstate by some distance but doable. I was up at 4:30am, out the door of my home by 5am, and at the birding site by 7:30am. Other birders were on the trail with the same goal. We commiserate together as we wait and watch and hope. I was fortunate to talk with a woman who had seen the bird the last few days and knew the bird’s routine! (That is a true blue birder!) Long story short, the blue-winged warbler arrived, hopped around deep within the ash tree branches. I saw it and have no photo! It was amazing to see the bird though.

My destination for the night was to visit friends in Sedona, Arizona. Always wonderful to see them, drink wine and enjoy delicious food with a friend who is a fantastic cook. My partner rented a place for time away from our desert heat, thus I could sleep on a real mattress for one more night before the van adventure really starts.

Day 2:

With a beautiful sunny blue sky, my partner and I walk after breakfast and see the new housing in the Sedona area where we used to live. Once headlined on USA Today’s newspaper as the “best place to live” led to everyone descending on the area. Now every housing lot is built upon. Plus half the people eventually driving their rental car from the Phoenix airport to Grand Canyon National Park, drive through Sedona and seem to discover traffic circles for the first time in their life!

I take off and just 15 miles down the road I am in a thunder, lightning and torrential rainstorm on the interstate. When truckers put on their emergency flashers I know this is quite the downpour! No hydroplaning, clean windshield, and thoughts of appreciating my van, knowing I will not be setting up a tent in the rain tonight.

I head to Williams, Arizona where I will overnight. Time exploring Kaibab Lake and downtown Williams were also on the agenda before settling back at the campground for dinner. While waiting to check in at the campground, the woman at the desk finished her statement to another as she looked at me, “and so I am working on my AB list”.  I asked her about her AB list. Years ago she wanted to hike a trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument, near Flagstaff, AZ. Her husband, Bruce, said she should not … and so she did not. She kept a list of things he pooh-poohed and ever since Bruce died she has been doing the activities on her “After Bruce” list.

(Just so you know: Walnut Canyon National Monument has cliff dwellings 350 feet below the canyon rim. 240 steps down for the visitor … thus 240 steps back up. Bring water, wear good shoes, and take your time as you walk the path of the ancient inhabitants and see 20 ruins. It is a worthwhile visit.)

At Kaibab Lake, I discover it is an area enjoyed by fishermen and campers. It is in a beautiful setting where I saw a bald eagle, osprey and great blue heron. I witnessed how crowded the town of Williams can be in the summer. So busy with all its hotels, cafes, and shops selling all sorts of knickknacks. This town is at one end of the train line that runs north to Grand Canyon National Park. Have you visited Grand Canyon National Park? That is a must visit for anyone in the area!

Kaibab Lake

Day 3: Williams, AZ to Barstow, CA

This is not rocket science. Waking to a 55 degree AZ morning … but it is 78 degrees already in Barstow, my next stop. I am leisurely enjoying the morning here. The  cool breeze through the ponderosa pines and Steller’s jays stop by. My 105 degree California afternoon of adventure can wait.

I left the campground at 9am with time to detour to the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. So I did. Lake Havasu City is about 20 miles south of Interstate 40. Easy detour and perfect time for me to check out the area. Boating and fishing is huge here, but I wanted to see the London Bridge. It was originally built in 1830s and spanned London’s Thames River. Robert McCulloch bought the bridge in 1968. He had granite blocks cut from the original bridge brought to the United States. Reinforced concrete structure then had the original masonry on it. In 1971 the bridge was complete linking an island in the Colorado River with the main part of the city. I walked along the Bridgewater Channel canal to take this photo.

London Bridge
Another Colorado River stop with Santa Fe Railroad

Yes, it was very, very hot and I was happy to get rolling down the road again. A short while later I stopped at another section of the Colorado River. No birds, just boaters. The train is often seen as this was a main route across the USA. I am driving across the Mojave Desert. It is known for the hottest air temperature … you may have heard of Furnace Creek in Death Valley. The record: 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. There is truly no joy in stopping at a rest area when it is so very hot. 105 degrees at the moment.

I check in at the campground. After eating some food I decide to check out Liberty Sculpture Park. Somehow I missed the park. If there be one advantage to having everything in the van when I leave a campsite, this was the day! Using my phone, I reserve a hotel room about 20 miles down the road and head there for the night. Air conditioned room, a shower and a good night’s sleep are needed. I have a 6 hour drive the next day. That’s the way adventure travel happens. So much for the best of plans … do what is best to stay safe and healthy! It may require a detour!

Mohave Desert, hottest desert in the world.

Three Quick Moments with a Hummingbird!

Birds crack me up! This broad-billed hummingbird was not flitting around as fast as hummingbirds are known to do, so I found myself with a smile on my face as I watched it. Here it looked like it was falling asleep, eyes closed but beak open:

Eyes closed, beak open!

Then the bird is awake yet still remaining on the branch! I am thinking I may be looking at the bird’s their eyelid called a nictitating membrane. Often when a bird is waking up or sleepy this membrane can be visible. And then the hummingbird’s eyes were open as seen below:

Bird is awake and still on the branch!

The final pose, obviously a great stretch of its body, making me smile was what I called the “yoga move”:

Is that “Warrior” pose?

Never know what you’ll see with birds; that is what makes bird-watching fun! Have you spent time watching any interesting birds lately? Let me know, thanks.

In researching some info for this post I learned birds of prey, example hawk, close their nictitaing membrane, third eyelid, when capturing prey. Birds of prey cannot afford to have prey scratch their eyes! Hmmm…. I wonder if I’ll see that some day …. keeping my eyes open!

Nature Appreciation … Begins Early!

It warms my heart when I see a family hiking a path and especially when a child is wearing a pair of binoculars! How wonderful for adults to expose children to nature, an active outdoor activity, and one with teachable moments while on a trail.

I feel positive about our future when young adults are photographing nature or studying how there can be better ways to approach present environmental concerns. Thanks to the adults fostering a love of the outdoors when a child is young so they have a continued appreciation of nature as they grow older! We want a planet here for them to enjoy in their golden years too!

What is that Elevated Surfboard?

Are my eyes deceiving me or is that board above the water’s surface?

See the blade under the board?

I had to research this sighting to be sure it was a real thing … yes, the surfer is riding a wave on a “foilboard” or “hydrofoil board”. The blade is longer than the traditional fin on a surfboard allowing the foil surfer to ride above the water’s surface! Some will also pump their legs up and down to generate more energy. Foil surfing can be done anywhere thus not needing an area where others are trying to catch a wave. This apparently is one advantage of the foilboard, along with easy maneuverability in slicing through the water. But be careful as this blade’s hunk of metal can also slice a body part if you are not careful! 

Here were some people out using their foilboard:

Hydrofoils require users to have greater balance, skill, and fitness to keep the board out of the water compared to using a surfboard, but maybe this is an activity for you! Great fun watching though as that will be the closest I will be to this activity! Are you a foilboarder or know of someone?

Surfing Lesson #1 for a Child!

While bicycling a bike path along Pierpont Bay in Ventura, California you’ll find yourself stopping, like I did, at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Park. There are always individuals of varying abilities on a surfboard trying to catch and ride a wave, but this time I saw something unique!

Amid all the surfers there was a man carrying his child and surfboard into the surf. I wondered what the heck he was thinking as he continued to walk out, through the oncoming waves, with the child seemingly sitting comfortably in his arms.

After a period of time, here are the scenes as the child had their surfing lesson/ride:

Walking out
Have a seat …
Riding a wave…
Time to stand!

What fun! A fantastic way to get the feel of it all! Who knows when the child will be on the board alone!?! What a great experience and way to learn! Very cool man!

Bicycling in CA … And Drink Wine!

Our goal was to bicycle in Edna Valley, Avila Beach, Santa Rosa, Ventura and Napa areas. So if you are looking for some insight as to where to cycle, here are some ideas, along with wineries to check into.

Edna Valley area, east of San Luis Obispo: We park our vehicle at one of the wineries, we usually ask Saucelito Canyon staff if this is okay. From there we ride to Lopez Lake by way of Orcutt Road and then back via Orcutt Road but will turn-off onto Tiffany Ranch Road (passing more wineries) to Corbett Canyon Road to Route 227 to Claiborne & Churchill winery. One can buy a delicious lunch, just up the road from Claiborne & Churchill, at Sextant’s gourmet deli and then finish the ride on Biddle Ranch Road to hop off the bicycle, pack it on your car and enjoy a wine tasting at Saucelito Canyon winery. You’ll pass many wineries for tasting opportunities. The overall trick is to pace yourself cycling the miles and drinking the wines!

Wine tasting & cheese plate at Claiborne & Churchill

Avila Beach: With a bit of planning you can cycle from San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach via Ontario Road to a paved Bob Jones Trail head to Avila Beach Drive to eventually spend time on a pier for lunch, such as at Mersea’s Seafood on the Harford Pier. Or you could wine taste at Sinor-LaVallee, my favorite, and/or walk the beach area and find delicious food at other restaurants, such as Custom House.

Santa Rosa: On both sides of the Santa Rosa Creek you’ll find bicycling opportunities so park downtown, to eat good food here when done cycling, and hop on your bicycle. The Joe Rodota Trail, can be linked with the Santa Rosa Creek Trail and/or the Prince Memorial Trail. Be sure to have a map to know how they are connected and/or how you can further your ride to Sebastopol. If you have more time in the area, bicycling Sebastopol to Graton to Forestville is a combination of roads and trails with more wine tasting opportunities, such as Dutton-Goldfield Winery in Graton.

Napa: Years ago we bicycled the busy roads in this town and are now happy to see the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a safer bicycle ride from Napa to Yountville, and then can add bicycling miles on local roads with lower traffic. I continue to have fond memories of Trefethen Family Vineyards on a bicycle ride years ago, but you’ll discover there are many wineries to visit in this town!

Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria: Bicycling options are many here. Bicycling from Oxnard to Ventura to Carpinteria is a combination of cycling Harbor Boulevard from Oxnard to Ventura, then Omer Rains Coastal Bike Trail to the Rincon Bike Trail and continue on Pacific Coast Highway to Carpinteria.

Or ride Ventura to Ojai by way of the Ventura River Trail to the Ojai Valley Trail, enjoy lunch in Ojai and ride back. I liked this trail on a recent hot day because much of it is shaded. Wine tours are an easy way to visit various places especially after a day of cycling … so consider them.

Shady trail

If you do not have any bicycling apps to help you plan your routes, I would suggest “TrailLink”. There you can choose the type of trail, length, surface and what activity you are planning … there is biking, but also cross country skiing, walking, mountain biking, wheelchair accessible, etc … so check this app when searching for your favorite activity.

Enjoy cycling and wine tasting, but always remember to be safe … wear a helmet, apply sunscreen, drink water, eat snacks, and ask to share a wine tasting with your friend at the tasting rooms so you are not cycling under the influence of alcohol. When telling the staff I am cycling and want to be safe, I have always been able to share a tasting with my friend. Enjoy the ride and sips!

Stop & sip some wine along the way!
Cycling past many growing vines!

Birds in Santa Rosa, CA

We stay at the wonderful Gables Country Inn Bed & Breakfast to relax, eat delicious breakfasts, visit local wineries, ride various bicycle paths in the Santa Rosa area and bird watch at the B&B. Here are some of the birds I saw on their property … and unfortunately some of the birds new to me I was not able to catch a good photograph of them … darn …chestnut-backed chickadee and oak titmouse!

California quail, similar looking to our AZ quail.

Other birds:

California scrub-jay
California towhee
Hooded oriole – looking up at the bird.
Red-tailed hawk
Western bluebird

Birding in the morning, bicycling midday – only when there is no heat wave, and always end the day with some delicious wine! Retirement has its benefit even as we see high gasoline prices, a Covid world still here, and so many more places to visit! Time to get on with the day … and enjoy life. I hope you have the opportunity to do the same … be sure to do so when you can!

Birds at San Luis Obispo & Avila Beach, CA

I actually discovered a new bird at San Luis Obispo as we hiked near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo and another new bird while walking the Harford Pier in Avila Beach! So exciting to find new birds and to enjoy those I already can easily identify!

At San Luis Obispo’s Laguna Lake:

Grasshopper sparrow with a bit of yellow above eye … new bird for me!

At Avila Beach:

Pigeon Guillemot caught something after his very deep dive!
A new bird for me …pigeon guillemot and now I see it flying by!

Of course there were many other birds to observe, but I enjoyed time watching this downy woodpecker at Laguna Lake where we hiked a few miles of trails. I suspected this woodpecker to be young/juvenile as it was fascinated with a spider’s web as I watched too, but here it is just checking out the bark and where to peck in the bark.

Downy woodpecker

There is plenty to do in this area of California; hiking, bicycling, shopping, wine tasting and spending time at the beach. Once the fog rolls out there is often a windy, sunny day to enjoy!

Storage Containers to an Inn in California!

Many years ago we visited Cass Winery, enjoyed lunch and a wine tasting … all delicious! The Paso Robles area in California has doubled in number of wineries since we first visited the area about 20 years ago. Yet now we were back to see and stay in their Geneseo Inn.

While eating lunch at the winery many years ago, we had seen plans/sketches for an inn to be constructed of storage containers. Really? I knew I wanted to return when that project was complete! So, recently we stayed overnight in the Ebony & Ivory room and parked our car right below our “storage container” which allowed for easy access to move luggage into our room and keep the car out of the sun. I did look closely to see how our room had been constructed with the storage container; absolutely fantastic use of the container!

When you stay at the Geneseo Inn you are a wine club member for the day, so our wine tasting at lunch had been complimentary along with “happy hour” as we settled in our room, plus any wines we chose to buy were discounted!

The room was spacious and very comfortable with everything and more you would want here: refrigerator, bathrobes, eye masks as there is plenty of light coming in through skylights in the morning and a nice deck area. Our breakfast was included in our stay so we ate it on the back deck. Absolutely delicious breakfast!

Cass Winery/Geneseo Inn staff look forward to you staying on property with their many activity offerings: archery, eBikes to ride on property, corn hole game, hammocks to relax in, axe throwing, horseback trail ride, walking through the vineyard, sitting fireside, happy hour and food at the cafe. We found it very easy to relax and enjoy the quiet and I really hope they add a spa soon too!

It is a pricey place to stay overnight, but the next time I can it will be with plans to star gaze! They do advertise some special nights to do that too! Want to celebrate a special occasion? This is the place to visit and stay a night or two! Go and enjoy!

Scene from our back deck!

Thank You Dad … I still love hand tools!

I completed my van conversion, do small home repairs, and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity with thanks to my dad each time. He was sure to teach each of his daughters, four of us, to use a saw, hammer, and screwdriver.

One may think, what is so difficult about each of those tools? As the years have gone by, I have come to realize the variations of hammers: claw, ball peen and club hammer styles. And various saws: jigsaw, circular saw, power saw and many more beyond my hand saw lesson with dad. Even screwdrivers have more heads available beyond the flat and Phillips I had first learned and practiced.

Then the world of power tools came into my life! Wow, exciting and potentially dangerous. How quickly a board of wood can be cut, or a staple into wood, or even a screw! Electrifying all these tools has made some projects easier, but one needs to be careful. I learn more about these tools with my volunteer efforts at Habitat for Humanity, but I always thank my dad for his lessons in having me understand the tool, its use, and the ability to problem-solve in creating the project I wish to construct. Those skills help me everywhere; in memory … thanks dad!