Archive | June, 2013

Saturday June 23, 2013

23 Jun

Hello All,

When we left you almost a week ago, we were lodged on the east side of the cascade mountains. On Monday June 17th we entered Yosemite NP from the east. Although lodging/camping was hard to come by in Yosemite we did find camping space available at the high Sierra campground at Tuoloumne Meadows (~9000 ft elevation). This area is not so crowded relatively speaking as the more popular Yosemite Valley, but it is a hikers paradise. The Pacific Crest Trail (western counterpart to the Appalachian Trail) passes through the campground. The Tuoloumne area is very pretty with streams from melting snow, alpine meadows, and wild flowers. There are too many pictures to include here, but the highlight was a hike to Elizabeth Lake. The lake is actually behind the trees in the picture below, but the entire meadow was crisscrossed with streams from the lake making it difficult to actually get to the lake. The scene of the alpine meadow with snow covered peaks in the back ground was beautiful.

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The daytime temperatures at Tuoloumne were very pleasant at 70F, but the night time temperatures were very cool. Our second night camping had a predicted low of 27F. We do not know how cold it really got but it sure was cold in the morning. We decided to pack up and move on.

On the way out of Yosemite we stopped to see a grove of Giant Sequoia trees. This grove included a tree which had road cut through it in the late 1800’s. We remember seeing pictures of this tree in our elementary school geography books. However since our elementary school days the tree has died and was cut down just above the tunnel.

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However the living giants were very impressive.

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We finished our tour of Yosemite with a drive through Yosemite Valley. The views of the water falls from the high peaks surrounding the valley are impressive but the crowds and buses are too much to take. We headed west and finished the day in the San Joaquin Valley which is a major orchard and fruit growing area. The next day we recovered (warmed up) from the Yosemite trip and took a relaxing bike ride through the orchards with a very good ice cream stop in Escalon, CA.

On Friday we headed into San Francisco for guided bicycle tour of the city. This turned out to be a great tour. The guide has lived in San Fran all his life and was very knowledgeable of the city history. The tour lead us through many of the city neighborhoods and avoided the typical touristy spots such as Fisherman’s Wharf.  You might think that riding in San Fran would be difficult with all the hills. Well not so for the locals who know a route which goes around the hills. This route makes many twists and turns and is known locally as the “wiggle”. The city also has many murals which were included on the tour. Marsha took many pictures from the back seat of the tandem on the tour and here is a small sampling.

The “Painted Ladies”

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Bicycle mural

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The “wiggle”

 

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Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of Hippie fame

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Mural in Haight-Ashbury reminiscent of the Hippie days

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First city park in San Fran

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The Golden Gate Bridge

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Giants Stadium

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Today we went back into San Fran and met up for lunch with Manny’s niece Jessica and her boyfriend Eric. We had a great visit with Jessica and Eric and it was good to catch up with Jessica since we do not have many such opportunities living an continent apart.

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After lunch we rode our bike across the Golden Gate bridge to the town of Sausalito. The pedestrian lanes on the bridge were crowded with bicycles as this is a very popular ride – the bicycle rental business in San Fran is big. It was windy on the bridge but the views were great.

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The road to Sausalito.

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The town of Sausalito was very nice and similar to an upscale beach town. The road along the bay is flat but everything else is up a very steep hill. We decided to go to Mass at St Mary’s of the Sea here in Sausalito which meant an up hill ride. It was a very pretty church with a great view of the bay.

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After Mass we had a small diner and ice cream and then caught the last ferry of the evening back to San Fran and our car. The ferry ride took us past Angle Island and Alcatraz. The rising full moon over Angle Island made a good picture.

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A long day but a good visit to San Fran.

God Bless,

Manny and Marsha

 

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Sunday June 16, 2013

17 Jun

We finished Cycle Utah on Friday with a 64 mile down hill ride. Cycle Utah was a great experience with beautiful scenery and a great group of people. The following are selected photos from the Utah bike tour. Keep in mind that pictures are only a limited view of actual 3D splendor of these mountains and parks.

High red rock cliffs of Zion NP

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Riding east out of Zion NP

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Zion cliffs eroded in a checker board pattern

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A water stop along the road

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The rim of Bryce Canyon (Bryce NP)

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Arches and stone pillars as viewed from the rim of Bryce Canyon

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Rock pillars as viewed from the trail down in Bryce Canyon

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An ice cream stop with other cyclists on the tour in Panguitch, UT. Calcium is important on bike rides!

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Panoramic view from the campground in Panguitch, UT. This was the best campground view of the week.

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Views from the climb to Cedar Breaks National Monument (4000 ft climb to 10,460+ ft)

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Lava flow along the way up.

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Note the blowing trees – 35 mph winds!

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Marsha and Manny on the climb.

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Marsha near the top! First view of cliffs on the other side.

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Manny and Marsha at the Chessmen overlook. This was the highest documented elevation, but the rode clearly continued to climb. Other cyclists with GPS devices recorded about 10,600 ft.

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Some of the group at Cedar Breaks NM overlook

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The ride back down from Cedar Breaks was fast and steep so no pictures – paying attention to the road.

We had an extra day in the St George, UT area the day after the ride so we drove back to Zion NP for hike up a very picturesque gouge cut by the Virgin River called the Narrows. The only way to do this hike was  to walk through the river. Since the gouge was narrow the sunlight did not fully reach the bottom until noon time so it stayed cool in the morning. The afternoon however quickly rose to over 100F. The water erosion of the rock was truly amazing and these pictures hardly do it justice.

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Today June 16th we left Utah for California. Along the way we drove through Death Valley which although very harsh is another amazing natural wonder. From our heights of 10,000+ ft the other day, we bottomed out today at 190 ft below sea level.

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Furnace creek was an appropriate name for this area as the mountains surrounding death valley hold in the heat from the sun making it like an oven. It was 109 F at Furnace Creek today. Evaporation of water from the valley leaves behind salt deposits and rock erosion from the mountains washed down from snow melt makes sand which blows into dunes.

 

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The dive out of death valley took us over two mountain ranges with climbs as high as 5000 ft. The views from these mountains were equally spectacular as death valley. Finally we find ourselves at the end of the day on the east side of the Cascade Mountain range at an elevation of 7000 ft in the town Le Vining, CA. The view of the cascades promise more mountain splendor as we enter Yosemite NP tomorrow.

 

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God Bless to all – Manny and Marsha

Thursday June 13, 2013

13 Jun

We have now completed 5 days of our Adventure Cylcing Utah bike tour. It has been a very hot week here in Utah, but we have managed to avoid the worst of the heat with early rises each day. To pick up after our last post, the 2nd day we rode through Zion NP. We were shuttled by truck through a mile long tunnel in the park (no bicycles allowed) and then continued on our way by bicycle. The ride through the park was truely beautiful. The multi colored rocks and formations created by wind and water errosion are amazing. Exiting the park we rode through high elevation ranches with herds of cattle. After 62 miles we arrived in the town of Hatch and our camp site. Not much in Hatch.

Day 3, we had a short 25 mile ride to Bryce NP. After lunch we took the local shuttle bus into Bryce NP and did couple of miles hiking around the rim of Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is a large depression filled with pillars of red rock. It is truely amazing how these pillars remain standing when all the rock around them has eroded away. Many of the pillars look like human shapes and were called Hoodoos by the Paiute Indians.

Day 4, we woke early for a 3 mile hike down into Bryce Canyon. The path took us down around and between the many rock pillars.  Although hot it was a very interesting view of the rock pillars. After lunch we got back on the bikes for another easy 25 mile ride to the town of Panguitch. However a hard cross wind had come up which made the ride a challenge.  At times it was difficult to keep the bike on the road. We were rewarded with ice cream in town. The flavor of interest to us was Almond Troy (a take off on Mounds Almond Joy).

Today day 5, we had 64 miles ahead of us including 4000 ft of climb over a 10,460 ft mountain. To add to the fun the wind continued at about 35 mph. It took nearly 6 hours to make the 36 mile climb. The scenery was fantastic as we climbed from the high desert through Pondersoa forests and then Aspen forests. There were even some patches of snow at the top. The ride down the other side was 20 miles and took less than two hours. Again the ride down was very scenic through a rocky canyon. This ride was clearly the most difficult ride Marsha and I have every done. It was a good ride but we will hit the sack early tonight.

Sunday June 9, 2013

10 Jun

We started Cycle Utah with Adventure Cycling Tours today. A hardy kick off dinner was served last night and we met lots of nice folks on the tour (41 people on the tour). The forecast for today called for 105F and it did get there! To beat the heat we got an early start at 6:45am. And finished the 45 mile ride by 11:00am. It was a very scenic ride. The red sandstone cliffs here in Utah are truely amazing. We are camping just outside Zion National Park. Since the afternoon temperature was rising quickly, we took the local bus tour of Zion NP. Again the mountains and clifs in Zion are truely amazing.  The first Europeans to settle in this area were the Mormons so they gave bibical names to all the mountains.
The Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac,  Jacob
Angeles Landing
The alter of sacrafice

Sorry no pictures at this point. We will add pictures after the bike tour is over so check back later. The sun has just gone down and it has not cooled off much. Time to try and get some sleep for tomorrow’s ride.

God Bless from Mount Zion!

Thursday June 6, 2013

8 Jun

Leaving Las Vegas on Monday morning we headed south and east to Flagstaff, AZ. Along the way we stopped for a lunch break in Ash Fork, AZ and a visit to the town museum. In the days of steam engine trains, Asg Fork was a major train depot because it was one of the few spots in the desert between Albuquerque and Los Angeles where the trains could get water. In its heyday there where 18 tracks running in front of the town hotel. Of course train maintenance and service business thrived in town as well. Needless to say steam engines became history and so did Ash Fork. With the arrival of diesel engines shorter routes were deveoped which bypassed Ask Fork. The town had a brief revival in the mid 1900’s when our favorite highway Route 66 came through town.

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We followed route 66 the rest of the way into Flagstaff where it is the main street through this town as well. In general Arizona towns have done well with Historic Route 66. I belive this is mainly due to the fact that it runs parallel and about 60 miles south of the Grand Canyon which brings many visitors to the area. The route 66 hotels provide overflow lodging for visitors to the national park.

Flagstaff had a nice network of city bike trails which we enjoyed. We also visited a nearby Sunset volcano which last erupted in 1000 AD. This area has seen a lot of volcanic activity and there are many what they call cinder cones in the area. These are essentially a cone shaped pile of small volcanic rock (cinders) with a depression on top where the eruption occurred. We hiked to the top of one which afforded some good views.

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Flagstaff is also the home of the Lowell Observatory.  The observatory was founded by Percival Lowell, a wealthy descendant of the textile industry in Lowell, Mass.  He became interested in astronomy at 15 years of age when he was given a telescope. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in mathematics, he toured the world.  In 1895, he was given the land, called Mars Hill,  by the city of Flagstaff. Percival installed the Clark telescope to begin his observations of Mars. He was convinced the deep channels he saw on Mars surface were made by a living species to bring water from Mars polar ice caps to them for survival. His theory is what prompted the novel, The War of the Worlds to be penned. Studies today from Mar’s core show carbon; so maybe with future studies, he will be vindicated. Lowell astronomers also discovered the fact that our universe is expanding,refuting the previous held belief that it was contracting. In later years Percival was convinced of the existence of another planet beyond Neptune. While he did all the calculations to progress his theory, he did not live to be able to prove this. But his work was not in vain as future Lowell astronomers did discover the ninth planet Pluto in 1930. However it has since been observed that Pluto is really part of a band of celestial bodies similar to the asteroid belt. Therefore Pluto is no longer considered a planet, but it still exists and was first observed at Lowell Observatory. In the evening the observatory sets up the Clark telescope for the public to observe the stars and planets. We were fortunate to observe Saturn through the telescope which was very amassing. The rings around the planet were clearly visible along with four moons.

We spent the next day relaxing and catching up on reading. Today we traveled to the north rim of the Grand Canyon crossing the Colorado river along the way on the east side of the canyon. The river crossing was pretty grand in and of itself.

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The north rim of the Grand Canyon is less busy than the south rim as it is a longer drive to reach. The views are just as spectacular!

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We finished the day off with a good country BBQ style dinner with country music for entertainment and swapping travel stories with a number of other visitors.

Love and blessings to all Manny & Marsha

Friday June 7, 2013

8 Jun

It is another beautiful day on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We have been blessed with beautiful weather for most of this cross country adventure. The north rim is at 8200 ft elevation and coupled with heavy pollen from the aspen trees we both awoke feeling short of breath. We headed out anyway on our planned 22 mile bike ride. The ranger indicated to Marsha that this ride only climbed 600 ft to Imperial Point. He was correct that Imperial Point was at 8800 ft, but he neglected the fact that the road dropped about 600 ft first and then climbed back up to 8800 ft. The ride was very scenic traveling through a mixed Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forest with many alpine meadows thrown in. We did manage the climb just fine and it even improved our breathing (after we were done). The view of the northeast end of the Grand Canyon at Imperial Point was certainly worth the ride.

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We packed up and headed north this afternoon to St George, UT. Sunday we start a 6 day bike trip with Adventure Cycling in southern Utah. We got our first view of Utah on the drive this afternoon.

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A little ice cream always makes the drive easier!

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Me too!!

Sunday June 2, 2013 revised

6 Jun

On the way to Las Vegas, we stopped to tour Hoover Dam. As you approach, Hoover Dam your first view is from the new bridge on US 93.The view is spectacular not only because of the Dam but also because of the height above the dam.

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In constructing the bridge they incorporated a walkway for pedestrians which many people were using. Due to the intense heat and sun, we opted to skip this parking lot for walking the bridge and continued down the hill to the visitor’s center. The tour included the museum which depicted the decision of where to place a dam to control the Colorado River, the design of the dam and how the men actuallly completed this monumental task. Interestingly, each state in the union had to either supply materials or labor in the form of manpower. Today, probably unconstitutional (?). We saw on display in the museum used kegs of black powder from Hercules company in Delaware, steel was provided by Pittsburgh and we saw that Becthel,a large construction firm that exists today, was one of the six companies to work together to build Hoover Dam which was started in 1931. As we progressed to the actual tour of the dam, we descended 950 ft inside the dam via elevator. The turbine room was immense, so much so that a pick up size truck,which was parked to one side of the room, looked small in comparison. We also walked down one of the air shafts that ends at a secure grate(Thank goodness!) in the dam where you can actually look out onto the Colorado river. It was a fantastic place to see!

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One more factoid I failed to mention is the many art deco features which were designed and crafted not only on the outside of the dam

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but also on the interior of the dam such as marble, aluminum and brass. Even the light fixtures in the tunnels in the dam are of art deco design. Beautiful craftsmanship in the wall and floor tiles as well!

A slightly more bizarre feature is the plaza at the Hoover Dam.

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The inlaid circle which you can see (where the man is standing), depicts the exact location of the stars on Sept. 30, 1935 when FDR dedicated the dam. Each star is represented by an inlaid piece of marble. The circle represents a Galactic (or Cosmic) year which is the duration of time required for the solar system to orbit once around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Which according to NASA is 230 million years.  At the edge of this inlaid circle are the times when the Great pyramids, the Birth of Christ and the completion of the Hoover  Dam occurred in relation to this Galactic year. The reason for this elaborate circle is so that at the end of our civilization that whomever comes after us will understand when this great engineering feat was completed and can relate it to the position of the celestial bodies at the time of their discovery as well as when during this Galactic year their discovery occurred. Manny and I thought this was bizarre. One question we had was;  does that mean that the star which directed the Wise Men to the birth of Christ return to the sky and be seen when we return to the same position in the next Galactic Year?  Just wondering!
Also,we were told the statues you see in the above picture were in some movie. We are such non-movie buffs that we do not know which one the tour guide was talkimg about. If you know you can let us know by posting a comment on this blog. Thanks!

After the tour, we travelled 20 miles west to a suburb of Las Vegas called Henderson. Hampton Inn was a welcome stop here to get out of the intense sun!
Friday morning we relaxed and in the evening took a bike ride for 30 miles to the local wetland nature area. It was amazing that in fact there actually is a wetland here given that we are in a desert! I would call it more of an oasis!  Saturday, we joined the Green Valley Cycling Club for a 6am ( Yes, that time is correct!) ride. Nevada recently passed a law for motorists to give bike riders 3 ft of space when passing. To raise awareness for this new law, Las Vegas bike clubs hosted a loop ride thru part of the city. The loop included part of Las Vegas Blvd but toward the east side where the Stratosphere Casino is and also went by The Gold and Silver Pawn shop now made  famous by their show on the History Channel.  During this ride  we had terrfic tour guides. (which were the riders from the bike club) telling us about the places we were passing. It was terrifc as we had no prior knowledge of This City of Lights!

Today, we rode 45 miles on the River Mountain Trail which is on the west side of Lake Mead. It was a tough ride as it was in the desert!  The day turned out to be warmer than yesterday and we should have started riding an hour earlier. It was the first time we were out of water with 5 miles left to finish.  We recuperated with Gatorade and water but were glad to return to air conditioning and be off the bike!

It has been a good stay here in Las Vegas but we are ready to head on to Flagstaff, AZ tomorrow.