Thursday, May 1, 2014

No Place like Home

The plains of the Midwest become the movie that plays before our eyes.  Trains full of coal head east with us.  Like a trail horse that can see the barn, we think more of home than of the road and the miles covered by each day’s drive gets more and more.

We have been gone for 93 days and we seem to have been riding spring from Texas thru New Mexico, across Arizona and up California.  Now coming full circle, we are back in Minnesota, just in time for spring.  This has been a great trip and a perfect way to kick off our AMAZING RETIREMENT ADVENTURE. I am so excited!  

Rocky Mountains

We drive across the high plains of Washington to the pan handle of Idaho.  The forests returns but the and suddenly the majesty of the Rockies are upon us. 

We break out of the mountains to a huge valley.  Completely surrounded by snow -capped mountains, this is Big Sky Montana.

For miles all around there is wide open spaces. Ranches are very spread out and the livestock has plenty of space to roam; it is spring and there are calves everywhere.  It is still early spring here and the pastures are just beginning to green up.

Driving along is it not hard to spot the herds of antelope.  They have light patches on their backs and side and can be easily seen, even when lying in the grass.

Trees begin to speckle the landscape as you get in the foothills; you can see beautiful log cabins perched on the side of the hills. Brad is very quiet; I hear the opening bars of Bonanza playing in my head. 

We get to enjoy the countryside for a long time before we have to say good bye.


The Tahoe has driven through eleven states and over five thousand miles and we have reached the western tip of our adventure; we turn right and head east.  We drive inland to Portland through the Siuslaw National Forest.  Another beautiful winding and heavily wooded byway.
Portland is a large, city surrounded by rivers.  Portlandia, a sculpture taken from the image on the state seal, sits looking over the city like a Greek goddess holding a trident.  

The old town and water front give hints to the river’s importance. Going over the old bridge and following the Columbia River takes you quickly into the awesome beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.    We have hit the first rainy patch of our adventure.  The light mist does not seem to faze the local residents and the fog frames the green of the surrounding landscape.   Mt. Hood is buried deep in the clouds.

There are many magnificent water falls as we wind along the river; green hillsides and bluffs line each side of this  mighty river.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oregon Coast

Driving along Highway 101 is almost indescribable. Through the tall dark cedars, you can see waves crashing into huge rock formations jutting out of the ocean from the narrow road that hangs on the edge of the sheer rock cliffs. 

For the entire length of the state, highway 101 hugs the coast and provides view after view after view. 

We have sun but the sea fog is never too far away.  Gold Beach is our stop for the night; the Chowder House our diner destination.

The southern coast, we are told, enjoy the benefits of the warm and dry Chinook winds.  Morning sun shine help us find these special treasures as we take a short walk on the beach before we head out this morning.

We continue up the coast through cute little fishing towns.  And just when you think that the ocean is the star of the show, the road winds around a crystal clear lake surrounded by towering pine trees.  

“…this land was made for you and me.”

The drive across the coastal mountain range of Northern California is like driving through a travel brochure. 

Beautiful forests and winding mountain roads follow along the picturesque Trinity River canyon; Mount Shasta watching off in the distance.  

The scenery intensifies as we near the coast and soon we are in the forests of Redwood National Park. A large heard of elk graze in the meadow just to the left of the road.  Large male elk can exceed 1000 pounds, their antlers spread wide.

Redwoods are the world’s tallest living trees, growing as tall as 380 feet from a seed as small as a tomato seed.  There are many hiking trails and really the only way to appreciate these trees is to get up close and personal with them.  

Some of these giants are more than 2,000 years old. Holy deck lumber, batman!

The national park stretches along the north coast of California.  The road winds along awesome sea cliffs and then back into thick forests. 

There are many state beaches and although not very busy today, I bet that they are packed during the summer months. 

Good bye California, you have been good to us.  We will never forget you.

My sister is the President of Paradise

Leaving the beautiful city of Paradise is bitter sweet.  This amazing little town has it all for the outdoor enthusiast, amazing hiking trails, gorgeous canyon views, miles and miles of flumes and tall pines everywhere.  And, oh yes, the most dedicated, hard-working town manager this side of the Mississippi. Ms. Lauren Gill is energetic and caring, tenacious and wise beyond her years.  You do not want to mess with that 90 lb billy goat. 

Paradise, we are leaving you in good hands.  Take care!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Mike by any other Name

Today we celebrate brother Mike’s birthday, (not to be confused with big Mike, who is married to Debbie or little Mike, who is really Michael).  This birthday boy is easy to recognize, he is the funny guy with the smile on his face, for you see, Mike is blessed with five sisters and their lovely families.  Mike loves and takes good care of his sisters. All this fun, feeds this funny man, no really, this guy should have his own stand-up gig. The funniest things come out of his mouth. 

I will admit that I did have just a small amount of anxiety about dropping in on the family, some I have only meet as an adolescent and some that I have never met.  Talk about unnecessary stress, this group is amazing.  It is so easy to be here, a real “familiar” feeling washes over as soon as we get in the same room. 

To avoid embarrassing myself, I will not rattle off who goes with who but had to share some fun photos are a few photos.

Too Much Fun

Life can be crazy at times but is so sweet when you stop to have fun.  There is nothing like uncontrollable laughter to free you of any worries and make the spirit light.  Such is the case here in Paradise. 

Bowling at the Tall Pines Bowling Alley.

Game night is always fun, especially if it is Mexican Train as shown in the photo below.  There is another game, where there is a little less brother love around the table. Dirty Rotten Hearts, this game is rated PG and is not for the faint of heart.

Then there is always a walk through Bille Park. 

In addition to being one of the most beautiful urban parks in America, this is home to Lee’s Bench. (crying as we smile)

Hiking is the name of the game here in the beautiful country surrounding Paradise and Flumes are where the trails are.  These amazing piece of architectural genius make for some of the most scenic treks. 

And no day is complete without a little love from Brad and his girls.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paradise in Paradise

The little city of Paradise, is a microcosm of Northern California.  From the tall pines that populate every neighborhood to the awesome canyon views that peak through every now and then and especially the town roads which wind through the trees as if great care was taken not to disturb the natural beauty that is everywhere. Bicycles and hikers and people walking dogs, the people of this community love the outdoors.  I just love this place.

Today we are hiking to the Head Dam on Feather River.  Do not misunderstand, this is not a walk, it is a hike.  We head down a gravel switchback for a fun day hike. This is absolutely beautiful, in just a couple minutes’ drive we are pure mountain magic.  In between the huge pines you can catch a glimpse of the valley below; a ranger station sits atop the razor peak on the other side.  Soon the forest sounds are pushed away as begin to hear the water running in the river below.  The weather is just perfect, bright sun and clear blue skies and that unmistakable clean cool mountain air.  I catch myself breathing a little hard and a little voice in the back of my head is saying something about “what goes down,…”, but more on that later.

Back and forth we wind and the sound of the water gets louder.  Along the road is the most beautiful green rock.  Serpentine, I am told, is the California state rock, Jade green with veins of black and gold. Soon we are able to see the river; there is a man-made dam with water spilling over the top.  We are happily surprised to see a flume along this trail. There have been many who have walked here before us including the Native American Indians and the first brave explorers and settlers.  Later the logging, mining and finally the hydro industries all made their mark.

The flume is like about 3-4 foot wide and deep; this one is U shaped and formed of concrete.  Just a small amount of water trickles in the bottom.   I am told that these are often full of rushing water and are calming company as you walk along the many trails.  They can provide an exciting way to float along the canyon bottom.  These flumes were constructed, many in the mid 1800’s by the lumber companies to efficiently transport logs to the mills.  Today they just move water and line many trails in the area.

The feather river runs along the bottom of this amazing canyon.  

The river bank is lined with huge serpentine boulders.  It is just beautiful.

We sit along the river, laughing and talking and enjoying the sounds of the water; the peace of the surrounding area, not realizing the hike we had ahead of us.

Not being a mountain climber or even in good shape, the hike back up took its toll. It sure did not seem that far as we walked down; let's just say it was harder going up than doing down and the rocks we packed up were probably not a good idea.  

Great souvenirs, great memories.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tahoe makes it to Tahoe.

Good morning, Adventure watchers!  You just never know what detours that life has in store for you.  A heavy marine layer has dulled our visit in Carmel but has afforded us another day to look around Central California for new places to discover.   A full tank of gas and a Subway sandwich give light to our new destination, Lake Tahoe; 136 miles, seems doable.

Sometimes the best plans are those that come up unexpectedly, so here we are in South Lake Tahoe, a cute little ski town on the south boarder of Lake Tahoe.   A late spring snow fall has left its mark on the peaks and in the woods and all around this beautiful lake.  Even at 6,000 feet, the air temperature is a lovely 67 degrees.  The sky is crystal clear; no fog here.

Here are some fun Lake Tahoe facts.  The lake is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide but average depth of the lake is 1000 feet, yes I said average.  The water clarity, although not the 100 feet it used to be is still a pristine 60 feet.  There is no doubt about it, this is one beautiful lake.

The lake is surrounded by gorgeous mountains.  Preferring hiking over skiing; we opt for the Eagle trail, the trail head, just beyond the Emerald Bay lookout.

It is a nice easy hike to the Vista and the falls; such a beautiful morning to be hiking.  

This has been such a nice surprise.  We have met many very nice people here on our short visit, even some who were originally from Minnesota before settling in this beautiful place.  Thank you Lake Tahoe, we will meet again.