More "SKI-ing across the pond on 4 wheels"

S-pending the K-ids I-nheritence whilst travelling around Canada and the US in a motorhome called haRVey.

Vancouver–Island and City July 9, 2012

We intended to spend several weeks exploring “the island” to end this, our final trip, of the current tour. Local people that we met told us how development on the island had boomed over recent years and we saw how built up the east side of the island has become. Where access to the coast is possible there seems to be a building – usually a house with private land. Having travelled through California and Oregon where access to the coast is easy and freely available to the traveller, the Island came as a bit of a disappointment. Nonetheless we were out exploring, often in the wind and rain.

Campbell River and around

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Around 160 miles north of Victoria we found an area that was more in line with our expectation. Campbell River is the last major town on the coast before Port Hardy, which is another 140 miles up the road.

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From the camp site we had a 180 degree view of the mountains on the mainland…… that is when the clouds lifted!

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Some spectacular sunsets and from time to time we saw the cruise ships making their way to travel through the Inside Passage.

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Another 50 miles north of Campbell River and we arrived at the southern end of Johnson Strait at Kelsey Bay. Compressed P1280066

This is the only access to the coast with a paved road. The small community still has a timber industry, some fishing boats and a shipyard that is slowly breaking WW2 cargo ships.

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At another access point we found Elk Bay, 12 miles each way along a rough gravel track…. which we had hired a 4×4 SUV to go along.

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At Gold River, the most northerly point on the east coast accessible by a paved road. From here it is boat, float plane or gravel road.

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With the wet weather the waterfalls were flowing well.

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Seymour Narrows is, at just under half a mile wide, the narrowest part of the Inside Passage; the protected waters between the island and the mainland that form the main shipping route between Washington State and Alaska. Notorious for the swirling currents and the underlying rocks where 119 ships had been lost narrows since 1875. Following several failed attempts to remove the major underwater obstruction (known as Ripple Rock), with peaks only 9ft below the surface, a successful project of 1958 increased the depth to 47 ft. It took 1400 tonnes of high explosive to remove 700,000 tonnes of rock in the worlds largest non nuclear explosion.

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There are still turbulent waters and whirlpools to that make navigation difficult and larger ships only pass through when the tides are changing

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Whirlpools of over 50ft across develop along the length of the narrows.

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Wood carvings overlook Quadra Island and the distant mainland mountains from the Rotary Park at Campbell River.

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At the camp site a pair of bald eagles regularly perched on top of a light beacon about 50 ft from our door and then went fishing on the beach when the tide was out.

A “For Sale” sign in our window attracted enquiries and within 2 days haRVey had new owners lined up.

The Marine Loop

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With a month remaining before we flew home we agreed a hand over date at the end of June with the buyers and set off to explore the south west. The Marine loop starts in Victoria, and follows the coast along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Renfrew (the inlet opposite Makah in Washington), north east to Lake Cowichan, then east to North Cowichan before returning to Victoria. The road from Port Renfrew was upgraded from a gravel logging road to a paved road 2 years ago.

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Heading back to Victoria we stopped off at Crofton, near North Cowichan. The small camp site on the waters edge provided an overnight stop.

A few nights in Victoria gave us a chance to explore the capital city of BC further.

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On an excellent free guided tour of the Legislature Buildings we found that the Province runs its government very much like the UK.

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Designed by a young British architect, F.M. Rattenbury and completed in 1898 we felt that the buildings rivalled the national government buildings in Ottawa. The judges of a competition to design the new buildings, believing that the submission was by a famous British Architect, named the winner only to find that the actual person who they had commissioned was his 25 years old nephew. There is more of his story at F.M. Rattenbury.

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The young Rattenbury went on to design the other landmark building in Victoria, the Empress Hotel.

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At French Beach Provincial Park a short walk from the campground gave access to a rocky beach.

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With the Olympic Peninsular in the distance we investigated the tidal area.

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A rustic campground on the beach near the mouth of the Jordan River gave us a stop over for a couple of nights.

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Looking south as the tide comes in.

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Early morning mists came in and remained for several hours… but no rain! We watched herons and otters fishing along the shore. This is more like we had hoped to find.

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At the mouth of the inlet to Port Renfrew are Botany Bay and Botanical Beach.

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Noted for their tide pools and rock outcrops they are protected as part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

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Back in Crofton and the rain arrived.

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Then it cleared – same place – different day!!

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The small harbour at Crofton.

Moving On

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After providing us the shelter and a home for 3 years and 9 months haRvey (692 JVW) was adopted by new owners, Roy and Judy, becoming haRVey (091 LTF). We cover 47, 000 miles together, visited 42 states in the US and 4 provinces in Canada. We hear that trips to Mexico and much more travelling in Canada maybe on the agenda.

For our final 10 days we are renting wheel-less accommodation near Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver.

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Coming into Howe Sound on a cold and wet June day.

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The mountains shrouded by clouds.

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A big lottery win and a house on the water front may just be within the budget….perhaps it would have to be a roll over. I found one that took my fancy at $15m (about £9m).

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Sailing in the mist.

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A few days later and the mountains look very different, well you can see them.

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False Creek in Vancouver.

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Vancouver skyline

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Lions Gate Bridge and Vancouver City from Cyprus Mountain.

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Ferry coming into Horseshoe Bay dock.

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Looking out from Horseshoe Bay.

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On the ferry – a day trip to Nanaimo, but that’s another story.


Running from the rain June 11, 2012

The rains in Oregon continued as we headed north. We reviewed the forecast for the coastal areas and found it was less rain, followed by more rain and then more rain. Our thoughts of staying on the coast seemed like a bad move so we decided to head inland, behind the shadow of the mountains, and find a bit of sun.

Columbia Gorge, OR

We headed inland south of Portland, had a couple of nights at Champoeg Historical Park, which is the “birthplace” of Oregon and continued to the Columbia Gorge.

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Carved out by massive flows of water during the last ice age when the ice dam, which created Glacial Lake Missoula, failed repeatedly the Columbia Gorge is the modern border between Oregon and Washington State. Cliffs along each side of the gorge rise to 1,000ft. We followed the historic Highway 30 where possible, a narrow two lane road which follows the contours of the cliffs.

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The gorge is famous for its waterfalls and a hike of around 5 miles allowed us to visit several of them including Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls and Triple Falls.

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At Ponytail Falls Part of the trail passes under the water where, if you look closely, you can see people on the path below the falls. With all the rain of recent weeks the falls had plenty of water in them.

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In places the new interstate (I84) follows the same route as Highway 30, In others the old road climbs part way up the slope giving views of the valley below.

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In some areas, such as the one above which is about 300ft above the river, the old road has been closed to traffic and now is a walking and cycling path.

Our ploy of heading east had paid off and we were rewarded with sunny, but windy days.

Where are we now?

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It looks just like Stonehenge! In fact it is a full size replica of Stonehenge, not as you might expect near the original in England, Compressed P1270502

but high up on the northern cliffs of Columbia Valley in Washington State, with a snow covered Mount Hood in the distance.

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Behind the keystone can be seen wind turbines, more of which are dotted around the surrounding hills.

Why? It was built as a WW1 War Memorial and was intended to symbolise the sacrifice of young men in war, and reflect the sacrifices that were once thought to be associated with Stonehenge. More recent thinking is that Stonehenge was used to track seasons and a plaque at the site shows how it might have been used.

Washington State

Although not well known in the UK, wines from the Columbia Valley of Washington have gained quiet a reputation in recent years, so we had to do the wine thing again. This time in the Rattlesnake Hills where the vines grow with snow covered mountains of the Cascade range in the distance.

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Having taken shelter and found some “not-rain” it was time to start heading back towards the coast. On the east side of the Cascades is the “Bavarian town” of Leavenworth. They were holding their Maifest and we decided to be tourists for the day.

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A Street parade with marching bands and horse drawn wine wagons, Traditional Bavarian Yodelling (I had always thought that was Swiss!), and pole dancing filled the afternoon. Just to clarify; the pole dancing was around the May pole, whatever else did you think?

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We thought that it must have been so many of the towns people with German ancestry that had give rise to this rather unusual town in the mountains. A little research revealed the truth. In the 1960s the railroad had moved from the town (due to frequent rock falls on the line) and the lumber industry had moved out. One restaurant adopted a Bavarian theme and modified the buildings in keeping. After some success the town adopted the theme as a revival plan and now any new business has to comply with the “Bavarian” building codes. Even McDonald and Subway are in keeping including the signage which has been modified to suit. So in reality a totally manufactured appearance, carried out with a fair degree of style and overall not excessively brash.

Crossing the Cascades

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There are not many made up roads across the Cascades. We followed Highway 2, which crosses at Stevens Pass at 4,061ft high. The roads were completely clear as we had expected  but we were surprised to see snow banked up 3 or 4ft high along the side of the road in places.

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With the snow melting in the warm weather we followed the Wenatchee River, with water tumbling over rocks and gushing through narrows as we approached the pass, then the road ran along side the much wider Skyhomish River on our decent where gentle rapids reflected the bright blue sky.

Boeing Factory Tour

This was the third time we have been in the area of the Boeing Aircraft Factory at Everett, north of Seattle and each time I have said that I would like to visit. Photography is not allowed inside the factory so a couple of external pictures and some display materials with words are all I can offer.

Boeing was established in Seattle May 1917 by founder William Boeing. We were told that there are 39,000 employees on the site that covers just over 1,000 acres. Manufacturing runs 3 shifts per day and 5 days per week.

Factory at Everett built specifically for manufacture of 747 “Jumbo Jet” and is recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest building in the world on a volume basis. Extensions have been added for 777 and 787.


A 747 takes 4 months to build in conventional static workstation process. Current production output is 1.5 planes per month. The latest version of the 747 is known as 747-8 and incorporates some composite parts based on development of the 787. There are over 3 million rivets in a 747 and we watch some of them being fitted and finished using hand tools.

The 777 line is a moving line process with carriers moving along the line at 1.5”/minute. Boeing completed the 1,000th 777 earlier this year.

The 787, also known as the “Dreamliner”, includes composite (carbon fibre/resin) parts which are made in several locations worldwide and shipped to the Everett site for assembly in one of 4 modified 747 freight aircraft known as “Dreamlifter”.P1270602P1270598

The process is workstation based and the plane is moved through 5 stations from initial assembly of major airframe components to finished aircraft. Output is 7 aircraft per month with a further 3 per month produced at a plant in South Carolina.

Boeing claim that the change to composite construction results in better passenger comfort due to higher humidity levels, increased cabin pressure, larger windows and wider seats. Note the lack of rivets compared to the conventional (green) metal structure below.


Juan de Fuca Strait

This narrow channel separates Vancouver Island from the Olympic Peninsula in west Washington and is the main access to Puget Sound. To get to our Ferry crossing point between Port Angeles and Victoria we first had to cross Deception Pass, a narrow channel between the mainland and Whidbey Island.

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One of the two bridges over the pass where waters swirl below.

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An overnight stop at Fort Casey, alongside the ferry dock gave us a chance to explore the area.

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Built in the late 1800s the fort was intended to protect the naval harbours in Puget Sound from attack by ships. Within years it was obsolete due to the development of aircraft which could easily by-pass the heavily armed fort.

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Across the Strait to Port Townsend, again defence location for Puget Sound, that now attracts visitors for its arts and boating activities. A short drive along the coast takes us to Port Angeles and once aboard the Ferry we settle to watch for whales and dolphins that often accompany the ship on its crossing.

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No wildlife this time but a pleasant crossing with a stiff breeze certainly cleared any cobwebs that may have been present.

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The Government buildings in Victoria, capital city of BC, overlook the busy harbour. P1270712-001

View from our campsite which was 2 miles from the centre which was accessed via a waters edge walkway for almost the full distance. Throughout the day the bay was busy with floatplanes and ferry boats coming and going.

Vancouver Island

Our Friends from Las Vegas, George and Aggie, had arranged to visit and meet up with us for a week on the island. They were staying at a resort near Parksville and we booked into a site there also. Elaine has posted many of our exploits (see, but here is a summary of the high lights:-

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Crossing the island to the Pacific Rim National Park took us past still lakes under blue skies (this was the best day of the week though!!).

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At Ucluelet a walk along the cliffs gave spectacular views along the coast.

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Even on a very calm day there was a substantial swell and plenty of surf.

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Rocky outcrops and small bays at every turn along the 2.5 mile pathway.

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Along the coast and in the park a total uncommercialised beach stretches for over 10 miles. This is one of several protected beaches in the park.

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An afternoon visit to Milner Gardens was finished by English style afternoon tea and scones in the tea room.

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Out paddling on a kayak with Aggie in the small bay by their resort. We had the company of several seals who popped up to watch us and them quietly slipped below the waters. At one stage we had 4 seals for company.

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In the shallows we watched little fish and saw purple and pink starfish.

As George and Aggie returned to Las Vegas we continued our travels on the island and into another month.

Little asides

Until the 1850s Oregon, like much of Canada, was a “Territory” operated by the Hudson Bay Trading Company from England. Fur trapping was the main business and the trappers along with a small number of farmers were the only European people. When wagon trains headed from the eastern states the trappers and farmers decided that they needed to form a government before the newcomers arrived and set up there own. This decision was agreed at Champoeg, now pronounced as Shampoo-ee, ironically the site of native Indian settlements before Europeans arrived.

The Boeing Price list may be of interest. Prices do not include engines which can add up to $20m per engine and don’t forget the spares.

The additional pigment of dark coloured paints on an airliner can add 200-300kg to the aircraft weight.


Central coast, stopping at points north, east and west May 2, 2012

A month in California soon passes. The State is so big and varied that time flies by.  Our travels take us through the central coast, across to Yosemite, north along the gold trail, up to Lake Tahoe then back to the coast via the Napa/Sonoma wine areas to continue along the coast before passing through the Redwoods and into Oregon.

Highway 1 on the Central Coast

Starting our second month in California on the Central Coast we travelled north up Highway1.

San Simeon

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North of Morro Bay the beach near San Simeon is famous for the Elephant Seals which visit and are present to some extent each year.

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At this time of year the large males have all left for their vacation in the waters around Alaska. The females and pups laze in the sun for a further couple of months. Most of these are 8-10ft long.

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They are busy sheading their winter fur before they head out to sea to chase fish and build up their blubber supplies.

Highway 1 closely follows the coast for the next 90 miles or so with no significant development. At times the road is little more than 20ft above the water.

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It then climbs give to give spectacular views along the coast.

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In places it is 700ft above the water.

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Waves roll into bays that have been eroded over thousands of years.

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Hard granite outcrops withstand the weathering creating small islands just off shore.

Plaskett Creek

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A Forestry Service campground in this Creek gives access to the cliffs and steps down to the beach.

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Apart from the Pacific being very cold water the rolling waves mean that only the hardy (or surfers in wet suits) venture any distance. These are certainly not the beaches we find around Whitley Bay.

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We were content to keep our feet dry, walk the cliffs and dry bits of beach admiring the views.

Big Sur

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With the road hugging the rocks part way up the cliffs it is subject to landslides and every year parts of it are rebuilt or completely replaced.

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At Plaskett Creek we found out that the road north was closed until 9am the following morning. When we arrived it had been open for a short while at 7am and was closed until “at least 4pm” while the road repair crews were blasting their way through a rock slide. We met a young couple on holiday from England and chatted with them. The road eventually opened at 4:30pm and we were waved through, noticing that every few feet there were workers anxiously watching the rocks above the road for any signs of movement.

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Bridge carries the road over a creek as we head north.

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After a overnight stop at Big Sur State Park and 90 miles of remote coast we arrive at Carmel.


Streets in the town of Carmel are far too small for us to drive in. We took a tour of 17 mile drive around the Peninsular. A world class golf course sits right on the ocean.

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Whilst the bright blue-green sea explodes over the rocky shoreline.


We had hoped to visit Yosemite but earlier in the year, when we had checked conditions, it seemed like the weather would stop us. Some roads are only open May to October and tyre chain rules are imposed if it snows. There is a $10,000 fine for not carrying chains when they are required. We don’t have chains and would not want to drive our 36ft long “home on wheels” in snow even if we did!

With the valley roads clear and no rain forecast for 10 days we decided to go for it and headed 200 miles across the state from coast to the mountains.

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Formed by glacial action, the same as the English Lake District, the mountains along Yosemite Valley rise 3,000ft above the valley floor in places.

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Along the huge “U” shaped valley are several high waterfalls, one of the features the park is famous for.

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El Capitain peak is one of the highest and has challenged rock climbers for over a century.

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Another of the waterfalls……

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…..and then another.

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Access to the park on the second day was through this arch over the road at 14ft high and 10ft wide there was plenty of room; it just felt very tight for us to pass through with 9” of clearance each side!

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Heading higher in the park we found some snow along the sides of the road but nothing of concern.

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Even higher in the hills waterfalls tumbled down over the rocks to the valley floor below.

Perhaps we were unable to visit some of the more spectacular parts of the park but this was an opportunity we had not expected and we consider it a bonus to have been able to get in and see what we did.

Sierra Nevada Foothills

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The Sierra Nevada range stands between central California and Nevada with peaks up to 9,000ft. Highway 49 runs along the line of the foothills at around 2,000ft from just south of Yosemite and is the old route linking the old gold mining towns of the California gold rush of 1849.

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The old town of Columbia stood intact; almost a ghost town, until 1937 when the State bought up the land and preserved the buildings. It is open to the public, admission is free and it appears to be funded by commercial businesses offering gold panning, stage coach rides and assorted catering.


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For most of our journey up Highway 49 the rain was with us.

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The valleys run east-west and the road north–south, so it was constantly climbing over ridges and dropping into valleys with twists and turns on the steep slopes. Our average speed dropped to about 30mph and fuel consumption went from our typical 8mpg down to 6mpg.

The first gold prospectors simply panned for gold in streams and rivers. Later, as gold became more difficult to find by this method, mining gold bearing granite seams was more widely adopted.

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One of most successful operations was the Empire Mine which started in 1850, and continued until 1956, when it was closed by a strike by miners. It is now preserved as a State park.

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Miners chased the gold seams for miles underground and this mine alone had 367 miles of tunnels, some going 11,000ft (2 miles) deep. The model shown above is the scale model used by the mine managers and was a closely guarded secret for most of the mines’ life. Each of the thinner wires represents a tunnel with the black and white wires being connecting tunnels. All this done by dead reckoning and slide rules!

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Looking down the inclined shaft into the mine which is now flooded a few hundred feet below the surface. 167 tonnes of gold were extracted from the mine and more remains in the ground but is no longer economical to extract.

Lake Tahoe

A contact Elaine had made on the internet had taken us to Empire Mine and we had arranged a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe with them. At an elevation of 6,225ft it is the second deepest lake in the US and is on the border of California and Nevada.

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Rain over the south end of the lake greeted us, but had cleared by late afternoon.

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Next morning only a few clouds over the mountains remained.

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Emerald Bay on the California side.

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Water from melting snow keeps the lake topped up.

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The only outlet is the Truckee River which eventually drains into the Nevada desert. It never reaches the ocean.



Our route back to the coast north of San Francisco took us into the Napa area.


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We followed the road along the Sonoma Valley

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For miles vines lined the fields to the side of the road.

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We watched early morning balloon riders whilst having breakfast one morning.


Highway 1 on the North Coast

We re-joined Highway 1 just south of Bodega Bay.

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The tide was out on the sunny afternoon when we arrived.


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A evening stroll to the Marina was accompanied by a cool breeze.

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Next morning it all looked so different with only a couple for fishermen out in the bay digging for bait.

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By late morning the mist had lifted and boats were moving in the bay.

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Next morning we headed north with fog obscuring the coast much of the way, however, by early afternoon we had reached Gualala  and managed to get a walk along the beach and cliff tops before the mist rolled in.

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The mist lifted for less than 2 hours the whole day. High temperatures inland cause air to be drawn over the cold water cooling it and when it meets the warmer air at the coast the mists form.

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Next day was clearer as we reached Mendocino.

The road leads inland, joining Highway 101 and passes through the Redwood forest where these huge trees tower each side of the road and cover the hill sides.

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Unfortunately photos can capture neither the size of individual trees or the extent of the forests adequately. Many of the trees are 6-8 ft in diameter, and probably 200ft plus (but you can’t see the tops). Local information claims that some of the trees are well over 300ft tall and they can live for over 2,000 years.

Our last stop in California was at Patricks Point where we walked the coastal rim path and saw as well as heard the sea lions barking on the rocks 200ft below.

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This granite outcrop, known as Wedding Rock, is a popular place for couples to get married.

South Oregon

First stop was Brookings where it rained a lot, but we were able to watch several whales pass near the shore from our beachside campsite.

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Next stop was Humbug Mountain which at 1765ft is the highest point on the south coast. From half way up there were good views along the coast but from the peak the views were obscured by trees. Looking back at the Humbug it does not look so big. It was a 3 hour and 6 mile walk to the peak.

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Further up the coast at Washburn, where sea mists roll ashore, and the beach stretches for 5 miles.

Little Asides

Miners from Cornish tin mines were in great demand in the California gold mines due to their expertise in hard rock (granite) mining  conditions. By 1890 85% of the residents in Grass valley, where the Empire mine is located, were reportedly Cornish. As well as there skill they bought knowledge of the latest mining equipment and techniques including the “Cornish Pump”, used to clear water from the mines and remaining in use until 1930.

Bodega Bay is where the Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed.

Oregon coast is public highway…….???








2013 GT-R Experience April 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — roadvoyagers @ 2:41 am

Sometimes things just happen. Sitting quietly eating breakfast when Brrrrrrrm at GT-R goes past on the nearby park road that leads to Laguna Seca Raceway. It’s 7:15 am, a couple of minutes later 2 more, then 2 more. Ummmm! there something going on here. After 20 we gave up counting…..

We had things lined up for the day and when we returned to the campsite the sound of racing was loud and clear.

A 2 minute stroll later…….


A walk down to the Paddock about half a mile from where we were camping and I found a tent.


Shortly after I was talking to Mike Disser, one of the promotions managers for Nissan in the US. We had stumbled across one of the launch events for the 2013 GT-R, lighter and faster than the 2012. 530 bhp, 0-60mph in 2.7seconds, no that’s not a typo two point seven is correct, and top speed limited to 197mph for the US.


With 12 works cars and 30 owners it was GT-R here, there and everywhere! Next day there were 39 owner cars.


Out on the track existing owners and members of the press were given a chance to try the new model and tips on driving by the Pro drivers based at the track.


370Z were being used as pace cars and whilst they screeched around the bends the GT-R, going just as fast, took the same bends with ease.


One of the tracks features is “the corkscrew”. Over the brow of a hill, left and the road drops 35ft within 90ft of track.


Then sharp right and down again. In total it drops the height of a 5 storey building with 2 tight bends to add interest.


Driving the cars was by invitation only and the qualifying ticket was owning an older GT-R! Mike however kindly arranged for me to take a hot lap with one of the Pro drivers. The silly grin says it all.



We travel without having a detailed plan, exploring as we go and sometimes things just seem to come and find us.



Filed under: Uncategorized — roadvoyagers @ 1:25 am

Our travels in March take us to the coast south of LA then north and west to the Central Coast. This gave us the opportunity to drive more of Highway 1 (the old coast road) and visit the areas north and south of LA although we had decided to avoid the City itself and its’ commercial tourist traps. We took a road travelled by fewer particularly at this time of year.

Bernardo Winery, San Diego

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March started as February had ended in a vineyard. This one north of San Diego claims to be the oldest in Southern California, having started in 1889. It survived through the prohibition years by making sacramental wine for the Catholic Church and selling grape juice (which fermented with natural yeasts quite readily during a few weeks storage!).

Rancho Guajome

A short distance from Oceanside on the coast south of LA  this rancho was one of the original Mexican land grants. Members of the founding family had lived in the ranch until 1972 and in more recent years it has been restored to its 1870s condition. Compressed P1250124











The owner had an interesting way of securing labour, he would visit the local jail and bail out prisoners who then had to work for him to pay off the bail money. In terms of labour relations, there was no negotiation; when one of his overseers criticised him in public he shot and killed him claiming that his own life was being put at risk.








Doheney Beach

Still on the south side of LA we spent a night at Doheney Beach State Park, just north of San Clemente, with huge flocks of birds nearby.

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Drive through LA

Going through downtown LA was never an option. We headed north along I405 which at times was 8 lanes in each direction.

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On the way we spotted the Good Year Tyre airship, in the distance we also saw the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign which was much too far away to capture in camera….. but you will have seen it many times before.

Carpinteria State Beach

Sixty miles west of LA and the pace had changed completely. Compressed P1250188Compressed P1250200

An evening stroll on the beach was shared with fishermen on the tidal fringe.

El Capitan State Beach

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Further still and beaches were almost deserted through the week, although come the holiday session it will be a very different picture.

Refugio State Beach

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When times were difficult at the ranch at Refugio, pirates were sometimes entertained. With the tide out there it was possible to walk  miles along the beach.

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The state park campground amongst palms.

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Beach to the west of the campsite.

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Where the rocks meet the ocean.

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The evening view, idyllic maybe but with storms forecast we headed inland to find a shelter.

Lopez Lake

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About 10 miles inland from Pismo Beach Lake Lopez is one of the reservoirs in the coastal mountains.

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Hikes rise to an elevation of 700ft above the lake and the ocean can just be glimpsed in the distance.

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At this time of year it was very quiet. With over 300 campsites and a large marina we felt the summer months would be a very different experience.

Morro Bay area

A few nights at El Chorro gave us a chance to visit San Luis Obispo (SLO) Thursday night street market; a friendly social gathering with market stalls and people just strolling.

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A string of seven volcanic plugs run from the coast at Morro Bay to SLO. Three are shown above.

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Perhaps the most well known is the one at Morro Bay.

Paso Robles

As the end of the month approached we needed to get a bit of maintenance work done and knew that Paso Robles would be a good location for this. It is also a major wine making area, specialising in Zinfandel, so we decided to take a visit to a few winemakers between getting jobs done.

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Norman Wines…………was followed by……………………………………..Rio Seco………followed by…………

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Tobin James Cellars………..outside and ……………………………………the tasting room………


and finally  Stacked Stones Cellars, deep in a valley just to the west of Paso Robles.

We did five tastings, sipped and slurped (but did not spit) around 35 different wines and added 9 bottles to our stash. After a week we needed to take a break and would be heading for the coast again; but more of that next month.


Until 1848 California was part of Mexico (itself part of the Spanish Empire) and considered not to have much potential for development. The Spanish decide to build Missions to develop trade with the Native Americans and spread the catholic religion. Modern California is the most populated State with over 36 million people.

Carpinteria gets its name from the Native American carpenters who built boats in the area. They chose this area because of the availability of tar, which seeps from the Ocean floor, to seal the boats. Today several oil rigs are within sight of the land and extract the oil deposits from the shallow coastal waters.

Wine making in the Paso Robles area only started towards the end of the 1970s. Today there are 280 – 300 properties growing grapes and we were told that over 60% of these graphs are shipped 200+ miles north to be used in Napa Valley wines.



Days in the desert March 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — roadvoyagers @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , ,

After the “mild excesses” of the Christmas season back home in the UK some serious calorie burning was required. Back in Arizona, with daily temperatures around 20 deg C, we put on our boots and tightened our belts (not difficult) and set off to do a few miles of hiking in several of the parks that surround Phoenix and the nearby areas.

Estrella Mountains Regional Park

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Our first walk was 4.5 miles mainly on the level with an up and over climb at the end.

Cave Creek

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We met up with blog friends Sue and Paul for another easy hike of 5.4 miles, out and around the lower part of the mountains.

Usery Mountain – Cat Peaks

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A 5 mile stroll took us out to the Cat Peaks, over Cat Pass between the peaks and back to our campsite. Starting at 2,000 ft we went downhill about 200ft, out to the pass with an elevation of 2,000ft, then back down to 1,800 ft with a climb back to 2,000ft at the campsite. Not the usual profile for a hike!!

Usery Mountain – Wind Cave

Noted in the guide as one of the most popular hikes in the park, we found plenty of company along this trail which we did with Sue and Paul.

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The cave is in the shadow slightly right and above the centre of the first picture and fairly central in the second.

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Apart from one section along the ledge the walk was fairly easy and there were plenty of stops to allow other people to pass.

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Elaine with plenty of other people in the main cave.

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Just around the corner Paul found a smaller cave which was unoccupied and served as a lunch spot. I named the cave “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” which seemed quite apt.

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View from the Restaurant.

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Back at camp we were treated to a desert sunset.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Nestled in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains the park is a few miles north of Apache Junction and on the edge of the Tonto National Forest. Named after a “lost” gold mine there has been speculation for over 100 years over where the mine is located.

Pioneer Trail

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The trail runs along near the foot of a 500ft almost shear cliff.

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Taking it easy at the first bench along the route – no need to hurry  – we have all day.

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A cloudy day, after all this is the winter – Arizona Style!!

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Top of this trail, all downhill from here.

Syphon Draw Trail

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Standing alone just to the right of centre is “The Flatiron”. The trail leads first to the “The Basin” behind the rocks in the foreground and requires a scramble up slick rock for the last 500ft or so. We decided to keep the Flatiron for another day and headed back.

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Dark staining on the wall shows where water flows when it rains. The “Basin” at the bottom was an algae filled puddle about 6ft by 4ft and buzzing with bees when we visited. Although in a desert when it rains here it rains heavy and the water erosion was clear to see in this upper mountain valley.

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The view out across the desert north of Apache Junction.

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Path up to the Basin.

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Path from the Basin up to the Flatiron.

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Evening brings another colourful sunset.

Apache Trail

North of Lost Dutchman is the Apache Trail. Following the summer/winter migration routes of the Apache Indians this road was improved to allow mule drawn wagons to deliver supplies to build the Roosevelt Dam site between 1903 and 1905.

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The 38 mile gravel track leads out through the mountains giving many spectacular views. Paul and Sue invited us to join them for the day when they were driving the trail in their truck.

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With 1:10 gradients at Fish Creek, single lane width road, washboard ruts and rock overhangs this is definitely not a road to travel in a motorhome.


Along the way we passed the 17 mile long Apache Lake.

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Stopping off at Tortilla Flats we had a coffee in the bar where the bar stools are saddles – think my horse was going backwards. When I suggested that coffee may be free for English visitors the lady serving pulled her gun and shot for the belly. A perfect hit on both Paul and me as she quipped “no, but the water is!”.

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Winding out further into the hills the trail ends at the dam.

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The original dam was built from blocks of stone cut locally and hoisted into place. It was replaced by a concrete dam, 77ft higher in the 1990s to accommodate the higher estimated flood levels calculated at that time.

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High above the modern lake is Tonto National Monument, one of the many cliff dwellings in the south west. Thought to have been abandoned in 1450s and protected by the cliff overhang the structure remains largely intact. Water came from a spring on the hillside a couple of hundred feet below the dwelling, which now supplies water to the National Park buildings.

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The volunteer at the ruins explained that evidence from the midden showed that the diet of the people changed to mainly corn from the earlier more varied diet that included rabbit and squash. Life expectancy also declined from 45 years to around 35 years. Where they went and exactly why is unknown.

Picacho Peak State Park

Between Casa Grande and Tucson, south east of Phoenix is a distinctive lump of rock – Picacho Peak. Picacho Pass below the peak is notable as the site of a civil war skirmish on April, 15 1862 and the hike that leads to the peak.

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We decided to take the easier but longer route south around the base of the mountain.

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Below the peak the path became steeper.

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Then steeper again with steel cables provided to assist the climb in several places.

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Looking west from the summit at 3358ft

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To the south east……..

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and to the south west.

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Looking back along the trail with the peaks about 1,300 ft above. Having clocked up 40 miles on foot in the past 2 weeks we were quite pleased and feel we are regaining some of our fitness.

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From the road Picacho Peak, in the middle, looks quite impressive and gives some idea of the climb (from left to right on the photo).

Catalina State Park

Our next stop was 12 mile north of Tucson at this park on the edge of the Coronado National Forest.

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Rising to 3,600 ft initially at Romero Pools, the path climbs to Romero Pass at 6,000ft before leading to Mt. Lemmon at 8,600ft. We decided the 6 miles round trip to the Pools would suit us.

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The path along the side of the mountain and the pools in small valley. There was plenty of water and it had been topped up by a brief snow storm that had caught us out walking the previous day. Snow falls in this area about once every 5 years so we were “lucky” to have seen it……. although we didn’t think it was so lucky…. it was very cold!!

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The trail ahead lead upwards; we turned back.

Quartzsite, Arizona

Early each year tens of thousands of RVs congregate in the patch of desert around the usually small town of Quartzite in western Arizona. What started around 40 years ago as a mineral and gemstone show has grown into a piece of RV culture with a million visitors to the RV, and gemstone shows plus the numerous flea market stalls.


Many visitors just gather for the social event of camping out in the desert with friends and groups of RVs are spread across the landscape.


We arranged to meet up with friend Paul and Sue again “in the desert” for a couple of nights about 3 weeks after the main events. They have been here before, knew the ropes, and sent us a location map from Google earth. We found them without any problem and shared lazy days, several glasses of wine and a couple of sunsets “roughing it” in the boonies

Joshua Tree National Park, CA


This National Park in South eastern California is 70 miles by 20 miles of wilderness. Now known for its Joshua Trees it was at one time home to thirty or so gold mines, although only one of them produced any quantity of gold.


The park also has huge stacked boulder formations which are granite uplifted by volcanic action 100 million years and then cracks being enlarged by ground water until the boulders were eventually revealed when the overlying ground had been eroded away. I am standing in the bottom of the second picture to give some idea of the scale.

Riverside, CA

Home of the California orange industry. The first two naval orange trees were planted in 1873, previously oranges had been grown on a small scale around the missions, but this new type of orange became the standard for commercial production.


This State Park has a collection of over 85 varieties of citrus fruit and we attended a tasting day to sample a few of them.


Grounds laid out with orange groves and palm tress.


Commercial growers in the area around the park.


The citrus industry bought wealth to Riverside and in 1876 the Mission Inn started as a 12 room boarding house, and growing to a 238 bedroom Inn by the 1930s and became a popular holiday resort for the rich and famous. In later years Palm Springs became the favoured location, however, Riverside still has many grand houses dating back to the second “gold” rush.

Fender Visit

Our trip to the Fender guitar factory is the subject of a separate post Fender visit

Falkner Winery

Late last year we came across Harvest Hosts, an organisation that runs a directory of vineyard and famers who offer a place to park your RV overnight. This gives an opportunity to sample their offerings and not having to drive to your site for the night.P1250051

Falkner winery was our first experience of the system.


The wine was good, the views were exceptional and as an added bonus we saw two hot air balloons flying over the vines the following morning, one of which is shown below.


By the end of the month we had hiked 70 miles and felt we had earned a little treat.

Little Asides

Much of the Apache Trail was built by local Apache Indian labour using horse drawn scrapers.

Reference to the British as “limeys” originates to the mid-1700s when their Navy ships carried barrels of limes to supply juice and protect the crew from the effects of scurvy. Limes were more abundant in the British Caribbean Colonies than lemons which were later used due to their high vitamin C content.

Whilst at Quartzsite we came across “The Brits Rally”. A group of about 50 British RV travellers meet up around Valentines Day south of the town. Much to the bewilderment of the nearby American groups they had indulged in an afternoon of cricket (no mean feat in the rocky desert) and Well Winging competition. We exchanged greetings, had a bit of a chat and moved on……….


Fender February 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — roadvoyagers @ 1:28 am

Along with Gibson of Tennessee, Fender instruments have been  played by almost every famous and not so famous guitarists for the last 50 years. Clarence “Leo” Fender ran a radio and electrical repair business in Fullerton about 30 miles east of LA. His work fixing amplifiers lead to him making improvements and eventually building them to his own designs. By 1950 he had designed the first commercially available solid body electric guitar which would later become known as the Telecaster. In 1952 the first electric bass guitar, the Fender Precision Bass was offered and this was followed by the Stratocaster in 1954. These models in various guises remain popular today.

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Still based in the same area east of LA, Fender opened a visitor centre, next door to the Corona factory, in late 2011.

Visitor Centre

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Displays of artists and the instruments they played fill the walls of the main hall.

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In a second hall examples of instruments made by several other brands (including Gretch and Guild) now all owned by Fender, are displayed.

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Another of the Fender brands, Jackson, offer highly stylised and custom art work designs that are also made in the factory. In a typical year only 5 Jackson twin necks and 2 Fender twin necks are made and they are rather expensive.

Behind glass doors are some of the most unique guitars that have been built.

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A gold plated Stratocaster, and chrome Telecaster sat alongside this highly decorated Tele. Many of the instruments on display are available to buy but not these.

Factory Tour

Production is 500 guitars per day with most of the factory working a single shift. Fender and Jackson guitars are produced. The “Fender American Standard” range of guitars are made here whilst the “Fender Standard” range made is made 4 hours drive south in Mexico. Other ranges are made in Japan and China.

Wood Mill – Body shaping

Ash and Alder wood blanks are rough shaped with band saws and body cavities cut by automatic milling machines.Compressed IMG_0256Compressed IMG_0267

3 pieces of grain matched wood are glued to make the blank.                                               Rough cut bodies.

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Each body is sanded to shape on a rotary sander. The abrasive is mounted on a pneumatic bladder and the pressure adjusted depending on the model being worked. Hard for the straight edges on a “Tele” and softer for the more rounded contours of a “Strat”

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Wood Mill – Necks

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All necks are made from hard North–west sourced Pacific Maple.

Prior to shaping on other milling machines the necks have a truss cavity cut in the back, the truss rod fitted and a closing plug inserted. Rosewood fingerboards are fitted at this stage also, all maple necks are a single piece of wood.

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Samples of the different neck styles lined up on the workshop wall.

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Inlay dots are individually hand glued and pressed into the neck.

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Grooves for frets are cut on a machine designed in the 1950s. The fret cutting circular saw blades are spaced at the correct intervals on a spindle and a jig holding the neck moves it past the blades.

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Fret wires are lightly tapped into place with a small hammer then pressed home with a simple hand press and with a shaped head.

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Necks with frets awaiting trimming.


Factory Tours do not go into the paint facility due to contamination concerns, however, a short video explained the process.

The wood is sealed with “WSL”?? undercoat, one or more colour coats are applied. The classic sunburst being a yellow-brown with red applied over the surround and black to the perimeter. Colours are manually spray applied against the standard design followed by 5 coats of PU clearcoat. The first 3 coats are sanded after each coat to remove orange peel. The bodies are held for 8 hours at 80 deg F after which they transfer to a store in the factory roof for the paint to cure for up to 2 weeks.

Maple fingerboards also have a “lacquer” finish applied (originally to keep the light wood clean) but this process was not explained

Assembly and finishing

Fully cured painted bodies are buffed to a high gloss prior to being matched to necks and having their electrical parts fitted. Pick-up are hand made on site as are most metal fittings and scratch plates. Final assembly appeared to be done by teams of 4 people, 3 putting parts together and the 4th setting up the instrument. Four of these teams worked in a block and each block had an inspector who checked every guitar for correct specification, finish and set-up. Although only a handful of guitar styles are made here there are over 300 model variants.

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Racks of finished Jackson Guitars and our guide, Dave, caught in a pose he may regret!!


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The factory also manufactures valve amplifiers. Electronics are built up and assembled into ready finished cabinets that are supplied from Mexico.

Custom Shop

A range of “Custom Guitars” are  built in the Custom Shop. These instruments are hand built by a team working in a separate shop as replicas of some of the custom models or to classic specifications that Fender have produced over the years. If you want a 1972 Strat with all the original features and fittings this is where it would come from and it would cost considerably more than the modern equivalent. Whilst many of the parts are the same as those used in the main factory the wood is finished with a thin film lacquer similar to the type used in the earlier guitars and electrics are of the relevant period. They also produce the “roadworn” instruments here where they take a perfectly good shining example of the instrument and “distress” the finish to give it the appearance of one that has seem many years of hard touring on the road – and charge a lot extra for it. Well no accounting for taste or lack of it. The Custom Shop is a “No Photo” area, so there are none to share here.

Master Builders

Tucked away in a corner of the Custom Shop in their own cubicles are the Master builders. This small group make individual instruments and parts.

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Abigail Ybarra and her apprentice hand wind pick-ups. She started very early in the company life, worked with Leo Fender and has been winding pick-ups for 50 years.

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One off designs are built by the Master Builders.

The tour is supposed to last 45-60 minutes. Ours was 80 minutes and in that time Dave gave a non stop commentary which could have easily filled a 2 hour tour.

The American Design Experience

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Select a neck from the rack then pick the body style and colour – these have your name put on them and will be used to make your guitar. You also get a special engraved neck plate.

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Next choose your electrics package and scratch plate. Two weeks later you can collect your creation or have it put in the mail.

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A selection of combinations to inspire.

Having a twiddle

A wide range of instruments are available for visitors to pick up and play along with examples of most of the amplifiers.

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My favourites for the day were a $3,300 Jackson in the style of a Strat and an American Standard fretless Jazz bass at $1,700.

Now where did that lottery ticket go??