October 30, 2013

California Road Trip: Part 3

(Can you make out the A-frame house on the top of the mountain?)

On our way out to Bodie and leaving from Bodie, we meandered through some stunning parts of Nevada and California.  For some reason, I always imagined Nevada as a flat desert with no trees.  Well, that may be true in part of it, but in the South Lake Tahoe region, it is stunningly beautiful.

We decided to take the long way around to Bodie because, well, we had no set schedule and the road was calling our name.  This ended up being some of the most stunning, awe-inspiring land that I have ever seen in the lower 48 (Alaska still wins for best rugged wilderness).

We spent the night in Bishop, which is this town that just seems to appear out of nowhere in the valley of high peaks.  It was rather glorious to see street lights and civilization when you are hungry.  We found a delicious local burger place with a super yummy coconut/chocolate milkshake that was the perfect way to end the day.  And our motel used giant rosemary bushes as their landscaping decor.

When we left Bishop the next morning, I got excited because we were headed to the ocean.  And as much as I truly enjoyed every second of the mountains and was in awe of their beauty, I have salt water in my veins.  The ocean is my favorite.

We decided to make a pit stop at Mt. Whitney which is the highest peak in the lower 48 and a big spot for climbers and backpackers.  It was like driving straight up the side of the mountain to get to the highest parking lot (in the CLOSED National Park area).  We saw several people up there, ignoring the closed signs and hiking anyway.  It was so beautiful, that far away peak.
Then one last stop at the Trail of 100 Giants, which was my first introduction to the larger than life Sequoias.  Talk about feeling small...but more on that at another time.  The rest of the drive was spent on curvy roads through mountain ranches and finally through the flat farmlands where miles and miles of fruits and vegetables grow.  That was pretty amazing to see too.  Oh and passing about 30 (not exaggerating) closed National Park campsites, hiking trails, picnic areas and fishing spots.  It was like a slap in the face, each and every time.

Photos never do places like this justice, but here are a few just because I couldn't help snapping 100 every place we stopped.....

(I loved that we could stop anywhere and as often as we wanted to.  There were thousands of pull-offs along the way.  I love that we took quite a few photos together.  Even if I look 45 years old in this particular one.  Harsh light!)

(Miles and miles and more miles of beautiful nothing.)

(I had to stop and get a picture of the yellow Aspens against the evergreens.  And the cattle gates too.  We passed 100's of them) 

(Giant rosemary bushes all along the edges of the motel.  They smelled glorious)

(The Aspens were stunningly yellow.  I think we stopped in the middle of the road to get this shot.  Middle of nowhere)

(On the road straight up to Mt. Whitney.  That beautiful valley below.)

(There was an older couple who pulled their enormous motor home into this pull off to have lunch.  The view was ridiculous.  We just ate our PBandJ's sitting in the back seat of our rental.)

(The temperature literally dropped about 25 degrees on the drive up to Mt Whitney.  There was snow up there and lots of people jumping the closed gates to hike in spite of the government shut-down.)

(The Bro drooling over Mt Whitney.  I think it was physically painful for him to drive away from it and not be able to climb it.  Thank you, government shut-down.)

(The tiny road we drove straight up.  What a view...)

California Road Trip:  Part I, Part II

October 29, 2013

California Road Trip: Post 2 Bodie

We were supposed to head to Yosemite after Lake Tahoe.  Wonderful, awe inspiring Yosemite.  We had intended to rent one of their tents and camp out.  Now that the government had shut down all the national parks, we had to change our plans. 

The night before we were supposed to head to Yosemite, my brother was hunting around on the internet trying to find things for us to do the next day.  "This ghost town looks cool" he said as I looked up to see what he was talking about.  "It's called Bodie" 

It just so happens that Bodie has been on my list of places to see before I die for years (these were some of the first photos I saw of Bodie, still squirreled away in my Flickr Faves) .  I had no idea it was so close to us.  I instantly put a YES vote in and off to Bodie we went the next day.

Bodie is a ghost town in the middle….of….no…..where.  Literally.  10 miles off the main road.  And then 3 more miles past that on dirt roads.  In a shallow valley at 8,000 ft.  It is stunning.  The town in kept a state of arrested decay.  In other words, they don't let it deteriorate any further than it already has.  It was known for being a place of wickedness, bad man and "the worst climate out of doors." Lots of killing, robberies and stage fights.  It's heyday was in the 1880's.  About 10,000 people lived there.  It was a gold mining town.

Do you now have about 35 stories complete with no-good town sheriffs running through your head like I do?  Kids running around with straw filled dolls and ribbon tied braids? Muddy streets and wooden heeled shoes clopping around?  Basically an episode of Young Riders.  I'm there right now.

About 5% of Bodie is still in existence and is now a CA state park.  You can wonder the streets, peek inside windows and doors, imagine the ghosts that wonder the lanes.  It is a photographer's dream. The deep, wood brown against the bright blue sky and white clouds…

Bodie was a big highlight on the trip for me.  My imagination was running a mile a minute.  If you ever end up near Yosemite, you must go.  It's worth the long drive out there.

California Road Trip Part 1

October 28, 2013

The new TV season

I love TV.
I love to talk about TV.
And while I have the next post in my CA road trip vacation ready to post (should be up tomorrow morning), I just have to pop in and talk about TV for a quick minute.

We are deep into the new TV season here in the US.  And I must say that, so far, it has been quite fantastic.

Here is what is standing out this year....

#1/The Top/The Best
The Good Wife is having its best season yet.  In fact, I would be so bold to say that it is the best show in TV right now.  Last night's episode, "Hitting the Fan", was one of the best hours on TV anywhere that I've seen in a long, long time.  Superb writing.  Lightning fast pace.  Outstanding performances (Alicia and Will's phone conversation with her daughter's field trip permission slip at the end deserves its own Emmy for the writing and acting).  Funny, heartbreaking, infuriating.

Are you watching The Good Wife?  If so, let's discuss.  If not, it's streaming on Amazon Prime for free.

I was instantly drawn to Reign merely because it's a period piece.  The costumes and castles are enough to draw me in.  Thankfully, the story has potential too (even if it isn't entirely historically accurate).  The characters are interesting and well acted. Oh and Anne Shirley is the Queen of France. What?!
There have only been 2 episodes so far, but I'm already looking forward to it each week.  And let's talk about the soundtrack...one of the best on TV.  Many of the songs have been on constantly rotation on my iPhone.

I think the The Originals is my favorite new show this season.  I mean, it IS a spin off of The Vampire Diaries, which I so greatly enjoy.
I feel like The Originals is getting off on the right foot as a spin off.  Creating its own world.  Building its own mythology.  Giving the characters we already know new depth.  Developing its own look.  But still giving a nod back to its (much loved) parent.
For instance, I HATED Klaus on The Vampire Diaires.  His story was tired and so very worn around the edges.  But on The Originals, he has new life breathed into him.  I can't wait to see where he will go next and what he will do.  Tiny cracks in his walls are showing his humanity, portrayed so wonderfully by Joseph Morgan.  I'm intrigued and loving it.  It's Must Watch in our house.

I'm also enjoying:
Parks and Rec (Hilarious. Adorable. My favorite comedy on TV. Has it really been on 6 seasons?!  Still fresh and funny and heartwarming. This one gets better with age.)
Revenge (Having a much revived 3rd season after the disaster that was season 2.)
Parenthood (Crosby is stealing every scene this season.  Emmys, are you paying attention?)
Modern Family (A comedy in its 5th season is usually struggling.  Not so here.  Laugh-out loud hilarious every week)

Also good, but not great:
The Walking Dead (its fine, but looking tired and recycled.)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (just can't bring myself to watch the episodes that are piling up on the DVR.  Needs a jolt of life in its veins).  It had so much going for it.  Joss, good story tellers, fun premise.  But alas, I'm just bored.  I know I should give it time, but it's not looking good so far.  I think its trying too hard.

Grey's Anatomy (really, Grey's?  Without Christina next year, I think this may be the end for me...again.)

Done with:
New Girl (I haven't laughed in weeks.  Good-bye)

October 22, 2013

California Road Trip: Part 1 South Lake Tahoe

I went on a road trip all over California this month.  It was, no doubt, one of the highlights of my year.  I saw some of the most beautiful sights I have ever, ever seen.  I think, somehow, California is in my blood.  We get each other.  Our personalities connect.  I could move there in a second.  

I have dreamed of visiting the coast of CA for years.  Big Sur captured me from the very moment I saw a photo of it.  And I must say, that the rest of the state turned in a beautiful flip book of the magical places.  

I went on this fantastic adventure with my little brother.  We both flew into San Francisco, rented a car and spent the week driving over 1,200 miles up, down and all over the place together.  It's the first time I've seen him since last October.  Any time we get to spend together is always a treasure now that we live 1,000's of miles apart.    

Our first spot on the "list of fun" was Lake Tahoe.  After spending a few hours with a friend of his in San Francisco, we headed out of the city late and ended up in the mountains the next day.  (after staying at a super sketchy motel that first night.  Sket-chy.)

Unfortunately, our trip took place during the time that the government of the United States decided to shutdown.  That meant that every single National Park, Forest, camp ground, bathroom and hiking trail was CLOSED.  Disappointing.  Very much so.

But we did our best to find state parks and places where we could sneak onto pathways and hiking trails, us and 100's of other tourists.  Many of them from other countries.  How embarrassing, right?  "Sorry you flew thousands of miles to come see our beautiful country and now you can't actually see these things because we can't get our act together and act like adults."  Sheesh.

Anyway, we loved South Lake Tahoe.  It was charming and stunning all at the same time.  We ended up at Emerald Bay and did a short hike there.  I got to see my first redwood.  A baby one. 

Vickingsholm was at the very bottom of the hike to the lake.  It was like we had stumbled upon a hidden castle.  So beautiful.  It was locked up for the winter season, but still fun to wander around.  

We stayed at the most beautiful hotel in South Lake Tahoe.  I had actually found it on Pinterest when I was hunting around for cool spots for our trip.  It was called Basecamp Hotel.  The details and decorations were exactly perfect.  Cosy and thoughtful.  Several outside gas fireplaces (you can buy s'mores to roast).  Blues and greens and wood and metal.  I couldn't have picked anything more perfect.  And I could have stayed here for a week, happily.  My brother was mocking my love and excitement over all the details.  I was gushing. 

As we were leaving the hotel for dinner, it was just about sunset.  We decided to drive down a road behind Basecamp and happened to find the most beautiful sunset and the most perfect place in South Lake Tahoe to see it.  Right over the lake.  The colors were unbelievable.  It just about beat some the of the best I've seen at camp (which I think has the best sunsets on the planet).  

A couple things I didn't get a photo of…

*This stretch of road that was like a ridgepole of building.  Cliffs on both sides (no guard rails!) with views of the mountains and the lake.  I can still close my eyes and see it.  
*The trees and cliffs and homes that looked like they were dropped from the sky.  How did those people get TO their houses?
*Mountains rolling with patches of gold.  The Aspen trees were in full golden yellow fall colors.  
*The yummy pizza we had in South Lake Tahoe.
*The cold, fresh mountain air.
*Gate after gate after gate locked and barricaded off.
*Searching for a restroom that wasn't locked while my brother grew more and more frustrated that I wouldn't just go on the side of the road.  I'm a girl, okay.  I want a toilet.  Even a pit toilet is fine.

To be continued....

October 16, 2013


I've returned from my West Coast vacation with hundreds of photos to share.

I think this one may be my favorite.

This spot was enchanting. I couldn't stop staring at it, which was unusual.  Most of the time I was snapping photos every single second.  But this spot...I was mesmerized.  I could have stood there for hours and just drank in every single detail.  The colors were perfect at that time of day.  The water crashing on the shore.  The waterfall falling onto the sand and instantly disappearing.  The trees on the rocks.


I'll be back soon with stories and photos and maybe even a tip or two on inexpensive road trips. Amazing vacations are possible on a tight budget, friends.  They really are.