Monday, June 22, 2009

Fredericksburg & Enchanted Rock In Texas

My current location is in the center of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metropolitan zone, known locally as the Metroplex. From the Metroplex there are several good weekend getaway and one day Roadtrips.

Roadtripping up to Turner Falls Park in Oklahoma is one. Roadtripping down to Glen Rose with a visit to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and Dinosaur Valley State Park is another. Heading east on I-20 to Louisiana and Shreveport/Bossier City, for a day of riverboat casinos, is another.

The Daytrip Roadtrip I'm going to detail in this particular blogging is a the Daytrip Roadtrip to Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

I have gone on two Roadtrips to this area. The first time was on the way to San Antonio. The second time was an Easter Sunday. A hot Easter Sunday. The Roadtrip south was on Interstate 35. Before you get to Waco in I-35 you come to the little town of West. West is a town founded by Czech immigrants. There are a lot of Czech bakeries in West, making these really good things called kolaches. I've never driven by West without stopping for kolaches.

Waco is the next town you come to heading south. I should have listed Waco as a good Daytrip Roadtrip. Waco has an excellent park called Cameron Park. The Brazos River runs through Waco. It is very scenic. Also, near Waco you can visit the site of the infamous Branch-Davidian Massacre.

But, we are heading to Fredericksburg on this Roadtrip, no time to stop in Waco. In Austin I got off at the exit to Highway 290. Highway 290 takes you through Stonewall, the site of the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. Worth a stop to look at where LBJ grew up and visit the interpretive center.

Wildflowers were being colorful on a scale I had not seen before, almost from the start of this Daytrip Roadtrip.

A little further down the 290 you come to the site of the LBJ Ranch, along the beautiful Pedernales River. You can stop here and visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park and take a tour of his ranch. We don't have time for that on this Roadtrip, but we did stop to look across the river at LBJ's Ranch.

The next thing we came to on 290 was Wildseed Farms, about 7 miles east of Fredericksburg. This is the biggest wildflower farm in America. Since it was Easter it was prime wildflower time, with a lot of people. Wildseed Farms was sort of in festival mode on Easter, with cowboys doing a BBQ cookout.

Then it was on to Fredericksburg. A very busy tourist town. There is some German influenced buildings, but not totally German themed, unlike another town I can think of, in Washington, named Leavenworth. For more details about Fredericksburg go to my Eyes on Texas webpage about Fredericksburg.

Leaving Fredericksburg, it was north on Ranch Road 965, eighteen miles to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. It was crowded, but we got in. I'd hiked to the top of Enchanted Rock on a previous visit. It is a good hike.

After Enchanted Rock, the Roadtrip continued on RR 965 to Highway 16, north to Llano, then east out of Llano on Highway 29, driving past Buchanan Lake, on the way to heading north on Highway 281 to Lampasas, heading east out of Lampasas on Highway 190, passing through Fort Hood Military Reservation and Killeen, finally getting back to I-30 just south of Temple, passing through Waco again. It's about 90 miles from Waco to my home base and the pitstop for this one day Easter Roadtrip.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Utah's Moki Dugway

I've driven down the Moki Dugway twice. Both times at the end of a Lake Powell Houseboating Roadtrip with Mexican Hat's San Juan Inn as that day's pitstop.

The Moki Dugway is, by far, the scariest piece of road I've ever driven. Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road is easy to drive, compared to the Moki Dugway. So is Colorado's Million Dollar Highway.

You start getting Moki Dugway warning signs as soon as you turn off UT-95 on to UT-261. The first warning sign says "10% Grades, Switchbacks, Narrow Gravel Road, 23 miles ahead."

A little further down the road is another warning sign. That one says "NOT Recommended for Trucks over 10,000 lbs., RVs, Buses, Vehicles Towing."

When you are almost to the Moki Dugway there is a sign letting you know that the pavement ends in 800 ft.

My first time down the Moki Dugway we were in two vans. The driver in the 2nd van was very scared of mountain type roads. He had a total panic attack when we stopped at the Muley Point Lookout at the top of Cedar Mesa and he could see the narrow switchbacks leading to the valley floor.

The person having the panic attack wanted to backtrack and take a long detour to get to Mexican Hat. Eventually it was agreed that a driver from my vehicle would drive the other van down the Moki Dugway. The person having the panic attack then quickly drank a lot of liquid courage and put a pillow case over his head so he couldn't see the road.

I found it all very amusing.

On the way down the Moki Dugway you do see a car or two that have gone off the cliff. That is a bit unsettling. Meeting a vehicle heading up the Dugway is a bit dicey.

As you head down the escarpment you can see Monument Valley to the south, with Valley of the Gods slightly to the north. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River is between the Moki Dugway and Mexican Hat.

Indians had long had trails up to the top of Cedar Mesa. Then in 1958, Texas Zinc, a mining company, built the Moki Dugway, in its current form, so they could carry uranium ore from the Happy Jack Mine in Fry Canyon, Utah to a processing mill in Mexican Hat.

The Moki Dugway descends 1,100 feet in 3 miles. It is the slowest 3 miles you will ever drive.

As you can see on the sign at the top, there are various spellings of Moki, actually there are 3 variations, Moki, Mokee and Moqui.

Below is a good YouTube video of a truck driving down the Moki Dugway....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado

I drove across Royal Gorge Bridge on the long ago longest Roadtrip of my Roadtripping career. The day before had been spent driving up Pikes Peak. The day after Royal Gorge headed in the direction of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, eventually making it to the second interesting bridge of this Roadtrip, that being London Bridge. And a hike down the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Eventually ending up in Yosemite for the first time.

The Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge is pretty much a bridge to nowhere. It was built by the town of Canon City to be one of the tourist attractions in what amounts to being a theme park. Royal Gorge Bridge is the world's highest suspension bridge, hovering 1,053 above the Arkansas River.

In the Royal Gorge theme park you can ride the world's longest single-span Aerial Tram across the gorge. The tram travels 2,200 feet at 1,178 feet above the Arkansas River.

Traveling at a 45 degree angle Royal Gorge's Incline Railway is the steepest in the world. You ride it 1,500 feet to the canyon floor. When you get off the Incline you are hit with spray from the Arkansas River's Class 5 rapids.

Suspension bridges are designed to move a bit. Royal Gorge Bridge did some moving as vehicles crossed it. Walking across is a bit exciting for anyone with any degree of acrophobia.

Animals, like deer, wander around the park. For kids there is a carousel and the Royal Gorge Silver Rock Railway. For the really adventurous there is the Royal Flush Skycoaster, it being one of those bungee jump type things with a line attached to a tower that lifts you up high and then lets you swing. In this case you swing out 1,200 above the Arkansas River.

There are plenty of feeding opportunities at Royal Gorge, ranging from BBQ to Mexican food, to classic American fare to homemade ice cream.

There are several shopping opportunities in the park. Stryker Rich Trading Post is on the left before you cross the bridge. Royal Village Shirts is on the other side of the bridge. Colorado Country Shop is inside the Cliff Terrace. Eagle's Nest is outside the south side terminal of the Aerial Tram. Prospector Pan is at the bottom of the Incline Railway.

Tickets cost $24.00 for adults, kids 4-11 are $19.00, seniors are $21.00. You can get an annual pass. The admission ticket includes all park rides, shows and attractions, except for the Royal Flush Skycoaster and horse riding.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We are going way back in time again to the longest Roadtrip I've ever driven, the same Roadtrip that had me driving to the top of Pikes Peak, Skycoastering at Royal Gorge and swimming in Lake Havasu, with Texas, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Yosemite and many others points along the way, some of which I remember clearly, others, not so much.

This particular Roadtrip took place in 1979. Judging by the photo I was a bit younger than I am in 2009. It appears I was still in my radical phase, wearing my Mao jacket and hat that I got in Chinatown in San Francisco the year before.

I remember a lot of this Roadtrip in extreme detail. And then there are parts of it where my memory is hazy. I remember the walk through Carlsbad Caverns, but I do not remember the means by which I entered the cavern. Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana, I remember clearly, same with Wind Cave National Park and the cavern at Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

I remember being amazed at how huge the various rooms were in Carlsbad and how ornate the formations are. I remember the tour ending in a huge room with a paved floor, with a cafeteria and picnic tables. This was quite an unexpected thing to see deep in a cave. The exit from that point was an elevator ride back to the surface.

I remember a Dairy Queen near the visitors center. I have no memory of the visitors center. I have consulted with someone who has recently been to Carlsbad Caverns and who lives nearby. She tells me there is currently no Dairy Queen.

You can either enter the cave via the natural entrance, which is a short distance from the visitors center. Or you can take the elevator from the visitors center to the Big Cave, where the underground cafeteria is. From there you can follow the paved route through the Big Room. For the most part this is wheelchair accessible.

The pitstop the night before going through Carlsbad Caverns was a KOA campground in Carlsbad, if my memory is serving me correctly. What I do remember very distinctly is that night, at dusk, sitting outside at a Burger King, with locals warning us that we should get inside. They did not tell us why we should get inside. When the sun set we found out why. Huge ironclad beetles begin falling out of the sky. I'd never seen anything like it.

I had never seen so many disturbing insects ever as I did in the Roswell/Carlsbad area. Tarantulas on the road, huge long centipedes. And those iron clad beetles.

After Carlsbad Caverns it was on to Texas for the first time, just Roadtripping a slender slice of Texas, driving by Guadalupe National Park and passing through El Paso, heading towards that night's pitstop, the location of which I can not remember. I should have taken notes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pikes Peak Colorado

I drove to the top of Pikes Peak on the longest Roadtrip I've ever driven, the same Roadtrip I wrote about yesterday, where I talked about the London Bridge and Lake Havasu. But before I got to Arizona, on this particular Roadtrip, I was in Colorado.

Click here to watch video of the Roadtrip to the top of Pikes Peak along with other information about what you can see and do at Pikes Peak.

The pitstop the day before driving to the top of Pikes Peak had been in a campground besides a roaring creek near Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving through Rocky Mountain NP you get to some high elevations, but you don't drive to the top of any of the, what Colorado natives call, fourteeners, fourteeners being the 54 mountains in Colorado over 14,000 feet.

Being from the northwest and being used to seeing mountains, like Mount Rainier, from sea level, the Cascade Mountains look taller than the Rockies. This surprised me, til I realized the base elevation chops off a mile, as in Denver sits at 5,280 feet above sea level. That makes Pikes Peak about 9,000 higher. When you are in Seattle, Mount Rainier is over 14,000 feet higher than your sea level location.

Pikes Peak Highway is what takes you to the summit of the mountain. It's a 19 mile drive. You pay a fee for the privilege. The highway is paved to about the halfway point, then it's a gravel road to the top. The road has a lot of switchbacks, nicknamed "The W's," because of the design they seem to carve on the mountain when viewed from a distance. You will want to be sure you have good brakes before you climb up and down this steep, twisting road.

There are 3 visitor centers on the Pikes Peak Highway, located at the 6 and 12 miles marks and at the summit. The visitors center at the summit is quite large. There is a snack bar. When I was there fresh donuts were available. Somehow that seemed strange to me. But it smelled good.

Pikes Peak is the easternmost 14,000 foot mountain in the United States. Pikes Peak stands alone, unlike the other fourteeners in Colorado, thus it serves as a landmark visible for many miles to the east. You start seeing Pikes Peak soon after you cross into Colorado from Kansas. On a clear day Pikes Peak is visible from Denver.

Pikes Peak is the highest elevation I have ever had to breathe. There is 40% less oxygen than one gets at sea level. Just climbing up a few steps caused heavy breathing. Years later I would experience this again, at Silverton, Colorado, which is above 9,000 feet. I tried to pedal my bike up a mountain there. I've never breathed so hard, ever. Pikes Peak would have been much worse than Silverton if I tried to pedal my bike at 14,115 feet.

The drive down Pikes Peak is more nerve wracking than the drive up. My brakes overheated, slightly. The gravel does not provide the best traction. If driving to the top seems daunting, there are other means to the summit. One is the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway. This is a cog railroad operating out of Manitou Springs, going to the summit year round, weather permitting.

You can hike to the summit of Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail, climbing to the summit from the east. The trailhead for the Barr Trail is by the rail station in Manitou Springs. Another trail to the top starts in Crags Campground and reaches the top of Pikes Peak from the west. I can't see myself doing such a hike in such rarefied air.

The pitstop for this leg of the Roadtrip was outside Fort Union, north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the way to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but not before driving across the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge.

Friday, June 12, 2009

London Bridge & Lake Havasu

On this Roadtripping Blog I am jumping back and forth between Roadtrips and Time. The Roadtrip that took me to London Bridge on Lake Havasu has us going way back in the time machine to the longest Roadtrip I've ever driven.

Over 10,000 miles, running through Utah, then to Colorado to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, then on to the top of Pikes Peak, then across Royal Gorge's incredibly high suspension bridge, then south to Carlsbad Caverns, then on to Texas, before starting to head west, eventually reaching the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for a hike down to the Colorado River on the Bright Angel Trail, then continuing west to where I'm sitting in a cowboy hat in the picture, looking at the London Bridge on Lake Havasu.

London Bridge is in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. London Bridge was originally in London, hence the name. It was built there in 1831. In London the bridge deteriorated to the point that, by 1962, it was no longer sound enough to support traffic. So, London sold it to Robert McCulloch, the founder of Lake Havasu City. He figured the bridge would make a good tourist attraction for the retirement town he was planning to build. The plan worked.

The bridge was deconstructed, carefully, in London, each piece numbered, then carefully reassembled in Arizona, beginning in 1968. The reconstruction was completed in 1971. When I visited London Bridge there was a shopping zone done in quaint Old England fashion. It seemed way wrong for the Arizona desert. Over the years the English Village gradually was replaced with new tourist development. London Bridge and Lake Havasu remain a big tourist attraction, though some of the locals do not like the changes.

Swimming and boating on Lake Havasu is very popular. When I was there it was late September. I wanted to go swimming. Paying the fee to enter the swimming beach area the money taker advised that swimming season was over, that the water was cold. She did not know I am a Pacific Northwest Polar Bear who likes to swim in cold water. I remember it as a refreshing swim.

After Lake Havasu it was on to Las Vegas for a short stop and a buffet, then on to Los Angeles and Disneyland, then a trek north with stops in Kings Canyon, Sequoia & Yosemite National Parks, followed by a logging road from Redding, leading to the Pacific Coast and Eureka. Scariest mountain logging road I've ever driven on.

I'll be coming back to this Roadtrip on subsequent Roadtrippings.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

White Sands National Monument & Alamogordo

That's me running down an ultra-white gypsum dune in White Sands National Monument. The dune running came about during a Roadtrip that ran through Moab, on the way to Houseboating Lake Powell, then on to Durango, Silverton, Roadtripping the Million Dollar Highway and then following the headwaters of the Rio Grande River to Taos.

After Taos the Roadtrip headed south towards the Trinity Site of the World's first atom bomb explosion, then on to Alamogordo.

Alamogordo was the pitstop for this leg of this Roadtrip around the West. Arriving in Alamogordo I wondered what the rocket looking things on a hill were. The next morning I was to find out it was the New Mexico Museum of Space History, with part of it being the International Space Hall of Fame. Ham the Astrochimp is buried here. Ham was one of America's first space travelers.

The next morning, unbeknownst to me, that very day was a special day at the Space Hall of Fame, with the inducting in of some astronauts and cosmonauts. The museum is very well done. There is a garden of rockets you can walk through. I watched an IMAX movie of a visit to the International Space Station. It made me dizzy.

After Alamogordo it was on to White Sands National Monument. White Sands Missile Range surrounds the monument. White Sands Space Harbor, it being the only place a Space Shuttle has landed other than Florida and California, is to the north.

The dunes of White Sands are made of gypsum. Gypsum is water soluble. Usually it would dissolve and wash away to the sea. But here it is trapped in a basin surrounded by the Sacramento and San Andres Mountains, with no outlet to the sea. So, the gypsum is left with no alternative but to form every shifting dunes.

From the visitor center the Dunes Drive takes you about 8 miles into the dunes. There are 4 trails where you can make a trek into the dunes. There are picnic tables amongst the dunes. The sand is so white it seems brighter than snow. And just like with snow, you see kids sliding down the slopes on sleds.

Due to the park being surrounded by a missile testing area the park and U.S. Route 70, that takes you to White Sands National Monument, are closed when tests are being done on the missile range. Tests usually last for one or two hours, a couple times a week.

If you are on U.S. Route 70 don't drive by White Sands, drive in. You'll be glad you did. After White Sands National Monument this Roadtrip continued to to the Pitstop for the next leg being Douglass, Arizona, right across from Agua Prieta in Mexico. Then on through Bisbee and Tombstone on the way to Yuma for that night's mandatory rest period, then on to 4 days at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Daytrip Roadtripping: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center & Dinosaur Valley State Park

My favorite type of Roadtripping is one that goes on for weeks and covers a lot of miles. But there is another genre of Roadtripping, that being the Roadtrip that starts from home and ends up back home at the end of the day.

This would be what is known as a Daytrip.

It is possible to cover a lot of miles and see a lot of scenery on a Daytrip. Where I used to live, Western Washington, I had a lot of Daytrip options, from mountains to saltwater to desert to another country.

I am now in Texas, with not quite the same variety of Daytrip options. My favorite Daytrip, that I've Roadtripped since I've been in Texas, has been to go to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Fossil Rim is about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

You drive yourself through the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, where there are over 1000 animals, most roaming free. Some sticking there heads in your open window.

Fossil Rim is on the northern edge of Texas Hill Country. The park has the steepest road grades that I've driven in Texas, both uphill and down. Some so steep a "Shift to Low Gear" sign is posted.

Visit my Eyes on Texas website for more information about the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, including a map, directions and a lot of pictures.

There are some other attractions in the Fossil Rim area that you can make part of your Daytrip. Dinosaur Valley State Park is a short distance away. In Dinosaur Valley you can see Dinosaur tracks, wade in the Paluxy River, go on a hike that will take you up a steep trail to great views of the valley below.

If you are a mountain biker, Dinosaur Valley State Park has very good trails. The trails are color-coded, as in the white trail, the blue trail, the red trail, the yellow trail. You would think having trails marked like this would make it hard to get lost. You would be wrong. I have gotten completely lost twice while biking at Dinosaur Valley. So, if you hike or bike the trails, pay close attention each time you come to a trail junction.

Visit my Eyes on Texas website for more information about Dinosaur Valley State Park, including directions, a map, video and more pictures.

Dinosaur Valley State Park and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center are very close to the town of Glen Rose. You'll find many restaurant and lodging options in Glen Rose. You'll also find Big Rocks Park, which is worth a stop to climb on the Big Rocks on the Paluxy River. Glen Rose is the county seat of Somervell County. The Glen Rose Courthouse Square is one of the classic Texas courthhouse squares, along with Weatherford's, Waxahachie's and Granbury.

Speaking of Granbury, stopping in that town is always part of my daytrips to the Glen Rose zone. Granbury puts on the best small town festivals and parades that I have been to in Texas. Including General Granbury's Birthday and the best 4th of July Parade I've ever seen. The area around Granbury's Courthouse Square is very tourist friendly, with a lot of people touring and a lot of stores and restaurants.

You can also easily make a pass through Weatherford, the location of another classic Texas courthouse square, as part of a Daytrip to the Glen Rose zone, making a loop out of the Roadtrip. I've done that more times than I can remember. Weatherford is where the Parker County Peach Festival takes place every year in July.

So, that completes my first Roadtripping Blogging about a Daytrip. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zion National Park's Angels Landing Hike

My first visit to Zion National Park was a long, long time ago. We'd been to Yellowstone National Park and after seeing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone we decided we needed to see the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

The route to Grand Canyon went by Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. I knew nothing about either. We checked out Bryce Canyon first. Loved it, vowed to return. It would be a lot of years before that return.

Next was Zion. It was September, it was hot, we stayed overnight at a campground inside Zion. That night we went to a slideshow and talk where a lady Park Ranger imparted a lot of information. Among the things she waxed poetic about was the hike to the top of Angels Landing.

She made it sound so fun and so scary. She described there being a point where the trail is very narrow, where you are at the top of a spot where there is a thousand foot or more drop-off on either side. Very dangerous. This drop-off area had a name. I can't remember it for sure after all these years. Maybe it was the Razorback.

One thing the Ranger made clear is you needed to be wearing sturdy hiking boots to be safe on the Angels Landing Trail. All we had were tennis shoes. But we vowed to return one day and hike the Angels Landing trail to the top. I was not to return to Zion National Park til 18 years later. The Angels Landing Hike did not take place on that return. I was back in Zion again a few years ago, staying overnight at the National Park Lodge. Sadly, the Angels Landing Hike did not take place that time either.

That picture at the top shows part of the Angels Landing Trail. The National Park Service has an interactive webpage about the Angels Landing Hike. This may be one of the best webpages I have ever seen. By the time I was done looking at all there was to see, music came on and I sat here feeling real sad that I've not yet made it to the top of Angels Landing. And maybe never will.

Bryce Canyon National Park Free Guided Tour To Rainbow Point

Hiking in Utah's National Parks have been the best hikes I've ever gone on. I've hiked in Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Of the 4 I'd probably pick Bryce Canyon as my favorite.

Every time I've gone hiking in Bryce Canyon I've thought it'd make it much nicer if I was with a group and we had 2 vehicles, so that the hiking could start at one location, like Sunrise Point and end at another location, like Inspiration Point.

Well, the National Park Service has solved this problem, sort of, and made it easier to go on more adventurous hikes. From now until September, Bryce Canyon National Park is providing, free of charge, a daily guided tour to Rainbow Point.

The tour is operated by Bryce Canyon Shuttle. The 4 hour round-trip begins a 11 am and ends at 3 pm, covering around 40 miles, round-trip, with stops at the park's viewpoints and trailheads.

You have to make reservations. You can do that in person at the shuttle offices at Ruby's Inn, Ruby's Campground, the shuttle parking building or by calling 435-834-5290 between 8:30 am and 5 pm.

You can make reservations up to 24 hours in advance. The shuttle has room for 45 passengers. You can board at Ruby's Inn, Ruby's Campground, the shuttle parking area (across the road from Ruby’s Inn), Bryce Canyon Lodge, North Campground and Sunset Campground.

I don't know if 4 hours would be enough time to hike from one trailhead and make it to another by the time the shuttle returned on its roundtrip. But I would think it'd work great for backpackers. You could get dropped off, hike to your camping location, then the next day hike back out in time to be picked up by the shuttle.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Miscellaneous Durango Roadtripping

Doing this Durango Roadtripping Blog has had me going through old photos, trying to remember details that aren't at the forefront of my memory, having memories jarred fresh that had been forgotten and trying to figure out where to go with this Roadtripping Blog.

Where to go brings up an interesting aspect of Roadtripping. The Trip Plan. I have experienced 3 types of Roadtrip Plans.

There's the Family Plan, when you are a kid and you sort of get to have input, as in we want to go to Disneyland, we want to go to Yellowstone. But all the details, planning and work are up to mom and dad.

Then you get older and it becomes My Plan. I've gone on Roadtrips where there is a definite destination in mind, where I have it all mapped out, where I know where I'm going to be each day.

Then there's the Spontaneous Roadtrip Plan. I like those the best. The longest of those was over 10,000 miles. That Roadtrip ran from Washington to Utah to Colorado to the top of Pikes Peak to Texas to New Mexico to Arizona and a hike down to the Colorado in the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to Los Angeles and Disneyland to Yosemite and the coast highway back north.

When I was younger staying in a motel was rarely done. I had a van that could be slept in and a tent, if needed. At some point in time sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground lost all its appeal after a bad incident at Lake Alta State Park in Eastern Washington.

As I got older I found I like to know ahead of time where I am staying each night, while the idea of spontaneously Roadtripping has some sort of nostaligic appeal, these days I need more predictability. I've found you can still be plenty spontaneous, while knowing where you are going to be sleeping that night.

Nowadays, when I go on a Group Roadtrip with friends, I only agree to go if I get to plot the itinerary. The most complicated of those was a Roadtrip that involved Houseboating on Lake Powell, Mexican Hat, Monument Valley, log cabins at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Zion National Park Lodge, 4 nights at Excalibur in Las Vegas, overnight in Death Valley at Stovepipe Wells and then winging the rest of the way home.

That trip involved making a lot of reservations. I made it clear to my Co-Roadtrippers that once they agreed to my Trip Plan there would be No Pointless Endless Itinerary Discussions. One of the members of that Roadtripping party had to have the no No Pointless Endless Itinerary Discussions rule pointed out to him a few times. The others, by then, had seen the wisdom in following my itinerary without further discussion.

The reason I won't go on a group trip unless I do the planning and set the times and agenda, was due to a Roadtrip in a rented Cadillac that included 2 of the persons who were also on the Lake Powell Trip.

The final destination, in the Cadillac, was Curry Village in Yosemite National Park. First night Ontario, Oregon, second night Reno, a couple days in Reno, then south to Yosemite via Lake Tahoe. I wanted to take an isolated road that connected to Highway 49. Highway 49 is so named after the California Gold Rush of 1849.

I wanted to get to Yosemite before dark. We had a big breakfast buffet in Reno. By the time we got to Lake Tahoe, two of the overeaters needed another feeding. This put us a bit behind schedule. At some point on Highway 49, going through one of the many picturesque towns along the way, the overeaters indicated they needed more food. I suggested waiting til Yosemite. No, they needed food, now. They got their food. We got to Yosemite after dark. It was difficult finding our tent cabin in the dark.

I vowed to never go on a Group Roadtrip, ever again, unless I'm given Dictatorial Powers prior to departure. So far, this has worked out well for me. I just point the way, like in the picture at the top, and everything works out fine and a good time is had by all. For the most part.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

National Park Service Waiving Entrance Fees 3 Weekends This Summer

Good news today for American Roadtrippers on a tight budget in these troubling economic times.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that entry fees at 147 of America's National Parks and Monuments will be waived on 3 weekends this summer.

The dates are June 20-12, July 18-19 and August 15-16.

Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Zion, Arches, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, Crater Lake, Devils Tower, Big Bend, Canyonlands and 134 more National Parks and Monuments are included.

In 2008 America's National Park system had over 275 million visits, accounting for approximately $10.6 billion for the local economies providing supporting services for the parks and supporting over 213,000 jobs.

The National Park Service estimates it will lose about a half millions dollars each day they waive entry fees. I suspect the surrounding areas will more than make up that loss. I would not want to be at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on one of those free days. Or in Yosemite. Or Zion. Or Mount Rainier. Those National Parks can be crowded on a normal day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Moab Mountain Biking: Slickrock Trail Map & Video

The past few days ago I've blogged about a Roadtrip that brought me to to the Mountain Bike Capital of the World, Moab to bike some of the world's most well-known trails, like the Slickrock Trail and the Porcupine Rim Trail. And lesser known, like the Gemini Bridges Trail.

Above is a good map of the Slickrock Trail.

Blogging about those trails brought a question from Mister Twister that had me seeking YouTube videos of the trails in the Moab zone that I had mountain biked.

I found a very good, very recent one of the Slickrock Trail. It's sort of long, 6 minutes, but in it you will clearly see why this is considered by many to be the world's most popular mountain bike trail.

In the video you'll see the white dashes that mark the route, you'll see how the intersecting trails are marked, you'll see the start of the trail from the parking lot and you'll see a lot of examples of various mountain bikers covering the amazing terrain that makes the Slickrock Trail such a challenge and such a draw to so many two-wheelers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Moab Mountain Biking: Porcupine Rim Trail Video

A couple days ago I blogged about a Roadtrip that brought me to to the Mountain Bike Capital of the World, Moab to bike some of the world's most well-known trails, like the Slickrock Trail and the Porcupine Rim Trail. And lesser known, like the Gemini Bridges Trail.

I rode those trails only a few years after I started mountain biking. I had not biked trails this challenging before.

This morning Twister commented on me riding the Porcupine Rim Trail, saying, "Sounds like a lot of fun...if you're a masochist and you have a death wish!"

Looking back on it, I can now see there is some truth in what Twister says.

Twister is new to mountain biking. He asked me how the Sansom Park Trail in Fort Worth compares to the Slickrock Trail in terms of difficulty, because the Sansom Park Trail about does him in. When I replied to Twister's comment I had not remembered that parts of the Porcupine Rim Trail are similar to Sansom Park. As in rocky. I remembered this after watching the YouTube video below. Watch it and you'll see why riding this had me exhausted.

Roadtripping History

Blogging about Roadtripping has me looking at old photos and thinking about Roadtrips over the span of decades. Like the Roadtrip in the picture. That is at Yellowstone National Park. In my now antique 65 Mustang Fastback.

That Mustang went on a lot of Roadtrips. It always managed to add to the adventure by having a mechanical problem at interesting times. Like once the clutch started slipping while I was driving up the hill to go down Lombard Street in San Fransisco. On another Roadtrip, in the same town, the Mustang overheated on the Oakland Bay Bridge. I had to stop on the bridge to cool it down and add water.

The best Mustang breakdown took place in Hollywood after watching a Laverne & Shirley taping at Paramount Studios. About 2 miles from the studio, that same clutch, that vexed me on Lombard Street, went in to total malfunction mode, right by a full service gas station. I coasted to a stop and waited til morning for the gas station to open. They were able to get it fixed by afternoon. That made for a day of wandering around Hollywood.

I'd learned that wandering around Hollywood was a fun thing to do, due to a car malfunction, years before, when I was 13, while on a family Roadtrip to Disneyland, the car had a problem while driving in Hollywood. So, my dad had it worked on at a gas station. Maybe it was the same one where I had my car worked on years later.

It was on the family Roadtrips, as a kid, that I learned the joy of Roadtripping. My mom and dad always made it totally anxiety free. We'd have a mechanical problem and it'd just become part of the trip. I remember our family trip to Yellowstone, a 64 Chevy Impala pulling an Arrowhead trailer. That Impala overheated going up super steep Deadman's Pass in northeast Oregon. It was a two-lane road then. Now it's Interstate 84 and it's still a steep climb and downhill ride.

On our first family Roadtrip to Disneyland we were only about 25 miles from home when the trailer axle broke. Did this end the trip? No. My dad took off the axle, found a guy to fix it in a town down the road a bit. It took a couple hours. My dad got the axle back on the trailer and we were back on our way. I can still remember this so clearly, back on the road and mom handing us homemade potato rolls with ham.

I think I'll quit blogging about Roadtripping right now and give my mom a call.