As things worked out, I had about a half a day in Oakland on my way back to Arizona. My hotel was only a mile from the BART station at the Coliseum so I took that to downtown Oakland. From the 12th Street Station on Broadway, it was a little less than a mile to the Jack London Square. Fortified by a Starbucks Americano, I walked to the Square, located at the foot of Broadway at the marina and ferry terminal. On the way back, I took the free shuttle bus that runs up Broadway.

Jack London lived a short but busy life. He grew up in Oakland and had a variety of jobs, settling on writing as a better alternative to working in a factory. It was his book Call of the Wild that popularized his writing. He was prolific, writing a number of books, short stories and articles. He was one of the first writers to become a worldwide celebrity and earn a large fortune from writing. According to one biography, “his novel The Sea-Wolf became the basis for the first full-length American movie. He was also one of the first celebrities to use his endorsement for commercial products in advertising, including dress suits and grape juice.”

At the Square there is a statute of him. To the south a couple of blocks is his tiny cabin. Found and authenticated in the Yukon where Jack lived during the Yukon Gold Rush, half the cabin went to Oakland, half stayed in Dawson City where two replicas were built out of the original logs. A statute of the wolf dog guards the cabin. Close to the cabin is Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. Several plaques acknowledge this literary landmark and its role in London’s books.

Just east of the Square on Broadway I had spotted La Furia Chalaca, a Peruvian restaurant. I had a late lunch there – the Aji de Gallina. Delicious! In the Jack London Square area, there are mostly restaurants so you have many options.

Driving through Oakland in an RV even on the Interstates is a challenge – rush hour is usually stop and go. So, as usual for big city exploring, park the RV at a park or somewhere safe and take your tow or towed car into town. Even better, use public transportation. The Bay Area has many options, all easier than navigating on busy city streets. It cost me $3.90 round trip to take the BART train. It was a no-brainer! And I easily exceeded my goal of 10,000 steps.

Tomorrow back to Arizona. Jaimie Bruzenak

December 4, 2017
Categories : RV travels

It’s time for my annual visit to my son and family who live near Santa Rosa, scene of the big fires. Often I go to Calistoga for a mud bath but this year found a Groupon for an older hotel a few blocks from Union Square. I came on Thursday, via BART from the Oakland Airport. Jim and Jenn joined me Friday night.

I have been here twice – once in the 1960s and once in the 90s. Both were short visits so I don’t remember much. I gotten suggestions from an issue of the magazine that Lonely Planet puts out – mainly an independent bookstore – City Lights. I set out there by foot via Union Square and part of Chinatown. City Lights has an amazing collection of books; so much different than a chain bookstore. They are also publishers and have a room upstairs for poetry and beat generation writings. The Ferry Building had also been recommended so I made my way there. Lots of neat shops plus lunch at Frog Hollow: Farm to Table Cafe – delicious salad.

George’s niece and family live in the city and Nan offered to meet. On the way to eat we walked by Macy’s. At Christmas, several windows have puppies and kittens displayed. It’s an effective way to find homes for their many animals and get donations. Nan explained that they do rotate the animals so they aren’t there for extended periods of times. I also heard one worker say that you can play with them on the 6th floor. Much harder to resist that way! So far, with the season just starting, 63 animals had been adopted.

Friday I decided to ride the Hop-on, Hop-off bus. These buses are great ways to get an overview of the city plus also see places you’d like to come back to. I got off at Fisherman’s Wharf, walked around and saw, heard and smelled the dozens of sea lions that haul out along the pier. Whew!

Heading back on Sansome Street I climbed the stairs the bus driver had pointed out that take you all the way to Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. I should have counted the stairs – there were a ton! Fortunately there was an elevator to the top of the tower with 360-degree views. A bit hazy but worth the walk. I looked around for the flock of parrots that roost up there. No sign, though the next morning I did hear and see them flying over the hotel.

Saturday, we bought one-day passes for the transit system, wanting to ride the cable cars. We took the line from Powell and Market up to California, then down to where it comes in back at Market across from the Ferry Building. We had lunch reservations at the Waterbar restaurant along the Embarcadero, the other recommendation. Weekends they serve an a la carte brunch. Delicious with excellent views of the Bay Bridge and two large pillar aquariums. So glad we tried it.

Driving past Santa Rosa, I couldn’t get a good view of the burned areas, except the businesses along Highway 101 where a K-Mart, Best Western and other commercial buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. The devastation was extensive in the whole area and I know people and businesses are still reeling and dealing with the aftermath.

San Francisco is not the place for an RV. With public transportation so available, explore those possibilities and park the RV outside of the city. And, if you wear a Fitbit or other device that keeps track of your steps, it is very easy to meet your goal!

December 3, 2017
Categories : RV travels

There are some wonderful traveling exhibits which allow those of us who don’t travel internationally to these areas to get a glimpse right here in the U.S. I’ve been to several awesome ones and just visited Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Arizona Science Center. While not cheap – there is usually an extra charge in addition to admission to the museum or place it is housed – it’s certainly less expensive than traveling there.

The exhibition was divided into three parts. The bulk of the exhibit was items found by archaeologists. Pompeii is unique in that the hot ash preserved much of the city exactly as it was. It was undisturbed until the 1700s and then when it was uncovered, it was with the same care that archaeologists use today, with careful mapping and preservation. I had no idea that the Romans were so advanced in metalwork, glass work and in the arts. You’ll see below a bronze colander and a funnel! There were tweezers and tiny metal statutes and lamps. Frescos, decorative medallions, pottery, Gorgon mosaics of marble and more are on display.

The transition occurs in part two where you watch a realistic portrayal on the screen of what happened during the volcano’s eruption in 79 A.D. Smoke-like vapor fills the room though is dissipated quickly. The last part shows a chart depicting the 12 feet of ash that layered the city and plaster casts of bodies found. The ash hardened and though the bodies disintegrated, the ash is still in the form of the body underneath. I hope the victims died quickly.

Unless you are a member, admission to the Science Center is $18 for adults and the Pompeii exhibit is an additional $11.95. You do pick a set time to view the exhibit which allows you to get up close to each artifact without fighting crowds. In my case, I opted for 10 a.m. right when it opens and was glad I did. Weekdays means lots of school kids. Probably not many visit the Pompeii exhibit, but, as I neared the end, I could hear the screeches of young kids and pounding of feet!

If you park in the garage in Heritage Square, any of the museums there will validate your ticket. I paid $1 after validation. Leave your larger vehicles and RVs elsewhere. They won’t fit. The closest light rail stop to the Science Center is at Van Buren St & 5th St, which is 324 yards away and about a 4 minute walk. Apache Palms RV Park in Tempe, where we have stayed in the past, is very close to a station and would be a easy way to get downtown without worrying about traffic and parking. Make sure you allow plenty of time.

Since you are given a time to view the exhibit, it’s best to purchase your tickets online. You’ll still need to stand in line but you won’t have to wait to get in. Science centers are kid-centered and interactive. If you don’t mind the noise of kids and dodge them as they race by, you’ll be able to see other things or special exhibits. Several of those also have additional admission fees. Your kids or grandkids, if with you, will enjoy the whole experience.

The exhibit will be at the Science Center through May 28, 2018 so if you are wintering in the area, you’ll have plenty of time to see this fascinating exhibition.

 

November 25, 2017
Categories : RV travels

Another shaded, delightful hike! The Aspen/Marshall Loop is near Summerhaven almost to the top of Mt. Lemmon. It’s a popular hike. Since the parking lot does not accommodate many cars, make an effort to get there early. During the week is better too. We drove through Summerhaven to the trailhead of Aspen and Marshall Gulch trails. The Arizona Trail follows Marshall Gulch so you could hike a portion of that trail too. Our choice was to take Marshall Gulch to the Aspen Trail, and then loop back to the parking lot. You can do the 4-mile hike in either direction. In both cases you go mostly up on the way and then mostly down on the way back.

The Marshall Gulch trail follows a stream that must be spring-fed since it was running. We saw a few colorful leaves and a few aspen still golden yellow, but most aspen leaves had already fallen to the forest floor. At the top, we were treated to spectacular, panoramic views looking out at Tucson. It was a little hazy in the distance still a “wow!” Large boulder outcroppings also added interest to the hike.

There is a pit toilet and trash bins at the start. Summerhaven has a few places to eat and shops. Fuel up in Tucson before you drive up the mountain; Summerhaven has no gas stations. Dogs are allowed on leash. You can find out more information about the hike here – Aspen/Marshall Loop.

November 3, 2017
Categories : RV travels

I had been hearing about Aravaipa Canyon and its beauty for a couple of years. One reason I hadn’t gone is that it is a long drive from my area in Tucson and you need a permit since total visitation each day is limited. A friend, though, took the initiative to pick a date and reserve a permit for our group. The canyon preserve is made up of both land owned by the Nature Conservancy and federal land and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A desert stream that flows 10 miles through a canyon with high walls and several side canyons is the main attraction. Water and shade is always appreciated in the desert!

We only hiked up about a third of the canyon. I’d love to do the whole thing and explore some of the side canyons that have cliff dwellings and slot canyons. I’m not sure about hiking with a backpack and sleeping on the ground; camping overnight would be a necessity to see more of it. You can read more and find out how to get a permit at the recreation site. The Nature Conservancy site also has information.

The trailhead is located about 10 miles off AZ Highway 77. The first part is paved, the 2nd half is hard-packed dirt, though dusty. I would not recommend taking an RV down the road, but it is doable. There is a small place to camp partway up the road that would fit an RV. Mammoth, the town just south of the turnoff, has fuel and restaurants.

November 2, 2017
Categories : RV travels

Mt. Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire and has some of the most awful weather in the United States, with winds registered at over 200 mph. The winds stopped us from getting to the top even though only 92 mph – enough to topple our little car on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. Still it was a fun ride.

The first train of the day is steam but the rest of the day they use biodiesel engines. Interestingly enough, the engine and car are not attached. The engine pushes the car up the tracks, and keeps it from zooming out of control on the way down. The brakeman, who was also our narrator, used the brakes in the car to safely negotiate the switches in the tracks where two trains could safely pass each other. We were glad our car had brakes – the average grade is 25 percent, with as much as 37 percent!

The railway is privately owned and all the engines and cars are produced right on site. It has been in operation since 1869. About three-quarters of the way up, the Appalachian Trail crosses the track.  We saw several hikers even though it was very windy and light rain was falling.

There are discounts for seniors and children and the railway is open from late April through November. Reservations are recommended. If the train cannot safely go to the top due to high winds, passengers are offered a refund or partial refund. We went three-quarters of the way up so paid accordingly. In November, the trains only go halfway up the mountains. Hikers can go one-way.

The parking lot is large enough to accommodate RVs but the road to there is windy and narrow. No pets. Restroom facilities are at the station and at the top, where there is also an observation deck with fabulous views on a clear day. Snacks and gifts can also be purchased and there is a museum. You can also drive up the mountain on the Mount Washington Auto Road, though of course RVs are not allowed.

 

September 12, 2017
Categories : RV travels

We are in Maine for six weeks. First time in several years. Everything is a contrast to Arizona – weather and how it looks are the two most obvious. While Arizona in the places I hang out have long hikes, I’ve found much shorter ones along the coast. Each is only a mile or two. Lucky for me, several are within a short drive of where we stay, south of Damariscotta.

Today I hiked in the Tracy Shore Preserve and Garber Overlook Preserve. These, and the Library Park Preserve where I went earlier in the week, are parcels obtained by the Nature Conservancy and then turned over to the town of South Bristol and maintained with the help of the Damariscotta River Association. The first two are adjoining and are connected to the Library Park Preserve by a link trail. There is parking in both locations.

I lived in Maryland and Pennsylvania for about 18 years before selling everything and becoming a full-time RVer with my late husband, Bill. I love the wide open spaces of out West but the East has much appeal. As I walked almost noiselessly on trails cushioned by years of fallen hemlock needles and other detritus, I could hear squirrels calling their warnings, chickadees and nuthatches cheeping, a woodpecker and cries of osprey. Looking out over the protected Jones Cove and McFarland’s Cove, the water was like glass and colorful reflections mirrored the shore. Both days I had the trails to myself and could sit overlooking the coves and watch nature unfold – a young osprey crying for his parents to feed him, fish breaking the surface for an insect meal and grebes creating ever expanding ripples after a dive. A few motorboats were out in McFarland’s Cove but none stirred at Jones Cove today.

The week before my daughter and I hiked in La Verna Preserve, owned by the Pemaquid Watershed Association. This preserve fronts on Muscongus Bay and has spectacular views of the bay and islands.

A map of the Tracy Shore, Garber Overlook and Library Park preserves can be found at both the South Bristol Library parking lot off SR 129 and further north at the parking at the junction of SR 129 and S Roads. The parking lots are small with not a lot of turn around room so I would not advise bringing an RV. La Verna Preserve is south of Round Pond along SR 32, which runs between New Harbor and Waldoboro and has a lot as well. All have signage on the highway. No charge to access. Pets on leash. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

August 31, 2017
Categories : RV travels

We had to leave our house in Pine for a couple of days while it was being painted so we ventured up to Flagstaff. George has been oil painting from photographs and wanted to get some pictures to work with. We spent the morning of our full day there exploring Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Waputki National Monument. Both can be accessed from a 35-mile loop off Highway 89, about 18 miles north from downtown Flagstaff.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument interprets the volcanic activity and resulting geographic formations that took place around 1085 CE (AD). You can walk among lava flows plus see the remaining crater. The small cinders have been used as paving material for years.

Continuing the loop, we pulled off on a Coconino Forest picnic area/view point that overlooks the Painted Desert, far to the north. Haze prevented us from seeing the colors or contours.

Continuing on the loop, we eventually we came to the border of Waputki National Monument. There are several ruins of pueblos you can stop to explore. Coming from the south, we came first upon Wukoki Pueblo. It looks like a castle from the distance and you can walk within its walls. The largest pueblo is Wapatki that had 100 rooms, located right behind the visitor center. You can pick up a free guide to use to identify spots along the walkways around the ruins. Other ruins – mostly foundations – could be reached be reached off the loop as you traveled back to Highway 89.

Clouds were building up and by the time we got back to Flagstaff the thunderstorms let loose. That ended the days exploring!

A campground near the visitor center at Sunset Crater accommodates RVs. There are also RV parks along Highway 89 between the national monuments and Flagstaff. The loop is nice enough that you could drive your RV but it would be more enjoyable to park it at a campground and drive you tow or towed vehicle.

Admission is $20/vehicle for a seven-day pass, which admits you to both monuments. America the Beautiful or Senior or Access passes are accepted too.

July 22, 2017
Categories : RV travels

The best time of year to visit Tucson and its world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is long past. We’ve already had temps in the teens and it is still over 100 degrees during the day. BUT, if you do find yourself passing through, the museum, which has both plants and animals, will be open Saturday nights from 5 – 10 p.m. through September 2. Each Saturday has a theme with related activities. July1 is “Glitter and Glow.”

It is fun to walk around the grounds as the sun fades. Many animals come out that you don’t ordinarily see during the day and become active. So, it’s a special treat. This spring, two baby Desert Bighorns were born so be sure to see them. And, early morning just as the museum opens is another time that is relatively cool and animals are more active. On a recent visit, one of the wolves howled several times. That was a treat, as well as seeing the burrowing owls still out of their burrows. Coatamundi are more active then too. So much to see!

Here are a few photos of cacti blooming – the gorgeous torch cacti- from this spring plus the youngest baby Bighorn, less than 5 days old at the time. The Desert Museum should definitely be on your list for spring.

There is RV parking, though don’t try to go over Gates Pass (from either Grant or Speedway off I-10). Take the Highway 86 west or Ajo Way exit for several miles and then turn north/right on Kinney Road. There are RV sites at Gilbert Ray Campground on Kinney shortly before you reach the museum.  $20/night for RVs, no reservations accepted and a 7-day limit.

June 29, 2017
Categories : RV travels

This spring, my first week in Australia before meeting up with my sister and her husband in Melbourne, was spent in Tasmania. I want to go back! I loved the feel of that place and it’s a perfect place to rent a caravan and see the island. RVs are referred to as campervans, motorhomes or caravans (trailers) and they stay in caravan parks. There are a number of places that rent them, campervans being the most popular. Remember- you drive on the left!

There are over 50 caravan parks on the island. The Discover Tasmania website lists them. Caravan parks in Australia and New Zealand often have a variety of accommodations, from simple campsites for tent campers, sites for caravans, motel rooms and even cabins. You don’t have to rent an caravan to use one. Click on a park and you’ll get more information about the types of accommodations/parking as well as an idea of what the area looks like. You can also get a membership in a park system, much like KOA, and get a discount at their parks.

Tasmania has beautiful coastline, national parks, islands like Bruny Island, mountains and history. In Hobart I visited the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site where women convicts were brought from England, Ireland and Scotland to serve their sentences – usually 7 years for crimes of poverty (stealing to feed themselves and their children). Of course, very few could afford passage back and had nothing to return to so it served to populate the country. Port Arthur, an adjoining peninsula, has even more historic sites where male convicts came to the country. You can follow the convict trail to see additional places.

Three unique animals I saw – as if all Australian species aren’t unique – were the albino kangaroo on Bruny Island, found nowhere else; Tasmanian Devils and platypus. I could have stayed much longer!

My photos aren’t the best. Later in the trip, my sister and I got doused by a wave and wrecked our iPhones and my camera. My photos were not on the Cloud so I lost all the photos from my phone, though I had my SD cards for my Fujifilm camera. We had three more days with only one camera between us.

I stayed in a variety of accommodations including two AirBnBs but would like to go back with George and rent a campervan and stay longer. I hope soon!

June 24, 2017
Categories : RV travels