• Day 19: Friday

    We got up and broke camp, leaving before most of the campers were even out of their tents. In Lee Vining we went to the same restaurant again, a place called Nicely’s. It’s about the only restaurant in the small town of Lee Vining other than a couple that look expensive. Nicely's was crowded. We had seen 18 National Forest Fire Fighters and around 8 BLM Fire Fighters the night before. This morning there were over a dozen people from the California Conservation Corps having breakfast. The restaurant was crowded but the food was good.

    We chose, or maybe it was Dave who chose, to head back over route 120 into Benton, a road Rick Ives described as being like a roller coaster. And it was! The road occasionally yanked our stomachs up and down as we went over a rise and into a dip. Following our last camp host's suggestion, we turned onto 264 on the other side of Border Peak and headed south through Fish Lake Valley to 266, which we had traveled on our first day. As we approached US95 we could see a stream of dust, rising into the air. Dave said it was a car speeding along a dirt road.

    As we got closer to US95 we saw that the dust storm was being caused by many cars, and when we got close enough we could see that they were off road vehicles with roll bars and helmeted drivers. It was a race. Now Dave has traveled US 95 a lot, and he’d never seen traffic like that. This was an area between Beatty and Goldfield, where even the jackrabbits carry extra water. As we turned on to the highway, there was a steady stream of traffic going north and Dave noted that they were support vehicles for the race drivers. We could see the streams of dust all over, way up on the hills, down on the flats, everywhere, and the dust was filling the valley and hiding the mountains.

    All this wouldn’t have been a problem except there was a military convoy going south at the same time, about four trucks and four Hum-vees, all going about 45 mph. Again, that wouldn’t have been a problem but because of the steady line of traffic going north, we couldn’t pass. We were frustrated, finding ourselves in a line of around fifty cars following those slow vehicles.

    When we reached Beatty, we stopped to use the rest room, get something to drink,and fill up with gas. Dave noticed two Nye County Sheriffs having coffee and asked them what the race was. They informed him it was the Annual Off-Road Race from Las Vegas To Reno – except they actually went from Beatty to Dayton. We believe the circuitous route, however, was at least 400 miles long.

    The heavy traffic going north ceased after Beatty, and the rest of the drive was uneventful.  We eagerly welcomed the soft landing in Dave’s driveway to end unforgettable Great Geezer Getaway 2!

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  • Day 18: Thursday

    Our breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast was very good. We broke camp and hit the road by 9:00AM to follow another winding road to the entrance and went on to the Yosemite Valley. It is an impressive place. One wonders what it would be like to wander into it with no other people around. As it is, all the places tourists can go are tromped down and unnatural, but the sights are breathtaking. We stopped for photos three times, and of course, made some friends. Dave lamented the fact that he’d lost his wallet with GGG and Broadcast business cards in it. Larry handed out the cards, which incidentally, were Dave’s extra cards he’d stashed in the car.

    We said goodbye to Yosemite and used Millie to find Tioga road. She had a hiccup as we turned onto the road, but this time it was reset by simply removing and reinstalling the battery. Tioga Road is in Yosemite Park and it goes through some impressive scenery. There’s a lot of granite up there, and some of the mountains look like they’re solid granite. Dave was eying his half tank of gas and asked Larry how much of Tioga Pass was in the park.

    Now we occasionally have some discussions, and sometimes they get a bit exuberant, but not often. . . no more than four or five times a day. It is usually over a miscommunication regarding semantics or some kind of definition.

    This is what happened here. Larry was thinking of the pass as the point that is the highest part of the route, which may be technically correct, while Dave was thinking of the pass as the entire route that goes over the Sierras, which is probably the common understanding. So Larry, studying the AAA map, said the pass wasn’t in the park. Dave was driving over a winding road, glancing at the map and saying that he could plainly see that the pass was going through the park.

    Hey, we’re still friends, and we eventually found the problem in our communication. True, the last climb of the pass is outside the park, but only the last couple of miles. Still inside the park is a large, mountain lake, the water of which can’t be more than 40 degrees. There were hundreds of cars parked along the road where it passed the lake and there were a few people swimming in that clear, glacier water. Well, they were young, but they had to be nuts too!

    Dave had previously used Google Earth to scope out the campgrounds on the east side of Tioga Road, so we drove straight to the campground and set up camp. We had two talkative neighbors, one a lone man, a couple of years younger than us, who had an RV and a motorcycle. He camped there and used the motorcycle to go around and see nearby sights. On the other side of us was a family from Germany. The man spoke fair English and his teen aged daughter spoke more. We played tour guides as we told them all the sights to see around their future destination of Las Vegas – other than the Strip.

    Dave suggested that we go to Lee Vining for supper that evening, so we did. It was only about five miles away, near Mono Lake. We went to the same restaurant we went to on our second day for breakfast. The owner showed us to a booth and Dave asked her if she remembered us from 18 days earlier. “We left a card.” he said. Larry chimed in with, “We’re the Great Geezer Getaway Guys.”

    Her reply​? “Yes and you left your wallet here too." So Dave got his wallet back, even though it didn’t contain anything important.

    After supper we returned to the campground and the German neighbor rushed up to show us a picture of what we’d missed while we were gone. A bear had appeared and tried to catch some fish in the stream about twenty feet from our camp. The host said it was a gentle bear that never caused a problem unless someone left food out when they went to bed. We locked everything in the car each night.

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  • Day 17: Wednesday

    We had been loaned two different GPS devices, one was from barbershop chum Rick Ives, the other from Daves daughter. Her’s was newer and had more features so we used that in the beginning. Every time we turned off the route, the woman’s voice scolded us with “re-cal-cu-lat-ing” and told us what we should do to get back on track. We began calling her Millie. Well, dear Millie froze up at the Columbia River, although we don’t think it was the chilly river that did it. We tried disconnecting the cord and removing the battery but it just proclaimed “kernal error.” So on Day 8, it was Ricks GPS that got us to my cousin’s house where his son-in-law got on the Internet and found a way to do a hard reboot on the Garmin. It worked, so by the end of day 10 we had Millie back on our backs.

    Dave would drive along following the map on Millie while older Geezer Larry tracked us on the old fashioned AAA map. Pretty soon Larry would say, “We’re on the wrong road,” or “We’re going the wrong way,” or something like that. Dave would drive merrily on, watching Millie until Larry said, “Bingo! We’re right on track.”

    This problem was compounded as we drove across the Sacramento Valley and Millie chose a route that was probably shorter but not the route we’d marked on the map. Larry was worried because he didn’t know where we were, but Dave kept following Millie, ignoring Larry’s demands to “turn here,” or “We’re going the wrong way.” Soon we hit a junction to the highway Larry wanted us to be on and everything was okay as we headed towards the mountains. The road became more curvy and then the curves got tighter as we climbed up over 5,000 feet. It was getting late so we began searching for a camp ground. When we spotted a ranger station, we stopped there. It was closed, but Larry managed to attract the attention of ranger Jen, a young lady who gave him directions to the Sweetwater Camp Ground that turned out to be pretty nice.

    After we set up the tent, we fixed supper over our campfire – chili beans for Larry and hot dogs for Dave. . . reminiscent of a scene from Blazing Saddles!

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  • Day 16: Tuesday

    We got up early, broke camp and got into town by 8:00 AM where we had breakfast at a Denny’s. Then we went to the train depot, located the contact Larry had made, and got our tickets for half price. Fortunately, the train was not full. It was a very comfortable ride. We learned a lot from the narration given by the conductor. The train followed a small stream through a redwood forest that lacked any old growth. The train was originally for loggers who cut redwoods. At one point we saw a tree with a cut about 10 or 15 feet above ground that had a board sticking out of it. Loggers stood on this board to cut the tree down and leave the high stump.

    One interesting note: As a train approaches a crossing, the engineer sounds the horn in a Morse Code sequence for the letter Q. This is two longs, a short and a long. It’s federal law that any train sounds this sequence when it approaches a crossing. The Q is for quarter, as in “can give no quarter” because it can’t stop!

    On the return trip, Dave attempted to take some photos, but even though the train only traveled 15 mph at top speed, the pictures came out blurred. As it turned out, he was standing next to a distinguished couple they had noticed before, so he leaned over and asked her what speed she was using on her camera. This simple question turned into a long conversation with the couple for the rest of the trip. Dave wanted to give them a business card but it was in an extra wallet he lost somewhere early in the trip, so Larry gave them a card. John and Mia were very pleasant and interesting. We have since heard from them via email.

    After the train ride, we traveled down Highway 1 along the California coast. It had many tight curves and at one point the vertical drop down to the ocean was nearly a thousand feet. It wasn't straight down but it was mighty steep. We took a road inland that also had a lot of curves until we found ourselves in Napa Valley. We found another Motel 6 near the southern end of Napa and had a late supper in a Burger King.

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  • Day 15: Monday

    After we broke camp, we headed back to 101 and traveled south until we found the turnoff to The Avenue Of The Giants, a side road that parallels 101 and goes through the red woods parts of which are old growth forests. Dave had studied this road on Google Earth, but as it turned out, he hadn’t studied the first part of it. He turned down an unmarked road where he thought the Founders Grove should be. It went a short ways to a turnaround spot and a dirt trail went from there. Like an idiot, he went down the trail for about 200 feet before deciding this couldn’t be the place, and had to back up along that winding trail to the turnaround spot.

    The drive was longer than expected. We came to a store and RV park where we used the bathroom and looked in the store, asking the employees where the Founders Grove was. They didn’t seem to know but thought it was back the way we had come. We traveled on what seemed a long ways, then went all the way back to the start but still couldn’t find it. Finally we decided we’d have to skip it and went back along the avenue, stopping a couple of times to take photos. Suddenly we came to a well marked turnoff to the Founder Grove and joined the host of tourists who were already there.

    Despite the crowd, the grove is very quiet and has many huge trees. As the oldest trees grow over 300 feet tall, they become vulnerable to high winds because their root system does not go deep since there is plenty of water on the surface. The original Founders tree, called the Dyerville Giant, was between 362 and 370 feet tall when it blew down in 1991. The noise was so loud that some people in the area thought it was a train wreck. It is estimated that it weighed over 1,000,000 pounds. The tall trees are impressive, but nearly as impressive are the fallen giants which lay for years hosting a community of plants growing on them. We spent a couple of hours walking a trail and taking photos before continuing on our way.

    As we down the coast, stopping to take pictures a couple of times, we eventually reached Fort Bragg. It was after 5:00 and finding a campground was a problem. We finally located one a couple of miles outside Fort Bragg that was commercial, and had a lot of broken down trailers that looked semi permanent. It cost us $20.00 but we were given fire wood and it was cheaper than a motel.

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Great Geezer Getaway II

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