A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

Heading For Home

Oh my gosh its been a long day. We got our usual 8:00AM start, but the drive just went on and on. We covered 415 miles today, much farther than we normally do. Tonight we are in Bend, OR. and its our last night on the road. Today was all about putting miles behind us. I think we are both looking forward to getting home and resting up from a grueling vacation. Hmmm, that sounds like a contradiction. Well, it was an awesome road trip and we did some very cool stuff and saw some amazing things. We’re just tired I think. We’ve been asking ourselves how on earth did we do six weeks on the road a couple of years ago?

Break time

Break time

There isn’t much to show for today’s journey. The first leg of our drive took us to the rest stop at Honey Lake, just south of Susanville, CA. Our next stop was at Klamath Falls to top off the gas tank and take a Mac Donald's break. On the way north from Klamath Falls we detoured over to Train Mountain to have a picnic lunch, but they were closed. We sat in the car and ate our lunch before getting back on the highway. Our next, and final, stop was here at Bend, OR. We drove through some pretty country, although we’ve been on this route before. The weather has been cool and cloudy all day with smoke in the air as we got closer to Bend.

Our home for the night

Our home for the night

Tomorrow our plan is to drive straight up hwy 97 to the Columbia, then over to Maryhill Winery for a quick visit. Then its over to I-84 and home via the fastest route. Fortunately the westbound lanes of I-84 are open now.

I hope all of you have enjoyed following our adventures. I know its been fun writing every evening. I love taking road trips and experiencing new things and seeing new places. Part of me wishes we had longer to stay at the places we visited, the other part is anxious to get home. So its with mixed feelings that I say good night and bring our adventures to a close.
Until next time,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 19:35 Comments (1)

Out f the Darkness or Leaving Death Valley

Leaving Death Valley

Leaving Death Valley

Reluctantly we had to leave Death Valley today. Over the last two days we have learned to really appreciate the beauty of this magnificent treasure. When you visit national parks like this you realize how lucky we are that our government is working to preserve some of the most incredible places on the continent for us and future generations to enjoy.

We left right on time this morning for our drive to Carson City. We planned to stop at Bishop to get gas and to visit an amazing German bakery there. It turns out that the bakery has celebrity status. There had to be close to a hundred people congregated around and in the bakery. Where do they all come from? Having said that, our efforts waiting in line were well worth it. A real German bakery in the middle of the Owens Valley.

Eric Shatz Bakery in Bishop

Eric Shatz Bakery in Bishop

Shatz Bakery

Shatz Bakery

After consuming our goodies we drove the 5 miles (or so) to the town of Laws. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Laws, CA. I din’t think many of you have. Laws is home to a very cool railroad and Owens Valley history museum. I could have spent most of a day there, but I kept it to about an hour. They have a great collection of buildings, unique railroad equipment, mining machinery, and farm machinery.

Looking down the yard tracks

Looking down the yard tracks

Engine service facility

Engine service facility

Southern Pacific narrow gage

Southern Pacific narrow gage

The original Laws depot

The original Laws depot

Waiting Room

Waiting Room

Turntable at Laws

Turntable at Laws

Once back on the road we arrived at a plan to eat our lunch at Mono Lake. Now we didn’t know anything about Mono Lake except that it was a big pretty lake that we would be passing on our way to Carson City. In the lakeside town of Lee Vining we discovered the National Park Service interpretive center. We made some startling discoveries. The lake is close to a million years old! Thats old for a lake. It also has some unique mineral structures that grow to great heights. We turned around and back tracked down the highway to the turn off to the south side of the lake to see the Tufa (the tall mineral structures.

Ooh, its not so hot today.

Ooh, its not so hot today.

Tufa formations on the water's edge

Tufa formations on the water's edge

Baby Tufa

Baby Tufa


We hiked around through the Tufa for an hour or so and then headed north again. Just another 100 or so miles to go. Finally we made it to Carson City where I’m recovering from dinner and sipping a beer while writing this. Tomorrow we are driving to Bend! Google says its about a seven hour drive. It’ll be a very long day. I guess we’ll have to limit our stops tomorrow. Somehow we have managed to turn our four or five hour drives into all day events. Tomorrow I’ll let you know how it turned out.

Jim

Posted by olytrains 22:37 Comments (0)

Furnace Creek and Beyond

More golden Canyon

More golden Canyon

We had another early day today. We wanted to go hiking and the later it gets, the hotter it gets. We headed back over the Panamint Mountains to Death Valley. Technically we
re staying at a higher elevation in the Panamint Valley. Our first stop was back at the Mesquite Flats Dunes. In the morning light they looked so much different than they did yesterday. Next we headed for Ubenhebe Crater only to find out that yes, the road really is closed. Our back-up plan was to go back to Golden Canyon and do the entire trail to the end.

The Dunes in the morning

The Dunes in the morning

Golden Canyon proved to be a good choice. The temps were only in the 80s when we started our walk. By the time it started getting hot there was some shade in the canyon. We logged about five miles to the end of the canyon and back. From the pictures you can get an idea of how colorful and interesting the rock formations are. I’m glad we went back.

Sidewinder and mouse tracks in the sand

Sidewinder and mouse tracks in the sand

More golden Canyon

More golden Canyon

Colors and textures of Golden Canyon

Colors and textures of Golden Canyon

Golden Canyon re-do

Golden Canyon re-do

We drove back up the highway to Furnace Creek to look around and see what is there. We spent quite a bit of time at the Borax Museum there. Hey, they have a Death Valley Rail Road locomotive on display, very cool. By now were were getting hot, thirsty, and hungry. We found a shady place to sit down at the general store where I bough an ice cold bottle of water to enjoy with our sandwiches.

Furnace Creek Resort

Furnace Creek Resort

Death Valley RR engine

Death Valley RR engine

Speaking of water, I think we each consumed about four or five (actually I lost count) bottles of water today. As fast as we could drink it, we sweated it out again. So I have to say that the facilities at Furnace Creek are far better than what we have at Panamint Springs “Resort”. Resort? Well not really. A restaurant, general store, gas station, and a collection of small cabins. Its hardly a resort, but its clean and has air conditioning.

We continued our travels by going next to the Harmony Borax Works, or rather the remains of the works. They were abandoned over 100 years ago and there isn’t much left to see. There are lots of interpretive signs though and one can get a real feel for what work must have been like there. This was the starting point for those 20 mule team wagon trains. They traveled from here to Mohave, 160+ miles each way (through the blazing dessert).

DSC_6639.jpg

Still having lots of daylight left we then headed to Zabriskie Point Lookout. We parked among the other cars and tour busses and joined the throng at the lookout. Eventually the crowd thinned out and we got some spectacular views. It was still early so we took off for Badwater Basin. The lowest point in North America. As the sigh says 282’ below see level. Surprise, it didn’t feel any different than sea level except by now the temps were well into the 100s. We followed the crowd and walked all the way to the end of the trail onto the salt flats. Wow, it was blistering hot out there!

Enough said

Enough said

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin

So, we took our parched throats back to Stovepipe Wells where we enjoyed the air conditioning in the pub. Oh, and a nice cold beer! Cooled off and thirst quenched we drove back over the mountains to Panamint Springs “Resort”. We discovered that a German biker gang from Leipsig, Germany had moved in to the two cabins adjacent to ours. We had a nice chat before going inside to rest a bit.

Hungry Coyote

Hungry Coyote

Panamint Springs Resort at sunset

Panamint Springs Resort at sunset

Its been a very long, but very rewarding day. We both have a new understanding of Death Valley and appreciate its magnificent beauty. We also learned how blasted hot it can get. Dry heat or not, its just darn hot.

Tomorrow we head back to the outside world and the internet, google navigation, and cheap gas. We’ll drive from here to Carson City, NV. I’m sure we’ll make some stops along the way. there is supposed to be a German bakery in Bishop. I’m sure we’ll be ready for brunch by the time we get there.

More tomorrow,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 22:14 Comments (0)

Into the Furnace

Waiting for the sun at the loop

Waiting for the sun at the loop

Today started out as an extension of yesterday. I was up at 6:30 and out the door by 6:45. After a quick stop at Starbucks I was off to the Tehachapi Loop. The morning was cool and overcast, but felt refreshing. I parked the Mini in the official paved parking area and then hiked up the road several hundred feet to to a dirt road. I was told by a local that I could just walk around the chain stretched across the road and hike out to a hill overlooking “the loop”.

The sun peaks through the clouds

The sun peaks through the clouds

I think I found one of the nicer vantage points for watching trains navigate the loop. From the top of the ridge I could see both directions, up and down the tracks. I found a convenient rock to perch on and sat back with my coffee to wait for trains. A half hour passed and no trains. 45 minutes and no trains. I got up and explored the hilltop and still no trains. I had to be back to meet Karen before 9:00 if I wanted breakfast. Time was running out, then from the tracks up above I heard a train.

By now I had scouted some good vantage points, so I rushed to my chosen spot and started photographing. As the train got closer I moved to several different vantage points. I shot upwards of 50 pictures as the train finally disappeared. I then made the ten minute hike back to the Mini and rushed back to town. I made it just in time for breakfast.

BNSF getting close to Tehachapi Loop

BNSF getting close to Tehachapi Loop

Starting around the loop

Starting around the loop

It just keeps coming

It just keeps coming

Crossing over the tunnel

Crossing over the tunnel

A complete loop now

A complete loop now

Around the backside

Around the backside

By mid-morning we were on the road again. This time headed for Death Valley. Most of the drive is through what I think is the Mohave Dessert. After a while it became quite boring. I have to say that these California drivers don’t make it easy. They’re mostly crazy. We came to the turn-off for Death Valley and Panamint Springs. Only 45 more miles, Ugh! So up over mountains and negotiating the curvy roads with the crazy California drivers and we were at our destination.

Rainbow Canyon

Rainbow Canyon

Picnic lunch at Panamint Springs

Picnic lunch at Panamint Springs

For the rest of the day we explored Death Valley. The deeper we got into the valley, the hotter it got. We actually went hiking in 102 degree heat. Of course we had plenty of water, sun screen, and our hats. We made three short hikes in the mid-day heat then headed for cooler temps and dinner back in Panamint Springs.

Mesquite Flats Dunes

Mesquite Flats Dunes

First views of golden Canyon

First views of golden Canyon

Golden Canyon in the afternoon

Golden Canyon in the afternoon

More tomorrow,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 22:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Out Training

Another northbound at Bealville

Another northbound at Bealville

We decided that we would do just a bit more exploring in Old Town San Diego before getting on the road. We had breakfast at a nice little cafe and then walked around and saw the sights in the daylight. Finally we had to get into the car and start our journey. It was a long boring drive up I-15/215 and hwy. 395 to Tehachapi. We arrived around 1:30 in the afternoon.

The Best Western Hacienda Hotel

The Best Western Hacienda Hotel

Karen in the courtyard.

Karen in the courtyard.

View from the courtyard of the Hacienda Hotel

View from the courtyard of the Hacienda Hotel

Old Town San Diego train station

Old Town San Diego train station

The Congress Cafe

The Congress Cafe

As I warned last night, today is all about trains. After a brief stop to check into our motel, eat lunch, and to visit the museum we drove downhill to the Tehachapi Loop. We stopped at the official viewing point and met a couple of other rail fans who were also hoping to see a train. After about 10 minutes we could hear a train approaching from down the mountain. Keep in mind that the up-hill trains are slogging along at 10 or 15 mph, so it takes awhile for them to come into view. Once the train was going around the loop the wait seemed worthwhile. Its very cool.

Tehachapi Station Museum

Tehachapi Station Museum

The operator's view

The operator's view


Tehachapi Loop

Tehachapi Loop

Next we drove the ten or so miles down hill to a place named Caliente. There is a post office there, but little else. This “settlement” happens to be right in the middle of a very tight loop. As the tracks gain altitude they snake all over the hills. The grade is quite steep, for a train, and it was quite an engineering feet to carve out a crossing over these mountains. Its quite a sight to see trains winding all over and snaking up over the mountains. One minute a train is going south, the next its going north again. Its hard to keep track of which way the trains are going.

Northbound at Caliente

Northbound at Caliente

A meet at Caliente

A meet at Caliente

Getting a green signal at Caliente

Getting a green signal at Caliente

Southbound at Caliente

Southbound at Caliente


Southbound crossing at Bealville

Southbound crossing at Bealville


Northbound at Bealville

Northbound at Bealville


Southbound approaching Bealville

Southbound approaching Bealville


A northbound at Bealville

A northbound at Bealville

Finally the light began to fade and we made our way back to the town of Tehachapi. After a great dinner we headed back to the motel. As soon as I finish this post I’ll get some rest. I plan to be back out train watching at first light. We’ll see how that actually works out. We’ll head for Death Valley later on in the morning.

This is likely my last post until we reach Carson City on Saturday night. I’ve read that there is neither cell service nor wi-fi available in Death Valley. I guess I’ll find out.

Until next time,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 22:36 Comments (1)

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