Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Miles of Driving to Make it Home

Well, Erin and I are finally back home.  After leaving Lake Tahoe we headed East across Nevada.  As the end of our honeymoon approached we had miles of driving ahead of us...miles of incredibly boring driving ahead of us.  On Saturday we had tried to leave early enough to make it to our next destination before nightfall.  But as the sun began to set on Ruby Mountain we were still far from our destination.  Fortunately we found a place to eat dinner so we wouldn't have to cook in the dark.  While the place was very small-town (with a taxidermy diorama the size of a small room) the food was excellent and we felt ready to find our camp in the dark.  With a bit more driving we finally found our campsite and got setup.

The next morning we were up and on the road early as we had one of the longest drives of our trips.  For eight hours or so we made our way through Utah and up into Wyoming until we got to Flaming Gorge.  Much of our day was spent on the road.  After driving so long we were disappointed to find a sparsely facilitated campground.  Still, we were able to make the most of it, cook some dinner, and even enjoy some sparklers we had brought along.  While the lightning from passing storms was exciting the light it cast on the tent was slightly eerie.

When we got up the next morning we were not looking forward to more time on the road, but we knew we would be home that night.  Not having the energy to fix breakfast we packed up and headed for a nearby lodge.  There we found a beautiful view of a lake and attractive cabins.  While the meal was only average we were treated to a nice view of several hummingbirds on the lodge's deck.  A little driving brought us back to the Flaming Gorge Dam and the last site of our trip.  From there it was another long drive back to Colorado.

It's been a wonderful trip and a great honeymoon.  Erin and I have learned more about ourselves and each other than we knew before.  The difficulties of camping have brought a greater appreciation for some of the basic things in our lives like electricity and the internet.  While we saw many sites and got to experience many exciting activities there are several places we wished we could have spent more time at.  Erin described it best as a "wine tasting" of travel.  We got to taste a little bit of many different places and while some were good and some were bad, we now know what we would like to drink more deeply and where we want to re-visit.  Through all the good and the bad, the fun and the difficult, I've become more certain of the exceptional partner I have in Erin and I'm looking forward to many more adventures with her.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ballooning and Driving From Coast to Mountains

After having gotten up at 4:30am on Tuesday and told we couldn't go hot-air ballooning because of the fog we were dutifully up again at 4:30am on Wednesday to try again with a different operator.  This time things went much smoother.  A driver picked us up and took us to Napa where we joined other people heading out.  The pilots indicated there was fog again that morning, but instead of cancelling they took us over the hills to Winters in the Central Valley to take off.  While the basket was a bit crowded with 16 passengers plus the pilot the ride was very pleasant.  The hour-long trip took us over a variety of fields (including sunflowers which we wouldn't have gotten to see in Napa).  The price of the flight included a delicious champagne brunch back in Napa as well.

When all was done we went back to camp and packed up.  Before leaving Napa Valley though we went to one more tasting.  This one, at Frog's Leap, was very relaxing with some really nice wines.  Soon though we were on the road to our next destination, Mendocino.  The road to get there (CA-128) was long and twisty, but the redwood forest we drove through was very beautiful.  Once there, we were greeted with the coastal fog we had grown to expect.  It did however make our cozy bed-and-breakfast cottage that more attractive with its little fireplace and thick sheets.  After dinner in town we had no problem getting to sleep with such a long day behind us.

The fog was even thicker when we got up Thursday morning and we were reluctant to leave our cottage.  Once out though we took a stroll through town to see the boutique shops and get some lunch for the road.  We even found a nice, secluded trail down to a small cove where we found several shiny pieces of abalone shell.  Soon though we were back on the beautiful, twisty road as we made our way to Lake Tahoe.  With heavy traffic north of the San Francisco bay and construction at many places our trip took close to nine hours.  Arriving at our campground in the dark it was all we could do to set up our tent, blow up the air mattress, and roll out our sleeping bags before we crashed into them.

In the morning we awoke to what turned out to be a beautiful, relaxing campground.  We took a walk down to the beach to dip our toes into the clear, cool water before relaxing for a spell.  Then, for one of our most enjoyable parts of our trip, we got on a sunset, sailboat cruise of the lake - including beer/chardonay and appetizers.  As the first time either of us had been on a sailboat of this size (35') we were both impressed with the cruise.

While we hadn't seen too many people when we got in to Lake Tahoe on Thursday or driving around on Friday, we certainly found plenty of them Saturday afternoon.  In the morning we had a chance to lay out on the same beach we had walked to the day before.  After that though we found the crowds hovering around a final look over the lake at Inspiration Point.  They continued to be a problem as we went into town looking for a place to change the oil on the car.  We finally gave up and have come to Reno to get it taken care of.  Now we start our long trek back to Colorado.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cold Central California Coast

Though we had been warned about it, Erin and I were still surprised at the cooler weather up the coast of Central California.  Starting in Pismo and for the rest of our time at the coast we often had to bundle up at night and accept that our views would be obscured by fog.  Still, we found places along the beautiful drive to stop and hike, take pictures, and have something to eat.  Fortunately in Big Sur we got a bit of a reprieve from the weather at one of the better campsites that we've stayed at, Fernwood Resort and Campground.  There we found clean facilities, a site by the river, and plenty of good firewood.

It gave us the energy to get up the next day for a hike up to a view of the valley we were staying in and a nice waterfall.  Continuing up the coast there were more places to stop, but with the fog as bad as it was, we kept right on going to our hotel in Monterey.  Situated in downtown Monterey just a block from the water, it provided us a comfortable place to relax after all our camping.  After a coffee shop to catch up on email and dinner we were both ready to go to bed.

On Sunday we got up late, checked out of the hotel, and got some tasty crepes for breakfast.  We then took a walk along a delightful bike path by the shore which took us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The aquarium was filled with all sorts of undersea exhibits and creatures.  Unfortunately, since it was the weekend, it was also full of families and children.  Some displays were so popular that it was difficult to get a peek and while we enjoyed the visit, we were pretty tired of the crowds by the time we were done.  That afternoon we drove up to Santa Cruz and were able to find a laundromat to do some much-needed laundry.  That night it was back to camping as we drove into the boondocks to find Sunset State Beach.

Monday was another busy day as we got up and headed in to Santa Cruz to enjoy the beach and find a coffee shop for breakfast.  Santa Cruz struck us as run-down and not as nice as Monterey.  While we found a decent coffee shop we found better beaches up in Half Moon Bay a short drive up the coast.  After a brief walk along the cliffs above the beach there we were back in the car heading in to San Francisco.  We hadn't planned to spend much time there so we just stopped at Fisherman's Wharf from some delicious lunch before heading up over the Golden Gate Bridge.  We did find some time though to stop in Muir Forest just north of the city where we went on a beautiful walk amongst the redwoods.  After a bit more time in the car we were in Napa and having another wonderful meal; this time at a recommended Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni's.  By the time we got to our camp in the north end of Napa Valley it was already dark and we were presented with the challenge of someone in already in our reserved campsite.  A brief talk with the camp host worked things out and we were soon asleep in a different site.

We didn't get to sleep too long though as we were scheduled to get up on Tuesday morning at 4:30am to go out for a hot-air balloon ride.  Imagine our disappointment though when, after dutifully getting up and on our way out to the meeting place, we get a call from the operator saying they weren't flying due to fog.  Crestfallen and irritated we returned to our camp to get a few more hours of sleep before continuing with the rest of our day's activities.  We then woke up at a leisurely pace, had some breakfast, and headed out.  Our first stop was a tour and tasting at the Castello Di Amorossa.  The castle was beautiful and we were amazed at the detail that went into its construction.  We tasted several nice wines there as well.

The next winery, Schramberg, was a little difficult to find and we showed up a little late.  We however caught up with the tour and then proceeded to taste a lot of champagne.  While both of the tours and the tastings had been fun I was getting tired so we got some lunch and returned to camp.  After some relaxation and an early dinner it was off to bed.  We decided to try our ballooning luck with another company and they needed us to get up just as early as we had on Tuesday.  Stay tuned for pictures and details of that part of our adventure!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Back in California

After writing about how well we were getting this camping thing down, we awoke on Saturday to rain.  Suddenly packing up camp became a wet mess and everything became more difficult.  However, we were able to manage and were soon on the road.  The drive was pleasant, but long and we eventually found ourselves in a world far different from the campsites we had been staying in the past few days: Las Vegas.

Our stay in Las Vegas was a certainly a contrast to where we had been and required some adjustment.  It was nice to get out of the heat of the desert into an air conditioned hotel and the room was very comfortable, but there were a ton of people and distractions everywhere.  That night we met with my friend Billy and his fiancee Alyson for dinner at a sushi place.  From there we had to rush to make our Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio, "O".  We made it just in time and got to enjoy a great show.  With a lot of trapeze and gymnastic acts over an ever changing stage of water it was truly an amazing show.

Sunday found us finally driving into California.  The traffic was just as I remembered it, though maybe not as bad as I was expecting on a Sunday afternoon from Vegas.  I showed Erin where I had lived in Dana Point and we had a delicious Thai meal.  By the time we got into camp and got the tent set up it was already dark though so we called it a night and went to bed.

On Monday we had to get up early to make it to the ferry that would take us out to Catalina Island.  The hour ride was nice and we even got to see a pod of dolphins riding the waves left in the wake of the ferry.  Catalina and the city of Avalon where we landed is very picturesque and we soon found our way to our campground and set up.  The rest of the day was spent laying down on the beach, taking a sea kayak to a nearby cove where we found a seal, and wandering around the town.  We finished the day at the town's beautiful theater where we watched a new movie.  It was very classy with a painted, dome ceiling and comfortable seats.

On Tuesday we had our morning on the island and so decided to take a tour on a semi-submersible vessel to one of the island's coves.  While the pamphlet seemed to over-promise just a bit, we did get to see several fish in their underwater habitat.  Soon enough it was time to head back to the mainland where we started up to Santa Barbara.  We stopped at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Santa Monica on the 3rd Street Promenade as we watched the many people walk by.  When we arrived at our bed and breakfast we were exhausted and happy for a real bed and sheets.

Wednesday morning we were able to get up at a leisurely pace, enjoy breakfast, and try to catch up on work and emails.  We found a nice place to have lunch in downtown Santa Barbara before heading out to wine country.  Looking for some of the places in the movie "Sideways", we stopped at two wineries for tastings.  While the wine didn't seem particularly special to me for their price, we did end up getting a bottle and some peaches before heading into the very Danish town of Solvang.  We ended up at our campsite in Pismo, had a basic dinner, and went to bed.

Thursday gave us a more relaxing day as we got up and took a walk down on the beach.  We found several sand dollars and sea shells while Erin frolicked in the surf.  It was also great to see seals off the coast while pelicans dived into the water.  Surely a sign of a school of fish.  We got our own fresh fish up the coast at Avila beach while whatching more seals sun themselves and prowl for the fish that fishermen were trying to catch.  For lunch we stopped at a place in Morro Bay that my parents had told us about, "The Whale's Tail."  We had a delicious and filling stuffed squid before driving up the coast some more to Hearst Castle.  The castle sat on beautiful grounds while opulently furnished inside.  We finished our tour of the grounds with a video about William Randolf Hearst.  Finally, it was back to camp for a fire, dinner, and warm sleeping bags to keep out the cold that seemed so at odds with what one would expect in California.

Today we're going to enjoy the coast some more as we make our way up to Big Sur.  With all that we've done it's hard to imagine that we're only halfway through our trip.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the blog with all that we're doing a little more frequently.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Canyons, Canyons, and More Canyons

It's been four days since we left the chateau in Grand Junction and since that time we've seen some amazing scenery (mostly canyons).

After a late start and a delicious breakfast on Tuesday we were on the road for Moab...until the chateau caretaker called letting us know we had left some stuff in the room.  Fortunately we hadn't gotten too far before then.  When we had left the first time, I thought it might be too early for wine tasting, but back at the winery/chateau we decided it was a sign that we should see what they had.  After settling on a nice Reisling we were back on the road and headed into the desert.

Moab, while a short drive from Grand Junction, was far hotter than we were used to and once we found our campground we were refreshed to enjoy their pool.  Later, after having spent some time reading and waiting for the sun and the temperatures go down we headed into Arches National Park for a hike out to Delicate Arch.  It was a beautiful hike as the setting sun cast long shadows against the painted desert.  Unfortunately this also meant that by the time we returned back to camp to make dinner it was dark.  Having completed the challenge of cooking in the dark we then had our next challenge of trying to sleep in the still very warm tent.

Having gone from the quiet, air-conditioned bedroom of the chateau to the hot, noisy campground we did not get much sleep.  So as the temperatures rose we broke camp and made a change in our plans deciding to visit Canyonlands National Park instead of doing another hike in Moab.  The decision was well worth it as the Canyonlands provided many exciting and spectacular views.  We continued our drive to Bryce Canyon and were able to find a great campsite even though we had not been able to make reservations.  As the sun set, the view from the rim of Bryce provided more spectacular views for us.  Sitting around the campfire that evening we were happy with the way the day turned out.

Thursday found us rising early and walking down among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.  With a climate that provides 200 days a year of freezing temperatures, Bryce provides an ideal environment for the freezing and thawing cycle that helps break down the rock that makes up the hoodoos.  After our walk we were ready to continue our trip with a drive down to the Grand Canyon.  We arrived with enough time (and light) to set up camp, get some wood for a fire, and get dinner cooked.  I think we're starting to get this camping thing down.

The night before, Erin had pored over our travel and hiking books making a list of things for us to see today (Friday).  So after breakfast, a load of laundry, and moving our campsite (because we weren't able to get a place for two consecutive nights), we were off.  After looking at the Grand Canyon from Cape Royal, Imperial Point, and Bright Angel Point, I have had my fill of canyons.  They've all been very beautiful and today's views have been especially spectacular, but I'm looking forward to the beach and California.

Before that though is a night in Las Vegas where we'll get to see a Cirque du Soleil show, sleep in a bed, and enjoy a shower.  We're both looking forward to it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

1st Day of Honeymoon and Professional Wedding Pictures Slide-Show

After a late start today Erin and I started out on our honeymoon.  There's so much that we've thought of to bring on our three week adventure that I wasn't sure we would be able to fit it all into the car.  While I'm sure we've forgotten something everything miraculously fit and we were off. 

After a few hours in the car we came to our first stop: Hanging Lake.  It is a steep mile climb up to the lake, but it is well worth it.  The lake is so clear and the falls are so picturesque.  We took our time soaking it all in and finally started to feel like it was summer and the relaxing times that come with it.

After our hike we drove some more before ending up at the Two Rivers Chateau in Grand Junction.  This is such a beautiful place to stay and there are only a few other guests so it feels almost like it's our own personal winery chateau.  We followed Erin's father's suggestion to go to dinner at "626 Rood" which was a great choice.  The wine and the meal were excellent.

On returning to our room we've found a link to a slide-show of our wedding images from our photographer.  She did a great job and you can see the result here:


Tomorrow: Moab.  Hopefully it won't be too hot to do a hike.

Wedding, Fireworks, and More!

What an amazing and hectic past two weeks it has been.  Last weekend I got married to my love, Erin.  After all the planning and preparation the weekend went off perfectly with the weather cooperating and everything falling into place.  Friday we had our rehearsal, welcome dinner for our friends and family from out of town, and a ceremony with sparklers in the meadow.  Saturday was the big day with great weather and a wonderful occasion to see so many great people.  On Sunday we recuperated from all the partying with breakfast in bed and massages down by the river before joining a few of our guests for a hike.

While our official photographer is still working on the photos of the event, many people took their own photos and have shared them online:



This past week, Erin and I have had some time to get used to living as husband and wife as we continue to clean and organize our home together.  There have been several nights where we have been able to eat dinner out on the porch as we enjoy the evening air.  It has been very busy to as we have prepared for our honeymoon.

Still, we have had some time to enjoy the company of friends and family.  For the 4th of July Erin's parents came to our place so we could cook some dinner for them and light off fireworks together.  The night included a delicious apple crumble that Erin made and some spectacular fireworks set off in the skies over Castle Rock.

Today, as we've finished preparing for our trip it has at times astounded us that we'll be travelling for three whole weeks.  We have a lot planned and I'm sure it will be a great adventure.  We'll be taking pictures and I'll be updating this blog as frequently as I can depending on where we have internet service.

First up: Hanging Lake hike and Two Rivers Chateau in Grand Junction and then off to Moab, UT.  Stay tuned...