A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

We didn’t quite leave our hearts in San Francisco

But we could have done if it was sunny

all seasons in one day
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Our lengthy stay in San Francisco gave us a few days off the blog but we’ve seen and done plenty in that time. So, what did we do? We did most of the 49 mile drive, wandered around Sausilito, visited the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, took in some cable car rides, walked up the twisty bit of Lombard Street, hiked up the several hundred steps to the Coit Tower, got drunk and had dinner with some random strangers, wandered along Fisherman’s Wharf, drove across the Golden Gate (and took photos of it), watched a baseball game (the Giants won) and got a boat across to Alcatraz. We stayed the first couple of nights with Helen’s uncle – who acted as a tour guide on the first night and took us to a damn fine ice cream parlour on the way home – and then centrally in the city for the next 4 nights. The down side of San Fran was it wasn’t sunny every day. In fact, it rained heavily on one day and was dreary for a couple of days. We did get the last 2 days as non-rainy days though and that just made the time there a whole lot more pleasant. That said I can still feel the cold rain that dripped off the roof of a cable car and dripped right down my neck as I was clinging on to the side. It’s all good fun though. We pretty much ticked off the big ticket items for San Fran and now it’s on to Monterey and an altered route back to LA as the Pacific Coast Highway 1 is still closed. Oh well, the forecast is sun all week!

Posted by neilthelr 23:01 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Dear America, there's an H in the word "Herb"

and always has been

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We know that American-English has existed for some time and common words used in English have US equivalents (and Microsoft's spellchecker sometimes tries to persuade us English folk to use the 'American-ese'). Some of those alternate words make sense (like 'Drapes' because 'Curtains' do at least drape) and some words have had letters removed that don't really need to be there and therefore don't really impact the pronunciation, such as 'Colored'. However, one word we've heard a lot this trip is the word 'Herb'. Or rather 'erb. For some reason, that we really can't work out, the H gets dropped so we've heard references to "'Erbal Tea", "fresh 'erbs" etc. WHY?? Has the letter H been dropped from Hair ("I'm going to the 'airdressers"), or from Hotter ("It was 'otter today")? No, it hasn't. So why Herb? Is it an attempt to sound French? If so, it's dreadful. However, there are two references that have annoyed me the past couple of days and they're both on car adverts; one for Mazda and one for Nissan. Now, these are both international brands and everywhere I've visited in the world (which now only excludes the polar regions and South America) they are pronounced "Maz-'d" and "Niss-an". In the past couple of days I've seen adverts where the voiceover guy has pronounced them "Mars-'d" and (even more inexplicably) "Knee-son" (note it's not "Knee-sun"). Mars-d - maybe. Knee-son - don't be pretentious. Changing the pronunciation won't turn the brand in to Rolls-Royce or Bugatti or even BMW, Mercedes or Audi for that matter. I'm all for a language growing, morphing, adopting modern phrases etc. but there's generally only one way to pronounce a word (there are exceptions, I know) but when the vast majority of the english-speaking world pronounces it one way why on earth do you need to pronounce it another?!

Posted by neilthelr 08:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

We feel better about Yosemite now

latest news below

overcast 14 °C
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The 2 latest releases on the National Parks Service website are below

The day we chose to leave.....March 21, 2011
All Roads into Yosemite Temporarily Closed
As of 10:30 a.m. March 21, all roads leading into Yosemite National Park are temporarily closed due to snow, ice, mudslides, fallen trees and downed power lines.

And today, our first day in the park per our original schedule.....March 22, 2011
All Roads into Yosemite National Park Remain Closed
All roads into Yosemite National Park remain closed due to a severe winter storm on March 19 through March 20. Yosemite Valley received over three feet of snow and all power is out within the park and surrounding areas. There is no anticipated date or time for roads to reopen and power to be stored.

I'm not sure our snow chains would have been much use in 3 ft of snow!

At lease we made the right call to leave when we did. Instead we had an enjoyable day exploring the Point Reyes National Shoreline north of San Fran

Posted by neilthelr 21:23 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Yo, ho, ho, Yosemite!

Or snow, snow, snow, Yosemite!

all seasons in one day
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And more to the point, no, no, no Yosemite! Our original plan was… Sunday – drive to Fish Camp on Highway 41. Monday – drive to Yosemite Village on the 41 and spend 2 nights there. However, Sunday went something like…drove north out of Oakhurst (where is rarely snows) in light rain on Highway 41. Get about 2 miles north before having to stop and put snow chains on (no refund on those then) as it’s getting slushy and the signs were out. Get informed by State Trooper that Fish Camp is accessible but visibility is like ‘when they go in to hyperspace in Star Wars’. We continued for about 2 miles on the 41 – with the snow getting heavier and the roads more treacherous – before concluding that it probably wasn’t wise to continue so we turned round, stopped lower down the hill to remove the snow chains (they worked out at $15 a mile) and then went and checked in to the Oakhurst Best Western. The trooper from earlier had also informed us that a big storm was expected overnight and Yosemite Park was closed at that time so, we might get to Fish Camp but we may not get any further and if we did make it we may not make it out for a couple of days. We thought we’d sit out the night and then assess the roads today. However, an 8.30am ‘road inspection’ this morning showed the 41 through Oakhurst had been cleared but there was no power in the hotel, no power in town, trees down throughout the grounds of the hotel and many of them blocking the driveway out. In other words, we couldn’t make a hot drink, couldn’t turn the heater on, couldn’t shower etc. etc. We were going nowhere quickly. So, plan B had to be enacted… Pack. Extend check out. Try to phone and cancel tonight’s pre-paid accommodation (failed) and hope the guys clearing the hotel driveway did so swiftly. Long story short(ish) we thought we’d head towards San Francisco a couple of days earlier than planned as soon as we could and make plans on route. We got out of the hotel grounds just after 1pm and had an uneventful journey south on the 41 out of Oakhurst (the only way we could go) at good speed and on to Corte Madera where we’re stopping for a couple of nights to do a bit of the area north of San Fran. Having seen the news tonight we made the right call. All roads in to Yosemite are closed tonight and may remain that way for a couple of days. And that’s not the end of the flexibility we’re going to have to show. Our plan post-San Fran was to drive Pacific Coast Highway 1 (the Big Sur) all the way down the coast to LA. However, unknown to us, was the fact a road slip had taken place some time back and part of the Big Sur road is closed south of Monterrey and there’s no nice simple route around. Joy. Still, we haven’t suffered an earthquake, tsunami or near nuclear meltdown. And we’re still not at work so we can’t complain!

Posted by neilthelr 23:12 Archived in USA Tagged driving Comments (0)

‘Til Death (Valley) do us part

From one extreme to the other

sunny 30 °C
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After Vegas Death Valley is uber-tame. However, as with the other National Parks we’ve been too, it’s no less spectacular. It’s highest point is 11,049ft and it’s lowest (just 15 miles away) is 282ft below sea-level. It’s lowest temperature ever is -9 degrees Celsius (15 F) at night and it has the 2nd highest air temperature ever recorded on earth at 56 degrees Celsius (134 F). And it’s over 49 degrees Celcius (120 F) for more than 40 days of the year on average. Oddly, the best time to visit is winter because it’s just too hot during summer so we’ve timed it perfectly. From the view point at Dante’s View you can see down in to the valley below, which is just an amazing sight; what looks like it should be a river valley is just a wide, flat, salt filled expanse as far as the eye can see; you can see why not many people have tried farming here. That salt flat is called Bad Water (because animals won’t drink it) and we walked out on to it the following day. It sits at 282 ft below sea level, the lowest point in the western hemisphere and it’s just an amazing sight when you get there. And then we took in some exotically named places such as Natural Bridge, the Devil’s Golf Course and Artists Palette on the way back to base. We headed west out the park today and the thing that’s most astonishing is the elevation change. Our lodge was 230 ft below sea level. We headed towards the western exit and around 35 miles north-west of where we started we passed an elevation sign reading 4956 ft. We then descended and passed an ‘elevation 1000 ft’ sign, then about 10 miles later we passed an ‘elevation 4000 ft’ sign. To say our ears ‘popped’ once or twice would be understating it! You notice the greenery return when you climb a bit as well and that set the scene for a beautiful journey through the lush, green valley along the south of the Sequoia National Forest and on to Bakersfield, our overnight stop before heading to Yosemite where snow features on the forecast for the next 7 days. Best learn how to use those snow chains then.

Posted by neilthelr 22:31 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes Comments (0)

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