Goodbye Yosemite, Hello San Jose
Today we said goodbye to Yosemite. Yosemite was great but crowded with people. There were cars at every pullout, walkers and bicyclists all through the valley and huge buses giving tours everywhere we went. It was hard to find the quieter places, but we did it. No mountain lion was ever found. We did learn today that the emergency we saw the responders for yesterday was a climber that was fatally hit by a rock while climbing the mountain. We also heard of a hiker who was washed over one of the waterfalls on Saturday, but he has not been located. It is beautiful in this park but dangers are also very present.
We were up fairly early, packed, ate our continental breakfast we purchased last night and were on our way. We again opted to shorten our time in the car (or so we thought) and not travel to the south side of the park before heading into the city. We traveled back through Mariposa and then through Cathy's Valley. It is a valley of rolling grass hills in every direction. Many farms were in the area, but very few cattle which we
found surprising. The road through Cathy's Valley was the first straight road we had seen in days, so Donald wasted no time in taking advantage of the easy driving. We continued on and found ourselves back in the fruit orchards and rail road tracks. We made it to the city of Merced, gassed up for the next mountain and started our way to Lick Observatory.
We traveled through a few other small towns comprised of fruit orchards and farms before seeing the Diablo Mountain Range. That was the next set of mountains we had to conquer to reach the observatory. We grabbed an early lunch right before heading up knowing it would take us a while to get back into town. The road starts out through a small canyon between more rolling hills of dry grasses. We rounded corner after corner after corner and we kept on turning, not really climbing much in elevation, but winding through the mountain range. This area though very pretty, had very little in it. It is a an open range area, so we had to watch for cattle, but did not see many at all. What we did not realize was that we
had 50 miles of this before reaching the observatory.
The trek up probably took us 2 hours, for you can only go so fast around those tight corners and just as soon as you go around one, you had another. I bet there was not a single stretch of 10 feet of straight road on this route. This area was also very remote. I think we saw 8 cars in the entire 50 miles. Donald and I both kept thinking the road was going to eventually turn into a dirt road or be closed due to a washout or rock slide. Fortunately, neither happened.
After reaching the top we go inside the Lick Observatory. They have several huge telescopes and refractors with interesting ingenuity. We were unable to look through them because 1) It was not night time and 2) You have to have a paid reservation that is available only twice a month. We were not so lucky to be there at the right time. There is an entire compound on top of that mountain for these telescopes that was the idea of some super rich guy in the 1800s that had nothing better to do with
his money. To see how it works today from what they had to work with and the skill set of the engineers back then is nothing short of amazing. Worth a visit.
After our tour we headed down the other side of the mountain. It was only 25 miles, but even curvier than the other side, though I didn't think it was possible. After being passed by a bicyclist (yes a bicyclist passed us) and nearly hitting a deer, we made it down safely. I am glad we went up there, but don't think I will ever do it again - at least not the route we took. 75 miles of those treacherous roads was way too much.
We checked into our hotel (Marriott) in San Jose. Why San Jose? Donald has to attend a Dell Forum for work there which is what prompted the whole trip. We are in a totally different world now. The atmosphere has certainly changed. We went from flowing rivers, huge mountains and solitude to a bustling loud city. In a place where there are more people than I have seen in the past 3 days put together. It is extremely busy, but
nice historic area. We are in the downtown district which has most elements as other historic districts (old buildings, memorial park, variety of cuisines, homeless people), which is giving my children a bit of culture. We have to walk everywhere, which is really only a problem for Shelby (hates walking). Valet parking is mandatory here and very expensive - so we are definitely walking. But the city does have its perks (for most of the family)-all the technology gadgets and connections you could want. The quiet, cell-free area was nice while it lasted.
We walked the historic area in search of a restaurant that was more than a burger and fries, but did not cost us over $100. It was hard to find. We settled on an American place (my children are very picky eaters) and noted a few other possibilities for the other nights here. Back at the hotel, Donald is smoozing with other Dell Forum guests and the kids are getting their wifi fix. I have to plan our route for tomorrow, which I am dreading a bit. We are headed to Santa Cruz and going to do some coastal driving - the only problem is that
my driver will be sitting in the conference.
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