2020 California Road Trip


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August 15th 2020
Published: August 16th 2020
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Window Arch in Arches NPWindow Arch in Arches NPWindow Arch in Arches NP

He climbed up the right side (3 o'clock position) and started walking along the ledge to the right
On 27 Jan 2020 stories were coming out of Wuhan, China about a new virus that had locked down the city. We have friends Tom and Wendy; Wendy was the first Consul General after the U.S. opened the Consulate in Wuhan following its closure during the Communist revolution in 1949. I read that the U.S. government was evacuating the U.S. consulate staff so wrote to them "I bet you are happy not to be in Wuhan now! I hear the consulate is evacuating U.S. employees. When you were stationed in Guangzhou during the SARS epidemic in 2003, you were quarantined there for months. Times are changing." Little did I know at the time how much times were a changing! The world shut down, travel between countries was banned, and my plans for international travel in 2020 were cancelled. However, by June things were opening up again...no stay at home orders, but still orders to wear face masks, social distance, and wash hands often. At least now we could travel within the States. So plans were made!

First my sister Judy and husband David visited us from Texas from 1-4 July. Mostly they just wanted to relax, but we did take them to see the Garden of the Gods and the gold mining town of Cripple Creek. The day they left we drove to Denver International Airport to pick up our grandson Liam who had flown unaccompanied from San Francisco. He has spoiled by the flight attendants! He was with us in Woodland Park from 4 July until 29 July. During this time we took a ride on the steam locomotive from Cripple Creek to Victor, split shale to find fossils, visited the Ghost Town Museum and the Garden of the Gods, went fishing many times at Memorial Park where he made many friends, and basically had a good time.

Earlier our son Will told us that he was getting married to Mercy. Due to the Covid-19 virus they were going to have the civil marriage ceremony on 5 August and the wedding on 21 May 2021, when hopefully the virus was minimized and Mercy's family could travel to the U.S. from China. So we planned to drive to Orange County, California where we would witness the marriage, and also take Liam home in Marin County north of San Francisco. We drove because we had to take our dog Bonnie with us as she is blind and had diabetes and needs us to be with her. She was comfortable the whole time, either siting on Linda's lap or sharing the back seat with Liam.

29-31 July 2020 Wednesday-Friday. As we had Liam with us, we had reason to take our time to visit the spectacular national parks in Utah. We left home early Wednesday morning and arrived at our hotel in Moab, Utah about 2:30 PM. The temperature was 104F, so we decided to swim first and visit Arches NP later after the temperature was cooler. So about 4 PM we headed out to the park which is just north of Moab. Driving through the park we were surrounded by magnificent scenery of wind eroded red rocks with erosion creating arches in the rocks. Our only stop and walk was at the Windows section. Liam wanted to run to Window Arch which was not that far from the parking area so I told him to go ahead and that I would catch up. As I strolled along I saw that he had already reached the Window Arch and was climbing up like a mountain goat. I was scared to death that he was going to fall, so quickened my pace. The temperature was still 104F, so I soon felt the effects and doubted whether I could get to him on time. Fortunately he saw me desperately waving my arms to come down, and he did...disaster averted. We returned to town for dinner and an evening watching TV.

Thursday we got an early start hoping that the early morning temperatures would linger while we visited Canyonlands NP, just up the road from Arches. Our destination was the Green River Overlook and the nearby Mesa Arch in the Islands of the Sky section of the park. The walk to Mesa Arch is about a half mile from the parking lot, but well worth the effort made easier as the temperature remained in the 80's. Iconic photos have been taken of sunsets through this arch. We stopped by the Visitor Center gift shop where I bought a hiking stick, which would have been useful for the hike to Mesa Arch. I know I will need it for some future trip! Liam loved the idea of box canyons and how outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid would hide from the
Garden of the GodsGarden of the GodsGarden of the Gods

with David, Judy and me
law in their depths. To reach our next destinations of Bryce Canyon and Zion NPs, we had to drive across and down the western side of Utah. At Bryce Canyon we parked near the rim of Kodachrome Basin and walked from one end to the other admiring the colors of the hoodoos, pinnacle red and gold rock formations. Then it was onward to nearby Zion NP which views a massive rock canyon from the floor upwards. The day ended at our hotel in St. George and dinner from Cracker Barrel...by now I was tired of pizza and fast food. Liam described the day as fantastic.

Friday we drove via Las Vegas to Will and Mercy's apartment in Santa Ana CA. In Las Vegas we just drove past all the fancy, colorful casinos/hotels. The temperature today reached 118F, the hottest weather I ever remember encountering...and I grew up in Southeast Asia where it can get really hot! The drive from Las Vegas to Orange County introduced me to the terrible California drivers who ride up the rear of cars and constantly swerve between lanes at speeds vastly exceeding the limit. We arrived, traumatized, by mid-afternoon. Will and Mercy's apartment is
Gold Mine at Cripple CreekGold Mine at Cripple CreekGold Mine at Cripple Creek

with Linda, Judy and David
in the middle of a jungle with running streams, waterfalls, ducks and birds. We relaxed for the rest of the day. Will and Mercy were worried about our health, although I told them Linda has lost 25 lbs over the last three months and I had lost 14 lbs, by cutting out sugar and portion control. Nevertheless, they had selected very delicious, nutritious menus for our evening meals accompanied by a different wine each meal. They are great chefs! Each evening ended with a movie.

1-5 August 2020 Saturday-Wednesday. Saturday we visited the wedding venue in the Temecula wine country. The wedding coordinator took us on a tour showing where each step of the ceremony events would occur, starting with guests arriving with wine being served, then the lakeside venue for the ceremony, and ending with the reception in the wine cellar. After the tour we went to a restaurant that would serve brunch on the day following the wedding before guests headed home.

On Sunday. Linda and Mercy went wedding dress shopping while Will, Liam and I toured Newport and Balboa beach and the very expensive neighborhoods in that area. Mercy tried on many dresses and found the one that lit up her face and eyes.

On Monday the girls went shoe shopping and came home with Cinderella glass slippers, a perfect match to the dress which none of us guys have seen.

On Tuesday we did errands which included a stop at Total Wines to replenish Will and Mercy's wine cabinet, and to get some of our favorites to take home. I also bought some Linie Aquavit which reminded my of our times in Norway, both on official NATO trips and private vacations. Will also recommended several wineries to visit when we toured Napa Valley later in the trip.

Wednesday was Will and Mercy's marriage. Due to Covid-19 the wedding itself had to be put off until next May. The Orange County marriage licensing office had been moved to Honda Event Center in Anaheim, where the Mighty Ducks hockey team plays. We had an 11 AM appointment where we presented ourselves to a ticket window. The clerk took Will and Mercy's information and printed the forms for our signatures. I signed the wrong witness box so the forms were printed again and I got it right this time with Will and Mercy pointing their fingers at the right square. The clerk read the vows, which were repeated with appropriate "I do's" and Mercy became the next Mrs. Carlsen. Later I added her to my Ancestry family tree. We then went to a fancy Italian restaurant, outdoors of course due to virus regulations, to celebrate the occasion.

6 August 2020 Thursday. We departed early, driving up the very scenic Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur to Monterey where we checked into a hotel. I had arranged to meet with Dina, my 9th cousin, 1 time removed, for dinner at a restaurant in nearby Carmel. I asked her how she found out about our ancestry connection. She is in IT and can do more in depth searches of the internet than Google can. One of her searches for Sir Arthur Northcote provided the link to my blog about my searching of Northcote/Northcott/Northcutt ancestors in Devon (see Solving a Mystery In My Devon Ancestry). He is our common ancestor. While my Northcott ancestors immigrated to Newfoundland in 1815, her ancestors came to Virginia Colony in the early 1700's. One of her great grandfathers was killed in the Battle of Yorktown that ended the Revolutionary War. The descendants settled in Kentucky. We talked about our families and our respective lives. I have found distant cousins in Australia, England, New Jersey, and now California. Dina had worked at several wineries in Napa Valley so added several to the recommendations my son provided.

7-10 August 2020 Friday - Monday. Thursday, we drove the couple hours from Monterey to San Anselmo, George Lucas' hometown. After checking into the hotel, we proceeded to my daughter Tamara, husband Ryan, and grandchildren Cecily and Austin's apartment to return Liam. He had missed a month of activities with children in the neighborhood so had a lot of catching up to do. We spent the afternoon taking with Ryan and Tamara about their life and plans. Ryan will graduate from the seminary next May, perhaps on the same day as the wedding which complicates things, but weddings trump graduations. Tamara continues to enjoy teaching and was just informed that she can continue to do so for at least the next semester. They will have to move after Ryan graduates; whether to a pastorate or to further his education is up in the air.

Saturday we drove to Napa Valley and stopped firstly at the V. Sattui winery near Zinfandel. We wanted to buy their barrel aged balsamic vinegar which we first tasted at Will and Mercy's. We had picnic there under shade trees with food from their food truck...gourmet Italian including gelato. It was perfect. Our next stop was to be Castello di Amaroso, an actual Tuscan castle made from the same materials and using the tools to build in Tuscany. The parking lot was full so we moved on to the Chateau Montelena Winery where Dina had worked. This chateau, built in 1882, is one of the original wineries in the valley. Their wine is only sold at their winery. I bought a bottle of Riesling...at $34/bottle I couldn't afford much more!

Sunday, after Ryan finished with church, we drove to Point Reyes National Seashore. The fog was just dissipating with the wind up and the temperatures down. Tamara cooked a pot roast for dinner...so good that even the kids finished their portions, with Austen eating seconds! That evening Cecily and Austin stayed in our room at the hotel as they hadn't had time with us like Liam did. Linda bought plenty of crafts to keep them busy so they had a great time with us.

Monday Ryan had to work so Tamara took us to the Tiburon Peninsula to see the expensive homes and then across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. We just took a windshield tour of the famous sites and then returned to San Anselmo.

11-13 August 2020 Tuesday-Thursday. These were three long days of driving home. We took US50 almost the entire way. This route followed the California and Pony Express Trails and took us past Lake Tahoe, Virginia City (where Mark Twain started his career as a reporter), and across Nevada and Utah on what is called "The Loneliest Road in America." We stopped at the Great Basin National Park, one of the least visited due to its remote location. There I learned that the Great Basin encompasses California east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and almost all of Nevada and half of Oregon and Utah. No water flows into or out of the basin. Consequently all water falling into the basin ends up in salt lakes. I had always thought that when crossing the Continental Divide all water flowed to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. But in the west this flow is blocked by the Great basin! As we continued into Utah, we got a phone call from our vet whose son was taking care of our cats. She told us that our cat Lorna Doone had died. We adopted Lorne from animal rescue when we moved to Colorado 15 years ago. She will be greatly missed. When we arrived in Grand Junction we learned the our intended route home via I-70 was blocked by a forest fire. We had to continue on US50, and arrived home at about 2 PM on Thursday. I swear I will never drive long distances again!!!


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16th August 2020

Love Road Trips
I'm sorry to hear your route home was blocked and that right now you don't plan on doing a long trip again. We find the key to success is only driving about 5 ours a day so you have time to explore. We love road trips and hope you change your mind. You saw some wonderful things. I'm thrilled you were there for the wedding and hopefully will be there in May for the next ceremony. Send our best. We love the San Anselmo area. We lived in Marin for 18 months. You saw some lovely parts of California.
17th August 2020

I love road trips, too.
But very long days crossing emptiness (e.g., the Great Plains and Nevada) are not something I enjoy. That's why we shortened each day to arrive at our next hotel about 5 PM, taking three days each way. Our next road trip was to drive back east to PA to visit Linda's family and to CT to visit my daughter and her family in their new home. I'm thinking now that I will send Linda by air to both places and then fly to CT later, perhaps on my way to or from an overseas destination like I've done in the past. You were fortunate to live in such a lovely place. You both have the perfect jobs that allow you to see so many beautiful parts of America!
16th August 2020

Time Well Spent
It was interesting to read about what you and your family have been doing over the past several months since my life has been very, very boring in comparison. Just goes to show that inertia will take over if you don't keep moving. Great photos by the way. I'm very sorry for the loss of your kitty, Lorne Doone.
17th August 2020

Time well spent...
I was afraid that inertia was taking over and had to hit the road. I hope you can find a corner of America that you would like to visit! And thanks for your words about our loss of Lorna Doone. She would always meet us at the door to welcome us home.
16th August 2020
Meet the newlyweds

Congrats from the Dancing Ones
We have met Will during your visit to Sydney some years ago and then when we spent time at your home in Colorado in 2015. How time flies. Congrats to Will & Mercy on their marriage and may their union be blessed and bring joy to the enlarged Carlsen family from your friends in Oz.
17th August 2020
Meet the newlyweds

Time together...
We remember with fondness the time we spent with you in Sydney and your time here, and on both occasions you got to know my son. Dave inspired him on the path to becoming a lawyer. I will pass on your congratulations to Will and Mercy.
16th August 2020
Liam at the Woodland Aquatic Center

Woodland Aquatic Centre
I remember the vacant lot and your plans for the Aquatic Centre when we spent time at your home surrounded in snow in 2015. This is the first photo of the completed project I can recall seeing. Job well done Bob...your vision and determination to get it done...you must be thrilled it has not only reached fruition but is spectacular!
17th August 2020
Liam at the Woodland Aquatic Center

Woodland Aquatic Center...
Perhaps I have been remiss in not posting a blog of the completed aquatic center, perhaps because it didn't involve travel. However, it was a long difficult journey to reach this destination! Perhaps I will write a blog about it after all.
17th August 2020

Glad you made the trip to attend the wedding
When things are upside down all over the world and we are learning/adjusting everyday to new normal, travels are almost non-existent, I cancelled my trip to Africa in May,- amid all these Topsy-tarvy I am glad that you and Linda made the trip. Wedding ceremony doesn't come everyday and you made it. Indeed it was a close call with Liam ...glad everything went alright. Stay well and safe Bob!
17th August 2020

Glad you made the trip...
Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear that you also had to cancel a trip this year, but we hope for the best next year!
23rd August 2020
Bryce Canyon NP

High on the agenda
Hiking in national parks in Utah are high on our wish list. From all the pictures we have seen it seems to be a wonderful experience. /Ake
20th September 2020

California Road Trip
Wow! What an incredible summer you have had, Bob! I was sad to read that your trip to Scotland was cancelled due to the situation, but what wonderful alternative plans you had made! Congratulations on the marriage of your son, and great to read about all the family catch-ups! Also wonderful to read, as my own travel plans last April included a California road trip from LA to SF. It's been great to read about some of the sights I would have seen here instead. I think I would have really enjoyed "The Loneliest Road in America". Sorry to hear about Lorne... Thank you for a wonderful read Bob 😊

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