American Adventures: Sequoia serenity....

Published: May 20th 2018
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Sue trying to squeeze and hug a giant Sequoia tree
" When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don't know ourselves. Cool, unifying life will rush in." D.H.Lawrence.

Routing: A series of highways and byways. Las Vegas to Visalia. Then to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. Distance: 779 km. Total distance to date: 1985 km.

After the frenetic noise and crazy sort of debauchery of Vegas, it was time for some real therapeutic peace and stillness. With this in mind we slipped out of this mind boggling city in the desert with GPS devices set for an RV Park at Visalia CA which would put us in close touch with the Sequoia National Park.

Progress down HW 15 was uneventful except we had guessed that there would be less traffic on route due to it being a Sunday. Not to be! Cars rushing towards the glitz of Vegas and others charging away to wherever, with owners who had probably emptied their wallets. About an hour down the road we

Lorraine and Sue went out on a walk...weary of bears but none seen.
entered a small town by name of Barstow to replenish food and grog supplies and to refuel. These Ford broncos are thirsty beasts! Now, any trip of this magnitude will have a “disaster” of some kind. This is where it happened and mortified to confess that I ,your not so esteemed scribe, was directly responsible for a real senior moment. Tiredness, confusion, stupidity and probably a combination of all three resulted in diesel being emptied into a gasoline tank. Their pumps are confusing but not a good enough reason for this basic error. A crisis meeting in the garage forecourt ensued and being practical types a series of solutions were triggered with seriously good assistance from Cruise America, our RV partner. To cut a long stuff up short, the Craig’s and Wilson Jones team moved on and we were dragged down to an RV camp by name of Shady Lane by a large tow truck. I have never experienced this type of roadside assistance so I consoled myself by at least ticking that box. What also assisted was a very understanding and sympathetic co-pilot, Susan, and the fact that we arrived on cue for sundowners which also helped immensely to

Amazing road construction on steep slopes and into plunging valleys.
settle the nerves. Sitting in this strange RV park in the desert with a softly setting, golden sun and a cold beer in hand was not the worst moment to have to deal with. There is always upside!

Life is full of little setbacks and often immediate little “wins” and so it proved on this occasion. Right next door to our RV slot in camp was the “whackiest” little caravan we have ever seen. It had attached to it pictures of the desert and windows which the owner told us were photo’s his wife/partner had insisted should decorate their caravan. He was on his own and on route to Utah (minus said partner?). The next day our RV was dragged off to a city by name of Victorville which we thought would be a little puff in the desert. Not to be, with a population of about 100,000 and Route 66 running through it. Sadly, the “Old Town” has died and been replaced with a huge Strip Mall. Joey, of Joey’s Auto Repair, and I struck up a good conversation as the process of purging the tank of the dreaded diesel took place. Most importantly he confirmed that there

The team on Moro Rock. No vertigo problems or irregular heart beats after 350 step climb...
are many, many idiots like me who fill their tanks with the wrong juice. This was a huge relief to know that I shared the podium with countless others who had made the same basic error. He owns the business and told me of the challenges of owning a business in California. Onerous regulations and tax issues. Not a happy guy in terms of his taxes which the State Government either steals or hands to the poor and unemployed (sound familiar?). Really surprised when he mentioned that enterprising people in numbers are leaving California for more business friendly States but being replaced by homeless and unemployed people due to the State’s largesse. Not quite the rosy picture one has of California.

Later that afternoon, with the Ford cleansed and purged, it was time to bid Joey farewell and head off in a northerly direction to Visalia to catch up with our travelling mates. After an exhausting drive of close to four hours we drifted into the Visalia/Sequoia RV Park. The route had taken us gradually through and then out of the Mojave Desert and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Once on the other side of

Paradise discovered.
these impressive mountains, an oasis opened up with huge agricultural fields in view confirming yet again the massive amount of produce California serves up to America. The Wilson Jones team were in camp but minus the Craig’s and it transpired that there had been a communication glitch (blamed on cell phones!) resulting in the Craig’s setting up camp in the Sequoia National Park. Confusion reigned!

At this juncture, once again sipping on tantalisingly good sundowners, we chatted about our collective American “observations”. In no particular order, thus far, these included:

(1) Food. This is a much loved conversation piece and plays out in the incredible number of food eateries which one sees in towns and roadside. Most of them brimful with hungry people. Along with this food thing come the huge helpings per order and we have often shared a meal and not quite cleaned the plate. The downside to all this grub being gobbled is the large size of many people. Astonishing!

(2) Automobiles. Roughly 264 million registered with massive road systems crisscrossing the country, there are few “quiet” back roads. Autos are cheap and interest rates low, so one senses every citizen has at least

The Tuolumne good as it gets.
one vehicle. There are very few “wrecks” (old cars) on the road. Massive road freight trucks stream past our RV’s which are mostly being driven at the stipulated speeds.

(3) Dogs. Amazing to see how many Americans own a dog, or two and often three. Even the homeless dudes seem to have a dog as a sort of companion. A quick "Google" reveals that there are roughly 90 million pooches barking or whatever across the country and 42%!o(MISSING)f the population own at least one dog. These hungry buggers also account for a spend on dog food of roughly $86 billion per annum which is probably close to the GDP of some of Trump's "shitty African countries."

(4) Friendliness. We have been blown away by how easy it has been to engage with Americans, especially when they hear we are South African. Always willing to assist and offer advice. There is a customer service ethic which is mind boggling and underpins the fact that in America , if you don't treat your customer as "King", you simply won't succeed. Social media is brutal.

(5) Wild things. May seem odd to comment on this, but after almost two

Late afternoon and camp site bliss.
weeks on the road, none of us has yet had the need to clean the front windshield. There just aren't any bugs. Highly likely the vast number of cars have wiped out the poor little critters or they have become "road wise" and retreated to the countryside. The other observation is that there is very little roadkill and maybe all those creatures that used to dart across the road don't exist. There was a major problem in the USA in terms of the bee population but someone has been counting and counting and confirmed the number of bees is increasing.

Sequoia NP is not on everyone's travel schedule because it seems it's all about Yosemite. Thank goodness we opted to go and check this park out. The drive there alone was worth the diversion as we left the flat, agricultural oasis and started a gentle ascent into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These treasures don't just "happen" and are often due to the passion of some unique people. In this case a guy by name of John Muir, a Scottish American naturalist, was influential in the 1870's in advocating for wilderness preservation to put a stop to the rampant

El Capitan. Huge sheer rock cliff with brave people climbing it's face and sleeping in hammocks on the side. Not for us. Not enough time!
logging then happening. Referred to as "The Father of the National Parks", America owes him and his dedicated colleagues big time for saving Sequoia and Yosemite. The outcome was the establishment of this park in 1890. We duly paid our $30 per vehicle at the entrance and then slowly threaded our way along a road which in itself is an engineering masterpiece, climbing in a dizzying series of sharp, steep curves though magnificent forested areas. Deep below in the valleys were pristine rivers fed by snow capped mountains which were visible on the higher peaks. Elevation rises from 418 meters to 4418 meters on Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the USA. We ambled along soaking up the splendour of this park and a stop at Moro Rock, followed by a climb of about 350 steps, literally placed us on top of this vast wilderness world. Hard to describe. This is also home to the giant Sequoia tree which grow in small forests at a very specific elevation. They are by volume the largest trees on the planet and the General Sherman Tree is the World's largest requiring 35 people, arms outstretched and linked, to clear it's circumference. We had

Splendid scenery and no mere words can describe.
opted to stay in NP campsites which all operate on a trust system. So at Lodgepole campsite on a first come, first served basis, you secure your site and then slip $22 into an envelope which is posted in a box. A tag is placed on a clip in front of the site and your four star accommodation is good to go. Right on the edge of a pristine fast flowing river, this was camping heaven. No showers but good, clean toilets and an opportunity to use some of the onboard "things" on our chariots. Bob, the pyrotechnic, soon had us sitting around a roaring log fire and it was unanimous that this was the ultimate sundowner spot. A fine meal ensued and then it was dead easy to drift into slumberland with the gurgling river noise close by. This is bear country with reports of a rogue or two robbing some campers of their grub in the past week. Sadly, we did not see a bear despite eyes being peeled on beautiful walks out of the camp. The following morning a slow drive through the rest of the park brought us to the top exit and just outside we found Azalea, yet another delightful camp where we bunkered down and repeated the mantra of the night before. Bliss!

We could have stayed there much longer but this is a RV journey and there are still plenty kilometers to cover as we entered our third week on the road. On route 180 we lined up for Yosemite NP, a mere 300 km up the road but a journey of some four hours due to the terrain and winding, twisting route. Scenery astonishing and very noticeable that half of America seemed to be on the same trajectory. Now, here's the thing! Yosemite bookings for all of their roughly ten campsites open five months ahead of the summer season and are sold out within hours! There we were thinking we would drift in and secure a site as casual last minute arrivals. There is always a Plan B and we would find lodgings later in the day. But first it was all about absorbing the incredible scenery and stunning scale of Yosemite. Massive granite mountains with waterfalls cascading deep into the valleys below. Eloquence to describe this unbelievable scenery eludes me but, if you can, watch the Discovery or National Geographic channel when Yosemite is showcased. It will blow your socks off! Bearing in mind this was early season, the number of fellow visitors was mind boggling as endless lines of cars crawled along the Yosemite Valley where one has a great view of El Capitan (a massive granite cliff face with brave souls rock climbing up it's face) and Bridal Veil waterfall. At the end of a long day with no lodgings, the American customer ethic kicked in and the NP staff at the exit gate steered us in the direction of campsites just down the road. We duly arrived at USFS Sweetwater (sounds like some martian military spot) but which is a camp run by US Forests. Our timing was spot on and three sites were duly secured. About 8pm, as daylight slowly faded, we were seated around another great campfire agreeing that Yosemite was simply like nothing else we had ever seen. A deserving accolade. This is what John Muir had to say about Yosemite " It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter." Says it all. The next morning saw the Craig's and Wilson Jones clans nudging back to Yosemite to view Glacier Point. Both are geologists and this valley and rock formation would no doubt resonate big time for them. Having dragged fly fishing kit from SA, I decided to test my skills in the Tuolumne River South Fork which was literally 15 minutes from our camp. Susan, ensconced and happy on a sandy beach alongside this splendid river, was at peace and I in heaven trying to seduce the wild trout lurking somewhere in the river. They were wily and feisty little buggers but I managed to catch 7 trout, mostly brown and all too small for the pan. Exhilarating and as I have always been told by fellow fly fishing fanatics, it remains the best sport by far with your kit on. Content we regrouped that evening around a huge fire stoked about our Yosemite excursion. Clear skies and bright stars reinforced that this had been serendipity of a high order for all of us.

Before retiring for the night, a Sweetwater "conference" ensued as we remained committed to making it all the way to Seattle. Bobby and Phil Craig were on a trip a week shorter than ours whilst Brett and Lorraine Wilson Jones wanted to include time in San Francisco before handing back their RV on 7th June. It made sense that we would push on whilst our travelling buddies would venture north at a leisurely pace before heading west to the Pacific Coast and then down to San Francisco.

Oregon was now firmly on the radar and with roughly 18 days left, the journey would need to unfold.


20th May 2018

A much looked forward to blog just arrived - and what a blog it was! Your Yosemite experience was obviously amazing, and the photos spectacular. It made us so envious and wish we could have seen what you saw. Too bad about the gas mixup Tim. Very annoying but easy to do. So pleased you got it all under control, which you handled with your usual aplomb - I think?! Harry and Meghan’s Wedding day was fantastic from beginning to end by the way! Happy travels to you both.
21st May 2018

Red Bluff
Thanks Jeanette. Now in Red Bluff CA and plan tomorrow to inch into Oregon. Plan still on track. Lots of love to you both from us.
21st May 2018

Diesel and the drive
WOW...nice leg of the journey. Looks like Yosemite was the highlight so far. Board Meeting in two hours but your read was better than mine!
21st May 2018

Red Bluff
Thanks Jeff. Move into Oregon today so Seattle within reach. Board meeting should be a doddle...another good set of quarterly results.
21st May 2018

You are having a blast! Well done and thank you for writing about it. Great read
22nd May 2018

Thanks Thinus. I am missing the St Francis Bay & Links paradise but USA experience is fantastic.
24th May 2018

Finally caught up with reading your blogs. Great trip so far, thanks for sharing. Something Brenda and I could maybe tackle in the next year or 2. Love to Sue and keep safe.
24th May 2018

Washington State
Hi Rob. Good to hear from you. Do it as soon as you can....time waits for no man!

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