Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Yosemite Road Trip! Day One, Highway 395 and the Owens Valley

So I'd been promising the kid a road trip as a reward for all of the hard work we've been doing for the last year on the property, and the time has come!  Waiting for us in southern California is a visit with her paternal grandmother and a knee pain management injection for me, yay!  Unicorns and end-of-rainbow pots of gold wouldn't be more freakin' welcome than a knee injection as far as I'm concerned.  Unfortunately someone has to stay home and take care of the animals, so on this trip it's just us two girls, darling husband had to stay home.

I planned for a 6 day trip, the first day the drive from northern Nevada to southern California, stopping where the whim took us.  The second day was for my doctor's office procedure and visiting Grandma.  Day three we'd drive up Highway 1 to Cayucos, where I'd booked a room at a tiny motel on the beach.  Day 4 we'd continue up Highway 1, cutting over to Salinas.  Day 5 was for exploring central California, staying the night in Merced.  Day 6 would be all Yosemite, baby, then home that night.  Since the fencing crew was due to start work the following day, this was cutting it kinda fine, but I thought we could do it.  It was our last chance for a trip before school started.

Since my Plymouth, while roadworthy enough to run, still needs new upholstery and the turn indicators repaired, we rented a car this time.  It looked mean.

I liked the Washington plates, hopefully it helped scare the southern Californians into thinking we were mad Washingtonian tourists.  The kid named the car 'Butch'.  Her reasoning was that if it broke down on us all we had to do was change the vowel.

So this morning off we went, although not as bright-and-early as we'd planned, we left around 10AM.  But that was OK. We'd loaded up on roadfood, maps and a ton of origami models, some I'd made especially for this trip.  Basically everywhere we stopped I left some origami models for people to find.  Our first stop is a traditional one for road trips, the memorial marker in Walker, CA dedicated to three firefighters who died in a plane crash in 2002.  The area around the plaque is ever-changing as people stopped by leave mementos, including Tshirts from firefighters from all over.

The Tshirts are hung on the barbed wire fence that surrounds the pasture beyond.  The upright piece is a blade from one of the props on the plane.

This is a working farming community, and right next to the memorial is a brand new traditional wooden cattle loading ramp & gate.  This is the first one of these I've seen that wasn't 100 years old.

It was really weird to see one of these  brand-new.

On we went, later on down the road stopping at the scenic overlook above Mono Lake.  There were several fires burning both along the eastern side of Yosemite and in southern California, as always--so a lot of the pictures have a murky quality to them.  But the kid got her 'Road Trip!' face on anyway.

The long railing lining the overlook has for years been gathering various stickers and signatures from people pausing on their journey.  It's getting to be several layers now, and I always wish I had the time to walk the entire thing and read it.  This shows about 1/3 of the full length of the thing.

Seems appropriate!

Anything and everything goes.  The blue one says, 'Shut up.  Keep digging.'

Later on we stopped at McGee Creek, and a pretty little spot where the kid caught her first trout a few years back, the McGee Creek Trout Ponds

Honestly, who could resist a bat show?

While we didn't have time to fish today, but we walked around and visited the fish.  The upper ponds are the brood ponds and the females are enormous and quite tame.

It's just a lovely spot to stop and take a break from driving.  Even if you DO have a suspicious teen who expects you to shove her into a fish pond.

To her mother's credit over her impulse control, teen remains dry.

We stop by the little store and score a couple of Tshirts emblazoned with a leaping rainbow trout and the words, 'McGee Creek Trout Park'.
"Just like a dog park only wetter!"  I chirp at the teen.
Teen eyeroll.

We also make sure to detour off 395 and take a short 10 mile jaunt on Highway 120 to Mono Mills--a little historic landmark spot marking where they used to load lumber and steamboat it across Mono Lake.  The kid wanted to make SURE that went drove the 'Whee Whee Road'--the road has numerous dips and rises and is devoid of traffic most of the time, it's some serious fun to drive.  At Mono Mills we toss a few pork rinds (the road food of choice for rest stop critters and birds, though in moderation) to a chipmunk, laughing as he chooses the largest ones and drags them away, trying to jam them down his little chipmunk bolt-hole.

After that it's back to 395 and south again.  The kid grabs a picture of the Sierras, the sun shining through the smokey haze and thunderheads.

The kid was inspired by the huge electrical towers in the valley, she decided that one looked like a mutant cat:

 Another was a monster, complete with hard-rocker T shirt:

She was missing Dusty, her dog, so she drew her as well, transforming from 'Awesome Dog' to 'Awesomer Dog!'.

It's a well-known fact that in certain strategic places on Highway 395, gasoline prices are mind-numbingly high.  We gas up in Bishop, where at least competition helps keep the prices lower, even if the banners DO mock you.
'Want to pay less for fuel?  DO YA?  Well TOUGH SHIT, AHAHAHA!  Suck it, traveler!'
We stop in Lone Pine to gawk at the Lone Pine airport's 6th installment of the Migrating Mural, a tribute to Bighorn Sheep.  There are 6 of these murals over a 120 mile span along 395.  I find this one the strangest, with it's dead-sheep-in-ice spin.

I love the little guy perched on the top of the window. The others are looking back at Encino Sheep like, 'Dude, sucks to be you.'

'Hey, anybody seen Andy?  I feel like we haven't seen him in an Ice Age!'

Next we stop at Jael Hoffmann's Give & Take sculpture garden in Olancha.  It's a collection of large metal sculptures, all done by one artist.  Finding it is an adventure in itself--it's one of those things that you can see fleetingly from the road, and have to work to find the little dirt road to turn onto to get to it.  I had to turn around twice.

'Be kind, not right'.

The 'Give and Take' sculpture is my favorite, I love fun interactive things like this.

The 'Give' bin was empty, the 'Take' bin had these little buttons carefully arranged.  We left some origami models.

More sculptures...

People had not only left little treasures in the 'Give & Take' sculpture, but squirreled away in many of the others.

One sly Geocacher had entrusted this little metal guy to hold a black velvet bag with a little plastic coin inside.  We admired it and then put it back for someone else to discover.

I love the detail.  To me, this one depicts taking out your inner demons and holding them up to the light, where they lose much of their power over you.

The kid drew her interpretation of the 'Give & Take' sculpture (and the origami we left), because until you open something like this, there could be anything in there, even rainbows and unicorns!

As we left I spied a bit of yarnbombing.  World's coziest fencepost.

All along 395 we seemed to be one step behind the thunderstorms.  At Manzanar only the interpretive center was open, the roads for the auto tour and the cemetery had been flooded and some washed out.  There was a lot of fresh, standing water.  So we had to skip our visit to the Manzanar cemetery today.

At the Coso Junction rest stop, where we've been stopping to feed the ravens for years, there were, for the first time ever, no ravens!  There WERE tons of sparrows, so we fed them instead.  We eventually found the ravens a bit further south in Pearsonville, where they were all molting and scraggly-looking.

Signs along the highway were now starting to warn us of upcoming road construction of epic proportions.  After a dinner at the World's Worst McDonalds (and that's saying something!) in Adelanto we swam our way through more thunderstorm flooding in Kramer Junction and threw ourselves headlong into southern California--Land Of Eternal Road Construction.

They were correct, at least--the traffic jams were epic.  For the first time I blessed the lateness of the hour--8PM by now--and was glad we hadn't tried to come through during rush hour.  Northbound traffic going up the Grapevine was at a dead stop for at least 30 miles, and the entirety of the 210 that we drove was under construction.  As we neared the 605/5, more signs warned of MORE epic construction, and they didn't lie.  Seems that the entire 5 freeway down to San Diego is torn up, with cranes everywhere.

We eventually made our hotel, the Doubletree in Norwalk, where warm cookies, hot showers and  lovely soft beds awaited.

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