Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Typhoon and heat. Standby to SFO. 3 hour delay. Would you like to sit in First Class?

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

I am sitting in San Francisco airport waiting for my United Airlines flight to Calgary.   I have been “on the go” for the past 30 hours and I am looking forward to arriving in Calgary at midnight tonight.  Fortunately I was able to sleep well on the flight from HK to the US.

Yesterday morning started at 4.15am because I had an early morning training session in the simulator.  The training went well and I was able to get home around 1.00pm and take a shower before doing the final packing and catching the bus to the airport.

A typhoon had been “brewing” in the seas to the East of Hong Kong and the pre-typhoon heat was oppressive.  I am glad that I took a shower and some time to get organised before I returned to the airport.

I was listed on flights to Vancouver and San Francisco and when I arrived at the staff check-in they informed me that the flight to SFO had more seats available – I took the option of SFO.  The flight was still “open” so I had to wait for a short while before returning to the check-in.  It was nice to get confirmed in a Business Class seat when I returned.

The flight was due to depart at 4.35pm so I made my way to the gate and arrived with a little time to spare.  However, due to maintenance problems with the aircraft we boarded around 5.00pm.  It was nice to get onboard and settle into my seat however, the maintenance problems and weather added up to departing three hours late.  Thankfully I was able to recline the seat into a lie flat bed and get nearly two hours sleep at the gate!

After getting underway I enjoyed a very nice supper and watched a movie (Duplicity – Julia Roberts) before being asked if I would mind moving to First Class.  Apparently one of passengers in Business Class had a faulty TV in his seat and they wanted to give him my seat.  For the privilege of giving up my seat they upgraded me to First Class.  Now that is the way to fly!!  No complaints for the late arrival into SFO and missing my earlier connections to Calgary.  The comfortable seat (bed), warm blankets, Shanghai Tang sleepwear and the space was worth it.

I am about to head to the gate for the flight to Calgary so I will log off, pick up some water and get back to reality by checking into an economy seat for the flight to my Princess.

More to follow tomorrow morning when I wake up!

Well, it was not tomorrow morning when I woke up – it was tomorrow afternoon.  Indeed, this afternoon around 1.30pm!

I arrived in Calgary on US6414 from San Francisco.  I managed to “squeeze” into my little seat at the back of a CRJ700 and enjoyed the sunset flight to Calgary.  The inflight service was great (two cabin crew who did a fabulous job) and the flight arrived on time (11.30pm) in Calgary.

My Princess was waiting for me when I came into the arrivals hall – a lovely welcome kiss and cuddle and a few tears too!!  It is so nice to be back with my Princess.

After hiring a car we returned to Jill’s house (Princess’ Mom) then drove to the Delta Hotel and checked in.  We arrived in our room around 1.30am – a long, long day.  Needless to say we were both exhausted and “collapsed” into bed after getting our things organised.  I didn’t stir all night and, as mentioned above, we finally “surfaced” around 1.30pm.  Just perfect.

We had a light “brunch” before getting ready for supper.  We drove around to Jill’s house, picked her up then drove to Earls for a lovely outdoor dining experience.

We enjoyed the wonderful evening sun, some lovely Australian red wine and great service.  A nice way to get back into the Canadian way of life for a few days.

After a short stop off at the local grocery store we dropped Jill off at home then returned to the Delta for an “early” night – earlier than last night!

We hope this finds you all well, happy, healthy and living in the moment.

Roey and The Princess

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Yodeling one more time, crossing the state line, “There’s gold in thum thar hills”

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Our last morning in SLT was a lazy one.  Whilst we didn’t rise too early (around 8.30am) we didn’t rush to check out and get on the road either.  In fact, we succumb to the call of the Swiss and returned to Heidi’s for another light breakfast.  Now we don’t want you getting the wrong idea about Heidi’s – like it must be great food and/or service.  No, it is actually neither – it just happens to be convenient.

From Heidi’s we drove about 150 metres before stopping – we really commit to the road trip once we get started huh?.  Well, we were really good over breakfast and did not have any coffee so we needed our morning caffeine fix.  We also knew that there was not going to be another coffee shop along the way to Reno so we pulled into the Alpen Sierra Coffee Co just down the road from The Lodge.

The co-owner of the ASC was a very chatty lady and wanted to know all about my accent, how we came to be living in Hong Kong and a variety of other questions.  She was a nice lady and I enjoyed talking to her.  The Princess remained in the car and wondered why I took so long.  I told her about the Spanish Inquisition that I went through to get my coffee and she laughed.

With hot coffee in hand we pulled onto Hwy 50 and headed East toward Carson City.  The drive through the mountains was very picturesque but didn’t take too long (around 45 mins).  Coming off the mountain pass the valley in which Carson City is located is like an oasis in what is otherwise a featureless desert landscape.

Heavy rain started to fall as we entered Carson City so we didn’t stop in the town.  In fact we continued on Hwy 50 then Hwy 341 toward Virginia City.

If you look at the website I just listed for Virginia City you will see they talk about “stepping back in time”.  Well, they are spot on.  Apart from the modern cars lining the streets this place has been preserved in the era it was built.  The drive through Silver City and Gold Hill was like driving into the past.  We felt like Michael J. Fox in “Back To The Future”.

It was still raining when we found a parking spot in Virginia City (don’t place too much emphasis on the “City” part of the town’s name).  However, the rain let up enough for us to wander the main street and enter some of the many original saloons and buildings and view the many artifacts that adorn the walls of these establishments.  Fascinating stuff but some of the shops were a little too “touristy” for our liking.  Still, it was worth the visit and we are glad we took the back road to Reno.

After an hour or so we returned to the road and made the short (around 30 mins) drive to Reno.  Again, the mountain and distant views were very pretty albeit that we drove through some hail en-route.

My trusty navigator talked me through the directions to the airport and we arrived at the Best Western – Reno Airport.  We booked the room earlier in the day so the check-in was efficient and we placed most of our belongings in the room before getting directions to a nearby mall in order to have a late lunch.

The mall was a huge place with few people in it (we are too accustom to Hong Kong) so we found a place to eat and sat in one of the many seats available.

We took some time to look around the mall after lunch before heading back to the hotel.

Because we are flying out early tomorrow morning I returned the car to Avis before walking the short distance (literally across the road) back to the hotel to help The Princess re-organised our bags for tomorrow’s flight.

We are listed on the 7.40am flight out of Reno to Calgary (via Denver) so we will have to be up around 4.30am to get ready and check-in by 6.00am. I am sure we will have some sleep on the plane on the way to Denver and again from Denver to Calgary.

It is now approaching 10.30pm and we need to get into bed so we bid you all a goodnight and/or G’day and look forward to updating you with our travel stories from tomorrow’s adventures.

Roey and The Princess

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A return to a little Swiss culture, following Magellan’s legacy, storms in the North,

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Sunrise photo opportunities in SLT were probably at their best today.  However, we chose to continue where we started yesterday and sleep in.

I guess we will blame it on time zone changes for now.

The Lakeshore Lodge does provide a selection of items for breakfast (which we reviewed this morning) however, The Princess and I enjoyed our cereal yesterday morning so we returned to Heidi’s for another simple breakfast this morning.  It happens to be located around 50 walking paces from where we are staying so the choice was rather easy.  The American version of a Swiss concept wore a little thin this morning (particularly when you are served by a well meaning but hard to understand Mexican immigrant!!).  Still, the food was nourishing (at least we convinced ourselves of this) and we left with full stomachs and “The Sound Of Music” resonating in our ears.

With the car full of the necessary “support equipment” we headed North along the Western (confused?) edge of Lake Tahoe.  We planned to circumnavigate the lake today in our hybrid Nissan.  The car had not been used for a day so it needed a good run (our excuse).

So, like Ferdinand Magellan we set out on our adventure – leaving SLT around 11.00am.  Having visited some of the places of interest on the day we arrived in SLT we drove through to Tahoe City. This pretty little town on the north side of Lake Tahoe is very picturesque and definitely worth a visit – even if it was raining when we arrived.

We escaped the rain by spending some time in the Grind and Gear Cafe.  When we walked into this great little cafe our ears were instantly soothed to the sounds of a great Australian band – Men At Work. “Downunder” was the third song to greet us.  Perfect.  Even though the lead singer of this band – Colin Hay was a Scotsman the band is Australian by definition – “our Colin” as Aussies would say.

We extended our stay while we drank a very nice Latte (coffee for me and Chai tea for The Princess) and admired the work of a local photographer – Kevin Klein.

The rain didn’t show signs of easing up so we utilised the waterproof jackets we bought a couple of years ago and walked the main street of Tahoe City.  It was quite cold so we took respite in various stores along the way.

We decided to eat outdoors today so, despite the weather, we purchase some lovely salads and fruit then went in search of a covered picnic table.  Alas, there were none to be found in Tahoe City.  Indeed, we visited the tourist information centre and were promptly told that “we have trees”.  Well fortunately the weather God’s smiled on us briefly and we were able to finds a wet picnic table to “sit at” while we ate lunch.

The damp seating did not detract from the sensational view of the lake and we even had a Canadian influence because a flock of migratory Canadian Geese graced our presence while we ate.

On returning to the car we continued our clockwise drive and headed into Nevada.  Lake Tahoe is shared by the states of California (Western two thirds) and Nevada (Eastern third).  The crossing of the state border is rather obvious because within metres (feet for the non-metric) they have built casinos.

We passed through the small towns of Kings Beach and Incline Village and stopped in Incline for an afternoon “tea” break.

The afternoon was fast approaching evening so we drove down the picturesque Eastern edge of the lake heading South (keeping up?) back to SLT.

Whilst the return from our circumnavigation was not met with the adoring crowds the adventurers like Christopher Columbus would have enjoyed, we felt pleased that our own adventure was as noteworthy. A short walk around the shopping precinct at Heavenly Village completed our day out.

It was approaching sunset when we returned to our room so we took time to finish the complimentary bottle of red wine while watching the sunset over the mountains to the West of Lake Tahoe – a wonderful sight.

Dinner tonight was light and easy – some tasty salads from Safeway.  We are determined to escape the US without putting on too much weight!!

So now it is time to turn our attention to our pillows and bid you all a goodnight/G’day.

We trust that this finds you all as it leaves us – happy to be upright and breathing and making the most of the day that we have been given.

Roey and The Princess

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Late start, Swiss breakfast, photographic inspiration, lakeside massage, long walk, Indian supper

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I have been reading quite a few books on photography recently.  I have found Scott Kelby’s books an easy and informative read and I have been able to put his suggestions into practice quickly.

One of Scott’s valuable lessons is taking landscape photo’s.  Essentially, all landscape photo’s should be taken at/around sunrise or sun

set (lighting is the critical factor here).  So this morning, with Lake Tahoe outside our balcony door and the sunrise asking for attention what do you think we did?  We slept in until around 9.00am!!  Perfect.

You see we have been “on the go” now for almost two weeks and today we decided to take a mid-holiday “break”.  A holiday inside a holiday I guess you could call it.  A day where you wake up late, have a late breakfast, no lunch, an afternoon massage, a long walk and an outstanding dinner (supper) with a few glasses of red.  That was our day.

Breakfast was a simple meal at Heidi’s Pancake House – a Swiss styled/decorated restaurant just next to where we are staying.  The interior and exterior of Heidi’s looks like a Swiss Chalet but I am glad to say that there wasn’t any corny music or costumes to go with it.  We ordered cereal and toast (not very traditional) and it was enough.  The service was good and the experience was pleasant.

We took a short stroll along the Hwy 50 and took photo’s along the way.  We eventually stopped at the marina and enjoyed a nice morning brew at Wildman’s Cafe.  We sat in the sun outside the shop and enjoyed a quiet Monday morning in SLT.

Our walk along Hwy 50 continued after our coffee break.  We stopped in one of the newer strip malls and spent time talking to the owner/proprietor of Jon Paul Gallery.  Jon Paul’s photography is stunning and it was great to be able to talk with him about his passion and get an insight into the person behind the photo’s.  He inspired both of us to continue to pursue our own desire to take more interesting photo’s.

We had to cut our now afternoon walk short because we had to return to “The Lodge” for an afternoon massage appointment.  The one hour massage was included in our three day package and we were not going to miss it.

One hour of pleasure (and in my case a bit of pain) passed too quickly but we left the spa feeling very relaxed and rejuvenated.  A perfect way to take time out.

It was late afternoon by the time we left The Lodge for another walk. This time along the lake front and bikeway/pathway toward “town”.

We topped up our caffeine levels with a “to go” coffee and Chai Tea from Starbucks before starting what turned out to be a very long walk interspersed with the occasional stop at an interesting store.

Around 7.30pm we decided to return to The Lodge area for dinner. We had spotted an Indian restaurant called Nikki’s Chaat Cafe right outside The Lodge and, being lovers of Indian food we had to try it.  Are we glad we did.

The food and service at Nikki’s was delightful. I haven’t seen The Princess devour her food like this for some time.  That in itself was a pleasure.

Our waitress (Clay) was a lovely lady that was helping out Bhupendra (owner/host).  She was a fascinating person to talk to – an ex-anthropologist turned masseuse.  We enjoyed taking with Clay about her desire to travel and we hope we inspired her to take the plunge and see the world.

Bhupendra (host/owner) was a warm and proud man who took time to talk to us about the restaurant, Indian culture and his family.  The proud father of a recently wedded daughter (in a traditional Indian ceremony) showed us photo’s of the beautiful bride and her wedding dress and we got to hear the story of how a community of locals came together to ensure that the wedding day would not be spoiled by an early snowstorm .  What an excellent way to spend an evening.

If you are ever in SLT make sure you take in the awesome Indian fare at Nikki’s Chaat Cafe – a dining experience that you too will want to include in your own blog.

So now, although we are both rather full we intent to retire to our “log bed” and dream about our relaxing day in SLT.

Tomorrow we aim to tour the western shore of Lake Tahoe.  We will let you know how the day goes in tomorrow’s blog.

Until our next post – goodnight and/or G’day.

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Cypress lined highway, high elevation driving, snow capped peaks with snow melt waterfalls.

Monday, June 1st, 2009
We chose to sleep a little longer last night.  The trip to Lake Tahoe was only two hours so we decided to make the most of the comfortable bed and the 11.00am check-out.

Breakfast in the dining room was nice.  The choices were simple but there was more than enough for us to select.  We are getting better at keeping our intake down to what we think is “normal” (for us).

With the car re-packed we headed out of Jackson on Route 88 toward Lake Tahoe.  We passed through the small but scenic towns of Pine Grove and Pioneer before climbing up the mountains toward Lake Tahoe.  The road passes through areas that are higher than 8000’ in elevation and past some beautiful mountain lakes near Kit Carson and Kirkwood.  The mountains are still covered in snow and this made a wonderful backdrop to the drive.

Apart from a short stop for a morning brew in Pioneer and some photo’s near Kit Carson we drove through to South Lake Tahoe.  The trip took less than two hours.

After a quick drive around “town” we settled on a place called Murphy’s Irish Pub for lunch.  We shared a very nice sandwich and I had my first beer for the trip.  The beer was a pale ale called Sierra Nevada.  It reminded me of a Coopers Pale Ale – very nice indeed.

One of the young waiters recommended a drive along the Western side of the lake to a lookout.  We were not due to check in to our accommodation until 4.00pm so we decided to take a drive and check out some of the scenery.

The drive is close to the lake but not insight of it all the way.  You drive through reasonably forested areas and you have to get some elevation before seeing the lake in all its glory.

We stopped at a vantage point that over looks the beautiful Emerald Bay and Fanette Island.  The bay was formed from the forces of a glacier and the Island is the only island in the lake.  A huge waterfall flows into the bay and the whole scene is stunning.  Needless to say we took quite a few photo’s.

We continued driving north toward the waterfall and stopped there for a short hike up into the valley that the waterfall comes from – very nice.

Given that we are here for the next three days we decided to hold off on the exploring and return to South Lake Tahoe to check in to our accommodation.

Finding the accommodation was not as easy as we thought so we saw more of the town that we had intended to.  However, after getting some help we found the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa and check into our room.

The lodge is located right on the southern shore of the lake and from our third floor room balcony we could almost dive into the water.  The view is stunning.

The balcony is a very inviting place to sit so we broke open the complimentary bottle of French wine and sat in the afternoon sun and relaxed.  A very nice way to spen

d an hour or so.

We also had a complimentary dinner provided in our package so at 7.30pm we walked along the beach to the Blue Water Bistro.  The bistro is situated upstairs on a pier and it faces west toward the mountains.  We sat inside beside a window and enjoyed a sunset backdrop while devouring the excellent food.  Most of the ingredients in the dishes are organic and cooked to perfection.  We washed our meals down with some excellent Californian red wine – a perfect ending to the day and start to our time in Lake Tahoe.

The moon and stars in this part of the world are unaffected by bright city lights so walking under the evening sky was a treat.

“Home” at a reasonable hour so I have plenty of time to “pen” this blog.

We will retire tonight with memories of a beautiful snow capped mountain drive, an excellent meal and stunning views of Lake Tahoe.  The sound of the small waves breaking on the shore outside our window will ensure we fall asleep rather quickly.

Goodnight and G’day (depending on your location).

Roey and The Princess

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Gold in them there crumbling hills, Hog paradise, mountain storms

Sunday, May 31st, 2009
There was no need to hurry this morning so we set the alarm for 7.30am.  However, our body clocks had other ideas and we climbed out of our comfortable bed around 7.15am.

Our morning “routine” (showers, Princess supplements and website update) went well and we headed out the door of the cabin and down to breakfast around 8.30am.

There were quite a few other guests dining this morning so we took a table  in another part of the “lobby” and enjoyed our final breakfast at The Lodge.  After the other guests departed we were able to chat some more with John (host) before settling our accommodation bill.

With the car packed and our check-out complete we left Ahwahnee (Sierra Mountain Lodge) around 10.15am and joined the historic Highway 49 north for our trip toward Lake Tahoe.

First stop was the town of Mariposa – the town we drove through on the way back from Yosemite yesterday.  We spotted a coffee shop in the town yesterday and decided to try out their coffee for our morning ritual.  The shop was called The Pony Expresso – very cute name and nice coffee.

We walked around the town and took some more photo’s before taking to the road en route to the next small town – Couterville.

The drive along Hwy 49 took us through the “Goldfields” region of California and the landscape was spectacular.  The mountains are fragile and rock slides are regular events in this part of the country.

The drive to Couterville was short and we stopped in this small and historic town to take advantage of the many photo opportunities.

The hotel in the town (Hotel Jeffery) is obviously a favourite place for the hundreds of Harley Davidson riders that take to Hwy 49 at this time of the year because there were a lot of them outside the hotel when we stopped.  The array of Harley models was incredible.  As an ex-Harley owner (Tour Glide Ultra Classic) I was most impressed.  The Princess had to continually wipe the drool from around my mouth!

After a short “pitstop” in the Jeffery Hotel we “mounted” our Japanese mode of transport and headed for Sonora.  This pretty town (another historic goldfields town) was a perfect place to stop for lunch and photo “shoot”.  We enjoyed a light lunch (soup and sandwich) at a traditional family cafe in the main street.  The service was great and the food was delicious.

After lunch we walked the streets of Sonora and honed our photography skills by taking shots of some of the wonderful buildings and streetscape.

Our afternoon coffee was purchased from the Heart Rock Cafe in the main street.  The cafe is run by a local Christian church group and the coffee was great.  We took the coffee and returned to the car for our adventure north.

The road out of Sonora must have been built by roller-coaster engineers because it was perfectly shaped with humps and turns that felt like we were driving on a ‘coaster.  It was great fun and we wanted to turn around and drive it again!!

Not far north of Sonora is the town of Angels Camp.  This is an historic town with a quirky twist.  It is the home of the world famous ‘Jumping Frog Championships”  and also where the author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) gained the idea for his book “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”.  We enjoyed taking photo’s of the town’s many colourful frogs and some of the locals too.

The last leg of our trip today took us through San Andreas (the famous fault line in the western USA), Mokelumne Hill then onto Jackson – our stop for the night.  You can learn more about the San Andreas here.

We drove around the small town of Jackson before settling on the Holiday Inn for our overnight accommodation.  The staff were friendly and the room rate (inclusive of breakfast) was quite reasonable considering we had not booked ahead of time or online.

The front desk manager recommended several local restaurants so after settling into our room we returned to the car and drove into Main Street for a delicious feed of Mexican at Magdalene’s.  The waiter recommended that we try the Sangria Senorial to complement the meal and we are glad he did. It is a very tasty non-alcoholic drink.

Tonight we are back in our room early and this has allowed us to update the blog and have an early night.

As we prepare to “turn in” for the night we turn our thoughts to you all in your part of the world.  We hope this finds you all as it leaves us – relaxed, happy and looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures.

Roey and The Princess

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