Saturday, October 29, 2016

Utah, and we're not done yet.

After we left California we spent a few days at an "RV park", i.e., parking lot, behind Circus Circus in Las Vegas.   Las Vegas was, well, Las Vegas.   Dumpy, noisy, cheesy, obnoxious.   Then we moved on to Utah.

Our first stop there was St. George.   It's a cute little town next to some spectacular mountains.   It's a reasonable drive to Zion National Park.   What a beautiful place.  There's a reason it's one of the top destinations.   The pictures can't do justice, but I'll try anyway:

Zion National Park
Zion National Park

The other thing that is near (very near) St. George is some sand dunes.  So we rented a dune buggy and drove about 15 minutes out to the dune.  I've seen people riding sand dunes on TV and it looked really fun, but it's one of those things that is so much more fun in person than you can imagine it will be.   We drove through amazing scenery, and the dunes were huge.   If you didn't get a good run, you'd get stuck, bury it, and have to back down and try again.   And going down is exciting, too.  You can't see where you are going, it's a bit of a leap of faith to go over the edge.   We also got to drive up a rock formation where we could see forever.   We try to be careful with our spending, and this was on the spendy side, but I would do this again in a second!

The dune buggy we rented

The kids by our dune buggy
Erin climbs a rock formation

From St. George, we headed up to central Utah to a little town called Fillmore.   It's a town whose primary claim to fame is "we're close to stuff".    We had several good adventures here.   Just outside of town, after a short hike, there are some hieroglyphs carved into the rock.  They were discovered in the 1930s, but nobody knows how long they've been there, who wrote them, or what they mean.  A couple of leading theories is that they are from Incans or Mayans who wandered far from home.   One "expert" decided they told of some gold tablets buried nearby, and after several people died looking for them, the search was ended.

Fillmore also has a territorial capital museum.  Fillmore was once the capital of Utah Territory.  They built a big statehouse.  But the federal government was suspicious of Utah territory (too independent) and broke it up into Utah, Nevada and parts of some other states.   And Fillmore was no longer central to the state, and was a long trip from Salt Lake City, so after just one legislative session they moved the capital to the bigger city.

As if that's not enough...

I have a nephew who lives in Salt Lake City.   We met up with him in Provo, and did a hike up a mountain to some hot springs.  They were amazing.  The trail was along a windy creek with lots of minor waterfalls along the way.   As you get close to the hot springs, the smell of sulfur gets stronger and stronger, and the water temperature in the creek keeps going up.   There are a series of pool by at the hot springs.   There is strange algae, and lots of weird colors in the water from the minerals.   The temperature of the pools range from 'comfy bath' to 'uncomfortably hot hot tub'.   A short hike further there is a falls, and just above that, there were some undergarments hanging in the bushes, marking another hot spring that was probably occupied by people who didn't want to be interrupted.  (Oh, the choices: respect their privacy, or make them internet famous....)

Daughter Erin crossing the stream on a fallen tree

Son Ethan on a cliff at the top of the waterfall

All of us hanging out by the hot spring pools

The hot spring pools

A cool waterfall just above the hot springs

As if that wasn't enough for one stop... there is a lava bed near Fillmore.   You go out into this barren, flat landscape, and the rocks keep getting weirder and darker as you go.   The road gets rougher and rougher.   Finally, there is this huge field of lava.  As you explore it, it gets more bizarre. There is one sort of gorge feature with lava walls that is about 30-40 feet deep.  Me and my daughter Erin went down into it, and there is a cave at the bottom that comes out the other side into a circular hole.   So you end up 30 feet below the ground in this hole with sheer rock walls.   It's a really an amazing place.   It should be a well-known destination, but instead it is just a barren road in an unknown town.

This trench is 30-40 feet deep with lava sides

Go through the cave, and come out on the other side in a giant hole

So, is that enough for one state?   We are leaving Fillmore tomorrow, and heading south again.  From our next stop, we plan to see Bryce National Park, Grand Staircase, and maybe more.   Ahh, Utah.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


From the moment we entered California, we knew it wasn't like the other states.   I think every other state has a "Welcome to (wherever)" sign.   California?   At their border, they've got about 10 signs, packed with walls of text telling you all the rules you have to follow.   The residents say "In California, if it works, it's illegal".    After a few weeks here, we found it to be true.

Of course, California isn't all bad.   It's just that everything is an uncomfortable mix of nice and pain-in-the-ass.

So, there's the roads.   California has some of the highest taxes in the country, and one of the worst road systems.   You can't get anywhere in a short time, because there is too much traffic on bad roads.   The signs are inadequate unless you know where you are going (fortunately, Google knows), and lanes come and go randomly without warning -- which, if you've ever driven an RV, is a major problem.  Despite no freeze-thaw cycle to eat the roads up, a greater percentage of roads are under construction than in Minnesota.

The highlights of our visit are Napa Valley (beautiful but too expensive to live there), San Francisco (too expensive AND too crowded, but a fun crazy place), Muir Woods (beautiful, but parking is a disaster), Monterey (yep, expensive), and Yosemite (under construction, no parking).   We also had a blast visiting relatives, but even that was marred by bureaucracy about where we could park our RV, how to get a prescription filled, and trying to use a bank.

California also has great wine everywhere, I guess that's so people can forget what state they are in.

Tonight is our last night in California, and I don't think I will miss it.   Yeah, you've got some touristy stuff, but so do most other states, without all the bureaucracy and bad drivers.   (Yes, did I mention the drivers are terrible, too?)

So while we love the weather and wine, unless we were multi-millionaires, I don't see how living in CA is an option.