Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wine Tasting and Sight Seeing at Paso Robles

We pulled into the Vines RV Park in Paso Robles on Friday March 20th.  Little did we know that the annual Zinfest was going on - the park was packed!  After setting up, we strolled down to the bar area for some complimentary wine tasting that was offered by some of the local wineries.

The Zinfest was $60 a person, and if we had been prepared for it we may have gone.  There were events going on all over the place, and for the $60 dollars you got complimentary tastings at the participating wineries.  However, since we had things to take care of on Saturday and Sunday (wash, food shopping) we decided to wait to do any wine tasting until Monday.  It was just as well, since the wineries all seemed pretty busy for the Zinfest.

By Monday we were ready to sample some of the local wine.  Our first stop was J Lohr, one of the wines that we enjoy back east, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon.  We had a fabulous complimentary wine tasting there, and bought 3 great bottles - 2 of a delicious Petite Syrah, and a bottle of their Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Our next stop was San Antonio Wineries, mainly because they had offered some of their wines at the campground here on Friday night and we had enjoyed them.  We ended up buying a really nice Cab blend, a Zinfindel and a Sangiovese.

Tuesday we took advantage of the small workout room that the Vines offers.  Their equipment is all in good order, offering an 2 elliptical trainers, 2 treadmills and a bike.

Wednesday we were ready for some more wine tasting, and started off with Tobin James.  What a great wine tasting experience that was!  All complimentary, and all good stuff.  We were really impressed and decided to join their wine club.  They offer many of their really fine reserve wines for about a 50% discount for members, and it is by far one of the best deals we've run across.

Tobin James Winery

After Tobin James we headed for two of the wineries that had offered samples at the Vines' Friday night tasting.  Pear Valley gave us a complimentary tasting, but we were unimpressed and didn't make any purchases there.  We tried to go to Villa San-Julliette. , but when we got there we found that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays they were only open by appointment.  What a beautiful setting they have there - sorry we couldn't taste their wine.

Villa San-Julliette Winery
Finally we ended the day with a trip to Peachy Canyon Winery, known for it's wonderful Zinfandels, and sure enough we walked out with two great bottles of Zin that we really love.

We were going to go to Hearst Castle on Thursday, but it has a hefty $25.00
fee per person, it was crowded, and we were much more interested in going to look at the elephant seals, so this is as close as we got to seeing the castle.

The rookery for the seals is four miles north of Heart Castle. At this time of the year, it is mostly females and young seals that are practicing their swimming skills before they leave.

There were still some males hanging around though - and these two got a bit confrontational.

The male seal that was trying to come out of the water is forced away by the larger male.

We drove down the coastline a bit more before turning back and returning to the Vines.

Wildflowers were in abundance!

On the way back we noticed zebras (of all things).  Seems that they are part of the Hearst Zoo.

More beautiful scenery!

We left Paso Robles on Friday and are now in Marina Dunes RV Park which is near Carmel and Monterey.  We certainly had a great stay at Paso Robles, and left with some excellent wines!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goodbye Death Valley

Sunrise at Death Valley National Park
In 1849 the California Gold Rush lured many wagon trains to seek a short cut through this region.  Only one wagon train made it out, and according to the story, one of the party said "Goodbye Death Valley" and the name stuck.  I said goodbye merely because we're now in Paso Robles doing some wine tasting - not nearly as dramatic!

Death Valley is a great place to visit.  We pulled into the Furnace Creek campground on Monday, March 16th, and spent the next three action packed days taking in some of the sights.

We set out on Tuesday to see the old ghost town of Rhyolite.  Founded in 1904, Rhyolite was a booming mining town with a population of 10,000.  However, the financial panic of 1907 took its toll on the town, and by 1912 only a handful of people remained.

Train Station at Rhyolite

We decided to go through Titus Canyon on the way back.  Wow, what a surprise we were in for!  The dirt road that winds through the canyon is narrow and filled with hair pin turns up and down the steep inclines that take you through the canyon.  The scenery is beautiful, but Bob had to concentrate on the road so that we didn't go off the edge.  I couldn't get any pictures that do the canyon justice as there were no good turn offs and the car was rattling around too much to take good ones out of the window.  I did get some good video of Bob white knuckling it through the gorge.

Titus Canyon

We took a break going through the canyon to stop at Leadfield, another old mining town that dates back to the 1920's.


On Wednesday we headed out to Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the North America.  There is huge span of salt flats there caused by trapped water evaporating and leaving just the salt deposits behind.

We continued on to Artist's Drive.  I never expected all of this beauty in the desert.  The pictures don't do justice to the colors in the rocks.

I walked up to Zabriski Point to get a couple of pictures - very scenic!

Zabriski Point

Finally we headed up to Dante's Peak which at 5500 ft. has some amazing views.

Dante's Peak

There were some pretty wildflowers on the way down from the peak.  Some Desert Indian Paint brush....

These delicate little purple flowers are Indigo Bush,

I think the yellow flower below is a Desert Dandilion, but I don't know what the white ones are.

Bob no sooner lit a campfire on Wednesday evening when a sudden storm blew in.  The wind was pretty strong - probably about 40 mph - and lasted for about 20 minutes.  There were a few drops of rain, and then the whole thing blew over, but by then we had doused our campfire and packed it in for the night.

Here's a good view of our campsite - one of the 26 full hookup sites available at the Furnace Creek campground.

On Thursday we went to see the old Harmony Borax Works which refined borax from 1883 to 1889.

Here are some of the old wagons, pulled of course by the "20-mule team" made famous in commercials.  They hauled 10 tons of borax 165 miles through the desert and mountain passes to the railroad in Mojave.  Amazingly, not a single animal was lost nor did a single wagon break down.

We took a drive on 190 to Panamint Springs.  Our navigational system was going to take us on this road to get to Paso Robles, so we through we'd check it out.  Good thing that we did, because it was a pretty hairy drive, full of long steep grades and windy roads.  We decided to take an alternate route to Paso Robles where we would head back out of the park the way we came in and pick up I15.

There was a lovely sunset on Thursday evening.  We had a campfire and gazed at the stars glittering through a crystal clear sky.  The desert can be such a mysterious, beautiful and interesting place.  We've really enjoyed our time here.

Sunset at Death Valley National Park

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wrapping Up Our Stay in Desert Hot Springs

We'll be moving on to Death Valley on Monday March 16, so we're wrapping things up here at the Sands RV Resort.  We enjoyed it here so much, and have already signed up for three months next year.  We didn't get to see everything that we wanted to while we were here, but we did do some more sight seeing since my last post.

The Salton Sea Recreation Area was an interesting day trip.  332 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea is California’s largest lake measuring 35 miles long and 15 miles wide.  The sea was formed from water flowing from the Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico that became landlocked.

We visited the Air Museum in Palm Springs and got inside a B17 Flying Fortress.  I've never been inside any of the planes that flew in WWII, and the dangerous conditions that they flew in are pretty incredible.  Our guide said that her father flew a B17 on 32 missions and came out alive - lucky man!

Our last trip was to the George Patton Museum, which is in Chiraco Summit  (about 50 miles away).  The museum is at the site of the Desert Training Center at Camp Young where Patton trained troops for desert warfare during World War II.

George Patton Museum

The Cathedral at George Patton Museum, Indio CA

Two of my sons and their families visited us last week, and it was great to see them all.  We had a terrific time just relaxing and hanging out.  Hopefully we can have a reunion again next year.  This is a good meeting point, since one lives in Arizona and one lives in California.

I'll be sorry to leave the Sands, but look forward to returning next year.

Sunset at the Sands