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Sarah at Christmas

Sarah at Christmas

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Yosemite National Park: Day 5 FIRE ALERT!

Good morning friends,

It's been several days since I blogged about our California trip. I'd better hurry up and finish before I forget some of the details. A few of my arm chair travelers wrote to ask about the next adventure. One friend who is disabled really enjoys the travel channel. It's her way of traveling, and I think she's getting a kick out of our journey. I'm pleased to share our voyages with others who can't go. If you're able to travel, I hope these blogs will inspire you to take the same trip.

If you've read my last blog, (you can scroll down to read if you haven't. You'll be traveling backwards, but that's okay.) You'll see that we discovered a plume of smoke as we approached Yosemite. 

We arrived at the gate about 1:30 on July 18, 2017. The day was warm and the skies blue, but smoke was beginning to fill the skies.

According to the National Park Service, Yosemite covers 748,436 acres or 1,169 square miles, and of this land mass, 1,101 square miles are designated wilderness.  Goodness!  That's 94.45% of the park. Views are amazing. 

Gazing all the way to the top of the trees made me dizzy. (Never mind if hubby says I stay that way and it's not the tree's fault. Ha!) 

Giant sequoias have an amazing heritage and can live for over two thousand years! Wow! Can you imagine the stories these tree might tell? 
Picture this. One giant tree comes from a tiny cone. They are an awesome part of nature. God astonishes us, doesn't He? Would you believe fire helps these little things?

For years, Smokey the Bear tried to prevent forest fires. Scientists learned that fire actually promotes reproduction. Fancy that! Fire clears away smaller trees such as cedar. The extra space provides a place for the tiny seeds to take root.

Paul and stretch out at the base of a fallen tree. These trunks can reach over 25 feet thick. The largest tree featured in this area is the General Sherman.


Here's a picture of Paul on the path to the Sherman tree. Did you notice he bought a hat? Too late. He'd already turned red on the boat ride across Lake Tahoe. I bought one too. They make good souvenirs. Paul gave his hat to a friend when we got home. This guy has always wanted to go to Yosemite. I hope he takes the trip one of these days. By the way, I kept my hat. What does that say about me?

I couldn't get far enough away to take a picture of the entire General Sherman tree, so I borrowed a picture from Wikipedia.

 Before long, it was time to take a shuttle ride with our park ranger.  This guy was funny and informative. He also brought a spray bottle of water. You'll see it by his right foot. He passed it along to us to spray ourselves, and it helped with the heat.

Not only did we see giant trees as we rode with the ranger, we saw craggy, granite cliffs. From these picture, you can see the smoke creeping into the park.

Yosemite Falls from a distance.

After the tour with the ranger, several of us walked around, visited, and took more pictures.

My new friend, Carole Steer and I had our picture made with a smokey backdrop. The aroma was beginning to smell like we were at a giant fireplace.

We walked closer to the falls. The fire in Mariposa was getting scarier by the second. Maiposa is a small town, and Yosemite occupies Mariposa County. Mariposa means "butterfly" in Spanish. 

Look at this red sun! Tiny cinders were making my contact lenses uncomfortable.

We were supposed to meet Linda, our director, at 6:00 to go to the Yosemite View Lodge. Uh oh! We couldn't leave the park. Linda advised us to eat there and wait. The Yosemite View Lodge had no electricity, but they hoped to have it by 7:30.

Guess what? They didn't have lights by that time, but they thought they would when we arrived. We boarded the bus and sat in line to exit the park. We waited our turn for almost two hours. The officials were evacuating the town of Mariposa and the fleeing home owners had first priority. We sat on the bus and wondered if and when we would get out. (I think several of us prayed too. I know I did.)

Upon arrival at the Yosemite View Lodge, we exited the bus in total darkness. The bus headlights were all we had, that and our cell phones. 

Here's a picture of Linda Perez as she figured out our rooms and luggage. Her husband had placed a miner's headlamp in her luggage. Wasn't that awesome? I don't know if Pepe had ever been a Boy Scout or not, but he prepared Linda for something she'd never experienced before. Just think, she'd laughed with him when he put that doohickey in her luggage. You never know, do you?

Richard Steer found a penlight in his pocket. That little gadget was a godsend. So were our cell phone lights. Richard works in New York City (a block from Ground Zero) and after 9/11, he carries that pen light at all times. The next time I travel, I'm including a flash light and battery operated candles.  Can you envision all these travelers trying to find the bathroom and undress by iPhone? Yep! It was a challenge, that's for sure.

I couldn't take a picture of the lodge. Too black. But you can click on this link to see the pictures. Click on Photo Gallery and view. Yosemite View Lodge

It's too bad we arrived late at night. This rustic lodge sits above a rushing river. We had no A/C, so we opened the windows and the water lulled us to sleep. Of course, exhaustion probably helped. I liked this place. It's not a five-star hotel, but I'd like to go back and sit on the balcony with my morning coffee. We had no time for that. We were to leave at 8:00 the next morning. This was a short night, but one I'll never forget.

King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are next in our travels. Come back soon. We'll reminisce together. 

Now it's time to answer emails about my next book that comes out September 15, Mattie's Choice. I've got lots to do yet for the book's premier. That's one reason I'm behind in my blogging.

You can find my books on Amazon and other online book sellers. Gay N. Lewis on Amazon

Blessings until next time!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fire in Yosemite National Park! California, Day Five

We left Lake Tahoe after an early breakfast. Bags had to be ready at the door by 7:00 AM. Our director, Linda Perez, stressed the words, Bags At The Door. She told us about one lady on previous trip who'd hidden her luggage behind the dresser.

Thanks to Linda's word of caution, the attendants found everyone's gear where it was supposed to be. At the door. We all hopped on board the coach by 8:00 and headed to Yosemite National Park. We learned we'd be traveling over the Tioga Pass. Linda said the pass had amazing views. And wow, did they ever! Aaron, our bus driver was awesome. He navigated the winding road with expertise. Some of the views were straight down. They were real cliff hangers. At least they seemed that way to me. I confess I closed my eyes a couple of times. One slip of the wheel, and look out below! One big bus headed down. But with Aaron at the wheel, all was well. We could relax and enjoy the ride. No roller coasters here. 


We were able to pull off in a few spots for photos.

Photo by Gay Lewis

Paul and Gay at Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass experiences mass amounts of snow and closes in winter. Linda, our director, says it just recently opened! Some years it stays closed in July, but this date, July 18, we found it accessible.

Linda told us we'd eat lunch "on the fly," so we stopped at a fast food place and bought snacks. We were all eager to get to Yosemite. Of course we had no idea we were heading into a fire.

We missed that memo! There are some things you just can't predict or know. No matter the amount of planning.

You've got the whole plane to yourself. Psychic convention cancelled at the last minute.
As we drove near the Yosemite National Park, we noticed a plume of smoke in the distance ahead. I heard someone say, "I hope someone knows about that fire."


A fire had started in Mariposa, California. Mariposa is a small county seat town with a population of about 2,000. Mariposa County includes much of Yosemite National Park. We had no idea what awaited us as we spent the afternoon amidst smoke and falling cinders. The evening had unexpected twists and turns.

Have you ever had to find your luggage in total darkness? 

I learned something. I'm packing flashlights and battery operated candles for future travels.

Stay tuned! More of this adventure to come!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day three and Day Four in California

Omelet? Sausage? Bacon? Oatmeal? Fruit? Waffles? Cinnamon rolls? Skillet potatoes? I bet you can't eat all the goodies.

After a huge breakfast, and I mean huge, we boarded the coach to tour wine country. It's super nice to have someone pick up your luggage and place it on the bus. With tummy's full, carting those bags around would be a challenge. Glad we didn't need to do that.

This was the third day on our "Northern California's Finest Tour." Sunday, July 16 dawned with blue skies. This time we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog kept us from seeing it on the San Francisco side the day before, but this day it showed up in it's entire majestic splendor. The whole thing was visible!

Here we are. Two Texans, enjoying the cool temp. We don't have July mornings in Houston that require jackets.  Our group was a bunch of lucky, happy people to cross the famous landmark on a sunny, lovely day. We stopped for a photo stop in Sausalito, a city located on the other side.  

We arrived at Gloria Ferrer Wine Caves and Vineyards for a tour and tasting. Even though we had a designated driver, there were a few of us who refrained from the free samples.  If you want to see more pictures of this pretty vineyard, click on this link. Gloria Ferrer Wines and Vineyards

On to Lake Tahoe. We arrive at 5:00 PM at the Lake Tahoe Resort. I didn't take pictures of the resort, but here's a link to show you the placeLake Tahoe Resort

On one side of the street, you're in California. On the other, you're in Nevada. Actually if you drive a car in the middle of the street, the driver could be in Nevada and the passenger in California. Nevada has the casinos. Paul and I aren't into those, so a quiet dinner sitting outside and then an early to bed evening suited us just fine.

JULY 17, 2017

We boarded the coach for Virginia City, the trolley tour, and the historic mine tour. Here's a map of our tour. As you can see, we started in San Francisco, went to Sonoma, Lake Tahoe and Virginia City.

Virginia City has kept an antiquated look. That's smart of city planners. It makes it more fun for tourists to go back in time and imagine how people lived in the Virginia City silver mining boom. We bought a few silver trinkets here. Remember the TV show Bonanza? The Cartwright were supposed to have a huge ranch, the Ponderosa in Nevada. The fictions ranch was near Virginia City.

I didn't think I'd like Virginia City, but it was fun!

This "old" miner took us down into a silver mine. We walked down in the back of an old saloon. The saloon still sells drinks. When the miner is not giving tours, he serves as bartender. He chained the door so no one could come in while we were below in the mine. 

The main street isn't long. Hills once filled with silver surround the town.

You'll see mining hills like this one around the town.

Virginia City had brothels for the miners, but this pretty church existed too. I hope more residents went here rather than the saloons and brothels! 

The trip took us past beautiful lakes and mountains as we headed back for a boat ride on Lake Tahoe.

Arriving back at Lake Tahoe, we boarded a boat similar to this one to take us across the lake.

Pixabay Lake Tahoe

Rick and Carole Steer and Paul.

Rick handed us sunscreen lotion. He's a nice, generous, sharing guy. Paul swiped only his forehead with the stuff. He soon had one white area above his brows amidst all the red on his hairless head. Carole stole Rick's cap. She took it off for the picture. Rick and I were the only two logical people in this group of four. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

California Adventure - Day Two

Day Two of our California Adventure began on Saturday, July 15, 2017 with a tour of San Francisco.

Aaron, our driver was amazing. I find it difficult to drive a car, and he maneuvered that big bus like it was a piece of cake. I had nine wrecks our first year in Houston, but that's another story.

Can you believe hubby and I were the last ones to board the coach? Those of you who've met Paul know he's always early. Not this day. Probably my fault, although I don't remember why now. 

Anyway, everyone had taken seats and left us the front. How about that? Arriving late this day proved to be to our advantage as we toured the city. Linda, our tour director, rotated the group each day. We had our turn at the back, but this day we had a front row seat.

Here's a picture of the beautiful San Francisco City Hall. Guess what? It's taller than the US Capitol, and it has a gold leaf dome. The first city hall was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. The architect created a beauty with this one. 

One of the advantages of motor coach travel is that the tour guides and drivers know how to move around the area and find where the ideal picture stops are. This was one of San Francisco's finest days, one with sunshine.

Even though the day held blue skies, when we arrived at the hill looking across at the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog suddenly socked in most of the well-known site. I found the towers protruding through the fog picturesque. Linda, our director and Aaron, our driver, assured us the fog was minimal this day. 

Ready for a walk through Chinatown?  

Meet Dorothy. After our lunch at an authentic Chinese restaurant, this young, 83 year old lady gave us a glimpse of her neighborhood. She's lived within two blocks of her birth place her entire life. And she can out walk younger people! She expressed gratitude for the Baptist Church. They taught her to speak and write Chinese. 

Her dad came to San Francisco when he was about 14 years old. Her mother came as an indentured servant. The two met, married and had children. They lived in a tenement dwelling with other Chinese.  All the families living in the building shared a kitchen and bathroom.

During the early days of Dorothy's parents, Chinese men and women came to Chinatown and looked for the clan name on buildings. Family became the benevolent means of helping one another. After our visit with Dorothy, we boarded the coach and motored to the Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39

Many of our group disembarked for a sightseeing excursion at Pier 39. Paul and thought it too crowded.  We didn't see anything too usual that day at the pier, but Linda, our director, told us about seeing 1000 naked people on bicycles on a previous tour she'd conducted.  I think we were blessed that day. The crowd we saw wore clothes.

Stay tuned for Day Three!

Mattie's Choice arrives September 15.

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to Sarah.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Adventure: California, Here We Come!

Our group. Some 45 of us 
We're pictured at the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park.

Paul and I met a fascinating group on a Globus Tour to "Northern California's Finest." I have a few stories to tell, and over the next few days, I hope to intrigue you with our adventure. And boy! Did we have one. Just wait till you hear about the night we had to find our luggage by cell phone light! You've heard that song, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia?" Well, for us, the lights went out in Yosemite.

But first things first.

We arrived on Friday, July 14 at the Marriott Marquis, San Francisco. Isn't that a nice welcome with my name on the TV? 

They should have included Paul (hubby) too, but what can I say? I've always wanted my name in lights, and this is the closest thing to it. I bet the hotel didn't realize I'd share the image with you. Ha! I share lots of stuff.

Before we met our group, we stepped out on floor 39 to The View. It's a beautiful spot with spectacular vistas of San Francisco. The crowd was large, but we managed to elbow our way around and see the city from the beautiful windows.

After a quick look around on the upper floor, we zoomed back down to meet Linda. 

Linda Perez, our Globus Tour Director, gave an overview of our coming trip. Sorry the pic is grainy. I usually do a better photo job. This entertaining and well informed lady is blessed with an incredible memory. She learned every name that night. Can you imagine? I need name tags when I meet a group for the first time, and this group was large. We all introduced ourselves, and I tried to remember faces with names. 

Paul and I sat at a table with six people. Five from New York, and one from Columbia.  I'd like to introduce everybody to you, and that's not possible, but I want you to meet one couple. Richard and Carole Steer.

This charming duo is from New York and we had a blast with them. We attended a star gazing program together one cold, dark night. Richard cracked me up when I heard him tell Carole, "I sure am glad I put my pants back on."

Now that takes some explanation. Right?

This savvy couple were wearing LL Bean clothes for travelers. During the warmer hours of the day, Richard converted his trousers to shorts. You see, he was wearing the Signature LL Bean Zip-Off Pants. When the temperature dropped, he zipped the longer portion back on. Shorts became long pants. Now his comment makes sense. Right? But if you didn't know that and you heard him make that comment, you'd wonder what he'd been doing.

I'll leave you with that thought, but stay tuned for more of our adventure. 

And here's a reminder. Mattie's Choice releases on September 15. I can hardly wait for Mattie to arrive.

Until next time,