California snobs

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

We drove north out of Casper to Buffalo, where we stopped and wandered around for a few minutes, then turned east on I-90 toward South Dakota. We had talked about going to Rapid City today, but decided to make today a bit shorter and do some extra miles tomorrow. So I reserved an airBnB in Spearfish. To avoid arriving too early, we overshot Spearfish on our way into the area, went to Sturgis, the home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally, the first week in August.

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I got a Sturgis baseball cap for $5, a good price, considering that they usually sell for $20 and sometimes as much as $30. Mine always get sweaty and sun-bleached, so I always need more. And for that price, I don’t mind advertising Sturgis.

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It’s nice of them to invite me to enjoy the dog water, but I think I’ll pass, thank you very much.

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If any further evidence is needed that it’s a motorcyclist’s town ….

We drove on to Deadwood, but decided, rather than spending the afternoon wandering Deadwood’s tourist attractions, we’d go visit Spearfish Canyon, a highly recommended byway. And it was well worth the visit!

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We took a brief hike above this stream, but turned back when the trail got steep enough that returning downhill would become difficult.

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According to the description, some of these cliffs above the road are as high as a thousand feet.

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Just as we began to think we were not going to get our promised waterfall, we came to Bridal Veil fall. Yes, I know, this is a poor imitation of the one in Yosemite, but still, pretty nice.

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On into Spearfish, where it turned out that we couldn’t get into the B&B; the allegedly unlocked door was snap-locked. We perched on the porch until Chad came home, riding up on his mountain bike. Nice place.

Of course, we immediately went out again, wandered a bit until we came to the Bay Leaf Cafe, which caters to yuppie tastes. We thought it might also have good brews, and indeed it did. They had Moose Drool, which we skipped this time, because we already know it’s good. Jacky had A Pile of Dirt (locally brewed porter) and I had a pint of Buffalo Sweat (oatmeal stout). Pretty good, along with our seafood dinners and decadent desserts.

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The official pictorial emblem of Spearfish suggests a catfish (whiskers), but this model looks more like a trout. Hard to say.

We wandered off to find a drugstore after dinner, then returned on the rec trail along the creek. Nice town.

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Casper, Wy

Monday, 18 July 2016

Nice breakfast with our airBnB hostess. We thought we’d go out Logan Canyon, maybe stop to see some sights or even do a bit of a hike. But at the edge of town, a sign said the road was closed. Not the kind of adventure we’re looking for today, so we went south, back to the freeways, through Ogden and onto I-80 to and through Wyoming.

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Not that our choice turned out to be the worst scenery in the world. This picture is from a rest stop. Not too bad.

Wyoming has everything from desolate desert to red lumpy rock to white strata to varicolored strata. Much of it was very pretty. We crossed the continental divide at least four times, at elevations near 7000 feet. Oh, yes, and Wyoming has wind. Real, heavy-duty industrial-grade wind.

We had thought to go to Casper, but the intended route was 380 miles, and we weren’t sure we wanted to put in that many miles. But if we can’t hike Logan Canyon, maybe it’s doable after all. As it happened, the backtracked route we took was about 450 miles, so it was a long and tiring day. At least the traffic was okay, and we didn’t get delayed noticeably by road construction.

We stopped somewhere — Rock Springs, maybe? — at a Subway for lunchies. We like this chain: fast, inexpensive, and healthier options than the burger joints.

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We stopped on highway 220 at the Independence Rock site; so called because the first pioneers came past here on July 4. (I wondered whether pioneers are nuclear physicists who specialize in pions. Jacky thinks I was being frivolous.)

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While Jacky drove, I tried airBnB for options. We could have stayed the night in a sheep wagon, or a Minibago, or a $330 private room, or maybe in Douglas, Wyoming. So we checked into a La Quinta motel instead. Poor choice; not something to do again.

Wandered into town, mostly along a rec trail that runs along the North Platte river, full of more water than I would have expected. Walked up one street, down the next, almost ready to give up on anything worthwhile, when we spotted The WonderBar Brewery. Ok, Casper is not a dead loss; it has one redeeming virtue. A pretty good homebrewed porter. We ordered potato skins and barbecued ribs to share. Big dish of ribs shows up, I take half of the considerable visible amount, then discover they are layered two deep. We did what we could.

We had seen a sign that warned of high fire danger until 8 this evening. What !? But the seriously vicious wind began to die down as the sun sank, so I guess they know whereof they speak. And actually, the vicious wind was rather pleasant, once in a while, as long as the air is warm and not full of dust and grit. The kind of thing we don’t get very often at home.

Tomorrow: South Dakota?

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Logan, Utah

Sunday, 17 July 2016

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Above, our home from home in Boise, an apartment above a garage, a shady yard well suited for a brew. A good experience.

It was about 8 by the time we rolled out of Boise. Freeway speed limit is 80 here, which is about as much as this little Kia Soul is comfortable with. Some dry desert country, but a lot of really pretty scenery along the Snake River valley. Irrigation monsters everywhere.

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We have no desire for marathon days on the road; 250 or 300 miles is plenty long enough, thank you. We didn’t really stop until we reached Tremonton, whose one claim to fame, I guess, is the mural above. We wandered a few minutes, got back in the car and came on to Logan, a pleasant town we visited before under quite different circumstances.

Left the car and walked some more. Sunday is not the day to come to Utah; lots of things closed, pretty much no one on the streets.

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I’m not really up on my religious mythology, but I think Zion may not mean the same thing to Mormons as it does to Jews. But don’t quote me.

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A Mormon town, though, and no mistake. This is the tabernacle.

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And standing on a hill above the town, this is the temple. What’s the difference, you ask? And so did we. Well, there are very few tabernacles; apparently they are no longer being constructed or consecrated, but the great unwashed are welcome in tabernacles. Temples are only open to those who follow the Way. No idea whether there is a certification of some kind that you need to produce to get past the temple gates.

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Missionary attire? That kind of town. Not a lot of graffiti here, as you might expect.

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Otherwise, it’s a nice enough little place, or would be if everything were open, if the sidewalks were crowded with people making their way past those sitting at sidewalk tables enjoying the day.

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One thing you can say about Mormons: they are not big on poverty. And good for them.

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For those who are old enough to understand this, it’s highly apropos!

We discovered that my smartphone is prepared to give voice directions to navigate via GPS (most places I go, I don’t need directions, so never had occasion to find out!). Very handy; thank you Mr Android and Mr Samsung and Mr whoever.

From the B&B, we wandered out again, looking for something to eat. The fast-food places are open; there’s Denny’s and Sizzler and … and we ended up at The Old Bull (El Toro Viejo) for more Mex than we could have eaten in two days. Pretty good.

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Boise

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Boise lies in the flat country just west of the mountains. A little online exploration reveals that there are no end of trails nearby, most of them in the mountains. The Table Rock loop sorted to the top of the list, and seems to be pretty interesting, so that’s where we went today. Parking at the old Penitentiary.

Which reminds me … what a misnomer that is! Had this truly been a home for penitents, it would not have needed guards or locks. It might have been called a monastery. The current equivalent is correctional institute, equally a misnomer.

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There were no paper maps, but the kiosk at the trailhead showed the options. Pretty simple; we took trail 15A up, went around the hill on 16, and came back down 15.

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There was a volunteer crew busy uprooting weeds. I thanked them for the effort. Always makes me feel good when I’m in their shoes and someone thanks me.

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The whole area burned recently. Long enough ago that it only weakly smells of smoke, but not very attractive.

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It was great to see the vegetation beginning to come back. For example, this green grass shooting out from the lump of burned grass.

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The photo above came from the non-burned area, just to show what the single orphan flower further up will look like if it has a chance to mature.

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Once we finally topped out and had a wide view further east, we could see the extent of the burn area, looking for all the world like cloud shadow.

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It’s called table rock because it was once the sedimentary solid floor of a lake, now elevated a couple thousand feet above the surroundings.

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There are communications antennas up here, consequently a road. But only a few cars; most people walked up and back down.

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One of the bikies was a woman, who walked most of the way down, not confident in her brakes. The other bikie was a guy who rode the whole way. Not far from the bottom, and just ahead of us, he hit a rock the wrong way and took a spectacular fall. Not hurt beyond the usual scrapes, which is good.

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We found a shady picnic table outside the walls of the old penitentiary and enjoyed the views of the warden’s house and the bishop’s house while we munched our apples. Didn’t sign up for the penitentiary tour itself; we’d rather spend the time at the botanical garden.

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And so we did. It’s just outside the penitentiary walls itself, so we saw some of the outside.

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I loosed off a raft of shots at this dragonfly, and am delighted that a couple of them turned out well. They clearly show that the leading edges of the wings are open.

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Well, the botanical garden was very much worth the time, and I have a boatload of photos. But I won’t bore you with more than just a few.

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There was a little creek, possibly with pumped recirculating water, covered with water striders. Cool!

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Back to the B&B for naps, then laundry, then a cool beer in the back yard, then to a middle eastern restaurant for goodies.

Nice day. Tomorrow, Logan, Utah.

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Boise

Friday, 15 July 2016

Almost every business in Nevada has some kind of gambling. The motel restaurant was on the far side of the casino. Breakfast was good and  very inexpensive; they figure the Scylla-Charybdis ordeal of the slot machines will make up the difference. Not for us, but thank you for the exceptional food value, anyway.

We took highway 95 north out of Winnemucca, a road that runs absolutely straight as far as the eye can see, until it needs to go over the low pass between a pair of mountain ranges. Then it jogs a little, comes down the other side and makes a beeline for the next pass. If the phrase basin and range didn’t already exist to describe this country, it would have to be invented.

Deadly dull, most of it. Sagebrush. Further north, we get into the volcanic lava flow, presumably from the Yellowstone caldera, which is phenomenally ugly where it is exposed at the surface.

Eventually, we got to the junction with highway 78 in Oregon, and turned east. Almost immediately the country got better. There is still a thin layer of hard volcanic capstone, but it has collapsed in many places, exposing sedimentary underlayers that have eroded into pretty formations.

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These are called the Roman columns, naturally located at Rome, Oregon.

But the pretty sedimentary formations don’t last long, either, and we’re back to dreary scrub desert. Better as we approached the Snake river, at Marsing, where we pulled off for a very welcome look at water, grass, trees. Wonderful!

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Suitably refreshed, we went on into Boise. It was only within the last ten years or so that I realized what the name of this town really is; having lost the accent off the trailing e, and anglicized its pronunciation, it was not as obvious as it certainly ought to have been. Better late than never: now we often pronounce it the French way, just for grins.

Found our airBnB without a whole lot of trouble. Our hostess is away at the Grands Tetons today, so we’ll meet her tomorrow. No worries; we dropped off our things and went out to explore.

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Found the Double Tap pub, where I enjoyed a Moose Drool and Jacky found a porter that she liked.

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Then we walked back over to this building, which houses an Indian restaurant. Spoiled again.

On the way back to the BnB, we stopped at an Albertson’s grocery — turns out to be the same site as the first supermarket opened by Mr Albertson in 1939 — and bought breakfast fixings. Saves us some money and will be healthier and very likely better too.

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Big Trees and Ebbetts Pass

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Big breakfast at Hillbillies restaurant, Murphys. Then we headed on up highway 4. First stop, Calaveras Big Trees state park.

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We have been here before, of course, but not for a long time. Pretty classy.

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Not everything here is gigantic. By the way, the understory is mostly dogwood. We need to come back here some time when it’s in full bloom; it must be spectacular.

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Cyclists heading uphill, most likely training for the Markleeville Death Ride. Good to see them out. The road is wide and good as far as the ski areas, then becomes challenging. Good pavement, but too narrow for a center line, sharp, blind curves, steep grades. We stopped several times for scenery breaks, but were happy when we bottomed out along the east fork Carson river going into Markleeville.

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From the junction with highway 88 north of Markleeville, we took the same route that we rode on our trans-continental bicycle tour, through Fallon and then to Winnemucca. Found a motel and dumped our stuff.

Very hot day, but of course we went out looking for a brew and a meal. Maps on our smartphones are not very helpful, but we did find a cool quiet place for a couple of beers — then saw another couple places later on. We decided on Martin’s Hotel, a basque restaurant. You order your own entree, but the rest is family style. We shared a long table with a couple from Hanford Ca, and three from near Tampa. Good food, nice to talk with some new people.

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The Mother Lode

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

We’re off! Also, we got started on a vacation trip to Nebraska. Go figure! (Maybe that proves that we’re off.) I just signed up with AirBnB, and our first experience will be tonight in Murphys. The software is a bit flaky, but we hope the room isn’t.

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First sight to see was the wizard of Oakdale. And we know nothing more than what you see right here, so don’t ask.

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The water tower from Petticoat Junction. In fact, we are at Railtown, the museum at Jamestown. We’ve been here before, but not for quite a number of years, so it’s nearly new. We aren’t much interested in train rides, especially behind today’s Diesel offering, but of course signed up for the guided tour of the roundhouse.

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Of course, Shays are the most interesting Loks of all, because you can see all the gubbins doing their gubbing. Also because they are the real workhorses of rough country, grades, agility, anything you want, except speed. Max is about 15 mph, with a brave engineer. Our guide says they shed parts; whenever they take this one out for a run, they have a patrol to sweep the route afterward to collect the bits and pieces that get left behind. Great toys!

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One of the guys on the tour was a volunteer at another rail museum, and was kind enough to explain the speed and reversing mechanism in terms that pretty much most of us could understand. I even mostly understood it myself.

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This was another interesting artifact. It’s called a blind driver, a drive wheel without a flange. It rides between fore and aft flanged wheels, and cannot have a flange itself because it has to mediate between its neighbors on curves. I don’t think I knew about these before.

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The wheels themselves are cast iron, too soft and brittle to stand up to the load, so they have tires. Above, a tire ring, a loop of gas jets that heats the tire red hot, which causes it to expand enough that it can be slipped over a cast iron base wheel. The tire can be machined down a few times as it wears, and is eventually replaced with another. Replacing a tire was a good job to complete just at quitting time, so things would be cool enough to work with come next morning.

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To ferry VIPs to the Hetch Hetchy dam construction site, this White truck was turned into a rail vehicle. A couple of interesting things: behind the cowcatcher and between the leaf springs is the crank start. That must have been tricky.

The steering wheel remains in place, because the throttle and such were mounted on the steering column. So they adapted the wheel to apply the front brakes.

But most interesting of all is the square frame visible midships below the vehicle. It could be put down onto the rails. The vehicle was jacked up so that the wheels cleared the rails, and spun around to go back the other direction. A built-in turntable!

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As well as bits and pieces for the Loks, they made tools here. A complete machine shop, and with overhead shaft power. Unfortunately, the buildings have shifted to be out of true, so the shafts cannot safely be run today.

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Some of the pulleys are wooden laminates.

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The roundhouse was round, of course, because it at least partially surrounded a turntable.

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The turntable is (now) driven by compressed air.

It wasn’t so hard to turn the table, but stopping a swinging Lok required finesse as well as brute force.

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I liked the little locking slider here.

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These artifacts have a long and colourful history in the movies. Several of the Loks and cars are half length, which was convenient on tight mountain turns, but also in wide-angle views of trains in western movies, where pretty much no one ever notices.

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Smokestack cosmetics, to make the Loks look like whatever they wanted. By the way, westerns typically show the tenders piled high with firewood, but wood hasn’t been used for two hundred years. All of these Loks burn oil, even during their stints in the movies.

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The freight room; I especially like the good-sized crate containing an Underwood typewriter.

Enough! We went on to Columbia, a state historic park. Real gold rush history here, a place where the placer washes undermined the houses of the town; not a problem, houses can be rebuilt.

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Popular and picturesque place.

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We saw serious industrial blacksmithing this morning. Here’s the other side of the coin, the smith busy at work making ornamental horseshoes and other tourist merchandise.

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Time for lunch, enough that we really weren’t hungry this evening.

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A real Wells-Fargo office. Their scale was accurate enough to weigh the signature in pencil on a piece of paper.

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And real horses. Not sure how much of the rest is real, but it’s a good time for all.

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And panning for gold is probably a good lesson in how dirty, thankless and unprofitable most miners discovered their lives to be.

Enough! Time to go to Murphys. Parrot’s Ferry road is a good route. I had this road in mind some years ago when I took Wards Ferry road into Sonora from the south. The worst drive I ever had in my life. Steep grades, vertical on both sides, less than one lane wide in many places. Well, today was much better.

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Murphys’ unique claim to fame is its E Clampus Vitus wall of comparative ovations. Sometimes humorous, but always on point.

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Sir Francis Drake, above, not eligible to be a Clamper because of a tendency to piracy (an understatement), being presented with a fish by Hi-Ho the Indian.

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The Lok driver, alleged to be the only teetotal Clamper, a scurrilous rumour that was found to be untrue.

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And down the street is the Pourhouse (great name!), with a plaque for Michelson (think Michelson-Morley experiment) at curbside.

We went out to check in at the BnB (no breakfast; does that just make it a B?), have a nap, and mellow out. Walked back into town, enjoyed a couple of dark brews at the Pourhouse.

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If we lived here, this might go far to becoming our Local.

Busy day. Good day. Good night.

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