Saturday, July 24, 2010


Three horses, a donkey, a dog and two cats were the animals at Lew and Genevieve’s place in Solvang.  Riley and Max had fun playing with all of them.  Genevieve took both boys for a ride on a horse. They walked, trotted and cantered around the ring.  Neither had ever been on a horse before so it was a great experience for them.
Lew and Genevieve were the most gracious hosts.  We spent lots of time catching up, chatting about old times, eating and, of course, drinking wine.  We got to show them the amazing features of our new phones and tried to convince them to get one or two.
They took us into the little town of Solvang, a Danish community with quaint Danish architecture throughout the town.   Kierkegaard came to mind as the style was 19th Century.

 Riding a horse was the most fun thing I did there but I also liked swimming in the pool! There we had such a good time, we all wanted to stay a bit longer though we knew that Australia would be fun too. Finally time to leave we all said our good-byes and then headed off to LAX to fly our way to Australia!    (Riley)

Sunday afternoon (25 Jul) we drove south again this time to LAX.  Both boys slept in the car for over an hour – exactly what they needed to do to prepare for an 11:20pm departure.  We were excited about flying on the new Airbus 380, the double-decker plane however, we never got a good look at the plane because it was pitch-black when they towed it up to the gate and our view was obscured by the terminal.  Hopefully, on the way home, we’ll get a good view.

The boys are such experienced travelers that the 15 ½ hour flight to Melbourne was a breeze.  The new plane was quieter than a 747 but there still wasn’t enough legroom or bathrooms!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yosemite -- Last Day

On our final day in Yosemite we were determined to go rafting down the Merced.  The rental office didn’t open until 10am so we thought we’d walk over to the Ahwanhee just to see it.  Again we got lost on the trails and never made it!  But we were almost first in line for rafting.  Then we looked at the signs; everyone must be over 50 pounds (hummm, Max is about 30 pounds), the trip takes about 2+ hours, orientation is 30 minutes and bus ride back another 30 minutes when the bus comes (check out was at 11am and we were planning on leaving at noon).  Time was NOT working in our favor.  After another family discussion we decided to return again to Yosemite to raft, but today we should pack up our things and move on – after more ice cream, of course.

Within in 200 yards of the Curry Village parking lot I was pulled over by a Park Ranger for doing 37 in a 25mph zone.   He was very official asking for my license and registration, did I know why he stopped me, did I know the speed limit, etc., but then asked where we were going, I suppose expecting us to say something local and I said, “Uh, Australia.”  That took him aback and he promptly returned my papers without questioning the immigration status of my passengers and wished us bon voyage.

On the way south we knew the exact exit to take in Fresno to go through the Starbucks drive thru for 2 double tall non-fat lattes.   Diving southwest across the San Joaquin Valley was very interesting.   There was field after field of different fruit trees, vegetables and vineyards.  The variety of colors and topography was captivating.  We finally hit the  101 and drove south to Solvang, just north of Santa Barbara, to stay with our friends Lew and Genevieve.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yosemite -- Curry Village

Mornings at Curry Village in Yosemite start early.  It reminded me of a NYC summer morning when the windows are open; a few cars passing, garbage trucks packing trash, a car alarm going off for 10 seconds along with the conversation of a passing couples.  The 80 degree heat the previous afternoon had fallen to about 50 degrees.   In the middle of the night I had gotten up to cover the boys and found Riley uncovered and curled up in the fetal position, knees and face down.  He wasn’t shivering but he was obviously cold.  Two blankets per bed were provided and we used them all.

As planned we rented bicycles about 9am and started out toward Mirror Lake.  The trails in the Valley are not well marked so we made several unnecessary detours, but no matter, it was all beautiful.  Mirror Lake is slowly disappearing, turning back into just part of the river – its natural evolution as the sign said.  We had fun wading in the shallow freezing water walking from sandbar to sandbar to keep our feet from turning blue.  With our cold water squealing we woke a coyote who was sleeping about 100 yards away underneath some brush.  He stood up and gazed over in our direction, he was not impressed.

This day, like every other before it, was spectacular, clear air, bright blue sky, warm temperature and a light refreshing breeze.  We left Mirror Lake in search of the Ahwahnee Lodge (again).   We diverted to Yosemite Village and decided to have an early lunch as there was no line at the outdoor cafĂ©.  After getting 2 stuffed bears for the boys (big brother bear and little brother bear, aptly named Sequoia and Yosemite) we headed off to lower Yosemite falls.

        I bet your wondering why it’s called lower Yosemite Falls instead of anything else, well, because directly above it is another falls (upper Yosemite Falls) which is about the same size as lower Yosemite falls. Later I was not very happy dad will tell you why……..I YIE YIE! (Riley)

Again the boys had a ball climbing over the huge boulders leading up to the base of the falls.  Max took his place as trailblazer and Riley and I followed closely behind.  Before biking back we stopped at the end of another trail which gave us a spectacular view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.   Then it was on to rafting.

When we finally got to the raft rental desk the line was around the block and in the hot sun.  We joined the end of the line with some trepidation and after about 10 minutes of hardly moving forward we decided to come back in the morning and try again.  Riley was particularly upset as he had his heart set on rafting.  Ice cream from the Curry Village store didn’t abate his disappointment much (though Max was quite happy with the whole thing).  We headed back to our tent for a rest and after an hour spent reading (and sleeping) we rode over to the trail head for Vernal Falls and Half Dome.  Someday (before too long) I would like to return to Yosemite to hike the Half Dome trail.  It looks extremely difficult (10-12 hours with a mile of elevation) but the pay off at the top must be incredible.  Today we branched off to Vernal Falls which was plenty strenuous for us.  It was about 1.5 miles long and rising in altitude about 1,500 feet. 

Our trusty trailblazer Max led the way up with adventurous determination.  The views along the way were breathtaking.  There are several side canyons extending up and back about a mile, each with their own water flow cascading down to the central canyon river, the Merced.  The trail eventually became steps that the National Park Service (bless them) had cut into the granite many years ago. 

Near the top we heard and felt the thunderous power of the falling water.  In contrast, we saw a long delicate rainbow extending across the falls and were bathed in a fine cooling mist.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


It looked like a short drive into the Yosemite Valley from Fresno.  California 41 was a freeway when we set out but by the time we got up into the mountains it became a gravel road as there was 25 miles of road construction.  In the back of my mind I knew there would be a curve that ended with a breathtaking view and so it was.  We were still about 2,500 feet above the valley floor and driving eastward when the vista opened up before us.  I swerved off the highway onto a pull out and parked.  We jumped out and joined the several hundred people who were gawking at the same thing.

The snows had continued well into June so all of the many waterfalls were still very full and powerful.  Bridalveil Falls was directly in view and it didn’t take us too long to continue down the mountain to the canyon floor and reach the falls.  The boys had a great time climbing over the boulders to get a better view.  Miranda wasn’t too happy about Max jumping from boulder to boulder but he must have been a mountain goat in a past life for we instantly designated him the trailblazer for all our hikes.

Back in the car we continued to Curry Village where we were staying for the next two nights.  It was impossible to get reservations (last February!) for the various lodges – everything was sold out, so we settled on Curry Village, a group of about 250 closely spaced wood-framed canvas tents with 1 double and 2 single beds, 1 overhead lamp, and an external food storage locker to keep the bears out.  Bathroom facilities were shared and about 100 feet away.

Luck was with us as our tent was secluded and rather private.  This didn’t mean that it was quiet however.   Tents don’t seem to keep out much noise at all.  We settled in and went out for a walk.  As we were leaving we met our only neighbors and the husband was just returning from a hike to the top of Half Dome.  It’s a 12 hour hike with an elevation of about 5,000 feet, the last 2,000 of which is pulling yourself up the rock with a cable attached to stakes drilled into the granite.  Miranda and I had done something like that at Ayers Rock 10 years ago but it was not nearly as strenuous. 

We walked across a lovely wildflower filled meadow heading toward the Ahwanee Lodge but we never made it as Miranda’s constant thought of bears forced us back to the dining hall for dinner.  The camp was filled with all sorts of peculiar noises that evening, none of which turned out to be foraging animals, rather Chinese grandparents arguing or teenagers teasing, nevertheless, it was fun to imagine a large family of hungry bears loping around our tent in search of comestible lucre.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sequoia NP and Fresno

Several posts about Sequoia National Park and the lovely pool in Fresno are lost.  Hopefully I'll find them someday!