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Parrottrek Journal 2016

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Super fun group photo with great friends and more memories made

Jim and Janice, tonight's party hosts. They always throw a great party

Happy New Year . We can't wait to see what 2016 has in store for us

The party always ends up in the kitchen and boy was it a party

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Happy New Year From The Great Outdoors -
I can't believe another year has gone by and we are still traveling around. However, I will say this place has got to be one of our most favorite places to be. The sunshine is here all winter long and warms us at an average of 70 degrees, the pool is always the perfect temperature, and you can always find good friends sitting around it or floating in it. It was with a group of these friends that we rang in the New Year with and boy was it fun. Jim and Janice recently built a new place which just happens to have the best layout for parties and get togethers. The living room couch is enormous, the kitchen is vast, the outside seating is awesome, and the laughs are non stop.

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Time for the champagne! Ready to toast in the New Year

Happy New Year!!!!

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Bucket List item #85 checked off the list. Stay at the Hotel Del Coronado

Where we had our first night gathering with appetizers and wine

Morning walks on the beach, brrr were they cold

An amazing sand sculpture dedicated to David Bowie - Love his music!

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January 11th - Fun at the Hotel Del Coronado -
This is always one of the most fun weeks of the year, and one of my favorites. This is the week each year that we get together with all 38 of the couples that work for Good Sam sprinkled all across this continent to compare horror stories, relive fun times, and catch up on each others lives. Each year we are fortunate enough to gather at a new location, and this year it was at the Hotel Del Coronado on the shores of the Pacific in San Diego. The weather wasn't too bad considering it is January and most of North America is covered in snow, so morning walks on the beach were enjoyed with only three layers on.

Our meeting in the gorgeous ballroom

Frank & Mark, the class clowns of the week

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The view out the window of our conference room, no we weren'd distracted at all

One of the couples we work with got married while we were all here

A farewell dinner with some of the other rep teams that travel the country just like us. It's always a fun week to get together with these folks

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A few fun photos of Frank, his sister Renee, and their wonderful grandma. Both of them will tell you what an amazing woman she was

Wine tasting with Grandma and Grandpa in 2012

Christmas long ago with Grandma, Frank, and his cousin Sean

January 30th - Celebrating her life - Darlene K. Saulsbury - December 13, 1929 - December 19, 2015 -
Every so often in this world, you meet a person who makes you smile. Not just when they tell a joke, or do something funny, but they make you smile just because of who they are. Because the sight of them makes you happy, and the thought of spending time with does too. Frank's grandmother was one of these people who always made you smile. She had the most infectious laugh, and fun spirit. We would go on family vacations together to the lake for a week at a time on a house boat in the summer, to the snowy slopes of Tahoe in the winter. Most people think of a grandmother as an older woman who sits around a knits, and tells you to watch your mouth if you get sassy. Not Grandma Saulsbury. She was the first one to head outside and enjoy an adventure instead of knitting, and she was usually the one that would get sassy first. We will all miss her terribly and will think of her every time we see a fishing boat, or the hills of Tahoe, but we are grateful that she is no longer fighting the horrific battle of Alzheimer's that took her fun loving spirit from us long before it took her life. Make sure you treasure those closest to you and the moments you make with them. Make sure you keep those memories close to your heart, and always remember them. Seeing someone go through this desease first hand is something any of us hope to never go through again, nor should anyone else.

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We flew first class in honor of Grandma Saulsbury, a first class lady

Toasting Grandma Saulsbury on the plane she is with us in spirit

A wonderful Celebration of Life where fun stories and memories were remembered

An Aquavit toast after the Celebration of Life

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A quick trip to Jacksonville to get a check up on the motorhome

The views were quite spectacular but a little chilly so we bundled up

We stayed and enjoyed the live band and the heater on the patio

Lunch on the water in a fun little tiki hut that stretched over the water

March 3rd - We're Off to See the Country... Again - First Stop, Jacksonville, Florida -
As much as we love Florida and all our friends there, we love our annual trek around the country. This year we will head to the west coast first and work our way back. We have signed on for another year with Good Sam and are thrilled be assigned to our home state of California. This year not only marks our 11th year of travels it marks the 80th year of my sweet dad's life and I wouldn't miss his 80th birthday bash for anything in the world. I would have arranged for a quick flight out for a couple days no matter where our work location was this year, but this way since we are bringing the whole house and the whole family, the week with my dad and Juliana will be even better.
Our first stop was Jacksonville, Florida, home of Prevost and the place that we take our house to twice a year to make sure everything is working, all the fluids are fresh, nothing will fall off on our journey, and just up the street from St Augustine Beach and a great restaurant on the water where most of the seats are raised tiki huts extended over the ocean. Today was a little chilly so so sat up in the tiki hut for a bit and then went to the patio where the tables are rocking benches, we could feel the warmth of the patio heaters, and hear the sounds of the live band. Such a fun place.

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Hold your breath we are officially below sea level

Death Valley isn't too scenic, but it's really amazing

We stopped off at the hotel to take in some views, and do a little work

The views from the sitting area in the hotel. No wifi, so we had to appreciate the views

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March 19th - Driving Below Sea Level - Death Valley National Park -
This has got to be one of the strangest places we have been to. It is huge and expansive and yet there isn't much to look at.... ... until you start to look closer. There is no water anywhere to be seen and yet the grounds look like the have water spots. There are rocks that slowly move and look as though they have skidded down a hill, even though on flat ground. Since it is only March the temperature was perfect, and the little bit of rain they did have caused to mountains and valleys to be sprinkled with wildflowers, a very rare sight to see here. Since we are technically in working mode, we found a quaint little hotel in search of Wifi and views to do a bit of paperwork, lucky for us all our "paperwork" is on an iPad. We lucked out on the views, but not so much on the Wifi, so we ordered an appetizer and took the afternoon off.

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We took a nice long hike up to a great vantage point

Seeing a train light coming out of a tunnel might not be a first... ... but... ...

seeing half the train below ground and half above is really cool

The train goes around and around as it slowly makes its way up the grade

March 24th - Tehachapi Loop - A Modern Marvel -
Once upon a time, in a century far far away, there was a group of engineers that needed to figure out a way to take materials, via train, from the San Joaquin Valley to the Mojave Desert and beyond. The only thing standing in their way were the gorgeous mountains, that unfortunately created the enormous grade, between these two points. Considering a train that is over 20 car lengths can't take an 8% grade for an extended period of time, these engineers started to scratch their heads, look at each other, and ask each other 'how the heck are we going to get these trains up this hill?' Okay, so that's just my interpretation of it, and since no one was in the room with them at the time of this discussion (or at least that is alive today) and the only thing I have to rely on is my own imagination, and a couple lines on Wikipedia... this is the story I'm going with... In order for these trains to gain speed, and to stay on track (pun totally intended) up this steep of a grade with tons and tons of metal attached to them (literally) these same engineers decided to build the Tehachapi Loop in order to help these trains gradually make this trek up, and down, the grade.

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Choo Choo! We watched about six trains go around the Tehachapi Loop in about 90 minutes. Quite a fun day!

As its names states it actually loops over itself, and under itself through tunnels so the trains that make their way up the grade, or down the grade, only have to take on 2% grade at any time. The technical term for this feat is called a helix
There have been some really cool things that we have seen on our travels, but this was unlike any we have seen. We did a little hiking, okay so it might of been a wee bit of trespassing, but there weren't any signs saying not to walk around the chains that closed off the road to cars, nor were there signs saying not to climb the hill past the gate, so we did. And boy were the views worth it, and there was a nice little foot trail, so I guarantee we weren't the first "hikers" up this hill. We must have sat here for about 3 hours today just watching the wondrous trains loop in and out of the tunnels, around the corners and around themselves. These engineers back in the 1800's were sheer geniuses and all of us who eat anything or buy anything in California and beyond should thank them for not only solving the problem of how to get stuff places, but to create such a marvel that we can all enjoy and is one of the prime railfan areas in the country

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Hayley, Torrie and Grandpa

A toast to Hayley! We love you!!

Fun times and lots of laughs

Life long friends all around

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April 3rd - Our Wonderful Niece Turns 21 - Solvang, California -
Back in April of 1997 as I walked down the aisle to the love of my life on our wedding day surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones, a beautiful two year old little girl walked down the aisle in front of me sprinkling rose petals and smiling at everyone she walked by. People thought I was crazy to have such a young flower girl, but she did an amazing job, and stole the show. Somehow, that little two year is now 21, which seems impossible since I don't feel as though 19 years have passed since that day. In those 19 years Hayley has always been top in her class, graduated high school with honors, and college with honors, along with three degrees. We are so proud of her and so happy that we were able to be here today to celebrate this fabulous lady on this fabulous day surrounded again by family and friends. We love you, Hayley and can't wait to see where life takes you next. And are so happy we will be able to see just where that is.

Make a wish, Hayley

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Heading out to sea

Relaxing as we head around San Francisco Bay

We passed by Alcatraz on our voyage

The Golden Gate Bridge in the background

April 20th - An Accidental Private Sail - San Francisco, Ca -
Our work day brought us up to Candlestick Park, where a little campground sits across from what used to be the home of the San Francisco Giants until 1960 and where the San Francisco 49ers played football from 1971 to 2013. Due to its close proximity to Pier 39, and since it was our only appointment for the day, we thought it was the perfect excuse to have lunch overlooking San Francisco Bay. After lunch we walked to the end of the Pier where a man was advertising an afternoon sail around the Bay right next to Alcatraz and near the Golden Gate Bridge. He didn't have any other takers since it was 2 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, and told us if we wanted to go he would only charge us for two people, but let us have a private sail. Well, you don't have to ask us twice considering sailing is one of our most favorite pastimes. We borded the boat, were handed a glass of wine, and set sail with the captain and first mate for a wonderful, relaxing 90 minute cruise.

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The beautiful and mysterious Winchester Mystery House

A spooky shot of the side of the house. It almost looks like a face

The amazing rose garden which has over 100 species of flowers and trees

The front of the house and the main entrance, which was rarely ever used

April 22nd - The Ever Mysterious Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, Ca -
What do you get when you cross a woman who thinks the souls of people killed by the rifles that her husband built were haunting her and an unlimited amount of resources to enable this woman to keep building in order to keep these ghosts away, or so she was told by a sooth sayer? You get the Winchester Mystery House. From 1884 until her death in 1922 Sarah Winchester hired workers 24 hours a day to build on to the home she bought in San Jose after her husband and infant daughter passed away. There are stairways that go to the ceiling, doorways that go to nowhere, windows that open into the floor in order to bring in more light since back in the 1800's indoor electricity wasn't an option. Today the Winchester Mystery House is privately owned and operated as a tourist attraction. On the grounds are rare and gorgeous flowers and trees, stables, a fruit drying building, and three elevators. It is quite a house to explore.

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As we were walking down by the marina we noticed these guys floating in the water

One started to nap as he floated by us... or maybe he was ignoring us

The other one kept checking us out as much as we checked him out

He started getting closer and closer to us as we walked around

April 24th - An Overload of Cuteness - Moss Landing -
Back in 1866 a man named Charles Moss came from Texas to the beaches of California in search of a new home for his family. Once he arrived, he discovered a little piece of the coast and realized there was a bit of potential that this gorgeous location might bring more Texans to it. As it turned out he had a friend, Cato Vierra, who happened to be a whaler, so the two of them built a 200 foot wharf and created a pier to create a shipping facility, and help with the commercial water traffic that came with all the fishermen, salt pond operators, and whalers that also thought it was a great place to call home. To make a long story short, and to paraphrase a bit of history, the place became known as Moss Landing, and still to this day you can view a bit of water traffic, in fact some of the cutest darn water traffic you can imagine. Very slow traffic, but cute. In fact when I first noticed them we were driving in the car, and if it weren't for the fact that the back doors of our mini van, aka my office, don't open while the van is in drive, I might not be typing this today since I would have bailed out once I saw them and potentially been damaged in the leap to get a closer look at them. Fortunately my nice husband stopped the car, However I have a sneaky suspicion that he stopped so quickly due to the fact that I scared him half to death when I started screaming "Otters!! Otters!!"

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The beach where we got engaged

And the hotel we stayed in

We saw dolphins in the surf

And some crazy dancing seals

April 24th - A Fun Flashback - Carmel By The Sea -
Back in July of 1996 I lived in Santa Barbara and Frank lived in Buellton, we had been dating for about 8 months, but had known each other more than 8 years. We decided to go up and watch the motorcycle races at Laguna Seca in northern California. It was the world championship super bikes, and something Frank had always wanted to see live and in person. It was a great race, and a fun day but by the time we were headed home we realized it was really late, we were starving and exhausted, and we had a long drive ahead of us. Frank pulled off the road at a sign that read Carmel-By-The-Sea, and pulled into a hotel parking lot. I didn't think much of it, but when we walked into the hotel, they had a reservation with our name on it, and there was a bottle of champagne in the room you would have thought a bell would have gone off... no, I was still too tired to make the connection. All I said was "How nice that they give you a bottle of champagne when you check in." We left the hotel and walked to a nearby Italian restaurant where they told us the wait was about 30 minutes, we decided to wait, and take a walk on the beach while we waited. Lucky for us there was a candy shop next door, so we grabbed a snacked and headed to the ocean. As we walked down the beach Frank started to talk about how much he loved me and how happy he was and how he could imagine us together forever... finally the bell went off and I though to myself "Holy Cow, I think he is going to propose" Sure enough he got down on one knee, held out a black box with the most beautiful ring I had ever seen and asked if I'd spend forever with him. I of course said yes, threw my arms around his neck, and felt a happiness I had never felt before. We walked back to the restaurant I started to realize the entire evening had been planned, and had to laugh at myself when Frank confessed "They don't give everyone a bottle of champagne, just the ones that request it." Usually I'm a pretty sharp person, but that day... not so much. And for the record I completely blame it on the level of exhaustion and lack of food, not my dingy side.

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The Castro Breen Adobe

The old town jail

Catching up on some emails while touring the mission

A statue in memory of Father Serra in the rose garden

April 27th - A Day at The San Juan Bautista Mission and Historic Park -
When I was in fourth grade each of our classmates were assigned a mission to study, and ever since then I have wanted to visit each and everyone of them. Today we were lucky enough to visit the 15th mission built out of the 21 that dot the California coast. In our studies of the California Mission we learned all about Father Serra and how he and the native Californians built the first seventeen missions. Unfortunately Father Serra died before he could build the mission we visited today, but they have erected a statue in his honor.
Most of the buildings here are looking their age, but between the state of California that takes care of the historical park of San Juan Bautista, which includes the Plaza Hotel, built in 1814 for the housing of the Spanish soldiers who protected the mission to the Castro-Breen Adobe, originally constructed for General Jose Antonio Castro who was never able to live there. Since Castro was never able to live there, the Adobe was inhabited by the Breen family after they arrived in the area penniless and half dead after surviving 111 days in the Sierra Nevada snowy mountains. The family of nine had left the Donner Party and found civilization, so the community put them up in the Adobe.
In reading all about the life and travels of Father Serra on the plaques that were around the Mission, I found out that he traveled 24,000 miles, so I figure he was a bit like us in being a wanderer... except that his was mostly walking, and even though we have done our share of walking through the sites of historical places like these, he probably has us beat.

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The old barn and stables that housed the horse drawn carriages

The Blacksmith Shop

The Saloon inside the Plaza Hotel

An office from the 1800's

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Headed into Sequoia for a day of exploring

We saw some cute wildlife hopping about

We saw something move below us

And realized it was a bear! SO AWESOME!

May 15th - Bunnies, and Bears, and Trees, Oh My! - Sequoia National Park -
Our road trip today took us through the 404,000 acres of Sequoia National Park. Well, we didn't quite see each and ever one of those acres, but we did see quite a few. The weather was a bit cool, so we toured most of it in the car, but did walk around the forest for a bit, snapped a couple pictures of the amazing trees, took in some fresh air, and had a picnic lunch off one of the trails. The air up here is indescribable, the freshness of it seems to make your lungs happy. After a few hours of exploring, we headed back home, stopped off for a selfie by the entrance sign and noticed a little bunny hopping around to our left. At first I was happy that we saw any wildlife at all, since until this little cotton-tailed friend made its appearance, the only other living things we saw were fellow humans, and a couple romping squirrels. Since we had stopped off at the ranger station earlier, and watched a couple movies on the bears of Sequoia we were ready to see one, but hadn't. We learned all about the different shades that a black bear can be, since there are no longer grizzlies in this part of the country, so we kept our eyes out. All of a sudden Frank yelled out "Look, look, is that a bear?" Waaaay off in the distance we saw something moving in the woods and sauntering about. I pulled out my zoom lens, and realized yes! It was a bear, and he was a big one. He was eating grass and cracking open fallen tree trunks looking for bugs. He was gorgeous, and made my day. Another gorgeous and gigantic thing we saw today was the General Sherman Tree. He is the biggest tree in the world, and didn't even fit into my camera lens. He was quite majestic.

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General Sherman - The biggest tree in the world measures at 52.500 cubic feet.

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I love you Pops! May all of your wishes come true.

My dad, Juliana, Uncle Curt and Aunt Janet.

Family photos on the iPad. Pops gets introduced to modern technology

Pops and Juliana with their new toy poodle puppy Fluffy

May 19th - Pops Turns 80 - The Harbor Restaurant, Santa Barbara-
My whole life my sweet father has always been there for me. He was a minister and worked out of his home office when we were growing up, so he was always home whenever we needed anything. Whether it be a cheerleader when something exciting happened, a shoulder to cry on over the latest childhood drama, a firm voice to tell us not to disobey, a sounding board when we were mad, or a third party to help us build forts, or tree houses, or mud pies in the backyard, and my favorite... the best person to hit an amusement park with EVER! He walked me down the aisle to the love of my life on our wedding day and performed half of the ceremony. He was the first one to encourage us on our plans and dreams of working and playing as we criss crossed the country, and was the first one there to hold me when I learned that my mom had passed. So today we are all here to celebrate him on his 80th birthday. People always tell me "80 isn't old" and watching this great man interact with everyone, they're right. 80 must be the new 50. He has found new love and Juliana is the most darling, wonderful, hilarious 83 year old you'll ever meet. They are about to celebrate their 5 year anniversary and it warms my heart to know they have each other. Recently they lost their little poodle, named Raynae, which made them both terribly sad. They made an attempt of adopting a new poodle, but that didn't work out quite as well as they had hoped. A couple weeks ago on the phone my dad had mentioned "If you happen to run across a toy poodle that needs a home, make sure you bring her to my birthday party". So Frank and I did just that. I found a toy poodle on Amazon that walks, barks, sits, and pants that was absolutely perfect. We even went to PetSmart and bought her a doggy tag with her name on it "Fluffy". When my dad opened his gift everyone got a great laugh, and when we put Fluffy on the table and turned her on she walked in a perfect circle, barked, wiggled, and stopped right back in front of my dad. I assured him that she was the only "toy" poodle they needed, and he thankfully agreed. It was a wonderful day. My aunt and uncle, who Frank and I haven't seen in person in almost 8 years, drove up from Tustin to join us which made the day that much better.

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May 23rd - The Set of Trial and Error -
One of our go to movies when we need a good laugh is Trial and Error, starring Jeff Daniels, Charlize Theron, and Michael Richards. It's about a man who is on trial for selling copper engravings of 'The Great Emancipator' aka Abraham Lincoln for $17.99 to people. The actual copper engraving is a penny, which I think is quite ingenious but is apparently considered fraud. If you haven't seen it you must. Jeff Daniels plays the attorney who is a partner at a fancy law firm, but for certain reasons, aka I dont want to wreck the movie for you, Michael Richards aka Kramer ends up having to be the lawyer, and the laughs and physical comedy are non stop.

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One of the restaurants from the film still stands today, the other was torn down

Standing outside the court house used in the movie

The name of the town in the movie is Paradise Bluff, Nevada, but the real city is Lone Pine, California where over 1000 movies and TV shows have been filmed, and where we will be for the next few days.
After our morning walk through Hollywood, we drove up to Whitney Portal, the base where the hike to the peak of Mt. Whitney begins. Mt Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous United States and stands at 14,508 feet. The trail that leads to the peak is an 11 mile foot path. It begins at 8,360 feet and finishes off at the 14,508 foot summit which pretty much means you will climb about 6,137 feet in elevation. Considering it was snowing, the temperature at the top was about 28 degrees and the snow just got steeper from our current stopping spot, we decided to forgo the hike today and perhaps hit Mt Whitney on a warmer day in the summer.

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A day of snow play and watching snowflakes fall from the sky

All this melted snow ends up as LA's water supply

The little homes in the snow looked like paintings

We took a drive up to Whitney Portal and it snowed the whole way

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At the bottom of Mammoth Mountain

All aboard the gondola

Headed to the peak at 11,000 feet

The views up here are amazing

Memorial Day Weekend - Mammoth Mountain, Ca -
Being a little ahead of schedule this week, and considering most campground owners and operators are a wee bit busy on this three day weekend, we took the long weekend off and drove up to the snow here in Mammoth. The last few days there has been a light dusting of snow each night above 10,000 feet so the peak had some nice fresh powder. Lucky for us the campground we are staying at is a bit below 8,000 feet so the campground is warm and snow free and the commute to the mountain top is about 12 minutes. Since we didn't pack our ski clothes this trip we didn't hit the slopes, but we did hit the gondola and rode it to the tippy top to take in the views and some hot cocoa.

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Happy Memorial Day!

And the hot cocoa hit the spot

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Vistas to take in the sights

The waterfall up-close

Walkways dug in the snow

Lake Mary half frozen over

June 1st - A Winter Wonderland - Mammoth Lakes, Ca -
Winter in July, what an amazing thing to witness. Not only because the white capped mountains are picturesque, and the melting snow makes for the most gorgeous waterfalls but because these mountains blanketed with snow is so greatly needed. California's water supply has been so low for so long that the farmers are starting to get concerned. The lakes near our home town of Santa Barbara and Paso Robles are literally drying up, so any moisture that might potentially fill these is a welcome sight. Another welcome sight are the trails dug out of snow that lead you all around Lake Mary, and the bike trails that go from directly behind our motorhome and are part of system that goes from 7 miles round trip, to as many miles as your legs can pedal. Almost every day we have taken the town loop and explored all the different ski lodges and parts of town we possibly can. I can see us planning another trip up here, only next time we will bring our fabulous nieces, all of our ski and snowboard equipment, and plan it for a week where the snow isn't quite melting as much so we can enjoy the slopes.

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The snow on the needles of the trees was beautiful

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The ghost town of Bodie

The old abandoned school house

The blacksmith and saddle shop

The Methodist church still stands today

June 2nd - Bodie State Historic Park -
Today's history lesson took us to the ghost town of Bodie, California which was a booming gold town in the late 1800's. In its heyday Bodie had 30 different mines and 9 stamp mills, where the rocks that were extracted from the mines were crushed into gold and silver powder. Along with these places for the men to work, there were 60 saloons where these men could wind down after their 12 hour days, or if they so pleased they could hit one of the cribs (aka prostitutes) or an opium den, so you can only imagine how rowdy this town must have been. Since the mines ran out of gold in the early 1900's the town slowed down, and due to countless fires and the lack of good fire equipment, only about five percent of the town stands today.
Lucky for us we arrived in Bodie just in time for the mine tour that takes you all through what used to be a working stamp mill. Considering when this thing was built they were pretty ingenious in building it and were able to build most of their own tools and parts right here on site.

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A rock full of gold and silver ready to be sent to the stamp mill

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The machine shop where the parts for the mill are crafted

The motor that operated the mills over a hundred years ago

The large medal stamps that pounded the rocks to powder

An old fire engine from 1881. No wonder the fires spread so fast.

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