Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap, Part 1

Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap

Alan’s post began with more mundane details about our location, like population and elevation. So, to be consistent, I’m starting with numbers from the beginning of our adventure on October 21, 2015.  Some might make you laugh while others should earn a cringe.

24 x 365 x 2 = 17,520   NUMBER OF HOURS together, except for bathroom breaks and an occasional solitary walk or drive to the store.  This leads to one of the top questions we hear:  “How are you still getting along after spending so much time together?!”

HOW ARE WE GETTING ALONG?  FINE, JUST FINE!

36,910   NUMBER OF MILES DRIVEN.  For hours and hours.  Together……..

LOOKING BACK
MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK

Over 135   NUMBER OF DIFFERENT BEDS WE’VE SLEPT IN.

OLD FARMHOUSE “COMFORT”.  We’re pretty sure the mice stayed downstairs.

230 +++  NUMBER OF BREWERIES VISITED.  The nationwide craft beer expansion has expanded our waistlines!  We stopped counting.  That will surely help with the pants sizes, right?

Galveston Beer Scene

37 STATES VISITED, plus parts of Canada and Mexico.

1   VACATION FROM TRAVELS!  A Caribbean cruise.

10,000+++   NUMBER OR COMBINED PHOTOS. Don’t worry, they won’t all be included here!  That leads to the second most frequently asked question: “What were your favorite spots?

Some of mine include places you might expect:  Niagara Falls and Quebec,

Our beautiful State and National parks –

Boston, Gettysburg, Charleston, and New Orleans –

Boston
Charleston View of Fort Sumter
Battlefield at Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana – We Still Talk About The Crawfish Boil With New Friends

And, small towns not so familiar.

Fairfield, Arkansas – very scenic!  It is a small town hidden in the hills, near a lake, and two golf courses.  Great a week for golf and exploring.

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Fairfield, Arkansas- Wonderfully scenic – but not ideal for night driving.

Lake Lure and Asheville, North Carolina.  Alan enjoyed it except for the traffic and the potential for snow.  Many breweries!

Gautier, Mississippi.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, we found a really good deal on a rental property and thought, why not!  Great food, good golf, close to Biloxi, and lots of history.

Along with the fun, our travels have many reminders of US history.

Madisonville and Abita Springs, Louisiana.  Live there? No, too much weather going on.

CO, Durango   Scenic, touristy, mountain town. It was a  good place to recover from the flu; not too many distractions.

The 3rd most asked question:  “Any regrets?”  Mine – not really, it’s been a wonderful experience.  I do miss family and friends. Fortunately, technology has advanced enough to keep us connected.

I could go on and on but “enough already”! Alan says.

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San Diego  9/21 – 10/7  (Part 2 – dentist)

San Diego, California: Population = 1,406,630 (San Diego – Tijuana metro area = 4,922,723), elevation = 62 feet, Average January low temp = 49º, Average July high temp = 74.6º, Average precipitation = 10.34”, average annual rainy days = 41.5

We are staying in San Diego for a couple of extra weeks after Brother Father Bill’s retirement.  On the way here, I broke a chunk of tooth off, so I need some dentistry and, reportedly, Mexico is a great place to get it.  My vague memories of a ragged, sketchy Tijuana back in the 1970s are, I hope, obsolete.

Past the McDonalds, around the corner and onto the Path
Welcome to Mexico

I am hoping I can get everything done within the two weeks in San Diego we have booked so far.  My first appointment is on Tuesday.  The light rail takes us to the border  and a taxi drops us at a modern high-rise office building.  The exam is thorough, and includes a complete set of X-rays.  The technology is new and impressive.  A small, minimally intrusive probe is placed, I hear a little buzz, and up there on the flat screen, an X-ray appears.  The verdict is root canal, post, temporary crown today, a permanent crown next week. (Total: $800) They use a team approach.  Each member of the team is specialized on part of the treatment and they all perform their tasks together with careful precision.  About two hours later, I am tired but not really too sore.

A little ways away from the border, the buildings area tall and modern. Up on the hills, homes cluster together to share the view
Whatever you need done to your teeth, these guys can do it

Back across the border.  The worst part of the whole day was not the dentist, but the interminable trek across the maze that is the border crossing.  At least we did not drive.  The line for cars entering the States is long and wide.  The train whisks us back to the park-n-ride.  We find a brewery nearby to relax in for a while.  Mexico is a strong influence here in the Barrio, and I have a Horchata stout for starters and a michelada for dessert.  It is taco Tuesday but, even though they look and smell muy delicioso, I am going to have to wait for soft pasta later.

Driving into the USA takes a while
Interesting beers and great tacos

The rest of our time in San Diego is pretty low key.  We get caught up on a few things, we have lots of great food and beer, we visit some local attractions.  Our rental is just a few blocks from Balboa Park, home to 17 museums, lots of performing arts venues, gardens, trails, and an enormous zoo.  On this visit, we see the Natural History Museum.  Southern California is home to an incredibly diverse population of plants and animals.  Used to be lots of dinosaurs too.

Cali critters
Gotta really love birds to love a condor
A very large frog
A dire wolf and a saber-toothed tiger
Giant sloth

Way, way back in my youth, I decided that I wanted to join the Navy and see the World.  A few signatures and a physical and I was on my way to San Diego.  Boot camp was mostly a huge expanse of asphalt that we were constantly marching on.  Along the sides, in neat, military order were rows of barracks and a big mess hall.  Some time after my Naval Adventure — saw the world, mostly water — the whole boot camp was taken over by San Diego and converted to shopping, restaurants, museums, and so on.  It became a Destination.  Out of curiosity, and with Brother Father Bill as our guide, we stopped by to see what they have done with the place.  Big improvement!

Sounds a lot better then “Boot Camp”
The food got a lot better too
A tall glass of Arrogant Bastard and some tuna poke after a hard day of marching around the mall

Back when I was in the Navy, I loved San Diego for the climate and for being so green and exotic, compared to Minnesota.  This time around I am not impressed.  San Diego has grown huge, overcrowded, and clogged by freeway after freeway criss-crossing the city.  Off the freeways, the city streets are narrow and crowded and lack parking even in the residential neighborhoods.  The homeless are camped everywhere.  The airport is right downtown, with the flight path and noise right overhead.  We will be glad to get out of San Diego.

Next up: Oceanside again

Oceanside, California  9/15 – 9/21

Oceanside, California: Population = 167,086, elevation = 66 feet, Average January low temp = 45º, Average July high temp = 73.9º, Average precipitation = 11.3

From Penngrove, our plans lead us South along the coast.  After just a few miles of scenic grassy hills, Highway 101 plummets down to the sea.  Tourists that we are, we MUST see the Golden Gate Bridge.  Up close, the bridge is staggeringly huge, long, and tall.  My photos do not do it justice.  I was looking down the center of it.  The best view would be from the side, showing the whole length.  Unfortunately, to get that angle, one has to be somewhere in San Francisco.  In the midst of this gigantic, frantic, anthill of people and cars, our main impulse was to get the hell out town of and back to sanity.

The Golden Gate Bridge looms large over us as we enter San Francisco
The view from the Presidio

After many slow miles of stoplights and city traffic, the political entity that is Highway 101 turns back into a freeway and, relieved, we speed happily along our way, following the Bay.  Until everything slows down again and traffic slows to a crawl for miles and miles.  The 60th annual Monterey Jazz Festival starts today, so we are alongside the many, many fans headed toward Monterey.  Much later than expected, we arrived at our dingy little hotel in dingy little Soledad.

That water tower says Soledad

The next day we set off through California’s “Salad Bowl of the Country” region.  We see fruits, vegetables, and nuts of every kind, growing in precise rows, stretching out to the horizons.  Eventually we turn East toward Highway 5, California’s “backbone” highway.  Along the way we  spot another big product California produces: oil.  Our stop for the night is a hotel in Lebec.  This is, apparently a popular stop for truckers on the way to LA. and our hotel has several acres of asphalt to park the big rigs on.

Rows and rows of vegetables
Where the veggies end, the oil wells start
Park your rig in Lebec, tomorrow is L.A.

The next day we climb to the top of the coastal mountains then plunge down into the human swarm that is Los Angeles.  We timed our journey to cross through LA on a Sunday, when traffic would be light.  After slogging along with 6 lanes of slow moving vehicles, we shudder to think of what it must be like during a weekday rush hour.

Passing over the coastal mountains
A very quick look at Los Angeles

At long last, we come to our destination, Oceanside.  This city is a contender for our new home town.  It is about the right size, even if it does sprawl a bit.  It has the Great Climate All Year thing going for it.  The town is full of interesting shops, restaurants, and breweries.  And right there, mighty Mother Pacific Ocean!

Toys at rest in the Oceanside Marina
Endless beaches and a very long pier
One of our favorite names for a brewery

Family calls.  We are on the way to attend the Navy retirement ceremony for Marylu’s brother Bill, in San Diego.  We will be back in Oceanside for a better look later.

Next up: San Diego

Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15 (part 2)

To the South of Penngrove lies Petaluma, a city of about 60,000.  The freeway cuts it into two portions; the quiet bedroom community, and the compact historical downtown.  It is a town of great restaurants, nice city parks, and lots of community activities.  So far Petaluma is my favorite potential settling place.  I like the size, the amenities, the geography and climate.  The freeway is a nuisance, but at least it is built up high so city streets pass under it and, barring rush hours, offers a quick shot to Santa Rosa or San Francisco.

The Historic downtown in Petaluma features a Seed Bank
The Wednesday Farmers Market has produce, food, arts and crafts, and music. The Saturday market is larger.
The patio at Dempsey’s overlooks the boardwalk along the Petaluma River.
Good beer, a lively patio, and fun food with these guys.
Up until 2001, Petaluma was the home of World Championship Wrist Wrestling

Driving North from Penngrove, you find Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa.  Cotati is a sprawling bedroom community with a cute little downtown square and some nice restaurants and bars.  Rohnert Park blends into Cotati seamlessly, but features more big box stores and malls near its freeway centered downtown.  Rohnert Park is also home to Sonoma State University.

Stroll past the sidewalk cafes to get to the bandstand in the park in Cotati
Going to SSU for a major in Pinot

Santa Rosa is a city of about 175,000, with a mix of all kinds of neighborhoods, a somewhat gentrified downtown, and a good selection of breweries and wineries.  Downtown there is a big public square where we had great fun joining in a political rally.  We also found a huge enclosed mall downtown, just a block away from the Sonoma County History Museum.  A little further North is the Charles M. Schulz Museum, for all of us Peanuts fans.  And, of course, it is home to many fine breweries and wineries.  Highway 12 exits the city to wander Eastward through over a hundred wineries.

Fourth Street in Santa Rosa is nicely landscaped, gentrified, and populated with shops and restaurants
These guys are world class brewers with several gold medals awarded to their beers
The Sonoma County museum has trophy Seabiscuit won at Santa Anita
The typewriter that was used by Luther Burbank’s secretary
The WW1 flying ace saves the day.

We spent a lot of our time here searching for a new place to live.  It is one thing to pull up stakes and set off; it is another thing entirely to stop and set up a new home.  There are very few furnished rentals available long term, so we have to consider re-investing in furniture, plates, kitchenware, towels, cutlery, sheets, etc., etc.  All of that drives a stake into the ground that may or not have to be pulled up again later.

Maybe…

Next time: San Diego

Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15

Penngrove, California: Population = 2,522, elevation = 85 feet, Average January low temp = 39.2º, Average July high temp = 78.6º, Average precipitation = 26.65

From Eureka, we got onto Highway 101 again and continued our run down the West Coast.  The road passes through spectacular mountain passes and next to expansive ocean vistas.  It varies from freeway to two lanes to flagmen controlled, one lane construction sites.  It is a beautiful drive, but if you are in a hurry, take a different highway.

On the descent from the coastal mountains, we learned about micro-climate.  There is a layer of cold air that the ocean creates that chills the coast.  The first of the coastal mountains scrapes off some that layer so more hot air from the inland mixes in.  The higher mountains stop what is left of the cool air and the temperatures climb.  Penngrove lies in the Petaluma Gap, a break in the coastal mountains that allows the cold air in.  In a week of record-setting heat, our garden-level rental in Penngrove was cool and comfortable when nearby cities were scorching hot.

California microclimates
After escaping the heat at a movie, this is what we found on our dash thermometer.

Our stay in Penngrove is not the same routine that we have been going through for these (almost) two years.  We are starting to look for a place to settle.  We know what we like as far as city size, climate, geography, infrastructure, and so on.  Now we are going to visit cities that fit our criteria and see how good a fit they are.  Rural Penngrove is located in an area where several of the nearby cites look like good candidates.

A rural scene in Penngrove
A few of our neighbors
More neighbors. We love the roosters crowing and the occasional, hilarious BAAA from the sheep.

Sebastopol is a small city to the Northwest of Penngrove.  We did a quick tour of the town and found a nice shopping area, some parks, a couple of breweries, some great food, and some fun street art.  In a good news / bad news way Sebastopol is only 20 minutes from the ocean at Bodega Bay.  Good news because it is so close and bad news because the traffic going to the ocean often clogs the town to a near standstill.

The used car salesman
Happy campers
A fine ale for a warm day, cold and not too hoppy.
Playing on the wind in Bodega Bay

East of Penngrove is wine country.  This is the heart of Sonoma County and home to hundreds  of vineyards.  We picked a Saturday to drive out to the town of Sonoma.  Our route took us over the high hills that parallel the coast, past hundreds of acres of vineyards, along narrow twisty roads, and finally to Highway 12, the Wine Highway.  Saturday was probably not a great choice, as the Highway was solid traffic for miles.  The town itself was busy, but not jammed.  It seems a nice little town, with a big town square and lots of quaint, touristy shops.  There were even a couple of breweries amidst all that wine.

Vineyards along the Wine Highway
Wine shops are everywhere in Sonoma.
Historic old buildings line the streets around the town square in Sonoma.

There is too much to see and do around here for just one blog entry, so I will add another chapter later.  To be continued…

Eureka, California  8/18 – 8/25

Eureka, California: Population = 27,226, elevation = 39 feet, Average January low temp = 41.1º, Average July high temp = 63.4º, Average precipitation = 40.33”, Average precipitation days = 127.5

Highway 101 follows the coastline South through Oregon and into California.  There are mighty slabs of rock, wrested from the Earth’s crust and tilted like fallen dominoes against the coast.  There are broad sandy beaches ringed with dense ferny rainforest.  There are little coastal cities, clotted with the traffic on Highway 101.  As we passed through Brookings, they were experiencing a dense soup of smoke from nearby forest fires.  For miles, the sky was a murky brown.  When we finally got back to clear sky, we were in California.  The highway takes us through the Redwood National park, where the narrow road twists and turns between the behemoths of the forest.

A glimpse of ocean from highway 101
The smoke from nearby forest fires taint the air in Brookings

Eureka is another interesting West Coast city.  The harbor is filled with boats, both working and pleasure craft, bobbing pier side.  A neat historic district holds many beautifully restored old buildings containing a variety of interesting and funky shops, bars, and restaurants.

The entrance to the Marina with its iconic fisherman
The Carson Mansion is a private club now so we could not get a peek inside
This painted lady is for sale. For just $325,000 it could be yours.
The only brewery taproom in town has a good selection of beers and pub grub

There are also murals everywhere.  The first murals were done by established artists.  Later works were done by a collective of 14 to 24 year olds calling themselves the Rural Burl Mural Bureau, who regularly paint new murals.  So far, the Mural Trail includes 22 murals.

It has been a while since we have seen a zoo, so we decided to have a look at the Sequoia Park Zoo.  This is not a huge zoo, but what they have is interesting and a little unusual.  Just outside of the zoo enclosure they have an awesome redwood forest and a beautifully tended garden.

A little spotted owl take a daytime nap
River otters swim non-stop like underwater acrobats
It is mostly bamboo for the red pandas, but they do enjoy an apple too.
The zoo garden contains a rainbow of dahlias

There seems to be a little confusion about redwoods and sequoias.  Technically, both are part of the same species and genus.  Up close and personal, the redwoods grow very tall and have needles like a flattened pine branch.  The sequoias grow very wide and have needles like little spikes.  To see some of the best redwoods, take a drive on the Avenue of the Giants, just South of Eureka.  Some of these monster trees are over 1,000 years old.  If you ever go, be sure to keep a wary eye on your surroundings.  This is where the Sasquatch was spotted.

At some point in its 1000+ year life, a forest fire blackened the trunk of this redwood, but did not kill it
The Avenue of the Giants
It is hard to imagine how big these trees are unless you have something to compare them too. Here is Gypsy, looking like a Hot Wheels toy

The summer days in Eureka are cool and comfortable, starting with morning fog then clearing away for sunny skies.  This would be a great city to live in, but it could use a little work.  The boardwalk has nothing alongside most of it.  Too many of the streets are decayed washboards.  It could use a good cleanup.  But, with all that, it is still a fine city with lots to see and do.

Next up: Penngrove, California

Coos Bay, Oregon  8/8 – 8/18

Coos Bay, Oregon: Population = 16,292, elevation = 23 feet, Average January low temp = 40.2º, Average July high temp = 64.5º, Average precipitation = 64.91”

The road from Eugene to Florence wound through the deep, dark and mossy temperate rainforest.  Giant trees formed a green tunnel filled with dappled sunlight that strobed across Gypsy’s windshield.  We emerged from the tunnel to glimpse mountains and rivers, and then ducked back in around the next bend.  Finally, the land flattened out and homes appeared: Florence.  This is where we took a left turn onto Highway 101 and headed down the coast toward Coos Bay.  At a little restaurant in Florence, we stepped out of the car and were hit by the cold wind.  Eugene was a blistering 95º; Florence was a windy, overcast 65º with a tinge of salt in the air.

Coos Bay is a horseshoe shaped bay on the lower Oregon coast.  The city of Coos Bay is on the land within the horseshoe, along with its neighbor, North Bend.  Highway 101 runs along the edge of downtown Coos Bay, providing a never-ending stream of trucks and tourists.  The trucks are moving product for lumber mills and seafood markets.

Get your seafood fresh off the boat, raw or cooked
At the Marina

The tourists are admiring the spectacular Oregon coast.  Every mile or two there is another scenic overlook or state park.  From high sheer cliffs showing the grain of the Earth’s crust to wide, flat, sandy beaches, the Oregon coastline has it all.

A foggy day on the coast
The sea lion chorus is hilarious! Imagine a thousand drunken hound dogs arguing.
Upended tectonic plates reveal layers of stone from millions of years ago
A little cold for swimming, but a great beach

Back in Coos Bay, there is plenty to do to keep a tourist (or resident) busy.  There is a brewery and a distillery.  There are many fine and homey restaurants.  On Wednesdays there is a Farmers Market that stretches 4 blocks long that features a wonderful variety of vegetables and fruits, handcrafts, clothing, and some great food trucks.

Good beers and a nice selection of pub grub
Handmade rum in a variety of flavors and strengths
The Blue Heron features excellent German food and fine European beers
A big, sloppy, delicious torta from Angelina’s
Shrimp and crab tacos from Millers
Fresh veggies at the Farmer’s Market

On a rainy, foggy day there are nice indoor places to visit.  We loved the Egyptian Theater, where we saw a show and listened to a Wurlitzer concert.  Just down the street are history and art museums.  And for a real treat, we visited the Cranberry Sweets Candy Factory.

Pharaoh guards the balcony at the Egyptian Theater
A 1925 Wurlitzer organ plays a whole band’s worth of instruments.
From the History Museum, a Fresnel lens that once topped a lighthouse
Not just tons of chocolates, candies, and flavored popcorn, but also free samples of each!

Coos Bay is a nice little town with plenty to see and do.  There are ocean tours and fishing boats.  Go crabbing or clamming on the beach.  There are many miles of hiking trails through deep forest and rocky shoreline.  Rent an ATV and tear-ass around on the dunes.  Or even check out the many little shops downtown.  If you like your summers cool and salty, this is a great town.

Next up: Eureka, California