Getting Ready for a Swing around the US


Hi. I am getting Ramsey ready to take a six-week road trip around the US. First I’ll drive from San Francisco to Pasadena to deliver my daughter’s dog, Basil. He’s been staying with Annie and me while his family was on their summer vacation. From Pasadena, Annie and I will drive to Vermont for my niece’s wedding, passing through Minnesota. There is someone very important I want to see in St. Paul. After the wedding in Vermont, I will take the Henry Knox Trail from Westfield, Mass, where I left off in June, to Cambridge. I have a box full of my book, Henry’s Big Kaboom, so I can hand them out to all the libraries along the trail. From Massachusetts, I’ll travel through Virginia to Memphis, then west and home again. I picked up a stack of maps from AAA yesterday.

As part of my preparations, I dedicated this WordPress blog to just my travels in Ramsey. I’ve renamed the blog and given it a new banner. I also made this little video. What do you think?

I will create a different blog about my book writing later.

The Dodge mechanic gave Ramsey a thumbs up after his 16,000-mile check-up. I’ve washed the rugs and taken everything out of the drawers and lockers I don’t use. I emptied the gray and black tanks and washed them out with a power hose. Now all I have to do is fill up with water and propane and pack.

One hitch is that I realized too late that my passport has expired. Crossing my fingers, I have an appointment with the office in downtown San Francisco to see if I can get an update before my departure in two weeks. Otherwise, I won’t be able to swing through Canada on my way from Minneapolis to Vermont as I want to.

If anyone has suggestions about what to see along my proposed route, let me know in the comments section. That’s it for now.


Lighthouse Road Trip – Epilogue

Ann Delfin sent me the group photo that our PleasureWay RV group took of ourselves on the last night of our nine-day rolling rally. Here it is.

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally - Group Shot

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally – Group Shot

Here is a map showing the lighthouses and RV Campgrounds we visited.

Lighthouse Rolling Rally

And here is the whole trip starting in Anacortes compiled into a 25-minute YouTube video.

Thanks again Tim O’Malley for organizing everything.

Death Valley, not a great place for an old dog.

A trip I intended to last five days turned into a three-day dash to, through, and from Death Valley. Annie, my fourteen-year-old corgi, did not do well in the heat, which is why I cut the trip short. It was still an amazing get-out-to-see-my-country experience. Here’s the vlog.

And here’s the route.


Boondocking at Viaggio Winery in Lodi – My First Harvest Hosts Experience

I just took a four-day trip to Yosemite and the California Gold Country. I needed a place to stay on the way to Mariposa, where I wanted to see the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. There are a lot of wineries in the Central Valley between San Rafael and Mariposa. Having heard about Harvest Hosts, I signed up and was able to boondock for free in the parking lot of the Viaggio Estate Winery in Lodi. There are six wineries around Lodi that participate in the Harvest Hosts Program. I describe it all in this YouTube video. Enjoy.

Little Ol’ Lady in Pasadena

Pasadena is famous for the tiny cottages ‘grandfathered’ into the back of properties in neighborhoods reserved for single-family dwellings. My daughter and son-in-law do not have one of those cottages, which is why I visit in Ramsey. This time I upgraded from parking him on the street to shimmying my way up the driveway to park in the backyard. It was a tight squeeze, but worth it — quieter and a safer walk to my front door for my tiny grandsons.

Camping near the Russian River

I just posted this video on YouTube about a loop I took from my home in San Rafael to the Russian River. After a night near Guerneville, I drove about 15 minutes to Jenner on the coast at the mouth of the river. Then I headed south along the cliffs to Bodega Bay, then home. I’ve included a 24¢ tour of my rig. The good news about traveling in January is that there is room in the campgrounds. The bad news is the mud, as you shall see.


Quarantined on South Lake Avenue

For eight straight days, my family and friends banned me from their presence. The day after I drove to Southern California to spend the weekend with my fellow RVers in Indio, then a week with my grandsons in Pasadena, I came down with a very bad cold. Kaiser claimed it was not the flu or strep because of the low-grade fever.

I lay in Ramsey. Thank goodness dogs don’t catch very bad colds. Annie curled up at my feet. Indio was quiet. The air was beautiful, and birds chirped constantly. My biggest disappointment was missing the pickleball. I had been taking lessons for weeks in preparation. I had even purchased my own paddle and balls.

On Sunday I felt well enough to drive through Joshua Tree National Park on my way to Pasadena (see separate blog). Joshua Trees can’t catch very bad colds. I wasn’t as strong as I thought and on Monday I couldn’t move. For the next six days, with my daughter’s resident parking pass stuck to my front window, I lay in cozy Ramsey and felt sorry for myself.

[Image source:]

My daughter lives on South Lake Avenue two blocks away from the commercial district. When I was a little girl in the early 50s, South Lake was a fashionable shopping center dominated by the architecturally gorgeous and elegant Bullocks Department Store and her sister, I.Magnin. When my grandmother took me shopping there, we wore gloves. When I was a young adult, I envied women who could afford to shop at Gene Burton’s just south of I.Magnin. Shoppers took a rest sipping a peppermint soda or eating lunch at Blum’s. The fashionable purchased gifts, such as French Quimper Ware and hand-hemmed handkerchiefs, at Port O’Call across the street.

Today, Macy’s occupies the Bullock’s building. The modern Macy’s typography does not sit well like the handwritten script for Bullock’s did. Paint peels from the building. A huge chunk of white concrete packed with stores and markets dominates the street corner and blocks the view of what was once a gracious entrance to the Bullock’s building. I.Magnin is a Barnes & Noble. A Ross for Less dominates everything else. What happened to city planning?

Pinnacles National Park



I intend to visit all the National Parks in the contiguous US within the next ten years. The US has fifty-eight National Parks. Hawaii has two and Alaska has eight, which leaves forty-eight parks in the contiguous US. Until last week, I had seen only two of them: Yosemite and the Channel Islands. Last week  I visited my third, Pinnacles National Park, leaving me forty-five to go. Pinnacles is about 3.5 hours south of my home in San Rafael, small, and uncrowded.


Pinnacles is the nation’s newest National Park. In 2013, Congress upgraded it from National Monument. It is known for it’s rock formations (duh!), the place where the California condor was released, and for the largest amount of species of bees in the world. It is supposedly a rock climber’s paradise, but a rock climber I am not. With my National Parks Senior Pass, I got 50% off the campground site and free entry to the park. I paid $18/night for the campsite.

California was still having a heat wave. Daytime weather fluctuated between 102 and 108 degrees during my two-day trip. The air was also hazy from all the wildfires in California and Oregon. Not so great for taking photos.

I left civilization after driving through Gilroy, known for its garlic. I passed this industrial area with a line-up of trucks full of the pungent bulbs …


… followed by a block of market stands selling garlic braids and other local produce. I bought a basket of Bing cherries thinking I was supporting the local farmers. Turned out they came from the state of Washington. Oh well.


The road from Gilroy to San Benito County, where the park is, consisted of farms and golden fields of grassland.



I passed the San Benito County fairgrounds, where, interesting to me, there was a sign saying that RV parking was available.


A sign as I entered the tiny town of Tres Pinos (population 500) let me know it was the last place I could purchase gas. I had already tanked up at the Costco in Gilroy.




After more grassy hills, I came to the RV campground, which is not within the pinnacles, but about a mile east. I pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center and parked right next to a Roadtrek version of Ramsey.  Roadtrek is the major competitor to PleasureWay, the company that built Ramsey on a Dodge Promaster 3500 truck chassis. The Roadtrek was also built on that chassis. You can see they are cousins!

2444-RamseyRoadtrekI checked in at the visitor center with my Senior Pass in hand. It was blissfully air-conditioned in there.


It was about 1:00. The park let me in earlier than their formal check-in time. Annie and set up camp at spot number 106, which was the far eastern end of the loop.


Then we returned to the Visitor Center, this time with my National Parks Passport in hand. One ranger held Annie’s leash while another ranger took this video of me stamping my first National Parks stamp in my passport.


After that, we returned to the rig. It was so hot, there was nothing more we could do than crank the air-conditioner to full speed, read, and eat the cherries, which had been cooling in my fridge.


Around 4:00 we took a tour of the campground. I looked through the telescopes that aim at the hills where the condors live. Placards explain that the difference between the condors and the turkey vultures is a white patch under their wings. I saw a lot of dark blobs in the trees, but nothing I could clearly identify as a condor.


The ranger said wild turkeys often roam the camp but I saw none. I did spot this deer and a wild hare. Quails scurried everywhere.


It being too hot to take a hike, I purchased an ice cream sandwich at the visitor center and sat on the porch to people watch. The dog friendly visitors kept Annie well petted.


From the east end of the campground, it is possible to hike to the pinnacles area. There are two major places people hike. One is a shortish walk through Bear Gulch that takes about 45 minutes. The other is to the highest pinnacles known as the Balconies. That takes much more time. There is very little parking, maybe ten spaces, at the beginning of the trails. Most people take a shuttle from the Visitors Center to the trail head and hike from there. The shuttle leaves every 20 minutes, starting at 9:00 in the morning.


Pets are not allowed on the trails. Since I didn’t want to leave Annie in the rig and take the shuttle, I decided to take my chances and drive Ramsey to the parking lot by the Bear Gulch trail head early in the morning and leave her there. We left at about 8:00 am.


The parking lot was mostly shady, and the temperature cool and overcast. I felt secure Annie would be comfortable.


My destination was the small Bear Gulch Reservoir, which one reaches through a trail encrusted with boulders and caves. My three-year old grandson, who loves to climb steps and rocks, would have been in Paradise. Bats live in many of the caves, but the areas where they breed are closed off at this time of year.



Fortunately, I had learned ahead of time that I would need a flashlight for some of the caves. There were a few that were completely dark.


I climbed the steps in the photo above and came out to the pretty little reservoir.


The clouds began to clear, which meant time to head back before it got hot inside Ramsey.


A few more caves and I was on the road for home.


Balancing Rocks — Culver, Oregon


Relatively recently, I became interested in early man’s efforts to communicate through rocks and rock drawings or pictographs. I had no idea how many ancient rock formations are sprinkled around New England. Some, such as the structures at America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire, have been carbon dated to over 2000 years old. I joined the NEARA (New England Antiquities Research Association), went to one of their conferences, and learned more about analyzing, finding, and preserving these often ancient and mysterious structures.

One type of rock formation common in New England is balancing rocks. When I learned there was a field of balancing rocks in Culver, Oregon, which I visited to watch the solar eclipse, I just had to see them. (They are also called the Metolius Balancing Rocks, even though you get there from Culver.) No one knows who positioned these rocks, how, or when. The National Park service has marked them on their maps, provided detailed instructions on how to reach them from one of its campgrounds (directions inserted below), and built a path for us to walk out to see them.

Still, finding the rocks was not easy. I made many wrong turns before reaching them. I started my search by asking the locals at Culver’s coffee shop, “Do you know how to get to the Balancing Rocks?” Most of the people I talked to confused them with a structure known as Shipwreck. “They are only 20 minutes away,” they told me. Wrong. It takes 35 minutes to reach the rocks from Culver. The drive itself is an adventure.

PathToBalancingRocksCulver is on a vast plain. It looks flat as far as you can see. (That is Mt. Jefferson in the background.)


But the Crooked River (aka the Metolius River, a tributary of the Deschutes River) has cut a mini grand canyon that has two forks. After driving along the flat roads, you suddenly plunge into the canyon toward the Billy Chinook Lake, part of Cove Palisades State Park. The lake formed when people built the Billy Chinook Dam across the Crooked River. Sorry about the bug splats on my window.


I knew I was supposed to skirt the lake for a while until I came to a bridge. This bridge had two lanes.


On the other side of the bridge, I skirted the lake for another quarter mile then climbed the canyon wall and came out on the land between the two forks of the lake. I wove through some low, rocky hills and came to the Deschutes Campground, where a ranger gave me the written directions I needed. From the campground, the drive is 13.9 miles west. I wound my way to the the second canyon and plunged down once again, where I crossed the fork of the lake on a single lane bridge. That meant I had to make sure no one was coming from the other direction. Or if there was a line for the bridge on the other side, I had wait for my turn. I was the only one around. Point is  — this was not a well traveled road to an important tourist destination.

On the other side of the bridge, I climbed out of the canyon, then followed straight roads through flat wooded, desert and dusty land. Again, you can see Mt. Jefferson in the distance.


I made right angle turns, as you can see from my map above. At milage point 13.5, the pavement ended and Ramsey bumped along a gravel road going up a hill. My RV does not have four-wheel drive, but I only had .4 miles to go. I could see Road 1170 marked on the left, the only landmark that told me I was in the right place. A turnoff on the right served as a three-car parking lot, marked by the first sign I had seen saying “Balancing Rocks.”


A path obediently led from the parking area. My directions told me to look for the Balancing Rocks to my left about a quarter mile down the path.


Sure enough, there they were.


The path led to the right around the top of a ridge, from where I could climb down to the area of the rocks. I noticed from this angle that the pillars seemed to form an arrow. I checked the compass app on my iPhone and learned that the arrow pointed north. Mt. Jefferson is to the left, almost due west of the rocks. I would love to visit again during a solstice to see if the sun comes up any where near Mt. Jefferson.

Most of the balancing stones, which were shaped as rough arrow points, also pointed north. (These stones were shaped by breaking, not worn away by water.) When I reached the stones, I walked around with my copper divining rods, but I’m not very experienced at using them and they didn’t make any interesting movements.







These next four photos were taken on the other side of the ridge from the main cluster of stones.





Faithful hound, Annie, waited patiently while I snapped pictures. The photo of her gives you a close up of the rock bed. The balancing rocks seemed to be of a darker stone than the pillars on which they balanced.


Time to go home. I followed the path back along the ridge away from the stones.


I took these two photos from the path along the ridge as I walked back to the parking area, the second by zooming in.



On the way back to Culver, I passed the rock formation that I assume is called Shipwreck Rock. It is indeed about 20 minutes from Culver.


I climbed back up the canyon after crossing both bridges again. From this point, I could see one canyon from the other.


I crossed the RR tracks as I returned to Culver.


One web article stated that the rocks were for a long time hidden from the public even though the National Forest Service rangers knew about them. A forest fire in 2002 revealed their existence to the public. That same article stated, “The rock spires were created by one volcanic eruption, while the balancing slabs on top were created by others. Because of their differing sedimentary make-up, the rocks eroded at different rates.” After studying the New England balancing rocks, I don’t believe that statement for a minute. I think people purposefully created these structures to state a message, which probably has something to do with the agricultural calendar and the celestial bodies.

If anyone reading this can support my claim, I would love to hear from you.

Here is a website about other balancing rocks around the world:

As promised, here are the directions to the Balancing Rocks from the Deschutes Campground — as given to me by the State Park Ranger service. These structures could have been formed by man thousands of years ago. Help us preserve them.

Essentially, you follow the main paved road for the first 13.5 miles. It turns to gravel for the last .5 mile. It is passable by passenger vehicles, although it includes steep curves. Easy parking is available for two passenger vehicles (not trailers). Allow 1/2 to 1 hour driving time one way.

Mile 0 – Turn left out of the campground onto Jordan Road, proceed to the Deschutes Bridge.

Mile 1.5 – Carefully proceed across the one land bridge and follow Jordan Road to the top of the canyon.

Mile 5 – Bear right to stay on the main paved road.

Mile 7.1 – Pass the Three Rivers Recreation Area on the right.

Mile 10.5 – You will enter the National Forest Land. Stay on the paved road. You will see evidence of forest fire.

Mile 13.5 – The pavement ends.

Mile 13.8 – Road 1170 will head off to your left. Continue on your path.

Mile 13.9 – Take the first turnoff to the right. This is the parking area for Balancing Rocks.

Park your can and hike about 1/4 mile down the dirt path. Look for the Balancing Rocks on your left.

Have fun and stay safe.