A Santa Cruz Vacation

house under fumigation

to vacate was the instruction

arranged a quick vacation

looking forward to relaxation

to Santa Cruz with anticipation

hoping to get rid of my affliction

from the disease tion(I am afflicted….)

We went  for a quick vacation to Santa Cruz for two nights. Santa Cruz being less than an hour’s drive from our house, we go there quite frequently but normally always on a day trip. This time we decided to take a midweek break and booked a two nights stay at Ocean Echo Inn and Cottage.  The small Sunny Cove beach was just next to the inn.

 

We arrived at the inn at about three in the afternoon, so we spent the afternoon in the beach. We were rewarded with one of the most stunning sunsets I had ever seen.

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We had dinner at an Italian Argentinean restaurant and hoped to call it a day early. Unfortunately once we put the TV on, before we realized it was past mid-night.

Next day after breakfast we drove to  Natural Bridges State Park. It was a beautiful day and we were rewarded with an amazing vista.

After spending some time at the Natural Bridges State Park, we walked towards the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk along along West Cliff Drive by the side of the ocean.

The long walk of about five miles certainly made us hungry and we had an excellent lunch at Crow’s Nest restaurant in Santa Cruz harbor. The walk and the good lunch had a relaxing effect and we decided to have an afternoon nap followed by a walk on the beach.

As we were leaving for home in the morning and my better half was driving directly to her work, we had an early dinner and went to bed early. By morning the weather had turned cool We had our breakfast at the inn patio and after a last look at the beach and ocean headed home, sure to be back again.

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A spur of the moment trip to Big Sur

Yesterday I became temporarily homeless for the day.  Contractor had told me a few days back that the floor guys would come and apply the final stain coating to the floor yesterday.  I need to go out of the house for the day.  Based on my experience from the initial two coats that were applied a few weeks back when we had to leave the house for three days, I thought if they apply the coat by early morning, I should be able to be back by the evening.  What I forgot to account for was that the same guys were supposed to stain the fireplace mantel also and that added hours to the schedule.  based on my earlier assumption I had no made any arrangements to stay anywhere.  First I had to make arrangement for my dog Skooby for an overnight stay at the kennel. By the time I made the arrangements and dropped Skooby off, it was 12 noon and 91 F, sizzling.  I had no plans, no place to go and decided to hit the beach and drove towards Monterrey.  As I was filling gas for the long drive, I realized that I had not been to Big Sur for a long time, specially after the coastal highway was closed during 2017 – 2018 for nearly fourteen months due to land slide.  So in a spur of the moment, I decided to drive to Big Sur, about ninety miles south of my house.  Boy, was I glad that I made that decision.  Coastal weather was fantastic, sunny but cool 64 F, not much traffic and the beautiful, scenic drive.

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Carmel from Monastery Beach

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Bixby Creek Bridge – most photographed land mark on the west coast

By around 4:30 PM, the temperature had dropped to about 58 F as fog was rolling in from the ocean. I decided to head back home but before I could call it a night it would be 3:00 AM in the morning after a late night movie, Avengers : End Game, and a late night or early morning dinner at Denny’s. The bed never felt so good.


All photos by author on June 5, 2019

Windy City

I am visiting Chicago for a week with my wife and then drive to Iowa City to attend a wedding. Landed in O’Hare Airport late Saturday night and stayed overnight at the airport hotel instead of driving to the city late at night. Rented a car on Sunday morning from the airport and drove to Chicago Botanical Garden. It was a cold, gray day with forecast of rain. It was also Mother’s Day and place was full of visitors. The Botanical Garden is simply fabulous. Colors galore. Will share (or try to share) photos with my next post. My cell phone simply started acting up from the evening and going into a perpetual restart mode. Somehow or other I am keeping it working and hope it survives the trip.

From the Botanical Garden drove noth to North Dune State Preserve by the shore of Lake Michigan. बाद decision. Wind was howling and our bay area attire for cols simply could not stand up to the wind. It was chilly to say the least. Forgot our idea of exploring the shores of Lake Michigan and drove back to our hotel for the night. Evening was damp, windy and it started drizzling. We abandoned the idea od driving to Devon Avenue in search of a good Indian dinner and settled for a local Italian steak house. Best decision of the day.

A Walk along Los Alamitos Creek

I did a 8 mile walk along Los Alamitos Creek today.  It had been raining here continuously for last few days. Even as I am writing this post, the house windows are being rattled by gusts of wind. The constant drip drip sound of the rain on the roof is putting me to sleep.

Los Alamitos Creek is about eight miles long, originating in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flowing along the eastern side of Almaden Valley.  The creek joins the Guadalupe River after Almaden Lake. Los Alamitos Creek Trail along the creek is about ten miles long.  The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed.

As I started from my home, it was cloudy with the sun trying to come out from behind the clouds .28e63dac-bd6b-436e-816f-d5a6c5d0b956 The hills including Mount Umunhum in the west were hazy, covered in rain clouds.  The trail itself is well paved for bicycles, hikers and joggers with small detours that lead from the paved trail to the creek banks in many areas.  I entered the trail after walking about a mile from my home.

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Winter rains had turned the meadows near the creek bed verdant green. Trees, bare naked in winter, against the green meadows and a darkening sky was a sight to behold.c46fbf2c-d2cf-40ff-b804-80e8365237e1_resize

 

The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed. It was full with gushing waters and looked like a small river.5a7199c0-bb35-46d4-916f-d872776fe193_resize

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As I was about to return, the rains started. It was a slow drizzle at first but became a driving rain by the time I was about a mile from home. Then just as suddenly a huge gust of wind blew the rain away though I could still see the heavy rains on the hills.  I hurried home as fast as I could praying my tired legs would not slip on the wet pavements.  Though I was extremely tired after the long walk, my heart was full and satisfied.

Vacation Time: Wrap Up

Nine days passed quickly and before we knew it, we were back home December 15 at around 9:00 PM.  I had missed posting about day two and day three. So I will summarize here day two and day three along with day seven through day nine.

Day Two, December 23, in Las Vegas went in a blur.  The day was spent mostly resting after a tiring  fourteen hour drive from San Jose, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on day one. Normally it should not have taken more than ten hours. We had a good dinner at Mount Everest India’s Cuisine in Las Vegas. Lines were long and the place felt little cramped but the food was delicious.  I will definitely recommend the restaurant to any one looking for alternative to buffets on the strip.  After dinner we went to see a Ka, a Cirque du Soleil show at MGM Grand. It was a grand show but I must have slept through much of the show as I remember my daughter nudging me continuously during the show trying to wake me up. I just crashed after coming back to hotel.

Day Three, December 24,  Christmas eve, drove from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam. It was a bad decision.  Traffic to Hoover Dam was terrible.We had been to Hoover Dam before but my two younger kids had no memories of those visits during their childhood.  We lost more than three hours of time and due to Arizona being one hour ahead of Nevada, by the time we arrived in Grand Canyon it was already evening and we missed viewing sunset over the Grand Canyon.  So we ended up having an early dinner at the Yavapai Lodge restaurant and retiring early to ensure not missing sunrise over Grand Canyon. Glad that we did it as we were rewarded with incredible sunrise view next morning.

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Sunrise over Grand Canyon, December 25, 2018

I posted already about day four through day six, so I will continue below with a summary of day seven through day nine.

Day Seven, December 28, started bright and sunny at Bryce and bitterly cold.  Our rental car did not have a scraper, so we had bought one on our way  to Grand Canyon.  It came handy as the windshields were completely covered with thick layers of ice.  We were planning to leave Bryce early to Zion National Park but by the time we left our hotel it was nearly 11:00 AM. The road from Bryce to to Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful.  Nearly every turn on the road presents travellers with vistas that can only be carried in one’s heart.  Camera can not do justice.  I am sure that if the creator is not a cruel one, I will have another chance in my next life to visit Zion again. One visit, no one life, is not enough.

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We entered Zion National Park through the east entrance and drove along the scenic road to the visitors center at around 2:00 PM.  Parking lot was full and signs posted asked cars to be parked in town ( Springdale ) just beyond the south gate. Luckily we got a parking spot just near the visitors center as some one left .  We took the shuttle to the last stop on the forty minute shuttle ride to Temple of Sinawava. It was a pleasant ride with grand vistas. After getting down from the shuttle, we took the trail along the Virgin river to the narrows. As we did not rent equipments to walk on the river ( also that it was freezing cold and late in the day), so would leave that to our next visit.  It was magical.  As we did not want to miss the last shuttle and face the daunting task of walking back six miles to the visitor center in dark and freezing cold, we reluctantly trekked back to the shuttle stop and drove to our hotel in Springdale just outside the south gate of Zion National Park.  After dinner at a Thai restaurant ( many of the restaurants in Springdale close for winter for two months from January to March), we called it a day as we had planned some long hikes the next day.

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Virgin River

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Icicles hanging on the cliff walls- reminded me of  a Shakespeare sonnet “Icicles hanging on The Wall” – a poem from my high school textbook

Day Eight, December 29, I got up early as I wanted to go to the park to view sunrise over the majestic canyon.  Alas, my family members prefered the warmth of a comfortable bed over the cold morning. So I was left to satiate my wish with the view of sunrise from the hotel walkway.

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After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove the short distance from the hotel to the visitors center and took the shuttle to The Grotto.  We did a short hike to the picnic area and then went to the Emerald Pools.  These hikes were not very strenuous but some portions of the trail to Emerald Pools were icy.  At shady areas, icicles were hanging to the walls and in places where sun rays had heated the cliff walls sufficiently, ice melt water was streaming down the walls.

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We finished our Zion trip with a hike up Watchman Trail.  The elevation gain on this trail was three hundred and eighty four feet. However by this time in the afternoon the sun was up and the heavy jackets we were wearing made the hike up quite uncomfortable. The view of the valley below including the town of Springdale was majestic.  We bid adieu to Zion in late afternoon to Las Vegas for the last part of our trip but left our hearts at Zion.

Day Nine, December 30, Time to return home.  Dropped my son at Las Vegas Airport for his return to his workplace, packed and started our journey back to San Jose.  Completely uneventful return trip except for a stop at Barstow for lunch.  The fake railroad station, Barstow Station, that houses many fast food restaurants inside look alike railroad cars is intriguing but the food is same as other franchises.

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As we were driving down California 46 to Interstate 5, we were greeted with the view of a magnificent sunset.  By the time I managed to get a picture from the back seat of the car, sun had already gone down the horizon.  It was an appropriate end to our trip with my last sunset photo of 2018.

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All photos taken by author.  Equipment: Canon XSI and Panasonic LX10, except the sunset photo that was taken by my cell phone.

Vacation Time: Day Six – Winter Wonderland

Our plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and also to catch sunrise and sunset there on December 27.

The day started with snow flurries in Bryce. While it was great to look at from inside the warmth of the hotel breakfast room, it also became quite clear that viewing a Bryce Canyon magical sunrise was not in our destiny in this trip. By around noon it was clear that the flurries were not going to end and we decided to brave it. On driving down to the visitor’s center, we came to know that thanks to the partial government shutdown, only a small portion of the park was open, mainly due to financial help of the state government of Utah. Big thanks to UTAH.

Completely covered from head to toe due to the cold with temperatures in low 10 (F) and with wind chill around 4F and blowing snow flurries, hiking was not easy. My glasses fogged within few minutes and I had to take it off. Fingers were getting cold inside gloves but technology helped in this case. My eldest son had got some hand warmer packages. These little packages worked so well that I was able to take off my right hand gloves that helped immensely in using the camera.

I am thankful that we decided to hike though my wife was quite apprehensive due to the slippery trail conditions. Using crampons under shoes helped in hiking. What amazing vista’s. Though we were deprived of the colorful display of sunlight firing up various sand stone formations, we were rewarded amply by the display of the magical winter wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We arrived the Sunset point after about three and half hours of hiking hoping to see sunset but a grey sky and falling snow flurries dashed our hope.

Hopefully will be able to see sunrise tomorrow and then drive to Zion.

Vacation Time : Day 5 – Into Canyon Land

Initial weather report was that there may be rain during our stay in Page. Therefore we did not book tours in advance for Antelope canyons. However there was no indication of rain in the morning, so after checkout we tried our luck with local tour companies in town but every tour was sold out. Undettered we drove to the entrance of lower Antelope Canyon but no luck. It was suggested there by one of the tour operator to check with slot canyon X tour operator some seven miles down the road. There we struck gold. After we booked our tickets, at thirty minutes past noon we were transported by vans over gravel roads covered with red colored sands. At the entrance the people were grouped with about twenty each to one guide. It was about a mile and half hike round trip over sand and stone. It was an incredible experience.

After the slot canyon X tour we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and drove to near by Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powel lookout.

It was now time to say good bye to Page and move to Bryce Canyon. By the time we left Lake Powel look out, sun had already set.

After about two and half hours drive from Page arrived Bryce Canyon at about eight thirty pm to a bone chilling cold of 13F (-10C) and with wind chill it was 0F.

Tomorrow Bryce Canyon.

Vacation Time : Day 4

Christmas Greetings to you all from Page, Arizona.

After a day well spent in Grand Canyon and rewarded by a fantastic sunrise, the day culminated with a sunset view of Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ Drive from Grand Canyon to Page offered some out of the world vista. A few snow flurries greeted us during the drive.

Internet access been spotty, so I shall post more details afterwards.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona. Photo taken by my son on December 25, 2018

Vacation Time

Out in vacation till the end of the year. I had high hopes of writing a travel diary and sharing with my blogily. But the travel gods had other plans. They wanted to spare a few readers I had the misery of going through the dreadful prose I write. So here enters technology. Slow internet speed makes it a struggle to download and attach photos with my post and upload it to WordPress in the little time that I have for myself during the vacation duties. It becomes quite frustrating at times. So my dear readers, I will try to post when I can.

Happy Holidays to you all. Have a wonderful Xmas with your family and a great 2019.

Before I let you go will like to share a little tidbit about our travel yesterday. For our travel we had booked a Dodge Durango. Unfortunately when we went to pick up the car what we got was a Infinity QX 60 with only 39 miles on the odometer which was great. What was not great that the cargo space in the Infinity was much smaller compared to the Durango. We had to repack all our luggage resulting in a late night the day before the trip. That escalated to a late morning start and encountering heavy holiday traffic and a trip that was supposed to be about nine hours drive ended up being a fourteen hour drive. In the very beginning of the trip, a portion of the highway that would normally be a forty minute drive ended up being a two and quarter hours drive forcing us to stop at the first available rest camp to answer nature’s call speeded up by cups of early morning coffe. It was restful to say the least and scenery was terrific.

San Luis Reservoir, Dec 22, 2018

Around 5 PM we stopped near the intersection of Highway 99 and Highway 58, still about four hours drive from Las Vegas as per map. After feeing up gas and some coffee and drinks for ourselves we started with high hopes of arriving Vegas by about 9 PM, still decent time. But horrendous traffic both at highway 58 and Interstate 15 kept on pushing back the arrival time. After about three hours of driving and Vegas still about three hours ahead it became apparent that we will need to stop somewhere. By that time the river of red lights from 5mph cars in front of us was becoming quite monotonous. Only saving grace was the beautiful full moon over the Mojave desert. But that also became an issue as it became quite apparent that relieving oneself by the road size will result in good exposure. Few brave souls however had done just that braving the bright full moon. By the time we got to the first rest camp on I 15, parking lots were nearly full. The line from the rest rooms (not sure why it is called rest room though ) were snaking out to the parking lot. One young guy in front of me in the line was shivering like crazy, dancing an odd dance move stanging on one leg and then the other. The poor soul was trying to control coming out on the open. A few good hearted people advised him to go find the nearest dark corner but he ignored. Actually he had number two coming. Thank God that he did not go out in the line but it was a terrible sight to behold.

Without much further ado and no more near calamities, we arrived Vegas by about 11:30 PM and got to our rooms past midnight. To hell with sight seeing plans for Sunday, it was off to bed we go (of course after a little late night sojourn, what would be a trip to Vegas without that).

Vegas at last, Dec 23, 2018

A Hectic Trip to Sunny (?) San Diego

Just came back from a hectic, seventy five hours road trip of about twelve hundred miles (that’s approximately 2000 KM for the rest of the world in SI system). I was not driving for seventy five hours though it felt like that at near midnight of Sunday when at last I fell asleep on my own bed at home.  San Diego was supposed to be sunny but did not see the sun for the two days we were there.  However I was thankful for sun’s decision to hide behind the clouds as that made it easier for the walk during the college tour of University of California San Diego.  On our return trip we stopped for lunch at Santa Barbara and was delightfully surprised to see that the road in front of the restaurant was holding a classic car show.  It was a thrill to see the ageless beauties, some dating back to nineteen thirty two.  As we did not have much time for sightseeing in San Diego, this unplanned bonus offering was much appreciated.  I wish I would have known about this before so that I could have planned my time accordingly.  Sharing some photos below from the trip.

Flight over Balboa

Flights from nearby San Diego Airport, after take-off, flies over Balboa Park, a 1200 acre urban park that is home to several museums and famous San Diego zoo.

El Pardo Avenue

The El Prado complex hosts many museums including Air and Space museum, Museum of Man, San Diego Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Cabrillo Bridge, San Diego Natural History Museum and Alcazar Gardens. Above is a photo of El Prado road leading to the complex and below is the entrance leading to the complex from El Prado.

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Below are the skyline of San Diego as viewed from Cabrillo Bridge on El Prado over Cabrillo Canyon through which now passes state highway CA 163 ( photo below) leading to San Diego downtown.

Alcazar Garden in El Pardo complex.  The place was swarming with too many elegantly dressed people and professional photographers on that beautiful Saturday afternoon.  There were a few weddings and I think few high school proms going on there and I had to be careful not to disturb anyone.

And to cap the trip, below are a few photos from the classic car show at Santa Barbara on Sunday. The cars shown below are from nineteen thirty two to nineteen sixty five as much as I can remember.

After that hectic trip and continuous eating out, it was good to be home for a home cooked meal of quinoa pilaf, mashed sweet potato and yam, mango guacamole, sauteed salmon and carrot greens with roasted almond and garlic, cooked by yours truly.

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