We left Gilroy and drove 200 miles down Highway 101 through the coastal valley. This route follows the Historic El Camino Real that connected the missions from San Diego to San Francisco during the times of Spanish occupation. Santa Ynez is the mission closest to Solvang. and it has been an active Catholic Church since 1806. The route is marked with mile posts that are real bells. This was from the days when they would ring the bell to let those in the towns nearby know that people were arriving. For the first 150 miles we passed thousands of acres of everything from Artichokes to Zucchini growing in the fields. Then as we turned west towards the coast, nut trees and grapes became the prevalent crop. Chances are you have something in your refrigerator or pantry that was grown in this area. It takes a lot of water to grow all of these crops and as you know California is in a prolonged drought. In the last picture below you can see just one of their reservoirs and it is only one fourth full. They need rain and lots of it. With all this agriculture in the area we just knew the Solvang Farmers Market would be a good one. We loaded up with all sorts of good things, even pastries, olive bread and beer.
We stumbled upon Solvang many years ago on one of our summer trips. I was looking for a Yellow-billed Magpie and the California Birding Guide said it was easily found on Golf Course Road in Solvang. We were surprised to find a quaint town that was founded by Danish immigrants, and we only had time for a delicious Danish Pastry before we had to move on. We always said that if we ever had the time to visit longer we would. One of the first things we did was buy a Danish at Mortensen's Bakery. All the way on the drive south we saw signs for Pea Soup Anderson's. Turned out it was a restaurant right next to the RV Park. It is famous for its Split Pea Soup. They have been serving it since 1924 when Mr. Anderson had a lot of left over peas he did not know what to do with, so he made pea soup for his customers. They sell over two million servings a year now, so we had to try it. Josie got a bowl of it and I got the bread bowl. It does live up to its hype although we believe its the first time either of us had eaten pea soup. We also had to checkout the local Solvang Brewery in the windmill and we were not disappointed with their great beer and food. A few evenings later we had dinner at the Firestone Walker Keg Works Brewery. They specialize in aging their beer in wine kegs. I later purchased a 12 pack of their Double Barrel Ale at the farmers market. I had the very tasty Fish and Chips and of course Josie ordered the shrimp.
We drove over to the Chumash Reservation on Saturday and attended the Inter Tribal Pow Wow. We attend our first Pow Wow in Montana a few years ago. This one was five times larger and had many more dancers. The tribal dress, dancing, drumming and chanting were impressive.
I went out birding one day, which gives Josie some time by herself. I found some great birds. I will put a few pictures on the blog for those of you who don't see them when I post them on Facebook. I also added a picture of a Monarch Butterfly. I saw thousands of them. The town of Santa Maria is only a few miles up the coast and it is known as Butterfly City because they get so many Monarchs at this time of the year.
Tomorrow we drive back to Arizona for the Winter.
We have spent the past week parked in Gilroy, California. We chose Gilroy because it was the closest RV park to the Monterey Peninsula area that was available. We have visited this area before, once for the National Audubon Convention and once with our friends, Mike and Martha Weirich. So we did not revisit a few of the more popular tourist attractions, like the Aquarium and Cannery Row. We however could not stay away from the Big Sur. So we drove down the coast one day to get away from the 100 degree temperatures inland. We spent the afternoon walking the beach at Carmel and driving the ocean road in Pebble Beach. The evening before a forest fire had broken out in the mountains around Santa Cruz. Ash from the fire was falling all over the area down wind of the fire as you can see in the picture below of the fender of our Jeep. We could see and smell smoke in the air for three days.
Gliroy is the Garlic Capital of the USA, and the air always seems to smell like garlic. They have everything garlic for sale, including garlic ice cream, which we tried and did not care for. I also ate my first Pomegranate, Josie had eaten them before. I was not too impressed. Besides garlic, there are thousands of acres of artichokes, lettuce, strawberries, peppers and many other crops. We stopped at a few of the many roadside markets and bought fresh produce. On our first weekend in town, we made reservations at the local comedy theater. We thought it was going to be a stand-up comedy type act but instead it was a very funny play.
The Northern California Renaissance Faire was being held just down the road from the RV Park so we decided to attend. This was a first for us and we were a little surprised by how much the folks attending were into dressing and acting the part for that time period. But as you can see in the first picture below not everything was medieval with costumed participants using the ATM machines. We were not sure if the town drunk was really drunk or just acting.
When we visited this area with our friends the Weirich's 9 years ago, Mike and I were scheduled to play the Pebble Beach Golf Course, but Mike had his knee operated on and was unable to play so he drove the cart for me. On this visit I decided to play one of the other great Pebble Beach courses, The Links at Spanish Bay. The weather could not have been better and I was glad Josie could drive the cart for me. The course was in fantastic condition and we were fortunate to be paired with two very nice folks and our fore caddie, Bryan.
We will drive down highway 101 tomorrow to the city of Solvang, California.
We have never stopped in Northern Central California in our travels over the years, so we decided to make a quick stop in Mount Shasta and check it out. The view of the mountain from our camp site was spectacular.
On our first day we drove up above the tree line and not only was the view spectacular, I also found a very cooperative family of Mountain Bluebirds. We came down the other side of the mountain and visited the city of Weed. Yes there is a place called Weed! They take pride in the slogan "We Love Weed" Josie even found Sheldon wearing a University of Weed T shirt, "An institution of higher learning." We also dropped into the Mt. Shasta Brewing Company's Weed Ale House for a beer and large pretzel. I played the Weed Golf Club the next day which had fantastic views of the mountain and also a golfing bear carved out of an old tree stump. The campground was surrounded by old apple trees and blackberry bushes. We did not eat any of the apples but the squirrels sure love them. We did pick blackberries and will have them in pancakes in a few days.
Tomorrow we drive 350 miles south to Gilroy, California, the Garlic Capital of the USA.
This past week we have been parked in Bend, Oregon. Bend is in Central Oregon on the East side of the Cascades. We have driven through this area but never spent any time here. From Bend you can see 7 major peaks of the Cascades. The picture below was taken from Pilot Butte which is located in the middle of the city. On the night of the Harvest Moon we drove back up there and watched the sun go down and the moon come up. We found out that the Bend Oktoberfest was being held on the Saturday that we were in town so we went downtown and checked it out. The food was fantastic! I got a White Brat and Josie had a Pierogi Dumpling. One of the longest lines was for the Oregrown Booth, one of the local Cannabis shops. You can see by the picture below you could spin the wheel and win from a dollar joint or up to thirty dollars off anything at the booth. The highlight of the fest was billed as the Wiener Dog races. There were 8 heats of 8 dogs each with the 8 wieners (Pun Intended) racing in the final. Not sure what all the hoopla was for as 95% of the dogs never made it to the finish line. Most were so scared they froze or ran back around the starting gate. This was sponsored by the Humane Society and not sure it was good publicity.
Bend has over two dozen micro-breweries and many of them have restaurants that are rated among the top 10 in the area by Trip Advisor. At 10 Barrel Brewing we had a fantastic meal of Northwest Mussels and a Tri Tip sandwich. As with many micro-breweries 10 Barrel has been bought by Anheuser Bush. If you can't beat them buy them. The main advantage for the micro-brewery, besides making a large amount of money, is now they have a major distributor. We talked to one of the owners and he seemed to be happy with the way Anheuser Bush was treating them and letting them do their own thing. I hope that continues for them. We also ran into a group of young folks who seemed to be having a great time on the Cycle Pub, a rolling bar that the customers pedal from Brewery to Brewery, filling up a growler at each and drinking it on the way to the next stop. We would like to try this but you have to have at least 6 people in your group and they don't mix groups.
One day we drove up to the small tourist town of Sisters. We did a lot of window shopping but all we bought was a jar of Marionberry Jam. The Marionberry is a hybrid Blackberry developed by the University of Oregon. We had a nice lunch at Three Creeks Brewery, the number one rated restaurant in Sisters by Trip Advisor.
This area of Oregon is a very good birding area. I tagged along with the East Cascades Audubon Society on an all day trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. You may be familiar with Malheur as it was the site of a takeover by followers of the Bundy family from Nevada. On the day we were birding those involved were on trial in Portland. The refuge headquarters was still closed as they continue to repair the damage done during the takeover. The car I was riding in got a flat and while two people worked on it the rest of us supervised. A few days later I birded the Sisters area using tips I received from the locals. Sisters is known for having 11 species of Woodpeckers in the area. I was only able to photograph three but getting a picture of a White Headed Woodpecker was fantastic. We hope to come back next year for the Woodpecker Festival and see all 11 species.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Oregon and drive to Mt. Shasta, California for a short three day visit.
We begin our third year on the road here in Portland, Oregon, in the shadow of Mt. Hood. We have been to Portland a few times before, but only for a day or two. So we decided to stay 11 days this time and see what it is like. They call it "The City Of Roses" or "The City of Bridges" which we were able to see when we celebrated our third year in the Winnebago by taking The Spirit of Portland Dinner Cruise. We passed under 11 of the 13 bridges that cross the Willamette River, which runs through the middle of the city. As you can see from the pictures below, Portland is quite scenic from the river. We loved looking at the many houseboats moored along the river and seeing the historic Portland Oregon Old Town sign. The evening before we visited the Portland Audubon Society's Swift watch site at Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland. Every evening for the month of September thousands of Vaux's Swifts roost in the schools old chimney preparing for their migration south. It is quite a spectacle to see them swirling and then diving into the chimney. Hundreds of folks show up with a picnic dinner each evening to enjoy the hour long show.
It is also easy to see why Portland is also called the City of Roses. They grow everywhere and they even have a neon rose on the waterfront. We visited the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Garden in Washington Park and even though most of the roses are now past their prime blooming time there were still many to see and smell. We even found a Ketchup and Mustard Rose like the ones we saw in Karin Bybee's garden in Idaho Falls. One afternoon we drove to the nearby town of Forest Grove to see the worlds tallest barbers pole. On the way we passed many farmers markets, so we stopped and bought corn, peaches and tomatoes. To our surprise we also passed a cannabis farm. It is legal to sell pot in Oregon. Needless to say it was very well fenced off with razor wire and electric fencing. I was able to take the picture below through the gap in the fence gate. There was not a farmers market there.
We also hit a few of the dining hot spots in the Portland area. We found Pork Shanks at the Deschutes Brewery, that were not as good nor meaty as the ones our friend BJ Bybee makes but they were tasty. We had out of this world donuts at Voodoo Doughnuts. Josie tried the Portland Cream Filled and I had the Voodoo doughnut shaped like a voodoo doll, chocolate covered with raspberry filling and a pretzel sticking out of its heart. We also took home a few for the next day including the Maple Bacon ( thinking of you Eli) and Giant Peach doughnut. I went to a Hillsboro Hops baseball game one evening and was surprised at the size of their foot long hotdog that they sold for only 5 dollars. We also discovered a local hamburger chain call Burgerville that had a very good Blue Cheese, Mushroom and Bacon Burger. ( Again Josie is thinking of Eli) Of course we also bought a lot of Tillamook Cheese and I discovered they make great Smoked Pepperoni Sticks too. Josie disagreed with me on that one. Tomorrow we drive over the mountains into the central part of the state and spend a week in Bend, Oregon.
Time flies when you are having fun. We mark our third year anniversary in the RV here in Portland. Oregon. 3000 miles from where it all started in Virginia Beach. We see on the news and from our Facebook friends that the Tropical Storm is giving our Virginia and North Carolina friends a rough time right now. Hope it all ends safely for them. My brother in Kansas City and a friend Mike Joseph, in Oklahoma just reported that they had a 5.6 earthquake, so hope everyone is okay there also.
We started this third year back in Virginia Beach, visiting with all our great friends there. Since then we have traveled over 8000 miles visiting a lot of places we have never been to before. Of course we also visited with many friends and relatives along the way. We feel very blessed to have so many great friends. We look forward to this fourth year and more fun times.