Oohhh…I am so behind. Seems I’m doggie paddling to keep up lately. Lots on the plate. This weekend I’m enjoying a retreat to CO. No work, only play. Time to catch up on the old blog. Below starts the first of the
BIG TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
posts. (I just figured out how to do colored text. Bear with me. I may be like a first grader who discovers the comma and uses it everywhere.)
I’m one fortunate woman. Working as a travel nurse allows me to, well, travel! Not being tied to a facility’s regular staffing means I can write periods of time off into my contract. Working three 12’s a week, when cleverly planned allows 9 days off. As a contract worker I don’t have the benefit of paid time off. It’s worth it. I’m not constrained by the piddly 10-12 days off a year most Americans accept as customary and usual. I’d smother.
Originally, I had 23 days mapped out, in early Aug., for a massive trip from ABQ to Oregon and back. Pesky knee fell apart, had to use that time for surgery and recovery. See blogs in the August 11th time-frame for more on that. A new contract starting in Oct. allowed a one week time off request. Granted. Wah hoo!
Knowing I wouldn’t be as mobile as usual, I knew this trip would be heavily sight-seeing oriented. Often, though, I felt pangs of longing when looking off into the hills next to the Ocean or into the Sierra mountains. Wanted to retreat. Got out of the typical travel pattern and had more time around people, choosing to stay at hostels most of the time.
Here’s a funny story. I FLEW FIRST CLASS! Yep, for the first time ever. I had a United coupon for a free upgrade that expired that week. “Will the seat be squishy and wide?” I wondered. “Will there be a blanket?” At 0830 it was too early for a cocktail. ; ) Was a little 40 seaterplane. First class equalled being the only one in my row, no one in front of me, with full stretch out leg room. Got a glass of OJ right away. That was it! Too bad I wasn’t on a 1,000 mile flight. Still, what a way to start a journey!
Dropped through the layer of smog into LAX. Been there once. Saw enough to know it is a big, big place that moves too quickly for me. Grabbed my bags and stepped outside. Whammo! The humidity! I could feel my hair turn to a brillo pad of frizz. Picked up a rental car, a Toyota Corollo. “Good gas mileage, I hope.” Was spot on. Must’ve had around 33 mpg. Not as good as my trusty car. Another bit of the story.
Having just 12 days to travel, I opted to fly rather than drive to CA. This meant I couldn’t pack the car with all my usual car camping/travel accouterments (folding chair, cooler, fleecy blanket my sis Karen made me for X-mas one year and goes everywhere, coffee making supplies, stove, the kitchen sink). Instead, it all fit in a huge suitcase and one carry on. The big daddy weighed in at 44.2 pounds. Suh-wheat! I knew that meant shipping home souvenirs, though, would have to avoid buying books, something I enjoy as mementos.
High-tailed it out of LA, early enough to miss traffic (the thought terrified me). Drove though sight, though. Passed on Death Valley. Didn’t want to rush through. That’s another trip yet to be told. Made it to Lone Pine, a tiny town at the foot of Mt. Whitney, a picturesque 14’er, and looking to have much granite on it. I hear the climbing’s fantastic. I drooled. Was a long day of planes and automobiles. (Sans Trains) Get it?
Had planned to camp that night but the VP debate was scheduled and I couldn’t get it through radio so I ponied up for a room at a cute little hotel so I could watch it. An old hotel, complete with rooms that share a bath at the end of the hall, I splurged on one w/a private bath. Apparently, much Western flick filming’s been done there. There were kitchy, signed pics of western actors and newspaper clippings all over the lobby. I loved it!
OWENS VALLEY –
This 75 mile long valley is hemmed in by the Sierra mtns on the west (at 14,000′ plus) and the Inyo and White mtns on the East. This makes it one of the deepest valleys in the US.
Ever seen the movie Chinatown? It’s good. I recommend it. Owens Valley was the scene of the infamous CA water wars. Once, the Owens River and Lake fed local farmers water for crops and orchards. The LA Aqueduct, completed in 1913, drained the lake turning it into an alkali flat. Greed and corruption flourished instead. Nasty dust storms plagued the valley. Neighbors were pitted against each other, politicians profited, violence resulted, local farmers sabotaged the aqueduct in 1924. LA continued to acquire water rights to the land where water flowed into the valley, over 300,000 acres, drying up the lake completely, supplying nearly 1/3 of LA’s water. Ground water was pumped up to meet demands. The landscape changed dramatically, rendering the valley useless. A second aqueduct was completed in 1970.
Years of litigation followed. LA Dept of Water missed several deadlines to rewater the lower Owens Valley, set forth after efforts by concerned parties, including the Sierra Club and Inyo County. Now, in 2008, documentation I found says it’s been achieved. Still, the long lasting effects are apparent. Farming practices, fire suppression, climate change are causing woody shrubs to overwhelm the grassland that once flourished. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon turning north up the valley. It’s dramatic, dry, dusty and sparse.
Lots of volcanic remnants seen. Black rocks against the stark, bleached dirt. Dirt roads leading into the hills that beckon you to explore.
Contrasting rock formations. How much water and wind was needed to round
out those outcrops?
Mt Whitney. Ooohhh…
Birds I’ve never seen before.
A good nights rest (though riled up some from the debate) prepared me for the next leg of the adventure, Bishop.
More installments to come!