Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sequoia National Park

Before we started planning this trip we were under the false assumption that a redwood tree and a Sequoia tree were the same. They are both large trees found in California but the Sequoia only grows in a band along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the elevation of 5000 and 7500 feet. This narrow belt where conditions may be right for these trees is known as the Sequoia Belt. Above 7500 feet the temperature is usually to cold and below 5000 feet the conditions are too dry. The California Coast Redwood only grows in the coastal region of Northern California and grows taller than the Sequoia but the trunk is not as massive as the Sequoia. The Sequoia lives longer and can be over 3000 years old while the Coastal Redwood peaks at around 2000 years. On May 30th we will be at the "Avenue of the Giants" were the Coastal Redwood flourish. Here is a link that compares the Sequoia to the Redwood:


Yesterday we drove up to Sequoia National Park on a road that put us in mind of Highway 129 between Tennessee and North Carolina known world wide at the "Tail of the Dragon". One notable difference was the road in Sequoia gained more altitude and on the way down was a constant 8% grade.

Looking down from a switchback to previous switchbacks

Looking back at the road

Unlike the drive to Yosemite this drive was beautiful and scenic with many flowers and yucca plants in bloom. 

The bloom of a yucca plant

Look close and you will see all the yucca plants along the embankment

Typical roadside flowers

One interesting thing was a portion of the road once went thru a natural rock tunnel but later construction routed the road around the tunnel. The "Tunnel Rock" is now an attraction where everyone stops for a photo.

Notice the double yellow line of the old road

Us at Tunnel Rock

When we reached the area where the General Sherman tree is located it was 45 degrees and the altitude was approximately 7000 feet. The General Sherman tree is claimed to be the largest living thing in the world by mass. There are trees taller and some older but none have the total mass of the General Sherman tree. The top of the Sherman tree is dead so it no longer increases in height but does add mass each year. The Sherman tree is 2200 years old and was almost 200 years old when Christ was born.

Yours truly at the base of the General Sherman tree

A composite of the General Sherman

A neighbor of the General Sherman

Walking between two Sequoia

Pam plays hide-n-seek

Sequoia named Sentinel in front of museum

Road thru the forest

Imagine walking thru a forest of large pines and them coming across a Sequoia as depicted in the following photo.

Lemon Cove California

Sunday we moved from Oakhurst to Lemon Cove Village RV Park to be more conveniently located while visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. There are many groves of trees around Lemon Cove but they are not lemon trees and are in fact orange groves.

Orange grove next to campground

Campground sign

The campsite we were assigned to was a little small for a 40 foot motorhome but the only choice we had. Notice we put our orange cones on each end of the campsite to alert folks who might be passing by with a large vehicle. When we were at a campground in Denali we were parked in a small site with our mirror protruding out and had to borrow a cone from our friends. When we reached Wasilla, Alaska we purchased two cones to carry with us and this was the first time we needed them.

Our campsite at Lemon Cove

Friday, May 18, 2018

Yosemite National Park

We reached the south entrance to Yosemite about 9:30 am and was informed that Mariposa Grove, the largest grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite, was closed for restoration. That was not overly disappointing since our next destination is Sequoia National Park where there will be plenty of Giant Sequoias. The main attraction at Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Valley that was carved out by a glacier and surrounded by high granite walls. From the south the valley is entered thru a tunnel known as Wawona Tunnel. Locals refer to it as the mile long tunnel but it is slightly less than a mile at 4233 feet.

Before reaching the tunnel we took a right turn at Glacier Point Road and climbed our way up for 16 miles to Glacier Point overlooking the valley. We may have been naive in our assumption that the crowds would be moderate due to it being on a Thursday before summer vacation time. When we reached Glacier Point at 10 am the parking lot was almost full and there was a line to use the restroom. When we left an hour later a line of cars had backed up looking for a place to park. Imagine what it must be like in July.

Once in the parking lot we noted the elevation to be 7145 feet and the temperature 47 degrees. The Yosemite Valley floor is approximately 4000 feet so the elevation of Glacier Point above the valley is over 3000 feet. Here is a composite photo showing what the valley looked like below

Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

The water fall to the left is Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, dropping 2425 feet down into the valley.

Yosemite Falls

A prominent feature that makes up part of the wall around the valley is referred to as Half Dome. The large rock in the right hand side of the valley photo protruding up above the skyline is Half Dome and measures 8842 feet above sea level.

Half Dome

To the right of Half Dome is Nevada Falls dropping 597 feet.
Nevada Falls

Once we felt like we had spent enough time at Glacier Point we headed back down to the tunnel and entered the valley. The crowds were intense but we did manage to find a few places to park and take photos.
The tunnel entering the valley

Me at the tunnel view parking lot with Bridalviel Falls in the background

A close up of Bridalviel Falls

Yosemite Falls viewed from the valley

The Yosemite Valley is 7.5 miles long and the road winds around to various attractions. We pulled off at one location and took the following photo of two large Sequoias.

Parked between two Sequoias

Near the end of the valley was a place to buy food and we drove around a large parking lot desperately looking for a place to park but finally admitted defeat and continued around the loop road. We ended up fasting until we got back to Oakhurst.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Yosemite here we come

Yesterday morning we left one of the nicest campgrounds we have stayed in and continued our journey west on I-80. The campground in Sparks, NV did not have grass and all the campsites were finished with artificial grass. The campground maintenance staff were continually at work with tasks such as trimming foliage and collecting garbage.

Our campsite at Sparks Marina RV Park 

Notice the artificial grass

 Leaving the campground we climbed up the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the rest area at Donner Summit and took a short break. The altimeter on our GPS read 7219 feet.

Altitude at the rest area at Donner Summit

Nearing the rest area we notice the clouds seem to be on the same level as the highway.

We are in the clouds

You know the old saying that what goes up must come down and after leaving the rest area there was a sign warning us that the road will be in steep decent for the next 40 miles. Now that may not be of concern to your average motorist but when you are the jockey of a combined weight of 37,000 pounds you take notice. If you don't want to burn up your brakes and be capable of stopping or slowing when necessary, you must keep your speed reduced. What is frightening is descending a one mile grade of over 6% and seeing a sharp curve up ahead. You lean quickly to keep your speed down and use lower gears. We decided to fall in behind a Walmart truck that practiced safe driving. Many semis passed us but we were in no hurry.

Our Walmart guide

After reaching Sacramento we made a turn due south on California 99. We saw a sign giving the elevation of Sacramento at 30 feet. A little math reveals that we descended 7300 feet from the summit at Donner Pass. The drive down 99 was near depressing as the majority of the scenery was industrial and the traffic intense at times. We eventually reached the exit to our final destination of Oakhurst, CA. This turned us back due east in the direction of the Sierra Nevada's and we could see the mountains up ahead.

Mountains ahead

This morning when we awoke the temperature at our campsite was 41 and the furnaces went back on in the motorhome. We have not experienced any hot weather since we left Mesquite, NV on May 8th. Our current location is 16 miles from the entrance of Yosemite National Park and we plan to spend most of the day there. The weather is forecast to be good today with sunshine and the high in Yosemite Valley around 62.  Coats will definitely be with us. Since it is Thursday and school is not out yet for the summer we are hoping for moderate crowds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

National Automobile Museum in Reno

Bill Harrah, the founder of Harrah’s Hotels and Casinos, was an avid car collector and had an extensive collection.  The following is a quote from Wikipedia:

“Harrah had an extensive collection of cars. Many of his cars enjoyed 'best' or 'one-of-a kind' status.  After his death Holiday Inn acquired Harrah's of which the car collection was part of. The bulk of the collection were sold at several auctions between 1984-1986 for more than $100 million. An outcry by the people of Reno and Sparks led to Holiday Inn donating 175 vehicles to establish the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, a collection also referred to as The Harrah Collection. Some cars were also donated to form the Imperial Palace Auto Collection in Las Vegas.”

We visited the National Automobile Museum yesterday and were impressed. The museum is considered one of the top five automobile museums in the US and has automobiles dating back to 1892. One thing that struck us was the profusion of early automobile startups. There were many cars on display that we had never heard of because they either met an early demise or were absorbed by another brand. It seems some things never change and anytime a new technology emerges many hopeful entrepreneurs want to get in on the action.

Another bit of trivia we learned was that early automobiles produced in the US had their steering wheels located on the curbside of the vehicle. This was a carryover from the horse and buggy days when the driver preferred to sit on the curbside to judge his distance for the road edge. When Henry Ford started producing the Model-T he relocated the steering wheel to the roadside so the driver could judge his distance from oncoming vehicles and allow passengers to safely exit the vehicles on the curb. Eventually other US manufactures followed his lead. In the following three photos notice the location of the steering wheel.

1910 Oldsmobile

1913 Pierce-Arrow

1913 Cadillac

The next photo is an early Ford Model-T. Notice the steering wheel location. Henry Ford did not invent mass-production manufacturing techniques but with the development of the Model-T in 1908 he produced a reliable, inexpensive automobile that truly mobilized America. From 1908 to 1927, more than 15,000,000 Model-T Fords were built and sold worldwide. Notice the Ford in the photo below is red. For the first few years the Model-T was available in many colors.

1909 Ford Model-T

My Dad owned a 1923 Ford Model-T that he purchased for $100 in 1955. The reason for purchase was because the county we lived in was celebrating their centennial anniversary and everyone was required to dress and live in the past on the weekends. The family rode around in that old Ford for weeks. Dad kept that Model-T for many years and refused many offers to purchase it. Finally in 1974 he traded it even for a brand new 1974 Chevrolet to the gentleman who owned the dealership.

My Dad and his old Model-T in 1955

In the museum many of the cars were displayed in a period setting including a few streets. One street was for the 1930's and included a Palace Theater with "Gone With The Wind" on the marque.

1930's street setting

Pam's favorite vehicle was a shinny 1936 Mercedes-Benz.

1936 Mercedes-Benz

We were not aware that in 1917 Chevrolet made an early attempt to produce a V8 with overhead valves. The engine size was 286 cubic inches and only produced 36 HP. The company abandoned the project in 1919 and concentrated on 4 and 6 cylinder engines until 1955 when they reintroduced the V8 with overhead valves. As Paul Harvey wound say, "the rest is history" and that design became the foundation for all modern gasoline internal combustion engines.

1917 Chevrolet with overhead valve V8 engine

Close up of the engine

 The rich were attracted to large powerful automobiles and the manufactures were constantly introducing new models to meet their wishes. Here is a 1927 Lincoln with a 357 cubic inch V8 that produces 90 HP. 

One of a kind 1927 Lincoln

The engine and transmission in the 1927 Lincoln

Here is another example of a powerful vehicle produced for the wealthy. This one is a 1948 Lincoln Continental with a 125 HP V-12 engine with only 292 cubic inches. Seems engine design was improving but they were still a long way from one horsepower per cubic inch.

1948 Lincoln Continental

V-12 engine in the 1948 Lincoln

Speaking of one horsepower per cubic inch, some of you may remember this early muscle car, I certainly do. It had a 425 cubic inch Hemi that produced 425 HP. These early muscle cars were death traps because they had tremendous power but poor handling and safety.

1966 Plymouth with 425 Hemi

Under the hood of the 66 Plymouth

While we are on the subject of powerful vehicles here are two that Bill Harrah had custom built for his personnel use. First is a 1956 Lincoln Mark II that he purchased new in 1956 and then later installed a 1958 Chrysler Hemi that produced 400 HP.

1956 Lincoln Mark II with 1958 Hemi engine

Bill liked to drive from Reno to Lake Tahoe in the winter and had a 1977 Jeep Wagoneer modified in his restoration shop to include a 12 cylinder, dual overhead cam Ferrari engine that produced 365 HP. He named the car Jerrari due to its hybrid nature. Notice the two radiators and not in view is a helicopter engine oil cooler. The headlamps are equipped with wipers and washers to remove snow and ice and located under the bumper are ice alerts. In fare weather this vehicle's top speed was 140 MPH.

1977 Jerrari

Under the hood

    Gotta go now. Time to break camp and head for Yosemite.