Thursday, June 30, 2016

IDAHO --- friends, Boise, friends, McCall, friends

Northern Idaho Spring Canola field in the Palouse 
Roger here...  The trip continues.  We left Lake Tahoe to embark on a long, two-day, nondescript (very nondescript) drive through northwest Nevada.  Our destination was Boise, Idaho where our friends Greg and Barb were waiting for us.  

Before traveling in an RV, Barb and Greg worked and raised a family in Boise.  When we arrived, they were house-sitting for long-time friends.  The house was amazing.  It backed up to a public hiking trail on the Boise River.  After a round (or two) of mango mojitos, we took the dogs on a pre-dinner walk along the river.  During the walk we also walked by one of their former homes (beautiful arts and crafts house near a lake).  Barb prepared a delicious meal (flank steak, corn on the cob) --- so good.  The food was delicious.  

The next morning Greg and Barb picked us up at our RV park (Boise Riverside RV Park) and took us on a motor tour of Boise. We got to see the home where they raised their two sons.  We stopped by the Old Pen for a guided tour.  The prison is one of only four U.S. territorial prisons still standing.  It was built in 1870 and remained in use for more than a century, until it closed in 1973.  

Our tour guide, Skye, took us into all the buildings and did an excellent job explaining the history of the place, as well as what day-to-day life was like for the prisoners.  The picture to the right shows an example of how the prisoners were allowed to decorate their cells.

The cell blocks were depressing, even the newer ones as this one was.

In early times, the executions took place outdoors in the rose garden on gallows built for each occasion.

The "modern" gallows was gut-wrenching, especially when Skye stepped on the trap door to illustrate.  We were cautioned to not touch the lever or she would have been catapulted to the floor below.  All executions during the time the Old Pen was in use (1870 to 1973) were by hanging.

Inmates burned the prison buildings inside the wall on two occasions.  Just this week (two weeks later) a wildfire is burning on a nearby hill.

OK, back to more pleasant things.  The views of Boise were impressive.  The downtown area is growing by leaps and bounds.  We had a great lunch at The Ram located near the impressive Boise State University football stadium.  Alas, the blue turf was not visible.

The Boise Train Depot rests at the top of a hill on the edge of the city.  It is a local landmark.  

The view of Boise from the front of the building may be the best in the city --- especially with these people in the foreground.

The following morning we met Barb and Greg in their driveway.  They had secured four bicycles.  We were in for a treat riding several miles along the extremely impressive Boise Greenbelt.  Much of the 25-mile Greenbelt is along the banks of the Boise River, but it also extends past Boise State and into the center of the city.  Dianne had some wobbly moments on a bike that was taller than she was used to, but she soon gained her pedaling balance.  

One of the most impressive stops along the Greenbelt was at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.  Powerful quotes from human rights advocates throughout history were carved into huge stone tablets among a series of waterfalls and fountains.  It was one of those places that grabs your mind and brings out strong emotions.  A really moving tribute.

Bicycle Stop at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial

A short distance past the monument, we locked our bikes onto a bike stand so that we could wander through the Saturday Market in the middle of the city.  The picture below does not begin to demonstrate the scope of this huge market.  It went on for several blocks (in front of the State Capitol).  Different musicians performed on every block (choir, guitarist, opera singer, fiddler, etc.) 

Boise Saturday Market

After wandering through the length of the market, and buying some interesting jalapeƱo wine lemonade (better than you think), we had a glass of wine and some lunch overlooking the activity below.

That evening we met Barb and Greg downtown for a special dinner at Alavita that their son manages.  Their successful and personable son has certainly done his parents proud.  It was great to meet him.  (The food was awesome -- I had lobster and fontina stuffed black ravioli.   The chocolate tartlet for dessert was to die for!  -- Dianne)

Dianne kept returning to sample the Italian and French wines.
Before dinner we stopped at a unique and interesting wine bar, Bodovino. Upon entering the establishment, we bought a card with a specific amount of money that could be used to purchase samples of more than 110 bottles of wine.  We simply entered the card, selected the wine and the amount (1 ounce, 3 ounce, or 5 ounce), and pressed a button.  Fun!  There were wines from all over the world in all price ranges.   A 1 ounce taste of the most expensive bottles could run $20, but most were in the $1 - $2 range per 1 ounce taste.

Serendipity strikes!  When we returned to our RV Park that evening, we were forced to negotiate a little more traffic than normal.  Our campground was adjacent to the Expo Idaho Fairgrounds that was hosting a day-long outdoor music festival.  The music was loud enough that it seemed we were in the audience.  As we walked the dogs, Daughtry (one of Dianne's favorite performers --- mine too) was singing a stirring rendition of Prince's Purple Rain to end his live show.  

After two wonderful days of play, we needed some time to take care of life's issues.  Trips to Costco, an auto parts store, a laundromat, and a hardware store dominated the next day.  Time to move on!

A trip to the resort town of McCall (for two nights) was in the cards.  After some initial trepidation about driving the motor home through two-lane roads through the Idaho mountains, we booked a site at the McCall RV Resort.  We were thrilled to learn that Greg and Barb booked a cabin  at the same park.  Greg had never ridden in a motor home.  Dianne and I both felt that we should not pull the car behind the motor home through the steep grades.  So, Greg rode with me in the motor home.  Dianne and Barb drove separately.  Greg was a great passenger.  He did not criticize my driving nearly as much as my regular passenger. :-)  The two-and-one-half hour drive turned out to be a piece of cake.  Greg took a wonderful picture of the Payette River along the way.

The McCall RV Resort is among the top three of all RV resorts where we have stayed over the past 7 1/2 years.  We had a pull-in, full hook-up site, with a view of a horse shoe in the Payette River.  The pictures below were all taken from our site (78):

View from our patio

View through our front windshield

Before dinner, Barb and Greg took us into McCall for ice cream and a walk around the town.  Get a load of the marina on the lake:

I grilled steaks for dinner.  Before dinner we enjoyed some wine in the shade of a pine tree at our campsite.

The next morning we joined our friends for a huge breakfast at the McCall Pancake House (some of the biggest pancakes I have ever seen).  We then went back to our campsite to allow time for food digestion.

We returned to the McCall waterfront to split an order of nachos for lunch.  The view was spectacular.

We then took a tour of McCall (Barb lived here as a child) and the surrounding area.  This entire area is a wonderland.  No wonder the people of Boise drive up here for weekends.  Barb and Greg (and Izzy, of course) came to our site for another happy hour overlooking the river.  After that, we walked the dogs up to Barb and Greg's cabin where Barb fixed dinner.  We certainly had a wonderful time with our good friends.

The next morning, Barb and Greg returned to Boise, while we took the motor home along another stretch of two-lane mountain roads.  There were three steep stretches along the way, so Dianne and I drove separately.  Again, the beautiful drive was uneventful --- other than the time we stopped because of a strange whooshing noise in the car that turned out to be the radio.  Traveling can be so interesting.  

Our one-night stop was at Hell's Gate State Park, just south of Lewiston, Idaho.  It was a peaceful overnight stop along the Snake River.

The blue spot in the center is the Snake River

We are now at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  Today's drive was also on two lanes with no issues.  It was also especially beautiful.  Most of the drive was in the rolling landscape of the "Palouse".  

Anybody remember the Teletubbies?

The pet picture of the day is of Greg and Barb's dog, Izzy (with Tequila in the background).  What a beautiful, calm, gentle, and loving soul.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Last Day at Lake Tahoe ---Thunderbird Historic Lodge

Private Beach at the Thunderbird Lodge --- North Lake Tahoe

Roger here...  You may remember that I mentioned a tour to get away from the crowds on Father's Day, that was closed.  On our last day at Lake Tahoe we were able to reserve spaces on that tour. So-o-o, we left treats for the dogs and drove along the east (Nevada) side of the lake to Incline Village, Nevada to join the tour.

The state park at Sand Harbor that we had hoped to see along the way was full.  By this time we have gotten used to that.  However, we were able to get a parking spot at a scenic "vista" along the road.  An interesting walk through the huge boulders graced us with, ho hum, even more spectacular views:
Can you spot the paddle boarder?

After waiting for a few minutes on another couple who were taking pictures, I was able to get this photo of Dianne standing before a beautiful setting.  Which looks better --- Dianne or the setting?  Weigh your answer carefully :-).


Our destination was a visit to the "Castle in the Sky".  There is an interesting story behind this tour that made the purchase price worthwhile (even though the yacht was not there).  Quoting from the brochure:  Peek into the lifestyle of the rich and famous... water falls, winding pathways, a card house with poker stories, and secret tunnels...   

 In the 1930s George C. Whittell from San Francisco inherited a fortune from his parents and purchased a gigantic tract of land (27 miles of shoreline and 40,000 acres) along the Nevada shores of Lake Tahoe.  He was a very private kind of guy who never intended for anyone other than himself to enjoy the spectacular estate that he had built.  However, the net result was that upon his death, most of the Nevada shoreline of the lake remains undeveloped so that everyone today can enjoy it.

He built an estate for himself and his wife.  He did not build a huge mansion, but he did build an amazing space for two.  There were no guest bedrooms.  No spaces for Gatsby-style parties. However, the lodge was carefully (and expensively) constructed within a natural setting for his exclusive enjoyment.  

Dianne and I were transported to the lodge by motor coach and were greeted by a member of the preservation society.  We were ushered into a modern structure that did not match the 1930s setting of the lodge.  The view through the expansive windows, however, shows why George selected this particular setting for his hide-a-way. After exiting the modern structure we entered the world of 1935.

The tour did not allow us to see the outside of the lodge, except for glimpses from the bus, until the tail-end of the tour, but I thought you might like to see the interesting architecture:

The Front Entrance 

The Back of the House --- Facing Lake Tahoe

The preservation society has spent quite a bit of money restoring the lodge to its 1930s appearance.  A later owner had actually white-washed the knotty pine interior.  Must have been a lot of effort to remove all that white paint.  George Whittell had an interest in all the latest gadgets, including movie cameras.

The living quarters of the lodge basically consisted of a main room with two fireplaces and a bar, and two bedrooms at opposite ends of a second-story balcony.   The entire interior was knotty pine.

The Patio View from the Living Quarters

Only George and his wife (and according to our docent, possibly his personal assistant, hmm?) lived in the living quarters.  We toured the servants' quarters below the main floor that included two bedrooms, a kitchen, a laundry room, and an entrance to the tunnel.  The tunnel was two football fields in length.  Rooms off the tunnel included an opium den (I am not kidding) with a fireplace complete with a fire screen adorned with metal devil profiles, different than the woodland creature metal profiles that adorned all other screens and outdoor stone work. 

  Another space in the tunnel contained one of the very first (very large) air conditioners made by Carrier.  It still actually works!   

Another room contained a secret spiral staircase (to be explained later), the first boat house (which became an unfinished swimming pool),  and the dungeon.   (According to our docent, drunken card players would awake to find themselves on a cot in the dungeon.)   The tunnel eventually opened to the boathouse.  Dianne took a picture as we passed through this exceptionally interesting stone tunnel, but crap,  the lighting was not so good and the photo was too blurry to be usable.

The huge boat house was impressive, but the advertised yacht was not there.  It has been off premises in a warehouse since last August for repairs, yet it is still advertised as a part of the tour.  Dianne did get a good photo of this vintage life boat that was hanging in the boat house:

The photo below is a model of the actual yacht that the preservation society hopes to have back in the water in the near future.  I must say that I was disappointed that we were not able to see it, especially after all the advertising that it would be a part of the tour.  It has not been available to see since last summer.   I do not care for false advertising.

OK, end of rant.  For me, the best part of the tour (worth the price of admission) was still to come.  When we exited the boat house, the walk back to the lodge house represented some of the best landscape architecture I have ever seen --- maybe the best.  Architecture and landscape architecture in particular are among my loves.  In the photo below, the building in the center of the picture is the boat house (the dragon).  Look carefully and you can see the teeth and the eye of the dragon.  The pathway was called the tail of the dragon.

Half-way back to the lodge we entered the card house.  It was a matching rectangular stone structure with steep roof and fire places at each end.  Apparently, George did not enjoy guests and never invited them into the main lodge, but he did enjoy playing cards.  Selected individuals were invited to play cards and drink in the separate card house.  The photo below shows this simple room.  The feature that is not shown is the spiral staircase at the back of the adjoining toilet room shower that George took to escape back to the tunnel below when things were not going his way.

The best part of the tour is not over.  Exiting the card house we see the main lodge and all of the stonework (done mostly by Native American artisans).  The yellow chairs in the bottom left section of the photo sit in a remarkable private beach (shown in the opening picture of this post)...

... with fountains, huge natural boulders, and water tunnels from the lake.  Wow.

The last, best part of the tour, shows the extensive fountains and waterfalls that grace the formal entrance to the house.  

The bus that transported us back to the 1930s picked us up after a mandated walk through the gift shop (I already have enough t-shirts for the rest of my life, so no-sale). 

 On the way back to the motor home we thought that a late (very late) lunch stop at Brooks Bar and Deck at the Edgewood Golf Course (recommended by Anne at the Visitors' Center) would be a good way to end the outing.  Anne was right again.  Such good food.   Such a beautiful setting.

Stairs to Dining Patio

View from dining patio of the beautiful golf course right on Lake Tahoe

My brother, Dick, would have been so jealous.  Golf Digest rated this as one of the top 11 golf pubs in the world.  It was pretty, pretty, pretty nice.  My salmon fish and chips were so-o-o good.  So was my new favorite drink (mango mojito) thanks to Barb and Greg.

The photo below, taken from the golf course parking lot, encapsulates our time at Lake Tahoe.

We are in Winnemucca, Nevada at an overnight stop right now at a perfect park for overnight stops, New Frontier RV Park.  Tomorrow --- on to Boise!  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lake Tahoe --- Rubicon Trail and Kiva Beach for the Dogs

Bandido Running out of Lake Tahoe with his Tennis Ball

Roger here....   The morning after our last post we had intended to go on an organized tour in a less crowded part of the lake.  It was Sunday.  It was Father's Day  The tours were closed.  Plan B.

Traffic Jam Near Vikingsholm Trail Head

Hiking along the shoreline on the Rubicon Trail was on our must-do list.  We wanted to do this hike on a weekday when parking would be easier and the trail would be less crowded.  Oh well, with the cancellation of our earlier plan, if we intended to do it at all,  Father's Day had to be the day.  By the time (9:00 a.m.) we got to the trailhead at Vikingsholm (another attraction) the parking lots were filled (and closed).  Visitors, such as ourselves, were parking on the sides of state highway 89 and walking a mile or two to the trail head.  I don't think so.  

We drove another five miles, paid $9, and parked at the opposite end of the trail head located in D.L. Bliss State Park.  There were no hassles at the far end of the hike.  It was worth the $9. The first part of the trail followed a gentle path through a forest of Jeffrey Pines.  We walked about half of a mile, when Dianne turned on her Map My Walk app to keep track of distance.  Before long, Lake Tahoe and the mountains on the far side of the lake became visible through the pine trees.

As we approached the lake, we found ourselves high above the shoreline amidst scattered boulders.  The elevation change was not too great, but there was quite a bit of up and down.

The end of the trail was 3.6 miles from the trail head for a total of 7.2 miles.  The historic Vikingsholm Mansion and a gigantic waterfall graced the end of the trail, but our goal was not to do the entire hike.  Our intention was to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery around every curve, then turn back after two miles, or so.

Yes indeed, the scenery around every curve.  We rested occasionally so that we could push on to see what was around the next curve.

Golly gee!  I am glad we did not turn back before we saw this.  I wonder what's around the corner.

It would have been a shame to not have seen this.  Do you think that might be Emerald Cove on the other side of that curve?

I am pretty sure that Emerald Cove is just on the other side of that point.  Let's walk that far and then turn back.

Dianne says, "It seems a shame to walk this far and not see Emerald Bay and the small island in the middle of the bay.  Roger says, "We have been walking for quite a while, are you sure you want to continue?"  Dianne says, "Let's see if the bay is around the corner?

The trail eventually left the lake and crossed a peninsula.  I asked a couple of oncoming hikers if Emerald Bay was ahead, which they confirmed.  The remoteness of the trek ended as the trail descended to the rocky beaches of Emerald Bay.  Pleasure boats, swimmers, and young people laying on beaches and the boulders replaced the isolation.

Dianne said, "I still want to see the small island."  I said, "Are you sure you want to walk further?  It is up to you."  Dianne said, "We walked all this way.  I want to see the island."  Another mile later, we saw the island.

"The Island"  Look carefully and you'll see the remains of a stone tea house on top.

We also saw a sign that indicated we had walked 3.6 miles.  Dianne said, "I am not going to walk six miles."  I said, "You are going to have to walk 7.2 miles to if you want to get back to the car."  Dianne said, "I just want to use one of those restrooms over there, then I want to be back."

I am not going to talk you through the return trip. Suffice it to say, that the second 3.6 miles were not as fun as the first 3.6 miles.  There was quite a bit of, "I just want to be back."

The stream crossing, steps, and others like them, in the photo below were a little more challenging on the return trip.

After we crawled back to the car, Dianne turned on her Map My Walk app that showed the path of our hike.  Were we tired and hungry?  Definitely.  Are we glad we did it?  Without a doubt.

The green dot shows where I remembered to turn on the app.  The hike was out and back and beyond the green dot back to our car. -- D.
Some ice cream from that interesting-looking ice cream parlor on the way back would have hit the spot.  However, there were no places to park, and we could not have dealt with the line of people waiting to get in anyway.


It is interesting how different areas of the country are either dog-friendly or dog-unfriendly.  Oregon is dog-friendly.  Florida is not.  Lake Tahoe is a little bit of both.  We could not take our dogs on the Rubicon Trail yesterday (they would have loved it*) because neither the state park trailhead, nor the Vikingsholm trailhead allowed dogs. 

(*They would have loved the first four miles of it; the last three miles I guarantee Tequila would have been laying down.   I wanted to lay down! -- D.)

 In fact, there were lots and lots of signs warning visitors to NOT EVEN THINK about bringing a dog into those areas.  Just down the road, Kiva Beach and the Tallac Historical Center welcomed dogs with open arms.  Today we arrived, dogs in tow, around 9:00 a.m. and pretty much had the beach to ourselves.

We enjoyed a quiet walk up and down the lengthy beach.  Of course, we brought a tennis ball.  Bandido had a blast plunging into the lake and swimming out to retrieve it.  It is a shame that we don't have a nearby lake for this boy in Texas.

After a while, we walked off the beach into the extremely well-maintained historic area.  Tallac was a very large resort and casino built by a wealthy entrepreneur from San Francisco.  The resort buildings no longer exist, but the resort attracted other wealthy Californians.  Two of them built expansive homes and gardens next to the resort, which are immaculately maintained today.  Visitors are encouraged to stroll the paths through the grounds, and dog "poop bag" stations are situated throughout the property.   

The lawn of the Vallhalla Mansion serves as a local site for concerts and art fairs.  A community theatre operates productions from a renovated boat house on the lake.

This interesting cabin on the water was a guest house on the Pope estate.  
We walked through the Pope estate gardens, and....
Imagined spending the night on this screened second-story sleeping porch.

The lake filled with pleasure boats was never far from the estates.

After a couple of quiet hours with the dogs in this idyllic setting, we decided to take them back to the motor home, while we returned to The Beacon Bar and Grill for lunch.

The food and setting were just as nice the second time.  There was one difference.  The temperature was in the upper 70s, and the beach was full of people enjoying the day.

My hat was not pink!  I was sitting under a red umbrella!
Guess what?  On the way back to the motor home, I found a parking place near the interesting-looking ice-cream parlor. Yay!  We both had cups of mocha almond fudge.

We have one more day at Lake Tahoe before continuing our northward travels.  The pet picture of the day is another shot of Bandido retrieving his tennis ball from the lake.

The water is freezing cold, but I don't care!