find a penny pick it up

July 30th

And all trip long you’ll have good luck!  We sure have been.  Flying by the seat of your pants hasn’t been as nerve-racking as I thought.  Many times we wake up not knowing where we will be sleeping that night, but we always manage to make do.  If you had told me a few years ago that I would be living like this for weeks at a time I wouldn’t have believed you.  I’ve always been a planner.  Challenging ourselves and doing the opposite is a big part of why I wanted to go on this trip.

Camille enjoys a nap in her very own bed at the Best Western Hi-Desert Inn

But back to the penny.  The universe has been sending us pennies lately.  At the last 3 or 4 camps, I’ve found a penny near the picnic table.  The first 2 were from the year 2000, one was from 1980, and this last one, which I found in the Best Western parking lot in Tonopah, was from 2003.  I took note of the years thinking they might mean something, but these years seem pretty random.

The sun sets on Tonopah, NV

Tonopah is a funny little town with gorgeous sunsets.  We checked into our hotel at about 11:30am, so we had the entire day to relax.  Friday night we ventured out to find some dinner.  Tonopah doesn’t offer much.  McDonald’s, Subway, a Mexican place which we went to for lunch, and not much else.  We decided to go to the local grocery and pick up a few things and just rough it for dinner.  In our tour about town we got to see some crazy things, among which were the Clown Motel and the Donkey Dollar Store.  I knew you wouldn’t believe me, so I took pictures.

The Clown Motel in Tonopah. For reals.

That’s right, you heard me correctly.  The. Clown. Motel.  Is it run entirely by clowns, or is it that only clowns can stay here?  Eric so hoped that the person working the front desk was forced to dress as a clown.  I guess we should have stayed there.  After all, we are the traveling circus, right?!  We joked that they give you a balloon animal upon checking in.  The possibilities are freakin’ endless.  Let your imagination go wild!

Donkey Dollar Store in Tonopah

And the Donkey Dollar Store?  Selling donkeys for a dollar? Ok, I get it… It’s a mining town.  The donkey was probably used back in the day for stuff.  But the Donkey Dollar Store?  Eric said he wanted to open a place called just The Donkey Store.  I asked him what he would sell at The Donkey Store.  He said “stuff.”  In fact the tag line for the store is “We sell stuff.”

And that, my friends, concludes our tour of Tonopah, Nevada.

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june lake camp, CA

July 29th & 30th

After setting up camp, we went to the beach.  It was a small little lake near camp where we could take the dogs and Eric could go for a swim.  The water was a little too chilly for me.  It was a gorgeous place, and we sat for awhile and watched the kite surfers.

Eric and Elsie enjoy a swim at the beach near June Lake

After the beach, we went back to camp to make dinner.  As soon as we got out of the car, we were ambushed by mosquitoes!  We were only out of the car for a few seconds before we decided we would go somewhere else to cook dinner.  In those few seconds, I got about a dozen bites.  And these aren’t mosquitoes like they have in Florida.  These are the B-52 bombers of the mosquito world.  I would compare them to dragon flies.  We drove around for a bit and found a pull off that looked suitable.  We cooked some squash that we picked up at a local produce stand and heated up some chili.  We were famished by this time.  While we ate, we saw a family of deer slowly walk by on the hill next to where we pulled off.  It didn’t last long, though, the girls made sure of that.

Our beach babies!

After dinner we went back to camp and turned in.  It was so dark at night that you get an amazing view of the starry sky.  When we woke up the next morning, the tent was covered with the B-52 mosquitoes.  I still can’t get over how huge these things were.  We were happy to get out of there.

Sunset in the wild west!

This morning we packed up and headed towards Tonopah, NV and check in to the Best Western.  Tonopah is a small town, population less than 3,000.  It’s an old mining town established in about 1900.  It looks like what you would expect an old western town to look like, complete with town saloon.  It’s also been rated the #1 stargazing destination in America by USA Today.  Perhaps we will do some stargazing this evening.

Moonrise at June Lake camp

Right now we are in Nevada, our bellies are full of Mexican food, and we are relaxing in our room while the dogs nap.  Tomorrow we will probably bed down at a state park on our way to Zion National Park.

Now that's what I call the nosebleed section!

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July 28th, 29th

We didn’t quite make it to Yosemite in one day from San Francisco.  We decided to splurge and stay at the Best Western in Angels Camp, about 70 miles from the park.  I love Best Western!  Definitely the nicest hotels we have stayed in on this trip.

Half Dome at Yosemite

We left the next morning, headed for Yosemite.  It took us a little longer than we anticipated, and by the time we got there all the first come/first serve campgrounds were full.  So we just drove through and decided to find a camp just outside the park.

Breathtaking Yosemite

Yosemite is not nearly as big as Yellowstone, and we didn’t see any wildlife there other than a few deer.  But, it is breathtaking scenery.  There is even less to do if you have dogs than in Yellowstone, as most of the geographical wonders are only accessible by hiking trails, where dogs are not allowed.

Mountain Stream at Yosemite

However, all was not lost.  We enjoyed our driving tour and took some amazing photographs!  I can see why this is a destination for many.  This part of the country is so different than anything I have ever seen, it’s amazing that to me that there is so much variety in one country.

The lakes at Yosemite are crystal clear!

It took us a couple of hours to drive through the park.  We then set out to find our next camp.  It was late afternoon, so it was no surprise that the first few we checked just outside Yosemite were full.  We finally found one near June Lake in Inyo National Forest.  “Inyo” is a Native American word meaning “dwelling place of the great spirit.”  We can see why.  There is amazing scenery here, and in the middle of nowhere.

More amazing scenery on our way to June Lake camp

Tomorrow we head to Tonopah, NV to stay at another Best Western.  Not because we are spoiling ourselves (well, that too!) but because we have to split up the drive to Zion National Park and because we will be in the middle of nowhere.  No campgrounds around, really.  Suits me just fine!

View from our campsite at June Lake

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redwoods and sea lions and turkey, oh my!

July 27th & 28th

The drive through northern California is nice.  Lots of Redwood around.  These trees are gorgeous when they are allowed to mature.

View of San Francisco Bay on the drive up Mount Tam

Next camp was at Mount Tamalpais State Park, about 30 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge.  We had to drive up a mountain to get there which is never fun.  Think winding roads, hairpin turns, and a carful of camping equipment and dogs.  We got there early afternoon, set up and made lunch.  Then we went into the city to Fisherman’s Wharf.  We all were having sensory overload.  The place was packed with people.  But we got great pics of Alcatraz and the sea lions.  We had our fill of the action then went back to camp and made dinner in the freezing wind.

For my safety? What could possibly happen if I climbed the "Big Noodle?"

Next morning we packed up early (Eric met up with a turkey while brushing his teeth!) and went back into the city to meet up with Eric’s friend for breakfast.  We went to this Creperie and the crepe I had (the Milano) was freakin’ amazing!  Then we went to the dog park for a bit before getting back on the road.  San Francisco is cool, but big and very spread out.  It’s also hard to navigate your way around if you’re not familiar.

Alcatraz as seen from Fisherman's Wharf

We headed towards San Jose to take a picture of the house Eric and his family lived in when he was little before moving to Florida.  Just part of the Conrad History.

House on Skylark Drive in San Jose, CA

We are now headed east towards Yosemite Park.  Adventure awaits!

Seals at Fisherman's Wharf

Bye Bye San Francisco!

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eureka! get me outta here…

Coastal Northern California is foggy and windy and cold.  Not really the best weather when you are tent camping.  We stayed at a Quality Inn in Eureka, CA.  And I use the word “quality” here loosely.  They were knocking on our door and calling the room at 11:58 (check out time is at noon) asking if we were leaving soon.  Ok ok we’re leaving!  The apple that we took from the breakfast room was rotten.  It wasn’t the most efficient use of a hotel stay.  I also imagine they call it Eureka because when people realize where they are they say, “Eureka, I’ve got to get the hell out of this town!”  Not much going on there.

We continued south towards San Francisco and stayed at a campground we found at near Fort Bragg.  It was off the main road and we had to take a gravel road to get there.  Once we got there Eric checked in with the campground host, whom he described as a “tatted up bum who was probably on drugs.”  We picked out our site and set up camp.  When we walked around collecting firewood, we noticed at the campsite across from us there was a half-eaten chocolate cake and a cardboard sign that read “out of gas.”  No tent, no camper, just a tarp and some pillows.  This raised an eyebrow.  We even considered leaving, but we had set up and decided to stick it out for the night and leave first thing in the morning.  We made dinner and turned in.

Not long after that a camper full of rowdy folks pulled into the chocolate cake campsite and were up for a few hours being loud.  But, it’s all part of the adventure, right?

Next stop… San Francisco (with pictures this time)!

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so let’s recap.

If you are just joining us, please make sure you start from the beginning and check out all the states we have visited.  I just added a menu on the banner so you can read about all the amazing places we’ve been.  Here’s the list…

Tennessee, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and now California.


Now for some random photos that haven’t made it to the blog so far… Enjoy.

Camille in Lander, WyomingCrackhead enjoys the view of Mt. Adams in Washington

We took this picture to show my father-in-law, Dennis. Seattle, WA

The dogs wait patiently while we set up camp in Montana

Eric, the dogs, and the Space Needle in Seattle

Mount Ranier, the highest elevation in Washington

Tipi at Mt. Adams, WA

Rainbow in Yellowstone

Elsie enjoys Mt. Adams, WA

Camp at Mt. Adams. How's that for secluded?

Crackhead enjoys Mt. Adams

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gratitude, part two

Watching the sun go down at Paradise Point

This trip has definitely given us a new appreciation for the little things.  Showers, clean clothes, Internet, sleeping in your own bed.  I also miss being able to cook in my own kitchen.  Camp food just doesn’t cut it all the time, but we do treat ourselves once in awhile to take out.

Although there are many things I miss about the conventional life we left behind, I am also swelling with gratitude for the opportunity to take this trip.  Most people live their entire lives and don’t get to see what we have seen.  Sometimes I have to stop myself when I am wishing I could just have a shower, and realize where I am and what we are doing.  It’s the trip of a lifetime.  I know many people don’t understand what we are doing, and we didn’t even know how things would go when we left Blairsville.  We still don’t know how this story will end.  But I do know I will never regret leaving our old life for the road.

Eric at Paradise Point

Right now I am watching the sun set off the Oregon coast.  Eric is walking along the beach enjoying this time of day.   The dogs lay sleeping in the back seat.  It’s a peaceful time.  I can feel the awesomeness of nature as the sun slowly sinks into the Pacific Ocean.  There is no place I would rather be.

Paradise Point sunset

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