Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the road again in California

Sue and I finally got back on the road for a few months. We left Santa Cruz RV Ranch in Scotts Valley on Feb 26 and headed south stopping in San Miguel, Ca. We set up at the FamCamp at Camp Roberts California Army National Guard facility along route 101. This facility established in 1940-41 and has a very proud and colorful history serving the US Army during World War II, Korea and today it is still serving proudly as a training facility for multi branches of the services.

This area is well known for its history and scenery and wine. We are on the border of Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County.

Camp Roberts in the first couple of years it had trained serveral hundred thousand troops. Some of them who trained here were very well known. People like Red Skelton, Robert Mitchum, William Holden, Robert Blake in later years, Toni Dow (Leave It to Beaver fans). We visited the Camp Robert Museum and there is a wall of fame of those who trained here as well as those who entertained our troops when they needed moral building. Again those like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour. For those of us that had military experience there was a display along with the diagram of how wall and foot lockers had to be displayed for inspections. There was a display honoring Casper Weinberger former Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan as he was one of those who trained here. The base has 140,000 + acres of real estate. This facility has been great for us. We don't need all of the extras like pools, suanas, cruise director. Just a friendly post that supports our troops and visitors.

We were located about 3 miles from San Miguel a small town about 1400 population with an old Spanish Mission established in 1797. We visited and walked the San Miguel Mission grounds the church, museum and cemetery that is the resting place for some 2249 Native Americans and are recorded in the burial records of the mission. The church and mission appearance of today is much the same as it was when it was founded and today it is still being used for Franciscan training, retreats and meetings.

Every so often we like to eat at a local restaurant that is not part of a chain. In San Miquel we found the Ranch Bar and Grill that offered some great Ribs and also had a microbrewery and our luck was with us as it was happy hour and dollar beer. Great brew and ribs.

We also visited the San Antonio Mission on the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Base in Jolon, Ca. This mission established in 1771 and today is supported by 35 very active families in the parish. This parish has many fund raising activities during the year, spaghetti dinner, mission days, fiesta and an evening in the gardens. Each of the functions has local entertainment and local wines as well as activities for the children. Like other missions it supports retreats, meeting, special events, weddings, receptions and offers a large Fiesta grounds for group events.

We stayed at Camp Roberts for 3 weeks and while there we got to see our friends from Rochester, NH who retired out here in California, Walt and Doris Stacy. We had a great visit with them and their son Richard and his family and got to visit area attractions. Estrella Warbirds Museum (Paso Robles, Ca.,) Elephant Seal Beach north of Cambria, Ca., Hearst Castle and San Simeon.

At the Estrella Warbirds Museum we got to see our friend Walt Stacy use his military background as a pilot for the Air Force in a flight simulator there. He got to do land and aircraft carrier take off and landing for both daytime and nighttime missions. After he flew the missions he earned another set of wings and was pinned by Doris his wife.

Among the collection at the museum there is Ship's Bell from the USS Sailfish formerly the Squalus for those of you from the Shipyard. It is properly displayed with honor with a story about its history. In addition to planes, tanks, etc., they have a collection of race cars, stock, midget and a few collectibles classics 48 Mercury and soon to have an addition put on to that building with more cars to come as there is a supporter of the museum that has a large personnal collection of them and will put these cars on display within the next few years. A great place to visit and support.

We visited Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Today this is part of the State of California State Parks system. It was once owned by William Randolph Hearst. It has quite a history and is beautiful. We started at the visitors center and traveled to the estate by bus with guided tours. It was stressed that when you walk thru the buildings that you must stay on the carpeted path. If you step off it will trigger an alarm and every area is monitored by close circuit tv. We took the Experience tour #1 for those who have never been there. You get to go thru one of the three guess houses. Each house has 2-3 bedrooms and baths and no kitchens. All visitors had to go to the main house the castle to eat as Mr Hearst believed that everyone who visits should get acquainted and enjoy the company.

We saw the outdoor swimming pool that was rebuilt 3 times to suit Mr Hearst wishes. Each time it got bigger and bigger. The pool as you look at it from the ends appears to be the same depth from end to end, but when you get above the pool and look down you can see the difference it goes from 3 ft to 10 feet. The pool tile pattern was laid in a way that when you look at it from the end it looks like all the rectangular patters are the same length but when viewed from above they are longer as the pool gets deeper. We also got to see the indoor pool, it has the appearance of one that you would see in a luxurious bath house with a tile that has gold inlay in each tile. Mr Hearst love to entertain everyone from politicians, world leaders, Hollywood stars and anyone who represented industry.

The castle has many grand rooms, the billiard room, the dinning room which had a table that was about 2 feet wide and would seat at least 50 people. He believed that with a table being so narrow you got to meet and know you dinner guess. A theater that would seat 50 to 100 people with room, having his own movie studio he would entertain the Hollywood set. The morning room was where guess would meet for coffee and talk. There were walking and if you wanted horse back riding paths. At one time he had his own zoo with bears, tigers, lions, giraffes and zebras which today there is still a small herd of them roaming on the property. Flower gardens, fruit trees of lemon, oranges still being maintained. A fantastic place to visit and make a good day of it. It included a 40 minute video on an Imax screen at the visitor center.

We left Camp Roberts and headed south to Vandenberg Air Force Base and stayed at the FamCamp there for 3 weeks and got to meet up with friends from last year when we stayed there. We had another great time there, visiting the local sites, another mission in Santa Barbara that is situated on a hill with a spectacular view of the ocean. The mission is a very active parish with a lot of activity going on all year long. This mission has had a lot of retro fitting because of earthquakes and the damage it suffered a few years ago. It is vey bright inside the paintings and art work are amazing. The grounds have a lot of history to the region dating back a couple of hundred years.

One thing we found and loved the most was the "Farmer's Market" in the area with local oranges, strawberries, fruit and vegetables in March. Strawberries were large and sweet and made excellent strawberry jam. Yes, even in the RV, I can still do some canning!

While at Vandenberg Sue and I along with friends from Oregon, California and Iowa we went out to eat in Nopomo, Ca., a place called Jocko's Restaurant established sometime around the turn of the century by a local family and is still in the family today. They pride themselves for their steaks and portions. Mostly everybody who visits this place usually leaves with a doggie bag.

We toured the mission in San Luis Osbipo another missi0n dating back to the late 1700's. Another beautiful mission with lots of artwork and sculptures and a museum that is worth viewing.

We traveled around the area and in town we got to see "Bubble Gum Alley" where many years ago students from Ca Poly Tech started a tradition by putting there gum on the walls of the alley. Plenty of "DNA" there, somewhat colorful but mostly disgusting, but it is listed as a point of interest when walking the town.

The Madonna Inn is located on the outskirts of town that has been around for many decades. It has a lot of wood carvings inside and out and has the most interesting men's room I have ever seen and is one of those places people say you got to see it to believe it. I has a waterfall stall instead of urinals, I know maybe more than what you want to hear about.

We left Vandenberg and traveled north to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Ca., about 40 miles west of Sacremento on I80. We are about 45 minutes from San Francisco, 20 minutes to Napa Valley wine country.
We visited Mare Island Naval Shipyard museum in Vallejo which closed in 1996. The museum was established a few years ago and is manned by volunteers who worked there or where in the military. The base is open to the public as many companies are now tennants on the base that still serve the military or the economy. The museum offers tours of Quarters A (Shipyard Commanders Quarters) the Chapel which is still being used on special occasions and some of the old shipyard along with the drydocks, building ways. There is a large area of old base housing that have torn down and replaced with many new houses and are still using the school on base. The military hospital that was there has been converted to a local college and is renovating some of the building or replacing some of those facilities that would not pass inspections for earthquake or environmental issues. At least something is happening there to help the local economy.

We had to travel to Sacremento to have some warranty work done on the motorhome. Some of the windows had started to fog up. We notified Tiffin Motorhome in Alabama and were informed that they were still under warranty and made arrangement to have the work done in California. Can't say enough about Tiffin Motorhome Co.

Here at Travis we are located close to the main gate, commissary, exchange and church all within walking distances. We check out the wildlife here on base lots and lots of jack rabbits. We will be here till the 16th of May when we head back to Scotts Valley for a month to be with Melanie and the kids. Alec will be graduating from Middle school and then heading on a class trip to Washington DC, NY City and then back to Ca. After that we will be taking 2 weeks to head back to Golden, Co., to visit with Wendy and Troy and Copper.