“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”
Rear Admiral David Farragut USN
State 21: California - November 20, 2017
We woke up on a sketchy side street in the town of Eureka, CA. Neither of us got much sleep last night, as we were too worried about whom else would rouse us from our slumber. Our first task of the day was to drive to the post office to get our mail, so we could get the hell out of Eureka. On the drive over, we noticed the neighborhood was packed full of homeless. I am not talking about the passive type of homeless who stand on the corner with a sign and a cup. In Eureka, the homeless were organized into roving aggressive gangs walking down every street wreaking havoc on the neighborhood!
Thankfully, Nate found a parking space right in front of the post office. Since we could see a security guard through the front window, I would go inside to retrieve the mail, and Nate would stay with Rosie to keep her safe. On my way into the post office, a middle aged brunette with shoulder length hair of average height and build was walking directly ahead of me. She was dressed in business professional, and appeared as if she was coming to the post office while on her way to work. She was fumbling in her purse looking for something, and wasn’t really paying attention to where she was walking. Right as she was about to enter the post office, I heard a “CRUNCH”, followed by a “SQUISH” and then followed by a “You got to be fucking kidding me!”. This poor lady had accidentally stepped on an empty McDonalds soda cup someone had used to have a bowel movement! It was all over her left high heel, and I felt so bad for her!!! Who in their right mind takes a dump directly in front of the town's post office, and then just leaves it there? After expressing my sympathies, and side stepping the human excrement, I entered the post office, retrieved my mail, and safely made it back to Rosie. Finally, we could leave!!! Eureka translates from Ancient Greek to mean, “I have found it”! After spending a night here, Nate and I both agreed we wish we hadn’t. This was one on the worse towns we had visited on our cross country trip.
After departing Eureka, we drove 373 miles Southeast on Route 199 through the Lassen National Forest enroute to the California/Nevada border. The entire drive was long, stressful and torturous! It was pouring rain the whole time, and Route 199 is heavily prone to mud slides! The drive featured seemingly endless serpentine's, and razor backs, and the roads had few guard rails, and even fewer signs announcing impending turns! Visibility was less than 20 feet, and we had no cellphone signal for the entire 5-hour drive! We passed 6 cars broken down on the side of the road serving as a constant reminder of our possible fate! We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we safely reached the Nevada state border! So far the Cross Country Couple was not feeling any love from California, and we were both greatly looking forward to spending a few days away from The Golden State!
Occasionally, our cross country trip requires us to briefly cross over to adjacent states we are not yet scheduled to visit, or have already visited, to see points of interest not included in our path through a specific state. Since our path through Nevada will not take us through the Northwestern part of the state, we crossed into Nevada during our 2 weeks in California.
November 25, 2017
After spending 4 days exploring Northern Nevada, we crossed back into California to continue our exploration of the Golden State. The first task of the day was a 119 mile drive Southwest to visit the National Park depicted on the reverse of the California quarter; Yosemite National Park. Yosemite National Park lays in the western Sierra Nevada’s in Northern California covering an area of 747,956 acres, and has the unique distinction of being one of only 30 places in the US designated as a World Heritage Site. Yosemite is internationally recognized for it's granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and 95% of the park is designated wilderness.
Yosemite was pivotal to the development of the concept of a national park. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864, which was the first example of the federal government specifically setting land aside for preservation and public use. It was the signing of the Yosemite Grant, which set a precedent for the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. Unfortunately, Yosemite Valley and the Giant Sequoia trees of the Mariposa Grove were not included in the Yosemite Grant, and were ceded to California as a state park. In 1891, Yosemite finally became a national park, and was placed under the jurisdiction of the 4th Calvary of the US Army. Since Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove were California State Parks, the Army had no jurisdiction to ease overgrazing of the parks meadows, logging of giant sequoia, eviction of squatters, and quelling visitor damage.
The American naturalist and explorer; John Muir has been credited with the protection and establishment of dozens of US National Parks. After viewing the destruction occurring in the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove, Muir tirelessly advocated for further protection. In what has been hailed by historians as the most important camping trip in US history, John Muir took President Theodore Roosevelt on a 3-day trip to Glacier Point in Yosemite, and convinced the President to place Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove under federal protection. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill in to law doing exactly that creating Yosemite National Park as we know it today.
Ever since I started planning for our cross country trip, Yosemite was one of the parks I was most excited to visit! Today was finally the day I would see the park which set into motion a chain of events leading to the establishment of the entire national park system! Yosemite is where it all started! As usual, we went on the national park website to read about road closures, wild fires and other important updates, and the bad news came fast and furious! The road to Tioga Pass was closed for the season! Glacier Point was closed due to icy road conditions! The road leading to the Giant Sequoia trees in the Mariposa Groves was closed for construction! The only part of the park currently open was Yosemite Valley. Disappointed but undeterred, we continued on to see 1/4 of Yosemite National Park!
Clearly, today was going to be one of those days that fought us every step of the way beginning with a navigation debacle! After programming our destination into Michelle, our GPS, we departed for Yosemite Valley. Michelle’s plotted path was taking us into the park via the Tioga Pass Entrance, because it was closest to our current location. Since the Tioga Pass Road was closed for the season, we had absolutely no idea if the Tioga Pass Entrance to the park was open! To make matters worse, no one answered the phone when we called the park, and the next closest entrance was 4 hours away! With no other viable options, we decided to go to the Tioga Pass Entrance to the park, and hope for the best!
Our next challenge of the day came soon thereafter! Rosie is approximately 10.6 feet tall, 6 feet wide and weights 3 tons. We programmed Rosie’s measurements into Michelle when we first got the GPS to ensure we only travel on roads where Rosie fits. Apparently Michelle, didn’t like Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite due to a low tunnel clearance. To notify us of her detest, Michele's buzzer went off and her screen flashed, “WARNING! LOW CLEARANCE 10’2 FEET” for over 2 hours! From our experience, most tunnels in national parks are arched, and the maximum height measurement for clearance is taken from the lowest point. Since Rosie was only 4 inches too tall, we planned on driving her directly down the center of the tunnel beneath the apex of the arch. However, this was just an educated guess based on past experience. Neither of us had been to Yosemite before, and we had absolutely no idea of the actual shape of the parks tunnels! If the tunnels were in fact rectangular with 10’2 clearances, we would either have to turn around and drive 4 hours to another park entrance, let the air out of the tires, or just gun it, and give Rosie a haircut! I must say I have grown quite fond of my solar panels and roof fans! Clearly the aforementioned options were less than optimal! We decided to hope the 10’2 clearance tunnels were arch shaped, and proceeded on!
We finally made it to the Tioga Pass entrance of Yosemite, and were ecstatic to discover it was open! From here we drove 18 miles toward Yosemite Valley, while Michelle continued to flash low clearance warning! We had averted one crisis, and now it was time to address the next! We approached the low clearance tunnel just prior to entering Yosemite Valley. As we suspected, the tunnel was arched, and Rosie had no problem fitting through. What we didn’t know was there was not one, but 3 low clearance tunnels! Although we were able to safely pass through the 1st and 2nd tunnels, the last arched tunnel had the lowest clearance of the 3, and we were barely able to squeak Rosie through! After clearing the last tunnel, we sat in bumper to bumper traffic for 2 hours until we arrived in Yosemite Valley. On the way, we were able hang out the window to get pictures of El Capitan, and the Half Dome. Please see the pictures below.
As we began exploring Yosemite, we made a few disturbing observations. Yosemite had a very outdated infrastructure, and their roads, parking and scenic overlooks were in desperate need of expansion to accommodate the volume of the park's visitors. Stopping at the overlooks were impossible due to very limited parking spaces. The line of cars waiting for the few available spaces resulted in stand still traffic on the parks only 2-lane windy road! Please see the pictures below.
Once we arrived in Yosemite Valley, we drove around the parking lot for an hour playing chicken with other motorists for the limited parking spaces! After finally parking Rosie, we walked across the parking lot, and down a paved path for 1 mile. Along the long walk, we passed an elderly lady with a walker, and a middle aged lady with a knee cart who recently had surgery. Both whom were struggling to make the unusually long walk from the parking lot, and we felt very sad for them. Normally, the visitor center is right near the parking lot, but in Yosemite it was nowhere to be found! Please see the pictures below.
Finally in the far off distance, we saw a building we believed to be the visitor center, but it wasn’t until we arrived at the front doors did we realize it was not. What it ended up being was a supermarket that mimicked the likeness of a Whole foods, and next to the market was a restaurant which was closed for the season! We continued on in search of the elusive visitor center! We passed, a deli, a pizza joint, a souvenir shop and an art gallery, before FINALLY arriving at the visitor’s center 1 ½ miles from the parking lot! All of a sudden I heard a “DING” in my pocket, pulled out my iPhone, and was shocked by what I saw! I was standing at the base of a towering granite valley in the middle of one of our countries most treasured national parks, and had a 4g 5 bar signal on my iPhone! I should be hearing the sounds of babbling brooks and chirping birds, and not the dings of incoming emails on my phone! Yosemite Valley was way too commercialized for a national park!
After speaking to the Park Ranger, we meandered around the visitor’s center’s displays, and watched a movie in a nearby amphitheater about the history of Yosemite. As we were about to depart the visitor center, I realized I forgot to get my national park passport stamped! Which then lead to the realization I had forgotten to take the passbook with me! I left Lori at the visitor center, and departed for a 3-mile round trip hike to retrieve the passport from Rosie! Along the way, I snapped a few shots of Yosemite’s famous granite cliffs! Please see the pictures below.
An hour later, I arrived back at the visitor center, and finally stamped our National Park Passport! After encountering adversity the entire day, we finally got good news! The Park Ranger informed us Glacier Point reopened at 4:00 pm. Finally, it appeared our fortune was changing for the better! I would be able to see the exact site where John Muir, and President Theodore Roosevelt camped leading to the establishment of the National Park System! We immediately departed the visitor center for Glacier Point! Yosemite offers a free shuttle service throughout Yosemite Valley, so we waited for the next one to arrive. Twenty minutes later, the bus arrived but it was absolutely packed like a sardine can with people. We decided, to just skip the bus, and hike the 1 ½ miles back to Rosie.
Apparently, everyone also simultaneously received notification of Glacier Point's reopening, because a mass exodus ensued from the Yosemite Valley parking lot to Glacier Point! We were once again stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for over 1 hour just to get to the entrance of the road leading to Glacier Point! From here Glacier Point was a 10 mile out and back trip! Lori and I took a moment to survey our current situation! It was already 4:00 pm and it gets dark in California at 5:00 pm this time of year. I only had 1/4 tank of gas left in Rosie’s tank, and the nearest gas station was 50 miles from our current location. Since we were still stuck in traffic, running low on gas, and almost out of daylight, we made the difficult decision to skip Glacier Point and leave Yosemite! This was the most frustrating and disappointing national parks we had visited on our cross country trip!
We drove 80 miles Southwest to Merced, CA where we found a Walmart to spent the night.