SFO Vacation – Part Two – Trees, Trains, and a Beach; the San Francisco Adventure Continues

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Sunday, January 17, we woke up to a fabulous breakfast of Gluten-Free Banana-Blueberry Pancakes and bacon.  I was extremely thrilled to have pancakes without any flour! Barbara said she added vanilla to help give it a more pancake flavor; it was well worth it.   This trip will turn into a feast for my gluten sensitive gut and I will definately be sharing the websites of the places we induldged.

Because of the time of year we decided to visit, we were rained on most of the ten days we were there.  However, getting to see the area lush, green and misty was so worth the rain boots, ponchos, and umbrellas. We were able to see the Bay Area in a way many tourists will not see.  This gave our trip a hue of imagination and fairy dust.  Ok, maybe not the fairy dust, but it sounded good.

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Once we were packed up with rain gear, we headed to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  This would be our first state park that was not a Texas State Park.  We loved every step we took within this park with giant Redwood trees, banana slugs and rain.  The area we spent our time was the Old Growth Redwood Grove Loop Trail.  It is a nicely cared for trail, clearly marked points of interest, and wooden fence giving this park a comfortable path.  This path is wide and accessible with no steps or hard-to-maneuver areas so everyone can enjoy these amazing trees.

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My friend Barbara has a thing she likes to do with her out-of-state visitors, tree hugging.  If you remember, I had Scott practice for this by hugging a tree at Tyler State Park.  That was definately not even close to good practice.

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As you can see, the trees in Henry Cowell are definately huge.  “How do they get so large?” is what I think I am hearing from you all.  From the California State Park website we find this answer to that very question:  “The trees grow tall for the following reasons: large amounts of rain (60-140 inches per year), mostly from November-April; summer fog which reduces evapotranspiration; temperate climate, average temperatures between 45 degrees and 61 degrees Fahrenheit; rich soil in river bottom flats; few natural enemies; burl sprouts, which promote growth after injury by fire or toppling; wind protection by other redwoods.”  And yes, I did hug a tree myself as well as we getting one taken together.  Unfortunately the photos are not that great since it was dark and rainy.

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In the Texas State Park tradition, we decided to take a sign photo.  Unfortunately it was pouring at that point so we took the photo inside the visitor center.  We both looked so horrible due to the rain, but this is now an official State Park in our books!

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So, the State Park was finished and it was time for the Roaring Camp Railroads.  This was an actual logging camp.  The railway used here is original to the camp.  If you have ever wanted to ride a steam engine train, this is a wonderful place to do it.  It is not a long continuous trip, but you will find it full of “switches” to get you up to the top of the mountain.  Yes, I said mountain!  The view is fantastic with all the way up.  But before you enjoy the train ride, you will enter into the town of Roaring Camp and you enter via a covered bridge.

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This is a place to bring your children so they can experience the gold rush days.  Granted, it won’t be like the real gold rush days, but it will give them a wonderful opportunity to experience a little bit of history.  Once you have enjoyed the panning for gold, a tasty treat and souvenir shopping it will be time to take a ride on the Roaring Railway up the mountain to see the Cathedral Grove.

On your way up, you will see some wonderful views, skyhigh redwoods, and unique historical activity.  Once you get up to the top of the mountain you will be given about thirty minutes, give and take, to explore the area and taking a quick break.  We were able to see the grove of Redwoods that is called the Cathedral Grove.

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This was only two-thirds of our day, we still needed to find food for a late lunch and Barbara had still more plans for us.  We piled into the car and headed to the coast!

We went to a beachside town called Capitola.  This had the cutest historical downtown with the tourist shops and tasty resturants.  The best part of this town though was the beach.  I haven’t seen the beach and ocean in more than twenty years and it was like going home.  Scott had never been to the beach even though he had lived in California for a little while so it was wonderful time two!

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One of the best things about our trip into Capitola is that Scott got extremely giddy when he came across a Soquel Creek running into the ocean.  He said he knew about creeks and rivers rushing into the ocean, but he had never seen it happening.  Because I was in tall rain boots I waded into the creek just to show off.

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We were having so much fun looking at the beach and it’s pretty surrounding buildings, but we were getting very hungry so we were off to find food.  We found a Mexican Seafood restuarant called Margaritaville just off the beach next to the creek and it was warm and tasy.  If you are in that area, you should try them because they are worth it.

We finished lunch and walked around the downtown area a bit to visit a couple of shops.  While we were walking around town we came across a shop window full of my favorite things:  rubber ducks!  I had to have a photo.

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This being our final destination for the day, we climbed into the car to head for our home away from home.  It was a wonderful day, but so much for us to enjoy over the next few days.  So, stay tuned for more!

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SFO Vacation – Part One – San Francisco, Here We Come!!!

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Scott and I were lucky enough to travel to the San Francisco area and Yosemite this past January.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, but so worth every moment.  We are planning to visit the areas again, but it will be a while.dfw

Getting up extra early on Saturday, January 16, we were taken to DFW airport to catch a plane to San Francisco.  Neither Scott or I had flown in a while so it was a new experience since so many things had changed.  One of the biggest changes has been security.  It was an experience to say the least, but not as horrible as we have heard.  This doesn’t mean every pass through airport security will be easy, but for it being our first time we found it to be less horror story and more “oops, sorry, we’re new to this.”

Once we blundered our way through the security area, we were able to find coffee and food.  Then we sat ourselves down near our gate and waited patiently to be called for boarding.  Soon we were called to board, found our seats and stowed our carry on and backpacks.  We were lucky enough to have a window seat and next to each other.  Scott was ready to take some morning light photos from his window and enjoy a short two and a half hour flight into LAX.

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Our layover at LAX was just long enough to get some lunch (breakfast was small) and then sit near our gate and wait. We were lucky enough to not have to wait too long and were were quickly on our way to San Francisco Airport.  I had forgotten how beautiful it was to see the mountains, rivers and lakes from thousands of feet above.  It was amazing.  We were able to see snow covered mountains, the Hoover Dam, and the ocean.  Unfortuantly it was raining in San Francisco so the closer we approached the bay area, the more clouds there were.  This caused us to not be able to see the San Francisco skyline as we approached; all we saw was water from the bay and the guiding lights then the runway.

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We were met by our friend Barbara who had a wonderful afternoon planned for us.  She drove us to a very pretty area called Gate Vista Point in Belmont (The photos at that link are not ours, they belong to Robert Gourley).  Everything was so green, purple and blue!  Explaining this wasn’t always the case, she told us about the rain and how wonderful it was to have in the California region.

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Once we took the appropriate tourist photos, we piled back in the warm car (it was extremely chilly) to be driven to a winery she loved to visit.  Along the drive we saw mountains, trees, and did I mentions mountains?  Apparently this is a very mountainous area with twisty, turny roads.  It was beautiful, but she assured us there was more to come as we neared our turn onto to Montebello Road in Cuppertino.  The road twisted this way and turned that way all while going up, up, up.  We passed cyclists riding up the road and I found myself in amazement of their bravery to cycle up such a steep incline AND along side the edge of the road that went down, down, down.  Suddenly this narrow two lane road turned into a very narrow one lane road still twisting and turning showing some of the most fantastic views I have ever seen to this point in our trip.

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We finally reached our destination, Ridge Vineyards.  It was truly a relief to get out of the car and stretch knowing we were on level ground.  Both Scott and I took a few moments and tried to breath in the view while taking as many photos with his camera and my phone as possible.  This vinyard is only the second vineyard Scott and I had been to so we were not exactly sure what to expect.  We were able to taste many of their locally grown wines and I am not a red wine person, but it was some really tasty stuff!  Their best wine was the 2012 Monte Bello, well worth the money!

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Once we finished the wine tasting, we started down the long, winding road.  I was so nervous but Barbara was very good at driving this road.  She took her time and didn’t care what the crazies behind us wanted.  The rain had cleared up a bit so we were able to see San Jose and Sunnyvale in the distance.

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We headed to the San Jose house we would call home for the next week and a half.  I was shocked when Barbara explained we were in the middle of the Silicon Valley!  For some reason I thought it would have been more flat and industrialish.  I am not sure who laughed the hardest, Scott or Barbara.  Silicon Valley was so beautiful and I had just seen the tip of the San Francisco Bay Area; there was so much, much more Wowing to come.

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