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(>Pictures at the bottom!)
…and back to San Francisco
We were glad to leave San Francisco behind us and headed straight for the Rocky Mountains. We didn’t particularly like the city life, nor the boring motorway journey through the Central Valley, until we finally climbed to the first heights. Our goal was to visit Yosemite National Park, which various organisations offer as a day trip from San Francisco. But we really weren’t in a hurry and enjoyed our independence. We had also arranged a meeting on the eastern side of Yosemite N.P. with travelling friends from the Panamericana Tour, who had brought a spare part from Germany for us and the handover had to take place somewhere.
As we had plenty of time, we decided to take the diversions via Modesto, where we wanted to visit the Bearfoot wine house. Not only do all kinds of nuts and fruit thrive in the area around Modesto, but huge wineries complete the picture. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the winery we were looking for and were somewhat surprised to find that most of the grapes from the Bearfoot winery ripen in a completely different area.
After our wanderings and searches in Modesto, we headed for Sonara Pass, which lies to the north of Yosemite N.P.. The weather was wonderful at this autumnal time of year, but unfortunately it was already very cool at night in the high altitudes. To our surprise, most of the campsites in the national forests had already closed and we had to find somewhere in the forest to spend the night. To our annoyance, the fire ban was still in force throughout California and evening fires were forbidden outside official fireplaces. So we always retired to our camper very early and longed for the first rays of sunshine in the morning.
The next day, the drive over the almost 3000 metre high Sonora Pass was a wonderful experience in the high mountains and the autumn colours made up for the cold night.
Still ahead of schedule – our friends were stuck in Death Valley – we used the time to visit the former mining town of Bodie, where several companies once dug for precious metals and the place was a hotspot for fortune hunters. The town’s heyday was almost 150 years ago and most of the workers had to leave just as they had climbed up into the mountains to dig for possible veins of gold in one of the tunnels. Only a few buildings of the entire town still stand today, the mine site itself is not allowed to be entered due to the unstable ground; everything is said to be hollowed out somehow, and the supports below ground are probably more rotten than load-bearing elements.
To pass the time, we drove around the Mono Lake, which was more of a rocking ride than an off-road adventure and Chantal was accordingly happy when we were finally able to leave the sandy track. It’s a pity that the Americans with their ATVs have completely ripped up many gravel and sand tracks and made them almost impassable for normal vehicles. After the gateway tour for both the jeep and its passengers, our meeting at the foot of the Tioga Pass worked out and we finally had the desired spare part for our jeep available again. To be clear, you can actually find everything for the Jeep in the USA, except parts for our diesel engine, which is only available in Europe.
It was clearly too cold for us at Mono Lake in the RV park, where we couldn’t make a fire, so we went to a nearby Forestry Commission campsite, where an evening fire was permitted in the designated area. Without any obligation, we arranged a meeting with the PanAm couple in Yosemite Valley, where we hoped to find a campsite for the following night.
The drive from Lee Vining up to Tioga Pass and into Yosemite N.P. was another picture-perfect trip on this autumnal day. Although the traffic was considerable for this time of year, it was not just us, but many others who wanted to take advantage of this magical and very extensive mountain world in the best weather conditions. The first granite towers and domes were the first harbingers of what was to be seen down in the valley. After I (Tom) was able to spot the Halfdome from the pass road, the anticipation for the valley below was even greater.
But the disappointment on the narrow access road into the valley of Yosemite Village was correspondingly great: a controlled fire smoked up the whole valley and the wonderful granite elevations were only vaguely recognisable in all the smoke. And to our further annoyance, there were huge crowds of people everywhere, as if everything here was for nothing. The possible and open overnight pitches were all full to capacity and standing close together was a matter of course. What’s more, the pitches in Yosemite Valley have to be pre-booked on the internet and for this evening there was only one pitch left with all kinds of hook-ups that we didn’t actually need, for a ridiculous $110. If we had pre-booked, we would have had to stay in this smoky valley and rub our burning eyes through the night.
We left the park in a south-westerly direction and found a cheap place to stay just outside, which didn’t break our travel budget, and all without smoke and irritating coughs. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet up with the PanAm couple again, as our mutual communication wasn’t the best everywhere and so each couple went their own way.
The following day we scrambled up to Yosemite N.P. again and headed straight for Glacier Point, which lies to the south and above Yosemite Valley. The weather was again excellent and the smoke in the Valley was soon behind us. From the top, the view of the marvellous granite mountains and peaks was a real feast for the eyes and I (Tom) could have looked out into the distance for hours; it was simply fantastic.
With these great impressions of Yosemite N.P., we returned to San Francisco. Maybe our meeting there would work out and I (Tom) still had an open deal with a dealer in San Francisco who had pulled me over the “table edge”. So it was back through the wide and monotonous central valley to the Pacific Ocean and the fabled metropolis. I was probably pulled over the “table edge” a second time at the dealer’s, but in the end I had a certain value that was of some use to me. Instead, our meeting finally worked out in the evening. We sat outside until well into the night and exchanged our travel experiences after the PanAm-tour.
The next morning we headed back to the Golden Gate Bridge, through the western part of San Francisco to the Pacific coast and on southwards. Returning to San Francisco again allowed us to plan a completely new route and the coastal road is also said to be a dream route. And, according to Chantal, it should always be beautiful by the sea.
Chantal and Tom/November 2023
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