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Monday, January 31, 2011

Relaxing Monday

This morning I did a bit of trouble shooting on our TV system.  The bedroom TV would not get a signal on the cable.  Everything looked right but just no signal.  So I traced the wires back to the front cabinet.  Found one loose wire there and. more importantly, found that there were two wires in the bedroom for the RF signal.  Not sure what the second one is, but the wrong one was connected.  Once I connected that, the back TV worked just fine.

This afternoon I played golf again – 9 holes at the Pismo State Beach Golf Course.  It is a short par 3 course but excellent practice for my short game.

Here is a picture from under the tree on the 7th tee.

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Here is another view looking back to the #6 green.  You can see that our rain from yesterday is all gone and the sky is once again totally clear. 2011-01-31 13.38.31

Ended up shooting 1 shot better that last time I played so I can’t complain.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wildlife? What Wildlife?

Today we drove down to Oso Flaco State Park, about 20 minutes south of Pismo Coast Village on Highway 1.  The park has a long nature path that crosses Oso Flaco Lake and runs out a bit over a mile to the beach.  The bridge and path are all part of a boardwalk that is really well built and uses concrete slats that should last a long time.  Here is a picture of the bridge over part of the lake.

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Here you can see the path as it progresses from the lake through the dunes and out to the beach. 2011-01-30 13.51.50

When you arrive at the beach you can either take a path down to the beach to walk in the sand or you can take an alternate up to a viewpoint that overlooks the beach.  Here is a panorama of the beach view from that point.  (Remember on any photo, you can click your mouse to expand it.  And for panoramas, it is helpful to use the browser zoom feature in the lower right corner of the window)

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The area is full of sand dunes that in some areas you can drive on.  Here in the park though, they are protected so that the native plants can regenerate.  Besides the dunes in the picture below, you can see the beautiful clouds we have today.  It rained during the night with a couple of scattered showers today, so the sky has really been changing.

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At this park we saw a few birds, but not too much wildlife.  There are about 10 different species of birds to look for plus raccoons and mountain lions, but we didn’t see any of them.

On the other hand, when we returned to the RV, we had wildlife right in our campsite!

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Elephants on the California Beach!

Today we decided to take a drive up the coast on Highway 1.  The road leaves San Luis Obispo & highway 101 and heads west past Cuesta Community College, one of my clients from before I retired.  The route continues on through Morro Bay, and on up the coast past Hearst Castle and, if you stay on it long enough, all the way to Monterey.  We drove up past Hearst Castle about 5 miles and came to some scenic lookouts that were really interesting.  The shot below is a panorama of the first lookout.

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Here is a close up of the shoreline.  As you can see, it is quite rocky with sand between the rocks. 2011-01-28 12.15.39

What is really interesting though is that this section of beach is home to the California Sea Elephants, a variety of seal.  They are laying here on the beach and periodically using their flippers to flip sand onto themselves.2011-01-28 12.20.45

As you can see, there are a whole lot of these guys. 2011-01-28 12.22.45 2011-01-28 12.22.51

Close up, they resemble walruses to me.

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We had a picnic lunch at Hearst Beach State Park but ate in the car because it was too windy.  We then went through several towns on the way back just to get a feel for them.  Drove about 130 miles and were home at 3:45.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Going the Distance

Today we elected to give Carol’s wrist another day to recover and so we went for a walk rather than a bike ride.  Initially, all we planned to do was to walk from the RV park to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary, round trip distance of roughly a mile or so.

But we found a path which we followed toward the sanctuary and then we found more paths which took us through a state park to the beach.  Here is a view from the path back to the golf course I played on Tuesday.

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Partway down the path we came to a large section that had wooden decking.  This path ran parallel to the beach just behind the sand dunes and went for a considerable distance.  2011-01-27 10.50.40

Often along the path, there were small side paths through the sand to the beach. 2011-01-27 10.50.45

I used my Droid cell phone to take these pictures and found that it has several other abilities.  It can also take movies and make panoramas.  To make a panorama, you select the feature then take 3-4 pictures in sequence overlapping the pictures as you shoot.  The phone will stitch them together into the panorama like the one below.

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Pretty neat feature for sure.  Below is another picture of the path decking.  You can see the beautiful day that we enjoyed in this picture too.  2011-01-27 10.59.21 Here’s another picture looking from the path to the beach.  This one is actually looking back toward the northwest.   2011-01-27 11.00.52 We walked along the path which bordered the golf course. 2011-01-27 11.00.58 After we returned home, I checked my GPS on my phone and found that we had walked 4.1 miles.  Not only was that way beyond what we were planning, but it is our longest walk so far.

After lunch I did some chores – I lubricated our leveling jacks (need to do that about once a week when at the seashore to protect them), also went to WalMart for some supplies including a new tire for Carol’s bike.  She actually wore through it.  I’ve never seen a bike tire actually worn through.  You can tell she really used it and must have enjoyed it.

At sunset, we went down to the edge of the beach to watch the sky turn colors.  There were not many clouds to help give color, but it was still very enjoyable.

2011-01-27 17.23.45 Here is a picture with the sun fully set, but still illuminating the few clouds just above the horizon. 2011-01-27 17.27.34

You can’t see them too well, but there are two ducks heading home together. 2011-01-27 17.34.41  The temperature made it all the way to 75 today.  But it wasn’t too hot and it soon went back to the high 60s.  Great golf weather!!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Long Walk Off a Short Pier

Today Carol is feeling somewhat better.  Her wrist pain has changed to a dull ache which is better than the sharp pains of yesterday.  No doubt the meds have helped.  So today we are not able to ride bikes, but did decide to go for a walk into town.

The original intent was to locate some geocaches, but the two we tried to find stayed hidden and we were not successful.  So instead we turned it into a long 2.35 mile walk to parts of town we had not walked before.  The weather was sunny with a high of 70, so the walk was very enjoyable and we really got some sun.

We didn’t actually walk to the pier this time, but not too far from it either.

Here at Pismo Coast Village, the months of January & February are off season and during the week the park is only at 20-25% capacity.  They use this time for major projects and this year they are totally rebuilding two rows of RV sites.  They are installing new sewers, new water lines and 50 amp power as that section of the park is only 30 amp.  It is the more popular side of the park so the upgrades will be really welcome.   As a result of the construction though, most RVs are now on the south side of the park while the construction occurs.  In fact yesterday, the road to the north side was closed most of the day as they were installing the new sewer tie-in.

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Above you can see the trench with the new green sewer lines sticking up waiting to be filled back in and the pipes capped.  I don’t know how long it will take them to complete the renovations on this section, but it will be interesting to see what the sites look like when completed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the Sea to the Links to the E.R.

Today we decided to take a bike ride along the Bob Jones bike path.  It is just north of Pismo Beach and goes from Highway 101 all the way to Avilla Beach.  The path is paved the whole way and is used by runners, bikers, and strollers.  One interesting scene along way was this “pipe forest.”  Not sure why these pipes are “growing” here, but they are about 6 feet tall and maybe 9-12 inches in diameter.  There is about 150 of them in no discernable pattern.  There’s probably a story here, but who know what it is?

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Further down the path we came to a bridge just for the path users.  It borders a golf course and had a terrible odor of sewage on the course.  People were playing the course (and it looks like a very nice course), but they must have had to hold their noses the whole way.

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Here is the view down the 10th fairway of the Avilla Beach Golf Resort.

2011-01-25 10.56.27Once we arrived at Avilla Beach, there was a small boardwalk area and this is the view looking northward.  2011-01-25 11.01.21

This is the view looking out toward one of the two piers at Avilla Beach. 2011-01-25 11.01.29 This view is of the local shops along the beach.2011-01-25 11.03.49 When we got back to the RV after lunch, I went and played 9 holes of golf at the local course.  It is an easy par 3 course and good for working on your short game. Here is a view down fairway #6. 2011-01-25 14.44.02

Carol called me on the phone while I was on the course and she was in pain.  Her right wrist was really giving her problems.  I stopped at the local grocery store for some meds and an ace bandage, but they really didn’t solve the problem.  She was still in considerable pain, so I hunted down the local urgent care facility and we went there at 5:30.  She was seen by a doc and he diagnosed inflammation of her wrist due to Carpal Tunnel and gave her a prescription to alleviate the symptom.  We are back at the RV now and hopefully the new meds will do the job.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunny & Serene

Today was another nice & sunny day - temp of 74  Had some projects to work on around the RV.  First, I washed some spots on the outside of the RV that didn’t get washed too well when I tried to do it at dusk one day last week.  Also cleaned a zillion bugs off the front window so now we can see out of it.

Then we went to a carwash and I cleaned the car which really needed it.  Then onto an RV parts store to check it out and get some gas struts for a cabinet door.  Came back to the RV, had lunch and then installed a new wider sunshade on the driver’s side window.  I had one there before but it was about 2/3rds the size it really needed to be.  The new one just about covers the whole window.  I really had to be a contortionist though to get it done.  Laid on by back on the dash to the left of the steering wheel.  Not comfortable at all for a guy 6 foot 4!  But got it done!

Then took the old smaller shade and installed it on the passenger side for Carol.  Hopefully it will help her too.

Then fixed the cabinet door.  Also cleaned some spots on the carpets.  After that, took a break and then Carol and I went for a walk into town and out on the pier. This is the view looking back towards the north from the pier.  You can see just how beautiful the sky is here!

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There are a lot of surfers out in the water, but most of them spend all their time paddling around and not riding the waves.  After about 5 pictures of waves, finally caught one guy actually riding.

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Out at the end of the pier, there are three antenna masts.  No idea what they need those for out at the end of the pier.  The elements are short so I suspect they are fairly high frequency signals, but what would you need them for on the end of a pier?

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Here you get a look at the full pier looking back from the end.

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This is the view from midway out on the pier looking south onto the beach. 

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And here is the view toward the north from the same point on the pier.  Carol thinks that Shell Beach is right under those cliffs.

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Total walk was estimated at about 2 miles or so.  If I get time, I am going to measure it with my GPS program.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for more of the same!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Basking in the Sun at the Beach

So here we are at Pismo Beach on a clear January 22 with a temperature of about 70 degrees.  I don’t want to even tell you what the weather has been like back home in Vancouver, WA.  Let’s just say it is different and leave it at that.

Today, as planned, was a day of miscellaneous errands and otherwise relaxing.  First, we walked a bit less than 2 miles into town and back.  We went by the beach from which we got a great view looking back towards the RV Park.

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Tivela stultorum, also known as the Pismo clam, is a species of saltwater clam in the genus Tivela. It is native to the eastern Pacific Ocean [1]. As the name implies, the Pismo clam lives in Pismo Beach, California.  To celebrate their specialty, the city of Pismo Beach has large clams hidden around the city in various spots.  They seasonally decorate the clam shells.  Right now, the Monarch butterflies are in residence after their migration south.  Their habitat is about a quarter mile south of the park and well worth exploring.

The decorated clam below with its butterfly is positioned at the entrance to our RV park.

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Also on our walk, we came across all these lifeguard shelters that have been brought up from the beach.  They do this in the offseason to protect them from the high surf from winter storms.  It almost looks like a sales lot for surf houses though.

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While walking in town, we came across this sign.  It warns you that the building is not “safe” during an earthquake.  I wonder, if a building doesn’t have a sign, is it considered safe?  And if you are in a “safe” building during an earthquake and it turns out not to be so safe, what recourse do you have – Sue the state?

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After the walk, I went to WalMart to get some shorts.  Then we went on a 9 mile bike ride down to Ocean Shores State Park and other sites along the way.  I had earlier fixed Carol’s bike brakes as they were acting up, so now she is safe on the road.

After the bike ride, we relaxed for awhile then it was time for dinner already.  Since it was so nice out, I was able to BBQ some chicken.  Can’t do that in January in Vancouver!!!

Tomorrow are the NFL Conference championship games.  First is Green Bay at Chicago – I’m picking Green Bay.  Second is New York Jets at Pittsburg and I am going with the Jets.

Really strange playoffs this year.  In the first week, the number 6 seeds in each conference beat the number 3 seeds.  in the second week, the number 6 seeds beat the number 1 seeds.  Now they each play the number 2 seeds in their conference.  If they both win, the superbowl will consist of the two number 6 seeds playing each other.  Stay tuned and see how good I am at football predictions!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don’t Avoid the Droid!

We left DeMartini this morning about 8:30 and headed to Pismo Beach.  Had great weather (clear skies and relatively warm, no wind) all the way here.  Made really good time too.  Arrived about 3:20, got checked in, and all setup for the next 28 days or so.

The WiFi here is great which I was happy to see.  Last time we were at the west side of the park and had great signal, this time on the East side and the access point is only about 50 feet away.  So we get a very strong signal here too.

Carol and I both have library cards with the Fort Vancouver library (our local system) and the Multnomah County Library System in Portland.  We got the latter because they have e-books that you can download to electronic readers like the Nook.  The system is pretty neat.  You can browse the catalog, create a wish list, place holds, and then when the book is ready for you to check out, you can get it for up to 21 days.

Now, what is really neat for me is that, while we don’t own a Nook, I do have a Samsung Verizon Droid phone and there is a free application you can get that is totally compatible with the Multnomah County system. 

So I have already read 3 books on my phone while on this trip.  It is so easy to use.  One of my holds is for the Tom Clancy Book - “The Teeth of the Tiger.”    I put it on hold at Multnomah for the E-book version last week and received a notice today that I can download it already.  Really cool.

If you have a Droid based phone, the online library system is really a neat way to go, especially if you are an RVer and on the road a lot.

We decided to make tomorrow a chore day around the RV.  Many small tasks need doing so we will relax and work on them and enjoy the great weather.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If it’s broke, Fix it!

We are sitting at DeMartini RV today in a conference room.  This room has become our official office!  Since they have great WiFi here, we are allowed to setup in one of the conference rooms and use our computers.

Our RV is almost ready and hopefully all will be fixed today.  The only remaining issue is the slide and the techs finally have the OK from Fleetwood to fix it under warranty.  It appears that the rails for the slide were improperly installed at the factory.  The folks that make the slide mechanism (Power Gear) were contacted and said that there should be no gap in the rail channel for the gear wheel to slide into.  Fleetwood at first said otherwise, but finally relented after Carl, the DeMartini warranty coordinator, kept after them.  So now it is approved to move the motor position on the rail so that the gears do not go into a gap.  What a difference a 2 inch move should make.

In order to do the repair, they have to disconnect the entire slide mechanism and this removes the support holding up the slide.  If they didn’t somehow support the weight, it would actually fall off the RV.  So here is how they supported it…

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Yep, that’s a forklift holding it up.  Slides weigh more than you might think and they can carefully raise and lower it by a quarter of an inch as needed to feed it back onto the rails.

While they were doing this, I was outside walking around to stretch after sitting most of the day.  I came across some techs working on an RV that had been in an accident.  Apparently it had run into a heavy duty tow truck and crushed part of the frame on the passenger side front.  Aside from some lightweight panels being dented, the major steel structure was also bent and needed to be put back into alignment.

Unfortunately, this steel is thick as it not only supports the weight of the RV onto the truck chassis, but it also acts as a safety barrier in case of accident – something it did all too well.  So how do you get the steel bent back into alignment?

As an aside, you may remember the World Series earthquake in 1988 in the Bay Area.  It collapsed one deck of a span on the San Francisco Bay bridge.  This happened because one of the tall piers was knocked about 6 inches out of alignment.   They thought that getting this back into alignment would take months and that the bridge might be closed for at least a year. 

Well some engineer got out his calculator and figured out how much mass at what speed would be needed to hit the pier to knock it back into alignment.  Then they went and obtained an old freighter from the mothball fleet,loaded it with dredged mud to increase the mass, and towed it into the pier at just the right speed.  The pier moved just enough so that the fallen deck could now be re-installed and the bridge was reopened within 2 months of the quake.  Not bad.

So, back to our RV story…..what piece of equipment would you use to straighten the steel that was bent in the accident?  Try this one….

2011-01-20 15.37.49 Yes, that is a backhoe!  By anchoring the RV in place and carefully positioning the backhoe, they used the claw to pull on the bent steel.  The hydraulics in the backhoe allowed the gradual increase of pressure until the steel moved without doing any further damage to the structure.  This is just not something you would see everyday nor would I normally expect my RV to be worked on by a backhoe!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Curing whatever ails it

Today (Wednesday) we are at DeMartini RV in Grass Valley, CA, again.  We arrived yesterday after an uneventful 90 minute drive from CalExpo in Sacramento.  The weather was sunny and so warm we had to open windows and screen doors upon arrival.  Didn’t stay warm at night though!  Got down to 39!

Last night at 5pm, after DeMartini closed, I washed our RV.  It really needed it.  Unfortunately, since it was getting dark, I had to do it really quick and I can see today that near the end of the process I missed a couple of spots.

This morning, we were up bright & early to check in at 8:30.  We have 4 problems for the techs to work on.  First is our never ending slide that won’t close tight.  This they thought they had solved at our last trip here, but the fix didn’t last.  Today they could see where the actual slide mechanism may have been improperly installed at the factory.  They actually video taped the mechanism as it was working to diagnose it.  What they found was that the track, when extended, isn’t making contact with the inside roller.  This is because the roller is not far enough down the track and doesn’t match the other side of the mechanism.  They will validate this with Fleetwood in the morning and then make the change. 

Problem #2 is a problem we’ve had with the windshield wipers.  Several times over the past 15 months, they would suddenly go real slow then quit.  When I first took it into Camping World to have it looked at, they could find nothing wrong and just hit the wiper motor with a hammer to get it working.  On our trip home in December in Oregon, they failed in a rainstorm again.  So I used a hammer to get them going and it worked.  Of course, that isn’t a good solution.  So today it is getting a new wiper motor installed.

Our other two problems relate to our leveling jacks making popping noises and our Electric monitoring panel sometimes showing the wrong load.  Those will be tackled tomorrow.

So we will be here for one more day at a minimum.  I’m betting that we actually will be done Friday, but it could be shorter (or longer!).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sacramento Interlude

We’ve spent the last 4 days in Sacramento just doing odds and ends.  We arrived Friday afternoon at CalExpo RV Park.  CalExpo is the home for the California State Fair and they have a huge RV park with full hookups.  Not too many amenities, but a great location.  After getting settled in, we went for a 4 mile bike ride.  Would have probably gone longer but my shoulder was bothering me and my Hilltopper needed a charge.

What’s that you say?  Hilltopper?  What is that?

The Hilltopper is a kit you can get to convert your average bike to an electric motor assisted bike.  You can see details on their web site by clicking here.  It consists of 4 items:  A new front wheel that has an electric motor built into the hub, a battery pack, a push-to-use switch to mount on the handle bar and a charger for recharging the battery.  The battery pack is removable so you can bring it inside to recharge.  Then strap it on the bike, connect the cable, and you are all set.

I tested the unit at home and with no pedaling on a level road, it will get up to 15.8mph.  In theory, it will go about 10 miles under these conditions.  But the real value for us is on hills.  We don’t use it unless we need a boost.   Then push the button and you feel like someone is pushing you along.  While it won’t do 15mph going up a hill, it sure makes it easier to climb the hill.  Likewise, when starting out from a dead stop, you can push the button and it will get you up to speed promptly.

Friday night we ate out at Outback.  One of our favorite places, but a bit expensive so we don’t go there too often.  We have some gift cards though which helped.

Saturday morning we went for another bike ride, this time about 8.8 miles.  The American River runs right by the CalExpo RV park and there is a network of paved walking/biking trails that wind around the river area.  You could actually go all the way to Old Town or downtown Sacramento on these paths.  The area is undeveloped open land and there are a lot of birds of various kinds in the area.  We saw many ducks, cranes, and others that I don’t know the names of.

Saturday afternoon & evening I watched the NFL playoffs on TV.  I rooted for Baltimore and Atlanta.  Both of course lost.  Oh well.  Guess I will stick to officiating football games and not try to pick winners.

Sunday during the day I also watched the playoffs.  This time, teams I rooted for (Bears & Jets) both won.  So that was a better day.  In the evening, we went over to my sister-in-law Pam’s house for dinner.  This is the better side of the family.  Our nieces Keri and Cheryl were there too along with Keri’s boyfriend TJ.  We had a very enjoyable visit listening to the girls tell of weird veterinary clients and strange car dealer customers.  TJ, who drives an 18-wheeler up & down I-5, told us of all the best places to eat along that route.

Today (Monday) was a day of errands.  Carol had to visit the local Kaiser medical facility for a periodic lab test.  Then we went out to lunch and to WalMart for groceries.  We always hunt for Diet Code Red soda, Carol’s favorite which is not available in our Vancouver area.   (last trip we came home with 20 cases – no telling how much we will get this time!).

We also went for an even longer bike ride late this afternoon – a total of 12.1 miles.  We didn’t make it all the way to Discovery Park which is supposed to be at the end of the trail we were riding, but I don’t think we were too far away from it.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to DeMartini RV in Grass Valley, CA.  It is about 90 minutes away from CalExpo.  They are going to do some work on the RV and then we will head for Pismo Beach.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Attention WalMart Shoppers……

OK, I know I had planned to put some Yosemite pictures up when we got to a spot with better internet.  But Carol already beat me to most of them (see her blog today by clicking here).  So I will just put up a few of my favorites for you.

First off is a picture of the 2006 rockslide that closed SR140 for many months.  It happened at night and fortunately no one was under it.  The park ranger that admitted us in happened to be driving through right before it happened.  She heard the noise and looked back and saw it.  Several of her friends were further behind her and had to stop, turn around, and go about 65 miles out of their way.  They still are not sure how to reopen the road.  They may make a tunnel, or a bridge or just clean it all up.  Though apparently it is a known area of slides.

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So, you ask, how did we get around it?  There is a traffic signal at about a 1/4th mile before each end of the slide.  These signals alternate at 15 minute intervals to allow you to cross two temporary bridges.  These bridges and the connecting roadway is one lane only.

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As you can see, the last gas station before entering the park has a great price “advantage” as they are your last chance to fill up.

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If you come in from the south (or double back a bit as we did), you can go up to what is called the “Tunnel View.”  As you come through this tunnel, you get a stunning view of the valley with El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the far rear and Glacier Point on the right.  As well as several major waterfalls, depending on the season.  In this picture, Carol was able to get me in the picture and the background to include Bridalveil falls just over my left shoulder.

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A great picture of Upper Yosemite Falls just above the lower falls which, as I mentioned yesterday, we walked up to.

IMG_8208 And here is the Lower Yosemite Falls….

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As we were leaving, the sun was setting over the valley and it hit Half Dome and turned it to a golden color.

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So now you are probably wondering something along the lines of….well great pictures, but they don’t fit the title of this post at all.  What gives?

Well, today we drove from Mariposa to Sacramento to stay at CalExpo, site of the state fair.  The RV park here is simple but has all our requirements: 50 amp, good WiFi, and good satellite reception.  After we went out to dinner tonight, we stopped at WalMart.

This WalMart is unlike any other I have seen.  It is a two story WalMart and since you use shopping carts, they had to come up with a way to get you and your cart quickly from one floor to the other.  Moving people was simple – use an escalator – been using them for years with no problem.  So the solution for the carts is the same.  They created a cart escalator that runs adjacent to the one for humans.  You push your cart through the specially marked doors…..

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as you can see, Carol is riding down on one side and her cart comes down the other.

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At the bottom, there is another set of doors where your cart comes out and you just pull it through and push it away.

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A pretty neat solution and very easy to use.  First time I’ve ever seen this system.