Being vaccinated has opened up our lives significantly. We are feeling comfortable traveling again and decided to spend much of the hot Arizona summer on the road. There are still a lot of questions about international travel so we have no plans to cross any borders until 2022. Our daughter, Caprial’s graduation from Western Washington University was the primary impetus for our travels and made Bellingham our northern final destination. Well, actually Blaine, Washington on the Canadian border was our most northern destination. We stayed at Birch Bay where we could use some timeshare points for a two bedroom condo for the week. Birch Bay is a nice little beach town that gave us wonderful walks along the bay and a stop or two at the local brewery.
Any trip to Bellingham is not complete without making the 20 minute trek to Blaine and our favorite oyster house in the world, Drayton Harbor Oysters. Their fresh oysters come from their farm just minutes away, and the grilled Bourbon Chipotle oysters are a religious experience. If you like oysters it is worth a stop. In fact, it is worth a road trip.
But wait, I am getting ahead of myself as we took almost two weeks getting from Arizona to our WWU graduate. We wanted to avoid long days on the road and set up a trip schedule that limited our daily driving to around 5 hours. We also tried to avoid back to back days of driving planning to spend two nights at most stops. As always we used the trip as an opportunity to see family and friends.
Our initial plan was to head out Sunday May 30, but we were packed up and ready to go and since it had been awhile since we visited with Uncle Don and Aunt Judy we decided to head out a day early and spend a night in Corona Del Mar just a little over 5 hours from our home. We arrived around noon and decided to grab lunch at Newport Beach. Living in the desert we take every opportunity to see the ocean, but this proved to be a bad idea, who knew all of California would be at the beach …..on memorial weekend. Okay, we probably should have known. We drove around for half an hour looking for parking and finding none made our way up the coast highway until we found a restaurant with valet parking. To be honest there was one lot with available parking on the Newport Peninsula if you were willing to pay $60 to park your car. We passed on that option.
After dinner and a lovely morning walk with Don and Judy around Balboa Island we headed north to our original Southern California destination San Marino and the home of Jules and Amy. Having learned nothing from our Newport experience we decided to stop at the Original Farmers Market on our way north. We got the idea from Feed Phil, one of our favorite netflix shows on food/travel, but this too was not the best laid plan.
Again, finding no parking we gave up and headed to San Marino for a celebration dinner for Marcus who had graduated from San Marino High School. After two days relaxing around the pool at Jules and Amy’s we set out for Yosemite National Park where we shared a house with family for a few days of hiking and exploring.
This was the first time to Yosemite for all of us, a spectacular park. Our hike up to Nevada Falls and down the John Muir trail rates as one of the best hikes of my life. Absolutely beautiful the entire 8 mile loop. Covid proved both a blessing and a curse for our travels in the park. Access was limited and crowds were down even on popular hikes.
However, services were down as well. My guess is that with summer travel being uncertain the parks just didn’t hire a lot of summer workers. Many hotels, campgrounds, and restaurants were closed or had limited service. In a normal year the park handles the crowds with an extensive shuttle bus service. Most guidebooks are based on the shuttle service, but there is no shuttle service this year so we were left trying to figure out where to drive and where to park with very little information. Regardless, we had a great time and highly recommend a visit to Yosemite.
From Yosemite Kelly and I headed over the recently opened Tioga pass making our way to Lake Tahoe. The Tioga pass is a classic mountain drive with mountain vies and wildlife, it is only open June to September so plan accordingly.
We had not visited Tahoe in decades, and it remains as beautiful as ever. As luck would have it our friend Daq was having his squadron reunion the same week and he invited us up to their little house for drinks and dinner. The 35 or so attendees from his old fighter squadron had rented the 17 room 17,000 square foot Gunbarrel lodge. The house defies superlatives, amazing and spectacular really don’t do it justice. We were welcomed by his squadron family and treated to a steak dinner with expansive sunset views over Lake Tahoe. The next day we again joined the squadron for a pontoon boat cruise around the lake. With Daq at the helm and me playing DJ we enjoyed a great day on the lake.
Bidding our fighter squadron friends farewell we hit the road again for our second national park, Crater Lake. Again, we were hampered by poor planning. Obviously, I have gotten lazy and need to step up my travel planning game. You see, when you live in the desert where temps have been flirting with triple digits for weeks you just assume summer has arrived everywhere. Summer had not arrived at Crater Lake. Additionally, Covid is still very much a thing in the park. Many facilities remain closed and dining options are very limited. They even had a guard at the gift shop insuring that no more than 10 people were allowed in at a time. With winter still hanging on, the rim road that circles the lake was closed. This limited our tour of the lake to about 4 overlooks on the west rim. We woke the next morning to a light snow and clouds blocking our view of the lake. Don’t get me wrong, Crater Lake is beautiful when you can see it. But with temps in the 30’s, most roads and trails closed and our winter clothing safely back in Arizona we spent our time hanging out in the lodge cuddled up by the fire. Which is not a bad way to spend a day.
From Crater Lake we drove the four hours to Portland for a night on Papillon, our friend Jim’s 65 foot yacht which he calls home. Its nice to have friends with boats. I highly recommend it. Jim has been a friend since high school and the best man at our wedding which was just a few years ago, okay 35 years ago. A night on the water, dinner and drinks with an old friend, life really doesn’t get any better.
Next stop Bellingham and a week of graduation celebrating with Cap. Actually, half of that week was spent helping Cap and Ray move to a new apartment and cleaning the old place. Our life is not all glamor and yachts.