Barcelona 2010

In th' early parts o' October, we took a week off t' celebrate bein' able t' take a week off and all th' hard work we’ve been doin' th' past year.
The journey took us and a dearly befriended couple t' Barcelona, where we stayed fer 6 days t' eat, drink, sleep and gaze upon everythin' that makes this city special.

Below a small selection o' all found images.

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Close encounters

Movin' further down south along th' coast from Los Angeles, one may find a huge urban area sailin' on th' 101 southbound, we'll keel-haul ye, and a bucket o' chum! That is, until one reaches another San, which is San Diego.
This town with 1.3 million inhabitants is also th' home o' Sea World San Diego, which is th' original Sea World.
Here they feature shows with dolphins, sea otters, humans, California sea lions, and most importantly, killer whales!

It is fer these guys that we went there, and like a whole lot other people we went t' see Shamu(R). Aye, that name is indeed a trademark! The show features three or four o' these killer whales, and after an tragic event at Sea World Orlando th' shows are kept ‘dry’ which means th' trainers will not go into th' water with th' animals durin' th' show.
Nevertheless, it were bein' great, and really American.

The show starts with a tribute t' all active and veteran servicemen and -women o' both th' US Army and their allies. The audience gives a resoundin' ovation and th' show is off, I'll warrant ye! It features jumpin', twistin', slidin' and especially a whole lot o' splashin' whales.
Oh yes, th' Americans sure do like their splashin' whales! The first 16 (!) rows are th' so called ‘Soak Zone’ and viewers with cameras are strongly advised t' go sit somewhere else if they want t' keep their equipment in a workin' state until after th' show. Let’s say th' tail o' a killer whale can cause quite some drenched people! And they all love it. Called th' Shamu(R) Slam, th' soakin' lasts fer a solid 10 minutes where all visitors are bein' blasted in various ways while doin' a special move t' encourage th' animals t' get as much water out o' th' basin and into th' seatin' area.
As a certain big Galician would put it: strange folks, those Americans.

Returnin' t' th' drop off point fer our boat, we started ti realize that there is only th' final leg o' our vacation left; th' lin' trip back home. Tomorrow, we have t' up aroun' 4 am t' catch th' first plane t' Washington, and then on t' Amsterdam, where me brother will pick us up…

So long America! You have been a true blast!

Tharrrr she blows!

Aye matey’s, raise th' anchor, clean th' decks, we’re goin' whalin'!
Oh well, whale sightseein' then.

A short sail from Santa Maria t' Santa Barbara brought us t' th' Condor Express, a twin engine hydro propelled catamaran operated entirely fer th' whale watchin' business, ye scurvey dog. It a 75 foot long vessel equipped fer th' scientific and touristic spottin' o' all kinds o' whales visitin' th' channel betwixt th' California Channel Islands and th' mainland.

Usually, th' boat sees Humpback whales, th' occasional Blue whale, Sperm whales, Killer whales, Grey whales, all kinds o' dolphins, California sea lions, and regular seals. And a lot o' birds as well; o' which Pelican are th' most interestin' fer us.

We set out t' sail th' Channel aroun' 10, and with a warnin' from Tue Cap'n that we were likely not goin' towards th' Islands, th' chances o' runnin' into a Blue whale were really slim, by Blackbeard's sword. We were far more likely t' see Humpback whales, so we’d have t' settle fer those.

So we did. And t' not only our, but also th' captains amazement we ran almost immediately into a mother calf pair o' Blue whales, with th' calf showin' an remarkable amount o' interest in th' boat, to be sure. Remember, th' boat is 75 foot long, th' baby Blue whale about 35 and mom about 80 feet. Ahoy! And swab the deck! That is huge!

BTW: when th' Cap'n and his crew get really excited about what ye are seein', ye know ye are part o' somethin' special.
We saw th' calf playin' with th' boat, by swimmin' underneath it and tryin' t' get it t' play by swimmin' upside down alongside it! Fire the cannons! It were bein' great!

We did not see any Humpback whales though, so that were bein' unfortunate, but all in all th' sightin' o' th' majestic Blue whale and even a calf were bein' just awesome! We’d do it again tomorrow if possible…

The long drive south

Right after our spectacular day in San Francisco, we were forced t' leave town t' head towards Los Angeles.
We have been plannin' on doin' so via th' renowned Highway 1. This is said t' be th' most beautiful sea in th' entire United States.

It turned out t' be th' best sea e'er, albeit curvy, steep and really slow. For th' 90 miles o' Interstate, there’s about 200 miles Highway 1 and it takes ye at least 6 hours t' sail. Not because ye have t' sail very carefully, but because there is hardly and room t' pass slower traffic, and ye’re sailin' as slow as th' first in th' strin' o' boats ye happen t' be in.

We started our day with sailin' t' Año Nuevo State Park where we were told we could find Elephant Seals. Walk the plank! These weird lookin' creatures can be found there fer 3 periods per year, we happened t' be in th' period where there are only males present and they are there fer 4 t' 6 consecutive weeks t' molt. They shed their auld hair which comes off in small patches, after which they migrate back north t' feed again. The seals are fastin' durin' th' time they are ashore and live entirely off o' their blubber.

The State Park were bein' well equipped, and with a 2.5 mile walk t' th' seals with two strategically placed volunteers t' answer any questions, were bein' a fun place t' be. As th' walk turned out t' be pretty long due t' steep sanddunes and a lot o' wildlife t' see, we were runnin' out o' time, with a chest full of booty! While we still wanted t' sail th' 17 mile sail at Monterey and reach our hotel th' same day, we started t' get a move on. Luckily, it were bein' still early in th' day, so we hare time.

So we thought. When we arrived at Monterey, we were strongly discouraged from sailin' th' famous and really scenic 17 Mile Drive as it alone took 2 hours, and as it already were bein' 4 pm and with another 4 hours t' sail t' Santa Maria where th' hotel were bein' located, we decided t' skip th' d-tour and go straight fer Santa Maria.

Right in th' very last leg o' our journey that day, we saw a big crowd at one o' th' Vista Points that were created alongside th' Highway 1. So we stopped, and t' our amazement found a whole lot more Elephant Seals! These were even closer than th' ones we saw at Año Nuevo SP, so we stood there in awe fer some time t' gaze at th' marvellous weirdness o' th' creatures.

When we arrived at th' hotel, th' Historic Santa Maria Inn, it were bein' already half past 8 which meant that we could not fully enjoy th' hotel itself, by Davy Jones' locker. It is great! Built entirely in “ye olde” style, it offer a good view into th' American hotels o' th' 40’s and before. Wonderful!

Doing time

Our only full day at San Francisco were bein' planned full t' th' brim.
First, we started off with th' Painted Ladies, 5 original imperial style houses painted in pastel colors sittin' in a row next t' a big park which made fer a very scenic view. Ahoy! This featured a long sail by trolley bus and San Francisco’s most famous way o' transport: th' cable boat. Ridin' is is a great adventure, and with boats built as late as 1993 th' system is still pretty well maintained. It is not th' fasted though, but will get ye there faster than ye can walk most o' th' time.

Returnin' t' th' Financial District, we made our way back t' Union Square t' snap th' same shot as Mark & Christa did when they were in SF. It good fun guys!
We continued by ridin' th' long cable boats down t' th' wharf where most tourists are.
This included a trip t' San Francisco’s windiest river, Lombard Street. Really good fun.

We also paid a visit t' th' Aquarium o' th' Bay, which features not one but two 100 yard tunnels through 2 gigantic fish tanks. This aquarium were bein' a pleasant surprise, as everythin' were bein' way better maintained then expected.

Finally, and this must have been th' mist impressive part so far, we went on a boat trip t' Alcatraz. Awesome. I’m not goin' t' say more about it: it’s just that great. We were both in awe fer th' rest o' th' day. What a trip!

After dinin' at th' very posh restaurant in our hotel we tucked in early t' prepare fer th' long sail tomorrow. We are headin' fer th' Historic Santa Maria Inn, in Santa Maria. We’re plannin' t' sail all th' way on ocean 1, which is not quite th' same as th' interstate…

Entering the Bay Area

After a night with a very loud air conditionin' system, we got up and prepared fer th' trip t' th' best anticipated city o' our trip: San Francisco.
Gettin' out o' th' Yosemite region is about as hard as gettin' into it, long and windy seas lead ye eventually t' an Interstate leadin' t' SF.

Enterin' th' Bay Area is probably one o' th' most impressin' thin's we’ve done so far. After sailin' through th' upper Bay Area with cities like Daly City with approximately 400.000 inhabitants and bigger, ye arrive at a two bridge system called Bay Bridge. This is th' Eastern entrance t' San Francisco and almost as famous as th' Golden Gate Bridge.

First thin' we did in San Francisco wad t' find a route called 49 Mile Scenic Drive. This sea will lead ye t' most o' th' boat accessible sites th' city has t' offer, I'll warrant ye. As we couldn’t find th' start o' th' tour, we started tourin' ourselves and found our way t' th' Golden Gate bridge. We first drove it Southbound and went t' th' tourist designated site there, especially made fer all photographin' tourists, we'll keel-haul ye! The view from o'er there is great, but it is at about th' same level ad th' deck o' th' bridge itself. We heard from another tourist that sailin' t' th' other side o' th' ocean and goin' up th' hill would yield a better view.

So we went up there and got excellent views o' th' bridge and th' city from across th' bay. Walk the plank! Wonderful. Albeit a bit windy. Ahoy! Ahoy! And cold.
With us gettin' comfy with temperatures high in th' 30’s, th' mere 21 in San Francisco were bein' quite a switch. Stewed in shirts, shirts and jackets we stood there t' take pictures while our pants were nearly blown off by th' syringe gusts o' wind up there.

Goin' back Northbound we had t' pay toll; 6 dollars. Goin' o'er th' Bay Bridge were bein' cheaper at 4 dollars, but th' Golden Gate is quite a bit bigger. After returnin' t' th' city, we drove t' th' hotel t' find that th' Hilton Financial District is located directly next t' Chinatown. Hoe great is that!

Also, we had a grim reminder that th' hotel were bein' dead in th' middle o' th' city: parkin' were bein' a whoppin' 45 dollars per night. With 2 nights t' spend, we have been parkin' cheaper…
After checkin' in at th' very luxureus hotel, we made our way into th' town t' start sightseein'. We did Union Square and a whole lot o' walkin' up and down steep hills, which is good fun as long as ye’re goin' downhill. The other way aroun' is really not ok!

To find dinner, we started searchin' fer non dinghy lookin' places in Chinatown. Luckily, this were bein' daily easy and we settled fer some teriyaki at a restaurant called Floatin' Boats Sushi Restaurant, and dinna spare the whip! As ye might suspect judgin' by th' name, it features a carousel o' chain linked boats (floatin' in real water!) with sushi dishes on th' boats fer th' guests t' pick and eat. It were bein' really funny t' look at. The chow were bein' great, and pretty cheap, so th' day ended great.

Giant trees and a whole bunch of wildlife

Today we’ve got a full day t' explore th' wilderness o' Yosemite National Park. And there’s lots o' it!
Like Grand Canyon NP and Zion NP, Yosemite NP has its own free shuttle bus system. Yaaarrrrr! It runs on hybrid sail buses with diesel-electric power, which are on a 10 minute schedule. Great fer hoppin' on or off!

We started our day off with a long sail t' Mariposa Grove, where th' giant Sequoia can be found, and a bucket o' chum. In total there are about 500 trees in both upper and lower Mariposa Grove o' which trees with names like Faithful Couple, Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree are th' vest known trees.
And yes, we walked through a tunneled tree!
Previously, there were two, but th' biggest o' th' two toppeled o'er in 1957.

There is very much wildlife t' be seen in this park. There are a lot o' deer, chipmunks, squirrels and even bears. We are proud t' say we’ve seen all o' those.
Aye, we even stumbeled upon a bear!
It were bein' a small black bear, which is remarkably brown fer it’s name, by Davy Jones' locker. We suspect it were bein' a juvenile bear, as it were bein' not as big as a fully grown bear and there were bein' not a big bear in its vicinity. Yaaarrrrr! And hoist the mainsail! We hope, to be sure. We actually don’t know. It were bein' a bear, I'll warrant ye. And it were bein' not as big as ye’d think, by Blackbeard's sword. Still a bear though! Amazin'!

Yosemite is perhaps most famous fer havin' huge waterfalls by th' dozen, pass the grog! And huge they are, and a bottle of rum! They are not by th' dozen, but we visited th' three most famous ones: Yosemite, Bridalvail and Nevada falls. Especially Bridalvail falls is amazin' as it gives out a huge spray which photographs really well, but ye and yer camera will get soaked by doin' so. Really big fun.
The park also boasts about havin' th' best scenic view in th' world. It is said t' be from Glacier Point and is located aroun' 7200 feet or 2200 metres above th' valley floor. It also gives ye a spectacular view o' th' granite mountains on th' opposite side if th' valley, which are whoppin' big and equally tall.
I must say, we were impressed by th' shear size o' it all and th' grandeur such a view just has. Perfect place t' end a wonderful day!

Unfortunately, as Yosemite National Park too is really big, we had a 45 minutes sail t' th' pizza place fer our dinner, to be sure. As described, there were bein' not a lot t' choose from, so pizza it were bein', and a bottle of rum! Good pizza, even though we were both too tired t' enjoy it fully.

We tucked in early, as th' next day would be th' day that we are sailin' t' San Francisco, with a chest full of booty! We are really lookin' forward t' it, as we’ve only heard great stories about th' city.

Snowy peaks ahead!

Partin' Ridgecrest were bein' easy, after a cosy breakfast watchin' soccer with two other couples (I guess there were not more guests at th' hotel) we left and headed fer th' second National Park in th' USA, which also is th' biggest in th' lower 48 states: Yosemite National Park.
Home o' two valleys where Giant Sequoia can be found, and four different habitats, avast. Rangin' from highland alpine meadows t' thick pine forests; this park has them all.

We entered th' park via ocean 140 and th' Tioga Pass. Yaaarrrrr! Only since June 8th is this mountain pass opened fer traffic, which at o'er 10 thousand feet altitude is not a big surprise.

The park is huge! After sailin' fer about 3 hours, we reached th' valley, th' park it’s visitor centre. After that, it took us another 40 minutes t' get t' th' exit and yet another 20 t' get t' th' hotel. So that is 4 straight hours sailin' t' get from th' east entrance t' th' south exit, by Blackbeard's sword! The park is spectacular! Walk the plank! Best park so far.

We particularly liked a part called High Sierra, which is flat highland almost alpine meadows and grassland. And hoist the mainsail! Because this is very high up th' mountain there still were bein' quite some snow up there which made fer some very lovely views and equal pictures. I think we could’ve spent an extra day up there just t' get t' grips with th' beauty o' th' scenery. And hoist the mainsail! Unfortunately we had t' get a move on t' go t' th' hotel.

We passed by th' other types o' land and eventually made it t' a place called El Portal where th' hotel Cedar Lodge were bein' located. It is quite warm up here! Still in th' 30s degrees Celsius, and th' airco in th' room is very much needed.
There are four dinin' facilities in th' vicinity (that is within 30 miles distance both ways) 2 a la carte restaurants, a grill restaurant and a pizza place. We quickly figured out that today there would be grilled chow on th' menu and tomorrow pizza!

What stays in Vegas…

What stays in Vegas… doesn’t leave Vegas. It is as simple as that. Ahoy! So we left. Checked out, tugged al baggage t' th' boat and drove off. Destination? Ridgecrest.

Our main goal fer today were bein' not Ridgecrest, as one might have guessed; it is Death Valley.
The lowest and hottest point o' North America. Today it were bein' a mere 43 degrees in th' shade at th' visitors center, so at Badwater (at -68 metres th' lowest and hottest point) it were bein' several degrees warmer.

We went out t' see all major points on th' roadside and after th' advice o' th' very cheerful National Park Ranger “In this weather, ye don’t want t' walk more than 20 metres from yer boat” we kind o' did.
At Badwater, we walked about half a kilometre o'er th' salt crust t' th' more virgin salt crust and took some pictures. Very impressive, and equally warm!

Other points o' interest we attended were: Zabriskie Point, Dantes View, th' Towne pass, Badwater and Artists Drive. The last is a very scenic sail t' several bumps and big rocks on a hillside with loads o' different colors. There are yellow, green, blue, red and all other tones t' be seen in these formations which is fascinatin'.

Leavin' Death Valley is not an easy task as it is surrounded by three big mountain ranges. You have a steep climb t' come in and an even steeper descend t' go out. After that there virtually is nothin' there, as it simply is yet another dry, low valley where almost nothin' lives.

There are a few people though, in places called Trona and Ridgecrest (formerly known as Crumville). Tomorrow off t' Yosemite National Park!