Yosemite, San Francisco

Well, you wouldn’t believe it would you. I turn my back for 2 minutes and the apprentice gets hold of the iPad and writes the first thing that comes into his head like something about me using the wrong brand of toothpaste etc! Now really – as if I would do something like that! Well, maybe! Actually, what I do need to say is that we had this enormous jacuzzi bath with a shower at either end and I am just so glad the boss didn’t decide to share the shower that night because I would have had no one to fetch the 7-Up from ze fridge!I am writing this on a flight from San Francisco to Victoria and, as I do so, the guy sitting next to the boss has fallen asleep and his head is almost resting on Vern’s shoulder (he is also asleep). I am a little worried that the boss might subconsciously put out his hand and place it on this guy’s knee. Then all hell will break loose here in this row I fear!! So I am hoping one of them wakes up very shortly!

I know my apprentice has told you a little about San Francisco but I will backtrack a little. After the breakdown in the desert and all that excitement we travel up the Tioga Pass (which has an altitude of 9941 feet and is the highest automobile pass in California) to get to Yosemite National Park. Louis Armstrong is singing “What a wonderful world” on the bus and “we are seeing trees of green and skies of blue” as we climb the narrow road through the mountains to get to the top. We pass through the entrance gate at Yosemite National Park and drive on passing pretty meadows, granite mountains, gorgeous little lakes and streams. We are now at 10,000 feet and many of us are feeling the effects of the altitude with a little chest tightness when we breathe. We had a stop in the park and a large RV managed to scrape the side of our bus. Well, we are in the USA and the paperwork takes an hour with the Park Rangers involved as well. Everyone is happy to wait because today the temperature is great and the air is fresh and we are no longer in the desert!  

You enter the beauty of Yosemite after you exit a long dark tunnel and when you look right your jaw literally drops as the sun lights up the valley, the mountains and the forest. To the left is El Capitan 900 metres high standing straight and tall and magnificent. It is a little dry here so the water tumbling over Bridalveil Falls is not a torrent but still visible. The huge white granite walls tower up above us and the pine trees stand straight and tall with their feet embedded in the rock. It is breathtakingly beautiful everywhere you look. The tour director has beautiful music playing and we feel like we are viewing a spectacular movie. The sheer beauty is so moving it makes my eyes leak a little.

We start to descend down to Yosemite Valley and are now seeing red fir trees and, further down, cedar trees and sugar pines which have enormous pine cones. Sadly there is still also evidence of the big fires here in 1990 although they also carry out “managed burns” here and in other places to clean up the forest floor and encourage vegetation. We look out for black bears but see none although they are prevalent here and the rubbish bins are designed to puzzle them and keep them from foraging and even manage to be a challenge for people to use because of the design! We descend to the valley floor for free time in the park and we go on a walk to Yosemite Falls with our Tour Director. The heat is once again intense here in the valley so the walk is a bit of a challenge, made very much more difficult when Vern gets a call from Dene with some sad news (which he didn’t pass on until we got to the lodge thankfully). The visit to Yosemite will be remembered for its sheer beauty and the sadness of the news from home which the apprentice talked about when he wrote yesterday. We know Taryn has found her peace and is now with her brother Ryan. Two young lives lost too soon.

The next morning we exit the valley slowly and in the process the bus gets swiped by another large RV and the side mirror gets bent. These RV’s are enormous and they are rented so we figure that the drivers are simply not used to manoeuvring them. This one speeds off so it can’t be caught for the lengthy paperwork!

We make our way north through the Central Valley of California which produces 25% of food crops for the US – all this on 1% of the land in this huge continent. There are lots of rivers but not much water. However, these crops of stone fruit, cotton, tomatoes, citrus, cereals, grapes, almonds (70% of world’s almonds are grown here), walnuts and pistachios get irrigated somehow and migrant workers work in this valley.

We are now back in the state of California and the green crops of the valley give way to the golden hills and pasture. We pass a place called Gilroy and the aroma of garlic penetrates the bus from the large pastures of garlic which grow here. Actually, you can even get garlic ice cream here – yuk!!

We travel past San Jose, where the famous Silicon Valley is situated, and Stanford University. We have left the scorching temperatures of the desert far behind and the temperature now has plummeted to 17 degrees – oh deary me! We pass the famous San Andreas fault line where, in 1989, there was a very bad earthquake. 

So, as the Apprentice has already told you, San Francisco was covered in fog, fog, fog. This is apparently very common at this time of year. The Golden Gate Bridge was a Golden Gate Half Bridge because, after two attempts, we only saw half of it!! Apparently, if you show the locals a photo of fog, they say “so you visited the bridge”. We visited a Japanese Tea Garden, (where we purchase a bag of fortune cookies – the first one said “you can start planning an exciting adventure” so we figure we must be about to win Lotto), Chinatown where 100,000 people live in the space of 3/4 of a square mile and is the largest Asian population outside of Asia. We saw San Francisco from the water with a lovely boat cruise (bridge still in fog) and Alcatraz and spent a few hours at the very busy Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf which was a bustling area with street performers, fish and seafood restaurants, boats and shops and people, people, people!! I have to say I didn’t “leave my heart in San Francisco” like Tony Bennett but it was an interesting place to visit. We have farewelled the US now for the next few weeks and will be arriving back in Canada shortly.  

There is something I am completely over here and that is the queue at the Ladies. Whoever designs the Ladies’ Restrooms here seems to have the idea that women need to make new friends and they do this by queuing at restrooms. For heavens sakes, why do they only build them with just two or three I ask myself? And to make matters worse, this is a worldwide problem of enormous proportions. I wonder if Donald Trump has thought about this because he might plan to fix this as well as build the wall, expel the immigrants and destroy Isis all in a day’s work. Heaven forbid.

I am relieved to report the boss has woken up (unlike the guy next to him) so that’s a relief! We are flying due north to Vancouver and then onto Victoria and we are looking forward to that. 

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