Hawaii, the Big (and rocky) Island

Ka Lae (south point) fishermen cast lines for big eye tuna, braving rouch ocean and 50 foot cliffs!

A five day visit to Hawaii, the Big (and rocky) Island…

Ka Lae is the southern mosst point in Hawaii and all 50 states.

We have only five days on this huge island; on our first day we head south from Kona, targeting old Ka Lae (meaning “the point”), at 19° north of the equator, the southernmost point of both Hawaii and all 50 states. It’s the place where historians believe the islands were settled, dating back as early as 750 CE. Most tourists zip past the lonely 12 mile road to South Point, off the Mamalohoa Hwy., on their way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

South Point Road winds initially through light forest, before descending through a tawny, golden plain to the ocean.  Past assorted farm houses, several huge cartoonish satellite dishes, we find evidence of earlier civilization around the point – several abandoned commercial buildings, and a number of old foundations and heiaus (early native gathering places).

Nearby is popular Green Sand Beach, one of only four in the world. It gets its greenish hue from olivine crystals that collect at the base of Pu’u Mahana, a cindercone thousands of years old. As it erodes, it sheds gemstones the size of sand.

Along the rocky South Point the ocean stands out as king, with lava flows pounded by relentless surf. In most places the rocky lava bluffs drop 20 to 50 feet down to surging ocean, while local fishermen cast lines or a few nets seeking bigeye tuna and other delicacies. At South Point, a local fisherman tells us to stop by Hana Hou Restaurant and Bakery, the southernmost restaurant in the US, in the town of Na alehu. We’ll check it out on our way back from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; we later find it jammed that night, with musicians serenading diners as patrons make for the bakery’s famous lileleko’i bars.

Kilauea Caldera during a hazy day, seen from Jaggar Museum.

We retrace our path back to Mamalahoa Hwy., headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We climb steadily to over 4,000 feet, crossing ancient and more recent lava flows and evolving forest, lusher and greener as we climb higher on the volcanic peak.

After entering the national park (free with our federal senior pass), we stop first at the visitor center to get a feel for the layout of the expanding land. We learn that, in recent years, lava flowing out of the Kilauea crater has added hundreds of acres to the size of this island.

Two miles away is the the Jaggar Museum, near the edge of the steaming Kilauea Caldera, with molten lava bubbling and churning just below sight-line. We learn the crater has filled almost to the rim recently, though the molten lava lake descended about 100 feet, just out of easy view.

Kilauea Caldera at night, where the lava lake casts an angry, orange hue into the dark sky.

We follow the 19 mile long Chain of Craters Road, with hikable lava tubes and pull-outs overlooking relatively recent lava craters. The lower portion of the road continues through older and more recent broad lava flows, looking like the top of miles-square baked brownies, before descending to the oceanfront.

Thurston Lava Tube extends thousands of feet into the lava beds.

The road ends where molten lava recently flowed over it; we’re left with a 5 mile hike (one way) along the old road and across those lava flows to see where the active volcano pumps daily lava into the ocean, steadily adding land to the island’s shoreline.

Just steps from the parking area is the Holei Sea Arch, the result of the ocean steadily pounding away at the 50 foot-tall lava coast line. The current eruption began in 1983, with the vent eight miles up the volcanic slope constantly spewing lava bound for the sea.

Visitors watch molten lava thunder into the Pacific (though a 5 mile hike is required to reach close-up views).

Our visit to the park seems solemn by the realization that, behind us, rise 13,617 foot Mauna Loa Volcano, and across the island, 13,796 foot Mona Kea Volcano, which produced this vast, rocky island anchoring the Hawaiian Island chain.

The next day we sleep in and then head north to the Hilton Waikoloa, for a late lunch and tour of this huge resort. We took the monorail and the gondola through the grounds – an impressive place. And, we are rewarded with our first dramatic sunset.

Holei Sea Arch shows evidence of the ocean's power against endless Hawaii lava cliffs.

The next day the island’s east coast and Hilo are our destination. Highway 200 yields a long, pretty drive up and over the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, striated with black lava flows, high desert tundra inhabited by wild goats and thick rain forest as we head down towards Hilo.

Hilo was the undisputed sugar capital, now a bit down on its luck with end of the sugar industry. We walk the six block stretch of the historic downtown across from Hilo Bay, admiring vintage buildings like the Kress 5 & 10 and the S. Hata Building, circa 1912. Inside is the Café Pesto, open since 1992, serving fresh fish and local produce right in heart of old Hilo. It’s a town hammered numerous times by huge tsunamis in the last 100-plus years, killing over 200 people; we keep an eye on the waterfront. Just south, a big farmers market and crafts fair operates daily!

Kona offers a Bike Share program, making it easy to cruise the town's main drag along the ocean.

A pleasant day involved touring our host town of Kona, developed for the resort crowd with a main drag along the ocean studded with outdoor restaurants and bars, interspersed with bed and breakfasts, condos, hotels and all variety of shops.  Each Wednesday, a big Carnival cruise ship anchors just a half mile off shore and disgorges hundreds of tourists on Kona; by evening, those visitors and the ship are gone to their next port-of-call.

A popular tour near Kona is the Kona Coffee Plantation, with a 200 year heritage on the island. The town has a bike-share program, with a number of locations where visitors can check out a bike for a nominal sum. Our final morning, a seaside breakfast at the Fish Hopper – Bloody Mary’s and a split of eggs Benedict over local Ono – is a fitting send-off for our short whirlwind tour.

For more information: Hawaii visitor info, gohawaii.com/islands/Hawaii; for Hawaii Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

A marvelous pizza with goat cheese, spinach and tomato, at Cafe Pesto in Hilo.



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Kauai, the Garden Isle; memories of a first time visit

Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai's rugged northwest shore.

Kauai, the Garden Isle; what first time visitors can cram into a week!

We’ve been coming to Maui every year since 2001; but for an R&R visit from Vietnam in 1971 to Oahu, we had never been to the other Hawaiian islands.

Photo of the start of Nepali Coastt, from the trail from Ke'e Beach on the north Shore.

So, after hearing inspiration from other fellow travelers about both Kauai and the big Island of Hawaii, we decided it was time to branch out. After a visit to Maui a week ago, we just finished our first week on Kauai, the “Garden Isle”. It’s the oldest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, allowing time for waves, wind and weather to sculpt the island, yielding lush soils for marvelous vegetation.

Flying into Kauai, it’s readily apparent how it got its name – rugged volcanic peaks jut into the sky covered with dense green vegetation in all directions. A tour guide later in the week will explain the island has been home to scores of movies, like Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and many more.

A monk seal lounges on the beach near our condo in Kapa' a.

We checked out our rental car and made to our rented condominium (a great deal, right on the ocean’s eastern shore, through Vacation Rental by Owner, VRBO.com) with several monk seals snoozing on the beach near our condo, oblivious to crashing blue waves.

Later we checked out old Kapa’a, with a dozen blocks of quaint shops and interesting restaurants, like Mariachi’s Mexican offering great shredded beef taco salads and tasty margaritas. We also discovered fine dining restaurants nearby, like Oasis on the Beach and Lava Lava Oceanfront Grill (voted best new restaurant).

Wailea Canyon, "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific".

The next morning we were up early for a tour up to Wailea Canyon, which Mark Twain defined as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Quickly, Hwy. 550 takes one almost to 4,500 feet, and, looking into that gorgeous canyon, Twain was correct. It is much the same feel as The Grand Canyon, but with much more green vegetation. And, one can look off the other side o the ridge-back highway and see more than 4,500 feet straight down to the mighty Pacific, extending cobalt blue into the horizon. From the end of the road it’s just another several mile hike to Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which locals claim as the rainiest place on earth, averaging 480 inches of rain each year (hence, the island’s lush vegetation)!

Later in the week we drove due north to the end of Hwy. 56, where the storied Nepali Coast begins. We then hiked the rugged opening miles of the 12 mile long Kalalau Trail (starts at Ke’e Beach), extending along the roadless, striking coast. It’s about a 4 mile hike to the base of Hanakapi’ai Falls, one of the highlights of the Jurassic Park movies.

Paddling up a rain-forest river, headed for the falls!

Along the way to the Napali Coast you pass through the town of Honolea Bay on the north shore, with local shops and several interesting restaurants – try the funky Calypso Restaurant for tasty fish and chips. On your return south, also stop at Kilauea Light House and National Wildlife Preserve and your choice of numerous scenic beaches.

Another highlight of our trip: A kayak trip up the Wailua River several miles, combined with a hike up to Opaeka’a (Secret) Falls, tumbling 125 feet into a beautiful catch-basin. We booked through Kauai/Ali’i Kayaks; local guide TC, with both his ukulele and little dog Yoda, made for a fine five hour tour, just $39.95 each.

O Paeka'a Falls tumbles 125' to delight of visitors.

If you are a coffee junkie, tour the Kauai Coffee plantation, with 4,000,000 coffee trees planted since 1987, featuring five primary types of coffee. Along the tour we learned that light roast has more caffeine than dark roast coffee and that sugarcane production ended in the islands in the last 20 years due to world-wide competition from sugar beets, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, resulting in reduced profits and the end to Hawaii’s historic economic engine, sugar production.

Spouting Horn is a fascinating ocean attraction.

Other island attractions include bicycling on miles of trails along the ocean, touring to Spouting Horn on the southwest side of the isle (where pounding waves enter lava tubes and send surf spouting 30 feet into the air), and sampling delicious Puka Dogs, either Polish sausage or vegetarian, a delicious Frankfurter in a bun with special Island condiments, making for a memorable meal.

The south, west and east sides of the island offer miles and miles of choice beaches for snorkeling, swimming and surfing. For a lovely park which offers a large sheltered swimming and snorkeling pond, with adjoining sandy beach, stop at Lydgate State Park. Here children and novice swimmers can swim or snorkel without fear of ocean waves or undertow.

Susan, about to dig into a famed Puka Dog!

Next week, we move from Hawaii’s oldest island to the newest and most dramatic, the Big Island.

For more information: Kauai visitor info, gohawaii.com/islands/kauai; for Kauai Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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7 must dos upon visiting Maui…

Surfer tackles big wave south of La Perouse Bay on Maui's southwest shore.

These are the seven must dos upon visiting Maui…

Mark Twain called Hawaii “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean”. Maui, second most visited of the islands (trailing only Oahu), is one of the most beautiful and the one we know best from 16 visits there in the last 17 years. Our recent visit and chats with locals allowed us to reevaluate our list of the top seven things to do in Maui. Here they are:

The Elvis "Burn'N Love" show is a hit in Lahaina.

Take in a sunrise at the top of Mt. Haleakala. need to depart your hotel around 2:30 AM to make the 5 o’clock-ish majestic sunrise at the top of the 10,023’ volcano. Take either a jacket or a blanket, since it’s about 25° chillier at the lofty summit than at sea level. And on the way down, reward yourself with a stop at the old Kula Lodge at 3200 feet on the volcano’s flank for marvelous breakfasts such as cinnamon swirl French toast (with coconut syrup); stunning views come with the breakfast! The National Park now requires pre-registration and a nominal fee of $1.50 to make the early morning drive to the top – so go to reserveamerica.com and book your day trip well in advance.

The huge banyan tree is the center of old Lahaina.

Explore Lahaina Town. It’s the historic former whaling capital and territorial capital (before it moved to Oahu). The city is loaded with history and features one of the world’s largest banyan trees anchoring a city block in front of the old courthouse (the old Baldwin House Museum is nearby). Home to some of the island’s best shops and finest restaurants, like Fleetwood’s, Hamburger in Paradise and Bubba Gump’s Shrimp all along the ocean on old Front Street – it’s a gourmet’s delight.

Go beaching! Maui is known for many of the worlds top beaches. Favorites, based on broad, sandy and swimmable, are on the west side of the island, like Wailea Beach (between the Grand Wailea and Fairmont luxury tourist hotels), Makena State Beach and Secret Cove (just south of 6900 Makena Rd.), where a 6 foot opening in the lava-rock wall takes you to a pocket beach with gorgeous scenery, including a picture-perfect vantage-point looking out towards Molokini Atoll).

Sun sets over the beach on Maui's stunning west-side beaches.

At Sugar Beach in North Kehei, the Kehei Canoe Club offers Tuesday and Thursday canoe trips in Hawaiian war canoes for a donation of $40. It’s an exciting and energetic option, paddling parallel to several miles of beautiful beach. The beaches in and north of Kaanapali are scenic, but narrower and rockier.

Take the road to Hana. This scenic, windy (115 tight turns) road delivers you to this ultimate, secluded town on Maui’s south eastern flank. Plan a full day to journey through thick rain forest, along gorgeous sections of the ocean and past numerous waterfalls. Early in the drive, just past popular Mama’s Fish House, stop at the Ka’a Point Beach, one of the best kitesurfing beaches in the world; world-class kite surfers zoom right up to the beach, presenting marvelous photo opportunities. Just past the secluded resort town of Hana find the grave of Charles Lindbergh at the Palapala Ho’Omau Congregational Church. Lindbergh retired to Hana and died there in 1974.

Wild goats on the King's Highway Trail through lava flows at La Perouse Bay are an extra bonus.

Hike a few of Maui’s beautiful trails: Some are historic, like sections of the old Kings Hwy. that circled the island hundreds of years ago, allowing ancient Hawaiian kings to traverse the island and collect taxes. A favorite, the Hoapili Trail, treks through the La Perouse Bay lava fields, presenting rocky ocean views around every turn and sightings of dozens of wild black goats which inhabit the area. Another is the Lahaina Pali Trail, which parallels the Pali Highway from Ma’alea Harbor headed north to Lahaina and offers stunning views of Molokini, Kaho’o'lawe and Lanai from high on the bluffs above the Pacific. The Haleakala volcano’s trail system also offers a host of options into the crater (though altitudes of 9-10,000 feet will cause some a challenge).

Take in a show. While we’ve done three different luaus, the high price precludes them as good values – though you probably owe yourself one (Drums of the Pacific Luau in Lahaina is rated tops by TripAdvisor). Lahaina does offer several spectacular shows, including the Elvis impersonator Burn’n Love show, Warren and Annabelle’s Magic (we’ve seen each twice) and the epic Ulalena, a stunning musical review full of acrobats, focused on the creation of the Hawaiian islands.

The South Maui Fish Company is one of many food trucks offering local delicacies.

Eat local: Marvelous dining options abound; our suggestions are to focus on local food, food trucks and happy hours. Skip the chains and find local restaurants that cook locally-caught fish and Maui-grown produce (Pacific-O a fine example). Food trucks also offer wonderful options, such as the South Maui Fish Company in Kehei or Jawz Fish Tacos on Makena Road opposite Makena State Beach (with scores of beautiful beaches, you have stunning waterfront dining backdrops). And, dine during happy hour for appetizers at half price and discounted drinks at a variety of places, such as Five Palms (Kehei), Fleetwoods (Lahaina) and the Hula Grill (Kaanapali).

For more information: Maui Visitor’s Bureau, visitmaui.com, (808) 244-3530; for Maui Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Follow Tim’s blog at recordnet.com/travelblog or contact him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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The eastern Sierra; Mono lake, Bodie, Mammoth Lakes region

Lake Mary, above the town of Mammoth Lakes at 9000 feet.

Exciting fall destination: the eastern Sierra; Mono lake, Bodie, Mammoth Lakes region…

We are bound for the Eastern Sierra, after spending several days in Yosemite Park’s Tuolumne Meadows area, then cresting mighty Tioga Pass.

The Standard Mine and Mill stands high on Bodie Bluff above the old town of Bodie.

It’s a steep descent from the pass into Lee Vining, at the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395. If you haven’t visited Bodie State Historic Park, go north on 395 to find this gem of gold rush history.

W. S. Bodey discovered gold in 1859, though he perished in a blizzard the following November making a supply run to nearby Monoville (near present-day Mono City). The town languished until the 1876, when the Standard Company discovered a profitable gold-bearing deposit and transformed the area into a boomtown, reaching a population of about 7,000 people and over 2,000 buildings. Despite over 65 saloons on Main Street, the gold played out by the late-1800s and the town faded away (but not before producing about $34 million in gold).

Old homesteads parallel Hwy. 395 headed to Mammoth Lakes.

Bodie’s Main Street features the old post office, the IOOF Hall, Miner’s Hall with adjacent morgue, Boone Store and Warehouse, the old firehouse and Wheaton and Hollis Hotel (the hotel lobby, complete with bar and pool table, gives the impression that gold prospectors left just minutes earlier)!

Walk down Green Street to the red-brick hydroelectric building. In 1882 a hydroelectric plant was built on Green Creek above Bridgeport, developing 3500 volts. Electricity was run 13 miles over power poles set in a straight-line – at the time the belief was that electricity could not be made to turn a corner! This engineering feat spread throughout the world, and soon similar power plants became a worldwide standard. After a walking tour of Bodie, we returned to Hwy. 395 and headed south.

Tufa towers appear as a "ghost ship" along edge of Mono Lake.

Just south, Mono Lake, at 760,000 years old, is one of the oldest lakes in North America. With no outlet and fed by six major streams emptying minerals into the lake for eons, evaporation has resulted in lake water 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and extremely buoyant. While fish can’t live in the alkaline waters, it’s flush with life – millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies feed thousands of migratory birds. Touring the shoreline tufa tower gardens is an experience you will long remember.

Tufa tower formations are the result of springs rising up from the lake floor and depositing minerals as they grow upwards. Once 30, 40 or 50 feet under the lake’s surface, evaporating lake waters reveal these stark, alien creations over the past 95 years, as LA water interests siphoned off tributary streamflow, causing the lake surface to drop by 65 feet. Tour the South Tufa Reserve, five miles east of Hwy. 395 on Hwy. 120; a one mile easy hike takes you through the most intriguing topography.

After our stop at Mono Lake, we continued south on Hwy. 395, paralleling the towering Sierra peaks to our west. We exited on Highway 203 to the resort town of Mammoth Lakes, home to the huge Mammoth Mountain ski resort, one of the largest in the west and a Mecca for hikers and mountain bikers. We drove through the town, and climbed to Lake Mary Campground at almost 9,000 feet. With spectacular scenery, it’s one of six lakes in the Lake Mary Loop, all featuring picturesque campgrounds.

Sun sets over Mono Lake and the lofty Eastern Sierra.

Mammoth Lakes’ jagged peaks, broad valleys and churning waterfalls make for an all-inspiring experience, particularly in the late summer/fall when crowds dwindle. Popular hiking or biking options, in addition to those in the Lake Mary area, include Tamarack Lakes Trail beginning at Rock Creek Lake Trailhead, an almost 10 mile round-trip hike with gorgeous views of rugged peaks surrounding Little Lakes Valley. Additional options include the Mountain View Trail, and Mammoth Rock Trail, which passes below the iconic Mammoth Rock, a huge limestone and marble outcrop.

After setting up our camp site, we returned to Mammoth Lakes and found our way to Mammoth Brewing Company, adjacent to the Eatery, a must stop, with craft brews and some marvelous pub food. The town features a variety of motels, additional restaurant options, retailers and sporting-goods stores, catering to the adventurous, outdoors crowd.

The next day we followed Hwy. 203 to Devils Postpiles National Monument. A short 1/2 mile follows a pristine stretch of the Upper Middle Fork San Joaquin River, then to the postpiles. About 80,000 years ago, basalt lava flowed and as it cooled and contracted it split into the symmetrical vertical, hexagonal columns that constitute the postpiles. Further down river is Rainbow Falls, which drops 100 feet over a volcanic cliff.

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 south, go east on Hwy. 120 through Yosemite Park to connect to Hwy. 395, south to Hwy. 203 to Mammoth Lakes, about 200 miles and five hours from Stockton.

For more information: Bodie State Historic Park, 760.647.6445; parks.ca.gov/Bodie; Mono Basin Visitor Center, 760.873.2408; fs.fed.us/r5/Inyo; Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce: 760.934.6717; mammothlakeschamber.org; Devils Postpile National Monument, 760.934.2289, nps.gov/depo.

Follow Tim at recordnet.com/travelblog or contact him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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Exploring Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows, bound for the Eastern Sierra’s Mammoth Lakes (part 1 of 2 parts)

Half Dome viewed from Olmstead Point on the Tioga Road, Yosemite Park.

Exploring Yosemite’s scenic Tuolumne Meadows, bound for the Eastern Sierra’s Mammoth Lakes

Late summer and early fall are the perfect time to visit Yosemite National Park’s high country, and continue over the Eastern Sierra to Mammoth Lakes. Along the way you’ll see an entirely other side of Yosemite, and have the option to visit Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie and the stunning Mammoth Lakes area – a mecca in its own right for mountain travelers.

Tuolumne River meanders quietly through Tuolumne Meadows near the idyllic campground.

Now is a great time to go – particularly this year after heavy winter snows and afternoon thundershowers are keeping the high country and Eastern Sierra green and verdant. Best of all, you’ll avoid the crowds that flood Yosemite Valley and discover jaw-dropping vistas in the Eastern Sierra.

We’ll cover this trip in two installments. If you drive through Yosemite directly to Mammoth Lakes, it’s about 210 miles and 4 1/2 hours from San Joaquin county. Our first leg will feature Yosemite up to Tuolumne Meadows, with the second feature focusing on the tour from there to Mono Lake and down to Mammoth Lakes.

Plan to spend several days in Tuolumne Meadows, either the campground or booking one of the tent cabins there. Nestled at 8600 feet in a stunning granite valley, the area offers wonderful scenery and exploring and hiking options galore.

Heading up Yosemite’s Highway 120 to Tioga Pass, you’ll pass the idyllic Tenaya Lake, capturing snowmelt from the remaining snows high in the surrounding Sierra. Stop at Olmsted Point for striking views of both Half Dome to the south and the lake ahead.

Tuolumne Meadows is wildly touted as the area that convinced John Muir to petition for the establishment of the nation’s second national park in 1890. It’s stunning views, verdant greenery and dramatic granite horizons make it a memorable experience. Said Muir, “A grand old mountain mansion is this Tenaya region! … Clouds Rest (9926′) is 1000 feet higher than Tissiack. It is a wave-like crest upon the ridge, which begins at Yosemite with Tissiack and runs continuously eastward to the thicket of the peaks and crests around Lake Tenaya”, from Muir’s Steep Trails, 1918.

May Lake and Mt. Hoffman at 9,339 feet in Yosemite's Sierra range.

Make your stay at Tuolumne Meadows your base camp for day trips. You’ll find a marvelously scenic trail on the east side of Tenaya Lake, where more serious hikers can connect to the John Muir trail, all the way to the overlook of the Yosemite Valley.

From the campground, you can walk along the meandering Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, running adjacent to the campground. With 300 sites the campground offers evening campfire programs and features the nearby Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Store and Grill with lodging, provisions and good meals for those who don’t want to cook in camp.

Other options from the campground include easy flat hikes through the Tuolumne Valley and a four-mile hike around Lembert Dome, a dramatic granite obelisk rising vertically from the meadow.

Tenaya Lake looking northeast.

Heading back down Highway 120, you’ll find Tuolumne Grove, featuring dozens of Giant Sequoias on a one mile downhill hike on the old Big Oak Flat Road. This is one of some 65 Sequoia groves in the central Sierra, only a few which are located in Yosemite.

Another favorite day hike is the trail up to May Lake. Take the scenic two mile drive off of Tioga Road to the trailhead where several sets of trails head off towards the river canyon and another trail heads southeast up to May Lake.

A 1.5 mile hike takes you over spectacular granite outcropping to the scenic lake at 9,330 feet. Here you’ll find a backpacking campground, a Sierra Club High Camp with water and flush toilets and a stunning lake with Mt. Hoffman as a backdrop, rising to 10,850 feet.

Author and our Scotty teardrop trailer at Tuolumne Meadows campground.

Tioga Road features more hiking options than any other part of the park. They include myriad trailheads to Cathedral Lakes, hikes to Clouds Rest, to Dog Lake, to Elizabeth Lake and Gaylor Lake. You’ll find plenty of reasons to make another visit!

From the Tuolumne Meadows area, it’s another scenic 15 miles to Tioga Pass, elevation 9,943’ where snow was 20-40’ deep just months ago, and then steeply down the Eastern Sierra to connect with Highway 395. From the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395, it’s only a few miles to Mono Lake. We’ll pick up there, and explore the ghost town of Bodie and resort area of Mammoth Lakes, next week.

How to get there: From Stockton to Tuolumne Meadows, it’s about 150 miles and 3.5 hours. Take Hwy. 4 east to Copperopolis, turn right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road, left on Hwy. 120/108 and follow Highway 120 past Groveland into the park (which becomes the Tioga Pass Road) leading to Tuolumne Meadows.

For more info: Go to: www.nps.gov/yose, Yosemite Park headquarters, PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389-0577, phone, 209.372.0200.  Also check with the park to avoid smoke-filled vistas that could be caused by future forest fires in the area. Camping can be booked through recreation.gov, or 877.444.6777.

Follow Tim at recordnet.com/travelblog or contact him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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Dining like royalty without raiding the treasury!

Happy hour at Five Palms, Wailea; sushi, coconut shrimp, two drinks, sunset ocean view, about $27.

Fine but frugal dining – dining like royalty without breaking the treasury…

Over the last four-plus years, Susan and I have traveled extensively across the US three times, the TransCan Highway across Canada to the Maritime Provinces and frequently throughout the US western states and Canadian provinces. Along with two two-week cruises on the rivers and oceans of Europe, we have had a chance to dine out hundreds of times.

Splits for brunch at The Ramp Restaurant, right on the bay, San Francisco; we split a huge omelet with a side bowl of clam chowder (not the Bloody Mary - that's mine)!

But it was 17 years ago, when we spent eight days in Paris on our 30th wedding anniversary, that meal portion sizes registered with us. Meals in Paris, not cheap but not outrageously expensive, offered portion sizes probably half of their American counterparts (and, we never left hungry). Of course, we saw all these trim Parisians walking the streets and wide boulevards interspersed with chunky or obese US and German citizens; inspiration.

Shortly after we returned to the US, we began to experiment with portion sizes at nice restaurants. The way to do that, most effortlessly, is to split the main course and a salad entrée. So, split we do! For the first year, we always felt a bit weird, but repeatedly found we had plenty to eat. So, it’s become our routine for nice lunches or dinners for years. Here are additional tips:

Do on-line research on restaurants that are well-publicized. Trip Advisor and Yelp apps give you a good rating service from many reviewers. And, file a rating after your meal.

Clam linguini lunch at the Athenian Restaurant, and Caesar salad, easy to split; Tom Hanks dined here in the 1993 hit movie "Sleepless in Seattle".

Ask locals their favorites (that’s how we found Girardi’s in Edmunds, WA, where “all day, every day, except 6-8 PM, is happy hour” with good, inexpensive food and drinks . So good and inexpensive we frequented the establishment four times in our four weeks in that lovely Puget Sound-bordered city. For upscale, locals suggested Arnies on the Edmonds’ waterfront over several other pricy choices, and we filed that recommendation away.

If you are spending a few days or more at a given location, grab the local newspaper’s weekend section, the local entertainment publication and the local visitor’s bureau website and search for restaurants and coupons. Here we found the offer “buy two dinners, get the second free” at Arnies. Bingo! We had a couple drinks, nice appetizer, two wonderful meals (one free) and watched huge ferries pass our Puget Sound water-front window. And, took about half the two entrées home for lunch the next day.

Search out happy hours (we often dine out on several happy hour appetizers and inexpensive drinks). We get to Hawaii once a year; we’re heading there in about 10 days. We discovered most of our favorite restaurants offer 3 to 6 PM happy hours, where we can get discounted drinks and two or three discounted appetizers (pupus, in Maui) at four or five o’clock – our meal for the day at a great discount, saving about 60% over a normal meal price – and we get the same gorgeous view!

Kids deserve nice restaurant exposure, and kids menu prices make it pretty attractive. Here is Ava, cousin to two of our grandkids, dining with us a Beachcomber Restaurant, Newport Beach, CA.

Check the target restaurant’s web site. Many offer:
Sunset deals – where a restaurant offers special prices on selected meals, usually before 6 PM
Early week dining specials
On-line deals and/or coupons
Corkage-fee – bring your own wine.
A senior’s discount, if you’re that age
Children’s prices – younger kids deserve the option eat out occasionally, and most restaurants make the price reasonable

Wild salmon slider, just $8, University District Farmer's Market, Seattle.

Don’t overlook food trucks and vendors at farmers markets (i.e., some of the best lunches we’ve had are fresh fish tacos from food trucks that line the beach highways in Kehei and Wailea, HI, and the fresh, wild salmon sliders we found at Seattle’s University District Farmers Market were quickly selling out).

Dine in occasionally (if cooking facilities), using local ingredients like local fresh fish served with a green salad and steamed veggies. Same idea, if you’re camping. If you’re traveling in the summer/fall past wild blueberries or blackberries, pick some for breakfast or dessert use!

Historic or local flavor: I’m a closet history buff and always seek out places with historic interest, such as The Athenian at Seattle’s Pike Street Market, an institution where scenes with Tom Hanks were shot for the hit 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle; or Boston’s Fanuiel Hall, birthplace of American Liberty, complete with historic and delectable eateries on both levels of the old hall and nearby market buildings.

Susan, with 1.25 lb. Maine lobster dinner, Bar Harbor, Maine, just $18.95 if before 6 PM.

Sometimes, you have to splurge; as we did twice in our three days last fall at Acadia National Park, next to cool Maine coastal town of Bar Harbor. Here, you have to dine, at least once, on a full Maine lobster dinner. So, off we went, and found several restaurants with 1.25 lb. lobster, clam chowder, corn on the cob…wait for it, $18.95 (or $21.95 if after 6 PM).

The following day, we bought two pounds of Cherrystone clams in a Bar Harbor fish market, returned to our nearby campground and Susan made linguine with clams in a white wine, butter, lemon and garlic sauce. With a small green salad our total cost of that dinner was about $15 for the two of us; vying for best meal of our trip! Yum!

Dining like royalty, without raiding the treasury!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Best meal of trip, made in our campground with two pounds of fresh Cherrystone Clams, linguini in a white wine/garlic/butter sauce and big green salad, Acadai National Park, Maine.


Posted in Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lincoln Highway makes for historic travels in San Joaquin County!

Lincoln Highway sign on Maple, just off the Miracle Mile, Stockton.

History comes alive on Lincoln Highway; exciting and gourmet travels in SJ County!

I recently noticed red, white and blue Lincoln Highway signs popping up in Stockton, so I tracked down local Lincoln Highway historian Kevin Shawver to learn more about the historic highway and to plot a tour of its route through San Joaquin County.

Kevin Shawver stands beneath Lincoln Highway sign in Stockton.

Kevin noted the vast changes that the introduction of the automobile visited on our country, which accelerated when Henry Ford introduced the hugely popular and inexpensive Model T Ford in 1908.  Sales took off, and within a few years many Americans were plotting day-long and longer drives across the nation’s patchwork-quilt of roads, many unpaved.

Kevin noted that “the Lincoln Highway was once called the ‘Main Street across America’. Opening in 1913, the highway invigorated many smaller to midsized towns, bringing road improvements, roadside attractions, hotels, motels and restaurants, billboards and enhanced traffic to cities on the route.

It started in New York City’s Times Square, and wended its way westward, 3,389 miles to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. The highway was the longest ‘thing’ in America, and was the first US memorial to President Lincoln, preceding the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The highway helped inspired the term ‘tin can tourists’ – in the early century, gas had to be purchased in hardware stores or at auto dealers – there were very few gas stations. Tourists would discard the empty cans along the highway, leading to the term ‘tin can tourists’”.

The Lincoln Highway debuted in 1913, wending its way west from New York City to San Francisco (map courtesy of Lincoln Highway Association).

Lincoln Highway was cobbled together from existing highways and byways in 1913; the original route came through Sacramento, then turned south, heading through Woodbridge, Stockton, Lathrop, French Camp, Tracy and over the Altamont pass to San Francisco. Several realignments would later fine-tune the route, made primarily to eliminate dangerous railroad crossings.

One realignment shifted the route in our north county over to Highway 99, running down Cherokee through Lodi, though it has always run through Stockton. With the opening of the Carquinez Straight Bridge in 1927, the highway was realigned along a route roughly paralleling I-80, and traffic eased in San Joaquin County.

The Lincoln Highway's original route through California, neatly bisecting San Joaquin County (map courtesy of Lincoln Highway Association).

To tour the San Joaquin County route, a great place to start is at the historic marker at Lincoln and A Streets in Galt. From the monument, head south on Lower Sacramento Road in Woodbridge, with several substantial brick buildings pre-dating the original Lincoln Highway opening.  Woodbridge not only retains deep historical character with buildings dating back to the 1860s, it’s a gourmet’s delight.

The International Order of Odd Fellows Hall in Woodbridge, now home to Cactus Restaurant, anchored the Lincoln Highway's route through Woodbridge.

Here you will find restaurants like Woodbridge Crossing, a steakhouse in a brick building which dates to the end of the Civil War, 1865, Cactus, in the 1873 International Order of Odd Fellows Hall and the newest sensation, Woodbridge Uncorked, featuring fine wines, craft brews and delicious food by noted caterer Heather Lea. Across the street is the Woodbridge Inn.

History lives on at Woodbridge Uncorked in Woodbridge.

Continue on Lower Sacramento Road south from Woodbridge, which becomes Pacific Avenue in Stockton (Lower Sacramento was renamed Pacific to commemorate the opening of University of Pacific in Stockton in 1925). The Lincoln Highway helped turn the character of Pacific, once lined only with residences, into the Miracle Mile, a bustling commercial corridor due to the new automobile traffic. From Pacific, go one block west to 309 N. Regent, a lovely, historic home with flowing-roof, built on Pacific when it was all residential. As the commercial district began to grow, the home was moved several blocks to its current location.

Shawver notes, “The Miracle Mile district offers a host of restaurants for an historical stop (in buildings which existed at the time), including Midtown Creperie, Sam’s Café (originally a Scott’s Grocery during the highway’s time), stop for libation at Valley Brew just off the highway, or, stop for a snack at La Palma (originally, it’s banquet room was the Milky Way Malt Shop, an early fixture on the highway). The foyer of La Palma Restaurant features a number of historic Lincoln Highway photos, including several of the brand new Tuxedo Park (the first housing development north of Harding)”.

This notable, historic home at 309 N. Regent, Stockton, was originally built on Pacific Avenue. As traffic from the Lincoln Highway helped transform Pacific into a commercial corridor, the home was moved several blocks to its new location.

From Pacific, turn east on Maple and follow the highway route to El Dorado, then south, becoming Center Street, taking you into the center of old Stockton, where the grand Hotel Stockton (circa 1910) was a route highlight. For fine dining, try Bella Vista Restaurant in the hotel, or for breakfast or lunch, Casa Flores is a good choice, just one block east on Weber.

The Hotel Stockton was one of the grand hotels along the Lincoln Highway, now home to Bella Vista Restaurant.

The highway continued south on El Dorado (now Center Street), where it headed southwest on Turnpike, towards French Camp (where a few historic buildings lie moldering away), through Lathrop and into historic downtown Tracy on 11th Street, then followed Grant Line Road west and up over the Altamont Pass, headed to San Francisco.

So, pile the family into that “tin Lizzie” and follow the route of the Lincoln Highway through San Joaquin County!

For more information: Lincoln Highway, lincolnhighwayassoc.org; Visit Stockton, visitstockton.org/about-us/Lincoln-highway/.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

San Joaquin Historic Museum, Haggin Museum are cool summertime destinations!

The Holt Side-hill Harvester M30 sold for $3000 in 1928!

Cool destinations to beat summer heat and learn about our past…
San Joaquin Historic Museum, Haggin Museum

Author's grandkids Jessica and Jack admire olf farming truck loaded with local fruit crates.

With the balance of summer flying by, let’s go for a couple local “cool destinations”, which each offer cool temperature-controlled environments and places that most kids or grandkids rate as “cool”, once they get involved.

Our family favorites include the Haggin Museum and San Joaquin County Historical Museums, each packed full of insight into the history and economic underpinnings of both Stockton and San Joaquin County. Exhibits at each museum offer hands-on activities, and our grandkids take to the sense of history almost immediately!

Let’s start on the county’s north end, with the San Joaquin Historical Museum (along with Micke Grove Zoo) the major attractions in Micke Grove Park. Just south of Lodi, the park and museum can make for a full day’s activities. The museum offers marvelous exhibits on our Native American forebears and the early days of our current agricultural empire, including the tractor barn with 40 historic and huge tractors for up-close and personal inspection.

The Innovators in Agriculure exhibit is fairly recent and brings today's San Joaquin agriculture heritage to life!

To start your day right, begin with breakfast at Richmaid, a classic family-style restaurant at 100 S. Cherokee Lane, Lodi.

A recent addition to the museum is the impressive Cortopassi-Avansino Building, featuring the “Innovators in Agriculture” exhibition. It illustrates the development of irrigated, intensive agriculture in San Joaquin County in the 20th century, focusing on six crops historically identified with the county: truck farming (small, diversified growing of vegetables and fruits), dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts and canning tomatoes.

Jennifer Lind plays American favorites at the San Joaquin Historical Museum's annual dinner and concert on August 26.

In addition to large historic equipment and small historic artifacts, the exhibits feature large-screen videos, photo murals, and touch-screen videos. The simulated walnut shaker will make you feel like you are working this awesome machine deep in the county’s walnut orchards!

Jack and Jessica get up close and personal with donkey in the Critter Corral.

The Critter Corral is a special attraction through the end of August, on Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM to 3 PM, featuring live, cute farm animals to pet and visit, free with regular museum admission. Museum admission fees are adults (18-64), $5.00; seniors (65+) and teens (13-17), $4.00; children (6-12), $2.00. A per vehicle parking fee is due upon entering the park.

The Zoo is just blocks away, if you and kids have energy to spare.

The museum’s annual dinner and concert features Jennifer Lind and “a Journey through American Music”, on Saturday, August 26, with doors open at 6, dinner at 7 PM and concert following. A lovely evening on the museum grounds includes dinner of New York steak, beans, salad, rolls, dessert and beverage, $60 per person.

The Haggin's Yokut's Village is part of the Native American Exhibit.

Stockton’s Haggin Museum has been declared by Sunset Magazine “one of the unsung gems of California”. Notes Museum Director Tod Ruhstaller: “The Haggin is cool during summer, though the art galleries are being renovated. However our unique history galleries are open and packed with insight on our city’s history”.

Second Saturdays are for families, featuring special hands-on activities for kids age 5-12. The museum also offers insight into our Native American and the city’s founding history, as well as world-class art.

The Native American Gallery offers insights into the Spanish missionaries who entered California in 1769, finding an estimated Native American population of over 300,000, the densest population of Native people in the entire North American continent, north of central Mexico, with 100 indigenous tribes speaking 125 languages or dialects.

The Haggin's Haines-Houser Harvester is not only huge, it's mostly made of wood with iron fittings!

The Yokuts tribes settled the San Joaquin Valley and adjoining foothills. In the Stockton area, the Yachicumne Yokuts established villages along Mormon Slough, the Stockton Deepwater Channel and Bear Creek, prospering on fish and game”. Museum exhibits bring to life the culture of the native people.

Ruhstaller continues, “Our big ticket items remain accessible during construction, including the oldest harvester remaining, built by Holt, the old Stevens classic wooden boat and Willy the Jeep, commemorating Stockton High School students who held war bonds fund drives and raised money to supply 245 Jeeps for the World War II effort”. Tying in is a special exhibition, Call to Duty, featuring 70 historical World War I and II posters, through August 27.

While the Haggin’s art galleries are going through a Renaissance, the museum offers special pricing through fall; adults are just $5, students/17 or younger, free. If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast to start your day, consider Bob’s at the Marina, 6639 Embarcadero Drive.

Stevens classic wooden run-about is part of an exhibit that explains Stockton's long history of boat-building.

Stay cool and immerse your family in our city and county’s storied history with these two compelling destinations!

For more information: Haggin Museum, 1201 N. Pershing, Stockton, hagginmuseum.org, (209) 940-6300, open Saturday and Sunday, Noon-5 PM and Wednesday-Friday, 1:30-5:00 PM (open to 9 PM, 1st and 3rd Thursdays); San Joaquin Historical Museum, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi, sanjoaquinhistory.org, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 AM to 4 PM.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Folsom, California, family fun and gold rush history beside the cooling waters of the American River!

Author's grandkids and daughter pull their kayak into the Sacramento State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma.

Family fun and gold rush history beside the cooling waters of the American River; it’s Folsom, CA!

The Sutter Street Historic District, looking east along old Sutter Street.

Recently, we sought a weekend destination to celebrate a daughter and a grandson’s overlapping birthdays. Our criteria took in the wish list of three grandkids, ages 6 to 17, two of their cousins, both our 40-something daughters and my wife and me.

Our checklist included:
• Kid’s activities to beat hot weather
• A walkable, compact destination
• Bicycling options
• Water sports and cooling waters
• Great food, both upscale and family style
• Historic points of interest (OK, that’s mine – not as high on the list of the others!).

Diners enjoy outdoor dining on the covered boardwalk outside the Sutter Street Grill, home to American favorites!

We settled on the lovely gold rush town, Folsom, on the American River and just 70 miles from San Joaquin county. We lived there in the late 1980s, and our kids had memories of the river as well as the old town.

We found much had changed. From a city of about 10,000, Folsom is now built-out with 76,000 residents and has lots of new housing surrounding the old town area. But it remains a quaint, historic city on the banks of the American River, offering scenery, history, water access, bicycling and plenty of kid’s activities.

Here are highlights of our recent visit:

Kid’s activities for hot summer days: The Sacramento State Aquatic Center, just off Hazel Avenue next to the Lake Natoma Dam offers a wonderful variety of water activities. Run by California State University students, the facility is a lovely complex offering shaded picnic areas, sunny beach, rentals of kayaks, small and larger sailboats, standup paddleboards (SUPs) and lessons if needed. Our grandkids delighted in paddling around Lake Natoma on one-person kayaks, larger kayaks and SUPs.

Swimmers and boaters enjoy Lake Natoma near Folsom.

The American River Bike Trail skirts the aquatic center, and circles Lake Natoma on both the north and south shores – both connecting to Folsom, just 3 miles away by bike. The bike trail also continues east to Folsom Lake, a much bigger water impoundment on the scenic American River. Hence, water activities, camping and fishing are available on one or both lakes. The city also offers 32 miles of additional biking trails, and along the American River Parkway and nearby Folsom Lake Recreational Area are miles more of hiking and mountain biking trails to offer lots of exploration options.

Folsom also offers the acclaimed Folsom City Zoo, the Folsom Aquatic Center with pools and water slide and ice-cream parlors sprinkled throughout the historic and enlarged town offer pleasant diversions.

Dining and Shopping: The historic center of old Folsom is the highlight for adults. The Sutter Street Historic District anchors the old city’s downtown; dating to the Gold Rush days it offers a six block-long stretch of historic buildings, shops and boutiques and a wealth of restaurants. From gourmet food to family style, you’ll find it on Sutter Street. Check out the Sutter Street Grill for American favorites, the Hop Sing Palace next-door for Chinese dishes, Snooks Chocolate Factory for killer chocolate concoctions and Pizzeria Classico for family dining.

The old Folsom Powerhouse was a cutting-edge power producer, operating from 1895 to the 1950s, and is now part of a state historic park on edge of old Folsom.

Gold Rush history: For those with an interest in history, you’ll discover Folsom dates to the 1840s, founded as Granite City by Joseph Libbey Folsom. Folsom succeeded in connecting a railroad to the city from Sacramento. The town became a jumping off point to the mines in the Sierra, just east, when Folsom dies in 1855, the city was renamed in his honor. Folsom was also the site of heavy dredge mining in the late 1800s; throughout the city, you’ll find massive piles of old cobblestones, evidence of the dredge mining on the American River flood-plane for elusive gold.

Worth a visit is the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park, on the eastern edge of downtown. The powerhouse opened in 1895 and was the first power plant west of the Mississippi. It used water from the American River to power turbines and send electrical power 22 miles into Sacramento – a distance unheard of at that time. The city also boasts the old railroad station, now a museum, with an old locomotive and round table, bordering the Sutter Street Historic District.

The old Folsom rail station is now a museum, just off Sutter Street.

More visitor options: the city boasts several performing arts groups, including New Star Children’s  Theatre, Sutter Street Theatre, Nicolson’s Musicafe and the Palladio Summer Concert Series (every Wednesday, 7 PM through August).

How to get there: From Stockton, go north on I-5 to Sacramento, then east on Hwy. 50 to Folsom; it’s about 70 miles and 1.25 hours.

For more information: Visit Folsom, visitfolsom.com, (916) 985-2698; Folsom Chamber of Commerce, folsomchamber.com, (916) 985-5555; Sacramento State Aquatic Center, sacstateaquaticcenter.com, (916) 278-2842; Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park, parks.ca.gov, (916) 985-4843.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Teardrop and larger classic travel trailers; class, comfort and a smart investment!

Our '58 Scotty Junior teardrop in front of the historic circular red barn on Oklahoma's memorable Rt. 66.

Classy, comfortable and a smart investment; teardrop and larger classic travel trailers…

Years ago, with kids in school, we would load them into a small car, pack our camping gear into a canoe, car-top the canoe and head off to Mount Rainier National Park or remote campgrounds on the Olympic Peninsula for a week or 10 days.

Classy '66 Scotty Sportsman, from our Scotty Michigan tour last year, almost identical to ours.

As we matured and the kids moved out, we added to our tent camping luxuries – meaning more gear piled into a car and more off-loading at the campground. As we approached our 60s, the idea of sleeping on the ground, and Susan’s concerns about bears, caused us to rethink our strategy.

We surveyed the market for small to midsize trailers; eventually finding on-line a tiny Kit Kamper teardrop trailer. Built from a kit about six years earlier, it was a cute little teardrop based on the original (popular in the 40s and 50s) teardrop platform using 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, yielding a trailer 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long. Trailer is economical to tow, offering a comfortable sleeping compartment for two cozy adults and room in the rear hatch to load all your camping and cooking gear.

After five years with the teardrop, we decided to upsize, and sought a slightly larger ’64 Serro Scotty trailer, finding a classic for sale in Southern California. I purchased it, cheap, believing simple repairs would make it roadworthy.

Our '64 Scotty in the "total tear-down" mode, a year ago.

After getting it home, I found it needed much more extensive work, resulting in an ongoing frame-up rebuild. In the meantime, we purchased a second teardrop, a ’58 Serro Scotty reproduction, built by a West Virginia shop teacher in 2011.

Hence, after 10 years of trailer ownership, and 80% completed on the process of the rebuilding a classic, these observations on small and classic trailers are reality-tested.

Teardrop trailers: Light-weight, easy to tow (we get 26+ miles per gallon behind our four-cylinder car), stow in the garage or behind a fence and are easy to maneuver into the tiniest of campground spaces. They’re comfortable, allow rear hatch storage of all camping paraphernalia – making it easy to go at a moment’s notice. Downside (at only 4 feet tall), no standup room and not a lot of fun if you get caught on a rainy weekend. And, no inside cooking or bathroom facilities.

T@B trailers, available new for about $20K, used for less than half that.

Small trailers: Including tent trailers in a variety of formats, and some of the smallest hard-sided campers made today. They include the A-liner, T@B, Casita and other trailers – offering standup room, sleeping for four adults, inside cooking/eating facilities, and often a bathroom and/or shower. Downside: they’re more expensive, in the $15,000-20,000+ range (new), won’t fit in a garage and a larger vehicle six cylinder vehicle is required (resulting in reduced miles per gallon).

Classic mid-size trailers: classic trailers have become increasingly popular over the last 10 to 15 years, as classic rallies have proliferated across the West and the US. Classics allow, if purchased wisely, the owner to enjoy them for a number of years, and sell for about the same price they paid, or more, years later. The cool classics also make you the talk of most campgrounds, able to attend classic trailer rallies and allow you to bask in the glory of enjoying a recycled product! Downside, if not purchased wisely, can be extensive rebuilding expense and time investment.

A classic tow vehicle with a very classic, small Airstream Caravelle.

As example, I thought I was getting a deal on our small ‘64 Scotty Sportsman, at $900. However, after discovering it needed a total rebuild, we will probably invest $5,500 into the trailer rebuild – and untold hours over the last several years.

There are a number of resources if you’re looking at a trailer like these. They include craigslist and eBay for classic and used trailers, specific trailer-brand Facebook groups and trailer websites for virtually any manufactured trailer, as well as local dealers like Pan Pacific in Lathrop and Sacramento dealers.

Here’s a sampling of favorites:

Our ’58 Serro Scotty teardrop: Manufactured in 1958 and 59, this one a very accurate reproduction. We’ve three times crossed the US and made many trips in the western states and Canada with this little trailer.

Larger Serro Scotty trailers: Made in the ’60s to the ’80s; pictured, a friend’s 1966 Scotty Sportsman – almost identical to the one we are rebuilding.

A beautifully restored '57 Corvette; a true classic, better than new!

‘57 Corvette: Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, owns this 1957 Corvette trailer, purchased for $600 and a two-years labor-of-love rebuild. He extended the frame, rezinced the windows and put about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job. You never know the value of a classic until you sell it, but this wonderful rebuild is definitely worth more than double what Bob invested in it – and, he grabs all the attention in varied campgrounds!

Then there are new trailers I define as “classics”; classic design, small, cute. They include:

T@B trailers: Belonging to our friends in Sacramento, just purchased for a bit over $20,000, sleeps two adults. The T@Bs carry that retro, tear-drop look over to modern times with the slickest of new trailers.

Casita trailers, slick, fiberglass trailers with virtually all the amenities, sleeping up to four adults.

A slick Casita trailer; retro lines defined by new fiberglass construction.

A–liner trailers: A modern version of the tent trailer, with hard-sides for bear-proofing, sleeps four.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com  and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic and find an owner’s group! To purchase, scan craigslist and eBay.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

An A-liner "Mini" trailer, a hard-sided pop-up trailer.

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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