Time for a small travel trailer to sate your wanderlust?

How a small travel trailer can sate your wanderlust, save you money and take you to new horizons…

Vaccines are slowly starting to roll out through California and in the west, and while it may be months before we can put the worst of the pandemic behind us, we can start to see the hopeful end in the distance. As we approach more normal lives, the American desire to travel in this country and beyond will quickly accelerate.

This column suggests small travel trailers as a fun and relatively safe mode of travel, whether it’s in your home state, the west or throughout the US and Canada. Even in the last nine months, we’ve made a couple of in-state trips (to Lassen National Park and oceanside campgrounds north of Bodega Bay) with our little vintage Scotty trailer, my wife and me, camping in style and comfort and able to avoid almost all other human contact. If you can revel in the beauty of nature and don’t mind avoiding restaurants (preparing your own food at campsite) and other people, it’s a delightful break from being home-bound.

Our 64 Scotty trailer and Ford Escape tow vehicle, and Yosemite Falls.

So, let’s consider small trailers, including vintage trailers, newer used trailers and new trailers. I recommend trailers generally shorter than 20 feet, which offer a room for several adults and several kids, and many of them are able to be towed behind small to midsize to vehicles – not those huge, fuel-guzzling pick-up trucks becoming so popular with Americans. 

We tow a 1400 pound, 13 foot vintage Scotty trailer behind a four-cylinder, turbo-charged Ford Escape (with 3500 pound towing capacity), and can achieve 19 miles per gallon towing our little trailer. Compare that to the 6 to 9 miles per gallon pulling larger trailers, as well as the ease of backing our small trailer into tight national park or national forest campsites, and we will happily sacrifice the additional legroom and sleeping capacity. A side benefit, our Scotty will fit in a standard garage, or behind a six-foot fence and not bother neighbors.

Spouse Susan and our Scotty, June Lakes Loop, eastern Sierra in May.

Consider the size and type: The smallest of travel trailers are those popularized after World War II, teardrop trailers, typically 4 to 5 feet wide, 8 to 10 feet long, and primarily offering a sleeping compartment for two adults and a rear kitchen. We have owned two teardrops, a Kit Kamper, and currently a 58 Scotty Junior reproduction trailer. After 10 years with the teardrops, we upgraded four years ago to a 1964 Scotty Sportsmen, 13 feet in length, offering a double bed in the rear, small center cabinets including a two-burner stove and small sink, and an upfront dinette large enough for four trim adults (which can be made into another bed at night). Not huge, but spacious compared to a teardrop!

Vintage trailers popular in the west include Scotty, Shasta, Airstream, DeVille, Lawton and more. However, trailers that are 50 to 60 years old come in three states; total disrepair, in need of repair (and with faults papered-over) and those meticulously maintained and often totally rebuilt. One can find “basket case trailers” with good bones, but be prepared to put in hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars should an old trailer need a frame-up rebuild. Our Scotty, costing only $900, required another $4500 in materials and almost 500 hours in the rebuild. Redeeming qualities; it’s cute, gets lots of comments in campgrounds and could be resold for thousands more than the investment.

Susan and our 58 Scotty teardrop trailer, Redwoods National Park.

Used trailers: You’ll find a wide variety of used trailers on trailer-dealer lots, in people’s backyards and many advertised on both craigslist and eBay. If you want a modern trailer but aren’t willing to pay the steep costs for new, finding a several year-old trailer – many of them wonderfully maintained and lightly-used – can save you about 1/3 to 1/2 on purchasing the same trailer new. Modern trailers include T@B, R-pod, Cassita, A-liner, Airstream and many more.

Purchasing new: A new trailer comes with that pristine, never-used aura, and allows dealer or bank financing, but you’ll pay a considerable price over a vintage or slightly used trailer. As an example, a new T@B or Cassita trailer, several of our favorites, will cost in the low- to high-$20 thousand range.

An almost new T@B trailer, owned by friends Christine and Steve Lewis.

Suggestion: Rent a trailer for a couple of days to determine whether you’re truly going to like the experience. Local dealerships like Pan Pacific RV in Lathrop allow rentals of small trailers and offer you a chance to try out the trailer camping vibe. And, with pent-up demand for travel and as the pandemic begins to reside and summer approaches, demand for trailers will ramp up – so consider starting your search soon.

Long before purchasing a new or used trailer, research your intended tow vehicle – can it handle the weight of both trailer and the contents of the tow vehicle?  As example, if your vehicle is rated at 3,000 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 2,500 pounds, when loaded with camp goods and two adults and additional camp items in the car – you’ll exceed the car’s tow capabilities.

A newer R-pod trailer, owned by cousin Anne Linton of Oregon.
A vintage Airstream and its equally vintage woodie tow vehicle.

Where to find a trailer: Most brands can be found locally; do a web search for favored models. Vintage and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay; put up a daily search for favored brand or “vintage trailer”. For additional insight into classics, see Tin Can Tourists site, tincantourists.com; for info on particular trailers, search the Internet where you will find owner’s sites or Facebook groups like the National Serro Scotty site, nationalserroscotty.org (you will find our 64 Scotty rebuild profiled on the Rebuilds page).

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, find more photos at recordnet.com/travelblogSafe travels in your world!

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta exploration; the Delta Meadows Trail

River Delta exploration; the Delta Meadows Trail near Locke and Walnut Grove, CA…

Another travel column as Covid19 bears down on the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Capital Region area in California. My task in the new year is to offer thoughtful, safe choices to sate one’s travel desires as we await vaccines and a rebound of the health of our communities.

I asked last week when will we reach an end of this travel quarantine; when will vaccines allow us to resume life “as near normal”? County and state infectious disease experts suggest the majority of residents of our cities, counties and the United States must be vaccinated before we reach the point of “herd immunity”. But with initial slower-than-projected roll-out of vaccines, it’s likely that we will be deep into 2021 before the freedom to travel returns.

My spouse Susan and I are now planning any serious travel in the second half of 2021, including a cross-country mid-summer trip (in our well-equipped personal vehicle carrying all the suggested Covid-fighting tools and taking the utmost precautions) to visit our daughter, just moved to Tennessee, relatives in Ohio and friends in Minnesota, and returning with a housesitting gig in Denver in mid-August. However, should a large percentage of the US remain un-vaccinated, we will postpone such a trip.

In the meantime, we are looking very locally to sate our wanderlust. We love local destinations where we can walk, hike or bike, with carefully-planned and self-contained auto trips to nearby destinations, avoiding crowds, planning to avoid crossing county lines and avoiding almost all personal contact. In the last three weeks, I have profiled a goodly number of destinations suggested by friends (see my Record blog, below, for past features).

AllTrails is one handy smart phone application for finding
new hiking and cycling trails across the USA.

The pandemic has caused me to look even deeper into modern technology to find new, inspiring destinations. For hiking and biking, I have become quite adept at using smart phone apps like AllTrails and TrailLink. Realizing that we had not recently explored the Delta just to our west, I did a search for hiking destinations near two favorite and historic river towns, Locke and Walnut Grove.

AllTrails offered a host of suggestions, including both the Meadows Slough Trail and Delta Meadows State Park. Having heard of neither, I looked to the app for both a map and instructions to get there. It turns out that the two trail systems, on top of old levees, are linked and offer a 5.9 mile option in an out-and-back, almost flat hike. And, to my amazement, the trails cut through riparian woodlands, marshes, meadows and quiet solitude.

Delta Meadows Trail, south end, near old town of Locke, CA.
A mile in, the Meadows Trail heads off to the the west, bordered by vast Delta marshlands.

My assumption that most all the Delta had long been developed for either agricultural crops or livestock grazing was quickly proven wrong; much to our surprise almost the entire round trip was flanked by wild forest, marshes, sloughs and meadows. In our two hours walking and shooting memorable photos, we saw cormorants, ducks, egrets, geese, three healthy vultures, and just two other hikers in this quiet paradise.

That the trail starts between Walnut Grove and Locke, parallels the latter for 1/4 mile, then takes one into virtual wilderness was such a pleasant revelation. The unincorporated town of Locke began as the town of Lockeport in 1912 when Chinese businessmen from nearby towns constructed three buildings, including a dry goods store, beer parlor, gambling hall and the Lockeport Hotel.  In October, 1915, the Chinatown of Walnut Grove, just south, burned to the ground, displacing hundreds of Chinese residents – Locke was a natural choice for relocation. 

Cormorants wing along the Meadow Slough beside the trail.
Three vultures perched on an old fence line, on the only area along the trail
bordered by agricultural or grazing land. Balance of adjoining trail is “wild California”.

The land was leased from George Locke – at the time California law prohibited selling of farmland to Asian immigrants.  Hence, Locke became a town built by the Chinese, for Chinese, and offered a Chinese-language school and businesses and restaurants with direct appeal to the Chinese.  Nearby canneries also offered jobs, and a lively town developed.

Al’s Restaurant, also known historically as Al the Wops, anchors Main Street in old Locke.
The old Chinese Medicine Shop in Locke.

By the 1950s, many of the town residents began moving on to larger cities and the town fell into disuse.  Today, it is part of the Locke Historic District, which preserves many of the buildings and way of life from the 1920s.  Normally, visitors would be wise to stop first at the the former Main Street boarding house, now the Locke Boarding House Visitors’ Center, offering historic overview and free of charge (website offers insight into pandemic restrictions). 

Other Locke attractions include the Chinese Association Museum, former home of the Jan Ying Benevolent Association, the Locke Chinese School, a language school that opened in 1926, Locke Memorial Park and Monument (which honors the Chinese who labored in agriculture and helped build the levees and railroads early in the century) and the Dai Loy Museum (showcasing gambling paraphernalia).  One of the Delta’s most fabled restaurants, Al’s Place (known originally as Al the Wops) anchors the town, though pandemic challenges have it currently shuttered.

Old boarding house, now the Locke Visitor’s Center.

Just south is Walnut Grove, one of the early thriving port cities on the river, home to a large number of historic buildings and homes.  To reach Walnut Grove and Locke, take the Walnut Grove-Thornton Road west from I-5. For insight into the Locke Historic District: nps.gov/places/locke-historic-district.htm.

Search out nearby attractions like these; apply universal precautions, await coming vaccines and consider local pandemic travel regulations before departing. For future more distant travels, collect your ideas and those of your family, tap friends for insightful recommendations, boost your planning mode and begin to book key destinations. In the meantime, explore the wonderful world just outside your door.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

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

A look forward to post-pandemic travel in 2021

Finish your planning to be ready for post-pandemic travel in 2021

My task on this New Year’s Day is to finish a column on travels in the new year, while still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic.

My spouse and I spent several hours last night celebrating New Year’s Eve with three other couples, fellow travelers all, via Zoom. A portion of the call had each of us bemoaning our limited travel during 2020, and sharing hopes for destinations to come in 2021.

Hence, what are we hearing from experts as to travel in the coming 12 months? Most all agree, with the pandemic raging and some of the worst weeks to come, now is the time to plan future travels, not to actually do them. And, to satisfy your wanderlust, look to your back door for places that you can walk or bicycle to, or reach by short, self-contained and cautious auto trips, avoiding people and complying with local and state pandemic requirements.

When will we reach an end of this travel quarantine; or, when will vaccines allow us to resume life “as normal”? I’m not an infectious disease expert, but if you listen to varied expert sources, you’ll realize that most experts suggest something like 70% of the United States must be vaccinated before we reach the point of “herd immunity”. With initial slower-than-projected roll-out of vaccines, well probably be well into the second half of 2021 before the freedom to travel returns.

How to both dream about, and plan, those special destinations? Along those lines, spouse Susan and I are projecting any serious travel we will take into the second half of 2021, including a cross-country mid-summer trip (by our well provisioned personal vehicle carrying all the suggested Covid-fighting tools and taking the highest precautions) to visit our daughter, just moved to Tennessee, relatives in Ohio and friends in Minnesota, and returning with a housesitting gig in Denver in mid-August. Should we and a large percentage of the US remain un-vaccinated, we will postpone such a trip.

How far out should we be planning? I encourage families to finish their thinking and planning relatively soon – when US and international travel reaches relative safety, a huge pent-up demand will max out favorite destinations, resorts, campgrounds and the like. Hence, if you have a favorite destination, like New York during the Christmas season, a couple of national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton in the fall, or a European river cruise, book soon. Virtually all hotels motels and tour operators will refund most of your money should you have to cancel, as well as will online booking sites for lodging and camping in national parks, like recreation.gov or reserveamerica.com.

When will the “dam break“ and special destinations or trips be “sold out“? If, Indeed, the pace of vaccinations increases and we are able to vaccinate older Americans, our first line and healthcare workers, people with pre-existing medical conditions and the like, people will have confidence to quite quickly begin to book their latent travel plans. So, finish the planning, book your dream trip, cement those airline reservations and let your relatives know your plan.

Sunset photo from beach of The Sanctuary, Marina, CA (photo by Yvonne Derby).

What do we do in the meantime to salve our wanderlust? Look to local destinations where you can walk, hike or bike. Take short, carefully-planned and self-contained auto trips to lovely nearby destinations, avoiding crowds and personal contact. Ask friends who are frequent travelers as to their own secret, nearby gems. Friends and family offered a host of travel suggestions which I profiled in the last two weeks (see my travel blog for past features).

Yvonne and husband toast the sunset vibe in Marina, CA (photo by Yvonne Derby).

Former co-worker Yvonne Derby of Tracy shares one of her secrets, “I’ve lived in California all of my life and always loved the California coast; my husband and I discovered the little hotel called The Sanctuary in Marina, California, with rooms offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the most stunning of sunsets. The Sanctuary is worthy of your visit and it’s paid for in just the views, alone. It’s our go-to place for special occasions, secluded enough but also close to eateries and shops. With Seaside, Monterey and Pacific Grove just south, so much to see and do”.

Gather your ideas and those of your family, tap friends for insightful recommendations, accelerate your planning mode and begin to book key destinations. In the meantime, explore the wonderful world just outside your door; when the pandemic resides, then visit nearby attractions. Apply those universal pandemic precautions, await coming vaccines and act now for future travels. And, as always, consider local and destination pandemic travel regulations before departing.

Bike trail in Pacific Grove connects to Monterey and north to Marina, CA.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

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Pandemic travels close to San Joaquin County…careful travel by automobile

Find lovely pandemic travel destinations close to San Joaquin County…

I am writing on Christmas day, with planned Zoom calls coming up with both our family, and my spouse’s Pacific Northwest cousins. We plan to discuss 2021 trips and lay plans to see one-another “post pandemic”. Thankfully, Covid19 vaccines are reaching our community and our health care workers are utilizing the best practices in combatting the virus. But, with Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday activities; infections, hospitalizations and loss of loved ones are reaching all-time highs – New Year’s holidays may sadly further that horrific trend.

Hence, once again, health care professionals emphasize remaining mostly home-bound, limiting your travels to only the most required destinations and using your holiday and family time (connected to distant loved ones electronically via phone, Zoom or Facebook Messenger) to research and plan for future travels. To help whet your appetite for nearby attractions and special places, a host of Stockton fellow-travelers have offered creative ideas.

Interestingly, two Stockton friends suggest the same Highway 4 destinations, Murphys and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Mary Hickman offers, “we have enjoyed excursions to the former Gold Rush town of Murphys, CA. Located an hour east of Stockton on Highway 4, it is an easy drive to find good restaurants (like Murphys Pourhouse), wine tasting opportunities and many small shops. Most of the historic buildings have been restored, giving it an authentic feel. While we could spend the day there, we also find it is a perfect stop-off on a trip to Calaveras Big Trees (15 miles up the highway) or Mercer Caverns, located just outside of town”.

Food, always a good reason to travel; photo from Murphys Pourhouse,
courtesy, Mary Hickman.

Stewart Jacoby also recommends Calaveras Big Trees State Park – with a twist – visiting in winter. He adds, “The Big Trees grove is a different experience in the snow, all quiet and clean, not so crowded.  And with the undergrowth buried, the place is very different.  The road is often clear even when there is snow on the ground.  Great for kids—the snow makes the trees even more majestic, and we worked in a snowball fight and snow angel activities.  If driving conditions allow, we like to go up to Arnold for a meal and hot chocolate to finish the trip.  Here’s a shot from November, 2019 BC (Before Covid).  Allow 60-70 minutes from Stockton or Lodi in good weather”.

Jacoby also adds even closer hiking options, “explore the Coast to Crest Trail, which is a wonderful resource in our area.  The finished sections are on East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) land, running from Camanche Reservoir areas (east of Lodi) up to Highway 49.  Trailheads are 35-50 minutes from Stockton on scenic roads.  Trails can be muddy in the wet season, too hot in summer, but are great for fall and spring.  Good exercise close to home, easy to middling demand on hikers.  EMBUD requires a pass, which gets you through their gates; they have good maps and trail guides.  Visit the Wildermuth House—a hewn-stone homestead from the 1860s; or choose lake vistas or views of the Sierra and the great valley.  Lots of wildlife (and cows…), popular with horse travelers (no bikes).  A number of trailheads break the whole into manageable sections; California’s oak belt is unexpectedly beautiful, and sunsets are often spectacular”.

View of Comanche Lake, from China Gulch Trail, photo courtesy Stewart Jacoby.
A child walks through Calaveras Big Trees Park in depths of winter
(photo courtesy, Steward Jacoby)

A trip to our central California coast is recommended by Dave Frederickson; enthusing “need a Covid-19 get-away, consider the coast near Half Moon Bay, just two hours west.Can’t have that usual family gathering, that long awaited holiday trip to some glamorous spot…consider the Half Moon Bay area. Long before the coronavirus we discovered the unique joys of a Half Moon Bay holiday break.

Lighthouse on coast near Half Moon Bay (photo, courtesy Dave Frederickson)

For starters, drop by the Ritz Carlton and stroll through the lobby to the outside terrace, decorated for the Season. Then, perhaps a visit to one of the area lighthouses. For lunch, try the “Prohibition Era” Moss Beach Distillery for take-out and viewing of the spectacular beach and ocean scenery. Finally, back to the Ritz Carlton, for a sundown bagpipe serenade and a warm hot toddy… Happy holidays”!

David Anderson offers, “our favorite getaway region is the eastern Sierra, between Bishop and Mammoth, with spectacular alpine mountain views all year. A generally mild climate, beautiful hiking, kayaking, fishing, and skiing, snowshoeing in winter.

Lake Sabrina, just west of Bishop is a must for wildflowers, fall colors, deer-spotting, fishing, peace and quiet. The June Lake loop is full of color in the fall.  This entire region is rarely crowded and features stunning views all year long, as well as motels, B&Bs and campgrounds.

Final call for your submissions: submit your suggestions for nearby trips in northern/central California, 50 to 70 words and a photo if you have one to:  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record article next Tuesday, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Your deadline: December 31. We’ll publish these submissions in an article to appear Tuesday, January 5.

Make the holidays a close family affair, remain at home, explore the wonderful world outside your front door, and – perhaps – visit nearby attractions. Practice heightened pandemic precautions, await coming vaccines and plan for the future. And, as always, consider local and destination pandemic travel regulations before departing.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

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Pandemic travels, close to home, on foot, by bike, by automobile…

Pandemic travels, in San Joaquin County, on foot, by bike, by automobile…

Do you want the good news, or, the bad news? The good news is Covid19 vaccines are reaching our community and our health care workers are utilizing the best practices in combatting the virus. The bad news; infections, hospitalizations and loss of loved ones are reaching all-time highs – and Christmas and New Year’s holidays may further wreak havoc with our community’s health.

Hence, once again, I suggest remaining mostly home-bound, limiting your travels to only the most required, and use your holiday and family time (connected to distant loved ones electronically) to research and plan for future travels. And, to whet your appetite for local attractions and special places, a host of Stocktonians offer creative local travel ideas.

Here, Stockton runners take a tour of the Calaveras Trail,
just east of Interstate 5 (photo by Ralph Womack).

Set your sights on walking, jogging or biking to nearby treasures in your neighborhood. Stocktonian Ralph Womack notes, “as to local places in the Stockton area, I still like to run along Bear Creek/Pixley Slough/White Slough pathway because it is easy access, paved and very little interaction with traffic. The only time you cross a street is at the dead-end of Trinity Parkway, Thornton road, Davis road then you continue to where the path is no longer paved at Lower Sacramento Road. It is a pleasant place to run or bike and easily get anywhere from 3-6 miles or more distance if desired”.

Ralph also recommends “Lodi Lake Park is located a small and inviting park with easy access by parking on nearby streets and simply walking in. Upon entering you see others as they get their exercise but, due to trails and pathways around the park and within the nature area, you never feel crowded. It is simply a delightful place to spend some time. In warmer months, swimmers and kayakers enjoy the park.”

Lodi Lake kayakers enjoy this lovely Lodi park just off the Mokelumne River (photo by Ralph Womack).
The San Joaquin Trail in Stockton’s Weston Ranch is a favorite
of Mary Jo Gohlke, who submits this photo.

Mary Jo Gohlke of Stockton’s Weston Ranch offers, “I’ve been spending much of my time during this latest pandemic crisis on the San Joaquin Trail that runs through Weston Ranch. I catch up to it a block from my house. It goes west, forking right about half a mile to a levee, and left past this sign and onward to Wolf Road with lovely San Joaquin River Delta views. Someday I’ll make it to Wolf Road. Right now doing 3 miles a day walking 4 days a week”.

Record photographer/journalist Cliff Oto offers locations for scenic views and fine photos, sharing,it depends on what kind of place you want to visit. If you want to see a nice sunset you can go to Empire Tract at the far west end of Eight Mile Road in Stockton or the Turning Basin of the Port of Stockton, if you want more of an urban/industrial vibe. For something that feels typically Stockton the University of the Pacific campus is a good place; if you want something that’s a little more “not-from-here” then the Japanese Tea Garden at Micke Grove Park might work. A back-to-nature place would be Lodi Lake or the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve off of Woodbridge Road, just west of I-5”.

The sunsets over the Port of Stockton’s turning basin in Stockton
(photo by CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Just a bit further a-field, on the edges of our county to the north lie the placid Cosumnes River Preserve (just north of Thornton), and to the south on the Stanislaus River, Caswell Memorial State Park (just southwest of Ripon). Woodbridge friend Gary Pierce recommends Cosumnes River Preserve, noting “it’s a lovely place, almost untouched by the modern world, where quiet paths lead you down to the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers, riparian forest is alive with critters and birds of all types; it’s also a wonderful destination for kayakers or canoeists!”.

An egret lifts off from wetlands at Cosumnes River Preserve (photo by Chuck Higgs)

Stocktonian Dave Frederickson suggests making local merchants part of your travels, “sensational cinnamon rolls and fresh coffee that stirs the soul are among the treats that have kept us returning to Stockton’s Toot Sweets Bakery Cafe for more than 25 years. In these pandemic times we continue to support them. Our focus, in getting through this, is supporting our small family owned businesses such as Podesta’s Groceries, Payters, Whirlows, Martinizing Cleaners, Cocoon Salon – those entrepreneurs who are the core of our community!”.

One of Stocktonian Dave Frederickson’s favorite stops is Toot Sweet Bakery Cafe, on Quail Lakes Drive just north of March Lane.
Aerial view of Stockton’s Meadow Avenue, looking toward Mt. Diablo
and spectacular sunset (photo courtesy of Visit Stockton).
Thousands of lights brighten this home in Lodi on Tiendra Drive
(photo courtesy, Clifford Oto, The Record).

And, in the coming several weeks, tour spectacular holiday light displays in your nearby neighborhood. In Stockton, Meadow Avenue, just west of Pershing, is an annual light-extravaganza, and in Lodi, check the lights like on Tiendra Drive near Mills Avenue, Lodi. Just about any neighborhood in the county has lights to enjoy; take an evening stroll or short drive.

I also connected with our Visit Stockton staff, and once again come away with fresh ideas and new insights. On the visitstockton.org website, you’ll find itineraries for touring movie destinations of eight feature films shot in Stockton, California: classics like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (featuring the University of Pacific campus), the Hotel Stockton featured in All the Kings Men, University of Pacific again featured in Dreamscape, and a number of Stockton locations featured in the gritty classic, Fat City.  

Visit Stockton’s site also includes a host a fun family event recommendations, such as the six best burger joints in town, the top three disc golf courses, eight stops for best tacos and their top 10 Visit Stockton Blogs of the 2020 year, full of fresh nearby travel stops. You will also find links to the websites of Stockton Children’s Museum, the Haggin Museum, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum and a host of other city and county travel stars.

You are invited to submit: We are seeking your suggestions for California and Western states travel destinations: submit your suggestions, in 50 to 70 words and a photo if you have one to:  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record articles, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Here are deadlines: for California favorites, December 23; for nearby western states, December 30. We’ll publish these submissions in articles to appear the Tuesdays of New Year’s and the following Tuesday, January 5.

Make the holidays a close family affair, stay close to home, explore the wonderful world outside your front door, and – maybe – visit local attractions. Keep holiday family gatherings to immediate family (for more distant, use Facebook Messenger or Zoom), share your travel ideas and plan your destinations for later in 2021! In the meantime, stick to day-trips where you can walk, hike or bike in our incredible outdoors or do short auto trips.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay home, plan future travels, remain resolute!

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

Future travel; plan now to explore the nearby Gold Rush Highway…

The nearby Gold Rush Highway offers rich history, scenery!

We have mainly been sheltering in place for the last couple of months, hiking trails near our home, traveling to places of interest in the city and county, not much more. We were about to drive up into the foothills and check a few old favorites on the Gold Rush trail, Highway 49, when I realized that the pandemic has ratcheted up in the San Joaquin County region, putting this region into the highest risk COVID-19 category, and bringing the order to “stay at home“.

A Zoom phone call last night with my National Ski Patrol unit included three doctors, who noted the extreme threat brought by rapidly declining hospital ICU space due to the pandemic and the need for the highest Covid19 prevention strategy. With hospitals jammed and ICU space limited or totally taken, not only are those who suffer from the Covid19 virus at risk, but so, too, would you be if seeking emergency care for an accident or medical episode.

The lovely Mokelumne River separates Mokelumne Hill and Jackson, CA.

Hence, I’ll give you a few highlights of the trip we decided not to make, and encourage you to use the next holiday weeks mostly staying put and planning your future travels. With vaccines coming within days, and hopefully reaching much of the community within the next two-four  months, plan now to research your travels and book those extended trips for later in the new year.

Once again, I invite you to share some of your favorites destinations that other readers might profit from, be they local, state-wide or in nearby states. In the final weeks of 2020, I’ll be doing a review of the top travel destinations.

Please share your most favorite destinations in any of those three areas, by submitting 50 to 70 words (and a good quality digital scenic photo, if you have one) of why this destination is your favorite. I will use your submissions in those future articles to appear the weeks of Christmas, New Year’s and the following Tuesday, or in my Record travel blog.

The historic Butte Store is on Highway 49 as you head south from Jackson.

To get you thinking, and for future trip planning, a favorite day-trip is Highway 49, the California Gold Rush Highway, linking gold discovery site Coloma to a host of quaint and historic towns along the highway. Today, a short profile on the towns of Jackson and Mokelumne Hill, just miles apart, separated by the scenic Mokelumne River.

To get there from Stockton, take Highway 26 east to Valley Springs, then go north on Paloma Road to Watertown Road and turn onto Pardee Dam Road, directing you across Pardee Dam, with stunning views of the lake and past a wonderful EBMUD campground (if you are into camping and/or fishing, make a note to return).  Continue on Stony Creek Road, up a beautiful valley and right to the south edge of Jackson.

In the spring, you’ll find gorgeous wildflower blooms above the Mokelumne River.

Jackson is county seat and a vibrant old and new town.  Check out old Main Street, deep in Sierra gold history for a variety of cute shops, and stop at the National Hotel at the south end of Main.  Built in 1852 and visited by many noteworthy guests over its history, this Gold Rush Hotel was extensively renovated a few years ago; with a lively restaurant/bar in the hotel’s lower level.  Once refreshed, visit the old Kennedy Mine and the historic Kennedy Mine Tailing Wheel #4, for a short dose of early mining history.  And, if you like the casino scene, the Jackson Rancheria Casino is a big part of “new Jackson”. 

Continue south on 49 to the quaint town of Mokelumne Hill, passing the old Butte Store, circa 1856.  Cross the Mokelumne River on the way to “Mokey Hill”; just across the bridge is a lovely waterfront park where you can get an up-close view of the river.  At the top of the hill is the old town, with a variety of well-preserved Gold Rush buildings.  Check out the Leger Hotel; a portion of the building served as Calaveras County Courthouse from 1852 to 1866.  When the courthouse was moved to San Andreas, George Leger made it part of his hotel; and when fire damaged the building it was restored in 1879 and renamed the Leger Hotel.  Take the time to walk the four blocks of old Mokey Hill and you will feel the ghosts of Gold Rush days!

The historic Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hill.

Yes, that’s more than 70 words, but you get the idea; submit your suggestions, 50 to 70 words and a photo if you have one to:  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record articles, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Here are deadlines:

San Joaquin County or nearby destinations, send by December 16,

California favorites, December 23,

Nearby western states, December 28.

We’ll publish these submissions in articles to appear the Tuesdays of Christmas week, New Year’s and the following Tuesday, January 5.

Our advice; for the holidays, stay close to home, tour local attractions and the wonderful world outside your front door. Keep holiday family gatherings to immediate family (for more distant, use Zoom or Facebook Messenger), talk up travel and plan your destinations for 2021! In the meantime, stick to day-trips where you can travel by auto or walk, hike or bike in our incredible outdoors. Practice pandemic precautions, await coming vaccines and plan for the future.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday travel planning amidst an accelerated pandemic

Celebrate and plan travel with your family this holiday season…

This week I’m departing from my earlier planned article, and gathering my thoughts in the face of an accelerating pandemic – with Christmas and New Year’s holidays still ahead of us. In the month of December, likely fueled by Thanksgiving gatherings and travel, Covid19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have skyrocketed. Fears are that December holidays will further accelerate this deadly trend, and hospital ICUs are nearing capacity.

Hence, I’m reminded, and reminding readers, to get serious and remember how carefully we approached travel and gatherings with friends or family back in April and May. We are smarter than we were then, and we know some of the most critical circumstances to avoid and precautions to take.

Perhaps your favorite local site includes a walk along the Delta out near Village West Marina?

I’m also taking insight from three doctors I know from my ski patrol and bike patrol involvement, and from what I read in national publications and see on TV. Yes, vaccines are coming, but it will be several months before healthcare workers, mature Americans and health challenged Americans can receive adequate vaccinations, and months more before younger, less-challenged citizens are vaccinated, allowing something close to herd immunity.

When traveling, locally or longer-distance, take a robust supply or personal protections equipment; masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer. Come on, we are month from having effective vaccinations for our most challenged; get with the program, stay safe!

So let’s review the Center for Disease Control’s travel guidelines, which are very detailed. They include masking up when indoors or around any people, maintaining social distancing of six feet or more and plenty of hand-washing or use of hand-sanitizer. One of their recommendations includes checking with state, county and city pandemic requirements, all the more serious as  governments work to abate Covid19 and keep their citizens safe.

My spouse and I, in the travel we have taken in the last seven months, have a full supply of preventative items, take our own snacks, drinks and food items – we can make a day trip with nary a stop but for gas, rarely for take-out. No dining out, no entry into busy retailers; better safe than sorry.

A favorite regional favorite, the rugged Oregon Coast.

So, my spouse and I are pretty much resigned to no real travel outside our home county for the next several months, and even in March and April, very cautious travel, avoiding people and pandemic pitfalls. We are plotting a tiny trailer camping trip, to see our daughter’s family in Tennessee, my brother in Ohio, friends in Minnesota and finish with a housesitting gig in Denver – but not until late mid-July/August. And all of our personal plans are betting on success with vaccines and, a summertime ability to see life return to “closer to the old normal”.

All the more reason to thoughtfully plan, individually and as families, for travel in the spring, summer and beyond in the New Year. In the final several weeks of 2020, I’ll be doing a review of the top travel destinations, locally, in California and the western US. You are invited to share your most favorite destinations in any of those three areas, by submitting a good quality digital scenic photo and 50 to 75 words of why this destination is your favorite. I will use your submissions in those future articles to appear the weeks of Christmas, New Year’s and the following Tuesday, or in my Record travel blog.

A favorite Tetons/Yellowstone photo, bison in front of Mt. Moran.

To get you thinking, my favorite travel destination in the west, in normal times, is a toss-up between Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. For this example, I will settle on Grand Teton, and would submit one of my favorite photos from summer a few years back (though, also favorite winter destinations, as well), and would submit about 65 words, to wit:

Grand Teton National Park (and adjoining Yellowstone Park) have to rate as favorites due to spectacular scenery, a well-cultivated preservation of the old Wild West, incredible wildlife and Yellowstone’s nearby mind-blowing thermal features, leading with Old Faithful Geyser. Both parks offer numerous campgrounds, grand old lodges and relatively inexpensive motels in surrounding towns; avoid mid-summer’s crowds! Do book your reservations well in advance.

A favorite Yellowstone winter photo, bison at Midway Geyser Basin, winter of 2016.

Hence, submit a good digital scenic photo and 50 to 70 words about why the destination is your favorite, to  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record articles, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Here are your deadlines:

For favorite San Joaquin County or nearby destinations, send by December 16,

For California favorites, December 23,

For Nearby and all western states, December 28.

We will use a number of these submissions in articles to appear the Tuesdays of Christmas week, New Year’s and the following Tuesday, January 5. The New Year; it has to be an improvement, does it not?

Plan a holiday family gathering with immediate family (for more distant, using Zoom or Facebook Messenger), get those ideas out on the table and plan your travel in 2021! In the meantime, navigate day-trips where you can shelter in your automobile and walk, hike or bike in our incredible outdoors. Stay safe, plan for the future and remain resolute.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Warm vibes; Southern California desert is calling!

Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Anza Borrego offer pandemic options

With the current explosion of nationwide COVID-19 cases, many California counties pushed back into the “purple, widespread outbreak” category, the holidays and flu season upon us Dash we have even more reason to be thoughtful and stay at home. But, with vaccines in the offing, and recognizing that nearby auto travel is one of the safer “outing activities” consider a trip to the nearby southern California desert.

Take advantage of the winter and early spring to visit several of California’s more scenic and les- frequently visited destinations, the desert oases of Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and Anza Borrego State Park.

Death Valley wildflower bloom, February, a few years ago.

All three are within about a 250 mile loop and are perfect for winter journeys to explore spectacular scenery, exotic wildlife and most intriguing winter and spring flora, topped by gorgeous wild flower blooms.

Just getting there is a scenic smorgasbord. Take California Highway 88 east, then follow Highway 395 south to reach Death Valley, a seven hour drive from San Joaquin county. Your tour will take you past intriguing towns like Bridgeport, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop and Lone Pine, offering a number of inexpensive motels and bed-and-breakfasts. A 13 mile detour off the highway will take you to Bodie, perhaps California’s most well-preserved gold rush town, past Mono Lake with it strange and otherworldly Tufa towers, the June Lake Loop and Mammoth Lakes area and the World War II internment camp of Manzanar, where thousands of Japanese citizens were sadly detained.

The eerie tufa columns rise out of Mono Lake at sunrise; one of the many amazing attractions heading down the Eastern Sierra on Hwy. 395.

If you are a camper, just west of Lone Pine is the Alabama Hills area, scene of numerous Hollywood western movies. It’s Bureau of Land Management land with plenty of primitive camping sites, offering a nights free lodging. Located in the eastern foothills of the Sierra with Mount Whitney looming in the background, you’re bound for some cold nights.

At Lone Pine, take Highway 136, then Highway 190 to Death Valley, passing through the northwest portion of the park and into Panamint Springs, at sea level elevation. From there, it’s a steady descent into the valley, where you’ll ultimately reach 282 feet below sea level at Bad Water Basin.

Author and spouse Susan at Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.

The valley got its name during the 1849 California gold rush, what an immigrant wagon train cut across the arid valley, suffering a fatality, as miners looked back one noted “goodbye, Death Valley“ – the name stuck.

As you tour the park watch for desert tortoise, road runners, hummingbirds and, high on the rocky craigs, big horn sheep. The valley was home to native peoples thousands of years ago, then by immigrants brought in by the gold rush. A second influx came in 1873 when silver was discovered near the town of Panamint Springs, which swelled to 5000 residents. Silver was soon tapped out, though “white gold” was soon discovered, borax. Stop at the Harmony Borax Works, to see the remains of the refinery and a huge 20 mule-team wagon which operated in the 1880s.

Harmony Borax Works tanker, wagons, for transporting borax to the railhead over 100 miles away from Death Valley (water to sate the thirst of 20 mules).

At the Keane Wonder Mine you’ll find the remains of a gold mine that boomed from 1907 to 1912, producing well over $1 million. In 1904, gold was discovered just east of the park leading to the final true American gold rush. Rhyolite, on the park’s eastern edge, is one of the more interesting ghost towns in the west and worth the side-trip. 

Near the park’s top point of interest, Bad Water Basin, is nearby Golden Canyon, just a short hike off Highway 190. Trek the canyon in late afternoon when setting sun makes for spectacular colors; just south is Natural Bridge, again just off the main road and another wonder worth exploring. The Mesquite Flat Sand-dunes offer wonderful photo-taking in the early morning or late afternoon.

If you’re looking for wildflower blooms, keep your eye on the Park’s website. Dramatic blooms happen, generally a few weeks after winter rains, which can come anywhere between December through late March. Factors include rainfall, temperature, topography and elevation: see desertusa.com for best timing and locations to find often stunning blooms of poppies, verbena, evening primrose, phacelia, mimulus, encelia, desert star, blazing star, desert gold and species of cacti (found well above the valley floor).

More Death Valley wildflowers.

Death Valley offers a number of campgrounds, many of them first come first serve and in-park lodging at several locations.

Joshua Tree National Park lies about 200 miles south of Death Valley. Enter the park from the north side, adjacent to Twentynine Palms (offering motels, retail). The park’s nearly 800,000 acres are at the confluence of three of California’s ecosystems, and provide a number of camping options. More rain falls on the higher, northern part of the park, where the Mojave Desert prevails – the habitat of the park’s namesake Joshua Trees.

Huge Joshua Tree, near Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park.

As one moves south, steadily dropping in elevation, the Colorado desert prevails, with 18’ tall, spindly Ocotillo plants, Brittlebush, Smoketree, Mojave yucca and the strange Cholla cactus – some of the strangest of creations.

Anza Borrego State Park, southeast of Palm Springs, is larger than the other 259 California State Parks combined. The huge park is namesake of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista De Anza and the Spanish word borrego, for bighorn sheep. Ringed by mountains and sand dunes, and, depending upon sparse rainfall, diverse wildflowers, exotic palm groves and a cacti prosper. Sharp eyes can spot the elusive bighorn sheep, Roadrunners, kit foxes, mule deer, chuckwallas, iguanas and rattlesnakes that make their home in the park.

Palm Canyon Oasis, with native California Fan Palms, Anza Borrego State Park.

For more information: Anza Borrego State Park, parks.ca.gov/; Death Valley National Park , nps.gov/deva; Joshua Tree National Park, www.nps.gov/jotr.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Sierra Nevada, Southern California | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Give thanks for those lovely destinations, so close to home!

This Thanksgiving, explore those lovely destinations, so close to home!

With the relative explosion of recent COVID19 cases, 41 of 58 California counties are back into the “purple, widespread outbreak” category, and the state and our counties are asking for residents to cut all unnecessary travel. With that in mind, and with rising cases in 49 of 50 states – and the holidays and flu season upon us – we have even more reason to be thoughtful and stay at home.

For Thanksgiving, 2020, let’s appreciate the beauty around us! Give thanks for California’s generally lovely weather and all our state and county’s blessings…close to home! Hence, today, an article to inspire you and family to consider what is generally nearby your home, and, generally, free, no charge.

A winter sunrise over Stockton’s Meadow Lake.

Take the time to give thanks for the flora and fauna in your own backyard, your neighborhood, or, within a mile or two from your home. The county is a rich tapestry of city and county parks, sloughs that connect to the Delta just west; in this time of the year thousands of migrating waterfowl offer marvelous birding opportunities; grab your binoculars, camera and take a short walk, bike ride or a pleasant drive. Consider those nearby parks, levees and sloughs that are just blocks or a few miles away.

For north county residents, find the annual migration of Sandhill Cranes at Woodbridge Ecological Area, on W. Woodbridge Road just a mile west of Interstate 5. Note the fauna at Cosumnes River Preserve, two miles north of Thornton and throughout much of the Delta just to the west. Lodi Lake Park and Micke Grove Park present additional oases of tranquility and wildlife; many nearby sloughs and Lodi-Woodbridge wine country offer plenty of exploration opportunities.

Captain Weber’s Cottage now resides on the grounds of the San Joaquin Historical Society
at Micke Grove Park just south of Lodi.

Stockton and the central county offers Oak Grove Regional Park, Oak Park, the downtown Deepwater Channel outlined with the Joan Darrah Promenade and the San Joaquin River levee behind the old Van Buskirk Golf Course. A variety of walkable levee trails present themselves, leading with the Calaveras Bike Trail, the Bear Creek Trail and accessible delta levee hikes, or bike rides, along Shima Tract levee at the west end of Hammer Lane and additional levee access west of Bear Creek and Brookside. Grab your mobile device and check Google maps for a wealth of possibilities.

An egret comes in for a landing near a pelican at Cosumnes River Preserve
(photo courtesy of Chuck Higgs)

For south county, plenty of walkable levee trails follow the San Joaquin River, and parks like Dos Reis County Park in Lathrop or Caswell Memorial State Park, just south of Ripon, offer chances to see Great white egrets, Sandhill Cranes, the occasional eagle, buzzards, waterfowl of every stripe, coyotes, red foxes, river otters and more.

As you travel, also consider the historic sites near at hand. They may be centered in or near historic downtowns in the county, anchored by such gems as the Hotel Stockton or Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton, or the Weber cottage and Julia Weber home at the San Joaquin Historic Museum in Micke Grove Park. Lodi, Manteca, French Camp, Tracy and other cities offer historic sites and a rich history of their own.

The Bank of Stockton is one of many historic structures in Stockton’s old downtown.
See the historic IOOF Hall in Woodbridge, along the route of the Lincoln Highway.

Do a Google search for “Lincoln Highway” and check out some of the history still extant on that national highway that wound its way through the county, north to south, in the 1920s and beyond. Scout out and trace the route that winds through your town.

If you are having visiting family, stress pandemic precautions; then get them involved in seeing the sights close to your home. With the wonderful attractions that California presents to us (many just outside our door), jointly plan for short or long walks, bike rides or short auto trips to see that which often is so near, but, all-too-often, not thought about.

For your travel in pandemic times, follow the Center for Disease Control recommendations, packing a supply of facemasks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer. Practice physical distancing and avoid crowded spaces.

In your travels, take a goodly supply of face masks and hand sanitizer; practice routine pandemic precautions to keep you, family and others safe.

Despite the promise of several vaccines coming as early as December, it will be months longer before the vaccine is widely available to US citizens and those citizens actually getting vaccinated. Even after a large percentage of the US is vaccinated, we will still have the virus to deal with.

Hence, will a holiday walk, bike ride or short drive take you to nearby gems? Think about it, scan a map, and plan a safe and thankful Thanksgiving!

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

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

Lessons learned traveling during the pandemic

Traveling locally and regionally offers lessons for pandemic travel

Our world changed almost nine months ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic reality settled on the United States and the world. Since, we’ve had months of mostly sheltering at home and plenty of time to address our latent wanderlust. With rising cases in 49 of 50 states in the last week – and the holidays and flu season coming upon us – we have even more reason to worry.

If you are a local, regional, US or world traveler, you’ve had plenty of time to think about what you might’ve done in these past nine months, and what you may do if and when the world reaches a point of something near normalcy. Sadly, that may take a year, or even longer. Despite the promise of several vaccines coming online in the next several months, it will be months longer before the vaccine is widely available to US citizens – even after a large percentage of the US is vaccinated, we will still have the virus to deal with.

A bull moose watches over two others just two blocks from our hotel in Breckenridge, CO.

Hence, a few travel-related thoughts as we approach the abnormal coming holidays.

Here are lessons learned from carefully planned travel locally, and somewhat regionally, over the last four months. Those travels included a week-long trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, and a partial week at Snowbird, Utah on the return (we shortened the Utah visit by four days when we realized both the resort, and guests at the resort, were not particularly careful with pandemic precautions). More recently, a three day trip to San Diego at The Dana, a three day trip with our little Scotty travel trailer to Lassen Volcanic National Park and another three day trip to California’s north coast from Bodega Bay to Mendocino, allowed us to practice safe traveling, out of the area.

Remains of the huge Reiling Gold Dredge, which operated from 1898 to its abandonment in the mid-1950s, is the highlight of a hike in the gold country around Breckenridge, CO.

For travel in pandemic times, keep these suggestions in mind:

If by personal auto, gas up in advance; stop early for fill ups (If we found a gas  stop, as we did in Utah, where patrons were not practicing masking up, pull away and move on. Don’t go inside, don’t use their facilities. Same with that infrequent stop at grocery stores, or restaurants not offering outdoor dining with well-spaced tables and service staff using full precautions. We’ve almost totally eliminated any stops to shop for non-necessities, figuring those can wait for a safer day.

Bandanas, face masks, hand-sanitizer and (not pictured) latex gloves are staples in our travel equipment. We also pack our own snacks and drinks to minimize stops along the way.

Personal precautions: We attempt to follow Center for Disease Control recommendations, and then some. We travel with a good supply of quality facemasks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer and avoid crowded situations. The few times we have dined out, it has been at outdoor restaurants where tables were at least 6 feet apart, with staff who take masks and the pandemic seriously.

On road trips, we take our own snacks and drinks and a variety of foods for breakfast, lunches, dinner that we can prepare ourselves. Already owning two small travel trailers, we have realized that this is one of the safest ways to travel, where a gas station stop to fill our tank is about the closest human contact required.

Deals on hotels and resorts are a’plenty: Kayak, Travelocity, Priceline.com, Booking.com, Airbnb and VRBO are offering sweet deals on hotels/motels and private rooms or homes, tied to American’s concerns about travel. Travel Zoo and Travels with Alan offer frequent discount packages, often including a three day resort stay, and nearby entertainment, packaged together. Travels with Alan offers tremendous cruise deals, though those are mainly off the table until the worst of the pandemic passes.

The Firefly restaurant at The Dana Hotel on San Diego’s Mission Bay provided a lovely and pandemic-savvy respite. However, the “deal” promised by Travel Zoo wasn’t quite that great when a daily $36 resort fee and $25 parking fee were added. Still a lovely place, however.

For any “deal“, Read the fine print: Travel Zoo offered a lovely deal on The Dana Hotel on San Diego‘s Mission Bay, but the fine print added a $36 daily resort fee, $25 parking fee and gave us a unit with no bay view; the deal wasn’t as sweet as it first appeared. Another favorite, the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, has always offered sweet deals on Sunday through Thursday rooms, but tacked on $29 daily resort fee. Now they’re advertising “no resort fee”, but you’ll find those sweet room deals have been jacked up by about $30 to compensate. And, study the host’s web site carefully to see how serious the facility and its staff are as to COVID19.

When traveling by auto, book that hotel/motel the afternoon you plan to arrive. Using Booking.com or Priceline.com will usually net you a very nice motel room at more than half off, if you wait till the last minute to book. And, with travel reduced, you’ll seldom ever find a hotel/motel booked out. We also pick older motels/hotels, with max of two stories, realizing we don’t need an elevator to get to a second-floor room.

Airlines: The same travel sites offer great airfare deals, but until much of the US is widely vaccinated, despite studies and the airlines claiming that air on planes is well-filtered and safe, we are doing no airfare travel. We took our Hawaii timeshare and deposited it in Interval international, figuring we did not have to fly for a year or longer. And we used Interval international’s “Get Away specials” to book the weeks in Breckenridge, and in Snowbird, for less than $400, each, in first-class hotels.

Practice safe travel precautions with day trips to local special places, such as the Cosumnes River Preserve north of Thornton, Stockton’s Deepwater Channel and a walk along the waterfront on the Joan Darrah Promenade, or a hike along the Stanislaus River in Caswell Memorial Park just south of Ripon. Other nearby one-day destinations include treks to places like the Lodi/Woodbridge or the Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth, CA for wine tasting, Gold Rush cities like Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia along Highway 49, or exploring the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta. To be safe, check with the destination county, as to degree of “openness” allowed for visitors.

Author’s grandkids on a summer-time hike around Shima Tract, west end of Hammer Lane. Make time to find and explore gems like these near your hometown!
Sunset over Stockton Marina (photo courtesy Visit Stockton) adds to a lovely hike on the Joan Darrah Prominade with loops Stockton’s Deepwater Channel.

Use these quiet times to plan safe, nearby travel and do your homework and preparation long before you depart.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
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