Classic travel trailers; touring “vintage style” as you gain in maturity!

Our 1958 reproduction Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop trailer.

1955 Little Caesar, lovingly restored by owners Steve and Patty Elliot of Shingle Springs, CA.

Interior of '55 Little Caesar is bright, comfy and sleeps up to four adults.

1960 Aristocrat 'Lil Loafer weighs just 1400 pounds.

1962 Kenskill, 19' model, has lots of interior comforts, cost owners $800 - they had to repair water damage in front end.

1957 Corvette trailer was a real "head-turner" in the campground!

German-built 1989 Ariba Puck, with pop-up roof, offers lots of amenities in 700 lb. package!

When we were younger and our kids were in school, we would load them into the car, pack our camping gear into our canoe and flip the canoe upside down on top of the car. Off we’d go for a week’s vacation, or longer, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

As we have matured, and the kids went their separate ways, we have moved from tent camping to classic teardrop trailer camping. And, we are soon to move “up the line” in classic trailers, when we finish rehab on a 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer.

We have owned two tiny trailers; our first was a cute little reproduction Kit Kamper, popular after World War II and one of the more frequent teardrop trailer styles seen today. The Kit was built on a platform of 4’X8’ plywood sheets; hence, 4’ wide, 4’ tall and 8’ long, with a 6’ sleeping compartment and a rear galley for camping storage.

Several years ago, we decided to up-size, and bought a slightly larger 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer, still teardrop in style and needing a complete rebuild. This larger retro trailer offers a dinette, sleeps 3-4, with an interior sink, two-burner stove and stand-up room for someone 5’8” or shorter – my wife!  And, this smaller classic will still fit in a standard garage (barely), important if you live in a homeowner’s association!

Procrastinating on the rebuild of the larger Scotty (now wedged in our garage), I purchased (through eBay) a beautiful reproduction 1958 Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop, built in 2011. We have toured extensively with it, including two trips across the country, trips up the CA/OR and WA coasts to Vancouver, BC, and assorted other western trips to national parks like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Glacier and more.

The arguments for a vintage teardrop trailer include small and lightweight (about 800 pounds), so a small car can tow it and deliver good gas mileage (we tow ours with a Ford Focus 5-speed stick and get 26 MPG). They fit in your garage, the smallest campsites and vintage trailers are always the “talk of the campground”!

Stepping up to mid-size classic trailers (1000 to about 2500 pounds) offers scores of options. From Scotty’s, Lil Loafers, Little Caesars to larger Shastas, Airstreams, Kenskills, Boles and the like, a wide variety of lengths, weights, floorplans and luxurious appointments await the discriminating buyer. Since they are larger, they offer more interior space and many more amenities – the trade-offs are they weigh more, reducing your towing gas mileage (you will need a more powerful tow vehicle) and you have to store them somewhere.

We take special delight in pulling up beside giant diesel pickups, pulling 35′ fifth-wheels (and getting about 8 MPG), realizing we are about as comfortable as they are!   We also equipped both our trailers with a rear bike carrier receiver, so we can load 2-3 bikes on back.  With bedding already made up, camp gear loaded, it’s a simple matter to pack a cooler and your clothes, hook up and away we go!

We recently attended a classic trailer rally near Lake Tahoe.  There we toured almost 40 classics, many of them wonderfully redone from the original.  Typical was a 1955 Little Caesar, weighing just 1400 pounds. Owners Steve and Patty Elliot, Shingle Springs, CA, noted “we paid only a few hundred dollars, invested $4000 and considerable time in the rehab, from the frame up”. They also have a 65 Scotty and have rebuilt two teardrops and an Aristocrat.

Donn and Donna Marchall proudly showed off their 1960 Aristocrat Lil Loafer, just 1400 pounds with a 9 foot box. Donn noted “we paid a few hundred and invested $4200 in the rebuild; we love that it’s so small, easy to store and can fit in many campsites too small for the giant fifth wheels! And, every camper wants to come by to tour our little trailer!”

A larger classic that needed only a bit of work was a comfortable 1962 Kenskill. Owners Jenny and Mel Davis, Grass Valley, CA, paid just $800, installed a new refrigerator and $1000 in parts and fixed some water damage in front window area.

Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, showed off his 1957 Corvette trailer on its maiden voyage. He paid $600 and spent two years doing a total rebuild. He extended the frame, rezinced the windows and put about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job.

And, we spied an import from Germany, a tiny 1989 Ariba Puck, weighing only 700 pounds, with queen size bed, tiny kitchen in front and towed by a classic Volkswagen Westfalia. With a pop-up roof, for six-foot plus headroom, it drew rave reviews (American-made 1970’s Hunter Compact classics offer similar style with pop-up roof).

Rebuilding a classic trailer can range from $1000 up to $10,000, or, you can choose to buy one that an owner has already rebuilt or upgraded. Prices for a fully rebuilt midsized classic can range from about $7500 to $15,000, plus or minus. Nicely, the true classics can usually be sold years later for as much, or more, than you paid for them.

The marketplace for any of these is both Craig’s List and eBay (search for tear drop, teardrop and vintage campers). Remember, however, if you find a trailer that has water damage or dry rot, the damage is usually many times greater than can easily be seen from the exterior, so beware!

You can also find, on the web, varied companies that rent teardrops or old classics for a few days or a week. Try one out, you may become hooked on the comfort afforded and hard-sided security, vs. tent-camping.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists,  on the web at tincantourists.com, Shasta Trailers, vintageshasta.net and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic, and you can find an owner’s group for most!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Bodie, historic ghost town, and Mono Lake make Eastern Sierra memorable!

Bodie's school house, built 1879, replaced another which burned down when set fire by disgruntled students!

Interior of the 1879 Bodie schoolhouse, almost as if the students just left!

Bodie, with Bodie Bluff in distance, spreads across the high valley.

Old Bodie home, and telephone pole, are leaning in opposite directions!

From Bodie, heading south on Hwy. 395, Mono Lake stretches out in the hazy summer sun.

Tufa towers rise on the south shore of Mono Lake, with the snow-dusted Sierra in the background.

My last blog post and article in the Stockton Record newspaper profiled our recent trip over the Sierra, and along Hwy. 395.  We found this section of the Eastern Sierra green, with rivers flowing, dotted with scenic lakes and full of other-worldly destinations!

Here are more photos on the historic ghost town of Bodie, and a couple more on the eerie Mono Lake Tufa formations.

From Lee Vining at the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395, we trekked north to tour Bodie State Historic Park.  Bodie, high in the volcanic mountains north of Mono Lake, was founded in 1859 when Waterman Body discovered gold.

Bodie’s population, 20 years later, had grown to 10,000, famous for its lawlessness, robbers, and some of the worst climate in the west.

Today, the town is maintained in a state of “arrested decay” by the State Historic Park. Only 5 percent of the original buildings remain – but it’s an impressive remainder!

 

Among its evocative old structures are the Methodist Church, erected 1882 and the old sawmill, used for cutting firewood for winters when snow reached 20 feet deep, winds up to 100 MPH and temperatures down to 40 below zero!

It’s second schoolhouse still stands, with classrooms decked out just as students would have left it (the first school house burned down when disgruntled students set it afire!

Above the town stands the old Standard Mine and Mill, on the west slope of Bodie Bluff. Though the old mill buildings are unsafe and closed to the public, the mill extracted more than $15 million in gold over its 25 year run and remains an imposing presence over the town.

Along Bodie’s Main Street you’ll find 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, looks like gold prospectors just left minutes earlier)!

Stroll down Green Street to the red-brick hydroelectric building. In 1882 a hydroelectric plant was built on Green Creek above Bridgeport, developing 3500 volts and 130 hp. Electricity was run 13 miles over power poles set in a straight-line – the concern being that electricity could not be made to turn a corner! This engineering breakthrough spread throughout the world, and soon similar power plants became a worldwide standard.

Just south, Mono Lake is one of the oldest in North America, 760,000 years old. It has no outlet and is fed by six major streams that keep it from evaporating. With minerals flowing into the lake for eons, it’s 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and extremely buoyant. Though no fish can live in the alkaline waters, it’s flush with life – millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies feed thousands of migratory birds. And touring the shoreline tufa tower gardens is an experience like no other.

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, they have been revealed in stark, alien contrast over the past 90 years, as LA water interests siphoned off tributary streamflow, causing the lake surface to drop by 60+ feet. A 1994 court decision has required the streams to be left unchecked, and the lake level is starting to slowly rebound.

To reach the South Tufa Reserve, take Hwy. 120, 5 miles east of Hwy. 395; a one mile easy hike takes you through some of the most intriguing topography – tufa towers rising 30 feet, appearing like ghost ships at lake’s edge!

From the Bodie Hills to the north, a variety of volcanic craters circle the lake. Most distinctive is Panum Crater which erupted 640 years ago and is easily reached off Hwy. 120, 3 miles east of Highway 395.

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 south, then go east on Hwy. 120, into and through Yosemite Park, to connect to Hwy. 395.  Lee Vining is about 170 miles and 4 hours from Stockton.

For more information: Bodie State Historic Park, PO Box 515, Bridgeport, CA, 93517, phone 760.647.6445; WWW parks.ca.gov/Bodie; Mono Basin Visitor Center, PO Box 429, Lee Vining, California, 93541; phone 760.873.2408; www.fs.fed.us/r5/Inyo.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Eastern Sierra; Bodie, Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Postpiles, all along Hwy 395

Old mining winch stands in front of the Standard Mine and Mill on Bodie Bluff.

Mono Lake Tufa towers on shore, and off-shore, strike an eerie presence.

Lake Mary, at 8966 feet in the Sierra, just four miles above town of Mammoth Lakes.

Devil's Postpiles National Monument features basalt columns, the result of ancient lava flows.

John Muir, speaking of the strange and scenic land just east of Yosemite National Park,  described it in 1864: “a country of wonderful contrasts, hot deserts bordered by snow laden mountains, cinders and ashes scattered on the glacier-polished pavement, frost and fire working in the making of beauty”.

I had long thought of this area as dry, gritty and a place to travel through.  But a recent trip through Yosemite Park, over Tioga Pass and down into the Mono Basin changed all that.  We found this section of the Eastern Sierra green, with rivers flowing, dotted with scenic lakes and full of other-worldly destinations!

From Lee Vining at the intersection of Hwy. 120 and 395, we trekked north to tour Bodie State Historic Park.  Bodie, high in the volcanic mountains north of Mono Lake, was founded in 1859 when Waterman Body discovered gold.  The population, 20 years later, had grown to 10,000, famous for its lawlessness, robbers, and some of the worst climate in the west.

Today, the town is maintained in a state of “arrested decay” by the State Historic Park. Only 5 percent of the original buildings remain – but it’s an impressive remainder! Among its evocative old structures are the Methodist Church, erected 1882 and the old sawmill, used for cutting firewood for winters when snow reached 20 feet deep, winds up to 100 MPH and temperatures down to 40 below zero!

Above the town stands the old Standard Mine and Mill, on the west slope of Bodie Bluff. Though the old mill buildings are unsafe and closed to the public, the mill extracted more than $15 million in gold over its 25 year run and remains an imposing presence over the town.

Along Bodie’s Main Street you’ll find 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, looks like gold prospectors just left minutes earlier)!

Stroll down Green Street to the red-brick hydroelectric building. In 1882 a hydroelectric plant was built on Green Creek above Bridgeport, developing 3500 volts and 130 hp. Electricity was run 13 miles over power poles set in a straight-line – the concern being that electricity could not be made to turn a corner! This engineering breakthrough spread throughout the world, and soon similar power plants became a worldwide standard.

Just south, Mono Lake is one of the oldest in North America, 760,000 years old. It has no outlet and is fed by six major streams that keep it from evaporating. With minerals flowing into the lake for eons, it’s 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and extremely buoyant. Though no fish can live in the alkaline waters, it’s flush with life – millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies feed thousands of migratory birds. And touring the shoreline tufa tower gardens is an experience like no other.

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, they have been revealed in stark, alien contrast over the past 90 years, as LA water interests siphoned off tributary streamflow, causing the lake surface to drop by 60+ feet. A 1994 court decision has required the streams to be left unchecked, and the lake level is starting to slowly rebound.

To reach the South Tufa Reserve, take Hwy. 120, 5 miles east of Hwy. 395; a one mile easy hike takes you through some of the most intriguing topography – tufa towers rising 30 feet, appearing like ghost ships at lake’s edge!

From the Bodie Hills to the north, a variety of volcanic craters circle the lake. Most distinctive is Panum Crater which erupted 640 years ago and is easily reached off Hwy. 120, 3 miles east of Highway 395.

From the Mono Basin area, we headed south on Highway 395 and circled the June Lakes Loop. Here a string of beautiful lakes offer scenery and fishing options set against the rugged Sierra. The quaint town of June Lake offers gas, lodging and food along the loop.

We continued south on 395, turning off on Hwy. 203 to the town of Mammoth Lakes. It’s home to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, one of the largest in the west, and in summer a huge mecca for mountain bikers. We climbed higher into the mountains west of town to Lake Mary Campground. At 8966 feet, with thin air and gorgeous scenery, it’s one of six lakes in the Lake Mary Loop, all with scenic campgrounds and interconnected by paved biking and hiking trails.

Mammoth Lakes is a town that caters to tourists year-round, with lodging, restaurants, retail and sports shops, all aimed at youthful, outdoorsy visitors. The Mammoth Brewing Company, combined with the adjoining Eatery, is a must stop; fine craft beers and some of the best brew pub food we have had in a long while!

The next day, we followed Hwy. 203 north to Devils Postpiles National Monument. A short 1/2 mile hike takes one past a pristine stretch of the Upper Middle Fork San Joaquin River, then to the postpiles. Here, about 80,000 years ago, basalt lava flowed from an unknown source. As it cooled and contracted it split into the symmetrical vertical, hexagonal columns that constitute the postpiles. Hiking further down the San Joaquin is Rainbow Falls, which drops 101 feet over a cliff of volcanic rock.

Fishing in any of the strings of lakes in this area is good to outstanding! Touring, hiking and biking options are abundant, up and down the Eastern Sierra, and each turn yields wondrous new views!

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 south, then go east on Hwy. 120, into and through Yosemite Park, to connect to Hwy. 395.  Lee Vining is about 170 miles and 4 hours from Stockton. 

For more information: Bodie State Historic Park, PO Box 515, Bridgeport, CA, 93517, phone 760.647.6445; WWW parks.ca.gov/Bodie; Mono Basin Visitor Center, PO Box 429, Lee Vining, California, 93541; phone 760.873.2408; www.fs.fed.us/r5/Inyo; Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce: 760.934.6717; www.mammothlakeschamber.org; Devils Postpile National Monument, PO Box 3999, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546; phone 760.934.2289; www.nps.gov/depo.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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Be a tourist in your own town (new Stockton Summer Passport offers fun, prizes)!

With summer now upon us, kids and grandkids out of school – gear up for some summer fun right in your hometown and county.

The Stockton Summer Passport allows you to be a tourist in your own town – and earn some goodies along the way!  The local Visit Stockton organization notes, “There’s plenty of fun to be had around town this summer—and soon you can enjoy deals and prizes as you explore Stockton. Visit Stockton introduces our new Stockton Summer Passport program!”.

How it works: pick up a Passport or conveniently print one at home to see the exclusive deals, discounts, and listings for events, venues, and restaurants; present your Passport at each location to take advantage of the specific offer and receive a stamp when redeemed; then turn in your completed Passport to Visit Stockton for prizes—it’s that easy!

Passport participants who collect at least eight stamps will receive a limited edition “Nicknames of the Past” t-shirt or tote bag along with other Visit Stockton swag. Additional giveaways and contests will also be conducted via the Visit Stockton social media channels. Participants who complete their entire Passport will be entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of the Stockton Summer Passport program.

The Stockton Summer Passport program will run from June 8–August 28, 2015. Passports are available at the Visit Stockton office at 125 Bridge Place, 2nd floor, and other locations around town in addition to an online version for downloading and printing at home.

For more information, please visit www.StocktonSummerPassport.com. Have your best summer yet as you explore your own hometown!

Stockton Summer Passport partners include the Stockton Ports, Zap Zone, The Haggin Museum, Lincoln Center Live!, Cesar Chavez Library, Movies at the Point, Summer Concerts at Stonecreek Village,  Children’s Museum of Stockton, Stockton Marina, Stockton Astronomical Society, San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, Micke Grove Zoo, Joe’s Pomodoro Pizza Café, Sorelle Winery, The Fruit Bowl, and Pixie Woods.

For more information, go to www.StocktonSummerPassport.com or contact Megan Ott at 209.938.1557 or meg@visitstockton.org.

Plan a weekend(s), load up the spouse, kids or grandkids, and plan to take in many of these fun destinations this summer!  

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Happy travels in the West!

 

 

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Farmers’ Markets in San Joaquin County offer family outings and make produce shopping fun!

With summer almost upon us, it’s time to set sail for the various farmers’ markets that are open from summer and early fall throughout San Joaquin County. 

Within a few miles from about any home in our county, you’ll find a family-oriented, lively farmers’ market! As an example, we spent three hours at the Lodi Thursday farmers’ market this past week, running from 5 to 8 PM on School Street in Lodi’s downtown. Shoppers had a huge choice of fresh produce, from squash, onions, brussels sprouts, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, almonds, walnuts, specialty agricultural products and more. Scores of arts and craft vendors, food purveyors and music (as well as the businesses open along School Street) made for a festive atmosphere, with something for almost everyone!

Farmers market produce has generally been picked the same day, prices are inexpensive and you help support local agriculture! Shop with an eye to good nutrition (let your kids help if you have kids) and buy produce that you can turn into healthy family meals!   We’re heading into peak farmers market season!

Here’s a list of the markets throughout San Joaquin County:

Downtown Stockton Friday Certified Farmers’ Market: Fridays, May 1- October 30, 8 am to 2 pm, on the 400 block of East Main Street (between California and Sutter Street).

Downtown Stockton Saturday Farmers’ Market: Every Saturday, year round, 5:30 am until 11:00am (or sold out) Under the cross-town freeway, between El Dorado & San Joaquin Streets Across from St. Mary’s Church (203 E Washington St, Stockton, CA 95202-3288)  

Weberstown Mall Market Locations, Stockton: Thursdays, April 2nd to November 25th 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, on the corner of Claremont  and Yokuts, and, Sundays, Year round. 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, on the corner of Claremont and Yokuts Ave., rain or shine!  

Park West Place Sunday Farmers’ Market: Every Sunday, 9:00 am until 2:00 pm, May 10th through December 27th, Park West Shopping Center, off of I-5 and Eight Mile Road in front of Lowes garden center (10342 Trinity Parkway Stockton, CA 95219)   Stone Creek Village

Tuesday Farmers’ Market in Stockton: Every Tuesday, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm , Stone Creek Village (5757 Pacific Avenue Stockton, Ca 95207) May 12- October 27

Lodi Thursday Farmers’ Market: Every Thursday starting May 21 through September 3, from 5 pm to 8:30 pm, on School Street in the heart of Lodi’s downtown.  

Lodi Sunday Farmers’ Market: May 3rd to October 25th, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm at Samuel D. Salas Park, 2101 South Stockton Street Lodi, CA 95240  

West Valley Mall Sunday Farmers’ Market {in Tracy): Every Sunday, 9:00 am until 2:00 pm West Valley Mall In Tracy (3200 Naglee Rd  Tracy, CA 95304)  

Tracy Saturday Farmers’ Market: Saturdays, April 4th to November 21st,  8:00 am to 1:00 pm, 10th street between B Street and Central Ave, downtown Tracy  

Lathrop Sunday Farmers’ Market: Sunday Mornings, May 3rd to October 25th, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm at Manuel Valverde Park, 15557 5th Street Lathrop, Ca 95391  

Manteca Certified Farmers Market: Tuesdays, 4:30 PM to 8 PM in  Library Park, 100 Manteca Ave.  

Ripon Farmers Market: Thursday, 4 PM to 7:30 PM! All in shady Stouffer Park; Bring a picnic and beat the heat!!  

Mountain House Farmers’ Market: The Mountain House Tuesday Market has been postponed until further notice.  

Grab your spouse, kids or grandkids, and plan to take in many of these varied farmers’ markets this summer!  

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Happy travels in the West!

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East Bay-trip offers stunning scenery, closeups of Mount Diablo and the Blackhawk Auto Museum!

 

 

 

 

 

With a bit of rain recently settling the dust in the Easy Bay hills and helping clear the air – it’s a marvelous time for doing creative family exploring between Stockton and the East Bay area.

Part of the fun of such a trip is to take the scenic backroads to Mt. Diablo, then the back toute into Danville and Blackhawk. Follow the directions below and you’ll discover possibly the prettiest – as well as the shortest route – to the East Bay.

One of the gems of this trip is Danville’s Blackhawk development and the wonderful Blackhawk Automotive (and American History) Museum. One huge floor displays 60 classic and concept autos from Europe and the US, the floor above offers a panoply of Native American and early Western history.

On a recent visit, we saw a bevy of seniors taking in the exhibits of cars on one floor and history above. Kids of all ages were enthralled by Native American and Western history exhibits on the second floor – a perfect place for youngsters to appreciate the challenges of the wild West to those who went before us. 

The museum anchors Blackhawk Plaza, with nine varied restaurants within a two block walk as well as upscale retailers galore. It’s collection offers American cars from a 1903 Ford Model A to 1954 Dodge and Plymouth concept cars to The 1967 Mirage-Ford M1. The 1903 Ford Model A on display, Ford’s 300th car built, weighed 1200 pounds, sported a whopping 8 hp and cost $850.

A stately 1933 mint green Packard Super 8 was superbly built, weighed well over 5000 pounds, powered by 145 horsepower and cost $3100 – a princely sum at that time.

Beautiful 1954 Dodge and Plymouth concept cars, such as the Dodge Firearrow II, showed the creative energy of American engineering just nine years after WW II. A 1963 Ford Thunderbird concept car, designed in Italy, shows the influence on US-built cars on designers from other countries.

But it’s the foreign-built autos that literally blow your mind. From massive autos by Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Jaguar, you’ll come to appreciate the heights of the auto industry in the 1920s to the onset of World War II.

Alpha Romeo certainly set the tone for avant-garde, aerodynamic styling in the 1950s. One example, the 1953 Alpha Romeo Bertone BAT 7, offers the most stylish, exaggerated rear fins you can possibly imagine. Those over-the-top fins (in lesser proportions) appeared on most American cars in the late 50s to early 60s.

Other foreign autos stop you in your tracks. A 1939 Aero Model 50 from the Czech Republic is no less amazing then the nearby 1939 SS 100 Jaguar from England. A massive 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith seems even larger than its neighbors in size, sporting every manner of luxurious appointments!

The second-floor traces the history of our Native American forebears and how many tribes prospered as they adapted to the seasonal climate and realities of rugged, nomadic lifestyles across the continent. But, one cannot scan the Native American artifacts or the life-size dioramas, or stare at the portrait of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, without feeling regrets for the way they were treated as white settlers used the doctrine of “manifest destiny” to take over their territory in the last 200 years.

One display shows how the inexorable march of settlers from the original colonies in the 1790s; settling all the US to the west coast by 1890 and banishing Native Americans to reservations. They were forcibly resettled on properties that white settlers did not want.

The other half of the huge second-floor shows the challenges and perils of the migration of pioneers who pushed across the country. A huge Conestoga wagon, harnessed to a team of oxen, seems ready to embark on the Mormon Emigrant or Oregon Trails which poured thousands into California and Oregon in the last half of the 19th century.

The trip from Stockton to Blackhawk is half the fun; you’ll first cross about 15 miles of our scenic Delta and be amazed by the Delta’s agricultural bounty. Then the road meanders through the beautiful foothills leading to Mt. Diablo.

Headed towards Mt. Diablo, you pass stellar attractions including Los Vaqueros Reservoir, Round Valley Regional Park and Preserve, and have the option to climb Mt. Diablo for some of the best views in northern California!

Los Vaqueros Reservoir is a new reservoir and watershed; the pretty lake was recently increased to 160,000 acre-feet by raising the damn 35 feet and holds water from the Delta for Eastbay residents. The impoundment is regularly stocked with fish – it’s both a fishing and bicycling Mecca; offering trails into the hills surrounding the reservoir.

Next up on your scenic drive is Round Valley Regional Park and Reserve, with trails that can take you deep into the East Bay foothills. Scenic hiking and biking galore; no dogs allowed.

Just a few miles east of Mt. Diablo, turn left/south on Morgan Territory Road!  You’ll be treated to one of the most scenic stretches of highway in Northern California. The road, initially two lane, is paved but soon becomes a 6 mile stretch of single lane taking you over the southeast flank of Mount Diablo, through stunning scenery much as Native Americans would’ve beheld it hundreds of years earlier.

How to get there: Head west from Stockton on Hwy. 4; just past Discovery Bay, turn left on the Byron Hwy., at Byron, go west on Camino Diablo, which connects to Marsh Creek Canyon Road. Turn left on Morgan Territory Road, right on Manning Road, right on Carneal Road, left on Highland Road, then right on Camino Tassajara to reach Blackhawk Plaza. Take a good map or GPS!

For more information:  Blackhawk Automotive Museum, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville, CA. Phone 925.736.2280; www.BlackhawkMuseum.org. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM, $15 adults, $10 seniors/students, kids under six and military free. Mt. Diablo State Park: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517. Modest entry fees are charged for Los Vaqueros Reservoir and Preserve and Mount Diablo State Park. Round Valley Regional Park is free.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Happy travels in the West!

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Northern California summer travel destinations – leave the crowds behind!

 

Demonstration vineyard at Lodi Wine and Visitor Center on Turner Road shows varied vineyard and viticultural methods.

Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Appellation map.
Main Street in Sutter Creek, a Gold Rush gem, taken from Hotel Sutter balcony.
Bixby Bridge, circa 1932, is typical of Big Sur scenery on Highway 1.
Hearst Castle’s outdoor pool looks out over the Santa Lucia Mountains!

In my last post, I noted five summer travel destinations (three California national parks (Lassen, Sequoia/Kings Canyon and Pinnacles, the North California Coast and the Central Sierra region), far from the maddening crowd, with pictures and detail on each. I mentioned three more, with less detail and no photos; this post remedies that!

With summertime almost upon us, families, particularly those with kids, are targeting some of the most popular travel destinations in N. California. These include Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, to name a few. That can mean maddening crowds, traffic snarls and impossibilities in book campgrounds or lodging nearby.

Close to, or in, the San Joaquin Valley are a number of equally stunning, less visited destinations, perfect for families, or empty-nesters . Summertime is a great time to visit, and all are within about four hours or less from San Joaquin County.

If you love Napa and Sonoma Valleys but don’t want to fight the crowds, vacation nearby in the Lodi/Woodbridge Winegrape Appellation. Start at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center on Turner Road (complete with demonstration vineyard), and visit some of the dozen tasting rooms in downtown Lodi and 60 wineries open for tours in both Lodi and Woodbridge.

The Sierra foothills, from Coloma south to Sonora/Jamestown.  Here you have several lovely old towns, a true ghost towns, and the mighty Sierra, just a few miles to the east.

California coast from Big Sur south to Morro Bay: Leave the crowds behind in Monterey and Carmel, and travel south down the wild California coastline, through the rugged Big Sur area, to Hearst Castle and Morro Bay.

For more info: For touring within San Joaquin County, see the Visit Stockton tourism organization; www.VisitStockton.comCentral; for the Sierra foothills area, www.centralsierrachamber.org. For camping in national parks and forest service campgrounds, www.recreation.gov, or call 877.444.6777. And, if you are a senior, purchase the America the Beautiful senior pass, offering free admission to all national parks and half-off most federal campgrounds!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in California!

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Northern California: Five summer travel destinations, far from the maddening crowd

 

With summertime almost upon us, families, particularly those with kids, are targeting some of the most popular travel destinations in N. California. These include Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, to name a few.  That can mean maddening crowds, traffic snarls and impossibilities in book campgrounds or lodging nearby.

Close to the San Joaquin Valley are a number of equally stunning, less visited destinations, perfect for families, or empty-nesters . Summertime is a great time to visit, and all are within about four hours or less from San Joaquin County.

Here are my wife and my favorite five, and several more which will wow visitors. They include Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic and Pinnacles National Parks, the California coast north of Bodega Bay and the Central Sierra south of Lake Tahoe.

That is not to say these areas can’t be packed with summertime tourists, but they are less visited than places like Yosemite.  Summer, as well as late September and October, are great times to visit.  Visitors should plan in advance for lodging or campgrounds to avoid the busiest weeks or weekends.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National parks: These majestic parks share a common border, located just east of Fresno.  The approach roads offer rapid and scenic rise from near sea level in the San Joaquin Valley to 7,000 feet in the Sierra, seemingly endless  stands of immense Sequoia groves and incredible views of the High Sierra, particularly in Kings Canyon!

The General Sherman sequoia is awe-inspiring, and much larger than its huge neighbors, measuring 40 feet in diameter, 275 feet in height (in total volume of wood, the largest tree in the world)! It makes for big crowds, as the most known feature in the park.  The General Grant sequoia, nearly as large, is an anchor attraction in Kings Canyon. With Moro Rock, the Auto-tree (drive your car through a huge, downed sequoia) and Kings Canyon (a canyon several thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon), plenty of campgrounds and classic lodges, these parks are not to be missed.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen is arguably the most impressive park of volcanic and thermal features in the country. With mud pots, fumaroles and a volcano that exploded just 100 years ago, hurling huge boulders for miles, it will thrill youngsters to seniors alike!  Lodging is available in several nearby towns like Chester, and the park offers several beautiful campgrounds. With Mt. Shasta just north, extend your stay and visit that huge peak and its surrounding quaint towns, for a week of adventure.

Pinnacles National Park: Pinnacles with its close proximity to the valley and evocative topography, stands out.  The park, the volcanic remnants of an ancient Los Angeles-area volcano, slowly moving north on the San Andreas Fault, is a gem.  Hike the talus caves and rugged volcanic spines in these coastal mountains and see California condors soaring above the majestic peaks and valleys. 

Overnight accommodations are found in nearby Hollister and the park offers several campgrounds.  Adventurous tourists can find Mission San Antonio just south and follow a winding road over the Santa Lucia Mountains to the center of Big Sur on the California coast. 

The Northern California coast, from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino: Both easy to reach (about three hours) and presenting some of the most stunning coast in the United States, you will find impressive vistas and spectacular food. Further north of Bodega Bay is Jenner, Ft. Ross (the old Russian outpost from the early 1800′s), Sea Ranch (stop at the Sea Ranch Lodge for breakfast or lunch). 

Further north are Gualala, Point Arena (check out the Point Arena lighthouse, for memorable coastal views), and Mendocino.  Great campgrounds line the coast and wonderful places to stop for the night are found in Bodega Bay, Jenner and Guerneville on the Russian River, Sea Ranch and Mendocino.

The Central Sierra, south and west of Lake Tahoe: The magical Central Sierra offers so much to see and do. Pick Hwy. 88, 4 or 108, and head east up into the cool, summer Sierra.  Camping, motel or lodge accommodations can lead to several days, or a week of scenic vacation. Hiking, biking and fishing at attractions like Pinecrest Lake, Lake Alpine and the Arnold Rim Trail, all within 1.5 hours of the valley, make for memorable family memories.

Here you will find the site of California’s gold discovery in 1848, Coloma; Mother Lode Gold Rush sites march south down the Sierra including Placerville, Plymouth, Fiddletown, Sutter Creek, Columbia, Sonora, and finish your tour in Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 Historic Park (the “movie railroad”, with locomotives appearing in scores of movies and TV shows).

A few more: if you love Napa and Sonoma Valleys but don’t want to fight the crowds, vacation nearby in the Lodi/Woodbridge Winegrape Appellation.  Start at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center on Turner Road (complete with demonstration vineyard), and visit some of the dozen tasting rooms in downtown Lodi and 60 wineries open for tours in both Lodi and Woodbridge. 

The Eastern Sierra, from Bridgeport south to the Mammoth Lakes area. Here you have several lovely old towns, a true ghost town, Bodie, Mono Lake and Mount Whitney (tallest peak in California, 14,500 feet) towering in the background.

California coast from Big Sur south to Morro Bay:  Leave the crowds behind in Monterey and Carmel, and travel south down the wild California coastline, through the rugged Big Sur area, to Hearst Castle and Morro Bay. 

For more info:  Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, www.nps.gov/seki; or phone  559.565.3341; Lassen Volcanic National Park, www.nps/gov/lavo, phone, 530.595.6100; Pinnacles National Park, : www.nps.gov/pinn, phone: 831.389.4486; North CA coast, www.northcoastca.com; Central Sierra area, www.centralsierrachamber.org. For camping in national parks and forest service campgrounds, www.recreation.gov, or call 877.444.6777. If you are a senior, purchase the America the Beautiful senior pass, offering free admission to all national parks and half-off most federal campgrounds!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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California’s central coast; elephant seals, stunning coast, Hearst Castle and Morro Bay

Lots of beautiful sunsets await campers and visitors to places like Morro Strand State Beach!

Hearst Castle’s Grand Mansion, looking up from the outdoor pool area. The mansion houses most of William Randolph Hearst’s extensive art collection.
Hearst Castle’s beautiful pool looks out over the Santa Lucia Mountains along the California coast;
the complex also includes a huge indoor pool!
Several hundred elephant seals lounge on beach in early April, just four miles north of San Simeon – and only a 150 foot walk from parking right beside Hwy. 1. In late May and June, even more seals are expected on the beaches in this area!

 

Morro Strand State Park offers camping just blocks off the ocean and just north of Morro Rock. Here, author's spouse Susan enjoys a campfire next to our Serro Scotty teardrop camp trailer!

Morro Rock has anchored the central California coast for eons, marking the way for ancient seafarers (and, today’s modern horsemen/women)!

 

Last week, I shared updates on the wild coast, elephant seals, sea otters and visitor services on the Big Sur coast.  I did not have room to mention several iconic places just south of Big Sur, so here are notes to take you south to Hearst Castle and Morro Bay.

On the south end of Big Sur (and just four miles north of San Simeon) you will find several beaches home to thousands of massive elephant seals. You’ve found the six-mile long Piedras Blancas rookery, home to these lumbering giants that can reach 5,000 pounds!  Adult females and juveniles begin to depart to the sea towards the end of May; in the summer months, sub-adult males – those who have reached puberty but not yet of the size to command respect for breeding – begin to arrive for their molt. They are followed in August and September by adult males.

Visitors will find Friends of the Elephant Seals docents at the beach 10 AM to 4 PM, and, no reservations required and no fees!

Just south is Hearst Castle, rising regally in the hills overlooking the ocean and Santa Lucia Mountains.  This huge estate owes its origin to the staggering profits of the Hearst newspaper and publishing business in the 1800s and early 1900s. 

George Hearst initially acquired  40,000 acres in 1865, and son William Randolph Hearst enlarged the estate to 250,000 acres and constructed a huge and palatial home of 165 rooms, spectacular grounds and world-class art.  With the help of architect Julia Morgan, Hearst created what he called La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for “Enchanted Hill”.

The main house, Casa Grande, offers over 60,000 square feet of grandeur.  Featuring 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, a theatre, indoor and outdoor pools and a 127 acre estate with tennis courts, airfield and private zoo complete with zebras, it was one of the largest and most grandiose private homes in the United States.

William Randolph Hearst would use his ranch to entertain political glitterati and Hollywood stars on a regular basis. Among the more notable were Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and James Stewart. He maintained three sumptuous guest houses on the estate for just such purposes.

Hearst’s art collection rivals many of the world’s top museums; it, and the surrounding gardens make the visit well worth the trip to see it.  Fees do apply and reservations are a must, so see the Hearst Castle web site before planning a venturesome trip to this lovely destination.

Just south of the Hearst Castle, you’ll pass through the lovely coastal towns of San Simeon, Cambria,  Cayucos and on to Morro Bay.  Here, Morro Rock stands as a huge sentinel (many describing it as the Gibraltar of the Pacific coast), marking the central California coast to ancient and today’s mariners. 

Morrow Bay is a pretty town with just over 10,000 population and is named after Morro Rock, the huge granite volcanic plug just off shore. Morro Bay offers an active harbor and fishing industry, and oysters, halibut and salmon remain mainstays on local plates.  Harbor-view restaurants and surrounding vineyards make this small town memorable.

The area was settled by the Chumash people in prehistoric times near Morro Creek; the Spanish Portola expedition visited in 1769. A Franciscan missionary noted “we saw a great rock in the form of a round morro”, a Spanish word that is part of many place names where a huge rock formation is prominent. Today, the 576 foot tall volcanic remainder is visible for miles in all directions.

Today, the town boasts pretty beaches, an active commercial fishing fleet that searches for rockfish, soul, halibut and albacore and is also tourist-friendly. You’ll find a number of restaurants with harbor views, delicious seafood and close-up vistas of the huge rock (two favorite eateries are Galley Seafood Grill and Bar, and Windows on the Water, both on Embarcadero)!.

Morro Rock was once surrounded by water; during World War II, a US Navy base was constructed on its north side so that sailors could practice landing craft skills.  The breakwater was built to protect the harbor and is today maintained by the Corps of Engineers. While Morro Rock can be reached on foot, it is off-limits to visitors, as a home to protected peregrine falcons.

The town is ringed by some of California’s nicest state parks including Montana de Oro State Park and Morro Bay State Park to the south, Morro Strand Park to the north – offering camping and nearby beach access. When we visited recently, a portion of the beach and dunes were cordoned off to protect nesting Western Snowy Plovers. All these seaside parks get crowded in the summer, so if you are planning to camp, reserve a campsite well in advance.

You’ll find delightful places to stay, eat and camp in and near several of these towns.  Hence, extend your visit to our stunning California coast by visiting these wonderful places just south of Big Sur.

How to get there: The most direct route to Hearst Castle, 260 miles from Stockton, is to take I-5 south, go southwest on Hwy. 41, to Hwy. 46, then turn  north on Hwy. 1.  It’s a little over four hours.

What’s nearby: to the north are Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey; San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach are just  south.

For info: Elephant Seals, Friends of the Elephant Seal, www.elephantseal.org, PO Box 490, Cambria, CA 93428; Hearst Castle, www.hearstcastle.org; Morro Bay, www.morrobay.org; for campsite reservations, www.reserveamerica.org.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

 

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Big Sur; elephant seals, sea otters, wild coast and Hearst Castle!

Several hundred Elephant Seals lounge on the beach, just off Hwy. 1, four miles north of San Simeon.

Two male Elephant Seals joust for supremacy on beach just north of San Simeon!
The iconic Bixby Bridge on Hwy. 1, constructed in 1932.
Ragged Point Resort, with restaurant, motel and cabins – and flowers in full bloom in early April!
McWay Bay, and McWay Waterfall, in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Big Sur coast looking north from Hwy. 1
Big Sur coast, looking south from Hwy. 1; no surprise it was California’s first designated “Scenic highway”!

What is wild, scenic, home to thousands of huge Elephant Seals and contains some of the state’s finest campgrounds, restaurants and resorts?  Just 170 miles southwest of Stockton, it’s Big Sur, that relatively undiscovered paradise of rocky coast, bucolic coves, deep redwood forests and history that runs deep, spread along Highway One from Carmel south to San Simeon!

The Spanish called it “El Sur Grande”, the Big South, for the huge swath of rugged, unexplored and treacherous California coastline. Though Mexico awarded several land grants in the Big Sur area in the early 1800s, none were settled and it would not be until 100 years ago that permanent settlers arrived in the area. Soon, a lively logging economy began to thrive, with timber shipped up the coast to San Francisco.

Highway One was not completed until 1937 after 18 arduous years building this rugged highway; it opened the coast to a spectacular tourist destination.

A recent visit to Big Sur revealed an amazing experience for my wife and me. Just four miles north of San Simeon, we spotted a beach signed “Elephant Seals” and we turned off Hwy. 1. The beach is part of the six-mile long Piedras Blancas rookery, and home to some of 23,000 resident elephant seals (depending upon time of year). 

A 100 foot walk took us to a boardwalk – and about 250 elephant seals lounging in the sun, with the males occasionally jousting for supremacy.  Another mile north, another beach, and, 100 more of these fascinating creatures!

Elephant seals are much larger than harbor seals or sea lions.  Males can reach 5,000 pounds and 16 feet in length, females up to 1,800 pounds and 12 feet; pups are born at about 70 pounds and 3-4 feet. These huge creatures spend the majority of their lives at sea, diving as deep as 3,000 feet to forage for food, and spend several months on these beaches!

In May, juveniles and mothers who’ve been at sea arrive on the beach for a month of molting.  While in the rookery, the seals fast, eating no food and drinking little water – it’s much quieter on the beach than in the birthing and breeding, in the months just previous.

In June, July and August: as adult females and juveniles begin to depart to the sea, sub-adult males – those who have reached puberty but not yet of the size to command respect for breeding – begin to arrive for their molt. They are followed in August and September by adult males. The beach is quieter than in the months previously! Visitors will find docents at the beach 10 AM to 4 PM, and, no reservations required and no fees!

Some of the state’s finest parks and campgrounds are found in Big Sur. Andrew Molera State Park, just 20 miles south of Carmel offers 24 walk-in sites (first come, first-served), where you park and hike about 1/3 mile to camp sites that will hold up to four folks. With 4,800 acres, the park offers a huge variety of exploring options, from beaches to the Big Sur River to the rugged coastal mountains. This is relatively undeveloped acreage; if you are seeking a wilderness experience, this is pretty close!

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 26 miles south of Carmel, offers 169 sites, picnic options and plenty of hiking and swimming opportunities. The park covers over 1000 acres of redwoods, oaks, cottonwoods and conifers and offers glimpses of wildlife including deer, skunks, raccoons and a variety of sea birds. The Big Sur Lodge also offers lodging, if you don’t desire to camp. Reservations: www.ReserveAmerica.com.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 37 miles south of Carmel, offers two hike-in campsites, which can be reserved through www.ReserveAmerica.com. Hiking options are abundant, with options from the Big Sur Coastline up into the rugged coastal peaks. The Overlook Trail takes one on a stunning hike along the coastline, leading to the McWay waterfall, which drops almost 100 feet into the McWay Bay.

Limekiln State Park, 56 miles south of Carmel, is one of our favorites. Carved into the Big Sur coast, if offers 716 acres and 33 developed camp sites, many with stunning Pacific views and mighty redwoods. Remains of historic limekilns, which produced copious amounts of lime for construction many years ago, are to be explored..

Kirk Creek Campground is a bit further south, a gem perched on a bluff overlooking the coastline, but, first-come, first-served, run by the US Forest Service. For more info, call (805) 434-1996.

Big Sur restaurants and dining range from the subtle to the sublime, from inexpensive to $$$$-rated! Featuring some of California’s top-rated restaurants and many other fine dining choices, our recent favorites are Big Sur Roadhouse opened two years ago, getting rave reviews and a bit less expensive than some competitors and Ragged Point Inn.  Located on Ragged Point, a bluff high above the ocean coast with spectacular views in three directions, the restaurant, motel and cabins are surrounded by gorgeous flowers when we were there in early April!  Try the Cinnamon French Toast!

Take your binoculars and enjoy Big Sur’s spectacular coastal views (with plenty of overlooks), soaring bridges (thanks to CalTrans) and endless beaches. Watch for wildflowers almost always in bloom, California Sea Otters cavorting in secluded coves and legions of sea birds – if you are lucky, you may see a California Condor soaring overhead on their seven foot wingspans.

How to get there: Take I-5 south, go southwest on Hwy. 152, to Hwy. 156, to Hwy. 1

What’s nearby: to the north are Carmel and Monterey; San Simeon, Hearst Castle and Morro Bay are south.. Mission San Antonio (one of California’s 21 Spanish missions) and Pinnacles National Park are just east (though, circuitous and wild, scenic drives are required to reach them)!

For info: Elephant Seals, Friends of the Elephant Seal, www.elephantseal.org, PO Box 490, Cambria, CA 93428; Big Sur restaurants and lodging, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, www.bigsurcalifornia.org; (831) 667.2100.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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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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