Walk-about, jog-about in Stockton and San Joaquin County; the best way to see your city!

Walking, jogging and running in your backyard

Elijah Dennison and grandfather out for a walk and trike ride in the Quail Lakes area.

With warm fall days, mild evenings and changing colors in local foliage – it struck me that it’s a great time of year to do more walking, or jogging. I was reminded of a famous quote, “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,” by Lao Tzu. And, a great place to start is in your own hometown in San Joaquin County.

I had the opportunity to chat with Tony Vice, runner, tri-athlete and owner of Fleet Feet Sports. He noted that, for novice or improving walkers and joggers, both Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Center and Sundance Running Club are good places to start.

Vice notes, “A great thing about being a walker or runner is it’s pretty simple – all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other to get going. As far as places where walkers and runners can go, there is always Tuesday nights at Fleet Feet in Lincoln Center, 5:30 PM, we do a scenic loop in Lincoln Village West; it’s a beautiful neighborhood and an all-inclusive group; walkers, runners, and we love newbies. It’s just a matter of getting out and joining as a group because we can be more motivated”.

Runners from In Shape Health Club head east on Calaveras Bike Trail near I-5 (photo courtesy of Ralph Womack).

He continued, “For places to go on the safer side I like the Calaveras Bike Trail between University of Pacific and Brookside; you’ll see lots of people there. Take advantage of the campus of University the Pacific for walking or joggingh both around the campus and south along Kensington Way to Oxford Circle, then east to Miracle Mile and back to campus.

The beautiful Oak Grove Regional Park is a great place for walking or jogging, as is Lodi Lake Park on the north edge of Lodi. In south county, Weston Ranch, Manteca, Ripon and Tracy all feature and promote walking and jogging trails. For dramatic scenery and adding some hills to your route, seek out the Coast to Crest Trail, at Comanche Reservoir’s South Turkey Hill Trail-head”.

Bikers, walkers and runners gather for libations after Sundance Run Club's Saturday Fun Run (photo courtesy of Sundance Run Club).

Sundance Running Club’s Jerry Hyatt adds, “The Sundance Running Club hosts a weekly Fun Run, on Saturdays at 8 AM at Stockton’s Grupe Park (west side of the park).  We pride ourselves on being welcoming and supportive to fitness enthusiasts of all levels, and do our best to keep the Fun Run fun.  On any given Saturday, we are likely to have walkers, runners, and bikers in attendance.  We usually have ample refreshments to share afterwards.  There is no fee required and all are welcome.  For the new athlete, there is nothing like a weekly event among friends to keep you on track to meet your goals.

Veteran runner and Run and Walk Against Hunger Race Director Ralph Womack offers additional ideas, “Outside your front door in your own neighborhood is a great place to start; and other favorites for me are the Bear Creek Bike Trail on Stockton’s north side.  Shima Tract, at the west end of Hammer Lane, offers a four mile or eight mile option on the gravel levee-top out into our scenic San Joaquin Delta. Another option is to explore the levees, accessed at the south end of Stockton’s Trinity Parkway, heading west along either the south or north side of Pixley Slough.

Runners dressed as turkeys near completion of the Run and Walk Against Hunger (photo courtesy of Ulmer Photo).

Womack notes, “The fun crowd at the Run and Walk Against Hunger is about 60% walkers, who turn out 3,000 strong to support the Emergency Food Bank in its goal of ending hunger in Stockton and San Joaquin. Registration opens Thanksgiving morning at 6:30, kids quarter mile run (9 years and under), 8 AM; 5K walk and run and 10K run begin at 8:30.

The 5K and 10K routes traverse the scenic Stockton waterfront, beginning and finishing at Stockton Ball Park. For many families, it’s become a holiday tradition, with music on many corners, Taiko drummers thundering out an exciting beat – a fun family affair with many participants coming in turkey costume – and great photo opportunity. For those who can’t attend, the ‘virtual runner’ option comes with a classic T-shirt and support of the food bank. Early registration and best price to enter ends October 31, go to: runagainsthunger.org”.

With all these local options for walking or running at nearby outdoor destinations, I’m reminded of another quote, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” by famous New York Yankee Yogi Berra. See you ‘on the road’!

Thousands of walkers and runners line up for the start of the Thanksgiving Run and Walk Against Hunger (photo courtesy of Ulmer Photo).

For more information: Coast to Crest Trail, ebmud.com/recreation/sierra-foothills/sierra-foothills-trails/;  Fleet Feet Sports, Lincoln Center, fleetfeetstockton.com; Run and Walk Against Hunger, runagainsthunger.org; Sundance Running Club, sundancerunners.webs.com; for a map of Stockton bike and hike trails, stocktongov.com/files/BikewaysExistingMap.pdf. Another option, for folks focusing on walking and hiking, the Delta Tule Trekkers, deltatuletrekkers.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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Halloween Fun; downtown Ghost Tour precedes showing of Phantom of the Opera at the Bob Hope Theatre, Sunday, Oct. 30

Halloween Fun starts with a downtown Ghost Tour preceding the showing of Phantom of the Opera at the Bob Hope Theatre, on Sunday, Oct. 30.

Downtown historic walking tour group takes in the lobby of the Hotel Stockton at a previous walking tour.

The Ghost Tour, which is free, begins at Noon in front of the Hotel Stockton, on Weber Avenue. The tour will include ghost stories and also a talk  about Stockton’s ghosts that are said to inhabit some of Stockton’s lost buildings (like the old Yosemite Theatre and historic Courthouse that was demolished in 1960). The tour will include historic footnotes as well as ghost stories, as told by the Downtown Stockton Alliance’s Manuel Laguna and the Friends of the Fox’s Kelly Howard.

The tour returns to the Bob Hope Theatre around 1:15 PM (organ concert at 1:30; the movie begins at 2 PM); after the movie Howard will give a free Ghost Tour of the Theatre itself. The Noon Ghost Tour is free; cost for the movie is $8 for adults, and $4 for students.  If more than 10 people on the tour, Howard can offer tickets for the movie at $6 apiece. For more info on the tour, contact Howard at (510) 882-1707.

Tour group hears stories of the ghost that haunts the old Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre on an earlier historic tour.

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


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Winetasting, history and kid’s activities make for fun, fall destinations!

Syrah grapes from the Lodi-Woodbridge Grape Appellation

With the fall grape harvest and crush in full swing in recent weeks, no better time to visit nearby wine country, whether the Lodi-Woodbridge appellation in north San Joaquin County, or the Shenandoah Valley district, an hour to our northeast near Plymouth.

Delightfully, both regions offer something for all members of the family, from wine aficionados to young kids. Make it a long day-trip or, extend for a several day tour of both regions.

The sense of history runs deep in both these locales; in the 1850s pioneer settlers and farmers, and Gold Rush miners and shop-keepers quickly planted grapes, beginning with Zinfandel and expanding into a number of other varietals in the following years.

Kids admire historic fruit crates on old truck at San Joaquin Historical Museum.

In the Lodi/Woodbridge area, make your first two stops at the San Joaquin Historical Society in Micke Grove Park, and the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center at the corner of Lower Sacramento and Turner Roads.

The San Joaquin Historical Society’s Dave Stuart suggests, “For a starting point on history of the Lodi wine appellation, stop at our Tree and Vine Building, offering a host of displays of historic wine-making equipment.  The museum preserves a remnant of William Micke’s 1922 Flame Tokay vineyard; Tokay grapes dominated the area into the 1950s and were used as table grapes and for making brandy and even some wine. The advent of the seedless table grape spelled their doom and now very few Tokay vines can be found in the area.

Historic Pacific Fruit Express, an early refrigerated rail car, revolutionized abilities to ship fruit across the country.

The museum also features the Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) rail car which transported iced produce to distant markets. During prohibition the shipments of wine grapes actually increased as home vintners bought grapes with which to make their own wine for home consumption”.

The Lodi Wine and Visitor Center offers a tasting room, wine-themed gifts and an adjoining demonstration vineyard showing off the varieties of grapes grown in this award-winning appellation. It’s a starting point to pick nearby wineries you might want to visit.

Grab a map and you can head out to one of the more than 80 wineries in the area, favorites include Michael David Winery, Jessie’s Grove Vineyards, Lange Twins Winery and Harmony Wynelands (complete with an old Seattle theater pipe organ for weekend concerts). This time of year, most wineries feature both special events and special offerings.

Kids play at the vertical wind-tunnel at World of Wonders Science Museum in Lodi.

For kids, stop at the nearby Cosumnes River Preserve, two miles north of Thornton, to see thousands of migrating birds of all types right off the road. In the heart of downtown Lodi, kids will enjoy the World of Wonders Science Museum with hands-on activities for children from two to upper teens.

Plan a breakfast or lunch stop at Richmaid Restaurant on Cherokee Lane, which preserves a sense of old-time, homey restaurants, or lunch or dinner at Lodi Beer on School Street in downtown Lodi.

The Shenandoah Valley is a newer wine-grape appellation boasting 40 wineries located just northeast of Plymouth, CA, an hour from Stockton in the Sierra foothills.  A pleasant drive through fall foliage turning bright yellows and oranges can include historic stops at Sutter Creek, Plymouth and Fiddletown, noteworthy for their preservation of Gold Rush history.

The old Hotel Sutter-Bellotti in downtown Sutter Creek.

Sutter Creek, offers a dozen blocks of quaint shops, restaurants and about a half dozen wine-tasting outlets for Shenandoah Valley wines. Main Street offers a walkable stretch with a wealth of historic buildings dating from the 1850s, many of them marked by plaques offering historical anecdotes.

Stop for lunch or dinner at the Hotel Sutter/Bellotti Inn, opened in 1860 and one of the oldest hotels still in continuous operation in the state. On Eureka Street is the old Knight Foundry, the only water-powered foundry in the US, that, until recently, was in continuous operation since 1873. Sam Knight designed the water wheel which was used world-wide, powering early hydroelectric plants throughout California, Utah and Oregon.

Plymouth is the “Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley” and home to the remarkable ‘Taste’ restaurant, arguably the region’s finest and, just up the street, the Amador Brewing Company, with crowds queuing up for hand-crafted beers and good food.  Plymouth traces its history to the 1870s when prospectors stopped there in search of quartz and gold. The city has a cute public park with bandstand, the old Plymouth Hotel and other eateries, all crowding several blocks.

The C. Schallhorn Blacksmith Shop in Fiddletown dates to 1870.

From Plymouth, head seven miles east on Fiddletown Road to Fiddletown, which quickly grew in the 1850s and 1860s as a center of trade for many mines located nearby. Fiddletown features several blocks of Gold-Rush-era buildings including the Chew Kee Store dating to 1851, two historic buildings remaining from the town’s former Chinese retail district and the C. Schallhorn Blacksmith Shop. Stop at Browns English Toffee for a delectable treat in the heart of the historic district.

For the early history of the Shenandoah Valley’s wine appellation, make a stop at Sobon Estate Vineyards in Plymouth, longest running winery in the area and their Shenandoah Valley Museum, with displays of historic winemaking equipment and techniques. Other favorites include Karmere, Helwig and Shenandoah Vineyards. Kids will enjoy a stop at Amador Flower Farm, 22001 Shenandoah School Rd., Plymouth, for both the corn maze for older kids and the hay-bale maze for younger children.

Kids enjoy the corn maze at Amador Flower Farm in the Shenandoah Valley.

For an even more extended tour, journey further east to Apple Hill, just beyond Placerville, where apple orchards, farms and wineries share their bounty with visitors, now through Christmas eve.

For more information: San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, located in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Rd, Lodi, 209.953.3460, sanjoaquinhistory.org; Lodi Wine and Visitor’s Center, 2545 W. Turner Rd., Lodi, 209.367.4727, Lodiwine.com; World of Wonders Science Museum, 2 N. Sacramento Street, Lodi, 209.368.0969, wowsciencemuseum.org; Shenandoah Valley and Amador County wines, amadorwine.com; Plymouth and Fiddletown, historichwy49.com/amador/plymouth.html; Sutter Creek, suttercreek.org; (209) 267-1344; Sobon Estate Winery and Shenandoah Valley Museum, sobonwine.com; Amador Flower Farm, amadorflowerfarm.com; Apple Hill, applehill.com.

Amador Flower Farm's hay-bale maze is made for kids 5 and under!

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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The birds are back, with a vengeance, in San Joaquin County!

October, November are ideal months for visiting the Pacific Flyway in San Joaquin County

Sandhill cranes arrive by the hundreds to the Isenberg Crane Reserve just off W. Woodbridge Road.

Our weather continues sunny and warm, but rain and cooler temperatures are predicted. With thousands of migratory waterfowl descending on our nearby lakes, rivers and wetlands – it’s a great time to go birdwatching, close to home. Take the kids or grandkids, let them tabulate the varied bird species they will find and make for a great day’s adventure.

You won’t need to go far, and all you need is a good pair of walking shoes, binoculars, camera and snacks. Your choices includes Lodi lake, the Isenberg Crane Reserve, Cosumnes River Preserve, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Reserve, Merced Wildlife Preserve to our south and nearby reservoirs like Comanche and Pardee, all within an hour or less drive from Stockton. Unfortunately, about 90% of California wetlands have been lost to development since 1900; but these wetland reserves remain hugely popular for millions of migrating waterfowl.

Pintail ducks at Cosumnes River Preserve (photo courtesy of Chuck Higgs).

Recent visits to Cosumnes River Preserve yielded sightings of hundreds of Pintail ducks, Canadian geese, pelicans, egrets, red-winged blackbirds and Blue heron. Best of all, it only takes a short walk to reach many of the best bird-viewing sites. The preserve contains 50,000 acres, 11 miles of hiking and walking trails at the intersection of the Cosumnes River and Mokelumne Rivers. Most of the trails are wheelchair accessible, in a riverine setting much as Native Americans would have found it hundreds of years ago.

The preserve is two miles north of Thornton, on Thornton Boulevard. Side benefits of a visit include the chance to stop at Consumnes River Farms for wine or olive oil tasting, or Primos Bakery in the little town of Thornton for delicious baked goods. If you and younger tourees take a refreshment break, spring the “case of the disappearing city” on them. Here’s the puzzler: What was the second largest city and port in San Joaquin County in the 1850s, and, what happened to it?

Author's grandson Jack spies distant birds at Cosumnes River Preserve.

The answer is Mokelumne City, established in 1850 at the confluence of the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers, as a competitor to Stockton. Sloops plyed the waters to and from San Francisco and the town grew to well over 200 people.  But the great flood of 1862 washed most of the town downstream, and the city was never rebuilt.  A granite obelisk, one block south of the intersection of Thornton and Benson Ferry Road, once sported a California Historic Plaque marking the town, but the plaque was stolen.

Grandson Jack and I recently toured to the Isenberg Crane Preserve, two miles west of Interstate 5 on Woodbridge Rd. (west of Lodi). We had the reserve all to ourselves and counted roughly 400 Sandhill Cranes, majestic, bold and comfortably settled into this Delta wetlands area. These ancient birds migrate from as far as Siberia each year, standing 3-5 feet tall with a regal air and a call like a frog.

Canadian geese fly in formation above Cosumnes River Preserve (photo courtesy of Chuck Higgs).

I also chatted with friend Chuck Higgs, a fine amateur photographer (most of the photos with this article are his).  I asked Chuck how he became a nature photographer, and where his favorite places to shoot wildlife were.  He responded, “I started photography when I purchased my first camera in Hong Kong in the 70′s. My first love was taking photos of airplanes and car racing, though I have now have evolved into wildlife photography, particularly birds. Three of my favorite places for bird photography are the Cosumnes River Preserve, the Merced Wildlife Preserve outside of Merced and Lodi Lake. I use two Nikon cameras, a D300S and a D500 with several Nikon telephoto lenses”. Thanks to Chuck for sharing marvelous photos!

Egret in flight lands next to sedate pelican at Cosumnes Preserve (photo courtesy Chuck Higgs).

Several upcoming special events are worth note:

Cosumnes River Preserve: October 15, a guided paddle tour (bring your own kayak or canoe), starts at the visitor center at 8:30 AM. On October 22, 9 AM to 3:30 PM, take part in a habitat restoration workday for those wanting to share some volunteer time and talent.
Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival: Coming November 4–6, 2016 in Lodi and surrounding Delta wetlands, the three day festival features guided tours, paddling events, symposiums and insight into these majestic birds.
Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge: Docent-guided walks, October 15 and November 19, 9 to 12 – meet at the west end of Elk Grove Boulevard to join your guide. On November 13, 10 AM to 1 PM, join for Brunch with the Birds.
Coming later in the year, bald eagle viewing tours, at Pardee and Comanche Reservoirs, led by EBMUD Rangers on pontoon boats; with limited number of seats, reservations are required.

Egret lifts off at Cosumnes River Preserve (photo courtesy Chuck Higgs).

For more information: Cosumnes River Preserve, 13501 Franklin Blvd, Galt, Cosumnes.org, visitor center open 9am to 5pm weekends and holidays; Consumes River Farm, 28305 N Thornton Road, Thornton, (209) 334-5544, consumnesriverfarm.com, open Thursday-Sunday 11:30am to 5:00pm; Comanche and Pardee Reservoirs, just east in the Sierra foothills, contact East Bay Municipal Utility District, ebmud.com or call  209.772.8204; Isenberg Crane Preserve (actually part of the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve), wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Woodbridge-ER ; Sandhill Crane Festival, cranefestival.com; Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge,  fws.gov/refuge/stone_lakes.

Get birding in your town and build your own excellent adventure!

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Author's grandkids Hunter and Jessica along a Cosumnes Preserve trail.

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A new mode of thrifty travel for frequent travelers: Affordable Travel Club and Evergreen Club

In retirement, my spouse and I have traveled extensively in the US and Canada, along with two forays into Europe on river and ocean cruises. We have consistently been on the lookout for additional modes of travel, as well as ways to save money within our travel budget.

Judy and Ward Lowrance, from Floyd, VA and frequent Affordable Travel Club travelers.

On our first European cruise, we befriended Judy and Ward Lowrance from Floyd, Virginia, who shared their many travels in the US and other countries and raved about the Affordable Travel Club – how much it energized their travels and saved them money.

The more they told us, the more we were intrigued. The gist of this travel club, and others similar like the Evergreen Club, is this: join, pay an annual membership fee ($65) and gain access to 2400 members across the US, Canada and 50-some other countries who will provide you a night’s lodging and a nice breakfast the next morning and considerable insight into the area they live in. Upon departure, leave a nice thank you note and a $20 gratuity (yes, only $20) to cover costs of the breakfast.

The Lowrences relate, “We’ve enjoyed a Victorian home in San Francisco, a house on the hillside overlooking Christchurch, New Zealand with snow-capped mountains in the background and a thatched-roof cottage near Windsor Castle in England. We love staying in private homes of travelers like ourselves and paying a small gratuity. Sometimes your host will act as a guide in the area or go to dinner with you on a ‘Dutch Treat’ basis. Most importantly, your host knows the area and can give you information on tourist attractions and the best places to dine.”

The Lowrances quote from Jules Verne: “Travel enables us to enrich our lives with new experiences, to enjoy and to be educated, to learn respect for foreign cultures, to establish friendships, and above all to contribute to international cooperation and peace throughout the world.”

Judy added, “here is why we like ATC: Meeting and staying in the homes of pleasant people with similar interests and love of travel. Saving on hotel expenses enables us to stay longer on our trips than we would if we spent big bucks on hotels, motels and B & B’s. Members know the inside scoop about good restaurants, places to go and sights to see in their area that we otherwise might not know about”.

Hence, a few months ago, prior to a planned trip across Canada and the US, we joined the ATC. As a new club member, we posted our profile on the ATC web site (our backgrounds and our house detail) – to invite other members to visit us when our schedule permits. Just before our departure to Canada, we considered our options with ATC members across Canada.

David and Nancy Marchant, Baynes Lake, British Columbia, our kind hosts in August.

We spent three nights with Canadian couples, one in British Columbia, one in Alberta and another in Saskatchewan. We had a fourth night lined up in Nova Scotia, which we had to cancel when our schedule wouldn’t allow us to arrive in time. The process is pretty simple. Scan the club’s web site map of members, find a member near our driving route, contact them by phone or email 10 days or a week in advance, and ask if they could put us up.

Several of our requests could not be met – the club member had a conflict. But, the three couples we spent time with were lovely people who offered us delightful lodging, friendship and a full breakfast the next morning. In return, we left them a nice note card and the $20 gratuity.

Our first night stay was with David and Nancy Marchant in the little town of Baynes Lake, British Columbia, on the west side of the Canadian Rockies. It came with the benefit of a full steak dinner upon arrival, when, a few days prior to our visit, David noted there were no restaurants anywhere near their home and invited us to dinner. The following morning, David happily took us for a tour of his small town and beautiful British Columbia reservoir.

The Elk River and Canadian Rockies, just north of Baynes Lake, BC.

Couples in Medicine Hat, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan were equally fine hosts, giving us tours of their property and offering suggestions of what to see in their portions of Canada.  Our insight into our Canadian neighbors is all the richer due to these three visits. In addition, we discovered what they thought about their country, their government and the coming US elections – certainly enlightening.

So, we’re thrilled with our first foray into the Affordable Travel Club. Membership comes with a couple of additional benefits. We put our listing up on the website, and have two visiting couples coming to our house in this month and November, including a couple from England for two nights. We’re looking forward to entertaining visitors from far afield, and getting to know about their state or, in the latter case, England.

Our friends the Lowrances had also landed a house-sitting gig in Seattle’s lovely Queen Anne Hill district through the club, another benefit. They invited us to split the month with them as house-sitters, which we gladly jumped upon. Before they joined us for a half-month in Seattle, they spent two weeks in the San Diego area with members of the club, at $20 per night.

Hence, we also used the club bulletin board to list ourselves as potential house and/or pet sitters, and almost immediately landed a housesitting gig in Edmonds, Washington, just north of Seattle, for the month of March, 2017. We also received a house-sitting offer in the Calistoga/Napa Valley area – though it conflicted with our recent two month tour across Canada and the US.

For more information: Affordable Travel Club, affordabletravelclub.net; Evergreen Club, evergeenclub.com.

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

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An ode to back roads: exploring America from off the beaten path

We just finished a nine week trip across Canada, down the East Coast to Delaware, and back across the US to California. Other than the Trans Canada Highway, we toured on back highways and lonely roads – eschewing interstates for the benefit of history and local flavor. Taking the road less traveled added miles – 13,000 miles overall – but took us to sites we would never find otherwise. Here is a sampling of “off the beaten-path” highlights:

Kakabeka Falls roars toward Thunder Bay and Lake Superior.

In Canada: The “Niagara of the North” in Ontario, and Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

After a long drive across Manitoba, we pulled into Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and found, quite by accident, “the Niagara Falls of the North”. We gazed in awe at the mighty falls; 200+’ across and more than 130′ tall, an impressive sight as the river thundered into the deeply-cut gorge below.

Peggy's Cove, bucolic fishing village on Nova Scotia coast.

Near Debert, Nova Scotia, friendly locals told us we must see Peggy’s Cove, about 50 miles away. Peggy’s Cove turned out to be a popular destination on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Despite the crowds on a beautiful day, we found the old lighthouse, a very rocky shore and delightful little harbor with several lobster boats – made for picture-postcard photos. We split a lobster roll for a late lunch, all-in-all, a Canada highlight.

West Quoddy Head light, on eastern-most portion of continental USA.

Back into the USA, we relished:

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Maine: Quoddy Head State Park is home to the iconic West Quoddy Head Lighthouse – on the easternmost point of land in the continental US. The first light was lit in 1808; the present red and white striped light was constructed in 1858 and still shines brightly through its original third-order Fresnell lens, serviced by the US Coast Guard.

Adirondack Park and northern New York: I had heard of the Adirondacks for most of my life, but never visited. In the northernmost part of New York State, we found Adirondack Park, and camped in two state park campgrounds in this big slice of high altitude/small town eastern US. Over two days, we toured through Lake Placid (site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics) and the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Just south, we made a stop at Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame, then west to Watkins Glen Gorgeand one of the more interesting geologic features in that part of the country, a gorge carved through rock for ages, several miles in length, yielding cliffs, deep pools, waterfalls and wonderful photos around each twisting turn.

Giant Serpent Mound, over 1400 foot effigy built by Native Americans over 1000 years ago.

Watkins Glen Gorge has been chiseled into local slate for eons.

Giant Serpent Mound, Ohio: The Giant Serpent Mound, in Adams County, Ohio is a 1350 foot-long effigy mound built by prehistoric Native American cultures. The effigy follows the curve of the land it was built upon, with its head approaching a cliff, followed by seven serpent coils ending in a triple-coiled tail.

Some archaeologists posit that the “Fort Ancient Culture” constructed the mounds around 1070 A.D., others suggest much older construction, between 381 and 44 BC.

Medora, Indiana, covered bridge: On Hwy. 50 I spotted the sign “historic covered bridge” and toured about 4 miles south. We arrived early morning, and after a 15 minute exploration, who should appear but Morris Tippin, bridge-guru and former minister (and part of the preservation organization for the bridge).

Medora, Indiana, covered bridge dates to 1875, and is longest historic covered bridge in US.

Tippin explained, “it’s the longest historic covered-bridge, 460 feet, in the USA. Built in 1875 to cross the East Fork of the White River by Joseph Daniels, utilizing the ‘Burr arch-truss with king post’ construction method, using mostly oak and poplar lumber”.

Corn harvesting in Illinois: We passed thousands upon thousands of acres of corn fields in both Canada and the US. I kept hoping to get a good video of a harvester working one of those fields.

L to R: Nick and Walter Lunz gave author Tim a lesson in Illinois corn-harvesting!

In Lebanon, Illinois, I got lucky. I pulled off on the edge of town and videoed a huge John Deere harvester coming right at me. As the harvester reached the edge of the field, it turned in my direction and I waved at the operator. The huge machine came to a stop, owner Walter Kunz opened the cab…”want to go for a ride?”.

I eagerly hopped on board, and Walter gave me a 15 minute harvester excursion through another portion of this huge field, explaining how the computer on board measured bushels per acre, moisture content and much more. At the end of the ride, his son Nick joined us for a photo of this almost half-million dollar machine. A day to remember!

World's tallest rocking chair towers over our teardrop trailer near Cuba, Missouri on old Rte. 66 (OK, it was recently knocked down to 2nd tallest).

Route 66, sites taking one back to the 40s, 50s and 60s – and the world’s biggest rocking chair: If you’re traveling old Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri and on to Santa Monica, CA, you’ll find lots of reminders of the highway dating back 50 to 70 years. You’ll also stumble upon the world’s largest rocking chair, just south of Cuba, Missouri, a town famous for its historic Route 66 murals. The huge Red Rocking chair, certified by Guinness as world’s largest between 2008-16, did not save the next-door eatery, the Route 66 Outpost, from going out of business! The rocking chair recently lost “world’s biggest” designation, but it’s still huge at 42 feet tall! Missouri does a great job featuring old Route 66 sites, complete with a full color brochure explaining what to find and where.

Aspens brighten Monitor Pass, Colorado, after a recent snowfall.

Colorado: We crested Monitor Pass on Hwy. 50 with stunning colors of aspens changing hue after a 2 inch snowstorm, and later made Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park during a snowstorm. Both are beautiful sites, with the change of seasons and naturally stunning scenery.

We picked a snowy day to venture into Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado. Snow's accumulation both cut visibility and hastened our retreat to lower altitude towing our little trailer.

Our trip in a nutshell; 13,000 miles, 62 days on the road, 42 nights camping in our little teardrop trailer, six nights with friends, five nights with family and eight motel nights. Gas, food (primarily dining out, visiting friends and family and a few luxury meals in towns like Bar Harbor) and motels were our biggest expenses. We managed 26 miles per gallon, averaging about $2.15 per gallon (much higher in Canada).

By the end of our eighth week, we were rather weary and eager to get home, so we pressed hard on our final four days crossing Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. A fine journey, but, home sweet home.

For more information: See varied state visitor web sites; for old Route 66 in Missouri, theroute-66.com/Missouri.

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

Posted in Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, East Coast US, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Uncategorized, United States beyond! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail and searching for the grave of my 376 year-old great, great, great grandfather John Viall, Jr.

Seven weeks into our nine week “cross-Canada and back across the US trip”, we had the opportunity to spend two days in the historic Boston area, blessed by two resident cousins as tour guides on our first day.

First, a bit about my family. John Viall, Sr., came to the United States in 1637, settled in the Boston area and eventually retired to the Swansey, MA area. His son, John Viall, Jr., born in 1644, owned the Ships Tavern on the Boston seafront before his death in 1720. Our family members told us that his grave was in the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, just a block from the Old North Church (the church where Paul Revere hung his lanterns, “one if by land, two if by sea”, to warn of the British approach).

The Old State House; the sidewalk medalion commemorates the site of the 1770 Boston massacre

So we drove to near the start of Boston’s well-delineated Freedom Trail, roughly 3 miles in length, linking noteworthy historic sites in the city, site of the birth of our nation.

Spouse Susan points out the brick in spouse Susan points out the brick inlay that denotes the Freedom Trail.

The trail has several visitor centers, and an in-laid brick pathway leads you to the varied historic destinations. We picked up a map and downloaded the free phone ap by the National Park Service and began our tour at the Old State House, adorned with statues of tribute to the King and the British Empire.

It was the center of political debate in the mid-18th century and the site of the Boston Massacre in front of the building in 1770, when British troops, panicked by protesters, fired upon and killed five colonists including Crispus Attucks. Future president and Boston lawyer John Adams would successfully defend the British troops against murder charges. It’s also the building from where the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians in 1776.

Statue of Sam Adams guards Faneuil hall.

We moved on to Faneuil Hall, built as a marketplace on the first floor (still functioning today) and a meeting hall on the second floor that, for well over 250 years, has been the place for colonists and citizens to discuss issues, protest the British government and make decisions garnering the building the moniker as “birthplace of our nation”.

Just steps away is the rambling Quincy Market, packed with shops and eateries doing a bustling business both days we visited. Also along the Freedom Trail, the venerable Union Oyster House, where we dined on oysters and seafood delicacies the first night, and Hanover Street, home to a bustling Little Italy section, where we had a score of Italian restaurants to choose from the second night.

Paul Revere’s house, circa 1680, was occupied by Revere when he made his famed ride into the Massachusetts’s countryside in April, 1775 to warn of the British troop’s approach. Revere risked his livelihood and his life for his part in establishing our country’s freedom from British tyranny.

For those with more energy, a mile further along the trail would deliver us to the old Charlestown Navy Yard, one of six original Navy facilities. It’s home to the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and the USS Cassin Young, a World War II and Korean War destroyer, both open for tours.

Trekking further north you’ll reach the Bunker Hill Museum and Monument, commemorating the famous Revolutionary War battle. The Monument offers a fine view of Boston, for those with gusto to climb the 294 steps to the top (no elevator).

Old North Church, where Paul Revere had the lanterns posted to mark the British troops approach, is just a block from the Copp's Hill Burying Ground.

Along the way we visited the Old North Church and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (one block northwest of the church), to find the grave of old relative John Viall, Jr. and patriots as Cotton Mather and Robert Newman, who hung the two lanterns in the Old North Church.

Captain Malcolm's grave, used by the British for target practice in 1775.

Among the graves of patriots is that of Captain Malcolm. His inscription reads “Here lies buried in a stone grave 10 feet deep Capt. Daniel Malcolm, who departed this life October 23, 1769 age 44 years. A true son of liberty, friend of the public, an enemy to oppression and one of the foremost in opposing the Revenue Acts on America”. A docent tells us he was buried so deep that the British would not dig up his body! A close examination shows “musket-ball pock marks”, evidence how British troops used his tombstone for target practice during the Revolutionary war when they once held Copp’s Hill.

John Viall, Jr.'s grave, with the author pointing out the 1720 burial date.

With help from the Copp’s Hill website, we found old John Viall, Jr.’s grave. Pretty daunting, in the space of a mile or so, to walk in the footsteps of John Adams, Sam Adams, Paul Revere and, yes, my old ancestor. Viall’s progeny would go on to fight in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Had we had more time, a separate Freedom Trail of African-American history starts at the south end of the original Freedom Trail.

For more insight, Boston’s Freedom Trail, thefreedomtrail.org, and nps.gov/bost/.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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Adjacent to lovely Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, first national park east of Mississippi, celebrates 100 years in 2016

After spending a week in the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we reentered the US at Calais, Maine. A friendly Border Patrol officer marveled at the thought of our long trip in such a small teardrop trailer.

We followed Hwy. 1 south, seeing frequent views of the Fundy Channel and an ebb tide so much exceeding our expectations.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine; easternmost point of land in continental US.

The northern reaches of Maine look to be suffering hard times; we see many shuttered businesses and more than a few once formidable Victorian homes abandoned. An Acadian couple we chat with at Quoddy Head State Park notes that the forest products industry is in steep decline, with once a dozen robust wood pulp mills now two – reflecting the steady decline of paper used in the publishing industry.

Quoddy Head State Park is home to the iconic West Quoddy Head Lighthouse; the first light in 1808 was the eastern-most lighthouse in the continental USA (it’s also on the easternmost point of land in our country). The present red and white striped light was constructed in 1858 and still shines brightly through its original third-order Fresnell lens, serviced by the US Coast Guard.

After a three hour drive, we turn south on Hwy. 3 and crossed the short bridge to Mount Desert Island. through the ritzy Bar Harbor area and make our home for the next three nights in Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park. Acadia is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, the first national park established east of the Mississippi River.

Lobster traps in rear, color-coded buoys in foreground on Little cranberry Island.

We toured Acadia National Park,s Loop Road, settled into our campground and reserved space on the next day’s 2.5 hr. cruise (just $29.95, $2 off for seniors) out of nearby Northeast Harbor on the Sea Princess. Cruise guide Patrick Clark, Acadia Park Ranger, pointed out the Bear Island Lighthouse, circa 1832 and Sutton Island, with a 10′ tall Osprey nest and a fledgling soon to depart the nest proudly showing off.

We soon docked at Little Cranberry Island, where Clark led a short walk past working lobsterman to the Islesford Historical Museum and gave us time to stroll the streets of this beautiful but remote Atlantic Island.

Clark noted how the French and Indian War, won by Britain in 1763, finally settled ownership and Maine was added to the Massachusetts Colony. The Stanwoods settled on Cranberry Island in 1762 and slowly colonists established fishing, quarrying and lumbering livelihoods on Mount Desert Island.

Back on the boat, Clark noted that Maine licenses 12,000 lobsterman and the industry is working to slowly reduce their numbers to guarantee the industry’s future sustainability. By license, each can own 800 traps; most work 200 to 400 traps. Largest lobster ever caught was 44 lbs. and well over 100 years old. Today, large lobsters and females with eggs are returned to the sea.

We sailed up Somes Sound, the only true fiord on the east coast. Carved by glaciers, its towering cliffs are home to rare peregrine falcons.

Acadia makes up about half of Mount Desert Island, the rest privately owned including charming harbors such as Bar, Northeast, Southwest and Bass Harbor. It was the first national park created by donations of private land from many individuals, notable in the way the park’s boundaries interweave with local communities.

View from Acadia's Cadillac Mountain frames a big cruise ship in Bar Harbor.

The park itself has been carved out of Ellsworth shist (sedimentary rock, 500 million years old), newer Cadillac Mountain granite, then shaped by glacial action and eroded by endless storms and the sea. The park contains three campgrounds (reservations recommended), a paved loop road intersected by 47 miles of historic carriage gravel roads (open to foot, bike and horseback travel), a free shuttle-bus system, towering Cadillac Mountain for dramatic views up and down the Maine coast and occasional foggy mornings.

Boats lie at anchor in Bar Harbor under evocative sunset.

Bar Harbor, (“Bahaba” in the vernacular of locals) boasts a bustling waterfront, a marvelous Shore Walk past palatial cottages, and stunning views, shops and restaurants (recommended: quaint Geddy’s Restaurant offers a complete $19.95 lobster dinner before 6 PM). The next night, we bought two pounds of cherrystone clams from a local vendor, Susan steamed them in white wine, lemon juice and garlic, served over linguine it made for a gourmet campground meal.

Quaint "summer cottages" like this are found along Bar Harbor's spectacular Shore Walk.

Bar Harbor is exceptional for strolling and people-watching. It’s harbor offers views of working lobster men, impressive yachts, pleasure boats, ferries coming and going and huge cruise ships like the Aria disgorging hundreds of passengers from Italy. The downtown is a beehive of activity, with hundreds of locals and tourists strolling shops, restaurants and night-spots.

For more information: Acadia National Park, nps.gov/acad; Bar Harbor, Maine, barharborinfo.com.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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National public lands day, September 24, 2016, allows free admission to national parks, forests and more

Celebrate our national parks, national forests and public lands on Saturday, September 24 with free entry and access to a variety of projects where volunteers can help clean up parks, build trails and many more volunteer opportunities.

Fees are waived in national parks like Grand Teton on September 24.

So skip the $20-$30 entry fee to national parks like Yosemite, Pinnacles, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Lassen, Redwoods and other California or neighboring state’s national parks. Fees are also waived in National Forests or Bureau of Land Management properties that charge entry fees.

For more information, consult your favorite park or Google ‘National Public Lands Day 2016′ for a schedule of volunteer opportunities, and get out and enjoy and assist in these national treasures.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Prince Edward island; smallest Canadian province, and, arguably, the loveliest

Prince Edward Island: smallest Canadian province but arguably the loveliest…

Fishing and lobster boats your Prince Edward Island

We have now toured eight days in the Canadian Maritime provinces. We started with 3 days in New Brunswick, two days in Prince Edward island and now, 3 days in Nova Scotia. These are lovely places, with green hills and mountains, seashore at almost every turn and hardy Canadians happy to share friendly tips about their favorite city and province.

When we set out upon our trip 42 days ago, I had given a little thought to Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada’s smallest province. Many Canadians and a number of American friends said we must see that hallowed isle, just off the coast of New Brunswick.

We elected to pay the toll of $53 to cross the Confederation Bridge, completed in May, 1997. The cost is not happily embraced by many Canadians, noting the cost per kilometer of the 13K (8 mile) bridge is the most expensive in the world!

Historic lighthouse, Victoria Harbour

Once we reached PEI, we headed for the central, south shore and quickly found the old town of Victoria Harbour; a dozen quaint, Victorian old homes and an historic lighthouse overlooking a small harbor with about five commercial lobster boats. We had a late lunch at Beachcomber on the Pier, delicious food with a view out onto the Northumberland Strait. We made camp that night at a KOA campground near Rocky Point near the Fort Amherst National Historical Site.

The next day we headed for the main city on the island, Charlottetown. The old port city was the site in 1864 of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island leaders for a weeklong conference that would lead to the formation of Canada. Two additional meetings and three years later, Canada would be established in 1867.

Victoria Road in Charlottetown off for several blocks of outdoor eateries and quaint shops

It’s now a modern city with an active waterfront that hosts cruise ships, commercial fishing fleet and private yachts. A new convention center and a bustling historic downtown fronts the harbor. We found our way to Victoria Row, two blocks complete with shops and five restaurants offering outdoor seating. At John Brown’s Richmond Street Grill we split a fish and chips dish, with a huge slab of haddock which was outstanding, plenty of food for two. Our waitress, in asking where we had come from, noted she spent summers in Fresno with her grandmother – small world!

Across the street is the Confederation Center for the Arts, a complex of Music Hall, exhibition center and meeting rooms surrounding the old Province Hall, dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 1964. Out front stands a dynamic memorial, tribute to Canida’s war heroes in the great wars of World War I, II and the Korean War.

Further investigation of the downtown Charlottetown area found the University of Prince Edward Island, flanked by the Old Protestant Cemetery (on this island, Protestant churches seem to outnumber Catholic churches, 5 to 1 – unlike other nearby provinces where Catholics dominate) and a number of Cow’s Ice Cream outlets, which everyone tells us is the best in Canada.

For our several day’s stay on the island, we elected to follow the tourist route labeled ‘Anne of Green Gables’, for the heroine of the 1908 book by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. It’s a route that circles the central portion of the island, through rolling hills and forests dotted with more of those tidy farms and dairies and onto the north shore. Prince Edward Island National Park, with both a Cavendish branch and a Brackley-Dalway branch, dominates much of the north-central shoreline.

Dalway-by-the-Sea was a summer home built by a wealthy Cincinnati oilman, now a hotel

Here we find the grand Victorian home, now a hotel, Dalway-by-the-Sea. Built in 1896 by Alexander McDonald, a wealthy oil man from Cincinnati, Ohio; his home and many guests helped inspire the burgeoning tourist draw of the north shore’s red sand beaches and dunes, which run for miles along the North Atlantic.

Red sand beaches extend for miles along the North Shore of Prince Edward Island

At the visitor center near the Cavandish Branch, we learn about the earliest island residents, the Mi’kmag people, who hunted fished and farmed PEI for well over 10,000 years. They were followed in the mid-18th century by the Acadians during the French-dominant years. Scottish settlers arrived in 1770, and came to dominate portions of the island. Then, tourists discovered the island in the late 1800s, and new arrivals have included Canadians and Americans since.

Quite honestly, this lovely Isle is worthy of many additional days – we hope to return sometime to see both the northern and southeastern portions of the island!

For more information: Prince Edward Island, tourismpei.com; Prince Edward Island National Park, pc.gc.ca.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; to see more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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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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