Sunday, September 30, 2012

California's Central Coast

When I looked at my road log, I was surprised to see that we'd been roaming around the central coast of California for over a month. Time flies.
We love returning to this area and always seem to have some new adventures. Santa Rosa was a new stop for us and we liked it a lot. We were centrally located in our spot at the Sonoma Country Fairgrounds. Among other things we toured some of the many wineries in the area. Most of them were dog-friendly but Tilly wasn't impressed.

Our next stop was Petaluma which is about 35 miles north of San Francisco. From there we were able to take the car into SF. Our friends Kathy and Dan moved there from Santa Barbara and are leasing a condo in the North Beach area. It's a great location within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, Washington Square and many other interesting areas. And they have off-street parking for us which is a huge plus!
It only took a minute to walk to this view that included Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, so it was easy to bring along some refreshment. It was really fun to have our own personal tour guides while there.
Of course we have the all-important picture with the Golden Gate in the background.
Another great thing about staying in Petaluma was the proximity to Sonoma. We spent some time in Napa a few years ago and it was so crowded thatI couldn't wait to leave. Brian suggested going to Sonoma at that time but I was done with crazy crowds and traffic and wanted to move on. My mistake. The two areas are totally different. I loved Sonoma and the laid-back atmosphere there, even at the larger wineries. We were able to chat with the people in the tasting rooms while sipping some wonderful wines and even met a few winemakers. 
Our other stops after leaving the Bay Area included Moss Landing near Monterrey, Lodi and Paso Robles for more great wine (sensing a theme here?) and Cayucos near Morro Bay for one of our favorite dog beaches.
We wrapped up our central coast tour with a few days in San Luis Obispo (rated the happiest town in America last year), Lake Cachuma, and Santa Barbara. We love this entire area and will be back.
People have been asking for maps of where we've been, so I'll try to start adding them. Here's where we were for this post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Our Endeavor

It would be a bit of an understatement to write that we had an amazing experience today. It was one of those magical moments that just seem to happen when everything falls into place.
For the past few weeks much of the news in the L.A. area has focused on the final journey of the Space Shuttle Endeavor to its new home at the California Science Center. Of course we thought it would be pretty cool to see the shuttle on its journey, but never really thought about actually being able to see it. Yesterday we realized that we were in the area that it would pass over and we started to do some research.  The news said that one of the flight paths of the shuttle would include a low flyover at Vandenberg AFB which is about 30 miles from Lake Cachuma, where we are currently parked. A little more research turned up a suggestion for a good place to watch the shuttle. The clue was to find the corner of Stardust and Moonglow in Vandenberg Village. I don't know who figured it out, but it turned out to be the perfect spot!

When we arrived there were a few cars that evidently had the same information we had. We had a bit of a wait but really enjoyed talking to the other people who were waiting along with us. One woman had connections at Vandenberg and had a friend call her as soon as the shuttle appeared there so we would know to start looking. I can't begin to describe what is was like to see the shuttle headed our way, escorted by fighter jets. The spot we were in was unbelievable - the shuttle came right over us after making its pass on the base. Looking at Google Earth we figure they must have buzzed the Vandenberg runway and then started to climb while turning east. We were almost directly under the flight path as it flew out of Vandenberg. It was so close we could see the tiles, the windows and the entire setup. Words fail me when I try to describe what it was like to experience this. Absolutely a once in a lifetime, historic event and we were right there.

Here is a Google Earth screen shot of the Vandenberg runway with the yellow pushpin showing the Latitude Longitude where we were watching.
Here is almost the exact location we were standing near Stardust on Moonglow.
Here you can get some idea of where Vandenberg is. We were just north of Lompoc. Our camping site is by Cachuma Lake which is just under the G in Solvang on the map. Remember you can click any of these to see a larger shot.
Absolutely a great day.