World’s Tallest Thermometer

World's Tallest Thermometer

World's Tallest Thermometer

On Sunday, I drove by the world’s tallest thermometer in Baker, CA along I-15.  I’ve actually been by it a few times but didn’t know it’s significance.  So this time around I made sure to get a photo of it.  It’s not as impressive when it’s only 61F outside.  Maybe it’ll be warmer when I drive by it on my way back to Vegas but its not going to break 100 while I’m here.

Last Day in CA

Well, this was actually 3 weeks ago…  I finally got around to looking at some of the pictures I took…

On the day before my flight, I was in LA and decided to drive up the coast.  I went all the way to Santa Barbara.  While there I spent some time at the Stearns Wharf, where I had lunch and also saw some pelicans.  They were interesting birds, really big.

It was a rather cloudy, foggy, and somewhat chilly most of the way between LA and Santa Barbara.  Quite a change from the mostly cloudless weather in the desert.  Not sure if that type of weather is normal for the shoreline, I did recall that when I arrived in LA that it was cloudy too…

On the way back, I stopped at the Santa Monica Pier, which I’ve been to.  I thought about getting something to eat nearby but ended up eating at a Pinkberry I happend to see on my way after leaving the pier.  Then I saw another…  And I decided to see if I could find someplace to eat at a shopping area I had seen the previous day, and I saw yet another Pinkberry and got a shaved ice to eat in my hotel room 🙂

The view from the roadside between Santa Barbara and LA.

My Ford Fusion rental, after a month without washing.  This was definitely one of the better rental cars I’ve driven.  It felt a bit heavy but there was definitely sufficient power there due to the V6 engine.  It felt like an improved Taurus…

The car had only about 40 miles when I got it, it took me about 20 miles before I managed to reset the trip counter…  Which means I drove about 3440 miles total.  Quite a bit of driving over a month…

The Big City (and the Big Fat Deal)

Woke up at around noon today and decided to go down to the city – Palmdale/Lancaster.  I had a few things I wanted to do – get some books, get a 320GB portable external hard drive, get a Jamba Juice, and, the holy grail – Fatburger.

Palmdale’s grown a bit since I was last there.  Popluation of Palmdale and Lancaster are now around 145,000 apiece, for 290,000 people living in the Antelope Valley.  I also saw a few new hotels and some new stores along 10th St West.

At first I did not locate the Fatburger at it’s expected location along 10th Street West, but then I found it!

I got a Kingburger with cheese, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, and pickle.  Also got a drink and fat fries.

I did also try and visit the Blackbird Air Park but unfortunately it closes at 4.  They do have some new planes, including a B-52 that was sitting in a separate area, probably being prepared for display.

Death Valley

I took an afternoon trip to Death Valley today.  I drove up to Scotty’s Castle and walked around a bit there.  Unfortunately I was too late for the tour.  Afterwards, it was already getting late so I decided to go directly to Badwater, the lowest point in the US.  It was pretty neat, the ground there basically consists of hard, dried salt.  it looks like it should be like sand but it’s really quite hard and solid.  And it was really, really hot.  Even in the shade there is just tons of heat radiating out from the ground.

Old Trees & Other Stuff

After waking up this morning, I was glad that my legs were no longer sore from yesterday.  I decided to check out the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, which is on the way south on US-395.

The forest is about 20 miles or so east of Big Pine, CA in the White Mountains.  It’s a pretty steady climb up from 6,000ft to roughly 10,000ft.  The main area of the park which contains the visitor’s center is Schulman Grove.  I took the Discovery Trail, which is a short loop up the side of a mountain.  The trees are very different looking, very unique.  It’s amazing that they can grow in such a desolate landscape on the rocky side of a mountain.

After walking among the trees, I headed back towards US-395.  On the way I stopped at Sierra View, a scenic stop on the road out of the park.  It gave great views of the surrounding mountains, including parts of the town of Bishop in the distance.  Also you can see the northwestern edge of Death Valley.

After driving a bit further south along US-395, I stopped at Manzanar National Historic Site.  This area was an internment camp for 10,000 West Coast Japanese during WWII.  The only building left from that era now houses the interpretive center, which details the history of the site as well as what many Japanese Americans had to go through during the war.  It’s very interesting and well done.  There is also an auto tour that goes through the former camp grounds.  There is pretty much nothing left other than some concrete and small rocks that were probably used for gardens.

I then headed south back towards Ridgecrest.  On the way there was a big auto accident, they had called out ambulances from many miles away (the ambulances passed me about 30-45 minutes north).  After reaching Ridgecrest, it was apparent that it had rained alot in the area.  There was alot of flooding in town, and the presence of dirt (sand) on the road indicated that there was more flooding earlier in the day.  I did have to drive through some water but luckily did not have to detour.


Today, I drove up from Ridgecrest to CA.  Took about 3 hours, most of the way on US-395N.  The road into Yosemite, US-120, was quite impressive.  A large portioin of the road is on a mountainside, climbing up to almost 10,000ft from 7,000 or so.

Once in Yosemite, I drove west to Olmstead Point.  Here you get a great view of some mountains in the distance, including the backside of the famous Half Dome.  There is also a short trail leading to a large granite hill which offers great views of the area.  After taking a whole bunch of pictures, I moved on.

I decided to get a quick lunch at a snack bar in Tuolumne Meadows.  I had a bacon cheeseburger and fries and a lemonade.  It was no better than any of the other DNC offerings I’ve had…

Afterward, I looked for a good place to walk through the meadow.  It turned out I picked a good spot.  A short walk across the meadow passed some nice creeks and nice views.  It lead to Soda Springs, an area where water is bubbling up out of the ground.  It was interesting, never seen a spring before.

After walking around a bit in that area, I walked along a utility road that started out next to a creek.  I saw a man taking pictures of a deer, and I did the same.  I slowly walked closer and closer getting pictures all the way.  Eventually, I got a bit too close and it darted.  I wasn’t prepared for it to run towards me, and there was in fact a 2nd deer as well obscured in some tall grass that ran along.  They passed in front of me and crossed the road and into the woods.  I could still see them since it was lightly wooded, and it turns out that there was a fawn as well!  That’s my first ever baby deer!

After walking a bit more, I backtracked and returned the way I came.  I decided to take a side trail that went through the meadow.  Got some nice pictures there…  It eventually lead to the snack bar that I ate at.  I returned to my car by a path that paralleled the road.

After that, I decided to go climb Pothole Dome, which is a granite dome that overlooks the meadow on the west side.  Apparently there is an easier way up (map), but I took probably the route of medium difficulty.  I did see 3 guys climb up the side, which was more than I can handle.  It took me awhile to get up, had to take 3 or 4 breaks.  But eventually I made it.  Since it is above the treeline, it offers great views of the meadow.  I was pretty tired after that and it was late so I decided to head to my hotel.

I got in to my hotel in Mammoth Lakes just as the sky darkened.  Staying at the Westin Monache, which actually has a pretty good rate considering it is a Westin.  It’s awesome as expected.  Nice comfy bed, LCD TV, and the room is pretty large even though it’s the lowest class of room at the hotel.  I ate at the hotel restaurant since it was pretty late.  I had a rare steak and beef appetizer.  It was pretty good though expensive.  I was tempted to get desert but didn’t really feel up to it.

And that was my day!

Desert Rain

So the rumors that it rains in the desert are true!  After getting back from a quick trip to Walmart to pick up some essentials (TP, and junk food), the skies darkened, it started thundering, and it rained!  It was an interesting smell as well.  There was the smell of rain, mixed in with the smell of, well, of desert…  A real kind of dusty smell, not really all that pleasant…

Really Hot

I must say, the weather on this trip to the desert is much much hotter than any of my previous trips.  Looking at the 10 day forecast, every day will be over 100F.  Today after dinner, at 9:30pm local time, it was 97F outside.  Walking outside is like sticking your face in front of an open oven.  I am thinking of maybe cooking a meal by placing it in my car under direct sunlight.  At least it’s dry out, though the forecast is saying 30% chance of thunderstorms this weekend.

Although I must say I am surprised that it’s not hotter in the portapotties they setup where we’re working.  It’s hot inside but not unbearably hot.  Maybe because when you’re inside, there’s not really much direct sunlight on you?  Also they’re the cleanest portapotties I’ve ever seen, and so far they smell OK.  Though if you’re downwind, you do get that weird scented “clean” smell.

More Zoo Madness

Today after waking up, I went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which is something like 40 miles north of downtown SD.  I arrived at around 11ish and ate a tri-tip sandwich.  It was OK – overpriced like the SD Zoo, which makes sense since they’re both operated by the same organization.  All the food items were exactly the same.

The Journey Into Africa bus tour was cool – it drives around an open area of the park and gives you a closer look at the animals there.  They have different levels of tour – the one I took was the most basic.  There’s a more expensive one that is done in a smaller vehicle and spends more time outside, and a safari one that goes off road and gets you right up to the animals.  We saw giraffes, rhinos, a bunch of antelope type anmials, etc, some of which were quite rare.

In one of the aviaries, there was a pair of red parrots, one of which was quite vocal though it didn’t say human words.

There was also the requisite pond with ducks and flamingos, as well as other bigger water birds.  I probably like the ducks the most of all the swimming birds.

There were two large areas for elephants – asian and african varieties.  Got to see some baby elephants, which were quite big…

There was an area called Condor Ridge where they had a smallish pen with at least one condor in it – it’s a really huge bird…

They also had bighorn sheep, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

The gorillas were kind of creepy.  They kind of look really like people, except they’re furry and walk using both their hands and feet…

There was a tiger area, but the only one I saw was resting under a tree.

The best part was the lions since they had a bunch of cubs.  There was an outside area that you could see from the other side of a trench, and an inside area where you were on the other side of a pane of glass.  The lion cubs were resting there right up against the window.  They’re quite cute, they behave just like big kittens…  Big kittens with huge paws!

And that was my day…  Dinner consisted of breakfast at a Denny’s, along with a chicken noodle soup.  And I got a 1TB My Book to store my photos 🙂

San Diego Zoo

First, an aside.  Having 28GB of memory cards on you is kind of nice.  Having a 12MP camera is nice too.  Having an SLR that lets you shoot many photos quickly is nice as well.  It’s all nice until you realize your laptop’s hard drive is full.  Because in today’s age of digital photos, it’s too easy to take alot of photos.  And I don’t have time right now to sort through and get rid of the bad ones :/

So, back to the topic at hand.  Today I went to the San Diego Zoo.  And pretty much saw the whole thing.  I think I was there for like 8 hours.  The first thing I did there was get breakfast – which was a bacon cheeseburger since they didn’t actually have breakfast.  After that, I started touring the zoo…  I’ll just talk about a few of the notable things I saw…

The pandas were cool.  I saw all 3 that they have there, including the baby.  One of the adult pandas was sleeping, the other was eating, and the baby was sleeping in a tree.  Which is from what they say pretty much all they do 🙂

There was a black jaguar which was really cool.  What a pretty kitty cat…

The elephants were cool – I was there just as they were being fed.  One of the animal handlers was feeding one by hand from a bucket while answering questions.  Then, he let them into the main area where food was in various things that the elephants could interact with to get the food out – hard to describe but kind of neat.

The giraffes were all drinking water at the time when I saw them.  It was fairly warm out in the sun.

The polar bears were cool (heh).  At first they were sleeping in the sun but then they got more active and walked around and went into the water.  One ate carrots…

They had giant tortoises from the Galapagos.  They were mostly sleeping in the sun.  One did try and move, I think he moved like 3 steps (very slowly) and then sat down again…

The Koalas were all sleeping in trees.

In fact, most of the animals I saw were sleeping.  Probably because it’s really hot out in the sun…

They had alot of ducks, including one kind that I guess would dive to get fish or something.  I didn’t see them dive but they did splash around.  There was also a dead baby duckling that they had to get out of the water, I guess it probably had just hatched and didn’t survive – it was really tiny.  There were older ducklings though that were really cute.

They had alot of monkies.  But monkies being monkies, they were all in enclosures that were fully enclosed so they couldn’t get out, so it was kind of like looking through a chain link fence to see them.

I finally got to see bears.

And before leaving, I saw a show at the Wegeforth Bowl.  They had a owl that flew right over the audience’s heads, a pair of parrots that flew around in formation (I have a bunch of out of focus photos of them), a sea lion, and an arctic wolf.

Anyway, other than that, I think I had a soda and 2 frozen Minute Maid lemonade things, each was like $5 or so.  Concessions are expensive…  And I think I spent $30 at the gift shop which wasn’t too bad.

After getting back to my hotel, I decided to have dinner at Anthony’s again.  This time I had the New England Clam Chowder and the stuffed salmon.  It was pretty good, though I think I would have just liked the salmon I got yesterday, wiithout the other fish…