the adventure continues:- The Valley is not necessarily only Yosemite………..

Knowing full well the Napa Valley was an about an hour and a half from where we were staying in San Fran, we decided that we couldn’t let this world class wine making region go without a solid day of investigation. The girls and I headed north at about 10am or maybe later to our desired place of happiness for the day.

Jostling through the traffic in the fog that is San Fran’s favourite tourist site, we moved slowly until we hit Marin County and then the road opened up and we were off. Listening to a great local radio station called “The Bone”. Classic rock at its finest with to many shitty commercials and just enough good music to keep us from flicking through the miles of radio stations available to us.

The sun was out now and we were in a great state of mind, all very excited about trying out some of the wines in this auspicious place. Amelie and I had written a list of the wineries we wanted to check out not only for the wine but also for the architecture. Some of the pictures we had seen were truly stunning and worth going to see just for the building design.

Arriving in the valley we noticed that sign posting as at a minimum and we would have to work hard to find our way around. I wasn’t keen on continuing to use my data plan on my phone but I realised it was no necessary. We found our first tasting and almost ran in the door.

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The French girls in action at Cliff Bede Estate.
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Italian romance atits finest

Cliff Lede was the winery and the place was truly stunning. The smell of lavender filled the air and it was like being in a movie scene in Italy somewhere. Just beautifully appointed and super cool. We indulged in one flight, sharing the tasters and discussing the flavours and comparing them to what we already knew. Its great to be drinking wine with two French ladies who really know about their wine.

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Lavender blooms offset the vines at Cliff Bede…..

We went through a series of bad turns and missed signs only to decided we needed to eat by Lake Hennessy. this was a very pretty spot to stop and relax in the shade. It was now about 28 degrees celsius and no breeze was apparent. But is was gorgeous and we loved the quiet and the insects buzzing around us. The lake is full of Wide-mouth Bass and the locals come and fish in kayaks for these tasty critters.

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Lake Hennessy, Napa Valley California

The rest of the afternoon was taken up being denied wine as a lot of the places were by appointment only and they close rather early. According to our source the area is heavily regulated and they cant even serve food if they have tastings. Not even a palette cleansing piece of cheese. After looking at the Cade Estate we headed to Black Stallion where we were welcomed with open bottles and had a nice afternoon of lovely tasting before heading home.

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The courtyard of Cade Estate
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The valley from the top of the hills…..
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Handmade chocolate…in Yountville, California
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Back in the Bay Area……and the fog rolls in.

A great day in the valley with good humans.

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the adventure continues:- another beautiful day in San Francisco……..

I know it may sound incredible, but the two days that I have spent wandering around this great town have been absolutely incredible. The weather is unseasonably warm and the winds have been very  very low. Even the locals are amazed at how incredible the weather is.

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The Bay Bridge…

We rode the Muni (tram system) from Sunset to Embarcadero and strolled around the Ferry Wharf area taking in the Bay Bridge and checking out some of the local street talent. Particularly a guy doing some insanely cool freestyle riding on a BMX bike. A truly gifted individual. The guy playing drums in the same square was also a talented man too.

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Classic San Fran…….

We hopped on to our cable car and headed down to Fishermans Wharf to see the sea lions baking in the afternoon sun and arguing over who gets to bask next to who. I checked out the view of Alcatraz form the shore line. It is an ominous place and looks miserable to say the least. It’s not called “The Rock” for no reason. I am not sure yet whether I will get out there as Its Memorial Weekend and all the tickets are pre-sold. When I look online there is nothing available at times that I like.

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California sea lions at Pier 39

Heading closer to Fishermans Wharf the crowds were just getting crazy so we headed up to Lombard Street. It’s the most curvy street in the world apparently and tourists flock to see it. It is rather beautiful actually and I remembered seeing it in the 1977 Guinness Book of Records that my dad had. It was cool to see it up close and blooming incredibly.

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Lombard Street…….
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Vintage Cable Car………

Next was the San Fran Institute of Art. A beautiful industrial looking building that was all pressed cement. A great and very simple design concept that I liked. The cement had the impressions of the wood framing used all through it…….Very cool indeed. Some of the art was interesting and some was not……..I feel contemporary art is completely lost on me……maybe I need to start thinking about it in a different way.

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One of San Frans finest….
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I love the external fire stairs…………

We then headed down to the Italian district and had a nice lemonade and just sat in the sun absorbing its energy. Amelie said there was a classic blues bar around the corner so we headed in there and had a beer and listened to the Dave Workman Band for a set after we quickly stopped for a very nice and very rich lemon canolli (Italian sweet). Great band and great tunes…….it brought back a  lot of memories.

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The pier and surrounds

The night before we had dinner with our hosts and they are both musicians. We jammed until about midnight and played some great fun stuff; laughing and singing loudly.

After the band we went out for dinner and had pizza and talked about our day. Walking back through down town was great and I got the opportunity to photograph a couple of famous movie buildings. One from the film “Interview with a Vampire” and the other from “Towering Inferno”. It was a great way to end a fun day of wandering.

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Love this building

I get so tired just walking around. I feel like I have walked up a mountain some days and I am fit.

 

the adventure continues:- I do live a life less ordinary and every encounter is to be cherished.

So at 5am this morning I woke to head out and have my final day on “Fear and Loathing” 7a+ (5.12a) at The Wall of Confusion in the Red Rock Canyon Recreational Area just out of Las Vegas.

I was feeling a little fatigued as I had been climbing and training pretty much every day that I had been in town. My goal was to get on the route and try very hard today.

Dan and I arrived at the second pullout to find my friend Albert’s car parked there. Dan and i were both pleased as I had not be able to spend a lot of time with Albert due to his work hours and busy schedule. He messaged me last night to say he was coming out to meet us and I thought wow, thats super cool I really hope he does.

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Sports pack……….love it!

 

The morning presented to us was one of delight and a little confusion as the sun was shining brightly and it was very cool indeed. Probably around 17 degrees celsius. As we approached the top of the approach, perched high on a rock in the middle of the canyon was Albert in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Dan and I were both dressed for the cooler weather having been out there a couple of days previously and it was chilly.

We greeted each other warmly and got our gear on and started climbing. the warm-ups were exactly that…….warm ups. After a couple of routes Albert had to go, but it was great that he had made the effort to come and hang with us. I appreciated this incredibly as I value his friendship.

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Mantling over the edge to the anchors on the warm up…….

Dan and I headed over to my project and I gave it another couple of shots. I gained a new highpoint on the route but unfortunately I did not send it. It was my fourth shot that was my best so far and my fifth was just to get the clipping positions together and to push myself through to failure, which I did very successfully. I was a little disappointed but satisfied with my lessons learned.

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American Sportsman 6b (5.10c)……….thanks for the catch Albert.

We continued to climb and Dan had a very good shot on “The Gift” 7c (5.12d) only coming off at the crux once. Resting for a few minutes Dan climbed to the anchors. We packed up and headed home. I had to be on a flight to San Francisco at 3pm so I could head out for dinner tonight with Kiss K, Amelie and my friend Jen, whom I met climbing at Smith Rocks, Oregon last year.

I am writing this blog as the flight reaches its mid-point and listening to my favourite band Rush’s album Exit Stage Left. Cant get enough of it……….In my humble opinion……best live rock album of all time.

Anyways my time in Vegas has been super special and I was very please to have caught up with almost everyone that I had met previously…….Sorry Chae Chae. I also met some very cool new people and had a great time.

I would very much like to thank Dan and Alicia for their truly fabulous hospitality. It is a pleasure to know you both and to have got to spent some very good quality time with you. We will do it all again in the future. There are many mountains to climb with these truly “Good Humans”.

I do live a life less ordinary and every encounter is to be cherished.

Laugh loud, love long and climb hard………………..

the adventure continues:- back in the canyon and all is well with the world…….

The alarm sounded at 5am and we rose to a coffee and some beef and eggs followed by another coffee ad infinitum . We needed to get out to the canyon and get out there quick. It was windy and within hours the sun would be baking not only us but also the beautiful glowing sandstone that is Red Rock Canyon State Recreational Area. We arrived at the gates of the park at about 8am and we were welcomed with a friendly “Good morning sir, be careful the winds are at 70 mph (112kmh) this morning and picking up a little before midday”. Dan flashed his annual pass, said thank you and we were off.

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the canyon as viewed from the second pullout

Walking through the desert presents a whole new set of things to consider and being back in Vegas and heading out to the second pullout to go climbing today has reminded me of this very quickly. The critters out here are very cool and couple of them are a little dangerous. The heeler monster is one very weird looking and poisonous lizard, wont kill ya’ but still give a nasty bite and then you have the rattlers. Rattle snakes are a little more dangerous and they blend into the desert colours camouflaging themselves beautifully.

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Incredible landscape in the desert

Fortunately for Dan and I we didn’t see either of these little nasties, but we were very aware of their possible presence. Anyways, enough of the scare tactics and on with the day. We were at the second pullout because I was very keen to head up to Wall of Confusion sector. The possible trophy was a Red Rocks classic called “Fear and Loathing” 7a+ (5.12a) and Dan and I were super keen to get out there on it again.

This was the second timeout to try and tick the route. We were both sort of rested and ready for action. We warmed up on “The Runaway” 6a+ (5.10c) and “American Sportsman” 6b (5.10c). I was really excited about this, as “American Sportsman” and “Fear and Loathing” were established in part by Boone Speed, a seemingly very cool dude indeed.

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Fear and Loathing………..the project at the moment…….

Ready for a bit of Fear and Loathing again I tied in and put on my slippers. Dan checked my gear and off I went, pulling on and hitting what I think is the most committing move on the route. I nailed it and headed up through the steepness, clipping quickly and climbing well. Wrong handing myself at the 6th clip, I blew a hand placement and that was it………..oh well…….at least I have most of the route dialled now.

Dan jumped on and looked sensational through to the 6th clip, rested out and continued to the top, making the route look too damn easy. I was really pleased for him as this style and the steepness isn’t really his thing. He descended to the ground and very calmly said “I’m glad I did that, its not really my style at all…….what a fun route!”

I had a second shot and reached a new highpoint……..Both very satisfied we decided to call it a day as the sun was now on us and the route, it was approaching 25 degrees celsius. We chatted all the way to the car and happily sat in the air conditioned comfort for our half hour trip to our lunch destination………Dan thanks again for a great morning out.

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Dan and I gettin’ seflie with it…….

Laugh loud, love long and climb hard…………its fun!

the adventure continues:- walk back in time through Keyhole Canyon…….petroglyphs and classic cliffs.

Dan, Alicia and I headed out to a pretty special place today to climb. It is old school ethics and hard lines on some amazing rock. The most incredible thing about climbing in the Eldorado Mountains is that you are climbing on granite. It was a big surprise to me that we were going climbing on granite. I have only done this twice before. Once at Enchanted Rock in Texas just over a year ago now and the other place was Zillertal in Austria in July last year.

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Silver Bullet Wall……Dan and Alicia enjoying the warm up.

This wasn’t really my style of climbing and the change in rock was very daunting. It was a humbling day of crack climbing on top rope. My technique improved today in just three routes…..It was wonderful……….AND……. we were climbing up cracks using old piton scars in the rock…..super cool indeed!

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the author testing his technique……..

All of the routes we did were boulder problems (google it) and they were over 8 metres (24 feet) high. These are known as highballs. This is a place of hard routes and history. It’s game on from the first move to the last.

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incredible formations…………

The climbing was awesome but the most amazing thing there in the canyon is the petroglyphs. This native American art form is a wonderful thing to see with some of the art representing lunar sequences and telling stories of old. There is a cave at the entrance to the canyon and there is a grinding table stone inside. It is pitted with many divots, seemingly made from the native people grinding up meal and grain. Truly fabulous to see.

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the grinding table………
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petroglyphs on the outside of the grinding table cave……

Walking into the back of the canyon there is the most beautiful polished granite waterfall. Although it is dry all the time, it is a stunning thing to look at. This is the first time I have seen anything like this, especially just a few miles out of Las Vegas. It is a real pleasure and an absolute privilege to spend time with Dan and Alicia and to go climbing in such unique areas in the US.

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The inner canyon.
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the white granite waterfall, Keyhole Canyon, Eldorado Mountains Nevada

A place of wonder for the heart and soul………the place has wonderful energy and it is worth a trip out into the desert. 🙂

the adventure continues:- you are in a place of greatness when you can feel it walking down the street…..

As part of our initiation into the life of a San Franciscan we were shown around some of the local neighbourhoods. Amelie decided it was best to catch a cable car from where we were staying and head into Castro. Unknown to me, the exit from the metro brought us out at Harvey Milk Plaza. In case you don’t know Harvey Milk was the founder of “The Human Rights Campaign”.

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San Francisco’s Finest……..you can’t not check one of these out….

We walked down past the beautiful Castro Street Theatre. This place plays all the classics. Currently Jaws, Blade Runner, The Hunger and Carrie are all playing. It was wonderful to see the openness of the area and the names of the local shops are truly fabulous and also hilarious all at once. One that springs to mind is a nail salon called Hand Jobs…….Only in San Fransisco.

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This is far from pedestrian…………gotta love the openness of this town
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The famous Castro Theatre…………
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Nothing more to add really………….
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and so on………

We just strolled around for about an hour checking out the area and the street and then wandered up to where the cable cars stop. This is classic San Francisco. These cars have been round for so long now they are iconic in every way. A better way to see this beautiful city there would not be. But we decided to walk as it was summer today according to the locals. They were out in droves, sitting in the parks and wandering around enjoying the hot weather.

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Iconic…………
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One from the thirties……..
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A beautiful day out indeed…

Just walking around here you feel like you’re in a movie. the classics were filmed here. The Maltese Falcon, Escape from Alcatraz, Bullitt and all of the Dirty Harry franchise. You know you are in a place of greatness when you can feel it walking down the street. I was so excited to be doing this and my body was feeling the heat and the jet lag from the flight over.

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Classic local architecture.

We walked for hours and looked at everything, the architecture, houses and what grades they had were stunning and what I had grown up seeing in films. The steepness of the streets in part of the city is amazing and you feel it walking them. The local street art in the city is truly incredible. There is also a large hispanic population and it is very much apparent in some of the art. Whole buildings are used as canvasses and the themes are incredibly politically and socially complex and varied.

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We lunched at a very chic little place called Salumeria in the industrial area heading toward the east side of town. The food was spectacular and the homemade limeade was just awesome on a day like this.

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We continued to walk until we reached another very chic little venue. A cafe, where you can get coffee infused with nitrogen, not sure how that works or what it does other than taste a little weird. It was an iced coffee effectively and it did the job of supplying enough energy to get back to Harvey Milk Plaza on Castro……Later in the evening we went out for dinner to Salt House and had a nice meal with some nice locals.

All in all, this was a wonderful way to be introduced to San Frans Finest………

the adventure continues:- atlantic crossing….to the other side of the Pacific, but I cant see home.

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The city of San Fransisco…………fromTwin Peaks lookout.

The early morning start from Boursonne, France yesterday was certainly going to take its toll as we l travelled south towards Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport at 5:30am. I had not slept well during the night and was feeling it already as the first coffee started to kick in as we arrived safely and slightly unsoundly in the car park. Karine’s dad had kindly agreed to take us to the plane so we didn’t have to leave at 2:00am and try to get an very early bus.

Check in was relatively painless and we hopped on our initial flight to Frankfurt. We were flying with Lufthansa so we had to go via its home hub. Due to our late departure from Paris we had a little less of a layover in Frankfurt, so K and I got a coffee and a croissant and just quickly checked out the news, our emails and social media pages. This has become the morning habit, its not a bad one as we have friends all over the world who are chatting to us and wanting to know how life is going for the two nomads.

Super excited to be heading to San Fransisco we were both grinning from ear to ear when we walked down the gangway to board our plane. It was an A-380 800. The biggest commercial airliner in use at this time in history. truly a marvel of modern aviation and so incredibly big that I feel like I know now what its like to enter a spacecraft. We found our seats and settled in to our inflight routine with a sense of normality that I never thought I would ever reach.

The inflight food is not always great and it can sometimes make you feel a little “compromised” lets call it, but that was not the case for me today. All good actually and the G & T’s worked a charm to take the edge off the tiredness. Not usually a fan of alcohol on flights but this was ten hours and thirty minutes and I knew that jet lag would kick in.

We watched a few movies, did some stretching, sort of slept and watched another couple of movies. then came dinner and when that was finished the captain said “Ladies and Gentlemen were are now beginning our decent into San Francisco”. We smiled at each other and were very happy to hear this indeed. Landing was smooth and we felt absolutely exhausted. We both had headaches and felt a little nauseas but other than that all was good in our world.

I could go on for hours about immigration and customs after my first experience in the US, but there is no need as this time despite the large number of people going through it was a relatively painless experience. The gentleman who looked after me was very jovial and made me laugh, even though I was totally stuffed from the flight. I still had my sense of humour and it was a good joke.

We met Karine’s friend Amelie who had flown in direct from Paris at the agreed cafe on the left as you exit the baggage claim area and hugs and kisses flew everywhere. We then met our host for the next week or so and happily trundled back to the car to  then be whisked off to the Twin Peaks lookout to get our first and most amazing view of San Fransisco.

But I can t see home from this side of the Pacific.