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Day 1: Phoenix to Lake Havasu City, AZ

Day 2: Lake Havasu, AZ to Big Pine, CA

Woke up bright and early; looked out the tent window to see a fellow Vanagon camper staring back.  Hooray for three windows providing such a splendid morning view!  Ate a quick cereal breakfast, packed up, and drove down to the showers.  After bathing, jumped in the van and hit the road.

Not ever having driven much of Route 66, I took the opportunity, since I was ahead of schedule, and veered off the busy I-40 and took the slower-paced, more scenic Mother Road.  It was such a slow traffic day that I was able to stop and get a souvenir photo.

The next destination was Barstow; more specifically, Bob's Big Boy in Barstow!  Mmmm, Big Boy!  My mouth was watering all morning for one of their signature burgers!  After lunch, it was onward and upward to highway 395.  What a difference a few hundred miles makes: From a warm desert to the chilly Sierra Nevada.  Met up with Mom, Dad, and the 356 at Baker Creek Campground (well, once I figured out that I missed the turnoff in Big Pine!).  Camped in a spot right along the creek, which provided wonderful natural sound to fall asleep to.  Weather forecast was potential rain, so I opted to play it safe and put up the rainfly.

Day 3: Big Pine to Yosemite N.P.

After a mostly rainless night, woke up somewhat early again.  While finishing up breakfast, a fellow Vanagon owner texted me that she was on her way south and was just up the highway.  Luka stopped into Baker Creek so that two TheSamba.com folks could finally meet in person, and talk Vanagons.  After about 3 hours(!), we decided we all needed to get back on the road.  But, shortly before actually departing, the campers across the creek decided to leave.  One problem: Their black dog was following behind.  Not only did they forget to put the dog back in the truck, they left his leash tied to the bumper!  I ran into the road and motioned for them to stop because I sure as heck didn't want a repeat of that scene from the movie Vacation.  "What's wrong?" asked the driver.  "Your dog is tied to your bumper!"  "Oh, my god!!  Oh, my god!!  Thank you!"  Here's hoping they learned something and that the poor dog is still living.

Anyway, after the dog rescue, the two Vanagons parted ways, going in opposite directions.  In Bishop, we stopped at McD's for a quick lunch and pressed on to the Tioga Pass.  Clouds had given way to a bright sunny day.  Luckily, we were driving into Yosemite on a weekday so there was little traffic in front of and behind us, otherwise there would have been some unhappy folks being required to take in the gorgeous view!  Old Blue didn't care for going up Tioga Pass… slowly went up at 19 mph!  A couple of times it kicked down into first, but then immediately up-shifted; I tried manually shifting it down into first, but it wouldn't go easily and I wasn't about to force it.  Once at the top of the steep grade, the van ran so great I had to slow down!  Because we had a long way to go and the sun wasn't getting any higher in the sky, and since we'd be coming back in a couple of days, we did not stop for any photo ops going into the park.  The waterfalls weren't flowing too hard, and there was just a bit of snow on the ground; quite the different view from Spring 2011.

Day 4: 356 Drive Day

While most of the 356 folks drove into the Yosemite Valley to sight-see, we opted to forgo the crowds and drive just up the road to Mariposa Grove.  We hiked all over the grove, despite the cold weather.  The mist and fog provided a rather unique, if not eerie at times, atmosphere.






Day 5: 356 Show & Drive Day

Today was show day.  This event was a little different in that it was a group of 5 ladies judging the cars.  I thought it odd that a few of the Porsches had money stuck to their windshields, baskets of wine & chocolates, and other bribe material.  Fast-forward to the awards banquet and we find out a) one of the winning cars in our class was owned by one of the judges, b) monetary bribes were encouraged as the money was (supposedly) going to a charity, a small detail that was not publicized outside of the club hosting the event.  Nothing like driving hundreds of miles to be in a car show where awards are bought by those whose sole purpose of participating is going home with a trophy.  It's always fun to see these old classics, but this particular "show" was a disgusting display of snobbery.


Anyway, since it was a beautiful day, after the show had ended, Dad wanted to go for a hike and the girls wanted to drive.  We jumped into the Porsche and drove with a fleet of other 356's down to Bass Lake and back (sorry, no pics).

Day 6: Yosemite N.P. to Grandview Campground, June Lake, CA

Got an early start today to begin heading back towards home via Tioga Pass.  Another gorgeous day for sightseeing!  




After descending Tioga Pass (it was so much faster going down, than up!), we made a quick stop at Mono Lake:

En route to Convict Lake, we took the scenic route off 395: June Lake Loop.  The sun was setting, so we opted to camp near or at June Lake.  The first stop was Silver Lake Campground; scenic, but quite full; we decided to test our luck on press on, even if it meant driving past a crazy lady yelling at us to slow down despite driving slower than the speed limit.  We then arrived at Gull Lake Campground among colorful Aspen trees.  Plenty of spaces available, including an end spot overlooking the water and next to babbling brook.  Perfect!



Day 7: June Lake to Convict Lake, CA

Quite the cold night!  The water was so cold in the van's tank that I had to break out the Zodi Hot Shower in order to do dishes this morning… worked great! Packed up, checked fluids, started the van, and seconds later it quit.  Hmmm.  Turned the key again… no start.  Crap.  Gave Old Blue a pep talk, turned the key again… it started, but ran rough.  Revved the engine up for a few minutes and all was well again.  Phew!

Since we hadn't been there in ages, we took a detour into Mammoth Lakes (saw another Vanagon!) and up to Minaret Summit to have lunch.  It was a bit hazy, but what a view!


After lunch, we drove onward to Convict Lake, where Fall was in full swing!


After setting up camp, Mom and I walked around the lake.  Walking across the beach area, I found a pet tag.  Since it had an address on it, I put it in my pocket with the intention of mailing it back to the owner (which I did; the owner wrote a thankful letter back saying that her cat had since passed away, but was grateful for the tag's return).

Day 8: Convict Lake to Bristlecone Forest, CA

Woke up to another beautiful day.  After breakfast, Mom and Dad went hiking with the intention of reaching upper lakes.  I, instead, went kayaking on the crystal clear lake.  The water was like a mirror until about noon when the wind started to pick up.  It was so picturesque, I took way too many photos!



Just as I was deflating my kayak, the hikers walked up.  After a sandwich lunch, we hit the road again; next destination was the Grandview Campground just below the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  Wow, what a drive that is! Steep, twisting, two-lane road that seemed to go on forever!  Finally arrived at the free campground just after dusk.  It was a cold, pitch black night, but what a neat setting.

Day 9: Bristlecone Forest, CA to Henderson, NV

Woke up to a unique view of Bristlecone (old, but younger than the ancients up the mountain) trees on both sides of the van.  After breakfast (nothing like cold cereal on a cold morning!), we headed up to the Ancient Bristlecone vistor's center at 10,000 feet.  Because we had a long drive ahead, we opted to not do the hiking tour of the entire forest, but the trees we did see from the visitor's center were magnificent.  The beautiful wood visitor center itself is worthy of living in!  On the way down the mountain, we stopped at the scenic overlook, which offered a spectacular 180° view of the Sierras to the west and Death Valley and Amargosa Desert to the east.


Pressing onward, we made it as far as Henderson for a stop-over visit with Grandma.

Day 10: Henderson, NV to home

Said "goodbye" to Grandma, ate a delightful lunch at McDonald's in Boulder City, then parted ways with Mom and Dad.  Drove highway 95 down to Lake Havasu and then on to home in Phoenix.

Fabulous, scenic trip!  

Total miles:  1,679

Avg. MPG: 17.71

Adventure 10: Yosemite N. P./Convict Lake                                                                        October, 2012