Another Adventure in the California Gold Country

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Touring the Gold Bug Mine

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The Gold Country of California provides tourists with a wealth of fun vacation opportunities. Here’s another segment of our adventures in this fascinating part of America.

Our El Dorado experience

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During our last visit to the Gold Country, we were fortunate to attend a special dinner at the historic Sportsman’s Hall Restaurant in woodsy Pollock PinesCalifornia – home and headquarters of the National Pony Express Association.

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El Dorado Rose Sharon McDavid and Jim Swigart of the Pony Express Association attend the costume dinner

At the dinner we were in the elegant company of the El Dorado Rose and some of her court, along with the Director of Tourism for El Dorado County, and two County Supervisors. They were all excellent ambassadors for El Dorado County, and great people with which to share a wagon.

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Karin Klemic of the USDA confers with fellow guide County Supervisor Ray Nutting

The wagon ride

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Our day included a guided tour and transportation to dinner via a vintage horse-drawn wagon that clopped along the celebrated Lincoln Highway and the Pony Express Trail on route to the landmark Sportsman’s Hall.

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Heading for the site of the Bullion Bend Stage Robbery of 1864

Karin Klemic, District Archaeologist for the USDA provided captivating facts about the great Eldorado National Forest that surrounded us. This densely wooded park is a destination that every wilderness loving family should have on its future vacation calendar.

The Sportsman’s Hall Restaurant

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This celebrated restaurant is a showplace of Pony Express paraphernalia – and was the main Home Station for the Pony Express in California back in 1880.

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It was also an important stagecoach station for food and refreshments along what is today’s California Highway 50 and the old Pony Express Trail.

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The feature speaker at our dinner was the very impressive and entertaining president of the National Pony Express Association, Mr. James Swigart. After Mr. Swigart’s enthusiastic talk, the audience was ready to saddle up, and ride like the wind in the next annual Pony Express Re-Ride from Missouri to California.

About the Pony Express

Whatever the level of knowledge about the history of the United States – one legend of the Old West stands out and seems to have captured the imagination of every American child – the Pony Express.

The Pony Express was the first expedited mail service from St. Joseph on the Missouri River to Sacramento and the Pacific Coast. Before the Express, mail took over a month by boat, and 24 days by overland stagecoaches between St. Joe and Sacramento. The Pony Express did it in an amazing 10 days.

The daring adventures of the Pony Express riders are the stuff that cowboy dreams are made of. Whether outriding hostile Indians, besting bandits and raging storms, or suffering the torturous heat of the Western desert – these couriers were heroes one and all.

The riders of the Pony Express

The Pony Express recruited young outdoor types (as young as 14) that were slight in weight and understood horses. They preferred riders who were morally sound and God fearing. It is an interesting fact that each rider who signed up for the service was issued a leather-bound bible. Only a dozen of the bibles are known to still exist – one sold in 2007 for just under $39,000.

No saddle bags

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We learned that the Pony Express never used saddle bags to carry the mail. Such bags were too heavy – and difficult to recover and secure from one steed to another in the short time allowed the rider to switch horses. Instead the mail and letters were secured inside four locked pouches stitched on a “mochila,” which was a lightweight soft leather cover that fit directly over a saddle like a blanket.

At one of the more than 150 home or relay stations, the rider recovered the mochila from his exhausted horse and threw it over the saddle of a waiting fresh mount. The rider then quickly mounted the new horse and sat directly on the mochila thereby assuring the mail was secure and protected for the next leg of the rugged journey.

Hard work in the wilderness

Pony Express couriers rode about 75 miles per day before being relieved and changed horses every 12 miles or so. The route from St. Joseph to Sacramento crossed the states of MissouriKansasNebraskaColoradoWyomingUtahNevada, and California. The route was about 2000 miles long and took 10-days of constant and hard riding. There were approximately 30 riders in the saddle on each trip and from each direction. The Pony Express had a stable of 500 horses, and 500 employees, including station men and some 90 riders.

Short lived

Because the Pony Express has been so indelibly branded in the American psyche for so long a time, it is hard to grasp that the renowned service lasted just one-year and seven-months. It was summarily replaced by the transcontinental telegraph, but not before incubating legends like Buffalo Bill Cody, who at age 16 signed on to ride one of the most dangerous stretches of trail in the Wyoming Territory. Buffalo Bill later re-enacted a Pony Express Relay in each of his worldly famous Wild West Shows of the 1880s through the early 1900s.

The first re-ride of the Pony Express took place in 1923, and there have been many since. The Pony Express has been an enduring symbol of America’s strength and courage, individual heroism, and unfaltering work ethic for over 150 years. If you would like more information about this fascinating icon of the Old West look at www.xphomestation.com.

Last call to service

On April 9, 1983 there was a tremendous landslide along California’s American River Canyon. Heavy rocks completely covered Highway 50, the vital link between Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, and all the small mountain communities between. Postal delivery was stopped by the slide – and April 15th (tax day) was fast approaching.

In less than 48-hours the National Pony Express Association was contracted by the U.S. Postal Service to carry the mail by horse around a 115-mile detour. Some 62 riders participated in the great “Slide Ride” of 1983. They carried more than 60,000 pieces of mail in the six-weeks that the Pony Express was activated. Each piece of mail was postmarked to commemorate the unusual event.

Pony Express Letter 1983

Although not from the great Slide Ride, we were honored to be the recipients of the commemorative letter (pictured above) from the national ride of 1983.

If you go

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There is so much to do and see in the Gold Country and along U.S. Route 50.

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Street scene in Hangtown (aka Placerville, California)

History abounds in the wild-west gold mining towns, parks, museums, and forests.

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There’s gold panning, outdoor events, white water rafting, shopping, fishing and hiking galore. Known for delicious wines and unique eateries, this is a bountiful part of America that is only a few-hour’s drive from bustling San Francisco. We recommend it highly.

For more information about what the area has to offer look no further than the informative website at www.visit-eldorado.com

Happy travels!

If you like this article by Wayne and Judy look below for two of their other stories about the California Gold Country and their suggestions of what to do and where to stay when you visit.

Discovering a luxurious hideaway in the California Gold Country

A budget friendly excursion to the California Gold Country

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

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Cheeca Lodge and Spa: A Drive to Paradise in the Florida Keys

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The Cheeca Lodge and Spa has welcomed guests to the sunny isle of Islamorada in the Florida Keys since 1946. Through the years, it has earned a reputation as a world-class oceanfront resort with breathtaking views and extraordinary luxury amenities and service. Here’s what we discovered.

We were about one hour and twenty minutes south of Miami on the Overseas Highway when we spotted the inconspicuous signage for Cheeca Lodge at Mile Marker 82. The modest highway introduction made us wonder if Cheeca Lodge would live up to the stellar reputation on which we based our reservation. Our answer was waiting at the end of a long driveway in the form of the front entrance to Cheeca, and the blue Atlantic beyond.

This was the Florida Keys, and we should have taken our cue from an earlier experience with the modest highway frontage for the luxurious Little Palm Island Resort. There are many elegant surprises behind the lush tropical vegetation that lines the busy main thoroughfare in the Keys. Cheeca Lodge was no exception.

Luxury awaits on Islamorada

Before we could unlatch our seatbelts, a pair of smiling attendants were opening our auto doors. We were ushered into a breezy lobby area where a waiting receptionist offered us each a chair.

Check-in was over in minutes and we were on our way to 110, our spectacularly furnished West Indies style tropical suite that was front and center to the most colorful ocean you can imagine.

Guestroom 110 had warm mahogany furniture, and floor to ceiling glass walls that overlooked the pristine beach and swaying palms.

We turned on the ceiling fan, drew back the glass doors and nestled into the deck chairs on our private lanai. As we took our first deep breaths of relaxation, we simultaneously noticed the open-air spa tub – complete with privacy curtains.  What a marvelous innovation.

We bounced on the bed – it was perfect. There was a giant plasma-screen TV, wireless internet access, and the modern bathroom boasted an ocean-view glassed-in rain shower – yet another superb amenity.

This is a perfect vacation setup for a stay of any duration.

Look around

Management had arranged a tour for us, and there was so much to see. From six tennis courts, to waterfall pools, a snorkeling lagoon, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt golf course, complete fitness center, an adult lap-pool with private cabanas, and an iconic wooden fishing pier.

All beautifully laid-out in a calibrated strategy to produce a comfortably luxurious oasis in a spectacular 27-acre ocean-front setting with lush tropical gardens.

Cheeca captures the charm of old Florida in a trendsetter setting

The resort also provides all the equipment necessary for total vacation immersion. There are sea kayaks, fishing rods, bicycles, shade cabanas for your beach chair, etc., etc.

Famous Islamorada

All fishermen know that Islamorada is the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World.” It deserves that famous tag because of the wide variety of angling options. Pursue the elusive Bonefish on the flats, or the mighty Tarpon on light tackle – it’s all there. Care for something a little bigger? The Sailfish in the deep waters off Islamorada’s islands are waiting for your challenge.

One of the first famous people to stay at the early resort was President Harry Truman. Other celebrities that have slept here and fished the abundant waters off Cheeca are Edward R. Murrow, Jack Parr, Paul Newman, Ted Williams, Jack Nicklaus, and George H.W. Bush, to name just a few.

After the tour

We took a stroll on the resort’s trademark wooden fishing pier. Followed by several hungry pelicans, we wished we had some fishy treats we could toss to them.

The Pioneer Cemetery

After the pier walk we spotted what appeared to be an old cemetery not far from the water’s edge – an odd sighting in a luxury resort. The picket fenced patch turned out to be the Pioneer Cemetery, the final resting place for Islamorada colonizers of the late 19th century.

The old cemetery was once bordered by a small schoolhouse and church that were destroyed during the big hurricane of 1935, but some tombstones and a statue of an angel survived the storm – enough relics to keep the old cemetery a worthwhile curiosity on the outskirts of this famous resort.

Just for kids

Our wandering eventually took us to Camp Cheeca, a wonderful supervised activity area for the kiddies between five and twelve years of age.

Kids get to play in the camp hut, explore and discover beach treasures, go fishing on the old pier, and splash about in the pool. A great experience for the children, and a much appreciated break for parents.

Just for adults

They were all occupied during our visit, so we couldn’t photograph the interiors, but Cheeca has a number of couples-only Beachfront Bungalows. These private bungalows have fashionable island décor, vaulted ceilings, and intimate balconies with a chaise lounge built for two.

Food at Cheeca

We were hungry after our meandering. Cheeca has three restaurants and two lounges to satisfy any guest’s desire for pub-grub or a gourmet feast fit for the most discerning foodie’s palate.

Light fare at the Tiki Bar on the sand was just what we wanted – not too much – so we would have an appetite for the main event at the Atlantics Edge Restaurant after sunset.

Fresh fish extraordinaire

The menus at Cheeca are designed to reflect the location and the relaxed, but elegant atmosphere at the resort. We chose our dinner from a lavish medley of delicacies from the sea. We started with Cheeca Conch Chowder featuring savory tender Conch with succulent Corn in a savory broth.

We skipped the salad and went directly to the sea once again for our main courses of Baked Halibut with Beluga Lentils, Sautéed Squash, Herb Spaetzle, and Caviar Beurre Blanc.

Our other selection was Guava Glazed Mahi with Coconut Herb Rice, Tempura Baby Bok Choy, drizzled with a delicious Coconut Curry Sauce. Both these principal dishes were outstanding.

Sweets in the tropics

Hummingbird Cake is Cheeca’s Spice Cake with Bananas, Pineapple, and Pecans – all well frosted with a delicious Cream Cheese Icing. The presentation was too artistic to disrupt early in the enjoyment – so we waited to perform our magic until we were down to our last few bites of cake – then we made the Chocolate and Honey Apricot Drops completely disappear.

The Cheeca Spa

The Spa has seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped fitness room – all surrounded by tropical landscaped gardens, shimmering pools, and cascading waterfalls. We indulged in a delicious Sea Breeze Massage, an oceanside deep kneading under a palm covered hut where we were lulled by the rhythm of waves softly touching the sand and seagulls effortlessly soaring above. This is serene isolation and rejuvenation – Cheeca style.

The unusual name

In case you are wondering about the origin of the resort’s odd name of “Cheeca,” here’s the scoop. The Twitchell family owned the property in the 1960’s. The Twitchell’s daughter Cynthia was an heiress to the A&P grocery chain fortune and had a great influence on the resort. Cynthia had a nickname of “Chee.” Chee married Carl – and there you have it!

If you go

The resort is located at 81801 Overseas Highway, Mile Marker 82, Oceanside, Islamorada, FL 33036

It’s best to make reservations to avoid disappointment. Cheeca is sought after for weddings and corporate affairs as well as romantic and family vacations. You can get all the information you need from their website at www.cheeca.com

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor’s information about the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

Happy travels!

Here are two more articles about elegant Florida properties by Wayne and Judy:

A Beachy Keen Hideaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Relaxing in Luxury on Little Palm Island

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Carmel Valley Is Home to Historic Holman Ranch and Vineyards

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The Holman Guest Ranch in Carmel Valley, California, dates back to 1928 and was originally on 1500 acres of rolling hills and indelible vistas.

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Through the years, the ranch had several owners and has evolved into a prestigious venue for special events. Its current 400 acres of natural grandeur is more than ample to provide space and satisfaction for all that visit.

 

The history

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In the early days of the ranch it was a privileged enclave for the rich and famous who hunted the abundant small game, birds, deer, and the infamous wild boar of California.

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If you have not seen one of these beauties up close, you can’t appreciate their fierce appearance and disposition. Purportedly, they are a tasty treat when grilled over an outdoor fire. Small groups of these wild pigs still roam the hills and forests of the ranch and are hunted by archers.

During the Golden Years of Hollywood, the ranch was frequented by movie moguls and actors.

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Charlie Chaplin is said to have practiced new routines in the building which was once a stable, then a theater, and now the Charlie Chaplin Game Room.

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The ranch walls are full of pictures of Hollywood luminaries such as Theta BaraClark GableGene AutryVincent Price, and William Holden to name a few.

Not your ordinary resort

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The Holman Ranch is not a resort in the usual sense of the word – instead, it is an exclusive event destination where guests rent out the entire facility for multi-day affairs or single-day off-site occasions. The ranch ensures intimacy by hosting only one event at a time.

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This unique hospitality model affords those that engage the ranch a feeling of privacy and stewardship of an authentic Spanish Colonial 18th century stone-walled hacienda – with oodles of jaunty western furnishings.

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It comes complete with ten ranch-style guest rooms,

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an inner Spanish courtyard with fountain,

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an executive board room,

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grand parlor,

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and even a quiet chapel.

Modern comfort with old-world ambiance

We found that all the ranch’s facilities are impeccably maintained and have modern amenities like flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and state-of-the-art audio visual apparatus.

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When not busy with happenings, the resort is dominated by a tranquility that is only disturbed by leaves rustling in the breeze and the recurrent melodies of tribes of tiny birds and black and yellow bees.

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In such circumstances, a nap by the resort’s pool is the perfect elixir for urban stress.

Catered affairs

The ranch does not have a restaurant, but that is compensated for in the business model. The owners have a preferred list of caterers that work with the ranch on a regular basis.

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For our event we enjoyed a flawless roast chicken dinner accompanied by several bottles of Holman Ranch varietal wines – all served by A Moveable Feast on one of the hacienda’s charming stone terraces.

Also, if guests prefer to arrange for their own cooking in the extensive caterer’s kitchen, that is an agreeable option. Proprietors Nick Elliott and wife Hunter Lowder are dedicated to working with their guests to provide the ultimate in flexibility to enhance an unforgettable experience.

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The couple has extraordinary credentials because Nick is an experienced winemaker, caterer, and an ordained minister, and his wife Hunter is a seasoned event planner and restaurant manager. If you would like a turnkey wedding, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Estate winery

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The Holman Ranch Estate is building a reputation as a winery of note in an area of significant wineries located within the bountiful Carmel Valley Appellation.

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Currently with 19-acres under vines they hand harvest and cellar their wines in the ranch’s modern wine cave. We took the tour, and can recommend it to all wine aficionados.

On an annual basis, Holman produces about 3,200 cases of Pinot NoirPinot GrisChardonnaySauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir. The owners share their limited treasures with Holman Ranch guests, Estate Wine Club members, visitors to their tasting room, and wine connoisseurs from around the world.

Broad appeal

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If you are planning an event of any duration such as a wedding, picnic, charity event, banquet, executive retreat, company meeting, networking get together, or team building endeavor, we suggest the Holman Ranch is the right place to make it memorable.

For more information about the Holman Ranch and what they offer, view their website at www.holmanranch.com

If you go

The Holman Ranch is a pastoral treasure located at 60 Holman Road, just 12 miles from scenic California Highway 1 and just off Carmel Valley Road. Famous Carmel-by-the-Sea is an easy 20-minutes away, and Big Sur is 35 miles southwest of the ranch. Pebble BeachCannery Row, and the Monterey Peninsula are also easy drives.

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The Holman Ranch Office and Tasting Room is just minutes from the ranch at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Suite C, in Carmel Valley, CA 93924. In addition to fine wines, be sure to sample their very special hand harvested, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil – it’s delicious.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

A Terrific RV Park Near Yosemite Valley

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The Indian Flat RV Park is located on the Merced River just eight scenic miles from the Highway 140 western entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

Thundering misty cascades, magnificent giant Sequoia groves, and towering granite cliffs that shimmer in the moonlight – that is Yosemite National Park. Theodore Roosevelt called it “The most beautiful place in the world.” If you have not been to this magical outdoor recreational kingdom, you should put it on your Bucket List. When you go – here’s a relatively unknown and delightfully interesting place to stay. 

The RV Park

Indian Flats RV Park is nestled in the woods along the Merced River. You will know you are close to your destination on Highway 140 when you cross over two temporary metal bridges that span the Merced River and bypass the 2006 landslide. Drive slow and look for the Indian Flat sign on the right (just past Cedar Lodge) – but don’t blink, or you might miss it.

If you love the great out-of-doors, and don’t mind roughing it a little, this is a great place to spend your next vacation. Here’s why we like it.

Three options in accommodations 

There are 25 easy access RV sites with hookups varying from water and electric to full service. All the sites are well positioned among a stand of lofty cottonwood trees.

If you prefer tent camping, the park has 25 tent sites with close access to recently remodeled bath and laundry facilities. The park is small, so the facilities are all nearby. Most of the tent sites are designed for up to six campers and have fire rings, tables, and food lockers. Two of the tent sites are very large and can accommodate groups of up to 30 people.

Don’t have a tent, but like the concept? Try one of the five tent cabins conveniently snuggled in the trees along the back and sides of the property.

If tenting is a little too rigorous rustic for your taste, step up to one of the two cozy cabins in the park. Each of the cabins has two queen beds, is heated and air-conditioned, has living and sleeping rooms, a private bathroom with shower, cable TV, and a kitchenette with sink, microwave, stove, and refrigerator. The accommodations are clean and simple, and ready for your commune with nature.

The pièce de résistance for relative luxury is a large room with two queen beds located in the same building as the manager’s office. Practical and comfortable, this is a nice base from which to explore Yosemite.

Walking distance amenities

Besides having all the necessities for camp life, we like Indian Flats because during the summer season guests have access to an outdoor swimming pool at Cedar Lodge, a full service hotel located next door. Cedar lodge is a year-round hotel and has a mini-mart, large gift shop, a bar, restaurant and a 1950s style grill. The food is quite good.

River Rafting

The Merced River is directly across highway 140 from Indian Flat. During the season, Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions provides river rafting trips, and has an office right on the banks of the Merced near the campground. In the U.S., the toll-free number for information is 800.431.3636.

Fishing

You can also try your hand at fly-fishing for trout or bass on the Merced. Ask the Indian Flat Manager for more information.

Drive to amenities 

Yosemite Park is open all year. The Park in winter is spectacular. From your base at Indian Flat campground, it is a short drive to Badger Pass for downhill and cross-country skiing. During snow season, Glacier Point Road terminates at 7200 feet and the Badger Pass Ski Area.

Bring your dog(s) 

Yosemite and Indian Flat are both dog friendly. Click here to read important information about dog rules in Yosemite Park.  

Our recommendation 

John Muir helped to preserve Yosemite, Ansel Adams photographed Yosemite, we got married in Yosemite, and everyone who visits – just loves Yosemite National Park. You will too. 

If you go

Indian Flat is open all year and is the closest campground to Yosemite on state highway 140. Note: Highway 140 is known as the all-weather highway to the park because it is the lowest elevation route to Yosemite.

The park is about a four-hour drive from San Francisco, five-hours from South Lake Tahoe, and six-hours from Los Angeles.

For more information about Indian Flat RV Park, and directions, visit their website at www.indianflatrvpark.com 

Reservations are highly recommended May through September.

You may also be interested in these additional pertinent articles by the authors:

Seniors Save in National Parks

Plan Your Wedding in Yosemite National Park

Here is an interesting historical clip you might enjoy “When Roosevelt met Muir” www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gJ43sReByo

Many photographs are located at the end of this article, but if you prefer to read this story with in-line photos, please click here.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy (syndicated)

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

The Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

In one way, writing about New England’s unparalleled Mayflower Inn and Spa is probably the easiest assignment of our literary careers. However, finding the right superlatives to describe this extraordinary property was no easy task. Let us start with the first one that comes to mind – incredible!

Nestled in a pastoral setting in rural Connecticut this exclusive 58-acre country manor resort in the Litchfield Hills is an easy two-hour drive and many light-years away from the hustle and bustle of busy Manhattan.

This bucolic countryside has not changed much since General George Washington visited northwest Connecticut in 1781. The unspoiled local towns and area’s authentic Yankee homes and antique shops have given rise to a well-deserved reputation as “America’s Antique Capital.”

It is all about elegance  

Quintessential rustic the Mayflower Inn is not! This once-upon-a-time private boy’s prep school (note the height of the door knob in picture below) was built in 1894 and is now a Relais & ChâteauxMobil 5-star, and Connecticut’s only AAA 5-diamond hotel. The Mayflower offers every imaginable luxury to please the appetites of even the fussiest of bons vivants.

Mayflower front entrance

The picturesque and spacious scenery surrounding the Mayflower Inn makes its limited hotel capacity of 30 rooms and suites in four buildings even more desirable. Guests have room to stretch and wander – and never feel crowded. Of course, such exclusivity comes at a price, but this resort experience is well worth it and will be remembered for a lifetime.

Allerton Cottage
Allerton Cottage

Our suite was in the Allerton Cottage. Completed in 2005, the Allerton is adjacent to the Mayflower Spa House that opened in 2006. Both are just a short distance from the placid Blue Heron Pond.

We were also within a few minutes walking of the Inn’s historic Mayflower House. This main building has a comfortable registration lobby, several staterooms and suites, meeting rooms, a gift shop, and the Inn’s restaurants and bar.

Each guestroom and suite at the Mayflower is designed to complement the good taste of its patrons. Ultra-luxurious rooms with the warmth of just-right colors abound. There are comfortable feather topped mattress on antique four-poster canopy beds, exquisite oriental rugs, original art, marble baths, and myriad other inspired furnishings.

The Mayflower has artfully created a place-for-living atmosphere in each of its guestrooms that reflects the natural desire for privacy and comfort in elegant surroundings. These are quarters you will not want to leave.

The restaurants

Our visit to the Mayflower took place in the fall when we could enjoy the autumnal colors of New England and the sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet as we explored the grounds of the Mayflower.

We arrived at the Inn in time for dinner, so our first walk was from our quarters to the dining room in the main building.

Entering the lobby of the Mayflower House is like walking into a select portrait gallery with impressive 18th and 19th century oils adorning the walls, staircase, and nearby library.

Passing additional paintings along the corridor to the dining area, one is immediately drawn to the traditionally fine style of the Main Dining Room, and the adjacent Tap Room – a great place to meet or enjoy a beverage and light pub-style meal.

Justin ErminiExecutive Chef at the Mayflower is a virtuoso of taste and culinary presentation. He favors produce, meats, and fish from local sustainable sources and blends all into a chef’s colorful canvas of classically contemporary feasts.

Day Boat Halibut

Be sure to engage the assistance of friendly and knowledgeable Food and Beverage Director and SommelierJohn Ciliberto while looking for the best wine to accompany your mains. The Mayflower has a deep and generous selection of wines.

Food plays a cardinal role in the Mayflower experience. Be sure to partake!

The Spa 

Mayflower Spa House

You know you are about to experience something spiritually uplifting when you first step from the outside and into the blissful registration foyer. Soft mood-enhancing music immediately accentuates and elevates a room occupied with calming shades of whites and tans.

As we stood and stared at the empty reception desk, we began to feel we were players in a fairytale black and white film depicting souls awaiting entrance into paradise.

At first glance, it appeared there were no doors exiting the divine waiting room. On further study, we noted there were indeed doors, but they were frameless, and blended into the walls in the style often seen in classical English manor houses of the elegant Victorian era.

As we took in our surroundings, and listened to the soothing refrains, we would not have been in the least bit surprised if the spa receptionist was to float down from somewhere above on gossamer wings.

This may all seem a little over-the-top when describing a Spa, but you really must see it to believe it.

Garden Room

The epicenter of this 20,000 square foot slice of heaven is the exquisite Garden Room. It overlooks the serene Blue Heron Pond and coppice beyond – the perfect backdrop. This room invites every guest to relax for the duration – whatever that may mean in this setting where time is graciously abandoned.

Romantic Rejuvenation

We could go on and on describing each of the amazing attributes of the Spa House, such as the exotic soaks, scrubs, aroma-therapeutic rubs, massages, Pedi-treatments, facials, yoga, etc., but that would simply take too long. Instead, we suggest you peruse the 21 pages of Spa Offerings provided by the Inn at: http://www.mayflowerinn.com/pdf/spa_offerings.pdf 

Note: Be sure to ask about the indulgent and exclusive five-night Destination Spa Experience!

Connecticut out-of-doors

Blue Heron Pond

Neighboring the Mayflower is the Steep Rock Nature Preserve. This beautiful trust has over 4,500 acres of protected land and awaits outdoor-loving guests. There are scenic hiking and biking trails during the shirtsleeve seasons, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available during the winter months.

Water is another of Connecticut’s natural enticements, and the Shepaug River is less than five-miles from the Mayflower. Also nearby, Lake Waramaug, the Bantam River, and the Housatonic River – waiting for hearty kayak explorers and fly fisherpersons of all ages and skill levels.

Golf and Tennis

The Mayflower has a well-designed putting green, but it does not have its own golf course. Fortunately, there are excellent public courses not far away – the 9-hole Stonybrook Golf Course and the 18-hole Fairview Farms Golf Club.

There is one tennis court on the Mayflower property.

Fitness

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There is a fully equipped fitness club in the Mayflower’s main building, and both indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools on the property.

“The Mayflower Inn and Spa is a luxury New England boutique hotel with historic charm. Whatever your muse, the Mayflower is sure to bestow an unforgettable experience.”

For more information about the Inn and Spa services, visit the Mayflower website at www.mayflowerinn.com, or call 860.868.9466, email: inn@mayflowerinn.com

If you go

The Mayflower Inn & Spa is located at 118 Woodbury Road/Route 47 in rural Washington, Connecticut 06793. It is an easy two-hour drive from the New York airports.

We flew to New York from San Francisco on Virgin America. We find Virgin’s in-flight entertainment to be the best in the sky!

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy (syndicated)

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Florida’s Gulf Coast Highways Lead to the Bungalow Beach Resort

The cottages at the Bungalow Beach Resort on Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida are special for several reasons. Here’s what we found one rainy day on the fabulous Gulf Coast.

Seeking Old Florida

It was already raining when we made a left turn off Highway 64 in Bradenton and onto Highway 789, the road that runs north and south and divides the island. We immediately began to search for the sign for the Bungalow Beach Resort.

This was our first trip to Anna Maria Island, and for some inexplicable reason we expected the vibe to be a little like Nantucket Island circa1942 – but we were way off the mark. Anna Maria Island is a busy, seven-mile long stretch of sugary sand, restaurants, condominiums, and assorted homes ranging from Early Prohibition to Modern Glass.

It only took a few minutes to realize that the variety of structures on the island all came nicely together in a great place for a beach residence or second home – and where a family on vacation could quickly interact with the sea and sand.

We found our sign

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Between wiper swipes, we managed to identify our destination. At first glance, the property, which is nestled between taller buildings, looked quite small.

It was still coming down when we pulled into the unpaved parking lot that fronts the one-story bungalows. The office faces the street and we made a mad dash through small pools of water in the sand. We hadn’t packed an umbrella, so we got a good dose of Florida’s liquid sunshine on our short trek.

It was in the resort’s tiny office that we first realized we were about to take a trip back in time. We just didn’t know what a marvelous journey it would be.

Finding our bungalow

The downpour had subsided during our check in. The puddles where still evident, but the porous earth had soaked up much of the standing water. We retrieved our bags from the trunk of the car and made our way along a curvy sand path toward the beach.

Our bungalow was number “102” and faced the Gulf. It was just a clam throw away from the waves quietly rolling along the shore.

The winds were calm, so the sea was tranquil and smelled sweet after the rain. We watched a string of pelicans gliding so low that their wings skimmed the tips of the gentle swells.

We looked up and down the shore – except for the occasional clumps of sea oats and palms – it was empty. The uncommon desolation was quite soothing – and we began to relax.

Slice of nostalgia

The Desoto bungalow was picture perfect and retro-luxurious. Although we had missed the mark about Anna Maria Island, we hit our goal of finding “Old Florida” right here at the Bungalow Beach Resort.

All about style

We had just arrived a few minutes before, but we were already beguiled by the elegant simplicity of the surroundings. This is a place where tradition pervades – 1930s style.

Flip flops and island milieu

Before long, we were unpacked and uncorked. A fine Pinot Gregio complemented our growing mood of relaxation, harmony, and contentment.

A place to watch the rain roll across sea and shore

It started to rain again with the sound of a gentle patter on the porch roof. We quickly settled into the white wicker chairs under the protected patio canopy and watched a symphony of dancing drops on the bungalow railing.

The rain eventually  turned to a slight drizzle, and along with the temperate sea, created an easy environment for libation and laughter – just as it must have done for scores of other couples across the eight decades of the resort’s existence.

Warm thoughts of bygone eras

We speculated about other vacationers enjoying these charming little bungalows in the early 1940s. We supposed how they would have dressed for their trendy beach vacation on Anna Maria Island.

As we pondered the deserted beach chairs directly to the front of our bungalow, we conjured up images of young couples – now old – that once took in the same view, on similar rainy days. Wherever they are, we hope they still remember that dreamy day at Bungalow Beach Resort and smile. We know we will.

Before long, darkness cloaked the Gulf. It was time to end our wonderful day with a restful slumber in luxurious comfort.

Every modern convenience plus sentimental charm

We recommend the Bungalow Beach Resort to anyone interested in a nostalgic private beachfront haven with ceiling fans, window air conditioners, a kitchen, a small pool – and all the contemporary amenities that make for a romantic or memorable family island vacation. This resort is a salute to the past while embracing the new and now. It is all about fun, sand, and sea, but if you are lucky – maybe you will get a soothing rainy day as well.

If you go

There are 15 bungalows at the resort. See the resort layout map here. Bungalows 101, 102, 104, 105, and 116 all face the Gulf of Mexico and are closest to the beach and water. They are the best vantage points from which to appreciate the outstanding Florida sunsets. These rooms are among the most expensive at the resort, but are well worth the difference in price.

For more information about the Bungalow Beach Resort and its amenities, as well as things to do in the area, check out their website at www.bungalowbeach.com

Anna Maria is awash in restaurants. We ate at two we can recommend – the City Pier Restaurant and the Sandbar Restaurant and Lounge. A specialty in this area is the Grouper Sandwich – try one – they are delicious.

Anna Maria Island is the northernmost Key (or Cay) along the coastal Keys between Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. The Gulf of Mexico runs along its western shore, and the Sarasota Bay is to the east. Florida state highway 789, a.k.a. the Gulf Drive divides the ultra-narrow island.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/