Driving around with the 525s

Ok, the USA is coming out of its dark covid days now. We seem to be rounding the bend, seem to be headed out of this black tunnel.

Most restaurants are open to fifty pct capacity, movie houses are starting to open to reduced occupancy, hotels are booking up and only restrictions like one elevator per person or family, closed gyms and pools in many hotels and restricted dining venues.

But things are looking up. Biden is working on allowing all those vaccinated to remove their masks !

More people are being called back to work (waitresses and waiters as restaurants open up, for example).

Recently Tammy and I have been doing once a month overnighters just to get out of town. We don’t go very far, we have headed for Reno twice and lake tahoe now for two times. Next month thinking of an Yosemite overnighter.
And maybe we will do a day trip. Heard the little tiny town of Murphys is worth visiting for the Main STreet wine tastings and closeness to the Calaveras big trees, a place tammy and i have not yet been.

Just came back from a two niter to lake tahoe. Now that we dont have gendut anymore we can stay in lake tahoe (the hotels there don’t take cats, some take dogs, but no cats in lake tahoe hotels).

We don’t have a travelling cat anymore (ollie failed to make the grade) . So we have found some new freedoms.

Got the Marriott’s vacation hotel wing for 390 for two nights including 30/night valet parking, free in and out. There is no place to park where that hotel is unless you want to walk ten mins or so so we decided to go for it.
Nice hotel. The pool was big , open and heated but i didnt go swimming.
Its in the main complex in downtown Lake Tahoe where everything is located, right at the heavenly ski lift (which is closed as the season is over). Lots of eating nearby, lots of other hotels. Want to try the Holiday Inn Express across the street next time. Cheaper and parking included.

As i said the Marriott is right where anyone who goes to south lake tahoe will end up. The main entertainment square mile (if even a square mile).

Went to check out a boat ride
Twenty years ago did a boat cruise on the lake on a double decker replica of the old steamboats of the Mississippi. SF bay had them too. 3 hour tours with dinner in 2001 was 80 bucks a head in SF and at lake tahoe was 50/head. Did that once , was pretty awesome. 2 hour cruise until the sun sets then anchoring in Emerald bay (out of the wind) and going downstairs to the dining room for a nice little meal accompanied by half a carafe of wine each. Then back upstairs to a live band and some dancing. Very nice !
I also did a yacht tour once and I believe that was 35/head and came with a couple glasses of wine as well. But I just went below deck and ended up catnapping.

So now circa 2021 decided to take tammy on a boat ride. The paddle steamer apparently burned down during a refurbish but the Safari Rose was still going strong. She is a very old boat from the late fifties plying the waters of the eastern USA and then later doing some local Alaskan cruises. Shes not a big boat, only bout 80feet long so pretty small for ocean going vessels. But 19 years ago she came to Tahoe and shes perfect for the calm waters of Tahoe.

Went up to the kiosk and we only found it because we went to check out a local small restaurant serving Empanadas Argentine style. Called EMPANAS. Was a cute little place and we had a couple of empanadas. I liked them, Tina thought they were too full of meat and she doesnt like to eat meat so it was a "im not in a hurry to come back " for her, but for me was not bad at some 6 bucks a piece.

IN the same little shopping area was the boat ride on the Safari Rose it turns out, theres a little dock there.

Enquired about it and found it was 90/head. Hmmm…bit too much for yours truly for the 3 hours sunset cruise with NO dinner, only ONE drink.
We walked away and was soon intercepted by another tout. This guy said 'you doing the cruise? I said no, too expensive. He said "how bout the two of you on the cruise for 50 total? " I said whats the catch? He said just attend a 2 hours Time Share in the hotel a minute walk away. “Plus you get a 100 dollar dinner voucher at the Hard Rock Hotel after the cruise”. I said we are IN.

Now i was in a time share thingy once and they do their best to get to sign your life away basically.

Never ,…NEVER get yourself into a time share.
You can’t get out without losing thousands at the very least .

The tout was very thorough. He had to get our drivers licenses, confirm we are USA residents and were over 30 and made decent enough money a year.

WE arrived at the time share place, and it was laid out nicely. Cosy place, big sofas to wait. Then you are assigned a salesman. Who tries to win your confidence with a low key sales approach. They had you for 2 hours contractually so I just basically talked real slow and kept things on a slow boil.

He says after talking extensively about how we took vacations decided that a two week thingy per year was most appropriate for us. WE could visit 400 associated resorts world wide with a simple booking ONLINE for our two weeks a year. VERY EASY he said. And no worriees dont like the time share you can always SELL it.

And apparently we needed 15,000 points and today for the low price of 9.97 a point we could sign up.

Wait…thats near 150,000 dollars !! My face went blank. And Tammy was the perfect accomplice as she knew what game we were playing… We were playing the game of GETTING AWAY FROM THE TIME SHARE AND GETTING OUR FREEBEES.

She looked bored and I looked Aghast at the 150k.
NOT to worry , NOT to worry my friend…TODAY if you sign up…just TODAY, this offer will never be repeated !

You can have this 15,000 point program for only 11,000 and there is a monthly 85/month UPKEEP for the time share. I said Im sorry but i think my Fico is 540 and tammys is 550 (not true, hers is 540 and mine is 550) so he didnt miss a beat and came up with a “not to worry we have in house financing” "we are all licensed real estate agents and we finance ".
So what dollar figure are we talking about here?
Well, its only about 220/month for TEN YEARS and the simple 85/month UPKEEPING charge.

I see…uhm…look I said, you look like Tom Cruise and your presentation was flawless and I really think this COULD be a thing in our future but…I want to just be able to pay CASH for the 11k and then at that time we can join.

He excuses himself politely …and …minutes later…an older gentleman takes his place. VERY friendly… "im not a closer like Jim was…Jim makes money closing deals and all that…me, im retired, i just do this for the fun of HELPING people SAVE on vacations they take anyways. LIke yourselves. YOu mentioned you take about two weeks vacation a year and you spend on hotels alone roughly 3600 dollars !! WE can help you save money and get you RESORTS not hotels for LESS than what you are already paying…

He proceeds to knock the price down from 11k to 9700 and the annual maintenance fee down from circa 1100 to only 795/year.

Very nice ! I said with total conviction…BUT we are simply not THERE yet. “When will you be THERE?” “oh Im thinking in about 3 years” "what happens in three years ? " “im thinking of retiring” (not true). “oh i see, excuse me”

Minutes later we are led to another table where an executive type meets up. The GM or some high ranking potato.

I see mister and missus 525 that you are thinking of doing something in 3 years" “yes yes, three years” “well how about I do this for you today” " i can hold this rate for you for TWO years, upon which time you can make a decision? " “Oh, why not, yes please HOLD the rate for me for two years then” . "oh and all you need to do is gives us a deposit of 2497 , refundable in two years should you decide otherwise and you can use these funds for the African Safari you mentioned you and the missus will like to do? “And as well in addition, there is the week in Paris that was also on your agenda” “So its a win win” “Oh, that sounds really great, but really I am unable to come up with those funds at this time”. "But we do have inhouse financing? " “Yes yes of course, really wonderful of you but we really do need to digest this further”.

At which point we were finally excused and got our vouchers at the front desk !!

Whew.

Apparently 9.7 pct of all Americans are presently locked into a time share !! And the Time share industry in the USA took in 650 BILLION (WITH A B) DOLLARS LAST YEAR from all the time share people paying those montly dues. And a LOT Of people have NEVER used their two weeks or however many weeks they bought.
And when you die, you get to pass on this time share to those you dearly loved (read HATE) so they can perpetuate this income. Its worse then being willed a PARROT.

We got out of there with a reduced cruise price and a voucher for 100 for dinner and…there is a coupon for 4 days at a mexican resort.

The vouchers for dinner were honored at the OYSTER BAR at the hard rock. Where we ate exactly 103 dollars and with tax came out to 110, 100 was vouchered and i gave the 10 plus another 20 for the tips.

The resort is a bit rundown but perhaps serviceable in Puerto Vallarta. But the airfare seems to run about 1000 for the two of us?? ! So IF we decide to use this voucher, we may tack on a few more days at a better and all inclusive resort. This voucher included nothing but accomodations and has about a 200 dollar charge for various whatnots and all that , so its not totally free as in free .

Check out the Mayan Palace by Vidanta in puerto vallarta.

And yes the time share industry could GIVE you the points for free and make all that money just from the annual fees they charge you whether you use the vacation or not. And many are selling theirs for a penny and no takers. So NO you cant get out of it.

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Rainy Days and Mondays was a great Karen Carpenter song. But for the 525s its a day when missus 525 and myself are able to do things TOGETHER. OUr schedules otherwise dont allow us to spend time together. So yesterday was cherry picking day. Our cherry picking season is very short, lasting only a few weeks.

Tammy and i went out to Brentwood but found EVERY SINGLE DOGGONE PLACE CLOSED ON MONDAYS.
DANG !

bUT we drove around and found the (giant) Three Nunns Farm OPEN !!! And further more they have a really cool set up. They bus you over to their orchards some distance away in a John Deere tractor with a make shift trailer hooked up to it.
This is a giant farm in brentwood. Its 35 acres. They plant cherries mostly but also have blueberries and blackberries and i think veggies.

However, this year is the first year they opened up to the general public for a 4 dollars a pound You Pick cherry. Other places are 3.5 a pound. But this place gives you a nice ten min ride in a tractor which is cool.

Its sad in a way because no way the probably one billion cherries will be picked in time and they will all go to waste !! Due to the covid they are not able to bring in the normal huge numbers of mexican fruit pickers they normally hire for the season.
So its a loss year for the farmers and a total waste of a wonderful crop of the best cherries in the world.

tammy filled up her bucket with five pounds of cherries in record time, only slowed by her sampling of the goods. She is as fast as three trained monkeys.

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Doing a trip to Yosemite tomorrow
Staying on other side of sierras so doing 108 Sonora pass over to mammoth lake and 120 tioga pass back through Yosemite
These are two highest roads in California reaching almost 10000 feet
Probably should have planned for two nights hotel as both of us have never to that area
I hear mono lake is pretty cool

Decided to rent an audi silver car for the trip as not sure my 18 year old Acura can make it and not sure my Prius C can climb to 10000 feet

And not overheat

Car rental is crazy these days 76 plus tax for anything per day

Silvercar went from about 90 a day to 120

A lot of driving 300 miles each way but the scenery should be good

Have done two one day trips to Yosemite and that’s a bit crazy as too much driving in one day
Something like 500 miles

Sonora and tioga passes
Are closed in winter but recently opened fir the summer season

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Day 1 of 2 Fremont to mammoth lake

Off to late start as usual had to leave balcony open so the two indoor cats won’t tear up the place but that means GOGO the black indoor / outdoor sibling jumped off the balcony as he does every morning

He returns each evening occasionally missing an evening. So he is going to have to spend tonight outside

We left him his dry food and water in the bushes downstairs where he often is so he is not going to starve

The cats are mischievous if you keep them
from the verandas
Ollie will often pee on the TV stand if he gets pissed off …literally

Have had to clean with this enzyme cleaner

At any rate took it easy in the near six hour drive
For some 260 miles

It’s a very gradual climb
From west to east but the other way is a steep slog
Up 2500 feet from fhe mono lake basin but I saw a Prius c made it so no fears and my audi rental was not needed but still fun enough to warrant the 200 bucks renting it

The scenery is quite pretty indeed

And it’s a great drive for people who like to drive

Highway 108 reaches around 9500 feet
Which is about 2500
Feet higher than this 7000 foot plateau we seem
To be on in the area around mono and mammoth lake

Stopped at the mono lake edge
No boating going on
The water smells of sulfur and seems
Unpleasant to swim in

Tioga pass on the way back and a couple hours planned at Yosemite should be great
Tomorrow

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Mammoth lake is at an elevation of 7800 feet. So some people may need to adjust to the altitude

I’m feeling it a bit with not being g able to sleep well
And reading about the mono lake apparently
the water is deadly if you drink it as it’s three times saltier than the ocean and it has a high sulfur content plus whatever else

And a nearby lake horseshoe lake is to be avoided entirely as it has high concentrations of carbon dioxide and something else that has killed a few hikers and ski patrol members

This whole area is volcanic and is part of a super volcano caldera it seems

Happy to get back across the Sierras later and a lower altitude once we go over the hump near 10000 feet

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Back at last. Two days 650 miles of driving is a bit much but got to do sonora pass and tioga pass and the north parts of the 395. Excellent scenery. Great driving roads. Tioga pass was great but waiting to pass the ranger station on entry took over an hour ! That part was frustrating. And there are too many cars on the road and this is on a tuesday. I understand why people say dont bother doing that on the weekends.

There was supposed to be a restricted number of people at Yosemite, but the park was packed. And the Awanee hotel had a reduced menu and was pretty packed too.

Still good fun. Took me decades to do the sonora and tioga passes and the north parts of the 395. Been there, done that. No hurry to do that again anytime soon.

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