Archive for February, 2011

We’re tucked away at home again. We got up at 6 a.m. on Monday morning and drove the RV to Pomona to get a window frame fixed. Then we drove another 250 miles to Paso Robles. Not too interesting. Tuesday was a little more fun. After lounging around all morning, we went wine tasting. We only hit 3 wineries, but they were all good: Wild Horse, J Lohr (thanks, Mike and Jan) and Eberle (thanks, Susan). I was a little bombed by the time we got through. We didn’t fall in love with anything enough to buy a case, but we had some nice bottles.

Wednesday was a 200-mile drive to get home. We lucked out and got a few scattered showers with some fat rainbows, but no out-and-out rain. We got home, unpacked the motorhome and ordered our standard, at-home pizza from Haystack. Thursday was not so fun. Dave drove the RV and I drove the Rav to Millbrae to do a few things. He took Highway 101 and encountered flooding from all the rain. I took 280 and nearly bought the farm when I rolled through a huge puddle and was blinded by cascades of water for 2 or 3 seconds. I didn’t apply the brakes, afraid that I would hydroplane. It was lucky I never tailgate because when I could see again, I was not too close the cars in front of me. We did our chores, stowed the RV and were very glad to get home.

Our focus now is learning how to use our new iPhones. They do so much that it will take some time to master the various functions. I’ve discovered Angry Birds and am already stuck at Level 5 of the free game.

Hope you all enjoy Presidents Day weekend.


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Sunday, Feb 13, 2011

It’s been an exciting, exhausting three days in LA. We had an easy drive up on Wednesday, and checked into the Anaheim RV Village, a reasonably-priced place that’s about a half-mile from the Disneyland entrance. On Thursday we decided to visit the LA County Museum of Art. I picked this place because I liked the installation of light poles in front of the place. It’s website indicated an interesting variety of photography, art and exhibitions. It was only 25 miles west of Anaheim, so we hopped in the car and got there in about a half hour. The museum wasn’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped. There was no photography to be seen. Several of the 8 buildings were partially or totally closed. Many of the galleries seemed dark. I guess I didn’t examine their website carefully enough. But the lampposts out front were really neat. We departed the museum at 4 p.m. and headed home, intending to sit a little before going out for dinner and picking up friends Rick and Mary at the Long Beach Airport.

Can you guess the rest of this story? We got back on the freeways and putted along at in stop-and-go traffic for an hour and a quarter. Even with air conditioning and Sirius radio, it was soul-deadening. I don’t know how people can commute like that every day. When we were still 15 miles from the RV park, we realized we’d have to leave for Long Beach as soon as we got to Anaheim, so we got off the freeway and headed south to Long Beach on surface streets. They had stop lights, but at least we could go 30 mph down streets where we could see people walking their dogs and jogging. We eventually got to Long Beach and wound down with drinks at the Rockbottom Brewery. The Long Beach Airport was a few miles away, and we retrieved Mary and Rick without further incident.

The next morning, the four of us went to Disneyland, free, courtesy of passes that Mary and Rick had won. We arrived right when the park opened and headed straight to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, our favorite. We followed that up with the Haunted Mansion. The park wasn’t too crowded; we got on a lot of rides without waiting very long. The Space Mountain roller coaster was fun, much less horrifying than my memory indicated. One new ride we hadn’t seen before was a trip in jeep through an Indiana Jones adventure. Although we kept joking about it, we never did go on It’s a Small World ride, although I wonder if there was a Hosni Mubarak doll in there. It was fun walking around the park, looking at all the little kids, dressed up and having a great time. We were pretty tired by 4 p.m. – sugar was needed. So we ate wonderful ice cream sundaes and went back to Rick and Mary’s comfortable hotel. The guys were looking forward to the hotel manager’s Friday night welcome reception and headed right over there. They were back in ten minutes – the reception consisted of cheese, crackers and non-alcoholic punch. We wanted something a little stronger and found our way to McCormack and Schmicks, where happy hour was running all night.

After a night of sleeping like the dead, we were ready for another day of fun. Saturday was much warmer, around 80 degrees (in February!). We went to the California Adventure Park, across from Disneyland. It has fewer rides, and isn’t landscaped quite as nicely as Disneyland. Our first ride was Soarin’ over California and it was fun. It felt like you were sitting in a hang-glider, traveling over surfers, Yosemite, Death Valley, Napa wine country, etc. It was a little short and the movie transitions could have been better, but it was still fun. Then we went on the Grizzly Peak river run. Eight people sit in a round raft and get wet. Simple, but really fun on a hot day. Everyone gets soaked to varying degrees. The young birthday boy in the boat hardly got wet at all. I was dripping, but only on my left side. Mary was drenched. All I will say is, thank heaven for the Dyson hand dryer in the bathroom. Mary and I sat out the big roller coaster, but Dave and Rick loved it. It was good they went on that ride when they did, because it closed for the day about 30 minutes later. From the Ferris Wheel, we saw people climbing out their car at the top of the ride, and walking down stairs to get to ground level. After lunch, we went to It’s Tough to be a Bug, which is a 3-D show with a lot of special effects that get physical. It’s very clever and worth seeing, even if you don’t have kids in tow. Mary and I were in the bathroom and a lady in shorts and sandals was checking her royal headwear in the mirror. “Nice tiara” I complimented her. “It’s not a tiara, it’s a crown. I’ve owned both and I know the difference.” “Nice crown” I amended.

We played it smart and retired to our respective residences for naps and down time. That revved us up for a nice, if not wonderful, dinner at one of the better restaurants in California Adventure. The benefit of dining there was that we got a large, uncrowded area from which to watch the World of Color, a new nighttime extravaganza involving lights, music and fountains. The effects were spectacular, but the show turned into an ad for almost every Disney movie ever made. After that, we returned to Disneyland and rode the Matterhorn Bobsleds, fun in the dark with everyone screaming. We finished off the night back at Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a great two days.

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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2011

The weather was really warming up and we had a balmy last night in the campground.

The last thing we did in Borrego Springs was drive out to see some of Galleta Meadows collection of sculpture spread all around the outer perimeter of town. There are more than 80 pieces, created by sculptor Ricardo Breceda. The idea to create life-size sculptures of the various creatures existing in the area from prehistoric to modern times, was conceived and funded by Dennis Avery. And so, in addition to mustangs and eagles and Bighorn sheep, there are now extinct Tapirs, Saber-tooth cats, elephants, camels, sloths, tortoises, llamas and more. (Ever heard of a Gomphotherium?) None of them are in the commercial area of Borrego Springs – they are sprinkled in the undeveloped areas surrounding the town. It’s great to drive around and see a Saber-tooth cat attacking a wild horse. The amount of detail in the metal sculptures is amazing, right down to eyelashes and veins standing out in hindquarters. We dry camped our last night near the Gomphotheriums. It’s quite an experience to wake up and see them looming near the motorhome.

We finally left Borrego Springs and headed for the coast. We got to Oceanside and went north. After discovering that a couple of state beach campgrounds were closed for several months, we got to San Clemente State Beach Campground. “How much?” we asked. “Thirty-five for no hookups and $60 for hookups.” Sixty!!!!” we thought, taking the $35 per night site. The two sites with the best ocean views were taken, but we got a nice one. It is a pretty campground.

Tuesday morning we woke up to fog, but it broke up fairly early and we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering through Mission San Juan Capistrano. The big stone church had only a few partial walls left; an 1812 earthquake destroyed it and killed about 40 people who were at mass. The church was never rebuilt, but the grounds are peaceful and beautiful.

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We’ve spent a few days exploring the west side of the Salton Sea and the east side of Anza-Borrego State Park. We camped in the town of Salton City, at the Salton Sea Motor Home Park, right next to the beach. It was pretty smelly, with kind of a dead fish kind of smell. Early Saturday morning, we walked down to the beach and saw lots of sea gulls and pelicans.

Later in the day, we tried to find a trailhead, but failed. One problem is my guidebook is 11 years old and there is no state park information available in this area. Then we visited Salton Sea Beach, another small town. As you drive the two miles down to the water, the homes become increasingly decrepit. Next to the beach, there are only abandoned trailers and small houses. I think the level of the sea has varied dramatically over the years and perhaps homes near the beach got flooded out. The beach here had many more dead fish, with a few pigeons (only the best for pigeons!) picking around them in a desultory manner.

We went into Anza-Borrego State Park, which is enormous, with areas of dunes, badlands, mountains, canyons and marshy areas. We took a short hike along a wash to the Truckhaven rock formations. We tried to find another trailhead and failed again. Our campground looked pretty good to us by the time we got back.

Sunday, we drove a little south and entered Anza-Borrego again. We went past the small town of Ocotillo Wells, not in the state park, where the all-terrain-vehicles are free to ride all over the desert. We took a nice little hike to see the Elephant Tree, an oddity in the desert. The weather is so pleasant that 1.5 mile hike was comfortable and easy. Then we tried to find another road, but it was chained off and a sign said “No Trespassing”. So once again, we headed home.

On Monday, we moved west, looking for a place to boondock (no hookups) for a couple of days. After not finding a couple of roads we were looking for, we settled in at Yaqui Well Primitive Campground, on the west side of Anza-Borrego. It had no water, but had nicely protected campsites. Thus anchored for a few days, we had a beautiful day to adventure into Blair Valley. Our first stop there was finding the pictographs in Smugglers Canyon. They were different from others we had seen; abstract patterns (abstract because we don’t know what they represent) in the cheerful colors of orange and yellow. It was a pleasure viewing a site that hasn’t had graffiti added. Next we ambled up the Morteros Trail that took us to a boulder-strewn village where the Kumeyaay Indian women did the cooking. The area has many large rocks with deep holes caused by using rock pestles to pound seeds in the bedrock mortar. Other flat surfaces of the bedrock are smoothed out from rolling a mano (a hand-sized smooth rock) to grind seeds or plants into flour. We were the only people there and it was easy to imagine the villagers gossiping as they pounded and rolled away.

We took a third hike that day, climbing a mile up Ghost Mountain, where the Marshal South family lived for more than twenty years during the 1930s and 40s. Marshal and Tanya hauled all the materials they needed to build an adobe house, as well as lugging most of their water up the trail, 12 gallons at a time. They raised three children (talk about home schooling) up there. Their exploits are well known, because Marshal was a prolific author, and wrote a series of articles in Desert Magazine about their solitary life. They were evicted from their home for a few years during World War II because the area around them was used as gunnery range. They returned after the war, but, as the Visitor Center film put it, Tanya got tired of the isolation and Marshal was spending quite a bit of time in the small town of Julian, fourteen miles away. She eventually filed for divorce and moved away with the children. That was the end of this experiment in desert living. A Visitor Center volunteer provided Dave and me with a PG-13 addendum to the film. “Why do you think Marshal was spending so much time in Julian?” Oh – he had a girlfriend there. The film said he had painted a mural in the Julian library, and it turns out he was involved with the librarian. Oh, what drama.

The weather became unseasonably cold on Tuesday night and the next couple of days, so we decided to move up to Borrego Springs a day early, where hookups were available and we could use electricity to heat the motorhome in addition to propane. After hooking up we went to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center, looking for Mike and Jan Bigelow, inlaws of my friend Harriet. Mike and Jan moved from Berkeley to Borrego Springs and Temecula quite a few years ago, and have grown to love the California desert. Their busy schedule involves volunteering,, hiking, biking, classes in botany, geology, archeology, anthropology and on and on. They kindly took us out in their Jeep, going down a few roads that our Rav4 wouldn’t have enjoyed. We visited The Slot, a slot canyon that becomes progressively narrower, until we were squeezing through it.

After doing chores on Thursday, we met Mike and Jan again and walked up Henderson Canyon. We were surprised at the numbers of wildflowers. Rain and warm weather has started the season early in some areas. Mike pointed out various plants, knowing what they were from the foliage. Dave and I learn wildflower names each year as we photograph them, then promptly forget most of them. Anza-Borrego is on a campaign to stem the tide of Sonoran Mustard. It’s an invasive plant that outcompetes most wildflowers for space and water. He showed us how to pull it up and dismember it. The same was true for Scotch Broom in the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

After doing chores on Thursday, we met Mike and Jan again and walked up Henderson Canyon. We were surprised at the numbers of wildflowers. Rain and warm weather has started the season early in some areas. Mike pointed out various plants, knowing what they were from the foliage. Dave and I learn wildflower names each year as we photograph them, then promptly forget most of them. Anza-Borrego is on a campaign to stem the tide of Sonoran Mustard. It’s an invasive plant that outcompetes most wildflowers for space and water. He showed us how to pull it up and dismember it. The same was true for Scotch Broom in the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

We were on our own again on Friday. Jan and Mike were headed for Cambria to see the Sea Lions. So we headed up the Borrego Palms Oasis Trail, 1.5 miles to a Palm Oasis, and the park’s most popular trail. It was a good hike, but I had underestimated how warm it would be. What a change! We hoped to see Bighorn Sheep, but it was not to be. So we ate lunch under the cool California Fan Palms, and trudged back to camp.

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