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Archive for April, 2016

First of all, Happy Birthday, Mom! We’ll take you out when we get back.

We were at a bit of a loss. I did laundry and we were planning to go to Cal Poly to see an art installation that we missed last year. But when I looked for information, there was none, so we didn’t do that. I thought it might be nice to check out Los Padres National Forest. It runs east of Highway 101 from Morro Bay all the way south to Santa Barbara. It may or may not have trees; it may or may not have wildflowers. So I picked what I thought was a paved road and we drove about 40 miles to reach it. It was not paved and rose steeply and windily upward into a not-very-interesting canyon. So we turned around and headed back. There was one nice spot on CA-166 with lots of mustard and one spot we couldn’t pull off near with a boat nestled into tall grass. Not too exciting.

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On Thursday, we got our new retractable stair. It’s so shiny and new and we no longer have to worry about it collapsing with us on it. The company, Sea to Sea RV in Nipomo, did a good job in less time than they estimated. We couldn’t stay in the rig while they worked on it. They told us that years ago one of their workers had been killed while working under an RV, when the owners decided to leave. Yikes! So we sat inside the store, ate our sandwiches and acted as “greeters” for the people who came in.

Rain was predicted for Friday but the clouds were neat so we went up to Morro Bay to do the Black Hill Trail, a short steep trail to a 360-degree hilltop. The trail took off from Morro Bay State Park Campground, so we got a look at it. It’s a nice, large spread-out campground but it’s a few miles of narrow road to get to it and the sites go for $35 without hookups and $50 with. A little steep for us.

The hike has a 600-foot rise and it was warm but it was pretty nice. The wildflowers were mostly past peak but there were quite a few of them. We saw a couple of deer and a very large gopher snake stretched out across the trail. He slithered off before I could capture his head (photographically). We chomped our sandwiches at the top and watched the clouds get heavier. By the time we got back to the car, it was sprinkling a little. We got some coffee and goodies and found a nice spot right on the edge of choppy Morro Bay. That’s when it started sprinkling more heavily. Good timing for us.

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Saturday morning we went for another walk along the beach and got Dave his second fix of Salt Water Taffy. That was the action part of the day, other than grocery shopping. We’re getting to read a lot, which is a pleasure when we have good books.

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We settled into our new home – El Capitan State Beach Campground, on Sunday. We experienced an incredibly windy evening. The campground is ensconced between the Pacific and Highway 101 and train tracks. It was very noisy but we couldn’t tell if it was the sound of surf or car tires echoing on the highway or wind in the trees; probably all three. At one point I thought it had started to sprinkle, but it was pine needles raining on the roof. I was worried about a big limb falling on us but there was little we could do about it.

After surviving the night, we drove up to Solvang on Tuesday. Solvang is a Danish town that revels in its Danishness. Liz Vega and Stephane, her husband had come down for a week to celebrate their second anniversary. We walked around town, saw Mission Saint Ynez, had sausages at the Bit O’ Denmark, walked around some more and had coffee and goodies at a Danish bakery. It was a nice day with good company.

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We wanted one more hike in the area and went to Gaviota State Park for one on Tuesday. All the hikes around Gaviota go up into the hills and ours did too. It wasn’t a spectacular hike but it was nice and accomplished our objective – hike enough to be guilt-free when we had Cuba Libres and potato chips later in the afternoon.

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After Dave kicked the broken stair farther under the RV, we departed Pinnacles and headed down to Paso Robles. We spent one night at the Paso Robles RV Ranch, a very nice RV park right off Highway 101. I went off in search of groceries and found a Smart and Final with good produce more reasonably priced than Safeway. Dave tried to set up the receiver so we could watch Orphan Black, a TV show we like but he couldn’t get it. We watched Escape from Alcatraz instead; an oldie with Clint Eastwood. Having visited Alcatraz twice in the past two years, we could verify that the film was mostly shot on site.

The next day, we dumped and filled up with water and headed over to Tobin James Winery, our favorite purveyor in the area. We have joined Harvest Hosts which allows us to dry camp for free next to participating wineries and farms. There are three of them in Paso Robles. So now we can go wine tasting, walk across the road and be home for our afternoon nap. What’s not to like about that! (Hey, Jim and Gayle, maybe there are breweries that have a plan like that!).

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After settling in, we went to buy a new toilet seat cover, a mundane but necessary chore. Then we visited some wineries where Zinfandels were featured. Shale Oak is a sustainable winery and features recycled cork purses. I liked the look of them and they can be put in the washing machine, which sold me on getting it. Not cheap, but my birthday is coming up and I needed a new purse. We finished up our wine tasting at Tobin James and tasted quite a few. The difference between their ordinary wine and their good stuff is amazing, although we did buy a reasonable Sangiovese and enjoyed it with dinner.

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We rose early on Saturday morning, threw the cameras and lunch into the Rav and went to Joe’s Other Place in Templeton for breakfast. As a year ago, it was perfect, especially the hash browns. Brown and crusty on top, creamy on the bottom. Full and happy, we drove east to see if there were any wildflowers left on Shell Road. There were not. Too bad. But it was a beautiful morning so we rolled down the road and turned from Shell onto Gillis Canyon Road. It wound up into the hills, many of which were still very green. Birds, squirrels, rabbits zoomed across the road in front of us and we spotted a couple of coyotes dashing up a steep hill away from us. It looked like a good place to revisit some other spring.

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We got home in time for a nap and a late lunch. We headed out again around 3 p.m. We visited Rio Seco Winery. The congenial hosts told us about their Harvest Host duties and their guests were very enthusiastic about them. Good for the next trip. We then visited Graveyard Wineries and tasted the best chocolate dessert wine we’ve ever had. We bought a bottle, found a roasted chicken to bring home, and dined on greasy chicken and a reheated vegie dish. The air cooled off and we repaired outside for a while and then watched a Giant’s game. A great day.

On Sunday, we said farewell to Tobin James and headed 45 miles south to Pismo Beach. We planned to get to North Campground, our favorite, around noon when people start to leave. We got in a line and were surprised that only a few campsites were available. We got to select and pay for Site 38 that we know and like and were told we could check in at 2 p.m. So we parked right outside the campground and hung out for 2 hours. Then we sailed into our spot. It took Dave about 15 minutes to set everything up. Nice!

Since Monday was going to be warm, we decided to do the Bluffs Trail at Montana de Oro State Park. South of Morro Bay, it is a lovely, remote park where high hills descend to the water. You can hike upward or do a nice flat walk along the edge of the bluffs. There is always something to see. Today it was a large otter, floating along on his back, some Oystercatchers and Pigeon Guillemots, clinging precariously to the side of a cliff. Lucky they can fly! The main trail was pretty warm but when we went right next to the cliff’s edge, a cool breeze refreshed us. It was a nice walk.

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The next morning we drove a few miles south to Nipomo to let a repair service look at our wrecked stair. They found the part number and now we’ll wait for the new part. North Beach Campground is a nice place to wait. We took our first walk on the beach later in the afternoon. It was warm enough so that a mist was rising on the beach. Sandpipers and curlews raced along the edge of the water. Dave got a half pound of salt water taffy in town and we walked back, sucking on the treats.

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2016 has been a grueling year for us. The first week of January, Dave’s Mom collapsed and went into the hospital. His Dad, recovering from chemo and radiation therapy for lung cancer, was weak. Five of the six kids in the Bay Area began trading off staying with them in Millbrae. Our construction project, adding two rooms to the basement had been going since October, 2015 and was finishing up. This meant a lot of painting for us and moving all our stuff that had been tucked away upstairs, back downstairs. Then I left my purse sitting in a BART Train Station on February 23 and someone took it and used one of my credit cards. It’s amazing how much is carried in a purse. Car and house keys – gone. Driver’s license, credit cards, medical cards, membership cards, library card all had to be changed or replaced. Reading glasses, sunglasses, fingernail clippers, comb, and my recipe card for Bar-be-cups – all gone.

Dave’s Dad got weaker, went into the hospital and passed away on March 6. One of his Dad’s best friends, Hank Helmers, died on March 5. Dave’s Mom is doing better health-wise but it has been a very emotional, difficult time for everyone.

We finally thought we could get away for a month or so. Dave changed the tow system for the Rav and when we tested it a week before we left, the lube pump didn’t work. Luckily, the part we needed came in 4 days before we wanted to leave and got installed. When Dave brought the Lazy Daze up to Millbrae to get it ready for our trip, the radio wouldn’t work and the stair into the rig wouldn’t retract. Dave started changing some fuses and on Friday night, the engine wouldn’t turn over. The battery was fine; it was something else. After a miserable evening, he figured out that he had changed the fuse into the wrong place. The engine started again – Yay!! Then he rigged up a system with our 30-year-old boom box so we would have some music on the trip. All systems go!

We took off Monday morning. We only had to drive 120 miles to Pinnacles National Monument. As we drove away, the radio started working – it only works when the engine is running. Dave decided not to fool with the fuses while we’re in the remote Pinnacles. However, the stair still would not retract, so we drove with it down, sticking out about a foot from the passenger side of the rig. The road to Pinnacles involves 28 miles of a narrow 2-lane road, then turns into an even narrower road into the monument. We made it 27 miles with no mishaps. Can you guess what happened next? At one point, the stair swept through some grasses by the side of road. No problem. Then the stair didn’t sweep through something much harder. Crunch! It didn’t rip the stair off; it just bent it towards the back of the rig, about 2 inches from the tire. We limped into camp, set up and took a walk. We’ll think about it when we get to Paso Robles but we’ll have to drive about 35 more miles down a narrow road to get back to Highway 101.

Although it was overcast, it was a pleasant walk; so good to be in a quiet place, enjoying the sights, smells, sounds.

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As we walked along, I saw some pines with a cluster of pointy little pinecones. I tapped one and a cloud of green pollen coughed out. Not being allergic to pollen, I thought it was cool.

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There were quite a few wildflowers but the poppies were closed. At one point, my knee felt like I had a sticker in it. I pulled up my pants and looked at something sticking out of it. It didn’t brush off and I called Dave over. He pulled it out – it was a tick. It wasn’t swollen with blood so I hope it didn’t have time to infect me. We traipsed out and back about 2 miles and went home for our traditional first-night-out spaghetti. In the group camp, a huge number of kids had set up flocks of tents. Glad we weren’t camping too close to them.

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Tuesday morning was overcast so we were in no rush to start a hike. We did our ritual: coffee and books in bed. Ten years of retirement has not reduced this pleasure one whit for me. Like last year, we were going to do the High Peaks Trail. Only this time, we knew where we were going. In the parking lot, an older man started talking with us. He lived in an RV park in Santa Cruz but was camping in a nice Toyota van. He had a little shelf in the back where he could lay out his sleeping bag. It reminded us of our Chevy van in 1982.

On the trail, the air was cool and pleasant and the pinnacles were shrouded in fog. We gradually hiked up a thousand feet or so. The wildflowers were everywhere – all kinds. Mimulus (aka Monkeyflower) predominated, a rich buttery color.

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The long-distance views continued to become more impressive as we ascended.

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We stopped at the highest point of the trail for lunch, then did a 2-mile loop back to that spot. More wildflowers and moments of sun breaking out. The first leg of the loop is very exciting with lots of small stairs carved into rock and heavy-duty banisters to keep you on the skinny trail. One man along that portion was tracking condors. Most, if not all of them are tagged so they can be tracked even when not seen. No condor sightings for us. Then it was back to switchbacks, down and then up again. We got back to the high point, shared the last of our Envy apples, juicy and sweet. Then it was two miles downhill. The sun finally came out all the way and puffs of cool air were interspersed with puffs of warm air. My back was complaining and I was looking forward to an Ibuprofen when I got home. It was a great hike.

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Wednesday morning was a lazy one. I made bacon and eggs and found out I hadn’t brought a spatula. The fried eggs were removed from the pan with a spoon. Dave read the Lazy Daze manual and fiddled around with fuses and terminals and got the radio working again. What a guy! The step also seemed to work with his repair except for the fact it was whacked out of place. Dave managed to pound it in a little so it doesn’t stick out a full foot now. It will still need to be replaced.

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After lunch, we decided to go on a short, flat walk. It was sunny and mostly shady, just lovely. We found a nice patch of poppies and Dave exercised his 17mm wide-angle lens. That involved stretching out flat on the ground to shoot upward. What a guy!

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We weren’t out long; our legs were still sore from the 6-mile hike. We repaired to our chairs and read our books. I started Book 1 of Game of Thrones. The TV show is remarkably faithful to the book and whoever did the casting of characters for the show did a fantastic job.

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