The Pacific Northwest- Part 1

Mountain Gate RV Park, Shasta Lake, CA

4/5/19

We arrived yesterday to this lovely campground near Redding, CA which looks like a great place to explore if it ever stops pouring.  It has been raining steadily all day and the forecast is calling for rain over the next several days.  All it took for CA to find drought relief was for John and I to spend time here.  We’ve seen rain in every place we’ve been to in California with the exception of Palm Springs.

Campground in the hills near northern California’s town/city of Redding.

We aren’t far from the areas that were impacted by the horrible 2018 fires and the heavy rain can create major flooding and/or mudslide issues for those areas.  Our particular campsite is up on a bit of a hill so hopefully, we won’t float away.

4/9/19

We have been in this location for five nights and this is the first day that it hasn’t poured.  The reservoirs in California have to be doing very well at this point.   I can finally see the gorgeous snow covered mountains on the horizon.  To summarize what we have done in between the deluges so far, we have visited Shasta Dam, the Sundial Bridge (which is an actual sundial and a glass bottomed pedestrian bridge), and we hiked for about 4 miles on the Sacramento River Trail.  Today we visit the Shasta Caverns.

Shasta Dam and reservoir leading to the Sacramento River which irrigates a large swath of central California’s growing region, with a large osprey nesting near the parking lot.

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A photo in the Shasta Dam museum/gift shop of a 2018 wildfire at night in the distance behind the dam. Also eerie reflections of ourselves taking photos of photos.
The Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River – the tower’s shadow creates an operating sundial with the markers around the perimeter.  – Baker embarrassingly insists it was 12 oclock,  but was far off.
A trail and various other bridges along the Sacramento River downstream from Shasta Dam and  the mountain in the distance

Lake Shasta Caverns are incredible.  We have seen so many gorgeous places but I really have to consider that the scenery surrounding these caverns might be the most beautiful.  The lake is a pristine blue/green, the surrounding mountains are a mystical combination of gray rock spotted with just the right amount of greenery and the sky is a bright clear blue.  You see the “Trinity Alps”, a trio of snow capped mountains peaking out on the horizon.

Shasta Lake is one of several created by the dam’s construction. We took a ferry across as well as a tenuous bus ride up the mountainside to the entrance of the caverns.

The tour begins with a boat ride across Lake Shasta followed by a bus ride up the mountain.  The road was incredibly winding and narrow and our bus driver looked like a preteen.  There were times on the ride where there were sheer cliffs with no barriers.  Once we made it up the mountain, our tour of the caverns commenced and it was wonderful.  We had to climb hundreds of steps to a variety of “rooms” featuring fascinating rock/crystal formations.  It put Howe Caverns to shame.  I’m so grateful that we finally had a sunny day because the scenery in this entire area is spectacular in the sunshine.

Shasta Caverns – 200 million years old, but only discovered in 1868, now with an expanded entrance created with explosives and subsequently opened to the public in 1964

4/10/19

Today was a day of completing important business like servicing the truck and getting in our routine Planet Fitness workout.  We followed up with a rich, fattening meal at the Lumberjack Restaurant and a short hike with Baker.

Lots of animated type statues in northern CA

4/11/19

On our last day here in Lake Shasta, we took a fabulous hike up to Chamise Peak.  It was a five mile hike up and back with spectacular views at the top of Shasta Dam, Lake Shasta and Lassen Mountain.  Mount Shasta was shrouded in clouds but there were still incredible 360 degree mountain views.  Tomorrow, we head towards Oregon with an overnight stop at a casino near the border of CA and OR.

Some parting shots of Mt Shasta, Shasta Dam & reservoir, the Sacramento River, and a couple of scenes of fire ravaged (from 2018) mountainsides

Valley of the Rogue State Park, Rogue River, OR

4/17/19

We’ve been in Oregon for several days and I love it here.   As gorgeous as California is, Oregon feels more like home.  It looks like the Hudson Valley on steroids.  The drive into Oregon was incredible, going through the cascades of northern California and seeing Mount Shasta in all its glory along the way.  Mt. Shasta is always snow capped and it looks like a Swiss Alp right here in the USA.

But back to Oregon- We are in the southern part of the state between Medford and Grants Pass.  Our friend from PoTown has been living in Grants Pass for the last year and a half so we stopped here in the Rogue River Valley around 15 minutes from his home.  ‘Nick from Nowhere’ (as he was called at the Poughkeepsie Jazz Project sessions) is a fabulous stride piano player and was a regular at John and Ben Basile’s weekly jazz jam at the Derby (now at Mahoneys with Ben).

Our friend and fellow piano player ‘Nick from Nowhere’ now lives in SW Oregon, where the eastern landscape is dominated by Mount Hood

His daughter has lived in Grants Pass for many years and he is living in town in an investment property that she owns.  It is a lovely town surrounded by lush green mountains and nicknamed the Climate City for its beautiful temperate weather.  This is a place I could live and settle down in.  The people are ridiculously friendly and laid back and there are great shops and restaurants along bustling main streets.  Yes- there are also the big box stores that we have seen in every town across the country but there are also lovey historic districts with unique, wonderful eating establishments.

Nick’s friend, artist and RV travel blogger! Cate Battles. Some Grant’s Pass road scenery, and a giant redwood tree growing right in someone’s front yard in town

The first two days here were rainy but Nick showed us around a bit.  He owns a sporty jaguar so we drove around the area in style.  We spent time reminiscing with Nick and listening to some great music.  Nick introduced us to one of his friends, Cate Battles.  She is a talented young artist and we had the good fortune of visiting her studio and seeing her work.  She and her husband also have a travel blog because they travel all over the country in a 1970’s Airstream with their pet dog and pet goat named Frankie.  Cate hand painted the exterior of the trailer and it is amazing.

We took a ride into a quaint little town called Jacksonville and did some shopping along another lovely main street.  Jacksonville, Oregon reminds me so much of Rhinebeck.  Even the drive into the town was reminiscent of my drive from Poughkeepsie through Staatsburg into Rhinebeck.

Tonight we are having dinner at Nick’s daughter’s house.  His son-in-law, Chris will be cooking up something wonderful, I’m sure.

4/20/19

The last few days have been such fun with several dinners at Chris and Diane’s gorgeous home and a visit to the amazing Crater Lake National Park.  Chris and Diane have lived here for over 40 years and they are the nicest, most hospitable people, hosting us for two dinners including Chris’ famous homemade pizzas.  They introduced us to two of their closest friends, Lindy and Buck and it felt like we have all been friends for a long time.  Chris is a criminal defense attorney and Lindy is a retired judge so they worked together quite often over the years.

on the left is Nick’s daughter Diane and son-in-law  Chris (who cooked us 2! great dinners) , with their friends Lindy and Buck, – plus the beautiful view of the Grant’s Pass and surrounding area taken from their backyard deck.

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Diane is a photographer and artist, and she hand painted us a good luck souvenir which now rests on our small display shelf in the RV

 

 

Crater Lake National Park was absolutely amazing.  John described it perfectly as magical.  Despite the fact that it was almost 90 degrees in Grants Pass, Crater Lake had around 10-11′ of snow.  It was 60 degrees there and people were wearing shorts with their snowshoes.  The lake was formed by the collapse of a volcano following an eruption and it is the snowiest inhabited place in America.  They get over 400″ of snow a year. We were lucky to be there on a bright, sunny, temperate day because the mountains and clouds reflect perfectly around the rim of the lake.  It truly is mystical.  Hopefully, John’s skillful photography will do it justice.

Crater Lake (snowiest inhabited place in the USA) with 10′ of snow while its 85 degrees down the mountain. Its pristine surface  perfectly mirrors its surroundings. Nick takes the opportunity to throw some snowballs.

We also visited Ashland, Oregon, a beautiful, mountainous college town south of Medford, OR.  The scenery is lush and the town has great stores (including a wonderful yarn store), breweries and restaurants.  It is supposedly a hippie haven similar to New Paltz, though we didn’t actually spot too many hippies which is unusual since it is 4/20 (get it?). We had a great meal at a local microbrewery and walked through Lithia Park, a gorgeous and quite large green jewel in the center of town.

The beautiful college town of Ashland, OR and its Lithia Park makes no bones about their social sentiments

4/21/19

Easter Sunday.  We had brunch at The Bohemian in Grants Pass with Nick’s friends, Hazel, Peggy, Cate, Chad, Helen and Tad.  Nick played piano and it was wonderful.  His daughter Diane and son-in-law Chris also stopped by.

‘Nick from Nowhere’ (aka Nick Lusito formerly of Hyde Park NY) is the featured pianist at the Bohemian Cafe in Grants Pass on Easter. Surrounded by new and old friends and family, Nick plays the ‘stride’ piano style favored by many famous players in the past, when live solo piano was ubiquitous. It is rhythmic and full sounding as well as technically demanding, and generally not well mastered by most younger players.

In the evening, Nick treated us to a wonderful farewell dinner at the Taprock brewhouse on the banks of the Rogue River.  It has been such a great visit with Nick and his friends and family.

Our last day in Grant’s Pass dining with Nick on the Rogue River and at the RV. 

We’ve shared incredible meals and sites together and the beautiful and temperate Grants Pass is right up there as a contender for us in terms of liveability.  Tomorrow we head a bit further north in Oregon near Eugene.

 

Next time  in the Pacific Northwest ———–   Eugene, Portlandia, Seattle and Tacoma!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California (continued)

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, San Diego, CA

2/25/19
Arrived at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park at 6:10pm- 3 hours later than expected due to the infamous California traffic….even worse than the Van Wyck Expressway.

Despite our late arrival, we headed into the gas-lamp district for a wonderful Greek meal with Wayne and Jaimie. Wayne’s son, Paul from Denver happened to be in San Diego and Jaimie’s daughter, Nicole also lives here.  They joined us for dinner along with our son, MIchael and Paul’s friend, Matt.

Following the big wedding in Santa Barbara, Susan, me, Jaimie and Wayne all head south to visit San Diego. We have our son Michael there and Jaimie’s daughter Nicole is also there. Amy and Angelo (& their son Mikey) wudda, cudda, shudda been there too except for Angelo’s broken heel extravaganza back in Carpenteria.
Here it’s a family affair enjoying the nightlife in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Wayne’s son Paul with old friend Matt from LI (both just passing thru by coincidence!) on one side and Michael and Jaimie’s daughter Nicole (SD residents both) on the other (too bad our nephew Sam couldn’t make this one). Youngest to oldest table and oldest to youngest.

2/27/19
We went on a short, but somewhat challenging hike at Annie’s Canyon with Wayne and Jaimie.  It was short in distance but required climbing steep inclines and squeezing through tight rock formations.

Nicole has given Jaimie lots of info on places to go – here we’re at Annie’s Canyon near the ocean in San Diego with Jaimie and Wayne.  Very soft sandstone you can carve out if so inclined, sometimes looks like another planet.  – (The people who live across the bay probably have a lot of money).

In the evening, Michael, Nicole and our nephew, Sam (who also lives here) joined us for a concert in downtown San Diego at the Music Box.  The opening band was River Whyless and Darlingside* was the main act.  They were both fantastic.
*Postscript:  Darlingside’s music was featured on the season finale of This is Us.

Susan and nephew Sammy (my sister Liz’s son) in San Diego’s Little Italy,- and with Jaimie, Wayne, Nicole, Michael, and Sam at the nearby ‘Music Box’ show featuring Americana acts River Whyless and Darlingside – who’s music, as mentioned, has been featured on TV’s ‘This Is Us’

2/28/19
Met Wayne and Jaimie at Balboa Park where we strolled the grounds and toured through the Museum of Man.

Gigantic and central, Balboa Park contains 16! museums, multiple performance venues (including the giant pipe-organ seen here), Japanese and many more gardens, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. SD hosted a Worlds Fair here in 1915 and many of the buildings designed for it were in Spanish Baroque and Spanish Colonial Revival style. The Museum of Man had lots of interesting attractions for adults and kids.

Later in the evening, Nicole and Michael joined us for sushi at this crazy restaurant where you pick your food off a conveyor belt and then deposit your empty plates.  You are charged by the plate and you get a little prize after depositing 30 plates.  The food and company was great and it was a blast.

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the crew visiting Michael’s own RV complete with tropical fish & exotic shrimp

3/1/19
Michael, Nicole, Wayne, Jaimie and John and I hiked up a mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park.  It was sunny and hot with a steep incline so it was quite the workout with great rewards at the summit- beautiful vistas.

Mission Trails Park summit has expansive views from the ocean and cityscape to surrounding hills and mountains. For some reason, no pix of people or dogs.

After the hike, we went to dinner at a pub in the North Park district and visited Nicole’s lovely apartment.

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our signature rock star picture outside a North Park neighborhood restaurant – near Nicole’s great  apartment in the Hillcrest neighborhood – she knows all the spots

Then we drove to La Jolla to see the gorgeous AirBNB that Wayne and Jaimie stayed in.

Wayne and Jaimie’s AirBNB was beautiful in and out, with stunning views from their living room and balcony over the pool to the entire city skyline, plus one of Wayne outside looking in.

3/4/19
We hosted Michael and Sam for dinner at our RV.  Nicole and her friend, Laura joined us too for a BBQ at the campsite.  We had such a great time, we actually partied past quiet time and had to turn in.

——-What !!?? —- Again I drop the ball with no pix of our big campsite BBQ with Nicole, her friend Laura and dog Ollie, along with Michael and Sam!!!!———–???????

 

a few pix of San Diego/Coronado Beach special dog park section!, next to the gigantic SD naval base – and a few from the hillsides surrounding our RV park.

3/8/19

Today we pack up and leave beautiful San Diego and head towards Desert Hot Springs.  We had a great time visiting friends and family, enjoying several dinners (Michael’s treat), a great romp at Coronado dog beach and just tooling around this lovely city.  Now to parts unknown where we don’t have any friends (yet) or family.  Time to regroup and plan for the second 6 months of our adventure.

KOA Palm Springs/Joshua Tree, Desert Hot Springs, CA

3/8/19-cont.
Desert Hot Springs is surrounded by Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and several other well known places including Coachella.  The drive here was moving along rather smoothly until we were within 20 miles or so of our destination.  At that point, the infamous desert winds kicked up and we had to contend with 55 mph gusts.  Luckily we made it to this KOA in the middle of the desert but close to lots of fun places.

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En route to Palm Springs. The desert between mountain ranges is like a wind tunnel. Here you can just see that there are thousands of wind turbines at work.

3/10/19
We have been here for two nights and have explored the area and hiked a 5.6 moderately strenuous hike through the desert.

The desert temps were not bad in March, hitting the 80’s. They had some rain and wildflowers were pretty common.

Our neighbors are a family of five who have over a million followers on you tube following their “Epic Family Road Trip” which included a stretch in New Zealand.  They actually had their Jeep outfitted with a tent and plumbing, shipped to NZ.  Go to their you tube channel and follow their wild adventure.  I can’t even imagine traveling in such small space with three teenagers.

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We have a blog – they have their own You Tube channel with over a million followers, an RV and a jeep modified for tent living among lots of other cool stuff!  At this time, we would like to thank our own  followers – thanks to the both of you for your support!

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Of course it takes all types – this fellow’s sign advertises sale of his book ‘101 Ways to Tell the World to Kiss Your Ass’.  We didn’t buy it at this time, but it’s obviously working for him.

3/12/19
There are some exquisite golf courses here in the Palm Springs area, as you might expect.  John decided it was time to find out why his wedge shots were not where he liked them to be so he booked an hour long lesson with a golf pro, Craig Freeman at the LaQuinta Resort and Golf Club.  I thought I had already seen the most beautiful course back in Arizona but this one sure gives it a run for the money.  The golf lesson was also very interesting  as the instructor captures every aspect of the swing on camera and shows you what to correct.

Palm Springs is known for golf – (Bob Hope’s Desert Classic), and one course is more beautiful than the next. Of course, we’re not allowed on the really famous, or even slightly famous ones. (We didn’t really want to play them anyway).

After the lesson, we took Baker (for the second time) to a beautiful dog park in Rancho Mirage where he frolicked with his pals.  Then we went to the driving range to practice and apply the tips from the lesson, followed by a lovely dinner out.  When we returned to the campground, the wind was unbelievable.  This campground just sits in a wind tunnel and we had some crazy gusts (probably up to 60mph).  Our trailer held up just fine.
3/17/19
We have been enjoying this area so much that we extended our stay several days.

the view from behind our rig, and on the nearby roads – the San Jacinto mountain range.

Over the last several days we have visited a casino, hiked another rather strenuous trail and went golfing (Golfing at the Sands RV Resort and hiking the Kim Nicol 5.6 mile trail and the S. Lykken 6 mile trail).

Views from the Lykken hiking trail just south of Palm Springs

We also visited the Palm Springs Village Fest which is a huge crafts fair that takes place every Thursday night in the winter months.  We’ve also spent time just relaxing in our trailer and at the campground.  The weather has been glorious so it is just pleasant sitting around the picnic table.

Palm Springs in evening and at night. – Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, and Coachella really make up one continuous resort city in the desert, with their own versions of ‘Rodeo Drive’ and more.

Unfortunately, our new neighbors (people come and go) have several little dogs that bark all day long which has made it a little less appealing.  Hopefully they will check out today- we’ll see.
We spent our St. Patty’s Day at Joshua Tree National Park.   It’s a huge park with acres and acres of open land sprinkled with those funky looking Joshua trees that had to be the inspiration for some Dr. Seuss illustrations.  The park is also covered with interesting rocky, craggy formations that rock climbers take delight in.  We took a few short strolls with Baker because dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails and then we just drove for 14 miles or so through the park enjoying the scenery.  The park is so huge, we could have kept driving 20 more miles but we called it a day and headed back to see about a traditional St. Patty’s Day dinner at a pub.

Joshua Tree National Park. You can just see some of the tiny rock-climbers – God bless ’em!

Apparently there are not a lot of Irish pubs in Palm Springs.  We found one that had recently opened and it looked perfect.  When we arrived, they told us that they weren’t serving food due to a power outage.  We tried hunting for another pub but had no luck finding one that was “dining friendly” so we just settled for paninis at a regular restaurant.  I’m not sure if I could settle in a place with no corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty’s Day.
3/18/19
Today is our final day here in the desert.  John went to the driving range and then we went to Planet Fitness again.  Tomorrow, we begin our trip north.  We don’t have a reservation anywhere until the following day because we want to see how close we can get to our next place in Oakdale, CA outside of Modesto.

Table Mountain Casino, Friant, CA

3/19/19
We left our KOA right on time at 11:00am and began our journey into the heart of darkness….the CALIFORNIA FREEWAY TRAFFIC. Our next reserved campground is around 6.5 hours away so we were trying to get somewhere north of the halfway point (Bakersfield).  We made it past Bakersfield in fairly good time and headed towards Fresno.  We were actually aiming for a casino northeast of Fresno in Friant.  As we approached the Fresno area, our GPS encouraged us to leave the highway and take a detour due to heavy traffic.  Since that is risky with an RV, we decided to just grit our teeth and stay on the highway.  Well- what a fiasco.  We were stuck in the worst traffic for miles and miles.  Our 4 hour trip turned into an 8 hour journey but we finally made it to the casino that allows overnight parking for RVs.  The lot wasn’t level at all so it felt like we were sleeping on a boat but it was good enough to get through one night.  We got to gamble a little and get some rest for tomorrow’s trip.

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A cool looking eagle inside TableRock casino – winning blackjack again! (no jinx please) – but Susan can’t seem to crack those slot machines (again)

Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, CA

3/20/19
We arrived in Oakdale, CA late in the afternoon after missing our turn which was similar to our episode back in Vermont.  The entrance to the reservoir is off a road aptly named 26 mile road.  It is a 2 lane road surrounded by farmland with no place to turn around a 35′ fifth wheel.  Luckily we found a spot around 10 miles down the road and made it to our destination.
The reservoir is very pretty and peaceful.  The water level is down right now but it still looks lovely.  We are here for fourteen nights and plan to relax for several days and unwind.  This is the central valley of Cali right between Yosemite and San Francisco so we will be taking some road trips over the next two weeks for sure.

Pretty serene and peaceful around the reservoir in central CA, complete with a couple of rainbows. In one picture, you can see some of the expanse of agricultural land this area is known for, particularly cherry tree orchards around us (irrigated by these reservoirs), –  there can typically be thundershowers one place and sunny & beautiful somewhere else nearby.
Oakdale CA is a nice medium/small town that bills itself as ‘cowboy capital of the world’. We honestly didn’t see that many cowboys, but they do have a cowboy museum and the big time rodeo makes a stop here.

3/22/19
We haven’t done much of anything over the last two days.  It’s been very relaxing and quiet.  Tomorrow we plan to begin exploring some of the large towns nearby.  First stop- Planet Fitness in Modesto.

3/23/19
Modesto means modest in Spanish and that is a perfect description.  It looks like a typical, flat, US suburb.  Nothing special.  Perhaps I am getting spoiled by places with beautiful landscapes and mountain views.

3/24/19
To the east of our campground is Yosemite National Park.  What a difference! We spent 4 hours getting to and driving through Yosemite and it was spectacular.  You can drive less than a mile and go from snow lined roads to bright, warm blue skies.  Despite seeing many photos- even Ansel Adams’ work, nothing prepares you for the splendor of this place.  It is a similar feeling you get when you first approach the rim of the Grand Canyon.  It takes your breath away.  The adventure begins before you even arrive. The road leading in is one of the curviest, scariest ever.  I couldn’t believe that the speed limit was 55.  You could not possibly go that fast without flying off the side of a cliff….and the scenery along the way is awe inspiring.  To get to the park from the west, you have to drive through Stanislaw National Forest which is also beautiful.  Again, I will let the photos do the talking.

the road in, and then Yosemite and El Capitan – you could just keep snapping pictures all day.

3/28/19
I drove 2 hours south to Fresno to spend the afternoon with a dear old friend from back in my rehab counseling days at Kings Park Psychiatric Center.  Toni and I worked together from 1980-1983 and I hadn’t seen her for many years.  She lives in a beautiful home in Fresno with her roommate, James and loads of animals including her guide dog Adora.

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Susan’s friend from way back, Toni Eames and guide dog Adora

We had fun reminiscing about old times and catching up on our lives over the last 3 decades.

3/30/19
My 64th birthday.  To celebrate my pre-Medicare eligible birthday, we booked a hotel in south San Francisco and tooled around this incredibly picturesque city.

Entering SF from Oakland – the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge is a complex of bridges overlooking the city and Alcatraz Island – and even the Golden Gate bridge far north

We had dinner at a classic North Beach Italian restaurant, then walked up Lombard Street, the crookedest street in America which also shares its name with the street we first lived on in North Babylon.  Then we walked over to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Again, the photos will tell the story.

Cars (and Susan) going down famous Lombard St in SF. Interestingly, we used to live long ago on the second most famous (I think) Lombard St – in North Babylon, LI, NY
Day into eve in SF – the trolleys, the streets & people and the ‘Backyard Party Kings’ were all happening. We ate at Sodini’s – good old school Italian – their blurb sez “no decaf, no dessert, no reservations” – we were able to get a small table.
The bay, the bridges, Fisherman’s wharf,  John the bartender, and other nightlife were all happening on a beautiful (and warm) SF night (Eric Burdon’s Haight-Ashbury on another day).

3/31/19
Today we drove to Santa Cruz to enjoy a more serene day of hiking in a spectacular redwood forest- Henry Cowell State Park,

This fallen giant Redwood sprouted before the birth of Christ and the Chinese invention of paper. I can’t help but editorialize – if there was no private and public action taken at the time (John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt among others, which would lead to the creation of the National Park Service) the Redwoods of California would be a memory – they were already being cut and would otherwise have been logged to extinction over a hundred years ago
Henry Cowell State Park is a walkable redwood extravaganza. They have additional trails that go up the river where some people are even swimming happily.

followed by a tour of the coast and Santa Cruz boardwalk area.  We drove to the very spot where the new Jordan Peele movie, “US” was filmed overlooking Seabright beach.

Santa Cruz/Seabright beach works its way into:
the Boardwalk/Amusement Park area.
We hadn’t seen Jordan Peele’s new suspense, horror movie ‘Us’ which is partly based here, but they say one of the pivotal scenes takes place in one of the seaside houses in plain view – maybe one of these?
Back up the beautiful coastline towards SF on Rt 1

California is truly a beautiful state but there are a few negatives including super expensive gas, coupled with horrific traffic jams. On our way to San Francisco and Santa Cruz, we hit some insane traffic and there is no explanation for it- just too many cars and not enough roads.  While sitting in traffic, you are burning gas/diesel that costs upwards of $4.00 per gallon.  The gas station by our hotel was charging $4.29 for regular unleaded gas.

4/1/19
Last day of our birthday side trip.  After checking out of our south San Francisco La Quinta (they allow dogs), we had a bite to eat at a very funky old diner and drove back into the city to Haight Ashbury.

A true potpourri of colors and lifestyles, Haight-Ashbury may be doing better right now celebrating its heritage than at any time since its hippie heyday – street people et al. ‘Pipe Dreams’ and ‘Bound Together – the Anarchist Collective Bookstore’ have stayed in business over 50 years (although sadly we talked to the original bookstore owner who’s getting on and doesn’t see his brainchild’s future so brightly now). Susan even found a yarn store (it was expensive).

From there, we we drove across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito.

from Haight-Ashbury through the rain to the north end and Presidio Park across the Golden Gate Bridge to green and hilly and expensive Sausalito.

On the trip back to the campground, we were once again plagued with horrific traffic that came out of nowhere.  We were stuck for over an hour traveling a short 2 mile span.  The crazy thing is that there are no alternate routes-simply not enough roads.  Finally arrived back to our camper in the evening, in the rain.  We have one more stop in California.  This is a very big state you know.  We will take a few days to relax and prepare for our next trip to the Redding area.

Next time—–

Soon to finish California (finally) & up the Oregon coast (with Nick from Nowhere) and onto Washington/Seattle/Tacoma with cousin Matt and nephew/niece-in-law Derek & Olga!

California Here We Come

Kern River Campground, Bakersfield, CA

2/14/19

Well, the weather was horrible today with tons of rain, flooded roads and very high winds.  It was a bit terrifying at times traveling with this kind of wind but we arrived (finally) at Kern River Campground in Bakersfield and will be dry camping for 7 nights. Let’s see how our new batteries hold up.  We have a slightly crazy neighbor who is sleeping in his truck and the smell of marijuana is everywhere, but HEY-it’s California.

2/16/19

Yesterday it continued to pour much of the day which is apparently a blessing because the locals say it helps with the horrible smog they deal with on a daily basis.  Apparently, Bakersfield, CA has some of the most polluted air in the country.  It is also usually very brown and dirty looking but they’ve had so much rain, it is actually very green and lustrous with beautiful rolling hills and mountain ranges.  We were told that those gorgeous hills and mountains are usually encased in smog.

entering Bakersfield CA – known for smog & brown hills was mostly clear and green while we were there – green in several ways – like the rest of the west coast states.

We ate breakfast at a highly rated diner in the Oildale neighborhood of Bakersfield.  The short drive there was very interesting as we passed through beautiful park lands and into vast Chevron oil fields with those weird oil drills all over the place that remind me of the creatures from the Alien movies.

Despite the dingy surrounding neighborhood, the breakfast was amazing.  I had one of the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever eaten- a chili verde burrito- YUM.  The restaurant is an oasis in ugly Oildale where the air smelled like an oil burner puff back.

We spent the remainder of the day shopping for my wedding accessories- shoes, jewelry, etc. for the upcoming wedding in Santa Barbara, CA- next week.

2/17/19

We’ve had an unusual amount of rain as Bakersfield is usually extremely dry.  Today the sun is finally shining and everything is intensely green.  The scenery around our park is breathtaking with lush green mountains on the near horizon and snow capped beauties lurking behind.

the snowcapped mountains in the far distance mostly stayed under cloud cover

Everything you read about Bakersfield, CA is kind of scary and negative but there are some beautiful areas.  There are some really run down areas too and I’ve witnessed some strange goings on.  First, a man camping at the park with us needed a jump.  He asked numerous campers and they all said, “No, I don’t give jumps”.  What”?!  Of course, John helped him out.

Despite some social difficulties in town and elsewhere, the campsite was beautiful – Lake Ming was picturesque, people living on the hilltops there have a great view, and we even had a horse hanging out across the river.

Later, John had to run into Lowe’s to purchase something and I, being very sick of Lowe’s, waited in the truck.  It was broad daylight but I heard tormented screaming coming from the corner of the lot.  A young, disheveled looking man was pacing, screaming and punching at the air violently.  I’ve seen my fair share of mentally ill people but this poor soul seemed to be so painfully tormented, it was really upsetting.  He was across the large parking lot but then started making his way rapidly towards me.  I scooted down in the locked truck and hid.  He kept going and disappeared from sight.

Right after that, we drove around the corner to an auto parts store.  Again, I waited in the truck and watched another young man climb into the garbage dumpster, picking through the bags.  All you have to do is travel around and across the country to see that we  are not adequately providing for our people.  I don’t have the answers but some of the neighborhoods I’ve seen have certainly raised many questions.  It’s not like we haven’t seen poverty, homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues before.  It’s just eye opening how widespread it is. When you travel to places you have never been before, you tend to pay closer attention and the evidence of income inequality is everywhere.

Last night, we hate dinner at a local pizza tavern type place close to our campground called Tony’s Firehouse Grill.  There were firefighter related decorations and lots of space for a variety of patrons.  One large room catered to family gatherings with video games lining the walls for the kiddies.  We ate in the dining area near the bar.  We had just received our food when the fire alarms went off and they were blaring.  We looked around and absolutely no one was leaving.  It was weird.  It turned out that someone’s kid pulled the fire alarm.  Who does that?  We were there for another 40 minutes or so eating our dinner and the fire department still hadn’t arrived to turn off the alarm.  We all received 20% off our bills because of the inconvenience.  It was particularly ironic since it was a firehouse tavern.  Bakersfield just has a weird vibe.  It just does.

This morning another camper here asked John for a jump.  This woman and her husband/boyfriend/whatever are camping in a very broken down trailer with a tarp covering the roof.  It’s a total wreck.  She needed a jump for her car and her partner drives a beat up old truck (probably not capable of giving a jump) with a completely shattered front windshield (reminiscent of the opening scene of Ace Ventura Pet Detective) and a piece of cardboard for a back windshield.  His muffler is also shot to hell so you can hear him coming from a mile away.  The tag on their campsite indicates that they should have left around 6 days ago so I think they may be squatters.  I’m telling you- weird vibe here despite the idyllic scenery.

We did get to play 9 holes of golf at the Kern River Golf Course right next to our campground.  Our photos will show just how scenic this place is.

more green and blue on the county golf course adjacent to the campground

2/19/19

I had my hair colored and trimmed in a salon on the other end of Bakersfield, around 20 miles away.  The salon was very spa like and it reminded me of some of the high end salons on Long Island.  My stylist Jeanette did a great job though I will always miss my Poughkeepsie girl, Jenn.  This neighborhood in Bakersfield was lovely and seemed more California like.  We decided to leave our campground one day early as we’ve had our fill of Bakersfield and it’s time to move on to full hookups. Despite our new batteries, it’s been so cold at night, we’ve run out of juice a few times.  When the battery gets low and the alarm starts screaming, we have to shut off the furnace in the middle of the night.  This morning our thermometer read 44 degrees inside the trailer.  Thank God for the down comforter from Micki Mueller (back in Ocala).  Love you Micki.

Lake Casitas Recreation Area, Ventura, CA

2/20/19

Today we drive to Lake Casitas Recreation Area in beautiful Ventura with full “executive” hookups.  I am looking forward to that.  When I asked them for directions, I could hardly keep from laughing as it sounded like she was reading a line from the SNL skit, “The Californians”.  She said, “Take the 5 to the 126 to the 101 to the 33 until it is about to end, etc.”

Wonderful views of mountains and a group of hawks –  from a mountain campsite in SoCal.
Going down the mountain had more wonderful views of coastline and steep turns – to the promised land!

2/24/19

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity in the stunning Ojai-Carpenteria-Santa Barbara area.  I will let John’s photos tell the story for the most part.  Our campsite is up in the mountains of Ojai/Oakview and it’s gorgeous with spectacular mountain views.  We are around 20 minutes from the beaches of Carpenteria and 30 minutes from Santa Barbara.  Wherever you go around this area, you can’t avoid incredible vistas.  We are here in the area for our dear friends’ Angelo and Amy’s son Eric’s wedding.  Eric is marrying a lovely young woman, Nicole, who grew up in Carpenteria.  We arrived a couple of days before the wedding so we had the opportunity to walk the bluffs of Carpenteria with the Pacific Ocean on one side and green lush mountains on the other side.

The Carpenteria Bluffs. – “Has wonderful views” becomes an overused description on the Carpenteria/Santa Barbara coast. I can’t remember anywhere else I’ve been with such stunning coastline, mountain ranges and cosmopolitan towns all in such close proximity to each other.

The day before the wedding, the bride and groom hosted a welcome party on the beach in Santa Barbara and the festivities officially began.

a stunning couple in a stunning place, soon to be Mrs. and Mr. Vivelo – Nicole and Eric. And we get to hang out with them until they may just be tired of all of us. – Then they get on a plane and head (with almost all our friends) back to NY.
Besides Nicole and Eric, there were at least 4 other rock stars (that I knew of) there, and me and Russell got to hang out with a couple of them.   – Joan, Susan, Joyce, & Amy (Eric’s Mom)
We hung out at a posh Santa Barbara restaurant Friday, outside at sunset with Martin and Joyce, and Joan and Russ.

We were able to see our friends from Long Island (Angelo and Amy, Wayne and Jaimie, Russ and Joan, Martin and Joyce)  and had a blast.  The wedding was amazing as you will see from the photos.  Prior to the ceremony, all the guests were treated to a trolley ride around this beautiful place.

Trolley ride to the wedding site, we were in trolley #4, I think – the grown-ups trolley. Wayne & Jaimie, Russ & Joan behind them & Ang’s brother Carl & Sherry behind them.  Ang’s brother James with their mom – Jo (& sister Li behind them with hubby Gary). — Russ laughs while Wayne flips me the bird.
with nothing to do but drink wine and take photos, we took a tour of posh Santa Barbara on a beautiful day

Then the ceremony followed in the sunken garden of the gorgeous Santa Barbara courthouse followed by a rocking reception at El Paseo in SB.

the Santa Barbara Courthouse for the service
All dressed up – Angelo with his crutches (explained later), Susan with Jeff (A&A’s bro-in-law), Martin and Jeff make scary faces, Jaimie & Wayne, and ‘the crew’ for the last 2 centuries (minus Angelo & Amy)
The wedding – Eric with his mom, Mikey (son #2) as escort, Amy helps Angelo, Nicole with Dad, & the beautiful couple
the reception at El Paseo – the gang, Amy gets to dance with Eric, and Da Boyz – a lot of action but my pix started to dwindle as my senses started to get more and more fuzzy. Lots & lots of happy people.

Everything was perfect with only one mishap.  Angelo, the father of the groom tripped at the welcome party and suffered a bad injury to his ankle so he had to walk on crutches and could barely do that.  Ugh!Ang Cast

 

 

Epilogue ——weeks later – Angelo’s specially designed Let’s go Mets cast after complicated broken heel bone surgery. We thought it was a sprained ankle.

 

 

 

Today we will reunite with our pals for a brunch at the bride’s parent’s home in Carpenteria.

on the Carpenteria Bluffs  again with sea lions, pelicans, and seagulls – and Baker really does love a beach.

Finally, we have now actually accomplished the biggest concrete scheduling goal of our trip (6 months later) – make it to the church (courthouse) on time.

 

Lots, lots more yet to come in CA – Michael lives there and It’s a BIG state

 

 

 

 

Pecan Plantation, Granbury, Texas (continued)

1/6/19

We have had glorious weather over the last day or so. It has been sunny and 70 during the day, dropping into the 40’s at night.  Yesterday we spent the day in Fort Worth which is a very clean, beautiful city.  We went to Sundance Square and there were hardly any people around which was strange for such a glorious, sunny Saturday.  Barbara figured out that all of Texas was probably indoors watching the Houston Texans play in the afternoon and the Cowboys play in the evening- Wild Card Weekend.

            A clean city – Ft Worth ‘Sundance Square’ with Bank of America bldg.                                                  and County Courthouse/Clock Tower (built with pink Texas Granite)

After Sundance Square, we headed over to the famous Stockyard District which is a very happening place.  I guess that’s where all the people were hanging out,  We enjoyed some drinks at Billy Bob’s and did a little browsing in the “western” shops.   I wish I had the courage to ride a mechanical bull- it would have been good fodder for this blog.

         Ft Worth  (particularly the ‘Stockyard District) is ‘Cowtown’  –                                                                      with real bull riding inside Billy Bob’s, the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk”. They also like statues.

We have extended our stay here to enjoy some more warm weather and family fun with the Johnson’s, but we also extended our stay out of necessity.  John confessed that he had been experiencing pain and tightening in his right shoulder/clavicle area for a second straight day following our most recent visit to Planet Fitness – disturbingly similar to the symptoms he had (which we also at first assumed was a muscular problem) before his stent and subsequent surgery.  Barbara is a medical professional and has worked for years at the Glen Rose Hospital.  She knows all the staff there and now works for their family clinic here in Granbury.  With that in mind, we all drove to the ER in Glen Rose and John had an EKG and lab work.  Luckily things looked good enough that he was released and advised to follow up with the cardiologist….so here we are, sticking around at the Pecan Plantation’s RV park, which happens to be a great place to be – spacious, beautiful, and not crowded this time of year.  John has an appointment for an echo on 1/10 and a cardiology follow up on 1/11.  We are reserved here until 1/13 so we are all set.

1/7/19

Since John was told to take it easy until he sees the doc, he has been going a little stir crazy.  We decided to take an overnight trip and head south to Austin, Texas.  There is an open mic jazz jam in downtown Austin at the Elephant Room every Monday night so off we go.  It is 3 hours away so we are going to stay in a hotel and tour around all day Tuesday as well.

Austin at night is a musically happening place.–‘Austin City Limits!’

We checked into the hotel in the late afternoon, rested a bit and then headed out for a fabulous dinner at the Roaring Fork, followed by the jam session at the underground Elephant Room.  It was a terrific jam session.  The guy leading it was a great emcee and a very accomplished jazz trumpet player.  The musicians were top notch and players came from all over the country including NYC, Minnesota, Illinois and even San Juan, PR.  John sat in on two tunes and was amazing.  He hasn’t lost his touch.

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Sittin in at Austin’s jazz jam at the Elephant Room

1/8/19

We toured all around Austin attempting to see the top rated must see sites according to US News and World Reports.  Several of the top attractions are located on the sprawling campus of the University of Texas, Austin.  The weather was perfect. even a little too warm in the mid-afternoon.  It actually climbed up into the 80’s- not bad for January.  We walked many miles across campus to see the LBJ Library and lo and behold, it was closed due to the government shutdown.

University of Texas at Austin, including Susan hobnobbing with LBJ outside his gigantic library (closed for Govt. shutdown), and what I thought might be a sculpture tribute to ‘LBJ’s balls’ outside the clock tower —  but was just a regular sculpture. Also the football stadium for the famous ‘Texas Longhorns’, Governor James Hogg (1895), and MLK.

Then we walked even further across campus to the clock tower hoping to get a tour up to the observation deck.  We got to the tower lobby and there was a sign indicating that tours are by appointment.  I called the number and was told that the tower is closed for winter break.  We walked all the way back across and just outside the campus and finally had success seeing the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  Of course the 45 minute IMAX film we were hoping to see was only shown in the early afternoon but we did spend a very fascinating couple of hours learning about Texas’ unique history.  I imagine this is the only state that can celebrate 2 separate independence days.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is big and interesting. Texas has a long and complicated history –  it was first Native American, then a Spanish territory, then part of Mexico, and then its own country. Finally TX became a US state –  just before joining the Confederacy, after which it was    a US state again.                                                                                                                                                                   So far, Texas and New York are tied for the most self-referencing states. The ‘Lone Star’ is ubiquitous – these are particularly large ones.

After the museum, we headed over to the gorgeous state capital building made entirely of pink Texas granite.  It is huge, – bigger than the US capital, but everything is bigger in Texas  they say.  Our final stop was Zilker Park across the river.  Unfortunately, it was already dark and there is tons of traffic in Austin during rush hour so we didn’t stay too long.  We did get to see the city skyline from the river’s edge in the park and then we headed into the insane traffic to return to Granbury.

More Austin – the TX state capitol bldg (also made from famous pink Texas granite) and its rotunda and dome – with  figures from Texas’ drive for independence: Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett

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trying to get out of Austin through major traffic: Its skyline at night

1/19/19

Well, we are still on our extended stay here in Granbury.  John had his echo cardiogram and met with his Texas cardiologist Dr. Patel .  He also has a New York Dr. Patel- no joke. The results showed some overall capacity loss and of course, we were concerned until the doctor explained that it was really very close to normal. He also ordered an additional stress test and arterial ultrasound causing an additional extension here in Granbury through this weekend.  Happily, everything looks OK and the doctor recommended only that John get a checkup every six months.  He gave us the green light to get back on the road and even joked that we could find another Dr. Patel anywhere we go.  So we are back on track, and this time his symptoms actually were likely due to a muscle strain.

Leaving Granbury

It’s truly been a blessing to be in the loving care of my sister-in-law and her wonderful adult children, Jessie and Richie, (and dogs everywhere).  We’ve shared some great meals together, visited  many local sites, and were made to feel at home with family in the middle of the lone star state.

from New Years thru most of January with family in TX
A few more pix of Jessie’s tiny house ( featured on TV on ‘Tiny House Hunters”) and Richie at the archery range near the campground (with plastic targets)
Dog daze  – Baker, Duece and Penny

 

         the Acton Nature Center & Dinosaur Valley St Park – Dinosaurs courtesy of 1964 NY Worlds Fair – and actual real preserved & submerged dino tracks

Down the road from the park is the Creation Evidence Museum.  I kid you not. John went to see what it was all about and they claimed to have evidence of human life existing with the dinosaurs, as well as other exhibits related to creationism  supporting a literal view of the Bible’s book of Genesis.

1/20/19

Spent our last evening in Granbury at Barbara’s house watching football with the family.  We ended our wonderful 3 week stay by viewing the Super Blood Wolf Moon in Barbara’s backyard.  It was a totally clear night so we had an excellent view of the entire eclipse event.  It was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, the pictures didn’t reflect what we were actually seeing.  We saw a red moon with a red glow as it encased in shadow during the eclipse.

The campground and Lake Granbury at sunset, the Brazos River which surrounds the Pecan Plantation development, and Super Blood Wolf Moon in eclipse. (Native Americans called it Wolf Moon for the  hungry & howling wolves at this point in the season. Blood for the hue in eclipse – it was actually much darker and redder in person), and horses take to the field across from us.

Lake Medina RV Resort, Lakehills, Texas

1/21/19

Moved southwest and on to  Lake Medina RV Resort in Lakehills, Texas around 45 miles west of  San Antonio.  This place is truly a hidden gem and I mean hidden.  We arrived after dark and the ride up to the campground was quite hairy with a 5th wheel.  It is so far off the beaten path but so gorgeous–it’s worth the death defying drive (that really is an exaggeration).  The campground is on a large, beautiful lake and the occupants are mostly seasonal residents who come back every year.  Everyone has been super nice and it is a very active community with lots of planned activities in the clubhouse.  We got the last spot and the only reason we got in is due to a death in the family of the people who usually rent for the winter.  The people all seem to know each other but they are not at all intrusive or annoying.  The only downside to the campground is the fact that it is so remote.  You can’t run out to do much shopping without driving down several “farm to market” Texas roads, all of which have signs warning that the roads can flood.  Thank goodness it hasn’t rained.

Lake Medina TX

1/22/19                                          San Antonio

Spent a lovely day in San Antonio. John had never been there so we had to take a stroll on the Riverwalk, visit the Alamo and then eat dinner and listen to a jazz quartet in the Pearl Brewery District.

At the center of the Pearl district stands the Hotel Emma which began as a brewery founded by Otto Koehler in 1883.  The hotel is named after Otto’s wife Emma who ran the brewery after Otto’s untimely death.  There is a very interesting backstory about this family.  In 1910, Emma was hurt in an accident and Otto hired a nurse to care for her,  It just so happened that the nurse’s name was Emma.  Emma, the nurse would sometimes invite her friend, Emma #3 (nicknamed Emmi) to the Koehler home.  Both Emma’s ended up having an affair with Otto.  The story doesn’t end well for poor Otto.  Emma #2 ended up shooting and killing him in 1914.  She admitted to the murder but was acquitted by an all male jury.

The beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk, with ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue and the Briscoe Western Art Museum (with more dynamic cowboys/horses/cattle rusting statues)
The Alamo – Originally a Spanish Mission in San Antonio turned fort for the original Texians in their drive toward independence. ‘The Shrine of Texas Liberty’ was a complete defeat for the Texians to the Mexican army (15 years after the Mexicans ousted the Spanish from Mexico and its territories). However, ‘Remember the Alamo’ quickly became a rallying cry for, and was soon followed by Texas independence later in 1836. Texas was its own country until 1845 when it joined the union. In 1861 it joined the confederacy but rejoined the union at the end of the Civil War. Like we said it’s complicated.
San Antonio ‘Pearl District’ with Pearl Brewery and Emma Hotel and live jazz that night.

1/23/19

Today we drove a little over an hour to a really nice town in Texas’ hill country called Fredericksburg,  Interesting that we have visited 2 different Fredericksburgs (both very nice) and a Frederick.  Fredericksburg TX is a historic town with many original buildings from the 1800’s.  There is a bustling main street with lots of great shops and restaurants and many storefront wineries.  Apparently this is the heart of Texas wine country.  The city was settled by Germans and their heritage is definitely evident in the town with the town square called Market Platz.

Fredericksburg TX was founded in 1846 by German pioneers and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. The Vereins Kirche was built soon after in what became the ‘Market Platz’ and was first public building in the town. It served as a town hall, school, fort, and a church for all denominations. This was also the original site of the Pioneer Museum.

There is an amazing museum at the corner of main street – National Museum of the Pacific War.

The National Museum of the Pacific War has vast walls of plaques dedicated to the men, women, and ships that served in the Pacific during WW II and includes the ‘Plaza of the Presidents’.
Fredericksburg is the birthplace of the Navy’s most famous commander during the war – Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz, and the beautiful  Admiral Nimitz museum is nearby

Nimitz_Museum,_Fredericksburg,_Texas

 

In 1976, Japan gifted the museum with ‘the Japanese Garden of Peace’. It was modeled after the private garden of a Japanese Naval Commander from the 30’s that Nimitz had admired.

We took a short hike up Cross Mountain featuring a large cross at the peak.  In the mid 1800s, a German immigrant named John Durst was given a plot of land that included this hilltop.  He found the remains of the original timber cross, thought to be left by Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s.  Another cross was erected on the same hilltop.  A hundred years later, the local Catholic Church erected a new cross that still stands today- a steel cross with lights to celebrate the beautiful city of Fredericksburg.

Cross Mountain near Fredericksburg TX

After our short hike, we dined at one of the city’s famous German restaurants.  I had chicken jaeger schnitzel which brought back fond memories of the Mountain Brauhaus back home in Gardner/New Paltz.

Fort Stockton RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas

1/24/19

Today we left the hilly, green, pretty hill country in Texas and headed west on the famous (or infamous) I-10 into West Texas.  The topography in this part of the state is totally different.  As we were driving down the highway, it occurred to me that we could be in Egypt. Some of the rock shapes looked like pyramids and everything was very brown.  The speed limit on the highway in West Texas is 80 mph which is simply too fast for us but we were going 73-75 mph and it caused us to get lousy gas mileage.  We used up a full 36 gallon tank of diesel fuel way faster than usual and had to find an exit to get more gas in a very desolate part of the state.  Luckily, there was an exit with 2 gas stations so we stopped.  It was incredibly weird and desolate.  It could have been a scene in a horror movie.  The gas was super expensive but we had to get some anyway. We were desperate.  The gas station building had bars on every window and there were at least 10-15 cats hanging around the building.  As I was heading out of the car to enter the building (to use the restroom), lo and behold, there appeared a wild boar.  It was so freaking weird- just hanging out with all the cats.  The ladies inside the gas station cautioned me to stay away from it- no problem there.  Yikes- where am I?  Our apologies for failing to snap a pic of the boar.

The Fort Stockton RV Park was actually very pleasant even though it was basically a large brown parking lot with desert like vegetation and weird wildlife sounds.  When we pulled in, we heard owls hooting and coyotes howling.  It was a perfect stopover for a 1 night stay and we didn’t even unhitch.  They have a very nice little BYOB restaurant right on site and the food was actually excellent.

Last stop in TX – West Texas’ Ft Stockton. Texas is a big state.

Hacienda RV Resort and Rally, Las Cruces, New Mexico

1/25/19

Off again to our next destination in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Very nice campground with well manicured sites and a lovely office and clubhouse.  I really like Las Cruces with its southwestern architecture and rocky, craggy mountains on the horizon.  The weather is sunny and pleasant, though we will have below freezing temps both nights we are here.  There is a very old Mexican village very close by and great trails around.

1/26/19

We hiked up Turtugas Mountain which is a sacred Pueblo site and a very challenging hike.  The climb was steep with views of Las Cruces and the neighboring Organ Mountain range.

Hiking Turtugas Mountain in Las Cruces NM

For dinner, we went to the original La Posta which is one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the US.  It is a very interesting adobe building and one of the rooms in the restaurant houses multiple tropical birds.

The once upon a time roaring old west & Mexican town of Mesilla. The church and famous La Posta Restaurant de Mesilla – located where Billy the kid, Pancho Villa and the stagecoach line all met back in the day.

The restaurant has been operating in some capacity since the 1840’s.  Back in the day, Billy the Kid was jailed right across the street and Ulysses S. Grant & Kit Carson are examples of two famous folks who stopped in at La Posta.  The food was marvelous.

Desert Diamond Casino, Tucson, AZ

1/27/19

Tonight we are parked for free at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson.  They are very welcoming to RVs and it feels very safe and secure.  Of course, we had to do a bit of gambling.  Luckily John tends to compensate for my slot machine losses with his blackjack wins.

Desert Diamond Casino in Tuscon AZ. They welcome RV’s to stay and park overnight. – There’s always something to do.

Mission View RV Resort, Tucson, AZ

2/2/19

We have been staying at this over 55 mobile home/RV resort community since 1/28/19 and have been busy exploring this beautiful Tucson area.  We both really like it here due to the perfect weather (in these winter months) and gorgeous 360 degree mountain views.

Tucson is beautiful in the Winter and Spring. Mountains are visible from everywhere and sunsets can be gorgeous.

This RV park is literally right around the corner from the casino on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. We have driven all around, particularly interested in the developments around the foothills of the various mountain ranges.  You just can’t beat the scenery.  This is definitely a possible place for an annual winter stay.

Downtown Tucson with churches and Scottish Masonic Temple

We haven’t taken any long hikes because many of them aren’t dog friendly but we did walk in a very lovely park called Agua Caliente.  We also played some golf and relaxed outdoors in beautiful 70 degree weather while the rest of the country was suffering through a polar vortex.

Tucson’s craft district with restaurants and pubs. The statue is a ‘Soldado de Cuera’ – the original Spanish guards when they called the area ‘New Spain’. Their thick leather vests ‘cuera’ could repel     arrows.                                                                                                                                                                     Hummingbirds like this area. Next to El Charro Cafe was a big black and silver metal box with a yellow book beneath it – maybe something from the last century.

3rd Boondocker’s Welcome Site in Surprise, Arizona

2/5/19

We arrived at this lovely home at the foothills of the White Tank Mountains northwest of Phoenix.  Our hosts, John and Darla have a 2.5 acre property in a very rural and peaceful location.  It is a bit further from downtown Phoenix than I expected but very pleasant. One would expect it to be very warm and dry but we are actually experiencing heavy rain on and off and rather cool conditions.  John and I drove away from the mountains into downtown Surprise and Sun City for a quick bite and a game of pool and the weather was much more temperate.  When we arrived back to the trailer, it was pouring.  Never expected this in a so-called desert.

the desert suburbs become just desert northwest of Phoenix

2/6/19

Drove 50 minutes into downtown Phoenix to meet an old friend, Jill for dinner. Jill and I were co-workers and co-directors of the HR department at Darby Group Companies back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  Jill still leads the HR function in what is now Darby Dental and they have a branch office here in Chandler, AZ.  It has been around 13-14 years since we last saw each other but it felt like it was just yesterday.  We had a great time catching up and reminiscing over a fabulous meal at The Arrogant Butcher.

Phoenix is another clean city that’s beautiful in the winter. We visited Susan’s friend & co-worker Jill, who happened to have business in AZ (shown with family: Graham and kids – Olivia, Owen and Finn)    The Talking Stick Arena (and resort) is where the Phoenix Suns basketball team plays.

2/8/19

Since we are “boondocking”, we rely on battery power at night.  Well, even though we are in the so called desert, it has gone down into the 30’s at night causing the furnace to kick on frequently, causing the coach battery to discharge, causing the CO2 detector to go off  (due to low battery power), causing us to jump out of bed at 4:00am.  Well, this just won’t do so we spent a day and a half hunting for better battery power.  Our host, John suggested that we switch from hybrid RV/Marine batteries to a true deep cycle battery.  We drove all over suburban Phoenix to several stores including one called “Batteries and Bulbs”.  We ended up purchasing 2- 6 volt golf cart batteries because they are true deep cycle batteries and can be connected to run in series, providing much more in terms of amp hours.  Don’t I sound knowledgeable?

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After spending the day shopping for the battery, we had to