Friday, February 27, 2009

Grand Canyon By Train- The Way It Was

When Teddy Roosevelt made his first trip to the Grand Canyon to see what all the fuss was about, he quickly realized he had visited a place that had to be preserved for all generations to come. He started the process of setting the canyon aside as a National Park, but it was actually Woodrow Wilson that finished the job some years later. I don't think there is anyone who hasn't heard of the Grand Canyon. And I imagine the number of people who haven't at least seen a picture of it are few and far between. We all know it's a big hole in the ground- bigger than any other, and that it's supposed to be beautiful. It is! Why do think they call it "grand?" But you have to see it to believe it...or certainly to fully appreciate it. Statistically it is 270 miles long and can be anywhere from about 5 to 18 miles across. But it averages 10 miles across, and even that is hard to fathom. There are some places on the south rim where you can look to the other side "kitty corner" and realize that you are seeing the rim on the other side some 80 miles away! On average the canyon is 5000 feet deep- one mile or darn close to it at most places. The river that looks like a little stream down in the bottom is the Colorado River and in many places is actually 300 feet across. Most river rapids are Class I through V, but these rapids are so amazingly huge that that scale can't do them justice, so there is 10 scale on this river and the ones you will see if you look closely at these photos are class 10 and class 7. Want a raft trip? The least number days for a trip is three. If you opt out after three days you have an 8 hour hike out of the canyon that the guides will tell you will feel like 8 days. Few can do it. Most just stay for the duration and ride it out. The float can be 200 miles or more, depending on the plan and take 10 days or so. And as if the canyon isn't amazing enough when you first look at it- you will quickly realize that its appearance is constantly changing. The light, the clouds, the shadows, the time of day, the angle of the sun or its being hidden behind a cloud for any period of time change the painting before your very eyes. You could see a hundred, a thousand photos taken from exactly the same place...and no two will ever look the same. Spectacular!

This is an auto nation. A half million tourists or more a year come to see the canyon. For a while they all came by car. The early visitors to the canyon had come by train until the service was discontinued due to lack of interest. Not any more. At peak times of the year, the beautifully restored trains will carry 1500 people a day to the south rim from the town of Williams on old Rt 66. The round trip covers 130 miles and takes about two and a quarter hours each way. Unless of course the train gets robbed, in which case it might take a little longer. And get robbed it does. It's all part of the package. A gun fight in Williams in the morning and a cowboy show to boot (get it? Boot?) Then board the train. Refreshments served along the way. Some live Navajo music by Clarence Clearwater. A buffet lunch upon arrival. Then a couple hours along the rim by bus, with stops for awe inspired gawking and photo ops. Say hello to the mules. Back on the train. Hey, see that herd of elk? Robbery of the train somewhere along the route back to town (what a clever way to make sure the entertainers get tipped- YES, they really DO rob you). Snacks and some Grand Canyon Champagne to ease the pain of the "stick up", then back into Williams by sunset- just in time to get your kicks on Rt 66 before sleepy time.

Now a word to the wise. Neither Williams nor Rt 66 is what it once was. America's Highway is not the hot action, party packing place it was in the olden days. In fact the conductor will tell you that you had best get your kicks between 8 and 8:15 because then the sleepy little town is gonna close right up. Or should I say down? Actually it isn't all that bad. But it is exemplary of the changes that have happened to small towns all across the country.

I forgot to mention the Hopihouse. The Native American Indians operate a store on the rim that sells their crafts, dolls, jewelry, Navajo rugs, etc. Pretty much all high end stuff. And very beautiful. With a price tag to boot. There's that boot joke again! But it was the authentic building that houses the store that really caught our eye. look for it in the slide show.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Rt 66

It was only a hop, skip, and a jump, to our next stop in Williams, AZ. If you never heard of this place, take comfort - me neither. But it is a destination immediately adjacent to the railroad line that carries you to the Grand Canyon by train. This time of year that is a good way to go. There are still large piles of snow all over the place here. And it's cold. And it's windy. But let's do this thing!!!! Since we arrived early in the day, we took a couple mile stroll on the old Rt 66 loop that makes up the downtown area of Williams. Plenty of old buildings. The images will tell you these are the signs and times of the 50's and 60's- surviving in the next century. I don't know if it's that big a deal, but it is fun. And fun is good. We are not here to see the past. We are here to hop on the train and go see the Grand Canyon. That is the mission for tomorrow. But for now, here are a few more images from the one and only "America's Highway", Rt 66.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kicks On Rt 66 ... OR... Jackass:The Slide Show

"Cookie. Cookie. Lend me your comb." Remember? An old TV show about Rt 66. Get your kicks on Rt 66! From Chicago to the Pacific. America's Main Street. Travel it today and you will see it is NOT a super highway. More like a little back country road. But nostalgia lives in the old buildings and businesses and venues that still survive along its original winding way. And nowhere is that more visible than in Oatman, Arizona. It was a boom and bust mining town several times over. A few of the old road houses are still beside the highway, though they serve a different purpose now than they did then. And when the mining cycle gave up its last big gasp around WWII, when mining of gold was declared a non essential service and essentially ended for the time being, the burros that were hauling the ore carts from the mine shafts were released into the desert to fend for themselves. It could have been the end of the burros just as it was the end of the mining as it had been known. But that is not what happened at all. The burros adapted to the desert and thrived out there. And the town of Oatman, which for all intents and purposes was a one horse (uh, make that one burro) economy, could have and probably should have become a mere ghost town---but didn't. The town refused to die. It embraced its past and the burros, and rather than eliminating them and driving them off, they invited them into town and built a tourist economy around them. Carrots are orange, not gold, but they sell enough of them so folks can feed the burros (more promotionally referred to as jackasses) and they have become the new gold for the old town. Bank heists and gun fights still happen in the streets (about every hour and a half and on schedule if the ambulance doesn't need to drive down main street). It's just plain fun.

You can buy hot sauce that is "whoop ass", "kick ass"...and every other phrase you can come up with along these lines. Same thing with t-shirts. You get the idea, smart ass? It's a town built on burros and donkeys, the old west, and the gold rush. Is it worth a ride out Rt 66 on a winding road around mountains and spectacular desert scenery? Well, you bet your ass it is! And don't forget to try a real buffalo burger with a side of burro ears!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bright Lights of Las Vegas

Culture Shock! It's the only way I can think of to explain what it felt like to go from a gold camp in the Mojave Desert where the only light after sunset came from the stars in the heavens above to Las Vegas. In the desert, it was essentially dark. It was quiet. It was peaceful. But Las Vegas? It is bright, maybe brighter at night than it is during the day. It is loud. It is busy with the hustle and bustle of people and cabs and come-ons and airplanes that, despite any talk of a poor economy make non-stop landings and take-offs from the airfield not too far off The Strip. It is exciting. Stimulating. Awe-inspiring. A tribute to the excesses of mankind. An over the top look at the wild side of the world that has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with what is truly wild and natural. Still, I am glad to have seen this. Once! And I guess I should acknowledge that I have probably logged more miles walking up and down the strip, taking pictures and looking aghast at the sights than any other "hike" I have ever made. There isn't the Grace- but it is an Amazing place. A slow Sunday night here has the tendency to make New Year's Eve in Times Square seem like "Time Out."

A couple comments in review if you will permit it:

We got a seat with only a short wait at the Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand. We have never been able to wait the wait in any other city to give it a try. It was OK. Which after all the hype makes it a bummer. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't all that good. And for sure it wasn't great. Oh well. Been there, done that. Every time I make a comment about "food" on the road and on the blog, my dad thinks I eat more than I do anything else. Wrong! And I'm nothing of a food critic. But I eat three a day like the rest of you, so if I lay out good money for something cooked other than by my "honey", who is a consistently good provider of three squares a day that are fun to eat, than I'm gonna have something to say about it- end of report!

The Trump Tower, whether you love or loathe "The Donald", is simply amazing. It's like the tallest, most magnificent gold nugget ever! It shines and shimmers in even the slightest amount of sunlight and sends shimmers and shivers up and down the strip. It towers over everything, and seeing that alone was worth the price of admission. Maybe I'll try out for The Apprentice next time around!

We wandered into a few casinos if for no other reason than to see the splendor and opulence that they put inside to match or exceed what they built outside. My fishing pal, Who I love dearly, Captain "Lucky" Larry, from Cape Coral, FL, will never understand this, but I never placed a single bet. A) I didn't want to lose anything. And B) I don't have a clue how to play those games. And C) The stock market, which I DO understand, is scary enough! And D) I'm already losing money in the things I do understand. Larry would have made a bet. Larry would have won. It's just what he does. You go, Cap! I'm pulling out of this town with a no win, no loss record......and that suits me just fine.

I can't remember if I ever really liked Donnie and Marie or not, but I don't think I did. Not a whole lot anyhow. But they are the clear winners in Vegas. They are not on the electronic and neon sign boards (that can be changed at the moment's notice) - they are flat out painted on the biggest buildings in town from top to bottom. If Marie were to lose 15 pounds on Slim Fast, the building would get smaller too! It would take a wrecking ball to eliminate them. What ever happened to Wayne Newton? Dancing With The Stars finished him or what??? Volare! Oh Oh.

The Volcano Eruption at the Mirage was probably my favorite "thing" on the Strip. Coming from a guy who survived nine full blown hurricanes, two of them Cat 5, some nearby twisters in the Plains, and Lord knows how many mega snow storms in New England, this is probably a strange choice, but I knew this one would come on at 8:00 PM and be over and done with 15 minutes later .....and that me and my woman and my camera would all be OK when we jumped back in a cab to the Oasis RV Resort that we started the evening from!!!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a slide show must be worth a million, and it's the only way we can really share what we saw: IN LAS VEGAS....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dam! What a nice day for a wedding!

Ah ha! You thought the title of this post was a No NO, didn't you? Not at all. I didn't say DAMN; I said Dam, as in Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. We felt a bit like going directly from a week isolated in the Mojave Desert to the bright lights and wild activity of The Strip might be a tad much, so we used our first of two days in Las Vegas to head just out of town to spend a day at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Think of it as transition time. The older I get, the more I tend towards "easy" touring and the less I feel like exploring the wild side. Such is life. Anyway, when we arrived at gorgeous Lake Mead, there were some wedding photos being taken, so we asked the handsome young couple if they would like to share their wedding shots with our readers. No problem. Thanks, guys. Congrats, and many happy years together.

Climbing aboard the Desert Princess, a paddle wheel boat that floats you past beautiful scenery on over to Hoover Dam, it was apparent that the lake is used for all kinds of activities. There was fishing for stripers. Birding. Boating. Water skiing. Camping houseboat style. Kayaking. Biking. Hiking. And more. There was a whole lot to see, so I thought a slide show of the day's activities was in order.

I wanted to say "Hi" to the guy in the black leathers that we met riding his motorcycle on the way down to the lake. He asked me to take his picture so people back home could see his face in at least one of his shots so they knew he was here. "Where are you from?" "Brazil" Well, it turns out we have a couple readers in Brazil and at least one of them has linked our site to theirs down there. Every once in a while I get a note in Portuguese, the native language of Brazil, and even with on-line translation, I can't always understand everything they are writing. So in exchange for taking his picture, he said he would send me his contact info so I can get anything in Portuguese translated when I need it. How cool is that! Ride safely and enjoy America.

Here's to a great day on a great lake:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mojave Mining Report

If you were waiting to hear if we found any gold in the Mojave---well, yes, we did! We managed to get 2 1/2 workable days amongst all the bad weather. Using tarps we "protected" some likely spots to keep the dirt dry enough to dry wash. Even so we had to run the material three times or more to be sure it was dry enough to capture the gold. But capture the gold it did, and like always, while we didn't exactly strike it rich, we did exceed our own expectations for what we found. A bunch of fine gold (it all adds up) and several nice pickers - one of which you might just call a small nugget. Considering the circumstances, we feel great about our Mojave production. The Duisenburg claim is rich in gold in that almost no matter where you dig or work you are going to find something. You can't say that about most of the claims as far as we can tell. The camp could use a well and a shower house which would make a very nice camp a bit more livable, but the desert experience it already provides is certainly not without merit. After all, water management and Saturday night baths were part and parcel of the prospecting history from the get-go. And Doug Wilson and his assistants more than make up in friendliness and helpfulness what is missing in creature comforts. We had a delightful stay, worked hard when we could, and "pottsed" around the area when we could not. The ATV riding is excellent from camp. You can head off in any direction to see working mines and claims or follow the train tracks until they leave the valley and head through the tunnel. You can run some dunes, climb some hills, and cross country some- although California is a bit fussy about where and when you can do that as some places require staying on the trails- not a bad thing at all! The camp is located in a giant valley so getting lost is down near impossible. There wasn't much wildlife, maybe a few hawks and small birds, or at least we didn't see much in this limited visit and in rough weather for the most part. And other than the occasional Choya or Joshua Tree at elevations, there wasn't much in the way of plant life excepting for the scrub brush. This is NOT a cactus kind of desert. Anyway, that's the way it was in the Mojave. Next stop: Las Vegas. Full hookup. Bright likes. Lots of traffic and noise, glitter and glitz. They say there are no mountains without valleys....and vice versa. We're seeing it all!

The LDMA camp at Duisenburg, CA, just outside of Johannesburg in the Mojave Desert, taken from an old mine hole we rode up to on the quad:

Someone found the time and the inclination to paint up this big rock that stuck out of the cut that the train tracks run through. Can you say "Great White?"

Riding along the train tracks, American flag waving in the desert breeze; with the quad we can go places and see things that we might never see by any other means.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meeting The Mojave

We’ve been in the desert before. But it never ceases to amaze us how each and every desert can be so different. Before getting to the Mojave, though, we had to leave the greater LA area and head through the freshly snow capped Cajon Pass.

The drive north through the pass and on “The 395” (Californians like to give all their roads the “title” THE; i.e. The 5, The 15, The 40, The 395) was proof that the storm was not yet over. In fact we had to pull off several times to clear snow and ice buildup on the monster windshield of the coach. It just plain wasn’t made to blast through snow, freezing rain and the like. The cross wind at the increasing altitudes didn’t help much either. We had an ongoing discussion about turning around and going back to wait it out, but there were no guarantees that would work much better so we kept a slow and steady pace toward Johannesburg. Johannesburg? No. We’re not in South Africa, we’re in Southern California. But wait. Our destination is Duisenburg. Duisenburg? Now you’re going to Germany? Nope. That’s Southern Cal too, on the western part of the Mojave Desert. With all this lousy (by our standards) weather, it surely didn’t feel like we were headed for another dry desert experience. But as we passed Johannesburg and headed down into the big valley ahead (not too far from Death Valley), the weather went from rotten to rosy and a vista of clear skies and bright sunshine stretched out ahead.

We pulled into the LDMA Prospecting Camp at Duisenburg later in the day than we had intended, but after a day of tough driving conditions, it sure felt like a welcome port in the storm.

The end of this day brought another beautiful desert sunset and we built ourselves a camp fire and sat outside in the admittedly colder than we like it temperatures. It was too nice not to….

There is no potable water in this camp. So job one the next morning was to head into town to fill the collapsible 5 gallon jugs we carry for such occasions. We found the Water District up atop the hill. Self service. Fill your containers from a garden hose and drop your payment in a slot in the door. The water rate was 1.8 cents per gallon. We got 20 gallons and Marilyn put 2 quarters through the door. “That’s too much.” “No, that’s with the tip for having water ready to go.” Whatever!

Back at camp we headed over to the mining shack to meet the caretakers and get the lay of the land. The old barrel wood stove was cranking out some much appreciated heat and the fresh coffee pot was ready to tap into. Mmmmmmmm. Like the vast majority of the LDMA caretakers, these folks were friendly and happy and as helpful as could be. We got some tips for what to look for and where to look for it. That’s all the head start we could ever ask for. That’s why they call it prospecting, yes?

Here’s my “sign of the times” for Duisenburg, seen on the porch of the LDMA camp: "The Taliban Special.” If you are not in the habit of enlarging the photos to look for detail, you might just want to do it on this one. The image and the text are both worthwhile examinations!

Well, despite the fact that it’s been fairly wet in the Mojave this season we did manage to find some dry dirt to work. Dirt must be quite dry to use a dry washer gold recovery system effectively. It’s about the only game in town without water for high banking or sluicing or dredging. Since it was pretty cold, even the well for “working water” was shut down for fear of freeze. I should mention that they offered to get us whatever water we might need for panning, but that wasn’t the mission on this stop. The dry washing process places dry as possible dirt on a sluice through which air is then pumped from underneath, forcing air up through the dirt and vibrating the sluice simultaneously. The combo process further dries the dirt, and makes the “heavies” like black sand and gold fall to the bottom of the rips where they are trapped and remain until clean up. Watching the process you would swear it cannot work. However, you would have “sworn” for nothing as it does work fairly well, especially if the material is run through the process several times- which we always do. And so it was that on our first day’s attempt to locate and claim gold from the Mojave Desert and the great state of California - we done good!

This photo of working the claim may give you some idea of the size and scope of the work at hand. You can, and we do, move a lot of dirt and some very big rocks all for the express purpose of finding a little, tiny (miniscule, sometimes) piece of gold. But as I’ve said before. It’s not about the gold! Well, maybe a little bit about the gold. But mostly, it’s about the process. The whole process. Travel to the spot. Learn about the place and the geography and the history of the place. Learn how to look for the gold as you might expect to find it in this location. It’s different at every venue. Find a place to dig or prospect. Dig for the gold. Get tired for the gold. Find the right process to get the gold from the concentrates. Then sit back at the end of the day, head cleared of pretty much everything else, and appreciate the effort and the reward, which to us seems to be great - even when it is small.

Of course, just as there are still very real Pirates in the Caribbean (and also Somalia), there may still be a claims jumper or two out here in the gold fields. So Abby, The Trusty Wonder Dog goes along out to the job site and chews on a bone in the shade of our 4X4 “donkey” named Quigley and protects us from anyone who would try to “jump” our claim. Then again, they better not try to take that bone away!

Alas, after two good days of dry washing, the next winter weather system moved in and we were pretty much stuck in camp. Literally. Mud. Or ice. Or snow. Or fog. Just bad. Now we start listening closely to the weather band emergency broadcasts. This is not the best time for California to have its worst storm of the year. Not when our next move will carry us over the mountains again to Las Vegas. Right now there are high winds and deep snow advisories and projected road and pass closings. We sit waiting for a break in the weather. Oh, and did I mention the “dead zone?” We have a very good cell tower signal here in camp. Hard to believe but true. Very good computer card signal as well. But they don’t work. Neither one of them. And no one knows why- but they are willing to bet you a pocket full of gold that they won’t! The “dead zone” that Verizon always advertises they don’t have???????? I know where it is, is; I know where it issssss….

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Cover For The Quig

When you tow a vehicle on dry roads and in nice weather, you don't, as a rule, worry about doing damage to it in tow by throwing stones and other debris up behind the coach that damages the paint, the windshield, the radiator- that kind of thing. But come across lousy, wet weather and add to the mix a lumpy bumpy coarse gravel road and you can do all kinds of damage to everything I mentioned. We demonstrated the truth of that to ourselves when we drove the coach, Honda Odyssey in tow, all the way to Alaska back in the summer of 2007. About half way through the summer (we spent the entire summer up there) we realized the damage had already begun and was getting worse fast. Our stop gap solution was call Coastline Covers outside of Los Angeles, CA to make a cover for that van and ship it up to us in Ninilchik, AK. They made the cover and got it up to us in short order and we used it all the way back to the lower 48 and then all the way across the country heading back east. It's the only tow cover we know of that comes in a single piece and it is custom cut for most all vehicles that are towable. There simply isn't a better product on the market. It's fine quality crafted and comes with a lifetime guarantee. What could be better?

But when we traded vehicles last Fall from the Odyssey to the Quigley 4X4 Chevy Express van, we found ourselves towing a vehicle that noone else tows in this fashion. There was no pattern in the repertoire of Coastline Covers, so we made it a point, and an appointment, to visit them at their shop in Rancho Cucamonga for a custom fit job on the Quig. Before any damage can be done! Gloria met us on arrival and set things in motion. Master pattern maker(who has been doing this now for 14 years) Gumecindo set about the task of turning a custom fitted paper pattern into the heavy duty vinyl cover- a process that took about 2 hours. He did the same for the rear view side mirrors. Alma made the necessary revisions to the cover, cut and stitched the openings for antennas, wire and air harnesses and emergeny breakaway cable. Then we helped Gloria check the final fit. Perfect.

In addition to the tow covers, the company also makes spare tire covers, tire sun guard covers, coach masks, boat covers, mesh window covers for Rv's, bicyle and motorcycle covers, gazedbos and umbrellas, and a whole host of related items. Many items are stocked but there really isn't anything they can't makeup if they can just get a measurement for what you need. They've always provided great service and we are true believers in the quality and the effectiveness of their product line. Watching the process was both educational and fun, especially since it was made "in the shadow" of the snow covered San Gabriel Mountains you will see in the background of the pictures if you look closely.

Here comes a little slide show on our cover being made, fitted, finalized and refitted:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hoorays and Hisses

We like to mention it when we are well taken care of for required services, emergency and otherwise, “on the road.” So thanks a bunch to Fast Fix in the Parkway Mall for the laser weld that fixed the broken bridge on my eye glasses that everyone else, my eye doc included, told me couldn’t be fixed. This laser welding (while you wait) process can and will weld just about anything! And to Babylon Jewelers who clued us in about the laser welding process and gave us directions for getting there. And to Steele Canyon Produce in Jamul where for 17 dollars we loaded up the van with exceptionally beautiful veggies and fruits- all at can’t believe prices!

And to Dr. Kerry Booth, DDS, who gave me a “made in America” crown to replace my south of the border “especial” that “no el stayo” in my mouth. And to Kay in the office at Thousand Trails, Pio Pico, who not only recommended a good dentist, but actually got us in to see hers pronto. And to Kurt’s Camera Repair (Nikon factory authorized service) who got my lens fixed and my camera cleaned and ready to go in a day and a half instead of the week they thought they needed, so I could “shoot” San Diego with my big gun, instead of my point and shoot.

Thank you, one and all!

I try my level best to keep it positive. I do. I really do. But when the four girls at Lens Crafters who didn’t seem to be doing anything behind the counter except talking told me I would have to wait a whole 60 minutes for the “technicians” to change the silicon nose pads on my glasses, I guess I just didn’t feel very good about that. Especially since anyone can do it in about 60 seconds. And especially since they had just denied service to the customer before me who had her husband on the phone to authorize a credit card payment for lenses that they said “The home office says we can’t do….” Bull crackers! There’s a perfectly safe and effective way to take a credit card over the phone, as there is over the internet. Hey. It’s tough out there. Especially now. Take care of customers and keep business from walking out the door and it just might not be so tough. It’s not like you’re busy! There were two people in the entire mall (a slight exaggeration admittedly, but not by much) and you sent them both through the door with their wallets and their contents still in their pockets. I hope I don’t see your name on a list of companies looking for a federal bailout! Sheeze!

But OK, Wal-Mart to the rescue. Along the path of its development, Wal-Mart has realized that while good prices ARE important, nothing is as important as service. To that end, Wal-Mart Vision Center Manager and Certified Optician, Brett Strickland, took the time out of his busy day (and he actually WAS busy) to swap out the pads and clean my glasses up a bit for me. There was still a bunch of desert dust in every nook and cranny. The total time involved- a couple minutes. Total cost for parts and tax $2.04. No charge for labor. The store only made a few pennies if that on the transaction; but that’s not the point, is it? Good PR, happy customer, friendly service brings the customer back to your store and not to the competitor’s. So kudos to Wal-mart . I’ve been slow to come to their praise, but as we travel, we see more and more good service like this. One “Wally World” (as Rv’ers like to call them) we stopped at actually was trying a walk in health clinic for a few basic medical services at a cost geared so that anyone and everyone could and would use them rather than sit endlessly in the drone zone of some dimly lighted emergency room at the hospital waiting while you read the six year old magazine subscriptions on a topic you probably don’t care about in the first place. Think about it. Buy your groceries, get clothes for the kids, tires for your car, a big screen for the home theater, get your hair cut, your nails done, your eyes examined…now if they add a dentist to each store and take on walk in “cleanings”…, there are a whole bunch of businesses that better smarten up or Wal-mart will simply eat their lunch, if you get my drift. And oh by the way, most Wal-marts now have a snack bar or even a fast food restaurant inside the store. fyi....

San Diego On The Pacific

Despite the fact that the weather man was calling for on going rain, we caught a break in the action with only two days left in the area and headed into the city to see the sights of San Diego. From the get-go we were impressed by the city. It’s clean, colorful, artsy, easy to navigate (considering it’s California which I find a bit intimidating to begin with) and there are sights, sounds and activities any which way you turn. We drove around for a while just to get the feel of the place, then dropped by some particular points of interest. We hit the Seaport Village on the waterfront, the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum (used to be The Midway), The Bob Hope Tribute Sculpture near the Waterfront Fish Market, the cruise ship terminal, Point Loma Light House, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen by a long shot), the Cabrillo National Monument and Park where we and a host of others crawled around the rocks, the beach, and searched the tide pools for treasures of the sea. Then we drove across the bridge to Coronado to see the sand beaches on the Pacific proper. It was a magnificent day. So is San Diego. And what’s not to love about the Pacific?

With only three states left to visit at this point, we have crossed the country Atlantic to Pacific and back twice now. Depending on how you look at the map, I guess you could say we’ve done that 2 ½ times or more. For a portion of the journey we jogged back and forth from ocean to the Mississippi as we worked our way through as many states as we could in any given period of time. We’ve also traveled from Gulf of Mexico to Gulf of Alaska and back, and through quite a bit of Canada, so we’re really starting to get a feel for the size and majesty of North America. But there is still so very much to see and so very much to do. The challenge I suppose will be to do all that remains AND spend progressively more time in the places we have zeroed in on as we continue traveling the highways and byways of this incredible land.

Hope you’ll enjoy the images of the trip into San Diego:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

If It Never Rains....Why is it Green?

The chorus of Albert Hammond's "It Never Rains In Southern California" goes like this:

Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya
It pours, man it pours

But the scenery is plenty green here and the state is "Green" in terms of renewable energies and conservation matters and the like. Now I can't tell you whether or not it ever just "rains" here, but I can tell you that it pours, man, it pours. In fact we think we lucked out having a few spectacularly clear and warm days before the rain kicked in, but now it's looking pretty much like the rest of our planned outdoor activities might just be a big bust. That's too bad, we had some neat stuff on the agenda, but it will all be here next time if that's what it comes down to.

Which brings me to the "other" green. I took my Nikon camera to the San Diego factory authorized repair shop of Kurt's Camera Repair to fix what whatever happened to the lens on my desert bouncing expedition and also for a good cleaning. Something looked mighty weird about the tree out in front of the shop. I took a closer look. It wasn't! A tree, that is. Looked like one, but in actuality it was a cell phone tower in disguise. And once we noted that, we could see that where-ever they had placed such a tower, it was put up in the "atmosphere" of what else was in the area. So this one was nice young deciuous tree type. Others were tall palms and so on. That's the extent they go to here to keep things green. And I rather like the idea. But I'm thinking the cost of hiding the infrastructure is far greater that it would be to put up a metal tower and just call it good. Still, it's not my call- and it does look good. I just hope this focus is not so extreme that it contributes to the financial woes of a state already in crisis in financial times like these are. What follows is a couple pics of the antenna. Bet you can't even see it up in the branches and leaves- but you surely will in the "root system." How many living trees have you ever come across BOLTED to as concrete pad?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Jungle In Here

I probably don't need to say too much about the world famous San Diego Zoo except we went there and enjoyed it very much. Seems like every aquarium and every zoo has something they are most known for and for San Diego Zoo it is surely the Panda Bears and the Polar Bears. So "su" me if I couldn't cut out an overabundance of shots of the two of those critters in the slide show! Deal with it, will ya please? They are just such tremendously great animals!

Images of the San Diego Zoo

Burma Shave...

I used to love to sit in the back seat of the family car driving down the road reading all the nifty "community service" or otherwise cutesy sayings of the old Burma Shave commercials. I don't think I've seen one since I've been out of high school, but sure enough we found one still up, running, and in good shape in the little town of Jamul, California. Since this one is voicing what I've been muttering ever since we arrived here in this state, I thought it should be included in the blog. I don't know where California drivers learned to drive. Maybe Massachusetts? But where ever it was they came to posses an aggression I've not seen anywhere else. The posted speed limit apparently means nothing. Nor the double yellow line. Nor any other road signs that I would think bears careful attention. They don't seem to mind too much that I do try to abide by the signage- so long as I don't have a hissy fit about being passed simultaneously on the left and the right at something approaching 20 miles over the posted speed limit! And manors? If they exist, no one has yet to demonstrate them while they are behind the wheel.

Burma Shave

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No El Stayo

Made in Japan. Made in Korea. Made in China. We may not like the concept very much here in the good ole US of A, but over time the “goods” of these countries became fairly, well, good (especially cars and cameras and electronics) and they became an important element of our every day economy. Hecho en Honduras? Sure your jeans and a lot of your shirts are “assembled” in Honduras- where we lived for 5 years. But made in Mexico? Especially when it comes to El Cheapo and El Fasto dentistry work? Not real sure that’s ever gonna catch on in a big way! Why? Because my miracle 40 minute crown, made to short order specs in Algodonas, Mexico, just south of the border from Yuma, Arizona, lasted exactly 15 days (to the minute) before it gave up the ghost and popped itself right back out of my mouth. No me gusta! Am I upset? No, not really. For starters, it wasn’t a terrific job, but it did make for a terrific story (this being Part Dos). And for certain, a crown in Mexico does not cost anything like a crown here in the states. It is not an INVESTMENT. Those of you that hold dear the idea that you get what you pay for are correct, at least as it applies to dentistry. And so it goes…. The “new tooth” I said seemed fine a short while back and expressed my hope that it would El Lasto and El Stayo in place? She gone, mon. But not to worry. By the end of this day, I will have a brand spanking new Southern California crown in place. Having met with the dentist yesterday, I actually expect this one to fit pretty well. There is a plan, not a wing and a prayer. Made in Mexico? I’ll stick with the sombreros and serapes, maybe the Marguaritas; hay muchas gracias!