"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Palm Springs

There's a flock of about 100 American widgeons in the pond behind our site. We watch them walk or fly in and out of the water all day, feeding on the grass and whatever in the shallow water.  Widgeons are a little smaller than mallards and have green heads with a distinct white stripe coming down from the crown of their heads to their foreheads. They make a sweet little sound, just like a rubber squeaky toy. They are dabbling ducks, like mallards, and so we see them in this position often. Cute.

We took a drive up to Lake Elsinore - it sounded like a place we might be able to take Kona swimming. It was; there was a large deserted beach. In fact the whole town looked a bit deserted and down at the heels. It's kind of a strange area; surrounded by wealth and beauty, and yet around this lake, the only fresh water lake in southern CA, it is run down and kind of junky. We did a little research and it turns out that the history, and I guess the present situation is very much determined by the erratic rise and fall of the lake level. Tourism just can't get a dependable foothold because it alternates flooding with a disappearing lake. This is our best take on the situation, but we could be off. It's not a place I'd go back to, exempt that Kona may insist.

A few days ago we ventured over the mountains down twisting and turning route 74 into the Palm Desert area. Had lunch at Tyler's, a small place in old Palm Springs, famous for their burgers, surrounded by the old style Spanish architecture of the plaza. Sat outside and got a little sun with my veggie burger.

The Coachella Valley, which is an agricultural, commercial and residential oasis in the desert, is very heavily developed with malls and golf courses. Palm Springs looks like it's seen better days. I think the recession has hit it hard. It's a wealthy area still, but the retail establishments have suffered. Palm Desert is doing a little better. 

At the northwest end of the valley there is a huge wind farm, with the turbines echoing the palm trees that are everywhere. 

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is also at that end of town. There's nothing harder than taking good pictures from a tram. The experience offers grand vistas of the valley and the canyon that just look blah in photographs. The contrast between the shadows of the canyon and the distant brightness of the desert is almost impossible to balance for an amateur like me. Here are two examples.

Once at the top, the light balanced out into a beautiful bright winter day. Our first taste of anything like winter since we've been here in the south.

It's a crystal clear, breezy day today, probably will be in the 70's. I'm going to the farmers market in Temecula today while Rick watches tennis in Australia. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rancho California RV Resort

This is a unique experience for us. Someone in Montana recommended this place, or we would have never considered it. It is an Outdoor Resort, called Rancho California. It's an ownership RV park, like a condo. Some of the sites are single sized and undeveloped, like these, and sell for about $50,000, plus about $400/month in fees.

And some are larger and developed, to say the least, and sell for upwards of $100,000.

Typical development includes some kind of shade structure, grills, sinks, seating areas, bars. Some even have washers and dryers outside. This one has....

...a model railroad. That black structure is a little trestle bridge.

The amenities include a 14 hole golf course, a store and a very nice little restaurant, 5 pools with jacuzzis, two club houses, activities, 24 hour security and a gate.

The sites can be rented from the owners for an extremely reasonable fee, from the lovely realtors here, Candice and Kim at Fairway Estates. We are getting our site for two months, for about $20 a night. That is literally the cheapest site we've ever had. And it is one of the nicest. We selected one with a little patio,  some shade trees, overlooking a pond, with ducks (again).

Here's the view from our window:

Our backyard:

And here's the view from the "street":

This is one of the clubhouses, with one of the pools:

By way of contrast, the surroundings are typical southern California middle desert rocky hills covered with scrub and cactus. 

Rancho California is like a mini Palm Springs - one of these golf oases in the desert.  If you were a golfer it would be heaven. We're not, but it's still pretty darn nice. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Beauties of the Southern California Coast

There's a lot of gorgeous scenery around San Diego, much of it on the coast. These pictures offer up just a small sampling of what we saw.

Of course one of the first places we had to find was a dog beach. There are two great ones in the area: Ocean Beach and Del Mar (below). Full of dogs just doing everything they love with very little intervention from their owners. 

Then we went to Point Loma, which is one of the many military installments here, 
with a striking and poignant cemetery. 

Further out there is a park with this historic lighthouse. 
From the point you can see all of San Diego, Coronado and all the way to Mexico.

Downtown San Diego is right on the bay and is like a cross between Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. No, that doesn't do it justice. It just has his lovely open, bright, new feeling to it. 
It's also very easy to navigate.

North of San Diego there are a string of dramatic beaches and idyllic towns, perhaps the most well known is La Jolla. It's an upper crust sort of town with boutiques and high end restaurants. But it also has a spectacular shore, lined with parks and viewing areas. Here is a work of art that is easy to overlook, that describes some of the reasons people love La Jolla.

The most beautiful residents of La Jolla by far are the harbor seals who grace the waves, sandy beaches and rocky shores day and night at this time of year. I guess it's the birthing season. Here's what I think is a  handsome family.

And a loner on the rocks amongst the cormorants.

Near La Jolla is a glider park where people jump off the cliffs with gliders and sail over the ocean, turn around and land back on the cliff tops. There was no one gliding the day we were there, but the view was a perfect example of the beautiful shores all along the coast of southern California.

I sent off my article to my co-author today for a final read, so it's out of my hands until next week. Yeah!!!  Now I'm off to yoga. I found a great studio in Temecula where they teach many classes every day, including Anusara, which is my current favorite style.  I can take three perfect classes a week and still have time to visit the farmer's market and sit by the duck pond in Aguanga. More about our new current home soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

San Diego Zoo and Aguanga

We're actually in Aguanga, CA now, but I have to catch up on a few entries from San Diego.  We had very spotty internet coverage in Santee Lakes, so blogging was difficult. But here in Aguanga, a tiny place east of Temecula, we have great service. There's just no predicting what we'll have. We actually have decided to switch to satellite internet based on the unpredictability, and that will probably be installed next week. We'll travel to Indio to get that done with Bill Adams, from Internet Anywhere.

One of the places we visited while in San Diego was the zoo. I have mixed feelings about zoos. I love to see the animals, but I don't love seeing them in confinement. I know they are not behaving naturally, even in the best of conditions, and supposedly the San Diego Zoo is one of the best.

Now that I've got that disclaimer out of the way, I can say that we really did enjoy ourselves, and Rick took some great photos. Most of these are his.I was feeling too ambivalent to take many pictures, except for the one above. No, that's not a live bird. It's a model of a prehistoric raptor of some sort. No ambivalence about a statue.

Koala sleeping under a heat lamp.

Red Panda

We saw plenty of sleepy animals at first, and a good many empty cages. But then things began to pick up.  It's a lot of walking and trying to find where you are on the map, but we eventually got to the animals we wanted to see. Rick really wanted to see the cats, and I wanted to see the birds and the monkeys.

A Chinese or Asian Leopard? I forget.

Bet you know what this is.

These were two of the many antelopes we saw.  These were the smallest and the skinniest. 

We didn't see a lot of the gorillas, but Rick got this great shot for the few
moments they showed themselves.

The pandas are very popular.
This one was sniffing out the zoo guest in the crowd
with the nice cologne.
At least that's what the zoo keeper said she was doing.

Back to the present: Today Rick is a putting tire pressure monitoring system on the trailer and the truck. This will help him keep an eye on the tires from inside the truck cab, to avoid blowouts and flats. Hope it works. 

Meanwhile I'm finally finishing an article on some research I did last year. It's taken me a long time to get it done - too many wonderful distractions and poor internet.  There's always a good excuse. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Little Slices of America

(Look carefully at the swimming pool of this lovely country estate. The police have arrived to investigate.)

In Balboa Park, San Diego, there are about a dozen museums. I mentioned in a previous post that my favorite was the Mingei. Rick's was the Model Railroad Museum. They have at least five huge, complete assemblages of different gaged (sized) model trains, including a massive Lego city with a train running around it. While Rick was expressing enthusiasm about the trains, I have to admit I was getting a little bored, until I noticed the remarkably detailed scenes of 20th century America through which the tracks and the trains of one particular set ran. Here are a few of my favorite scenes. They let you visit a time when trains were central to small town America, and give you a bird's eye view of it all.  These are slices of American life I have really seen, (well maybe not the shark in the swimming pool) but for future generations they will be history.

I hope you can zoom in to see the details.

A junkyard complete with dog

Repairing a church steeple

A tiny African American church wedding

Small farming community with grain elevators, farm stand, truck garden and a bus stop.

I wish I had noticed the name of the creator(s) of this whole layout.  He, she or they were tremendously skilled, creative and had a great sense of humor too.  I'm so grateful that while these places are disappearing from the American countryside, they will be preserved here.

Ducks at Santee Lakes

The "lakes" here are a chain of man made ponds that are part of an innovative water treatment facility. There are lots of fish (and fishermen) and lots of birds. We've seen ducks here that we have never seen before:

Two male wood ducks.

There are many Wood Ducks, and not in the trees. Back east they are a rare sight, and are often roosting in trees. Here they are everywhere in the lakes.

A pair of American Widgeons

A Northern Shoveler

A pair of Ring-necked Ducks

There are also Ruddy Ducks and Buffleheads, but they keep out in the center of the lake so I can't get a good picture.


Here I'd like some help from our readers. This is a VERY small grey diving duck and keeps to itself most of the time.  Before you say a grebe, note the bill - it is not a grebe bill, it's a duck bill.  There seem to be males and females, one with this kind of round cheek patch and the other with a faint stripe on the cheek instead.  I think it might be an immature Bufflehead. What do you think?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and Anniversaries

Happiest of New Years to all our friends, family and fellow travelers reading this post. I haven't posted for more than two weeks due to poor internet connection, and I've missed recording our adventures. Brief Facebook posts are not a good substitute, but at least it keeps us in touch.

This past year has been an eventful one for us, to say the least. It was only two years ago that we decided to change our lives so dramatically.  We began our RV experience in a tiny Cruise America camper for a month.

 Two years ago on New Year's Day we were also in San Diego, in Campland on Mission Bay at $150 for one night - New Year's Eve! (We won't do that again.)  It was a whirlwind tour of western America in 30 days - from Chicago to the west coast and back; we stayed one night at each stop. We decided that one month in each place would be much better, and so the new dream was born.

At the time I actually had a dream job at Columbia College Chicago as a tenured full time faculty member in the Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling Department. Teaching is what I've done my entire adult life, and this job was the culmination of my professional development. I was a Board member of the American Dance Therapy Association, also a great privilege. I had many, many wonderful colleagues and students. I had never considered leaving all that until the trip across the country in that tiny RV. Who knew life would unfold that way it did?

Although I have traveled back and forth across this amazing country several times in my life, something about seeing it at this stage in my life is different. This time it feels so much less about me, my needs, my goals, my destinations, and so much more about what I am encountering. I feel almost invisible, and the immensity and diversity of the landscape and the people/cultures we meet are what it's all about.

So here we are in San Diego again, celebrating several anniversaries. It's a two year anniversary of the inception of our dream to travel full time in an RV. It's a 13 year anniversary (today!) of our marriage, which has been full of adventures. We went contra dancing last night for New Year's Eve. Rick and I met contra dancing, and its a great way to renew and remember some of the high points of our relationship. And finally, it's a seven month anniversary of the start of this most recent and boldest of adventures.

San Diego has been a lot about zipping around on the network of speedy parkways, getting to places to see. Driving here is SO different from driving in LA, which was torturous.  Here traffic moves quickly and as the locals say, it takes about 20 minutes to get anywhere, including downtown and the beaches, from where we are staying at Santee Lakes.

There's a great dog beach at Ocean Beach, which we and Kona have enjoyed several times.

We've visited Balboa Park, and one of my favorites, the Mingei (art of the people) Museum, which focuses on contemporary, historical and international craft arts.

As some might guess, it was not Rick's favorite place. He managed to amuse himself though.

For our anniversary Rick and I gave each other experiences of our choosing: a few hours at a spa for a massage for me, and a sail on the Stars and Stripes on the San Diego Bay for Rick.  The Stars and Stripes in a famous Americas Cup competitor, and is now a part of the Maritime Museum, as are these two tall ships.

(To be continued, my internet is bogging down...)