Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #17

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?  It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac

 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014:  This is the day we had planned to head east and slowly meander home, however we decided to head north to Sun City in order to see some dear old friends instead.  And, just as important, I had promised Kit a few days relaxation in Barbie Town!

The morning was a bit cloudy as the sun rose over the Catalina Mountains.

CSP Pix #B1

By mid-morning, the gloom had burned off and was replaced by the customary bright blue Arizona sky.

CSP Pix #B6

And some of the desert critters started to scurry about darting in and out of their subterranean burrows.

CSP Pix #B2

Since it was to be a short travel day, we lounged around CSP and I was able to get some Geocaching in.  The Geocache.com app on the iPhone led me to the east and into the foothills of the Catalina Mountains.

CSP Pix #B5

Where, I spotted the cache hidden under deadfall at the foot of a large Mesquite bush.

CSP Pix #B10

Signing the enclosed log and then noting the find on Geocache.com, I noticed that from this vantage point one can enjoy a panoramic view of the campground and the surrounding terrain.

CSP Pix #B8

I also noticed many cactus flowering as spring was well entrenched in the Sonoran Desert.

CSP Pix #B7

Finally on the road, at 1240 we hopped on AZ-77 which led us to AZ-79 and eventually connected to AZ-87 near the county seat of Florence.  Next we joined I-10 for the remaining journey north toward Phoenix.

At 1630, we arrived at Paradise RV Resort, or as we call it “Barbie Town”, and settled in for a few days rest in the transient section of this luxury resort.

Paradise RV, Pix #2

And were reprimanded because we did not have some kind of bridge contraption to keep the sewer hose off the ground…..so I improvised!

Paradise RV, Pix #1

Pretty clever, huh?

Wednesday, April 2 through Sunday, March 6, 2014-Sun City, Arizona:  Welcome to Barbie Town, USA!  Why do we call such a pleasant and all-encompassing RV resort by the nickname of “Barbie Town”?  Well for one thing this very large resort is full of cute little Barbie homes.

Paradise RV, Pix #5

Each uniquely landscaped with chotskies depicting the owner’s state of origin.  And everyone drives about in little Barbie Cars while the worker Kens attend to beautiful gardens.

Paradise RV, Pix #6

The sense of community in Barbie Town is unparalleled…..three neighbors came across the tracks to welcome Kit and I to the neighborhood and invite us to the weekly Pickle Ball Tournament.  Since Kit does not care for pickles and since I do not care for any pastime involving balls…..we politely declined.

So now, we sit back and enjoy some rest and relaxation in Barbie Town USA.

But first…..Kit suggested I call Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery located in San Diego, California to begin the process of getting mom interred there.  My mother, a proud WWII Veteran has earned the right to rest in one of the 131 national cemeteries located around the United States.  And Fort Rosecrans is the preferred site as it holds historical significance to our family for a variety of reasons.  Our plan was to schedule the funeral with full military honors later in the year when more folks could attend.  However, in talking to the scheduling office I learned that Fort Rosecrans was near capacity and that they may very well close to new burials as early as next week…..Yikes!  It was also mentioned that if I was able to get all the required documentation in order and then get mom to San Diego by the weekend, she would likely be accommodated.  This would be a direct interment and we could still plan a formal military service at a later date.  So we quickly made another change in travel plans and direction.

By Thursday morning, we were in full blown panic mode as we had virtually none of the required documentation that the military needs before an interment is approved in a national cemetery, but we did have mom and that was the most important passenger!  Our first stroke of luck came when we discovered that Arizona Vital Statistics Records were computerized and that we could get copies at the main office in downtown Phoenix.  However the other documents had to be obtained from a Public Records office in San Diego.  So, at 0400 on Friday Kit, mom and I left the trailer where it sat and made a speed run to the coast.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #15

Arriving at 1030 (don’t do the math) we picked up the second, and final form and beat feet to Rosecrans Scheduling office arriving at noon.  Mom was going to make it…..we were tired, relieved and overjoyed.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #2

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery holds a special place in our families hearts and as a veteran, mom is entitled and deserves to lay in eternal repose there surrounded by the many heroes and her comrades in arms.

The location is absolutely spectacular, nestled on Point Loma between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary #4

And the well-kept grounds are beautifully landscaped.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #6

Mom is in a columbarium overlooking the bay with North Island Naval Air Station in the foreground and the skyline of San Diego in the background.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #5

Her view is one that she would be very pleased with as it features panoramic views of the Navy facilities as well as the city she loved.

Emotionally drained and very hungry we decided to head to Anthony’s Fish Grotto on San Diego Bay and a short distance away.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #7

Anthony’s is the first place we enjoyed a meal as a newly married couple following our wedding way back in June 1965, so it also has special meaning to us.

Ironically, tomorrow is the commissioning for the USS Coronado (LCS-4), the ceremony I was offered tickets for just a few weeks ago.  The brand new ship sits in full dress regalia right across the harbor from where we dined.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #8

Following an excellent meal we decided that we were both way too drained to make the 370 mile trip back to Phoenix.  So we decided to stay the night at a very nice Courtyard Marriott at Liberty Station on San Diego Bay.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #11

This place too has meaning in our lives, as it was the location of the former Naval Training Center, where I received Recruit Training back in March of 1965.  The place looks a bit different, and it feels a whole lot different as well!  However there are still vestiges of its former life as the developers did an excellent job incorporating the new with the historic.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #13

Following an early dinner and a number of 22 ounce Barley Pop’s, it was time for some much needed rest.

Saturday dawned bright and blue with some lingering low level clouds.  As Kit relaxed in the room….

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #9

…..I decided to take a walk about the grounds.

I was surprised to see that one of the icons of the old Navy Training Center was still being maintained.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #14

The USS Recruit, or as we used to call it, the USS Neversail, was used back in the day for seamanship and gunnery training.  The hull actually contained classrooms and the main deck contained the pilot house, ground-tackle and the main gun battery.  This important piece of military equipment was, and still is, visible to the thousands of folks that travel along Harbor Drive just to the south.  I recall being on the RTC side of the fence locked in recruit training misery as my former life enjoyed the day on the civilian side.

In addition, fronting the motel was the saltwater basin that the Navy used for training in small boat handling and whale boat racing.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #12

Nowadays it contains an exclusive marina at the far end and is a launching point for kayakers and folks on Stand Up Paddleboards on the beach area.

It has been an emotional and stress producing couple of days, but everything worked out perfectly…..Kit and I got to enjoy more of San Diego and we both are happy and relieved that mom is resting in peace at Fort Rosecrans.

By 1100 we were on the road and heading back to Sun City to our little camper in little Barbie Town.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #16

The return trip was a lot more relaxed and peaceful as we were both lost in our own thoughts of the past 24 hours.  We drove straight through, but did make a few stops for some fuel, food and walking around time.

Unplanned Trip to SD, Pix #17

A little after 1800 we returned to the camper and enjoyed the first restful sleep in many a day.

Staying in Barbie Town USA notwithstanding, the main reason for us to visit the Phoenix area after leaving Tucson was to see our dear friends Martha and Tommy and their 98 year old father Mr. “O”.  We all met at a local restaurant for good food and drink and great company!

Dinner Out with the AZ Olson's, Photo #1

Marti is the sister of my best friend from high school, Rodney…..who we spent time with in California a few weeks ago.  And her husband Tommy is a retired Hollywood actor that has been battling some health issues of late.

Dinner Out with the AZ Olson's, Photo #2

Marti and Rod’s father Mr. “O”, along with a few other men in the neighborhood, were one of the main reasons I didn’t end up being a true delinquent many years ago.

Dinner Out with the AZ Olson's, Photo #3

He is a true inspiration, at 98 years old Mr. “O” lives independently, still golfs and enjoys his daily scotch.  We owe him a lot and care for the family very much!

The final day in Barbie Town was spent getting caught up on correspondence, paying bills, and doing a mountain of laundry.

Paradise RV, Pix #3

You may have noticed a few new “Rescue Shirts” in my wardrobe collection.  Yep, we trolled the second hand stores over the past few months for those castoffs that likely were purchased by Arizona cowboys during a trip to Hawaii.  Then, I‘m guessing, they returned home to the southwest and thought the shirts would find a better home with an old Maine retiree and donated them.  There are more really nice quality Hawaiian shirts sitting in the second hand clothing stores of the American Southwest than all the other areas of the country combined!

I also spent part of the final day giving the truck and trailer a very much needed washing and then performed some preventive maintenance on the hitch components and sway control devices.  Other than that…..we goofed off all day!

 

Monday, April 7, 2014:  As we prepared to depart Barbie Town, the weather cooperated by giving us sunny skies, mid 60’s temperatures and a gentle breeze…..gotta love winter in the American Southwest!

On the road at 0955 and since we are heading east, why not go north first?  As we pieced together a number of back roads we eventually came to AZ-303N, which led us to I-17, where we continued north toward Flagstaff.

Sun City, Photo #2

Along many highways we have noticed that the state of Arizona does not let convicts sit around in jail cells, watching TV or bulking up in the provided weight room…..they put them to work!

Sun City, Photo #3

These fellows were preceded by a number of other convicts picking up roadside litter and were under the watchful eye of armed corrections officers.

The breeze from the west picked up in intensity and Kit helped considerably, by scanning the road ahead for any errant tumbleweeds that might intersect our path.

To Flagstaff, Photo 31

As we headed up I-17, we rolled through the high desert plains of Northern Arizona.

Road to Flagstaff, Photo #1

And as we climbed in elevation we began to encounter the trees and vegetation of the Coconino National Forest.

Road to Flagstaff, Photo #2

Gaining altitude, the air temperature began to drop and soon the snowcapped summit of 12,637 foot Mount Humphries came into view.

Road to Flagstaff, Photo #3

Shortly after noon, we arrived at Fort Tuthill Recreation Facility and pulled into a very nice campsite located in the pine forest of northern Arizona.

Fort Tuthill, Campsite

It was early in the afternoon and since Kit needed some quiet (read without Bill around) time I trod off into the surrounding woods with iPhone in hand looking for a few Geocaches.

Even in this heavily wooded area my tiny iPhone utilizing the Geocache App worked very well.  The reception and GPS accuracy was ten times better than my dedicated older GPS unit.  The advances in technology are amazing!

The first cache was in difficult terrain but pretty easy to spot when near.  It was constructed of PVC pipe 3 inches in diameter and 18 inches long…..by geocache standards, it was huge!

Fort Tuthill, Pix #2

The cache was full of trinkets to trade, featured a onetime use camera for selfies and a very nicely designed logbook.  But the real find was another Travel Bug…..the forth one of my brief geocaching career!!

Fort Tuthill, Pix #3

Logging on to Geocaching.com, I discovered this little fella wanted to go on a grand adventure far, far away.  Yep it’s coming along with Kit and me all the way back to Maine.  Shhhhh, don’t tell the owner, I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

Since there was another geocache about a mile away, I decided to bag that one as well.  Zoning in on an area in the middle of a stand of pine trees, I searched diligently for over half an hour. The iPhone showed that I was within 7 feet of the cache, but still could not spot the little bugger.

However, as I was scanning the forest floor, I came across this little fellow.

Fort Tuthill-Horned Toad, Pix #1

It is a Frogi Horneus or better known as a Horned Frog, or as we used to call them, Horny Toads!  I had many of these prehistoric looking creatures as pets while growing up on the rim of a vast canyon system in San Diego.  They made great companions…..as “sit and wait” predators, they were slow to move and pretty docile.  And being ugly as sin was a great advantage when you wanted to scare the bejesus out of a summer school teacher as she opened her desk drawer during class.

Fort Tuthill-Horned Toad, Pix #2

Don’t ask how I know that, but Mr. Roberts, the assistant principal and I used to meet on a regular basis.

After snapping a number of close up photos of Mr. Horny Toad (hey, that could be the name of the character in my next novel), I resumed my search for the frustratingly hard to find geocache.  Thinking it must have been removed I was ready to give up and head back to camp when it suddenly came into view.  Can you spot this cleverly hidden cache in the following photo?

Fort Tuthill, Pix #5

What?  It is in plain view…..look again!

Fort Tuthill, Pix #6

Yep, about 15 feet up that tree!  It required a very long stick and a bit of manual dexterity to fetch the thing…..But fetch it I did!  What an interesting find!

As the sun was getting low to the west, I started following the GPS Tracks App back toward Camp Tuthill.  Enjoying the warm afternoon as I was bushwhacking through the heavily pine scented air; all was right with the world…..that is until my iPhone battery ran out!  Yikes!!

Now, I have a terrible sense of direction, however whenever I take off into the backcountry I keep emergency supplies in my daypack, including a compass.  On this occasion all that useful equipment was indeed in my daypack but unfortunately the pack was safely stowed away in the truck…..where I hoped to arrive before it got dark.  Add to the embarrassment of being lost in the woods a mere 3 miles from ones campsite, I had told Kit that if I failed to return by 1700 to contact the park ranger.

It was a brooding and scary forest that began to close in around the hapless geocacher as he was hopelessly lost in the Northern Arizona backcountry and the eerie sounds of nocturnal creatures waiting in the shadows pierced the gloom.  OK, it was still bright, and sunny, and warm, however, there was a gentle breeze blowing and this being allergy season, I could have been in great peril!

Now the conventional wisdom when one is lost is to stay put, but I violated that rule as well.  However, within a few minutes I came to a well-used trail and noticing the telltale tread marks of a mountain bike, realized that it was the same trail I had biked when we stayed here last year.  The problem now was what way to travel, being that it was a loop trail it probably didn’t matter.  Other than it was almost 6 miles long…..go the wrong way and it could be quite a trek.  Contemplating my fate I soon heard a biker rattling down the trail and flagged him down.  As luck would have it he was one of the rangers from Fort Tuthill and was on a sweep of the trail to see if anyone was still out on the trail.  Following his direction I bushwhacked the remaining quarter mile right back to the campsite…..halleluiah!

Relaxing in the waning daylight as I reminisced on how I was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I researched auxiliary battery systems for iPhones and made a mental note to always carry at least a compass when relying on electronic gadgetry while walking in the woods.

Tomorrow we head due east until we hit the right coast then its north towards home…..stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bits:  It’s a good thing we operate primarily without an itinerary.  And, we were fortunate in that we have such wonderful friends as Martha & Tommy.  We had made arrangements to meet up with them 3 different times and had to cancel.  The 4th time, we finally made it.  Thanks Martha for being so understanding.  With all the craziness we’ve encountered, there is no way we could have kept dates with friends.  Operating “on the fly” seems to be our standard MO these days and being able to take Miriam to her final resting place, on the spur of the moment is a perfect example.  She loved the ride over and was overjoyed to be on Point Loma!  She used to bring us there when we were kids and loved the beautiful views.  She was also fond of pointing out all the relatives’ graves and telling us about each person.  Love you and miss you Nana!

 

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

Richie Havens (and others)

 Mom #3-Edited

Miriam Theresa Byrnes Tucker Herndon Russell

Mother, Nana, Proud WWII Veteran

August 27, 1924 to March 22, 2014

 

Friday, March 21, 2014-Yuma, Arizona:  Well, another change in plans…..received word last night that my mom has taken a turn for the worse.  So, we cancelled our plans to visit Phoenix first for a few days and instead headed directly to Tucson.

Arriving in town, we dropped the trailer off at Dewey and Bea’s dooryard.

Doobie Campsite

We then met up with Danny and headed to Crossroads Adult Care Home a few blocks away.

Mom was mostly unresponsive but we did detect some movement behind her partially open eyes as if she was scanning the room.  Kit, Dan and I spoke reassuring words by reminding her that we would watch out for each other and that there are previously departed family members waiting in heaven.  As mom slipped back into a deep sleep we departed Crossroads and returned to Dewey and Bea’s place for some family togetherness.

Crossroads

 

Saturday, March 22, 2014:  Mom ceased to suffer and left for a better place at 0605 this morning…..it is with a sense of sadness and relief that we great the day.

 Miriam Theresa Byrnes was born on Wednesday, August 27, 1924 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mom #5-Edited

From an early age, hardship shadowed mom’s life but by all accounts she was a happy and content child.  Her birth mother died in 1929 of tuberculosis, and her seven month old brother Billy suffered the same fate 4 months later.

 Her father soon remarried and for the duration of her childhood mom was treated lovingly by her new mother and by her new brother Don and her new sister Joan.

Mom #1-Edited

Shortly after graduating from high school in 1942 she followed in the footsteps of many of her peers and joined the military, serving in the US Navy as a Hospital Apprentice.

 Marriage, children and divorce left mom with few options as she struggled to raise two rebellious teenagers.  However through it all she maintained her faith, optimism and unwavering focus on her family’s welfare, frequently working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Another husband as well as a child, my brother Dan, joined the family.  As the older children began to move out of the San Diego home, mom traveled with her new husband and young son to Izmir, Turkey and Guadalajara, Mexico before eventually finding her way to Oracle, Arizona.  After years of a tumultuous marriage, she found herself a single mother once again and then suffered yet another loss with the passing in 1983 of her son, and my younger brother, Donald.  Shortly thereafter, mom relocated to Tucson where she met Dean, her one true love and true soul mate.

Mom #6-Edited

 Dean and mom enjoyed many happy years of marriage until his untimely passing in 2003.

There are many family stories and legends about this remarkable woman, enough to fill a very interesting novel.  Her kindness to others, love of the lord, dedication to her family, .vast community of friends and her service in the wartime military truly define her.

Mom, 12-06-2010, Bill's Edit

She will be missed by many and is at this very moment most certainly “partying it up” in heaven where we all may get to enjoy her company once again.

Bill's Best of 2010 Pix (82)

We love you mom!

 

Saturday, March 22 through Monday, March 30, 2014-Tucson, Arizona:  Kit and I had originally planned on returning to Tucson before heading east…..just not this soon.  However we are both very glad we changed plans and were able to spend some time with mom before her passing.

The original reason we planned to visit Tucson again was to help celebrate the pending nuptials between my Bruzzin Dewey and his best friend, Bea!

Tucson 2014, Photo #1

The planned backyard wedding was to be small…..approximately 65 members of the family and a few close friends.  Many of us volunteered to pitch in and make the many pre-wedding tasks that needed to be accomplished easier on Dewey and Bea.  Kit volunteered to do cleaning and help with food prep, and I volunteered to be the margarita maker and to perform the actual wedding ceremony.  My skills with tequila, triple sec, orange juice and margarita mix is renowned.  As a child growing up I was always told that if I worked at anything hard enough I can master that skill!  As for officiating at weddings?  I have much less experience, having performed only eight previous ceremonies.

Since we were taking up part of the driveway, and since parking space on wedding day was to become a premium, Kit and I relocated a few miles away to Catalina State Park for the duration of our stay.

CSP, Pix #5

We love it here and picked the same spot we occupied back in December when we last traveled through Tucson.

CSP Pix #B9

The site affords us great views across beautiful high desert terrain and is back-dropped by the majestic Catalina Mountain chain.

CSP, Pix #1

Nearing the actually wedding day, we all took a day of rest.  Kit wanted some quiet reading time, and I wanted to spend some time with my brother Dan.  He and I decided to head north to Oracle, Arizona where Dan grew up and still owns property.

Oracle Land Pix #3

Dan the Arizona Land Baron, likes to survey his holdings at least once a year and I enjoy accompanying him.

Oracle Land Pix #1

Now if cactus ever finds its way onto the Commodities Exchange, he can retire in style!

Dan has fond memories growing up in this area even though it has changed considerably over the past 35 years.  Before returning to town we enjoyed an excellent meal at the Oracle Patio Café.

The Oracle Patio Cafe

Where Dan enjoyed a pizza and I ordered the Carnita Verde plate.

The Oracle Patio Cafe

The food was incredible…..it is amazing where one can find delicious and authentic Mexican food!  Even in little old dusty, one donkey Oracle!!

The day of the wedding dawned grand and glorious, and everything was lining up for an incredible time!

CSP, Pix #3

Arriving early Kit and I, along with many others, helped to take care of any last minute details.

Kit continued her assistance in the kitchen by helping Anna the Excelente cocinera ……

Anna and Kit

…..as Dewey assigned outdoor chores……

Doobie Day, Pix #1

…..and I was carefully stirring and sampling the gallons of Margaritas.

The guests soon began to arrive and were greeted by a festive Mariachi Band in full Mexican attire.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #5

These young musicians from a local high school were incredibly gifted.  They played lively Mariachi music and showcased a few talented singers as well.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #15

However, the hit of the performance was Dewey and Bea’s next-door neighbor Manny, who treated us all to his beautiful baritone voice and sang a number of traditional Mexican ballads.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #19

Some of the young musicians invited the more adventurous wedding guests to join them on the dance floor for some traditional dancing.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #13

And Dewey and Bea showed their chops by wowing everyone with their smooth dance moves as well.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #25

The one hour concert was appreciated by everyone…..especially the honored couple, Dewey and Bea!

Doobie Wedding, Photo #20

Soon it was time for the more formal part of the day.  Bea was beautifully serenaded in A-Cappella to the ceremonial location by 18 year old Haley, the daughter of her best friend.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #28

Bea’s maid of honor was her sister Jo and the flower girl was her new granddaughter, Kaya.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #30

Dewey’s best man was his cousin Mike and the ring bearer was his grandson, Gavin.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #31

Following the vows, the traditional toast was offered by Mike…..in a not so traditional way!

Doobie Wedding, Photo #33

Then the music, food and drinks turned an already festive occasion to a wonderful Mexican Fiesta!

Doobie Wedding, Photo #14

The recorded music was artfully handled by Dewey’s cousin Jimmie and the playlist featured everything from Bruno Marrs to The Righteous Brothers.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #27

Everyone partied and danced the afternoon away, including the newly married couple.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #34a

Until it was time for them to roar off on their honeymoon in their 1955 Chevrolet Street Rod.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #39

Of special note, all of Dewey and my relatives from California were able to join the Tucson clan for the first time in a number of years.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #35

It was great seeing the family and catching up on the doings in everyone’s lives.  Dewey was especially pleased that his son, Kevin and daughter, Erin was able to attend.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #9

And Bea was happy her 98 year old mother Emily and her sister Joan were also able to attend, as well as relatives that flew in from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Doobie Wedding, Photo #32

But the guests that stole the show were Dewey, and now Bea’s, grandchildren Gavin and Kaya.

Doobie Day, Pix #4

What an incredible day…..one filled with laughter, family, committed love, and new beginnings.  Kit and I vowed to not let my mom’s recent passing mar this occasion…..we feel she was there in spirit and she certainly had a great time!

Congratulations Dewey and Bea…..we love you!!

For us, this week has been an emotional rollercoaster.  There have been times of deep sorrow and others of incredible joy…..what a microcosm for life in general.

Kit’s Bits: Congratulations to Dewey & Bea!  What a beautiful wedding, fun for all and best of all, Bea & I are now real sister-in-laws!  Yay!!!  Miriam was definitely with us during the wedding.  Not just in spirit, she was actually floating around just above us, dressed in very bright colors, with lots of jewelry and high heels, dancing around!  I know she was there because I saw her!  And, I heard her talking 😉  She will be with us forever and I know our kids and grandkids have such fond memories of her, they never knew what would come out of her mouth. I know you’re having fun chasing the guys up in heaven, Nana!!  Love you!!!

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

To travel is to live

Hans Christian Andersen

 

Monday, March 17, 2014:  Up to partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid 70’s.  As we prepare to depart from Fiddlers Cove RV Park on California’s Silver Strand we realize that we have gone about as far west as we can without getting wet…..so today officially starts our return trip home.  Notice anything different about our Logo in the header?

On the road at 1100 and picked our way through various back roads until we intersected I-8 near El Cajon and then headed east.  Sad that we are leaving sunny California but happy we are heading back to sunny Arizona to spend more time with family and just as important to participate in the social event of the year!

As we climbed into the Laguna Mountains, we bid farewell to San Diego for another year.

Heading to AZ, Pix #2

Crawling over the 4,200 foot summit of the Tecate Divide we both received alerts on our iPhones that read:  “Welcome to Mexico”.  This has occurred a number of times on past trips while near the border.  It’s always a bit disconcerting in that our phones do not have a Mexican call plan but it gets kinda humorous since Kit wakes up abruptly and accuses me of taking a wrong turn somewhere and thinks we really are south of the border!

Dropping off the backside of the Laguna Mountains we are in the Imperial Valley and once again near sea level.  We decided to pull off the interstate at El Centro for fuel and groceries and stepping out of the air conditioned truck we both gasped.

Yikes-1

Yikes it’s hot!   Dry heat or not, it’s damn hot!

Making short work of our errands we were back on the road by mid-afternoon and continued east on I-8 paralleling the Mexican border.

Heading to AZ, Pix #3

There are portions of the interstate that we get glimpses of the actual border and the infamous 2.4 Billion, 630 mile fence that frankly keeps very few folks from illegally walking into the US.

Da Border

Don’t have any better solution than the government.  I just like to complain about tax dollars spent unwisely….complaining about the government is what I do; I’m retired for God sakes!

A few miles further on we passed by The Imperial Dunes Off Road Vehicle Recreation Area.

Imperial Dunes ORV Area #2

Being a Monday, there weren’t many folks blasting about on their ATV’s or sand rails.  As a testament to how Mother Nature erases some man made scars by Sunday afternoon those sand dunes will be covered with vehicle tracks, but by the next morning the relentless desert winds will obscure almost all of them!

Crossed into Arizona at 1638 and then pulled into the town of Yuma, a snow birders paradise due to its reputation of featuring the most pleasant winter weather in the nation.  Yuma, Arizona receives an annual rainfall of just over 3 inches which makes it the 9th driest place in the United States.  In addition, the sunshine percentage exceeds 90% making it statistically one of the sunniest places on earth!  However six months of the year the average temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and can stay above 100 degrees for weeks at a time…..the extreme heat will flush out most sane snowbirds and send them back to their homes in the north.

We decided to stop in Yuma because a few friends from back home have become Winter Arizonians and we were looking forward to visiting with them.

John and Gloria Visit, Pix #1

John and Gloria are from Windham, Maine, and a few years back purchased a nice unit in a quaint RV Park on the edge of town.  And, they were kind enough to secure a spot for Kit and I right around the corner from their place at Garden Oasis RV Park.

Garden oasis Campsite

To welcome us to town, John and Gloria invited us to dinner.  Arriving at their nicely appointed park model trailer we enjoyed delicious Chicken Tortellini Soup and red wine!  As the wine flowed, so did the conversations…..Kit and I had a great time!

Garden Oasis RV Park is a neat little facility located smack-dab on the California/Arizona border.  Many of the homes are park model trailers with a scattering of fifth wheel and travel travelers in the mix.

Garden Oasis Photo #1

John and Gloria have one of each!

John and Gloria, Photo #1

The park model trailer is their winter home, and the fifth wheel trailer to its left is the unit they travel in…..nice combination for folks that want to beat the winter snow but still want to RV about the country!

Many of the sites are artfully decorated and landscaped with desert plants.  And there was some creative “yard art” in the park as well…..such as the desert themed sculpture seen below.

Yard Art

 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014-Garden Oasis RV Park, Yuma, AZ:  Up to blue skies and warm temperatures.  While doing my daily check of weather.com I discovered the following:  Temperature-91 degrees, Humidity-9%, Winds-15 MPH from the west, and Wind Chill-87 degrees…..seems odd they took the time to calculate the wind chill?!?!

Today, John and Gloria offered to take us to a local institution, Dobson’s Ranch and Museum over in Tacna, Arizona.

Arriving at the ranch, we learned that Ace and Windy Dobson were the original pickers!  Over fifty years ago they started collecting anything and everything that interested them.  And many of these artifacts were “picked” from old abandoned homesteads or dumps.  An interesting side note, the museum is actually Windy’s home.  After tours are over for the day, this is where she eats and sleeps!  Ace passed on a few years ago, but Windy and her family still care for these unique and historic pieces of Americana.

Their vast collection consists of old tools.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #1

And old bottles,

Dobson Ranch, Pix #2

There are old locks and keys.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #4

And, various pieces of old office equipment.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #5

And a nice collection of books no longer in print.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #6

As well as some unusual Indian art.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #7

There are many examples of early consumer products.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #9

As well as examples of early can goods.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #11

In addition to the items in her home, Windy keeps many more items in the various outbuildings scattered about her property.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #34

The yellow bus in the background of the following photo is actually an old bookmobile.  Remember those?

Dobson Ranch, Pix #13

Kit does!

Dobson Ranch, Pix #14

There are also lots of other automobile related antiques including old hand gas pumps.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #17

And a shed full of old belt driven machinery.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #18

And old scooters and engines.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #20

Many of which still run!

Dobson Ranch, Pix #22

There are a few old cars and trucks.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #30

Including this unique Ford…..

Dobson Ranch, Pix #23

…..with a diesel engine!

Dobson Ranch, Pix #24

This runs as well and is used daily about the ranch!

In addition, there are lots of old bulldozers.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #25

And old tractors.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #26

And some newer tractors.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #27

All the rolling machinery and stationary engines ran when brought to the ranch…..many still do!

What doesn’t fit in the house or the many other buildings are lined up neatly on the ground to live out their years in the dry desert.

Dobson Ranch, Pix #35

Even the hundreds of excess antique bottles!

Dobson Ranch, Pix #36

So, if you ever find yourself in Tacna, Arizona…..give Windy a call to see if she will show you around!  Oh, in case you’re wondering, her name really is spelled “Windy”…..its short for Winifred.

Returning to Yuma, we stopped in at Logan’s Roadhouse for an excellent steak dinner before returning to the campground for the night.

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014:  Up early and began the process of breaking camp.  As we were hooking up truck to trailer, Gloria walked over and invited us to a breakfast of pumpkin pancakes and real Maine maple syrup, so obviously we delayed our departure…..and we are certainly glad we did.  The meal and the company were excellent!

At 1115 Kit and I were on the road under sunny skies and a temperature of 86 degrees.  As we made our way back to I-8 we noticed a number of farm fields amongst the RV parks that planted in Durum Winter Wheat.

Garden Oasis Photo #2

Well, that’s what the locals called what looked like long grass to us.  Apparently it is used extensively in bread making.

As we were leaving town on US-95, Kit noticed an RV dealer and she reminded me that our travel distance today was to be relatively short and we had plenty of time to stop for a look.  Turns out, the dealer was the southern outlet to the one we stopped at up in Riverside a few months ago.

Pulling into The RV Peddler, which is an Arctic Fox dealer, with our road weary Arctic Fox created a bit of a stir.  The salesman that was the quickest was the one who greeted us and showed us around the inventory.  There were some really nice units that we drooled over and might consider for our next purchase.  The salesman was very patient with us, even after we told him that we were still in the looking stage.  It is amazing the changes in RV technology in the six short years we have owned ours!

After a few hours of looking around we were on the road once again making our way up US-95 toward the Yuma Proving Ground and our stop for the evening.

The Yuma area, consisting of fertile ground irrigated by the Colorado River features many farms and orchards.

Road to YPG

And as can be expected, there are also a number of roadside fresh fruit stand which lured us in for a peek.

Yuma Fruitstand #2

We went a bit crazy with all the farm fresh fruits and vegetables picked very recently from the local farms.  Two bulging sacks and twenty dollars later we had enough to tide us over for many days to come.

At 1500 we pulled into the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground and found our way to their full hook-up campground.

YPG Campsite

Just as we were setting up camp, our friends John and Karen happened by and welcomed us to the neighborhood.  They spend their winter camped at the Long Term Visitors Area (LTVA) on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area.  This dispersed camping opportunity is available to anyone who applies for a $180.00 permit which allows for up to 6 months of camping on any authorized BLM land.  That’s a dollar a day folks, if I did my math correctly.  The caveat is that this camping is on raw, open desert…..no hookups of any kind.  There is a source for fresh water and a dump station nearby, but that’s it!

John and Karen spend the summer in Bend, Oregon except for part of last summer when they used their truck camper to explore New England and spent a few days visiting us in Maine.  To reciprocate, they invited us out to the LTVA tomorrow for a visit and to explore some of their desert backyard, an opportunity we are looking forward to.

 

Thursday, March 20th, 2014-Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona:  Woke early to warming temperatures and a gentle dry breeze.  After breakfast we made our way to the LTVA to meet up with John and Karen.

Their winter home is an Arctic Fox fifth wheel trailer and it has all the accessories that make living off the grid in the desert possible……not the least of which are roof mounted solar panels.

LTVA, Pix #5

In addition they have a generator and a wood pellet fueled barbeque grill!  Living in this dry and somewhat desolate region takes a bit of guts and a lot of character.

LTVA, Pix #4

However it also takes a community of like-minded folks to help each other out during times of trouble or during an emergency.

LTVA, Pix #3

John loaded us all in his brand new Silverado 2500 Diesel and headed out into the tulles.

YPG, Pix #1

Even though this area is in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, there are many areas that feature lush growth due to springs or small streams, known as Riparian areas.

LTVA, Pix #7

And a few streams have been damned to allow for irrigation and to create wildlife habitat’s.

YPG, Pix #2

A really nice day spent with some good friends ended with a fantastic meal at a local Mexican restaurant called Mi Rancho.

LTVA, Pix #6

Kit ordered a beef and bean burritos and I enjoyed The Trio Plate consisting of a Carne Asada Taco, a Carnitas Taco and a large Tamale.  We all consumed a few bowls of freshly made tortilla chips and plenty of homemade salsa.  Everything was excellent…..you just can’t beat authentic Mexican fare made the traditional way by folks that were raised on the cuisine!

After a thoroughly enjoyable day, Kit and I relaxed back at the campsite as the sun set over the desert.

YPG Campsite

Tomorrow we head toward Phoenix for a few days R&R before returning to Tucson and some exciting doings…..stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bits: It was so nice to finally stop and spend some time in Yuma!  We’ve been through there many times over the last 48 years and never once have we stopped, other than to gas up the vehicle.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with John and Gloria.  We know them through Square Dancing in Maine and had never had enough time to get to know them better.  They are a delightful couple enjoying their winters in Yuma and have settled into a nice routine in the area with many friends.  We call John & Karen our “online” friends; they contacted us via the internet while doing research on Arctic Fox trailers!  Our “online” friendship spanned a couple of years before we finally met them last year when they came to ME!  It was fun to visit with them again and learn how they spend their winters on BLM land, and deal with the many issues we all face while camping, but, in a different way.  They have a lovely spot out in the middle of nowhere, and have a circle of friends in the area with which to socialize.  People are so inventive on how to spend their retirement years!

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.

G.K. Chesterton

 

Monday, March 10 through Sunday, March 16, 2014-Coronado, California, Week #2:  Another week in paradise, we remain nestled in our little camper between the blue Pacific Ocean and pristine San Diego Bay.

Sunset on Fiddlers Cove

Throughout our stay at Fiddlers Cove RV Park, we focused on relaxing.  Kit did it her way…..

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #10

and I did it mine.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #8a

The waters of San Diego Bay were perfect for paddling about.  There was the protected marina in our front yard that provided an opportunity to see some incredible boats up close.

Kayak Paddle II, Pix #2

Such as the one above… After chatting with the owner of this beautiful Ketch while he puttered about and I bobbed around in my little yellow kayak, he offered to take me for a sail!  Terry, a retired Navy guy and current UPS driver, spends most weekends on his boat.  Being a Sunday he was buttoning things up to make the trek back home to Yuma, Arizona and unfortunately we were to leave before next weekend (insert sad emoticon thingie here).  However, Terry said I could take a rain check, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I will look him up next year when he plans on being retired and living on his boat full time!

As I paddled further into the marina, I sadly noticed there were some nice boats that looked as if they had sat on their mooring with little or no attention from their owners.  Such as the black hulled yawl in the below photo.

Kayak Paddle II, Pix #3

I couldn’t quite figure out what that object hanging from the aft mast was, so I paddled closer.

Kayak Paddle II, Pix #4

Yep, an Osprey nest built on what looked to be the radar platform!  Obviously this boat has not been under sail for quite some time…..pretty sad!

Tiring of the protected waters of Fiddlers Cove, I ventured out of the breakwater and into San Diego Bay.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #1

Starting the GPS Tracks App on the iPhone before placing it in a dry-bag, I paddled toward the Coronado Bridge approximately three miles up the bay.

Passing well clear of the US Navy Amphibious Base, because there were security signs everywhere warning to stay clear and because that’s where the US Navy Seals are trained and educated at taking care of business…..if you know what I mean!

I was making pretty good progress toward my goal as the city of San Diego skyline came into view.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #3

Realizing that I could actually make it to the bridge, and paddle under it, gave me incentive to keep cruising on.  Even though I had been on the water for quite a while and needed a break…..if you know what I mean, staying hydrated and everything, as I was.

Soon I had a nice view of the San Diego Skyline framed within the Coronado Bridge.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #2

It was a real thrill to be kayaking under the very same bridge I used to cruise under on an old beat up, World War Two destroyer back in the 1970’s when we left or returned from deployments.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #4

On the far side of the bay I could just make out some of the modern Navy warships that sat at piers while being overhauled at one of the many shipyards that dot the bay.  Many were ships I had worked on during my 21 year career with various defense contractors.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #5

OK, Now I really had to make landfall…..but where?  Fortunately the prestigious Coronado Golf Course was located on the bay, and fortunately the tide was out revealing a small spit of sand suitable for beaching a small kayak, and fortunately even though there were golfers plying the course on the bluff above they were paying absolutely no attention to me so…..all’s well that ends well, if you know what I mean?

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #7

As I made the relaxing paddle back to the RV Park, I was hoping that Kit had as nice and relaxing afternoon as I had.

Kayak SD Bay, Pix #11

Yep, guess she did!

Speaking of Kit, she has a new hobby.

Baking Pins

Can you guess what it is?

Even though this trip to San Diego was to be under the radar, there were a few folks that we wanted to see.  My oldest friend from grade school and the person I routinely got into mischief with back in those days was Rodney.  He and his delightful wife, Gloria are now retired and living in Tecate, Mexico.

Rodney and Gloria

Inviting them up to our camper at Fiddlers Cove, we had a blast talking over old times and enjoying barbeque and beer in the warm California sunshine.  Rod and Gloria have a beach place on the Sea of Cortez which they invited us to on our next trip out west.  It was great seeing them both and upon leaving, Gloria presented us with some homemade Jalapeno Jelly, which we have been enjoying ever since!

Next month, the village of Coronado is playing host to the officers and crew of the Navy’s newest warship.  The Coronado (LCS-4) is scheduled to be commissioned on April 5th at North Island Naval Station.

LCS-4

 Photo from US Navy website

This state of the art Trimaran is a Littoral Combat Ship and was built in Mobile, Alabama by a consortium of builders including General Dynamics and its subsidiary, Maine’s own Bath Iron Works.  A very fast, very capable and very flexible warship, the Coronado can be outfitted with a variety of Mission Modules tailored to the specific warfare capability needed.   Kit and I have been offered tickets to that gala event by a good friend back home that works on the project.  Unfortunately we will be eastern bound long before April 5th rolls around so had to respectfully decline.

There is a fellow RV traveler that is staying in the park who we originally met a few weeks ago up in San Louis Obispo.  Dave and Janet are full time RV’rs, a life they assumed following their retirement and the selling of their home in upstate New York.  Coincidently, we had the same general travel plans and kept bumping into them at various campgrounds as we both hopscotched down the coast.

Also coincidently Dave is an avid Geocacher and offered to take me on a search of geocaches nearby…..so off on our bikes we went.  It must have been “newbie luck” as I spotted the first cache hidden in the pickleweed of San Diego Bay.

Geo Caching with Dave, Pix #1

However Dave, with over 1,200 finds to his credit showed his experience and found the next couple of caches as I was scratching my head and staring at the Geocache App on my iPhone.

Geo Caching with Dave, Pix #4

While on the hunt for more finds, we noticed a number of bike riders on the pedestrian/bike path that were similarly dressed and sporting flags affixed to their bikes.

Wounded Warrier Ride, Photo #1

Dave, a retired Army Sargent Major and I a former Navy guy, quickly realized it was a ride dedicated to The Wounded Warrior Project.  Many of the cyclists were on recumbent or hand-cycles due to the loss of limbs.

Wounded Warrier Ride, Photo #2

We stood alongside the path at respectful attention giving thumbs up and applauding as these military heroes peddled by.

Wounded Warrier Ride, Photo #3

It was a humbling and inspiring moment and refocused our attention to the things that really matter in this world.  Thanks Veterans, we are very proud of you!

Eventually, nearing the time we figured we better be getting back to the RV park, Dave took pity on me and stood aside while I stumbled about and found the last cache hidden in the shoreline vegetation and camouflaged with sand and seashells.

Geo Caching with Dave, Pix #3

A great day on the hunt for some nicely hidden caches in a beautiful environment with a seasoned pro…..life is good!  I actually doubled the total of my lifetime cache find during the three hours we were out.  Thanks Dave for the patience and mentoring, I know have a renewed appreciation for the sport of Geocaching!

After getting cleaned up, Dave, Janet, Kit and I went into the village and enjoyed a great Italian meal at an upscale restaurant.

Dinner with Dave and Janet

As mentioned in the last journal, the pedestrian and bike path that parallels The Silver Strand connects the town of Imperial Beach to the Village of Coronado.   It is nice paved and fairly well used pathway…..one we frequently walked or biked on during our stay.

Bike Ride Pix #2

However, for us that prefer dirt beneath or wheels, part of the path is augmented by an adjacent mountain bike trial.

Walk to Coronado, pix #1

Being on foot or bike affords one the opportunity to notice and enjoy all the beauty along the way.

Purdy Flower

Or appreciate the unique art work that is scattered about.

Walk to Coronado, pix #4

Or, yes…..to even stop and smell the beautiful spring flowers.

Walk to Coronado, pix #8

One day while we were walking to the village, we came upon this operation at the municipal boat launch which is located next to Glorietta Bay Park.

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #1

These folks operate an adventure ride called Aquatic Aviation.  The red 55 foot hose is attached by way of an adapter to any standard high horsepower Personal Water Craft (PWC).  The “pilot” straps into the apparatus consisting of boots and a pair of water jet nozzles, called a “Flyboard”.  Once in the water the pilot then has the PWC operator increase power and he is lifted out of the water on two columns of high pressure water.

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #2

Stability and directional control is accomplished by body position and hand movements allowing the pilot to navigate laterally across the water with the PWC in tow.

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #5

The Flyboard has sufficient thrust to lift the average pilot up to 35 feet in the air.

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #6

And an accomplished Flyboard Pilot can do aerial summersaults……

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #7

…..Recover to normal flight…..

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #8

…..and link another summersault till he gets tired or dizzy, or sane…..whichever comes first.

Aquatic Aviation, Fly Board, Pix #9

The pilot can even plunge headfirst into the water, dive to 35 feet and then porpoise back to the surface and into flight mode once again.  Missed getting a photo of that operation!

The folks you see in the photos above were actual paying customers.  The two young girls were twins from Vermont on a spring break trip to visit their aunt, the grey haired women at right.  All gave it a try…..even the 64 year old aunt!

As mentioned in the last issue, Ferrari’s are as common in Coronado as Subaru’s are in Maine, and they seem to be only sold in the color red!  This particular beauty was spotted just outside the west gate of North Island Naval Air Station.  And as with most Ferrari’s, they head you see poking above the headrest is indeed grey.

Ferrari

As I turned the corner where the Ferrari was waiting at a stop sign the driver waved. Being a friendly sort, I waved back and then pulled to the curb so I could snap a couple of photos as he accelerated away from the stop.

It wasn’t till a few days later when I downloaded the camera I noticed something familiar about the license plate.

Ferrari Plate

Yep, New Hampshire…..a neighbor from upta home!  In retrospect, I bet he noticed our Maine plates and that’s why he waved.  Or maybe he noticed the good looking chick sitting next to me!?  Shhhhh, don’t tell Kit!

After yet another enjoyable day of playing tourist in Coronado, we treated ourselves to yet another enjoyable Mexican meal.

Miguel's

At Costa Azul Cantina, I ordered the Carnitas and they were pretty darn incredible.  Kit enjoyed a loaded burrito which she liked as well.  We both enjoyed a large cold draft of Arrogant Bastard…..gotta love that name!

So…..the “Restaurant Score Card” during our stay in the San Diego reads as follows:

  • Costa Azul
  • The Prado
  • The Lazy Dog
  • Vigilucci’s
  • Miguel’s Cocina
  • Lou & Mickey’s
  • Rubio’s
  • Five Guys
  • The Pier Café
  • Ono Grinds
  • Bill & Kit’s Webber Grill

OK, that last one is barbequing on our new Camper Grill, which we did a number of times turning raw steak, chicken and hamburger into tasty meals.

There are many friendly folks camped at Fiddlers Cove RV Park, and with the great weather everyone was out and about.  One couple we enjoyed visiting with was Bob and Judy from Colorado.

Bob and Judy

They had just purchased a new camper, which you may notice over their shoulders, and were on their maiden voyage.  Kit, expressing an interest in the trailer was invited to take a look inside…..and I tagged along.  A smaller (by today’s standards) three slide unit by Excel, the trailer was pretty impressive with many “residential features” including a pair of leather recliners.  Kit is sold!  Bill still likes their tiny, and paid for, camper.  Who will ultimately prevail?

As you know, Kit is an avid reader and a real library aficionado.  So one bright sunny day she wanted to drive into San Diego and experience the new Central Library.  Now normally I would drop her off and search for something more to my liking to explore.  However the architecture of the brand new structure that dominates the southern edge of downtown intrigued me so I followed along.

New SD Library, Photo #1

The six month old, state of the art library, covers 500,000 square feet and features nine stories of books, classrooms, computer labs, and reading rooms.

New SD Library, Photo #6

The architectural capstone of this beautiful structure is a steel mesh dome made of individual “sails” suspended on cables.

New SD Library, Photo #2

These sails, a prominent architectural element, also provides sunshade to the 9th floor which contains a massive reading and reflection area with incredible views of downtown San Diego and many points beyond.

New SD Library, Photo #4

Kit immediately felt at home and sat in one of the many overstuffed chairs to enjoy a read and partake in the incredible views.

New SD Library, Photo #9

On two of the floors of the new San Diego Central Library exists a Charter School, a first in the nation partnership.  Currently consisting of only two grades, there are plans to add additional levels of education in the future.

This unique and beneficial city resource can be serviced from throughout San Diego County by automobile which would utilize the two levels of underground parking, or by the established and well used San Diego Trolley System which stops in front of the libraries front doors.

Downtown SD, Pix #1

The San Diego Central Library is fantastic, and will serve the citizens for many generations to come!  Check it out if you’re ever in the area.

Following our visit to the Central Library, we decided to explore the nearby Gas Lamp District of downtown San Diego.

Downtown SD, Pix #2

This formally seedy area of waterfront in the old industrial section of town has been totally gentrified and turned into a major local asset and tourist draw.  The restored factory buildings have been converted into shops, taverns, restaurants and condos.  And nearby, right on San Diego Bay is the Convention Center.

Downtown SD, Pix #3

After walking around a bit, we decided to have an early (Blue Hair) dinner at the famed Lou & Mickeys.

Downtown SD, Pix #4

Where we both enjoyed the signature Fish and Chips made from locally harvested Ling Cod recently hauled up from the deep waters off San Diego.

Lou and Micky's

The meal was excellent, and as you can see, quite plentiful!

Following dinner, Kit set off on a search for some retail therapy and I walked a few blocks to the south and visited Petco Park.

Downtown SD, Pix #5

The 42,000 seat stadium is at appropriately at 19 Tony Gwynn Way and is the home field of the San Diego Padres.

Downtown SD, Pix #6

Its open design faces north and gives most fans an excellent view of the game as well as views of San Diego Bay, the downtown area, as well as Balboa Park.  Known as a “hitter’s park” the outfield fences are low and just beyond the park lie many bars and restaurants.  A bit of trivia, the first homerun hit during major league play at Petco Park was caught by the bartender at The Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant.  A grassy area just outside the ballpark is called The Park at the Park and allows folks to enter on game day for a mere five dollars and sit on blankets to watch the game.  Petco Park is a nice small town baseball park in a large city.

Growing up in the area Kit and I have a number of friends and family that still reside nearby.  On each year’s trip we try to see as many as we can while still balancing our need and desire to see some of the sights as well.  On the morning before we left, we were treated to a visit from Kit’s brother John and his very pleasant wife, Lu.

John and Lou

Being retired, they make their home in South San Diego and we had a very nice, albeit too short visit with this busy couple.

Another person we wanted to see was yet another friend from the old neighborhood.  CeCe works for the TSA and was recently transferred back to her home city after tours of duty in Boston and Alaska.  We met her down at Seaport Village, a shopping and dining mecca in downtown, right on San Diego Bay.

Seapoprt Village, Pix #3

After a fine meal at The Pier Cafe, we lingered over coffee and shared stories of our common history as well as our separate paths in life.

Seapoprt Village, Pix #4

As Kit and CeCe walked the adjacent promenade, I made a beeline for a collection of kites I had noticed at a nearby waterfront park.

Seapoprt Village, Pix #2

The owner of most of these brightly colored machines was the owner of the local kite shop out on a busman’s holiday and impromptu marketing mission.

Seapoprt Village, Pix #6

I had a great time talking story with Scott about various kite configurations and their flight dynamics……and I learned a great deal as well!  I was amazed that he could answer my endless stream of questions while keeping a very fast high performance kite in the air, and performing some pretty complicated tricks as well!  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get near as good at flying my kites someday.

Well…..as the moon rose over downtown San Diego…..

Seapoprt Village, Pix #9

…..and as the Golden Hour of sunset illuminated the nearby park…..

Seapoprt Village, Pix #7

…..we say goodbye to our friend CeCe…..

Seapoprt Village, Pix #5

…..and another beautiful day in Paradise!

Seapoprt Village, Pix #10

 

Kit’s Bits: As a former SD girl, now a small town New England girl, it’s nice to come out this way and enjoy our “home town” as a tourist, finally.  We’ve both always loved the sights of SD but never have had or taken the time to enjoy them.  This visit allowed us to see several places we’ve always wanted to see.  The weather was absolutely perfect and the new RV Park in Coronado was the perfect spot to park our little trailer.  We still have more sights and more people to see, so, will definitely be back.  Even though SD is certainly “America’s Finest City” though, we both love our home town of Brunswick, ME and would never leave it.  SD though, is a perfect diversion for the winters ;), if you know what I mean…

 

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

Why do you go away? So that you can come back, so that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.  Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

Terry Pratchett

 

Monday, March 3 through Sunday, March 9, 2014-Coronado, California, Week #1:  Up to a glorious day on the Silver Strand nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.  Blue skies, bright sun and gentle breezes…..life is indeed, great!

Fiddler's Cove, Photo #2

I wonder how the weather is back at the old homestead.

Home Pix #5, 02-19-14

Ohhhh!

Coronado Island, yep it used to be an island, was purchased and developed in 1885 by a rich guy as a resort for his rich friends.  How rich?  Well in order to get folks to “his” island he built a light rail system up the narrow isthmus that connected the island to the mainland.  However high tides coupled with winter storms would wash away the roadbed necessitating repair every spring.  Tired of that, said rich guy dredged a portion of San Diego Bay and built a causeway.  In the early 19th century, the US Navy discovered the value of this protected bay as a homeport for its ships and furthered the dredging.  This enlarging of San Diego Bay also enlarged the island of Coronado itself and a Naval Air Station was soon established at the north end called, what else…..North Island.

As you may remember, Kit and I grew up and went to school in San Diego which lies just across the bay from Coronado.  In fact, we got married 48 years ago at the Coronado Courthouse a mere three miles from where we are now camped.  On past trips, we usually spend most of our time visiting family and friends, but this trip we intend to enjoy some of the tourist sites we haven’t seen in years.

To begin with, we spent considerable time in Coronado during our stay.  Early, on one morning, we traveled to the village by walking along the bike and pedestrian path.  This 9 mile long, 8 foot wide paved route parallels the Silver Strand and is located between CA-75 and San Diego Bay.  From our campsite at Fiddlers Cove we headed north to the village, a distance of 3½ miles away.

Walk to Coronado, pix #3

The pedestrian path took us by the Coronado Yacht Club and the Boathouse Restaurant.

Walk to Coronado, pix #6

We then strolled through the grounds of the Hotel Del Coronado.

Hotel Del, Photo #1

This is one fancy place!  The room’s run from $289.00 to $514.00 per night!  I’m surprised they let us walk through the place for free!

The Hotel Del is a luxury hotel (you think!) and is one of the few surviving wood framed Victorian Beach Resorts that used to dot both coastlines.

Hotel Del, Photo #2

When it opened in 1888 The Hotel Del was the largest resort hotel in the world.  Originally lit with natural gas lanterns throughout the property, electric lamps were installed in 1904 by running wires through the existing gas lines…..all of this was overseen and inspected by Thomas Edison.

If you can afford to stay in the Hotel Del, you can afford one of these.

Walk to Coronado, pix #7

Yep, that’s a Ferrari…..and yep, the old guy was disabled.  I talked to him for a few minutes and he was barely able to walk.  But when he got behind the wheel of that incredible machine, he was a kid once again…..running through the gears as he made his way up Orange Avenue.

The Hotel Del was the first resort on the island constructed by the rich guy mentioned earlier.  However to attract the more common folk, he reserved a section of beach to the south for camping…..this created what was to become known as Tent City.

Hotel Del Tent City

In the photo above that I took back in 1907, you will notice the Hotel Del in the background.  Also, please note the streetcar that brought folks up the isthmus, now called The Silver Strand, from the train station in Imperial Beach.

Deciding we didn’t want to sell our camper in order to afford a meal at the Hotel Del, we were directed to a very nice restaurant by a local.  Miguel’s Cocina is right in the heart of the village and serves great local beer and authentic Mexican fare.

Costa Azul Lunch

We enjoyed an excellent meal in their colorfully decorated patio.  Then, we tried to burn off the jumbo calories by walking the 3 ½ mile trek back down the Silver Strand to our camper at Fiddlers Cove.

Speaking of food (nice segue, huh?) Kit and I don’t make that many meals while on these Excellent Adventure trips.  If it is a travel day, we try and have a hearty breakfast, snack during the day and then enjoy a lite dinner in the camper at where we may have stopped for the night.  In port (like the nautical jargon?), we also enjoy a big breakfast but usually have a large mid-afternoon lupper (lunch-supper) at a restaurant in the town we are visiting.  Then in the evening, after returning to the camper, we have a snack…..usually cheese, crackers, fruit and wine…..all the major food groups!  However back home we enjoy grilling, especially while out at the lake, so we decided to amp up our culinary equipment and purchased this.

New Barby

It is a high quality unit and burns raw meat, fish and poultry to perfection and it receives propane direct from the trailers onboard tanks.  The grill is sitting on a nifty table with adjustable legs and folds to a 2’x2’ easily storable size.  Now, I won’t be so crass as to mention the cost of this grill, but notice the plate of $42.45 hamburgers waiting nearby.

On one of our outings, we stopped by the Naval Air Station at North Island.  We needed to re-supply at the commissary and the exchange and get some discount fuel.  Noticing that the food court in the very nice Navy Exchange had our two favorite fast food places side-by-side we decided to have lunch.

NEX Eat's

There are three sailors in the photo above, but you may not be able to see them as they are wearing the new camouflage uniform.  Not sure what the Navy Uniform Board is thinking…..if they really want to camouflage sailors at sea, they need to make the uniforms resemble haze gray hulls with lots of running rust.

Many of the folks I worked with (yep, I do use the term “work” loosely) while at Lockheed Martin have transferred to similar jobs in San Diego.  Kit and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Scott and Marie as well as Jim at a really nice restaurant in Mission Valley.

SD Gang

The Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar featured incredible tavern fare along with unique local tap beers and free valet parking…..a plus on a very busy Friday night!  We had a great time seeing everyone and catching up on the details in their lives.

And leaving the restaurant, we were treated to this unique sunset over the many shops and restaurants in the valley.

SD Sunset

Hard to believe seeing Mission Valley today that back in the 1950’s, when we lived on the mesa to the north, that this whole valley was undeveloped and consisted of mainly farms and ranches along the wild San Diego River.  In elementary school, our exposure to the agricultural life came as a result of field trips to one of the many dairy farms that littered the valley.  Eventually, there was one small shopping center that was built in the early 60’s and featured just a handful of stores.  Today Mission Valley is canyon-wall to canyon-wall of hotels, motels, sports arenas, office complexes, condos, car dealerships and every retail venue one can imagine.

On yet another outing to the area, we visited with an old elementary school classmate of Kit’s that she recently reconnected with on Face Book.  This fellow and his son own a brewery in town so we just had to investigate!

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #1

Jim with his son Matt, a Certified Master Brewer, spent the better part of a year building the brewery before opening for business last year.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #10

Meeting up with Jim before the tasting room opened for business allowed us to enjoy a detailed tour of this fascinating facility.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #3

Notice the unique light fixture in the photo above and in the closeup below.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #2

That, as well as all the interior decorating, was artfully accomplished by Matt’s wife, Rachel.

To lubricate the dialogue, Jim offered us a “walk around beer”, and treated himself to one as well.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #5

Then it was a few steps to the production facility where he explained the art and science of brewing craft beers, starting with the basic ingredients of malted barley, hop flowers and water.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #6

Which are combined in the Mash Tun, and then transferred to the kettle for a few hours of cooking.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #7

When cooled, the Wort is transferred to the fermentation tanks where yeast is added, which begins the process of turning the mixture into drinkable beer.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #8

The beer can stay in these tanks for a couple of weeks to more than two months depending on the style and strength desired.  The longer the beer stays in the fermenting tank the higher the alcohol content, generally up to 12% for the “larger beer’s”.

When the beer is ready to be born, it is drained through a filter and poured into kegs which are immediately placed in the cooler.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #9

The chilled beer is then sent daily to one of the many 400 some odd accounts they have earned in the San Diego County area.  Their beer is featured in some of the finest taverns and restaurants in the area.  However nothing is like visiting their nicely decorated tasting room and sampling one of their signature barley pops.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #11

Jim spent over two hours out of his busy day visiting with us.  We talked over old times and got caught up with what has transpired in our lives these past 50 years.  Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed his personal tour and learning about the process involved in turning simple ingredients into incredible tasting beers.  As an added bonus he sent us off with a “Growler” of our choice to enjoy later.

Benchmark Brewing, Photo #14

Thanks Jim for a fantastic day!  Please visit their website for more information about Benchmark Brewing:

 

http://www.benchmarkbrewing.com/Benchmark_Brewing_Company/HOME.html

 

And if you find yourselves in San Diego, look for Benchmark Brewing beers at the finest taverns or better yet, visit their tasting room in Mission Valley.

Back at the camper, we took Jim’s advice and swiftly consumed our 64 ounce growler of Brown Ale while it was still cold.

Fiddlers Cove, Photo A1

As you can imagine, it was a pretty mellow afternoon as we sat bayside and watched the boat traffic cruise by.

Fiddeler's Cove RV Park, Pix #2

Until the sun set over the RV Park.

Fiddeler's Cove RV Park, Pix #4

A nice end to a great day!

Fiddlers Cove is a US Navy Recreation Facility that features, in addition to the RV Park, a 480 slip marina, a vast rental fleet of sail and power boats as well as canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards.

Fiddeler's Cove RV Park, Pix #3

When we return, and we will be back, I plan on getting checked out in their sailboats…..it is just a short transit out the protected marina into San Diego Bay and some world class sailing.

During our stay in Coronado, we received the sad news that one of Dewey and Bea’s beloved pets had passed.

MAX Photo #1

A rescue dog, Max had seamlessly moved into the existing menagerie of Nile and Kali and quickly made himself a member of the family.  He was a kind and gentle animal and a bit of a clown.

MAX Photo #2

Max will be missed by his family as well as by Kit and I and all who knew him…..he was one great dog.

On one day, while meandering about the village of Coronado, we went looking for the relative of a good friend back home.  Frank and Pat’s cousin Michelle owns a nice tee-shirt shop right in the center village.

Sea Shirts

Even though we met Michelle a number of years ago during a visit she made to Maine, she had no idea we were camping just a few miles to the south.  After browsing her shop as normal customers for a few minutes I caught her eye and said: “You look just like a person I know in Maine by the name of Pat”.  Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened and she stammered… ”What?  I have family in Maine!”  After letting her in on our little joke we had a nice time chatting about Maine and Coronado.

Kit and Michelle

In addition Michelle was kind enough to give us a significant discount on some products we purchased.  When you visit Coronado, make sure you stop in at Sea Shirts on Orange Avenue…..the shop has some very nice original tee shirts, most designed by Michelle herself.

Continuing our walk about town we stopped in a local tavern for a tasty adult beverage.

Kit at Lunch

Followed by a meander through the beachside neighborhoods where we admired some of the fancy homes.  This little bungalow was on the market for a mere $7,900,000.00!

Coronado Fancy Home #1

The village of Coronado is very walkable with a mixture of local residents and tourists mingling peacefully as they each go about their day.  Everyone seems to be in a good mood……must be the great weather, incredible food, and beautiful surroundings.  Other than getting married here in 1965, we seldom ventured this far south while growing up in the area.  For one thing, before the bridge was completed in 1969 the only way across the one mile bay was by a passenger ferry or by making the long trek south and up the Silver Strand, a distance of 23 miles.

The Naval Air Station anchors (pun intended) the north tip of Coronado.  This is where the aircraft carriers tie up and it also houses 23 aviation squadrons including the aviation training command for the Pacific Fleet.

In addition, the base features one of the finest military lodging facilities in the continental United States.

Navy Lodge Photo #2

Located right on the beach, the lodge features a commanding view of Point Loma at the mouth of San Diego Bay.

Navy Lodge Photo #1

If you visit, just be sure to keep a lookout for low fliers when the fleet is conducting flight ops.

FA-18

Speaking of flight ops and naval aviation, a friend of our grandson Joe is in town with his girlfriend, a Navy helicopter pilot.  Jonathon and Marcy were able to take a few hours from their busy schedule and join us for lunch at the Prado Restaurant in Balboa Park.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #4

We had a great meal and a great time catching up on the news of their life in San Diego.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #1

Balboa Park is one of the premier attractions in San Diego and is located near another major tourist draw, The San Diego Zoo.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #5

Originally built for the Southern California Exposition of 1915, Balboa Park now features numerous museums and gardens located in the lush Southern California oasis just minutes from downtown.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #6

The world class botanical garden is fronted by a massive reflecting pool.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #7

The pool contains brightly colored Japanese Koi.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #8

However, with all its intellectual and historic offerings, one of the most popular attractions in the park is the 1910 merry-go-round still in daily operation.

Jonathan and Marcy, Photo #9

Kit, Jonathon and Marcy had a blast going round and round as the hand carved and brightly painted wooden carousel animals went up and down…..and I had a blast photographing them!  You will have to ask Kit why she chooses to ride a barnyard fowl over the more stately steeds.

Thanks guys for a wonderful afternoon and good luck on your next assignment in Kaneohe, Hawaii……maybe we will visit you there as well!

Jonathon and Marcy, Photo #1

That’s all folks, for week one in paradise…..stay tuned for week number two coming soon to an inbox near you!

 

Kit’s Bits:  It’s no wonder San Diego is called “America’s Finest City”!  During our brief stay here, we focused on being “tourists” for the first time ever.  Add to that, since we were married in Coronado back in 1965, we had never taken the time to walk around the town and see its many sights.  We had perfect weather (of course) and saw as much as we could, being out exploring almost every single day.  Catching up with Jonathan and Marcy was a highlight of our visit.  We hadn’t met her yet, she’s a delightful (and smart) young woman with an exciting career ahead of her, being a helicopter pilot!  We’ve known Jonathan since he was about 5 years old.  He’s always kind enough to stop by and visit us while we’re home; Tom & Gudrun, your son has matured into a fine young man!  We wish the two of them the very best as they head to Hawaii soon.