Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #12

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.

Edward Abbey

 

First a sad note…..Emily, the wonderful woman we profiled in January when Kit and I helped celebrate her 100th birthday, has recently passed.

Emily-2014-P

By all accounts, Emily lived a very active and full life while raising two fantastic women, our wonderful sister-in-law, Bea and her equally wonderful sister, Jo.  Rest in peace dear Emily, you made a large impact on this world and will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing you.

 

Monday, February 22, 2016:  Leaving this morning from Admiral Baker Campground in the Mission Valley region of San Diego.  The weather is “Southern California Perfect” as we depart the Interstate and hop onto State Highway 94 heading into the Laguna Mountains.

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Within the hour, Kit and I are pulling into Potrero Regional Park located in the Mountain Empire region of San Diego County…..a quaintly rural area six miles from the Mexican Border.

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This will be a new camping opportunity for Kit and me and from first impressions, we are really impressed.  The park features great accommodations with nice large campsites shaded by the many Coastal Oak trees that grow in this region.

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And, as you can see, it is sparsely populated on this weekday.  However during our stay, we came to realize that the park is rarely crowded…..even on nice weekends!

Potrero Regional Park has large, paved and level campsites that are spaced far apart…..we were so impressed that Kit and I decided to sign up for a full week!  To make matters even more perfect, some good friends from back home are on their own RV adventure and decided to detour south and camp with us for a few days!

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Jeff and Catherine are traveling in their beautiful new Winnebago motorhome built on a Mercedes/Sprinter chassis.  Kit and I are thrilled to be able to spend some time with them…..it’s going to be a great couple of days!

 

Tuesday, February 23 through Tuesday, March 1, 2016-Potrero, California:  Woke to sunshine with cool temperatures due to the higher elevation.  After a quick breakfast, we all climbed into the truck and went out exploring the area.

Jeff, a railroad enthusiast, was interested in checking out the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum located a short distance away in Campo.  Unfortunately they were observing winter hours and not open during the week….drat!  However, where there is a will there is a way, and as we tried to find a way to get close enough to at least snap a few photos, Jeff noticed a truck meandering down a dirt road toward the railyard, so we gave chase.

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Soon we stumbled upon the museum property as our unintentional guide continued on to a small campsite overlooking the railyard.  Since Jeff and I didn’t see a “No Trespassing” sign, we parked and began to look around.

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This place is a virtual time-capsule of railroading…..most of the antique engines and rolling stock was unrestored and appeared to be ready to once again haul the nation’s freight.

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Sometimes it is better to view these survivors of yesteryear than the gussied up restorations that most museums keep indoors and at arm’s length from the public.

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Just as we were congratulating ourselves in finding a way into the museums railyard, a pack of dogs started barking and gave our position away.  Soon, the neighbor that lived next to the museum came hobbling to the fence hollering that we were trespassing and made it clear that he was armed!  Jeff and I noticed a fair number of old military vehicles in his yard, and started talking old car’s to him, which quickly defused (pun intended) the situation.  Soon, we were friends and the old fellow proudly showed us a few magazines that had profiled some of his restoration work.

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Not wanting to push our luck, we bid farewell and returned to the parking lot where the girls were patiently waiting…..we then made our way back up the dirt road beyond lethal range.

Hungry from the morning’s excitement, we then headed toward the tiny village of Barrett Junction and located its namesake café.

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Brother-in-law, Don told us of this culinary palace and highly recommended we seek it out and were we ever glad that we did…..thanks, Don!

The café began life as the Barrett Junction Stage Coach stop back in 1888 and is currently owned and operated by Leon Herzog.  Leon, a former San Diego High School educator, left the profession due to the effects of “Common Core” trumping “Common Sense”.  He is in the café on most days, overseeing the operation and taking care of his customers.  The menu item that put Barrett Junction Café on the culinary map was their deep fried Alaskan Cod.

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After a nice day, followed by a nice meal, we headed back to the campground for some relaxation.

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Snacks and adult beverages followed, then after a few rousing rounds of the RV’rs game of choice, Mexican Train, we all turned in for the evening.

On another beautiful morning, it was decided to explore some of the Mountain Empire countryside.  So after piling into the truck we located old U.S. Route 80 and decided to see where it led.  US-80 was the main east/west highway from San Diego to points east before Interstate 8 was built in 1975.

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Motoring merrily along, I noticed we were not heading west, as planned but more northerly!  Well, unlike the old days of paper maps, those of us that rely on GPS can get themselves off track fairly easily.  It appeared we were heading into the Cuyamaca Mountains…..not a bad outcome as this area is just as picturesque as any other San Diego County backcountry region.

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As we gained in altitude, there were signs (no pun intended) of what can befall this region during the winter months!

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However, no fear of snow today as the temperatures hovered in the mid-60’s and, most importantly, there wasn’t a cloud in sight!

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After making a few mid-highway U-turn’s we headed back south and stopped to poke around the Cuyamaca Outdoor School operated by the San Diego School System.

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Camp Cuyamaca, as it was called when Kit and I attended, is a weeklong wilderness school that every San Diego sixth grader attends to learn about nature and outdoor skills…..a real treat for city kids!  Driving about the campus was like a trip down memory lane!

On the way back to the campground, we found ourselves conveniently passing through Barrett Junction as hunger pangs reared their head, so another stop at the Café was in order…..and yep, enjoyed the Alaskan Cod once again.  This time with onion rings, which were, by the way, almost as good as Haraseeket Lunch and Lobster down at the South Freeport (Maine) Wharf!

Following our late lunch, we took the short drive down U.S. Route 94 back to the town of Potrero.

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Nearing the campground, we pulled into the local library so Kit and Catherine could get their book fix.

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Jeff took advantage of the free internet connected computers to take care of some business, while I walked the grounds of the library and marveled at the field of brightly colored flowers.

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Yellow and orange…..two of my favorite colors!  The librarian called them “weeds” as they grow wild in this region of the mountains, but they are actually Wild African Daisies.

Back at the ranch, we enjoyed more food, camaraderie, drink, laughter and Mexican Train, before calling it quits at the respectable blue-hair hour of 2030.

Today, it’s a trip down mountain to the big city of San Diego in order to show Jeff and Catherine Balboa Park!  Underway early, we negotiated US-94 south, mixing it up with the daily commuter folks trudging off to work.

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Arriving in the city, I chose to park in the San Diego Zoo lot so we could walk into the heart of the park from there.

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As mentioned earlier, Jeff likes trains…..full scale and their close relatives, the model train.  So while the girls explored in the Art Museum, Jeff and I sought out the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

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At 27,000 square feet, it is the largest model train layout in the country!  With hundreds of scale miles of track in three different sizes, or “gauges”, the museum is staffed by volunteers from four different modeling clubs in the area.

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The railroads are graphically authentic and represent the railroads of California, past and present….. including, the famed Tehachapi Loop.

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This engineering marvel was built in 1876 to facilitate train travel up and over the Tehachapi Mountains.  It is currently in use today carrying over forty trains a day and, if the train is long enough, it can actually pass over itself!

Of particular interest to Jeff was the O gauge “three-rail” models such as made by Lionel and ones that many of us received on Christmas morning!

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These toys of yesteryear brought many of us hours of joy and excitement building complex track layouts and being the train engineer.  However the modern version of these timeless classics are being produced with incredible detail and cost significantly more than the toys of the 1950’s!

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The museums “O” Gauge layout had virtually every engine, car, component and accessory made…..including a scale replica of an RV park!

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Jeff maintains a very impressive “O” Scale layout in his home and his railroad enthusiasm even extends to the real thing, like his fully operational track-maintenance car or “Speeder”.

Speeder Excursion, 09-06-14, Photo #2

Which he and his Speeder Club, uses on full sized rail track after acquiring time from the tracks owner.  Jeff was kind enough to invite me along on one of these adventures as we explored some historic rail lines through the New England countryside!

Speeder Excursion, 09-06-14, Photo #3

Meeting up with the girls, we all enjoyed a nice meal at The Prado.

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Then it was to the San Diego waterfront for ice cream at Seaport village.  After which we visited Tuna Harbor Park which is next door to the USS Midway museum and the home of the sculpture “Unconditional Surrender”, based on the famous Times Square photo from World War II.

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Also at the park was a nice tribute to the one and only Bob Hope, entertainer of the troops…..including this sailor back in 1968 while on Operation Sea Dragon in Southeast Asia.  Thanks Bob!

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Why the unusual name for a waterfront park?  Well it is situated on the wharf that used to moor the San Diego Tuna Fleet.  The boats were relocated to a “more industrial” (read-out of downtown) area and today their former home houses modern marina complex.

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So as the sun set over the bay, Catherine, Kit, Jeff and I reminisced about enjoying such a great day with some good friends, and how lucky we are to be able to RV about this great country!

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Good Morning!  Well, today we sadly bid adieu to Jeff and Catherine as they continue their RV adventure.

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Safe travels friends, see you back in Maine!

Kit and I have a few more days here at Potrero, so on one of those days, we decided to poke around the town of Campo some more.

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First stop was the Juvenile detention facility which was used as a threat for my brother and I to shape up or that’s where we would end up!

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Beyond those gates lived all the misbehaving boys from San Diego that got caught misbehaving!  In walking about the grounds, it looked like an outdoor educational institution, and might have been fun to attend for a few weeks!  However, the place just recently closed because the modern juvenile justice system relies on behavior modification rather than incarceration.

Also in Campo is the old town mercantile, now turned into a local museum.

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Housed on the ground floor is a display depicting how the store owner’s residence looked back in the 1880’s.

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Viewing these antiques, Kit and I came to the realization that many of the artifacts on display also reside in our home. Yikes…..what does that say about us?!?!

One interesting display item came with a rather macabre history.

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According to verbal history, the above leg shackles were found at the bottom of a well still attached to the skeleton of a former near-do-well.  Who, what, where and why is a mystery to this day!

We also engaged in a considerable amount of relaxation and goofing off!  Potrero Regional Park features a network of hiking paths that honeycomb the surrounding hillsides and some of which I enjoyed exploring.

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Thanks to the sunny and warm weather, the only hiking gear needed were a Hawaiian shirt, a pair of shorts, sturdy hiking sandals and water.

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One of the trails featured interruptive signs describing the terrain, plant life and trailside artifacts.

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Now, that’s unusual to see just sitting alongside a trail!  I’m quite sure the pot and basket are reproductions, but the fact that they sat in the open is a testament to the park’s trust in humankind!

Much of the trail followed a dry riverbed that probably fills rapidly during the relatively few days that any substantial rain falls in Southern California.

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Plants that grow in this region of the U.S. are a pretty hardy bunch, such as the Cleveland Sage.

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Well, this brings the current episode of Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure to a close…..stay tuned for the rest of our stay at Potrero Regional park, including a visit to Old Mexico!

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  We certainly enjoyed Potrero Regional Park!  It’s one of those hidden gems in the big county of San Diego that we’d never heard of.  I found it on a map and we decided on a lark to check it out.  It’s definitely one of the nicest parks we’ve ever been to.  Also, it was nice to be able to share it with Jeff and Catherine!  Along with a little country tour, we wanted them to see one of the other gems of San Diego, Balboa Park.  It has been one of our favorite places ever since we were teenagers.  We used to wander around checking things out, sometimes, we would have a little picnic and we would end our day on the Merry Go Round.  It was closed during the week so missed it this time.

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Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #11

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

Travel is like a giant blank canvas, and the painting on the canvas is only limited by one’s imagination.

Ross Morley

Tuesday, February 16 through Sunday, February 21, 2016-San Diego, California:  Yep…..still here!  And, as we did last week while camped at the Admiral Baker Recreation Facility, Kit and I continued to play tourist in the hometown of our youth…..San Diego.

So, off we went to one of this city’s crown jewels…..Balboa Park.

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The park located in downtown San Diego, was originally built for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915.

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It now features many attractions including live stage theaters, music venues, lush gardens, historic walking paths, and fine restaurants.  Over the years, Balboa Park has been used for a variety of other purposes, such as the housing and training of military conscripts during both world wars.  It is the home of the famous San Diego Zoo and also houses many world class exhibits such as the Botanical Garden and Reflecting Pool.

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Another one of the attractions in the park is the San Diego Automotive Museum.

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A nice exhibit of unique automobiles, the small museum contains some of the pivotal motor cars of the past century.  Too bad the dork reflected in the photo above can’t figure which door to use in order to gain access.

The museum rotates its selection of historic automobiles with other institutions in order to keep the displays fresh…..this month it is featuring cars from the UK, such as the classic Jaguar E Type.

1969 Jaguar E Type

In my opinion, the jaguar XKE is one of the best looking cars ever produced, by any nation, at any time, in history!  This rolling piece of art looked like it was going 100 miles per hour while sitting static in the museum…..an unbelievably beautiful automobile!

Also included in this special exhibit was the Lagonda.

1939 Lagonda V12

Another striking automobile, especially considering it was designed during the depression of the 1930’s.  Each V-12 powered Lagonda featured a beautiful aluminum body formed entirely by hand.

And the iconic Rolls Royce was also on display…..this one a 1967 vintage with an interesting pedigree.

1967 Rolls Royce

During the Russian era of austere socialism, such an opulent vehicle would have been frowned upon, so this Rolls was one of five ordered by a “private citizen” and “loaned” to the party elite for their personal use.

Being Southern California, the land of fantastic weather, many vehicles with only two wheels are insanely popular here.  So it stands to reason that some historic motorcycles from the UK were also on display at the museum……most notably, the Vincent Black Shadow (rear) and the Ariel Square Four (front).

1958 Ariel and 1951 Vincent

The Vincent is an incredible machine, and one that I lusted after in my younger years.  And the Ariel was a model that Kit’s brother restored and rode about during the 1970’s….the bike was very rare at the time, so this could possibly be his former motorcycle!

It was a treat to view so many classic vehicles from the UK under one roof.  However, also on display are a few unusual automobiles from the museums permanent collection, such as this Tango 600.

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What?  Never heard of it?  Well, me neither…..apparently this diminutive 100 inch by 39 inch electric commuter car attracted a lot of attention by the moneyed environmentalist in California.  At over $100,000.00 dollars a pop, it wasn’t for Joe the Plumber, however George Clooney owned one!  The cars four electric motors propelled the tiny thing from zero to sixty miles per hour in only 3.2 seconds…..gotta love that instant torque from an electric motor!  In addition, the extremely narrow track required the two passengers to sit fore and aft, but the cars narrow configuration also allows two Tangos’ to occupy the same traffic lane!

Tango Electric Car

Anyone else reminded of the carnival bumper-car rides?  The current production figures stand at twenty units, and yes the vehicle is still available if you want one…..as for me, if I had six figures burning a hole in my pocket, I’d get a Corvette Z06!

The strangest automobile in the museum is one I had seen many times before, both on the road back in the 1950’s and in this museum a few years ago.

A-Louie Mattar's Car

I have reported on this very unusual modified car in a past journal…..If you have an interest in finding out what all those knobs and levers are for just click here:

https://bilnkit.com/2010/02/19/the-bill-and-kit-2010-excellent-adventure-journal-issue-10/

After a morning visiting museums, and walking about the incredible grounds on this warm winter afternoon, it was time for some refreshment…..so Kit and I headed to the renowned Prado Restaurant.

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The food was excellent, as usual, but this was what I really wanted!

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A cold pint of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA…..Ahhhhh!

On the way back to the campground we decided to tempt fate and merge onto the Interstate Highway System.  This marvel of modern concrete application was initially envisioned back in the 1950’s by the Civil Engineers of CalTrans, one of which was Kit’s father, Frank.

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Yep, that is six lanes folks, and another two hidden behind the HOV barrier!?!?  Sixteen lanes of Interstate Highway can become crowded at rush hour, which is when most of us folks that don’t need to be out driving, aren’t!

The weather during our stay so far has been fantastic!  Sunny with temperatures in the 80’s and light ocean breezes…..perfect for kite flying!

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Spent time down at Mission Bay flying a few different kites and had a blast.  Kit was content to stay out of the wind and relax with a good Kindle.  As the coastal fog began to move in, I folded the kites and relocated a bit to the east side of the bay.

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Where there were folks out with the big power kites taking advantage of the freshening winds.

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Observed one fellow riding a strange contraption…..a hydrofoil kite board!

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He would launch off the water like a traditional kiteboarder but at speed the entire board would lift up on two small hydrofoils and the resulting lowering of surface friction would cause the rider to accelerate rapidly!

On another incredibly beautiful San Diego day Kit and I along with CeCe, a friend from back in the neighborhood, made a pilgrimage to the National Cemetery on Point Loma where my mother and CeCe’s father are buried.  The cemetery is on a promontory overlooking San Diego Bay with its fleet of Navy vessels at anchorage…..a fitting scene for the many interred veterans here.

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We are sure mom is enjoying the view from her vantage point while looking at all those sharp bluejackets in their liberty blues.  Kit was thoughtful enough to bring flowers, which I’m sure mom would have enjoyed as well…..I can sure envision her saying…..“Thanks, those are be-u-te-full”!

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After paying our respects, Kit, CeCe and I headed for an older section of the cemetery.  Along the way we began to pick up the unmistakable sound of banjo music and around the corner encountered this gentleman.

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Eric, a fan of 1800’s history learned to play Minstrel Music on an old style banjo using music arrangements of the period.  Minstrel Music originated during slavery when owners would send their more talented slaves off to learn an instrument so as to entertain the plantation guests.  However, in a slave’s own home he would lace his formal training with native beats and stories which soon became known as Minstrel Music.  Every Sunday, Eric sets up and serenades his “Pops” who in resting a few feet away.

CeCe has been kind enough to visit mom whenever she visits her father….an act of kindness Kit and I both really appreciate, so we thought it fitting to ask her to join us on this visit and pay respects to her father, Gene Merris.

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Following our time at Rosecrans, we enjoyed a nice meal and great conversation at a local watering hole housed in the repurposed Naval Training Center now called Liberty Station.

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Nestled alongside the restaurant is the USS Recruit, known as the USS Never Sail, a landlocked training ship that I remember from my early Navy career and where I learned seamanship and line handling.

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Returning to the campground at Admiral Baker recreation Facility, we were surprised and pleased to find another couple from Maine had pulled in.

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Fred and Kathy are from the coastal town of Searsport and like us, escape the cold Maine weather to travel the Sunbelt….it was great meeting these fine folks and hope we can connect again this summer.

Every few years when back in San Diego, Kit and I take a nostalgic tour of the old neighborhood.  Our first drive by of the morning was the home I grew up on in the Cabrillo Heights section of Kearny Mesa.

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This basic three bedroom house was purchased new by my folks in 1957 for $12,500.00.  Situated in a classic “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhood, my brother Don and I were living the quintessential California dream…..until my father took off!  This change to our family dynamics created a few problems, not the least of which was that my mom had to seek employment.  One paycheck wouldn’t keep us in our home, so she worked nights at a second job.  Add to the situation her desire to date on the weekends and this allowed half the neighborhood kids to hang out at our place without supervision.  That two car grange in the photo above didn’t hold a car…..however it did hold a number of parties!

And, a few short blocks away lays Kit’s childhood home.

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Her family, although intact, had its own issues and soon Kit and I were a couple with little control and less money to do much of anything but get into mischief.  I believe it was working out of these humble beginnings that has been the catalyst for our nearly fifty one years of togetherness!

So, what did kids in 1960’s California do?  Well, when not in school, we hung out at the beach or roamed the neighborhood.  When resources allowed, we figured out how to shape surfboards out of a block of foam then cover them with a rather crude layer of fiberglass.  We also made some of the earliest skateboards out of a 2×8 chunk of wood to which we fastened roller rink wheels.  Or, from the “I Can’t Believe I Did This” file, we explored the myriad underground world of the San Diego storm drain system.

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Yep, that curb-cut in the photo above led to a vast interconnecting network of various sized drainage tunnels that honeycombed the neighborhood.  Which we would gain access to by climbing down into the canyons and locating the huge discharge pipes.  Since it rarely rained, we were never in any danger of water rushing down the drain, but the lawn watering runoff did create an environment in the tunnels that was always damp.  Our biggest concern was getting lost, and when this happened, we would climb the imbedded ladder to a curb-cut and try to figure out where we were.  Sometimes, if we saw someone walking down the street that we recognized, we would call out to them.  Since we were hard to spot down in that storm drain, this would drive folk’s nuts!  Who sez city folks can’t find adventurous fun?!?!

Speaking of adventure…..what young person wouldn’t like an airfield within a short bike ride of their home?  Montgomery Field, a small un-controlled airport primarily used for general aviation purposes, was a hub of activity and a real attraction to those of us who marveled at the planes of the era that flew over our houses.

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One such flying machine was a bright red J-3 Piper Cub similar to the one above snapped recently sitting on the tarmac of Montgomery Field.  This J-3 could perhaps be the same aircraft, painted the more traditional color of yellow, which was once owned by Trigger, an old family friend.  Newly retired in the mid 1950’s from a 20 year Navy career, Trigger learned to fly and eventually became a corporate pilot for the Convair Astronautics Company.  Quickly getting bored with the little Piper Cub, he took a bus to Tucson, Arizona where he successfully bid on an old WWII trainer plane that the War Surplus Department was auctioning off.  As I recall the family story, Trigger flew his new to him T-6 Texan, which contained no radio or navigation equipment, back to San Diego by following a road map.  Below is a photo of the actual plane shortly after at arrived at Montgomery Field in 1952.

Trigger's Plane #1

Acquiring a few fellow pilots in a partnership to restore and modernize the venerable old war bird, Trigger used the two seater for flights around Southern California and into Mexico.

Trigger's Plane #2

The cute little girl standing on the wing of Trigger’s freshly restored T-6 is his daughter, Christine.  Chris, her father, and her mother Betty, lived a few blocks from our home at the time and the families became best friends.

The restored military aircraft was a popular sight in the skies over San Diego.…..well, until one fateful day when another partner brought the plane in a bit too hot, panicked, and flipped her over nose first.

Trigger's Plane #3

Fortunately no one was hurt, but unfortunately the damage was severe enough that getting her airworthy again was beyond the partnerships budget, so the old girl was sold.  After that, all track of N7661C was lost.

Directly across the street from Montgomery Field lies a new library.

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The original neighborhood library building is still standing and appears to be in fine order but, as in many places in California, apparently “newer is better”, so a nice new library has been built on the outskirts of the community.

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Kit, being the reader in the family, always enjoys poking about libraries and book stores.  So as she spent time in the library, I took a walk about the surrounding area, one which is mostly commercial/industrial and seems an odd place for the community library.  That is until Kit explained that the land, and funds for building, was donated by a member of the San Diego Charger Football organization.

It’s been a great stay in the Mission Valley region of San Diego.  The weather has been fantastic and we have thoroughly enjoyed exploring our old stomping grounds.  However tomorrow we head out to camp in another area of the county…..Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  Being older (and, maybe wiser, but not sure), we are beginning to appreciate the city in which we grew up!  We’ve always heard of the many neat places to see and great spots to visit but, when we were kids, our parents never had time to take us to all these places.  Then, when we returned to SD in April of 1970, we had two kids of our own with the third on the way; we never had much time to explore.  We lived there until February of 1976.  Each of the places we visit now, we are in total awe of how beautiful the area is!  San Diego, although quite large, is easy to navigate and has so many incredibly beautiful qualities.  Even the old “run down” neighborhoods have been gentrified and are so cozy now.  The new library is located between Serra Mesa and Kearny Mesa.  It is a better spot to serve both communities.  The old library, which was a two minute walk from our house, was my get away place to have some quiet time.  With both my parents working, my mom worked nights, it was my responsibility to care for and feed the younger 4 kids.  Once I got them fed and cleaned the kitchen, I ran off to the “library” to get some peace and quiet.  Thus, my love for libraries!  Today, they have become community gathering places rather than a quiet spot, but, all in all, that’s a good thing!

 

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #10

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise, and stretch in it mystified my longing.
Jack Kerouac

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016: On the road by mid-morning heading to the west. The skies are sunny with temperatures in the upper 60’s as we roll along Interstate 8 toward the coastal mountains of San Diego County.

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Along the way we noticed that the recent rains in this part of the country have allowed the wildflowers to bloom and carpet the hillsides.

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I find it interesting that these perennial weeds can lay dormant for years until the right combination of temperature and moisture causes them to awaken in brilliant color!

By noon, Kit and I were at 4,410 foot altitude as we tipped over the Tecate Divide and started down into the coastal plains. Nearing the town of Lakeside, we pulled off the interstate and wound our way through the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains.

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By mid-afternoon, Kit and I pulled into our home for the next few days, Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, in the city of Santee, California.

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After setting up camp, we sat around in the warm sunshine and enjoyed a cocktail and nice meal before retiring for the evening.

 

Wednesday, February 3 through Monday, February 8, 2016-Santee, California: As you may remember form earlier postings, both Kit and I call the San Diego area our childhood hometown. As such, we are fortunate to have many family members as well as old friends that reside in the area and visiting with them each year is a highlight of our travels. One such couple are these fine folks!

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JoAnne and Ron…..some fifty years ago, JoAnne was one of Kit’s best friends.

JoAnne-1966

They met in Junior High School and the two of them wound up getting tangled up with my best friend Rodney and me…..much to their detriment and standing in the community! We reconnected with JoAnne only a year ago, and spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with her, and meeting her very pleasant husband, Ron. So this time through town we picked up where we left off last year and spent many hours at their home or meeting for a meal at one of the areas outstanding restaurants. JoAnne has been dealing with some pretty serious health issues which have resulted in the loss of some extremities.

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Above you see her utilizing a highly sophisticated “Bionic Hand” and demonstrating how it functions…..she can even flip someone off with the thing! JoAnne is a remarkable woman and her courage in the face of adversity is an inspiration. Ron, a rather “rough around the edges” retired long-haul truck driver is as gentle and caring as can be with JoAnne and lovingly accepts their new reality…..they are a remarkable couple!!

Other than enjoying the company of Ron and JoAnne, we took the opportunity to take care of some cleaning and maintenance on truck and trailer. I’m continually surprised and pleased at how easy, and inexpensive, it is to get your vehicle cleaned inside and out here in the southwest.

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After a through scrubbing, the “Wipers” who work for tips, do an excellent job drying the vehicle, polishing the chrome, and dressing the tires.

Kit has a lot of family that reside in the San Diego area. One afternoon her sister Char, and husband Don, paid a short visit to our campsite where we enjoyed their company and great conversation. Char and Don are in the market for an RV so there was a lot of “trailer talk” banter as we discussed the merits and enjoyment of the RV lifestyle.

On another nice sunny day, Kit and I decided to tour the mountainous backcountry of San Diego County. So we headed up CA-67 toward the town of Ramona. Reaching town, we decided to take a break when Kit spotted a Goodwill Store in a nice shopping area with a number of high end homes about…..a sure sign of quality goods! We have enjoyed poking around re-sale establishments during our annual trips about the U.S. Not only do you occasionally find quality and gently used items but each store can be a reflection of the lives of past inhabitants….a modern archeological dig if you will. Both Kit and I scored some needed items and I came away with three coveted Regret Shirts!

Regret Shirt's

Regret Shirt [ri’gret shirt](transitive adjective): an item of apparel purchased by western macho men while vacationing in Hawaii and regretted once they returned to their cowboy lifestyle thereby resulting in the donation of said item to a worthwhile charity where an unabashed pensioner can acquire the offending garment.

Back underway, we veered off on CA-78 and headed southeast toward the mountain town of Julian.

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While climbing into the Cuyamaca Mountains, the low elevation vegetation began to mingle with the wildflowers and scrub Oak of the Chaparral Zone.

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At the summit, Kit and I enjoyed a pleasant ride through this coastal alpine region with very little traffic to contend with. We could plod along at our own pace and stop frequently for some walking about time.

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Our next destination was the town of Julian, a small enclave with a western vibe that’s claim to fame is as the home of the world famous Julian Pie Company.

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The town of Julian, sitting at 4,226 feet, enjoys perfect soil and weather to grow apples. As a result, the 1,500 year round residents see their little mountain town explode to 10,000 folks during the Julian Apple Festival in the fall. As a former mining town during the California Gold Rush, an apple loving prospector brought some young trees up the mountain to ensure a plentiful supply during his stay. The apple trees flourished in the cool fresh air so when the gold claim played out, Julian became an area devoted to apple production.

Today, both sides of the main street are lined with restaurants and pie shops interspersed with gift shops.

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Since it was after noon, and we hadn’t had lunch yet, Kit and I stopped into the Julian Grille, which is strategically placed across the street from the Julian Pie Companies retail shop.

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I enjoyed a local brew and one of the best Ruben sandwiches I’ve had in a long time!

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Featuring fresh corned beef and sauerkraut on homemade bread, and the tangy Russian dressing was made in house as well….that sandwich was incredible!

Skipping desert, as most folks that dine here do, we strolled across the street to capture our very own authentic Julian Pie Company treat……apple blueberry!

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I’m tempted to try and convince you that they only sell half pies…..but, we all know what happened to the other half!

After another walk up and down the main street of Julian, Kit and I waddled back to the truck and continued our journey. Traveling south on CA-79 we traveled through the Cleveland National Forest toward Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

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Taking a break at Lake Cuyamaca, we walked along the shoreline…..this once much larger fishing lake has been decimated by the recent drought.

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Lake Cuyamaca used to be our camping opportunity of choice when we lived in the area back in the early 1970’s.

Camp Cuyamaca-1970's

Kit and I made lots of memories back then with Kim, Joe and Suzie on the many campouts with that old canvas tent, which by the way, is still in the family! One particular memory I have is taking the two older kids fishing on Lake Cuyamaca in a rented row boat. After explaining the complexities and art of fishing for skittish pan-fish and not getting any nibbles, Kim decided to try her own technique by bouncing the fishing rod on the gunnel of the aluminum boat while chanting, fish, fish, fish, fish, in a melodic tone. As I was explaining the importance of being absolutely quiet and still…..Kim caught the first fish of the day!?!? And, using her new technique caught another, then another. Soon we were all copying her innovative fish attracting technique and catching fish…..much to the annoyance of surrounding anglers!

As we continued south on CA-79 and winding our way through the Laguna Mountains we encountered I-8 as it was nearing dusk. I then turned the truck west heading into the congestion of the big city as the sun set through our windshield.

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A great day in the beautiful backcountry of San Diego County!

 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016: Up; enjoyed breakfast and prepared to leave Santee Lakes Campground under sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70’s. On the road at 1145, we motored down Mission Gorge Road toward the next destination of our trip.

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At 1215 hours we pulled into Admiral Baker Navy Recreation Facility in the Mission Valley section of San Diego…..yep, a mere 30 minutes travel time to make the 12 mile trip! Kit and I have decided to spend more time this year in our childhood hometown, but being unapologetic nomads, we still need to move every week or so.

We were able to score a full hook-up site at the park, mainly due to the fact that most rigs wouldn’t fit in the spot so had to go into overflow until a larger site was vacated.

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Usually it pays to have a shorter RV with slide-outs on only one side, as in this case!

 

Wednesday, February 10 through Monday, February 15, 2016-San Diego, California: We decided to relax a bit and play tourist in our ancestral hometown during our stay at Admiral Baker Recreation Facility. So, on one of the days Kit wanted some quiet time to read and knit and I struck out alone toward fulfilling an item on my personal bucket list.

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Yep, a Navy ship…..but not just any vessel, this is the famed USS Midway, battle tested in many of our nations conflicts. Built for service in World War II, but commissioned a week after the formal surrender of Japan and the end of hostilities. At that time, the USS Midway was the largest ship afloat in the world, a distinction it held for over ten years. She served our country honorably for 47 years before being retired and she continues serving the nation today as a testament to the folks that define The Greatest Generation!!

I have toured a number of museum ships over the years, even being honored to join my grandsons scout troop on an overnight stay aboard the USS Massachusetts, a battleship of the same vintage. All the museum ships I have toured have been authentically maintained or restored and feature great exhibits and interpretive displays…..however, the Midway Museum was by far the best I’ve experienced.

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The attention to detail and authenticity coupled with the many volunteer docents that man the ship today create an incredible experience for the visitor!

There are the normal collection of vintage aircraft of course, some of which were never embarked on the Midway, such as this F-4F Wildcat.

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But also aircraft that were synonymous with the Midway’s career like the venerable F-4 Phantom.

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And, the US Marine aviators were ably represented in this nicely restored Corsair.

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An interesting historical factoid about the Corsair relates to the radical design of the inverted gull-wing. Less an aeronautical decision and more of a practical design consideration, the aircraft with its powerful engine and correspondingly large four blade propeller would have required overly long, and weak, landing gear…..so the engineers simply designed a dip in the wings thereby shortening the length of the landing struts!

There were rotary wing aircraft on display as well, as shown on the carrier’s flight deck in this view of San Diego Bay from the pilot house.

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The self-guided tour of this relatively small airport atop a floating city was enhanced by an audio device with headphones that was programmed to key off the area you may be exploring at the time. In addition to explanations and descriptions of what you were observing, there were additional recordings that one could select featuring stories told by past crew members about fighting and living aboard the Midway…..all very interesting and informative!

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Yep, as you may be able to see, I found my way to the Chiefs Quarters where I lounged about a bit. Within a few minutes, three active duty Chief’s from the Navy Electronic Laboratory over on Point Loma walked in and joined me. We had a great time talking ship and sharing sea stories…..unfortunately I forgot to snap a photo…..drat!

As I wandered from stem to stern below decks, the feel and smell of being aboard a Navy warship was very familiar.

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I guess spending 43 years on and around Navy vessels has left an indelible mark on me. And yes, the basic ship design has changed very little in that time.

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However habitability has improved greatly and the technology stuffed into a modern man-of-war is phenomenal!

I spent the entire day exploring the Midway and talking to the docents that were volunteering that day, many of whom either operated aircraft from the flight deck or performed the myriad jobs throughout this large vessel and kept everything functioning and the ship at sea. What a great day!

Returning to the campground, I found Kit lounging outside in the warmth of the afternoon and quickly joined her. Even though our site at Admiral Baker Campground wasn’t the best, we had direct access to a very large lawn area directly behind our rig. With the setting sun, we periodically did have to move our chairs about to keep in the shade however.

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The hill surrounding the campground allowed some incredible views earned by walking up a pretty steep trail.

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Most folks believe that San Diego, being a coastal community, is flat…..but that couldn’t be further from reality. The San Diego beach area is fairly flat, however immediately to the east there lies high mesa’s that stretch inland a dozen miles or so, broken up only by canyons and river valleys. A truly picturesque and verdant landscape.

A special and thoughtful invitation came to us one day while in town…..Kit’s brother Sam and his wife Anne wanted to host a family barbeque at their home in Rancho Bernardo, a short drive to the north.

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So we all gathered on a warm winter afternoon at their lovely home.

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Their daughter Chelsea, a delightful young lady, held court at the patio table and entertained herself while flashing that brilliant smile to all.

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Brother John and his companion Lou came up from the South County.

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And Kit’s favorite sister, Char along with her recently retired husband, Don were in attendance as well.

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Folks from back east ask why we consistently violate Maine State Law and avoid Florida during snowbird season. Well a major reason lies in spending time with family in Las Vegas, Tucson, and San Diego. Kit seems to get energized by being around her family as do I and, we both enjoy our visits with them very much.

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However, there is that “Kit vs John” thing that has been going on since childhood, but that story remains for another time.

Eccccck!

Kit and I had an enjoyable afternoon of great food, fine spirits and visiting with some great folks…..thanks Sam and Anne.

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Well, this brings week one of our stay in Mission Valley section of San Diego…..where will week two find our meandering couple? Stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: We have thoroughly enjoyed our first couple of weeks in the San Diego area. Love getting together with my family; Sam & Anne are such gracious hosts and we love spending time with them. We love spending time with JoAnne and Ron, as well. Since we have a 50 year gap to catch up on, we NEVER run out of things to talk about! Much of our early adult lives are similar, married young, had kids, military moves, etc. With spending time reminiscing about our days as “kids” to our lives today, we are enjoying getting to know each other again and we hope, helping to support her with her current health issues. She is a remarkable woman, so courageous and positive! Of course, much of it is due to the help of Ron, her constant companion, who helps whenever and however he can. What a beautiful marriage they have and a stellar example to all of us! Love you guys!