Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

Life’s like a road that you travel; When there’s one day here and the next day; Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand; Sometimes you turn your back to the wind.

Tom Cochrane

 

Sunday, March 26, 2017:  On the road at 1000 hours from Seal Beach, California and heading home…well, heading easterly anyway.  Can’t very well go west any distance, and we’ve spent considerable time in the south.  Originally, we intended to head north to explore more of Oregon and Washington, but Kit and I recently received an offer that was impossible to pass up!  Our Vegas grandchildren are starting spring break in a few weeks, and we have an opportunity to hang out with them!

Soon we were rolling by the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Corona, while mixing it up with the typical California traffic.

The morning coastal fog began to dissipate as we traversed the Santa Ana Mountains while heading toward the city of Riverside.

Where we made a stop at the National Cemetery to pay respects to Kit’s mom and dad who are at rest there.

With both of our parents gone, Kit and I are now the “older generation” in our respective families… a fact that seems surreal at times!  We spent an hour wandering about the nicely landscaped grounds while visiting with the many departed veterans, including Frank and Charlotte.

The many US National Cemeteries spread across this land are, in addition to an honored spot of eternal repose, a history lesson in the sacrifice our servicemen and women had made to keep America free…thank you for your service!

Back on the road, and heading northeast on Interstate 215, we encountered the desert “Super-Bloom” that has been in the press as of late!

A rare occurrence, that takes the right amount of moisture and temperatures to develop, the desert floor erupts into a spectacular show of color!

Intersecting I-10, we headed east for our next stop of Twenty Nine Palms, California.

And found the campground onboard Twenty Nine Palms Marine Corps Base…our planned home for the next few days.

The base campground used to be a mobile home park so the sites are large, well spread out, and feature covered car ports and utility sheds.

This base is a prime training facility for marines headed for combat in the Middle East.  The weather and terrain here resembles the land in that war-torn area of the world.

And as the day closes, the desert sunsets are almost as spectacular as those over the Pacific Ocean!

Goodnight!

 

Monday, May 27 through Friday, May 31, 2017 Twenty Nine Palms, California: The main reason for this stop was to spend a few days exploring Joshua Tree National Park, which is located about 10 miles to the south.  J Tree, as it is called, is a relatively new National Park having been so designated in 1994.

It’s 790,636 acres covers parts of two deserts…the Mojave and the Colorado.  The higher and cooler Mojave Desert is the home of the Joshua Tree, actually a species of Yucca, and was named by early Mormon settlers because the tree’s form reminded them of the prophet Joshua praying with outstretched arms.

To me however, the Joshua Tree looks more like something that Doctor Seuss would have designed!

At the tips of the arms on the Joshua Tree during this time of the year, you can frequently see blooms of creamy white flowers.

The next most prevalent plant in the park is the iconic Cholla.

And many of these are blooming like crazy as well!

In fact, driving through J Tree it is evident that the abundant spring rains have produced colorful blooms in every direction.

So, fellow residents of the Joshua Tree and Cholla are also in bloom…such as the Yucca.

And the Ocotillo.

Even the lowly Prickly Pear Cactus gets into the act.

And a lot of wildflowers also dot the desert floor.

Which bloom in a variety of colors.

Many times, they struggle in the open and are barely noticed by passersby…such as this little fellow.

Where there are springs bubbling to the surface you will find larger trees and plants…such as the Palm, the Cedar, the Pinion Pine and the Sagebrush.

Whenever Kit and I explore a National Park, we drive through the campgrounds to see if our rig would fit in any of the spaces.  J Tree, being a newer park did have some suitable sites, but they were reserved many months ago thanks to spring break season.  In rounding a bend on one of the campground loops we encountered this sight.

Yep, it’s a T-Rex…and he stopped by for a visit!

Yep, it is definitely Spring Break in the Pacific Southwest!

So, what brings college kids to J Tree?  Well, in addition to the beautiful desert landscape, there are rocks to climb!

Some of which put on a rather sinister face!

Kit and I have tried to visit J Tree during past Excellent Adventure trips but it has never worked out…we are sure glad we finally made it…and Kit made a new friend!

We had planned to only spend three nights here in Twenty Nine Palms, but a ferocious wind storm came up and pinned us down for an additional two nights.

The 60 MPH desert storm was blowing sand everywhere, and making travel difficult!

The fine sand and dust even found their way into the closed-up camper!

And it masked the sun for much of the day!

One day we never left the camper, just spent time catching up on reading, correspondence and online banking…Kit also put up a nice crockpot of pork ribs to lighten the mood!

And, the second day of the storm we sought refuge at the Post Exchange. That’s the nature of being on the road…you just roll with the punches!  Tomorrow we head to Las Vegas!

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017:  Oh boy…we had planned on leaving this morning, but another weather issue has confronted us!?!?

What a cruel joke to play…not on me and Kit, but you folks!  Happy April Fool’s Day!  It is actually 73 degrees and sunny with calmer winds…finally!

As I’ve mentioned in many journals, the information that allows these journals to be developed are due to the efforts of Kit keeping a detailed account in a spiral bound notebook.  There is a funny quote in today’s notebook entry where she wrote: “Sayonara, nice to know you…once is enough”!  Guess she didn’t like all that wind!

Oh, and ask her about the nylon reusable grocery bag that took flight.  Reenactment photo is provided above as I was laughing too hard when it happened to snap a photo!

On the road at 1030 hours and making tracks for Las Vegas!  As Kit and I headed out of Twenty-Nine Palms, we encountered this strange contraption.

Guess that sailor really doesn’t want to heel over too much!?!?

Pulling off on Amboy Road we headed toward the northeast and the Bullion Mountains.

Rolling through the foothills Kit noticed a few riparian areas where small settlements were thriving.

After threading our way through the mountains, we descended back into flat desert terrain.

Intersecting US Route 66 Kit and I hopped on the historic highway and headed into the town of Amboy, California.

Photo From the Web

Amboy was a thriving stop for the Santa Fe Railroad as well as the motoring public heading to the coast…until 1973.  That’s when Interstate 40 opened and the town slowly died.  A scrappy town, it is self-described by the 4 remaining residents as “The Ghost Town that Ain’t Dead Yet”.  However, Amboy is beginning to come back to life with the purchase by a wealthy businessman who intends to market the location to Hollywood for movie shoots.

Just outside the town of Amboy lies the salt extraction operation of The National Chloride Corporation.

Located at Bristol Dry Lake the area contains an estimated 60,000,000 Tons of salt in repository.

Kit and I had intended to head north through Death Valley toward the town of Lone Pine, California and visit the Manzanar National Historic Site.  However, the two-day windstorm delay caused us to reschedule this bucket list item until a future trip.

After a meander on Route 66 we moved over to its nemesis I-40 and continued toward the east.  By early afternoon, we encountered US-95 and headed north through the town of Searchlight and crossed the Nevada border.  Pulling off the highway as we neared Las Vegas, we encountered this western scene.

There are a surprising number of horses in the Las Vegas area…most of which are on the periphery of the city.

At 1615 hours we arrived at Nellis AFB and set up at their RV Park in “The Low Rent District”…partial hookups and off by itself.

Oh well, it was flat, clean and cheap.

Since we arrived a few days earlier than anticipated, no one knows we are in town…time for some stealth “touristing” (is this even a word? Kit) before we pick up the boys for their week of spring break.

Stay Tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  Glad to have finally seen Twenty Nine Palms!  I’ve heard about it for many years and always imagined it as a lush green oasis in the desert. Not! The town itself was interesting, there are many murals on the town buildings which are interesting.  And, the town itself was quite nice.  However, I wasn’t prepared for the worst wind storm we’ve ever experienced!  I was very thankful we were in a rather heavy camper.  If we had been in a tent, well, no telling what would have happened.  We may have blown over to those very rugged mountains and been lost forever!

Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

You can’t buy happiness…but you can buy an RV, and that’s pretty close.

Unknown

 

Sunday, March 19 through Saturday, March 25, 2017-Seal Beach, California:  This is our second stay in the Seal Beach area, and it is quickly becoming one of our top ten favorite RV locations.  It is close to the megalopolis of Los Angeles, but small enough to still have that California beach vibe of the 1960’s…and it is close to other classic California beach communities.  The town is nestled between the industrial port city of Long Beach to the north and the more touristy, self-proclaimed “Surf City” of Huntington Beach to the south.

A relatively small town of 24,000 folks Seal Beach’s main employer is the Boeing Company whose prime customer is NASA.  Originally known as Anaheim Landing, a seaside resort area of the California city of Anaheim, the Town of Seal Beach is a quaint, quiet, and as of yet undiscovered by the throngs, beach town.

Seal Beach is also home to the US Navy Weapons Station, a port call we made frequently on the way to the Western pacific and the waters off Vietnam.  Needing a sizable area for safety and security reasons, the weapons station has put much of the its land into conservation by hosting the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.

An interesting side note is that this 965-acre Salt Water Marsh, is managed by the National Fish and Game Department and overseen by a young Game Warden from Bath, Maine!

Many coastal California towns feature a pier jutting out into the ocean and Seal Beach is no exception.

Suitable for fishing and pedestrian strolling it provides a view of the town normally enjoyed only by boaters or surfers.

Kit and I enjoyed walking about this small beach community and poking into the shops, galleries and restaurant that line Main Street.

One of the RV’rs favorite pastimes is to wander about the campground and check out license plates to see where everyone hails from.  Being this far from the Northeast, it is rare to spot any plates from New England and especially from the state of Maine…I’m guessing due to Maine retired folks’ predisposition to head directly to Florida for the winter.

However, during our stay we met these fine folks camping directly across the road from us!

Darrell and Becky live near Maine’s Pleasant Pond, just a few miles from our home.  Darrell, retired from the Navy and Becky who retired from the Supervisor of Shipbuilding have also been snow-birding throughout the country.  We hit it off immediately, and spent a few pleasant evenings sharing cocktails and stories.

They seemed to be interested in my passion for high performance kite flying, so one day we met on the beach and I broke out the kites.  After some very brief instructions, they took turns flying and soon had the 1.5 meter parafoil dancing in the sky!

Following a few enjoyable hours on the beach, we retired to a nice beachside restaurant called The Hangout.

Where we continued to enjoy their company over a few beers and some excellent food.

Exchanging contact information, we vowed to stay in touch and connect when we all returned to Maine.

As the sun set in the western sky, Kit and I walked back to our truck where I snapped the following photo looking across the bay toward Long Beach.

Not your typical California sunset photo, but I thought it striking enough to close out the day with.  And, by the way, that photo is in full color…believe it or not!

One item on Kit’s Bucket List was to visit San Juan Capistrano.  This quaint and historic town of 34,500 folks sits 35 miles to the south just inland from Dana Point.  Settled in 1776 around the Spanish Mission of the same name, many adobe buildings have stood in town since the early 1800’s.  Visiting the area in 1830 while serving aboard the sailing brig Pilgrim, Richard Dana, author of the classic Two Years Before the Mast, exclaimed; “San Juan is the only romantic spot in California” …a statement that may still be true to this day.

The chapel on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano is the oldest structure in continuous use in the state of California.

Daily Catholic Mass has been said in the mission chapel for the past 241 years!

Once again, as in other mission buildings, the narrow profile of the chapel is a direct result of the height of the available trees in the area that were downed to form the roof rafters.

This is the only mission church where Father Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, was known to have held services.  As in the past, Kit and I lit a votive candle for the many departed family and friends we have lost.

Also on the premises is a much larger house of worship, that was constructed in 1986.

The interior of The Basilica is very impressive indeed.

The Grand Retablo with The Trinity at top center is carved from cedar, and covered completely in gold leaf.

Also, many hand painted murals decorate the Basilica walls.

As a nod to modernization, the votive candles located throughout The Basilica are electrified.  One just makes a donation and flips a switch to send your prayers and wishes to the heavens…not sure how I feel about that but we “energized” a candle anyway.

San Juan Capistrano is also famous for the seasonal return of the American Cliff Swallows who build their mud nests under the eaves of various Mission structures.

The swallows make their annual migration from their winter roost in Argentina flying over 6,000 miles to their summer home in the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Which makes them, I would surmise, the original snowbirds!

Also on the mission grounds lies a beautiful courtyard.

Which was incredibly landscaped with native vegetation, trees and bushes.

Such as this colorful flowering bush.

There is also a central fountain and lily pond.

Containing colorful Koi.

A perfect environment to rest and reflect.

For man, woman, or beast.

At the end of the day exploring the San Juan Capistrano Mission District Kit and I were getting hungry, so on advice of one of the Mission docents we walked into town for a fine Mexican meal at El Maguey’s.  The restaurant is under third generation management and the food was incredible!  I had the Carne Asada plate with house made rice and refried beans.

Kit enjoyed a burrito with Mole Poblano sauce.

Which was a first for her and she really enjoyed the flavor this Mexican condiment gave the food.

Then, on yet another day, Kit and I took a ride south on the Pacific Coast Highway toward Surf City USA.

Huntington Beach, a city of 190,000 folks, came by the moniker of “Surf City” when the California surf-music duo Jan and Dean divulged that their classic 1963 song “Surf City USA” was inspired by Huntington Beach.  So, it is appropriate that the World Surfing Championship is held in the waters off Huntington Beach each summer.

And yes, this beach community features a pier jutting into the ocean as well.

From which a panoramic view of the beach can be enjoyed.

And a bird’s eye view of the locals catching winter shore breaks nearby.

At the foot of the 1000-foot pier lies Ruby’s, a local dining institution.

And many of California’s Gull population hover in the onshore breeze above fisherman, and the occasional unsuspecting tourist.

As picturesque as these scenes are, just a few miles offshore there is some serious submerged drilling and pumping going on.

Oil drilling has been going on in this part of California since the 1920’s.

Many years ago, on the rare occasion when we could gather enough gas money and pile our boards on someone’s barely running car, we would head north from San Diego to sample the surf in Huntington Beach.  But unlike those days, the oil drilling process is far cleaner now…no longer is there “Tar Balls” washing ashore, nor is there the smell of oil in the air.

One of the legends in the early years of California surf history is a local gentleman by the name of Bob Bolen.

Professionally known as “The Greek”, Bob started shaping surfboards as a teenager in his garage…as most of us did.

Yep, that skinny dork on the right is a 13-year-old Bill posing with the crude surfboard I built in my garage.  Next to me is my brother Don, a lot smarter and wealthier…he had a “store-bought” board as my buddy Billy did, a nice Gordon and Smith model.  The “kid” on the left is Billy’s brother, Tommy, sporting a skim-board of the day.

Unlike most teen surfers of the early 1960’s, The Greek persevered and became a nationally ranked competitive surfer as well as one of the top shapers in the Huntington Beach area…and at 74 years old, he’s still at it!

It was thoroughly enjoyable to visit Bob and “talk story” about the early days of surfing in California.  In addition to his surf shop, Bob is a real estate broker in town.  If you’re ever in Huntington Beach, stop by his office and learn more about his fascinating life.

Another must stop in “Surf City” is The International Surfing Museum.

Not as large or well displayed as Oceanside’s California Surfing Museum, it does have some interesting artifacts from the golden age of surfing.

The bottom board in the photo above is representative of the size and design we used to catch waves on at the breaks in and around San Diego.  Today the rage is the “short board” about half that size and providing little flotation.

A short board partially sinks until the surfer paddles hard and catches a wave.

At that point, a short board becomes superior to the long board, able to snap turns quickly and accelerate without walking the nose…guess if I was younger and just learning to surf I would select a short board as well.

The museum also has a very unique and interesting surfboard…one of a kind!

The board, so large it had to be exhibited outside, was used to break the Guinness Record for the most surfers riding a wave on one surfboard!

Other than the record 66 folks on one board riding a wave, the other unique thing about this 42-foot-long, 11-foot-wide monster, is that it was shaped by a little know surfboard manufacturer in…Rhode Island!?!?

Huntington Beach is a fun place to walk about, take in the sights and meet the locals…such as this retiree and his parrot who ride their bike into town and visit other retirees on the beach.

The Pistachio you see in the bird’s beak was plucked from my fingers just seconds before.

It is also fun to just to sit and watch some of the nice cars cruise down Beach Boulevard.

A great day in a classic beach community!

Back at the camp, we also spent time enjoying our spacious site by sitting outside to read, or just relax.

Oh, one funny thing happened as I was preparing the truck and camper for departure.  Kit came out and asked me to pick up the wadded-up paper towel she claimed I had dropped.

Yep, time for your annual eye exam there, Kit!

So, as the sun sets on our final day along the coast of California, I feel compelled to add one last Pacific Ocean sunset scene.

Tomorrow we begin heading east…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  I particularly enjoyed Seal Beach, both the RV Park and the town itself.  It’s much smaller than either Huntington Beach or Pacific Beach where we hung out during our teen years, thus, easier to walk about, browse the shops and get a bite to eat.  It was great meeting Darrell and Becky from Maine and getting to know them.  Hope to see them again this summer.  I thoroughly enjoyed finally seeing San Juan Capistrano in its entirety!  During our very brief “honeymoon” which was one night in a motel in Orange, CA, I wanted to stop by and visit the mission on our way home.  Bill had planned to go surfing late that afternoon with his buddies Rodney & Billy and, well, I hadn’t quite learned to speak up yet so, he got his way.  I learned quickly after that, though!  I toured it briefly with my sister many years later but we didn’t have the time to see the entire mission.  So, finally, I can check it off my Bucket List, after nearly 52 years.

 

Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

No matter where you go, there you are.

Confucius

 

Monday, March 13, 2017:  Underway from San Diego’s Admiral Baker Park shortly before noon under sunny skies and a temperature of 82 degrees…thirty minutes later we rolled into Del Mar Beach Campground under heavy coastal fog and a cool damp 61 degrees!?!?

That’s the nature of winter weather along the coast of California…but within another hour it was bright sunny and back into the 80’s!

And the oceanside sunset in Oceanside was an inspiring sight to enjoy our evening cocktails by.

Goodnight from the California Coast.

 

Monday, March 14 through Friday, March 17, 2017-Del Mar Beach, Oceanside, California:  Woke to a foggy, but warm coastal morning.  Del Mar Beach is a Military Recreation Facility on Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and features, in addition to the RV Park, a number of cottages, a nicely stocked mini-mart, plenty of beach chairs sitting under thatched cabanas, and a primo outdoor Mexican café, known as The Cantina.

The campground is arrayed in rows…the further from the front, the lower the price.  But even at that, the front row is usually booked solid anywhere near the weekend, so we occasionally must settle for row number two…which usually develops into a pseudo front row spot when the “Weekend Warrior” folks pull out.

Unique to California oceanfront campgrounds is the ability at Del Mar Beach to park your camper on the sand, instead of a blacktop parking lot.

Although I had to use four-wheel drive to maneuver into the spot, and levelling the rig can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort!

Del Mar Beach has become a must stop for us when Rv’ing the California Coast and we have enjoyed staying at this premiere campground every year of our past Excellent Adventure trips.  The campsites are a bit tight, and the basic campground amenities are sparse, but the location, beach access, kite flying opportunities, and views are unparalleled.

This stay is more about enjoying the beach and less about doing touristy things.  Kit and I spent our lazy days relaxing around the campsite, catching up on our reading, walking to the nearby Cantina for a snack, or strolling the shoreline with the other snowbirds.

The various seabirds seem to be enjoying the beach as well including this little fellow that was fliting about the shore break looking for his breakfast one morning.

As mentioned, not only is Del Mar Beach one of the nicest California beachfront camping opportunities available, but the very large and flat sandy beach provides an excellent venue for high performance kite flying…which I made time for during most day’s during our stay.

The kite on the right is my favorite delta configuration kite, and the one of the left is a quad line acrobatic kite called a Revolution…and it has given me fits since I purchased the thing some six years ago.  Hard to learn and very difficult to master, the kite has frustrated me at every flying opportunity!  If I don’t figure it out soon, you may see it on Craig’s List!?!?

Camp Pendleton is the prime Marine Corps training facility for the Amphibious Assault Battalions and their tracked personnel carriers.

The beach where they train is just to the north of the RV Park and so we witnessed these huge lumbering vehicles rumble by on a daily business.

Just as military jet aircraft emit “The sound of Freedom”…the ground forces leave their own mark on the planet as well.

These telltale tracks can take on an artistic geometric design.

Which I’ll title…The Artwork of freedom.

As nice as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean are, the corresponding sunrises from the east can be pretty spectacular as well!

Which lends credence to why we really have no desire to go anyplace while camped here…however, we did make one foray into the base proper to resupply our food pantry, poke around the PX and tank up on Diesel.

We also invited Kit’s sister Char and brother-in-law Don out to spend an afternoon.

We walked the beach shoreline looking for shells, then enjoyed a nice meal at the Cantina, were they graciously picked up the tab, thanks folks…great seeing you again!

We had the pleasure of hosting our friends JoAnne and Ron on the beach as well, after which we moved the party to one of our favorite restaurants…Phil’s Barbeque.

Where the food is darn good…especially the ribs!

Great to see you folks again and enjoy one last meal together…thanks for traveling up from Santee!

OK, I’ve stalled enough…a few days ago, when we pulled into this park, we were assigned campsite #48, so we backed into the space and hooked up.

Um, see the problem?  Arggg, what a rookie mistake!?!?  Walking back to the office with hat in hand, I confessed.  No problem, stay where you are…until Thursday!?!?  So, mid-week, we moved to site #48.

Yea, they need to refresh their site numbering!  However, once again, the downside to journaling our travels is that lots of folks get to share in our SNAFU’s, I must be getting a bit feebleminded.  Speaking of which, I have a renewed interest in observing birds…while walking along the surf line one day, I tried to stealthily crawl up to a huge flock of shoebirds. 

 Or, should that be “snowbirds”?  Feebleminded, eh 😊…caught by Miss Proofreader Kit.

Yep, the all took off squawking then made a tight U-turn to line up for a bombing run…yikes, I just barely made it to a covered beach cabana!

Well, our stay on the beach has come to an end punctuated by a final glorious sunset.

Goodnight.

 

Saturday, March 18, 2017:  Up, had breakfast, broke camp and pulled out by 1130 as the typical morning fog began to lift.  While heading north toward our next destination in Seal Beach, we noticed the continued proliferation of wildflowers due to the recent rains.

Cruising on I-5 North we passed San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Hills, and Irvine.

Where we moved onto I-405 which delivered us to the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, and our stop for the next few days.

This Military park features a nice RV wash bay which comes in handy after camping in the salt and sand of the beach.

Since the last issue went way over my desired journal length of 20 pages, I’ll close this one a bit short…and, as a result, I have room to sneak in another California sunset photo.

Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  As usual, we had a great time at Del Mar Beach!  The spaces are a bit cramped there and, because we’re not too good at making reservations, we were unable to get a front row spot, right on the beach.  Still, it’s a great stop for us each year and we thoroughly enjoy it, especially listening to the crashing waves at night.  It’s also one of Bill’s favorite kite flying places.  He entertains himself (and others) for hours at a time! 😊