Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #12

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
J.R.R Tolkien

Thursday, February 27, 2020: Up at 0600 hours on the morning we had chosen for departure from Potrero County Park in The Mountain Empire section of San Diego.

Where we are camping next door to these two fine folks.

Overnight, we had experienced a very windy and tumultuous evening. In checking the wind velocity apps we discovered why.

Yep, that red graph shows sustained winds in the 30 MPH range and gusts of over 50 MPH!!

In checking other nearby locations, it was discovered that at lower altitudes the wind velocity appeared to be more manageable. So, The Nomadic Maniacs mutually decided to head out and stay at as low an elevation as possible…ironically, this led us to travel Historic US highway 80 once again.

Where there was a higher level of wind than we are normally comfortable with, but fortunately the wind was from the east which resulted in minimal effect on the handling of our rig’s.

Within about a half an hour we were out of the mountains…

…and descending into the Imperial Valley where wildflowers lined the highway. Once at this lower altitude, it felt as if someone had thrown a “wind switch” as the wind velocity dropped significantly.

A few minutes later we all stopped for a break at a rest area near El Centro California, and were treated to a mini air show…

…by the US Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team…The Blue Angels. Based out of NAS Pensacola, Florida, the “Blues” train and practice at NAS El Centro during the winter months.

Back underway, and traveling east on I-8, Jeff took over leading the way…

…and I’m sure we enjoyed a much nicer view than they did of us.

At 1138 hours we crossed the border into Arizona and entered the Mountain Standard time. In Yuma, decided to stop for food at Frye’s Grocery, then pulled into the Yuma RV Parts Superstore for some needed items and walking around time.

Back on the road at 1430 hours, it was decided to call it an early day by overnighting at Gila Bend Air Force Base…

…a facility that is virtually in the middle of nowhere! Situated hard alongside the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, this base is a divert field for the pilots flying out of Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix…and, due to the inexpensive nightly rate, very popular with snowbirds.

The base is so remote that the campground uses individual reverse osmosis water purification systems to provide drinking water to each camp site.

But, being in the Mojave Desert, the sunsets are pretty nice…

…goodnight!

Friday, February 28, 2020: Pulled chocks at 1034 hours, and headed south on AZ-85.

Through the town of Ajo…

…and pulled into Organ Pipe National Monument (OPCNM).

I knew we were getting close to the visitor’s center when I noticed this sign…

…that had my name written all over it.

At the campground kiosk, I was surprised that contrary to past practices, OPCNM required reservations through their website, where in the past camping was first come first served…Yikes!

Fortunately, our traveling karma was in overdrive as there were two sites available large enough for our rigs so…

…Kit and I pulled into this one…

…and Jeff & Catherine set up “two doors down” on this site. Love it when serendipity travel works in our favor!

Since we were set up by noon, the four of us decided to capitalize on the bonus time to drive some of the jeep trails that wind about this 517 square mile park.

OPCNM shares its southern border with Mexico, and the South Puerto Blanco Drive parallels that international boundary.

Within minutes, we viewed the parks namesake…the Organ Pipe Cactus.

These majestic cacti only grow in a small region of Southeastern Arizona and the northern state of Sonora. We also came upon this…

…which is one of the many pieces of the equipment to build this…

Initially authorized during President Clinton’s administration, the original Mexico-United States Barrier, as its officially called, was constructed of surplus helicopter landing mats from the Vietnam war, or basic vehicle barriers made of old railroad rails…

…like depicted in the foreground. These old vehicle barriers were cast aside and replaced with the new vehicle/pedestrian barrier wall.

Since the early barriers proved to be ineffective, each succeeding administration developed their own “wall” concept except Obama who shifted the focus of border protection to using advanced technology. Currently, The Trump Wall, as it is known, consists of panels 30 feet high imbedded in concrete. And since the wall is to extend uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, which includes some very rugged terrain, special employee busses were purchased to travel cross country.

I wonder if those machines will be sold as government surplus when the wall is complete…might make a pretty nifty RV!

Driving further on the north side of the border we came across another section of the earlier barriers.

The white house in the photo above is in Mexico, and the iron fence in the foreground straddles the US-Mexican border…this is the style of border barrier I grew up with.

However, in this same area we detected entry by some illegal aliens.

These undocumented, and hungry looking feral hounds were so cute…

… one has an overwhelming desire to aid their immigration into the US.

Before heading back to camp, we continued south to the Sonoita Port of Entry.

I’m guessing this is where the workers installing the wall come to be paid for their materials and labor by the Mexican Government.

Back at camp, it was time for a community meal, some adult beverages, and a spectacular sunset.

Goodnight!

Saturday, February 29, 2020-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona: I was up early to watch the sun rise in the east…

…which illuminated the desert floor in a golden glow.

Today, we decided to cruise the Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21-mile dirt road that loops around Ajo Mountain and shows off some of the most scenic areas of OPCNM.

It’s one way and wide enough for vehicles to pass, so one can travel at their leisure…as an example, it took us close to four hours to drive the 21 miles, of course we made numerous stops along the way.

For those who think the desert southwest is devoid of color I offer these examples of flowering plants and Cactus we came across including…

…some that are unusual, and…

…some more familiar.

All along the route there were gorgeous landscapes to be enjoyed.

And as the road steeply climbed into the foothills…

…we came to a unique rock formation…

…an arch, not unlike those in southeast Utah, however these hills are more volcanic where in Utah mountains consists primarily of sandstone.

Near the end of our excursion…

…we noticed a large stick in the middle of the road, and, it was moving!?!?

Showing the above photo to desert wildlife experts the rattler was identified as a Mojave
Rattlesnake, one of the world’s most venomous snakes! Fortunately, we were in the truck, and fortunately, the rattler wasn’t coiled up for a strike, and fortunately, he/she appeared to have little interest in us, possibly due to a recent emergence from its brumation period (Google it).

Back at camp we shared another great meal and drinks as the sun set over the desert of OPCNM…

…goodnight.

Sunday, March 1, 2020: Departed the park at 0954 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 62 degrees.

Then headed north on AZ-85…

… to the town of Why Arizona, with a population 167 souls.

Following a brief stop for fuel, we turned right on AZ-86, the North Tucson-Ajo Highway.

So, why is Why called Why? Well, the intersection of the two highways roughly resemble the letter “Y”, and the towns founders lacked a bit of creativity so just named their new enclave, “Y”. At least until they discovered that state law required Arizona town names to contain at least three letters…hence the name Why.

At 1240, and all getting hungry, there was a consensus to stop for lunch at a restaurant in the town of Three Points, Arizona, called the 3 Points Restaurant…yep more unimaginative naming!

However, the service was friendly, and the food was great.

I enjoyed a Greek Omelet which was one of the best I’ve experienced. For a small dusty town, The Three Points Restaurant was an outstanding find!

Well, sadly, this is where the Nomadic Maineiacs part ways.

Jeff and Catherine are proceeding east, and we are going to stay in the Tucson Area for a while. Its been great camping with you folks this past two weeks…safe travels, see you in Maine!

Kit’s Bit’s: Sad to see Jeff & Catherine head home, but we will see them again when we arrive home. The last couple of weeks have been fun, showing them some of our favorite spots. The winter season is very nice in the desert, with all the cactus blooming, very colorful. We always enjoy staying at Organ Pipe, the views are spectacular, and we like to drive along the border to see what’s going on. An added bonus this time was seeing the rattlesnake! I had never seen one before. Needless to say, I stayed in the truck!

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #11

I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone. I should think so, in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!
J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, February 23, 2020: The Nomadic Maneiac’s (Jeff, Catherine, Kit and Bill) departed San Diego’s Admiral Barker RV Park at 1100 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 63 degrees.

As we were leaving the city, a RR crossing gate came down to let the San Diego Trolley rumble by.

This light rail system reaches all corners of the city and is very popular…a few years ago, the four of us used the trolly to get downtown where we connected to the Amtrak Coaster for a nice railroad excursion up the coast.

Within 35 minutes we were rolling through the eastern mountains of San Diego County…a region known as “The Mountain Empire”.

Where we found our home for the next few days…

…Potrero County Park.

Kit and I set up our rig on a nice wooded site, and…

…Jeff and Catherine selected one a short distance away!

February 24 through February 26, 2020-The Mountain Empire of San Diego: The weather during our stay was cool at this altitude, but overall clear and beautiful.

Potrero is one of our favorite parks for camping…away from the bustle of San Diego, but close enough for a quick trip into the city if desired. In addition to nicely spaced campsites, there are a few hiking trails that take the visitor into the hills. So, on one sunny day…

… Jeff and I choose a trail to spend a few hours on…

…where views of the park as well as of the surrounding hillside can be enjoyed.

And at the summit lies a nice ramada.

To sit, relax, and enjoy the view.

Heading back to the campground…

…where we decided what to do next.

Within a few miles of the park lies Barrett Junction Café.

Where their specialty is deep fried fish…

…caught in the waters off San Diego, primarily Lingcod…

…which was fresh, flaky, golden brown…

…and delicious!

Attached to the café, is a bar and dancehall which features a full-length mirror…

…so, the imbibers can check their appearance before asking the lady or gentleman to dance.

Our dear friends, Rod and Gloria have retired to Tecate, Mexico just south of Potrero.

Rod, Kit, and I were neighbors and friends back in our teenage years. We invited them up to meet Jeff and Catherine and share some, conversation, adult beverages, and a meal…another great day visiting with folks from our 1960’s San Diego life!

Jeff and Catherine have a fraternity brother that lives up the coast so one day they visited him, while we babysat their Orchid…

…which survived until they returned with a real treat!

I would have snapped a photo of the contents, but it didn’t last long enough…nothing better than a Julian Pie!

On another bright sunny day, we took a nostalgic trip east on old highway US-80.

This is the road that Kit, and I took in June 1965 traveling across country to Key West, Florida…where I had orders to a Navy school, and where we started our new life together. Much of US-80 is buried under Interstate-8, but the remaining roadway travels through small towns such as Boulder Oaks, Live Oak Springs, Manzanita, Jacumba Hot Springs, and Boulevard, population 315 which…

…is the home of Wisteria Candy Cottage.

Established in 1921, this old-fashioned store is housed in a former one room schoolhouse and is operated by the third-generation family owner.

In addition to hand made candies, they feature many unique products from yesteryear.

Leaving with a supply of Road Munchies, we meandered further east finally locating the only remaining concrete portion of the original US-80.

Along the route Jeff noticed an abandoned Railroad track, likely part of the Carrizo Gorge Railway.

Also along this old highway that hugs the Mexican border are segments of the original border wall.

The border barrier shown above is over 20 years old and is constructed from military surplus hardware. I guess where the wall is nonexistent, there are signs forbidding illegal crossing that keeps folks out of America.

Soon we pulled off the highway to visit Desert Tower.

Built in the early 1920’s, this stone tower commemorates the builders that laid in the highway through the rugged Laguna Mountains that would eventually become I-8.

Today, it serves as a tourist destination where one can climb…

…steps to the observation deck…

…where panoramic views…

…can be enjoyed.

On the same property is Boulder Park, a tangle of huge boulders and rocks that create tunnels and caves where interesting creatures lurk.

Including snakes…

…and geckos…

…both carved in stone…

…as well as the GIECO variety.

Then, there’s this creation…

…not sure what that is, but kinda freaky looking!

On the way out of Desert Tower/Boulder Park, we stopped by Coyotes’ UFO Flying Service and Repair Facility.

However, Coyote was absent…perhaps in the mothership somewhere.

Back on US-80 and rolling through the village of Jacumba Hot Springs, we stopped for a late lunch at the Jacumba Spa Restaurant.

The restaurant has a five-star rating. I enjoyed a Bison Burger with hand cut onion rings….

…which was very good!

Jacumba Spa features swimming pools and hot tubs filled by a mineral hot spring.

The water comes out of the earth at 104 degrees, and by the time it is piped to the hot tub and swimming pool, it is a comfortable 98 degrees. Since they use an all-natural water source the tub and pool must be drained every few days and renewed with fresh mineral water from the prolific spring a few hundred yards to the north.

Back underway, we passed a large Wind Farm.

A note of trivia, California possesses the second largest wind energy system in the US, behind the State of Texas.

Back at the campground we enjoyed a few cocktails as the sun set on our final evening in California…

…as the Nomadic Maineiac’s wish all a good night!

Kit’s Bit’s: So glad to be able to spend a couple of days at Potrero County Park. It’s my very favorite place in SoCal to spend a few days. Nice we could share our time here with Jeff & Cathy. The park is very large, flat and most of it is green! The Rangers and Volunteers are all great and have lots of knowledge of the area. We have been on a mission to find as much of Old US 80 as we could, since we traveled this road on our way to Key West. We had left my parents house at
10 PM on June 9th, 1965 so, we didn’t see much of the road at that time. It took us 5 days to get to Key West and we only stopped at a motel one night. We did, however, stop at Rest Stops along the way to catch a few ZZZ’s. Nowadays, some of our travel days are 7 miles…😊

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #10

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. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
Terry Pratchett

Sunday, February 16 through Saturday, February 22, 2020-San Diego, California: When we last left Kit and Bill they had just greeted these to fine folks….

…who had just purchased this fine rig!

…which sparked intense longing in this fine woman.

You see, Kit and I have always wanted one of this beautiful and very well-made Silver Bullets!

Jeff and Catherine, good friends from Maine, purchased their 2020 Airstream 28RB in Florida a few weeks ago. Then traveled across country on a shake-down cruise, in order to see some sights, visit some friends and hang out with Kit and I for a bit…and we were very happy that they did!

Kit, Catherine, Jeff, and I spent a wonderful time in San Diego exploring some of its historic treasures and visiting some new attractions as well. Most every night we would gather at one or the others camper for a shared meal and evening cocktails. We frequently socialize at home in Maine so this fortunate meet-up provided an enjoyable extension to that.

The week consisted of many adventures, such as a visit to San Diego’s Balboa Park.

An historic and beautiful facility that has been written about extensively in previous years journal’s but is always enjoyable to see again.

As the girls went off on their own to explore the heritage exhibits of San Diego, Jeff and I headed for the Model Railroad Museum…at 27,000 square feet, it is the largest model train display in North America. There are four layouts of various scales with each having multiple main lines. The one Jeff and I enjoyed most was the “O” Gauge or Three Rail layout…the type many of us found under the tree on Christmas morning. 

Operated by members of the San Diego Three Railers Club the layout featured four lines and was highly detailed and realistic. Jeff, an avid three rail modelers in his own right, spent considerable time talking to members of the San Diego club, who invited us behind the barriers to get a closer look…

…and a more thorough explanation of the operation of the system.

What a great experience!

Thanks, San Diego Three Railers!!

Then we met up with the girls and ambled down the pedestrian promenade.

Past the reflecting pool with the Botanical Garden in the background.

To Panama 66, an al fresco dining facility…

…which features traditional tavern fare, as well as unique offerings such as…

…this Catalina Island Tuna Melt with Capers and Fontina Cheese on Sourdough Bread. Which was some good!

 

On another day, Jeff and Catherine joined us on our annual pilgrimage to Rosecrans National Cemetery where many of my family is interred.

Situated on Point Loma which juts out into the Pacific Ocean, Rosecrans is a somber and serene place with beautiful views over the Pacific, as well as San Diego Bay, North Island, and the downtown area.

In addition to uncles, cousins, and one of my stepfathers…my mom lies here as well.

A proud WWII Navy Hospital Apprentice, mom served at Balboa Naval Hospital here in San Diego tending to injured combat sailors. It was one patient by the name of Dewey, who appreciated the care she gave and, following his release from the hospital, invited her to his home for a meal. It was at this dinner she met another US Navy sailor recently home from duty in the South Pacific that would become my father.

While at Rosecrans, we returned a kind favor to a good friend CeCe whose father in interred here as well, she often brings flowers for my moms’ gravesite when she visits.

CeCe, an officer with TSA is on assignment in Florida, so we were unable to visit her this trip.

Thought about continuing out on the point to visit Cabrillo National Monument, but this being a holiday weekend, the line at the gate was longer than we wanted to endure…and since all four of us have visited Cabrillo in the past we made a three-point-turn and headed north.

Coming down from Point Loma, I was struck by how beautiful our childhood hometown truly is.

San Diego is a fairly large city with a population of 1.3 million and an additional 1.5 million in the County. However, San Diego still has a small-town vibe similar to other ocean side villages that hug the Pacific Ocean.

Back down at sea level, we drove about Liberty Station.

A former Navy training Center, it was home to the West Coast Recruit Training Command, where new enlistees, including myself in 1965, learn the ropes (pun intended) of shipboard life….and to that end, some of that training occurred on the USS Recruit.

A building made to resemble a WWII warship, the USS Recruit was frequently called the USS Neversail.

The ship featured deck equipment, training weapons, and the hull contained classrooms…

…where I, and millions of prospective sailors, learned the seagoing trade.

When the Naval Training Center closed back in 1997, the land and buildings were transferred to the City of San Diego. The historic base was restored for use as business offices, shops, condominiums, and restaurants…such as the Corvette Diner.

Where its namesake, a 1959 Corvette, holds court behind the waitress station…

…and a talented DJ spins early rock and roll records from her booth.

Jeff and I requested a few meaningful songs, much to the surprise and joy of our dates.

At one point the DJ announced a contest for the person whom had traveled the furthest to dine with them.

And Jeff won because he and Catherine traveled 7 miles further then Kit and me!

The menu featured drink items from the early malt-shop days such as…

…this delicious caramel, banana and chocolate malt, which was almost a meal in itself!

And entrees, such as this…

…double decker BLT, which was delicious and ample enough for two meals!

 

On one pleasant afternoon, we set up our site for a barbeque…

…and invited mutual friends Reed and Beta to join us.

I believe we all had a great time, socializing, laughing, telling stories, eating, and drinking…I know that I sure did!

 

Traveling about the United States in a camper results in items breaking or fasteners working themselves out due to the constant vibration imparted to the unit by the nation’s highways. Well, for a few days now, I’ve needed some hardware to fix some of those items…and Jeff mentioned that he too had a need for a hardware store. Well, Kit remembers as a child going with her father to San Diego Hardware to purchase similar products…so off we went.

Well, over the ensuing years, San Diego Hardware has morphed into a high-class shop of expensive decorative cabinet hardware and household accessories.

A bust for our nut and bolt needs, but an interesting place to poke around in anyway.

In addition to unusual “hardware” such as these Speakeasy Grills…

…and a great display of door knockers…

…as well as a complete line of high-grade water closets…

…positioned in such a way for socialization and with over the shoulder natural light for reading!

While off to find an actual hardware store we drove past this unique piece of architecture.

The sign said it housed an Innovation Center…whatever that is.

Jeff and I did find an amazing store called Marshall’s Industrial Hardware which had some really cool chapeaus…

…oh, and all the hardware we needed, and even some we didn’t know we needed so purchased them as well.

But the highlight for me was the incredible variety of…

…headgear!

 

On yet another day, Kit’s sister Char, and brother-in-law Don, invited us to their beautiful condo in the north county of San Diego.

Pulling into the complex, we came upon this sight!

Apparently, the gentleman decided he would prefer an attached garage vice the remote parking spot afforded him. All was well however, as the fella wasn’t injured…well except for his pride. The accident however took Don away for a spell as he is one of the officers of the HOA.

Char fed us a delicious meal of homemade soup, and tasty biscuits, before we had to say our goodbyes for the last time this trip, but not before I stepped from behind the camera, and Jeff took this nice photo of us.

 

Then, the following morning, we got to spend some more time with friend Joanne when we all met up at The Omelet Shop…

…a regional favorite of Kit and I, and one we enjoyed on many a morning dining and visiting with JoAnne and Ron.

JoAnne and Kit first met in elementary school…

…and other then a few years where they had lost contact…

…remain friends to this day!

I’m a sucker for Girl Scout cookies and being that this is “the season” we have many boxes squirreled away in the camper. However, I’m always vulnerable to the please of cute little scouts…

…especially when accompanied by very powerful Den Mothers!

 

Finally, on a nice sunny day, we all headed north to the coastal city of Carlsbad…the home of Legoland, which we passed on, and the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum, which we visited.

Established in 1990 by Mr. Joe Martin, the owner of the Sherline Company a manufacturer of miniature machine tools for the hobbyist, this 16,000 square foot building houses over 500 working miniature engines, from one cylinder Hit-N-Miss models…

…to more modern four-cylinder overhead cam engines…

…and early automotive designed flathead engines, this one with dual carburetors…

…to Hemi style fuel injected examples…

…and modern drag racing engines with GM 6-71 Blower’s providing the fuel charge!

All of these exquisitely detailed and hand-crafted model engines will fit in the palm of your hands, and the all are fully functional, running on either gasoline, alcohol, or nitromethane. Absolutely incredible!!!

Some hobbyist have chosen to continue their build and create entire automobiles, such as this beautiful Duesenberg!

At 1/6 scale, this masterpiece took over 15,000 painstaking hours to complete and is fully functional and operational…just like the actual full-sized classic is represents!

Also, in the collection, are examples of aircraft engines, such as this 18-Cylinder Radial Engine which runs on gasoline.

And some gorgeous examples of model boats, such as this four-engine pickle-fork racing hull, and yes…fully operational!

Within the museum, there is a nice machine shop staffed by a retired Master Machinist who spent time with Jeff and I explaining what they do to maintain the models on display.

And in addition, they produce gift items for those that donate to the museum, such as these Euler’s Disk’s…which Jeff and I just had to own!

These scientific gadgets are hand machined in the shop and the case shown is made using their 3D Printer!

 

Back at the campsite, on our final evening in San Diego, we once again gathered for a meal and some drinks. Being that we are camped in a valley, its hard to capture an acceptable sunset photo, however…

…I tried to make do with this cloud formation to the west as the sun had dropped below the hillside…goodnight from San Diego.

PS…So, what is a Euler’s Disk you ask? Well, it’s a scientific toy that does absolutely nothing useful, but is pretty cool nonetheless! Check out this YouTube video: https://youtu.be/0ivpvYMZ2ss

 

Kit’s Bit’s: A very busy and enjoyable time in San Diego. Didn’t think I would care for the Engineering museum, but, to my surprise, both Cathy and I loved it! Who knew there were “hidden gems” in San Diego?

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #9

Two great talkers will not travel far together
Spanish Proverb

Sunday, February 9, 2020: Up to cool and cloudy skies…aa appropriate day to be leaving our beachside campsite at Oceanside, California. Following breakfast, Kit and I set out at 1050 hours for our ancesteral hometown of San Diego. Jumped on I-5 South, then moved over to I-805 South, before heading east on US-52 and merging on I-15 South.

Took the Friars Road offramp and pulled into Admiral Baker Recreation Area…

…where we set up on a small but adequate site at their RV park.

We missed coming here last year as we decided to stay east of the Mississippi and explore some of that area. We are looking forward to seeing family and friends, in addition to scouting out some of our old haunts…ought to be fun!

 

Monday, February 10 through Saturday, February 15, 2020-San Diego, California: Kit and I have enjoyed gorgeous weather so far on the left coast of the United States, and this week was no exception…sunny and temperatures in the 70’s.

In addition to a nice RV park, Admiral Baker Field has numerous picnic areas, two 19-hole golf courses…

…sports fields, swimming pools, and a café. It is truly a destination resort and the surprising thing is that this military oasis is within minutes of two major interstates that carry hundreds of thousands of automobiles a day, but somehow Admiral Baker Field remains quiet and serene.

While in town, we like to poke around our childhood neighborhood of Serra Mesa. The first drive-by was Kit’s home on Cabrillo Mesa Drive…

…this is where I would ride my homemade skateboard from my place a few blocks away in order to “date” Kit, much to the consternation of her father.

Next was by my home…

…on Polland Avenue. Where the attached garage turned out to be the neighborhood hangout, due to the lack of parental supervision. Boy, the things that garage witnessed!?!?!

The brick wall surrounding the backyard was installed in 1958 and the Redwood gate was hung at the same time. We finished it with a clear varnish then painted a stylized “T” with black paint…

…which is still visible under those multiple coats of whitewash, 61 years later!

While in the hood, Kit and I stopped by our church…the scene of many shenanigans!

Saint Columba Catholic Church was where I received my first communion, and later was almost excommunicated. That building, was where I spent many hours suffering repentance melded out by a no-nonsense priest named Father Patrick O’Neil.

The inside had the same look and smell as it did back in the 1950’s.

This sensation caused a flood of memories…some good, and some not so good.

A tradition we have established over the years is to light a votive candle in honor of my dear departed mother…

… a devout Irish Catholic, and a darn good single mom to a couple of rebellious boys.

Kit and I were surprised the church was not locked, a rarity these days, but found no one around. So, we walked next door to the rectory and church office where we met a very nice secretary.

Marlo spent a great deal of time listening to our stories of the early parish and filling in some blanks we had in our memories…thanks Marlo!!!

Next, we visited a neighbor Kit and I became close to while serving a Navy tour in San Diego.

Angie and Carl lived directly across the street from us in the early 1970’s. Being a bit older, they kind of adopted us along with our three children. Unfortunately, Carl passed away last month.

He was a retired Chief Petty Officer who parlayed his management skills into a successful job with the San Diego City School System.

Angie, at 95 years old, is sharp and still living independently in her home of 71 years. We had a great time visiting with her and reminiscing about old times.

Some fairly new friends, who Kit and I enjoy spending time with…are Reed and Beta.

They have a home in Maine where their son and his family live, and a home in San Diego where their daughter and her family live…pretty good arrangement for an active retired couple if you ask me!

We visited Reed and Beta and enjoyed their hospitality as well as an excellent home cooked meal.

Thanks again folks…looking forward to seeing you back in Maine this summer!

On Valentine’s Day, Kit wanted to head down to the older part of San Diego for some wandering about, shopping and dining. In the process, an attraction we stumbled upon was Heritage Park.

This newly established collection of historically significant homes, which had been relocated to an underdeveloped piece of land, is now across the street from Old Town San Diego. The park features about a half dozen restored structures…

…such as the Sherman-Gilbert house. This magnificent home was built in 1887 by the cousin of William Tecumseh Sherman of American Civil War fame. It was later owned by sisters Bess and Gertrude Gilbert who lavishly entertained the gentry of San Diego as well as Hollywood movie stars.

Next door lies the Christian House.

A classic Victorian which was constructed in 1899 by a prominent banker and real estate developer.

Down the street from Heritage Park is the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Built recently in the style of an old Spanish fort, this museum is staffed by members of the Church of Latter Day Saints and chronicles the history of the Mormon pioneers, many of whom were treated poorly by the US Government and then conscripted into the US Army to fight during the Spanish American War.

The various museum rooms, utilizing an interactive audio-visual technique, took one through the Mormon Battalion timeline and detailed the struggles of the draftees, as well as the plight of their families left to fend for themselves in a hostile environment.

The young docents, Sisters in the LDS faith, were able to seamlessly interact with the framed photos of prominent members of the battalion…a very entertaining and informative historical narrative!

In the main gallery were documents of the time, as well as artwork depicting some of the more important campaigns…

…along with various artifacts, such as these flintlock weapons…

…which were gifted by the Army to the soldiers at the end of the conflict.

At the conclusion of the 45-minute tour, I was expecting to be pounced on by the church elders but was pleasantly surprised when we were offered a free Bible and a free copy of The Book of Mormon with no strings attached. A very interesting museum we didn’t even know existed until today.

Next, we strolled through Old Town San Diego Historic Park…

…full of shops and restaurants reflecting the early days of the city…

…along with a number of hidden whimsical garden creatures…

…created in the Spanish style.

However, our favorite part of Old Town is Fiesta de Reyes…

…and its world-renowned Mexican restaurant featuring…

… signature Margarita’s such as this 22-ounce Golden Cadillac concoction…

…and, smaller traditional Margarita’s that Kit enjoyed.

Unlike many Mexican restaurants around the country, this Cantina serves authentic and traditional Mexican fare…

… which is some of the best we’ve enjoyed in California…and a very close second to a few of our favorites in Tucson!

Being our hometown, there are a number of family members and longstanding friends that reside in San Diego, some of which we were able to visit with…such as Kit’s sister, Char, and her husband Don.

Both being retired and rv’rs in their own right, they lead an active life enjoying the beautiful weather in America’s most beautiful metropolis.

As the song goes: “Seems it Never Rains in Southern California”. And the daily temperatures are…

…perfect year around? Which allows for flowers…

…to bloom year around as well!

Then there is JoAnne, a special high school friend of ours…

…who knew Kit before I did. JoAnne knows of, or participated in, our various teenage shenanigans…which shall remain hidden in the teenage memory vault. Right Joanne?

Sadly, JoAnne’s husband Ron passed away since we’ve last visited.

A large but gentle man, he took great care of Joanne when she was battling health issues, and always treated Kit and I as old friends…we all miss him terribly.

However, JoAnne is fortunate to have three of her grandchildren living with her.

Great kids all, whom Kit and I first met five years ago when traveling through Idaho, their former home.

On one of our outings we came across this contraption.

A three wheeled motorized kart sporting a 49cc engine. The 380-pound GoCar has an integrated GPS/Audio Tour Guide System that allows the driver to be distracted while rolling about a city of 6,000-pound vehicles. What could possibly go wrong with that?!?!

Well, this brings to a close our week in San Diego. We were considering starting our eastern migration tomorrow, however some very good friends from Maine arrived with their gorgeous, brand new Airstream in tow…

…so, Kit and I quickly decided to extend our stay!

As the sun set on a great week…

…watch for the upcoming “Adventures of Two Manieiac Couples in the City of Perpetual Sunshine” coming to a website near you!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a wonderful time in San Diego, but it wasn’t quite long enough. The weather was perfect, as usual, and we were able to enjoy a bit of our hometown. Of course, the traffic has increased, so it’s a bit of a challenge getting through it. We are looking forward to heading east soon and hope to be home when the snow melts.

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #8

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
I don’t much care where
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go
Lewis Carroll

Sunday, February 2, 2020: Departed Seal Beach RV Park at 1113 hours under partly cloudy skies, a temperature of 69 degrees, and winds of 22 MPH from the West. Usually my policy is to not travel in windy conditions above 20 MPH if coming from the beam…however today is a very short transit, so we went for it.

At 1208, we entered San Diego County…then following an uneventful trip, Kit and I pulled into Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base at 1231 hours and set up in Del Mar Beach RV Resort on a nice second-row site.
You may have noticed that our TV antenna is a bit askew.
A few weeks ago, I snagged a low hanging tree branch and the forward antenna array bent. With a 13’6” rig, this is a somewhat common occurrence…in fact, a few years ago while negotiating a narrow dirt road in Canada, a tree branch ripped the entire antenna off. I’ve spent more time on top of this camper repairing low hanging object strikes then any other we’ve owned during or 45 years of RV ownership. However, in this case I’m, reluctant to bend it back into shape because we get better TV reception with it bent at the weird 45-degree angle. Go figure?

Midafternoon, I took a walk down the beach…

…followed by a great meal, some cocktails, and a nice sunset…
…where I spotted a US Navy ship…
…on night maneuvers just off the beach.

Goodnight from the Left Coast!

 

Saturday, February 3 through Saturday, February 8, 2020-Del Mar Beach, Oceanside, California: Woke to Sunny skies with rising temperatures which burned the sea-smoke off the water, and the sound of waves crashing on the nearly deserted shoreline…

…well, except for these guys.

US Marines undergoing training in the use and operation of Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV). These 64,000 pound tracked vehicles feature 2 inches of armor plating and are protected by a 40mm grenade launcher as well as .50 caliber machine guns.

They are operated by a crew of 3 and carry another 21 marine infantry men and women…

notice the top of their helmets in the back.

Traveling at a speed of 45 MPH on land and 20 knots in the water, the AAV ferries Marines to and from US Navy Amphibious ships for beachfront assaults.

Most folks know of my affinity for sunset photos. Being predominantly a lazy landscape photographer, taking snapshots at sunset virtually insures a nice photo…particularly from a California beach with western exposure.

Well, one evening just before dusk, I walked to the shoreline and began snapping photos of the descending sun, when a USMC helicopter flew into view…

…allowing me the luxury of capturing my most dramatic sunset photo in years! The position of the Marine Cobra above the sun setting on the Pacific which was throwing sunset rays to the heavens was, in my humble opinion, the most striking photo I’ve had the privilege of snapping.

Even after cropping away the peripheral areas…

…the photograph still looked pretty cool! Yay for Bill!

Now a warning, I made it a mission to snap photos every evening at sunset during our weeks stay, so an overabundance of these photos will be sprinkled throughout this issue.

And, being an old soul, I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with old sol as she dove for the horizon…

…and yes, I was bundled up as at this time of the evening as it was turning a bit cold by California standards.

Kit and I have camped at this park at least 10 times over the past twelve years of our Excellent Adventures. So, we’ve seen just about everything there is to see, many of the attractions more than once. This year, we decided to primarily stay on base and enjoy our beachfront campsite.

Being on the ocean, especially one that is sparsely populated, makes for a prime venue to fly high performance kites.

The winds are generally strong and consistent, and the soft sand is very forgiving if one’s kite flying abruptly morphs into an impromptu game of lawn darts. During our stay, I was able to spend a few hours every day flying a number of my delta, and parafoil kites!

Kit and I also made it a point to walk the beach a few times a day, either in the morning…

…during mid-day…

…or early evening…

…where we were always treated to…

…a nice sunset! See what I did there? Pretty sneaky, huh?

The town of Oceanside, the home of Camp Pendleton, hosts the California Surf Museum which I like to visit every few years.

Established in 1991, the museum has a great collection of boards…

…from the early days of surfing in California, to the…

…more modern “short boards”.

When the Hawaiian’s brought the sport to California in the early 1900’s when the boards were solid wood and weighed over 50 pounds…

Later, hollow boards manufactured similar to the era’s airplane wings were built…

…similar to the above which was the first board I purchased, from an Abalone diver in 1959.

Next, the foam core boards covered with fiberglass were built, most of which were 9 to 10 feet and weighed about 30 pounds, had one of these as well…

…yea, that skinny dork pictured above was me at age 16.

Later, shorter boards were the rage many of which were under 5 feet and weighed about 15 pounds.

The museum is fairly small in size, but the collection of artifacts, photographs, and stories is second to none. In the gift shop I spied an interesting book…

…which I purchased. There are stories and historic photographs of San Diego surf breaks and the folks that enjoyed riding them…many of them from our era of the early 1960’s!

So, what did Kit do while I made year another pilgrimage to the California Surfing Museum? Why, hang out at the local library of course. Apparently, she’s seen enough surfboards to last her a lifetime! Being that as it may…I highly recommend taking in this exquisite museum if you’re ever in the area.

And to top off the day…

… why another gorgeous sunset, of course…goodnight!

OK, this next segment is “Top Secret”. Kit spent a number of hours during our relaxing stay working on a project for our youngest daughter’s wedding…

…who was married seventeen years ago. It’s a surprise, so please don’t mention it to Suzie!

Walking the beach, one comes across some unique sand formations…

…sculpted by Mother Nature. Also, a few of her…

…feathered friends…

…often waiting to take flight in search of a seafood dinner, either raw, or one prepared for human consumption if the person who is dining isn’t paying attention!

Oh, by the way, it’s another day…so another sunset!

Goodnight!

One morning, the tide was particularly high, and the swells had grown to approximately 7 feet.

And the thundering sound of the breaking waves could be felt emanating from the sand as I walked along the shoreline…a unique sensation!

On my midafternoon walk, the tide had receded, and the wave height dropped to a more normal 3 to 4 feet.

Which gave the shorebirds…

…an opportunity to search for newly uncovered morsels.

And, yes…

…this evening offered yet another spectacular sunset!

Now a bit of journal housekeeping, I’ve been asked what kind of camera equipment I use. Well, it’s nothing fancy…

…it’s a Canon G-9X. An admittedly higher end compact camera, however a far cry from a DSLR or other pro-grade equipment. At 4” x 2½” x 1¼” inches, it is easily pocketable which means I carry it all the time. This my third Canon in twelve years (I wore the first two out) and is by far my favorite, as it takes pretty good snapshots and it is always at the ready for any photo opportunity I desire to capture. Hope this answers everyone’s questions.

Well, this brings our stay at Del Mar Beach Resort to a close. So, as the sun hovers above the western horizon which elongates shadows on the sand…

…Old Sol bids us…

…a final farewell!

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a very nice time in Oceanside this year. We took it easy and basically, just hung out on the beach. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as some years. I was able to catch up on a few household things I’d been putting off, in addition to walking the beach each day. The best part of camping here is watching the tanks head out for maneuvers and return in the late afternoon! It’s always a reminder for me of the dedication of our young Marines.

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #7

Coddiwomple:

To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination

 

Saturday, January 25, 2020: well this morning Kit and I departed from Desert Eagle RV Park in Las Vegas, Nevada…yep, we really did it this time! And, on the road at 0928 under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.

During our extended stay in Vegas, we discussed where to travel next and finally settled on continuing west to the left coast. So, on I-15 West we motored and crossed the California border an hour after our departure where we encountered the State Agricultural Inspection Station.

After confirming we didn’t have any hitchhiking vermin or elicit produce, we were waved through the gauntlet and continued our trek while passing the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation Station on our right.

This Concentrated Solar Thermal system generates 392 Megawatts of power by reflecting the sun off of 347,000 individually controlled mirrors each 75 square feet in size. The mirrors then focus and direct the sunlight toward boilers sitting atop towers.

Located on 3,500 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert…

…this joint government private facility cost 2.18 Billion dollars and is only capable of producing electricity at 45% of predicted efficiency due to technical deficiencies. In addition, it has been criticized for significant environmental impact because of the effect the powerful sunbeams have on migratory birds.

Nearing the Coastal Mountains…

…we soon entered Los Angeles County, and made our way to March Air Reserve base for the evening.

This relatively small campground was full, but we were allowed to dry-camp overnight next to the RV storage facility which suited us just fine…goodnight!

Sunday, January 26, 2020: Up, breakfast, and on the road at 1015 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 59 degrees.

Before leaving town, we made a quick stop at Riverside National Cemetery…

…to pay our respects to Kit’s mom and dad…

… who are laid to rest there.

Back on the road, we spent the next few hours battling Los Angeles traffic as we circled southwest toward Seal Beach…

… our destination for the next week. Pulling into the Naval Weapons Stations campground, we…

…set up camp on a nice spacious site and settled in for the evening.

Monday, January 27 through Saturday, February 1, 2020-Seal Beach, California: Seal Beach, a coastal community of 24,000 folks in Orange County is a pleasant little town…

…which hosts the second longest wooden pier in California…

…and makes a prime spot to watch the local surfers…

…carve the shore break…

…during a low tide swell with ideal offshore winds.

In California, one never knows who or what…

… might be trying their saltwater fishing luck!

The pier, and its fisherfolks edible castoffs, are very attractive to pigeons…

…who strut, and preen…

…then pose for photographs, in anticipation of a handout.

California is the most car centric state in the union. Plenty of high-end automobiles are about and a good number of classics as well, such as this beauty…

…a 1931 Ford Victoria restored to concourse condition and parked on the street in downtown Seal Beach. I looked around for the owner in order to chat about Model A ownership, but we never connected.

Speaking of automobiles, life in California is unique…even car buying is different than the rest of the US. There are a number of these car elevator dealerships about that have transformed the car buying model.

Basically, a car vending machine, Carvana holds up to 32 automobiles which can be accessed after logging in online and receiving the code. The selected car can then be test driven for up to seven days before the transaction is put through at which time you own the car. If within that seven-day period, you don’t want the car, just return to any Carvana tower and select another one to test out!?!?

An added treat while in the area, was seeing my brother Dewey and sister-in-law Bea, who were camping just a few miles north of us.

Dewey spent a great deal of his adult life living and working in nearby Culver City and he still has relatives in the area which they were visiting. However, they were kind enough to eke out an afternoon for us and we assembled at The Boathouse, a very nice waterfront restaurant…

…alongside picturesque Long Beach harbor…

…where from our window seat…

…we enjoyed a very pleasant view of the waterfront activity.

After exchanging pleasantries, we got down to business…

…with some ice-cold Barley Pops, and…

…delicious tavern fare!

Kit and I enjoyed a great time with a great couple…see you in Tucson in a few weeks’ folks!

Back in 1957, Kit and her family lived in the nearby city of San Pedro, so we spent one day touring that area.

First stop was Point Fermin Park…

…where an historic lighthouse, built in 1874, stands guard…

…high above the crashing surf.

The park was a favorite place for Kit and her family to picnic while enjoying the fresh ocean breezes. It has a large variety of unique vegetation such as this Coastal Fig Tree.

Point Fermin also features views south toward the Long Beach Shipping Terminal…

… and north onto…

the upscale community of Palos Verdes.

A relatively unknown portion of Point Fermin is The Sunken City. This community of luxury cliffside homes, was constructed in the early 1920’s by a group of Hollywood’s elites.

Unfortunately, is was built on very unstable land and almost immediately started to slump toward the Pacific Ocean. As the slump accelerated, at times up to 11 inches a day, electrical utilities and water pipes began failing causing some residents to abandon their cliffside estates. In a catastrophic event, most of the neighborhood sunk when the underlying land slumped into the ocean.

It has never been cleaned up or stabilized and has become an unauthorized tourist attraction seldom found on San Pedro brochures or maps. Kit and I just stumbled across it but stopped at the security gate surrounding the entire area where we took the photo of the blue house pictured above, likely one of the few remaining homes in the original development.

Just up the hill from Point Fermin Park lies Angel’s Gate Park, home of the Korean Friendship Bell.

Which was presented to the People of the United States by the South Korean Government during our country’s bicentennial year. Housed in a Pagoda style pavilion, the bell is ceremonially struck by use of a swinging log clapper.

Decorated in the traditional Dancheong style using five basic colors…

… blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center), it is a truly beautiful and spiritual place to visit and reflect.

Another childhood memory that Kit shared was the elementary school she attended in San Pedro. Being that it was during her 4th and 5th year, and being that this is California where buildings just a few years old are torn down only to be replaced by bigger buildings, I had little faith the school still existed…but we went on a search anyway.

Well, imagine our surprise when the GPS brought us to a school…and it was an obviously older building!

Walking into the office we encountered a very pleasant and helpful member of the staff. When learning of our quest, she proudly exclaimed that the school was currently celebrating its 75th anniversary!

Kit was very pleased as a rush of childhood memories came over her and she recounted stories of that era to the office staff.

What a pleasant and memorable experience!

Heading back to the campground, we took a trip through the neighboring town of Long Beach…

…and headed for the waterfront…

…where we stopped to browse around…

…in trendy little shops. In one we tried on a few stylish California hats…

…and some that were even more stylish…

… than others! I don’t know what it is with me and goofy hats? I seldom wear a cap of any style, but when I spot a particularly outrageous chapeau, something comes over me and I’ve got to try it on…much to Kit’s chagrin!

Since we were on the waterfront, and since it was nearing the blue-hair dinner hour, Kit and I stepped into the Parkers’ Lighthouse Restaurant for a meal.

Sitting outside on the patio, we enjoyed some excellent local seafood, while enjoying the activity in the harbor

…as the local wildlife…

…photobombed the historic Queen Mary!

This area of coastal California has been a prime oil producing region for many years, so…

… It isn’t unusual to see oil wells in neighborhoods…some even churning alongside multi-million-dollar homes.

Also, at the other end of the spectrum, it isn’t unusual to see lush greenery and colorful flowers such as the…

… Bird of Paradise, even during these cooler winter months.

On yet another day in town, we took a ride into Los Angeles, to visit Griffith Park. Yea, I know…what were we thinking?

At 4,310 acres, it is the largest urban park in North America

In addition to picnic areas, hiking trails, horse stables, and a miniature railroad, the park is home to the famed Griffith observatory.

The access road to the summit was closed due to the parking lot being full. We were directed to an auxiliary lot a few miles away that featured a walking path to the observatory but decided to pass on the climb up due to time constraints.

Also, in Griffith Park is the Los Angeles Zoo, and across the road, the Autry Museum of the American West…

…which was established in 1988 by actor Gene Autry. As a patriot, he stipulated that all US Military Veterans would be honored with free admission to his museum, which was a nice gesture. The Autry merges the culture of the American Cowboy and the Native American Indians with the various Hollywood cowboys and cowgirls that helped make Los Angeles famous.

We learned that, contrary to what ones sees in old western films…

… a number of western settlers were African Americans.

No museum dedicated to the American West would be complete without the various firearms that helped keep law and order, such as these gold-plated pistol’s owned by sharpshooter, Annie Oakley…

…or this classic revolver used by Teddy Roosevelt.

Another unique weapon on display was this Gatling Gun designed by Richard J. Gatling and manufactured by the Colt Manufacturing Company in the late 1800’s.

Then there was a collection of Revolver Rifles…

…also manufactured by Colt in the 1800’s and issued to soldiers of the US Army. Up until this point, rifles were only able to shoot one bullet before having to reload. So, a patient advisory would just wait until he saw the muzzle blast then simple walk over to the soldier and engage him at close range while the hapless single-shot rifle bearer was frantically reloading. The revolving Rifle surprised many on the battlefield when multiple volleys came from the same rifle. However, a persistent design flaw would frequently cause the rifle to discharge all six of its chambers simultaneously causing significant damage to the rifleman and the weapon.

There was also a nice display of western toys in the museum…

…many of which I remember from my childhood.

The visit to Griffith Park was enjoyable, however the 25-mile drive from the campground took close to 90 minutes…that’s the price one pays to visit an attraction within a city of 12,874,797 souls, many of whom simultaneously drive multiple automobiles, well that’s the way is seemed anyway!

Tomorrow we pull chocks and head south, but not before enjoying a spectacular California sunset from the campground…

…goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s: It was a real treat for me to finally see some of the Los Angeles area where my family lived when I was 9 and 10 years old. Bill doesn’t like driving in big cities, especially with such a large vehicle. Best thing I was able to see was the school I attended for 4th & 5th grade! I was surprised it was still standing. It’s now designated as a Gifted Magnet school. We never found the place where we lived. The lady at the school said the adjacent housing area had been leveled a few years ago and new apartments were built. The housing area was within walking distance to school. The entire area has been built up as most are in California. Hard to believe there are so many people there and somehow, everyday life is as smooth as it is. So many cars, stores, highways, houses, apartments… I suppose due to the mild climate year-round, life is smoother in many ways. Still, way too congested for us. Nice to visit but, we’d rather live in Maine!

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #6

To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self, and to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self
Søren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, January 15 through Friday, January 24, 2020-Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada: Wait, what? Yep, were still in Las Vegas…so, what’s up with that?

Well, last issue we were nearing the end of our stay. As it turned out, we couldn’t decide in what direction to head next…so Kit and I decided we would just extend here. We have family in the area, the weather has been great, the camping fees are affordable, and the area has much to see and enjoy…a win-win-win-win!

So, here are a few things we did and a few attractions we enjoyed during our ten-day bonus stay in Las Vegas.

I was able to get the rig washed by a mobile RV Wash company, which it sorely needed.

Water bring at a premium here in the desert, this is the only authorized method to get your camper clean.

We met some more of our neighbors. Including Rod, a retired Army sergeant…

…with a unique towed vehicle that fits in the back of his fifth wheel toy hauler.

Did some shopping…

…at the world’s second largest Bass Pro Shop which is connected to, what else, a hotel and casino…in this case The Silverton.

Kit wanted to go see the new movie Little Women…

…which she thoroughly enjoyed, and to my surprise, so did I.

Visited The Las Vegas International Speedway, a prime venue for NASCAR and NHRA events, both styles of auto racing I’ve enjoyed in the past. However, in between race dates there is an opportunity to channel ones Enzo Ferrari or Carroll Shelby…

…by piloting a high-performance supercar around the track courtesy of Dream Racing. Only $499.00 to enjoy 5 laps in a 729 Horsepower Lamborghini Aventador!

We continued to enjoy many unique sunrises…

…as well as…

…many spectacular sunsets…

… and more than our fair share of dry sunny and days.

Las Vegas is a multi-faceted town not the least of which is a significant military presence and strong support of our nation’s veterans…

…which is evident by the preferred parking spaces at some facilities.

We visited an attraction that Kit and I had not visited in a number of years…Red Rock National Conservation Area.

Located a mere 15 miles west of The Vegas Strip, Red Rock is a 197,349-acre park managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. There is a 13-mile loop road that takes the visitor…

…through the park…

…at a leisurely pace to view the iconic…

…red rock formations, known as Aztec Sandstone.

The red hue is from oxidation of iron minerals in the sedimentary rock…

… and the rocks that are grayer in color possess less iron.

Along the way, there are many parking areas…

… that allow one to walk about or access trailheads for hiking paths that delve deep into the conservation area.

After a few hours in the park, it was getting late in the afternoon and long past lunch time…

…so, we exited and headed for the nearest watering hole…

…and began quenching our thirst.

The Yard House, an upscale chain brewpub that features over 100 pulls at their bar…

…each one connected to a keg of high-quality beer kept frosty cold in their…

…massive beer cooler! If you can’t find something to satisfy your palette here, then you are way too finicky!

For lunch, I ordered Fish Tacos, and Kit choose this Chicken Filet salad…

…which she enjoyed very much. To top it off we split a large dessert…

…which was excellent as well.

On the weekend days, we spent more quality time with our Vegas grandkids, Jack and Tucker. Some days we just hung out and visited, and on others we went on excursions…such as our visit to Madame Tussaud Wax Museum where amazingly life like sculptures of famous people are displayed…

…many from the entertainment industry…

…and others form professional sports teams.

Jack had his favorites…

…but Kit and I also had ours.

Not sure, but we think this may be Tucker’s favorite…

…wax sculpture. It’s an amazingly realistic depiction of an American teenager in the wild.

Marie Tussaud was born in 1700’s France and learned wax sculpturing at an early age. During the French Revolution, she was imprisoned and sentenced to death but her unusual talent spared her life. Later, after taking her sculptures on tour throughout Europe, she settled in London opening the first of many Wax Museums that continue to this day, and every museum has a sculpture of Madame Tussaud…

…made from the original mold that she herself carved late in life…pretty cool!

This museum was more entertaining than I anticipated, there were over 100 sculptures, all of which looked spookily real. In addition, being that they were rendered in full size gave a glimpse into how these famous folks really looked…

…some tall, some short, some skinny, and some a bit overweight.

Leaving the museum, we stumbled into Sugars…

…a mega candy store where if it contains gobs of sugar, it can be purchased.

Then it was a short walk to the parking garage, where…

…the boys’ true personality was put on full display!

One bright sunny day, Kit and I decided to drive southeast to Boulder City…

… and visit the historic Hoover Dam.

But, before we could get close to the parking garage, we had to undergo a TSA type screening by Federal Officers.

This requirement is due to the elevated threat level that has remained in place since the attacks on 9-11. For many years prior, Kit and I had driven freely across the dam traveling between Nevada and Arizona. However enhanced security made it necessary to build a large multi lane bridge…

… that parallels the dam just downriver and now handles the traffic volume.

Hoover Dam resides in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Originally called Boulder Dam, as it was initially sited for nearby Boulder Canyon, the name was changed to honor the 31st US President long after the dam’s completion. This elicited much controversy and political handwringing…a local newspaper editorial at the time decried; “Let’s Just Call It, Who Gives a Dam!”

Built during the Great Depression, over the course of five years, by thousands of workers, the dam was completed two years ahead of schedule and under budget! One hundred twelve men perished during the building phase, and no…there are no bodies entombed in the massive concrete structure.

Known as an Arch-Gravity Dam, its unique design is 660 feet thick at its base and narrows to 45 feet at the top. With an arched face upriver, the configuration utilizes the force of the impoundments massive volume of water to wedge the dam into the hard rock canyon walls.

Being that it was the largest and most challenging project in the world, there was great animosity about its engineering and construction.

Made of concrete, laid up in segments so large that a railcar full of material would only add one inch of height at a time.

Since concrete gives off heat as it solidifies, which slows the curing process, water pipes were embedded in the wet mixture and chilled water was continuously cycled through until that segment was solid enough to add the next segment layer. 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete were used in the dam itself and an additional 1,110,000 cubic yards were used in construction of the powerplant building at the foot of the dam.

Today, interior cores are periodically drilled and extracted then tested for integrity…the dam concrete tests stronger today than original built, while the concrete continues to cure some 85 years later.

There are a few different tours offered which will gain the visitor into the interior of the dam. Kit opted for the above ground museum ticket, and I decided to go for the full access tour ticket.

The museum was interesting as it consisted of many historic artifacts and personal stories from the men that built the dam. And yes, in 1930’s America, all the workers were men and 99 percent were white.

And a bit of historical trivia, workers were in constant danger of rocks, tools and other items being dropped by their fellow workers above. So many took readily available cotton hats and boiled them in tar creating a hard shell. These homemade protective hats became known as “hard boiled hats” which was later shortened to “hardhats”, versions of which are used to this day in industrial environments.

The Dam Tour (pun intended) started by a brief film then a quick ride down an elevator to the bottom of the structure, followed by a walk through some of the original passageways…

…to the Generator Room.

We learned that the entire Colorado River flows through four Penstocks with enough head pressure to accelerate the water to 85 MPH before encountering the turbines which turn the massive generators…

…generating four billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 1.3 million households.

Our tour continued into the walls of the dam by way of stairs…

…and damp narrow passageways…

…that lead to inspection ports…

…deep within the dam’s interior, where a unique view of the bridge, powerhouse, and river can be enjoyed.

Back in daylight, I walked across the dam’s surface road to the state of Arizona where it’s an hour later due to its location in Mountain Standard Time.

Realizing this, I hurriedly scampered back to the Nevada side…at my age, I can’t afford to lose even one minute, much less than a whole hour!

From the museum, we learned that following the dam’s completion there were many small water leaks discovered…mainly at the interface between the dam and the canyon walls.

It took an additional nine years to seal the dam to acceptable standards…but even to this day, there is some minor seepage occurring.

What a great day at an historic and very important element on the Colorado River. This trip marks the fifth time we’ve visited this amazing structure, and each time is as exciting and interesting as the last…we highly recommend it!

Before leaving the area, we drove to the parking lot beneath the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. There is a pedestrian walkway that parallels the highway and allows the visitor…

…to access and enjoy a unique perspective of Hoover Dam, the lower Colorado River, and the surrounding countryside.

This perspective also gives a good view of the powerhouse at the base of the dam. And, late in the day, the bridges shadow creeps up the dam’s eastern face. Can you see me waving from the walkway?

The bridge is named for Pat Tillman, an American patriot…

…who left a promising career with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals to join his brother and enlist in the US Army shortly after 9-11 only to give his life fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan.

On the way back to the campground, we stopped for dinner at Fox Smokehouse in Boulder City and enjoyed some of their signature barbeque…

…which has won many awards. A great way to top off a great day playing tourist!

An attraction that Kit wanted to visit was Springs Preserve just 3 miles west of the Las Vegas strip. This 180-acre suburban park features nature walks, a recreated early village, and the Nevada State Museum.

Which contains exhibits and artifacts from the area’s natural history, such as the Ichthyosaur…

…a prehistoric reptile that grew to 65 feet and swam in the shallow seas 225 million years ago when this area was oceanfront property.

Also, more common today is the iconic Desert Tortoise…

… which is similar in size and coloration to the one I owned as a youngster. Melvin, is that you?

Being near Vegas, there is a display honoring this cities early attempt at development…

…with a number of early slot machines featured.

Nowadays, the gaming industries use of electronics has rendered thousands of these mechanical devices to scrap metal piles. However just a few years ago, one could purchase these relics for less than a hundred dollars. However, for security reasons, they were built to be extremely heavy, so the average tourist had few economic options to bring this unusual souvenir home.

There was a display of military history in the museum as well…most notably The Nevada Test Site (NTS), 65 miles Northwest of the city. This 1,360 square mile, highly classified and restricted facility, is still an active military test and training base.

The NTS site was used in the early 1950’s for the atmospheric detonation of various nuclear devices.

The many blast’s and subsequent mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas hotels and became a major tourist draw, as evident by the following postcard.

NTS is segmented into various compounds, called Area’s…Area 51, which doesn’t officially exist is one of those. However, others are used for more mundane tests…such as Area 15, managed by the US EPA to test the effect of nuclear radiation on farm crops, livestock and native plants.

Then there’s Area 10, where Operation Plowshare was conducted. This misguided project was to see if a nuclear detonation could be used for peaceful purposes, like in “earth moving”…

…to create large lakes or coastal bays and channels.

Building a city in the desert was a challenge due to limited sources of water. In the early days a few springs existed, but as the area grew in size water had to be delivered from the Colorado River and Lake Mead via wooden pipes.

These were by nature small in diameter and were prone to leaks so were eventually replaced with more durable piping leaving the wood pipes to decay in the desert. As a kid, when we would visit relatives in Arizona, it was common to find these relics lying about…I still have segments of early wood water pipes stored in my basement to this day.

Back at camp, we took care of some chores, and prepared for the morning’s departure, as the sun set on our final day in the Las Vegas area.

We sure are going to miss jack…

…and Tucker…

…as well as their parents…

…and of course, Sophie!

Thanks for everything…love you!

Kit’s Bit’s: Staying an extra 10 days in the Las Vegas area was a great decision. It gave us some time to see a few things we’d been wanting to visit but never seemed to have the extra time. We were also fortunate to be able to spend more time with Suzie, Kevin, Jack & Tucker and also, Sophie. The kids are at the age now where they would rather spend their time with friends than old rele’s. Fortunately, we’re aware of this phenomenon, i.e. kids “growing up”, so we weren’t at all offended. It is nice though, that they still make time for us in short spurts. We treasure every minute we’ve had with all five of our “Grands” and continue to keep in touch with them as they make it to “adulthood”.