Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium- December 30

It has been a cool day, with either a mist or a heavy drizzle of rain coming down. I want to see the sun all the time out here but, hey, I know that southern California needs the rain!  So,even though we have already seen several aquariums this past year, that is were we headed this afternoon. The Cabrillo Aquarium is located in San Pedro, which is southwest of Los Angeles. We  first walked through the historic section of this town, which has many different shops and restaurants. Then, as we were headed back to our car, a tall tower on a corner caught my attention, as the top of it seemed to be rotating. After watching it for awhile we concluded that it was a security camera with a motion sensor. When someone passed under it, the camera would change its pattern of rotation, peer over at the person and follow them until they moved away from the building. It seemed so human-like in its actions that John and I were soon laughing at it. We asked a passer-by if he knew anything about it. He looked up at it ,laughed and said: " I didn't know that it was there-must be a snitchbox!"

We enjoyed the Cabrillo Museum.  Immediately upon arriving there we first viewed the film Blue Planet narrated by David Attenborough. It was an excellent film showing how tides affect the feeding habits of sea creatures.  In our tour of the acquarium I especially enjoyed the breakwater tank in the Exploration Center, where there was a shark embryo in a sack called a "mermaid's purse" (because it had strings on it which kept it anchored to a rock). When a staff member of the acquarium shone a light on it, the tiny embryo could be seen with its attachment to a yolk sac.  The aquarium also had a tidal pool tank. Quite a number of sea stars and sea urchins could be seen and touched there.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Studebaker- December 29

Yesterday we rode the bike path along the ocean shore here in Long Beach. It was a gorgeous southern California day, and there were quite a few other people/families out either on the walking path, swimming in the ocean or building sand castles. So as there is not too much to report on events here, I want to return to something interesting which I found in historic old town San Diego. In an old barn there, which had displays of many forms of transportation from the past, I saw an old Studebaker wagon, which I have pictured here.

In 1858, after making wheelbarrows for the gold miners,  Johnny Studebaker left California and joined his brothers in Indiana.  The Studebaker Wagon Company was then mass producing farm wagons, and also supplied wagons for the Union Army during the Civil War years. They were the largest producer of wagons in America at that time. In the 20th century they moved on to producing gasoline powered vehicles. I was impressed with the history of that company;  progressing from manufacturing wheelbarrows to cars!  There is now a museum for the Studebaker Company, located in South Bend Indiana.  You can get more information on the museum if you go to

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seal Beach- December 26

It was a bit cool and overcast today.  I just can't complain, however, after talking with my sister tonight . She lives in Omaha, NE. and they have had four days of snow- many streets have yet to be cleared !  We had an unusual Christmas Day. Prior to going to a movie in Hollywood, we walked the streets in the immediate area surrounding the theater.  A lot of stores, restaurants and clubs were open, as well as a tattoo parlour!  I kept trying to put myself back in St. Louis and contrasting what its streets would  look like at Christmas. Today we drove over to Seal Beach. What a lovely little seaside town, and its parking is free!  As we started to walk out onto the pier we were greeted by the music of the Seal Beach Classic Band.

First time I have seen a piano played in the back of a pick-up truck. We also enjoyed watching the surfers in the ocean.

From there we drove to Naples Island, a community with a definite Mediterranean feel to it as we drove through its streets. So it was not a bit strange when we saw a gondola gliding down the canal of the town. It was tempting to walk the pathway along the canal, but by then  the sun was sinking low in the sky. Christmas lights were coming on in the homes and shops which added even more to the beauty of this island town.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Los Angeles- December 25

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends! We hope you are warm and dry and,most importantly, enjoying the fellowship of your loved ones. We attended services at the Crystal Cathedral last evening, with our son Mike. The orchestra, choirs, soloists and organ provided some very beautiful Christmas music. The church had about seven services,including one in Spanish at midnight. The Christmas tree pictured here is located in the lobby of the hotel Del Coronado, which we visited when we were in San Diego.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa Monica Beach- December 23

I arrived back in California yesterday,and it was exciting to see the sun! Saturday morning I was in Columbia Mo. where there was a winter wonderland with snow and ice. No sun on Sunday, but Monday, at Elephant Rocks State Park, the sun peeked out for a short time. So it is exciting to be in a world bathed in sunshine. After I got off the plane John and I immediately headed for Santa Monica Beach, which is a bit like Navy Pier in Chicago. It was a bit cool,so I was comfortable in my winter coat. Funny thing with Californians, if the sun is shining it is all right to be swimming in the ocean! Santa Monica Beach was quite busy yesterday; with people not only swimming, but also biking or taking in the amusement rides. We enjoyed watching the novices practice at the trapeze school. Also it was fun watching the sea gulls dive for french fries,which I have pictured here. It was a bit unusual to take in all this activity while listening to Christmas carols being played by local artists, or to see the Christmas dolls offered for prizes on the midway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Point Vincente- December 17

After our trip north today along the coast, John said that we have covered 400 miles in the week since we have arrived in the Los Angeles area! It does seem like we have to drive a distance to get any where in this town. No surprise there, this being the second largest city in the United States. We try to avoid the busiest times of the day,but still we frequently do get caught in traffic tie-ups. That has not bothered me very much so far, as I find the city(shops,people and crazy drivers)very entertaining. It certainly is a different world out here! We had not spent much time along the coastal areas since we have arrived here, so that is where we headed today. On our way to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, we stopped at the Wayfarers Chapel. It can either be thought of as a glass church or a "tree chapel". Chapel architect Lloyd Wright(son of Frank Lloyd Wright) had been inspired by the majesty of the redwoods in northern California when he designed this small church. It is a beautiful,peaceful place. I have a picture of its altar here. This church belongs to the Swedenborgian Church. Johnny Appleseed was one of its first missionaries; with his apple tree seedlings, he also passed out religious tracts. As we came closer to Point Vincente we saw a sign cautioning us that we were entering an area of "constant land movement". We later found out in the visitor's center that this coastal area is the largest land slide area in North America. Before setting out to walk the trails along the cliffs overlooking the ocean,we noticed about six people scanning the ocean with binoculars. We learned that they were census takers of the gray whale which come into this coastal area from late December until May. They spotted the blows of a couple of the whales while we were there. We enjoyed our walk, which afforded us some very awesome ocean vistas. I am headed out of town tomorrow (John is staying behind with the cat), so there will probably be no postings here for about a week.

Crystal Cathedral- December 16

There are days when John and I have no idea as to how our day will end up when we head out the door,and yesterday was one of them. Out first goal was to stop at the home of some friends of ours. We didn't have their phone number so we couldn't warn them ahead of time that we were coming. They happened to be home, however, and we had a nice visit with them. Their home is in Anaheim and, as the Crystal Cathedral was close to them, we decided to tour that place before heading home. If you have ever watched the "Hour of Power" Christian service on television Sunday mornings,you will know what I am referring to. I do have a picture posted here of the church. Actually,seeing it up close is very different than seeing it on television. It is a rather grand structure; made almost entirely of glass,and towering twelve stories high. It is star shaped and the inside is rather plain. So,in some sense, many would not consider the building a real cathedral. There are religious statues outside, I have posted a couple of them here. The one of Jesus blessing the children is outside of the church's school building. For 28 years they have put on a Christmas production, called "The Glory of Christmas". We decided to stay and see the the early show,as it was already rather late in the day. And we are glad we did! It was a fantastic show, complete with professional actors, actresses, and singers. I never thought of the Christmas story being told with ballet dancing,but that also was in the show. And how often can you see camels, donkeys, and horses charging down a church aisle? Also, it is one thing to hear that the skies were filled with angels singing, but how about actually seeing it? They had angels flying around us (at one time I counted seven all total at one time)and singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo". What a thrill of sight and sound! This is one church which thinks big, they call it "possibility-thinking faith". If you dream it,you can do it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

J .Paul Getty Museum- December 14

We got a reprieve from the rain yesterday. It was a bit cool,but with the sun out that did not matter. After church John and I,also our son Mike headed for the Getty Museum. This is something not to miss if you come to Los Angeles. The only expense is a parking fee, and if you come with a carload of people that expense gets even smaller! After we had parked and were waiting for a tram to pick us up, I took a few minutes to look at at a sculpture garden nearby. I have pictured here the "Bronze Form" found in this garden. Also from this garden I could look up at the Santa Monica mountains- what a beautiful setting for this garden! One feature of this garden is that it provides a "green roof" for the parking garage below- reducing heat on its surface and within the building itself. The Getty is committed to being a leader in reducing energy consumption. I have also pictured here a flowering maze of 400 azalea plants set at the bottom of the Central Garden,in a reflecting pool. In the background water flows over a stepped stone wall. This central garden area is the creation of the artist Robert Irwin who has called it "a sculpture in the form of a garden aspiring to be art". There are four pavilions,each having three floors, which house the Getty art collections. Unfortunately we were only able to cover only a couple of them. In the small amount of time we had, we saw all forms of art through the centuries. One exhibit had the drawings of Rembrandt, as well as those of his students. We saw the paintings of impressionism as well as photography of the twentieth century. I also enjoyed seeing the furniture,chandeliers and tapestry of grand Parisian homes of the 1700s. From the top floor of one of the Getty buildings we could look out over the Los Angeles valley- another picture which I have posted here. We headed out from there at dusk on Mulholland Drive to view the homes in Beverly Hills before it got dark. That was an enjoyable scenic drive!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Queen Mary-December 13

We spent a good five hours walking all over this ship,well not all of it as part of it has been converted to a hotel. And it is a beautiful hotel,complete with first-class restaurants and shops. The history of this elegant old lady is awesome. She was launched in 1936 by Queen Mary of England. At the time she was built she was considered the fastet and largest ocean liner ever built, and traveling on her was considered the only civilized way to travel. We saw on the tour a wall completely filled with the pictures of famous actors, actresses and other notable people who rode on this ship.I have pictured here a room where the captain entertained his special guests. After World War II started Queen Mary was painted grey and transformed into a troopship. She was then called "The Grey Ghost" as she sailed through enemy waters bringing troops to the front,and taking wounded soldiers back. Prior to the war she averaged one to two thousand passengers in one voyage-during the war she carried 16,683 troops at one particular time over to Europe. To accomplish that the pool was emptied and bunks were stacked there to accommodate the troops. On our tour a room was pointed out to us where Winston Churchhill sat and signed the papers for the invasion of Normandy. After the war,war brides and their babies were transported by the thousands to the States on the Queen Mary. Retired in 1967,she was purchased by the city of Long Beach. She continues to prove her usefulness; while being docked here in California, scenes from six movies have been filmed on the ship.

Mission of San Capistrano- December 12

This mission was founded by Fr.Junipero Serra in 1790. It has a similar history as mission San Diego. Fr. Serra started a total of nine missions in costal California. Until about 1990 swallows would yearly wing their way to the Mission of San Capistrano on March 19th,and leave October 23. When San Capistrano was reconstructed workman destroyed their nests and, even though they still return to the area, they have not returned to the mission as they use to do. A large stone church was built on the mission grounds in 1806,it was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake. It was in the arches of the ruined church that the swallows would nest. I have a picture here of a nativity scene which has been placed in the ruins of that church. After we toured the mission(which is quite a bit larger than the mission at San Diego),we strolled the Los Rios Historic District. The street of Los Rios is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in California. It has several adobe homes on it built in the 1790s. We wandered this street at dusk when the Christmas lights were being turned on,and it suddenly struck me that we were seeing all the seasons of the year at the same time. Grass and other plants were greening up with the recent rains(spring),roses were blooming(summer),sycamore leaves were turning to a brilliant yellow(fall),and all this amid the soft glow of Christmas lights(winter); all that was yet needed was a wee dash snow!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wheel of Fortune- December 11

We have now moved our home to Long Beach, CA. Our son Mike got us tickets to see the Wheel of Fortune live yesterday at Sony Studios in Culver City. I will have an entirely different perspective of the show when I view it from now on. The studio just does not look like it appears on television, for one thing it is smaller.On the televised edition it looks like the show runs on seamlessly,except for commercials. It flows differently when being taped. There is a break between each puzzle for the contestants to get their face powdered, and for the wheel prizes to be changed. During the live show I just wanted to sit back,relax and try to figure out the answers. But no we, the audience, were constantly directed as to how we were supposed to look. We had to sit straight, clap and holler appropriately according to cues given us. We saw three shows (to be aired March 8,9,10) and after the first show we were scolded because not only did we have puzzled looks on our faces (apparently we were to keep a smile on our face all the time) but we also looked like we had our worse enemy sitting next to us! Those comments may have been directed to me-it sure took me awhile to figure out all the flashing boards, and by the time I did the puzzle was solved by the contestants! In two of the shows the winner was able to solve the puzzle, allowing them to get the grand prize. It was interesting to me that when they were united with their families to celebrate the winnings, they are cued to keep up the jumping and screaming. It just looked too unreal. One other thing; all of the contestants walked off with at least a thousand dollars, so I was starting to get some greedy thoughts myself when we heard that because it was the holiday season they were giving tickets to members of the audience for door prizes. I got excited-maybe we would get books or purses like Oprah Winfrey gives away! Fortunately my ticket did not get me a Wheel of Fortune hat, t-shirt or cloth bag. All in all,it was an interesting experience. I didn't get any pictures,for security reasons no cameras were allowed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Old Town San Diego-December 10

Before touring old town we first stopped at the mission San Diego De Alcala,California's first church founded in 1769. It is also know as Mother of the Missions,as it is the first in a chain of 21 missions which stretch northward along the coast of California. This mission has been through a lot,was moved once and reconstructed several times. It went through an Indian attack as well as an earthquake and military occupation during the American-Mexican War. In 1962 President Lincoln gave it back to the Catholic church. It is now quite a beautiful complex,complete with gardens and religious statues,as you may note here. After touring the mission we drove to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. In 1872 a fire started in the courthouse and destroyed most of the business section of San Diego. In the 1990s,after years of studying how this area once looked,it was reconstructed and developed into an historic park. After wandering through the many homes and businesses(some of which are museums now)we certainly felt that we had an idea of what life was like in San Diego in the 18OOs! The collection of stagecoaches and other forms of early transportation is quite impressive in the Steely Stable Museum. There is also a Wells Fargo Museum which explains the gold rush history. I have read Helen Hunt Jackson's novel "Ramona",so touring the La Casa de Estundillo was fun. One of the home's rooms was used for filming the movie in 1908. This home was made of adobe and so it did not burn in the fire of 1872. There is also a very unique shopping district outside of the park. All the shops are decorated festively(I have a picture of the entrance to one here)and are filled with many colorful gift,craft items and apparel from Mexico,America and beyond.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Birch Aquarium at Scripps- December 9

I was not ready for another aquarium,as we had toured a rather big one out east this summer. And yet I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits in this aquarium,done by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The aquarium is located on a coastal bluff overlooking the Scripps campus and the Pacific Ocean. It poured buckets steadily all day Monday;one young man told us he had not seen that amount of rain in about fifteen years. On Tuesday we went out to the Mission Trails Regional Park to look at the Old Mission Dam,and there we could view the San Diego River which now was flowing quite strongly.I have a picture of it here,and a part of the old dam. Anyway,back to the subject at hand. The aquarium had a hall of fishes which displayed a variety of marine life in different habitats. I was especially taken with the display of seahorses. There are about 36 different species of them,the aquarium had twelve varieties-ranging in size from 2.5 inches to a foot long. I also liked the variety of jelly fish,and to see them floating and active in the water( versus dead on the beach where I usually see them)was impressive. They seemed so ethereal. One interesting fact I learned was that sharks mistake plastic bags in the water for jelly fish and get killed trying to ingest them. Curses on the plastic bag-I strongly feel everyone should work at eliminating them from our planet. In our travels this past year on the east coast we found stores willing to give us a few cents off our bill if we brought our own bags. Again I digress-but actually I guess that I have not veered off course here,for I want to mention the Scripps exhibit on global warming. They demonstrated how a rise in our ocean's temperature and, concomitantly,the increase of acidity with high levels carbon dioxide has affected marine life and their habitat(as bleaching of coral reefs). Thankfully there are scientists,as at the Scripps institute,who do the research which is needed to combat the issues that threaten the well-being of our oceans- and practice conservation as well as public education.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve- December 8

This state park is located in the northwestern corner of San Diego,a wilderness island in an urban sea. On Sunday we hiked from the ocean shore to the highest point in this park,about 500 feet. This is a fragile environment,no picnicking or camping allowed. Some of the trails were closed off because of severe environmental damage that has already taken place. The Torrey pine grows only in this park and Santa Rosa island. It may produce a hundred thousand seeds a year, but it is only by sheer luck that one takes root in the ground and grows to maturity. It does not grow very tall or reach a great age. Its wood rots easily and is quite brittle-certainly does not make good fire wood! It grows in poor sandy soil, suffers the onslaught of storms and gets baked in the sun. Despite everything,the Torrey Pine species lives on-bending and twisting with whatever life throws its way. The pictures here show this particular pine-I even took a close-up of one so you can see how twisted it grows. And finally,I want to mention the Toyon or Christmas Berry shrub,pictured here. It is also know as California holly,and gave its name to Hollywood. We saw quite a few of these bushes in the park.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coronado- December 7

Saturday we drove to Coronado,which is on a peninsula between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It is a very popular beach resort and convention center. It also is a residential town- in fact we happened to wander into a local school winter festival as were heading out onto the pier. That is where we saw a Santa on a sled pulled by surf boards,which I have posted here. Another scene which struck us as a bit odd was an ice skating rink by the ocean,with palm trees as a backdrop. The skating rink was made available by the Hotel del Coronado. I have a picture of the back of the hotel here. It is commonly know as "the Del". The 1888 Hotel Del Coronado is a well-known landmark and resort with Victorian turrets and cupolas. Its history is rather amazing,as it has gone through economic reverses through the years,but has always managed to keep going. President Regan visited it a couple of times,and also held a small summit conference there. The movie "Some Like It Hot"(starring Marilyn Monroe)was filmed here. We toured the lobby and shops of this hotel,I would say it is rather up-scale for us common people!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shelter Island- December 6

I have posted another sculpted urban tree here- entitled "Bats in the Bell Tree". Also posted here is part of the HMS Surprise(I was concentrating on getting the figure head on the bow,so did not get a picture of the whole frigate). This ship was used in the production of the movie "Master and Commander:The Far Side of the World". It was an 18th century Royal Navy frigate. From the harbor we drove on over to Shelter Island,where is located the Cabrillo National Monument. Juan Cabrillo set out fifty years after Columbus landed in America to claim land for the King of Spain and the viceroy of New Spain. He arrived in the Americas by 1520. He and his flotilla of three ships came into a harbor which he described as "a good and safe harbor". He stepped ashore on a strand of beach and called it San Miguel,now the site of San Diego. I have here a picture of the harbor,taken from Shelter Island. In the distance can be seen San Diego-off to the left in the picture is a naval base. We have seen large naval installations everywhere we have toured so far,in San Diego and on the islands off the mainland.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

San Diego Harbor- December 5

I had to post one more picture from the zoo,those sleeping koalas were just too cute for me not to show them! Yesterday we walked along the San Diego harbor. To be more precise on the location,it was the North Embarcadero on the San Diego Bay. On this walk we were able to view the grove of sculpted "trees" comprising the Port of San Diego's sixth consecutive Urban Trees exhibit. The first one shown here is entitled "Mi mara est tu mara"(my sea is your sea). If you enlarge the picture you may see a bit of the San Diego downtown area,as well as get better details of the sculpted tree. The other picture here is of the submarine "USS Dolphin",and the ferry "Berkely". The submarine is a research submarine which supposedly has the deepest diving record. Actual test depths remain a national secret. She is the Navy's last diesel-electric submarine and after launching in 1968 has operated at the forefront of undersea naval research. The ferry(pictured next to her here)was built in 1989 to carry passengers across San Francisco Bay. In 1906 she ferried earthquake victims away from the city. She remains the finest example of Victorian era steam ferry afloat.

Friday, December 4, 2009

San Diego Zoo- December 4

I just had to post some more pictures from our trip to the zoo yesterday. In the picture here of the giraffes feeding notice one small giraffe in the background. He was born a couple of days ago,at the height of six feet! Two must sees for John and I were the koala and panda bears. Here is a picture of Lu Lin,adult female panda age four years. Immediately upon entering the koala area we saw four of the bears in a tree,sleeping of course. One koala was off by herself in another tree. While we were there the zoo keeper came out to give her some medicine in a syringe. The keeper explained that the bear had given birth about five months ago and had been loosing some weight. It was necessary to give her an additional dietary supplement so she could pack on some pounds. And for some strange reason she likes the medicine-koalas will only eat bamboo. I have a picture of that bear here-if you enlarge the picture you may see the baby's hand hanging out of the pouch. In about another month she will crawl out of her mama's pouch. We saw another interaction between animals and zoo keeper at the lessor flamingo's area(lessor flamingos are smaller in size to regular flamingos). As the staff member entered the area a flamingo scurried to her. She squatted down to hug the bird and the bird tucked her head under her arm. They cuddled like this for a few minutes and then the lady left. The bird paced and fussed for awhile,apparently she wanted more loving! In another area of the zoo we noticed an elderly lady watching the animals closely and making notes on a pad of paper. She was talking to herself,so getting closer to her John and I could figure out what she was doing. Apparently she was a zoo volunteer and her task was recording the behavior of the animals-whether they were eating,sleeping or socializing. I told John that if we lived in San Diego I would also be a volunteer at the zoo. Such an interesting,fun and beautiful place to be!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

San Diego Zoo- December 3

We are now parked northeast of San Diego,in the Santee Lake Recreation Preserve. It is a 190 acre park surrounding a chain of seven scenic lakes. It is a very lush green area with lots of trees,many of which are changing their colors now,and I also saw a blooming rose garden here today. Interestingly,the hills surrounding this park look bare and dry,with only cactus plants on them. Today we went to the San Diego Zoo,one of the world's largest zoos. I liked it a lot,but John thinks the St.Louis Zoo is just as good. Besides just being a zoo,the San Diego Zoo is also a botanical garden. There were lots of flowering hibiscus bushes,as well as bouganvilla,bird of paradise,and even the aloe plants were in bloom. I have here a picture I took from the aerial tram. In the picture you will see a blooming tree,as well as some of the palms which are in the park. Being that high up over the zoo we could see how it sits down in a canyon. I enjoyed the many different aviaries which the zoo has-the picture of the brown and red bird here was taken in the hummingbird enclosure. I have no clue as to what kind he is; we did see hummingbirds and other tropical birds in this aviary,but this one was the only bird to sit still for a picture! Also the zoo's duck ponds were very active with birds flying in and out of them-I have here a picture of an blue heron who was willing to pose for me. I will have more on our experience in this zoo on tomorrow's posting.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Indian Canyons- December 1

There are three canyons located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Centuries ago,ancestors of the Caliente Chuilla settled and thrived in the Palm Springs area. There was an abundant water supply because of the presence of an large oasis;plant and animal life flourished here. In 1876,the U.S. government deeded in trust to the Agua Caliente people 32,000 acres for their homeland. At the same time they gave Southern California Railroad ten miles of odd sections of land to induce the company to build the railroad. Of the reservation's 32,000 acres,some 6,700 lie within the Palm Springs city limits. We first hiked in the Andreas Canyon. We followed a scenic foot trail,passing unusual rock formations. The babbling Andreas Creek and chirps of many songbirds were the only sounds heard-what a serene place! In this canyon we also saw bedrock mortars and metates used centuries ago by the Indians for preparing food. In Palm Canyon we saw an abundance of the fan palms-in fact,Palm Canyon is considered one of the world's largest fan palm oasis. One interesting phenomenon we discovered in walking through this canyon was a occasional feeling of a warm breeze. The sun had been sinking behind the mountains and the air had started to feel cool. So I doubt that the occasional warm feeling was not in our imagination. Looking at a map of the area later we discovered that a warm springs was located in this area.