Sunday, December 29, 2013

Downtown San Diego

On Friday Dan and John toured the USS Midway.  I had done that a couple of years ago, so I was more interested in joining our other son Mike and Dan's wife Amanda for a tour of downtown San Diego.  Amanda was especially interested in seeing some art galleries, so the historic Gaslamp area of town was the first stop on our walking tour.  Pictured below is the sign which denotes the entrance to the Gaslamp area.  This area of town is a dining and nightlife center, interspersed with boutiques and art galleries.
Some of the buildings have Victorian design and date back to the late 1800s.  Just looking at those buildings was interesting,  but we also found some art galleries which proved quite fascinating.
The familiar figure of Wilie E, Coyote greeted us at the doorway of Chuck Jones art gallery.  Chuck Jones was the cartoon director at Warner Brothers from 1938-1962.  He had many requests to sell original artwork from his animated films, which brought about the creation of this particular studio.  Represented here is also the artwork of many other animation legends and pop culture giants.  Among the artwork we found a framed letter from Dr.Seuss, written regarding Chuck Jones, which notes: " I have been enthused about his work for the past forty years,and each successive year I have become more enthuseder".
From the Gaslamp area we walked over to the harbor of San Diego.  Sprawling alongside the bay is the convention center,  a portion of its roof line suggesting huge sails.  Mike has been to Comic Conventions  several times there over the years and is very familiar with the center.  Our last stop was at the Horton Plaza, which is a large shopping mall distinguished by its multi-colored buildings.
Dan and John were not finished touring the USS Midway by the time we were done with walking around downtown, so we then spent some of our afternoon at Balboa Park.  I believe that I have featured that park on this blog site in the past, and am not sure yet whether I will write about it again. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

After we were done with all the Christmas festivities, John and I were ready to do some serious sight seeing with our son Dan and his wife Amanda.  They flew in Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with us and our other son Mike.  Dan was anxious to get out into the wilderness and do some hiking, so on Thursday we drove southeast to the desert.  We all were thinking that, given we would be hiking in the desert and the fact that the temperatures lately have been around eighty degrees here in Vista, it would only make sense to wear shorts and tee shirts.  We did not take into consideration that we first would be driving through mountains before arriving at our destination.  Our first stop was in Julian, a picturesque old gold mining town famous for its apple pies.  Leave it to John to discover that important piece of information about the town!  We stopped there for lunch, and after course, apple pie.  Every cafe and restaurant in Julian advertises that it has apple pie to offer.  We did not spend much time touring the town as it was quite cold when we stepped out of the car.  All we wanted was some hot drinks, apple pie and maybe some lunch.  The apple pie we had was delicious with a very flaky crust.   It has been said that there is not one bad apple pie in Julian.
The town of Julian is at an elevation of 4,220 feet, and what a difference in scenery as we descended down into the desert after leaving the town!  We rapidly went from pine-studded mountains to the shrub and tumbles weeds of  Anza State Park.  The landscape also looked a bit like the Badlands with rugged canyons and eroded gullies  We were still at about 1,000 feet elevation when we stopped at Yaqui Pass.  We took a short hike to view Sunset Mountain and the surrounding desert valley.  From this viewpoint we could see Salton Sea off in the distance.  It is one of the world's largest inland bodies of saltwater.
To get more information regarding the park we stopped at Tamarisk Grove Campground.  It was quite unusual to see a grove of trees in this desert landscape.  They are an old world tree, and had been planted in 1930 to shade a prison camp.  They are referenced in Genesis 21:33.
At this campground is the headquarters for the southern end of the park.  Anza-Boreggo Park covers 634,000 acres, more than half of the real estate of the entire California state parks, of which there are 279.  What we enjoyed about the park was the wide variety of cactus which we saw while hiking.
The cactus which we saw in the park, and were able to identify, were: ocotillo, agave, barrel cactus, and the cholla..  The latter cactus had an interesting glow around it as the sun set lower in the sky.
It was one of the more interesting desert hikes which John and I have ever taken, because of the presence of a wide variety of vegetation.  And we did see some wildlife, a black-tailed jackrabbit.  It was certainly a big rabbit and he impressed me with the high leaps he took to flee from us!

Monday, December 23, 2013

La Jolla Sea Cove

Our plans were to meet up with our son Mike Friday evening for supper and to attend one of his Improv shows in San Diego.  We started out earlier in the day with the intention of taking the sea coast south and stopping at some of the beaches north of San Diego.  For some of you who have been following this blog since we started traveling, you may remember that we visited this area several years ago.  La Jolla is considered the "Jewel of San Diego".  Its coast has cliffs which are riddled with sea caves.  There is one cave which can be entered, for a small fee at the La Jolla Cave Store.  However, we found an underground area which were able to enter by crossing over some rocks.  Unfortunately the tide was coming in and we ended up with wet feet!  The picture below was taken from within the cave, looking out unto the harbor.
In 1970 the City Council of San Diego created the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, 6,000 acres of tide and submerged land owned by the city.  The park extends south from Alligator Head La Jolla to near the northern boundary of Torrey Pines State Reserve.  A big attraction of this park are the many water birds, seals and sea lions who have chosen this area as a safe place to hang out. A small cove protected by a concrete breakwater wall was built to create a safe swimming area for children, but eventually the sea lions and seals took it over.
Brown pelicans are also numerous in this cove, many could be seen on the beach and in the water.  However, I found one who seemed to more prefer a solitary existence.
Our son Dan and his wife Amanda are arriving Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with us and our other son Mike.  We will be busy showing them the sights of the area so I do not expect to write any postings until after the holidays,  In the meantime, a very Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Escondido, California

We are now sort of in our winter mode, which means parking in one area for two to three months and doing less touring around.  Christmas activities are also claiming some of our time.  We have mailed out Christmas cards, and done some Christmas shopping.  And I suddenly got inspired to bake Christmas cookies.  I have the molds for springerle ( a German cookie which my mom use to make).  It takes a bit of skill to create that cookie and so I make them every Christmas to insure that I will not forget.  We are also volunteering at a homeless shelter.
Last Sunday our son Mike and John went golfing at Welk Resort.  It is on land which Lawrence Welk once used as his summer home and is still owned by his family.  John wanted to return to the resort on Thursday to look at the Welk museum which is in the lobby of the resort's music theater.
The above picture should give you a good idea of the scenery which we saw on our drive to the resort, as well as to how picturesque the town of Escondido is.  The area, located in North San Diego County, lies in the foot hills of the San Marcos and Merriam Mountains.  In Spanish the word Escondido means "hidden".  as it lies in a valley surrounded by hills.  Our first stop in the town was at the Escondido History Center where we learned that the town was once part of a large land grant- the Rimcon del Diablo, in English it is known as "corner of the devil".  Despite the ominous name given to the land, it is an area rich in natural resources favored by Indians, Spanish, Anglos and Californios over the years.  Five local historic buildings were moved into the history center of Escondido.  We found them all open for tours and docents available to explain their historic significance.  Of special interest to us was the 1890 Victorian country house which was lived in for 50 years by the family of a Lutheran pastor.  We were told by our guide that he and his wife had eight children, and that Pastor Hoffman was more a farmer than pastor.
The house is fully furnished with items from the time period.  No bathroom was ever built into the home.  From the historic park we drove to Kit Carson Park to find Queen Califia's Magical Circle.  Before I move on to that, I first want to explain Carson's presence in this part of California.  It was in 1846, at the battle of Mule Hill ( America was fighting Mexico for possession of California) when Carson traveled 20 miles over rocky terrain barefooted to obtain needed supplies and reinforcements.  He was successful in his mission.

We found Queen Califia, which was exciting because we were told that the artist, Niki De Saint Phalle, purposely wanted her hidden in the park.  Unfortunately the gates to the garden were locked, as it is currently being renovated.  However, we did find a few high spots outside the garden from which we could view it and take pictures.  The queen is a fictional warrior who ruled over a kingdom of Black women living on the mythical island of California.  In the picture above the queen stands on the back of a five-legged eagle mythical eagle.  Surrounding her is an ornamentation of colorful mosaic snakes.  An interpretive sign near the garden explains that the artist's central themes of her work are "joy, color, aggressive humor and fantasy". 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Highlights of our trip to the Midwest

The past two weeks have passed quite quickly.  Five of those days were spent traveling to the Midwest, and then returning to California all via Amtrak.  We have always enjoyed traveling by train, and this time was no exception.  What made this time on the train even more interesting was the fact that we are now so much more familiar with many cities and small towns because of our recent travels around the United States in our motor home. 
We left Los Angeles late at night and awoke the next morning to the familiar sights of the Arizona desert which include lots of sage brush and flat, sandy dry land.  Occasionally the landscape would be broken up by fascinating large red rock formations.  And it was in the Southwestern Desert that we saw a large field of solar panels, which was a first for us in our travels!  Tucson, Arizona held special memories for us as well as El Paso, Texas where we saw the Rio Grand River once again. In that town we saw a familiar sight- border patrol trucks.  From our train windows we could look over the border into Juarez, Mexico. 
Early Sunday morning we had a strange experience- the train which pulled our sleeping car and one coach car disconnected from us and went east to New Orleans- the two cars left behind were hooked up to another train (the Texas Eagle) heading north through Texas and into Missouri.  Until we got to Missouri the weather had been sunny and quite warm (we knew that because occasionally the train would have a stop of at least 30 minutes and we were allowed to wander around outside).   Monday morning we had to face what we had been dreading; grey overcast skies and a landscape largely devoid of anything green!   However, it was great seeing family and friends again so the winter-like weather was not too difficult to endure.  We had a great Thanksgiving with our daughter Melissa and her husband Spencer.
Our return trip was on different railroad routes than previously.  We traveled through Kansas and into Colorado.  We awoke the first morning to relatively flat land, so I was surprised later, in the observation car, when the conductor came in and announced that we were getting the first sightings of Pikes Peak!  Slowly that mountain with its snow covered peaks came into our view.  For most of that day we enjoyed beautiful sights of forests, canyons and mountains.  Our highest elevation was 7,000 feet at Raton Pass.  From there we traveled through New Mexico, a land dominated by many ranches, pueblos and missions.  A highlight of that day for us was in Albuquerque where the view of the Sandia Mountains at sunset was very spectacular.  They were bathed in a brilliant pink color under the rays of the setting sun.  And when we could no longer see the mountains, a beautiful sunset could still be seen across the horizon.  The last day of our trip we awoke to a green landscape with flowering bouganville, hibiscus, and bird of paradise.  California at last!
It was good to get back home.  Before concluding this I want to mention one other experience of our train trip, which is an important part of traveling by train.  In the dining car we had community meals- John and I were usually paired up with another couple during our meals.  On this trip we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with a couple from Australia, who happily stated that they were in our country for a “look about”.  We also got to know the executive director of a Humane Humane Society in an Arizona town.  John once worked for that agency so those two had a lot to share with each other.