Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greetings gentle readers!

May we have your attention please!

We've updated our blog for 2011-2012....we're now Los viajes de los Osos  and the new link is here:

See you there!!

Ed and Ross

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The last leg...for this year anyway!

Lodi and onto home      
The highway out of Lodi (I-5) is straight, four lanes (at least), picturesque........and in terrible shape – potholes, uneven pavement, concrete interspersed with blacktop.....we thought the RV was going to shake itself loose.  Amazingly enough, no cupboards opened, nothing fell on the floor, the TV above our heads stayed above our heads, and we made it to Corning.  

We passed acres and acres of almond trees in bloom, olive groves that stretch for miles in every direction, and vineyards aplenty we reach the tiny city of Corning.

For miles in either direction there are huge billboards trying to convince you to buy some olives from the Olive Pit.  And they are right, their olives are great. 

We parked the rig in the truck dry camping parking lot of the Rolling Hills Casino, got set up, and headed over to one of our favourite places – the Olive Pit.  We have orders to pick up for friends, and we want a few things too.  The orders were ready to go and we walked out of the store quite a few dollars poorer, but carrying a treasure trove of riches – huge jars of olives stuffed with pimentos, jars of olives with jalapeno blue cheese, with mushrooms, and with almonds.  

Now back to the casino, walk the dogs, get cleaned up a bit and over to the buffet.  It’s senior’s night so we get a 2-4-1 deal.....GREAT – more food than you can shake a stick at and all at half price!!  We stuff ourselves silly and go to the slot machines.  Ed is, as usual, luckier than Ross.....most of the time.  But this night, Ross walks out the winner (he made $16 on the penny slots)!

The next morning we listen to the weather reports as a cold front is moving down from those pesky Canadians and there might be snow/ice/slippery sections on the Siskiyous Pass.  As it turns out we encounter no bad weather over the mountain range and make our next stop – Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville – in good time. 

We fill the beast at the casino gas station – great service and really nice staff, then onto register.  This RV park has it all – great sites, helpful staff, indoor pool/hot tub, immaculately clean laundry.........and a free shuttle over to the casino.  But the weather is now moving into the area and they are calling for freezing temps and/or snow.  We walk the dogs along the nature trail and then head over to the casino. Tonight there is no buffet but we have an enjoyable meal and again hit the slots.  Ross spends all his previous winnings and Ed makes a little money......just like usual! 

The weather has turned very cold and we wrap a heat tape around our water supply.  Forecasts are calling for snow tonight and early AM but then a warming trend will begin.  So we stay an extra night at Seven Feathers........Oh well, someone has to sit in the hot tub!!  We meet a few other RVers that are staying an extra night and we all congratulate ourselves on being very wise and safe!!!  We have an quiet night (no freezing water lines!) and awaken to that white stuff on the ground.  Our little one, Mojo, is not amused.......when you’re as short as Mojo everything gets wet when we go for a walk in the snow........I mean EVERYTHING – he goes outside like an Angus and comes inside as an Agnes!!!  But we spend a quiet day watching TV, reading, we haven’t had enough rest in the last 4 months!  And tonight, being as it is Thursday, is seafood buffet night at the casino!!!!!

 At Seven Feathers Casino you are encouraged to bring in all your receipts from the gas station, RV park, restaurant/convenience store at the station.  Staff at the casino will total your receipts and give you a percentage as free slot play.  Sure its a ruse to get you to spend more time at the slots (and hopefully more money), but its free!!!  So we stuff ourselves with all manner of seafood – boiled shrimp, shrimp in pasta, King crab legs, mussels, clams, salmon, halibut, etc etc.  There is also a variety of beef, pork, vegetarian, Chinese, and salads.  The dessert island is awash in gooey, calorie laden sweets.  And to save some other poor soul from having to eat such dangerous delicacies we sacrifice our diet/waistline/blood sugar levels and scarf a plateful (or two) of desserts. 

So as Ross was busily loading his plate with slices of cheesecake, cookies, a slice of pecan pie, etc the woman staffing the area is staring at him.  Finally she said: “You were here not too long ago, weren’t you?”.  Ross tells her that we were there about 4 months ago.  At which point she looks at him again and says: “You were on your way south to play Santa, weren’t you?”.  Good memory....and the fact that Ross had given her his business card.  She had put it on her fridge door and kept telling her grand children that she knew Santa!!  Anyway, we are off to the slots again armed with some free slot money and with $1 Ross plays the slots for the next 3 hours.  Interestingly enough Ed went through his money quickly and was sitting next to Ross waiting for his money to run out.

After a short rally on Ross’ slots, Ed decided to put a dollar in and at least play for a bit.  That’s when things got really interesting!!  Ross quickly lost his money and was now waiting for Ed.  Ed was down to the last little bit of money when he decided to play the maximum bet.  The wheels rolled, stopped, and then the bells/lights/sirens all went off......he had won a jackpot (minor though it may be, it was still a jackpot) and he walked out of the casino a couple hundred dollars richer!!!!  We had a quiet night again and the weather has indeed warmed snow, no freezing temps.

We hit the road to Centralia, WA.  Roads are OK with some rain showers and cool temps but the road surfaces are wonderful – clear sailing all the way!!!  We landed in the Midway RV park and cafe in Centralia and registered.  They are also expecting the temps to dip below freezing tonight.  So tell me why was it so important for us to get back home by the first of March.......possible snow/winter conditions, freezing temps, and cloudy skies?  We should still be in AZ!!!!  Anyway, we have a quiet night, get packed up again and are on the road the next day before 9:30 – a record for us!!!  Roads are OK and we head for the nearest gas station just outside of Centralia. 

We had been having some troubles with our “landing gear” for most of the trip.  The stability legs would deploy easily and after Ed greased them a bit they would retract easily and quickly.  However, the sensor alarm for the legs would continue to beep periodically but it is now getting worse. It was checked at great expense by the RV place here before we left but from about Corning the alarm has been going continually.  Thank goodness for Sirius and volume control!!  

We also had developed a small problem with the windshield wipers.  The driver’s side wiper was not completely clearing the area making it somewhat difficult for Ed to navigate the beast.  We find the nearest gas station and start filling up the tanks.  Ed also bought some hydraulic fluid for the stability legs and some washer fluid.  And we were off on the road again.  Guess alarm!!!  Amazing what happens when all fluids are topped up!!  Wipers blades are still having some troubles clearing but Ed is able to navigate safely. 

As we near the Peace Arch border between Blaine and Vancouver we are stopped by US border patrol.  No idea what they were searching for, but after a few questions we are on our way again.......about 300 yards to the Peace Arch crossing.  There we are slowed by another “inspection” by the Washington State Police (more like a cursory look) and finally are allowed to really cross into Canada.  We pull up to the window where this female officer looks at our passports, asks a few questions (like “What was the purpose of your visit? Ed looked at her and said “Escaping the snow”.  She looked right back at him and said: “Then what are you doing back here...we still have winter”) and we were back in Canada.

We had found a RV park very near the border that looked good, was relatively inexpensive, and was open.  We originally booked in for 4 days giving us some time to see the kids/grandkids, meet with friends, and connect with a few people.  However, looking at the forecast for more snow over the mountain passes we added a few days extra onto our stay and lasted a week.  But then it gave us more time with Emily, Carolyn, and Alex.
We get our fill of sushi in Richmond, dim sum in east Vancouver, and some home cooking (we did the cooking) at the kids place.  By the way, they are moving to their own condo in the middle of March and really looking forward to having a place they can call their own.  The week was spent visiting with Carolyn and Emily (Alex has been working long hours at his job – renovating a ~100 year old house that in his mind should have been torn down years ago). 

We got to spend some time with  Emily at her school, toured around a couple of places that were new to us, had brunch with Santa Bruce and his son (had to deliver the huge order of olives he wanted), and had lunch with Santa Dale and friend catching up on all the latest gossip, new, and stories.  Great time!!

On March 5 the weather looked almost passable via the Fraser Canyon (Trans Canada Hwy #1---The Coquihalla and Hope-Princeton both looked hopeless!) so we took a chance and went for it.  Roads were OK – no snow or ice, just some wet patches with evidence of snow on the sides of the highways.  But it is a long.......VERY long trip – about 8 hours from Vancouver to Kamloops over to the Okanagan and down Hwy #97........but Ed did an outstanding job and we got home just as the sun was setting.

We have spent the better part of the week cleaning out the motor home, catching up on all the mail and phone calls, getting re-acquainted with the house (recycling day, garbage day, mail delivery, trying to remember which cable channel is which) and allowing the dogs their freedom.  And now tax season in upon us......Ross is helping Ed this year so hopefully it won’t be too harrowing for the big guy.  You all knew that Ed after 25 years of working for Revenue Canada (IRS equivalent in Canada) retired and started his own consulting business.  From a few well placed ads in local papers, and the power of word of mouth, the business has taken off.  He is picking up at least 25% new clients every year.  That keeps him busy and off the streets!!

This journey has been filled with new sights and adventures.  We have met fascinating people, explored new territory, and of course eaten our way through central and southern California.  We hope you have had a giggle or two at some our fun times.....or better yet get the travel bug yourself.  We will continue to post intermittently throughout the summer telling of our adventures at tax time, theatre in Penticton, fun times at our local Yacht Club, or just sitting on our deck watching the sun go down, cocktail in one hand and enjoying the company of friends and family.

Next year’s trip promises to be a Doozie as we have booked on a caravan to Baja Sur with Santa Buck, Santa Bruce and their significant others. We will keep you apprised of when we start blogging! It may take a slightly different format so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Into the Desert--out of the Desert!

February 17 – 22

Even though most of the people at Fountain of Youth are at least 10 years older than us, they are a very active bunch.  There appear to be about 40 different clubs/organizations, plus trips to various places in the valley.  Tournaments abound – pool, table tennis, bocce ball (hey, we actually learned how to play the game and both of us (!!) liked it), poker, cribbage, shuffleboard, etc.  Of course there are arts and crafts all over the place – painting, drawing, knitting, etc, etc. 

We were lucky enough to see one of the regular painting exhibitions (about 200 paintings) and one of the regular flea markets – anything goes (jewelry, paintings, books, food, crafts, food, tools, glass works, hot dogs, jams, jellies, candy, etc, etc.  Amazing!!  And although we should probably have taken advantage of some of the activities, the pools were always there and calling to us!!! 

Needless to say our days here were confined (for the most part) to late-ish breakfast, walk the dogs to the dog park to meet some of their new four legged friends, sit in the pool until about 4PM, sundown cocktail, then a late-ish dinner and to bed.  Every once in awhile we would head out to El Centro or Indio.

The dog park attracts some interesting breeds of dogs – lots of mutts (like ours) but then there was a rather large dog – Catahoula Leopard named Rolex (he’s an watch dog…what else would you name him), a scruffy ball of energy named Psyche (most other owners call him Psycho), some JRs. Chihuahuas, poodles, min pins, and some larger dogs – shepherds, Dalmatian, Rottys……..and all of them got along very well.  Great for our two re socialization!!

On Feb 15 we pulled out of FOY reluctantly and headed to the Quechan Indian casino.  We parked in the back gravel lot for free (along with everyone else in a motor home – the place is packed) and set up camp.  Just happened to note later on there were 5 BC license plates in a row!!  Walked the dogs and took off for Algodones, Mexico.  Dropped off our order for new glasses and then had a few shrimp tacos at a place recommended to us by our friends Bruce and Buck.  Great place and incredible food. 

Algodones is an amazing place.  There are loads of optical outlets, dental labs, plastic surgery store fronts, and lots of street vendors amongst the usual touristy shops – leather, dresses, ceramics, pottery, woven wares.  And every third place sells medications – “Cheap, just for you boss, real cheap”.  There are also liquor outlets aplenty.  Like we said, amazing place. 

Stood in line for about 1 hour waiting to go through US Customs and back to the motor home.  Took ourselves out to dinner at the casino then did a little gambling………..since we were already there of course!!  Ross actually made some money (a rarity) and Ed lost a little (another rarity) but we had fun.

Back to Algodones on Feb 16 to pick up our glasses, do a little shopping, and again taste test those delicious shrimp tacos at our new favourite Mexican restaurant.  Before we headed down across the border we had run into Yuma looking for some supplies for friends and family.  Having a tour of the city last year when we travelled with Bruce, Buck, Sue and Heather really helped us navigate around the place.

As soon as we got back to the motor home (another wait of about 1 hour to cross the border…………..going to Mexico is simple – you just walk across, no hassles, no interruptions, no border guards……..coming back to US soil is another matter – long lines, cranky officials, not nice experience….especially dodging the street vendors and beggars) we hooked up the little car and took off for Quartzsite.

Off to Quartzsite.  This desolated space on the map is the confluence of two major highways.  It had been the place where the US army had disbanded the camel caravan they were herding to the west coast.  The camels were set free and the Middle Eastern camel driver was fired.  He set up a trading post for travelers on their way to seek their fame and fortune in the gold rush.  And from there Quartzsite was born.  Today it is the home of a few rock hounds and during the winter months of Jan and Feb it is the home of thousands of RVers.  There are quite a few shows that come into town – rock and gem show, RV show, Classic car shows.  When you have nothing but space – flat space – it’s easy to find a place to park.  The BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management) has large acreages around the town and for $40 for 14 days of camping it’s a good deal.  Of course the camping is dry….no water, sewer, or electricity but there is garbage removal!!! 

Anyway, we find “our” spot where Bruce (and Sue), Buck (and Heather) and we camped last year and set up camp.  The town is quite empty now that all the shows have gone so there is precious little to see, but we take in all the sights.  We are looking for some specific items for Buck, however, we found nothing.

Had a couple of quiet nights watching the sunsets and scouring the town for deals (found some books for $0.50 each, flags for $15 each – and got a few extra for free, and a few other knick knacks).  We had breakfast at the best Mexican restaurant in town and noticed that some of the huge RV dealerships had pulled out of town.  We made an obligatory visit to the Laundromat for showers ($5 for all the hot water you can use, towels, soap, and shampoo) and noted the coffee shop has expanded to a full fledged café! 

Dinner was at a family run and operated restaurant in Parker, just up the road from Quartzsite.  Their chicken fried steak was superb last time we went there.  This time the steak seemed to be not up to par, but still very good.

Off again to Lake Havasu to see the fireworks display from the Western Pyrotechnics Assn. (WPA) We find a RV park right on Lake Havasu a few miles from the race track where the fireworks will happen so our Teddy will not freak out. 

Unfortunately the park is wonderful, great fishing spot, even has a full store, restaurant and day time café.  We say “unfortunately” because the  park was built when RVs meant tents or tent trailers, or if the owners were really rich a small Airstream trailer.  Nowadays RVs can extend to 45 feet and can expand from both sides, but the spaces are still quite small and very cramped.   We have a lake side view but need guidance from three or four of the park’s locals to guide us into our space.  Who knows what will happen when we want to pull out in a couple of days!!!!

The WPA is a professional organization of pyrotechnicians.  These are the people that go from town to town putting on incredible fireworks displays.  For one week a year they get together in Lake Havasu City.  There are workshops, socializing, and from Thursday to Sunday they put on displays at the local car racetrack.  We arrived on Friday, set up camp (once we squeezed our way into our site), and took off for the fireworks.  We took our camping chairs into the racetrack and sat down. 

We paid $5 for parking and otherwise admission is free.  We had our heavy jackets, a couple of books, and thought we would be warm enough.  Unfortunately, a cold front had come into the area and the wind was quite cold.  Needless to say we were a bit cold……..but then again we HAD sat in our chairs for about 4 hours!!! (Best to get there early to get a good seat or position). 

There were three demonstration displays---what they call ‘open shooting’ – the first by a group of WPA members that lasted about 5 minutes; the second show was a group from Seattle and lasted about 12 minutes; and the third show was an impressive 15 minutes from a group named Extreme Pyrotechnics.

 All of them were incredible, loud, colourful, amazing, and LOUD (remember that we were sitting about 150 feet from where they were launched).  However, everyone was talking about the big Saturday show put on again by Extreme Pyrotechnics.  We had been warned to get to the racetrack early – about 2PM – for the 8PM show. 

We didn’t want to freeze our tushes off like we had for the Friday show, so decided to take some munchies, our books, our chairs, some heavier blankets, and something to drink.  We also made an extremely intelligent move by staying in the car until just before the show when we arranged our chairs in front of the car and sat back to enjoy the spectacle.  We missed a very few ground displays but by and large we saw everything perfectly.  There was a great show of about 10 minutes prior to the “main event”, then Extreme Pyrotechnics took the stage and for 32 minutes we were speechless.  The whole show was amazing – colour, lights, fire, imagination and all set to music.  Out of this world……..and we want to come back next year.

There was to be another show on Sunday in memory of a WPA member who had passed away recently.  We let that one go as we needed to get over to Bakersfield and on our way back home.  After negotiating with all the other campers around us so they would move their vehicles and let us out we were on our way.  The trip was the longest we have taken in one day – 6 hours and about 300 miles but reached Bakersfield in good time.  We set up camp, walked the dogs, and took off on some errands – oranges and pistachios at California Fruit and Nut Depot, foodstuffs at Trader Joe’s, and a Mexican feast at our favourite Mexican seafood restaurant.  Great day.

Monday we packed the rig and got ready for an easy trip from Bakersfield to Lodi.  Of course we also had to help ourselves to some oranges at the RV park where we stay in Bakersfield.  The Orange Grove RV park is built on one corner of an orange grove.  Each site has at least one orange tree right outside your door and everyone is encouraged to pick as many oranges as they wish.  We did this on our way down to southern CA and now we again had to fill up on a few tree ripened fruit. 

The trip after that was uneventful except most of the rest stops have been closed and there is nowhere for rigs as big as ours to park and stretch for a bit.  And some parts of the interstate highways (I-5 specifically) are terrible.  Pavement that has ruts and holes big enough to swallow a Volkswagen, road patches that have been patched, then re-patched, and patched again.  And there is little evidence that any work is being done or even planned to fix these problems.  We all know that California is in dire economic straits but surely someone can realize that if the roads are not in good repair then travelers will not be staying and the economy will get even worse.  Oh, well.

Reached Lodi and we set up camp at the Flag City RV resort – another one of our favourite places to stay.  Also found that they have ‘created’ a dog run.  Back when we were in San Jose and then again in Fresno we noticed that cities have these huge drainage pools about the size of two football fields in length.  They catch the floodwaters when it rains, thus allowing for a safe collection of excess water.  Lodi has them too…….one of which is in the middle of the Flag City RV park.  As these pools have a sturdy fence around them it’s a great dog run.  Teddy and Mojo were so excited that they were being allowed to run free, on grass, in this huge field  they were running circles around me!!!  Great fun to watch.  

Monday, January 31, 2011

We find the Fountain of Youth!

Prince Reindeer at Fountain of Youth

Time moves slowly here but the days tick away quickly. We have adopted a leisurely pace at the Fountain of Youth. Most mornings Ed is up at the crack of dawn while Ross enjoys a more relaxed awakening. We have breakfast or should we say brunch, watch a little TV, walk the dogs to the dog park (Mojo and Teddy have met a lot of other dogs and they can romp around a very large enclosure complete with places to climb, places to hide, places to chase, and places to dig), then meander down to the pool for 2 – 2 ½ hours of floating and sun basking.

The large pool and hot tub are adults only. There is another pool, and three hot tubs that allows children (not that there are lot of children here) but usually has activities going on. That is where they have the “lobster pot” – a pool filled with hot mineral waters straight from the earth – very hot (hence the name!).

Of course after a strenuous day of walking and floating it’s time for a sundown cocktail, then dinner and an evening of TV/reading/computer work (when we can get connectivity).

And the sunsets! Did we mention the sunsets?

We have taken a few trips to explore the area. One day we piled into the car and took off for El Centro. Had a little look around some of the small towns between FOY and El Centro – Niland, Calipatria, Brawley, and Slab City.

Niland and Calipatria are small towns that probably flourished when there was an armed forces base here. There is precious little else to bring people and keep them here! Mainly agricultural – some citrus, some dates, some vegetables but no industry per se that we could see. Brawley happens to be the confluence of two state highways and so there are some fast food places, gas stations, and an actual “downtown” (although many of the stores are boarded up and sitting empty).

Slab City is another thing completely!! Years ago an armed forces base was located here with buildings and the hustle and bustle you expect on a busy base.

After the base was closed the air force dismantled all the buildings etc and left only the cement slabs. Over the years the place fell into disarray and the desert began to reclaim its territory. That’s when the travelers found the place.

Today Slab City is filled with a community all its own. You can find the hippies, the entrepreneurs, the travelers, and the homeless. There is a large hill (Salvation Mountain) that has been completely covered with religious sayings, and paraphernalia; there are the requisite cars and trailers that are “decorated” with multiple geegaws; some businesses (solar panels, restaurants/cafes, and a convenience store); many people in travel trailers/5th wheels/motor homes just looking for a free place to camp; and some people trying to escape either reality or the government (or both). Like we say, an interesting spot.

El Centro is heavily populated with Mexican immigrants (legal and otherwise) so there are many businesses that cater to the Hispanic peoples. One such business is Cardenas, a Mexican supermarket. Imagine a huge Safeway store completely filled with Mexican foods. They also have a tortilla factory (both corn and flour), a grill area that cooks all manner of meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb), and a complete deli. Great place to shop. Great seafood, huge selection of hot sauces, incredible bakery, and a vegetable market that has huge bins of jalapeno peppers/nopalitos/citrus fruits/spices/etc.

Some of the hot sauces at Cardenas

One pound packages of LARD for tamales and other low-fat treats!

Next door there is a great clothing shop featuring stock that has not sold elsewhere and is offered at a great deal – baby clothes for $1, men’s shirts for $2. coats for $5. Have a few armloads of stuff for Emily! Fun time!!

We explored the Borrego desert area when we met Donna and Norm Lynch, friends of ours from Penticton. They have been going to that area for years and acted as our guides, showing us places we would never have discovered. In one day we had a picnic in Hawk Valley amidst rocky and boulder strewn mountains, walked a ways through the Anza Borrego desert park, and drove past a part of a massive parcel of land that had metal sculptures all over the desert.

The owner knew of an artist that sculpted (or rather welded) metal and hired him to make a few pieces for his home. The gentleman was so impressed with the sculptures that he kept the artist around to make pieces to display along the highway. Wild horses racing across the desert, some being stalked and attacked by saber toothed tigers, prehistoric elephants, a massive eagle feeding her young a squirming snake, mountain sheep butting heads, and a gold panner seeking his fame and fortune while his horse patiently waits for him. Quite well done…….and there are paths throughout the desert so you can drive from one sculpture to another.

We have also explored the north end of the Salton Sea. Going through small towns like Bombay Beach (named because this is where air force jets opened their bomb bay doors in preparation to drop bombs on and around the nearby Chocolate Mountains during practice bombing raids), North Beach (a thriving community of 2900 people), Mecca (really the very southern tip of the Palm Springs region), Thermal (where the very best date shakes are made……we even bought a few pounds of dates for us to eat), Coachella, and Indio. Great place and has all the favourite shopping places we need. Coachella, Indio, La Quinta, and Palm Desert all blend together and eventually run into Palm Springs. Although we did find that living in Palm Desert seemed to have certain requirements attached.

While driving through the city it seemed that everything was behind gates and high walls, all cars were made in places other than North America (Audi, Rolls Royce, BMW, Mercedes), everyone dressed to the hilt even to go out for coffee, all pets had a lengthy pedigree, and the houses were all well over our budget!!!! Oh well we like the Okanagan too much to move here!!

The dogs are having a blast. As we have said the dog park is a good walk from our place but there is almost always a couple of dogs for our guys to smell/play. A few days ago (~ Jan 28 or so) we got to the park. There were a couple of dogs there already, but before long there was a total of 18 dogs – small, large, short hair, long hair, friendly, some not so much (even had a woman there with two dogs – one that hated all other dogs but loved people, and one who hated all humans but couldn’t stand other dogs)!

We leave this particular Paradise on Feb 15 for a short journey to a casino just outside Yuma. From there we will nip across the border to Algodones. We are looking at picking up some glasses for each of us. Then a couple of days in Quartzsite and then on to Lake Havasu.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Hot Mineral Spas!

January 11, 2011 –

We traveled from Anaheim to San Diego with little incident (how much trouble could we get into in a 2 hour journey?) and set up camp in the Chula Vista KOA.  This park is amazing – terraced and landscaped with over 300 sites.  The host a comely lad named Clint was most helpful, with suggestions, directions and all kinds of ideas for things to see and do. He also sold us tickets for the trolleys, the zoo and probably would have come with us if we’d asked!

Did laundry and noticed an ad for a tour from San Diego down the Baja Peninsula and back that was leaving that day………….HMMM, wonder how much money is in the bank right now??  Definitely something to check into later.  We decided to hold off exploring until the next day when we are rested. 

January 12 – Up at our usual time (quarter past coffee time), had breakfast, walked the dogs, and talked to some of the people on the Baja tour.  This tour company is based in Surrey BC (!!)  and has been around for quite a few years. 

They do not keep as regimented a schedule as some of the tours we have investigated…cheaper too! They don’t leave you stranded in the desert for days on end.  Much like our way of living.  They have a wagon master and a follow up rig and meander down the Baja on a 28 or 32 day tour.  We are very interested……..who knows, next year you may be reading of our adventures in Mexico!!

Drove down to Old Town (historical area that is the birthplace of California according to the people who should know) and had a look around – imagine Barkerville with warm weather and desert conditions.  Caught the trolley bus that takes you on a sightseeing trip around San Diego so we can see what we would like to explore tomorrow. 

Tour guides (you can hop off the bus, look around the area, and catch the next bus) were very knowledgeable with two having a quick wit, great repartee, and lots of puns and jokes.  We saw Old Town, Little Italy, the San Diego zoo, Coronado Island, etc.  There is much to see and do here so we go back to the park and book in for an additional night (3 in total).  Dinner was at a BBQ place recommended by our good friends in Victoria (Bruce and Buck).  Great food at a reasonable price, but difficult to find (very little lighting on their signs so we traveled up and down the street for many a mile!!

January 13 – Today we take on the San Diego Zoo.  This 120 acre world renowned zoo is nestled in a gorge… lots of up and down walking.  The animals are all displayed very well and look like they are cared for incredibly well.  Had a chance to talk to one of the keepers.  He was very knowledgeable about his particular animal and loved talking about the care and attention needed for this animal.  Enclosures are large and they have tried to copy the animal’s natural environment.  The neat thing is they have also given lots of opportunity for the public to view the animals for several different angles…… as lots of pictures!!! 

Took the “overview” tour bus, then started walking.  Our plan was to start at the top of the “gully” and work our way down, but somehow we were always walking up hills, stairs, ramps, etc.  We saw all manner of birds, avoided the reptile house (note from Ed: NOT my idea!)  watched giraffes feeding (and drinking from a pond – can you say acrobatic?), lions sunning themselves, hippos sleeping in the warm sunshine, polar bears cavorting in and out of their pool, other hippos sleeping in shallow water with only their ears, eyes, and nostrils above water, monkeys swinging from trees, chimps chasing each other, and gorillas waiting by their hatch door (trying to trigger the hatch with a small stick through a hole by the bottom of the door), and lots more.  Suffice it to say, we could have spent the whole day there……………HEY, Wait a Minute……..we DID spend the whole day there!!  And our feet were sore enough to prove it!!

After leaving the zoo we drove around another area of the park that has some amazing museums.  We were too tired to look inside, but the facades were incredible.

During the city tour we learned that there is also a small outdoor amphitheatre in this park that for years hosted many musicals.  Then the San Diego airport added a few more runways……one that flew right over the theatre.  Apparently (this could be an urban legend) the low flying aircraft would drown out any performance so the producers came up with a plan.  There was a “plant” in the audience with a couple of bright lights.  When aircraft got too close the “plant” would stand up and shine a red light up to the sound booth and then to the conductor. 

The performance would freeze momentarily, the aircraft would fly over the theatre, and when the “plant” gave the green light to the sound booth and conductor the performance would resume.  Interesting to think about and very difficult for the actors and musicians.  Also in this park is a wonderful band shell that houses a magnificent pipe organ.  This pipe organ was donated to the city and the park by a wealthy San Diegan (we were told the name but can’t remember what it was).  The pipe organ was free only if there the city provided a free concert every Sunday afternoon…….and so the tradition continues.

Back to the RV park and we have arranged for the dogs to be clipped at PetSmart tomorrow.

January 14 -  Up early to get the dogs to the groomer, then off to find Ed a haircut (the groomer didn’t want to take him as well as doing the dogs – didn’t know if he bit and we didn’t have his rabies certificate – some groomer, huh?).

Waiting for the dogs gave us time to explore a little of Chula Vista – some VERY nice neighborhoods – great views, huge lots, huger houses, nice places.  We pick up the dogs and head back to the motor home as they are a little stressed. 

It also gave us a great chance to visit Mission San Diego…where it all started...yes….that’s right the first of the twenty one California Missions carved out of the wilderness by Father Junipero Serra.

Like so many of them Mission San Diego had fallen into ruin by the end of the 19th Century but was lovingly restored and is now again a vibrant community.

Another night ‘at home’ as we are leaving this place tomorrow heading to Niland – or rather just north of Niland – the Fountain of Youth Spa RV park.

January 15 – Looking at the map the road looks easy with little to no difficulties and we find that is the case…………..until we head into the mountains.  California road crews thought it would be a very funny idea to let motorists know that there are regularly huge gusts of wind throughout the mountain pass (45 miles of mountain pass)…….just after motorists pass the last turnaround.  Big joke!! The signage warns drivers of large or tall vehicles that it is not advisable to travel this route.  They could have told us before getting on the road!! 

But then we remember that some warnings we have seen are not that terrible for Canadian drivers so we soldier on.  All was well with Ed gripping the wheel with both hands as gusts blew us one way and the other, but we were making great time.  That is until we reached a high mountain bridge that spans a deep gorge.  Halfway across the bridge a gust of wind hit the RV and I swear we were only on 2 wheels.  THEN Ross looked down into the gorge……….clean shorts time!!!  We made it across the bridge and crept the rest of the way to El Centro where we turned north heading toward the Fountain of Youth.

We arrive at this spa and are amazed how many Canadians are here – apparently (according to our neighbour who lives…..are you ready for it? West Kelowna!!!!) the park comprises of between 75% and 80% Canadians!!  We swear that we will see neighbours from back home sometime.  The park is huge (800 serviced spaces with 200 unserviced spaces usually used for people waiting for a space to open up….they don’t take reservations!!), paved, and terraced with most spaces having views of the Salton Sea.  We settle into one of the serviced spaces and breath a sigh of relief.  Then start looking around. 

The area around here has many hot springs and loads of hot mineral water and the park has been in operation for near 30 years.  There are 2 large swimming pools (both warm), 3 hot tubs of varying temps, all manner of activities (pool, shuffleboard, arts and crafts, library, mail room, 2 laundry rooms, a small mercantile store, a small restaurant, meeting rooms, a card room, plenty of motor homes/manufactured homes for sale at a good price……and sun, SUN, SSUUNN!!! 

After a couple of days we realized that we both would like to stay longer than the week we have booked.  We are relaxed and starting to have a little fun.  We are near El Centro, Palm Springs, Salton Sea, and Indio.  We are also told that the temp is usually in the 70s during the winter but gets up to 110s during the summer (that’s too hot for us, but we also are usually in Canada during the summer, so that takes care of that!).  The one drawback that we can see is the park has “iffy” WiFi service.

January 16 – We lounge around the rig for awhile, then take the dogs for a walk, then meander down to the pool, then back to the rig for sundown cocktails (and what a sundown!!). That took most of the day………I don’t know exactly WHAT we did, but we are feeling better/more relaxed.  We both still have colds but they will abate sometime soon…..we hope.  We are also hoping to see Donna and Norm Lynch for Penticton who are staying at Borrego Springs on the other side of the Salton Sea. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The light show that is the ferris wheel

Disneyland 104, originally uploaded by TexasEd.

This is Paradise Pier at Disney's California Adventure. We snapped this while waiting for World of Color to start. The wheel is a light show of it's own.....all LED I'm sure...but they change colors in seconds...amazing!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elephant Seal mom and pup

Elephant Seal mom and pup, originally uploaded by TexasEd.

The Elephant seals beach themselves here....on the beach at San Simeon to mate and give birth. This mom looks tuckered out and the pup looks hungry!