Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are a must-visit if you ever happen to be in San Diego. I am not really fond of the idea of animals behind bars, but in these two cases, the animals are given as much room as possible and much is done to educate the public to wildlife and plant conservation. The Wild Animal Park is a 100% Non-Profit and all proceeds go right back into the park.

During the summer months, it can get quite warm, but the zoo’s botanical gardens and rainforests are cool, damp, and dark. At the Wild Animal Park, misters are cooling you down from overhead. The exotic grounds at both parks have really matured in the 30 years that I have been visiting them and it almost feels like you are truly in a rain forest when strolling along fern canyon. Every time I go, I find new and exciting exhibits and the use of free-flying bird aviaries makes for wonderful photographic opportunities.

I am healing well from cervical surgery but won’t be able to travel or bike again for at least another month or so. We are making the most of it by visiting places locally that we usually ignore when we are on the road. A movie we went to go see yesterday, an independent film called: The Farewell, is a touching tribute to the differences in handling a terminal illness diagnosis from the east and the west. In China, for instance, the family shoulders the responsibility of someone having only a few months to live by carrying the burden of sorrow themselves and not telling the one who is sick that they are going to die soon. The movie manages to portray a touching tribute to death while laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. The main character, Billi, a young woman of about 30, flies from New York to China to say goodbye to her beloved grandmother, and the conflicts that arise in her by not being able to say goodbye that leaves her confused and bruised. A fake wedding is planned as a ruse so that the matriarch is left in the dark about her prognosis when the entire family visits to pay their respect. All the players that participate in this lie are touched upon in very sympathetic ways that make the characters very real and so believable. I highly recommend it.

We also drove to Balboa Park and explored the rose gardens across the street from the zoo. We usually park in the parking lot, but this time we left the car on the street and strolled around the gardens enjoying the well-tended flower beds. June Bugs flitted about above us and ground squirrels dashed along the rows of sweet scented flowers, getting up enough nerve to eat the blossoms whenever the crowds dissipated. They are so cute to watch until you try and grow plants of your own, then they become the pests and vermin any gardener will tell you they are. Michael and Lara were kind enough to carry my camera around with the super heavy tripod and would hand them to me when I wanted to take photos. Talk about being supportive. They have both been great. Lara thought she was going to have to spoon-feed me…. so at least she didn’t have to do that.

Lara, my daughter, can stay until Monday morning before she has to fly back to Vegas and we are going to try and have as much fun as we can until then. Today, for instance, she and her dad went to the aerospace museum to check out airplanes, something that I wasn’t interested in doing with my neck brace on. It isn’t comfortable standing around with this thing wrapped tightly around my neck. I have discovered Benedryl Gel though for the rash that developed right after the surgery and it has improved my quality of life a lot. There is nothing much worse than intense itching in my humble opinion. I should almost be half way through this ordeal though. At least I hope.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I am famous for handling big-ticket items in my life; it is the small stuff that trips me up though. I managed to get through the ordeal of surgery for cervical stenosis just fine, actually very well if I may say so myself, only to be brought to my irritable knees with an allergic reaction to the damn collar. I have a rash around my neck and it is very uncomfortable, and I have at least three more weeks of being confined before I can even consider tossing it. So whine I shall do every once in a while.

On a lighter note, we had an incredible downpour last night and the air has been scrubbed clean and it feels like Maui outside. We didn’t have any of the vents closed last night though, including the windows, and so when Lara got up in the middle of the night, there was rainwater all over the seat cushions, floor, and her laptop. Fortunately, everything will dry out, well sort of, and the morning has dawned with a heavy cloud layer and all the flower beds were saturated.

Callie is having a blast with Lara back in the picture and is enjoying herself immensely. She is a very happy cat and loves RV life. Callie can roam around free in the park, unlike the desert, and has made all kinds of friends- NOT! She is so territorial and protective that she won’t allow herself to socialize with any of her very friendly neighbors. Bodie, a beautiful ginger Tom who hasn’t even reached the mature age of 1, has kind of a crush on her, but she will have nothing to do with him. Another gray tabby whose name I don’t know would also like to get to know her better. Nope, she lets out a squeal if he so much as looks at her. Lara believes that she is just being protective because who would want to share what a good thing she has going on? Callie was a stray when we adopted her and was traumatized in her early days. Living on the streets did not suit her well!

Since Lara arrived on Monday from Las Vegas, we have gone to the zoo, eaten at Conway’s Korean food and gone to Hooked on Sushi twice. We went to go see Toy Story 4 and may look up another movie for today. I have had really good energy and the pain hasn’t been unbearable until today. I hate rashes. They make me feel sick. It is so hot and humid out, that outdoor exercise feels overwhelming, so maybe another movie is our best option. BTW- Toy Story 4 is hilarious and I highly recommend it.

Cervical Stenosis Surgery

I finally had my surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital for a 2 level fusion for cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord in the neck. I will wear a support collar for one month and I am currently in very little pain. I can already feel the numbness abating around my shoulders and hands. Dr. Coufal was the attending neurosurgeon and he had a wonderful support team of all women.

While I was in the hospital recovering after the surgery, I was taken care of by Isabelle, Raquel, Carrie and Jean, all nurses of the utmost talent and compassion for taking care of patients. I found out that Dr. Coufal was the doctor on call when Victor Espinoza was thrown from a horse in training at the Del Mar Race Track. Victor rode California Chrome to wins and American Pharoah to the Triple Crown. My good friend, Dolly, who committed suicide last May took me behind the scenes to photograph him racing and warming up. She knew him well and he returned her familiar shout of “hello” with a hello right back. Dolly was always there to offer support and encouragement to the jockeys and their mounts. She could pick a talented horse out of the pack with great success. She will always be missed but I am comforted to know that she isn’t suffering anymore. Shortly after Dolly had passed away, Victor had sustained a life-threatening injury to C-3 and could very well have become paralyzed if it weren’t for the expertise of Dr. Coufal and the support team at Scripps and not only is he able to walk, he may be able to race once again.

And here I am now back in my awesome ICON 24ft Class C RV. There is a heatwave scorching a good portion of the country and I have the AC on and we are watching Cinderella Man starring Russel Crowe. It is based on a true story about a boxer during the depression that wins the world boxing title as an underdog. Michael had taken the RV in to have a leaky faucet fixed and our TV hooked up properly when I went into surgery. There was a bad connection and we never really have had the use of the TV until now. It isn’t something I like to do very often unless a program is well done and not too violent. I decided to watch this film because I admire Russel Crowe so much and I knew that it had a happy ending.

Our good friend Fred helped Michael pick up the RV and return it while I was in the hospital and even invited Michael and Callie to spend the night at his place. Callie adores Fred and I felt less stressed leaving her when I knew of the arrangement. She and I are so bonded that when we are separated, we both miss one another very much.

So, Callie, Michael and I are doing very well and our daughter is arriving on Monday. What a fun couple of weeks I am going to have while I get well after my surgery with my entire family all together once again.

Escape from the Desert Heat

Michael and I have our RV parked in Encinitas, California so that we can escape from the grueling heat of the desert. We are very fortunate in that this “escape” plan was formulated last summer when the temperature soared to 119 degrees. It is a home away from home and Callie loves living in the RV. She can run free and because the RV Park is fully fenced, there are no coyotes or dogs running around unattended that can harm her. The only problem that she encounters are with very territorial cats, but because she is a diminutive female, and cute as can be, she usually deters conflict and lands on our front step with a resounding thunk. The female cats around here pretty much behave themselves and don’t get into fights like the Tomcats.

Michael has worked hard on our surrounding little plot of land and he has planted jasmine, roses, gardenias, plumeria, camellias, and agapanthus. The trellis went up today and the result is no less than spectacular! When we first arrived, there was just dirt and weeds. Now there is a tropical botanical garden surrounding our little site, and the scent of jasmine and roses fill the air.

Callie has responded well to the prednisone and her asthmatic cough is once again under control. She is healthy and happy and all is good with her. I am waiting for a surgery date on my neck for cervical stenosis and should know soon when I can have it done. Our daughter, Lara, will join us for a couple of weeks while I recover and Callie will very much appreciate that. She loves Lara like a sibling and it will feel like my family is complete once again.

Summer in the Desert

The temperature is steadily rising, but life still abounds in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The birds that consist on a diet of reptile, seeds, and insect, flourish in the summertime. Early morning and dusk are the preferred hunting hours and most animals know to seek shade and retire during the day, people included.

I have been doing a lot of photography lately and appreciate that this form of creativity doesn’t make me too manic. Just a solid haaaaappppy! In the early morning hours, I head down to the pond and photograph dragonflies and damselflies that flit back and forth along the surface of the water. Black Says Phoebes are in hot pursuit of them and it is a free for all feeding frenzy. Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons stalk the shoreline and wade into the water searching for frogs and fish. The pond is teeming with life in spite of the heat. Kestrel’s swoop down from the sky at dizzying speeds and grab lizards sunning themselves contentedly on rocks. It is an eat and be eaten world in the desert, survival of the fittest, and probably because of the inhospitable conditions, (many people leave in the summer and I have the place mostly to myself) I have wildlife in abundance all around me, and the opportunity to record what I see uninterrupted by the impact of humans.

Callie has had another episode of asthma attacks but I took her to the vet in Encinitas and she prescribed oral prednisone. She hates having the pills rammed down her throat and has taken to avoiding me. It is helping though and she hasn’t had a bad coughing spell in days. The secret to ramming a pill down the throat of a cat is to have a towel wrapped tightly around them in a burrito style with the head sticking out so that they don’t claw you. Coating the pill with butter helps make the pill go down easier, and it most certainly helps to have a partner in crime assist you in the process.

We will be heading back to the beach tomorrow or Thursday, and I am waiting for a surgery date for cervical stenosis. It will be a relief to have this done and I am hoping for a positive outcome.

Happy 4th of July to all of my readers. Keep your pets safe during the fireworks display. Dogs in particular panic at the sound of fireworks and many pets are lost during this holiday celebration. Putting dogs in the bathroom with the fan running is a great way to help them feel more comfortable because the white noise drowns out the sound of fireworks exploding.