Pillar Point RV Park

We moved the RV’s over to Pillar Point RV Park this morning before Fred and Michael drove Lara into San Fransisco for the GDC18 game developers conference. Lara wants to hang out there until 7:00 tonight. It is the first day of lectures and she is so excited about it.

Pillar Point RV Park is right next to the ocean and Half Moon Bay and a major storm has stalled over the area and will drop rain for 4 days straight. I happen to really love the rain and I am settled in the RV with Callie all curled up under a blanket and in a tight ball on the front seat. It is cold, wet, and windy out and the rain is coming down really hard now. I have a portable heater blasting hot air and it is aimed right at her. I am rarely cold these days being the mature older woman that I am, but Callie and Lara love it warm and toasty.

We are staying here at least until Saturday morning and I am so happy that we moved from Half Moon Bay RV Park. I can look out at the jetty and bay through the windshield and watch the rain fall on the ocean and the wind churn the sea into frothy foam. What a difference from a couple of weeks ago in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where I live.

White Rainbows

On the drive up Montezuma Pass yesterday on our way to Morro Bay, I witnessed a strange phenomenon emerging from heavy fog when my daughter and I pulled off the side of the road because a trucker had motioned to us that there was something wrong. At first, I thought he was upset with me for driving the heavy RV up the pass too slowly. He came up along the side of me and refused to leave until I pulled over to investigate.

I had Lara get out of the RV and she discovered that her bike was dangling from the bike rack that had collapsed and the extension arm was bent down toward the ground. Her bike was hanging on by a thread- or rather a bungee cord and could have so easily broken loose. We were very fortunate that the bike hadn’t fallen off of the rack. I wish the trucker had stopped so that I could have thanked him profusely! From what I hear, truckers really look out for each other and I have noticed that whenever they pass me with Callie on the dash and I am driving the RV, they smile and give me a thumbs up.

We were able to snap the extension arm into a horizontal position and put the bike back up and secure it. By the time my husband and Fred discovered that we were missing in action, they turned around and came back to investigate. It all worked out just fine, and the reward for stopping at this particular place was a white rainbow or fogbow. I have never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what I was looking at. The mist was gently burning off and what emerged was this white arch rising out of the light and mist. Fred joked that it wasn’t very colorful, and with that, I was in agreement, but it was so unusual looking and in hindsight, I am really grateful that I snapped two photographs of it. I posted it online yesterday with, Callie’s Troubles are Behind Her blog post and my NationalParks follower suggested it was a sun halo. That didn’t sound quite right because it wasn’t cold enough for ice crystals to form, so I looked it up this morning on Google. A white rainbow is pretty rare and one photographer saw one in Rannoch, Scotland and said, “I have never seen anything like it in the 10 years capturing landscape photos around the globe.”

White rainbows, ghostbows, or fogbows are rainbows with the color leached out of them. They emerge from the fog that is thin enough for light to pass through. I saw the reddish tinge at the edges and there can also be blue, but the color is wiped out in the center of the rainbow. The sun needs to be at your back, which was the case for me. I was looking west in the morning and the sun was behind me and rising up over Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As with a rainbow, a fogbow’s arch is shaped from water droplets and the sunlight passing through the drops is at a perfect angle. The water droplets are 100 times smaller than rain droplets. Most of the light is scattered when it hits these tiny droplets, but some of the light is refracted and the white or colorless rainbow then appears. The sweet spot, where the reflected and refracted sunlight is concentrated most, actually forms a complete ring and can sometimes be viewed from above in airplanes. Due to the incredibly small size of the droplets, the light waves don’t spend enough time interacting to separate cleanly and refract and cause the prism effect associated with colorful rainbows.

How fortunate I was to experience some misfortune so that I could witness this unusual rainbow. It was so eerie out with the mist rolling over the green pastoral scene and cows mooing off in the distance. It brought the stress into perspective and diffused it so that a bigger and grander picture came into view.

Callie’s Troubles are Behind Her

Michael, Lara, Fred, Callie and I all pulled out of Borrego Springs this morning at 7:30 am and made it to Morro Bay by 4:30 pm. I drove ”Pipsqueak” and Fred drove his Minnie Winnie. Michael hung out with his best friend Fred and the girls all traveled together separately. As soon as we made it up Montezuma Grade, I had two truck drivers motion me over. I assumed it was because I was going too slow up the pass, but it was actually the bike rack that had slipped down with the extension arm, and Lara’s bike was actually dangling and the only thing holding her bike on, was a bungee cord.

I pulled over to the side of the road and Lara and I were able to secure the bar back up into place and get her bike back on the bike rack. It could have turned out really bad and we were so fortunate that kind and attentive truckers alerted us to the problem. Michael and Fred were ahead of us and because of bad phone service, they didn’t even know we were having difficulties.

The two of them finally came back to us and Michael helped me attach the bike even better and with more security. Apparently, the extension arm wasn’t locked into place. I am not placing blame on anyone, but it wasn’t me that loaded up the bikes!:) When we were finished, I looked up and over at a pasture full of cows in the heavy mist, and I happened to see a beautiful and very unusual white rainbow or a sun halo, so I quickly took a photograph and away we went. If we hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have seen this strange phenomenon!

Callie hopped up on the dash right away and she takes her job of Dash Queen Cat quite seriously. Once I start the engine, she leaps up and settles into her spot. She gets all in a huff if we start without her. Callie was obviously exhausted because she slept the whole way up the coast. I don’t think she will be spending too much time worrying about whether Romeo is making an appearance anytime soon. She has much better things to do now and places to see!

Furnace Creek in Death Valley

We pulled out of Zion River Resort RV Park in Utah, yesterday morning and headed to Death Valley for the partial lunar eclipse. The drive was uneventful and I am getting better at maneuvering the RV on my own. We have decided to name our RV “Pipsqueak” because of its compact size in comparison to most of the RV’S we are parked next to. The ICON is 24 ft in length and as far as we are concerned, perfect! It has plenty of power and can easily accommodate 3 adults and a cat.

Callie has been sneezing for 3 days and we can’t figure out if she has allergies or came down with a cold. It was very chilly in Utah, especially at night, but other than that, I can’t figure out how she would have gotten sick. Her appetite hasn’t diminished so that is good.

Last night we watched the full moon rise and this morning we witnessed the partial lunar eclipse. Today we will explore the park but will have to stay on paved roads because we don’t have 4 wheel drive. Death Valley looks so ancient to me and at least it will be warm today. Callie can rest up in the sunshine and thaw out.

On the first morning, Callie had a visitor by the name of Jake who also walks on a leash and halter and is from Canada. Sadly, she didn’t want anything to do with him though.

Bryce Canyon National Park in the Winter

Bryce Canyon National Park was a winter wonderland and we spent all day there yesterday after a storm had blown through about a week ago. White snow was still packed down hard on most of the trails and the hoodoos were frosted with the gorgeous stuff like powdered sugar on cookies.

The Paiute Indians tell of a story where the “Legend People” of long ago had behaved badly and were turned into stone by the trickster, coyote.

When you look down on these beautiful sculptures from Sunset and Sunrise Point, and especially Inspiration Point, you too will marvel at the beauty mother nature has on display for you. Pairs of ravens swoop and dive below you as they sail on the currents of wind, and animal tracks are marked in the snow precariously along steep cliffs.

There were no crowds whatsoever and the park was quiet except for the sound of ravens on the wing and gusts of wind that rattled the bare branches of gnarled trees. Zion did not have ideal weather for photography but Bryce Canyon more than made up for it. We again packed a picnic of baguette, Irish cheese, cashews, apples and organic tangelos from Seley Ranch in Borrego Springs, but this time we had to eat in the car with the windows rolled up. Inspiration Point has an elevation of over 8,000 ft so it was much colder than Zion.

I took many photographs, over 100 actually, and will have a difficult time selecting only some of them for you to view. They all look marvelous to me. Thank you, Michael Andrew’s for your suggestion to make it a priority to check out Inspiration Point!

During the day, Callie stayed behind warm and toasty in the RV next to the personal heater that I had provided. When we returned after having been gone all day, her cute little masked face was peering out at us from the upper loft window so that she could greet us. When we opened the door, she flopped down on her back for a belly rub and seemed relieved that we were home.

Look in right hand side of window!

The True Meaning of Christmas

We have currently camped out once again at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, because unbeknownst to us, Christmas is a very popular time for RVing. We wanted to stay at New Brighton or Sea-cliff in the Santa Cruz area, but everything was filled up.

Callie loves it here and as I write, the murder of crows is cawing and cackling overhead high up in the oak trees, and Fred and Michael are listening to the Warriors game in his RV. During the game, Michael and I took a quick break and ran over to the “free Christmas meal” provided by the city of Monterey to those in need. Restaurants and local chefs team up to provide a hot meal on Christmas Day to those less fortunate. We were immediately humbled by the large turn out of both hungry people and those helping the hungry.

The Community Holiday Dinner meal was served in one of the large warehouses on the other side of the fairgrounds, and Michael and I practically ran over there because it was almost 2 pm and that was when they would stop serving. The dinner was sponsored by the committee named after this event and the Food Bank for Monterey County. This special event has been hosted for 25 years and Thanksgiving for a whopping-35! We were told about the event from Ray, the host of the RV Park because he has been going to it for years. We were met with raucous Christmas music being played live by 2 musicians dressed up in Santa Claus outfits, and about 100 people or more eating merrily, while others were being served by volunteers lined up to help.

Smoked turkey, a roll with butter, dressing, yams, broccoli, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, donuts, cupcakes, coffee, and sodas were placed on long tables and served with enthusiastic and kind volunteers ready to pile up your plate with as much food as you wanted, and the food was absolutely free to those in need!

There were also tables filled with gently used clothing that people could pick through and select whatever they wanted to keep. Jackets and warm sweaters, shoes, and socks, pants and shirts for both men and women. There were a fair amount of homeless people pushing their carts with all of their belongings in them, and opinionated dogs guarding the carts. Many of the homeless appeared to know one another and were talking and laughing amongst themselves.

We were served our holiday meal and fit right in with most of the crowd, but we were more fortunate in that we could leave a donation and didn’t need free clothes or food. I also tried to compliment as many of the volunteers that I came into contact with and thanking them profusely for giving up their time over Christmas to help. This is what Christmas means to me, GIVING, and I was so happy to see this side of humanity being played out with dignity and respect toward the poor. Next year I want to be one of those helping to serve.

Stairway to Heaven

I had the good fortune to visit Pinnacles National Park on Friday, and after spending a chilly night (it got below freezing) we headed up the Condor Gulch Trail to the overlook and further up about 7/10ths of a mile in search of the California Condor. I have always been in awe of this prehistoric bird and felt so privileged that I was able to see them in the wild.

The California Condor is the largest North American land bird, and it became extinct in the wild in 1987. The San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo took in the last remaining birds, some say 22, others 27 in total, and developed a breeding program to reintroduce them back into the wild. Various components were responsible for their decline, loss of habitat, lead poisoning, power lines and Golden Eagles were the main culprit.

Contrary to most birds of prey, the female is smaller than the male and when the male reaches sexual maturity at age 6, he will seek out a female and they will mate for life. The male can have a wingspan of up to 10ft, and as we watched them soar over the cliffs, this became obvious. We witnessed them from far away, soaring so gracefully above the pinnacles, and these incredible birds could be seen with the naked eye. They have a lifespan of 60 plus years and are once again, with the help of programs designed to support their survival, are living in the wild.

This condor lacks true vocal chords, so can only hiss and make pathetic noises. They are eerily quiet and because their wingspan is so large, barely flap at all once a bird has become airborne. The California Condor is black in color, with white striations under the wing. These markings flash a bright white when they turn and bank, and it is this flash, and their immense size that separates them from the Turkey Buzzard. The male’s head ranges from pale pink to a deep orange in color once he is ready to mate. The legs are pale gray and appear white when flying, and hang straight down until the condor reaches a high enough altitude to begin soaring.

While we watched 3 condors taking off from a precipice not far from the trail, they flapped their gigantic wings in an attempt to take off. I was able to get a good glimpse of their comical faces as they veered away from us in a graceful circle, climbing higher and higher up into the sky. Fred thought we might have threatened their nesting site, and that it was a mated pair with a juvenile learning to navigate life among the pinnacles.

This hike was a true A+ for me and I highly recommend it. There is a fair amount of vertical climb, but I didn’t find it that challenging. We saw deer, quail, a gray fox, jays, woodpeckers and at least 9 condors. I recommend hiking in the early morning hours because of the heat. Even though it was freezing the night before, and very chilly when we first started our ascent, it became uncomfortably warm with our jackets and gloves on later in the day. By the time we were heading back to our respective RV’s, Fred, Michael and I had stripped down to shirts and rolled up our sleeves. Bring plenty of water and binoculars are a good choice too.

Callie was able to hang out in our awesome 24ft RV and nap while we hiked. This is such a good life for a cat who loves adventure and to travel. The dash becomes her really big screen TV!

Two condors can be seen roosting on the top of the pinnacle ledge to the far left.

Our Stay in Morro Bay

We have been in Morro Bay for almost a week already, but I haven’t been able to post because I ran out of storage space and needed to register again. I love blogging but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I spoke with my daughter who said I should upload my videos to YouTube because they are taking up too much space, and the support guy from WordPress named Kevin Jones, recommended I create a website with unlimited storage but would cost more money. My daughter had the more sensible solution, for now, I am only blogging for pleasure and it isn’t a business, so keeping it fun and simple wins out.

Morro Bay has been beautiful and it actually rained today which will hopefully help with the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara. It has been raging for over 2 weeks now and is the largest wildfire in the history of California. It breaks my heart to see so many homes lost and forests scorched and burned to the ground.

Michael, Fred and I have been biking every day and biking in Morro Bay is just so fabulous. The trails are well marked and when you are forced to be on the road, the drivers are very respectful. Yesterday, we biked all the way to Cayucos from our campsite at Cypress Morro Bay RV Park and walked out onto the pier. We also biked to the Rock, to the high school, and then over to the Preserve and The Strand. It was a fabulous bike ride and all three of us enjoyed it very much.

Earlier in the week, my brother in law joined us and the four of us stayed out most of the morning, and well past the early afternoon. There are so many places to eat along the Embarcadero, and you can watch the otters as they groom themselves and the pelicans while they dive for fish. Just park your bike right alongside you as you enjoy a meal of delicious fish and chips outdoors in the golden sunshine.

I recommend Bike Shop Morro Bay for any of your biking needs. Dave is very helpful and considerate, and Michael ended up buying me a Raleigh mountain bike because my Marin was too large for me. Fred has a Stump-jumper and we are all equally matched now. Michael will try out the Marin for awhile to see if it suits him and I just love the Raleigh. It is fun for me to bike with Fred and Michael. Who would have ever thought I would be biking with 2 guys?

Tomorrow we are leaving for Pinnacles National Park and it is supposed to be gorgeous there too. Fred is our official guide and Callie adores him. It is working out wonderfully and caravanning is perfect. If any of us gets into trouble- we have each other’s back.

Earth Wind and Fire

It has been a difficult time for Southern California this past week. The fire up in Ventura, California is where my parents spent their retirement years. They are both gone now but left the dream of a botanical garden a reality by donating funds toward its creation. They are founding benefactors and will someday have a plaque on the third tier of the trail leading up the hillside. On the plaque will be the words- BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED! lovingly embossed for all to see as they hike. I try to live by this motto and am applying it to my own life as I live in the middle of nowhere. It isn’t always easy to bloom in the desert! The plaque is still in storage and the gardens are far from finished. Earlier this week, fire consumed the infancy stages of this dream garden and destroyed much, much, more in its wake.

One of my parent’s rental houses succumbed to the flames and neighbors and friends fled for their lives in the middle of the night. The botanical gardens will hopefully someday be rebuilt, but the damage to Ventura and neighboring Santa Paula is horrific. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed and over 200 square miles scorched to the ground. The fire is far from contained and is now roaring toward Ojai and Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile south in Bonsall, the Lilac Fire is raging and bore down on San Louis Rey Downs, a thoroughbred horse training facility. It has killed many horses in its wake as it burned out of control yesterday afternoon. It started in the early afternoon and crossed over the 15 freeway and barreled down the 76 at a staggering pace. The horses that died were mostly trapped in barns and stalls and couldn’t escape. Hundreds of horses were let loose in hopes of surviving the horror, but because they are such pampered, sports animals that are frequently hand walked, many panicked, and stampeding occurred. As herd animals, some ran blindly towards the smoke and flames instead of away from them. Del Mar Fairgrounds has taken in over 1,000 animals and a day of mourning was scheduled for today at Santa Anita and the Del Mar Racetrack because of all the horses lost- possibly 47 or more!

The dry conditions of Southern California and the infamous Santa Ana winds contributed to the overall perfect storm. These fires are still burning out of control, but the winds have hopefully died down. The rains that came last year produced a bounty of foliage which has dried out and becomes fuel for the raging fire.

And to top it off, Borrego Springs has been experiencing a series of earthquakes that have rattled the house and my nerves when it shook 4 times in less than 24 hours. Is Mother Earth sending out a message that the “big one” is on its way?

When are we going to acknowledge climate change, and most importantly, that it is human-induced!? What is it going to take as a country to recognize that we have a responsibility to this planet and to our children and that we need to curb our gas house emissions? It is too late for those beautiful horses and to all the people that have lost their homes. But let us please try to find common ground and do something about climate change before it is too late for all of us!

Callie in the meantime is doing what cats do best, sleeping the day away and getting herself ready for another road trip. We are planning on taking off again some time next week. Be safe dear readers and take care of yourselves during this holiday season.

Vallecito Stage Station

Saturday morning Michael and I biked over to the Vallecito Stage Station- about 4.5 miles across the Anza- Borrego Desert State Park along S2 toward Julian. The weather was perfect after several days of wind and clouds and a drop in temperature.

The building that is left standing is a historical landmark and a reconstruction (1934) of the original adobe structure built in 1852. This was an important stop on the first official transcontinental route serving San Diego/ San Antonio (jackass) mail line that ran from 1857-1859. It later became The Butterfield Overland Stage Line and the southern, emigrant caravan route.

Biking over from Agua Caliente on a relatively cool day, left me in awe of these early pony express mail carriers and the bravery of both horse and rider. It is a desolate desert with sparse water, but maybe there was more of it 150 years ago.

The adobe structure is low lying and the walls are thick to keep it relatively cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Acacia trees, ocotillo, sage, and creosote dot the landscape along with cholla and barrel cactus. The sand along the wash is deep and must have been very difficult for the horses and mules to gallop across while carrying rider and heavy bags of mail or worse, pulling covered wagons.

I walked around the structure and smiled at how tiny the doors and windows were and what a welcoming sight it must have been after a long, stressful ride across the desert. Wild honey bees were swarming the damp ground searching out moisture and the green belt and wash must have been a welcoming sight after many miles of galloping across the scorching hot, arid, desert.

Biking back was somewhat easier because it had a gradual downhill slope, but we had a headwind that evened out the playing field. We had to get back to our campsite and move before noon because on the weekends, and especially Saturdays, Agua Caliente becomes a party campground. The pools are reopened at night and the campground was completely filled. The ranger was kind enough to place us in site # 68 because I believe Michael was polite and not demanding when asking if we could stay a couple more nights.We were placed in a spot that is not rented out and saved for volunteers or if another camper has to be moved. It was very nice of the ranger to provide this campsite for us. It has a beautiful and unobstructed view of the valley with no one in front of us.

So we will stay 2 more nights before heading back to Borrego Springs. The weather has been wonderful and Callie has gone on several walks over to the Marsh Trail and all around the campsite. She spooked at a cottontail that was bigger than her as it raced passed us and under the cat claw shrubbery. It made Callie just a little bit nervous. I had to soothe her with reassuring words that bunnies are herbivores and would not hurt her. I listened to coyotes howling last night and owls hooting early this morning and love camping in this campground.

View from site #68