Justify – a Triple Crown Winner

My dear friend Dolly believed that Justify would win the Triple Crown with ease. All the so-called experts claimed that Justify would be too tired and because he drew the #1 post next to the rail, this great big stallion would be at a disadvantage. Well, Dolly proved them all wrong. Justify broke first and held the front position for the entire race, and even pulled ahead of the pack at the finish line. Dolly would be beside herself if she were still alive today to see this history in the making. A second Triple Crown winner in just 4 years, and only after a painful, 37-year drought!

Bob Baffert is an incredible trainer and the jockey, Mike Smith, is one of the oldest jockey’s, who at age 52, is still racing thoroughbreds. While horse racing has its dark side, the ones that make it to the top, live incredible lives and as a 3-year-old stallion, he will be retired soon to breed and enjoy some well-earned relaxation. Justify is a great big chestnut stallion with a bold white blaze down his face; Mike Smith says he has so much presence and is an old and wise soul. He stood so quietly in the starting gate that Mike thought he might not break and be interested in running a race competitively. Boy did this 3 year old prove everyone wrong.

Dolly, I wish you could have been here to celebrate your uncanny ability to pick winners. At least I captured a photograph of you with American Pharoah, your other Triple Crown choice. California Chrome almost made it winning 2 of the 3 races. Shared Belief was another favorite of yours but he died tragically and way too young, of colic. Your heart broke just a little when that happened. Thanks for all the good times we shared together talking about horses. You and Justify proved all the naysayers wrong!

Love,

Joan

Dolly and American Pharoah

Dolly had a passion for all things horses. She loved them and followed Thoroughbred horse racing and the Arabian Horse Show Circuit with such enthusiasm, that it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement alongside her. I met Dolly when I boarded my unbelievably charming, Arabian gelding named Champagnne Flight at Acacia Arabians. She couldn’t afford to have a horse of her own, but instead, always volunteered as a show hostess and did grooming and other such things; anything to be around these magnificent animals.

When I lived near her in Encinitas, California, we would sneak behind the scenes and check out the latest racing star at the Del Mar Race Track. Dolly knew how to act important and pretend that she belonged at the stables with the trainers and jockeys. She had an uncanny ability to pick out winners and knew most of the older jockeys by name that had been around for awhile. Dolly would say hello and shout out support and compliments to both horse and rider, while I would trot around behind her with a camera around my neck and snap photographs. I actually got blisters on my heels the first time I went there with her because she was so animated and thrilled to be at Del Mar, that we walked from one end of the racetrack to the other.

Dolly turned me on to the fairytale story of Zenyatta and how she loved the camera and her large, mare ears would point and follow the crowds of adoring fans as she posed attentively for her audience. She is a large, bay mare that could hold her own with the boys, and when she would head toward the racetrack, Zenyatta had a big, bold, extended foreleg walk that emanated royalty. When California Chrome raced, we were at the Del Mar track and she was screaming and yelling encouragement and I too got caught up in the moment! American Pharoah was another favorite of hers and she knew he would be a Triple Crown winner. She loved the Candy Ride lineage and tracked the fillies and colts that started to come of age. For Dolly, it was an obsession. Justify was her latest favorite star and she called him a “monster of a horse” and was so excited when he won the first two races of the Triple Crown series. Bob Baffert was one of her favorite trainers and the jockey, Mike Smith, said hi to her personally when we were at Del Mar. Justify will be a very tired horse for the last of the Triple Crown races coming up soon, but wouldn’t that be amazing if he were to win?

Rest In Peace Dolly, I shall follow Justify and the Belmont race and be thinking of you as the big chestnut colt thunders down the track. It was awesome watching him win the Preakness when he jumped over imaginary trucks in the driving rain and deep, wet mud. When he finished the race and came in first, he hardly had any mud on him. He is a talented and sweet-natured stallion. We texted back and forth during the race and were overjoyed when he won.

I will miss you every day but am at peace knowing that you aren’t suffering anymore. I just wish that you had reached out and shared your pain and concerns with me, but you were not one to complain about anything other than politics. I hope America can right itself again and when I asked you last week about voting, you said you had already sent in your absentee ballot. I Love you, Dolly! When the timing is right, we will let your friends know the place and the date and we will spread your ashes along the beach where the thoroughbred horses used to be exercised in the surf and the sand, and where the sun shines bright and the air is filled with salt and the faint scent of horses and leather and sweat. We will send you off in style Dolly and you will be surrounded by friends who remember your laugh and your smile and your love for all things horses.

Dolly and American Paroah

The Bighorn Sheep Sculptures of Anza- Borrego Desert State Park

What a beautiful day it was for an off-road bike ride in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. The weather is peaceful and the wind has died down for now. Another windstorm is expected tomorrow so we took advantage of playing outdoors today. We biked over to the herd of bighorn sheep sculptures that aren’t far from my house.

Ricardo Breceda is a local sculptor that works primarily with metal and places his artwork, here in the desert, free of charge, for people to appreciate and admire from all over the world. I love the animals that are native to the region, but Breceda does have a dragon near my house that attracts a lot of attention and is one of his favorite pieces. The head and snake like body is situated on one side of the road, and the tail with a rattle like a rattlesnake sits on the other side of the road. It appears that a section of the dragon’s body has slid under the street. There are scorpions and locusts, saber-toothed tigers, horses, a raven, elephants, tortoises and many more.

Biking up to the bighorns is like sneaking up to a real herd of sheep with 2 rams butting heads and ewes nursing their lambs. They are very realistic from a distance and beautifully designed. You can also drive your car up to the herd if you are a visitor from out of town. The sculptures are situated right across from Indian Head Ranch in Borrego Springs, CA.

Bone Dry

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received scant rainfall this year, but two years before that we experienced the super-bloom. It just amazes me to no end how the flora and fauna of desert life survive in such extremes. I hear the pack of coyotes most evenings and once again at dawn as they howl and yip their joy at being reunited once again after a long night, the big horn sheep that come down to the golf course to drink and graze on the grass have moved back up to higher ground, my cheeky roadrunner will stop and look Callie right in the eye if she happens to be outside while he is making his rounds, the Anna’s hummingbird dips and dives and attacks any other bird that comes into the yard, the mockingbird that Callie almost killed when we first moved here is still singing up quite a storm, and I could go on and on.

I biked today around the De Anza Golf Course and took photographs of every bloom I came across. The ocotillo have thrust out their bright orange/red blossoms even if there are only a few pathetic leaves on the stalks, the scrubby creosote have white, puffy blooms that look like cotton balls before they turn a pretty yellow, there is scarce purple desert verbena in small patches, cactus of all kind including a saguaro which is not native to this desert has gorgeous white blossoms on its tall, slender sides that bats, moths, and hummingbirds find irresistible, beaver tail, cholla and yucca throw everything they have left into desperate, ornate flowers, but the plant that gets first prize for putting on the most dramatic and dazzling display this season, is the hardy and thorny, acacia tree.

As I stepped up to each tree cautiously in order to take a photograph, the deafening buzz of thousands of wild, desert, honeybees filled the air as they covered the tree and left me in awe at just how much nature depends on these industrious pollinators. The hardy, wild bees that live in the desert year round are much smaller and darker than their European cousins, and I marvel at how they can survive in the long, hot, summer months? They are also much more aggressive and protective, so you do have to be careful when getting too close to them. So everywhere I looked today, I could see the bright, golden yellow blooms that completely covered the acacia trees dominating the arid landscape. It is a welcoming sight for an otherwise bone-dry desert, with little else that was native, even remotely green as far as the eye could see.

Oh, and did I mention the intoxicating scent of the acacia along with the well watered and pampered, grapefruit and orange blossoms of the farmers groves that are grown here locally? These farmers can tap into the ground water in Borrego Springs for free and use up all the water that they need! That is another story to be told, but the Ruby Red’s, Navels and Valencia’s, plus the seedless Cuties that everyone loves to eat are offered here at local stands and shipped out everywhere.

Callie has been very happy and healthy ever since she was diagnosed with asthma and is also on a special diet for her itchy ears. She loves dashing up the olive tree in the morning and then sleeping the day away, high up on her loft bed. The heat hasn’t arrived in all its vengeance yet, so it is still a hospitable place in which to live. In another month or so we will have to make our great escape with Pipsqueak, our 24 ft Class C RV, in search of cooler ground.

The Acacia’s are in Bloom

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received very little rainfall this year, so little that only the occasional buttercup, beaver tail, saguaro, and purple desert verbena have managed to bloom. The acacia trees are making up for it though, and everywhere you look, you can see the gorgeous, golden yellow flowers of this hardy desert tree propped up in front of the powder blue sky that this desert is so famous for. There is something about the lighting and dryness of this desert that flattens the landscape out and makes the distant mountains seem like pale, purple, paper cutouts.

Lara and I went on a lovely bike ride today around the De Anza Golf Course and I stopped frequently in order to take photographs. Riding a bicycle in Borrego Springs is like biking in the middle of nowhere, you are rarely interrupted by traffic. The wind was very strong all day yesterday and long into the night, and when there is that kind of a wind-storm in the desert, it means that rain is probably falling somewhere else, I hear that Northern California got so much rain that flooding has occurred. All we got was wind, interesting clouds, and lots of sand dumped into my pool and all over the windowsills and doors. The palm trees and Callie’s olive trees danced and twirled at sunset and pollen and debris have been blown everywhere.

But today it is calm and clear and the sky a deep powder blue. Lara and I are baking fresh, pumpkin, banana bread and homemade vegetable soup for the return of my husband, Michal who has been in New York for a Podiatry seminar. Callie can once again sit outside and enjoy the outdoors without being blown sideways and all is good. Having gone on a nice bike ride earlier, we can now enjoy a hearty bowl of vegetable soup and a slice of bread slathered with butter.

Ah, Those Elusive Hummingbirds

One of the reasons that Callie loves to climb her beloved olive trees, is because we have a precocious resident male Anna’s Hummingbird that lives up high on the top branches of the tree. I periodically fill a nectar feeder up for him but also ask that he be independent so as not to starve when we go away on our RV trips. It has been shown that hummingbirds feed on gnats and catch them mid-flight and I can attest to the fact that we have plenty of gnats in the desert to feed them.

Callie is let out every morning in the backyard with supervision so that she can survey her domain and check to see if Romeo has paid a visit during the night. It doesn’t appear to me that he has. Callie climbs the olive trees to get a closer look at the hummingbird but this little bird will have none of it and keeps his distance. She also investigates all the tiny kangaroo rat dens that appear under the oleander and bougainvillea bushes. She cornered one that was on the BBQ the other morning and chased it over to a thorny branch.

When I checked on her, I discovered the little rodent and decided to give it a chance to live yet another day. Callie had it cornered but couldn’t catch the poor thing because of the sharp thorns. On the other hand, the tiny rat couldn’t get back to the safety of his den that was at the base of the bush. He or she was really adorable, what with those great big black eyes and teeny tiny body hunched ever so pathetically on the branch of the dark pink bougainvillea. When I picked Callie up, she howled her complaints at me and couldn’t understand why I was putting her in the house. Surely I wanted her to catch this little creature! At least it wasn’t a scorpion that she was tracking this time around or a tarantula for that matter.

So to get back to the hummingbird, Callie has been unable to catch this elusive little bird no matter how hard she tries, or how high she climbs up into the tree. The little bird just refuses to be caught and flies away just when Callie thinks she will catch it. But oh how dramatic he is when he flashes his neck feathers so that the sunlight captures the iridescent colors and he reaches for the sky before plunging back down at neck-breaking speed to create the whistling sound that Anna’s Hummingbirds are famous for. Spring has arrived, and another beautiful day has begun in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The Long Drive Home

When we left Morro Bay for Malibu RV Park, we had another blow-out, and this time it was the right side, inner, back, dual tire. Fred was following close behind us in Santa Barbara when the explosion happened. It is at least our 5th tire failure if my memory serves me correctly. The load is so heavy on this Icon Class C RV and because it is really difficult to check the tire pressure, especially the inner back ones, we have been lax and don’t do it every time we hit the road as we should be doing. We have since learned that there is a valve stem sensor that can be sent to an app on my iPhone for a readout. Michael is going to look into that before our next trip.

Once we had the back 2 tires replaced at the Santa Barbara Tire Shop, we continued on to Malibu and the Malibu RV Park and finally made it there around 6:00. With Michael and Fred having called beforehand for reservations, we were able to nab an ocean view for $50.00 a night. It would have been perfect if Highway 1 were just a little further away though! The cars were an endless stream of noise and exhaust that fortunately quieted down after midnight. We walked along the highway to get a late night bite to eat around 8:00 at the Malibu Fish Market but following in tandem along the side of the road, and in the dark was just a little bit nerve-wracking and dangerous. We all slept like logs though and woke up to a misty morning high above the foggy Malibu coastline with wild parrots screeching playfully in the sycamore and eucalyptus trees.

Yesterday morning we headed east toward home with Callie on the dash the whole way. Traffic was horrible in Los Angeles and all the way to Riverside with multiple accidents on the freeway. When we finally turned south toward Rancho California, there was a full moon rising in the east. Driving along the last stretch of the high desert, the chapparal scrub was illuminated by moonlight in the otherwise pitch black darkness before we dropped down onto the desert floor and to our final destination in the middle of nowhere at Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. It was a relief to leave all of the hustle and bustle behind us, and to smell the fragrant scent of desert and citrus flowers, and to see the night sky filled with stars and the beautiful Milky Way.

We are home safe once again and enjoying a delightful morning in the desert. Callie climbed her olive tree and checked out the backyard to make sure Romeo hadn’t visited while she was gone. It doesn’t appear like he has been here since we left. I just heard the cuckoo call of the male roadrunner and smiled at his love song. It really does sound just like a cuckoo clock. I have only heard him rattle and growl before. Spring has arrived in the desert, and the calls of love interrupt the silence of the otherwise quiet desert. Roadrunners are solitary birds until they choose to mate and raise a family. Once the brood is raised, they go their separate ways.

Conservatory of Flowers

Today we drove into San Fransisco so that Lara could swap bags with her lovely new friend from Ireland, Laura who she met at GDC18 in the Moscone Center and we all went to Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers. We walked from one end of the park to the other and focused on the Japanese Gardens and the rhododendrons. It was too early for the roses but the azaleas and rhododendrons more than made up for it. Laura was a wonderful young woman and we all had a delightful time. Photographing flowers, especially exotic ones like orchids, is an amazing experience and I am exhausted but so appreciate of all that I saw today.