Lake Cuyamaca

The temperature is really heating up in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, so we decided to get away for the day and meet our RV travel partners, Fred, and Becky up at Lake Cuyamaca. It is less than an hour drive to the lake from our home, and the 110-acre reservoir provides natural air conditioning to the surrounding shoreline and kept the temperature at a comfortable 85 degrees. We sat around the table at the only restaurant that overlooks the water, and this eatery is famous for its chicken pot pies and fresh, fruit pies. You can be seated outdoors on a wooden balcony and hummingbird feeders hang from the eaves and Brewer’s Blackbirds wait patiently for you to finish eating before descending, somewhat mannerly, onto the leftover French fries when you get up to leave.

I pigged out on both the chicken pot pie and the Mountain Berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with whip cream that was then generously sprinkled with cinnamon on it for dessert. Fred and Becky had the veggie burgers with coleslaw and fries, and that too was fresh and delicious. All of the meals were served in a timely manner and were very delicious. Our waitress was good-natured and accommodating, and even filled up the hummingbird feeders so that I could take photos with my camera. I highly recommend going there because it is also a fabulous place in which to camp overnight in an RV. I have written about Lake Cuyamaca in past posts, so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but just wanted to once again reiterate what a nice place it is to visit and camp at.

The lake provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Canadian Geese and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Red-winged blackbirds, and Great Blue and White herons can be seen fishing along the shore. There is also an elusive pair of Bald Eagles that nest there every year in the fall way up high in the branches of magnificent evergreens on the island. If you are so inclined, easy hiking and biking trails are also available and you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a great way to spend time outdoors and escape the summer heat. One can also rent a boat and go fishing or just enjoy bobbing on the surface of the water and checking out the wildlife.

On the way back home, just as we were heading down the hill at San Filipe Wash in Anza- Borrego, a handsome bighorn sheep ram, dashed across the street in front of the car and up and over the rocks. Michael slammed on the brakes so that I could take one photo of him before he disappeared. I was still in the passenger seat with my seat belt on and used Michael’s shoulder for a tripod. I was very lucky he stopped for just a brief moment in time to look around. What a magnificent beast. He was probably searching for water and looked very healthy.

We came back home to Callie sound asleep on her chair and it appeared that she didn’t miss us one bit. We are heading back to the beach tomorrow and had a very relaxing time in the desert.

Summertime in the Desert

Michael, Callie, and I decided to head to the desert for a few days in order to have a little more room in which to live and move around in. The RV, a 24ft Class C, does feel a little small after a while and our desert house in Borrego Springs, even if it is 110 degrees outside, is still a fun escape.

Callie is able to race up and down the stairs and can follow her passion for bat patrol and taking early morning walks with her leash and the vest that has cute little fish patterns on it and a bright blue bow-tie. I don’t walk her as much at the beach because she can roam free in a safe environment with no fear of dogs or coyotes. But in the desert, Callie can’t run loose because of all the predators searching for something to eat and has had to learn to walk alongside me like a dog.

This morning I walked across the street with the 200-500mm lens, camera and tripod in hand and took some photos of flowers, bees, butterflies, and an Anna’s Hummingbird. Yesterday, I saw a roadrunner, white pigeon, White Egret, and a Night Heron. It never ceases to amaze me that wildlife still abounds in the summertime heat. I guess for most of them, the desert is home and they make the best of it in spite of the soaring temperatures. At least they have free access to water because of the ponds at the Ram’s Hill Golf Course.

We have been swimming every day, as it is an approved form of exercise after my cervical surgery. The collar needs to be worn for 5 more weeks. I can hardly stand it in this heat, but I am being a good patient and want to get well. There is a certain percentage of failure with a 2 level fusion, which is what I had done 3 weeks ago, so I had better follow the doctor’s orders. I can still go out and shoot photographs though, and that is all I need to stay sane. That and to be able to write, read, and to walk Callie.

Break Time

I have been pretty obsessed with photography since my cervical stenosis surgery because I thought I would be down for at least a month. It turns out, I have had a remarkable recovery and can handle going out in the field with a hand-held 200mm lens and a teleconverter attached to it. The teleconverter doubles my reach, so I have up to 400mm which is pretty good for holding a camera without the aid of a tripod.

While staying at the beach, I discovered a Say’s Phoebe, a Black Phoebe, and an Allen Hummingbird; the common House Finch was in abundance too. I have never heard of an Allen’s Hummer before and found out that they only live in a very small patch of coastal area in California. The male, Allen Hummingbird has a beautiful chestnut brown tummy with iridescent green back feathers. This little guy was so wary of me though, that I could barely get a shot in of him before he would fly away and hide. The Say’s Phoebe was much braver and allowed me to get quite close as it perched on top of an old TV antenna.

Because of all this passion toward photography and long hours of working and editing on the laptop, Callie decided to put an end to it by resting on the keyboard of my computer. She looked right at me and dared me to move her. I gave her a pat and reassured her that I would take a break but only after I took her portrait with the iPhone. She was compliant enough and appreciated that I was going to give her more attention.

California Premium Tree Fruit

What is it about boxes that entice cats so much to curl up in them? I have seen images of tigers and mountain lions discovering a box in their mist and curling up inside. No matter how small the box, or how big the cat, if they can manage to squeeze themselves into it, they will. This morning I was doing some RV cleaning and was going to throw the trash out when I noticed “Sweet Peaches” nestled in the California Premium Tree Fruit Box. Now I wouldn’t want to toss her out with the garbage, would I?

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.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is probably without a doubt my favorite place to visit. I love that there is still ample wildlife and the RV Park is ideally situated for walking or biking down to the marina. The foghorn is a delight to hear and the sounds of harbor seals barking and seagulls arguing makes me smile. Today I photographed Sea Otters and Snowy Egrets and had a blast. Michael cleaned up the Tracker and the outside of our RV and I cleaned the inside yesterday. We had a BBQ last night and Michael grilled fresh halibut. Callie is getting in a couple of walks a day and there is plenty of sunshine and fresh salty air to go around. We will be leaving for Encinitas on Tuesday.