Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted” was a favorite piece of advice that my mother would tell her 7 daughters and one son. It is a phrase I remind myself of frequently. One must always strive to do the best that you can under any given situation.

Living in the desert with March right around the corner, the creosote and brittle bush are in full swing and the scent of flowers is everywhere. The mimosa tree will stop you in your tracks if you get within 30ft of it. All the plants in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are offering up their pollen and nectar to insects and birds and the desert is alive with chirps and buzzes and brilliant flashes of gold and orange colors.

Callie is doing very well and we have found the right medications for her asthma. She is less stressed with the CBD oil and the prednisolone cream that is applied to her inner ear flap has lessened her coughing spells.

I finished a painting of a bighorn ram that I have titled “Size Matters” for a flora and fauna show at the Borrego Art Institute, and if it is accepted, I will have put my toe in the door for exhibiting again. Bloom where you’re planted, has been achieved.

Waiting for birds to arrive
Out on her walk
Chuparosa and Costa’s Hummingbird
Female Costa’s Hummingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Sweet Pea
Costa’s Hummingbird and Creosote
Verdin on Brittle Bush
Carpenter Bee
Verdin on Ocotillo Blossom
Desert Bee and Brittle Bush
Sweet Pea
Size Matters

Oakzanita Campground

I am having a delightful time at Oakzanita Campground in Descanso, California. It is a Thousand Trails facility and we have a membership that we bought into last summer. The campground is in need of a facelift, but the bathrooms are clean and warm, and the staff is very friendly. The best part of all is that I have had ample opportunity to do bird photography and Callie has been able to go on walks and to meet friendly dogs.

Descanso is located about a 20-minute drive to Rancho Cuyamaca State Park and I spent hours photographing Red-winged Blackbirds and Great Blue Herons. Our friends, Fred and Becky have joined us and we head to Agua Caliente today for several days.

Callie is having a marvelous time, and the CBD oil continues to amaze me by helping her with her asthma and anxiety. She had one evening of coughing when we first arrived because of the chilly evenings but has stabilized again and all is well. She is happy and playful and has a hearty appetite.

Happy trails.

A Sense of Well-Being

I gave Callie CBD oil at the suggestion of my husband about a month ago and wrote about her response in my last post, but I just wanted to follow up with the results a month later.

It is nothing short of miraculous how well she has taken to the oil. Not only does she lap it up with enthusiasm, (she is a very picky eater) but her personality along with the cough has improved dramatically. Callie has a big personality for a cat, Calico’s are notorious for being prickly and she is no exception. I have managed to turn her from a neurotic stray, into a well adjusted, spoiled, and certainly pampered feline by allowing her to be a participant in just about every aspect of my life. We are joined at the hip and she believes herself to be an equal standing member in just about every way.

The hitch comes when we leave her alone in our desert house. She doesn’t like it when left by herself and feels abandoned and resorts to throwing up all over the place. I believe it stems from her youth and her past trauma. Since I have been administering the CBD oil, Callie seems much more relaxed and happier in general than I have seen her in quite some time. When we leave, I get a look of, so what, and when we return, I don’t have to clean up her fitful messes. She is much more playful in general and acts like a kitten again. Callie is at least 11 years old, I don’t know her exact age because I adopted her when she chose me about 8 years ago.

Callie has always been outgoing for a tiny cat, she took to walking on a leash and riding on the dash of our RV, but it has been the separation anxiety that causes her the most harm. The CBD oil has given her a new lease on life, and she isn’t wracked by coughing fits as often and doesn’t appear to be as stressed out. I am also applying prednisolone, transdermal cream to her ears for asthma, but that alone can’t be given credit for her overall sense of well- being. I can only speak for myself, but I would highly recommend the oil and have not witnessed any negative side-effects.

Happy trails and happy tails for all, and a Happy New Year to my wonderful readers.

CBD oil and Asthma in Cats

Callie was diagnosed with asthma several years ago after a persistent cough that never cleared up with 6 months of antibiotics. Once she was put on prednisolone cream which is applied to the ear flap, her symptoms all but disappeared. Unfortunately, we have had to change veterinarians and because we have been traveling so much, we ran out of the cream and are waiting for a compound pharmacy to make more. The cream won’t be ready until tomorrow, so we have had to get creative and decided to try CBD oil to see if it can carry us through. This oil is specifically made for animal consumption only.

The first time Michael and I gave it to her, I assumed that she was going to hate it because she is such a picky eater. I chose the burrito wrap approach, which means I wrap her up in a blanket and had Michael squirt the oil into her mouth as I held on to her tightly so that she wouldn’t rake me with her claws. She protests violently because of the lengthy antibiotic days, but as soon as I let go of her, instead of foaming at the mouth and retching, she licked her lips and walked away with a surprised look on her face. I too was surprised and Michael suggested that the next time we give it to her, I drop it into her food. I did not believe it was going to work, and that we would just waste the oil, but reluctantly decided to give it a try. To my total astonishment, Callie did indeed love the taste and licked it up and begged for more. It isn’t a cure but it does seem to relax her enough and her coughing fits are down about 75%.

The only downside to CBD oil that I can see at the moment, is that I am putting it into canned food, and Callie is really prone to gum disease. When I first rescued her about 9 years ago, we had to have her teeth cleaned and I was told that she should only eat dry food. Her gums have held up well and her breath is fresh and clean and there is no sign of gingivitis. Introducing canned food again is going to be a problem for her, but having asthma is much worse. I have decided to only give her a teaspoon of canned food when I give her the oil and the rest of the time, I will insist she only eat dry food. Good luck with that! Callie has a way of getting what she wants, and I struggle with maintaining a firm approach to discipline and maintaining the precarious alpha female position.

Tomorrow I am excited to say that we are heading to Las Vegas to visit our daughter and will be staying at the Thousand Trails Campground on the east side of the city. I am hoping the weather will permit visiting Valley of Fire, Snow Valley, and Zion for landscape photography. Other than that, we will have fun with Lara and do whatever we want to do.

The prednisolone cream will help her with her asthma, so now I am considering giving her the CBD oil for anxiety. She throws up when we leave her alone for long and has separation anxiety, but that is indeed another story for another time. Cleaning up vomit on the rugs, and of course, she chooses the rugs and not the linoleum to barf on is no fun to clean up, and I am hoping we can resolve that issue next. Oh, the fun of traveling with a cat in an RV.

Happy holidays to all of my beloved readers. Thank you so much for reading my adventures with Callie blog. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I am hoping that all of you find peace and joy at Christmas and Hanukkah or whatever celebration brings you happiness and gratitude. I am looking forward to many more years of traveling with my husband and cat in our marvelous, 24 ft Class C RV and sharing my stories for all of you to read and enjoy. There is something so special about my relationship with Callie, and I am so appreciative for her friendship and for having rescued her and she, me!

Rug Beater

Cohabitating with a nocturnal cat in a 24ft Class C RV can be an ideal situation, that is until it is not. But the advantage of having a cat over a dog, for instance, is that you can leave them unattended for most of the day and they don’t bark and bother the neighbors. Cats also do not have to be taken out for potty walks because the litter box can easily fit into a corner of the RV. We keep Callie’s in the shower in the bathroom, and this works out perfectly. I do have to cover up the leather seats with towels and that doesn’t exactly go with my choice of decor, but it is a small price to pay for enjoying her company and not having the seats scratched up. If a cat will take to traveling as Callie has done, they can provide you with lots of fodder for storytelling and they usually aren’t as much work as a dog. Readers may argue the point either way, but because I adopted Callie as a stray after having put my beloved but aging Jack Russel down, it is even more bittersweet to be defending her as a good RV companion.

The disadvantages with cats over dogs are that cats are nocturnal, and every once in a great while if Callie has been left alone for too long, she stays awake all night and tries to come up with things to entertain herself throughout the long and dreary hours. Running up and down the hallway and springboarding up to the loft gives her a great deal of pleasure when she jolts us both wide awake with a heart-stopping thud. This seems to be one of her favorite tricks because of the sheer drama of seeing our reaction. But the game she prefers more than anything else is to beat up the area rugs at pre-dawn with as much noise and drama as is possible.

I have always discouraged her from sharpening her claws on the furniture, so grasping the heavy-duty cotton rugs, with all claws extended, provides her with the sensation of killing a substantially large-sized animal as she pummels it with her back legs and embraces the poor thing tightly in a death grip with her front paws. Callie loves to make a dash for a singled out rug as if it is her chosen prey and doesn’t stop disemboweling it until her teeth have sunk deep into the nape of the fabric and all signs of life have been extinguished. The morning after attacking the rugs, I find them all scattered about and bunched up and tossed to the side of the hallway like an antelope that a lion has killed during the night. The two of us solemnly survey the damage she has done and try not to crack too big of a smile or belt out a laugh. She looks up at us then to see our reaction and seems quite proud of herself as she struts back to bed with her tail raised high in the air.

We would much rather that she take out her aggression and energy on the rugs than jumping up to the loft and on our heads. And because Callie seems so satisfied with herself after a night of battle, we are grateful that she has found an activity that suits her and doesn’t destroy the RV in the meantime. Michael and I really love traveling with her and wouldn’t change a thing except for maybe excessive shedding, vomiting up hairballs and just a few other minor inconveniences….. But like I said, minor issues, and who is counting anyways.

So, after several years of hitting the road and being confined to such a small space together, we three have worked out most of the pros and cons of nomadic life and couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. When she enthusiastically jumps up on the dash just as soon as the motor starts up and takes her rightful place as co-navigator and road warrior, she settles down between the two of us to begin our travels with Callie adventures. My heart just beams with pride then, for having rescued this incredible little creature, and for giving her a life of meaning and purpose and high jinx and adventure. With all of that in mind, just who rescued who would be a fair question to ask yourself!

Road Weary and Battle Scarred

We came back from Canada so incredibly road-weary and exhausted, that quite frankly, I haven’t felt much like writing at all. Traveling in an RV can be very exciting, and the adventure beyond words, but it is also good to have a house to go home to and gather your wits about you when the journey appears in the rearview mirror.

I know for a fact that our traveling companions, Fred and Becky were also pretty tired and no extended trips are planned for the near future. When looking through photographs of Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California though, nostalgia does set in and the temptation to go becomes a tiny flame and a fleeting glimmer of interest can ignite before you know it.

Callie has loved being back in the desert and when parked at the beach, she can run around and roam unattended. We are going back and forth from desert to the beach where the RV is parked and fitting in scheduled doctor’s appointments and visiting with friends and family while getting things accomplished that were put on hold.

My photography has been ramped up to a whole new level now that the cervical stenosis surgery is behind me. I am working with the massive 600mm lens and tripod with gimbal head and even taking the heavy 500mm to the zoo. I was pleasantly surprised that the zoo would let me bring in a tripod, and with the help of Michael who carried the tripod, we went to the Africa Rocks Aviary and I was able to take images of Bee-eaters. I have always wanted to take a portrait of one because they are such gorgeous and entertaining birds. Another bird, the Paradise Whydah is the size of a small sparrow with tail feathers on the male during the breeding season, three times longer than the body.

The pond at the desert is once again filled with life and the heron and white egret compete for food alongside Say’s Phoebes, Black Phoebes, and Gray-Blue Gnatcatchers. Dragonflies are everywhere and provide food for all of the above. Bighorn Sheep are coming down from the mountains in search of water and while waiting for the herd to appear, a single, solitary, roadrunner zipped right past me.

The Geo Tracker is still in Canada and it will probably have to be totaled. I discussed the accident in the last post and don’t want to go into detail again about it, but it is the battle scars portion of the title of this blog post. Geico, our insurance company has at least decided to send an agent to the car instead of having the car towed to the States. That will help…

It will be a while before any of us feels like traveling again, so taking photos and possibly picking up a pencil and brush and painting is something of a possibility. Callie is doing well except for her asthma that is aggravated by all the fires here in Southern California and Michael and I are fine and biking and swimming once again. It is extremely important that you exercise when you get older, or everything falls apart and your health declines. I am now 64 years old and last year was a year for eye and neck surgeries and I am so appreciative that they were successful. I feel better than ever and I am looking forward to a wonderful year of travel and photography and good mental and physical health. Cheers to all you road warriors out there and may this be a year filled with high five adventures!

Poor Little Tracker

I mentioned earlier about our 1991 Geo Tracker that we tow behind with our 24ft Class C Icon RV and that it was having multiple issues. The trip to beautiful Banff and Jasper, in Alberta, Canada has been marred with one break down after another. Canada is extraordinary though, and I hope to go back this spring, summer, and fall. The wildlife is abundant and the campgrounds are so beautiful; it is a wildlife and landscape photographer’s, dream vacation.

When we arrived in Banff and pulled into our campsite spot which Fred and Becky had managed to reserve for us, Michael joyously unhitched the car for the first time since leaving Southern California but found that the ancient battery was dead. He called around and located a Napa store and biked the old battery into town, biked back again, and replaced it with a new one. The next day we all piled into Tracker and went to the beautiful, Banff hot springs but agreed unanimously that the car was still riding rough, so I looked up a local mechanic, Mountain Men, and Michael scheduled an appointment to check out the car. Michael and I tried our best to relax and enjoy the moment, but in the back of our minds, Tracker weighed heavily in our thoughts.

After examining our cute little car, the mechanic decided that a tune-up was in order because it was missing and stalling. Michael gave them the OK and they started work on it supposedly, right away. A couple of days later, and after approximately $700.00, Michael picked up the car again so that we could continue on to Jasper. In all fairness, the Banff mechanic was still not totally satisfied with the way it was running, but because we were in a hurry to move on, thought the car was at least trustworthy and wouldn’t break down.

Mind you, having car issues definitely ruined the drive to Jasper from Banff which crosses over the incredible icefields, and we will have to return to see them again. Because the car still ran rough once we arrived in Jasper, and he didn’t feel comfortable with how it was handling, Michael looked up Jasper Tire as soon as we arrived at the campgrounds. He had called around and they came highly recommended. Once he dropped it off and they had a chance to check it over, the mechanic thought the universal joint needed to be replaced, which would improve the roughness we felt as passengers. That solved what we thought was the final problem, and the car did in fact run much better. Jasper Tire BTW treated us very fairly and went beyond the call of duty by finishing the work in 8 hours. We too would highly recommend them.

The next day, Fred, Becky, Michael and I merrily drove up to the Miette Hot Springs, which is about 40 miles out of town and past, beautiful, golden aspen trees sprinkled among the pine forests that lined the roadway. We had a fantastic and relaxing soak this time in the luxurious settings of yet another hot springs and fortunately for us, we met a couple from New York, Wilson, and Isabelle, who ended up rescuing us when we again broke down on the narrow, 2 lane descent back to Jasper. It was just starting to get dark when Michael noticed the car had died as we sped downhill, and this time the car quit on us for good and we had to brake hard and all get out and push it off of the road. Wilson, being a mechanical engineer, and a kind and involved Good Samaritan, pulled over when he saw us standing by the car with the hood up and came over to help. He diagnosed it as mechanical failure because the car would turn over but not start. They cheerfully and generously volunteered to drive us all the way back to the Wapiti campground, which we gratefully accepted as we quickly locked up and abandoned Tracker for the night. Isabelle got in the back with Michael, Becky, and me, while Fred sat up front with Wilson because he was taller than the rest of us.

As we all chatted and the four of us gushed out our gratitude for being rescued, we got to know one another better, and they expressed an interest in seeing wildlife. Just as we rounded a curve where we saw elk earlier, we were able to spot bulls sparring on the side of the road near the town of Jasper which was something they had not seen yet. They both pulled out their iPhones and videoed an intense battle between two of them. If you haven’t seen the males fighting for the right to a harem of females, it is a spectacle like no other. I am amazed that they don’t kill each other more often. Wilson and Isabelle, who is a CPA by the way, ended up also seeing moose and a bear the very next day when they took us up on the suggestion to visit Maligne and Moose Lake. When Isabelle texted me her fabulous photos and videos, I praised her for getting the grand prize award.

In the morning, Michael and I got up early and drove back to pick up the Tracker, and this time we took it to a Chevy Dealership in Hinton. We figured mechanics that only worked on Chevrolets would finally get to the bottom of our car issues. A fuel injector was quickly diagnosed as the culprit but they couldn’t locate a fuel injector in any of the junkyards in the time frame available, so we had to go back and get the car without it being repaired.

We returned to dry camp that night in the Wapiti Campground and the next morning we got up early and headed west toward Seattle to visit a dear friend, Nancy, who had moved there from Encinitas, California several months ago. Fred and Becky decided to go to Yoho and we agreed to meet back up in Seaside, Oregon later that next week. We got as far as Merritt in British Columbia around 7 pm that day and stayed in a Rest Stop that night, exhausted and cold but slept well in spite of all the stress. We woke up to huge, semi-trucks idling their engines all night long and cheery truck drivers waving to me as I walked Callie in a heavy drizzle that morning. Little did we know that later in the day, disaster would strike once again.

Towing a vehicle behind the RV is a constant stress. But until now, the rewards have always outweighed the disadvantages, but sadly, not this trip. 80 miles north of a remote town called Blue River, we hit a pothole really hard and we just knew that something bad was surely going to happen. Not more than 5 minutes down the road, I smelled burnt rubber and insisted that Michael pull over and check out the source of the smell. He got out and walked around, and to our relief, did not notice anything amiss. He started the RV back up again and we pulled out onto the road while I kept an eye on the rear view camera. As soon as he pulled out, the Tracker was weaving back and forth, so I of course screamed at Michael that something was very wrong. I don’t handle this kind of stress very well anymore and tend to get a little emotional. I call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome because of all the adventures I have been through with him!

This time, when I got out and looked, and as he moved forward slowly, the back left tire was shredded and smoking and I once again screeched for him to stop! He did just that, and when he too saw the shot tire he admitted that we didn’t have a jack and that we were going to have to unhook the car to seek out help. We were just so glad it wasn’t the RV this time because we have had many blow-outs, and it is even less fun. Not 10 miles up the road, Michael spotted a sign for Tow Services and we were able to reach Shelly, the wife of Lang, who owned his own fleet of trucks, came to our rescue about an hour later. When Lang carefully checked the car over, he was horrified to share with us the full extent of the damage that had occurred!

Apparently, when we hit the pothole, as far as he could figure out, the engine somehow dropped into a low gear, loosening up the engine mounts and it locked both back wheels. So, not just one flat tire, but two tires and the engine is absolutely totaled. The good news is, is that we are talking about this and that we are all OK. He suggested that we take the bikes off of the rack on the car and put them on the RV because the car would have to be towed backward to a town called Blue River, which is about 80 miles west of the accident. We left the car with a highly recommended mechanic that Lang suggested and we will have to figure out what to do next. Geico, our insurance company needs to check the car out in the States before an assessment can be made. So we have to decide if it is worth it or not. The car is old and may have to be junked. It is the perfect tow car though and it will not be an easy decision to make.

I was so glad we weren’t towing the Tracker when we headed west to Washington because of the steep grade through the Coquihalla Summit and pass. There was a truck emergency brake off-ramp every mile or so which was rather unsettling to me. Having the car behind us would have stressed out our brakes because it was really scary even without the car towed behind the RV. The pass is gorgeous though and worth seeing if you are traveling in a trustworthy vehicle. Maybe I should be grateful that the Tracker broke down before we left Canada.

The four of us plus Callie have been reunited now in Seaside, Oregon, and I am happily writing about my fantastic travel adventures in hindsight! Fortunately for me, I am alive and well, and safe in Pipsqueak with raindrops pinging dramatically on the metal roof above me. I will write stories of Washington and our visit with Nancy another day. Callie, of course, takes all of this in stride at the helm of of the RV, cool as a cucumber, and aloof as only a cat can be.

Jasper National Park

When we left Banff for Jasper Park last week , we had to drive past the Columbia Icefields, and what a spectacular drive it was. The scenery is breathtaking and the rock formations and mountains that were tipped over on their sides like someone had pushed them, is surreal. The sides of the mountains that were once the floor upon which to walk on are now verticle cliffs of tremendous heights. The forces of tectonic plates and the upward thrust to the Canadian Rockies is like nowhere else in the world. Fall is in the air and the aspens are turning gold already and the nights dipped into the ’30s. By the time we left, snow had dusted the Rockies. Callie, of course, took her rightful place on the dash of the RV and watched the beautiful scenery fly by as we traveled to Wapiti Campground.

We have been here since Wednesday and had to take the Tracker in one more time in order to finally fix the problem. The universal joint was the last to be fixed after a new battery and time-up. The little car that couldn’t, is now the car that can. We drove to Moose Lake yesterday and had the unique experience of watching a mother moose come down to the water’s edge with her yearling calf. It was a really special event to watch the two of them snorting quietly to one another as the mother eased into waist-deep water.

I just finished an update on the car, which didn’t fare well after all but wanted to make sure that Jasper got its fair due. It is a gorgeous park, hit hard by the pine bore beetle, but beautiful never the less. We saw lots of elk and bighorn sheep, moose, but no wolves or bears. I would have loved to photograph them. That is ok though.

The Wapiti Campground

My days have been filled with so many wonderful activities, that the desire to write after many hours of photography, biking, hiking, and just plain fun, that I haven’t felt much up to it. Today I thought I would just focus on Callie and what a good time she is having, and when I feel up to it, write about all the wildlife I have seen and the adventures I have been on. Jasper, AB, Canada is an incredible place and the people have been so helpful and friendly and the wilderness, beyond breathtaking, that it will be difficult to leave. And if Trump is reelected, I may just move here permanently.

Pipsqueak is parked toward the end of a long parking lot with two rows of RV’s placed across and next to one another. Fred and Becky are to the left of us and we both face the Miette River that roars right past in a deep ravine within a forest of fragrant pine trees. The fast-moving rapids are many shades of blue and can be heard in a whisper from our RV window. Elk, for which this campground is named after, roam through the forest and calmly stroll past tents and campers, while the bull elks bugle their mournful calls early in the morning and later at dusk. It is a really nice campground with hook-ups so we don’t have to depend on batteries and propane. My only complaint is the tepid water when taking a public shower. It never gets to anywhere near hot enough, and you have to keep pushing a button for 3 minutes, and I am being generous here, worth of flow. The restrooms though are clean and heated, which makes for a better experience when trying to dry off in the cramped stall in order to get back to the comfort of the RV. The nights have dropped into the low 30’s and snow is expected Thursday and Friday, but yesterday it actually got to a balmy 69 degrees.

Callie is asking for several walks a day and the two of us can cross over to a grassy meadow right behind the RV that has benches and big rocks for her to climb upon. She loves being up high so that she can survey her surroundings and take it all in from a different perspective and a higher vantage point. She looks up at me frequently while walking by my side on her leash and I swear she has a huge smile on her face! The sun actually came out in force both yesterday and today in between mild rainfall and many wildflowers are still in bloom. Callie loves soaking up the warmth and didn’t want to come back inside today. It won’t be long though before summer is over and fall and winter hit with a brutal force. I can already see the aspens turning golden yellow that are sprinkled in between the pines on the mountainsides.

We will be staying in Canada for one more week before heading to Washington State. We plan on driving back down the coast on our return voyage. There is still so much to cover about elk, moose, bighorn sheep, magpies, glaciers and more, but it will have to wait for another day.