Lost Wages

The running joke about visiting Las Vegas is that it is called, “Lost Wages” because gamblers lose their life savings and wages to the casinos. In my case, if and when we do hit the gambling casinos, I would rather spend the money on chocolate.

We made it to The Oasis RV Resort, Saturday, late afternoon, after an uneventful drive of about 4.5 hours. A heat spell hung over the city the first couple of days and 109 degrees made the side of the RV that was facing the sun, super hot to the touch and I had to hang a quilt over the window to keep it cool enough inside. The air conditioner was working overtime, trying to keep the cabin comfortable. Fortunately, yesterday and today are cooler.

I have been going over to the pool where pine and palm trees are planted, and birds are resting in the shade of their branches during the heat of the day. I discovered an Inca Dove, American Robin, Great-tailed Grackles, and of course, Rock Doves which are commonly known as pigeons. They are all urban dwellers and somewhat accustomed to human contact, but aiming a camera lens at them, always seems to spook even the bravest bird to want to take flight. I have to talk and coo quietly to them and try to reassure the birds, that I am not a predator.

Callie is back to being walked on the leash and does quite well until she sees a pigeon. Then she squats down like a sphinx and stares at the potential meal with her tail swishing back and forth. The birds aren’t used to seeing cats on leashes and come over and just out of reach of her to get a closer look. This drives her absolutely crazy. A soft chatter emits from her chest and she can barely contain her excitement at the possibility of tasting pigeon. I have to shoo them away before disaster strikes.

Tomorrow we are getting up extra early and will be pulling out to make it to Twin Falls, Idaho Wednesday evening. Our friends, Fred and Becky will meet us in Jasper on Friday or Saturday, so we have some long days of travel ahead of us. Callie doesn’t mind at all, and is thrilled to be back on the dash watching the road whiz by for miles and miles. Canada, here we come.

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.

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.

The Bonds of Friendship are Strong!

Callie has become so bonded to me, that when we are separated, she gets very agitated. I in return feel lost without her. Most creatures experience similar emotions as we humans do, and I am convinced of that without a shadow of a doubt. Animals that have to eat other animals may express less empathy as an emotion, but that is only due to the fact that they have to kill in order to eat. If they stopped to comprehend the act of murder they are committing and feel bad about it, they would starve to death. We, humans, have become so distanced from raising our own animals on a farm to butcher in order to eat, that we hardly recognize our packaged meat, chicken and fish as having once upon a time been a living, breathing, sentient being before it is unceremoniously served as a meal.

I am not a vegetarian and this isn’t about preaching the horrors of how cruel many farm animals are raised and the health risks of eating meat. I love to eat fish and chicken, but it does make sense for the overall health of our planet to stop raising cattle, chickens, sheep, and pigs on a massive scale for human consumption. And to get back to Callie, she wouldn’t think twice about killing a lizard, mouse or bird, but boy does she feel separation anxiety when I am not with her. She developed cystitis a month ago when we went skiing up in Big Bear with my sister from anxiety, and it now appears that she is prone to more and more stress-related illnesses as she ages. As a matter of fact, so am I!

Because we adopted Callie as a stray, we don’t really know for sure her exact age, but we do think it is somewhere around 11 years old. And because she is getting older, she is much more dependent on me than ever before to get through her day. I have had to train her to walk on a leash in the desert due to all of the dangers outside, and she does seem to understand that I am her protector when we are staying in this wild and arid place. When we are camped at the beach in the RV and Mobile Home Park, she is allowed to run free, but because cats are so territorial and love nothing more than to get into a catfight, I have watched her being chased back into the RV at a fast run with her neighbor in close pursuit!

The trade-off is that she is much more affectionate and certainly a lot sweeter than she used to be. I would also have to admit that Callie was quite a handful in her youth and has mellowed out a lot as she has grown older. The same might be true of me, at least the becoming more mellow part of it, I am not exactly sure about being sweeter though.

Today, Michael and I have taken the RV into Temecula Valley RV Service and Sales to have it worked on before our next summer travels. We had to travel from the beach to Temecula in separate vehicles, hence the topic of this particular blog post. Callie had hidden in the upper loft when we were ready to pull out because she loves life on the road and didn’t want to leave the RV. I had to abandon her then and follow behind in the car. When she discovered that I wasn’t in the passenger seat when she finally came down once the engine started, Michael told me she was visibly upset that I wasn’t there. She has to park herself on the dash when we hit the road.

Once we got there, I put her in the car with me and I hung out with her while Michael checked the Rv in for service. I can’t express enough the importance of maintaining your vehicle so that when you are out on the road you can have fun instead of experiencing a breakdown. Blowouts and engine failure are the opposite of fun to go through. It is best to be safe than to be sorry. We have learned the hard way. The three of us, Callie, Michael and I have been doing this for 3 years now, and the learning curve is getting easier, and familiarity, of course, makes it less stressful. But still, there is a lot to RVing that can’t be taught. You just have to get out there yourself and experience it firsthand.

I am now waiting in the car while Michael goes over the estimate of repairs that need to be done on the RV. Callie is resting comfortably on the front seat of the car while I write, and now that we have once again been reunited, we can both enjoy this beautiful day in Temecula. All is well and living once again is easy; at least for the moment it is. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Another Year has PASSED!

Yikes, the time is flying by so quickly. All is good with Callie and us. We finished a wonderful trip to Vegas to meet our daughter and to camp at Valley of Fire and Death Valley. Callie got a spooky, bright red, furry tarantula for Christmas and we are back home in the desert once again. It is a big, beautiful world out there in spite of the government shutdown. We hauled all of our trash out of Death Valley when we left and most people were doing the same. Happy New Year to all of you and may this year be filled with peace, joy, and happiness.

Joan and Callie

Washoe Lake State Park

Washoe Lake State Park is a 3,375 acre recreation area on the southeast shore of the lake in the county of Washoe in Nevada. Crescent City is less than a 15 minute drive and we stocked up on groceries before we got to the lake. It is home to magpies, coyotes, scrub jays, meadowlarks, kestrels, white pelicans, bald eagles, hawks, ospreys, flickers, quail, deer, wild horses and more.

When we pulled in late yesterday, a family of quail dashed across the road and the chicks were the size of tear drops. A family of kestrels are noisily going about the business of life next to our campsite, and the parents are frantically attending to at least one fledgling. The baby is old enough to fly short distances and is screeching its demands to be fed constantly. One parent insists the baby fly to a neighboring tree and then the other parent asks the youngster to fly back again so that it strengthens its wings. This little guy has hearty vocal chords and is not at all happy about having to work for a meal. The magpies can be seen checking out vacated campsites and are gorgeous because of the white patches on the wings. This makes them much more attractive to me than the jet black of crows, starlings and ravens. The pesky scrub jay followed Callie on our walk this morning and scolded us nervously, but also kept an eye on her until we got back to the RV.

Michael and I went on a bike ride after breakfast and adjacent to the campground, there is an equestrian area. Guests can corral their horses and park the horse trailer and RV alongside of them. You can hear them neighing back and forth to each other and when we were on our bike ride, we met two women on their quarter horses and I asked them about the free roaming horses we had seen earlier grazing on tall grasses on the top of one of the sand dunes. They informed us that they are wild and come down from the surrounding mountains in search of ample grazing and fresh water. They were gorgeous, well fed and their coats were glossy. I was able to take photographs with my iPhone from a distance and was really impressed with how healthy they looked.

We flushed out lots of jack rabbits that were the size of dogs and one coyote let us get really close for a good look at his or her, much darker and redder coat and bushy tail. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is home to lots of coyotes, but they are much smaller, thinner, the color of sand and their tails are scrawny so they don’t get tangled up in the cactus quills. This coyote blended in well with the sage brush that flourishes here. The scent of sage by the way is intoxicating and fills the senses with the call of the wild and what the prairie must have looked and smelled like years ago.

The campground is clean and the spaces are far apart. Tall sage brush, pine trees and cottonwoods help give you a sense of privacy. The bathrooms have free use of water and the shower has a timer on it but you can press the nozzle for additional time. We got the last campsite available yesterday, but this afternoon, campers have pulled out and the place is a lot less crowded.

The lake is stocked and you can fish in the shallow waters, but consumption of your catch needs to be limited because of high levels of mercury. There were hang gliders soaring along the hills when we first arrived last night and high winds make it a popular destination site for windsurfers. There is hiking, ATV use, picnicking and boat launches too.

Callie is able to go on much longer walks at Washoe because of the wide open spaces and the dogs are kept contained. I am always a little worried about dogs in crowded campgrounds attacking her when she is on a leash. They look so appalled when they set eyes on her and it brings out a variety of reactions, not all of them friendly.

We are staying tonight and will decide whether we will hang around longer in the morning. It has been a little stressful finding campgrounds that are not full because of the 4th of July holiday coming up. We don’t want to be searching for a place to stay over the weekend and find ourselves stranded.

Blood Sweat and Tears

Today is my 38th wedding anniversary. I met Michael when I was only 21 years old and he was 31. It has been 40.5 years since our very first date. We have been through so much together, and have somehow managed to stay in love. People ask me what the secret is and I can honestly answer that respect, forgiveness, appreciation, gratitude and a good sex life is the key. We both feel a special connection and bond toward one another that somehow gets us through the difficult times. I am still astounded that my first pick for a husband was a winner. I have 6 sisters, and they too have managed to make their first and only marriages a success story. We had incredible parents that passed on the wisdom and strength it takes to keep a marriage alive and well. What it does take I now know, is blood, sweat, and tears, and in my case, the journey has been well worth it.

We got up at the crack of dawn, and after taking Callie for a lovely walk, we loaded up the Nikon D70s camera and three lenses into a backpack. Michael’s new contribution to my well being is to haul all the stuff around on his back when we bike and hike. It is heavy and burdensome and I have been lazy and relying on my iPhone camera in order to take photographs. Now that I have upped my game and joined 500px, I need to improve the quality, clarity, and focus of my subject-matter.

Biking rapidly, we didn’t even get past the partial island here at Rancho Cuyamaca Park before a flock of wild turkeys came into sight. Two toms and 7 hens were crossing the grasslands as they headed toward the lake, with the boys stopping and displaying their tail feathers periodically while they gobble gobbled noisily as they followed the hens. I chose to take a series of turkey photographs with my iPhone before I used the Nikon camera just in case they took off. Next, a Great Blue Heron was spotted fishing intently on the other side of the bridge and I was able to take a few photos of this handsome bird with his reflection in the water. We then headed into the wetlands and I captured Red-Winged Blackbirds singing melodically while clinging to tall reeds that swayed in the gentle breeze. I watched a coyote hunting for just a few seconds before it spotted me and took off at a quick lope, glancing back nervously as it ran toward the shelter of the forest. I was not able to get to my camera fast enough for the coyote.

But the grand finale’ of all, were the Bald Eagle pair, perched majestically and way high up in a pine tree at the edge of the lake directly above me. One of the eagles flew off when it was disturbed, but the other one hung around just long enough for us to get off of our bikes, grab the telephoto lens out of the backpack, quickly switch out the macro lens, and with hands trembling in excitement, take aim and shoot. I did not have a tripod with me and the lighting was poor, but I was able to take about 7 images. I can’t download these photos until I have internet service, but I am hoping that they turned out.

Once the second eagle flew away, we hopped back up on our off-road bikes and did the entire Soapstone Trail loop all the way back into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Sunrise Highway. We think it may have been a total of 20, rough and steep miles and it took us about 4 hours. Exhausted and happy, I feel really appreciative that Michael carried my camera equipment for me and that we saw so much wildlife on our very first attempt. With the iPhone, I would have only been able to take itty bitty images of faraway animals. The telephoto images may be grainy because of poor lighting, but you will at least be able to recognize and see the pair of famous Bald Eagles that have made Lake Cuyamaca their home. I will continue to improve with practice again and have already learned that you carry the camera with the telephoto lens already snapped on and ready to go. The macro lens isn’t as time sensitive because flowers won’t walk or fly away. As soon as it is possible, I shall upload the heron and eagle photos, so please stay tuned.

The Return of Worm

It is such a beautiful morning here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. The winds have died down and the temperature is only 66 with a high of 81. A light rain is falling on the coast in San Diego and our mountain barrier has a thick layer of dark clouds that are trying to make it over the peak. This storm won’t provide rain for the parched desert; wind and cooler temps are all this storm will provide. If the winds don’t get too strong this morning, we will be able to go on a bike ride.

Last night I played with “worm” again and Callie absolutely loves this toy. I had to put it away for awhile because she became too obsessed with it and didn’t even want to go outside and climb her beloved olive trees. When she sat on the floor with the worm draped over her head and refused to move, I knew I had to do something. So I put it away for the day and only play with it in the evenings. When dawn arrives, she is more than happy to climb her trees again. The bucking bronco chair is her third choice of play activity, so we have all 3 bases covered and I have hit a home run!

Biking in Borrego

I am not sure if I would have become much of a cyclist if I hadn’t moved to Borrego Springs which is nestled alongside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. When I get on my bicycle and head out into the desert, I rarely come across any cars and viewing wildlife is an everyday occurrence. This morning a coyote dashed across the street but stopped along the tamarisk grove on Henderson Canyon to watch Michael and me intently. They don’t seem to recognize us as a threat as much as if you were walking or driving in an automobile.

I tried to whip out my iPhone in order to take a photo of this handsome guy who I have seen on numerous occasions, but the simple act of reaching for the camera made him skittish and he took off at a fast lope. It is a good thing that he is afraid, otherwise he may get shot. I happen to really value the predators in the desert and appreciate their role in keeping a healthy balance with the up and down population of rabbits and small rodents.

Yesterday morning I chanced upon another gorgeous cactus bloom and stopped to take photographs. These flowers only last 24 hours; when you pass them the next day, they are all shriveled up and having served their purpose, wilt and drop off from the main stalk. The brilliant white petals didn’t have a flaw on them and the wild desert honey bees hadn’t even discovered them yet. This morning when I biked past them again, you would never have known how beautiful they were just the day before. I also came across some brilliant red blooms and these flowers had attracted the bees.

We have decided not to go to Rancho Cuyamaca this week for various reasons and are enjoying some rather unexpected, lovely weather and the temperature won’t rise about 95 degrees. That is so wonderful that we have decided to hang out for a couple more weeks. Once the temperature soars, we will have to pack up and head out for most of the summer months.

Callie has been taking it easy and I am being much more protective of her when she is in the backyard ever since the bobcat made his appearance. This cat was so bold and lightening fast, it brought the wild right inside my backyard in a flash. She wouldn’t stand a chance if a cat like that decided to make a meal of her. I always leave the backyard door open too so that if she is startled, she can run back inside.