Monthly Archives: January 2014

January 29, 2014 San Diego, California Part 2

A visit to San Diego is not complete without a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo. 45-IMG_20140129_094416 46-IMG_20140130_092553 The zoo is huge and we began the day by taking a tour of the zoo on a double decker bus which helped us get an idea of the layout of the zoo so we could better plan our day. 42-P1030981 The zoo is hilly in many places and they provide express buses that run throughout the park so you can hop on and off at various stops in the zoo.  It sure was nice to have the buses since they saved us many steps and hills.

First stop was Lost Forest with flamingoes, 01-P1030868monkeys, apes and hippos.  The monkeys kept us entertained as they picked each others hair and played with one another. 09-P1030870 10-P1030874 The apes played hide and seek with their blankets. 11-P1030876 12-P1030884 The hippos were underwater and came up for air.  We were amazed at their enormous size. 23-P1030921 24-P1030922

Africa Rocks had warthogs, lions which we unfortunately did not get a good picture of because they were sleeping when we saw them, leopards 30-P1030948 and tigers. 13-P1030888

Panda Canyon showcased panda bears. 19-P1030914 20-P1030917 18-P1030911 21-P1030918

Outback was home to koalas which were adorable, 17-P1030904 16-P1030902 15-P1030899 wombats, wallabies, kookaburros and kangaroos. 40-P1030974 41-P1030977

Urban Jungle had giraffes 08-P1030962 07-P1030866zebras 39-P1030973 rhinos which were probably one of the ugliest animals in the zoo and who decided to relieve herself as we took her picture, 37-P1030969 38-P1030972 and cheetahs.

We were fascinated by the camels 35-P1030957 36-P1030960 31-P1030953

Elephant Odyssey showed us huge elephants. 06-P1030951 05-P1030952 The zoo is very clean and the animals all looked very well taken care of.  We were told that the elephants were given manicures to prevent foot problems.

One of the most entertaining animals at the zoo were the polar bears who did a backstroke for us in their pool.  04-P1030855 03-P1030854

Near the polar bears we also found reindeer who didn’t look at all like Rudolph!  28-P103094129-P1030942We grabbed a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants in the park and had some friends join us.  14-P1030891

We saw several different birds at the zoo including the very unattractive California condor33-P1030955 34-P1030956 and a sea eagle. 25-P1030933 26-P1030934

Bill got to sit in a helicopter 27-P1030940and had his picture taken with a few of his friends. 22-P1030907 43-P1030982 44-P1030983 After spending the entire day at the zoo we probably only saw about 60% of what was there.  But we both agreed it had been a full day and I went home with only one wild thing. 47-20140129_160937




January 20, 2014 San Diego, California

We arrived at our next destination at a Thousand Trails RV park about 20 miles east of San Diego. 01-IMG_20140122_133740 They did not have a full hookup site available so we were directed to the north side of the campground where we had our choice of several electric and water sites.  They have an unusual way of providing full hookup sites, and we discovered that a reservation did not mean you have full hookup upon arriving.  If all the full hook up sites are taken, your name goes on a list and the next morning at 8:30 you go back to the ranger station.  They write on a board all the site numbers of people who are checking out that day.  When your name is called, you get to choose which site you want.  We knew we were #9 on the list for the day, and since there were only 7 sites available and  many people waiting, we didn’t hold out much hope of getting a site that day.  To our surprise, our name was the third name called and we chose a site.  We went back and got our RV and moved to our new site.  This whole process is called “Crossing Over”.

We very much liked our new site.  It was a corner lot so we only had neighbors on one side  and across the street.  There was an access road near us which was used by the border patrol and it was interesting to see them come and go and we sometimes heard helicopters at a distance flying overhead, but nothing at all annoying.  It was actually very quiet during the day and at night, and the only sound we heard was the occasional coyotes howling at night.  One day we saw a couple coyotes roaming several feet from our campsite, but they hurried on in their quest for prey. 02-IMG_20140124_183313 We also found some interesting geocaches around the campground.  The only problem we had with this campground is there is no cell phone or internet service with our Verizon phones.  They provided free 30 minutes of internet per computer each day, with more available for purchase, but we found it to be very slow, and it still did not solve our cell phone problem.  Several times we had to make a call and had to drive several miles toward the nearest town to make a call.  We think this problem can be solved with a cell phone booster which we hope to purchase before possibly returning to this campground in the future.

One day we rode over to Coronado Island which is a resort city across the San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego.  It really isn’t an island, but is instead a peninsula, and to access the city we had to cross a 2 mile bridge.  Oh, how I have missed the water of Florida, and San Diego has given me my water fix. 04-P103081903-P1030817 Hotel de Coronado is located there and is considered one of the world’s top resorts.  The Marilyn Monroe film, “Some Like It Hot” was filmed at this hotel. 14-P1030844 16-P1030841 Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz”, could see the hotel from the front porch of his home, and some say The Emerald City in the movie was inspired by the hotel.  Baum also designed the crown chandeliers in the hotel dining room.  Because of this connection with Oz, Coronado is often called “The Emerald City”.

A visit to Coronado wasn’t complete without putting our feet into the cold Pacific Ocean.  They had beach advisories that day because of windy conditions, but it didn’t feel that windy to us. 05-P1030820 07-P1030826 08-P1030829 09-P1030830 06-P1030822 10-IMG_20140127_140044 11-IMG_20140127_140203 12-IMG_20140127_140809 15-P1030840 13-IMG_20140127_141137

We finished the day with a visit to Imperial Beach where we grabbed the most south westerly located geocache in the continental United States.  We could see Mexico in the distance and several helicopters were flying low overhead to patrol this section of the US/MX border. 17-P1030847 18-P1030850 We assume they were border patrol monitoring the border.  We have seen a lot of border patrol over the past couple months and it is amazing when you think about the amount of land they have to monitor.

Next stop:  San Diego Zoo!

January 17, 2014 Oceanside, California

We decided to get some routine maintenance on the RV which caused us to be late leaving San Dimas on a Friday at the start of a holiday weekend.  This is the view of the I-15 traffic headed on the freeway in the opposite direction…a constant line of headlights backed up for many, many miles. 1-IMG_20140119_200251 Luckily for us it wasn’t quite that bad in our direction.  We arrived at our campsite after dark which is something we both hate to do.  We settled in at a nice regional park in Oceanside.

Ah……the Pacific Ocean!  Huge and beautiful. 4-P1030811 3-P1030809 1-P10308072-P1030808

We enjoyed the feeling of the beach town and enjoyed a glorious sunset. 3-IMG_20140118_165543 4-20140118_165307 We even found a street sign with my maiden name….a town where everyone knows my name!2-IMG_20140118_164622

One thing we are getting used to in California is having to pay a deposit on plastic and glass bottles and containers.  When we were in Michigan we were also required to pay a deposit, but we were able to take the bottles back to each local Walmart where they had a recycling area inside the store and if you paid a deposit of 5 cents per bottle, you got back the entire 5 cents.  In California you have to find a recycling center and they weigh the items and give you back about half of the deposit per item.  Items are worth different amounts; for example a pound of plastic Diet Coke bottles or plastic milk containers are worth more than a pound of beer bottles, and beer bottles are worth more than wine bottles.  They also take aluminum cans which we rarely buy, as well as paper, etc.  It is challenging for us in a couple ways.  We have limited room to store empty containers, especially large milk containers, and it is hard for us to find recycling areas when we move every few days.  We took a load to the recycling center near San Dimas and got back a whopping $1.84.  We estimated we received about half of the deposit we had paid in the stores.  Just doesn’t seem fair.  But considering the amount of smog and pollution in California, they need to do something.  We did notice EC gas being sold in the LA area which is an emission control gasoline.  On every street corner are businesses advertising smog testing stations which is required in California.

In spite of this, we do love California, especially the weather and the incredible beauty of the mountains, valleys, and beaches!

January 13, 2014 San Dimas, California

We left Palm Desert and headed west toward the Los Angeles basin area.  It has been fun seeing all the street names in the Palm Desert area! 1-P1030708 Not far from Palm Desert, in the community called Cathedral City, we came upon an amazing sight.  There were thousands of windmills as far as the eye could see as we drove along the interstate. 2-P1030715 3-P1030722 4-P1030725 5-P1030744 Some of the windmills were operating and some were not working on this particular day.  We had been seeing windmills in our travels for quite some time, particularly in Arizona and California, but none compared to this sight.

We pulled into the East Shore RV Park, a regional park in San Dimas, about a 30 minute drive from Los Angeles, If you pick the right time to drive the freeway.  I have driven on many traffic clogged roads in and around D.C. as well as throughout the country, and I have never been as unnerved by traffic as I was by the California freeways!  Bill, on the other hand, is unfazed by the traffic.  I don’t know how he drives an RV through all that traffic!!!  We were totally in love with our campsite which had a breathtaking view of the valley below, as well as a paved pad, shade trees, and even grass! 6-IMG_20140113_135842 It has been awhile since we saw much in the way of grass and trees!  At night we could see twinkling lights from the valley below, clear skies shining with stars, and a beautiful full moon.

On Tuesday we drove into the Los Angeles area 01-P1030766and toured the Brer Tar Pits, 02-P1030776  and then drove through Beverly Hills past a statue of John Wayne, 03-P1030777 11-IMG_20140114_135918 05-P1030782 cruised down Rodeo Drive, 04-P1030780 10-IMG_20140114_134318and enjoyed the sights in Hollywood. 06-P1030786 We then went over to Studio City to be part of the audience during the taping of “Last Man Standing” which airs on ABC on Friday nights. 09-P1030803 08-P1030801 Miriam Trogdon, a high school friend of mine, is a writer on the show and got us VIP tickets to the taping.  We had great seats; front row, center, and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing how a tv show is taped.

While in the LA area we spent some time shopping around for some solar panels for the RV so that we too can be desert boondockers!

Thursday morning we awoke to the sound of helicopters flying overhead and when we opened the curtains we could see a considerable amount of smoke in the distance. 1-IMG_20140116_095319 A fire, started by some careless campers, spread during the day to over 1700 acres and more than a dozen homes were destroyed.  We were about 6 miles from the area of the fire and just outside of the evacuation area.  We watched helicopters land on the lake below us to reload water and we kept a watchful eye on the local news throughout the morning.  California is suffering from a 3 year drought and there is a constant threat of fire.  The entire southwest seems very dry…in fact we can’t remember the last time we had rain.  Every day brings clear, bright blue skies with no hint of clouds or the possibility of rain.

Thursday evening we drove the short distance to Sierra Madre where we had dinner with Miriam and her husband Michael. 5-IMG_20140116_223449 3-IMG_20140116_221846 They have a beautiful home in the foothills.  It was so good seeing a high school friend and reminiscing about the past and sharing details about our lives today.

You never know what you will see in California! 2-IMG_20140117_100749 Our time in San Dimas went by much too quickly and we have plans to return in November.  With the exception of freeway traffic, we love California!!

January 10, 2014 Palm Desert, California

We are truly in awe of the mountains and canyons we are seeing in the desert of California.  We left Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and arrived in Palm Desert where we are staying at a Thousand Trails RV Resort.  Usually the Thousand Trails parks are located in fairly remote areas, however this one is located right in Palm Desert.  We prefer parks that are further away from traffic and road noise, however this park was not too noisy and sometimes it is convenient to be near stores and restaurants.

The highlight of our three nights in Palm Desert was our visit to Joshua Tree National Park on Saturday. 1-P1030629 Located over an hour from Palm Desert, the park is named for the trees that grow there called Joshua trees.  Legend has it that the trees were names in the mid 19th century by Mormon pioneers who named the tree after the prophet Joshua because of the trees outstretched limbs.

Roosevelt designated the park a National Monument in 1936 and it was re-designated a national park in 1994.  One interesting thing about the park is that two deserts come together to make Joshua Tree National Park.  The Colorado Desert with an abundance of creosote bush makes up the eastern half of the park.  06-P103064605-P1030644 04-P1030643 03-P1030636 02-P1030635

The higher, cooler and wetter Mojave Desert with Joshua trees, make up the western half of the park. 13-P1030671 15-P1030679 12-P1030669 14-P1030672 11-P1030668 We were able to drive through both sections of the park and enjoyed the different landscapes.

We hiked a short trail to Arch Rock where campers had hiked among the rock formations. 10-P1030665 09-P1030661 It was not unusual to see campers boondocking throughout the desert in Arizona and California. 07-P1030654 08-P1030659The rock formations in the park were amazing and we spent some time watching rock climbers scaling the sides of these mammoth rocks.  The park is known for being one of America’s best climbing sites. 20-P1030696 19-P1030695 18-P1030691 21-P1030699 22-P1030700

We drove to the top of Keys View with an altitude of 5,185 feet. 17-P1030683 On a clear day you can see to Mexico as well as the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, the San Jacinto Peak behind Palm Springs, as well as the Santa Rosa and San Gorgonia Mountain.  16-P1030681The day we visited had some haze from Los Angeles smog, but we still had a breathtaking view.  Sadly one of the rangers told us, and we saw a sign at Keys View, that due to poor air quality, the park is one of the unhealthiest places to hike during certain times of the year.  We have noticed this smog for several weeks in our travels.

Palm Desert is a beautiful place with ideal winter weather.  Another place to add to the return someday list!

January 7, 2014 Borrego Springs, California

We fell in love with beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs the minute we arrived. 4-P1030582 We had a wonderful view of the mountains right outside our front window, and our campsite was arranged so we could leave our front shades up and not worry about our privacy.  The first hour we were there we saw a big jack rabbit. We enjoyed the view from the time we woke up each morning until darkness settled in each night.  1-IMG_20140108_104103 2-IMG_20140108_104137Sadly, we were only there 3 nights.  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California with 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails.  The park is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word “borrego” which means bighorn sheep.  As we drove from El Centro to Borrego Springs, we noticed many campers who had set up camp in the desert.  Some set up solitary sites while others seemed to form little wagon trains in the desert. 1-P1030572 We also noticed that we continued to be below sea level for part of the drive west.  5-IMG_20140111_202425

The first day we made the 45 minute drive that took us over a ridge of 4,200 feet to Warner Springs to see Bill’s cousin Sandra and her husband Ed. 7-P1030601 The view was amazing but the road was very winding with steep drop offs. 5-P1030597 4-P1030590 We enjoyed spending time with Sandra and Ed in their lovely home.

On Thursday we spent the day exploring Borrego Springs by doing some hiking and geocaching.   After stopping by the Visitors Center which included an interesting movie about desert plant and animal life, we took a hike which turned out to be more challenging than we expected as it took us over a fairly rocky trail that was longer in length than was shown on the park map. 1-P1030607 2-P1030613 We always enjoy our desert hikes with the beautiful plant life, however we did not encounter the birds and wildlife we had hoped to see.  We were amazed to see his and her bathrooms in the middle of the desert!  3-P1030614

After the hike we spent the rest of the day geocaching in Borrego Springs where there are more than 130 free standing steel metal sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda of Perris, California spread over a 3 mile area of desert landscape.  Luckily for us, several of these sculptures had geocaches hidden in them, and we were able to enjoy both the sculptures and get in some geocaching!  The size and detail of the sculptures were truly amazing!  6-P1030619 4-P1030615 9-P1030628 8-P1030622 7-P1030621 5-P1030618

Our list of places we want to return to someday is growing, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is definitely on that list!


January 3, 2014 El Centro, California

California here we come!  We loved Yuma, but we had been eagerly anticipating our arrival in California, so it was with much excitement we crossed the border from Arizona into California. We noticed the landscape went from flat, desert dirt with small shrubs and cacti, to a more sandy appearance with huge sand dunes with little or no plant growth.  We saw some dune buggies in the distance climbing the high sand dunes.

Sand dunes with dune buggies in the distance. taken from car window

Sand dunes with dune buggies in the distance. taken from car window




Campers boondocking in the desert


Dune buggy paths

one of many canals in the desert

Our first stop was the small farming community of El Centro.  In this area we noticed more evidence of farming, especially lettuce and other greens.  We also noticed huge covered bales of hay along the side of the road in several places.  There is not much to do in El Centro and the RV resort where we are staying is geared more to golf and not much else, so we used our time there doing paperwork and trip planning for January.  The resort was very quiet and we enjoyed the relaxing time there.



The highlight of our time in El Centro was when we drove 60 miles north to see the Salton Sea. At 45 miles and 25 miles wide it is one of the world’s largest inland seas and the largest lake in California.  It is also 227 feet below sea level which makes it one of the lowest spots on earth.  With its marine, freshwater, desert, wetland, and agricultural habitats, it has the second highest number of different species in the country with over 400 species.  More importantly is the dependence of a large bird population on the lake because just below the surface is an abundance of fish.  Scientists called the Salton Sea “California’s Crown Jewel of avian biodiversity” and is thought to be one of the most productive fisheries in the world.  1-2014-01-05

The Salton Sea is currently 25% saltier than the ocean and getting saltier every day because the lake has no outlets.  Water flows into the lake from the Whitewater, Alamo and New rivers which brings salt from the Colorado River.  The only way water can leave the Salton Sea is by evaporation.  There is estimated to be 500 million tons of salt in the Salton Sea.  This salinity is seen as a time bomb to the future survival of fish and birds. There are government projects underway to reduce the salt.

The Salton Sea was the setting for the 2002 movie, “The Salton Sea”.  We enjoyed our visit there very much.  We had read before going that the smell there can be very bad, especially during windy days as the wind dredges up all the sediment and dead materials from the bottom of the sea.  The wind was calm during our visit and we detected no unpleasant odors.  They have a very nice visitors center at the park 04-IMG_20140105_140215 02-IMG_20140105_133459 06-IMG_20140105_131558 03-IMG_20140106_222511 where we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch 05-IMG_20140105_131546

Rock with petroglyphs

Rock with petroglyphs



and saw a short movie about the history of the area.  The park has full hookup sites but for a third of the cost you can boondock at one of their wilderness areas.  While driving around we stopped and chatted with a couple from Oregon who had come down to the Salton Sea for 2 months and were hosts at one of the wilderness areas on the sea.  With the closest grocery store being 30 miles away, and the only place to get water and dump our fluids being 7 miles each way, we decided this was not a location we would come back to camp.

After leaving the visitors center we drove to nearby Mecca where we did some desert canyon geocaching.  We completed finding 200 geocaches in 2013 and now are starting our goal of another 100 in 2014. We had a great time and saw some truly beautiful areas.  This is a good time to do some desert geocaching because we feel fairly confident that we will not encounter any crawling creatures, though we are always vigilante about where we place our feet and hands no matter where we are geocaching. 12-IMG_20140105_144743 09-IMG_20140105_143458 13-IMG_20140105_144751 14-IMG_20140105_144839 10-IMG_20140105_143623 11-IMG_20140105_144437 15-IMG_20140105_144953 16-IMG_20140105_153610

1-20140105_161251One geocache was hidden inside a plastic duck hidden in this canyon