Monthly Archives: March 2014

March 31, 2014, Pismo Beach and San Simeon, California

We left Malibu and headed to San Simeon State Park.  Upon arriving and setting up we encountered something we had not experienced since leaving Houston in November….RAIN!  We actually enjoyed listening to the rain on the roof, especially at night as it lulled us to sleep.  We used the time inside to work on future reservations.  It is amazing how time consuming it is to not only plan out a route, but also find campgrounds along the way.  We try to carefully research each campground and read reviews so as not to be surprised or disappointed down the road.  We have found that website pictures can be old and/or deceiving and they are not always as they appear on their website.  With the rapidly approaching summer vacation travel season, as well as holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we have to think way ahead and book early.  All these wonderful places we want to go are also popular with everyone else!

The rain did stop in time for us to get in some time at the beach before heading to San Simeon State Park on April fourth.  The main reason for stopping here was to see Hearst Castle.  Our first day at San Simeon we decided to take a drive around the area and made an amazing discovery….an elephant seal rookery. P1040875 This area along the beach about four miles north of Hearst Castle has hundreds of elephant seals which come to the area beginning in late November and early December to mate and or have their pups.  The babies are born in late January to mid February.  By the time we arrived the males had left and the females and young pups were still on the beach.  The park service has built a very nice boardwalk where you can walk out and view the elephant seals.  From the pictures it looks like they are dead, but they are very much alive. P1040886 P1040890 P1040889 P1040888 They were mainly sleeping while we were there, though occasionally they would use their fins to throw sand on their backs. P1040893 P1040892 During this time of year they will begin to molt.  The seals first began coming to this area in 1990.  One pup was born in 1990 and 5,000 were born in 2013.  Most of the rookeries are on islands along California and Baja, Mexico, with the largest rookeries on the Channel Islands off of Santa Barbara, California.  Because they were heavily hunted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the oil from their blubber, their numbers were reduced to fewer than 50.  They were protected by Mexico and the U.S. in the early twentieth century and the development of kerosene and refined petroleum left them with no commercial value the today the population has grown to approximately 175,000.

The next day we toured Hearst Castle.  We bought the tour tickets online and arrived for our 10:00 tour at a very nice visitors center with gift shop, restaurant and small theater.  Bill told me we would take a bus to the castle on top of the “hill”, but I had no idea the ride would be 5 miles long on a curvy, narrow mountainous road!  These types of roads seem to be my destiny now!  In 1919, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst hired San Francisco architect Julia Morgan to build a “house” on his San Simeon ranch.  The project lasted until 1947!  At that time female architects were rare but Julia Morgan proved herself to be a very talented and hard working architect.  The castle is of a Mediterranean revival design and is filled with art 20140405_104339 and antiques from Hearst’s personal collection. 20140405_111232 20140405_120624Everything was very ornate from the wood carved ceilings in the dining room 20140405_104605 20140405_104504the huge fireplace 20140405_103731 20140405_103642to the light fixtures 20140405_110312The tour guide took us into the theater and we watched a collection of home movies of Hearst and some of his famous guests including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.  The grounds had beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean with gardens 20140405_111519  as well as a Neptune Pool on the outside20140405_113050 20140405_112914 and a Roman Pool on the inside 20140405_121619 20140405_121803 which was 10 feet deep throughout and gold inlaid tile.

After our tour and spending some time enjoying the gardens, we rode the bus back down the “hill” which was even scarier with the narrow road and no guard rails.  Once back at the Visitors Center we watched a forty five minute movie on the life of Hearst which was very interesting and talked about how he toured Europe as a small child with his mother which gave some insight into why he built this castle on the hill.

Upon Hearst’s death, his heirs honored his request to share the castle with people, and thereby gave the castle to the state of California in the early 1950’s and today it is a state park and managed by the California park service.

March 29, 2014 Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Long Beach, California

During our time in Malibu we spent a couple days exploring areas outside of Malibu.  One day we drove to the Santa Monica Pier, passing the Getty Villa on the way. P1040850 The Santa Monica Pier, built in 1909,  was a fun place with somewhat of a carnival atmosphere with roller coasters, ferris wheels, bumper cars, and many vendors. IMG_20140328_205538 IMG_20140327_151827 IMG_20140328_205429 P1040819 P1040828 We enjoyed the lively atmosphere with live musicians playing at various places on the pier and walked out to the end to hopefully see dolphins or whales.  Just as we were about to give up we saw a sea lion and her cub and even though we stood and watched them for quite awhile, we were never able to get a very good picture as they bobbed up and down in the water, playfully swimming under the pier. IMG_20140328_205027

We found the end of the famous Route 66 P1040825 P1040830 and also the end of Interstate 10 which runs from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California.

On Saturday we drove from Malibu to Long Beach.  We stopped at Venice Beach whichP1040853 was as wild and crazy as I had read with many interesting characters walking along the boardwalk as well as plenty of tattoo and massage parlors, a place to buy medicinal marijuana, and many places to buy food and souvenirs. IMG_20140329_134711 IMG_20140330_130212 P1040855 We finally found a place where you could park for an hour so we put a dollar in the meter and walked down the boardwalk.  Bill did find a store specializing in Native American items and found two tee shirts to purchase. We found that an hour was plenty enough time for us to explore Venice Beach.

Leaving Venice Beach we followed the Pacific Coast Highway and found some beautiful scenery as we passed through Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and especially in the Palos Verdes area with huge mansions overlooking the ocean.  We even grabbed a geocache in the area when stopping at an overlook with a splendid view. P1040858 P1040863

We arrived in Long Beach later in the afternoon and drove pass Long Beach Shipyard where we saw containers stacked 8 containers high. P1040867 We also saw the Queen Mary from a distance. P1040868 We will come back at a later time for a tour.  We had dinner at Beachwood Barbecue and then walked down the street to a Walmart to pick up a couple items.  This was a very urban Walmart with a pay as you park parking garage.  We checked out through the self checkout and when we asked where the plastic bags were, we were told we could purchase a paper bags for 10 cents each but they did not use plastic bags.  We had read awhile back that California was going this route, but this is the first city we have encountered a plastic bag ban.  Since we only had a few items we just carried them out in our hands.  I told Bill I have a gold mine at home with all the plastic bags I have accumulated.  I usually take my own bags in to the grocery store to keep my frozen items cold, but I guess I will have to start taking my own plastic bags into Walmarts in California from now on!  It is California, you know!

Monday we leave to drive further north up the coast.  Our next stop will be a state park so no more of these fancy resorts with full hookups and cable tv for awhile.  That suits us just fine as we enjoy the more natural setting of national and state parks.  We are really enjoying our time in California, in fact we love it.  We are continuing to add to our list of possible winter destinations, with Malibu being another on our list.  The price of gas is outrageous and the ground has shaken us with some minor earthquakes and aftershocks for several days so we are following the news closely, but the weather and beauty has won us over!

March 26, 2014 Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum Simi Valley, California

We had been looking forward for some time to visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, which was about a 45 minute drive from Malibu.  The library design itself is very different from other presidential libraries with a very southwestern feel to the design. IMG_20140326_164928 IMG_20140328_205740P1040800We have not been to many presidential libraries yet, but it is hard to imagine any other presidential library having a more beautiful view than this one with panoramic views of mountains, valleys and the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know of any other presidential library that has a warning about rattlesnakes on the grounds!  IMG_20140328_205811

The library was opened in 1991 and sits on a 100 acre site. P1040789 The museum has 24 different galleries showing President Reagan’s life from his boyhood to his death. IMG_20140328_210153 There is a life size replica of the Oval Office. Reagan chose a painting of the 7th President, Andrew Jackson, for one of the walls in the Oval Office because Jackson was the first president to balance the budget. P1040795 The other painting was of George Washington.   We enjoyed reading some of his quotes and seeing items such as the two plaques he had on his desk. P1040793 All this added to our understanding of Reagan, the man and the President.  IMG_20140328_210046

IMG_20140326_141735We were also able to go onboard an actual Air Force One which served President Reagan and six other presidents. P1040799 This Air Force One is a model 707.  Air Force One today is a model 747 and we were told it is three times larger than the 707.  We were also able to board a Marine One helicopter P1040812 which was used to transport several presidents as well as see a car from the presidential motorcade. P1040810 They had an interesting history of the Secret Service.  A couple things we found of particular interest.  President Lincoln signed an order to create the Secret Service to deter counterfeit money just hours before his assassination.  It was many years later that the Secret Service was charged to protect the President. Another was after the attack on Pearl Harbor they felt they needed to provide the president with extra security so they used Al Capone’s car which had been impounded because they knew that car was bulletproof. P1040805 Just some of those strange facts you occasionally find in history!

Outside on the grounds we saw a replica of the White House Rose Garden and one of the first major pieces of the Berlin Wall to be taken from Germany,P1040813 and the Reagan burial site. P1040815

The day was very windy and somewhat chilly, but we certainly enjoyed our day at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum!

March 24, 2014 Malibu, California

We left Castaic and made the short drive to Malibu which included passing the famous Mulholland Drive. IMG_20140328_210317  The closer we got to Malibu the more narrow and winding the roads became, but the views were gorgeous.  The Pacific Coast Highway has many traffic lights and some traffic, but the views along the way are hard to beat anywhere else. Pepperdine University is located near our campground.

We settled in at the Malibu Beach RV Park high on a hill with views of the Pacific Ocean on 3 sides. P1040780 P1040781 P1040787 P1040785 IMG_20140324_171954For dinner we walked down the hill to the Malibu Seafood Cafe which had been suggested to us in the office when we checked in.  Bill was not disappointed in his dinner of fresh tuna which we ate outside overlooking the ocean.  This casual little cafe allows you to bring your own bottle of wine to enjoy with your dinner while listening to the ocean waves and watching the sunset.

Bill had to spend a little time finishing up the taxes, but we still managed to find plenty of time to explore the area.  We quickly fell in love with Malibu which is somewhat isolated meaning no Walmarts, box stores or name brand restaurants.  Instead you have gorgeous views and the sound of the ocean.  One day we drove a short way north on Pacific Coast Highway to Westward Beach.  It was in the cove of this beach that the final scene of the first “Planet of the Apes” movie was filmed, where Charlton Heston saw the Statue of Liberty. P1040831  We loved our days spent exploring the area.  P1040845 P1040849 P1040842

March 14, 2014 Hemet and Castaic, California

After a week of waiting, the warranty work was completed on the RV in San Diego and after a night at the Del Mar Fairgrounds which is a great place to camp with full hookups, we set off on Friday for Hemet, California.  Bill commented that the dry, rocky landscape reminded him of Mexico except that this road was wide with shoulders and even guardrails!  As we neared Hemet we noticed snow on the mountaintops in the distance.  IMG_20140315_145106

We set up camp at beautiful Golden Palms Resort IMG_20140328_210439 IMG_20140328_210346 with several swimming pools, hot tubs, a fitness center and a full schedule of activities. This campground has over a thousand sites and about 70% of the sites are occupied with Canadian citizens during the winter months. We finished setting up just in time to attend their wine and cheese happy hour.  Life can be so hard sometimes!

Saturday one of Bill’s coworkers from 1982 drove from Lake Elsinore to spend the day with him.  They went to lunch and Bob helped Bill work on some connectors for the solar panels cords. P1040769 It is so nice that they have stayed in touch all these years and had a chance to see each other.

Our week in Hemet flew by and we added it to our ever growing list of possible winter destinations.   Next we drove northwest to Castaic where Bill’s cousin George lives.  Bill has really been looking forward to seeing George (Aunt Emily’s oldest son) since they haven’t seen each other for several years. P1040772 We were able to spend an afternoon with George and several of his children and grandchildren. P1040774 The next day George’s son Jeff and his daughter Riley stopped by the RV to see us. P1040779 They had been camping for the weekend and missed the get together at George’s house.  We spent a short three nights in Castaic and headed to Malibu.

One of the many great things about our travels since beginning this journey nine months ago is being able to see family and friends that we wouldn’t ordinarily get to see.

“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

March 11, 2014 Escondido, California

We have been hanging out in San Diego since we returned from Mexico, waiting to get some warranty work done on the RV.  We didn’t expect to have to wait ten days for an appointment, but it has given us some time to do laundry, shop for groceries, wash the car, clean the RV, catch up on our mail, planning and making reservations for the next sixty days.  I mentioned in a Mexico post about the cacti that are served in restaurants that taste like green beans.  We found them in a grocery store here in San Diego. 20140303_210928 There are certainly worse places to do all these chores than San Diego!

Our campground is in Mission Bay, and we are enjoying being so close to the beautiful water and scenery of San Diego.  IMG_20140311_210014 IMG_20140311_210154

Today we went to the San Diego Safari Park IMG_20140312_174132 which is a part of the San Diego Zoo.  We went to the zoo back in January.  The zoo is in downtown San Diego while the Safari Park is about 40 minutes north in Escondido.  Instead of seeing animals in cages, many of the animals roam free in surroundings as close to their natural environment as possible.

One of the first things we did was take a ride in a helium filled balloon. P1040716 P1040702 P1040701 P1040705 The balloon did not soar around like a typical hot air balloon, but instead it hovered 400 feet over the park, giving us a spectacular view. P1040708 P1040707  We were so glad we did this early in the day since the ride was closed in the afternoon due to wind.

We loved seeing the gorillas and were there for their feeding time. P1040743 P1040720 P1040718P1040728 P1040727 IMG_20140312_174009 The zoo workers stand above and drop the food down to the gorillas. P1040732 The gorillas are always entertaining!  The silver-back male gorilla refuses to eat his food if it is dropped on the ground so they serve it to him in a bag….his version of a bag lunch. P1040738  We were told that one of the female gorillas is believed to be the third oldest known gorilla in the world at the age of 57.

We saw three month old lion cubs who were rejected by their mother at birth and are being raised by the zoo staff.  It was cute seeing them play tug of war with each other!P1040763 P1040764 We took a tram ride around the parkP1040706 and it was amazing to see giraffes, rhinos, and zebras to name but a few animals roaming around.  P1040750P1040758 P1040749 P1040756 P1040748 P1040752 P1040709  The lions all seemed to be napping today. P1040745 P1040704

We also saw lemurs and many colorful and talkative birds.  P1040698 IMG_20140312_174105Bill had planned on doing a zip line at the park which was two thirds of a MILE long, but there was a 90 minute wait, and since it was the end of the day and we were tired from all the walking and wanted to beat the freeway traffic home, he decided not to wait.

March 3, 2014 Mexico/U.S.A

We had a wonderful time in San Felipe, with most of the reason being the wonderful time we had with Bob and Sharon.  Our last night there Sharon fixed clam chowder.  Bill enjoyed many of Sharon’s great meals of salmon, white fish, and clam chowder.  We don’t often have fish at home, so Sharon’s cooking was a real delight for him.  After dinner we watched a little of the Oscars and then played a spirited game of “Catch Phrase”.  Sharon and I really beat the guys!

We awoke early the next morning with anticipation of our trip across the border.  We were going out the Mexicali border crossing and we had been told that U.S. customs could be tough.  We didn’t have anything to be worried about them finding, we just didn’t want them pulling everything out and going through it.

After a very sad farewell to Bob and Sharon and the El Dorado Ranch, P1040649 we drove by Pemex to get a last fill up in Mexico.  It turned out that the gas in Mexico is a little cheaper than in the states.  We were glad that our RV uses gasoline because it can be purchased in Mexico. If you have a USA diesel engine made after 2007 then you can not buy low sulfur diesel fuel in Mexico and thus Mexico is missing out on more US visitors.

We had a quick military checkpoint stop at the junction of Mexico 3 and 5, just like when we entered San Felipe, except this time it was very short. They were probably worn out from the big herd of race fans that rushed to get back on Sunday.P1040651 We had to drive through downtown Mexicali which was one traffic light after another.  We had printed out directions to the border, but to our disappointment once we got close to the border checkpoint there were no signs directing us which was to go.  The lines of traffic was endless and it took us over two hours to get through the checkpoint. IMG_20140306_134416 Meanwhile there were Mexicans everywhere trying to wash our windshield and side mirrors and sell everything from water and drinks to windshield wiper blades and aprons.  It was a total mess.  The lanes on the Mexican side of the border were very narrow and we had to be careful not to scrape the side of the RV on a concrete barrier.

Once we reached the U.S. customs area we had to go through four checkpoints.  At the first checkpoint they checked our passports.  The second one was where they x-rayed the RV with what they called harmless x-rays.  The third checkpoint was where we had to get out and the inspector asked Bill to open all the bottom compartments on both sides.  He just glanced in one and did nothing else which was a relief to us because it would have been a mess to re-pack and delayed us if they had pulled everything out.  The inspector went inside but only briefly and never asked us if we had anything to declare or if we had any meat, fruit or vegetables.  I had cleaned the refrigerator out ahead of time expecting this to be done.  He put an orange tag on the RV and we proceeded to the 4th checkpoint where the tag was checked and we were sent on our way.  What a relief!  Though it had been frustrating with traffic and narrow lanes and lack of directions, we were thankful the rest of the trip through customs had gone smoothly.

We were very glad to see this sign, IMG_20140306_134239 and one of the first things we did was stop at a fast food restaurant and get us a big hamburger for lunch!  We really enjoyed our trip to Mexico.  The Mexican people are warm and friendly and eager to help.  They are very eager for tourist to visit.  We never felt the least bit afraid or threatened by anyone we met.  The only time we felt uneasy or unsafe was when we were traveling with narrow mountainous roads.  I don’t think I would be eager to travel to Baja again in an RV.  The food was an issue for me because I am a picky eater, but Bill enjoyed it very much.  We were surprised at how much the landscape looked like Arizona and California, except no billboards or hotels or restaurants.

We decided to push forward and drive all the way back to San Diego.  We were anxious to get back and get ready for the next adventure.  The traffic was thankfully light and the landscape interesting with windmillsP1040670 P1040663 and mountains of rocks IMG_20140303_160703 IMG_20140226_110909 P1040683 P1040678and several 4,000 foot mountains to pass over.

We drove into the San Diego KOA right at sunset feeling P1040689 a little like Dorothy…there is no place like home.

Many thanks to all of you for following our Mexican adventures.  After a little time in San Diego to rest, plan and prepare, we will be headed north.  Stay tuned!