Wednesday, April 23, 2014

This former California resident does not regret escaping from the state!

This post is out of order - it should be dated March 27, 2014; for most recent post, scroll on down to the next entry.

This is Jeremiah speaking:Whee! We are finally ready to travel again – these past two months seemed like forever and have been so boring! I knew we were headed for a trip when my human started loading stuff. I'm so excited!”

My March 2014 trip in Jeremiah was filled with memories. I spent nearly three weeks in southern California, visiting friends and family in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Oceanside, Escondido, San Diego, Vista, and the small mountain (apple-growing) town of Julian. Here are notes I made during this trip.

Home to Twenty-Nine Palms, California
Highway 89 south from Prescott seems to take forever. The two-lane road twists and turns as it goes downhill through Yarnell and to Hwy 60/71 and then west to Parker, Arizona, on the banks of the Colorado River. It IS a pretty drive and the road is lightly traveled, giving me plenty of day-dreaming time.

At Parker, Arizona, knowing gas taxes would be higher in California, I filled Jeremiah's gas tank before crossing the Colorado River border; I paid $3.35 a gallon.

Highway 62 in California, from the river to Twenty-Nine Palms (adjacent to the huge Marine base), goes through a lot of seemingly barren land, but I found it interesting. The highway parallels some slightly raised train tracks and for miles along the tracks people have used rocks and wood to spell out names and other cryptic information. There also was some elaborate junk “art” in a couple of places. I kept hoping for a nice wide, solid shoulder in that area because it would have been fun to stop and take photos. Obviously from the lack of photos here, you know I was unsuccessful.

I discovered the “Laugh” channel on my Sirius radio and the “clean” jokes from various live performers – including Phyllis Diller and Bob Hope – kept me entertained.

My camping stop for the first night was the Elks Lodge in Twenty-Nine Palms; electric hookup for $15. I barely had parked when the couple also camped there stopped by and invited me to join them for a tasty ham dinner. They are winter visitors from Ohio.

I was planning on an early departure to drive the 200+ miles to Santa Barbara, but because of the time zone change, it was 7:30 before it was light enough to suit me. In my preference to avoid freeways when possible, I zig-zagged on several highways. At Santa Paula, I again filled my gas tank ($3.84/gal) because once I was on coastal Hwy 101, beach-town gas would be even more.

Once I was on Hwy 101, it was indeed a drive down memory lane. I passed our favorite surfing spots – Mondos, Rincon Point and various beach breaks in the Ventura area. Yes, in the years (1967 - 1976) we lived in the Santa Barbara area, my husband and I both surfed (him by choice, me reluctantly at first but did finally enjoy it).

Visiting friend Emily in Santa Barbara
We met Emily when she and her husband lived across the street from us in 1967. Besides surfing and fitness, we had bicycling in common. She much more seriously – she raced and started a business producing clothing for serious biking females. We've kept in touch over the years via email and I looked forward to an in-person visit.

I already knew there were no RV parks nor a Walmart in Santa Barbara; the Elks Lodge had no vacancies. I could park on the street at Emily's, but Santa Barbara does not allow anyone to sleep in a vehicle on the street so I moved into her house. Her Dad had just died (he was just a few months short of 100 years), so there was plenty to be done and we tackled projects together. The Elks Lodge had a very nice remembrance service for her Dad who was a member (Emily and I are also members).

Emily is one very busy lady! She lives in a two-story, many-bedroom house and has three really nice people who rent rooms plus she and her son own and rent several cottages in downtown Santa Barbara. I sure enjoyed her two cats – well, at least the one that allowed to be petted; but not picked up. It was four fun days with Emily. And as you can imagine, population and traffic have grown greatly in the past 40+ years!

Off to Los Angeles and a visit with my granddaughter Melody
All my friends who are grandparents know how special this time was! And I kept telling myself that the horrendous traffic snarls would be worth it all. Shortly after leaving Santa Barbara, I encountered the infamous traffic on I-405! Yes, I could have traveled south on Highway 1, but I calculated that it would be much slower going. It was stop-and-not-much-go traffic on 405 which finally let me exit on Santa Monica Boulevard. Isaiah, my Garmin, made finding her apartment pretty easy.

Melody is attending UCLA (thanks to the G.I. Bill) and her guy David is employed by the UCLA Cancer Research Lab. They have a lovely apartment just a couple miles from the campus: David rides his bike to and from the lab and Melody either rides her bike or runs to and from class. We had some sweet visiting time and it WAS worth the traffic!

Next stop: North San Diego County
I think it was 1976 when I moved to this coastal area – first to Del Mar (home of the famous Del Mar Fair and Racetrack), then Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Valley Center and finally Palomar Mountain – in short, I lived in practically all sections of the North County area before moving to New Mexico in 2003. In my approximately 26 years there I made a lot of friends and got to reconnect with many of them. Also, my son and his family live there.

Owning and running two tennis-related businesses, playing lots of tennis, being involved with country-western dancing, taking adult education classes, writing a weekly food-related newspaper column, and working, writing and editing publications for a public relations company. Work-wise I had a blast! And I met so many people that I have stayed in touch with.

Such a busy time!
The first two nights in North County I camped at the Oceanside Elks Lodge. Lunch at the Oceanside harbor with dance friends Diane and Wayne Crawford was a highlight.

Another dance friend and the person who walked the 3-Day, 60-mile walk with me in 2002, Irene Bauer, served a lunch that rivaled those at the most extensive salad bar restaurant. She also invited two of her friends. So, we had delicious food and we also had super conversations.

Tuesday was set aside for my son Rick and his family – wife Dianne, and daughters Christine and Danielle. Jeremiah parked in one of their many parking spaces and I again moved into a house for the night. We had a delicious dinner and a fun visiting time. I enjoyed seeing their many projects.

Wednesday was another special day – it started with a super-duper haircut by my favorite California hairdresser – my granddaughter Danielle. Then I drove to the home of Pat and Russ Vollman, friends since 1977! I met them and their three children in church. She was a Realtor and helped me buy the first house I ever owned. That night was a delightful musical program at their church which was such a blessing.

On Thursday I moved to the Vista Elks Lodge. Friend Annette Hubbell met me at the lodge and took me to lunch. I met Annette through my writing/editing work with municipal water districts. She also is a writer, has been a general manager of a water district, and for fun she does programs where she impersonates historic women: Eleanor Roosevelt and a civil war wife.

The Vista Elks Lodge is a very active one. When our usual country/western dance places changed to different dance styles, many dance friends started dancing at the Elks. At the Thursday Lodge dinner, I connected with more dance friends, Joyce and Wayne Ford and Kathy and Bill Harrod. I also enjoyed meeting many other Lodge members.

Friday noon I had lunch and catch-up time with Renee Scott, a friend from the church I attended when I lived in North County. And that evening it was more visiting with the friendly Lodge members.

Saturday afternoon I connected with another long-time friend, Pat Barnett. We were neighbors when I first moved to Del Mar in 1976. She is living in a lovely apartment in a surprisingly quiet neighborhood that is officially in the San Diego city limits. We had lots to talk about.

My surprise visit was with Beth Hess Mykytiuk (pronounced Mike-a-tuck) who was a friend of my son and daughter. We lived in the same neighborhood in Santa Barbara; she was one of five girls in the Hess family. We briefly met up at my son's home on Tuesday evening, and she picked me up at the Lodge on Saturday and took me to dinner.

Sunday arrived – a short travel day to Fallbrook to visit friends Norma and Jack Miyamoto. I first met Norma when I signed up for a writing class that she was teaching at Mira Costa College. When she said we would be writing and producing the campus newspaper, I almost left and dropped the class. I had had plenty of that in high school and was thinking my time could be better spent. Then Norma said we would be producing the newspaper completely on Apple computers! That would be something new and interesting. (This was before the proliferation of personal computers.)

I did stay in class, having no idea just how interesting and valuable this would be. Thanks to Norma, I was hired by the North County Times to write their weekly food column, and also was hired by the company she worked for parttime – the public relations company.

On Monday I headed out of town and up-hill; I would be camping two nights at Pinezanita RV out in the country. Here I met up with Judy and Richard Pata who were also camping there.

The weather in coastal California was quite predictable – night and morning low clouds/fog, sun and 60s to 70s temps. Living there, I was sure that the weather report was a recording because it was practically the same – no definite seasons. It did rain my last night there – but by morning it was typical.

Wednesday was my day to leave California. I took I-8 east, bucking the stiff wind all the way. Original plan was to spend the night in Gila Bend and then head north-ish to Prescott Valley. The wind and blowing dirt changed my mind. Plan B was to continue into Mesa and spend the night with sister Alice.
Along the way I pulled off to contact Alice. While I was stopped on a shoulder to do that, something white flew over the cab of Jeremiah and landed in the weeds beyond me. What??? I got out and saw that the top/fiberglass piece covering my air conditioner and other things was now in the weeds! It was a struggle with the wind, but I got it in Jeremiah. I started to fuss and fume but stopped short and counted my blessings! At least it landed in the weeds and not in a travel lane where it could have hit another vehicle and perhaps caused an accident! “No problem, Carol. It is replaceable.”

From Alice's to Prescott Valley is basically I-17 with light traffic and plenty of thinking time. Decisions I came to:
  1. I'm so glad I decided not to sell Jeremiah yet. I love my motorhome travels.
  2. Future trips to Southern California will be in my Ford Explorer. I have plenty of friends to stay with and getting around will be easier due to the traffic.
  3. With my car I could drive by homes I lived in and also spent some time at the beach.
  4. As I learned last year in the heavy traffic areas, it is not fun nor relaxing to be the driver/navigator and sightseer at the same time. With Jeremiah I'll stick to the mostly wide open spaces of the southwest.
  5. While some people like to shop and buy “stuff”, I prefer live frugally so I can “buy” adventures.

What's next?
Friday, April 4, I head east to the Albuquerque area. Jeremiah will get a new fiberglass roof piece to replace the blown-off one and get some general maintenance, I'll visit with my daughter and friends for a few days. Then I'll probably head south and spend time camping in some New Mexico state parks.

I'll return home briefly on April 23. Two of my granddaughters, Christine and Melody, have decided to have a cousin road trip to visit me for a day or so. Woo Hoo! After that? Nothing planned yet.

I'm often asked “how can you travel by yourself?” I like Henry Ford's quote: “Whether you think you can or think you can't – you are right.” I think I can and I do!

I have been doubly blessed with adventure and travel genes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Mexico – Land of New Mexican Food

My mouth waters at the thought of a New Mexican Green Chile Cheeseburger! The anticipation of this and other yummy New Mexican meals kept Jeremiah's tires rolling east to Rio Rancho. Jeremiah and I camped at “Latham's RV Park”, a.k.a. friend Jesse's home.

After some service for Jeremiah – replace the A/C cover at Vantastic Vans and oil service, tires and engine check at American Tire and a much-needed motorhome bath by Recapturing Vehicles. Then friend and family visiting time started and continued non-stop for a week.

The highlights of my Rio Rancho/Albuquerque visits are time with my daughter Sue and visits with friends I made while living there. I treated myself to a pedicure with Carla, the best nail technician I know, and had an appointment with my holistic doctor who keeps my body ticking along.

And I enjoyed my long-awaited New Mexican meals – including four green chile cheeseburgers, chile rellenos and enchiladas.

Great Horned Owls, Rain, Park Project
Sunday: It was time to head south to Pancho Villa State Park – three miles north of the Mexico border. This 5+hour trip takes me through Truth or Consequences, Hatch (chile capital) Deming and finally into the tiny town of Columbus, New Mexico.

Pancho Villa State Park
I discovered this park in 2005; and it was the first park that I volunteered for. It is a desert park and certainly the vegetation never could have been described as 'lush'. At least the park had plenty of cactus and many more trees than it currently has. A few years ago a couple super-freezing nights combined with drought left a lot of dead and dying cactus, killed trees and left large expanses of bare, sandy ground.

During the week I camped there, I joined the Rving LOWS (Loners on Wheels) across the border for lunch at the Pink Store (in Palomas, Mexico). As always the complimentary margarita and Mexican food were delicious.

As part of my “Emeritus” park host status, Park Manager John Read had a project for me – painting two coats of preservative on the wooden wheel spokes of their 1918 large artillery piece (canon).

The Highlight of the Week – a Great Horned Owl family
What a treat! Mom, Dad, and three fledglings. The nest was in plain view in a tall tree on the lower park road. Dad spent most of his days in another tree. Mom alternated between spending time in the nest and on a nearby branch. When she was in the nest, it was very crowded.

Three baby Great Horned Owls
I set up a chair and binoculars at my campsite and then wandered the park inviting campers to come see the owls. It was a nice way to share owl information with others. (Once a teacher/camp host, always a teacher/camp host.)

On my way home
As I write this, I'm at my sister Alice's home and will drive home tomorrow. My May plans changed when I got a call that two of my granddaughters were going to have a “cousins road trip to see Grandmother for her birthday.” Good thing I am experienced at being flexible! They will arrive in Prescott Valley this coming Friday evening, will spend Saturday with me and relatives there, then will drive to Tempe on Sunday for more family visiting before driving back to California.

May plans – unless they change
I will be at home in Prescott Valley this month – then most likely head back to New Mexico for more camping.