Wednesday, January 30, 2013

West Des Moines, IA - Cold, cold, cold

Here we are in Iowa. Have I forgotten how cold it is in Iowa in the winter? Not hardly - in fact I remember it so well that I try to escape every winter for warmer climates.) We live on a pond which is frequented by lots of geese. Today I looked out the window to see two sitting on the ice. I only hoped that they were not frozen to the pond. Sure enough, one began to rise, with difficulty. It wiggled and shifted its position, then raised up off the ice, shaking one webbed foot which was covered in slush. Then it shook the second slushed foot and moved on. I guess they’re warm enough to keep the ice from freezing around them.

Later we were watching some more geese come in for a landing on the ice. They must have slid about 5’. Those black dots in the picture above are the geese sitting on the pond. You'd think they'd huddle to keep warm. 

It’s Wednesday and we’ve got the RV in our driveway, empty and covered with strange white stuff, since it snowed about 5” last night, after we had unloaded it.

Yep%25252CIAinJanuary-4-2013-01-30-19-37.jpgWe know we need to move it but we’re trying to get our lives together here, get the laundry done, unpack our Hawaii suitcases (take out the shorts and t-shirts) and pack our Fort Dodge, Iowa suitcases (put in the long johns and down jackets), and try to attain some sense of order before we leave for a few days. We also don’t have much food in the house since I was trying to get down to the bare minimum before we left for Hawaii. Traveling across the country as fast as we were didn’t leave much time for shopping.

Monday, January 28, 2013

WDM, IA - Sliding Thru the Weather Slot Canyon

Gary and I love to hike in slot canyons, the ones where you have to remove your pack to get through, the ones where you might have to leap over huge boulders wedged between the canyon walls, to get to the trail, the ones where you might have to shinny under boulders to get to the other side. The fun hikes. Well, this week we have successfully negotiated another type of slot canyon: one with weather obstacles on either side. We were returning to Iowa and the weather forecasts were for sleet and snow on Sunday, a snow storm with blizzard conditions late afternoon on Tuesday and sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday. We know we’ll never get there by Monday but we need to get there by early Tuesday afternoon or we’ll find ourselves sitting far away in our motorhome waiting for the weather to clear up so we can get back. We have a narrow little slot of time to get back.
Not only do we have to get back but we’ll also have to unpack the RV entirely or we will be unpacking in the snow: cold, wet and miserable. So, Tuesday early afternoon is our window, our small, skinny slot.

But, we’ve been terribly lucky with the weather we’ve had for our fast journey across the US this week. We found this weather map on the back page of the USA Today we were reading at breakfast and it shows this slot. The large yellow and orange bubble started with us in San Diego and moved east with us such that we are in Kansas City now, right at the top of the bubble. But, we’ve had wonderful temperatures all the way - and now they are going to end as we head further north out of the yellow bubble into the cold blue hovering over Iowa.

Monday morning we arose early in El Reno, OK, and went over to the motel for the ‘hot’ breakfast. Now, at 6:00 when it was put out, it was probably hot but by 6:45 when we arrived, it was warmed over. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, hash, bacon, hot cereal, some bread things with eggs, cheese and bacon and lots of bagels, cold cereals, etc. Pretty much what you would expect and, I probably ate more than I usually do. Then we went back to the RV where Gary ‘winterized’ He had a bucket filled with pink anitfreeze with a hose attached to our fresh water tank. I stayed inside and one by one turned on the hot water and cold water in the kitchen sink, the bathroom sind and the shower. When I could see pink, I knew we had antifreeze in the lines. Gary then did the washing machine, the ice maker and the water heater.

And, we were off for Emporia, KS. I had forgotten to bid for a motel room through Priceline until about 10:00 am when we were rolling down the highway. So, when we stopped for coffee refills, I sat there with my computer, checked the usual prices and star ratings in Emporia. I do not like to pay more than $50: that is what I bid and that is what we paid for a 2 1/2 star (the highest rating in Emporia) room in a Fairfield by Marriott.

We got there about 6:00, parked the RV in the parking lot of the next-door restaurant which is closed on Mondays and went into register. Now, we don’t have suitcases since we’re only staying a night and all of our stuff is in the RV. We’ve got all we need in a tote bag. 2 old people, a little the worse for wear, walking in at 8 pm carrying only a tote bag. Would you let these two customers in? Strange? Well they let us in and - hey, there were cookies here too. WOW, we’re on a roll.

Dinner, in a restaurant across the street was absolutely awful. I ordered a chicken club: I like club sandwiches and usually they are pretty fresh and not greasy. Big mistake. This one had 5 slices of greasy bacon which greased up the cheese, the broiled chicken and the buns. It was awful. The sandwich was so greasy and slippery that everything slid out of that bun every which way. The fries were shiny from the grease. Serves me right.

Dinner, showers and to bed - until the fire alarm went off at 5:45. Gary ran to the door but it was a false alarm. Well, we’re already awake - we might as well get up.

In the morning we had our second morning of motel breakfast. Aha, now, I remember why I like to travel by RV, eating my own food in my own dining room and not by car staying in motels, eating motel and restaurant food. This breakfast was better and much less greasy than yesterday’s. I had fresh fruit, yogurt and a bagel. Ah, much better. We met a couple who were traveling to Arizona. They told us that they had driven all day Monday through pea soup fog - that it wasn’t safe to drive more than 45 mph but that they traveled at 65 mph and watched the cars ahead of them closely. Hmmm.

We also saw a guy come into the breakfast area, get 6 hard cooked eggs, 4 muffins, 3 milks, several yogurt and head on back to his room. He returned a bit later to get 5 more eggs, 4 more muffins, some more yogurt, some fresth fruit and some other things. He must be feeding an army or else he’s storing up.

We got into the RV and headed north. Oops, we forgot to tell the West Des Moines Water Works to turn our water on. I called and they said they’d get it done by 3:00.

We drove through driving rain from Emporia which is 1 1/2 hrs from Kansas City, around KC and to the Iowa border before the rain stopped. This same storm continued on and caused flooding, tornadoes and washouts as it crossed the the eastern half of the US. Luckily, we only saw the rain. As we were heading north we saw lots of RV’s heading south. They must have been wondering why in the world we were heading north. Maybe they think our GPS is broken or was cheap.

But, the Iowa border came into view, then the signs for Des Moines and finally, we were in our own driveway. Whew.

We began in San Diego - how much further from Iowa could we have been? 2000 miles and we were home. Gary rushed into the house, turned on our water from the inside, lit the pilot light for the hot water heater and I ran around checking each faucet. I also turned on the heat in the house since we had it set for 55 degrees. I shut the refrigerator and turned it on also. I then called the Water Department and thanked them profusely for turning on our water with such little notice.

We’re good to go.

We used what remaining light we had to unload the RV and at least get everything (and I mean everything) into the house before the storm hit in the evening. Our scheme is for Gary to get everything into the house where I take over and move it all to where it goes, unpack and put away. We were moving pretty fast, fast enough that we hardly noticed that the house was a bit cold.

As we were carrying the last boxes into the house, we felt the first snowflakes. Whew, we had made it. 9:00 and time for dinner.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

El Reno, OK - Another Day Down

My, this country is big. Usually when we travel, we take it in smaller chunks and enjoy the journey as we go. This time, we’re just driving back to Iowa, taking the trip in much larger chunks and I’m not so sure that we’re enjoying the journey as much. Well, we’re enjoying the Journey since the ride is so much better than the Simba but not the journey itself.

We’ll have to say that we’ve had a great run of weather for our trip. We’re traveling back in mid-sixties temps with the sun shining in our windows. We didn’t have much choice in our travel days but were extremely lucky in those we got. We could be traveling in snow, sleet, rain, fog or wind. We’re thinking that we have 4 angels up there watching over us as we roll along: my parents and Gary’s.

Some of the territory we’re passing through is spectacular. Here’s a mesa near White Sands National Monument. We took some time to stop at a rest stop to admire the view.

Of course, we’re traveling pretty fast and are passing up terrific tourist opportunities. Oh, maybe not. We’d probably pass on this one anyway.
We finally made it to the central time zone, another hour lost, and we are outside of Oklahoma City in a small town called El Reno. Here we plan to winterize, something we haven’t had to do much in our lives. Whenever an RV goes into storage in a cold climate where the water might freeze, you need to put a special RV and marine antifreeze into all of the pipes, tanks, faucets and appliances which use water: refrigerator ice maker, washing machine, hot water heater, etc. This way no pipes can break when the temps plunge, the water freezes and ice expands.
Since we usually leave before the first frost of the winter and return only after the last frost of the spring, we haven’t winterized much except for our first two years when we left in November. This year we’ll arrive back in Iowa in in the beginning of February and we know that there will be some freezing temps very soon. Thus, we have to winterize this year. And, we need a full hook-up compground to do that.

We’ve been driving til dusk every night on this trip and usually pull into our parking space after dark. Tonight we are staying in an actual campground. We’ve spent 3 nights on the road: one in a dirt parking lot next to a loud truck, another in a visitor center parking lot with other RV’s and trucks though this time none were loud, and the third night in a Walmart parking lot. Tonight we pulled in before dusk. I went into the registration desk and was offered cookies, home-made and fresh. Ummm. This sounds good. We were also told that, since this campground is owned by a motel, that we could have the motel hot breakfast in the morning. This is sounding even better.

We got settled, Gary hooked up the electricity and we had dinner.

Now, it’s Sunday and we had heard that Hilary Clinton and President Obama were going to hold a joint interview on 60 Minutes. But, we pulled in so late that we missed it. Just didn’t think about TV. Several weeks ago, I watched the first episode of the 3rd year of Downton Abbey. I’ve never seen this program before though I’ve heard of it. However the double billing of Shirley MacLaine and Maggie Smith was a terrific draw and I wanted to watch these two great actresses together. I thought it pretty good and planned to watch it the next Sunday. I forgot to watch, of course, and now, I don’t know how many episodes I’m behind. I did remember to turn it on tonight, 5 minutes before the end of the program. Oh, well.

Time for bed and up early again tomorrow.

1300 miles down - 700 to go

Friday, January 25, 2013

El Centro,, CA - Aloha to Lug

Yesterday we said Aloha to Hawaii with tongue in cheek and today we say Aloha to Lug with a sad and heavy heart since we loved him dearly. While we were getting breakfast, we got a call from Tom, Dawn’s husband telling us that Lug had died. He had taken a turn for the worse over night and wasn’t expected to live much longer. Since he had made the decision long ago to forego radical measures, Dawn and Cathy, along with the doctors thought Hospice was the best situation for him. They moved him to the Baber Hospice House and a few hours later he died.

Now, let me tall you about Lug and the Baber House Hospice in Fort Dodge and how appropriate it was for him to die there. When his wife Darlene was dying of pancreatic cancer, because there was no actual Hospice House in Fort Dodge, she had home health care from Hospice. They had all the equipment to make her feel comfortable, they came every day and their goal was to help as much as possible and to make her as comfortable as possible. They couldn’t have been better. Lug and Darlene both thought they were wonderful. Several years ago, a new Hospice house was built in the south part of town near where Lug lives. He went over there every day and took pictures to document the growth of the building. His last pictures of this were of the landscaping and the planting of trees. He put countless hours into his project: taking the pictures, loading them into his computer, arranging them and finally making a booklet of these pictures to give to the Baber Hospice House. He deeply appreciated the work that Hospice had done for Darlene and him and was thrilled that there would be a special hospice house that could help countless others like hospice had help them.

Thus, it was so appropriate for him to spend his last hours there. But, my that was fast. So fast, that it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around the fact that he is gone. Especially since we are so far away. On the other hand, I think it went fast for Cathy and Dawn, too. None of us expected this. The last time we spoke with Lug on the phone a few days ago, he sounded chipper, had just written 3 letters on his computer and was talking about his current plans.

All we can do now is just keep on getting home, though now we have a different sense of urgency.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jamul, CA - Aloha to Hawaii

In 2010, I planned a complete trip to Florida and the southeast. We had spent the last two winters snowbirding in the Desert Southwest and thought a change was due. After I had gotten it all planned and I knew where we were going to stay and what we might see in each spot, I presented it to Gary for his comments and suggestions. Florida is much more expensive than the Desert Southwest since there are fewer resorts and many more people vying for them. I was being told that I had to make a full deposit to hold a site and that, if we cancelled, I would lose at least half of the deposit. More expensive, more difficult to get into and more difficult to get out of - the Florida resorts were challenging. After reviewing our plans we both decided that we wanted to be able to return to Iowa at a moment’s notice should Gary’s father, who was 88 at the time, get sick and need our help.

Thus, we’ve been going to Arizona and California for the winters. However, for this winter I planned an 11-day trip to Hawaii. What could be the problem with 11 days? Hmmm. Now I know.

Today we spent some time on the phone with Dawn, Gary’s sister who lives near Iowa City and is a nurse, who had gone to Fort Dodge to be with Lug and to assess his situation. Meanwhile, Cathy, Gary’s other sister who was spending a month in Austin, TX had retuned to Fort Dodge also. Lug’s situation is serious and, though he has been moved out of the CCU and into a regular hospital bed, will probably be in the hospital for a while. Now, do you think Gary and I can go to Hawaii? And, I’m sure you’d give the same answer that we did. No. And, we decided that we would head on back to Iowa, RV and all. We don’t know how long we’d be in Iowa and why leave the RV in California not knowing the future?

We then spent about an hour on the phone with Priceline canceling the plane, the hotel, the shuttle and the car that I had reserved for Hawaii. We will get most of our money back, and since I had bought trip insurance, will be able to put in a claim for the rest this way.

I’ve said that I fret lots about things that might happen, about things that might not happen, about things that have absolutely no chance of happening. In short, I am a world class fretter. I could earn an Olympic Gold in fretting. Recently, I’ve spent some time hoping that we would not get the flu right before our trip to Hawaii. Well, we’ve dodged that bullet. But now, it’s a much more serious fret.

We headed back to the RV, readied it for travel and we’re off. We wanted to get at least a few miles under our belts before we set in for the night. We left about 4:00 pm. We have never left in the afternoon for another campground. In fact, we’ve seen people leave in the afternoon and have wondered where in the world were they going at this late hour. Now, we’re giving others in this campground a reason to wonder about those crazy people from Iowa who are leaving now.

Our plan was to drive over the mountain range and get down to the central California plains. Unfortunately, we had gotten a late start and didn’t get down before dark. Coming off the summit of the mountains is about a 15 mile weaving drive with a 6% grade through a canyon. It’s exciting in the daylight and really exciting at night, following the trucks and being passed by the cars.

Our ‘campground’ for the night was a big lot that trucks and RV’s park in. We played truck stop roulette and sometimes we win at this and sometimes we’d don’t. This time we didn’t, we parked next to a truck that ran its motor all night. ALL NIGHT. ALL NIGHT. Uff dah. It did affect our sleep patterns but, at least we were awake early to make an early start.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jamul, CA - Hospitals and Family

A busy day. On January 19, our first trip out of the campground, we went to the local Starbucks, 8 miles up the road in ‘civilization’ and spent some time getting e-mails, paying bills and making phone calls, things we can’t do in the campground. At that time we found out that my uncle, Fred, was having real troubles with his left leg. He had a blockage above the knee and above his ankle such that blood could not easily get to his foot. He’s had several infections and his doctor told him that he needed to get ‘bypass’ surgery. I thought that ‘bypass’ meant heart surgery but, in this case, it means any surgery which creates a blood flow passageway around a blockage and his bypass was going to be in his left leg.

And, today we went into the hospital to see him. Well, first we had to find the hospital. He had told us Mercy Hospital and, like a simpleton, I didn’t say ‘which Mercy?’ Oops. But luckily, there are only 4 Mercy Hospitals in the San Diego area. Only 4? But we figured out which one he was at, probably the Mercy Central which is the closest to his home. Here’s the irony: as we were making the last turn into the hospital parking lot, my brother-in-law, Tom, called to tell us that Gary’s father, Lug, had been taken to the Emergency Room of the hospital in Fort Dodge, Ia. with excruciating stomach pains. Oh, no, but Tom said he was on his way up to assess the situation. Ironically, Cathy, Tom’s wife and Gary’s sister, is staying a month in a rented condo in Austin, Texas where their daughter lives.

But, we were at the hospital to see Fred and could only wait for Tom’s return call. We popped in on Fred without warning and I think he was glad to have the distraction. And, if anything, Gary and I are good distractions. At one point, we thought we’d let him have some rest and he was pretty insistent that he was not tired and wanted us to stay. I think he was lonely. Finally we left about 1:00, knowing that my aunt, Marilyn, was coming, got our computers and headed into the cafeteria. I thought soup sounded heavenly and they had 7 bean soup. Sure enough, there were 7 different types of beans: lima, pea, kidney, navy, chickpea, green and black. (Let’s see, how many others counted the number of types of beans in the soup today?) It was hot, delicious and hit the spot. The banana did also. We did some online work and then headed back to Fred’s room to see Marilyn.

Since his curtain was closed and she was not there, we sat outside the elevator to greet here. It was great. She got off, looked at us, looked away, looked at us again then turned to walk towards Fred’s room. ‘Not so fast,’ I said. And then she recognized us. We were out of context and she did not expect to see us there so didn’t. Hugs all around but when we settled into talking, I suggested that we meet her for dinner later and she could then spend some time with Fred.

Gary and I then hiked over to the nearest Wells Fargo for some money for Hawaii. And, believe me, it ended up as a hike down and then up some dirt cliffs rather than a city walk to get to the bank. We’ll take the city walk on the way back. But, we can find hikes anywhere we go.

Dinner was great and we enjoyed the chance to catch up with Marilyn. Unfortunately time passes quickly and we took Marilyn home and headed back to our RV. We knew we’d return to this area after we had been in Hawaii and we all thought we’d see each other again then.

In the evening, Dawn, Gary’s younger sister and a registered nurse, called to say she had driven to Fort Dodge to be with Lug in the hospital. She obviously understands lots more about the hospital process, sickness and Lug’s condition than we could. She is obviously concerned but said that his condition was stable for the time being. The doctors were trying to get his pancreas, which was inflamed, back to normal so they could do a CAT scan to see what was going on inside him that was causing his so much trouble. There are other problems but this is the most serious right now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jamul, CA - Getting Ready

Yesterday we went into civilization to spend some time online and on the phone. We sat in a Starbucks, drank some coffee and savored a morning cinnamon roll. Then I ruined these good vibes by trying to ‘shop’, which I dislike intently. I don’t mind shopping for a book, or a new mustard or a new computer but I really do not like shopping for clothing. Firstly, the styles left me long ago. Women’s clothing these days is too short, too tight, too sheer and too skimpy. Most clothes I see in stores I wouldn’t wear in a closet with the lights off. Secondly, the sizes left me long ago also. I used to be a 6, then a 4, then I could fit into some 2’s. And, I haven’t changed so I never know which size to try on.

Thirdly there are the colors: neon orange, neon pink and neon puke green. I was talking with a guy who was stocking the women’s ‘cute’ sweatshirt section and he told me that the navy and grey sweats are all gone. ‘But, I’ve got these left’ he said as he pointed to the aforementioned neon colors.

However, I’ve solved this shopping problem: I keep what I have and don’t shop. This works most of the time but every time I need something new.

So there I am in a Kohl’s, shopping. Did I find any bras? Nope, I think even the training bras are padded now. Did I find a light jacket? Only if I wanted to be seen in a dark room. Did I find a pair of shoes? Actually, I did. But, in the box they were attached to each other by a coiled chain, obviously to prevent theft. I put both of the shoes on and, with this little coiled chain between them, tried to walk. I felt like a prisoner being led to my cell.

Oh, well. I don’f have to go through this torture too often. Afterwards we went to Target to buy some of the little 3-oz. traveling sizes of things like lotion, conditioner, sunscreen, etc.

Then we got to make some phone calls before we go back down to our campground in the no-contact zone. My uncle Fred, who lives in San Diego, who we always visit when we’re here, is having a leg operation to open some blockages above his ankle and knee. He was scheduled for Friday, then Monday, then Tuesday and now he goes into the hospital for some tests on Tuesday and has his operation on Thursday. We’re going to try to see him on Wednesday but, in the hospital, we don’t know if we’ll be able to get in.

We’re having some strange meals these days since I’m trying to use up the produce I’ve got in the refrigerator. Last night we had some twice-baked potatoes paired with a salad. I think we’ll have a salad again tonight.

Today we packed our suitcases to see if everything we wanted to take with us to Hawaii fits. Yep, it does and we might even have some extra space. (For souvenirs?) Of course, we’re doing laundry so everything is clean.

I’ve also got a schedule for our trip

We also arranged our storage spot for our RV. We can go into a section of the campground that has storage spots with electricity. On Thursday afternoon, we’ll move to that spot and stay overnight. When we get back from Hawaii, at 1:00 am we can get into our RV to stay overnight. All pretty convenient.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jamul, CA - Lured Up the 'Hill'

SearchingforaCellPhoneSignal-1-2013-01-18-20-22.jpgGuess what? We hiked today. Our goal was Otay Mountain, which we could see from the campground. A do-able hike, probably 4 miles. We should finish by noon and will have the afternoon free to do as we want. We had seen it from the campground and knew it wasn’t far. Right. The lesson we’ve learned once, twice and thrice is that there is always a higher peak in the background, hidden behind the shorter peak. And, today was no exception to this rule. Otay Mountain was actually 6 miles up. What if we had known this before we started? Hmmm. But, the best part about this hike is that we can start right from our RV, go out the gate to the campground and there’s the road up right there. No long drives to and from the trailhead.

We started about 9:30, later than we usual because the peak is not too high and the trailhead is so close. Actually, the ‘trail’ is a dirt road leading up to the top of the hill. Road hikes tend to be more straight up than filled with switchbacks since cars can go straight up. We humans like switchbacks but it is what it is and we’re on our way. We got a ways up to a spot where we could overlook the campground and Gary tried to find a signal so we might be able to get our e-mails. Sure enough, our e-mails came in, slowly, but they did come in. We also got a phone call up there.

And, we continued to climb. The trail continued its route inexorably upward. The views were awesome, a better one around each corner. And, then we could see the Pacific Ocean with Otay Lake (reservoir) in the foreground, a real bonus.

Then we saw an AT&T truck making a ‘routine service visit' to the AT&T antenna on top of the mountain.
HikingOtayMountain-14-2013-01-18-20-22.jpgI hope he doesn’t meet anyone coming up on his way down. This road looks pretty narrow with a real drop off on the outside edge. And, there are no guard rails. The whole road was this way. But, probably just another normal day in his job. Someone’s got to service those cell towers. And, where are they? On the highest peak in the area. And, when do they go bad? On windy or rainy days which makes this trip even more ‘fun.’ And, then, he’s got to contend with stupid hikers who think they can climb this road. Of course, we flatlanders think this is pretty precarious.

Below you can see the ranges of mountains in Mexico across the way. And, yes, we did meet a Border Patrol Agent coming down this road also.

HikingOtayMountain-12-2013-01-18-20-22.jpgWe kept rounding corners and facing another uphill climb. Another corner, another view of an upward slog. But, finally, we saw the top. And, by the way the crow flies, we could have been there pretty quickly. As the road wound its way around the peaks, it was another 2 miles. In fact, the road wound 3/4 of the way around behind the peak and the final ascent was on the other side of the towers. Shucks.

HikingOtayMountain-11-2013-01-18-20-22.jpgLunch, a break to take in the views and time to watch the crows fly around the towers. Last year we climbed San Miguel which is several miles away. We were happy to see that this peak was higher and our trail today was longer than that. But, we’ve got to make it down and we expected an easy descent. Long but easy. Then we saw a shortcut, following the ATV road under the electric poles. that was pretty good until we hit this part. Rocky, eroded, 19% grade and treacherous. Gary navigated it well, but, me, I had my poles out and went very slowly. Downs are not my best and rocky, rutty downs are my worst. At the bottom, Gary caught my expression of relief.
Nancydoesn%252527tlikeGary%252527sShortcut-2-2013-01-18-20-22.jpgBut, then, as we’re descending, I’m asking myself: ice cream or soda, soda or ice cream from the little campground store? Kept me going most of the way down.

A fun hike: a beautiful warm sunny day, we got to see the ocean, we got to see another country, we had marvelous views, we bested another hike in the area and had a soda at the end. No Bad Days. But, will we be able to walk when we get up tomorrow morning? tune in then.

13 3264’

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jamul, CA - Crossing Over

Hey, do you know how to pronounce Jamul? Well, I certainly didn’t since I really wasn’t thinking that it was a Spanish name. I mispronounced it with a hard J as in Jack and the accent on the second syllable. Nope, it’s Hamul with the accent on the first syllable. Now I know.

ScenesaroundtheResort-6-2013-01-17-19-18.jpgThere are two sides to the campground. One side, the south side, has full hook-ups and is obviously the most popular side. The north side has only water and electric hook-ups, with no sewer. We had a reservation and were guaranteed a site but, by the time we arrived yesterday, all of the full hook-ups sites were taken and we had to go to the north side. Now, we can handle not having a sewer and there actually was a dump available. However, we’re leaving for Hawaii in about a week and want to do our laundry before then and will need a sewer to do that. So, we put our name on a list for ‘crossing over’ to the south side.

Here’s the process. We were 7th on the list which meant that today at 8:00 am we were supposed to meet at the Ranger Station with all the others who wanted to 'cross over.' The Rangers would know by then what RV’s were going to be leaving today and what sites were available for new RV’s. However, of the 10 people on the list, only 4 showed up and, instead of being # 7, we were 3rd. Thus, #1 and #2 chose the sites they wanted and we chose site #8. We went to look at it, deemed it fine for our uses and went back to our rig to ready it for the move to the other side of the campground. You can see our rig in our new campsite above. 
And, we have ‘crossed over.’ Sure sounds like a religious experience to me but, it was far from that. The views from our site are great, since we can see up to the hills circling our valley. But, remember, hills are a real magnet for us. We look up to the highest point, Otay Mountain, and want to be there. Yep, there it is - off in the distance, the highest hill - on the left, luring us on. We can see the road near the top, circling the final curve. That’s certainly do-able. At least that’s what we thought. Are we all set, or what? In fact, Gary’s already singing s ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from the Sound of Music.

Meanwhile we walked the campground, it’s about 2.3 miles from end to end. And, we added some as we walked, exploring it all. We found one of the 2 pools.
ScenesaroundtheResort-8-2013-01-17-19-18.jpgWe found the ‘high’ point by the basketball court where the best reception was and there are already 2 chairs up there for people to sit although that chair looks almost impossible to sit in. You can see one of our neighbors making a call. He had run over the electrical hook-up at his site the previous day. This is not a common occurrence but it does happen. Gary is standing near the antenna further up the hill.
We found the restaurant where we will have breakfast some morning.

There is a lot of storage where we figure San Diegans store their RV’s for the time when they get vacation and can take a week or two up here. One of the storage lots has electrical hook-ups and, we’ll put our RV into this storage when we leave for Hawaii.

5.3 in the campground

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Palm Springs, CA to San Diego, CA - Slow Trip

We’re finally on the move. Yesterday, our trip consisted of 8 miles from a campground to a casino out lot. Gary teases me that all the singers from our generation are now singing in casinos: Bonnie Raitt, Dion, Moody Blues.

Today, we leave Palm Springs, circle north around the San Jacinto mountains through the pass where the wind has calmed down and south to the San Diego area. Not a long trip but we manage to make it last a day. Actually, we stopped about 1/3 of the way here to replenish our coffee and spied a Verizon. Gary had some questions and it was convenient and so we stopped in. And, guess what, today, when we got there, we were eligible for 3 upgrades. Not just 1 but 3. Surprise, surprise, surprise. We keep our stuff so long that we’re always eligible for upgrades. So we bit and spent about 45 minutes there getting our wi-fi gadget upgraded. A free upgrade and a $50 Visa card to boot. But this Verizon stop sure put us behind schedule.

Then we spent about 45 minutes trying to get directions to the campground where we’re headed. One of the rangers there gave us directions from the wrong direction. We were coming from the west on Interstate 8 and he gave us directions for coming from the east on 8. We had our I Pad, our I Phone, several maps out and couldn’t find any of the roads he was referencing. No wonder, we were about 25 miles off. We called back and got the correct instructions. Finally we were off, but about we’re about now 2 hours behind schedule. Yeah, you say, who has a schedule when you’re retired? Yes, I say, but do you want to be driving down the freeways in San Diego during rush hour? We sure don’t so we wanted to be on our way.

Riding in an RV where we’re up high gives us a spectacular view of the scenery around us, the hills, the valleys, the cliffs, etc. But it also gives us a spectacular view of the traffic around us. We can see all the jerks who weave in and out, who decide that their exit is right here when they are still in the passing lane, who cut others off and who pass and jump right in front of you. Can they not see us? Are we not big enough? Sometimes, I’m amazed that there are not more accidents than there are. We saw a motorcycle cut in front of us and then in front of a semi as he tried to get to the exit 3 lanes away from his. Wowsa, wowsa.

But, the trip passed without incident unless you count my nibbling my fingernails to the nub an incident. No, actually, my fingernails are fine but sometimes the traffic in large cities after 3:30 when you are driving a 57’ rig is a ‘bit’ hectic.

MagicTouchimprovesTVReception-2-2013-01-16-20-28.jpgActually, our campground is in Jamul, the far south western outermost suburb of San Diego, probably about 4 or 5 miles from the border. Firstly we are in a winding valley in amongst some high foothills and secondly, we are so far ‘outermost’ that we can get only NBC on our TV but not without some gyrations. First let me explain that we have an antenna which lies on the top of our RV when we are on the road. When we get to a campsite, I turn a knob and raise this antenna so that it is about 2’ above our rig. And, that’s how we get TV reception. Many RV’ers have dishes and get their reception that way. I’ll admit that we do have a dish on our rig, installed by the previous owner. But, we don’t watch TV enough to use this and pay for any reception. So, we take what we can get on the TV antenna.

However, here at this campground, even when we can get our one station, it plays for a while and then breaks up. That means that I've got to adjust the antenna. Once, when the picture on the TV was breaking up, I reached for the antenna knob to turn it a different direction and just my reaching towards it cleared up the picture. Now, when the picture breaks up, I stand, reach up and the picture clears up almost immediately. 

Of course, we do get lots of other stations but they are all in Spanish since we’re only 4 miles from the border. Have you ever listened to Bart Simpson in Spanish? Well, I have and I’m not so sure that he’s any smarter. We also have no cell phone service and our own Verizon wi-fi gadget just twirls and twirls searching for a satellite. We can use it in Belgium but we can’t use it in Jamul, CA. Here we are, we’ve just got this exciting new gadget which will give us faster wi-fi and we can’t get wi-fi at all. Even Verizon doesn’t reach this far.

So, as you can guess, we are OFF the grid.

But here’s the interesting part. 8 miles through the canyon, around the reservoir and up the hill is a huge mall with Lowes, Costco, grocery stores, Starbucks, Target and anything else you might imagine. Thousands of homes surround this mall and I’m sure they have all kinds of service. But, hey, we’re camping, aren’t we? Since when did the criteria for a good campground become wi-fi coverage, TV reception and cell phone service? But, but, but, what are we going to do?

Wouldn’t you guess, my clever husband, downloaded all the nearby hikes when we were in Palm Springs and had great wi-fi coverage. They’re on his cell phone and we can find them to hike.

5.35 through the campground, it' a big campground.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Palm Springs - 'Wind Event'

And, look at this great campground. Oops, it looks like a dirt parking lot with lots of RV’s on it. No palm trees, no grass, no hook-ups, why in the world would anyone camp here? Well - it’s free for some. For others, it’s next to a casino. For us, it’s a place to hunker down while we wait for the winds to die down through the passes.

Our reservation in the Palm Springs campground ended today and we were supposed to move on to our next campground, in Jamul, the far eastern suburb of San Diego where we plan to stay until we leave for Hawaii. Our route takes us west out of the Coachella Valley on Interstate 10 over the Banning Pass between the San Jacinto Mountains and the Gorgonios towards Los Angeles. When we get over the pass, we turn south towards San Diego. At least that’s the geographic plan. The weather plan is something entirely different. Unfortunately there is a ‘wind event’ which means that we’ve got a wind advisory through the pass. Especially for those of us in what are called ‘high clearance’ vehicles. Since we’re 12’7”, that means us. Wind gusts of upwards of 45 and 60 miles per hour are expected through the pass.

Remember how we just got our RV washed and waxed? Well, the ‘wind event took care of that. Here’s the view out out window towards the RV next to us. All those little dots are minute pieces of sand that cover our RV. Oops. But, luckily we aren’t getting it cleaned today as some RV owners are.

And we will ‘pass’ on trying to make it through the pass today. I’ve called the Jamul campground and they have moved our reservation to Wednesday, mentioning that we are not the first ones calling to change. However we now need a place to stay overnight. A common place for RV’ers to stay when they are just passing through and do not need any hook-ups, is in casino parking lots. They are usually very big and the casinos, hoping to empty our pockets, often encourage RV’ers to stay. And, some casinos have even put in full campgrounds. As we have driven around Palm Spring, we have noticed a casino named Fantasy Springs which has a large parking lot and, every time we pass by it, we notice RV’s and some trucks in the outer lot. It’s only 8 miles down the highway, we can hunker out there to wait out the wind event and travel on to Jamul tomorrow.

So, we hung around our current campground until noon (since we could use their electricity til then) and moved 8 miles on down the road to our new ‘campground’ and here we are. Look how many RV’s are here. Some are here for more than just a night, I’m thinkin.’ They’ve got their chairs and some front door mats out. But, check out the view - beautiful.
CasinoCampingfor1Night-4-2013-01-15-19-32.jpgMeanwhile, we thought we’d check out the casino - you know how much Gary and I like to gamble. The last time we were in a casino, we had to ask one of the attendants how to play the slots. Dumb and Dumber in the casino. Gary had gone to use the bathroom and I was standing there alone and - get this - a guy winked at me as he walked by - behind his wife. Winked at me? He must have had a piece of dirt in his eye.

Meanwhile, Gary found a slot machine just for him: ‘Cops and Donuts.’ Look at that gleeful face. And, how much money did he win at this? Well, first you’ve got to put money in.

Gary and I did get our walk in around the area and returned for our dinner.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m complaining about the cold but it has been a bit cool out here. Some friends of ours are in Tucson where the lows last night got into the teens. Now, RV’s aren’t really insulated for cold like this. We have furnaces and water heaters and most RV’ers can tell stories about waking up and finding snow on their rigs. We can, too. But RV manufacturers made RV’s for warm temperatures not freezing temps. That means that I’ve got my hiking socks on, my flannel lined nylon pants, a fleece jacket and will be snacking on hot cereal tonight before bed.

In fact, it’s time for ‘snack’ now.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Palm Springs - On the Water

Yep, we usually take hiking adventures but today we’ve decided to take a kayak adventure, out on the Salton Sea. Lots of RV’ers have kayaks tied to the top of their tow car and enjoy kayaking. Gary and I have never gotten into that and figure that, if we ever do, we can rent kayaks wherever we go. But, yesterday a the Salton Sea SP, we signed up for the guided kayak tour of the shoreline of the Sea with all the birds which winter along it. One kind of bird which winters here are white pelicans.

We relaxed around the RV in the morning but headed out about 10:45 for the 60-minute drive to the Park. It was cool, in the 50’s but sunny and the wind on the sea had calmed down. A gorgeous day for a kayak trip. We both had hiking pants, long-sleeve t-shirts, a wind shirt and a ‘base-layer’ turtleneck. We had taken gloves and ear warmers but did not need them in the sun. There was one other couple - he was in shorts (imagine that) who were in separate kayaks like we were and another couple who were in one kayak and a single woman along with two from the park.

The Salton Sea is an inland sea with an interesting history. It used to be part of the Gulf of California near where the Colorado emptied into it. Then silt built up and formed a natural dam making the Salton Sea an inland sea rather than part of a larger bay. At this point, it is saltier than the ocean and, because it is inland and not fed by any river or other continual source of water, it is evaporating. Then, because lots of agricultural land does drain into it, it has a lots of chemicals and this is depriving the main fish of the Sea, the talapia, of oxygen and they are dying. However, there are still loads in the Sea and many fishermen ply the shores. 

KayakingonSaltonSea-3-2013-01-14-14-46.jpgMany studies have been done on how to save it but it’s all about the money and money is scarce.

First, of course, we had to get some instruction on how to paddle. Both Gary and I have kayaked before but it was a long time ago and we appreciated the instruction. In the picture above we are on the beach all decked out for a day on the water. You can tell that the temps were a bit cool since we’re all dressed in layers and in warm clothes.

It was difficult to hear what the docent was saying since he kept ahead of most of us and we’re spread out over a bit of distance with our kayaks. I’m not sure I learned much about the birds which winter around here but I certainly relished the chance to be out on the water for a different view of the area. The whole trip was 2 hours long and we cruised along the shore for a while. Then the other two couples wanted to turn back and took one of the park people with them while we and the single woman stayed with the docent and cruised some more. Lots of the time we were just enjoying the time on the water rather than talking about the birds.

I spotted those balloons out on the water and retrieved them to take back to shore for the trash. Looks like I’ve got the ‘Party Boat’ here.
Finally we had to head in. When we got back to the small harbor where we had started, the trick was to paddle as fast as we could towards the ramp to get enough speed to get as far up the ramp as we could. Then we cleaned the kayaks and took off back to the RV.
Fun day and interesting adventure.

I found one more picture from our slot canyon hike yesterday to show how slotty the canyon really was. Here’s Gary shinnying through without his pack on since the pack wouldn’t fit. This is a narrow canyon but then that’s the thrill. Slot canyons are narrow, windy and then they'll open up to a large wash. Shortly after that, they'll narrow again. It's this undulation that makes them interesting.   Of course, hiking a slot canyon during a rain storm is treacherous. The water flows off the hills and down the walls into the slot. Where the slot narrows, the water flows high and fast. 

Palm Springs - No Bad Days, No Bad Views


I really like Palm Springs but then I really liked Death Valley NP, San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, Liberal, KS (except for the slide malfunction part), Utah, Chiracahua NP, Baker, NV - well, you probably get the drift. But, here in Palm Springs I especially like the juxtapostion of the warmth and palm trees of the Coachella Valley with the snow on the mountain tops of San Jacinto. I don’t care where you stand in this valley, the view is stupendous. Here is our site in the campground. See what I mean about the palm trees against the background of the snow on San Jacinto? How can you get tired of looking at this?

StreetFair-2-2013-01-14-12-10.jpgThere is a Saturday/Sunday Street Fair at the College of the Desert in towards Palm Springs where everything is sold: blingy shorts, blingy dark glasses, blingy shoes, blingy jewelry, blingy hats, you name it, here in PS it’s blingy. No navy walking shorts - they’ve got to be hot pink short shorts with fake diamonds along the seams and orange trim on the pockets. (I’ve bought 3 pair.) However, it’s great for people watching, listening to music while noshing in the shade and buying loads of red flame raisins to last a few weeks. We go for those three. Ya gotta have priorities. Here’s Gary gleefully anticipating a hot dog with onions and pickle relish. The only little fly in his ointment is that he’s got to ‘cut’ part off for me. Is that a coffee stirrer he’s using for cutting?
Here’s a typical street scene at the fair. Luckily it was a warm weekend.
But, again, there are no bad views. When we left the street fair, I took a picture looking one way towards one range of mountains, the San Jacintos and then the other direction towards the Santa Rosas. A third direction has the Gorgonios and in the fourth direction, you’d be looking at Joshua Tree National Park with its mountains. There are just no bad views here.



When we were driving back from our kayak trip, we noticed these vehicles also coming up the road. They’ve probably been out in the desert with their toys and now have to head back to work. But, next weekend, they’ll run their toys up onto their trailer, hitch it up to their truck or RV and head out to the desert again. We see this every time we hit the highways around here. Not something we ever saw in Iowa. These two vehicles seemed to be together - lots of toys and an RV to live in when not out on the desert


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Palm Springs - Ladders and Slot Canyons

After we left Slab City, we headed north along side the Salton Sea, a haven for birds in the winter. We’re always looking for neat places to camp and here, on the Salton Sea, facing the Sea itself, looking out over the beach towards the setting sun would be heavenly. We’ll keep this in mind. At one beach we got out of the car to walk along it to see the birds. 

We also stopped at the Visitor Center for the Salton Sea State Park where we learned of a neat docent led kayak trip Sunday at noon. We signed up since that sounded like fun and we don’t kayak very much. Well, to tell the truth, the last time we kayaked was 8 years ago near Las Vegas where we put into the Colorado River right below the Hoover Dam and got out about 8 miles later at Willow Beach. We thought that since the water was flowing from the dam down the Colorado to the Sea that the current would be with us and make for an easy paddle. Nope. Wrong. Big Mistake. The wind blows north UP the canyon and it was a slog of a paddle. But we stopped at hot springs and caves and ate lunch on the beach and it was a cool adventure.

HikinginMeccaHillsagain-12-2013-01-12-22-01.jpgBut, our main goal was the Ladders hike. Now, we’ve done this before but we’ve enjoyed it so much, that we’ve actually done this every time we’re in Palm Springs. Slot canyons, ladders to get from one level to another, boulders to clamber over - what’s not to like? However, the slots wind around for several miles, there are many different ones branching off and, when you finally get out on top of the hills, there are many paths back. Sounds like a full day of hiking, right? And, if you thought that, you’d be right. However we’ve already had a full day, it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, the sun vanishes behind the mountains about 5:00 and - everyone else who hiked here today was streaming out as we were entering. They must have wondered what those two old geezers were doing beginning a never-ending hike at 3:30. And, truth to tell, we might have also. But, it’s all about the adventure.
As we were heading in we met two families with kids heading out. Well, first we heard the echoes of their shouts and laughter as they scrambled down the ladders and around the bounders. They had hiked this trail yesterday and, since the kids had enjoyed it so much, they were hiking it again.

And here’s a picture of Gary climbing one of the ladders. ‘Nancy, you took this same picture last year, how many pictures of my tush on a ladder do you need?’ ‘But, Sweetums, that’s the only way to show what we’re doing.’

Anyway, it’s a neat slot canyon that requires some boulder clambering before you enter the slot. Then, once in the slot, you need ladders to climb from one level to another. Who ever thought that Gary was such an intrepid hiker? Here he is clambering over a large boulder wedged between the two walls of the canyon. Me, I shinnied under the boulder, both coming and going.

We love this hike and it was difficult to turn back. Finally, after Gary climbed a rock fall to the top of the ridge, he reported that he wasn’t sure which way we had taken out last year and that we’d better head back the way we had come in. OK. And, sure enough, as we were driving off in our car, dusk descended. Whew, just in time.
HikinginMeccaHillsagain-15-2013-01-12-22-01.jpg HikinginMeccaHillsagain-23-2013-01-12-22-01.jpg
We met a lot of interesting people and saw lots of interesting things on this road trip. We met Bren who was hitchhiking to the Internet Cafe in the slabs, we saw Salvation Mountain and we hiked the Ladders hike one more time. A three-fer. I’ll leave you with two pictures of the slot, one looking down it and one looking up.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Palm Springs - Slab City and Salvation Mountain

So, have you heard of Slab City? No, well, neither had Gary nor I until we started traveling around in our motor home. It began back during WWII when the government needed some land for Marine anti-aircraft gunners preparing to go to war. Here the would-be gunners lived and practiced on large concrete slabs and bunkers at what was then called Camp Dunlap. When the war ended and the base closed in 1946, the marines moved on and others moved in and the name Slab City was born. Today it is home to hundreds of people who live here year round and many others who snowbird here in the winter. Of course there is no electricity, no running water, no sewers but we passed the Internet Cafe, visited a ‘National Treasure’ called Salvation Mountain and hear that if you want to put solar panels on your RV, you can find no better man to do it than Solar Mike of Sun Works, right in Slab City.
Here’s the community bulletin board where anyone can put announcements. I also understand that there is a library.
It’s a beautiful sunny day but the temps are in the 50’s so a road trip to Slab City about 65 minutes south sounds like the perfect thing to do. We wanted to see Slab City and especially Salvation Mountain right outside of the town of Niland. As we drove in over a paved but rough and pot-holed road we spotted Salvation Mountain ahead of us but in front of the Mountain was a hitchhiker named Bren who wanted a ride to the Internet Cafe. She and some friends were living in tarps down here for a week. She told us that she had done her laundry today - in the creek behind their tent - but now was heading to the cafe. We wove around the slabs, down Tank Road and, sure enough, there was the Internet Cafe, just like she told us.
Intrigued, we then wandered around some more, down this road and that, all dirt roads but there were many people living here permanently. Obviously all the slabs themselves were occupied since they were the choice spots, being off the ground. We also found a section where there were many transient campers - those snowbirds who were here for a day, a week, a month or for the whole winter. 
Above is a home on a slab. We found this decorated truck out side this elaborately landscaped home. There were other artistic trucks but this one certainly caught our eye.
Obviously, Slab City is inhabited by all sorts of interesting characters, all living fairly cheaply off the grid and on their own.

However, one of our goals was to see Salvation Mountain, about which we had heard a lot and, since the creator and artist no longer lives here, we wanted to see it before it deteriorated. It is the creation of Leonard Knight who moved to the Slabs in the 1980’s with a vision of creating something which would illustrate his belief that God loves everyone. He took a 3-story tall mound of dirt and sand and sculpted it, designed it, painted it and illustrated it with Bible sayings and scripture and other religious thoughts of his. He sculpted it with adobe and hundreds of thousands of gallons of paint, mostly donated. Some of this paint is the same yellow as the yellow stripe running down highways. Does he have some CalTrans admirers? The Mountain itself is about 3 stories high and as wide as a football field.

Here is a section of his mountain featuring a flower garden and a waterfall off to the right. The colors throughout the Mountain are amazing - not a dark color or a dark thought anywhere to be found. 
But he had not just CalTran admirers: Huell Howser interviewed him and featured him on one of his California Gold TV program. In 2002 CA Senator Barbara Boxer got Salvation Mountain approved as a National Treasure. PBS and the BBC have both made documentaries about Knight and his work. Even film director/actor Sean Penn featured Knight in his 2007 film “Into the Wild.”
And today, not only did we visit but we saw at least 20 others visiting and admiring while we were there. But, here is the problem. Mr. Knight has been placed in a local care facility as he has a bit of dementia and his art work is being tended by volunteers. But the threats to its longevity are many: weather and visitors being the largest threats. Vandals are another. Since his creation is only adobe covered with paint, as weather wears away the paint, so will go the adobe. As people climb all over his creation, they will wear it away. And, everyone who visited that we saw, climbed on the Mountain, except, of course, Gary and I.
Salvation Mountain itself needs some salvation now.

An amazing creation and we thought it well worth the trip. But, our second goal of the day is to hike again on the Ladders Trail in Painted Canyon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Palm Springs - Errands or The Adventure Never Ends

Today is an errand day and what better way to begin errands than to make an ‘errand’ to a good breakfast restaurant? Gary and I prefer breakfast out over any other meal. Eating dinner out is too much food too late in the day and, by the time you get home and shower, it’s too late to get anything done. We can also read the newspaper during breakfast and eating dinner out at night we’d have to talk. Nothing against talk but Gary and I live together 24-7, experience most of the same things at the same time and can talk about them when they happen. Finally, truth to tell, dinner out costs more than Gary and I probably want to spend on a meal. But, you already knew that, right?

A friend of ours, Mary, who is very much in the know, recommended Don and Sweet Sue’s several years ago. We tried it then, enjoyed it and headed up there today. Again a delightful breakfast and a nice way to start the day. We’ve been having some problems with my computer backing up and connecting with our printer so have an appointment at the Apple store. However, before the 11:45 appointment, Gary wanted to try one more thing and the library was the choice. I can always occupy my time in a library and found a book about a guy who hiked 40 4000’ mountains in the White Mountains in 40 days with his dog, Atticus Finch. Someday I’ll have to read the rest of the book since I only got through the first 3 chapters.
Meanwhile, we noticed a wind storm building up and tumbleweeds tumbling around in the wash below. Looks like some people will have to dust.

At the Apple store - well, I only have Gary’s story about that since I stayed in the car and read on my I Pad. I would love to spend some time in the Apple store with the Apple I Pad mini but I’d probably come down with a severe case of I Pad envy and that’s not pretty. So I consoled myself with the I Pad I have. And, that’s not too difficult since I’ve got lots on it. I put some of our magazine subsctiptions on it, I’ve got crossword puzzles, I’ve got some books and some other stuff. It’s not too difficult to entertain myself with my I Pad.

Next was Costco. Now, Costco is not just a shopping errand, it’s a shopping adventure. Who among you who are Costco customers do not find it fun roaming the food aisles to see what new products they have? Who among you does not enjoy sampling all the foods they have on every corner tempting you to buy some new product? Today we sampled:

        mini cream puffs - heavenly

        spiral ham - and where would I keep a 10-lb ham in this motorhome?

        baked potato soup - delicious but a bowl contains 37% of your daily requirement of salt - Whoo-eee

        trail mix - good but I can’t have trail mix in the house - I have no will power

        gooey cinnamon rolls - delicious but ditto

        crackers with canned chicken on them - we’ve bought both of these in the past

        pizza mini-slices - we actually bought a package of these since the crust was as soft as a cloud

Do we need lunch now? Nope. But - could we find a space in our stomachs for one of their pure beef hot dogs? You bet.

Then home to unpack and try to stuff what we bought into our rather small home. On the whole, Costco is great if you live in a home and can buy 40-oz bags of shredded cheese, 48-count packs of toilet paper and 2-50 ounce jugs of laundry detergent. We are space-challenged to say te least and thus have to watch our purchases.

Palm Springs, CA - Just Another Hike

‘May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.’ Edward Abbey

HikingArtSmithTrail-17-2013-01-10-20-47.jpgLast night about 9:00, Gary said we should hike today. At 9:00? pm? Sure - I’m always up for a hike. thus today we’re hiking the Art Smith Trail. We’ve done this one before and it is probably one of my favorite Palm Springs hikes. It has the challenge, the views, the surprises, the elevation and the trail winds through some awesome rocks. It’s 8 miles out and back and, though we like a loop trail best, this is such a neat trail that we don’t mind the out and back. The first part is the slog to a saddle then a flat hike around a rocky cliff with views of the golf courses and homes below and the mountains across the valley.

ArtSmithTrail-4-2013-01-10-20-47.jpgThen another upward slog to another saddle before another flat hike to the next slog up. Note how the upward slogs are interspersed with some relatively flat hiking. Thanks to those who planned this trail.

Once we get to the top (relatively speaking, there is more up and down to go but it is more gentle) we are away from the views of the city and are hiking between some marvelous rock formations, weaving in and out so much that it is hard to see the trail ahead of us. Then we hit the first of the surprises, hidden fan palm groves. High up in the mountains, hidden from view of the city below are about 6 small palm copses. They grow in the slits of the canyons formed by the rains that must wash off these desert mountains. Looking at this picture, it is hard to imagine enough rain to sustain these palms but they flourish in these small canyons.

ArtSmithTrail-10-2013-01-10-20-47.jpgAnd, it’s our pleasure to see them as we hike. Surprise.

Lunch among these palms is a pleasure.

This trail is actually 8 miles out and 8 miles back. We got about 6 miles in and decided that, since we hadn’t hiked for a while, we’d better turn back. We try to remember that every mile in means another mile out. But, we decided to go just one more bend in the trail. And what a view: the Coachella Valley and the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park. Of course, there were lots of other ‘little hills’ to climb too. Maybe next time.

11.5 2592” pretty good for two old geezers