Wednesday, January 27, 2016

San Diego, CA - It's All About the Water

Of course, if it’s San Diego, it’s all about the water. Our campground is right on Mission Bay which is a large body of water connected to the ocean by a narrow channel through which lots of yachts, boats, whale watching tours and fishing boats head out to sea. It is just north of the city itself and, when I go out to the beach in the morning with my cup of coffee, I get views like this. The haze over the city, the birds soaring over the water, the crews out practicing and the Bay itself. Is there any doubt why we come here just about every year? The bay is surrounded by parks and we can go either left or right when we leave the park for our daily walk and walk around part of the bay. On the Saturday when we want to leave for our next destination the Mermaid Half-Marathon will go by our campground as the participants circle the bay. Maybe we’ll wait til 10:00 when the Marathon is over.


We’re only minutes by car from Pacific Beach right on the ocean. We drive a short distance, park the car and then walk the beach. Between Mission Bay where our campground is and the Pacific is a narrow strip of land wide enough for one major street. But, boy, is it lined with rental homes, shoppes, restaurants and anything else a tourist might want. You want a surfboard, you want pre-ripped jeans, how about anchovies and olives for your pizza, or maybe you want an ‘itsy bitsy teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini’ - ‘you can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant’. Oops, I got mixed up in my song lyrics there. But, the point is, if it’s something tourists want, it’s here.

Of course the Navy has a huge presence here in San Diego. Sometimes we can see the shadows of a ship off in the distance.


Then between the Bay and the Ocean are lots of tiny walk-throughs like the one Gary is on here. These are also lined with homes, patios, sidewalks but no cars - only for pedestrians. Check out the wet footprints on the sidewalk in front of Big Gar - looks like someone just came from the water. It’s fun to walk around here


On one end of this sidewalk is this wonderful beach scene: lots of surfers and one guy who decided he could move faster with a kite.


And, on the other side of the walkway is this Bay scene.


No matter which way you go, it’s interesting, lively and the views are simply amazing.

We also saw this scene as we circled the Bay. Looks like something right out of sci-fi novels. This guy was bouncing up and down all over the bay. The jet-ski in back of him must have had something on it which generated the air which propelled him higher. You can rent this when you’re in San Diego.




Lots of activities on the beach, luckily someone got a good picture of Gary and me here. Ha ha.


One last look backwards before we head back to the RV.


On the other hand, as beautiful as the Ocean is, it can also cause considerable damage. I’m sure that many of you saw the pictures and videos of sand sliding down the slope under several apartment houses near San Francisco. You could see some of the cement underneath the apartment house since the slope had deteriorated so much. People were evacuating and were told that they had a bit of time to retrieve their possessions. How tragic. I feel so badly for these people. Beautiful views from their balconies and windows but, because of the risk here, the rents were low enough to attract many who worked in San Francisco but could not afford the prices of SF housing.

In 2012 we stayed in a campground just 1/2 mile down the road from these apartment houses. One of them had already been condemned because of prior cliffside erosion. We remember walking the beach below the homes (though off to the side) and looking up to see the underside of the foundation as it stuck out over the cliff.


Someone (the developer) had put sheets of a covering over the sand on the cliff and had then bored holes into it for rebar and cables to try to hold the cliff together. It obviously didn’t work and here you can see the remains.


Here’s a Google view looking down on the apartments and you can see the edge of the cliff (the brown sand) right up against 3 of the apartment buildings.



We were incredulous to see residents walking into these buildings - obviously still living in them.

Even the cliffs at the campground were eroding. Prior to our stay, the spots looking out over the cliffs onto the Pacific Ocean were the choice spots in the campground. When we got to the campground they looked like this:


One 5th wheel is still on the cliff but all others had been moved, the spots had been blocked off and a fence put up so that no one could walk on the cliff edge itself.

We had one of the most interior spots in the campground so were not worried. This year we made our reservation at this campground, the closest to San Francisco, but, then we saw the recent crumbling of the cliffs and decided to stay in another campground, north of the bay. We will miss this campground with its gorgeous views and ease of getting into the city but are excited about trying another one. You know, we tend to stay in campgrounds where we have stayed in the past - ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But, on the other hand, it’s always nice to try something new - who knows? We might like it better. The new campground is on the north side of the bay so we will be closer to the Muir Woods, the Point Reyes National Seashore and Mt Tamalpais - a good hiking opportunity.

‘You can’t weigh the facts if you’ve got the scales loaded down with your opinions.’


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

San Diego, CA - Trains and Bridges

Lots of museums in San Diego and, while we have been to most of them over the time we have been here, we not only have some still to see but we also want to visit some that we have already seen before. I was reading about the Railroad built between El Centro, CA and San Diego and all of the extremely difficult mountainous terrain with steep cliffs, deep canyons, rocky escarpments that it covers and remembered that this whole layout is depicted in the Model Railroad Museum. Hey, let’s go and see how they depict it.
The Model Railroad Museum, at 28,000 sq ft, is divided up into several areas, with different RR Clubs in San Diego taking an area and depicting one of the railroads of the Southwest. The area that I wanted to see was the 4500 sq ft one that depicted the building of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern RR through Carrizo Gorge in southern California. We walked through some of the other exhibits and then came to this one. We were marveling at it when a Mike, a Club member who was working today and running his own trains around the tracks, came over to talk with us. Interestingly, he went to the Roosevelt HS in Des Moines, where my mother, my aunt and my uncle also went. We also talked about the Lionel model that Gary still has - in the original box. Well, the conversation went from there. And - soon he asked if we would like to go inside to see it from another perspective. Are you kidding ! ! ! Would we ever ! ! ! What a treat. He took us all around the display and pointed out some of the little things that we might have missed. Like the drag race. At one end of the tracks are the two hot rods, spouting exhaust (cotton) out of the mufflers; at the other end is a policeman on a motorcycle - waiting.

And, this little scene.
I hadn’t probably given it much thought but I learned that track doesn’t come as track - it comes as 10’ long metal strips. Now, you’ve got to cut it to length, make some tiny little logs to use as ties, make some tiny little pins to put into into the track to hold it to the ties. Lots of work here. Can you see those tiny little pins? It's tough - better use a magnifying glass. But someone made them and put them in.
Here’s something even smaller to make: tools for a workbench inside a railroad shop in the railroad yard. Here’s the view from the top. Can you see those little tools on the bench? No, well, I can hardly see them either. Interestingly, no one who has paid to come into this museum can see those tiny little tools on the workbench. Only the guys who volunteer here. Why did they make them - for the sheer joy of having the whole set up be accurate - down to the smallest tool.
Here they are, in zoom: wrenches, pliers and a hammer. And, knowing how particular these guys are - these tools probably work.
What impressed us the most about the display was not just the details on the outside, those that everyone can see as they wander around but the details on the inside, those that only the volunteers and people invited in can see. Check out this electrical wiring behind this building.
No one but the club members can see this but it is still done correctly. Note how the buildings are painted on the outside where people can see but also how the designs continue on the inside with windows and doors. Details and all down with loving care. Such details, such dedication, such passion for the hobby of Model Railroads. We were so impressed.

Hey, they’ve even got tiny little RV’s.
Here’s Mike showing Gary some of the inner workings.
Mike works several days a week and, when his wife asks if he is going to play with his toy trains, he calmly explains to her that he is going to work on the Model Railroad.

What fun it was to be on the inside and look at other tourists on the outside looking in and wishing they could be inside like we were.

What a tour we got, he showed us everything, he answered all of our questions and he showed such a love and passion for what he was doing and what his club had accomplished. We were so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We really were impressed. Can’t wait to come back next year.

Afterwards we wandered around Balboa Park and then headed out to do the ‘7 Bridge Walk.’ And, what is that you ask? Ah, it’s a 6 mile walk around the Hillcrest area in San Diego where there are 7 bridges. Just what you guessed, right? Several of the bridges are pretty ordinary - cars and a side walk going over something else like a railroad or a highway. But there are several bridges that are pretty special and fun to walk on.

But the walk has lots besides just bridges. We stopped in a Trader Joe’s to grab an apple for a snack. We visited the ATM at the local Wells Fargo for a bit of money. And we enjoyed the crowds in the Hillcrest neighborhood. Oh, yeah, as we were leaving Trader Joes with our apples in hand, a lady walked by us and said, ‘Oh, aren’t you two so cute?’ Huh? Oh, yeah, two old people who dress alike and look somewhat alike (although I am mustache challenged) walking along both eating apples. Lady, I’m not ‘cute.’

But this window display sure is. Should I get this for Gary for Valentines? Let’s vote.
This bridge is fairly new and has lots of quotations along the railings. Here is one of them with a quote from Kate Sessions, American botanist, horticulturalist, and landscape architect closely associated with San Diego, California, and known as the "Mother of Balboa Park, about wearing sensible shoes - my kind of gal.
Then we get to the older bridges, and here is one of our favorites - we have walked over this bridge every time we have come to San Diego. It’s the Spruce Street Suspension bridge, it sways with every step, it bridges a deep chasm and it’s utterly charming.
The Quince Street bridge, a wooden trestle bridge,built in 1905 for less than $1000. Again you don’t want to look down to see the depths of the canyon below. And, we’re on a bridge built in 1905?
We got back to Balboa Park early enough to see the sun shining on the tower above one of the museums in the park.
And we got back just in time to join the rush hour traffic.
‘Never sit on a barbed wire fence naked.’
                        Texas Bix Bender

Monday, January 25, 2016

San Diego, CA - Just Another Hike

We find all kinds of places to walk and hike around here. Sometimes we just walk though the campground, most of the time we head either over to the trail around Mission Bay or to the walkway on Pacific Beach. But today we went inland to Tecolote Canyon with a trail that goes right up the middle. It’s a canyon with steep sides. homes perched on the rim and - a city golf course down the middle. A nice pretty walk in the park really except for those steep canyon sides and why, oh, why, does the trail have to go up those - why couldn’t it follow the golf course down the middle? But, Nancy, what do you not remember about hiking? It’s all about elevation.

We had to cross a small stream. Doesn’t look like much, does it? But, it took all my concentration to hold this pose for a nano second so Gary could take the picture - given my non-sense of balance.
As you can see by the small ‘boulders’ at the side of the trail - it is truly a trail next to a golf course. I’m going to be nice and not mention that I think they need more practice if their golf balls keep coming over here. Nope, I’m not going to say that, but I’m going to keep my hands over my head just in case.
There is some drainage which also goes through the canyon and we found this sign. Now I know what a car brake is and I know what a bike brake is - but what in the world is a ‘sewer brake’?
Here is part of the trail, almost straight down and then straight up. I’m peering over the ‘cliff’ and can’t see the whole road here because it plunges so steeply. Gary, what have you gotten me into?
This house has a great view over the canyon but, heavens, what is holding it up? This is typical building in San Diego with its many canyons. Check out all the terracing.
And, at the top of the hill we can look below and see the golf course.
Grocery shopping afterwards and, when we got home I was putting our yogurt away and noticed that they were having a contest to answer the questions: ‘What is your favorite flavor of Lite and Fit Yogurt’ and text a selfie to them. My answer was: ‘All of them’ and I sent this selfie. Your next question is: if I took a selfie, how could I have both hands on cartons of yogurt?
In the evening we went to Marilyn’s for dinner and to fix a lightbulb.
She was afraid that the food would get cold so Gary had to take the picture fast. Me, I’m going' for the delicious corn bread.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

San Diego, CA - Lions, Tigers and Horned Bills

I have heard of the San Diego Zoo for years though I’m not sure why or in what context. Gary got 4 hours on the last day of basic training for the Navy back in 1968 and took his time to visit the zoo. Huh, what sailor in his right mind goes to the zoo on a day off? so, when we were in San Diego a few years ago, we went to the Zoo and its twin sister, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, about 40 miles north, much bigger and where the animals are not really housed in small cages but in much larger areas where the humans can still see them but they have space to roam, fly, dig or whatever they do to live.

It’s time to go back and we decided on the Wild Animal Park. It’s huge so we started early, got there about 10:00 and started to explore. We got on the tram first since we heard that there were lots of school buses in the park and we wanted to ensure that we got a ride on it. Here’s my hint: sit on the left side of the tram since it circles that direction and you will be able to see much better. Guess what - we were on the right hand side and our view was over other heads. Shucks. But the views are still marvelous and you get to see lots of animals that you certainly don’t see roaming the streets in your home town.

Here’s a picture from Wikipedia showing the African Plains part of the exhibit. You can see from this that the park is huge. These free-range enclosures house such animals as antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, cranes, and rhinoceros and several other species that roam this plain in nature.
Later in the afternoon, we wandered back towards this area and found ourselves all alone with no one else in our view.
It was feeding time for the mother and baby rhino.
We also visited the elephants and found a young one with its mother.
This one had found a way to carry this box with its trunk,curled into a hole in the top. Pretty clever. It trotted all around with this box, showing us all how clever it was. And, look at that smile - it knows it’s clever.
And, I got a close-up of elephant skin. Obviously needs some Jergens.
Here’s my second hint: make sure you get there early for the Cheetah Run - you don’t want to miss that. Cheetahs can get up to 70 mph over a short distance, the fastest animal alive. Funny, though, they are a bit shy especially when running in front of a crowd. So, the trainers release a dog first to show the cheetah that it’s OK and that the people lining the fences aren’t going to harm it. Ah, then the cheetah can run. They back the truck with the cheetah cage in it up to the run, open the door and the cheetah is off. Here’s my picture. Can’t see the cheetah? Well, it’s fast. It is actually the tawny bit of color about 2 inches or so from the palm tree and level with the wooden fence. Got it? Well, if you can’t, you’re with the rest of us watching - it went so fast that we almost missed it.
And, here’s the cheetah at the end with his snack treat.
We walked by the large area where the Sumatran Tiger lived and didn’t see much on our first pass. We circled the area and then found him. And, I think he sees me as a tasty morsel - just need a pinch of salt.
We found the bat house with these large Rodrigues Fruit bats. They are about 1’ long and have a wingspan of 6’ and live in the Indian Ocean near Martitius.
We climbed up to Condor Ridge, one of the few places in the world where you can see them in captivity. Here’s one of these beauties now.
We wandered by some bird enclosures.
And saw an eagle with an injured wing that will never be released into the wild.
And, the gorilla area.
We learned a lot about the various species since they have such good explanatory plaques at each area. Here’s our favorite though.
Pretty cool park and we’ll be back another time. We read that it gets about 2 million visitors yearly, houses over 2600 animals as well as 3500 plant species. It has the world’s largest veterinary hospital, and has the most successful condor breeding program in the US. It is also the quarantine area for zoo animals imported into the US through San Diego.

‘Sometimes it takes a lot more thinkin’ to deal with changes than to make them.’