Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snapshots from Julian

It was cold this week, and windy and rainy and even snowy.  So we didn't play golf, we did get some chores done and we took a drive out to the Santa Ysabel casino and down to Ramona to see the Thousand Trails campground there.  A quiet week but a nice one.

Driving to Ramona we passed the camel dairy. Yep, camel dairy.
The vista viewpoint between Julian and our campground.  In the distant far right is the Salton Sea.
There are some artistic folks at the TT campground in Ramona.
The air is clear and the moon bright during a pre-dusk walk with Patches.
This western scrub jay loved the sunflower seeds I scattered outside our door.
This jack rabbit was huge; I thought it was a fawn when Patches and I startled him out of the brush  in the hills.
I only allowed Patches to climb on these rocks because it was cold; much warmer and I'm sure there would be rattlesnakes sunning themselves here.
Last night's snow was already beginning to melt at 7AM.  Thank goodness!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sent By A Friend

It's winter in  Ohio
And the gentle breezes blow,
70 miles per hour at 25 below!

Oh, how I love Ohio. When the snow's up to your butt;
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Ohio
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground.
---Author Unknown

If you plan your travels correctly, a fulltimer never has to shovel sunshine.  Or even see snow, unless viewing it on a distant mountain top.  And that's the way we like it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Think That I Shall Never See

I think  that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
               -----Joyce Kilmer

Wandering the campground with Patches today I noticed trees in various forms.  This area has been hit twice by wildfires since we were last here in 2003 and the area still hasn't fully recovered from the damage.  But nature will persevere.

Woodpeckers create a staccato pattern in a fallen log.

A forest protector?  It's nice to know that children still play with toy soldiers.

Can you find the would-be predator here?

Neat, huh?

Over the next few days, snow is forecast for those distant hills.  In the meantime, Patches and I will continue to bushwhack in search of interesting shots.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snapshots from Jamul

As we were driving to the golf course last week we saw a skydiver over the hills and noticed after a moment that it was a double set of divers on one parachute.  Rounding a bend in the roadway, we thought they were going to land on the road until we noticed a skydiving business to our left.  They made it to earth safely.  Brave or crazy?

The creek behind our campsite was full of rushing, tumbling water when we first arrived here two weeks ago.

This week that same creek is bone-dry.

 Some people know how to travel.

An iguana being displayed and discussed at Balboa Park in San Diego.

The Museum of Man, Balboa Park.


Now, off to breakfast for us!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Poo On You

One of the differences between living in a stick built home and a RV is that in a RV sometimes you get up close and personal with stuff you'd rather leave alone.  And that stuff would be in the sewage tank in the RV.

The set up of the toilet system in a RV goes something like this; the toilet flushes into a big square box that fastened underneath the floor of the RV.  It has an outlet leading to the outside of the RV, controlled by a push valve/gate system.  You attach a 4 inch accordion pleated hose to the gate valve and the other end goes into the campground's sewer system in the ground. Once a week or so, one needs to empty the "black water" (that stuff you flush down the toilet) into the campground's sewer system.  A simple process normally.

Not so for us this week; when Denny pulled the gate valve, very little came out of the black water tank, meaning something was blocking the hole leading out of the tank.  Sigh.  Stories have been told of plugs of plastic/flooring/whatever being drilled out and dropped down into tanks to be left there, free to float around and jam themselves into the exit hole.  Okay.  We have a spray wand that is inserted down into the toilet that helps to flush out debris and clean the tank, so I started trying to flush out the tank but it didn't seem to be working.  That's when Denny shoved the wand WAY down the tank and got it stuck.  Really, really stuck.  Like the only way to get it out was cutting the sewer pipe OF OUR TWO MONTH OLD TRAILER stuck.

So that's what we did.  Two 16 mile round trips to the hardware store because ABS pipe cement sets up faster than I believed possible so I didn't get the pipe shoved down into place soon enough so Denny had to saw the repair apart and do it again.  Five hours later the sewer wand was out and the black tank water was flowing, albeit less than we expected.  What I'm not mentioning was the efforts to go in backwards up the system with whatever long pointy things we could find which necessitated placing a large empty container outside the gate valve to catch whatever would flow out the black water tank should the obstruction clear.  This is not a pleasant process folks!  We'll know next week how the fix worked when it's time to dump again.

Man, we know how to have fun here at the RV Vagabond's house!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Segue to a Segway

It's been seven years (!!!) since we were in the San Diego area and at that time we took a Greyline-type bus tour of the city to get an overview of the area.  This year while Googling area attractions I found a website offering a tour of San Diego while riding Segways and I was intrigued enough to sign us up.

The website had stated that parking next door in the hotel parking garage was free, but knowing there are sometimes height restrictions I called ahead and sure enough, the ceilings of the parking garage were too low for Black Beauty.  The tour operator I spoke with said that there was a parking lot five blocks away where we could park for $5 so that's where we headed the day of our tour, only to discover that the parking fee was $20 because it was Mardi Gras parade day in the city (which the tour operator had forgotten about).  To be fair, the tour guide did offer to put coins in the parking meter if we parked on the street, but we couldn't find any open spots nearby so we bit the bullet and paid the price.  Most people won't have this problem!

Upon our arrival, we were shown a video on how to ride the Segways along with safety precautions.  We were asked to sign a liability waiver and told to pick out a helmet to wear.  Once outside, the Segway was demonstrated by our personal tour guide and then each of us was given a lesson in getting on and off the Segway, starting and stopping (with heavy emphasis on stopping) and turning.  We were allowed to practice in the courtyard for several minutes until we felt comfortable going out on the street.

The Segways are in a sense motorized gyroscopes; they automatically balance as you shift your weight.  When you shift forward on your toes, the machine goes forward and when you shift back on your heels the Segway stops.  Lean the handlebar to the left and you do a 360 degree turn on a dime.  It's incredibly maneuverable and easy to ride, being almost intuitive once you become accustomed to the handling of the machine.  And let's not forget fun!

Our tour took us past the San Diego convention center, by Gaslight Quarters, Petco Field, over to Seaside Village and along San Diego Bay, up to Balboa Park and back to the tour office.  Our distance round trip was estimated at ten miles and it was fun seeing San Diego from the sidewalk rather than from a bus.  You will get a lot more information on the bus tour because the guide is explaining the sights all the time whereas on the Segway, you are riding along looking at the sights, stopping for a minute to hear about the area and take a picture and then moving on.  The tour is supposed to last about 2 hours but ours took 2 1/2 because we did have two accidents in our group.  The first was when the mother of two pre-teens that was part of our group of five hit a rough spot crossing a street and lost control of her Segway, falling down and hitting her head.  Thank goodness for the helmet, because that took most of the hit.  Luckily for all of us, a tourist nearby was a paramedic and he checked out the lady before allowing her to get up.  She was mainly shaken, although her neck hurt, but she continued the rest of their segment of the tour because her kids were having so much fun.  It had been obvious to Denny and I from the beginning that she was not comfortable with riding the Segway.  The other accident was when Denny and I were riding up a rather steep hill to Balboa Park and Denny's Segway came to a stop.  Denny tried to get off and the Segway flipped, causing Denny's fall with accompanying scrapes.  He was okay (although very stiff and sore today) and dragged the Segway to a level spot on the hill midway up and mounted up and made it the rest of the way up the hill okay. 

Perhaps our experience was a fluke. According to a couple of articles I found online, most people doing these types of tours have no problems.  I do know that if given the opportunity to do this again in another city, yep, 
I'd give it a shot because I had a lot of fun and think it's a great way to get up close and personal to the sights of a new town.  I like the idea of the Fisherman's Wharf tour company where they have wireless headsets for  the tour guide to explain the sights as are you are riding your Segway because that also allows the guide to give everyone fair warning of riding hazards.   All in all, it was a great way to spend the day.                                                                   

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Can See

Less than a year ago, Denny and I went to a Dayton area chain retailer for an exam and new glasses.  The retailer had a two for one price deal going so we each got our two pairs; I went with glasses and prescription sunglasses, Denny got two pairs of reading glasses because that's all he needs glasses for.

The minute we hit the street while I was wearing my new sunglasses I knew they were wrong because signs were blurry to me, so we circled the block and turned in the sunglasses to be fixed.  My driving/reading glasses had to be specially ground because of the frame style I had chosen, so they weren't available to check, but the optometrist re-examined my eyes and called in the change to the lens shops.  Okay.

I have never been happy with either set of glasses; I have to tip my chin down a bit to see distant objects more clearly, which is annoying when I'm driving.  So when I saw two separate bloggers writing about their good experience with online eyeglass dispenser Zenni Optical, I said what the heck and decided to give them a try.

Ordering is simple, you simply need your eyeglass prescription from your optometrist, making sure the pupillary distance is written on it or requesting that it be noted on the prescription.  The Zenni Optical website explains why this is necessary for ordering your glasses and takes you step by step in ordering correctly.  What I appreciated was that the website has a specific list of frames that suit progressive lens, which was much of the problem with my chain retailer glasses.  The frames I chose there were simply too small for progressive lens.

The chain retail glasses were over $300 a pair for a set of plastic frames and plastic progressive focus lens.  The Zenni Optical glasses have plastic frames, plastic progressive lens, anti-glare coating and are photochromatic (go from clear to dark outdoors) plus I added a pair of sunglass clip-ons and the price for all that plus shipping was $91.85.   And I can see better than I have in two years.

And for those that say it is cheaper to buy them in Mexico--I bought photochromatic, progressive glasses there three years ago and they were half again as expensive as my new glasses.  Although we had more fun in Mexico!

And that's today's way of saving money on the road.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Squirrely Tidbit

In the Midwest, everyone has seen a squirrel playing on and around trees. And we have what I've always called ground squirrels, a creature halfway between a gray squirrel and a chipmunk.  But here in the foothills of Southern California, I've come across the California version of the ground squirrel and he's a different creature.

Looking much like your standard gray tree squirrel, the ground squirrel has fur that's a bit more dappled, along with a random grayish-white stripe along the side of the head in a few of them.  The tail is much skinnier than that of a tree squirrel, but the main difference is that the ground squirrel lives in burrows and will only rarely go up a tree.  They live, breed, hibernate and travel in a series of burrows and tunnels, which I discovered yesterday while standing quietly on a hillside with Patches when one decided to pop out of his hole.  Or he started to, until he saw us.  That led to a G**gle search which is how I found that these little creatures are preyed upon by everything from eagles to weasels, but especially by rattlesnakes.

What I found especially fascinating is that the mother ground squirrel will chew up sloughed off rattlesnake skins and then lick herself and her babies to mask their own odor.  The squirrels also "superheat" and agitate their tails, which makes them appear larger to the snakes and less likely to be a target for dinner.  Mother Nature at her finest.

And so I spent an enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine, reading a Stephen King novel and watching ground squirrels frolic; amused, entertained and as always amazed by the world around me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Salt Creek Golf Club, Chula Vista, CA

Winding our way from the Pio Pico TT Resort to the upscale town of Chula Vista was a bit of a culture shock.  One moment you're in the foothills on a two lane road and the next you're surrounding by huge gated communities of over-sized homes with six lanes of traffic.  We were afraid the Salt Creek Golf Club was going to end up being one of those golf courses that had fairways lined with home and townhouses but once we crested the final hill of the entrance drive we discovered a gem of a golf course with awesome views in every direction.

Playing 6514 yards for the yellow tees and 4814 for the red tees (that would be me) the course played a bit harder for us because the rules were cart path only due to the recent heavy rains.  Some of the fairways were a bit soggy, but overall the course was in excellent condition.  A bit links-like in design, the surrounding vegetation wasn't so thick that finding an errant shot wasn't impossible, although the rattlesnake warning signs kept us out of some areas.  What's a golf ball or two, right?  The ponds and creeks on the course don't really come into play, although the sand traps certainly do.  At times it was difficult to keep my attention on my golf game due to the surrounding scenery, the rabbits, squirrels, roadrunners and yes, even coyotes ki-yi-yi-ing on the hillsides as we played.
I made our tee times through the Salt Creek Golf Club's web page on their "specials" tee times.  Thank goodness I printed my confirmation because when we arrived at the clubhouse they didn't have our tee time in their computer.  Armed with the confirmation, we got in, but the man at the desk told us there had been several instances of computer-made tee times not coming through so they suggest calling for tee times; they will honor the "special/last minute" online prices.  

 This is a golf course I'd highly recommend, but be advised that they overbook in the early afternoon; we had to skip the final hole due to darkness and slow play.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Making It Our Own

The bad part about living in a RV is that there are only so many different things you can do to the exterior to make them distinct from the hundreds of Landmark fifth wheels out there.  While we were down in Los Algodones in Mexico to have our fish tacos and pick up a supply of cheap booze and pure vanilla Denny and I found a leaded glass window that I just had to have since it had a roadrunner, a saguaro cactus and a mountain on it.  So yesterday we installed it in our door to add a little southwest character to our rig. 
The window from the inside of the trailer.

I wrote yesterday about the first site we wanted that we missed; here's what we would have seen out our door.

Instead, we have this behind our trailer:
Now for the overall view of our section of the campground: you'll see The Beast hidden smack dab in the center of the picture among the trees.
A close up shows us wedged under the tree limb.
And finally, the flooded roadway one site away from us 
And that's today's pictorial essay.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

We've Had Better Days

We have arrived in California and things aren't going well.

When we rolled down our windows to talk to the ranger upon arriving at our campground, we noticed a loud squealing noise as we were pulling up to the ranger kiosk.  Once we settled into our temporary site, Denny and I felt the wheel rims on either side of the trailer only to discover that we had a hot rim on each side, neither on the same axle.  Uh-oh, that can't be good.  Which means we'll have to find a local authorized Landmark dealer and have that looked at.

Today we had to wait for the full hook up site picks; you are supposed to check out the sites that are going to be vacated that day, pick several that you like and then wait with that day's incoming campers to have your name called and hope that the people before you on the list don't pick any of the sites you've chosen.  Naturally, the site we really wanted wasn't chosen until the lady whose name was just before ours, so we picked our fourth choice (the others had been picked by campers ahead of us) and then went back to our temporary site to wait for the site to be vacated.  Finally at noon the folks moved out and we moved in.  And it went badly, because there is a big live oak tree on the site and one big limb hangs twelve feet ten inches above the ground.  The bad news is the air conditioning unit on our rig is thirteen feet above the ground.  You figure it out.  There were words flying, tempers flaring and a lot of careful maneuvering to get into the site without further damage.  Eventually we got all set up, although not before the rains started.  What was forecast to be light showers is now a possibility of 2 inches of rain on top of already saturated grounds due to the heavy rains that occurred here last week. The flood warnings are out for rivers and streams and those in low lying areas.

And guess who is parked backed up to the creek?


At least it's scenic here.

And there were neat places to explore in our temporary site.

And I've crossed off the Oregon Junco from my bird list.
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