Monday, April 4, 2016

Magic Pants, Salty Water and BBQ

Book of Mormon

Provo, Utah

Yesterday we drove north to Provo past sites visited on our last cross country.  A second look at these fabulous places was still as awe inspiring as the first look. The Wasatach Mountain Range escorted us into Provo which sits surrounded by snow capped Unita Mountains.  The architecture is lovely and there is a beautiful tabernacle in the center.  We strolled around the small downtown area, past the tabernacle and considered where to eat dinner.  Place after place was closed.  We soon realized that it was Sunday and probably a city ordinance to be closed.  We did find a cafeteria on the outskirts of town and barely got served at 7pm before closing.  More photos can be see at flickr.

Today we continued on to Salt Lake for 2 days.  As we had seen The Book Of Mormon in San Diego, we felt well prepared.  However, we did not see one man dressed in black pants, white shirt, black tie.  We spent the first half of the day downtown where we toured Temple Square.  It is very impressive!  The grounds are beautiful and immaculate.  The trees and bulb flowers are blooming.  One cannot enter the Temple but can enter other buildings on the grounds such as the Tabernacle where the famous choir performs.  Salt Lake also has a very impressive library designed by Moshe Safdie, the architect of Crystal Bridges Museum.  The library has incorporated small shops and kiosks. 
Wayne at Temple Square
Later in the day we ventured out to The Great Salt Lake.  One passes vast acres of salt flats and a smelting plant on the road to the Lake.  The area seems barren despite the surrounding mountains.  As it was early in the season, no boats or activity were to be seen.  No birds either.   
Great Salt Lake
More pictures are at flickr.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Navajo Nation Reservation

Navajo Nation Reservation, Grand Canyon
As we drove east out of the Grand Canyon National Park, we stopped at a few more viewing points.  We never saw a bad view, and remain awestruck.  The views became even more amazing as we traveled on.  Our destination was Provo, Utah.  To get there we had to drive east first around the Canyon and through the Navajo Nation Reservation's Western Agency.  The road hugged the edge of the Canyon to our north and offered extensive views of the desert and the eastern portion of the Grand Canyon.  

Navajo Nation Reservation Arts Sales along the Little Colorado River
We came upon a Navajo set of arts tables and stopped.  Here we found a porcelain Christmas tree ornament that was hand painted with symbols. 
Navajo Nation Reservation, The Painted Desert
 Our drive from there took us through the painted desert, by the Colorado River and into Utah.  In Utah we edged past the Grand Staircase Escalante and Bryce Canyon, beautiful areas we visited several years ago.  It was a long 8 hour day of driving.  But the sights were so lovely that we hardly noticed.  Provo is a beautiful little town that has kept its historical buildings in original shape.  What we didn't realize is that we had arrived on a Sunday, and there was nothing open in downtown.  We assumed this was a Mormon rule.  We did find a cafeteria on the edge of town.  We arrived near closing at 7pm.  When we asked for some roast beef, we were told it was put away.  HA!  Having paid full price we insisted on bringing it out.  It was not worth the argument.  Cafeterias never fail to disappoint.  
Entering Utah near Bryce Canyon
Provo, Utah
Beautiful Pictures of the Ride are at flickr

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Grand, Grand Canyon

Wayne on the South Rim
After a brief stop at Home Depot to buy screws, nuts, and bolts to shore up our duck-taped oil pan cover, we headed for the Grand Canyon. The road took us around the San Francisco Mountains, across the Coconino Plateau and deep into the Kaibab National Forest which is comprised of beautiful ponderosa pine. Our lodgings are in the park at the Yavapai Lodge in the Grand Canyon Village.  We're housed on the second (walk-up) floor in a very nice room. Despite the early season the Park is busy.  We are happy to have found a room inside the park, and able to take advantage of the shuttle bus.  As soon as we deposited our gear, we took the bus to the visitor's center and sought advise on the best course for a single day visit.  Mather's Point is behind the visitor's center.  This is where Wayne got his first view of the canyon from the South Rim.  He was awe struck.  From here and on advice from the ranger, we took the shuttle bus along the 7 mile Hermit Road view points ending at Hermit's Rest.  We walked between some of the stops along a rim path that provided views of the Colorado River.  It would be impossible for me to describe the beauty, the vastness, and the breadth taking experience of the canyon.  Pictures alone cannot do justice either.  In addition to the expansiveness, the colors of the rock layer sequences change with the light and atmosphere.  Because the canyon was incised out of a plateau and is not hidden by mountains and vegetation, one walks suddenly up to the edge and can see the the geology for miles.  The approach to the along the flat ground does not prepare one for the depth and distance of the Canyon.  The canyon floor includes rock nearly 2 billion years old.
The Colorado River
Tonight we drove out of the park to have dinner at the Grand Hotel's steak house.  A funny memory was listening to the family next to us talk about their day of horse riding and touring, then watching them all walk out bow legged and waddling.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Flagstaff, AZ on Route 66*

Prescott National Forest nearing Flagstaff, AZ
As we drove out of California and into Arizona, the views became more expansive, the land flatter and more desert-like.  We passed by Joshua Tree National Park which we had visited in 2010, crossed over the Colorado River and into Arizona. I'm beginning to feel like I can see for "Miles and Miles and Miles and Miles." Flagstaff, some 6 hour drive east of Palm Desert, was our destination.  The intention was to stay here one night in order to reach the Grand Canyon early the following day.  Then, we could take an entire day to explore the south rim, stay the night and head out again early toward Utah.
Mt. Humphreys in the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, AZ
Looming over Flagstaff are the San Francisco Peaks, the largest of which is Mt. Humphreys.   We are now about 7,000' elevation and can feel it.  Just a small amount of exertion can leave me breathless.  

Flagstaff has preserved the historic downtown through which runs the historic route 66.  It was here that we found the Beaver Street Brewery and dinner.  
Wayne and Sweetness enjoy a brew at the Beaver St. Brewery
Leaving the Brewery our car loudly announce it was dragging the oil pan cover.  Seems the Jiffy Lube guy left out most of the retaining screws.  Never fear.  My Renaissance Man purchased a few screws and, voila, all fixed.  We thought the earlier duck tape solution might not hold up in the Grand Tetons.  
Mechanic Wayne securing the oil pan
Route 66 preformed by The Manhattan Transfer

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Palm Springs, CA

Moreno Valley and the Redlands
We had a quick change of plans yesterday when we discovered that our lease ended on March 31, not April 1.  Because of that we added Palm Springs as an additional stop on our way home.  This route took us through Moreno Valley and the Redlands with beautiful views of the hills and mountains of California.  As we entered Palm Springs we spotted the visitor's center and entrance to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  The tram car rotates as it rises 2 1/2 miles along the Chino Canyon to Mt. San Jacinto State Park.  Here we had expansive views of the valley below and of Palm Springs.  
Tram Ride

Tram Ride with Palm Springs in the valley

Palm Springs viewed from Mt. San Jacinto
Following that spectacular introduction to Palm Springs we headed for our hotel and headed and headed until we realized we were in Palm Desert, not Palm Springs. Palm Desert was beautiful and we were not disappointed.  The downtown is quite swanky with an outdoor mall that would rival Rodeo Drive where we had pizza.  

A few more pictures are at flickr.

Adios Imperial Beach

Sweetness is very sad today because she has to pack all those winter clothes for the trip home.  She would much rather be on the beach.  Yes, tomorrow we end our stay in Imperial Beach.  It has been a very delightful and uplifting time.  We are melancholy but looking forward to the trip home.  It was wonderful to spend time with Kathy, Phil and Lola, and to see Bonnie and Duncan.  Staying for 2 months helped us to feel as if we lived in the area.  The people at the fitness center I joined we so welcoming and friendly.  Lee, our fearless leader, was attentive and shared his Sunday hikes with us.  

Imperial Beach Fitness Center, Silver Sneakers
Our days and nights were filled with the rumble of the Pacific Ocean. We finally stuck our toes in on the last day.
Wayne, Christy and the Pacific
If you have about 30 minutes to spare flickr has 60 days of recorded sunsets.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Point Loma, San Diego Serenade*

Point Loma looking across San Diego Bay
Point Loma is a seaside community of San Diego and also the peninsula that hangs out around Coronado Island and helps form San Diego Bay.   We can see the Point from our condo as a distant gray form from which giant freighters and cruise ships emerge.  It is historically important as the landing place where the first European expedition came ashore in present day California.  Loma is the Spanish word for hill, and, indeed it is quite a hill.   At 422 feet, the end point gave fabulous views of downtown San Diego, Coronado Island and even a teeny little speck of our condo and Mexico.  The winds were quite strong but warmed us as we walked up the hill to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.  Also on the Point stands the Cabrillo National Monument.  Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to see San Diego Bay.
Wayne on Point Loma with Downtown San Diego and San Diego Bay
There are 2 major military bases, a university, and a national cemetery which hugs both sides of the Peninsula.
Point Loma National Cemetery.
At the suggestion of a friend from my gym, we ate at Mitch's Seafood, a funky little restaurant sitting on the docks.  Since we are trying to see how many tacos we can eat in 2 months, we obviously ordered octopus tacos.  They were as good as it gets and were enhanced by a great seat overlooking the bay.  It reminded us of eating with the pelicans on the dock at Cortez Bait and Seafood in Florida.
Tacos at Mitch's Seafood, Point Loma
San Diego Serenade, Tom Waits

Saturday, March 19, 2016

When The Swallows Return to Capistrano*

Swallow Nests
March 19th is St Joseph's Day, and the day every year that the swallows return to Capistrano.  Only...NOT.  It seems that since 2014 they have elected to fly 60 miles north to the swanky private Vellano Country Club in Chino Hills.  I guess if I could hang (pun, get it?) with Greg Norman I would, too. We discovered this abomination of tradition before leaving, but decided to go anyway to check out the Mission.  We did find some of the mud nests but aren't sure if they are manmade since that has been one attempt to persuade the feathered friends to return.  If you can zoom in on the picture above you will see those nests sans the swallows.  The second kink in the day was that we forgot it was Saturday. As such it took 2 1/2 hours in stop and go California traffic to go 80 miles.  The return trip was only tiny bit shorter.  

This Mission is one of several Franciscan sites founded by Franciscan Junipero Serra.  It houses the oldest in-use building in California, the Serra Chapel.  On the grounds are the remains of a large stone church.  Built in the late 1700s of stone with vaulted domes, the church was unlike the other Missions' adobe churches.  In 1812 the church was destroyed by an earthquake.  
Church Ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano
The grounds are filled with beautiful flowers, and plenty of artifacts; historical information abounds in the small rooms.  Submerged oil and tanning vats were discovered recently while digging to repair a broken water main.  This discovery illustrates the extent of the Franciscans' hide tanning and tallow production. The first wine in Alta California was produced from the Mission's grapes, criolla. Until about 1850 this grape represented the entirety of California's viticulture. Despite the absence of the swallows and the horrendous traffic, we had a great day. Anything we do here is fun because, well.. it is so damn nice in Southern California!!!
Beautiful Ground of Mission San Juan Capistrano

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mo Better Mole*

Pollo Mole at Cantina Mayahuel, San Diego
Yesterday's New Bedford Standard Times ran a story in their food section about San Diego.  The food section journalist was visiting here and reported on wonderful mole she had in University Heights.  Since we were headed into town for another Balboa Park visit, we hit Cantina Mayahuel for lunch.  We opted to try both of their moles over a chicken cutlet.  The darker sauce is smoky with chocolate undertones.  The red sauce is fiery hot.  We both blended the 2 after a bit. I think homemade mole is in our future.  I told the waiter about the news article; turns out his girl friend is from Falmouth.  The outdoor patio was sunny and music filled the air. 
Cantina Mayahuel
Our third visit to Balboa park proved as lovely as the prior two.  This trip's goal was to see the Natural History Museum's show Birds as Art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris.  The show was perfectly place in the 3rd floor gallery with glass ceiling.  Please take a look at Morris' vibrant, textured photographs.  
Balboa Park, Natural History Museum, Arthur Morris Birds as Art
Before leaving the park, we took time to stroll through and around the Botanical Building with its lagoon and lilly pond.  As always, the koi delighted me.  I must mention also that there are always buskers and other street performers filling the air with music and laughter.  At the lagoon a gentleman was masterfully playing a classical guitar piece.  
Botanical Building, Balboa Park
Over-shadowing the Koi, Balboa Park Botanical Building Lilly Pond

*La Cumbia Del Mole performed by Lila Downs

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Anza Borrego Desert*

Anza Borrego Desert
Today we drove northeast to visit Borrego Springs and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  The desert is part of the larger Colorado Desert of southern California, which is part of the even larger Sonoran Desert where the beautiful saguaro cactus grow. Anza Borrego is named for an 18th century Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza, and for the Spanish word borrego meaning big horn sheep, which live here. It was about a 2 hour drive through the interesting and beautiful Cleveland Forest which began as pretty rocky landscape comprised mostly of chaparral. As we entered the Cuyamaca Mountains within the Forest, we noticed many, many large dead trees; dead so long they were silver and shiny. We later discovered the area was the site of the largest wild fire in California history, the 2003 Cedar Fire. This fire burned 280,000 acres and killed 15 people. 

In the midst of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the Cedar Fire area stands a little gold rush town, Julian. Amazingly, it survived the fire.  We had heard of the Julian pies, so naturally had to stop.  Practically all of the buildings were built ca 1870 during the gold rush.  At some point a Johnny Appleseed bought in and planted a wagon load of apple trees.  And, thus, the famous Julian apple pie was born.  
Julian, CA featuring our pie stop cafe.
The approach to Borrego Springs is breath-taking with steep roads that overlook deep and wide valleys.  The town was surprisingly populated and green with palm trees.  It was 85 degrees and sunny.  The road to the Park headquarters passes the Galleta Meadows where there are 130 metal sculptures inspired by creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago.  The artist, Richard Breceda, was commissioned by Denis Avery, the land owner, to create the sculptures.  
Galleta Meadows Mastodon
The spring flowers are blooming the in the desert.  They are sometimes subtle, small, low to the ground and not immediately evidenced.  Others are large and bold such as the indigo shrub and the ocotillo cactus.  On our drive back we passed through the Laguna Mountains where we reached an altitude of 4500+ feet.  At one point it seemed we were on a mesa where rivers, large trees a lake and green, green grass grew.  All of here has been a geological delight. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Purple Haze*

Imperial Beach, CA
Today has been one of dramatic weather creating large waves, high winds, hail and rain.  Everyone at my fitness center was happy that rain was here.  The storm would kick up, blowing furniture around. Then, within minutes the skies would clear and the winds would subside just to begin all over again. This revolving weather has gone on all day.  Enjoy the videos and pictures.  

And, finally, the end of the day.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Balboa Park*

Balboa Park
Balboa Park is one of the oldest dedicated public recreational areas in the US.  It is a 1,200 acre urban park with open spaces, gardens, museums, theaters and the San Diego Zoo.  We've been twice now.  It is simply a wonderful place to spend time whether just people watching or museum going.  The architecture of the main promenade and boulevard is Spanish Colonial Revival and is the location for most museums.  Some of the landmark buildings remain from the 1959 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.

We have visited the San Diego Museum with its typical holdings of European, American and some Asian art, and the Museum of Photographic Arts where we saw a fabulous exhibit by Flor Garduno titled Trilogy.  The show consists of 3 subjects: fantastic women, bestiality and still life.  Her control of the darks, blacks really, is superb.  Most of the photos have large areas of the deepest blacks.  Of particular interest to me was the way she would place a black woman with or adjacent to a white woman against a dark background.  The white woman was stark and immediately noticeable.  The black woman would appear gradually to the viewer bringing to mind all sorts of sociological questions.  

Sunday afternoon we attended the organ recital at Spreckles Organ Pavilion joined by the lovely Kathy Midgley. This organ is the second largest pipe organ in the world with 4,725 pipes ranging from pencil size to 32 feet.  The performance was open-air, the stage a vaulted ornate structure similar to the Hatch Shell in Boston.  San Diego has a civic organist, Dr. Carol Williams who performed the concert.  She was very amusing as well as talented.  It was nice sitting in very warm sun, listening to the 2nd largest pipe organ in the world with friends and watching the constant arrival of airplanes to SD airport.  Oddly, their was no noise from the planes to interfere with the music.  

Spreckles Organ Pavilion
Following the concert Wayne and I went to marvel at the Moreton Fig trees, giant trees. The tiny little red spot in the photo is me hiding among the roots.

Morton Bay Fig, Balboa Park

Saturday, February 20, 2016

San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden with Wayne, Duncan, Bonnie, Phil, Kathy
The Botanic Garden is actually located in Encinitas where Wayne and I spent 10 days in . There are 37 acres of bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest, and native plants.  There is a subtropical fruit garden where we all picked and ate oranges and kumquats.  

No bananas were rip enough to eat.  But the flower was beautiful.

Of particular interest to me was the small forest of Cork Oak.  They were unlike any tree I am familiar with.  The form moves through space like a sea creature.  And, the bark from which the cork is culled is soft and thickly craggy. They are not native to California.