Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adventures in L.A.

Hi all, Dianne here.  Our main purpose for coming to California this fall was to visit our daughter, Robyn, in Los Angeles for the holidays.  The Californian RV Resort in Acton will be our home base.  It's about an hour north of the city, in the foothills of the Antelope Valley.   Our campground is at 3600 feet.   It's COLD here!!   We watch the temperature gauge on the car each time we drive into town to see Robyn, and the difference is  always 10 to 15 degrees warmer at her place.

Roger is becoming an old pro at driving the Matrix in the infamous Los Angeles traffic, on "The 101,"  "The 5,"  "The 405," and "The 14."  When we leave town in the motor home, we'll use "The 210."  We're getting used to the vernacular around here.  At home, the roads are called "I-69" or "State Road 38," for instance.  Out here, every road is preceded by "The..."

We spent a very fun Thanksgiving with Robyn at the home of her friends, Scott and Kate, and their darling baby, Colin.   There were ten college friends (from Indiana), plus Roger and I.  Here is a photo of Robyn (on the right) with her friend, Rachel.

After a wonderful meal and great conversation they broke out the "Rock Band" XBox game.  What fun!  Robyn tried her hand on the keyboard while her friends were on the guitar, drums, and vocals.

They persuaded Roger to try a turn.   He gave it a go, but let's just say he should stick to his day job of retiree.   

This morning we decided to check out some other campgrounds in the area for future reference, and do a little sightseeing.  We drove to Malibu and checked out the Malibu Beach RV Resort, which is right on the Pacific Coast Highway, with ocean views (for a hefty price.)   We made reservations to spend Christmas week there before we leave for Texas.
Our next adventure was really fun for me.  I had mentioned to Robyn that I wondered where The Biggest Loser ranch was (one of my favorite TV shows).  She looked it up for me.  Roger and I decided to drive past to see if we could see it, since we were in that area this morning.  As it turns out, it is actually a historic ranch that is part of a public park facility.  We were able to drive in, park for $7, and walk the trails on the property.   We didn't expect any contestants to be on the ranch at this time, as the current season is almost over.   Below is a shot of the workout gym:

I noticed a contestant who had pulled an exercise bike to the front doorway of the gym and was working hard while enjoying the cool air and outside views.  I knew he wasn't from this current season.  I started to take a photo of the gym, but then we were approached by a security guard.  He explained that we were welcome to photograph the outside of the buildings, but were not to take photos of any of the contestants.  Since the contestant was visible in the open doorway of the gym photo I had taken, I erased it and used this one instead (not as good).  

We talked to the guard for a minute and he explained where we were allowed to walk.  When I told him I didn't realize contestants would be there at this time, he explained that these were the new contestants for the next series, which has already begun filming.

We hiked up a steep hill to the top and took a photo of the house from atop the hill.  We heard voices and, sure enough, there were two contestants sitting at the top of the hill after hiking up.  Now I can say I've exercised at the Biggest Loser Ranch!

The reason I like this show so much is that I love to see the contestants' transformations.  The show also keeps me motivated to try to stay active and fit.   Now I can't wait for the new season to start, so that I can watch the contestants we saw today and follow their progress. 

 When we hiked back down the hill and past the gym again, the contestant was gone and the front doors were open, showing some of the exercise equipment inside.

From there, we drove over to Robyn's apartment for a short visit, and took her out for some Thai food.   We talked about some of the things we'd like to do together during our month here.   We made reservations to take a Warner Brothers studio tour, and signed up for tickets for a couple of TV show tapings.  What fun!!  Let the adventures begin....

The whippet photo of the day shows the boys in their coats after a very cold walk down to the dog walk area of the campground.  They won't be spending much time outside here, that's for sure!   I think they're already dreaming of South Texas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Gift

Roger here...   Every day (almost) has seemed like a gift to Dianne and me since we began our new lives traveling in a motor home.  But like Christmas, some gifts are better than others -- especially unexpected gifts.  Yesterday was one of the best.  

We woke up to gloomy, gray skies.  It had rained overnight.  The weather forecast called for a 90% chance of rain throughout the entire day.  It was supposed to be cloudy (like a typical Indiana November day) all day long.  It was supposed to be chilly (high temperature in the mid-fifties).  All-righty then.  We'll snuggle up in the motor home and read.  It would have been a nice, quiet, uneventful day.   But...

Mid-morning.  What's this?  Is that the sun?  Are those blue patches in the sky?  I seemed to recall that a tall sailing ship was scheduled to arrive in Morro Bay.  I spent a few minutes with my new best friend, Google, and determined that the Lady Washington should be docked in the town.  We decided that we could probably walk the few blocks to see the ship before the bad weather returned.  Since this is such a dog-friendly town, we took the dogs with us.  

What a cool looking vessel!   The Lady Washington is an authentic 18th century merchant sloop.  It has been featured as the HMS Interceptor in two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, as well as the Brig Enterprise in Star Trek Generations.  Fun.  

When we told the "boys" that it was the ship from Pirates of the Caribbean, they insisted on posing in front of the pirate statue on the sidewalk  :-)

It was still sunny at 11:00 a.m. and was actually warming up, so we decided to head for the beach.  You can walk for miles along the beach here, and we did.  The weather was perfect for a little aerobic exercise, and so was the scenery.

We found some truly yucky-looking and large jellyfish on the sand, as well as countless sand dollars.

Leaving the beach, we walked along the boardwalk next to the protected harbor and watched four sea otters frolic in the water while swimming on their backs.  (We did film this, but they were too far away.  Maybe next time.)  You'll have to settle for the pic of the Great Blue Heron, who seems to stake out the same spot in the harbor every day.

It was 1:00 p.m. and we had been walking for hours.  Still blue skies.  Still full sun.  It was pleasantly warm. Where is the rain?  I'm hungry.  Are you hungry?  Let's stop at one of those outdoor places on the harbor for fish tacos and maybe fish 'n chips.  We found the perfect place, and the boys were welcome too!  How cool that the fresh-fish posting included the names of the captains of the  fishing boats next to the fish that each brought to the restaurant.

The fresh, local cod in the fish 'n chips and tacos was amazing.  One of the crew even brought the boys a dish of water.  (What they really wanted was some of the fish, but they behaved themselves.)  (Dianne here:  There were several other dogs dining at the same time; all were well-behaved, and all were served a dish of water.  A black lab seated behind us gave Chaplin a little distraction.)

We sat right next to the water among the fishing boats.  A sea lion entertained us while we ate.  

There was other entertainment, as well.  A local singer played his guitar and provided a background of Jimmy Buffet, Rod Stewart, and Elvis tunes.

A humdrum, gray day turned into a sunny, perfect day.  It was a gift.  Another plus, altogether we had walked nearly eight miles and felt invigorated. 

 The weather was also supposed to be dreary today, but it was not, so back to the beach for another aerobic workout.  We saw horses on the beach and watched the Lady Washington leave the harbor.  We took one more picture of Morro Rock in the late afternoon. We also returned to the Dockside's fresh fish market; this time to buy California Halibut to grill for dinner. 

(Dianne here:  I dropped back to get a photo of  Roger and the dogs walking ahead on our way back down the beach.  We never did get to the end of the beach; each day we used my pedometer to clock how far we wanted to walk before turning around to go back.  

There was a high surf advisory in effect today, so I took a few additional photos of the surf.  The ocean is like the mountains; it looks different every day!)

The Whippet Picture of the Day shows Chaplin diligently reading the posting of what he is supposed to do when it is time to relieve himself.  Unfortunately, Chaplin is not fluent in English or Doggie, so the cleanup continues to be our job. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Drive Up the Pacific Coast Highway

Hi all -- Dianne here.  With only a few days left in Morro Bay, Roger and I spent a day driving north up the Pacific Coast Highway from Morro Bay to just south of the Monterey Peninsula.  We took the Matrix, not the motorhome, on this excursion due to the twisty-curvy, narrow road.  

The weather forecast was for clear, sunny days for the next two days, and we debated which day we should take the drive.  It's a good thing we chose the day we did, because fog and rain moved into the area the second day, and we would have missed the spectacular views, had we waited.  

Jasper accompanied us.   We left Chaplin and Charlie the cat to mind the motor home.  Chaplin does not like riding in the car, and we knew he'd be happier at home.

We decided we were hungry, and stopped for a quick -- very delicious-- fried egg sandwich at a sandwich shop at Ragged Point.  A fried egg sandwich might not sound very exotic, but man-oh-man was it good!  The cook used crispy, buttery, grilled thick slices of bread.

We made occasional stops at turnouts to catch the beautiful scenery.  

One quick stop was at the Henry Miller "Library."  They have free coffee there (for a donation), and a small bookstore.  It's a very laid-back, artsy place.  

There was a very relaxed cat sunning itself on the porch.  We enjoyed a cup of coffee and listened to a young French family tutoring their children on the patio. 

After that quick stop, we drove on up the highway, stopping at yet more beautiful scenery stops along the way.  

I was surprised to see all the tall, golden pampas grass growing on the hillsides.  I'd never seen it growing wild before.

We turned around when we reached Carmel Highlands, and made the return trip south back to Morro Bay. 

 We saw the fog rolling in from a distance, and pretty soon we drove into it.  That ended our spectacular views.  The rest of the ride was twisty-curvy and nothing to see, and poor Jasper got car sick in the back.  I wore my "Sea Band" wrist bands, which helped, but by the time we got back to Morro Bay after our six-hour excursion up and back, I was feeling kinda green myself.

It's too difficult to choose which photos to include in this blog, so I made a slide show of all the photos from the drive, if you'd like to see them all.  If it's gray and dreary in Indiana right now, as it normally is in November, these might look pretty good to my friends back home!

Photo Slideshow - Pacific Coast Highway, Central California

Check back soon for another blog closing out our stay here in Morro Bay.  Now that we've discovered we can walk the dogs for miles and miles down the beach, we've decided it's our new favorite beach destination.  We're already trying to decide when we can
return and stay for a month or so!

The whippet photo of the day shows the boys cuddling on the couch during our morning "blogs and coffee time."  (You fulltime RV'ers know what that is!)  Chaplin is still wearing his "jammies," an old Christmas sweater that keeps him warm at night.  Jasper sleeps under the covers with us, but Chaplin prefers to sleep on the couch at night.  If he gets cold, I hear him pawing on the slipcover in the middle of the night, trying to turn it into a blanket.  I got tired of stumbling into the living room to cover him up with a real blanket (to keep from having a two-foot hole pawed into the couch), so from now on he wears "jammies" at night!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Morro Bay with Friends

Roger here....

Morro Bay, California was established in 1545.  1545.  Wow, that seems like a long time ago!  What a cool place it is.  We are currently staying at the Cyprus Morro Bay RV Park, two blocks from the bay.  What fun it has been to be able to walk everywhere we need to go in this small, scenic fishing village.  Our site, though small, is very comfortable.  The owners of the RV park have done a beautiful job of bricking all the hard surfaces.  It looks great and gives the small RV park a very comfortable feel - a place we would love to return to.

Our friends, Jay and Nancy, have been here with us for a few days.  After visiting the Hearst Castle, we traveled back to Paso Robles to check out a few more wineries (as if we needed more wine).  

(Thanks to blog readers John & Judy for the tip to visit the Opolo Winery.  We went there first.  Our friends, who know A LOT more about wine than we do, bought a half case to send home! We bought some, too.  -- D.)

The scenery in the wine area continues to impress.  Here are a few shots.  Check out the shot of Nancy's playful pose at one of the wineries.  (Sorry, Nance, couldn't resist posting this.)

Lots of other pretty scenery to see.

Our "wine cellar" that fits behind the slide-out in the front room of the motor home is now full.  No more wineries for us for quite some time :-)  

(Good thing we saved some wine boxes to transport all this stuff!!  We also bought six bottles to take to our daughter, Robyn, in Los Angeles when we get there next week.)

The remaining time with our friends was spent exploring the nearby towns along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Our long walk along Pismo Beach provided a great opportunity to walk off some of the great sea food we have been consuming.

There was a great climbing rock at the far end of the beach.  It would have been foolish for me to climb all the way to the top, so I only climbed up half-way -- not foolish at all.

Dianne always tells me that she takes better pictures than I do.  These photos that she took from the Pismo Beach Pier prove that she is right, as usual.

From Pismo we drove to San Luis Obispo, where we had the best clam chowder I have ever had, at the Splash Cafe.  (Sorry, New England).  In one meal I  regained the five pounds that I lost at Yosemite!

Morning over - up the Pacific Coast Highway we went.  Jay, the driver, slammed on the brakes as we passed the Hearst Ranch.  Zebras!  They were actually being stalked by a Coyote, but they did not seem to be the least bit concerned.  How cool!  (Dianne again:  These zebras are descendants of the zebras William Randolph Hearst had as part of his exotic animal collection at Hearst Castle.   Decades ago, the collection was dispersed to zoos around the country, but  a few zebras remained.  Eighty years later, and this little herd is still going strong.  We saw about a dozen zebras altogether, but there are probably more than that roaming the huge Hearst ranch out of sight.  They graze among the cattle and seem very happy there!)

After some quality time with the zebras, we traveled a few more miles up the highway to the beach-front home of the elephant seals.
I had hoped to see a few of these large sea creatures.  I was amazed to see hundreds of them.  We heard them snorting as soon as we opened the car doors.  These were the sub-adult males.  The larger adult males and the females will be arriving in a couple weeks to mate.  The aggressive behavior that you see in the photos and the video is considered playful.  The real fighting takes place as the adults stake out their territory and drive the sub adults away.

It was so much fun to see them lumbering across the sand like giant "Slinkies."  Dianne took a short video of them in action.

On the way back to Morro Bay, we stopped at the tiny town of Harmony.  Today it only has 18 people, but in its heyday it had a dairy that provided dairy products for the Hearsts.  You can still hear the mooing of nearby cows waiting to be milked.  There are also two unique artisan workshops worth visiting -- a glass works and a pottery barn.  Cool stuff.  No room for it in the motor home.  Money saved :-)  (Note to my Indiana friends:  The pottery reminded me of the pottery in Pigeon Forge, TN.  It's a good thing it wouldn't travel well, or I might have bought some. -- D.)

Jay and Nancy headed back to Indiana the next morning.  The opening photo was taken from Dorn's Restaurant where we met for breakfast before they left.  Quite a view, huh?  

Dianne and I spent the next two days enjoying the ambience of Morro Bay.  We hiked with both dogs to, and most of the way around, Morro Rock, the feature that dominates nearly every view in the area.  The sky really was that blue in the second pic.

We sat on a bench, watching the surfers, and the continual pounding of the waves on the crescent beach.

After a long, long walk on the beach, we headed back to the village area.  The last shot before the Whippet Picture of the Day shows the view that I see twice a day when I take the boys for their walks.  I really need to spend a few hours just sitting on a bench here.

The Whippet Picture of the Day depicts Dianne and the boys before a long, long walk on the beach.  Sadly, we don't have pictures of Chaplin returning to his puppyhood as he bounded along the sand at a full whippet run, stopping only to enjoy the strange new smells of the beach.  He had such a good day that we repeated it the next afternoon.  Oh, and I have to tell you that Jasper enjoyed chasing the sea gulls off the sand and back into the water where he felt they belonged.  We will probably take this walk/run a few more times before we leave.