Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Day in Temecula, California

Temecula City Hall

Hi all, Dianne here.  One of the great things about Facebook is the ability to get back in touch with old friends, classmates, and neighbors that we’ve lost touch with in the past.  With our current traveling lifestyle, we can go a step further and actually meet up in person, like we did in Temecula today with our old friend and neighbor, Mike H., who moved to California from Indiana years ago. Mike &  Roger
We first met Mike when we were looking at a house with our realtor in 1979.  He came outside and answered our questions, and told us it was a great neighborhood.  We ended up buying that house and became next-door neighbors.  Mike was a young man just starting out at the time, and both of his children were born during the time we were neighbors. 

We had our own little cluster of six families, all with small children or newly married.  We partied, vacationed and enjoyed a really special time together before all six families “moved on up” to larger homes in better neighborhoods.  Roger and I have had much nicer houses in better neighborhoods than that small ranch on LaCanada in Fishers, Indiana, but never have we had so much fun!

Mike now lives in Orange County, near the ocean, and has done quite well for himself and his family.  We metBank restaurant exterior for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Old Town Temecula called “The Bank,” which really was a bank back in the day.

It was great to catch up on each other’s lives and children’s lives, and to know all’s well with people we care about.

Roger here... Ironically, we met my brother for lunch in the same town three years ago when he had business in San Diego.  We had never heard of Temecula before, but picked it because it was an easy drive for both of us.  (We were near Los Angeles.)  Fast forward to today. At the moment that Mike and I were talking about my brother, my brother called.  Coincidences in life are sometimes amazing.
Temecula street scene
After lunch, Roger and I walked around Temecula for a bit and did a little shopping in the quaint shops.

Temecula street shops

Attention Val, Bonnie, and Linda -- I found some really pretty large, decorative tiles to use on top of our Texas bar outside for happy hours next winter. 
big tile 1big tile 2
big tile 3wine bottles
The fourth photo shows a lighted, decorated wine bottle to also grace the top of our bar for happy hour.  The other two bottles were from
Hart wineryHart winery, where we stopped for a wine tasting on our way out of town. 

Temecula rooftop scene

It was a cold, dreary day, so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at home catching up on blogs.  This entry is the last of that group.  Friday morning we moved on to Palm Springs, where we had special visitors from LA, our daughter Robyn and her boyfriend Atul!  Check back soon!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Giant Sculptures in the Desert

  Roger here...  After what Dianne referred to as the "hike from hell", I thought it best to let our air-conditioned car do the exercise for the next couple of hours while we cooled down.  We needed a diversion.  So I took Dianne on a safari.

One of the main reasons that we traveled to this part of the country was to see the giant sculptures of the artist Ricardo Breceda. They are sporadically scattered in the desert outside of Borrego Springs.  Multi-millionaire Dennis Avery donated the land where most of Breceda's sculptures appear.  The huge metal beasts (created from rolled sheet metal) seem to be roaming along the roadway, both north and south of town.  It is somewhat surreal, safari-like.   Some of the creatures exist in the real world, some existed at one time, and some bring thoughts of a fantasy adventure.  I have to admit, when I saw the first giant metallic animal, a smile came to my face and my imagination kicked into full gear.  Let's start the safari.

Look, a herd of rogue elephants!  Let's drive off the road on that path and check them out.  Do you think it is safe to get out of the car?  I doubt that I can outrun the bull elephant above, and he does not seem to understand the sit/stay command that we use with Bandido and Tequila.  But, the guy below seems tame enough.

As I drove our trusty (two-wheel drive) Toyota along the shifting sandy path, we came upon a mother camel nursing a little guy.  Even though the camels were not a threat, Dianne thought that we might get stuck in the sand.  I did not tell her, but I was concerned about that too.  Getting stuck would not be a good thing in this strange world where tow trucks probably do not exist. (Dianne here:  Plus, if you read our last blog entry, we had not yet gone to Julian for pie....)  So we followed the tire tracks back to the main road.  (We really need a jeep.  Maybe we'll find one along the way.)

Look out!  There are a couple of raptors.  Or are they giant sloths? I think maybe giant sloths.  They look prehistoric to me.  One of them appears to be attacking the other, or possibly doing something else.  In any case, I don't think we should venture far from the car.

OK, now we have truly ventured into a lost world.  I had never seen a dragon before and this menacing guy was gigantic.  I threw caution to the wind and probably got a little too close, but I don't think he saw me.  He seemed to be focused on something else.  This is only his head.  He slithered for hundreds of feet spanning both sides of the roadway.  We weren't safe, even in the car.

We escaped as the dragon moved on through the desert.

Whew.  OK, this guy seems to be a little safer, but still larger than life in this magical place.

I was hoping we might get a glimpse of the local natives.  This guy must be the chief.  He didn't look too happy, so it was best to keep our distance.  His torso seemed to be coming straight out of the ground.

I wonder what he was looking at.  Maybe the two people who were barreling through his kingdom in the jeep?

We needed to go talk with them.  Their jeep might be our only escape if our little Toyota got stuck.

They had no interest in talking with us.  The guy with the mustache was intent on climbing over the boulders.  The girl was hanging on for dear life as her hair blew in the wind.  They seemed to be anxious to get away from all the gigantic creatures.  Perhaps they did something to offend the natives?

We had hoped to find some other creatures.  I had heard that there were dinosaurs, but they must have moved on because we did not find them.

It was time for Dianne and me to move back into the real world, so we retraced our route back to Borrego Springs. 

As we drove south of town on the way to Julian (and the pie),  we saw several wild horses and a few big-horned sheep (also sculptures) that appeared to be running across the desert.  At that point, we assumed we were done viewing these metal creatures.

But we were wrong.  The next day, on our way back from Temecula, we found ourselves in a different world --- the old west.  We spotted a stage coach.  Back in time again.  How cool this is?

I think I'll climb aboard and take a ride.  I needed to be careful climbing up.  Don't want to fall under those wagon wheels that actually turn.

Oops.  "Sorry mister.  Doesn't look like there's room for me."

Nice lookin' horse.  Looks like his mane could use some brushing.

Well, it appears that we missed our ride.  

Back to the real world again....  Ricardo Breceda's creations pop up unexpectedly all over the Borrego Springs, Aguanga and Temecula area of California.  A herd of horses appear to be leaping over SR 79.  Mountain sheep dot the hills.  A monk carrying a cross with his dog trudges along the desert.  We don't have pictures of much of this because we were driving by in the car and there was no place to stop.  This artist is one amazingly talented guy.  What fun.

Dianne here:  The artist allows visitors to his workshop.  Here's the information if you come to this area and would like to visit:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Borrego Springs & Pie, Oh, My!

Hi all, Dianne here.  What’s wrong with this picture??  (And I don’t mean the bad hair).dianne not amused
Well, if you know me, you’ll notice that my smile looks pretty fake.  In fact, the title of this picture on my computer is “Dianne not amused.”  Part of the reason the smile looks fake is that my lips were parched and dry.  When does a three-mile “nature trail” feel like an eight-mile “death march”?  Let me explain….

Roger is a planner extreme.  We have folders of magazine articles we’ve saved over the years for referencing different areas we want to visit.  One article we saved described a short, 1 1/2 mile out-and-back hike (3 miles total) to native fan palms at Borrego Springs State Park.  Sounds easy, yes?  That’s what we thought.  All I can say is the folks who wrote the magazine article must have done the hike in the dead of winter. 
drive to borrego
Our first clue was on the drive over.  Aguanga, where our camp site is, is at about 2000 feet elevation.  The weather has been cool (evenings and mornings have been downright cold) while we’ve been here.  From Aguanga, we drove up and over a mountain range, then down, down, down to about 500 feet elevation at Borrego Springs.  As we went down the mountain to the parched valley below, we both remarked how much it reminded us of the approach to Death Valley. They were similar in more ways than one….

We did stop for a quick lunch in town, then drove to the state park visitor’s center.  The rangers were busy with other customers, so we took a brochure and headed for the trailhead, which was described to begin on the other side of the campground.  Once we got to the fee station, we saw that the fee was $8 for day use until April 30.  $8 just for a short nature hike?  I don’t think so.  We decided to drive back to the visitor’s center and hike to the trail head. start of trail
Notice how bright the sun is?  Ever heard the expression white-hot heat?  We walked, and walked, and walked.    This photo was taken on the .7 mile paved trail from the visitor’s center to an asphalt road we walked on (forever) to reach the trailhead.  See how far ahead Roger is?  Normally I walk much faster than he does.  On this day, he was worried about fitting all of our day’s activities in and so he was practically sprinting down the trail, checking his watch now and then, as my irritation level grew with each step.  My pedometer clocked 3.3 miles before we even reached the trailhead to begin the trail.
safety hiking sign 2safety hiking sign 1
I did note the first safety sign stated “People have died on this trail for lack of water.”  Not an auspicious start for a 1 1/2 mile out-and-back.  I’m sure it wasn’t 124 degrees as indicated on the warning sign, but it was in the 90s for sure.  (Our car thermometer registered 95 when we returned to the car).
rocky trail
This is what I remember of this trail.  No dogs allowed, so we couldn’t depend on them to sniff out rattlesnakes for us. There were also areas where the trail was not very well marked.  We made a few false turns, but managed to pick our way along.
  This is the last photo I took along the trail.  The indentations in the rock were made by early Indians who ground Agave seeds in the rock to make flour.
rock holes
At around this point I reached my limit and threw a hissy-fit.  (R: Yes, she did.)  I told Roger to go on to the end of the trail and I’d wait for him.  In my defense, my foot was starting to hurt from hiking on the rocky, uneven trail, and I was starting to feel a little faint.  I only had half a bottle of water left at that point.  As you’ll see from the following pictures and narrative from Roger, I should have continued on just a little longer!

I waited near a low, rocky outcropping with about a 2-square-foot area of shade underneath.  While I waited for Roger to come back, I crouched in there a few times, but kept imagining all the snakes and rats lurking in the crevices, so I pretty much just stood in the sun.  I thought a few times about going back without him, or going on to find him, but I knew I’d probably get lost if I did and they’d find my bleached, white bones a few weeks later.  Oh, yeah, and our cell phones were out of range at that point, too, so I would have had to scribble a note to him in the sand and hope that he’d see it.

Roger here....  My high school friend, Adele, explained to me that girls are different than boys in these situations.  She told me that they cannot take the heat.  At the time she halted her part of the hike, there certainly was a lot of heat, and not all of it was coming from the sun.  I did not know she was feeling faint, but I did know that she was not happy with me, and I thought it was best to get away :-).

Soon after I scampered across a dry creek bed on a couple of logs, things got very green.

After climbing over a boulder, the copse of California Palms came into view.  Amidst this arid landscape, it was truly an amazing sight.

In a short time, I was surrounded by trees and I could hear running water.

It might have been a nice place to get my feet wet, but I needed to move on.

I walked through a narrow (very short) slot canyon and emerged into an oasis in the desert.

OK.  I am here.  I must not linger.  Now, I must go.  I literally sprinted back down the trail, worrying that Dianne might have left her semi-shady spot.

My only stop was to take a picture of this waterfall.  Too bad I could not take it back to Dianne.  It might have cooled things down (in more ways than one).

A couple of good things then occurred.  One, Dianne was safe and sound where I expected her to be, and she had plenty of water, and she was rested.  Two, we did not waste any precious energy talking on the long, hot trek back to the car.

Dianne again…we plan to do a separate blog showing the unique and very cool desert sculptures we drove to see after the death march hike, so check back tomorrow for that.  After viewing the sculptures, it was getting late (it did, after all, take us about two hours longer to hike than we expected) and Roger innocently asked if I still wanted to go to Julian, CA for pie.  I demurely said “sure,” but what went through my mind was By God, after that hike you’d better believe I’m getting some pie!!”
Julian street scene
We took some twisty-curvy roads to the small town of Julian, California, whose main claim to fame in these parts is the famous Julian Pie Company.  Julian is at a high altitude, and my sunburned, parched skin got goosebumps from the cold as soon as we got out of the car.  Julian Pie Company pretty sign
But all I can say is all’s well that ends well, and this day certainly ended well with tart, homemade apple pie with a large slab of cinnamon ice cream on top.  pie
I was once again a happy camper!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jojoba Hills Escapees Park - WOW!

Roger here....  Look at the picture above to see the back yard at our current site at Jojoba Hills.  Actually, it is just one part of the back yard.  This site is the most amazing civilized site we have encountered in five years of RVing.  The cost? Keep in mind that we are in California.  $22 a night!  We are so upset that we are not staying longer than four nights, but we have plans down the road.  This entire post is devoted to our site here at Jojoba Hills.  (Dianne here:  Don't drive to California expecting to get a site like this at Jojoba Hills.  The people who own this site obviously love it, and I suspect they spend much of their time here.  I am still amazed that we were so lucky as to get this site.  If this isn't the best site in the park, I'd like to see the others!)

After checking in, and receiving the most thorough welcoming information that we have ever received at an RV park, we were escorted to our site by Chuck, who talked with us for about 20 minutes after directing us into our spectacular site.  Everyone here is so friendly.

This view of the gigantic parking area for our car, and the fenced utility pedestal provides only a glimpse of what we found on the remainder of the site.

The landscaping that was visible when  walking from the car parking area to the front of the motor home was beautiful.

This picture illustrates one of the sitting areas at the back of the site that overlooks the ever-present boulders, the mountains, other areas of the park, and three ponds (below), all with fountains.

 The shot below shows Dianne enjoying the view.

The storage shed and gas grill area was one of the many areas screened by decorative fencing.

 The gazebo was a focal point in the back yard....
that also provided excellent shade in the southern California sun.
We even had a bright green lawn (albeit astro-turf) and a park bench complete with street light.

Even a quiet spot to sit in the sun if we so desired.  (We did not.)

Dianne took lots of pictures of the numerous decorative xeriscape plantings.  There was something to enjoy in every direction.

Somebody has a green thumb.

Anyone know what kind of fruit this is?  The tree was completed covered.

I have not yet mentioned all the other amenities this place has:  
a stunning pool, two hot tubs, 
two saunas, library, video library, tennis court, pickle ball court, miniature golf course, meeting/party hall, wood/metal shop, air gun range, etc.  There is also a lot to do in the area.  We will share some of it in the next three posts.

This is a place that we intend to visit often.  The next time we hope to stay for a month. 
The above photo shows the isolated dog run.  The run itself is not very special, but it is in a scenic area and it is plenty long enough for Bandido to chase tennis balls and for Tequila to hunt for lizards.  All week long we thought this was the only dog run in the park.  The day before we left, we took a tour with Charlie, a very friendly resident, who showed us around the park and introduced us to all of the amenities.  

During Charlie's tour we discovered that there is a larger dog park that is not yet on the rv park map, so we made sure to take the kids over there on our last evening.

The good thing about this park is that it's built on a slope, so that if Bandido doesn't retrieve the ball, it will roll back on its own!