1/7/18 – 2/16/18 (it’s a long one…trying to catch up)

Back in California

After a long day of plane travel, we were happy to see our motorhome intact despite the 4.4 earthquake near Berkeley on January 4th. The small space of the RV felt cramped after being in larger homes for a while so we decided to spend a day in San Francisco. Headed to the Walt Disney Family Museum to see the special exhibit on Edvind Earle (Sleeping Beauty artist), along with other Disney talents and screen set designs.

Stopped by Pier 39 to see the sea lions, gift shops, and a beautiful sunset.

For dinner we went to Dublin and ate at Sri Vasantha Bhavan which features authentic South Indian vegetarian food. We ordered Samosa’s which was the only thing on the menu we recognized, so we asked the server for additional recommendations, informing him of Alyssa’s peanut allergy. He described some options and we chose a few dishes not certain of what we ordered. Dosa, Uthappam, and a combo platter of Idly and Methu Vada. We started Googling to find out what to expect. Our meals came and it was breads and veggies with different dipping sauces. Interesting! Not like the savory curry sauces and naan bread that we typically have but tasty still. While Alyssa was sampling the dipping sauces, she stopped and said one tasted like peanuts. YUP! Sure enough, after checking with the server, it was peanut sauce! So why did they give the one who is allergic to peanuts, peanut sauce? Good question! The server said he wrote it on the ordering slip but the kitchen staff didn’t see it. OK, so we watched Alyssa for a reaction, left the restaurant upset, and headed home to give her some Benadryl. She was fine, had no reaction, and slept very well that night.

Sequoia National Park

We stayed at Sequoia RV Park in Dunlap which is about ½ hour away from Kings Canyon National Park and a good location to explore both parks. On January 11, we went to Kings Canyon and hiked in the General Grant Grove area to see the Giant Tree. Being the third-largest tree by volume and 40 feet in diameter, it’s the world’s widest know Sequoia. The drive through Kings Canyon was gorgeous with boundless vista’s!

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The next day, they opened the road between the two parks and we drove to Sequoia National Park to see more of the giant trees and scenic mountains. The General Sherman Tree is claimed to be the “world’s biggest” by volume at 52,500 cubic feet and a base diameter of 36.5 feet.

Cat Haven Rescue Park

Dunlap has a wild-cat rescue park called “Cat Haven” which we visited. Tour guides lead you through the park to see the beautiful leopards, tigers, snow leopards, panthers, etc. It was amazing to see the connection that the cats had to the caregivers. As they walked by the cages, the cats would growl-talk to him and roll over on their backs for attention and belly rubs.

Los Angeles

We moved to the Valencia Travel Village campground near Los Angeles to explore the area. It had pull-through sites, a nice pool, and hot tub, game and TV room. Our TV receptors seem to be broken and we couldn’t use our DVD player and we didn’t have any channels through the antenna reception, so it was nice to have the public television as an option.

On Bob’s birthday, we went to dinner at Chi Chi’s Pizza, which was a nice family restaurant in Santa Clarita, and he enjoyed a complimentary dessert.

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Our first day in Los Angeles we saw the typical tourist sites: Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Strip, hiked to see the Hollywood sign and drove by the Warner Brothers studios.

Channel Islands National Park

January 16, we took a ferry from Ventura to Santa Cruz Island, which is south of Los Angeles and part of the Channel Islands National Park. We hit large swells (10-14’) on our way out and were happy that we all took Dramamine. Got to see some dolphins during the ride and whales in the distance. On the Island, we hiked along the ridge and stopped at overlooks with a destination to Potato Cove.

We heard some sea lions, however, couldn’t find them. Saw lots of Island Foxes though. They are indigenous to the island and are much smaller than typical foxes. The boat ride was much smoother on the way back and we were thrilled to find dolphins playing in the waves of the ferry.

 

For dinner we had take-out fish taco’s from Spencer Makenzie’s who claims to have the “best fish taco’s in the country.” We tried the grilled fish, fried calamari, tempura fish, and grilled shrimp taco’s. All were served with a nice cabbage coleslaw and cilantro topping … a tasty combination. The best? Who knows … but we will continue to sample across the states.

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Women’s March 2018

January 20, we joined 700,000 others in Los Angeles for the Women’s March. The signs were creative and the celebrity speakers (Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Ted Danson,  Viola Davis,  Marisa Tomei…) were powerful and encouraging. We were also entertained by singers like Andra Day and Maxwell. An exciting and motivating day!

Camping in Long Beach

Switched campgrounds to head south of Los Angeles to the Golden Shore RV Resort in Long Beach which is near some boating piers and biking paths along the shoreline. We explored the city of Naples, walked through the neighborhoods along the canals, and enjoyed seeing the homes and gardens.

Disneyland vs. Disneyworld

Seeing Disneyland was on Alyssa’s bucket list so on January 23 we spent the day comparing it to Disneyworld. Prioritizing the rides by which ones we didn’t go on in Florida, we headed to Space Mountain first, since the line was only about 30 minutes. Jumping around and checking the waiting times on the Disney app, we got in about 10 rides in total with the Indiana Jones Temple and Polar Express rides being our favorites. The overall size of the park is much smaller than Disneyworld and the central castle is modest in comparison but it was a fun day overall!

 

Another Botanical Garden

January 24, we headed to the South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes Peninsula, which was on my bucket list. Hummingbirds were everywhere enjoying all the trumpeting flowers in bloom. There were many tropical, succulent, and cactus plants that I wasn’t familiar with but it was fun to learn more about them. The front gardens were more formal, featuring a Japanese garden with koi pond, rose garden, and veggie garden, while the back gardens were more naturalized with a banyan grove, magnolia collection, and a ginkgo grove.

Camping in Bonita

We stayed at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park for a couple of weeks. We were in the older section for a week and after getting ants in the RV we switched to the newer area, which was on higher ground and less sandy sites.  We had some musical campers playing guitars and bongos for entertainment and there were nice running and biking trails.  This was also the first place we spotted Road Runners (the birds).

San Diego

Years ago, we all enjoyed the San Diego area and wanted to visit again. Of course the Zoo and the Safari Park were at the top of the list.

January 26, we bought the two-day two-park pass and went to the San Diego Zoo first. It was a beautiful day and not too-crowded so we covered lots of ground during our afternoon there. Started at the Reptile House, then moved through Lost Forest to see tiger, monkey, chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, okapi, and bird aviaries. The big attraction was the Pandas. Looking like big teddy bears, they laid asleep and unfazed by the large watching crowd. The Northern Frontier featured the polar bear, which were fun to watch underwater. Another highlight was the Outback where we saw many Koala’s. Again, most were snoozing but we luckily saw a mother and baby awake eating eucalyptus branches.

Next was the San Diego Safari Park. It was rather warm at 82 degrees so we decided to go on the 30-minute African tram ride first before it got too hot and crowded. We saw antelope, gazelle, giraffe, and rhinos in the African Plains, which has acres of wide-open space where the animals are intermingled. My favorite part of the park!!! We then explored on foot and saw lemur, gorilla, elephant, tiger, condor, monkeys, and many more animals, birds, and reptiles. Before leaving we lined up to see the cheetah run where they let the cat run after a stuffed animal so you can see its speed. Very cool! At the end, the adorable cheetah cuddles with the stuffed animal. So cute!

Two long days with lots of walking but it was great to see both parks again. Each offers a unique experience with some of the same animals so it’s hard to choose one park over the other.

Reunited with Mr. Giddens

January 30, we connected with Alyssa’s 5th grade teacher, Mr. Giddens and his wife Jamie, and met them at the Avensole Winery. It was wonderful to see them again after 10 years and Mr. Giddens was still teaching 5th grade at a private school nearby. We got a tour of his classroom then met their children, Tyler and Gracie. We enjoyed a pizza dinner at their house and laughed about the fun times at Summit Montessori School. Great past memories (about avocado’s) and new ones to treasure forever! Thanks for everything Paul and Jamie … we had a blast!!!

Yet Another Botanical Garden

The Japanese Garden at Balboa Park in San Diego was another highlight. Featuring terraced gardens with azalea shrubs, maple trees, streams, bridges, and a Tea House. The rest of Balboa Park has 15 museums, Botanical Building, desert garden, several churches, a sports complex, Spanish Village Art Center, and includes the San Diego Zoo. The entire park is 1,200 acres which is bigger than Central Park (842 acres).

In the evening, we watched the sunset from Driscoll’s Wharf and had fish taco’s and a pork sandwich from Carnitas’ Snack Shack. Both selections were good, however, the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich which is a combo of pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, and bacon, took the lead in robust taste and calories!

On February 2, we drove to LaJolla to stroll along main street seeing art galleries and funky shops. At sunset we went to the beach cove to find the sea lions on the rocks. They were very laid back and comfortable with all the tourists around them so you could get pretty close. We kept our distance after seeing some people trying to touch them and they got an angry roar back.

Desert Hot Springs

Next we moved camp to Catalina Spa RV Resort which has mineral hot spring pools throughout the resort. Being a Passport America park, we paid $27.50 per night for luxurious amenities such as a fitness room, tennis, bocce, pickle ball, billiards, recreation hall, and mini golf. Alyssa loved the changing colored lights in the pool. Definitely one of our favorite places to stay!

A co-worker from Stratus, Robbie, still lives in Palm Desert so I messaged her to see if we could get together. The last time we saw each other we went to Legoland with our kids who were around 6 years old then. Luckily, she had the day off from work so we went to her house to catch up on 16 years of life’s milestones. We met her son Brett, who is Alyssa’s age, then all went out for lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Afterwards, we went for a hike at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve in the Coachella Valley Preserve. It was a hot day (high 80’s or low 90’s) and most of the park is desert with hills and no shade. After about a mile, California Fan Palm trees appear in a cluster in the middle of nowhere. Here lies the Oasis formed by an underground river and now is home to plants, Palm trees, fish, and other animals. Very cool!!!

Another week, we got together once more at Robbie’s house (met her daughter Brooke), had dinner and hung out for the evening. It was a lot of fun and wonderful reconnecting again. Thank you Robbie for your auto service recommendation and other local places to visit. I promise it won’t be another 16 years until we visit again! Miss you already.

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Joshua Tree National Park

On January 7, we visited Joshua Tree NP which is about an hour east of Palm Springs. Joshua trees, Yucca brevifolia, only grow at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. We hiked a few of the easier trails, Discovery Trail, Hidden Valley and Skull Rock. We made it to Skull Rock at dusk to add to the eerie destination. The old dead tree shapes were artistically spread throughout the trails making great photo subjects.

For lunch and dinner another day we had pizza at Two Guys Pies in Yucca Valley. A rock-n-roll theme restaurant with pizza names such as Guns N’ Roasted and Bon Chovies. I had the Purple Haze roasted eggplant sandwich. What a fun and delicious place!

Another day we explored Pioneertown which is an old west town built as a 1940’s movie set. With a trading post, hotel, jail, and of course, a live western shootout. More than 50 films and television shows were filmed here in the 1940s and ‘50s.

On January 11, I woke up and was having difficulty taking a deep breath. I thought it was my asthma but my back right lung was hurting. It wasn’t getting better after using my inhaler so I visited the local hospital to get a chest x-ray. It turned out to be pneumonia so I was on antibiotics for a week and quickly recovered but I had a lingering cough for a while.

We found this great cinema in Cathedral City called the Regency Cathedral. Movies were only $3 and the theater was very nice with comfy seats. We went a couple of times since it was so cheap and saw “Loving Vincent” and “Justice League.”

On Valentine’s Day, Bob surprised Alyssa and I with arms full of gifts and chocolates.  Such a great guy! Later on, Bob and I went to dinner at Mimmo’s Italian Restaurant in Cathedral City.

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Our last day in California was at the Living Desert Zoo and Garden. Since we had just been to the San Diego Zoo’s I wasn’t sure if it would measure up, but it was delightful. Alyssa was happy to feed carrots to a giraffe and I was excited to see a javelina and frilled lizard for the first time.

We had some fun times, saw beautiful places, and connected with some great friends in California. Next up … Arizona!

Congratulations to those of you who made it to the end of this long, long posting! Leave a comment and I’ll send you a postcard from our current destination (wherever that may be).    😉