Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Fun & Desert Travels

Nov. 29, 2012 Hello from Phoenix. Our upcoming trip to New Jersey to catch the Explorer of the Seas and do 20 days of cruising in the Caribbean starts this coming Sunday. So we are in the throes of packing and organizing for that, as well as getting the RV ready to put in storage at the Tempe Elks Lodge. This will probably be the only blog update until we get back from that trip. Hopefully you all had a delightful Thanksgiving. Our son, Darran, arranged for us to stay at Campland on the Bay for 2 days, a very pricey campground right on Mission Bay in San Diego (and he paid for it!!), because it is only a mile from their apartment.
It has been quite a while since we stayed in a commercial campground, not just because they are expensive and have services which we don’t really need because of our solar panels, etc., but also because they always cram so many people into such a small space that RV’s are located virtually only 2 feet from each other once everyone puts their slides out. Here is our rig and car at our site (although our car is actually parked on the next site which was vacant)
Happily there were many vacant sites in the area where they placed us. Here is a picture of a different area, and you can see how crowded this was:
Another factor was that this is a very attractive place for families because there are so many amenities especially for kids, and this was the beginning of a holiday period, so the place was overrun with them. Although the biggest attraction is the park location near Mission Bay, very few sites actually overlook the water, but there is a nice marina, and beach area, which we avoided during the day but walked there in the evening: (005) One of the features we especially like about staying in this area is that there are so many parks with walking and biking trails between them, and it is possible to do a very long walk without being on the streets. Right next to Campland there is a big marsh area which is habitat for birds:
Also on our walks, we always admire all the beautiful flowers which thrive here, especially the Bird of Paradise:
Old friends Kathy & Sally also live in San Diego, so we met them for lunch one day and caught up on all their events.
One of their big events is that they are moving to Gilroy, in order to be closer to Sally’s daughter and grandkids. So this will probably be the last time we see them in this locale. This is something we have been noticing with our RV friends as well – many are gradually settling down into stick and brick houses, often near their children. So far, we are resisting this trend! We prefer to VISIT our kids and then keep moving on! After 2 days in Campland, we parked our rig in front of Ben & Meg Chapion’s house, about 5 miles from Darran’s. Meg is Marielle’s sister. Meg & Ben have a 17 month old son named Charlie, and here is that happy family:
Meg & Marielle’s parents, Bill and Ann Gomez, had already flown out from Long Island, NY to complete the family gathering for the holiday.
This was a fun time to visit Darran & Marielle because in anticipation of the holidays, they had arranged for some extra time off. They hustled over to help us get set up at our new location and here they are with their 2 Moms:
In this family, the biggest star is Charlie, of course, because he is the only grandchild (to date). Marielle spends a lot of time practicing to have her own, by holding him:
We all contributed to the food throughout the 2 days we were there, but Bill, Ann, Meg & Ben did the most work, of course. More family, the West Coast branch, arrived on Thanksgiving day, having driven down from San Francisco. Other friends showed up as well. So there were 2 tables for the dinner; the upper table for the matriarchs and patriarchs, for us, Bill & Ann, and Dennis, Ben’s Dad, and his partner, Chris.
The lower table held everyone else:
The food was delicious and the wine was flowing, so a good time was had by all. Later on, Darran made his famous hot apple pies with crumb topping (which he learned from my sister, Myrna) and we ended the evening with VERY full tummies. Friday we hugged everyone goodbye and drove to Anza Borrego Desert State Park to be with our friends, Lee & Susie Blattner, who were camped there for Thanksgiving with the Boondockers.
Haven’t seen them for a while but happily, they will be with us Dec. 13 to 23rd on our Caribbean cruise in order to celebrate their 50th anniversary. While we were with this group, Marie and Larry also celebrated their 50th anniversary, so Dwayne and Toni joined all of us and we went to a very good restaurant located at the airport near the actual town of Anza Borrego.
The surprising thing was that this is an Italian restaurant named Asseago, which is owned and run by a Korean family. The menu was quite extensive, the food was delicious, they have a huge and outstanding wine list, and the cost was moderate. Such a pleasant surprise for a rather remote place. One of the attractions of camping out on the desert is that unlike Campland, and other RV parks, there is lots of space and quiet. Everyday we went for a walk with Susie, out into the desert:
You can see that besides the desert, there are very colorful mountains in the background which weren’t far from our campsite. One day about 10 people took a hike to a nearby slot canyon led by Butch, one of the regulars who is quite knowledgeable about the area, and about desert geology and plants as well. At the top of the trail, there was an informational board about the calcite mine nearby. It was discovered shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was used in gun sights and anti-aircraft weaponry during WWII. The mine was sold to the Polaroid Corporation, which mined it extensively until 1945 when an artificial substitute for calcite was invented. We hiked down the dusty, rutted road about a mile and then entered the area for the slot canyon. Here is a picture of part of our group at the entrance:
The trail went through quite a variety of terrain and impediments, including this big rock which had fallen over the trail:
We had to climb under it to keep going.
There were several varieties of wildflowers along the way, and Butch knew about all of them:
In some areas the rocks were very smooth and sculpted by water, and we had to work our way up. Having strong people along to push or pull us up was a big help.
In some parts, the “slot” parts, the walls narrowed quite a bit. Here is Susie in one of the narrowest parts:
In these narrow parts, not much sun made it in to bother us. By now it was midday and hot out in the direct sun, so the shade was appreciated. Here is a picture of one of the prettiest areas of the slot:
And in some parts, the rock walls had swirly patterns in the sandstone. This one resembles a T. Rex face – can you see it?
Trish & Don rock climbed up past the end of the trail, and saw this unique cactus:
Everyday there was a group social hour at 3PM and here is a picture of part of it. I wanted you to see some of the reasons we enjoy camping on the desert. Notice how widely scattered the RV’s are, and the wide open spaces where we have room to roam.
Elaine, Susie and Trish are enjoying Happy Hour:
Now that we are in Phoenix, we have had the chance to visit some RV friends who are now settled full time in a home near here. This is Al & Donna Ellis, friends who are very active in pursuing equal rights for LGBT people.
Tuesday we visited them at their home and today we had lunch with them at a Thai buffet place. Besides enjoying their company, we had some lively discussions about political issues, particularly those that affect people like us. If only all our friends were as fair-minded, inclusive, and active in defending the rights of everyone, this world would be a much better place. Keep up the good work, Donna & Al!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Southern California Visit

11/17/12 Hi From the SKP park near Temecula called Jojoba Hills. We have been here since last Sunday and have been enjoying some quiet time, in between social times with friends. Before we left Park Sierra, our good friends Ken & Carolyn Kimpton returned to the park, so we managed to have some social time with them. Here they are with Elaine when we had them over for dinner for Carolyn's birthday:
A few days later, we went down to their place to be with Democratic friends on Election night. First we had a Happy Hour with friends on Ken & Carolyn's deck:
From the left are Verna, Elaine, Ken, Mary & Dave Fountain, and Fay & Stan, some new park members. After everyone else left, we hung out with Ken & Carolyn until Obama was declared the winner and then we went home. What a great election! We were very happy about the addition of more women to the Congress, as well as the Gay marriage issues which passed, in addition to Obama's reelection. Boomer friends, Carole and Dick Schneider, and Terry & Vicky Webb have lots here. They came over the other night for a shrimp pad thai dinner:
From the left you see Dick, me, Terry, Vicky & Carole. Of course, Carole has had us over several times which is always a delight because she is a gourmet cook. Last Tuesday we had an unexpected treat, Boomer friends Tom & Nancy Vineski called to say they were at their lot in Glen Eden, and did we want to get together for lunch at an Indian Restaurant? You bet!!! So we met them at Mantra, in Temecula, which turned out to have really delicious food, and since it was a buffet, we got to try lots of different dishes. All were excellent, and the cost for lunch was only $8 per person. Carole & Dick Schneider went with us too. Here is the well-fed group after we finished lunch:
Friday we went to the weekly Happy Hour at the Friendship Hall at Jojoba and had a great time meeting some new people and schmoozing with old friends. Here are a couple of pictures: In this one you can see Elaine with Carole and Zoe Macon in the middle (Kathleen & Mike & Joe, new friends, are the other people)
From right to left are John Macon, Dick Schneider, and Carolyn & Bill Weir:
Today we left Jojoba and drove to San Diego where we are now parked in Campland on the Bay, a pricey RV park about 1 mile from Darran & Marielle's apartment, and right on Mission Bay. Darran is paying for us to stay here for 2 nights, and then we will move up to Marielle's sister's house, where the Thanksgiving event will take place, and we can park in front of their house. Marielle's parents have already arrived from Long Island. It was sunny and warm here today, with more sun scheduled for tomorrow - hooray. We did a fairly long walk today and will try for a longer walk tomorrow. Friday we will leave and head for Anza Borrego to camp for a few days in the desert with Lee & Susie Blattner. As soon as the San Diego visit is over, I will post some pictures of the festivities and also Darran & Marielle, the cuties.