Saturday, March 28, 2009

This week of traveling was rather unique for me. I had a navigator, a co-pilot, a friend along for the ride!
I picked up the friend at the airport in San Diego, when the fog finally cleared. Fog was still a bit of an issue when we got into a kayak to explore the area around the Sea Caves at La Jolla, but it cleared enough to get out into some big swells.

My navigator - pulling paddling duty in the front while the 'photographer' tried not to drop the camera into the drink.

View from the ocean.
Back on land, some of the very bright flowers demanded some attention.

From San Diego it was rapidly northbound over hill and dale and woodland, and winery - where a few samples were evaluated. My wine drinking skills improved dramatically when I learned that it was somehow impolite to drink wine straight from the box?

Next was San Francisco where we roared into town the first nite and enjoyed an exotic meal at a middle eastern restaurant - complete with a belly dancer.

Then, like any self respecting tourist we got on the historic cable car for a ride down to the waterfront. The conductor would not let us stand in the doorway, but had no problem with us dangling off the side of the car by one hand.
If you were not paying attention when meeting another of the cars, bodies, arms, cameras, and backpacks could easily collide. I guess they have a safety exemption!

The operator of the car has no place to sit down. He simply stands between two rows of benches near the front and has 3 large metal levers that operate the propulsion and the brakes. It appears to take a lot of physical strength to stop the car on a hill.

Video of cable cars meeting.

Once on the waterfront, we immediately boarded a boat for a short bay tour which included a run under the Golden Gate bridge, and a pass by Alcatraz island. We had hoped to tour the island itself, but all tickets were sold out :(

Alcatraz island from the south.
Gulls were enjoying 'drafting' along the side of the boat on the way.
The Golden Gate bridge - my first time from this angle!
Heading out to sea.
And back into the bay.
Some tourist who looks a lot like me.
On the way back, we passed right past Alcatraz on the north side.
And the famous sea lions who have adopted parts of Pier 39 for their own.

Somehow, I managed to lose my phone back ashore near Pier 39 and all searches and inquiries proved fruitless. Fortunately my traveling partner thought of calling the phone to see if anyone would answer? I thought it would already have been sold by a street person by that time.

Much to our surprise, there was a message on her phone - from MY phone, from a fellow saying that he had found it. By good luck and my very good fortune, my traveling partner was also the last person I had called and messaged, and the only person on my 'favourites' list. So the very nice guy that found it had sent the message. Fortunately, she was with me at the time, not a thousand miles away!!

A couple of cab rides later, and the phone was back in my pocket where it belongs. Big WHEW!

Well that called for a special coffee to celebrate before the very steep uphill ride on the cable car to our point of origin. On this ride the operator stopped our car right in the middle of an intersection (the only flat spots) much to the obvious chagrin of a cab driver who had the green light. Then, to make matters worse he jumped off the car saying "Don't leave without me", and ran into a nearby fast food outlet to pick up his dinner to go! I was unsure of which lever was the brake, so I did not try to revive my old bus driving experiences!San Francisco has no shortage of amazing architecture all around, and we drove around admiring a lot of it.

After a couple of days of congested urban living - with a truck about double the average commuter vehicle - it was time to escape back to the coastal quiet.

Well, at least till the tour of the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
But that is for next entry!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

After leaving Yuma and the air show, I spent a couple days visiting a friend in the Palm Springs area, then headed south, along the west side of the Salton Sea, which I believe is the largest lake in California?

The signs are good here, even advising you when you are leaving the pavement - in case you didn't catch on! Click the pic for a larger view.
Salton Sea beach must have been a hot place for spring break in, like, 1962 maybe?

Looks like it has fallen on a bit of hard times lately?

But there are some very well kept homes here too, with lots of flowers.

Also, in the area, I found and tested an automated bottle/can recycling station. You insert the cans one at a time, and the machine counts them and issues you a receipt that you can redeem at the store next door.

Then I headed back west into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - which is also one of California's largest State parks, and one of the few that allow random off-road camping in certain areas!The cactus in the area were starting to bloom.

The town of Borrego Springs is not included in the park, but is surrounded by it. At the visitor centre there I was able to convince a busy hummingbird to pose for me.

Leaving to the west is a serious climb, but I spotted some desert Bighorn Sheep along the road. They did not want to pose, however.
Looking back down into the valley.
I was on the way to San Diego to meet a friend who had flown down to travel with me for a few days. We gave toured from San Diego to San Francisco and back, via a number of wineries and back country National Forest roads. But that is for the next post!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Umm, lets see. The next stop was the Yuma Air Show! Lots of exotic and huge aircraft, flying stunts, and tons of displays.
This truck is set on a pallet padded with corrugated cardboard - ready to be dropped by parachute from a C-130 or C-17.
One of the war birds.
F-18's that took part in the demo flights.

Yuma police have some nice toys!
I watched this super cub actually LAND on this rack on top of the truck, and later took off as well. Yes, the truck was moving on the runway at the time.
One of the umanned drones in use by the military.
The finale of the show was a simulation of the Japanese 'Tora Tora' attack on Pearl Harbor, using authentic planes that had been restored for a movie. Lots of explosions and fire.

At the end, a 'wall of fire' was set off, that was designed to more than double the previous Guinness record. I never heard whether or not that had been achieved.
I had been attempting to get the jump on the traffic on departure, so had made it to the camper in the parking lot to watch the last act. As luck would have it, this took place directly in front of me and a lot closer than anyone in the main viewing area. I even got on the roof of the camper for the best possible look, but it was tough to juggle several cameras while trying to follow about 10 WWII fighters doing repeated passes.Incidentally, there were a couple of retired servicemen in the crowd who had been at the original Pearl Harbor that was no recreation. No word on their impression of this version.

Where to; next? I think that would have to be Anza-Borrego State Park in California.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I'm probably going to jinx myself here, but I have noticed (so far at least, and my fingers are crossed) that purchasing fuel in California has not been the incredible hassle that it has been at some times in the past.
Many of the pumps request you to enter your zip code when filling up at the pump with a credit card, but less so this year, it seems to me. In past years I would have to go inside and could not just leave my card or ask for a 'fill', but I had to suggest an amount of fuel I wanted then complete the transaction before ever touching the pump! Then one of two outcomes could occur; either you pumped all the fuel and the tank wanted more, Or, it was full and wouldn't accept what you had already paid for. Either way you had to make another trip or two to the counter and stand in line again a time or two.
So far this year the worst case scenario is just to leave the card inside till you finish filling, which is a big advantage from the past. I know that some Canadians have had luck entering either five zeros for a zip code, or 1-2-3-4-5. I tried both, unsuccessfully.

The big 'Q' on the hill means I am now in Quartzsite, Arizona.
I've spent a few days enjoying the sunshine, and the lack of crowds, now that it appears the majority of the winter crowd has left town. This means that there are endless parking spots, vacant lots, closed businesses, and because there are less RV's in town, you can actually see some of the infrastructure - tho I'm not sure why you would want to?
I didn't notice if there was a school, but I think there should be, if they were to teach spelling!
Now I know there are different spellings for a lot of words depending on which US/Canada dictionary you are using, but there were a couple signs I saw that did not fit into that category!

This is not a spelling mistake, but I guess I should have slowed down more to snap the shot.
Too Toe Trucks (pardon the pun).
I think this is a historic adobe house in town?
Many downtown RV parks are almost empty.

Real estate is available.

I guess I should have taken some more photos out in the camping areas. These are BLM camping areas. The ones I normally frequent are free for up to 14 days, and just a few miles out of town and are pretty much random with no services.

This dove came to the camper this morning for a better look, before going back to his 'mourning' dove routine.
Next, I'm off to Yuma. I hear there is a big airshow there!

I'm guessing there could be a lot of photos as a result. Stay tuned.