Thursday, February 27, 2014

Santa Barbara, CA - The Library

We’ve got an exciting day planned: Library. Yep, Gary and I are the Mr. and Ms. Excitement. We need to download some updates. Download, updates. Who makes up this jargon? I also need to check our Turbo tax software which also has some updates. But, why not eat breakfast out to soften the ‘fun’ we have ahead? Steve’s Patio serves the purpose and it’s warm enough to eat outside so we can people watch at the same time.

Nice drive in to town through this beautiful valley.
The library was less than exciting. I tried to download a 45-minute update several times and had an error 40 minutes into the 45 every time. Gary downloaded it onto his computer just fine so it must be my computer - or the library wi-fi. I did get some blog published, some trip planning done and managed to get some phone calls made to make some reservations for campgrounds this spring and summer. I decided this week that I’d better get our Yellowstone, Tetons and Glacier reservations in along with some others that I think might be popular campgrounds during the summer.

We each took a break during the middle of the day to stretch our legs and both noticed how many homeless there were around the library. Santa Barbara is a very wealthy town and there are homeless even here. It’s amazing to me how many of them have mental problems - but that’s why they’re homeless - no place for them that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Finally, at 3:30 we left for Panera to try their wi-fi. Coffee and a shared bagel and Gary decided to re-install my Turbo Tax. And, that finally worked. 5:00 and we can head home. Oops, look what we saw as we were on our way up 154.
We’d better confirm this.
It sure does look as if our main way back to the campground is closed. And, we’re new to this area, we know no other way. It’s 5:15, dusk is closing in, the road into the campground is curvy and dark and we aren’t really familiar with it. Oh, shucks. we pulled off to the side of the street, thinking we’d wait until they opened it. But that could be forever. I then got out of the car and went to ask one of the guys in yellow if he thought the road might open up soon.

        ‘As soon as they get the accident cleared.’

        ‘Do you know when that might be?’

        ‘No, they’re examining the scene now.’

        ‘Do you know any alternate ways?’

        ‘No. I’m from Palm Springs on contract for a week. Ask that guy up there.’

The next guy was a local and he confirmed that we could go up another way to circumvent the accident. We found the route on our GPS and headed off. Easy enough in the beginning. Then the curves got sharper, the grade got higher, the sun began to head down and the fogs and clouds were rolling in. Then the center stripe disappeared. And did I mention that there was a lot of traffic coming down the hill - also circumventing the accident? The road was slick and at one point with a 20% grade, we hit a sharp switchback and our tires began to spin a bit on the slick wet pavement. Luckily we were in 4-wheel drive. Nothing but valley below us. A long way below us. What in the world are these two flatlanders doing on this road?

Then this 5 mph curve appeared. This picture shows how nervous the passenger was.
Ah, but Gary was in control - sweating hands and gnashing teeth but he was in control. Finally we hit 154 and were on our way back. But we were still above the clouds until we crossed the pass and began to head on down the mountain.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Santa Barbara, CA - The Mission and Presidio

We left Menifee on the 23rd, stayed in Acton, CA that night and then drove on to Santa Barbara, CA where we will stay 10 nights. We found our campsite, set up our RV and relaxed before dinner.

Today promised to be the best of the next four. 2 storms are barreling down on the southwest each one bringing about 2” - 3” of rain. Badly needed as it is, I hope that this much rain in so short a time won’t cause problems. However, because today promised to be partly sunny, we decided to do some touring in Santa Barbara and take in the Santa Barbara Mission and the Presidio, a Spanish fort built to protect Spanish interests in this area.

When we arrived, lots of artists were all set up already at work. It was a bit cold and one of the artists confided to us that she had long underwear on. Good move. 
The story of the founding of this mission resembles that of the others along the chain in California from the Mexican border up to San Francisco. This was the 10th of the missions founded by the Franciscans under the leadership of Padre Junipero Serra. Unfortunately he died before this one was founded and it was founded by others. In December of 1786 he raised the cross to begin work on Santa Barbara Mission.
The Franciscans founded the mission because they wanted to convert the natives in the area, the Spanish king supported this because he wanted the missions to solidify Spanish control of this area. The Chumash, who had inhabited this area for nearly 13,500 years before the Spanish came were doing just fine. They were self-sufficient living off hunting and farming, they traded with many others in the area, crafted beads and baskets which they waterproofed using the natural tars which washed ashore from the undersea oil pools and constructed boats which they used to ply the waters between Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands about 23 miles into the Pacific. However, they joined in the mission for economic reasons. Here they learned to plant annual crops, dig canals for a more consistent water supply, to work with iron, to make sturdier adobe dwellings etc. Unfortunately, they also contracted small pox and syphillis from Spanish traders and soldiers which decimated the tribes.

One of the most interesting stories that we heard at the mission was that of Juana Maria who was buried here following her rescue from San Nicolas Island where she was abandoned and survived alone for 18 years. The natives on San Nicolas were being relocated by the Spanish to the mainland when Juana Maria ran back to the village to retrieve something. A huge storm came up and the rest left planning to return for her later. But later never came. 18 years later, a ship captain found her and brought her back to the mainland with him. He opened his home to her but she died soon afterwards. Then, as an added insult, her belongings, which had been donated to the San Francisco Museum, were destroyed in the earthquake of 1906. Her story was popularized in a book called Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.
The original Mission church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, rebuilt and completed in 1870 but severely damaged in the 1925 earthquake which also damaged a good part of the town of Santa Barbara. Below is a picture of the damaged Mission and another is a local hotel, the Californian, which had been open for just 1 week when the earthquake stuck.

Outside the Mission we found quite a few drawings, part of an annual festival in Santa Barbara. Various companies and organizations buy space, donating the money to the Mission, and then create art inside their space. We were intrigued that space bought had been bought by the Atheist Service Organization. 
In front of the Mission was the lavendaria, where the Chumash, who valued cleanliness, washed their clothes. The soaped them on the slanted rocks and rinsed them in the trough.
Across the street from the Mission is the remains of the aqueduct built in 1806 which served the Mission.
Several blocks away from the Mission is the Presidio, one of 4 presidios built along the California coast to consolidate the Spanish claim to this land in the face of Russian and English penetration. However, it served not only as protection, but it served as the social, cultural and administrative center for this area. Most of the Presidio is gone now, paved over and built over to make modern Santa Barbara but some parts still remain and others are being excavated and rebuilt in an ambitious program to reconstruct the original presidio. Below is part of the excavation where the outside walls of the Presidio stood.
Here is the diagram of the original Presidio overlaid on a map of current Santa Barbara.
The walls of the new Presidio must meet the building codes of today - to minimize the impact of earthquakes. Here is a new wall - of adobe, of course, but with an inner core of rebar and cement.
The Presidio needed a consistent water supply so they built an aqueduct.
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Pretty clever and it has lasted as you can see in the excavated aqueduct above.

On our way back to our car we found this marvelous Post Office build during the 1920’s in Craftsman style. Beautiful metal work.

It’s getting late and we’re about looked out. We’ve enjoyed seeing the old Mission which still serves as an active church and part of the community today and the Presidio which the people of Santa Barbara are actively reconstructing.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Menifee, CA - Farmer's Market, Temecula Museum and the Apple Store

We started this day with a bang - breakfast at Panera: bear claw, bagels and coffee. How could we have started it any better? We then headed down the road a bit to the Temecula Museum. A friend told me about this little museum whose size belies its excellence and she was spot on. We turned down the road to the museum parking lot right into a traffic jam. Some going to, some coming from the Temecula Farmers’ Market and many just circling and looking for a parking place. People carrying bags of oranges, potted plants, bunches of spinach, baby asparagus, strawberries fresh from the fields. How could we resist? 45 minutes later, we had our treasures (asparagus, jam, lettuce, some heirloom tomatoes and these luscious looking fruits),
walked over to the museum, asked them if we could leave our bags there and began to look around.

What an excellent museum - a 180 degrees from the museum we were at yesterday. Whereas the museum yesterday had a plethora of artifacts but little explanation or unreadable explanation, this museum had been very thoughtfully laid out, had explanation plaques that were easy to read, there were timelines to connect all the facts they were covering, some summary about why each section was important and - a plethora of artifacts. It was chronologically laid out and there were plaques linking each section. Wow.

The story of Temecula is the story of lands throughout the southwest: Native Americans, Spanish Missionaries and soldiers, American Ranchers and finally pioneers settling on the land. As per usual, guess who got left out in the cold, after being evicted from their land, ‘asked’ to ‘help’ build the missions and killed off by small pox and other diseases. If you guessed anyone but the Native Americans, you win a set of American History books. I guess in the end they might have the last laugh: they own the Pechanga Casino, just a little ways up the hill.

This museum covered each of these groups well. There was a nice section devoted to the original inhabitants, called the Luiseños, with quite a few artifacts. Of course, they did not call themselves the Luiseños, that was a name given to them because they lived in the territory around the San Luis Rey Mission. Here are some baskets made by Juanita Neto Lopez who was well known for her finely crafted baskets. (My favorite is the hat.)
Here is a portable stone mortar. Somehow, I don’t think of stone as portable. But every cook has her or his favorite tool.
There were also sections devoted to the mission period, the ranch period and a section on how various methods of transportation affected the growth of the region.

They had a neat section upstairs for kids - and adults who were alone in the museum and wanted to be kids. Here the motto was ‘Touch’ not ‘Don’t Touch.’ How cool is that? They had a retail store there with items from the past: a butter churn, a coffee grinder, a rug beater and other items. Kids can churn, grind and beat. Then they have a trunk of clothing that ‘kids’ can put on and see what they might have looked like as a pioneer. I’m not thinking this is our best look. My hat’s too big and Gary’s is too small.
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Also upstairs was a room devoted to Erle Stanley Gardner who was not just the well-known author of the Perry Mason series but was a court reformer as well. He was passionate about justice and seeing that all had equal access to it. He also touted such reforms as having an official, trained medical examiner determine the cause of death. Obviously a new concept in the 1950’s but accepted nationally today. He also wrote 151 books altogether that sold 325 million copies. His best selling works, however, were his 82 Perry Mason novels and the hit TV series based upon his books which had 271 episodes and ran from 1957 to 1966. The first actor considered for the role of Perry Mason was Fred McMurray but when Gardner saw Raymond Burr try out for the role of DA Hamilton Burger, he knew he had found his Perry Mason. One of his favorite magazines as a youth was The Youth’s Companion’ published by the Perry Mason Company of Boston, MA.

They had a section about the cover art on his books. One artist, Robert McGinnis, drew many covers for Gardner’s books, and always with an image of a woman in a provocative pose. Here the first one he did.
We were quite taken with his method of travel throughout the Southwest and into Mexico. He had his own RV and they traveled with a group of 3. He is dressed like he’s going to a formal dinner. I hope those shoes are polished.

Here, among lots of photos from his life is also a reproduction of his office in Temecula.
We really enjoyed this small museum since it covered so much so well.

Finally, we headed on over to the Mall to see what might be the trouble with Gary’s computer. While Gary was in there at the Genius bar, I headed out into the mall to see what I could find. I found a Variety Club group selling spots on the drive for charity. Kids, parents, adults - all were enjoying the opportunity to paint the town up all for a good cause.
I found a fireplace with a fire going strong in it. Only in CA would they have a lit fireplace in an outdoor mall.
Back at Apple, Gary learned that his hard drive was ‘fried, deader than a doornail. kaput.’ Now what; buy a new computer @ $1700 or install a new hard drive @ $70 in his 6-yr old computer? Hey, while we’re thinking, how about a Caesar salad at Costco across the street? By this time it is 3:00, we’ve had only a bagel or a bear claw for breakfast and our stomachs are rumbling so much that heads in Apple are turning. Their Caesar salads are excellent and Gary crunched the numbers while we ate. New computer: $1700 or new hard drive: $70? He ran some tests and determined that it was really just the hard drive and not the computer that had failed so it seems that a new hard drive is just the ticket.

Ah, a stop at Best Buy and we’re on our way home. It’s been a long day: from 8 am to 7 pm. Our third long day in a row. I’m thinkin’ we relax tomorrow since we move on Monday. Yeah, right. I’ll tell you right now that on Sunday I washed and waxed the RV while Gary made some repairs and did some other maintenance before he unhooked our utilities in preparation for our move. Are we Type A’s or what?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Menifee, CA - The Big Stick

What’s the Big Stick, you ask? Well, it’s the Battleship USS Iowa, berthed near here in San Pedro, south of LA and west of Long Beach. Remember, we’re from Iowa and we’ve got to see it. Anyway, I hear that anyone from Iowa gets in free. Oops, we renounced our Iowa citizenship back in September when we became South Dakotans. Oh, well, the money goes for a good cause. The USS Iowa is berthed in San Pedro about 87 miles from our campground but, who knows with the traffic? It could be California driving - fast and quick, or, maybe we’ll see this ahead of us on the freeway and we’ll get to take our sweet time.
Well, it was a bit of both.

Several years ago during our first time driving CA freeways we were stunned to see motorcycles driving between lines of traffic on the white lines. All legal.
We traveled through Long Beach, one of the largest shipping centers in the US and we saw more containers, booms, semis and container ships than I’ve ever seen.

They unload the containers onto semis which then drive off, then they unload the containers from the next batch of semis onto the ship and sail off. It’s as choreographed and as rhythmical as a Disneyland ride.
But, back to the ship. The Iowa was planned in 1938 but not commissioned until 1943. She was called the ‘World’s Greatest Naval Ship’ due to her large guns, accurate fire power systems, heavy armor and speed. She started out in the Atlantic chasing German u-boats but returned to the US to take President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to meet with Churchill and Stalin then back to WWII, the Korean War and the Cold War. Although she was not chosen for the surrender ceremony of the Japanese after WWII, she was right by the side of the Missouri which was. She was decommissioned, recommissioned and retrofitted with cruise missiles, then decommissioned again but finally in 2011 was donated to the Los Angeles-based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center and was permanently moved to Berth 87 in San Pedro in the summer of 2012. Now, it serves as a museum and a memorial to WWII battleships. They have opened much of it above decks but are continually working below decks to open up more.
Interestingly, it must be kept maintained - in the case of a national emergency. It was one of the fastest and most heavily armed ships and had some of the thickest armor. You can see the 16” guns here on the main deck, where the self-tour begins. There are 9 of these guns, 6 in front and 3 in the rear, though the turrets swivel and the guns can operate individually. By the way, these guns can fire a projectile 26+ miles.
Here’s one of the projectiles with 6 bundles of powder in back of it to project this projectile the requisite 26+ miles.
I read that when it was constructed, there were 1.135,000 rivets and 800 miles of welding. Now, who counted the rivets and measured the welding? There were 5300 electrical fixtures which required 250 miles of wiring. Look at this, how do you tell which wire shorted out?
On our tour we saw the cabin which Roosevelt had. Because he had polio and was in a wheelchair, the doorways were cut so that they were level on the bottom and he could move from one room to another.
A bathtub was also installed for him since he could not use a shower.

Here’s Gary’s type of room on a ship, although his jacket said Moale on the back.
After we explored the Iowa, we jumped back into the car and headed over to the coast to see the Fermin Lighthouse. We got there at 3:15, the sign said that the last tour began at 3:00 but, when I asked if it was too late to join this tour, one of the women in the admissions office said that no one had showed up at 3:00 and that she would give us a shorter tour since it closed at 4:00. Thanks a lot we said and followed her in.

Built in 1874, it was the first navigational light in San Pedro harbor. It is an old stick style Victorian lighthouse. This style was used for 6 other lighthouses built between 1873 and 1874. It’s a lot simpler in design than later Victorian which can be quite elaborate.
One of the most interesting things about this lighthouse was that the first Keepers were two sisters whose father had been a lighthouse keeper in Washington. This area was quite isolated then and they had quite a haul to get food and other supplies.

In another case, when the Keeper and his wife died, their daughters took over and managed the light. Eventually the lighthouse was deactivated when an automated light was installed. At this point, the local citizens raised funds and restored the lighthouse to its original glory, worked to get it placed on the National Register of Historic Places and get it opened as a museum. Volunteers maintain the house and gift shop and lead the tours. They have a wealth of information and take the time to explain it all. There is no fee to visit the lighthouse but, if you do, please give a donation to keep this treasure going.

Then we walked along the beach cliffs for a bit. As I was taking a picture of the Channel Islands a guy walked up and asked if we’d like a picture of us. Looks like a windy day.
We then headed out and - glory be - we hit the rush hour traffic. Here’s our view heading out of LA. Think traffic is fast in LA? Think again - rush hour can be slow. Lots of red lights - lots of cars stopping.
We got back to Menifee in time for dinner - at 7:30: an 87-mile trip and it took us 3 hours. Love that rush hour traffic. We parked in the parking lot and noticed this:
From Bagels to Burgers. You can camp out all day in this parking lot and eat from breakfast to dinner. A blurry picture but it was at 8:00 in a neon-lighted parking lot. Or, maybe I was a bit blurry at this time after a long day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Menifee, CA - On the Road

We left Lake Havasu City in the morning, heading on over to Menifee, CA. Menifee, where in the world is that? Well, I’m thinking it’s a suburb of Los Angeles - but about 90 miles away. There might be some living here who actually work in LA but I can’t imagine that there are many. It’s a long drive - we’ve done it several times but only when we have a goal in mind. We were there for 7 days before we moved on.

We took a 2-lane road through the desert, through some mountain ranges and down some canyons. It’s a beautiful drive if you like the desert and we do. There’s a stark beauty in the openness surrounded by the jagged edges of the mountains. It’s an unforgiving territory. Having lived in Iowa and New Hampshire for most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by trees. I remember being out in our ‘yard’ in New Hampshire, where we had a wooded acre, and hearing a strange whooshing sound coming from the sky. We looked up through the circle of trees around our home and, sure enough, a balloon appeared over the edge of trees, flew over our small circle and disappeared behind the opposite edge of trees. Did I like the wooded forests? Did I like our wooded lot? You bet. I didn’t know much else.

Do I now appreciate the open spaces of the deserts? Do I appreciate the jagged ridges on the horizon? Absolutely? In fact, I wonder what it will be like when we travel north from San Francisco through the redwoods, the woods of the Oregon coast and into the rainforest area of Washington. Will I feel closed in? Will I long for the openness of the deserts? Time will tell.

See what I mean about the openness? Here’s our road towards 29 Palms, a town north of Palm Springs. And, by the way, that biker just pedaled up it.
After the loneliness of the our desert drive, we then drove down the canyon on the other side of the mountain range into the hustle and bustle of the Interstate 10 pass between the San Jacintos and the Gorgonios. Gas stations, outlet malls, casinos, restaurants - what a contrast from the solitude of the desert we had just traveled through.
Our first day in the park we took to do mundane things like laundry and shopping. We had limited hook-ups in Lake Havasu City and were so busy that some things just went by the side.

It’s amazing how many people have their own networks. I can see them all on our computer, most with pretty tame names: Fred&Ethel Mifi, Aspen, Verizon-890L, but then there are some other names: BigQuack was one of my favorites until I saw ‘Virginia’s Hot Spot’. Now, BigQuack is ok but I’d probably change ‘Virginia’s Hot Spot’ to something a bit tamer.

The next day we ventured out. We’ve been driving through this area at various times over several years and have always passed by what looks like a large air field and museum. We’ve always said that the next time we’ll stop. And, today is that next time. There was a plethora of aircraft, both inside and outside the museum. I’ve seen planes that I’ve read about for years in history books and used for teaching high school American History. It’s such a thrill to see some of these since I’ve read about them for so long. Here they had the B-17, the B- 29 and the B-52. Planes I’ve read about for years so it was great to see the actual planes.

Notice that the wings also have wheels on them to help the plane land. This is a big plane.

A plethora of airplanes but not much explanation in the actual museum. They had a bulletin board with pictures of the Tuskegee Airmen training. But no explanation about who they were, why they were important, why they are being pictured here in March Field, and why I should care about them. In another case, they had set up a WWI trench exhibit and included a periscope for you to look through. In the periscope, I saw a tiny screen with people talking about trench warfare. Could I see them very well? Could I hear them? No to both questions. Great idea but poor execution. I think that they should have had a sight in the periscope that I might have actually seen in WWI: barbed wire, more trenches, holes from exploded bombs, German’s coming at me, etc.

And the entire museum was like this: display after display with no explanation about why they even had this display here. When they did have any explanation they put it on 8”x11” typewritten pages on the wall for you to read. Trouble is: they kept us about 5’ from the wall - who can read an 8” x 11’ typewritten page from 5’ away? Needless to say, I was terribly frustrated. I love a good museum and this museum had the makings for a good one but they wasted the opportunity.