Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for ZZYZX

The Urban Dictionary defines it as “The last place on Earth” It goes on to say, “It was originally founded by a crazy old man who named it Zzyzx since it would be the last word in the dictionary. The definition says Zzyzx (pronounced ZYE-ZIX) is an abandoned town somewhere between Las Vegas and LA.

That’s not exactly true. It is closer to Vegas than it is to LA and is our landmark that we are almost to Stateline. By the time I get to Zzyzx, the gambling fever has started to kick in and I know that I can make the fever go away at Buffalo Bill’s or Whiskey Pete’s. I don’t even have to go to Vegas.

Zzyzx is exit 249 on Interstate 15. You may not know that if you actually get off at exit 249, it will take you to the former Soda Springs. Today, Soda Springs is the location of the California State University Desert Studies Center and is managed by the National Park Service. The public is allowed to meander around Lake Tuendae and the shore of Soda Dry Lake. Curtis Howe Springer created Lake Tuendae in the 1940’s. Mr. Springer was an interesting man and was labeled "King of Quacks" by the American Medical Association in 1969. You can learn more about Springer on the Roadside America site. It is really an interesting story.

However, we have enjoyed the sign on I15 for many years. It has come to mean that Vegas is near. It also says that we are near family who live in Searchlight, Nevada and proudly have a picture of the sign on their wall. It is a sign that has been there since I was small and is part of my history too. Zzyzx is not the last place on earth but it is appropriate that it is the last entry for the A to Z challenge.

 Photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/grenade/3885645465/

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yosemite - OK, that's pretty obvious

"Let the fire fall" 

The voice echoed through Yosemite Valley. At Camp Curry, we held our breath.  From the top of Glacier Point, a small stream became a full waterfall of molten embers as it fell to the valley floor. New to the sight or a frequent visitor, it was the highlight of the evening.

Photo credit: http://filforn.blogspot.com/search/label/Yosemite - Be careful on this site. I went to view the picture and an hour later, remembered I was doing a blog post. Meine Wunderkamper labels the blog "objects of curiosity, memory, knowledge and wonder". It is!

The Firefall is just history now. I think that in today's world it would be considered dangerous and those who track those sort of things would be out protesting. For us, in a less confrontational world, it was magical. The Firefall ended in 1968 after a somewhat tenious start in 1872. The Firefall history is well documented on this site and if you are interested in the history, it's all there.

Everyone writes about Yosemite. Today the park is more restrictive than it used to be. The freedom we had to roam is gone. Most of that is due to the park's popularity. Still, we make the trip frequently. No matter how many times you stop at the viewpoint overlooking the valley, it never gets old.

Yosemite is not just about the valley. We generally come in on the Fresno side. From the entrance, a right turn takes you to the Mariposa Grove of Sequioa's. This is my son and grandson starting the tour.

My favorite memory is staying at the Wawona hotel. On this trip, we ate at the hotel but did not stay there.

Instead, we pitched a tent in the Wawona campground and made it our base camp. From there, we toured the valley. The road to the valley, all 28 miles, was gravel only. It was being repaved.

We left Yosemite from the Tuolumne side. This pictures was taken from Tuolumne Road looking back at the valley from the other side of the park.

Two more pictures to share. The kids were small when this was taken next to the Merced River that runs through the valley. We were wearing long sleeve so it must have been spring when the air was still chilly.   

The kids were a little older here. This was taken at the Viewpoint.

Every time we go to Yosemite, it is a new adventure. The fact that it never gets old allows us to enjoy it all over again.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenagogue and Xanthocarpous

This is a stretch but I have enjoyed being your California Xenagogue, which just happens to be a noun and means guide. 
I thought I might write about Xanthocarpous which means to have yellow fruit. One of the best places to find yellow fruit is at the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside, California.  It will someday be the last orange grove in Southern California. The citrus industry that made Riverside the highest per capita industry in the early 1900's is dwindling with the cost of water and the extreme building of homes and businesses.

The State of California has mandated that California Citrus be a working grove. There are many acres of citrus trees and a varietal grove with specialties. One of them is the fingered citron, a yellow fruit and the origin of all citrus species. There is no juice in the fingered citron (or Buddha's Hand). It is where the spice Citron comes from.

I know a lot about this state park as my husband and I were docents there for three years.This is the visitor's center. There are some fun interactive displays.
 This is the corner of Dufferin and Van Buren in Riverside, California where the park is located. The orange stand used to be a familiar sight when traveling. People would stop to get refreshing drinks. They disappeared when air-conditioning was added to car and people were just not as parched.
 A lot of people get married in this gazebo. The setting is perfect and romantic.
Other views of the park. It is made to look like it would have in 1900 so while there are no play structures for the kids, they have hills to climb and lots of space to run and play. We have had Easter Egg hunts here and there are concerts in the park. Visitors can walk through the varietal grove and see examples of different kinds of citrus. School tours are many and the kids love the tasting session.

We love this park and spend as much time there as we can.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for What I learned on the A to Z Blogging Challenge

This is a departure from California destinations and attractions but it is important to note that I had no idea what I was doing when I started this challenge. I am not really a blogger. I came in not knowing the rules or the etiquette so it has been a learning experience.

C – Continue to blog even when you think that it’s too much.

A – Always know your material and write from the heart.

L – Leave meaningful comments.  

I – Invite other bloggers to follow you.

F – Follow those blogs that capture your attention. They can teach you a lot.

O – Organize your posts ahead of time so there is no need to stress.

R – Realize you can’t read all the blogs and then try to do it anyway.

N – Never forget who your audience is.

I – Invest time by participating fully in the challenge.

A – Always thank those who have taken the time to leave comments.

Thank you everyone for the comments and encouragement. Now back to our regular scheduled programming and don't miss "Z". It's my favorite.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vacation

We vacation but California is not our only destination. As you can see from the map, we have been to many states and try to add more each year. Next month I am going to add Tennessee and hopefully, Kentucky although my itinerary has me landing in South Carolina so I might claim that too. 

visited 31 states (62%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or Free android travel guide

The United States is full of the most incredible places to visit and each state has its own beauty. I can honestly say in each state we have visited, there are places where I would up and move if I had the chance. In 2007, we packed the truck and camper and drove 3000 miles to Maine. This is Gary with one of the lobsters we pulled out of the Camden Harbor.

Our friend has a lobster boat and does tours but he took us out by ourselves. What an incredible trip that was!

While I write about California, I have so many other places to share. For example, Salem, Massachusetts is not my favorite place. We stayed at the Winterhaven campground. However, most of my time was spent at the hospital. I developed some sort of a nasty bug that sidelined us for two days. I also got a parking ticket. They are not kidding with their posted parking time limits.

This picture was taken somewhere between Bois d Arc, Missouri and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on Route 66. It is spots like this that make travel interesting. This is a 1912 gas station that the forest is reclaiming.

So while I write about California, I want to pay homage to the other states. I could easily write a A to Z on all the states we've visited. California just happens to be where I was born and have lived for 60 years. Ours is a beautiful country with surprises at every turn. I can't wait to find new adventures as we continue our travels.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Union Station, Los Angeles, California

Photo Credit:

There is nowhere else on earth where the echo of past voices touch me more than Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Walking into the building can bring me to tears with the memories captured between those walls. This is where my lifelong love of trains began. This is Granny’s station. I didn’t even know it had a real name until I was a teenager.

My grandfather worked as the Stationmaster in Billings, Montana. Every year, my grandmother would visit, riding the train to Los Angeles. We would go to Los Angeles to ride the train to Montana. As I got older, I would take my kids on the train to California locations like Santa Barbara. Family has come in and gone out at the station and I can stand almost anywhere and see them in my memories. Most of them are gone now so it means so much more.  

Union Station is mammoth. When it was built in 1938, it was called the “Last of the Great Railway Stations”. Its grand size adds to its personality and mystique. 
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kallahar/2549733728/
Union Station has been the scene for many movies. My favorites are:

Them! (1954) – Don’t tell anyone I’m a Sci-Fi fanatic. I loved this movie and believe it or not, sometimes it sounds like the ants are in my neighborhood. It freaks me out every time. 

Silver Streak (1976) – Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, murder on a train trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, what else needs to be said?  

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The Scarecrow trial courtroom is set in Union Station. I didn’t recognize it and had to go back and watch it again.

Today, Union Station is busier than ever. It serves not only the trains but also Metrolink and the Metro Rail, the newer subways and light rail lines.

However, a visit to Union Station should always be accompanied with a walk across the street to the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles. Olvera Street is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. Beside the colorful trinkets they sell, the food is great!  

If you are in the area on the Saturday before Easter, Olvera Street is the location of the Blessing of the Animals. The tradition started in 1930 and it is quite a sight to see.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Trailers (Vintage that is)

We are campers. This is a picture of Niles, the day we picked up the 1973 Perris Pacer. From tongue to bumper, it is a 10 foot fiberglass trailer. There are other brands around that my be familiar like Casitas, Scamp, and Bowler. And yes, that is our 1967 Ford Ranch Wagon that will haul the teardrop and the Pacer but not the Dalton. I can't believe how little Niles was when we got the trailer.
This is at a friend's house and we were leaving for Guajome County Park in San Diego County. This is a really nice campground on Highway 76 in Oceanside.There are two fishing ponds and a gazabo that is great for weddings. The campsites are partial hookup. There are 4.5 miles of hiking trails and while it is surrounded by city, it has that tucked away feel. It is 8 miles down the road to downtown Oceanside and the beach.
This is the 1959 Dalton at Guajome. We always decorate our trailers and this time we did it all in a lobster theme. It must have been influence by our road trip to Maine earlier that year.

Just north of Oceanside is San Onofre. Don't worry, the reactors are still off-line. There are two parks here. One is on the bluff overlooking the ocean and the other is a mile back from Interstate 5. The San Mateo campground is our favorite of all the local beach campgrounds. It's secluded and the spaces give a measure of privacy not always found when camping.

This is the Snooze Box at Lake Perris, the campground 5 miles from our home. It's interesting that camping that close to home allows us to come and go at will, we sometimes don't leave at all. The surroundings on the other side of the hill makes it feel like we are far away. The Snooze Box is a teardrop trailer and fits nicely under the EasyUp when it rains. Below is a better picture of our trailer. 

 For more about the Snooze Box, which is totally unique, you can check out my Squidoo Page

Doheny State Beach is another great place to camp. Just remember that you have to make reservations a year ahead. This is a very popular campground because it sits on the beach. Beachfront property is in demand. 

This is the Dalton at Doheny with Niles and I. 

This was our first camping trip with Niles. We very seldom camp up north but the Rivernook Campground in Kernville, CA is a wonderful place to camp. Some of the sites sit directly on the river so even small children can be watched from camp while they enjoy some "fishing".

Almost everywhere you camp in California is an adventure. We have desert, beaches, mountains, and lakes. We camped in Victorville when it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't know why we just didn't go home. We camped at Veil Lake in Temecula when it soared to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. We should have gone home then. However, we are campers, good and bad and have some very good stories to tell.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Sister-In-Law

This is a convoluted tale on the way to sharing a California destination. I want to celebrate this anniversary. One year ago today we found my husband's missing brother and sister and our lives changed. 

My husband was adopted. I have an entire site, Missing Pieces: The Gaulthair Children, explaining how his biological mother had thirteen children and abandoned them all.

It struck me today as my husband spoke with his sister (my new sister-in-law) how blessed we are. After more than 50 years, there are finally some answers to the questions they all had.

When we decided to meet, we were looking for somewhere safe. We didn't know these people and they didn't know us. The family lives in a really small area and we didn't want to stay with them. We finally decided on a little Bed and Breakfast with it's own campground. It is in the middle of nowhere and not only did we love it, we are planning to go back. That doesn't make the new family happy because they want us to stay with them but we really like space #2.

The Inn at Benton Hot Springs

I borrowed this map from their website. Benton is on the foothills north of Bishop.

Our site had a stream running through it. The water in the stream is not cooled so it is very hot. It's sort of amazing. The hot springs at Benton are not mineral.

Gary is getting ready to setup the tent. We had lots of time to get it done because they weren't expected to arrive until evening. In the background, across the little bridge is our private hot tub.

The tent is setup and ready to go. Since we were still waiting, the hot tub beckoned. One of the interesting things about the Benton Hot Springs campground is that clothing is optional. We are not clothing optional people but for those who like to soak in the buff, it's allowed. 

The water in the hot tub is cooled by the spray heads. I can't even begin to describe how this hot water melts away the stress of the day, and we were stressed. Finally meeting his brother and sister after looking for more than 30 years was nerve-racking. What if we didn't like each other? A nice hot soak cured that.

This is the first photo taken of Gary with his brother and sister. Not the best picture but  it was 1:00 am and no one was willing to go to bed. Rick and Frances were raised together although they had different fathers. Gary and Rick have the same biological parents. 

So this is how we discovered Benton Hot Springs. The campground is primitive and the restrooms are porta-potties. For those who want a more "civilized" setting, I would highly recommend the B& B which is quite nice. Oh, and if you walk through the sprinklers when they are watering the grass, that water is hot too. In fact, all the homes in Benton have hot water that has to be cooled. 

BTW, the day we returned home from Benton, there was an email from  a stranger who said she might be one of the Gaulthair children. With Darla came a bonus because we knew of one other child but couldn't locate him. David was raised by Darla's father. It was not long after that when we discovered three more of the children. One of them has passed away but the two oldest siblings are now part of the ever growing family. There are five more still missing but God willing, we will find them too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rife

In California, there are so many fun things to see and do. The state is “Rife” with activities. Ever try to find an “R” word that means more?

With only 26 days to share all that California has to offer, so many wonderful places are overlooked. Here are my top 10 places not to be missed. 

Aquarium of the Pacific – The 4th largest Aquarium in the United States. Located in downtown Long Beach, this is one of our most favorite places to go. We can spend hours there just watching the sharks and petting the sting rays but the exhibits change so there is always something new to see. Don’t go this weekend. The Long Beach Grand Prix is running and parking will be awful.

Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign – Yes, I know that they are two separate things but to get them into a list of 10, I combined them. The Hollywood Sign is actually on the property of the Griffith Observatory so it counts as one. Plan to spend a lot of time here. This is a wonderful place for kids who will be entertained by all the displays to touch.  

Huntington Library and Gardens – As a child, this was a magical place. There are gardens galore to explore, the main library building that has a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on vellum, and Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy is in art museum. Located in San Marino, it is relatively close to Pasadena

Los Angles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden – The twelve movies with Tarzan the Ape Man were filed here from 1932 to 1948, staring Johnny Weissmuller. Fantasy Island, the TV series was also filmed here and when my kids were small, the airplane was still next to the pond. The Arboretum is in Arcadia, CA, just east of Pasadena on Interstate 210.  

Cable Car Museum – San Francisco has many interesting places to go and things to see. However, train and trolley fans (me) love places like the Cable Car Museum. This is the place to see how the trolley’s are turned and set on their paths. They also shared photos and history of the trolley system. Well worth a stop.

Golden Gate Park – This is an enormous park with literally something for everyone. Even if you don’t have time to view all the attractions, having lunch in the park or exploring the neighborhoods surrounding the park is a great way to spend a day.  
Me, Patty, Marlin, Stuart, and Gary in 1958 at the Golden Gate Park.

Lombard Street – I wish I had a recording of the day we took the truck and camper down this street. I screamed all the way, because I thought the truck was going to roll. What was interesting is that I was the driver. However, this street is not as scary as the one next to it. When I got to the top of the hill, I was afraid to drive down because I could not see the street beyond the front of the truck. Needless to say, I backed up and did not try it. 

The Presidio – This is so much more than the name says. Yes, it was a military base for more than 200 years. The history along is amazing. A portion of it sits under the Golden Gate Bridge and if you don’t plan on driving it, the views from there are remarkable.  It is now a National Park and has hiking trails as well.

Balboa Park – Like the Golden Gate Park, this San Diego Park is also a gigantic area full of many different venues. The San Diego Zoo is there and I highly recommend a visit. It’s my favorite zoo because they have Meerkats. The Polar Bears are good too. There are museums that cover many areas from astronomical to horticultural. It’s a superb place to picnic or listen to the organ music from the band shell.

California State Railroad Museum – I love trains and expected to see some in this museum but I was totally blown away by this place. I am not kidding when I say that it is incredible from the first display you walk into to the swaying of the trains on the tracks in another exhibit. They have dishes from days gone by that show what each railroad used in their dining cars and I remember some of them. The California State Railroad Museum is in Old Sacramento. Take the time to see the town. Well worth a visit.    

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quilt

2013 Southern California Quilter's Run is June 20-23 & 27-30, 2013 It's time to get new walking shoes. There are 30 quilt shops covering five Southern California counties. Seems sort of easy actually until you try it.

The run is broken down into four districts. For each one that you complete, you are entered to win a prize. The prizes are pretty good so it makes it worth your while to try to complete each section. If you can visit every shop, there is an even better prize for the lucky name drawn.

Sounds OK so far but it's quite a distance to cover. From my house to the last shop in Chula Vista, Ca, it's 90 miles. It's 118 miles from my house to the first shop in Newbury Park.

Still, last time, I did two of the sections. It was a blast. Each shop hands out a charm that can be used to decorate a wall hanging. They have special deals and drawings for each store. There is a always a theme and most have free patterns to go with the theme. So it looks like I will be trying to do this again this year. I can't wait to get to the Temecula Quilt Co. It's close enough that I could go any day but I want to see what they have for the quilt run. They have the most beautiful wool fabrics.  

Not to be overlooked, Northern California has its own called the 14th Annual Northern California 14th Quilt Rush.  It is April 17-21, 2013 and they have some pretty nifty prizes too. Heart of the Valley Quilt Shop Hop covers Carlifornia's Central Valley.

For residents who may not know how many quilt shops there are in their area, check out the websites. Even if the annual event is over, the quilt shops are still listed.

I am going to Tennessee in May. You can bet that I already have a list of the quilt shops I may be passing in my travels.

Some of my quilts. This is one I found at a thrift store. It is queen size and beautiful. I cost me $5.00. I have a feeling it is worth a little more. It is a crazy quilt that is completely hand stitched. Some of the pieces are frayed. The embroidery is excellent and the quilt is tied.

Anyone want to hazard a guess on the age of this quilt?
I think that it may be from the 30's. The backing with the medallions is not a current fabric. The texture and the weight are not any that are familiar. The pieces on the front are not familiar either and I have been sewing a very long time.  I did some checking and the colors might have been depression era. The pieces that have frayed are the same and look to be a thin, gauzy material that has not done well over the years. 

This is one that I made. When I washed it, the whole thing came apart at the seams. We figured out that the fabric was defective so I sat it aside for a year until I could convince myself to take it all apart and start over. It is now a proud addition to the decor in my living room.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Perris, CA

This is my stomping ground. We moved to this area more than 20 years ago and found that while it has it’s problems, there is a lot here to do and see.

We are less than five miles from the Lake Perris State Recreational Area. The lake offers boating, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, and camping. We often camp there because we can spend a week at the lake while the boy still goes to school and baseball practice. They have summer camps for kids where they learn to swim, water skills, and have a overnight camp-out. This is Niles learning how to navigate a kayak.

The Orange Empire Railway Museum is 10 miles from our house. It is just beyond downtown Perris by the Perris Airport where all the skydiving is done. We love to go here and just spend time looking at the trains and trolleys. 

The building is the ticket booth and gift shop. For a reasonable fee, you can purchase a ticket to ride the trains and trolleys around the park. They have several different types that you can ride. I am partial to the electric buses because I remember riding those as a child in Los Angeles. 

 There are several barns where the trains are stored and a couple others where they are restored. It can take all day to see everything and admission is free is you choose not to ride the trains.
The grounds are a good place for a family picnic and on hot days, there is shade.
This is one of the exhibits in the "Signal Garden". Train signals have evolved over time and they have a nice selection. Kids love it because they get to push the buttons to make them work. (Even big kids)

Five miles in the other direction is March Field Air Museum. It sits on the edge of the former March Air Force Base. It has been decommissioned and is now the March Air Reserve Base. It is still busy because many times it is used to send troops and rescue worker around the country for national disasters. The museum sits at the edge of the runway, off Interstate 215. 

The museum continues to grow as new planes are added. They are currently working on the Van Buren off-ramp which will make it much more accessible and traffic may flow a little better.  

I reccommend this museum. It's a great place to learn about March Field and the history of the 70 some planes that reside there. As a bonus, many pilots use March Field to practice taking off and landing and to get their hours in. These "touch and goes"  happen all day long and are fun to watch. Across the freeway is Riverside National Cemetery. They have several displays of interest. I recently found the Civil War memorial

Within fifteen miles, you can ride trains, watch planes, and kayak on the lake. Pretty cool! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Oceanside, CA

Growing up, the go-to beach was Huntington. My friends and I went every weekend. This is the car we used to take. Gas was 25 cents and if everyone chipped in a quarter, we were good to go. 

Gas is a whole lot more expensive today and we don’t have time to go every weekend. However, in the summer, my grandson and I generally make several trips. We are closer to Oceanside than Huntington so now it's our go-to beach. We park in the lot at the pier and take the stairs down to the beach although beach goers have their choice on the three miles of beachfront property.

At the pier, the areas just to the left and the right are reserved for surfers but just beyond the 1st lifeguard stands on either side, families are welcomed.  

I am a senior citizen raising a grandchild and have spent my entire life being sunburned. Now I take a chair, an umbrella, and lots of sunscreen. However, I have never been able to ignore the lure of the waves. My grandson loves it when I go out with him. I am not afraid of the water but give it the respect due. I taught him that you never turn your back to a wave. Then, last time we went, I did just that and was knocked over. DUH!

I don't usually post pictures of myself but I wanted to share that if you are smart, you get a swim shirt. I am not hard to find in the picture, my shirt is bright pink. Not only does the shirt prevent sunburn, it also keeps the sand from rubbing your skin raw, if in fact, you turn your back to a wave. 

If you have any concerns about how you look in a bathing suit, this is the beach for you. Unlike some of the more trendy beaches to the north where it's all about the bikini, this is a family beach where everyone enjoys the water. I am not self conscious here and you will find me out swimming beyond the breakers.

In the center of this picture is my sister-in-law and grandson. He put the boogy board down long enough to get in a picture. This is also a great beach for boogy boarding and body surfing.  
As you can see, the beach is always crowded. We arrive early, stake a claim to our beachfront property and then enjoy the day. Although the beach is crowded, people are generally respectful of your space and belongings.

Oceanside is off of Interstate 5, about an hour south of Los Angeles in the northern part of San Diego County. We are east of Oceanside and have several routes to the beach but usually take Highway 79, taking us past the Mission San Luis Rey. If we have company, we stop at the Mission on the way to the beach.

Oceanside borders Camp Pendleton, the large Marine Corp base that runs all the way to San Onfre. We spend a lot of time in the area because our favorite beach campground is in San Onfre.  

If you decide to visit Oceanside, look for me in the pink rash guard shirt.  

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