Saturday, May 17, 2008

California Dreaming: Chapter 1 - Places & People (March 26 to April 13)

Hello Friends!

At the rate we are going, we'll be blogging well into 2009 to catch up! We greet you from Tacoma, Washington where we are currently staying with our great friend, Winnie Unger Johnson, who Elizabeth has known since high school days. We hope this new chapter in our blog finds every one happy, with Spring in full swing and Summer not far behind.

Per usual, we are going way back, this time to our California Days. We will present California in two blog chapters. Each chapter will have two sections...starting with Places and ending with the great People who have graced our days. So, let us begin with ....

PLACES in Southern California

As we crossed from southern Arizona into California, we passed through the desert and up into the hills. Those early settlers who got this far, must have thought they had reached the ends of the earth! But the hope that spurred them was "gold in them thar hills"!

At the top of this landscape, we pulled off the road in order to give our poor RV a rest. Look at the fascinating tower and gift shop that we found, a relic of former times in automotive history. Built in 1923 to commemorate the pioneers, road and railway workers, this high mountain summit, "Desert Towers", has hosted countless tourists whose radiators overheated here.

While enjoying conversation with a font of wisdom and history owner named 'Ben', we were all startled by a rare appearance from a native to this area ... Here Ben bags this season's first rattler.

A former owner of this high pass retreat in the Valllecito Mountains, carved comical sculptures in the rocks nearby. Delightful caves for the young at heart are here to explore.

But, beware of the signs that lead you up a steep, exhausting climb to the "Desert Springs". The 'laugh' on us was almost worth the hike!

There have been many Mexican border towns to explore on our trek across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. None was as sweet as "Tecate". Untouched by the hustle and hassle of cross border shopping, Tecate (off scenic #94) sits at the bottom of this valley, just a short stroll from California into Mexico.

Above, we begin our short descent to the border by car ... below, by foot into the town.

The town plaza is shady and cool, a perfect place to try a local 'Tecate' beer and watch the people milling about.
Our attentive server with Peter below ...
'Peter, always eager to add another license plate to his collection, is favoured by a generous man, 'Jesus' (yes, that was his name) and one of his helpful 'disciples' at a car parts department. Raoulle, the 'disciple', wanted to share with us the only thing he knew in English, his favourite Beatles song: "Go back ... go back ... go back to where you once belonged" And so we returned to California. "Vaya con Dios, Amigos!"
Once over the mountains, we came to these iconic giants on the shores of San Diego.

Many a sailor has shipped out from this harbour ...

So, too, did we .. with our bicycles .. aboard a ferry bound for Coronado Island.

A familiar face aboard ship ...

A great ride to the other end of the Island landed us here at this famous hotel ..

Remember the movie "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe? It was filmed here. Elizabeth was here too, once, visiting the family of her college roommate during the first Thanksgiving of their university days.

A glorious day to explore a glorious place ...

But "all good things must come to an end". Wending our way back to the mainland. Below, some regulars at the beach at La Jolla. The locals have given up their swimming privileges for these indigenous creatures ...

You''ve heard of a 'dog's life'? We're sticking with the beach bathing harbour seals.

A face that more than a mother could love ...

Enjoyed a great campsite near the beach at "Encinitas". Peter always has to test the waters ...

Lil, however, stocks up on vitamin D ...

Where there's a beach in California, there is always "pier life" to explore. Below, a lunch together on the pier with "checkers" provided.

I always imagined "Capistrano" to be somewhere in South America! Not so. It is the California home of the Mission, founded in 1776 by Padre Junipero Serra to 'christianize' and 'civilize' the Indians. Interesting that it is precisely the 'sacredness' of Creation, understood and honoured by our native peoples, that we need to recover for ourselves in order to save this grieving planet.

The swallows, made famous in a song by Leon Rene (recorded by the Ink Spots), legendarily come back here to build their nests in time for the Feast Day of patron Saint Joseph.

The old stone church and bell tower collapsed in 1812 during an earth quake, killing 40 worshipers.

The new Basilica, based on the old design, incorporates this guilded 'Retablo' made in Spain, featuring the Trinity, the Holy Mother, Padre Serra and St. Francis (Saint of the Missions). We have come to love the image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" which has greeted us in so many places. She now travels with us in the RV.

Fast forward to LA and to Hollywood. Here's Peter at the Museum of Art. Surely, he's found the light!

Look up to the hills! Hardly what inspired the psalmist, but 'cool' non the less.

Above ... welcome to Grauman's Chinese Theater and the 'star' walk. Below, she was once here.

Found again by Peter ...Dorothy Kilgallen. Remember "What's my Line?" Kind of an 'in' joke for Peter and me.

Peter and Lil chooses some of their 'wanna be' favourites ...

But, be careful! You just might walk unknowingly into a screen set! Typical on the street interview ...
From the ridiculous to the sublime .. famous 'Wayfarer's Chapel" at Palos Verdes .. a non denominational place of rest for those on the journey, offered by the Swedenborgians .Check out this piece of real estate ..

And this chapel of light and trees!

Below, Peter poses with Rev. Harvey Tafley, who welcomed us.

Below, have a look at the view from Point Vincinte, where we enjoyed watching for grey whales passing north for the summer months.
Others try to capture the magic ...

There is a Venice in North America, too!

Sunset on the peer at Venice Beach ...

A place to share with a loved one ...

And then came the Nethercutt Collection .. a display of classic cars second to none! Peter has always wanted to see it up close, witness to the personal fortune of Merle Norman Cosmetic entrepreneur. Below, the home built to house the collection ...

Designed like a New York dealer's showroom from the '30's, including marble pillars and broadloom throughout.

Peter captures a snap of the Packard Pelican hood ornament. Below a walk through Cadillacs from the '30's.

Above, Elizabeth with a Duesenberg, a one only car built for 20 Grand in the '30's, as the license plate indicates. Below, Peter poses with a German made 'Maybach' - equally rare and unique.

Elizabeth imagines how different an RV trip might have been in this 1938 Pierce Arrow travel home.

Back on the road and another lunch by the sea, this time at Malibu. Peter well perched for a view.As cliff hangers go, the RV camp below takes the cake ...

Here we are backing into our site.

Peter: "Okay, honey. We're here! You can come out the back door now!"

Above: "Muscle Beach!" Below: Muscle beach? 'Water Boy' emerges again.

Dudie, upon my father's retirement: "I married you for LIFE, not for lunch." How our expectations are now changing. Below: another lunch at charming town of San Luis Obispo, home of Cal Poli University and another Serra Mission.

As we passed, the five bells were calling people to mass. So we slipped into the sanctuary for a beautiful post Easter experience of worship on the text: "I am the Bread of Life". The Padre conducting was from Canada! It was one of those unsolicited and stunning moments of grace. Why am I always 'surprised' by the surprising nature of the Spirit?
And then, from a spiritual space to a temporal temple (but with all it's art and archetecture, it is still moving) ... Meet William Randolph Hearst and "La Cuesta Encantada".

Back in 1984 our little family camped on the beach below, but decided not to ascend to the castle. This time around, we did. The Hearst Castle is a 26 year building project in collaboration with archetect/civil engineer - Julia Morgan on this 250,000 acre estate, part of Hearst's father's ranch. This 'dream home' has 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, coastal views, terraces, pools, walkways and guest casas. Hearst and mistress Marion Davies, loved to collect famous people together here. If invited here, you could stay as long as you wished, though your place at the banquet table would move further and further from Hearst the longer you stayed. It is reported that Maurice Rothchild stayed on for two years. Have a look around ...

Okay, enough human opulence. Now for some of natural opulence from the original Creator. Come on with us up the Big Sur ...

"You, again! Thought I left you guys back at Venice Beach." Hang on to your hats and coats. This windy place is better us 'California Gulls'.

We've made it up the coast quite far now. Do you recognize this place?

That tree over our left shoulders is the icon of Monterey Bay. You can find it on the scenic 17 mile road around the peninsula where the wind has sculpted the trees in a unique style.

Above: Walking on the beach at Carmel by the Sea... Below: at Pebble Beach Resort, home not only of golf, but of a famous car show.

The Pebble Beach Concourse ...

At noon Friday, on April 11, we participated in our first lottery drawing for a campsite. We were at Sea Cliffs State Park near New Breighton. When in California, the locals go to the beach for the weekend and camping sites are at a premium. People on a whim like us, need to secure a place on or before Friday morning. We got lucky. Here's a view of our beach.

You can see, this has been a popular place since the early days.

Two days of great biking through Rio Del Mar ...

This cement ship above is a famous landmark. Once bedecked as a nightclub, it has gone the way of sea walls and transitory things before the fury of ocean storms. Today it is a reef style home for fish and barnacles and a vast community of gulls. Just around the shore of the bay past the Breighton Beach fossil rocks - at a distance for a great afternoon's walk, is the funky beach at Santa Cruz. The mobs had assembled ...

And, as always, there's a pier...

And food for every appetite ... (this not being one of Peter's personal favourites. The smile is for the fact that he won't be eating one)

If you're really lucky, someone might sing you a song! ("Has anybody seen my gal ...")

Two hot rod guys chat it up with Peter and tip him off to another classic car collection at Danville.

At the end of the pier, we heard the distinct sound of collective mammal breathing ... Looking over the side, look what we found!

A pod of lounging sea lions playing chuckle belly. One younger member even performed some astounding jumps to the delight of the crowd. Word has it, this is one of their favourite hang outs.

This one above is for Tim ... Eat your heart out.

So that pretty well hits our highlights in "Southern California". It's time now to thank the great people who shared their lives with us on this part of the journey.

PEOPLE TREATS in Southern California

This is the Fallbrook, California home of Bill Lochhead. His mother, Hope, was Dudie's first cousin. And Bill spent his high school years living right next door to us in Wilmette, Illinois. He's the one who raised a big family and moved to California to work in "plastics" (shades of 'The Graduate'). The RV didn't quite make it under the car port.

Here is a shot of Elizabeth with Bill and wife, Lorena and the bikers on a jaunt to the little western town of Julian. Lots of antiques here, besides us.

Out for dinner in Timecula .. Bill, Lil, daughter Teresa, mother Lorena and son-in-law Ryan Mahoney. "How did Teresa grow up so fast? Great to meet you, Ryan, and be in your lovely home."

"Thank you, all of you, for the wonderful reunion you hosted. How wonderful to be caught up at last!"This bright face belongs to Julie Kimmel. We spent two great nights with her in Huntington Beach, lending her car for us to explore L.A. Julie is a delightful friend from Pen Lake, where the Moffats share summer time with other great family clusters like, the "KIMMELS". Below, they gather on the steps of their cottage ...

Julie and Ed in a happy moment. While we were visiting, Ed was slaving away on a water project in the Dominican. "It was great talking to you by phone, Ed! And, Julie, thank you for all you did to make our time together comfortable, convenient and fun! See you during regatta time, where we'll share some more of this ..."

Perhaps some of you will remember my first cousin, Betty Galligan, with whom we stayed for a week in Albuquerque, New Mexico back in March. Greg Scheib, her son currently lives in L.A. Below, 'about- to- be' newlyweds Greg and Elizabeth, join us after lunch together for a visit in the RV.

Below, on the beach at Malibu. "Thank you both for finding room in your busy pre-marital agendas, to drive out and see us. Great choice, Greg! Love in abundance to you both!"

At the top of our list for 'favourite RV campsite neighbours', were David and Chris Lewis. David, a marine biologist with Channel Islands National Park, was a font of seashore and RV wisdom. He has challenged us to go more 'solar' next time around. Here we are below toasting one of those memorable "Sea Cliffs" sunsets. "Great to meet you both. Remember, you have a great Roadtrek destination in Canada!"

One of the ukulele songs I've sung since my childhood, is "I know a wienie man." Forgive us the sharing of these lyrics, but you'll see why later:
I know a wienie man
He owns a wienie stand
He'll sell you anything from hot dogs on down.
Someday I'll share his life,
I'll be his wienie wife..
"Hotdogs" I love that wienie man!

After a lifetime, we finally found the real hot dog selling, ukulele playing Wienie Man on the pier at Santa Cruz! Unbelievable! You saw him strumming and singing a song earlier in this chapter. Couldn't help but share my little song with him, it was so apropos. Only later did I see his CD's on sale and realize I'd been teaching a pro. Meet Vince Tuzzi, a great musician and hot dog salesman who also entertains on occasion at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz. Below, a bit of mutual entertainment ...

Now, below .. we all stand with the real 'Wienie Wife', Maggie. Thanks, you two. What a hoot!

Well, folks, again you receive a 'gold star' for hanging in with us until the end. We realize inevitably there will be some 'typos' in our reporting. If you only knew the risk that exists for losing the whole program, you would understand why, after publishing, we don't go back in to fix things. We've lost three great pictures just in the typing of this text. But surely this is more than enough ..

Time to bow and out! Love to all of you!

Stay tuned for our upcoming chapter .. "Northern California: Places and People"