Thursday, December 16, 2010

Westward Ho!

We'd wanted to visit James and Ellen in California but just couldn't find tickets at a rational price. I was bemoaning this to some online girlfriends including one named RoseAnn when - synchronicity is wonderful - up pops a sidebar advertising low airline fares! So we jumped on them, and - extra special super duper synchronicity - had to change planes in Denver, where the RoseAnn lives. And, since we had a 2-hour layover in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, she was going to be able to come out to the airport to meet us. This trip was coming together nicely!

Coming into Denver I was hit by homesickness and realized not the New York I was born in, but Colorado is home, where I met Dan and came of age - my thoughts were of the mountains and plains and sunshine - and wondered if we could buy some land near Erie (Colorado) and dig a giant lake and fill it and move Cinderella there? That way I could have both my life afloat and my Rocky Mountain high? Sunshine and open space, I never got used to how little public land there is in the East.

When we came into the airport, fortunately we were in the closest terminal and could just walk over the pedestrian bridge to the terminal - as we were walking down the hall Dan asked if I knew what RoseAnn looked like, and just then I spotted her waiting at the edge of the security barrier, and I pointed and I said, "Like that." and we hugged. We've been friends for about 12 years and never met in "real life." We found a bar and had a beer and we tried to talk extra fast because we'd only have an hour before we had to run to catch our next plane. We changed topics frequently and erratically and tried to cover everything; it was an exhilarating feeling. It was lucky there was no line in security because we pushed it down to the wire - the plane had already boarded. We walked onto the plane like rock stars, no wait. I've always wondered why the folks in first class think of it as a privilege to get to board the plane first. You're going to be in those seats for enough time just flying. To me, the privilege is to wait till the last minute enjoying the freedom of walking around in the terminal.

James and Ellen met us after we got off the plane in San Diego. They told us that while they were waiting for our flight, they'd gone to the beach to watch a classic wooden boat race. They took us to the beach (5 minutes from the airport!) and a few boats were still sailing around, very lovely. Then jet lag began to take its toll and they drove us up into the mountains to their house. (More photos of the house are in this post.) We drank too much rum and caught up on everything since we'd last been together, almost a year to the day ago, when we went our separate ways after reaching Allen's Cay in the Bahamas. Next morning after coffee, we headed out to explore the nearby desert.

Finally meeting RoseAnn:
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean, view on the road just below James and Ellen's house:
Snuggled in the trees, this is the view that greeted us next morning out the guest bathroom window:

Random Acts of Beauty

Along a rather desolate section of road are these steel sculptures. Eagles, horses, saber-tooth tigers. No attribution, no signage, nothing. Just random pieces of art, fitting wonderfully into the landscape.

Steel horse:
They are roughly life-size:
Ellen took this close-up of the saber-tooth tiger's head:

In the Desert

They had told us they had really gotten into fourwheeling and camping in the desert, so on the first full day we all got in the jeep and went to a place with the unwieldly name of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the adjacent Ocotillo Wells area. The latter is the only one where you're allowed to go off-road and I'm almost certain I reviewed the EIS for it when I was driving that LMD (large mahogany desk) as a Washington bureaucrat. The reality was even more desolate than the documents conveyed.

A desert road:
Wouldja believe, a road sign? The intersection of Crossover Trail and Tarantula Wash:
How you find an oasis - the literally-named Una Palma ("One Palm"):
It wasn't all quite that dry:
The Malpais (literal translation, "Bad Lands"):
Ellen got this picture of me taking the above picture:
A chollo cactus:
When we were kids, my brother and I used to play a game, trying to take photos that looked like they were taken on another planet, "My Summer Vacation on Mars." James got this photo of Dan on a hillside called Shell Bank. Looks like James used to play the photo game too!
It's called "Shell Bank" because of the fossil shells - look at the tiny shell just above my finger. Proof that this area used to be underwater.
James used Photoshop to blow up and enhance the picture of the shell:

Pacific Crest Trail and Julian, California

James & Ellen had told us that the thing they loved most of all about their home is that although they lived in the mountains, if they went one direction, they were an hour from the ocean; or if they went the other direction, they were an hour from the desert. So as to sample all 3 environments, this day we went for a hike close to their home. We hiked a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail, that runs from Canada to Mexico. After our exertions, we went into the little town of Julian (about 6 miles from their place) to replenish ourselves. The area is known for its apple orchards, so what better than to eat local - apple pie and vanilla ice cream?

The beginning of the trail:

Ellen contemplating the view:
What she's looking at:
The main (a.k.a., only one of two) street through the old mining town of Julian:

Apple pie and vanilla ice cream:
Good to the very very last drop:

A Visit to California

Not long after we returned from our Bahamas cruise we got this email from our friends James & Ellen (the ones we'd traveled with):
Hi guys,
I hear you've been back at Port A for a couple of weeks now, after what sounds like an adventure filled trip north. Just think of the memories....
What are you up to for the summer? Your facebook page suggests you'll be heading to Colorado in September. Any chance you'll be making an extension to Southern California for a visit? We have a couple of trips planned, but we'll be here during September. The house we're renting is a) gorgeous and b) has an actual guestroom and a full bath just across the hall. I'm attaching some pictures of the place.
Ellen and I have been doing our respective things here. She's riding pretty regularly, and I've been doing a lot of work with the camera. We've also done some neato walks in the mountains, which is where we live, and we managed to get to the desert for some camping before it got too ungodly hot. One of my favorite walks takes me to Garnet Peak, at around 6200', which is at the edge of the escarpment overlooking the desert. The terrain drops about 3500' in under 2 miles of horizontal distance. On an average day you can see past the Salton Sea to the Chocolate mountains in the east, a distance of about 70 miles. On a clear day you can see forever. Oh, excuse me, someone already said that.
If you want to see the area where we live, either of Google maps or Google Earth, just put in Lake Cuyamaca, California.
Do let us know what you're up to.
James, Ellen and Cruiser the landlubber Dog

Here's the front of their house:

The living room:
And the view from the loft:
(For the record, the house was completely furnished in this overly-sweet country theme, not their taste. In fact, every time I've visited the home of a sailor who'd moved ashore, the decor - whatever the style, traditional or modern or eclectic or southwestern or whatever, was very minimalist and uncluttered. I've never seen an exception.)

Ellen had had surgery a month or so ago, and we didn't make it to Colorado in September, but we found some cheap tickets online and headed to California last week. Dan had never set foot in the state, and I my only exposure had been to San Francisco for a meeting in the early 1980s, and the original Disneyland when I was about 12 (which I hardly remember) so we were ready for an adventure.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changing Seasons

The trees are sticks and twigs, bare of leaves; and similarly our mast and boom are sticks, bare of sails. Time to turn our thoughts away from summer pastimes and toward snuggling down with homemade soup and good books, sweaters, and holiday rituals. Rinsed the sails off yesterday, dried them and took them down, today we'll bring them up to the pavilion and fold them and tuck them into their bags to store till spring. My friend Beth posted this on my Facebook wall, it's so cute that I just had to repeat it here:

126 Days till spring we have already had snow in NY.

Squirrel's tails are very bushy, this just means we'll freeze our tushies.
Palm trees decked with Christmas lights underneath warm starry nights.
That's the stuff of which I dream - X mas in the Carribbean.
Santa's sleigh has evinrudes and lots of island attidude.
Egg nog is a desecration - good rum needs fruit based libation.
Yule logs blazing in the sand, big tall boat drinks in both hands,
Carols played on sweet steel drums and did I mention lots of rum?
Stockings hung by scuba gear - that will help my winter cheer.
The only white I want to see is sandy beach and frothy sea.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunny Moon

Denny at the helm (unlike the rest of us, he's drinking tonic water, not wine):

Paula, lovin' life:While sitting in the cockpit with Melissa last weekend, watching the "parade" of boats running up and down Back Creek, Dan spotted some familiar faces in an unfamiliar boat. Our former dockmates and sailors Denny & Paula, on a classic wooden picnic boat named Infallible. We called to them, tried to get them on VHF with no response, but they circled back and idled and we had a hurried conversation - they had been bequeathed the boat by her father, it was a 50-year-old wooden Lyman, the name came because they were the race committee boat, and would we like to go for a sunset cruise with them next week? Duh!

So yesterday, armed with bottles of wine and snacks, we stepped aboard the oldest boat we've ever gone for a cruise on. I stared over Denny's shoulder at the classic analog dial instruments for rpm and temperature (wish I'd gotten a photo of that) and we motored around the harbor, under the bridge, and up Spa Creek. On the way back, Denny held us out in the entrance to the creek to capture the sunset. Minutes later, as we were motoring in, he turned out again to catch the moonrise.
Sunset over Annapolis, and simultaneously,Moonrise over the Bay Bridge

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Anchoring out

Like cruising in the Chesapeake, there were many many intricate places and coves to anchor or explore, but unlike the Chesapeake, the shores and bottom was hard rock! The Canadian Shield is some of the oldest rock in North America. We inched our way very slowly through openings like this one.
Some days were cool, gray, and misty; others were warm and sunny. Most of all we noticed how uncrowded everything was, and how clean. We stayed in several pristine anchorages. Boating in fresh water is a treat - we jumped in off the back of the boat on warm days, no need to rinse off afterward - no salt.

We took a hike one day, and met a guide leading her folks the other way, who warned us to look out for bear! Reminder that we are in the north woods. I remember reading somewhere, that every (100?) miles north you go is equivalent to being 1000 feet higher, in terms of what vegetation can grow. The pines and birches reminded me of being in the Rockies in Colorado, even though the Great Lakes here is only about 500 feet above sea level.

Canadian-style Food

I'm not exactly sure what "Canadian-style" cooking is ... except straightforward and very hearty. I only once remember being able to finish an entire meal as served. Mostly we ate on the boat, but one night we went out to an elegant restaurant. Or what they call elegant in northern Canada - the food was elegant, the style whimsical, the dress code nonexistent. Everything in the place had a fish theme, from the menu boards to the motorized plastic "shark" bread crumb tablecloth sweeper. There was one fun piece of art in the hall with a fish whose scales were made of roofing nails. Here's Melissa with Jim the proprietor.

Jim told us many stories with stunningly dry humor; my favorite was that his menu used to offer a choice of walleye for $19.95 and pickerel for $22.95. But, he explained, with a totally straight face, these are two different names for the exact same fish, and too many of his customers just didn't get it.
Our favorite meal, of course, was fish and chips. Want fresh, eh? Behind us is the boat used to catch this afternoon's snack, served from a modified school bus.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Canada July 2010 (Part 1)

We took advantage of a stunning offer from our friend Melissa to visit her aboard her boat in northern Canada for a few weeks. Since July temps in Annapolis can be well into the 90s with lots of humidity we were delighted to escape the heat and take her up on her offer.
Dan had never seen Niagara Falls so that was our first stop.

Then we joined Melissa on her trawler. We spent lovely times in uncrowded anchorages like this one, in Port Rawson Bay.

Our route took us northward along the east side of Georgian Bay (part of Lake Huron).
Not quite "land of the midnight sun," but this far north it started getting light before 5 AM and was still light at 10 PM.

(more to come)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Current blog

Dreadful omission - I've been blogging, just not so much here - it's taken all the bandwidth I've got just to keep up with my blog committment for Annapolis Capital! There at Life Afloat I've been posting our current cruising stories.