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.