Ocean knight currents, part one

Temperatures soared into the high nineties in San Diego as we prepared for a 5-day sally to the ocean bluffs of South Carlsbad where we looked forward to cooling ocean and air currents.  Waving giant arms greeted us as we approached our destination, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the sails of a windmill, so I set aside my lance and reminisced about the poignant last San Diego Opera where the knight-errant, Don Quixote, battled giants that turned out to be windmills, even as the San Diego Opera was fighting for its existence.  The title role was sung by the great Italian bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, who has a special message* for those concerned about the San Diego Opera.

DSC_0129 Windmill by the sea

We arrived on the eve of Cinco de Mayo* and promptly celebrated with fresh homemade salsa, chips and Margaritas (a perfect summer drink)*, while savoring the continuous sounds of the surf and a beautiful sunset.

DSC_0001 Cinco de Mayo by the sea

An onshore low-pressure system moved in for most of the week and brought cooler temperatures and gusty winds.  This was a refreshing change from the heat of the previous week, and little did we know that this would turn out to be just a brief respite as hot, dry Santa Ana winds would return the following week and bring record breaking temperatures, fires and loss of homes in San Diego County* usually not seen this early in California’s fire season.

DSC_0064 Our favorite beach campsite

Larry’s decorations for our favorite beachside campsite included papel picado banners near the dense, windswept shrubs that provide wonderful privacy.

DSC_0079 Windswept by the sea

For five days we relaxed to the sound of ocean waves and wind* as we enjoyed the sight of pelicans sailing by in various formations sustained by the updraft of the bluff air currents.

DSC_0082 Relaxing by the sea

Camping by the sea always whets our appetite for seafood.  We moved our outdoor kitchen to the north side of our campsite where vegetation provided a windbreak, facilitating the frying of calamari.  To prepare these “onion rings of the sea“*, Larry cut 1/2 inch rings from squid hoods and shook them in a plastic bag containing flour, corn meal, corn starch, and seasonings, and deep fried a few at a time for 2-3 minutes, just until golden brown.

DSC_0096 Frying calamari by the sea

Dinners were followed by sipping wine and enjoying beautiful ocean sunsets.

DSC_0108 Pelicans at sunset

This trip marks our 8th camping season with our Airstream Safari as we continue to enjoy living the Airstream life!*

DSC_0262 Living the Airstream Life!

Continue to follow the adventures of this knight-errant by the sea in upcoming posts… Cheers!

*This is a YouTube video.

Mountain knight stars, part one

As we prepared for a change in our camping venue, from the now hot desert to our relatively cool mountains, we heard the shocking news that the San Diego Opera would begin to shut down after the last performance of Don Quixote* in April.  San Diego Opera, considered one of the top ten opera companies in the nation, is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.  I was especially saddened because I have performed as a supernumerary in 21 San Diego operas over a ten year period, which included roles such as the soldier, guard, henchman seen here in Tosca, and lead waiter in Cosi fan tutte.*  I brought along the novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, to read during our 5-day mountain camping trip so that I could totally immerse myself in this multifaceted story (and local drama) and appreciate the character of Don Quixote, brought to life onstage by bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto* in the operatic version, Don Quichotte, by Jules Massenet.*

DSC_0067 Don Quixote & knights

The more I read, the more I began to identify with this knight-errant character, who goes on quests, searches for adventures, does good deeds, appreciates beauty, pursues dreams, fights for things he loves, and yet remains compassionate.  I began to see parallelisms as waxing moonlight gleamed on our trailer’s armor when the stars began to shine.*

DSC_0075 Armour under mtn

As we battled the hot sun by extending the rear awning with an additional sail held in place by ratcheted webbing, I remembered Don Quixote’s battle with giants (windmill sails).*

DSC_0029 Rear awning extension sail

We trekked on mountain trails on a quest for adventure.*

DSC_0054 Larry, Mac, & Tasha, Cedar Trail

I spotted what looked like a Dementor or something else* and prepared to do battle.

DSC_0095 Dementor?

But just then, a wary wild turkey hen emerged while foraging.

DSC_0017 Wary turkey hen

Her worried look seemed justified because she was being pursued and courted by a strutting tom turkey, whose grandiose display reminded me of the valiant character, Don Quixote.

DSC_0142 Tom turkey struts

More mountain adventures are coming up in part two, along with stunning flowers, feasts, stars, and more about Don Quixote and the San Diego Opera,** why this opera needs to be saved,* and how you can come to its rescue!  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing… and saving!***

*This is a YouTube video.

**UCSD-TV San Diego Opera Spotlight video

***This is a San Diego Opera video produced by UCSD-TV

Winter into spring in Southern California

Snow had fallen on all of San Diego’s mountain ranges just the day before we departed on our spring wildflower trip and I was tempted to engage the trailer’s flux capacitor once again to facilitate passage over the mountains, but I thought it would be more scenic to carefully weave our way around the mountains to our destination, Palm Canyon Campground in the Southern California desert. This amount of winter snow does not happen often here and when it does, people pour out of the city in bumper-to-bumper traffic just to romp in the snow and throw snowballs.  Indeed, traffic slowed enough for Larry to take this snowy winter scene as we slowly approached Santa Ysabel.


(This is as close as our trailer ever gets to snow.)

Sun, warmth and colorful wildflowers greeted us at our campsite in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  See the current wildflower report for this area here.


(Wild Heliotrope is seen in foreground.)

We camped during part of the festive season of Mardi Gras.  Seen on our camp table are Mardi Gras beads in the three symbolic colors of Mardi Gras, purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith).  Also seen on the table are freshly cut flowers from our home garden and Larry’s delicious, homemade Craisin oatmeal cookies (my favorite breakfast treat with coffee).


Larry turned them into Mardi Gras cookies by carefully topping them with crystallized sugar in the appropriate colors and adding silver dragées.  Also seen below is the Commedia dell’arte mask of Arlecchino.



Mardi Gras is also celebrated by wearing masks.

According to the Wikipedia article, “New Orleans Mardi Gras“, processions and wearing of masks in the streets took place in the 1700s.

Larry is seen here wearing the Commedia dell’arte mask of Il Capitano, a character that Larry once portrayed at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  Wearing this mask, he surprised the rangers at the Ranger Station as he delivered these cookies!

This year the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, Ca is open Sundays and Saturdays, April 9 – May 22, 2011.

The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace is currently open every Saturday and Sunday through April 3, 2011.

Although it was sunny and springtime-warm during our five days of camping, it had recently been on the chilly side and the wildflowers had yet to peak.  But due to recent rains here, the vegetation was green and lush.


When we were there, there were more flowers near the campground and along the .6 mile cement sidewalk to the Visitors Center than on the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, including:


Sand Verbena (above) and Barrel Cactus (below).


For many, it has been a thorny winter.  But now that the snow is melting and the weather is warming and the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming and the bees are buzzing and the birds are singing and nesting we are grateful to be here and happy to be moving gently from winter into spring.

Our National Parks

A new film by Ken Burns, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea“, will be presented by PBS in six episodes starting Sunday, September 27, at 8 pm Eastern Time. Filmed over a course of more than six years, this series will show some of the most beautiful places in our country, at the best time of year, in the best light, along with the history of our national parks, people who made a difference, and park profiles.

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan.

See a behind the scenes tour of this new Ken Burns series, “The National Parks”, in this PBS Preview.

Ken Burns points out that the concept of a national park is an American idea and ideal, and that Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872, is arguably the world’s first truly national park.  Our national parks are living symbols of democracy, and are special places of discovery and inspiration, building human happiness, and should be preserved for all people to enjoy (not just for royalty or the rich).

Talking about national parks and monuments, President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted in the film as saying, “It is the preservation of the scenery, of the forests and the wilderness game for the people as a whole.  Instead of leaving the enjoyment thereof to be confined to the very rich, it is noteworthy in its essential democracy, one of the best bits of national achievement, which our people have to their credit.  And our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children, and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Antiquities Act of 1906, giving the President of the United States authority to restrict use of particular land owned by the federal government by executive order, bypassing Congressional oversight, and avoiding partisan gridlock.  The Antiquities Act resulted from concerns arising about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts.  The intent is to allow the President to set aside and protect certain valuable public natural areas as park and conservation lands, which are given the title of “National Monuments“.

The first declared United States National Monument was Devils Tower, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Devils Tower is a monolithic igneous intrusion or volcanic rock in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming.  Native American tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith long before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming.  More than 48% of land in Wyoming is now owned by the United States Government (as noted in Wikipedia’s article, “Wyoming“).

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt (struggling against mining interests) proclaimed more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a National Monument (it was declared a National Park on February 26, 1919).  This is an example of an early success of the environmental conservation movement, which may have helped to thwart proposals to dam the Colorado River within its boundaries.

On October 14, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson created Cabrillo National Monument, which is located on the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, California, and commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542.


At the highest point in the park stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which became operational in 1855.


People come from all over the world to enjoy the views of the region’s mountains, San Diego harbor, Pacific Ocean, Mexico and the Coronado Islands.  Pacific gray whales can be seen migrating from late December to early February.  Cabrillo National Monument contains one of the finest (and protected) rocky intertidal areas (tide pools) on the southern California coast and is one of the last refuges of coastal sage scrub habitat.


Ken Burns film, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”, also highlights other heroes who have made a difference in preserving our natural resources and wilderness areas, such as Stephen Mather (first director of the National Park Service, which was established by the National Park Service Organic Act signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916),  John Muir (naturalist, author, early advocate of the preservation of the wilderness, and founder and first president of the Sierra Club), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Civilian Conservation Corps, Marjory Stoneman Douglas (friend of the Everglades), William Gladstone Steel (“father of Crater Lake”), and George Melendez Wright (National Park Service naturalist).

George Melendez Wright was noted as saying, “Our national heritage is richer than just scenic features… perhaps our greatest national heritage is nature itself, with all of its complexity and its abundance of life”.  See this wonderful video clip on George Melendez Wright.

The most recent national monument was designated by President George W. Bush on January 6, 2009: The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  The Marianas trench reefs and waters (95,216 square miles) are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered.  The Mariana trench is the deepest point on Earth and five times longer than the Grand Canyon.

Our national parks and monuments are our national treasures that bring us happiness and a sense of well-being…  a sense of comfort, like going home… and like a home, they need to be protected, restored (including restoration of native species), maintained and kept functioning for all to enjoy for all time.

See one more video selection from this new, beautiful mini-series, along with a moving interview of documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, shown in this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show of September 24, 2009.

Home for the holidays

As you may recall from my previous post, I was having difficulty shutting down our Airstream’s vertical thrusters, and was losing contact with Ground Control, while desperately searching Airforums for a solution. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get back on solid ground again.  Finally, with the help of the advanced search engine, I found that the source of my problem was that I had forgotten to recalibrate the flux capacitor for vertical travel. I am happy to report that I have landed safely and we have returned home for the holidays.

This full moon, the Cold Moon, found our Safari resting on its pad at home base…


We enjoy the holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years, along with good reading and good music.  A nutcracker rests on our fireplace mantel, reminding me of my favorite Christmas fairy tale-ballet, The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1891-1892; my favorite movie version is: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, which is a video of the performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Herr Drosselmeier is a character in this story (who visited Emma last December).


Where are you Christmas?  Well, in San Diego, back in 1904 it was in the form of America’s first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree at the Hotel del Coronado.


The historic Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1888, displays a large stained glass window depicting the legendary Queen Califia, thought by some to be the origin of the state name California.


Last Friday we returned to the Hotel del Coronado to enjoy the sights and skating by the sea.  Their Windsor Lawn has been transformed into a spectacular ice rink overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  I enjoyed skating while listening to Christmas songs and didn’t mind the thin water areas on the ice.  A portion of the skating proceeds goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which originated in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1980 and “grants wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions.


Inside the main lobby is their spectacular Christmas tree that takes up to two months to decorate.



We returned home to continue enjoying the holidays, decorating the house and trailer, and delighting in movies, such as The Polar Express, which seem even more magical in the Airstream when Christmas comes to town.


“All aboard”, said the conductor, “because my dancing waiters are about to serve some hot,hot… hot chocolate!


Watching a special holiday DVD in our Safari on Christmas eve while imbibing on a delicious beverage such as eggnog might just become a wonderful new tradition for us… which just might be repeated on New Years Eve’s eve

Happy Holidays from us to you!