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…

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

Ground Control to Major Bill…

After docking our traveling space vehicle, the Airstream Safari, at this remote base station below Ghost Mountain in the California desert under the rising full moon earlier this month, we set up camp and enjoyed eating spicy food under the stars. While listening to yipping coyotes and the crackling campfire and watching the flickering lights dance on the trailer, my mind wandered to more reports of strange lights over the skies of San Diego and to thoughts about the ghostly legends of this Ghost Mountain area.

These thoughts evaporated into the thin and dry desert air the following day as I protected my skin from the burning rays of the sun while I shaved with the help of the trailer’s Vista View window, which was now multi-tasking as a mirror.

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But theses peculiar thoughts returned again after dinner at sunset…

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along with the ghostly moonlight and clouds that began looking like dragons…

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Then I saw it… an object flying over the trailer that I could not identify…

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streaking across the sky and I remembered flashing lights reported by NASA. Could this be the Ghost Lights of Anza-Borrego? It seemed to land on the other side of Ghost Mountain and I was determined to locate it, so I closed the pod bay doors and prepared to launch our custom-ordered Airstream using its built-in De Laval nozzles.

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I enjoyed the view as our Airstream rose up from the desert floor…

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But I began to sense that something was not quite right when the vertical thrusters could not be shut down and the craft drifted higher into dark space…

and the stars began to look a different way…

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Before losing my internet connection, I quickly checked Airforums, but was shocked to see no one had started a thread on this problem. As I started to lose contact with Ground Control, I wondered if I would ever be able to return to the desert…

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or if it was all due to the spicy food… I did feel like I was floating in a most peculiar way in our aluminum can… but I think it knows which way to go…

Ground ControlCan you hear me now?

Full Moon at Ghost Mountain

My timing was off so we arrived below Ghost Mountain just as the sun was setting, but my spirits were rising along with the anticipated full moon during the second week of November. We’re now on Pacific Standard Time and the shortening of the days is not helpful, except for my skin. (See my August 24th post on Sun Safety.)

Ghost Mountain is located in what is now called Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, in the eastern side of San Diego County. It was the home of poet, author, and artist Marshal South and family from 1930 to 1947. On this dry and sun scorched flat just below the top of the mountain, Marshal built his adobe home, which he called “Yaquitepec“, which means “hill of the Yaqui” after the fiercely freedom-loving Native American Indians of Sonora, Mexico. Due to his successful article, “Desert Refuge” in the March 11, 1939 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, he received a contract with Desert Magazine to write monthly articles on his experiment in pursuing a primitive and natural life style, along with his reflections on family life. (He and his wife raised three children and home-schooled them.)

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Wally Byam, designer of the Airstream travel trailer, wrote a letter to Desert Magazine, in the March 1941 issue, praising Marshal South for setting the example of escaping the treadmill side of life, along with being “slaves to businesses, jobs, possessions and conventions” and for living his dream of going back to nature and depending on minimal stuff. Read more about this and see photos of Yaquitepec along with Marshal South and family in the article, “Marshal South & Wally Byam – Parallel Roads, Different Destinations”, pages 36 to 39, in the Fall 2008 issue of Airstream Life.

Additional information, along with the complete collection of his writings from Desert Magazine, is contained in the book, Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living, edited by Diana Lindsay, Sunbelt Publications, 2005. The newly released DVD of John McDonald‘s full length and uncensored documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment, is now available and previewed here.

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Just as I had hoped, the Beaver Moon, also known as the Frost Moon or Snow Moon, rose shortly after setting up camp and bathed the trailer and landscape with beautiful, reflected sunlight which was thirstily absorbed by my Nikon D40 camera set on Auto (Flash off) Mode, as previously illustrated and described in my Cuyamaca spirits rising article.

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Rich Luhr pointed out the fun of experimenting with nighttime star photography in his article on his visit to Navajo National Monument, Az, earlier this fall.

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The above is really sunlight bounced off of the moon as evidenced by the candle light inside the trailer and the stars above.

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It really was nighttime as Larry deep fried potatoes and cauliflower while I cooked steak on the hibachi.

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We enjoyed the after dinner glow (Pug is wearing a red lighted collar for safety from REI) as we listened to the crackling fire and coyotes yelping in the distance…

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And look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends.

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If you are in the area, instead of shopping at the mall for more stuff after Thanksgiving, you could take advantage of a special event this weekend in Anza-Borrego, the screening of John McDonald’s The Ghost Mountain Experiment, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 29, at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Flag warning

I apprehensively watched the news last Tuesday morning as fires raged in Los Angeles and San Diego County on the morning of our fall camping trip to our favorite campground (William Heise County Park) in the Cuyamaca Mountains near Julian, CA. I checked on road information with Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN) and found that our planned route, Interstate 8, was closed to trucks and high-profile vehicles at Alpine due to a High Wind Advisory. So with no fires near Julian and an open route through Ramona, we made our way towards Julian, where fires last year caused the evacuation of the town.

Every fall, Santa Ana winds sweep dry air across Southern California, raising the fire danger and triggering Red Flag warnings. A Red Flag Warning was in effect on the day we arrived, so we were not surprised to see the “No Open Flames” signs everywhere, including one in each fire ring.

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We learned from the San Diego County ranger on duty that the “No Open Flames” here means the obvious no camp fires, charcoal fires, and candles. He said though that gas stoves were o.k., which worked for us as we had already planned on deep frying potatoes, fish and crab cakes…

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And the candles were kept inside the trailer…

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While our Safari bathed in the light of the full Hunter’s Moon

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(Highlights of night images taken here with the Nikon D40 set at the new feature, Auto (Flash off) mode will appear in my next article.)

We thoroughly enjoyed camping here Tuesday through Friday before the weekend crowd arrived. The days were spent waking to the sounds of crows and woodpeckers, taking quiet walks with the dogs (on the park roads, not trails), hiking (without the dogs), and catching up on reading, such as Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Mark Twain, Airstream Life, and Spooky Campfire Tales.

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Celebrating the fall harvest season at this campsite will continue in my next article…

San Diego staycation

We did not need to get hitched to enjoy San Diego… we live here. So especially now that the temperatures are rising in our nearby mountains and deserts, and the price of just about everything (especially diesel fuel) is already too high and/or rising, it’s a good time to enjoy our moderate coastal temperatures along with the many amenities that multi-cultural and colorful San Diego has to offer.

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Activities such as visiting local zoos, parks, museums, and attending festivals and backyard barbecues are becoming increasingly popular in the face of hard economic times. These activities are summed up in the relatively new term, staycation. A good local example, the San Diego Zoo is one of largest and most popular (and recommended) zoos in the world. Waiting to great you just inside the front gate are our American Flamingo friends.

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Pink plastic flamingos (not to be confused with Pink Flamingos, the movie) are retro pop icons being increasingly adopted by Airstreamers and much discussed and analyzed on the Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, especially in the threads, “All Things Flamingo” and “Why the flamingo?“.

One of the best places in San Diego to take in the wonderful, panoramic view of the San Diego city skyline, harbor, ocean, mountains, Coronado Islands, and Mexico to the south is Cabrillo National Monument, location of the historic Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse, where docents meet and greet visitors from all over the world.

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Living in San Diego is like being on vacation year round and there are always fairs and festivals occurring now or just around the corner. For example, Tiki lovers from around the world will descend upon an oasis (the Crowne Plaza), August 14 – 17, and take a “Voodoo Vacation on Zombie Island“, complete with an uke jam Sunday afternoon. Last week Larry and I attended the Na Mea Hana Lima Hawaiian Cultural Fair, where we picked up Michael Preston’s book and CD, “Let’s Kanikapila! Ten Steps To Learn ‘Ukulele The Hawaiian Way“, by Mutual Publishing, and enjoyed the entertainment.

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A staycation is also an opportunity to have backyard barbecues and visit local Airstreamers, such as jd (also known as 5cats on airforums.com). He is seen here barbecuing shrimp marinated in a pesto sauce (very delicious). His shiny, 2007 20’Safari SE is nearby under a tarp canopy that slides on a rail system that he made himself.

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Staycation could also mean simply enjoying one’s own backyard tiki oasis, and playing the ukulele as the hibachi coals heat up… and contemplating the wonderful world… and dreaming about rainbows.

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