Airstream at theNAT

Earlier this year, the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) opened its new $9 million dollar, 8 thousand square-foot permanent exhibition, “Coast to Cactus in Southern California,” just in time for Balboa Park’s centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.*  This exhibit features the biodiversity of Southern California and includes an Airstream Bambi trailer made possible by the Hunte family.

DSC_0401 Coast to Cactus Opening

TheNAT is located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park* and on the north entrance side is a huge Moreton Bay fig tree,* Ficus macrophylla, with sensitive roots that are protected by a chain-link fence, which underscores part of theNat’s mission, “to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment.”  TheNAT traces is roots to a group of amateur naturalists, who formed the San Diego Society of Natural History in 1874, making this the oldest scientific institution in southern California.

TheNAT’s exhibits* help to further its mission “to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California.”  The southern California region is one of 35 global hot spots having high concentrations of different species.  The unique biodiversity of southern California is explained by theNAT’s president and CEO, Dr. Michael Hager, who said in this KPBS interview* that our topographical features of a cool ocean current, a mountain range that limits desert rainfall (rain shadow effect), and streams that dissect our mesa tops (giving each canyon a unique habitat) play a big role in our biodiversity.

The “Coast to Cactus” exhibit* takes visitors on a journey through the diverse representative habitats of the region ranging from the coastal beaches, urban canyons, riversides, chaparral, valleys, and mountains to the desert, all within a single museum visit. As visitors approach the desert section, they see the Airstream trailer.

DSC_0418 Airstream in Coast to Cactus

An Airstream Bambi trailer was positioned next to a large desert-in-bloom mural, and then a desert diorama and “Desert at Night” viewing area were built around it (see theNAT’s time-lapse video*).

DSC_0407 Airstream Bambi

The Airstream trailer has an appearance of a naturalist’s field station with tools and specimens on display.

DSC_0414 Airstream as field station

DSC_0409 Table & shelves for naturalist

On the other side of the Airstream trailer, visitors can experience what it’s like to camp under the stars when the desert comes alive during the multimedia mini theater presentation of “Desert at Night.”*  During the presentation, two children in a virtual tent hear and see creatures of the night and share their thoughts and feelings in both English and Spanish, underscoring theNAT’s appreciation of diversity theme.  (All exhibits are in English and Spanish.)

DSC_0420 Desert night show in back

It’s only natural for an Airstream trailer to be included in the desert section of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s “Coast to Cactus” exhibit, because as CEO Michael Hager says, “Camping in the desert [and] Airstream kinda go together.”   It is especially appropriate that an Airstream trailer has a home in this permanent exhibition in San Diego because its iconic, aerodynamic design using monocoque aircraft technology was pioneered by Hawley Bowlus,* who supervised the construction of the  Spirit of St. Louis in San Diego in 1927 and developed the first riveted aluminum trailer, the Road Chief, in 1934.

Michael Hager also says that he likes to think of theNAT as “the visitors center for the region,” which encourages people to go out in nature and explore, have more questions, and then come back to learn more.

And when they are out there, I’m sure Airstream hopes they will have a riveting experience!*

DSC_0016 Camping in the desert & Airstream go together

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert Snow Moon and King’s Cake

New Englanders were digging out from a major snow storm and Punxsutawney Phil* was eying his shadow and predicting six more weeks of winter, while we were enjoying balmy weather, festive night skies, and the Full Snow Moon* over the Anza-Borrego Desert at the beginning of February.

DSC_0054 Snow Moon over Anza-Borrego

We also continued celebrating the 2015 Mardi Gras season* and so we continued the tradition that we began last month of bringing along King’s Cake.  This time Larry made cinnamon roll King’s Cake* with craisins, walnuts, and a hidden baby that added to the fun.  It was charged with the light of the Full Snow Moon, along with our Black Diamond Apollo Lanterns, now softened by Larry’s custom made shades using beaded fringe tape suspended from inverted baskets, which has whimsical movements in the breeze and provides fun shadows.

DSC_0014 Charging King's Cake

The cake was topped with white glaze sprinkled with sanding sugar* in Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green.

DSC_0038 Cinnamon King's Cake

A slice of this rich cake, along with a cup of French roast coffee, made for a good start for my early morning hike on the Moonlight Canyon Trail.  Recent sprinkles here brought new green leaves to ocotillo and brittlebush plants, but flowers are not yet plentiful due to the ongoing California drought. Nevertheless, this canyon trail always presents spectacular sights, such as golden cholla on canyon rims, piercing dark blue skies.*

DSC_0067 Moonlight Canyon Cholla

After seeing the beauty of the canyon, I returned to camp and spotted an eyesore of long ago discarded trash, partially covered in sand.  I lifted the items up and discovered that they provided a home for a large Anza-Borrego Hairy Scorpion, Hadrurus anzaborrego, that I quickly photographed before taking the trash to the dumpster.  The scorpion held its tail with sting and venom-injecting barb up high and quickly found a new home in the nearby rock wall.

DSC_0075 Anza-Borrego Hairy Scorpion

Scorpions are nocturnal and emerge at night to hunt and feed, just about the time I am outside in flip-flops doing night photography, such as of the nearby rock wall with a large Catclaw Acacia in moonlight.  A Chinese I-Ching coin wind chime is on a branch and reminds us that Chinese New Year starts February 19.

DSC_0026 Acacia and rock wall

We thoroughly enjoy our desert home away from home and the beautiful view of Whale Mountain at sunset… even Howdy Doody seems particularly happy here, and I can imagine him singing, “Home on the Range“.*

DSC_0089 Howdy Doody at sunset

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert Wolf Moon and King’s Cake

 

It was an auspicious way to begin the new year, returning to our favorite spot in the Anza-Borrego Desert on the Full Wolf Moon* and eve of Twelfth Night, along with the possibility of spotting Comet Lovejoy.  The days are now growing longer, so we were able to set up camp and enjoy hot turkey open-faced sandwiches before the full moon rose.

DSC_0010 Full Wolf Moon, Anza-Borrego

Twelfth Night marks the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the arrival of the Magi (three Wise men or Kings), Epiphany, and the beginning of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season.  Various cultures celebrate this time with a sweet cake, such as the Mexican Rosca de Reyes.*  We arrived with Larry’s version of King’s cake, a panettone with dried cherries, craisins, sliced almonds, and zest from a homegrown kaffir lime, all marinated in brandy.  Purple, gold, and green icing (traditional colors of Mardi Gras)* was drizzled over the top, adding a nice crunchy texture.  The cake was then charged with the magical and festive light of the full moon.

DSC_0030 King's Cake in moonlight

The next day, the cake was topped off with our homegrown Cattleya orchids and surrounded with strings of Mardi Gras beads.*

DSC_0044 King's cake in sunlight

DSC_0046 Cattleya orchids on King Cake

Following this photo shoot, I savored a slice of this rich cake, along with a cup of freshly brewed coffee before taking my morning hike on Moonlight Canyon Trail where I photographed bighorn sheep last month.  The sheep were elusive and not seen this time, but I did enjoy the sight of brilliant sunlight backlighting plants along the ridge, which I especially appreciated after experiencing cloudy days, cold rain and hail in San Diego just a week before.

DSC_0059 Moonlight Canyon ridge

We usually eat dinner outside in the late afternoon while enjoying the ever-changing display of soft, dusty pastel colors on the nearby Pinyon/Vallecito Mountains and Whale Peak, but sometimes the darkness seems to fall too quickly, and for those occasions, we now have Black Diamond Apollo Lanterns,* which, on the dimmest setting, present a soft light enabling us to see and enjoy our meal, in this case, Kalua pork and pepper jack cheese quesadillas, with a side of black-eyed peas with ham, buttered broccoli, and scallions.

DSC_0088 Apollo lanterns

After dinner, we enjoyed stargazing and looking for Comet Lovejoy.*  Larry saw what looked like a bright, flickering star with changing colors of blue, white, and green at the foot of Orion just above the horizon.  Later, I was mesmerized by the full moon that lit up the desert…

DSC_0085 Looking for Comet Lovejoy

and happy the following morning by the return of the sun!*

DSC_0102 Anza-Borrego sunrise

 

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Nutcracker in the desert

Nutcrackers and nuts returned with us to our latest, favorite site in the desert to bask in the warm sun and cheer us inside the trailer during the cool December evenings by the Vallecito Mountains.  We were lucky to enjoy five sunny days before the Pineapple Express delivered wind and rain as we safely crossed over the mountains (due in part to Airstream’s aerodynamics and handling stability*) on our way back to San Diego last Friday.

DSC_0013 Nutcrackers in the desert

DSC_0099 Our desert campsite

Larry enjoyed getting up before sunrise and taking walks while sipping hot coffee as the sun rose.  Meanwhile, on the first morning, I was busy taking advantage of how beautiful the early morning sunlight looks as it streams into the Airstream, making everything look happy and festive.

DSC_0001 Nutcracker & books

Featured in this display is E.T.A Hoffmann‘s Nutcracker, first written in 1816.  This version was translated by Ralph Manheim and published in 1984 by Crown Publishers, INC., and illustrated by Maurice Sendak,* who did the brilliant set designs and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christmas production of Nutcracker,* which was made into a movie, Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,* in 1986.  This film is my favorite version over the years, but my video wore out, and it wasn’t until 2011 when it became available on DVD.

Before viewing my new Nutcracker DVD, I thought it would be good to go back and read the book, a real book that can provide a satisfying sensory experience.  For the occasion, I wore a Victorian style smoking cap adapted and embellished by Larry (a work in progress), similar to those worn by Professor Albus Dumbledore,* and a Hawaiian shirt inspired by Dr. C. (insightout).

DSC_0091 Reading Hoffmann's Nutcracker

The stockings were hung in the trailer with care, in hopes that Herr Drosselmeier would soon be there. (He was last seen in the desert delivering nutcrackers seven years ago.)

DSC_0092 Nutcracker - The Motion Picture

He did briefly appear on our seldom used TV screen, but was turned off because we prefer evenings relaxing on the lounge while watching stars through the Vista View windows, votive candlelight dancing on the shiny aluminum interior, and listening to the music of R. Carlos Nakai.*

DSC_0121 Nutcracker anticipation

It’s magical, peaceful, and timeless…  funny how time just slips away.*

The desert will always welcome nutcrackers…  as time goes by.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Smell a good book lately?

Unlike digital books and magazines, the print media conveys more than just ideas or concepts via symbols relayed to the brain from the eye.  A printed book, magazine, newspaper, or even a mailing envelope can stimulate all five senses.  It is understandable that many travelers and RVers prefer e-books and the convenience and light weight of electronic devices that can hold hundreds of books, but I prefer the wonder of a book that can only be fully experienced and appreciated as an integral whole.

I was excited last week to receive an out-of-print copy of Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, by Cynthia Rich, who, along with her domestic partner Barbara Macdonald, spent 6 years (1983-1989) full-timing in a trailer at Agua Caliente County Park, where we camped earlier this month.

DSC_0239 Cynthia Rich, "Desert Years"

Cynthia wrote about life and social issues there, which enriches our understanding and appreciation of our favorite desert campground.

DSC_0224 "Desert Years" back cover

As I carefully removed this 25-year-old book from its plastic storage bag, its musty smell transported me back in time, even before reading it.  (There’s a chemical reason why old books smell so good.*)

I currently subscribe to two magazines, Macworld and Airstream Life.  I brought along their latest issues to read on our last camping trip.  I was saddened to learn that I was holding the last printed issue of Macworld, after 30 years of publication.  The remaining issues of my subscription are available online and include hyperlinks for expanded content (as I do here), but the experience will not be the same for me.  I like to see and feel its full-sized, glossy cover and enjoy its fresh smell as I flip through its pages, often back to front, and pause when I see something interesting.

DSC_0034 Last Macworld print issue!

Economics are accelerating the demise of the print media,* as evidenced in our thinning daily newspaper that is yielding fewer pages for lining our cockatoo cage.  I don’t mind paying more for a good, printed book or a magazine that can provide a total and satisfying sensory experience.  I like to feel the weight and denseness of a quality book, along with the texture of its pages.  I like to see its pages as they age and perhaps reveal a reader’s underlined word or phrase, a scribbled note, a drop of coffee or wine or a telltale dog-ear, smudge or teardrop.  I like to hear it as I turn the page or quickly fan through its pages, and then close it and set it down.  Sometimes, I even find the taste of glue interesting on the magazine’s renewal envelope!

Fortunately, Airstream Life still publishes a printed magazine (digital issues are available for iPad via iTunes).  I bring along the current print issue on every camping trip to enjoy reading and displaying it in our magazine rack, or on our table as it beckons to be rediscovered, read, and photographed!

DSC_0030 Airstream Life and books

Another feature of printed media is that it can be signed in ink by the author, which can enhance its sentimental and/or economic value.

DSC_0215 Signed by the author

And of course, books are magical* and make great gifts!

Andy Rooney once said, “If you had to make a list of all the good things in the world, books would be right up there near the top.“*

Thank you, Cynthia Rich, for your work and inspiration!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.