Shifting sands at Agua Caliente

We had just finished celebrating Día de los Muertos* and brought along Larry’s homemade anise pan de muerto for our return to Agua Caliente County Park for five nights of camping in the sunny Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0029 Larry's Anise pan de muerto

DSC_0114 Desert bound

It was not so sunny here in late August when a weekend of heavy rains unleashed flash floods, rock slides, shifting sand and mud, causing damage to roads, parks, and homes.  When we made our November reservations for this park at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office in September, an administrator there told us that about $10,000 worth of damage had occurred and that the park was closed for repairs,* but would be expected to be open at least by November.  When we checked in, Supervising Park Ranger, James Stowers, said that a lot of sand had washed down onto our reserved site, but we should be able to go in and out OK.  But as I backed the trailer up into this site, the trailer tires sank into and pushed against dry, very loose, uncompacted sand (about 5″ deep), while the rear truck tires spun.

DSC_0039 Too much loose sand

Since I got the trailer far enough into the site to be workable, I unhitched, and the next morning I reported my concerns to James about the large amounts of loose sand that might make it difficult for our 2-wheel drive truck to pull our trailer out on departure day.  I was pleased that he personally got on a tractor with a front-end loader* and scooped up buckets full* of sand and placed them in eroded areas in the sites above us.  This made us smile.*

DSC_0093 Ranger removed excess sand

Beautiful sunny weather with day temperatures in the 70s also brought smiles to our faces and even my rescued childhood doll, Howdy Doody*, seemed happy as Larry worked on Howdy’s major cosmetic and clothing makeover.

DSC_0144 Desert smiles and vistas

I again hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, and although I did not see the bighorn sheep that I had seen in January, 2011, I did see interesting plants… and peculiar rocks.

DSC_0129 Interesting plants & rocks

I also spotted a large black widow spider on the fleece lining of our trailer tire covers!  (I always carefully inspect the covers during their removal since previously finding various spiders, a scorpion, and a field mouse!)

DSC_0149_2 Black widow spider

The spider had found a comfortable, albeit temporary home, while we were at home in the trailer.  We were cozy and content and had no idea that the sands would continue to shift for us when we got home, but at least wherever we are, home is where the heart is.*

DSC_0101 home is where the heart is

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream Safari trip notes

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

DSC_0017 Solar & Tire pressure notes

My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

DSC_0003 Journal hardcovers

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

DSC_0002 Lined pages with notes

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

HPIM2381_2 MacBook Pro & Safari

I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Fired up, and ready to go

With a backdrop of fall foliage, our F-250 and Safari were fired up, and ready to go to the Anza-Borrego Desert for another adventure, meeting with good friends, hiking, reading and relaxing, especially needed after this tumultuous election year.

We love the beauty of the desert with its many colors and textures.

Bert and Janie came down from their resort camping location at The Springs at Borrego and joined us for lunch and a day of celebrating Thanksgiving, life, tarantulas, Montana Icons (Bert’s latest book), the 2012 presidential election, and our friendship.

I got another chance to see Bert’s new, lightweight Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (described in “Bert Gildart’s art“) and we took off on a short side trip for another opportunity to photograph the compassionate water tanks that Bert saw and photographed just last month, but they had mysteriously disappeared.

For this trip, I brought along a good book to read, The Presidents Club — Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, and Larry brought along kokopelli noren curtains that he had just made.  We enjoy these curtains because they provide privacy when the door is open, act as a sun screen, and are short enough for the dogs to look outside while the dog gate is up.

Just outside our door, Gambel’s Quail feasted on breadcrumbs in the morning.  At sunset, we fired up our Volcano grill and feasted on shrimp.

I got especially fired up while hiking on the Moonlight Canyon Trail and had a third encounter with desert bighorn sheep, which will be described in my next posting.

In the meantime, we’ll fire up our oven and enjoy roasting turkey as the herbal aroma of Bell’s Seasoning (that I first smelled as a child) wafts through our home, and cherish these precious days!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Agua Caliente contemplations

Last Sunday we arrived at Agua Caliente as temperatures soared in the 90s, requiring air conditioning that first night, but by the next night I was wearing long johns as a rare early October storm from the Gulf of Alaska began moving into the area, bringing rain to the San Diego coast and high winds and unseasonably cool temperatures to the desert.

We came prepared to celebrate Oktoberfest.

Larry brought items prepared at home such as Jäger-Schnitzel (American version: Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup simmered with pork chops), Würzfleisch (East German chicken stew), and Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad).  We also brought leberwurst (liverwurst), bratwurst on skewers made of rosemary branches from our backyard, Beck’s Oktoberfest Lager, and German steins.  Additional items such as corn beef, corn on the cob, and pita bread provided meal flexibility depending on the weather and how we felt at the time.

By Tuesday, cool breezes made for a comfortable hike through Moonlight Canyon Trail, where I had a close encounter with Bighorn Sheep last January.  (The park rangers were impressed with my photo journal of this event made with iPhoto’s book-creation tool.)  I saw no sheep, but I was impressed with a large California Fuchsia, a.k.a. Firechalice, on the trail with a profuse display of scarlet flowers that we have not seen before because it blooms August to October, when we usually are not here.  A Rufous Hummingbird was seen nearby.  The flowers supply hummingbirds with food for the start of their southward migration.

I discovered a scorpion in the park restroom sink as I was about to take a shower.  I helped it out with some tissue paper and coaxed it out the door, but it quickly darted back under the door, so I chose another shower and now keep a closer eye out for creatures in restrooms (and those that like to take shelter in our trailer tire covers).

After the shower, I enjoyed Larry’s corn beef – Swiss cheese pita wrap served with chips, tomatoes, and Beck’s Beer.

This was usually followed by afternoon reading or napping.  At bedtime, I continued reading out loud Harry Potter.  We are currently reading Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Before the gusty winds arrived, we enjoyed mellow evenings under the moon and stars.

On Thursday, we listened with sadness to a BBC tribute to Steve Jobs, which included his words of wisdom spoken during his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Nailing it… a TPMS encore

As we meandered our way through the campground, we discussed our usual plan upon arrival at our site.  We approached our campsite and Larry got out and walked ahead and into the site, especially looking for nails, screws and any other potential hazards.  I saw him reach down and pick up an object.  “Found a nail,” he said over the two-way radio, “OK, you can back in now.”


As Rich mentioned in “Something screwy in campgrounds” in his Tour of America blog, “… all the flats we’ve gotten, all of them have been from debris we ran over in campgrounds.  We’ve never had a blowout or flat on the road.  This is because campgrounds are often full of debris left by previous campers, hidden in the gravel.”

I carefully backed the trailer into the site, unhitched and set up camp.


I have written about the importance of having TPMS, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and recently, why I have two TPMS systems.  Another benefit of having TPMS is that tire pressures can be quickly and easily checked even though the tires are covered and have folding chairs and coolers in front of them.  It is reassuring to check the tires a day or two after pulling in to make sure they are maintaining the proper pressure.  I could also see how the pressure fluctuated depending on the air temperature.  Here in the desert the tire pressures increased 2-3 pounds per square inch from morning to noon.

This week at Agua Caliente County Park the wildflowers were blooming and the nails were proliferating, especially in our fire ring.


Nails!  So that’s why there are so many nails and screws at campsites.  Campers bring in lumber with nails and screws and use it as firewood!  And as this lumber is cut or broken to fit the fire ring, nails and screws are set adrift.  Those nails and screws that make it into the fire ring don’t always stay there.  The base of our ring did not make continuous contact with the ground and I could see nails escaping, some seemed to be actively crawling toward our truck’s bare tires!


One nail came close… and met its master… the heavy duty tire equipped with TPMS.