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

Drought and feasting in the desert

March began with Pacific storms bringing high winds and much needed rain to San Diego (and rainbows to Tucson), but not enough to relieve the historic drought in California as our Airstream Safari settled in to bask in the Anza-Borrego sun.  California’s water supply is dependent on the snowpack, which is only 24% of average.  Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park and saw a sign saying, “Due to loss of power, the pool is closed”.  We learned that the campground was without electrical power all weekend due to high winds in the mountains that brought down utility poles and lines.  New utility poles were helicoptered in and power was restored to the park Sunday afternoon.

DSC_0001 Windswept sky over dry desert

Scant rainfall has diminished the display of green leaves and spring wildflowers normally seen here at this time of year.  I photographed the meager display of Brittlebush flowers in back of our Safari, while our Corgi, Mac, kept an eye on me from inside the trailer.

DSC_0037 Agua Caliente campsite 2014

Recent sprinkles here enabled ocotillo to produce crimson flowers even though their stems had minimal foliage.  This is in sharp contrast with the blankets of spring wildflowers that we saw in Anza-Borrego 6 years ago.

DSC_0035 Crimson ocotillo flowers, few leaves

In the lower part of the campground that receives more water runoff, I spotted a Beavertail cactus with showy flowers.

DSC_0083 Beavertail cactus flowers

We enjoy incorporating themes into every camping trip as a fun way to celebrate a variety of seasonal events through feasting and setting up of festive displays. On Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, we celebrated by cooking blueberry pancakes on our Volcano Collapsible Stove.*

DSC_0010 Cooking blueberry pancakes

Larry dusted the pancakes with powdered sugar.  (The lush oleander seen in the background is slated for removal because it is considered non-native and poisonous, even though in California and Texas it is naturalized as a median strip planting.  We will miss the privacy and shade that this plant provides.)

DSC_0014 Larry dusting pancakes

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day,* is associated with the Mardi Gras custom of eating richer, fatty foods just before the beginning of Lent.

DSC_0020 Fat Tuesday pancakes

This scrumptious pancake dish was so good, I could eat it with a fork in each hand! Topped with maple syrup, butter, and bacon, these pancakes were the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras,* while taking in the beauty of the Anza-Borrego Desert and sky!*

DSC_0030 Scrumptious pancake dish

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert camping relaunched

We stayed home for the holidays in December as we followed the activity progression schedule prescribed for Tasha by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital* following her hemilaminectomy due to a ruptured disc last November.  She has made an excellent recovery and has resumed her normal routine and activities so we relaunched our monthly camping trips and returned to Borrego Palm Canyon where we had made our maiden cruise seven years ago this month.

DSC_0162 Borrego Palm Canyon 2014

Tasha quickly learned to use the gangplank (Mr. Herzher’s Smart Ramp) that we recently purchased for our corgis to embark and disembark our Airstream Safari without injuring their backs.

DSC_0152 Tasha & telescoping ramp

As I unhitched and set up the campsite, I heard a drone hovering high above me, which turned out to be a DJI Phantom Quadcopter with a GoPro camera* controlled by Airstreamer, photographer Rich C, who we first met here seven years ago.  (See his driving and aerial video tour of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* that includes a brief clip of me setting up camp!).  According to Rich, he “is currently on the road contracting and consulting in his ‘other career’… network and data base design.”

DSC_0139 DJI Phantom Quadcopter

The DJI Phantom Quadcopter elevates scenic photography to a new high!*

Last Friday our governor declared a California statewide drought emergency.  Our severe drought has limited the growth of plants, flowers, and seeds that sustain birds.  We were amazed, mesmerized and entertained by the numbers of birds (especially house finches and White-crowned Sparrows) that fought over the seeds from our Soda Bottle Bird Feeder by Channel Craft.  White-winged Doves and Gambel’s Quail also visited and added to the chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0014 Soda bottle bird feeder

We also feasted. Larry is seen below preparing vegetables for a stir-fry using Zha Jiang Mian Sauce and Shirataki (sweet yam) noodles.

DSC_0024 Vegetable prep for Japchae

Rich and Jodi joined us for dinner on Monday.  On Wednesday, I joined them for a hike up Palm Canyon.

DSC_0113 Hiking with Rich & Jodi

Rich has a good eye for getting that perfect picture.  He is seen here setting up his camera on a tripod placed in a creek for a time exposure image of a waterfall.  (See Rich’s images in his post, “Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego“.)

DSC_0117 Rich, tripod & falls

We were all happy campers during our five days of glorious sunshine.  (See Rich’s video wrap-up*)  Even our dogs had happy faces as they trotted on the 0.6-mile sidewalk to the Visitor Center.

DSC_0156 Happy Tasha & Mac

Indeed, Happy days are here again!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari is home for the holidays!

This is the first December in seven years that we have not taken our Airstream Safari out to the Anza-Borrego Desert to bask in the sun and celebrate the holidays.  Last month our Corgi, Tasha, suffered a ruptured spinal disc necessitating an emergency hemilaminectomy and a prescribed period of rest.  She is now making a remarkable recovery, walking well, and gradually increasing her daily activities as she follows the activity progression protocol set up by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.*  According to her Discharge Instructions, she can return to her normal routine and activities after the post-op 6th week (on Christmas Day), which is really all I want for Christmas!*

DSC_0315 Tasha Post-op Day 31

Our Safari is our home when we are away from home and it’s so nice when we’re all home for the holidays!*  (We appreciate having the trailer refrigerator nearby to store the holiday food.)

DSC_0297 Home for the Holidays '13

Being home for the holidays also gives us a chance to enjoy time in our backyard patio and work on projects, such as a deck for the gas grill.

DSC_0330 Larry works on grill deck

DSC_0383 New gas grill deck

While Larry was working on the deck, I was writing this post while savoring the aroma of simmering Christmas potpourri* as Larry’s no-knead ciabatta (Italian slipper bread)* was baking nearby.

DSC_0352 Homemade ciabatta

Larry set up and decorated our multi-use bamboo easel as a Christmas tree on the patio.  It made its debut last December in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0356 Patio Christmas display

DSC_0311 Merry Christmas 2013!

We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for during this magical holiday season!

DSC_0372 The nutcracker and bell

Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.“*  (The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands and disc

Just a few days before our return to Agua Caliente County Park earlier this month where we encountered 5-inch deep loose sand in our campsite due to a flash flood here in August, we noticed that our tricolor Corgi, Tasha, was coming up the back deck stairs slower than usual.  I first thought that maybe it was a pulled muscle, because she seemed better after I gave her aspirin (following cautions such a these).  But while walking our Corgis at Agua Caliente, we could see that Tasha could not keep up with Mac, so on the last day we made an appointment with our local veterinarian, Dr. Helen Green, DVM, and promptly brought her in to the Mission Valley Pet Clinic upon returning to San Diego.  Her wobbly rear legs suggested a back problem and she was started on Tramadol and Methocarbamol for the weekend and was to return for further tests.  Over the weekend she lost control of her bladder and was not using her rear legs to support her weight.

We read about intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and knew we were about to face a very difficult decision when we brought Tasha back to the vet on Monday.  Dr. Green tested Tasha and found that she still had deep pain sensation in her rear legs and could benefit from surgery, but that window of opportunity was closing with every passing hour.* While we were in the exam room, Dr. Green called Dr. Robbin Levitski-Osgood,* Veterinary Neurologist and Neurosurgeon, at Veterinary Specialty Hospital, and conveyed to us the good news that there was a 95% chance of successful surgery if we acted now.  Even though we were originally leaning toward a conservative, medical approach, we were persuaded by the good prospects of our 6-year old Corgi walking again.  We immediately drove Tasha up to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.

DSC_0157 Veterinary Specialty Hospital

“The Veterinary Specialty Hospital is a multi-specialty, state of the art, full service hospital.  We truly are the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine,”* says Dr. Steve Hill.  This 3-story hospital has 18 exam rooms, 6 operating rooms, specialty rooms, ICU, neurosurgery suite, radiography suites, a full service laboratory and much more, including a complete Oncology Center.

A caring and attentive staff quickly admitted Tasha.  Dr. Levitski examined Tahsa and ordered a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)* that demonstrated a T13-L1 disc herniation.  That same evening, a left T13-L1 hemilaminectomy* was performed with fenestrations from T12-T13 to L2-L3 to remove large amounts of herniated disc material.  Immediately after the surgery, Dr. Levitsky called and said that the surgery went well and called again in the morning with the good news that Tasha was moving her legs!  She continued to do well and was discharged home on Wednesday where her activities are restricted as she continues her healing process and recovery.

DSC_0171 Tasha Post-Op Day 3

To facilitate the healing process, the detailed Discharge Instructions specified that she should remain in a crate or small area for the first two weeks, except when she is carried outside for short toileting breaks.  Howdy Doody came by to cheer her while showing off his new makeover done by Larry.

DSC_0199 Howdy Doody visits Tasha

Larry made a corset-like sling to help support her back while on potty breaks.

DSC_0217 Tasha in homemade sling

DSC_0233 Homemade sling materials

Mini drip irrigation tubing was used as boning in the medial part of the towel sling and bamboo sticks were used in the ends of both slings (an old blood pressure cuff was later adapted as a backup sling).  Boning prevented gathering of the fabric, allowing for even weight distribution.  On Post-op Day 3, Tasha was able to briefly and independently bear weight on all four legs.

A makeshift gate made from parts of a metal crate ensures that our Corgis only use the side dog ramp versus stairs when going outside.

DSC_0208 Mac using ramp

DSC_0276 Post-op Day 12

Tasha is now walking and taking time to appreciate the garden.  We are thankful for the wonderful doctors and staff, who have helped her on her way to recovery!  We are happy that she is able to walk again because something in the way she moves, moves us.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.