Ocean knight currents, part four

I cautiously passed the windmill facing the ocean, which I had originally and mistakenly perceived to be a giant with waving arms,* and sallied forth to find the museum housing musical instruments that are close to my heart, such as the lute.

DSC_0165-2 South Carlsbad windmill

While venturing eastward, I came upon a lovely field of flowers (The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch)* with a beautiful damsel (Dulcinea?)* in the middle beckoning visitors to enjoy the splendor of ten million Ranunculus flowers.

DSC_0163 Flower Fields of Carlsbad

Assured that the lady was safe behind a white picket fence, I continued on in search of stringed instruments and came upon a magnificent castle* on top of a hill with a commanding view of the countryside and the Pacific Ocean.  This is the home of the Museum of Making Music,* which displays hundreds of vintage instruments and presents special exhibitions twice a year along with concerts, workshops, and educational programs.  (I last made a pilgrimage here in 2008 to view a special exhibit of ukuleles.)  I was delighted that my quest was at an end as I experienced their current, special exhibit, “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument.”

DSC_0149 MOMM's banjo exhibit (1)

DSC_0150 MOMM's banjo exhibit (2)

The banjo’s roots are thought to go back to West Africa, where hide-covered gourd folk lutes, such as the akonting, were plucked.*  The concept was transported to Colonial America by Africans via the Atlantic slave trade.

DSC_0159 Banjo's roots

An early version of the banjo was played in degrading minstrel shows of the 1800s.  My favorite black banjo/guitar/singer of the folk song era of the 1960s was Elizabeth Cotten,* best known for her timeless song, “Freight Train.”*

DSC_0146 Recapturing the Banjo

Back at camp, Larry prepared lunch featuring pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, fried masa pies filled with ham and cheese.

DSC_0176 Larry's pupusas

A couple strolled into the sunset as I reflected on our successful quests, the rebirth of the San Diego Opera, and why music is so important.*

DSC_0018 Stroll into the sunset

It’s nice to remember the sun’s gonna shine again.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Summer Wizardry

Midsummer nights are here and on most evenings we can hear fireworks rumble from San Diego’s Seaport Village.  Our Airstream Safari quietly rested in its homeport under the midsummer stars as I took the dogs out for a late night break in the cool air of the backyard patio.

As I passed by hanging plants on one side, I noticed a sensual fragrance and, looking more closely, I noticed many large, white blooms of the Nightblooming Cereus, the Queen of the Night, had just fully opened.

This is a magical moment because these flowers bloom at night and wilt by dawn.  Their blossoms are enchantingly alluring.

Even the nearby and playful Green Man seemed to take notice.

Meanwhile across town, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was playing.  Before I delve into this finale, I thought it best to read and understand the magic and character of Harry Potter, as written and developed by J. K. Rowling, author of the seven Harry Potter books.  So I have begun reading (out loud) each evening a chapter or so, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

During the day, we visited the first inaugural San Diego Ukulele Festival.

We went on Friday afternoon as booths were just being set up and performers were testing the sound equipment. Seen below is Ukulele Bartt, Bartt Warburton, animatedly singing and playing his ukulele like a wizard.  This 3-day festival at Liberty Station opened last Thursday with a concert by ukulele grand wizard, Jake Shimabukuro.

More information about the history of the ukulele and the ukulele – Airstream connection is found in my article, “Ukulele Strumming and Airstreaming.”

Ukuleles glowed in the warm afternoon sun.

We took in more magic Saturday by attending the San Diego Gay Pride Parade, where approximately 300 active and inactive military service-members marched for the first time.

Yes, wouldn’t this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie… and listen to Jake Shimabukuro perform his “Crazy G” encore.


Stepping into summer

Summer for us is actually our off season for camping, which may surprise some because we live in San Diego, which has many great, nearby camping spots and where people come from places such as Arizona to cool off and enjoy our beaches.  That is precisely why we stay at home during the summer.  It is now too hot for us to camp in our favorite mountain and desert places without full hook-ups and air conditioning.  As mentioned in my “Desert heat” article, the 100-degree desert heat while we were camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last May motivated us to turn our trailer into a cave and enjoy the air conditioning while reading, doing projects or just napping.  We don’t need to go to the desert to enjoy air conditioning that we have at home.  Our nearby state beach campgrounds are now booked for the summer and we prefer to do most of our camping in quiet peaceful settings.  So we step into summer by staying home.


We enjoy stepping into the tropical garden oasis in our own backyard with its pond and plants (flourishing due to Larry’s TLC)…


Bougainvillea above (surrounded by Red Trumpet Vine and Delicate Asparagus Fern) and Epidendrum below.


And of course we enjoy stepping onto the patio and barbecuing chicken and rib eye steaks.


Hear “How To Make The Perfect Burger“, and learn the recipe in this Morning Edition, NPR program of July 3, 2009.

I also enjoy stepping into the world of reading books and I have them stockpiled for summer reading.  I’ll have time to read each time I step out of the courtroom of Superior Court – County of San Diego during my current jury duty, which is expected to last two to three more weeks.


My latest addition to my library is Miles Gone By – A Literary Autobiography, William F. Buckley Jr., Regnery Publishing Inc., 2004.  Years ago I was fascinated by his debating style and sense of humor, and my interest in him was rekindled after watching his son Christopher’s interview on Book on C-SPAN2. (He also has an interesting blog on The Daily Beast and new book out, Losing Mum and Pup – A Memoir, Twelve, 2009.)

Another literary addition to my summer reading is Reading Lolita in Tehran – A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.  I first heard about this author while listening to the NPR program, Azar Nafisi Discusses ‘Things I’ve Been Silent About, February 10, 2009.

My favorite author became Ernest Hemingway after I read his first African safari book, Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1935, 1963.

Summer is also a good time to savor good radio programs outside or while getting ready to begin the day.  Just before stepping out the door last Wednesday morning on my way to jury duty, I was listening to Morning Edition on National Pubic Radio (NPR), on our local public broadcasting station.  My ears perked up as I heard the sound of diesel power and I delighted in their story, “Diesel Cars Attempt Comeback with Clean Diesel“, by Chris Arnold (NPR, Morning Edition, July 1, 2009).

View “The Great American Summer“, a gallery of classic images from a bygone era, presented by The Daily Beast contributor, Rachel Hulin.

So in these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, I might even dust off the ukulele and start strumming…

Or take my boogie board to the beach for a celebration of summer with an afternoon of surfin’ followed by “a cool one” at Miller Time and chilling out.

Addendum: In memory of just some of the many notables who have sadly stepped out of this world this summer, including Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Robert McNamara, and Walter Cronkite:

Never dreamed you’d leave in summer“, performed by Stevie Wonder…

And as ‘Uncle Walter’ would say, “And that’s the way it is.”

Ocean breeze

Surf’s up and cool ocean breezes are zipping up and over our South Carlsbad State Beach bluff campsite where we enjoyed a break from the desert heat. We camped for four nights on the edge of a 3-mile long bluff, where we were bathed in the continuous sounds of the wind and surf. Seagulls sailed by, both inside and outside the trailer.


Seagulls by John Perry

The area of Carlsbad was once inhabited by the Luiseno Native Americans who had a village near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon which was a resting place for Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi on their expedition up the coast in 1769 to establish outposts and missions for Spain. In 1883 the Santa Fe Railroad passed near here and land was opened to homesteaders and real estate speculators, including John Frazier who tapped an artesian spring yielding mineral water which was thought to be curative and likened to the old Bohemian spa of Karlsbad (in Czechoslovakia).

Five miles north of Carlsbad is Oceanside, where Marshal South, once known as Oceanside’s Poet Laureate, met his wife-to-be, Tanya, whose parents were orthodox Jews from the Russian Ukraine and emigrated to New York in 1906. See an image of Marshal and Tanya’s “honeymoon accommodations” while camping on an Oceanside beach in 1923.

Marshal South probably would have found our trailer accommodations interesting even though he apparently had no desire to use or generate electricity at Yaquitepec. Here at South Carlsbad State Beach we are self-contained and, with our two solar panels, we generate more electricity than we use during the day, even through the marine layer. Typically by late morning each day our AGM batteries are 100 percent at 13.5 volts.


If we did a lot of this coastal camping, a portable wind turbine could possibly take advantage of the almost constant ocean breeze.


We found that this South Carlsbad bluff is really the turf of the California Ground Squirrel.


 Their accommodations are underground burrows on the other side of the fence and their favorite activities are surveying the campers and obtaining campers’ food and water. Bungee cords were used to secure outdoor items that contained food or other items of interest.


A family of nearby squirrels paused for a moment and seemed mesmerized by Larry’s ukulele playing and singing.


 More beautiful sunsets and summer breezin’ are just around the corner.


Airstream Alley, part three

Hiking our way into the New Year…

Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities.  For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink.  I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”.  (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA)  He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them.  I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.

The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera.  “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.


The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!)  This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report).   Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.


With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here.  It seemed we might be in luck.  I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.


Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up.  (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley.   I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)


Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream.  After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  This tested our agility and became a balancing act.


The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.


Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).


We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…


and snacked…


Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins.  She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich.  As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight.  Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it.  Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings).  Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud.  We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.


Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.


Great fun was had by all!


Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…

And time for contemplating…


… crossings and passages.