Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Goodbye Palm Desert...Hello Mesa!

It was without question the right decision to stay in the Palm Desert until today even though we really didn't do a whole hell of a lot! A bit of housecleaning, inside and out of the BP and a little sightseeing and a whole lot of wishing, hoping and praying that we will return and it will be for a lot longer than 9 days.

We did take a drive out to Lake Cahuilla, which is just a few mile from the RV park and on the edge of La Quinta. Pretty man made lake, apparently stocked with fish, and there was also a nice (full hook-up)  campground. Would not mind staying there at all. On the way home we stopped in La Quinta at The Hogs Breathe, which is still partially owned by the man himself, Clint Eastwood. The hostess says he pops in a few times a year and that he is very nice and very handsome...DUH!!

After a nice Margaretta and appie, we drove down to El Paseo Street, which is the "Rodeo Drive" of the Palm Desert. Most shops were closed by then but I did score an Americano at the Starbucks and Jeff got a few cigars. Oddly enough there was a salon called...
(too bad they spelled "Alan" wrong)

(or maybe we aren't "upper crust" enough to know how to spell)

Finished our walk about town and headed home but I just had to do a "drive-by" in one of the la-di-da Indian Wells resorts. One of the few that wasn't gated, anyway. I believe it was a Marriot or something but we did get to drive around the grounds a bit and then actually parked and walked the grounds a bit too.
Spent a lot of yesterday putzing, washing, and we had a bit of swim/spa time in the afternoon. Got everything ready so we could leave early this morning as we thought the drive to Mesa would be 6-7 hours. Close....left at 8, lost an hour at the border and we were parked and settled by 3. Pretty area, huge RV park (over 1700 spots, mostly park models). 
Welcome to Arizona!

Tomorrow Julie and John arrive (late evening) and Friday they close on their new Mesa home!!! Can't wait to see it and can't wait to see them.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Attempt to Pow-Wow

We began our day early as we knew it was going to get pretty warm here (sorry!) and we wanted to get in a good bike ride. Perfect timing, early on a Sunday, and the traffic was "manageable". There are sporadic sidewalks and bike lanes but let me assure're taking your life in your hands using these 24 inch wide lanes on roads where the speed limit is 50 (as it is on almost every road here). Yes, even the side streets are , I guess, considered highways in the Palm Desert. So we headed out by about 9:30 to La Quinta Old Town where there was a nice little Farmers Market. On the was we passed a profusion of fruit, grapefruit and lime...on the boulevard. So we helped ourselves. Pretty sure all that beautiful fruit would go to the ground and eventually to the dump (or the Farmers Market) anyway.
Our Stash

Roads, though dangerous, are really flat so the 5 miles or so to La Quinta went pretty quickly. On the way, we also passed many beautiful golf courses and residential areas (all gated).

Golf anyone?

The only thing we bought at the Farmers Market was a huge head of leaf lettuce. They did have nice bags of oranges and grapefruit for $5 but we already had my basket chock full so...
We took a different route home and drove past the Empire Polo Club. No matches or we would have checked it out. In the afternoon we went swimming and hot-tubbing then had an early dinner so we could go to the Fantasy Springs Casino as they had a Pow-Wow this weekend. I have always wanted to attend one and I was quite excited all week at the prospect of my first Pow-Wow. Though I checked on-line, there was no "schedule" posted, just that it was from 11-8 Saturday and Sunday. Great...we left about 4:30 so we could, in theory, see some dancing and then the finale parade. However, after arriving and asking around we found out the dancing was all done and only the awards remained. Oh Rats!  Well, we made the best out of it and went to the casino, got a beer and I just had to waste a few $ on the slots. I have no idea how to play anything else at a casino, and neither does Jeff! It was kind of fun plunking away at a machine into which I had inserted $10. At one point, I hit big and was up $50!!! But as we all know, gamblers like me, just keep playing until it is all gone again. Should have cashed out, Dammit! One more Corona and we headed home.
We have just two days left here and I am already bummed to leave. In the pool today we met a Canadian (rampant here) who swore we would never see a prettier spot in the U.S. I tend to agree.

And we decorated for Christmas!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two More Perfect Days in the Palm Desert

Yesterday Jeff and I hiked the Tahquitz Canyon, part of the Agua Caliente Indian Tribe's land. On the down side, "they" charge $12.50 per person just to hike this two mile loop through a canyon. On the plus side, it was very beautiful!

This was not a particularly strenuous hike, so we did not feel overly exerted but we did work up somewhat of a sweat, so it counts as exercise!

This canyon is especially pretty due to the decent size waterfall and subsequent brook and mini-falls. The rock face of the cliffs was very different than the "usual" in that they were very red and very solid!

Anyway, it was a really nice trail and well worth the (ridiculous) charge. After our little hike, we did some errands as we winded our way down Palm Springs Blvd (aka Hwy 111). This town is really just incredibly gorgeous.

We got home and Jeff decided to run to an RV store for a new bathroom fan (busted). I got the bike out and headed down the road, toward the mountains and a profusion of Palm Trees. It was fun pedaling through a few "neighborhoods". And I went from a gated community with their own man made lake to an actual housing project (the likes of which Minneapolis has never seen).
This is not the project...
but it was very nice!

After Jeff got home we sat outside for a bit, then I made him take me out (on a Friday night??) We went to dinner at Las Casuellas, which is kind of an institution here in the Palm Desert and repeatedly voted "Best Mexican". During a 45 minute wait for a table, we met and sat with another awesome couple. These folks were from northern Cali and they had a timeshare on a golf course nearby. They were a super fun, extremely active older couple who truly had the best of both worlds. Home in the north, vacations in the desert. Yeah.
After a great Chimichanga and maybe one too many Margaretta's we left for home. Well, in all honesty, we were going to go to a casino and woop it up but Mama was a bit home we went.
We are really loving the Palm Desert and just signed up for two more days here. We will have to leave Wednesday as we are meeting Julie and John in Mesa Thursday, but I would not mind AT ALL spending the rest of the winter here....and every winter after!
Mountains, Palms and Sun.

PS- Today we did a whole lot of nothing. Chores, groceries, laundry (again), RV repairs, quick walk around the park and dinner on the grill. Done and Done!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving...

                                                                 Planted my new cactus...

                               Had a sidecar while watching the Packers crush Detroit...

Went swimming and hot-tubbing with my husband...

                                                      Enjoyed a Ham dinner on the "patio"....

Then reflected on how thankful I am for my family, friends, health and wonderful life.
It was a good day (hope everyones was just as nice).

Happy Thanksgiving!

This will be our first "real" holiday on the road and away from family. I sure will be missing everyone today more than usual! On the plus side, I have the distraction of watching the Packer game today (10 a.m. here)! The other night I had bought a small ham for dinner, but, boy oh boy, did I ever stare for a long time at the turkeys! Of course, with our itty bitty oven, that is out of the question! Oh well, Packers and Ham is not a horrible Thanksgiving.

We did drive out to Joshua Tree yesterday. We had our first sighting of the actual tree about 15 miles before even getting there...
The Joshua Tree

They are very beautiful, a cross between a palm and a cactus. The park itself was absolutely stunning. I now understand why people write songs and poems about Joshua Tree. And why a lot of people find it the perfect place to meditate, reflect or just think!
Almost the entire park is surrounded by what appears to be great mounds of boulders. Like they were stacked here and there, or spewed from above. In addition to the Joshua tree there are tons of Yucca, Prickly Pear and Sage Brush. We first hiked in an area called Hidden Valley. As it's name implies, hidden by a surround of rock, the cattle rustlers use to hide their stolen cows in this valley.

This was a nice little one mile loop through the valley. A little too easy and the rock mounds alittle to tempting so Jeff and I did some ORH (Off Road Hiking). Up and over some rock crops we went. Nothing like getting off the beaten path!
Again, the colors of the desert in "fall" are really spectacular. This area had these deep burgundy bushes that had dried red flowers. You can see them sprinkled here and there in the photo above. The Yucca's had these huge pod branches that were very spiny, very tall and full of pods that looked just like popcorn.
After completing our walk and picnic lunch we finished our drive though the main part of the park and went to our next hike destination, 49 Palms. This is a pal grove that is located on the other side of the park and down a "1.5 mile" path that was suppose to be "momoderately strenuous". Uh Huh!!! 1.5 miles my ass...maybe as the crow flies but not actual path. This sucker went up and down and up and down for at least 2.5 miles. There was no easy were either going up, or down. Very rocky, lots of "stairs, lots of rests (for me!). But we, of course, made it and there was indeed a Palm Grove.
I love Palms. But either I am becoming jaded (staying currently in the Palm Desert we have an abundance of Palms), or I was just too exhausted to care but I was like....Unh. More Palms.

Made our way back with an abnormal amount of grunting and groaning (again, all me). On our way home we drove by a "greenhouse" that was all succulents and cactus and we had to stop.Collected a selection of plants and a nice cactus pot for the "patio". We'll get them potted today. Probably as we watch the the sun!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Coachella Valley

Yesterday we left El Cajon for Indio and the Coachella Valley. It was going to be a short ride so we didn't have to rush in the a.m. which was nice. Jeff even "squeegeed" off the slides as it had poured almost the entire night. That song "It Never Rains in California" kept going through my head. Especially the line, "it pours, Man, it pours!". Since we were heading back north, I kind of figured there would be a few hills. I did not count on going from 850 feet to 4000+ and back down.

View of the Valley
 (See that winding thing? That's the road toward the bottom)
We had to stop less than halfway down the road because the BB's brakes were SMOKING. Like, we pulled into the scenic overlook and got dirty looks from the other people there. Like we meant to smoke 'em out!
After a good half hour we proceeded down the mountain and made it to our destination, Indian Wells RV Park. Super nice people (but still, a parking lot type park), and LOTS of Palm Trees. Love 'em. We got hooked up and settled in and the did 5 loads of laundry that was hanging around. After dinner, Jeff pooped out so I used grocery shopping as an excuse to get out and explore a little. The town was beautiful during the day, but stunning at night. All surrounded by dark mountains, Palms lit up, balmy breezes, and twinkling stars.  I love driving around a new place and imagining what it would be like to live there. I could live here, that's for sure. I sure understand now what the attraction is to this place. The Coachella Valley is comprised of a lot of towns...Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Indian Wells, Coachella, Cathedral City, La name a few. All these adorable desert communities are stretched along Hwy 111 aka Palm Desert Blvd. We are located in Indio at the east end. Palm Springs at the west end.
Had a good nights sleep and was up at my usual 6 a.m. and literally chomping at the bit to get started exploring. Jeff was finally up and ready about 10:30 and we decided to visit the Living Desert Museum. A zoo, basically, with an arboretum joined in.

We walked through the plant/bird portion of the "museum" first. It was actually really fun to get the names of so many cactus/bushes/succulents that we had seen in Anza-Borrego. Also a lesson in the Cahuilla Indians native to the area and how they lived and used the plants for food, medicine, structures...

We got to the zoo part and enjoyed the very natural exhibits of, duh, desert dwelling animals. So many were having their naps as it was noon and getting quite warm out. We did get to see (finally) Big Horn Sheep which are native to the Anza area though dwindling in population. We had so hoped to see one in the wild but after seeing them at the zoo, I more than understand how easy it would be to miss them...

...they blend!

The highlight of the animals was the baby giraffe, barely 2 months old. We were actually amazed to even get a glimpse of her as Mama usually keeps her under wraps. She was 111.1# and 5'9" at birth!

After finishing up at the zoo, we drove the length of Hwy 111 to Palm Springs. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. It is beautiful but I thought THE Palm Springs would be the cherry on top of every place we had seen in the valley. Not so much. Actually, Indian Wells appears to be the most affluent (and gated) area in the valley. There is a string of country clubs and resort hotels along 111. And we are right on the edge, which is pretty cool!
Tomorrow I would love to get up to Joshua Tree and get some hiking in. It is suppose to be another gorgeous day, always is in paradise....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

San Diego and more!

After arriving in El Cajon Friday afternoon, Jeff and I have been going,going, and more! Friday afternoon we arrived at our campground by mid-afternoon and got hooked up and reconnected (Especially had to "Skypie" with granddaughter, Amilia!). We had so many things we wanted to see and do in the San Diego area in the two days we had, we fully intended to get right back on the road to venture into San Diego but....we were exhausted. Well, Jeff was just plain tired and I was battling the sneezies all day that had left me weepy eyed and pooped. So we warmed up some left-overs and (I hate to admit it), I was in bed by 8 p.m. And didn't rouse until 6 a.m. 10 hours of solid sleep did me a world of good and Jeff was ready as well to roll out by 9 a.m. We (I) had the day planned out on paper since we would have just Saturday in the San Diego area.

The Cliffs of La Jolla
Our first stop was La Jolla where we wandered on the beach walk-way and visited the "Children's Pool". This is a break-water built to provide kids a safe harbor to swim in but in actuality provided sea lions a safe beach to sleep on! Super cute downtown area blocks off the beach as well.

Clapping for himself!

After wandering around La Jolla we drove south to Mission Beach, where, again, we walked the beach and also stopped at a beach bar called The Sandbar for what is possibly the best Blueburger and Fries we have ever had.

Mission Beach and area is a labyrinth of sand bars and one giant main beach, complete with an amusement park, marina and multiple city park areas. And a lot of surfers!

After lunch we again, headed just slightly south to the next beach, Ocean Beach. Again, huge sand, good waves and a ton of surfers. Also at Ocean Beach, the longest pier in SoCal.

So we have hit three beaches in as many hours and now we ventured into San Diego to the Old Town area. To be honest, I don't really know the history of Old Town, but I do know it is a popular tourist destination and features hundreds of Mexican shops and restaurants. It was a very busy area and while we enjoyed wandering around, the goods really held no interest for me (not big into Mexican "crap", so to speak). But we did stop in a restaurant for a much craved drink and had some of the freshest and tastiest chips and salsa I have ever experienced. Yum!

After more wandering we weren't quite through with touring but, frankly, a bit to tired to tackle the parking and walking issues again so we did "drive-bys" through the Gaslight District and then the Embarcadero. Winding our way back up Marina Drive until we were actually past the airport and almost back in Mission Beach. Time for home! The San Diego area is really quite easy to navigate and before Jeff knew it, I had us back to the BP. We managed to lounge around long enough to make it to 11:30 (which I haven't seen in a loooong time!). Of course, we didn't get home until 8:30 so...
Don and I at Cheers
This morning we had a date with my cousin, Don and his beautiful wife, Charlotte, who live in Ramona, about a half hour north of El Cajon. We met at the local pub, Cheers, and had the required Sunday Bloody as well as some good grub and glimpses of the Packer and Viking games (Guess who won? Guess who lost?).
Jeff at Solerno

After "brunch", Don and Cheri took us to see their Antique Shop in downtown Ramona. They had a little business to attend to so Jeff and I got to snoop around the store, which is HUGE!!! After they returned, we went to see their house and then went to a local winery and vineyard, Solerno. Gorgeous little winery with a great outdoor tasting room and kitchen where the (very) Italian proprietors cook up wood roasted pizza's and incredible Italian bread loaves. And they also make some pretty fabulous wine, particularly their Merlot. Although the day was turning pretty cold and gloomy, we had a great time on the patio with a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and good company.
A great day ended with another good bottle of local wine sitting in front of Don and Cheri's fireplace then we had to head home. Through the rain (it was pouring by now), up and over a little mountain and back to El Cajon, where it continues to pour and pour!

                                                         Xena, however, is warm and dry!