California Days

Boy, have we ever covered a lot of ground since my last post. Funny how a bit of time trivializes all of the things we did – it seems really silly to detail activities to the extent that I usually do. So, we’ll go with the Cliffs Notes version here – bits of commentary. Photos. And California is so beautiful that I have dozens that I would like to share.

Before leaving Crystal Cove State Park, we had to take one extended bike ride to Coronado Island to see the iconic Hotel del Coronado. Wow. I couldn’t take any photos from a vantage point that made any sense, so you’ll have to enjoy the linked ones instead. There is even a sand sculptor on the beach there, creating fanatastical castles.wp-1489722400006.jpg It really is a look into another vacation world. Our bike ride took the biggest chunk of a day, and covered 50+ miles. Loved the fact that probably probably 45 miles of this was on dedicated bike paths, AND a brewery was right along the route.

Moving on to San Clemente State Beach was interesting, as noted in my last post. Our campsite was overgrown with weedswp-1490289949242.jpgand a couple of feral cats seemed to adopt us – drinking from Jezzy’s outside water dish, hanging out by the warmth of our campfire, and sitting on our picnic table.wp-1490289471717.jpg And yet? What a great campground – kids, bikes, tons of tent-campers. The campground itself is perched atop some delicate-looking sandstone cliffs. wp-1490289999739.jpgIt’s amazing (to me, anyway) that these cliffs are still standing – you can scratch them with your fingernail. But they are beautiful, especially strewn with spring wildflowers. wp-1490289917234.jpgwp-1490289739477.jpgWandering down the beach, we spied on Nixon’s old house – Casa Pacifica. wp-1490289890597.jpgwp-1490289864289.jpgLots of surfers. wp-1490289851524.jpgwp-1490289830255.jpgWe cycled down a beach path, and wandered out on the San Clemente pier. wp-1490289812166.jpg20170323_102117.jpgwp-1490289621329.jpgwp-1490289588089.jpgSan Clemente vs Laguna Beach? Old money vs new artsy money. Both fun.

It was a shock to leave the beach and head back into the Mojave Desert, but that’s what we did. Owl Canyon Campground near Barstow, CA was our next stop. With our senior pass, camping was $3/night. It couldn’t have been better.wp-1490669231753.jpg About 80% of the 30 campsites were empty, so we grabbed a good one, and set up for two nights. Ahhhh, so quiet. Huge, starry sky. The only bad thing was that it was super windy, so we couldn’t enjoy a campfire, or even an evening cookout. The wind was howling!

We did hike into the Canyon the next day, taking Jezzy on the two-mile loop.wp-1490669266731.jpg Sadly, as we neared the end, we found a rocky wall obstacle. We could have gotten up and over, but there was no way we could have boosted Jezzy over. So, we had to turn around and trudge back. There’s not much else out there – we learned that we were lucky not to have been there on a weekend – it turns into a Jeep off-roader wild party. So happy not to have blundered into that!

Death Valley was our next stop, but that deserves its own post.

Nixon, Revisited

Move over LBJ. We may have just replaced your Museum with a new favorite, and an unlikely one, at that. We visited the Nixon Museum two days ago, and were absolutely blown away. It starts with the gigantic portrait by Norman Rockwell inside the door.20170317_094411.jpg As always, we began our investigation of the Museum by watching the introductory film. No pussy-footing around here – the opening scene is Nixon’s emotional exit speech, and we see him and Pat getting into the helicopter. President Ford wipes a tear from his eye. Bang! What a beginning. This scene is echoed in another exhibit as well, showing Nixon from inside the chopper looking out.wp-1489722399890.jpgClosed for six months last year while the Museum’s exhibits were re-tooled, I can only say that the results are stunning. There are all sorts of interactive displays, and huge sections both on Watergate and Vietnam. Timelines on both are really helpful in sorting things out.wp-1489772426258.jpgIt was disquieting to see the weekly Vietnam stats that were kept in a safe. Take a close-up look at the document on the right.

Actual conversations can be listened in on using old-style big push-button phones. We found things to like about Nixon – things that we forgot, or that had been overshadowed by Watergate. He signed Title IX into being – ending gender-based discrimination in education and sports programs. Anyone who went to school in the 60’s knows how huge that was. When I was in high school, there were ZERO sports for girls. None. Nixon also abolished the draft, and ushered the all-volunteer army into existence. Loved the photo showing mail and telegram response he got after referring to support of his Vietnam policy by the Silent Majority.wp-1489722399830.jpgThe War on Cancer. The opening of diplomatic relations with China. The introduction of the Space Shuttle program. Signing of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) with Russia.wp-1489772405859.jpgThe creation of the EPA. And, surprisingly, Nixon championed a health insurance program, with subsidies to help everyone afford coverage, which was shot down by the Democratic congress. It’s interesting to remember all the things we’ve forgotten. Here are a few other photos from the Museum. I think these are the same drapes Trump is currently using.wp-1489722399676.jpgwp-1489722399529.jpgwp-1489772488550.jpgwp-1489722399372.jpgNixon was a voracious note-taker, and went through thousands of yellow legal pads during his career. His college roommates nicknamed him Iron Butt, for his ability to sit in one chair for hours, making and reviewing notes. Maybe that’s how I’ll remember him. Make it a point to visit this spectacular site if you’re near Yorba Linda, CA.

Our home for the last three nights has been Crystal Cove State Park, perhaps the most beautiful campground we ever stay in. wp-1489722399742.jpgwp-1489722399716.jpgwp-1489722399395.jpgThis is our third time here, and each time we make plans for another visit. Our campsite is perched right over the Pacific Coast Highway, and the pounding surf lulls us to sleep every night. One oddity this trip has been the dense fog, which rolls in after dusk every night, and doesn’t clear off until after noon. Makes for a short day to whale watch. While wandering down the beach, we did see this sand castle, which pales in comparison to the professionally crafted one at Coronado Island that we saw a few days ago. But beautiful, nonetheless.wp-1489722399306.jpgwp-1489722400001.jpgWe are heading off today to a new camp at San Clemente State Beach, just a few miles to the south of here. San Clemente was the site of the Western White House in Nixon’s time. wp-1489722399527.jpgThe Nixons spent many weekends there while he was in office, and returned to San Clemente after he left. We’re looking forward to exploring a new Park – camping on the CA coast is astonishingly expensive. Our basic site – no water or electric is $50/night. Showers are coin-op. It certainly is the most we have paid for any state park camping, but it is oh so worth it for a week.wp-1489722399181.jpg

Whirlwind SoCal Tour

Let’s clear the air about one thing right now. The Campshaws were NOT the holders of the winning Powerball ticket from California. Many idle moments were spent planning on how we would change the world with our billion dollars. Bummer.

Since my last post, we’ve moved four times. That’s a lot of territory to cover in one post, but let’s do the nickel tour of our past 10 days or so.

We headed toward Simi Valley from Death Valley. Why? Simi Valley, CA is the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Our home base for three nights was Tapo Canyon Regional Park, a small municipal park with about 18 campsites.20160107_165820 This would have been a great place to stay except for one thing – it was a PARK and a CAMPGROUND, yet dogs were not allowed on the grass. We could walk Jezzy around the street of the campground, but nowhere else. Seemed a bit ridiculous, especially in light of the fact that we paid a buck extra per day to have a dog in camp.

So, the Reagan Museum was our target for Day 1.20160108_121224 Although the Museum was only a dozen miles from the campground, we decided not to try to bicycle there. We couldn’t really pick out a reliable route from our online maps, and most of the roads leading in that direction were four or five lanes. So, we headed out in the truck, only to find that it could have been easily bicycled. Crap!

The Reagan Museum sits on a stunning piece of property in the hills overlooking Simi Valley.20160108_144218 This is especially evident when one gets to the wing where they have Reagan’s actual Air Force One open for view. The plane is situated so that it points out right over the Valley.20160108_131854It’s amazing. Touring the actual plane was one of the day’s highlights, although I don’t have any photos to back up that claim.

This Presidential Museum, we both agreed, made better use of multimedia than any of the others we have visited to date. There were many audio and film clips. One of the more dramatic examples of this was the assassination attempt. We stood in small groups surrounded by screens as the guns popped, men shouted, and bodies hit the ground. It was chilling. But the whole story of the Communist Menace seemed ridiculous. Loud dreary music, creeping red stains across a map. No.

Reagan’s finest moment? “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” No doubt.

Here are a few of our favorite scenes from the Museum.20160108_12573320160108_12332220160108_12330920160108_123303I tried my damndest, but couldn’t get John to get on that sawed-off horse so that I could take his photo riding with Reagan.20160108_14311520160108_142951And finally, Reagan may have been the last President to be photographed wearing a plaid jacket.20160108_125745As with most the Presidential Museums, we felt that we had learned a few things about Reagan the man, and Reagan the President. Although he is generally idolized by Republicans today, it seems that he would hardly be in the running to be a Party standard-bearer. The beat goes on….

What better way to escape the Red Menace than a stroll through Hollywood?20160109_122158 We matched hand and footprints with our favorite stars,20160109_12285520160109_122920 gawked at the famous sights, and enjoyed the best fish tacos ever. Did we see anyone famous? Nope.20160109_122821 Did we tour mansions or see homes of the Stars? Nope. But we had a really great day hoofing around Hollywood Boulevard.20160109_133842Moving on, our next target was the Richard Nixon Museum in Yorba Linda, CA. Good thing we checked first, because it’s CLOSED for remodeling. Now, I don’t want to be one of these conspiracy theory folks, but isn’t it a bit odd that the Gerald Ford Museum is also now CLOSED for remodeling? My own theory here is that, since these Museums are privately funded, a new cash infusion to these two is facilitating a bit of history revision. (Just my own theory).

On the road again, we headed toward Laguna Beach. But, a detour to Long Beach was in order, as I really wanted a glimpse of the Queen Mary, which is permanently berthed there. Right next to it is an old Russian Scorpion sub (cold war era?). What a curious juxtaposition.20160110_124650Moving on, we landed at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. If there’s a more beautiful place to camp, we’ve yet to find it.20160111_06472320160111_152747 We wandered the beach, listened to the surf pound the shore all night long, hiked into Moro Canyon, and cycled into Newport Beach and Balboa Island.20160111_13190120160111_12523420160112_131444Words cannot describe how much I wanted to dig out this enormous boulder and haul it home. Such a geology lesson laying on the beach.20160111_145458


Three perfect days. But, it is expensive to camp in California State Parks. Crystal Cove is $50/night for a rustic site. Showers are coin-op, probably to conserve water, rather than to raise money – but a nuisance anyway since you have to use their tokens, not your quarters. But, if I could stay in one place for two weeks and just do nothing – this would be it. Gray whales breached for us for our morning coffee entertainment. (John probably took 300 photos with his iPhone held up to binoculars to get this shot. I was convulsed with laughter.)imageThey should just call it Camp Paradise.

All good things must come to an end, so we headed back to the boondocks for a few days, selecting Dripping Springs Campground in the Cleveland National Forest as our home for the next two nights.20160113_16270920160113_162635.jpg We chose this spot because of its price ($7.50/night with our Senior Pass), access to hiking trails, and because we really wanted a campfire. Although I don’t have photos to prove it, we enjoyed an eight mile hike into the neighboring canyon, where we had expansive views of nothing – more and more remote scrubby canyon. We loved being able to take Jezzy along for the hike – dogs weren’t allowed on the trails in Crystal Cove, and she had been cooped up a lot in the past week.

Today (Friday), our home is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs, CA. We rolled in mid-afternoon, hoping to find available space for the weekend. imageUnfortunately, we can only stay for the night, as everything is booked. We grabbed a shower (coin-op), but very welcome, indeed. Our plan is to take a quick hike into Palm Canyon tomorrow morning before moving on.

One thing has become very obvious to us so far on this trip – we love our new 6V golf-cart batteries, which John installed before we left. We’ve only had one campground where we had electric service, and only one time did we deploy our solar panel. Not worrying about having enough power to run the fridge or the lights is liberating. Wish we would have done this two years ago. Our duct-taped window is holding fast, so we’ve been able to move past that little catastrophe for the time being.