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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bibbling With Darla - Part 1

November 21-25, 2019
Hi Blog!

As noted in our prior blog, we made it safely to Riverside, California and rescued a kitten. Ruby continues to be a source of endless entertainment for our other two cats, Flip and Baxter. As for our entertainment, we plan to camp here in Rancho Jurupa through the Thanksgiving weekend. We arrived early so we would have time to explore. Our friend, Darla, lives just down the road from our campground. She came up with a list of adventures for us.

On Thursday, we started our visit with Darla with a trip to Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar. A visit with Darla would not be complete without at least one visit to Anchos, the best Southwestern restaurant this side of the border. During our scrumptious dinner, we planned our week.

On our first full day, we drove to Disneyland! When we were here last Thanksgiving, the Star Wars Land wasn't open yet. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge open on May 31st. For the first few months, you needed a reservation just to get into this area of the park. Now, its open to the public, but you still need a reservation to go into Olga's Cantina.

As soon as we arrived in the park, we went straight to Galaxy's Edge and queued up for the one ride that was open - The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run. This attraction takes six guests to man the Millennium Falcon. Each guests is assigned to one of three roles: pilot, engineer, or gunner. Each role has a significant impact on the success of the mission. We were matched up with three other people. Darla was a gunner, while Dave and Kathy both ended up as engineers. Here was our first look at the Millennium Falcon and the Black Spire Outpost.

We had a 50 minute wait, which is not bad for a main attraction at Disney. The ride was a combination of motion control, video and gaming. You need to push buttons and pull levels in order to complete the mission. We are not really sure exactly what we did, but somehow we flew the Falcon, shot down the enemy, retrieved the cargo needed for the resistance and returned safely. Having survived our mission, we went over to Olga's Cantina for a galactic cocktail.

The cantina's music is provided by R-3X, a droid that was first seen as RX-24 (a.k.a. Captain Rex) in Star Tours, and is now the cantina's DJ.

After quenching our thirst, we did a little shopping. We tried to stay out of the way of the Storm Troopers. However, we did see Chewbacca and Rey in the market place. Before leaving the Galaxy's Edge, we shared a glass of Blue Milk.  Also known as Bantha milk, it was a rich blue-colored milk produced by female banthas. Cheers!

We worked our way back to Main Street one ride at at time. After some Christmas Shopping, it was time to say goodbye to Mickey and all his friends.

As we left Disneyland, we realized we were close to Placentia and the home of The Bruery, one of the best craft breweries in the world. With 42 beers on tap, there was no way we could try them all. We picked 10 of the beers we thought we would like best and tried them as a taster flight. We picked our favorites and then brought home a couple crowlers for later.

Sunday was another beautiful, blue-sky Southern California day. To take advantage of the nice weather, we headed toward Laguna Beach. Before hitting the beach, we did a little more Christmas shopping at the Sawdust Art and Crafts Festival. Let the shopping begin!

The festival grounds had been transformed into a winter wonderland where 180 artists create, display and sell original creations. It is marketed as the most unique holiday shopping in all of Southern California. Art media includes jewelry, clothing, fused and blown glass, ceramics, woodwork, forged metals, painting, photography, sculpture, clothing and textiles, not to mention Santa. Unfortunately, Santa was "out" when we arrived.

We worked our way up and down the aisles. We found a wine and beer vendor, which made for relaxed wandering.

Actual sawdust covers the streets of the Christmas village.

The festival grounds are just as impressive as the crafts for sale.

With bags full of booty, it was time to check out the surf.

Our ultimate destination was Beachcomber Grill in Newport Beach. The little restaurant sits right on the beach. If you don't make a reservation 24 hours in advance, the first-come-first-served wait can be over two hours. We put our name on the list and went for a walk on the beach.

While Kathy explored the tide pools, Dave and Darla solved all the problems of the world.

We spent the rest of our time in the bar enjoying tropical drinks and the best mahi mahi spring rolls we ever had. The time passed quickly. Before we knew it, the sun was setting. Folks lined up along the shore to get the best view.




We were seated shortly after sunset. Before our meals arrived, Dave had a near-death experience. If not for the bravery of the restaurant staff, this blog may have ended differently. A group of 8 were seated across from us - grandmom, three young children and two 30-something couples. The men had obviously spent their two hour wait drinking to excess. While one guy was very happy, playing with the kids and chatting with everyone, the other guy was very sullen and belligerent. He ranted and raved about the two hour wait time, the service wasn't quick enough, their table wasn't good enough, etc. After sitting less than five minutes, he told the entire family to get up they were leaving. As the family quickly left, Mr. Belligerent continued to get louder and louder. He was screaming at our waiter. Dave politely asked him to keep it down. He tried to turn his wrath onto Dave, but was intercepted by an armada of wait staff who quickly formed a wall between Dave and the drunk. He was eventually ushered out, but not before threatening to kill our waiter and (which we guess he thought would be so much worse) leave bad reviews on Google and Yelp!

In a matter of minutes, the family's table was reset, new guests were seated and the restaurant continued to buzz along. We were soon tucking into our salmon stuffed with crab...

...and ahi tuna with roasty toasty brussel sprouts and asparagus.

Because of the aforementioned incident, our waiter advised that the restaurant was treating us to desert. He asked us what we would like and we each picked something different. We hadn't realized the desserts were big enough to share. By the time we left, we had to be rolled back to the parking lot.

These are just the first of many more adventures we hope to have this week. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Finding Ruby

This is the story of Rubidoux (nickname Ruby) and how we found her and what she is discovering in our new life with her.  First, you need to see what she looks like:

The story starts on Friday, November 22, 2019, around noon.  We had arrived in Riverside, California the day before, and this day was a day of errands.  We got up early to have the windshield on our Jeep replaced after a crack it had suffered earlier this year on the Top of the World Highway between the Yukon and Alaska.  That successfully completed, we moved on to an appointment at Passport Health in nearby San Bernardino for a booster shot against Japanese Encephalitis in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Myanmar to visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandson.  That also went well.

We were walking back to the Jeep after our vaccination appointment, when we heard a little mewl coming from a small grove of bamboo outside the medical center we were visiting.  We knew this sound well.  It had been the sound that led us to Baxter long ago in 2006 when, as a tiny kitten, he had bravely navigated our neighborhood street to come up our driveway and ask if he could adopt us.  Our daughter Katie knows the story well, as she gave Baxter his name.

Back to our search in the bamboo, we had trouble locating the kittenish sound, but it was clearly sounding hungry and searching for its mother.  Something must be done!

We were cheered on by several other passers-by who, just as in the story of the Little Red Hen, nevertheless offered no help of their own.  David crawled into the bamboo on his hands and knees while Kathy waited at the opening to cut off a kittenish escape.  David almost reached the kitten, but it slipped away and out toward Kathy, who gently cupped it in her hands as it cowered against a small mound of dirt under the bamboo.  Got it!

Now that we had the kitten, we had to decide what to do with it.  Well, the most immediate problem was hunger, so we drove to a nearby pet store and Kathy ran in to pick up some kitten chow while David snuggled the little one.  When Kathy brought the food back out, we opened it and offered it to the wee thing, which began gobbling like a monster:

Since we have two other cats, Baxter and Flip, we knew we had to have a means of keeping the kitten separate from them until we could decide what to do with it; so we bought a little crate.  Cat, crate and paraphernalia came home with us to the RV, where the kitten perched nervously on Kathy's shoulder wondering what sorts of giants had captured it:

We are visiting Kathy's friend Darla, who lives in Riverside, and who has several cats of her own.  Darla referred us to a local veterinarian that was able to give us an appointment later in the day.  The checkup completed, we learned that the little one was a female, was healthy, with no signs of ear mites, worms, fleas or other ailment.  The doctor gave her her first vaccinations and we headed back to the RV to meet Darla.  On the way, we decided we would name the kitten after Mount Rubidoux, which rises above Rancho Jurupa Park, in Jurupa Valley, where we are camped.  It's a beautiful municipal campground in a park with a fishing lake and recreational paths, and -- most importantly -- it's a short, 5-minute drive from Darla's place.

Darla arrived soon after we did and introduced herself to Rubidoux.  Darla filled us in on the proper pronunciation of "Rubidoux," filling us in on a little related local history, and all of us agreed that "Ruby" would be a fitting nickname for the kitten.

Poor little Ruby only wanted her recently lost mother and snuggled whenever she was held.  Whenever we tried to put her in the crate, she would cry mournfully.  David couldn't stand that little sad sound, so he volunteered to be the momma cat for the night and sleep in the living room recliner with a snuggly spot for Ruby on his lap.  Amazingly, all of us -- Ruby, David, Kathy, Baxter and Flip -- slept pretty soundly, except for three feedings and litter box visits for the kitten in the middle of the night.

We put Ruby in our bedroom with her crate, food and litter pan, and closed the bedroom door so that Ruby and our two older cats could get to know each other slowly while we were out for the day.  When we returned after a long day at Disneyland and The Bruery (that will be a blog entry for another day), we let Ruby out of prison and made formal introductions with Baxter and Flip.  Below, Ruby and Baxter are sniffing and eyeing each other, with only mild hisses and g-r-r-r-r's from Baxter.  Those mortal threats didn't seem to bother Ruby much, however, and she proceeded to prance, jump, climb and skip around the RV.  Baxter and Flip watched her suspiciously the whole time, but there was nary a bad experience.

It's bedtime now on Night #2.  Kathy, who is exhausted from our Disney Day, is cuddling Ruby, who is exhausted from exploring her new home; Baxter is exhausted from monitoring the new upstart's suspicious activities, and Flip is exhausted from keeping track of everyone else.  David is exhausted from completing this blog.

Being exhausted, we will all go to bed and hope that World War III doesn't break out in the bedroom.  G'Nite.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Unexpected Trip to Fresno

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Hi Blog!

We are camped near the entrance of Kings Canyon National Park. Last night, Kathy's laptop computer died. It was sudden and unexpected. As luck would have it, we are only about an hour away from Fresno, California. We found a computer repair place, Nerds on Call, that would be willing to take a look at the laptop and give us their opinion on whether it can be brought back to life.

While visiting Fresno was not on our list, we decided that, since we have to go, we might as well make the best of it. After yesterday's serious hike, we thought perhaps a leisurely stroll was in order. We found Woodward Park in downtown Fresno.

The late Ralph Woodward, a long-time Fresno resident, bequeathed the major portion of his estate in 1968 to provide a regional park and bird sanctuary on the South bank of the San Joaquin River. The initial 235 acres, combined with additional acres acquired later by the City brings the park to 300 acres. Much like Central Park in New York, Woodward Park has loads of facilities including a concert hall, Japanese Gardens, a dog park, disc golf, BMX bike park and miles of hiking of trails. The centerpiece of the park is the lake.  We walked over to the lake and spent a few minutes admiring it and some of the informal stone sculpture sprinkled around it:

We started our stroll with a walk around the lake. While the far side of the lake is off limits as a bird sanctuary, the front part of the lake is available for strolling and picnicing. However, someone forgot to tell the snowbirds.

This grey goose was very possessive of his picnic table.

This Moscovy Duck stands in stark contrast to his white feathered friends. Did you know that Aztec rulers wore cloaks made from the feathers of the Muscovy Duck, which was considered the totem animal of the Wind God, Ehecatl.

As we continued around the lake, we encountered a gang of Canadian snowbirds. Like many Canadian RVers, they like to spend the winter in Southern California!

As a family of bikers approached, they took flight.

Splash landing!

Part of our walk was along the Lewis S. Eaton Trail, a six mile bike trail along the San Joaquin River.

We enjoyed the fall weather and nature-made artwork.

There was also plenty of man-made art, too.

While sitting next to this babbling brook, it's hard to believe we are in the middle of California's fifth largest city.

While we enjoyed our stroll this morning, we must warn you, the park has a panhandling problem. We were approached several times by fowl feathered friends looking for a handout.

As we made our way back to the Jeep, we watched this hawk swoop down and chase a ground squirrel. Luckily, the little furry thing got away.

While the hawk missed out on lunch, we made a stop at Sequoia Brewing Company. Kathy just can't resist hugging the Sequoia!

For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a nail.

Well, in the case of Kathy's laptop it wasn't a nail that was lost, it was the tiny pin that sits inside the DC power jack. Without the pin, the power cord cannot connect. Without power the battery dies. No battery, no laptop.

Unfortunately, we don't have enough time here in Fresno for the Nerds on Call to order the replacement part. We are hoping that, by the time we get to Riverside, we'll be able to get the part ordered and delivered before we leave for Arizona. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Kings Canyon - Hike to Weaver Lake

With no opportunity to hike up into Kings Canyon itself from Zumwalt Meadows, we looked for a backcountry hike that would give us insight into this Sierra environment.  We visited the Sequoia National Forest Ranger Office across from our campground this morning and got information on a beautiful hike to Weaver Lake.  It was supposed to be 2.5 miles one way -- 5 miles total.  Sounded good.

The hike to Weaver Lake starts at the Big Meadows Trailhead in Sequoia National Forest, midway between Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park.   Weaver Lake itself is in the Jenny Lakes Wilderness.  The Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a classic high Sierra landscape. A 10,500 acre area with a mixture of lakes, mountain peaks, forests, meadows and streams, most of which is above 7,000 feet in elevation. The wilderness boasts Lodgepole Pines, Red and White Firs and White (Mountain) Pine, Jeffrey Pines and Juniper.  Weaver Lake sits at 8,713 feet elevation.

We started at about 7,500 feet elevation, so our hike was to include a 1,200 foot climb.  As it turned out, the hike was about 7.6 miles -- about 2.5 miles longer than we expected.  However, at the start of our hike, we had no clue about the adventure we would have:

About a quarter mile along the trail, we passed the Big Meadows Campground and crossed Big Meadows Creek on a brand new bridge!

From there, our trail started uphill and didn't stop for 3.5 miles:

About a mile in, we got a glimpse of Kings Canyon, over the next ridge:

The entire area of Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest is comprised of granite that was broken down during the glacial ages.  Huge trees found a foothold in the glacial till:

It is November, so all of the fir cones have fallen to the forest floor.  These two cone leafs boast fir seeds and look like butterflies perched on granite rocks in the forest:

The glaciers carried large boulders and eventually dropped them as they receded, leaving them on top of the gritty granite glacial grist that lay soft under our hiking boots as we walked along the trail:

As we left the trailhead, we saw three other vehicles, and calculated that we would be likely to see 2 or 3 groups of hikers.  It wasn't long before we encountered four backpackers who had spent two nights at Weaver Lake and were returning to the trailhead.  They are employed by an environmental conservation group and were excited to have some time to get out into the nature they love.

Soon after, we encountered a family of four from Toronto.  They have recently immigrated from Spain and are taking a year to travel North America.  We chatted about the parks in the Western States, and discussed some of the parks in Canada as well.  We moved on and exchanged well-wishes with them for safe travels.

After this, it wasn't long before we got our first look at Weaver Lake.  It was a longer hike than we had expected -- 3.75 miles!  Once we added in a stroll along the lakeshore, this meant we would have a 7.5 to 8 miles hike overall, on the longer side for us.

But, for now, the lake was so beautiful!

We stood on the lakeshore, admiring the green clarity of the water, the colors of the grasses on the shore, and Shell Mountain in the background:

The water was like a mirror in the still air, and the trees and grasses framed the lake:

Rocks littered the western shoreline of the lake --

-- and Kathy stood among them, admiring the scenery:

We saw numerous trout rising on the lake, chasing mayflies.  The water was still and reflective until just after noon, when breezes rose up and started rippling the surface:

Still, we caught one or two last photos before the winds destroyed the mirror-like surface of the lake:

We found a good lunch spot and sat to eat our lunch, admiring the lake and Shell Mountain:

Before long, it was time to return down to the trailhead.  Our hike back was uneventful.  The sun had moved, and it lit our way as we descended and worked our way across drainages and around the hills:

When we got back to our Jeep, the Forest Service officers had placed a flyer under our windshield wipers, advising us that the area would be closed tomorrow due to an expected snowstorm.  The flyer urged us to leave the area and explained how we could pass through the gates that have been closed across access to the Jenny Lakes Wilderness.

Luckily, we're a day ahead of the weather, and, other than being slowed by having to follow a road grader for a mile or so, we were able to return home from the Big Meadows area with no problems.  It looks like a snowstorm will be hitting the western Sierras in this area above 6,000 feet elevation, but where we are camped at about 2,000 feet elevation, we expect there will only be rain showers.

Time will tell.  We'll keep you posted!