Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sparkly Friends and Emeralds in the Lava

We are fortunate to have many mutual friends from high school, and even more fortunate that in the last 10 years we've been able to spend a lot of time with several of them. Mostly we see them at the annual reunion in Laughlin, NV, but more and more there are additional opportunities.

This weekend was one of those great opportunities. We found out in May that Polly would be singing in a national talent contest at the Tropicana in Laughlin, and we made plans then to be there. She and her partner, Buddy, came from Gillette, WY, and her brother, SIL, sister, BFF, a couple cousins, and Bill and I joined them on Thursday.

We have made that Interstate 40 drive to Laughlin dozens of times - usually between April and August. Never have we seen it so green! Grass green. Creosote bushes in full leaf green. Vegetation at the edge of the freeway green. Top of the mesas and hills green. 


From the Cadiz Rest Area - a lush green desert
There was even standing water near Fort Cady, and signs of serious flooding under, over and around the highway. Wow! Those storms dumped a ton of water in a very short period of time - it must have been incredible to witness (and very dangerous).

Polly's solo performance was on Thursday afternoon with a long break until her duet around 10 PM. Her goal was to make the top 20 and sing again on Friday. Saturday the top 5 would compete for the big title. After hearing her sing we were certain she would reach her goal! Polly is very talented, and looked beautiful in her sparkly dress :-)

Beautiful singer, bad photographer :-(

We made good use of our time between Thursday's performances by watching the big screen NFL game at the casino bar. It's been a long time since we've watched a game outside our living room, and it was a blast! I'm not sure the Buccaneers would agree, as their 58-14 loss was pretty painful. Fortunately we were rooting for Atlanta.

Half the scheduled duets sang that night, and Polly and Mike definitely got my vote for the best. We headed back to our room at the end of the competition.

Friday morning we slept until 9:00! A good breakfast and we headed up to watch more of the competition. Because Polly made her goal of the top 20 and was singing again around noon! We saw most of the top 20 male contestants, and then most of the females, including Polly. Even in the top 20 she was a real stand-out.

Most of us left the casino and had a good Mexican lunch down the road. Then, unbelievably, Bill and I went back and took a 2.5 hour nap! Guess we needed it :-) Took our time getting ready, and met everyone across the street for dinner at The Pint. 

Clothing options for brew fans

We had eaten there  several times in April, and once again it did not disappoint. Great brew choices and our food was very good. The pale ale is tasty, but we enjoyed the Jackass Stout.

After dinner we joined what is a tradition for the rest of the group: slots-by-committee. Everyone puts in $20, and then a slot machine is chosen. The first $1 machine kept us entertained for a little while, the second and third were a bust. 

Cheap and easy

Then we found a flashy penny-slot machine near the back of the casino and spent two hours on $40 having an absolute ball taking turns (in order, no less) playing (pushing the button or pulling the handle). 

Every time we won anything we cheered, but for those few big ($30-$65) wins you would have thought we'd won the $1M jackpot! Several times other patrons stopped to see what amazing winnings this very loud group was raking in.....they didn't stick around long when they saw the reality of our amusement.

Sometimes those cheap and easy nights are the very best!

The heavy cigarette smoke finally did me in, Bill took pity on me, and we headed back to our hotel around 11:30.

Polly didn't expect to make the top five for Saturday, and she was correct. So after sleeping in again we decided we would head for home. We wanted to take our time, stop and see the beautiful green desert along the way, and not miss any football on Sunday.

We caught up with the group back amongst the slot machines (they all said they had not been there since the night before), and said our good-byes. We will see all of them again in April, although we hope to be staying in our rig at the RV park rather than at the casino :-)))))

There were clouds when we left Laughlin, and they built up more as we headed West. It made the green valleys even more spectacular. Photos just didn't do justice to the views we were enjoying. We made a couple stops to take pictures and just walk the desert looking for critters. A couple lizards and several tracks, but nothing else. The amount of grass in some of the gullies was over a foot tall!

Green, green, green

The next valley was not nearly as green, looking more like the desert we grew up in. We pulled off at the Kelbaker exit and found a dirt road that went behind a small hill. There we found a perfect boondocking location! There was a little road noise, but it was completely private with views for miles in three directions. We would love to come back with the rig and explore more of the area in the Jeep over a few days.

A perfect boondocking spot in the California desert

Near Amboy, CA, there is a large bed of black lava. We've seen it many, many times. This time however, it was very unique. The bright, rich green brush looked like emeralds embedded in the lava. Again, the photos don't truly capture how incredible and unique the combination really was.

Lush green in a hostile place

At one point the clouds did finally produce some rainfall. If you look closely on the rear view mirror, you can see one of the ten drops we got near Essex, CA. That was it.

Route 66 Nostalgia

We finally found Peggy Sue's diner! I remembered it was by the freeway - but not that it was Interstate 15 and not Interstate 40! Geez!

Had a good lunch with good service, and then we were ready to just be home. We are sure looking forward to having home with us all the time :-))))

Pulled in the driveway about 6:00 and were greeted by a very happy, and bouncy, fluffy dog! Brian had not left for Irvine yet so was surprised to see us home a day early. Of course he was happy as well. Perhaps less bouncy though.
Our next few weeks are very busy, including the big RV show in Pomona. I guess the time is moving more quickly now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From Watermelon to Pumpkins

It's not surprising to hear that Fall is a favorite season for so many people. Living in California my whole life, and all but 10 years in SoCal, I have always been glad to see the end of Summer. I'm usually over the heat by Fourth of July, which means another two and a half months of wishing it would go away. Although not nearly as bad as it was 20 years ago, the air pollution is worse in the heat, and just adds to the overall yuckiness.

Although officially over around September 21, our summer heat can last until Halloween. Cozy sweaters and boots mock us in advertisements, while our Pumpkin Spice Lattes are served iced :-( 


The large crates of watermelons at the grocery stores are replaced with pumpkins, but the heat makes you wish for watermelon. 

School is "back in", yet kids on their way home look like they're coming from the beach rather than the classroom. Football practice is grueling. 

Drought conditions give the landscape a parched and unwelcoming look, making "getting out in nature" less than desirable. While other areas of the country are seeing a dusting of snow, we just have the dust. Recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have increased our humidity and pushed a few sprinkles to our area, but the fire danger is beyond extreme.

Enough summer already!

I've referenced "lasts" in prior posts, recognizing their significance in this final year before we launch. Some are big, some are small. Most of them raise a variety of emotions. This last late summer is big, and there are no mixed feelings.

One of the elements of our new lifestyle that I am most looking forward to is the ability to follow the weather - and to move away from the extremes. This is the last yucky September that we are forced to stay in SoCal, and I am so looking forward to having it behind us!

While a lot of fulltimers look forward to their last winter snow, their last months of icy roads - I am grateful that this is our last "extended summer". Next year we can be somewhere that the leaves start changing in September, where the morning dew is a little frosty before the sun is all the way up, where a sunny sky doesn't mean 90 degrees, where the critters are starting to grow a heavier coat, where Fall is everywhere before the end of October.

Yes, I know there will be occasions when we can't move for some reason. There will be "surprise" weather that we can't avoid. The road will not always lead us to seasonal perfection. I know. We will need the air conditioning sometimes. And the heater. But not for months at a time :-)

Fall is a week away. We are under an extreme heat warning for two days. It's awful. And it is the last time. 

Next year at this time we will feel Fall in the air. We will see colors in the leaves. We will have a pumpkin in our shopping cart. We won't miss the watermelon.




Monday, September 8, 2014

Ninja Turtle Tackle Box, Laptop With Doss Operating System, and Not-a-Tent in the Tent Bag

Saturday was the day to start the "almost final" purging of the garage. We aren't touching the tools until the very last round. So really, there isn't a lot of stuff to go through. Not like for those who have been in the same house/garage for many years. Not like those who can't park a car in a two-car garage. Still, most of the stuff in our garage isn't going with us, and sorting is required to determine where it is going.

Bill is a normal (mostly) person, so he doesn't "enjoy" going through boxes of stuff and having to decide the fate of each item. Unlike his weird wife who loves doing that. I do have realistic expectations of others though, so I "share the joy" in small doses. I had purged the majority of my garage stuff already, so Bill agreed to tackle some of his remaining boxes until he didn't feel like doing it anymore. Good plan.

It always takes longer than you think, but we got through most everything in just over two hours. The heat and humidity both rose quickly so we were back in the air-conditioned house by 11 AM.

Garage stuff is different than house stuff. It carries different memories. In this case, mostly outdoor memories and "project" memories. Fishing poles and camp stoves. Canvas tarps and ice chests. Yards of speaker wire and co-ax cable. Computer parts and multiple connectors. An interesting mix of survivor-man and nerd emerged from the boxes - how could I not love this guy?!

Garage stuff

While he sorted and tossed, I emptied a cupboard that we could start re-stocking with items we absolutely know we are taking with us. It felt like another milestone, although having that cupboard wasn't on any list. Most are things that will be stored in bins, like cold weather gloves and life vests, but it was still fun for me to be "loading" the RV :-) .

"Fun" might be a stretch for Bill, but we had a good laugh over some of the items. His "little" boys' plastic lantern and canteen, and the Ninja Turtle tackle box that I considered keeping for myself - hard to believe any of those men were ever that young. He has two "vintage" laptops, and although one no longer has a power cord, the other he was able to power up. A Texas Instruments laptop - very small and weighs more than my 17" Toshiba - with a doss operating system. The default date is January 1, 1989! We both agreed we have room in the storage trunk to keep it - just because.

Our biggest laugh came from one of our kid's (where most of those big laughs come from) treasures. Stored with sleeping bags and an air mattress was a pup tent in a nice carrying bag. Bill didn't recognize it and neither did I, but it was the perfect size to stow in the rig for "visiting" kids. I added it to the cupboard. Later, I thought I should probably make sure it has all the parts to set it up before we just take it with us. When I pulled out the dirty beach towel, shorts, socks and underwear we both cracked up! We quickly figured out which kid and which probable event created this unique combination. So we don't have a cool pup tent - but can you imagine if we had hauled it around and then pulled it out for someone to sleep in??? Or better yet, lent it to a fellow camper out of the goodness of our hearts?

Sometimes when you're going through old memories you make some great new ones!


Monday, September 1, 2014

An Unexpected Family Reunion!

August 30, 2014

Morro Rock from Cayucos Beach

We slept well and took our time getting up and out. After a cup of coffee from the continental breakfact in the lobby, we were on the road a little after 9:00. With no clouds and no breeze it was already much warmer than the day before. 

Other than taking our time returning south, we had no plans for the day. Cayucos was slowly waking up as we drove through. Only a couple folks on the beach with their dogs. I love that place.

Yesterday we did take one other side trip through the little town of Cambria. What a darling place. Dozens and dozens of little shops that would have taken a lot of my time and money in my former life. Two years ago. No regrets or apologies, it was a blast! Just isn't me anymore. Looking at all the wonderful stuff, I repeated out loud "I'm so glad I don't have a house!". Projecting a little, but we now "act" like we don't have a house anymore :-). And the local economy doesn't miss me either - the streets were packed with shoppers.

Today Cambria was also very busy, but not with shoppers. Parade-goers. The main street was closed off, lawn chairs were lined up, and streams of people were walking into town from their vehicles parked on Hwy 1. They were definitely getting a great turn-out for this small-town parade. I love it! We didn't bring chairs with us or we might have stopped to see for ourselves.

Instead, we continued into Morro Bay in search of a dog-friendly breakfast stop. Unlike Cayucos, this turned out to be more of a challenge. On the second pass Bill saw a potential patio and we snagged the last parking spot just around the corner. Yep - pets allowed on the patio! 

A beautiful sunny day at the marina

Not only was the food great, but the view of the marina was wonderful, and our waitress delightful. Turns out she lives in the sailboat docked maybe 20 feet from the little restaurant! Also teaches and writes about scuba diving, working on her third college degree, has traveled extensively - not yet thirty. There are so many ways to live this life :-).

While I may no longer buy like I used to, I still enjoy shopping if the place is special. There is one store in Morro Bay that is high on the top of that list. Simply called The Garden, it is a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces, tastefully stocked with succulents, statuary, chimes, books, and other handcrafted items. Most items are likely available at other places, but it is the "presentation" and artistry of this shop that draws me. The fact that Bill didn't hate it speaks highly of it's uniqueness! Still, we walked out with no purchases and returned to the Jeep.

Checked out the Morro Bay State Park - nice spaces for larger rigs - dry camping - lots of tents. With trees and greenery, it was definitely more desirable than San Simeon, although it lacked the access to a broad span of beach. With the marina and small town within walking distance it is a lovely location.

Still no plans, we drove through San Luis Obispo and headed south on Hwy 101. And then suddenly - plans!

A family reunion in Pismo Beach? In an hour? What???

Unknown to us, the nieces and their kids had made plans (also last minute) to stay in a beachside hotel in Pismo for the big weekend. Bill had seen the post on FB earlier and told them we were leaving Cayucos (this part I didn't know), which prompted a call from Melissa just as we were leaving San Luis Obispo.

They were an hour behind us and we enthusiastically agreed to wait in Pismo Beach to spend some time with them.

You know those crowds we hate? The holiday traffic and congestion we avoid? All there in Pismo. So was the hot sun. We found their hotel and a little piece of shade to hang out for awhile. Everyone was friendly, we made the best of it. Walked around looking for outdoor dining where we could grab a cold drink with Tessa - you know, beachside hot dog joint, picnic tables with umbrellas, beer garden? Nope. A very nice man heard us asking around and sent us to the one dog-friendly place in the town. Just a block down the road. Dozens of people standing in line just to get to the patio...... Nope.

When we learned the wait would be another hour we got back in the Jeep and took a drive up in the hills. We found some great views of the beach and the dunes, saw some very cool houses, and took the back roads through vineyards to Arroyo Grande. It was a fun distraction that got us out of the crowds, and off the hot concrete.

Amazingly we found another parking spot not far from the hotel when we returned, and the girls arrived not long after. They had hit unexpected traffic and were as glad as we were to finally get in the hotel and share some hugs!

It was a short visit, but wonderful to have unexpected time with the big girls and little boys. Their room was right on the beach, just over the path from the sand. They will have a grand time I'm sure!

Sitting on their hotel room patio

Back on the highway with more good music, and a few hours later we were home. We enjoyed our quick get-away, and the itch is somewhat satisfied for a while now. We have another one planned to Laughlin in a couple weeks, and then the RV show in Pomona. Yay!