Saturday, April 7, 2012

California Pacific Coast

Our trip up the California coastline on Thursday was pleasant, with only a little wind and one slowdown for construction. Both sides of US-101 are lined with vineyards and other agriculture.



I don’t know what this truck was carrying, and I don’t think I want to find out.


This was our traffic slowdown.


Vehicles were backed up for more than a mile, all because of this one tractor where the workers seemed to be just standing around taking a break.


We passed lots of artichoke fields, especially around Castroville.


The town has little claim to fame other than as the artichoke center of the world, as I discovered by Googling it – it’s hard to find anything about Castroville that doesn’t focus on artichokes and the Artichoke Festival.


The Giant Artichoke Restaurant is a popular tourist destination. They even built a giant artichoke as part of the building!


We also passed several fields of mustard that are so pretty in the sunshine.


Moss Landing has always been one of my favorite places to visit, with several excellent seafood restaurants and gorgeous ocean/beach views. The power plant’s tall twin smoke stacks are visible from miles around.



Colorful iceplant is blooming and flowers abound in this coastal region.



We reached Watsonville early afternoon and parked in front of Don’s sister-in-law Susan’s home.


Later, we enjoyed dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. It’s nice to be in an area with lots of restaurant and shopping choices, and just to relax and catch up with family. Read more about the family visit in the next blog post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mini-Horses and Aebleskivers

We drove to the Solvang area today. The weather was beautiful until the wind started blowing again in the early evening. Our first stop was the Quicksilver Ranch where miniature horses are bred.


Evidently some of these horses don’t like people very much.


We saw several newborns, including this one that’s just 2 days old!


Her favorite thing to do is to sleep.


And she’s starting to figure out where food comes from. Yes, that’s the general direction to look in…


Mom was obviously protective whenever other horses showed interest. We wondered whether the guy on the other side of the fence was Dad.


Don and Frank were having a serious discussion – what about?


Probably that it was time for lunch. So we went back to Solvang, a lovely and quaint Danish village.


Don remembered a restaurant where we’ve eaten before and found a parking place nearby. We all found yummy things to order and Don, Frank and Gloria shared an order of Aebleskivers as desert. If you’ve never heard of them, they are sort of like pancakes in the shape of a ball, frequently served with raspberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Click  Aebleskivers for one recipe, and you can Google the word and find lots more. They’re way too sweet for me, but the others enjoyed them.

We walked off part of our lunch by walking through shops and enjoying the architecture of this unique village.



Don’s half Swedish, so he searched for traces of his ancestry in the shops. I think he recognized a few of these characters.


Gloria took time out for a little texting.


Don spotted a stork’s nest.


There are lots of interesting buildings, mostly filled with shops, real estate offices, restaurants and hotels.


Upon closer look, you’ll see a Subway sandwich shop and a nail salon.


Of course, there were flower gardens everywhere.



And a horse-drawn trolley.


We enjoyed our tourist outing, and I hope you did as well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vandenberg, Not Atascadero

Monday was a nice day for travel, very little wind, lots of sunshine and traffic wasn’t bad most of the way. We did make one wrong turn when my plan disagreed with the GPS and I tried to go back to my plan – should have followed the GPS. Oh, well. You can’t always trust them. Frank was very patient following me off the freeway while I looked for a place to make a U-turn.

We stopped early in the day at Love’s for diesel ($4.39 was the lowest we could find – ouch!) and I called ahead to the Atascadero Elks Lodge to see if they had room for two RVs for a few days. The nice woman said plenty of room, we’re lonely here – bring your friends! She gave me the menu for dinner and they’d be happy to have us.

I marveled at the number of wineries that have sprung up in this area. I remember when there were so few you could count them on one hand. Now I don’t have enough fingers and toes! The California wine industry seems very healthy even though the state’s overall economy isn’t.




However, the state seems to be spending money on SR-46, widening it and eliminating out some of the valleys.


We arrived at the Atascadero Elks Lodge to find only one RV in the lot with 14 full-hookup sites. Frank and I went inside to check in. However, we were met with bad news – only Elks members could stay in the RV lot, no guests allowed. What happened to “bring your friends?” Oh, she apologized and said she should have said “your Elk member friends.” (Note: many Elks lodges do allow guests with members when space is available. That’s why I didn’t clarify what she meant in our phone conversation.) She gave me a form to fill out and told Frank she recommended an RV park about 10 minutes away. I told her if our friends couldn’t stay we weren’t staying.

Outside in the parking lot we discussed what Plan B would be. We decided to go about 70 miles south to Vandenberg AFB. After calling to be sure there was space, we hit the road again. We got side-by-side sites with full hookups for $20/night with plenty of grass for the two dogs named Shadow to romp in. (If you didn’t know, Frank & Gloria have a Bishon-Shitsu mix female named Shadow, and our Toy Poodle male is also named Shadow. Sometimes we call the female Shadowess.)


The Elks would have been $25, but other parks in the area are listed in the range of $45-70. We figure the Atascadero Elks turned away $150 in RV site income, plus $40 for dinner that night, plus drinks and other meals we might have eaten there. Too bad they won’t accept guests when there’s plenty of space. And we also drove about 45 miles farther than we would have if we’d planned to go to Vandenberg in the first place.

Today, we did a bit of shopping and touring the town of Lompoc, next to the base, as well as the base itself. Later we drove to a lookout point to watch the missile launch of a Delta IV Rocket. You can read more about it here. It was hard to get a good photo, but here’s one of the contrail.


We were among the first to arrive at this lookout point, and we brought chairs to watch the launch comfortably, as did this family.


But a crowd gathered quickly.


When the launch was over, we realized the crowd was even bigger than we thought – cars came out from several other areas all converging on the same narrow road.


Everyone was polite, however, so the traffic jam disappeared very quickly and we headed back to the campground for happy hour.

Tomorrow we plan to play tourist at some nearby places. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I’m Baaaaack!

It’s been a long dry period for this blog, and it’s high time I got back to writing. Thanks to all those faithful readers who have continued to check for a new entry. Just a reminder: you can either Follow or Subscribe and be notified automatically when a new post is published.

Don and I are heading west after spending most of the winter in southern Arizona. A quick review:

We made it to Quartzsite in mid-January in time to join the Escapees Happy Hour group for a few days. Several of us parked our coaches in a big square leaving an open area for the gathering that was held the afternoons of Jan 18-19.



We moved to Boomerville a few days later. The Boomers held the popular Geraldine contest with several ‘beauties’ vying for the 2012 title.


Shadow enjoyed the desert sun on his own personal turf.


Dennis practiced his supervisory skills at the RV Driving School gathering in Quartzsite.


The school was recently purchased by George & Valerie Mayleben, and two cakes celebrated the transfer of ownership, following several pots of chili and accompanying dishes (there always has to be food!).


We solved some of the world’s problems during happy hour discussions and shared potlucks.


Liz & Craig spent some time with us and Shadow enjoyed a little extra attention.


We had a few campfires.


And enjoyed beautiful sunsets.


In February we went to Winter Blast in Lake Havasu City and saw lots of friends, and attended “Ed’s Birthday Party” (really Duane’s – a long story).


It was warm in Yuma in late February where we spent some time on Dick Reed’s lot in the Foothills. His bus was there while Dick drove his car to Auburn for a week, so parking was a bit tight but we made it work and enjoyed some good times.


The Gypsy Gathering Rally was held at the Yuma Fairgrounds in early March. Nick and Terry Russell are dear friends, and their RV rallies are always fun and educational. Here, Judy Rinehimer (CoolJudy) presents T-shirts commemorating Nick’s two highly successful e-books.


The Cactus Beauty Queen contest is a favorite event during the rally.


We went back to Benson for a few days for an appointment with Don’s kidney doctor where he got a clean bill of health. Hurrah! So it was back on the road to North Ranch, an Escapees park near Congress, AZ. Don went for a ride in Dennis’s new Razor.


Bead Week at North Ranch was fun and I improved my jewelry-making techniques.


One of the projects was this Tsunami bracelet. Hope mine turns out as well as the instructor’s.


Cacti were blooming throughout the park, enjoying the sunshine along with us.



Now we’re at Edwards AFB, California, linked up with friends Frank & Gloria King, to go to the Pacific coast and make our way to Lodi for the Western Area Rally for Escapees (WARE).