Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 17-19, 2014

September 17, 2014

This was a day for catching up on all those things we've been wanting/needing to do.  Steve washed and waxed the Jeep, I vacuumed and did some cleaning and laundry, then bathed and groomed Precious.   We also had some time for Steve to nap and for me to sit on the beach alternately  reading and watching the surfers.   It was a good day.
Steve and Corky napping.  

Looking good Precious!

September18, 2014

Happy birthday today to my wonderful daughter, Vanessa.

We had a quiet start to the day, again getting chores done and tending to the dogs.  We left for LA about 1:30 and had a good trip back down the Pacific Coast Highway.  When we reached Santa Monica, we turned onto I-10 (the westernmost end) and were immediately immersed in traffic that was going 10-15 mph.  What a mess!  It took us over an hour to go about 10 miles!    This, I suppose is what it is like to get around in LA.  We finally got off of I-10 and onto an downtown street and into more heavy traffic, but it was at least moving faster than the freeway--maybe 20 mph.  We arrived at the Miracle Mile, or Museum Row as it is also called, and parked in a lot that charges $2.40  per 15 mins. with a max of $19.20!!  Gotta love it here!

At least we were right across the street from where we wanted to be...the La Brea Tar Pits.  What a fascinating place this is!  The first thing we learned is that the tar pits are actually asphalt pits.  Who knew?  The place is a gold mine of Ice Age fossils, and the Page Museum  displays  the most complete skeletal remains of wooly mammoths dire wolves, giant camels, mastodons, and many other extinct species, all of them recovered from the pits.  It seems that the animals would become stuck in the warm asphalt, predators would be attracted to their struggles and also become stuck, etc.  As the asphalt cooled and hardened, the animals would be wonderfully preserved.  For example, there are more than 404 dire wolf skulls displayed in the museum, but they actually have more than 1600 skulls that have been recovered.   This is a wonderful museum, with 2 movies and lots of exhibits.  Of special interest is the fishbowl laboratory where scientists are actually working on finds from the pits.
Extinct bison...larger head and hump than present day.  

Nagele's giant jaguar.  

On the grounds the various pits are fenced off, but very visible to the public.  Pit 91 is a working dig where you can watch the archaeologists actually digging and  cataloging their finds.  The Lake Pit has a display of a mastodon family with one member stuck in the asphalt.  There is still asphalt coming to the surface and methane bubbling up in the lake.  We also saw a film crew working on the grounds, but when I asked I was told that they were just working on "something for the city."  We didn't recognize the actor in the lab coat.
Pit 91
Mastadon family in Lake Pit.  

Film crew on the at the Tar Pits.  
 We spent some time wandering down Wilshire Blvd. before meeting our friends Fred (James) and Joel for dinner at Marie Calendar's.   It was such a lovely reunion.   Fred is a former drama student of mine who is working in the business now, and Joel is one of the funniest comics as well as one of the most spiritual artists I have ever know.   We had such a good time and such a good dinner!  It ended too soon, but at least we had missed the rush hour and the trip home was not as traumatic as as the trip into the city.
Fred and Joel

A happy reunion.  
September 19, 2014

We needed a day to recover from LA traffic, so we took it easy today.  We did find a nice shopping center in Camarillo, then discovered the wonderful Camarillo Premium Outlets, one of the biggest outlet malls I have ever seen.   We found  Nieman-Marcus, Sak's Fifth Ave., Gap, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, North Face, Columbia, Under-Armor, and Crocs outlets among many others.  What fun!   I bought several things, but Steve was strong!

Back at the RV we took the dogs for a walk on the beach and saw sea lions swimming among the surfers (who did not notice them).  We leave for Hemet tomorrow, but will miss this pretty beach and the huge waves breaking over the rocks.

Our big news is that out of all the shows in LA that I requested tickets for, we only had received tickets to THE PRICE IS RIGHT, which we decided to forego.   I was disappointed that I wasn't going to get to see a live show (bucket list) but getting on the wait list for other shows paid off at last.   We got tickets to our very favorite TV show, DANCING WITH THE STARS!  We will have to leave the muster in Hemet on Monday to see the show live, but it will be worth it.   Can't wait!
Look for us Monday night, September 22!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Santa Monica/Oxnard September 16, 2014

September 16, 2014

Since we decided that we needed an easy day, we climbed in the car and drove the 45 or so miles from the base to Santa Monica, traveling along beautiful Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.  As we passed Pepperdine University, we were amazed to see a field of what seemed to be hundreds of American Flags, interspersed here and there with other flags.  Come to find out, this is a yearly event for the University which places on their alumni field 1 flag of the country for each person who died in the terrorist attacks  on 9/11 .  It is a beautiful tribute, and there are various ceremonies held there on September 11 each year. A Pepperdine alumnus, Tom Bennett,  was one of the heroes aboard Flight  United Flight 93   that crashed in Pennsylvania.   What a moving sight it was!

The Highway wound on through many  beach communities and parks.  We were impressed with the amount of access to the beaches that various communities offered to the public.  Malibu was particularly impressive with beautiful homes on both sides of the Highway.  We are sure we know many people who live here, even though they don't know us!

Santa Monica!   Sunset Boulevard!  Wiltshire Drive!   Legendary names for legendary places.  We spent some time at the Santa Monica Pier, checking out the tourist spots, street performers, restaurants, fishermen, ice cream, Pacific Park, and best of all, PEOPLE WATCHING!  It was another tacky tourist thang, but it was fun!
On the Pier. 

Pacific Park on the Pier.  

Venice Beach?   

At the end of the Pier.  
On the return trip, we decided to go into Oxnard to try an "In-n-Out Burger", which we have heard is one of the best burgers in the country.    We thought they were very tasty, but perhaps not as meaty as "5 Guys".  After a quick stop to pick up some things at Albertson's Grocery, we headed back to the base and took the dogs for a nice walk.  We saw lots of succulents growing wild along the road, and of course I dug a couple up and will try to transplant them to Florida.
In-n-Out Burger.
Stolen succulent headed for Florida.  

After a happy hour (miss you Bonnie & Larry) we walked the dogs on the beach again then settled down to see who will be eliminated from DWTS tonight.    
California beach dogs.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 14-15, Point Mugu/Reagan Library

September 14, 2014

This morning Bonnie and Larry headed south for early arrival in Hemet, CA for the muster.  We will meet up with them again on the 20th.   We headed south on US 101 towards Los Angeles, Steve's favorite place (not).  It was a pretty ride- along the coast sometimes and up in the mountains sometimes.  
Along Highway 101
One interesting historical note about US 101.   At fairly regular intervals along the highway, we noticed what appeared to be bells hung on a shepherd's hook.  Investigation revealed that they are indeed bells. The bells have been in place since the early part of the century to mark the original route of "El Camino Real" from San Diego to Sonoma. The 700-mile-long El Camino Real linked California's 21 missions, which were founded by Father Junipero Serra, and spaced one day's journey apart by horse.  
One of the mission bells along the highway. 

We arrived mid-afternoon at Point Mugu Naval Station where we are now camped in view of the beach with full hook-ups.   We will stay here several days.  We had a nice walk on the beach with the dogs and then a quiet evening.  

Steve and dogs on our campground beach. 

September 15, 2014

Today we went up into the Simi Valley to tour the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum, another of the highlights of this trip.  This place is so beautiful, complete, and well laid out that it is a joy to wander through.  This was my first visit to a presidential library, and I was surprised to find that it is not a library in the usual sense.  It is an archive and museum preserving the written record and physical history of the president, and it was very impressive.  This library opened in 1991 and President Reagan was buried here in 2004.  His memorial is on the mountaintop with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the Pacific Ocean.
The entrance to the Reagan Library. 
The view from the Reagan  Memorial. 

President Reagan's life from childhood, to college, to the glamor of Hollywood, all the way to governor of California and ultimately to the presidency of the United States is chronicled here.  In the 24 galleries there are fascinating artifacts, historical documents, and interactive displays that tell the story of Ronald Reagan.  You can enter a full-sized replica of the Oval Office and the actual Air force One which served Regan and 6 other presidents.  You can stroll through a replica of the White House Rose Garden and touch a major piece of the Berlin Wall.
The Oval Office
Steve makes an inaugural speech.  

Air Force One

An actual piece of the Berlin Wall.  

Reagan's Presidential Limosine.  

I must interject a moment of political thought here when I say that upon reflection my visit to this wonderful place was a bit depressing.  When I compare America's progress from 1980-1989 to what is happening here today, it makes  me sad.  Somehow we have lost the confidence and optimism of those long ago days.

Back at the campground, we took the dogs for a walk on the beach and are now happily awaiting the season premier of Dancing With The Stars!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monterey September 12-13, 2014

September 12, 2014

The trip from Napa to King City was not a particularly long one, but U.S. Rt. 101 was very bumpy and we all felt like our fillings were loose by the time we got parked in the Cuidad del Rey RV Park on Wild Horse Road.  I have to admit that we were a little apprehensive as we checked in.   The park is located on a feeder road next to the highway with a general store, a cafe, and a Valero Truck Stop beside the campground, and it is all surrounded by huge agriculture fields and dust.  Most of the campsites were occupied by migrant workers.  However, the sites were adequate, the people were nice, and we had a passable dinner at the cafe, so all was well.

September 13, 2014
We set out this morning for Monterey, and had a great time there.  After a stop at the Visitor's Center, where I was given a lecture on the difference between seals (only here in the spring) and sea lions which are here year round and not much admired by the lady behind the desk.  She also assured me that she would never go to Florida because she has been told that the place is not only extremely hot but also crawling with alligators and HUGE bugs.  Such a nice impression she made!

Our first stop was at the Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey which was built in 1845 to service the many trading vessels that came to what was then the major port on the Pacific.  The Wharf also served the booming whaling industry, but it was the tiny sardine that made Monterey  famous.  John Steinbeck immortalized the sardine canning factories here in his novel, CANNERY ROW.   Today the Wharf has sport fishing, sightseeing, sailing, whale watching, live theatre, a variety of shops selling the creations of local artisans, and world class restaurants.  Of course there are also numerous sea lions, gulls, and pelicans too.
Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey
The Wharf from the Sea Walk.  

Sea lions sleeping.

Sea lions synchronized swimming.  

Sea lion on a mooring buoy.  
We were impressed by the restaurants that tried to outdo each other with beautiful displays of their food specialities  by their front doors.  Many of them also offer free small cups of their clam chowder, each claiming to be the best on the Wharf.  We had lunch at Dominico's on the Wharf where we had a great view of the boats and sea lions, but although the food was attractively displayed, our fish and chips were only mediocre.  Bonnie, however, claimed that her oysters Rockerfeller were great.  

Strolling on the Wharf.

Lunch at Dominico's
After wandering about the Wharf for a while and seeing Cannery Row, which is very commercialized, we headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway for Carmel By The Sea.  I love this charming little town with its European atmosphere, quaint houses, and beautiful parks and beaches, but oh my, the traffic on this sunny Saturday afternoon was atrocious!

Traveling south on the Highway, we were overwhelmed by the beautiful views of the Santa Lucia Mountains plunging down to meet the sea.  The rocks and cliffs on this serpentine highway are beyond description.   It has to be one of the most beautiful roads in America.
Along the Big Sur Highway

 Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we stopped at an overlook and out in the ocean a pod of whales was feeding with hundreds of birds flying above them!  It was so exciting to watch these huge animals rising out of the water then diving and blowing spume through their blow-holes!  We were absolutely entranced!   Unfortunately, about a million other people also stopped to see the whales and soon there was a monumental traffic jam heading south as far as the eye could see both in front of us and behind us.  Steve eventually managed to get the car turned around, and we headed back to the RV's as our dogs had been home a long, long time.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Napa Valley, CA September 9-11, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We got started on our way to Napa Valley about 9:30 this morning and had a fairly easy trip except for some very bumpy sections on  California  I-80.  We arrived in Napa and are settled into the Napa Valley Expo Center campground, which is very nice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We headed up the wine trail this morning and enjoyed the beautiful views of the vineyards and mountains.   The first few wineries we stopped at were either tasting by appointment only or had a rather pricey fee for tasting, so we moved along.  We stopped at the V. Sattui Winery, one of the oldest in Napa Valley.  It was started in 1885 in San Francisco and moved to its present location in 1975.  It is very reminiscent of Italy, and the wines were good too, especially one called Gamay Rouge.  We had a good time tasting there.

Tasting at V. Sattui.
Bonnie found a good wine glass. 

An antique wine press at V. Sattui.  

Happy tasters at Sutter Home.  
At the Sutter Home Winery, we tried some varieties that are not sold in stores, only at the winery, such as Bubbly Pink Moscato, Gewrutztraminer, and Sweet Red.    Yum!  The folks there were very nice and helpful, and the gift shop was interesting to say the least.

We stopped in St. Helena so that I could revisit The St. Helena Oil Company where I had bought some wonderful dirty martini olive juice the last time I was out here.  Naturally I bought some more. It is such a quaint shop with all kinds of oil and vinegar and antiques--it is an interesting stop.   We had lunch at the Model Bakery in town, and Steve had a good time shopping at Steve's Ace Hardware.

In the afternoon we visited the Beringer Winery and explored the beautiful Rhine House which is the centerpiece of the estate.  This 17 room mansion  has beautiful exterior stonework, stained-glass windows, and  interior wood paneling.  It is a wonderful example of classic ornate Victorian architecture with many gables, turrets, and ornaments.   The grounds are equally beautiful, with many varieties of flowering plants, fountains, topiary, and a grove of redwoods and sequoias.  It was getting late, so we opted not to do a tasting there, but the mansion was well worth visiting.
Rhine House entryway

Beringer vineyard. 
Rhine House at Beringer Winery.  

 Thursday, September 11, 2014.    NEVER FORGET 9/11!!

Our main goal today was to explore the Castillo de Amorosa in Calistoga, and what an experience it was!   This is a replica of a 13th century Tuscan castle, and once again I felt like I was back in Italy.  It was built by hand, using  old world masonry, ironwork, and woodwork techniques .  The castle has 107 rooms on 8 floors (4 above and 4 below ground) and features a moat, drawbridge, defensive towers, an interior courtyard, a chapel, a torture chamber, and a great hall complete with hand painted frescoes, a 500 year old fireplace, and a coffered ceiling.   Beneath the castle are a 2-acre barrel cellar and tasting rooms for the wine which is sold only at the castle.  The tasting was included in the tour price and was excellent.  Our wine steward was a lovely young French girl who is interning here.  Since Steve did not participate in the tasting, I had to sample my 6 wines plus 6 for him!   Such a sacrifice on my    The pino grigio was the best I have ever tasted, and the Simpatico and Gioia were so yummy that we had to buy some.   This tour and tasting was definitely a highlight of the trip.

In the south tower.  
View from the castle loggia.  

Wine casks.  

Waiting at the well.  

My favorite pino grigio - at the castle.  
 We decided to return to V. Sattui Winery for our lunch since they have such a wonderful selection of cheeses and deli items and a lovely picnic area.  We bought cheese, bread, Gamay Rouge, chips, and a wonderful Italian item called arroncini which I love and ate with great relish since I haven't had it anywhere since I left Italy.   We enjoyed our picnic on the shady grounds of the winery while admiring the vineyards and the beautiful countryside.   It was a great day!

Picnic at V. Sattui.