Merikay and her son, Gil, at Death Valley National Park 2017

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Catch-up Part 2 - RV trip to Death Valley and a Christmas Visit

The best part of our Christmas season this year was a visit from our son Gil. 

We last saw him four years ago when he went first to Thailand and then to Myanmar (Burma) to start a new life teaching English as a second language. You can read more about him and his work on his blog at Leaving Amerika. He posts a lot of videos about this travels, and the above link gets you to the first of several he did on his trip to visit us.

He came to the USA for two weeks. The plan was that he would spend the first four days with us, and then we all would go down to San Diego to spend a week with his sister Deidre and her family. We decided it would be fun to take a quick RV trip to Death Valley while he was with just us. 

Since we were going to pick him up at LAX  in early evening, I decided it might be good to stay at a park closer to Los Angles, and leave the Alfa there while we drove to the Airport. I choose Prado Regional Park, because we had been there before, and it is East of LA so we could avoid heavy traffic when we took off for Death Valley the next morning. It really worked out well!

We dry camped at Death Valley for three nights. Gil used the pull out couch-bed, and it seemed OK.

Since this was only 12 days after my surgery, I had my arm in a sling, and could not even put my hand through a sleeve. I put together this highly fashionable get up with clothes from Goodwill. The underdress is a sort of sundress with an elastic top, that I could put on from the bottom up and leave the shoulder strap off. I was able to find two, so I could alternate and toss one in the wash while wearing the other. They were quite short, so modesty required my wearing long pants. The shirt is a 2XL man's shirt that was big enough to button over my sling. I also had a big black sweater.  

Craig, Gil, and Merikay in Death Valley

The weather in the Valley was perfect! Sunny and warm. We enjoyed seeing the geological sites and having a great family visit.

It was nice to have Gil to ourselves for a few days before  Christmas.

We took a short, easy hike through Golden Canyon. The rock formations are amazing.

Artists Pallet as seen from Artists Drive

Craig and I have been there before, but were happy to return a second time.

Not Bee Hives

On our second day we took a ride to a farther place in the park to see the Charcoal Kilns.

On Friday, December 15, we drove back to Jojoba Hills, and spent one night there. This gave us a chance to show Gil our spot there and the nice features of the park. 

On Saturday, we left the Alfa there and drove down to our daughter's home where we had an early holiday celebration on Sunday. This was because they were all going off to New Zealand at the end of the week.  [From Craig] This picture and the next 3 were the first ones taken with my new Nikon D850, which was delivered to Deidre's a few days before.


Deidre is always a great cook. In the past I have been able to help out with meals preparation when we visit, but my handicap sidelined me this time.

Gil doesn't cook much at home, but was quite willing to lend a hand in the kitchen.

We have always enjoyed playing games on holidays. This was a word game that our English-teacher son was checking out as a possible game to take back for his classroom. (Craig was the fourth player and the photographer.)

The days passed quickly, with warm family time. Soon it was time for them all to leave. For us the date of December 25 is not important. It is the family get together for the holiday that has meaning, and we did that on the 17th and all week!

We did not go back to Jojoba when everyone left. Instead we stayed and took care of their golden retriever Sandy. 

We tried to go to the San Diego Zoo one afternoon (without the dog), but were turned off by the crowd and the inability to find a parking space in the Zoo's parking lot!

On another day we went over to Balboa Park and walked through the Museum of Man. We have visited the park many times and always find something different to enjoy.

The roots of a tree at Balboa Park

Of course we took the dog for evening walks down to the cliffs. It is such a beautiful place!

Well, this ends my catch up post. 

One last picture
was taken with my almost-new camera!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Catch Up, Part One: Merikay's surgery and more

It has been almost four months since I have posted to this blog. 

I started writing this post in early December, but got bogged down because I was, for about five weeks, a one handed person. 

You see, in August while in Alaska, I took quite a fall and hurt my left shoulder.  There followed a four month period of waiting for it to get better, and treating it at a walk-in clinic in Alaska, X-rays in San Diego, physical therapy, two cortisone shots, and finally an MRI. I ended up getting surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and damaged tendon. 

The first few days after surgery were tough, but since then the biggest bother has been the inability to use my arm. I had plenty of discomfort, and continued to wear a sling until the first week in January when I saw the surgeon again.

I started Physical Therapy in Temecula on January 9. I asked Craig to go with me so he can be my 'Nurse Ratchet' and push me to do all that I should.  I know without help, I'm likely to wimp out on it.

Except for that, and taking care of some other things like getting the Alfa body work done, it has been a pretty quiet autumn. We stayed with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons in San Diego while the work was done. 

Jeremy (17) and Dylan (14)

During that stay, our older grandson, Jeremy, had his Eagle Scout final review. He had put it off until this fall so that we could share it with him.

We are very proud of him.

Our daughter's home is only two blocks from the cliffs, and we enjoy walking there when visiting. It is a beautiful place to get to know my new camera, a Sony RX10 iii.

There are often surfers out below the cliffs. 

This shot is with the widest angle setting, which the camera comes up on when first turned on.

I tried out the zoom here. 

We went down to the tide pools below the cliffs.

There I did another test of the lens range  to see how it did on capturing this very small crab and whatever those things are in the hole behind him.
I think I am going to have fun with it this summer after my shoulder gets better and I can hold a camera again. But for now, I am posting some others I took before the surgery!

We picked up the Alfa and settled back into our spot at Jojoba Hills on October 11. 

Speaking of our spot, our location is both good and bad.

Having an unshaded western exposure is not good in summer or hot weather because the sun  really heats up the coach and makes it harder for the AC to keep up.

But in cool weather, the same exposure warms the coach in the afternoons and also give us a great vantage point to see the most spectacular sunsets.

I've had some fun playing with reflections:

And with seeing silhouettes:

This weather vane is on top of a neighbors shed. I had not noticed it before the evening I went out with my camera to shoot the sunset.

Before my surgery on November 29, Craig and I started a big project on the Alfa: the removal of the decals on her sides and back. 

For my non-rving friends:  RVs that are colored, with elaborate swirling patterns, have "full body paint." Some white RVs also are fully painted, but some, like ours have just the base white of the fiberglass with the swooshes and stripes applied as decals. Over the years, the decals fade and crack. (See the window reflection picture above.)

Removal is not an easy job. Craig first removed the colored layer of the decals using a heat gun, a scraper, and for some, a 3M Stripe Off Wheel. Then we both spent many hours removing the glue left behind by rubbing and wiping with paper towels saturated with acetone. We are not quite finished with that step because we ran out of work time before my surgery. I had been able to help then, even though it hurt a bit, but now, after surgery, it will be a long time before I can reach and rub again. So Craig will have to finish the job by himself.  

When all of the glue has been removed, there will still be shiny shadows where the decals had been.

It is hard to see them in this picture, but if you look just forward from the back windows you can see where a decal had been.

 We are not sure what the next step will be. We are considering having new swooshes and stripes painted on, or having a full body paint job done, or just leaving it all white and getting it buffed and re jell-coated. For now just finishing the glue removal is a big enough job to  think about!

To be continued:  

 I promise

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Made our first 2018 Camping Reservation Today

Craig was not happy spending the entire winter at Jojoba Hills last year. Of course we broke it up by going to San Diego for the holidays and for several weekends over the months, but he really seemed to get a bit of "hitch itch."

So today when I saw a mention of the February Winter Blast Pyrotechnic Festival  in Lake Havasu City, AZ on the Alfa Owners Facebook page, I went ahead and made our  reservation  to camp at the Lake Havasu City Rodeo Grounds right away. 

Image from the Web
We both enjoy fireworks. Lake Havasu City is less than 300 miles, a one day drive, from Jojoba, and although it will be all dry camping, the cost of $150 for the week can't be beat.

Are you thinking about what you want to do next year yet? 
Have you made any reservations?  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A visit with Judy Bell

We are in a bit of a "holding pattern" while waiting for our Alfa to be repaired. We are lucky to be able to stay at our daughter's beautiful home in San Diego.

On Monday we took a ride up to Jojoba Hills, and while there stopped to say hello to our friend Judy Bell. Many of you will remember her blog "Travels with Emma." Judy became to be known as "the bird lady" because she volunteered at wildlife refuges and because she took wonderful bird pictures.

While we were there, Craig snapped a few pictures of some of the birds visiting the feeder she has out, using our new Sony RX10.

Love the new camera!

Judy had a few health problems this summer, but seems to be doing well. 

Emma is presently living with Judy's brother, who has a large fenced yard and several other dogs. 

We look forward to seeing more of Judy this winter.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kanarra Creek Trail

After our maintenance work in Salt Lake City, we are working our way southwest towards California. On Wednesday we stopped to take a hike in Utah's beautiful red rock county. I took a blogger's day off and gave Craig the job of writing this post.

[From Craig] On Wednesday we went hiking on Kanarra Creek Trail. At the start we paid $10 to park in a city lot. 

Because a popular social medium shows a blog post's first image in an announcement, I'm putting my favorite image here, though it's way out of order.

The handsome red rock in the middle, will be seen in its proper place in the time sequence.

We discussed the fact that the trail was rated "moderate" before deciding to try it. At the start of the trail, this sign "upped the ante":

but we decided to "go for it".

The trail climbs fairly steeply at the start. We noticed that a farmer down in the valley has planted a tree line to protect his field from wind, but the trees haven't yet grown into a full wind-break. Maybe we'll come back to see them in 20 years. 😉

We crossed the creek several times. I kept my boots dry by picking my way over rocks and downed trees, but Merikay took the easier route by walking through the water.

But most of the trail that we hiked was fairly dry.

Sharp-looking rocks came in various colors.

This is where the initial image of Merikay posing on the trail should be, followed by the following closeup of the big red rock in the center of that picture.

Shortly after taking this image, we came to a point at which the trail got quite difficult, and Merikay's shoulder injury (from Talkeetna Alaska) wouldn't let her cope with the hard part. So we sadly turned around, and this post doesn't include any images of the waterfalls and slot canyon that were still ahead. The lady who ran our campground later said we should have bypassed that hard part of the trail by simply walking up the creek. Maybe we can remember such tactics in future hikes...

As we hiked back, Merikay noticed a jet plane making a contrail above. She zoomed her new camera and took several shots. This is the best of them:

This may have been a plane that had recently taken off from Salt Lake City, but it was more than halfway up to cruising altitude. 

Not to be outdone in the telephoto category, I borrowed her camera and zoomed in on this horse grazing, down in the town of Kanarraville. Both of these images are at the camera's maximum zoom of 600 mm (35mm equivalent).

By the end of our hike, Merikay seemed to have gotten over her disappointment at having to turn back from our goal of the first waterfall.

Just wait 'till she gets that shoulder treated!  🙂🙂

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trying Out My New Camera on Antelope Island

Because we were staying in a large commercial RV park for over a week in Salt Lake City, we were able to order my new camera, a Sony RX10, on the internet with confidence it would arrive before we moved on. 

It was delivered on Friday, so on Saturday we drove out to Antelope Island State Park to experiment and see what it could do.

I started with a few simple flower close ups. There were a lot of Black-Eyed Susans along the park roads.

We went to the Garr Ranch site in the park. There was a lot of old farm machinery scattered about. Craig took this picture using my old Sony RX100. He says it looked like a giant mouse trap.

I started to snap away, concentrating on the parts and shapes more than the complete machines.


Farm device designed by Salvador Dali

Jayhawk Hay Stacker

Beyond the ranch location there is much open grassland where Antelope Island's 500 or so bison range. 

We saw several small groups that were recognizable as bison, but much too far away to photograph with my old camera.

These three were out for a walk on the very large sandy beach. 

The 600 mm zoom showed the texture of his shaggy coat.

This pair was pretty close to the road, but still far enough that it was safe for me to get out of the Jeep to get his picture. He was using the large rock behind him to get a good rub.

If he could talk, I think he would have said how good the scratching felt!

He then moved away a bit and began to graze.

Fantastic detail! You can see the grass in his mouth.

After shooting about 50 bison pictures, we went on up to the Visitors Center and found a place to have our little picnic lunch.

I am very pleased with my new camera. I have a lot to learn about how best to use it. When we bought my Sony RX100 about five years ago, I wanted a small camera that I would be comfortable carrying on hikes. It served me well, but we are doing less difficult hiking, and the RX10 is really fairly light, and I expect to have fun with it this winter.

Finally, this is a view of the Great Salt Lake from the Visitors Center. The road is the seven mile causeway linking its East shore with the Island.  That's a birdhouse to the right.

If you are ever in Salt Lake City, Antelope Island State Park is good for a day trip, and a place to see the lake. 

Note: Go on a cool day, there is no shade. Also you can swim in the lake if you want to (you can't sink).