Sunday, April 13, 2014

California Coast - Part 2

We know the central coast of California well. Twenty-four years ago, for Arch's 50th birthday, we bicycled from San Francisco to Santa Barbara down US 1 and we drove it several times. But US 101 thru California's farming valleys was new to us so that is the route we took from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, with side trips out to the coast. Also, since US 1 is narrow, with tight turns, few shoulders and steep climbs it seemed the prudent thing to do. Considering we are 58 feet long when you combine the length of the Adventure Bus, the dolly and our car.

First stop, after we left our friends and family in LA, was Oso Rancho camping preserve, a Thousand Trails Resort, located in a very remote spot north of Santa Barbara:
Our campground is down in those mountains somewhere!
After driving 7 miles on a twisty, narrow, hilly road we arrived:
It was indeed a ranch, with horses, cowboys, a chuckwagon for Sunday breakfast, etc. But it had no Verizion service which meant, to us, no telephone or internet. And there was no TV reception, which meant, to Arch, disaster.

We planned to stay for 4 days but stayed only two then headed out to the coast at Morro Bay, famous for its beach and big volcanic rock in the ocean:
The rock is huge and looms over the town
They call it America's Gibraltar but ,we've visited Gibraltar, and I would say it is about 1/10 the size. While in Morro Bay we drove up US 1 (The Pacific Coast Highway) partway through Big Sur. Such spectacular country:
On the way we saw a large group of people stopped at a look-off. So we stopped to see what was happening and this is what we saw:
The beach was covered with sea lions. Apparently this is normal for this time of year. They come ashore to rest and for the females, to have their babies.

After this stop we moved on to another Thousand Trails Campground in Morgan City, about 80 miles south of San Francisco. The location was wonderful, about 20 miles from the coast, in wine country. But, again - it was situated in the mountains so no TV and very little internet or cell service. So, because we loved the location and as we were getting a little Verizion service we stayed for 4 days. For those of you with TT memberships we would not recommend this park - it was not very well run, was dirty and a lot of the tenants appeared to be homeless people.

From here we headed out to the coast to visit Monterey and drive the Seventeen Mile Drive around the Monterey Peninsula. On the way we drove through huge fields full of artichokes waiting to be harvested:
Can you see the artichokes - I've marked a few with red Xs
Artichokes are a member of the thistle family and grow on very strong stems.You eat only the meat on the base of the leaves and the choke. (see recipe below)

So the first stop was a great vegetable stand along the way to buy fresh artichoke:
This market sold every veggie you could imagine. And lots of artichokes:
and at a great price
Then it was on to Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey for fresh crab:
Then a drive around the Monterey Peninsula with a stop at Pebble Beach.
That is the 18th hole behind Arch
Again, no golf for us. Cost was $485 a round + $85 + tip for a caddy. Times 2 - that is almost enough gas money to get us almost back to Nova Scotia.

So home we went to have our artichoke and crab, accompanied by some good California wine, for supper

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

4 large artichokes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 fresh black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs, dried
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup grated Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyere
1 cup crabmeat (you can used canned)

Directions

Trim and clean the artichokes by removing the lower 3 to 4 rows of outer leaves, and leaving 1/2-inch of stem. Trim the sharp tips off the remaining leaves with kitchen shears. Rub with half a lemon to prevent browning.

In large pot, boil or steam artichokes 30 to 45 minutes, or until knife easily enters the base of the leaves. Remove from pan and let cool.,

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In medium mixing bowl, mix mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. When smooth, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix in bread crumbs, tarragon, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, cheese and crab meat until well blended.

Remove centre leaves from cooled artichokes, and scoop out prickly choke inside, leaving the heart intact. Generously fill artichoke with crabmeat mixture (approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons per artichoke - I like to pack a lot in), until a small mound is present in each, Drizzle each lightly with olive oil.

Bake stuffed artichokes for 20 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Or, we wrap these in foil and heat on the barbecue (grill to my US readers) for about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

To eat: Remove the artichoke leaves, one at a time and dip them in the crab mixture. Then turn the leaf so the hollow side is against your lower teeth and scrape off the crab filling and the bit of artihoke meat that is there. Discard the remainder of the leaf. When you get to the centre and all the leaves have been scraped clean you will find the artichoke heart. This is the best part – cut it into pieces and enjoy – I hope you saved some of the crab filling to eat with it :).

And finally, a little smile:
As seen in Monterey Bay
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The California Coast - Part 1

I think the easiest way to catch you up on our travels in California is to do it in three parts as we moved up the coast.

About a month ago we joined the Thousand Trails Campground network by purchasing the southwest and northwest divisions for $545 - a really good deal that we hoped would cover our overnight costs as we made our way back to Canada. We used it to stay 4 nights in Palm Desert and were very pleased. The RV spots were small but the resort was well run and well located for what we wanted to do and see.

Then we moved over to Menifee, south of LA and closer to the coast. Again a excellent location halfway between LA and San Diego in the heart of California's wine country. From here we set out to explore the area around San Diego.

The city was pretty confusing - lots of people and a lot of construction along the waterfront area. so we found an interesting spot along the waterfront for lunch:
 And then headed north along the coast. First stop:
Located in La Jolla, this course is the home of the Farmer's Insurance PGA Tournament each year. It is a public course owned by the city and only costs $30 for residents of the county to play. But $150 a round for visitors, so we moved on. But not before taking he requisite photo under the Rolex sign:
This area of the California coast is very built up with beach access limited to laneways and narrow streets that run between homes and businesses. We stopped to check out several beaches - all very beautiful, but the water was a little cold for swimming. Great for the surfers tho:
Our final stop at the day was at Rockin' Baja Lobster Coastal Cantina in Oceanside - a spot highly recommended by Steve and Kay whom we met in Yuma. It was indeed a rockin', happenin' place:
The food - sort of Mexican seafood - was excellent. And there was an all-you-can-eat salsa bar at no charge. A choice of 7 different salsas and warm tortilla chips. Yummy.
And a great vegetable sizzler dish that I really appreciated:
An interesting bathroom is always a great feature in a restaurant. I got a kick out of the little signs posted in the lady's. These two are a sample:


Thanks Steve and Kay for the great recommendation. Incidentally, on our last night in Yuma we went to a neat little restaurant there - Juliana's Patio Cafe - also recommended by Kay - she has great taste in restaurants. Friends Becky and Lonnie and, of course, Steve and Kay joined us that night:
Steve (standing) Kay, Lonnie, Becky
Safe travels home folks.

And here is a recipe for a great homemade salsa from my favourite recipe source: Chef Michael Smith. I really recommend his cookbooks if you like simple delicious food that is easy to prepare in a RV kitchen.

spicy fresh salsa

A jar packed with freshly tossed salsa, full of juicy ripe tomatoes and aromatic flavours, is easy to make and easy to enjoy. Sweet tomatoes, sour limes, aromatic herbs, salt and spicy pepper all balance each other in a vibrant harmony of tastes. A good salsa doesn’t ruin your day with too much spicy heat; it brightens it with just enough.
Serving: Makes about 2 cups

ingredients

2 or 3 ripe local tomatoes, finely chopped
1 chili pepper, minced
1 bunch chopped cilantro
1 or 2 limes, zest and juice
a big splash best olive oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a sprinkle or two salt 

instructions

Toss everything together in a bowl until well combined.

Garden tomatoes have the most flavour—when they’re in season. If they’re not, look for organic or vine-attached types, take them home and ripen them for a few days on a sunny windowsill. In a pinch, a small can of whole tomatoes is more flavourful than a few hard unripe ones and will add lots of deep, rich tomato flavour.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three Days in LA

Actually we were in Pasadena and Arcadia. Visiting family and friends. What a grand time we had. Our visit started when we arrived at Arch's cousin's home in Arcadia at 11 am on Sat March 15. I told the story of Arch and his "lost" cousins lat year when we visited the  Florida Chisholms for Christmas and then returned to meet Tom and Carol Chisholm from California when they visited Florida last March. It was great to see Tom and Carole again in their home environment. We parked in their driveway for the night and sadly have no pictures of the Adventure Bus there. Arch thought I took a photo and he thought I did. *Sigh*.

Shortly after we arrived Maureen and Butch arrived. Butch is Tom and Jim's brother and we were thrilled to meet them.
Butch and Arch
I think Butch looks a lot like Arch's Dad. What do you think Grace?

And we headed to Santa Anita Raceway ( just around the corner from Tom and Carole's) for lunch and an afternoon at the races.

Front to back: Tom, Carole, Anne, Arch (with Carole's shamrock in his face) Butch and Maureen.
We celebrated St Patrick's Day a little early as you can see. Unfortunately, the luck of the Irish was not with us and there were no winners in this crew. But we had fun.

Then we headed back to Carole and Tom's for traditional corned beef and cabbage:

And Maureen's birthday:

All in all a great day.

The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, prepared by Tom, and then moved the Adventure Bus to the next town - Pasadena - to visit our college classmate and good friend Joanne and he husband Brett Lamberty for two days. Tom led the way so we would not get lost and very soon we were parked on the street in front of Joanne and Brett's home:


Joanne went to the City of Pasadena and got a permit so we could park there for two days. What a good friend. It was so convenient. We could sleep in our own bed and, most importantly, not leave Princess on her own, and still enjoy a wonderful visit with Joanne and Brett.

We spent the afternoon touring Pasadena and enjoying time in Huntington Gardens, where Joanne and Brett are members
This photo was taken in the Japanese Garden, one of about 6 on the estate.
Then Joanne made a wonderful "Chicago-style" deep dish pizza for supper ( Brett is from Chicago and Joanne lived there for a while). then it was off to bed.

The next morning Tom picked us up and we returned to Tom and Carole's to have brunch with them and Jim and Judy, the Florida Chisholms, who were visiting assorted family and friends in California, Arizona and Nevada for the week. It was great to see them again.
From left, Jim, Tom and Arch
Front Row, from left: Judy and Carole. Back row from left: Arch, Anne, Jim and Tom. Thanks for the photo, Tom
Then it was back to Joanne and Brett's just in time for a late afternoon nap before Joanne and Brett treated us to dinner out at a fun and funky Italian restaurant in Pasadena -I cannot believe we forgot to take a photo but we did :(

The next morning we enjoyed some of Joanne's homemade muffins and fruit for breakfast before saying good by for now (we will see them again at our 50th - 50, can you believe it classmates???!- reunion gathering of our class in Montreal in October). We left with a goody bag of muffins which were gone the next day.
Brett and Joanne in front of their lovely home in Pasadena
And we are off. Time to point the Adventure Bus north and head back to Canada. we will cross the border in BC around April 20. (Thanks for the photo, Joanne)
Thank you so much Tom and Carole and Joanne and Brett for making our visit to LA so memorable. And thanks to Butch and Maureen for driving an hour or more from their home to join us. And Jim and Judy - it was so great to see you again - looking forward to connecting in Florida next winter.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

More Art in the Desert

We were exploring Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California when suddenly some amazing metal sculptures loomed before us.

It turned out they were the work of Ricardo Breceda.

Born in Durango Mexico, Ricardo has lived in California for about 25 years. He has been creating his metal animal kingdom, since the release of the movie Jurassic Park III.

His daughter's enthusiasm over dinosaurs sparked his interest in the creation of these prehistoric beasts. What started as a hobby quickly became a passion to transform metal into incredible life like creations. Since then Ricardo has become a well known sculptor / designer.

Ricardo eventually encountered Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs. Dennis had the vision of using his land as an enormous outdoor gallery, home to Breceda's Artwork.

There are now roughly 130 Breceda sculptures in the Borrego Valley.

You can pick up a detailed map to the scuptures at many locations around town. The full story of how Borrego Springs became home to an extensive collection of outdoor art is told in the book "Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist."

The art is amazing. Here a just a few examples.

There was a field of horses. You can see more in the distance
The size and detail was amazing
So I couldn't show you just one
And this eagle with its prey is wonderful. So much detail.
I loved this one. Amazing how he captured the tenderness between mother and baby in metal.
Ohhhh Vicious!!
This wonderful dragon appeared in and out of the desert - even crossing the road.
It is hard to believe that this was made with some pieces of metal and a blow torch.
You can see many more images of these sculptures here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slab City

When we were at the top of Salvation Mountain (I took the back path up - it was not too steep) we could see a lot of RVs parked in the desert:
This in Slab City, or, as it is frequently called "The Slabs".
The back story of Slab City is this:

During the 2nd World War the US Air Force established a base here. At the end of the war the base was declared extra to their needs and they offered to return the land to the county for the sum of $2. But. as with all abandoned military properties, the land was contaminated with all sorts of unwanted stuff that would cost millions to clean up. So the county said "no thanks". As did the state. And so the Air Force simply removed their equipment and buildings and left. Leaving many vacant concrete slabs scattered around the desert.

Eventually boondocking snowbirds discovered this area with the slabs perfect to park on. And for many years it served as the winter home for many northerners escaping winter's fury. As well as free living hippies and other folks escaping a conventional life.

However, as with all areas that are occupied by many people with no controls, problems started to crop up. As no governing body would take responsibility for the area it has no services (electric, water, sewer, garbage disposal, etc) and is self governed with no law enforcement. The nearby police departments do not enter the area thus it is ruled by vigilante justice.

It is, at times, a scary place, so many snowbirds stopped returning and the rest moved away from the core area of the slabs and into the suburbs, so to speak. So now, as with many Canadian and American cities, the core has become run down and scattered with garbage. But there is a core group of interesting folks who are trying to "revitalize" the place - on their own terms.

As we drove into Slab City we passed an empty "Welcome Centre:
Lots of the garbage was collected by various people and turned into interesting pieces of art. I particularly liked this truck:
The folks at Salvation Mountain told us to go to the Internet Cafe and talk to Rob:
Internet Cafe
 The owner, Rob, was an interesting character who traded an old truck for the cafe. Rob does not sell coffee or internet service for money but barters for things that he needs. Including a lot of marijuana. He also has a donation box. Most of the tables and chairs are repurposed items and scattered around the property.

As we were leaving the cafe we bumped into a woman - Hazel- from Halifax. She saw out car licence plate. She lives next door to the cafe and dedicates her time to arranging for the many free-running dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered. She has an arrangement with a local vet to do the work for a very low price, which she funds by collecting cans and bottles. And, she also has a donation box. Once a month, she picks up the animals from their owners, takes them to the vet to be spayed or neutered and returns them to the owners that night. It is a good thing she does on two levels - firstly she removes a lot of garbage by collecting cans and bottles and secondly she is helping control the pet population.

After wishing Hazel good luck and good by we drove around Slab City having a look at the various establishments and home sites.
Night Club - lost of recycled items make up their patio
Artistic home 

Another home using recycled materials. Creative too.
In the suburbs - solar panels, awnings, etc. 
And as we were leaving I couldn't resist photographing this sign:
Slab City speed control
We did not stay in Slab City. Not because we were fearful but because boondocking in the desert is just not our thing. Much to dirty and we like our electricity.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Salvation Mountain

A visit to Salvation Mountain in south eastern California was a big bucket list item for us. And our first stop when we left Yuma headed towards the Pacific Coast.

As we arrived, after a drive through California's Imperial Valley agriculture area and a long stretch through the desert, we were greeted by this sign:
And then this:
Salvation Mountain
It was really something to see all this appear out of the desert.

It is one man's tribute to God and his gift to the world. And an amazing work of art.  This kiosk told us the story:


Reading these info boards will be easier if you click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Sadly, Leonard died last February. But a group of hardworking and caring people work to maintain his masterpiece and explain it to visitors. We were greeted by this man who was touching up paint on the mountain and acting as the docent for the day:
He was very pleasant and helpful and explained the various activities around the site.

Before we visited we were talking to fellow RVers who visited recently. They told us of Leonard's death and suggested we not to bring paint as he was no longer there to use it. That was wrong - they are desperate for paint - latex base only - so if you visit take a can. Yellow preferred at the moment. They paint a yellow brick road for visitors to follow while exploring the mountain and the paint wears off quickly with all the traffic. There is a donation box for people like us who come paint-less.

Some pictures from our visit:
At the base of the mountain. I am standing on the yellow brick road.

Arch climbed the mountain. The path was too steep and narrow for me.
This picture will give you an idea of the size of Salvation Mountain. Arch is standing beside the base of the cross on top.
Leonard Knight lived in this truck most of the year. In the hot summer months he moved to a grotto inside Salvation Mountain.
Inside Leonard's home.



The guest house
Inside the guest house
Even the porch (desert) swing was a work of art.
So if you are in the area of the Imperial Valley or the Salton Sea in California be sure to stop at Salvation Mountain. Simply turn east at the grocery store in Niland and you will find it. And bring a can of paint.

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