Riverside, California, Mt. Rubidoux, and Tio’s Tacos

Gale force winds woke us early on February 10, 2020. Driving during a wind warning is not our idea of fun, but it was moving day. We had reservations at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park and Campground for four nights, so we packed up and headed out.

Spot 213

We were glad we tried this park. The spaces were wide, surrounded by green grass, and quiet. Instead of a noisy freeway like we had in San Diego, we heard birds singing in the trees and small aircraft flying overhead. I think this park is going to become our place to stay when visiting the Inland Empire in the future.

Crane scouting for food

The park includes two fishing lakes, cabins, and unobstructed views of the sunset and Mt. Rubidoux each evening. And the gnarly tree limbs were perfect subjects to photograph.

“Walk away, then. I’ll wait here.”
Perfect place for a barbecue and picnic near the lake
Mud hens having fun
Playground for the little ones
A trail to where
Horse and rider
Line of trees leads to Mt. Rubidoux
Goodbye sun

Our friends Suzie and Dan Bloomer came to visit one day, so we drove over to Mt. Rubidoux to get a good view of the valley from the top of the mountain. There is an easy trail and a steeper trail. We chose the easy trail up and came down the steeper trail.

Prickly pear garden

The Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge is a popular landmark built in 1925 to honor Frank A. Miller for his vision of the mountain and his ideals of International Friendship and World Peace.

Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge—the guy in the red shirt under the bridge is Dan

The cross and tablet at the summit was erected in 1907 to honor Father Junipero Serra who is thought to have traveled through the valley and rested at Rubidoux Rancho. Americans United for Separation of Church and State objected to the cross on city property and threatened a lawsuit to have it removed. To avoid the legal tussle, a group formed to raise money to purchase the top of the mountain and the .43 acres beneath it. They raised enough money to purchase the land and provide an endowment, the interest from which is used to manage and maintain the property.

Cross at the top of the mountain

Sunrise services have been held on Easter at the top of the mountain since 1909. However, due to the California and local COVID-19 restrictions in place, the service has been canceled for April 12, 2020. The top of the mountain is also used for July 4 fireworks. Let’s hope and pray for lifted restrictions by then.

View northwest from Mt. Rubidoux
View south from Mt. Rubidoux
View mostly east from Mt. Rubidoux with what I believe is the San Jacinto Mountains in the background

The trek up and down Mt. Rubidoux triggered hunger in our bellies so off to Tio’s Tacos for lunch. Opened in 1990, Tio’s has become another landmark in Riverside.

Tio’s Taco entrance

The owner, Martin Sanchez, is the creator of the funky art pieces that populate the half-acre of unique gardens. All of the pieces were created from recycled objects once relegated to the fate of landfills.

Dressed in plastic dolls
Roof acrobats
Suzie sprouted angel wings
Craft project: Shape a roll of chicken wire, fill it with plastic bottles, and presto change-o, a work of art
Mission bell, flags, and lights

We definitely want to come back and explore Riverside in more depth. We hear the Mission Inn went through a recent renovation, and I’d like to check out the mission-style architecture in the area.

Next up is Pismo Beach which was the last stop on our Winter 2020 tour.

Wishing everyone health and well being in these trying times as we hunker down the best we can and avoid traveling too far afield.

Stay safe

San Diego, California, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Today is Saturday, March 21, 2020, as I write this. We here in the San Francisco Bay Area have been sheltering in place since Monday, and so far we are safe from the COVID-19 virus. I worry about the homeless, the migrant workers, and the 60 some odd million people that live paycheck to paycheck. I hope congress considers them when passing bail-out legislation. Jon and I wish everyone good health and hope you are safe wherever you have selected to shelter in place.

If boredom has set in from staring at the same walls for days, enjoy this tour of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Who can resist looking at a few photos of animals? We visited on February 8, 2020, way before the world closed for business.

Bailey, Kevin, and Jon at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Entrance

Our memories of the Wild Animal Park, as the Safari Park was once called, included wide open spaces, few trees or vegetation, no shade, and a monorail that circled the African plains where the animals lived. Later they added a walk to the elephants and a bird show. Our last visit was sometime in the 1980s.

The 1,800-acre park now includes many miles of trails through various lands, some of which allow getting up-close with the animals, but no touching or harassing, please. Rangers are on hand to eject anyone intent on harming the animals.

We started our tour in the Wings of the World, an aviary housing a host of beautiful birds, the names of which I have no idea.

Nice tree pose
Bird of feathers
Perfect posture

At the Animal Ambassador Stage, we were introduced to a Pygmy Falcon. These falcons are found in eastern and southern Africa. They are the smallest raptor on the continent at only 19 to 20 cm (7.5 to 8 inches) long.

Pygmy Falcon

Next, we took the Kangaroo Walk where we followed a path through their enclosure.

“Hey Martha, where are you?”
“Over here, Kanga, chillin’ in the shade.”

The Bonsai Pavilion includes around 60 trees some of which are at least 400 years old. The members of the San Diego Bonsai Club volunteer to maintain the trees.

I think this was a juniper.

Take a walk through the World Gardens to see several species of cacti and other plants.

World Gardens

Then off to the Tiger Trail and the Sambutan Longhouse to watch the tigers eat their lunch.

There is a glass partition between the tigers and the guests.
Such a beautiful animal.

The African Tram has taken the place of the monorail that once ran. There is plenty of shade for visitors waiting their turn to hop on as the line zig-zags between rails. The following photos are views from the tram overlooking the African Plains and Asian Savanna.

The tram is in the background upper right corner behind the tree. Zookeepers in the pickup truck are putting hay in the giraffe feeder.
Ruppell’s Vulture
A tower of giraffes
“Hey, Mildred. Do you think the grass is greener over there?”
Look, a unicorn. Nah. It’s an Arabian Oryx. The Oryx only get one set of horns. If they break off, they will not grow back.
Man feeding giraffe
Sable antelope
Somali Wild Ass
Cape Buffalo
Ankole Cattle
The view west
A crash of rhinos

Once our tram tour concluded, we continued our exploration along the pathways. The lemurs were fun to watch. They played on logs for a bit and then walked around, delighting those of us walking through the enclosure.

King of the logs
Here a lemur, there a lemur, everywhere a lemur

The Gorilla Trail was a great place to stop. Do we watch them, or do they watch us?

Big Bubba watches over the clan
I guess I’ll play by myself.
Momma and her baby
Do you like my umbrella?

The slow-moving elephants reminded us that we should slow down too. What was our hurry?

Tree limbs are tasty
Hey, where did the rest go?
Majestic
There are six species of flamingo at the Safari Park

And here is one last photo to entice readers to visit the San Diego Safari Park after it reopens once the virus danger subsides.

Open wide

We didn’t do much else while in San Diego other than watch the Super Bowl Game, go out to eat a couple of times, walk around Lake Murray, worked out at the gym, and relaxed at the trailer. It was nice to take it easy. We needed a breather after the whirlwind of activity during the past two weeks.

We turned the truck toward home on Monday, February 10, 2020, but we aren’t done yet. Next stop was Rancho Jurupa Park in Rubidoux for four nights.

Safe Travels and Stay Healthy

Palm Desert, California – Part Two

We continue our adventure in Palm Desert by exploring a few of the many trails located on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ land, then end with a stroll through the College of the Desert Street Fair.

Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz (pronounced taw—kwish) Canyon is a culturally sensitive area preserved and opened to visitors. Along the trail hikers can see ancient irrigation systems, rock art, plants, and a 60-foot waterfall. Artifacts are on display in the visitor center.

Tahquitz Canyon

We stepped up to pay our money, and the ranger said, “You should watch the Legend of Tahquitz first. You might not want to take the trail once you do.” We heeded her advice even though we didn’t believe we’d be scared. The legend says the great shaman Tahquitz used his power for selfish reasons and turned on his people. So the Agua Caliente banished him to the canyon. Some people believe his evil spirit lives there still.

Remnants of the Lebacho-Tahquitz Creek Ditch built in 1830. The symbol is not graffiti. It marks the spot for this point of interest.

As we thought, the legend was not scary. Who knows, maybe the ranger was just monitoring the number of people.

A promotional card gives visitors a $2.50 discount off the regular adult fee of $12.50 for up to 10 people. Children under thirteen years of age and U.S. Military with an ID are free. We picked up the card from our RV park. I’m sure they have them at the visitor information center in town or in hotel lobbies.

Spillway
Tahquitz Falls

This canyon was not always so beautiful or accessible. In 1969 tribal leaders were forced to close the culturally sensitive area after a Canned Heat rock concert drew more than 1,000 people. Many of the people stayed for days and trashed the mountains. Spring break revelers showed up each year bringing guns and drugs. Squatters lugged in bags of cement to make “home” improvements. Trespassers trampled wild grapevines and polluted the freshwater pools. Hikers became stranded, were injured, or died.

Boulders along trail

The tribe was in a Catch 22 situation. People would continue to destroy the beautiful, magical place and use it as a dumping ground if the tribe did nothing. They didn’t want to open the canyon to the public, but had to find a way to save the canyon and still respect the culture.

View of the city below and Desert Hot Springs across the valley

In January 1998 the tribe began a cleanup effort costing more than $100,000. They removed trash, erased graffiti, and rousted homeless who had set up camp just a few blocks from Palm Canyon Drive. They installed fencing, hired security guards, improved trails, and built a museum annex.

Tahquitz Creek

We enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and the walk along the stream while we searched for the points of interest designated by geometric signs. It was an honor to follow the paths where ancient Agua Caliente Indians once lived, and I’m thankful the tribe restored the canyon for visitors like us to enjoy.

Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, preserves rock art, house pits, foundations, irrigation ditches, dams, reservoirs, trails, and food preparation areas for current and future generations. There are three canyons available to explore: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon.

Palm Canyon Trading Post Overlook

We headed for the 15-mile long Palm Canyon, the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis, arriving just in time for a ranger talk. The ranger took us down into the canyon, where he shared the philosophy of the Cahuilla Indians and how they dealt with hunger.  He pointed out a kish replica made of reeds and brush, and a rock that was used as a mortar. He showed us how to pick out the ripest palm fruit berries that had fallen from the trees, then let us continue on the trail.

Kish
Mortar Rock

There are several trails from easy to strenuous from which to choose. We walked along the stream for a mile or so, then turned around and went back to the trading post.

This picnic table would not be a good choice. It’s too close to the palm skirt where snakes live.

Other options are to take the Victor Trail back to the parking lot or continue along the palm canyon trail. More strenuous hikes also shoot off from the trading post.

Palm canyon creek
Fire scarred palm trees

On our way out, we stopped to find out more about the mysterious gas station dating from the early to mid-1900s. Stories indicate there were gas pumps, except no one remembers gas ever being sold. The station did sell drinks and snacks to visitors. It looked like a place I might have stopped on a trip with my grandparents when I was a little girl, and I imagined Indians might have had tables set up out front to sell their jewelry, baskets, and pottery.

Mystery gas station with an outhouse in the distance

Andreas Canyon was our next stop. The trail was an easy one-mile loop beside a year-round flowing stream. The scenery attracts painters as well as hikers.

En Plein Air class
Jon walks among the towering palms
Andreas Creek

Tahquitz and the three Indian Canyons are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Leaves under clear water
Cabins on a hill

These craggy cliffs reminded me of something one might see in Hawaii.

Craggy Cliffs

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert was celebrating its 50th anniversary and their mission encompasses more than their name implies.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

They preserve a portion of the Colorado Desert in a natural state, foster an awareness and appreciation for the variety of plants and animals in worldwide ecosystems, build up populations of various species of desert animals and plants that face extinction in the wild, and foster studies to protect desert species in the wild.

Aren’t I pretty?
Oh, what long lashes you have
Giraffe ossicones (ossified cartilage).
Giraffes can run up to 35 mph (55 km/h)

The nature preserve protects 1,200 acres of Sonoran desert. Trails, which are closed in the summer, consist of easy half-mile walks and more difficult 5-mile treks. There are two main sections: North America and Africa. Australia Adventures was under construction during our visit with a planned opening in spring 2020.

The following are samples of the different types of animals that live in an environment typical of what they would experience in the wild.

Warthog heads look almost as big as their body
Porcupine
Grevy’s Zebra
Great Egret
African Wild Dog
White Herron

Even the Big Horn Sheep have a mountain and cliffs to climb on.

Big Horn Sheep blends into the hillside

Several garden areas provide shade and a peaceful environment to enjoy. The 1.5-mile walkway meanders through the zoo and garden, or hop on the tram if walking is difficult.

Wander the shady gardens to cool off
Or sit back in the shade and rock away.

Make time to stop by the G-scale model train that sits on 3/4 of an acre. Some of the scenes include the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, and Old Indio.

 

G-scale model train

The College of the Desert Street Fair

Last on our places to explore was the College of the Desert Street Fair, which has operated year-round every weekend for over 36 years. Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables are available along with a wide variety of vendors selling apparel, footwear, hats, handbags, and home goods, to name a few.

Vendors line the long aisles

There is also a food court in case patrons work up an appetite from all the shopping. Parking is free, and there is plenty of shade under the solar panel shelters.

Step right up. Get your fresh produce and dates here.

After our whirlwind in Palm Desert, we were ready for a bit of relaxation. Our next stop was San Diego and a visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Stay tuned.

Safe Travels

Palm Desert, California – Part One

We pulled into the Emerald Desert RV Resort on January 26, 2020, for a seven-night stay in Palm Desert, California. With the freeway and train tracks to the north and Frank Sinatra Drive to the south, we worried about how we would ever get to sleep. Luckily, the fan on our space heater provided sufficient white noise to drown out any sleep-depriving disturbance.

Emerald Desert RV Resort

It had been at least 30 years since we last visited the Coachella Valley, and our mouths watered for a date shake. So, we drove to Shields Date Garden, which has sold the “World’s Finest” date shake since 1936. They also sell dates, nuts, and dried fruit—their apricots are the best I’ve ever tasted.

Don’t miss the dates at Shields
Shields World’s Finest Date Shake

A twenty-five dollar purchase in the store covered our entry fee to the 17-acre date farm gardens.

Lake and date palms at Shields Date Garden

We walked through the oasis in the middle of the city, following the winding path through palm trees, around a lake, and past 14 scenes with 23 statues depicting Christ’s life.

Jesus with the Woman at the Well

The statues once called Vancouver, Canada, home until William and Lillian Vanderzalm sold their biblical garden in 2011 to Shields.

Breaking of the Bread

Be sure to catch the movie The Romance & Sex Life of the Date produced by Mr. Shields. It describes the labor-intensive production process of dates from pollination (done by hand) to picking and distribution.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

One day we drove to Desert Hot Springs, California. The Desert Hot Springs Spa and Hotel was a place we went during the 1970s to soak in the hot mineral waters, roast in the sun on lounges, and cool off in the swimming pool. We were pleased to see that it was still in business, even though sunbathing is no longer one of our pastimes.

During the drive there, we ran across Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. When we saw the building from the road, we had to stop and take a look. Lucky for us, we arrived just as a tour of the inside had begun. Due to close quarters and the number of people on the tour, photos of the inside could not be taken.

Cabot Yerxa (1883 – 1965) began construction on his cabin in 1914 on homesteaded land using reclaimed and found materials from around the Coachella Valley.

Cabot Adobe and courtyard

In 1941 he used supplies from the cabin to build the Pueblo Museum in its current location, making the adobe style bricks in the courtyard. He was an early adopter of the reuse, renew, and recycle movement, by incorporating old telephone poles, broken pieces of glass, and even a buckboard as a door. He also purchased abandoned cabins, dismantled them, and reused the wood and nails.

Closer view of the adobe

Construction of the museum was completed in 1949 and officially opened in 1950. The four-story structure consists of 5,000 square feet, 35 rooms, 150 windows, 30 rooflines, and 65 doors. Sensitive to Native American sensibilities, the living room, or parlor, has a dirt floor.

Hopi inspiration is noted in the Kachinas incorporated into the structure

What I thought was ingenious was the air conditioning system he designed. The walls include upper and lower cutouts so air flows through the museum to regulate the temperature whether it is blazing hot in the summer or cool in the winter. Desert Hot Springs is known for its wind, evidenced by the numerous windmills in the valley, so it was good to see he took advantage of the natural surroundings.

Books, art, jewelry, baskets, and other products can be found at the Trading Post

Cabot Yerxa was known not only as an architect and builder; he was also an adventurer, artist, collector, entrepreneur, explorer, idealist, visionary, and writer.

Below is a photo of Peter “Wolf” Toth’s carving Waokiye (Y-oh-kee-ay) “Traditional Helper” dated 1978. Toth used a single 45-ton Sequoia redwood log carving. Waokiye’s face stands at 22 feet tall. The feather is 15 feet tall and was carved from an incense cedar from Idyllwild, California. The total height of the statue stands at 40 feet tall, weighs over 20 tons, and overlooks the museum and the City of Desert Hot Springs. The statue is part of the Trail of the Whispering Giants created by Toth throughout the United States and Canada. Waokiye is the 27th Giant in the series.

Wokiye (Y-oh-kee-ay) greets visitors at the Cabot’s Pueblo Museum parking lot

Slow down while speeding along Interstate 10 through the Coachella Valley Desert, turn off at the Desert Hot Springs exit, and take a tour of this unique museum to learn more about the man who helped found the town.

Palm Springs

We couldn’t pass up cruising down Palm Canyon Drive while in the lower desert. Jon and I had one of our first dates at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs. The name of the movie is hiding somewhere in my memory. What I do remember is riding down the freeway in a rattle trap that was more like a go-kart than a car and standing in line roasting in my sweater and long pants. We had left the Inland Empire under “late night and early morning low clouds along the coast and inland” conditions only to arrive in Palm Springs where the temperature approached 90 degrees.

Remembering our date in Palm Springs

This trip, we enjoyed a wonderful early dinner and Mai Tais at Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar.

Good eats and drinks at Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar

I’m usually not a fan of toffee because it is too hard to bite. Brandini Toffee changed my mind. The chocolate-covered pieces melted in my mouth. My mouth is watering as I type this. Maybe I’ll order some online.

Stop in at Brandini Toffee for delicious after-dinner desert
Las Casuelas Terraza looked like a good place for Mexican food
Find a favorite star along the sidewalk
This establishment had an enticing menu

Next up in Part Two: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Tahquitz and Indian Canyons, and a street fair.

Safe Travels

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

We kicked off our Winter 2020 Tour with a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on January 24, 2020. Oak Park Campground in Simi Valley, California, was a convenient, inexpensive place to park the fifth wheel. They only offer electricity and water as hookups, which was sufficient for the two-night stay.

We backed up to an embankment under a tree, then realized the Los Angeles Metro traversed a set of tracks at the top. The noise was not a problem, though. The trains whisked east and west without a blaring whistle or rumbling of the ground.

View from RV’s back window

The next day we thought we arrived at Reagan’s museum in time to obtain a parking spot. Silly us. We turned around and joined the line of cars on the side of the road.

The Easy Fire in October had caused approximately $500,000 in damage to the library by destroying trees, landscapes, and banners along Presidential Drive. The entire network and cabling were burned, cutting off the internet and point of sale systems. Through hard work from the information systems team, all systems were up and running within 30 hours. Fortunately, the buildings and artifacts remained untouched due to the efforts of fire personnel.

Green shoots popping up through the burn scars below Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

This was our fourth presidential library to visit. Our first three were Lyndon B. Johnson, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. If anyone is interested, our blog posts for each are located here, here, and here, respectively.

Construction of the facility began in 1988, and the center was dedicated on November 4, 1991. The Reagan library and museum is the largest, in terms of size, of the 14 presidential libraries and contains millions of documents, photographs, films, and tapes. Permanent exhibits display the President’s life and his presidency, the Air Force One plane used by the president, and a section of masonry from the Berlin Wall. The property chosen for his library and museum is located in Simi Valley on a hill with views of the surrounding property and more hills in the distance.

View from Reagan library and museum
View from Reagan library and museum

Former President Reagan and his wife Nancy greet visitors at the start of the museum.

Ronnie and Nancy allowed Jon to enter even though he was a tad underdressed

The museum starts off with Reagan’s early life, high school, and university. Displays include sports memorabilia and photographic posters.

Early life display

Jon addressed the crowd as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Jimmy Carter applauded.

Jon gives his acceptance speech

A docent stands inside the Oval Office and tells stories about the president and points out the objects in the room. Only a few people at a time can stand and listen to the docent, and there are no photo opportunities allowed while sitting at the desk.

Oval Office as it was during Reagan’s presidency
Sitting area in Oval Office. Can you spot the jelly beans?

Panels in this hallway display many of the gifts received from foreign dignitaries.

Displays with gifts from dignitaries

As if they were models, first ladies often wear the most fashionable attire. This case displays only a few of the garments Nancy wore during her time in the White House. The information panel under the black dress in the middle says Nancy added the straps with the bows.

Nancy Reagan’s gowns

This is what it would look like coming face-to-face with the man, the actor, the 40th president of the free world. It was only a mural on the wall but felt strangely real.

Mr. President

The first half of the museum ends in a hallway that looks out onto the Rose Garden.

Rose Garden

We continued down the hall to see the Air Force One Pavilion before taking in the second half of the museum.

The Air Force One Pavilion houses the Boeing 707 aircraft used as Air Force One during Reagan’s administration and by six other presidents until it was retired in 2001. The plane was flown to San Bernardino International Airport where Boeing disassembled it, then trucked it in pieces to the library where it was reassembled and restored.

The pavilion was dedicated on October 24, 2005, by Nancy Reagan, President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. Reagan was buried on the library grounds in an underground vault on June 12, 2004. Nancy Reagan was buried next to her husband on March 11, 2016.

The glass wall, massive Air Force One raised on 25-foot (7.5 m) pillars, Reagan’s travel timeline, a Johnson-era Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King helicopter (Marine One), Reagan’s 1984 inaugural presidential limousine, and the history of the Flying White House mural, made this exhibit my favorite part of the whole museum. The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) addition is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

The glass wall of Air Force One Pavilion
Reagan’s travel timeline details over 660,000 miles to 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. States
Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King
The History of the Flying White House Mural

Inside of Air Force One, visitors can envision life aboard the jet as it raced across the country or toward foreign lands.

Meeting compartment
Fruit and jelly beans available for snacks

A chocolate cake was always on board in case it was someone’s birthday.

Chocolate cake

Photos are not allowed at the entrance to the jet because someone is there to take your picture for a fee. We settled for the exit and rear of the plane.

Jon at the tail

Back to the rest of the tour, we walked through exhibits with information on the Camp David Peace Accord, negotiations with Gorbachev, and the Berlin Wall among other historic events during Reagan’s presidency.

An interactive table offers further learning
Berlin Wall exhibit set a bleak mood
Grafitti
Sculptures and information panels

Posters and memorabilia depicting life on Rancho del Cielo are also included. Visitors can also have their picture taken riding next to Ronnie at his ranch.

Camp David display
We passed on the photo op

At the end of the tour is this case with iconic memorabilia.

Memorabilia

Visitors can also see a 1980s stealth fighter and aircraft used in the first 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident.

F-117 Nighthawk
F-14 Tomcat

A visit to this library can take the whole day, so come early, eat lunch in the cafe, and enjoy all there is to see. In addition to the information on Reagan, the library also hosts special exhibits, which are announced on the website.

We enjoy comparing and contrasting the different presidential libraries and museums. So far, we favor Lyndon B. Johnson’s best, although each of the ones we’ve seen is special and unique.

Next stop: Palm Desert, California, where we poke around and soak up the desert sun.

Safe Travels

Blackhawk Museums, Danville, California

We returned from our fall 2019 adventures a week before turkey day, faced with a whirlwind of activity. As soon as we finished cleaning out the fifth wheel and sorting the mail, preparations for Thanksgiving dinner captured our attention as did the day itself with family and friends. Without a breather, we rolled into the Christmas and New Year season by decorating the house, making lists, shopping for gifts, and planning another dinner.

We never make plans to celebrate our anniversary, which falls three days after Christmas. This year, however, we thought we at least deserved to spend a day together to celebrate our 45th year. We started with breakfast at Nonni’s Bistro in downtown Pleasanton, California. Breakfast at Nonni’s is like having breakfast at a quaint bed and breakfast establishment. Then we were off to Blackhawk Plaza and the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

Behring Foundation wing of the museum

The museum began in 1988 when real estate developer Ken Behring (1928 – 2019) and car collector Don Williams joined forces to showcase classic automobiles in a newly established museum. The auto gallery rotates its inventory to attract visitors throughout the year.

No matter the age or type of vehicle on display, the one commonality they all possess is that they are rare and unique models. One of the earliest cars on display was the Stanley Steamer (a term I thought came from the carpet cleaners).

1902 Stanley Steamer Stick Seat Runabout

This Lamborghini, one of only 40 built, represented the newer models.

2017 Lamborghini Centenario

Jon rushed up to an “Evening Orchid” painted 1965 Chevrolet Impala S/S. “Hey, my dad owned one of these that he called the purple people eater.” I could see his father behind the wheel, wearing a golf outfit to match. He loved bright colors, be they yellow, green, blue, or pink.

1965 Chevrolet Impala SS Sport Coupe with Evening Orchid paint

The holiday fairy lights hanging from the ceiling made it difficult to capture the brilliance and shine of the paint jobs. Occasionally, I found the right angle even if it meant catching the subject in a reflection.

1955 Desoto Fireflight convertible in reflection

This 1950 Monarch (Mercury) “Woody” Station Wagon reminds me of warm summer days, beach towels on the sand, the smell of suntan oil, the crash of waves, and surfers bobbing in the water on the horizon waiting to catch the big one.

Surfs Up

I’ve always been partial to panel trucks and the whimsy of this one caught my eye. It brought back memories of the Helm’s Bakery trucks that cruised our neighborhood in the 1960s and the fresh-baked bread and donuts the driver sold. The crullers with chocolate icing on top were my favorite.

Chevrolet panel or delivery truck

The museum also contains The Spirit of the Old West, a permanent collection of 19th-century North American artifacts of Native Americans and the European expansion of North America in the 1800s.

Howdy pardner. Come on in.

One side of the exhibit tells the story of how Americans “won” the land.

While the opposite side tells the story of how the Native Americans “lost” the land.

Displays include the early years when mountain men explored the territories.

Buffalo-hide coat

Contributions of women during 19th-century California are honored.

Women who shaped California

The Chinese labor force that brought us the Transcontinental Railroad is recognized.

How the railroad hastened the westward expansion

Even a life-sized wagon and oxen are on display.

Imagine walking alongside these beasts

Paintings and artifacts are used to present the Native American side of the story.

Trail of Broken Dreams by Don Oelze
Knife and holder
Replica of a rowboat built in a circle
Native American baskets

A large diorama also tells the stories of the early west. Information panels and audio explain further the objects displayed in the diorama.

How the west was won and lost diorama

Temporary installations occupy additional exhibit halls in the building. We found carvings, masks, paintings, and other art objects dominated the Art of Africa exhibit.

African musical instruments and sculptures
Masks of Africa
Majestic
Maasai Girl

On display in the Western exhibit were various types of memorabilia.

Ride ’em cowboy.
Gene Autry suit and boots. Note the boots on the pocket-handkerchief
Monty Montana costumes
Paintings of horsewomen

Outside in the Blackhawk Plaza, a walkway passes by stores and several restaurants as it meanders through landscaping, beside a creek and water features, and crosses over bridges.

Blackhawk Plaza

Whimsical sculptures near the playground stand to prompt us all to “Imagine.” The plaque below details the meaning of the sculptures.

Sculpture plaque
Girl riding swan
Grandpa reading to girl with museum building in the background
Up, up, and away

We sat and watched a raft of ducks playing in the pond. This duck entertained us for about a half-hour as it bobbed for something at the bottom.

Bobbing for dinner

There’s nothing like a respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays to remind us that even in our little corner of the world there are places to see and explore.

Itchy feet, however, had us packing up the trailer again on January 24, 2020, for a bit of winter travel in the southern part of California. Our next post will feature the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

Until then, safe travels.

Lake Mead and Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City was our destination on November 9, 2019, with a plan to visit Hoover Dam. It had been twenty years or more since our last visit. With a new freeway and a 25% increase in population since our last visit, we were unable to recognize anything we remembered.

We selected Lake Mead RV Village as our home base. No lake-view sites were available so we squished between the units on either side of us. We planned to spend our time poking around so it wasn’t like we were going to spend a lot of time at our space.

Lake Mead NRA Alan Bible Visitor Center

The Hoover Dam website warned of no tours due to maintenance on November 18 and 19 when I checked before leaving Lake Havasu City. Disappointment set in when we headed to the visitor center to learn the maintenance had begun early and there would be no tours for the duration of our stay. We’d have to find other things to do while in the area.

Boulder City boasts a vibrant historic downtown region with a diverse assortment of galleries, antique stores, shops, and restaurants. By historic, we’re talking the 1930s when the town was built to house workers during the construction of Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover Dam in 1947). It wasn’t until January 4, 1960, that Boulder City was incorporated and it remains as one of two locations in Nevada where gambling is not legal. Gamblers need not worry, though. The nearby Hoover Dam Lodge and the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino gladly accept deposits of hard-earned paychecks.

Hoover Dam Lodge and Casino

Boulder City residents are serious about their art. A collection of 67 statues and murals grace the sidewalks and buildings of downtown. At the BoulderCity.com website, download a walking guide for a tour of all the statue and mural locations, or download their app, which contains walking, driving, history, adventure, and retail tours. The two statues below are a good representation.

Afternoon Breeze by Roy Butler
Hitchin’ a Ride by L’Deane Trueblood

Someone somewhere needs Jake & Elwood Blues to grace their den.

Sherman’s House of Antiques

We’ve seen a number of gas station conversions before, but Two Wheels Garage Grill wins the award as the best. Seating is available inside and out with a mister that cools the air on hot days.

Two Wheels Garage Grill

We selected Evan’s Old Town Grille for our night out and were not disappointed. I chose the salmon and was glad I did. It’s not often that salmon is cooked to perfection, but the salmon at Evan’s was the best I’ve eaten in a long time.

The Historic Railroad Trail kept us busy for a few hours as we walked the nearly five-mile roundtrip gravel road through the five tunnels, stopping occasionally to marvel at the views of the lake and search for bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep checking out the people walking
The sentry

The rocky cliffs triggered my imagination and I soon saw shapes that morphed into faces and animals in much the same way as clouds do when I look up at the sky.

Gruesome face, ape face, or a Bells Palsey afflicted face?

Tunnels are 300 feet by 25 feet, which were large enough to accommodate the large equipment. Seventy-one people operated the systems over the standard-gauge 90-pound rails with nine steam and four gas locomotives.

Tunnels are reinforced and some include cargo containers to protect hikers from falling rock

Restrooms and a picnic table are a welcome sight at the end of the line.

End of the line
One the way out

This section of the system was used as a set in the 1977 motion picture “The Gauntlet” starring Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke. In the movie, assassins in a helicopter chase the Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke characters who are riding on a motorcycle. Motorcycles aren’t allowed on the trail, however, tour helicopters buzzed overhead as they took off from their landing pad and returned after their flight over the lake.

Catch helicopter rides at the Boulder Lodge

The mostly level trail is accessible for small children, strollers and wheelchairs with benches along the way to rest. Dogs are also allowed on leashes.

After our hike, we drove to the Lakeview Overlook for another perspective of the trail, the lake, and a view of the city.

Historic Railroad Trail
Lake Mead and the marina
Trailhead parking and visitor center to the left and Boulder City in the foothills

I guess Hoover Dam and Boulder City is a place we will definitely arrange to come back to. Taking a tour of the dam is still on our list of things to do.

We headed home after leaving Boulder City, stopping at the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield once again where we enjoyed another magnificent sunset.

Sunset over the orange grove

This post wraps up our Fall 2019 Tour. In the next one, we will share a local favorite, the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

Safe Travels