More COVID-19 Fun in the Garden and Other Activities

Our past six months have not been all about gardening vegetables or going to the farmer’s market or store to pick up food and supplies. We picked up wine orders at the wineries, stopped for breakfast or lunch at outdoor dining establishments, and even went to the dentist. We got much-needed haircuts too. There wasn’t much else we could do since museums and similar establishments were all closed. And then lightening strikes started fires all over the state, emitting ash and soot that hung over us like a scratchy woolen blanket.

Back in February, I never dreamed we would hunker down in our home without venturing out into the world for this long. At first we were told to shelter in place for two weeks, then it turned into a month, and then another month, and on and on.

When COVID-19 first hit, my son-in-law said, “We’re going to be dealing with the virus into 2021 and maybe even 2022. There’s no way we’ll be making the trip to Hawaii.” I didn’t believe him then. We moved our April trip to October. I was positive the situation would get better by fall. All my positivity was for naught. And here we are with no end in sight, just like he said, and our trip canceled again.

So here are a few things we’ve done during our lockdown besides gardening and fifth wheel trailer maintenance and renovations.

I was a little leery about going to the beach after seeing news reports of overcrowding and people flaunting social distancing and masks. At Half Moon Bay, I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Everyone kept their distance and wore masks while walking around.

Ocean waves chasing boy on shore
Grandson Jackson dared the waves to catch him
Shore bird on sand
The shore birds posed for photos
Red, yellow, and blue kite with red and blue streamers against the sky
Kites flew in the sky
Boy digging in sand on beach and woman wrapped in towel sitting in a chair
Towels kept my daughter and me warm while Jackson dug to China

Jigsaw puzzles kept us from the ever worsening news reports on some days.

Puzzle of old time gas station, old time cars, and trees in the background, cloudy skies, and eagle flying
Road Stop Service

When I heard our dentist was open and learned about their protocols, I didn’t hesitate to schedule my bi-annual appointment. My hygienist, protected by her PPE, met me at the door, took my temperature, and walked me to the room. Everything else was just the same, and I felt as safe as ever.

Dental hygienist wearing mask, glasses, protective plastic mask, blue gown, and green gloves
Dental hygienist at Andre & Judson Dental Corp.

We enjoyed outdoor dining for breakfast, lunch, or coffee and danish a few times. Bill’s Cafe serves breakfast and lunch.

Door entrance to restaurant, server in the background
Patrons not allowed indoors for dining
People sitting under blue and red umbrellas at tables
Ample umbrellas and extra set-ups in the parking lot made it feel like business as usual

At first we had to take our coffee and go, and a few weeks later patrons could sit outside and finish their drinks. But no hogging the table and pretending the coffee house is your office.

Peet's paper coffee cup, blue mask, Hawaiian style purse
A cup of coffee and danish for a quick snack

My favorite was lunch at Beeb’s Sports Bar & Grill at the Las Positas Golf Course in Livermore, where we grabbed a table on the shaded patio. The bonus was watching planes take off from the airport next door and the golfers practicing their putts before their tee times.

Restaurant building with water feature
Water feature outside Beeb’s
Parts of umbrellas, Edison lights, and a plane flying in the sky
The roar of airplanes filled the sky
Green golf course, trees, golf cart, and bench
What’s more relaxing than a green golf course?
Black bird with red on shoulder standing on a table
Watch out for the birds. They are aggressive and will steal your food if you’re not paying attention.

In Downtown Pleasanton, they block off Main Street every weekend to allow the stores and restaurants to serve their customers outside.

Blue cabana and tables and chairs set up on the street next to the restaurant
Setting up dining for the day.

A few family birthdays fell during June and July, so while practicing social distancing, we had barbecues, desserts, and good times.

Back of blue house, man cooking, deck chairs, and wrought iron table.
Jon cooking up baby back ribs
Plate, fork, and knife with lemon meringue pie
Our daughter requested lemon meringue pie instead of birthday cake
Man, woman, teen girl, and young boy on a couch with presents in foreground
Our daughter Laura, granddaughter Maya, grandson Jackson, and son-in-law Chris. Yes, you can use Christmas wrapping for birthdays during a pandemic.

And now, to continue with the gardening theme, we present photos of flowers and succulents growing in our yard. Jon enjoyed watering and trimming the plants, while I reveled in the opportunity to set up my tripod and take my time capturing images. When we’re traveling, my photography is more fly-by then a slow methodical approach.

Roses

Red rose bud closed
Red Rose Bud
Red rose bud opening
Red Rose
Peach colored roses on bush
Peach Rose
Red heirloom roses plus bee
Bees love the heirloom roses

Gerbera Daisies

Many gerbera daisies in a flower bed
Gerbera daisies multiply each year
Close up of gerbera daisy
A close up look of a gerbera daisy

Other Flowers

Yellow marigold flower
Marigold
Pink and white geraniums
Begonias
Red flower and green leaves
Shining Mandevilla (Mandevilla splendens)

Succulents

Succulents in oval pails on bakers rack
The Succulent Collection
Succulents in an oval pail
Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum) sprouting flowers
Yellow ghost plant blooms
Ghost Plant Blooms
Blue rose succulent sprouting blooms
Blue Rose (Echeveria imbricata) sprouting
Blue rose buds on blue background
Buds of the Blue Rose
Blue rose blooms on blue background
Blue Rose Blooms

At the end of September, California’s COVID-19 cases and deaths are finally coming under control. I feared the opposite would materialize after the Labor Day weekend. Perhaps the fires and weeks under Spare-the-Air days kept people inside more than usual.

No one knows if we’ll continue to see an improvement in cases and deaths, or if we’ll go backward on the economic opening. Whatever happens, we plan to get out on the road more for at least a few weeks.

Coming up next is our maiden voyage in the fifth wheel after this long spell so we can try out all of Jon’s renovations. Destination: Pescadero, California.

Gardening During the Summer of COVID-19

Writing this post is like writing a back-to-school essay on what I did during my vacation. Everyone else’s essays were always more exciting than mine, and I fear this essay is not much different.

While Jon gardened and worked on household and trailer maintenance and upgrades, I fit in a bit of photography while keeping tabs on the progress of the virus as it marched around the world and across the United States. Most recently, the California fires that erupted from lightning strikes on August 16, 2020, have grabbed my attention.

Unable to travel to see historic buildings, majestic mountains or deserts, hiking trails, or sparkling lakes and rivers, I journeyed into our backyard and our garden became the subject for my photography this summer.

Like many people faced with staying-at-home or sheltering-in-place, Jon filled our long-ignored raised beds with vegetable plants. We marveled at the little shoots that seemed to grow by the minute.

Raised garden with vegetable starts and marigolds
Vege starts and marigolds

Marigolds attract good insects, right? We learned they are a buffet for unidentified critters. Jon added marigolds to the raised beds, only to have something eat the blooms and leaves. When a bell pepper neared its harvest, Jon gave it one more night. That was a mistake. The next morning, the only thing left of the bush was an anemic-looking stem sticking out of the soil.

Raised bed garden with zucchini and tomato plants
Oh, my, how you’ve grown

Soon the early tomato blooms transformed into little green globes of fruit, and one of our favorite vegetables grew from the zucchini blossoms.

Green tomatoes on the vine
Delectable tomatoes

Critters got to a few first tomatoes by eating out a small round hole in one side. Why just a little round hole? Why didn’t it take the whole dang tomato?

Tomatoes on the vine entwined on wood support
Ready for picking

The zucchini plants were my favorite, and my camera got a workout while trying to capture the perfect photo of the flowers. I had to document them from the buds that unfold over the course of a few days to the blooms that open wide in perfect splendor.

Zucchini plant with blossoms and zucchinis
Future zucchini
Closed yellow zucchini blossom
Zucchini bud
Open yellow zucchini blossom
Zucchini flower

Spiders in our yard set up camp in the tomato trellis, keeping all the nasty insects from our crops.

Spider web in triangle shape
Spiders take care of bad bugs

And another spider protected our boysenberry plants.

Half circular spiderweb in labyrinth pattern
Labyrinth web

Speaking of boysenberry plants, ours produced more than we thought they would. I was so excited to see the green berries form inside the white blossoms. And then we waited patiently for the berries to reach maturity.

Boysenberry blossoms on the bush
Future boysenberries

While some fruit never matured enough to pick off the vine, we plucked several large bowls of the sweet-tart berries to enjoy over several weeks.

Boysenberries on the bush
Ripe for the picking

I don’t have a favorite way of enjoying boysenberries. I put them on my waffles, in my cereal or a smoothie, and stirred them in yogurt. Sometimes, while I gently pulled them from the bush, I popped them in my mouth. Boysenberries are best any which way.

Waffle with boysenberries on top and cup of coffee
Yummy homegrown boysenberries on waffles

Soon the crop slowed down to only a handful every other day or so. And then one day only two remained. My mouth is already watering for the taste of the berries to return next year.

Unripe boysenberries
The last two boysenberries of the season

Jon has kept busy watering the plants, trimming the spent leaves, and harvesting the crops. We still have a few tomatoes to pick, and red bell pepper and jalapeno plants growing, but the zucchini plants have completed their cycle.

While much of California is still on fire, the ones close to us that started on August 16 are nearing full containment. That hasn’t improved our air quality, though. We’ve had Spare the Air Days for several weeks now. On Tuesday morning, September 8, 2020, this was the sky when I woke up.

Red sky, sun rising, rooftops, trees
Red sky in the morning

On Wednesday, the forecast was for 90-degree weather. A thick cloud cover combined with smoke swirling and ash falling obliterated any sunlight and kept temperatures to 70 degrees and under. And it looks like the air quality conditions will not improve until Saturday.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Dog Days of Covid-19

Hi, Jon here.

Linda asked me to write a piece on my latest project on the Cougar 5th wheel trailer. Not being able to travel because of the virus issues has caused me to look at some things we had disliked about our little “home on the road.” The latest project concerned the kitchen sink and faucet.

Pictured below is the original setup which we didn’t like because the sink is a two basin and both basins were so small we could not wash a frying pan or large pot in it. The old faucet would not reach far enough even though we previously replaced the nozzle with a swivel style.

White double sink and faucet on RV kitchen counter
Old Sink and Faucet

So after researching what was available as a replacement, I proceeded to pull it apart. It was pretty simple once the drains, there were two of them, were disconnected along with the hot and cold water lines. There were also six metal clips with wing nuts to remove from the underside of the sink. Once done, the whole thing just lifted out.

RV Kitchen Counter with a hole where the sink goes
Demo Done

We chose a single basin sink, which has only one drain. Also, the new faucet is a single handle that has a pull-down spout. I had to bore a hole in the countertop for the new faucet. Once that was done, it was easy to connect the water lines. Then it was just a matter of dropping in the new sink and connecting the single drain.

New RV Kitchen Sink and Faucet
New Single Basin Sink

The hardest part was putting the clip-wing-nut thingies under the sink. I was only able to get the front ones because I’m too big to fit into the cabinet below the sink. Linda came to the rescue (I knew there was a good reason I married a small woman). She easily fit inside to complete the job!

Stay safe!

Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part Twelve

We selected the KOA in Kingman, Arizona, for our next stop on our roundabout way home from Big Bend National Park. Now, all we needed was to find something to do.

Desert landscape
Wish I knew more about that pointy peak

Along Route 66, travelers find plenty of strange and wondrous places to explore. One of those stops is Oatman, Arizona, a living ghost town turned tourist attraction and day-trip destination for Colorado River visitors. My sister told us about the town, so we headed out.

Yellow desert flower
Daisy in the desert

There are two ways to access Oatman along Interstate 40 between Kingman, Arizona, and Needles, California. From the south, pick up Oatman Highway,—a National Back Country Byway and also known as Route 66—off I40 on the east side of the Colorado River. We took the Shinarump Drive and Oatman exit south of Kingman. The route is forty-two paved miles, and vehicles longer than forty feet are not recommended.

Desert landscape
A naturally formed mesa?

Be sure to refuel because there is no gas station in Oatman and drive safely navigating the hills and curves. Burros, bighorn sheep, and other vehicles in the road could spoil a driver’s or bike rider’s day.

Desert Landscape
Layers of geological formations abound along Route 66 in the Black Mountains

Oatman Highway traverses Mohave County’s Black Mountains. Geological formations, mine remnants, and a mesa used for memorials in memory of family or friends are sights along the way.

Painted rock
Oh, dear. That’s all we need in the middle of a pandemic.
Crosses in the desert
The family plot
Angel statue sitting on a rock
Angel watching over a memorial

The Town of Oatman began as a small mining camp in 1915 when prospectors struck it rich with a $10 million gold find. One year later, the population had swelled to 3,500. From its start and until the government shut down the mines in 1941, the district produced $40 million in gold and some mines were among the largest producers of gold in the western states.

Brown and yellow butterfly on rocks
Butterfly in the desert

The current population is about 130 people compared to possibly thousands of burros that call the surrounding hills home. Miners brought the burros to town during the heyday of pulling all that gold out of the hills. The animals carried essential supplies, rock, and metals.

Couple petting a burro
Random couple petting a burro. She’s a youngin’. The tag says, “Don’t feed me.”

When the mining ended, the burros were left behind to fend for themselves. The life of a burro in these parts is fairly simple. Wake up each morning and walk to town for food and attention from the tourists.

Western town street scene
Fast Fanny’s Place was a brothel
Western town street scene with motorcycles
The 1902 Oatman Hotel escaped the 1921 fire that destroyed other buildings

The burros stick around during the day, posing for photos with children and the young at heart and munching on handouts the tourists offer. Many of the stores sell carrots and pellets for feeding the burros. Do not feed them any other food. It could make them sick, and that would not be a pretty sight. Come sunset, they migrate back home.

Western wood building
Oatman Drug Company building built in 1915 is listed in the NRHP
Mine in a hill
Take a quick spin through the mine to get a feel for what it was like

Times were tough for the residents when the mining stopped. They survived by catering to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles. The construction and opening of a new route that bypassed Oatman in 1953, left the town mostly abandoned by the 1960s. Over the years it morphed into the tourist attraction it is today with burros and all.

Stores along boardwalk
Let’s see. Gold pan’in or books? I’ll take books, please.

One might think Oatman got its name from the mining activity. It was actually the story of Olive Oatman’s kidnapping in 1851 by a local tribe that inspired the town’s name.

Crazy Ray's twisted tees store
Get twisted with Crazy Ray’s T-shirts

Olive had traveled through the area from Illinois with her family when Indians attacked, killing most of her family. Five years later, with a tattooed chin, a Mohave tribe released her at Fort Yuma some 200 miles away.

Wagon wheels
Wagon wheels a plenty

We continued south on the Oatman Highway and came across a group of people riding ATVs, so we stopped awhile and watched as they kicked up the sand.

Trucks and RVs in sandy area
Looks like fun, but is it?

It looked like fun at first. Then I remembered the time we went with family and friends to Glamis over a Thanksgiving weekend. One day a sandstorm kicked up, and it took us a month to clean the grit from our little 20-foot trailer.

ATV in the desert
Look, Mom, I’m driving

We continued on to Topock Marina where we stopped for a drink and snacks and enjoyed the view of the river, the train, and the marina.

Topock 66 restaurant
Topock 66 Restaurant, Bar and Riverstone
Freight train, trestles, river and boat
Boat below and train above
Marina, boats, reeds and mountains
Toprock Marina on the Colorado River

While in Kingman, we also drove into Lake Havasu to eat breakfast with our niece and grandniece at the Red Onion.

Woman with child on lap
Aunt Linda with Niece Bobbi

Exploring the contents of my purse was of more interest to Bobbi than her food. It was nice having a small child on my lap again. This was four years ago, so I’m sure she’s too big to sit on laps today.

Whew! That’s done. We began our trip on February 15, 2016, and arrived home on March 15. I can’t believe it took twelve weeks to document a four-week trip. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the places we explored through the research and writing of this series of posts. It is the trip that inspired me to start the blog in September 2016. My family and a few friends had asked me to keep them updated during our travels. When I realized what a chore it was to write up emails and send out photos via email, the blog was born. It seemed the perfect solution to document our trips, and the bonus was finding a simple way to share my photos. WordPress came to my rescue.

Jon and I thank everyone who has followed along on our adventures these past few years, and we look forward to the day when we can wander around the country again. We have several destinations in mind and are itching to get started.

I’m taking the month of August off to concentrate on another project and hope to have new material at some point.

And with that, let me close this post and the entire Big Bend series with another desert shot as we drift off into the sunset.

Desert landscape with Joshua trees and mountains
Life abounds in the Arizona desert
Sunset with Joshua trees and cloudy sky
Arizona sunset

See you all in September.