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

We continue our Winter 2016 Tour with a stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Fans of old western towns, we selected Old Mesilla, New Mexico, for a bit of sightseeing.

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla was established in 1848 by the Mexican government after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded to the United States the northern portions of what is now New Mexico. The town became a haven for Mexican citizens who did not want to be part of the United States.

Just five years later the US purchased the southern portions of New Mexico and Arizona under the Gadsden Purchase Agreement. On November 18, 1854, the US held an official flag-raising ceremony claiming Mesilla and the surrounding area as part of the United States.

Basilica of San Albino stands watch over the Mesilla Plaza. Established in 1851 as an adobe church by the Mexican government, the current building was dedicated on April 12, 1908, atop the adobe’s foundation. The church bells date back to the early 1870s. In 2008, San Albino was granted minor basilica status.

Basilica of San Albino
Basilica of San Albino

At the crossroads of Butterfield Stagecoach and Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, Mesilla became the center of the area until 1881 when the Santa Fe Railway chose Las Cruces as the train route.

Decorative objects in front of store
Colorful displays outside stores invite shoppers in to browse

To demonstrate how valuable the routes and train stops were to the early western towns, compare the population between Mesilla and Las Cruces today. Las Cruces has an estimated population of 100,000 while the city of Mesilla is around 2,200. The Mesilla townsfolk may like their city just the way it is since tourists come from all over to enjoy the festivals and soak up the history.

Billy the Kid Gift Shop
At the location of this gift shop, a judge sentenced Billy the Kid to hang. Although he escaped, he was later captured and killed.

From 1861 to 1862, Mesilla served as the capital of the Confederated Territory of Arizona until 1865 when the Volunteers of the California Column recaptured the town, and it became the headquarters for the military district of Arizona.

The town’s cantinas and festivals during the Wild West era attracted lawmen and lawless alike including Pat Garrett, who killed William H. Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, and Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the Mexican general who commanded the northern division of the Constitutionalist Army.

The Mesilla Plaza was named as a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and the original bandstand was built in the 1970s.

Mesilla, Texas bandstand in plaza
Mesilla bandstand

Structural issues required the demolition of the bandstand in October 2013, and it was ready for use at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in May 2014. The plaque honors the Butterfield Overland Trail—a precursor to the Pony Express—and the stage line that connected St. Louis to San Francisco from 1858 to 1861.

When in New Mexico, one must sample New Mexican cuisine. What better place for hungry travelers to stumble into but Peppers Café & Bar for entrees and margaritas.

Peppers New Mexican Cafe and Bar sign
Great food and margaritas at Peppers

This historic building that houses Peppers has a reputation for being haunted. We arrived in between dinner and lunch, so they allowed us to wander around the place and peek into the various private rooms on the chance a ghost or two may appear. They must come out only at night.

Restaurant setting with red table cloths and palms
This bright and cheery room belies what lurks in dark corners and beyond the doorways
Stained glass panel
Kaleidoscope of color in a stain glass panel

Does this room remind anyone of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom? I could almost see the gossamer ghosts floating around the room, the statue head speaking spooky words, and the men in the paintings watching our every move.

Victorian-style dining room
Are those eyes spying on me?

Mesilla Book Center has been in business since 1966. Besides books about New Mexico and the Southwest, they sell jewelry, gifts, souvenirs, and Native American kachinas.

Outside of bookstore with adobe walls with blue trimmed windows and door.
Support your local independent book store

The Thunderbird de la Mesilla building is the oldest brick structure in New Mexico. Some might say the building harbored bad luck in its early years. Augustin Maurin started construction in 1860, using burned bricks from his own kiln. Augustin met an untimely death when robbers murdered him in 1866. Cesar Maurin, Augustin’s heir, arrived from France to claim the property and died two years later of natural causes. Pedro Duhalde, a former Mesilla saloon keeper, took over the building, and robbers murdered him too.

Historical red-brick building with turquoise window and door frames
Thunderbird de la Mesilla

Tiburcio Frietze is listed as the current owner on the building’s plaque. Sadly, he passed away on January 1, 2020. The building was used as a general store, residence, saloon, and town hall. Today it is a gift shop selling jewelry, carvings, textiles, pottery, religious symbols, and various sundry items.

Entering Texas

The next day we continued on Interstate 10 through El Paso and transitioned onto US Route 90. Our son-in-law told us about the Prada store out in the middle of nowhere, so we stayed alert as we neared Valentine.

Prada Marfa art installation
Prada Marfa by artists Elmgreen and Dragset

There it was on the right side of the road filled with shoes and purses from the 2005 fall collection, the same year the structure was established. Keep your credit card in your pocket because shopping is not possible.

Locks attached to wire fence
Love locks on a fence behind the Prada Marfa store

The building is a permanent land-art project commissioned by nonprofit organizations Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa. There are no clerks in the store, and the door never opens.

We had picked out the Lost Alaskan in Alpine, Texas, to stay for the night until we saw the banner advertising the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. With no luck getting a spot in Alpine, we drove on to MacMillen RV Park in Fort Davis, Texas. It didn’t look like much when we drove in, but it was only for one night, and they had a high rating for the best bathrooms ever.

Chevrolet truck and Cougar fifth wheel
MacMillen RV Park, Fort Davis, Texas

Hooray, we finally made it to Texas and only 380 miles before we arrive at Big Bend National Park.

Fort Davis National Historic Site

While we were in the neighborhood, we had to check out Fort Davis National Historic Site, an Indian Wars’ and frontier military post from 1854 to 1891.

Fort Davis National Historic Site sign
Fort Davis National Historic Site

The fort protected emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Chihuahua Trail.

Barracks at Fort Davis National Historic Site
First stop on the docent tour was the barracks

Between the summers of 1866 and 1867, 885 enlisted African-American men of the Ninth Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt, arrived at the abandoned Fort Davis post.

Commanders house at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Docent on site at the Commander’s house

The Ninth was responsible for constructing the new post and protecting travelers and the mail on the San Antonio-El Paso Road from Comanche and Apache Indians. In September 1975, the Ninth transferred to New Mexico, and various other cavalry and infantry companies occupied the fort over the years.

Officer housing at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Another view of the housing

I love it when we’re poking around and something pops up that we learned at another location. This time it was camels.

View of hills and old buildings at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Building waiting for renovations

Ten days earlier while we were in Quartzsite, we came across a monument to Hi Jolly, an Army camel driver from Syrian and Greek parentage who was hired to test out camels in the southwest desert. Apparently, the camels traveled through Fort Davis on their way to Arizona in 1857. Hi Jolly most likely had arrived at the fort with his brigade of drivers and camels.

Buildings and hills at Fort Davis National Historic Site
The house on the left was the commander’s home
View of hiking trails at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Hiking trails are available in the park
Graffiti on wall
Not too recent graffiti
Hospital building at Fort Davis National Historic Site
The hospital
Rear of officer housing at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Officer housing
View of hills at Fort Davis Historic Site
Back of officer housing
View of from porches at Fort Davis National Historic Site
All I need is a rocking chair and a glass of iced tea

That wraps up the fourth installment of our Winter 2016 Adventure. We finally arrive in Terlingua, Texas, and Big Bend National Park in the next post. Thanks for sticking with us these past weeks.

Stay safe.

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

On our way out of town on February 24, 2016, we fueled up at the Shell gas station in Gila Bend. While Jon filled up the tank, I snapped a few photos of these fierce-looking dinosaurs.

I’m bigger than you, so keep on walking

We settled in at Butterfield RV Resort in Benson, Arizona. With a fierce wind forecast, their asphalt roads and pads drew us in. What we weren’t aware of was the railroad tracks only a block away. Because there are several streets the train must cross in town, we heard the whistle tooting softly off in the distance, and then blasting outside our door, before fading out again, repeatedly throughout the night.

The rest of the resort is quite nice, and they even have an observatory on site. The observatory was closed due to the wind on this trip. With park models and plenty of RV sites, the resort is a favorite destination for winter visitors.

Benson, Arizona, sprouted from the desert in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad selected the site to cross the San Pedro River. The town boasts a population of approximately 5,000. With a Safeway, Walmart, and Tractor Supply store, what more could an RVer want?

A twenty-minute drive took us to the Kartchner Caverns State Park. A strict policy to protect the bats living in the cave prevents patrons from bringing in purses, backpacks, or bags of any kind and no photography (thus no photos) or video equipment allowed. Food and drinks, even bottled water, are also banned. They request visitors to stow their belongings in the cars and provide lockers if needed. Caves we have been to in the past are always cold. Not so at Kartchner, where the inside temperature is warm and humid.

The next day we drove to Patagonia, Arizona, and then circled back to Tombstone before heading back to Benson. Founded in 1898, Patagonia incorporated fifty years later in 1948.

Visitor Center has brochures and things to do

The estimated population today is under 1,000 residents. The city draws in their share of tourists each. They come to spend time at the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds and the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Wildlife Preserve. Other tourist activities include hiking the Arizona Trail, camping and boating at the Patagonia State Park, or shopping and eating in the downtown area.

Come on, let’s shop

We only had time to cruise around the little downtown area and wander in and out of the stores. There wasn’t much activity during our visit, which is fine with us. We like having a place to ourselves.

Look, a restaurant. Let’s eat lunch.

Tombstone, Arizona, is a historic town founded in 1877. It is best known for the OK Corral gunfight on October 26, 1881, with Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan) pitted against the Clanton-McLaury gang. The lawmen against the cowboys, or you might say, the Republicans against the Democrats.

Gift shops, saloons, and restaurants line three blocks of shaded boardwalks.

For a small fee, visitors are treated to a reenactment of the conflict. I had to drag Jon along to see the show. He’s not impressed with what he calls a “tourist trap” although I thought it was fun. The actors have to eat and put a roof over their heads like everyone else.

Me with Doc Holliday and the Earp boys

We learned that the actual shootout occurred in a vacant lot owned by C. S. Fly, a famous photographer. The lawmen won the battle that famous day, killing Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, all of whom are buried in the town’s Boothill Graveyard a few miles from the historic part of town.

Mannequins depict the location of the participants as recorded by Wyatt Earp. They’re so close together it’s no wonder three men were killed.

No social distancing for these guys.
Talk about curling toes; these men need a fresh pair of boots

The Schieffelin Hall opened on June 8, 1881. Schieffelin was a surveyor who happened upon a vein of silver ore and subsequently formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company with a partner and investors.

It looked like Schieffelin Hall had a recent facelift

Reprints of the Tombstone Epitaph with original reports of the gunfight are available at the newspaper office and museum with the ticket from the gunfight show. John Philip Clum started the newspaper on May 1, 1880. He arrived in Tombstone five months earlier from the East, bringing with him experience as a meteorologist, Apache agent, lawyer, and newspaperman. In 1881, town folks elected Clum mayor. He also served as the postmaster and was the head of the local vigilance committee. For the past 135 years, the newspaper has reported on the people, events, and places of the old west. A subscription today costs only $25.00 a year.

Tombstone Epitaph

During its eight-year heyday, the Bird Cage Theatre earned its reputation as the wildest, wickedest night spot between New Orleans and San Francisco. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the building contains over one hundred and forty bullet holes, and a legend says twenty-six people lost their lives there. Hmmm, I wonder if the Tombstone Epitaph has information that will confirm or dispel the legend.

The haunted Bird Cage Theatre

Gone are the cowboys and prostitutes. Visitors now buy tickets at $25.00 a piece to take a ghost tour of the building and possibly encounter an apparition or two or three.

Hotel and Mercantile
The Crystal Palace

That concludes our time in Benson, Arizona. Next up, we make a quick stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, before continuing into Texas.

Stay Safe

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

On February 19, 2016, we continued our Winter 2016 tour toward Big Bend National Park, stopping at the Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona, for a few days of poking around. We liked the extra roomy spaces with plenty of room for multiple vehicles. The park was fairly quiet with only a negligible amount of road noise and the soft rumble of trains off in the distance. The friendly neighbors, who had wintered at the park for years, were a bonus. They gave us ideas for things to do.

Hard to beat an Arizona sunset

In need of restocking our pantry and refrigerator, we inquired at the office to find out the best place to shop. The town of Gila Bend once had a regular grocery store, but it had closed. Our choices were the Family Dollar that had a small supply of food or the Mercado De Amigos Carniceria that had mostly meat.

The Butcher & the Farmer in Buckeye, Arizona

Had we known, we would have stopped in Buckeye at the Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace a half-hour north before we arrived. Our grocery shopping curtailed the amount of sightseeing, so we picked a drive to Organ Pipe National Monument and a quick ride to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Seventy-six miles south on SR 85 from Gila Bend led us to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. It was well worth the trip to see the Organ Pipe National Monument, and we were glad we had packed lunch because there was no food near the monument.

Our lunch spot along the Ajo Mountain Drive

This, our first visit, introduced us to the east side of the park and the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive, which made us fall in love with the area.

Sorry little squirrel, you need to find your own food.
The rock formation reminded us of a dinosaur head

The well-graded gravel road took us through forests of organ pipe cactus, saguaros, and ocotillo.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaros
The organ pipes get huge
Jon taking photos
Not many saguaros with arms in this area

About halfway around the one-way loop road, we stopped at Arch Canyon where visitors can take an easy 1.2-mile round-trip walk into a canyon.

Arch Canyon Trail

Aptly named, the canyon contains several arches, which are difficult to see depending on where the sun shines.

We almost missed the bridge in the bottom third of the photo.

A sign warned the steep hill was a dangerous climb. I went up a little way and carefully scrambled down before I landed on my bottom.

Careful on the slippery rock
Chain cholla
Jumping cholla
Prickly pear
Crested organ pipe cactus
Ocotillo bloom

Interested in learning more about the monument? We’ve stayed in the Twin Peaks campground a couple times since our first visit and have posted descriptions and pictures here and here.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

It is about a 30-minute drive east of Gila Bend to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and Campground. Visitors will find hundreds of petroglyphs on the jumble of rocks at this ancient archaeological site. There is no potable water at the campground, so plan accordingly when visiting.

Bring your own water, there is none around here

Jon and I took the path to the right around the cluster of rocks and boulders, searching for the petroglyphs. We didn’t see much until we had walked halfway around. I’m glad we took the route we did because when I saw so many petroglyphs, I wasn’t sure where to look. If we only knew the meaning of the etchings, we could learn so much about the culture that lived there thousands of years ago.

Split rock
Travelers from the 1800s left their marks beside the ancient ones
So many petroglyphs

Jon called me over, “Hey, look at this.” I had never seen a lizard so beefy and long before. I didn’t want to get too close.

Common chuckwallas are rock dwellers
There must be a story in there somewhere
Desert Sunflower

That ends our time in Gila Bend, Arizona. We next make brief stops in Benson, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Fort Davis, Texas. Big Bend National Park will come up soon.

Stay safe

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

Today we begin our look back on a trip we took before The Traveling Todd’s blog started. It was February 15, 2016, when we left our home in California with Big Bend National Park as our ultimate destination. Of course, we had to make several stops along the way before we arrived. I invite you to sit back and enjoy the first installment of our adventure. More will come in subsequent weeks.

We pulled into Desert Willows RV Park in Hesperia for our first night. While we contemplated the closed gate that greeted us, someone drove up and ta-da, the gate opened. Setting up in the dark is not something we usually do, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid in the middle of winter. In the morning the hills and mountains iced with snow surprised us, given that the past few days had been quite warm.

Wrightwood topped with snow

The next day we transitioned from Interstate 15 to Interstate 10 going east and made a stop at the General Patton Memorial Museum on Chiriaco Summit.

General Patton Memorial Museum

On November 11, 2018, the museum celebrated its 30th anniversary with the opening of a new exhibit called Chandi West Wing. I guess we’ll have to return someday to check out the displays that tell of Patton’s early years, the Great War, and World War II.

Remembrance walls

Most of the displays we saw were outdoors. They included the Remembrance Walls, the outdoor chapel, and vintage vehicles.

Outdoor chapel
Vintage vehicles all in a row

Jon was most interested in the tanks as he compared them to the ones he drove in Viet Nam.

Handsome hubby

Then on to Blythe, California, for a three-night stay at Riviera RV Resort and Marina where we snagged a spot overlooking the Colorado River.

Plenty of space at Riviera RV

That’s right; we hadn’t left the state yet. We had driven through Blythe before without stopping in the past and wanted to see the area. We’d also heard a lot about Quartzsite, Arizona. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

Colorado river

Our poking around time came to a halt before it began the next day. Jon noticed a separation on the front right tire. We were thankful it didn’t blow out the previous day. A Goodyear store in Blythe was not a “true” Goodyear store and was no help. Our closest option was Yuma. The hour and a half drive there and back and the two hours waiting for the new tire took up most of the day.

It turned out there wasn’t much to interest us in Blythe. At least we got to spend some time in Quartzsite and the surrounding area the next day. While looking for the Bouse Fisherman (didn’t see it), a cholla attacked Jon’s pants and wouldn’t let go.

Never found this work of art
Steer clear of the cholla, they jump

We saw a naked man at a bookstore and bought a couple books from the old cowboy sitting out front. The naked man was Paul Winer, who passed away on May 7, 2019. He was the owner of Reader’s Oasis Books in Quartzsite and also known as Sweet Pie, a boogie-woogie piano musician. I was glad to see the bookstore is still open when I checked their page on the internet.

Who is that hiding in the shade?
See anything you can’t live without?

Another attraction in Quartzsite is the Hi Jolly Monument—built in 1934—that honors the first Arab Muslim immigrant to the US. He arrived in the states by invitation of the US military thanks to Jefferson Davis, secretary of war. Around 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War, Davis persuaded Congress to approve $30,000 for a US Camel Corps.

Hi Jolly Monument

Hadji Ali, nicknamed Hi Jolly, was the lead camel driver for the experiment to use camels in the dry western deserts. The plan failed because the camels caused Army’s burros, horses, and mules to panic, and Congress did not continue funding because of the American Civil war.

Quartzsite cemetary

Besides the nickname Hi Jolly, Ali had two official names over his lifetime. He gave up his given name, Philip Tedrow, when he converted to Islam and became Hadji Ali. He returned to Philip Tedrow when he married. In his later years, Ali eventually settled in Quartzsite where he was buried in the town’s cemetery in 1902.

We also drove around the desert and marveled at the saguaro along the road.

I see you
Framed by saguaros
Watch out, the Ocotillo have thorns

Next up we spend a few days in Gila Bend, Arizona, and visit Organ Pipe National Monument for the first time.

Stay Safe

San Diego Dreaming

We’re on day 35 of sheltering in place. Our yard isn’t sure what’s going on. Used to neglect because of our travels, future boysenberries are taking shape.

Boysenberry blooms

The lemon and lime bushes received much-needed grooming and now look more like trees. Well, the one on the right anyway.

Lemon and lime miniatures

Tomato, pepper, and zucchini plants seem to grow inches a day in the raised beds filled with new soil.

Tomatoes, zucchini, and pepper plants nestled in new soil

And the roses are in their blooming glory.

Imagine the fresh scent of roses filling the air

We’re not sure how long the virus will curtail our travels, but it looks like we’ll be around until harvest.

In the meantime, we are San Diego dreaming as we look back at past adventures. In November 2014, we stayed in San Diego so Jon could help our son Kevin and his girlfriend Bailey renovate their kitchen. We took a break after several days of work and hiked the Razor and Yucca Point trails in Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Cliffs crumble into sand

Kevin and Jon

After our hike, we stopped in at South Beach Bar and Grill for lunch and refreshments while looking out the window at the beach and pier.

South Beach Bar and Grill is offering delivery or curbside pick up during lockdown

Then we headed to Ocean Beach and Dog Beach for recreation, relaxation, and the sunset. I spent most of my time photographing the scene.

Ocean beach in November 2014

Catching a bit of frisbee action

We found a spot on the hill to watch the action

Practicing boogie board moves

Quick, take my pic

Watch out for the jetty

Great beach for dogs and humans

How about a swim with dogs? Uh, no thank you.

Yikes! A runaway.

“Come on. Follow me.”

Where’s my board?

You lookin’ at me?

Aren’t I pretty?

Last few moments of sun

Still time for more frisbee

Seaplane landing

Walk on the beach

Day is done

Silhouettes and reflections

As of the publication date of this post, all San Diego parks and beaches are closed until further notice. I’m sure I’m not the only one who longs for a day at the beach or a hike along the cliffs. Here’s to the day when we can again enjoy the warm sand under our feet, sea spray on our faces, and a salty breeze in our hair.

But for now, stay safe.

Valencia and Pismo Beach, California

At the end of last week’s post, I said Pismo, California, was next up and our last stop. That was not entirely true. I forgot about having to stay in Valencia for the three-day President’s weekend. There had been no problem procuring sites since we left on January 24, 2020, and the holiday weekend slipped my mind. At the last minute, the only spot I could find was at Valencia Travel Village RV Resort, and they required payment for three nights.

To make the best of the situation, we drove to Fort Tejon State Historic Park. I guess my slippery mind was still fully engaged because I left my camera behind. That’s okay, I used the best camera I had, the one in my pocket.

On our many trips up and down Interstate 5 through the Grapevine, I would see the signs to Fort Tejon and wonder what was there. We took this opportunity to find out.

Fort Tejon State Historic Park

Fort Tejon became a state park in 1947, designated as a California Historical Landmark in 1954, and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1971. We stopped in at the visitor center where informational panels tell the historical story of the park and displays contain artifacts and recreations.

Displays at visitor center

Edward Fitzgerald Beale, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in California, was instrumental in the establishment of the fort in August 1854. It’s mission being to “protect and control the Sebastian Indian Reservation,” and to protect white settlers from raids by other Indian groups. Ten years later, it was abandoned.

Edward Fitzgerald Beale

Then we took the self-guided tour around the grounds where foundations outline the footprints of buildings. Some of the buildings have been restored, and apparently, there are plans to restore others.

Picnic area

Rocks, cut tree trunks, and a split-rail fence outline the footprint of the kitchen

Kitchen inside the commander’s house

The website lists the Frontier Army Days event scheduled for May 2, 2020. It would be wonderful if the State of California was back in business at that time. More than likely the event will need to be canceled due to the dreaded virus.

Chicken coop path

“Got food?”

400-year-old Valley Oak Trees dot the landscape

Not ready to head back to the trailer, we drove up to Mt. Pinos in the Los Padres Forest and found a place to park and eat our lunch.

Campground closed

Then we stopped at Pyramid Lake, which is part of the West Branch California Aqueduct of the California State Water Project. The lake is fed with water from the San Joaquin Valley, which is pumped through the Tehachapi Mountains. The water then flows downstream to Castaic Lake. Both lakes supply water for the Castaic Power Plant, a 1,405-megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric plant.

Pyramid Lake

There are 90 tent and RV camping sites at the Los Alamos Campground. Tucked far away from the freeway in lower Hungry Valley, it’s quiet and rustic. It includes drinking water, toilets, a dump station, and a camp store. This is a place we might consider staying overnight in the future if we need to.

On Monday, February 17, 2020, we left Valencia Travel Village for Pismo Coast Village RV Resort in Pismo Beach. We liked the wide spaces, access to the dunes, and other amenities. The grassy area and large shade trees were a bonus. It was a perfect place to spend the last three nights of our trip.

Plenty of room, grassy areas, and shade trees

Monarch Grove Park was a short walk from the resort on the other side of Pismo State Beach North Beach Campground. We encountered a few butterflies while there and a few that had wandered over into the resort, but most of the population had already flown to the next stop on their migration.

End of the monarch season

In a list of things to do, I found Price Historical Park and Anniversary House. We like touring old homes, so off we went. Too bad the house was all closed up, and we could only walk around the property.

Price Anniversary House

A need for lunch led us to Avila Beach and the Custom House for plates of fish and chips. My mouth waters as I remember biting into the crispy crust to reach the tender moist cod inside. It had to be the best I ever tasted.

Custom House Restaurant serves the best fish and chips

Pismo Preserve is a popular place for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Owned by The Land Conservancy, the 880-acre preserve is a private, not-for-profit organization that recently opened for recreation. There are 11 miles of trails and roads on the property that traverse through coastal-hill terrain ranging from grasslands to a wooded oak canyon and streambed.

Wild mustard in bloom

View of the parking lot, picnic area, water, restrooms, and the ocean from a hill

Amenities at Pismo Preserve

Along the trail

Oaks dripping with lichen

When near the beach, tide pools are fun to explore and Margo Dodd Park seemed to be the best place for the activity. I checked the tide chart, but somehow got the time wrong, so we arrived when the tide was already coming back in. No worries, though, we scrambled over rocks, then watched the sun sink into the horizon.

A peek through the rocks

Snails in tidepool

Pebbles and Rock

Searching for an occupied pool

Arching bridge

Eroding shoreline

Goodnight sun

For our last meal in Pismo Beach, we stopped in at Ada’s Fish House for a dynamite shrimp dish in a wine and butter sauce served with au gratin potatoes and asparagus. Jon ordered the fish and chips again and said it was as good as what we had at the Custom House. My mouth is watering just thinking of our meal at Ada’s and wish we could drive there for another visit.

Patiently waiting for food

For the best seat in the house, arrive early at Ada’s Fish House

That concludes our Winter 2020 adventure. We are patiently waiting at home until the dreaded virus releases the world from its grip, allowing all of us to travel once again. May you all be well during this crisis and keep busy with planning your next trip.

Stay safe

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