Fall 2021 Tour Episode 5: Riverside, California

Kudzu Swamp Monster in California?

We settled in at Rancho Jurupa RV Park on October 31, 2021, snagging the same site we used during our visit last year. After an early dinner, we walked to the camp store. Since we hadn’t eaten lunch, we splurged for desert with Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream bars covered with dark chocolate and almonds. Yum. Yum. One of my favorites.

This is not one of the two fishing lakes at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park

The next day, we met Jon’s brother, Lee, at Vince’s Spaghetti for another early dinner. Every trip to the area, we always go to Vince’s for dinner. It was our go-to place for a Friday night out with the kids when we lived in Rialto. As I type this, my mouth waters for the iceberg lettuce salad with Italian dressing, the minestrone soup, garlic and cheese bread, and the mound of pasta smothered in meat sauce. Oh, and don’t forget the box of Junior Mints on the way out the door.

Vince’s Spaghetti on Holt in Ontario amid auto sales and service enterprises

Opened in 1945, the original location on Holt in Ontario is still going strong and still family owned. They also have locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Temecula.

The next day we headed out on a reminiscent tour, starting with breakfast at Cracker Barrel, where the Rialto Municipal Airport used to be. It was strange seeing how much the area had changed in the past 20 years, from open fields and old groves to housing developments and commercial buildings.

We drove by homes where I lived as a child and the two homes Jon and I owned before moving to Northern California. The Rialto Ave house I lived in until I was 7 looked the best. The garage conversion and driveway looked natural. Fresh paint and a well-designed landscaping completed the look.

Coming in second was our first home on Elm Court, which looked well cared for. Where I lived on Cascade from age 7 until I left at 18 needed paint and landscaping. The Orange house, the last one we owned in town, was the worst. We stopped to say hello to one of our neighbors, and she said the people who bought the house from us have done nothing since they moved in. Our house and backyard had been so inviting. Now peeling paint, wood rot, an unkempt lawn, and the twenty-some-odd rose bushes someone had ripped out showed the lack of care. So sad.

The town itself, we thought, was in better condition than when we had moved away. The occupied business buildings and street improvements downtown made a big difference from what we remembered.

This building housed Bert’s Food Market downstairs, until it closed, and my daughter’s dance studio upstairs in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Then we drove out to San Bernardino. The Central City Mall opened in October 1972 and did away with most of the historic downtown. Other amenities, including a monorail, never materialized, and it wasn’t long after the mall’s opening that local gangs claimed it as their hangout. Conditions continued to plague the mall and the surrounding area even after ownership changes and a 1991 renovation. Anchor stores closed in the early 2000s and the mall finally closed in 2017.

The McDonald’s Museum turned out to be the bright spot to an otherwise depressing trip to San Bernardino. It’s not an official corporate McDonald’s Museum. But the site is where brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald started business in 1940 as McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant at 14th and E Streets. My mother, who had lived a few blocks away in her teens, told me she and her friends had hung out there. Inside is a treasure trove of all things McDonalds through the ages, many of which have been donated.

Unofficial McDonald’s Museum
Kitchen items and red and white tile chunks

The McDonalds—with an eye on speedy service, a simple menu, and low prices—changed course in 1948 by converting their restaurant into a fast-food enterprise selling hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, and sodas.

Props autographed by the cast of the movie The Founder starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc.
Minions promoted at McDonald’s in 2015

The original building had long since been demolished, and the property was in foreclosure when Albert Okura, owner and CEO of the Juan Pollo restaurants, purchased it in 1998. He later opened the unofficial McDonald’s Museum where he preserves artifacts and memorabilia related to the landmark and honors the McDonalds for their contribution to the food industry.

1970s era high chair
Cookie Jar?

The brother’s innovative approach caught Ray Kroc’s attention. He offered to work as a franchising agent for them and in 1955, he founded McDonald’s System, Inc. The company’s first franchise restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois. Four years later, restaurant No. 100 had opened and in 1961, Kroc purchased the company from the McDonald brothers.

The Hamburglar display
Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald featured near the entrance.
Recreated McDonald’s Sign

On the side of the building, a colorful mural depicts historical sites and businesses around the Inland Empire. Jon and I had fun picking out all the places we remembered from our childhoods and teen years.

Take a trip down memory lane while viewing this colorful mural.
Sky Park At Santa’s Village, Arrowhead Springs, and Original McDonald’s Hamburgers are featured in this panel.

After seeing much of what we remembered of San Bernardino destroyed, decayed, or remaining the same, we were glad to see a small part of it preserved. Our thanks go out to Albert Okura for having the foresight to create a museum and save a little piece of what once made San Bernardino great along Route 66. The museum is free but asks for a donation to enter.

After visiting the museum, we searched for a place to eat. Not finding anything along the way, I had Jon stop so I could take photos of the Wigwam Motel. They looked the best I ever remembered and are a good example of the many places spruced up along Route 66 for tourists to experience.

Route 66 Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California, on the border next to Rialto never looked so good.
Wigwam Motel with lush landscaping

We ended our day at Cuca’s in Rialto for margaritas and Mexican food. The friendly staff made us feel welcome, and we enjoyed sitting in another piece of history: the old Rialto train station, where the sliding doors still hang in place and still work. Over margaritas, chips and salsa, and our meals, we discussed all we had seen that day and were pleased we had encountered a few bright spots along the way.

Cuca’s Mexican Food
Our server told us these are the original railroad station barn doors

Next up: Another trip to Lake Havasu City to see my sister, her daughter, and granddaughter.

Safe Travels

Fall 2021 Tour Episode 4: Temecula, California

Oh, no. The Halloween weekend foiled our plans. Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park was booked solid until Sunday, October 31, so we settled in Temecula at Pechanga RV Resort for two nights.

Temecula has a lot to offer in the area, from gambling and entertainment at the Pechanga Casino, to wine tasting, to soaring above the vineyards in a hot-air balloon.

Old Town Temecula street scene

We did none of those things. The day of our arrival, October 29, found us at the local Trader Joes to replenish the refrigerator and pantry. Then I made a salad to go with our grilled salmon while Jon went out hunting for a jug of water.

Front Street is the place to be

After breakfast the next morning, we roamed around Old Town Temecula, popped in a few gift and clothing stores, and scoped out a place for lunch. I had eaten dinner at The Bank years ago while working in the area. It was obvious the restaurant had changed hands since my last visit. The wait staff were friendly, the service a bit sketchy, and our meal was just okay, definitely not what I had remembered.

The Bank of Mexican Food
The Bank vault is now a storage room
City of Temecula Civic Center and Town Square Plaza opened to the public in December 2010
We could have eaten at Baily’s where they served something for everyone: burgers, fish & chips, pizza, banh mi, enchiladas, lasagna and more.
Band setting up for a night of music at Baily’s
Historic jail
Or we could have eaten tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more at Espadin.
Or at Mad Madeline’s Grill, we could have had a best burger in town.
Stay in the 10-room historic Palomar Inn Hotel, built in the 1920’s.

The highlight of our visit was the Temecula Valley Museum. As we wandered around the exhibits, we learned about Vail Ranch (an 80,000-acre cattle ranch), the people who settled in Temecula, about the native people who lived there before the colonists and settlers arrived, and about how the Ramona Pageant got its start.

Temecula Valley Museum
Playground at the park in front of Temecula Valley Museum

I remember hearing of the pageant each year growing up in Southern California, but never attended. I was pleased to learn it was still going strong. Perhaps someday I can sit in the stands and enjoy the play in person. So, what is the Ramona Pageant?

Play area for children

The story begins when Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor in 1881, documenting the government’s horrendous treatment of Native Americans. When the book failed to change Americans’ views of Indian rights, she turned to fiction, creating a romantic story set within historical events of the 1870s and 1880s. Ramona, published in 1884 by Jackson, was a success and earned Jackson acclaim. Her story subsequently became the basis for an outdoor pageant set in the hills at the Ramona Bowl.

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

The first Hemet-San Jacinto Pageant Ramona was held in 1923 on April 13, 14, and 15. To secure a permanent site for the pageant, the chamber of commerce and Ramona Pageant Association bought 160 acres. The 99th consecutive season of Ramona is scheduled April 23 and 24 and April 30 and May 1, 2022. Nestled in the foothills above Hemet, California, the bowl’s humble beginnings required patrons to hike up a hill, provide their own seating and provisions, and make do with no restroom. A parking lot, restrooms, and other amenities greet audiences today.

One of many Native American exhibits.

And what is the connection of the Ramona Pageant to the City of Temecula? The story details the fictional love story of Ramona, a young Scots-Native American woman who grew up on her father’s ranch, and Alessandro, a young Native American man from Temecula. Historical events relating to the mistreatment and eviction of the Native Americans who had lived in Temecula since 4,000 B.C. serves as the backdrop for the love story and plot.

Display on ranching in the valley

Another connection to the Ramona story is the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. They are descendants of the earliest settlers in Temecula. As the U.S. government agent investigating the living conditions of Southern California Indians, Helen Hunt Jackson reported first-hand accounts of the Eviction. Her report helped secure land for the creation of Pechanga Indian Reservation in June 1882.

The Temecula Museum also honors Erle Stanley Gardner, the author and co-creator of the Perry Mason series. Gardner lived on the 3,000-acre Rancho del Paisano in the Temecula Valley from 1937 until his death in 1970. The ranch was renamed Great Oak Ranch and is now part of the Pechanga Reservation.

Erle Stanley Gardner exhibit

After all of our poking around for the day, we returned to the RV park to a Halloween Party of sorts. Wait, what? Halloween wasn’t until the next day. Still, many of the RVers had decorated their rigs with lights, webs, spiders, witches, and all manner of spooky paraphernalia. Music blared all around us. Kids rode their bikes and scooters up and down the streets. And laughter echoed through the park.

I took a walk to soak in the festivities and saw that people had set up tables lined with treats and bowls of candy. A girl offered me a cookie, but I declined. Then a pair of young men offered me a Jell-O shot. I was tempted for a second, and then I remembered the time I drank beer ladled from a punch bowl. I know. Who puts beer in a punch bowl? I didn’t appreciate the LSD trip then and wasn’t about to risk a repeat.

Passing through Temecula over my lifetime, I never realized how much history there was to discover in the area. After our visit to the museum and poking around, I was glad we had to wait for a spot at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park. If that had not been the case, I would still continue driving through town thinking the only thing Temecula offered was the casino, wineries, and hot air ballooning.

For more information on the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, visit their website at https://www.pechanga-nsn.gov/

For more information on the Ramona Bowl, visit their website at https://www.ramonabowl.com/

Next Up: The Historic Site and Museum of the Original McDonald’s

Safe Travels

Fall 2021 Tour Episode 3 Photo Shoot in San Elijo State Beach

Wave catcher

Our last full day in the San Diego area was a new adventure for us. Bailey invited us to a photo shoot of the CampIt, a product she was preparing to launch. We had never been on a photo shoot before and I looked forward to capturing behind-the-scene activity and snapping candid photos of everyone.

Jon poses with the props

We arrived at San Elijo State Beach campground, where her friends, Amy, Vanessa, and Valerie were setting up the “craft services” with snacks and drinks.

Come get your snacks

Bailey had lucked out in snagging the campsite a few weeks earlier. Campsites at the beach usually sell out within hours or minutes of them opening up online six months in advance.

Wait up! I need to put my shoes on.

The large size of the campsites surprised me. They accommodate tents and RVs up to 35 feet, include picnic tables, and bushes separate the sites for a bit of privacy. Restrooms and showers are also available.

Let’s play ball

Besides the “craft services,” a group of interns shot videos, photographed still shots, and also filled in as models. They and Bailey photographed Jon and me too. One of Jon’s photos made the cut and ended up on one of the GoCampit.com website’s pages.

Switching players

I had expected fast-paced activity with someone directing people to their spots for filming or photography to catch the best light and background. Instead, the scene was calm and slow-paced. Even a walk down the stairs from the cliff to the beach was more of a stroll rather than a hurry-up-before-the-tide-comes-in rush.

A little volleyball action

Too late. The tide had covered up most of the beach. A few throws of the baseball and spikes of the volleyball, was about all they could do.

Just a pile of seaweed washed ashore

Back at the campsite, we all ate lunch and sat around talking. Then the videographer filmed Bailey and the interns/models, putting contents of the CampIt in the box one at a time.

Bailey with the interns

They filmed the interns assembling a tent. A truly hilarious entertainment.

Okay! Time to put up the tent.
How many people does it take to put up a tent?
Bailey to the rescue

Then they filmed an interview with Bailey talking about the CampIt’s origin story.

Okay, ready to go.
The scene is set.

After a few takes, Jon and I took our leave in search of a dinner spot before heading back to the trailer. Brigantine in Del Mar was the perfect place to fill our bellies with fresh seafood.

The three different styles of CampIt
View from the campsite
Drink break
Filming of Bailey during interview
Kobe wanted his picture taken too.

It was sad to leave San Diego after a perfect week of exploring Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and visiting a photo shoot. Our week in San Diego couldn’t have been more perfect, but it was time to move on. We had more places to go, and more people to see.

Next Up: Temecula, California

Safe Travels

Fall 2021 Tour Episode 2: San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo was a place we hadn’t visited in a long time, so we arranged to meet Kevin and Bailey, our son and his better half, there on Sunday, October 24, 2021. Runners, participating in the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & Half Marathon, foiled our plans.

Jon poses with the statue NGAGI depicting the male mountain gorilla from Belgian, Congo. Captured in1930 by OSA & Martin Johnson. Donated in 1931 by Ellen B. & Robert Scripps. Died January 1944. Weighed 635 pounds. Bronze modeled from life by Holger & Helen Jensen and donated by Rachel Wegeforth.
Even with the street signs and a map, we occasionally lost our way.

Closed freeway exits and road closures had us driving around in circles, trying to escape the traffic. Jon and I stopped at Crest Cafe for breakfast, thinking the traffic would dissipate in about an hour. Kevin and Bailey joined us. Unfortunately, the grid lock had not abated by the time we finished our meals, so we nixed the zoo idea and crawled along for an hour or more before we could shake ourselves loose.

Great Blue Heron
Nap time

Jon and I went back on Tuesday, which turned out to be a very fine day indeed, to visit the zoo. We started with the shuttle to get our bearings. Note to visitors: The best seats to see the animals and take photos is on the right side of the double decker. We had snagged two seats on the left side, which wasn’t so great.

The Koala Forest was my favorite exhibit. They look so cuddly.
The flamingoes are always a treat to watch.

The 1915 Exposition brought more than the architectural buildings to Balboa Park. It also brought exotic animals for display during the exposition. Sadly, many of the animals were abandoned and left to the City of San Diego to care for them.

Zebra shares the enclosure with a friend.
Birds of Paradise thrive in the San Diego climate.

In October 1916, the Zoological Society of San Diego was born and Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth served as president until 1941. Wegeforth was instrumental in the creation of “cageless” exhibits by constructing moats instead of enclosing them with wires.

Rhino munching his dinner
Watcha doin’ down there?

After a few unsuccessful attempts to hire a zoo director, Belle Benchley, the zoo’s bookkeeper, was named as the executive secretary with the duties of the zoo director. Later she was given the title of zoo director and served in that capacity until 1953.

Waterfall on the trail through Africa Rocks

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife alliance, a private nonprofit conservation organization, is now the parent organization for both the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California.

Meet Amara the cheetah and Hopper the shelter rescue dog. Hopper and Amara were paired under the Animal Ambassador’s program at the zoo and have been together for about 10 years.

We selected Albert’s Restaurant for our lunch. The sit-down diner’s plentiful assortment of soups, salads, and entrees should satisfy most patrons. Wine, beer, and mixed drinks are also available.

Try Albert’s Restaurant for a relaxing lunch at the zoo.

After our meal, we walked around the enclosures, expecting to see more animals. We guessed most of the animals must have been inside eating their meals because there were very few out and about. Birds in the aviaries were the exception.

I love the colorful wings of this bird.
Hey, no smoking allowed. Oh, sorry. It’s only a branch.
Endangered Chacoan Peccary from Chaco, South America

The zoo’s 100 acres (40 ha) house over 12,000 animals of over 650 species and subspecies. In 2018, the zoo reached over 4 million visitors.

Is this guy or gaI a member of the giraffe family?
A show with your meal. These guys sat on a wall next to one of the outdoor eateries.
A mama and baby hippo swam around in this tank. I waited for a better shot and after 10 minutes or more; I was glad I snapped this one.
Okapi from Democractic Republic of the Congo grow skin covered horns called ossicones, like male giraffes. Endangered
Tapirs are closely related to elephants and rhinos.
The fang tooth suggests this is a crocodile.
More monkey fun.

I knew the bronze lion outside the exit gate was something special as soon as I saw it. I never guessed how special until I did a little research and found out how the lion sculpture could stand on only one paw. Rex’s Roar took two years from a sketch design to installation to create the 10-ton bronze sculpture with a stainless steel structure.

Rex’s roar one night after the Exposition is credited with saving the abandoned animals and creating what is now the San Diego Zoo.

Jim Burt of Blue Rhino Studios turned a design sketched by Tim Reamer, former San Diego Zoo Global illustrator, into a 3-D model that was enlarged through a 3-D printing process. Engineered by Thornton Tomasetti and cast by Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, California, Rex stands at 27 feet tall. Craigar and Mark Grosvenor made it all happen through their donation. Watch the Making of Rex on YouTube.

We had a great day at the zoo and another visit may be in the cards the next time we’re in San Diego. Maybe we’ll be able to catch sight of the animals we missed on this visit.

Safe Travels