Fall 2022 Episode 3: To the Mountains and Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake fall season had arrived

Holloway’s Marina and RV Park

On October 6, trees flashed their flaming fall colors as we parked our trailer at Holloway’s Marina and RV Park, our home for seven nights. At Holloway’s, visitors can rent a pontoon boat, charter a fishing boat, buy marine parts, have service work done, or park an RV.

Big Bear Lake 17′ below normal in this photo

It would have been nice to rent a pontoon boat one afternoon, but the lady recommended not eating the fish due to Blue-Green algae, a bacterium that can be toxic. Shoot, no fishing for Jon and no trout dinner for us.

Plenty of boats to choose from

Then we eyed the Pirate Ship. Who doesn’t like an entertaining sail around the lake on a pirate ship? That didn’t work out either. The ship’s schedule didn’t match up with ours.

Ahoy, matey!

Although the boat rides would have been fun, the weather and nature entertained us with fog floating through the landscape and the sun kissing tops of trees and mountains.

Blue tarped figures are boats prepped for winter
Kissed by the sun

The main reason we chose Big Bear Lake for a visit was to meet up with our son, Kevin, and his better half, Bailey. They were attending the Adventure Van Expo over the weekend as vendors. While we waited for their arrival, the Big Bear Discovery Center and the Big Bear Alpine Zoo kept us busy.

Big Bear Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin is mostly geared towards children ages 2–7 years of age, with its Nature Discovery Zone that serves as an outdoor classroom with interactive play areas. Their website describes different activities that are offered, but there were none during our visit. The center is a large building with lots of space inside, but it was mostly empty, except for four volunteers at a desk and display tables with T-shirts and stuffed animals for sale. Perhaps they were renovating? The volunteers gave us a pamphlet that listed 13 hikes ranging from an easy 1/2-mile path to a difficult 10-mile trek.

Big Bear Discovery Center building
Discovery Center grizzly bear statue

We selected the 5-mile out-and-back Alpine Pedal Path from the Discovery Center to Serrano Campground for its gentle slopes up and down on asphalt pavement. The elevation of 7,000 feet was enough for us to contend with on our first day without worrying about Jon wrenching his knee again on a rocky surface.

The path links to the Cougar Crest and Pacific Crest trails
Over the bridge and through the underpass we go
Typical tree seen along the path
Crumbling rock formation

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

A zoo in Big Bear? How did I ever miss it? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly named Moonridge Animal Park) was established in 1959 after a fire scattered wildlife and a group of people got together to rescue some of the animals. It is owned by the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District, a Special District of the County of San Bernardino.

Look! A zoo in Big Bear

The Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, created in 1989 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization raises funds and coordinates volunteers to support the zoo. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. On snow days, they may open late or not at all.

Sturdy compounds house the animals

The zoo’s mission remains a 100% rescue facility. All of the animals on display came to the zoo for rescue, mended, but unable to live in the wild. Birds have missing or broken wings. A bear is missing a leg. And some of the animals have adapted too well to human contact, making it dangerous to release them into their natural habitat because they no longer know how to find food or hunt or protect themselves.

Wild Critters on the Playground

Animals currently on display include a bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, white pelican, great horned owl, grizzly bears, black bears, and a gray wolf. Due to the double fencing, it was difficult to get a good photo of the animals, but here are a few.

Sleeping fox
Bald Eagle
Gray Wolf

Adventure Van Expo

And now, on to the Adventure Van Expo. Camping in a van is nothing new. Could it possibly trace its roots back to the covered wagon days when families loaded their possession to travel thousands of miles across the country? I didn’t dare slide into that rabbit hole of research, so I leave the question for others to answer.

Vans showing off their builds

More recently it seems, converting vans for camping or even living purposes has gained in popularity for at least the past 10 years or maybe longer. And where popularity grows, so do expos and cons. The fifth 2022 Adventure Van Expo organized eight expos in 2022 and has scheduled eight more for 2023. Over a two-day period, the events draw 60-80 vendors and up to 6,000 attendees, according to their website. Attendees can browse the many van conversions on display and for sale, and purchase all the accessories needed to enhance their #VanLife.

No remaking the bed everyday in this one, just pull it down from the ceiling
A sink, stove top, and microwave. What more can you ask for in such a small space? Oh, yeah. A fridge. There’s one of those too.

So, back to the product Bailey designed and curated for display and purchase at the expo. The CampIt includes everything required for the preparation, serving, and cleanup of a meal around the campfire or grill. Contained within a wooden box the size of a banker’s box and weighing in at around 23 pounds, are a tablecloth, cutting board, knives, spatula, tongs, serving spoon, roasting sticks, bamboo eating utensils, scrubber, hand sanitizer, soap, can and bottle opener, reusable plates, bowls, and cups, and much more.

The CampIt vendor booth

On Sunday, Jon and I manned the booth while Bailey and Kevin walked the expo to make contact with potential vendors. Videographer Van Haulen made a video of Jon and me talking to the videographer. Click here to take a look. It’s a long video, and we don’t show up until the end at 15.18 minutes, so zip forward.

To see Bailey in action, check out this video where she’s a featured new vendor. She shows up at 2.56 minutes. Of course, she’s the expert, knows her product well, and did a much better presentation than Jon and I did. All of the items that fit in the box are displayed. Or go to thecampit.com to learn more.

Next up in our fall adventure, we head to the desert. Join us while we explore Joshua Tree.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Saturday, October 8, 2022, we drove out of town, pulling the fifth wheel and heading south on Interstate 5. Our first stop in Castaic didn’t turn out as planned. When I checked in at the office, I was told we didn’t have a reservation, but they showed we had been there on Monday. What?

Turns out I had made the reservation for the wrong day. There went $60 out the window flying in the wind. Castaic had no open spots, and neither did any other RV parks within 85 miles along our route. We ended up driving all the way to Jon’s brother’s house in Fontana after a stop in Glendora to eat and let the traffic pass. We flirted with staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, but when I checked with the manager, she said they didn’t allow it. Jon wanted to stay anyway. I had visions of a security guard or policeman knocking on the door at 3:00 am to tell us to move, so I convinced my better half it wasn’t a good idea.

The next day, after a lunch trip to Vince’s Spaghetti in Rancho Cucamonga, we settled in at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park.

Hunter’s Moon hangs over Rancho Jurupa RV Park

Our goal while in Riverside was to check out the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark. We both had grown up not too far from the hotel and watched it change hands and go through various renovations over the years.

Welcome to The Mission Inn

Plus, I had recently finished reading Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. The book had mentioned the International Shrine of Aviators at the hotel, and I wanted to see it in person.

We found the atrium outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, where the plaques and the 10-inch copper wings are displayed and protected with a wrought-iron fence. The Flyer’s Wall was dedicated on December 15, 1932, and includes 160 names, including Amelia Earhart, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn.

Chapel door and stained-glass window. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel would be a lovely place to hold a wedding for up to 150 guests.

The shrine may seem small in comparison to statues and other monuments designed to honor historical figures, but I can’t help but think of the emotions that Amelia Earhart must have experienced as she signed her name on the wing. Finally, after risking her life for years and proving she could fly as well as any man, she stood in her rightfully earned place among them.

Flyer’s Wall
Amelia Earhart’s signed wings

The history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa begins in 1876, when a quaint 12-room adobe building served as a place for travelers to stay the night. Frank Miller is credited with expanding the humble beginnings into a full-service hotel with 200 guestrooms by 1903. Over the next 30 years, Miller expanded the hotel, incorporating elements from the 20 missions in California with historical architectural styles from around the world. He traveled extensively and brought back stained glassed windows, furnishings, artwork, and religious relics to decorate the inn.

After Miller’s death, the inn changed hands multiple times, was the subject of a bankruptcy or two, and closed in 1985. The current innkeepers, Duane and Keely Roberts, saved the property from the wrecking ball, bringing the Mission Inn back to life with a $55-million renovation and modernization project. The hotel reopened in 1992 to once again welcome guests to the iconic historic hotel.

Under the arches are seven of more than 800 bells Frank Miller collected

Since its reopening in 1992, the inn has received many awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today’s 10 best historic hotels, and Historic Hotels of America. AAA has also honored the inn with a Four Diamond rating.

What is in the domed building?
Chandelier in the lobby area

Annually, nutcrackers and Christmas lights decorate the inn for the Festival of Lights Celebration that continues into the first week in January. On opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, they switch on the five million lights, animate 200 figures, and delight the city with fireworks. “Hey, Jon. We’ve got to go see this. Want to make another trip to SoCal over New Years?”

When researching the inn, I learned that during the opening ceremonies of the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights on November 25, 2022, a fire caused by fireworks broke out on a roof. It was a good thing the fire department stationed crews on the roof. The fire was under control within 10 minutes, without injuries sustained or evacuations needed. For a photo, click the Festival of Lights link above.

Saint Junipero Serra O.F.M. established the first nine of 21 California Spanish missions from San Diego to San Francisco when the Spanish occupied the land known as Alta California in the Province of Las California, New Spain. Now known as the State of California.

One of many statues in the hotel

The Clock Tower is home to a 1709 Anton clock in Nuremberg, Germany. The original clock face is housed in the museum for safety. What we see on the tower today is a replica. Four figures rotate every quarter of an hour: Father Serra Juan Bautista De Anza, St. Francis, the California Grizzly Bear, and a California Native American.

Anton clock with rotating figures
Six-story spiral staircase of the International Rotunda which was constructed in 1931.

The initials in the metal railing shown below honor figures in early California and Mission history. PJBS refers to Padre Jose Bernardo Sanchez (1778-1883), who served California for 30 years and was the father president from 1828-1831.

Metal railing around the spiral staircase
Rooftop gardens overlook downtown Riverside city buildings
Eclectic mix of architectural styles
The courtyard where we ate lunch
At the corner of 6th and Orange streets

Having visited the Mission Inn, I want to go back and spend a night or two in one of their uniquely appointed luxury rooms, or maybe in one of the 27 suites, should we choose to splurge. Hmmm! Something to think about.

Until then, we will continue our Fall 2022 adventures. Next up is Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 1: Onward After A Long Hiatus

After a long spring and summer, fall had arrived. A week later, we examined our calendars to find no more doctor visits, no more physical therapy sessions, and no more reasons to stay at home until the week before Thanksgiving. Whoopee! Time to get out and explore.

We picked the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for our first adventure when the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit beckoned us from across the bay. It seemed appropriate to start out locally before packing up the trailer and hitting the road. On October 4, 2022, Laura, our daughter, and the two grandkids joined us for the field trip.

Laura, Jackson, and Maya Silvey at de Young Museum

The de Young Museum

After signing in at the ticket counter, we walked toward Wilsey Court. There have been many interesting exhibits displayed here, but the Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu is one that’s hard to miss. The 28-foot-tall version of Liu’s 1988 painting of her original green card doesn’t just compete for attention, it commands visitors to look and pay attention. This is something important.

Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu

Note the name change from Hung Liu to Cookie, Fortune, a pejorative term. Liu also changed her date of birth from 1948 to 1984, the year she immigrated from China to the U.S. to study at UC San Diego. The change in year commemorates the year she started her new life in America.

We had a few minutes to spare before our scheduled exhibit time, so Laura and the grandkids took a spin at the virtual reality experience, Ramses & Nefertari: Journey to Osiris, while Jon and I watched through the door. After seeing the pods where they sat wearing VR headsets move back and forth, up and down, and all around, I was glad I didn’t take a ride. No sense getting motion sickness before we saw the Ramses exhibit.

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs

The pictorial in the photo below features Ramses with an axe in hand. The three shorter figures represent his enemies of Egypt: a Syrian, a Nubian, and a Libyan. Note how Ramses towers over his prisoners, reflecting Ramses’s power over the men he’s about to smite.

Painted Limestone Blocks

Waiting a few minutes to watch the multi-media production was worth the time. The production features Ramses’s triumph during his largest chariot battle fought at Kedesh. The narrative, sights, and sounds bring the battle to life in a way that a 2D format could not match.

Multi-media presentation of Ramses II battle at Kadesh

The replica below shows how the dawn light animates the facade of the Great Temple. The sun first illuminates the four colossal statues of Ramses, then the small sculptures of Nefertari (first wife), Isitnofret (second wife), and their children, then floods the interior with light.

Replica of the Great Temple façades

Artists used Ostraca (flakes of limestone) as their “notepads”. Below is a practice sketch of a king giving an offering. The one on the right is a depiction of the board game Senet, which was popular during Ramses’s time and symbolized the deceased’s passage through the Underworld.

Egyptian notepads consisted of flakes of limestone

Outer coffin of the ancient Egyptian artisan Sennedjem, who lived in Deir el-Medina (ancient name, Set Maat, translates to Place of Truth) during the reigns of Ramses II and his father, Seti I. Sennedjem, a skilled craftsman, worked in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb was discovered in 1886 on a hill overlooking the worker’s settlement where he

Sennedjem’s outer coffin

Below is a falcon-headed collar and counterweight that belonged to Princess Neferuptah and a girdle with leopard heads that belonged to Princess Merit. wearing the double-headed leopard girdle hanging from the hips functioned as a protective amulet.

Imagine the weight of this collar

Painted and gilded cedar outer coffin lid of Pinudjem II’s wife, Princess Nesikhonsu, and inner coffin lid or Mummy Board of Pinudjem II

Coffin lids

We took a break for lunch at the museum’s cafe where they always have good things to eat and drink, and then we wandered around the other museum rooms.

Faith Ringgold: American People

Jon and I both enjoyed artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s exhibit, which included paintings, quilts, and other artistic forms. A few words came to mind while viewing the work; Strong and emotional and sometimes playful. Unfortunately, the exhibit’s last day was November 27, 2022.

Feminist Series #12: We Meet the Monster
American People Series #13: The Flag is Bleeding
Listen to the Trees: The American Collection #11
Mother’s Quilt
Detail of Mother’s Quilt

Hamon Observation Tower

The Hamon Tower was our last stop within the museum. It offers fantastic views from its observation deck at 144 feet above ground.

SkyStar Wheel and view of San Francisco neighborhood
California Academy of Sciences building with 2.2-acre living roof and UCSF Health buildings in the background

SkyStar Wheel

The SkyStar Wheel is a temporary installation that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park and I found it interesting that the wheel stands at 150 feet tall. It weighs 465,000 pounds, and its circumference is 500 feet. The 36 enclosed gondolas hold 6 guests, except for the VIP gondola which holds 5 guests. At night, colored LED lights illuminate the wheel. Jon and I passed on riding the SkyStar during our visit, but now I want to be one of the 500,000 people that are expected to take the 12-minute ride. I still have time. The Wheel will be around until March 2025.

And, here’s a bit of trivia: Another Ferris wheel once graced the grounds of Golden Gate Park in 1894 during the Midwinter International Exposition. It stood 120 feet tall.

SkyStar Wheel next to the plinth where the arches once protected a statue of Francis Scott Key

On Juneteenth 2020 (Friday, June 19, 2020), protestors vandalized the Francis Scott Key statue and it was removed. Monumental Reckoning, composed of black steel structures referred to as the Ancestors and sculpted by Dana King, surrounds the foot of the plinth. The sculptures represent the first 350 Africans kidnapped in 1619 and brought to America. According to a sign on the plinth, the protestors targeted Francis Scott Key because of his views and actions against Africans in America. they also call for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing to replace the Star-Spangled Banner as America’s National Hymn. Monumental Reckoning is scheduled to remain in place until June 19, 2023.

We always enjoy our visits to the de Young and the many exhibits on display. We feel fortunate to have seen the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit, since it is unlikely we will ever travel to Egypt to see such historic artifacts. Visitors have until February 12, 2023, to see the statues, jewelry, and other objects on display. After that date, it travels to Europe and will be in Paris from April through September 2023.

Four days later, we had our fifth wheel trailer packed and drove off for a five-week trip to the mountains, to the desert, and to the ocean. Watch for new episodes soon.

Safe Travels