Monday, February 25, 2013


We decide to take the scenic route to Chula Vista, down past the Salton Sea, bouncing over the whoop de woo (You know those undulating roads that put your stomach in your throat... really fun in a sports car... but problematic towing a trailer?  ) fault lines that riddle the Coachella Valley, winding over the costal mountains and across the Anza Borrego Desert. The drive is picturesque and reminds us why we enjoy “moving days.”

The Chula Vista Marina and RV Resort at the south end of the San Diego Harbor is our home for the next month.  The Marina is modern and attractive with grassy parks, two restaurants and docks filled with luxury yachts. The adjoining RV Park is packed with their land based counterparts.  Our space is oriented toward the sun with hedges dividing the spaces that give us a bit of privacy. A newly completed bicycle path winds around the harbor. Not a bad place to spend part of the winter eh? (See we are learning to speak Canadian, must be the snowbird influence LOL.)

The San Diego area has a lot to offer and we immediately start by making the list-o-things to do.  During our research we see that Macy’s is giving away passes for a 50% discount off entry fees for most of the museums in the area so our first stop is the Chula Vista Mall to pick one up.  This ends up saving us a bundle!

Seaport Village presents some fun shopping and we make a few small purchases.  Of course, seaside shopping also entails cocktails by the water. (Big surprise huh?)

Flight Crew
We spend a whole day at the USS Midway Museum, which is the USS Midway aircraft carrier.  Part of the admission includes a self-guided audio tour with spiffy mp3 players that play information about numbered stops around the vessel.  Easy to use menus let us switch back and forth as we explore the ship. Additionally there are docents who give additional information and insight into life on an aircraft carrier.  One of the highlights is a talk by a retired pilot outlining the process to land a plane on a moving airfield.  Short explanation it’s a controlled crash… fascinating. There are great photo ops all over the ship including one that we just couldn’t resist...  

Balboa Park

The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation and the gem of San Diego.  In addition to the world famous San Diego Zoo, the park is home to fifteen major museums, gardens, performing arts, hiking trails and restaurants. Here we take full advantage of out Macy’s 50 % off museum admissions discount card. 

Yes that's a water
pipe in the front seat

The Automotive Museum has a special exhibit of low riders that sparkle and shine.  They are fun to check out and tricky to photograph.  They also display some beautifully restored vintage vehicles.  But the piece de resistance is “Louie Mattar’s Fabulous $75,000 Car.”  Louie retrofitted this 1947 Cadillac with every convenience he could imagine (mobile phone, TV, stove, washing machine, shower, chemical toilet and more…) so he could travel NON-STOP, fueling, changing oil and tires on the go.  This vehicle may be the first motor home ever built and certainly the most unique.  He and his crew traveled (without stopping for anything) 6,320 miles across the US in 1952 and 7,482 miles from Anchorage Alaska to Mexico City in 1954.

Botaical Building
alive with orchids

This month Orchids are the stars in the Botanical Building.  Inside one of the largest lath structures in the world, thousands of blooms are nestled under palms and ferns and piled high in breathtaking chromatic displays. A light mist hangs in the air under the lath. Stunning!

Bill Traylor 1982
The Mingei International Museum is dedicated to art of the people (mingei) from all eras and cultures of the world.  The exhibit “TRUE BLUE” a collection of turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Indigo and cobalt draws us in, but we are blown away by the art of Bill Traylor, a self-taught artist from Montgomery, Alabama, who began drawing in his early eighties and produced over 1200 works during the last decade of his life. The works are done in graphite, colored pencil, poster paints and crayon on shirt cardboard, cast-off signs and wrappers. We are captivated with the emotion and storytelling of his works. There is also a wonderful exhibit of musical instruments.

The Museum of Man offers an in-depth installation on human evolution.  There are also Egyptian mummies, shrunken heads and lots of ancient artifacts.  A special exhibit; Instruments of Torture is a chilling installation of implements cruelly engineered to inflict unbelievable pain and suffering. It forces us to explore how we, as humans, respond to events and take action. (Are people the real instruments of torture?) It examines how, in some situations, even those who swear that they would never torture another person, do exactly the opposite. Ultimately, we are encouraged to contemplate our own human frailty, the conditions that lead to torture, and how we can be “upstanders”– people who stand up for others – in a world that has too many bystanders.

On Sundays the International Cottages representing 32 nations are open and we explore international heritage and culture.  These charming Spanish inspired haciendas display information about the various countries and ethnicities, and offer culinary samples of their national cuisines.  After visiting the cottages we stop by the Speckles Organ Pavilion for a free concert of ginormous organ music. The music may not be our cup of tea but the mood is festive and light hearted.

And then there is the ZOO

Monkeys Rule!
The 100-acre Zoo is home to over 3,700 rare and endangered animals. Their mission is to preserve and protect rare and endangered wildlife and habitats.

After almost a century this pioneer of “cage less” exhibits is still one of the best in the nation.  It is one of only four zoos in the country, which have giant pandas on display, and is the most successful in terms of panda reproduction. (Unfortunately when we visited one panda was face down asleep and all we could view was his derriere, the second panda was quarantined because he decided to remodel the habitat destroying some of the artificial trees – bad-bad panda!) But here’s a link to the Panda Cam so you can check them out here:  PANDA CAM!
Mama Koala
with baby

It is also home to more Koalas anywhere outside of Australia and they will soon be opening a new spectacular Koala habitat. The modern Elephant Odyssey features a display of extinct animals from Southern California's history, and their living descendants: elephants, lions, jaguars, sloths, camels, tapirs, pronghorn, California condors, and more! The Polar Bear Plunge offers the opportunity to watch these giant creatures from above and below the water. And for those at home there is also a Polar Cam!

And Turtles... lost and lots of turtles... because they are the most endangered vertebrate on the planet!

During this time we eat out a bit… but this post is already getting too long… so  restaurant reviews will have to wait until the next post.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013


As the warm weather returns we are drawn to some of the attractions of the area…

The town of Palm Springs was and still is the playground of the mid twentieth century Hollywood celebrities.  It oozes of the post-war glory days of high desert Xanadu.  Many of the streets are named after stars of that era. Looking dated architecturally, seems a good thing… people looking dated… not so much… (I don’t think I have ever seen to many tucked, lifted, peeled and Botoxed humans, and frankly, the wide eyed surprised look on septuagenarians is kind of creepy.) Surrounding Palm Springs is a sprawl of gated communities surrounding golf courses and country clubs, and further out are the working class areas that house all of the service workers who tend to the elite.  It is an interesting town to visit, and there is more to do than uncomfortable people watching.

The Moorten Botanical Gardens is a family owned and operated establishment dedicated to cacti and desert vegetation including some rare and unusual species. This is obviously a labor of love that seems to be barely surviving on the $4 per person entrance fees charged and the few specimens for sale. Many of the signs are faded and not all of the plants are identified, but this is one of those “small on the edge spots” that is well worth the stop.

here kitty kitty kitty...
The Living Desert is a slick zoo and botanical garden dedicated to desert flora and fauna. (Thus the clever name LOL.)  The cactus gardens are beautifully manicured and the animal displays fairly spacious (for a zoo.)  We see a plethora of exotic cats, zebras, giraffes, birds of prey, reptiles, rodents and more.  The park backs up to the trails of Eisenhower peak and after seeing everything at the zoo, we do a short hike in the desert.

We attend a matinee show of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies with special guest star Lou Christie (of "Lightening Strikes" fame) at the historic Plaza Theatre.  The show is a celebration of the spirit of early Palm Springs, in music, dance and comedy of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  The entertainers do not have to stretch to fill their roles… for these talented folks are from those era’s. The youngest artists are in their 50’s and the oldest pushing 80.  We purchased our tickets on-line the day of the show and are excited to score a couple of front row seats… note when ordering tickets and front row seats are available don’t be feel too lucky… the front row is expected to become part of the show… and Chris is the first victim.  He holds his own with the MC Riff Markowitz.  After the intermission I’m the target… and also hold my own… in fact after the show one of the patrons comes up to us and tells us that she thinks that Chris and I were the funniest part of the show… (She must not get out much LOL) Don’t worry, we are not stage struck and have no intention to pursue a late life career in show business.

After the show we catch an early dinner down the street from the theatre at Zin American Bistro.  We start with a couple of glasses of 2008 Gérard Bertrand, Cremant de Limoux, Brut, and the Tatar Trio: ahi tartar, steak tartar and sun-dried tomato tartar with crostini, then cups of their exceptionally outstanding Wild Mushroom Truffle Soup.  For entrees: Organic Salmon: lightly smoked with warm three bean bacon salad and Prince Edward Island Mussels: with pommes frites and. white wine, sauce.  A bottle of 2008 Villa Creek, Mas de Maha, Tempranillo, Grenache, Mourvèdra, Carignan, blend accompanies these perfectly.  After a pallet cleansing sorbet we enjoy a 10-year Tawney Port and espressos.  Everything was prepared perfectly and service was exceptional. All in all an extraordinary end to a fun day…
Zin American Bistro on Urbanspoon

WWII Nose Art

We stop by the Palm Springs Air Museum.  They have an outstanding collection of war birds including a B-17 Bomber that we are able to climb aboard.  These planes look so much bigger and substantial in the movies.  This is a flying shell with scant protection from the elements and a relatively small payload.   One of the docents was a ball turret gunner who completed 33 missions in the European theatre of WWII. (Impressive, since the life expectancy for a B-17 crew member was 14 missions.)  He shares his personal experiences over the skies of Germany.  We are impressed with the courage of these young men. Most of the planes here are in excellent shape, although it seems that the nose art has been sanitized a bit. There is also an exhibit honoring Bob Hope and his work with the USO.  Compared to the Air Museum we visited in Tillamook, this one is obviously better financed and much more comprehensive.

We have a couple of rainy days and we head to the local Cineplex and catch Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  This is a mindless popcorn flick and fairly entertaining.

One foraging day is spent at the College of the Desert StreetFair and The Palm Springs Open Air Market where we pick up local produce. Another great source of fresh veggies and fruits is the Indio L&G Desert Store nearby.

Joshua Trees
Joshua Tree National Park is just over the hill. (A two-hour drive.) We spend a day exploring the park.  The scenery is a stunning mix of boulders, cacti and the exotic Joshua Trees (which we learn are really part of the lily family and not a tree or a grass like the palm trees.)

There are five Indian Casinos in the area and we visit two: Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage and Fantasy Springs in Indio.  Both are clean and fun.  Since Fantasy Springs is a short drive from our park, we head over to watch the Super Bowl– well… Chris watched the game and I won and gave back on the slots. We enjoy a wonderful dinner at The Bistro after the game. (This takes the sting out of the 49er’s loss.)  The menu is exciting wine list extensive and the prices quite reasonable.  We start with Lobster and Scallop Rockefeller, which is simply out of this world. A Caesar Salad is shared and we both choose the Double Cut Colorado Lamb Chops smothered with a Khadrawi Date Curry Sauce accompanied with grill-roasted yams and haricot verts (BTW that’s French for green beans.) We also enjoy a bottle of Concannon Reserve Syrah.  The portions are more than generous… so generous in fact, that we each can only finish one of the three chops on our plates.  So we enjoy re-runs for a couple of days.
The Bistro on Urbanspoon

Media Center with
Monitor, Mac Mini
and 6TB HD

In between adventures Chris makes some long time planned improvements to Dimples.  He makes and mounts a shelf for our “media center”, remodels the bedroom night stands to allow access from the top and blocks off the gaps under the bathroom sink that stuff seems to bounce into while traveling.

Well that pretty much wraps up our time here and it’s been awhile since we visited the Pacific Ocean… Chula Vista south of San Diego seems like it will fit the bill…