02-01 Days in the Coachella Valley

Palm Springs at Night is always lit up beautifully

Often when we are visiting this part of the desert, we fill up the days with lots of “doings”.  This time we decided that we needed a bit more “being” and a little less “doing”.  That didn’t mean we wanted to sit around all the time doing nothing but hanging out, but we did limit our excursions to one thing per day for the rest of our week at Catalina Spa.  Not counting swimming and reading of course, those two were on the list every single day. 

I finished knitting a winter scarf in camo colors for my great grandson, who loves all things camo.  Managed to get it mailed from the Desert Hot Springs post office in plenty of time.  On our first afternoon in town, after setting up at Catalina, we decided that it was time, after 8 years of driving east on Dillon Road from Indian Canyon road, past the Dillon Burger and Grill that we needed to stop for one of their down home hamburgers. 

The ambience of the bar was great, funky old bar with fun people eating and drinking, a bunch of guys from some plumbing company on a work break, and a bunch of bikers on the patio enjoying the sunshine.  The burgers were decent, not fancy or fabulous, but decent, and at 4.95 each our lunch was under 20 bucks including the beer and wine.

On another day we explored the stone sculptures at the big yard down on Dillon Road.  Another place we have passed often and never visited.  The sculptures were amazing, the artist was a character, and he talked to us about the cost of installation and transportation for these gorgeous pieces of nature’s art.  He has installations all over the country.  We imagined one the of pillars with windows sitting by our driveway at the entrance to the new house, but probably will never pop for the $5000. it would cost to do that.


On Thursday afternoon, we made the half hour drive into Palm Springs to enjoy an early dinner at a restaurant we enjoy.  Macarena’s is  Mexican place right in the center of town, with outdoor seating along the main street where every Thursday night there is a great street fair.  We got a streetside table and good service while watching the vendors set up their booths for the evening festivities.  The Happy Hour appetizer menu had perfect choices for each of us to share,and I had a killer good marguerita to go with it. I like it when a Mexican restaurant has good flavors that surprise me, instead of the same ole same ole.  Dinner was delicious and we ate every bite, no leftovers!  It is easy when you order appetizers instead of the full course deal.

As darkness fell, we joined the throngs walking down the center of the road, enjoying all the vendors and art for sale.  Before we left home, Mo and I scoped out some large exterior walls of the new house, thinking we needed a bit of house art.  I thought at the time that we might find something either in Palm Springs, or Tubac, Arizona, and we scored in both places.  We found a beautiful sun sculpted in stainless steel by a local artist at the street fair, and I managed to get through the crowd of people without puncturing anyone with the pointy sun rays.  Photos will come later for this piece, waiting now in our garage for the bad weather to lift before we decide exactly where it will be placed on the house.

As the evening wore on, the crowds thickened to the point of being tiresome. We were really glad that we came early and had supper before strolling the street fair.  We were back home by 7 fully satisfied with our meal and our outing and ready to settle in for another swim.  It was hard to share the pool with all those other people, you know the ones, the noodlers.  It seems that evening time is when folks like to “noodle”, where they all gather in little pods, floating on their noodles and chatting and laughing.  I have no problem at all with that, but I do wish that they would at least leave me a tiny lane on the far edge of the pool to actually swim.  Another reason I miss my 3 AM swims.  I actually like to swim!

The next day we woke up early to travel south again to Palm Desert to visit the Living Desert.  We went there for the first time in the winter of 2016, just after the little giraffes were born.  Those babies are now 2 year olds, and there are more young ones that are part of the group now. 

We arrived in time for the morning feeding, and while we were on the other side of the feeding fence, we laughed watching all the little kids holding out carrots to be wrapped up by those long black tongues.  Their responses were almost more fun than watching the giraffes.

The Living Desert is a zoo, but an accredited one that does great things for endangered species.  Our timing was good for this visit because unlike last time, the animals were out and about, including the wolves and especially the jaguars.  Those are truly amazing cats, who kill by using their powerful jaws to crush the head of their prey rather than going for the jugular as most cats do when killing. 

The 3 cheetah sisters were a new addition since our last visit, and they were wonderful to watch.  Each day they have the cheetah runs, where the handlers feed them at opposite ends of their enclosure, both for our enjoyment and exercise for them.  Cheetahs need to run.  It was amazing watching those long lanky bodies stretch out even for short distances.

We had to find the meerkats, of course.  I still think that Mattie is part meerkat.  I know I know, but she sure does look like one when she sits on her hind end, straight up, and turns her head from side to side with her little pointy nose in the air.  Pure meerkat.  We confirmed that when we saw the meerkats once again.  They have to be on the list of cutest animals ever.

The gardens are beautiful, even in winter, and walking the pathways will get in a good 3 miles of walking without even trying.  It is spendy, at $17.95 per senior person, but worth it.  I think we might have to go at least every other year, if not every year.

We returned to another favorite place for a lovely morning hike.  The Big Morongo Canyon Refuge is just half an hour up the hill to the north in the Morongo Valley.  It is a no dog hike, but thankfully Mattie is happy to wait at home in her MoHo bed if we want to head out for some non doggie entertainment.

We had hiked this area in the past, and knew it would provide lovely views and great open space.  It was quite chilly when we started out at 7:30 in the morning, but by the time we returned we had shed sweaters and were back to sleeveless shirts.

Unlike the Indian Canyons at Taquitz and Palm Canyon, this hike is free, but doesn’t have the waterfalls and streams, but also doesn’t have the crowds, at least when we went.  We passed a few people on various portions of the trail, but most of the time we had the refuge to ourselves to enjoy. 

In between all the activity, we still managed a lot more down time for walks with the dog, swims, reading in the chairs in the shade, and just enjoying the 80 degree temperatures, heaven after a foggy winter in Grants Pass.

01-30-2018 “Home” to Catalina Spa

Most years when we travel south, we slip into one of our favorite little spots, Catalina Spa and RV Resort.  Last year was a bit of a shock for us, since one of our favorite things about this particular park  was the hot spring fed swimming pool that was open all night.  I have watched moon rises and sun rises from this pool, watched stars at night and one time tracked the space station as it crossed the sky.  I love swimming in the dark without the sun in my eyes.

Last year the “adult” pool in the lower (older) part of the park was closed for renovation, and I had to either walk or drive in the middle of the cold night to get the the upper pool.  We knew that the lower pool renovations were complete and were excited and a bit nervous about the changes.

I discovered that I really am resistant to change.  It infuriates me.  Cracked me up when I realized how I was reacting to the shifts, just like an old person who can’t deal with change.  As time passed, I reminded myself, “change or die”, and I began to adjust to the shifts in our favorite place to camp in the Coachella Valley.

The new pool is quite modern looking.  The lovely old and somewhat amateur murals on the spa wall have been replaced with very spendy and lovely glass tiles.  The pool is spotlessly clean, with some kind of machine that runs during the night.  A very nice technician explained to me that California state law requires that all pools be treated with chlorine, and that not using it could result in the complete shutdown of the pool.  Sigh.  What I loved about that pool, in addition to the 24 hour open thing was the fact that it had no chlorine in it, and neither did the spa.  The hot springs at the resort completely replace the water in the pool every 3 days or so and in the spa more than twice a day.  Technician man said that even when he keeps the chlorine level up to state requirements, it is on the very low level of those requirements.  I only noticed it very faintly early in the morning, at 7am, when the pool now opens.  We also were told that the resort is now being billed as a “family resort destination”.  No such thing as an adult pool any more.  At least they still honor Passport America and our daily rate was a cool $22.50.  Not bad overall. Change or die.

The camping area has changed as well.  Half of the lower park (including the area we always chose to camp) has been closed off for repairs, and for eventual conversion to park models only. We were directed to our spot by a volunteer in a golf cart, unlike in the past where we were allowed to make our own choice.  It wasn’t a bad spot, actually quite level, and the sand had been freshly raked.  Instead of the tall tamarisk trees at the rear of our rig on 11th street as we always chose, we had campers directly behind us, and our patio was completely visible to them.  Not exactly private, but tolerable, since we were lucky enough to have nice, quiet campers in those spots.

The park seemed fairly full, but with half of it shut down, that would explain why.  We were given pages and pages of rules and activities, how to create a “safe bag” for exiting in an emergency and all sorts of other stuff.  TV thank goodness is still not digital, so we were able to get it via cable.  (We left our cable at home somehow and had to buy another one)  So much for knowing where everything is located after our move.

We were so lucky for our entire time in Desert Hot Springs with absolutely perfect weather.  It was especially lucky to be in a place with clear skies for the early morning spectacular show on January 31, the Supermoon and the Lunar Eclipse.  I didn’t even set an alarm, but woke up several times during the night to gaze at the moon, and was awake just after the eclipse started.  Didn’t pack a tripod on this trip, and thought that I really didn’t need to try that hard for a perfect photo.  So many good friends are really good at what they do, and they all have tripods.  I did want to at least try to capture the moment for my own memories, and the photos I got made me happy enough.  I was surprised at how many people around us in the park just slept through the entire display.  Of course, there were a few folks wandering about in bathrobes and slippers, smiling and laughing with me.

Once the sun was fully up the last morning of January, it was time to take Mattie walking in the big desert area just north.  The dog park is small and was muddy from the morning sprinklers, and the desert was much more inviting.  Within a few days, Mattie had made friends with several other dogs whose owners liked walking in the open, and several of us let the kids play off leash when everyone got along well.  As usual, Mattie likes the big dogs best, but there were a few little ones who were playful enough for her.  She can be a bit of a brat when she is on-leash, and gets all excited when she sees new dogs, wanting to play.  Her version of play can look kind of aggressive if you don’t know her, and I spent a lot of time saying, “No!!” 

I was glad for doggie play time for her since she will be going to visit a doggie care center while we are in Mexico next month, and the place requires her to be well behaved with other dogs.  Of course.  At least she had some practice during out three weeks out on this trip.

Time passed slowly for us at Catalina.  This year the weather was so great, with NO wind, an unheard of thing when visiting Desert Hot Springs at this time of year.  We had time to read in our chairs on the shady side of the rig, to swim mornings and evenings, to actually relax.  That is something we both really needed to do since we have been so much on the go for the last two years.  Real relaxation has been missing, and especially relaxation in warm sunshine!  Wonderful.

We had a few plans upcoming for the later part of our week, including some hikes, and some traditional treats like the Living Desert and Palm Springs Street Fair, but the quiet down time we enjoyed those first few days was extra special.


01-29-2018 The Oranges are Waiting!

I know I write about this almost every single year, but I just get so excited thinking about the oranges that are waiting for me at Orange Grove RV Park. I don’t even eat them, I juice them.  Crazy, I know, but with those big bags of juicy sweet oranges, I can have the luxury of making fresh orange juice every single day for at least a couple of weeks.  I can barely stand to drink OJ from a store any more.

We have traveled our winter escape south so many times, and several different ways.  In the years when we stored the MoHo in Brookings, before we bought the Grants Pass property, we traveled south along 101, through San Francisco and intercepting I-5 east of Paso Robles.

In the years when the MoHo was stored in Redding, we traveled south via I-5 all the way to Bakersfield before heading east on Highway 58 over the Tehachapi’s to the desert.  I-5 is in serious need of repairs, and each year it seems to get worse, in spite of the few spots that get repaired.

Mattie is a happy camper when we are rolling down the road.This year we decided to travel Highway 99, the old historic route through the Central Valley, Lodi, to Modesto, to Merced, to Fresno, to Bakersfield.  This freeway can be narrow and crowded, but traffic doesn’t seem to travel quite as fast as it does on I-5.  70’s instead of 80’s.  Also, except for the areas through the cities, the pavement was blessedly smooth.  No bumpety bump d bump for miles and miles and miles, and no 6 inch divots in the pavement.  We had a valve stem go out on one of those potholes, and it just doesn’t seem right that there should be big ugly potholes on an interstate freeway.

The route south to the desert isn’t that long.  Theoretically we could travel it in two days with ease, but it is more fun to take our time, stop after 300 miles or so, and arrive rested and ready to play

The trip was uneventful, leaving Lodi around 9 and pulling into Orange Grove RV Park around 3.  Perfect driving day.  We had fueled in Dunnigan the day prior to arriving at Lodi, and didn’t need gas again until we reached the Costco in Bakersfield. This time, with our travels down 99, the Costco was right off the exit.  Easy off, easy on, and cheapest fuel around.  Traffic was heavy, however, and the lines were long, as usual.  Ah yes, we are back in California again.  We have to pump our own gas.  Always a jokester around who asks us if we know how when they see our Oregon license plates.

Arriving at Orange Grove in the afternoon, we were once again glad that we took the effort to make a reservation.  This is such a popular park for Canadians on their way south and most of the license plates were from various Canadian provinces, including Ontario and Quebec. 

Sometimes they have signs saying “please only one bag per rig”, and that bag is a small plastic garbage bag.  This time, however, with most of the low hanging fruit gone from the trees between sites, they had no such restrictions.  Instead, the maintenance man came up to tell me about their additional grove that is just a bit west of the main campground, loaded with oranges all the way down to the ground, and free for the picking.  I, like many others I saw, filled a grocery bag or two, and they weren’t small plastic ones, they were big Trader Joe’s cloth bags.  I took enough to last as long as I thought they could stay fresh without refrigeration. 

Within minutes I had my first orange, sliced up and eaten from rind to get all the juice.  Then a bit later I did the old California trick of puncturing the stem end of the orange and drinking the juice, before I cut up a bunch of oranges and made a full glass of the sweet stuff.  Darn good thing I don’t have diabetes!

We didn’t pack our satellite this time.  It just has been entirely too much trouble the last few times we were out.  Our TV is not digital, so doesn’t work in all parks.  After all, our rig was built in 2006, before digital was the norm, and we aren’t in that much of a hurry to upgrade.  A break from TV is a nice thing.  We listen to the radio for the news, and thoroughly enjoy the different perspective of NPR in the morning.

Orange Grove does still have cable TV, however, and not the kind that requires a digital TV or a cable box.  Our problem with broadcast TV is that we are so used to watching at our own times and skipping the commercials, that regular TV is a pain in the neck, so it doesn’t stay on for long. 

Orange Grove also has LOTS of outside lights on at night.  It was quiet, with only a bit of road noise from the freeway that is 1/4 mile distant, but we were glad we had darkening shades that kept the light out.  Reminded me of our nights in Alaska, where it never got dark at all, and the shades worked great.  We still have day/night shades, the kind with cords, and the MCD shade upgrade is also something we aren’t all that much in a hurry to complete.  Mo has fixed the shades a couple of times, makes sure the strings are all working properly, and our shades are just fine after ten years.  I can hardly believe we have been traveling in this rig for that long.  She is still great, and we can’t find any other that we would choose to replace her.

Onward to Catalina Spa and RV Park, with our minds curious about what we will find with the new owners and remodel of the park.


01-28-2018 South at Last

On Sunday morning the skies over Grants Pass were gorgeous.  The often present winter fog was nowhere to be seen, blue was all around us, and a few puffy clouds toward the south were lined with gold from the early sunlight.  A perfect travel day! 

Our preparations for this trip were easy.  We were basically settled into the new house and had all the time in the world to get ready.  A day to wash the rig, a day to check fluids and tires on both the MoHo and the Tracker.  Two days to pack.

Packing was interesting.  For the first time in a long time, everything we have is in one house.  If I can’t find my swim suit, I don’t have to wonder in which house it might be hiding.  It is either here, or already in the MoHo.  Then of course, there is the ever present question of exactly what to take. 

It is chilly here, of course, it is still winter in Grants Pass.  A much warmer winter than what we are used to in Klamath Falls, but winter nonetheless. It is really hard to imagine that shorts and sleeveless shirts will be all that we need, in spite of the predicted 80 degree weather in the southland.  I packed some long pants, some capris, some shorts, and way too many long sleeved shirts.  Mo did the same, but she is better at this than I am, packing quite a bit less. 

Food supplies are always another question, but this time I had plenty of time to cook and freeze.  For a week prior to leaving, I cooked big meals, and froze the leftovers, and we had nice containers filled with chicken enchiladas, bean soup, turkey soup, carnitas, and spaghetti sauce among others.  The little MoHo freezer was packed to the gills for the three weeks ahead.

We left as planned within minutes of 9am, not a bit of traffic anywhere.  On Sunday morning the freeway was basically empty, the skies clear and lovely until…ooops….as we drove south toward Ashland and the Siskiyou Summit, the fog settled in.  It wasn’t really cold, and there was no snow.  We had planned carefully.  Only the day before chains were required over this pass and over Mt Shasta.  We actually changed our departure date to miss the snows.  Lucky us!  Many times as we have traveled south for a winter respite we have had to drive through snow and ice and fog.  This time it was only the fog, and it was a piece of cake.

In fact the entire drive was a piece of cake, all the way to Lodi, where we checked into our favorite little park at Flag City RV.  It is clean, quick, a Passport America park, with level cement sites and everything we need for a simple overnighter on our way to and from the southern part of the state.

Within minutes of landing, we were hooked up and I had Mattie on her leash ready to go play in the wonderful, expansive, grassy dog park.  UhOh.  The beautiful expanse was now completely ringed by huge solar panels, so much so that the only place to walk was on the bottom of the storm water catchment basin, in the wet stuff at the bottom.  Solar is great, but geez it is ugly, and it was claustrophobic walking in there.  The person at the desk told me that they spent “millions” on the panels, and their power bills dropped from between $20,000 to $30,000 a month, down to $20. per month.  All those panels power just the RV park, without any extra to sell back to the power company.  She said they would recoup their investment in 3 to 4 years.

It was our first night out in a long time, and it felt good to be camping in the MoHo somewhere other than our front yard.  California deserts, here we come!

If you click on a photo and discover you are in an album from another year, it is because I had to cheat.  I didn’t take one single photo on this first day out, and a blog post with no photos is pretty darn ugly.