Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Back to California

We spent a whirlwind few weeks in Toronto, Montreal 

Sunny, but freezing
and Toronto again visiting family and friends. It was wonderful to see folks and get caught up. In early January, we left the land of ice, snow and freezing temperatures [-41 wind chill on Jan 3] to fly back to Las Vegas, where our Ram was parked. Many flights had been grounded due to the cold, but ours was on time. It was sunny and warm when we landed. We caught the early shuttle, so checked in at South Point, ate an early Buffet dinner [once again with 50% off coupon from the hotel, and another 25% off with the club card = $16.16 for both of us+ $12 for a bottle of wine-we got the expensive bottle this time] and caught the South Point Shuttle for The Strip. It was wonderful walking around in shirtsleeves after several weeks of many layers, gloves, scarves and snowboots. We just ambled along, wandering in and out of clubs and hotels. It was interesting trying to cross the road, as at many intersections, you have to go up long steps or escalators and over the roads, on a skywalk. The Dancing Waters at the Bellagio are spellbinding. The opulent decor of Caesar’s Palace, with its murals and statues had us wandering with our eyes wide. After 4 hours, and we only covered one side of the street, we caught the monorail then the shuttle to our hotel. 
Breakfast was another Buffet, and again with 25% off, and as many bloody Mary’s as you wanted.

After checking out, we decided to drive to the Hoover Dam before heading back to our friends’ in Barstow. Before reaching the Dam, we passed Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US in maximum water capacity and formed by the Hoover Dam.

Amazing colours
Many different types of recreation- boating is the most popular

The dam is an amazing feat of engineering. It is massive, impressive and elegant.
Lake Mead seen from the Dam

Water Intakes, 2 in Nevada and 2 in Arizona

The Dam
Colorado River from the top of the Dam

The Art Deco design is evident throughout, as is the attention to detail in the terrazzo floors and the brass doors- which are polished every night. 

In Generator Room, 500 ft down, electrical socket motif

Entrance to Washroom,  design represents turbines which generate power

In Generator Room, 500 ft down, representing the turbines
The symbolism of the winged men in the dedication with the stars [on the floor] placed where they were in the sky on the day the Dam was dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dedicated to those who lost their lives in the  building of the Dam
On the tour, we went down 500 ft. in an elevator to the penstocks, where water flows from the intake pipes to the intake tunnel and then to the turbines.The top and bottom tunnels in the diagram below, are the diversion tunnels, constructed to divert the Colorado River, during construction of the Dam. They are now permanently sealed with massive concrete plugs.

Our guide explaining the Dam- water flowing right to left- top is Nevada side, bottom is Arizona side.
A penstock  bringing water to turbines

The Generators- 500ft down

We were much later than we had planned to be, heading to Barstow.

Driving west
 We had a wonderful long weekend with our friends. We walked into the desert, to the upside down and backwards Mojave River.

This is one of the flat parts of the desert

We were really there!

John walking up a huge dune- it is not all flat
The water in the river is mostly underground. The channel at the surface remains dry most of the time, and flows out onto a large inland delta called the Mojave River Wash at the western edge of Mojave National Preserve. During heavy flows, the river reaches Soda Lake near Baker at the north end of the Wash, and has reachedSilver Lake, even further north, rather than toward the ocean. This area has been in a drought for the past few years; the creosote bushes can go 34 months without water, so they are a bit of green, in a sea of shades of brown.  But the sage brush was mainly brown. We got back just as the sun was setting, so we hopped in our friend's ATV and tore off into the desert to a large hill to get a good view of a desert sunset.

It was worth the mad ride for this view!
The next day we had a blast off-roading in our friend’s Polaris Ranger Crew, with a couple of other friends in their ATV’s, a Polaris Razor 900 and a Yamaha. It was an awesome ride! First we rode the roller coaster- a huge loop of hills- ups and downs, sometimes with a bit of a ride along the top, sometimes up to the top, and right back down the other side.

taken part way up the 'roller coaster' on one of the breaks
A huge thrill for both of us! Then we took off, blasting across the desert,

stopping every-so-often for a break.

On one of these, someone spotted a plastic milk carton on the hill. Out came the friends’ hand guns- a Glock and a Beretta 9mm- to give the Canadian a chance to target shoot. 

The Canadian takes target practice, and hits the target!
John was over-the moon. He had never shot a hand gun before, but did really well, especially with the Glock. At the next stop, we realized that our friend’s Polaris was leaking fluid.

Even reading the manual didn't help...
Having made the decision not to drive it, the Polaris Razor towed us the last few miles

The Work Horse being towed by the sport model
to our destination, the Slash X Ranch.

Our friend’s wife had driven to meet us. After arranging a tow and mechanic, and ordering beer and burgers, we all sat on the patio and enjoyed some really good country music.

Fabulous Country singer
got the beer, waiting for the burgers...

To get back home, John rode in the Razor 900, our friend rode in the Yamaha, I went in the car. When we met at the rendezvous point, John was grinning, Ray had taken him on a wild ride through the desert. To really make his day, Ray then let him drive the Razor.

Look at that Grin!
We stood around and talked, for what seemed like a very long time before they returned! This was really the icing on a fabulous desert experience!

We explored Barstow’s murals

and, before we left, visited several museums. The Mojave River Valley Museum has a series of displays and exhibits that portray the history of the Mojave River Valley from the arrival of Father Garces in 1776 on through pathfinders, pioneers, miners, railroads and the present space program. The Western America Railroad Museum in historic Casa del Desierto, Harvey House

Casa del Desierto, Barstow's Harvey House
has railroad memorabilia, photos and archives from not only the Barstow area, but from the entire West as well. The Harvey House was one of a chain of restaurants and hotels established by Fred Harvey hiring single, well-mannered, and educated American ladies, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent. The official starched black and white uniform (which was designed to diminish the female physique) consisted of a skirt that hung no more than eight inches off the floor, "Elsie" collars, opaque black stockings, and black shoes. The hair was restrained in a net and tied with a regulation white ribbon. Makeup of any sort was absolutely prohibited. Finally, The Route 66 Museum, also in the Harvey House, displays a collection of historic photographs and artifacts related to Route 66 and the Mojave Desert Communities. Displays include development of the United States Route 66 from early pioneer trails, railroads, automotive history, businesses and sites.

Then we were on our way, along Route 66,

to pick up the Airstream from Southwest Coach in Corona, and make our way to San Diego. Of course, on the way, we had to make a stop Rancho Cucamonga’s Total Wines.

The only date palms we have seen, in Rancho Cucamonga
It is really hard to get John out of one of these stores. He keeps finding something new he wants to check out. 

Southwest Coaches' service was excellent. They tightened the connection in the bathroom plumbing, found and sealed a pin-hole by the marker light on the curbside back quarter, fixed the blind pull and washed our Run-Around-Sue.

Now we were off towards San Diego.

Many of the hills are barren.

Some hills further south had large bolders strewn down the sides
We decided to stay outside San Diego at the Santee Lakes Recreational Preserve in Santee. It is beautiful here, sunny and warm. Temperatures have been over 80F since we arrived – much warmer and drier than normal (southern California is suffering from a drought). The sites are large, sandy, fairly level and raked.

This site is about 90ft deep, 45ft wide
There are 7 linked lakes containing recycled water. 2,000,000,000 gal. per day are treated, half is for irrigation and industrial use, the rest is released into the lakes. We are just 30 km and 30 minutes-in rush hour- from downtown San Diego. We were booked in for a week. However, there is so much to see and do around San Diego, that we wanted to stay longer. We went to Mission Beach,

Mission Beach looking north- no cliffs to scramble down!

Mission Beach to the south. Condos are $2million+

Many of the decorative shrubs are Rosemary.
a funky area with interesting shops, much like The Beach in Toronto, and looked at the RV Park at Mission Bay.  It is all paved, with gated security but with sites close together and right on Mission Bay. The location can’t be beat, but the park lacks the charm and amenities of Santee Lakes.  We had the opportunity to stay in another site at Santee, and decided to stay here for another 2 weeks. We can take the trolley from Santee right to the Fashion Valley, Old Town, Middle Town, Little Italy, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, The Conference Centre, down almost to the Mexican Border or right downtown – all for a $5 day pass and unlimited rides on the trolleys or busses.

We have driven to Torrey Pines Beach 
Condos just across from Torrey Beach entrance
and spent one day walking on the beach for miles, both north and south. The two are divided by a channel which flows into the ocean.

South Beach [the first day] tide is in- the channel is in the centre of the beach
The north section sand is clean, hard and beautiful to walk on. But there are still cliffs to climb along the beaches.

North Beach-tide is out

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit digging for food
To the South, the beach is much rockier, with hard sand and a large kelp bed by the shore.  We walked along the beach in the surf

South Beach -tide is out- I found an agate too!
and across the channel, and froze our feet. There were more people on the south section, but that was probably because parking was limited but free, while to access the North section, parking was $10 for the day.

Because we are staying, there is no push to get out every day to “see the sights”, so we also spent a day watching the NFL Semi Finals! 

More San Diego to come...


  1. Great photos of the lake, it actually doesn't look like it's low on water, like it was when we were there.

  2. Hi Leigh:

    One of the workers at the dam mentioned the normal high water mark is the dark line visible about 1/3 of the way above the current water level within the white band.