March 29

March 29

A Lazy Day; Sea-lions And Whales And Birds, Oh My!

We got up late this morning and had a leisurely breakfast. Although it cools down considerably at night, it continues to be warm and sunny during the day. We walked about a half-mile to the beach, which is lovely. Very reminiscent of Long Beach, although there are no logs. There was a bit of an onshore breeze and few people down there, so we climbed up to a bench area at the top of a headland and spent a couple of hours watching the big waves roll in, while a group of sea-lions dozed on the rocks below us, and several grey whales passed by on their way to Alaska. Who knows, maybe they are some of the same ones we saw and petted a few weeks ago in Guerrero Negro!

We returned to the campground and spent the afternoon reading, watching red-winged blackbirds and a friendly flock of partridges, and doing some computer work down at the Lodge. We will be heading for the Redwood River campground in Leggett (still in California; it always amazes us how big a state this is!), where we will spend two nights.


March 28

March 28

Happy Birthday To Holly; Seals That Never Forget;”I Do, He Does”; Slumming At Pebble Beach

We left at 9:00 and headed north. After gassing up (dieseling up?), we made our first stop at a small beach favoured by Elephant Seals. They love each others’ company, and despite their size, they are kind of cute:





It is a beautiful coastline:




After a Happy Birthday call to Holly, we continued on to Pebble Beach, opting to pay $10.00 to drive the 17-mile loop (definitely worth it). For those unfamiliar with it, Pebble Beach is an enclave of very wealthy people, built around 3 PGA-level golf courses, the two most famous being Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach itself. Having been a golf fan for many years, I have always wanted to see the Pebble Beach course, so this was a great opportunity. It is a lovely drive:




Apparently I’m going to have to wash the roof:



The following photos are for Mickie; at one stop, we ran across a beach wedding (reminded us of Holly’s wedding):





The 100-year old iconic “Lone Cypress”:


Finally, a stop at the Lodge


and the 18th hole:


Another Bucket List item checked off.

Due to our detours, we arrived at the Santa Cruz KOA at just after 6:00, where we will stay for 2 nights.


March 26-27

March 26 – 27

How The Other Half Lives

Or more accurately, how the other 1/2 of the top 1% live.

To go back, we spent a very nice afternoon with Jack and Ruby, visiting their two sons and their families, who both live nearby. They were all warm and welcoming, and they have lovely children. We went out for an Italian dinner, then sat around a fire for a couple of hours.

We left the next morning for the short drive to Santa Margarita and checked into the KOA campground, which is out in the country and surrounded by lovely green rolling countryside. We relaxed the rest of the day, planning to spend the next day visiting the Hearst Castle, about an hour’s drive north.

This morning (the 27th), we made the very pleasant drive, much of it along the coast, to the Hearst Castle. The easiest way to describe it (and its 170,000 surrounding acres) is to think of it as the Versailles of California. It was originally built by William Randolph Hearst, heir to the Hearst publishing empire, and took 28 years to complete (although there are some sections of it that were never completed after his death in 1951). It was eventually turned over to the state of California, and is now administered by the State Park system. Hearst’s wish was that all of the art treasures it contains, one of the largest collections in the world, should always be available for the public to see and experience.

The short story is that Hearst’s first wife Millicent, once having been introduced to the high society and arts and culture of New York by her husband, loved it too much to move out west to where Hearst had spent summers as a child, hiking and camping his father’s vast acreage, and where he eventually wanted to settle permanently. His mother had taken him to Europe as a young child and educated him in the history and cultures of many countries. Hearst himself spoke several languages fluently, and during his life, not only expanded his father’s publishing holdings, but diversified into many other fields, including that of producing films through his own film company.

He decided to build a “small place” on the high hill overlooking San Simeon, which rapidly turned into the castle that exists today (rapidly is a relative term; it took 28 years to complete). It contains 36 guest bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, along with several satellite “cottages” (each approximately 2800 square feet), which contained everything one might expect, except for a kitchen. There was no room service; Hearst expected his guests to eat with everyone else in the main house, the “Casa Grande” as it was known. Although he was somewhat ruthless in his business dealings, he treated and paid his employees well and the average length of time an employee stayed with Hearst was 23 years. He was also a bit of a closet philanthropist, and never wanted his name publicised. Ultimately, he met an actress named Marion Davies, fell in love, and although he and his first wife never divorced, Marion eventually moved into the Castle and they were together until his death in 1951. He lived through 17 Presidents and was instrumental in electing at least 6 of them because of his considerable clout through his publishing empire.

One of his unique business ideas was that his will stipulated that the Trust he established to run his operations after his death could never have any Hearst family members on the Board, nor could they serve in any official role such as CEO or CFO. His feeling was that family emotions did not make for good business decisions, and the stipulation only runs out when his last grandchild dies.

Of course, there is far more to the man and his legacy, but we found the two tours we did (upstairs and downstairs) really interesting and informative. Hopefully the following pictures will give you an idea. The sculptures, tapestries, paintings etc. are priceless, and some predate the birth of Christ by hundreds of years.


The Refectory (Dining Room)

The Refectory (Dining Room)

No tablecloth or fancy china (bone ware only). Paper napkins and condiments in their original bottles.

No tablecloth or fancy china (bone ware only). Paper napkins and condiments in their original bottles.

Silver candlesticks and wine bowl. All silverware is cleaned twice a year.

Silver candlesticks and wine bowl. All silverware is cleaned twice a year.


The Games Room

The Games Room

50 seat theatre

50 seat theatre

The outdoor "Neptune" pool (empty for cleaning and repair)

The outdoor “Neptune” pool (empty for cleaning and repair)

The view from here:




Heart’s bedroom:



Marion’s bedroom:


One of the 36 Guest Bedrooms:


The Guest Library:



Several of the 400 Grecian pots he owned

Several of the 400 Grecian pots he owned

The indoor “Roman” pool (located underneath the tennis courts):



A final look:


It should also be noted that Hearst at one time had the biggest private zoo in North America which included many exotic species, most of which roamed freely among his cattle. Zebras are still here with the cattle, although most of the animals were given to zoos or sold when the Great Depression took a toll on Heart’s finances.

If you are ever down this way, it is well worth seeing, and we’re glad we went. Off to another KOA near Santa Cruz tomorrow for a couple of nights.


March 20 – 25

March 20 – 25

Beaver Tales; Elvis Spotted In Hemet!; Kiss Me, Squeeze Me, Make Me Wine

It has been a very busy few days and nights, so I haven’t had a chance to catch up for a while.

We arrived in Hemet just after noon and got set up. This is a very nice RV park with excellent facilities. The rest of the day was taken up with orientation and get-acquainted activities.

Day 2 was Palm Springs day. The buses first took us up to the Aerial Tramway, which we had done last year, but is still an impressive trip, with quite a view from the 8500 ft. peak. Unfortunately, we were given very little time up there before they wanted us back down to get back on the bus, which did not go down well, particularly with those who were doing this for the first time. Next stop was Palm Springs, where we were given a couple of hours to have lunch and shop. We found a wonderful little store called Olive A’ Sudden, where we bought some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for salad dressing and dipping. It is all made in Modena Italy, and is to die for!

After returning to the buses, we did a tour of the Palm Springs “Movie Colony” neighbourhood, where many of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s movie stars had homes. We had a knowledgeable, if a bit overenthusiastic, tour guide. It was interesting, but almost all of the homes have been sold, resold and renovated over the years, and many are surrounded by tall hedges, which made them difficult to see. After returning to the RV park, we ended the day with an evening social gathering. coincidentally, there was a “Beaver” gathering going on at the RV park (not the animals, but owners of what is apparently the Ferrari of motor coaches made by the Beaver company). unlike the lowly $300,000-$500,000 rigs attending the Fantasy rally. Beavers start at a million and top out at a million seven. At the same time as we were having our wine and snacks social, they were having their farewell banquet, topped off by an almost two hour performance by an Elvis impersonator with a great band, and they kindly invited us to come and watch the show. It was awesome, and we’re still wondering how the 61 year old performer kept it at full-bore for that long. The next morning, we wandered among the Beavers as they were getting ready to leave, hoping someone would invite us inside, but despite our best efforts, no-one did. I wanted to know if, for that price, the Beaver slapped its tailpipe on the ground when it was startled, but I guess that will remain a mystery.

Day 3 began with breakfast and a shuffleboard tournament in a surprisingly large shuffleboard complex in the park. Despite its image, shuffleboard is more complicated than it would appear, complete with an almost ritualistic preparation of the lanes, involving waxing and sweeping, resulting in a surface so smooth that the discs require only a tiny application of force to travel from end of the lane to the other. Since neither of us are quite ready to become participants (I think it has to do with an admission of age), we remained in the stands and acted as cheerleaders for some of our friends. This was followed by a BBQ lunch and a Charity Auction to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation. It was a blind auction in the sense that there were five gift-wrapped sealed boxes to bid on, all of which contained some pretty nice stuff. The first four went for $300-$350 each, with the last one going for $700. Needless to say, our hands stayed firmly in our laps! Fantasy Tours matched the total bids, along with matching the cash and cheque donations, so the total raised was north of $8000.00. Later that night there was a 70’s costume and dance party, which revealed some confusion between what was worn in the 70’s and what was worn in the 60’s, but the music was great and we had a good time.

Day 4 began with a bus tour of the wine country around here, ending up at the South Coast Winery, the largest winery in the area for a first-class brunch and a private wine-tasting. It is only 11 years old, but has already won a ton of medals for its products. It is a beautiful place:






We exercised great self-restraint and only bought two bottles.

The afternoon began with a dessert bar (just what we needed!), then we put in some pool time before playing “Fantasy Bingo” in the evening (won nothing).

Day 5 was basically a day of travelogues promoting future trips with Fantasy, along with door prizes, none of which made it into our hands, followed by a farewell dinner. Tomorrow we are off to spend a night visiting our friends Jack and Ruby, who are about 30 minutes away from here. On Thursday we begin to make our way home up the coast highway by way of Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Leggett in California, Bandon (John and Lorna may remember the Bandon Dog), and Neskowin in Oregon, then Elma in Washington State. The tentative plan is to arrive home sometime in late afternoon on Easter Sunday.


March 18-19

March 18-19

Happiest Place On Earth

Sorry, at the end of the previous post, I should have said Wednesday and Thursday. We arrived here from Chula Vista around noon, and checked into the hotel. It was far too early for our room to be ready, so we parked Lucy and walked over to Disneyland, which took about 15 minutes. We spent the rest of the day there, then discovered the shuttle bus system from the park to the neighbouring hotels. Due to a mix-up in communication, the driver took us to the wrong Marriott hotel, and we had to get a taxi back to our hotel, arriving back around 10:30.

In the first half day, we managed to squeeze in a fair amount of activity, major highlights being the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, a very professional show in the New Orleans Square amphitheatre, a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat, and an evening sound and light production which words cannot possibly do justice to. Suffice to say that it was phenomenal, with incredible special effects such as images being projected onto a curtain of mist generated by powerful sprays of water.

Several attractions are not open, including Critter Country and Thunder Mountain, as they are being overhauled in preparation for summer. The park was not as crowded as we feared, although there are lots of out-of-state groups here, as it is Spring Break in many surrounding states, although not here. Here are a few pictures from Day 1:




Beauty and the Beast




This morning we had breakfast at the hotel and caught a shuttle bus back to the park. We began with a presentation called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”; Walt Disney was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln:



Disney was an early pioneer of animatronics; this Abraham Lincoln was difficult to tell from a real human being:


Two ways we got around:



We rode the monorail (the first in the western hemisphere), then decided to go to Tomorrowland and take in the “Star Tour” activity, which involved a simulated 3D Star Wars type ride through space with CP3O at the controls. Jeannine really enjoyed it; me, not so much. As soon as the doors closed on the small room, I developed an immediate case of claustrophobia, which, combined with the visual and physical experience, gave me what I am pretty sure was the first panic attack of my life. I actually had to close my eyes and ride it out. It was probably mild by most people’s standards, but it was a disconcerting experience for me, and completely unexpected.

We then went to the “Royal Theatre” for a very well done production of “Frozen”, done in an almost vaudeville style, with actors playing the principal roles, and “Mr. Smythe” and “Mr. Jones” playing everybody else. The kids loved it, as did we. We had lunch and a floor show (short but well done in a Pantomime style) at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon:


At 4:00, we got good seats for the daily Parade:



Robin Williams, RIP

Robin Williams, RIP






Jeannine wanted to go to the Indiana Jones ride, but given my experience earlier in the day, and having read the warnings about the nature of the ride, I decided not to join her, and headed back to the hotel. She returned a few hours later; she enjoyed the ride (and the cotton candy that followed), and confirmed that my decision to skip the ride was probably wise, but I’m sorry to have missed it nonetheless.

We are off to Hemet tomorrow for a 6 day Rally put on by Fantasy Tours, who we did the Rose Bowl Rally and Baja Tour with. After that, we will spend one or two days visiting Jack and Ruby, a couple we met earlier, then begin to wend our way home.


March 17

March 17

Run For The Border; Crawl Through The Border; Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

As I write this, we are safely back in the U.S. and glad to be here! We entered Mexico through Tijuana originally, but our Wagon master had said that we couldn’t return through U.S. Customs that way because there was a zig-zag road leading to Customs, so that no-one can try and crash through, and the big rigs in our caravan would not be able to negotiate the turns. Therefore, we were going to bypass Tijuana and take Highway 3 over to Tecate, where they were making 4 commercial traffic lanes available to us at U.S. Customs to expedite the process.

The drive itself was quite pretty, passing through a wine-producing region. Just before descending into Tecate, however, there was a short stretch of road at the top of a hill that was under repair. It may be the worst piece of road anyone here has ever seen, so rough in fact that we literally crawled through it at 1 mile per hour to avoid serious damage. It was quite a sight to watch the tall rigs in front of us swaying back and forth like old schooners in a rough sea. We all made it safely, but were in for one last surprise when we arrived at the commercial border crossing and were subjected to a search at yet another Mexican military checkpoint, less than a hundred feet from the U.S. Customs checkpoint, which had one (1) lane instead of the four we had been promised. There were in fact only 2 lanes available in any case. The rig search here went much faster, but by the time we were cleared to go through, the whole process had lasted an hour.

As we drove away, we felt quite a weight lift from our shoulders. Although, as I think I said earlier, we don’t regret having made this journey, it has been far more mentally and physically stressful than we had expected, and it was quite a relief to return to a more familiar world. The footnote to this is that at our last RV park yesterday in Ensenada, we ran into another caravan of mostly big rigs who were also going to be crossing the border today. Many of them are in the same campground as our group here in Chula Vista. Turns out they left Ensenada after us, yet arrived here before us. How could this be, you ask? As it happens, they went through Tijuana, had no trouble negotiating the approach road, and were through the border in 20 minutes.

Was this a case of being told what we wanted to hear, or did the Wagon masters not have correct information about the actual conditions in Tijuana? Who knows?

We went with our neighbours to an In n Out Burger place (a new experience for us), and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. At 5:30, those of us who returned to this campground (several rigs turned east to go to their next destinations) went to a wind-up light dinner gathering. There is a farewell continental breakfast tomorrow morning, then we go our separate ways. For us, that means heading for Anaheim for two nights at the Marriott hotel near the gates of Disneyland, where we will take in as much as we can on Thursday and Friday.


March 16

March 16

Baja 37-Day Winter Pair O’ Dice

We left at about 8:30 for Ensenada, arriving at the same RV park we used on the way down at about 12:30. We spent the afternoon relaxing before going to our farewell dinner at 5:30:

On the way, we came across this cute little guy

On the way, we came across this cute little guy


As we walked back, we were treated to our final sunset in Mexico:


Everyone was presented with their own certificate of achievement:


The name of this tour was the Baja 37-day Winter Paradise. I have re-named it the Baja 37-Day Winter Pair O’ Dice, since every day was a crapshoot!

Jeannine’s stingray wound is still giving her a bit of trouble; apparently the stinger, or bits of it often remain in the wound, so she is taking Cipro, a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic, to prevent infection. On the advice of our neurosurgeon friend, she is also soaking it with a hot salt water compress to draw out anything that is in there, so hopefully things should improve.

We head out to Tecate and our return to the U.S. at 7:30 tomorrow morning, planning to arrive at Customs at around 11:00.