<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 24
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who can fit a lot of words onto a standard size postcard -- usually by writing sideways, around corners, and even upside down if she can find some extra space. Most of these go to family and friends. But some of them -- those which document our RV adventures -- find their way onto this portion of our website.

Postcard: El Golfo Revisited...

March 1, 2001

If it hadn't been for the brochure we found, we might never have returned to the small Mexican town of El Golfo de Santa Clara. Our previous visit was 6 years ago, after reading an article in Motorhome Magazine which extolled the beauty of the beach and the amenities of the RV park. Being a bit skeptical, we had decided to explore in our tow car. Then, we found a beautiful beach and a park which hadn't been functional for several years. The road from San Luis to El Golfo had been washed out in several places, and we were glad we hadn't brought our big rig. But the town was charming, and we met several of the inhabitants who were determined to "improve" things. Two men were building a motel and small RV park, and Frank, the "head" fisherman and ersatz mayor, had great dreams for El Golfo.

This brochure, from the Colorado River Adventures Company, an affiliate of Coast to Coast, described a new and different El Golfo. "Fresh shrimp from the beach, miles of off road trails, and great fishing", coupled with a "poolside cabana and restaurant". We just had to go see.

It's around 100 miles south from Yuma to El Golfo -- 30 miles to the U.S. border, and then another 109 kilometers south. We had no trouble finding our way south through San Luis, and soon we were on Highway 3, headed for the Gulf of California and El Golfo. The trip was much as we remembered, winding through agricultural Mexico for about 40 kilometers, with fields of green on either side of the road. The only driving difficulties we encountered were the slow farm machinery and the Mexican buses which have a habit of stopping suddenly, right in the middle of the road, to let passengers on and off. This time, the road was completely paved -- no driving on the shoulders or on rutted, muddy side roads. For the last half of the trip, farms gave way to desert, and the traffic vanished. We stopped to watch the dredging activity going on along the Colorado River Delta, and guessed that a salt processing area might be in this area's future.

There were two checkpoints on this route. We pulled up to the first one and a very courteous young man (notwithstanding his machine gun), motioned us to stop. He asked us, in Spanish, if we spoke Spanish. Tom replied in English that he spoke just a little. Even that much English was too much for the young soldier, he smiled to his friends, told them that we spoke no Spanish and they waved us right through the checkpoint. At the second checkpoint, just a few kilometers further, the same thing happened. We smiled, they smiled, and we proceeded to El Golfo.

As we neared the town, we saw definite signs of the changes wrought in the last 6 years. The town itself is much larger. The new homes being built are extremely modest, and are scattered, seemingly at random, on the dunes outside of town. The town center has changed very little, it still marks the end of the paved road. There are now more signs advertising fish, octopus and shrimp for sale and the number of brightly painted pangas (open fishing skiffs) seems to have doubled. A secondary school has joined the primary, and the little motel's RV park had a couple of rigs in its few spaces. El Golfo still retains much of its old flavor -- two giggling girls were playing tennis in the middle of the main street. They had no need of a net, and no worry of traffic, they were just batting the ball back and forth.

El Golfo R.V. Beach Resort had undergone a transformation. The first difference we noted was how difficult it was to gain entrance. Stopping at the gate, Tom requested admittance from the very nice Mexican gatekeeper. When she learned that not only were we not members of Colorado River Adventures, but also had no Coast to Coast card to show her, she was considerably flustered. We finally convinced her that we just wanted to look around, and would be back in 5 minutes, and she relented and let us in. I did notice, however, as we left that there was a chain newly set across the entrance gate.

A new paint job, water in the swimming pool and viable hookups made a great difference. But the biggest difference was people! The park was practically full. People were playing cards in the card room, sitting around the pool and walking on the beach. Others were playing shuffleboard on the new shuffleboard courts, and tossing beanbags in the area set aside for this game. What used to be the small convenience store, (then empty), is now the laundry and all machines were in use.

I picked up a handout as I walked through the restaurant, and read about various planned activities. Different campers "sponsor" games daily -- shuffleboard with Tom and Blaine, Card Bingo with Tom and Wanda, Bocce Ball with Tom and John, Horseshoes with Dave. If you don't want to cook, the restaurant serves breakfast and dinner daily -- just sign up by 3 pm. There were quite a few ATV owners in the park also. Several of their buggies were parked nearby and owners were obviously just returning from a trip. But I couldn't help remembering the RVers whom we met at El Golfo on our first trip. They had savored the solitude of this most beautiful beach. But, they cautioned, be aware that on weekends the area is a mecca for ATVs.

Driving back to Yuma was a bit more of a challenge than driving down. The soldiers at one of the checkpoints seemed to have learned a little English during our absence. This time they explained that they wanted to check our car. Fine. We opened the tailgate, and Missy almost knocked them over, showering them with doggy kisses. Enough! The rest of the check was quite perfunctory.

When we got back to San Luis, we discovered that the signs directing us to the border checkpoint were either not there at all, or we had missed something basic. When we did find the checkpoint, after several miles spent "exploring" the town, we joined a line of several hundred other vehicles, and it took over an hour to cross back to the States. We watched the vendors as they passed between the rows of cars, selling everything from religious items to large plastic "Tweetie Birds", and had a great time discussing our trip to El Golfo. Tomorrow we will be off toward Tucson and Phoenix, visit with old friends in Queen Valley, and spend a few days at Usery Mountain county park.

Then it will be time slowly to head in a more homeward direction...

Postcard: Guaranty + RVers = Rally

February 23, 2001

We arrived at Emerald Desert RV Resort on Monday morning, ready for the Guaranty Travelers Desert Madness Rally and found they were ready for us, too. No going to the registration desk -- Barbara Nill, who with her husband Shannon was in charge of the event, had set up shop on the sidewalk right at the Park's entrance. She had a stack of registration placards printed with Guaranty's name and a space number. As we had been here several times before, we declined her offer of someone to show us to our site, and in no time at all we were parked, hooked up and ready to Rally!

The first event was not until dinner that night, so we had time to take the dog to "jail", (Missy is getting quite used to the Desert View Animal Hospital and Pet Resort), have a leisurely swim and get ready for dinner. During the pre dinner happy hour on the clubhouse patio, I learned I had missed an event this afternoon. Many women were resplendent in their newly decorated T-shirts. They had learned how to apply metal iron on studs to their shirts and each had a story to tell of this class. That'll teach me to read the program more carefully!

When we went in to dinner, I could quickly see that I was going to have to curtail my appetite or risk gaining at least ten pounds in the next 3 1/2 days. Each dinner would have a theme -- Monday's was Italian. Lasagna rolls, penne pasta with pesto cream sauce, Focaccia bread, Caesar or garlic fusilli salad were hardly offset by a melon platter. Although there were approximately 240 Rvers in attendance, the multiple buffet lines went rapidly, and everyone was quickly "chowing down".

The entertainment was fabulous -- each night something different. Monday, we enjoyed the vaudeville act of Berks and Arlene Baker. They tell jokes, and dance, but their goal is audience participation. Watching someone play the role of Alvin the chipmunk is a great ice breaker. Some "actors" lip synched to the chipmunk's Christmas song, and others, hands held in front of them like paws, did, "How much is that Doggy in the Window". The show lasted about an hour and then there was dancing. Even the non-dancers were out on the floor this evening, and only when the floor was rolled up did the Rallying RVers leave.

In deference to weight watching, there was an early morning walk around the park, and then it was time for breakfast! Another huge buffet, with eggs and bacon, sausage, potatoes, and pastries -- wow! This morning everyone wore plaid and the door prizes were plaid too, pot holders, paper plates and napkins. By the time we were through with this meal, it was only a couple of hours to lunch. Make your own sandwiches, eat potato or green salad, and finish up with pie -- if you dare.

In the afternoon there was a beanbag tournament, so popular that it took two days before the champions would finally be crowned.The tournament was held a grassy area near the Emerald Desert golf course. If you were a bit too long in your beanbag toss, you were in danger of hitting one of the brand new coaches surrounding the targets. Some of the new models of the manufacturers Guaranty represents were being showcased. That these new rigs were even there had not been announced; indeed, if the beanbag contest had not been held in this area, I doubt I would have found them. As it was, it was fun to walk through and see all the latest features of each.

Tuesday night, we had dinner at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We wandered through hangars filled with beautifully restored old planes from WW II, and vintage cars from the same era. All but two of these airplanes actually fly, and several times a year there are scheduled and unscheduled flying demonstrations. The walls of the museum are covered with maps of the war and historic combat photography. One area was devoted to Bob Hope and the outstanding role he played in bringing his shows to the men and women in uniform. We had missed this museum in our visits before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Talking with other, non - Rally folk at Emerald Desert, I found few who had gone to the museum. After hearing me rave, I'm sure the Air Museum will be getting some new visitors.

Dinner this evening was "Country". Two different buffet tables were set up, one featuring Texas chili, (the absolute best I have ever had), and smoked turkey breast; while the other had cole slaw and spare ribs. And salads and potatoes and, of course, dessert.

Another walk on Wednesday morning, and a careful discussion with my scales convinced me that I could have brunch this day. We would be having a very early dinner (4:30), and so would only (!) eat two meals.

In the afternoon, I attended a fascinating seminar on "Wolf Encounters". Put on by the California Wolf Center, it featured the half arctic - half timber wolf, "Tantanka". This majestic creature came out onto the stage in the park clubhouse, but not before the audience learned a couple of lessons about wolves. Tantanka is afraid of males, as they appear dominant and more threatening than women. So the first row in the audience was women only, and men stayed back in the room. When the wolf came onto the stage, we were told he would be nervous, and pictures were to wait until he put his paw up on the arm of his handler. Then pictures, no flashes, were permitted. About half way through the presentation, a man came in from a side door. He hadn't heard the warnings, and came right up to the front row. Tantanka's tail went down between his legs, and he tried to back off the stage. In calm tones, the handler informed the man what had inadventently happened, and he went to the back and sat down, reducing his presence in the area. But it took a while for the wolf to calm down.

We learned about the ongoing problems of re-introducing of wolves in the wild and where, in the lower 48, to travel if you want to see them. Questions from the audience filled the rest of this interesting hour, and could have continued for much longer -- but of course we had to get ready for dinner! Then we would board buses for the Palm Springs Follies.

The Follies are celebrating their 10th anniversary. The show features chorus girls, who can sing, kick and strut with the best of them. But they are a bit different from your average chorus line. During one episode, they prance on stage displaying the most gorgeous sequined and feathered costumes to introduce themselves. The youngest of these "girls" is an understudy, has only been with the show a few years, and is 57. The regulars are in their 60's, 70's, and even 80's!

Age is well represented at this follies. Everyone introduced was at least 50. In addition to the chorus line the show had a joke cracking MC, a vaudeville duo (ages 84 and 87), songs from Julius La Rosa and an act by one of the funniest ventriloquists I have ever heard. Sammy Frank does an act with a large colorful parrot and a guitar. That's all I will say. If you have the opportunity, go see him. Go see the Follies.

A breakfast of fruit and pastries was the fare on Thursday morning, and then it was time to go. Hugs and handshakes from the Nills and other new friends we met here. We will stay on in Emerald Desert for a few days and then make our way back to Arizona before heading home. We are already checking our calendar for the next Guaranty party...

Postcard: The Desert's Different Faces

February 18, 2001

Before we started visiting Anza Borrego, I had a preconceived notion of a desert -- an arid place, full of rocks, sand and sagebrush, with rattlesnakes under every bush and scorpions under every rock. The first time we camped here, I was almost afraid to walk the dog -- something might jump out from somewhere and bite me! I soon found how wrong I was. A desert is a varied place; some parts are dry and rocky, while others can be spectacularly beautiful -- the reds of canyon walls in the morning sun, the purple of the sand verbena and the white of the dune primrose carpeting the desert floor in spring, the green leaves and red blossoms of ocotillo, and twisted brown trunks of green pinyon pines at slightly higher elevations. In Borrego Springs, it all depends on where, and when you travel. The possibilities are practically endless -- you can go birding at the Salton Sea, golf at one of Borrego's several courses, or get a map of the area and check out the various highways, roads, and jeep trails that honeycomb the desert. That was what Tom and I did when we first began coming here, and this weekend we revisited some of our old haunts. We started with the dry and desolate. Split Mountain. Even here there is great beauty.

Split Mountain is located some 8 miles south of Ocotillo Wells, the "Dune Buggy Capitol of the World", according to the hats and t-shirts sold in this small town. With a full time population of only 200 during the week, Ocotillo Wells and environs gets positively jammed on weekends and holidays. Down every sandy arroyo, behind every rock outcropping, atop every mesa with a breathtaking vista of desert badlands you find RVs of every type and description. And they all have some sort of ORV (off road vehicle). The folks in southern California are absolutely addicted to their off-road buggies. At the end of each weekend, there is an endless stream of campers exiting the desert areas, each towing cars which have been stripped down, souped up and transformed into something to drive on the sand. The parade continues with RVs towing odd shaped enclosed trailers which double as camper and garage, and pickups with motorcycles and/or ORVs, 3 and 4 deep, stacked creatively in their truck beds. Car after car, RV after RV, truck after truck, around the bends in the winding roads which lead from the desert playground back to the neighboring metropolitan areas. One feels lucky not to be in the crush, it's intimidating enough to be going the other direction.

We left Ocotillo Wells and followed a paved road for 9 miles, completely missing the supposedly well signed entrance to the mountain area. We wound up at the US Gypsum Company mine, one of the largest in the country. From here gypsum ore is freighted by narrow gauge railway 25 miles to the aptly named town of Plaster City. Gypsum covered everything, coating the sheds and the office buildings like snow. We watched as the train pulled in -- actually down, under the chutes where the gypsum would be loaded into the cars. The sign said tours were occasionally given, but not today. And we were looking for Split Mountain.

We backtracked a mile to the only other possible the turnoff and followed a bumpy road about a mile. Here was the sign we had been looking for -- "Fish Creek Primitive Camp". No fish, no water, but lots of campers. It was filled with vehicles and tents. Across the road from the campground, a group had set up a makeshift golf course, and were using their sand wedges to play from "hole" to "hole".

Split Mountain is so called because it does just that -- splits two mountain ranges. To the north is the Vallecito Range, to the west, the Fish Creek Mountains. And it splits them in graphic fashion. The walls tower above you and on each side the folded walls close in. These have been termed "crazyclines" (one geologist's takeoff on anticlines and synclines). The term fits.

There is nothing green here. Even the few cholla seem dormant, waiting for a sometime rain. High on the hills are the wind caves, eroded sandstone depressions created and maintained by the ever present wind. But it is an eerily beautiful place, and very popular with visitors to the desert. As we were leaving Split Mountain, we passed a train of 5 trucks, loaded with families and ATV's, and a group of 15 hikers en route explore the windcaves.

Just outside of Ocotillo Wells, I thought I saw a small plane coming in for a landing on a dry lakebed. Not a small private plane, but a very large model. The group of RVs camped at one side of the "lake" each had its own model plane. Tom stopped and we watched one land. These carefully crafted jumbo models have such a range that they will fly out of visual range before they go out of control range. How do you control something you cannot see?

Back to Palm Canyon Campground for the evening. The San Diego Astronomy Society had set up telescopes for night viewing. Wouldn't you know this would be one of the few nights it would be too cloudy to see the stars...

The Blair Valley area was our goal for our second foray into the desert. We drove southwest from town, climbing Yaqui Pass, dropping into the Sentenac Canyon, and turned south-east through Earthquake Valley. Tom had set the GPS coordinates for various stops in the Valley from our new edition of the Anza Borrego guide book, and as we drove along, he kept one eye one the road and the other on the GPS. He loves to be able to tell how far it is, as the crow flies, from one place to the next. Six miles southeast of Scissors Crossing, we turned around one end of a dry lake, which is so unpredictably dry that no vehicles are allowed on it. Just the slightest moisture turns it into a muddy mire. Even portions of the side road were puddled over and looked treacherous to drive through, though these spots could easily be avoided.

While no vehicles are allowed on the Blair Valley "dry" lake, there are many sites around the edges where people have set up camps, nestled in the rocks, or among the mesquite. RVs and campers can easily get into this area, but as you travel further into the valley, a smaller vehicle is necessary. The dirt road continues for about four miles to the pictograph trailhead.

More than 50 different pictographs have been discovered in this area, but only one has been marked on the map for the visitor to find. It is a short hike through remarkably green desert, with enough elevation to see pinyon pines, with great, if chilly, vistas of the snow covered mountains around Julian. About a mile along, we passed the pictograph rock with its interesting orange and yellow symbols, zigzag lines, diamond chains and geometic designs. The only one we could recognize was that of the sun. The pictographs are believed to be only 200 -300 years old, although the styles are much older.

We walked another half mile or so down the trail, hoping to find another rock and other pictographs. In that search we were disappointed, but we came to a fabulous overlook into the Carrizo Valley. We could see the Campbell Grade and the historic Vallecito Stage stop. For us the trail ended here. It would be possible to get down into the valley only if you were an experienced rock climber. So we retraced our steps, still looking for more pictographs.

As we drove back through Blair Valley, we passed the Morteros Trail. We had visited this interesting area before and seen the morteros, those holes in the bedrock mortar where Kumeyaay women, (the indiginous peoples of this area) used to pound seeds and make flour. We have found several of the smaller hand sized rocks (manos) that were used to grind the seeds. Dark areas of earth still remain where they roasted agave.

Ghost Mountain broods over Blair Valley. Atop this mountain are the remains of the home of Marshall South, itinerant poet and his wife, Tanya. they called their home Yaquitepec, but their children called it Ghost Mountain, after the ghostly white clouds that floated over its summit. From 1932 to 1946, the family lived as the Indians had, gathering seeds from the earth, collecting water when it was available; an experiment in primitive living. Three children were born on the mountain, who were taught by their mother, but basically lived primitive lives. Then, after 14 years, Tanya had enough, filed for divorce, and took the children to San Diego, where they were enrolled in school for the first time and re-entered civilization. Marshall moved to Julian, where he died in 1948. Although the ruins of the house and gardens are rapidly returning to nature, they can still be viewed at the top of Ghost Mountain.

Tomorrow we will return to Emerald Desert to attend our first Guaranty Travelers Club Rally. They name each of their rallies, and this one is Desert Madness. For us old "desert rats" nothing could be more appropriate.

Postcard: Peg-Leg Etiquette

February 12, 2001

We left Chula Vista determined to find the shortest possible route to Borrego Springs. The weather had been cool in the southland, with rain showers, and snow was predicted for the mountains. But we are in the southernmost reaches of Southern California. How much snow can they possibly get here? How long will it last, anyway? And though the route is anything but flat, the road over the San Diego Hills, through the small town of Julian, and down the other side, is definitely the shortest way to the desert. We were not, however, prepared for what was to come. 35 miles east of San Diego, and less than one mile after leaving Interstate 8, we saw snow, lots of it, at the side of the road. And we had barely started our climb. Then came the hand painted sign, "get your sleds, mittens and chains here". Uh Oh. Back to the Interstate. We'd take the road through Ocotillo, and still save miles.

Miles, yes. Tme, no. State Route 2 proved as winding as the road to Julian. As we snaked along, I read from our Anza Borrego Desert Region guide book. This fabulous guide book takes the reader mile by mile along various roads in this more than 1,000,000 acre park. It describes jeep trails and paved highways, hiking trails and horse routes. Included are colorful historic anecdotes and old snapshots of days past. The swimming pool at Palm Canyon campground now only exists in pictures, and the tracks of the Butterfield Overland Mail route are just that , easily seen wagon tracks in the desert. This book tells you what to look for and where to find it, and paints an intriguing picture of past life in this desert region. Today's trip would take us down the Pioneer corridor, through the Yuha Desert, along the old emigrant trail, past Box Canyon and the old stage stop at Vallecito, to the colorfully named Scissors Crossing. Here we would turn for the last few miles into Borrego Springs.

Sometimes bad news turns out to be good news. The state park was full, so we decided to try Peg Leg Smiths. Much of the Anza Borrego Desert is open to dry camping. You can drive off the road just about anywhere and camp in a colorful arroyo, or on top of a mesa overlooking the Salton Sea. We have seen what the desert can look like after a flash flood, however, and always been a bit leery about camping out. But Peg Leg is different. This is a privately owned, approximately 40 acre dry camping area just off the road leading south out of town. It usually has a wide assortment of campers -- "safety in numbers?" The camp area is situated at the base of Coyote Mountain, where, legend has it, the fabulous golden wealth of Peg Leg Smith is hidden. There is a state monument erected to Peg Leg here, but the one better known is next to a large mound of rocks, which reads, " Let him [sic] who Seeks Pegleg Smith's gold add 10 rocks to this monument". This mound commemorates one of the greatest desert yarn spinners that ever lived. His tales of lost gold evolved into one of the best-known legends of the Southwest. On the first Saturday night in April this is the site of the annual Pegleg Smith Liar's contest. Was there a fabulous gold mine? Judging from the size of the rock pile, there are a lot of believers.

People who dry camp here just pull in and set up. This is a spot where people return season after season, all prepared to stay weeks, or much longer. We met a "Peg Leg Resident" from Wisconsin who has been coming here for 14 years, each year trying to leave home at an earlier date, and each year finding it hard to get out of Wisconsin -- the winter weather being somewhat precarious. He seemed to know most of the other campers -- he was missing some friends from Canada, who hadn't come down this year, and, by the way, some other good friends were just now pulling out to go back to San Diego, as "the wife" wasn't feeling well. So he left our campsite to go say goodby, without ever appearing to know anyone's name.

When you camp at Peg Leg's, you quickly learn the "rules". While there is no fee to camp here, the owner requests that each camper leave the area completely clean, and this request is scrupulously followed. You will need to find a place to put your garbage, since there are no dumpsters. No fires except in metal fire rings. There are a couple of these, but they are understandably popular. To make up for the lack of fire rings, one large ring is set aside for everyone's enjoyment. A large pile of wood stacked next to the ring attests to the size of the fires the campers have each night . All are welcome -- just bring a chair.

There is a apparently identical camping spot just west and across the road from Peg Leg. But while it looks the same there is one major difference. This latter campsite is the place for those with ATVs and other off-road vehicles. Somehow, everyone understands this; and when an ATV does venture into the Peg Leg ground it comes slowly so as not to raise any dust. By the same token, no one from the ATV-less Peg Leg camps across the road, leaving that area for those families who love their desert buggies.

Situated right next to Peg Leg's monument is a large metal mailbox, set on a post with a sign just above it. The weather has been unkind to the wording on the sign, sandblasting the letters to near illegibility. But you can still make out the words, "Peg-Leg Smith Monument Register - erected by Desert Steve, February 12, 1949." Opening the mailbox, I expected to find the names of past campers who had enjoyed the flavor of this unusual spot. What I found, however, is a book exchange. Books and magazines are stuffed into the mailbox for campers to read, enjoy, return or add a book of their own. I just happened to have a couple of items to add to this unusual "lending library".

Tomorrow our reservation at the state park begins. We will have full hookups, conveniently placed dumpsters, and all the conveniences of "home". But we look forward to returning again to Peg Leg and joining the campers around their fire. Perhaps we'll hear the latest tales of where his gold is buried!

Postcard: A Trolley to Old Town

February 6, 2001

Rhapsody got into port right on schedule, and by 9:30 AM various lounge areas were full of "seasoned passengers", (as we now termed ourselves), waiting to disembark. We had all been assigned a color, and were to wait in various areas scattered around the ship until our color was called. Then we could proceed to the ship exit. Tom & I were assigned a large lounge area in the stern of the ship. It was a great place to wait, because the lounge had plate glass windows all around the stern. Looking out onto the dock, I could see piles of luggage being off-loaded. In another dock area, there were equally large piles of foodstuffs coming aboard. Crates of strawberries, mounds of melons, boxes of indeterminate content -- there was a literal mountain of food. And only a short time to get it aboard in front of the hungry hordes of new voyagers. The ship makes a complete turnaround, from cleaning each cabin to loading food for the next trip, in only 7 hours.

We got the coach out of storage, bailed out the dog, and took off for Borrego Springs for a couple of days of R &R. One of the lessons we had learned this week is that a cruise is not a particularly restful event. There is entirely too much to do. In fact, we will plan on a week of relaxation before we go on our next voyage.

The drive from Borrego Springs to Chula Vista, just south of San Diego, is 94 miles if you drive through the mountainous country near Julian. It is 132 miles, if you go through Temecula, or 155 if you go through Ocotillo. Or over 200 if you follow my instructions. I managed to miss the most basic turn leaving town and we had to drive the better part of 75 miles out of our way!

When we arrived at Chula Vista RV Resort we noticed a large sign taped to the front desk. This proclaimed that, due to the increase in energy costs the park is experiencing, it would be necessary to charge RVs a daily electric rate -- $2.00 for rigs 20 feet and under, $3.00 for those 20 to 30 feet long and $4.00 for larger ones. They charge a flat weekly rate -- in our case, $28.00. They then will read the meter at the end of our stay, and either refund us the difference, or oerhaps we will have find some amount still owing. So we are playing the energy game. Tom reads our meter daily, and today, while out for a few hours, we even turned off the electricity. Signs of future times!

Chula Vista RV Resort is right on San Diego Bay, looking across to Coronado. Just outside the park is the county marina park, a great walking or biking area. It's located only a few miles north of the International border with Tijuana, Mexico. North lies the city of San Diego, with its fabulous zoo. To experience either one, you do not have to drive -- anywhere. No parking problems, no highway problems. You simply take the bus and the trolley!

Just outside the park, we caught the 706A bus. We didn't have to worry about getting the wrong one -- it's the only one that stops here. For 25 cents, we could travel in a loop all around Chula Vista, and for 75 cents, we got a transfer good for the trolley ride into town. The trains run north from the Mexico to Mission San Diego and Qualcom Stadium (great if you have tickets for the SD Chargers) -- and out to El Cajon in the east. Even though it costs very little to ride, some people will always try to "beat the system" and there are warning signs in all the depots detailing the consequences if you are caught on board without a ticket. When we boarded the train, three tough looking, black leather jacketed, train security persons appeared to be getting off, and this must have fooled a couple of passengers. But security had not left the train, just changed cars, and a couple of stops later, one officer came through the car. The last I saw of one young man, he was standing on a platform not his stop, looking with dismay at a ticket the guard was giving him.

Our seat partner for the first few stops was a man from El Cajon. Weekly, he takes the trolley to the center of San Diego on the "orange line", then changes to the "blue line" for a run to San Ysidro, right on the border. Here he walks across into Mexico and buys a carton of cigarettes at less than half the price he would pay in the states. Then he walks back, catches a blue train, transfers to an orange one, and returns home. All for a carton of cigarettes!

It took about an hour to go from the RV park to Old Town. In the 16 stops separating Chula Vista from Old Town, we saw a real cross section of San Diego. We passed the Pacific Fleet and the Navy base and the saw the glass downtown skyline. At the San Diego cruise ship terminal, two ships, one from the Holland American line, the other from Royal Caribbean were waiting for their allotment of weekly passengers. We passed through the Gaslamp Quarter, the historic Victorian downtown district, Seaport Village and Little Italy. We saw the Santa Fe train Depot, looking like something right out of the 1940s. And then we came to Old Town.

Old Town San Diego dates from the pueblo period of 1821 to 1872. The 37 historic structures in this area are furnished as they would have been at that time. A short, self-guided walking tour takes you past the state's first Catholic Church and cemetery, past dentist offices, blacksmith shops, hotels and homes. You can go into California's first public school and sit at a desk with an inkwell. (I had a desk with an inkwell in the 4th grade, and refuse to believe that feature is old!) You can peer through doorways and see bedrooms which look as if they are waiting for their occupants to return at any moment, a chamber pot on the floor, a book by the bedstead, and the most delicate of shoes waiting for their owner. Women surely had small feet in the 1800s! If you don't wish to walk, you can board the Old Town Trolley. This trolley takes you around Old Town and stops at the cruise ship terminal, Seaport Village, the island of Coronado and the Zoo, as well.

We arrived in Old Town just about lunch time, and were undecided where to eat. We were tempted by the "Rockin' Baja Lobster" restaurant, but after exploring a bit further, we found the Old Town Mexican Cafe,where we were intrigued by five women in the front window, who were making tortillas and cooking them over a charcoal fire. This seemed the most popular spot in town but a delicious lunch was well worth a short wait.

We reboarded the trolley, (our return ticket would also be good for the bus back to the park), and within the hour were back "home". What a wonderful way to explore the city. Next time, we may opt for the more extensive tour and go to the zoo.

Postcard: Shore Leave

January 22, 2001

The Rhapsody arrived in Cabo San Lucas, right on time this morning. But I was getting a little apprehensive. We were due to take an Eco-snorkling tour, and our tickets read 10:30, January 21. It was now 10:35, on January 22, and here we were, along with a couple hundred other folks, sitting in the Broadway Theater, waiting for the tours to be called. The shipboard crew explained that the tours would wait for us, and tours were always called a half hour early, just to catch the stragglers. Then, to keep us happy, one crew member began to read jokes he had gotten off the Internet! But finally it was our turn, and with two other Zodiac-loads of eco-snorklers, we were off on a Baja adventure.

This tour booklet described this as a nature excursions, with "an experienced eco guide to explain the interesting natural and historical features of the area". Then, we would be "instructed on the proper use of the equipment and techniques to enjoy your snorkeling trip." While it didn't work out quite that way, we had a fascinating 4 hour trip. Jorge our guide and "Zodiak Captain", started our tour at the arches. These rock formations appear on many of the postcards from the area, and that was the only place I had ever seen them. They are much more spectacular when seen, close up, from a 20 foot inflatable, as you bob up and over waves caused by the swell of the Pacific and the wakes from the myriad of passing boats. As we drew near to the arches, I was concerned that one such surge would crash through the arch and into our inflatable -- we were that close. Jorge pointed out the "picture window", a large rectangle eroded right through the rock. Nearby was a group of sea lions sunning themselves. Jorge attempted to get their attention with a series of very realistic sea lion barks, but the sea lions weren't feeling communicative this morning. We got close enough so that I could almost have jumped ashore had I wished, but mingling with sea lions each weighing 400 or so pounds, and smelling quite strongly of fish and sea lion, was not too appealing. Several rocks just past the arch mark the very end of the Baja peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortes, a perfect vantage spot for several Brown Pelicans. As I watched, one bird attempted to land on the rock, missed and went sliding down the face. Pelican feet are not made for grabbing hold of rock inclines, it's land or miss.

Next we were off to snorkel. It was a 20 minute ride to a beach near the San Jose side of Los Cabos. Once we arrived, everyone was issued fins, masks and snorkels, and told to "jump in, amigos." I guess that was "instruction on the use of the equipment and techniques." No matter -- fish were everywhere -- all colors and sizes. There were lots of other snorklers at the beach, and occasionally I had to distinguish between an especially colorful fish and an especially colorful pair of flippers!

Returning toward Cabo and a second snorkeling excursion at Lovers Beach, Jorge suddenly shouted and pointed -- grey whales. Two of them, rolling through the water, submerging with graceful flips of their tails. We followed them for a short distance, cameras rolling. I could see their barnacle encrusted hides, and felt I could reach out and touch them.

We had been told that Cabo San Lucas had changed a lot in the 10 plus years since we had last visited, and in a way, it has. There are dozens of new hotels, with more being constructed. The marina is full of luxury yachts from all over the world. But if you walk the back streets of the city, it seems that little has changed. We found some of the hotels and restaurants we remembered from "way back when", and the people are just as friendly as ever. It was good to see Cabo again.

Our next stop was Mazatlan. Here we have planned no tours at all, but will just walk up to the market, and possibly enjoy a cerveza and ceviche at an outside cafe. We did just that, first walking through the many stalls in the mercado central, and then wandering over to the old Hotel Siesta, enjoying ceviche at "El Shrimp Bucket". The sign says it has been in existence since 1963, and we figured that was just about the year of our first visit. The restaurant has not changed -- more than can be said for us. The ceviche was delicious, a combination of shrimp and fish, with our choices of salsas and hot sauces. It may have been a bit spicier than that for Tom, whose hair suddenly became a bit damp...

We chose the "Las Caletas Hideaway" tour for our day in Puerto Vallarta. This resort area is 17 km south of the town and accessible only by ship. Once the home of the filmmaker, John Houston, it has been developed into a resort where you can do everything or nothing at all. As we approached, we were told that we would be met at the dock by two women -- Olga was there for anyone who wanted a massage, and Maria would lead a class on Jotto. I asked what "Jotto" was, and it is the Spanish way of saying Yoga!

We trooped along a sandy path from the dock, past several small buildings, each decorated with carved rock faces, (reminiscent of what you see in the Mayan ruins), past the steam baths, the museum (showcasing some of the articles left behind by Houston), and down to the beach. This was to be a snorkeling, kyaking and swimming adventure. The small children on the tour were the first ones into the water, closely followed and watched by their parents, for the waves were high this morning. They came crashing up the beach, threatening the line of lounge chairs set closest to the water. They smashed into some nearby rocks, making it difficult to walk in that area. The resident crabs didn't mind the waves, however, there were dozens clinging onto the rocks. The wave condition was such, that the snorkeling portion of this tour was cancelled, and we were glad we had the opportunity to snorkel at Cabo.

It wasn't too rough to swim. Two rafts were anchored a few dozen yards away, and swimming out and climbing up was great fun. It was a bit more difficult swimming back. I got close to shore, put my foot down to find bottom, only to have a wave sweep me back out. I swam in again and tried once more, with the same result. I made it the third time 'round. I was never particularly worried, the deep water (for me) line was filled with other tourists playing in the breakers.

Nearly everyone tried kyaking. There were a dozen or so "ride on top" kyaks, yellow fiberglass crafts resembling shallow canoes. We paddled out around a point, being careful not to get to close to the rocks themselves, to another beach, all set up with chairs and palapas for a nice afternoon in the sun. But the waves were too high for us neophyte kyakers to handle, so we just floated around for a while, resting up for our paddle back.

Just before lunch, I joined a nature walk through the orchidarium. Jose, one of the crew members from our boat, led a few of us up the mountainside, pointing out the various tropical plants that grow wild here. He also pointed out a large termite nest, sticking like a large blister to the side of a tree. He said that parakeets like to build their nest in or near a termite nest, and when they do, the termites have three weeks to leave -- or become meals for the hungry chicks.

Then it was lunch time, and what a repast. Salads, vegetables, paella with shrimp and octopus, chicken, beans and two kinds of salsa, spicy and blistering. Bowls of absolutely delicious tortillas, which tasted like they had been cooked over an outdoor fire were placed at each table. Better than bread. Cookies and coffee rounded out the meal.

En route back to the ship, Leo, Javier, Jose and the rest of the crew put on a show, enticing some of the passengers to join them dancing. It was a catamaran load of sunny, sandy, tired tourists which rejoined the Rhapsody of the Seas to begin our trip back to Los Angeles.

It has been a fabulous adventure. We have met a lot of interesting, friendly people from all over the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed being spoiled, beds turned down at night, carefully crafted towels rolled up to resemble animals placed in the middle. We have had snakes, elephants and an alligator so far. St. Elmore, our steward, seems to know where Tom keeps his dark glasses, both the elephant and alligator were wearing them. I have loved eating fancy foods (even though I know I will have to pay the piper when we get back), and having no dishes to wash at the end of the meal.

But all good things must come to an end, and tomorrow it will be time to return to Emerald Desert, bail out the rig, rescue the dog, and get on with our life on wheels.

I look forward to that, also!

Postcard: Home on the High Seas

January 21, 2001

It is only 125 miles on the Interstate from Emerald Desert to the dock in San Pedro, just south of Los Angeles. So what were we doing leaving at 9 am for a 2 PM departure? For one thing, you can never be too sure what kind of traffic you'll encounter on the LA highway system. For another, we were more than a little excited about our first cruise. As we drove along the highway at 70 m.p.h., we were the slowest car around. At one point, we were passed by someone in a small red "race" car, doing at least 95. Several miles further, another speeding car came by on the right and cut right in front of us, forcing Tom to swerve to the left. Driving here is not for the faint of heart.

We had no trouble finding the boat -- even from the freeway, we could see the cruise ship area, with two huge ships in port. Both towered above the surrounding buildings, dwarfing all their surroundings. We were sailing on the Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, the larger of the two. Tom went to park the car, and I followed the porter into the embarkation area. He and our bags went into an area clearly marked "porters only" and I watched as our suitcases disappeared -- hopefully to be seen on arrival in our room.

We proceeded to the embarkation desk where we showed our passports and cruise documents and received more cruise materials, including one very important blue card. This card will serve as our identification for the next 7 days. It will be our room key, our identification when we get off the ship at the various ports of call and our charge card (the cruise line tries to avoid using cash for purchases, preferring to charge everything). Then we proceeded up a ramp to the dock, through another checkpoint, past the picture takers and onto the ship. From entrance to special events, our pictures have been taken at every turn, to be purchased later in the ship's photo shop.

This ship is truly enormous. She is 915.35 feet long and 105.6 feet wide. Four walking "laps" around the upper deck is nearly a mile. There are 11 passenger decks, from the crew's quarters, embarkation and ship hospital on the bottom level to the Royal Viking Lounge at the top. We entered on the 4th level. Here I could see the purser's and tour director's counters -- both vacant at the moment, but sure to be busy later. Looking up, I saw the trademark of the Rhapsody, a huge sculpture made of curved, varnished staves of wood, bent into what seemed to me a harp shape, cradling a large green, blue and golden orb -- perhaps the earth, perhaps another planet where everything is water. Strung through the sculpture are smaller balls of green blue and gold. It't top is secured at the 9th level, and extends down through the 5th level -- a most impressive first glimpse of this beautiful ship.

The Rhapsody has two swimming pools, one fresh and one salt water; 8 hot tubs, a jogging track and a fitness room. Perhaps because of the amount of food which people are sure they will consume, the exercise room is in almost constant use. Someone is always on the treadmill, or running his miles on the track. If I attend a specific exercise class, I will receive a piece of yellow paper, printed on one side like a dollar bill, proclaiming itself one "Shipshape certificate". It clearly states that it is not redeemable for cash or merchandise, so I guess I will have to wait until the end of the cruise to find out just what it is for. Right now, receiving these has become something of a game for me, so I walk my 15 minutes (good for one certificate) twice a day. One day, missing my walk, I tried a new kind of class "Sit to be fit". An oxymoron? Much to my surprise, I found that moving arms and legs, even when seated in a chair, does provide a fairly good workout.

Feeling that 6pm was a bit early for dinner, we selected the second sitting, at 8:30. The Edelweiss dining room is situated on a part of level 4 and right above on level 5. The first night, there was not an empty seat in the restaurant, but as the days progress, many folks have found that an occasional more casual dinner is preferable. The Windjammer Cafe, on level 9, has an elaborate buffet, with fabulous food -- you serve yourself, whenever you want between 6 and 9:30. In the Edelweiss, each night has completely different menu, and a different motif. From casual to formal, Italian to Mexican, each night the food reflects the mood, as does the entertainment. The entertainment theater also occupies two levels and comfortably seats nearly six hundred. We have had jugglers, comics, Peter Noonan of Herman's Hermits fame (I sang along on his trip down memory lane), and the shipboard dancers. Each evening, the casino is open for business, and finding an empty place at a slot machine or gambling table can difficult.

More about food. We had heard of cruise lines' midnight supper . The Rhapsody does not have a full blown midnight buffet every evening, opting to serve lighter fare from the Solarium Cafe on some evenings. However, we did attend (but only as observers!) the Chocolate Buffet the other night. Table after table of chocolate goodies, cookies, cakes, pies, dipped strawberries, everything imaginable in chocolate. White chocolate, dark or milk chocolate. Chocolate ice cream cones. The aroma of chocolate permeated the air of the 4th and 5th level atrium. Cruise guests lined up along both sides of the ship waiting to get down to the long tables just crammed with goodies, and being replenished at an astonishing rate. We did not have any -- in fairness we did not need any -- the aroma itself was enough to give us a chocolate rush. The second to last night out is the gala buffet, complete with ice carvings, platters of hors d'oeuvres, bouquets of fresh flowers (which, in reality, are carefully cut, rolled and arranged fresh veretables) -- enough food for an army -- which I've come to believe must be what we eat like. Statistics say that in an average week's cruise, the ship's guests will consume 2,173 pounds of strip loin, 1.09 tons of chicken 13,000+ eggs, 5,525 tons of fresh fruit and 10,200 cans of beer.

The Rhapsody has an enormous display of art work. In addition to the ship's theme sculpture, there are smaller pieces scattered throughout, in niches at the bends of the stairways, on the walls along the stateroom corridors, or hanging from other ceilings. In the Windjammer Cafe, there is a copy of what appears to be a Roman tireme, oars extended, heading into the heavens. In the indoor pool area, the theme is Egyptian, from the frieze-like columns to the painted tiles on the floors. Several times during our cruise, I am told, there will be art auctions, where you can get lithographs, serigraphs from famous painters. Not being much of an art critic, I'm of the "I know what I like" school, I did not recognize any of the names except for Dali; but the auction I attended was well subscribed.

In just a couple of days, we have become used to the maze of corridors, stairways and elevators, and can now get from one place to another without a map. I have found the library and the cardroom, the beauty salon and the jogging track. While it used to take serious consideration even to figure which way was the bow of the boat, now directions are almost automatic. I still find myself going the wrong way on occasion, but those occasions are becoming fewer. We are settling in our new "home" on the high seas.

Postcard: Treading Water

January 17, 2001

Maybe it was the weather. The usually sunny southwest has been experiencing unusual cold and rain. I have always felt a bit superior to the drivers of California and Arizona -- they seem to get into the most awful predicaments when it is a bit foggy or a bit wet. "Why don't those drivers slow down when the weather is bad?" "Drivers in Washington and Oregon don't have those problems!" But drivers in Washington and Oregon don't have rain like we have experienced in the last few days. The streets of Tucson were rivers, even with rain cascading down large storm drains, there was too much water to be controlled. I was driving back to Voyagers RV Park, and felt a bit apprehensive as I drove through puddles large enough to be deemed small lakes. OK, California and Arizona drivers, I apologize. In fact, several days after we left town, we heard reports of snow. Winter is supposed to stay further north!

Maybe it was the fact that, although we have RVed extensively throughout the country, we have never taken a cruise. We have a two week "open time", a period when we have no other plans. Tom spent several days researching short (week long) cruises, and we decided on a Royal Caribbean cruise, out of Los Angeles, with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We were lucky enough to find a cabin on the cruise we wanted to take. So now we are signed up, and getting very excited about our new adventure.

So we changed our plans,and headed west, cutting our travel time to the boat, which departs Los Angeles on the 21st. We made a reservation in Palm Desert, where we figured we could find a few sun and cruise clothes (anything we have like that was left in our Island closet). But cruise clothes are as close as we have come to any idea of sun, as winter has invaded here too, bringing with it more cool weather. Snow covered peaks look down on the desert each morning, breezes from the mountains are frigid, and jeans and sweatshirts have become our garb of choice. This is good news for the Southern California ski resorts, however -- they proclaim this the best season they have had in the last 4 years. The newspapers tell stories of hordes of southern Californians storming the slopes, renting all the available ski equipment, and then descending on the hardware stores, wanting plastic bags and old cardboard boxes, anything they can use as a sled.

In the midst of this unseasonable weather, we spent one day at the FMCA rally at the Indio Fairgrounds, where there were some 2000 rigs dry camped in several large, damp, parking areas. We saw RVers wearing heavy jackets, carrying umbrellas and carefully maneuvering around muddy areas. At one point, as I was walking through the vendor tent, I heard someone on a loudspeaker gloomily announce, " Vendors, it's raining again".

What do RVers do at this huge rally? Rvers look at the new model RVs. In the center of the fairgrounds, new coaches are attractively displayed, tempting the attendees, who carefully comb through each, searching for just the right new rig. Several salesmen reported that sales were brisk.

RVers take classes. In several of the surrounding fair buildings, classes are given on everything from the Internet to quilt making, from braking systems to Baja California tours.

RVers eat. If you are hungry, and judging from the traffic jams, most people were, food booths abound -- you could munch on the fattest franks I have ever seen or bar-be-que beef sandwiches. There were 6 large briskets turning on two grills this morning, giving off the most wonderful aromas. There was an 11:30 ice cream social which was drawing such a crowd, that one of the class speakers who was running overtime had to stop his class -- his students were leaving the classroom.

RVers buy stuff. Two tents of vendors sell everything imaginable. Some sell RVing clothing, t-shirts and hats. Some sell caravans to romantic sounding spots. Some sell "free" nights at luxury RV resorts. You can get everything imaginable for any part of your rig. You can get polishes for its inside or outside, for your tow vehicle or for your personal jewelry. If you don't have any, buy some from the jewelry vendors right there in the tent. I found a train set for our grandson. It is a combination puzzle and train -- the track pieces can be put together in several different combinations, and then the little train runs on the pieces. This vendor was doing a landslide business with all the grandmas and grandpas crowded around his table.

We have been staying at Emerald Desert RV Resort, a lovely resort of manicured lawns, swimming pools and spas, all surrounding an executive golf course. It is just off Interstate 10 and the noise from the traffic and an active railroad track does not go unnoticed. So we decided to take a three day Borrego Springs break. Here we will only be kept awake by the coyote chorus, and will use the morning quail call as our alarm clock. We are looking forward to hiking the trails, playing a bit of golf, and visiting friends, then will return to Emerald Desert, put the dog in "jail" for a week, store the coach, pack our clothes and take off on our cruise. We will have finished treading water -- now it's two for the high seas!

Postcard: Revisiting Rocky Point

January 6, 2001

Without reservations, we were concerned about where we would stay over the New Year's weekend. While early January is usually a bit before the snowbird rush in the southwest, all bets are off for this festive weekend. We were lucky however -- Oasis Palms RV Park had plenty of room. We hadn't been here for a couple of years, and were delighted to find it hasn't changed a bit, with concrete pads surrounded by green grass and bordering a small lake, with orange, grapefruit and tangerine trees just bursting with fruit, and the friendliest of RVers and staff. We enjoyed a New Year's Eve get together, and then spent New Year's Day as we always do, watching everything even remotely related to football on TV. We start with the Rose Parade, (whatever happened to the Fiesta Bowl Parade?), and then "do" all the games. I was absolutely cross-eyed by the time the last game was over -- Tom was still fresh!

New Year's over, we headed to Arizona, and Ajo and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We usually stop in Ajo for a night or two, then drive the remaining 40 miles to the Monument, timing our arrival with the exodus of RVs from the night before -- usually between 10 and 11 am. The small sign as you head south into the Monument from Why, AZ, tells you approximately when the campground filled the day before. If this part is blank, it means one of two things -- either it did not fill at all the previous day, or the park staff was too busy to post anything.

Organ Pipe remains one of my favorite spots for camping. The desert scenery is simply spectacular. Palo verde trees, saguaro and organ pipe cactus, mesquite and creosote bushes adorn every site. Mourning doves, cactus wrens, and curve-billed thrashers can be seen, along with the ever-present finches and Gambel quail. Missy goes on sentinel duty when she sees the rabbits and ground squirrels running just outside of the range of her leash. You can take your tow vehicle, (25 foot limit on this curvy road) up the Ajo Mountain road, and enjoy the desert hikes, ranging from simple walks into the cacti to the fairly strenuous Bull Pasture hike. At the campground, there are no hookups, but you can run your generator from noon to 4 pm. It must be noted, however, that a 35 foot RV limit is strictly enforced -- they are very concerned about someone cutting a site corner too closely and crushing some of the vegetation.

There is one other thing that attracts me to this area -- the 60 mile drive down into Mexico to Puerto Penasco, Rocky Point to the gringos. We hadn't been here for several years and were curious to see how it had changed -- we were sure that changes would have occurred.

It is very easy to cross the border at Lukeville, aka Gringo Pass, 5 miles below Organ Pipe. Many motorhomes travel this route, and they seem to be subjected to a more rigorous search than we ever have been in our Jeep. This morning, we were waved right through the checkpoint, and were off on our Mexican adventure. The road is wide, with ample shoulders, and only one narrow-ish bridge to cross. About half way down, we entered the Parque Natural De Gran Desierto. This is a favorite attraction of desert aficionados; indeed tours run regularly from Ajo into this desert to tour the Pinacate volcano. The entrance to the Parque is found by turning right at the small town.

It will be harder to find the entrance now -- the small town has all but disappeared. The houses are there, now mostly empty, with boarded windows, rusting cars and no signs of life. Gone is the small shop selling ceramics and coca cola. Gone are the signs depicting the desert life, the tortoises and desert pronghorns needing protection. Gone also is any sign of water. Barren land stretches flat and far on either side of the road, broken only by an occasional clump of salt grass, withered looking creosote bushes, and several for sale signs. It would seem that the Gran Desierto is expanding, and one of its victims appears to have been this small town.

Rocky Point, on the other hand, is thriving. About 15 kilometers north of town, we passed the first of 8 (I counted) new RV parks. None of them was close to full, indeed, occupancy of 3 rigs seemed to be the average. But these parks are out of town, along the highway, not in the downtown beach area where the more established parks are located. There must be some call for extra spaces in the highest season -- and it was still early. Even the most popular parks were not full, there was even space along the water at the Playa Bonita, our park of choice, were we to stay a while.

As we approached the beach area, we noticed at least a 50% increase in ATV rental places. There was an equal increase in the number of young teenage kids zipping over the dunes, off the dunes and out into the streets behind the dunes where cars were driving very cautiously. Helmets? Not a chance. We saw a couple of families out for a sandy expedition in dune buggies -- mom & dad in front, kids in back. There is a lot of new condo construction going on, and looking northward along the beach we saw a new hotel complex. Mexican construction perplexes me. Just because the facade of a building looks complete does not insure that the inside has been finished, or that the building is ready for occupancy. One group of condos, seemingly complete right down to the brilliant outside blue, yellow and magenta paint job, still sported a sign reading, "ready in summer, 2001".

Leaving the north beach area, we drove down to the fish market. En route, we passed young men hawking fishing trips, risking life & limb to run out in the street, " the best fishing, senor -- the best price senor". The fish market area is set up with small stalls on the water side, each selling the fish of the day, as well as shrimp and clams. The one restaurant on this water side had doubled in size, but all the small stalls were as we remembered. They are all very clean, displaying their wares in large coolers. Do you want large or medium shrimp? How many pounds of fish, senor? How many dozen clams? These guys don't give up easily.

We got a bundle of shrimp, a package of snapper, and the fish seller gave us a large bag of crushed ice for our cooler. Then Tom bought a bunch of asparagus from the vendor with the large wheelbarrow who was dodging traffic and selling his wares down the center of the street. Dinner was on the way home with us. But first, lunch. We had breakfasted on cereal this morning so we could feel virtuous about a chimichanga and burrito lunch (one for me, one for Tom). Our favorite place is the Curva restaurant in Rocky Point -- it does not have a water view, but the food is delicious. The service has been known to be of snail's pace, but today it was even fast, by Mexican manana standards.

Then we were back up the road to Organ Pipe Campground and our coach. As expected, Rocky Point and its environs had changed with the times. But it remains one of our favorite ways to spend a day in Mexico.

Postcard: On the Road Again

December 31, 2000

We just couldn't wait... We should have realized that 6 weeks at home was too long. We enjoyed Christmas with the kids and grandkids, and headed south the morning of the 26th.

Many RVers travel with a selection of stuffed animals. You can see giraffes, elephants, bears, dogs and cats lined up in the windows of their rigs. I have never wanted such a menagerie, but we are starting to accumulate one -- living and less so. We travel with Missy, our super active Brittany. Even though she is approaching her 8th birthday, she runs, jumps and twirls in circles like the puppy that still lives inside her. But when she is not being hyperactive, she curls up into a Brit ball, and the closer she can get to a heat source, the better.

Fog hung over the roadway as we traveled south, keeping the temperature very cool. As we drove along, we found ourselves getting colder and colder, even while turning the automotive heater higher and higher. Just about the time we were convinced that we had a problem to be fixed in Junction City at some future service appointment, we noticed the dog. Missy was curled up next to the floor register, absorbing every erg of heat emanating from it. We pulled her away, and a big blast of warm air curled around our heretofore frozen feet. Missy's side was so hot that we wondered she hadn't caught fire.

We have never named our cat. Black and white, and completely fake, the small cat sits on our dashboard, looking so real that many people have been thoroughly fooled by it. We found our cat at a KOA in Bowling Green, KY, intrigued that it looked so real -- a small kitten with pink (plastic) nose, curled up wherever you chance to put it. Its coat is real fur, and it just begs to be stroked. This cat is especially adept at fooling service technicians. We have had apologies for letting a cat in the rig, or for disturbing our pet cat -- by people who felt (and looked) foolish when they learned the truth. My tendency has been to set the cat in the far right hand corner of the dash -- and I just figured out today why our right defrost works so poorly -- the cat has been blocking the air outlet for that part of the window. I must watch the cat, as well as the dog, it appears.

Our toad, Bo Derrick (a perfect toad "10" ), is filled with sand. She came to us from a small curio store in Ajo, AZ. She spent a couple of years at home, but we decided to add her to our menagerie on this trip. So far, her only claim to fame is falling off the sofa, ok when she falls forward onto the cushions, less so when she falls off backward into the narrow crevice between the sofa and the wall. It is very difficult to remove anything that falls behind the sofa, expecially a 5 pound, toad shaped beanbag.

The Lake Pleasant RV Park, Bothell, WA, was perfectly situated for a Bellevue Christmas. The park is a wildlife sanctuary -- its lake is home to merganzers, teal and Canada Geese. But Seattle at Christmas is damp and cool and we were happy to head south. We were headed to Coburg, near Eugene for a service appointment at the Cummins "Coach Care" service center. The next morning, after this appointment, we drove over to Junction City and replaced our overstuffed white leather chair with one with more svelte lines -- an Ekornes "stressless" semi recliner with footstool. Our living area seems much larger with this new addition. We were lucky enough to get one off the showroom floor, and got an early afternoon start south, joining the column of snowbirds heading to warmer weathear.

Years end brings with it, (in addition to New Year's) -- football bowl games. The Washington Huskies are playing in Pasadena; the Oregon Ducks are in San Diego; and the Oregon State Beavers are in Phoenix. And their fans are on the road in astonishing numbers. Gaily decorated cars racing off to see their favorites play. We were passed by a purple car which sported purple and gold Husky flags flapping from the side view mirrors, fringe hanging from the trunk, partisan writing covering the rear window. Shortly, we were overtaken by the Oregon fans --autos with green and gold flags, fringe and more writing. The number of Oregon State fans attending the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix is rumored to be huge, twice the number of fans as the school has tickets. A lot of them are coming by road, if the number of passing cars decorated with orange and black flags was any indication. The spirit was absolutely contageous.

Coming into Red Bluff, we noticed that the weather had taken a decided turn for the warmer -- 70 degrees and shorts weather. We were delighted, even though we know that California, indeed, all the western states, are in desperate need of rain. We planned one night at one of our favorite spots, the Red Bluff RV Park, and an early morning start toward Bakersfield, and anticipated more warm sunny weather. The next day was warm and sunny, after we got the hoses defrosted, and the ice scraped off our windshields. We jumped the season a bit, as overnight the temperature dropped to 32!

Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Bakersfield is 300 miles of straight, boring road. Sometimes it is made more exciting with dense fog, or wicked wind. Today's excitement came in the form of traffic. I have never seen so much on an Interstate, anywhere. Traffic, traffic and more traffic. Cars bumper to bumper to bumper, moving at breakneck speed. The posted speed limit for trucks (and an RV is considered a truck), is 55 mph. But no one was going that slowly. Even I was exceeding the limit by several mph, and being passed by everything on the road. The two times I needed to pass another vehicle, I was unlucky enough to be followed by the sort of driver who, when he notices your turn indicator, pulls right out behind you, completely cutting off any chance you have to pull over and pass. It was a treat to be off I-5 and driving through the farmroads near Bakersfield.

We overnighted at the Orange Grove RV Park, situated 8 miles east of Bakersfield on Highway 58. This popular (reservations are a must at this time of year) spot is right in the middle of a grove of orange trees, and RV guests are invited to pick all the oranges you can use. Climbing the trees is not allowed, but they lend "pickers". These contraptions resemble metal baskets set on long poles. You place the basket under the orange, arrange the prongs of the basket around the orange stem and pull. If you are lucky, (or a talented picker), the orange plops into the basket. If you are neither of these, it falls, squash, on the ground, and you must start again. It's worth it though, these are the very best juice oranges in the world.

By 8 am this morning, Orange Grove was practically deserted. It is a wonderful stopping place, but most of the snowbirds are heading on to warmer climes. We are off too, off to the Salton Sea, off to Borrego Springs, off to Arizona, off to wherever our whims and our wheels may take us....