Marge's 2011 Spring - Fall Travels travel blog

Geoffroys Cat from South America

Chinese Leopard

Getty Museum Center

Van Gogh Irises

Mastodon Diorama in Tar Pits Lake

Mastodon skeleton unearthed from tar pits

California poppies

Wind-blown poppies

Cambria winery

Laetitia flowers and vineyards

Camping spot at San Benito Reserve

San Benito Thousand Trails RV Reserve

May 15, 1 pm PDT Paicines CA

This is the first edition of my journal covering my 2011 Spring – Fall migration from Chula Vista to Washington and returning through Montana and Colorado. My first stop after leaving Chula Vista on May 1 was at Soledad Canyon Thousand Trails RV Reserve NE of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley. This valley borders the Mojave desert and Edwards Air Force base, where the space shuttles landed when the weather in Florida didn’t allow them to return to Cape Canaveral. Rascal made his first RV trip like a seasoned trooper. He was initially sitting in a doggie bed on the passenger seat attached to a seat belt via his harness, but when I detached him, he just moved to his bed on the couch and kept his eye on me from there. And once we arrived at the reserve, he was thrilled by the new smells he found in the large campground.

I spent a week at Soledad Canyon, during which I took 4 side-trips for site-seeing. The first trip took me 30 miles north to the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound. This small conservation site exists primarily to breed exotic felines, including small wildcats such as the rare Fishing Cat (not on exhibit) and Geoffroys Cat

, a small South American wildcat found on the Pampas of Argentina. Also on exhibit was an African Serval, a Central American ocelot, an American bobcat and a Canadian Lynx. The only large cats on exhibit were leopards from exotic locations such as China

and a jaguar. The snow leopard and clouded leopard were not on exhibit. All of the exhibits are cages.

The next side-trip was a visit to the Getty Museum Center

in west LA. Bob Williams and I toured the large complex for several hours. (Carolyn was under the weather and didn’t feel up to joining us.) The paintings in the collection are mostly from the 1400 – 1700 period with subjects being portraits or Christian saints/Holy Family by painters I never heard of. There were only a few impressionist paintings – Irises by Van Gogh

, one Renoir and a few Monets. So I found the paintings disappointing, but the furniture on display was magnificent. I took lots of underexposed 1/5- of-a-second pictures of the furniture, the best of which are on my Fototime site – copy and paste the following link if you didn’t receive a separate FotoTime e-mail from me: . Carolyn joined us for a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant on Sunset Blvd near their hotel to complete a fun day.

The next day Bob and I visited the La Brea Tar Pits to view the collection of skeletons

from 38,000 to 10,000 BCE unearthed from the site and housed in the Page Museum. Oil and gas are still bubbling up into a lake on the site

and they are still finding tar pits with skeletons whenever they add an underground parking garage in the nearby area of west LA.

The last site I visited was the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, where the poppies were widespread and in full bloom

. However, it was very windy in the preserve on the edge of the Mojave desert, which made macro photography impossible

. Rascal was glad that I returned quickly from this outing as the site-seeing trips to LA were the longest time I’d spent away from him.

On May 8, I moved to the Santa Maria Elks Club, half-way between Santa Barbara and San Jose on US 101. The club has a nice RV area with full hook-ups and 50 amp electricity. Once again, Rascal was a real trooper during the trip sitting in the passenger seat or on the sofa in one of his doggie beds. The area from San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles to Santa Barbara is renowned for their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. I’d tasted wines near Santa Barbara on a 3-week California vacation in 2005, so I wanted to visit some wineries in the Santa Maria Valley and Arroyo Grande area. I found some wonderful Chardonnays at Talley Vineyards and especially at Cambria

. I also found some good Viogniers and Sauvignon Blancs at those same vineyards or at Laetitia

and Kenneth Volk. There was also a nice Rose with a strong strawberry nose. Since the weather in central California has been cool, I bought more wine than I could store in my fridge. So I left Santa Maria with plenty of wine to last until long after I reach Washington.

Rascal has adapted to RV travel beautifully. As soon as I brought the RV slides in at the Santa Maria Elks parking, he jumped into his bed on the passenger seat and waited for me to finish disconnecting and getting the RV ready to travel. This trip we encountered a rare Rest Area on US 101 that was open. (75% of the Rest Stops in California are closed because the state is bankrupt.) Rascal loved stopping so he could go for a walk. Lots of interesting smells in the Pet Area. Later on, when I stopped to buy diesel (@$4.52/gal), Rascal sat patiently in his pet bed. The only time I have trouble keeping him in the coach is when someone is at the door. He wants to greet everybody and be admired.

On May 12, I drove north on US 101 towards Gilroy to the San Benito Thousand Trails Reserve for 13 nights. This park shares the honors of the largest Thousand Trails park with Verde Valley south of Sedona in Arizona. The 500+ sites are side-by-side but separated by large Sycamores and Live Oaks. Some of the full hook-ups sites are pull-thru with 50 amp electricity, making the living easy.

The area is inhabited by cottontails, ground and tree squirrels and lots of birds: robins, magpies, Scrub-Jays, Acorn woodpeckers, hummingbirds and loads of California Quail scampering around. The weather is currently in the 60’s during the day as showers pass through, but after that the temps are supposed to be in the low to mid-70’s. I have excellent sat TV reception and pretty good internet connectivity, but no service at all for my AT&T i-Phone.

In the next few days I plan to drive north to Hollister and Gilroy to shop and visit local fruit-stands, as well as drive to Moss Landing on the coast to photograph sea otters. On May 25, I’ll move to the Russian River Thousand Trails Reserve in Sonoma near Geyserville to visit friends and taste some more wine. At that point I’ll assess the weather in the Pacific NW before heading farther north to Oregon. I need to be in Washington by mid-June to change my RV registration from Texas to Washington. It should save me at least $1000 on my RV insurance.

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