November 24, San Diego

Heading on down the coast to San Diego, we stopped north of San Simeon to visit the beach where the elephant seals have been hanging out for around 15 years now. We've stopped at this spot every time we come down Hwy. 1 and the seals are always here, but we must just have good timing as they spend most of their time at sea. The first time we saw them we had a hard time finding a place to safely park to go back and take a look; now the area has a parking lot, benches and informational signs. This time the bulls had not yet arrived--I think that may have been true in the past too--only females and juveniles. Seals seem to be a lazy lot lying around on the beach in piles, but maybe they just need a lot of rest after spending so much time at sea (up to 80%). We talked to a "Friend of Elephant Seals" who told us that January is the best month to observe the seals, when the females are birthing. I'm not sure I need to see that. This picture is one we took back in May when there were more seals than this time.

Elephant Seals, May 2004

We drove on down to the San Diego area and camped at the Silver Strand County Park on the beach on Coronado Island, only to discover the county had more than doubled its fees in July. Last time we were here it was $12, this time it was $26. And that gave us a parking space next to the beach, no utilities--very expensive. But it is a nice beach, we took a nice long walk down it before Lara arrived with Alyssa, Sean & Juan--Justin was in school but joined us later in the day. We had a very good visit with them and stayed in the area for three days, moving to a commercial park that accepted our Passport America card to give us half off. This is the best I've seen Lara & family doing in a while. After not getting to see her at all last time we were through, I was very happy with the visit. Sean is working and hoping to have a place of his own soon. Justin & Alyssa continue to be beautiful and headstrong children. Justin had his 6th birthday on Nov. 23. They have an apartment in San Ysidro close to the border. I was amazed to see how much traffic there was going from the U.S. to Mexico on Friday night. Lara said they were people who worked here and lived in Tijuana.

Sean, Lara, Margie, Juan & Alyssa at Silver Strand beach.

Riley, Hannah, Steve, & Justin at Campland beach.

Justin playing his favorite card game, UNO.

Alyssa looking cute in her "Hello Kitty" shirt.

Our last night in San Diego a serious storm hit during the night, and when we got to the mountains the next day we found snow and cold temperatures, as low as 33 degrees. We also came to a complete stop behind a long line of traffic caused by a multi-car accident (caused by the weather, no doubt). We were delayed over an hour getting around it. While we were waiting, we got both rain and ice rain. Riley did a good job of driving us through all this weird weather. It is the Southern California desert after all! We learned later that this freak storm is called an "inside slider," because it came down from British California through Nevada rather than from the Pacific as usual.

We got into the Tucson area on Monday and camped at Picacho Peak north of town. It's a great RV park with lots of amenities and cheap with our Passport America discount. It has the one drawback of being close to the freeway and a major railroad track. However, this seems to be the norm for many RV parks. We did a lot of the routine cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc., then on Tuesday got to spend the afternoon hiking around at Picacho Peak State Park. A good part of our hike was just walking there from the RV park. Inside the park, we hiked a nature trail and up to an overlook that turned out to overlook our RV park and the nearby ostrich ranch as well as giving a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Riley and I love nature trails with lots of signs to read, relearning information that we knew once and have now forgotten. We especially like signs explaining the geology of the area--Picacho Peak is made up of tilted lava flows and is not a volcano. It has broken off and moved away from the mountains and the volcanic vent that created it has not been found. We also learned the Palo Verde (green stick) is green because it stores chlorophyll in the bark as well as the leaves, and there are several varieties of cholla cactus: we saw pencil cholla, hanging fruit (or jumping) cholla, and teddy bear cholla. Teddy bear cholla is so named because it looks soft and fuzzy from a distance.

Picacho Peak at sunrise

Palo Verde & Teddy Bear Cholla

Teddy Bear Cholla close-up, not so fuzzy
We had hiked for about three hours when we got back to the campground, where Riley suggested we walk another half mile down the road and visit the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. He seemed to think he could get an ostrich ride. :-) No such luck, but we did get to feed them. I found them quite scary. With those long necks they look like they could deliver quite a blow with their beaks. The ostriches were very greedy and knew they were going to be fed so came right up to the fence and in fact one knocked the cup of food out of Riley's hand. An interesting visit if not one that I'd want to repeat. By the time we got back to the RV, I was worn out and achy, so we put on our swim suits and got in the hot tub. It felt good but was too hot for me--maybe 102-105 degrees. I've found 100 degrees is about all I can tolerate for any reasonable length of time. Riley stayed in a bit longer than I did. The pool was supposed to be heated but it didn't feel that way after being in the hot tub.

Today we are having the 45,0000 mile (!) service done on the RV and a couple of other errands. Looks like we need a brake job and will be tied down all day. Unhappiness! :-( Then we will head to Randy's for a Richardson family holiday--lots of fun to be had by all.

Love to everyone,
Margie & Riley

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