May 31 – California

Saturday, May 31, we got up early.  Deon took Stacey to the airport, while Savannah and I headed west to California.  We passed a pile of spilled onions in an intersection.  It looked kind of like Styrofoam balls had been run over.  We got to Dave and Chris’s in Redlands in the early afternoon, and went to town for Thai food.  Afterward we went to a Bass pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga and looked around.  Dave Jones is my old buddy from college.  I hadn’t seen him in 20 years, except for a few hours last year when I stopped by while passing through town.  Their boy Zachary is very cute and well behaved.  It must have been strange for Dave to see my daughter, fully grown at 16, for the first time.  They were great hosts, and we had a good time.

Dave keeps a very nice back yard.  Western fence lizard.  California poppy.

A flock of introduced parrots frequents the neighborhood. 

Sunday we all loaded up and went to Newport Beach.  It was much as I remembered it.  It was a bit cool, and the water was only 67 F.  After a lengthy adjustment period, I attempted to boogie board with Dave’s board, but I couldn’t catch up with the waves.  Savannah enjoyed lying in the sun and playing in the waves.  It was her first time swimming in salt water.  We walked the beach looking for shells, dug for sand crabs, ate snacks, and generally enjoyed the typical Southern California experience.  When we’d had enough of that, we rented kayaks and paddled around Newport Harbor, which was fun.  It’s a lot more difficult paddling a double kayak than my own, especially when Savannah is not helping!  We had dinner at the Crab Cooker and headed home, pleasantly tired and slightly sunburnt. 
Savannah’s first day at the beach.                                                          Chris, Zach and Dave.

Kayaking Newport Harbor

On the way back we drove through our alma mater, UC Riverside.  It has changed a lot.  Many new buildings.  Still some things were recognizable.  I thought I might never see it again, and it was neat to be able to show it to Savannah.  That evening we completed the Southern California experience: just after we’d gone to bed, I heard a distant rumble.  It rolled toward me like a wave and shook the house.  A 2.2 earthquake hit, and we were near the epicenter.  There was a small aftershock about 20 minutes later, and another at about 2 a.m. that I felt.  Dave said there were a dozen, but most were presumably below the level of detection for average humans. 

Monday morning we said our goodbyes, Savannah and I left and headed north.  We hit some traffic in Pasadena, but got around it using the carpool lane.  On the Grapevine I spent over $4/gallon for gas for the first time.  It was inevitable, especially on this trip.  Driving up the Central Valley was about as dull as usual, but at least it wasn’t very hot.  We arrived mid-afternoon to see Dad.  We saw Kristen and Jordan next door shortly thereafter.  Jordan sure looks a lot like my brother Mark, his grandfather.  Mike, Cindy and Racin came over for a little while and we visited.  Kristen barbequed chicken for dinner.  In spite of battling constant fires, she did a good job.  
Tuesday I raked up the sticks in the yard, remnants of a recent wind storm, loaded them in Dad’s truck and dumped them in Mike’s new burn pile.  I mowed the lawn too, which seemed easy since it’s about one-tenth the size and density of mine.  Kristen’s basement had flooded recently.  While surveying the damage, I noticed a couple of dead young bunnies, apparently drowned.  As visiting biologist, it seemed an appropriate job for me to remove them.  We went to Marlene’s for awhile and out to lunch.  On the way, we saw a pheasant rooster cross the road.  We ate at Black Bear restaurant, which had excellent hamburgers.  We took a nap when we got home, and I was awakened by a tremendous rocking of the trailer.  For a moment I thought it was Savannah doing it, but quickly realized it could only be my brother Mike.  We were preparing to go ride motorcycles and four wheelers when I showed him a small water leak in Dad’s basement.  We traced it to the water heater.  Hence, the rest of the afternoon was spent replacing the water heater, and repairing a subsequent pipe leak.  We never got to ride, though I took a short trip on the four wheeler after dinner. 

A massive gopher snake crossed the yard while we were working on the water heater.

Wednesday we took Dad over to Matthew’s in the Lil Egg.  From there, we all got in Matthew’s CR-V and he drove us to Monterey.  It was neat to see the California hills on the way.  We went to the aquarium, and, of course, it was awesome.  I especially like the jellies exhibit.  They don’t shortchange the invertebrates there.  We had lunch at a local eatery and walked through a dozen or so shops.  On the drive back, everyone slept except Matthew.  We had dinner at his house.  Carolyn was there, and we got to meet her daughter Vanessa for the first time.  She seemed very nice. 
Black Sea Nettle.                                                                                        Purple-striped Jelly

Sea Nettles                                                                                                 Crystal Jelly

A diver feeds fish in one of the big aquaria.                                             A recovering Red-necked Phalarope, a shorebird.

School of baitfish.                                                                    Colony of sea anemones.

Fanworm                                                                         Savannah runs into Obama
Carolyn’s nice backyard plant collection includes this lily.                         Savannah’s artsy shot of windmills in the hills.

Thursday morning we went over to Marlene’s, swam and hung out while Dad and she went to Costco.  In the afternoon we went the short distance to Mike’s house, where we played Rock Band, sat in the hot tub, and had a BBQ steak dinner.
Unknown weed at the ranch.  I kept looking for black widows to photograph.  This young female was the best I could do.

Crows were abundant at the ranch. 

Friday morning Savannah and I went to Los Vaqueros Watershed regional park and hiked around a bit.  We accidentally hiked a closed trail and got told about that.  We saw a fair bit of wildlife, including a golden eagle and a snake (smooth green, I think), that I’ve never seen before.  We bought fresh cherries from a fruit stand on the way home.  We don’t get those much in Missouri, and they were great.  We went to Pee Wee Muldoon’s for lunch, and Mike and Racin showed up to join us.  We went back to the ranch and Mike got all the motorcycles running.  Mike and Racin rode their own dirt bikes, while I drove Dad’s quad with Savannah riding on the back.  We rode over all the dirt roads and fields in the neighborhood.  It was tons of fun, and we saw a jackrabbit, a relative rarity around here.  Savannah learned to ride my Honda Trail 70 later, and Dad rode his quad for the first time in years.  I rode Mike’s Honda XR 350.  I had never ridden an adult dirt bike before, for some reason.  It was fast and super smooth; very fun.  Melissa put in a surprise appearance that evening.  Savannah and Kristen cooked dinner.

Morning glory in Marlene’s back yard (she’ll like this one).                       Wasp on morning glory (she WON’T like this one).  

A mockingbird catches a bug in Marlene’s lawn and flies off with it.

A tiki carved by my late brother-in-law, James Mann, I think.                   Savannah blasts Racin with a noodle.
Mike gives Savannah a ride in his 1927 Ford.
Bumblebee at the Watershed.                                       I need to look up this snake.  Some kind of racer, I think.

Savannah, Racin, Mike                                                                             Dad puts some miles on his ATV

On my Honda Trail 70, restored by Mike.                                                  Mike and Jordan ride on the quad–very slowly.

Saturday morning we packed up everything.  We drove to Mike’s, then to Marlene’s, and caravanned up to Mark’s in Woodland.  I had never been there before, and it’s quite a tortuous route to get there, though with nice rural scenery.  His house is every bit the mansion I’d been told about.  Mathew and Carolyn were already there.  We barbequed, drank beer, told stories, and generally had a good time.  Everyone left in the evening, except for Savannah and me (and Alex’s parents and their friends who had already been there visiting).  We sat in the hot tub and swam a bit after the wind died down.  I tried out Mark’s fancy mask and snorkel, which was cool.  We spent the night, and it was the first time Mark had a full house. 
A Swainson’s hawk flies over Mark’s house.   A flame skimmer in his back yard.

The siblings, in order: Matthew, Marlene, Mike, Mark and … Joe.  Who do you think is the black sheep? (photo by Savannah)

In the morning Alex made a nice pancake breakfast.  After stuffing ourselves and downing plenty of coffee, Savannah and I packed up and hit the road east.  We stopped in Fallon, Nevada for gas and crossed the rest of the state and most of Utah on Highway 50 before stopping for the night in Salina.  We saw some interesting wildlife along the way: pronghorn antelope (including a big buck), foxes, prairie dogs and hawks.  It was the first time I had see ATVers on Sand Mountain, and it gave me enough perspective to see that it’s HUGE.  We stayed at a Super 8 Motel, from which I wrote this portion of the narrative. 

Monday morning we got the free breakfast and hit the road again—in the wrong direction.  After about 20 minutes I figured out that the sun was in the wrong place.  We turned around and headed east again.  Colorado was beautiful, of course.  I let Savannah drive when we got to the straight, flat, boring part of Kansas.  Oh, yeah.  That’s all of it.  We have found we enjoy the audio books on CD.  We heard The Island, a mystery/romance, Dragonblood, a new dragonriders of Pern book, and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  The only difficulty is that if you fall asleep during a critical plot twist, you lose your way in the story.  We spent the night in Hays, where, incredibly, we watched V for Vendetta, as I had last year at this same point in the trip.

Tuesday morning we got up, showered, ate breakfast and hit the road again.  Savannah fell asleep immediately.  The time change does not favor us in this direction.  The trip was uneventful and we got home at about 4:30, with about 4876 miles added to the Lil Egg.

I’d like to thank everyone who put us up and put up with us.  You know who you are!


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