We already went to the San Diego Zoo a few weeks ago, but we did it again when Grammy and Lilia came to visit. It was a last minute decision based on weather, so I took the day off work, and we headed to the zoo. We got there almost when the zoo opened a little after 9am and got front row parking. Since it was a Wednesday and it was overcast, there were no crowds. In fact, we may have been the only ones on the whole bus as we shuttled from one area to another.
This zoo is too big to see all in one day. Last time we missed the whole children's area. This time we missed the aviary. But we did see a mossa and a pangolin, which were both firsts for all of us.
The end of the day brought a small $5 toy for each of the kids. They all ended up with the same rubber bat, which was a fitting souvenir since we didn't see any bats.
Much excitement and anticipation filled our little Airstream for several weeks prior to the upcoming visit from Grammy and cousin Lilia. But when they arrived in San Diego, the weather prediction was rain and colder temperatures. Since leaving Missouri the day after Christmas, we had not seen more than a few drops of rain, and certainly not enough to even get the ground wet. In fact, California was in the middle of a drought which suggests that my mom did bring her bad Missouri weather with her to San Diego. So we were in somewhat of a panic to hurry up and have fun in the sun while there was still some sun. We chose to stay at the San Diego KOA for her visit because it had RV sites with full hook ups right next to furnished cabins, as well as a playground and pool for the kids.
Taking advantage of a decent weather day, we headed to Point Loma, a National Monument on a peninsula on the north end of San Diego, the morning after they arrived. Our National Park Pass saved us the $5 entrance fee to the park. First stop was the visitors' center where we met up with some Instagram friends from www.currentlywandering.com, Jess and Sam and their three children. They have been traveling in the same area as us for awhile, so we decided to meet up and knock out some Junior Ranger badges together.
Next stop was the tide pool area below the cliffs. It was a short hike down to the rocky sea floor where we found the most interesting pools of living plants and creatures. This dwarfed our first trip to tide pools in Carlsbad a few weeks prior. Low tide was at 12:38pm and we hit it on the nose. The round, smooth rocks were exposed, but were wet and slippery with plant growth. Thankfully nobody fell down.
The trek to get their Jr. Ranger badges included a trip around the visitors center museum about the man Juan Cabrillo who was the first European to set foot on the West Coast in 1542. We then moved to the Point Loma Lighthouse and whale overlook and learned that baby gray whales are born in Baja, Mexico, or as our kids renamed it "Baja, ha, ha, ha" giggling every time they said it. There was also a painting of a gray whale on the concrete that was the color and length of our Airstream, so we felt justified in the name we gave our Airstream when we got her...The Gray Whale.
We never saw a whale, but we did see a submarine surfaced in the distance, which was almost as exciting.
Our week and a half at Sam's Family Spa in Desert Hot Springs was over. Time to head toward the coast for business meetings and a visit from Grammy. Our last sunset was a beautiful send-off.
The 2.5 hour drive to San Diego was uneventful, although we did stop at Souplantation again for a hearty dinner. While waiting for Troy to finish his muffin, the kids and I got some exercise racing up and down the 8 flights of steps in the parking lot.
Our destination was the Metro San Diego KOA. It was actually in Chula Vista south of the city. It won an award for KOA's in the nation, so we were excited to stay there for a week. As I write this after-the-fact, we are starting to realize that we may prefer the BLM land or a state park to these commercial RV resorts.
This was our second trip to San Diego in a few weeks' time and it was different than the first. Our overwhelming excitement to see the beach on the first trip was not there this time. We still loved the ocean and wanted to see it, but it could wait until tomorrow. The driving force and anticipation was muted a little. This served as a reminder to live, embrace, and enjoy all our "firsts." First Date. First Baby. First Camping Trip. First _____ . Let's take note, express, and remember how we feel on future "firsts." Most importantly, let's not forget to seek out more "firsts."
After a lazy Saturday morning, we went over to the playground to get a quick workout in with the Lifeline Jungle Gym suspension straps and let the kids play. I love these things because they are so mobile. It is an instant gym and full body workout, and you just need a sturdy anchor. Should we hang out at the campground and swim or jump in the truck and head to Joshua Tree National Park? The only thing we knew about the place was that some of our friends had stayed there and posted pictures of a rock that looked like a skull. So, with no real expectations, we decided to pack a lunch and head to Joshua tree. It was about a 45 minute drive from Sam's Family Spa Campground in Desert Hot Springs where we were camped to get to the West Entrance of Joshua Tree. There are 3 entrances, so it took a phone call for us to decide which would be the best option for us.
When we got to the visitors' center, we picked up a map and got a few highlights of what to hit first. The kids were starting to complain that they were hungry, but we still had about 15 miles to go before getting to the picnic area at the "Hidden Valley" trail that the lady had recommended. So, we broke out the chips and pushed on. The first thing we noticed were all the Joshua Trees. Hence the name of the park. The trees are everywhere. It looked like a Joshua Tree farm in certain areas. Upon closer investigation, we decided that a Joshua Tree must be a cross between a palm tree, cactus, and pine tree. The bark is "hairy" looking and the leaves are small tufts of green. Bizarre and beautiful.
The second thing we noticed were the huge piles of boulders everywhere. Our first stop was supposed to be Hidden Valley to eat lunch and watch the rock climbers, but we saw a group of rocks that just had to be climbed and stopped for our lunch on a rock. As we all jumped out of the truck, you could feel our excitement. It was an exercise in will power to sit down and eat lunch before playing on the rocks. In case you are wondering, 3 years old is too little to climb these boulders, but too old to be left behind. We helped her do as much as possible, but it was exhausting for us...well, Troy. Silas (age 7) and I climbed as high as I felt safe. He was actually a really good climber using skill and common sense to gain my confidence.
It was so much fun, but our hands got sore from the rocks and we were in need of water, so we headed back to the truck and drove on to Hidden Valley. It is an area of the desert surrounded by rock piles and creating a valley in the middle. The trail was only a mile, but it took us over an hour to do the loop because there was so much to see and there were so many rocks that needed climbing. Silas saw a lizard hiding in a crack where he was about to put his hand and that freaked us out a little. The last thing we wanted was a gila monster bite (they clamp on and gnaw repeatedly injecting poison) or a rattlesnake bite (the anti venom treatment is about $150,000).
We absolutely loved Hidden Valley and left reluctantly because we were tired and needed water. After a bit of driving we came upon Skull Rock. It was a short hike, so we hoped out and let Silas be a "booger in the nose of the skull" as he requested. The rocks were more crumbly here, so we weren't as comfortable climbing around with the kids since we couldn't trust our hand and foot holds as much as the other rocks.
As we were leaving Skull Rock, we ran into this wolf named Sage. Sage has a business card and a career. He is an actor and stunt wolf for movies and tv. His owner/trainer was more than happy to brag about Sage's jobs working with Kevin Costner, Jennifer Aniston, and many more. So keep an eye out for Sage to show up on the big screen in the year to come.
One of our weekend day trips was 6 miles down the road to Coachella Nature Preserve. It is a palm oasis fed by an underground spring. It was a 2.4 mile round trip hike in soft sand and wooden bridges. Silas and Morgan spotted 10 lizards on the trail and tried to find the bobcat that lived on the preserve, with no luck.
The palms in the oasis are not cut or manicured except to allow people to pass under them on the trail because bats, rats, snakes, lizards, and spiders find refuge in the leaves.
After we returned to the visitors' center, the kids rummaged through the touch drawers filled with animal bones and other collectibles from the area. There were no Junior Ranger badges to be earned, but there was still much to be learned.
By the time we finished exploring we were famished, so we headed over to Souplantation for lunch. It is a sister restaurant to Sweet Tomatoes, which we love. The salad bar, soups, and corn bread hit the spot.
Sam's campground is in Desert Hot Springs, CA right by Palm Springs. We were referred here by a friend. It is really one of the only options for a family in this area because most of the campgrounds are age-restricted (55+) or $100 or more per night. The monthly rate for Sam's is $560 which is super cheap. They don't take reservations, so it is always first-come-first-served. The sites are all full hook up and it is just a short walk to the hub where there is a heated pool and baby pool both fed by the hot mineral springs and 4 smaller, hotter pools under the awning.
Each of the 4 mineral pools gets hotter by 1 degree, so you can pick your temperature. Just like they have done since the 1970's, the pools are filled, drained, and cleaned every day so they don't have to use any chemicals...just pure spring-fed mineral water.
We left Lazy Days without a solid plan. The only thing we knew we had to do was be available for a meeting with the Valley of the Sun YMCA's in Phoenix for my work on Monday morning. After that, we were free as the wind until my mom and niece flew into San Diego to visit in a couple weeks. So after a couple nights in Phoenix, we stopped over in Quartzsite again for a night. The last time we were in Quartzsite, it was for the RV show. Every spot of BLM land was filled with RV's. BLM land stands for Bureau of Land Management. They let you dry camp on it for up to 14 days for free. This time, the town was almost empty. There were a few RV's scattered around, but we easily found a field all to ourselves.
It was hot and sunny and perfect after a week of chilly weather in Tucson.
Collecting rocks, pizza at Silly Al's, and a fire made this one night stay delightful. If we had a generator or solar power, we would have stayed all week. Since we left 6 weeks ago, this was only the second fire we had and it was with one lone, lonely, loner log. There isn't much wood to be found in the desert and the stores were all out. Hummm....could be a good business opportunity?
We had been looking forward to Alumafiesta for a year and a half, ever since the first Alumafandango in Denver August of 2012. We tried to come last February, but the truck broke down en route. So being here at Lazy Days for a week seemed like a long time coming. The first day we arrive was beautiful weather. We swam and looked forward to a week of more of the same.
The weather didn't cooperate like we wanted, so we got out the jeans and sweatshirts and enjoyed the sunsets only a cloudy sky can create.
The first day of Alumafiesta began with Happy Hour at the white tent. Our Instagram/blog friends, Mali Mish and Aluminarium, came by to say hi, so the kids were thrilled to have little people to play with in their table fort.
Wednesday morning brought my first yoga class at Alumafiesta. The morning was chilly but about 25 people showed up for class. We had all levels and ages of participants and enjoyed moving and stretching together. I taught yoga for the next 4 days and then left the participants with a simple acronym to help them remember some poses to do on their own in the future. (If you were in class, this will make sense to you - ABCD Wally Byam Stretches)
The week was filled with a wide assortment of activities that kept everyone busy. The evening entertainment included sword swallowers, Japanese drummers, and karate performers.
The last day we were at Lazy Days, the sun came out, so we invited the Mali Mish family over to swim and play for the afternoon. Legos and ponies were on the agenda. It's such a treat to meet people virtually through social media and then have a chance to connect in person. We hope to cross paths with them again before we head back to Missouri. Unfortunately, Troy didn't get to hang out with us. He was busy doing repairs for other Airstreamers, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Alumafiesta concluded with a catered dinner in the white tent followed by live music. We looked like walking Airstream posters with our matching "See more. Do more. Live Riveted." shirts on, but where else can you get away with it? Morgan also received an orange lion from some Airstreamers from the Netherlands. Troy helped them with a plumbing leak, so they gave him an orange lion which is the national symbol for their country.
Even though we would be staying at Lazy Days in a week for Alumafiesta, we decided to go for a visit to the RV sales side of the business to check out their new RV's. Lazy Days is an Airstream dealer, so we wanted to see what the new 2014 Bunkhouse looked like since we have the first version from 2005. We'd been hearing a lot about it...some good, some bad...so it was time to check it out for ourselves.
Rob Brett is a salesman at Lazy Days. What we loved about his tour was that he was more than a salesman. He had a true passion for Airstreams that was evident from the start. His face lit up when he found out we wanted to see the Airstream Bunkhouse. While inside he pointed out all the new features like only someone who really knew Airstreams could do. He even asked what I liked most about the new model. Top on my list was the open floor plan. The "L" shaped kitchen counter was removed, and the table and couch were flipped which created more floor space. Add a shoe cubby and bigger windows, and I'm sold. Too bad the new sticker price is in the $88K range.
Every Friday, Lazy Days puts on a convection oven cooking demonstration. I barely knew how to operate ours, Troy had no clue, and our Airstream did not come with an owner's manual, we all decided to go to the seminar. John, the instructor, was a retired military man who taught us how to bake a soufflé in the convection oven/microwave combo. He was also a master story-teller who made the 40 minute cooking time fly by. Basic idea is "tell it what to become. Tell it how hot to get. Tell it how long to cook." If you cook with the convection oven setting use oven safe dishes (metal, glass). If you cook with the microwave, use paper, glass, etc. Also, ours requires a reduction in temperature and time by about 25% to prevent over-cooking. Since this seminar, we have enjoyed cookies, kale chips, and biscuits in the convection oven.
Preface: I am catching up on my delinquent blogging for the last 2 weeks, so forgive the outdated updates on our travels.
We received tickets to the Desert Museum from my parents before we left for our trip. It was about a 45 minute drive from the place we were courtesy parking so we got up early, packed a lunch, and headed to the west side of Tucson. We had heard that it was mostly outside so bring water, hats, and good walking shoes. But what kind of museum is outdoors?
Before we even got in the gate, there was a falcon presentation. This one was meticulously preening itself while we watched. Ever since seeing the movie RIO, Silas has been consumed with birds, so this was right up his alley.
This desert museum has been around for 60 years. All of the staff that we encountered were knowledgeable and friendly. The grounds were immaculate and the landscaping was so interesting. Both Troy and I came to independent conclusions that we never knew there was so much variety in vegetation in the desert. We were seeing it in the winter, so I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the spring. The hummingbird display would have been interesting if we didn't already enjoy summers full of hummers back home. My mom has created an oasis for them at our farm in Missouri so we see several dozen flying around the feeders at any one time. However, they all migrate south in the winter to this area, so I've been told. (Kind of like a small family flock I know.)
There was a show at 12:15pm that presented 2 poisonous animals native to the desert. We learned about and saw a live Gila Monster and Rattlesnake. After the lecture, we were invited to come up to the front to get a closer look at both of them. We highly recommend this presentation...well, all of us except Morgan. She was more concerned about whose lap she wanted to sit in. The rest of us learned that the Gila Monster bite is like a bulldog. Once it latches on, it stays on for up to 20 minutes. Their poison is in the tips of their teeth, so they keep injecting you with poison while they chomp down. We thought we were safe from rattlesnakes this time of year in Arizona, but that's not the case. Rattlers come out in the mid-day heat to get warm in the winter, so it was an eye opener for us to be more careful on our hikes about where we let the kids go. No more running ahead of us.
One of the highlights of this trip was seeing a roadrunner. The kids were bummed ever since we arrived in Arizona that they hadn't seen one, yet. Then Silas spotted one next to our truck while we were eating lunch. The kids were extremely quiet and watched him run around looking for food. Silas' famous quote after the bird ran away was, "I didn't know that roadrunners ran on roads!"
The cave exhibit was a favorite. Silas and Morgan were bats for Halloween last year, so wearing the bat ears was the best part.
We spent a long time at the microscope display that projected what you were seeing onto a TV screen. Ants, scorpions, gems, and centipedes were all examined repeatedly. They eventually learned how to zoom first, then focus.
The mountain lion exhibit was one of my favorites simply because he was right up near the glass. We could look straight into his eyes and try to figure out what he was looking at. The keeper told us he was stalking the baby in the carrier behind us. Apparently he does that regularly when infants are around. Yikes!
The last stop of the day was at the aquarium. It was all pretty normal stuff until we got to the garden eels. We couldn't stop watching. All of us were intrigued by watching them "grow" out of the sand and all face the same direction until the fish swam overhead. That's when they would "un-grow" and disappear back into the sand. They were all different colors and simply fascinating.
The Desert Museum was definitely worth the trip. We loved the exhibits and the weather was perfect for a walk through the desert. As we were leaving the area, we noticed an old western-looking town. After a quick drive through we discovered that it was Old Tucson - a movie and tv set for quite a few famous titles like Little House on the Prairie, Tombstone, and The Lone Ranger. It was getting ready to close, but I think I will put this place on our bucket list for the next time we are in the area.
I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness.
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