December 31, 2010

Mountain Lake is a camping resort about 45 minutes from here. It’s stocked with trout, and Randy and Jack have had good fishing there. So yesterday morning we all got up before 4 am and drove up to the lake (apparently trout bite best in the early, early morning). The lake had been stocked the day before but it didn’t make any difference to us - we couldn’t catch anything. It didn’t help that the temperature was almost freezing and the wind blew hard down from the mountains - and some of those mountains had snow on them. Then Randy caught a big beautiful trout.

But none of it’s fishy friends showed up to join us, so we packed up and came back home to get warm. California has been unpredictable lately. By the time the rain let up, Teresa’s backyard was so soaked that the morning sun caused it to steam.

And this morning it was so cold that the water line to the RV froze! What happened to to California sunshine?

Tonight the extended California Booth clan gathered to ring in the new year, but Randy and I called it a night early. 2011 will arrive just fine, and we'll greet it tomorrow.

Happy New Year to all!

December 30, 2010

The Sunday before Christmas we joined members of the Central Church on their drive to downtown LA to serve the homeless. They serve food to these guys every Sunday and provide clothing whenever possible, but for Christmas they give out backpacks, stuffed with all sorts of things. Church members filled several hundred backpacks with non-perishable snacks and things like socks, gloves, hats, toothbrush, etc. This year someone donated a semi-truckload of snacks - chocolate covered cherries, chocolate covered graham crackers, Lindt chocolates, Rocco chocolates, powered drink mixes, carmel corn, seasoned crackers, and more. We joined our relatives to pack these goodies into 250 additional backpacks, leaving just a little room at the top for a jacket to be stuffed in. Sunday night over 500 homeless or low-income people lined up to get a backpack, worried that we would run out before their turn. What a blessing, that there was enough for everyone - there were even some left over!

For the record, it does rain in Southern California. The Sunday before Christmas it started to rain and didn’t stop for a week. There were mudslides and road closings everywhere, but Wednesday we joined cousins Teresa and Mike driving to a Mexican orphanage that was started by and is supported by Central Church. When we turned into the small town near the orphanage, the dirt roads had been nearly destroyed by the rain, with big gullies cut through them.

We almost didn’t get there, but Teresa is a good driver and we made it. There are about 20 children in the orphanage, ranging in age from 6 to 17, plus 13 babies. Not all of them are without parents; some are without a stable home. They are well behaved and well off, especially compared to the surrounding area. The church sent them lots of presents and they were allowed to open a few that day - it was typical Christmas mayhem! The church has also said that everyone who completes school can go to college, and one young lady is already attending college in Portland, Oregon. This church is really making a difference.

We left the orphanage around 4 pm and headed home, just barely avoiding getting stuck in the terrible roads. But a couple of miles outside the border, traffic literally stopped. It took over 2 hours to go that last 2 miles, just because of the border checks. But it wasn’t boring; this traffic jam is such a staple of life that vendors set up push-carts between the traffic lanes, and walk up and down trying to sell their wares. We avoided buying anything until we were almost at the border. Then we gave in and got some churros - freshly made and delicious! Such a weird thing, to shop in the car in a traffic jam….

Now that Christmas is over, we are open for other adventures. This week we went to the LA Art Museum where I saw one of my favorite pictures of all time - “The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame” by Georges de La Tour. I just love its clean lines and beautiful use of light and shadow.

Randy was impressed by the modern art, but for a different reason. It’s impressive what some people can sell as art. Here is a piece of “art” on display in the same museum. It’s labeled “Single basin sink” - seriously!

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas. I hope all had a blessed day. We spent the day with the Booth family and as you may guess it was a great time. The day started at Tara and Dennis's home for breakfast and to watch the boys open a few gifts. After that we came back to Teresa and Jack's house and got things ready to go to Mike's. At Mike's there was the usual feast. The dessert table was groaning from all the choices. As we have said before there does not seem to be a bad cook amongst the Booth/Burns clan.

The highlight of the day is the White Elephant gift exchange. Some members of the family take this vey seriously and thank goodness Jackie is one, because she was able to procure me a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. There were a few other nice gifts but there were also some stinkers. Apparently Jackie Burns doesn't take home White Elephant gifts she doesn't like because there was more than one gift that she had received some previous year that was left and therfore wrapped up for this years event by Mike.

Yesterday Jackie and I accepted a position for the summer in Nova Scotia. We will be working in a park called Five Islands Ocean REsort and RV Capground. It is right on the Bay of Fundy with some of the world's largest tide changes. We will be there from the middle of May to the begining of September. It should be a great summer.

The day was great and really a blessed time spending Christmas with a great family.
Remember the reason for the season... and thank God for all his blessings.

December 11, 2010

This week we visited a place just across the Saltin Sea, called Slab City. It seems unique - a place where you drive out to an unoccupied spot in the desert, put the RV in park, and stay for as long as you want. No electricity, no running water, no sewer dump. No streets, no stores, no police. It’s not a pretty place because some of the long-term residence have been very, very sloppy. But you can see the rudiments of a society. There is a radio station, hidden under a camouflage tarp (I don’t know why the tarp is needed or wanted).

There is an open-air theater for entertainment, with old sofas lined up as seating.

There is a church, and one area is full of clothes that are available for anyone who needs them.

And at the entrance is its claim to fame - Salvation Mountain. This 3-story "mountain" is classic folk-art, one man's life work. He's still working on it. There are supposed to be rooms or tunnels inside, but we didn't go inside it.

But mostly there are RVs and old buses in various stages of repair, or rather dis-repair. They are clustered around in small groups, or set off by themselves. And an awful lot are surrounded by trash.

On the edges of the main area are sections where newer RVs are parked, and those areas are still neat and clean. These are probably short-timers - people who are staying here to save money on a short stopover, or people who want to experience this “off the grid” lifestyle.

Personally we found that just driving through Slab City was enough for us. We headed back to our clean RV park with tidy grass lawns, clean paved roads and full-hookups.
To those of you in the middle of a cold winter with freezing temperatures and snow warnings, today’s blog may be hard to take - it’s hot and sunny here! And today Lonnie drove us out into the nearby desert, where the sun is really blazing. You might think the desert is a boring place, since it doesn’t rain there and it looks like almost nothing grows. But it’s amazing. Several areas are filled with ancient sandstone formations of all shapes and sizes. They are clustered around in odd groups, making the landscape look like another planet.

Some look so perfectly formed that is seems they must have been created by people, but they are the result of natural processes. The black ring at the bottom of this picture is my metal detector, which shows how big this sandstone ball is.

The larger ones remind me of the tragic statues of ancient Pompeii.

In some places there are dry washes wide enough to drive through, and we used them as roads when possible. But just because they are wide enough doesn't mean they are drivable - most of the washes and paths don't deserve to be called roads, regardless of the tracks that mark them. They are full of drop-offs, ravines and swells. But Lonnie knows how to drive his 4-wheeler, and he navigated through some of the roughest terrain I've ever been on.

At some recent point there must have been water in the washes, because it left mud which has dried to the point where it curls up like chocolate. (Yes, everything reminds me of chocolate!)

This desert also has Mud Pots. That’s what you get when a combination of gas and water which is trapped below the surface finds a way to seep up slowly. There is very little water, just enough to form some mud and keep it wet. The gas escapes slowly, causing the mud to bubble. It looks like it’s bubbling because it’s hot, but the water is cool to the touch. (Yes, I had to stick my finger in it to find out).

December 6, 2010

Hmmm, it seems I managed to delete a post. Don't know how I did that, but I will take this opportunity to put it back.

December 6, 2010

Although RVing is a great way to see new places, there is also something nice about revisiting places we’ve been before. We have been enjoying our 2nd stay in southern California, and this week we moved back to the Oasis RV Park at the Salton Sea., where we were in March. This time we’re here to visit with Lonnie (Randy’s brother) and his wife Chris, who are snow-birding from the northern Illinois. We hiked into the Painted Canyon again, but this time we went with Lonnie and Chris and hiked further. Way back in the canyon is a place called “The Ladders”, where someone packed-in some aluminum ladders and left them strategically placed so everyone can climb up to the higher levels. And since they were there, we had to use them…

Oh, and we met some of the local wildlife - a tarantula. He was really not happy to see us.

Today we drove south towards Yuma. The landscape is dry desert, but it’s beautiful in it’s own way. We passed the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, which has amazing dunes on both sides of the road.

There is a lot of what I call random-RVing around here, aka boon-docking. Just find a likely spot and park. When responsible RVers do this, they make sure they leave the spot cleaner than when they arrived. When irresponsible RVers do this, the locals pass laws against it. Here's hoping these folks are responsible!

We went to the Yuma area so we could cross the border into Mexico. There have been a few changes since the last time we were here (March 3). For example, now they are enforcing the “no parking” laws on the US side, so we had to pay $5 to park near the border. But that’s not a bad deal, since it’s for all day. As we did in last spring, we visited a dentist to get our teeth cleaned. Last time we paid $15 each, but this time we paid $30 each. I'm not sure if it cost more because we went to a different dentist, or because this is the middle of snow-bird season and March was the very end of it.

We got some prescriptions filled and bought some souvenirs, including Coca Cola Light. As noted before, it tastes better than Diet Coke. We walked around sight-seeing for awhile; we only had a few hours to spend there, but fortunately a few hours in Algodones is enough. Everyone you pass tries to talk you into buying their wares. If you keep walking, they call towards you down the street, trying to get you to turn back. And if you actually pause to look at something, they are right at your elbow, pushing items into your hands and ignoring the word “no”. So it's hard to actually shop. But it's always interesting and we get some good deals.

Hey, how about this redneck bike we saw near Yuma? Flashlights duct-taped on!