We've found Southern California quite surprising. We didn't do much research for our stay because we didn't plan to stay here. Our original plan was to stay in Arizona and drive to see baseball here in California. Once we decided to drive the whole rig here, we changed our plans to stay a week and explore the area a bit.
Our drive to our campground looked like something out of a movie. We are in the middle of nowhere and about 30 feet below sea level. Once we checked in and got parked, the campground host came by to introduce himself. "Oh, your license plates say you are from Texas. I don't like Texas." We silently acknowledged our "Welcome to California" (and his poor taste in states) and continued our conversation with him. I guess it is just the state and not the people he dislikes because he has willingly talked to us several times. We know we have said silly things like that to others. It makes us cringe a bit and reminds us to be a bit more thoughtful in sharing our opinions - especially when they are not positive.
We are in the middle of the desert across from an off-road recreation area. It may seem quite barren, but weekends bring many off-road bikes and four-wheelers. It is Friday night now and there are already many RVs with multiple ATVs arriving. We can hear their engines roar past us.
I guess we won't have any more quiet sunrises and sunsets until Monday.
We took a couple of days to explore the area. The first day we drove to Anza Borrega Desert State Park. We arrived after the big wildflower bloom, but there were still many blooming plants in the area. The park ranger said that this was one of the 5-7 year blooms that happen in the dessert and it brought many folks from the far corners of the US and the world. Over 250,000 tourists had come to the area (population of 3,500 people) in the past three weeks and local restaurants and gas stations had to close because they were sold out.
We tried to eat breakfast at one of those restaurants that morning. We were shown to our seats in a dining area. There were maybe five filled tables in a room of about 25 tables. We sat for a full 20 minutes without anyone coming to get a drink or meal order. (I guess they found out we were from Texas!) Looking at the menu, there wasn't anything we really wanted, so we just left. We have not ever walked out of a restaurant before. It was strange. After wondering around a small local grocery store for another 20 minutes, we finally grabbed a couple of granola bars to satisfy our hunger.
Back to the State Park. We walked around the visitors center and wandered a few trails looking at the flowering plants. We got few shots of some of the desert plants here.
As we were walking back to the parking lot, Trey spotted a humming bird. After chasing him around the giant ocotillo plant, we finally got a couple of good shots.
On the way home, we passed a sculpture garden in the desert. We stopped to get a few photos. We did a little research when we got home, and discovered there are more sculptures along a different stretch of road. We will try to see some of those this weekend.
That is a wild boar in the raptors claws.
This friendly elephant is my favorite so far.
The following day we drove several scenic drives and saw more beautiful scenes. We drove through desert and mountain terrain. It is fascinating how the environment can change in just 50 miles. Up in the mountains the temps were in the 60's. We drove through 90* temps to get back to our temporary home in the desert. Here are a few of the views we saw as we drove the scenic roads.
The desert side of the mountains had mostly yellow flowers.
It was interesting to see the combination of succulent and flowering plants on the hillsides.
The colors could be seen from quite a distance. The mountains looked like they had been sprinkled with dust.
The vistas on the desert side were somewhat barren, though you could still see spring color in the distance.
The ocean side of the mountains had seas of blue. I think these are wild California lilacs. They smelled amazing as we drove passed fields of them!
The vistas on the ocean side were more familiar. This photo could have been taken on any of our mountain journeys back east.
One of our drives took us through the Cleveland National Forest. On a short break we overheard two cyclists discussing strategies for mountain biking. One biker, a novice, was asking advice from the other. They were clearly strangers, but seemed to be intently sharing ideas and tips.
Not sure why, but the National Forest needed several of these signs along the road. We wondered what states allowed you to throw snowballs at vehicles.
A little later, we stopped and had lunch at a pretty vista and considered gathering snowballs to throw at cars, but they were all melted. Our delinquency denied, we drove on toward home.
Many miles down the road we saw the two bikers who were talking by the facilities on our first stop. It seems they decided to team up for the remainder of their ride that day. Kinda cool to see the result of their introduction an hour earlier.
Even though it looks like desert here, that is a snow gauge pole next to the men on bikes. It truly is a land of extremes.
After two days of driving, we took a couple of days to catch up on work but plan to head to Los Angeles and San Diego this weekend to watch some baseball. It will be our first overnight away from home in several years. If all goes well, we will have visited 29 out of 30 major league teams at home.
Windstorms are expected in the desert while we are gone. Hope our home is still here when we return!