Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Airstream Safari trip notes

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

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My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

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See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

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See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

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I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream, Apple, and the ‘OH WOW’ experience

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

We might have been crazy ones, spending a significant chunk of our retirement savings for a relatively expensive recreational vehicle, but upon seeing our custom-ordered 2007 Airstream Safari travel trailer shining in the sun as flags waved festively overhead at the dealership, I felt that ‘OH WOW’ experience.

For us, the Airstream trailer with its iconic shape, clean lines, beauty and functionality, made us feel good, and was well worth the investment.

Our decision to buy this was based on much research, and once it had been acquired, I began researching a replacement for our 9 year old PC.  For me, having a PC had been a love-hate relationship and I wanted our next computer to be enjoyable, functional, beautiful, intuitive, and relatively trouble-free.  I noticed that several people were fulltiming in their Airstream trailers (Rich L. and Rich C.) while happily blogging away on their Mac laptops.  The Mac vs PC research led me to buy an iMac and a MacBook Pro.

Needless to say, it was another ‘OH WOW’ experience and love at first sight and use, and continues to be so… the beauty of aluminum in form and function.

As I write this, I am using the MacBook Pro made by Apple. Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was its co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer.  For three hours on October 19, Apple closed all of its retail stores worldwide for “A celebration of Steve’s life.”  Earlier this week, PBS presented “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing – An inside look at the man and the major influences that helped shape his life and career.”

On October 24, 2011, Simon & Schuster released the authorized biography, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, now the top-selling book in the country.  As I read this fascinating story, which includes his faults as well as his achievements, I found it interesting that he was influenced by some of the people that influenced me when I was in college, such as Bob Dylan (“It’s Alright Ma“), Timothy Leary (“Legend of a Mind ~ Moody Blues“, The Beatles (“Two of Us“), and Joan Baez (“Forever Young“).

Earlier this week, we celebrated Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, a day of celebrating and honoring those who have gone before us.  Larry made Pan de Muerto, a sugar-topped sweet egg bread traditionally shaped into skulls or round loaves.

On October 16, a memorial service was held for Steve Jobs at Standford University’s Memorial Church, where Steve’s biological sister, Mona Simpson, delivered a moving eulogy, and revealed his last words: ‘OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.’

Here’s To The Crazy Ones

Dog days of summer

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Up in the trees, the male cicadas seem to relish the increasing summer heat this time of year and quickly contract and relax their internal timbal muscles causing their timbals to emit a sustained, resonating clicking sound that attracts female cicadas.  Most cicadas have a life-cycle of two to five years, but some, such as the Magicicada, have a 17-year cycle and, with a combination of a long-life cycle and periodicity, are sometimes called 17-year cicadas.  Cicadas live underground most of their lives, but eventually tunnel to the surface and molt (see one shedding its skin here).  The Golden Cicada in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West, illustrates the belief that transformations in life can lead to enlightenment and immortality.dsc_0010-cereus-vertical-night-sky.jpgSo we are now in the dog days of summer, the hottest, most sultry days of summer, usually between early July and early September.  The ancient Romans called these days Caniculares dies (days of the dogs) after the “Dog Star”, Sirius, which is in the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest star in the sky besides our Sun.  The ancient Romans noticed that in their summers Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun and they thought that their combined heat caused this stretch of hot, humid weather.  The ancient Egyptians noted the peak of their seasonal flooding of the Nile River occurred after the heliacal rising of Sirius, which became their “watchdog” for this event. Some people believe that this is an evil time when dogs become mad and men hysterical.  Politics fray and town hall meetings become raucous.  This is the season when hurricanes churn, wildfires rage, dragonflies swarm, and spiders grow and proliferate.  Others see it as a time when dogs lie lazily about and ants accelerate their march in search of food and water.Indeed, while I was researching this and more on my MacBook Pro laptop computer, I noticed an Argentine ant walking across the beach scene of my computer’s wallpaper. (See CNN News article, “Are ant invaders taking over San Diego?“)  While unsuccessfully brushing it off with my hand, I noticed that this ant was actually inside my computer’s display panel.  I tried to ignore its random explorations back and forth on the beach in hopes that it would just find its way out for some water, food or fresh air.  But when it became apparent that the ant preferred to stay on my beach, I became concerned that it would eventually die there, and become an eyesore and a permanent distraction.dsc_0125-ant-on-dock-macbook-pro.jpgI then noticed that the ant became very interested in my computer’s cursor (in the form of an arrow) which I moved about with the computer’s mouse.  The ant must have thought that the image of the cursor arrow looked like another ant and when I brought the arrow near the ant it followed the cursor as if it were following a brother ant and I was able to use my mouse to lead this ant safely off the beach onto my dock where I put my finger down on the subject.  Better to stabilize it on the dock at the bottom of the screen than risk having it litter the beach, I thought. Everyone was amused during my next Apple one-to-one session and they suggested that I show it to the Apple Genius Bar.  They laughed and took pictures of it with their iPod camera and, to head off any long-term consequences of an ant deteriorating in the computer, they authorized a replacement of the display panel under warranty (Apple lived up to its great customer service!)Most of my dog days of summer, however, were spent as the third alternate juror in a gang-related murder case.  I was never actually called upon to deliberate the defender’s fate, but I did find the case fascinating and probably equivalent to a Gangs 101 college level course.  I learned what criminal gangs do (criminal acts), how they recruit (give marijuana-laced cigars ["blunts"] to young teenagers), and how gang members increase their gang-standing (commit more criminal acts).  I learned about gang culture, clothing, colors, symbols, tattoos, graffiti, hand signs, and music (Gangsta rap).I learned how police fight gang-related crime (document gang members using field interview reports, arrest gang members, interview witnesses, and collect and process evidence).  Forensic evidence, such as DNA, GSR (gunshot residue), fingerprints, and ballistics, is playing an increasingly important role in criminal justice.  A career in forensic science offers an exciting combination of science and law studies.  Forensic science is now playing a major role in helping jurors decide on a guilty-beyond-reasonable-doubt verdict or a not guilty verdict.  The Deputy District Attorney (see him prepare and present another San Diego case) instructed us jurors about the felony-murder theory (besides the actual perpetrator, all conspirators present in aiding and abetting a murder may be prosecuted for mu
rder).The trial ended earlier this month and the defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder. It was delayed by another prisoner in the county jail contracting Swine Flu, which resulted in a 10-day medical lockdown of prisoners (who could then not meet with their lawyers or attend court).  (As of August 12, 2009, there have been 1,005 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in San Diego County, including 16 deaths.)  During the many trial breaks, I was able to finish one of the books, True at First Light, written by Ernest Hemingway when he returned from Kenya in 1953, seen on our patio table in my “Stepping into summer” article.The Nightblooming cereus seen above and below were blooming on a full moon night earlier this summer.dsc_0012-nightblooming-cereus.jpgRecent cool breezes in San Diego have made these dog days of summer more tolerable, at least for the moment.  So now that my ant problem has been resolved and the jury case concluded, things are looking up…dsc_0220-bird-of-paradise.jpgand I can relax and listen to “Dog Gone Day’s 2009” music, while contemplating our next Airstream trip.

The desert is blooming

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

It might be snowing where you are, but it’s spring wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.  That’s how I started a similar post almost exactly one year ago when Larry and I rendezvoused with Rich Charpentier and Sadira for a celebration of the beginning of the wildflower season and the turning point in Rich’s fortune.  Two years ago Rich visited this area in Borrego Springs and immediately felt happy.  From here he went on to find his happy home base in Prescott, Arizona and establish his very successful career, R.L. Charpentier Photography, and gallery.

Last Saturday we received a report from the Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute that the desert is blooming.  We were not disappointed, even our campsite was surrounded with wildflowers.

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The blooms are just beginning and should be prolific this year due to our recent rain.

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Since dogs are not allowed on the trails, we took turns going with Rich on day hikes.  Larry and Rich hiked up Palm Canyon with its many displays of the Brittlebush (big grayish-green dome-shaped bush covered with bright yellow flowers on thin stalks) and the Pink Sand Verbena.  Then on the same day, I joined Rich in his Titan on a drive to Ghost Mountain where we hiked one mile to see the pictographs in Smuggler Canyon.

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Along the way Rich discovered a lizard on a rock.  And the lizard contemplated its options.

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Rich came well equipped with two cameras, an assortment of lens, tripod and waterproof bag.  Rich is gaining quite a reputation for his spectacular HDR images.
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We found the pictographs and my images will appear in my next post, along with more about Marshal South’s and his son’s visit here when they lived at nearby Yaquitepec.

The brief report comes to you from the field, as it did one year ago, complements of Rich’s WI-FI connection.

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More desert trails and mysteries will continue after my next post, Desert blooms 2009.

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Our new web site

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Dim sum, an offering of small portions of a variety of foods (steamed, baked, or fried dumplings, and roasted meats), a traditional Chinese cuisine, and in this case, highlights and glimpses of our camping trips and interests. Over a year’s worth of photos are being highlighted in a new web site that will offer seasonal, regional, and topical fare. It will also be a place to see more photos related to the stories as they appear in this column. The photos can be viewed as slide shows, and selected ones will be shown in movie format with a soundtrack.

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Our new web site was created utilizing the application, iWeb, that came with the Mac computer. Through one-to-one training sessions at the Apple Store, I have been learning how to use this along with the many features that came with our Mac.

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This site also contains a “Friends Along the Trail” page with photos of precious memories and moments such as:

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Cooking highlights will be seen on the Cooking page, such as making homemade pizza on the grill.

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Yum cha, anyone?

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Safari Solar Power

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Solar power is rapidly progressing from merely a “feel-good” issue to an increasingly impressive alternative to fossil-fuel derived electricity, especially as the cost of fuel escalates and the state of the economy deteriorates. Our Airstream factory-installed solar charging system, utilizing two 53-watt solar panels, enables us to enjoy our favorite style of non-hook-up camping in the solitude of nature, away from noisy generators and crowds.

We recently returned to our favorite desert non-hook-up site at Vallecito Regional Park nearby Ghost Mountain and raised our Earth flag.

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The Airstream factory installed two solar panels at our request as part of the solar option, custom order. I interviewed an Airstream representative who told me that Airstream first installed solar panels in 1994, and that most Airstream trailers were pre-wired for the solar option starting in 2000. Solar panels can also be added as an after-market item as described by Rich Luhr in his Tour of America blog.

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Our solar charging system consists of two 53-watt solar panels, two Lifeline AGM (Glass Mat) batteries, a charge controller, and panel display. Take the tour of our trailer and join the discussion at airforums.com. Rich Luhr’s system helped him to recharge his batteries after freezing nights and furnace use at Yellowstone. We are pleased with our system which has consistently recharged our batteries to 100% by mid to late morning every camping day.

We also continue to make progress towards more efficient energy utilization as technology continues to improve. For example, with our new MacBook Pro we can now watch the same DVD of the opera Carmen, and yet use much less power by not turning on the trailer’s LCD and 600-watt inverter.

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The following morning, we recharge the laptop and other small electrical appliances (2-way radios, portable speakers, cameras) with the Kensington Ultra Portable Power Inverter 150. This product works well and uses energy more efficiently than our 600-watt trailer inverter.

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The following two products kick efficient energy use up a notch. With minimal power, the iPod touch presents your favorite videos, internet sites, music, etc., which can be listened through its lightweight earphones. A group can also enjoy sitting around a picnic table in the evening and watching a movie when the iPod is attached to the i-F3 Portable iPod Speakers, rechargeable dock station, and built-in FM radio and alarm clock. (These products are available in the Apple Store, and the speakers sound great!)

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Or you could make your own music and use even less power. Here Larry is practicing his ukulele while listening to a recording of Iz on the iPod.

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I’m learning to play “The Universe Song” by Eric Idle and seen in the Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life”, that reminds us of our place in the universe and that the sun is the source of all our power.

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Additional information on choosing and designing a solar system for your Airstream can be found in Michael and Susan Snowden’s article, “Powering Your Airstream with Sunlight”, in the Fall 2005 issue of Airstream Life.

Spring Wild Flowers

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

It might be snowing where you are, but it’s spring wild flowers in Anza-Borrego Desert, CA., as we take one more look at the spectacular view and cherish the memories of a very special and magical Safari trip. Last week we joined Rich C. and Sadira at Palm Canyon Campground.

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Warm, early morning sunlight bathed our trailers and wild flowers.

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Our Pug, Pau Hoa, and Corgi, Mac, always enjoy early morning walks with Larry.

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Fields of Wild Heliotrope and Desert Chicory dance in the mid-morning sun.

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Our MacBook Pro also seemed to enjoy the early morning sun while sitting on our credenza next to a very helpful reference, The Digital RV, Second Edition, by R.L. Charpentier.

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Larry has been composing Airstream songs while serenading Pau Hoa with his ukulele.

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Meanwhile, I joined Rich C. and Sadira on a hike up Ghost Mountain, and this time I remembered to bring my water bottle. Rich C. remembered to bring his Vermont Smoked Beef Jerky, and Sadira brought her smile.

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First Field Report

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

On a hunt for big game amidst the blooming spring wild flowers, we returned with our Safari to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park armed with our HP camera (pixels cranked up to the max) and the MacBook Pro raring to go.

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We joined Rich C. and Sadira for three, starry nights of desert camping in search of Bighorn sheep and wild flowers. This trip also marked the first year anniversary of Rich’s return to Palm Canyon and his turn-around of fortune.

We all were excited about this trip because recent rains followed by the return of warm, sunny weather held out the promise of an early, glorious wild flower display. We got up before sunrise to hike up Palm Canyon and were not disappointed.

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A blanket of wild flowers greeted us just a few feet into the trail head.

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A photo op was present everywhere we turned.

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It was also a study of contrasts, lush new growth next to dead palm tree trunks from previous floods.

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Along the way, we enjoyed the refreshing and soothing sounds of the briskly flowing Palm Canyon creek.

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Rich C. enjoyed his Vermont Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky.

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Thinking that he had spotted a Bighorn sheep up along the ridge, Rich hopped up and quickly attached his Canon EOS-30D camera (with 70-300 mm Canon lens) to his Tricks Stick monopod . But it was only a rock.

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I thought that I had seen a lion up there, but it was actually a ridge silhouette in front of a glowing sun.

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The big game animals were elusive this time, but the splendor of spring wild flowers cheered us as we made our way back down the trail.

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But at least I can report that I spotted more than one leopard right in our own Safari. The trophy was actually the latest operating system of our new MacBook Pro.

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This first post from the field was brought to you compliments of Rich C’s WI-FI connection that I could pick up while sitting at our camp picnic table. (Thanks, Rich)

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Computing and Airstreaming

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Computing and Airstreaming have always gone hand in hand for us after contracting “aluminumitis” just over two years ago. The computer allowed us to see the wealth of Airstream-related information (Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, for example) that is available on the Internet. This information enabled us to make good choices regarding our first tow vehicle (2006 F-250 PSD), Airstream trailer (2007 23′ Safari SE), and accessories.

The computer continued to play a supportive and enhancing role with our Airstreaming lifestyle as we began sharing our Airstream experiences and photos on-line. It also fostered a sense of community by providing access to such places as the Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, where ideas and solutions are freely exchanged, thus increasing our joy of Airstream trailer ownership.

Up until just recently, we had been using our vintage, 1998 Gateway desktop computer. Shortly after setting up our computer ten years ago, our initial joy was quickly replaced by the brain-searing sensation of encountering system conflicts, failures, and long, late-night tech sessions. After the Windows operating system was re-installed, the computer finally settled in, but not without the typical, ongoing PC hassles of encountering viruses and spending too much time on computer maintenance.

So after the first year of setting up and enjoying our trailer, we recruited our computer to help us research its own replacement. It didn’t go unnoticed that it seemed to take much longer loading in the Apple web page, just as it didn’t go unnoticed that two well-known Airstream bloggers, Rich Luhr and Rich Charpentier, were using Mac laptop computers. Apple’s recent release of the beautiful, aluminum MacBook Pro laptop and the iMac desktop, along with the new Leopard operating system, OS X 10.5.2, made the decision irresistible. We now have one of each and are rediscovering the joys of computing.

Here’s what Rich Luhr, publisher and editor of Airstream Life, says about his Mac, “My laptop is an older Powerbook G4, the predecessor to the current MacBook Pro. I chose it because I wanted to get away from the painful Windows experience and the Powerbook was a highly capable laptop that had everything. I run my entire business on it.”

Rich Charpentier, author of The Digital RV and Gadget’s Airstream Chronicles, has the MacBook Pro and likes its stable and powerful operating system, OS X, based on the Unix system. Rich says, “That’s why I’m a big proponent. The Macs just worked. I spend more time getting work done, less time trouble shooting.” See his article, Setting Up Your Mobile Office, page 77 of the current, Spring 2008, issue of Airstream Life magazine.

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So next week we will take our MacBook Pro for its first post from the field as we rendezvous with Rich C. and Sadira at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and celebrate the beginning of the spring wild flower blooming season.

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.