Archive for the ‘Ukulele’ Category

Summer Wizardry

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Midsummer nights are here and on most evenings we can hear fireworks rumble from San Diego’s Seaport Village.  Our Airstream Safari quietly rested in its homeport under the midsummer stars as I took the dogs out for a late night break in the cool air of the backyard patio.

As I passed by hanging plants on one side, I noticed a sensual fragrance and, looking more closely, I noticed many large, white blooms of the Nightblooming Cereus, the Queen of the Night, had just fully opened.

This is a magical moment because these flowers bloom at night and wilt by dawn.  Their blossoms are enchantingly alluring.

Even the nearby and playful Green Man seemed to take notice.

Meanwhile across town, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was playing.  Before I delve into this finale, I thought it best to read and understand the magic and character of Harry Potter, as written and developed by J. K. Rowling, author of the seven Harry Potter books.  So I have begun reading (out loud) each evening a chapter or so, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

During the day, we visited the first inaugural San Diego Ukulele Festival.

We went on Friday afternoon as booths were just being set up and performers were testing the sound equipment. Seen below is Ukulele Bartt, Bartt Warburton, animatedly singing and playing his ukulele like a wizard.  This 3-day festival at Liberty Station opened last Thursday with a concert by ukulele grand wizard, Jake Shimabukuro.

More information about the history of the ukulele and the ukulele – Airstream connection is found in my article, “Ukulele Strumming and Airstreaming.”

Ukuleles glowed in the warm afternoon sun.

We took in more magic Saturday by attending the San Diego Gay Pride Parade, where approximately 300 active and inactive military service-members marched for the first time.

Yes, wouldn’t this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie… and listen to Jake Shimabukuro perform his “Crazy G” encore.

 

Stepping into summer

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Summer for us is actually our off season for camping, which may surprise some because we live in San Diego, which has many great, nearby camping spots and where people come from places such as Arizona to cool off and enjoy our beaches.  That is precisely why we stay at home during the summer.  It is now too hot for us to camp in our favorite mountain and desert places without full hook-ups and air conditioning.  As mentioned in my “Desert heat” article, the 100-degree desert heat while we were camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last May motivated us to turn our trailer into a cave and enjoy the air conditioning while reading, doing projects or just napping.  We don’t need to go to the desert to enjoy air conditioning that we have at home.  Our nearby state beach campgrounds are now booked for the summer and we prefer to do most of our camping in quiet peaceful settings.  So we step into summer by staying home.

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We enjoy stepping into the tropical garden oasis in our own backyard with its pond and plants (flourishing due to Larry’s TLC)…

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Bougainvillea above (surrounded by Red Trumpet Vine and Delicate Asparagus Fern) and Epidendrum below.

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And of course we enjoy stepping onto the patio and barbecuing chicken and rib eye steaks.

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Hear “How To Make The Perfect Burger“, and learn the recipe in this Morning Edition, NPR program of July 3, 2009.

I also enjoy stepping into the world of reading books and I have them stockpiled for summer reading.  I’ll have time to read each time I step out of the courtroom of Superior Court – County of San Diego during my current jury duty, which is expected to last two to three more weeks.

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My latest addition to my library is Miles Gone By – A Literary Autobiography, William F. Buckley Jr., Regnery Publishing Inc., 2004.  Years ago I was fascinated by his debating style and sense of humor, and my interest in him was rekindled after watching his son Christopher’s interview on Book on C-SPAN2. (He also has an interesting blog on The Daily Beast and new book out, Losing Mum and Pup – A Memoir, Twelve, 2009.)

Another literary addition to my summer reading is Reading Lolita in Tehran – A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.  I first heard about this author while listening to the NPR program, Azar Nafisi Discusses ‘Things I’ve Been Silent About, February 10, 2009.

My favorite author became Ernest Hemingway after I read his first African safari book, Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1935, 1963.

Summer is also a good time to savor good radio programs outside or while getting ready to begin the day.  Just before stepping out the door last Wednesday morning on my way to jury duty, I was listening to Morning Edition on National Pubic Radio (NPR), on our local public broadcasting station.  My ears perked up as I heard the sound of diesel power and I delighted in their story, “Diesel Cars Attempt Comeback with Clean Diesel“, by Chris Arnold (NPR, Morning Edition, July 1, 2009).

View “The Great American Summer“, a gallery of classic images from a bygone era, presented by The Daily Beast contributor, Rachel Hulin.

So in these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, I might even dust off the ukulele and start strumming…

Or take my boogie board to the beach for a celebration of summer with an afternoon of surfin’ followed by “a cool one” at Miller Time and chilling out.

Addendum: In memory of just some of the many notables who have sadly stepped out of this world this summer, including Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Robert McNamara, and Walter Cronkite:

Never dreamed you’d leave in summer“, performed by Stevie Wonder…

And as ‘Uncle Walter’ would say, “And that’s the way it is.”

Ocean breeze

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Surf’s up and cool ocean breezes are zipping up and over our South Carlsbad State Beach bluff campsite where we enjoyed a break from the desert heat. We camped for four nights on the edge of a 3-mile long bluff, where we were bathed in the continuous sounds of the wind and surf. Seagulls sailed by, both inside and outside the trailer.

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Seagulls by John Perry

The area of Carlsbad was once inhabited by the Luiseno Native Americans who had a village near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon which was a resting place for Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi on their expedition up the coast in 1769 to establish outposts and missions for Spain. In 1883 the Santa Fe Railroad passed near here and land was opened to homesteaders and real estate speculators, including John Frazier who tapped an artesian spring yielding mineral water which was thought to be curative and likened to the old Bohemian spa of Karlsbad (in Czechoslovakia).

Five miles north of Carlsbad is Oceanside, where Marshal South, once known as Oceanside’s Poet Laureate, met his wife-to-be, Tanya, whose parents were orthodox Jews from the Russian Ukraine and emigrated to New York in 1906. See an image of Marshal and Tanya’s “honeymoon accommodations” while camping on an Oceanside beach in 1923.

Marshal South probably would have found our trailer accommodations interesting even though he apparently had no desire to use or generate electricity at Yaquitepec. Here at South Carlsbad State Beach we are self-contained and, with our two solar panels, we generate more electricity than we use during the day, even through the marine layer. Typically by late morning each day our AGM batteries are 100 percent at 13.5 volts.

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If we did a lot of this coastal camping, a portable wind turbine could possibly take advantage of the almost constant ocean breeze.

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We found that this South Carlsbad bluff is really the turf of the California Ground Squirrel.

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 Their accommodations are underground burrows on the other side of the fence and their favorite activities are surveying the campers and obtaining campers’ food and water. Bungee cords were used to secure outdoor items that contained food or other items of interest.

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A family of nearby squirrels paused for a moment and seemed mesmerized by Larry’s ukulele playing and singing.

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 More beautiful sunsets and summer breezin’ are just around the corner.

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Airstream Alley, part three

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Hiking our way into the New Year…

Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities.  For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink.  I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”.  (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA)  He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them.  I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.

The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera.  “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.

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The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!)  This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report).   Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.

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With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here.  It seemed we might be in luck.  I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.

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Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up.  (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley.   I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)

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Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream.  After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  This tested our agility and became a balancing act.

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The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.

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Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).

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We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…

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and snacked…

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Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins.  She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich.  As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight.  Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it.  Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings).  Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud.  We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.

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Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.

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Great fun was had by all!

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Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…

And time for contemplating…

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… crossings and passages.

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Airstream Alley, part two

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Cooking, feasting and entertaining our way into the New Year(s)…

This alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled, organized activities and events.  Even dinner details were decided at the last moment.  We set up our base camp (which faced away from the main campground) with picnic tables, umbrella, flagpole, lights and mats.  Participants and dishes varied from night to night as our spontaneous rolling party continued.

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Rich and Eleanor’s 2005 30′ Safari Bunkhouse is just ahead of ours, followed by David and Ari’s 2006 28′ Safari LS Slide-out.  Larry made siu mai, a form of dim sum as our Pug, Pau Hoa supervised.

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These pork and shrimp siu mai were then steamed for 20 minutes in the steamer seen here.

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Meanwhile, Rich and I played “The Galaxy Song” on our ukuleles.

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A pre-dinner “Ain’t Misbehavin‘” was played by Rich on his tenor uke.

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Seen at the dinner table on one of the feast nights were David and Ari, who brought tomato-shrimp pasta, stir-fried vegetables, and cheese cake.   Eleanor brought curried beef and a spicy, Indian curry lentil dish with macadamia nuts.  Terry and Greg brought Chinese spring rolls on one night and a pumpkin pie fresh out of their 19′ Safari Bambi’s oven on another night. (We are bundled up due to temperatures in the 40′s at night, but wear T-shirts during the day when the temperature is in the low 70′s.)

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You can see above that, besides the Oval Office, remnants of Rich’s “Beach Club” fabric also made their way to our cushions.

Seen below are Bill and Beth who brought an assortment of sweets that included nut bread, caramel corn, and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, based on a recipe by Shirley Corriher (the recipe and how to bake the perfect cookie is found here).  Bill and Beth’s 1979 23′ Safari is pulled with a 1977 Lincoln Continental.  In addition to siu mai, Larry made coleslaw with sesame seeds.  Eleanor brought string beans and a salad with pomegranate seeds.  Also seen here are Bob and Theresa who pull a 2008 30′ Classic Slide-out with a F-350 dually.

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After-dinner entertainment was supplied by Larry and Emma who animated Griff, a griffin shoulder puppet that Larry found at Renaissance Faire.

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The following morning, just before our hike up Palm Canyon, Rich savored the very sweet and juicy navel oranges given to us by Ron and Aldrene, who have a 16′ Bambi.  Highlights of our adventurous hike up Palm Canyon will be featured in Airstream Alley, part three.

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Each year we celebrate three New Years (Rosh Hashana, Western new year, and Chinese New Year).  The new Chinese New Year, the Year of the Earth Ox, begins with the new moon on January 26 and we already have a string of auspicious, red Chinese firecrackers hanging on our pod bay door. The focus of the new year is on our family and friends. Larry is already at work researching Chinese recipes and I just found an Astro Chinese New Year 2009 Song.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy New Year, with health, wealth, and prosperity.

San Diego staycation

Friday, August 8th, 2008

We did not need to get hitched to enjoy San Diego… we live here. So especially now that the temperatures are rising in our nearby mountains and deserts, and the price of just about everything (especially diesel fuel) is already too high and/or rising, it’s a good time to enjoy our moderate coastal temperatures along with the many amenities that multi-cultural and colorful San Diego has to offer.

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Activities such as visiting local zoos, parks, museums, and attending festivals and backyard barbecues are becoming increasingly popular in the face of hard economic times. These activities are summed up in the relatively new term, staycation. A good local example, the San Diego Zoo is one of largest and most popular (and recommended) zoos in the world. Waiting to great you just inside the front gate are our American Flamingo friends.

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Pink plastic flamingos (not to be confused with Pink Flamingos, the movie) are retro pop icons being increasingly adopted by Airstreamers and much discussed and analyzed on the Airstream Knowledge Sharing Forums, especially in the threads, “All Things Flamingo” and “Why the flamingo?“.

One of the best places in San Diego to take in the wonderful, panoramic view of the San Diego city skyline, harbor, ocean, mountains, Coronado Islands, and Mexico to the south is Cabrillo National Monument, location of the historic Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse, where docents meet and greet visitors from all over the world.

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Living in San Diego is like being on vacation year round and there are always fairs and festivals occurring now or just around the corner. For example, Tiki lovers from around the world will descend upon an oasis (the Crowne Plaza), August 14 – 17, and take a “Voodoo Vacation on Zombie Island“, complete with an uke jam Sunday afternoon. Last week Larry and I attended the Na Mea Hana Lima Hawaiian Cultural Fair, where we picked up Michael Preston’s book and CD, “Let’s Kanikapila! Ten Steps To Learn ‘Ukulele The Hawaiian Way“, by Mutual Publishing, and enjoyed the entertainment.

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A staycation is also an opportunity to have backyard barbecues and visit local Airstreamers, such as jd (also known as 5cats on airforums.com). He is seen here barbecuing shrimp marinated in a pesto sauce (very delicious). His shiny, 2007 20′Safari SE is nearby under a tarp canopy that slides on a rail system that he made himself.

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Staycation could also mean simply enjoying one’s own backyard tiki oasis, and playing the ukulele as the hibachi coals heat up… and contemplating the wonderful world… and dreaming about rainbows.

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Down the shore

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Our local mountains are heating up, so its time to take our Safari to the beach, or as we say in New Jersey, down the shore. Although our 23′ Airstream Safari is right at home anywhere we take it, it seems to be especially happy to be strategically positioned on bluffs overlooking the beach where it can enjoy staying cool in the gentle breezes, while its solar panels soak up the California sunshine.

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We returned to our favorite non-hook-up beach campground, South Carlsbad State Beach, less than an hour’s drive from San Diego. The premium sites, adjacent to the beach, usually need to be reserved ahead of time. Most of these sites are now booked through Labor Day. We purposely avoided the noisy and rowdy crowds of Memorial Day and enjoyed four days of listening to the relaxing sounds of the waves

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While watching the pelicans and seagulls glide by at eye level…

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Stairway access to the beach is nearby…

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The beach and adjacent bluffs are quite picturesque…

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Especially when viewed while boogie boarding

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Larry featured homemade Spring rolls, containing pork and shrimp, which were crispy and delicious.

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I brought along good reading material, such as The Digital Photography Book, by Scott Kelby. That, along with the owner’s manual, should help me get the most out of my new Nikon D40 camera.

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This is my first digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera and I am learning to use it in a variety of light conditions. (In the photo below, darkness has already descended, and the site is only lit up by a waxing moon. No flash was used.)

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I’m also having fun using the Nikon 18-200 mm VR zoom lens, in this case to capture one of those aggressive squirrels that frequently got up on our picnic table and nibbled on anything in sight, including our flowers and roll of paper towels.

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I then remembered the cats’ reaction to Tommy and Rich playing their ukes at Anza-Borrego last December, and the ukulele frenzy seemed to work on the squirrels, too!

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California Mountain Camping

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

On Earth Day we arrived for four nights of non-hook-up camping at our favorite mountain campground, William Heise County Park, near Julian, California. During this second year of camping with our Airstream, we are learning to appreciate the rhythm of the seasons and the variety of topographies and micro-climates that are within a two-to-three hour drive from our home in San Diego. This is becoming increasingly important to us as the price of fuel sky-rockets, leading some to wonder, “Is this the beginning of the end?”

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So at this time of year, as our nearby deserts heat up, we find comfort and interest in the Cuyamaca Mountians. The air was still cool, the flowers still blooming, and the turkeys were frolicking when we returned to William Heise County Park.

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This park is located near Julian, a former California gold-mining-boom-town, and now a quaint apple-growing center, visited by many people, especially during the fall Apple Days and Bluegrass Festival. Occasionally, it is also visited by the Plague Doctor.

This area is also plagued by wildfires, especially during the Santa Ana wind conditions prevalent in late summer and early fall. The October 2003 wildfires burned 70% of William Heise Park. Seven miles of pleasant, wooded loop trails provide opportunities to follow the stages of re-forestation that occur naturally after fires.

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During this second year of camping, we are also learning to keep an eye on naturally loosening screws in our Airstream. On this outing, Larry heard something drop as he was closing a window. The tiny hex screw that holds the gray plastic knob on the window-opening-arm-bracket had fallen out and was luckily found.

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Last year Larry assembled two bags of essential tools, which included two sets of hex keys (also known as Allen wrenches) of various sizes. Larry used the 1/16th inch hex key to screw it back in and tighten all of the other window knob screws which had begun to loosen.

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This underscores the importance of making and maintaining an essential tool bag.

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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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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.