Sunday, March 20, 2011

Old time California friends

Our adventures over the past two weeks did not include access to wireless Internet but did include visits with very good friends here in California. A little fishing with my nephew Buddy and his wife Rose, in the Santa Clarita area, then lots of reminiscing about Air Force and College adventures, or misadventures according to some of the participants, further north on the coast.

We were anxious to touch bases with Russell Moran, who had a double lung transplant two years ago. He is doing well, still a bit too thin, but easily walking up the steep staircase to his second floor apartment. He lives in Oceano, which is just south of the city of Pismo Beach, close to the ocean with miles of sand to cover on a morning walk. We spent some of the time there helping him set up a way to organize all his appointments and notes. No small task considering the number of Doctors he sees.

Russ and Marlin

Russ at home

Steve and Beth Fleming live a few miles away in Arroyo Grande so the five of us spent most of the week on daily activities and evening meals. One night Steve prepared “Beer Butt Chicken” for the group. The original recipe called for sitting a chicken on top of a can of beer and cooking it on the grill. Steve had a better idea. He filled a beer can with wine and spices, covered the bird with a tangy rub and baked it in the oven. Beth completed the meal with potatoes and salad. The prep was lots of fun and the results were fantastic.

Steve's creation - "Beer Butt Chicken" ready to have his butt stuffed with a can

Beth helps with the prep

On the can

The finished product

The three musketeers

A hike at an Audubon preserve along the coast

Avila beach

On a cruise to Hawaii, Steve and Beth took ukulele lessons. We had a little sing along and Marlin gave playing a try. Appropriately he was wearing his Bourgeois guitar shirt. Bourgeois is the guitar company that our son James works for. They produce hand made high end guitars for mostly blue grass performers like Ricky Skaggs and Bonnie Reit and the Dixie Chicks

At weeks end we traveled north to Sonora, in the Sierra foothills, for a week with Red Wing and Ed Klawin. Sonora, located in the old California gold rush area, today contains neighborhoods scattered along roads that snake through the tree covered hills and provide space for horse pastures in the majority of the backyards. Marlin and Ed spent a couple of days fishing, while Red Wing and I dove into a scrapbooking project she wanted to begin organizing. She had copies of poetry her father had written to go along with some old family photos. It is going to be a wonderful tribute, but lots of work ahead.

We hiked at a local park through this forest of manzanita trees. The tree bark is a silky smooth deep purple color. These are small young trees, but are still able to create a tunnel effect along the trail.

Red Wing was the nickname, taken from the song, that her dad gave her as a child. Although she doesn't us it much now, when we met her, back in the 60's, that was how we were introduced, so we still call her Red Wing. A friend had the sheet music for the song and gave it to her several years ago. Sherolyn (sp?) will always be Red Wing to us.

Marlin and Ed Klawin having a good laugh

Dancing to the Oldies but Goodies!

Marlin and Ed went fishing in the Stanislaus River not far from their house. A beautiful spot, especially with the recent rain which brought out all the fresh green.

We left California behind and headed east on March 18th. We might stop in Las Vegas and meet up with Jed for a quick visit since he will be there for a construction convention on the 21st. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 4, 2011


We arrived in Joshua Tree National Park about the same time the weather began to moderate. Driving from Blythe, California put us at the southern entrance to the park just before noon and the temperature was warm enough for short sleeves. Hooray!

Joshuah Tree National Park encompasses two separate deserts, The Colorado and the Mohave, each exhibiting a different array of plant life. At the lower elevation, the entrance road winds through a part of the Sonora Desert. Before reaching the Cottonwood Visitors Center there was a short nature walk with labeled plants common in the Sonora desert that is located at this lower altitude. It had rained recently and with the warmer temperatures most plants here were in bloom. This walk really perked up my spirits.

Whenever we have seen the ocotello (sp?) in the past it always looked like a bundle of brittle sticks standing straight up from a central clump. For this visit the plant put on its best show with tiny green leaves covering the entire stalk and a brilliant red plume at the tip.

This plant with its red tube-like blossoms was covered with bees and an occasional humming bird

Beaver Tail cactus ready to burst into bloom

This is a baby Joshua tree. They only grow about one inch per year.

The drive through the center of the park continues to increase in elevation and changes in plant life. Either because of lower temperatures or less rain, any flowering was harder to pick out unless you looked very closely.
At the first visitors center we checked out a list of ranger led walks and arrived early for a hike to the Baker dam. This dam was build by the Keyes family when they homesteaded here in the 30's. They operated one of the gold and silver mines in the area, kept some cattle, and nurtured a small orchard.
Our Ranger guide made the walk interesting by pointing out different animal scat and quizzing us as to which animal had deposited it in our path based on its contents.

The Keyes no longer farm here but the dam still hold back water for animals and birds

Joshua trees

A barrel cactus in bloom

The Joshua forest

We also took a ranger hike to the remains of a different homestead. The Ryan ranch was a more prosperous endeavor. This family worked a gold and silver mine that was the most productive in the area. Some figures suggest it made about five million dollars in today's money. Not much remains of the adobe house but it had a beautiful view from where it sat.

The remains of the Ryan ranch.
After leaving Joshua Tree we visited Dick and Joan Andren who were in Venture, CA spending time with their daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

Hiking in the Venture hills. Great trails in a spacious city park

Dick and Joan walking along the beach front park

Karina just turned three. We had a fun visit with her and her parents.

Karina and Papa Dick

Nora, Rico and Karina

The Andren and Perez families

Gramme and Karina on a virtual bicycle tour. Grandparenting is the best part of aging. We spent two days with the Andrens and they thanked us for bringing some warmer weather. It has been cool here for most of their month long visit.