Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tis the Season

Tis the season to take advantage of Rosie's cuteness...whether she likes it or not! Behold, our Christmas mascot:

Wishing all of our readers happy holidays from our cozy little home on wheels!

Hugs from Hans and Lisa and Rosie!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Campground Review: Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, San Diego, CA

This is our second month-long stay at Santee Lakes; here is my review from last year: 2012 Santee Lakes Campground Review.

This year we had site #267. This is an excellent site! We had only one neighbor and pretty parkland on the other sides. Though our side yard (right out our door) was rather narrow, there was a very nice sitting area behind our rig. Rosie loved all the quiet park space for her walks.

Verizon service is a perpetual problem at the north end of this park  and the south end is much better. To make or take a phone call we would go outside or put the phone in the Wilson Sleek 4GV booster and use the speakerphone. Fortunately the park upgraded their Tengo Internet service in the past year and it seemed good enough at the beginning of our stay that we decided to take a month long hiatus from our Millenicom internet plan (saving us $70). The parks wifi worked pretty well during most of the month, but it is important to note that they have a 500mb limit per 12 hour period and will seriously throttle your connection when you reach it. During a very slow period the office said they were working with Tengo Internet to fix an issue with AT&T. Obviously the park needs to upgrade their wifi even more, but it is improved and pretty decent service overall.

Despite the Verizon issues, we love this park. Nature abounds here and it feels like an escape from the big city. Excellent walking within the park along the seven lakes plus miles of trails right outside the park. It is important to note that Santee can be very warm in the summer months, in the winter the temps are perfect!

We intend to spend a month here every winter that we visit San Diego. This year we paid $720 plus electric for one month. Since stays of one month or more can be booked a year in advance, we've already booked a month for the same time next year.

View of site #267 from the back. We had one neighbor on our right and beautiful park space on the other sides.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Been a Great Month in Santee Lakes

Our first month in San Diego has flown by with lots of social activities with friends and family. We even got a tour of our old house (thanks Christina, for satisfying our curiosity); the new owners did a major remodel and it is beautiful!

Tomorrow we move to the beach for a month at Mission Bay RV Park. We really like breaking up our San Diego stay in two very different environments. Santee Lakes is a gorgeous park about 20 miles from the ocean, nestled into foothills, peaceful and serene. Mission Bay is a glorified parking lot just steps from Mission Bay, mere minutes from the ocean and a whole different vibe.

One of the best things about staying at Santee Lakes is the incredible amount of wildlife. Outside the park we've seen coyotes and deer and inside the park there is an abundance of birds. Waterfowl, raptors, sea birds, perching birds, hummingbirds...there is an amazing variety here. It's really pleasant to walk the length of the lakes (there are seven) for a bird watching workout. We say a fond goodbye and leave you with a few scenes from this lovely park.

A look at some of the water front RV sites across one of the lakes.

This red shouldered hawk blends with the autumn leaves on a gray day.
Lots of statuesque, and statue-like, Great Blue Herons.

There are at least two black crowned night herons here, but they are elusive.
Usually well hidden in the cattails, you might see them across a lake, or by peeking through the reeds.

Postcard perfect day at Santee Lakes.

That's one dangerous looking beak!

Rosie was entranced by the creek behind our RV (on the right).

Osprey with fish.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Adventures in San Diego: the Zoo and Downtown

Having lived in San Diego for 50 years, the San Diego Zoo had always been a part of my life. This zoo originated out of a need to house animals abandoned after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and was a pioneer in the concept of open air, cage-less exhibits. During my lifetime I have seen the exhibits become more natural in look and feel, and the zoo administration has become actively involved in worldwide animal conservation efforts.

We scored free guest passes to the Zoo from Hans' parents (Thanks Turid and Fritz!). One afternoon we spent 3 hours walking about half of the zoo. It's laid out on a hilly 100 acres so if you visit be prepared for some fairly strenuous walking. Here's a few highlights of our visit:

There is a huge new koala exhibit with at least 40 koalas.
They are just ridiculously cute!

This young flamingo was adorable! He was following the keeper around and talking to her and he loved being snuggled!
Notice the little pink things on one of his knees; his legs were growing too fast and starting to bend the wrong way so pins and rubber bands will help him as his body catches up to his long legs. 

This guy seemed to be kicking back watching the parade of humans passing by.

Yeah, you're cute!

These two (siblings?) ran around tussling for several minutes.
They are some kind of wart hog that reminded us of Arizona javelinas.

Basking in the last bit of sun.

When we lived in North Park (a community just East of the San Diego Zoo) we often rode our bikes downtown on quiet Sunday mornings and enjoyed watching the city change over the years. One big downtown project that was decades in the making was the new Central Library, and construction was still in the early stages when we left San Diego in August 2012. It just opened in September so we wanted to check it out. Its striking architectural details are an exciting addition to the San Diego skyline.

The San Diego Trolley system has been around since the early 1980's but Hans and I had only taken it once or twice many years ago so we decided to take the trolley downtown. We parked at the El Cajon Transit Center which allowed us to take the Orange Line to downtown and the Green Line back at the end of the day.

We had lunch at Sushi Deli, located in the old Spreckels Theater building.

Fun decor, average food.

We stopped in at Western Hat Works, an awesome shop owned by our friends Martin and Estella. If you need a hat, stop by, they have an enormous selection of every style imaginable.

Western Hat Works on E Street, downtown San Diego.

Estella along with a small sampling of their inventory.

The new San Diego Central Library.

Great views inside the dome.

Petco Park on the left, Library dome in the center, Harbor Drive pedestrian bridge at right.

Sculptures under a moody sky along the harbor.

At the end of the day I remembered to take a picture of the trolley.

This was a fun day and a great way to visit downtown without the traffic and parking headaches, especially with our big truck. The trolley costs $2.50 one way.

A gorgeous end to the day!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Sand Devils, still Surf Rocking while on the Road!

Before Lisa and I hit the road for full time rv'ing,  I used to play guitar in a San Diego instrumental surf rock band called The Sand Devils.  We would practice at my house in the downstairs band room and recorded a CD there.  We played lots of great gigs over 9 years with other surf bands from all over the world. Thanks to fellow band members: Ran (Guitar), Jack (Bass) and John (Drums).

When we sold our home in July of 2012, the Sand Devils had a last gig party and then Lisa and I left San Diego for Oregon and then bought the truck and fifth wheel and hit the road.  Was that the end of the band.....??? Well not quite!  Since we return to San Diego every winter for a couple of months and the band members were still available and wanted to play, we decided to rehearse and find some gigs.   At the end of 2012 we played a great party at friends Derek and Roxanne's house that had a great Tiki theme with custom wood carvings and tiki artwork and a great tiki bar.  For 2014 we've been able to line up two gigs in January, before we head to Arizona for February and March. One gig is in San Diego and the other one is in Orange County at the Winter Surf Fest.  See the gig posters at the bottom of this post.

Some of you may ask what the heck is Instrumental Surf Music???... well it is not the Beach Boys....  We don't have vocals, but we let the instruments do the singing so to speak... ie... provide the melodies and harmonies to our songs.  The Sand Devils play what I would call Original Power Instrumental Surf... which is upbeat, clean but loud and powerful, with lots of Reverb! This year, thanks to fellow guitarist, Ran, I am able to play through his extra killer "Surfer" tube amp setup, an outboard reverb tank and killer 15" JBL speakers.  My 88 Mosrite guitar really sounds sweeeeeeet! :-)  So...., I am lucky that once a year, while traveling on the road I can still get together with friends and fellow musicians and Rock Out!

If you want to know more info, here are some links about surf music and The Sand Devils.
Surf Music Wikipedia
Surf Guitar 101 Website 
Reverb Junkies the Film
The Sand Devils Facebook Page
Dark Surf Video on You Tube
Sand Devils CD Review by Phil Dirt
From the Sand Devils CD. Well of Souls
Last Sand Devils Song Recorded. March of the Hermit Crabs.

Here are some pictures and a few of our gig posters.  Special thanks to my fellow band members, the photographers, cd & poster artists, venues, friends, fans and fellow musicians for some great shows and great music.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hiking Near Santee Lakes

San Diego sure is a nice place to be when the rest of the country is suffering from a frigid arctic blast! Our mornings may be in the 30's here at Santee Lakes Recreational Preserve, but the days are edging back up into the 70's. Perfect weather for hiking the inland San Diego trails.

Most trails in San Diego county consist of chaparral covered rolling hills, with scattered oak and sycamore canyon bottoms. The area only gets about 11 inches of rain per year, even along the coast, so you aren't likely to encounter lush greenery unless you are in a riparian zone or after a wet spring.

Santee Lakes is nestled in a small valley that backs up to a combination of military land and the Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve (GR/SC Preserve). If you want to hike into the open land behind Santee Lakes (without driving) you can access it from two points. 1) There is a locked gate at the North West corner of the RV park, behind the last RV storage area, with a hole cut out for you to climb through. 2) Exit the park and go to the intersection of Strathmore and Birchcrest in the neighborhood North East of the RV park. There is trail access at the end of Birchcrest Blvd.

Once you enter the open land you'll see lots of trails...but you may also encounter signs warning you not to continue! These trails have been used continuously by locals for decades and we understand that if you stay on obvious trails heading North along and beyond the Santee Lakes - Padre Dam water ponds, you will not be bothered by anyone...we have never had any issues ourselves. If you continue a few miles beyond the ponds you will enter the GR/SC Preserve.

These trails are used heavily by mountain bikers, especially on the weekends. You could easily hike or bike for at least a dozen miles; we did a couple of 7 - 8 milers from the RV park. It is easy to do many miles on relatively flat terrain if you stay in the pretty canyon bottom, or add on some hills if you want to take in some views.

Typical terrain in the hills North of Santee Lakes.

There are lots of coyotes in these hills. We saw two on one hike!

This area has been military land for many decades, perhaps this is a remnant from the Elliot Field days.

I have spent many years and many miles on San Diego County trails and have never seen deer in the city until now.
We've noticed some deer tracks on recent hikes, but on this day we saw two deer!

We've also hiked a couple of 7 - 8 mile hikes over in Mission Trails Regional Park. This time we pushed beyond the trails on the map linked above. We parked at the Equestrian Staging Area at the West end of Mast Blvd., just a couple of miles from our RV park. If you take the Spring Canyon Trail you'll come to highway 52 and the trail continues under the freeway, no longer in the Park. The area North of highway 52 is less crowded and a loop can be made where you return crossing under the highway further West and onto Oak Canyon Trail.

Crossing under highway 52.
The canyon North of highway 52.

Hans, Martin, Chelsea and Estella make their way through chaparral covered hills North of highway 52.

There are surprises to be found in Oak Canyon.

 On yet another day we hiked about 6 miles in Mission Trails Regional Park from the trail head at the East end of Clairemont Mesa Blvd. This time we did a loop that included North Fortuna Summit with plenty of steep ups and downs.

North Fortuna may not look like much of a mountain,
but the trail is steep and rocky and the views are 360* at the top.

Atop North Fortuna, South Fortuna is behind Hans, Cowles Mountain is the pointy peak behind his head,
and the mountains at the far left are Cuyamaca and the Laguna's which are at the far East of San Diego County.

Heading down the steep and slippery decomposed granite trail, we can see the trail we'll take
to cross the valley then up the hill on the far right to get back to the trail head.

North and South Fortuna.

A close up of the road leading to the saddle in the above photo shows a fire and rescue vehicle
slowly making its way up the very steep road.
On several of our recent hikes we saw these vehicles on the back roads...
probably making sure they are well acquainted with the terrain in the event of a fire.

One of our top criteria for a RV park where we spend a month is that there are trails right from the park. The trails in the hills around Santee Lakes, and within a few miles, may not be the prettiest we've ever seen (we're spoiled from our travels!) but they provide an excellent workout, fantastic views of San Diego County and some solitude (especially on the week days) if you can find the lesser used trails.