Monday, January 15, 2018

January Memories in the Mountains of Southern California

Today is the anniversary of our mom’s death three years ago. It’s also Martin Luther King Day. I’m not sure there’s a connection, but it’s good to remember both.

I’m sitting in a folding chair up in the rocks, overlooking one of my favorite views here: rocky hills and mountains in the foreground, then some desert and the Salton Sea below, and more mountains and the sky in the background. Sure, there’s some freeway noise immediately below, but it’s fun to select a few colorful semi-trucks heading around the mountain, watch them disappear on the other side of the mountain by Mountain Springs, then emerge going down the steep grade on the other side. In eight more miles they’ll be in the desert. They now look tiny, so it’s important to choose the brightly colored ones as they’re more visible. This afternoon there have been a lot of car carriers.

It’s a good sunny afternoon to read Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I just started the book, but was reminded about some wonderful experiences more than 35 years ago, when my daughters were still very young (our now-thirty-year-old son hadn’t been born yet.)

The girls and I spent lots of time climbing around rocks and through brush, searching for frogs and picking blackberries. It was so much fun finding the polliwogs and tiny frogs in small pools of water. We always let them go. We’d finally head back home, covered with purple juice, our stomachs full of delicious berries.

It’s a very simple memory, but an important one. Sometimes I wish life could be that simple again.

The sun is starting to set and it’s getting cooler up here at 3,000 feet, probably time to gather up my stuff and head back to the RV. But, the view and the memories will last forever.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Guess what! Bottle caps, tinfoil, and cigarette butts don't burn.

Bet you didn't know that, right? (At least some people don't).

This summer I'm working as the Camp Host at Salmonberry Campground, a beautiful shady spot nestled off Highway 34 between the cities of Corvallis and Waldport, on the Alsea River in my favorite state of Oregon. I love the job, at least most of it. Let's forget about cleaning the bathrooms, but at least there are only two of them. Benton County hasn't gotten around to automating that job yet. This morning I decided to muck out all the fire pits at the campground, 28 in all, preparing for the Memorial Day weekend crowd. I've never done that particular chore before and it was kind of an eye-opener.


Armed with a shovel and bucket, I started out with my own fire ring. No problem, especially since I had my first campfire only last night. And on down the line.

Image result for bucket and shovel image

Some just needed a little TLC; others I swear needed a backhoe.  Getting out the non-burned and partially burned wood was easy, but I'm sure glad I was wearing gloves as it was definitely messy. Aha! What's that sparkling thing I see? Hmm. Crunched up aluminum foil. I wonder how long it would take for THAT to decompose? Let's check Google."Tinfoil- It does not biodegrade."

Well, that settles that. It would be here until the earth disappears in a puff of smoke or something. So, unless you're using wads of foil as a light source, either don't use it, use it for other things, or discard it in a better place, like the handy trash cans. The jury is still out on recycling the stuff. Apparently it needs to be clean, free of food or grease.

Image result for crunched tinfoil image

On to the next fire pits. Hidden below all the burned ash and chunks of charcoal were more shiny things, this time steel bottle caps.  I couldn't find an exact lifetime for those, but tinned steel bottles take approximately 50 years to decompose. Quite a few recycling places are now accepting bottle caps.

 Image result for steel bottle caps image

Finally, doesn't it seem logical that cigarette butts would burn? After all, the rest of the cigarette does. Alas. No. The decomposition time of a cigarette filter is anywhere from 18 months to 10 years, depending of several factors. From the above source, here's a little more information about discarded cigarette butts:

 Image result for cigarette butts image

"Used cigarette filters are full of toxins known as tar, and those chemicals leach into the ground and waterways, damaging living organisms that come in contact them.
Most filters are discarded with bits of tobacco still attached to them as well, further polluting our environment with nicotine, which is poisonous."

So, I guess if you really have to smoke, get rid of those filters in a safe place, a spot that won't pollute the environment. Some places apparently have disposal receptacles, although I haven't seen anything like that.

It looks like my fire pit experience has turned into a bit more than I expected. I'll think more carefully when dealing with the junk people throw into the fire and expect to burn. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Important Political Action

I've become a political junkie! 
     Image result for political junkie image 

I kept my phone busy this morning, calling both of our California senators: Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, requesting that they oppose the nominations of Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary, Tom Price for Secretary of Health & Human Services, Betsy De Vos for Secretary of Education, and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. I also phoned Representative Juan Vargas of our Congressional District 51. Like so many, I've signed online petitions, and realize that they are important. But, I believe the somewhat more personal touch of a phone call lets our Senators and Representatives know who we are and where we stand on important issues we face. Right now there are so many issues at stake and so many adverse actions that Republican politicians and President he-who-shall-not-be named are taking that make our constant contacts extremely important and necessary.

This quote by Theodore Roosevelt is as apt today as it was in 1918:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
― Theodore Roosevelt
The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

Monday, January 23, 2017

What a Difference a Year Makes (Political)

As much as I try, I can't remember a lot of what happened in 2016, other than politics. So, guess I'd better just get all that out of the way in order to write my thoughts about it all. NOTE: for my own reasons, I refuse to mention the name of the new President as, just like John Lewis, I consider him an illegitimate president. There.

I supported Bernie Sanders all the way as I considered him to be the best hope for the country. And still do. Unfortunately, I had to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton since, unlike Canada, for one, we can really only choose between two political parties. I've always been a Democrat, so there you have it. I would have liked her to win the race, if only to see our first woman President. But, for a number of reasons, some of them quite illegal or unfair, that didn't happen. As much as so many people and organizations tried to void the election, the orange one was inaugurated several days ago.

Ever since the election in November, I've gone through a long period of depression, disbelief, and fear for the coming four years. As a lifelong feminist and progressive, I've worked hard for women's and LGBTQ issues for almost 50 of my 70 years. I loved seeing much of that work pay off, from the legalization of abortion rights to same-sex marriage. It has been quite a wonderful period to experience passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Equal Opportunity Act, as well as many others. I've seen Medicare come into being and now appreciate receiving it after going for too many years with no health insurance. I appreciate the passage of ACA (Obamacare) that provides health insurance for so many. I've experienced the first black President in the country and appreciated all that he has accomplished. Sure, he wasn't perfect. But he worked for the people of the country and considered their needs.

And now there's today. For me, as well as so many others, this is truly a frightening time. In my humble opinion, the new "president" has no right to that title. I won't go into what a terrible person he is as I'm sure everyone is aware of that. Needless to say, the turnout of millions of people at the Women's Marches around the country and world the day after the inauguration shows that I am not alone in my beliefs and fears. Standing and walking among approximately 40,000 women, men, and children in the San Diego march provided some hope, as long as we can keep the momentum going. It was amazing and heartening to see so many people marching, even in places as remote as Antarctica.

So many people have now joined Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and many other organizations that actually help people rather than ignore their needs. So many white people are now questioning their own bias against black people and attempting to understand and correct those beliefs. I hope this pushback against he-who-will-not-be-named will continue.

But, it's a frightening time, especially to be a woman, or someone of another color, or a Muslim, or an Hispanic, or a welfare and/or food stamp recipient, or someone who is unemployed or underemployed. It is a frightening time to be gay or LGBTQ. It is a frightening time to be in poor health, or elderly, or disabled in some way. It is a frightening time to be anti-war. It is a frightening time to be poor.

But, as difficult as the coming four years promises to be, I see hope...on one condition. We need to be there for each other. We need love to banish all the hate that promises to come. We need to talk with each other, to forgive each other for all the things we've done or said. We need to stand with each other, help each other, appreciate our differences, come together, become truly amazing people. As many of us as possible need to become politically active and keep our elected leaders informed of our wishes and needs for the country. We cannot just stand by and accept whatever crap is pushed upon us. No. It can no longer be that way.

We must keep marching together for as long as we can.

What a Difference Almost a Year Makes! (Wedding)

My last post was in March last year! How time flies when you're having fun...uh, will rephrase that in a bit. Actually, some of the year was amazing!

For one thing, our son, John David Smith married Rachel Price in a beautiful ceremony in Portland, Oregon on May 21. He asked if I would like to "give him away." Fantastic!! What a wonderful, thoughtful request. Even though he had been quite young at the time, he also remembered the former consulting minister of our UU church in Roseburg quite a few years ago, Rev. Alex Holt, and asked if he would perform the ceremony. So, of course I definitely hit the road in my small RV/home, not towing the pickup this time because I had a seasonal job awaiting in South Dakota afterwards. More on that later.

It was a beautiful trip from the deserts of Southern California up I-5 through the craziness of the Los Angeles freeway, taking a short detour to Yuba City to visit a high school friend, John McConnell and his wife Barbara. Then on to the GREEN!!! of Oregon with an overnight stop in Roseburg to see another good friend, Pat Zemlin and finally meet her son, Rick Zemlin. I had been away entirely too long, and the trip reinforced my desire to move back there, hopefully soon. More on that later as well.

Finally, there I was at a campground near Portland, enjoying all the beauty of the area and looking forward to the wedding dinner and ceremony. And I wasn't disappointed. I met Rachel's parents and two brothers who flew from Houston, Texas, as well as many of John and Rachel's friends. One of the best things was being able to see my daughters: Kathy White and her husband Jeff, and Colleen Van Pelt and her husband Dan, after too many years. John's dad (and my ex), John D. Smith, and his wife Pam were also there, and I loved talking to them as well. And I also got to see my ex-husband's sister, another Pam, after a long time.

Rachel loves unicorns and purple, and her gorgeous dress showed that love to perfection. With her red hair the effect was stunning. Then there were her shoes: purple high tops with unicorns! John and his men wore quite formal attire with polished black shoes, vests, etc. Rachel's two women all wore high tops with their beautiful dresses. No one can ever accuse these wonderful young people of being boring! Or uncomfortable. 

The catered reception was delicious, as was the dancing and conversations with so many people.  The typical Oregon weather provided lots of wet stuff, but everyone stayed dry and cozy inside.

I hated to leave, but was already thinking about ways to return soon. So, meet the newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.  


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lakeside to Desert View Tower

As promised yesterday, here's  my "returning to the Tower" post with many pictures and some personal thoughts about each spot.


Up Interstate 8 about seven miles east, near Alpine, is a popular scenic viewpoint. Yesterday it was graced by four or five semi-trucks as well as several other vehicles. On a clear day, "rise and look around you, and you'll see just who you are." Oops. Forgot I was wearing the "My brain is 80% song lyrics" t-shirt. Seriously, when the sky is clear, I've been able to see all the way to Point Loma and the ocean. Yesterday, not quite that far. It's a good spot for truckers to rest themselves and their trucks, preparing for the grade up to a little over 4,000 feet. 

Trucks at Alpine Viewpoint
Here's the view toward the west yesterday. The ocean is past that very faint outline of a mountain near the center. But, it's still a wonderful view that changes with each season.

View Towards San Diego from Alpine Viewpoint
I hung around for a short time, checked out the view, the people, and my email. Nope. Nothing spectacular, except the view. Time to get back on the road as there was still about 55 miles, more or less, to go. However, I decided to get off the freeway and head up Old Highway 80. There's more to see that way.


View from Tierra Del Sol
I have a good friend who is a member of the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA). According to their website, "Public Star Parties are held during the dark of the moon at the Association's observing site at Tierra Del Sol.The schedule for these parties maybe found in the Events section of this website. The Club's 22-inch LippRitchey-Chretien reflector, as well as its newly acquired 8-inch D&G refractor, are available for club members and hosted during Public Star Parties for visitors." 

I've been up there with him many times and have always been impressed by the number, size, and variety of telescopes members set up to view the sky. Tierra Del Sol is located near the small town of Live Oak Springs, off  Tierra Del Sol Road. Please see this map for more detailed directions. 


Okay, Sharon Greve Campbell, here's Boulevard for you. The town used to be a going concern, until the freeway bypassed it. According to Wikipedia, "The town and post office were named Boulevard after US Highway 80 which ran through town. Eventually Interstate 8 was constructed, bypassing the town." But since the town is only about 12 miles from the Desert View Tower, friends and I go there to eat all the time. Oh, and to also splurge a little on candy.


The Wisteria Candy Cottage has been in Boulevard since 1921. My mom and dad recalled stopping there many times. However, it went through many changes of ownership and closures over the years. It's now been reopened for quite a few years and is a must-stop for anyone with a sweet tooth I love their caramel and pecan turtles. 

Wisteria Candy Cottage

Almost across the street from the candy store is the Manzanita Diner, where we go for dinner almost every week. They specialize in Italian food, and their lasagna is outstanding. As are their pizzas. I love their barbecued chicken pizza. We usually call ahead and our beers, water, and pizza are usually ready when we arrive. 

Even though a friend and I are almost 70, we're sometimes (usually?) still kids at heart. And Brandy, our favorite waitress, caters to us. For some reason, known only to us, we've gotten into the habit of blowing straw wrappers at each other. So, to cater to the "kids," she started placing a bunch of straws at our places. To thank her, we usually pelt her with four or five, all in fun. I'm sure it's a waste of paper and plastic, but hilarious sometimes. Several weeks ago, one of my wrappers got stuck on a sliver of the wood ceiling and remained up there for quite a while. It finally fell down. Oh, well.

Brandy's daughter, Aubrey, also works in the restaurant, and we were thrilled to see her oldest child take her first steps. Aubrey just had her second daughter several months ago. So cute. Both women are some of the hardest workers I've ever seen, yet they take time to get to know their customers and provide small things, like Easter stickers, for us. Brandy takes care in wrapping our leftover pizza in foil, turning the packages into things like rabbits with long ears or dragons. Definitely a good place to eat. Closed on Wednesdays.

Manzanita Diner


The Golden Acorn Casino is technically in Campo, but since it's right off the freeway, on Old Highway 80, I'll include it here. I've only been there to gamble once, on a Senior Day, but have eaten in their restaurant several times.Nothing to write home about, but they have quite decent prices, such as the typical Prime Rib Dinners for $7.77. I usually stop by to fill up my gas tank on the way back from San Diego as their prices are reasonable.And they do have quite a wide variety of snacks and other items in their store.

Do you see the "wind farm" to the right in this picture? Since the casino is located at an elevation of around 4,000 feet, it's an ideal spot for those turbines. There are quite a few of them on a hill across the freeway.

Golden Acorn Casino

I include this picture of an interesting tree just because I love seeing it each time I drive by between Boulevard and Jacumba. Forgive the radio antenna to the left: I was too lazy to get out of the car.

Interesting Tree along Old Highway 80

And finally, Jacumba Hot Springs, at the end of our trip. Borrowing from the Wikipedia article, "Jacumba Hot Springs is located on the Mexican Border. A small settlement exists on the Mexican side, known as Jacume; the unmanned crossing was closed in 1995. The new, enlarged border fence now runs through the area. The United States Border Patrol maintains an increased presence in the area to curtail smuggling and illegal immigration."

Jacumba was another spot negatively affected by the freeway. "Around the turn of the 20th century, the health and relaxation benefits of natural hot springs began to be commercialized. The Jacumba hot spring is prolific and delivered enough water to fill large public baths, the remains of which can still be seen. The water contains sulfur but has a pleasant clean smell. In 1919 rail service connected Jacumba to San Diego. By 1925 the town had a world class hotel, the Hotel Jacumba. In the 1930s, Jacumba had developed into a top destination and had a population of about 1,150. Many of the foremost movie stars and celebrities of the time regarded Jacumba as a prime destination for relaxation."

Now there is very little left of the town except for a refurbished hotel/restaurant, a small store, a school, and a few other spots. Please read the rest of the Wikipedia article for more information. I would have loved to live here when the city was in its prime.

Coming back here after a few years, I cried when I saw this horrible border fence between Jacumba and Mexico for the first time. Families used to be able to walk back and forth over the border and visit with each other. Now it's necessary for them to somehow drive or get rides many miles to the nearest border crossing, either Tecate or perhaps Calexico. Needless to say, I hate the fence and always will.

Border Fence
Here's what's left of the city of Jacumba, looking east.

Entering Jacumba
Ricardo Breceda is well-known for his metal sculptures in Borrego Springs, and here is another of them, this one located in front of the Jacumba branch of the San Diego County Library.

Breceda Metal Sculpture at Library
It's been very windy up here lately, and I loved the tumbleweed stuck in the wires at the small Jacumba Airport.

Tumbleweed Caught in Wires at Airport
And here's the turnoff to the Desert View Tower, on In-Ko-Pah Park Road. There was actually a park here for a while but it was shut down many years ago.

Turnoff to Desert View Tower

 And here we are, safe and sound, at the Desert View Tower. Hope you enjoyed your trip. Please come again. 

Desert View Tower

Monday, March 28, 2016

Desert View Tower to Lakeside, CA

Okay. This morning I threatened to blog about my 120-mile round trip drive from the Desert View Tower to Lakeside, CA and back. I needed a haircut, and the woman who has cut my hair for many years now lives there. Besides, it’s been so windy up here today I wanted an excuse to get away for a bit. So, here goes – pictures and all.

I got on Interstate 8 and headed west, passing the turnoff to the town of Jacumba. I’ll take you through there on the way back. This first picture shows the view on a cloudy, windy morning of an almost empty freeway and the mountains in the distance. 

 Since the Border Patrol in their white and green trucks is a huge presence here, I usually avoid the uphill inspection stop on the freeway by turning off onto Old Highway 80. There’s still a stop on that road but it takes no time at all. And I don’t have to wait in a long line and then shift gears to make it up the hill. 

 Old Highway 80 served as the main road between San Diego and the back country for many years until the freeway was built. And it goes through some beautiful scenery, shown on the next four pictures.


After a quick drive past the Border Patrol guard, I got back on the freeway and finished the drive into El Cajon. This morning I was in a hurry to make my appointment so didn’t stop along the freeway to take pictures. And I also needed to get some gas. However, I made up for it on the way back, as you’ll see by the number of pictures and descriptions in the second part of this blog, “Lakeside to Desert View Tower.” 

The next two pictures show part of the city of El Cajon, where I stopped for gas. Are you getting excited yet?

Well, after filling the tank with $2.45/gallon gas, the cheapest I've found in the area right now, I headed into Lakeside for my haircut and to visit and talk Bernie Sanders politics with my good friend, Cindy. She now sells manufactured homes, but also still cuts friends' hair at her home. I got to play with her little granddaughter as well. 

This is the end of part 1, the trip down. Now I need to spend some time reducing the size of the rest of the pictures, so will write the rest of the story tomorrow. Stay tuned. Hope you're not too excited yet. LOL!