Dad and Mom’s Visit to San Diego, Days 4-5

Like I said previously, my dad and stepmom timed their trip to San Diego perfectly. Just after the rainy season and before the heat, that is! It’s a perfect time to head out to the desert, so that’s what we did. We even took Teddy Bear, who loves the desert, but who does not like riding in cars because it makes him nervous (where are we going? the vet? the groomer? oh no…whine whine whine…). We made a big loop going north and east on 76 out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, where we toured the visitor’s center and had lunch at Borrego Springs’ only Western BBQ / Chinese restaurant. I had sesame chicken, and the folks had burgers (I think). After that, we drove out to see the wildflowers, which were spectacular, north of town and then south in Little Surprise Canyon. Click HERE to see all of my desert pictures. We had to go back to town to pick up some guide books that I put down on a bench and forgot, but I was lucky that they were still there when I remembered about them. Either the people in Borrego Springs are nice honest people, or they have no interest in San Diego native plants and southwestern dragonflies. I think it’s probably the former. Anyway, we drove back through Julian on 78, stopping by the Julian Apple Pie Company for warm apple pie and ice cream. Yum!

To make things easy, I ordered a pizza for dinner, and we spent the evening chowing our pie and watching Aliens in a pooped-out daze. The next day, I had to take the parents to the airport, but we drove to Old Town San Diego (near the Presidio) for brunch at a really nice little Mexican place, El Fandango. I ordered the huevos rancheros, but I think Dad won with the chorizo. Fresh tortillas! Home-made salsa! Champagne! Dad asked for mimosas, but I don’t think the waiter understood, so he brought us a separate glass of fresh-squeezed oj, which mostly ended up spilled all over the table. Honestly, I can’t take these guys anywhere!

But really, I had a very good time and was so happy that Dad and Mom came to visit me. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with them, and I hope that we got to know each other a little more. I think they enjoyed their visit too, and returning home to flooding in St. Louis probably was not too fun, compared to the warm sunshine of SoCal. Man, I really am getting spoiled here, I guess.

Dad and Mom’s Visit to San Diego, Day 3

Now I LOVE the Wild Animal Park, located right here in Escondido. I even worked there for a summer as a guide. But I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so much of the park at one time as I did on this day. We went everywhere! The weather was great, and I had free admission tickets for everyone. It was the perfect time of year to go, too, because flowers were blooming and the butterflies and orchids exhibit, which shows only a few weeks of the year, was on display. We walked around Mombasa Lagoon, checked out the gorillas (which kind of freak me out – I’m not a big fan of primates), then saw the butterfly exhibit in the Hidden Jungle. Butterflies were everywhere! We were swarmed by rainbow lorikeets when we fed them nectar, and I got some really great pictures. We then hoofed it over to Lion Camp, where I got to see my old lion friends. It’s the best exhibit in the park, I think. That day, both moms (Mina and Oshana) and Dad (Izu), and all seven cubs were out. They were initially just snoozing (trying to make sure they fulfilled that 20 hours of sleep per day quota), but as we were waiting in line for the safari tram, Mina caught a duck that had decided to fly into the lion’s enclosure. So, I took about fifty pictures of the lions running around with the duck – it was really fun to watch (although I’m sure the duck didn’t enjoy it).

After the safari tram thing, we ate lunch and walked back up through the Heart of Africa, then walked out to the tiger and elephant exhibits. We made it up to Condor Ridge, which shows some of North America’s most interesting critters (although the burrowing owls were no longer on display – boo hoo), and even walked through the Baja botanical garden and Bonsai house. By then we were pretty beat! But we managed to drag ourselves over to the Petting Kraal and through the gift shop. When we got home, Dad grilled up some salmon on the miniature BBQ that they bought for me on Saturday – it was delicious. Mmmmmm.

Click HERE to see all the pictures from the Wild Animal Park, including the lions having fun with the duck (which won the 2008 waterfowl division Darwin Award).

Dad and Mom’s Visit to San Diego, Days 1-2

Wow – Mom and Dad came to visit me from St. Louis and we did SO MUCH that I have to break my blogging up into three parts! Plus, I’m staying home sick, so I have plenty of time to do so, but more about that later.

I picked up the folks on Saturday (March 15) and we had lunch at one of the best places to eat in Escondido, the French Bakery, downtown. It was tasty! After that, we went back to my apartment and just chatted for a while, which also included Teddy Bear barking his head off for about a half hour. They stayed at the Best Western, just down the road from where I live, and I was relieved to see that it was relatively nice (not charging by the hour was among my first criteria for selecting a hotel in the area, which ruled out a lot of places). Amazingly, we did not take any pictures this day!

Which brings me to day 2. Let the whirlwind begin…

We had plans to go to my cousin Beth’s (and her husband OB’s) house for lunch in Oceanside, so we decided to first drive out to Encinitas. We walked down to Swami’s beach memorial (just ask me about Finnish sisu), toured the Self Realization Fellowship’s Meditation Garden, and tried to find a flower shop that was open. During our ride over to Oceanside, my odometer passed the 150,000 mile mark! Woo hoo!!! Beth and OB served up some delicious fish tacos (a California favorite), and from there we went to Sea World. Mom and Dad got free tickets from a friend who works at Anheiser Busch, so that saved us a TON of money. We saw the Shamu show, checked out the bat rays, the penguin exhibit, and the Arctic Exploration exhibit, which is my favorite part of the park. Below are a few pictures, but click HERE to go to my picasa web album to see them all.

My first night outside since…???

Last weekend Mark and I drove out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which is only about an hour and a half to the west. It was so nice out there! The weather was perfect, and getting out to the desert made me remember how much I miss it. When I was in grad school in Colorado, I usually went backpacking or camping in the Utah or New Mexico desert during spring break. Anza Borrego has spectacular wildflower blooms in the spring, but we were a few weeks early for the wildflowers. Everything was pretty green (as far as a desert can be), and we even got a rare glimpse of some desert bighorn sheep as we were driving through the mountains. We car-camped at the Tamarisk campground, which seemed to be sandwiched between two busy roads. It was fairly quiet though, except for the boy scout troop that was camped a couple sites down from ours (“Joel, get out of my sleeping bag!” and “My patrol, we’re washing all the dishes NOW!” were phrases heard several times).

Anyway, we just stayed the one night, but it was good because it has honestly been probably three or four years since I’ve spent the night outdoors. How sad. But I get to reset that clock; hopefully it won’t be too long until the next time!

Here are some pictures, but you can click on the photo album to the right to see more of my pictures of Anza Borrego.

Teddy Bear demonstrates Teddy Bear (the dog) and Teddy Bear (the cactus). We only lost one turkey burger to the campfire gods (and another to Teddy Bear).

I forgot that it gets sunny early when you sleep outside.

A nice view of the valley.

Holy Guacamole!

Did you know that the Avocado Capital of the World is just a few short minutes away, in Fallbrook? Neither did I! But since I love avocados, and Fallbrook happened to be hosting its annual Avocado Festival last weekend, I decided that Mom, Mark and I should go. And I also decided that Mom should drive because her car, more than mine or Mark’s, most resembles an avocado.

Wow – what a scene! It was an avocado mob scene, to be sure. Although it was mostly like a really really really crowded street fair (actually, that’s precisely what it was) – they were anticipating 75,000+ people – there were a few avocado-related booths. They had avocado fudge (!), fresh quacamole (yum!), avocado pottery and crafts, and fried avocado. But mostly it was just your usual street fair fare – snow cones, tee-shirt booths, sausages on sticks. And it was soooooo crowded – parking was slim to none (luckily we didn’t get a ticket or towed for parking on someone’s front lawn), and by the time we made less than one circuit through the street doing the slow-paced street-fair shuffle we were ready to go. But at least I can say that I’ve visited the Avocado Capital of the World! Woo hoo!!!

There’s no fish in the desert…

It’s true. There are no fish in the desert, especially here in Southern California. I know this because I’ve looked. Well, there are desert pupfish, but not in the area that I was in.

I have a lot to catch up on! I’ve been very busy, with training in Sacramento and Denver and moving and field work, but back to the desert. In late May, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend three days out in the desert near Palm Springs searching for the endangered Coachella Fringe-Toed Lizard. I didn’t see any of those, but I did see a ton of zebra-tailed lizards, desert iguana, desert horned lizards, and even a long-nosed leopard lizard (which was absolutely gorgeous, by the way). We were surveying in a few areas, including the valley that has hundreds of windmills. There’s a reason why they chose that area for windmills, too. You know why? Because it’s frickin’ windy! I think I saw a few lizards fly by, but I mostly just found abandoned shoes and rubber hoses in those plots. And it was global safety day – I was busted by some workers for not having a hard-hat and safety goggles, who warned me that propellers fall off the windmills all the time (my response: “gee – if one of those huge blades fall off and hit me on the head, do you really think a hard-hat will help me out?”).

I sure do miss the desert – it wasn’t as beautiful as Utah or Arizona, but it was still good being out there in the dry air and hot hot temperatures. Good times! Here are a few pictures I took – there’s the horned lizard and desert iguana, in case you were wondering (alas, the leopard lizard ran away before I could get my camera out – boo hoo!).

What did we see when we went whale watching???

We saw lots of things…but no whales! Matt and Alyssa, for the second week in a row, failed to see any whales. So that settles it – clearly they are bad luck, and next time I go I will not be going with them! But I had a good time anyway – we saw a sea lion, a couple of dolphin, lots of kelp, and actually – we did see the spray from a whale but it was kind of far away and by the time we got there the whale had disappeared. No worries though – it’s the end of the season, but the whales will be migrating back in December and I have a pass for two to go again. So here are some photos of our adventure, even though there were no whales, it was a good time!

Here’s a seagull that was following us for quite a way.

Here’s the view of San Diego from ten miles out to sea.

Oh, the excitement of it all…