Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas was quite a quiet affair this year.  However, we enjoyed a nice few days together around and about at home.

We put up the tree, which was a perfect shape this year.  Again we bought a Noble Fir as we’ve had previous years as they last so well and don’t drop their needles.

IMG_0751On Christmas Eve we were invited to Sig & Helens in Burnaby.  They had laid on a delicious spread and Jill (Helen’s mum) was visiting from Kelowna and had made proper English style mince pies.

When their friend Sharon joined us she took a group photo.  Along the back row: myself, David and Bella, front row: Sig, Max, Basil, Helen and Jill.


On Christmas Day we webcammed with Adrians family and then Davids before being joined by Alecia with baby Maya while her husband was at work until 4pm.

We get cuddles with Maya and enjoy some jumbo shrimp with garlic mayo, smoked salmon and mini quiches.

IMG_0760  With a full belly and lots of cuddles Maya takes a snooze.

IMG_0763 David with Maya and Alecia


That evening David laid on an excellent dinner with all the trimmings.

IMG_0770We have a relaxing evening, open presents.  Mojo shows off one of his new presents, a big ball.

IMG_0773On Boxing day Helens children went off to Kamloops with their dad to visit grandparents and Jill was visiting with friends so Sig & Helen came over on their own for lunch of cold salmon and salad.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From Southern California to Home

It had been out intention to spend two nights in Palm Springs but we really weren’t that taken with the city so decided to drop our stay to one night and move on.

We had already decided that RV’ing wasn’t really our thing so we chose to stay a night heading back towards Bakersfield so that we could drop off the RV one day early and start heading home.

With a little research we found what sounded like a nice campsite a few miles outside Santa Clarita on the opposite side of the San Bernadine Mountains and only an hour and a half from Bakersfield.

Heading out of Palm Springs, views.


We passed the entrance to the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway.  We had hoped that we would do this during our stay but now felt that we didn’t really want to leave Mojo in the RV unattended for a longer period.  This attraction will have to wait until we are back in the Coachella Valley.


A massive windfarm is situated to the North East of Palm Springs.


We could tell we weren’t in Vancouver any more…….instead of huge trucks carrying trees we passed huge trucks carrying oranges and in this case….lemons.


Looking towards the San Bernadino Mountains from I10.


That night we found the campsite called 1000 Trails near Santa Clarita.  It was certainly a lovely setting except for the railway tracks running along one side – with commuter trains during the day which was fine, and good trains every hour on the hour during the night.  Which was not so fine.

Mojo was happy enough with the site though, he had more room to run around.


We noticed too that it was significantly colder up here in the mountains than down in the Coachella Valley and while it was busy season for Palm Springs it was definitely out of season for this park.


Duck pond, with the railway line behind.


Enjoying the last of the sunshine and a walk before our couple of days ahead in the car.


The next day we head to Bakersfield and return the RV exchange it for our Murano and head back North on Interstate 5.

The highway varies a lot from one area to another.  Many parts of the route I5 is just two lanes in each direction and often very quiet.  In parts though it’s big and busy, 6 lanes in our direction in this section.


We stay the night in a town North of Sacramento called Willows.

The following morning we see the early morning sun over the Northern California landscape.


Snow covered mountains near Redding.


Up and over the passes near Mt Shasta that had been snowy on the way down, today were clear.  Passing views of Lake Shasta and the distinctive red soil that is throughout this part of California and southern Oregon.



Finally another snowy hill on the California/Oregon border.


The weather gradually deteriorated after this and became cloudy and the following day rainy, so no more photos.  We did have successful stops in Northern Washington at the outlet malls and the last bit of pre-Christmas shopping.

Palm Springs

The quickest route from La Quinta to Palm Springs would be to jump on Interstate 10 and take it along to the Palm Springs exit. 

However, we had lots of time and a short journey to complete on this day so we took Highway 111 which meanders through the neighbouring cities.

Highway 111 is pretty much malls, offices, restaurants, condo developments and golf courses for the entire 26 miles between La Quinta and Palm Springs.  The quality of these services varies up and down depending on the affluence of the neighbourhood it serves.  The cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells were of a similar ilk to La Quinta – plenty of second homes to wealthy LA residents here while Cathedral City definitely had a more working class feel – people living and working on ordinary salaries in this area.

Views along Highway 111.




The huge swathes of greenery throughout the Coachella Valley must take a lot of watering during the arid summer months.


Our RV spot in Palm Springs had the advantage of being walking distance to downtown, however the pad was a far cry from the space at Lake Cahuilla, or our own home and garden which Mojo was really missing by now.


We took advantage of the central location and walked into town.  We were surprised to discover that the downtown core appeared to have hit on hardtimes.  Perhaps there was already a migration towards the new nearby cities of Rancho Mirage or La Quinta, spurred on by the current recession.  Only a couple of blocks from the very centre of Palm Springs rows of shops sat empty, boarded up or advertised ‘for lease’.  Even large office blocks sat vacant.

This photo is about 3 blocks from the centre intersection in Palm Springs. The shops and offices in view are empty.


Built in 1885 this is the McCallum Adobe house, believed to be the first pioneer home built in the city.


The sidewalks are lined with stars.  We saw, amongst others, Frank Sinatra and here Elizabeth Taylor.


It was great to see colourful flowers blooming.



At the opposite end of the downtown core was this interesting water feature.


Stopping for a frappucino at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way – the centre of Palm Springs.

IMG_0674 An old aerial photo of La Plaza, a development built in the 1930’s and one of the first malls and motel facilities for the rich and famous in the city.


And as it is today.


Here are some of the rental cabins.


‘If I sit, do I get to lick out the frappucino cup ?’

IMG_0678 Then as the sun descends, we head back towards the RV park.


La Quinta & Lake Cahuilla Regional Park

We really liked La Quinta.  We felt it was a kind of West Vancouver in the desert.  Affluent, green and lush, lovely homes, lots of shops and restaurants.

La Quinta is an independent city of about 40,000 situated in the metro Palm Springs area.

Views around La Quinta.


Huge palm trees line most of the major throughfares.  At this time of year you also get the chance to see some snowy mountains in the background.

IMG_0618 We stayed our three nights in the La Quinta area at the RV park in Lake Cahuilla Regional Park which is run by the Riverside County Parks Department.

By Canadian standards the ‘lake’ (very man-made) was truly unremarkable but having spent much time in desolate desert the greenery and the lake were a welcome sight.

We also discovered that the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs metro area and adjoining cities) is where the majority of BC residents flock to for some winter sun.  When we checked in at the park we were greeted by a couple also from North Vancouver who were volunteering at the park (presumably for free RV pad spaces) and the other three RV’s nearest ours all had BC license plates.

Views across Lake Cahuilla Regional Park.


Mojo definitely approved of this park, it was the most dog-friendly place we had found in California as it allowed dogs everywhere !  Almost everybody else in the park had a dog too.


View South across the park.


The lake was well stocked with fish, during the day you could buy a permit to fish.  However, nature provided a number of their own fishermen.

IMG_0615 IMG_0643

Our campsite was a good size, well spaced out from the other sites, had a good picnic bench and backed onto the lake.


Sun setting across the lake.

IMG_0627 From the park there are views right across the Coachella Valley towards the hills on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.


The following morning the lake was still and peaceful and the Santa Rosa Mountains reflected in it.


This view in the opposite direction across the lake shows the campsite beside the lake.


More park views.  Beside the lake in this section is the day use area with picnic benches and large grassy areas, plus childrens playground and an outdoor swimming pool.


The gardens also contained many date palm trees.

IMG_0640 Which were producing a lot of fruit.


After our stay in La Quinta, we drove the 20 miles or so along Highway 111 to Palm Springs.