Photo a Week: Bridges

The gap between the life I’d envisioned
and this current reality is widening…
I need a bridge – not a short, low one,
but a large, expansive bridge to carry

BayBridgeSF.png

all my wishes, to facilitate movement
of passing ideals, allow for traffic flow.

sundialRedding

Or a bridge to slow me down, dialled in
to the sun’s rays, directing me toward
a new reality that encompasses change.

(For Nancy Merrill’s Photo of the Week challenge:  bridges. Featured image is from the west coast, top image is the Bay Bridge, San Fransisco, and the final bridge is the Sundial Bridge in Reading, CA.)

Lens-Artists: Big Can Be Beautiful

Beautiful are the large rock sculptures of Joshua Tree National Park.

TontoCanyon

The large canyons in Arizona are also beautiful, although I’m too afraid of heights to get any closer than this.

Ahinga2

This snake bird, or anhinga is quite a remarkable, big bird.

big bubble

My granddaughter and I think big is best when it comes to bubbles.

(For Lens-Artists Challenge: Big Can Be Beautiful.)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Fences

Fences? My first reaction was that I avoid fences in my photography, and now that we’ve moved into a neighbourhood without them, I will not be able to participate.  Then, I revisited old photographs, and what do you know?  Fences!

The featured image is a garden gate at the Butchart Botanical Gardens in Victoria, B.C. The sign says ‘Private’ which is a disappointment.  There is something so alluring about a garden gate.

VJinrainforest

Further up the island is the Cathedral Grove.  The fences here are to keep visitors on the path and protect the wildlife.  I hardly noticed the rails as the eye is drawn upward.

PatioAZ

Eclectic fencing converts this parking lot into an intimate patio for pub-goers in Apache Junction, AZ.

While looking for fences, I came across this photograph, taken in Joshua Tree RV Park, California.  It even inspired a poem:

Fences

(Thank you to Leya for hosting this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Fences.)

 

Forlorn

This sweet bushtit landed on my path while I was visiting Redding, California this past spring.

After playing with the image, what emerged was a forlorn little fellow for whom I wrote this haiku.

Sing(1)

My heart goes out to all those in Redding, and elsewhere in the world where forest fires are ravaging lives.

(Submitted for Laura Bailey’s Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt: forlorn.)

Redding, California

sundialReddingRedding is a mid-sized town with a population of 90,000.  Our camp is set atop a hillside, and the scenery is beautiful, with mountains as a backdrop and tall trees beginning to bud.  We have found spring.

I have not quite recuperated from our trip to San Francisco, so we decide not to venture very far, choosing to visit a mid-town attraction, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Museum.  As it turns out, Turtle Bay is a three-hundred acre park with exhibits either side of the Sacramento river, connected by a sundial bridge.  It is immediately apparent that we will not be able to see it all in a day.

“We’ll take our time,” Ric reassures me, “and see what we can.”

aquariumReddingWe start with the museum which houses aquariums of local species, and offers a hands-on understanding of the geology of the area.  There is an exhibit explaining the inspiration for the bridge and the building process.  Another display offers artifacts and stories honouring the indigenous peoples of the area:  the Wintu.  There is an art exhibit, and interactive rooms for young ones. The only thing missing is our own grandchildren.

ruby-crownedkingletBeyond the museum doors is a boardwalk spanning across a wetland area, where we encounter this sweet Ruby-Crowned Kinglet as well as a nesting mallard and a couple of bright blue scrub jays.  There also seem to be an abundance of butterflies.

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As we enter the exploration area, we find a bush and blossoming tree that are teeming with iridescent wings.  As families rush past us to get to the play grounds, Ric and I are captivated by these beautiful creatures.

We bypass the play areas, noting how well done they are, and follow a cacophony of bird noises to the Parrot playground.

Parrotplayground“Please use the hand sanitizer before entering,” a young woman greets us. “Don’t touch the birds, or pick them up.  Let them come to you.”

We pass through two doors, and enter into the fray.  Bright coloured birds – actually lorikeets, we learn – perch overhead, waddle along the path before us, and fly about.  One alights on Ric’s shoulders and I snap a quick pic to send to the kids.

He doesn’t look too happy, a daughter messages back.   I’m just glad it’s him not me.  Those talons and beaks look sharp.

We don’t linger too long, although I have to admit that the birds are spectacular.

barnowlpeek.pngIn the wildlife exhibit there is a golden eagle, a red-tailed hawk, foxes,  a bobcat, a barn owl and others.  As magnificent as these creatures are, I feel guilty photographing them.  Having witnessed so much wildlife in its natural environment, throughout our journey, I am uncomfortable with seeing these creatures caged.  I suspect that we are not alone in our sentiments, as this is the least populated of the exhibits.

We decide just to walk through the tall pines and observe nature in the raw.

sweetnuthatchI spot a large woodpecker and when I raise my camera to capture its image, I notice a deer grazing just beyond.  In another spot, this busy nuthatch captures our attention.  We sit for a while and just enjoy the day.

We’ve walked a fair distance, and so decide to stop at the coffee shop and have drinks and a snack before proceeding further.

“It’s your call,” Ric says, indicating the bridge.

Across the bridge are the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum that I had been hoping to see.  I have to be honest.  My legs are not up to the task.

“Let’s just go for a drive.  I read about a lake nearby that might be interesting.”

Pacific Coast Encounter

Oceanshoreline.pngWe drive through San Francisco’s waterfront, noting the interesting architecture and impressed by the artsy feel of the place.  Like most big cities, San Francisco has its share of homelessness, and many officers on foot patrol can be seen talking to people in make shift tents, or others sleeping in cement flower boxes.  It is a reminder that all is not glitter, and I know from a friend whose daughter lives in San Francisco that the cost of living is extravagant.

We head further west to meet up with Pacifica highway along the coast, passing the iconic steep streets lined with tall, colourful houses.

The ocean comes into view and I am snapping pictures with both the Sony and the iPhone.  (Ric has put me in charge of capturing our trip as he is driving).  This is such a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world.

“Do you just want to keep going until we can’t anymore?”

Teashoppe.pngI do, but I am also waning.  I’ve been experiencing jaw pain for the past few days, and it is becoming unbearable.  I need to get home to some heat and an ibuprofen.

“Let’s just stick to the plan.”

“How about if we find a place at Half Moon Bay to have tea and coffee overlooking the ocean.  Then we’ll head back.”

It’s a plan.  We pass this darling little tea shop, but it doesn’t look open, so we keep going.  The highway weaves along, alternating between views of the Pacific and long curving passages through tall trees.  Half Moon Bay pops up faster than we had expected, and the first beach road we travel down offers nothing in terms of restaurants.TreesHwy1CA.png

Just past the turn off to Half Moon Bay – and the road home – Ric pulls down a road that appears to lead to a golf course.  Signs indicate that there is also food and lodging.  The road opens to an ocean view with large stately homes overlooking the water.  At the end is what looks like some sort of inn or fancy hotel, with a guard post at the entrance.

oceanviewhomes.png

“We’re just looking for a place to have a cup of tea overlooking the water,”  Ric tells the big, burly attendant.

“You’ll find that here,” the man responds.  “You’ll need this pass-key for the parking lot, and we ask that you refrain from taking photographs of any of the buildings,” he adds eyeing my camera.

We’re at the Ritz Carlton.  Since I can’t show you the building, nor the lounge where we had our $10 tea and coffee,  we’ll have to settle for the view.  The pristine lawns are actually part of a golf course.

RitzCarltonhalfmoon.pngI am so tired by now that my feet will not obey my brain, and as I stagger back to the parking lot, two large crows mock  me as I go.

“I know!” I caw back at them.  “It’s not a pretty sight.”

Seat heaters go back on and I recline my seat, telling Ric that I will now sleep.

“No more photos,” I warn.

We pull back out onto the highway and stop at the next set of lights.

“We’ll call today the San Francisco marathon,” I announce.  It’s the furthest I’ve gone in one day.  “And to think that at the beginning of all this, I doubted I’d be able to do anything.”

“You’re doing very well.  I think the turning point for you was the birds.”

bridgeSanMateo.jpgHe’s talking about Texas, and how we joined a birding group there.  It’s where I got my first camera, and learned to paint.

“For sure,” I agree. “It was definitely the birds.”  And just as the words leave my lips, I catch sight of something lunging towards me in my peripheral vision.  It’s a large, golden bird with a muscular neck and strong, fierce beak.

“Oh, oh, oh!”  I exclaim as the bird swoops down across the front of our car.  My awe is so great that I cannot find words.

“Wow!”  Ric, who has just started to drive forward, slams on the brakes.

Our close encounter with a golden eagle follows us all the way home.

Oh, and I do manage to capture a few more photos – of the San Mateo bridge and a farewell glimpse of San Francisco across the bay.
SanFranacrossBay

 

San Francisco Love

BayBridgeSF.pngDue to the rain, we decide just to drive through San Francisco and then swing back along the coast and pass by Half Moon Bay before heading back to our camp.  Of course, neither of us has been here before, so we have no idea what to expect.

The city is spectacular.  We enter through highway 80 heading west, and both of us are rubbernecking.

“This is amazing!” Ric says pointing out photo ops in all directions.  I am busy snapping shots:  Alcatraz, skyscrapers, hillside homes, the water, the bridge.   “Google Fisherman’s Wharf.  Let’s stop there for lunch.”

FogHarborSF.pngI looked on-line the night before and thought Fog Harbor could be a good place for seafood, so enter it into the GPS.  By the time we cross the Bay Bridge, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining.  We are not far from our destination, mileage wise, but the app suggests it will take a half hour to get there.  No matter; there is a lot to see.

Fog Harbor is at Pier 39, right beside the Bay Aquarium and the Gold Line Ferry service.  It is nestled amongst shops and many other restaurants.  We find parking two blocks away which is advertised as $10/day, but when we pull in the attendant says it is $20 for trucks.

“Oh well,” says Ric.  “We’re here now.”

Pier39marinaSF.jpgThe restaurant is on the second floor of the pier buildings, and as we enter I can tell this is a good choice.  The hostess seats us right beside the window overlooking the marina – an excellent view of the bay.  I can see the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and piles of dark-coloured masses lying on the furthest docks.

“What on earth is that?”  I ask our waitress.

“Sea lions!”

leanright.pngOut comes the camera.  No lack of poses here.

Unlike our lunch in L.A., this meal will cost over $100.  Ric has the clam chowder and a seafood platter and I have the sole, nicely prepared without butter, atop a bed of fingerling potatoes and spinach, cherry tomatoes, and capers.  Perfection.

After lunch we wander along the pier and get a closer look at the Sea Lions, whose antics are continually amusing, not to mention noisy.  Not sure if it’s their lackadaisical attitudes that are contagious, or perhaps that I’ve overextended my energy allotment, but my body begins to wilt and just barely makes it back to the truck.

hillsidehomesSF.png“Do you just want to go home?”

I am enamoured and want to see more.  “Let’s keep going,” I suggest.  I recline my seat and put the seat heater on.  “I’ll sleep if I have to.”

As if that is even possible in this iconic city.

GoldenGate1stview.png

 

 

 

 

Turning North

rainbowCoalingaIt is raining the morning we pick up the RV – heavy dark clouds hovering overhead. Some days, it feels like my skin offers no barriers, for the damp weather seeps into my body and plays havoc.  And then, just as we ready ourselves for the road, the sun breaks through and a rainbow lights up the sky.

ThewaytoSanJose.pngNot far along the highway, green, rolling hills announce that we are out of the desert.  Rows and rows of what Ric thinks are almond trees, have blossomed, and clumps of tall trees huddle along the side of mountains.  The landscape is changing.

We see a sign for San Jose and spontaneously break into song:  “Do you know the way…”

Our mood is light, and hopeful.  We are stopping at a fairly new RV park in Patterson, California, just off highway 5, and about an hour from San Francisco and Sacramento.  I am still worn out from lack of sleep, and having a flare up of symptoms, so quite happy that we don’t drive very far today.

We still haven’t grocery shopped, so look for a place to eat.  Just down the road from our site are a cluster of restaurants.  A quick google search tells me that the BBQ place is the best, so that’s where we go.  I ask my usual question about whether or not there are gluten-free options.

“All our sauces are gluten-free,” the server recites cheerfully, “and pretty much anything you want, we can accommodate.”

I love this place.

rollinggreenRic orders salmon and a healthy salad and I opt for the ribs with a baked potato and side of Brussel sprouts.  We decide we’ll order salads to take home for later.   The portions are so large, I end up taking half of my meal home as well.

Ric drops me off and goes in search of groceries – just the essentials until we get reoriented to our home.  I stay back and clean, until I am exhausted and collapse into bed for the rest of the day.

It’s so good to be home, in our own space, and I can’t help but repeat it out loud several times.  Fully extended our motor home offers 450 square feet of living space, and since we moved in last May, it feels so comfortable – accommodating all our needs. Funny that after all the big homes we’ve owned over the years, including the “dream” one we built ourselves, this little tin box could make us happy.

Temperatures have dropped, and according to the weather forecast, we should have rain for the next few days, but nothing can dampen our spirits.  We’re on the road again, and although I have loved every aspect of our travels, heading north means getting closer to our roots, and I am excited to see the family and friends we’ve left behind.

Two more months and we are back where we started.

“We’ll have to have a big party, Mom,” my oldest daughter says.

It’s nice to be missed, too.  Can’t wait to be part of the pile up.  kidspileup.png

(The Journey So Fartoday’s poem at One Woman’s Quest, is inspired by today’s sentiment.

All images are from my own collection)

RV-Disabled, Take Two

It is Tuesday morning and we are sitting in the truck, in the parking lot of a repair shop waiting for news of our RV.  The tow company who rescued us off the highway in the early hours of Sunday morning, and delivered us to a nearby motel – RV and all – moved the motor home to this shop yesterday, as per our insurance company’s instructions.  The mechanic advised us early this morning that he thought all was a go, but when we arrived the same warning message came on as soon as we started up the engine.  So, now we wait with fingers crossed as they “take another look.”

Coalinga CAI didn’t sleep all night.   It’s been over a week since we’ve been in our home on wheels, and in the meantime it has received body work and mechanical repairs, meaning that there has been a trail of dirty boots through.  I go over what needs to be done as soon as we get it back:  cleaning, groceries, and laundry.  Ric and I ran out of clean clothes, so did go to the laundromat on Sunday, but I’d had laundry to do on board too.

Then just as I started to fall asleep,  I felt something crawl across my neck.  Reacting instantly, I grabbed at the culprit, capturing something with a hard, round shell.  I flung it away from me, but then worried about what it was, turned the light on and searched the floor beside the bed, waking Ric up in the process.  Bugs freak me out.

It was just after five a.m., so Ric decided to get up and go for breakfast.  I hung back and leaving the light on did manage to fall asleep for a bit, until the call came to pick up the bus.

BWcoalingaThe motel we’ve been staying at is a budget accommodation set between two comparable facilities.  There is a Burger King and a Denny’s and two gas stations, and that’s it.  The closest town is ten miles away.  The nearest city is an hour away.  We are in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, and the commerce here seems to be oil-rigs and cattle, although judging by the number of closed up businesses in the town, the economy can’t be that good.

The highlight of the place has been the people.  The tow truck driver from Saturday night has been messaging us about where we might get help.  He took the liberty of calling around for us.  Fellow travellers we met in the breakfast room have offered suggestions about where we might find good food, and even exchanged email addresses to keep in touch, and at the laundromat, everyone was friendly and helpful.

It’s hard to feel down on your luck when the reception is so warming.

strandedThe mechanic signals that all is good, and Ric settles up the bill, and we are on our way.  I text the kids back home to let them know.

Hope everything is smooth sailing from here on out, our daughter-in-law messages.

All good, I respond; just part of the adventure.  

Besides, the motor home breaking down was just incidental for me, compared to the encounter of a creepy crawler in the darkness of night.

 

 

RV-Disabled

“The bus is ready to be picked up,” Ric announces as he gets off the phone.

It’s ten a.m., earlier then we’d expected the repairs to be completed, so we decide to forego the site we’d booked for tonight, just twenty minutes away, and start the journey north today.

rainonmtnAs it goes, 10:00 turns into 1:30, and by the time we hit L.A. traffic, we know we won’t reach our planned stop before dark, so I give the camp a call to say we’ll arrive late.

It is a rainy day, and as we climb up into the mountains the clouds move in around us.  It feels eerie, as if we are in an altered reality. We stop once for gas, but Ric wants to push on and get settled for the night. I agree. We have washing to do from the week in the hotel, and first thing tomorrow we will need to find a grocery store and stock up on food.

stormyroadA sign warns of a 6% grade up ahead, and trucks are cautioned to slow down to 35 mph, so Ric obeys and we move down the mountain accordingly. A beeping sound near the bottom is the first indicator that something might be amiss.

“What was that?” I ask.

“It says there is water in the gas tank”

“What does that mean? Should we pull over?”

“Yea probably.”

We are nearing an exit, but just before we turn off, the warning signal stops and everything is good again.

“Whatever it is righted itself, apparently.”

cloudsnrainSo we travel on, watching the day fade into darkness and counting the minutes till we arrive. It’s been a longer day than either of us anticipated and we’re starting to get hungry again.

“How much longer?” Ric asks. I am monitoring the GPS.

“Twenty-four minutes. Twenty-two on this road, then two miles to the RV park.”

The beeping starts again. First three quick beeps, then a loud squeal that reads:

Shut engine off immediately.

Ric pulls to the side of the road. We are nineteen minutes from our destination and otherwise in the middle of nowhere. It is 6:40 pm.

He calls Good Sam’s road side assistance.

“It’s Saturday night,” the young woman on the other end tells us. “I’m not sure how much help I can get you.” She puts us on hold.
IntothstormartTurns out we are in a weak area for cellular signals and our phone cuts out.

We connect again after several failed attempts.

“I’m still trying,” she says.

Ric calls and books us a hotel room up the road. When Good Sam’s calls back, we let her know. There are no repair shops open now; so she calls the hotel to see if we can have the RV towed there. They say we can.

Time ticks by slowly, in contrast to the traffic that whizzes past, and shakes, our rig.

A car pulls over just in front of us.

“What is this?” Ric asks.

A man approaches the door. He saw us at the shop where we had picked up our bus this afternoon, and wants to know if we need help. He and his family are on their way to San Fransisco and they recognized the rig, so he turned around and came back. Reassured that we were being looked after, he continues on his journey, and our hearts are warmed by the kindness of a stranger.

Good Sam calls back. There are no tow trucks available due to an accident. We’ll have to call 911. It is now ten o’clock.

stranded artThe police arrive forty-five minutes later. They also inform us that there are no  available tow trucks because of a pile up further along the highway. The truck will cost $1,0005 when it comes. Is that okay? Do we have a choice?

It’s now 11:11. I am cold, and tired. Traffic continues to rock our vehicle as it passes into the night, but at least now we have the security of police lights to protect us.

I can’t wait to get resettled into another hotel room. Wonder how long this adventure will last before we’re on the road again?

(All photos taken with my iPhone en route.  Some altered for entertainment value.  Stay tuned.)