Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home for the Holidays

The End (until April ......... maybe)

Tomorrow, Brenda and I are leaving for home to enjoy Christmas with family and friends. We have decided to do a cross country drive, leaving the RV in Palm Springs (we have just not had enough driving in the past 1 ½ years). I am sure that we will run into enough bad winter driving along the way that we will rethink this brilliant idea many times. However ….. more adventure!!

Upon our return to Palm Springs in early January, we will be living the life of any other “Snowbird”. We will not be moving from place-to-place and, will likely not have much to report. Therefore, we are bidding adieu to our blog friends and discontinuing our little blogfest. Since the main purpose of this cyberspace journal was to assist our aging minds in remembering where we have been, should it be required while staying in one place we will have developed VERY serious memory problems (far worse than those being accepted as our current norm). Calls and e-mails from “home” will still be very much anticipated and sincerely appreciated. We may resume blogging come early April ’08 when we reawaken the diesel in the bowels of our tin can home and again hit the road. Until then “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Santa Ana

Today's fire started at around 3:00 A.M. yet was visible from space a few hours later

They brought in the "big guns" just after daybreak. This DC-10 clipped its wing on a treetop fighting the October fires!!!!

I like flying a lot but .......... I think I would pass on a ride with these guys!!

The Santa Ana winds which plague Los Angeles and San Diego have reared their ugly head again today. They are formed in the winter high-pressure zones over the high deserts of the Great Basin in Utah and Nevada, in the region between the Rockies and the Sierras. As the winds descend westward, they pass through canyons in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains, gaining speed and warmth as they go. As the Santa Ana’s descend and warm (up to 30°F), they lose any moisture they may have contained, hitting the west coast as roaring, hot, dry winds from 40 to 115 miles per hour. Any fire source can be whipped out-of-control in seconds. The parched undergrowth in drought infested Southern California seems to burn every time a Santa Ana occurs.

What is surprising to us is that today’s Santa Ana’s have been forecast for over a week. Officials have been bringing in firefighters and equipment all week and, as Santa Ana’s go, today’s winds are relatively light (top speed – 57 mph). Yet Malibu is ablaze again!! Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, just north-west of Palm Springs, is where all the fire-fighting aircraft are based and, is locally known as “Tanker Town”. Today’s Malibu fire is being fought with up to a dozen aircraft from Tanker Town, including a DC-10 and several Canadian water-bombers. Local news coverage is non-stop! Campers are thought to have been the source of today’s fires. Who, in their right mind, goes camping and lights camp-fires in a tinder dry fire-zone with Santa Ana’s forecast?????

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday ............Palm Springs style

"El Paseo" decked out for Christmas. The wreaths on the Palm trees are a nice touch.

There is a decided lack of snow around one community Christmas tree

El Paseo Boulevard in Palm Desert is kind of a “poor man’s Rodeo Drive”. But …… not REALLY poor. There are many Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and other exotic cars as well as art galleries selling “old masters” and chi-chi restaurants and bistros. We thought that “Black Friday” on El Paseo might be a bit different than what was going on at “the mall”. We did not hear “attention Walmart shoppers”. But ……… there were no “deep discounts” on the big diamonds and Picassos. Damn!!!

With a straight face, the local weather forecaster advised today’s morning audience to “bundle up”. Yup ………. the temperature didn’t get above 74 °F today. Bright sun all day! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. As we wandered around El Paseo in shorts and flip-flops, we did see one ski jacket and a couple of scarves. I guess one’s blood does thin if subjected to consistent warm weather!!! However, Christmas shopping in shorts will get my vote every time. A latte on the outdoor patio also works!! The 6:00 news this evening reported that “shoppers braved the cold temperatures…………….” These people live on Mars!!!

Speaking of shopping, the Yanks do know how to get you to part with your hard earned money. In all shopping areas in this region, parking is free. Modern parking garages are strategically located and, a free “shopper’s shuttle” cruises up and down El Paseo to take you to your next spending opportunity. Brenda’s watch stopped due to an expired battery so, we went into a jewelry store looking for a replacement. They replaced the battery in a minute and………… no charge! Bell Canada (and maybe the banks) could learn some customer service pointers on El Paseo!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Going ........... going ................

2 cars every 5 minutes for three days is a lot of cars!

"Window shopping" before the cars hit the auction block.

This Ferrari "Spyder" with 17,000 original miles sold for only $40K. What would Brenda have thought?? It's black!!!

Scottsdale, Arizona and Palm Springs are known as centers of exotic car auctions. Numerous auction houses operate in and around Palm Springs but, the twice yearly McCormick’s Auctions are considered the best of the bunch. Even if you don’t like cars, the people-watching is first rate. If you like cars, it is a day of great entertainment. If you don’t like cigars ……… well ………..that’s a problem!

According to the auction program, they present a car every 2 – 3 minutes on Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday. However, many vehicles have such high reserve bids that they do not sell. The reserve on one 1970 “Boss 429” Mustang was $450,000. Didn’t sell!! On the other hand, some beautiful looking cars sold for a couple of thousand dollars. I guess one needs to know what one is doing!!!! Even though the auction was conducted under an open-sided tent, I bailed out around 2:00 P.M. It was just TOO hot. You have to be tough to buy cars at auction!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


From Spitfires, to bombers, to Naval flying-boats - most of these planes still fly!

The cockpit of a B17 - Flying Fortress. Even former crew members have a tough time getting a ride - LIABILITY!

Rob & Betty dwarfed by a big cactus at the living desert

The Palm Springs area can keep you going or, let you sit by the pool. With Rob & Betty we pretty much kept “discovering”. Rob & I took in the Palm Springs Air Museum where most of the planes have not only been made to look good, they are airworthy and flown infrequently. A highlight was touring inside a B-17 “Flying Fortress” with a guide who flew 18 missions in one and, was shot down on mission 14, spending 2 days in a life-raft. The girls shopped!

We all spent a day at the “Living Desert”, a local park displaying flora and fauna from deserts around the world. There was far too much to see in one visit. Brenda still loves giraffes!

Rob & Betty were particularly diligent at exploring “old Palm Springs Village” near their hotel and, introduced us to neighbourhoods of mid-century homes, inns and small hotels. The preservation of these structures seems to be a regional passion and is extremely well done. We enjoyed drinks in bars and around the pool at several intimate, secluded historical properties which we would likely never have found without R&B being in the area. Unfortunately, they left for home today. I was to have provided a wake-up call at 5:15 this morning but, the phone system at their hotel would only let me leave a message. I wonder if it is a “mid-century” phone system? I hope they made the plane!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Patton and Picnics

Patton insisted that recruits run 1 mile in 10 minutes with full equipment, in heat up to 120 degrees AND exist on one canteen of water per day

The "girls" in a Cholla Cactus garden. VERY prickly! The cactii ....... not the girls!

Patton's troops didn't eat like this. More "Two Buck Chuck"

Yucca, Joshua Trees and Creosote bushes everywhere.

The Desert Training Center, established in 1942 by General George S. Patton, is the largest military maneuver area ever created. It covered 18,000 square miles in California, Nevada, and Arizona. In preparation for WWII battles in North Africa, over 1,000,000 military personnel were trained in desert warfare techniques at the center. A memorial museum to General Patton and the DTC is located at Chiriaco Summit, near Palm Springs, at the site of Camp Young, Patton’s headquarters and one of 12 WWII training camps that were part of the DTC. It’s not the best museum we have ever visited but, it clearly illustrates the hardships that 1,000,000 men and women experienced.

The DTC is on the way to the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, a unique desert environment which we first visited last spring. Revisiting with Rob & Betty in late autumn revealed an entirely different stage in the desert ecosystem. Many of the plants were flowering. Last spring everything appeared to be dormant. Our picnic area, in the shadow of huge boulders with Yucca and Joshua Trees surrounding is one of the most unique picnicking spots, we have experienced.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mid Century

Happy Hour around the pool at the Orbit In with the young couple who recently purchased the property. The Orbitinis kept getting refilled!! How many lava lamps can you count?

Rob parks his fancy ride in the vines

Happiness is a crushed grape!

Palm Springs is known for the abundance of “mid-century” residential and commercial architecture, with samples of work by John Lautner, Richard Neutra, R. M. Schindler and prolific regional architects William F. Cody, Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams and, William Krisel distributed around the area. To say that “mid century” is a big deal around here is an understatement. So …………………. when Rob & Betty, the most recent Brockville friends to visit, were looking for a hotel, they selected the Orbit In (one “N”). The Orbit In is “mid century” in spades!! Our kids, who weren’t around mid 20’th century, might not “get it” but, when we see the lime green walls, pink bathroom tiles, lava lamps, arborite surfaces, and “Jetson” furniture, it is like revisiting days of yore. The Orbit In is very well done.

Like ourselves, Rob & Betty have been known to “sample the grape” from time to time. As a result, we decided to head out in search of the Temecula Wine region, a relatively new California grape growing region near Palm Springs. Rob had been practicing with the paddle shifters on the 6 speed transmission of his Audi A4 convertible and treated us to a “mountain ride” up and down and around the switchbacks on the “Palms to Pines Highway”, rising up to 5,500 feet and back down to 500 feet. In the process the terrain transitioned from dry desert to tall mountain pines and back again. After witnessing police racing to a call, some running down the street with guns drawn, we arrived at Temecula and their wineries. We sampled some interesting wines, had a great lunch then, it was back to the mountains! A great day and great fun!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Two Buck Chuck

The Shiraz was good ............... the Chardonnay is an award winner!!!!

You may, or may not, have heard of the legendary family of California wines known as “Two Buck Chuck”. They really exist!! The Charles Shaw winery in Sonoma, owned by Bronco Wines, produces its line of varietal vinifera wines, which are sold exclusively through the “Trader Joe’s” grocery chain. Each bottle, regardless of grape variety, sells for $1.99 [that’s $1.81 Canadian…..yesterday;-)] in California and, $1.00 more in non-California Trader Joe outlets. We had a bottle of their Shiraz for dinner and, DIDN”T DIE!!

But get ready for this………… “Setting the stage for this year’s 2007 California State Fair Wine Competition, more than 3,020 wines were entered for judgement from more than 660 participating wineries. Sixteen panels of four judges, (that's 64 separate judges), awarded 1,529 medals this year, including 69 Double Gold, 230 Gold, 823 Silver and 407 Bronze awards. I’m sure you’ve all heard about last months, June 28th, stunning revelation Charles Shaw 2005 California Chardonnay (yes, that $1.99 “Two-Buck Chuck” made by Bronco Wine Company and sold through Trader Joe’s) was judged the Best Chardonnay from California at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition...”

I guess $1.99 for the Chardonnay is a good deal!!! We thought we would find a “Two Buck Chuck” label but, the label is simply a very innocuous “Charles Shaw”. Boring but, a good buy!!

And……… a word about Trader Joe’s. Entering this grocery chain is like walking through a time warp. The employees all look like throwback 60’s hippies. The food is entirely organic BUT, reasonably priced!!! The background music is all from the 60’s so, you see the aging customers (nothing wrong with that kids!) bopping down the isle to “the Dead”, Jefferson Airplane or, some other 60’s mainstay. Cool. California really is a “place apart”.

The Dollar

If anyone sees Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien, tell him we saw his likeness in the Palm Springs Desert Museum.

We have been enamoured with the Roadrunners running around, until Brenda learned that one of them ate a hummingbird in a nearby tree. Now, they are the devil incarnate!! Where is that Wile Coyote when you need him?

We just watched John (just call me John) Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, interviewed on CNBC this morning. Cisco reported revenue growth of 17% and a net income increase of 37% in the quarter and, is forecasting continuing growth of 12 – 17% yet, CISCO IS GETTING KILLED ON THE STOCK MARKET!!!!! The reason for the negative reaction is Cisco advised that their domestic business is falling off with US banks and automakers. Well DUH!!!!! Chambers claims that Cisco is experiencing the best international economy he has ever seen, yet US navel gazers are punishing his company for its international approach to growth. They fail to recognize that the US position as centre of the financial universe is OVER! Some of Cisco’s foreign markets are growing at rates in excess of 35% per year. Methinks Chambers is getting it right.

When super-models and international sports stars are demanding payment in Euros, you know that the US dollar’s days are numbered as the de-facto international currency. Wake up America! Oh wait a minute …………… maybe I should postpone this rant until spring, when we cross back across the 49’th parallel. Traveling in the US, where the Canadian dollar broke through $1.10 yesterday, before falling back, has a certain appeal!! But, one wonders what the future has in store for Fortress America????

You can likely tell that having parked in one spot leads us to think of somewhat more esoteric subjects than “what mountain will we hike today”. Reading local newspapers and watching local news programming is convincing us that the US citizenry is totally unaware. I think I would be looking for a “fiddling Nero” if I lived here. Oh ……. found him ……… he changed his name to George!!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Same old ....... same old.......

Red sky in the morning; red sky at night .............. it's all good!!!

Every day is the same!! We are quickly learning about desert weather systems. It’s actually quite easy …………. there aren’t any! Depending upon whom you believe, the Palm Springs area receives somewhere between 354 and 360 days of sunshine each year. I guess one can flunk out of meteorology school and still do well here as a forecaster. It is a degree or two cooler than south Florida during the daytime in December and January and, because it is a desert, it does cool down considerably at night but …….. no rain! And during all other months, the daytime highs are near the warmest in the nation. Sun, sun, sun.

The owners of the “lot” next to ours arrived from Vancouver yesterday, on their way to Cabo San Lucas for the winter. They started to spend the winter there, after wintering in Palm Springs for 9 years because they prefer the weather in Cabo. It’s warmer. Some people are never happy!!!!

As non-golfers, we were surprised to learn that desert golf courses require re-seeding twice a year because neither Bermuda nor rye grasses can tolerate both winter and summer weather. As a result, you get Bermuda grasses in the summer and rye-grass in the winter. Our on-site, 27 hole course is closed for 6 weeks for re-seeding, opening this coming week-end. It seems that the focus of this entire place revolves around that date. The lot owners are arriving daily in anticipation of “the opening”. It sounds like this place will start “rockin” soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

More RV centric stuff

Palm Springs from 8,500 feet. It's mountains and desert without water!!

The "sunshade factory" parked 10' from the front of our RV

Voila!! 94% of the UV rays gone.

Brenda toasts our first "martini sunset" from our "new home". You'll likely need to "double-click" to see her.

At our current (and final …. for a while) site, we are parked with the windshield pointed right at the rising morning sun. As a result, the place heats up quickly in the relentless (not complaining) sun. So …….. we wanted to have some sun shades made for the front of the RV to cut the sun coming in the front windows and windshield and, to keep the A/C from running all day. When we called the “sun shade store” they asked if it would be OK if they showed up in ½ hour. After telling them that we were hoping for MUCH better service, they arrived in ½ hour as promised!!! Their truck was towing a trailer which opened up to reveal a fully stocked sunshade factory, sewing machine and all. Exactly 70 minutes later they were gone and, we had custom fitted sun shades on 4 windows and our windshield wipers (don’t want them to rot in the sun). Try to tell me that RV’s don’t get catered to in the south-west!

Kathie and Kerri left this morning after a bit of a farewell dinner at their place last night. It was great to spend a relaxing week with them and to learn from their past experience. “Local knowledge” is a great thing. We rode the Palm Springs Aerial Tram with them on their last day and, rose to 8,000 feet above the city where it was 30 degrees F cooler. From such a height, it is crystal clear to see that this “oasis” of a city would be nothing but desert without the city’s abundant water sources. Lucky Palm Springs!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

K & K

Kathie and Kerri get ready to show us the sights in their sporty ride

A nephew of mine inquired, regarding a previous post, "Why do women of a certain age swim with sun glasses on?" I dunno!

The view from our patio.

We have finally moved to our final destination for the winter in Cathedral City. For this week Kathie and Kerri, good friends from Brockville, have been showing us around the Palm Springs territory. Kerri is an old hand in the area, having been coming here since he was a boy (very few years ago). They are staying at the Intrawest resort in Palm Springs, a beautiful facility which has won awards for the way in which it integrates with the surrounding desert landscape. We’ve been paying attention and taking notes hoping to be able to find our own way around when they leave. They really DO know the area!

Our current site backs onto a golf course so, we will probably have to break down sometime in the next few months and take some lessons. I’m just hoping that there are no errant golf balls flying onto our site to customize our RV, particularly any that I might hit!!

Now the question is ……… will we get bored staying in one place? Time will tell.