Temecula: Day #2...

There really is no better Temecula morning than one in which the horizon is decorated with Hot Air Balloons.

Okay, it's pretty magical when one can meet with various friends and even though the time is too brief, there is comfort in knowing that "some is better than none". One brief meet-up was coffee with Bill, his daughter, Nicole and his grandson, Billy... Delightful.
And it was pretty neat to visit with Terry and Joel in their new, as-of-Monday, home.
We settled into our next Temecula campsite, at Steve's brother's. We dined on the patio and stayed outside until even the scarves and parkas couldn't keep us warm (we're in big trouble when we get back to Tahoe). Brr.

I just loved this bird atop their flagpole.
"Family isn’t always blood.
It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs.
The ones you accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile,
and who love you no matter what.”

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Temecula Sister City Gathering...

Heading back to our old hometown was made extra special due to the arrival of a contingency from Temecula's Japanese Sister City.

In addition to seeing so many friends, we had the most amazing place to camp for the night at Scott & Lynne's.
We were invited to attend the Mayu Choir performance and Friendship Dinner. The timing could not have been more perfect. This choir, from our Sister City Daisen-Nakayama, had performed here once before, and since I had missed that concert, I was very excited to be a part of this one.
It was a really wonderful performance. One song, Iwai Uta, made most of us tear up. Sung by a soloist, it was about a daughter leaving her parents to get married. It was hauntingly beautiful. What a surprise and a treat.
The most fantastic aspect of the evening was spending time with old friends, one of whom was Mizue, who we had hosted ten years ago. She is also staying at Scott and Lynne's so we had even more time to reacquaint. TANOSHI (fun).
We got to catch up with many people. Marianne and Ted are friends whose daughter traveled to Japan when I led the student group in 2004.
Denise and I have a decade's long tradition of making a "Kozo Sandwich" of Denises. Kozo is the incredible leader who has made this Sister City relationship possible. He is many things to many people but to us, he and his wife, Yuko, are our good friends who live way too far away. Tonight's gathering was an exceptional opportunity to reconnect with so many of those who were an important part of our lives while I was thoroughly involved with the Temecula Sister City Association. Timing truly is everything.

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Oceanside for an Overnight...

We are totally orchestrating some wonderful opportunities to catch up with friends (thanks to all for their flexibility and willingness, apologies to those we just couldn't see this time around). Our stay in Oceanside provided us with a two-for-one.

A wonderful dinner and our 'campsite' for the night was provided by Eric and Brady.
Then this morning we left the camper parked at Brady's and met other friends for breakfast.
We love exploring Oceanside and always seem to find something new in which to delight.
While we have seen Dr. Graves' home before, the irony of seeing it today ties into our choice of breakfast spots. About the house... Steve is standing in front of the Top Gun House. This Victorian-style cottage became a popular landmark after it appeared in several scenes of the blockbuster 1986 movie (where Tom Cruise's love interest, Charlie, lived). When built in 1887, it was one of few structures in Oceanside facing the sea. In those days, most structures were built facing the then new railroad tracks. Today, the house is one of few remaining beach cottages of its kind in San Diego County. Sadly it sits on an empty block behind a chain-link fence awaiting its final destination.
It was ironic that we were seeing a relic from a very 80's movie because our next rendezvous was with friends, Odile and Tom, at the Breakfast Club Diner, a themed restaurant that captures, perfectly, my favorite decade- the 80s. What a very cool way to start our SoCal Social Day #4.

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SoCal Day #2: A Hike & Family

We began our day hiking our favorite local mountain- Monserate. It is here we trained for our Grand Canyon hike in 2009. It was good to do as John Muir has said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

Driving as much as we have on this trip has found us woefully deprived of exercise and the much needed Vitamin N (Nature). We got both of them this morning.

 We hiked 12,341 steps (4.5 miles) in 2.5 hours. Due to the elevation changes, we climbed the equivalent of 143 flights of stairs. Thanks to my fitbit's stats, I get to be impressed with myself. It truly was an incredible way to start the day.
And the best way to end it? In the company of wonderful friends. Dinner, the sunset and a sweet campsite were all provided by our first daughter-in-law's parents, Mike and Julie. What a great night.

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SoCal...So Close (to home)

As we head home to Lake Tahoe, we have many stops to make along the route and several of them are in Southern California. Since we were passing right through the darling mountain town of Julian, we paused for a short explore. After the American Civil War, in 1869, A.E. "Fred" Coleman, a former slave, was crossing over what is now known as Coleman Creek, just west of Julian. Seeing a glint of gold in the stream bed, he climbed down from his horse to investigate. Having had previous experience in the gold fields, he retrieved his frying pan and began panning the sands of the creek. What interesting beginnings.

While the town is famous for many things, the item that drew us in was the Apple Pie.

While strolling, we came upon this monument. I found it kind of cool and something different which fits what I look for in a town. The plaque reads:

Our camp spot was on a side street in Vista sharing a lovely evening with David & Karen. Karen is a crack up. She was armed with numerous "Road Trip" questions and over wine and a delicious Italian meal, we think we answered them thoroughly.
I'm calling this week the "SoCal Social" due to the numerous connections we will be making with family and friends. It has begun in a very fine way. The trip isn't over yet.

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Yuma Territorial Prison... So Cool!

While the thought of a prison isn't so cool, the history here was incredibly interesting.

The Yuma Territorial Prison operated for 33 years from 1876 to 1909. It was established mainly because all the county jails in the territory were very, very unsafe. It was easy for people to break out. There were more than 3,000 inmates, ranging in age from 14 to 88; a cross-section of who ever came to or through the Territory. Their crimes ranged from adultery, theft, polygamy and even to (my favorite) seduction with the promise of marriage.
The prison opened its doors on July 1, 1876. Its first seven inmates were the prisoners who built it. Constructed on and into a hard rock cliff, at the conjunction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers , the budding town of Yuma lay to the west and miles of barren, harsh desert to the south. A perfect location for a prison. The Yuma Territorial Prison was known by the local people in town as the Country Club on the Colorado River, and yet the convicts referred to it as a hellhole. By 1885, it had electricity and blowers that blew air into the east cell block area. They had a hospital, complete with dental care. The prisoners were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, Spanish, German, and music. And they even formed a band.
But once they were locked up in the evenings, there were six men to a cell, and one bucket that was their toilet. In addition, they lived with large sewer roaches, lice, bedbugs and all manner of dangerous reptiles. Definitely a hellhole not a Country Club.
That said, the prison had an unheard of progressive operating philosophy for the time, best stated by Superintendent Thomas Gates. "It is and has ever been my object to elevate rather than depress the men who have been thrown under my supervision, to inspire them with renewed hope and revive the tottering principles of true manhood. To this end, I have granted every liberty consistent with good prison government: privileges."

After a thorough and interesting guided tour of what's left of the prison, we explored the museum. Through its informational video and really well presented exhibit cases, we were even more amazed by this historic location.
I admired one superintendent's wife, Madora Ingalls, who worked to improve conditions and educational opportunities, and even set up a 2,000 book library.
There were 29 women sentenced to Yuma , including 16-year-old Maria Moreno, who shot her brother after he complained about the way she was dancing. They were kept separate from the men but their crimes were just as manly.
Of the 3,000 inmates, 111 died here with 104 of them being buried in the prison cemetery. The main cause of death was consumption (tuberculosis). Eight inmates were shot while trying to escape, two were killed by falling rocks, several committed suicide (including one superintendent) and a couple were bitten by rattlesnakes. Yikes.

By 1909, overcrowding at the prison forced its closure. The institution was closed, but its history was far from over. Over the decades, it would serve as the local high school, shelter for homeless during the depression, and even movie locations. Floods, theft, railroad expansion, and the building of the Ocean-to-Ocean highway (Route 8) destroyed sections of the prison. In 1939, some townspeople took notice and in 1941 a museum was opened and the rest is history!
And this is where we are camping for our first night, back in California. What a lovely spot on the shore of Lake Cuyamaca. We'll spend the next week in SoCal making connections with family and friends until we return to Lake Tahoe- three months and three days after we left. What a road trip!

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Cacti & Missiles: A Day in Arizona

After yesterday's almost 400 mile drive, we delighted in spending the night in the Sonoran Desert. When we awoke, we meandered through it and it was pretty magical.

We strolled a path of numerous species of cacti. My favorite was the Saguaro,  one of the defining plants of this Desert (they only grow here). These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, although some never grow arms. These arms generally bend upward and can number over 25. The arms are my favorite characteristic.
Interestingly, with the right growing conditions, it is estimated that Saguaros can live to be as much as 150-200 years old. Yet, they are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall and can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall. When rain is plentiful and the Saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

  Strange and inscrutable
      the desert lies
Austere its every mood;
Yet peace and beauty
      here abound
In solemn quietude.
~F.J. Worrall
I love to discover things of which I know nothing (it's not a huge stretch at times). While searching for treasures to seek on Interstate-10, I happened upon the best travel website- http://www.roadsideamerica.com/ You just type in the road you happen to be on and it tells you all the awesome sights to see along the way. The Titan Missile Museum could not have been more incredible.
We walked around pretty blown away and very underground. So dang cool. Unknown to us, during the Cold War, 54 Titan II Missile Silos were constructed in three States (completed in only 36 months). Their purpose was to prevent a nuclear attack, just by "being". Needless-to-say, they worked. The payload in each was frightening. According to our guide, Tim, if you took all the bombs detonated in all the WWII battles, including the two which devastated Japan, put them all together and multiplied that amount by two, you would have the power of just one of these missiles. Chilling. 
"Duck and Cover!" Bomb shelters, the Berlin Wall, weekly tests of the Emergency Broadcast System, the piercing sounds of air raid sirens, and the Space Race. These are the hallmarks of the "Cold War" era. The Titan Missile Museum showcases the dramatic vestiges of the Cold War between the U.S. and former Soviet Union and provides a vivid education about the history of nuclear conflict-a history of keeping the peace.
This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. The others were destroyed as part of the Arms Agreement with Russia.

What an incredible tour, too. We were able to stand on top of the silo viewing platform and observe the Titan II missile in the underground launch duct. Then, using the Access Portal, we descended 35 feet underground into the hardened missile complex. Once underground, we walked through the Blastlock Area on our way to the Launch Control center where I was asked to to be the Missile Combat Crew Commander. My job was to "turn the key" for a simulated launch of the missile.  Yikes. 

After our one hour, very informative guided tour, we were allowed to explore the grounds. This image is looking down at the missile from the surface. This was unbelievable.
What was once one of America's most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world. This was an educational and fantastic detour.
In trying to understand this place better, I think President Reagan said it best, "The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression -- to preserve freedom and peace."

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