November 23, 2012

Winter Break

Not much camping for us this winter. November was Turkey Day, December is expected to be a busy month, and in January we're on a business/pleasure trip to Washington, DC. We'll be back into the routine in February with a long weekend at San Elijo. March is at Doheny, and April is Rancho Jurupa. In May, we'll be back out in Death Valley. Don't expect too many posts between now and February.

Our indoor RV storage place got bought by E-Z Up and they need us to park outside for five months while they remodel the building to accommodate their factory. They're only charging us half-rate during this period, and if we stay with them for six months after they're done, we get a free $350 E-Z Up canopy. Gee, twist my arm.

October 28, 2012

Camp Perseverance

We got kicked out of our usual camping spot in Death Valley when it became part of the Ibex Wilderness. We found a new spot, literally just one hundred feet from the wilderness boundary. We turn off Highway 127, and head out Furnace Creek Road for 1.8 miles. There is a nice piece of desert pavement we came to called Camp Perseverance. It doesn't have the Butch and Sundance charm of the old campsite, but it makes a great base camp for the usual field trips and excursions.

This time, the Harrisons made it out to Pahrump for breakfast before going to camp on Saturday morning. We had left the house a little before one in the "Hey-M" and that got us to the Furnace Creek turnoff at 4:30 AM. Next time, we'll sleep in until four before we push off. The dogs had an especially good time, as the hounds just about out-numbered the two-legged mammals on this trip.

August 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom

We were lucky enough to get a beach campsite in August and September this year. Usually, these sites sell out within seconds of their availability, but because Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove is new this year, they've had vacancies.

It is a great campsite, on the grounds of an old mobile home park on a bluff over the ocean. Mom loves camping at the beach and her birthday is in August so of course she came along!

We left early to escape the heat of the Inland Empire, and got to the day use area while there was still parking available. We spent most of the day just a few yards from the surf, and in fact we moved once to avoid the waves.

It was too hot to cook, so we ordered pizza from Gina's Pizza which was voted OC Weekly's best pizza in Orange County. No argument from us! Their roasted veggie pizza on a whole wheat crust was amazing. Andy and I being carnivores really loved their pepperoni and mushroom. Nothing comes from a can at Gina's and the quality was obvious. This ain't no Little Caesar's!

On Sunday, we decided our bodies couldn't take another day on the sand, so we headed up Laguna Canyon and went to the Sawdust Art Festival. There was some great stuff there and we definitely took home some treasures. We had a late lunch at Soup Plantation and headed home. Another great weekend retreat.

July 4, 2012

To Do List

When I need to think about something else, I usually start making a list of things I want to do to our house or to the RV. I usually lose these lists, and so this time, I'm going to post it so it has some permanency. In no particular order, here is my list of projects, mods, gadgets, fixes, etc.
  • Create a Ditch Bag
  • Mount a Cyclone Vent Cover
  • Fix the lose wall panel in the bathroom
  • Fix the bathroom door
  • Drawer liner for the lower silverware drawer
  • Night lights over the master bed
  • Bed cubbies
  • Change all lamps to LEDs
  • Add switch or volume to rear speakers
  • Better door and drawer catches
  • Fridge catches
  • Label power switch for water heater
  • Remove sticker residue from bottom of dinette chairs
  • Repair accessory plug under dinette
  • Plastic box for storage inside the microwave
  • Storage tub(s) for under the oven

June 17, 2012

Father's Day Camping

Every Father's Day for the last three years, we've planned a Gonzales family camping trip. This year was no exception, though this was the first year where I agreed to do all the cooking. I think it made it so much easier on everyone, and I do enjoy outdoor cooking, as well as the opportunity to buy a new stove and cast iron skillet.

This year, we had a double spot at Dogwood, and it was the perfect size and location, though we talked about trying a beach camp next year. We spent two nights there, but spent most of Saturday at Lake Gregory. Anthony will remember this trip as the one where his Noonie accidentally hit him in the face with a mug of beer and knocked his tooth out.

Meals were buffet style with no one leaving the table hungry. We had pizza and chicken wings Friday night; strawberry sundaes for dessert; Chorizo potatoes and eggs Saturday breakfast; hot dogs at the lake for lunch; beef foil packs for dinner; s'mores for dessert; and an all-American breakfast on Sunday.

The foil packs let everyone be their own chef. We provided the ground beef, seasonings, potatoes and an assortment of vegetables. It was fun for everyone to get creative and the kids really liked eating something they made themselves. There was lots of time for playing king-of-the-stump or just taking a nap. Another great trip!

May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Trip

This weekend was the annual Mother's Day camping trip with my Mom. We kept pretty local, heading up the 15 to Lytle Creek at the base of the Cajon Pass. The campground was full when we got there Sunday morning, but we anticipated everyone clearing out by the afternoon. We spent the day across the street from the campground, in the shade, on the banks of the creek.

Damn that river.
Soon after we were set up, hundreds of people started arriving for the Sunday barbecues. The canyon was filled with the smells of carne asada, and elotes. From our spot on the bank, we watched dozens of families wading up and down the creek. One family forded the creek and set up their spot right across from us. During the next couple of hours we watched them build this dam and create their own swimming hole. This is the kind of family fun that Mark Twain wrote about.

Mom waiting to kick my butt at Scrabble. Again.

As expected, the campground cleared out by the late afternoon, and by twilight, it was just us, the caretakers, and four other campers in the whole campground. This weekend was spent catching up as we sat by a creek, a campfire, or a Scrabble board.

The caretaker doesn't really care.
This campground would receive the lowest rating I've ever given to a government site. The water was now non-potable, so all the spigots hat purple tape on them. Campers were ignorant to the meaning of this and we saw dozens of people washing their food, their dishes and themselves in the tainted water. I wonder how many of them are sick today? The Camp Host sign was replaced with a sign that said "Caretaker - No Change & No Firewood." It was an absolute zoo during the weekend, but peaceful enough during the week. The camp is closed Wednesday and Thursday so midweek camping is very limited.

April 22, 2012

Moro or Morro?

That is the view from our campsite this weekend -- be sure to click on it for a bigger version. We left Saturday morning for our first time at this new state campground.

This place is so new they were still installing the signs. It used to be a mobile home park but the State evicted the lease holders, cleared the land, restored the habitat and turned it into a very nice terraced campground above Moro Canyon. The spelling of the canyon is with one R in the State Park, but with two outside of the park (including on the back of La Rana).

This is the closest beach camping to our house, just 40 miles of toll road and canyon driving. We made it there quickly, walked down to the beach and then took the local bus into Laguna Beach for the Kelp Fest and Earth Day. Andy's buddy Colt came with us so they had their own agenda as they explored the area.

This camp doesn't allow campfires so when we got back to the site, it was a walk atop the bluffs and a movie before bed. In the morning, we watched dolphin catching breakfast in the kelp beds just offshore, while we ate our breakfast on the bluff. We then headed over to Andy's Footy game before heading home.

April 6, 2012

Mom's Road Trip

Mom and I made plans for an overnight camp in the local mountains. According to the USFS, there is a contract dispute with the campgrounds that take reservations, but they had several campgrounds with first-come, first-served campsites.

We figured that camping on a Wednesday night we wouldn't have any issues, so we headed out to Applewhite (B) in Lytle Creek: CLOSED. Well, let's head up to Wrightwood and check out the camps up there (C). Table Mountain: CLOSED. Lake Campground: CLOSED. Mountain Oak: CLOSED. A check of the map and we saw there was a couple choices on the East side of the Angeles National Forest. Sycamore Flat (D) was a wide spot on the side of the road with just a dozen sites: Not our style. We pressed on to the Devil's Punchbowl (E): NO CAMPING.

Down but not defeated, we drove across the desert and back down the Cajon Pass to a great campground in our own neighborhood: Rancho Jurupa Regional Park (F). They had a spot for us and we had a perfect trip. I had put the time lapse camera in the back window during our 190 mile trip, so the very short video below shows our road trip adventure.

March 24, 2012

Sticker Shock

I left La Rana at home after the last trip so I could do some cleaning and maintenance. It also gave me a chance to catch up our sticker collection. Back in the twenties, National Parks gave out window decals as proof of paying entrance fees. These became collectable, and since each of the stickers included a drawing of an animal, sporting a "zoo windshield" was the mark of a true outdoors lover.

We started our sticker tradition with The Caboose and it continued with La Rana. These stickers aren't usually store bought. I pick out the lettering and a graphic and then have a local sign-maker cut the sticker out of vinyl. They make for some great conversations at the gas station and in the campgrounds. With lots of love and care, we should someday cover the entire back end with these stickers.

March 18, 2012

Saint Patty would be Proud

The Serrano Native Americans spent the cold winters in the Yucaipat, or Green Valley below the San Bernardino Mountains. The area is now the town of Yucaipa and we spent this St. Patrick's Day weekend at Yucaipa Regional Park camping with Jake and Vicki; plus John and Dorothy.

The park is RV only, and every site is a hookup, so there is never any generator noise. There are three lakes just a short hike from the campground, so it is a favorite site for anglers. One of the lakes has water slides which open in the summer. They're especially slippery because it is lake water that is pumped down the algae-covered slides (not as bad as it sounds).

It rained almost the entire weekend, so everyone seemed to hole-up in their rigs to ride out the storm. Jake and Vicki decided it was time to explore, so we joined them for a trip up to Parrish Ranch and Oak Tree Village in Oak Glen for some shopping and lunch. I found a painting I liked in a local gallery, so I splurged and bought it for my office.

Sherry made her tub cookies; I made a big pot of Irish Stew; and Jake made a whole bunch of corned beef and cabbage for the evening's dinner. After eating way too much, we returned to La Rana to watch Drive and lay our heads down for the night.

Shasta woke me up at four in the morning, barking at the many rabbits who were easy to see silhouetted against the fresh fallen snow. We waited anxiously for the sun to come up so we could get outside and take some photos before rain would wash everything away. Another great weekend of camping, and only 40 minutes from home.

March 10, 2012

Campground Closures

The website shows the USFS campgrounds listed below as closed, "through May 31, 2012, while the San Bernardino National Forest works on issuing a new permit for management of this and surrounding facilities." I don't know what happens if they don't get a contract. Perhaps it will revert to USFS management, or more likely, it will close up like the four in San Jacinto (Boulder Basin, Black Mountain, Dark Canyon and Ribbonwood). These are just the local Federal campgrounds:
  2. COUNCIL  
  5. DOGWOOD  
  11. PINEKNOT  
  13. SERRANO  
  14. SKYLINE  
70 California State Parks slated for closure are listed on this site. Locally, the only state campgrounds closing are:
  1. Palomar Mountain
  2. Salton Sea
  3. Providence Mountains

March 4, 2012

What are Ewe going to do?

While Sherry took Andy to his Australian Rules Football practice, I headed up into the Cucamonga Wilderness with Paul and Linda and the Department of Fish and Game. We were participating in an annual count of Bighorn Sheep. We met with biologists on Saturday night for an orientation, and then early this morning, we hiked up to the 4800' level of these cliffs on the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any in our area, but that is still good data that wouldn't have been there if it weren't for us manning our post on that cliffside today. We saw tracks and scat, but no sheep. Here is a photo of a ewe from the 2009 survey. Here is a link to more info on these cool mountain dwellers.

March 1, 2012

It IS Camping

Sherry says that even though it was in the Disneyland parking lot, it is still camping because we slept in the RV and used the potty. We did not however, put out the flamingo. We joined the masses to spend Leap Day at Disneyland. We had high hopes for staying up the whole night, but as the log below shows, we didn't make it.

11:43a Adventureland is closed for filming 'Modern Family.' I want Sophia Vergara to be my 'Mouse Ears'

2:26p Adventureland is open again. Sophia is MIA.

2:38p Chili-cheese corn dogs at Stage Door Cafe. Hmmmm.

3:05p Innoventions looks like a hurricane shelter with people sleeping in whatever dark corners they can find in a round building.

4:00p Sherry makes it to the park. Nobody's cell phones are working well. The Matterhorn is covered with scaffolding from construction. I bet the tower is inside and powered down.

4:46p Modern Family crew moving up Main Street for next scene.

5:31p Tonight is about the food. We're splitting a baked potato with broccoli and cheese sauce.

5:44p Modern Family is filming at Big Thunder Mountain.

6:29p Chili Cheese Corn Dog, Round Two. They need these on the menu 365.

7:57p Thirty minutes since we've eaten. Stopped for a cinnamon roll to keep our strength up.

9:01p The crowd has exploded. We went from 30 minute lines to two-hour lines in a snap. Things are breaking down from the stress. Big Thunder broke down. Waited in Space Mountain line and then it broke down. Gonna grab curb for the parade. Coffee!

10:51p The parade was great (still not as good as the Mulan parade which shall always be the metric with which all parades shall be measured).

11:46p The Fire Marshall has closed the gates to the park. There are nearly 70,000 people here and they all want to go to Fantasmic.

12:38a We bailed out. They're not letting anyone back inside. Must be a thousand people milling around outside the turnstiles. Hundreds more are waiting in line to buy tickets. I don't get it, they're going to spend a hundred bucks to stand in line for one ride before the place closes down? The line to get through Security extends past La Brea Bakery. Drunken fools are everywhere. We watched tram after tram full of new arrivals heading to the gates.

1:04a Made it to the RV. There are sirens and Security everywhere. When I parked the RV, I thought how lucky to get a great spot so close to the tram. Mistake: All night long we heard, "Driver, your turn is clear - Honk-Honk."

4:15a Woke up and checked the status. Gates are open, but still two-hour lines and they close before we could get to the front of the line. Going back to sleep.

6:30a Woke to the sound of vacuum trucks and blowers. Time to roll out of here.

February 26, 2012

Timelapse Camera

This isn't a camping post, but I'll use it camping so here goes. I've been experimenting with the new camera Sherry bought me for our anniversary. I've been craving one of these for a while, and now that I've got it, I'm very pleased. The Binno TL100 is super easy to use, with the only downside being there is no viewfinder so aiming is a little instinctive. This video is one I took from the fifth floor window overlooking my worksite. The pan was with software, as this edited version is only about 30% of the actual image taken by the camera. It also has a macro setting so I anticipate some flowers blooming shots.

January 22, 2012

Bacon, Lobster & Chorizo Burritos

We were a little worried about the rain, but it turned out to be a terrific weekend for a beach trip. We headed down the 15, to the 76 and stopped in a gloomy Oceanside Harbor for lunch at Harbor Fish and Chips before heading into a less gloomy Encinitas and one of Sherry's favorite yarn stores, The Black Sheep.

By the time we got to San Elijo State Beach, it was sunny but sweatshirt temperatures. Like we do on every visit to San Elijo, we had planned on dinner at Bull Taco, but they closed early due to the weather and we settled for Subway sandwiches. Sherry always loves to go beach combing, and the tide was especially low when we got there. We got to walk way out into the tidelands, where we saw lobsters, crabs and sea anemones. Later on we went to a local bar and Sherry had a Huck Finn (blueberries, ginger ale and Jack Daniels).

Sunday morning was looking great, and we started the day with the most amazing Bacon, Lobster and Chorizo burritos. Bull Taco is one of the reasons we are willing to drive so far to camp at the beach. What other beach food stand sells this kind of grub? Their surf and turf is carne asada and grilled shrimp tacos. AMAZING. Check out the video below for a peek in the kitchen. A walk along the bluffs after breakfast provided this treat: a 1949 Oldsmobile Woody with a surfboard rack.

One of the other reasons we like San Elijo is that just a mile or so south is the town of Solana Beach, and especially their Cedros Avenue. This little street is filled with awesome galleries and shops, and then every Sunday afternoon, they have a farmer's market. This makes for a perfect winter beach weekend. Jealous? You should be!

January 16, 2012

The Holy Grail of LED Lamps
Boondocking is camping off the grid, unconnected, and away from it all. This can be a drain on batteries, and there is nothing that spoils "away from it all" like a churning generator. The key is power conservation. I've tried a lot of LED lamps; looking for the right color, the right brightness and the right fit in standard RV fixtures. This is it.

I've installed one of these in three of our most used RV fixtures (the table, the kitchen and the bathroom). I put them in double fixtures so the first click is the low-power-draw LED and the second click is incandescent. When we're boondocking these draw only 3.6 watts of power, while a single incandescent draws 27 watts. The brightness and color is comparable to the incandescent.

I need five more to replace the incandescent bulbs in the three remaining double and two single fixtures. I would need ten more to replace everything in the RV. I'm not in a real hurry to do them all since in a boondock, the three I've already replaced would be our primary lighting.

January 14, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

It has been a while since I've posted anything about food on here. So why the new post? Disneyland closed down the Main Street Carnation Cafe last week and marked the occasion by releasing the recipe for their incredible baked potato soup. I made it today and it will certainly be one I'll be making for a camping trip. 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Serves 6
1 pound bacon, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3/4 cup diced celery
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 medium red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cups heavy whipping cream (I only used 2 cups)
Optional garnishes: chopped chives, bacon bits, sour cream, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving half (if you can) for garnish. In bacon fat, cook onions, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and stir constantly over low heat until the flour is cooked and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes (Disney had the flour after the potatoes, but I moved it here to make a rue). Add potatoes and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock and half of the bacon. Season with salt and pepper (I used a palm full of Kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper). Over medium-high heat, bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Mash some of the potatoes for thicker, creamier texture. Add whipping cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste, and garnish with toppings.

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Sherry and I took a four-mile hike through the Hidden Valley Nature Center on Saturday. This is the wetlands of the Santa Ana River and past home of a duck hunting club. The ponds are now naturalized wetlands and there are nice trails through the area. Near the nature center are a couple of recreated homes of the Tongva people who lived here long before us.

As the new year begins, I traditionally take a look at the calendar and start thinking about the camping trips. Like every other camper, we're limited by a six-month reservation window, but we can think about future goals. We've also got to think about the growing autonomy of a 17 year-old son.

Grand Canyon Lodge
With the cost of gas, we're usually content to stay within a two-hour radius of home. The exception of course is an extended trip every year: In 2011 we went to Florida and Mexico; Sequoia and Yosemite in 2010; plus Big Sur and Zion in 2009. We can't get the RV into Kings Canyon because of vehicle length restrictions, the cabins inside the Grant Grove at King's look interesting, but I can't imagine more than a long weekend there. That exhausts the National Parks within a six-hour drive of home. I could stretch it and look at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I might prefer the Grand Canyon Lodge over the anxiety of driving the RV that distance. The California State Parks are being hit hard by the economy and it may just be that we end up doing an extended stay without La Rana, or just sticking to weekends. If I were to pick today, it would be a stay at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at the Grand Canyon Lodge.