Thursday, March 13, 2014

We were robbed by Masked Bandits!

 After a nice evening listening to some light Jazz and getting a few things accomplished, I took dog out for her midnight potty in anticipation of winding down for bed.  Normally I  just let dog out the door since she knows the routine and goes straight to the back of the rig to potty & returns for bed.  For whatever reason, this time I felt like I should put her on a leash and go out with her.  Something immediately caught her attention under the rig but I pulled her away and told her to hurry up.  She obeyed & we went in.  I turned out the outside light, closed the shade and walked over to close my computer and then heard a strange noise.  I attributed it to a wind burst that must have blown something around outside.  Then I heard something again.  This time Dog got up and headed to the door .. as did I.   It sounded like someone was tampering with my rig!!!   I am thinking WTH, I still have my lights on & was just outside two minutes ago, who could be so bold or stupid as to pick a rig to rob where the people were up!!?   I flipped on the light & opened the shade & simultaneously heard a loud thud in the cargo bay to the left of my door.  I didn’t see anyone out there so I started to open the door only to find a grey body and striped tail on my top step!!   I shut the door quickly & continue to hear loud noises.  Again I am thinking, or I may have been even talking out loud at this point, “WTH!!??”

So what do you do when masked bandits are tearing into your cargo bay??  I tried to call the office at the County park I am staying at, but no answer and no referral for after hours emergencies. There continues to be loud banging in my bay and dog is going nuts, wanting to get out the door.  I try opening door a little & slamming it to scare it away.  Its still there …   I call 911, I explain to him my rig is being broken into by raccoons and that there is even one manning the step!  Being a professional he doesn’t laugh or hang up on me, but instead says he will send a car.  




Eventually, the big clunking noises stop and I watch as a huge raccoon takes a drink out of my dogs dish outside of the door.   I only see one raccoon now, so I decide that I should sneak out my rigs driver-side door and try and shoo the bandit away.   It goes under the rig when it sees me.  I reach down & grab some seashells to throw (yes, seashells, this is Florida there aren’t rocks here just sand and seashells)!  It kind of plays chicken with me under the rig, until I actually hit it with a seashell.  I kind of felt bad when I hit it because I heard the thud and it paused and kind of looked at me like “Really? That hurt”.  Eventually I got it out from under the rig.  It headed for my water hose, where it stopped a took a drink out of a water leak (washing down its dog food buffet?) before trotting off towards the woods after one of my seashells actually got close to it again. 



With it gone, I went to open up the cargo door and check out the damage.  That is where Dog’s food is kept in a plastic bin, so I knew that was what it was after.  As I opened the cargo door, I was shocked to see 4 pair of eyes looking back at me!!!  In fact I was so shocked, I might have even let out one of those ‘little girl screams’ .. though quietly, as it was quiet hours!  This time I had no “WTH”,  I was just speechless.  After all in 10 years of full-time RVing,  I have never had 1 raccoon in a cargo bay much less 4!  Hello! Four, LIVE, WILD animals IN my cargo bay!  They happily munched away on dog food and didn’t mind me at all!  Finally the park security guy shows up.  He has a flashlight & shines it on the bandits.  They don’t move.  I ask him what he is gonna do to get them out!??  He just smiles and shakes his head … he had nothing.. !  Grrreattt!!   As we backed up a little bit, one of the bandits starts to head down the tire cover that they have draped down out of the bay like a curtain.  Two more follow, but one is pretty darn happy munching on the dog food buffet.  Eventually, it leaves too.   I send the dog food with the security guy.  We decides that I shouldn’t lock the bay as they may come back and just try and tear it open.   I wind down and get to bed about 2 am.  At 2:30 am they come back and I chase them away and decide to go ahead and lock the bin now that they had a chance to see the food was gone.  They come back again at 5:30 am., this time they leave quickly and finally get a bit of shut eye.   Tonight the dog’s food will be locked in the car; hopefully it is a less eventful night!   Note: as I publish this .. they are back!!  sigh


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kayaking the Elkhorn Slough – Swimming with the fishes


Happy sister after our Elkhorn kayaking adventure.

It was a lovely morning and the fog rolled out just in time for my sister and I to push off for our much anticipated kayak trip in the Elkhorn Slough. The Slough is an important wetland area and one of the largest saltwater marshes in California. It opens to Monterey Bay at our start point at Moss Landing, which is between Monterey & Santa Cruz, CA. There are several options for kayaking on Monterey Bay but we opted for the quieter waters of the slough. Our goal was to see some of the awesome bird and marine life that make their home here. Okay –my- goal was to see the awesome bird and marine life, my sister just wanted to watch the sea lions & otters from the water!

Camera, phone, keys and binoculars on board, we set off on a nice smooth paddle. While we were still in the harbor area we saw Harbor seals, a large raft of otters and dozens of sea lions crowded onto one of the docks. The tide was coming in so we decided to just take a nice leisurely float in a for a few miles before paddling back. As we were floating, I had a Harbor seal pop right up next to the boat and just look at me. It was close enough I could have touched it with my paddle had I wanted. It stayed long enough that I was able to get off a picture or two before it slipped back underwater & disappeared. HOW COOL WAS THAT!? I was so stoked and couldn’t wait to see my picture. From a distance we saw many more seals, sea lions, otters, wading and nesting birds. I was glad that I had my binoculars because they really made a difference in what we could see.  Once we turned back against the tide, we had to do some major paddling. I was glad I had taken so many pics on the way down because it was impossible to stop paddling and get a picture on the way back.  When we finally made it back to the harbor. I got a great picture of my sister with 3 sea lions that had popped up to look at her. As we cruised by the raft of otters I decided I would try and get just one more picture of them and THAT IS WHEN IT HAPPENED!




Attracted some marine plant life!
As I reached for my camera that I had tucked into my life vest, I saw my camera fall into the water. My world went “slow motion”. I gasped and reached to grab the camera as it started to sink. The next thing I knew, I was in the water spitting out salt water and my kayak was upside down! WTHey just happened, I thought as I realized that this water was pretty cold and I was swimming with the fishes and sea lions! Thoughts of all the things that I had discovered were in the water at the Monterey Aquarium all flashed before me as I splashed around with my life vest up near my ears to see where my sister was.  She was paddling my way & yelling ‘what are you doing!??’. I was wondering that myself! Another kayaker came to my rescue too, as we tried to turn the ‘most stable kind of kayak’ back over. It wouldn’t turn. I panicked a little more when I remembered my keys, credit card, driver license and phone were in the dry well that I only partially locked! I was relieved when I reached under the kayak to find that the latch had held. Thankfully my binoculars were still around my neck & sunglasses still on. My rescuers towed the kayak towards shore and flipped it over for me. I swam with the fishes & who knows what other kind of critters and eventually made shore so I could get in my boat and paddle back to where we started, where I drug my soggy self back to the outfitters mourning the loss of my camera. To say the experience was memorable would be an understatement! The loss of the pic of the Harbor seal and my sister with the sea lions still makes me sigh. I don’t recommend swimming with the fishes, I do recommend exploring the Elkhorn Slough by kayak if you get the chance. Its great fun if you manage to stay upright!

At least we weren't in a double kayak!
The "Sea Lion Dock" at Moss Landing


Monday, April 1, 2013

Daytripping - Day 1

CA Fruit Depot


Lots of almonds
Alas, it is Spring Migration time and I get to check out new places!  I left the comfort of Rancho California on Easter & have stopped in Santa Clarita, CA until I can figure out which fork in the road to take. Coast or Inland?   I have never been to central California west of the Sierra's so either way is new & I would like to do both at some point.  So today, I made a trek up I-5 to Bakersfield.   I checked out 5 - 6 RV parks and found just 1 I think I would actually stay at.   I was not overly impressed with the city but it does offer a good location for checking out the spring wildflower blooms.   After I found a suitable place to stay should I go that way, I scouted the surrounding area.   I found the California Fruit Depot where they were boxing up oranges to head off to market.  It was quite interesting to watch them separate the oranges into different sizes and see the boxes get filled.  I also watched men out harvesting oranges from the trees and filling up large crates of oranges.   The Depot had a great tasting room.   They had samples of everything from fruit and nuts, to olive oil and licorice to taste.   They even had a large orange squeezer so you could squeeze there fresh picked oranges and have orange juice.   Definitely my kind of place!

From there I thought I'd do some wildflower hunting & headed south through miles of orange and almond groves, vineyards and acres and acres of other crops that I have no clue what they were.  About the only crop I know is wheat & corn and there was none of that growing.

 I came across a Courtesy Drive In restaurant in the next town down and HAD to stop!.   My family owned the Courtesy Drive Ins in St. Louis back in the day and so the name really caught my attention.  The food did not disappoint either.   They have all types of burgers.  I chose the Mexican burger & it was fab.   The extra bonus at this stop was the Galaga game that they had inside.   I love this game.  You can keep all the new fangled action video things .. just give me one of these to play!

Looking back towards all the crop fields
From there I headed east on CA-223 towards Tehachapi and hit the jackpot on flowers.  The fields were beautiful.   The hillsides were alive with yellow, white and purple flowers.  There weren't many places to pull-over & take pictures but I did find a few spots.  The beauty here & a few California poppies along the roadside helped me decide to take the long route home and check out the Antelope Poppy field area.   I had hoped to see poppies like I did in 2011 though it is a bit early for poppies still.


Joshua Tree bloom

I headed to Tehachapi and cut off down a back road through the wind farms, through blooming Joshua trees and to the poppy fields... not a single bit of color there yet.   It was windy and desolate and I got whapped by a few tumbleweeds to boot!   Instead of fighting the wind, I opted to take a canyon road through the Angeles forest to get back home.   There were plenty of horses along the winding route through the blanketed green hills.   200+ miles and 6 hours later, the never pretty track subdivisions and the Magic Mountain roller coasters came into view and I was home.   Now to load up the 'surf' tunes on the iPod for tomorrows daytrip to the coast!    I love 'migration' time!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Meeting the Grammy Man



The Grammy Man, John Billings


With the Grammy awards this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to share my stop this summer to the 'Grammy Factory' in Ridgeway, CO.   Ridgeway, in western Colorado, is not a huge town by any means, it has around 700 residents, 1 stoplight  and is probably best known because John Wayne filmed 'True Grit' in and around Ridgeway many moons ago.  The biggest restaurant in town is called "True Grit" and is right across the street from the main street park in town, where they tell me the 'hang'n' scene in the movie was filmed.  But back to the Grammy's.  While on a balloon flight a couple of years ago, I learned that the Grammy's were made in Ridgeway, but in this 8 block or less town, I couldn't find them.   This year a friend suggested I stop in and he gave me better directions and I still couldn't find the place.  It took friends sharing a picture of the front of the business with me before I could actually figure out where it was located.   Why couldn't I find it?  I was expecting a nice big sign, in front of a semi-fancy building (Ridgeway is western, not fancy) with a big picture of a Grammy on it.   What I found was this sign for Billings Artwork and a plywood makeshift bridge over a ditch that led to a dusty basement shop with the the door wide open.  Not the least bit close to was I was expecting to be the home of such a prestigious award.
Latin Grammy's ready to go

Taylor Swifts dropped Grammy
When I entered, I was met by a guy with a long grey beard, named Jimmy, who looked kind of 'biker' and I was wondering if I was in the right place. Despite me not being 'biker', he welcomed me in and we quickly found common ground in the Grammy's.   At the time of my visit they were getting ready for the Latin Grammy's and had the 'Stage Grammy's' all packed up to go. Apparently, the awards they get on stage, don't have their names on them and are called 'stage grammy's'. Later, they get the real ones with their name engraved on it.   I learned a whole lot about the Grammy process, from Jimmy before I had the pleasure of meeting 'the Grammy man' himself, John Billings.   John has been the Grammy designer, creator and maker for over 40 years.  He showed me the history of the design of the award through the dusty samples sitting on a shelf.  I also learned that  Grammy's can never be sold and Billings Artwork serves as a graveyard for those that have been damaged or were found for sale.   They have plenty of pictures on the wall of folks with their awards and of Taylor Swift dropping her stage grammy a few years back.

Grammy history on a shelf


These soft spoken gentleman are very proud of their work, as they should be.  Interesting that this small business, in a dusty basement shop creates one of the most prestigious Hollywood awards with such little fanfare.  These gentleman had work to do, so I continued on my way but it was very interesting to see the 'birthplace' of the Grammy's that folks will be all decked out to receive tonight.


And the Grammy goes too???

Here is Part 2 of Billings Artworks video on making the Grammy's.






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