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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stealing blog pics!!! Really?! Thou shall not ....

I Blog because I like to share some of the awesome places and awesome things there are to do out in the world with others.  I can only hope that some folks might find some of the information helpful or informative or even inspire them to see some place that they didn't even know existed before.  At the least, I hope to garner a smile or an inspiration to get out & see something from one of my stories.   All material on this blog, both stories and pictures, are owned by me.  I have posted the copyright information in the footer for the Blog and on the picture album that contains the pictures for the blog.

I get emails on occasion from people wanting to use a picture or two or a story for a specific purpose.  I am always happy to work with them provided they cite proper credit and/or give me a link.  I appreciate  the fact that people want to reuse my material with my permission.

I DO NOT appreciate it when people copy my text or download my pictures without permission to do so!   A few days ago, I happened upon a Analytics program that wanted to trial on my blog before using on a commercial site.   This program captures download events.  To my surprise, I found people both near and far downloading pictures from my blog posts without permission.   I found one person had downloaded 16 pictures, on one it was every picture in the post (hmmm...  I am guessing they probably grabbed the text too!) and they did this in just a 2 day period!

I have read lots of blog posts & been on lots of websites and have never thought of downloading someone's pictures.   Maybe I am naive, maybe I just like to take my own pics.  I have used pics from Picture sites that offer free or paid pictures for people to use as they wish but going on a personal blog & downloading their pics!?  C'mon!   My first reaction was to just take down the blog & stop blogging all together.  Though I guess it could be seen as a form of flattery that someone wants your pictures, I found it to feel violating.   So I went through and added blatant copyright to most of my pictures.  Some even have 2 on them because despite there being a physical copyright discretely on several of the pictures, some of them were downloaded too.  So from here on out, I will mar the pics with copyrights in places that will at least make it a little harder for someone to steal.  I know people will still steal and do what they are gonna do but at least they will have to work a little harder at it.  My blog posts won't be as pretty as I would like anymore, but hopefully people will still enjoy the pics.  Its a shame that Blogger doesn't offer download protection.  It's a shame that we need download protection...

If you are interested in using one of my pictures or my content please contact me.


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