January 10th, 2010 , 18:41

Well, we made it and I still hate flying. Clarification – I hate long haul commerical airline flying! My knees are still sore from being banged into. But we left only a few minutes late, were an hour late into London, our taxi was waiting for us, and we are now at home with a cup of tea,  a load of laundry in and sorting out stuff for work tomorrow.

There is snow, but most of the roads are clear, though our pavement is a bit slippy.

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Still Waiting

January 10th, 2010 , 3:01

Well, made it through the chaos that is BA bag drop/checkin/whatever. It’s a mess – the signs were wrong, no one knew where to go or what was happening, they waited forever to open so there was a mass of people in the queue. Just a mess. But we got through and got through security and are now sat in the bar having a drink and watching the Dallas/Eagles game. The best bit of the whole mess? We have been told that there is no delay for the flight.

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January 10th, 2010 , 0:46

Waiting for the BA bag drop to open. Virgin is checking people in so we’re hopeful there will be a flight.

We didn’t do much today. Got up, made sure we were all packed, checked out, found the bus (Deuce), and went to Paris. Decided we didn’t like any of the places to eat in Paris so headed over to Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon and had a very nice sandwich. Then walked the Strip back down to the Welcome sign (very very very long walk). Back on the bus and off to collect bags and head to the airport. Said bye to the little Beetle and got the shuttle to the terminal. Where we wait.

And no, we’re not sure we want to come back! It’s cold there. And I’d been complaining about the cold here! Barely up to 60 most of the time. San Diego was about as warm as we got and that was lovely. So please ensure all snow and ice and nasty cold dark stuff is removed before our flight lands. Ta.

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January 9th, 2010 , 6:07

After a very good night’s sleep and a long slow start to the day we went out shopping for last minute stuff. Yuck. We’re right by the Outlet Mall so that’s where we headed. Breakfast at Dunkin Doughnuts and then Joe was happy to shop until I dropped. But we got it all done. And this evening we checked in. Keeping an eye on the flight information as it looks like other flights to London have been cancelled. Tonight’s flight should have gone at 2020 but looks like it won’t take off until gone 10 unless they cancel it. That would be funny – snowed in where there is no snow!

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Ice Cold in Vegas

January 8th, 2010 , 5:53

So once the delivery trucks woke us  up we got sorted, got all packed up and checked out. We decided to head out to the park then on to Vegas. I still wanted to see the Kelso Dunes so out we headed. Couldn’t get petrol in Primm, so we headed for the Cima Road which had a station.

Interesting little station with a very nice woman. We got filled up, got coffee, and a sandwich and headed into the park along the Cima Road. That took us through the largest Joshua Tree forest, which was lovely. We stopped at the Teutonia Peak Trail and walked a bit up it (not very far though!) getting photos. We then went on to the Kelso Dunes.

Packed up Joe’s camera backpack with the sandwich and water and camera, but forgot the small camera – so no video! We then headed out for the tallest peak. It was a hard slog through deep sand, but once we made the ridge line the going was easier. We made it to the top – lovely hot sunny day and the walk was hard but we made it. We sat on the top and had our sandwich and looked at the view and took photos – probably spent around an hour up there! Then headed down.

Down is much easier than up – you count to three then run and slide and listen to the sand sing and boom. Listen and feel it hum through your feet. Really nifty. The slog back to the car didn’t feel nearly as long and the whole walk was wonderful.

We headed out of the park on the Morning Star Mine Road which is a nice drive. Got on I15 and headed to Vegas, which is packed due to the Consumer’s Electronic Show which is happening. Largest show they hold here so just about everything is packed out. We found a small hotel just outside the limits and it’s rather nice. Much much nicer than the place in Primm. We also got a load of coupons, including one for a free bottle of wine at the local Italian restaurant (Bootleggers). So we headed there and had a wonderful meal with wonderful service and far too much food and drink. After last night we’re happy. Now to hope there aren’t any people wanting to party in our little hotel!

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Dam Tourists

January 7th, 2010 , 5:14

Up early again but a bit later than planned. Out to see Joshua Tree Park. We drove to the Barker Dam and did the one mile walk out. Water was way down, barely any there, and so very little wildlife. We did see a cottontail bunny and birds, but otherwise it was just a nice walk. Lots and lots of different vegetation. We then drove to Keys View and looked out over the San Andreas fault. On the way back to the car we saw movement and ended up watching a bunch of antilope squirrels run about on the rocks. They even posed for photos. We then drove through the park back to Twentynine Palms and had breakfast/lunch before heading off to Mojave.

We took back roads and, of course, got on the wrong one. Easily fixed and had a lovely drive. Went through Amboy, which included driving over a dried lake bed where they are mining. Interesting. Then along Route 66 for a few miles before turning off and into the Mojave National Reserve.

We went to the visitor’s centre which is the old train station. Very interesting and an interesting history. Looks like the rail line is still used. Very different from Death Valley or Joshua Tree. We spoke to a ranger who suggested we go out to the dunes for the light, so off we headed. We didn’t walk far into the dunes; Joe found a nice vantage point looked at a lovely ridge up one of the higher dunes and we stayed there so he could get photos as the sun set. Tomorrow we’ll go climb to the top and slide down to hear them sing.

We decided to stay in Primm, which appears to be Vegas for people who can’t afford Vegas! We’re in a Casino hotel.

Later: Definitely wouldn’t recommend Primm as a place to stay. I did say, as we pulled in, that staying at a place called Terribles was probably a bad idea, and I was correct. It lived up to it’s name. Or down. Seemed ok, if a bit run down and was very cheap. We ended up in a room with a connecting door, so really didn’t feel very secure. Then went to have dinner and ended up in the cafe as we didn’t want anything too much. I noted that no one around us was getting correct orders; with every one something was wrong. Sure enough, I got a completely different sandwich than the one I ordered, we didn’t get the correct sides, and the food and service were generally indifferent.

So we headed back to the room and got into bed and then the people in the connecting room turned up. Loudly. Turned on the TV. Loudly. Went to get ice. Loudly. Had people banging on the door. Loudly. Talked, well, yelled at each other. Loudly. They were told to shut up numerous times and didn’t. By midnight we’d had enough and got moved. To a room that was a lot quieter, until the delivery trucks turned up the next morning. Oh well.

We checked out, deciding to head to Vegas tonight.

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Back to the Desert

January 6th, 2010 , 5:39

Up early again, this time to beat the traffic, and on the road by 6.30. Got out of San Diego easily and got onto Interstate 8 which runs along the border between Mexico and the US. Stopped for breakfast in Descanso (which we keep calling Desperado) in a little place called Descanso Restaurant. Lovely breakfast and an interesting stop.

We then took 86 which runs along the Salton Sea, which we thought would be interesting. Joe had visions of stopping by the shore and watching birds and getting photos. Not to be. Can’t get that close to the shoreline! And there really isn’t much there at all. Looks like it may have been a resort at one time, but that time is long past. There is apparently still good bird watching but we didn’t see where to stop. So we carried on up to Interstate 10, then turned off and into Joshua Tree National Park.

Entered at Cottonwood, which is the Colorado Desert part of the park, so lower lying and hotter than the Mojave section, with much different vegetation and almost no Joshua trees. We stopped and looked at various things as we drove along, it is very different from Death Valley. Much more plant life and looks like more life in general. We headed on to 29 Palms and got a hotel room, then turned back into the park so Joe could get some sunset photos of Joshua trees.

Found a place with some nice trees and Joe took several photos over hours! It got quite cold as it got dark so we then headed out, deciding to drive back to the hotel via Joshua Tree. We thought we had found some really good trees, but as we drove further along we saw how wrong we were. In the park these things grow BIG and the ones we’d stopped at were dinky in comparison. But massive compared to the ones we’d seen in Death Valley! Very impressive and we’re looking forward to a better look tomorrow.

We went out to Keys View for a quick look and a bit of star gazing. Too many cars turning in so we headed back out. Going to Joshua Tree then to 29 Palms was the long way! But not a bad drive. Tomorrow we’ll do it the other way round then head off to Mojave.

Parked at the hotel and walked to a little Mexican place for dinner – we’d been in the car for about 12 hours and were ready for a break!

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Picnic in the park

January 5th, 2010 , 5:23

Took our time getting up and out today. Once ready we headed for the camera shop so Joe could get some stuff. Very nice shop with very helpful staff. As we were getting ready to leave we were talking about breakfast and the woman at the counter told us about a place called Marketplace and recommended we get a sandwich there. So we followed directions and found the place, right by the park. They do make wonderful sandwiches and we got sandwiches, crisps and drinks and had lunch in the park, at Redwood Circle. Watched closely by squirrels who were obviously hoping some of that lunch was their’s.

We then walked over the bridge into Balboa Park. Joe took loads of photos and we stopped to get a map. We ended up not going into any of the museums or the zoo, but instead just walked around the park. Then walked back down into downtown San Diego where we did a bit of shopping.

A bit of a mixed day. Lost an earring, didn’t manage to get my San Diego badge, feet hurt, and dinner was uninspiring. We went to the recommended seafood place but it wasn’t that great. So-so service and food.

On the plus side, we saw a great deal of San Diego, had a lovely warm sunny day, got some shopping done, and had a picnic in the park.

Whale watching

January 4th, 2010 , 5:23

Just back from the best meal we’ve had all trip – ate at the Indigo Grill, which appears to be part of a series of places.  But the place acts like a small independent and the service and food were excellent. We left almost too full to walk! Definitely recommended as a great place to eat in San Diego.

We were up a bit later than usual and once up and sorted out to the whale watching place, San Diego Harbor Excursion. We had booked on the whale watching tour but switched it yesterday to the nature cruise. So we collected our boarding passes and then went into their cafe and had a huge breakfast. Thought we were just getting something light but it turned out to be a lot of food! Then onto the boat and off to look at wildlife.

It was more an extended harbour cruise, with lots of information about the city and the naval base then information about the islands, Islas Los Coronados, with the wildlife being an extra. But we saw loads and Joe got tons of photos. We’ll sit down and look through them to identify some of what we spotted. But we know we saw: brown pelicans, brown boobies, gulls (lots of gulls), blue heron, oyster catchers, American oyster catcher, sea lions, elephant seals, harbour seals, common dolphin and white sided dolphins. Got all the way out and headed back and didn’t see a single dolphin or whale. We got the common dolphins for a bit then a couple of other boats found whales, so we headed that way and got our first look at a grey whale. Watched it for a while, then headed into harbour as we were running late. Those of us who stayed on the bow spotted another whale and got to see it spout a few times. Then we ran into the pod of white sided dolphins. So it was an excellent trip with lots of interesting information. We were quite late getting back but as we didn’t have anything else planned we didn’t mind. It was well worth going!

We dumped our stuff in our room and headed out for dinner as we were starving. We are now too full to move and Joe is going to check his photos while watching football (we’ve been watching football all the time).

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Warm at last!

January 3rd, 2010 , 4:19

Finally warm! San Diego is warm – about 80F which is lovely. Love the warmth. Almost too hot in the car as we’d dressed for a cold Death Valley early morning.

We wandered around Furnace Creek and watched birds and generally pottered about. Didn’t see the roadrunner, of course. Never did see one or a coyote. How am I suppose to not feed them when I don’t get to see them! But we had a nice day. Then off to Joe’s spot for his moon rising photos. Got some sunset and moon rising photos but the moon may have been too bright for it to turn out well. Then to the dunes in the dark and some shots of those. People were turning up so we headed out to Badwater and ended up being the only people out there. Heard a bird flying off but nothing else.

First day of 2010 we were up a bit later than normal then off to Darwin’s Falls. Drove past the road (it wasn’t marked) and ended up at Father Crawley’s view. Which was nice though the road up there was a bit twisty and slow! Then back down to Darwin’s Falls. The guide book said it was an easy drive on a graded road – it lied. It was a rutted path that really needed a high clearance vehicle. But we made it. Just. Then the books says it’s an easy walk, suitable for all levels of ability. It lied. It’s not a good path to try in winter as there are several times you have to cross the stream and it gets deep and cold. We had to turn back as we couldn’t find a way across one section. There is also some scrambling up rocks and narrow bits of trail. Fun, but a bit disappointing as we didn’t make it to the falls after all that! But did see some birds.

Then off to Mosaic Canyon, which was an easy walk, with just some bits of scrambling up rocks. And back down again. Which was fun, because some of the rock was worn smooth enough to make a nifty slide. But the canyon was lovely and we had a good walk up it.

Back to the hotel to do laundry and have a large dinner. Then packed ready for an early start the following morning.

Up early and on the road by 6am. We stopped at Badwater for sunrise photos and Joe got some good ones from the walkway. Of course, the other photographers had to ignore the signs and climb over the ropes to get right on the water for their photos. Destroying the area for a photo, hope they got one that was worth it but I doubt it. We went via the Badwater Road out of Death Valley so saw the old Ashford Mill ruins and more of the valley. Then up through two passes to Shoshone and down to I15. It was then just moterway all the way to San Diego.

We made good time and got warmer and warmer. Arrived early afternoon, changed to t-shirts and sandals, and went to check on our whale watching tour. Switched to their nature tour which is 5 hours or more so more chance to see various things. So we’re off tomorrow morning for that. Then we walked down the harbour to some nifty little shops, then back up through a little Italy area, only to head back to the hotel for dinner.

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