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March 31, 2018

The Naming of California - fact or fiction

The doc says 4 more weeks of RICE treatment for my meniscus tear. So this week a bit of history … how did California get it’s name?

I’d bet everybody who reads my blog has been to California, but I’d be surprised if any know (or even think about) where the name California came from.  On early maps the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific were not explored and California was shown as an island.


Maybe Christopher Columbus had it right in the journal of his first voyage “a place of women without men”. 

And history seems to follow Christopher Columbus, California was named after Queen Califia, a Black Amazon warrior Queen that Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, wrote about in his 1500, Las sergas de Esplandián.  The book was part of a popular series of Spanish romance stories.  Where the novel described an island, very close to the Garden of Eden, full of gold, which was ruled by strong and beautiful black women. The name of this magical island of Queen Califia was California.  Personally I consider it the lure of this earthly paradise, that it was named for a romanticized paradise.

No matter, in 1533 Diego de Becerra applied the name California to the region:
“Know that, on the right hand of the Indies, very near to the Terrestrial Paradise, there is an island called California, which was peopled with black women, without any men among them. because they were accustomed to live after the fashion of Amazons . . . In this island called California are many Griffins, on account of the great savageness of the country and the immense quantity of the wild game there . . .  .” gotta love those ‘California Girls’!

and the name has stuck, making California one of the 5 oldest European names in the Western Hemisphere.  Where it remains today as the name of the US state of California, the two Mexican states of Baja California Norte and Sur of Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California.

La Jolla artist Niki de Saint Phalle has her sculptures displayed along the Prado in Balboa Park,  along the water font in San Diego, on the UCSD campus and her whimsical colorful works at Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Garden, which is open every Tuesday and Thursday 9-Noon and on the second Saturday of each month in Kit Carson Park Escondido.

Located at the 17th hole of the disc golf course is a sign providing directions up a short path to the entrance.

The only entrance into the garden is past 2 of 8 snakes that define the Magical Circle.  The snakes are covered in ceramic, various stones and petrified wood

Once past the snakes continue into the garden via a maze made of black and white ceramic tile pieces inlaid with mirrors.  The center piece of the garden is Queen Califia standing atop her 5-legged eagle throne.

Underneath the eagle is a temple sanctuary with golden fountain egg in the center

The 8 totems that surround Queen Califia portray images of the creatures and crests that have played important roles in the history of California.

The debate continued if California was an island or peninsula for more than 2 centuries.  The dispute was finally settled when the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza traveled between Sonora and Borrego Springs, then on to the west coast of California between 1774–1776.  Establishing once and for all that California was part of the mainland.

March 17, 2018

Cactus League 2018 - Wrap up

After attending Spring Training in AZ for many years, starting back when the Padres were in Yuma! and there was no cost to tailgate behind the chain link fence, the Cactus Practice games now cost more than a regular season game at PetCo Park!

I have attended a game at every stadium in the Cactus League, including the Padres when they were in Yuma and the Rockies when they were in Tucson.  I had been to all 9 of the ballparks in the Cactus League and then the Chicago Cubs opened Sloan Park, making a 10th venue for my Bucket List.  The last time we tried to go to Sloan Park it was a sell-out, so this time I bought tickets online as soon as they went on sale.

But there was another reason to go this year, with Ichiro back in a Mariners uniform, that was our first game.  If just to say goodbye to one of the best, as he plays his last season back with the  Mariners where he started.

My Padres were smoked by KC at Surprise Stadium 4 – 0 as in zip for the Padres.  But the following day they made a late comeback with 3 runs in the 7th to beat the Cubs.

We are settled in the Usery Mountain Regional Park.  As we walk the trails it is abundantly clear the area of the Sonoran Desert is under great stress from the prolonged drought.   What’s left of this cholla is now a packrat nest.  The ribs of this saguaro remain standing although the cactus is long gone.

The barrel cactus tend to lean to the south, as the north side grows faster.

The saguaro often are found with the palo verde trees, which provide shelter as they mature.

Healthy saguaros are abundant, the one below even has a cactus wren that is nesting within.  However the one in the background is not what it appears – it is affectionately called a ‘cell-guaro’. It provides the strong Verizon signal to the campers.

At the Nature Center the landscape is on a drip irrigation system allowing the plants to thrive.  The hummingbirds were feeding on a large chuparosa there.

Back at our campsite our little feeder was getting quite a bit of attention also.

Took this wren a few tries to figure out he needed to land sideways on the feeder to have any hope of getting a taste of the nectar.

We spotted this massive crested arm on a saguaro off North Usery Pass Road.

I always schedule a couple of days to enjoy unrelated baseball  options in the Phoenix area.  We rented a couple of eBikes and cruised around Scottsdale.  The shop is across the street from McDowell Preserve with all those awesome trails, but our rental bikes were not capable of riding on the trails.  But we did cruise past the Jalapeno Inferno … I’ve got to get back there!

Another day we rode the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.  We  first rode the Dolly on Lake Pleasant.  I have seen pictures of the relocation – not an easy task.  This is a beautiful ride with the canyon walls nearly 1000’ above the lake surface.

There is a section with caves along one of the cliffs, which provide homes to hundreds of bats.

A few years ago we took an evening cruise on the Dolly, also on Canyon Lake, and spotted over a dozen big horn sheep (link HERE), but only one today.

Afterwards we stopped at the tourist trap of Tortilla Flats for lunch.  There’s really not much here, but it sure draws the tourists.  The restaurant walls are covered with dollar bills.  This all started in 1974 when a Saudi laborer left a 500 riyal note in the tip jar.  It was pretty and unusual so it was hung on the wall.

The Mercantile did have a book with hikes just for me!

The only ballpark I have not been to is the Spring Training Home of the Chicago Cubs.  It’s a great venue, there’s not a bad seat.  There’s no vendors, or buildings between field and the fan.  Just the batter’s eye in center field.  No wonder it consistently sells out, it’s a great place to watch a game.

I was not impressed with their World Famous Chicago Dog.  Just different toppings on a regular dog IMHO.

We had another great time in the Valley of the Sun, including Usery's Ranger B's very funny and informative nature walks on rattlesnakes, cacti, etc.  But our week here is over and it’s time to head back to the beach.  A couple thoughts: 1. they drive FAST, not rude, just in a hurry to be somewhere else; 2. little solar in the valley of the sun … whatzup?

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too” ~Yogi Berra