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August 31, 2018

Otay Mesa Detention Center - and some south bay fun

My kid brother, Marty, is stopping over for a few days as he returns to his home in Mazatl├ín.  He has a nice 4 bedroom/4 bath house a block off the beach! and teaches English there most winters.
To celebrate we opened my last bottle of Monte Xanic and sat out on the deck just chatting. 
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Marty likes to stay busy and actively seeks ways to supplement his postal employee pension.  To extend his stay next year he has an interview with San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Center which is operated by CoreCivic, a for profit prison/detention center owner/manager. 

This is a secure facility with 2 layers of chain link fencing, each with razor wire, also an electric fence.  Although we are both going into the facility, he is the only one going past the lobby, still I was not allowed a camera nor cell phone past the first of the multiple electronic entrance gates.  So no inside pictures of the clean comfortable lobby. Hope the rest of the facility was as nice!
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Reuters did a post with pictures a few months ago from inside the facility that can be seen HERE.

His interview was for mailroom position including security of parcels/letters.   As a retired postal worker he is probably over qualified for the minimum wage position.  It's interesting that the Otay Mesa is the only facility that can expand in SoCal, as they look toward their future Marty took an interesting look at his own options!

As of this typing the facility can accommodate 1500 ‘guests’.  Currently with over 1000 Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) occupants (asylum seekers, illegal border crossers – who have committed no crime only an immigration violation) and over 300 occupants from the US Marshal's Office, these are legal US residents (not citizens) awaiting deportation for a crime (or crimes), after they have served their sentence in a US prison. 

BTW – no cell phones or cameras are allowed in the facility!   A fella was escorted into the internals of the facility for using a cell phone in the lobby.   I did not see him again.

After sitting for an hour, Marty in an interview room – me in the lobby, it was time for a walk’n’talk.  The Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is perfect, with a few miles of beach that is never crowded.  Can you tell Marty has been coached on how to pose?
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From the boardwalk, a log stretch of beach can be walked all the way to TJ at low tide.  It was high tide this trip, but Fran and I had a low tide a couple years ago.  That blog can be found HERE if you want additional info.  We had to turn back at the Tijuana River.
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Marty was the one in the interview room.  Stacking a few rocks to create a Zen garden seemed like a good idea.  But I’ll have to admit neither of us have the Zen gene to calm the rocks!
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I did not see any of the little Snowy Plover on today, but all of their breading grounds was behind the fence. Maybe next time.
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A nice long walk on the beach called for a beer, and IB has a very nice Coronado Brewing Company across from the pier, where we both ordered the fish tacos
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The Farmer’s Market had opened at 2, while we were having lunch.  Neither of us are in the least bit hungry, but the lumpia smelled so good …. we did split an order with a couple left for Fran.
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Lots of other fun choices, too.  I cannot remember the last time I had a ‘Spam Ball’, in fact Marty did not even know that Spam had balls!
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We needed to walk some more if only to negate the lumpia.  The IB pier was calling.  Looking north from the pier Coronado is in the distance.  The Tin Fish is a popular spot on the pier – insider tip …. skip the crab cake!

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I like a good Empanada too, and I can see Marty is tempted … But we left deprived – until next time!
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That was our day, trust yours was great too.  No Bad Days!

August 19, 2018

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – a brief visit with old friends

This is part 2/2 the way home from Grandview Campground.

1.  Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

From Grandview Campground it was only another 5 miles and another 1500’ in elevation gain to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and its Schulman Grove Visitor Center at 10,050’.  The oldest living trees (non-cloned) on earth live in this remote part of the White Mountains.
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The VC is open 10 AM to 5 PM during the summer.  There is a $6 fee, waived with the Golden Age  Geezer Pass.

This will be a long travel day and I will forgo the time it will take for the Methuselah Walk, a trail that is bit over 4 miles.  Fran and I have hiked this loop several times before, most recently in 2015.  I have that blog posted HERE.

However, I’d suggest reading Oh, the Places They Go! if you’re preparing for this ‘walk’.  It is obvious that Pam and John are retired educators, as they explain things really well, their blog can be found HERE.  Pam has much better information, however altho the walk is mostly shaded, I'd add take lots of water - it's high; it's dry.

The Methuselah tree was born 2,833 BCE, making 2018 its 4,851 birthday.  He is the younger sibling of another tree in the same grove born 3,050 BCE, whose discovery was announced in 2013.  They way predate the pyramids of Egypt (2589 BCE).  The stories they could tell if I would only take the time to listen.

However, I am here to do the Discovery Trail, a 1 mile loop from the VC.  Every time I’ve been here I’ve walked this loop, (with Fran, with one/both of the kids, by myself) hence it is a tradition.  There is a nice variety of the ancient trees on this loop, informative signs are posted along the trail, and rest benches to sit and enjoy the view, or listen to what the trees have to say.  The trail head is at 10,075’ with a 265’ elevation gain, carry water.  These are the old friends I have come to visit.

All the Bristlecone trees in the White Mountains are Great Basin Bristlecones, but they are not all the same.  There is a lot of unique features, for example the tree on the left has a straight trunk, while the one on the right has a twisted trunk.  The thing they have in common is that bristle on the cone.
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And one of each side-by-side.  The tree on the right is very much alive and has a straight trunk and twisted arms.  It’s one of my favorites.
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This monster is likely Kami’s favorite, she's taken dozens of pictures of it, with it’s twisted trunk and twisted arms.  It looks tortured, as it clings to the side of the trail.
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This tree is kinda boring with a straight trunk and straight arms, compared with its unique siblings in the same grove.  But notice the hill behind?  Just scrub.  Only the Bristlecone and Limber Pine trees survive in this high elevation with its dolomite soil.  By contrast the tree line in the Eastern Sierra is between 9,000 and 10,000'.
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Altho I saw no examples on this trip the cones can be normal looking tan/brown cones, or purple, or green, but all will have the characteristic bristle.  Just another example of the Great Basin Bristlecones continuing to evolve for the next millennia.

And a few wildflowers were still in bloom, not bad for these poor growing conditions.
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The White Mountains were once a shallow seafloor.  The sandstone was uplifted and fused into quartzite.
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For a detailed description of the Discovery Tral I’d have you visit Josh at California Through My Lens HERE.  Josh is really good at breaking things down, answering questions and replying to comments.

2.  Erik Shat's Bakkery

Arriving back at 395 in Big Pine, the way home would be a left turn to go south.  But the home of the world’s best turkey sandwich is found at Erik Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop, a right turn.  Aj might disagree she preferred the PB&J (home made strawberry jam and lots of peanut butter) last trip.  Regardless of the preference get it on the Original Sheepherder Bread.  Yup - I chose a right turn.

I get the blue ribbon winning #1 turkey sandwich, with  all white meat, without mustard/mayo, but with cranberries.  The detour was only 30 miles (R/T) out of my way, and worth it.  Heck I took Fran over 150 miles out of the way once, just for my turkey sandwich!  They also have pastries and such, I do not recall ever buying anything in this section.

3.  Olancha Sculpture Garden

Most every one has who has visited Borrego Springs has enjoyed the art of Ricardo Breceda.  If you’ve driven 395, then you must have noticed what Roadside America calls the ‘Junk Art of Olancha’.  I’d say Jael Hoffmann’s art is not junk, but quite thought provoking.

Be Kind Not Right (on the left) and Vicious Circle (on the right)
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The Fall (nothing to prevent the inevitable) and Cleaning House (removing the daemons from your life)
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Give and Take (leave a trinket in the Give Bucket and enjoy a trinket from the Take Bucket) and Caught.
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There are lots more sculptors to ponder.  A visit to Jael’s website displays the talents of this young lady.

The entrance to the garden is an unmarked dirt driveway just south of the Mobil station.  Be careful and with an eye on the traffic behind, it's not real big-rig friendly.

3.  Indian Wells Brewing

As most you know me, know I prefer vines over bines.  So why did I stop at Indian Wells Brewing?  They are founded at a pure artesian spring, and use this spring water while making their beers and sodas. 

Indians Wells Spring boasts California Historical Marker #457, which reads:
Indian water hole on Joseph R. Walker trail of 1834 where Manly-Jayhawker parties of 1849 found their first water after five days of travel from Argus Range. During 1860's was site of stage and freight station from Los Angeles to Coso and Cerro Gordo mines.
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Altho only the ‘Death Valley’ sodas are made locally with the spring water they have a remarkable selection of other sodas available.  Here’s some of the choices on the shelf.
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The grand-girls in a root beer phase. I bought a variety for a tasting, including maple, butterscotch and root beer float – no ice cream required.
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For those who prefer the bine, a list of their beers can be found HERE.  My high school friend was know as the ‘Red Pint’ as he would put tomato juice in his beer.  For Larry I tried a sample of the Mohave Red, not impressed.

4. The Musical Road

The Lancaster Musical Road is located on West Avenue G.  It is designed to be driven at 55 mph (in a Honda Civic or equivalent wheelbase) to reproduce the finale of the William Tell Overture.  It didn’t exactly sound like the Lone Ranger, while I was driving it in Rufus, but the tune was indeed recognizable.  Follow the link to see the Honda Civic commercial, it sounds a lot better than an RV.
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5.  Vasquez Rocks

From Lancaster I could drop into the Riverside and head home, but the Holy Fire has the valley filled with smoke.  The fire was 4,000 acres on my way up, it’s now 22,000 acres.  I’m so tired of smoke and heat I chose LA traffic over the familiar I-15 route and took 14 into Angles Nation Forest.  It’s the weekend, how bad can the traffic be?

The last good place for a leg stretch and getting a mind set before dropping in to the traffic of I-5 is at Vasquez Rocks .   Altho with a shorter resume than the Alabama Hills, it also boasts a century of film making.
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At the end of the dirt approach road is ample parking, level enough for the RV, even with the toad attached.
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One of the more notable movies filmed here (IMHO) was Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home.  This is where the planet Vulcan scenes were filmed.
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There are many trails that lead into and up the rocks.  A more nimble hiker with some time would have a very satisfying day here.
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There was not as much as I expected in the information center.  The volunteer on duty could not recall the first movie filmed here.  So here’s a couple displays of the more recent films.
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There was no ‘map’ of filming locations, as is available for the Alabama Hills.  I was told the hills are ‘mostly background’.

Altho the ever present Burbank Crawl slowed down the traffic, it was pretty easy.   At San Onofre I rolled down the windows and enjoyed the smell of the ocean.  However approaching Oceanside the traffic flow stopped.  There is an accident in Carlsbad and the ponies are running at Del Mar.  This is the worst traffic of the trip!
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For a few additional ideas that make this route an option I'd refer you to my blog of June 2016 HERE.  On that trip we stopped at the various Air Force displays, SpaceX and the Skunk Works.  We boondocked at Jawbone and hiked in Red Rocks State Park.  Details are at the link, which I hope will assist in planning your visit.

It was great week off the grid.  Saw some meteors, checked on some old friends, enjoyed a few spots along the way.  For sure there were No Bad Days!