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November 26, 2019

Observatory Campground - Mt Palomar

I knew my chance of seeing any of the Alpha Monocerotid Meteor Shower was zero, I'm too far west.  But I could hope that there would be a few outside the main event.  The east coast prediction was of 400 meteors an hour ... it was just too tempting.

Plans were made months ago to a spend couple nights on Mt Palomar at the Observatory Campground.  Even without the meteor shower, the sky would be moon-less ... perfect conditions for setting up my telescope.

I reserved site #40, a site with its own telescope pad, this is the same great site we had on our last trip here.

The East Grade Road from Lake Henshaw is an easier assent for an RV than the steep climb up the South Grade Road from Escondido.  There’s a nice viewpoint overlooking Lake Henshaw on the way, which would be an awesome stop on a clear day.

But today is not a clear day!  Fog and low clouds prevail, the predicted sun has not yet shown up.  

Not only was the meteor shower a dud on the east coast, it was in the midst of our first winter storm on the west coast.  Neither Fran, nor her brother Bobby, decided to join me.  Good decision!

There’s still patches of snow at my campsite.  No surprise I’m the only one here.

Last time here Fran and I took the Observatory Trail up to Palomar Observatory.  This time I only went as far as the Mendenhall Valley overlook to get a cell signal and text Fran of my safe arrival.

The trail is easy to follow despite being covered in oak leaves and acorns.

Overnight the temperature dropped to 24 F, a new low for the RV.  I never even considered setting up the telescope.  However, when I looked out at 4am the sky was clear and filled with stars, but it was 24 degrees!

It began warming quickly as the sun melted the frozen dew from the grasses.  A beautiful dawn, but another bitter night being predicted.

I decided not to stay another night.  But waited for the Visitor Center to open at 9 am.  When I arrived the snow was still being plowed from the parking lot.

The museum has improved several times over the years.  Definitely worth a stop.

The 200" mirror was brought to California from new York aboard a specially modified flatbed rail car.

The big dome housing the Hale Telescope is impressive against the blue sky.

The astronomer can still sit in the booth at the top of the yellow stairs, just below the 200” mirror.  However, most of the real science is done by the computers located well below ground level.

Campground Overview:
RVs up to 32’ are welcome, as are pets on leash although no pets on the trails.
There is a large presence of poison oak surrounding the campground and along the trails.
Hot showers take quarters

This is our go-to campground ($15/7.50), over either the Palomar Mountain State Park ($30) or Fry Creek ($15/7.50).
No cell service in the campground, nor at Palomar Observatory
No auto services on the mountain

The only restaurant on the mountain is Mother's Kitchen, a fun vegetarian/vegan restaurant 

image from shutter stock
I have added the pancreatic cancer purple ribbon to support Our Awesome Travels.  I had the pleasure of meeting George and Suzie last year at Pegleg Smith near Borrego Springs.  Instead of enjoying the warmth of the desert southwest, this winter George is fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer in Stratford, Ontario.  

November 22, 2019

The Fate of Clark Lake - Borrego Springs

To be fair The popular boondocking spot generally know as Clark Dry Lake along Rock House Road has always been private property.

California acquired the dry lake area surrounding the General Patton viewing tower several years ago, and although this property was for sale then, the state could not meet the owners asking price.

Well somebody final did meet that asking price and that favorite 160 acre boondocking spot has changed hands.

While the previous owner was only interested in the ‘water rights’, and allowed free use of the land, the current owner has closed off public access.

My understanding of how water rights work in the Borrego Valley is that the amount of land that is owned determines the volume of water that is allocated.  The land does not have to be contiguous, nor developed.

Let me use The Springs at Borrego as an example.  I think we all know who they are, awesome place!  Fee concerts and their own observatory too!  I've camped, golfed, seen the Kingston Trio FREE (TWICE!) ... they are just an example ...

But if The Springs wanted to expand and the property they current hold did not supply sufficient water rights, they could buy another parcel anywhere in the valley to obtain more water.

OK that’s the water part, but why close it off?  The Springs would not seem to have a motive for that ...

All the rectangles on this map are privately held.  The 160 acre parcel 2 is the one just sold and where we all boondocked at some time or another.

Rock House Road remains open, you can still get to the ‘Rock House’ and the glyphs.  But if there is a rougher road in Borrego I don’t know it.

Pegleg Smith has picked up a bit of the Clark Lake sunbirds.  As I type there are 16 units here and room for more.  Across the street the motorcycle folks have their area, but those 185 acres are privately held and currently for sale.

Where else to boondock near Borrego?  Truckhaven is open, as is Coachwhip.  I’ve camped at Arroyo Salado, which now has restrooms and great flowers in the spring.  Yaqui Pass is basically a parking lot, but can take any size rig and a nice hiking trail to the overlook.  There is a strip along the Borrego Salton Seaway between the road and the park boundary to the north that is available.

The gal at the chamber of commerce that showed me the map also laments the loss of “Snowbird Habitat”.  I like her description!

November 18, 2019

Amigos Car Club - Chicano Park

 Amigos Car Club of San Diego, was at the Bomb Fest at Mission Bay.  The club received special recognition for providing positive role models to the barrio youth.

The club was rewarded with its own pillar in Chicano Park to express the positive image of Lowriders and support of their history and the Chicano culture that they represent.

I saw on the news that many of the murals in the park are being refreshed and I suspected there would be a few cars from the club at the dedication of the pillar, it was time to revisit Chicano Park.  

This beauty leads the parade on the pillar.

a soccer-mom lowrider with 3rd row seating, follows on the pillar.

Pickup trucks too can be lowriding bombs, this Chevy is next on the pillar.

check out the truck bed with the hydraulic tanks.

Perhaps the most unusual, impressive, Bomb at the show belongs to club founder ‘Rigo’ Reyes.   It’s a 1929 Willys Knight in immaculate condition.

Well all the cars were immaculate, but it's not often I get to see a Willys Knight.

I mentioned that some of the murals are being restored as seen here by the white undercoat waiting for this overpass to be completed.

Work at the park and Senior Center has been completed and the vibrant colors restored.

Around 2PM the decedents of Azlan arrived in traditional Aztec dress to bless the pillar.
With drums, incense, dance and dueling conch shell horns.  

The ceremony took about an hour, now that's not something we get to see everyday!

November 11, 2019

Shrimp Festival - San Felipe

The 27th annual Shrimp Festival that marks the beginning of San Felipe’s high tourist season.  The festival is held the first weekend of November on the Malecon.  

Normally we'd cross the border at Mexicali, but the new crossing at Rio Nuevo is still a mess.  This trip we chose to cross at Tecate.  We enjoy this small mountain border town, I blogged our visit there a couple years ago HERE.

Just east of Tecate the free Mex 2 meets the Federal Mex 2D.  Mex 2 is a narrow two lane alternative to the 4 lane divided Mex 2D toll road, saving us $123 pesos.  Both roads join 50 km away at La Rumarosa, where the toll is a more reasonable $36 pesos.  

There is a 2-digit grade in places as it changes elevation between La Rumarosa and La Cuesta (The Slope).  However there are numerous pullouts to enjoy the view, while giving the brakes or transmission a bit of time to cool.  

La Cuesta provides ample parking, a nice restaurant, convenience store and a gas station.  When was the last time you were welcomed into a gas station by gals in short-shorts, dancing and waving banners?

Mex 2D, the toll road, from Tecate La Rumarosa is in excellent condition.    Mex 2, the free road, is a narrow 2 lane in pretty good condition.  Mex 2D from La Rumarosa is in excellent condition to the junction with Mex 5.  Generally Mex 5 south of Mexicali to San Felipe is also in very good condition, although, on this trip there was a minor detour around some bridge work.  

Fran's brother, Bobby, has a Beach House south of San Felipe at Bahia Santa Maria.  The road south of San Felipe always seems to be in need of work.  Sections of the road were covered in sand from a windstorm last month.

There is major road work to replace the vados with culverts on the Puertecitos road, adding additional detours.

However, the "Oh Shit Dip" at km marker 17 remains.  This is the worst of the vados!

When I opened the house I discovered a couple bats had made their home behind one of the storm shutters.

Well it is Bat Week!  Cute critters, aren't they?

The same windstorm that covered the road with sand, caused a storm surge that has eroded away our last 5 yards of beach.  Water made it into the house, ARG!  20 years ago there was 30 yards of beach in front of the house.  We often played volleyball there, now that is all gone, we might be the next home to be claimed by the Sea of Cortez.

With the house opened we find several outlets and lights are not working.  That's a common theme since the electrical wires run under the slab and short out when the water level rises.  Something else to deal with tomorrow, today is for the shrimp.

We arrived at the Malecon just before sunset, the kids' rides were ready for their first customers.

We like to sample shrimp, rather than a full meal from a single stand.  Costal Azul with Chipotle is one of my favorites.

What's not to like about spicy bacon wrapped shrimp?  Even better when I can find it stuffed with jalapeno and/or cheese.

Shrimp cocktails in spicy Clamato are a treat.

Live music and dance events on the main stage liven up the event.  The locals arrive early with their chairs for the performances.

They'll be waiting nearly an hour for the first performance, which is a Beatles tribute band.

The festival this year falls the day after Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Characters from the movie Coco.

By the time we left the party was in full swing

Back at the Beach House, we begin to move some sand and fill sand bags to help keep the water in the bay.

Doing this by hand is not going to do much good, but when a piece of equipment is not needed by the road work, it can be hired out.

We have less than a year left on the lease, hopefully the sand will last that long.

Otherwise we could well look like this house that's just down the beach
The birds seem to be best suited for dealing with the shifting sands

With what sand that could be moved in place we had time to relax.  Fran was the only one to kayak this trip, although we had some perfect days for it.

We all enjoyed some golf on our course - Bahia Santa Maria Executive North 8.  We lost one of our flags a few years ago making it an 8-hole, to make it an Executive 9 we have to play one of the holes twice.

At low tide I noticed a bunch of pots in the bay.

The shifting sands covered once productive clam beds.  This is an effort by Mexico to reseed the bay with clams.

It'll take time to see if this works, the locals have already raided the pots.

The Beach House is a one-bedroom, with a loft.  It's Bobby's house, he gets the bedroom.  The loft has 2 double beds, a queen air bed and a single roll-away bed.  Fran takes the nicer double and I take the roll-away onto the roof.  That may seem strange, but here's why:

Although I enjoyed a lot of shoulder activity from the Taurid Meteor Shower, I did not capture any with the camera.

The shrimp harvest was pretty good this season.  We came home with a few kilos of beautiful and tasty jumbo shrimp.

Although we will not have the Beach House much longer, San Felipe will still have the shrimp.