Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last day in Marin

Heading out tomorrow morning for points northward.  I had a nice day today working on a painting of the Estero section of Reyes Point.  Its still a work in progress, but I'll show it to you warts and all.  this is 18 x 24 inches, feels good to stretch out a bit.

… and here's a lovely flower from Helen's garden…

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Foggy then Sunny Marin

Another pleasant day at my aunt's in Marin county.  As usual for the summer here, it started out foggy:

But it starts to burn off around 10.  Here's Mt. Tamalpais as the clouds are just leaving…

Its so nice to be able to relax and paint!  I don't have much to show for myself yet… here's a work in progress of my aunt's garden with Mt. Tamalpais in the background…  I've started a bigger one of the Reyes Point area - nothing to show for it yet...

I found a note I had made to myself on the trip here.  I was starting a "Top Ten Things I've Learned on the Trip so Far."  So far I only have 5, but here ya go:

10.  Despite the inconveniences, its good to bring your dog along.  (Especially such a GOOD dog as Theo).

9.  You know you're going slowly when you are passed by school buses (in the rain in Missouri).

8.  65 is fast enough (in a tall 24' RV - esp if there's wind).

7.  Wash your windshield EVERY morning (and when you get fuel - esp. in the scenic areas).

6.  It never hurts to have your freshwater tank at least half full.  You never know when you might be parking in a WalMart parking lot.

5.  Americans are friendly people (for the most part).

… I'll fill in the rest as I move along…  : )

Friday, May 29, 2015


Just so you know - my brother came through his hip surgery fine, and he's recovering well.  I talked to him this morning and he had such a good attitude and was looking forward to some PT and a full recovery.  Phew!  Such a relief!

When I went to take Theo for our first walk of the day, look who was walking up the street by Mac!  Aunt Helen said they sleep in her yard…

...and then, Finally!  It felt so good today to have some down time to get the paints out and get to work.  I'm seeing that I really do need a little time to get the momentum going to paint.  So today I did some little "catch - up" on paintings, including doing a little study of George Husmann as a thank you to my brother's professor friend who helped us solve our Mac parking issues in Columbia, MO.  Thanks Richard!  George was involved in the successful winemaking in Missouri before prohibition.

then this afternoon we went into town and bought some larger canvas….that's going to be sooooo nice… We got set up on a card table on Helen's porch.  T had some needed down time to snooze.

Helen was telling me that her mother, Mae, would travel around and paint.  See - its in my blood!  Here's one of Mae's paintings.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Point Reyes

My Aunt Helen provided her usual gracious welcome to her sunny home in Marin county.

When I went down to the guest room, this sweet bouquet greeted me…

… and to go even further - even though she is a cat person - she researched dog-friendly spots for us.  So very kind!  So we headed out to Point Reyes today, only to find that there were specific seasonal closures to dogs because of the different needs of wildlife, such as the mating season of the northern Elephant seal.  

Theo certainly understood, he wasn't going to go down any trails that bothered mating seals, so we stayed off the trails.  It was a bit windy and chilly too, which aided our decision!  But the view was spectacular, and very inspirational.  And from Chimney Rock we were able to hear the seals, and see them through the Binoculars...  then Aunt Helen held Theo for me while I walked a ways down the path to see the seals at closer range.  Way cool.

On the way back we stopped by the Estero section of Point Reyes.  The wild mustard was blooming.  Helen said many of the flowers blooming were ones that normally bloom in July, not May.  I think we are witnessing the effects of too many humans using too many resources on this small planet.  Its painful to me...

But anyhow, we are carrying on.  Aunt Helen was very sweet to take me on this excursion.  And topped it by buying me lunch at a dog-friendly Mexican restaurant on the way home, and then picking up fresh Dungeness crabs for dinner tonight.  Lucky me!

But on a sad note to the day, I just heard that my brother was in a bike accident in Missouri and has to go in for hip surgery.  He's a healthy, resilient guy, but I'm sending him some good energy and healing thoughts.  He has been feeling so good lately, I'm so sorry this happened.  LOVE YOU Pete.  Hang in there.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sunny Marin..

Had a great visit with my cousin Ross and his wife Karen and kids Natalie and Ian.  I got a photo, but Ian had taken off… so here ya go:

Took T for a nice walk along a section of Stevens Creek park/trail that Ross has been active in forming… Theo was especially appreciative of the water fountain that included a dog bowl.  Pretty snazzy…

Yesterday he gave me a tour of the house they've been remodeling in Carmel.  They did a tremendous job - its beautiful.  Here's the view from the dining room:

…and I really like a combination of patterned stone and wood they used around the fireplace and bar:

I spent the night at their Mountain View home and then T and I snuck off early before the rush hour traffic and headed toward San Fransciso to see my aunt in Marin county.  I stopped at a sunny Vista point on the way and looked at the San Francisco fog I was going to descend to.  Spooky!

I was a little early, so Theo and I decided to stop at the Marin Headlands and admire the ocean and have a late breakfast.  It was beautiful.

There were some guys surfing.  I asked one of them what the water temperature was:  54 degrees.  I said "You guys are tough!"  His reply:  "Nah, this is warm, its when it gets down around 48 that it starts getting cold."

Braver souls than I!

Then we came on over to my aunt Helen's.  So good to see her.  She saved a good spot for Mac to park.  She was happy to see me too!  Woo hoo! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carmel next morning

Theo and I were up early and got out for our walk.  It is a misty moisty morning.  Its greener here because of that - they get the drippy fog off the ocean so it doesn't feel quite as parched as other areas of the state.

Here's a shot I took yesterday of the olive trees and solar panels.

…and yesterday the poppies were open (my cell camera insists on focussing on the background…oh well, you can enjoy the color ; )  Think of it as an impression of a poppy.

One thing that strikes me about some areas of California (and I remember noticing this the last time I was here) is the lack of summer night sounds.  Where I live in coastal NC the summer nights are full of the sounds of crickets, cicadas, sometimes frogs… here it is eerily silent…

I have been enjoying watching the quails in the yard here - I think they are the Valley (sometimes called California) quail.  They have that little top knot on their head.  See for a description…Here's a photo from their site:

Monday, May 25, 2015


Ok, I have to admit (between you and me) that a county park on Memorial Day weekend with competing Mariachi music on boosted stereo systems can get a little old…we were ready to head out.

The mornings were nice though, before the music started blaring.  Theo and I enjoyed the park.  I think its a good spot to visit during the week.  That is so true for so many parks! So, we got up early this morning and had our last walk at Santa Margarita Lake.  It was lovely.  At one point, I said to Theo:  "Look, T!  Aren't these grasses lovely!?"  and he was like "what?  where? is there a rabbit or something?"  oh well… its hard to teach the finer points of artistic observation to a dog.  But Theo does try…

So we headed out on a not-too-difficult drive to Carmel.  Only  2 1/2 hours.  Our kind of day.  I got to the address on the GPS of the vacation house my cousin had offered me for parking the RV and was a little confused - no house of that address there!?!… I had been here before, but couldn't remember how to get there...

Of course I didn't have the cell number for the cousin who owned the house and he was on vacation, so I called my other cousin (his brother) and got specific directions (you know, along the lines of, Oh you have to take that private road, and the steep switchbacks and then take the first fork to the left and then its the driveway between the olive trees and the solar panels! etc.) …

 I decided to walk it first with Theo to make sure there weren't any low limbs that might impede Mac.  We got about halfway and, out of breath, decided it looked good enough  Once I saw the road, though, we decided to go get groceries first and then "climb the mountain."  It wasn't that far, but it was a steep grade.  Mz. Mac made it - in first gear all the way, bless her heart!  Its a lovely spot and we are grateful to be able to camp here for the night.  Even got a hot shower - a quick one given the drought conditions… but nice to have a spot to rest - quietly! - for the night.  This is a beautiful area… and no stereos blasting within miles… ahhhh… Thanks Ross and Karen!  Nice to be here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nice to have a break

Gosh its nice to stay put for a couple days!  Really need to slow down the pace…

Theo slept all day yesterday.  Glad to see the bounce back in his step today.  We had an early morning walk around a small hill to see the other side of the lake.  There's a little more water there, but you can see its still about 50' below normal… 

Its been so nice to relax.  I had a little campfire last night, and I realized that's the first one I've had on this trip - and I'm over 3 weeks into it!  Rushing too much… Look at the beautiful old oak tree by my site.  Its a beauty...

I've also had time to observe more of the critters around here.  We have gophers!  And I was admiring some beautiful swallows.  I looked them up:  Violet-Green Swallows.  We don't have those on the east coast… I couldn't get a photo, so here's a link from All about Birds to the Violet-Green Swallow.  I've also seen some sapsuckers, an eagle, heron, scrub jay, and a whole host of vultures warming themselves in the sun in a large tree this morning.

Within an hour of putting out my little hummingbird feeder, I had a visit from a black-chinned hummer.  Sweet!

Saturday, May 23, 2015


…Santa Margarita Lake, to be exact…

What a lovely little county park - and dogs are welcome on the trails here (unlike the state parks, which I understand, but still…).

Long day getting here yesterday - I will report on it, but I have a slim internet connection here, so I'll start with now and then see how far back we can go!

When I drove up to the check-in booth for the park yesterday and they were looking up my reservation, she said "You got the best campsite in the park!"  I told her I had checked the satellite image online, esp. because I like shade for Theo.  It *is* a lovely spot.  I was a bit worried because the sign said no RVs larger than 20', but I knew the spot was 30' x 40' so I chanced it.  So glad I did.  (Mz. Mac is 24').  Its the last spot on a little hill with a 280 degree view all around and lots of privacy and old trees… Here's one of the views from my campsite, with the almost dried-up lake...

As we headed out on the walk, we were greeted with this sign.  We decided to eschew the back country trail and stick to the well-traveled lakeside trail!

Its going to be a wonderful spot to relax for a day or two…  Theo and I need a break.  He got his first proper walk this am, and now is snoozing away.  Here was one of the views from our walk.

The four-hour drive here took us about 6 hours - partly because we took lots of breaks, and I stopped in Bakersfield to buy a new coach battery for Mac.  We started out across the Mojave desert - I was hoping our 7 am start would avoid some of the wind.  Nope!  Strong headwind.  That slowed us down too.  I was doing 60 mph in a 70 mph zone…  Then as we come off the desert we head toward these beautiful hills - and at the base of them, hundreds of windmills!

I was admiring that beautiful cloud, until I had to drive through it going over the mountain!

Luckily it didn't last long, and I just followed the lights on a big mac truck - no problems… We got here!  As I said, I'm up on a little hill and from Mac I don't see campers - there are a bunch down below, but no one near me.  Quite nice.  : )

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Watercolor studies

These are works in progress, but it felt good to get some creative juices flowing.  I like watercolors.  These are of a view on the way to Cape Royal in the Grand Canyon (I posted a photo a couple days ago).  I liked the composition and wanted to play around with "reserving the white paper" for the snow-capped mountain.

..and here's another, going more geometrically abstract...

One thing that really struck me on this visit was the distinct line that occurs at the top of the canyon.  Its where the trees meet the ridge, but its a beautiful crisp line.  I'll try to insert an arrow on the photo below to show you where I'm looking:

Its hard to describe.  There were a couple of guys with fancy cameras at Point Royal and I pointed that out to them and asked if they'd ever been able to capture that in a photo.  One of them looked, then looked at me and said he'd never even considered it (and it seemed that he wasn't about to either!)  Oh well!  It struck me as wonderfully beautiful.

Still Nevada...

Good morning!

I decided to get one more thing checked out on Mz Mac before crossing the Mojave desert, so Theo and I splurged and stayed in a hotel last night just outside Las Vegas.  No, we didn't play the slot machines, I had a long hot shower and went to bed early.

Trying to make use of this down time to play around with some watercolors.  Here's a shot of my setup.  (I have this cool little thingy that attaches to my cell phone - like a tiny tripod - so I can take photos with the timer.  For this one I set the cell phone up on top of the TV, zoomed in on the palette, hit the timer and ran back to the seat).  Theo thinks I'm nuts.

Hopefully I'll have a couple watercolors to post in a bit.

My mom asked me if I was lonesome.  I gave a resounding "No!'  Then we both laughed… I've been visiting people along the way, and will see more in the next section of the trip.  But I like time alone (not truly alone, I have my trusty companion Theo, of course) … and I have phone calls and emails daily with friends and family.  

I am also intrigued by how many people looked surprised when I told them I was planning the trip by myself.  I've found that towns across the United States are often quite similar in terms of friendly people. We Americans tend to be a friendly lot… and I've never been afraid in a state or national park - there are always other campers around and ranger nearby… I think maybe people are afraid because of what they see on TV, but that's not the real world.  I say  "Turn off TV, turn on life."

Theo says "Chew on a bone and take a nap."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Theo and I bid adieu to the Grand Canyon yesterday… took a little walk before the long drive to Nevada.  Love the aspen trees.  (Remember you can click on an image to see it larger).

Then we hit the road for Lake Mead, Nevada (near Las Vegas).

The lake was really really low.  I've been seeing that a lot on this trip.  Many of the river beds through Utah and Nevada were completely dry.

I stopped at a campground about an hour from Las Vegas.  There was no shade, it was 80 degrees and rather barren.  Theo and I decided to push on down the road another hour… That took us to the "Lake Las Vegas" campground, also within the Lake Mead National Rec Area.  This one was like an oasis in the desert! 

 A little strange, but Theo and I were glad to find some shade.  And there were some mountain views.  I pointed out to him that we went from 28 degrees that morning to 82 degrees that afternoon.  It cooled down nicely at night though.  We slept well...

However, the cold at the Grand Canyon must've done in the battery in my coach (the one that runs the RV stuff like the water pump).  I'll need to stop in Henderson this morning and swap it out for a new one.  

Then, it's "California, here I come!"  Theo says "Woof!"

Monday, May 18, 2015

Grand Canyon, day 2: Cape Royal

Theo and I got up really early again (guess that's easier when you're coming here from Eastern time).  The vistas of the Grand Canyon are so much nicer in the morning light, and without the crowds, and few people seem to get out early, thank goodness.

We took the slow winding road toward Cape Royal's "stunning vistas."  They are! … with many nice views along the way… I found this sign interesting:

Saw my first Kaibab squirrel!  They live only here - on the north rim and Kaibab forest.  He's a little fuzzy, but you can see his tufted ears and white tail.

Ok, later I went to the visitor center and bought a postcard of the Kaibab squirrel - here's what they look like:

This was one of the views en route, you can just make out the snow-topped Humphrey's Point in the background.  Its near Flagstaff, and is the highest point in Arizona...

…and here's part of the 280 degree view from Cape Royal.  Just can't do it justice.

Theo had to stay in the van - dogs aren't allowed on the trails here.  So now we're off for a little walk in a dog-friendly area.  Starting to cloud up!  Still cold!  Was 29 degrees this am…

Today would have been the 24th anniversary of my marriage with Jim.  That's one of the reasons I wanted to be here today, May 18.   Nothing like the ancient weatherings of the Grand Canyon to remind you how short our time is here.  Enjoy it!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Grand Canyon!

We made it!  Theo and I arrived at our campground near the Grand Canyon yesterday afternoon...No cell reception there so this am we came on up to the North Rim visitor's center and there is just a bit of reception...hope I can post a photo…

Yay!  It took awhile, but there you have it…  Here's one with the skyline properly aligned:

The canyon is still a thrill...takes my breath away.  Today we have bright blue was 28 degrees this morning!