Honey, the Ocean is on the Wrong Side

SD  056SD  008After having spent three and a half months crossing this big continent, we’ve finally arrived at our winter destination, San Diego, California. And will stay here for a couple of months.  To think that just last year around this time we were in Fort Lauderdale, Everglades National Park and Key West,  Florida. SD  050

SD  005And having started our westward journey at the northern end of Nova Scotia, it’s really exciting to have reached the opposite side of the U.S.  And we’re so happy to slow down the pace of travel, a welcome change after a lot of shorter stays in recent months.

I was fully prepared for cooler temperatures than we had in South Florida since San Diego’s latitude is close to that of Charleston, South Carolina, but the weather here has actually been warmer than normal for this time of year.  So we are very fortunate, especially in light of the awful weather that the rest of the country has experienced this winter.SD  094

SD  087Warmer days = happy tropical island girl.

And in our first couple of weeks, we’ve settled into the urban lifestyle.  We’ve strolled and biked along nearby beaches and their neighborhoods:  Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and La Jolla.

The Ocean Beach neighborhood is a standout, parts of it frozen in time in the 60’s, with some rasta flavor added in.

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SD  034At La Jolla, we spent a long time just looking at some adorable seals.  SD  033

And were lucky to catch a glimpse of a mom nursing her new baby underwater.   The lady standing next to us, who seemed to be in the know, informed us that the baby was one day old.SD  032

These guys make lots of funny faces and cute poses.  We could watch them for hours!

SD  086And Pacific and Mission Beaches are just around the corner, so we’ve visited a few times. We watched some beginner and experienced surfers flowboarding at the Wave House, an artificial wave machine where you can watch the action up close.SD  002

And every morning and evening we walk Angel by the shores of Mission Bay right by our RV park.  Angel is happy to be walking on soft grass and sand since some of those desert areas we visited recently were pretty rocky.SD  003SD  004

SD  043SD  045San Diego has lots of dog friendly parks by the water.  Angel visited Fiesta Island across the way from our campground, where doggies can go leashless.  And we went to the dog beach in Ocean Beach.  A really pretty place for dogs and humans.  Alas, the crab huntress found no crabs.SD  051SD  036SD  052SD  042SD  040SD  046SD  038SD  037SD  041

SD  081SD  077We also happened to catch the Chinese New Year Food & Cultural Fair.  It’s a small fair run by the San Diego Chinese Center, which serves as a cultural bridge between Chinese and non-Chinese communities.  The lion dances were especially fun and colorful.

SD  072San Diego also has lots of farmers markets, at least one every day of the week in various neighborhoods. We love farmers markets and visited four of them so far.SD  057

There are some small and some large ones and others that offer more arts and crafts than food.  Our two favorites so far are: the Ocean Beach (most funky) and the Hillcrest (most elaborate) markets.SD  065

And being food lovers, we couldn’t resist all the great ethnic food offerings and have found tasty and inexpensive Middle Eastern, East African, Vietnamese and Indian food, most at the farmers markets. And yes, we also sampled the famous In-N-Out burgers.

SD  092Oh, and Hector and I are taking some group swing dance lessons. We’d been taking ballroom dancing lessons two years ago before we left Denver but had to stop because of my foot surgeries.  So it’s fun to be back in the “swing” of things.

And the beautiful sunsets continue.SD  093

SD  006There is only one minor problem.  Hector, who has an excellent sense of direction, occasionally gets thrown off course because the ocean is on the “wrong” side.  Having lived most of our lives on the East coast, having the ocean on the west gets him turned around.  And I’m no help at all, since I’m directionally challenged no matter where I am.  But he’s getting used to it and becoming quite the California boy.  Could bleached blonde hair be next?SD  068

SD  007We’re having a fabulous time in San Diego.  This is an ideal spot to spend the winter.  Even though the ocean is on the wrong side.

~ Brenda

A Weekend in Kansas City

KC  013We stopped in Kansas City to visit our friend Theresa once again.  We had a great time last year when we stopped here, and she had some fun plans for us this time as well.

KC  001KC  002KC  004Our first stop was the Kansas City Farmers Market.  This continues to be one of the best farmers markets we’ve been to, although due to the lateness of the season, it was somewhat smaller than during our last visit here.  But the spice guy was still there and Hector stocked up on some fun spices.

There are also various ethnic eateries surrounding the market, and we had some yummy Middle Eastern food for lunch.

KC  016KC  015KC  017Then we went for a drive in the surrounding country.  We stopped at a The Farmer’s House Farm Market in Weston.  Proceeds from The Farmer’s House Farm Market are used to expand programs at The Farmer’s House, a non-profit whose mission is to offer an opportunity for youth and adults with developmental disabilities to learn practical vocational skills in a community integrated hands on work environment.KC  014

The market has special activities for the fall, and there were lots of kiddos around.  As for us big kids, we enjoyed the cut-outs and the costumes.

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KC  021Weston Bend State Park just outside the city has various easy but pretty hikes throughout the park.  We hiked on a trail that had views of the Missouri River and lots of trees.  Even though the fall colors hadn’t reached their peak yet, it was still a really beautiful hike.KC  018

KC  027We also visited Pirtle Winery, one of many wineries in the state.  Many of Missouri’s wines are sweet, and we prefer drier wines, but we did like a few of these wines.  The blueberry wine, while pretty sweet, was actually quite good with extra sharp cheddar cheese from Vermont.

KC  029We headed back to town to visit Oklahoma Joe’s once again.  This restaurant is located in a gas station – yes a working gas station – and is fabulous.  Anthony Bourdain listed Oklahoma Joe’s as one of “thirteen places to eat before you die.”  Check.

KC  036KC  037Angel had a short visit at one of the local dog parks and then we drove over to an overlook that features The Scout, a famous statue that depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape.  The statue was dedicated in 1922 as a permanent memorial to local Indian tribes.  And there’s a lovely view of downtown from the statue.

The next day was our 35th wedding anniversary and we planned a quiet dinner so we could get an early start the following morning on our westward drive.photo-5

So Hector and I went out to a romantic dinner that evening to celebrate our anniversary.  It’s been a wonderful and happy 35 years!  And this extraordinary journey is the best anniversary gift we could wish for.

And it was great to see our dear friend Theresa again and enjoy her hospitality in fun and beautiful Kansas City once again.

~ BrendaKC  038

Vermont’s Champlain Valley

burlington  076Okay, it’s official.  We LOVE Vermont.  Granted, she is wearing her beautiful autumn petticoat, but it’s not just the beautiful mountains and quaint towns we love, it’s the people and the vibe.  Huge focus on the environment and a pervasive local food movement.burlington  042

We stayed at North Beach State Park in Burlington.  From our campsite, we could walk to the “beach” at Lake Champlain, overlooking the Adirondack Mountains in New York.

burlington  036burlington  035Burlington is a college town and has been called one of the most livable small cities in the U.S.  Downtown has lots of restaurants, bars, art galleries and shops.  There’s also a pedestrian mall with more shops, street vendors and performers.  And of course, there is the waterfront at Lake Champlain.burlington  034

burlington  071burlington  012As we went for one of our leaf peeping drives in the area, we found more of the charming covered bridges that Vermont is famous for.   In fact, Vermont has the largest number of covered bridges in the United States, there are just over 100!  Sadly, during Hurricane Irene two years ago, two covered bridges were destroyed and many sustained some type of damage.burlington  070burlington  013burlington  021burlington  065burlington  066burlington  064

burlington  041burlington  063But back to Burlington.  We toured the town, located the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop 🙂 and did a little shopping,burlington  031

The next day we went to the farmers market, a good size market with lots of great food.   Lunch options included Peruvian, African, Indian and others.  And we found more great cheese and many options from local farms that focus on sustainability.  Many of the offerings were organic as well.
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That evening, we went to that most traditional of Vermont activities:  the reggae party cruise ;-).   We noticed announcements about the cruise at the farmers market.  It sounded like a one time deal, as opposed to the typical tourist cruises, and was featuring a singer who was “actually from Jamaica”. We love being on the water and we love reggae, so it was a perfect combination.

We realized that the party was going to take place not on a regular tour boat but on one of the car ferries that goes over to New York – interesting.  It had been raining on and off since we arrived in Vermont, but fortunately, this was a perfect afternoon for a sunset cruise.  Clear and calm. burlington  037

burlington  043And so we set off with lots of college students and a few other older fogies like us. Well, as a genuine island girl I must say the reggae music was just ok, but the setting was fabulous.  We watched the sunset from the party ferry, had a few rum punches and danced.  A great time.burlington  052burlington  050burlington  045burlington  044burlington  055burlington  053burlington  051burlington  048burlington  049

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burlington  081We continued our leaf peeping by driving out to some other areas near Burlington, including Stowe, a very well known ski area.  The back roads of Vermont are stunning.  We often would just turn down a random road to see what we would find and more often than not would be rewarded with a beautiful scene.  burlington  068burlington  019burlington  025burlington  080burlington  003burlington  067

burlington  020burlington  008burlington  001burlington  026burlington  011burlington  079burlington  009burlington  083burlington  002burlington  088burlington  028burlington  085burlington  029burlington  086burlington  005burlington  077burlington  007burlington  084burlington  010burlington  017burlington  018burlington  075burlington  069burlington  073The weather was variable with some sunny days and some cloudy “white sky” days.  But the fall leaves were stunning just the same.

And we found more of those beautiful covered bridges.  Why were these bridges covered anyway?

burlington  014burlington  006There are theories that they were covered so the horses wouldn’t get spooked when they realized they were above flowing water, or to protect the flooring from snow.  But the real reason is that they were covered to protect the structural members – the trusses.  That is why most have lasted so long.

burlington  022burlington  082burlington  015And another thing, the covered bridges were sometimes called “kissing bridges” because couples could kiss in private.  So Hector and I decided to stop the car in the middle of one of the bridges that had a sign saying “kissing bridge” and kiss.

A woman was driving to the bridge from the other side and, rather than getting irritated at having to wait, gave us a big thumbs up.  I love Vermont.

~ Brendaburlington  089