Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Parts

No, I haven't totally given up on blogging but I thought an explanation might be in order. I had been having problems with pain in my left hip for a few years.  At the end of last April I received an ultra-sound guided injection into the hip socket which helped immensely until it wore off,  a little over 3 months later. Things went downhill from there pretty quickly.

I was able to get an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix in mid-September. His evaluation showed severe advanced end-stage degenerative osteoarthritis- basically bone on bone. The only solution was a total hip replacement which was done on Nov 4. Everything went well and now I'm in the recovery phase. Amazing how the replacement was done and amazing that I was up and walking on the day of surgery. I'm getting around pretty well with the help of a walker and Brian has been doing a great job of taking care of me. He's even cooking meals and has been a rock throughout the entire process.

We're anxious to travel and have some more adventures, but this is what we need to do for now. Hopefully the recovery period, roughly 6 months to a year, will continue to go smoothly - my next follow-up appointment is mid December. In the meantime my mantra is 'patience, patience, patience.'

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sand Sculpting

While we were in the San Diego area we went to the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge which was held on Pier B in the downtown area. Rather than dealing with parking downtown, we parked the car in the free ferry lot on Coronado Island and took the ferry over to to Pier B. We had a nice boat ride and avoided the downtown traffic.
Eleven World Master sculptors from seven countries were competing in the Challenge. Each of the artists boasts a long list of international awards for their work and it's easy to see why. I've included the names of the sculptors with their work. The details of their backgrounds, educations, experience and awards are too much to include in this blog but are readily available on the internet should anyone wish to learn more about them. 

The sculpture above won the competition. When it was completely finished, it was about 12-feet high. Ilya Filmontsev of Russia created the figure and called it “Nostalgia.” It was an exquisite sculpture of a woman encircled in a robe that began at her feet as the Eiffel Tower, holding her head in her hand as she looked into the distance. We didn't stay long enough to see it completely finished, but what we saw was impressive - hard to believe this could be done with sand. Be sure to click on the photo to see the details up close.

There was a model that the sculptor was following next to the large sculpture. Many of the sculptors had models or drawings that they were using for reference, but not all of them.

Michella Ciappini from Italy is the sculptor of  'Surrender to Diversity'. She said that it is a statement against racism. The fierce crocodile could easily eat the smiling bunny, but they're getting along.

This one got my vote for People's Choice. There are a series of profiles layered one behind the other - I can't imagine how he did this. The title is 'Alpha Waves' and the sculptor is Fergus Mulvany. Not surprisingly with a name like that he's from Dublin, Ireland.

All of the profiles met at at this point with the little head in the middle.

This one is called 'Yell.' The sculptor, Benjamin Probanza, is from Mexico City. Probanza said that it is meant to be critical of not just combative individuals, but institutions that threaten people with militant behavior.

The sand sculpture on the backside, still being worked on.

This sculpture, called 'Rockin' Bobbin', is by Kirk Rademaker from Stinson Beach, California.

I wonder where the idea to make a Dali-like sewing machine came from.

I saw a picture of this one, 'Revealed' by Melineige Beauregard from Montreal, on the internet when it was completed. Ms Beauregard can be seen behind the center opening, sculpting a baby as it would appear in the womb.

'What is the Real Face' is by Agnese Rudzite-Kirillova from Latvia.

We were watching Susanne Ruseler from the Netherlands as she was working on her 'Armadillo' when it was announced that there were only two hours left to finish.

We didn't think she'd get it done with the same amount of detail on the entire sculpture, but she did.

'Out of Reach' is an appropriate title. It's by Thomas Koet from Melbourne, Florida.

'The Man Who Wasn't There' by Rusty Croft from Carmel, California is another one that really got our attention. Croft seemed to be having a good time and was talking to people while he was working, answering questions and describing his sculpture.

The quote that the sculpture is based on seemed familiar, so I looked it up.  It's from a poem called"Antigonish" written in 1899 by American educator and poet William Hughes Mearns. It's also known as "The Little Man Who Wasn't There", and was a hit song under that title. It was inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The back of the sculpture has a door that the artist said went to his break room.

The International Masters began their sculptures on Friday and had to finish by 2:00 on Saturday, the day we went. There was another competition of team sculptors from California called the Cool CA Carver Competition. Since the teams were beginning their work on Saturday and would finish on Sunday we were able to watch them and get an idea of how these sculptures are made. There are a couple of links that explain the process at How it's done  and

Special sand is used for this competition. Beach sand, like what’s used at many mega sandcastle competitions, is rounded and only holds when wet. The specially-quarried sand used in this competition is named Sorrento Blond after its place of origin in Sorrento Valley. It is coarsely ground to have sharp edges that interlock, enabling the sculptors to compact it into artworks with height and be able to carve cut-through holes. The sand is continually wet and compacted into the forms, making it almost like concrete. As we watched the sculptors, at times it seemed that they were indeed carving concrete and at other times they would gently wet the sand to do their carving. A variety of tools were used - it was all very interesting to watch.

This team of women had sculpted the top tier and were removing the forms from the next tier. They said that since this competition didn't allow any power tools, they had to use nails instead of screws. They were working hard with crowbars to get the form to come apart. From looking at the top tier, it appeared that this would be a sea sculpture of some sort.

These guys has also sculpted the top tier. It looks like they used come-alongs to keep their forms together.

This is a model of what the above sculpture was supposed to look like when finished. I took the following quote about the meaning of the sculpture from the San Diego Tribune.  

"Lady Liberty’s torch was the centerpiece of the work by the I.B. Posse, a three-man team competing for the amateur Cool CA Carver prize. Rising from the torch is a huddled mass of people, one of whom flashes a “V” for victory. “She’s passing the flame,” said artist Leonard Gonzales of Imperial Beach. “It’s a message for everybody in the world that we need to remember what Lady Liberty represents. To be united.”
Was it also a message about Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration policy? “It can be taken that way, depending on your interpretation,” he said with a grin, digging his trowel back into the sand."       Hmmmm.

Here are some links to more information about sand sculpting and some of the artists - and of course there's always Google for more info -

Monday, August 29, 2016

Catching Up

Now that we find ourselves in the San Diego area it's pretty obvious I haven't done much posting as we've worked our way down the West Coast. Time to catch up - some stops along the way included...

The Oregon Coast

We had a difficult time finding RV parks with space available this year, particularly along the Oregon Coast. One of the things we've always enjoyed about the RV lifestyle is the ability to make our own schedule. If we happen to really like a place we often stay longer than planned, if not we leave earlier than expected. When we were in Oregon most of the parks I called were booked up and could only fit us in for a night or two. That really limited our time in Oregon. In fact, we weren't able to do any wine tasting in the Willamette Valley because the parks were all full which was a disappointment for me. So we just moved along.

Too bad because it's a really beautiful coastline with some great beaches for walking.

Lots of little harbors and lighthouses.

Yosemite National Park

When asked what our favorite National Park is, we usually say 'Yosemite'. We made the decision to detour a bit to the Sacramento area where we spent some time with friends Ken and Kris, and from there up to Yosemite. Of course all the campgrounds near the park were fully booked, but we were able to find a spot on the south end near the town of Coarsegold. It took over an hour to drive up to the Park, but we spent a few days there and were able to do some hiking.

Unfortunately there were forest fires in the area so the skies were a bit smoky. As we've found in many places during our travels the last few years, the crowds and traffic have greatly increased. Nice that so many people are enjoying our parks, but it can make things difficult.
This view is from Glacier Point, looking down at Yosemite Valley. When we got down to the valley the traffic was bumper to bumper and finding a place to park was challenging to say the least.

As we drove down from Glacier Point we were able to pull over and park at one of the viewpoints overlooking the valley.

At this time of year, maybe because of the drought, Yosemite and Bridal Veil Falls, two of the most photographed falls, were only a trickle. However there was some water flowing over Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls which can be seen if you look closely at the photo below.

We probably visited Yosemite at the wrong time of year, something to keep in mind for next time. But, we still love it there!

California Wine Country

No way we could work our way through California without stopping in two of our favorite wine tasting areas, Lodi and Paso Robles. One of our favorites is Jessie's Grove in Lodi, where the zins are fantastic and made from some very very old vines. The vine above is 118 years old. The zinfandel vines are head-trained which means no trellises are used. The vines are dry farmed and prized for their production of small, concentrated clusters of grapes that produce incredibly rich and intense wines. I can verify that.


We were near areas where some of the big fires in California were occurring. We encountered smoke from the fire near Yosemite, and almost didn't stay in Paso Robles because of the smoke from the Chimney Fire which burned 46,000 acres to date, destroyed 49 homes, and is only 60% contained. On one of our Paso Robles days we drove to Morro Bay and Cambria which are on the coast. On the way back we saw smoke billowing from the Chimney Fire. It came within 2 miles of Hearst Castle, near Cambria, which is a National Historical Landmark that we have toured twice. Absolutely priceless art and antiques that may still suffer some smoke damage.

The Rey Fire was taking hold as we got to Santa Barbara to visit with friends Kathy and Dan. Some days were a bit smoky, but more imposing were the views of the fire on the other side of the mountain. It has burned 33,000 acres and is 68% contained as of today. No homes lost in this one.

The effects of the drought were apparent as we drove south. It's not surprising that California, along with other states, is facing so many wildfires.
Firefighters face incredibly hot temperatures, smoke, and many other hazards. I read that 500 firefighters on the lines of the Sobranes Fire near Monterey have been treated for the effects of the poison oak.  Lots of admiration and thanks to those men and women who put their lives at risk to put out these fires!

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

Redwoods are known as the tallest trees on earth and being able to hike through them is an amazing, awe-inspiring, humbling, magical experience. The Redwoods in California are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and California State Parks. We had been to several of the parks to the south, but this was our first trip to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It contains seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods left in the world within its 10,000 acres.

Jedediah Smith has some trees of truly stupendous size - perhaps not quite as tall as the redwoods to the south, but bigger in diameter. Somewhere in the park is the largest coastal redwood by volume, a tree that's exceeded in size, and not by much, by only seven giant sequoias. The tree's location is secret so that it can be protected from damage. In fact, a large part of the park is undeveloped with few trails and it will probably stay that way. With the increasing emphasis on conservation, parks have generally been moving trails and other facilities away from the old-growth redwoods. We understand and agree with that philosophy and were delighted to be able to hike the existing trails.

We began our day with a drive up Howland Hill Road, which passes through the center of the park. It's known as one of the best redwood drives anywhere. The road is narrow enough that we had to pull over if a car was coming the other way, but that just made the experience better.

Cut into a hillside, the road provides some nice views of lush vegetation and towering trees.

We hiked the Boy Scout Tree Trail and the Stout Grove Trail which have trailheads along Howland Hill Road. I can't even put into words what it's like to be in this giant redwood forest.

We tried to include one of us in each of our photos so that there would be some sense of perspective as to how huge these trees are. Looking at the photos, I realize that it was a good idea but there's really no way to show what being in the Redwoods feels like.  

The other Redwood National and State Parks include Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park. Together they are a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve,  protecting 45 percent of California’s remaining old-growth redwoods—an area almost four times the size of Manhattan.

An organization called 'Save the Redwoods League', established in 1918, the has protected nearly 200,000 acres of forest and helped create 66 redwood parks and preserves. Their informative website can be found at

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympic Pensinsual - Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh Rainforest is a part of Olympic National Park and is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. It gets an average of 140 inches of rainfall per year, so not surprisingly the trees are huge and moss covers pretty much everything.

We took a day trip from our park near Forks and did a little hiking. Brian is dwarfed by the tree in the photo below.

A typical moss laden tree.

Fallen trees are often called nursery trees because other trees will grow from them, as in the photo below. The nursery tree is visible between the roots of the other trees growing in the row.

Like other giant trees we've seen, these also have fairly shallow root systems that spread out, rather than down into the ground. The people in the photo below give some perspective regarding the size of this tree's root ball.

Great place for a hike, feeling like little ants next to these trees. My only regret is that we forgot the bug spray! With the amount of humidity we certainly should have known better.