Wednesday, April 29, 2009

San Diego Wild Animal Park, pt. 2

Ken and Doug at the entrance to the park. Ken's scooter really had a workout, from hills to gravel paths.
The meerket enclosure. They are such neat social creatures.

A beautiful gazelle of some type.

The tram took us around the wild animal park in about a 20 minute tour. I wish I'd known there was a photo tour you could take. You're in a open jeep that spends a couple hours inside the individual enclosures, allowing a close encounter with the wildlife.

The trip to San Diego was fun and a nice break from Alaska. Time to face reality and head back to cold, snow and an active volcano.

Monday, April 27, 2009

San Diego Wild Animal Park

This enormous wildlife sanctuary contains a vast collection of animals from all over the world. It also was the location for much of the Jurassic Park movies. A tram takes you though the park with stops to see animals roaming free.

Walking trails cross streams and waterfalls. Along with the wonderful animals are all types of plants showcasing tropical plants from all over.

It's a beautiful place to spend the dayl

Don't ask me. It's an antelope of some type.

Don't you love flamingos?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Balboa Park and Car Musuem

So I'm a sucker for playgrounds! This was the first time I'd encountered a playground with a rubber sponge floor. Like walking on springs.

The entrance to the Aviation Museum, which I didn't get to go through. A beautifully restored SR-71.

Some of the cars in the Automotive Museum. This is my favorite.
Beautiful cars restored to works of art.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scenes around San Diego

One of the huge railroad layouts in the Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. This museum is an act of love. Many of the layouts are exact replicas of railroads of eras past, including replicas of the towns, mines, railroad trestles, parts of San Diego's railroads and ports. Future replicas are laid out in design and photos to show what is being built.

The Botanical Gardens inside of Balboa Park. The most beautiful orchids are in this garden. It smells wonderful and the trickle of small waterfalls throughout this building make it a wonderful place to walk.
The Botanical Garden building. A wonderful place to spend several hours.

This building is a replica of a theatrical hall in Europe. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about it except that it's beautiful.

One of the many waterfalls in the park.

A few miles away is an indoor go-cart track. Very fast, very loud. After 20 minutes of screaming around the track I had enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

San Diego, the USS Midway

My best bud Ken and his son Doug, on the way to the USS Midway. Ken has trashed his knees and we rented a scooter for the trip so he could get around. Doug lives in San Diego and is retired Navy.

The Navy has taken the aircraft carrier USS Midway and turned it into a museum. They did a wonderful job, both exhibits on the Navy, the history of the carrier and the service it had during it's long history starting in WWII. This is the flight deck, basically the runway.

The bridge and conning tower. Many jets and helicopters are on display on the flight deck, showing the history of the aircraft that have operated off the carrier.

Ken enjoying the aircraft on display. He and I are both ex-Air Force and our love of aircraft generates a lot of friendly discussion. He played with the big planes, I played with the fighter jets.

The last aircraft I worked on was the F4E (the Phantom) in the Air Force. The Navy had their own version. I will always have a soft spot for it. Long retired, the only ones still flying are in the National Guard, in South Korea. I suddenly feel old.

Ken and Doug at the bow overlook. Ken's scooter couldn't quite make the climb back up the incline and Doug had to push.

And of course, the restored WWII fighters. From the Mustang, the Corsairs, the P51, they were all on display. Beautiful works of art, some with fancy paint jobs. There were several simulators in the hanger bay for people to try with 360 degree action. As close to flying as you can get. Kids were lined up for all of them. I would have loved to try one. The Midway is well worth a day or more to see all the exhibits and history.

Monday, April 20, 2009

San Diego, April 2009

I took a week and traveled to San Diego a couple weeks ago. Alaska is in the middle of breakup, a volcanic eruption and that equals mud, mud, mud. Time to go somewhere else, smell the flowers, sit by a pool and relax.

Downtown San Diego is so different from Anchorage. Beautiful, warm, clean and full of glass towers. Do you know I didn't see a single dirty car the whole time I was there?

Wide sidewalks, beautiful landscapes and places to enjoy the green grass. I could enjoy this area for a very long time. If only it wasn't to expensive to live there.

The scenery around the waterfront, from the deck of the USS Midway. The beginning of April and everything is green and blooming.

Amazing statue. A tribute to the Navy sailors returning to port after sea duty.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last day on the caravan

Our last day out we had to pick up the pace. A storm front was blowing in. The beautiful blue sky went to clouds in a matter of hours. The forecast was for high winds and rain.

As we lost the sun we turned our camels toward a river crossing. The depth of the water changed based on the rain falling upstream. So did the speed of the current. Our guides gave us the option: find a camp site; hunker down and wait out the approaching storm or push on, cross the river, and make for our final destination. We elected to press on. With a storm coming, the temperatures were starting to drop. Camping didn't hold a lot of comfort for the night.

The river crossing. The posts and guide ropes gave us a straight level place to cross, with the water about knee to waist deep. If the current was fast, the ropes gave us something to hold onto. We took off our shoes so we could feel the gravel and sand as we crossed and keep our shoes dry.

We had to walk across the river while our guides walked the camels; we couldn't ride in case the camel slipped. Anything we didn't want to get wet, we carried. Like our backpacks. Of course that also meant that if we slipped, any packs we were carrying, would be wet.

Camels love the water. They tend to ignore anything they're carrying and roll in the water.

So we had to watch them closely and if one started to kneel in the water to roll, the rest would follow. We had to make sure nobody got the bright idea to take a bath.

Our last sunset. True to the forecast, a storm moved in that night and the rain/wind pounded the ranch where we ended our trip. We would have had a cold wet night if we'd elected to camp out. A warm bed and shower never felt so good.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Camel Caravan along the beach

When a camel has to traverse uneven ground, like the side of a hill or a gully, our sure footed guide, Joe, led the way. He was the 12 year old son of our camel drivers. Very knowledgeable, very talented young man, who knew the local plants, birds and all the trails along the dunes. He ran in front of our camels the whole trip, pointing out things of interest.

One of our camels. They were very gentle and friendly. For all the bad reputation, camels are wonderful smart animals. I actually fell off my mount when I was trying to get off on the third day. The rest of the trip I had a camel guardian keeping an eye on me. He actually kissed me on the cheek when I successfully got back into the saddle.

Riding off into the sunset.

Joe, waiting on us to move out to the next stop.
The sand dunes we rode across.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Camel Caravan

I shared a tent and 'swag' with 2 other ladies. A swag is a rolled up sleeping bag and quilt combination, with a foam mattress. The swag is protected by a canvas cover that can be waterproofed in case you're sleeping without a tent. Put 3 people into a small tent and body heat warmed it up nicely. The wonderful thing about camping so far into the wilderness is the night sky. I spent hours gazing into the Southern Sky, using a red flashlight and star charts to identify the southern stars not visible from Alaska. My tent mates did not appreciate my love of star gazing in the wee hours. They found that I was a warm furnace at night and was necessary for them to sleep in comfort. After a night's sleep under the Southern sky it's off on the next days' adventure.

Breakfast done, camels saddled, chuck wagon packed and we're on our way. Like horse back riding, it's necessary to take breaks to ease legs and backs from riding. Camels have a different motion from horses and in my opinion much more comfortable for long distances.

Lunch in the dunes. The camels carried saddle bags with water, blankets to sit on, lunch supplies for everyone, a small gas stove and a 'billy' for heating water. A 'billy' is a camp coffee pot, suspended on a tripod. When you dismount from a camel, it kneels, first the front legs, then the rear. Once you dismount, a strap is placed around one folded front leg to keep the camel from getting up. Camels can actually 'crawl' for short distances with their leg restrained.

We learned quickly to carry treats in our pockets for our mounts. And they learned just as quickly who carried them. A curious camel can knock you over looking for things in your pocket.

Our lunch stops in the dunes were only one ridge from the ocean. Miles and miles of sand and scrub brush.

The ocean we rode along. White sand beaches, no people, and the occasional tire track. The currents were straight from Antarctica. Too cold to swim in. Just like Alaska waters.