A cool boat pops up for sale in San Diego
It looks clean...
Leaving St. Vincent headed for St. Lucia
New Year's Eve on the conveyor belt at JFK airport
Sea trial of the cool boat...
...suspending it for a while...
...and having the surveyor tap the hull to check
out its integrity.
San Diego gives us a warm
"Sea Dragon," one of San
Diego's Urban Trees, greets
us at Seaport Village.
A mom captures herself and
kiddies in a self-portrait
This fellow was balancing rocks
in impossible positions.
Hot Licks has every hot sauce
known to man.
A retired Navy officer shares
tales of war on the high seas
The Bob Hope commemorative statue park.
Back on the boat it was time to take delivery.
Offshore delivery involves proving that the boat
was signed over from seller to buyer "offshore"
The seller's captain signs off.
Groovy is officially ours... What did we just do??
Proud new owners
For two weeks we call Kona Kai marina home.
Surfin' community Ocean Beach
sports a lot of funk.
A street musician entertains us
at Ocean Beach
Now that's a coffee kiosk!
Prepping for our sail to Mexico.
Our test sails are a blast.
A schooner slips past in the distance
The sun feels good. Hard to believe we
were in short sleeves a few days ago.
A happy family moment as the desert dwellers take to the sea.
A New Chapter: Groovy
January, 2010 - I have mentioned John Lennon's insight that "life is what
happens to you while you are busy making other plans" elsewhere on
these pages, and once again, while in Carriacou, those words proved so
true for us. I have long had a dream of going cruising in a sailboat and
have gradually lured Mark into this dream. His response has ranged from
all smiles to the rare bout of kicking and screaming, but he finally agreed
to purchase a boat a year ago.
The boat buying process left us so stressed out last May that we got into a
fender bender with the trailer in California and ended up touring Michigan
by car and motel for seven weeks while the trailer was repaired and while
We returned to the
trailer determined to let the boat idea slide for a while, but found ourselves
glued to Yachtworld, the online MLS for boats. Every time we got online to
check for email, no matter where in the world we were, we did a quick check of
When we went to the Caribbean for the winter we vowed not to look at
Yachtworld any more. But one afternoon, while sitting out on our balcony,
Mark slipped up and took a quick peak. "Wow! Look at this!" He jumped out of
his patio chair. A boat we had seen for sale almost a year earlier was back on
the market, but this time hugely discounted as a foreclosure. I shrugged it off.
It would be gone by the time we got back to the States. But over the next few
days, Mark wouldn't let it go. The bank had an online bid form, and one afternoon
Mark entered a bid. "Sweety, what do you think of this?" He asked as he went to take
a shower. Aw heck, that was much too high! I lowered his number by $10k and clicked Send. 30 minutes later we got an email
saying the bank had "respectfully" countered our offer by $1,500. Holy cow! Now what?? Dash away from paradise to the hurly
burly of buying our dream boat for an amazing price in the middle of winter, with the very real chance that things could go awry
and leave us empty-handed, or stay on swimming and walking and
mixing with the locals on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean?
While casting about for an answer, discussing our options, reasons,
hopes and fears endlessly, Mark woke up one day with Simon and
Garfunckle's song Feelin' Groovy running through his mind. He had
been coming up with prospective names for boats on a sometimes
hourly basis for the past two years, to the point where it became a
comical game for both of us, but none of the names ever stuck.
However, when he rolled over that morning and said, "We should name
the boat 'Groovy'," we both knew we would be owners of a new boat.
New Year's Eve found us flying out of St. Vincent, staring down at the
turquoise sea dotted with little white sailboats, wondering if we would
truly be out there joining them soon or if we were totally out of our minds to be leaving. The long holiday weekend was a crazy one
for international travel, and especially for last minute ticket purchases. Starting with the hike from our Bequia apartment to the ferry
boat, then on to the St. Vincent bus ride across town to catch a small inter-island flight to St. Lucia, followed by an hour-and-a-half
taxi ride over that island's mountainous interior to its bigger airport, and finally hopping on three jet flights that bounced up the
Caribbean chain and across the US to San Diego, we were in transit for
a total of 33 hours.
Because a terrorist had tried to bomb a flight to Detroit on Christmas
day, security was extraordinary. Apparently St. Lucia is a "country of
interest," so not only were we patted down and each of our carry-on
bags hand-searched when we entered the St. Lucia terminal, but all
passengers were patted down and every pocket of every piece of
luggage searched a second time as we all boarded the plane. It took
two hours to get everyone aboard, and we, of course, were the last ones
on. The gazillion TSA agents were high-fiving each other as we left their
clutches, the final plane of the day. They were oh-so-ready to celebrate
New Year's Eve island style. We rang in the new year at New York's JFK
airport a few hours later, while standing in line at Customs. Back on
American soil, we snagged some blankets and pillows from the plane
and bedded down on a nice, comfy, secluded conveyor belt in the terminal to await our morning
flight to California.
Once we arrived in San Diego, we went
straight to the boat to check it out. It was
just as cool a boat as it looked in the
photos. It is a 2008 Hunter 44DS (44'
long), the last unit of that model ever built.
After crawling through many many boats
over the past four years, we had decided a
year ago that this was the exact make and
model we wanted.
What incredible good fortune.
Boat purchases involve a "sea trial" and "survey" which are something like a test
drive and home inspection, but you must reach a price agreement with the seller
before either can take place. For the survey, a professional examines the boat
very carefully, checking all the systems and hauling it out of the water for a look at
the bottom. Groggy from lack of sleep, jet lag, and still wondering if we were doing
the right thing, we were both ecstatic as we took turns at the helm on the way to the
boat yard. Our surveyor
studied every inch of the boat
for a full day, tapping the hull
with his hammer to check for
problems and making endless
notes on his clipboard. In the
end he declared it the cleanest
survey he had ever done.
Wow. Gorgeous weather greeted us and
our spirits rose higher and higher -- even
as fear gripped our souls because this was
such a big move for us. We were glad it
was shorts weather, as all we had with us
was tropical-wear and airport-wear.
Everything else was in Phoenix. We
stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and took some time
out to explore Seaport Village with them and catch our breath.
This area was as charming as we remembered it being a year
ago. Families were wandering through the boutique stores,
enjoying the last bit of the holiday break
together. We spotted a mom with her two kids
getting a picture of themselves with their cell
A little further on a man was demonstrating
rock balancing, placing rocks in impossible
positions on top of each other and
miraculously willing them not to fall down. He
claimed there were no tricks or gimmicks, but
how he could sense where the balance point
was of each rock was beyond me.
The boutiques were all well stocked with their
Christmas goods and the paths were
meticulously maintained. There is something
ever-friendly and ever-accessible about the
San Diego waterfront. We stopped at Hot
Licks, a store with a dizzying array of hot sauces lining every
Down at the Midway Aircraft Carrier museum a retired Naval
officer told stories of various ships and their adventures on the
high seas long ago.
A group of statues nearby commemorates Bob Hope's many
USO performances, and a little girl wandered among the
statues, carefully checking out each one.
You never know what you'll find on the San Diego waterfront,
and as we strolled a little further we came across a group
Segway lesson. Those contraptions look like so much fun.
A few days later all the pieces were in place for us to close on the boat.
A mad dash to Phoenix had augmented our clothes collection so we
could handle the weather that was becoming increasingly cool and
damp. At the same time we had had to stand in the trailer and decide whether to take the kitchen tools, favorite books, bedding,
etc. or buy new things for the boat. Our plan was to split our time between RVing in the US/Canada and sailing in Mexico, hitting
the prime summer spots on land with the trailer during the southern Mexican hurricane season. So we didn't want to raid too much
from the trailer. But did this new move really mean stocking two homes? What about tools? Hoses? Holding tank chemicals?
Personal papers? We had planned to stay on the boat for the first twelve months before we started splitting our time between
RVing and sailing. So were we really saying goodbye to the trailer for a year? Yikes! We loaded the truck and sped back to San
Diego in time to sign all the paperwork, sticking with the tasks at hand to keep all
these wild emotions in check.
Since our intent was to use the boat outside of California (in Mexico), we
qualified for the state exemption from paying "use tax" (similar to sales tax) on
the purchase. However, California (like all other coastal states) has strict rules
that state precisely how a boat buyer demonstrates his/her intent to use the boat
predominantly outside of the state. One of these is to take the boat out of
California waters for the closing. This is just 3 miles offshore, but requires a
captain to sail the boat until the closing takes place, and then lots of photos
proving both the day's date and that the boat is at a GPS coordinate outside of
the state when the documents are signed. We had especially memorable
headlines on the newspaper that day, as an earthquake had just devastated
This was an exciting moment and was our first extended period of time out in the boat on the
water. It was great to be out there, but we both felt woefully inadequate to take charge of
this vessel all by ourselves. Our next trip out there would be no guiding hand, and we
wondered how we would fare.
Once back at the dock, we hung out in the cabin in a state of disbelief. We had done it.
Fourteen days from the time we left the islands, we were sitting on our own boat.
Were we out of our minds?
The seller was kind enough to pre-pay a two week stay at Kona
Marina in San Diego, one of the nicest marinas in the harbor.
We had spent many happy hours in the past sneaking onto this marina's docks and then wandering
around checking out all the boats and talking to the
owners. It was a strange and wonderful feeling to
have a card key to the gate and to walk onto the
docks as bona-fide boat owners.
We had signed our names on the closing
documents, but there was still a lot more to do.
The second part of California's requirement for
demonstrating intent to use your new boat outside
of California is to leave the state as soon as
possible after the closing and to stay out for at
least six months. We decided to sail to Ensenada,
Mexico, 65 miles south of San Diego.
Our to-do list to prepare for this international
voyage was several pages long. From a
small sail repair to testing the radar
to remembering how to sail and
navigate, we had a lot to do to
make this easy 65 mile trip a safe
Taking a little time out, we explored
nearby Ocean Beach. This is a
surfing community that has a hippy
kind of air to it, and it's a place
where it seems that anything goes.
A little dog in a froo-froo dress fit
Surfing, hamburgers in paradise and cheap
beers at outdoor bars overlooking the beach
invite all tourists to partake of the classic
California beach scene for a while.
A street musician sang his heart out as we
Pirate's Cove Coffee is the most elaborate
coffee kiosk I have ever seen.
Back on the boat we were slowly getting used
to the idea of being boat owners, living on a
sailboat, and starting a new chapter in our lives.
Out on the water the weather got steadily cooler. Short sleeves gave way to hats and jackets
as we gradually remembered which lines on the boat do what, how sailboats work with the
wind, and what all those crazy markings on the charts are all about.
Then San Diego got one of the worst dousings of rain
in the last decade. In one week they got almost as much
rain as they had in the entire previous year. We
alternated between huddling inside and running endless
errands to the big box stores as the rain fell in torrents.
In a way, all that miserable weather was a blessing in
disguise, as it kept us ticking down our non-sailing to-do
lists. I read 150 pages of Chapman's Piloting's
navigation chapters to refresh my skills, and Mark read
the chartplotter and radar manual, engine manual and
Hunter's user manual. When the day finally arrived that
the sun came out, we were able to focus on sailing.
We had one brief family day aboard, taking our son Rory and his wife Colette out for a
day sail. It was a moment that Mark had long been waiting for, wanting to introduce his
son to the world of sailing. Rory caught on quickly, and we found it was so much easier
to sail with a strapping young
man on board who could handle
all the lines one-handed without a
winch. After a pleasant few
hours on the water, we hugged
them goodbye at the dock. Thirty
hours later we untied the lines at
Kona Marina for the last time,
and left San Diego in the morning
mist behind us as we headed for
first stop on the way to
Emery Cove Yacht Harbor
Some peope cruise in high style
Unusual flowers in bloom along the shoreline
Extensive beds of ice plant flowers
accompanied us on our walks
Ventura California coastline
A harbor seal teases a gull with a fish he caught
Mentryville barn and chicken coop, built 1890's
Roses in front of Charles Mentry's house
Oil well equipment
Lizard in Pico Canyon
Butterflies and flowers
They were very large
View from one of the peaks
The trail is outlined in rocks
Shams, trail blazer and trail builder
Surrounded by chain link fence til it settles in, this Valley
Oak made the Guinness Book when it was moved 1/4 mile.
Emeryville & Valencia, California
April 18-May 13, 2009 - From Arizona, we ran up and down the
coast of California in mad pursuit of a sailboat. We were driven
by the vision of a dream that had been developing for many
months: traveling with our trailer each summer, as we have
been, and traveling by sailboat in the tropics each winter.
We're both converted desert rats, most recently from Phoenix, Arizona, and
we like it warm. How warm? A fellow once told me he turns on the air
conditioning in his rig when the indoor temperature hits 79 degrees. For us,
that's when we start getting really comfortable. Our a/c doesn't go on until it
We have struggled to find a warm, uncrowded place to wander during each
of our two winters of fulltiming. We have ranged between southern Arizona
and Florida, but have done too much shivering. We aren't alone in this
quandary. When fulltimers meet each other, one of the first questions they
always ask is: where do you spend the winter? At first I didn't understand
why the seasoned veterans kept asking us that question, but now, after
wearing way too many layers for two winters, I understand.
Cruising in a sailboat
has been a longtime
dream for me, and
Mark has slowly come
to share that dream
However, there are a lot of details to work out. Shifting between two homes is
not easy, especially when each has to be put in storage for a period of time.
So, as our prospective boat purchases in California fell through, one by one,
this past spring, we tried to be more philosophical than disappointed, taking it
as a sign that we just weren't ready yet. As we talked through the nuts-and-
bolts of our plan -- getting beyond our dreams of gazing at the scenic mountain
backdrops behind our rig each summer and snorkeling amid eagle rays and
sea turtles alongside our boat each winter -- we realized that our plan was very fuzzy.
This frustrating discovery came to us as we froze our tails off on San Francisco Bay
in May. It was a bitter surprise to find that the Bay Area rarely gets much above 60
degrees at that time of year, and we got several weeks of almost daily rain to boot.
We got to know the tiny Emeryville peninsula on the east bay next to Oakland quite
well. It is the one sliver of beauty in an otherwise industrial landscape of smoke
stacks, snarled traffic and congested urban living.
The marina there has an
interesting array of boats,
and we enjoyed getting to
know some of the
liveaboards who make it
their home. Those folks
are some sturdy stock, as
the wind blew at 25-30
mph every day across the
bay, the fog and dark
skies hung around relentlessly, and the cold was that bone-chilling kind
whose icy fingers sneak past any and all layers of clothing you put on.
One retired couple had lived on their boat in the Bay for 17 years.
We took many walks, jogs and bike rides around the area, and
especially enjoyed the pink flowers on the ice plants that were in
bloom during our visit. We left boatless, however, and made our
way down the coast to Ventura. There we enjoyed a long stroll
along the beach and watched a harbor seal teasing a seagull. He
had just caught a huge fish, and he repeatedly surfaced with the
fish in his mouth, taunting the gull. Each time he lured the gull to
approach him, he would duck under the water out of reach. This
went on for quite a while until the gull finally gave up and flew off.
In a way, we felt like that gull, tantalized by the prospect of a sailing
dream, but taunted by the vicious boat selling industry that barricades it.
We started looking for a boat as wide-eyed innocents to the boat buying
process. In just a few weeks we got a bath-of-fire introduction to the
cutthroat world of lying, cheating and stealing that is sailboat brokerage
in the Golden State.
The stress of dealing with ruthless, unscrupulous brokers desperate for
a deal in a stalled industry in a failing economy finally got to us, and we
left. Unfortunately, the stress chased us down I-5, and while turning in
to stop at Pyramid Lake, north of Los Angeles, for the night, the back of
the trailer lightly brushed the guardrail. The damage didn't look like much,
but upon assessment by RV collision repair specialists in nearby Valencia
(what luck that there was such a place nearby!), it would take 7 weeks to
fix, most of that time spent waiting for parts.
This news took a while to digest. We stayed in Valencia, north of the Los
Angeles tangle of freeways and insanity, for a few days, deciding what to
do. We couldn't stay in the trailer once they began the repair work, as
their insurance did not allow it. However, our insurance gave us some
money for "emergency" hotels. We took a few day trips around the area
as we mulled over our options and waited for our insurance claim to be
The Valencia area is desert: no fog, hot
days and cool nights. We hiked up Pico
Canyon, starting at the base in
"Mentryville," a former oil boomtown
founded by Charles Mentry who dug
California's first oil well here.
Some of the old equipment from this
first oil well still stands today. Oil well Pico #4 was
the longest running oil well in the world when it
was capped (dug in 1876, capped in 1990). It
was such a success that it prompted the formation of the Pacific
Coast Oil Company that became Standard Oil of CA which was later
acquired by Chevron.
As we hiked up the canyon we passed some
unusual critters and flowers on the way. The
view at the top was well worth the climb.
As we walked we found the trail was neatly
marked by carefully placed stones. Someone
had taken great pains to outline the best route
to the top.
Hiking down we met a mountain biker on his way up. He introduced himself as
Shams, originally from Afghanistan many years ago. He asked if we'd been to the summit. Not quite. He seemed disappointed,
explaining how the very steep section that had stopped us was actually very short and the view beyond that was spectacular. He
then explained that he had built the trail over the last 14 years, grooming it, creating little stone outlines for the paths, so he and his
son and others would have a nice place to mountain bike. There's a man who has made the most of his new home.
We drove to another area and saw the most enormous tree. Standing back to admire it, I
noticed another person taking photographs of it too.
We got talking, and I learned that this tree, a Valley Oak, had been moved 1/4 mile to
make way for a road, and that he, Lee Lumis, had been the horticultural consultant
overseeing the move. It took 18 months to relocate the tree, and required 126 hydraulic
lifts, 24" I-beams and a 43' diameter box for the root ball. They had started the project and
then had to wait 6 months when the tree suddenly budded out and couldn't be moved. He
had rotated it a bit from its original orientation, but it looked truly majestic in its new home.
Even though we were here by accident -- because of an accident -- we could still look at
each other and say, "what a cool area!" As we gathered our thoughts about how best to
handle the upcoming seven weeks, we finally decided to fly out to Michigan to visit Mark's
family and do some sightseeing in a state we probably would never reach by fifth wheel.
Kona Kai Marina
Bottlenose Dolphin Sculpture
Kaleidoscope Interactive Sculpture
Historical Maritime Museum Ship
Marlin leaps across the Star of India's bow.
Street performing sculpture jumps
to life as we pass.
Bikes are an important part of San
Pedalcabs cruise the boardwalks along the water.
Mark and I mimic the famous WWII
Tourists learn their fortunes from a psychic.
Another street vendor offers parrot
cuddling for donations.
Ahh... I get one of several bird fixes during my San
San Diego -- what a city!
Beneteaus line the entrance to the boat show.
Yeah, I could live here!
Familiar but a little different than our fifth wheel.
Not bad for living aboard.
An Umbrella Cockatoo peers down at me from a
Dave takes his cockatoo out for a
fly in the late afternoon.
She loves every minute of her freedom.
Bird of Paradise flower.
Good night fun, vibrant city.
Seaport Village & Boat Show, San Diego, CA
January, 2009 - We snuck away from the Arizona Desert and all the
holiday parties and good cheer and took a quick trip back to San Diego
for the annual January sailboat show. We had had such a good time
if it would still be as nice. Sure enough, as we pulled onto Shelter
Island, all the warm vibes we had felt in this spirited town came back.
It was bright and sunny, warm enough for shorts, and we were
surprised to recognize all the RVs lined up on the waterfront. No one
We took our place among
them and quickly hopped
on our bikes to check out
all our old favorite haunts.
Not too much had changed
-- Kona Kai Marina was as
graceful as before, the pelicans still roosted and floated, soared and dove as they had
before, and the Navy jets and cruise ships and people walking their dogs and sailboats
criss-crossing the harbor still provided a kaleidoscopic backdrop to life on the
The boat show was way down at the other end of San Diego, and for the first time we
rode our bikes over to Seaport Village. It is a six mile ride along the bike paths and
walking trails, and it brings you all the way around the harbor through the historic Old
Town. This is an outdoor city that comes alive in the sunshine. There is a series of
charming sculptures along this boardwalk. I liked the bird sculpture and Mark liked the
There was a lot of whimsy in
these sculptures, and one was
called "Bottlenose Dolphins" and
featured blue glass bottles on the
noses of the dolphins. Another
was a giant kaleidoscope that
had lots of hand cranks and
beautiful colors when you peered
There is an extensive historical
maritime museum featuring
several ships of different eras
that are tied up at the docks for
tourists to walk through. A
glistening, iridescent statue of a
marlin appeared to leap out of the
waves across the bow of the Star
of India ship behind.
Street performers and vendors of
all kinds line the boardwalks and
grassy areas, giving the city a
friendly, funky air. One
apparently simple silver statue of
a man in a suit suddenly came to
life and made a face at us as we
The boardwalks and paths are ideal for biking.
To see it all would make for a very long walk,
but taken slowly on a bike you can enjoy
everything that Old Town and Seaport Village
have to offer. Along with the cycling statue we
saw earlier, there were other sculptural
references to bikes along the boardwalk.
Many tourists opt for a ride in a pedal-cab, and
we passed lots of these energetic cabbies toting
passengers all over the place.
Around one corner we came face
to face with a sculptural
representation of the famed WWII
photo of a sailor kissing a nurse
upon the victory of the Allies. We
couldn't resist mimicking the
smooch, and found a friendly
fellow to take our picture. He and
his large extended family of wife,
kids, parents and others all got a
huge laugh as we tried to get
ourselves situated just right and
asked him to re-take the photo
If you have something to sell or share with tourists, it
seems that the vending space is available. A psychic
found a lovely spot for her umbrella-shaded table under
a tree, and another man brought out his collection of
parrots for people to play with, in hopes of a donation. I
got my bird fix!
I lived on the Boston waterfront
in a sailboat for four years, but
beautiful as that city is, there is no comparison to San Diego for
warmth of spirit and oceanside magic. San Diego harbor is
completely accessible to everyone. Simply stroll along the water's
edge and you are thrust into the midst of the harbor's vibrant
energy. There are many marinas, and a boat owner can choose
to be situated right among the sky scraping posh hotels downtown,
or over in the more suburban and natural atmosphere of Shelter
We finally made it to the boat show, our hearts filled with
satisfaction already. As usual, it was a blast. All the boats were
beautiful, and it was easy to dream, along with all the other show-
goers, as we waltzed on and off these lovely yachts. After living in
the confines of a trailer for a 20 months, it was amusing to stand in
each of the boats' cabins and compare the layouts.
Back on Shelter Island we heard the strangest sound coming from the trees. I thought it must
be a young gull that was sick. It was an insistent call, higher pitched than a gull, but with a
similar volume. We walked around the parking lot craning our necks as we stared into the trees.
Then I spotted it -- an Umbrella Cockatoo! She was
clinging to the branches of a palm tree, swinging up and
down, calling out in sheer glee.
I would have been totally stunned to see her there if I
hadn't heard earlier about "The Bird Man" who lived in a
motorhome along the street. We were told he would
sometimes free fly his cockatoo in the late afternoons.
At last we would have a chance to meet him! Dave
showed up on his bike, and after a few minutes his
cockatoo "Bubbi" flew down and landed on his shoulder.
She clucked in his ear and walked down his arm, beak-
by-toe as parrots do, until she was settled on his bike
I was entranced. I owned two lesser sulphur crested
cockatoos at one time and would have loved to have
given them the freedom of outdoor flight, but I was too
afraid. Dave had no such fear, and his cockatoo
showed off for us for an hour. She swooped from tree
to tree, making impossible landings on swaying
branches that gave her quite a ride as she hung on
with beak and claw, pumping the branches up and
down with powerful flaps of her wings while she
shrieked at the top of the her lungs. A seagull flew by
her at one point and gave her a disapproving stare, but
she didn't care, she was free. Shouldn't we all live that
Our three-day visit for the boat show turned into a 10-day stay. Yet
again, we couldn't tear ourselves away from this enchanting place.
Finally our grey and black water tanks told us it was time to leave, and
we ventured back through Phoenix and on to a cross-country trip to the
It was only after we had been in Florida for a month that we discovered
San DIego had passed a law prohibiting RVs from parking overnight on
Shelter Island. I understand their point -- we met RVers who had lived on
those streets for as much as nine years, and that's not right -- but it is a
shame that such a beautiful city has turned its back on budget RV
travelers who would like to experience its uplifting spirit for a few days or
weeks. It wouldn't have been that hard or that costly to implement a system to monitor and limit RV stays.
A sailboat heads out of Mission Bay to the open ocean
Bird of Paradise in Mission Bay
Tranquility and peace reign at
Cycling the paths along the Mission Bay beach villas
Mission Beach cottages open onto the wide sandy beach
Charming beach houses line the boardwalk
Pacific Beach - kite-boarding paradise.
Anyone can learn to surf here, though the buff bod
may be harder to achieve.
SoCal is truly laid back
A modern day Jesus Freak?
Any smaller, older RV will do.
Jerry relaxes in the back of his toy hauler.
Horses cool their hooves along the beaches at Fiesta
Life's a Beach on Fiesta Island
Hotel del Coronado.
Mission Bay, San Diego, CA
October 1-28, 2008 - A few times during our stay in San Diego, we
moved our RV from Shelter Island to Mission Bay. We (and at least 50
other RVs) were doing the "San Diego Shuffle," moving our rigs around
on the city's waterfront streets to stay in line with California's 72-hour
parking law. As long as we all moved every three days, we could enjoy
the many delights of this beautiful city and gaze at prime multi-million
dollar waterfront views right outside our doors.
of Mission Bay
is a dramatic
contrast to the
bustle of Shelter Island. Also manmade, from sand dredged out of San
Diego Harbor, Mission Bay is a series of waterways through former
mudflats, with the land forming quasi-islands and little peninsulas. The
manicured grass lawns along the bay are largely city parks, and there
are many children's playgrounds, picnic areas and even large bonfire
rings along the beaches. The tall palms and sparkling water offer a calm
retreat from downtown San Diego.
The walking and bicycling paths go on for miles, and we had many happy bike rides in and
around the bay and along Mission Beach. There are endless charming beachfront villas on both
the placid bay side and on the surfing beach side. Each home is unique, and they line up cheek-
by-jowel, with patios and porches facing the lovely views. Most are available as vacation rentals.
We rode our bikes along the Mission
Beach boardwalk up as far as Pacific
Beach, making the transparent
transition from one miles-long
expanse of sandy beach to the next.
Pacific Beach was teaming with
people kite-boarding. Each had a
huge parachute, and they used the
wind to skim across the ocean on their
Surfing is a beloved passtime in this area, and we saw surf shops,
surfers and surfer dudes that were right out of a Beach Boys song.
Sea World is tucked into one corner of the Bay, and bike rentals and
bikes were everywhere.
This is a very laidback
area, where surf, sun,
sand and beach bars all
come together in a
dreamy combination. As
we drove one afternoon,
we passed a young
fellow playing his guitar
while he rode his bike.
Not too much stress
there! Others just rolled
along the sidewalk on
The best way to enjoy San Diego is to have a
lot of money (for a pretty multi-million dollar
beach bungalow, a convertible roadster and a
yacht) and to have a lot of time to enjoy them
(i.e., no job). Most people we saw seemed to
have either one or the other.
This can be an eclectic crowd too. We saw a
strangely painted car, several perfectly
restored Microbuses, and an odd collection of
In Mission Bay, the older the RV, it seems, the better. The
shapes of some are from a long distant era, while others are
The "San Diego Shuffle" of RVs moving from one parking
space to another is actually something of a two-step in
Mission Bay, as parking is prohibited between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Each evening a parade of RVs makes its way
out of the Mission Bay parking areas into the industrial city streets on the far side of the freeway. Early each morning
the RVs return, many to the same spot they had the day before.
The best setup we saw was Jerry's. He towed his toyhauler "office"
trailer behind his Class C motorhome, and on lazy afternoons he would
string up a hammock inside his "office" trailer, taking in the view of the
Bay from his swing.
The stories of each household living in their RV were
varied, but a common concern was the upcoming city vote
on whether to override the California law and ban overnight
parking on public streets. The days of this urban RV lifestyle of freedom on the waterfront may be
numbered. The vote was held on our last day in the city, and we didn't hear the outcome.
One day we parked our trailer out on Fiesta Island, a tiny dot of California desert perched in the middle of
the Mission Bay. The dry, brown, tumbleweed land is sparsely visited, and we had a stretch of beach all
to ourselves. As we sat there enjoying the view of the homes across the water, a group of horses
suddenly appeared, splashing in the water as they walked.
The weather was unusually warm
for October (90's), and we spent
much of the month in tank tops
and shorts. A visit to Coronado
Beach offered delicious relief from the heat one afternoon, and we
played in the sand and waves. On a return visit we discovered the
history and beauty of the Victorian Hotel del Coronado that presides
over one end of the beach.
After a month of coastal pleasures,
we felt a little nip in the air as the
fog banks crept in and stayed
longer and longer each morning. It
was time to move on, and we
headed inland to the California
desert of Anza-Borrego. But the
temps were falling fast, and we
continued on to the warmest of the
southwestern desert areas in
San Diego view out our front door.
Boats anchored right off the shore
RVs line up for the San Diego Shuffle
RVs enjoy a multimillion dollar view of the city skyline
Walking paths wander the shoreline of Shelter Island
Hammock in the rigging on a festive schooner.
Boats of all kinds slip by in the bay
Wildlife is everywhere
A local sport fisherman shows off the shark he caught
before returning it to the sea.
The seals rule the roost, lounging
around all day and barking as the
sun goes down.
Shoreline overlooking the marinas
Shelter Island Marina is teaming with boats.
Peaceful Sunday morning at Shelter Island
Stephen Mann & Kathleen Torres show their round-
the-world route on a transparent globe.
"Tawodi" will take them across the Southern Ocean.
The gate to the Mega Yacht Dock at Kona Kai Marina
This gorgeous 113' wooden schooner on the
Mega Yacht Dock has been round the world 3 times.
The perfectly named "Cream Puff"
Jeff (Cap'n Hook), one of the many salty characters
on the docks
Cruise ship leaves for points south from San Diego Harbor
Mark takes the helm
This little car zipped by us on the water.
Exotic sports car gathering
Art shows every weekend
The sky turns to fire in the dreamy San Diego twilight.
Shelter Island, San Diego, CA
October 1-28, 2008 - Leaving cool, high elevation Pioche, NV in mid-September, we
attended Interbike, the annual bicycle industry tradeshow, in Las Vegas (a red-hot oven at
this time of year). From there, we skipped west across the sizzling California deserts like
kids with bare feet leaping across hot sand. Emerging at the coast in San Diego, we were
greeted with delightful cool breezes, sparkling blue waves, lush green grass and bright
sunny days. September, 2008, had gone down in history as a stunning month for the
financial markets, but we will always remember it as an energy-charged, unscripted month
of exciting travels that was unusual only in its heartwarming normalcy in this full-time travel
lifestyle. I felt moved enough to describe it in What's It Like?
We discovered that California
law allows vehicles to park in
one spot on public streets for
up to 72 hours, so we bellied up
to the shoreline with all the
other RVs on San Diego's
Shelter Island. Parked just
steps from the harbor, we had
an everchanging view of sailboats, joggers, family parties, picnics, Navy
ships, cruise ships, war planes and gatherings of all kinds in the
shoreside city park, all laid out across the backdrop of the San Diego
skyline, right outside our front door. As one neighbor in an RV near us
said, "This is Paradise."
Shelter Island is a manmade island created from dredged sand in the harbor. Years ago the people of San Diego wanted this
island to become a recreation area for everyone, and today it is a bustling boat-oriented community framed by a glorious grassy
park. There is a playground, fishing pier and boat launch on the waterfront. Yacht brokers, chandleries, boat yards, swank
restaurants, an outdoor music venue and cute bistros line the streets. The boats bob at anchor almost within arm's reach, and the
RVs line up along the shore. Both the boats and RVs must keeping changing anchorages and parking spots if they wish to stay
more than three days. As we moved around the island, swapping places with our neighbors, I took to calling this dance of the RV
fulltimers and boating liveaboards the "San Diego Shuffle."
The park is defined by the pretty walking paths that wander along the
shore. From early morning till late evening these paths are filled with
locals and visitors alike: dog walkers; iPod-entranced joggers; hand-
holding lovers of all ages; young moms pushing baby strollers and old
folks pushing their rolling walkers. Families come to the shoreside park
on weekends to host all day picnics, setting up tents and barbecues and
roasting marshmallows over their beach bonfires at night. We witnessed
birthday parties, weddings and family reunions during our stay there.
The activity on the
the scene. Boats
of every description
ghost by. In the
background there is
the constant hum of
at the Navy base
across the water.
Every so often the
world stops and the
air crackles with the
earsplitting roar of a
Navy jet taking off.
Seagull cries fill
the air during
the day, and
when the gulls
down to roost,
the seals take
seals' barks and coughs and wheezes sound almost human, and when
one pokes his head out of the water behind you during a morning swim, snorting and
gasping, you could swear it was a person in the water. One afternoon there was a hubub
down at the fishing jetty. A sport fisherman had landed a small shark. A crowd formed as
he laid out his prize to measure it and take photos. His dog was as eager as he was proud.
When he finally returned the shark to the sea, the dog paced and cried in total
There are several marinas in the
totally protected waters on the
back side of the island. We
wandered down to the docks
many times to enjoy the pretty
views and watch the busy
activities of the boaters. The
number of boats is staggering.
Looking across the acres and
acres of masts piercing the sky, I
was reminded of a giant pin
We stopped in at West Marine one
afternoon, and a couple was hosting
a barbecue in the parking lot to raise
money for their upcoming round-the-
world cruise. We bought a hot dog to
support their cause, and listened to
With his own hands, Stephen Mann
had transformed a 39' sailboat with a
transoceanic racing pedigree into the
vessel of his dreams. He had
lengthened the bow 3', installed
oodles of electronics for navigation,
and built a stainless steel arch to
support solar panels and wind
He and his girlfriend Kathleen Torres
were leaving in a week to sail around
the world via the Southern Ocean,
with hopes to complete the trip in 8-9
months. To put their plans in
perspective, most circumnavigators
take 2-5 years to go around the
world, and most do it via the tropical
oceans. These intrepid sailors were
going to tackle the world's worst
oceans below South America and
Africa, rounding Cape Horn. They
planned to stop on land just 5 times during their trip. They invited us to
an "open boat" the following evening, and we eagerly attended.
The boat was small, but rugged, and they were very excited to get
underway. I love adventure, but I'm nowhere near as daring as they are.
After the party, they discovered a part in the engine drive-shaft was
faulty, which delayed their departure by a week. But they finally sailed off
into the sunset. Keep abreast of their travels at www.svtawodi.com/
The Kona Kai Marina is a very upscale place that caters to the world's
wealthiest on their Mega Yacht Dock. One evening we noticed that the
very formidable gate to the dock had been propped open. In we went!!
We heard loud voices and laughter coming from a beautiful wooden
schooner that had pulled in that afternoon, and when we came upon their
boatside barbecue party they welcomed us in.
The crew of five had just sailed the 113' boat down from Alaska, where
they had been surrounded by orcas, swimming bears, and glaciers.
This boat, built in Italy in 1980, had circumnavigated the world three
times, providing its owners with a posh pad for fly-in visits to exotic
locales around the world. Hailing from several different English speaking
countries, the fulltime crew was in great spirits as they stayed in San
Diego for a few weeks to touch up the already glistening woodwork. The
owners visit their yacht for just a few weeks at a time, while the crew
keeps it in tip-top shape, sailing to the destinations of the owner's
dreams on demand. When we asked the captain what his worst
passage was, he said it was a 26-day passage where they encountered
a storm with sustained 60+ knot winds and 60' seas that lashed the boat
for 6 straight days. "It was a lot of work." He said. How would the
couple on Tawodi fare in a storm like that in their boat which was less
than half the size with less than half the crew?
The next dock down from the Mega Yacht Dock is the Transient Dock where arriving boats can tie up
for a few days while they get situated for their San Diego visit. This is a great place to meet people
from all over the world: a South African taking his newly acquired boat to New Zealand, a Canadian
family with small children heading to Mexico, a Washington couple heading to the Caribbean on
their catamaran, and the 80+ year old owner of "Cream Puff," a floating disaster of a boat that he
has called home for over 50 years.
There are plenty of salty characters on
this dock too, including Jeff, who has a
mean Right Hook. He waved his hooked
right hand for a photo and told us some
of the history of the delicate relations
between the liveaboards and the harbor
authorities in San Diego. Those boaters
call their boats home, but unlike the
transients who arrive in San Diego from
distant lands, the local
liveaboards never leave the
protected confines of the
Perhaps the easiest way to
see the world from the deck of a ship is to take a cruise. Two cruise ships arrived and
left the harbor everyday. At 5:15 one morning a cruise ship arrived in dense fog. He
blared a long extended blast on his foghorn once every two minutes for the entire hour
it took him to get from the harbor entrance to his pier downtown. It sure woke us up,
but what about all those weary cruisers on the ship who were back from a week's
vacation in paradise?
We were blessed with four
opportunities to get out sailing
ourselves. The atmosphere on
Shelter Island is extremely friendly,
and as we met new friends we
suddenly found ourselves the lucky
recipients of some sailing invitations.
There are all kinds of boats out on the
harbor, and a little car whizzed by us
as we sailed.
Back on Shelter Island,
we came across an
exotic sports car club
having an outing one
Tiny Italian sports cars of all types lined up in the parking lot,
roared their engines for a moment, and took off on a driving tour.
One unfortunate Ferrari owner couldn't get his car started. No
worries. We overheard him tell a buddy he'd just have someone
take it away on a flatbed truck while he went home and got his
The beauty of Shelter Island is the great diversity of activities. If
exotic sports cars don't grab your interest, perhaps an art show
in the park will.
In the midst of this
continuous excitement and
stimulation, Shelter Island
offers many tranquil places to
enjoy a quiet moment. The
shore along the marina docks
is beautifully landscaped, with
lots of benches where we
would pause and reflect on all
While we were on the island,
the Baja Ha-Ha began. This is
an annual sailboat rally of 150 sailboats that
heads out of San Diego to Cabo San Lucas,
Mexico at the end of October.
It is a 10-day, 750 mile sail with two stops along
the way, and the party-filled atmosphere takes
some of the edge off of doing such a long open
ocean passage by boat. Once in Cabo, the sailors disperse, some heading out to the South Pacific, some
transiting the Panama Canal to go to the Caribbean, and some staying in Mexican waters. Throughout October
the transient docks and anchorages in San Diego begin to fill with boats arriving from all points north to take part
in this rally.
We attended their kick-off barbecue, a wild Halloween costume party with prizes, raffles and giveaways. I felt like
I was at a pirate frat party. Almost everyone came dressed as a pirate, and the pavement was sticky with spilled
beer. Laughter filled the air, and a DJ kept us all dancing, Next day we joined our new friends Gary and Karen
aboard their beautiful Hallberg-Rassey and sailed among the Ha-Ha crowd, listening to their roll call on the VHF
radio, until their colorful spinnakers disappeared to the south.
Every so often we crept away from the action on Shelter Island for a change of pace on Mission Bay.
Death Valley, California
November 7-19, 2007 - After leaving Valley of Fire, we spent some time near Las Vegas visiting friends, staying at Boulder Beach
on Lake Mead. The lake was 85 feet low when we visited in 2004, and now, three years later, was 105 feet low. A campground
and boat launch had closed a few months earlier because they were now nowhere near the lake anymore, and we heard that the
turbines in the dam would soon be above the water level. Scary stuff. At least Lake Mead still had her pretty colors in the
We hiked along the rails-to-trails path that
goes from Boulder Beach on Lake Mead to
Hoover Dam. It passes through some old
train tunnels and comes right out at the
visitors center for the Dam. There is a
wonderful statue commemorating the
daring and hard physical labor it took to
blast the rock and pour the concrete to
build the dam.
From Las Vegas we made our way to
Death Valley. We arrived on Veterans Day
and found the road through the park
lined with flag waving veterens
celebrating the days of the 49ers, the
intrepid souls who traversed Death
Valley in pursuit of gold in 1849. The
campground was full, so we were
guided back up the mountain to an
open boondocking area by the side
of the road.
This was our first introduction to true boondocking -- where you set up camp
on public land and stay a while. There were many other rigs in the area, and
as we got to know our neighbors we discovered they were part of the
Escapees Boondockers club and were gathered there for a few days.
Eventually most of the Escapees left, but we stayed with another rig
and enjoyed long lazy days and silent nights.
It felt so good to relax after our whirlwind tour of the northwest. We
stayed almost two weeks, making music with our neighbors and
exploring the area.
Death Valley is the hottest place in the country on many summer
days, but in November the weather was perfect.
We learned that the 49ers took two routes to the gold mines in
northern California. One group went around Death Valley, but the
other group trudged through the middle of it. They barely survived.
Borax is mined in Death Valley and has been since the late
1800's. It was hauled out by mule team, and to this day Borax
has an image of the mule team on the container.
We took the Artist's Drive which is
a thin ribbon of road that winds
among brightly colored hills. The
light danced on across the cliffs.
Back at the visitors center we
found the perfect gift for a young
child. If only we could all be
children for a little while once
From Death Valley we wandered east and
south through Laughlin, Nevada and then
down along the Colorado River to Lake Havasu,
Arizona and finally settled in Quartzsite, Arizona.
The drive along the coast
The campsites in our campground
Checking out the scenery
California is falling into the ocean. This used to be the
coastal highway that Mark drove his motorcycle on 33
We climbed up this thing -- in street clothes!!
Mark installs the solar panel on the roof of the trailer. This
gave us all the electricity we needed and set us free.
Not a bad place to do a job like this.
Finished product, situated between a roof hatch and the
folded down TV antenna.
The beach below the bluff where we were camped (150 miles
north of San Francisco).
These "ice plants" are house plants in Phoenix but grow
Drive-through giant redwood tree.
Redwoods are very tall and sequoias
are very wide.
Driving through the redwoods in the northernmost coastal tip
June 24-30, 2007 - We drove west from Yosemite towards the
California coast, taking the small scenic roads through the
mountains, skirting past Sacramento, and finally reaching the
coast at Fort Bragg, north of San Francisco. The weather was
cooler and more moist than in Yosemite, and it was so startling to
see the ocean after all those woods, streams and shear rock
We stayed at the Westport-Union State Park Campground right on
the coast. What a beautiful campground. It stretches along three
miles of the coast.
Most people camp at the most northern end where they can perch
right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the crashing surf on the
We camped at the more southerly end where there is a huge
grassy field with spacious sites that were largely unoccupied.
We walked along the old Route 1 that snakes along the coast.
It is badly eroded and is no longer used. The campground has
been pushed further west, away from the eroding cliff edges,
but you can see where some of the sites and toilets used to be.
We used our days here to install our new solar panel. Mark
installed the wiring from the roof down through the front closet to a
charge controller and on over to the batteries. Once it was installed
on the roof we were amazed at how much freedom it gave us. For
the rest of our travels in this rig -- another 10 months -- we rarely
had hookups. We got all of our electricity from the panel.
We got in a little cycling,
although I don't think Route
1 has a big enough
shoulder in this area for
bikes. Instead we climbed
the crazy mountains
heading inland from the
coast. The climb seemed
to go on forever!
The northern California coast is lined with sheer
cliffs and stunning views. There are also
towering redwood trees and occasional
sequoias as well. We had a stunning drive up
northwards to the Oregon Coast.
The roads are very hilly, with tight
twists and turns and insane
logging truck drivers that barrel
along as if they own the road.
Actually, I think they do. It was a
white-knuckle drive that was
definitely worth doing once.
The buggy stopped for a photo shoot on Tioga Pass
Pretty great scenery!
There are lots of marvelous tunnels bored into the
mountains on the road in to Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley -- towering rock cliffs and tourists.
One small stretch of the path was spectacular
On the road down to the Valley from Tuolomne Meadows
Crystal clear streams in the Tuolomne
Dog Lake in the Tuolomne Meadows area
It's possible to drive through these trees
Towering cliffs form a backdrop to every scene
Bridal Veil Falls.
A bear was munching not far from the bridge near
She wasn't concerned about the crowd of
Yosemite National Park, CA
June 19-24, 2007 - We drove from Mammoth Lakes, California to
Yosemite National Park, entering the park from the east side. The
Toyota Tundra struggled up and over Tioga Pass pulling our 7,300 lb.
trailer. We maxed our speed at 28 mph and barely got going again
after stopping to take these pictures.
We camped for a while at Tuolomne Meadows Campground at the
east end of the park. This area is filled with crystal clear streams
and ponds and has wonderful shear rock mountains.
We stayed up in the Tuolomne area for a few days and then took
the rig down to the campground at Crane Flat which sits at a
lower elevation just 12 miles from Yosemite Valley. This made it
easier for us to get in and out of the valley to see the sites. There
was only one campsite in the campground that would fit our rig,
and we barely got around the loop without scraping the trailer on
a tree. However, once we got situated it was a beautiful spot.
Yosemite Valley has a
small system of bike
paths and we happily
rode our bikes on those
paths past the major
There are several
Yosemite Falls is very
high and narrow.
Bridal Veil Falls is
misty and the veil
shifts with the wind
like a bride's chiffon
We took a hike to see the
giant sequoias. There
aren't too many, but the
few that we saw are
massive. Years ago, to
attract tourists, a tunnel
was carved through a
massive dead trunk, big
enough to drive a car
through. Word spread far
and wide about this tree
you could drive your car
through, and toursts came
to Yosemite to see it.
Late one afternoon as we returned
to our campsite at Crane Flat we
saw a crowd on a bridge looking into
a meadow. They were watching a
bear munching on greenery. We
joined the throng to get some
pictures and watch this happy bear.
We were told it was a mother bear
and the cub was just out of sight.
She had no concerns about being
the center of attention for a very
After enjoying all the beauty in
Yosemite for a few days we
continued our journeys west to the
northern California coast.
Mammoth Lakes, California
June 14-19, 2007 - Mammoth Lakes, California was our first
real sightseeing stop after leaving Lincoln, New Mexico. We
camped at Coldwater Campground at the far end of town. The
campground sits about 1,000 feet higher than town, but it is a
lovely and quiet wooded area. We took several hikes from the
One hike went along a rushing brook, another went past several
lakes (the "Duck Lake" hike), though we didn't make it all the
way to Duck Lake. We also rode our bikes around the Twin
Lakes and Horseshoe Lake area near the campground. This is
an easy bike ride and we were rewarded with stunning views.
We rode our bikes into town as well. There is a fantastic
descent to get to town, but you have to pay for that thrill with a
long climb back to the campground at the end of the day.
There is a wonderful bike path that winds through town and to
the outskirts near a golf course.
I felt like we were riding our bikes and hiking through the pages of
a high-end touring catalog.
On our way out of town we took the scenic loop past June Lake.
It was a gorgeous area with towering mountains and a cute little
town center. We didn't stop. Another time!! We were on a
mission to see Yosemite National Park.