McDowell Mountain: April 4-9, 2023


Site 74, E.I. Rowland Campground at McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Once Buckeye was in our rearview mirror everything became wonderful again. Driving into McDowell Mountain Regional Park the super bloom was impressive. This was our third visit. It’s a wonderful campground. It’s on our top ten list: spacious sites, plenty of room between neighbors, electric and water, which means no annoying generators, free showers, and mountain biking trails from the campground.

It’s just a good vibe. Out of the 76 sites, I bet 73 of them were mountain bikers. It’s always smart to chat up fellow mountain bikers, and of course, Amelia is great at it. We got a couple of tips from riders about the Fraesfield and Brown’s Ranch Trailheads located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It’s a mass of land adjacent to the regional park and offers trails that are more technical. We spent two days exploring that area.

The highlight, quite possibly the biggest highlight of our 10 years of Airstreaming, was seeing a Gila Monster! What an amazing, beautiful, and intricately patterned reptile. A sighting is pretty rare since they spend 90 percent of their lives below ground. The only time they come out is for food and love! It’s the only venomous lizard in the United States. It’s nothing like the little lizards you might have running around in your backyard. They can grow to more than 20 inches long and have a girth of two plus inches. Lucky Amelia rode right up to one and watched it waddle away like an alligator.


Gila Monster


Here’s the other pic of this orange and black beauty.

Again, lucky Amelia, or perhaps unlucky, had two close encounters with a Mojave Rattlesnake. The first time, she was out in front on a ride, came ripping around the corner to greet the rattler relaxing in the sun in the middle of the single track trail. She slammed on her brakes. It was a debate on who was more scared, her or the rattler. She got a pure shot of adrenaline. The snake instantly coiled up and started rattling. It took a few minutes for it to calm down and wiggle off the trail.

The other encounter occurred at our campsite. I was out doing laps around the campground checking out the other riders and their bikes. Amelia was sitting under the awning reading while this Mojave nonchalantly slithered through our campsite. It was three feet from her and almost turned onto our mat! She was quick enough to get a video if it. And on our last day of biking we had a Bobcat sighting. Typically all you get is a fleeting glimpse, this time we had a long look. What a beautiful creature.

Here’s the rattlesnake video


The hills were ablaze in Brittlebush.


Arizona Lupine was everywhere.


I didn’t know this, do not pick up a Desert Tortoise.


Full moon rise over Four Peaks


Desert Rock Pea


Desert Broomrape, this little guy is about three inches tall.


Purple Owl’s Clover


My favorite sign to see!


Singlespeed and Saguaro


My wife is a rockhound! Riding rock is definitely her happy place. While on the trail she seeks it out.


This cute little flower is called Stinknet. It’s an invasive species.


White Desert Globemallow


We only saw one little spot with white Arizona Lupine mixed in with the violet ones


White Tackstem


Per usual, we’re wrapping it up with a stunning sunset.

All in all, it was a terrific five days, and our last Spring Break. As of this posting Amelia has 37 school days until retirement!

That’s it, we’re moving to Buckeye! April 3, 2023

Just kidding!

Buckeye is growing like gangbusters, outpacing the infrastructure, and therefore congested as all hell. Throw in a strong wind, the sun becomes muted and the sky turns an icky brown. The air quality index shoots above 200 and we were dragging the Airstream through this mess.

All these factors made me announce to Amelia, “That’s it, we’re moving to Buckeye!” That became my mantra, and trust me, I repeated it over and over for hours. It’s a wonder I’m still married.

This begs an answer to the obvious question, of all the fascinating places in Arizona, what in the hell were we doing in Buckeye?

The short answer: it was San Diego State’s fault. They were in the NCAA Tournament, and they kept on winning. But I’ll start at the beginning.

The first leg of our trip was to be four nights in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Friday thru Monday. The Aztecs were in the Final Four and their game was Saturday afternoon. This had all the makings of a problem because we were camping in the middle of nowhere. But lucky us, Amelia befriended our boondocking neighbors. Nice folk from Alaska, they had Dish TV, and he was a huge college basketball fan. So they invited us over to watch the game. The guy had never met someone like me. I didn’t sit for one second. I just paced the entire game. With 0.6 seconds left, Lamont Butler sank the game winner. Everyone on the I-95 between Yuma and Quartzsite probably heard us yelling, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”


Oh my God!

The final game was to be Monday night and our Alaskan friends were leaving Monday morning. We had a predicament on our hands. Out of all the crappy options to view the game, Buckeye seemed the best. There was a Walmart parking lot across the street from a sports bar. Unfortunately, it was a complete shit show. No way could it hold our combined length of 46 feet. “That’s it, we’re moving to Buckeye!”

We got on the Google machine and it said a place called the Leaf Verde RV Resort with 377 sites was two miles away. At this point cost wasn’t an issue, we just needed a place to stay. We pulled into the “resort” only to be slapped in the face by a No Vacancy sign. “That’s it, we’re moving to Buckeye!”

We were running out of options, so we went into the office and Amelia did the talking. Hallelujah! They still had a spot or two.

The resort was a microcosm of Buckeye. We are thankful for our night at Leaf Verde, but we are never moving to Buckeye. And in case you didn’t know, the Aztecs lost the final game. The superstitious side of me wants to blame that on Buckeye.

BTW, King Road in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is awesome.



Our view at Leaf Verde RV Resort


For years we’ve been driving past the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. Typically it’s packed with the OHV folk, this day, not so much. We had lunch then played on the dunes.



Amelia is that spec at the top. The dunes are 40 miles long and avevage 5 miles wide. It’s the largest mass of sand dunes in California. The original name was Algodones Dunes.



My artsy pic

Followers around my age will get a big kick out of this! While researching the dunes, I discovered the opening sequence of the TV series Kung Fu was filmed there. I absolutely loved that show. Check out the YouTube clip below.



This place is huge, 665,400 acres. Back in the day there were a lot of mining operations. Kofa is an acronym for King of America mines.


A nice morning walk in a wash behind our spot.



You’ve got to have a view from your dining table, right?



The famous spiral labyrinth. No one knows who made it. And no one knows what it was made for.



There were way more flowers than we were expecting, especially on the Palm Canyon hike. This one was a first for us, a Yellow Nightshade Groundcherry.



Desert Star


Rock Daisy, look closely it’s actually quite different than the Desert Star.


Ghost Flower


Lobed Fleabane


A Desert Blister Beetle orgy



The obligatory Saguaro pic



Our great boondocking spot

Three Words: February 23, 2023


San Diego County, that’s my three words. Last week we were frolicking through wildflowers and looking at rainbows in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Today, we were snowshoeing in Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. I never tire of extolling the virtues of San Diego County!

Last night our friend Quan texted Amelia, “It’s a long shot, but do you want to snowshoe tomorrow?”

Amelia’s response, “Ha! We just loaded the car, we are going!”

So we met Quan and her puppy at 7am at the trailhead. The early bird gets the worm!!

I know how much everyone enjoys the photos, so here’s a pictoral of the morning.




Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: President’s Weekend 2023


Desert Sand Verbena, feel free to download it and use as wallpaper on your device

I don’t know about the Harrises sometimes…granted it has been seven months since we’ve been out in the Airstream, but still! It was Wednesday night; we picked up Opal, that’s the Airstream’s name in case you didn’t know, and brought her home so we could load up for a Thursday afternoon departure. We had the inside completely loaded, including the refrigerator and freezer when I noticed the LP light on the refrigerator flashing. You’ve got to be kidding me! So I checked both propane tanks and sure as shit, they were empty. We grabbed the tanks and hauled ass to Costco Poway to get propane. That shot the evening’s dinner plan; instead it was a food court hot dog for the missus and a pep slice for me.

It still amazes me this is San Diego County! There are so many nice things about Anza-Borrego as well documented throughout the years in this blog. One of the cool things is we get more people staying or visiting us out there than we do at home. This trip our friend Donna was staying in Borrego Springs, so we spent Thursday evening and Friday with her. Our neighbors John and Monica drove out in his new Jeep for the day on Saturday. It was their first time, so we took them to the main tourist spots, Fonts Point and Coyote Canyon. It’s always enlightening to see something you know so well through a newbie’s eyes. On Sunday, my old buddy Needles rode his Harley out from his winter home in Indio.

The forecast held true: cold, as in the 30s, at night and morning. Nothing drains the batteries faster than the furnace. So it was a good thing we borrowed a friend’s generator. I’m now convinced there is a time and a place for a generator, but the noise still bugs the crap out of us.

It wasn’t a super bloom, but I would rank it as an above average bloom. The most abundant flowers were Desert Sand Verbena, Desert Sunflower, and Brown-eyed Primrose.

What a sight we saw one morning while driving. I wish we’d been able to take a pic. On the top of a telephone pole, two Turkey Vultures were mating or go ahead and insert your favorite synonym 😳.


Our new to us 2018 Tundra with only 23,000 miles and good old Opal


Graffiti or art? Someone took the time to etch Jesus into the bathroom mirror at Los Jilbertos Taco Shop in Borrego Springs.


Clark Dry Lake


Dune Evening Primrose with some Desert Sand Verbena in the background


Desert Sunflower

You know you’re getting old when you’ve know someone for 50 years! Amelia and Donna met in kindergarten.


Up close view of the Desert Sand Verbena & Brown-eyed Evening Primrose


Desert Chicory


Spectacular morning view of the Santa Rosa Mountains


Parish’s poppy


Mojave Desert Star


Desert lavender just beginning to bloom


Harvester Ant dragging a seed pod


Coyote Creek with Monica, John, and Amelia in the righthand corner


Amelia, John, and Monica enjoying some Tecates. Opal is actually perfectly level, I’m not quite sure why she looks cockeyed.


Desert Dandelion


Spectacle Pod


Orcutt’s Woody Aster

Desert Datura


Dune Sunflower


The Desert Marigold, the bee, and the spider


Battle of the wrinkles! I’m eight years older than Needles, so keep that in mind. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a little guy, but I’m also not as huge as that twenty five year old Fins XL sweatshirt makes me look!


It pays to get out of bed! A beautiful sunrise on our last morning.


Then ninety minutes later we were blessed with this incredible rainbow. I just might have to enter it in some photo contest.

The Thousand Dollar Cat

A buddy called me the other day and said, “I don’t know if you realize this, but it’s been a long time since there’s been a post on the blog. These are the dark days and a guy could sure use some relief.”

My response was, “Trust me I know, every morning on my walk I try to conjure up a story for the blog!” (Amelia’s foot surgery has halted our travel for a few months.)

He said, “How about a story about your brother?”

I hemmed and hawed for a few seconds, and finally said, “Like what?”

His response was, “The thousand dollar cat. It’s a classic EJ story.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the early 80s, we were both still living at home.  My brother was there most of the year. He hadn’t moved to Mammoth full time yet, so if it wasn’t ski season he was back home.  I was pretty much always at home with my mom, especially after the debacle on Thanksgiving Lane in Mira Mesa, but that’s another story that might not ever get retold. Anyways I digress, back to the thousand dollar cat.

Our home was a classic single level early 70s Pardee constructed Peñasquitos house. Much to my mom’s delight and sometimes chagrin, it was the house where everyone hung out. The garage had a weight lifting bench and the driveway had a basketball hoop. If we weren’t doing one of those two things, we were hanging out in the garage listening to music and shooting the shit.

On this particular day, someone had posted a flyer about a lost cat on the lamppost in front of our house. They were offering a thousand dollar reward for its safe return. There was an awful black and white photo of the cat with a phone number.

Like any legendary tale, the list of participants has seemed to grown over the years. And truth be told, I can’t remember who was present, but the essence of the story is imprinted in my mind.

We were all hanging out in the garage talking about what we would do with a thousand dollars.

All of a sudden EJ yells, “There’s the goddamn cat.”

And he bolts out of the garage like Carl Lewis exploding out of the starting blocks in the 100 meter dash. The cat is scared shitless and hauls ass straight down the street. All of us are chasing it. Six houses down, where the street makes a right turn is young Jack Jr., the milkman’s kid. We somehow funnel the cat into the milkman’s garage and get the door shut.

EJ points at Jack Jr. and announces, “You’re in for a hundred.”

Then he looks at all of us, “Boys, we are drinking big tonight!!”

We were so excited, but decided it would be smart to let the cat calm down for a few minutes. It was the quickest few minutes on record. In no time at all Jack Jr. and EJ go into the garage through the house to fetch the cat. EJ comes walking out holding the cat by the scruff. We all circle him, fast walk back to our house, and lock the cat in the garage.

Everyone was gathered in the kitchen. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. We were rich!

“G, run outside and get the reward poster,” says EJ.

I rip it off the lamp post, bring it in, and hand it to my brother. He grabs the telephone off the wall and dials the number.

Next thing we know, he blurts out, “Lady we’ve got your cat! Bring a thousand dollars to the corner of Via Cabezon and Paseo Montril. We’ll be waiting for you.”

We are all laughing our asses off listening to EJ sounding like a kidnaper with a ransom demand. Our imaginations are running wild. We keep yelling, thousand dollar cat! Then we start reliving the chase and laugh so hard we’re all crying.

Finally, about an hour later, the lady shows up with cash. We all escort her into the garage.

“That’s not my cat!” she proclaims, staring at all of us in disbelief.

“Are you sure lady?” EJ asks.

“Yes. I’m positive.” She just shakes her head and walks away.

Then depression set in. One moment we were on top of the world, rich beyond belief, only to have our dreams crushed.

And that’s the story of the thousand dollar cat.

The End

Here’s a few photos from that time frame.

The typical look in the front of our house
EJ, Freddie, and Acomb
My brother’s ’72 VW Squareback with a fresh paint job. I inherited it and used it as a company car for Fins, all the way until around 2000.
My mom is the best! She put up with a lot of shit during that time frame.

The Local Mountains: July 24-29, 2022


Seventy minutes away and nice trails from the campground. What’s not to like?

The last hurrah, five nights in our local mountains. Amelia goes back to school on August 3rd. Crazy, huh? Only us old folks remember school not starting until after Labor Day. It’s still the same amount of school days, more or less, just more holiday time during the school year. Therefore the summers are shorter. As a kid, I really used to look forward to the long summer break. I guess today’s kids don’t know any different.

It’s easy to spot someone who enjoys their job and is excellent at it, because it’s so rare. Beth, the site manager at Laguna, El Prado, and Burnt Rancheria campgrounds is one such person. The site manager basically is in charge of the camp hosts and runs the campgrounds. She’s a real character with a heavy Boston accent that seems so out of place in the San Diego mountains. Her companion, Bailey, a poodle/healer mix is always by her side. And the stories she can tell!

No mechanical issues for the truck or bikes. And no injuries, just a little blood on this old man’s skin. Nowadays, I just brush by a plant and it seems to happen.


The Laguna Campground Meadow Loop site 4. The square wooden posts lining the road were quite intimidating.


Gorgeous day


Grazing cattle


El Prado Cabin built in 1911 was the first permanent ranger station in the Laguna Mountains.


Storm Canyon Overlook: Whale Peak on the right and we could see were we boondocked outside of Agua Caliente.


Neighbors…sometimes they are great, sometimes they are multiple families like this. The yellow rectangle is the generator and the oval is the screen so the kids could play video games. What the hell?!? Thankfully they were only there two nights.


After the multiple families left, we got a great neighbor. This one dude and his Fretree Inflatable Lounger Air Sofa Hammock. In case you didn’t know, these loungers are all the rage.


Old man sitting under the awning watching the rain fall and listening to the rolling thunder that went on and on for an hour. What an absolute delight.


One afternoon we took a short 1.4 mile hike to Foster Point.


This was the draw to Foster Point. A direction finder showing 17 peaks.


We dig stuff like this.


Turkey crossing on Old Country Road


A slow afternoon


On our last ride we did the epic Noble Canyon trail. Over 20 miles and 2800 feet of climbing! This is the sweet middle downhill section.


What a snob! 😉


Mountain Mahogany