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

Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park: July 13, 2022


Morning at Scorpion Anchorage

Here’s a real duh, Channel Islands is the least visited National Park in California. I’d venture to say most people don’t even know it’s a National Park. There are eight islands in the chain, five are part of the National Park. In 1980, it went from National Monument status to National Park. Santa Cruz is the largest island. It is 24 miles long and 2 to 6 miles wide. The highest point is Devil’s Peak at 2439 feet.

I had two things that I really wanted to see, the Island Fox and an Island Scrub Jay. We saw both. The Island Scrub Jay was number 318 on my life bird list. And as a bonus we saw a Bald Eagle. What surprised us was the amount of plants endemic to the island. It was beautiful, and must really be something in the spring.

As we were boarding the ferry with sixty other folks we were kind of bummed about the amount of people. It’s not what we envisioned, but much to our delight, once we docked and separated into the two groups, kayakers/snorkelers and hikers, there were only seven hikers! We walked around for five hours, all by ourselves, taking it all in. It was amazing. Another nice thing, hardly any trash at all, as close to pristine as one can probably get in this world.


The day adventure begins, departing Ventura Harbor. The ferry ride was just a little over an hour.


Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute rescued this harbor seal three months ago. He was on the boat ride with us. We don’t know the specifics except that he was injured and malnourished. He’s now healthy and ready to be released.


A pod of Common Dolphins followed the boat for awhile


Greene’s Dudleya, this was so exciting for us! We love dudleyas and have different species planted in our yard and in pots. This is considered a rare plant and is endemic to the Channel Islands.


Cliff Desert Dandelion


Island Bristleweed, a rare species of shrub endemic to the Channel Islands. It was quite striking and beautiful. 


Island Fox, it only lives on six of the eight Channel Islands. It’s about the size of a house cat. We were lucky enough to see four of them.


Amelia looking up at Montañon Ridge


Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat, another shrub endemic to the Channel Islands


Looking east on the Scorpion Canyon Loop trail as the fog was clearing and Anacapa Island coming into view


Looking west on the Scorpion Canyon Loop trail


Silver Lupine


California Fushsia


A half a mile from the pier is a campground with 31 sites in a grove with the largest Eucalyptus trees we’ve ever seen. The trees were planted in the 1880s for shade, fuel, pier pilings, and other building projects. There’s also two huge piles of cut down trees. That’s were this pic is from. The squiggly lines are made by Eucalyptus Longhorned Borers that usually attack stressed or damaged trees.


Fog lichens (Niebla homalea), trippy stuff, it looks like it belongs under the sea


Here’s another look at the fog lichens. They form small fist sized tufts typically on coastal rocks. Their shrubby growth form intercepts wind-blown fog, enabling these lichens to become hydrated and begin photosynthesizing without rain.


Scorpion Anchorage in the afternoon, you can see all the kayakers & snorkelers on the beach and in the water. The ship is the ferry we came over on and the pointy island in the distance is Anacapa.


Northern view on the Cavern Point Loop


Cavern Point looking west

There’s so many places to see, and the clock is ticking, but if the opportunity arose, we’d visit the Channel Islands National Park again, a different island, and in the springtime.

Ventura/Ojai: July 9-17, 2022


Uh-oh, no bueno. And no, that’s not me under the truck.

The best laid plans of mice and men…we were so fired up to leave for vacation, especially after our first summer trip was scrapped because I got The Covid. The night before, we were hitched up and completely loaded except for the bikes. We went to move the truck, but it wouldn’t start. My brother was the mechanic, not me.  But I knew enough to know we had a dead starter and a real predicament on our hands. The Airstream was hitched up on a downhill slope and the truck was unable to move.

So that night I contacted Eric Mobile Mechanic. He showed up Saturday morning with a new starter. He had a hell of a wrestling match with the Tundra, and I was having doubts. Three plus hours later, he won the battle, and we were good to go for a 1:00 pm departure, which is not the ideal time to drive through Hell A (translation: Los Angeles).


Eric Mobile Mechanic: a God fearing, Marlboro smoking, Monster Energy drinking, determined guy.


Foster Residence Campground Site 10 was a little tricky to back into, but a nice site.

We were living the high life; eight days of full hook ups at the cheap, cheap rate of $38 a night. Foster Residence is a Ventura County Campground. It’s located in the sweet spot between Ventura and Ojai.  In Ventura, most days the fog never lifted and it was chilly. In Ojai, it was hot. Foster Residence had absolutely delightful weather. It’s a small campground with only 16 sites, 10 of them full hook ups. There’s a bridge about a quarter of a mile away that clanks every time a vehicle crosses it. That’s about the only downside.

You can pretty much find dirt trails to mountain bike everywhere. However, not everywhere is a mountain biking destination. Ventura/Ojai area is not a mountain biking destination. We did four rides; Romero Canyon in the Santa Barbara front country, Ventura River Preserve in Ojai, Sulphur Mountain, not too far from our campground, and Harmon Canyon in Ventura. Harmon was fantastic! We highly recommend it.

So, you’re probably wondering, if it’s not a mountain biking destination what were we doing there? It was the opportunity to spend some time with Denise and Rob and visit Channel Islands National Park…that’ll be the next post!


Talking about milking something. The dude lived there from 1961-67.  The height of his drug abuse era. It wasn’t a great time in Johnny’s life.


Amelia approaching the main intersection of Romero Canyon.


Near the top of Camino Cielo: the land mass above Amelia’s head sticking out of the fog bank is Santa Cruz Island.


This made me happy 😃. Originally it read E.J. Harrison & Sons. Some black duct tape fixed it.


We weren’t taking any chances! Anytime we were gone, we locked the bikes inside the Airstream.


A clear and breezy late afternoon at Emma Wood State Beach.


Mother Nature’s artwork


Denise and Rob’s beautiful non-hook up site


Amelia and Denise, her other mother, on the Ventura Pier. They share quite a history and are very close.


They radiate joy and love when they are together.


We visited three breweries. Ojai Valley Brewery was my favorite. The Sugar Bush Pale Ale was excellent.

All in all it was a pretty good trip, especially when you add in the Channel Islands visit. We were feeling particularly blessed just breezing through Hell A with no traffic. What a rarity! We were just south of Corona, about an hour from home and Amelia needed to pee. Me, I can always urinate, so we exited off the freeway, then back up the on ramp, and stopped on the wide shoulder.  We both did our business, jumped in the truck…nothing. It would not start! F@#k!!! Unbelievable. An hour from home, stuck on the side of the road in 105 degree heat. A couple of good samaritans stopped as we were waving jumper cables, but the battery wasn’t the problem. So we called our insurance, two and a half hours later the tow truck showed up. The heat was really beating down on us during the wait. Towing a truck and an Airstream 66 miles isn’t cheap!


Not good and not fun.

The next day, Eric Mobile Mechanic came out. This time he solved the problem in five minutes. It was a blown starter relay fuse. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. But like I said, my brother was the mechanic, not me.