Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mystery Trip 2015: Ships and Sandcastles

In an effort to get this finally posted (started writing it weeks ago!), I've skipped many of the details and decided you are intelligent people and can use the internet to look up anything of interest.

We had two more full days in San Diego and they were busy ones! The majority of one day was spent exploring the USS Midway.

Touring the bridge. These is where the Air Boss and Mini Boss would sit.

As easy as it looks, apparently.

Someone's in the brig.

One of the engines with the original crew-provided artwork.

He's not sure he'll fit.

Receiving mission orders.

My feet didn't reach the pedals... might be a problem!

That night there was yet another surprise in store. We stayed two nights on a boat! It was a beautiful yacht and very relaxing.

Captain Cohen.

Main stateroom.

The next day we made our way up the coast for a mystery activity. All I knew was it might involve sand and water. Turns out we were taking a class on how to build a sandcastle! Not the wimpy ones kids made at the beach by overturning buckets full of sand. This one was really amazing.

This was our workspace. It took us about 3 hours to complete the castle.

This is our base mold. You build the very bottom first, then add tiers on top, packing the sand carefully.

I forgot to get a photo just after we removed the molds, but after tedious work (going from the top down) it started to take shape. Using tools similar to ones used in cake decorating, we learned to make stones walls, brick walls, turrets, windows, bridges, and more.

And then it was done!

After admiring our work (and watching strangers take photos with the castle), we meandered down to La Jolla Cove Beach to see the sea lions. There were babies attempting to stay with their moms, and some were more adventurous, sliding in and out of the water.

That night we had a beautiful cloud-free sunset.

The next day we had time for brunch and made our way to the airport to head home. All in all, another fun trip!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mystery Trip 2015: Zoo-mania

The secret final destination was San Diego! The first two nights we used AirBnB and stayed with two nice guys and their cute dog. That first night we grabbed takeout Thai and ate back at their house.

Beautiful weather the next day (and almost every day in San Diego) for our trip to the famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is part of a giant park in the middle of the city. A very hilly park. I read many warnings about the steep hills before we went, but they are not that bad. Plus they have an aerial tram, bus, and even a couple escalators to get you up the worst climbs. But you can definitely walk it.

Going on a weekday in March meant we didn't have to wait in line to see the pandas. They were munching on a delicious bamboo breakfast.

From this photo, it appears one of the polar bears has adapted to the warm climate and is soaking up some rays.

One of the exhibits housed both monkeys and river otters. While we watched, one of the monkeys jumped down to the water and tortured the otter by pushing down and sitting on his head. One of the zookeepers told us it's the monkeys' favorite activity and doesn't bother the otter. (To us, it seemed to bother him at least a little!)

Going to the zoo in spring means there are baby animals. The orangutan baby was a super cute bundle of orange fur. One of the other monkeys was very interested in the baby and kept trying to get a hold of him. Thankfully he was able to hang on to his mom and make a fast getaway.

One of the zookeeper talks featured a pangolin. Since we weren't sure what type of animal that was, we were curious. Baba the pangolin was pretty cute. They are threatened in the wild and the most heavily trafficked animal. In China and Japan their meat is considered a delicacy.

We were lucky and caught a glimpse of twin antelope fawns just before their mother hurried them away from prying eyes.

That night we caught the view at Sunset Cliffs. Not the best sunset due to San Diego's low cloud cover which comes in many nights. Strange phenomenon not unlike la garua in Lima. We had dinner at a cute French bistro in the same neighborhood.

Next Up: Ahoy, matey!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mystery Trip 2015: Joshua Trees & Giant Rocks

The next day of our trip began with us waking up in our cute bed-n-breakfast in Twenty-nine Palms, a tiny town on the north border of Joshua Tree National Park.

After a delicious breakfast of praline French toast, we headed into the park. I can list out a bunch of adjectives, but you really just need to go there. Seriously. Go. Experience the awesomeness of Joshua Tree National Park for yourself.

There are giant rocks you can climb on.

Looks like a prehistoric landscape.

Can you spot Andy?

And then there are the Joshua trees. Technically they are Yucca brevifolia, but Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert felt the trees reminded them of a story from the Bible where Joshua raises his arms in supplication. Many of them do look like they're reaching for the sky.

If you're a tree, I'm a tree. (Bonus points for whoever knows what movie quote I just tweaked.) An old man tourist took a photo of us posing. Thankfully it came off more cute than awkward.

Many of the trees were flowering, and they smelled really good!

This is the Joshua tree's cousin, the more well-recognized yucca plant.

We took multiple hikes, including one to an old dam. (No, you're not missing anything, this photo does not show the dam. It wasn't particularly exciting after seeing Hoover Dam.)

And one to see more petroglyphs.

One area of the park is called Hidden Valley. It's a relatively flat, not-as-rocky area surrounded by a ring of rock walls. One settler whose name I can't remember blasted a hole in the rock wall so his cattle could graze in the valley. Nowadays, the area is used by rock climbers.

Half of Joshua Tree National Park is in the Mojave Desert and the other half is in the Colorado Desert. The Joshua trees only grow in the Mojave. Once we crossed over to the Colorado Desert side, we saw different plants, including a whole natural "garden" of these cool fuzzy ones.

We left the park and made two pit stops on the way to our final destination. The first was at the Salton Sea, which was formed accidentally when water overflowed an engineered canal. It used to be a hopping place where people came to play in the water and on the (fake) beaches, but now it's been abandoned and is very sad-looking.

The second pit stop was to the tiny town of Borrego Springs, where A said we were taking a sort of scavenger hunt. I wasn't sure what I was looking for until we saw them.

A local artist creates giant animal sculptures and places them all over town.

A joined in to help harvest the grapes.

One was a giant dragon!

Next Up: Our final destination!