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Thursday, 19 January 2017

California Dreamin'

I've been wanting to write this post for quite a while, especially since the longer I leave it, the less likely I am to remember the details.

It seems appropriate to share our California trip (which took place in October) in the heart of winter, when those of us in the northern hemisphere often long for warmer climes.

In fact, it was the desire to go somewhere warmer that led us to CA in the first place. Yes, we considered other destinations - Florida, Bermuda, Aruba and Curacao, as well as a cruise - but the first two and the cruise were susceptible to hurricane weather conditions, and the last two were outside of our budget. We'd really hit it off with our online friends T and D when we met in-person in Vegas in 2015, and when we mentioned we were thinking of California and asked if they would like to reconnect, they got really excited: "you can stay with us!!"

I kept my eyes on flight prices and several weeks later ordered our plane tickets. Now we were committed! We looked forward to seeing T and D, enjoying the warmth, and dividing our time between sight-seeing and just hanging out.

Note: if you are visiting the desert areas of California, be aware that they're windy!! I had brought shorts, capris, t-shirts, and ended up wearing my one pair of jeans every day for the week! I wore my t-shirts, but often covered by my long-sleeve pullover and/or jacket. Temperatures were in the mid-high 70s (Fahrenheit) but felt about ten degrees cooler with the wind.

That being said, it never did rain in California, at least not until after we left. We were thankful for the dry sunny days and, of course, for the time we were able to spend with our friends, getting to know them better and discovering the sights within a reasonable driving distance of their area.

Our first excursion was to Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park
It's a beautiful place and I highly recommend seeing it if you're out that way. Amazing rock formations like the one you see above; and yes, that's a Joshua tree on the right-hand side of the picture. There's actually a Joshua tree forest on the park grounds. You can drive through the park, making stops at viewpoints along the way, and/or go for hikes. At one look-out you can see the San Andreas fault lines, which is pretty dog-gone cool.

Early on D had mentioned the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo. An old west mining town established in the 1880s, there is still silver to be found in 'them thar hills.' Unfortunately, it would cost more to extract it than what it's worth! While I had thought that the ghost town would be a bit cheesey, it turned out to be surprisingly well-done and we really enjoyed our visit. We took the short train ride and walked through Maggie mine as well as most of the other buildings on the site. They were getting ready for Hallowe'en, so there were many old west skeletal figures on display, which contributed to the 'ghostly' atmosphere. 

Bird's eye view of Calico Ghost Town

We ate at the Calico House Restaurant, where peanuts in the shell on the table turn into peanut shells all over the floor. We'd never been to a place like it! Cold beverages are served in huge jars, and my husband and I very much enjoyed our veggie burgers.

Big Bear Lake is up in the San Bernardino Mountains. If you've visited a town like Niagara-on-the-Lake or St. Jacob's, or any small touristy town for that matter, you already know the scene: quaint streets with lots of little shops that sell a variety of items. We did pop into several of them until I recalled that my friend D hates shopping!! We ate lunch at the Big Bear Lake Brewing Company where David and I enjoyed veggie burgers (again, but thankfully not immediately on the heels of our visit to Calico!) and T enjoyed a massive plate of fish 'n chips. D was less impressed with her tapas, having been spoiled by a better version elsewhere. You can't win 'em all.

We were glad T was doing the driving as there are many hairpin curves on the drive up and down the mountain(s). I wish we had gotten better photos of the lake itself as this one does not show it in its full glory:

Big Bear Lake

You'll no doubt be surprised to know (wink, wink) that prior to the California trip, I had never shot a gun. Like many of our American neighbours, T and D support the constitutional guarantee that gives citizens the right to bear arms. We were fortunate to have them as our shooting instructors, and it turned out that yours truly is pretty good at hitting a target. I was described as "a natural." How do you like me now?

Yup, that's MY handiwork!

In the shot below (no pun intended, LOL), I'm getting some guidance on hitting a moving object (clay disks) with a shot-gun. 

Getting some tips from the pros

Those babies are heavy and hard on the shoulder. I was less successful with this activity and conceded defeat to my husband. But I still rocked a pistol! My favourite was the Ruger Mark 3, 22.

There's much more I could share; these are just a few of the highlights. It was great having this time with our friends and we anticipate the day we meet again - yup, next time they're heading north! There are some amazing people in their community and some beautiful sights in their part of the world. We look forward to showing them ours.

If you ever get the chance, go to sunny Cali-forn-I-A. And if you do, make sure you try some of Marie Callender's pie. You may or may not want to check out the nutritional information before making your selection!

Have you been to California? If so, what parts did you most enjoy? You never know, we might get back there ourselves someday, and it'd be nice to know what new terrain to explore!

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