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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The end of March we were off on another road trip.  We stopped for a couple of nights in Reno.  The Peppermill gives us such great rates and it is such a nice resort.  Sometimes we even get our room for free!  We met up with Mom and Dad.  I never know what I am going to find on the drive south through Lakeview to Reno.  This time I spotted my first wild sandhill cranes!!!  Last fall, we went way out of our way to go to the Malhuer Wildlife Reserve to see them and didn't see anything but a vulture.  Now here we were just driving along and there they were...hundreds of them in a field.  They were a ways off the road, so even with my zoom lens, they are not that sharp, but I was happy to get them. 

 I prefer to walk over to the tiny lake while everyone is on a machine at the casino.  It was sunny and only a little chill to the air.
We decided to take the back way to LA this time.  I have never been that way before.  It was so nice!  No traffic, great views and I am pretty sure that we will go that route from now on.  No more I-5!
 We went through snow, but the roads were clear.  The hills had just enough to make a pretty contrast for my photos.
 Mono Lake was a gorgeous color green.  I want to see it in the summer sometime.
The hills after that were full of color.  (Notice the heart on the top left corner.)
We arrived to LA just in time for Gabe's martial arts graduation.  They gave a performance and then had their new belts tied on.  Gabe even broke a board with his fist. 

The next morning, I took Daniel shopping for his birthday present.  For a kid who loves toys, he was so cautious when it came time to spend his money.  He looked it all over before he made up his mind.

5 years old!  
He is such a riot to hang out with.  Always ready to have fun and keeps me laughing.

After Daniel's birthday, we had a two week gap before we were going to be back to hang out with the kids while they had spring break.  
(Dennis took this) 
First off we headed to Vegas where we met up with my parents, who had also been at the birthday party.  John's brother Mark and his wife Terri drove down from Montana and met us there too.
Terri and I hung out by the pool while Mark rested in their room and John used his time well by winning $607 on a poker machine.  He had only started out with $10! 
 Below is a chicken pot pie my Dad ordered.  Can you believe the size of it?  When my cousin's husband saw the photo, he said he thinks my Dad has really small hands.

How about my ice cream?  It was a brownie fudge something, I can't remember. All I want to remember is never to get it again...or at least have a whole family there that will help me eat it.  Oh, and make sure not to ask for extra hot fudge.  When I asked the waiter, he just chuckled...he must have thought I was crazy!  Don't you think he could have at least warned me that it was this huge and full of fudge already.  You can see in the background my parents had a ice cream sundae.  Even that was too huge to finish.
The Red Rock area by where we stayed is gorgeous!  Add in a few blooming desert flowers.
 From Vegas, Mark and Terri headed out with us to Laughlin.  While there we went to the Oatman area to see the desert in bloom.  We also had massages at The Spa at Laughlin Ranch. One of the best massages I have had.

We drove to Topock66 for lunch and then up through the desert to Oatman.

 Of course the guys didn't want to stick around for the outlaw street show, they headed for the first beer stop they could find.  Even the donkeys didn't excite them.  The donkeys run lose in the town.

 Ocotillo in bloom

 There is this weird stuff growing all over the plants.  I looked it up.  It is a parasite called Dodder and spreads like crazy in hot regions.  It covers the plant like a rubbery web.

Then on to Lake Havasu to visit his other brother Bobby.  They took us to see the London Bridge.  It isn't THE actual London Bridge, but it is a bridge that was in London and it was taken apart and reassembled there.
After we left Bobby's, we all got a notice on our phones.
I have never seen anything like it.  Of course we didn't avoid travel, we needed to get back to our hotel, right?  Birds were going everywhere, the sky was all cloudy like fog and the wind was blowing hard.  Glad we were inside.

The four of us left Lake Havasu and drove to Oxnard for Uncle Jim's birthday on April 1.  He loves to call himself an April Fool.  He was pretty pleased with his little surprise birthday party.  We invited 4 of his lady friends over for lunch and cake and ice cream.  
From there, Mark and Terri headed north for home and John and I went to Palm Springs.
 Palm Trees and golf courses in the middle of the desert.

 Before we left home, Cyndi told me I had to have my picture taken with Sony Bono.  

There was a street fair going on with various musicians.  I liked this guy.
The main reason we went to Palm Springs was to see Joshua Tree National Park.  John was pretty happy that he was able to buy his $10 lifetime Gold Ticket into all the National parks.  It was the perfect time of year to see the park.  So many plants in bloom and not too hot to be out and about to see them.  We took a short hike and I was able to get photos that were not just along a highway.  I don't think desert hiking is my thing though.  Looking for snakes and scorpions kind of kept my mind off the flowers.

No snakes or scorpions to my relief!  The wild life we did see was one rabbit and a lizard.
 It seemed funny to be in a desert with a snow capped mountain on the horizon.
There was a sign up that these had been ruined by vandals trying to paint them.  So sad. 
 Yucca growing everywhere
 The desert floor under the Joshua Trees was covered with tiny little yellow flowers.
 This was the view at the east of the park.  They said that on a really clear day you can see all the way to the Salton Sea.  We didn't see it though.  It seemed clear, but I guess it was not that clear.
 The Cholla cacti fields

From Palm Springs I decided that I would like to see the Salton Sea.  My GPS took us on a back route that was really pretty.  It was strange how this tiny road took us right in the middle of the canyon between the rocks.  There was no other traffic except for a few antique cars on a drive.  So glad the GPS sent us that way.

Once to the Salton Sea, I was pretty surprised to see nothing.  I mean, look at what the GPS showed.  Roads and streets all over the place, but as you can see in the picture above, there is nothing there now.  I read on Wikipedia that it once was a thriving tourist place.  But now it is deserted.  The lake is polluted, the fish have died, it is kind of smelly there.

 Here is the lake, even the palm trees have given up.

 The main thing growing in the fields are date palms.  There were acres and acres of them.  Below is a little crop of them that have survived a fire. 
Since there was nothing there to stick around for that we could see, we headed north to Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains.  I spotted this heart in the hillside.  I like to look for natural hearts to photograph. I have a little album full of them.

 Once again, desert to snow.
The lake has a huge amount of white pelicans.
And back to see the grandkids.  It was a fun week keeping them company while they had Spring Break.  
We got to hear how much Gabe is improving with his violin.
 We went to see Boss Baby.  It was kind of a strange show, but the boys were glued to the screen and it kept us entertained as well, so I guess it was an OK movie.

 One day at the park, we were having a little picnic and Gabe lost his tooth!  

 Gabe and I played Dominoes and Daniel thought it was a great roadway.
 Gabe spends hours studying these cards.  I can't make any sense out of them at all, but I sure can bluff my way through the game when we play it.  I have no idea what I am doing or why, but he seemed to like me giving it a shot.  One time, he asked Daniel to help me figure out my cards.

 Abby had some butterflies that were ready to be set free.

And then came Whale Watching day!  I am pretty sure I was more excited than the boys, but they were pretty excited too.  At first I thought it was amazing to see the different birds on the dock.  REAL pelicans!
and then came the dolphins.
Wild ones! 
and not just a few, they were all over
They were chasing the boat and going under it and coming up the other side.
Then came the Humpback Whales
I was really hoping that we would see some whales, but at the same time, I was doubtful that we would see any.  Like, just how do you go out into the ocean and happen upon a whale?  Well, I was in for a huge surprise.  First one, then another, the boat captain would point out the spout of water and away we went to get closer.  We saw whale after whale rising out of the water and then the tail following it back under water.  It went on and on.  A couple of times they breached!  Once two at a time breached side by side!  The first time, it was on the wrong side of the boat, the second time when they came out together, for some reason, my camera would not click!  I didn't panic, I just decided it was OK and watched it happen instead of capturing it.  Not sure what happened with the camera, it shot just fine the next time I shot.  I wish I had a photo, but at least I have the memory, right? At one point there were four whales feeding in the same spot.  That is when the two breached. I learned that they are found in spots where the water takes on a darker hue. So that is how the captain knew where to hunt for them. The dark color is the krill, and krill is what  whales love to eat.  Also, that is the area where the seagulls, pelicans, cormorants and dolphins are hanging out.  I also learned that whales have a distinct stink.  It was like a sewer.  I had no idea.  Our captain was pretty pleased with the amount of whales we saw that day,  the day before they had not seen any.  He called it a National Geographic day.

The Boys

The Birds

The Pelicans
isn't it so awesome how they fly right up against the water like that?

The Dolphins
 More Dolphins
Humpback Whales! 
More Whales
 Whales Tails!
One last day of playing with the boys.  Since it was so close to Easter, we had a little egg hunt.
We headed for home.  A month on the road.  Time to get back home.  
(Dennis took this)
It was really nice to see that Shasta Lake has its water level back up to normal after years of drought.  Here is one from last year at this time and how it looked as we drove through this year.
We were greeted by Oregon Rain and a Rainbow as we crossed the border.