Nov 19-Dec 8 - Menifee CA
We're coming full circle this year, ending our year in the same area it began. The 1000 Trails Wilderness Lake preserve near Menifee is one we really like, despite the fact that it's next door to a huge dairy farm, with the accompanying aromas and insects. The times we've been here, the weather's generally been acceptable, and there's enough stuff in the area to keep us amused and supplied. Plus, there's a very nice Presbyterian Church a few miles down the road. Last time we were here, Judy was nursing a sprained ankle, so we didn't get out and about as much as we'd have liked. We tried to make up for it this time.
A few years ago, the folks who try to supply water to all these thirsty Californians built a couple of dams just east of here and created Diamond Valley Lake. It's half again bigger than Lake Havasu, and can hold enough water to supply most of San Diego county for six months. In the process of building the lake, lots of fossils and archeological sites were found. So, working alongside the construction crews, scientists recovered and documented bunches of bones and artifacts. Many of those items are now on display at the Western Museum of Paleontology and Archeology, opened two years ago just outside of Hemet CA. We like going to brand new museums, because the display techniques and interpretive ideas are so much fun. It's not a big museum, but it comes with some fantastic volunteer docents, and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours.
About 20 miles north of here is March Air Reserve Base, a military airport with a history dating back to 1918, when the army opened a flight training school at then Alessandro Field. Since then, it's been more or less continuously operated, although the mission has evolved from training to flight operations to a full-blown SAC bomber base to an air reserve center for Air Guard refueling planes. Bob Hope's first USO show happened at March Field on May 6, 1941. The museum at March Field traces the history of the base as well as displaying a whole lot of interesting aircraft. We spent most of an afternoon wandering and gawking. Neat place, and one of the best air museum websites we've seen. If you're interested, visit http://www.marchfield.org/
The Palomar Observatory has been one of the most important astronomical sites in the world for a long time, and it's still used over 300 nights a year. You can tour the observatory atop Mount Palomar most days, and it's only about 30 miles from here. The massive 200-inch telescope was the first of its size, and required a reflector to be made of glass rather than the optical quartz that had been used before. There are now five telescopes atop Mount Palomar, although one's been retired. And lest you think that the Hubble Space Telescope has made ground-based observations obsolete, the techs who run that 60+ year old 200-incher have developed techniques and technologies that enable their 'scope to capture images with twice the resolution of the best that Hubble can produce. Neat place, 5500 ft up in the mountains.
Our most distant foray was about 90 miles northwest to Pasadena for a tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Like the Palomar Observatory, NASA's JPL is operated by Cal Tech. It's where almost all of the US distant exploration satellites were developed and built, and where all the robotic rovers call home. JPL built the very first US satellite - Explorer 1 in 1958 - and built all those marvelous Mars rovers. Their "Mission Control" operates and controls all those robots and satellites, and still communicates with the most distant - Voyager - some 10.5 billion miles out into space. Currently, JPL is assembling the next major Mars rover - the Mars Science Laboratory - scheduled for launch in 2011. JPL tours are usually booked far in advance, but we managed to squeeze into one. Before the tour, we had a delightful lunch with friends Dick & Kathy Ulrich, both of whom used to work at JPL, and who live in the Pasadena area when they're not roaming about in their RV.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was served in the lodge at the RV park, and about 150 folks were there for all the usual stuff - turkey, dressing, cranberry relish, green beans, potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. Simultaneously, there were folks in the swimming pool. We called around the country to our families. It was a pretty good day. It also started us on a pumpkin pie kick - after buying 2 or 3 pies and having some once or twice a day for a couple weeks, we finally had our fill. Now we need to lose a few pounds before doing it all over again at Christmastime. We know we eat out way more than we should, but there's so much good stuff. A couple of months ago, we discovered that on Monday nights, Applebees serves all of their hamburgers at $5 each, and we've indulged almost every Monday evening since. And at this stop, we were also close to both a Red Robin AND a Mimi's Cafe. Life can be so tasty.
One night we drove over to Corona CA to Tom's Farms, an overgrown roadside fruit and vegetable market, lured by advertising touting "over a million lights in a holiday festival of lights". The good news is that it was mostly free, but to see all the light display, you had to buy tickets on their train ride out through the field. We could see enough to know we didn't need to do that. Shore Acres it ain't, even with a million lights. But, they did have a lot of interesting food products, and we indulged in some treats. What the heck - we can always lose weight next year, right?
Another much-touted attraction was the Winchester Cheese Factory, an artisan cheese plant in Winchester CA. As a place to tour, it's not much - but boy, do they make good cheese. Their specialty is Gouda cheeses in many flavors. We came home with Smoky and Medium Sharp. Mmmmm . . .
On Dec 8, we headed south almost to Mexico and our next stop, the 1000 Trails Pio Pico Preserve near Chula Vista. It's where we started the year in January, and where we'll spend Christmas.
See some of the pictures we did take during our three weeks at Wilderness Lakes by clicking here.