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Feb 1 - Feb 29 - Winter in Southern California - Part 3

On Feb 1, we packed up, hooked up and drove the 140 miles from Palm Springs (1)to the 1000 Trails Soledad Canyon Park (2) in Acton CA. Apparently, not having done that rather routine task for 7+ weeks took a toll on our aging memory cells. Took about an hour of minor panic when our slide room wouldn't retract, followed by several hours of chagrin after realizing that turning the main switch to "On" would be helpful. Wondering why the motorhome wouldn't move after hooking up the car and then realizing that putting the car in "Neutral" would be helpful added to the chagrin. And after we hooked up at Soledad Canyon, more chagrin, first wondering where all the water flowing from under our rig was coming from, and then realizing that when filling the fresh water tank, it's helpful to turn off the water when the tank gets full. Sheesh.

We've stayed at the 1000 Trails Soledad Canyon Park several times, but never at this time of the year. And as cold and windy as it was, we know now to avoid it during winter in the future. But it sure is pretty around there, in a desolate sort of way. The area is a popular place for movie shoots, and while the locals are probably used to it, it's still fascinating for us to see a film crew set up and doing whatever they're doing (which usually looks like standing around). We never find out what the crew was filming, so we never know what to watch for weeks or months or years down the road. Niece Lauren says she spent many cold nights in Acton when she was working on the filming of the movie "Titanic". They'd built a big water tank on one of the movie ranches not far from here, used to film the scenes where the ship breaks up. The water tank's still there, having survived longer than the real Titanic did.

And we found out WHY there are so many movie ranches around Acton. Seems that there's a "Thirty Mile Zone" centered in the heart of the Hollywood movie studio area, and film crews can work anywhere within that zone without having to be paid extra for being on location. The movie unions came up with that plan to try to keep their Hollywood members working when studios doing location work started working all over the county.

Tippi Hedren, who encountered many birds in the Hitchcock film of the same name, lives about a half-mile from the RV park at her Shambala Big Cat Rescue Facility, home to dozens of lions, tigers, leopards, etc. When the wind's right, we can hear the lions roaring. We're told it's a wonderful place to tour, but it's never been open when we've been here before. This time, they were running tours during our stay. A minimum $50 per person donation was "requested". We chose to pass. We're sure it's an extremely worthy cause, but we do have our occasional limits to indulgence.

Nature has ways to let us know when it's time to move on. In our case, two consecutive days of heavily frosted windshields was a pretty good sign. We'd scheduled a 3-week stay at Soledad Canyon, mostly because it was the only 1000 Trails park around that had vacancies when we had to reschedule our dentist appointments. But we kept checking other, nicer, warmer places, and when Wilderness Lakes near Menifee opened up, we called and negotiated a move. It took a patient 1000 Trails reservationist a total of 5 different reservations to get us in for 20 consecutive days. Sounds like a software overhaul is in order.

Anyhow, on Valentines Day, we drove the 108 miles to Wilderness Lakes (3), and settled into a nice waterfront space, starting an ongoing (and quite noisy) turf war with a small gaggle of mutant geese who were there first and felt entitled to challenge us. Mutant geese: We think they're a cross between Canada Geese and Swans. They're bigger than ordinary geese, very territorial and belligerant, make a sound that's like an asthmatic train whistle blended with a rusty gate hinge, and don't appear to fly. And they're really quite attractive.

When we were last in Menifee in early December, a new Texas Roadhouse was just about to open, and we were looking forward to a Valentines Day dinner. When we got there around 5pm, the wait was about 2 hours.  We didn't wait.

Our best Valentines Day surprise was notification that someone had made an offer to buy our house in Reedsport OR! After only five years on the market, this was unexpected, especially as we'd just relisted it with a different realtor two weeks before. After much paperwork and a counter-offer, we had a contract two days later. All going well, the new owners will close by the end of March. We felt so good about it we went back to the Texas Roadhouse on Feb 15, when there was no wait at all, and had a most enjoyable dinner. We are trying hard to refrain from overt optimism until we get that not-as-big-as-we'd-like check, but it ain't easy.

The move to Menifee was justified with daytime temps in the sunny 70's, and we got to ride our bikes around the park. Warm and sunny is so much better than cold and cloudy. As this is being written, there's the ongoing sounds of geese making their territorial sounds, of dozens of ducks quacking at each other, of hundreds of coots grumbling among themselves. Every so often, a heron or crane or egret flies by. Some mornings, hot air balloons float overhead (this one says "Newberg Oregon" on the side). The sky is blue, we have the doors and windows open. Life is pretty darn good for the middle of winter. We don't even mind the occasional monsoon-worthy rain day.

The last half of February was pretty laid back, with a fair amount of time being spent on house sale stuff and income taxes. Judy came down with a cold which pretty much knocked her out of commission for 4 or 5 days. We had new shocks and struts put on the PT Cruiser (spendy!) after realizing there were 120 thousand odometer miles on the original suspension, not to mention about 60 thousand miles bouncing along behind the motorhome. The tire store said the old shocks were in "pretty bad shape", no doubt the understatement of the year. And we had an anxious day when the hard drive on our laptop started showing signs of imminent failure. (Windows actually has a warning message that says "Your hard drive is showing signs of imminent failure!". Who knew?) Took Al most of a day to replace the drive, much of it trying to clone the contents of the old drive, a process no doubt hampered by the disc errors. But it all worked out, and the computer lives on. And, of course, the old hard drive now tests just fine, showing no errors.

We watched the Academy Awards show, and made note of all the winners we now need to rent and/or otherwise see. We'd seen "Hugo", but couldn't argue with the top honors that went to the French-made mostly silent "The Artist", which we'll now have to try to find and see.

We ended February in Menifee CA, waiting out the clock for various inspections and such on the house sale. Our fingers are cramped from perpetual crossing.

On March 5, we'll head south to the 1000 Trails Pio Pico preserve and begin our dentist visits. Judy's broken tooth and Al's postponed bridgework will probably be our focus for a couple of weeks. Pio Pico's been a cell phone black hole in the past. We'll see if we have any signal when we get there.

We know you'll be disappointed (no cheering, please) by the total lack of any slideshow this report. Fact is we didn't take hardly any pictures all month long, even with the extra "Leap" day available in February. Guess the main constant in our life these days is our rampant inconsistency.

Our next report will probably focus on Toothiness - the Mexican solution.

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