Borrego Springs.. a Love Hate Experience

Have you ever been somewhere that you don’t really like but you still enjoy being there. Well, for me that’s Borrego Springs.

We drove there specifically to see the outdoor sculptures by Ricardo Breceda and I can unequivocally say it was not the most scenic drive. Brown, barren, dry mountainous landscape …mile after mile of it. Not a tree or plant to be seen, okay… maybe a few half dead cholla cactus.

 

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It looks like a lunarscape

 

The Chamber of Commence touts this description on their website “In Borrego Springs we are completely surrounded by nature, set in the midst of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Enjoy our nature on your own terms, hike a desert canyon or just relax by the pool, play some golf or watch the roadrunners, and always amaze yourself with our dark night sky. There is no hustle-bustle here. Borrego Springs is a small town and we’re proud of that, a small town that will seem like home as soon as you get here.”

Well, yeah…there’s no hustle bustle because there isn’t anything there! Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh but it didn’t seem like home when I got there, so whatever. To be fair, there was vegetation once we got to Borrego Springs.

Since we were on a mission to see the sculptures, it seemed prudent to have lunch first and then go exploring. A quick search of restaurants revealed the Red Ocotillo as the top choice in town so off we went to check it out.

 

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Lunch at the Red Ocotillo was fun…we sat outside on the patio with another couple from San Diego. Charming inside too and boy were people pouring in. I was humming the lyrics from the old Jim Croce song “ Don’t mess with Jim” as our feisty waitress ( I think her name was Slim!!!) bombed around the place telling everyone she was helping people in the order that they came in… thankfully we were number two!!!

Well, we surely didn’t mess with Slim…we had our order ready to go when she swung by our table and our credit card ready when we were finished. She was genuinely pleased that we were so easy to serve!! Yep, we aim to please.

You don’t tug on superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don’t mess around with Slim

Okay, back to the sculptures…130 of them to be exact. Scattered over hundreds of acres outside the thriving metropolis of Borrego Springs. Ricardo Breceda, the accidental artist has created many of the sculptures based on prehistoric fossils that have been found in this area.

 

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The creatures pop up alongside Borrego Springs Road: prehistoric elephants, a saber-tooth cat, an ancient camel, a T. rex and a giant bird of prey. Not the flesh-and-blood kind, but remarkable art pieces—sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting. While some creatures are ambitious fantasies, such as a 350-foot-long serpent arcing across the playa, many of the sculptures represent real-life creatures that once roamed this land.

 

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If you are wondering what the inspiration was behind these amazing sculptures, seems Breceda started this journey just trying to do something for his daughter. When seven-year-old Lianna asked her father to make her a life-size dinosaur like those in Jurassic Park, Ricardo Breceda couldn’t have dreamed how it would change his life. Having experienced a devastating construction accident, the Mexico-born Ricardo had persevered and was now operating a thriving boot business in California. Yet, wanting to please his daughter, he began what would become his artistic awakening.

True, he had been experimenting with scrap metal and a welder he had snatched up in a trade, but with no previous art training, he wasn’t sure how to begin. After a year of cutting, hammering, welding, and numerous scraped knuckles, what emerged from his efforts was a seventeen-foot-tall Tyrannosaurs Rex, much to the delight of Lianna.

 

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In 2008, Breceda was originally commissioned by local philanthropist Dennis Avery to make sculptures for his extensive desert property known as Galleta Meadows, but the creatures seem to have multiplied around town. To find Breceda’s 130 or so rust-red, scrap-metal sculptures, we picked up a detailed map at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association bookstore in Borrego Springs and started driving.

 

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It was fun to look across the desert and see these giant creatures looming in the distance. Often when we got closer, we would discover smaller creatures like these turtles or ground sloths.

 

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Breceda also makes statues of people, most of which are based on people from the old west such as cowboys and Native American figures. One of Breceda’s most notable sculptures is a 350-foot serpent found in Borrego Springs whose head and body pops out of the sand.

 

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Other notable examples of Breceda’s work includes fighting dinosaur statues and a series of wild horse sculptures  which can be seen from Highway 79 South. His daughter Lianna now assists in the sculpting of his statues so the artistic passion has come full circle.

 

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After exploring the sculptures in the desert it was time for some exploration below ground. I have come to love slot canyons so any opportunity to explore one on a clear day with no threat of rain is a GO! Simply named The Slot, this narrow siltstone canyon provides a fun hike in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This 0.8-mike trek is capped off with a passage beneath a gravity-defying rock span. This short hike has just 100 feet of elevation loss, but the memory will be much more profound especially if the light peeking into the canyon provides its own show.

 

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From the parking area, look for footprints leading down into the ravine below. Left of the trailhead, just to the right of a dirt road continuing east, is a wide path that descends into the canyon.

The trail is steep, but not nearly as steep as it looks from the parking lot above, dropping less than fifty feet. There are no more optical illusions from here, just Mother Nature doing what she does best.

 

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Turn left and hike down to The Slot. The siltstone walls grow taller and closer together. Not far from the start, the canyon narrows. Significantly…. Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t have had those burgers for lunch as it made it harder to squeeze through the coarse walls that are shoulder width apart, and less in some places.

 

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The shaded slot canyon provides cool relief from the desert above. We continued on through the narrows to the highlight of the hike where there is a slanted rock slab bridging a narrow gap in the canyon. This block of rock appears to have broken off one wall and come to a resting place between the two. If that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable …well, it should! The precarious feature looks like it could fall at any moment, but it thankfully it remains lodged overhead. I zipped quickly underneath with my breath held.

 

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Too soon the fun is over and we exited the Slot into the barren, brown desert and continued the hike along the wide river bed. After finding an exit trail that felt like a 100% uphill climb we followed  loose path lot along the edge of the canyon that took us back to the parking. What a hoot, so glad we found The Slot and all in all we had a great day in Borrego Springs.

 

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Holy Moley has it really been a year???

WOW…over a year has passed since we retired, sold all our “stuff” and started our mobile lifestyle. It‘s been a great year traveling in the Road House and cruising in the Beach House. We have seen and done so much, logging over 6,000 miles on land and over 100 hours on the Beach House engines.

 

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Living on the edge.

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Yep, we’ve seen some crazy geography!

 

Any regrets you may ask???
None, as far as the life style change is concerned. Having the time and flexibility to explore this beautiful country is a gift for sure. Not having to huddle up all winter long in the gray, rainy PNW – bonus points! The mobile lifestyle is very conducive to meeting people but the downside of that is it harder to maintain and build friendships as people are generally not in one place for long. It is a little weird to have to put yourself “out there” and work at making new friends. The biggest downside is truly that we miss seeing our Portland Pals and the spontaneity of seeing them when we lived nearby.

 

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It’s been awesome to meet up with some of our Portland Pals and share another adventure.

 

Do we miss working???
Not so much…No matter how much you love your work or the company you work for, there is a certain amount of stress that you just learn to adapt to. For me, the weight of the responsibility that came with my role as the Operations Director for a very successful non-profit animal shelter was literally gone when I retired. Sleeping better – you betcha! Yes, there are times that I do miss the mission and creativity that came with the responsibility but after a year I am not yearning to go back to work. These days I take my new role as the Director of Operations for the Road House and Beach House very seriously.

 

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It’s seriously hard work finding all the great brew pubs across the US!

 

I know for a fact that Wally does miss the creative side of his work as well but not the corporate politics. He is finding ways to channel his creativity, working on a few technology patent ideas and doing projects for the coach or boat. He has done some really nice improvements such as the lift bed storage area he designed and installed on the boat and the big screen TV lift compartment for the coach. Love having a handy guy!!!

 

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Lift TV project almost completed.

 

What about living together in such a small space???
I think we have adapted well because no one has been smothered in their sleep. That seems like a low bar and yes, we do get on each other nerves once in a while but hey…what 25 year plus married couple doesn’t. The biggest downside is the amazing collection of pet hair that I am constantly removing from both the Road House and the Beach House. I know it was in our house too but the hair had 2,500 sq foot to coat everything. A more creative person would be using all that soft fur for slippers, purses or who knows what!

Do you miss all the “stuff” you got rid of?
I don’t miss the stuff per se but it is a pain sometimes rearranging what stuff we have just to get to the stuff we want. I did miss my aging food processor that I sold in a garage sale so I recently got a new one. Woo-Hoo, yes I am a cooking geek!

Okay, I do miss our hot tub too 🙂

 

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Oh how I love my new kitchen toy!!!

 

Now the million dollar question…isn’t this costing you a fortune??? 
This may surprise some of you but our mobile lifestyle isn’t more expensive. We have certainly made some changes to our budget since we are no longer working and not having a house to take care of most definitely helps the bottom line. We have been good savers, mostly in our company 401K programs but are certainly not rolling in dough by any means. I have been the keeper of our budget for years and to be truthful, when were working we did not think too hard about buying what we wanted, when we wanted. That mentality has definitely changed now that we are living on our savings. We did exceed our budget overall for the first year on the road but we have a better idea now where we can tighten the belt a bit. The mobile lifestyle can be anything you want it to be as can the costs associated with it, so budgets are different for different people. Suffice to say, we are way more careful with our cash theses days plus when you have nowhere to put new stuff, you just don’t buy new stuff.

What about the pets???
They love being with us and most of the time we love being with them (except when I am in the middle of the daily pet hair removal exercise). Bentley isn’t the easiest dog to travel with as he is so wary of strangers and is afraid of other dogs. Ever since he was attacked by an off leash dog this summer, he positively doesn’t want to be around other dogs. At least with people, he does warm up and will greet you with a nub wag after he has accepted that you are not the scary, evil person he thought you were. He does love laying in the sun, running free in the desert (when we know other dogs aren’t around), a good camp fire or playing ball so life is good for him.

 

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Who doesn’t love a roaring campfire???

 

Sucia had a rough first 5 months in the coach when we left Portland last December and it seemed like she was comatose most of the time. Jumpy, scared of all the new sounds and all the change was overload for her. She ended her stay in Santa Fe last spring with a inflamed bladder and a trip to teh vet. The vet got her feeling better and thanks to rescue remedy and calming collars she made the transition to the boat this summer very well. I think she actually likes being on the boat more than the coach as there are more levels which she can perch and see outside plus the rear cockpit is like an enclosed sun porch. She spent many hours this past summer laying out there watching birds, swirly light on the water and zenning out. The good news is that she seems to have adapted well now that we are back on the coach for the winter.

 

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Sucia loves the sun beams on the Beach House

 

What about lessons learned???
Well, I know we had way to much “stuff” on board the coach when we rolled out of Portland last December. Believe it or not, too many clothes…specifically jackets, shoes and socks…yes, you can have too many pairs of socks and seriously how much do you really wear them when the weather is 70 degrees! Too many pairs of jeans and long pants. We really had to pare it down when we transitioned onto the boat for the summer as there is so much less storage on the boat. Also, way to many towels and dog toys! Yes, even Bentley had to do some purging.

 

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Really, he wanted to bring it all! I told him to choose 10.

 

This fall, we did another big reorg of our stuff and definitely rolled out of Anacortes a bit lighter. Since we first rolled, I have add a Instant Pot and a Cuisinart Food Processor to the small arsenal of kitchen tools I have. Since I love to cook and was able to make room for them both, I felt justified buying them both!!

Checklists. We are big believers now in check lists…seems we tend to forget things or where we put things or what things we even have. We do have a small 5×10 ft storage space near Anacortes Washington where we keep all the stuff that we couldn’t part with or things we use seasonally on either the boat or the coach like the pressure washer or carpet cleaner. Some very, very good friends in Anacortes who have an amazing storage area under their garage also let us store some of our nicer wines – thanks Millers!!!

The other reason…the really big reason we have checklists for the coach and boat is it is easy to forget how to actually run, start or set up after we have been off the coach or boat for a season. Yikes, is it an age thing??? I keep telling myself, no..its because we aren’t doing it actively…you know use it or lose it!

One boneheaded example of why I needed a check list for getting Ernie hooked up to the coach came the day we were heading out of Anacortes in October. We each have our departure/arrival chores when it comes to the coach and the boat. In addition to getting the inside of coach secure for travel, I also help Wally get Ernie (our Chevy Equinox) hooked up to the tow bar. Specifically, I connect the air brake inside the car and make sure everything is set correctly so that Ernie rolls along behind the coach. It’s really not that complicated but…forget one step and well, Ernie doesn’t roll so well.

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Once car is hooked to tow bar:
1. Attach brake bar
2. Plug in air link
3. Pump the brakes a few times
4. Release parking brake
5. Put car in neutral
6. Turn key 1 click
7. Put on sun visor
8. Double check again

Despite our checking each other’s work…some how step 5 didn’t happen (notice it is in bold now). What was our first clue?? Well, the coach didn’t seem to be going forward easily…is there something wrong with the transmission?? What is that skidding noise behind the coach??? After a few failed attempts to move the coach away from the curb and checking the tow bar set up, I stood on the sidewalk and watched as Wally tried to pull forward…WHOA, poor Ernie was skidding across the concrete, tires locked, resisting with all his 3,400 pound might. Dummy Girl…I was yelling DUMMY GIRL when Wally came out to see what was going on. Yes, I forgot to actually put the car in neutral…DUMMY GIRL, jeez, did I feel like an idiot. Wally being the nice guy he is reminded me he didn’t check my work either so technically is wasnt all my fault. Okay, that’s why those check lists are really important!!

Another lesson learned was….DON’T ALWAYS TRUST GOOGLE MAPS!!! Shit, Damn, Hell did we learn that one the hard way, more than once. We are just under 60 feet long with Ernie on the tow bar behind us.  It isn’t easy turning the coach around and we can’t back up at all with Ernie being towed so our maneuverability is limited. Best I can tell, Google maps does give a damn about that little but important factoid! Shortest or fastest route, sure thing.  I also have to research fuel stops to make sure we can get in and out without an embarrassing incident, uh like being stuck, having to unhitch Ernie and slink away while all the other pissed off customers have to wait. So it turns out my new job as does have some stress after all!

 

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We barely fit…I held my breath so that’s why we were able to make it across.

 

So what are we going to do this winter???
We arrived in gloriously warm Palm Springs almost 4 weeks ago and settled in very quickly to our beautiful site at the Outdoor Resort Palm Springs. This winter we are splitting our time between two RV resorts in California and Arizona. Last winter we tried a variety of different places, a variety of different state/regional parks and RV resorts to get a feel for what we might like.

 

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Warm, balmy and all set up to dine alfresco.

 

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Our view of the San  Joaquin Mountains.

 

The conclusion was actually surprising to us.  Thanksfully we agreed that we liked the amenities that a true 55 plus RV resort offers (yes, dammit we are old enough to qualify) and that we did not want to be moving around every two weeks all winter long. Since this is a lifestyle not a vacation, moving frequently all winter long actually got tiresome (I know, you are thinking what a whiner I am). Being in one place longer in the winter also means we can enjoy the new friends we are making.

Another other perk of being in one place a bit longer is that we can seek out volunteer opportunities. I fell in love with the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior AZ when we visited there last February. I am interested in becoming a volunteer. Woohoo, maybe they will let me get my hands in the dirt!

 

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The desertscape at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum with the mountains in the background is just spectacular.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we love to do road trips and there is so much of the US we want to explore but really who wants to do that in the cold of winter! November through March is a great time to be hanging in a warmer climate but that sure rules out a whole lot of the US especially December – February. Perhaps in future winters, we will explore Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and over as far as Florida…well, once hurricane season is over. Our migration back and forth to the boat will be when we do our short hops, 1-2 weeks stops to explore other states like Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.

 

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Attending the Albuquerque Balloon Festival is on the calendar for 2018!

 

So your going to continue the mobile lifestyle???
Yes sir’ee Bob we sure are…no plans to settle down anywhere at this point. North American is a big continent and best I can tell, we are not getting any younger so Carpe Diem…

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