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Archive for April, 2011

Tuesday 5 April 2011 and Wednesday 6 April – Flight home

It was the usual last day routine – take the rental car to the carwash while we had breakfast in the bakery opposite.

My back was twitching as we moved our luggage to the car for a weigh in at the local postoffice. It got no better as we switched bags from the rental car at the return to Eunice’s car for the last miles on US soil to Departures at LAX.  We were glad to drop off our hold luggage and made our way to Gate 101. At around 14:00 Angie made a toilet call and came back with the news that our gate had been switched to Gate 138 – right at the other end of the airport. By now my back had ceased up, but once again we shouldered the back pack and stopped off at a Pharmacy to get some painkillers and a bottle of water. No idea how I got to the Gate, but I must have gritted my teeth as a filling started to crumble and eventually came out. No problem – I was on pain killer’s already. Don’t remember much of the rest of the journey, other than that yet again I had a row of 4 to myself, while Angie could have had the one behind me, but decided to stay next to me on the other side of the isle. The seat next to her was empty too, so no space restrictions.

Due to the empty seats, the hostesses were handing out 2 bottles of wine when you asked for one – 281 ml each (standard full bottle is 750 ml) and Angie tells me that I had 4 on top of the pain, so slept well until breakfast was served somewhere over Ireland. I moved through immigration and luggage retrieval like a robot. Peter was waiting for us and I fell asleep as soon as my bum was on the seat of his car.

All souvenirs arrived home in tact.

Tomorrow I’ll start looking at the next trips – to Bolivia in November 2011 and a Pediocactus-athon for May 2012 – and preparing the second half of What I Saw Last Winter 2010-2011. Winter is officially over!

Monday, 4 April 2011 – San Diego to Long Beach

Angie enjoyed her ‘Motel 6-at-the-end-of-the-run-way’ experience and despite the activities and Amtrack had slept like a log! In fact, she complained that there were not enough planes landing and trains whistling for her to get a decent video. She had taken up a spot by the swimming pool from where she could record the plane appearing from over near by buildings and watch them skim the top of the Motel’s palm trees before skipping over the airport boundery wall where the howl of engines switched to reversed thrust announced another safe landing. She was having a great time reliving childhood memories of Sunday afternoons with her parents plane-spotting at Cologne Airport.  All good things come to an end and so I dragged her away to another non-cactus related memory of my past California trips.

For this we had to go back in time to 22 February 2008, to the day that Alain Buffel and I forgot our age and had a day being kids again at Seaworld. That time it had been a rainy start to the day and still early in the season. This time many kids were on holiday for the Spring Break, and the weather was fine.

We headed to the Dolphin Stadium and made sure that we were sitting above the soak zone, so that our cameras would stay dry. Angie took video clips while I fired of 9 frames per second to achieve more or less the same result as the bottle-nosed dolphins and two pilot whales took turns with the trapeze acts and trained exotic birds to entertain us.

Next we moved to the Poles, where we first saw hundreds of penguins, except the Humboldt and Maggalenic penguins that we saw in nature in South America. I wonder why? Then on to the North Pole for Polar bears and Delphinapterus leucas, the Beluga Whales.

We went through the hall of mirrors and were unsure which of the deformed images was really us.

And then it was time for the Big Splash, a date with Shamu and the pod of other Orca – Killer Whales, once again in action after last year’s fatal accident that cost the life of one of its carers.

The 90 minute drive to Bellflower was without incident. Once at Eunice’s, we emptied out our cases and started the serious task of repacking all our clothes and souvenirs for tomorrow’s flight home.

Sunday, 3 April 2011 – Longbeach to San Diego

Not long to go now until my winter 2010-2011 travels come to an end – we fly home on Tuesday. So just two days left to show Angie my favourite highlights of previous stays here. And despite the prospects of a sleepless night, this included a night at the Motel-6-at-the-end-of-the-runway in San Diego, and as I write up these notes, the sound of the train passing some 10 meters from the hotel and warning the public at the near-by crossing of its presence, this feature should not be forgotten. This is my sixth stay at this location since February 2008 and I have always enjoyed a good night sleep here, but then I have a reputation as the ‘Martini Sleeper’ to keep up – any time, any place, anywhere. But as usual I run ahead of myself and should start with what we saw today. The Motel-6-at-the-end-of-the-runway just provided the main reason for driving south.

By the way, I promise to start filing the gaps in the Diaries once we get home later this week.

First port of call was the Torrey Pines State Reserve (S2357) where in 2008 Eunice had shown me that Ferocactus viridescens, Opuntia litoralis and three species of Dudleya could all survive wedged between San Diego’s urbanisation, with the next door golf course causing some confusion as I briefly thought to have found Epithelantha micromeris  way out of its range. Once again we used the back door entrance to the state park and strayed off track so that the first Dudleya that Angie has ever photographed was also one of the rarest and smallest: D. blochmaniae ssp brevifolia. This plant is highly sensitive to the rainfall in the area, with a population explosion after a wet season and shrinking back after dryer seasons. The recent rains meant that they were easy to find. The eroding coastline and D. lanceolata again proved interesting input for our cameras.

As we had parked our car under a ‘tow-away’ sign, we thought it best to move on to another favourite location, at the Torrey Pines Glider Club at La Jolla (S2358). Here we had no trouble finding D. pulverulenta and D. edulis (aka ‘Ladyfingers Dudleya’). We were a little wary as we made our way through the low scrub, as we had been warned in the past that the plants here shared their habitat with rattlesnakes. None were seen or heard. As we reached the area where heavy erosion had made the soil rather unstable, we found Ferocactus viridescens bursting with buds and with some flowers already open. This time these plants looked as they had taken steroids, again evidence of recent rains. A nice contrast with plants found on earlier visits.

S2359 was just a few hundred meters farther along and was not a plant stop, but for pictures taken of the hang glider activities and the vistas along the shore line- Angie had spotted that we were right above a nudist beach! Ironically, this is where most pictures of the day were taken – of the hang gliders of course.

As we made our way back to the car we took a few more plant pictures filed again under S2358, and this included one with a shriek of ‘Snake!’ from Angie. The poor reptile seemed more frightened than she was, so we took a few more pictures while it slowly moved away, revealing a straight pointed ‘tail’ rather than a rattle.

We had planned to visit the Cabrillo National Monument tomorrow, but as it was still early we felt that we could fit this magnificent view-point in today and perhaps catch a good sunset. We arrived at 4 o’clock  (S2360), to discover that the gates closed at 5, so no sunset pictures from here. Still, we found the time to take some great scenic shots, before booking into the famous Motel-6-at-the-end-of-the-runway.