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What a lot of festivities! Today is Valentine’s Day and we’re in the middle of President’s Weekend, with yesterday a federal holiday to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and again on Monday for George Washington’s  birthday that both fall in February.

Perhaps the weekend should be renamed Car Day, as it seemed that everybody was on the road – not necessarily moving but certainly on the road.

We had another great day, although tiring – I must be getting old! We left at 6 a.m. to be at San Diego’s Balboa Park around 8, to find a car park space near the sales’ hall and the show display. Balboa Park is an urban recreational park that in addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, contains museums, several theatres, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States, dedicated to public recreational use. Balboa Park is managed and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of San Diego.Named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915–16 and 1935-36 Panama–California Expositions that both left architectural landmarks. (quoted from Wikipedia). In 2008 I arrived to give my talk around 14:00, to find it impossible to park, eventually finding a spot 30 minutes walk away (uphill, in the heat).With some 500 members, everything is very well organised, with UK-like queues at the entrance to the sales hall; quite unlike Friday afternoon at the annual ELK 3 day C&S festival in Belgium. San Diego Members were allowed in at 9:00, general public at 10:00, so we found a restaurant to have a coffee and an oatmeal cookie.

The plant sales hall again had a very orderly queue going all round a hall, about half the size of the large hall at ELK. Were these people buying plants? Where were the salesmen, here known as vendors? Well, all items for sale have to be labelled by the vendors with their own price labels that state the price (excl. Purchase tax of course) and a barcode. The queue was heading to the 3-4 check-outs where teams of 2-3 people  per till processed the purchases, one recorded the purchases, a second did any wrapping – lots of card board boxes availabl – while the third processed plastic card payments. Two more volunteers were at the front of the queue and ensured that buyers were directed once a till was ready. Very organised, but with some 500 members, there was no shortage of volunteers.

On the whole there was a nice selection of plants of all sizes, with large plants and other succulents making up the majority. There were few rarities, with Juergen Menzel as the specialist with the ‘rare’ plants (of which there are more at ELK) so not surprising that all his plants had gone by the time that the general public were allowed in. Becoming a member is difinitely worth it if you are after rare plants, so you can get in early and enjoy the snacks and drinks from the kitchen next door.

I felt a bit like a celebrity with many people I had never met wanting to talk to me, plus lots of old friends: Woody, Juergen, Steve & Phyllis Frieze,  Mark Fryer, Todd (who had travelled with Eunice, Cliff & I to Kingston Peak in 2009 etc.).  The images and film clips from the new camera / lens are fantastic! I’ll do a similar shoot at ELK this year.

Then on to the show, which was outside (sunny, 26 C) covered with a Gazebo, roof only, to protect plants from the sun. Some plants were on the outside edge and did get some sun so that the high contrast made photography difficult. Fantastic pots and displays and, as I could not buy plants, I (stupidly ?) bought some pots, to pot up table show plants for Portsmouth and Southampton table show and displays, just to show what they do in the US. It really makes for a much more impressive display. Good job that my hold  luggage weighed in at just 12 kg. Then Chuck ( =  Californian Keith Larkin) had the 2 volumes of Madagascar books by Werner Rauch at half price. Now they ARE heavy, but will come as hand luggage if need be. Tomorrow I need to go shopping for another hand luggage flight case on wheels!

By mid day there was still no sign of Pete & Rhonda, our hosts from Las Vegas who were on a 5 hour drive from home to enjoy a Valentine Day’s weekend on the coast. They arrived about 12:30, by which time I was dead tired of having been on my feet since 8, with my back causing pain as vertebrae became compressed. Visit to the doc when I get home, as this happens too frequently and interferes with my exercise regime recommended for my diabetes, cholesterol and general health.

We joined the river of steel i.e. the I-5, back to LA and arrived just after 4 (ET driving, me sleeping) where ET raced straight out again to the dog-park, while I did emails, with the BBC World News on.

It’ll be interesting to see how my UK presentations, What I Saw Last Winter, map out – pt 1 will be Mexico 2014, Ariocarpus in Flower, while pt 2 is an over view of talks in Australia, California and Nevada, mixed with pictures of plants in habitat in between. Doubt if anyone has done anything like that before. Hope it will be of interest to the audiences.
Woody asked me to reserve August 2016 for a 2 week trip to the Atacama Desert, with c 12 fellow travellers. I’ll set out a potential itinerary and do a dry run this year, so UK talks for August 2016 will be cancelled.

pots in display class at the show

pots in display class at the show

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