Perfect Moments

Driving back from visiting the Salton Sea today I was struck by a singular wave of emotion. I’m not sure exactly what triggered it. The weather is certainly fantastic, sunny and warm with light billowing clouds to keep it from being outright sweltering. I was listening to Asaf Avidan’s Different Pulses which is an emotional soundtrack if ever there was. I just felt a welling up of feeling, something unusual for me. Certainly stirred by the music but it wasn’t the subject of the song. Then it crystallized for me in words in my mind “I’m so grateful to be here with you.” And with that though I was crying behind my sunglasses overwhelmed with it.

I just let it ride through me but when we got back home I had to tell tell Hitch how grateful I was and kiss her. We’ve both been incredibly happy on this adventure. No matter what happens on our journey, whether we find a way to sustain it or not, it’s worth while, just for a moment like that, when you know what you are doing makes life feel like it has perfect harmony. I feel so free, alive and at peace sad I have someone to be there to share it with moment to moment which makes it all more real, more meaningful.

Driving into America’s past

I do nearly all of the driving for our adventures, not so much due to skill but temperament. I don’t stress easily and while driving is one of the few things that can get me wound up it normally doesn’t. Trail on the other hand can get pretty stressed out just being a passenger when we are towing the trailer. My weakness as a driver is I get bored and hypnotized by the road easily which makes my reaction time and awareness drop precipitously.

To counter act this on longer drives I generally turn to books on tape or podcasts which give my mind something to chew on and thus stay alert and yet it is not so occupying that it distracts me from the action on the road. While a good conversation can do the same, we’ve learned those can take my attention well away from driving with some rather frightening results. Thus we keep the conversations light weight and the radio interesting.

The white house burning in the war of 1812.

The white house burning in the war of 1812

We decided that the best thing to listen to while driving across America would be American history. For that we turned to an endless font of great audio: The Great Courses. These folks record college professors giving lectures on a wide range of academic subjects. We were turned on to them by our friends Jeff and Kate Grubb who order them often and share the CDs when they are done. Since we are now on the road we have instead started downloading them from Audible via Amazon.

VE Day Celebration

VE Day Celebration

Some of you may imagine that a lecture by a history professor might make for dull listening but I assure you this is not the case. For starters, they can pick from among the best lecturers available and as a result you get some pretty amazing speakers and story tellers in these courses. These are folks that built their careers on giving lectures and it shows through. Furthermore American history is filled with some incredible dramatic stories and characters. Most of us have heard of them in passing but these lectures really dive into the details and create a grand narrative of our countries past. The miles fly by and I look forward to our trips just so I can listen to more of these lectures.

The course below: The History of the United States 2nd Edition, is what we’ve been digging into as of late. It is a truly mammoth series and while we are only one Professor and about 12 hours in, so far it’s been consistently fantastic. If you have any interest in the subject at all, I strongly recommend getting these and making time to listen. They can be a bit pricey but you can get deals and if you have never used Audible you can get a course for free.

MLK's speech on the Washington mall

MLK’s speech on the Washington mall

The History of the United States, 2nd Edition

Written by: The Great Courses
Narrated by: Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Professor Gary W. Gallagher, Professor Patrick N. Allitt
Length: 43 hrs and 21 mins
Series: The Great Courses: Modern History, Lecture
Release Date: 07-08-13
Publisher: The Great Courses
Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.to/1mocsIN

This comprehensive series of 84 lectures features three award-winning historians sharing their insights into this nation’s past – from the European settlement and the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, 19th-century industrialization, two world wars, and the present day.

 

Exploring your history

One of the fun things you can do while traveling the country is make connections with your ancestry by visiting places connected to your families past. One of my more famous ancestors is John Parkinson,  an architect working out of Seattle and Los Angeles through the turn of the last century. None of his buildings still stand in Seattle but one of his most famous is the LA city hall which is still in use and remains an impressive and iconic sky scraper of its era. Since we were near LA, I wanted to make sure to see it in person.

John Parkinson

John Parkinson on right

John Parkinson is my great great grandfather. His daughter Mary Parkinson begat John Trent who in turn begat Goodwin Trent who is my charming father. John Trent, my grandfather, was the most senior member of the lineage I had the pleasure to know personally. Before I was really aware of the connection in my family I had an interest in Architecture. I strongly considered a career as an architect when I was in high school. Ultimately the gauntlet you have to go through to do the kind of work I was interested in was too much for me. I always wanted to design houses and buildings and most Architects must spend many years post education drawing door frames and the like before making entire buildings. None the less I retain a love of architecture and get a spiritual thrill from grand buildings or even cleverly designed homes.

LA City Hall

LA City Hall

I made a strategic mistake when visiting the building in person. Because LA is a fair distance to drive and its traffic is notorious for being some of the worst in the world, I decided to swing by after a trip to the Hollywood walk of Fame. The problem here was we were both somewhat tired by the time we got to city hall and there is pretty much no parking of any kind anywhere in the immediate area that is readily visible. We drove around quite a bit looking to no avail. Fortunately the view of the building from the street was quite good since it occupies an entire block on its own so we made due with a few slow drive by viewings.

It is a huge building and it’s design really gives it a sense of power and command. Because it is isolated to itself, it really stands out in a way that buildings crammed together don’t manage. It is not pretty exactly, nor elegant, yet it does soar and have a beauty all it’s own. As a symbol of authority it definitely get’s the job done. Fighting city hall is definitely not a fun prospect when it is symbolized with a 32 story granite phallus. This website gives some great details about its construction, design and the renovations it has been through.

LA City Hall 2

It was only after we were leaving that I noticed a parking garage tucked away on an adjacent block under another building complex but by then we were more than ready to head home. Perhaps the next time we are in town I’ll make arrangements for a more intimate look at my great great grandfathers most iconic work and perhaps check out one of his other landmarks like the LA Union Station.

 

Exploring your history

One of the fun things you can do while traveling the country is make connections with your ancestry by visiting places connected to your families past. One of my more famous ancestors is John Parkinson,  an architect working out of Seattle and Los Angeles through the turn of the last century. None of his buildings still stand in Seattle but one of his most famous is the LA city hall which is still in use and remains an impressive and iconic sky scraper of its era. Since we were near LA, I wanted to make sure to see it in person.

John Parkinson

John Parkinson on right

John Parkinson is my great great grandfather. His daughter Mary Parkinson begat John Trent who in turn begat Goodwin Trent who is my charming father. John Trent, my grandfather, was the most senior member of the lineage I had the pleasure to know personally. Before I was really aware of the connection in my family I had an interest in Architecture. I strongly considered a career as an architect when I was in high school. Ultimately the gauntlet you have to go through to do the kind of work I was interested in was too much for me. I always wanted to design houses and buildings and most Architects must spend many years post education drawing door frames and the like before making entire buildings. None the less I retain a love of architecture and get a spiritual thrill from grand buildings or even cleverly designed homes.

LA City Hall

LA City Hall

I made a strategic mistake when visiting the building in person. Because LA is a fair distance to drive and its traffic is notorious for being some of the worst in the world, I decided to swing by after a trip to the Hollywood walk of Fame. The problem here was we were both somewhat tired by the time we got to city hall and there is pretty much no parking of any kind anywhere in the immediate area that is readily visible. We drove around quite a bit looking to no avail. Fortunately the view of the building from the street was quite good since it occupies an entire block on its own so we made due with a few slow drive by viewings.

It is a huge building and it’s design really gives it a sense of power and command. Because it is isolated to itself, it really stands out in a way that buildings crammed together don’t manage. It is not pretty exactly, nor elegant, yet it does soar and have a beauty all it’s own. As a symbol of authority it definitely get’s the job done. Fighting city hall is definitely not a fun prospect when it is symbolized with a 32 story granite phallus. This website gives some great details about its construction, design and the renovations it has been through.

LA City Hall 2

It was only after we were leaving that I noticed a parking garage tucked away on an adjacent block under another building complex but by then we were more than ready to head home. Perhaps the next time we are in town I’ll make arrangements for a more intimate look at my great great grandfathers most iconic work and perhaps check out one of his other landmarks like the LA Union Station.

 

Slow Motion: Lingering in Southern California

Since Christmas we’ve been moored at my long time friend Tom’s home in beautiful southern California. Tom is a kind soul and invited us to linger as long as we care to. This is a great boon in terms of saving money since we use less electricity, water, supplies, gas, and don’t pay lodging expenses while we mooch dock. Since Tom is a bachelor at the moment we also feel pretty comfortable lurking about his house which means lots of room and good TV/Internet.

View from Toms Poarch

View from Toms Poarch

Of course aside from the creature comforts and saving money Tom’s home is itself a beautiful place and close to a large number of natural and cultural land marks. The property he’s on was once an Avocado farm and it is situated atop a large granite hill among many others at about 1,100ft in elevation. There are citrus trees, and avocados, along with wild growing cactus, jade plants, and huge agave’s. You can pick a lemon off a tree whenever you need one, great stuff!

Pick a Lemon!

Pick a Lemon!

The wildlife is also fairly plentiful with ground squirrels, gofers and rabbits in abundance which means a good number of hawks, falcons, owls and coyotes to prey upon them. Snakes and lizards are also plentiful but this time of year are mostly hidden away beneath the house or in old burrows of other animals awaiting warmer temperatures. One particular falcon commonly roosts above our trailer loudly proclaiming his territory. As of the last week seems to have a new mate in residence with him.

The Falcon of Castle Crest

The Falcon of Castle Crest

We were just about to roll out towards Arizona but Trail had some gift packages mailed to her that required we hang around for a week longer to receive them. Adventure calls to her so this week has been more challenging as we are low on local sights left to see that are relatively cheap. For me, that just means more time writing and gaming and all things sedentary that I take pleasure in. I’m good at lurking about but Trail needs to be in motion.

These are some big agave plants!

These are some big agave plants!

We should be out and about soon, headed for the Palm Springs area so we can spend more time at Joshua Tree National Park which is a truly fantastic place. I can’t wait to do a little rock climbing and spend some more time exploring its wonders. There are also some other places in reach of there to visit like the southern end of Death Valley which has some incredible rock formations of its own.

Jade plants and wild poppies in bloom

Jade plants and wild poppies in bloom on the grounds

From there we will be trekking south east towards Texas taking in the sights and exploring the warmer bits of the US. We haven’t decided just how far into Texas we plan to venture yet. We may make it over to the gulf of mexico, or we may end up coming back north before then. We are both eager to hit up the monumental parks of the west like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon but we will to wait until they warm up for the spring.

The Yamato at Tom's place.

The Yamato at Tom’s place.

We have a vague outline of our travel by region into the fall of 2016 but not a lot of specifics. Generally in the spring and early summer its up through the great national parks of the west, then early summer we scoot through our old home town to visit folks, then up to Alaska for the mid and late summer when we come back to the lower 48. Then likely we start knocking out some of the northern great plains states.

Shiny Bubbles: Insulating your trailer with radiant barriers

Trailers are more exposed to the elements than a traditional home. When it rains, you hear every drop. When it blows, you feel every gust. Those parts are actually pretty fun, but the heat and the cold are not so great. One tool you can use to try and regulate temperature in your mobile home are radiant barriers, also known as reflective insulation. This article will explain what they are, how they work, how you can use them, and of course where you can buy them.

Bubble Wrap Close Up

What is it?
A radiant barrier is a material that reflects radiant energy. An example of radiant energy is light from the sun or the heat given off by an electric coil. The radiant energy hits the surface and bounces off rather than passing through or being absorbed. Many, though not all radiant barriers are reflective, that is they look shiny because they reflect light (which is also a form of radiant energy).

The type of radiant barrier that is most handy in a trailer consists of bubble wrap with a reflective foil glued to both sides. You buy it in rolls and can easily cut it to whatever size and shape you need. It is light weight, fairly thin (about an eight of an inch), and has a stiffness/flexibility about that of card stock though it tends to be more rigid vertically than it is horizontally.

Types of energy

How it works
Keep in mind its mission is to reflect radiant heat. Since it is shiny on both sides it does that equally well from either side. One thing that is tricky about radiant barriers is in what situations they don’t work so well. For starters, they are not effective when in direct contact with a hot object. For instance it doesn’t make a good oven mitt. This type of heat transmission is called conduction and foil actually conducts direct heat pretty well. You need air or void space between it and the source of radiant heat for it to reflect it.

It also doesn’t work well to stop convection which is when heat in a medium like air or water moves taking heat with it. Unless your barrier is air-tight, hot air will flow past the radiant barrier as it moves upwards. This means if you put this stuff in your attic and its cold outside, the hot air in your house will flow past it and it won’t do much to keep the house warm. On the other hand if it is on the floor and you have a warm house it will keep heat from radiation out the bottom of the house since the hot air is going up and only radiant energy is going down. Bottom line, it keeps heat from going down, but isn’t so great at keeping it from going up unless you can trap the air beneath it.

Radiant barrier in roof

How to use it
For trailer life you can use this stuff both to keep heat in your trailer and to keep heat out of your trailer. For keeping cool its primary use is to cover your windows and skylights with the reflective material. This reflects the rays of the sun coming in the windows thus keeping them from heating up the interior.

window application

For keeping warm it has a few more applications. The window trick actually works for this too because it will reflect more of the heat you have in the trailer back into the trailer instead of out through the windows. During the day this may not work so well since you are also blocking sunlight from coming in, it just depends on how cold it is and how strong the sunlight is. At night though it will definitely help you retain heat. With our Airstream the windows are recessed so it is easy to cut out pieces that are the same shape of the windows and just stick them in the sill and use the curtains or shads to hold them in place. If you don’t have curtains a little tape or a clip can do the trick. Remember not to press it up against the glass, a little air space is required for them to function.

Radiant blanket

You can also use it to retain body heat when you sleep by putting it under your mattress where it will help keep the heat you generate in your bed. You could also make a sort of blanket from it to go over your normal ones though I suspect that would be a little unwieldy and they make specialized blankets for this you can buy. We also have lined the space our cat’s sleep in with the stuff to reflect their body heat back into their cubbyhole. Again, air space matters here, though a mattress or heavy blanket tends to provide sufficient trapped air so it can just sit directly under it and do its job.

Finally you can use it to section off parts of your RV to concentrate the effect of a heat source in that area. This is especially handy if you want to keep the sleeping area warm for the night but use less power. If you have to cover a large area you may need something to support the barrier like a large piece of cardboard to stiffen it up. Double sided tape is good for making a large stiff board of it, though the side attached to the cardboard should face away from the heat source as it looses its effectiveness at reflecting heat.

Insulated bag

Beyond controlling the temperature of your trailer, you can also use the stuff to make an insulated bag to keep food and drinks warmer longer. Again they do sell these specifically but once you buy a roll of reflective bubble wrap you just start to imagine all the handy things you can do with it.

One thing you probably don’t want to do is try to make clothing out of the stuff simply because it would look silly and not be too comfortable. Of course you can buy clothing made with radiant reflective material incorporated into it and it does work very nicely at keeping your body heat inside your clothing on chilly days and nights. Columbia sportswear has a lot of items using this technology under the title Omni-Heat.

bubble wrap guy

Buying the stuff
The basic bubble wrap reflective insulation can be gotten pretty cheaply. Often I find the list price is quite high, but it can be had deeply discounted nearly everywhere it is sold. If you are paying anything more than $50 for a big roll of the stuff you are probably paying too much. Because it is most often sold for use as home insulation, it tends to come in pretty large quantities.

Big roll of insulation (Only buy if on sale, otherwise look for another)
Smaller roll of insulation (Only buy if on sale, otherwise look for another)
Reflective tape to make your own insulation  (I haven’t used this stuff)
Double sided tape for sticking insulation to things

 

Picking a Tow Vehicle for an Airstream Trailer

One of the biggest decisions I had to make before setting forth was what kind of vehicle to get to tow our trailer with. Trail decided early on she wanted an Airstream trailer based on their modern styling and great reputation for durability and quality construction. What to tow it with was left largely to me as I was very likely to do the lions share of the driving.

My personal car experience was limited to small economy cars. I’d had a few nail biting experiences with U-Haul trucks and driven my mothers light trucks from time to time. As we do in this day and age I decided to hit up Google and settle in for a lot of reading on the subject. Here I hope to boil things down for you based on what I discovered and I’ll discuss our final decision.

First Know your Trailer
Before you can select a tow vehicle you need to know a bit about the trailer you will be pulling. For us, we were looking at one of the larger Airstreams. Trailers these days tend to come in three categories: light weight mini trailers, full sized standard trailers, and 5th wheels. Light weight and full sized trailers use an end to end hitch coupler designed to take the familiar hitch ball used for small boats and cargo trailers. 5th wheels use a special kind of 5th wheel hitch which is what they are named for. While end to end or standard hitches can be used with a wide range of vehicles, 5th wheel hitches are for trucks only. Since Airstreams don’t have any 5th wheel style trailers we were looking at any vehicle sporting a standard hitch receiver. I’ve another article that goes into detail about selecting a hitch and explains the terminology used here.

5th wheel

The most important things to know about your Airstream is it’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The gross weight is how much your trailer and all it can carry before it becomes unsafe. This number gives you a good idea of how much total towing capacity your vehicle will need. Your best bet for finding this information is to google your Airstream model, size,  and its year of manufacture along with the key word such as “gross vehicle weight.” For newer models you can get this from the Airstream website. Here is ours: 2016 International Serenity 30 feet. In our case our gross weight was 8,800 lb; about as big as they come. If you buy from a dealer they should be able to provide you this information.

Batou-Yamato

Towing Capacity
Your first consideration is that any vehicle you select needs to have a Towing Capacity that meets or exceeds the gross weight of your trailer. If you can’t find anything listing a Towing Capacity for a vehicle it probably wasn’t designed for towing and you should give it a miss. It is possible to take a vehicle that was not originally configured for towing, but has the potential, and rig it up for towing. You need a combination of a strong engine with high torque, good suspension that can handle the added trailer weight, and a frame that can support the stress of pulling and holding up the trailer. Configuring such a vehicle is beyond the scope of this guide. I’ll stick to vehicles that were manufactured with towing in mind and list a Towing Capacity.

Keep in mind Towing Capacity is determined by a number of factors including the Engine, Frame, Suspension and other aspects of your vehicle. This means not all vehicles with the same make and model will have the same towing capacity. Each one is rated based on all its options so you need to see what the specific vehicle you are looking at is rated for. Nearly any dealer or manufacturer can provide you with a specific vehicle’s Towing Capacity. If you are buying it used and they don’t have that data, get as much information as you can about it and go online to try and find out its towing capacity before you buy.

Type of Vehicle
Unless you have an ultra light trailer (under 2,000lb)  you need to have a vehicle that was built for towing. Most cars just aren’t made with towing in mind and either the engine, suspension, or body of the vehicle can’t handle the stresses involved. Generally you are limited to Trucks, Vans, and SUVs. All of these vehicles are essentially built with a truck style frame and have different types of bodies attached to them. Lets look at the benefits of each.

Ram1500 Truck

Trucks:  Trucks tend to be the gold standard for towing. They will have the highest Towing Capacity and can tow the widest range of trailers. They will also be the cheapest of the three primary options pound per pound. They also come in a nearly bewildering variety of sizes and options and you could fill a book with truck vocabulary. Provided you know what Towing Capacity you need you can skip all the light duty/heavy duty, half ton/three quarter ton 1500/2500 designations. All you need to know is if the Towing Capacity is up to your needs, if it is, your are good to go. Most of these other designations are archaic terms and vary by manufacturer.

Options that do matter a lot will be the body style of the truck and there are many. Standard cab trucks just have two seats, crew cap and extended cab trucks have back seats. Often the bigger the cab, the shorter the truck bed. The interior of trucks vary from strictly utility, to those with extensive luxury features. The make and model doesn’t always tell you what you will be getting so you need to dig into the exact features of each truck you look at. If you order a new truck the number of options is pretty astounding.

Overall a truck gives you the best towing options at the lowest price but you will be limited in what you can store or how many people you can seat in the vehicle compared to the other options.

Chevy Express Van

Vans:  Vans are generally built with a truck frame but a different body style which is why they can be just as effective for towing. The one thing they can’t tow are 5th wheels because you need a truck bed for the specialized hitch. What can really set a van apart is its large enclosed space. You can use this for extra passengers, storage space, or even a smaller mobile living space for camping in places where your trailer would be impractical. Mind you we are generally not talking about mini-vans here but full sized cargo, commercial, or passenger vans.

There are some down sides on a van. For starters they tend to be a bit more expensive than trucks. Secondly they are less often fully configured for towing so you may need to install a hitch receiver and break controller on yours if it doesn’t have one. Of the three types of vehicles they tend to have the least luxury cabin options. Finally, vans tend to have less off road capabilities than Trucks or SUVs so if you want to detach and go back country your going to run into more difficulties with ground clearance. Finally wind resistance can be an issue in a Van, which eats up gas and makes handling a bit more challenging in high winds.

Infinity SUV

SUVs:  Like vans, we are talking about SUVs that are built using a truck frame rather than smaller commuter style SUVs. The bigger it is, the more likely it is able to meet your Towing Capacity requirements. Because they are less often used for towing, it can be a bit of a challenge to find out what their Towing Capacity is. The advantage with SUVs tend to be in the areas of passenger comfort and vehicle handling. These drive more like a typical car, fit into smaller spaces (generally) and they have lots of passenger space with amenities like built in DVD players and other fancy interior gadgets. You will spend quite a while in your tow vehicle so this stuff can matter a lot. They also tend to come with great navigation systems and safety features like collision detection that can keep you safe on the road. Last but not least, SUVs tend to be loaded with advanced safety features and have the most secure cabins.

The biggest down side tends to be limited Towing Capacity. Even the biggest SUV’s cap out near 10,000 lb and those are a rare breed. Much more common are towing ranges between 2,500 and 5,000 lb. You will also pay the most for an SUV due to the more complicated vehicle body and all the extras they tend to come with. Finally SUVs will have the smallest storage capacity. The more luxurious they are, the less storage they will tend to have.

Summing up
Trucks: Best at towing, Many options, Best value, Least seating
Vans: Most storage, Super versatile, Least luxury features
SUVs: Best safety, Most comfortable, Least Storage, Weakest towing, Most expensive

3 Engines

Diesel vs Gas engines
On most of these vehicles you can get them with either Diesel or Gas engines. These days the differences are smaller than they used to be but it is worth some consideration. Diesel engines tend to last longer but require a bit more maintenance to keep them in good condition. Diesel engines will also generally get somewhat more miles to the gallon. Finally Diesel engines will have more torque (pulling power) and thus can tow heavier loads. On the down side diesel can be harder to find than gas in some parts of the country and the price tends to be more volatile, sometimes higher and sometimes lower than regular gas. Neither choice is bad and while I probably would have preferred a Diesel engine, I have a Gas engine in my truck because it was what the truck I liked happened to have.

Brake Controller

Brake Controllers
One thing I ended up needing to buy to go with my vehicle is a brake controller. This is an electronic device that applies the breaks of the trailer you are pulling when you break the tow vehicle. Some vehicles with a complete tow package will already have a built in brake controller. Mine, while rigged for towing and having a brake connection, did not have a controller. I had the trailer dealer do the installation, which while not especially complicated still takes a bit more know how than I had at the time. I went with this controller Tekonsha 90885 Prodigy P2 Electronic Brake Control. I like that it has a big display for the brake strength and a nice easy dial for controlling it. Simple and easy are both good qualities for this gear. The reason you need to adjust the strength is that conditions like humidity and temperature as well as whether you are in a hilly area can affect how much oomph you need for smooth braking.

Sig and Batou

My Truck
We ended up with a Ram 1500 crew cab Larraine with a V8 hemi Engine. It has a towing capacity of 11,000 lb and is pretty luxurious inside the crew cab. I was set on an SUV initially. I loved the luxury and safety features they offered. In the end though I was worried about their Towing Capacity not quite meeting my needs and the prices were simply a good 25% higher than a Truck which could well exceed my minimum towing needs. The truck also has a lot more space to store tools and equipment which is important when you plan to live on the road as we do.

 

Temescal Sulpher Springs & Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa

Many years before European settlers, the First Peoples of Southern California bathed in the natural sulfur hot springs of the Temescal Valley for spiritual rites. They built mud domed huts over the springs to capture heat, creating ceremonial sweat lodges. When the spanish settlers arrived in the 1800s, they saw these huts and called the area Rancho Temescal, after the aztec word for sweat lodge “temescal.” During the Gold Rush era, the area around the spring was taken over by pioneers seeking to gain business from the caravans arriving from the east, and adverted healing waters for health benefit and recreation to exhausted travelers.

Though the hot springs has a 155 year commercial history, the name Glen Ivy itself was established in the 1880s. From then on, the springs changed hands many times. After many ups and downs, the hot springs was purchased by John and Pamela Gray in 1977 who transformed the area into a luxury day spa. In the following 30 years, the owners shaped the hot springs into its current state with continual addition of pools, treatment buildings, a luxurious bath house, saunas, steam rooms, grottos and gift shop.

Of the amenities most notable are Club Mud and mineral baths.

In Club Mud, you slather yourself in therapeutic red clay mud. In theory, the iron oxide rich and acidic (pH of 5 or less) mud exfoliates skin, and if the soil also contains minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, it can be beneficial as a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory for joints. But in reality, there’s no real guarantee that the mud contains such minerals and in what quantities.

The mineral baths contain mostly sodium sulfate, but also include sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, and other trace minerals. In short, it’s a mild chemical soup which results in tarnishing your silver jewelry and a slight rotten egg smell. At an average temperature of 104° F, it of course promotes circulation. The sulfur is good for those with skin conditions and relieves itchy irritated skin rashes, even reducing symptoms of eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and dandruff. The sulfur even gives the water antibacterial properties.

Combo this with a massage or a salon treatment, and you’ve got a relaxing day worthy of any hardworking or weary soul.

Meditation Labyrinth Glen Ivy Club Mud Pool Lounge Pool Club Mud Drying Area Meditation Labyrinth

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano was first founded by Father Lasuen and on October 30, 1775, a group of padres and soldiers moved in. Their stay was cut short, as they left with due haste a week later to help their neighboring mission in San Diego against Native American revolt. San Juan Capistrano wouldn’t be fully open until a year later on All Saint’s Day, November 1, 1776, by Father Serra.

When the Franciscan order built the mission, they named her in honor of Giovanni da Capistrano, a 15th-century theologian and “warrior priest” who resided in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Today, the mission is the location of the oldest building in California still in use, Serra’s Chapel, which was built in 1782.

Today the mission is 239 years old, and is comprised of restored buildings from various periods of habitation, museums housing precious artifacts and paintings, gardens, a basilica and a parish school, all within 10 acres.

The mission’s crowning jewel are the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano’s “Great Stone Church,” dubbed by architects the “American Acropolis” in reference to its classical Greco-Roman style, but was really modeled after the Byzantine cathedrals scattered throughout Europe and Western Asia. The church took nine years to construct and was completed in 1806, only to be destroyed six years later in the earthquake of 1812.

And of course, there are the Capistrano Cliff Swallows which return each year, which migrate from South America to North America in the spring and summer for breeding. The San Juan’s legend claims that the birds return promptly on March 19th, but these are wild animals and migrate according to weather patterns so they come to mission whenever nature dictates. In fact, the swallows haven’t really shown up at the mission in the last several years. While there are still swallows scattered throughout Capistrano, scientists account the reduction to increased development and the combination of many more choices of nesting place and fewer insects to eat.

Ruins of Stone Church The Altar of the Serra Chapel South Wing & Front Gardens Arch of the Stone Church The "Jewel of Capistrano" Father Serra & a Sparrow Remains of Great Stone Church Inside Serra Chapel The Bell Wall Gardens of San Juan Capistrano

Suggested Reading

Trail & Hitch and the Sea Cliff of Vanishing Pines

Along the coast of Southern California, and within the community of La Jolla, San Diego, is two thousand acres of coastal state park called Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Its namesake comes from the Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana), the rarest pine in North America and is officially listed as critically endangered. There are only two places on the planet where the Torrey pine can be found in the wild: within Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean, and on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California. The plant has vanished over time due to the drying period over the last 10 years.

The sea cliffs of this nature preserve suffer from continual drought. The Torrey pine’s roots grow in poor sand. Their branches and needles are sometimes blasted by storms and continually cooked in hot sun, but the trees persists. Over time coastal winds twist the trees into beautiful sculptural shapes resembling large bonsai.

The Torrey Pines Visitor Center is located in a unique adobe building built by the Scripps family in 1922 at what is now. There’s the usual selling of bric-a-brac, but there’s lots of information about the park squirreled away in this tiny shop.

The Torrey Pine Torrey Pines Nature Preserve Torrey Pines Nature Preserve Sunny Day at the Beach Beach & Cliff at Torrey Pines Park