Thursday, November 5, 2015

We must admit it.....

Yes, we do LOVE Joshua Tree NP.  Which, explains why we have returned here for the 3rd time (the only venue we have returned to).

The week evolved from hanging out, re-familiarizing ourselves with the details of the job, getting settled, and spending time with old friends and returning to old, favorite restaurants

like, The Crossroads Cafe.  Located in Joshua Tree, but the 10 minute drive is worth it.  Our "go to" Mexican restaurant is Las Palmas 

 and that is where we were found ourselves on October 4th, Bill's 72nd birthday.  It was the perfect meal to preceded his birthday cake which I had prepared that afternoon:  German Chocolate Cake.

The blending begins
More buttermilk is added
and folded in

Little by little

The batter is like a chocolate mousse

The layering begins
Almost complete, the melting of chocolate takes place

Drizzling over the edge
The serve.....

 And, YES, for the most part this giant piece with ice cream was enjoyed, almost to completion.  The verdict "It's as good as my Mom's".  Further investigation, via Jennifer Breland, revealed "Mom's" little trick: day old coffee (1-2T).  The next time we will try that and see what he says then.

Our daily tasks here at Joshua Tree NP involve patrolling the campground, making sure everyone has a sight, is paid up, rules and mores are adhered to.  Now, late one evening, as we were completing the nightly rounds (about 9:30PM) we observed an RV, apparently planted for the night in the parking lot of the Visitor Center.  This is a BIG no no!  Knowing the L.E.'s (Law Enforcement Officers) would be tapping on their door at 3AM, we decided to save the guy the trouble.  We approached the darkened out vehicle and as Bill went around to tap on the side door, I took a position at the front, by the windshield.  I could see that the privacy of the back end (sleeping area) was secured by a sheet hung between the driver and passenger seats.  The sheet went about 70% of the way to the ceiling of the RV.  After Bill's 2nd tap, I saw an older man (turned out to be 65) looking over the sheet barrier.  He appeared to be naked, as much as I could tell. I motioned him to come to the side door.  I then told Bill "naked man coming to the door".  This man, compelled by our presence, came to the door immediately, and stepped out into the well lit parking lot, beginning a relaxed conversation with Bill.  Now, to my gratification, this man was partially (and I do mean partially) clothed.  Wearing a small red pair of nylon briefs, this Hollander jumped right out onto the tarmac and held court with us. NOTE:  this Saturday our campground was full (save those 3 LE sites we hold back for emergencies, and those sites were really smallish "tent sites").  We chose the best of those 3 campsites and decided to move the RV there (this site happened to be right next door to ours).  
Note: before actually moving the RV and parking it in the designated location, our guest put a pair of shorts on:0)

So, there you have it, in Holland this behavior is perfect acceptable.  Apparently, it is also acceptable   in Holland (when arriving after hours), to park your RV wherever you feel like and settle up in the morning.

Between El Nino and the Santa Ana the weather has been quite unusual.  El Nino brings warmer weather (good for this time of year) and extra rain (good for the spring bloom and why we have decided to stay at Joshua Tree National Park until April 30th, 2016).  El Nino, on the other hand brings sleepless nights (at least for me) and sometimes, damage:

 I hope it is just blown over and not a pile of twisted metal:-(

Replacing equipment is one of the negatives of this lifestyle (still beats paying taxes).  

As "volunteers" our contact person is usually the Volunteer Coordinator, almost always outgoing, friendly and competent people.  (yes, there are exceptions to this rule, see: Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge).  The Coordinator is usually as high up the food chain of our Park system as Bill and I get as far as meeting with or working with.
Most of our time is spent with the "workers" AKA Rangers.  

 Yet, there are some positives/perks we receive as full time volunteers, one of them being the occasional "volunteer picnic (potluck, breakfast etc)".  And the occasional t-shirt.  But, other than those things, our "contact" with the big wigs is nonexistent.  So you can imagine my surprise to walk around from the backside of the RV a few weeks ago and find Bill talking to stranger (not unusual for him).  As I was being introduced and shaking this handsome man's hand, imagine my pleasure and surprise to hear Bill say "Honey, this is David Smith".  David Smith is the SUPERINTENDENT of Joshua Tree National Park!  Standing there at our trailer, talking to Bill.  David just came by to 
introduce himself, welcome us, and Thank us for our service.  WHAT!!!
Never in a million years did I dream a SUPERINTENDENT would come to see us!  David turned out to be a really nice guy, so when we received an invite to an "employee appreciation" gathering directly thru David, we didn't hesitate.
Arriving late to the event, we entered smack in the middle of David's speech. Rather than be upset at the interruption, David drew us right in to his monologue, introduced us to everyone and made some glowing comments about us.
So, rather than feeling self conscious about our late arrival, David made us feel like one of the gang.  

After the breakfast David was willing to pose for pictures (and was very patient while we took several).
Bill, David Smith, Superintendent of Joshua Tree N.P., Jan
Our "boss" (and friend) Cynthia AWA fellow co-worker Ranger Jamie were also in attendance.
  In addition to her Ranger talents, Jamie is a dog sitter extraordinaire, taking care of Tessa when we flew to Colorado to see James and Sarah.

As the gathering fell on a Thursday (a working day for us) we were due back at Black Rock for morning rounds.  Now, no one said which route home we had to take, so, off into the center of the Park we ventured, taking the scenic way.  

OHHHH, and there was that slight detour up to "Key's View", where the sky exhibited the effects of the stormy week we had been having, making the view from this mountain top towards the valley, including Palm Springs all the way out to The Salton Sea, more spectacular than usual.
While cruising up the Key's View detour, both of us spotted a plume of smoke off in the distance, tracking it until we could pull over and check it out with the binoculars .  At a pull off along the way, to our great relief, we determined that 2 firefighters were on the job already, attacking the blaze.  Apparently a Joshua Tree had been struck by lighting.  Considering the remote location of the fire, very little acreage was burned before the firefighters had it struck.

And in the category "Life is Never Dull Moment"....this is what Bill found in our kitchen one morning, hanging out on the stove backsplash:

He was gently relocated.

This guy wasn't so lucky

WORK DAYS (cont)

A camper walked up to me at the Visitor Center with this guy holding onto the end of his shovel (yes, I know it's a guy because it is currently Tarantula mating season and only the boys are on the move, looking for love) and says "hey, look what I found walking thru the campsite!!!"  I said "OMGosh DON'T TOUCH, they are a protected species!!!!"  He says "but it was right in the middle of our campsite"!  I almost said "he has more right to that campsite than you!"  But I simply took the shovel out of his hands, relocated the poor guy and gave the camper a stern lecture.

And, speaking of stern comes Lawrence, a homeless man.  The weekend had been VERY busy and to exacerbate the situation, Bill had made a wreck of the kitchen with his fried chicken strips, onion rings and potato chips .  At midnight (see USC and fighting women stories) we finally went to bed, leaving the kitchen mess.  One of us being a clean freak, could not sleep and, at 2:30 am got up to start the cleanup.  Taking the garbage out I spotted a vehicle parked, driver door open, in a pitch dark section of our parking lot.  I could see no more than that, and not desiring an unknown confrontation, I returned to our RV and called San Bernadino Dispatch.  I was then told a couple of things....." I don't have anyone on duty" and "if they were, they wouldn't come out for something like that".  SOMETHING LIKE THAT?  I'm thinking WHAT would it take to get them out here if a "suspicious person" call wouldn't bring them running?  So, at 1st light I returned....
Guys' name:  Lawrence
Situation:  homeless, living in a car
Health:  mentally ill on some unknown level.
Solution:  Bill and I arrange to have Lawrence stay in one of our "reserve" sites for 14 days, no charge.  WITH the understanding that he will not interact with any of our campers.  Five days pass, and all is well.  Friday arrives and our campground begins to fill, with a young couple making camp directly across the road from Lawrence.  This complicated the situation, as Lawrence could not keep his eyes off the young woman or their campsite.  The young lady was going to be alone at their campsite that night, and came in requesting a new site while expressing concern over Lawrences attentions.
With "the agreement" violated we were forced to evict Lawrence.  LE advised us he is not welcome back and we should keep an eye out for him.  I felt bad about the whole thing, but we cannot have our campers at risk.

The campground filled up quickly that night, and in no small measure, with USC students (60 to be exact).  After the injection of a bit (can anyone say "beer pong") of alcohol, many of the camper/students began to use less than good judgment .  It was clear to Bill and I that Law Enforcement was needed.  As tickets were being issued, one young man addressed the officer  thusly: "and what if I don't want to do what you are telling me to do".  THAT was IT!  All 60 of the students were evicted 1st thing in the morning...given 1 hour to get out.  An unprecedented event for Black Rock Campground.

The excitement did not end there.  As midnight approached and LE told us to retire for the night, we headed for the RV.  Before we reached home, we were flagged down by two women who had both arrived at 11:30 pm to take over their  respective sites, # 4 and #5.  These women appeared ready to throw punches.  WHY???  A disagreement over who's picnic table was who's.  In the dark it was hard to tell, so I walked to site #1 and flashed my light on it's table.  I repeated this for sites 2/3/4 and 5.  The boy scout's mom was NOT happy to find out she was wrong.   The fist fight was averted.

During a busy weekend there are more opportunities to make a difference in peoples lives, and such was the case of the German parents, traveling with 5 pre-teens and teens.  The couple stopped by about 8 pm asking "where can we buy firewood?".  We activated the "Suttie Wood and Kindling Supply Company", by which we choose campers to receive free wood and/or kindling just to get them through the night.  Filling up a bag of kindling and loading their arms up with logs, the couple left our campsite and we were left with the feeling that we had  performed another "good deed".  THAT was the end of THAT, or so we thought.
Dinner that night was going to be one of our all time favorites:  chicken fingers, onion rings homemade potato chips.  The meal takes awhile, so I was assisting Bill with the chips.  About an hour after providing our German visitors with the means to start their campfire, there was a knock at our door.  Bill answered to door to these 5 adorable faces:

Our German friends, who had benefited from our supply of firewood, had sent their young charges to thank us for the campfire.  After a few minutes of conversation outside, Bill invited the girls in to sample my potato chips.  The chips were a BIG hit!  For those parents thinking  "They came into the house?!"  RELAX, I  had this conversation with the girls as soon as it happened:  "never go into a strangers house".  When the girls responded "well, this isn't a REAL house"!   I set them straight about our ability to close and lock the door very quickly, trapping them inside.  I hope they got it!  Sad that it has to be that way, but we are aware that young people, in their naivety, often don't grasp the implications of such a maneuver.

The usual interesting things are going on in our work, but our private lives have been pretty interesting lately too.  Take the purse (no pun intended) caper:  Bill and I were planning a visit to see James and Sarah in Boulder, CO.  I had a plan for the wardrobe we would bring, and it included a "western style" purse.  I had flocated just the right one online and ordered it, rush delivery.
Doesn't arrive, doesn't arrive, doesn't arrive, and we had to leave for Colorado without it.
Upon our return Bill collected the mail from the Ranger who had been gathering it while we were absent.  Lo and behold, there's the bag from "Paradise"!   FINALLY, my purse!  Well, no, not so fast.  The shipping bag seems kinda flat.  Of course it was, because the only thing in the bag was the shipping label.   

 A Postal Investigation was activated by Paradise and I received a full refund.  Isn't that crazy????   Slit open, steal purse, place envelope back in mail.  Apparently it happened at the Yucca Valley P.O., where a long delay in the shipping had been identified.

The trip to Golden, CO was fabulous, a good time was had:

Tour of the Coors Brewery, which is a few blocks from James and Sarah's
We also had the opportunity to tour the buildings of the Fairmount Fire Department:  James's new employer.

Yes, we take advantage of every opportunity to be goofy!

AND, In the "God Sighting" category:  We left Golden on Sunday morning and on Monday, James and Sarah stopped at a local shelter.    The kids came home with this new girl...her name is Echo.   
You see, for several years James and Sarah have wanted a Belgium Malinois, but figured at $$$$$$$ it was an impossibility.  This trip to the shelter, made on a whim, revealed Echo, a 6 month old, female Belgium.  She is our newest granddog!  Can't wait to meet her.

Even though we are sort of on "permanent" vacation, the mundane stuff of life must go on.   Some of that was shared earlier under "work days", and some of it isn't even worth mentioning like:  Bill taking 3 days to get all caught upon our office paperwork.  Or, me, spending Mondays doing the laundry.  Of course these tasks are necessary, and often boring, but even those tasks can turn exciting in a moment:  like the silly sprint of a Roadrunner as he crosses your path, hesitates long enough to make eye contact with you before his skinny legs take him away.  Or the, OH so dog like Coyote

as he slips thru the newly empty campsites, on a Sunday afternoon, carefully checking around each picnic table and fire ring just as we approach to clean them out.

As in LIFE (real life) our days can be mundane or exciting, slow and easy or crazy busy (fortunately way more easy than crazy).  But they are all different and fulfilling.

Neither of us regrets, for a moment, this life we have chosen together.

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