March 1, 2016


“California dreamin’
On such a winter’s day...”  

Mamas & the Papas, California Dreamin’, 1965

Carol writes:  Some of the fondest memories Al and I have are from our early adult days in Southern California (otherwise known as SoCal), with its endless white sand beaches, an almost year-round tropical climate, lots of outdoor activities, and a whole lot of California dreamin’ goin’ on…

In early February we reached the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the westernmost point of our travels thus far.  For the next 3 weeks we put down roots a short walk from the beach at a peaceful little campground along a wildlife preserve at the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, whose sole reason for existence is to serve as a weapons storage depot for Navy ships undergoing repairs in the shipyard.

Al had clear memories of a time in his early days in the Navy when he came to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach to offload weapons before his ship could head into Long Beach Naval Shipyard for repairs.

Camping along the edge of a wildlife refuge is considered primo in RV circles.  One of our most special wildlife sightings was a small colony of blue herons guarding their nests in the trees that lined the edge of the campground.

Of course, the most spectacular of Southern California natural scenes would be its world-famous beaches.  Those incredible beaches still exert a huge attraction on us.


Quirky Muscle Beach 

in Venice always provides an entertaining day.  These folks are seriously into anything athletic, such as…

showboating athletic prowess with some serious body building;

crowd-pleasing skate boarding, starting at a very early age for this little guy;

and expert-level pickleball, not just a sport for the senior crowd at Venice Beach.

Then there was the less serious side of Venice Beach with its colorful California-style Mardi Gras parade,

and the one-stop-shopping “Green Doctor” facilities with a promise of cure for a variety of ailments… at a very reasonable price.

Eccentric Venice Beach wouldn’t be complete without its very own freak show.

That’s vintage Venice Beach in a nutshell... certainly never dull.

Our favorite SoCal beach was expansive and picturesque Huntington Beach. Al lived here briefly as a young naval officer. 

It was gratifying to see that the surfer lifestyle lives on,

 with a side of beach volleyball.

We liked Huntington Beach so much we came back twice to ride our bikes along 10 miles of its uninterrupted beach trail.

We got such a kick out of biking along dedicated beach bike paths that we did a couple of other rides—a ride at sunset up in Long Beach,

where there was some mighty fine condo living.

At sunset Nature put on a doozy of a light show that went on and on as the sun set ever so slowly, backlighting the port cranes with a brilliant deep orange glow,

while we enjoyed sandwiches and a shared wine cooler.

On another day, we tried a different kind of bike trail that went inland along the San Gabriel River.



In spite of a dire prediction of a Godzilla El Niño for southern California, we were having exceptionally warm and sunny days.  In fact, since we left Colorado almost 10 months ago, we have had only a handful of rainy days!  What a year for sunshine!  Finally, when a rainy day was forecast, we took the opportunity to visit the Getty Center, known for its world-class art collection,

"Jeanne (Spring)"  Édouard Manet

"Irises"  Vincent van Gogh

Baroness Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone”  Jean-Étienne Liotard

dramatic modern architecture, 

eye-catching gardens,

and a marvelous view of the city.


There are 21 missions along the California coast, and Mission San Juan Capistrano

is probably one of the most well-known, all because of the miracle of the swallows that return from their winter home in Argentina to begin building their mud nests every year on St. Joseph’s Feast Day (March 19) in San Juan Capistrano.

It was somewhat disappointing to learn that due to loss of habitat and increased development in the town, the numbers of returning swallows has decreased dramatically.

The admission price to the mission included a free audio tour, so we grabbed our handsets and headed to the inner courtyard,

ending up at the ruins of the “Great Stone Church” that was destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 1812.

Two of the original bells rest hauntingly among the ruins.


Sometimes you can really hit it off with fellow campers— especially, in my case, when one of them is an avid quilter!  Our neighbors, Larry and Sue, mentioned one day that they were driving up to Pasadena the next day to attend a quilt show called QuiltCon.  Any event with a “con” at the end of its name sounds like a big event, so we eagerly accepted their invitation to ride along!  I have never seen such unique modern designs in fabric, each with a fantastic variety of hand and machine-quilting techniques.

What I had never seen before was a political statement in a quilt; these two shouted out loud and clear.


The city of Long Beach is home to a queen—and that queen would be the         RMS Queen Mary,

a Scottish-built ocean liner that was launched in 1934 and sailed the North Atlantic for the better part of 30 years.

We had an entire afternoon to spend walking the Queen Mary’s decks, starting our tour on the original teak promenade deck,

into the grand ballroom where some of the scenes from “Titanic” were filmed,

then a glimpse into one of the first-class staterooms.

No ship’s tour would be complete for this former Engineering Duty Officer without a view of the engine spaces.

During WWII the Queen Mary acquired the nickname “The Grey Ghost” and was retrofitted as a troop ship, during which time she served her country with proud distinction.  The Grey Ghost holds the record for the most passengers ever transported on one vessel—16,683 American troops!


When we discovered that two members of Al’s company from the Naval Academy Class of 1969 now reside in the LA area, we seized the opportunity for a couple of mini reunions.  How sweet it was to share time together reminiscing with the


and the Gutmanns.

Looking forward to seeing both couples at the 50th  reunion in 2019!

Wow!  That was a busy 3 weeks in the Los Angeles area!  It was fun visiting with Al’s classmates and rekindling 1970s memories of California dreamin’.  But now it’s time to move on down to the birthplace of California—the city of San Diego—where we plan to have more reunions with classmates, family, and former coworkers…

We look forward to reliving some really memorable times in the city where we first met in 1976 around a swimming pool in Mission Valley.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  Mark Twain

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!