Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 8, 2015 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment


I left my heart ( and my wallet ) in San Francisco



My big transcontinental trip with Peter is drawing to a close. And what a trip it has been. We have travelled through two provinces and 17 states. Most of the time has been spent in the car which is understandable when you’ve put on 10,000 kilometers. But, from time to time, we stopped to smell the roses ( and cow manure…more on that later! ), do some sightseeing and take lots of pictures. Spending close to 10 hours a day in a vehicle gives you a lot of time to think.

The last few days travelling through New Mexico, Arizona and California have been a real eye opener. We had scarcely crossed the Texas/New Mexico border when we saw the largest cattle pen imaginable. We actually smelled it before we saw it as it was a rendering plant. There were thousands upon thousands of animals and the conditions they were spending their last hours seemed less than desirable. I am not a member of PETA but it does cause one to think.

The scenery in New Mexico and Arizona is absolutely breathtaking with deserts sharing space with majestic mountains.

One of our travel days ended in Yuma, Arizona which is right at the border of California and next door to Mexico. I have come to the conclusion that when we win the lottery (! ), Yuma would be a lovely place to spend the winter months. The climate seems ideal and it appears to be a very well kept city. They even have sidewalks in the areas off the Interstate ramps which is an anomaly. In most places, when you come off the highway to an area with service stations, hotels, food joints and shopping malls, there are no sidewalks. I don’t know what the planners are thinking. How is one supposed to get from the hotel to a restaurant crossing several lanes of traffic with no signals and nowhere to walk? Baffling.  But the good folks in Yuma seem to have figured this one out.

On the morning we were departing for California, I received an e-mail from some folks from back home who winter in Yuma. They were wondering if we happened to be passing through the area. As it turns out, our hotel was about a drive and a 7 iron from their house. Even more amazing, these same people were the subjects of one of the stories in my new book. We arranged to meet at a McDonald’s ( which has become the new coffee shop for seniors in the United States. ) We spent a delightful hour and they gave us several tourist tips. The problem with a whirlwind trip is that there is so much to see and so little time.

We did take their advice and left the city via the famous “veggie fields.” These fields stretch for miles in every direction and produce a massive bounty of fresh produce for the continent … it is reputed to be the largest supplier. The Mexican border was just 8 miles away. We had decided early in the trip, that a side trip to Mexico was not in the cards because of time constraints and safety issues. We were assured by Eleanor and Richard that this one , at Los Algodones, was perfectly safe. This small town has more dental clinics and laser eye surgery clinics than all the Tim Hortons stores in Canada. And they do heart surgery. Apparently this is where Danny ( “millions’ ) Williams, former premier of Newfoundland, had his heart repairs done, a while back. Americans, and many others from around the world, come here as the prices are 80% lower than in their home countries.

We parked our car on the U.S. side and walked across the border. We saw the spectacle, had lunch and left two hours later. ( No dental work, Dan! )

And then we came upon a sight that completely caught us off guard. Just inside the California border there is a stretch of land that looks like it was transplanted from the Sahara Desert. The Imperial Sand Dunes stretch for forty miles and are five miles in width. Jaw dropping.

We agreed to take a pass on a planned stop in L.A. ( Los Angeles … not Lake Ainslie! ). However, we still had to pass through East L.A. and as fate would have it, our timing could not have been worse. It was rush hour and we were driving into a blinding sun. Thankfully ( mercifully! ), Peter was driving and he did a masterful job navigating the chaos. We overnighted in Bakersfield… not to be confused with Bakersfield, Texas where we ran out of gas. Besides having the world’s largest ice cream plant ( which we didn’t get to tour ), it is also an agricultural community and yes, thousands upon thousands of cows call this home.

The next four hours was mesmerizing as fruit trees by the millions crowded the landscape. Did you know that 80% of all the almonds in the world are grown here? Besides almonds, they grow every kind of citrus fruit. There is a severe drought going on here and the farmers are screaming bloody murder about water restrictions.

And then that familiar smell hit us. Amongst all of the fruit trees came the unmistakeable smell of cattle. I love going to the dairy farms in Antigonish. They are clean, the cows are well looked after and the scale of the operations are small. The smell at these farms is one we know and appreciate.

We came into an area not filled with trees and there it was: the largest holding area for cattle in the States ( and possibly the world ). There were 100,000 cows according to the Google search. These cows produce 150 million pounds of beef annually, much of it for the “In and Out” hamburger chain in the U.S. After witnessing the conditions, I am not apt to try one of those burgers any time soon.

Early in the afternoon, we crossed the Bay Bridge and slid into San Francisco. We rode the cable cars, did a 2.5 hour sightseeing tour , including passage across the Golden Gate Bridge and had a fabulous dinner at an Italian restaurant two doors down from our hotel. And speaking of hotels, if you happen to come to San Francisco, you should check out the Beresford Hotel on Sutter Street. It is a boutique hotel and the rates are easily the lowest in the city core where you can easily pay $350- $500 a night. We paid $119 + $30 for valet parking. And yes, all you old hippies, our sightseeing tour took us through Haight Ashbury.

Yesterday we spent the entire day in San Francisco and bid farewell to the city as the sun started its descent over the Golden Gate bridge.

Have a great day and thanks for joining us on the drive. It was good to have company from home.

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