Desert Drive & Discovery

It was already afternoon on Saturday, sitting on our front porch enjoying the second day of spring in San Diego, that hubby and I started discussing what we wanted to do with our weekend. It is seldom that we both have the weekend off and the glorious mid-70s degree weather was urging us to get out and just DO something.  We enjoy taking rides in the car and exploring streets and areas in the surrounding Southern California, but with my husband's gas-guzzling F350 pickup truck and my car's ailing transmission, a car ride seemed out of the question, until we came up with the idea of renting a wreck to cruise the area. So out we went to find a rental company with cars still available. 

At the second rental company, we were offered a 2015 silver Mustang for 1/2 price since it hadn't yet rented out for the day. As we drove out of the rental yard, I could see hubby's smile in his rear view mirror, as I followed him back to our house to drop off my car. 

We hit the road, taking nothing but our cameras, wearing shorts and t-shirts, knowing only that we would drive towards the east and figure it out as we went. 

We took a leisurely drive up through the San Bernardino Mountains, stopping occasionally to take photos of the colorful wild flowers blooming along the roadside of the mountains and desert areas. 

 

Ocotillo Plant in Bloom

Ocotillo Plant in Bloom

Purple Mountain Lupine

Purple Mountain Lupine

Roadside Rudbeckia

Roadside Rudbeckia

Petite Yellow and Orange Blossoms - If you know what these are, I would be interested in knowing too!

Petite Yellow and Orange Blossoms - If you know what these are, I would be interested in knowing too!

We climbed up the mountains, slowly, pulling over to let traffic with places to go, speed past us and we slowly made our way up... At the 7000 ft above sea level mark, we started seeing thawing snow on the ground. The car's outdoor temp gauge, assured us the temperature in the mountains where the patchy snow was holding on, was in the mid 30s to 40s. We switched the car climate control from AC to heat to stave off the goosebumps. It was way too cold for us in our shorts and flip-flops!  By early evening we had arrived in Big Bear City, where due to the lack of fluffy snow, the skiers left behind the popular resort, the hotel rooms were renting for half price! We picked up a mound of loaded hot dogs and "gourmet" chips for dinner and headed off to our budget hotel for heat and some quiet television time. Using the extra white towels from the hotel bathroom as extra blankets while we tried to warm up!

We were up before the sun the next morning, determined to see some animals... in our hopes of finding the elusive Bald Eagles, maybe a bear or two, or perhaps some deer. We found ourselves off on roads we had never been before. Dirt roads even. Slowly bumping along, carefully navigating pot holes and rises that threatened to high-center our rented ride. We saw deer, plenty of deer. At one point, a doe gave us a glaring eyeball for "making" her leave her grazing spot in the middle of the road. Disappointingly, we did not see any bears or Bald Eagles. We did however see many, many beautiful Steller's Jays. They are comical, loud, flighty and very difficult to catch with a camera... but I managed a couple of shots of the black and vibrant blue bird. 

Steller's Jay - 1

Steller's Jay - 1

Steller's Jay - 2

Steller's Jay - 2

Feeling satisfied with our mountain excursion, we decided it was time to drop back down to the desert floor for some much needed warmth! So we headed back down the other side of the mountains, opposite from the direction of where we came in. Dropping down into the warmth, into Palm Springs. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Warm Palm Springs, shot through the car window as we passed through. 

Warm Palm Springs, shot through the car window as we passed through. 

So somehow, while getting into and out of this fun-to-drive little Mustang, hubby had managed to rip open the seat of his pants/shorts. He was relegated for the rest our trip, to the interior of the car, to avoid the embarrassment of his tighty-whiteys peeking out through his backside. So we just did a quick drive-through lunch, grabbing a couple of burgers, but NOT GETTING OUT OF THE CAR! Hahaha! We sat in the parking lot of a Starbucks and ate our burgers, then swung through the Starbucks drive-through to replenish our energy with caffeine for the ride home.

We turned towards the outer rim of mountains that surround Palm Springs, that would drop us once more into the desert floor for the rest of ride home.  

Blooming Ocotillo Plant above Coachella Valley.

Blooming Ocotillo Plant above Coachella Valley.

We came home through Temecula CA. Temecula probably best known for it's wineries. Today wasn't a wine-tasting day, so we continued through, until we came to the giant steel horse sculptures that sit high upon a hill overlooking the freeway. We noticed that since last time we came through there, there were additional sculptures that had been added. We were interested to find out more about these sculptures, so we slowed in time for me to see a sign that indicated the artist responsible, had a show yard/studio just off the freeway! Of course we turned off to see more. 

We pulled into the private RV resort; Vail Lake where we were given a 30 minute guest pass to look around. It's like we pulled into something that was a cross between Disneyland and Jurassic Park. It was magical and exciting to see life-sized animal sculptures, dinosaurs, horses, camels, you name it! They were familiar to me at the same time. I was trying to place where I had seen similar creatures before... Then it dawned on me! I had seen similar dinosaur-like creations; mastodons, horses, saber-toothed tigers and the like in the Anza Borrego desert at Galleta Meadows!

If you have never seen Galleta Meadows, you should absolutely go if you can swing it. These creatures of steel roam the desert floor in natural settings that mimic the look and feel of what it might have been like when these animals really roamed the earth. It is a fantastic exploration experience. (As a suggestion: Look them up and research before you go, so you can see as many as possible. There are many I have not seen yet, but plan on going back with a better understanding of where each of these amazing sculptures are installed.) You can find more information about Galleta Meadows here: GALLETA MEADOWS.

Galleta Meadows (My photo taken from previous road trip to Galleta Meadows).

Galleta Meadows (My photo taken from previous road trip to Galleta Meadows).

The artist of the Temecula horses was in his studio, so of course I had to ask... "You couldn't be the same guy who has the installation in Borrego, could you?" My mistake. I should have worded that question differently. I saw by the glint in his eye, the game was on... 

"Why can't I be?"

"It's not that you can't be, but are you?"

"I want to know why you think I can't be."

"I was just saying the coincidence is so great. I love the work in Borrego and it looks like your work here. Is it you?"

"Is what me?"

...and the game played on until he mercifully let me off the hook and admitted he was the artist. Whew!

His name is Ricardo Breceda. He is funny, kind and willing to share about his work. He showed me his book, his story, "RICARDO BRECEDA - ACCIDENTAL ARTIST", written by Diana Lindsay. I had to have it! He of course, had to sign it for me. Which he did, "Enjoy & Gracias! Ricardo A. Breceda 03-22-15". I immensely enjoyed his talent and looking through his work. Here are couple of photos from his Vail Resort Studio: 

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The art of Ricardo Breceda

The art of Ricardo Breceda

That was our last stop, at Ricardo's studio at Vail Lake Resort. The rest of the ride, was straight through to home. We were home in time for dinner Sunday evening. A great weekend and I came home with a great book to read. Which I did. I read the whole thing yesterday.

(Ricardo is a strong multi-talented person who deserves all the admiration that a person can dole out. He has mine. You can find out more about Ricardo and his work here: WWW.RICARDOBRECEDA.COM and you can order his book here: RICARDO BRECEDA - ACCIDENTAL ARTIST. The book is a great read, the pages are photograph heavy, which I adore. Best of all, there are location references to his installations!)