Weekend in review: Meeting a blogging friend and taking care of Darwin, a very cold tortoise.

I know I go on a bit about the weather. But this weekend the temperatures were freezing. Literally.  Los Angeles had a record low and although I don’t know how records are established when we have so many individual microclimates, I do know cold when I feel it. So before we took off for a Sunday in Santa Barbara, once again we rolled out the frost cloth.

I also had some concerns for Darwin. It may seem a little odd, but I worry about that guy! When it’s this cold, an African Sulcata Tortoise doesn’t come out to play. Sulcata’s don’t hibernate, so when he gets very still, how do I know if he’s in distress?  He isn’t eating, he doesn’t move about, and his shell feels cold, despite a belly pad and overhead heat lamp.  So I persuaded my bemused husband that it was best if we brought him into the house!

Darwin in kitchen

I promised it was temporary. I still wanted to give him a confined space to allow the spotlight to provide maximum exposure and to hold in the heat.

For the first 24 hours he still didn’t do much. I poked at him just a little bit. I gently knocked on his shell. But into the second day, this is what we found.

Darwin tipping box Darwin spilled box

Seems he is fine after all. He must have warmed up. If he was active enough to move about the box, it was time to go back outdoors and catch a quick meal.

Darwin coming out of box

Darwin eating broccoli

Back to the comforts of his heat lamp. I will try to resist the need to go out and poke him just to see if he moves. A tortoise is very good at hiding his feelings!

Darwin with heat lamp

Garden plants and Darwin all taken care of, we were off the curb!  In December I read about a concert series in three of the missions, and since Santa Barbara is less than two hours from home, we said “all aboard.”

We had plenty on our agenda, but meeting a friend for breakfast was the first order of the day.

Debra and Lori 1

What fun for me to find myself in Santa Barbara with my blogging friend, Lori! Lori is host to Slow Happy Runner. I have enjoyed reading Lori’s blog for more than a year and was delighted to learn that she was going to briefly leave her Pacific Northwest home for a quick visit to Santa Barbara. How about that?

Click the link I’ve provided and you’ll go directly to Lori’s “about” page. I couldn’t begin to introduce her to you nearly as well as she does in telling about her interests and life experiences. She is a tremendously well-rounded and balanced person with such a positive outlook on living and experiencing the fullness of everyday experiences.

Lori has a second blog as well, Slow Happy Living. Slow Happy Living stems from  the first blog with some new additions resulting from more recent and very nice changes in Lori’s life. I hope you’ll pop over and get to know Lori, and I am sure you’ll find a reason to stay and get to know her better.

There is something very special about a personal encounter with a long-distance friend. Jay and I were so pleased to have met Lori for breakfast. And after a couple of hours of good conversation, sharing about ourselves and looking forward to keeping in touch, it was time to go our separate ways.

There were so many things still on our agenda. Santa Barbara is a beautiful city, but I will need to tell you more about that later. I have dozens of photographs yet to organize.

Now it’s time to take on the rest of the week with the same enthusiasm I hold for weekend activity. A little cold, but enthusiastic. That’s me!

A Santa Barbara fortress to keep France and England from knocking on California’s door? Now isn’t that something!

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said, “My cat knows more about history than you do.” I don’t know what compels someone to slap that phrase on the back of their car, but it amused me. I have recently been focused on California history, filling in some gaps in what I have forgotten, or perhaps never knew in the first place, and the more I learn the more I realize I have more questions. I think the cat and I may be neck and neck.

All California 4th grade students get a smattering of history with a significant emphasis on the Mission period. And I live in San Gabriel, The City With a Mission, fourth in line of the 21 Spanish missions stretching from San Diego to Sonoma. I’ve had an interest  in the missions for most of my life.

But gaps in my knowledge began to pop up this past spring while following an archaeological dig on property adjacent the San Gabriel Mission. Archaeologists and historians unearthed  items representing life among the Gabrieleno Indians and Spanish mission life. Shards of pottery, coins and religious sacramental artifacts will hopefully continue to reveal detail of life in the vicinity of the 1771 structure. If interested, you can read more about that dig here.

There are many lines of inquiry I’d like to follow in an attempt to dismantle myth and learn the historically accurate stories of California’s past. That would  include the history of California’s indigenous peoples.  According to your friend and mine, Wikipedia“California has the largest Native American population and largest number of distinct tribes of any US state.” Research could take some time.

And then there are seemingly endless points of interest along the way towards understanding the historical transitions between the Spanish Mission Period, Mexican California Rancho Days and the years of change when California was admitted as a free state in 1850.

What else interests me?

Well, there was this little event we call the Gold Rush? How about the Transcontinental Railroad? Westward Migration?

My stack of books and resource materials is growing at an alarming rate. There may be more to learn than I have days left, but I’m doing my best to make up for lost time.

How to begin? I enjoy learning within context so it’s field trip time!

We went to Santa Barbara for a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert, but we still made time to visit El Presidio de Santa Barbara.

The presidios were Spanish military installations. This may surprise some of you, and perhaps many Californians don’t know, but Spain grabbed the Pacific Ocean as “MINE.”  Thanks to  Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his 1542 land-grab for Spain, California became a Spanish territory.

King Carlos III of Spain

Move forward a couple of hundred years and Spain was thinking that establishing Missions might be a good idea to continue to hold onto land. The English, French, and even Russians were showing some interest in California. Spain made a tactical decision to build the presidios, military fortresses, to oversee the mission districts and keep “others” out.

California was prime land even then!

Four presidios, San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara, were each placed approximately a mile from the shoreline–safely distanced from the threat of a cannonball lobbed from a hostile foreign warship.

Only two sections of the original Santa Barbara Presidio quadrangle remain, but the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is responsible for overseeing restoration and repair. The Preservation group is also responsible for archaeological excavations revealing scores of authentic period artifacts. Dozens of items from recent Presidio excavations are on exhibit.

The archaeological staff has also stabilized El Cuartel, the oldest adobe in the California State Parks system. It is an original 1788 Presidio adobe designed for a military family’s housing. The next phase of the project includes seismic retrofitting.

We toured the Casa de la Guerra adjacent the presidio, built by the fifth Presidio comandante in 1819. Richard Henry Dana included a description of a wedding reception held at the Casa in 1836 for Alfred Robinson and Ana Maria Antonia de la Guerra in his book Two Years Before the Mast.

Do you have a historical era or event you’re curious about ? What’s on your field trip list?

We may not be traveling much in the next couple of months but there are some ranchos not far from home I need to explore. And my pile of bibliographic material isn’t getting any smaller.  Having such a strong interest in a topic and creating a nice “home study” is a good way to focus and  breathe lighter! May I suggest you plan a local field trip! Take someone with you and have fun!

Searching for a cooler climate leads to the Santa Barbara Bowl and Crosby, Stills and Nash!

The calendar may say October, and you might be enjoying early  Autumn, but we are still in full summer mode! The oven is blasting!

Los Angeles County temperatures ranged today between 95 and 105 degrees. Even the beaches were hot!  Some areas of the Inland Empire saw temperatures as high as 108 and tomorrow is expected to do a repeat performance. It’s rather oppressive, yes, but this isn’t really a surprise.

Some parts of the country take a period of late summer or early fall heat and designate it “Indian Summer.” In Southern California it is simply known as “wildfire season,” and it arrives every year like clockwork!

All Southern California residents are aware of the dangers of October heat.

Earlier this summer I took a photo of  a memorial marker outside the entrance of our favorite camping resort in the San Jacinto Mountains.  In October 2006,  the Esperanza Fire took the lives of five firefighters–Jason McKay, Jess McLean, Daniel Najera, Mark Loutzenhiser and Pablo Cerda died defending private property near our campground.

It’s that level of heat again this October. The region is on fire alert. And we had no idea when we purchased concert tickets in June, that our plans to visit the beautiful coastal city of Santa Barbara would come at such an opportune time to spend  the weekend in a much cooler climate.

Crosby, Stills & Nash performed Friday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl! It was a great performance–but I knew it would be. Yes, they’ve aged. No, their voices aren’t as consistent as they once were–but that was perhaps also due to their taxing touring schedule which began in January.

When Jay told a young bank teller where we were going, she asked, “Who?” That’s okay. They have a loyal fan base, and their fans aren’t confined to just one generation.

We spent an hour of pre-concert time with two much younger guys who very enthusiastically told about other CSN concerts they’d attended, and had a wealth of trivia between them related to the group’s Laurel Canyon beginnings and arrival at Woodstock.

I wonder if you remember that Crosby, Stills & Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. First, collectively as the group, but also individually. David Crosby was one of the original Byrds, Stephen Stills with Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash, the Hollies–three other groups that helped define the music of the 60’s.

When they sing and combine to create such great harmonies, I still see them like the three young guys on my original vinyl LP–“Crosby, Still & Nash,” released in 1969. The cover of the record is unpretentious and simple, not well-managed and slick as would be today. The guys are lined up on an old sofa in the opposite order of the record’s title: Nash, Stills & Crosby.

We had a wonderful time! And it may be that where you live the season for outdoor concerts is over for another six months or so! But let me encourage you to scout around for music venues you may not have visited for a while. Sometimes tickets go on sale months before a tour arrives and it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

After enjoying the Santa Barbara Bowl, much smaller and more intimate than the Hollywood Bowl, I have requested email alerts to inform me of future concert possibilities. I found out too late that Bob Dylan is coming to the Bowl at the end of the month…I fell asleep at that switch! I would have enjoyed the now sold-out concert!

Later this week I’ll share about our Saturday tour of the 1782 Spanish Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, a military installation responsible for defending one of four military districts associated with the California Missions. You know I won’t be able to keep that to myself!

We had a wonderful time of music, history and just enjoying beautiful ocean and cooling breezes. We have no immediate plans to go out-of-town again for awhile, so I do hope it cools off soon. Will somebody please turn the oven off?

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