Last snippets from California
“Look! England’s flooded!” exclaimed Cal Gal. It was Sunday, the last night of the Cleddau crew’s Thanksgiving trip. A large television mounted on a wall in a family diner was displaying international news. While England (particularly Cumbria and Lancashire) was being submerged by torrential and incessant rains California continues to crave water. Will El Niño this coming winter bring much needed rainfall? In public areas these days you are likely to see notices explaining reduced water usage.
In the aftermath of the flooding in the north a Radio 4 interview highlighted the need to examine and manage an entire “Catchment”.(See Water catchments – what are they? for a clear description). In California the term “watershed” is used and new notices in two places caught the eye. At Double Peak Park (which overlooks San Marcos) a sign provides a map of the Escondido watershed. Twenty or so miles further south is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Here a map showing the numerous watersheds feeding into a long stretch of coastal area is both informative and promotional of good environmental practice.
The Torrey Pines Reserve covers coastline and an extensive cliff top area. It is one of only two sites where the rarest pine tree in North America grows. It is a place of space and light, trails and viewpoints, wind-eroded badlands and plants which thrive despite little moisture. It was a delight then to come upon a single flower head attached to a very prickly cactus. The previous day in the Spanish Village area of Balboa Park attention had been drawn to a carcass plant, also in bloom. This ugly plant had produced a single flower. “Bend down,” urged an enthusiast, “and smell it. It smells just like dead bodies!” Half way down Boatwif demurred, pulled herself back upright – not that keen to become acquainted with such an odour…!
A few hours spent in San Diego’s Balboa Park is always top of a To Do list. There are 15 major museums, the wonderful Spanish Village, the world famous San Diego Zoo and it’s a perfect place for people watching. Not spotted on previous visits were these brightly coloured whimsical pieces of ceramic art
while nearby were art masks, created from the branches of palm trees.
“No, we’ve just finished Nursing School,” one of them replied.
The first Cleddau crew visit to San Diego County was in April 2003. Since then the population has increased from 2.92 million to 3.54 million and, not unsurprisingly, road-building and community development have both continued steadily.
“What’s that?” Boatwif remembers asking Cal Son a couple of years ago. A huge slab of a building was under construction on a steep hillside at Escondido in the next valley.
“Oh, just another hospital,” came the reply.
En route south down the Interstate 15 near Miramar new housing developments crowd the side of the freeway. These are luxury apartments – but living so close to fast moving vehicles does not seem to be regarded as a problem… and neither does building on hilltops.
San Marcos is about 12 miles inland from the coast. From its origins as a small rural community sixty or so years ago San Marcos has expanded across the valley bottom into a modern city with a population of about 90,000. Hills and sharp ridgelines surround the valley. Prominent on a hillside to the northeast is a large letter P. In the next valley is an E (Escondido) and an hour or so further north east is M (March). Apparently there are many of these hillside letters throughout the state and some at least are associated with local colleges where mining engineering was taught. The P can be seen quite clearly behind Palomar College.
Sometimes curiosities are spotted at an unexpected moment. Travelling northbound up Highway 101 near Encinitas a bike shop was passed. Nothing unusual in that – except it was called a cyclery… The word itself was unfamiliar although obvious in its meaning. A quick Google shows that there is a Cyclery in Westerham, Kent too. Is the word a North American import?
Another pause for thought occurred at an Oceanside restaurant. The Heinz tomato sauce bottle was instantly recognisable – but it wasn’t the same. Just read the wording on the labels.
The sentiment of gratitude to the US military is keenly felt and often displayed via TV adverts or retail discounts. It’s interesting to see how in the US businesses make links with a particular viewpoint.
Cal Time ran out on Monday. There had been half a dozen museum visits, a cinema outing, bowling and bouncing, train and trolley bus trips – and a sighting of a famous seasonal gentleman on Saturday night; he’d arrived by fire truck and in intrepid style climbed the very tall ladder to turn on the lights of the tree at the Civic Center.
Then that was that: another trip to California over, another chance to muse upon similarities and differences, another chance to marvel at how urban development is expanded within a rugged landscape.
A travel befuddled brain registered one last similarity – the amount of time spent crawling through freeway road works in the Los Angeles area was roughly the same as crawling along and then diverting off the M25 after arrival at Heathrow!
Countdown to Christmas now…