Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the land of Lawrence Welk and Ted Williams

The train ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego has some very nice scenery as well, though the passing scene is much more built up, especially through Los Angeles and Orange County. There was an incident on board this trip were someone was getting belligerent in the club car. I didn't see him up close and personal, but I did see a guy wearing no shirt taken away by the police, like some lack-of-dress rehearsal for an episode of Cops.

My friend Ken Rose, another science-y guy who acts as a fact checker on this blog, picked me up at the Oceanside train station, and we had dinner at a restaurant at the end of the nearby pier, where I was able to buy him one of the many beers I still owe him. The big news on the pier was that one of the many fishermen who drop their line off the side had caught a shark. I saw the shark. It fit it the palm of the fisherman's hand. The critter was still alive, although it was undergoing the tortuous agony known to fish as airboarding. The fisherman put his finger in the shark's mouth and down the little critter's gullet. The shark bit him. The shark wasn't strong enough to bite it off or anything, but it was painful and drew a little blood. So the shark got some small measure of revenge, though hardly in fair proportion.

We drove north from Oceanside to the Casa de Roses, where Ken and his wife Mishell live with their sons Nick and Nate. It's out on a country road, the nearest incorporated area being the small town of Falbrook. Besides two adolescent boys, the Roses also have several other almost domesticated critters, two outdoor dogs and three inside cats. The area around their house is kind of wild, so outdoor kittehs would be a very bad idea. I saw several coyotes from the window of the second story guest bedroom.

Two of the cats, TJ and Brain, behaved as cats should when confronted by an interloper, with mild curiosity greatly outweighed by disdain. But the third cat Houdini, a very handsome and friendly two year old orange cat (not actually pictured here), was more than happy to test the petting skills of the newcomer. With no false modesty, I has mad petting skillz. Houdini, or as he is known in the house 'Dini, jumped up on the guest bed and demanded affection. When I figured out just where on his head he liked to be scratched, 'Dini curled up next to me and began to purr in the oddest sound I have ever heard come out of a cat. For those of you familiar with outdoor hikes and bird sounds, 'Dini's purr is like the cooing sound of a dove. For my more nerdy readers, 'Dini sounds like a tribble. The orange cat is clearly beloved in the Rose household, but if any act of feline mischief is uncovered, Houdini is the prime, if not only, suspect.

On Sunday, Ken, Nick and I drove down to San Diego proper to visit Balboa Park. This drive takes us south, out of the sparsely populated area where the Roses live, past the Lawrence Welk Drive exit, past the Ted Williams Freeway (route 56) and into San Diego proper. There are many things to do in Balboa Park and we started at Nick's favorite, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. There are many rooms in the museum, and many different scale trains. Lionel has a room filled with their big scale trains, a whimsical little town with a Stegosaurus by the track and a shark in a model swimming pool. Nick's favorite area is the much more realistic small scale version of the train line from Bakersfield to Mojave. Nick works behind the scenes when his school schedule permits, so I got to see back stage, which was totally cool. There is a big generation gap among the enthusiasts. They are either a little older than I am or they are Nick's age or younger. They might bristle at the label, but I could see that though I didn't share their particular interest, I was among my nerd brethren.

The stretch of track shown here is a scale model of the Carrizo Gorge bridge, which in real life is east of San Diego, heading out towards Arizona, and so not part of the Bakersfield to Mojave line.

Nick stayed at the Railroad Museum for the afternoon, and Ken and I wandered Balboa Park. There's a small free museum called the Timken, and cheap bastids that we are, Ken and I stopped by. It doesn't have a lot of floor space, but I liked what they had on display. When was the last time you got to see a Rembrandt for free? They also had a nice collection of Russian iconography and a room devoted to 19th Century American painters. Very nice.

After more strolling and chatting, Ken and I stopped in at the Museum of Natural History. Were there dinosaur skeletons? Of course there were! If there weren't, as a fully deputized member of the nerd community, I would have been allowed to lodge a formal complaint.

There were lots of cool exhibits, but our favorite was the collection of photographic prints from the work of John Shelton, who made a coffee table book back in the 1960's of black and white aerial photographs of interesting geological formations in North America. Most of the ones shown on the wall in this exhibit were from the American West, including some from Mexico and Canada. Besides this great shot of Monument Valley, there were pictures of exposed limestone deposits, ancient lava flows, glaciers and the valleys created by receding glaciers, and of course several pictures of the Grand Canyon and some of the other cool things carved over time by the Colorado River.

On the floor above, there were artistic color photographic prints for sale, all large wall sized as well as large wallet sized. "I liked the photos on the floor below better." said Ken.

"Of course." I replied. "These are pretty. The others 'splain stuff."

We picked up Nick from the railroad museum at 5 pm and moseyed off to the greatest attraction of Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, which I always call The World Famous. I made my first trip there when I was a tiny tyke, and back then they had a living two headed king snake, which my five year old brain thought was probably the coolest thing in the world. The two headed is long since gone, but for old times sake I wanted to look around in the reptile house. We divided the creatures into three scientific categories.

Category 1. Would not make a nice pair of boots.
Category 2. Would make a nice pair of boots.
Category 3. Looks better on the critter.

This green viper has brilliant coloring, but we agreed he was definitely Category 3.

It was getting dark, but we still had a few hours to wander around. The pandas were sleepy, aren't they always? Still, the youngest of the pandas had climbed a tree and was pondering a very poorly thought out scheme to go farther out on a branch than appeared to be safe. Nothing untoward happened, but you get the idea that some day, this young fellow will discover how grabby grabbity can be. The polar bears were also tuckered out, but we did get a terrific show from an over caffeinated little antelope called a dik dik. (No dik dik jokes, please. Young people read my blog and they probably have already heard these jokes anyway.) The birds of prey were spectacularly large and the flamingos and spoonbills were lovely. There was a Rhinoceros Hornbill, who may get a starring role in a future episode of Dumbass Design.

I want to thank the entire Rose family for being my hosts in the land of Lawrence Welk and Ted Williams, which when you get near the airport is also the land of Charles Lindbergh. I had a great time wandering around your bio-region, and if time and money allow, I would be glad to come back again real soon.


dguzman said...

So pictures that 'splain stuff aren't as aesthetically pleasing? I just don't know. I've seen some pretty 'splainin' pics here.

Karlacita! said...

What an excellent travelogue! Fun!

I didn't remember what a lover of beauty and nature you are until these posts.

Yay for you!


FranIAm said...

You had a lovely trip and I am so happy to hear of all these adventures.

Tribbles! Hah!

I also felt vicariously transported to San Diego even if I have not done all the cool things you have done. Like stay with the Roses.

Do you think they will mind me? I am neat and I like cats.

Ok, I am not that neat.

Matty Boy said...

No, dg, we liked the 'splainin' stuff better than the just pretty stuff.

This was fun, Karlacita! You live the life you can, but I do like the pretty stuff.

Meeting 'Dini is something many people should do. Maybe the Rose clan can put up some footage on the You Tubes or somethin'.

Mishell said...

'Dini's purr is a bit like a busy signal, done in Cat. He seems to resent your absence - his purring woke me up at 6 this a.m.

Houdini said...

Plz brng cheezburgr to cheez color kitteh nxt time. Needz to maintainz my purrrr.

ken said...

You recognized fellow nerds because of the ancient connection between computers & model railroads - remember the Tech Model Railroad Club.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks to all the members of the Rose clan, human and otherwise, who have checked in with comments. Making sure I pet 'Dini again is on my long term ToDo list.

Chus said...

This is what I think: The Lawrence Welk Show