Archive | April, 2009

Camping with a Kindle

18 Apr

Camping with a Kindle

Now, I know that many people don’t consider camping in a motorhome really caming but . . . what can I say, it works for me.  And, I know from camping.  I’ve done the backpacking thing.  I’ve done the tent camping thing.  I’ve done the 5th wheel trailer thing.  And for me and mine, motorhome is the way to camp.

We camp in RV parks and state parks and friends’ driveways.  We camp with full hook-ups and we “dry camp”.  We do several camping trips a year.  We are a camping family.

When I got the Kindle2, I didn’t think much about the camping thing.  I just sort of assumed it would work for camping.  Our most recent trip to Disneyland was my trial run for Kindle Camping!  And, it worked beautifully!

One of the biggest problems with camping is that you have no room . . . even in a motorhome, you don’t want to bring along unnecessary items.  But, one of the joys of camping is that you have downtime to do things like reading.  And, sometimes you want a choice in what you read.  I’ve been known to bring 4 or 5 books with me when I go camping.  With my Kindle, I had more like 20 books with me and they took up less space than 1 magazine.

In our motorhome, we tend to leave our bed set up most of the time.  The kids sleep on bunks above us (see the picture above).  I tucked the Kindle into the magazine rack next to my pillows.  I hooked my Mighty Bright Light
on the magazine rack.  I was all set to read myself to sleep each night.

Some of the time, on our trips, we had power because we had hookups at campgrounds.  However, other times we were camping in campgrounds without power.  The Kindle stays powered up for days, particularly if you turn off the Whispernet feature when you aren’t actually uploading or downloading items.  Camping without power does not mean that I don’t have access to my Kindle.  (Besides, we have an inverter that I can use in an emergency.)  To be clear, I used my Kindle2 for 8 days on the camping trip.  I downloaded a book while we were gone.  I read for several hours a day (I read 4 books and started a 5th on that trip).  I read a LOT.  And, I only charged it up twice.  Neither time did it NEED it.  I charged it up because I could, not because I had to.  Pretty darn cool, if you ask me!  The Mighty Bright booklight also works on batteries or power.  I never did plug that one in — I used batteries the whole time.  It is a necessity to have a booklight because the eInk screen that makes the Kindle so readable does not have a backlight and therefore you must have an external light source.

There were also days when we camped without access to cell-phones or 3G networks or Whispernet but there were plenty of days that we camped with ready access to such luxuries.  On our trip, I finished reading the 2nd book in a series.   When I’d originally purchesed that book, the 3rd in the series wasn’t available.  It was pure joy to check in at the Kindle store and find that the next book was indeed available and download it within minutes.

The Kindle is lightweight, small, and lasts for days on one charge.  I think it’s a natural for camping.  I know it works for RVs.  I would absolutely find it useful for tent-camping.  In fact, I think I would be able to justify the weight and space for a backpacking trip.

Who would have thunk it?  Kindles are the ultimate camping tool!  Go buy one and camp!!!


Watching the sky

17 Apr

Being a birder means that I tend to look up more often than I used to before.  And, the Sky Watch Friday site has also helped me to appreciate the sky in new ways.  I find now that my pictures have more sky in them than before.

On our trip home, we stayed a couple of nights in Buellton. It’s a small northern Santa Barbara County town that is little more than a roadside stop. For us, the allure is Flying Flags RV Park. For many others, it’s Pea Soup Anderson’s famous pea soup and the proximity to Solvang and the Los Olivos wine country (as seen in the movie Sideways). And, we enjoyed those things as well.

Us on a fun drive!

Our first day there, we did a little drive around Los Olivos which is a delightful but awfully trendy town.  We tasted wine and looked at horses and even popped into a couple of antique/garden/home decor shops.  Thankfully, we left with our wallets lightened only by a couple of bottles of wine.

Zaca Peak, Santa Barbara County

The next day, Greg broke out his maps and found a DRIVE for us.  We drove up into Los Padres National Forest, up a road that winds in and around Figueroa Mountain.  And, what a drive it was.  Amazing views.  Even more amazing wild flowers.  Birds galore.

View from Figueroa Road, Santa Barbara County

And skies!  Oh, the skies.

Look at that view!

For more breathtaking skies, visit Sky Watch Friday®.

The beach . . .

15 Apr

Our first night on our trip, we headed down the coast to a little beach that Greg remembered camping at as a kid.  It’s in northern Santa Barbara county near Vandenburg Air Force Base.  It’s called Jalama County Beach.  You can’t make reservations so I was a little worried about driving down the narrow, winding road for 14 miles to see if we’d be able to spend the night there.  I needed have worried.  We went in the late afternoon on a Sunday and there sites to be had.  We didn’t get one right ON the beach but the next row off the beach.  Besides the drive was amazing . . . through the beautiful and largely unspoiled Cojo Jalama Ranch.  Utterly entrancing land.

708 at Jalama County Park

And, what a beach it was.  Nearly empty, utterly gorgeous.  Rock strewn.  Beautiful.

Jalama Beach

I am not much of a beach fan.  It’s the sand, you see.  It gets into EVERYTHING.  Sigh.  Still, I can enjoy a beach.  They are great for walking on, alone, looking pensive, thoughtful.  Also, the sand is great for getting those dry bits off your feet!

Ruth at Jalama

So, imagine my guilt at the joy my daughter exhibits when she gets anywhere near the beach.  She’s like a labrador who can’t stay out of the water . . . let me at it!  I need to suck it up and let her play in the sand and water more often!

Gage at Jalama

Not that the boy doesn’t also enjoy the sand.  His enjoyment is just more purposeful.  Building his defenses.  Sand piled just so, protected by rock jetties, trenches dug deep to hold back the tide.  Tilting at windmills, that boy!

Gage and his sand castle

Continuing his battle until it is well lost.  Retreating to join me on my pensive, lonely walk.  Well, sort of . . .

Tar on the beach

Actually, his joining me on my walk had more to do with his extreme dislike of a feature (not a bug!) of Santa Barbara beaches.  Beach tar.  As Joni Mitchell says in the song “Carey” . . . “my fingernails are filthy, I’ve got beach tar on my feet.”  Gage was fascinated with the beach tar until he made the mistake of stepping on some.  It doesn’t come off easily.  I think he was convinced it would hurt him in some way and he had a freak-out of MAJOR proportions.  Poor kid.  Took a lot of walking and talking and reminiscing about having beach tar on my feet to calm him down.  (I spent a summer at UC Santa Barbara and was plenty tarred up most of the summer . . . I didn’t hate beaches as much back then!  🙂 ).  We wandered down to the little store/cafe knowing they would have a sure cure.  And, they did.  A bottle of some non-disclosed liquid for like $8.00.  But, the guy behind the counter told us about his surefire cure . . . WD40.  Worked GREAT!  One squirt, one wipe with a rag and ta da!  No beach tar!  Oh, for dogs who get it in their coats, he recommends mayonaisse!  Seriously, it breaks down the tar as well and isn’t nasty for the dogs to be licking.

I don’t think any of my pictures show the result of this tar on the beach but there are off-shore oil rigs visible from most Santa Barbara county beaches.  Delightful.  The tar isn’t caused by the oil rigs though, don’t get me wrong.  The rigs are there because the tar indicates that oil is there too!

Flowers at Jalama

These dune flowers were stunningly beautiful!

Rocks on beach at Jalama

The whole beach was rather beautiful.

Pelicans over Jalama

Okay, I guess I have to admit.  Beaches aren’t that bad.

Besides, I’ve probably driven Wende to tears with my lack of appreciation for despite close-ish proximity to her beloved Santa Barbara County beaches.  Sorry, Wende!  It was special and I did love it.  We’ll be back . . . for sure!

Yes, Disneyland is fun!

14 Apr

Millers at Disneyland
To answer the questions my students asked me today. Yes, we had fun. Yes, I rode rides . . . Matterhorn once, Indiana Jones 2 times, Roaring Thunder Railroad 3 times, Star Tours once, Pirates of the Caribbean twice, Haunted Mansion once. No, I didn’t ride Space Mountain. I had hurt my back and didn’t want to ruin the whole day by wrenching it further. No, we didn’t go to California Adventure even though we could have. No, I didn’t do the Tower of Terror this time. Yes, Disneyland is fun!

Parrots in the Palisades

13 Apr

After we left Disneyland, we visited friends who live in Pacific Palisades.  They live in a house that backs up to an undeveloped canyon.  Pacific Palisades is a coastal community near Santa Monica.  It’s really beautiful there.  we parked in their driveway overnight.  While our visit was delightful in many ways.  However, the best part of the visit from a birding perspective was seeing their bird feeders and the birds who visited.

Feeders in Pacific Palisades

They had a bunch of House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows to spare (I counted 21 at one point), Gold-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, California Towhees, Western Scrub Jays, and Northern Mockingbirds.  It was delightful.  But the best part was at 4pm when the parrots arrived.

Black-hooded Parakeet

They are beautiful, exotic, and utterly delightful.  I sat mesmerized as I watched them squawk and fuss at each other.  They were skittish and cautious but came back again quickly after being startled.  They are Black-hooded Parakeets . . . also called Nanaday Conures.

Black-hooded Parakeet and Squirrel

When they first arrived, a squirrel was trying to get at the feeders.  He was unsuccessful.  Although, he did win this confrontation.  The birds flew off and left the feeders for a few minutes when he hissed at them.

Black-hooded Parakeets

Seeing six or seven parrots on two feeders was an amazing experience.  Watch this video below and you’ll get a hint of how wonderful they are.

For more wild and wonderful birds, visit Bird Photography Weekly.

Spring Break Birds

12 Apr

As with all our camping trips, I end up seeing a lot of birds even though that is not the goal of the trip.  My life list now stands at 130 birds and my year list is at 58.  Here are the birds I saw on this trip . . .

Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
American Coot Fulica americana YEAR
Coot at Disneyland
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis YEAR
Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Black-crowned Night Heron at Disneyland
Black-hooded Parakeet or Nanday Conure Nandayus nenday YEAR LIFE
Black-hooded Parakeet
Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus YEAR
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Pelicans over Jalama
California Towhee Pipilo crissalis
California Towhee
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Canada Geese
Common Raven Corvus corax
Double-Crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris YEAR
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos YEAR
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla YEAR
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
House Finch at Jalama
House Sparrow Passer domesticus YEAR
House Sparrow at Disneyland
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Mallards at Disneyland
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura YEAR
Mourning Dove
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos YEAR
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis YEAR
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus YEAR
Spotted Towhee
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor YEAR
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana YEAR
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta YEAR LIFE
Western Scrub Jay Aphelocoma californica
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
White-crowned Sparrow
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
Yellow-billed Magpie Pica nuttalli

Disneyland Birding

7 Apr


Seen at Disneyland within 5 feet of a busy path.  I wonder how many people thought he was animatronic?  🙂

And we’re off . . .

4 Apr

We’ll be back in a week.  Disneyland beckons . . .

FMC on Hwy 41

April is the cruelest month

3 Apr


Sitting on the steps.
Filled with hope
and shoes.

© 2009, Liza Lee Miller

Sky Watch – Vultures

2 Apr


Do you see that tiny speck coming in from the left?  My son did and knew exactly what to do.  He came and got me . . . good birds are worth disturbing mom.  Plus, he had a plan!


Where there is one vulture, perhaps there are more.  There was no time to waste.  He flew (ha!) into action.  Or rather inaction.


He knew that Vultures like dead meat so the threw himself to the ground and pretended to be dead!  That’s me boy!


As you can see, it worked!  He lured in a total of six.  My husband was saying useful things like, “If they land, don’t let them start peeking out your eyeballs!”


They rode around on the warm air currents of the late afternoon before flying off into the sunset, sans 9 year old boy eyeballs!


And, what a beautiful sunset it was, too.

view . . . vulture
carcass on the ground
may not be as dead as it seems
call your friends to check
there’s no death

©2009, Liza Lee Miller