Halloween scenes

Davis, California

October 26th

This morning I take a walk around the neighborhood to get a few pictures of the Halloween decorations that are now everywhere…

October 26 - Davis-Vallejo-Novato 010

…cobwebs, pumpkins…

1_Halloween a

…diverse denizens of the graveyard. Some sinister…


16_beware 14_bat

…and some quite jovial:


11_three ghosts

4_Halloween-pumpkins, scarecrow, cobwebs


It seems as though people go to much more trouble these days than when I was a child…

7_door scene 8_door scene skeleton

…with cobwebs as a big item…

10_door & cobwebs

…the occasional artifical jack o’lantern…

9_big phony jack o'lantern

…and autumn wreaths:



Is this witch stuck in this tree?

12_witch in tree


Some of the decor is rather harvest oriented:

5_pumpkins, Indian corn...


…and some is mainly harvest oriented:


But the real Halloween scenes will be this Friday evening as the streets fill with children in various disguises, going from house to house, asking for treats and threatening tricks. There will be many good opportunities for pictures. Alas, I will be on my flight home.


Yes, my travels are coming to an end, but there may be another post or two before I leave for France.


Hi everyone,

I’m in Davis again, at the home of my brother Larry and his wife Cathy. I never got around to taking a picture of them at the beginning of my travels, so here they are today, in their kitchen:

5_Larry and Cathya


And while I’m focused on the family, here are the three Olsen brothers, from left to right, Tim, Larry and John:

6_the Olsen brothers


I’ve spent this last week among family and friends, most of whom you met at the beginning of my travels last August. Before arriving here in the north, though, I spent a few days in and near the town of Monterey.


October 17th – 19th


From Mission San Antonio I drive to Monterey, a town that for Californians needs no introduction. You can nevertheless read about it here. I spend the following days visiting the town, plus the surrounding area including Carmel and Big Sur, two other sites that, for Californians, need no introduction. I take few pictures, but you can find many on line.

The beach at Carmel:

1_beach at Carmel

The surf is very rough today. Then again, this is northern California.


Speaking of the California missions, this is Mission San Carlos in Monterey, another mission founded by Father Junipero Serra:

2_mission San Carlos

Mission San Carlos probably needs no financial aid to help it meet seismic retrofit goals.


Late one afternoon I take a long walk along the beach on Monterey Bay. Now that the military base at Fort Ord is closing, these beaches are open to the public.

3_beach evening Monterey Bay 4_beach evening facing the sea

It looks like evening light in these photos, but it’s only about five in the afternoon. But as October comes to an end, five o’clock is indeed the evening.

It feels as though my travels are coming to an end.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Hi everyone,

I’m in Santa Rosa again, staying with some friends. On leaving Pirate’s Cove on the 16th I checked into a motel in Paso Robles (a very nice town, by the way) and worked very hard for the rest of the day and early the following morning on an article correction.

Then I headed north to visit one of the California missions, Mission San Antonio de Padua. The missions, founded by the Francisans in the late 18th and early 20th centuries, were a fundamental aspect of the Spanish colonization of California (and of other territories too). You can learn more about the California missions here, here and here.

Editing note on October 23rd: after e-mail contact with the Mission San Antonio staff, I’ve made a few corrections in my comments.


October 17th

I leave Paso Robles mid morning and arrive at Mission San Antonio around 11:30. Mission San Antonio, I learn from Frankie in the visitor’s center, is one of the largest of the missions, the least known, the most difficult to find and the hardest one to restore. That’s why it’s the most interesting, I remark. In contrast to most of the other missions, no town grew up around it. Its isolation is due to the fact that the mission was originally surrounded by large land grants that, through several changes of ownership, eventually became a military installation. The mission is located in a small valley, away from the main routes that now follow the Salinas River. When you see how desolate that part of the Salinas Valley is, though, you can understand why the Franciscans chose to build elsewhere.

The great attraction of Mission San Antonio for me is that it is the one which best shows how the original missions appeared. The vistas from the entrance have not changed since the mission was founded in 1771.

You can read more about this remarkable historic monument here and here, and see more pictures here.

The view to the south…

5_vista - south

…and to the east…

6_vista - east

Of course, slightly further south there is the military installation, but we don’t see it from here.


The mission, from a distance:

4_mission façade - far


The front of the church. The mission is currently under orders from the state to conform to earthquake safety standards, hence the work that has recently been undertaken:

1_church façade -scaffolding bis

But they seriously need financial help. Of course, donations are welcome.


The west wing, which houses the museum, the visitor’s center and the gift shop:

3_mission façade

The gift shop contains many works by local artists for sale on consignment. It’s a very interesting shop, in fact.


The east wing…

4b_mission - east wing

A part of the mission facilities are available to rent as a retreat center.


The entrance to the courtyard:

7_garden - entrance


Restoration is a never-ending job:

8_church outside - from courtyard 9_church outside - from east


The church entrance is currently from a side door in the courtyard:

10_chapel entrance


The church still serves a functioning parish of 33 families:

11_chapel inside - far 12_chapel inside - close up


The courtyard…

13_garden - courtyard

…with its lawn….

14_garden - lawn


15_garden - trees 16_garden - palm tree

…rose garden…

16b_garden - roses

…and other flowers, for example the golden poppy, California’s state flower:

17_garden - golden poppy


In front of the church, a statue of the mission’s founder, the well-known Franciscan, Father Junipero Serra, …

19_mission - staute of founder

…badly in need of cleaning.


The mission staff is trying to restore some of the exterior plantations, to show an aspect of mission life. For example, grapes, …

20_plants - grapes

…olives, …

21_plants - olive tree 22_plants - olives

…and pomegranates:

23a_plants -pomegranite tree 23b_plants - pomegranate


I would encourage anyone travelling in California to take the time to visit Mission San Antonio. And by giving the mission this meager publicity I hope to give the mission staff a little help in meeting their 2017 deadline for the earthquake security norms. They have a special website for this preservation effort here.


Pirate’s Cove

October 15th – 16th

I leave El Capitan Park early and drive west and north on Highway 101. I stop at another state park at Gaviota, just out of curiosity. It’s closed for the season.

I continue north and inland, and in short order I’ve passed Point Conception and Point Arguello on the coast. Anyone familiar with California knows that northward of these two landmarks we are no longer in southern California. It’s cooler here and the ocean water gradually becomes cold.

I stop at the village of Solvang for lunch. Solvang was founded by Danish settlers and tries to look it. I take no pictures, but you can see plenty of photos here. You can read about Solvang here and here.

By late afternoon I arrive at Pismo Beach State Park. It’s cool here, breezy, and in the evening a heavy dew gathers on my picnic table. I can’t sit outside and work.

But the next morning is sunny and bright and I go to a place with the evocative name of Pirate’s Cove. It’s on an isolated stretch of the coast between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach:

1_coast near Pismo Beach


It even has a pirate’s cave…

2_the pirate's cave

…through which we can see a lot of wildlife:

3_bird colonies


The cove seen from above…

October 14-16_Captitan to Paso 042 4_view onto Pirate's Cove

…and from the opposite shore:

5_cove from the opposite end


The water temperature isn’t bad at all, considering where we are now, and normally the cove would be a good swimming hole, but the surf is rough today, the waves high.

11_would be a good swimming hole, but...


Above us some opulent homes…

7_with some opulent houses above

…and more:

6_more houses


In fact, Pirate’s Cove is indeed a good swimming hole…

8_in fact it is a good swimming hole...

…and an ideal place for nude sunbathing:

9_seal sunbathing on rock in cove

10_another sunbather


I’ve been lucky with wildlife lately.

Santa Barbara and thereabouts

Hi everyone,

After a long drive from Monterey yesterday I’m back in Sonoma County today, at the home of my brother Tim and his wife Anne-Marie. It’s raining this morning, to the great relief of everyone. We hope this is the beginning of the end of a three-year drought. We shall see.

Here’s Tim and Anne-Marie on their front porch:

October 15-19 San Antonio to Rhonert Park 048


Article I’m correcting at the momentSurface dynamics along the shores of Tunis Gulf (North-eastern Mediterranean Sea)


October 12 – 14th

I leave Malibu and drive up the coast stopping here and there to shop and work on my computer in a café. In the afternoon I settle in at Carpinteria State Park, but I take no pictures as my camera is no longer working. I’ll get that taken care of in Santa Barbara tomorrow. Carpinteria, though, is very pretty beach resort town.  You can read about it and see pictures here and here.

In Santa Barbara the next day I get myself a new camera. I take only a few pictures in town, just to try out the camera…

1_Santa Barbar-1_just a few... 2_...photos suffice

…but Santa Barbara needs no publicity.


I make my way north again to El Capitan State Park and find a nice campsite…

3_El Capitan campsite

…and I then rush to the beach to take some more pictures with my new camera.

4_I rush to the beach...


I can’t help but notice the sorry condition of the stairs leading down to the beach…


…which leads me to say that our state parks in California are generally in a sorry condition: underfunded, defunded, unfunded…


But the beach is beautiful, both to the south…

6_the beach to the south

…and to the north:

7_beach to the north


I take a lot of pictures of the beachlife, both terrestrial…

8b_beachlife tree

…and aquatic, though I suspect this specimen no longer qualifies as “life”:

5_...to try out my new camera...


I like the shadows they produce in the late afternoon light.

8_...on the beach life...

9b_more beachlife 11_beachlife 2

12_beachlife 3 13_beachlife 4


Especially this one:

15_my shadow


That evening I take some pictures from the bluff above the beach:

17_that evening from the bluff


Those specks you can just barely make out in the distance, they’re offshore drilling platforms:

16_due west, the oil rigs


A platform, with the zoom:

17b_platform with zoom

The sky is grey this evening. The forecast for tomorrow is grey and cooler. Autumn is coming.


The next day I take a long walk a few miles along the coast to the next state park, El Refugio:

19_to El Refugio campground

It doesn’t look bad from here, but when I walk around the campground I see that it, too, is rather run down. The palm trees give it a nice appearence from this bluff.


The day is grey but warm…

20_day is grey but warm 20b_beach warm grey day


The Pacific Ocean is a great swimming hole:

20c_beach warm grey 2


I take an interest in the plant life along the way. I’ve seen this one many a time, but I still don’t know what it’s called:

October 13 - 14 Santa Barbara 022 October 13 - 14 Santa Barbara 023

This one is new to me:

18_next day - walk - plants


I’ve been told by Captain that these are called “prickly poppies”, though I called them “datura” in another blogpost. I’ll have to look them up again. It seems to me that I found the name “datura” either online or in a book that I bought about Zion Park. Maybe someone else out there can help me?

22a_prickly poppy 22b_prickly polly


And of course there are the palm trees, starting to be less numerous along this part of the coast:



I haven’t had much success as a wildlife photographer on this trip. I long ago gave up on the ubiquitous deer and squirrels. But his pelican is too good to pass up. I decide to approach step by step, to see just how close I can get. Not too close yet…

23_pelican 1



23_pelican 2


…closer still…

23_pelican 3


…the closest I’ll ever get. The seagull has already taken flight…

23_pelican 4


And then I take one step too many:

24_pelican flies away

Crystal Cove

Hi everyone,

It’s been a week since I’ve posted anything, but I’ve been busy all the same and I have a lot to report. I’m in Monterey this morning, heading north to Sonoma County today to the home of my brother Tim. But this isn’t yet the end of the Olsen Road. I have two or three posts from the last week in the works.

Reading: The Best of Connie Willis

For those of you who don’t know Connie Willis, you can learn about her here and here, and doubtless on many more sites too. This is a collection of her award winning short fiction. I’ve read many of these stories before, but there are some that are new to me.


October 11th

I leave San Clemente State Park early and stop in Newport Beach at Crystal Cove State Park. This turns out to be a most interesting place. As I’ve been focused on beach houses lately, I have to say that there are a few here that deserve attention, in more than one way…

1_Crystal Cove house_1

…all of them in the same state as the one above:

2_CC house_2 4_CC houses_4 5_CC house_5


But wait, there appears to be one, top left, that is still inhabitable:

3_CC houses_3


In fact, the Crystal Cove community is alive and well:

7_Crystal Cove community

Though now a part of the state park system, Crystal Cove is partially managed by an association that seeks to help preserve its traditions and character.


There are many beach bungalows available for short-term rent:

8_houses for rent

The village center of Crystal Cove has a visitor’s center, a restaurant, a bar (of course)…

10_village center

… and also a museum where there is a section devoted to beachware…

11_beachware museum 12_museum bis

13_museum poster

And these are the last photos I take with this camera. After nearly four years of good and loyal service, my very good little Canon gives up the ghost, doubtless from the wear and tear and sand and dust of recent months.

I continue up the coast  via Huntington Beach and Long Beach, somewhat contraried by the fate of my camera. I stop at two or three camera shops along the way  and learn that it will be less expensive to buy a new camera  than to repair this one.

It’s getting late in the day and there is the vast obstacle of Los Angeles just ahead of me, so I decide to drive on and get past it. I take Interstate Highway 410, also called the San Diego Freeway, and Venice Blvd. to make my way to the Pacific Coast Highway. And that is how I end up in a motel in Malibu for the night. It’s too dark for me to go on to the next state park, even though I know it’s not far. The days are much shorter now than when I first started out on the Olsen Road.

Up the coast

I’m in Malibu today, reporting on the last three days.  There are more pictures to come, but I’ve had a problem with my camera. I hope to get it taken care of tomorrow.


October 8th to 11th

I leave Jamul on the 8th and begin to slowly make my way up the coast of southern California, camping at Carlsbad the first night.

1_campsite at Carlsbad

This isn’t a very nice campground and it’s expensive. Many of the beach state parks in southern California are now managed as money-making operations by local municipalities or even private interests.

But there nice sunsets here…

2_sunset at Carlsbad

…and we’re right on the path of southern migration…

5_flying south

…which reminds me that I should be on my way north.


Early the next morning I’m on my way north along the Pacific Coast Highway. I stop at San Onofre State Park, but the campground is closed for the season. I use my pass from the campground in Carlsbad to spend a few hours there. It’s enormous and empty, whereas Carlsbad was crowded.

6_beach at San Onofre

San Onofre Beach is hard to get to. Everywhere there are signs warning us of the unstable cliffs and that we should keep back.

8_cliffs at San Onofre

This beach is isolated and empty, yet our State Park System must nevertheless try to impose prudish laws:

7_no nudity


Later in the day I finally arrive in San Clemente, the beach resort town that became famous in the early 1970s as the location of the Western White House, the California home of then president Richard Nixon. It’s quite near San Onofre State Park.

Fabienne and Wayne, you are right, San Clemente State Park is very nice. It’s the best I’ve seen, with good services and a pleasant personnel, even if they make me change campsites for the second night. This is my second campsite, not so nice as the first:

9_San Clemente campsite 1 10_San Clement campsite 2

(But I didn’t get a picture of the first one. I had a lot more trees there.)

I like San Clemente. The town center is nearby and has everything I need, especially a café with a good internet connection; so I get a lot of work done.  I’m now working on : Heritage materials and biofouling mitigation through UV-C irradiation in show caves: State-of-the-art and future challenges.

And they have nice sunsets too:

11_San Clemente-sunset

But there are beautiful sunsets all along this coast.


One afternoon I take a long walk south of the park to look at some of the expensive homes on the bluff above the beach.

18_houses full west_look fragile

17_houses up close


Speaking of unstable cliffs, all along the California coast, north and south, there are problems with houses sliding down the cliffs. I wonder if and when it may happen to some of these homes:

14_San Clemente houses 2

Some of them look very fragile:

19_very fragile 13_San Clement houses 1

Especially this one:

20_especially this one

I wonder if structures such as these can last another twenty years. Then again, I suppose that these are just another sort of cliff dwelling. They, too, may have to be abandoned.

In Jamul and San Diego

Hi everyone,

With this post it looks as though I may indeed catch up to today’s date.


October 3rd to 7th

I’m in the town of Jamul in southern California, in the San Diego area, with my friends Fabienne and Wayne.

We spend Saturday taking a grand tour of San Diego, starting in the north and heading southwards through the beach communities of Solana Beach, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Coronado and more… Wayne must have been exhausted by the end of the day. Here are Fabienne and Wayne at the Torry Pines Glider Port with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Those of you back home in Besançon and at the CLA may recognize Fabienne. She’s a bisontine (that is to say, from Besançon) and was once one of our students.

a1_Fabienne & Wayne at Torrey Pines...


Later that day we have lunch at Loew’s, a harbor resort south of Coronado…

a2_later that day, lunch at Loew's

…with a very nice view northward:

a3_the view from Loew's

Our waitress accepts to take a picture of the three of us.  Too bad we have the sun in our eyes:

a4_our waitress took...sun in eyes


At Nahrain’s Fish and Chicken Grill

In the evening we go out to dinner and I meet some of their friends, a most wonderful group of people:

b1_a most wonderful group of people

From left to right we have Chris, Wayne, Will, Arwa, Jeff (standing), Fabienne and Dennis.

Here’s the group minus Dennis who’s taking the picture:

b2_the group minus Dennis

(photo by Dennis)


Here’s Dennis now, charming the ladies:

b3_Dennis charming the ladies

(photo by Jeff, I believe)


Arwa has now selected our fish.  There was a lengthy discussion with the proprietor as to whether we should have two small fish or just one big one.

b4_Arwa selects our fish

(photo by Dennis)

Arwa shows us our bread:

b6_Arwa show us our bread

(photo by Dennis)


Wayne and Arwa have just concluded a pact…

b7_Wayne and Arwa have just concluded a pact, but...a

(photo by Dennis)


Here Wayne suddenly understands that he has committed himself to a trip to Mexico with Will and Arwa…

b8_...Wayne has only just understood...

(photo by Dennis)

…to Fabienne’s great amusement:

b9_to Fabienne's great amusement

(photo by Dennis)

A great evening and a great meal in great company.


On San Diego Bay

The next day Wayne takes me out on his boat, the Tender Lady:

c3TenderLady 2


(photo by Wayne)

c2_Tender Lady (2)


Captain Wayne:

c4_boating_Captain Wayne


First mate Dennis:

c5_first mate Dennis


The crew:

c6_the crew


The sole passenger, John:

c7_passenger John

(photo by Wayne)


The first mate hard at work:

c8_first mate Dennis at work


Once out on the bay we encounter some seals sunbathing on this buoy:

c9_on the bay_seals


Downtown San Diego appears in the distance:

c10_downtown San Diego_distance


The view beyond Coronado Island:

c11_downtown_beyond Coronado


The Spirit of San Diego overtakes us:

c12_Spirit of San Diego overtakes us


As we approach an aircraft carrier a small Naval Security vessel comes to greet us:

c13_aircraft carrier & security


The same carrier a few moments later. Apparently we’ve convinced security that we’re no threat:

c14_carrier later


We approach downtown:

c15_downtown approaches


Another carrier, the Midway, now a museum:

c16_another carrier_museum


At the foot of downtown:

c17_at the foot of downtown


The Star of India moored near downtown:

c18_the Star of India


San Diego International Airport is quite near and the planes come in very near and very low:



Back in the harbor the crew puts the Tender Lady back in her slip:

c20_back in port c21_the crew puts the TL to rest


The Cabrillo Monument

Later in the day Wayne and I go up to Point Loma and the Cabrillo Monument:

d1_me at the Cabrillo Monument


Cabrillo was this guy…

d2_Cabrillo was this guy...

…briefly introduced by this sign:

d3...this guy here...

I remember studying him in California history at school. You can learn more about him here.


Here I am looking through binoculars at the panorama of San Diego Harbor and Coronado Island:

d4_me again at the monument


A few of the views:

d5_panorama1 d6_panorama2

d7_panorama3 d8_panorama4


Back at the house in Jamul

The entrance to the house:

e1_entrance ches F & W


Needless to say, Fabienne and Wayne have plants…

e2_interesting plants that...

…that you don’t find just anywhere:

e4_....just anywhere


Such as this pepper tree:

e5_like this pepper tree

e6_pepper... e7_...berries


Such familiar plants as agave and prickly pear…

e8_agave and prickly pear, but...

…but this prickly pear appears to have only rudimentary spines:

e9_...this prickly pear... e10_appears to have only rudimentary spines


And numerous flowers:

e11_red flower

e12_orange flower e13_orange flower bis


And something that we do indeed frequently find elsewhere:

e12_garden elf


I’ve had a wonderful time here in San Diego, as you can well see. I feel as though I’ve discovered one of the great cities of my home state, with wonderful people and its own way of life. And I’m very grateful to Fabienne and Wayne for their hospitality and their friendship.

And here I’ll stop. I’m leaving Jamul tomorrow to begin slowly moving up the California coast.

I’m in no hurry.

From Tucson to San Diego

Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego, or rather in Jamul (ha.ˈmu:l) in the southeastern suburbs, at the home of my friends Fabienne and Wayne. As you can see, I’m getting a lot of work done on the blog, but, I assure you, on some papers too.

The trip from Tucson to here was eventful.


September 30th to October 3rd

I leave Tucson early in the afternoon on September 30th, direction due west on Interstate 8.

I plan to stay at Picacho State Recreation Area in California, on the Colorado River. It’s a dirt road, however, some 18 miles long, that leads to the park from the small town of Winterhaven. I hesitate, but the website says that any low-clearence, 2 wheel-drive vehicle or RV can easily get there. I am really looking foward to spending a few days in an isolated and peaceful place near water, where I can swim and get some work done.  So I go for it. Unfortunately, I get a late start because I go shopping in Yuma. By the time I’m approaching the park it’s already dark and I can’t see the road very well any more. It’s a very sandy road and, of course, Van gets stuck.

Van, how could you do this to me? (But I know it’s my own fault.)

There’s only one thing to do, spend the night right here.  I manage to get Van over to the side of the road, to a level place where I can sleep. But wait, there is something else to do. Have a beer! I do so.

It’s only seven in the evening, but I’m exhaused, so I go to bed and read for a while. Needless to say, I don’t sleep very well.

I wake up early and as soon as it’s light I try to get Van unstuck which I manage to do quite easily. It’s a good road, in fact, just very sandy in some places. I imagine that if it hadn’t been dark, I wouldn’t have got stuck. I’m only two miles from the park now, but I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to risk getting stuck again, especially since it’s downhill towards the beach and I might have difficulty getting back up. I’m disappointed, because I was looking forward to swimming. It’s very hot here. I turn around and head back to civilization, and to a good breakfast in a restaurant in Yuma.

But I do have a plan B. I head west again, stopping in the town of El Centro to wash Van. After that, it’s up into the coastal mountains to Laguna Mountain Recreation Area where I camp for two days.

I like it here. It’s an alpine area above 6,000 feet, so it’s cool; after the Arizona desert this is refreshing. The campground is nearly empty, though they’re expecting a lot of people for the weekend.

The campground is in Cleveland National Forest…

1_Cleveland National Forest

…in an area which, like Portal and Patagonia, is known for its varied bird population:

2_Voice of the forest_sign


The ritual photos of my campsite…

3_Campsite 1

…which may seem repetitive to you, but…

4_Campsite 2

…to me each campsite is unique. And when I move on I always feel a little sad.  This place has been my home for however long or short a time.


The Burnt Rancheria Campground (which is not burnt at all) is near this café where they have a wonderful coffee that has pine nut in it. They’re open for dinner in the evening and so I go there once for my evening meal.

5_Café & Tavern

And nearby there is also a post office, a sporting goods store and a general store with cabins to rent. Further along there are more campgrounds. We’re only little more than an hour from San Diego here, so the area is a popular mountain retreat.


Of course, some of the local wildlife can be dangerous:


I’ve been warned about rattlesnakes throughout my travels, even in the towns. Captain, Dirk and I nearly stumbled upon one near Gila Hot Springs. So I think it might be appropriate to say a few words about them.  You can learn more about rattlesnakes here, and see some pictures here. It’s reassuring to know that these snakes rarely bite and will do so only if provoked or surprised. If treated promptly, their bite is rarely fatal. More importantly, they are predators and help keep down the populations of many birds and rodents. They are also prey themselves to hawks, weasles and king snakes.

But if you see one on your doorstep one day, I’d understand a panicky reaction.


We’re in an alpine forest here…

8_Alpine forest

…with, as is frequent in the coastal regions of California, a fair amount of oak and other deciduous trees…

7_Green forest

…but, once again, the desrt is never far…

9_Desert is never far_Pacific Crest...


Just a short walk from the campground we are on the Desert View Trail where we once again find desert vegetation:

10_Prickly pear, again

For a short time, this trail is part of the well-known Pacific Crest Trail.


The presence of deciduous trees here leads me to discover something I haven’t yet seen on this trip, autumn colors:

11_Discovery here...

12_Autumn colors...

And I’m reminded that time is passing and that I’m now in the final month of my road trip.

I camp here for two nights and regroup after the stressful experience at Picacho.  But San Diego is waiting…


Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego. I’ll report on my activities here in a few days.

Reading: Mormon Country by Wallace  Stegner. Originally published in 1942, this essay is fascinating, if you’re interested in this type of thing. I am.

Article currently working on: Bivalve and barnacle larvae distribution driven by water temperature in a Mediterranean lagoon

Editing note added on October 14th: Captain has alerted me to the fact that I’d misnamed the saguaro cactus as organ pipe (which is yet another type of cactus). I’ve corrected the mistake here.


September 25th – 30th

Tucson is hot. Very hot, even this late in the season. In the high nineties F (36 to 38° C). And it doesn’t cool down very much at night.

I arrive around lunch time from Patagonia and find a motel. I plan to stay through the weekend as I have an appointment to get Van serviced tomorrow morning and to see a chiropractor myself on Monday. Yes, my back has been giving me trouble.

I spend the next several days visiting the area, getting my errands done, working on some papers and working on the blog. One day I drive up to Summerhaven, in the eastern mountains. It’s much cooler up there. Also, I visit some of the local restaurants. And early in the morning I ride my bike around the city center and on the university campus (which is very impressive, by the way).

I find some of the houses in Tucson to be really interesting, particularly in the northern hill area. Many of the houses in the city center look traditionally American, but with the predominating desert vegetation (of course). However, to the north of the city lie the Catalina Mountains, and below them many a posh and intriguing neighborhood. There, I have a hard time seeing the houses due to the heavy vegetation that surrounds them.

The Catalina Mountains in the late afternoon light:

Catalina Mts. 1

The mountains extend from west to east, the entire length of the city.


The area gives me my first photo of a saguaro cactus. I saw my first one driving into the city from the east. Apparently they’re a low altitude plant, so we don’t see them in Patagonia or Portal.

Catalina 3 + cactus


But the saguaro cacti are only a part of the local flora:

Cacti 1_organ pipe + vegetation

Cacti 2 + vegetation

The plant life here is, in fact, quite abundant and diverse.


The perfect saguaro, with a small prickly pear at its feet…

Cacti 4_perfect organ pipe

…but I recognize some other plants too.


Here we see an agave and my old friend the barrel cactus.

House 2 + agave + barrel + vegetation


And here are two barrel cacti, one of them with a red blossom on top. They have a cholla for a neighbor.

Barrel + cholla

The red blossom up close:

Barrel  + red blossom

Does it turn yellow when it fully opens?

Barrel + yellow blossom

Maybe Lois or Val can tell us?


Facing the east, as you can see, there are a good many houses here…

Catalina 5_many houses_east

…though sometimes they’re difficult to see:

House + cacti


They appear to be buried in the plant life, with only the roof visible:

Houses 3 bis...


Occasionally you get a good glimpse of a part of the house…

Catalina 2

…but not much more.


I like Tucson.