Big Bear: A Gentle Giant


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The sun sank into a fiery red and orange sky as I ascended the San Bernardino mountains.  The cool fall air turned crisp and was heavily laden with the scent of pine.  I drove windingly and wirily through a switchback of pine tree covered roads that would lead to a cabin in the woods.
Sunset II

Sunset, Big Bear, CA

At the cabin, Jason, Ulysses, John, and Carlos had seasonal cocktails of ginger martinis, and cheese and crackers to welcome me, the last to arrive.  The warm and initing atmosphere to which I arrived helped me recover from the tedious traffic jammed drive out of the city.  It was a welcome reprieve to be in the company of flattering and witty companions.
What makes San Diego, CA such a special place to live is that you can literally drive an hour in any direction for a change of scenery.  Sunny beaches, country vineyards, snow capped mountains, and cactus laden deserts all within an hour’s drive.

Big Bear Lake

The town center of Big Bear consist of several charming blocks of local shops, restaurants and bars.  You can walk from one end to the other in a short amount of time, or linger on for the better part of the day.  I’m fortunate enough that my family has a house in Big Bear, so the cost is kept down by eating at home and avoiding lodging expenses.  After a delicious home cooked dinner, we set out for a martini bar and night club, called The Club.
The Martini Bar.  The thought of a martini bar conjures up images of modern spaces with sophisticated crowds drinking exotic martinis.  Club Bombay in the heart of Big Bear was the exact opposite.  More lodgy than modern with eclectic old knotted oak furniture.  The crowd more mountain-y than sophisticated.  Surely a result of the owner, who was also the bar tender, bar back, karaoke host, and singer.  Service was slow because he was singing karaoke in-between making drinks and busing tables.
Following Club Bombay Martini bar, we walked two doors down to The Club.  The music was good, the drinks were cheap, and it was great night with the exception of the gay bashing incident.  This was not a reflection of The Club, but some homophobic patrons.  We were dancing on the dance floor having a good old time when John was tapped on the shoulder and told to turn around.  He turned around to a group of strangers who looked expectantly around at nothing.  One of them said it didn’t work and that firecrackers were supposed to go off at him.  The incident scared all of us and put us on high alert about the dangers for gay people in certain situations and places.  The near gay bashing was a buzz a kill and we didn’t stay long after that.
Cougar Crest Trail

Cougar Crest Trail

The next day we set off to hike the Cougar Crest Trail.  A beautiful eight mile trail that winds up through the mountains and connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.  It was a long tiresome hike that was both challenging and rewarding.
The rest of the time in Big Bear was spent laughing, drinking, eating and just enjoying one another’s company.  I’ve been going to Big Bear since I was a child.  Its always been a home away from home, that represents family, memories, love, and holidays.  There is so much to see and do: skiing, snowboarding, boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, shopping, rock climbing, sledding; you name it, Big Bear has it.

Gay Pop Culture In Palm Springs, CA


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A desert oasis, where the thirsty gay finds a pond of Vodka beneath a palm tree.  An oasis of art, fine dining, and gay pop culture; welcome to Palm Springs, CA.  Palm Springs, a small land mass with big culture.  Of the 50,000 residents, forty percent of them identify as LGBT and they are spread comfortably across 95,000 square miles of desert that make up the city.

If you don’t already know, Hollywood, specifically West Hollywood, is the gay epicenter of Los Angeles, CA (and really the world).  There are movie studios and celebrities, but gays live, dine, club, and hook-up in West Hollywood.  If you were to strip away the surrounding Los Angeles cityscape so only the small area of West Hollywood stood alone, crank up the temperature by 40 degrees…you would have Palm Springs.  It is glamorous, star-studded, and every bit as gay as West Hollywood.


View of San Gorgonio Mt from the Marquis Villas’ pool


Palm tree lined boulevard in Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs is a two hour drive from San Diego or Los Angeles through a sandy beige desert.  You’ve arrived when the drive through hundreds of wind mills changes to palm tree lined boulevards that are found throughout the city.  Palm Springs is a small community, but a gay one, that sits at the foot of 11,503 foot San Gorgonio Mountain; the highest peak in Southern California.  In early summer, while sipping a martini in a hotel pool in 115 degree heat, you can gaze at the snowcapped mountain directly above you.  It is a dramatic backdrop to a relaxed town that becomes energized at night when temperature turns to a tolerable 85 degrees.  The streets and cafes are lined with misters that provide a soft mist of cooling water that evaporates before settling onto skin, paper and iPhones, only leaving relief from the heat.

Misters like these provide coolness without getting you wet

Misters like these provide coolness without getting you wet

I love the heat, dry heat, that is.  As long as I’m not putting on work clothes and running errands, I could lounge in a pool for days in a tequila haze with nothing to do but relax.  And that’s exactly what I did in Palm Springs.

Shanda and I try to get Palm Springs at least once a year.  An annual pilgrimage to our favorite restaurants and stores we’ve come to fancy after years of going.  We get a fill of gay immersion therapy, and pool time with an easy agenda of relax, shop, hike, and eat, in no particular order.


Lunch under a canopy by the pool


All. Weekend. Long.

We usually arrive on a Thursday to go to the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market.  Due to the heat of the day (that can reach 120 degrees), the weekly market is at night, from 7:00pm to 10:00pm.  The main street, lined with trendy restaurants and bars that runs through the heart of downtown, is closed for several blocks during the Thursday farmer’s market that more resembles a block party than a market.  Barely-clad glistening men, women and children make their way through the market’s honey and fig vendors, solar panel companies, food trucks, art tents, and farm stands to live music wafting into the night.

Shanda, myself, and twelve others rented a block of rooms at the Marquis Villas Resort for a weekend of pool frolicking, drinking without driving, BBQing, and Palm Springs nightlife.  The Marquis is conveniently located one block away from Palm Spring’s main drag.  Even more conveniently located is Hunter’s, a gay bar directly across the street from the hotel.

Marquis Villas Resort, Palm Springs, CA

Marquis Villas Resort, Palm Springs, CA


View from our extra large patio at the Marquis Villas

The Marquis Villas are just that, villas.  Each room is approximately 1200 square feet and has: one or two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a wet bar, a full kitchen, a large patio, a dining and living room, and walk-in closets; for very reasonable prices (around $160.00 per night).  The hotel has a large pool with lots of lounge chairs and tables, and a covered BBQ area with a kitchen and gas grills that guests can use for free.  It is really remarkable what you get for the price, it makes Palm Springs affordable and luxurious.


Saturday night’s potluck BBQ by the pool

bbq II

Grill masters Shanda and Alfred

Shanda and I arrived mid-day Friday, unable to come up Thursday for the farmer’s market, and met with some friends at one of our favorite brunch spots, Cheeky’s.  A sleek contemporary restaurant with finicky hours of operation, but if you catch them open, they are worth every effort.  They have a bacon bar – I’m vegetarian, so this doesn’t apply to me, but very appealing to many.  They serve thoroughly homemade breakfast and lunch items with innovated spins on their recipes.  The delicious food is organic with many healthy and alternative diet options (we are in California after all).

Marilyn II

Marilyn Monroe

Sonny Bono

Sonny Bono

We checked into our spacious hotel villa, blended up mango-ritas and hit the pool directly.  We had dinner reservations at 7:00pm at Lulu’s, and hours to kill before then. Our group staggered in throughout the afternoon until reaching a party of 14 and off to Lulu’s we went.

Lulu’s is a large avant-garde decorated two story restaurant with modern lighting and water features set among clean white walls.  It is spacious and comfortable serving a variety of tasty upscale dishes.  Many in our group opted for their $19.95 three course dinner: a starter, an entrée, and a dessert.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their dinners.  We walked back to our Villas to get ready for our evening at Hunter’s night club; but back at the villa, tragedy struck.

We had several friends in our villa sipping tequila and chatting before going to Hunter’s.  We were preparing for departure when I did an ID check; everyone had theirs but me.  I triple checked my wallet and purse, but no ID.  We bounced around ideas to solve the predicament: sneak in the backdoor, does anyone look like me with an ID I can use, or explain the situation to the bouncer.  We decided sneaking in the backdoor was the best option.

A place of euphoric fun

A place of euphoric fun

Upon arriving to the backdoor, plan A was quickly dismissed, it was manned by a stern looking bouncer.  Now our only option was plan B (the most used plan).  We walked around to the front of the bar to talk to the bouncer.  I lingered in the back of our group on the way thinking about what to say.  I had the apprehension I used to get at age 19 with my fake ID as we approached the bar’s front door.  There was a large group of scantily clad lipstick lesbians in six inch stiletto heels ahead of us.  The bouncer was eyeing them suspiciously as he studied their ID cards unamused by their flirtatious manners.  He then pulled out a machine and swiped their IDs – hope escaped me.  I tried to warm up to the idea of an evening alone with my book in the 1200 square foot villa.  It was now our turn at the door.

I was still at the back of our 14 person party and the people in the front must of starting the pleading and age assurance on my behalf.  The group slowly parted and the bouncer’s flashlight blinded me and he ordered me to “come here.”  I walked dreadful through the worried and encouraging faces of my friends to certain humiliation.  He asked me my birthday and how old I was, and then so unexpectedly, he said if someone in our group gives a good Yelp review, I’m in!  Three people enthusiastically complied and it was all cheers and a sign of good fortune.


Hollywood stars adorn the sidewalks of downtown


Palm trees with the giant San Gorgonio Mt in the background

We danced the night away to techno infused hip-hop music in Christmas colored laser beams that Shanda said gave her a “euphoric fun feeling all over her body” (no illegal drugs were used in the making of this blog).  While Shanda was having euphoric fun, I was having a reality check.  I noticed signs posted all over the bar that read “ID required for all persons looking under age 40.”  I saw the stilettoed lipstick girls who had their IDs swiped by the verifying machine, and thought how grateful I was to be in my sensible shoes.  They wore short tight little dresses; my dress was knee length and selected to conceal areas my 37-year-old-metabolism exposed.  They had smoky eyes and I had eye brightener for the illusion of youthfulness.  I suppose it wasn’t the convincing pleas of my friends that got me into Hunter’s; but my sensible shoes, middle-aged-metabolism dress and concealer caked crow’s feet eyes that got me in.

The rest of the weekend, our group passed leisurely by the pool; eating, drinking and laughing together.  When it was time to bid farewell on Sunday, Shanda and I spent a couple hours wandering the streets of Palms Springs reminiscing about past visits and making plans for future ones.

Native statue in water

Tributes to Palm Springs’ Native American past are prominent throughout Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Palm Springs street view



Our fav furniture and home decor store, a must when we’re in PS

shanda II

A random cool looking door in PS; lots of random cool stuff in PS


Las Casuelas Terraza, one of our fav Mexican restaurants in PS. We were dining here on my birthday one year and a sweet gay couple next to us overheard it was my bday and sent us a shot of very good tequila – PS I love you!

ps street

On our Sunday stroll through the heart of one of our favorite cities

If escape is what you need, the desert oasis of Palm Springs will fulfill you.  It is glamorous and relaxed, has night life and tranquility, and offers visitors art, dining, and shopping, or none of that at all.  Whatever you like, however you like it, Palm Springs will bring it to fruition.

Meeting the Most Mysterious Women in the World in Kansas City, MO


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MO River II

I could not take my eyes off her, I wanted to remember every curve and every color of her sliding by, unable to capture her and unable to let her go.  We were awestruck by the majestic Missouri River.  She flowed slowly by like liquid glass reflecting the pink and orange sky, steel bridges and the trees that lined her bank.  I had 3.5 days in Kansas City but the Missouri River had been here since the beginning of time; this was prominent in the way she moved – calm, unhurried and uneffected by the city that buzzed around her.  She has no beginning and no end, and we only have our lifetimes.

mo riv

Driving through Kansas City that first night on a maze of freeways and over ornate bridges made me excited to see what this city was all about.  I had read about the jazz, BBQ, fountains, and the kindness of the people – which I found, but Kansas City was so much more.  Kansas City has a soul, a single heartbeat that throbs the city to life and everyone within it.  San Diego is too big, too spread out and too varied for one soul; San Diego has many souls.

I sought the Kansas City experience.  I fantasized about raw jazz music on a sticky hot night where everyone had a beautiful glow, and make-up, hair, and clothes were unaffected by sweat.  This was not the reality.  I was fortunate that I only experienced one hot and humid day, the rest of my time in Kansas City the weather was uncharacteristically and unseasonably like San Diego’s weather.  The hot and stickiness didn’t occur the same night I experience Kansas City jazz, which in retrospect, I’m thankful for despite my fantasy.

shanda directions

“Can you please tell me how to get to…?”

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Gorgeous fountains around every corner throughout Kansas City, MO

I was in Kansas City for a long weekend, from Thursday through Monday.  On Friday evening, Shanda and I went to The Phoenix, a place we choose because they had a good happy hour, early live music, and good Yelp reviews.  It was still long before dark when we arrived and The Phoenix was already a beehive of people and music.  The music was in full swing and there was barely standing room.  We ordered wine and went to work looking for a table.  We got lucky and got a table very soon after arriving.  We ordered several appetizers – all of which were delicious.

The music was everything I hungered for and more.  The singer was a 3rd generation Kansas City musician who, along with the rest of the band, was soulful and skillful.  Together they took me and everyone in the room on a musical journey through Kansas City’s rich history.  The singer played the saxophone, piano, and tap danced on the bar.  He was charismatic and a showman, every person was under his spell.

Shanda and I are not ones for large crowds and hanging out in bars for extended periods of time, we prefer to retreat to the calm and peacefulness of life.  We left The Phoenix very satisfied but needing to escape the noise and people.  It was still light outside, but approaching sunset.  We didn’t want to go to another bar or crowd, but didn’t want to call it night.  We decided to do what would turn out to be the highlight of my trip.  We went to the bank of the Missouri River to watch the sunset.

MO River


Lots of streams throughout city with parks and paths

It occurred to me as Shanda and I were going over bridge after bridge on the my first night in Kansas City, that we might be traversing the Missouri River.  This thought excited me.  I’ve always been intrigued and drawn to mother nature’s attractions.  There are no major rivers in San Diego.  I rave about beaches, mountains, and deserts, but rivers are sadly missing from my repertoire.  Frankly, when I was researching Kansas City, the Missouri River wasn’t even on my radar.  There is no river recreation in Kansas City, so it didn’t appear on any of the things-to-do websites I visited aimed at bring money into the city.  But there she was, the city’s artery, a large vein snaking through the city, giving it life.  The people going about the business unaffected, yet entirely effected by her.


Shanda and I drove to a park alongside the river bank we had spotted on our way to The Phoenix.  We parked and approached a jogging path high on the river bank at a safe distance from the shifty, sandy, rocky, crumbling bank that led down to the river.  This was not close enough, so we scrambled down to the some old cement blocks midway down the bank.  The cute pink wedge shoes I was wearing were perfect for The Phoenix, not so perfect for this endeavor; but we made it nonetheless.


Monks leaving a temple

The Missouri River is part of the greater Mississippi River system and together they are the fourth longest river in the world.  Ever since humans stopped roaming and settled into communities, rivers have supported life with fish and floodwater, cleansing and curing.  The river is like a grandmother, patient and wise.  She has tracked and supported our progress and washed away our unbearable pain.  She is a historian and keeper of secrets.  I was deeply humbled as I reflected upon these things on the bank of Missouri River.

We decided to climb back up the bank to walk along the path that led towards a tall, old-looking steel bridge.  We stopped along various lookouts to gaze upon the river still magical and still going by.  We walked until well after dark not wanting to give up this experience, but alas sleepy eyes and a veil of darkness stealing our view, we returned to the hotel grateful.


Country Club Plaza

Flags ducks

With renewed energy the next day, we hit up Kansas City with gusto and an unrealistic agenda.  Our agenda, as it turned out, was far more ambitious than our stamina and discipline.  After reaching our first destination the agenda fell to the wayside and we surrendered to detraction after distraction.  This made for an exciting and spontaneous day full of unexpected and unimaginable surprises – superior to the trip mapped out on the rigid agenda.  It was also the one and only hot and humid day I experienced in Kansas City, MO.

We parked at the highly recommended and highly advertised Country Club Plaza mid-morning with camera, water, cash, and open minds.  We wandered around the large outdoor mall that went on for several blocks ooh-ing and awe-ing at statues, architecture and fountains with battle scenes and water fowl.  There were lots of impressive stores, but the thought of trying to peel my dress off to try on clothes I didn’t own on a sweaty heat-swollen body dissolved any desire to shop.  Plus the effort of doing such would only generate more heat.


A side note on wet heat (Kansas City) verses dry heat (San Diego): chafing SUCKS!  When I was young I wanted legs so skinny they didn’t touch each other because I thought that was normal and I was a freak.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I understand it is genetics and my body could never and would never be that way.  On this day Kansas City, I came to understand that my body has been evolved for dry heat.  Because my legs touch in the middle, I do not have the correct body type for wet heat.  I feel sorry for those misplaced raw-legged body types wondering painfully around their mismatched environments.  I bet the person who invented shorts and female pants suffered transenvironmental-genetics.  Chafing was not part of my fantasy about the sticky heat that would give me a romantic glow with perfect hair and makeup, but instead a stinging reality.


Cool architecture at Country Club Plaza

city block

Condos or apartments in Country Club Plaza

flowers I

Country Club Plaza had beautiful landscaping throughout

I soldiered on despite chafing and sore feet in the quest for history and culture.  On our way to Country Club Plaza, we spotted a couple of beautiful parks and we decided to pick up lunch and picnic in a park.  But again, distraction would rear its spontaneous head and lead us astray.  We were on our way to Gates BBQ, a spot recommended to us by a local and on the way we happen to drive by a magnificent building.  It was the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with a giant poster advertising their current visiting collection: Frida Kahlo.


This got our attention and changed our plans


Rodin’s “The Thinker”

monkey mind

Shanda got her lunch from Gates BBQ that was every bit as delicious as anticipated and I took a gamble on some weird vegan food, that filled me up but didn’t at all satisfy my appetite. We took our lunches to a beautiful park outside the museum and enjoyed some time in solitude under the shade of a big tree.  We strolled the museum grounds before entering it where learned the museum was free, except for Frida Kahlo exhibit.  We gladly paid the $8.00, a small contribution for the treat that lay ahead.  This was another highlight of our trip, Shanda and I are both huge fans her work and we were also lucky enough to see some of Rodin’s statues.

shanda II

Picnic outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


Museum walkway


We don’t always fit in


Coming up the front steps of the museum and the beautiful “front yard”

With battered feet and raw thighs, but smarter and a heart full of love, I departed Kansas City, MO.  I see you Kansas City, I understand why those who share your soul swell with pride that lights their eyes at the thought of you.  One love, one soul and one heartbeat, united in food, music and history.  You engulfed me in your love and warmth, told me I would always have a home with you, and I am forever grateful.

Surfers, Fishers and Assassination: A Community Bonded


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Imperial Beach Pier

Imperial Beach Pier

We stood safely and privileged on the edge of a small insignificant patch of tall wild grass growing undisturbed in a protected wetland.  We were in the United States, across the wetland we could see the buildings and city grid of Tijuana, Mexico.  We parked in-between condos alongside the Tijuana Estuary that separates the United States from Mexico.  We were in the conterminous US’s Western-most corner, bordered by Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.  No wall, fence or border patrol visible; just a small grassy patch with the international boarder hidden somewhere within its ambiguity.

A quiet family-oriented neighborhood called Imperial Beach with uncrowded beaches, funky art and a beautiful pier that darts drastically out into the sea.  It is the charming undiscovered international seaside community you find departing any metropolis for the refuge of the coast: Italy, Croatia, and a thousand times over around the Mediterranean you would find this unassuming seaside town.


Bus stop bench


A tall sculpture among the tall palms

We strolled the sea-misted community under the spell of the hypnotic lapping waves and laughing children.  In one of the local cafes, we sipped espresso as good as the espresso we sipped in Paris.  Shops, parks, and restaurants sporadically dot the boardwalk where lounging and loitering are encouraged.  At the end of the 1,491 feet long wooden pier is Tin Fish Restaurant.  It’s a cheap walk-up restaurant that serves large no-nonsense simple fish sandwiches on paper plates.  You eat surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, 1,491 feet into the sea among the birds, fishers and skater on the creaky pier under the glittering sun – it is divine.

Tin Fish

Tin Fish

Beautiful park along the beach

Beautiful park along the beach

Imperial Beach is is home to the Tijuana Slough, an ocean area with the largest waves in the continental US.  Many surfers training for the Hawaiian waves train in the Tijuana Slough waves.  Imperial Beach has been attracting surfers since the 1930s, and legendary surfers such as Bob Simmons (“father of the modern surfboard”) have called Imperial Beach home.

The pier was built to accommodate fishers; there are over 20 types of edible fish that can be caught from the pier.  We saw many anglers along the pier casting, catching and cleaning a variety of fish.



The surfing tradition carries on in Imperial Beach

The surfing tradition carries on in Imperial Beach

fish wash

Fish cleaning stations like this are found along the pier

The US’s southernmost pier opened Saturday, November 23, 1963.  Highly anticipated by fishers and the San Diego community at large, there were many celebratory festivities planned for the pier’s grand opening.  Tragically though, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated the day before.  The nation was in shock and mourning, but the local residents still came to the pier’s opening to mourn together.  Somber instead of jubilant, the fishers, surfers, and locals, 3000 of them for the next several weeks, bonded on the pier.  As did, Shanda and I:


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Brown Pelican – they are big!

We saw several brown pelicans on the pier, soaring through the sky and diving into the ocean

We saw several brown pelicans on the pier, soaring through the sky and diving into the ocean

Pier 1

Entrance to the pier (it is free)

Entrance to the pier (it is free)


Imperial Beach on Labor Day weekend – every other San Diego beach is shoulder to shoulder with people!


The beautiful San Diego skyline and Coronado Bridge in the background

no jumping

Funky and colorful beach front homes along the shore

pier 2


Imperial Beach, like the rest of San Diego, is very dog friendly.



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California Gull

Brown pelican diving into the sea

Brown pelican diving into the sea

ib sign

If you like the beach and not the crowds, Imperial Beach is the place for you.  Surfing, fishing, swimming, shopping, and eating and drinking…IB (as the locals call it) has it all with elbow room.


I had to share these photos, there are beautiful and revealing. If you haven’t time to travel the world today, you can in two short minutes with this photo journal. These bold photos capture the color and people. Great job Ron Mayhew!

Ron Mayhew's Blog

The Hindu deity Ganesha lies hidden behind tree roots along a ghat in Kolkata, India. Ironically, Ganesha is revered as the remover of obstacles.

Darkness was hidden in a deeper darkness; This all was as a sea without dimensions; The Void still held
unformed what was potential, Until the power of Warmth produced the sole One

___from Hindu Scriptues


I have long considered it one of God’s greatest mercies that the future is hidden from us. If it were not, life would surely be unbearable.

___Eugene Forsey

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished.

___Francis Bacon


The future is hidden by a dark impenetrable veil, and yet we struggle to pierce through it.

___Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Behind Ise Shrine,  
unseen, hidden by the fence,  
Buddha enters nirvana 

___Matsuo Basho

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.


The hidden harmony…

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When Harry Met Stephy In Independence, MO


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signIt wasn’t exactly as exciting as when Harry met Sally, and there was no sex scene in the sleepy pizza parlor Shanda and I found to eat at; but it was an adventure nonetheless.  Independence, MO is a small midwestern town dedicated to preserving the life and memory of the quiet man who had one of the most difficult presidencies in US history: Harry S. Truman.

A walk through Independence, MO is a walk through history.  A greenery rich and dispersedly populated town sat idly under the repressive August heat when we visited.  Statues, monuments, and signage remind visitors that one is walking the streets Truman walked.  Truman died in 1972, yet his spirit lives reverently on in Independence, MO.

My partner, Shanda, was on an extended business trip in Kansas City, MO, this summer and after researching how she might keep herself entertained, I decided to fly out for a long weekend getaway.  Museums, history, jazz, BBQ, and the Missouri River, sold me on the trip.  It was an awesome decision to go to Missouri; we packed a lot of entertainment into those three and half days.  Each day ended with sore feet, a dead camera battery, and left us more enlightened and amused that we had been at breakfast.

We decided to dedicate one of our precious three days to Independence, MO.  We visited former President Harry Truman’s home, the Truman Presidential Library, the Lewis and Clark trailhead, and walked around the single square designated as “downtown.”  It was likely our only opportunity to visit Independence, MO; and here is yours:


A very beautiful home Truman and his wife, Bess, lived in


Sidewalk outside of Truman’s home

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These signs are on every single block in Independence, MO

Shanda and President Truman

Shanda and President Truman


Clinton’s Drug Store, Harry Truman’s first job (currently an ice cream shop)

purple heart

This Purple Heart was sent to Truman by a women who lost her son in the Korean War – Truman later told his wife entering the Korean War was his toughest decision.

Harry Truman was born to Missouri farmers and raised in Independence, MO, where he and his wife, Bess, lived before, during and after residing in the White House.  The Democratic party recruited Truman to run as Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President because he connected ethically and emotionally to the farming and rural communities.  President Roosevelt was already in ill health during his reelection and the democratic party understood they were effectively choosing Roosevelt’s successor.  Truman had a reserved mannerism and was interested in business and bettering the community.  He was not interested in becoming president but felt anyone else would pollute the presidential office with corruption; therefore, he accepted the nomination.

Truman’s presidency was plagued with dilemma and below are some of the historical events which he influenced:

  • Atomic bombing of Japan
  • United States to economic resuscitation of war-ravaged Europe
  • Expansion of Roosevelt’s New Deal (social services and economic recovery of the Great Depression)
  • The Korean War
  • Assassination attempt survivor

Truman often found himself stuck between a rock and hard place.  He made unpopular decisions throughout his presidency and the policies and institutions he created did not receive public revere until around the time of his death.

At the Lewis and Clark Trailhead - this trail would lead European settlers to San Diego, CA; the other option was to sail around the tip of Argentina

At the Lewis and Clark Trailhead – this trail would lead European settlers to San Diego, CA; the other option was to sail around the tip of Argentina

Mormon Temple

Mormon Temple

Prior to establishing themselves in Salt Lake City, UT, the Mormons were chased out of Independence, MO.  A few Mormons laid low and quietly resurrected the Mormon community in Independence, MO, after hostilities died down.

We saw more churches than gas stations in this small town; some elaborate and some very quaint like the one below:


Charming church in Independence, MO


An old school house, right next door to the old jail house

United Nations Peace Plaza statue in Independence, MO

United Nations Peace Plaza statue in Independence, MO

The following pictures were taken in and around the 1859 jail and Marshal’s Home Museum (next to the old school house). The Sheriff and his family would live in the front of the house and the jail was the back part of the house.

prision III

Outlaw Frank James’s jail cell (brother of Jesse James), replica of interior

city window prison prision i

Downtown Independence, MO consists of the Historic Jackson County Truman Courthouse that takes up one entire square block.  The four shop-front blocks that encircled the courthouse make up the rest of “downtown.”  We saw one other person in downtown, a bricklayer, working on an adjacent building.

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The giant courthouse


We wanted to go to Clinton's Ice Cream shop, but it was closed on the 90 degree Sunday we visited; so we opted for pizza instead

We wanted to go to Clinton’s Ice Cream shop, but it was closed on the 90 degree Sunday we visited; so we opted for pizza instead

Independence, MO provided a memorable day trip.  It is a small town with defined weather seasons and an abundance of picturesque churches.  I loved the trees, historically significant sights and learned so much about Harry Truman and events that surrounded his presidency.

Rest in Peace Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972)

33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

Burial sites of Harry and Bess Truman at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO

Burial sites of Harry and Bess Truman at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame


*Information in this post was obtained through the Truman Presidential Library and governmental plaques and information boards located throughout Independence, MO.

Mission Bay: Almost Paradise | | The Standard of Gay Travel


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San Diego is paradise.  Beaches, long sunny days, and a relaxed and casual environment; minus the drug cartels, passport requirements (for US citizens), and humidity.  I’ve been touting the virtues of this American paradise for two decades and even created a blog about it.  If you are unconvinced, somehow doubtful of my bias, well OUTTraveller writer, Diane Anderson-Minshall agrees.  She wrote this article about her stay at the all-inclusive Paradise Point Resort in Mission Bay.

Since I don’t have my own photos or experience to share, please check out Anderson-Minshall’s detailed account of her stay.  The does a great job describing the countless amenities and awesomeness of it all!

Mission Bay: Almost Paradise | | The Standard of Gay Travel.

Queen Calafia and the Island of California


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California, an island, then not island, then back to being an island again, and currently, not an island. “A very good enclosed port” said Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo to describe the bay he sailed into and named San Miguel (later to be re-named San Diego). He was the first European to reach the West Coast in 1542 when he sailed into San Diego, CA. Prior to the subsequent European explorers who arrived after Cabrillo, adventurer Hernan Cortes (as in the Sea of Cortes) reached the tip of Baja California in 1519. He thought he discovered the fictional pearl rich island of California ruled by the equally fictional Amazon Queen Calafia described in the popular 1510 romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandian) written by Graci Ordonez de Montalvo.

Cabrillo was able to sail around the Gulf of California and determine it was not an island; however, northward exploration was more difficult. Harsh waters, rugged coasts, unfamiliar biosphere, suspicious Indians, and fog made exploring beyond San Diego expensive, dangerous and fragmented. After a century of exploration that yielded minimal results, European expeditions ceased (by Spanish royal decree). Maps reverted back to depicting California as an island again.

Another century later, in 1702, California was discovered not to be an island…again! This time it was by a Jesuit missionary-explorer, Eusebio Kino, conducting an expedition of the Colorado river.

Cabrillo National Monument is situated in the beautiful and history area of Point Loma. It is thought that Cabrillo landed in Point Loma, and today it is home to a large Navy base. A long sailing history due to San Diego’s “very good enclosed port.”

A picture tour through Cabrillo National Monument and the restored lighthouse:


“Point Loma” is point that sits 433 feet above the sea, the views are spectacular!


Coronado Island, home to the world famous Hotel Del.


[caption id="attachment_697" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Military Navy stuff

Hotel Del

World famous Hotel Del

Ocean Jetty Coast Boat 2 Looker


Outside the lighthouse


The front door to the lighthouse


A Squirrel taking in the view, like the rest of us


The lighthouse


Inside the lighthouse looking onto the front yard


The spiral staircase inside the lighthouse


Although a “monument” it sit in a large park like area with many trails and historic sights


The lighthouse


This fog was rolling in around 3:00pm in the afternoon; the same fog hindered early exploration, and makes driving difficult in San Diego.


An early military fort.


Inside the fort!


Come hither


Fog 2

More fog…time to go.

*The information contained in this post was obtained from academic research, lectures and course materials during a California History course at University of CA, Chico.

Coocoo for Koko Head – Hiking in Hawaii


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Now you can hike this strenuous hike via my picture tour for today’s (almost) Wordless Wednesday:


This hike is mostly on a questionably old cart track – you can see hundreds of feet below in-between the track in some areas – uh nerve racking!


Out. Of. Breath.


Chef Kristi “I made it!”


A memorial at the top


I inverted the image, made it look arctic verses tropical

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Fun and Beautiful Fitness – No Really!


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Why workout in a stinky, over-air conditioned, florescent light gym when there are flowery parks, year-round breezes and sunny days?  Fitness plays a large role in the Southern California lifestyle and there are many fun and low-cost ways to stay active without even realizing you are exercising.  I frequently see joggers, cyclists, skaters, and walkers along beaches, boardwalks, parks, and neighborhoods.  The gym may be for some people, but it wasn’t for me; I’ve discovered a plethora of ways to incorporate exercise into one’s life without the gym!


Weight room at the gym or this?

Steph fp 1

Would you rather do these on a weight bench or a fountain rim?

I work full time, go to school full time, and now blog full time; therefore time is a limited and precious commodity in my world.  After several years of working and schooling full time, I grew tired of the lack of fun and variety in my life.  I resented always saying “no, I  have to study” and seeing Facebook check-ins and pictures as life carried on without me.  While thoroughly enjoying the information and stories my education afforded me, sometime I’d rather be wine tasting instead of reading about soil types, or hiking instead of writing about trade agreements.  I was longing for two distinct things that were lacking in my life: more exercise and more fun.  Once or twice a week I had a free evening from studying and chores, and faced a choice: the gym or the happy hour.  I still had a long way to go school-wise and retirement is not even on my radar; my stamina for this dull and repetitive existence was wearing thin.  So I dug deep with the determination of “if there is a will, there is a way.”  And the answer dawned on me as clear as the sun I craved; I would find a way to combine the two.

I hate the gym: the smell, the people, the confinement.  I love vacationing: the smell, the people, the freedom.  I found when I was on vacation I had lots of time and energy to explore, play and learn. So I decided to live like I’m vacationing all the time.  Many times I’ve thought while visiting some awesome place like Hawaii, New York, or Paris, that if I live here, how different my life would be.  I would run on this beach every day; I would ride my bike through this park all the time; and I would spend hours exploring this city by foot.  Well I live in friggin San Diego, CA, an American paradise! There is so much to explore and do here, and the most accommodating weather for year-round activity.  Problem solved, I can be on vacation 365 days a year – if I choose to be.

The totally amazing rose garden at Balboa Park smells WAY better than a gym!

The totally amazing rose garden in Balboa Park smells WAY better than a gym!


Running around the outdoor theatre in Balboa Park – I feel like a kid again!!


Nutrition consultant at my gym


A regular at my gym (Balboa Park is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo – and these guys roam around outside the zoo – awesomeness!


My gym doesn’t sound like machines and blaring TVs

I made a list of things I love, like, and don’t mind.  I love being outdoors, having a personal trainer (that I couldn’t afford at the gym), dancing, hiking, parks, and the beach.  I like bike riding, weight training, and walking.  I don’t mind jogging, swimming, and cardio activities.  I don’t have to go to the gym to exercise, and I don’t have eat and drink to have fun!  The result of this discovery has led to a life richer than I ever thought possible.  I have such a variety of activities and fun things to do, it is sometimes hard to decide.

I’ve had a personal trainer for past two years.  Twice a week I pay homage to my health at Tiger Training Temple in North Park.  I spend an hour under the supervision of an expert squatting, cursing, sit-up-ing, and sweating through a variety of activities designed by my trainer for optimal health and hell.  Okay, it really isn’t hell, actually, I quite love it!  The gym charged outrageous rates for personal trainers, who I learned read Fitness magazine for their “expertise.”  I believe I paid $120.00 a month, on top of of my gym membership for four trainings per month.  My current personal trainer is NSCA C-PT certified with an AOS in Personal Training, and most importantly, is not affiliated with any stinking gym!  I pay my trainer the approximate amount of one hourly wage I earn at my job.  The first hour of my wages every Monday goes to my health and happiness.  Not a bad investment and it is cheaper than the medical insurance that is taken out of my check every two weeks.

Brand and I

Brandi & I – We’ve giggled through exercise for two years together!


You enter as a cub and leave as a tiger – at Tiger Training Temple!

My trainer, Brandi Mahan, is a certified personal trainer and the owner and CEO of Tiger Training Temple.  Although I’ve been her client for the past two years, our friendship spans nearly 20 years.  Brandi, like myself, was unimpressed with the gym scene and the cost of personal trainers that came with the gym.  Several years ago, I quit the gym and fiddled around with various dance classes and home workout videos.  At the same time, Brandi embarked on her own fitness journey on a much grander scale (pun intended).  She quit her gym and overpriced under-enthusiastic trainer, and hit the park.  Balboa Park that is, with a love and intensity that has led to a new career as a Personal Trainer.  You can learn more about Brandi and follow her journey here at Tiger Training Temple.

run II

Brandi and I running around the beautiful organ pavilion at Balboa Park

Downward dog

Why sit on these benches when you can do downward dog? Make sense to me!

Brandi and I had drifted in different directions, but the universe reunited us just as we were both embarking on our new journeys.  Brandi was trying to figure out an anti-gym exercise program for herself and  I was trying to combined fun and fitness.  Tiger Training Temple was born when Brandi and her wife Rose traded running on a treadmill for running through trees.  Instead of stair climbers, they climbed real stairs in Balboa Park’s many gardens.  They swapped push-ups on a smelly gym floor for push-ups on grass. They replaced lunging through the gym’s weight-lifting area for lunching around beautiful fountains.  Brandi was so excited about this discovery of fun exercise in a beautiful and free setting, she wondered why anyone would ever go to a gym again.  Jungle Gym was born – hour long exercise adventures in Balboa Park for $10.00 a class; no RSVP and no memberships required.  You just show up, explore, and have fun!


Stair climber at the gym or climb stairs through Palm Canyon in Balboa Park?

While a lot of my friends played a variety of sport in our younger years, I was a dancer (when and if I was exercising at all).  I wasn’t a good dancer, but a loyal one.  I dilly dallied around in community college for ten years before transferring to California State University, Chico to pursue a BA in Social Science.  Six of those years were spent exhausting every dance class available.  When I received a letter saying I could no longer enroll in dance classes, my teacher allowed me to enroll under my mom’s name and continue for another year.  I took jazz, ballet, modern, and belly dancing; I still belly dance to this day.  I’ve had several dance teachers and schools since my community college days, but currently, I use instructional videos and drills at home.  Between my personal training, belly-dancing videos, very occasional runs, seasonal hiking, and flirtations with water sports (kayaking and paddle boarding), I stay reasonably fit.


My family and friends with different taste stay fit in different ways: Shanda plays racquetball and volleyball up to four times a week.  My mom takes pilates, yoga, aqua aerobics, and dance classes several times a week. Chef Kristi takes kickboxing and is a runner who is always training for the next marathons.  Chef Kristi’s dad, Bill, takes spin classes and plays racquet ball.  Jason regularly goes to the gym and takes boot camp classes; and John and Carlos jog, ride bikes, and take Crossfit classes.  My boss hits the gym every morning before work.  My buddy Greg also trains with Brandi, participates her 6:00am Run Club, and is a regular at Jungle Gym.

In Southern California, if you are not out taking advantage of the awesomeness of living here, what is the point of paying the high cost of living?  You can be cooped up indoors, in front of the TV for much cheaper in other states.  But in Southern California, there are beaches to run, mountains to climb, and superbly sunny weather to do it all in.  If you visit San Diego, you can rent bikes to ride along the beaches, hike countless trails, walk along natural paths or city promenades, or drop into one Brandi’s classes for a local’s view of Balboa Park.  It is cheap, fun, healthy, and what the locals do!

What Brandi sees...

What Brandi sees…

What I see.

What I see.

But I still earned this, because I'm awesome like that!

But I still earned this, because I’m awesome like that!


You are only limited by your imagination….