Monday, June 29, 2015

A Short Story About an Elephant

Gerry and I have annual passes to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Some mornings we love to go to the zoo and begin our day with a coffee and danish.  Then we'll begin to walk and let our feet take us where they want.  
One morning, we took a path we hadn't explored yet, and before we knew it, we were about to enter the newly-expanded Elephant Odyssey exhibit. We saw a bull elephant walking over the pedestrian tunnel.  He was a big one - so majestic and powerful. We watched him walk around the play yard a little bit, and swat a few toys with his massive trunk.  A leader of the elephant herd, we soon learned that this beautiful creature had experienced something awful that changed his demeanor, and to this day has zookeepers scratching their heads.  
This is Ranchipur, a 50-year old bull elephant.  He is the male of the group, weighing in at around 12,000 pounds.  You can't miss him because he is the largest in the group and has beautiful large tusks.  Often rambunctious, Ranchipur loves playing with his enrichment toys and dipping his hay in water before eating it.  He also loves to go to the Elephant Care Center where he receives daily care until one day ....................
No one is certain what happened, but one day Ranchipur refused to go through the Elephant Care Center.  What the zookeepers remember as odd behavior for Ranchipur was the day he approached two female elephants who stood on the other side of the fence at the edge of the play yard (steel barriers, actually), and something caused Ranchipur to suddenly turn around and bolt.  
Well, Ranchi (that's what the zookeepers call him) wouldn't go into the Care Center after that runaway incident in the play yard.  For months now, to coax Ranchi into the Care Center, the zookeepers have to sweet-talk him to take a few steps at a time to reach for a treat from their hand.  The goal is to get him from play yard to the end of the Care Center.
The crowd of five people at the beginning of Ranchi's journey turned into a crowd of maybe 30 people.  Needless to say, we were enthralled by this reluctant dance of Ranchi's. We felt for him, poor guy!  I just wanted to hug him and whisper in his ear, "It's okay, sweet baby. You can do this."

From play yard to the main gate, from main gate to the entrance of the Care Center, then through a few holding cells which held buckets of his favorite snacks, all the way to the end of the fortified structure, it took approximately 45 minutes for Ranchi to make that journey.  

The elephants go to the Elephant Care Center daily for food, wellness checks and beauty treatments.  Well, not really, but they get nice rubdowns and get their soles and nails cut back.  With a grooved knife, files and rasps the nails and the soles of the feet are brought to a healthy and natural form.

The zookeepers were hoping on this day that Ranchi would want to come out of the structure for a well-deserved spa day, but he wouldn't have it.  
The zookeepers say they will not force Ranchi to exit the holding cell.  They want him to come out when he's ready - no pressure. When Ranchi had had enough of this routine, he simply turned around in the holding cell, and the dance was repeated, in reverse. Ranchi leaving the Care Center didn't take as long as when he went in.  He appeared to be happy to leave!
The zookeepers say it could be months before Ranchipur is totally comfortable around the other elephants again, and when he's able to enter the Care Center on his own free will.  Hopefully, they'll solve the mystery of Ranchipur's strange behavior, too.  
There are so many things happening at the zoo this summer.  I hope you'll take the time to visit for a few hours.  I think it's the best zoo in the world!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Personal Guide to Historic Julian

I recently shared my experience of an overnight stay at the Julian Gold Rush Hotel, Bed & Breakfast.  It ... was ... lovely!  If you hadn't had the chance to read the article, you can find it here.  
Leaving the suburbs for the hills.  We're driving through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  The drive was 1:17 hours from my home.
Any previous visits to Julian were of the drive-by kind.  You know, "since we're in the area, we might as well . . .", with visits lasting two to three hours.  So having booked one night at the hotel pretty much meant spending two days in Julian.  With a town this small, and it is small with a population of 1,502, I wasn't sure how Gerry and I would be able to fill our time. What is there to do in this historic gold mining town for two days?  Well, despite the fact that a few businesses were closed being that it's a Tuesday, we discovered quite a few treasures to bide our time.  Also, may I share with you that the town is slow Monday through Wednesday, and that is why some shops, businesses and museums are closed.  The owners take those days to rest and gear up for the busy weekend ahead, which is Thursday through Sunday.

Before I share my favorite things to do, I'm just going to throw it out there, that there is no longer a financial institution in town.  No bank, no ATM, no moola for you.  You need to arrive with cash in your pocket, or use your debit/credit card to make purchases.  So why is there no bank in town, you ask.  As told to me by a store clerk, "the bank was sold to someone who didn't understand the ways of the country life."  Not many people cared to do business with this person, I guess.  But not only did the bank leave town, so did the coffee shop, the hardware store and the feed store.  Some say the 2003 Cedar fire is to blame.  It wiped out 30% of the homes in the area.  Some of those affected by the fire chose not to rebuild and left town.  The early birds now go to the famous Julian Pie Company on the edge of town for their cup of coffee.

If you visit during the slow times of the week, may I suggest these places for your browsing, drinking and dining pleasure:  


We began our day with a light breakfast here at the Julian Pie Company.  Coffee and a donut.  Yum!  They don't show it on their website, but the shop sells donuts made with local apple cider, no preservatives, artificial flavors or sugars added.  They've got a new program called the "Frequent Pie-r Program".  Cute, right?  Buy 10 pies, get one free!  I bought the strawberry rhubarb pie to bring home.  It is my absolute favorite pie!


The Book House is a small place but the collection is large, and several genres are represented.  The shop accepts donations of books and vinyl records, so when you come to Julian, bring a box of your discards.  It will be so appreciated.


This restaurant exudes rustic and casual ambiance.  The tables are covered with red and white checkered tablecloths and the food is delicious!  Great service, friendly staff and delicious food.  Oh, I said that already.  I had the spaghetti with meat sauce, and it is so authentic-ly italian (so good) and the bread rolls are so soft and smell so good, they melt in your mouth!  This restaurant was came highly recommended by the locals.


Everything you need for your garden is in this large space.  Seeds, bird feeders, garden flags, insect catchers and so much more.  You can't come in here and not buy a thing or two.  A great place to spend an hour perusing the shelves, stands and walls for that special thing.


The Julian Cider Mill is a gourmet lover's delight.  The shop offers a huge selection of candy, especially the hard-to-find assortment of classic candies, honey, snacks and their specialty, homemade raw cider.  I left the shop with jars of apple butter and lime marmalade, and - wait for it - gummy bears!


After tea and scones at our hotel, we strolled to find three wineries in close proximity to each other.  We chose the Orfila Wine Tasting Room.  I was glad when Gerry chose the Orfila because it looked lonely from the outside, and I thought it'd be nice to give the Orfila some business.  It was obvious the other two tasting rooms had customers.  Wrong, the tables were occupied at the Orfila, so we took our place at the bar.  The sommelier was awesome! The white wine tasting list was so impressive.  Since we have mostly reds at home, we brought home a couple of bottles of the whites.  We also joined the Orfila Wine Lovers Club!  We enjoy drinking wine, so why not?

Photo credit:

This general store was a delight.  You're transported to another time and place when you enter the store.  It smells divine from the buckets of potpourri placed throughout the store. Shelves and shelves of perfumed and organic soaps and lotions, antique dishes, toys and housewares, and so much more!  The antique Frigidaires were not for sale, though!  This place was a feast for the eyes, and I took lots of photos with my iPhone - until I saw the sign.  Please, no photography in this store!  The sign was next to the cash register.  If I wasn't such a chicken, I would've taken a photo of that sign, too!

I hope you'll consider spending a good amount of time on your next visit to Julian.  While going there Thursday through Sunday means every store and museum will be open, it will also be very, very crowded.  Something to consider.

Happy travels,

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Six Essentials in My Personal Carry-On Bag

I remember my first international flight, way back when I was 17 years old.  It was a huge deal for me to board an airplane and fly to another continent.  I loved this new experience right away, but after a few hours into the flight, I was ready to jump out of that gigantic piece of metal in the sky.  The endless hours of sitting made me want to scream because, frankly, I'm not one to sit still very long, and I didn't know how to entertain myself when a movie wasn't playing.
Many years later, I now consider myself to be professional flyer.  Nice sound to that title, right?  Seriously, I used to fly for a living as a flight attendant during the golden age of air transport.  It was around that time when the word "stewardess" became "flight attendant". Long retired from flying the friendly skies, I continue to travel for work and pleasure, and I have mastered the art of air travel with no desire to pull my hair out from sheer boredom.  I can't afford to fly business class or first class, so I relegate myself to the economy section. But hey, don't knock it.  We learned a few years ago that even millionaires will fly economy -- that's how some people maintain their millionaire status, as our seatmate told us en route to Rome, Italy!  That millionaire was Scott Jacob, world-acclaimed artist for Harley-Davidson, the American motorcycle manufacturer.  He was there with his wife and two grown daughters, all in their economy seats across from us.  Just thought I'd throw in that little tidbit. (smile)

If available, Gerry and I will always book those Economy Plus seats, or the equivalent, for the extra legroom, usually four inches, wider seats and seating toward the front of the economy section for easier exit. It's so worth the extra bucks.  Extra perks can include free alcoholic beverages, earbuds/headphones, seat back video screens, and free Wifi with in-seat power outlets, depending on which airline you're flying.  
Gerry and Scott Jacobs
To make my air travel the very best experience, I claim these to be my top 6 travel essentials:

I bought my BOSE headphones many years ago and I love it.  They still operate like new! The soft, cushioned ear pads fit great around my ears. Noise reduction is superb, and my music and movies come through powerfully.  It's almost like being at the cinema with surround sound.  If the cabin noise is particularly loud, the headphones cut out the noise, and I'm able to sleep well.

It's no secret that I love to read, and that I would prefer an actual book or magazine over an e-Book, but I'll read those, too.  I'll have mags in my personal carry-on, in my computer bag, and in my checked baggage - enough reading for round-trip travel.  Being a travel advisor, I get tons of material to read and I can't keep up with it at home. Riding in an airplane allows me so much time for reading.  It keeps me inspired, entertained and it calms me, especially with a nice glass of wine.
I love my Beats.  It's compact, and gives me big sound for such a small package.  I use this for listening to my music on Spotify and iTunes, and watching documentaries on iTunesUniversity.  If you're not familiar with iTunesUniversity, you need to check it out.  Stitcher is another great app for the latest in news, entertainment and
pop culture.

In addition to my lip color, blush and powder compact, these are the only other beauty essentials that I'll pack in my personal carry-on bag, all in travel sizes. They are Origins hand and body lotion, lip balm (with a hint of color), Rohto Hydra soothing eye drops (stings a little at first, but ends with a signature cooling "kick" for that nice refreshed feeling for my eyes), Clarins Instant Smooth to smooth out the fine, dry lines around my eyes and lips due to the dry air in the cabin, and hand sanitizer.  My most favorite thing, though, is the Evian Mineral Water Spray.  Throughout the flight, I will mist my face to cool and rehydrate my skin, and to revive my makeup.   It really is the greatest beauty find ever!

 It never fails.  As soon as my head hits the headrest, my hair begins to fly from static electricity, and then my sweater begins to shock me.  I hate that!  Well, you can buy a small bottle of static eraser, or use a sheet of fabric softener.  I now prefer to pack a few sheets of fabric softener stored in a sandwich bag because it takes less room in my bag, and I don't need to worry about possible leakage if I brought the other.  Before settling down in your airplane seat, take a sheet and gently rub the fabric on your headrest and seat.  I also always pack a sweater to use as a blanket later.  Before you pack it, lay a sheet of fabric softener between the folds.  Voila!  No more static electricity.

Many years ago, when I first began taking elementary school students across the country to visit historic cities over spring break, I learned a very important lesson. Our flight was detained at the gate, and it was bordering lunchtime. We'd been sitting in the airplane for maybe an hour already.  My students were hungry and they began eating their junk food. I began having visions of my kids with bad tummy aches and cries for mommy upon landing at our destination. Heaven help me! Since that unfortunate experience, I always pack nutritious food to be consumed in the early part of the trip in the event the plane gets stuck at the gate or runway for some odd reason.  It's something I'd told my students to do since that incident.  I'll usually bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or protein bar, and two pieces of fruit.  It's always two pieces of fruit.  I buy the water or any other beverage before boarding, past the security check, of course.  It's very uncomfortable and unsettling to be confined for a long period of time with no food or water.  As a long-time volunteer of the American Red Cross, it is our mission to provide support and relief to citizens affected by natural disasters and traumatic events with food and shelter.  I didn't know it then, but I do now.  Food calms people.  I didn't like seeing my students having to wait forever to receive airplane meals to settle them. The lesson I learned:  It's a good idea to pack basic, nutritious food that won't spoil, water and of course, those yummy goodies that will keep them happy during "quiet time". For me, that would be Twizzlers and Gummy Bears - gummy-anything for that matter!  They're my favorite things to nibble on while reading or watching a movie.

What are your most important travel essentials?

Happy Travels,