September 28, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

These are the animals you would expect to see when visiting the zoo.  On our trip to The Sacramento Zoo last week, the temperature was quite warm at 95 degrees and a lot of the animals decided to stay in the air conditioned areas of their habitats.  Who can blame them?

Schneider's Smooth-Fronted Caiman
Our first stop was the Reptile House.  The reptile house was built in the shape of a snake and opened in 1970.  Inside you'll find an assortment of spiders, newts and even this creature from the northern region of South America.  The Schneider's Smooth-Fronted Caiman is the 2nd smallest species of crocodylian, reaching a maximum length of about 5 feet. 

The tortoise was right at home in the heat of the day.  He was munching on some alfalfa and wasn't bothered at all by the people taking photos of him.  The tortoise enclosure was at ground level.  We were on a walkway looking down into the enclosure.  He actually has a nice area to sun bathe and even a water feature to cool off in.  I guess the fresh food was too tempting to ignore.  Herkimer, the desert tortoise, is the oldest resident at the Sacramento Zoo. He turned 85 this year. 

Next stop was some animals native to the savannahs of Africa.  The zoo has several giraffes.  We saw a few of them heading inside to cool off.  This one, however, was more interested in munching on some leaves.  A full grown giraffe can eat 35 pounds of leaves each day and drink 10 gallons of water at a time.  The giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in their neck as a human--seven!

The zebras, although used to the warmth of the afternoon, wanted to hang out in the shade of the trees.  No two zebras look alike. Each has a different stripe pattern.  I suppose if I was a zebra caretaker, I could tell the difference between the three that reside here.

The White-Handed Gibbon pair were quite vocal this afternoon.  The male was also putting on quite the show swinging throughout his enclosure to the amusement and cheers of his audience.  He was heard from a ways away and drew us to see what the commotion was about.  I think he just liked the attention because his mate was not impressed.  She was sitting and watching from her cozy spot nearby.

The Orangutan wasn't interested in being photographed this afternoon.  It seems he would rather look away from the cameras.  Maybe he's just shy.   I'm sure that the other orangutans were inside enjoying the coolness of the air conditioning.

The Snow Leopard is such a beautiful creature!  Their natural habitat is the Himalayas of Asia.  This endangered species is being threatened due to the high demand for their fur and bones on the black market.  It was such a treat to see her this afternoon.

Flamingos get their pink color from the food they eat.  We happened to come across this flock at lunch time.  If you look closely you can see two care takers putting food into the pond.  When the flamingo opened it's wings the underside was a beautiful black sheen.  I tried many times to get a photo but without success.

 Artistic sculpture made entirely of horse shoes

Just outside the zoo's entrance is a unique trio of sculptures.  There is a baboon, a leopard and a giraffe made entirely out of horseshoes.  We had a fantastic afternoon at the zoo!

Here are some fun facts about our local zoo:
  • The Sacramento Zoo began as the William Land Park Zoo in March 1927. It consisted of approximately 40 animals housed on four acres of land.  The Sacramento Zoo covered 11 acres in 1975 and covers 14.4 acres today.  
  • The total yearly animal food budget is $130,000--$30,000 is spent on fruits and vegetables which are delivered twice a week.
  • Giant Anteaters do not have teeth; instead, they have tongues that can reach as much as 2 ft. in length! 

Note:  The Sacramento Zoo is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The admission cost is
General Admission $11.25
Senior Admission $10.50
Children Ages 2-11 $7.25
Children Ages 0-1 Free

There is plenty of free street parking throughout the William Land Park area.
Click on any of the photos in the post to see a larger image and a series of thumbnails at the bottom.

September 25, 2014

Sights Of The Early Morning

Ron and I never thought that we would live in the same house for 24 years!  When we first moved here Jessica was a newborn and Alex was 4.  As renters, we would move every year or two.  When we were able to buy our home, we wanted to stay in the same house so our kiddos could have a stable place to call home.

I have driven throughout these same neighborhoods for the past 24 years so I know where I'm going.  However, walking the neighborhood, I see a lot of things that I don't see in a car.  Driving past front yards at 25 mph (I'm a safe driver mind you...) I miss a lot of the little details.

The air has been quite smoky lately due to the King Fire which is burning in El Dorado county.  It's in the Sierras and we live well west of it in the Sacramento valley.  None the less, we've had our share of smokey mornings.

 I usually drive the same route to work, to the grocery store, to the gym, to wherever I'm going.  It's nice to be able to walk the various local streets around my home.  I get a different view and also see plenty of unusual sightings.

 We live outside of California's capital city of Sacramento.  There is no shortage of grocery stores in the area.  In fact, we live between two major chains, Safeway and Raley's.  I walked in the direction of Safeway and about three blocks away there was a shopping cart parked next to the sidewalk.  It appears that during the night a few teenagers gorged on snacks of all kinds and left the evidence behind.

Further along on my morning walk, I spied Tigger.  Poor Tigger, he was all alone in a field of fallen leaves.  There appears to be a day care home across the street.  Perhaps he belongs to one of the kiddos who plays there.  I hope Tigger finds his friend!

I really enjoy seeing how people decorate their front yards.  Some plant flower beds, some have lawns, and some are very unique. Just up the street from us is a very unique tree stump.  It looks like it was a palm tree in a previous life, but it has been transformed into a bear statue.  Another house has a unique Yin Yang symbol made entirely out of colored rocks. 
Our House

One of my favorite sights when I am walking is seeing all of the American Flags flying!

So, now it's your turn.  Get out of the house or RV.  Take a stroll through the neighborhood or campground, heck even the mall.  What are some things you've seen that are unique? 

September 20, 2014

Restarting An Old Habit

Getting older, Ron and I realize that we need to maintain and even improve our health.  We have been going to the gym three or four days a week for the past two and a half years.  Shaun and Michelle, our fitness coaches, have a terrific scale that scans your body and tells you information such as body fat %, bone mass, fat free mass and metabolic age among many things.  Ron's primary goal is to build muscle mass and drop fat mass.  My primary goal is to lose body fat % while gaining lean muscle.  Shaun and Michelle hold a free 'boot camp' three evenings a week at a local park.

It was Crazy Hair Day!
I attend boot camp sessions and go to the gym as much as possible to vary my workouts.  But, there's always time for more exercise, right?

Nearly 10 years ago, when I drove Jessica to high school, I would walk for an hour in the neighborhood near her school after I dropped her off.  School started at 7:30 and I didn't need to be at work until 9:00 so it worked perfectly into my schedule.  At the time, I was the thinnest and lightest I had been in my adult life.  In fact, the best comment I received was from my mother-in-law when she asked me where my butt went!   Too bad Jessica got her driver's license because once she started driving herself that habit stopped.  Since then, I've gained 15 pounds and my skinny-girl jeans are definitely not fitting.

I want to be able to fit back into my skinny-girl jeans so to do that I'm restarting an old habit: walking for an hour each morning.  I set my alarm for 6:45, get up after one hit of the snooze button, dress in my workout clothes, drink a bottle of water and I'm out the door 10 minutes later.  It's been three mornings so far.  The first morning I walked 2.5 miles, yesterday I walked 2.4 miles and this morning I walked 3 miles!  The pedometer I recently bought has been busy counting my steps.  It's encouraging to see the number go up a little higher each time I take a peak.

Next post, I'll show a few photos of interesting items I spied on the first days of walking the neighborhood.  Stay tuned! 

September 14, 2014

Finding Our Future Cave

     It's that time of year again for the big RV Show in California!

As it was last year, it is being held in Pomona.  There will be hundreds of RV dealers showcasing 1000's of RV's, an exhibit hall where RV accessories will be displayed and sold, seminars dealing with everything from solar panels to RV maintenance to cool gadgets. 

We have our minds made up that a 5th wheeler is right for us.  A Class A rig is not what we want.  We don't want to have our driving space be in the living room.  We also don't want to have to deal with a huge RV motor plus the additional motor of the towed vehicle.  We will definitely need a rig that is made for full time living.  We have to be able to see past the fancy hinges and countertops.  We have to focus on the stuff we can't see right away such as the frame, insulation and quality of workmanship. 

Since our trip to Pomona last year, we have visited other smaller RV shows and dealers.  The local show held in March was a turning point for us.  We had seen all of the RV manufacturers that we had wanted to see and were on our way out when we stopped to look at a toy hauler.  That's when it clicked for us.  With the added space of a garage we could have a work area for our business separate from our living area.

Toy haulers are intended for people who like to bring toys, such as ATV's, motorcycles, etc, on their journey.  The entire back is a huge hinged door which opens into a ramp.  Traditionally toy haulers have been similar to a studio apartment with everything in one big room.  However, the industry is realizing that people want to separate the garage from the living space.  They also realize that not all garages will be used the same way.

So, I started researching different toy hauler manufacturers and have found a good fit for us.  Voltage toy haulers are made by Dutchman Manufacturing in Goshen, Indiana.  Our local Voltage dealer has a few on the lot that we can look at but not the model (3600) we are interested in.

Model 3600 Floorplan
The closest dealer that has the model we want is in Fresno, a 3 hour drive from us.  On Mother's Day weekend we drove down to Fresno to look at the 3600 they had in stock.  It had already been sold but they were nice enough to let us look inside.  The slides were in.  I took advantage of this and tried to get to the kitchen area.  After all, we might want a snack when we're on the road and I had to test if this would even be possible.  Yep, it is.  I carefully climbed over the couch arm and the kitchen was fully accessible.  I especially like that the heavy refrigerator is not in a slide.  I've heard nightmares about the weight being an issue for the slide mechanical system.  Soon the slides were opened and we had access to the entire rig.     

A few of the favorite features on this particular floorplan include:
   1. Dinette Seating
       We don't like the idea of just one long couch.  It seems like it would be difficult to have a decent conversation when we have company if we are all seated next to one another.
   2. Wardrobe Slide
       We really like the idea of a his and hers wardrobe area.  This model has two closets with mirrored doors and drawers underneath.  With the center dresser, we know there will be plenty of storage space for all of our clothes.
   3. Twin Bed Loft
       There is a small loft above the garage accessible from the interior hallway.  This could be an added storage area for when we hit Costco. 
   4. Second Bathroom
       No explanation needed...
   5. Separate Garage Entrance
       A second door is located in the garage area of the trailer.  If your shoes (or clothes) are dirty you can change in there and not traipse mud and dirt into the house.
   6. Ramp Becomes A Patio
       One really cool feature is that the ramp also becomes a patio complete with short side walls.  After a day of exploring we can set up a chair, grab a cold drink and relax.
   7. Washer/Dryer Hook Up
       The garage has a place to hook up a washer and dryer.  I'm not sure if it is for a combo or stack-able set so I'll have to look into it more.

Voltage is one of the dealers showcasing models at this years Pomona RV Show.  We're hoping to get a chance to see the 3600 again.  We'll also be sure to check out the competition.  We still have a while to wait before we'll be ready to buy our 5th wheel, but it's definitely fun looking at them!

September 7, 2014

Finding the Perfect BAT

No silly, not the kind of bat that flies at dusk, sleeps upside down and eats insects!  Although these types of bats are useful in their own way, it is not what I had in mind.

The kind of BAT I'm talking about is a Bad Ass Truck.  We're going to need a lot of power when we drive off into the sunset to begin our FT RV Journey.  We need a truck with enough strength to pull our very heavy 5th wheel.  We saw the perfect one when we went to the state fair back in July.  We fell in love with the 2015 Chevy Silverado 3500HD diesel truck.  It has all the bells and whistles you could want in the cab and it pulls up to 23,200 pounds, what more can I say?

I am somewhat disappointed though because the local dealers do not have a DRW in stock so we can test drive it.  So for now, I'll keep looking online at the local dealers inventory until they have a dually in stock that we can test drive.

One day 'The Bat' will be parked out front. 

September 2, 2014

First of Many...

With a three day weekend being a rare occurrence, I thought it would be great to get outdoors and take a hike.

I have a book I bought years ago when I was a Girl Scout leader called Easy Hiking in Northern California.  I knew I didn't want to take a long drive to get there so I opened up to the chapter titled Gold Country, Tahoe & Plumas.  After reading about the various hikes I settled on one just outside of Nevada City.

The South Yuba Independence Trail is a fairly level hike along an old mining canal once used to carry water from the South Yuba River to a hydraulic mining site in Smartsville, 25 miles downstream.

The trail is divided into a west side and an east side.  Ron and I decided to take the hike in the west direction.  It begins by going through a low tunnel under Highway 49 and then opens up to two trails running next to each other: one for wheelchair access and one for hikers.  At one point there is an overlook where you can see the South Yuba River far below.
It has been very dry in California this past winter so unfortunately the river isn't up to it's usual water level.

About a mile into the hike there is a horseshoe shaped flume (wooden path) built above Rush Creek Falls.  A ramp with several switchbacks was added to the trail and ends just above the main drop of the fall.
Let's hope these boards are sturdy!

switchback ramp to the falls
Unfortunately, the falls are just about dry so we didn't get to see the impressive 50' tall water cascade.  We plan on another visit in the spring.  Hopefully we'll get some rain this winter.
normally I'd be under water if I was sitting here
We hiked to the end of the marked trail and found a dirt road.  After walking the road a little ways, we came upon a car parked on the side.  An unmarked trail went down the hillside.  We followed it a small distance before it got too overgrown to follow.  We weren't sure where the road led so we decided it was best to go back out on the trail we just walked.

Near the trail head we noticed a sign on the path: "Jones Bar Trail .4 miles".  We decided that maybe we'd take it on the way back.  That detour led us on a very steep downhill trudge to an old bridge, a dead end road with a couple of cars parked there and the river.
locals enjoying the water on a hot summer day

We realized at that moment that if we had continued our walk on the earlier found dirt road, we would have ended up here...  Hind sight!
Remember that very steep downhill trudge?  We now had to climb it in order to get out of the canyon.  And what a climb it was!  It may have been only 1/2 mile but it was a doozie.   Slow and steady.   
All things considered we had a great hike and a great day.  We look forward to coming back here and more importantly, we look forward to hiking more trails in our future!