Thursday, October 31, 2013



      Ron and I decided to go out for a bike ride on another lovely sunny California day in October. Ron perused the bike map and decided to drive south toward the Mexican Border, and then bike on a paved road that leads to the Southwest corner of the continental US in
Border Field State Park.  Currently, the bikes are stored inside our van which makes driving to a biking destination an easy option.

      This is one of the more interesting rides we've taken. It's a bit of a step back in time because most of the ride is on an old winding paved road that hasn't had any improvements for years. In fact, it is underwater part of the year. It's quiet with very little traffic, modest farms, and horse ranches along the way. The surrounding ground cover and brush looked pretty scraggly and brownish.
     What made it the most interesting, however, is the fact that we were biking along the Mexican Border and could see the border fence and Tijuana along the way. There were few cars or people around, but we saw an occasional Border Control truck as well as one patroller on a motorcycle.

      When we reached the Pacific Ocean and the Southwest corner, we walked up to the double border fence and viewed the Mexican beachfront community of
Las Playas de Tijuana on the other side. An old dormant bullring and picturesque lighthouse were also visible. We could hear live music from the other side. There was far more activity on the Mexican side with people playing and walking along the beach. The border fence extends about 300 feet into the ocean. Swimming is not recommended due to hazardous conditions, such as inshore holes and rip currents.

      I was surprised to see horseback riders on the beach. Border Field State Park is one of the only places in California that allows riding on the beach and horses can be rented at a nearby stable. (I hope I can convince my son to come down here and ride a horse with me when he comes to visit at Xmas.)

      Another fascinating discovery was Friendship Park. It is the only place along the entire Mexican-US border that provides a place for loved ones, that are separated by immigration status, to reunite. Established in 1971, it is located within the Border Field State Park and open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Families travel from great distances to be together.
      There are a few ways to drive to this area and various parking options. We took the Dairy Mart Road exit west off of Hwy 5, and parked at the Tijuana River Valley County Park. We biked along Dairy Mart Rd which eventually turns into Monument Road. It is about five miles to the Border Field State Park and the ocean. This is all located within the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, a wildlife reserve. The road into the park is closed most of the winter months due to flooding.




Thursday, October 24, 2013


  We arrived in Des Moines in early October to relax for a few days, and spend some special time with our son, Ben. The weather was in the 70s and sunny. We stayed downtown at the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, using Marriott free night rewards. It is an old hotel with small rooms, but the location is convenient.
  It was a good opportunity to get to know the downtown area. It's a pretty, sleepy city with a population of 203,500—the biggest shopping store is Walgreen's. The traffic is light, even during rush hour. The scenic Des Moines River, with it's Principal Riverwalk and bridges, made for some enjoyable hiking and biking. The Iowa State Capitol is perched on a hill overlooking the city.

Original Dome Skylight
The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

  One of the downtown gems is the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and the surrounding gardens. It is located in the restored century-old Des Moines Public Library, one of Iowa's greatest historic buildings. (The downtown library moved to a new location in 2006.)  Since 1986, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. The hall, which was officially dedicated to the World Prize Foundation in 2011, is now open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It has a very impressive original dome skylight—each of the 10,000 pieces of skylight glass were inspected, cleaned and repaired during the renovation. There are many lovely rooms to visit with interesting works of art from all over the world.

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

     The Sherman Hill Historic District, with its Victorian mansions from the 1870s, is also worth a visit. It is about a mile from the city center. Also, if you are lucky enough to be in Des Moines on a Saturday morning (May thru October), don't miss the downtown Farmers' Market which is ranked #2 in the nation by The Daily Meal website.
  Ben and I had lunch at Baru at the Des Moines Art Center, 13th & Grand Ave, which is close to his apartment, and a favorite destination for him and Erica. The dining area includes a pleasant outside patio, surrounded by water. I enjoyed the quiche and salad.
  We also visited the downtown Hessen House Bierhall, 101 4th Street, which offers the old world German charm as well as a choice of over 21 imported beers. Don't miss the unique and tasty appetizers: sauerkraut balls, reuben rolls, and a peasant plate with German cheese and sausage.
  Last spring Ben purchased an 80 year old home that needed major renovation. He is just finishing the drywall and expects to be moving in soon. He is fortunate to have learned so much about construction through his work with Habitat for Humanity. As usual, Bens' hard work and dedication pays off. 

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Hessen House

Tuesday, October 8, 2013



Finally, the day I dreamed about—the house is empty, sold, and we're driving our two vans back to California with the stuff we love and think we need.

The last two months have been a bit of a challenge, to put it mildly. We arrived back in Minnesota in early August to a home that had been on the market for four months without an offer. It seemed that it was not going to sell soon. Finally, we received an offer at the the end of August with 30 days until closing. My original plan was to have someone come in to do an estate sale. Unfortunately, they were booked up, and I was left with the responsibility of getting rid of 95% of our belongings in 30 days.

Our children, Ben and Anna, both made trips to the house to determine what they wanted to keep. Next, we gave away whatever we could to family and friends. Then I started my full time nonprofit business on Craigslist. We also used scrappers, charities, recycling, consignment and, when all else failed, the trusty dumpster.

It wasn't a very pleasant experience, but there was light at the end of the tunnel and some special moments along the way.

I needed to part with my much-loved piano that belonged to my family for 60 years. I kept hearing how difficult it is to get rid of pianos. That turned out to be the case. Finally, my ad on Craigslist resulted in a woman asking when her movers could come to pick it up. Off it went. I really wanted to know who was getting it, but at that time I was just relieved that it was out of the house. About three days later I received a nice thank you note from the women saying her children loved the piano. That made me feel much better.

One of the piano movers was thrilled to take my son's preserved shark head home. We offered them a lot more, but for some reason he spotted that shark and was happy.

I had two guys come to pick up the free heavy hideabed which was on the second floor. I advertised it as comfortable. The smile on the guy's face when he sat down on it was priceless.

We had three Chinese people come to pick up our heavy upstairs desk (and other items we talked them into). Before they were done, they offered to drive our van out to California, so we could fly back.

For some reason the treadmill ad on Craigslist attracted all kinds of not-so-nice sexual interest—whatever I said, it was a turn on. They are still responding long after the ad was removed—I continue to forward them to spam.

Then there were the two girls riding by on bikes that volunteered to help move heavy bookcases from the basement and refused to take the money that was offered.

We donated items to the Salem Lutheran Church Garage Sale in North Minneapolis, thanks to my old friend Marcia who did all the work. I grew up in North Minneapolis so there was something kind of cool about my stuff going there. (Especially the Christmas plates that my mother made.)

Thanks to the two men from Friendship Ventures Charity that came and gladly removed so much of what we still had left—including the Christmas tree.

Then there was the perfect gift for a soon-to-be married friend—my daughter Anna's wedding dress. Shannon tried it on and it fit perfectly—she was delighted, and so was Anna.

Through all of this I was getting urgent calls from Jeff, our realtor, with issues related to the sale of the house—there were many contingencies, including a radon problem, but thanks to his hard work they were all resolved just in time for the closing.

We arrived safely back in Coronado, California (whoops, I mean Shangri-la) last night
--all is well.