Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Salton Sea and Joshua Tree National Park

After leaving San Diego we made our way inland and down into the desert.  We stopped at the Salton Sea.  It was kind of a strange place.  Salton Sea Beach is an almost abandoned town, many of the buildings empty and falling apart.  It turns out the eastern shore is the much nicer side, but too far out of the way of our trip.  At least we got a look at the sea.

The salt content of the Salton Sea is much higher than the ocean which is one reason it never caught on as a big tourist attraction, another reason may be the beaches littered with fishbones.

  Just throw your towel down right there.

Pelicans out on the water...

and seagulls.  Mine?

After a couple more hours of driving, and finding an Indian casino where our GPS told us a MacDonald's was supposed to be, and a stop at a WalMart in La Quinta for some last minute camping supplies, we made it to Joshua Tree National Park.  Of course, we put the kids in front of the sign to prove that we  were there.

Our first stop was a short nature trail, where we learned the names of many of the plants found in the park.

Watch out for snakes!

Go ahead, touch it!  I dare you!

The desert just goes on and on.  Then there are some mountains, and then some more desert.  Right below is the Pinto Basin in Joshua Tree.  This is the border between the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts.  The Mojave Desert is higher in elevation, and different types of flora and fauna.

Cholla cactus up close.  Just brushing it lightly can cause it's needles to embed themselves in your skin.  Only the cactus wren can land on it safely.

The titular Joshua Tree.  They can only grow at certain elevations and certain climates, but here they were all over the place.

This one is about as big as they get before they fall over under their own weight.

Our trusty and much abused van.

We were running late all day, but we made it to the campground just ahead of sunset, so we didn't have to put up the tents in the dark, but it was close.

The night sky at Joshua Tree can be spectacular if the air is clear, and fortunately it was for us.  Juan got some awesome pictures of the night sky.  Click on any of the pictures to get a larger view.

The two brightest stars seen here are the planets Venus and Jupiter.  Higher in the sky, you can see the Pleiades (a sort of bright fish hook shaped group of stars)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Welcome To Legoland 2012!

So welcome to the highlight of the trip fr some of the children!  Welcome to Jurassic Park!

Oh, wait, tht wasn't real.  That was some book by Michael Crichton.  

Read it, it was better than the movie anyways.

Welcome to Legoland!

If you love Legos, then you will love this park, based and themed on all things Lego.  This is our second visit here, and we have had so much fun here.  Not the least of which is that they give a HUGE discount for homeschoolers.  On Mondays during the school year, each person gets in for 25 dollars.  This is such a bargain, as we saw a family right in from of us shell out over 500 dollars for a family of six.  We got in for 150 dollars for our entire party.

While the rides are not to the thrill standards of say, Magic Mountain, Cedar Point or Disneyland, it is perfectly fine as an intro to park rides, and it is not as crowded as some of its southern California Theme Park neighbours.

Welcome, to Jurassic Park!

Our obligatory "picture at the entrance to something."

A thing they seem to be doing at parks all over is to do a "soft opening," where part of the park will be open while the rest of the park is still closed.  Leogland had its scariest looking employee guarding the entrance to Miniland and the roller coasters.  I reckon 500 kids could take him on.  Anyways, at least we were in, and we got on the first ride that was open...

the Boat Tour!

It takes around to see some of the Lego creations that have made here.

Life-size Elephant.

The Taj Mahal.

Mount Rushmore.


More Jousting!

One of the rides that turned out to be one of the favourites was the Aqua Zone.  The kids had a blast here.

Elsewhere, we have posted about our previous vist to Legoland.  here are some of the sights that we saw this time at Miniland.  Iwo Jima above.

The Lego fan in the family being forced-choked by the dark lord, Chad Vader.

A new addition to Miniland is Star Wars.  The Original Trilogy of the films is finished, and the prequels will be done by late summer.  Here is the Ice planet Hoth.

Imperial attack on the rebels.

The biggest Millennium Falcon you will even see.  This recreation has over 19,000 pieces.

The Cantina scene for "A New Hope."  Han shot first, you know.

Imperial landing pad on Endor.

Imperial Shield Generator.  Why not have a back-up?

Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

San Francisco skyline in Lego.

Finally, it was time for lunch.  Lunch isn't horribly expensive at Legoland.  There is a family pack that includes a whole pizza, drinks with souvenir cups, and salads that is pretty good.  This one pizza place that we like is right near Miniland, and the Lego fan form about 100 yards, spies Lego Darth Vader!  "Can I go?"  "Of course!"  I think he gets there faster than Usain Bolt.  I took a long distance shot, while the oldest daughter got some close ups with her phone.

"Hold still while I point this light Saber at your gut!"

R2-D2 as he was meant to be, in Lego form.


We tried our hand at some boats and found out we can't steer on water either.

I gotta teach her how to drive in a couple of years.

For some reason or another, one of the kids' favourite movies is "Jaws."  So naturally when they saw a Lego shark, they started pretending they were the character, 'Quint.'

This man is clearly not enjoying himself.

I had been waiting to have a coaster buddy for the longest time, and thought i could make my own.  We never got around to getting to roller coasters, so the kids would be a bit intimidated.  This time, the kids discovered that they have a taste for roller coasters, and that they like them!  So now it is will be off to visit even more of the great roller coasters that we have just in northern California.


More water fun!

They have opened up a small Aquarium over at Legoland, and i seems to be a pretty nice place as well.  They had a homeschool event that they had advertised, but we figured that it would be super busy.  Turns out, they had no one show up for the homeschool Aquarium event.  We are going have to sign up next time.

Anyways, the main exhibit was called 'Claws,' so they were focusing on Crabs and Lobsters.  Here the youngest one says that she felt like a fish.

Lighting was a bit weird.  Here is a close-up of this giant Crab they had.

These guys we up to three feet across!  Weird.


They had a tunnel where you could walk underneath the main exhibit.  Very nice.

Mr. Ray out for a spin to the Drop-off.

Finally, another exhibit where one could feel like a fish.

So that was our trip to Legoland for 2012.  We actually did not see much of San Diego.  There is so much to see and do in San Diego.  Mendozas, another trip to San Diego, maybe to visit a friend who will soon live there?

Our next posting will be about going inland to the Salton Sea, and then north to Joshua Tree!