California Here We Come

Kern River Campground, Bakersfield, CA


Well, the weather was horrible today with tons of rain, flooded roads and very high winds.  It was a bit terrifying at times traveling with this kind of wind but we arrived (finally) at Kern River Campground in Bakersfield and will be dry camping for 7 nights. Let’s see how our new batteries hold up.  We have a slightly crazy neighbor who is sleeping in his truck and the smell of marijuana is everywhere, but HEY-it’s California.


Yesterday it continued to pour much of the day which is apparently a blessing because the locals say it helps with the horrible smog they deal with on a daily basis.  Apparently, Bakersfield, CA has some of the most polluted air in the country.  It is also usually very brown and dirty looking but they’ve had so much rain, it is actually very green and lustrous with beautiful rolling hills and mountain ranges.  We were told that those gorgeous hills and mountains are usually encased in smog.

entering Bakersfield CA – known for smog & brown hills was mostly clear and green while we were there – green in several ways – like the rest of the west coast states.

We ate breakfast at a highly rated diner in the Oildale neighborhood of Bakersfield.  The short drive there was very interesting as we passed through beautiful park lands and into vast Chevron oil fields with those weird oil drills all over the place that remind me of the creatures from the Alien movies.

Despite the dingy surrounding neighborhood, the breakfast was amazing.  I had one of the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever eaten- a chili verde burrito- YUM.  The restaurant is an oasis in ugly Oildale where the air smelled like an oil burner puff back.

We spent the remainder of the day shopping for my wedding accessories- shoes, jewelry, etc. for the upcoming wedding in Santa Barbara, CA- next week.


We’ve had an unusual amount of rain as Bakersfield is usually extremely dry.  Today the sun is finally shining and everything is intensely green.  The scenery around our park is breathtaking with lush green mountains on the near horizon and snow capped beauties lurking behind.

the snowcapped mountains in the far distance mostly stayed under cloud cover

Everything you read about Bakersfield, CA is kind of scary and negative but there are some beautiful areas.  There are some really run down areas too and I’ve witnessed some strange goings on.  First, a man camping at the park with us needed a jump.  He asked numerous campers and they all said, “No, I don’t give jumps”.  What”?!  Of course, John helped him out.

Despite some social difficulties in town and elsewhere, the campsite was beautiful – Lake Ming was picturesque, people living on the hilltops there have a great view, and we even had a horse hanging out across the river.

Later, John had to run into Lowe’s to purchase something and I, being very sick of Lowe’s, waited in the truck.  It was broad daylight but I heard tormented screaming coming from the corner of the lot.  A young, disheveled looking man was pacing, screaming and punching at the air violently.  I’ve seen my fair share of mentally ill people but this poor soul seemed to be so painfully tormented, it was really upsetting.  He was across the large parking lot but then started making his way rapidly towards me.  I scooted down in the locked truck and hid.  He kept going and disappeared from sight.

Right after that, we drove around the corner to an auto parts store.  Again, I waited in the truck and watched another young man climb into the garbage dumpster, picking through the bags.  All you have to do is travel around and across the country to see that we  are not adequately providing for our people.  I don’t have the answers but some of the neighborhoods I’ve seen have certainly raised many questions.  It’s not like we haven’t seen poverty, homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues before.  It’s just eye opening how widespread it is. When you travel to places you have never been before, you tend to pay closer attention and the evidence of income inequality is everywhere.

Last night, we hate dinner at a local pizza tavern type place close to our campground called Tony’s Firehouse Grill.  There were firefighter related decorations and lots of space for a variety of patrons.  One large room catered to family gatherings with video games lining the walls for the kiddies.  We ate in the dining area near the bar.  We had just received our food when the fire alarms went off and they were blaring.  We looked around and absolutely no one was leaving.  It was weird.  It turned out that someone’s kid pulled the fire alarm.  Who does that?  We were there for another 40 minutes or so eating our dinner and the fire department still hadn’t arrived to turn off the alarm.  We all received 20% off our bills because of the inconvenience.  It was particularly ironic since it was a firehouse tavern.  Bakersfield just has a weird vibe.  It just does.

This morning another camper here asked John for a jump.  This woman and her husband/boyfriend/whatever are camping in a very broken down trailer with a tarp covering the roof.  It’s a total wreck.  She needed a jump for her car and her partner drives a beat up old truck (probably not capable of giving a jump) with a completely shattered front windshield (reminiscent of the opening scene of Ace Ventura Pet Detective) and a piece of cardboard for a back windshield.  His muffler is also shot to hell so you can hear him coming from a mile away.  The tag on their campsite indicates that they should have left around 6 days ago so I think they may be squatters.  I’m telling you- weird vibe here despite the idyllic scenery.

We did get to play 9 holes of golf at the Kern River Golf Course right next to our campground.  Our photos will show just how scenic this place is.

more green and blue on the county golf course adjacent to the campground


I had my hair colored and trimmed in a salon on the other end of Bakersfield, around 20 miles away.  The salon was very spa like and it reminded me of some of the high end salons on Long Island.  My stylist Jeanette did a great job though I will always miss my Poughkeepsie girl, Jenn.  This neighborhood in Bakersfield was lovely and seemed more California like.  We decided to leave our campground one day early as we’ve had our fill of Bakersfield and it’s time to move on to full hookups. Despite our new batteries, it’s been so cold at night, we’ve run out of juice a few times.  When the battery gets low and the alarm starts screaming, we have to shut off the furnace in the middle of the night.  This morning our thermometer read 44 degrees inside the trailer.  Thank God for the down comforter from Micki Mueller (back in Ocala).  Love you Micki.

Lake Casitas Recreation Area, Ventura, CA


Today we drive to Lake Casitas Recreation Area in beautiful Ventura with full “executive” hookups.  I am looking forward to that.  When I asked them for directions, I could hardly keep from laughing as it sounded like she was reading a line from the SNL skit, “The Californians”.  She said, “Take the 5 to the 126 to the 101 to the 33 until it is about to end, etc.”

Wonderful views of mountains and a group of hawks –  from a mountain campsite in SoCal.
Going down the mountain had more wonderful views of coastline and steep turns – to the promised land!


The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity in the stunning Ojai-Carpenteria-Santa Barbara area.  I will let John’s photos tell the story for the most part.  Our campsite is up in the mountains of Ojai/Oakview and it’s gorgeous with spectacular mountain views.  We are around 20 minutes from the beaches of Carpenteria and 30 minutes from Santa Barbara.  Wherever you go around this area, you can’t avoid incredible vistas.  We are here in the area for our dear friends’ Angelo and Amy’s son Eric’s wedding.  Eric is marrying a lovely young woman, Nicole, who grew up in Carpenteria.  We arrived a couple of days before the wedding so we had the opportunity to walk the bluffs of Carpenteria with the Pacific Ocean on one side and green lush mountains on the other side.

The Carpenteria Bluffs. – “Has wonderful views” becomes an overused description on the Carpenteria/Santa Barbara coast. I can’t remember anywhere else I’ve been with such stunning coastline, mountain ranges and cosmopolitan towns all in such close proximity to each other.

The day before the wedding, the bride and groom hosted a welcome party on the beach in Santa Barbara and the festivities officially began.

a stunning couple in a stunning place, soon to be Mrs. and Mr. Vivelo – Nicole and Eric. And we get to hang out with them until they may just be tired of all of us. – Then they get on a plane and head (with almost all our friends) back to NY.
Besides Nicole and Eric, there were at least 4 other rock stars (that I knew of) there, and me and Russell got to hang out with a couple of them.   – Joan, Susan, Joyce, & Amy (Eric’s Mom)
We hung out at a posh Santa Barbara restaurant Friday, outside at sunset with Martin and Joyce, and Joan and Russ.

We were able to see our friends from Long Island (Angelo and Amy, Wayne and Jaimie, Russ and Joan, Martin and Joyce)  and had a blast.  The wedding was amazing as you will see from the photos.  Prior to the ceremony, all the guests were treated to a trolley ride around this beautiful place.

Trolley ride to the wedding site, we were in trolley #4, I think – the grown-ups trolley. Wayne & Jaimie, Russ & Joan behind them & Ang’s brother Carl & Sherry behind them.  Ang’s brother James with their mom – Jo (& sister Li behind them with hubby Gary). — Russ laughs while Wayne flips me the bird.
with nothing to do but drink wine and take photos, we took a tour of posh Santa Barbara on a beautiful day

Then the ceremony followed in the sunken garden of the gorgeous Santa Barbara courthouse followed by a rocking reception at El Paseo in SB.

the Santa Barbara Courthouse for the service
All dressed up – Angelo with his crutches (explained later), Susan with Jeff (A&A’s bro-in-law), Martin and Jeff make scary faces, Jaimie & Wayne, and ‘the crew’ for the last 2 centuries (minus Angelo & Amy)
The wedding – Eric with his mom, Mikey (son #2) as escort, Amy helps Angelo, Nicole with Dad, & the beautiful couple
the reception at El Paseo – the gang, Amy gets to dance with Eric, and Da Boyz – a lot of action but my pix started to dwindle as my senses started to get more and more fuzzy. Lots & lots of happy people.

Everything was perfect with only one mishap.  Angelo, the father of the groom tripped at the welcome party and suffered a bad injury to his ankle so he had to walk on crutches and could barely do that.  Ugh!Ang Cast



Epilogue ——weeks later – Angelo’s specially designed Let’s go Mets cast after complicated broken heel bone surgery. We thought it was a sprained ankle.




Today we will reunite with our pals for a brunch at the bride’s parent’s home in Carpenteria.

on the Carpenteria Bluffs  again with sea lions, pelicans, and seagulls – and Baker really does love a beach.

Finally, we have now actually accomplished the biggest concrete scheduling goal of our trip (6 months later) – make it to the church (courthouse) on time.


Lots, lots more yet to come in CA – Michael lives there and It’s a BIG state





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