Monthly Archives: March 2020

Music on Mondays (3/30/20)—Ringo Starr’s latest, his hardest rocking album ever

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I grew up in The Beatles generation, so even if they covered some of those hits from the ’50s, I still consider them Beatles songs. “Money” comes immediately to mind, possibly because I just listened to an awesome cover of The Beatles’ version (1963) that is on Ringo Starr’s 2019 album, “What’s My Name” (doesn’t use a question mark).

This was my first listen to the album, and after only one listen, I’m going to put it at the top of Ringo Starr’s discography, just ahead of 1973’s “Ringo.”

“What’s My Name” is a much harder rocking album than ALL of his previous albums.

Here’s Ringo’s “Money” from “What’s My Name”:

Here is a link to the full album on YouTube: What’s My Name

Even with experience, it pays to explore new things

Picture of the Moment

I got started in photography in sixth grade (1966) when the principal went around to all the home rooms asking for volunteers. When she said that volunteers got free access to all school events, including football, basketball, baseball, and tennis, well, I was an easy sell.

The school had Nikon equipment. By the time I got ready to buy my own equipment, Paul Simon had ruined Nikon with his top hit “Kodachrome.” Ever since then, all other things being equal, Nikon always has been more expensive than Canon. Thusly, I have been using Canon equipment since then, with my first being the incomparable Canon A1.

My current crop of cameras comprise three Canon Rebel EOS cameras:
XSi, T2i, and 760D (T6s in the U.S.). However, with my 54 years of photography experience, I rarely explore all the new stuff being included in cameras, specialty modes like Portrait, Close-up/Flowers, Landscape. Courtesy of a Facebook friend and her new Canon T6i camera, today I explored the Close-up/Flowers mode. Wow. Saved a lot of time.

Here’s one of my favorites today since today is its first day in bloom. It was labeled “Aloe ‘Grassy Lassie’ ” but I’m fairly certain it’s not an aloe. Nonetheless, the flowers are tiny but beautiful.

Unknown plant

Where do I cancel?

Out & About

On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Visalia, California, a distance of 327 miles. It was a 10-hour round-trip. My purpose was to speak to the Visalia Succulent Club on Nature’s Geometry in Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I got to go over The Grapevine, a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 over the Tehachapi Mountains from California’s San Joaquin Valley to Grapevine.

The Grapevine

It’s a monster of a road because there’s a lot of semi traffic doing 5-10 mph in the slow lane, and semi traffic doing 10-30 mph in the second lane. Traffic in the other lanes is cruising by at 55-65 mph, with some doing up to 90 mph in the fast lane. The weather can be atrocious because of the height of the mountains, raining at the top (4,000 feet) but clear on both sides, and even snow at some times of the year. Couple the weather with the wide range of speeds, and there always are various accidents.

The meeting was at 6:00 p.m., and since I got there at 10:15 a.m., I had a lot of time to explore. Visalia and its sister city of Exeter were quite beautiful with all the trees that were blooming.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus sp.)

Flowering Maple (Albutilon sp.)

Redbud trees

Flowering trees

Exeter, with a population of 10,000, had a very cool little downtown area. There were murals on the exterior of 32 buildings. I didn’t find them all, but the following one, #15 and titled “Tracks of Time,” was my favorite.

Tracks of Time

In Exeter, I found a bookstore with lots of local history books, so I bought one, a hard-cover edition of a book that itself is difficult to find.

Visalia Electric Railroad

The bookstore also had a cat. I’m one of those who have to take time out of my busy schedule to pet a cat, so this little one got 15 minutes of love and attention from me. Look at the expression on his face as I told him that I had to go but would make him a Facebook star.

Exeter bookstore kitty

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, when I got home at 4:00 Sunday morning, I decided to self-isolate, not because I think I might have caught something in the Central California Valley but rather because at my age (65 years and 8 days) and with my high blood pressure; skin cancer and seborrheic keratoses; BPH; and constant coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing due to a deviated septum from a broken nose sometime in my early childhood (according to the otolaryngologist), I’m in the high-risk category. My constant coughing and sneezing also might cause concern to anyone within hearing distance. I have pills to help control the coughing and sneezing, but I never know how long before they take effect and when they might expire.

I’m keeping a journal of my days at home in self-isolation., trying to keep things in perspective.

Day 1—I have decided to self-isolate. Since I am retired, between watching television (although no sports), gardening (lots of weeds to pull and flora to plant), and taking care of Little Queen Olivia (who doesn’t seem to be real excited about me being home all day), self-isolation shouldn’t be too hard.

Day 2—After a day of drinking margaritas and watching the Hannibal series on Prime TV, I can definitely state that drinking margaritas all day does not make you poop. Thusly, I am out of margaritas, but I have 1,618 rolls of toilet paper.

Day 3—Little Queen Olivia is completely oblivious to the fact that I am home and willing to give belly rubs.
Little Queen Olivia

Day 4—Self-isolation isn’t so bad, but I do find it interesting that there are 8,471 grains of rice in one box and 8,552 grains in the other box.

Day 5—It’s been raining all this week, with 3½ inches these past two days, and it’s raining hard right now. Pulling weeds and planting flora is going very slowly. Ah well, that means I definitely still have things to do during the next nine days of my self isolation.

My self-isolation will end on March 28, and three days later my 90-day free trial of the year 2020 ends. Where do I cancel?

Hope everyone is doing well in these weird times we’re living in.

Out & About in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Out & About

I went camping for three days last weekend in Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California, perhaps the best ever camping trip I have been on.

Out of several hundred Ferocactus cylindraceus plants I saw in the desert, I found these two that clearly show spiraling flowers, rather unusual in cacti.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Go, Fibonacci, go!

When I moved out here in the East San Diego County boondocks at 682′ elevation in July 2017, I started landscaping with my favorite plants. Keep in mind that, at that time, I had 62 years of experience growing my favorite plants.

Well, two of my favorite plants, Agave attenuata and aeoniums, don’t like it out here. Agave attenuata simply doesn’t like it when it gets below 40°F, of which we have had several weeks, and aeoniums don’t like it when it gets too hot, of which we have had several weeks of 100°F+.Grow dammit!

After trying to will them to live and look nice, I gave up in October 2019, and I’ve been replacing all of them with cacti, mostly Ferocactus.

One of my purposes in going desert camping was to get a good look at Ferocactus cylindraceus since it’s native to Southern California just 80 miles from me. I am officially in love (but don’t tell my husband).

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

I found the tallest ferocactus I had ever seen, standing six feet and six inches tall, four inches taller than me.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

I’m the one in red.
Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Additionally, I found the clumpiest clump (with seven heads!) and the tallest clump.

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

Ferocactus cylindraceus in Anza-Borrego Desert, Southern California

And, to top things off, I found the desert rains and a desert rainbow!

Rainbow in Anza-Borrego Desert

The historic Southern Pacific Railroad depot in Bakersfield

Halls of History

Never fails! When I’m out and about doing one thing, trains seem to crop up here and there.

When I was in Bakersfield on February 11 speaking to the Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society, I had to go downtown and check out the historic Southern Pacific depot.

Looks like this:

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

When construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad line had reached the southern San Joaquin Valley in 1874, Bakersfield was the preferred stop. However, a land dispute between Bakersfield and Southern Pacific resulted in Southern Pacific building its tracks two miles east of the Bakersfield, in Sumner, a town laid out by the railroad, as many towns were back in those days. A small depot also was built.

When the Bakersfield depot opened on June 27, 1889, it was located in Sumner, California. Sometime between 1888 and 1892, Sumner incorporated under the name Kern City. In 1910, Kern City voted to become part of Bakersfield.

The depot originally was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, comprising both a train station and a hotel. One of the station’s most defining features was the long arcade stretching along the north side and connecting the station and the hotel.

In the late 1930s, Southern Pacific wanted to demolish the depot and build a completely new one. Instead, the depot was remodeled, providing a more streamlined appearance by removing many of the ornamental Romanesque features and transforming the depot into a Spanish Colonial Revival style. The steep roofs, part of the original style, were kept. Additional expansions included a section in the Moderne style.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

The depot served Southern Pacific passenger trains that ran on the San Joaquin Valley Route: San Joaquin Daylight, Sacramento Daylight, Owl, and West Coast.

Eventually the hotel closed and was converted to office space; I could not find the date of its closing. Closing the hotel also resulted in half of the portico (on the hotel side) being enclosed.

It currently is used as an office building and crew change center by Union Pacific, and on very rare occasions (about once every ten years), it serves as a stop for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight when Union Pacific’s Coast Line is closed. When that happens, the Coast Starlight goes through the Tehachapi Loop. Getting a video of Amtrak on the Tehachapi Loop is #1 on my Bucket List. Here’s a video of a long BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop in February 2017 showing the front of the train passing under the rear of the train:

BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop

The depot itself closed in 1971 with the founding of Amtrak and the termination of individual railroad passenger trains, thus ending Southern Pacific passenger trains through the station. The office portion would continue to be used by Southern Pacific, and later by Union Pacific.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

There is a nice Amtrak station not too far away, and there are plans for two new rail systems, both having a stop in East Bakersfield near the historic Southern Pacific depot. Kern County also has been toying with the idea of a regional commuter rail system which would use existing Union Pacific tracks. Not to be left out, Bakersfield also has been mulling a future light rail system. Both systems are not on the drawing board before 2025.