Category Archives: Did you know?

They still need to make the same amount of money

Did you know?

Humanity has known for several days—alright, several millenia—that water is necessary for survival. Then we learned how to save water for future needs, such as showers, cooking, brushing our little teethies. Then we learned how to transport it to areas that didn’t have much of it, like deserts, like, uh, Southern California, like Los Angeles and San Diego. The average rainfall for San Diego currently is 10.15 inches. Heck, I have been in many thunderstorms and hurricanes in Texas that dropped 10.15 inches of rain in 24 hours!

I’m not a big fan of rain, but I am a big fan of water since I like to take showers, cook, and brush my little teethies, not to mention garden. We know that because of the Mediterranean climate that San Diego has, all we need to do is provide water and virtually anything will grow here. There even are two redwood forests here in San Diego County—one at the San Diego Zoo and one at Safari Park—which survive simply because they get the water they need.

Although there are lakes in San Diego County, there is not a single man-made lake. All of them are artificial lakes, also known as reservoirs. Here is a picture of the Sweetwater Reservoir on April 3, 2010:

Sweetwater Reservoir near San Diego, April 3, 2010

On November 12, 2008, it was announced that capacity was down to 23%, the “lowest level in years.”
February 10, 2013, it was 48.7%.
March 2, 2015, 13%.
January 19, 2017, 12%.
February 9, 2017, 20.4%. So the very wet January has helped tremendously.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in 2014 due to the drought, directing water agencies to cut urban water use by 25% of 2013 levels. Good thing I cooperated by taking just one shower a week (not really). The public was so good at cutting water use that the water agencies raised our rates. After all, they still need to make the same amount of money, or more, yes?

San Diego has declared that the drought here is over because of the rain we have gotten, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the level of the Colorado River. San Diego gets 60% of its water from the Colorado River, 20% from the snowpack, and 20% from its local reservoirs.

The water coming to San Diego from the Colorado River comes via the San Diego Aquaduct, a series of pipelines and canals stretching 225 miles. The water coming from the Sierra Nevada snowpack comes via the California Aqueduct. When I was chasing trains on February 5, I was going over one of our Southern California concrete rivers when I noticed that it was 100% full, almost overflowing. Then I saw a sign telling me that it was the California Aquaduct, so I kept my eye on it and turned off the freeway and the next safe area to take this picture:

California Aqueduct

Now I have to get out and about to see if I can get some pictures of the San Diego Aquaduct.

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Mother & Father Nature are not dumb

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Shortly after I arrived in San Diego on April 27, 1993, one of the weekly tabloids ran an exposé on rivers in San Diego and Los Angeles counties. It noted that San Diego was in the process of “Los Angelesizing” its rivers. “Los Angelesizing” means that the river bed was being cleaned of soil and vegetation, and being replaced with concrete. At one point every river in the city of Los Angeles, and many in Los Angeles County, had been Los Angelesized. Here is a picture of one concrete river that I took in Los Angeles County on April 13, 2014.

Los Angeles concrete river

The theory was that soil and vegetation caused the water to slow down and build up, thus being more likely to cause flooding. We thought we knew more than Mother & Father Nature did. Turns out that Mother & Father Nature are quite smart.

When the water flows more slowly, it has a better chance of being soaked up by the soil and the vegetation. When there is nothing to slow it down, it speeds right along until it hits an obstruction, like a curve in the river, or bridge abutments, and that’s where the water piles up and floods. With more water continuing to rush in, the flooding gets worse.

Now that we know the purpose of soil and vegetation, concrete is being removed from the channels, returning them to being rivers full of soil and vegetation, returning them to their formerly natural beauty.

A few days ago I was up in Los Angeles County and saw the Santa Ana River being returned to Mother & Father Nature. In the first two pictures you can see the concrete river bed.

Concrete river bed

Concrete river bed

You can see that the concrete at the right actually was removed. That’s because there is a bridge downstream about 500 feet, so instead of just letting the concrete deteriorate and silt over, they actually removed it, allowing the vegetation to come back more quickly and the soil to absorb the water, slowing it down. Here’s the downstream bridge:

Bridge over the Santa Ana River

Notice the silt and vegetation. If you have ever stuck a branch into a flowing stream, you might remember how the water rushed around the branch. Same thing when flowing water hits a bridge abutment, so you want to slow down the water as much as possible. Soil and vegetation do that.

Unfortunately, many decades ago people didn’t seem to understand that concept, so in some places where they needed to slow down the water, they put in mini-abutments, as in this picture:

Concrete river bed

That might have worked if they had staggered the mini-abutments. Instead, they lined them up perfectly and spaced the rows out evenly so that the water increased in speed each time it rushed around another min-abutment. Mother & Father Nature are not dumb.

I’m not sure when they decided to let this river return to its natural state but I’d sure like to visit it in 50 years to see how Mother & Father Nature have progressed. If I make it another 50 years to age 111, somehow I suspect that I won’t be out & about with my camera…..

Santa Ana River returning to nature

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Goat Canyon Trestle

Out & About—I’m thinking heat exhaustion

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yesterday I took a 2½-hour helicopter tour of East San Diego County. My specific purpose was to visit Carrizo Gorge to see this baby:

Goat Canyon Trestle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s the Goat Canyon Trestle, built in 1932 by the San Diego & Arizona Railway. It is 630 feet long and 180 feet high, and is the largest wooden railroad trestle in the world. It was built to take the place of a smaller trestle and tunnel that had collapsed in an earthquake. You can see the tunnel entrance just above the center of the Goat Canyon Trestle.

The San Diego & Arizona Railway is known as “The Impossible Railroad” because of the environment through which it was built—rocky mountains, deep canyons, no water, and temperatures regularly reaching 120°F.

Workers lived where they worked, and regularly reported glowing orbs floating around the construction area at night. There also were many reports of Bigfoot-like creatures roaming the Anza-Borrego Desert, eventually becoming known as the Borrego Springs Sandmen.

In 1977, an engineer thought he saw a bright light ahead of his train, meaning that another train was heading towards his train, so he pulled the brake, derailing his train. Of course, there was no other train.

Wrecked railroad cars

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Floating orbs? Sandmen? Trains heading the wrong direction? 120°F? No water? I’m thinking heat exhaustion….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

It helps to have friends in high places

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The San Diego Central Library has microform copies of San Diego newspapers going all the way back to the beginning, which is the San Diego Herald from April 1851.

I’m currently going through those newspapers looking for items of interest concerning the history of railroads in San Diego County.

Sometimes an interesting headline catches my attention, usually relating to other interests of mine, like law.

One item from Vol. 1, No. 16 of September 11, 1851, caught my attention because it is titled “Law in California.” Here’s text for Google and the newspaper scan below:

“Law in California—Three men were taken up in Sacramento City, for knocking a man down and robbing him of two or three hundred dollars; they were tried by a jury of twelve men, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged; which sentence will be carried into exocution [sic] next Friday afternoon. In San Francisco, a man shoots down another in cold blood, the victim dies immediately; the murderer is tried by a jury of his countrymen, and they cannot agree upon a verdict! and the probability is that he will escape punishment. Comments: In the first instance, the three men are [illegible] friendless and unknown. In the second instance, the man is a rich gambler, and claims as his friends some of those high in office in San Francisco.—Marysville Herald.”

Law in California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now I understand why my wise old grandmother over one hundred years later always told me, “It helps to have friends in high places.”

Notwithstanding Garth Brooks who had friends in low places.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

My favorite railroad car: The Railway Post Office

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

One might have noticed that many of my pictures are framed to look like postage stamps. That’s because when I was six, in 1966, I discovered a big box in the attic. Full of letters. With beautiful postage stamps on them. I instantly became a philatelist (and a historian).

It was only natural, then, that I combine my interest in stamps with my interest in trains. So although I love locomotives and cabooses, my favorite railroad car is the Railway Post Office (RPO). I had never seen one, much less been inside one, until several years ago when I visited the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris CA, about 90 miles up the road from me here in La Mesa. They had Santa Fe RPO 60, built in 1924 by Pullman. Here’s its interior, looking like it did in its heyday with letter cases, sorting racks, and pouches of mail.

Railway Post Office

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Railway Post Office literally was a traveling post office. They were attached to regularly scheduled passenger trains and under contract to the United States Post Office. Mail was picked up and dropped off at cities and towns along the route, and sorted while the train sped on down the tracks. By the mid-1940s, there were 1,500 RPO routes criss-crossing America with 30,000 men (sorry, women) working in more than 4,000 RPO cars. More than 90% of the nation’s mail was handled in RPO cars.

Mail could be picked up and dropped off even if the train was not scheduled to stop. It would slow down slightly and a man would lean out of the car door with a catcher arm and grab a bag off of a special post at the side of the track. Pity the man who was not strong enough or who missed the bag….

Mail that needed to be dropped off was simply thrown out the car door at a designated spot to be picked up and delivered to the Post Office.

Santa Fe RPO 60 was used to sort and distribute mail between Los Angeles and Kansas City on Santa Fe trains #7 and #8, the “Fast Mail & Express” trains. The average crew numbered 12 men. The USPS discontinued the route in 1967.

Back in those days, it was not unheard of for a letter to be picked up at 6:00 a.m. and delivered by 6:00 p.m. Even letters going from New York to Los Angeles might only take a couple of days. In today’s world, even with all this modern sorting machinery and zip codes, a letter going from New York to Los Angeles and mailed this morning might get there a week from today, with luck.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

It must be spring ’cause the spring tides are hitting San Diego next week

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It must be spring ’cause the spring tides are hitting San Diego next week, and they promise to be pretty good, if not spectacular.

Each day there are two high tides and two low tides. However, not all tides are equal. The highest of the high tides are called king tides, and there will be four days next week, January 10-13, when the king tides are proving their royalty:

  • January 10 — 7.23 feet at 7:12 a.m.
  • January 11 — 7.43 feet at 7:57 a.m.
  • January 12 — 7.41 feet at 8:41 a.m.
  • January 13 — 7.16 feet at 9:23 a.m.

The lowest of the low tides often accompany king tides. And that’s the case here:

  • January 10 — -1.59 feet at 2:16 p.m.
  • January 11 — -1.84 feet at 3:00 p.m.
  • January 12 — -1.83 feet at 3:41 p.m.
  • January 13 — -1.60 feet at 4:22 p.m.

Although I could not find a name for the lowest of the low tides, the combination of the lowest of the low and the highest of the high is called a spring tide (also neap tide).

Spring tides often are distinguished by the tidal range between the lowest low tide and it’s accompanying king tide. The largest tidal range for a spring tide in San Diego is 9.50 feet. We are predicted to fall short, but not by much:

  • January 10 — 8.82 feet
  • January 11 — 9.27 feet
  • January 12 — 9.24 feet
  • January 13 —  8.76 feet

Remember that these are predictions. Who knows what might happen with all this global warming and climate change stuff going on?

Low tides often expose rocky beaches that normally are completely under water….

Low spring tide in La Jolla CA

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And fun for the family members of all ages exploring ocean wildlife caught in the tide pools….

Tide pools in La Jolla CA

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

High tides on the other hand provide a different kind of opportunity—a little danger thrown in for excitement; don’t get washed out to sea.

High tide in Ocean Beach CA

High tide in Ocean Beach CA

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since king tides often occur during the winter months here in San Diego, the best ones are when they are in combination with a Pineapple Express winter storm as it rolls in from Hawaii and pushes tides even higher.

So…. Any guesses as to where I will be taking pictures and videos next week?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

New blogging friends, apple cider vinegar, EVCO, and Zoey the Cool Cat

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Perhaps the thing I like best about blogging is getting to know so many people—without having to drive to an airport, park the car, stand in line to go through security, go through security, stand in line to check baggage, stand in line to get on the plane. I dislike standing in lines. Dislike them immensely.—and getting to know what bothers them, what interests them, their families and friends, and even what ails them,

So here’s a story about what ails me and how I found satisfaction from someone who recently followed me. I don’t remember who, sadly, but I’m sure I’ll run into them again.

I was born and raised in Deep South Texas. It’s pretty sunny down there. I always have enjoyed the sun, to the extent that some of my friends call me a Sun Bunny. When people asked me what makes me happy, I used to say, “Keep me south of Interstate 10 and I’m pretty happy.” Interstate 10 runs cross-country from Los Angeles CA to Jacksonville FL. 2,460.34 miles. Lots of sunshine south of Interstate 10.

Since I’m a guy, we’re allowed to summarily run around without shirts, and that was my preferred attire for running around. Now, at the age of 61, I am paying for all that beautiful sunshine. Well, as my wise old grandmother used to say, “You can pay now or you can pay later.” I chose to pay later, and later has come.

I am one great big collection of keratoses, both seborrheic keratosis and actinic keratosis. These things itch. I scratch them. I scratch until I bleed. Sometimes they bleed spontaneously, especially from actinic keratoses on my scalp. Getting a haircut can be bloody, traumatic, and embarrassing, so I don’t get a haircut anymore. I cut my own hair while standing in front of a mirror. Hey, it does save money!

I had been using apple cider vinegar with “The Mother” to control them. It does that, but I’m pretty sure you know that vinegar stinks, which encourages one not to use the stuff.

When I was visiting blogs the other day, a new blog I visited was talking about apple cider vinegar and suggested an alternate. The alternate is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. I checked at the health store and it’s $21 or so for 16 ounces. I found it at Walmart for $13.88, still three times as expensive as apple cider vinegar. I splurged. I’m pretty much willing to do almost anything to get away from vinegar.

The instructions say that a little goes a long way, and it does. Like Brylcream, a little dab will do ya. It does smell like coconut but it’s not overpowering, probably because it hasn’t been processed to smell like coconut; it’s extra virgin.

It goes on much better than skin lotions like St. Yves. It is not greasy even though it’s an oil. It leaves the skin feeling smooth and silky. No itching, no scratching, no bloodletting. I’m sold

But wait! There’s more!

Zoey the Cool Cat has what the vet termed “dry skin.” At certain times of the year, like right now, she scratches. She will scratch herself bloody, especially around her eyes and ears. She scratches so hard that she will scratch all of her eye and cheek whiskers out if I don’t do something. The vet advised me to give her a bath twice a year, which would be now and in May or so. But let me tell you about the first time I gave her a bath after that vet visit.

A wet Zoey the Cool CatMy doors and windows are open except when I’m not here. With Zoey the Cool Cat’s first bath, she howled like there was no tomorrow. She likes to scratch, too, as she is howling. It took 20 minutes to give her a bath. About 5 minutes after I had finished and dried her off, the front doorbell rang. Two police officers were at the door. There had been a report of screaming coming from my condo. I couldn’t help but chuckle, which did not please the officers. I explained that I had been giving my cat a bath, why I was giving the cat a bath, and produced a wet Zoey the Cool Cat as Exhibit One. One of the officers chuckled himself, saying kind of under his breath, “Been there. Done that.” Ever since then, if Zoey the Cool Cat is going to get a bath, the doors and windows get closed, the blinds and curtains get drawn, and the music gets played a little louder.

Extra Virgin Coconut OilFast forward several years to yesterday. Zoey the Cool Cat is scratching herself bloody. It’s time for a bath. But wait! I wonder if Extra Virgin Coconut Oil would make her feel as good as I do. What the heck. It’s a natural oil so I thought I would try it on her little eyebrows. I put a little dab on each eyebrow yesterday at 2:00 p.m. and rubbed it in.

Did it work?

Yes! Resoundingly! Zoey the Cool Cat was the most peaceful kitty ever yesterday. She didn’t wash the coconut oil off, and she never scratched yesterday, not once!

So, Zoey the Cool Cat and I are sold on Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, what I call EVCO for short.

If you have any sort of skin condition, or you’re simply tired of those man-made skin lotions full of man-made chemicals, try Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Let us know your results. And if you’re the blogger who blogged about apple cider vinegar and EVCO, well, I owe you a margarita!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat