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Month: January 2020

Life-Sized Art Sculptures in the Desert

You never know what you might find when you visit Anza Borrega. Anza Borrega is located in San Diego County about 2 hours from SanDiego, Palm Springs, and the Inland Empire. The area is known for hiking trails, wildflowers, remote camping, and art. The ideal time to visit is during the Winter and early Spring. The summer months bring the scorching desert heat.

The Art of Borrego Springs

The small town of Borrego Springs is home to over 130 larger than life art sculptures in the middle of the desert. Artist Ricardo Breceda created these sculptures to resemble the creatures that might have roamed these deserts millions of years ago. The sculptures are made from welded metal and some of the intricate details such as whispy hair. The late Dennis Avery owned the land that is now referred to as Galleta Meadows and he had visions of free-standing art doting the property.

On the road to Anza Borrega

Locating the Sculptures

The sculptures are spread out and you need a car or possibly a bicycle to visit them. Most of the creatures are located off of Palm Canyon Drive. The Chamber of Commerce and some of the local businesses have free maps to help you locate the sculptures. To reach some of the sculptures you will need to drive on unpaved roads, however, the roads are fine for a 2 wheel vehicle.

A lone horse
Lots of Jeeps in Anza Borrego

Grasshopper vs. scorpion.
The Chief
A prospector and his mule.
The Sea Dragon

After Seeing the Sculptures

If you are not camping at Anza Borrego State Park or remote camping in Anza Borrego there are a few hotels located in Borrego Springs along with some restaurants. After a long day of exploring we ate at Carlee’s Place. Carlee’s is a typical “Dive-Bar,” however, the service was spot on and the food and drinks were both good. The night we ate at Carlee’s there seemed to be a good mix of both locals and tourists.

ART-O-MAT in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is not only about drinking and gambling. While visiting in January with my daughter and my best friends we stumbled upon something unique and fun. We read about old cigarette machines that have been refurbished into dispensers for original art.

Art-0-mat

Artist Clark Whittington came up with the idea of the Art-0-mat in 1997 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He used the vending machine to dispense his art for $1. There are now vending machines scattered across the United States. Each machine dispenses original works of art.

The Art-o-mat in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

An Art Scavenger Hunt

There are Art-o-mat machines in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. We were staying at Treasure Island and we chose to walk down the strip to the Cosmopolitan and although it was 40 degrees outside we stopped at Fat Tuesday for frozen drinks. I had a drink that tastes like a creamsicle. They serve the drinks in a cute acrylic to-go cup. And Vegas being Vegas, I took my drink with me on the walk.

Drinks to go from Fat Tuesday

Finding the Art-o-mat Machines

There are six refurbished cigarette machines in the lobby and hallways at the Cosmopolitan. Finding the machines is half the fun. After walking around we found the first one. First, we made change, because the machines only accept $5 bills. With money in hand, we had the hard choice of what artist to pick. I inserted my $5 and pulled a lever. The art comes out in a small 2″ x 3′ box. My first piece of art was an abstract mounted on a block. Nicole put in her $5 and got a pair of cork earrings. Feeling successful we wandered on a looked for the next machine.

Ready to try their luck

Nicole with her art.
Robyn trying her luck.

Art At The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan is filled with art. The walls have large-scale murals, photographs, and sculptures. The Cosmopolitan wants their art to be interactive and accessible. In other words, some of their art is in the middle of the hallway and it looks like it is meant to be touched consequently, we enjoyed walking around looking at all the art while we were looking for more Art-o-mat vending machines.


One of the many sculptures in the hallways.
We interacted with the art.

Hunting For More Art

As we continue on our hunt for more Art-o-mat vending machines, but we have better luck with some machines than others. A few times we put in our $5 bill and we get nothing in return. We don’t let it deter us. Nicole is in charge of locating all six of the Art-o-mat machines and I’m happy to say that we found them all. We love the pieces of art that we collected. The Art-o-mat is helping to make art accessible for everyone. For $5 you can be an art collector too. Therefore, now that we experienced a fun scavenger hunt, our interest is piqued and we are planning more trips to find Art-o-mat vending machines in other states.

Checking out our new art.
Nicole trying her luck again.
Robyn was so disappointed that the machine took her $5 and didn’t give her any art.
All the art we got out of the vending machines.

Out and About in Riverside, California

Riverside, California

Riverside, California is located in the Inland Empire about 55 miles East of Los Angeles. Downtown Riverside is home to the University of Riverside, the famous Mission Inn, and Mount Rubidoux. There is plenty of street parking and parking garages or there is a Metro Stop that offers shuttles to local downtown areas.

Mount Rubidoux

Mount Rubidoux has been designated as a park and a landmark. At one point the land was purchased by the owners of the Mission Inn. The land is now owned by the city of Riverside. Mountain Rubidoux is known for its Easter Sunday services. In 1909 the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux.

Parking at Mount Rubidoux

It is easiest to park your car at Ryan Bonaminio Park. The address is 5000 Tequesquite Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. Ryan Bonaminio is a sports park and it has a lot of parking spaces. From the park, there is easy access to the mountain. Head up the street about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you will reach the start of the trail. There are no bathrooms at Mount Rubidoux, but there is one at Ryan Bonaminio Park. At the beginning of the trail at Mount Rubidoux, there is a place to fill your water bottles and there are trash cans along the trail.

Hiking in the City

Mount Rubidoux boasts over 3 miles of hiking trails. There is a 2.7-mile round-trip trail. The trail is paved which makes it a great choice for days when your normal trails are covered with mud. The trail only gains a little of 350 feet in incline, so it is rated as easy. I have seen numerous people pushing baby strollers up to the top. When you get to the top there are a few areas to explore. The World Peace Bridge is a beautiful place to stop for a photo.

The World Peace Bridge
Under the World Peace Bridge

The Top of Mount Rubidoux

Once you reach the top of Mount Rubidoux there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view. There is built-in seating in the rocks for the sunrise services. We climbed up to the stairs to the base of the cross. The cross is dedicated to Father Serra. According to some old newspaper articles there was some controversy about the separation of church and state and now the small plot of land that holds the cross is owned by a conservancy that is responsible for its upkeep.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos in Riverside

After hiking back to our car we decided to drive over to Tio’s Tacos. I had driven past Tios when I was on the way to The Mission Inn and the large art out in front of the restaurant piqued my interest. The restaurant is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

Tio’s Taco

Eclectic Art in Riverside

We found street parking across the street from Tio’s Tacos. We wandered around the entire outside before we ordered out lunch. The art is all made from upcycled materials. One of my favorite pieces of art at Tio’s is a Christmas tree made from recycled Dos Equis beer bottles. There is a little chapel complete with an altar and pews. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the little details.

You can’t miss the art from the street.
A Christmas tree made from Dos Equis bottles.
Popeye The Sailor Man
Inside the chapel
Information about the artist.

Lunch at Tio’s Tacos

After hiking and walking around Tio’s looking at the art we were hungry. There is both seating inside and outside at Tio’s and the day we were there it was chilly and extremely windy so we opted for inside.

We went to the counter to order and although it was after 1 pm, I asked if I could order breakfast. The good news is they serve breakfast all day. I ordered Chilaquiles with green sauce. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish with fried corn tortillas simmering with green or red sauce topped with an over-easy egg, sour cream, and cheese. I was happy to see an Aqua Fresca Bar at the front counter therfore I ordered a Mango Agua Fresca and it was very sweet but tasty. After ordering they give you a number and you seat yourself. I am a Chilaquiles connoisseur and my lunch was good, but definitely not the best Chilaquiles I’ve eaten. I would go back to Tio’s again just to see the art and maybe I’ll try a taco next time.

Chilaquiles Verde

Exploring Riverside

We had a good morning exploring Riverside. Mount Rubidoux was a scenic place for a hike and we all enjoyed the art and our lunch at Tio’s Tacos. We will have to plan another day to see some of the other things Riverside has to offer.

Road-Tripping to June Lake

June Lake is just a short 5-hour drive from the Los Angeles area on Highway 395, but it seems a world away. June Lake is popular in the spring and summer with the fishermen, during the fall for the leaf peppers and during winter for skiers. The first weekend of October we took a trip to June Lake over a long weekend. We were a little bit early for the peak leaf viewing, but it was beautiful.

Breakfast on the Road

We left the Los Angeles area at 5 a.m. Our first stop was at Great Basin Bakery in Bishop. Great Basin Bakery is a small bakery that bakes delicious, breads, cookies, pastries and serves breakfast and lunch. If you want to avoid the busses full of tourists at Schat’s Bakery, then Great Basin is your place. I ordered two breakfast bagels with eggs, coffee and two giant cowboy cookies to go. I’ve had both breakfast and lunch at Great Basin and both times everything I’ve ordered has been delicious.

Hiking at Little Lakes Valley

After leaving the bakery we continued driving to Little Lakes Valley Trail. The exit is off of 395 at Tom’s Place Resort. After passing Tom’s Place you drive on Rock Creek Rd to Mosquito Flat Trailhead. In the summer I backpacked all over Little Lakes Valley, but this day we were there for a day hike. We hiked into Heart Lake. Dylan spent the morning fishing in the beautiful Alpine Lake and I spent the morning reading. In the afternoon we hung up our hammocks and ate our cowboy cookies and took a little nap. When the wind picked up and we were frozen we hiked back down to the car and drove to June Lake.

Heart Lake
Little Lakes Valley
Little Lakes Valley

June Lake Motel

We had reservations at June Lake Motel. Our room had 2 beds and a small kitchen. During the night a vehicle struck a power transformer close to the Nevada border, but the entire area lost power. We woke up with no power, but the owner of the motel used her generator to make coffee and tea for all the guests. She also told us that they had lanterns for us if the power didn’t come back on before nightfall. I highly recommend the June Lake motel and I will definitely stay there again next time I’m at June Lake.

Gull Lake

The first night we were starving after all of our hiking and skipping lunch. We walked from our motel to The Tiger Bar. It is the quintessential small-town bar. They serve bar drinks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was packed when we arrived. They had the Dodger playoff game on the television and people were shooting pool. We finally got a table. We ordered a couple of beers a burger and a sandwich. The food was good and the servers were friendly.

Saturday morning when we woke up to no power we walked around the town and there was nowhere open to serve breakfast. The hotel owner told us that we should be able to get a sandwich at the June Lake Junction Cafe. She said that they run on a generator. We drove over there and unfortunately they were not serving any food. We bought some gas station snacks for breakfast and we learned an important lesson. Always have cash. They couldn’t process any payments except for cash and there were cars parked outside at the gas pumps and unfortunately, they don’t work without power.

Passing the Fall foliage on the way to Parker Lake.

Hiking to Parker Lake

We had a full tank of gas so we headed out to hike to Parker Lake. The trailhead to Parker Lake is located at the end of the June Lake Loop. After the turn off there is a 2-mile dirt road, that is passable with a normal car. The trail is 3.6 miles out and back. The first mile is the steepest part and then it levels out. The trail is suitable for all levels. The trail starts in the sagebrush and then heads into a nook in the canyon. We were there in October and we walked through a grove of Aspens that was changing colors. After the Aspens, the trail runs parallel to a stream and then straight into a forest. The payoff of the hike is the lake. Parker Lake is on the backside of Yosemite and the views are jaw-dropping. We spent the day fishing and exploring. There were a few people that were camping at the lake. There are no bathrooms and fires are not permitted at the lake. At the end of the day, we hiked back down. We were treated with great views of Mono Lake off in the distance.

Parker Lake
The view on the hike back to the car from Parker Lake.

Dinner at June Pie Pizza Co.

We drove back to the hotel through the June Lake Loop. We got to look at the other lakes in the loop and the fall foliage that was just starting to turn golden. After driving around all the lakes we parked at our hotel and walked over to T-Bar Social Club. We were following the signs for June Pie Pizza Co. The pizza place is downstairs inside the Social Club. We sat at a table for two and ordered a local hard cider and a beer that were both on tap and a large Margherita Pizza. Our expectations were not high for the pizza and fortunately, we were 100% wrong. That was some of the best pizza that we have ever had. The crust was thin and it was cooked perfectly. It tasted like authentic New York Pizza.

June Pie Pizza Co.

Breakfast To Go

Sunday morning I woke up and took a walk around the village. All the stores had pumpkins sitting out front and looked very festive. I walked over to The Lift to get some breakfast to go. I wanted to pick up 2 breakfast burritos that they usually have in the case, but even though it was only 8:30 a.m. they were already sold out. Instead, I order 2 breakfast sandwiches and a latte. I waited 30 minutes for my sandwiches, but they were tasty when we at them and everyone that works at the Lift was very nice.

Time to Head Out

We had an amazing time in the June Lake area and I can’t wait to return. The village is quaint with amazing scenery, comfy accommodations, and a few good restaurants. I’m looking forward to planning my next trip to June Lake.

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