Shouting Declarative Command Family

I stayed at Ma Tar Awa campground on the Viejas reservation where I encountered the Shouting Declarative Command family. I was marveling at the quiet, being one of just a few campers, sitting in the shade of a sycamore tree, ahh. Then an SUV clambered in, parking 50 yards or so away, and out came tumbling Mom, teen son, pre-teen son, and young daughter.

Birdsong was replaced by their unusual staccato speech patterns. No one in the campground had to wonder what they were thinking, saying or doing. It was all out there for us to enjoy. I think I could count on one hand how many full sentences they spoke. They communicated almost purely in declarations or commands.

My favorite exchange was when mom was in the bathroom across from the campsite. The teen son shouted from the campsite picnic table:

“MOM! You hung up on me!”

Mom bellowed from the toilet “I couldn’t hear you!”

Son “You HUNG up on ME!”

Within seconds, pre-teen son started banging on the bathroom door: “MOM!”

Mom shouted a flurry of something or other back.

Preteen wailed “I JUST WANT A HUG!”

One minute it was harmonious chaos, the next an eruption of angry words, shortly followed by someone shouting “I LOVE YOU!” Then giggling and back to harmonious chaos.

From what I could tell none of them had a private inner thought bubble, it was all expressed. “I’m playing! I’m playing” “I’m eating!” “I’m going to the bathroom!” “Watch me!”

It was such a scene it was amusing and not irritating; I felt like Jane Goodall stumbling onto the set of Saturday Night Live.

You never know what you’re going to get at a campground. It keeps it interesting and fine-tunes your ability to find humor and ways to maintain your sanity and peace of mind.

The days journey in photos:

Chuck, he races now in the Master’s division.

I met Chuck while I was setting up the sisters outside of Starbucks in Alpine, California.  We struck up a conversation and Chuck graciously offered to go over the rest of the route in California and Arizona.  We poured over the maps, and he shared with me his assessment of the different routes available.


The morning ride, leaving Ma Tar Awa campground.  The mist from the coast made for a dramatic ride.


Looking back towards the campground in Viejas.


The morning started with a push up to Old Highway 80.

Campland on the Bay, San Diego: Tough Day with Perks

Today was a tough day. I had a total brain blank 10 miles into the day and went in the wrong direction after missing a turn, causing me to do a big climb twice. I was near tears because I couldn’t “see” the map. Even Google audio prompts didn’t make sense. I started to panic and then just shut down. A man in a BMW pulled up to me while I was in the bike lane parked against the curb, and ripped into me. His timing couldn’t have been worse. I went 3+ miles off course in steep terrain, with no leg juice left, on what was supposed to be a 38-mile day.

A little background would help here; I had a craniotomy to remove a brain tumor 12 years ago and, as a result, have brain damage, my “executive skill set” took a hit. One of the challenges I have now is I can’t read maps. I look at a map, but I can’t absorb and process it correctly. It’s like trying to read kanji. To decipher a map I have to patiently break it down into digestible pieces. If I’m tired, multitasking, or already confused about something, I can’t even do that.

Yesterday it was very hot, hilly, with aggressive drivers and traffic. L.A. was a breeze in comparison. My brain was completely overloaded, and the twists and turns that the ACA map takes through La Jolla was challenging.

I just tried to let it be, adjusted by shortening the day. Luckily I found a place in striking distance that was affordable, albeit an expensive resort campground. Four pools, jacuzzi, laundry, hot “free” showers, electricity, and water. I felt so fragile when I pulled up, the counter guy was super sweet and helpful, and that helped change the air around me.

The brain blank was scary, emotional, and a little concerning. But, this is just how Houston is. (My brain’s nickname is Houston, as in “Houston we have a problem”.)

As a former backcountry ranger who regularly relied on maps, it can be an emotionally tough blow at times because I used to do it with such ease. In the past when I looked at a topo map I saw a three-dimensional world come to life.

I need to remember on this trip to sit quietly and go slowly in tiny steps and try to break down the map. Today there were a lot of weird turns and detours through La Jolla, which, by the way, is NOT on my potential desirable places to live list. It’s a hell realm. Yuck.

Fortunately, the trip doesn’t have a lot of tricky navigation or obviously I couldn’t do it. Today was just a reminder that 1. Houston will be Houston; respect that and adjust accordingly. 2. I’m not in stellar shape; accept that and be patient as it improves. The bottom line is I need to be patient, more compassionate and have more realistic expectations.

It wasn’t all bad, pedaled through some beautiful coastal areas and someone pointed out the famous San Diego dog beach. Enjoyed watching the furry sisters racing around and frolicking in the water. Bodhi and Dory individually made some new buddies.

And I got to soak in the jacuzzi (yahoo!) with a woman and man with green hair who had enough tats and piercings to make a metal detector explode.

There’s always a silver lining

Debating about whether or not to go to the border, so close. But, part of me is afraid I’ll just want to cross and start pedaling. The urge to go south is REALLY strong. But today was a wake up call that I need to be more realistic and go slowly, stay within my safety zone, sort of ish.

Off leash dog beach near San Elijo
Bodhi joining in on a game of fetch.
Bodhi in classic Jack Russell form
The expression on this dog’s face–
Feeling fast
Dory’s signature post swim sand bath. Our tent will be a sandbox by morning.
The rig
Approaching La Jolla. Little did I know.
Scored a bag of Orijen dog food. This is an awesome pet food company.  High quality, locally sourced, organic, and grass-fed when possible.  It’s a Canadian company, check them out.  
Morning at Campland on the Bay. At night I store the panniers in the dog trailer and Bodhi likes to wait for breakfast perched on top of her future breakfast.
My office. A very kind maintenance man lent me an extension cord to move the office to the picnic.
The sisters ripping it up.

Short Day with a twist


I was planning on a short day to give my knee a rest, but the Universe had something else in mind. The State of California closed Onofre State Campground early and didn’t post the closure on the campground website. When I rolled up to the entry kiosk, I received the news without enthusiasm.

20+ miles to the next campground, turning my short day into my longest day. The kiosk gal was great though and turned it around for me. She insisted on replacing my water with cold water for the extra miles ahead. I rallied, and it became a challenge instead of a disappointment.

I had just enough daylight left to pull it off.

I left Doheny Campground at 6:30 a.m. but had lingered at Starbucks thinking I had a short day. The sisters and I were interviewed by Road Warriors 360 for a YouTube channel, the creator, Jeff is an interesting, quirky guy. When he asked me “why” I was touring, my mind swirled with dozens of reasons, but I couldn’t put the why into words.

Hours and a lifetime later, I rolled into Carlsbad Campground just as the sun was setting, knee throbbing, but brimming with a sense of accomplishment. I had hauled 160 lbs of dog and gear 40 miles despite being in questionable shape.

Fed the gals, set up the tent, showered, skipped dinner and crawled into the tent. It took some decompressing via Facebook to finally rally to puff up the Thermarest. The sisters fell asleep the moment they curled up. I don’t think anyone moved until sunrise.

Sigh. No notice of the early closure on the campground website.
Dory making a rare front appearance. Normally she lounges like a princess. Through Camp Pendleton she was up front sniffing and wagging alongside Bodhi. Bodhi is usually wagging and nose to the wind, only taking short naps.
In my defense I wasn’t pedaling in order to take a quick snap shot, I was going at least 7 mph. 😉 Camp Pendleton wasn’t the most scenic ride.
A woman training a seeing-eye dog pegged the sisters and the bike as a good training opportunity and did several passes. Each time I held my breath hoping Dory’s simple brain wouldn’t fritz. Dory made me proud.
An inhabited section of today’s ride.





Photos from the Venice to Dana Point leg

Road Warrior 360 visiting with Bodhi
Dory getting some loving from another traveler.
Doheny State Beach Campground
Dory having a moment at the Huntington Dog Beach
Pure joy
Dory having several moments at Huntington Dog Beach
Bodhi and Mandy, fellow Smithie. We had a mini reunion after a 27 year gap.
Bodhi wishing she had one more cushion. She still managed to enjoy Mandy’s backyard.
Mandy and Jake. Poor Jake was a bit shaken by Bodhi’s Jack Russell Terrier nature expressing itself.
Canine companions waiting to be discovered.
Lunch break.
Amazing ride, about 12 miles of beach bike path between Venice and San Pedro.
Alice, a wise old soul in a little girl’s body.
Alice and mummy Sandra. Spent an hour with them at Starbucks in Venice. It’s been an unexpected perk meeting random interesting people.
The Sisters catching a breeze in Venice.
Hard to believe this is the touring route.
Google maps has a bike option. Check it out, it lead me through funky alleys while I was visiting Venice.
Strike a pose.
Where’s Forrest? Hanging out in Forrest’s Treehouse in Venice pit stop. I met Forrest in Uruguay four, five years ago. Fun to see his USA emanation.
The Treehouse’s tree.
Soaking it in.
Jake the Sphinx.
Mandy with Jake

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McGrath Campground, Oxnard, CA

McGrath was a trippy campground. It was officially closed but sort of open to hiker/cyclists, if you knew they had that caveat and if you happened to stumble on someone near the gate. I arrived to find the gate locked and impassable. In frustration, I called the campground and got a VM and left a frustrated VM. Then, like magic, the host appeared and let me in as he was leaving.

The campground was empty save two campground host couples. One couple was packing up; it was their last day.

It was ghost townish and looked abandoned and way past the expiration date. Eerie to see a campground so naked and empty. That said it was super fun too, no leash law for the girls. They had free reign and were beside themselves with joy with their new found freedom. They set to exploring instantly, never straying too far from camp. They visited the hosts and their dogs first and fanned out from there.

After I had put up the tent, we walked to the beach. A longer hotter walk than I anticipated with evil little star shaped seeds that bit into flesh and paw. The surf was crazy rough, rough enough to throw fist size rocks at one’s ankles. Yes, fist size and larger. It seemed a sadistic surf, luring one in and then blasting sensitive ankles with large stones. I tried to tough it out, but the waves and their stones were relentless. I splashed myself down from head to toe to at least cool down and get a feel of the ocean.
Even Bodhi, who loves the water, wanted nothing to do with it. They ran through the tail edge of the surf to freshen up, but there was no swimming.

We made a disappointed retreat to the campground.

Beautiful little mini wetland alongside the campground. There was ducks shoulder to shoulder, an aquatic duck version of Jones Beach. There was barely any space on the surface. When they spied the girls they took off with a lot of squawking and quacking, forming a thick cloud of duck chaos. There seemed to be a variety of ducks in the mix.

A little reluctant to admit this—but I set the picnic table on fire trying out the MSR Whisperlite International stove for the first time. I would roll my eyes at any camper who was foolish enough to take equipment on a trip without testing it beforehand. And there I was, so unfamiliar with the stove I lit up the picnic table.

It wasn’t engulfed in flames, but there was a healthy patch of flame about the surface area of an adult hand. My brain is challenged by things like diagrams and instructions. Clearly it wasn’t very present for the initial lighting of the stove. I came to realize I had the stove upside down, so when I primed it, I was, in reality, priming the picnic table. Oops. Is this how picnic tables end up with those burn hollows?

When the table lit up, I tossed the entire stove onto the sand. I blew furiously at the table while frantically fanning with my hands. Flames out, back to the stove, still burning on the sand. Picked it up, it flared up, and I instantly had a vision of myself without eyebrows and eyelashes. (This happened once while lighting a stove in NYC.) Mercifully it went out.

People with brain damage should probably stick to stoves they are familiar with, lesson learned.

Painstakingly went through the directions, googled a video on YouTube. Success. It makes a big difference having the stove right side up. Who knew?

Beautiful cool night serenaded by strange piercing birdsong throughout the night. Despite off-tune birds, I slept well.

The morning was beautiful; the lighting was moody from the mist that was still lingering from last night.


Setting up camp at McGrath Campground, Oxnard


Love these funky coastal trees.
Ghost campground
Little wetland area alongside the campground.
Starting to play around again with B&W.
Anyone know if this fall color or year round? Not familiar with local flora.
Girls were in heaven, off leash with dunes, water and an empty campground to explore.
Mist came rolling in like a white wall around 4pm.


Bodhi’s quest for the highest and softest perch has been realized