Most Americans are familiar with the great WWII general, George Patton. Certainly any student of that war can probably tell you, chapter and verse, of his exploits. There is no question he is one of the most colorful characters in American history.
My father's second cousin was General Omar Bradley, the "Soldier's General" and so we always felt that Bradley was the superior general on moral grounds alone but there is no question that Patton was a "genius for war". His daring leadership, especially of the 3rd Army as they roared through France and Germany, is legendary. He also possessed tremendous foresight and predicted that mechanized warfare would be decisive in the next major war after his service in WWI. He was, of course, right as his German counterpart, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, would emphatically demonstrate at the outbreak of WWII in North Africa as well as the German onslaught of the European low countries. There is much to say about old George and if you're interested in reading more about him I recommend, "Patton: A Genius for War" by Carlo D'Este and "War As I Knew It" by Patton himself.
Patton grew up in San Gabriel and knew the Mojave Desert. The following is from the Wikipedia page about the Desert Training Center:
Major General George S. Patton Jr. came to Camp Young as the first commanding general of the DTC. As a native of southern California, Patton knew the area well from his youth and from having participated in army maneuvers in the Mojave Desert in the 1930s. His first orders were to select other areas within the desert that would be suitable for the large-scale maneuvers necessary to prepare American soldiers for combat against the German Afrika Korps in the North African desert.
As a WWII history aficionado I had known of the training ground and visited Camp Young and the Patton Museum near Chiriaco Summit in the desert but hadn't gone to any of the other "camps". Fortunately for me, the wonderful people at the Mojave Desert Land Trust sponsored a tour to two of the Desert Training Center Camps, Camp Iron Mountain and Camp Granite. We were met by a terrific BLM archaeologist who knew the area and its history quite well. This was the first spot we went to near Camp Iron Mountain. I was told by military personnel that this was probably an "OP" or observation post. Perhaps old Patton himself climbed the hill and looked over his troops from this vantage point?
The next spot we stopped was at Camp Iron Mountain at the foot of the Iron Mountains. I was fascinated by the remnants of the camp from, lo, those many years ago which included a spot for religious services. In particular the line wire and other debris left by our troops as they prepared to fight overseas and, for some, to experience an early death in sacrifice for not just our American freedom but for the freedom of the world.
A couple of desert creatures also caught my eye. I could write more about the gentle tarantula (the only spider I like!) but I'll save that for another post. Here is a big boy out looking for love and a well camouflaged lizard.
We ate a small and delicious lunch and visited our last stop at Granite Camp where the Desert Shrine was still beautifully intact. Apparently, the troops had to go miles to find the proper rock for the construction of these sanctuaries.
It was a beautiful desert day. The weather was perfect and a few clouds rolled in at the end of the day. I couldn't help but pull myself away for some landscape photos. The first is a panorama and then I made some black and whites that I hope you'll enjoy as they seem to capture some essence of the Mojave to me.
I also made some good old color photos too. In reviewing these photos I was reminded how easy it is to breathe and why I receive such solace in wide open spaces.
I had a wonderful time on this one day trip but it made me hunger for a longer stay. Next trip will be to the Mojave Preserve at the beginning of December. Thanks for coming along.
Baseball, the Beach and Butterflies
The Los Angeles Dodgers interrupted my travel plans.
I had planned on heading east but my team decided to make a run at the World Championship.
I grew up just south of LA in a small suburb and in the 1960's few things occupied my thoughts and affection like my beloved Dodgers. I've been a Dodger fan literally since I can remember. I was born in 1957 and the Dodgers came west in 1958. I don't remember the Dodgers winning the Series in 1959 against the "Go Go Sox" in the Coliseum but I have vague memories of our glorious sweep of the Yankees in 1963 and I remember every out of the 1965 Series when the Dodgers beat the Twins. The first time the Dodgers broke my heart was 1966 and not simply because they were swept in the World Series by the Baltimore Orioles. Sandy Koufax retired at the end of that season.
My sports hero of the 1960's is still my hero at age 60. My words will fail, tremendously, at trying to describe my adoration, appreciation, and respect for the great Sandy Koufax. In my childhood, Sandy was the most dominant force in major league baseball. He was the classiest, most humble, courageous, kindest, smartest, player in the game. He remains simply coolest athlete in my lifetime. In fact, no one else comes close.
Sandy was forced to retire in 1966 due to an arthritic elbow. I still remember hearing the news on the radio and I was in a state of disbelief for a long time. I grieved his loss to the Dodgers and to the game...still do.
Anyway enough about baseball...perhaps I'll save my discussion of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson, Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, Ron Cey, John Roseboro, Davey Lopes, Orel Hershiser, Roy Campanella and Corey Seager for another post strictly devoted to my favorite sport in the coming months or so... Just know...I love the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers.
Suffice it to say, the Dodgers did make it to the Series this year and lost in the seventh game. I stayed home and watched and don't regret that decision. It was a marvelous post season (wait 'til next year!).
I was, however, itchy to get back on the road. I had reserved last May a few days at North Beach campground in Pismo Beach (planning months ahead is required these days). Although rather "urban" by my standards, it's still a long time favorite. I used to take my boys there when they were young and Lupe said she could join me thanks to the Veterans Day holiday. I arrived a day early to set up camp and realized that the Monarch Butterflies were just arriving for their yearly migration to Pismo. I spoke to a docent who shared that the numbers of butterflies has decreased dramatically in the last few years due to climate change.
Nevertheless, those butterflies are a sight to behold. If you get a chance...
The weather in Pismo was spectacular. I awoke the first morning to the sound of rain on the roof of the little trailer. I turned on the tiny furnace, warmed the trailer to about 70 degrees and made a pot of coffee. I spent the next few hours reading, drinking coffee and staring out the window at the steady rain. It was, in other words, a perfect morning. At about 11:00 AM the sun burst through the clouds and it became warm and clear and utterly delightful. Lupe arrived and I did make a few photos of the campground and nearby dunes. The sea water meanders through, behind, and around the dunes which are typically fairly crowded. I did manage to get few photos without people.
The central coast of California draws me back, again and again. Less crowded and commercialized than Southern California it captures some nostalgic, old California charm for me. In reviewing these pages you may find my deep affection for the place...in the meantime I'll keep returning. I've already scheduled a trip for the Rincon, Gaviota, Point Mugu and Morro Bay for the spring. Thanks for coming along...maybe we'll run into each other on some lonely dune near Cayucos one of these days...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.