Archive | May, 2013

Detour: San Jose

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

The downside of living in an RV is that when repairs need to be made, your entire residence is in the shop. The upside is that when your house is unavailable, it frees up time for additional sightseeing.

During a stopover in San Jose while the RV’s engine was being given a once-over, we sought out places that otherwise weren’t on the agenda. In the heart of Silicon Valley, we bypassed modern or tech-related for historical immersion.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Replica of King Tutankhamun’s Sarcophagus

Replica of King Tutankhamun’s Sarcophagus

Where might a museum acquire a pair of sarcophagi? If your answer was the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, the over-the-top holiday catalog featuring fantasy gifts like a jet pack and a $100K Versailles-inspired hen house, you would be right. In 1971, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum bought two ancient Egyptian coffins touted in a section of the catalog titled “His and Her Gifts for People Who Have Everything.” One of the sarcophagi came with an unexpected bonus: a mummy.

Burgeoning from a single artifact, a statue of Sekhmet, the lion goddess, to more than 4,000 items—including its Neiman Marcus purchases—the Rosicrucian displays the largest collection of authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts in the Western U.S. There is also a two-room, walk-through recreation of an ancient subterranean tomb.

Baboon Mummy

Baboon Mummy

Just enough information is offered to inform and intrigue about aspects of ancient Egyptian life—mummification (including that of animals such as the much-revered cats that were part of nearly every home) and other burial practices, everyday household items and their uses, the roles of pharaohs, and the pantheon of gods and goddesses they worshipped.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph Exterior

Even the non-religious can worship architectural beauty. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph has the hallmarks of a grandiose Catholic church—stained glass, marble, murals, statuary. The sum of the whole is greater and more vivid than those we’ve seen at other churches and cathedrals across the country. Instead of one dome there are four, while vaulted ceilings stretch skyward.

The current incarnation of St. Joseph, which began as a modest adobe structure, dates to the late 1800s and is the fourth one constructed on this site. The others were destroyed by earthquake or fire. The cathedral is still in use as a place of worship and a performance venue for choral and music ensembles, accompanied by a circa 1886 mechanical Odell organ, one of only four in the U.S.

After a day of admiring artifacts and architecture, we received word that the RV was outfitted with a brand-new battery and fit for the road once again. Music to our ears.

Triple Arches, Glacier National Park

Triple Arches Glacier National Park

Angry Birds

Allen's Hummingbird Perched

They’re small, graceful, marvels of engineering. They’re also altogether evil. O.K. that last part is a bit of an overstatement but, really, who knew these delightful little creatures were so vicious?

Every spring hoards of hummingbirds descend on U.C. Santa Cruz to harvest nectar from its Arboretum’s blooming buds. We followed them there entirely unprepared for what we’d find. Prior to this excursion we had only encountered solitary birds at artificial feeders, and even then, only rarely. To say that we knew little of them or their ways really gives us more credit than we deserve.

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Better* than Big Sur

Point Lobos Natural Reserve

Before we get to the meat of the matter we should probably address that title asterisk first – Better*

We concede that if you’re looking only for postcard perfect beauty, you might not find anywhere on the west coast “better” than Big Sur, California. In fact, you may not find anywhere on the planet that could make that claim. But if you’re at all interested in factors other than just raw beauty, Point Lobos might have Big Sur beat.

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Secret Sea Otter Site

Sea Otter

True, it’s not a secret. Nothing really is anymore thanks to people like us who blab about everything we find on the internets. But if you’re looking for an up-close encounter with wild and endangered sea otters you may not find a better location than Moss Landing, California.

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