Recently I made a trip to San Diego to attend a Celebration of Life party for my good friend Don, who passed away last month after struggling with cancer for several months. Don and I met in 1963 during the first semester of my senior year of high school. Don was a sophomore and had just transferred from a high school in San Diego. We became fast friends.
My drive over to San Diego was pretty uneventful. Winds had blown up a lot of dust and it was pretty hot until I got out of the desert and into the coastal mountains that separate San Diego from the Colorado Desert. On this trip I decided to take my secondary route. Instead of heading into the Santa Rosa mountains from Indio, CA, I traveled south along the western edge of the Salton Sea and turned west on Hwy 78. This route took me through the mountains into Julian, CA and then to Ramona, CA where I checked into the Ramona Valley Inn. Although Ramona is about an hour from where the celebration was to be held, I like staying away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego as much as I can.
The next morning was devoted to photographing birds in the San Diego area. My friend John sold me a 200mm - 500mm telephoto that he was no longer using. My first stop was Lindo Lake in Lakeside. There were a few Egrets there hanging out in the Pepper Trees and Palm Trees while some ducks and geese were floating around in the small lake.
My next stop was the San Diego River channel near Ocean Beach. There were virtually no birds to be seen. Spoke with a couple of photographers in the parking lot with humongous lenses who were trying to shoot some Ospreys which are known to nest in the area. They both said the best time for shooting birds in the river channel is Fall thru late Spring.
Got back on the interstate and headed back east to Lake Murray in La Mesa, California. There were not many interesting birds there either - just some non-colorful ducks and geese. Stayed there for quite a while. After finishing shooting, I sat down on a concrete bench and was just enjoying the relative peace and quiet. Later a couple came up to ask me about my photography. We chatted for awhile and soon it was time to head back to the beach for Don's Celebration of Life party.
Don and I at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon near the glass Skywalk on the Hualapai Reservation
Upon arriving at the party, I walked thru the door and there was Mike, a friend of mine from high school. Mike has visited me in Vock Canyon. Most of the people there I did not know. Don had a lot of friends. Mike and I decided to get something to eat from the food line catered by a Mexican restaurant - "street tacos", beans and rice.
A projector was setup which streamed images of Don with family and friends over the years. It was a joy to watch. It was also a great joy to see and speak with Don's family whom he loved dearly and was loved in return. Thank you Doug and Arlene for putting together the slide show.
All the years that I have known Don he has really been kind to me, especially helping me out after I returned from the service. I have fond memories of camping with Don in Baja California back in the 70's and going to the auto auction in LA. After I moved to Tennessee, we managed to keep in touch with one another. On one of my trips to visit him in San Diego, he had just bought a boat and was planning to sail to the Caribbean. He took me down to the marina where it was docked to show it to me. He asked me if I knew how to program a VCR and of course I said, "they always give me trouble". We piddled around with it for an hour or so and never did get it programmed correctly - no manual. We then had a chuckle together and laughed about him sailing around the world but not being able to program a VCR. Of course, he had it all figured out and over the years sailed to the Caribbean and South America.
Don has touched so many lives during his time on earth and friends and family loved him dearly - I know I did. I will miss our visits over the past several years since I retired, even the the politcal arguments that drove his friend Arlene crazy and his attempts to impart his knowledge of the nature of women to me.
I love you Don and you will be sorely missed.
The next day was spent visiting my half-sister Sue and her husband Chuck. We spent a few hours catching up on family and other stuff and went out to eat lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We made tentative plans for them to come visit me in Vock Canyon when it gets a little cooler - perhaps sometime this fall.