Things I LoveU.S. TravelWining/Dining


A recent (and long overdue) visit with a childhood friend without question pulled off a major surprise for me … and I am not easy to surprise! But this was certainly up there in the annals of creating a memory for the ages. 
We grew up together in the much-desired and then-new neighborhood of Ladera Heights.  It was the kind of childhood and friendship where we would inevitably be at one or another’s homes on any given occasion.  She traveled with my family to our vacation home on Balboa Island, and I spent many a day with her family at the Jonathan Beach Club or perhaps taking their boat to Catalina with her dad at the helm. While we worshiped differently, I learned a lot going to Sunday church services with her family as well …

After living in California’s high desert area, she relocated to the Big Bear area, where she has an enviable 8+ acres to keep her three horses plus a llama named Masquerade. Even though Big Bear is a mere two-hour drive (three if you foolishly attempt it on a Friday afternoon), I had not made the trek up there even though Robin and I had seen each other on lots of occasions. Several months ago we finally set a weekend date for me to go there, see the sights, and of course write a blog about the weekend.
Pure joy … hugging Gwen!

There was only one missing component, and that was our mutual childhood and best friend Gwen, who now lives in Sheridan, WY.  Gwen’s house was where you could always find me if I wasn’t at Robin’s. The three of us have been discussing a celebration of our 60th birthdays, which came and went in early 2014.   We are almost exactly a month apart in age (I’m the oldest!).  Alas, our schedules couldn’t ever coincide.
You probably know where this is heading … as I arrived at Robin’s for dinner the first night.  Yes, Gwen was there at the front door to greet me along with Robin. The two of them had been plotting this surprise ever since the August weekend was set, and Gwen even drove all the way from Sheridan!!!

And that was the start of a wonderful weekend with life-long friends.  We dined and caught up on the first night, making plans for our full day together.  We went to the Big Bear Zoo, a very special place because the focus is on rescuing animals that might not exist otherwise.   They have the only Grizzlies in captivity — a mom and two offspring who nearly didn’t make it.  The mom was on her “third strike” after raiding a convenience store and it was only after the cubs were discovered that she was spared. They are enormous — about 600 lbs each — and very protective of each other.  There are also several black bears, one of whom ate $8,000 worth of honey (you guessed, it: his name is Pooh). They were amazing to watch as were the mountain lions, rare snow leopards, and a huge python carried around by a trainer.  
To the right is one of the gorgeous cats, and below is Pooh (he couldn’t help himself when it came to honey …)
From there we rode the chair lift to the top of Big Bear Summit, at about 9,000 feet, which was extremely busy with mountain bikers.   We had lunch and took a mile loop around with wonderful vistas, then back down the mountain.
Above:  transporting the bikes up and the bikers gathered before taking off.
Below:  Were it not for our drought the green borders around the lake would not be visible.


I had lovely accommodations at The Inn at Fawnskin, run by Robin’s friends Nancy & Bill. Robin had raved about the wonderful hospitality and lovely accommodations, which were totally on point.  A wonderful added bonus is the delicious, home-made (by Nancy) breakfast each morning served for all the guests.  It is a great opportunity to interact and eat delicious food.  We all had a front-row view for the Antique Car Club participants as they made their way around the lake lined with people cheering them on. This is small-town Americana at its best.


With Inn proprietors Nancy & Bill


The parade of unique vehicles passing by the Inn
Fawnskin grounds are just beautiful with the lake in the background
My garden suite (fireplace not visible!); below is resident dog Beau with the flying ears and
his constant companion/playmate

Feeding time at Robin’s:  The horses (Comet, Jubilee, and Echo, plus the very handsome llama Masquerade below).  I now fully understand the “chores” involved with these wonderful animals — twice daily feedings and a whole lot of love (plus clean-up!)


Robin’s log home
Thanks to Nancy, we snagged a reservation at The Peppercorn Grille, one of the best Big Bear has to offer. We had a wonderful dinner and then strolled around the downtown area before it was reluctantly time to say good-bye.  Gwen was heading out in the morning to numerous other CA locations, and I needed to get home to help my daughter pack for her impending move.

Too soonit was so long “for now,” because we will get together again — in Sheridan or maybe back in Big Bear or even in Los Angeles.  Regardless of where, it will continue to happen as it has for about 55 years …

Top:  7th Grade
Middle:  My 40th Birthday
Bottom:  Chairlift Selfie
I know, we haven’t aged a bit …