Winter Break 2002~2003
Getting Married

December 21

We leave Mendocino right at noon.  We stop in Santa Rosa to buy Lolli a Pezel headlamp.  I call my brother-in-law on our cell phone and tell him we are on our way and leaving Santa Rosa as we speak.  He said we should arrive in Dublin at 4:30 PM and, by golly, we arrived at their home right at 4:30 PM!  My sister Diane gives us a tour of their new home and then we settle in by the fireplace with munchies and catch up on the news.  Prime rib is on the barbeque and by 7:00 PM we are digging into large baked potatoes, green salad, and prime rib.  Very good.  The dinner knives would do a pirate proud.  Big and sharp and serrated.  Perfect!  We don't visit these folks often enough!

December 22

A leisurely get up in the morning and Del and I drive to the bagel store.  Del picks out a big bag with great variety.
Back to the house for bagels and coffee.

We leave around 10:00 AM, get on I-580, and follow the herd up and over Altamont Pass to I-5 for the long grind south.  A beautiful sunny day.  I follow a semi and keep it at 61 mph  The truck has cruise control.  I don't.
We stop at our secret rest stop by the Firebaugh off ramp and have sandwiches.


Back on the freeway for a few more hours of driving  to Buttonwillow and the turn-off for Bakersfield.  Lots of traffic.  We stop at Harbor Freight and Garbage so I can shop in my favorite store.  I buy a stretchy type tow strap, a roll of non-skid mat, and a foot powered tire pump.
$14 bucks!  Perfect!

Back to the traffic, into Bakersfield, and hop on Highway 99 heading south.  In a short distance the off ramp for 58 East arrives, we take it and head for Tehachapi.  When we reach the pass there is snow on the hills where the wind generators are located but soon we are over the pass and dropping down to Mojave.  We stop at Denny’s and have "merican" food; chicken fried steak for Lolli; I have the turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and salad.  Burp!

 Leaving Mojave it is way past dark and time to call it a day.  We drive east until I see "Two Hills" back lit by the lights of Lancaster.
We turn off the freeway and, after dodging some water puddles (the desert flowers should be awesome this spring), find a level spot and park.

 December 24… Christmas Eve Day.

Frost on the windows and 28 degrees!  The sun clears the horizon at 7:00 AM.  I start the bus, turn on the front and rear heaters, and crawl back into bed.  Soon it is warm enough to get up, get dressed, and make coffee.  I go for a walk looking for my dog Sarah's grave.  (She was hit by a car near here during Spring Break).  It becomes apparent we are not parked near it.  Lolli is sure it is back towards Mojave.  We pack up and drive towards Mojave.  We become convinced we are getting too close to Mojave so we turn around.  Lolli remembers there was a telephone pole beside the turn-off road.  There are no telephone poles for a ways but then they show up and soon Lolli says “this is it”.  I turn off and it looks right.  I turn again and there it is.  We get out and walk around.  Right away we find the blanket I had wrapped Sarah in when we buried her.  It is snagged on sagebrush and blowing in the wind and then we see her dog dish, right where we left it, next to a hole in the ground.  Coyotes have dug her up.

Well, what’s there to say.  She got recycled through coyotes.  I’m fine with that.  Dust to dust.  Dog to dog.
Good ol' Sarah, our traveling, desert, dog.  What an ending.

On to Barstow.  We stop at a Wally Mart and buy the last small propane barbeque grill in their stock (my one at home died of rust).  What they have is not exactly what I want but close enough.  Lolli buys it for me for my Christmas present.  Then over to Von’s to stock up on chicken, rib eye steaks, potatoes, salad makings, and wine plus some other odd and ends.  We are now prepared to face the wilderness! 

Onto I-15 to join the thundering herd of SUVs heading for Las Vegas.  I have a cache waypoint loaded for the ZZYZX turnoff and after about an hour of driving we take the off ramp, find the cache, check out the goodies, and log in.  There is another cache on ahead by Baker a half hour away.  We find that one too and then go into Baker to the Mad Greek for Latte’s to go.

Latte’s in hand we leave the rush of I-15 and set a more sane pace for Tecoupa.

Arriving in Tecoupa we go right to the hot springs and take a dip.  Perfect as always but it is dark by the time we are through so we drive to the duck pond behind Tecoupa and call it a night. The duck pond is not very scenic but since it is already dark out, who cares.
We break out the wine and "snackage"  read our books and soon it is time to fire up my new grill.  On go the rib eye steaks, Lolli whipping up the trimmings.  Merry Christmas!! 

December 25, 2002


The break of dawn with the sun coming over the hill.  23 degrees!  I discover the solar shower bag is solid ice!  I start the bus and turn on the front and rear heaters.  Soon it is warm enough to make coffee and breakfast.

 We pack up.  I talk Lolli into driving so I can sit in the passenger seat with my high technology toys; my new laptop with my GPSr plugged in and turned on.  I have TopoUSA software loaded in the laptop and so I can see where the "Grand Canyon of Tecoupa" cache is located and what road we need to take to get there.  We leave Tecoupa looking for the "West Talc Road", me telling Lolli where to go (have to be careful about that), and soon we start closing in.

Interesting canyon.  A big erosion feature in an area that gets about one inch of rain per year!  Talk about patience!

We find the cache, log in, and decide to continue on down the West Talc road and see if we can get to the Dummont Dunes.  After about ten miles the road enters a narrow sandy wash.  We chickened out, turn around and, stop at another wash to cut up a couple dead cottonwood branches with my buck saw for future firewood enjoyment. 

On the way back to Tecoupa we check out the China Garden Date Farm.  It is at the end of a very interesting two mile drive down a wash through an area where gypsum mining happened in 1915.  A cave-in killed two miners in 1918 and the operation closed down.  The date farm area was developed by a Chinaman to produce fruit and vegetables for the miners.  He disappeared for some "unexplained" reason and a guy named Morrison moved in, claimed the place, and actually ended up owning it!  Those days are gone and now it is a date farm, bed and breakfast, tourist spot.


Out of there and, since I only have half a tank of gas left, we head for Shoshone to see if the gas station and market are open on Christmas day. 

They are!  Gas is $2.29.9 for regular!  I buy $22.50 worth.  Glad I was only half a tank low! 

Back past Tecoupa and on down to the turn off to Death Valley.  We are in search of another cache.  I turn the driving over to Lolli again and use my laptop and GPSr to find the correct turn off to the cache.  The road on my laptop screen no longer exists but in the real world we pass a road that looks somewhat traveled.  I take over the driving and we give it a try.  Up and up the alluvial fan we go.  We arrive at a place where the trail turns and goes down a wash.  We stop and walk on ahead to see if it is do-able.  It is mostly loose gravel but it compacts pretty well so we decide to press on.  Back to the bus and carefully down the wash we go.

 After half a mile we come out into an opening and there is a cabin!
We pull up and no one is home... except us!!

 We park and look around.  The cabin is clean and stocked with odds and ends.  Very interesting.  Bunk bed and single bed with pillows and covers!  Wood stove, kerosene lamp, table and three chairs, containers of water, books, candles, pots and pans, dishes, knives, forks,
spoons, barbeque tongs, First Aid kit!


I find a log book and read some of the entries.   I discover Bob and Ward are responsible for keeping the cabin standing.

Their philosophy is posted on the wall.

We go for a walk and find the cache about a quarter mile down a wash and up on the hillside.  It is an ammo can.
I log in and exchange some goodies.

 Back to the cabin with the sun going down behind the Panamint Range.  We start a camp fire,
pull over the big rocking chairs from the cabin deck, and enjoy the evening.

We barbeque chicken and do the mashed potato salad thing.  Perfect. 

Tomorrow we will hike up the canyon.  I plan to go into a mine we spotted.

Lolli is not interested in no mine exploration!

 December 26th

 The sun clears the hill at 7:30 AM.  Blue skies.  The solar shower bag is not frozen.  With the sun on the side of the Vanagon the interior starts warming up nicely.  I make coffee and we sit around and read.  I check the outhouse.



I hike into the mine and discover it is only 100 paces deep.  Straight and level.  It does have an interesting incised cut along one wall.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would go to all that trouble to make that slot and, for what.


The temperature in the mine is 70 degrees!! 

Lolli and I hike up a road that gives us a nice view of the cabin, our Vanagon, and the surrounding terrain.


We return to read our respective novels and "do" lunch.  A busy day!  We decide to stay three more days if no one shows up to claim the place.  Current thinking is we will go to Las Vegas Monday to scope it out and get our marriage license.

 I repair one of the chairs in the cabin with glue and deck screws.  Ward had left a note saying that it needed fixing
and he didn’t have his tools with him.

Now it is 4:45 PM and we are well into shade and it is getting cool out.  We fire up the barrel stove in the cabin
and have dueling laptops!  Lolli is working on her calendar for her classes and I am writing this.

 December. 27 

8:00 AM I get up and start our coffee.  11:30 AM we go for a walk.  We find the vertical mine shaft that is mentioned in the cabin log book.  The shaft is rather scary to get close to because of the loose dirt.  We toss a rock down the shaft and it doesn't take long to hit bottom.  Later I tie a small empty propane tank onto a nylon line, toss it into the hole, let it hit bottom, and then mark the line.  I pull it back out, measure the line, and discover the mine shaft is only 31.5 feet deep.  Still, that is deeper than I am tall!

We hike up a canyon and after a while come to a saddle that gives us the possibility to cross over into another watershed drainage.  We decide to give it a try and follow the new canyon back down towards what, we are sure, will  be our original route.  Sure enough, we are right, but in the process we end up walking through a very interesting narrow canyon that has two water cut tunnels in narrow places!  We have to climb up and over. Excellent!

Back at camp we have a rousing game of Petanque.  I win the first game and Lolli wins the second.  The play-off will be tomorrow.

About mid afternoon two pick-up trucks with two guys each come by the cabin and stop to talk.  Obviously they want to stay but we were here first!  They are geology students and already know about this cabin.  Soon they head off to another cabin.
They tell us there are eight cabins around the area. 

In the evening two older guys show up in a Blazer.  They are from Sacramento and both are pilots.  Evidently they flew into Shoshone
and are out just banging around.  They sign the guest book, wish us good evening, then mosey on.

 Time for our evening fire.

 Soon a Kit Fox shows up.


Lolli gets the left over chicken bones from the night before and tosses them out.  Sure enough, the Kit Fox comes back.
He/she moves quietly and smoothly using silent, fast moving, steps.  As ephemeral as smoke.

 We move into the cabin to cook our tacos on the wood stove.  The wood stove is a fifty-five gallon barrel but it sure puts out the heat.

 An excellent day all round.  Clear skies.  Small winds.  Kit Fox.  Absolutely silent out.

 December 28, 2002 

Another bright clear morning with the sun warming us.  We are really getting into the groove of lying around and reading our books until almost 11:00 AM.  Then up and off for a walk-about.  Oatmeal happens somewhere between coffee and walk.

 In the afternoon we play our third Petanque game and I win.  Later in the day we play another game and I win that one too!  We hike up the road and find more firewood.   Clouds move in and it cools off but our evening is spectacular with the setting sun shining on the bottom of the clouds.

We have our evening campfire and open the bottle of Champagne from Ginger.  After a while we move into the cabin and Lolli cooks up
our dinner taco.  We are talking about moving on tomorrow.  Maybe hit the hot tubs in Tecoupa.  Lolli wants to buy groceries in Pahrump.

On to part two of this gripping story.


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