Ed and Suzanne drove down from Olympia, Washington. Pete
and Mary, Lolli and I drove over from Fort Bragg, California to met near Davis,
California for the start of our Annual Spring Break. We are all driving
Volkswagen Vanagons. Our first evening camp site was near the Yolo County
Saturday, April 19th we spend our traditional hours of driving
south on Interstate 5 to the Arvin turn-off south of Bakersfield. Then
east to Tehachapi Pass, on to Mojave and then a quick stop at the grave of my
good old desert dog Sarah to add a tennis ball to her dog dish. The tennis
ball that had been there was missing the last time we visited. We had our
last dinner in civilization at Domingos in Boron. We holed up off Hiway 58
for the night.
The next morning was our traditional stop at Von's in Barstow
for final shopping for groceries, ice and gas. Then we stopped to visit some
interesting sights Suzanne had noted in some Bill Mann books. One of them
was this geolyth in the desert along side Highway 15. Supposedly made by
Indians years ago.
To get to the geolyth we had to go around some signs that
happened to be in our way. After we found the geolyth we stopped and posed
for this photo on our return to I-15!!
Further up I-5 we checked out another area that had Indian
sleeping circles and a metate.
By evening we were camped near the lava tube in the East
Mojave Wilderness. Ed and Suzanne, Lolli and I are taking Pete and Mary to
some of our favorite desert places. A remarkable sunset in progress.
As the sun set it revealed the Tehachapi mountains. We just
got through enjoying that experience only to turn around and discover what was
happening behind us!!
Full moon rise! Wow! What an evening!!
Monday morning we set off on a group hike to inspect the
Petroglyphs and Pictographs. Along the way I spotted this desert Jack
holding very still so I wouldn't see him! Note the flowers! Our
timing was perfect!
And a ground squirrel, I think!
We arrive and marvel at all the Indian symbology.
An amazing place.
In the process we spooked an owl. I think it is a
Returning to camp we visited the Lave Tube. Shafts of sunlight
illuminating the cavern.
And then it was time to assemble the rocket.
Ed and I carry the assembled rocket, launch pad, transmitter
and receiver out to the launch site.
A goodly distance away from camp I attach the wires to the
electrical fuses of the cluster of three F-20 engines.
Returning to camp we gather in the launch control and visitor
center. We have a group sing of the Star Spangled Banner followed by a
count-down of ten. nine, eight.......etc. and....
we have "Lift Off!!
After about twenty minutes of ground search we find the
remains and return them to camp.
A NTSB analysis conducted by Ed and myself determine that one
motor failed to fire. Also the recovery system had failed to deploy.
That meant there was nothing left to do but build another rocket out of the
And here it is, cobbled out of bits and pieces and a paper
towel tube. After the third try it finally took off and did wild gyrations
in the sky before straightening out and giving a decent flight.
The recovery system deployed and everything was found except
the nose cone.
All that nonsense out of the way we were able to settle down
to some serious desert Petanque!
In the morning we hit the road to Baker, CA for some gas and
groceries, then continued on to our second favorite spot, Rhoades Cabin, or, is
it McGurks!! Pete, Mary, Ed and myself climbed the large hill to the south
of the cabin. The above photo is of our Vanagons and the cabin taken from
the top of the hill using a 40X telephoto.
It was a two and a quarter hour hike to reach the top of that
hill, Yippee!! and the views were terrific! You can see a five foot tall
cairn behind us.
A half hour of rest while consuming peanuts, tangerines and
water is one of the nicest things in the world!
During the walk down I spotted this tiny blooming cacti.
Each cactus about the diameter of a golf ball.
Pete had a great eye for spotting lizards and pointed this one
out to me..
Back in camp we had another wonderful dinner and another round
of Petanque. We decided to set the alarm clock for 5:00 the next morning
and try to get to Badwater before sunrise; a drive of about 40 miles!! Ed
and Suzanne woke at five and put the song, "Eugene"
by The Pink Martinis into their CD player to roust the rest of us. What a
great way to wake up, in the dark, in the desert. Perfect!!
The "way too early drive" was worth it and we were treated to a
magical dawning of the day; Pete, Mary and Lolli walking out on the playa 282
feet below sea level, 11,045 foot tall Telescope Peak in the left distance.
And then it was time to push on to the last place on our "show
and tell" list, the Alabama Hills.
Along the way I had us stop at Panamint Springs Resort to
admire the gas station sign!!
Another "required" stop is this lookout on the west side of
And finally, our campsite in the Alabama Hills
at the foot of the Sierras.
The next morning we experienced another awesome sunrise and
Such a magical place.
The cacti were in full bloom
In fact you could not walk without stepping on flowers!
Pete and Ed experiment with some high altitude Petanque!
And then, as in all things, it came time for our final evening
Saturday morning we said our "fair wells" and then had
the parting of the ways at the city park near Lee Vining.
Next year will be, or may be, our 20th Annual Spring Break!
Here's the link to
"Eugene" by the Pink Martinis.
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