Winter Break 2000
December 18 we blast off after final gift wrapping, dish washing, house cleaning, and Lolli makes her last run to the College, studio, Post Office and drops her car off at the service station. We are finally on the road at 2:10 pm, except....
I had forgotten
the doggie water service station and also that I had some checks to
sign back in Elk for The Greenwood Watershed Association. So, back to
Elk. Sign the checks, zip up the hill to dingy hovel, I grab the doggy
water dispenser, check my e-mail; 70 messages even though I signed off
the Vanagon list. Lolli calls her mom and finally,
Over the coastal range and down into Ukiah. Perfect. Lolli has a package that needs to be dropped off at Holly and Rogers so up State Street we go. Many stop lights. Suddenly the tranny doesn't want to shift into first gear! Oh oh!
The next light is even worse and even shifting into second is a problem. I pull over and check the fluid reservoir. It is full!!
We limp on to Holly and Rogers and shut it off in their driveway.
They are not home.
But Holly's mom is and soon I call Doug and Jan to find out the name of that repair place on State Street. Doug tells me and also mentions that he and Jan are having a staff Christmas Party at Earthenware Pottery; "Come on down".
I call the repair place, "Bulldog/Marathon". They have the clutch master cylinder and the slave cylinder. "Come by at 8:00 in the morning" and they will try to fit me in.
Lolli and I walk to Doug and Jan's Earthenware pottery studio and are treated to a catered fiesta of ham, roast, scalloped potatoes, salad, dessert and wine. So far, not bad!! After dinner their girls, Allison and Alana, play the cello and violin.
Back to Holly and Roger's for a visit and then off to sleep in the bus in their carport. Down around 38 degrees at night.
Up at 7:00 for coffee with Holly and Roger and then a shower. Over to Bulldog at 8:00 am. I get the paper work done and now, at 9:10 am, I am sitting in my bus writing this and waiting for an opening in their tight schedule.
Finally they start in and discover that it is the Brake Master cylinder that is leaking. They replace it and bleed the brakes.
I don't understand how that affects shifting but after the Vanagon is put back together we take it for a drive and it shifts fine. One time in reverse it grinds gears but, other than that...
I go pick up Lolli at Earthenware Potters where we have a lunch of left overs from the feast from the night before. We finally hit the road, roar out highway 20 to Williams. Down I-5 at 75 mph and arrive in Bakersfield in time for a Basque dinner at 9:30 pm. Chalet Basque. Perfect.
After dinner we hop over Tehachapi and down to Mojave and then about five miles east on 58 to "Two Hills" and my turnoff for a night. It is 11:00 pm.
Up in the morning and, while walking around, I find an interesting small bush that looks Christmas tree shaped. We put it in the coffee cup on my dashboard.
I look at the map and realize I have to retrace five miles back to Mojave and take 14 South to Palmdale to drop off my cracked exhaust header at Hobert Kennedy's. They had sent me a replacement and I am returning my old one. We arrive around 10:30 am and greet Hobert, David, Susan et, all. I have a spare Subaru oil pan I picked up in Seattle with me and by golly they are ready to modify it while I wait. Great!
I visit and look around and take pictures while they work on my spare oil pan, cutting and welding and brazing. I end up having the second pan conversion they have made. The first was returned because of a problem with the alignment of the oil return, so mine is actually the first one!!
Here, Hobert Kennedy himself drills the hole for the dip stick location in my new oil pan.
Around 4 pm the pan is done and I am all set. I don't install it yet but instead toss it in the back of the bus and hit the road for Boron. Lolli has a bad head cold. She had been fighting it off for about a week but now that she is on vacation she let it out of the bag. She slept all afternoon in the bus while I farted around at Kennedy's.
We got directions from Jim, one of the employees at Kennedy's, about how to cut over to Barstow and off we go. After I was well into the drive I realized I was almost out of gas! We limped on and I made a wrong turn and ended up at a sentry post guarding a missile launch site east of Lake Edwards Air Force Base. The guard politely asked us to turn around and about two mile back down the road we found the turn off to 58 and the road to Boron.
We arrived at Boron on fume's and found an interesting looking Mexican Restaurant. I dropped Lolli off and went looking for a gas station. I found it and it was one of those old original gas stations. I asked the attendant if it fronted the original highway. It had.
Back to the restaurant, Domingos, for a most wonderful dinner of shrimp enchiladas and Margaritas. If you are ever passing through Boron, check it out. Excellent!
After our repast we load back up and press on to Kramer Junction. Turn south and drive as far as it takes to get on the south side of a hill so we will wake to early morning sunlight. We find a side road, pull off a ways and set up camp. Lolli and the dog go right to bed. I am writing this and drinking Pepper Vodka! Perfect!
We sleep from 7 till 7! Get up to a clear sunrise and hit the road at 8:30. About six miles back to Kramer Junction and then east to Barstow. When we arrive we stock up on groceries at Von's. Then hop on to I-15 heading for Las Vegas among the Cadillac's, SUV's and tour busses. We turn off at Baker and settled into a more civilized mode of travel. Lolli bought Latte's and Gyro's at the Mad Greek's and north we go. We stop at a playa and set up our picnic table, folding chairs, and sun shade and have lunch.
After lunch I talk Lolli into taking photos of my high speed runs across the playa with my Subie/Vanagon even though she still isn't feeling well.
Then on to Tecopa and the hot springs. We freshen up and take a soak. Lolli comes out feeling much better.
Off to Shoshone and gas top off and post cards and I find a good history book about Death Valley.
North to the turn off to Badwater and up and over Jubilee Pass and down into Death Valley. At the bottom we turn off onto the gravel "Walker Road" and head south. Miles and miles of gravel and sand and, after we cross the dry Amaragosa River, washboard. We pass the turn off to Owls Head Valley and finally arrive at the turn off to Saratoga Springs.
We drive out to the springs but the sign there said "No over-night camping". We retrace our route back to the turn off and go on up the hill to where we have camped previously; years past. Find our spot and called it a day.
We finish our left-overs from the Mad Greek and settle into the wine and our most recent books. I fire up my Coleman heater. Perfect!
The brown shirts of the National Park service are making inroads on folks like us. No driving off the main roads! They have graded the roads deep forming a gravel shoulder which makes turning off almost impossible and the berm would leave evidence if you tried. The original old roads that wandered off into the desert have blocks across them saying "Road closed"!
Because of this we see no fire rings beside the road and almost no trash. The place is much cleaner since they have gotten rid, or discouraged, cheap campers like us. The end of another era. I guess all travelers to Death Valley are suppose to stay at the lodge!
Direct sunshine arriving over the range at 7:30. 40 degrees.
So, what did we do?
Lolli slept in and is feeling better. I went for a walk and found items to decorate my Christmas tree.
I had found this short weird bush back in Mojave the first morning. It sort of had the right shape. Now I decided to decorate it. After finding bits of rock, "twist keys" from old sardine cans, and broken pottery I set up the table and got out my tube of Goop and some thread from Lolli's sewing kit and went to work. I glued thread to the "ornaments" and then glued them to the "tree". Soon I had to go for another walk to find more bits. There was a talc mine up the hill behind where we are camped and over the years trash from the employee shacks has washed out and down the canyon. Lots of tin cans, broken bottles, broken plates, and so on. I found bits of Milk of Magnesia glass, orange glass, blue glass, white glass and green glass. I found a perfect rusty can to hold the Christmas tree and filled it with talc to hold the tree in place. I found part of a rodent skull and a wee jaw bone. Yesterday Lolli found a star shaped tea ball at a Salvation Army in Palmdale and I am using that as the top star on my tree. Oh yeah, a couple nice dried, bleached, pieces of coyote scat!
It is looking pretty good.
In the afternoon we walked across the valley floor to the Ibex sand dunes. We got there as the sun started to set. They were spectacular and, of course, I didn't have my camera. We decided then that we must stay another day and capture the sand dunes tomorrow. The pattern and light play is wonderful.
Evening found us barbecuing chicken, mashing potatoes and eating green salad. Another bottle of wine bit the dust. Lolli is almost done with her first book and I am starting on "Death Valley and the Amargosa", a book I bought in Shoshone at the museum. A bit more Pepper Vodka and I am off to bed.
Well, I have caught Lolli's cold. I didn't have to run very far! Fortunately she is over hers and I should be also in about three days.
We walked up to the talc mine and looked around. Everything has been bulldozed and buried except for the impressive open pit talc mine itself. I walked on higher looking for the tanks that are shown on the DeLorme map. I found part of a tank pushed into a ravine along with two vehicles. That might have been the spot. The vehicles were 1940 vintage.
We returned to base camp with more bits for my evolving Christmas tree. I worked on that some and then put up my awning and then strung up the Crayola Christmas lights Margaret and Dan gave us for Christmas. Pretty swell. We took off at 2:00 pm for the sand dunes and arrived after a forty minute walk. We could have made it in thirty minutes but we were still walking with our nose to the ground. It is so hard not to collect rocks!
We walked the dunes and took pictures as the sun headed down. Surprisingly, Red Rug, the dog formerly known as Sarah, came along for the walk. Earlier walks she would come along part way but give up and head back to her blankie. This time, since she slept through our walk to the talc mine, I guess she was more up for it. Anyway, a three mile round trip for Red Rug these days is notable.
In the evening we had our first campfire with fir logs I had brought from the coast. Had a nice campfire and wine and munchie session and then Lolli cooked up dinner. The Christmas lights and the fading evening light with the mountains silhouetted against the sky was wonderful.
I start and run the bus for a half hour each day to keep the battery charged up. We are using the coffee bean grinder in the morning and the interior lights, computer, and now, Christmas lights in the evening.
Tomorrow is Christmas eve.
Lazy get up and farted around. I felt worse although we did walk up the road to see where the Bronco got stuck. The afternoon before two guys came through in a 4X4 Bronco with wide tires and returned about four hours later. They had gotten stuck in the sand a couple of miles further up the road. Later someone zipped by in a Chevy in a big hurry, about dark. They never stopped to talk.
Anyway, we walked up the road to see the tail. We saw the tracks where the Bronco blew it and got stuck. The Chevy tracks went right on through. That was our walk of about 4 miles round trip. When we got back I was at the height of my cold and elected to have Lolli's special chicken soup instead of Steak for my Christmas dinner. Then fell into bed. But, then a little fox showed up and I wound up taking pictures of him/her.
We looked in my desert book and although we think he is a Kit fox the desert book says only the gray fox lives in this area. He is only about the size of Lolli's cat!
(Later, when I got home, I looked "Kit Fox" up on Yahoo and discovered that he was indeed a Kit Fox.)
Off to bed. About one in the morning the wind kicked up and we finally decided to take down my shade awning. Then a bit later I got back up and lowered the pop top. In the morning I discovered my model rocket kit was blown out over the desert. I found everything except the parachute and the instructions.
When we walked up to see where the Bronco got stuck yesterday Lolli and I noticed the Ibex Spring off in the distance. Through the binoculars I could see palm trees and buildings. So, today we packed up and drove up to the stuck spot, parked the bus and dog and went for a walk across the desert to the Ibex Springs. It took us an hour and a half to walk the estimated three miles. We were rather whipped by the time we got there and rather dreaded the return trip.
About a third of the travel across the desert was across what we call Land Mines, "Prairie dog towns", where you sink in about every third step. The other bad area was across a bunch of washes that were quite bouldery. Anyway, we finally arrived and looked at the remains of some buildings and the palm trees. No surface water was found. We rested a bit and slogged back to the bus. We were whipped but felt great accomplishment.
Drove back to our old camping spot.
We opened a celebratory can of peaches and then followed that with salmon on crackers with wine. Later we did the grilled steaks with mashed potato and cabbage salad and wine then fell into bed by 7:00!!
I was up by 6:30. About 50 degrees out but soon time to load up and head for the Tecopa hot springs and then groceries at Baker.
A red throated
humming bird visited just before we pulled out!! Where does he find
enough nectar to
We left at 9:30
and was in the hot tubs in an hour and a half. We then had breakfast
in Tecopa and
Then down the hill to Baker. What a zoo, the gas stations were packed with people waiting in line and so was the market and the Mad Greek. It took about an hour to get out of that mess and then we crossed the freeway and zoomed off into the vast wilderness again. One quarter of a mile away from that crush of humanity and we were back in the vast wilderness!
South to Kelso and then over the next range to a place with interesting looking Joshua Tree type rocks. We found a turn off and drove out a ways. Lolli and the dog elected to do some walking and so I dropped them off and drove on looking for our spot. I found a turnoff and parked and walked down to take a look. The trail went down to a fire ring with Juniper trees on either side. Lots of big rocks all around. A much lusher desert than we have been in since we arrived in Mojave. I walked back to the bus but Lolli and the dog had not yet arrived. I walked back the road to meet them. I didn't see them and didn't see them. I thought I saw Lolli's tracks but they were going the wrong way??
Finally I see them coming. Turns out we had doggie insubordination! The dog had gone so far and then decided that I was somehow behind her and would not walk further. Lolli hadn't noticed at first and when she did the dog was hot footing it for the highway!! Lolli caught up with her and tried to turn her around and herd her along but it was slow going! Then I showed up and she finally saw me and then all was well! Doggie Hymers!!
Anyway, now we are down amongst the Junipers and life is good!
Up to a cold morning, the doggie water had a frozen skim of ice on it.
Soon the sun arrived and it was quite nice. I worked on the Christmas tree some more. Then we went for a walk on up the road and finally arrived at a fenced off area. It was a study area for U.C. something. We turned around and Lolli walked the canyon and I walked the road with the doggie because there were jumping cholla all around.
The place really looked like Joshua Tree. We decided to pack up because we were in too high a desert for the right temperature. I decided to head south. Away we went down through an immense valley and up over another ridge and then down to Hwy 40. Across that and down to Cadiz.
There were a bunch of metal signs saying Cadiz but we never found the town. The Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe though. We had lunch at a road juncture and then decided to take the Cadiz road south. Gravel washboard. 22 miles per hour through endless boring vast wilderness. We finally arrived at a ruined town after 16 miles that I think was a quartz processing area.. We explored the ruins and then drove up to the Quartz mine which was about a half mile up a hill, found a nice parking spot with a great overlook of the valley to the southeast and called it a day.
We poked around and then Lolli did some computer work on her lecture and I built a fire. In the late afternoon a motor home was spotted coming up the road from the south. I watched him arrive for about 40 minutes! They pulled off onto the road to the mine but didn't go very far. We had a wonderful evening with 65 degree temperatures.
Dinner time. Spaghetti!
I happened to spot a freight train going south at 4:00 in the morning.
Up at 6:00 and sun breaking over the hill at 6:50. A leisurely day and a walk about. Two trains. One coming up the hill; four engines and 58 cars and later four engines and 38 empties going south. Arizona/California on the Acheson Topeka Santa Fe tracks. They sound their horn as they pass the ruin town even though no one lives there anymore!
Another evening campfire. My cold is finally winding down. Almost 80 during the day and 45 at night. No wind. Perfect.
I spot a truck coming up the road around six in the morning. It did not turn off to the mine but kept on going. Being in such a remote location makes any traffic notable!!
Beautiful sunrise and no clouds. We decided to pack up and move on. It did indeed turn out to be 32 miles from our mine site to highway 58 as I had estimated by looking at the map. Lots of washboard and a few sandy spots. When we reached the blacktop we could turn right to 29 Palms or left to Vidal. We headed for Vidal.
Along the way we come across this lone tree beside the road that folks have hung shoes on. Hundreds of shoes!!
On to Vidal. Once there we stop for breakfast but it is 11:30 and they have switched to lunch. Okay. Hamburgers it is. Then south to Blythe for shopping.
We arrive in Blythe and buy gas, groceries and a new power inverter. I killed mine yesterday when I reached to turn it off after using the computer and a static electric spark zapped it!! We had been getting static sparks when we touched the bus now and then in this dry desert but the shock to the case of the inverter killed it!!
Shack had two models, one about 100 watts and the other around 250.
The lady said that the auto parts store across the lot had them also
and so I went and took a look. They had a 700 watt inverter for
$98.00!! I bought it! I also bought some mounting screws. Lolli did
the Post Office and we tried to buy a battery for her
We're outta here.
We went west a bit and then took 78 south. Unfortunately this road will take us to Glamis but, oh well. We can swing around and come up the east side of the Salton Sea.
We found a turn off to a place before Glamis called Walt's camp and drove down it towards the Colorado river. After about 10 miles we came to a developed camp beside the Colorado with a bunch of motorhomes and gobs of folks ripping around on four wheelers and dirt bikes. Not! We turned around and rattled back a ways until we found a wash, took it and parked beside some trees and scrub brush.
Lolli took a walk and I installed the power inverter. Now the computer is back up and running and we sit here as the sun sets, drinking our wine, eating chips and listen to a hoot owl off in the distance. Perfect.
Almost. I forgot to mention weird dog behavior. The dog has had a sore right front foot and is limping quite a bit. But, she also seems to be getting more and more doggie Alzheimer's. Today, when we stopped to take a picture of that lone tree with a gob of shoes tied on it the dog wandered across the busy highway to visit some guys who were over by the train tracks! I had to go over to get her. Then, on the way back she thought their white van was ours! Jeez!
Then, this afternoon, while driving along she fell off the bench seat into my Christmas tree and broke a couple of branches trying to get back up!!
Up to another sunny morning.
We heard an owl last evening and then geese coming in for the lake sanctuary. It sounded like a couple landed short in the dirt. They carried on for a while and those on the lake put up quite a racket but I guess it was too dark for them to fly on and find the lake. This morning they started hollering at one another again and this time the land geese joined those on the lake.
We decided to move on. Packed up and headed for Glamus! Oh boy. Gobs of campers pulling trailers loaded with dirt bikes and dune buggies on the highway. When we passed Glamus there must have been several thousand folks there. Huge camps of motorhomes, dune buggies and dirt bikes ripping up the dunes.
Miles of them. Dust flying. Once past that we reached the outskirts of Brawley and turned north to go up the eastern side of Salton Sea. Lots of Santa Fe train traffic up that side. We stopped for lunch beside the lake at a State Camp area and watched the birds, Pelicans, Sea gulls and loons. One train with 3 engines was pulling 124 cars!
I had thought we would find our place somewhere above the lake up a road towards a mine I saw on our map but we missed the road.
Soon we were leaving the lake and there was nothing for it but to press on to Hwy 10 and then head west. We took the turnoff on 62 for Yucca Valley. We decided to go to Pioneer Town and camp out past it. We went past Pioneer Town and could see that Pappy and Harriet's bar and restaurant was still in business. We decided we will do New Years dinner there but this evening... Onward.
We drove to the area where we have camped in the past but it is now all marked off as a wilderness area. We tried a few other roads but either they went to existing houses or more wilderness areas. Finally we drove back to our original camping area and then further on up the road. The road turned to soft sand and started to get worse. I was wondering how I would get turned around when we suddenly came upon a turnout and a bit of a rise. I whipped up onto that and we stopped. It's right beside the road but is good enough! There shouldn't be much traffic.
So far, in an hour and a half, four motorcycles, two trucks, one sedan and one jeep!! Oh well!
New Years eve 2001
Well, it was a quiet night with only a bit of traffic. Sun broke not too late because it was shining right up the valley. We did a short walk down the canyon, following an old one inch pvc pipe someone had put in a while back. We didn't follow it up to it's source but rather followed it down. It finally went underground and probably under the road to some house on the other side. In the afternoon I finished my book and Lolli caught up on computer stuff. We had showers and prepared for our evening at Pappy and Harriet's. We loaded up and rattled down the hill around 4:00. Arrived in Pioneer Town to find that Pappy and Harriet's was closed. But there were people inside. Turned out they were getting ready for New Years Eve but they were booked for a private dinner. The bar would be open though.
We had parked behind the place and asked some other people, who looked like they were camping there, what the deal was. They said that the white haired lady at the motel was charging $12.00 to park and $12.00 for hook-ups!
We decided to walk the town. Up one street and down another. There was one large closed up building that had a for sale sign out front.
We decided to move the bus around behind it and try spending the night there; within walking distance of all the expected activity and the night coming on.
So. Here we are. 5:00 PM on the eve of the new year. I'm having a beer, Lolli is having a glass of wine and doggie is looking at the way back.
Oh, during our walk today Lolli discovered what it was I had made my Christmas tree out of! It is the dried flower stock of a Joshua Tree!! Lolli found one laying below a Joshua Tree and we looked up at the tree and sure enough! That's it!
And, by the way, my new power inverter seems to use much less battery to run the computer and grind the coffee beans!
We ended up doing New Year's Eve at the bowling alley in Pioneer town. We actually stayed up past midnight. Dancing and bowling!!
The Pioneer Town Bowling Alley was built in 1947 along with the town. The town was built by a movie studio from Hollywood to shoot western films. The bowling alley was built for something for the cast and crew to do between shoots. It has Brunswick bowling equipment and it turns out that this equipment is the longest, continually used, Brunswick Bowling equipment in the world! Roy Rogers threw the first ball and rumor has it that it was a strike! There are photos in the bar of that event.
We dance between frames every time a "two step" came up on the Juke
January 1, 2001
We left in the morning at 9:00 am.
Back to civilization!!
Stuck in traffic on Interstate 5 at 4:00 pm!!
We hopped on I-5 west of Bakersfield, beating feet for home, and was locked into bumper to bumper traffic ripping along at 75 to 80 miles per hour. When we were almost to Los Banos all the brake lights came on and everything came to a stop. I flipped on the CB and soon discovered that there had been a fatal accident about a mile up the highway. We sat there for an hour and a half before they started traffic single file past the body.
Ah civilization, it's so good to be back!
Finally we arrived in Dublin at my Sister and Brother-in law's. Had a great dinner and conversation and fell into bed.
Up in the morning and back in Mendocino at 2:00 pm in the afternoon.
What a trip! 2,200 miles round trip.
My Subaru powered Vanagon averaged 19 miles to the gallon whether driving 75 miles per hour on the freeway or 20 miles per hour on wash board roads. Perfect!
We discover that the weather in Mendocino had been lovely all the time we were gone!