Monday, March 28, 2016

What are THESE?!

We arrived in Joshua Tree National Park in the afternoon, soon enough to go for a hike. I stayed home, but everyone else went. So we're looking around at the visitors center, and we have no IDEA what a Joshua tree looks like. We figured out that the campground there is full, and that there is some BLM overflow, just a few minutes away. We also learned that a Joshua tree is a kind of yucca, but we would know them when we saw them. The next day, we learned that that is very, very true. The trees look a bit like some thing out of a Dr. Seuss book, but you'll have to see for yourself.
 Here are some we saw while climbing rocks. Fun Fact: Mormon pioneers thought the branches looked like Joshua with his arms raised, leading them into the promised land.
 Most of the valleys of the park are covered in them. Fun Fact: The largest tree is about 42 feet tall, and has over 35 branches.
The is the biggest one we saw, not the largest in the park. Fun Fact: The trees are estimated to live over 150 years old.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anza-Borrego Trucking

 After saying hello to PEI Bob, we stopped at the Holtville library, and then groceries in El Centro.  We had some adventures with standing in line with a full load of groceries, and our card not going through.  Fraud alert!  We're not in Michigan again....    Not a big deal, pay with cash and find a bank machine just a few blocks away, and fast wifi to call the card company  (don't want to spend 15 minutes of cell phone minutes on hold....)

Time to start heading north a little bit. The weather cooled off a little, not from going north necessarily, but probably from the big wind blowing in. It was fairly gusty to drive in. On the east side of the state park on S22, there is BLM land called Pegleg and further east is Ocotillo Wells, a big off road vehicle area. Both are all free camping. At Salton City, there's a big gas station with free potable water and dump. We got to Ocotillo Wells later in the day, with another great sunset, and we were all set to stay as long as we wanted.

In the morning we started to explore, and found out where we were. A really cool spot, next to the old hot springs, and the Truckhaven obstacle course.  Truckhaven is a large area of desert badlands, washes and canyons where off road travel is allowed.  I didn't even know either of these were here, what a find for a campsite....

At the end of the next day, I drove around some of the obstacle course.  There are various hills and obstacles all built up.  It was really windy, and when I got out of the truck on top to take a picture, the sand blasted my legs under the truck.  Youch!

We took a big tour around Anza-Borrego for the day, there is a lot available to see and do. The visitor center in Borrego Springs has a nice desert garden and is a great place to ask about the area, ie:  where can we see nice slot canyons? Near the town are numerous steel sculptures, seeing all those could be a day by itself.

The state park has a few slot canyons that are good hikes. We hiked down The Slot from the top, and turned around when it was wide enough for jeeps. Some of the canyons can be driven up from the bottom too, with 4wd.

There are 'roads' or trails through the middle of the park, and I figured it would be the shortest fun and scenic way back home. So we kept going on the road past The Slot, up on top of the canyons.  Great views...

Soon there is a huge sandy pitted step downhill into the canyon. It is labeled one way; by the signage, and my common sense of a stock truck 4wd capability. I took a look on foot and gambled that we could get down with shiny paint, and then have some other way out. All the passengers bailed out, they even took their purses and devices.  Just take it slow and keep the front wheels out of the holes, either bridge them or go to one side.

After the hill, the rest of the route was in washes.  Some areas of deep sand or deep powder dust, but not a problem with just the truck.  And a couple spots to be careful of keeping the paint off the rocks.  It was 10-15 miles back into town.

The next day we went to Palm Slot, and the old Calcite Mine area, pretty close to where we had camped.  We drove up the calcite mine road, and down into Palm Wash, which was a tight steep rocky bouldery downhill.  Fine to go down real slow, some paint risk maybe, and people wanting to get out of the truck.

There was a volunteer led hike up into the same area, and we ended up catching up to the group.  Ted K. told us about the calcite mine area, where veins of calcite were mined especially in WW2, for use in anti-aircraft gun sights.  If you're at state or national parks, please do check out the ranger or volunteer led hikes and talks, they're really worth it.  Palm Slot was really cool too.


After the hike, we went out the wash and followed it all the way back east to Salton City.  We tried a couple times to get over toward the paved S22 road, where it looked like a trail, but there are a couple canyons.  There's probably a path, but with tracks and trails all over, and vistas like this, we stay on the easy sand in the wash.  We climbed up on top of one narrow hilltop, which had all the passengers out again, with hands on hips...

ok, that's enough Dale..

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bob's Desert Cafe

We have been spending the past few days in Holtville, CA at the BLM campsite.  It's a very hot, dry desert, with the wonderful addition of hot springs.  The hot springs area consists of a natural hot shower (wonderful!) and two large concrete tubs, one that's about 4.5 feet deep and very hot, and a smaller one that's a bit more comfortable.  There is also a pond which is cool, but also quite thick and green looking, so we stayed out of it.

Naturally, these hot springs are a great place to meet all kinds of people.  On our first morning, we met two guys from CA who were touring hot springs all the way down into Mexico.  They had a lot of great suggestions, and very generously lent us a guide book to hot springs of the west.  Yesterday evening, after a sweltering day, we went back for a shower and a soak, and we met  a very friendly couple from Massachusetts.  They also had a lot of good information about the area.  As we got talking, we realized that we knew some of the same people--Peter and Bea from Campobello Island, and PEI Bob!  (The RV'ing world is a small community!)  We had stayed with all of these wonderful folks when we were travelling through Canada. They told us that PEI Bob was still in the campground, so after we finished our soak, we headed off to find him.  After just a few minutes of searching, we located him! :)  He was very surprised and happy to see us, and we made a plan to have a cup of coffee with him in the morning for a more substantial visit.

Bob is an exceptionally warm-hearted gentleman, and is famous for having people over for coffee most mornings.  In fact, as we pulled up this morning, two other people were already there, getting the party started!  We weren't surprised, as we had heard stories of "Bob's Cafe."  ("The first cup is free, the second one is the same price!")  We had a great time catching up over muffins, popscicles (this is the desert, people--popscicles are ALWAYS appropriate, no matter what time it is!), and, of course, really good coffee.  After a lot of stories and many hugs, it was time to go.

Dale and I were talking about what makes Bob and a few other people we have met along the way seem so happy and content, and we think it comes down to being filled with gratitude.  Not just for the big things, but also for the smaller things, like having a cuppa joe with long-lost friends in the desert.

We've hit the Cacti

The desert in Arizona seems to be made primarily of rock, spines, and short little trees. That’s the flat part. When you get up into the hills, about 10 miles out of  Tucson, coming from the east, you start to see the saguaro cacti. These are not in any way like the little prickly pears of Texas. These things are HUGE. 
 Some are only ten to fifty years old, and about three to five feet high. The next ‘“level” seems to be the twenty something, one hundred plus years old cacti.

 We hadn’t  seen many yet, as we were driving into Tucson at night.
There’s a little patch of BLM land, called Snyder Hill, that seems to be popular. As we drove up, we some some muted lights, and thought, okay, so we’re not alone. Then we saw a few more in the headlights, making us think, okay, maybe ten. Maybe. In the morning, it turns out we have neighbours, as believed. But we have over thirty of them. The hill was very pretty, and we could see some saguaros in the fields across the road.
We  immediately headed out to explore, shop, and find a library. From what we saw, Tucson is a very pretty city, and it’s very clean. We went to Trader Joe’s, a Starbucks, and an Albertsons, the Wegmans of the west. We were rather, (very) tired when we got home, but kept going out for the next few days. We stayed one night at Saguaro National Park for one night, and then went back to Snyder hill to finish up our time in Tucson.
 Elliot hugging the cacti.
 A really cool church we went and saw, it's called San Xavier Del Bac.
 One of the cool campers we saw in the National Park. I had to drag Daddy away from this one, once we started talking to the owners from Colorado.
We got to go out to lunch, in a little Mexican restaurant that's been there since the fifties.
My mom with some cacti, mostly in the background.
A nice sunset with some saguaros.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bye bye Yuma, welcome to California

We drove out of Painted Rocks early in the cool morning after short bike, and drove across I8 to Yuma.

Did I mention yesterday my luck was running thin? So I got a little education and a nice award to go with it. We're going along I8, nice and easy slow in right lane, and I see a big public library on the left, and the exit for it, right Now. So I exited. Once I'm on the off ramp, I notice, hey there's a friendly police officer behind me. Drive over to the library, and he pulls in with his lights on. Oh well. See he learned me that the dangerous triangular section of pavement by the ramp is called a 'gore', and I done drove on it halfway. $250 and 4 hours of online driver safety class.

Oh well, not bad for all the distance covered thus far, and no actual scrapes with obstacles or handcuffs.

We did a few errands going through Yuma, and happily said bye bye. I finally gave away the old extra propane tank to the guy at the RV park propane station, so he can put a new valve on, repaint, recertify it and sell it. Better than scrapping it.

The Holtville hot springs and BLM area are not too hard to find, and we got set up in a nice little spot in the 14 day area in time for the sunset.  We asked the host at the LTVA if he's seen our friend PEI Bob, but he hadn't heard of him.  We've come all this way, I hope he's still here and we can find him to say hi!

We had time before dark to ride around and explore. The canal takes what is left of the Colorado to the farm fields here and west in the imperial valley.

This morning we rode up to the hot springs along the canal.

We found the usual types at the hot springs; happy, relaxed people. We asked about any other springs they liked. These two guys from northern California are touring hot springs, and headed down to Mexico to see some there. Jason recommended a couple places and showed me his hot springs guidebooks. I start madly photographing California and Nevada pages, and then Jason suggests we borrow it and mail it back later, he only needs the Mexico book for now. Well there you go, welcome to California! Thanks Jason!

The books are:
Great hot springs of the West, by Bill Kaysing
Hot springs and hot pools of the southwest, by Marjorie Gersh-Young   <---  This is the one I'd recommend of the two books, great easy to use maps and descriptions.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Painted Rocks Dam and Petroglyphs

After Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we drove straight north (it's too hot now...) to Gila Bend and just to the west, the Painted Rocks Petroglyph site.

It has primitive campsites, with no services beyond a trash dumpster, and is nice and quiet.

This would be a good homeschooling stop for history. The short trail around the petroglyphs mound has a few interpretive plaques. The markings on the rocks are similar to the ones at Saguaro National Monument near Tucson. Here's a picture of the Tucson area Rocks.

They're so impressive that I missed taking a picture, but I did get some of the plaques. I should be more of an archaeologist, they are really old.

There are other historical notes from the area; the baby born to Sacagawea on the Lewis and Clark expedition came to this area, the early Butterfield stagecoach mail route passed here, as did the Mormon expedition in 1846 on its way from Iowa to California.

It's also good for bike riding, with very minimal traffic, because the paved road goes only to the campground, the dam, and a large hay farm.

We took bike rides in the morning, and we went up to the dam. The dam is all closed off, but there's no one around and i had come all this way, so I decided I was able to go see it. There is a closed down picnic area, and a couple of signs about the dam. It's the largest one I've seen recently, almost a mile across.

The road goes up the backside of the dam, and there are pipes sticking out which I suppose are to relieve any water seeping through or under the dam.

When I was halfway up the back of the dam on my bike, a white government looking truck crested over the top and stopped to wait for me. 'Aw ...., I might as well keep pedaling on up.'

I was told I can't be up there. The guy was nice though and I just asked about the dam. If I'm getting arrested I might as well find out about the dam and look at it. He told me more about it, how the gates are set up, when the reservoir was last full (1993), etc. "No, there's no road off the other side, you have to go back the way you came. But, you can go have a look over there, don't fall off.”

Well that's how I like the rules and gated roads to work. Probably that's pushing my luck, and I suppose it's going to catch up with me, maybe that'll be tomorrow?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Carolina Beach, Wilmington, NC

Wow,  we drive really fast, and in the wrong direction (east and north),  what are we, lost?    Just kidding,  here is a post from a couple months ago, I had collected some pictures and thoughts, so I'll put it out there now still.

   In early December,  we made our way down the east coast through Wilmington NC.

We camped at Carolina Beach State Park for 4 nights.  The sites are all primitive and it was pretty deserted when we visited, maybe half a dozen other campers there. 
After a couple days, I carried water from a nearby spigot with the 5 gal solar shower bag instead of moving to fill up, and ran the generator a couple times.   We could hike or ride our bikes out to a small library to get connected.   

Our site was on a dead end section near Snow's Cut on the Intracoastal Waterway.  We could walk out the back of our site to see the waterway, and there is a marina on the waterway at the other end of the park.

We checked out downtown Wilmington.

I had to take of shot of this, in one of the tourist trap shops.  If this is for you, you know it.
The Secret Garden

The wharf area.  Lyle Lovett was there in full grin.
Right across the river is the battleship, we drove over to look around and kill a little time.  A couple of 53s were flying over too.

We had gotten in touch with Erik Hemingway from The Family Adventure Podcast, and we met up for the afternoon and evening.  We have listened to their podcast and it was one of the few that our whole family could get into.  (Compared to the sailing podocasts I've listened to, "sure, pack yourself on a sailboat and go off the edge of the world." 59 degrees North, The Sailing Podcast, Furled Sails).  Those are all good, but after a couple weekend sailing trips, we've found we're not a fully 100% sailing family.  The camper is nice because it will only sink when we hit mud, otherwise pavement is pretty solid, and everyone is pretty confident about not sinking.  Maybe we'll get back to a boat though...

The Hemingways traveled for 3 years on a sailboat around the Med, back to the east coast, and settled in Wilmington.  Erik showed us a couple of their current rental remodeling projects, they look great and Wilmington seems like a happening spot, they should work out well.

The gates at the state park are closed after dark, when we got back from visiting the Hemingways we parked in the shopping center and hiked through the woods.  Elliot had his tablet and having GPS was helpful, it was easy to get turned around.

Here in Wilmington, (and also later in Savanna) there are numerous civil war monuments.
This year there have been protests and public movement to remove confederate monuments and symbols in the south.  Most were targeted at clearly significant and oppressive symbols;  the flag, jefferson davis statues, etc. 

I propose that it's important to remember history, I don't want to see all these historical monuments erased.  We agree that slavery, oppression, discrimination are poor choices and are not to be tolerated.  If we don't remember the past, will we gloss over and ignore similar issues where they come up again in some different shade.  I think we need to remember those on both sides who served or sacrificed, which is what many of these monuments do.  So I hope they stand for a long time still.  Remember all those who were caught up in the tide of war, so we might recognize a similar tide and stand up against it.

The plaque reads:
Confederates blend your recollections
let memory wave its bright reflections
let love revive life's ashen embers
for love is life since love remembers