The Big Dune

The Big Dune
Big Dune

Saturday, March 3, 2018

02-11-2018 Leaving Tucson Heading North

Remember that if you click on a photo, (except for maps and internet photos) it will take you to the larger version on my SmugMug site, where you can also see more photos in that gallery.

When Sunday morning arrived, the gorgeous clear skies over Tucson were showing a bit of gray.  Clouds were coming in.  We didn’t know at the time that there was a lot of rain heading towards the big city in the desert, and as the days passed with extended weather reports from friends and news sites, we knew how lucky we had been.  Our entire time so far had been gorgeous.  Sunny, warm, temperatures much above normal, no wind.  Who could ask for more?!

Leaving Tucson, we knew the best way out of town was on the interstate.  To our delight, I-10 at 9 on a Sunday morning was beautifully quiet.  Note to self, always leave big cities which require freeway travel on Sunday morning.  I was driving so we missed photographs of all the amazing freeway overpasses and bridges between Tucson and Phoenix.  Even the fences are covered with gorgeous sculptures, some in cement, some in rusted metal.  We enjoyed all the art along the highways, both in Arizona and in Nevada.  Next time I’ll have Mo drive this section so I can get some photos.

(The two photos here were taken from the internet just so you get the idea.)

I have noticed this trend growing in many places where we travel.  Made me wonder what it must be like to be a freeway graphic artist and to see your designs bigger than life in such a public venue.  Almost as much fun as the mural craze that seems to be everywhere as well.

We were still not absolutely sure about our route home.  I had checked the weather going north along Highway 395 in California, and it looked a bit iffy.  The fastest route would be to take Highway 95 directly north from Las Vegas to Reno, but geez that part can be boring.  We thought maybe we could boondock in the Alabama Hills if we could get through Death Valley.  Both of us remembered some of the climbs in and out of the valley.

The route we traveled from Tucson to Minden, Nevada

We decided to head for Phoenix, and then north, with no real idea of how far we could or wanted to go and where we might end up that night.  Beatty, Nevada was the goal, and then Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley, but who knew the timing.

I used the website and found quite a few boondock sites north of Kingman.  I couldn’t believe how big Kingman was, and as we passed through, the boondock sites didn’t look all that welcoming.  We continued north, thinking we could find something.  Once again, led the way.  We saw a big parking lot available across the street from the Hoover Dam Casino, just east of Boulder City and set a beeline for a free night spot that shouldn’t be terribly crowded.

Turned out to be a perfect place, and we never even bothered to cross the highway to visit the casino.  Dinner was once again some excellent leftovers from the freezer while we watched the sunset and settled in for the evening. A few rigs rolled in during the night, but they weren’t terribly loud.  By morning there were a few trailers, and some car and tent campers scattered around the edges of the big space.

Our plan was to continue north and then cross Death Valley, with a stay at Stovepipe Wells, but the weather had other plans.  It was COLD, and when we drove into Beatty I think the daytime temperatures were in the low 40’s, with a hard freeze predicted for the night.  I called Stovepipe Wells, where we were told all sites were taken, and we did a quick rethink.  We had passed a decent looking park on the way into Beatty, so gave them a quick call, and sure enough there was a space, full hookups.  Death Valley Inn RV Park was a good choice.

It was still early in the day, and as we thought about our options, it seemed like a good thing to relax early and spend some time playing and exploring.  We have been to Death Valley a few times, and the things we would see there are sights we have enjoyed in the past.  Something different would be fun.

We headed for the tiny Visitor center in town, next to the cheapest gas in town, and gathered up some brochures on local interesting things to see and do.  Rhyolite is a ghost town that is fun to explore, but we had already done that a few years ago.  We decided to explore some of the back 4 wheel drive roads, and found an interesting loop that meandered past old mining cabins, through “Secret Pass”, south to the desert, and back via the highway.

We explored the old Flourspar Cabin at a mining site before continuing up the road

The 8 miles to Secret Pass was challenging, but that is why we were out there.  I was a bit of a wreck actually, as Mo crawled over the big, pointy rocks, with me jumping out now and then to move some especially big ones.  Once we were past the bad part, it didn’t seem so bad.  I think for me it was the unknown factor of whether the road actually continued through.  I didn’t like the idea of having to back up and out over those rocks and ditches and eroded dry streambeds. 

When we got to an easier part, I started taking photos, and Mo asked why in the world we didn’t get photos of the scary parts?  I was too busy holding on and gasping! 

Of course, we didn’t have a good local map, and the phone map quit working about half way through.  We just kept going, and following our noses, found our way out of the mountains and across the desert back to the highway.  It was fun, and something we love to do when in the desert.  No flat tires, no getting stuck in sand or creekbeds, and beautiful views.

We had seen Big Dune on the way north to Beatty, and our dirt road intercepted the highway just a few miles north of the road to the sands.  We traveled the washboard gravel just 6 miles with the dunes looming in the distance.  This dune is incredible, a star dune out in the middle of the flat desert, and I loved it much more than the dunes in Death Valley.  Maybe because it rises all alone from the surrounding space, or maybe because it isn’t overrun with people, or at least it wasn’t when we were there.  Unprotected the way the Death Valley dunes are protected, it was covered with 4 wheeler tracks, but when we were there on this mid week afternoon, there wasn’t a soul around.

Mattie had more fun than she has had in a long time.  Something about soft sand makes her completely joyously crazy, and she ran around like a wild thing in the wind. 

She does the same thing at ocean beaches, and in big soft grass as well.  The dune was lit from the west with the late afternoon sun and the backdrop of dark clouds was a photographer’s dream.  Gorgeous!

On our way back, along Highway 95, we finally spotted the wild burros that were touted in the brochure.  All along our route we had seen burro apples, but no burros, so we were glad to finally see them.

A great mural in Beatty along the main road into town

The next morning was cold, so we took our time heading west toward Death Valley.  Stovepipe Wells was busy with tourists, and I stopped in at the Visitor Center and General Store hoping for a really good sweatshirt to add to the one I found at Chaco Canyon 4 years ago.  No luck.  I am pretty specific in what I want, and I guess my current version will have to suffice. 

I was glad we didn’t stay there, with all the people, visiting all the beautiful sights we have seen before.  It was enough to pass through this part of the valley and to save wandering around in the back country for another trip. 

Look closely to see the MoHo winding down the grade toward Panamint Springs

We knew about the long grade up from Stovepipe Wells, and then back down to Panamint Springs, not horrible, but definitely long.  We decided to unhook early on rather than waiting for the really big hill west of Panamint Springs.  Mo went ahead in the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker, making it much easier to stop along the way for photos.

We negotiated the really steep hill up from Death Valley toward Lone Pine without any mishaps, and stopped at the top for lunch and a walk with the dog.  The sun was warm coming through the windows, but the wind was really cold!

As we approached the intersection with Highway 395, I was again enthralled with the magnificent view of the eastern face of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Often at this time of year, the highways are snow covered, but this year the snowpack in the Sierra’s is extremely low.  It was our window in time to travel one of our favorite highways without being worried about the storms and snows.  We have been in serious snow storms with chains required on this road as late as Memorial Day!

We didn’t stop along the way, passing places we have visited in the past, reminiscing about good food, beautiful hikes, historic sites.  Many good memories along this route for us, and it was fine that on this trip we simply passed through viewing the incredible scenery.  We were heading home, and no matter how long we are out, when it gets close to home time, we tend to move along fairly quickly.

There is just so much to see and do along this highway, the list is huge.  It deserves a month, preferably in warmer weather, not just a day.  We will return.

Our destination for the night was Minden, Nevada, where we had stayed at a new park back in 2014 on our way home from Florida.  At that time, it snowed on us, April 1, and we were happy for hookups.  This time the prediction was for temperatures in the teens, and once again we were happy for hookups.  I called ahead, and was glad I did since Silver City Resort seems to have developed into a very popular place in the last 4 years.  Most of the people there are in for long term visits.  That surprised me because it can be cold in this area south of Reno.

When we woke up the next morning, the temperature was 12 degrees F, the Tracker was covered in thick frost, and even the MoHo had frost on the lower sides.  We had turned on our tank heaters for the first time in a long time.

It was time to figure out our home route, and we cooked a nice breakfast while debating whether to take our chances over the northern mountains or give up and cross the Sierra’s over Donner Pass and travel home via I-5.  Decisions, decisions!


Friday, March 2, 2018

03-02-2018 The Rest of February

I am laughing as I read back over this blog.  A commenter on the last post asked if I would please keep writing when we got home, and I said I would, but that home time was definitely not all that exciting!  Who knows if you will find anything of interest here, it is all simple daily stuff.

The sun is making a rare appearance this afternoon, after a few days of in and out rain and snow.  It is cold, and Mo and I haven’t had much oomph to get out to do much of anything around the place here.  We did manage to finish hanging the outdoor art that we found on our travels to the southwest, and planted a small group of shrubs.  Spring Bouquet Laurustinus is a lovely evergreen shrub with pale pink flowers and purple berries in the fall.  Listed as deer resistant, I learned the hard way that resistant does NOT mean deer proof.

The first morning after planting them our neighborhood deer herd had nipped off the upper branches and leaves of the little shrubs.  I have roses and other plants that have been sprayed with Liquid Fence, but I didn’t really think the deer were even around, much less that I had to spray the darn things the minute I planted them.  I immediately got out the sprayer the next day and covered everything in the yard with the smelly stuff.  I have real proof now that it really works, since nothing else was touched except the newly planted shrubs.

One afternoon that felt almost like spring, I decided to plant some pansies in the big pots by the garage.  They are holding their own, in spite of the snow.  The primroses that I transplanted from Rocky Point are looking happy as well.  Makes me happy.  I had some of these purple primroses back in Northern Idaho before I moved in 2002 to Klamath Falls and like old friends, I take them along wherever I go.

We thought winter had passed by this way gently, but it showed up with a vengeance in the last two weeks.  Snow on the ground isn’t common for Grants Pass, and we have had snow several times.  It usually melts within a few hours, and so far has required no shoveling or plowing, and no ice to contend with, so that makes me very happy.

It is a great time to be indoors, and I have been working on curtains for the house in the living room and dining room.  We didn’t want big window treatments since we love our view, but did need a bit of protection from the afternoon sun on the southwestern window in the living room.  We also thought it might be nice to hide the view of the ancient work shed from the east facing dining room window. 

I found the fabrics when we were in Palm Springs, shopping at my favorite quilt stores.

I have also had a bit of time to slip into my easy hobby of card making.  Love that I have most of the stuff needed for these little projects, and I can accomplish something in a few hours, unlike quilting which requires a big input of time, money, and space.  The cold weather sparks the desire to cook as well and I made a seriously amazing roasted chicken and veggies, and finally did up last summer’s blackberries in an iron skillet cobbler recipe.

I find other ways to keep busy.  What in the world is this thing called entropy?  If I don’t stay right on top of stuff, it can immediately deteriorate into a mess.  With a new house, new floors, new appliances, I am a bit obsessive about keeping all those pretty things looking nice and new.  Seems as though I spend more time than usual polishing and wiping and swiping and sweeping and such, just to keep that new house look going strong.  Wonder how long that will last.  How long can that refrigerator look like it was just delivered.  So far so good, after 4 months, it still looks all shiny new. 

Weekends are fun when my daughter Deborah makes the hour long drive from Shady Cove to visit and she and my grandson Matthew drop in for conversation, sitting around in the comfy living room by the fire talking about everything and nothing. 

We are settling in.  We have an excellent doctor in a rather amazing medical facility, with everything we need in the Asante medical complex less than 10 minutes from home.  Mo found a dentist that accepted both of us, and she is next in line for an eye doctor.  It is scary how much time can be spent going to appointments for all this stuff.  Hopefully that will slow down a bit, as we are both reasonably healthy.

We also have an excellent car repair shop that we have used over the last few years here in town.  After more than 3,000 miles on our wheels for the last trip it was time for an oil change, brake check, and wheel bearing checks for the MoHo.  We dropped the rig off and headed downtown for breakfast at a well reviewed Grants Pass spot popular with the locals.  The Powderhorn Cafe was right out of the west, with down home breakfasts, cowboy decor, and groups of old guys drinking coffee and chewing the fat in front of the big windows. 

After breakfast we took advantage of the early hour to walk along G Street in the Historic District of downtown.  We discovered some bars, bistros, and cafes that we hadn’t seen before, and looked at the Garden Mural up close.  Sadly, no camera, but you can bet when Erin and Mui visit I will have to take Erin to see the murals.  We have several in town, but there are three that are extra special.

As the month drew to a close, the snows kept falling all around us on the hills, but not always here.  We are at 1200 feet, and town is at 900 feet.  The snow often seems to start around 1500 feet.  I looked at the snow and decided on another house project that kept me indoors.  I had promised myself I wouldn’t put up any St Paddy’s stuff until it was actually March, but gave in on the 27th and brought out the green bin. 

I had started the blocks for this table runner three years ago in Rocky Point, and last year worked on the rest of the runner.  This time I actually backed and quilted it and all that is waiting now is the binding.  I cut out some fabric for place mats, but with our upcoming trip to Mexico, it might be next year before I get back to them.

We do interesting things for entertainment sometimes, in between our travels.  A business run to Medford, about 45 minutes south of us, was augmented with a Costco Run, since we don’t have a Costco here in Grants Pass.  There are no better hot dogs in the world than those crazy $1.50 dogs at Costco, so we decided that could be our dinner for the late afternoon.  Of course, wine is always nice with dinner, so we found the only bottle of red wine in Costco with a screw top, and bought it to accompany our impromptu supper.  With a $17.00 bottle of wine, decanted into those free pepsi cups that come with the $3.00 worth of hot dogs, we had a delightful time laughing ourselves silly in the front seat of the car as the rained poured down all around us and we shared our $20.00 dinner.  Don’t worry, we didn’t drink the whole bottle, just a little bit.

When we first got back from the southland, we thought leaving for Mexico wouldn’t be all that exciting since it felt like spring here.  Not any more! Snowy rainy wet weather making our upcoming trip to Cancun look very inviting!  It will be an easy week visiting ruins, hanging out in the pools, snorkeling and eating good food.  Many thanks to Daughter Deanna who offered to share her Riviera Maya timeshare with us, and to air miles for flights.  Looking forward to it.

Mo’s birthday was yesterday, and it dawned with big wet snowflakes. The skies were very dark on this first day of March, with “thundersnow” predicted for the Cascades. In like a Lion out like a Lamb?

We decided to celebrate Mo’s day with a dinner at one of those little bistros that we found last week walking around town.  The Bohemian Bistro and Bar bills itself as a “New American Restaurant”.  We had a delightful early dinner, with snazzy cocktails, including a Lavender Lemon Drop for me, a very fine salad made with locally sourced baby romaine and balsamic reduction, some Goyza dumplings with a spicy dipping sauce, coconut shrimp with habanera pineapple sauce for me and halibut for Mo.  Mo wasn’t that excited about her halibut, but I liked it.  My shrimp was to die for, but the winner was the dessert, a perfect little ramekin of caramel latte creme brulee.  We were happy that we found parking directly on the street in front of the restaurant since it was pouring when we went in and still pouring when we left.  Nice place and a good find.

We are traveling over the mountain back to Klamath Falls tomorrow, hoping that this big storm that is enveloping most of Northern California and Southern Oregon will pass, at least enough to get through with our studded snow tires and 4 wheel drive truck.  The Apartments are fully rented, and we need to check on a few things.  We are so grateful that we were able to rent them all through Zillow, bypassing the property management people.  So far, so good, and I think we have very good renters.  The years when Mo used a property manager for the apartments when she lived out at Rocky Point were somewhat of an expensive convenience, and not always that convenient.  We will see how it goes with the two of us managing things, and our good renter Jacob taking care of snow plowing  in the winter and lawn mowing in the summer.  Lucky to have Jacob.  He keeps an eye out for things as well, letting us know if something doesn’t look right.  Mo had a new fiberglass roof installed over the upper deck and we are anxious to see it as well as the new sign that was part of the EPA re-do.  The old sign was too hard to keep so they trashed it and had a new sign done for her.

There has been a LOT more snow there than here, so the little day trip tomorrow will definitely help us remember why we love living in Grants Pass even if it does snow a little bit now and then.

Friday, February 23, 2018

02-14-2018 Last Leg Home

Our main purpose for traveling Highway 395 toward home was an attempt to avoid traveling north through California on Interstate 5.  We have traveled both 395 and 99 entirely too many times, and when compared to the magnificence of 395, it is simply a no-brainer.  Unless, of course, it is winter.  Highway 44 west from Susanville is a decent road

We made it as far as Minden without mishap, but the weather forecast for the next day made us a bit nervous.  Should we scrap our plans for continuing north all the way to Susanville and then over the mountains to Mt Shasta?  Or should we just give up and travel west from Reno on I-80 over Donner Pass and then home, again, on I-5?

If we had traveled the 5, we may have been able to get up the hill to visit Jimmy and Nicky, but we also had the “horse to the barn” thing going after being away 3 weeks.  We were ready to be home, and the visiting desires were waning.  I decided instead to make a special trip next month for visiting, and will include my friend Maryruth on that visit.  I seem to enjoy it much better when the visit is dedicated to actual visiting instead of traveling.

We looked at the weather, I checked all the road cams, watched the radar.  Everything looks almost OK until Susanville, when the blue streak over the mountains to the west indicated snow.  Still, that blue streak was moving east, and maybe it would pass us by as we headed north and west.

We decided to take our chances, and figured that even if we couldn’t get across 89 up to Mt Shasta, we could no doubt manage 44 across to Redding.  Highway 44 meanders along the north side of Mt Lassen, and except for a very few twisty places, is a fairly good road.  It had been a few years since we traveled that route, when we hiked some fabulous trails in Mt Lassen and returned to Klamath Falls via Susanville.

More choices for getting over the Southern Cascades in California

We were right about the snow, and encountered a few flurries along Highway 395 before we arrived in Susanville, but by the time we continued west on 44, the snow was gone.  The highway was clear and we were even treated to some great views of Mt Lassen.

Even though we were fairly close to home, when we arrived in Redding we decided to slow it down a bit, get a place to park for another cold night, and travel the last 4 hours to home in the morning when we were fresh.  In addition, that would put us at home mid day, much nicer than crawling into our driveway in the dark.

Another happy little reason for taking our time in Redding had to do with Valentine’s Day.  We have a tradition to buy some happy See’s Candy to share as a Valentine’s Day treat.  Such decadence, but at least it is only once a year, or maybe twice if I get some at Christmas.  I haven’t had chocolate as creamy perfect as See’s anywhere in the country, even at some of those fabulous artisan chocolatiers in trendy little tourist towns.

Redding RV Park isn’t fancy, but it is right next to the freeway, and if you get a nice long site on the rows farthest from the freeway it is quiet enough for a good sleep, with space to pull through.  What the very nice looking website doesn’t show is that much of the park is on a fairly steep hill overlooking the freeway.  In all fairness, the actual sites are decently level, at least most of them are. We called ahead for a reservation as soon as we were sure of our route, and it was again a good thing that we did.  The park filled up after dark.

The next morning dawned clear and gorgeous, with Mt Shasta looming in the north to mark our route home.  We again took our time, filled up with gas at the station around the corner from the park, (also the cheapest gas in Redding),and got on the freeway.  Yes, it was I-5, but between this part of California and Oregon there are no other real options.

For the first time in a long time, we stopped at the rest area north of Yreka that is down in a canyon along the Klamath River.  It is also a California Welcome Center with a docent offering information about both California and Oregon, some lovely art, maps and tons of brochures for things to do in both Oregon and California.  We enjoyed the sunshine and the river and Mattie loved the spacious unfenced pet area. 

When we pulled into the driveway at home in the early afternoon, the sun was shining, and we were both still fresh and energetic enough to empty the MoHo and start the laundry. A perfect travel day at the end of a rather amazingly perfect trip.  Love to travel and love to be home.  I am so glad that we can do both.

Art from the Palm Springs Street Fair on the wall at home

Our timing was perfect, because in just a few days winter decided to come to Grants Pass after all, and we had real snow right here at home.  That doesn’t happen often in Grants Pass, and this time as well the snow melted with the afternoon sunshine.