Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tucson, Bisbee, and Fort Huachuca

(Been trying to post for 3 days now, hopefully this time will be the charm!)

AFB Military Family Camp Somehow, without paying attention, it became Monday.  At the moment, on Monday afternoon, I am propped up on the bed with pillows and the computer with the late afternoon light sifting in the windows through the shades.  The air conditioner is running pretty steady now, after a lovely day with the Fantastic Fan keeping us cool enough till mid-afternoon when we came in and turned on the air conditioner.  It’s probably in the high 70’s, low eighties today in Tucson, and the breeze is brisk enough that we took down our awning, but not so brisk that it isn’t pleasant.

Great dog park here at the AFB camp

AFB Military Family Camp (3)Three days have passed in the blink of an eye, punctuated by visits with friends, walking tours, long drives, and cool evenings.  Ahh, it’s the desert.  Home in Klamath it is snowing again, and a few text messages from my daughter have made me very happy to be here and not there.  This was a “catch-up-day”, you know those kind, when you do laundry, sit in the chairs and watch the sky, and hopefully manage all the photos and try to remember the last busy times.  I haven’t had a particularly fast connection here at the base, so haven’t kept up on blogs.  We also don’t have a satellite, and the TV stations we have dialed in are in Spanish, so I’m not sure just what is going on outside the world either.  Kind of nice to disconnect a bit, I think. 

Downtown Tucson has some amazing colors

Tucson Mar 26 (10)A highlight of the day was a delightful visit from Randy of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  We knew he and Pam were in the park, but weren’t sure of their rig, so every day we would walk around looking for South Dakota plates trying to see if they were around.  Finally this morning I saw a rig that I thought might be theirs, and timidly knocked on their door.  It’s always a bit of a dilemma deciding whether or not to bother someone without all the texting and emailing back and forth beforehand and we hadn’t done any of that.  Randy and Pam blinked into the sunlight and said “Hi” most graciously while they tried desperately to remember just who I was.  We shook hands and didn’t stay long.  Later, however,  Randy came over to our place and we had some laughs and great conversation once he sifted out the details and picked us out from the dozens of bloggers who follow Randy and Pam across the country doing amazing Habitat for Humanity volunteer work.  What a charming couple.  

Tucson Mar 26 (5)When we arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB Family Camp Friday night there were no spaces available so we opted to dry camp in the overflow lot, quite a pleasant place actually, with the dog park just outside our door.  We were in sixth place for the 12 sites to be vacated on Saturday, and just had to be there at nine am to claim a spot in the park.  Without a hitch, we got a perfect end site with a view of the mountains to the north, and full hookups for $17.00, although there is no cable TV.  The Wi-Fi isn’t bad at certain times of the day, but other times it crawls along miserably.  We heard there would be reveille in the mornings and taps at night, but since it was the weekend, we didn’t hear anything until this afternoon.  This is one of the larger Military Family Camps with lots of amenities, and almost in the very middle of Tucson, so there is an incredible array of entertainment available.  For us, we just wanted to be close enough to visit some friends in the area in addition to at last seeing the town of Bisbee.

Tucson Mar 26 (24) Once settled in to our spot, with a 3pm visit scheduled to our friends in Sahaurita south of town, we decided that a visit to downtown Tucson would be a nice way to spend the rest of the day until then. We found the downtown visitor center, a place to park in the shade with no time limits on a Saturday, and followed the turquoise line for the 2 1/2 mile tour of the downtown part of the city.  We just happened to be on the right day for a fabulous art show at the Tucson Museum of Art, with white canopied booths in all directions filled with real art, not just crafts, but “art”.  I was amazed at the color and creativity of the artists, and only managed to get away by the skin of my teeth without buying more “stuff” for walls at home that are already too full.  It was great that we could take Abby on the walk with us, and we found many people walking about town with their dogs. I especially loved the Presidio, with its murals of early Arizona life on it’s interior adobe walls. 

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Tucson Mar 26 (47) Wes and Gayle are summer residents of Rocky Point, with a lovely home next to ours, and their main home in Sahuarita.  Gayle is a great cook and they both love to entertain, so we knew we were in for a treat.  When we arrived,  they immediately loaded us up in their SUV for a drive to Madera Canyon, near Bald Mountain, not very far south from their home.  There are hiking trails and birding viewpoints along the way, and there is a special migratory parrot that only comes here from South America.  We didn’t see the parrots, but there were lots off other birds enjoying the feeders at the bird viewing platform along the canyon.

Home again to a great supper and some more of the extra special Cosmopolitan’s that Gayle makes.  When we were here for New Year’s in 2007 I had one and have ordered them now and then since and still never had anything as tasty as that Tucson Mar 26 (54)cranberry/pomegranate/lime thing that Gayle makes.  Oh yea, I think there is vodka in there as well.   It was a great evening watching the roadrunner and quail in the yard, checking out Wes’s new cactus gardens and shop, and enjoying Gayle’s sparkling conversation.  We saw sad evidence of the winter just past, with many of their plants permanently damaged from the bitter cold.  The tiny leaves on the mesquite trees have yet to come out, but many of the palms around Tucson are brown and tattered with only a bit of green emerging from the center of the trees. This last winter broke all records, as many snowbirders can attest. The blog stories of the Arizona winter were fairly extreme this year.

picture pretty quarters On Sunday we decided to drive a circular route to Bisbee, visiting Fort Huachuca along the way and returning via Tombstone.  Originally we had planned to stay at the Military Family Camp at the fort, but changed those plans when we realized how close many of the things we wanted to see were to Tucson.  It seemed much smarter for us to park the rig that gets 10 mpg and drive the one that gets 30, and to stay in one place and visit the others.  Even though gas here at the base is only 3.27, that is still pretty darn expensive to be running around when we really don’t need to.  Besides, it’s nice to stay put a bit.

parade grounds at the base of the mountains, graduation ceremonies are here We wanted to check out the campground at Fort Huachuca, but Mo also wanted to revisit the base where she attended training as an intelligence analyst in 1985.  She spent three months there during the winter and had good memories of the experience.  Once on the base, she said that much of the area had changed and it was hard to find parts that were familiar to her, but the mountains were lovely, with the base against the sideslope with a gorgeous view of the desert to the northeast.  We found the older part of the base with beautiful historic officers quarters, the parade ground, and the Fort Museum.

Bisbee (11) After our visit to the base, it was just a short drive beyond Sierra Vista to the winding road to Bisbee.  So many folks have so many good things to say about Bisbee that I was a bit skeptical.  Could it really be THAT great??!  Turns out that yes, Bisbee is that great.  It’s a charming mining town, with interesting people, great art, lots of things to do, good restaurants, and it is extremely dog friendly.  We found the ice cream shop, wandered the main street, with many shop keepers urging us to bring Abby in with us rather than having Mo wait outside on a bench while I browsed.  The people were friendly and conversational, and I enjoyed visiting with some of the shop owners.  When I asked one woman how things were going, she opened up and said, “Not so great.  Most of us are doing about half what we did last year, and do you notice that no one is carrying anything they have purchased?  No one has a bag in hand.”  She loved it, though, seemed to love her shop and her life and was ok with how things were going.

the woman's hat is made of plastic bags for bag awareness concert On down the road, however, the story was a bit different.  We walked into a lovely little shop with amazing huge brilliant copper plates among the art.  An older woman invited us in with the dog of course, and I decided that a small version of one of those copper plates would be a perfect memento of our trip to Bisbee and would look great on our newly painted walls at home.  After buying the plate, I asked the owner how long she had been in Bisbee, if she liked it.  Her story was haunting.  She had bought the shop 8 years ago, with the idea that she could build the business, sell the shop, and return home to retire.  She was from the northwest and almost cried as she told me her story.  Her hair was very gray, she was at least my age, and she said she would leave today if she could.  She missed the rain, she missed the water, she missed the ocean, she was trapped in a dry mining town thanks to the crashing economy, and she felt she would never be able to leave.  We all have our heart home, and Bisbee wasn’t hers.  I loved Bisbee, but I would miss the trees, the rain, the water, the ocean as well.  My heart hurt for this woman.

Bisbee As we left town, we wound our way up the steep road to check out the Queen Mine RV Park, reviewed by Laurie here and just about the only place to stay in Bisbee in an RV.  I can see how much fun it would be to stay there for a bit of time, but I don’t think I want to do it in January when it can actually snow! 

By the time we reached Tombstone, it was too late in the afternoon to see all the famous staged gunfights, but the town was filled to bursting with bikers and tourists, especially the Shady Lady Saloon, which is THE place to go, I hear.  We didn’t try to step in there with the dog, but it looked like a pretty lively place.  I know some folks love this town, but for me it was a bit too touristy to really get into it that much.  Wyatt Earp was my childhood hero, and just last fall we visited Dodge City, so boardwalk sidewalks but asphalt street I thought I might like Tombstone, but just as in Dodge, most of the historic attractions are behind fences and are invisible unless you pay the fees and listen to the folks play cowboy.  I think I might rather listen to some of Al’s real cowboys than do the Disneyesque thing at Tombstone. I was glad to see it, and probably don’t need to see it again.

I have several albums on Picasa of the last few days, although I certainly can’t even begin to take photos like Al did of Bisbee.  Go check out his blog here if you want to really “See” Bisbee in a way that I could never do.  Otherwise, you can see my view by going to my Picasa site here.

Tomorrow we will visit another long time friend south of town, and she plans to take us to Tubac, another historic town, but this one is filled with art and food.  UhOh.  I might be in trouble again.


Friday, March 25, 2011

From hard to soft, canyons to badlands

we found the Clark Lake Beds Wednesday was all about hard granite, steep canyons, rugged mountains and wide alluvial valleys formed on the western edge of the park in beautiful granite full of quartz, mica, and sparkling fools gold. Our extra day of exploration at Anza Borrego led us into an entirely different environment of barren dry lake beds, and badlands formed in soft sediments, riddled with complex arroyos, and washes, and sudden surprise overlooks.

and the famous boondocking site at the Oven The skies were clear when we left in the morning, with just a slight breeze in Borrego Springs.  Even with our 9am departure, we weren’t early enough to catch the early morning shadow light and by the time we rolled onto the Clark Lake area the winds were blowing hard.  Right away we found the oven Al mentioned last month and Laurie and Odel wrote about.  I had just started following Laurie’s blog when she wrote about camping here and building this oven, so it was with a special fondness that I took a photo of the well known boondock site.

through the deep sand in Font's Wash We continued east on Highway S22 to find Font’s Point.  Even with the recent rain the wash was filled with deep sand, enough that we were glad for 4 wheel drive.  We wondered about the suggestion to come here for sunset, since driving back in the dark might be a bit challenging.  I think someday I might try sunrise instead. The view was worth every moment of the drive through the sandy wash.  Each of the geologic formations are immediately distinguishable and I wished for a good geology book to remind me of what I had read in the park visitor center.  “Hmm, bottom tier clams. Top tier mammals. Wonder if that one has the horses and camels?  Miocene?  Sure is lots of stuff around the west that is Miocene era formations…yadayadayada….”  Mo just said, “Pretty!”

badlands Anza Borrego (7) The cliffs are extremely steep and the drop offs sudden on the soft barely coherent rock.  Abby was all excited, and since we were alone, we didn’t leash her up.  Next time we will.  She rarely unglues from Mo’s side, but for some reason the expansive views got her all excited and she kept getting way too close for my comfort. 

We continued along Fonts Wash to another turn east on Short Wash looking another  viewpoint ahead.  The map  I bought from the visitor center was excellent, and we were both impressed with the small and simple, but effective signage out there in the middle of nowhere.  In just a few more miles of sand, and one major drop off that required a bit of maneuvering, we were at Vista Del Malpais.  The view from here was a bit different, not quite as high, but more from a vantage point within the badlands rather than completely above them.  Here again I wished for a good geology book to ferret out the details of the formations.

badlands Anza Borrego (21) Another examination of the map showed our wash continuing farther east to the 17 Palms Oasis. “Wanna try for it?” “Sure, lets go”  It would be an in and out trip, past the primitive campsite at Arroyo Salado, but who knows what we might find.  We haven’t seen an oasis palm yet. We hadn’t read anything about this site previously, and were surprised to find that it had a great little story.  It was an historic stopover for weary badland travelers, and sometimes people would leave glass jars of water sitting about since the spring wasn’t always reliable.

There was also the “Oasis Post Office”, a wooden barrel wedged between two palms, where travelers could leave communications and notes for each other, a tradition that has continued.  We found the “post office”, filled with journals and notes, and three bottles of water.  We added our own little note to the journal, and noted that Libya was exploding, Fukushima was radiating, and the palms were still here, safe in the desert.

badlands Anza Borrego (41)We reversed our route to the highway and continued east on pavement to Salton City.  Ugh.  Salton City  was all the ugliness of the desert that we have seen too many times.  Dirty, brown, with some new housing developments of low flat ugly houses surrounded by telephone poles and wires and no vegetation.  It was the worst of the desert very close to the best of the desert.  We didn’t bother to go down to Salton Sea, since we knew about the smell and the dead fish lying around. 

All along the route south back to highway 78 the desert looked dry and barren, with no sign of flowers anywhere.  To the west of us, stretching all the way to Anza Borrego was the Ocotillo Wells recreation vehicle area.  Another word for 4-wheeler heaven.  I have nothing against 4 wheelers, in their place.  I have used them for soil survey, I totally get it, they are indispensable for farmers and ranchers with large acreage to manage and animals to care for.  Tearing up the wilderness with a vehicle is another story.  I am truly grateful for places like this huge area of Ocotillo Wells for 4-wheeler folks to play and have fun with their toys.  It’s great.  There should be more places like this, where I can stay out of their way and they can stay out of mine.  Perfect. 

badlands Anza Borrego (38)As we continued south and then west, I noticed on the map that we were 175 feet below sea level.  Looking a bit closer I saw a fine line called “ancient beach line”.  38 feet.  A bit more research led to the fact that we were in what was once the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, extending all the way north, creating the Imperial Valley with all it’s rich alluvial soils.  Rich and fertile, but still ugly at the moment.  Once west of Ocotillo Wells, however, we breached the old beach line elevation and the landscape filled with gorgeous desert, unscarred by ORV tracks, and covered with the red haze of blooming ocotillo.  Anza Borrego State Park is huge.  We had only tapped the northern half and very little of the mountains.  What an amazing treasure this park is to the state, the country and to the world.  I’m so glad the powers that be haven’t let it be destroyed or lost to temporary budget troubles.

Once home, we were fairly worn out after all the bouncing around in washes, and just settled in early for a good spaghetti supper (from home again) and a movie.  We decided to dump the tanks and get ready to go for this morning’s departure so it would be quick and easy.

Borrego rainbow (5)This morning we were up early enough to see a magnificent sunrise punctuated by rainbows over the mountains and we were on the road by 7:30, heading for Tucson.  A lucky break for us, however, that we didn’t leave earlier.  Just as we started around the Christmas Tree Circle, we noticed that the Farmers Market mentioned by Kelly had already begun.  It was so simple to pull over and park on the circle while we walked across the lush green grass to the vendors.  I had read about the 3 buck bags of grapefruit, and the farmer from just north on Borrego Springs road was happy to give us a taste of his sweetest. Of course we bought a bag, along with two kinds of hummus and some soft pitas from a Moroccan man, and some local orange blossom honey.  Yay for the Farmer’s Market!  On to Tucson and a new experience camping at one of the Military Family Camps at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on the northeastern heart of the city.  We have friends and family to visit in the Tucson area, so this should be a good central location, and cheap! 

desert vista At the moment we are crossing wide, open, rather boring land between Yuma and Tucson, and the air is thick with smog or smoke or what they try to pass off in the West as haze.  It could be dust from all the recent storms, or it could be the sad state of air quality around Phoenix, but either way, I am especially grateful for the extra time we spent in the pristine world of Anza Borrego.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Anza Borrego State Park and Coyote Canyon

As expected, I took nearly 200 photos, if you want to check them out here.

morning from the MoHo Our rig faces northeast, with an open view of the mountains past the low lying, almost invisible buildings of Borrego Springs.  Watching the morning sun stream in the windows, listening to all the birds, sipping morning tea in all that desert light was delightful.  The day stretched ahead, with predicted temperatures in the 70’s and clear skies until late afternoon, when a bit of wind and showers could appear. 

We knew that the park was huge, with miles and miles of dirt roads, some we could manage, and others maybe not.  We also knew hiking is something we love but not sure where we could go with Abby.  So first stop on the agenda was the main Anza Borrego State Park Visitor Center, just a hop up the road from where we are staying here at the Holiday Borrego Mobile Home Park.  After a couple of nights near freeways and truck stops, the silence and darkness of Borrego Springs makes for amazing restful sleeping.  In fact, Borrego Springs is listed as one of only two “dark sky” communities, and one of the ten best places for viewing the heavens in the United States. 

Anza visitor center (5) The visitor center is beautifully done, with interesting displays, excellent volunteers providing information about where flowers are blooming, what roads are passable, where the sheep are located, and yes, where we could walk with Abby.  All park roads, dirt or paved, but no trails.  I especially enjoyed the geologic maps and prehistory of the area.  There is so much to see here, and after buying a hat for Mo and a tee shirt for me, (oh my, will it end up in a quilt someday?  I just can’t seem to resist those gorgeous park tee shirts.), we walked around the lovely naturally landscaped grounds before embarking on our chosen journey.

Anza visitor center (10) Coyote Canyon seemed to be the best choice, with many flowers in bloom right now after the rains.  There were several people in the center, many of whom had only two wheel drive vehicles, but with our little Tracker we thought we could manage at least some of the 4 wheel drive routes.

The road north from Borrego into the park is straightforward, that is until the prehistoric animals start to appear.  I recently saw photos of these critters on another blog, but it still didn’t prepare me for the surprise.  With the sponsorship of Dennis Avery, a Borrego Springs philanthropist,  the Mexican artist Ricardo Arroyo Breceda has created amazingly intricate and detailed iron sculptures that appear as though they just emerged from the landscape as it was a couple of million years ago during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Miocene eras.  We hope to explore other areas of the park where fossils of this time period have been found, but today our journey was into the granite batholiths of the San Ysidro Mountains along Coyote Creek.Mar 23 Coyote Canyon1 

When the park says 4x4, high clearance, they mean it.  Although that can mean two different things.  We saw sedans crawling along the sandy wash road with success, and then we saw them turn around at “first crossing”.  The Tracker made quick work of that one, and on to “2nd crossing” without a hitch.  Good little Tracker.  We saw a few Jeeps, real ones, not the SUV kind of Jeep, with explorers heading for the deeper reaches of the canyon, but when we reached “3rd crossing”, we decided it might be prudent to check it out and walk.  We wanted a good hike today anyway, and this was perfect. 

Coyote Canyon (13) Park volunteers warned of soft sand, but it wasn’t a bit of a problem for the Tracker
Coyote Canyon (25) This was second crossing, still no problem for the Tracker, even though there are some good sized rocks hidden in that foot deep water
Coyote Canyon (27) We started walking at third crossing, where the road followed the creek, but had no real clue just what was ahead of this part

Coyote Canyon (32) Third Crossing was a bit of a surprise, since it followed the path of Coyote Creek, quite full after the recent rains.  As we walked (and Abby swam) along the road, we came upon a young man walking back checking for parts that might not be as deep as others.  He had driven across, but it was up to his tail pipes and he wanted to avoid an engine cutting out.  We watched him plow back through the water and thought, “Good Luck!”

Continuing on with our hike, we noticed a trail of oil running down the center of the road.  UhOh.  Wonder if he knows he broke something.  Then as we hiked up a couple of very steep very rocky grades, we knew that 4x4 definitely means something other than even a little 4 wheel drive Coyote Canyon (37)Tracker in some parts of this park.  We hiked high enough above the Lower Willows area to look down into Collins Valley and up the wild open distance of Upper  Coyote Canyon.  We didn’t make it as far as the hike into Sheep Canyon or Salvador Canyon with it’s hidden palms.  In fact when we looked at our excellent purchased park map, it looked as though we just barely tapped into the wild distance of Coyote Canyon.  The best part about all this was the perfect hiking temperatures, and the fact that Abby could be with us, and enjoy the refreshing stream.  Not often you see and hear burbling water in the desert.

Coyote Canyon (40) Once back to the car, and driving out, we saw many more vehicles, some parked having picnics, another big rough jeepy tour thing with six folks hanging on for dear life as he dropped down into third crossing.  We wondered just how it might feel for those folks bouncing around in the back of the open jeep when they started up the steep bouldery road into Collins Valley. 

This park whetted our appetite for a lot more.  Like many others who come here, we looked at each other and said, “This place calls for at least a month in the winter” .  We want to come back and explore so much more.  Before settling in to our home, we drove around some of the neighborhoods around town.  There is a stillness here, even in town, that is so rare in the desert any more.  It  reminds me of the California desert I knew as a kid, before the sprawling thing happened to Lancaster and Palmdale and Palm Springs.  The buildings are low, there are no stop lights, no big box stores, very few stores at all, although we did find the ice cream store on the way back to camp. We loved the way homes here are scattered about the desert in a pleasing manner, that feels as though they emerged naturally.

It’s much different than the overgrown trashy desert rat kind of desert that is becoming the rule rather than the exception.  Looking out over the landscape here, we saw no trash, none anywhere.  From the quiet dirt roads around town, the desert vistas expand all around in all directions, clean and clear and silent.  It is all that I dream of when I dream of desert in winter.  It’s a place to soothe the soul and quiet the spirit.

Mar 23 Coyote CanyonAfter putting together a great supper with some of that pulled pork I made before we left, we enjoyed sitting out behind our rig on the edge of the park watching the light play on the mountains.  Our plans were to leave for the Tucson area Thursday morning, but that just seemed silly.  “What is the rush, I said? Why don’t we stay here one more night and take some time tomorrow to go find some of the places we couldn’t see today?” Mo was up for that idea, and we went to bed with the great feeling that the next day would be relaxed and fun, and we would have time to go find all those “points of interest” that we saw on the park map.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No drama, not one bit!

The Great Valley surrounded by snow from the eastern slope.

Bakersfield to Borrego (10) On the road this morning by 9, we looked up the road ahead and in spite of the heavy clouds and snow peeking through here and there, we weren’t the least bit worried.  Snow level 4,000 feet, pass level, something just below that.  Our outside temperature reading was something like 48 degrees.  No ice at that temperature for sure.  By the time we actually drove into Tehachapi, most of yesterday’s heavy snows had melted, with dirty brown piles around on the sidewalks, but the roads were perfectly clear. 

West of the Tehachapi’s, green valley rangeland

Bakersfield to Borrego (17)It only took an hour, and suddenly we were on the east side of the mountains, looking back at the beautiful snow and basking in the brilliant sunshine coming through the windshield.  We decided again to skip Barstow and go directly south on 395, varying our route from last December to just add a little bit of interest.  After gassing up at Kramer’s Corner, still just 3.89 per gallon, I took over the driving duties. 

East of the Tehachapi’s, open desert

Bakersfield to Borrego (24)Relocating Garmin Girl to the middle of the windshield where I could drive and navigate at the same time, I settled in ready to tackle LA traffic.  The southern route crossed Cajon Pass, and it  was fast and steep.  I had forgotten how much of Southern California is really mountains rather than the basins that I remember.  The wild crosshatch of faults running in all directions, with uplifts and mass wasted hillsides, huge crevasses of eroded slopes, and wild shifting geology makes for an incredible landscape.  Today, for the first time in more years than I care to remember, Riverside was crystal clear and we could see mountains all around us in all directions. Almost as amazing, the traffic all the way was light and easy, with many folks kindly making way for the MoHo to change lanes when needed, and giving me plenty of room to navigate.

Bakersfield to Borrego (28)Garmin Girl did a great job getting me through the interchanges, and Mo tackled the I-phone and paper maps to try to figure out why the GPS units kept wanting to take us all the way east on I-10 to Indio before going south to Borrego. I kept saying, “The GPS is programmed for fastest, I think the phone does shortest, and the map isn’t detailed enough.”  Mo was determined that we should go south and cross on 79, but I was a bit worried about that route since I knew there was a pretty steep drop-off into Borrego Springs.  What the heck, it’s an adventure anyway, and we crossed Highway 36 last month and we decided it couldn’t be any worse than that. 

So south we went, turning east on the Temecula Parkway and traveling through the beautiful wild country toward Warner Springs and Julian.  Just before Warner Springs, in a huge broad valley, we came upon huge drifts of “goldfields” a common wildflower in the California foothills.  The sheets of yellow stretched all across the valley, and with the snow covered peaks all around it, the contrast was incredible. 

Bakersfield to Borrego (31) The 22s route east from Highway 79 is paved, two lanes all the way, and not nearly as narrow as the coast mountain range roads we traveled last month.  The grade IS steep, and the hairpins are dramatic, but it’s over fast, maybe fifteen minutes from the summit to the basin floor at Borrego.  The automatic downshift transmission, “torque converter” Mo thinks that what it is called, but whatever the name, it does a great job of holding her back and keeping us from having to use the brakes.  We rolled into the State Park just in time to hear that the last spot had been taken.

I know there are a ton of places around Borrego to boondock, but  without an internet connection, I didn’t have access to all that information at the moment, and it was late.  Instead, we stopped in at the Borrego Holiday Home Park, reviewed by Laurie last month, and by 5 we wereBakersfield to Borrego (42) settled in to a nice site on the east side of the park facing open desert for 27 bucks, full hookup.  I originally planned to stay at the State Park, but this was so simple, and we are only going to be here one more night, so tomorrow will be a day of exploration and we will just come back home to our little cozy spot here. 

I told Mo that from now on I need to try to remember all those places I have read about, and if we even have a slight chance we might boondock, I need to have maps and locations and coordinates!  Especially late in the day after driving freeways. 

Tomorrow we will explore Anza Borrego State Park, and with a good weather forecast, I am really looking forward to a day in the sun.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A gorgeous day on I-5 (and a few minor glitches)

Lodi to Bakersfield (3) Gotta thank everyone for all the encouragement yesterday, both on Facebook and as comments on my blog post about the break-in.  I was even surprised at how comforting it felt to have people noticing and sending along good thoughts.  A couple of folks mentioned our good attitude toward it all, but again, as we looked around last night at how unscathed we were, it was impossible to not have a pretty good attitude.

This morning, even though there were huge clouds all around the San Joaquin Valley, we saw promises of brilliant sunlight peeking through.  Although we didn’t get up till 6:30 or so, I had been lying awake since four, watching the perigee full moon through the sky visible below the back bedroom shade.  All sorts of scenarios went through my mind, still trying to figure out just how they managed to do some of the weird things they did.  So yeah, that good attitude held up fine with the lights on, but in the dark of night, not so much.

Lodi to Bakersfield (8) We got up, neither one of us much in the mood for breakfast, and checked out the weather on the internet.  Didn’t look real good for us no matter which route we follow, so we just decided that driving down the open country of I-5 on the west side of the valley was more agreeable than bumping along on my least favorite road, Highway 99, even though 99 would have been a shorter route.  Our latest plan was to amble toward Bakersfield and then check again about the passes, and probably camp somewhere this side of Castaic and the Flying J on the interstate. 

Of course, with so many little things missing, we also decided that a shopping trip to Camping World, south of Bakersfield on 99 was a good plan, and we still hadn’t completely let go of our wish to travel via 58 to Tehachapi and our friends.  Speaking of friends, Loree is at this very moment sitting in Tehachapi, and her photos of the snow there looked a bit daunting.  Either way, a night of boondocking was on the agenda.

Lodi to Bakersfield (10) The drive south on I-5 was actually breathtaking.  With all the storms, there isn’t a bit of smog or pollution in the air, and the wild cloudy skies with brilliant sun breaks only intensified the spring green of the annual grass rangeland of the western perimeter of the Great Valley. I said to Mo, “I have to get some real photos, not windshield shots, this is just too gorgeous>.”  She replied, “Well, I can’t pull over here in the middle of nowhere, but I’ll keep watching.”  In less than 2 miles, we saw a sign indicating a “vista point”.  Perfect!  The exit wound up a high hill right next to the interstate with an amazing 360 degree view of the entire valley north, east, and south, and the coast range rising to the west.  In addition, we found ourselves looking down on the California Aqueduct just below us.

Lodi to Bakersfield (11) A true engineering marvel, whether you love it or hate it, and stretched out to the horizon parallel to Interstate 5, it was all that made California what it is, especially Southern California.  With my 3G connection and 5 bars on the I-phone, I managed to learn more about the aqueduct that I even knew growing up in California when it was being built.  In a nutshell, the magnificent snow melt of the Sierras flows down the Feather River to Oroville Dam, west to the Delta of San Francisco Bay, then south through a mind-boggling array of pipes, tunnels, pumps, over mountains, through mountains and ending up supplying the outrageous water needs of the bread basket of the world in the San Joaquin Valley and the entire metropolitan area of Los Angeles.  I even read that the water Rick and so many others are drinking while supping at Palm Springs restaurants comes from the gorgeous Feather River high in the Sierras. 

Lodi to Bakersfield (20)  Once again on the road, the pavement was smooth enough for me to knit, and the storms coming and going made for great entertainment.  A bit after noon, we thought lunch might be nice and stopped at a quiet rest area with thoughts of starting up the generator and cooking some grilled cheese sandwiches.  Mo said, “Probably would be a good idea to start up the generator anyway, since it’s been sitting awhile”.  UhOh.  Good thing we did.  She started easily and then ground right down to a stop and wouldn’t start again.  Mo checked under the rig for any sign of what might be the problem, but no luck.  She did say that the intruders were messing around in the generator bay, and who knows what they actually did.  The sound felt like it wasn’t getting gas.  Maybe something is cut or gone, but either way it wasn’t something she could figure out so we called Camping World.  Wouldn’t you know, they are booked up until Friday!  We don’t have our battery charge indicator, and certainly aren’t comfortable boondocking without the generator, so Camping World gave us the number of Pacific Power in Bakersfield, and thank goodness they said to come on in.

Lodi to Bakersfield (24) It was another hour and a half in to the shop, and lo and behold, it was a shop dedicated specifically to generators, with Onan on the window signs.  We pulled around to the back bay as directed by a crusty old guy who wasn’t the least bit talkative.  He pulled off the cover to the generator, harumphed a bit about how Dynamax didn’t make it easy to work on, and made some mumblings about us having it in storage too long and the carburetor was probably just glazed up.

Lodi to Bakersfield (27) Mo told him about our vandals, and he crawled under to find the fuel line to the generator was cut.  Seems as though the robbers couldn’t manage to siphon the gas directly from the gas tank, so evidently thought they could get it out of the generator gas line.  Must not have worked, but they weren’t completely awful people because they actually plugged up the cut hose with a piece of pipe so all the gas wouldn’t run out on the floor and cause an explosion.   Our fixer man re-connected the hose, pushed the starter, and the generator roared to life.  Perfect.  Only after all this, did the guy actually start to talk a little bit and laughed with us about the good outcome.   I told him I was part of the RV blogging world and would put in a good word for Pacific Power  on Buck Owens Boulevard in Bakersfield.  Great service where we least expected it.

Lodi to Bakersfield (30) Back on Highway 99, we traveled just a few miles south to camping world to check out some goodies, and found another voltage meter to replace the one that was stolen.  By this time is was after 4pm and we were definitely ready to settle in for the evening.  Looking at the snow ringing the entire valley, we finally decided that we would take our chances traveling 58 directly east to the desert tomorrow morning.  A quick search on Streets and Trips yielded an RV park not too far out of town along our route and within an hour we were parked and settled in, just in time for the huge thunderstorm to hit. 

Lodi to Bakersfield (31) You wonder why I am so amazed at our good luck?  I have had other times in my life where something that looks like a streak of really bad luck is combined with amazing good luck that gets me through it all by the skin of my teeth.  This has been one of those streaks for sure, a time when I know someone is watching over me.  As we left Pacific Power this afternoon, Mo turned to me and said, “How likely would it be for us to just randomly decide to use the generator in the middle of the afternoon?”  How likely that we would be within a few miles of an Onan specialist.  How likely that the vandals didn’t let all the gas drain out after cutting the fuel line, and how likely that the whole thing didn’t just blow up completely.  How likely that we would decide to travel highway 58 and then hear that there were heavy snows and landslides on I-5 and it was closed down anyway!

Yup, so far, this has been one heck of a lucky trip.