Continued from the previous post
After our evening get-together, Gaelyn let us know that she had planned adventures for the following day. Mo and I also had plans for an outing that didn’t particularly interest Gaelyn. Before we left for this trip, Mo's brother Dan told us about an interesting place in the southern portion of the Kofa mountains. The Castle Dome Mining Museum is somewhat of a tourist trap, but it was a delightful trap and we enjoyed visiting. I have linked to this particularly well-written blog about the museum because anything I might write about the area would involve unacceptable degrees of plagiarism.
The history of mining gold and silver in that part of the Kofa mountains is fascinating. When the refuge was established the old buildings were to be destroyed. Instead, Allen and Stephanie Armstrong asked for permission to salvage what they could from the surrounding mines. The history and complexity of this mining area and the creation of the partially real and partially fake ghost town are too detailed for my writing skills, hence the link I included in the first paragraph.
The last eight miles of the road to the museum are well-maintained gravel
We enjoyed the open desert of the Kofa NWR adjacent to the US Proving Grounds. The road was gravel but well maintained and even with the chilly wind the sun was almost warm. I found a few flowers in bloom and the views of the Kofas are always inspiring. The geology in this area is incredibly complex, with volcanic flows, vents, dikes, and granitic intrusions covered by varied layers of metamorphosed sediments. No wonder it was a hotbed for mining.
The townsite itself was actually quite charming.
There were artistic arrangements of varied pieces of junk made to look beautiful. A favorite for both of us was the purple glass, which due to the manganese content of glass prior to 1930, turns purple over many years of sun exposure.
The hotel was moved from its previous location a few miles from the current townsite. I still don't understand how they managed to reassemble these buildings so well.
The church was delightful, with a working church bell and stained glass windows
The church and the mercantile were still in their original positions in the town, but the rest of the buildings were gathered from several miles around the area to create the little town rebuilt over three original mines.
A delightful addition to the site was a special room dedicated to people who had served in the military. Veterans from all over the country had signed the walls, and on a table was a book and a note saying there was no more room on the walls for signatures. Instead, they asked that veterans sign the special book placed on the table. Mo added her signature and branch of the military and date of retirement.
I neglected to get a photo of the young woman volunteering at the entry desk. She and her sister were in their twenties, choosing to live in their trailer and travel the country while working remotely. They volunteered in exchange for their space and utility rent at the townsite. Her work was in extensive GIS evaluations of landscapes and her sister worked in some version of tech out of the Bay Area. They were both well-educated and from the East Coast. It reminded me that many young people choose to live life differently than what we thought was required. Get educated, get a good job, work for a long time to earn a retirement, and hopefully get to eventually enjoy retirement. She told us they had no interest in settling down, owning a home, or working full-time. I think they are a good example of the concept “no one wants to work anymore”. They were working, but with very different values from what we were taught was acceptable.
It was a lovely day and after spending a few hours at the site, we were hungry. Lucky for us, here in the middle of nowhere, there was a solar and wind-powered food truck offering some great food. We shared a delicious burger and really good fries. Somehow I neglected to photograph the food truck, the great people cooking there, and all the interesting infrastructure that provided heat, light, and water to this location far off the grid.
It was a beautiful day and a great way to spend some time doing something different that we haven't done before. By the time we got back to Quartzsite, it was late in the day. I visited a bit with Gaelyn and her kitty Sierra before settling back into the cozy warm MoHo for another cold desert night.
We woke to clear cold skies once again on our last day in the southern deserts. The route home would be a familiar one. Instead of stopping in Desert Hot Springs, we decided to drive all the way to Orange Grove RV Park on the eastern perimeter of Bakersfield.
I needed some oranges! Three years ago, when we last planned to camp there, the nightly fee of more than $50 was daunting. After our cross-country trip, where we had to pay more than 100 bucks for some RV parks, it seemed completely reasonable. Besides, when I called for our reservation we were told that, yes, the trees are full of ripe oranges for picking. Did I mention that roadside oranges in the Coachella Valley were going for $30 per bag? I can subtract that cost from our camping fee.
We were on the road by 8, knowing that with nearly 400 miles to go to Orange Grove RV Park, there wasn't time to dally about if we wanted to arrive before dark. Even in Southern California dark comes early in January. The drive was uneventful, brightened along the way by the snowy peaks of Mt San Jacinto and Mt San Gorgonio, covered in snow at their general elevation of more than 12,000 feet.
We rolled into the familiar driveway at the park, happy to be once again settled into a place with full hookups and level sites. While Mo finished setting up the utilities, I walked the dog and scoped out the best oranges. Hot homemade soup from the freezer was once again our dinner of choice. I do love having soup when we are on the road and the weather is cold. And yes, it was cold in Bakersfield as well. The repeating refrain for this trip is cold, cold, or at least chilly.
The next morning we set out again with 350 miles to our destination in Lodi. The skies were clear and gorgeous, and the winds were strong all along the corridor of I-5 from Lost Hills toward Lodi. My arms got a bit sore holding onto the steering wheel and when we stopped for fuel in Patterson at only $3.65 per gallon the wind almost knocked me over. Back on the interstate the wind just got worse, and added to the wind, we were in a section of I-5 that had potholes up to 4 inches deep. I had to duck and dodge the holes, swerving like a drunk person. I hoped I wouldn't get stopped by the Highway Patrol for impaired driving. I did look it up later and discovered that a state policeman can actually give you a ticket for swerving to avoid a pothole.
We did stop long enough to take a photo of the California Aqueduct, with a controversial history vital to the development of California agriculture in the Central Valley.
We reached the familiar park before dark and took Mattie for a walk. She wasn't happy about the wind either and was anxious to get back inside the rig. Even though it was windy, it wasn't anything compared to the winds we endured on our way south. Thirty-five MPH winds are tolerable if not pleasant. What we didn’t know until we were home and could see the MoHo in its entirety was that the air conditioner shroud blew off in the intense winds. We heard a noise, had no clue what it was, and kept on driving.
The next morning dawned crystal clear, without a sign of the usual valley fog. Thank you, Wind. In addition, the winds were light with just a gentle breeze. It was a perfect day to do exactly what we planned to do. In between our 350 to 400-mile days we gave ourselves a break in Lodi. It was a day to lay low and do almost nothing and enjoy the last of our California days.
We saw a large sign for an olive tasting and winery just down the road from the park. With only 3/4 of a mile to get there, it was an easy outing for our morning. The Calivines winery and Calivirgin olive groves are a fairly new operation developed by a family that has lived in Lodi for five generations.
The video screen in the photo above was running a loop of fascinating images of the harvesting and milling process for the olives. The perfectly rectangular olive trees are harvested by a machine that keeps them in shape, unlike the ancient olive trees we have seen in Europe.
Perfectly manicured olive grove about ten years old, harvested by machine
The tasting room was warm and spotless, with a lovely young woman offering the story of the family, the history of the olive trees nearby, and the concept of olives and grapes being a shared enterprise. I succumbed to some delightful basil olive oil, and a beautifully crafted 18-year-old pear balsamic. We tried a glass of their lovely Old Vine Zin, a bit young, but oh so smooth. The bottle was $35 bucks so we decided to wait and spend our money on a favorite wine we found when visiting Lodi last winter.
After that simple little outing, we relaxed at home with our own lunch before continuing the theme of relaxation at the Klinker Brick Winery for a tasting. This little winery is so delightful, with an easygoing vibe and not the least bit of pretension. They make some truly lovely Old Vine Zinfandel wines.
This year a favorite that we purchased last year was on sale and Mo and I decided that the half case of Marissa Estate Zinfandel that we bought would last another year if we drank only one bottle every two months. Sitting in the sunshine at one of the patio tables was the first time I remember being warm on this trip (except in the cozy MoHo of course) since our day at the zoo in Palm Desert.
By the time we left for our last leg toward home the next morning, we both felt reasonably relaxed and ready for another direct run on Interstate 5. The winds weren't terribly bad and the skies were gorgeous.
Lake Shasta with Mt Shasta in the distance after the recent rains
We were thrilled to see that Lake Shasta was responding to the torrential rains of the last few weeks and the lake level was just 50 feet below normal. The familiar sight of Mt Shasta rising to the north is always a marker for us as we approach home. Even though Shasta is still a couple of hours from Grants Pass, it is a familiar beacon marking our return.
Love to see Shasta on the skyline since it means we are close to home
As I write, the coldest temperatures of winter here in Grants Pass are moderating as another rainstorm approaches. There won't be any more lows in the 20s, at least not in the foreseeable future. Snow can show up on the valley floor at any time between November and April, but there is a difference in the light. The sun is at last a bit higher in the sky and there is a sense of change coming. By March it will be truly spring.
Just a little preview, we plan to travel to the Portland area for ten days or so to visit some of the places where Mo grew up. I will cruise on Viking on the Rhine River with my daughter Deborah in April. In May, Mo and I will travel with her brothers to visit family in Colorado, traveling through Moab Utah along the way. Then in early July, Mo and I will embark on a much-awaited cruise to the United Kingdom, including Ireland, Scotland, and England.
In the meantime, we have plenty to do to keep us busy right here at home.