Thursday, December 31, 2020

12/31 An Article on John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley"

I'm going to write an annual summary of my travels tomorrow, but while it is still 2020 here on the West Coast, I wanted to post this:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/best-travel-books-steinbeck-charley/2020/12/30/6728eb2c-40b7-11eb-8db8-395dedaaa036_story.html    (Please ignore the lack of italics in the blog title above, but this system is not allowing italics.)  I read Steinbeck's Travels With Charley when I was in high school, and it helped hook me on travel.  (Steinbeck was dying, so he bought a truck camper and spent most of a year traveling in it.  Charley was his wife's standard poodle that he borrowed as a companion.  There is some evidence that he made up some of his travel adventures, but that really did not matter to most of his readers, then or now.)  Travels With Charley was the last book he wrote. 

Just for the record, I am on my way from Napa, CA, to the Las Vegas area to spend some time in two of my favorite campgrounds:  Valley of Fire State Park and Willow Beach Marina, which is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  

I arrived here in Tehachapi yesterday, planning to just spend one night at this campground along the glider airport.  I got my grocery shopping done and filled up my propane tank, plus got a full tank of gas for the next morning's trip.  However, in the middle of last night, the wind picked up and started rocking my motorhome.  In addition, there was an inch of snow on the ground!!

This may be Southern California, but the very pleasant town of Tehachapi is located at the top of the Tehachapi Pass, which is 4,000' above sea level, so it is really cold up here in winter.  On both sides of the pass is flat desert, but this town is not only on the top of the pass, but it is surrounded by higher mountains.  This means heading either direction is steeply downhill on a major freeway, and high winds and slippery roads are not good when you are driving a 32' long motorhome that weighs almost 15,000 pounds and is 12' tall.  Much too easy to slide off the roadway, with me and most of what I own in it.  

So, I made the wise decision to stay another night and leave tomorrow morning instead.  It is very cold here, with a high of 38 today and 28 tonight, but with two electric heaters and two small furnaces, I am toasty warm, at least if I do not go outside!!  

Tomorrow is Las Vegas and Boulder Beach Campground for an overnight.  The next day, I will get to Valley of Fire early so I can get a spot there. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

12/29 More Rambling - Driving Style

After three weeks visiting my son and his family, I am back on the road, headed for the Las Vegas area.  As I was driving today, I was reminded of trips with my family when I was growing up.  Frankly, we did not take many driving trips because we spent most summers and weekends at a cottage we owned, but we did take a couple of long trips when I was a child. 

My dad's style was to get wherever we were going as fast as possible.  Grand Canyon?  Whoosh!  No time because we have to get to California on time.  Interesting museum?  Whoosh again!  No stops for anything other than a couple of quick pictures and some sandwiches to eat in the car.  

I have learned lessons from my dad's style and tend to do a lot of stopping along the way.  Typically, I plan my travels in my motorhome needing to drive only 150-200 miles per day.  And I seldom drive more than one day at a time.  While I am one of these people who likes to have reservations made months in advance, I also take the time to see things that were not planned for.  I know of people who plan to drive 300+ miles a day, but I cannot understand that kind of hurry.

However, I have to admit that today was a 300 mile day.  I have been over this route from Napa, California to Nevada several times and am in a hurry to get to one of my favorite campgrounds as soon as I can, so I drove longer today than I really like to drive.  In addition, there are two big things which are pushing me--the first is that the days are very short right now and it gets dark early.  The second is that while I have brake lights, head lights, backup lights, and flashers, I have no tail lights or running lights, so I cannot drive after dark, or even near dark.  (Running lights are those required small yellow lights on the side and tops of big trucks.)  I like summer better when I can drive until much later if I need to.  The problem right now is that the campground I am heading to in Nevada is first-come, first-served, so it might be harder to get into on Friday. 

It is a long story why I have not been able to get these fixed, but suffice it to say that Ford dealers will not deal with stuff that Fleetwood added, and RV dealers are booked up weeks and months in advance.  I had one appointment at a Camping World in late November, but after unhooking and driving there early in the morning, the could not find my appointment and would not fix them because they were too busy that day.  (Last time I will visit that dealer!)  I really need to make an appointment somewhere in Las Vegas to get them fixed, if I can find someone to fit me into their schedule.

One thing I missed in my long day of driving today, was the ability to take long stops at rest areas.  I often stop at least two or three times during the day to check my email, fix a meal or a snack and eat it, or stop at grocery stores.  I did take one long stop today to eat, but I really needed to stop somewhere to get a new memory card for my camera, get a propane fill, and pick up some groceries, but I kept pushing myself to get where I am tonight before dark.  

What I might end up doing is making tomorrow a short day so I can stop in Tehachapi to get a few things done.  It will mean fewer days in my favorite campground, but it will be less stressful.  

My rambling point, I guess, is that I do not like to hurry, but I like to get somewhere, so I am pushing my driving past where I really feel comfortable.  I much prefer a slower and more relaxed trip.   

 

Monday, December 14, 2020

12/14 Just Some Ramblings

 Have not posted in a while because I have not really had much of anything to post about.  About the most exciting time I had last month was spending a few days at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area, west of Bakersfield.  I had stayed there before, but it was a couple of years ago and it was almost empty and fine.  I needed a place to stay for a few days before heading to Napa, so I chose that place.

The first night I was there, it was Saturday, and the place was packed.  A group of neighbors not too far from me had a big no-mask party, with maybe 20-25 people.  I was happy when they left the next morning.  However, by then I had discovered the nasty truth about this campground--flies, and lots of them!!  Apparently, it is near several commercial dairy operations and summer and fall is horrible until the first freeze or at least almost freeze.  There were flies all over the outside of my motorhome, all trying to sneak in somehow. And the ones that DID get in were the friendly kind--you know, the ones who like to land on your face or hands while you are typing.  I was also having to keep wiping off counters and keeping food covered, also.  I killed at least 80-100 the first day and then maybe 20 each morning and another 20 each night.  Was driving me crazy.

Anyway, I was spending hours each day trying to use my electronic bug zapper wand to kill flies that made it in, I assume through cracks in the slides.  I keep a pretty good supply of big and critter control stuff, so I sprayed outside along the slides and around windows.  It helped, by even after I left there, I was still killing remnants of the fly population the first night or two in Napa. 

I am now in Napa, enjoying my fly-less time.  I intended to spend a few days here and then to to Borego Springs in southern California, than come back and spend 10 days just before and after Christmas.  However, during this time of COVID-19, California's numbers have been shooting up like crazy, so the governor has proclaimed that if any of the areas that have been defined in the state have less than 15% available ICU beds gets even more shut down than already shut down.  For me, that means that state park and county campgrounds are also shut down.   

Southern California is already shut down, so that eliminated Borego Springs, so I made a reservation to just stay here until Dec 28.  The only problem is that this park of the Bay Area is currently at 17.8, which means I could be given 4 hours to get out of here any day.  Thought i might get the news today, but so far, not yet. If I  get kicked out because they close this RV Park, I will have to head to Nevada, and miss spending Christmas with my son and his family.

Highs here in Napa have been from 55-69 degrees, with lows at night in the 30s and sometimes up to 50s.  Overall, it has been sunny, but had a couple of days of rain, which they really need. 

 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

11/14 Joshua Tree National Park, CA

I had been here before, but mostly spent time in the south end of the park.  I have even stayed at the Cottonwood campground, but the sites there are just too tight and no electric, so won't do that again.  I asked the ranger if there were any plans to build a more modern campground with larger sites inside the park, and the answer was no.  That is a shame because this is the only busy national park I have been at where there were such small spaces that I could not get in. 

This time I stayed in Indio and drove quickly from the south part of the park and took a different routs through the north end.  

My biggest problem was that I made the mistake of going on a Thursday.  This national park is near several good-sized cities in the Palm Springs, CA, area, so it was packed with local people hiking and enjoying themselves on a weekend.  The problem with it being busy was that most people were in cars, so they were parked in all the available spots.  There were several areas I wanted to stop at, but could not because there was no place to park.  

Thought this hazy photo on the way there was interesting because of the layering on the mountains.  

The entrance road on the southern part of the park is really in rough shape. 

They call this a smoke bush because it looks a little like smoke.


This is a creosote bush.

The bush has tiny leaves which have an interesting smell.  If you are in the desert and see one, pour a little water on a few leaves and you will be rewarded with a smell like burning rubber.  I once washed my motorhome in a campsite that had a couple of creosote bushes near them.  I kept thinking something was burning until I noticed the creosote bushes that were getting wet!  (You can pick a couple of leaves and rub them between your fingers, but sprinkling them with water gives the same effect and does not harm the bush.)

This is an ocotillo.  Unfortunately, the drought in this area means that its small leaves have mostly dried up, but after a rain or two, it will spring to life and even have red flowers at the tips of every branch. 

This is what they call a "cholla garden."  Some people call them jumping cholla because the spiky segments seem to jump on you as you pass and stick very strongly.  You want to walk carefully in the desert so you don't brush up against one of these.  Watch your dog, as well, because dogs get the little chunks caught in their fur as well.


The northwest part of the park had a lot of rocks.  A lot of people were walking around and climbing on the, but I just took photos! 

Finally, here are some Joshua Trees!  They live mainly in the Mohave Desert, which is a lot drier than the Sonoran Desert, and can get by on one rainfall per year.  And they are actually yucca instead of cactus. 

Some kids were enjoying climbing on these rocks and hiding in the caves.

Parking on the wide shoulder was easy here.



There are a lot of Joshua trees here. 

This is one of the pullover areas, and you can see why I could not stop at many of them.

This is a young Joshua Tree.  The big ones can live 200 years and get to be 30' tall.  This one is only about five feet tall.

Heading out of the park.



11/10 Oaten, Arizona - Old Mining Town

 I had not been to Oaten before, but I saw a couple of articles about it, so I headed down to near Needles, AZ and headed about 20 miles east. Not much around here but a bunch of big casinos, but I did not take photos of them.

Everything here is supposed to look like it was built in an old mining town, but I suspect this is a little newer.

This is the very small village of Oaten. 

The tourist attraction of the town is not just the old mining buildings, but also the wandering donkeys.  Actually, they are in town because the shops sell donkey food to tourists.


It takes a whopping 20 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other, assuming you walk very slowly, however.  It's only about two blocks.


This explains a little about the town. 



I could have spent a little more time here, but most of the stores were closed due to the virus.


Good-bye Oaten.  Did not even buy a post card!  These look like old mining tailings on the way out of town.




Thursday, November 12, 2020

11/6 Mouse's Tank Hike at Valley of Fire SP

There are a lot of places to hike in Valley of Fire, but one of the easiest and more interesting is the hike/walk to Mouse's Tank.  It is a 3/4 mile round trip, flat hike or walk.  The only thing that makes it slightly hard is that the ground is very soft sand, so it is a lot like walking on dry beach sand--every step takes extra effort, but at least it is flat and not too far.  I have walked on it in the past, so did not go all the way down, but that's fine. 

It is a shallow canyon, and on the north side of the canyon, there are hundreds of petroglyphs.  A petroglyph is a drawing pecked into the dark-stained rock using another stone so that the shape or design shows up lighter in color.  It is different from a rock painting because, obviously, there is no paint involved.  A positive is that because the figures are pecked into the rock, they can last hundreds and thousands of years.  It is estimated that the petroglyphs in Valley of Fire are from 2,000 to 4,000 years old.  

At the end of the shallow canyon is a large depression in the rock that holds water--hence it is called a tank.  And Mouse, was an outlaw in the 1800s who used the canyon and the tank as a hiding place from the law.  And, obviously, Native American's used this area heavily for thousands of years and made drawings where they camped.  

Anyway, it was a cool day, so other than slipping in the soft sand, it was an easy walk. First stop was the visitor center.  If you have kids, right next to the visitor center are large rocks with holes in them where kids can climb and hide.  

Looking out over the valley and the RV parking lot at the visitor center.

It is a bit of a steep drive up through the rocks to Mouse's Tank. 



The lot closest to the trail was full, so I had to park just down the road. 

Amazingly red rocks! 


There are deer and maybe elk in this group.  And maybe that spotted thing is a turtle??  Maybe that thing on the far left is a lizard, also. 

This is what the trail looks like.  Almost all of the petroglyphs are on the left side.

Some dancers??  Two seem to be wearing costumes, or maybe someone pecked out their images??

??????

More dancers?  Some people believe the line with vertical lines represent rain.  And maybe the squiggly line is a snake??

??????

This group looks very old because they are more weathered looking. 


This is a closeup of part of the above. Lots of dots. 

Another view of the trail. 

More animals and unknown figures.


This group is a little clearer. 


I spent about an hour walking and taking photos and then headed back downhill to my campsite.


Nice view of the valley.