Showing posts from November, 2011

Nov 30 - On Coincidence

We've had a couple of weird coincidences occur around here recently. Going back a couple weeks...  Let me set the scene. We had just gotten settled at Camp Solitude in the desert near Quartzsite. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Brian Gore's first novel "A Matter of Honor" on my Kindle. On the afternoon of the day in question I was on the internet... on Amazon, and was writing a short review of his book. While on the "write your review here" page, in the middle of composing the review, Dar spotted a truck and fifth wheel rolling into our corner of the desert and announced "incoming" (a habit we've gotten into, as watching people park big rigs is better entertainment than almost anything on commercial TV). So I glance out and see the rig slowly moving in... and said "Hey, I know that guy! That's Brian Gore... the guy who wrote the book I just finished... the review I'm writing right now!". Literally, as I'm wri…

Nov 29 - Escapees North Ranch

Yesterday we made the 110 mile drive from our Plomosa Road camp near Quartzsite to the Escapees North Ranch park between Wickenburg and Congress AZ. The drive was a good one... no incidents and light traffic. When traveling east we generally prefer a late start (about 11am yesterday) to minimize the glare and squinting that accompanies driving into the sun. At the very least, it's a good excuse for sleeping in.

I topped off the two tires I wrote about in the last post and confirmed that the problem with the slow leak in the toad's tire was due to the Pressure Pro sensor. When I swapped the suspect sensor with one on another wheel, the new tire developed the slow leak. Hmmm. You know I'll be talking with my Pressure Pro supplier about this today. I now highly suspect the same issue with the front tire on the bus-house. I'm running without the sensor on that tire for a while to see if the leak stops.

North Ranch is an interesting community. There are about 100 rental R…

Nov 27 - Last Day at Camp Solitude

It's Sunday already, which means we've got to start packing up, stowing things, in preparation for moving tomorrow. Even if we wanted to stay longer (no argument from either of these two nomads), we're running a little low on some resources that require movement of the bus-house... things like fresh water and propane which are the two we'll run out of first. So since we've got to move anyway, and since we're still planning to be in Rockport by just after the first of the year, we're getting back on the road.

I've got two tires with slow leaks. The right rear tire on the toad has leaked since the day I had new tires put on last summer. It's very slow and it's been my denial of reality that's prevented me from having it fixed before this. But I added air just a couple weeks ago... even put in a little extra. But when I checked it yesterday, it was down to 26psi... a full 10 pounds from where it was. The other tire is the front right bus-house…

Nov 25 - The Nellie E Saloon

Well here's hoping we didn't lose any readers during all the Black Friday consumerist shopping riots earlier today. I'm hearing about folks being pepper sprayed, shot, stabbed, and worse... by other "shoppers" who feel they need something bad enough to set aside normal civil behavior and bring out the heavy artillery to gain some kind of advantage. I mean, what are they thinking? Do they sit up the night before and plan this? Never having been to a shopping riot I guess I should give folks the benefit of the doubt... that perhaps the store is really at fault for whipping people into a frenzy and all. I don't remember Christmas shopping being at all like this when I was a kid.

For our excitement we headed out to the Nellie E Saloon for lunch. This isn't as easy as it sounds though. First you've got to drive north of Parker some 5 miles on the main highway, AZ-95, and try to find the intersection with the old rocky dirt road that leads to the bar, anot…

Nov 24 - Thanksgiving Day Lunner

A small sliced ham, potato rolls, green bean casserole, cranberries, hobo veggies, and pun'kin pie... a small feast in the desert. We invited neighbor Brian Gore over for the mid-afternoon Thanksgiving Day "lunner" and then sat around the campfire telling stories and solving world problems.

Had a great time.

Nov 23 - New Desert Geoglyph

While chasing Patton's tanks the other day we got to talking about how slowly things change in the desert. Besides those 70 year old Sherman Tank tracks, there's the much older (500 years or more??) Bouse Fisherman Intaglio that we visited last year. And where do the US Air Force and the airlines of the world park their old, surplus, or unused planes? The desert of course. The dry arid environment minimizes the availability of water... one of the main elements of erosion, corrosion, population explosion, and the notion of distortion. And I can't emphasize enough the effect low population has on the enduring longevity of things out here.

I enjoy watching people riding by on their ATVs, 4-wheelers, or dirt bikes. At first, the silence of the desert is broken by the sound of a small engine, off in the distance,... then a bunch of small engines. Instinctively, I turn my head, home in on the sound, and see a rooster tail of dust... not unlike the Tasmanian Devil character in …

Nov 22 - Chasing Patton's Tanks

I generally wake up thereabouts 4 or 5 in the morning... don't think I'll explain why... just happens when you're in your 50s or 60s.  When the sky is clear, as it's been almost every night we've been here at Camp Solitude, there, right there, through the window next to my head, is the constellation Orion, as bright and bold as I've ever seen him... his belt cinched tight, sword and shield ready for action, his companion Canis Major at his side, keeping a close watch on the not-to-be-trusted and altogether too close constellation Taurus (the bull). Occasionally, if you're very perceptive, and patient, Taurus starts moving furtively closer to our hero Orion... who, if you watch carefully, actually raises his sword and shield... urging the rogue bull back to it's place in the heavens.

Hey, it's better than counting sheep.

Yesterday, Tuesday (I think), Dar and I wandered off into the desert to the south, chasing General George Patton's tanks. We …

Nov 21 - Desert Mirages

I'm having a problem believing that it's been 3 days since my last update to the Journal. The past few days have been like this: sleep in, satiate hungers and needs for caffeine, look for firewood (can't burn anything found in desert; can't find anyone selling it in Q; Harrumph!), explore locally, visit (found our buddies Fred and Lynne not far away; also writer Brian Gore), work on projects, monitor the power plant on our roof (solar panels), pop corks, toast the setting sun, climb in bed... repeat the next day.

There's something that attracts me to this spot at this time of year. While Q can become a swarm of RVs, flea markets, traffic, and activity in January, during this time of the year it's positively boring. (As I mentioned above... can't even find a bundle of firewood. Apparently the firewood vendors haven't shown up yet.) But, in this case, boring, for me, is the attraction. The solitude recharges my onboard batteries just as the sun is doing …

Nov 17 - Into Arizona

It took a little longer than usual to complete moving-morning chores... that, and perhaps sleeping in a little later than normal... but we finally got the bus-house rolling out of Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree NP a little before 11am. Our objective today was Quartzsite, AZ, something less than 200 miles distant. At first I thought we'd circle around the top of the Park on the north and east sides (CA-62 to CA-177) and hit I-10 for the run into Arizona. But that changed to just running right down through the middle of the Park on Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road to the Cottonwood Spring area and out the south gate just a few miles from exit 168 on I-10. There are no size restrictions that I could find on that route and a ranger I asked didn't seem at all concerned.

While we did survive the drive just fine, thanks in part to the lack of other traffic, running down Pinto Basin Road was a challenge at times. The road is very narrow in places and the pavement had seen be…

Nov 15 - Joshua Tree National Park

First off, as a follow up to the "bridge" post from a couple days ago, I went back and found some online photos of the thing from different perspectives and added them to that post. It might help... especially the photo of the wooden braces that had been added to keep the rickety old thing up on it's pilings. I also found a newspaper article from the "Desert Dispatch" from earlier this year that highlights the problem... but, in all honesty, for me it prompts more questions than provides answers.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we explored Joshua Tree National Park. The Park's namesake, the Joshua Tree, is a unique plant that is actually a variation of the Yucca (Yucca brevifolia) and only grows in the southwestern United States. At home between about 1,500 and 6,000 feet of elevation, the presence of Joshua Trees is a good indicator that you're in the Mojave Desert. They grow quickly from seeds... perhaps 3 inches per year in their early years. Once established t…

Nov 14 - Sixteen Tons... What Do You Get

This morning. Southbound on North 1st Ave in Barstow. We crossed the dry Mojave River and then started a twisting climb to a bridge that carries traffic over the very busy BNSF railroad tracks through the middle of town. That's when I saw the sign... a small one... but it got my attention:  Bridge Weight Limit  - two axle vehicles = 7 tons;  three axle vehicles = 11 tons; four axles or more = 15 tons. WHAT????

The bus-house is a two axle vehicle and it weights a bit less than 16 tons all by itself. The toad, considered a separate vehicle was well under the restriction... but the bus-house! Sheesh. And we're only a thousand or so feet from turning onto the sagging span, which I can now see is all shored up underneath with what looked like puny little 2x4s. OH MAN... gotta act now!

There was only one opportunity to turn before I was past the point of a no-hassle return. If I went past that final intersecting street, which was now only 30 feet away, there were only three possibl…

Nov 13 - Purple Haze to Barstow

This morning, after good-byes from old friends and new neighbors at the SKP Park of the Sierras, we hooked up the toad and were rolling down the road by 10:30am. It's good to be back in the hunt for new sights and adventure.

As we rolled south toward Fresno it became clear that the air was not... clear, that is. You see, Fresno and most of the San Joaquin Valley are often saddled with some of the worst air quality in the nation.

(Purple haze all in my brain ... Lately things just don't seem the same...)
Prevailing winds from the Pacific are trapped in the valley by the high surrounding mountains. All the "stuff"... the yuk... from the super-populated, hyper-industrialized, super-agriculturized economy in the valley -- dust, exhaust, chemicals, bad-breath, cow-farts, irrigated humidity, and more that I don't even want to know about -- combine to form a nearly constant haze that's optimistically called fog by locals. Others call it smog... still others "…

Nov 11 - Precipitation Pre-emps Perfection

We've been back at the bus-house for two days now and we're slowly getting caught up with writing and the more than 500 photos taken during our trip to the two NPs (Kings Canyon and Sequoia) earlier this week. Dar has uploaded some photos of our trip into albums at our online photo collection and will have more up in the next day or so. I'm nearly up to date with journal posts but have one or two yet to complete. And in some cases, a post that was originally done without photos may have had a few photos added... so look back if you have the time.

Originally we had planned to leave SKP Park of the Sierras today, Friday. But we made the decision to delay that by a couple days for weather reasons. There's a storm system off the California coast that's bringing precipitation into this area and we'd really rather drag the toad around in dry weather to minimize the time I spend cleaning vehicles. Besides, what's the rush?  Where do we have to be so urgently?


Nov 9 - Walking Among Giants

Our last morning in the Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks. We thought we'd spend the morning walking among the giants... the Giant Sequoias in Grants Grove.

General Grant
First up was a visit to the General Grant tree... the undisputed second largest tree in the world.
As with General Sherman, the slightly larger first-place tree, General Grant is huge but hard to comprehend. Even comparing it to nearby mature and taller Sugar Pines -- themselves huge trees by any normal standard, the Grant Giant makes them appear as mere nursery stock and your mind tends to remove them from the scene.

Most of the trees in the Grove are not Sequoias, and only a very few are truly "giants". But as you walk the giants call out, grab your attention, their deep dark red bark illuminated like the only color object in a black and white photograph. They call out, you turn and look, and say "Wow" as your mind tries once again, unsuccessfully, to really comprehend the scale of size…

Nov 8 - Communing with General Sherman

With a hearty hot egg breakfast onboard, a bag of crunchy gorp, a cup of hot coffee, a new set of cable-chains for the toad, and an OK from the Park Service that the road from Grants Grove to Wuksachi Village and the Lodgepole Visitors Center in Sequoia National Park is finally open, we were off on the days adventure... to explore the big trees, the largest living things on the planet, known as Giant Sequoias.

Since the recent snowfall prior to our arrival on Monday and until this morning, the only road that connects to two National Parks, known as Generals Highway, has been closed while they clear it of 6 or 8 inches of snow and ice. Warmer temps during the past day or two were helpful and hope turned to reality... and the road is now open. We somehow timed our visit to coincide with a string of three days of great weather.

It's common up here to have fog/clouds alternating with clear blue skies throughout the day. And today was not uncommon. Generally the about 25 mile drive …

Nov 7 - Kings Canyon - Another View

With the bus-house safely parked at SKP Park of the Sierras, where we've been based for the past two weeks or so, we packed up the toad and headed toward Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We planned to spend two nights in the John Muir Lodge in the Grants Grove area of Kings Canyon NP... our first foray away from the bus-house since our trip from Wisconsin to South Carolina this past April. We're beginning to realize that the expense and hassle associated with moving the bus-house is, at times, hard to justify, especially when the object of the exploration is remote and with few if any facilities for a huge camper. In this case, it wouldn't be possible for us to drive the bus-house through the Parks as a number of roads have 22 foot maximum length restrictions. Additionally, a recent snowfall has made tire chains mandatory on many of the roads throughout the Parks... and tire chains will never be put on this rig while we have it. It became clear that if we were goi…

Nov 7 - Quick Update from Kings Canyon

It's 7:30pm, and I'm sitting in a rocking chair close to a fireplace in the lobby of the John Muir Lodge at Grants Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. Glowing embers and dancing flames are providing the entertainment along with a good dose of radiant heat tonight. It's wonderful... magical. Imagine... having long conversations with people we hadn't met before tonight... a very nice couple from Denver... and a foursome from near Paris, France. One of the wonderful things about lodges in many, maybe most of the National Parks, is that there's no damn TV on the premises... not in your room, not in the lobby, not anywhere. And not just no signal, or no cable, or satellite... no sir, there's no dang TV set at all. No old fashioned fat TV set with the big curvy screen... No modern flat-screen hanging on the wall... Nothing. Just a flat credenza with a coffee pot, ice bucket, telephone, a place to plop your bag... and that's it. So rather than sit in your room an…

Nov 4 - Changing Weather

I've written before about how perfect the weather has been the past few weeks. Sun, blue skies, few clouds, highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s. But after turning on the TV for the first time in over two weeks a couple nights ago, it looked like our lucky-streak was coming to an end... or, at least, a break.

It's only rain at our temporary home at Camp Sierra near Coarsegold. But we've seen snow on cars coming down from higher elevations. And some of the higher hilltops have a white-ish cast.

This is what a view toward Half Dome from Sentinel Dome looked like the past few days.

And this is what the same view looks like this afternoon... courtesy of a webcam near the top of Sentinel Dome.

Think I'll throw another log on the fire.