Archive for January, 2014

I was very disappointed in the library at the Needles Desert View RV Resort. The property is tidy but 3 big bookcases revealed a lot of romances, some Scott Turow and James Patterson and a small range of mysteries, but nothing I was interested in.

We moved on the next day, trying to reach the BLM Red Rock Campground that is right outside the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It wasn’t too busy so we swept in and nabbed a nice space. There area has several outhouse and water spigots. The downside is that there’s not great internet here but there’s a Starbucks about 4 miles down the road. We went on our first drive through Red Rock on Saturday. There is a 13-mile drive that circles the wide canyon, with 19 hikes taking off from various points.

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We decided to do a hike we hadn’t done previously: Calico Tanks, a 1.5-mile trail. This area is full of wonderful rock, layer upon layer of different colors. We expected the trail to be crowded, already having skipped a number of pullouts because there was nowhere to park. We squeezed into the Sandstone Quarry parking lot and hit the trail. About 100 other people had hit the trail as well. There was a family with a small baby and a cute little girl in a pink dress. There was an entire sorority. There were people trying to run the trail. There were people with multiple dogs on leash. We have never been on such a crowded trail, not even in Yosemite. But it was a neat walk. I guess Las Vegas has gotten some rain recently because the tanks had some water in them.

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We ate lunch watching people try to edge their way along a very narrow ledge of rock or climb up a little higher and have easy sailing over to the viewpoint. Guess which way we went? It was a little hazy, but Vegas was stretched out in all its glory. Better to see it from a distance than be there!


Expecting more crowds on Sunday, we left camp a little earlier and stopped at the first pullout in the Canyon, an area reminiscent of the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park. What a jumble of rocks!

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Our destination this time was the Pine Creek Trail, about 3 miles round trip without any detours. The trail crosses an open area and then heads into a canyon with a little stream pooling intermittently. Where else can you see polka-dotted rocks?

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We got back to camp pretty early, showered and went to “town”. I’m not even sure the area outside Red Rock is Las Vegas proper, but they have a couple miles of large strip malls that include Kohl’s, Pottery Barn, Target, Home Depot and several supermarkets. I dropped Dave off at Starbucks to write and upload his blog while I did a big grocery shop, replenishing canned stuff and wine for our stay at Death Valley. The grocery store there is pretty pathetic.

We did one more hike on Monday. The description of the loop isn’t very clear and we ended up doing a hike to La Madre Springs and then cut over to do part of the White Rock Loop. Between the two, we rose and dropped a total of 1100 feet or so. We were bushed by the time we got back.

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I already forgot what we did Sunday so I guess it wasn’t much. We had a nice bacon-and-egg breakfast and then did stuff  (???) Oh yeah, the football game. Jim Melvin set up his TV outside and we ranged our chairs in front of it. We missed the ribs that went with the first game and arrived a little before dark to watch. There’s quite a few Bay Area fans but not so many Seahawk fans. Well, the Niners lost but it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

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Monday was our day to visit the big tent and shop for all kinds of things: surge protectors, luminarias, tow pigtails, gold earrings, LED lights, socks. We did better on the LD stuff than my ephemera. Lunch time rolled around and we had Indian-Mex – pretty good. Then more walking around until we were hot and tired. So we got in a very long line for Thrifty Ice Cream and I discovered one of the temporary new flavors was Cherry Amaretto Cordial. Originally introduced to us by a friend in Utah, Janet Curley, I’m addicted to the stuff. But this freshly made ice cream was tons better. Wow!!! We straggled back to camp and recuperated in time to go to Silly Al’s Pizza and meet Fred Haseley. Fred was out west from Virginia to supervise some training in Yuma. I worked with him intermittently for more than a decade and was pleased when he emailed to try to meet up with us. We had a nice get-together and Fred showed us pictures of his visit to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge that day. They showed loads of Canadian Geese and Snow Geese. Dave and I decided we had to go there.

The next day, a bunch of us had decided to go hike Palm Canyon, the only site with native California Fan Palms in Arizona. About 5 cars went south about 18 miles and turned east to enter the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  The trail up to the viewpoint is only a half-mile but it is rocky and uphill. The viewpoint is identified by a sign pointing upwards towards the palms, descending a very steep side canyon. Jim Cummings tried to bushwhack his way over there but realized he wasn’t going to get up there. So instead, he and several of us clambered up the center of the rocky canyon another half-mile or so. Debbie spotted a small arch further up. We reached a stopping point for lunch and watched the bobbing heads of Jim and Rod Michaelson as they made their way further in two different directions. We returned down to the parking lot and as the brochure stated “The downhill pace will be faster as you return to your car.” Of course, they didn’t count on photographers, and Dave and I were the last ones back.

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On Wednesday, Dave and I got up and out early to drive the 50 miles to the Cibola NWR. But the sunrise delayed us. The clouds were spectacular.

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We began to drive and stopped by some irrigated fields south of Blythe. There seemed to be a mist behind the distant palm trees that made them stand out.


The Cibola Visitor Center had an enthusiastic lady who laid out where all the birds were being sighted and there were a lot of birds! We couldn’t get very close to the Sandhill Cranes but sure could hear them. They have kind of a cackling noise that I wouldn’t want to hear day in and day out. But it seems to work for them.

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We went on the auto tour that first took us past a pond with lots of ducks doing their ducky things. We were told not to get out of our vehicle because while autos don’t bother the birds, people do.


Then from a distance, we heard a noise of gathering excitement and a large flock of snow geese took to the air. They flew over us and began to circle the pond. With each round, we could see them in side profile, then head on, then side profile again. Each circuit had some geese landing in the pond until the preponderance of them all descended. What a sound! You could see their wings curling and hear them whirring to slow down and let them drop to the water. I was blown away.

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While all this was going on, the ducks were minding their own business in another area of the pond.


That could have been enough for one day, but we moved on to spot the Burrowing Owls right by the side of the road. The Visitor Center had told us that the owls are habituated to cars and probably would be okay as long as we stayed in them. When they get nervous, they start to bob. They never bobbed so I guess they were okay with us being avian paparazzi.


As we continued on the auto tour, we saw some men and dogs hiding in the middle of a small flock of Canadian geese. As we watched, we realized that none of the geese were moving. It was a fake flock. None of the men seemed to have long guns so I have no idea what they were doing out there. We returned to the pond to eat lunch and watch the waterfowl do their thing. They seemed to share the small pond equably, and relatively quietly. It was great.


We returned to camp for our final evening with the Lazy Dazers. Roger had obtained some Trance Balloons that we had noticed on previous evenings. They are large colored lanterns that you light while others hold out the walls of the balloon. When enough heated air inflates it, you let go and off it floats into the sky, glowing warmly as it goes. Seems to last about 3 or 4 minutes, going higher and higher on a quiet night. See Dave’s blog for some images, although it hard to capture their charm visually.

On Thursday, we said our goodbyes and took off for Needles where we would dump and do laundry.

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We haven’t traveled so far, so fast in quite a while. The first day was easy. We camped in a new place: San Luis Reservoir off I-5. Medieros Campground had “loose” campsites, defined only by a fire ring, bench and lanai. But we were 10 feet away from the water and could watch the coots and seagulls out our back window. Our intention was to overstay an hour or so on Sunday to watch the 49er-Panthers game on Sunday. It worked well. We woke up to a gorgeous sunrise, watched the Niners get well ahead and zoomed down (at 55 mph while towing a car) I-5 and over to Bakersfield.


The smog was really thick, but we raced through town and went to our usual RV park east of town near the orange groves. We managed to watch Downton Abbey but a very pixilated version. Then 220 miles on Monday from Bakersfield to Twentynine Palms, north of Joshua Tree National Park. The roads were good except for one terrible area on Highway 18 from Adelanto to Lucerne Valley. The traffic was very heavy for a Monday afternoon, mostly because of all the stop lights that ran for miles along strip malls. And the speed limit between the lights (about a ¼-mile apart)? 60 mph! Next time we’ll go further east on Highway 58 to Barstow and then head south on CA-247.


North of Yucca Valley, we stopped at a rock pile we’ve visited before. The rocks are absolutely covered with graffiti. Most of it is stupid but some of them have an artistic bent. We arrived at 29 Palms right before sunset. On Tuesday, we dumped everything, picked up a load of firewood and floated down to Quartzsite, AZ, ready for a week of boondocking.


Following Roger Nickey’s GPS coordinates, we navigated through a mile or so of a whole lot of RV’s and found “Roger’s ½ acre”. We were greeted by the welcoming committee, Roger and John, who pointed out a few likely campsites. The entire area is pretty flat but the casual roads running through have to be kept free for rigs to get in and out. I like the chaos of Lazy Dazes parked willy-nilly across the landscape. There were a lot of them, around 30, with more to come.

Roger said people started congregating around 4 pm for happy hour and they were having a pot luck with tri-tip starting around 5. Since it was close to 4, I decided to roast some little potatoes (good with tri-tip!) and got them done around 5. Proudly bearing the dish over to the get-together, I found everyone had already eaten and there wasn’t too much left. Boy, what fast eaters. But no, Arizona’s in the mountain time zone and it was an hour later than we thought. Oh well, we had a taste of tri-tip and quite a few roasted potatoes for dinner. It’s still getting dark early and many of the group moved their chairs around a large fire ring that is the public entertainment for the evening. We caught up with some of the people we’ve met before at Quartzsite and Baker City. And the dogs too. It’s fun to see all the pooches enjoying themselves, although one poor girl, a rescue dog, was afraid of the fire. It’s hard when you don’t know what the animal has gone through with previous owners. I think my favorite is Libby, a Labradoodle who travels with Loralei.

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The next morning, we lazed around, with nowhere we had to be and nothing in particular to do. Nice! Sleeping is pleasant because after 70-degree days, it cools down right away after sunset to a temperature we like for sleep. In the morning, we have the heater on intermittently for about 2 hours until the sun is high enough to warm everything up again. I finished a book I wasn’t enjoying (“Spider Season” by John Morgan Wilson) (I didn’t like the main character and the writing wasn’t great) and started one I did like (“Ilium” by Dan Simmons) (SciFi with Greek gods recreating the Trojan War on Mars. It also has sophisticated robots who are interested in Shakespeare and Proust, and a few humans.)

Jim and Gayle Cummings and Debbie Smith showed up. It was good seeing them and their critters so soon since we met up in the Alabama Hills last October. Other than that, I did darn little except I made guacamole for happy hour.

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Thursday, something came up. Actually, it came off. Dave was outside, wondering why it was wet under the LD. Then he noticed we no longer had a drain pipe for the gray tank (where shower and sink water is collected). Luckily the tank wasn’t damaged but there was only a section of pipe coming out of the tank. Yikes! We think it happened when we drove down a little dirt road in 29 Palms to get the firewood, but we never saw or heard anything. We had dumped the gray tank right before then so the tank was empty. If it had to happen, Quartzsite is the place to get it fixed. John, the Lazy Daze concierge, called Phil and Ann’s RV, got us an appointment and Phil fixed it in about 45 minutes, after sending us to the hardware store to pick up the parts.

We walked up to “the big tent” on Friday morning. The Quartzsite RV show is enormous and the tent is the length of a football field. We wanted to scope out where the Blue Ox booth was. They were offering a $25 deal on refurbishing the tow hitch which is a pretty important piece of equipment that drags our Rav behind the rig. The tent itself wasn’t open yet but about 150 booths are strewn about nearby. They sell socks, rocks, clocks, Glocks, locks, (no woks) and other stuff too, like ice cream. I had my first ice cream of the trip: not bad, but I’ve had better.

Later that afternoon we went to Silly Al’s Pizza to help celebrate Gayle Cummings birthday. (She’s ridiculously young.) Along with Jim and Debbie, we met their friends, John and Susan Vowell. The place was jammed. We finagled a couple of tables back by the pool tables, thwarting anyone who wanted to play pool. Both the pizza and company was good, though we left when the music started, taking the decibel level from raucous to deafening. The stars were out; this place is dark, even in the center of town. A great night.

A lot of people headed to the big tent on Saturday morning. We skipped it; the crowds on opening day make it very difficult to see anything in the tent. We’ll go on Monday. Around 8, Debbie drove Dave and 3 tow bars up to the Blue Ox booth and dropped them off. When they returned, we wandered around camp, read, blogged a little, roasted red peppers to make a dip for happy hour…..oh, we’re just so busy. We keep meeting people we’ve met before and lots of new ones too. They all have interesting stories. It takes some time and attention to get yourself on the road and it’s a really big decision to go full-time.


We woke to a cloudy day today and the sunrise was very nice, so I hauled myself out of bed to make some images. There’s football games to watch today and thanks to Jim Melvin (and Chica) we’ll be watching it on his big screen TV. Go Niner’s!

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