My first full hook-up site in over 4 months!

11 Mar, 2017; Bakersfield CA


Fay Wray is giving no quarter today!


She starts meowing as soon as she gets into the car - and continues to alternate napping with howling every 15-20 minutes for the entire 2.5 hours that it takes to drive to my next stop, Desert Palms RV Park in Bakersfield, Ca.  It's only about 130 miles - but FW is apparently on strike.

I thought I would stay 2 days to give her a rest - but after cresting a hill and being horrified at the valley full of thick smog - I'll be moving on asap!  


All the light brown and then the dark, dark color is SMOG.  

I could hardly believe how thick a layer of smog lay over the hills and valley!  Visibility on the highway was reduced!!  Whole mountains were blocked out and it was hard sometimes to see nearby hills.  After about 30 minutes, my eyes started to sting.

When checking into the RV Park, the clerk said that this is not a temporary temperature inversion - it's this way year round.  I remember this from my last drive through Southern California but assumed that it was just a winter phenomenon like I used to experience in Denver.   YUCK!  I'm trying not to breathe very much. . . . 


The lovely sound of the microwave turning on!


The RV Park has cable TV, full hook-ups, a laundromat, swimming pool and hot tubs.  So, I can turn on the AC this afternoon, do my laundry, take a LONG hot shower using their facilities and take a swim while I'm waiting for the clothes to dry.  Such luxury!!  And then, I can watch cable TV!


There is requisite train tracks next to the RV Park.  In fact, about 30 yards from my trailer.  So far, a train has been by about every hour!!


I was hoping to drive out of all this smog Sunday . . . .


The drive today was horrific!!  My eyes sting, my throat is raw, and visibility can't be more than 1/2 mile!!  All of Congress and especially Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, should be forced to spend time here!!  This smog reminds of the photos from China before the Olympics - truly awful.

While I was willing to drive until dark, FW gave it up after about 150 miles.  So, tonight I'm in the Lakes Golf and RV Resort in Chowchilla CA.  Tiny little space (but full services), and a free round of golf thrown in - that might be an attractive idea if I was willing to breathe any more of this smog than absolutely necessary.

So. Cal. - "If you're going thru Hell, Keep on Moving . . . "

11 Mar, 2017;  Barstow, CA Peggy Sue's 50's Diner


"You may get through before the Devil even knows you're there"


Since this post will mostly be a rant, I'll include some photos from alongside the road - this area is near old Highway 66 and there are remnants of 50's style roadside attractions.

I couldn't help humming this CW song as I turned North towards home - I decided to go the direct route which takes me the length of California on either I5 or Hwy 99.  Now, I've done this before (once) and swore never, ever, ever to do it again.  But, apparently, after 4 years, memory had faded and I needed a reminder.


Dinosaurs outside; animated Dinos inside


First, there's the traffic - very heavy and quite intimidating after over 4 months of secondary roads, gravel roads and very few people.  Then, there's the speed limit - everyone else can go 70-75 mph (and drive much faster than that); but trailers of all kinds are limited to 55 mph.  Which means that I'm a slow-moving irritant amidst all this heavy traffic.


You can climb stairs up to a balcony on the other side of this guy.

Then there's the cat.  FW can tolerate about 2 hours of driving.  Then she starts to meow, first quietly, then loudly.  Even though I stop every 90 min to 2 hrs and give her a 30 minute break in the trailer, she doesn't reset.  Back in the car, she takes up complaining again.  Then comes the guttural "I'm getting ready to barf" meow, and then the barfing starts.

It would be great right about then to be able to pull off at a rest area and clean up the cat, her crate, and all the barf.  But, that brings me to the third really bad thing about So.Cal. - all the rest areas are closed!!!  I haven't seen a single one that's been open.


His expressions captures the day pretty well!

Finally, I get to my first travel stop - Peggy Sue's 1950's Diner


Peggy Sue's Diner is a Harvest Host partner.  Which means that I can stay in their large gravel parking lot overnight for free.  Apparently, this is not a big deal as I can see that long-haul truckers have been doing this for years. 



The diner is full of 1950's Hollywood memorabilia and signed photos from movie stars.  There is an attached gift shop with more Route 66, Hollywood stuff, and an old-fashioned ice cream, shake and soda bar.

Out back is a picnic area - that's where I had my ice cream and watched the sunning turtles.


See the pirate hovering over the dinosaur - strange combination!

back in civilization where people torture the cactus

These were the big guys; when I looked closely along the pond edges, I saw baby turtles about the size of a deck of cards.

Going to the bathroom at Peggy Sue's will give you a start!  I so wanted to grab a guy and have him tell me if there was something similar in the men's room!

I almost turned around and checked the sign on the door!

So, the day ends on a good note


Tummy full of very yummy home-made diner food and ice cream, I watch OTA TV for a couple of hours before going to bed.  FW has settled down and stopped glaring at me.

I may even spring for diner breakfast before heading back to the highway wars.


Galleta Meadows Sculptures!

11 Mar, 2017; Borrego Springs, California


Galleta Meadows Sculptures


Over 130 of these massive sculptures dot the landscape around Borrego Springs.  Most are on a loop from Henderson Canyon Road, Borrego Springs Road and DiGiorgio Road.  

From pre-historic sloths, dinosaurs and mastadons:



Doesn't he look real!?

The detail on these sculptures is really impressive


Sloth, facing extinction.

Look at the 'fur' close up - this took someone a LONG time


To more modern animals and topics,


Working in the vineyard


Harvesting grapes


Creating vineyards

Lots of camels

Love the detail and the expressions!



 To the fanciful and just plain fun,









Wrong time of day to catch the sun on the front of this guy - I bet he just shines!!






One of my favorites,

He curls above ground, and below the road, only to have his tail appear on the other side


Fierce, beautifully detailed face!

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

9 March, 2017; Anza Borrego State Park, Calif


Right Time, right place!!


The Washington Post just had an article about the 'superbloom' at Anza Borrego.  Apparently, the wet winter has produced the biggest crop of wildflowers since 1999.  I believe it.  Everything is green and the flowers are spectacular.

Some are just a few steps outside my trailer.


I have no idea what this is!


Desert Lily and something else

Tenacious Desert Lily growing in a tire track!

Along the road into Borrego Springs, I stop along with a ton of other tourists to photograph the vast meadows of color.

You can see the color extending even up into the Santa Rosa Mountains!



Despite what Georgia O'Keefe said, sometimes they do move!




I can tell when I'm parked in a location where a botanist has been.  They can't resist pulling up a pile of invasive weeds and leaving them along the roadside - doing their little bit to preserve the native species!







Chuparosa




The desert here is so quiet!


What I love about the desert is the absolute quiet and sense of space - it's very calming.  I spend my afternoons in the shade just enjoying the timeless feeling.  


Santa Rosa Mountains




Last night I went outside to put away my chairs and lock up the trailer for the night.  The moon is still too full to get a brilliant night of stars, but the moon was so bright that it cast shadows and I could see quite clearly; a few other campers had small campfires glowing in the dark.  The night air was full of the scent of the desert and the silence was broken only by the buzz of grasshoppers (or some kind of insect).  I'm so grateful to be here.



Solar Oven Experiment

 Mar 3, 2017; Ogilby Road BLM, Yuma AZ


I'm in the land of lots of sun - why not a solar oven?


I'd been wanting to try a solar oven experiment for awhile now.  There are lots of design plans online and on Pinterest.  I found one that was created by a Peace Corps worker in South America who wanted a simple, cheap design that could be made from readily available materials.  

I had most of the materials already!  
  • Windshield sunscreeen
  • Velcro
  • Oven baking bag (like for cooking turkey)
  • small grill rack (I used one from my Coleman grill)
  • Black pot (my old camping pots are black)
  • Oven thermometer (I found one at a goodwill - but I also could have used my laser temperature scanner I use for other things)

Set up was a bit more difficult than I had imagined


Well, it's sunny today - but also kind of breezy.  The sunshade won't stay in shape and I don't really have anything with which to reinforce it.  I resort to duct-taping it to the side of the trailer.  Not an ideal solution because now I can't track the sun  keeping the heat focused directly on the pot.  Also, the sun makes the duct tape gooey; it leaves a residue on the side of the trailer and tends to come loose.  




I'm making notes for design improvement!

First test:  See how hot it gets inside the bag


Result - not as hot as I'd like (I'm not using any insulation and it's pretty windy today) - but got enough to need oven mitts!  Kind of like a slow cooker.  After 10 minutes, the temp is 225F; after 30 minutes, it's up to 260F.


Second test:  Add some food!


Mostly, what I'd like to bake in a solar oven is bread - I love home baked bread.  So, I decide to start with biscuits (from a can).  Further, since I'm not sure how this will work, I decide to make them very small so that there isn't a ton of dough to heat and cook.  

I have no idea how long to cook them (directions say 8-10 min @ 350F; I'm only getting 260F so . . . .)  but the solar oven site I was looking at said to treat the solar oven like a slow cooker - hard to burn anything.  So, I decide on 2 hours.


Part-way through the cooking process I came back to check - the wind had blown 1/2 my parabolic structure down!  I tried taping it into a chair for more structure.  




Success!  . . . . mostly


The biscuits didn't puff up as much as I would have liked but they did cook through and browned nicely without burning.


not bad with honey!


My next solar oven will be based on a cardboard box - more rigid, but still collapsible.  Perhaps with some insulation to help offset the effect of wind pulling off some of the heat.

Fun things to do by yourself in the desert . . . .


The end of another lovely day




An Unexpected Nighttime Visitor

28 Feb, 2017; Petroglyph Painted Rock CG; Gila Bend AZ


Sunset was over; I was just settling inside for the evening when . . . 


I heard a noise.  A strange noise - like a crying cat.  I look over but see that Fay Wray is sound asleep so it's not her.  Could it be someone's baby?  I listen harder . . . hmm . . .  not coming from any nearby trailers.  Could there be a cat outside my trailer?  20 miles from the nearest town?  I grab my flashlight and go outside.  

Sure enough, there is a large tabby cat serenading FW from outside ("come outside and play with me strange kitty inside the box").  He ran over to me purring and meowing, rubbing himself against my leg.  Definitely a young tomcat (big head and neck and, yes, balls); clearly someone's pet (very clean and well fed); but who lets a pet cat outside at night in coyote country???

What to do?  I decide to grab a sweater and see if I can find an owner in the nearby rigs.  But, by the time I get back outside with a sweater and a better flashlight, the tom has slid back into the night.  

Weird.


"Hippy Dust", Brewers Yeast - whatever you call it, I've missed it!!


Chatting with my new friends from Maine, the conversation turned to food I haven't been able to find in the Southwest.  First on my list was Brewers Yeast (great on popcorn, veggies, salad, etc) - to my amazement, Lisa had some in her rig and, most importantly, was willing to share!

I swapped her a couple of Growers Peach Ciders for a baggie of  "Hippy Dust".  It wasn't 24 hours before I was enjoying some popcorn with my favorite topping!  THANK YOU LISA!!!







Petroglyph Painted Rock Site

26 Feb, 2017; PP Rock BLM Campground, Gila Bend, AZ


A dot on the map, but I've wanted to visit for 3 years


I had read that this site contains over 4,000 petroglyphs created over thousands of years by a succession of native peoples.  Current thinking is that the earliest glyphs (mostly abstract patterns like spirals, ladders, zigzags and grids) were created in the 'Western Archaic Style', 7500BC-1AD; later glyphs (adding animals and people) were most likely created by the Hohokam people in the 'Gila Style', 300BC - 1450AD.



The rocks are just covered in glyphs!


The BLM campground consists of about 70 primitive sites, well spread out into 2 loops (including some group sites).  Each site has a concrete picnic table and iron fire pit.  There are vault toilets.  The per night fee is $8.00 ($4 with the geezer pass).  Cell towers dot a mountain top to the west so coverage and internet was excellent.  The town of Gila Bend is about 20 miles away.


Older spiral petroglyph with temporary orange tag from the Archeology Survey

Combination of older 'grids' and snakes with newer animal glyphs


The camp host said that the campground can get pretty crowded on weekends, but I think this weekend, it was only about 1/2 full.  Surprisingly, there were THREE Escapes (including me) - all 19's!  One couple we met at the Quartzite Fiberglass Rally, the other couple traveling from Maine along with a friend (she has a tricked-out Roadtrek 190).


Sharing a campfire and sunset with Escape Owners from Maine





The petroglyphs are largely situated on a sizable rock mound surrounded by a path, a lot of signage giving the historical context for the petroglyphs and subsequent pioneer history.  There are a couple big covered picnic shelters nearby.  If you get tired of looking at the glyphs, there is a population of tiny prairie dogs (someone said that they are 'Mexican Prairie Dogs') to watch.

While we were there, a group called Archeology Southwest was doing a survey of the petroglyphs.  I thought they might be using some really fancy photographic technology - and, it turns out they were - just not what I thought.  Apparently, Go Pro is so sophisticated that it does the job.  They take still pictures 360 degrees around each rock inventoried and then they have software that stitches all the stills into a 3-D model of the area.  Some of the work is already published on the internet (I haven't gone to look yet, but I was told it's accessible by the public - just in case you don't want to drive out here yourself).

Screening the rock so the light is good for photographing


Focusing on the glyphs, I almost missed these sunning lizards.