Monday, February 13, 2017

Joshua Tree National Park

I am writing this entry from Orange County, California. It feels strange to be here in a campground in the hills in one of the most populated counties in the US. We can drive a short distance and get into the suburban area of greater Los Angeles. I will write more about this place and our visit to this area in coming entries, but as always, I need to catch up a bit.

We only stayed at Lake Cahuilla Park for 2 days. The main reason we stopped there was to visit Joshua Tree NP. We only planned to visit for one day and February 8 was going to be that day. The good news is the weather was perfect as we took off for our full day drive.

We left the populated area of La Quinta and headed out into the farm fields. They were growing a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables. The one thing that we had not seen before was the groves of date palms. We then headed into Box Canyon Wash that was still south of I 10. This area if beautiful with high cliffs on both sides of the road. There is also plenty of dispersed camping because this is BLM land. I was wishing we had camped there.

We crossed over I-10 and then entered the park from the south. We have to stop and take the entrance sign picture. This would be #26 on our adventure.


We stopped at the very limited Cottonwood visitor center. I was a bit surprised to see that it was about 25 miles to see the first Joshua tree. We had steadily gained elevation as we drove. Our campground is at about 600 feet in elevation. The park is between 3000 and 4000 feet. The Joshua trees grow at the higher elevations.

We had heard that this was not one of the most spectacular parks in the National Park System. That is why we only allocated one day for our visit. Although the park does not have the awe inspiring vistas of some of the other parks we have visited, this is a beautiful place. As we drove along the main road, the surrounding mountains and desert landscape was very relaxing.



As you do in many parks, we drove along and hit many of the turnouts. We met a couple from Washington State and talked a bit about living on the road. They still have a house and are only starting to travel. They were riding a vintage Honda CT70 that he had restored. We did not lack things to talk about. We talked for a bit and then moved on. We stopped at the turnout for the Octillo cactus patch and they joined us again. There was only one trail guide left in the dispenser, so Kim did the reading and we all enjoyed the guided walk. You meet the nicest people on a Honda.


We left them there and we continued on. We drove through the park and looked for a nice place for lunch. We stopped to see some interesting rock formations at a place called Jumbo Rocks. The geology of this area is very interesting.



We stopped at a day use picnic area called Split Rock. We had lunch and then Kim surprised me by wanting to take a hike. It was a 2 mile loop hike that she failed to notice was rated "moderate".

I got some sweat on my camera lens at this point and my pictures were fuzzy for much of the hike. Too bad, because it was very cool.



I really enjoyed the hike and I think Kim did also. These rocks were much higher and we even saw some rock climbers up on the highest ones. I really think the thing that motivated Kim to take the hike was a 74 year old woman that stopped to talk to us while we were eating lunch. She headed out on the trail in front of us. Kim wanted to make sure she made it OK. Well, we never caught them.

At this point, we started to see Joshua Trees. I was expecting to only see a few, but there were large groves of them.

A larger Joshua Tree

We stopped at the Keys view overlook and had a nice view of the valley we were camped in and the surrounding mountains including Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio. I will have to ask my Dad and brothers about them. I remember camping and hiking in that area when we lived here 50 years ago.



We then drove back down to the small town of Joshua Tree and then down highway 62 to hit I-10. Highway 62 has some very steep hills on it. I would hate to pull my trailer up those hills, but we saw many large rigs heading up the hill to the Lucerne Valley area. There was a big Motorcycle race up there last weekend called the "King of the Motos". Not much of a spectator event, so I decided not to go.

I would say that our trip to Joshua Tree was better than  expected. I did not have high hopes, but once again the National Parks are all spectacular in their own way. This one is good for a day trip and if you can camp at the Cottonwood area, a couple of days for some hikes would be great.

I got a note from my Mom last night that said I forgot something. My Great Grandfather is buried in Blythe, California. Darn, I would have liked to visit his grave. I never met the man, but maybe I would have felt the connection. I do plan to visit my Grandfathers grave in Livermore, California. I am not sure why I feel a desire to visit these places, but for some reason it is something I want to do.

Well, next it was on to Orange County. I was really not excited about driving the big rig into this area. I would have to say I was down right nervous. Come back to see how that went and what it is like camping in the middle of 22 million people.

Friday, February 10, 2017

California

We left the desert near Bouse, Arizona on February 5. I really loved our private little spot. I think part of the reason I liked it so much is that I was dreading the next part of the trip. Dreading may be too strong a word, but I really like solitude and when I think of Southern California, I do not think of solitude.

Our first move was all of about 40 miles to the town of Blythe, California. We were concerned about crossing the California border. We had read about the check point, which is mainly for agriculture protection. Kim carries a house plant with us that she has had for 14 years and was her grandmothers. We had read that they may take those on inspection. As it turned out, when we arrived at the checkpoint, they just waived us through. Cool, one less thing to worry about.

We decided to stop in Blythe to camp along the Colorado river and to get a few things done before moving on. We did find a nice park through Passport America that is called Hidden Beaches that was only $21 per night. We were hoping for OTA TV, but we had no channels. This was Super Bowl Sunday and I really wanted to watch the Super Bowl. As we were getting unhitched and setting up, our neighbors came over to say hi. They are from near Edmonton, Alberta and are on their way to Mexico. Here are some shots of our campsite on the banks of the Colorado River:



Our view of the distant mountains, the boat ramp, and the wildlife area across the river.

Each site has a private patio overlooking the river.
As time for the game to start neared, I got set up to watch the game on my phone. I get the NFL Mobile App on my phone for free with my Verizon plan. Kim went outside and spent some more time talking to our neighbors. It was not long before Wayne was over at our door asking me to come over to his place and watch the game on his TV with his Satellite. He had no interest in the game, but insisted. We ended up having an impromptu Super Bowl party complete with a pot luck dinner. We really had a fun time getting to know them. Here is a bad picture of Wayne and Liz along with Kim:


The next day I went into Blythe and got the oil changed in the truck. I usually get it changed at a Ford Dealership because they have good prices and the Ford recommended oil. I found that the California Ford dealers are much more expensive. I went to a quick lube place in Blythe and got my oil changed for $85. That is a good deal on my diesel. We have driven about 7000 miles on this trip so far.

Wayne and Liz had gone out for a walk and met a local person who had many loaded fruit trees in her yard. She told them to take as much as they wanted and send other RVers down. We decided to see this for ourselves and took a walk to see if we could find the house. It was right where Wayne had said and we went up to the door to ask permission. She was very nice and was an RVer herself. We picked 4 bags of lemons, oranges and grapefruit. You can't beat free!


The fruit does not look perfect, but the taste is awesome. Some of the juiciest citrus I have ever eaten.

On Tuesday, February 7, we were ready to move on to a site near Palm Desert, California. It was pretty windy for the first half of the drive and we were also gaining elevation most of the way. The truck was working a little harder than normal. I was glad to have the fresh oil in the motor. The drive was about 130 miles, so not too bad.

We left interstate 10 and headed out to a park along the edge of the mountains. It is a county park called Lake Cahuilla. They are also a Passport America park and is a bargain at $15 per night with water and electric. The park sits along a man made lake and is right up against the mountains.




It is a pretty nice park and can accommodate large rigs. It has a primitive camping area that is also an option if they are full. There was plenty of availability during the week. The only problem with this park is that there is a shooting range on the far end of the lake. It is a range that is used by local law enforcement and is not open to the public. It is clear they are training for a war and they get to shoot as much ammunition as they want. The rapid fire action sounded like a machine gun much of the time. They at least shut down around 7 PM before starting back up at 7 AM. It really amazed me how much ammunition they were going through.

I also found it interesting that this park is right next to PGA West. This is a complex of 6 top level golf courses. This is the home of a PGA tour event that was formerly called the Bob Hope Classic, now it is some corporate sponsors name. The courses look amazing, but way out of my budget.

Now, you may ask yourself, why did they stop there? Well, Joshua Tree National Park is just about 40 miles away and we wanted to make a day trip through the park. I will write all about that visit in my next entry.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Parker 425

As we travel around the country we like to find new and unique experiences. I have always loved motor sports and have seen desert racing on TV, but I have never been to a race. When we found out that the Parker 425 was going to be held near where we were camped, we decided to check it out. In my last entry, I wrote about going to the street party on Thursday, February 2. They put the vehicles on display to let the fans see them up close and personal. You can talk to the drivers and crews also. Throw in some live music and food booths and you have a fun time.

The race was on Saturday, February 4. On Friday, I went out on my motorcycle and checked out the designated spectator areas. You are only allowed to watch the race in these designated areas. In the past, it was allowed to go anywhere out in the desert along the course, set up camp, and watch the racers come by. Sadly, there have been accidents and spectators have been injured and killed. They now have areas that are roped off  to keep the fans a safe distance from the race course, but still allow them to see some action.

The race course for this event is about 120 miles long. The course winds from the town of Parker out through the open desert in a large loop. There is a morning race that has many amateur classes. These guys are racing for trophies and fun. At 1:00 PM, the afternoon races start with the Trophy Trucks and other professional classes. These guys have deep pockets and the machines are very expensive. They have large crews to help at the pits and out on the course at designated pit areas. The race is 425 miles and ends in the dark.

We arrived at the designated party, I mean spectator area at around 10:00 AM. The morning race was well underway. I tried to take a few pictures and some video, but sadly they did not capture the awesome action.

A buggy that found some mud. Not great for his sponsors. 

As you can see in the pictures, the dust was thick. The course is full of washes and other holes and bumps. It really gives the suspension a workout.


The morning race was fun to watch, but you could tell that everyone of the experienced spectators was waiting for the Afternoon Race. We met a number of fans around us and all were having fun and getting excited for the Trophy Trucks.

You knew things were getting serious when you saw the helicopters in the air. The high budget teams have a helicopter following their vehicle around the course. I did get a decent shot of the #1 Truck. They are last years "Best in the Desert Series" champion.


The still images do not do a great job of capturing the action. I took a bunch of video throughout the day. I stitched them together in this movie:


We were not prepared to stay into the evening. The sun was hot and the dust was thick. We decided to call it a day around 5. We could see the very bright lights of he vehicles bouncing through the desert from our camp site 10 miles away. It was quite a site.

We really enjoyed the experience and would be better prepared the next time we have the opportunity to attend a desert race.

In my previous entries I wrote about buying a new inverter for the. I was able to pick that up on Friday and with Kim's help installed in on Friday evening. It works great and I love the fact that we can turn it off and on from inside the trailer. We are now ready to move on. We have been in the Quartzsite area for three weeks camping out in the desert. We are very pleased with our solar and battery systems. We really have been quite comfortable. It is now time to move into California. I will write about our entry into California and the dreaded check point in my next entry.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Camping near Bouse, Arizona

We stayed at the Plomosa road BLM area for the maximum of 2 weeks. On January 30, it was time to leave. I had done some scouting on my motorcycle and found that the area just over a small pass was about 15 miles away and in another district. We could go there and spend 14 days if we wanted and then move right back to the first area. We could do that all winter if we wanted and some do. We are really just waiting for our new inverter to arrive and are just planning to stay about another week in the area.

I have not really found a name for this new place. It is near the town of Bouse, Arizona, so that is what I will call it. We are much closer to the surrounding mountains than in our previous spot, and it is absolutely beautiful. It is much more secluded with just a few RV's in the area.


You may be able to see the arches in that volcanic ridge. It is just to the north of our camp site. I decided that a hike to see the arches up close was in order. I have been walking almost every day since I have been in this area. It is amazing how nature does that to me.

Getting closer...
I hiked up to the shoulder of that ridge to the left of the picture above and decided that was far enough. The route to the top looked pretty sketchy and I was by myself. It was a fun and beautiful hike.


We have been very interested in one particular plant in this area. It is called an Ocotillo. They are normally brown and thorny and look dead. The rain we got about 10 days ago has caused them to leaf out. They only do this a couple of times each year.



I did get Kim to come out for an evening walk a couple of days ago. It was a beautiful evening and the sunset was spectacular. Here is a shot of the mountains to our south.



We heard that there is a big off-road desert race called the Parker 425 being held near here this weekend. They were having a street party yesterday in the town of Parker. We needed to go there to get some supplies and do laundry. They lined up many of the competitors on main street. It was fun checking out the machines. Sadly, there will not be motorcycles in this event, just trucks and buggies.



Check out the rear shocks on that buggy. 
We picked up a map of the course while we were at the street party. There are some designated spectator areas about 10 miles from our camp. I will head out in the desert on Saturday morning and try to get some action shots. It should be my kind of entertainment.

I got the notice last night that my package has arrived in Quartzsite. I will head over there on my motorcycle and pick it up. I just hope they didn't put it in a huge box. We will then check out the race on Saturday and then move into California on Sunday. We have really enjoyed our peace and solitude out here in the desert. Now we will go to the other end of the spectrum and visit the Los Angeles area. Wish us luck.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hanging out in Quartzsite

We arrived in the Quartzsite area on January 16. We parked in the Plomosa road BLM area. We were amazed how many RV's there were parked out in the desert. Little did we know, that the number would increase steadily over the next few days. I think the number hit a peak the following weekend. We still had good spacing to the next rig, but there were large groups parked right next to each other all around us. There was the Montana owners group, the Outside the Bubble group and the Escapees Solo group to name just a few. Some of the groups had well over 100 rigs.

One cool thing is there are people out here that have some awesome hobbies. I am envious of the RC flyers and drone flyers. We also have ultra light flyers and a hot air balloon.

This guy landed right by us.

That is millions of dollars of Motor homes
We have stayed quite busy since we have been here. There are a number of projects that I wanted to accomplish while I was stationary for a few weeks. As I mentioned in my last post, we have a place to have packages sent, so I was ordering away. I had a few items on the truck to resolve and I needed to do some more work on the motorcycle. The good news is as of this writing, I have all but one of my projects completed.

Our good friends, Bob and Roxanne from Wisconsin came into town around the 21st. We really enjoyed seeing them again. We went to the big RV show together and were amazed by all of the strange things at the show. The funny thing is we both fell in love with the same trailer. The new Momentum by Grand A Designs is awesome and may be our next rig, in about 5 years.

Bob and Rox came over to our place for dinner one night and we went over to their place on Sunday to watch the NFL playoff games. They were of course rooting for the Green Bay Packers, but they sadly had a bad day. We still had an awesome day and a great meal.

We have been running our new solar system and it has been fantastic. We only ran the generator twice in two weeks. The only problem is we had one of our two inverters fail. I had been wanting to get a larger one that is a Pure Sine Inverter with a remote on/off switch, so that is what I ordered. We have decided to stick around the area for another week to wait for the arrival of that package. Come on Amazon, don't let me down.

I needed to refill my perscriptions and the closest Walgreens is in Lake Havasu about 70 miles away. We made the drive there and we are glad we did. The drive is mostly along the Colorado river that is heading down to the gulf of California from here. It is a beautiful oasis in the desert. This is also the home of the London Bridge.

The Colorado River on the way to Lake Havasu

The bridge was moved brick by brick from London. You can still see bullet holes from German strafing during WWII. 

After getting my motorcycle fixed, I went for a fun ride out in the desert. I was blasting along some two track and I am happy to report the DR is running better than ever. Here are a few shots of the awesome scenery.



Last Saturday, they had the 3rd annual Blogger Fest at La Posa South BLM area. We met a number of other bloggers. We really enjoyed meeting Jim and Barb of jimandbarbsrvadventure . I have been reading their blog for a while. They are also younger retired full timers. We got an invite for lunch today from them and had more time comparing notes and learning from them. We took some silly pictures in a large chair at the outdoor restaurant called Beer Belly's.


Today was moving day. We had stayed 14 days at the BLM area on Laposa road and that is the limit. I am not sure if they are enforcing the rule, but we decided we needed to dump tanks after 2 weeks anyway, so we took care of that at the Pit Stop in town. Then we went further out Laposa road and over near the little town of Bouse, Arizona. It is beautiful out here and very quiet. There are a few other rigs, but only about 10 in a very large area. We will hang out here and wait for that package. Camping for free in the desert is Awesome!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quartzsite, Arizona

We arrived in Quartzsite on Monday, January 16. We have never been here before and were not sure what to expect. I had read a bunch of other blogs of experienced Q people, but it never is what you have in your mind. They have plenty of RV parks in town that are not expensive, but also not our thing. They have lots of BLM camp areas that have a 14 day limit and are free. They also have some Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) that have a fee of $40 for 14 days or $180 for 7 months, but they have water and dump stations. We were contacted by a guy on RVillage that was looking to do a Dual Sport ride and he was staying in the Plomosa Road BLM area that is about 7 miles north of town. We decided to go out to Plomosa road and check it out. When we arrived we went to the check in area and were greeted by a very friendly camp host that gave us the information about the area. We filled out the form and got our free 14 day pass. We drove in a couple of miles and found an open spot along a small draw. The ground was dead level. We have been in plenty of improved campsites that were not this level. We have a great view of the surrounding mountains and although there are hundreds of RV's in this area, our closest neighbor is about 100 yards away.


It is really hard to get a shot of this area that really shows the size and the spacing of the rigs. I think a drone shot would be best.

While we were setting up, the main slide failed again. I knew it was the shear pin again and now knew exactly how to fix it. That took me about 20 minutes and I now know that some more adjustment is needed. I will just keep playing with it to get it perfect.

I went to town to pick up my package of my bike parts. As I said in my previous post, I found a small shop that accepts packages for $2 per package. I went in and the owner was a bit frazzled. She asked me if I knew anything about computers. I said well I actually do. That was what I did for 33 years. To make a long story short, I was able to fix her problem. She was grateful and would not let me pay for my package. I told her I was going to have a number of other things shipped in and would pay for them. She told me that my money was not good in her store and would not let me pay for any of them. How cool is that?

I took advantage of the quiet times in the desert to get a few things done on the bike, truck and trailer. That work pointed to some new parts I needed. I have ordered them and am now waiting for some of them to arrive.

Our first impression of Quartzsite has been very good. We like the laid back vibe of this place and will write more about it as we explore more and hit the big tent show. We have friends coming in and we are really looking forward to seeing them again. I will write more about our experiences in Quartzsite in my coming posts. As of this writing, it looks like we will stay here about 3 weeks.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Time in Tucson

We ended up spending 5 nights at Tucson Mountain Park. We really liked the park and would love to go back when we are in the area. We feel that we barely scratched the surface of the things to see and do in the area. When we decided to go to the Tucson area, we were thinking that we would do domestic things, but we also did a few things that were interesting a fun.

My first order of business was to go to Tucson and buy the parts I thought I needed to work on my motorcycle. I also got propane and some parts to do some maintenance on the truck. It was time for a new air filter and a few other things.

The fastest way to drive to Tucson from the park is through Gates pass. You can not drive on this road if you are over 12,000 lbs. When I drove it, I could see why. There are some overlooks up there that provide some nice views of the valley we are camped in, which is actually an ancient volcanic caldera. The mountains are interesting because of the forest of Saguaro cactus that goes all the way to the top.




I was able to find all that I needed and enjoyed the day in the city.

I worked on my bike and was very concerned when I pulled the oil drain plug and 3 gallons of fluid came out when there should have been about a half gallon. I determined that there was a problem with my carburetor, which overflowed with fuel and filled the crankcase. This became a very long process to get sorted out. The good news is once again I was able to use on-line forums to gain excellent information and was able to order what I needed. I had it all shipped to a little store in Quartzsite that accepts packages. How did I know that? I will tell that story in my next entry.

We decided to take a drive over to Saguaro National Park and go to the visitor center. They have an excellent slide show. We then took the driving loop and did a few short hikes.


We learned about how the native Americans in this area saw the Saguaro as their dead ancestors and they thought of them as people. Many of the cactus do look like a human form with arms.

We took a short hike to see some petroglyphs at Signal hill. That was cool to see, but we wanted to hike some more. Kim decided to take the cactus wren trail. After about a mile we determined that we were going out into the desert and to our certain death. I made the executive decision to turn around and saved our lives. Yeah, that is how it went.

It was actually a nice cool day and it was a fun walk out through the desert.


On Sunday, we decided to go to church at the Mission San Xavier Del Bac. This is an old Spanish mission dating back to 1691. The present church was built in the early 1800's. The church was renovated in the late 1990's. The alter piece is all hand carved and amazing.




There is a large square in front of the church and they have booths set up to purchase some food after church. The church is located on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian reservation The church has a unique relationship with the local tribe. The booths are an opportunity for the tribal members to earn a few dollars and provide a lunch for the church goers. We tried the Indian taco and some Fry bread. They were both very tasty.


I love those very unique experiences.

On Monday, January 16 we left Tucson and made a long drive for us. We drove all the way to Quartzsite, Arizona. That was almost 250 miles. We did not know what to expect. I had read a great deal about the "Quartzsite experience", but we were a bit apprehensive. I will write all about this unique place and what we think in my next entry. It was much different than Kim or I expected.