How do you compress a 7000 km journey into a paragraph. You can’t, you’re sure to miss some of those special moments and the last part will be the most defined. Here goes any way.
We wound our way south like a rattlesnake looking for sun and a warm rock, 4 friends, 2 Rv’s. Out of the great white of 2018 bound for points south. Much like The James Gang of old it started off innocent enough, speeding, camp and dash. Petty stuff drinking gambling and staying up late, way past 9 pm. Our first taste of warmth was Death Valley, spurred on for hotter climes we holed up for a couple days at Lake Havasu and dallied at a little known Desert Bar only open 2 days a week and filled with Grey Hairs and bikers. To tame for us, we made a run for the border. At Organ Pipe amongst the Saguaro cactus we planned a run into Mexico. Puerto Penasco a crazy little fishing village , thirsty and dirty we camped on the shore of the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t long before the locals knew we had rolled into town. Tequila, seafood and all sorts of shiny stuff for the girls. A dozen days of sun and sand. All to soon Rosie and I grew restless, it was rehab or the road. We head north back into the US.
To be continued......
On our own now Rosie and I hurried east with Mardi Gras on our minds. Back across the border and into the Organ Pipe and Saguaro cactus desert. We made camp high and overlooking the great flats and endless desert. At night the village lights of Sonoyta Mexico were a faint glow in the distance and a pale comparison to the dazzling night sky. Soft cool breezes now tainted with my tequila and sweat wafted up from below. Two days and feeling rejuvenated we pressed forward. Hugging the border to north of Nogales we set up camp on Patagonia Lake a bustling collection of wandering soles. As I wandered through camp amidst the barbecue and campfire smoke, laugher and barking dogs a voice calls out my name. Good friends from home were camped just above us, we did our best to add to the laughter and tip a few jars of vintage red. Twice now on our travels we have stumbled on friends once in a small casino in Pendleton and now here, what are the odds on that. One of the best parts of travel new and old friends and good wine.
To be continued.......
Chasing the clouds east we rolled into New Mexico and camped close to the border where Pancho Villa attacked the United States. This happened a scant 102 years ago and in some ways little has changed. We left the warm and friendly state of New Mexico and headed for Texas. Texas and I have had a long and troubled relationship and this time was no exception. Soon after crossing the border a trooper was on our tail. I knew I had a faulty right signal/taillight so I slowed hopping he would pass us by. Not to be, I could not shake him, for miles and miles I neither braked or changed lanes. Finally I had to turn right and sure enough his flashing lights welcomed us to the big state of Texas with so little tolerance. A young rookie trooper, I’m sure his moma dressed him every morning for work. He had never seen a BC drivers license but did have a vague idea where Canada was because according to him he had a brother in Alaska and Canada was some how in the way. Making it a difficult journey he might try some day. We were soon joined by Border Patrol, a written warning and we all parted company. Once again I tried to fix the defective light to no avail. We made camp on Amistad lake amongst Javelins and bush bunnies.Thinking the troublesome light might be a truck problem I pulled into a dealership, as I had also detected a bit of noise from my front right wheel. A day and half later and both axel bearings and CV joints, exhaust catalytic converter and computer flash update, but still no tail light. Off to a Rv shop and discovered a cut wire mid coach with no easy way to repair. Another day down and camped at the dealership. Thinking all was well we headed east only to have to return to the dealer because of a faulty brake warning. What started out as cross country odyssey had turned into a series of pit stops.
Texas is a big state and she wasn’t done with us yet. To be continued.......
Moving up the west coast of Texas we made camp on Lake Texana and once again the wildlife was out to greet us. White tailed deer and armadillos wandered through camp. Our next stop was Brazos Bend a manicured and paved camp, the only wildlife was hoards of Boy Scouts wandering through the bush. I was worried that Rosy might let some of those young fellows earn their merit badges so I locked her in the trailer.
You could now smell the Gulf of Mexico, we skirted Houston a city like none I’ve ever seen. A combination of highway clover leaves and gas refineries. Our next stop a fine camp nestled amongst the sand dunes on the Gulf of Mexico called Sea Rim State Park. Our first camp on ocean since the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, only much cooler and very windy.
As I mentioned In an earlier blog Texas is a state like no other, they take things very serious here. After leaving camp we passed right through a gas refinery, pipes are suspended above and over the road. Photo opportunities abounded. I parked our rig and headed out to get a few pictures. As I wandered up the tracks, I noticed a security shack and guard and remembered thinking I should see if they give tours. He seemed to be busy talking on his two way radio so I focused on getting that shot. Minuets later I caught a flash of red blue light in my lens, lowering my camera in time to see two large State Troopers coming at me. They did not look happy which in hind sight was a very accurate assessment, but I also failed too grasp the larger picture. They were soon joined by security and more flashing lights. I remember looking around to see what was going down when I realized I was what was going down. These boys seemed to think that they had just apprehended a agent in the throws of some terrorist activity. Now just let me say at this point in the narrative if you are in this situation and you think dumb ass Canadian is a good excuse for anything, don’t. They wanted to know who I was affiliated with politically or otherwise and why I was taking pictures of a fuel refinery. They ran my identification and informed me that all this would be forwarded to the FBI and a file would be started. These guy were very aggressive and pummeled me with questions as they took my picture. All the while Joyce was down the road in the truck wondering what was going on with all the flashing lights. After being interrogated for a while the tension seemed to ease and the trooper now wanted to know if I knew what happened at Pearl Harbour. I said yes I had broad historical understanding but didn’t know how it related to the situation at hand. He explained that the “Japs” had used tourist infiltrators to photograph sensitive installations and that helped make the attack so successful. At this point the security guard asked if that was my rIg parked down the road, I responded that it was and that my wife was in it, he wanted to know if she was a “photographer” as well. Off he went and proceeded to take pictures of our rig and Joyce. In fact I think he took more pictures of Joyce than I have throughout our entire trip. Joyce inquired what was going on a he said he was just doing his job. The troopers let me go and I made it back to the truck in time to ask the security guard if they gave tours of the refinery, he didn’t think that was likely to happen. I’m thinking probably because I’m a known terrorist and on the FBI’s watch list, and so it goes.
Mardi Gras and all that’s crazy, to be continued.......
New Orleans or as the locals pronounce it “Nawlins.” After 7000 km. and a month of meandering across the US and Mexico we made it, Mardi Gras! We camped south at Bayou Segnette tucked in behind a levee in the Louisiana Bayou. Early in the morning on our first day Fat Tuesday the day before Lent we took a ferry from Algiers across the Mississippi River into New Orleans. As people trickled in to catch the ferry we realized that first we were under dressed and secondly this was going to be a very crazy day.
We met a couple that I had noticed coming out of a beautiful old house in Algiers around Old Point. They were dressed for the festivities and boarded the ferry as we did. They gave us some much needed guidance and also invited us back to the Old Point Bar if we survived the day. It was Rick Trolsen of the New Orleans Po’Boys and his wife. As it turned out he was playing at the Old Point Bar that night. We found our way to Canal Street and the crowds were starting to swarm. If you haven’t seen “it” you will at Mardi Gras, early morning and already the party was well under way.
Unable to get close to the parade due barricades and people we continued up Canal Street. The crowds thinned, changed color and the barricades disappeared. We found an opening and claimed our turf. Two old white and bewildered people in a mash up of black folk intent on partying . It was wild and wonderful. The kids danced and entertained when there wasn’t a parade going by. We lucked out and ended up on the Zulu parade route. There are a number of routes and Krewe’s that make up Festival. The parade was a continuous line of bands, floats, and dancers. Horses and huge floats built by the various Krewes who competed for the best in the parade marched by throwing tons of beads, toys and trinkets. The idea was to get the Zulu Warriors to toss the treasures to you, babies were offered up to the floats, all yelled and danced for attention. Insanity fueled by the heat and alcohol. Desperately in need of cool refreshment we found a little bar off Canal street. The bartender packed a 10 inch blade on his hip and took no guff from anyone. It was hot stuffy and reeked of mayhem. A lovely black woman tried to teach me how to dance, she soon realized the futility of it all. Someone ran in and said there was a shooting down the street and we partied on like nothing happened. It was like being in the middle of a circus and the pitch was rising as evening pressed in. Back out on Canal street the garbage and beads were ankle deep and the parade had degenerated into an endless line of semi tractor trucks pulling floats and beads rained down on us. Drunk and loud the crowds pushed their way up and down the street. I was reminded of a line I think by Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and in an effort to slow things a little we boarded the ferry back to Algiers.
We hit the divey Old Point Bar used as a backdrop in a number of movies. As promised there was Rick pounding out the blues and his now very inebriated wife who decided to continue my dance lessons. With Joyce now the focus of Rick’s wife, and the bar starting to slow down my attentions were drawn to an older man sketching the band and patrons. I struck up a conversation with him and he showed me his sketch book. As we chatted and the evening wound to a close I learned he was the famous Panamanian artist and author, Al Sprague. He signed and gave us one of his sketches. Day one in Nawlins and what a day.
To be continued......
New Orleans, embraces the Big Muddy or Mississippi River. The city is truly a place of contradictions. Vibrant and eclectic, dark and dirty. You can melt into the voodoo and music that drifts from the bars and restaurants. It’s the birth place of Southern Comfort, a weakness of mine, so a bit of the Big Easy flows through my veins, sometimes as thick as the muddy Mississippi. We have only just left and already I yearn to return. Once again we ran afoul of the “Law”. This time we were found guilty and charged of being too sober, a condition not many would find themselves late in the night on Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is a blend of French, Spanish and Creole. Rough cobble streets and broken side walks float on the ancient muddy banks. The crumbling brick gayly coloured buildings lean on each other for support lifted above the streets to allow the overflowing river to have it’s way. Many of the buildings have balconies adorned in decorative wrought iron railings. Partyers chant and toss beads to the streets below or you can sit with a cool Hurricane and watch the show. Wander down the muggy streets and music clings to you and draws you in to yet another bar or down a dark and dirty alley. Who knows what magic you will find. Leave your sensibilities, squeamishness and embrace the voodoo. Let this city dance you through it’s streets you will not be disappointed.The scents and sounds mingle, street artists compete for your dollars and all are happy to dip into your pocket. Oh and the music is yours for just a tip in a jar. Blues, Jazz, Zydeco, Country and Rock you name it, they’re every where. Street cars will carry you up and down the Vieux Carre’ to the market. Dine on gator, King cake and Beignets, this a place of many religions and food is one of them. We boarded one of the last steam paddle wheelers on the Mississippi and churned our way up river as we dined on grits and gumbo. Cold dark beer and a toast to one day return.There is not enough time to sample all the dishes and see all that New Orleans has to offer and so sadly we moved on.
We made a one day trip into the state of Mississippi and Biloxi where we had a bite to eat at Slap Ya Mumma’s. How could you not stop at a place that has a pig standing on the roof of a 55 Chevy station wagon. Our trip east has come to a stop it’s time to turn and with some regret head west.
To be continued....
I guess I missed the memo, upper management just informed me it was time to update our travel blog. So here goes.
We are about to leave Louisiane and made a final camp in a Bayou swamp. It was cool and the gators were a little sluggish and shy. We saw a few sunning themselves on logs, the biggest maybe 6 ft. Early in the morning I watched some small very light coloured white tail deer drift like ghosts through the swamp. On our last night we took chairs down to the swamp and sat on the waters edge to bring on the night and hopefully see the white tail swamp ghosts. The swamp comes alive at night. I discovered frogs do not have a sense of humour. They have this uncanny ability to stop their song abruptly on a single note only to start again all in unison. I’m sure if one frog would add just a single “rruubbitt” in that moment of silence the whole swamp would chuckle. As darkness closed in and a no show from the swamp ghosts we then made our way back to camp only to find the herd waiting for us at our campsite.
We met some fellow campers and they informed us crawfish season had started. They would have cooked up a feed but were concerned about a rain storm warning coming our way and were leaving. We waited until the next morning and left to sunny skies. It started to rain and then it really rained. Usually we do not travel interstate highways, luckily we did that day. No less than 12 times our radio sent out heavy rain and flood warnings. The rain came down so hard it was nearly impossible to see the road and therefore to dangerous to stop for fear of being run over. Flooding was everywhere, culverts overflowed, rivers flowed into the bush and fields. Luckily we were traveling high ground on the interstate as many of our usual roads were underwater.
We changed our travel plans to take in the American rodeo in Arlington and our daughter Nikki flew down to meet us. We were very excited to see her and this major rodeo event. More than 1 million dollars prize money in this one day event and some Canadians were after that cash. Quite the show, the best cowboys and girls in North America, with 70-80 thousand spectators in the AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to the rodeo we managed to get in a feed of crawfish. To get our cowboy on we moseyed on down to the Fort Worth Texas long horn cattle drive. They push the cattle down Exchange Avenue to the historic stockyards and livestock exchange. A tourist taste of the old west. It was time for Nikki to fly home and we are pushing west.
To be continued......
Traveling at this time of the year has its advantages: it’s cool, light traffic on the back roads and many campsites are empty. This was the case at our next camp, Fort Griffin. This camp on the Brazos River is home to the official Texas long horn herd. They are magnificent animals, though some have horns that are almost freakish, spanning nearly 7 feet. They share the desert with wild turkeys and javlinas scrounging for the meager rations to survive. Always checking over our shoulders for the law we moved up into the Texas panhandle. Caprock Canyon seemed like a good place to hole up for a few days. Caprock is the home of the last genetically pure southern plains bison. Charles Goodnight saved a small core herd and these animals run freely throughout the park. Oh give me a home.... stuck in my head and would not let go. Where ever you have bison you are likely to have prairie dogs and we had a colony not far from our camp. Watching the antics of these little rodents is always entertaining. Standing tall and chirping a warning even if all you intend to do is take a photo. If you have prairie dogs you have coyotes and we were serenaded at night as they drifted through and around our camp. Very large tall tawny coyotes, the color of the prairie grass and sage. At dusk they drifted like smoke through the desert pausing to stare into our camp and then melt into the night. Large dark shadows of the bison moved across the plains drawing you into a time long past.
Rabbits likely seeking refuge from the coyotes hopped around camp. Spring and the Cardinals are pairing up, a male spent most of the daylight hours defending his territory from the reflection in our trailer window. Nothing we could do to stop his continued assault to impress his mate who I’m sure thought she might move on and get a mate who was a little brighter. Where the plains are gouged into deep wide canyons, Aoudad sheep scramble across the high rocky ledges but managed to remain hidden.
We slipped quietly out of Texas and further back in time to Clayton lake New Mexico where dinosaurs have left their tracks in the sandstone. Antelope watched quietly intent as we crisscrossed the sage plains on way to Cimmeron. Travel is in many ways like time travel and Cimmeron is a good example. This tiny little hamlet on the edge of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, transports you back in time, to soda fountains polished and gleaming. A long row of red and white padded chrome stools topped with hunched over dusty farmers nursing their black coffees. A peg board menu offers up malts, shakes and burgers. The arborite counter nearly worn through and lined with jars of candy. Behind the counter a young woman ready with a smile and you wonder if she has a packed suitcase stashed and waiting. The sheriff pops in for a coffee to go and I look around to see if Norman Rockwell isn’t sketching in the corner. We wander down the street to the thrift shop, ladies are busy stocking the displays and one has a lamp shade on her head, you can’t make this stuff up. We find some treasures pay the giggling ladies and regrettably move on.
To be continued.....
Two things Joyce has trouble passing by, Walmart’s and casinos, both usually cost money. We arrived late in the day in New Mexico. The Oh Kay Casino on the banks of the Rio Grande River offered RV parking and “good food”. The food was bad but the slots were good. Joyce walked out with $250!
Flush with cash and a happy wife we headed for Chaco Culture Historic Park. I try not to drag the trailer too far on gravel roads but this route is well worth the journey. Down a paved county road then sixteen miles of gravel and through one dry wash. We tucked our trailer in beside an ancient Pueblo ruin and had the camp to ourselves on the first night.
This 1000-year-old collection of ruins is a world heritage site and is nothing short of astounding. On more than one occasion I had the entire valley to ourselves. To wander through the ruins and contemplate the lives of the inhabitants and wonder to the mystery of why they abandoned this valley is an experience I will not soon forget. Chaco Canyon is in a high Mesa some of it over 6000 ft elevation. The ruins are scattered throughout the canyon. The largest is Pueblo Bonito, this great house reached at least 4 stories, 600 rooms and 40 Kivas. Kivas are round stacked rock rooms some sunken below grade, others elevated. They are thought to be used for ceremonial purposes. A cleft in the rock rack behind the Kin Kletso ruin allows passage up an ancient “trail” to the Mesa and a view of the entire canyon. Everywhere you look are signs of this ancient culture, pictographs, petroglyphs, tumbled down walls and artifacts. From the cliff edge you can look south through a 2-mile gap in the canyon wall that was likely used as a grand entrance into this astonishing place. As we travelled around the canyon we encountered herds of elk and mule deer. The only original remaining inhabitant is the Raven, a native symbol of change and transformation. As you gaze out over this immense canyon and its ruins you can’t help but be transformed. The black Raven trickster will tell his story and the ancients if you listen closely.
One of the nicest benefits of travel is the people you meet along the way. We have met many and every once in a while you meet some who after only a few days seem like old friends. Ted and Mary shared some time with us at Chaco. They shuffle between Wasilla, Alaska and Bisbee, Arizona in a Dodge so loaded down with a camper and gear that it would sigh with relief when parked. They have a black lab that as luck would have it didn’t get any legs so looks somewhat like a basset. For my photographic friends, the night skies are the blackest I’ve seen, but the -18 c temperature was a bit of a deterrent. I’m getting soft in my old age methinks.
We said a tearful goodbye to our new friends and Chaco we doubled back south.
To be continued......
We headed back south partly to escape the -18 c temperature at Chaco but more importantly to meet up with my uncle and aunt who had escaped northern Alberta. We rendezvoused at Oliver Lee State Park. A lovely little camp high on the east side of the valley overlooking White Sands National Monument. White Sands is an ancient gypsum seabed the encompasses 275 square miles of snow white sand dunes that made my uncle feel like he was back in Alberta I’m sure. The dunes are also used as a missile testing range and the day that we chose to visit it was temporarily closed while they obliterated some sand I guess. It’s also the site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. If that isn’t odd enough the White Sands are also home to large antelope called an Oryx or Gemsbok, which we didn’t see this time but I have photographed in the past.
North of Alamogordo is the Three Rivers Petroglyph State Park and a very interesting walk up a rocky ridge with thousands of petroglyphs, 21000 I’m told. On our way to the site we happened upon a tractor truck and trailer, we could see the smoke as we approached and as I pulled over it burst into flames. The trailer had lost its air pod and the brakes had heated up causing the tires to ignite. My uncle is a firefighter and immediately got the safety markers out on the road. I had a jerry can of water and started to put out the burning tires. The driver had expended his fire extinguisher and was unable to control the fire. We had just enough water to quench the flames. Nauseous and smelling like burnt rubber we carried on our way knowing that we had made a lot of dogs and cats happy. The truck was loaded with pet food. As we travel west I noticed a fashion trend or shift. The cowboys in Texas wear a wide and flat brim hat, influenced I presume from the Spanish Mexican culture. As we travelled across the friendly state of New Mexico I noticed that the cowboys and girls hats were smaller and the brim curled up on both sides. Fashion/function was revealed to me when I saw a pickup with 4 old cowboys packed into the cab. Texas it’s two too a truck only.
Alamogordo is a town full of junk and antique shops and a good place to spend an afternoon and an enjoyable way to end our time with my aunt and uncle. One of the toys I brought along for the trip was my bright yellow kayak it hasn’t seen any use yet but it sure helps to find my truck in the Walmart.
Back north we travelled to Reserve, New Mexico and the Apache forest. Things appear to maybe be a little on the wilder side up in the Tularosa Mountains. Our camp host, a large friendly fellow, packed a Makarov on his hip. This pistol is a Russian 9 mm. Designed to keep order in his camp. From there it was a bit of a long jump up to Chinle, Arizona and our jumping off point into the Canyon De Chelly which we haven’t visited for a number of years.
To be continued.....
Canyon De Chelly, pronounced “De Shay” is located on Navajo tribal land. It is a beautiful sandstone meandering Canyon with vertical sides. Access into the canyon is controlled by the Park and Navajo Nation with the exception of one trail down into the “White House” ruins. Named for the white stucco finish on the adobe walls. Early one morning I traveled out to one of the many vistas points on the canyon rim. Far down on the canyon floor a farmer was letting his goats out of the pen. They had been tucked safely away at night from the cougars and coyotes that prowl the canyon. The white goats, angora’s I believe, were being herded by a black dog. This view from the cliff had an abstract quality to it. White goats, a black dog moving over straight rows of corn stubble. The goat bells echoed through the valley and up to the rim as ravens floated on the thermal breeze. An old Navajo woman was selling her beads and told how now much like the past, simple traditional farming is still a way of life in the canyon. They grow corn and peaches but she said the dear and turkeys try to eat most of it. It’s a hard life and she was selling beads to feed her goats. I also met a local who was willing to rent his Hogan by the night for $38. A Hogan is a windowless hexagonal log structure with a dirt roof. Thinking this would be a very interesting way to spend a night on the canyon rim I went back to get the little mugwump. My enthusiasm was not shared as I had hoped but we went back up the canyon to have look at the Hogan. Inside the dark cool structure there was a ancient steel firebox on a dirt floor. Surrounding the fire were four metal and spring cots. Native art hung on the walls, one look at Joyce and I knew my chance of singing and chanting with the ancestral spirits was fading quickly. Sensing my excitement the price for the rental had jumped to $50 so that sealed my fate. There are many of these structures throughout the tribal nations so I may yet commune with the ancients. Maybe a sweat lodge and a good flogging with sage to help send me on a spiritual journey.
Moving ever north and west we camped at Lone Rock in Glen Canyon, a dry camp on Lake Powell Reservoir. Beautiful spot, just drive out on the lake shore but watch for soft sand. Camp where it suits you, my kind of camping. Later the next afternoon we ran short of water and prepared to move on and top up our tanks. Just as we were about leave a young man approached and asked if we could possibly give him a tow as he had managed to get his motorhome stuck. I always pack a tow strap and agreed to do the job. Down the beach we went trailer in tow. I have pulled a lot of stuck vehicles but never while towing a trailer. It was a brand new Mercedes motorhome buried in the sand. Craig the driver informed us it was not his but a vehicle that was “loaned” to him and two colleagues to shoot a promotional video for a RV company. It gets much better, these three guys are living the life that I would love to do. Traveling shooting video with drones and camera and writing blogs, all at the expense of the clients. Who gets to do this and as well one of their clients is a producer of local whisky. They had given them a case of their finest which he graciously shared. I am sure that Craig saw the envy in my eyes. I shared with him my dream to travel and chronicle our experiences through photography and blogging. Whisky client are you kidding me. I had the forethought to get Joyce to video the whole event. I have included the video and expect with a little editing to be able to submit and have the clients lined up.
We hitched up and headed north-west, stopping at Kanab to rotate the trailer tires. It seems to me that there has been a paradigm shift in the USA or maybe it’s just by chance that we encounter these people. The young fellow who was changing our tires was packing a 38 cal. Handgun. He had a Russian sniper long rifle that he was customizing that he was very happy to show me. This leads him to proudly showing me pictures of himself and his AK 47. During our travels, I have seen many many gun shops and observed lots of gun-toting individuals. It seems as though the country is arming itself and I find it a little disconcerting. It does make me long for home a little.
The clouds hang heavy like scattered muffins as we head up into the mountains. They look almost too heavy to stay in the sky. Their undersides an odd pink and dark purple with billowing white tops. The colour it turns out is a reflection of the sand dunes that we are making our way to.
We made camp at Coral Pink Sand Dunes and got hit with a rain wind and snow storm. Chilly and concerned about the weather we headed north early the next morning but intended route was closed. We diverted up to Piute Reservoir and made camp early due to the weather. I am reminded of advice given to the Donner party “hurry along and take no shortcuts” It is snowing heavily now as I type this and we are the sole travellers here. What will the morning bring?
To be continued......
Woke to more fresh snow, but mild. Onward north and west we drift. If I don’t come up with some warmer camping there may be a mutiny. Travel can be a life-changing experience. It alters your perspective, simplifies your life. Where am I going with this you ask? This morning as I started to get dressed I looked down at my socks. There they laid crumpled and threadbare, the heals of both worn through. Like, good friends, they had cushioned my hikes and kept me warm. Cradled in my hands I was about to toss them in the trash and then I thought no let’s take one more journey together my little knitted friends. Tomorrow we part ways. Did I mention travel can be liberating?
Joyce picked a camp in the Great Basin of Nevada, she said the elevation was 730 ft, seemed odd to me. A simple omission of one zero I was told. We camped at 7300 ft a beautiful spot on the Creek up above the Great Basin National Heritage Area.
The road from Delta, Utah to Baker, Nevada is one of the straightest desolate roads I have traveled. Long sweeping straight stretches as far as the eye can see. You travel out of the Wasatch Pahvant Mountains over the Confusion Range and burst out into the Grand Basin and stunning views of the Eagan Range. Miles of nothing, no fences, no poles, just sage brush and rock. Untouched and unspoiled. Next morning we woke to 5 inches of fresh snow and a two thousand foot drop down the road from our camp to the Mesa below. As I cleared off the snow a very welcome gravel truck plowed the road past our site. Joyce had booked a guided Ranger tour into the Lehman Caves. This was a very intimate exploration, confined and a hands on journey through the limestone caverns. A number of times I thought about starting a support group for chubby spelunkers. Storms were forecast for the next couple days and we decided to head for warmer climes. We crossed the Great Basin which encompasses much of Nevada. Traveling Highway 6 you cross no less than six mountain ranges and the immense mesas between them. Black sky’s, two degrees and we hurried to make camp at Goldfield. Goldfield is a funky old mining town and our last camp before Death Valley. Woke up to frozen pipes and a frosty wife. Rosy has had it with the cold weather, no exploring here, it’s time to move on. We are descending from 6500 ft. too 282 ft. below sea level and a 30 degree temperature increase. We stop in Beatty for fuel and provisions before dropping through Daylight Pass into Death Vally. Mesquite Springs is a dry camp area at the the north end of the Panamanian Range. It’s a little cooler and quieter than the southern camps. First morning at Mesquite and I hike north into the desert, the park is 3.4 million acres and it’s wonderful place to explore. You can imagine you are the first to tramp through these ever changing washes and ravines. About a mile from camp I happened to find a hidden draw that actually has running water seeping out of a bank. Very rare in this wasteland and water is life here so this little oasis was a very interesting place. Returned early again to the spring it was very quiet a few small birds. I caught glimpses of some of the denizens of the desert but it does not give up its secrets easily. A light rain pelted the trailer to lull us to sleep but some invisible gnats decided to invade in the night.
There are a few flies and bugs about and I mentioned this to Rosy, she says that she uses Teatree Oil to repel the bugs. Said she put it on at that humid place. I thought what the heck I’d give it a try. Tingled a bit and didn’t do much to keep the bugs away. Turns out she meant Louisiana.
The clouds hang low and dark, we move south deeper into the heart of Death Valley.
To be continued........
Furnace Creek is our next stop and the temperature is warmer but the weather is frightful. Very high winds and rain, rain being the anomaly here. Rained for most of two days. We get gussied up to go to the big city for more provisions (wine). Pahrump is a little over an hour away. On our way back our first indication of the wind intensity is a RV awning and attached hardware somersaulting through the desert. Back at camp and our trailer had shuffled off its pads but suffered no real damage. From the markings in the gravel it sort of crab walked north with the wind. Our neighbor had one awning destroyed but managed to get the other in with the help of a number of campers. All night we wondered if the trailer was going to blow over. Weather can be like a mad dog, dark and brooding one minute opposite the next. So it was, clear and calm the next morning. I have been trying to catch a glimpse of the local mountain sheep, sadly unsuccessfully so far. In my search for sheep I came across the Keane Wonder mine site on our last day at Furnace Creek. The hardships and travails of those early miners is unfathomable and from a modern perspective the lure of gold and riches is not easily understood.
Unrelenting comes to mind when trying to describe the wind here at Furnace Creek. Two 10 m. date palms have blown over and it felt like our trailer was being towed across the desert all night long. We are moving up to Stove Pipe Wells for likely our last hot temperatures and shelter from the wind as we press on home. Stove Pipe reminds me of a Bedouin or Gypsy camp. It’s a hot dusty gravel field and caravans roll in, circle and slowly chose their camp spot. Bikers rumble around like horsemen on Arabian steeds. Tent flys lazily flap in the breeze as the tents inhale and deflate as if breathing in the warm desert air. Dogs and children sprinkle the scene with laughter and barks. A convoy of off road 4x4’s rumble into camp. Jacked up suspensions, roll bars with big gnarly tires. Festooned with jacks, fuel cans and winches. They circle and pull in tight together, desert nomads. Bikes heavy with saddle bags and packs cruise by covered in dust and dirt. Tall buckled boots armour padded suits and helmets, scarf covered faces they stare out with large goggled eyes, bandits I’m sure. A wind devil dances through the camp. A generator fires up and the spell is broken. I gaze around at the motor homes and trailers, land yachts. I can only wonder what the future camps will look like. Much will change but not kids and dogs I hope.
To be continued.......
We were infested with Lotuses last night, not locust, but four Lotus Elise 400’s and one Porsche Twin Turbo. Part of a Southern California Lotus road rally. They swarmed in after dark and set up right on our door step. It was very entertaining as these young road ralliers tried to set up camp. Reading instructions in the dark as they fumbled with their brand new tents. Next morning as they emerged from their nylon cocoons mumbling and talking in some Lotus dialect. Struts, Chapman a frames, tweaks and mods and of course naturally aspirated engines. Four hundred horsepower in a 2000 lb. carbon fibre rocket seems oddly out place in the desert. They offered up a bottle of Jack Daniels as penance for any indiscretions that they may have committed. I passed on the generous offer thinking if I wanted to stay naturally aspirated I should stay away from the Jack. We did manage to get to the point where the bar tender recognized us at the Stove Pipe Saloon.
It’s been very windy for most of the last 8 days, blowing very hard from the south. This morning it changed and it’s howling from the north. All that dust and sand blown north is now being blown back south. I noticed a group lined up leaning into the sand storm. I think maybe they are hoping to get their stuff back that was lost in the wind over the last few days. Much like the wind we are blowing out of Death Valley. We climb up the steep narrow pass to the west over the Panamint Mountains. Was hoping to do some kayaking on Mono Lake but the lake is still partly iced over and there is as much as 3 ft. of snow on the road sides through the high Sierras. Most of the camps are closed. We push on to Minden, Nevada, and will tackle our last high pass in the morning.
To be continued.......
Carson City has a history of silver and gold mining. The miners can still be heard toiling up into the mountains and through the valleys. No wait, that’s the roar of cars and trucks outside our window on the four lane Hwy 395. They are still mining gold and silver here, mostly from the pockets of hapless travellers. Silver City RV charges $40 for a concrete slab in the middle of a construction site. Our site was so close to the road I left the signal lights flashing so traffic would know we had pulled off the road. Occasionally we end up in one of these “RV Camps” its a kind of house keeping exercise. Joyce did laundry although I’m sure she was distracted by the task. I grabbed a pair of clean socks this morning only to find 1 sock and a dish cloth rolled together.
Took a scenic route through The Sierras which in itself is not too note worthy. We followed the 49ers Gold Rush Route, a very beautiful and very windy road. Ok here it comes, one of my travel guidelines is when your fuel is at half start looking for a place to fuel up. Turns out it’s still winter up Plumas Mountains. The first town the one and only station was out of business. The next two towns closed for the season and no diesel. I was pretty sure we where in trouble unless we could make the summit. We did but the next had no fuel. We found a station in Sierraville, my truck has a 32 gallon tank and I put nearly 33 gallons of diesel in it. I was literally running on fumes. Topped up we trucked on down to Quincy and made camp. Saint Christopher was riding shotgun on this day. Shortly after leaving we heard the pass we had just crossed was closed due to a rock slide. I had mentioned to Joyce this was not a good time to travel this route. We are camped just north of Klamath Falls at the Kay Mo Ya Casino. Near home and more or less just driving I have one last post.
To be continued......
Heavy with road dust we rolled into town. A wide spot invited us to pull over. Stiff and tired we climbed out and stretched. A tumble weed bounced by carried by the wind and dust it seemed intent on leaving town. Across the street is a car covered in sticky red mud. A young girl was bent over loading groceries into the trunk. We walked past an old DeSoto sedan nestled in the brush, peering quietly out at us. It’s old chrome bumper covered with freckles of rust. Up ahead was a Diner, the faded neon sign with just a hint of its past glory flickered “Country Cafe”. Curled up on the bench in front, a tattered and scarred Tom cat squinted over at us, unhappy with our intrusion he slunk away.
The flashing red open sign seemed out of place with the tired and paint peeling store front. The sign flickered and beckoned us in.
I tried to shake off a feeling like I’d been here many times before. A tinkle from the bell suspended above was cut short as the screen door slammed behind us. The smell of cinnamon wafted over us, Rosy and I scanned the room for a place to sit.
A table with five farm boys clustered around stoped talking and glanced our way. A mule deer buck mount hanging above stared intently at us. One the boys smiled shyly and nodded. I tossed out a tentative hello and it sure looks like a nice day. The big fella in the back cocked back on his chair and said it will get a lot nicer if you try Bobby’s sticky buns. We all chuckled. Rosy grabbed a table by the window and I noticed the old Tom cat was back standing guard.
Bobby came over to take our order, a sticky bun two forks and coffees would be nice I said The boys resumed their tales, back home we would call these guys the knowledge network. Bobby slid the hot sticky bun and coffees on the table. I waited for it, sure that it would come, just passing through she said. There it was, that feeling, déjà vu. Just drifting and maybe looking for a place to camp and a little excitement I said. Excitement left town a while back she replied, but if you want camping go on down by the river. There by the rodeo grounds tuck in behind the barn nobody will bother you. There was a tinkle from the bell over the door announcing a tall lanky fellow. As he slid onto the stool at the counter he called out to Bobby give me a mug of that black tar you call coffee. This earned him a stern look that melted into a soft smile. Tossing his hat onto the counter it revealed thin wisps of hair and a weathered tanned face in sharpe contrasts to the pale white crown of his forehead.
Everybody returned to their conversations and so it goes.
All this happened and didn’t happen, by that I mean what you just read happened during our trip but not all at the same time, a compilation of sorts.
As a practice exercise I recently started exploring the craft of writing. Using this our travel blog and you as my sounding board and hopefully critics.
For me writing is a lot like painting but using a pencil instead of a brush. Another analogy might be like making soup. I believe your prose should include hearty ingredients, nutritious, slowly simmered and lightly stirred. Care and attention to the ingredients. The soup can be hot and frothy, cold or spiced and aromatic. Of course topped with a sense of humour. Home made soup takes time and is best shared with friends. So too with a good tale.
While it can never be said it wasn’t an adventure, this trip like most had a cadence and tone all its own. My focus on photography was a little more relaxed and to some degree I regret that. My lense often takes me to surprising unexpected places. Not to say that I never took pictures, it was just a minor in a major expedition. This travelogue was a large part of the journey and my exploration of the written story rather than the visual. Combining the two seems like a logical progression for me. I am very fortunate to have a travel companion who graciously allowed me to inject a little humour, sometimes at her expense. She has many hats and is known in the lines of this blog as “ The little mugwump “ , “Rosy” and Joyce. I assigned these names with reckless abandon or perhaps to suit the story. I claim full poetic licence in all I wrote.
I have mentioned reflection more than once I’m sure and this trip morphed into a exploration of our future travel plans. Travel has its costs, foremost and a given, is isolation from family and friends. Disconnection from the world, by that I mean news and the digital tether we all have become accustomed to. Doing research can be agonizing without a solid link to the world. The biggy for me is showers and limited quantities of all things RV. By that I mean electricity, storage and the constraints of living in a small space. It’s a healthy exercise to shed all unnecessary trappings and live a simpler life. Oh did I mention showers? The rewards of travel, well lets just say that they are many, varied and quite often unexpected.
So there you have it our travelogue, we are close to home and the end of this adventure. We want to thank you for your comments, encouragement and for tagging along.