Thursday, February 26, 2015

On The Eastside

The locals refer to the area on the east side of the Sierra Nevada as the Eastside. That’s where we are now - Lone Pine, CA along US395, our fav road in the country. Death Valley, the lowest in the country to the east and Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the 48 states just 100 miles to the west.

But first, a few pictures of the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley. We got up at five to be on the dunes at sunrise.

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We hope to get to the more remote Eureka Dunes before we leave the Eastside.

Someone knocking Death Valley: Here’s an idea: heat a pan full of sand to about 200 degrees, then pour it on your head. Congratulations, you’ve just simulated a visit to Death Valley National Park.

Sunday – February 22 - Dorothy is back to her favorite place - The Alabama Hills. The Hills are piles of jumbo rocks in the most odd shapes set right below the Sierra Nevada. It’s Joshua Tree on steroids with a large helping of jagged top mountains made of granite. None of that pukey conglomerate rock you find in say Death Valley or southern AZ.

This is our fifth time here. We had to bypass it last year when Dorothy fractured her wrist. That’s why we are here this year. Our previous visits were in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

We have been watching the weather here for months and they have had a most moderate winter - little rain and warm temps. It was 69 yesterday. That’s changing today. Cooler temps and much needed snow/rain is forecast. It was 41 at 6:30, warmed to 44 by 9:00, then it snowed and at 1pm it’s down to 36. Big flakes. I am sure that when we next see the mountains they will have a fresh coat of white.

Coming out of Death Valley to here we made a two-day detour to Bishop, just an hour north of Lone Pine to deal with a coupla medical problems. Not Dorothy this time! One happily resolved itself. The other, time will tell. Getting old sure sucks.

Don’t know that we have ever been here on a weekend before. Lots of people driving around. “Our” spot is taken by a group with way too many kids bikes. We found a private spot where we can see when they move out. The parking area for the arch had four cars before dawn. Since the tops of the mountains are cloud covered, no decent pictures can be taken. They stayed two hours. Perhaps they are arch worshippers?  

Monday – February 23 – It snowed all Sunday afternoon. It did not even moisten the ground around us, but close to the base of the mountains, it did stick and the mountains are white on both sides of the valley. 34 degrees in The Hills this morning.

Five inches of snow has made chains required on the Cerro Gordo grade. [Ghost town of the largest silver find in CA. It has been on our bucket list for years] Maybe it will melt with the coming warm weather? Tho, at 8,800 feet I am not optimistic.

We moved to “our spot” this afternoon. Try it out for yourself, we don’t try to keep many places secret. Keeping choice sites secret is not possible anyway. Good map reading skills will ferret them out. Our spot is N36 36.841 W117.07.248. No wifi here, but it’s the best spot for viewing both mountain ranges and is in the heart of The Hills. Today there was a bare minimum of cars in The Hills and no one has been up our spur.

06ah03No accumulation in The Hills, but five miles distant you can see the snow at the mountain’s base. Note: it was gone in 24 hours.

06ah01Dorothy in the mouth of the monster. See her hands up her sleeves? The wind was kicking up to 25.

Tuesday – February 24 – We woke to a crystal clear day. The first we have seen in our several trips here. Here is what saw out our Imax window.

out the imax window tuesday

See the cat ears in the middle. That’s Whitney just to the left. About 10 miles distant and 14,000 feet up. [The valley base 4,400] If you can spot the ledge below the left ear, that’s Lone Pine Lake. We have been that far up.

DG & MG I sure could use you guys to help me with the low angle winter sun. I know we have sun in the south in the winter, but we seldom see it and I don’t know how to use it.

Wednesday – February 25 – Out the Imax window this morning. Too lazy to go outside in the 42 degree temp. Just enjoy our coffee and the sunrise from the lounge. Only in a Lazy Daze.

out the imax window wednesday

We did get moving. We were in the Alabama Hills Cafe at 7:30. We had one of their way too much to eat omelets. We waddled out and drove 12 miles north to Independence with little plan in mind. We found the Eastern Sierra Museum and spent over an hour talking with folks and looking at the exhibits, Next we drove the road up to Onion Valley. There were no onions, but at the end of the road there was snow at 9,200. This is a staging area for pack trips into the mountains. Back down into the valley, we stopped at Romero’s mobile taco stand. Two bucks a piece – not bad. Our lunch was 1/5 the price of of breakfast. Spent the afternoon sunning like a lizard in the warm sun.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Into The Valley Of Death

This was our third foray into Death Valley. The popular legend for the name is that one of the few seeking a short cut to the gold fields that made it across the wasteland looked back and said “Goodbye, Death Valley. We crossed it from Nevada our first time and from Lone Pine the next time. I thought we would enter from the south this time to be different.

While there are valleys here, there are more mountains. It takes two mountains to make one valley the way I see it. And you cross three ranges in the park. That ignores the majestic Sierra Nevada to the west and the several ranges in Nevada. All of which can be seen from the park.

By 7:30 we were on the road and shortly we passed through the almost defunct Boron mining town of Trona. Next we stopped at the junction to the ghost town of Ballarat and debated on unhooking and taking the Jeep in. There was a lot of traffic on the dusty road so we decided to continue on to the campground not far ahead and come back later. Then the wheels of my plan came off. First, the highway went to washboard gravel which slowed us to 15mph. Then when we regained the blacktop, the road leading to our campground was closed. This provided the explanation for a discrepancy we had noted. Three new paper maps said the campground was 9 miles ahead. The GPS said it was 90 minutes away. Hmmmm, Grumble.

We followed the approved route which took us to the road I wanted to avoid, 190, the one that climbs the Panamint range to 5,000 feet and promptly descends into Death Valley. Then we turned back south completing a loop to the campground. 55 miles vs 9 miles. Who do I see about this?

Anywho, the campground is pleasant enough. Very quiet. I selected it because it’s at 4,100 and so much cooler than in the valleys. After nap, we took the road to the end. There is a great campground with access to the trailhead to Telescope Peak. That CG is at 8,100 feet and was a delightful 66 degrees. Regrettably, only small vehicles can access the CG. There is a fantastic view of Death Valley to the east from there.  I am sure there is an even better view from the top of the peak at 11,100. No one was hiking it as we had to drive through snow and ice to get to the CG. Still winter.


These two signs are side-by-side and both places can be seen from them, even though Panamint City is 12 miles away and up 5,000 feet.





Ten kilns designed by Swedes and built by Chinese to make charcoal to smelt silver. The charcoal was hauled 30 miles to the mine.


Yet more trivia – somewhere in the past I heard the phrase 23 Skidoo. Well, there is a mine site here named Skidoo and the water was piped in from 23 miles away.

Tuesday – February 17 – I asked the park employee who came by to pick the trash if the closed road was really closed. (These guys are always excellent sources of information. They know all of the park and have no agenda to steer you away from sensitive places) He said not at all, tho the road is washed away to one lane in two places, it was legal to use. We wanted to see what Ballarat was all about without driving the 55 mile loop. Ballarat is nothing – two old buildings. While we were there we took the Pleasant Valley Canyon Road about five miles to the first canyon. An interesting drive, but nothing special. Only needed 4WD High to turn around over some deep loose rocks. There were several marked mining claims, but no indication of recent activity.

After our nap, we did the Aguereberry Point Road. More than a decent view, don’t you agree?



Along the way

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jojobo Hills

San Diego may be the ideal city for hiking and biking.  Most of the major roads have bike lanes on both sides of the road. Hike/Bike trails are everywhere. San Diego is green because of condensation. It’s still desert, but with a green tint. I had forgotten that.

We are back in the desert near Temecula. 80+ in the daytime. 40/50’s at night. Full hookups. Five 4G bars.

Stopped at Dudley’s Bakery on the way up. I wanted to buy one of each type of bread they make. Settled for three types and a huge Apple/Walnut Strudel.

Jojobo is a nice place. An Escapees RV park. Everyone is extra friendly. Dozens of activities. The members do most of the maintenance, but they also employ a paid staff.  There are over 20 LD’s there and we met a few of the people.  Our last night in the hookup sites, we were going to host a cocktail party, but the Santa Ana winds came in and someone did not want to get their do mussed so our friends, Bill & Carolyn, had all of us at their rig.  I brought the food, etc. and a good time was had by all.  I love entertaining.


Our home for a week. Full hookups, plus cable, pool, etc. $23 a day.


Temecula surprised us. It looks like the whole city was built in the last few years. Well, it was horse country 25 years ago when Jojoba was built. Miles and miles of stores now.

We wanted to tour the area a bit. Driving the loop around the Palomar Mountains won out over going to Palm Springs, Indio, etc. And so we did. The north side, the Jojoba side, is around 2,000 feet. The observatory is at 5,400 and the valley on south side of the mountains is only 500 feet. Which explains why they grow oranges only on the south side of the mountains.

The map showed that we could get down the mountain two ways – both twisty curvy roads. One went through the state park, so I choose that one. Perhaps not the best choice. That is the Nate Harrison Grade Road, which is maintained only as a fire road. Downhill 17 miles on a mostly decent dirt surface. 

It was well after lunch when we reached the black top that went through orange groves and nurseries. The first commercial place we came to was Jilberto’s Taco. It did not look great, but we were hungry. Inside, the decor and furnishings were sparse. There were a few locals, no other tourista’s. We both ordered the Chile Relleno plate. It seemed to take forever to come to the table. When it came, the plate was overflowing with two of the largest peppers we have ever seen. Of course, there was salad, beans and rice and HUGE homemade tortillas'. The peppers were stuffed, I think, with Oaxaca cheese. Devine. We waddled away. Back at Jojoba, we had a short nap and went to the pool.

Remember the steel sculptures in Anza-Borrego? Well, here are more at the artist’s place near Temecula.

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serpentAnd the serpent. Please note this is not my picture. 

We did provisioning the day before we left Jojoba. Our stops included BevMo!, Winco, Costco and Petco. Do you see a pattern? We have been to BevMo’s before, but this one had everything. Dorothy had some wine on the 130-foot yacht in San Diego that she said was the best she had ever had. She bought a half-case at BevMo! for $9 a bottle. Winco is discount grocery store that has an excellent selection. The only reason we stopped at Petco was that is was next to Sprouts, where we bought more produce, and the humane society had lots of puppies for adoption there.

We had lunch at La Cocino which has been recommended to us. I could not understand everything our server said as she really rolled her r’s, but she explained the special dishes with such enthusiasm that I wanted them. I understood one was salmon and Dorothy loves that so I got that for her. It also had shrimp over rice. I really did not know what the second dish she described, but the words were so enticing that I ordered it. It turned out to be carne asada with the most divine sauce. To me, sauces are what turns food into a memorable experience. Oh and the appetizer was 16 small tortillas stuffed with shrimp and another divine sauce.

Southern California counties are huge. Consider that Rhode Island is 1,200 sq miles. Consider that San Diego county is 4,200, Riverside is 7,200 and the largest in the state, San Bernardino 20,000 square miles. You determine how many Rhode Islands will fit into San Bernardino county.

Sunday February 15 – We are on the way to Death Valley. We broke the trip up by over-nighting in Inyokern. [Combines the names of two counties, Inyo and Kern] We could not believe all the dirt worshippers along 395 south of here. It’s dead flat BLM land and nothing scenic, but all manner of dirt bikes and quads are out there in the dirt making dust.

So far this trip has been in civilized areas. Now we ready to get off the grid.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On The Quay In San Diego

If you don’t do something stupid once in awhile, you will not have many amusing stories.

This is a true story. As much as I can remember of it anyway. The fellow like me likes to locate and drive remote roads. This road was in South Africa. You know the place that has large kitties. He does not have 4WD. He prefers late 1950’s cars with huge fins, like a Cadillac or Desoto. Perhaps not ideal an vehicle for dirt roads.

Skipping to the part of the story where the rear frame is resting in the soupy dirt. It’s late in the afternoon, he figures it will take him until dark to dig it out, so he decides to wait and see if someone will come along and help him out. So they have cocktails, a one-pot dinner and bed down for the night.

The next morning he attacks the dirt with the only thing he has that will serve as a shovel – a tire tool. He does not want to soil his pants so he takes them off and lays down in his red underwear to begin work. Bugs want to get in his ear, so he puts toilet tissue in them. To keep the sun off, he coats his arms in mud. Three hours later, he making some progress, when a car appears. German tourists in a rental. Ideal. So he approaches them in his red undies, tissue in his ears and tire tool in hand. Their eyes are big. Fortunately, his wife is German and she is able to convince them they will not be harmed and all they need is a tow.


Remember the couple in our last post that were camping in the desert in a Caddy? Well we were their guests on the S/Y Kaori last night. 


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Dorothy, Cathie and Kiki


Yohan, the skipper, and Dana

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02sd36Kaori, built by Palmer-Johnson, 130 feet overall, is for sale. The price is just north of six million. The skipper says she is a sweet sailor and with 20 knots apparent, she will do 12 knots.


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A 240 footer parked close by. The mast is the most expensive mast ever made. 20 million. Note the three fore sails.


Our view from our hosts home

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Birds of Paradise