11-1-08 Wilsonville, Oregon

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View of hotel parking lot.  Reminds me of Colburn Woods in Nashua.

View of hotel parking lot. Reminds me of Colburn Woods in Nashua.

November 1, 2008 — We got up late and did nothing today.  That is, we drove maybe a total of 2 miles — over to Starbucks and back and then over to the grocery store for waters and back and then to Subway and back.  It’s a gray, drizzling day.  Not too cold. 

So, after talking to my sister Lori (I MISS YOU),  I spent the majority of the day finally posting the photos from last weekend at Death Valley. Actually, now that I’ve finally caught up, I want another “nothing” day tomorrow so that I can just hang out and read for the day.  

Anyway, we enjoyed the day.  It’s a very comfortable hotel, inside and out. 

At hotel in Wilsonville.

At Best Western hotel in Wilsonville.

Comments (0) Nov 01 2008

10-31-08 I-5 to Portland, Oregon

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Scene from I-5 in Oregon

Scene from I-5 in Oregon

October 31, 2008 — We drove north on I-5 today towards Portland.  Since it is Friday — the most expensive day to get a hotel room, we decided to stay just outside of Portland in a little town called Wilsonville.  

 

Our first impressions of Oregon are very positive.  It feels familiar to us New Englanders — it feels like Maine, or the Berkshires or maybe even New York State.  Only the mountains are bigger, the trees are straighter and the even though it is basically November 1, the leaves are still in full autumn colors and are still on the trees.  The day temperatures are similar to Nashua — but the night temps are a lot milder.

 

Rainbow on I-5 highway

Rainbow on I-5 highway

There is also a whole stretch that reminds us of central valley in California — lots of vineyards and other vegetables.  

 

The hotel that we chose to stay at says a lot about the climate here.  The buildings are not attached to each other and you must walk out doors to get from one floor to another.  That tells us that it never gets too cold here.  

 

Pumpkins outside of Coffee shop -- which one would you vote for?

Pumpkins outside of Coffee shop -- which one would you vote for?

We arrived in Wilsonville around 1:30 in the afternoon and we decided to stay in and relax (and do laundry).  It is kind of nice to actually use the hotel room that we pay for!  We went into Wilsonville to grab a bite to eat later in the afternoon.  Cute town.  I looked it up an it was only incorporated in 1969, so it is a rather new town.

Comments (0) Oct 31 2008

Oct 29 to Oct 30, 2008 Coast of California

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Elephant Seals on beach

Elephant Seals on beach

Oct 29 and Oct 30, 2008 — Decision time — do we go north, south, east or west?  Well, without a boat, we couldn’t go West.  At least one option was eliminated!

 

 

 

Marina Layer receded long enough to see this shoreline!

Marina Layer receded long enough to see this shoreline!

Since our original goal was to go to Portland, Oregon we decided that we really ought to go check it out since we were so close.  Also, Carl pointed out that we could pick up our mail, which is sitting at the Beaverton, Oregon address that I arranged before leaving Nashua.  That settled it. Although, I must say I was missing the hot Tucson air by late afternoon and if it wasn’t for wanting mail, I would have begged Carl to turn the car around.

 

Pacific Coast Highway from high up

Pacific Coast Highway from high up

We drove north on 101, which brought us through lots of wine country, pumpkin patches, and other vegetable fields. 101 goes through Santa Maria and then veers left to some beach towns and then back east to San Luis Obispo.  While near the ocean, we could see that there was a thick marine layer (fog) and that visibility was poor.  Still, we decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway (route 1) anyway and just hoped for the best.  If you look at a map, you can see that PCH hugs the coastline.  Most of the time the road does not descend at valleys but goes around the valley, making for a very curving ride.   Once you commit to this road, you are on it for the duration, that is until you reach Monterey. 

 

Nice shot of sand dune -- and Carl cleaning the windshield!

Nice shot of sand dune -- and Carl cleaning the windshield!

Even though it was fogged in, it was still a pleasurable ride. We saw a few interesting things like Elephant Seals and even Zebras (near San Simeon where the Hearst Castle is located.)  Carl surprised me with a late lunch at Nepenthe in Big Sur.  Actually, he did tell me we were going to do this, but since I didn’t know what he was talking about, I was surprised when I saw it.  Basically, it is all about the view — and since this is in Big Sur — it has a cool factor. 

 

 

 Kevah Cafe at Nepenthe Restaurant, serving brunch all day. I had organic cider with my meal.

Kevah Cafe at Nepenthe Restaurant, serving brunch all day. I had organic cider with my meal.

We stayed on the PCH until we met up with 17 just before Santa Cruz — we went up through Silicon Valley into San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The rush up this road was very intense — I was more than happy that Carl was driving.  Unfortunately, our plan to go over the Golden Gate Bridge had two problems — first, it was fogged in.  Duh!  And second, by the time we made our way through the rush hour traffic, it was dark. Good thing that this was not the first trip over the bridge for either of us!

 

 

 

 

Plants at Nepenthe

Plants at Nepenthe

If you have ever driven this, you know that 101 ends just as you approach downtown San Francisco and picks up again just before going over the Golden Gate Bridge.  There are signs for “GG Bridge” but you have to be on the lookout.  We were very pleased with “Miss Pris” and her GPS system and how well it guided us through the city and over the bridge. Still, it was tense.

 

 

 

 

 

We came upon this coffee place on a scenic side road off of 101. After so little sleep last night, I really needed this coffee. It was delicious.

We came upon this coffee place on a scenic side road off of 101. After so little sleep last night, I really needed this coffee. It was delicious.

Once we got over the bridge, we continued north until we felt we were out of the big rush of the city.  We finally pulled off the road and took a hotel in Petaluma. This turned out to be one of our worst night’s sleeps.  It was one of those hotels so close to the highway exit ramps that it sounds like the trucks are pulling into your room.  The Internet was so weak that it wasn’t even worth getting e-mail.  And, for a non-smoking room, I thought the bedding stank.  So, I hardly slept all night. Fortunately, Carl is not as light a sleeper and he managed to get enough sleep for another day’s long drive.

 

 

 

 

Telephone pole amid the Giant Redwoods

Telephone pole amid the Giant Redwoods

So today, we drove from Petaluma up 101 until Crescent City, and then on 199 to Oregon.  Today’s highlight was seeing the Redwood trees.  We drove through several Redwood groves today — these trees are awesome.  We also saw a lot of color today — like having our second autumn (as you might recall we experienced the first one a month ago in Colorado).  101 feels like the Pacific Coast Highway in several spots as it hugs the coast.

 

 

 

A peak at the Pacific Ocean through the trees.

A peak at the Pacific Ocean through the trees.

I actually was on this road 25 years ago with my friends Cindy Barstow and Barbara Durling. We flew to San Francisco and borrowed Cindy’s brother’s van and drove from Marin to Seattle, Washington and back.  We spent a couple days with my sister Debbie. So some of today’s trip was recalling that first trip for me.

 

Route 199 was the most fun from a driving point  — it was a fast curvy road.

 

Redwood Grove

Redwood Grove

We quit driving for the day when we reached Grants Pass — we are now on route 5 and have a quick shot up to Portland.  We should be there within 4 hours.

Comments (0) Oct 30 2008

10-28-08 Santa Barbara, CA

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Carl at coffee shop, once again after 15 plus years.

Carl at coffee shop, once again after 15 plus years.

October 28, 2008 – So first thing this morning we went looking for Carl’s old coffee haunt on State St, which is the main street in Santa Barbara.  He actually had low expectations that it would still be there or if it was that it would not be the same.  He figured that by now it would have been turned into a Starbucks.

 

 

Mall in Santa Barbara - prettiest Macy I

Prettiest Macy's that I've ever seen!

 

Santa Barbara Mall

Mall on State St. in Santa Barbara

Guess what?  It was there — despite Starbucks on two or three nearby corners! So we sat outside and had a nice cup of Capachino in a large ceramic coffee cup.  Yum!

 

Hula Hoops in the park

Hula Hoops in the park

 

Is that Santa with balloons?

Is that Santa with balloons?

Meanwhile, I was in awe of the shopping “mall.”  Not so much with the stores — they were the usual, nothing too high end, really — but the notion of “mall.”  I’m not even sure I can describe it.  The stores are all on a block and have entrances from the streets, but also to a open air corridor.  So the downtown looks very nice, but the shopper has access from inside the block as well.  If we didn’t have so much sight seeing to do, I could have really spent some time shopping in this place.

 

 

After coffee, we drove the rest of the way down State Street to the ocean.  We parked and took a walk in the park on top of a cliff looking over the ocean.  It was a nice park — lots of people out and enjoying the morning.  BTW — temperature here is a bit cooler than the desert. We wore jeans today. 

 

Looking over cliff at park

Looking over cliff from park

After this, we drove along the ridge line of the mountains that border Santa Barbara — Paradise Road, which is off the San Marcos Pass Road and goes through the Los Padros Forest. We tried to anyway. After a couple of hair raising moments of meeting big trucks on this curving, narrow ridge road, we came to a point where the road was closed. Obviously they were working on the road.  So we turned around and when we reached the bottom, we drove north along the San Marcos Pass Road.  Since Solvang was only 14 miles away, we decided to go there next.

View from Mountain Top Drive

View from Mountain Top Drive

 

 

 

 

Lake Cachuna -- when Carl lived here it was a dry bed

Lake Cachuma -- when Carl lived here it was a dry bed

But first we stopped to check out Lake Cachuma.  When Carl lived here, this lake was dry, there had been a five year draught. In fact, Santa Barbara had invested in a salination plant, which never went online because it rained just as the plant was finished and read to be of use.  So they moth balled it. There was a fee to get into Lake Cachuma, so Carl drove up to the Lake Cachuma Dam.  

 

 

Clock Tower in Solvang

Clock Tower in Solvang

After that we drove to Solvang, a Danish community.  As you know, Carl and his family are from Denmark — in fact there is a Petersen Inn right in town — so I have heard about this town for as long as I’ve known Carl.  This town smells so good, we bought treats at three different bakeries that we will have as snacks for the next few days.  There is more to Solvang than bakeries — there are several places to buy quilts, dolls, and embroidered handcrafts.  There were also several inviting restaurants — too bad we ate so much at the complimentary breakfast this morning.

 

Solvang Danish architechure

Solvang Danish architechure

 

 

After walking around Solvang for an hour or so, we drove back to Santa Barbara.  I’m not sure where it was, be we walked along a pier in which lots of people were fishing.  We sat on a bench and ate one of Danish treats here.  We were overlooking the University of California, Santa Barbara branch in the distance.

Windmill in Solvang

Windmill in Solvang

 

 

 

Chumash Indian carving of Mountain Lion - oldest known carving

Chumash Indian carving of Mountain Lion - oldest known carving

After that, we drove to the Old Mission Santa Barbara and walked around there a bit.  Most interesting part of this place was the Chumash washing trowel in which the oldest known American carving still exists.

 

 

Judi and Carl on the beach

Judi and Carl on the beach

We ended the day by going back to Hendry’s Beach and having dinner at the restaurant that Carl used to eat at all the time.  It may have changed but it was still appropriate to eat there.  It turned out to be delicious — and not even that expensive.  After, we walked a good way up the beach.  And then we came back here — worn out from a great day.

Danish treats in Solvang

Danish treats in Solvang

Comments (0) Oct 28 2008

10-27-08 From Death Valley to Santa Barbara

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Morning sun on mountains as we leave Death Valley

Morning sun on mountains as we leave Death Valley

October 27, 2008 — We got up a little earlier this morning to give ourselves plenty of time to reach Santa Barbara.  The GPS originally thought it would take us 8 hours, but once we got underway, it adjusted and it took closer to 7 hours.  

 

 

At the top, looking down the next valley.  This, like Death Valley, was once filled with water.

At the top, looking down the next valley. This, like Death Valley, was once filled with water. See the straight road that we will be on soon?

One of the things that I’m realizing is that when you see a a bunch of mountain ranges in the distance, that between each range is a valley.  So, to leave the valley, means to climb up a mountain range and to descend down.  As logical as this all is, I must admit that living on the east coast all my life, I hadn’t really thought about this.  Anyway, the best part about this driving to the top of the mountains is the surprises that we discover when we get to the top. Looking down is always rewarding.  This morning’s first ascent/descent was no less rewarding. 

 

Panamint City's interesting fate

Panamint City - click image to read plaque

Today’s ride took us through a lot of different places.  We passed the Ballarat Ghost Town — which is really just a marker on the road, well two markers on the road — and one for Panamint City.  Since all three markers are in one place, they must have been near each other.

Ballarat was established in 1897 and had 3 hotels and 7 saloons and a Wells Fargo Station.  It had a population of 500 people.  It declined after the Rackcliff Mine closed in 1905 and became a ghost town in 1917 when the post office closed.

 

 

 

Passing Red Rock Canyon on 14

Passing Red Rock Canyon on 14

A bit later, still going down 178, the air got really, really smelly.  We discovered Trona — a very poor looking town that starts off as just a large junkyard, and then as it does get more populated it seems that half the houses are abandoned and those that aren’t, are not well kept. Then you come to the reason for the town’s existance — and smell — a mineral processor.  I looked up Trona in Wikipedia and turns out the town is named after the mineral that is mined a the Searles Lake. As I suspected from the very large white piles near the the West End plant, they produce borax as well as  boric acid, soda ash, salt cake and salt. I suspect the smell was from a chemical needed in the production.

 

 

First glance of the Pacific Ocean!

First glance of the Pacific Ocean!

We passed through Red Rock Canyon, which was red, but after seeing the red rocks earlier in our trip — it wasn’t all that “red.”   We then went down 14, into Mohave.  This was of interest to us since we learned yesterday that the 20 Mule Team brought the Borax to two places: Mohave and Daggett.  It took 10 days.  

 

 

Carl lived here for about 4 years, until February 1993. His condo is the one in the back.

Carl lived here for about 4 years, until February 1993. His condo is the one in the back.

We continued down 14 for some time going through lots of little towns.  I hate to say it — we’ve had so much stimulation visually, that I was a little bored during this stretch! Then, suddenly the traffic picked up speed as we got closer to the L.A.  A little much after all our scenic driving for the past few weeks! But that was brief because the GPS took us through a short cut over to Santa Clarita to get to I-5N.  We were on I-5 for basically one exit and then we picked up 126.  This was a road that Carl knew well from when he lived in Santa Barbara — but the road had changed a lot.  Whereas it had been a slow road with lots of farms and farm stands, it has since been expanded to more lanes and the farms now grow trees and sell “plant pot” trees.  We did see some orange trees, but not many. I guess landscaping is more profitable than growing food.

 

 

Judi steps into the Pacific Ocean -- after all those weeks in the desert!

Judi steps into the Pacific Ocean -- after all those weeks in the desert!

 

Carl on bench at beach in front of his old restaurant!

Carl on bench at beach in front of his old restaurant!

We arrived in Santa Barbara around 4:00 in the afternoon. We were too tired to really explore.  Actually, it is not officially exploring. Carl lived here for about 4 years before moving east (so that we could meet :) .  So really this is an opportunity for Carl to show me about his life here until he moved east fifteen and half years ago.  So when we arrived, we went to the condo that he had lived in and then we went to his favorite beach spot with his favorite beach front restaurant.  He was dismayed to see that his favorite restaurant has been “fancified,”  not that he didn’t expect change… Anyway we drove around a bit and ended up taking a Best Western in Goleta, which is just outside Santa Barbara. Carl worked in Goleta, so this is actually part of the official tour.

 

 

 

 

 

View of Pacific Ocean from Hope Ranch

View of Pacific Ocean from scenic drive through Hope Ranch

I think it was a bit overwhelming for Carl — he really hadn’t ever thought he’d be here again. And he was also “fuzzy” tired from driving all day. And amazed at how much he didn’t remember about getting around. Though it had been over 15 years since he was here. As for me, it was great to finally put a real image to all the places that Carl has told me about for the past 15 years! I look forward to tomorrow’s explorations.

Comments (0) Oct 27 2008

10-25-08 and 10-26-08 Death Valley National Park

Posted: under California, Death Valley.
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Salsberry Pass coming into Death Valley -- love these colors

Salsberry Pass coming into Death Valley -- love these colors

October 25 to October 26, 2008 — We are in Death Valley today and tomorrow.  Absolutely beautiful — it is right up there with the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.  We don’t have Internet in our room so I’ll update with pics as soon as we are back to civilization.  Evenings here are for star gazing, not computing!   _______________________________________    

Looking out from Jubilee Pass

Looking out from Jubilee Pass

Nov 1, 2008:  Finally, I have a chance to post photos and tell you about our wonderful 2 days in Death Valley!    

Between passes -- with these colors, you can see why there was so much prospecting!

Between passes -- with these colors, you can see why there was so much prospecting!

We arrived here on Saturday Morning after spending a (not so restful due to awful bed) night in Barstow, California.  There a several entrances into Death Valley, each requiring that you drive up over a mountain and then as you descend you see the beautiful valley below.  Mind you, Death Valley is so large that it is impossible to see it all at once as you come in.    

Ashford Mills ruins - was a gold processing plant

Ashford Mills ruins - In 1914 Gold Ore from the Golden Treasure Mine (5 miles to the east) was processed here.

We came into Death Valley on 178 (we took 15 to 126N to 178) at the southern tip of the Funeral Mountains. This entrance has you drive through  two passes (which means that you travel up to the peak and then back down again) not before we went by the Salsberry Pass (3315 ft) and then the Jubilee Pass (1290 feet).    

Kit Fox on the side of the road.

Kit Fox on the side of the road. Look at this fur!

Our first stop in Death Valley was at the Ashford Mill ruins.  We poked around a bit. Here’s the history: In 1910, Ashford had the rights to the gold mine, but he and his brother worked it 4 years without a strike. They sold the rights to an Australian count for $50, 000 who later sold it to McCausland for $105,000. McCausland did find gold ore and processed $100,000 worth He employed 28 men. He shut it down because the cost to process exceeded the profit.    

Carl at 282 ft. Below Sea Level in Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point (on land) in North America. There is a spring fed pond of water, but because of the salt it is not drinkable, hence the name "Badwater."

Carl at 282 ft. Below Sea Level in Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point (on land) in North America. There is a spring fed pond of water, but because of the salt minerals, it is not drinkable, hence the name "Badwater."

Car in parking lot - against mountain that shows where sea level is

Car in parking lot - against mountain that shows where sea level is

Everywhere we looked was just picture perfect — but I couldn’t keep asking Carl to stop so I took minimum photos until we came to the Badwater Basin.  As I said, Death Valley is a big place; surely more than you can see in a couple days.  There are two things, that epitimizes this place — one is the large salt flat known as Badwater.  There is a small spring-fed basin of water — and the reason this is called Badwater is that a prospector complained that the water here was so bad that not even his donkey would drink it — hence, “badwater.”        

Close up of salt crystals on the salt flats at Badwater.

Close up of salt crystals on the salt flats at Badwater.

Sand Dunes in Death Valley

Sand Dunes in Death Valley

There is a stretch of salt that us tourists are allowed to walk out on.  Carl says that when he was here with his brother, Ole,  nearly 20 years ago (and this place was only a National Monument and not a National Park), people could walk anywhere that they wanted, thus there were RVs out on the salt flats.  Now there are fences and such to protect this naturally occurring wonder.      

I loved all the colors in Death Valley and could not stop taking pictures -- of course none of the photos capture it like it really is.

I loved all the colors in Death Valley and could not stop taking pictures -- of course none of the photos capture it like it really is.

Certainly one needs little imagination to picture that this whole valley was once filled with water, about 2000 to 4000 years ago.  You can see the water level as you look out at the surrounding mountains.  When the weather changed and the water began to evaporate, it left behind the minerals, which is this salt bed.    Carl and I walked out on the Salt Flats about as far as we were allowed to walk — and then back again.  Nice exercise.  The temperature was in the high 80s — dry, sunny and perfect.  By this time it was around 3:00 in the afternoon and we still needed a place for the night.  So rather than stopping at each and every spot as outlined in my book, we headed over to the Stovepipe Wells Village.  There are three places to stay in the park (without camping equipment or an RV); of the three, this one is the least expensive.  Carl was smart to hurry over to Stovepipe (despite my dismay as we passed the artist’s pallette, the Borax Works, etc) — we got the last room!  Though it was one of the high end ones — with a TV.  After thinking about how much we still needed to see, we took the room for Sunday night as well. After that, we went over to the Stove Pipe General Store and picked up a sandwich and headed over to the sand dunes for dinner.  Pleasant.  

Rhyolite - Cook Bank.  Notice the two bank vaults and the trim left at the top of the building.

Rhyolite - Cook Bank. Notice the two bank vaults and the trim left at the top of the building.

When we got back, we brought our computers over to the lobby area.  The access was about good enough to get mail.  I decided to read instead of work on my computer. Carl tried to follow a couple of the RV auctions that he was following but finally gave up.    

Look a tarantula.  (In Rhyolite)

Look a tarantula! (In Rhyolite)

The next morning, we had a real breakfast at the restaurant and then headed off to visit Rhyolite ghost town just over the border in Nevada.  This meant leaving Death Valley via route 374 out through Daylight Pass.  Looking out the back window, you could see that this would be a pretty spectacular way to come into Death Valley.    

Train Station in Rhyolite
Train Station in Rhyolite — there is a fence around this to protect it.  There is evidence that someone tried to make this into a casino, probably after this was a ghost town. This is Nevada, where casinos are in every town.

Rhyolite had a few building structures left — and these were marked  with signs that said  what they once were.  

The most popular spot to visit was the Bottle House since it had a curator giving a tour.  When we arrived it was filled with people and then when we came back from our walk around “town,” a whole new group had just arrived, so we decided to not explore it.  

 

Carl showing me an old can -- note the stamp to seal it shut and the holes punctured to get the liquid out.

Carl showing me an old can -- note the stamp to seal it shut and the holes punctured to get the liquid out. There was rusted metal junk everywhere but I'm sure the stuff worth anything is long gone. Still this was interesting. I found a chip from an old plate.

The town came into existence as the result of a gold rush that began in 1904, and had its peak population  from 1905 to 1910.  By 1907, the town had electricity with an estimated population of 3,500 to 10,000.  Looking over at the land that was this town, it is hard to imagine that many people lived here — it had to be really crowded.   When gold production decreased,  the population declined and the town was abandoned by 1919. In the desert, wood lasts forever, and thus if they had left the wooden structures in place, this whole ghost town would have a different appearance.  But, in those days, when towns were abandoned, people took apart the houses and brought them with them! 

 

 

Armagosa Opera House featuring Marta Beckett

Armagosa Opera House featuring Marta Beckett

When we left Rhyolite we head east to Beatty, Nevada.  This is a picturesque historical town. Of course, it was bit marred by so many McCain signs.  But that’s just me.  Oh, and there is still an active mine in this area. 

 

 

Active Mining right on the border of Death Valley

Active Mining right on the border of Death Valley

After Beatty, we continued outside Death Valley, and found ourselves in Death Valley Junction and the Armagosa Opera House and Hotel. This would be an interesting place to stay for one night. It feels like a ghost town. Watch this video. Unfortunately the opera house was locked so we couldn’t take a look inside.

 

 

From Dante's Peak, looking up Death Valley

From Dante's Peak -- looking out at Death Valley. From here we can see all of Death Valley, but we can't possibly photograph it all.

This brought us back into Death Valley, and yet another entrance (highway 190).  There is still a lot mining going on this side of Death Valley and looking at the map closely, we could see that National Park border does scoot around this area.

 

 

From Dantes Peak, looking down at Badwater Basin, where we were yesterday.

From Dante's Peak, looking down at Badwater Basin, where we were yesterday.

We decided to take the road up the top of the mountain to see Dante’s View — and here at last you can see all of Death Valley from 5475 feet up. We then stopped at the Zabriskie Point look out, which was just a turn off and not nearly as dramatic a ride — but the view was.

When we came down from here, we headed over to the museum and spent over an hour looking at all the exhibits. It is really well done with lots of information on the geology, mining efforts, the area’s native people and the first white people to stumble into the Death Valley.  

 

 

Petrified Sand Dunes -- view from Zabriskie Point

Petrified Sand Dunes -- view from Zabriskie Point

After the museum, we went over to look at the Borax works — or what is left of it.  Carl remembers the original “20 mule” Borax ads — I don’t remember that as much, but I do recall commercials with laundry products touting “with Borax”  as the special feature.  Is Borax still used for laundry?  Anyway, from what I learned between the Borax works site and the museum is that the works hired about 40 people, many of them Chinese workers.  Essentially they dug the salt out the flats and then boiled out the borax, and then hung metal poles in a barrel and let the pure borax crystalize. The couldn’t make it in the summer because the crystals wouldn’t form in the high heat.  Even at other times of the year, they wrapped the barrels to keep them cool.

 

Borax Works

Borax Works

 

 

 

The borax filled box cars and water tank that were drawn by the 20 mules.

The borax filled box cars and water tank that were drawn by the 20 mules. It took 10 days to reach Mohave. In the background is worker housing.

We were fairly wiped out by this point and we headed back to the cabin at Stovepipe Wells.  We shared a sandwich by the pool and read our books for awhile, until sunset.  Then went back to our rooms for a bit more book reading.  Love this life. I hope we have another opportunity to visit Death Valley again soon — maybe after we by our RV — we only saw a fraction of what the National Park has to offer.

 

Sun setting on mountains in Death Valley

Sun setting on mountains in Death Valley

 

Office at Stove Pipe Village

Office at Stove Pipe Village

 

Stovepipe Village

Stovepipe Village

 

Pool at Stovepipe Village

Pool at Stovepipe Village

Comments (0) Oct 25 2008

10-25-08 Happy Birthday, Mom!

Posted: under Uncategorized.

 

Happy 70th Birthday, Ginny Shea!

Happy 70th Birthday, Ginny Shea!

October 25, 2008 — Happy Birthday, Mom!  Wish we could be with you today.

 

 

Ginny Shea in the White Mountains, September 2008  -- does this look like a 70-year-old woman?

Ginny Shea in the White Mountains, September 2008 -- does this look like a 70-year-old woman?

 

Ginny Shea at the top!

Ginny Shea at the top!

Comments (0) Oct 25 2008

10-24-2008 Mohave Desert & Mitchell Cavern

Posted: under California, Cavern, Mohave.
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Scene after leaving Lake Havasu City

Scene after leaving Lake Havasu City

October 24, 2008 —   We continued up highway 95 out of Lake Havasu City.  When we reached I-40, we turned left / west and were soon in California.  As in every drive, we enjoyed the landscape — each and every landscape change.

 

 

 

I find this two tone mountain interesting...

I find this two-tone mountain interesting...

Our goal today was to go through the Mohave Desert and to stay somewhere close to Death Valley for the night.  While reading the guide book on Mohave, I learned that there was a place called Mitchell Cavern and I thought it would be an interesting stop along the way.  

 

 

The Mohave Desert

The Mohave Desert

We reached the turn off for the road that would bring us to the cavern but realized that we only had half a tank of gas.  Carl felt it would be unwise to enter the desert without a full tank of gas, even in a Prius.  So we pulled over and looked up where to find the closest gas station — it didn’t show that there were ANY — so we back tracked to an “oasis” that we seen 10-15 miles earlier.  So we filled up — and paid a ransom for the gas!  But we figured it was worth the extra 5+ gallons.

 

 

Stalactites in Mitchell Cavern in the Mohave Desert

Stalactites in Mitchell Cavern in the Mohave Desert

So back on the road again, we found Mitchell Cavern.  Being a weekday, there was only one tour and that was to be at 1:30.  The tour would take an hour and a half.  Carl decided it was too much walking — and on unpredictable ground — so I went alone.  The Cavern is situation up on the side of the mountain and the ranger could see cars coming, so he held up the start of the tour until the cars on their way up reached us.  So, we had a late start.  

 

 

Formations in Mitchell Caverns

Drapery Formations in Mitchell Caverns

Anyway, the tour was interesting, though it was difficult to really look at and photograph the formations in the cave because there were so many people on the tour.  Logistically, the tour guide has to keep the group close together and get us from one section of the cavern to the next without anyone stepping off the walkway or touching any of the cave.  At one point, he had to get us on within a corridor, and have the last person shut the door before he could open another door, protecting the air within the cavern.  

 

Stalagmite in Mitchell Cavern

Stalagmite in Mitchell Cavern

We had only one opportunity to walk around freely, but it turned out to be an area without much left to see.  Thought there was one interesting feature of this last “room” — it was where the 1991 movie The Doors was filmed with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison.

 

 

A little information about Mitchell Cavern.  The caverns are limestone caves that feature a wide variety of formations, such as Stalactites (hanging down), Stalagmite (built from the ground up) and Columns (the stalactite mets the stalgmite) as well as other formations. The formations are sedimentary limestone and metamorphised limestone (marble) that are being dissolved by ground water high in carbonic acid content.  The tour guide told us to imagine the bubble in a carbon drink as to how the caves (holes) were originally formed.  The limestone drips down threw cracks in the rock to create the different formations.  Much of the tour points out the images seen in each of the different formations; for example, a queen washing her hair in her royal chamber that includes draperies.  Again, there were really too many people and too little time to let the imagination rip. Nevertheless, it was interesting.

 

Pink Cactus outside of the caverns

Pink Cactus outside of the caverns

Jack Mitchell had a permit to mine silver in this area but when he realized that he had the caverns, he decided to turn it into a tourist business.  This was when lots of people were traveling by car on route 66 and the caverns offered a way to cool off — though the original path was a lot more difficult to get at the caverns than they are today.  When Jack Mitchell ran it, a tour lasted all day.  We were shown some of the  tunnels that the visitors would have to crawl through to reach was we did by walking along a cement path!

 

 

Look at these green colors -- on I-40 in California

Look at these green colors -- on I-40 in California

By the time I met up with Carl again, it was already 3:30, so we decided to not continue with original plan to ride through the Mohave Desert and instead we went back out to I-40 to see if we could find a motel for the night.  This is rather barren stretch of desert road – no gas stations, food or lodging.  At one point there was a sign with the symbols for lodging and food, but when we looked to the left at the town, we noticed it was basically a bunch of burned structures.  So we ended up driving all the way to Barstow, California.  

 

 

Highway closer to Barlow, California

Highway closer to Barlow, California

Carl is studying the RVs for sale on e-bay again tonight. We might scrap plans to see Death Valley and go back to Arizona to look at the some of the RVs that are being bid on.

Mountains & Valleys forever

Mountains & Valleys forever - Beautiful scene from I-40

Comments (0) Oct 24 2008

10-23-08 Lake Havasu

Posted: under Arizona, Lake Havasu.
Tags: ,

 

Boondocking in BLM LTVABoondocking in BLM LTVA

October 23, 2008 — We woke up to a perfect day — the winds had stopped and the sky was very clear again.  

 

 

 

Catcus Garden at Buckskin Mountain State Park

Catcus Garden at Buckskin Mountain State Park

 

So what did we do today?  

We drove north up 95 retracing our route past the Yuma Proving Grounds into Quartzsite.  We stopped at the BLM La Posa LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) office on the outskirts of Quartzsite to find out more about boondocking.

 

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Buckskin Mountain State Park

Boondocking is “dry” camping, usually free.  The Bureau of Land Management has come up with a way to allow people to boondock but still have some of the services available, for example there are toilets and a place to empty the holding tank, but they are not close and convenient.  BLM charges $40 for 14 consecutive days or $180 for Sept 15 to April 15 stay. The main rule is to not park too close to a neighbor.  Unlike traditional camping, they don’t have sites with numbers.  We drove through the LaPosa area and found it to be a very attractive idea.

 

Original machining for breaking down Iron Ore for Gold

Original machining for breaking down Iron Ore for Gold

It has only been about 4 days since we went through Quartzsite last, but it has already changed alot.  More businesses seem to be open.   And it seemed to us like more RVs had set up home as well, though still far from full.  We also drove through the new housing development.  It has to be strange for the people who have been living in Quartzsite since the early days to now have actual homes being built.  Anyway, the BLM lands at Quartzsite are something that we are thinking about — after we get an RV, of course.

 

Parker Dam

Parker Dam

As I work on this, Carl is perusing the ‘net again for RVs.  He’s following e-Bay auctions. I think he’s getting closer to maybe bidding on one.  Maybe.  I’m not allowed to visit eBay because I’m much more impulsive.

 

After Quartzite, we continued north on 95.  This was new area to us — not yet driven.  I can’t say that I did a lot of sightseeing at this point because I read, aloud, the information on BLMs.  Oh and on camping in Mexico.  Another thing that sounds fascinating to us.  

 

Tall Grasses

Tall grasses swaying in the wind

(This is one of the amazing things that has happened this trip.  I can read without getting carsick!  I can’t figure out why but for the first time in my life I can read in the car.  I know I couldn’t do this even a short time ago — opening mail in the car, reading a menu, even the back of a CD, would just ruin my day.  But this whole trip, I’ve been reading maps, books, etc without a bit of a problem.)

 

 

London Bridge

London Bridge

Just before Parker, we saw a sign saying that we were in the Colorado River Indian Reservation (confirmed shortly by a casino).  The area was so green, we knew we couldn’t be too far from the Colorado, which was true.  We went through Parker, and the road turned northeast following the Colorado River — also the start of a designated scenic highway.  We did not disagree with description. For once, though, it didn’t involve great vertical heights!

 

 

London Bridge

London Bridge

We stopped at the Buckskin State Park for the allowed 30 minutes before we would have to pay a fee.  I stuck my feet in the Colorado River, even.  This place also offered a variety of camping options including “roofed” areas for tent campers.  Very pretty.

 

Shortly after leaving the State Park we came to the Parker Dam.  This is the deepest dam in the world.  They built it as such so that it would not destroy the natural beauty of the area.  This is another Bureau of Reclamation project.

 

Lake Havasu from city municipal park

Lake Havasu from city municipal park

From Parker Dam we continued along 95 until we reached Lake Havasu City — and the London Bridge! I remember hearing about this as a kid — it was always presented almost as a joke that some place in the desert bought the falling down London Bridge.  Seeing it today, I’d say it was an ingenius marketing plan — this is a regular city now.  

 

 

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Lacking further goals, we decided to stay here tonight.  In our effort to spend less money on motels, we are staying at a Quality Inn tonight.  This is part of the Comfort Inn chain, so we still get points but are paying a bit less. It’s not bad for an older place. 

 

After checking in, we went over and had lunch/dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.  Nicely decorated, average food, good price.

 

Two Birds in a Palm Tree -- these entertained us while we sat on bench looking at Lake Havasu

Two Birds in a Palm Tree -- these entertained us while we sat on bench looking at Lake Havasu

Then we went down to the municipal park located on Lake Havasu.  Very impressive — they have a bit of everything for the family: ball parks, jungle gym, model sailboat area, electric car racing, paths for walking/jogging etc., benches and picnic areas by the water, water sports, etc.  While we were there, several families were gathered post game, high school kids were running, and an elderly couple were sitting on a bench looking out at the water.  It was all very peaceful and friendly.

 

And that was our day.  

We don’t have a clue about tomorrow yet….

Comments (0) Oct 23 2008

10-22-08 Yuma Dust

Posted: under Yuma.
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Farm land ready for planting.  Could be some of the sand blowing around today.

Farm land ready for planting. Could be some of the sand blowing around today.

October 22, 2008 — The wind is really, really blowing today.  We were going to drive out to the Imperial Sand Dunes today, but no go.  All that sand blowing around?  Forget about it!  As it was, there is so much sand in this area that we could not even see the mountains off in the distance.  This is not smog, this is sand!  There was an older ex-marine that we talked to yesterday who said he chose Yuma over Tucson because it rains less. Hmmm… not sure if rain is worse than sand.

 

Early growth on farm land -- what is this crop?

Early growth on farm land -- what is this crop?

Since sightseeing was out of the question, we did laundry, read books, and looked at maps.  We don’t know what we are doing tomorrow  (or the rest of our life, for the matter)!

Here’s our options:

1) Go North to Portland, Oregon via California and see if we actually like the city that we first set our sights on.

2) Go to Tucson and get a place to stay for a month, while we make up our mind if we should stay the rest of the winter.

3) Go to RC Hobby event in Las Vegas for the weekend and postpone decisions until Monday.

4) Go east to Florida — and look for a used RV — and stick feet in ocean.

5) Do a marathon ride home to say Happy Birthday to my Mom. (Don’t worry Mom, we aren’t going to do #5 — it’s too cold!  I’ll call you instead.)

 

Shot of Mexico from over the border

Photo Shot of Mexico from over the border

Comments (1) Oct 22 2008