Before turning in on Saturday night we pulled in the living room slide because the wind was tearing at the topper awning (there is an awning that extends over the top of the slide out room to keep dirt and wet off of it). It is fixed to the slide out so the only way to retract the awning is to pull in the room. This makes the interior even more cozy than normal while camped. Sunday morning was bright windy and cool. We drove the 16 miles to Mitchell Caverns and bought our tickets for the 10 AM tour. This entails a mile and half hike, including the caverns and the views as we climbed to the cave entrance were wonderful. The entrance is called the eyes of the mountain. Both Carol and I thought it looked more like the nostrils.
We returned to Gee 2 for lunch and to decide what to do with the rest of the day. There was no vote for sitting still and listening to the wind. We had heard about a lava tube that it was possible to climb into and explore so that became our objective. This lava tube was formed when the lava flows from the volcano stopped and the remaining hot lava flowed out of the tube leaving behind an empty shell of cooler solidified lava (this is NOT a scientific explanation which would take a textbook). This area of the Mojave has 34 cinder cones the most recent of which is a very young 10,000 years old. The area is not an “improved” visitor site and thus there are no signs. The directions, in part, are after you find the unmarked turnoff from the highway proceed 4.8 miles up an unmaintained dirt track past the corral with the water tank. At the second corral bear left then look for a wide spot to park and follow the beaten path (over cinders) to a hole in the ground, actually the second hole is the entrance. Amazingly we found the way to the entrance and climbed down into the tube to marvel once again at the power of nature. To see pictures click here.
By this point we had done a lot of driving and the gas gage was getting below half. In the desert this is not a good idea and we were “only” 25 miles from the nearest gas station in Baker, CA. Baker is primarily a line of gas stations and road food joints off I 15. We bought gasoline at an exorbitant $3.799. The next day we filled the motorhome tank at $4.179, now I know how to spell gouge. The price was less further from the highway, but still over $4.00. Returning to Gee 2 cost almost ¼ of that new tank of gas.
The forecast was not improving. We were expecting snow above 4,500 feet (campground is at 4,200) and high winds to continue or get worse. For a third night we pulled in the living room slide and turned in to the sound of howling winds and the coach rocking as the gusts battered us. In the morning the ground was covered with something white! We are 3,000 miles from Rochester and the snow has found us! Since we had nothing loose outside, getting ready to leave was a simple as putting the bikes back on the car and stowing the rug under our entrance (held in place with a large rock). Instead of two more nights in in the high desert we headed for Needles, CA and a civilized campground with water, sewer and electric hookups and maybe as important access to NPR for news. The Needles KOA was actually no more pricey than its neighbors and it offered shaded sites. Here we are.
We have already driven to Oatman, AZ which is on the historic alignment of Route 66 and is a line up of more tourist trap shops than even Gruen, TX. It also features many wild burros wandering the streets looking for handouts. The burros are descendants of the miner’s burros from the gold fever days. This town was the center of the Gold Highway and was a movie site in How the West was Won. Now it is a large tourist shop that closes up at 5 PM. There is no place to stay and the food options are road food lunch at best.
Tomorrow we move to Boulder City, NV another short road day, so I can fly to Rochester on Wednesday and return on Friday night.
We actually stayed on in LA until the morning of the 13th. We reached
the point that the air traffic faded into the distance and the only
noise that disturbed our sleep was an unmuffled (broken muffler?)
motorhome starting up at 4:30 AM to get an early start on the freeways
two slots over from us. We had planned to go to Santa Barbara and then
swing east to get to Las Vegas where I am catching a flight to
Rochester next week. Plans do require planning and as a RVer I have
failed planning several times. There is no space on the beaches near
Santa Barbara that will hold our not so gigantic 36 foot motorhome this
week. It appears that Californians plan months in advance for these
beach sites. We are not interested in a large, expensive inland RV park
with too many amenities and not enough easy access to the sites we want
This brings us to our present location, Hole-in-the-Wall Campground in
the Mojave National Preserve. This also brings us to our next set of
adventures. Having determined the destination we selected a route.
This route too in three Freeways in LA; the 105, the 605, and the 210
and finally on to the 15 (note as usual in California the use of the
definite article THE to describe these freeways). I had failed to read
the directions for access to Hole-in-the-Wall Campground carefully. WE
knew we did not want the Midhills Campground because the website said
that the road was not suitable for RVs. The route I chose went past
Midhills Campground, the long and hard way. Instead of paved road all
the way from I 40 we found ourselves on poorly paved road for 30 miles
or more from I 15 and the pavement stopped with 16 miles to go. Unpaved
roads are not necessarily bad, these were. The washboard in places was
six inches deep. Try to drive a 22,000 pound coach over this washboard
with the entire suspension floating. We drifted back and forth over the
road while taking and merciless pounding. In the end we had a yogurt
shake in the refrigerator, which was a miracle since we had dumped the
pickle juice in there at the previous stop, I hate to think of a pickle
juice and yogurt shake. One piece of molding came adrift in the rear
lavatory which was easily fixed with an application of glue. Our nerves
required some soothing too which was a applied at Happy Hour at new
found friend Bob and Nita Harvey’s fifth wheel just across from us.
I will not try to describe this Preserve in detail. The campground is
at 4,100 feet. We are on a plain surrounded by ridges and mountains.
The winds have been gusting to 60 mph and the temps have dropped from
the 80’s when we arrived to the 50’s. This is the desert, sun warmed by
day and chilly as soon as the sun descends. The sky is clear and the
only light pollution is from our few coaches in this small campground.
Oh it is QUIET. The only sound is the wind. I woke up several times
last night wondering where the planes were. There is no traffic, the
nearest highway is 30 miles away over the mountains. Amazingly there is
cell phone service and internet connection via cell phone is fine. I
will post some pictures soon to give you an idea of what we see out our
Today we took a hike and a drive. The hike is called “The R ings”. It
is a mile circle around the butte that is near the campground. Going
clockwise it ends in a canyon with an ascent up a slot to reach the
picnic area for return to the visitor center or the campground. This
ascent is so steep and forbidding without technical equipment that the
rangers have set large pitons with 6 inch diameter rings in them to
enable the those of us who lack technical ability and equipment to
complete the hike. These rings make the ascent merely difficult as
opposed to life threatening. We felt entitled to lunch after completing
the circuit. The drive was less challenging. We went looking for
Desert Turtles, we are still looking. Then we went to Kelso Depot,
still in the Preserve. If there is a train buff reading this Kelso
should ring a bell for you. It is at the base of the longest 2 ½
percent grade on the Union Pacific line. In the days of steam it served
as a base for the helper engines that would connect to freight trains
east bound up the grade to Cima 20 miles and 2,000 feet higher. It was
a company town and was almost completely dismantled in the late forties
with the switch to diesel electric. The depot was saved and as been
restored as a museum. It is a wonderful building and an excellent museum.
Tomorrow we expect to go to Mitchell Caverns and then take it easy until
the ranger talk in the early evening. The wind storm continues to blow
around us and there are advisories that suggest we are best off staying
put for another day or two.
After ten days on strict water conservation and limited use of electric
(batteries and four to five hours a day of generator time) in the desert
we set out for Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio, CA. We were looking
forward to spending time with the Hoggs who are members of the Western
Horizon Club which owns the resort. Our price for the four nights was
to sit in on a ninety minute sales pitch to join the system. Things
were not quite as we expected. The resort is very nice, but has some
limitations. After our time in the desert we did not want to be on a
site with no sewer connection, free flowing use of water is a primary
luxury, it was not to be. A third of their sites have no sewer, Indio
wanted too much money. I want a sewer! The sales pitch was over
bearing and the presumed close was a bit over the top. When we finally
said NO! The response was "you can't even ask to join for four years!"
Right, and they won't take my money if I decide to buy next month, which
I won't! And they forgot that their own documents say two years. Stuff
OTOH (internet speak for On the other hand) the pool was delightful the
showers in the restrooms were clean and pleasant and the rest of the
people were very friendly. We had happy hour with Pat and Bob and Bob's
nephew Drew and his wife Carol a couple of times and went out to dinner
with them as well. We also went together to the Living Desert Museum
which is well worth the trip. We went expecting to spend a couple of
hours and were there almost five hours.
The four days flew by and we were soon on our way into the inferno of
Los Angeles traffic. Fortunately it was mid day on a Sunday so traffic
was only just a bit greater than Rochester at its worst. We drove
directly to Dockweiler RV Park just off the departure end of the LAX
runways. The din of the planes is so regular that it has already
subsided into the background. Miriam, Yechiel and the boys arrived
about an hour after we got here and we played together in the coach and
on the beach most of the afternoon. Yechiel and I took bike rides with
Avtalyon and by ourselves. What a delight. After that I got out one of
my kites and took it on to the beach with Miriam and the boys to have a
kite fly for a few minutes. The breeze was strong and steady and the
kite leapt into the air. Unfortunately this was beyond the capability
of the boys to hold, so I kept the reel and let them tug on the line.
They also assisted when it was time to go, by walking the kite down to
the ground (I held the reel and they went hand-over-hand up the line to
pull the kite down out of the air). It did not want to land. After
dinner in their neighborhood and bedtime activities, we returned to the
coach and got a good nights sleep despite the air traffic, which neither
of us heard.
Enough details of our visit. We will be here at least until the 10th
and I will not provide any more hour by hour descriptions unless
something of importance or humor happens.