Hi Kids, it is time to hit the trail
We left Mendocino the 21st of December
and spent our first night at my sister and brother-in-law's home
high in the hills overlooking Dublin, CA. We had a great
pre-Christmas gift exchange and dinner and a comfortable night in
their guest room. The view out the window was of the traffic
inbound and outbound on I-580. Interesting, but a bit much for
my taste! I'm anxious to get back to civilization!
We spend all day driving down I-5 after
leaving Dublin. We arrive in Bakersfield early enough for me
to stop at Harbor Freight and Garbage to buy a high lift jack and
a one million candlepower spotlight! The spotlight will be
used for night flying my airplanes! The jack? Just in
We had our usual Basque dinner in
Bakersfield and then hopped over Tehachapi Pass to Mojave.
We woke to a temperature of 17 degrees and the water pump and
drain in the Vanagon froze shut! I had to put my Coleman
heater under the water tank drain for about twenty minutes to get
it to thaw enough so I could get water for our coffee and oatmeal!
Soon it started warming up and Ah!
This is more like it, flying my LazyBee east of Mojave.
We checked on my doggie and found her doggie dish and tennis ball
right where we had left it as a marker for her grave.
On to Barstow to stock up on groceries.
So far, our trip pretty much like every other winter break.
We spent the evening camped on a dry lake
bed north of Baker called Silurian; green chili Christmas lights
inside the Vanagon and an almost full moon in the sky.
In the morning I flew my Ultra Stick.
The new "box" on top of our Vanagon is a container I built to haul
along my model airplanes. It seems my hobby has expanded to
the point where it doesn't all fit inside anymore!!
While I'm flying Lolli goes for a
And then it is onward to the Tecoupa Hot
Springs for a shower and a soak.
There is a new policy and it now costs
five dollars, each, to enjoy the springs. The biggest change I
notice is the buildings have been freshly painted and there is new
signage. Mostly SUV's parked at the springs. Us desert
rats and rat-etts have been pretty much priced out. Ours
vehicle was the oldest in the lot.
And then it was time to check on
Bedsprings to see if the cabin is ours. It is always
interesting to make the long drive out the washboard road, up the
alluvial fan, down and up through the wash, around the rocks and
then down the final wash still not knowing if the cabin is ours
until we make the final bend.
By Christmas eve we have the cabin
Christmas Day our friends Marti, Jeff and
Old Tom come out from Pahrump,
Nevada bringing Christmas dinner and firewood.
A great time had by all. Lolli and
I stayed two more days.
I had the time to do a little watercolor.
And then it was time to head south
towards Anza Borrego. An internet friend, Bev, who I met via
the "Wetwesties" list serve, told us about her brother and nephew
being involved in a model rocket club that was doing a New Years
weekend rocket launch. We exchanged cell phone numbers and
told her we would call when we got in the area. During the
drive south the first indication of changing weather occured between
Kelso and Amboy. By the time we got to Twenty Nine Palms and
Yucca Valley it was foggy and raining! We found a place to
hole up on high ground near Desert Hot Springs and called it a
We arrive near the launch site sooner
than we thought we would so I look at our map and notice a place
called Painted Gorge. About a five mile drive off the blacktop
and we park on high ground. In the afternoon hike into the
canyon. An interesting area.
Friday, New Year's eve day we call Bev,
tell her we we are on our way, and drive to the rocket launching
site just east of Plaster City. We met Bev and her Brother
Phil, and set up camp. All told there are about thirty rocket
heads and groupies camped in motor homes and trailers and tents.
An interesting group of folks.
Oh goodie! These guys look
serious!! There were several rockets like this called
But wait. What's this? A guy
named Paul is putting together a "Hybrid" rocket. It has a
motor that uses compressed nitrous oxide to catalyze a ABS plastic
propellant. A wee bit of pure oxygen gets the burn off to a
Final assembly, count down and...,
Radio tracking is the only way to keep
track of it! A good recovery and Paul is a happy
Between launches I got in some stick time
and showed my new assistant, Zach, how to fly my LazyBee. He
did remarkably well once I had it up and flying. Come to find
out he was an old hand at radio controlled cars! At night Zach
operated my new spotlight and tracked the LazyBee for me while I put
on a night show for the crowd.
As for our camp set-up, this is the full
Monty! My twenty watt solar panel is leaning against the rear
bumper facing the sun. My new high lift jack is strapped to
the rear bumper. Our solar shower bag hanging on the rear
hatch getting warm. The pop top is popped with the airplane
box on top. The ShadyBoy awning is deployed. Our astro
turf is in place and Lolli is standing by the new table. A
warm day. No wind. As good as it got this trip!
A guy by the name of Robert had e-mailed
me a month earlier telling me how much he enjoyed my webpage about
my Subaru conversion and that it inspired him to do the same thing
to his 1984 Vanagon. One thing and another and he mentioned he
was going to come out west on winter break. I told him about
the Plaster City rocket launch and he said he hoped to make it.
We exchanged cell phone numbers and by golly, he called! He
was heading west and passing through Yuma!! We fine tuned his
directions and soon we had three Vanagons circled!
On Monday, after the rocket launching
weekend, Bev guided us to one of the camp spots she likes in Anza
Borrego called Mountain Palm Spring.
We circled the Vanagons. In the
evening we had to erect the "Wetwesties" rain shelter kit that Bev,
of course, had with her, she being from Oregon. It was
the typical twelve foot square of blue plastic tarp, gob of bungee
cords and one extendable aluminum pole that every camper from the
Pacific Northwest is familiar with!!
In spite of the weather we did manage to
get in a hike and inspect some early blooming cacti.
The next day Robert followed us towards
Death Valley while Bev headed for Yuma.
Once again, during our drive north, the clouds were forming.
On our way to Death Valley we camped one
night by the Lava Tube and petroglyphs we discovered last Spring and
showed them to Robert.
The next day we hit the Tecopa Hot Spring
and then went over Salisbury Pass and down to Rhoades Cabin in the
south end of Death Valley, got a good fire going in the wood stove,
hunkered down, and read our books.
There were some sun breaks but over all
the weather was iffy and snow turned Salisbury Pass white!
Strange and ominous weather but the
greenest we have ever seen Death Valley.
After two days at the cabin we head on
towards Badwater. We soon discover this is the wettest winter
in Death Valley in the ninety years of recorded rainfall.
After driving through Death Valley and
having hamburgers at Furnace Creek we spent a wet night camped in
Panamint Valley. In the morning we thought we would go out the
south end of Panamint Valley through Trona but discover the signs
are not lying! Robert elects to return east via Death Valley.
We decided to cut our vacation a bit short and head for home via
On our way out of Panamint Valley we
discover Panamint Springs is open so we stop for hot showers and
admire the gas prices.
Over the pass and down towards Lone Pine
and the Owens Valley we see the Sierras are covered with snow almost
down to the valley floor!! Stopping for gas in Olancha we
discover Highway 395 is closed near June Lake. The only way
home is south to Walker Pass, then over to Bakersfield...
and up I-5. The weather improves
the further north we go!!
Our final night on the road we "stealth
camp" behind an abandoned gas station!
January 10th we are home. Oh well.
Spring Break is coming and the wild flowers should be spectacular.
The Vanagon performed flawlessly.
The new deep cycle battery I added to the Vanagon powered our
Christmas lights, computers, cell phone, bean grinder, recharged my
AA and AAA batteries and still had juice in the morning. I
never got to use my new high lift jack. I didn't crash any of
my airplanes. Lolli read over ten novels. The weather
was wild all around us but we managed to skirt the worst of it.
Seeing Jeff and Marti and Old Tom and meeting Bev and Robert and the
"Rocket Heads" at the launch site was unusual in that our winter
trips are generally quite solitary. Great folks all and a
pleasure to meet them!
In the final analysis, what I would call,
a very interesting trip.