Monday, January 25, 2021

Travel Memories: Camp Life and Picacho Recreation Area

November 15

Despite another hot day is coming up we decide to drive to Yuma and do some shopping.

On the I-8 with a sand storm
Not the Sahara but the Imperial Dunes

On our way east we see a sandstorm driving off the Yuma sand dunes. The air is yellow and at first it looked like fog. We remember that our awning at the trailer is down and that windows are left open for ventilation. So quickly we decide to turn around and go back. The sandstorm follows us but subsides when we get closer to the campground. After taking in the awning and closing all windows we go off again. The sand dunes are huge and apparently a target destination for many from from the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles using their ATV's and sand buggies.

Yuma is on the Arizona-side and appears to be bigger than I expected. We ask for mail at the main post office but there is nothing yet. At Wal-Mart we find our groceries and go back home.
                       Our home place for the time being

November 16

Today we want to drive up to the Picacho State Recreation Area north of Yuma. We turn of Interstate 8 and go onto S24 which runs north then makes a sharp bend east. We leave the S24 at that point and go on straight ahead on a gravel road running for 18 miles towards the banks of the Colorado, crossing the American Canal, then leading up to a high plateau from where we enjoy a wide view over the valley below.

Irrigation Canal for vegetable production

Bea looking at Ocotillo Cactus
The Cholla Cactus also called "Teddy bear Cactus"

When the road accesses the mountains after several miles we approach a strange moon-like landscape where the volcanic activities from millions of years ago can be seen. We easily recognize the gas bubbles in the rock from where hot lava was spewn out into the area. Though vegetation is sparse huge cacti are growing besides the road. In spring this area must be a wondrous land of flowers and bloom.
                Rugged landscape along the Colorado River

After leaving the highest mountain area behind, the road goes into the bottom of a valley and follows an old riverbed. If weather conditions might imply heavy rains this may turn into a fast running stream. Some side paths are veering off here and there. Some will run into little gorges and canyons. The area also has a history from the California Gold Rush. But after the river was dammed up no water was coming down in this area and all activity ceased even though the mines were far from being depleted. In 1984 activity resumed and there is a huge area around a mountain being fenced off with barb wire. We anticipate that being the privately owned gold mine.

Finally the road gets into the Picacho State Recreation Area at The Colorado River. What a nice scenery we meet you might see in our pictures. The blue waters of the river standing in nice contrast with its green riverbanks and the red rocks and unto purple mountains in the distance. A deck has been built with shaded benches and barbeques. A campground invites for a longer stay, but be aware of that long rigs cannot be hauled down the gravel road and through the mountains. And you might bring your boat for there is a boat launch into the river. The solitude of this place is intriguing and we find it hard to leave and before we so do we follow a sign to Taylor Lake 1,5 miles river upwards. Immediately the gravel road becomes rough and very narrow. Washouts on one side force me to let the truck climp up the opposite side in order to avoid falling into holes. One place I have to get out of the truck scouting around the next corner, because of a steep grade and a following sharp bend. But we make it to Taylor Lake which really is just a partially overgrown side arm of the Colorado River. A little pickup camper has been placed on the top of a steep hill, overlooking the entire scenery.

But a descending sun forces us to start on our way home. When getting down to where the gravel road ends we turn onto the S24 and go to Imperial Dam, which is another LTVA. There we have beautiful lookouts over Squaw Lake. Palm Trees are growing everywhere, but the campground itself is on a windy and rocky plateau with no protection from bushes or trees.

Content with the experiences of the day we return to Hot Springs where we soon after dinner settle in for the night.

November 17

We spend the day in camp, interrupted by going to Holtville for a few phone calls.

November 18

Bea finds an old rim in the bushes somewhere and some old wood as well. So our first campfire starts.

Tomorrow we have to drive to El Centro for emptying the holding tanks. El Centro is about 18 miles from the Hot Springs.

This morning we take the trailer to El Centro. Of course at first we can't find the dumping station and are whirring through a residential area with it's challenges of sharp bends and parked vehicles everywhere. Finally we find the service station right besides the Interstate 8 exit. Stupid us! Gas prices are slowly coming down. Thanks God!

For tomorrow we have planned a trip to San Diego for picking up our satellite dish, and Bea wants to come along. Alright so we'll be starting early before the heat of the day rolls along.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Travel Memories: The Desert

November 04

We say farewell to Refugio State Beach and its wonderful campground and head farther south towards Los Angeles. Highway 101 follows the beaches for miles until we have to take off towards San Bernadino.

The freeways around L.A are 4 to 5 lanes in every direction and lots of big trucks are coming up from behind all the time. Finally after several hours on L.A. Highways we reach Victorville at Interstate 15. We have ordered a couple of solar panels here which we plan to install while being on a campground. Victorville, a town in the desert is all spread out and the traffic here is terrible. Our campground, the KOA, lies directly besides the Interstate and accordingly the noise is deafening. Definitely not a place to spend your vacations on. However we have desert temperatures, and during the day it gets up to 30 C.

November 05

The morning starts out busy as we have to get downtown to purchase some groceries and accessories for mounting the solar panels. The shopping takes more than a couple of hours, because we can't find a food mart. First after lunch I can start on my work with the solar panels. Unfortunately, some parts are missing and I have to improvise to get it all done. Now I need another day to finish up the installation.

November 06

Another day working at Victorville. While I am buzzing about, Bea washes the outside of our rig.

November 07

Aah, what a relief to leave this noisy place behind.
We travel through the High Desert landscape. Lots of Yuccas on both sides of the Highway 247 as it leads through Yucca Valley. As Highway 247 leads downward and enters Riverside County we cross a huge area filled up with wind mills.
                          Bell Mountain at Hwy 247
                         Wind Park at Palm Springs

Palm Springs lies just a bit off to the south of Interstate 10, which we leave at Coachello. Highway 86 gets us farther south and for the first time we see Palm Tree Nurseries along the road.

Our destination for the day is Mecca Beach at the Salton Sea. From the village of Mecca, Highway 111 runs along the east side of the Salton Sea, while Highway 86 continues south on the west side of the lake. Mecca Beach lies on the east side and is just one of 5 local campgrounds belonging to the California State Recreation Area. The first campground we see is the local Headquarters. A very friendly lady Ranger offers us a job as camp hosts for as long as the season goes. We receive an application but decide to look around before we accept her offer.

After settling in for the night at the headquarters campground we drive down Hwy 111 until we reach the little village of Niland. Of the 5 State Recreational Campgrounds, only Mecca Beach and the Headquarters can be recommended for a longer stay. These sites are very well maintained and offer a few hook-ups, a day-use area and shaded tables. They are spacious enough to accommodate big rigs too.

Headquarters campground has a very nice little marina and a service building surrounded by beautiful palm trees. However, the marina area doesn't seem to be used.

The Salton Sea is only 100 years old as it was created when the Colorado River went on a rampage in 1905. Having created a dam of sediments against the California Gulf, the mighty river found an outlet to the north, filling a low basin between two mountain ranges. It created the Salton Sea. However the basin is so low that there was no further outlet for the water. When reaching the height of the sediment barrier towards the Gulf,  the Colorado again found back into its previous bed and washed out into the Gulf again leaving the Salton Sea to its own. Evaporation was leading to an increase of salinity, and while no water outlet was possible, an increasing amount of salt remained in the lake. The water is of a reddish color and does not appear to attract many visitors these days.

November 08

While we seriously considered the Rangers offer to be camp hosts at Mecca Beach, during the night our sleep is disturbed several times from the nearby running railroad. These goods trains are running by constantly, and the deafening sound of their train whistles yell through the night. Also the traffic on Hwy 111 is very disturbing for a peace loving camper.
             Beautiful to look at but loud during the night.....

So in the morning we go on south along the Salton Sea and via the town of Niland. We try to spot the famous camper paradise Slab City, but fail to discover the turn-off. We are now within the Imperial Valley, an agricultural area so flat and monotonous that we ask ourselves where there still might be an untouched rest of the desert to camp in. All fields are irrigated with water led off the Colorado River.
Via El Centro, we go to Holtville on State Road 115. Where the 115 meets with Interstate 8 we start looking for the Hot Springs Long Term Visitor Area. At the intersections north side we go on a little road parallel to Hwy 8, and through her binoculars Bea soon spots a couple of RV's on a desert-like area north of that road. We drive down the entry and meet the camp host who gives out some good advice and a set of rules and basic information. The cost of using the so called LTVA's (Long Term Visitor Area) is 140 Dollars ($180 today) and entitles to a 7 months use of all LTVA's governed by he BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Then we are on our own and find a nice spot behind a few Tamarisk bushes. We haven't fully established ourselves, when a neighboring couple comes over from their RV, presenting themselves as Sharon and Louis from Alberta
            Our set-up at the Holtville Hot Springs LTVA

The temperatures in the sun are reaching beyond 30C. and that feels pretty unusual for us, coming from the north. In the evening we can sit in shorts and T-shirts only still feeling warm. As we go to sleep temperatures are past the 20 C mark.

November 09

Our first full day at the Hot Springs LTVA. The day is overcast and I try to solve a charging problem with our solar panels. Even when clouds are covering the sun, the temperatures never go under 25 C. during the day. In fact it is pleasant sitting outside. We explore the camp area and do a few walks with the dogs. The LTVA is about 2 miles long and has a gravel roadway through its middle. RV's are parked on both sides, though the area is not filled up yet. Most RV's have solar panels tilted against the south. I have a look at the Hot Springs where a shower is rigged up. The water has about 40 C or 102 F. Besides one can swim in a pond surrounded by nice palm trees.
                              The pond at the Hot Springs
                                   The Hot Shower
                                       And the Pool

November 10

Today the sun breaks out early, and by 8am we are enjoying breakfast in a nice breeze and under the shade of our awning. After breakfast I walk over to Helmer, a Canadian from British Columbia who apparently has a lot of knowledge about Solar Panels. He comes over with a set of tools and it doesn't take him long to find the mistake. During the morning hours the temperature is rising to 30 C and after lunch we hide in the shade on the other side of the rig.

Terri, another neighbor, originating from Oregon, comes over to have a chat. And later we meet Bill and Mertie our neighbors to the north. All the people are older than us and we feel like young chickens. Bill comes over before supper and invites us over to the camp fire. So, after finishing supper we take our chairs and go. There we meet Bob and Linda, who came down from Prince Albert in Saskatchewan. Bob is a retired teacher and has a real sense of humour. We talk about our various travels we have done and it is here we also learn that snakes can be a real hazard in this area, especially in the dark when we use to walk our dogs. A flashlight is therefore recommended for nightly walks.

The gathering is over at 8.30pm when Bob looks at his watch and finds out that it is time to go to bed. Bob and Linda are living on Central Standard Time and that means that their watch shows 2 hours later than the local clocks.

November 11

The Albertan couple, Louis and Sharon, invite us to follow them to Calexico, border town to Mexico, for doing our laundry, getting propane. diesel and water. So we learn where to go for all these needs. Louis also leads me across one of the flea markets in Calexico. This is a real Mexican market, but it appears to be quite dirty and does not appeal to me.

November 12

With Louis and Terri I go to El Centro for picking Pecan nuts at a little farm. It appears to be a family orchard and under the shady trees we quickly fill our bags with wonderful nuts. We have to pay 3 Dollars only for a whole grocery bag. Afterwards Louis drives to a construction site for picking up firewood. The afternoon gets so hot that I decide to jump into the palm tree surrounded natural pond by the hot springs. In the evening we are invited to join Bill and Mertie at their campfire. This seems to be the way our days here at the LTVA are going to pass along, a very pleasing way as I find.

November 13

As usual, I am up at 6.15 to walk the dogs over the camp. It is just before sunrise and the air is cool, but far from cold. Before I am back, the sun is out and throws warming rays upon us. I prepare the coffee and make a pancake breakfast and strong coffee. Then I sit under the awning and relax. Doing some writing, my thoughts go to the Canadian winter back home. It seems totally unreal sitting in the desert on November 13, enjoying temperatures we rarely have during a short summer in Alberta. Bea's still sleeping and also the neighbors seem to be still in bed. An occasional car on the Highway disturbs the quietness. Otherwise the desert is breathing tranquility.

An hour before noon we decide to drive to the town of Niland and find Slab City and the famous Salvation Mountain. Slab City, is an abandoned Naval base, and has been used by campers since the eighties as a free campground. Most of the rig owners come to spend a cheap winter here but some of the more crappy rigs and squatters are here permanently year-round. There is no fee to pay, no rules and regulations apply. It is a no-man's land, even so it is still a government owned property.

In Niland we drive the four miles down Main street before we reach the first sight of parked rigs.

Then we catch the first glimpse of something big multicolored to our right. Salvation Mountain!

Famous Salvation Mountain

The camera goes already before we come to a stop in front of what at first glance appears as a copy of Disney Land. Then we are greeted by a sign saying "God never fails". and SALVATION MOUNTAIN.

Being hardly out of the truck, I notice a man sitting a distance far off in the middle of the foreyard of Salvation Mountain. He waves at us inviting us to come down to him. With the dogs in tow we approach him at the center of the plaza. When he comes up to us shaking our hands and welcoming us to visit SALVATION MOUNTAIN, I notice his sparkling eyes radiating pure friendliness and an eager interest to show us around which he does promptly. He was sitting in the shade under the canopy attached to an old truck which is painted as colorful as the entire mountain appears to be. Several old trailers and trucks, all painted with great fantasy, are parked in the area.

We learn that he's been working on this mountain for more than 20 years using the unbelievable quantity of 100,000 gal. of paint. His message, God loves you, goes us deep to heart when we see his humble appearance. Btw. his name is Leonard Knight. (update: Leonard died a couple of years ago in a Niland nursing home)

On our way back home we see the sign to a State Waterfowl preservation area. We drive down the entry to it, curious of what we might find. Soon enough we see a lake directly besides a cattle feed lot of probably several thousand cows. We see cormorants and ducks on the lake. It would be a little paradise indeed if it wouldn't be for the pollution sifting through the ground from the feed lot and right into the lake. The water is pure green of algae and in a ditch aside between the lake and the feed lot, stands a dirty brownish soup. It appears strange that a preservation area can co-exist with a cattle operation of such a big scale.

Before getting back to camp, we pick up a box of ice cream which we cool in the air stream of the Air Condition. The temperature is again beyond 30C. (90 F) and we creep up in the shade of our rig. When evening rolls around we are invited to the Martins campfire. The Martins had used the day for driving to the Mexican border doing some shopping. Now Terri offers us Mexican Vanilla Tequila.

November 14

Gosh, it is the 14th. and we have been on the road for one month already. And still this way of living has it's newness, though we've found a couple of routines. Sitting under the canopy, I again allow my thoughts to wander of. The period of dawn is so short down here and the temperature goes up rapidly. Fortunately it cools down a lot during the evening so that sleeping is not a problem.

Today I work with updating the website. However in the afternoon when the thermometer shows 45 C (117F) in the sun, I become motivated for a swim in the pond. Even though our trailer remains cool until noon, it goes up to 34 C inside in the early afternoon, making my sitting by the laptop impossible.

Coffee and ice cream in the shade comforts us. Our solar panels produce lots of energy for the evenings. At 4.30pm the sun starts going down and at 5.00pm it is pitch dark.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Day Of National Importance

This will be my last posting on this topic. 

For 4 years the United States of America has been held hostage to a criminal government aiming all its efforts to destroy the pillars of democracy, to subvert decency and trample humanity. For 4 years the US has suffered a loss of credibility, of international reputation and leadership. We have heard thousands of lies, we have learned about bottomless corruption and seen the president hail white supremacy and racism and insult respected international leaders. We now have all seen the ugly side of America, the America many thought did not exist, until white men emboldened by demagoguery, started to harass minorities and turning Americans against Americans, family members against family members, friends and neighbours against each other. We have been witnessing how a single conman managed to kidnap a political party to further his private interests. The oath he delivered on the steps of the capitol on January 20 2017 has been violated so many times, culminating in the incitement of a violent attack on the halls of democracy causing multiple deaths and many injuries.

Tomorrow is the historic day when the disgraced conman is sneaking out of the White House like a beaten thief caught in the act, crawling back to the dirty corrupt hole he once thrived in.

Yet, it may be his only decent move he ever did, when he decided not to disgrace the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America with his presence. His quest to turn the US into an authoritarian country has failed, and democracy has survived. 

Tomorrow is the day when the entire world is letting out a deep sigh of relief, and Lady Liberty will put on a smile.

Tomorrow the US-Flag will again fly from our house and it will be seen again on Independence Day as it used to.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Travel Memories: Beautiful California Coast And We Find A Danish Town

November 01

It is our at the Olema Ranch Campground. Since there is wireless Internet I do my "homework" and update the web-site. Meanwhile Bea makes the run to the laundry. After 2 weeks on the road there is quite a bundle to wash. The morning is beautiful with bright sun, so I make plans for the afternoon to explore the surroundings. We drive to Point Reyes, the little village only a couple of miles away from Olema. 
The place has only one little main street but there are plenty of little stores and they have nice street fronts.


We decide to follow the Sir Francis Drake Blvd on it's last leg, where it runs out to the Point Reyes National Seashore ending at the Lighthouse Visitor center. Again we get on a roller coaster, but without the trailer it is not much of a problem. By now the weather has changed completely and sea fog has come in over land.

The landscape is hilly and formed by the dunes. The road follows most it's narrow valleys. The sides are grown with myrtle trees, some willows and dogwood. When getting into the outer area the tree are more sparsely, and dairy farms are lying besides the road. The cows are grazing the hilly land and there are many of them. These farms are from the 1800's and they are numbered alphabetically. The grasslands with it's rocky coasts out here remind us of Scotland or even the Norwegian coast. Whipping winds keep vegetation low and into protected places. On a day like today with wallowing fog you might forget that you are in sunny California at all. But from the parking lot 4 miles from the Lighthouse we catch a view of the long beach far down under. We also check out the Chimney Rock Road. Here, on the south side of the peninsula, the coast is so steep, that you hesitate to approach the edge.

We find a beautiful spot of fall-colors on a cacti species when we drive down to south beach

Back home at the campground we download all the pictures we've taken and do some e-mails.

November 02.

Today we leave Olema and are heading farther south. We avoid the City of San Francisco and choose to drive the Richmond Oakland Bridge which leads us over to the Oakland side and onto Hwy 580. From Oakland we take Hwy 880 through Alameda until we come to San Jose. There we return to Hwy 101, which will be our main road connection all the way down to the Los Angeles Area.

On our way south we cruise through one of the biggest vegetable gardens and vineyards on earth, the Salina Valley and Monterey County. The fields seem endless as they stretch across the wide bottom of the valley.

Workers are to be seen on the fields and huge machinery is parked besides or in active use.

What we noticed in San Francisco is getting more and more obvious: We've come into the spanish speaking part of America. Mexican-style radio stations offer Mariachi music all day. It fits the landscape though and I feel on real holiday for the first time since leaving home.

We stop for the night at Pismo Beach and have to wait in a long line in front of the reception office.

When we finally got registered and drive through the gate we realize that this is the most luxurious upscale campground we've ever seen. And upscale is also the mixture of camp guests. The biggest and most expensive rigs up to the 500,000 Dollar mark can be seen in this ocean-front resort. For the overnight price they offer a complimentary WIFI and a heated pool. There is a store, laundry and washroom nearby. A security guard watches the entrance. All roads paved and full hookups on every site.

But the best here at Pismo Beach is --- the beach. It seems endless and huge waves are rolling ashore. But that we first get a chance to experience tomorrow morning.

November 03

After breakfast we do a beach walk. 
And it sure is gorgeous on that long wide beach. We throw off our jackets and shirts and are soon walking in our T-shirts in the bright morning sun and it is only 8.00am! The dogs enjoy it as much as we do. But we have to go on and so we pack up and hit the road at about 10.30am. Again we ride through a beautiful valley area where vegetables and wine for world export are grown. 

At noon we reach the town of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Since Solvang is known as the Danish town we turn off Hwy 101 and go the three miles on Hwy 246 into town, where they have an RV-Parking lot at the far east end of town. 

Already on the drive through we recognize the Danish construction style of the houses. The side walks are flanked with red brick. The houses have a typical Danish style frame construction. The names of the store owners ar mostly Danish or at least Scandinavian and there are several Bageri (bakery) and Danish flags are hanging out everywhere. 
On our stroll through town I enter the tourist information office and have a chat with the lady behind the counter. She directs us to the Bethanian Church which is behind the Danish-style school. 
It truly looks like a copy of any church in Denmark and is beautifully maintained. On our round I also buy a few cakes and a nice sourdough-bread.

After saying farewell to Solvang we are now heading towards Santa Barbara on the coast.

Reaching the Pacific again we discover Refugio Beach State Park down below. Spotting the huge Palm trees and a few RV's, make me change plans and spontaneously I decide to look for an overnight campground. And we are lucky, as the park is almost empty. We back the rig into a nice spot and settle in.