Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Space Travel, Wind and Trains in Mojave, California

April 24 - 30, 2013

We arrived at Sierra Trails RV Park around noon, and squeezed the rig into a campsite, a spot very hard to maneuver into with all the trees, shrubs and sidewalks in the way.  It is a nice place though, but a bit tight.  After weeks of boondocking, it is a novelty to just let the water run, turn on all the lights and take many long showers.  We have even brought the electric coffee pot and the toaster out again after being packed away for a couple of months.  Also no more bone jarring, dusty washboard dirt roads to get to the campsite.  

The town of Mojave is yet another railroad town, we can't seem to get away from them?  It is also another depressed old town on the down slide, dirt poor, but with a high tech side.    

It is reminding me of a Mary Gautier song lyric;  
It's another night
In another town
And I'm another blues traveler headed down.  

The distant view to the north west is really strange, there are hundreds of huge wind turbines, maybe a thousand, all turning like a giant robot kinetic sculptures. 

I watched part of the Ken Burns special "The Dust Bowl" last night, a very depressing show.  I feel like we went through a bit of this at Borrego Springs and Joshua Tree and we now have dust everywhere.   The plan for the the week is to get the truck and the RV cleaned up again along with some hiking at Red Rock Canyon north of here.  

Downtown Mojave doesn't have much to offer anymore, but I did find a nice coffee shop that looks like a breakfast/lunch spot and we ate dinner yesterday at "Primo Burger" which was surprisingly good and way more than burgers.  The big deal in town is the Air and Space  Port, the nations first inland civilian space port.  This was the base for the "Space Ship One" which was the first privately funded spacecraft to reach space and go into orbit winning a 10 million dollar prize.  The Port was originally a WWII training air base.   

If you go about 10 miles west you come to "California City" which is relatively new and fast growing, but butt ugly !  The "pants falling down" look is still alive a and well at California City.

If you go about 18 miles west you come to the beautiful scenic town of Tehachapi with many nice shops, restaurants, famous Apples and much culture.  It is also a historic railroad town with the famous "Tehachapi Bend" a few miles north.  The Tehachapi Pass outside of town is covered with massive wind turbines that are quite spectacular.  This is another very windy place, perfect for the wind turbines and I read that one day last week they recorded their highest output ever. 

We have found "Daves Killer bread", really good stuff and inspiring story of goodness overcoming evil.  

We were back to hiking on Friday at Red Rock Canyon State Park. We did a couple of short but satisfying trails on the Hagen Canyon loop and the Red Cliffs loop trails.  We also checked out the Visitors Center which had good exhibits.  Lots of old classic western movies have been done at Red Rock Canyon.  We were a little disappointed with the quantity of hiking available, most of this area seems to be dedicated to the OHV (Off road vehicle) crowd.  We stopped at the Jawbone Canyon Store just south of the Park which is the OHV crowd hangout, it's a small store with a front porch and a outside patio area.  It took us a while to figure out how the system works, you buy your beer in the store then sit on the front porch and drink it.  There were several riders coming in, hanging out, getting beer all dressed up in their finest Darth Vader looking riding apparel. This OHV stuff is really big and popular in California, we have been seeing it everywhere we go.   

Saturday we went to Tehachapi, I checked out the railroad museum while Twinkles checked out the two quilt/fabric shops in town.  We then had an excellent lunch at the "Red House BBQ", might be the best BBQ ever !  The railroad museum was also excellent, the attendant there gave me the whole story on the famous "Tehachapi Loop" which is an impressive sight and will be another adventure.

Sunday was a another solo day for me to observe the technical and engineering marvels of the area.  First to the Mojave Space Port to see the Space Ship One replica and the place where private space travel is being developed.  

Next to the railroad town of Tehachapi to check out the famous "Tehachapi Loop".  The ride to the loop goes through a beautiful mountainous area to a roadside viewing area.  It is a remarkable sight when you see this huge freight train winding around the loop with the front of the train passing the rear of the train.

 Then to the Tehachapi Pass to the "Pacific Crest Trail" to take a short, very windy hike through the Wind Turbine area.  The Pacific Crest Trail goes for 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and this section has to be one of the most interesting.  This area was responsible for much of the early development of wind power and it is awe inspiring to walk through.

Monday was spent cleaning the RV slides and seals, putting my regular wheel/tire back on, stowing the spare tire and repairing a broken bolt in the Landing Gear drive shaft connection.

Sir Richard Branson was in Mojave on Monday for a critical test flight of his Space Ship Two rocket plane.  Don't know why he didn't call me ?  The test flight was a huge success with the plane reaching supersonic speed, up to an altitude of 55,000 feet. About 580 people have already paid  $200,000 each for space flight tickets to date.  They expect to make a space test flight with this plane by the end of the year.  

On Wednesday we are off to Three Rivers, California near the south western entrance to Sequoia National Park.  It's finally time to move out of the desert and into the land of the big trees. 

Until then, keep cruising,
Twinkles and Slick 

The famous Tehachapi Loop

The Jawbone Canyon Store

Terminus of the 20 Mule Team Borax wagons in Mojave 

Tehachapi Water Tower

Wind Turbines on Tehachapi Pass

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon
Sometimes a painting is worth a thousand photos
Air mail mural in Tehachapi
Apple growing mural in Tehachapi
Mojave Air and Space Port entrance
Freight cars in Mojave with wind turbines in distance
The Tehachapi Loop with train in the Loop
View from the Pacific Crest Trail
Red Rock Canyon view
Another Red Rock Canyon view
Wind Turbines near Tehachapi

Friday, April 26, 2013

Barstow and the Owl Canyon

April 18 - 23, 2013:

I did a solo on the Owl Canyon Trail, was just taking a look, but ended up going about all the way.  In places it narrows down to a slot canyon and there a few spots where you have to rock climb over an 8 ft rock wall to get through.  It's a paradise for geology types, all kinds of interesting and colorful rocks.  Meanwhile back at the ranch, Twinkles was doing her civic duty picking up assorted trash down in the wash near our campsite.  Then some RV maintenance, fixing a broken cord on day/night window shades.  This is the second one to fail and a another is starting to go.  Also putting larger screws in a window Valence that fell off the wall yesterday traveling over the rough roads.  (Don't get me started on the quality workmanship at Keystone RV)

Friday a day into Barstow for laundry, supplies, a UPS pickup, propane refill and Diesel. Barstow's Main Street is classic Rt 66 will lots and lots of old motels, many in disrepair, with great old signs.  The original downtown remains intact but a lot of vacancies and for rent signs. It's kind of strange, really sad, all the business, as usual, has moved out into tacky strip Malls.  They have an excellent historical mural project downtown that I will be exploring soon, but not much else to go there for.  Also there is a Rt 66 museum and a Railroad museum that sound interesting.  Barstow continues to be a major pit stop off Interstate 40, with an exit that leads you to several fast food and unappealing chain restaurants.  They do have the most interesting McDonalds I've seen in old railroad cars and the largest Burger King I have ever seen? It's all kind of rough and dumpy surrounded by beautiful scenery and highly photogenic. 

We had this campground mostly to ourselves until Friday when lots of weekend campers, mostly tent campers, moved in.  We took a ride looking for this fossil bed trail near here.  You turn off the main road at a sign for Fossil Bed Trail, then drive down this rough dirt road which goes on and on with several other unmarked roads to the side.  After a few miles, we decided it must be on one of the unmarked roads.  Of course, any signs that may have been there have since been blasted away by the local yokels.  So, we try one of the roads which gets rough as hell, tight curves, sand, big rocks, with thorny desert vegetation on each side scrapping against the sides as we squeak through and no place to turn around. Then we came upon a turnaround spot and shot into it only to find ourselves in the middle of a tent campers site, luckily they weren't there ! So, I drove right between their bedroll on the ground and their cooking stuff around the campfire and barely squeezed around the corner and back out onto the road.  I would love to see their faces when they get back to the campsite to see these big dually tire tracks right through their site.  Anyhow, we got out of there with only a few scratches, hopefully they will compound out. 

So, then with some apprehension we went on the Rainbow Basin loop road which ended up being beautiful.  The road was wide and graded with a few tight areas but nothing bad.  The views were fantastic in all directions, we parked and did some hiking to a incredible rock canyon, it was great !

Sunday, another solo day for me.  We are finding that when boondocking, you are not getting much, if any, outside social interaction and you need to have some apart time to avoid bloodshed. Only kidding, all is well !  So I went to the city of Barstow to check out the downtown murals, the McDonald train car dining, visit the Route 66 museum and the Railroad Museum.  The McDonalds is crazy with huge tour busses and hundreds of people, but inside it's more of a food court with several food vendors and tacky souvenir shops.  The dining area is shared by all and is in old railroad cars, but the interiors are not nice, kind of dumpy.  The Route 66 museum and the Railroad museum are both located in the old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot which is known as the "Casa del Desierto".  It is one of the classic "Harvey House Hotels" that barely escaped the wrecking ball, but is now saved, as a historic landmark and restored.  The museums were both great but it was somewhat sad looking at the old photos of downtown Barstow.  The downtown in it's route 66 heyday was a happening place, full of nice hotels, restaurants, stores and people. The Southern Pacific Railroad is still big in Barstow, huge freight traffic rolling through and huge yard, but there does not appear to be a shop anymore. 

Twinkles and I did the full Owl Canyon Trail Monday morning, 4 miles with lots of rocks to climb over that were a bit of a challenge.  The views were worth it, absolutely incredible rock formations and colors.  On the way back as I started to come around a bend in the trail I heard a loud rattle noise, that luckily stopped me in my tracks.  It happened to be a healthy Mojave Rattlesnake who eyed us up, then backed off climbing up the canyon wall away from us.  We slithered by quickly !  

On Wednesday we are pulling out of Owl Canyon and heading for Mojave, California to the Sierra Trails RV Park.  We are looking forward to a full hookup site for a week, it's been a while. In fact since Feb 10th we have boondocked on BLM areas for (66) days with the exception of (5) nights of dry camping in campgrounds (No hookups) and (3) nights with full hookup at Agua Caliente Park.  We are starting to feel like desert rats !

More to be revealed latter !
Twinkles and Slick

A hawk Mouth on a Prince's Plume flower

Prince's Plume flower at Owl Canyon Trail

View from the Owl Canyon Trail

View from the Owl Canyon Trail

Twinkles resting after climb at Rainbow Basin

Our RV is down there, can you find it

Ridge Trail at Owl Canyon

McDonalds in Barstow

Mural in Barstow

Mural in Barstow

Mural in Barstow

Route 66 mural
Route 66 mural
The Hotel  El RANCHO in Barstow
Barstow Amtrak station - Casa del Desierto
The classic "Casa del Desierto" in Barstow
This guy must have collected all the old signs and saved them
Mojave Rattlesnake in Owl Canyon
Maraposa Lilly
Owl Canyon Trail view
Owl Canyon Trail
Trail at Rainbow Basin
Rainbow Basin loop road view

Front of an old Dodge mounted on a machine for power

Monday, April 22, 2013

Joshua Tree continued

April 18, 2013:

I was kicked out of the RV on Sunday morning, Twinkles and I do not house clean well together and we need alone time once in a while.  So, I headed down to the town of Twentynine Palms to explore.  Twentynine Palms is a big military town, home of the  Marine Air Ground Combat Center, the largest Marine base in the world.  It's kind of a dumpy military town, lots of massage parlors, sleazy bars, cheap hotels, barber shops that specialize in Marine haircuts and Tattoo parlors.  In spite of that, I have to give them credit, they are trying to improve the image with their historic mural project. I found most of the murals and a few other interesting sites, it was a good adventure, but I wouldn't want to live there. 

We learned of a place in a Joshua Tree guide book, Pappy and Harriet's, that was recommended for good food, vibe and music.  It is a part of Pioneertown, a wild west town site built by a group of Hollywood investors including Roy Rodgers and Gene Autrey in 1946 for use as a movie set.  We tried it Sunday evening at 5 PM for dinner, it really looks authentic, great vibe, great food with lots of live music.  We ended up staying to hear this band called "Denver" from Portland, Oregon who were great.  They were very good and had a look and sound much like the "The Band" from years ago.   

Monday, another sunny day here, we can't remember a rainy day, well actually it was February 10th !  We went hiking again to the "Wall Street Mill" which was a short but very interesting hike.  It went past an old building site, a windmill, several really interesting old 1920's era pickup trucks, one had a V-8 engine (not a flathead Ford) that was a mystery to me.  The Stamp Mill was nearly intact, an incredibly preserved Mill site.  The rocks around the mine were also fun to scramble upon.  The spot that Bill Keys shot and killed Worth Bagly is also on the trail with a marker put there by Bill Keys to commemorate the event.  We then did a few miles on the Boy Scout Trail that was mostly flat, but good views of the Joshua Trees. 

Tuesday we went to the Joshua Tree Oasis Visitors Center in Twentynine Palms, then walked the 1/2 mile Oasis of Mara trail.  This was an Indian village for hundreds of years before the arrival of the white man.  It was a natural spring surrounded by 29 or so Palm Trees, hence the name of the town became Twentynine Palms.  The spring is now dry, but they say it has fluctuated in the past, due to earthquake activity, the Oasis is right on a fault line.  The Park service now pumps water in to keep the Palm Trees alive, but they don't appear too healthy.  We then went into the Park and did a short hike at Arch Rock, (where everyone has to get a photo) then White Tank, then Split Rock and finally Jumbo Rocks to end our day.  We are starting to get a bit jaded with the beauty at Joshua Tree, it's time for a change of scenery.

So Wednesday morning we left Joshua Tree and headed north on RT 247 to Barstow, CA where we set up camp north of town in the Owl Canyon Campground.  This campground is part of the the Rainbow Basin National Monument managed by the BLM with postcard views, Toilet facilities, water, BBQ grilles, fire rings, covered picnic tables, but no site hookups.  They charge at this campground, but with the National Park senior pass it's only $3.00 a night, can't beat that. Only negative so far is the access road, really rough dirt corduroy surface is a killer.  Lots of geology and good hikes here and things to see in Barstow, should occupy us for a week. 

Happy Trails,
Twinkles and Slick

Mural in Twentynine Palms

A strange Barber shop in Twentynine Palms

Cactus Jack - Flying Constable for 28 years

Flash flood mural in Twentynine Palms

All over Twentynine Palms

The Campbells Mural - noted desert artifact collectors

The Dirty Socks Mining camp guys

Tight jeans are the fashion in Twentynine Palms

The Serrano Indian Tribe in the Oasis of Mara Mural

Old pickup truck on the Wall Street Mill Trail

The spot where Bill Keys shot Worth Bagly

The Wall Street Mill

Old abandoned pickup truck at Wall Street Mill

The Wall Street Stamp Mill-well preserved !

I've found a good rest spot

Incredible Yucca plant flowers

Joshua Trees with mountains in the distance

Minerva Hoyt -Instumental in making Joshua Tree a National Park

The Arch Rock

Erosion over 1,000 of years has smoothed the surfaces