And That’s How It’s Done

November 13, 2018

We followed our friend’s advice, and set out on Deadman Pass near 10 am.  OK, it was closer to 9:30, but the temperature was above freezing and there was no snow.  Always check highway cams and weather reports before attempting a treacherous pass.  All looked well, so we set out.

We didn’t get too far when visibility became greatly reduced:

 

The fog was intense, but the twists in the road also added to the white-knuckle experience.  Look at what the map shows:

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The fog started to lift and we could see there had been a truck in front of us the entire time:

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As the fog completely lifted, we could see it hanging over a valley and a sundog:

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After that, it was smooth sailing:

So, that is how you get through a treacherous pass. Follow experienced drivers’ advice, check weather reports and highway cams, don’t rush it. Phew!

Oregon scenery on the way to Nevada:

Hey, is this what we think it is?

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Oh yeah! A 1970s Dodge Chinook:

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For the night, we crossed into Nevada and stayed in Jackpot (free parking at Cactus Pete’s casino).

Fantastico!

Casa de Fantastico!
(March 30, 2018)

We never know what we are going to find when we search for free camping. As we headed into wine country, free camping became pretty slim. We found that Casa de Fruta (a fruit stand near Hollister, CA) allows overnight parking for truckers, so we slipped in with them. Then, we realized that Casa de Fruta is actually a huge complex with a fruit stand, yes, but also a wine shop, coffee shop, restaurant, amusement park, . . . and a campground! Uh-oh, would we get kicked out? Nope. We enjoyed a quiet night in a lovely park-like setting. Case de Fantastico!

 

Garlic Capital – Gilroy!
(March 31, 2018)

The drive to Gilroy is one for the senses! The air is more humid and we could smell garlic wafting. It reminded me so much of my grandma Moore’s yard. Our mouths were watering.

We spent the full day at Christmas Hill Park just relaxing and letting the girls solar charge. Poppy still doesn’t enjoy travelling, so she needs days where she can stretch out and people-watch.

We stayed overnight at a truck stop. As I described earlier, California doesn’t have much for free camping. Part of the problem is the homeless situation. Rent is outrageous, even in a small town like Gilroy because it isn’t too far from the Silicon Valley. A local told us that a basic house is over $3000/month to rent. People are forced to live in their vehicles. We witnessed this at the truck stop. We moved closer to the truckers and further from the homeless. They had been piling garbage outside their vehicles and making a mess. It really makes it bad for everyone.

Sawtooth Canyon and Calico Ghost Town

Sawtooth Canyon, BLM camping
(March 27 & 28, 2018)

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Since there was no camping available within Joshua Tree NP, we continued heading north toward Bakersfield. We located Sawtooth Canyon on freecampsites.net (a favorite resource). The campground isn’t visible from the highway, and we had to travel about 1 mile down a washboard road, but what a delight when we arrived! Most campsites are quite private. They each have a picnic shelter, cement picnic table, firepit, and bbq. No expense was spared. It is all for free! The caveat is that the sites aren’t level at all, but for that price, we didn’t complain (too much). We did some rockhounding and found rough lapis.  The moon was nearly full and the evenings were warm, so we enjoyed a crackling campfire, grilled steak & veggies (peppers, potatoes, asparagus, zucchini), and a buttery Chardonnay. What more could anyone ask for?

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On the second day, we changed locations, trying to find a more level spot.

Calico Ghost Town
(March 29, 2018)

A friend recommended that we stop and see this attraction. It was an interesting stop. The buildings are original, but they are mostly shops now. The shops were fairly pet-friendly, but the temperature was too hot for the girls. One shop owner turned the window A/C for Daisy. How sweet was that? We made the decision to go back to the Chinook, turn on the generator and A/C to cool the girls down before we headed north again.

 

Spot the Chinook:

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For lunch, we went to this famous 50s diner.

We also visited the quirky Diner-saur park around back:

That night, we stayed in a very noisy RV park in Bakersfield.  The train tracks ran right alongside the park, and there was no buffer.  You win some, you lose some.

Yabba dabba do!

(Tuesday March 27, 2018)

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Back when I was in high school, my mother and I travelled to California to visit her friend and her friend’s family. They took us to all the attractions, including Joshua Tree National Park. I was very excited to go back; however, it was a little less enchanting than the first time I was here. It was the same time of year, but a different time of day. When I was first here, the rocks and trees were glowing in the early sunset. This time, we had the blazing sun. It gave it a different effect, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. However, this time it felt like I was in a Flintstones episode rather than Land of the Lost.

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Our lunch location

We camped on BLM land on the south part of the park, so we had to drive about 20-30 miles into the park before we saw our first Joshua tree. There are wonderful campgrounds inside the park, but they were all full.

The terrain is rugged, but the jumbo rocks are easy to climb because they are so rough.

Where are Fred and Wilma?

The first time I was here was before U2 released The Joshua Tree, so this time, I had to take a few black & white photographs in honor of one incredible album.

As with most US national parks, dogs aren’t allowed on the trails, so we didn’t do any long hikes where we would be away from them for too long. In general, the park is lacking in parking. The jumbo rocks are a jumbo attraction, but you have to park on the busy road. There are some lovely picnic grounds, but little parking. We eventually found a parking lot in a less interesting area and made our lunch.

In the future, I’d book a campsite in advance so that we could enjoy these views for a lot longer.

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Heading North, but going downhill

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Painted Rock Petroglyph Site (Bureau of Land Management)
(March 18-20, 2018)

We first tried to stop at a state park, but the cost was too dear, so we kept going and came across this park near Gila Bend. The petroglyph park is 12 miles off the highway, and I guess that is enough to keep people away, so it’s very quiet. It is a pilot BLM campground, which means there are actual sites with firepits, pit-toilets, and trash bins. The cost is $8/night.

The sites are large and well-spaced, so this is quite a deal. There are lots of hiking trails and as the name suggests, petroglyphs. There is no cell coverage, though. We needed to make a very important phone call on Monday (March 19), so we had to drive up a hill until we could get a connection. I’ll write a post about the important phone call later.

Here is Daisy under her picnic shelter. This screen is for keeping flies off food, but it works very well to keep flies off Shih Tzus.  You can see that fly on the outside by her tail.  No Daisy for you!

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The flies bite, and Paul’s skin reacted to the bites again.  He was covered in welts.

The petroglyphs are just a short stroll from the campground, and are easily accessible.

There was so much open space, so Poppy enjoyed her walks.  Lizards are fast, so she had lots of entertainment.

We also bumped into a couple we had met in Borrego Springs, Bob and Sandi, just like my parents!  We were so surprised when we saw Sandi zip by us on her bike.  They told us such interesting and funny stories about when they lived in Canada (Sandi is Canadian).  They should write a book!

After this park, we headed back to Yuma so that we could say good-bye to my aunt and uncle.  Yes, sadly, all the snowbirds have to head north now.  We start our journey north on Monday March 26, but we will go slowly.  Thirty centimetres of snow fell today in our town in Saskatchewan.  We want to give it some time to melt.  The Chinook is our little snow melter, but I don’t think it is a match for Saskatchewan right now.

BLM Camping and Ajo Mountain Drive

After crossing back into the USA, we camped on BLM land near Why, AZ.  It was rejuvenating.  We had a crackling campfire, saw the sun set, watched the moon rise, and listened to the coyotes yip.

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Look at this sweet little 20 footer.

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An ocotillo was in bloom.  They don’t really have a season, so when you see one blooming, it’s magnificent.

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The next day, we took the scenic Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus Monument.  I never get tired of seeing cacti.  We couldn’t take this drive with our Chinook when we were at the park in February, so Ted drove us.  The road is quite rough, and the Chinook was at the upper limit for vehicle length.

Natural arch:

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After packing up camp the next day, we traveled through Why and saw the coyotes waiting for food near the gas station again.  The mangy one was on the other side of the highway.  I don’t think these healthy ones wanted him begging with them.  He was bad for business.

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We took Highway 86, through Tohono O’odham Nation.  This drive was just as scenic as Ajo Mountain Drive.  I highly recommend it.

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Next stop: Tucson

Chinookery

We left Oasis Palms RV resort in Thermal and headed towards Borrego Springs.  We camped in a free site, but this time it wasn’t on BLM land.  It is land owned by the Avery family (Avery labels and office supplies).  They have lots of land out this way, but they have left some of it for the public.  There are signs where it is private, but the rest is open.  The property was very clean.  People are respectful and do not leave trash around.  There are some good hiking trails in the hills (but too precarious to carry a camera up there).

We met up with Yves and Boogaloo again.  Sadly, the Land Rover is out of commission.  Yves accidentally towed it in first gear, so the engine is dead.  He has put out an SOS, and hopefully someone in California will have a spare engine for him.

View from our window and door:

We went in to Borrego Springs to get wifi.  What a sweet town!  The public library has outside benches, free wifi, and charging stations.  There is a nearby post office where people have packages sent “general delivery.”

This is the little mall around the library: (I love the MCM light fixtures)

When we got to town, we saw a Chinook parked, so we parked beside it.  We had a clear view while we were at the library, so when the people returned, we went to talk to them. They asked if we were heading to the Chinook rally in Yuma.  What rally?  That got our wheels literally in motion.

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That evening, Yves wanted to have a potluck, so he invited some nearby campers, and we had a delicious Mexican meal, complete with French beignets.

Daisy loved it there, and she had many walkabouts:

Yves got busy and gave Boogaloo a shave.  Yves said, “I don’t do fantasy.”  Boogaloo just got a basic shave down.  He must have felt so much cooler.

We were hoping to stay another day, but we got talking and thought we should head back to Yuma to find the Chinookers.

Yuma truly is the centre of the universe!  We keep finding our way back!  We found the Chinook rally, and they welcomed us.  It turned out that another couple paid their fees but couldn’t make it and couldn’t get a refund.  We got their spot.  It was very exciting for us because the only Chinook we had ever seen was ours (and the one in Borrego Springs).

Find our Chinook:

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The oldest is the crowd was a 1999, so they all were pretty hard to tell apart.  We had an ID tag made for Poppy with our Chinook on it.  If she got lost, we had hoped someone would locate the RV from the picture.  Ha!  Not in this crowd!

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Bob and Debbie also have a Destiny.  It’s a 2001, and they’ve owned it since it was 2 years old.  They were a fun couple.  Bob collected all the brochures he could get his hands on while Chinook was still in business.  We got to pore over them one afternoon.  Delightful!

Karen and Kenny also arrived late like us, and they were not members either.  Karen is my trailer soul mate!  You should see the trailers that have followed her home!  She has renovated some serious machines.  She has even sold trailers that found their ways to RV parks to be used as rentals.  One trailer, a rare Aeroflyte, was listed on eBay, and a museum was bidding against a personal collector.  Check out this 1959 Spartan that she sold to Enchanted Trails.  Three of her former trailers are at this park.  We hope to stay in touch to see what projects they are working on.  Kenny built a “tiny house” 25 years ago, long before anyone had heard of them.  He built it to take to swap meets so that he had shelter and a washroom.

Tomorrow (Sunday February 11, 2018), we are heading into Mexico.  Our first stop will be Puerto Peñasco.  Six friends are flying in from Saskatoon and Calgary.  Ted and Dona are picking them up at the airport.  Then we are all driving over together.

Here is a local treat that we indulged in on the way.  They are sold everywhere in southern Arizona and California.  Try one when you are this way!

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