From Fun to Fabulous on the Salton Sea

February 9, 2019

Fun at The Ski Inn at Bombay Beach

As we saw last year, when we visited the Salton Sea, it’s a deplorable situation. Really California? Where are the environmentalists? Nevertheless, we had a terrific time visiting the Ski Inn at Bombay Beach. At one time, people could waterski up to the Inn for lunch, but that was during a different era. Today, the Ski Inn is still a popular spot for lunch and a beer. As soon as we strolled in, Paul called out “Hey, Les!” What a small world! Les and Susan live in our RV park in B.C. I guess they can find the classy joints like we can! They were having lunch with a friend, so Paul, Sheila and I joined them, and then afterward went to visit them at Fountain of Youth RV park.

The Ski Inn has tasty sandwiches, but the best part is the staff. What a friendly bunch! We felt so welcome. Also, the décor is really fun! How much money is on the walls and ceiling?!

After lunch, we strolled along the beach and took picture of some of the derelict local RVs. Les and Susan explained that in the last few years, the town has really cleaned up the beach. There used to be abandoned and weathered trailers on the beach, but those are long gone. We didn’t see any last year either. My sister got some pictures a few years ago. Apparently, real estate has been slowly climbing as artists are moving in. However, by no means is this an expensive place to live. Lot prices were around $5000, but they are getting closer to $10,000 now. It’s still very cheap, but you take the risk of living on the shores of an environmental disaster. Don’t let its beauty fool you!

February 11, 2019

Fabulous Frey at North Shore

On our way to Palm Springs for Modernism Week, we had to stop to see our first building designed by the fabulous Albert Frey. It is the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club, built in 1958. North Shore is another mostly abandoned community, but this mid-century wonder has been preserved. What a magnificent structure!

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Back of building:

The front is where the fabulousness is:

Also on this site is one of the art exhibits from Desert X. Desert X is an annual art exhibition that is held on sites throughout the Coachella Valley. You can drive or take a bus to all the installations. It’s kind of like geocaching for art! We just chanced upon this one. You can download a map or app and travel the valley, seeking out contemporary art.

Then, back on the road to mid-century heaven — Palm Springs!

Slab City 2019

February 4-11, 2019

We had a wonderful time at Slab City last year, so we were excited to return again. Sheila had never been there before, so we wanted to visit all the attractions and more. Last year, we were in the Chinook, but this year, we are in the Airstream. It’s a good thing because we had 2 days of wind and sand storms. We could, at least, spread out in the Airstream while the wind buffeted the trailer.

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Salvation Mountain

Our camp (Can you see the Airstream Bambi behind us?):

Instead of repeating much of what I wrote last year, I’ll add hyperlinks to previous posts.

First, let’s look at the remarkable housing that the locals have created. Some are on the original slabs for which the area is now named.

 

Salvation Mountain

No trip to Slab City is complete without a visit to Salvation Mountain. In fact, people from around the world come just to see this masterpiece. This year, we could not climb the mountain due to damage from the rain. An artist was hard at work repairing the damage and repainting the repaired areas. If you look on the left side of the mountain, you’ll see where a large portion of the mountain has fallen.

East Jesus

East Jesus is registered with the California Museum Association. The artists are trying to purchase the land from the government to ensure its permanence. This year, they had t-shirts and bumper stickers for sale to raise funds. Paul got a t-shirt and I got a bumper sticker. I would have liked all four stickers, but I settled for:

DO BIG FUN
(First Church of the Chocolate Martini)

These were the 4 tenets of the founder:

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This artist greeted us and told us about the fundraising. He was quite the character.

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This sign really makes me laugh:

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I searched for the wheel, but I couldn’t find it. I’ll just have to come up with my own sources of debauchery. I’m imaginative.

Playground of Horror?

Hey, we found a new house. It’s a fixer-upper, but we’re handy. Debauchery lives here!

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Blooming fun!

Due to all the rain this winter, the desert is blooming.

The girls enjoyed their walks. Bunnah (Scottie) and Kenzie (Westie) tried to imagine that they were walking in Scottish heather:

The Coliseum

Slab City even has its own coliseum. Well, not really, but these old tanks are now referred to as the coliseum.

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Pet Cemetery

Actually, we found 2 pet cemeteries. This seems to be the first one.

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Just look at the care and attention given to these graves. One (Winnie) was only a few weeks old, and Poppy took a special interest in it.

Hot Spring and Shower

Yes, there is even a hot spring. It’s about 15 feet deep and you can see the bubbles coming up through the centre. Before a young guy disrobed, he said, “This is clothing optional, so I hope you won’t be offended.” No offence taken!

After jumping in, he told us where to look for the “shower”, so off we went.

Let’s play “Spot the Airstream” one more time!

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Hint: It’s in the middle

Once again, we had a fabulous time at Slab City.

Next stop: Palm Springs
Why? MODERNISM WEEK! The Atomic Pod will land at Atomic Central!

Boondocking: Lessons Learned, Successes & Failures

January 4-18, 2019

When we were at KOFA in December, our black tank filled far too quickly. After one week, we had to leave and dump the tanks. It didn’t seem reasonable since we didn’t dump any dishwater down the toilet like we often do. Therefore, we did a bit of research and discovered that the bathroom sink drains into the black tank, and I wash my hands often . . . very often. Well, that explained that. Lesson learned.

While we were camping on BLM land outside of Quartzsite, we managed to boondock for 15 days before our black tank filled. We left with 35% water in our fresh tank as well. What’s more, after 7 days, I also hand washed our socks and underwear and we still had water to spare. Additionally, we had a heavy rainstorm and collected 2 buckets of water, which I used to wash my hair, bathe, and do some dishes. Success.

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Early arrival at the RTR

We have more than enough solar and batteries to last, even when we had rain for over one day. We watched Canadian news every night and kept ours and Sheila’s electronic devices powered. Success.

However, not everything was rosy. After one week, our hot water heater died. Again. Even though this trailer is new, we’ve had to replace to circuit board twice already. It is an Atwood gas-electric heater (but Dometic now owns that company). The circuit boards are from China and they are garbage. These water heaters are installed in many RVs and the boards (made by Kunshan Zhongding) are faulty. Fail. Luckily, we are “campers” and know how to heat water for dishes and bathing, but it was disappointing.

Of course, Can-Am RV came to the rescue and had Airstream ship a new circuit board to an RV park in Yuma. By the time we got back to Yuma, we had a new circuit board by a different manufacturer (Channel Products). Let’s hope we don’t have to replace this one in 3 months. We are feeling optimistic. Success.

The biggest challenge when boondocking is water conservation. Here are our tips:

  • no showers (We wash daily with just a small bowl using approximately ½ liter of water) and then we toss that water outside (if you are not in an environmentally sensitive area) or use it to flush the toilet
  • pay for a hot shower (In towns near BLM land, there are often entrepreneurs that provide hot showers for a fee. We paid $5 each for a shower at Rose RV Park in Quartzsite).
  • if it’s yellow, let it mellow . . . Yes, we have to do that. It isn’t pleasant, but neither is hitching up and driving to the nearest town just to dump the tanks.
  • avoid putting toilet paper into the black tank for #1
  • put a bowl in the bathroom sink to capture hand washing water and reuse that water for more hand washing, and then toss it outside or use it to flush the toilet
  • use paper plates and bowls (I still do the washing up 3 times per day, but using paper plates and bowls conserves a lot of water.)
  • cook on the barbecue (This also cuts down on cookware to wash)
  • eliminate water-intensive cooking (no pasta when boondocking)
  • dilute the dish soap (That way you won’t need as much for rinsing)
  • give your dishes a shower, not a bath (I used to fill up 2 dishpans: one for soapy water and one for rinse water. Now, I just wet the dishcloth and apply some diluted dish soap and then rinse each dish. In the end, I only use about ½ a dishpan of water)
  • use potable water jugs (We have 2 large blue jugs that we fill with RO water. It is easier to refill these in town than it is to hitch up the trailer to fill the fresh tank)
  • collect rainwater (It rarely rains on the desert, but if it does, collect some)

Here are Bunnah and Kenzie showing their blue water jug:

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Boondocking is for the dogs. Freedom!

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Kenzie and Poppy

After the RTR, we moved into the town of Quartzsite to meet up with the Airstream club. We enjoyed their company and the full moon.

After 2 1/2 weeks of boondocking, we returned to Yuma to do laundry, restock our supplies, and visit family.

Kofa NWR: Part 3

December 14, 2018 (Day 4)

Sheila and I took the girls for a long walk after brunch. We continued to search for the elusive desert tortoise. We searched a wide wash for tortoises, but we still didn’t find one. Later in the day, Paul decided to hike up some of the large hills around here. Geocaching is not allowed in the refuge — no man-made things are allowed to be left behind. However, Paul found the cache of all geocaches! Here are his words and pictures:

“While hiking, I came across an unusual rock formation. Inside the rock formation was a tobacco tin with a miner’s claim from 1949. I don’t think it has ever been disturbed. I left the claim in its original place.”

December 15, 2018 (Day 5)

We had read that some people hike up the opposite side of the gorge toward the palm trees. We decided to give it a try. There isn’t a path, but people have done it. We have no idea how people do it, unless there is a sort of path somewhere that we couldn’t find. Once it got really rough and involved much scaling of rocks, I left Paul and Sheila and started my descent. I can go up, but I have a fear of going down. (I get dizzy and unstable). They kept at it and leapt over major cracks and scaled boulders. They pushed their limits, but still never made it to the palms. A+ for effort! We are left wondering how people make it up that side of the gorge.

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Find Paul and Sheila


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My Descent — no path

After Sheila’s dogs have dinner, they get a little treat — like dessert. Poppy is now in on this tradition. Here she is waiting patiently for Kenzie and Bunnah to finish their dinners so that she can have a treat:

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Sunset through the Airstream windows:

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The evening was calmer and warmer, so we had a campfire — our first one this winter.

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Kofa NWR: Part 2

December 12, 2018 (Day 2)
Hiking the Palm Canyon Trail

After a leisurely and hearty camp brunch, Paul, Sheila, and I took all three dogs and hiked up the canyon trail. Since our campsite is relatively near the trailhead, we walked. Sheila’s dogs are seniors. Kenzie, the Westie, is 12 and Bunnah, the Scottie, is 10, but they did the rugged steep trail with us like champs. On the way down, we took a little break and Bunnah took a wee nap.

Here we are still climbing, but we looked back to see if we could find our camp. Can you spot the Airstream?

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Can you spot the Airstream?

Little did we know that our timing was impeccable. It’s great that none of us wanted to leave first thing in the morning. We arrived just as the sun was illuminating the palms.

You have to look up to see the palms:

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These are California Fan Palms, and they are the only native palm trees in Arizona. There are several theories on how they got into these canyons and other niches. It’s likely the seeds were spread by birds or coyotes thousands of years ago. They continue to survive due to the micro-climate in the protected canyon. The decaying fronds fall to the ground, decompose, and create a new growing medium for new trees. They are self-sustaining. There are other trees in other niches, but these are the most dramatic.

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Other palms in niches

The girls at the end of the trail

Here is our view from the top. Can you still spot the Airstream?

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On our way down, we saw a couple of lizards, but no other wildlife.

After an exhilarating day, we were treated to another spectacular sunset.

December 13, 2018 (Day 3)
Searching for Desert Tortoises

Yesterday, we met a fellow Canadian on the trail and he said he saw tortoises. The three of us humans left camp without the dogs, because this time we were hiking across the desert, through washes, and scrambling around cholla. It’s a good thing we left the dogs at home because the ground was covered with an assortment of sharp thorns. Sheila came near, but didn’t touch a teddy bear cholla, but one grabbed on to her bare leg. There is a reason why they are nicknamed “jumping cholla.” Ouch!

We searched hard for tortoises, but we didn’t find any. We will try again tomorrow.

And more desert beauty as the sun goes down

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge: Part 1

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December 11, 2018

Palm Canyon Road

The Kofa refuge was established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. Because this is a protected area, there are some regulations, so it isn’t as open as using BLM land. For example, you can only camp within 100 ft of the road, and camping is only permitted for 14 days within a 12-month period. Also, pets must be leashed or contained at all times. Like BLM land, camping is free.

Kofa is a contracted name from “King of Arizona”, which was the name of a gold mine in the area back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are several entrances to the refuge. We chose Palm Canyon Road, but some of the others are Blevens Road (Crystal Hill), King Road, Castle Dome Mine Road, and MST&T Road.

Although Palm Canyon Road is gravel, it is wide and graded. We had no trouble with things jumping around in the Airstream, nor when we encountered on-coming vehicles.

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We weren’t sure how far we would drive in. The camp host told us that we could go to the end of the road and there would be a turnaround in the parking area for the trailhead. We didn’t know how far the road went, but we found this site and pulled in. It turns out that there is only one more campsite beyond ours, but it is only big enough for a small motorhome or van. Here is our campsite with its spectacular views:

Our new Airstream is set up with 4 100W flexible solar panels and 4 AGM batteries. These have been sufficient for us so far. Water is always an issue when boondocking. We conserve as best we can, but water usage will determine how long we can stay here.

Desert Plants

We had rain last week, so the desert is quite green. We heard that the washes did flood. We wish we could have seen that.

Last year, we arrived after the ocotillos had lost their leaves. There are many in full-leaf here. Stunning!

Let’s observe the Airstream in its natural environment:

And that wraps up our first day in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Becoming Yumans

We spent the last two weeks in Yuma. It was like coming home. We spent a lot of time in Yuma last winter. We attended a few events like the AKC dog show and the Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade, and of course, we hopped the border and went to Los Algodones for a day.

The Light Parade was one of the most interesting parades I’ve been to. Although it began at 6 pm, we arrived before 4 pm to get a good parking spot and a place to set our lawn chairs. We parked next to Little Caesar’s Pizza so we had pizza and wings before the parade began. Once the sun set, the lights came on and we watched floats, vehicles, dancers, and bands come by in sparkling waves. The theme this year was agriculture. It was fitting since you can’t be in Yuma without being face to face with agriculture wherever you go.

Dole had an interesting float. It included a large television monitor showing their workers in the fields:

The greatest crowd-pleasers were the low-riders! People were shouting “flip the switches!” What a fun show!

Even an Astrovan can be a low-rider!

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There were so many parade entries. After 102, I stopped paying attention to the number.

Even the dancers and bands wore lights on their costumes:

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A cow, a pig, and lots of bikes:

Continuing our focus on agriculture, check out this lemon! It was grown in Yuma. A friend’s friend grows these in her backyard. It has the texture of a Meyer lemon, but it’s enormous. Look at how huge it is compared to the normal fruit in the bowl. It dwarfs the grapefruits.

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Goodnight Yuma. Next stop, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

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