Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2016 Spring Break. (the last one?)

Whoo-ee, finally a Spring Break with our Spring Break traveling buddies, Ed and Suzanne...,
 but first.  I have an event to attend.  "Bike around the Buttes".  A 40 mile bicycle ride around Sutter Buttes in the Central Valley.  A dozen of us SOB's, "Seniors on Bikes" drive over Friday for Saturday's ride starting in the small town of Sutter.  

8:00 AM and we are off!

Lolli trails along in our Vanagon with it's new rebuilt transmission.

Here's a map of the ride.

Great fun and a nice day.  We finish the post ride barbeque, say goodbye to the SOB's and head over to the local market for some groceries and ice.  Who should pull up beside us but Ed and Suzanne!  Perfect timing.

2016 Spring Break is ready to roll.

And roll we do.  All afternoon pounding down I-5 to a free camp spot I know about down by the Firebaugh turn-off.

Circle the Vanagons for the night.

Up and at it again in the morning, on down I-5 to the Arvin turnoff.  Take the turn-off, drive through Arvin, then up and over Tehatchpi Pass and down into the Mojave.

I know a place where we can free camp beside the dog dish.
During Spring Break 2002 our good ol' traveling dog Sarah passed away out here in the desert.  We buried her and left her dog dish and a tennis ball.

14 years later, here it is.  Still here!!

We circle the Vanagons and call it an evening.

I decide to give the gas pipeline road a try.  Only rode about five miles while the sun went behind the wind turbines of Mojave.

Up in the morning and off to Barstow to top up our supplies and buy some ice for our ice chests.

Along the way Lolli tosses me out of the Vanagon so I can ride through the town of Boron on my bike.

You might notice my bicycle by the front wheel!

A couple of photo ops and back to the highway, bike back on the Vanagon


We hit Von's in Barstow and then Ed leads the way.  He had a bunch of Geocache waypoints lined up along HWY 66 plus they have a book about HWY 66.

Geocaching and the book help us find interesting places.

There is no shortage of Geocache along HWY 66.

Here's a closer look at the "Power Trail"!!

Every couple of hundred yards!!

We sample several.

By late afternoon we arrive in Goffs.
Circle the Vanagons and enjoyed the place.

A lot of work has been done in Goffs restoring old mining equipment and compiling desert history.
This is a (now operational) ten stamp mill!

The sun is going down and it is finally time for "The Annual Feature"..., Nook Mom!!
Each Spring Break we slather it on Eddie's barbied chicken and each year unexpected results occur later in the trip.  (Hint:  this year is no different.)

Anyway, excellent Nook Mom dinner and we call it a night.

In the morning I decide to ride down HWY 66 to where it intercets with HWY 95 and back.  A very easy round trip of 37 miles.  Half of them down hill and the other half the wind blowing me back to Goffs!  Perfect!

And now it is time to break camp and head for Caruthers Canyon via the old Lanfair road.
Miles of washboard gravel but beautiful high desert.  Lots of flowers and blooming cacti!

We arrive in the canyon and circle the Vanagons.

A bit on the cool side because of the elevation but..., this is great!

We decide to stay a couple of days so I set up the portable facility.

Walks morning and evening.  Naps during the mid day.

One hike was up canyon and past this balancing rock!  The photo is a bit out of focus but I didn't want to disturb anything!!  It doesn't look like this balancing act will last another year!

The "wimmin" decide to head back to the camp but Ed and I continue up and up this former road to try and find out what was so important they went to all this effort to build it in the first place.

Ah, we knew it....

A mine!

Several of them, in fact.

Solved that question.

Back to camp and Suzanne and I grab our watercolor kits and camp chairs and walk over to "paint" a cactus we saw during one of our earlier hikes.
We enjoy an hour or so concentrating on our individual interpertations.

Here's mine.

Here's Suzanne's.

What a fun way to spend some "focused" time in a beautiful area.

Next morning, off on another walk.

And then time to pack up and head for Baker.  The ice in the coolers getting low.

Miles and miles.  The desert is a big place!

Arrive in Baker around noon.  The world's tallest thermometer tells the story.


We grab gas, groceries, ice and snackage at the Mad Greek's and are outta there, heading north toward Shoshone and one of our favorite free spots, Smith Springs.

Again, higher elevation means cooler temperatures but we settle in for the night.

In the morning, quail, a Lazuli bunting for Suzanne and a nearby geocache.  Perfect!

Time to head for Tecoupa Hot Springs.  I elect to unload the bike and bicycle to Shoshone while the rest of the group takes a soak.

Duckie is loving it!

We gather in Shoshone for Lunch, groceries and more ice.  Nook Mom is already starting to work.  We were intending to go to Roades Cabin but discover the road is closed due to a washout so we have to give up on an important geocache Eddie wanted to grag and instead continue on to Death Valley Junction.

Left at Death Valley Junction, down into Death Valley, up the other side to turn off and head for a campground I know about up in the Panamints above Wild Rose.

We rattle up the washboard road past the Charcoal Kilns to almost 7,000 feet.  

It is a cold night in the Vanagon but we have enough covers.

Morning dawns bright up high, where we are going but here, where we are camped, we would be in the shade until noon so..., pack up and rattle on up to Mahogany Flats, the topmost campground on the ridge looking both ways; down into Death Valley or down into Panamint Valley!

We arrive.  8,133 feet!

Nothing left to do but go for a hike up the trail toward Telescope Peak.

The view down into Death Valley is straight at Badwater, 282 feet below sea level!


Good enough.  Time to get low.

Back down the washboard road for miles until we reach the blacktop where I hop out and give it a kiss!!

Back into Panamint Valley and off towards Ballerat where we happen upon some BLM land, head out a ways and circle the Vanagons.

We see blowing dust out on the playa.

A nice evening presents itself and I take a photo of my traveling partners.

Not bad

Until 2:00 in the morning when a sudden windstorm arrives and blows so hard we can not see each other's Vanagon in the moon lite dust and blowing sand whiteout!!

Morning arrives calm again but wow. are we frazzled!  What an "Awesome" night!!

Pack up and on the road again, this time up out of Panamint Valley and on to Lone Pine.

Along the way Ed has a two part geocache lined up.  We stop and hike out to find the first part which contains coordinates for the second part!

Back to the Vanagons and drive on, stop and hike out to the second coordinates and "Bingo!".

"We find what we are looking for!"

This is the location where the "Joshua Tree" Album by the band "U-2" was photographed!!

Lots of stuff and memorabilia left by visitors and groupies over the years!!

And now, off to the Alabama Hills just beyond Lone Pine.

We find our spot, circle the Vanagons and go for a hike.

Many, many amazing rock formations.
A heart for Lolli but it is too big to take home!

Just spectacular but...
The weather has changed.  Cold and windy.  We stay the night and in the morning decide to cut this trip short and head home; Ed and Suzanne to Olympia, WA, Lolli and I back to Fort Bragg.  Snow is forecast to the north on HWY 395.  That darn Nook Mom!

North we go anyway.

Lolli and I hole up at one of the "spots" I know on the south side of Mono Lake for the night/

In the morning, "Well lookie here"!!
The prediction for snow wasn't wrong!

No problem.  On to Bridgeport.  The Bridgeport Inn is open for coffee, breakfast and wi-fi!


Fill the gas tank and drive all day, 250 miles, to Rumsey Canyon west of Sacramento.  We find a spot for the night beside Cache Creek.

Home the next day by 2:00 PM!  We have an unexpected extra Saturday and Sunday of vacation to unload, unwind and enjoy being back home.

Our Spring Break was a bit truncated by a strange weather front but we still had a wonderful time with Ed and Suzanne.  They say this is their last Spring Break but I think after they soak in the Great North Wet a year or two they might change their mind.

We'll see.