Friday, February 14, 2020

Winter Break 2019/2020

Winter Break 2019/2020

December 20

Time to hit the road.  Winter break is upon us.  I am 78, Lolli is six years younger and the Vanagon is 36 years old with over 350,000 miles on it.  What could possibly go wrong?

We swing by the Skunk Train parking lot to say goodbye to the SOBs at 10:00 SHARP!

And then, "On the road again, we can't wait to be on the road again".

In Clearlake Oaks we find Buddies Coffeehouse and stop for a Latte and a Mocha.  I like the sign on the restroom door!

Works for me!

We turn off HWY 20 and take Rumsey Canyon, HWY 16, south and when we reach the small community of Rumsey stop by their Community Center for lunch.  This nice old buggy is under the roof in their open courtyard.

Just beyond is this truck.  I have never seen a "Kleiber" before.

Back on the road, down past the Casino, Esparto and we enter I-5 just past Woodlands, then settle into the long grind south.  I like to follow a semi that has his speed set at 65 mph.

By dusk we arrived at the Firebaugh turn-off, pull in past the Chevron Station and on up to a wee dirt road away from the highway noise, park and popped the top.  317 miles for the day.
A nice quiet night.

December 21

Up at 7:00.  I brew some coffee for Lolli and tea for me.  Cheerios for breakfast and we are back on I-5 heading south again.

After several more hours we turn off onto HWY 58 through Bakersfield and up the grade to Tehachapi. Over the pass and down down down to Mojave, on past Mojave to the turn-off onto a little dirt desert road to the Doggie Dish.

This is the place we camped on Spring Break eighteen years ago with Ed and Susanne, Sarah the dog wandered off and got hit by a car and killed.  We left her dog dish to mark her grave and it has been here ever since!

We decide to drive a bit further on the desert trail to a Joshua Tree and call it a night.

The evening arrives and the windmills start lighting up.

Impressive sunset.

216 miles.

December 22

During breakfast I discover there are some Geocache here so after breakfast we take a hike.

We find one hiding under this rusty can.

We find a few more but decide to pack up and hit the road for Barstow.

We have been talking to friends of ours about getting our teeth fixed in Mexico.  I Googled around before we left and talked to the people at Sani Dental Group in Algodones, Mexico, near Yuma, Arizona.   We made appointments for January 6th.

Originally we planned on driving to Anza Borrego to camp for a while before heading for Algodones but listening to the weather forecast it sounds like the weather in Southern California is turning rainy so we are going to keep going east through Barstow and head for Yuma.  I called Sani Dental Group and got our appointment move up.  We should be done before the New Year.

In the afternoon the south wind is whipping across I-40 so we decide to get out of the wind by taking the Kal-Baker road and driving north far enough to find a place to camp for the night.  We find a Caltrans borrow pit and park behind a big pile of gravel out of the wind.

I am ready to pop the top but check my Geocaching App before I do and....,  "Holy Moly!"  There is a huge "Geo-Art" just on the other side of I-40. 

We get back on Kel-Baker, drive south under the I-40 overpass and continue four miles and take a washboardie gas pipeline maintenance road out toward the top, (north end) of the Geo-Art.  We find a level spot off the maintenance road and pop the top.  Good enough.

Walking over to the Geo-Art the first thing we come across is a huge ant hill.  Eddie and I could do ant speriments but no, the seem to be hibernating.

A little further on we "find" the first cache.  It is the "Maintenance" Cache.  It contains extra pill bottles and notebooks to replace any missing geocache.

It is an ammo can with the route of HWY 66 painted on it's side.

The rest of the Geo-Art is made up of mostly pill bottles like this.

There are 200 geocache making up this Geo-Art and I would have to walk a total of 20 miles to get them all!

Each cache is about two tenths of a mile apart.  Walking to the next geocache we come across an expired turtle carcass.

We find a total of 10 geocache but it starts to rain so we cut it short and hike back to the Vanagon.

The rain stops and we enjoy a nice sunset.

We stay the night and find a few more geocache in the morning but decide to press on for Needles.

In Needles we cross over the Colorado River into Arizona for the "dollar a gallon cheaper" gas, fill up and return to Needles to take HWY 95 south to Blythe.

Almost to Blythe I spot a dirt road that looks like it goes over to the Colorado River.  We stop, turn around and head back to the dirt road.  Sure enough, it goes to the river and then north alongside it.  Driving along we spot a place to park, pop the top and decorate a bush.  Tonight is Christmas Eve!!

Good enough!

In the morning we enjoy sunrise on the river. 

and we have coots?

And a Ruddy Duck!

We pack up and continue on to Blythe.  Along the way I find a roadside geocache hanging from a hook inside the post of a HWY mile marker.

On through Blythe, over to Quartzite and south again on HWY 95.

We have decided to continue to Yuma so we can check out the border crossing situation.  West of Yuma on I-10 we reach the turnoff for Los Algodones.  As we near the border we see this sign.

Just beyond this sign we find a large parking lot run by the Quechan Indians on their Reservation land.  For six bucks we can park the Vanagon all day while we are in Mexico getting our teeth fixed.

Now that we know how it works we turn around and look for a place to hole up for the night.  Six miles north of the border we find our spot that even has a tree!

Good enough.  Lolli fixes dinner and I do the dishes.

In the morning I check the game camera and discover we had a visitor.

We drive back to the parking lot, pay our six dollars and cross into Mexico.  No pat-downs, no X-ray machines, no taking off our shoes, infact, no Guards!!

I follow Lolli to the Sani Dental Group's office.

We are early so decide to stop and have lunch.

Not bad.  These folks have Mexican food figured out!!

Further into Los Algodones.

Typical border town.

Lolli in front of our dentist building.

In the office/waiting room.

Upstairs.  It is a big place.

We meet the guy who will take our 360 degree X-rays, show us any problems on a computer screen. Once we know what needs fixing we agree to treatment.

Lolli needs two crowns and I need three crowns, one molar pulled and one root canal.

Total price will be $2,250.00

We pay half "upfront" and they get to work.  In rooms beside each other, Lolli gets prepped for crowns, I get a root canal and prepped for crowns.  Once done...,  "Come back tomorrow".

We find the line back to the States to be three blocks long!

After a wait of about 45 minutes, we finally make it to Customs.


We walk to the Vanagon, I pop a couple Aleve and we take off looking for another campsite for the night.  The one we stayed in last night turned out to be on Indian Reservation land and cost's $10;00 a night...., as we found out from the Ranger in the morning.

Anyway, off we go and after about an hour of driving we find a quiet spot between the Gila River and a canal, pop the top and settle in.

We soon discover we are near an ATV trail with four wheelers occasionally zooming past, the Southern Pacific Railroad just across the way, a dirt farmer's road nearby and the flight path of a crop spraying outfit flying just over our heads!  Quite entertaining but as the sun goes down so does all the racket.

Up and at 'em.  Time to head back to the dentist.

This time I have my molar pulled while Lolli walks and gawks around Algodones.

Back to the Vanagon. This time we decide to drive out to the Imperial Dam and see if we can find a spot for the night.  No problem.

Sunday and the dental business is closed,

After a leisurely wake up we drive into Yuma to find a supermarket and a laundromat.

There sure are a lot of fields of salad growing around here.  They are either plowing, planting or harvesting year round.

Near a date farm there is a stand where we buy "Date Shakes".  Yummy!

Monday we return to Algodones for the last time.  We get our crowns and are done!!

Yippee.  Winter Break  has resumed!

Our friends Sam and Debby told us about the Kofa Wilderness Preserve.  They recommend we turn off HWY 95 at the Stone House Road so off we go!

By evening we have driven far enough out on the dirt and gravel Stone House road to get away from other camping Snowbirds and find ourselves a quiet spot to pop the top.  Dinner is soon underway.

In the morning we go for a hike and I accidently kick a Jumping Cholla.  These nasty cacti stick to anything!

By noon I have my hammock up for a nap and Lolli is inside reading her book.   Perfect.

We have an interesting sunset.

In the morning we drive into Quartzite to look around.  We find a laundromat that also has showers.  Usually we use our solar shower bag but it just isn't warm enough to get the solar shower bag up to a comfortable temperature but the shower in Quartzite is wonderful.  Eight dollars for a clean shower stall with a washcloth, towel and soap.  It is heaven after days of spit baths.

One of the locals at the laundromat mentioned we might like Palm Canyon and tell us where to turn off HWY 95.  Away we go.

By the time we get to the turn-off it is starting to get dark.  Lolli wants to park near a large Saguaro Cactus...,  this one will do.  Only one neighbor way off in the distance.

Well, hey!  We are not only camped beside a nice cactus, we are also are parked next to the Kokopeli Spiral!  You can't really see it unless you are standing beside it or walking the rings!

Amazing.  Nobody seems to know who made it.  Some say a French couple on vacation.  There was a rake left by the Saguaro to help maintain the rings.  We stayed two nights.

Back into Quartzite for groceries, propane and another shower.  We were too late to meet Paul, the owner of the used book store, he passed away last Fall.

Oh well.

This time we heard about a Box Canyon with waterfalls!  This involved driving further out into the vast wilderness and take the #49 jeep trail to the box canyon.

Several of the "vados" we come upon Lolli insisted we walk first and check it them out.  At about the fourth crossing when we hop out of the Vanagon I can smell radiator coolant!!  
Oh boy, the Vanagon has been doing so well.  I walk around to the rear of the bus and coolant is running out and dripping on the ground.  Damn.  We are far from any tow trucks and, of course, no cell service.  Hmmm.

I open the engine compartment and discover it is not a broken hose, just the "overflow bottle" overflowing.  I now realize I have been driving in first gear, up and down, and consequently overheated the engine.  The radiator fan has not come on!  Then I remembered I had removed the radiator fuse because it was slowly draining the battery while parked for weeks in our garage.  Duh!

I topped up the coolant, put the fuse back in place, the fan runs and we are good to go.  Whew!

Another mile or so and we are parked at the end of the rough jeep trail.


In the morning we hike up the canyon and find petroglyphs.

Morteros (Indian grinding holes that are worn deep into the bedrock!)

These three still have rainwater in them!

And, on up the trail, "Plunge Pools".

Plus, an interesting Saguaro with its arms crossed!

Some previous campers left some firewood behind!

This is our first evening fire of the whole trip.  Excellent!

Time to start heading home.  We heard about some "Geoglyphs" a few miles north of Blythe and stop to take a look.  They were discovered in 1932 by a pilot landing at Blythe.

They are thought to be thousands of years old.

On the ground they are not so easy to see.

Continuing on we find a place to pull of I-10 for the night.

Another day of driving gets us close to Palm Springs.  We continue on I-10 to the off ramp for HWY 62 towards Yucca Valley and soon pull off to our spot near the windmills.

We are heading to Venice to visit my cousin Charles and his wife Terry.  And we do for two nights.  Terry fixes a Lamb Roast for Lolli like she did last year.  Yummy.

Great visit as always.  Thanks!

Next off to our Potter friend Scott in Ojai for a couple of nights.

He has fruit trees growing in his backyard.

Plus, a lot of pottery.

Another morning in Ojai and it is time to hit the road  We take HWY 33 east up through the Los Padres National Forest, over the top and down past Taff to I-5.

Driving through the wee town of Maricopa we see a parked car with a flag on it saying "OPEN".

"What's open?"

"Tina's Dinner!"

Another one of my great finds.  I love these hole in the wall restaurants where the owner takes your order and the food is slow but real.

You have to look hard but Tina is there in the window!

Don't miss it next time you drive through Mariposa.

Then, more oil wells and soon we are on I-5 heading north.

The generator starts acting up on the way home but I wiggled some wires and it stops acting up.

Trouble Free Motoring.  That's all I ask!!

Another perfect Winter Break in the bag!!