Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't Fence Me In

We left the Palm Springs Thousand Trails this morning and headed east. First we stopped to top off the fuel tank and then the propane tank at the nearby Travel America Travel Center. (expensive place!) Then started driving east.

We found a quiet place on the BLM land set quite a ways back off the freeway and established camp. It's beautiful and quiet and no busy neighbors.

Here is the view upon stepping out of the door. It is pretty much the same view in every direction. Desert, mountains, blue sky and no people.

We opened all of the windows and enjoyed the light breeze and fragrances from the trees and vegetation.

And for Jacob and Emma, papa Doug took this picture of a new friend. (His....not mine)

In the early evening, Doug set up the satellite dish and we cranked up the generator to watch tv for a couple of hours and use the computers. Our Xantrex inverter is not working properly so we will be using the generator for power until we can find a place to repair it.

But, that's ok too. The generator is relatively quiet and provides all of the power we need. At bedtime, the sky was covered with stars and the night was pitch black. It's amazing how different things look away from the bright lights of civilization. And how quiet the night can be.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lazy Day at Home

Well, the Christmas decorations are stowed away for another year and we are already seeing Valentine products on the store shelves. Are you kidding me???? We are looking forward to a New Year's celebration and Walmart is trying to sell us hearts and flowers.

I wish everyday was exciting and new but, instead I had a chance to catch up on some reading and game playing today. After making cookies, we just relaxed. Doug prepared chicken with bacon sandwiches for dinner and we were supremely lazy. How nice.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Joshua Tree

On our quest for boondocking sites, we drove to a recommended area just outside of the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

It's BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and camping is allowed. The wide, open desert has many sites that include firepits, level parking spaces and a few other campers. Doug can hardly wait to do some exploring.

After checking out the expansive sandbox, we decided to drive into Joshua Tree National Park. We had purchased an annual pass when we were back in Oregon and it saved us $15 today on the entrance fee. Sweet!

As usual, our first stop was the visitor center. We love these places. They sell tons of books and clothes and tourist stuff, but they also have free maps and information about the area. The western half of the park is the Mojave Desert habitat and the eastern half is part of the Colorado Desert. Because of the two different habitats, there is a tremendous variety of plants and animals. Everything from bighorn sheep to desert iguana lizards and 40' tall Joshua trees to tiny wildflowers coexist peacefully.

There are several campgrounds inside the park that are geared toward smaller rigs. Our 40' coach would fit, however it's very tight.

The road meanders about 50 miles through the park with lots of turnouts and informational signs. There is something for everyone when it comes to hiking trails. Short ones, long ones, uphill into the mountains ones and the terrain is so diverse. You drive through miles of sandy wash desert, then mountains of stacked rocks.

We didn't get all the way through the park due to time constraints, but we did find time for a snowball fight! Doug started it.....

And I finished it!

We will definitely venture back into the park to see the rest of it. So much to see and so little time!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ocotillo Wells SVRA

Our adventure for the day included a trip along the Salton Sea to the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. In plain english, that's an 80,000 acre park for playing on off-road vehicles like dirt bikes and dune buggies.

It is part of the California State Park system and allows free camping and playing. Since we are looking for a place to boondock (camp without power and water and fees) next week, we thought this might be a terrific place to be.

We drove to the ranger station and received some good information and advice. The recent rains have caused havoc for several of the areas where people camp. The ground is still muddy and wet. And the entire area is open to off road vehicles. So it can be very noisy.

We drove to four of the areas available for camping and decided that it probably wasn't our best idea of the year. It is beautiful and if we were just passing through and spent a night or two, it would be an ideal situation. But, to make it a destination for a week, not so much.

Still, we enjoyed the day and Doug would love to go back and rent a dune buggy for a day. It looked like everyone was having a blast! And 80,000 acres is a big playground.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Simple Christmas

We spent a quiet day at home in the coach. A few Christmas shows were on the tv and the phone was in constant use. But mainly, we just relaxed and let the Christmas rush go by us.

No driving to see relatives or baking or cooking. No snow to shovel or last minute shopping. (We did go buy a loaf of bread to make toasted cheese sandwiches.) There were no obligations or pretend jolliness. Simply quiet, joyful peace.

Sure, there were some things we missed. We would have loved to see Jacob and Emma's faces as they tore open gifts. And the fact that Chris had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas day was not a pleasant thought. But, I know that one day we will all share Christmas together again.

Hope your day was all that you expected and guess what.....we get to do it all over again in 364 more days!

Happy Holidays

And Merry Christmas to all of our dear family and friends. We are sending you our love and wishes for a happy day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Decorating for Christmas

Doug spent the afternoon decorating for Christmas. It's a little late, but better late than never. There are quite a few coaches and sites that are decked out and it's fun to see what others have done.

First he put our Christmas palm trees in place.

Then added Frosty to the small plot and some candy canes.

We finished off the inside with strings of blinking lights along the top of the kitchen slide out and a dozen small, lit trees on the dash. On the steering wheel table is a large snowglobe that lights up and blows fake snow all over inside. The beautiful tree skirt on the table was made by my Mom.

It will only be in place for a few days, but now it feels a little more like Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our mail was ready for pick up at the La Quinta Post Office today. So, a quick trip to get the box resulted in another successful geocache find and an afternoon of sightseeing.

We followed some signs to a nearby county park.

And were delighted to find not only this beautiful fishing lake, but also a decent rv park.

After checking out Lake Cahuilla, we just chose a street and started driving. Along the road were dozens of grapefruit trees. They were so loaded with fruit that Doug pulled onto the shoulder and I was able to pick them from the open window of the car. (We had been told that it was OK to pick them.)

These things were huge! That's a tennis ball next to them for comparison. I foresee lots of citrus in my future.

We continued our drive out into the desert. Doug picked a dirt road and off we went. We stopped several times to enjoy the scenery and plants, but were terribly discouraged by the amount of garbage dumped in the desert. There was everything from large appliances to mattresses and clothing and just junk. We both felt so sad that this beautiful land was being defiled that we turned around and went back to the main road.

The highlight of the day was our late lunch at the local In N Out Burger. It was the first time we had eaten there and we were surprised by the menu. Your choices are: Double-Double burger, Cheeseburger or Hamburger. Of course, they serve fries and drinks too. But what a simple menu. And the place was packed! Delicious! I was afraid that I would be disappointed after the big build-up I had read on the internet. Not at all. The prices were comparable with the other well know fast food chain, but what a difference in the burgers. Nuff said from an old fast food purveyor. We'll go back.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coachella Valley Preserve

Ok......after telling you we weren't doing anything exciting, we took a ride to find a geocache.

It was a simple one located near some sand dunes and only took a few minutes to find. So, we continued our ride along the road we were on to see what we could see.

We ran across the Coachella Valley Preserve and decided to stop. We knew that the area we are in is called Thousand Palms. But we had no idea why.

Until we saw these. It is like a modern day oasis in the desert. And there are several of these oases.

The visitor center was closed for the day, but we picked up a brochure and started following the McCallum Trail.

It was gorgeous! The trail wound through the palm trees.........

and across wet areas. We soon found out that this sits on the San Andreas fault and where the plates have shifted, water is forced to the surface. And these oases are formed.

Doug straddled the San Andreas fault for his photo op!

We walked a mile along the trail through the desert until we came to the McCallum Pond. This beautiful area sits in another oasis and reminded me of the lagoon on Gilligan's Island. (I know....I'm crazy) The pond is full of tiny fish that are on the endangered species list. They are found in only 2 rivers that empty into the Salton Sea. These two inch pupfish look almost translucent and were impossible to photograph.

It's hard to imagine how huge these trees are. Doug posed next to one so you could get an idea.

We took a short rest amongst some of the palms, then headed back to the car. The park gate closes at 5 pm and we didn't want to get locked in for the night.

As we arrived back at the parking lot, the attendant was getting ready to close the gate. We struck up a conversation and found out that he is a workamper there at the park. He and his wife volunteer 20 hours a week and receive a site for their motorhome and full hookups in exchange. They work in the visitor center, perform minor maintenance and occasionally lead tours on the various trails. Since this is something we have considered doing, we picked his brain and had a fascinating (to us) conversation.

We drove out of the gate just as the sun was setting. (Obligatory sunset picture!)

So ends another not so boring day! And best of all......it was free!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho Hum Stay at Home

Not every day is filled with sightseeing and exciting new things. Sometimes it's nice to just sit and accomplish the mundane chores of life. We have spent the last couple of days doing laundry and cleaning. We have vacuumed up tons of dog hair and will probably find it laying around for weeks.

We also did some grocery shopping and installed the power booster for the electricity. The park we are in has 30 amp service and it doesn't always provide even power.

We visited with neighbors and cooked and watched tv and played games. Boring, boring, boring.
But necessary sometimes. Since we will be here in this park a while, we will be getting a lot of chores done and resume our vagabond life after the new year.

But, stay tuned. You never know when we might do something wild and crazy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bye, Buddy

It was a sad day at our house. Our sweet Buddy dog became too ill to continue the journey. Following inconclusive x-rays, we decided that, at his age (10 1/2), the kindest thing to do was to let him go to sleep. He passed with his head on Doug's knee, looking into his eyes.

We will sure miss him, but thanked him for being such a true, loyal friend and goofball.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Driving Rain

We spent the day driving in the rain from our peaceful desert location to the Palm Springs Thousand Trails park in Palm Desert, CA. The rain started in the middle of the night and continued non stop throughout the day.

Doug set up the coach in the rain, unhooked the car in the rain and set up the tv in the rain. Even stepping outside on the patio is soggy.

But we are still lightyears ahead of our family and friends in the northwest. Snow, snow everywhere!

Our pal Al sent us this photo of the road near Stanwood, WA. No thank you!

And my daughter Bridgit called to let us know that she had been in a bad car accident in the snow in East Wenatchee. She was on her way to the school to pick up grandson Jacob who was sick and another car slid through a stop sign right in front of her. They were both spun in circles and Bridgit smashed into a light pole. Fortunately, both she and 5 year old Emma were buckled in tight and were fine. The other driver was taken to the hospital to be checked out. Poor Jacob was stuck at school for two more hours until his other Grandma could pick up him and Bridgit and Emma. The car is totalled but my babies are all safe.

Speaking of Jacob and Emma, I have to share their Christmas picture with you. Sure miss them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boondocking at Hi Jolly

What a neat day. We left Phoenix in the late morning and drove east on I-10. When we reached the Vicksburg exit, we decided to fill the tanks and found the Zip Travel Stop. The sign read $1.91 for diesel and we were thrilled. But, when we pulled up to the pump, the price for autos and rvs was only $1.85. Wow, wow, wow! We filled the coach tank for less than half of what we paid just two months ago.

Shortly after our stop, we arrived at Quartzsite and headed north on 95. About a mile out of town, we saw some rvs parked in the desert and stopped to check it out. It is the Hi Jolly dispersed camping area. There's tons of room in the desert and the cost is zero, nada, zilch, nothing!

We pulled off the road into the desert and this is the view from our door. There are other rvs but there is so much open space that you hardly notice them.

We are only spending one night here in the desert and I hope we return soon.

Doug was excited to build a campfire. But, it was pretty windy and we decided to save the firewood for another evening.

We watched the sun go down over the hills, fixed some french dip sandwiches for dinner and relaxed.

Happy Birthday tooooooo Youuuuuuu

Today was the fourth anniversary of my daughter, Bridgit's 29th birthday. Yup, she's almost, officially, close to, nearing, just about 30. (33) Happy birthday darling daughter. I wish I was there to celebrate.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is our last day in the Phoenix area and we couldn't leave without a visit to my son. He and his sweetheart live in the northwest corner of Phoenix and we are in the southeast corner of Apache Junction. So we set off down the freeway in the driving rain for 45 miles.

We found their condo fairly easily and had a great visit. It was our first chance to meet Adriana and we think she's a keeper. She just finished college and will be applying for law school soon. Obviously, she is smart and beautiful. I always knew that Mick has good taste.

We also met their two dogs, Chloe and Scarlett.

The afternoon just flew by and it was getting dark by the time we left. But, we had no trouble finding our way home. And, tomorrow, we are on the road again.