Monthly Archives: January 2017

1000days, 100000k’s

Ridgecrest is a town that primarily exists for the purpose of supporting the extensive Air Force base community on its doorstep. Anyway, we needed a tyre repair as it would seem that we can drive off-road over all sorts of nasty shale and rocks and the only two punctures we have received all trip have been from nails!!!! I’d plugged it myself but thought a professional repair may help the tyre reach the end of its serviceable life without further attention.

Getting our tyre repaired in Ridgecrest

Getting our tyre repaired in Ridgecrest

The guy who owned this tyre should've stopped sooner - speed may have been a factor??

The guy who owned this tyre should’ve stopped sooner – speed may have been a factor??

After a resupply, we headed for the ghost town of Randsburg that we had heard was worthy of a visit but they clearly weren’t in any need of an economic boost as all the tourist related businesses were closed!

Randsburg all closed for business today but interesting to look at

Randsburg all closed for business today but interesting to look at

More Randsburg

More Randsburg

Speed definitely a factor!!!

Speed definitely a factor!!!

South of Barstow, we camped in a BLM campsite named Sawtooth Canyon. Not surprisingly, this is a favourite with climbers due to the amazing granite rock formations all over the site.

Have to love the BLM!

Have to love the BLM!

Sawtooth Canyon Camp

Sawtooth Canyon Camp

We ended up staying around 5 nights and it was just lovely although a weekend falling within the duration of our stay did have the unfortunate side effect of filling every campsite with some sort of temporary home.

Lovely skies

Lovely skies

We’d noticed a large 5th wheel upon our arrival and at one stage I thought I heard the unmistakable twang of an Australian accent! Turned out that it was some little West Aussie Battlers, proving I do listen contrary to Jennifer’s observations…

Now residents of the US, Amber and her parents Gloria and Ted (originally from Perth) husband Charlie (the outsider in this group being a born and bred American) and their children Piper and Peyton, decided much to the confused reactions of family and friends that they would all head off and wander the USA for a couple of years in an RV together! What better way to see the sights of this large land than via a long-term road trip! Full points to them and they were a wonderful bunch to hang out with!!!

From left to right - Amber, PIper, Charlie, Peyton, Gloria and Ted

From left to right – Amber, PIper, Charlie, Peyton, Gloria and Ted

Over the weekend, a little extra excitement was had by one unfortunate visitor thanks to rather gusty conditions. It made for a rather expensive day out …

Expensive day out for this guy...

Expensive day out for this guy…

Given my comments on generators in various posts, and their ability to remove any sense of tranquility, I urge you to read on!

Sawtooth Canyon boasts a nice large sign at the entrance stating the rules and regulations including QUIET time between 10pm and 8am. Obviously the nearby couple in a mid size camper van must have been illiterate!

Yep you can see it coming can’t you!

They started their generator at 5am (I know because that’s when it woke me). The subsequent brain aneurism that Jen appeared to suffer resulted in her rapidly getting up and heading off into the darkness toward the now very brightly lit RV from whence the noise was emanating! The next thing I heard was a dog barking before the pleasant sound of nothing as the generator was quickly killed! Ahhh she really is a tyrant!

Jen, after knocking on their door, was greeted with startled looks before she graciously pointed out that campsite QUIET time certainly stretches past 5am and right through to 8am! As it turned out, she was even more effective than I could have imagined, for not 20 minutes later the vehicle came to life and they promptly departed. We watched their taillights reducing in size as they followed the track out and we were really disappointed to see them leave… Hahaha

Just north of Barstow

Just north of Barstow

We visited Barstow again and travelled a bit more of historic “Route 66” through town before making our way further east into the Mojave desert in order to travel the historic Mojave Trail. Enroute is a military storage facility in which is parked acre after acre of military Humvee’s and various other armored equipment, row after row. Many had flat tyres and doors left wide-open suggesting its all surplus and in case of global emergency only I guess!

Barstow

Barstow

Military Surplus

Military Surplus

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Humvees to the horizon...

Humvees to the horizon…

As we pulled up alongside the security fence for a photo opportunity, passers by slowed and stared, scrutinising us as they assumed the weird vehicle and it’s camera-toting occupants must be up to no good! No doubt the dry and arid atmosphere supplies the perfect location for storing equipment long term as corrosion is reduced considerably.

Originally a Mohave Indian Trading Route, it subsequently became a military wagon trail to provide supplies to Fort Mojave on the Colorado River before being replaced by a railroad in 1883. The Mojave Trail today, is generally traversed by 4×4 enthusiasts looking for a more challenging and alternate entry point into Mojave National Preserve. It was a great way to experience a bit of history whilst enjoying more of our favourite dark night skies and even some Desert Big Horn Sheep.

Desert Big Horn Sheep

Desert Big Horn Sheep

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The Mojave Road

The Mojave Road

Mojave Road Guestbook and Shrine

Mojave Road Guestbook and Shrine

I’ve noticed that during our time in the US traversing some of the more famous 4×4 trails, US perceptions of remote travel are vastly different from those in Australia. You certainly can get yourself into trouble and need to be prepared out in these areas, but rarely have we been in a situation where we would not encounter another vehicle within a few days or require extended fuel range for that matter.

For example, much of the Mojave Trail is just within view of the Interstate! I do not wish to detract from these journeys, as they are really outstanding, and offer varied and lovely scenery with challenging driving – it’s just the higher population density I suppose!

The interstate is just visible in the background whilst we are driving Soda Lake on the Mojave Road

The interstate is just visible in the background whilst we are driving Soda Lake on the Mojave Road

Mojave National Preserve provided an amazing variation of scenery within its desert terrain – ancient volcanic lava fields, Joshua Tree forests, stunning granite boulders and trails for both hiking and 4wding.

Inside Lava Tubes in Mojave NP

Inside Lava Tubes in Mojave NP

Mojave Vista

Mojave Vista

Wildcamping in Mojave

Wildcamping in Mojave

Appropriately named "Ringloops" trail

Appropriately named “Ringloops” trail

We found a 4wd only trail in the east of the park called the Macedonia Canyon Trail and it was a lovely drive. However the maps failed to advise that where the western end of the trail exits back onto the main road again involves passing under a railway line with a car no bigger than a Corolla!!!! We had to drive about 5kms north on an extremely sandy, overgrown track until we finally found a spot with just enough clearance.

Macedonia Canyon Trail

Macedonia Canyon Trail

I don't know how many 4WD's could make it under this exit?

I don’t know how many 4WD’s could make it under this exit?

This is the main exit!!! Never going to make it!

This is the main exit!!! Never going to make it!

So we keep looking for a way out

So we keep looking for a way out

Finally!!!

Finally!!!

It was in the south of Mojave NP whilst camped amongst these wonderful granite boulder formations, that the wind decided to interrupt us as it came in with vengeance. I’d heard on the radio that there was a severe wind warning in effect for the area and they were certainly accurate!!!

Our lovely granite boulder camp before the wind!

Our lovely granite boulder camp before the wind!

Quite late in the evening, the winds slowly increased in ferocity and although our camper is able to withstand such gusts (and has done so previously), we elected, for the first time in our whole journey, to retract the camper roof and enjoy a less appealing sleeping position, safe in the knowledge that no damage could be sustained should the situation deteriorate any further.  A brief step outside proved that the camper had indeed belied the true severity of the situation, as I could barely stand upright into the wind!!!

Fortunately we are able to sleep in our little camper with the roof down although being rather short is an advantage!

New sleeping arrangements

New sleeping arrangements

Enroute to Joshua Tree National Park via Amboy and we were once again traversing an old section of Route 66 and relics of a bygone era. To the south and in light of the previous nights experience with the wind, we sought to find a sheltered camp and hit the jackpot! Lovely granite once again but obviously another popular area for target practice as you couldn’t walk more than a step in any direction without spotting used shells and damaged projectiles!

Amboy on Old Route 66 - now pretty much abandoned

Amboy on Old Route 66 – now pretty much abandoned

Nearby Amboy Crater and Lava Field

Nearby Amboy Crater and Lava Field

Our Protected Camp - Blissfully still!

Our Protected Camp – Blissfully still!

When do you ever find a campsite like this???

When do you ever find a campsite like this???

Clearly a favourite spot for target practice - a 10 minute walk found all this

Clearly a favourite spot for target practice – a 10 minute walk found all this

The whole area north and east of Palm Springs and around the town of 29 Palms is a bit weird I’d have to say. Completely dilapidated with the most popular form of housing sitting atop decayed tyres and decorated in a style only achievable by doing nothing to your trailer home for 30 years other than live in it and throw your rubbish out the door!

Got to minus 6 degrees C

Got to -6C overnight!

The northwestern portion of Joshua Tree NP is by far the stand out with superb vistas of the namesake Joshua Trees amongst stunning granite formations. Further in, the Cholla Cactus Garden was also a worthy stop.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden

Also known as Teddy Bear Cactus because they look so cuddly from a distance!

Also known as Teddy Bear Cactus because they look so cuddly from a distance!

Ocotillo Cactus

Ocotillo Cactus

Just south of Joshua Tree, we camped once again with our nomadic friends, Laurie and Ron, and enjoyed Christmas Lunch this time! Seems we’ve been able to time our interludes quite nicely to appropriately line up with celebrations that include Laurie preparing some form of fabulous meal for us to enjoy whilst Ron and I relax with a few ales! At this rate I’ll only need the fridge to keep the beer cold!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Back with Laurie, Ron and Jeff

Back with Laurie, Ron and Jeff

It also became apparent that we had more in common with these guys than would seem statistically possible!

One night whilst enjoying a few beverages, Laurie and Ron were showing us some pictures of Ron’s Cabin in the Yukon and one view of the area looked remarkably familiar! Some comparing of maps and photos revealed that we had in fact camped less than 500mtrs from Ron’s Yukon home!

The statistical anomaly came into play when we realised that the Yukon has a population of approx. 35,000 people of which some 30,000+ live in the territory capital of Whitehorse and other regional towns leaving barely a few thousand people to inhabit the remaining 536,000 square kms that is the Yukon Territory. That we would then meet Laurie and Ron in a country with a population of 330 million people and even then cross paths with them in a remote part of the Nevada Desert just seemed staggering to both us and them! In fact we camped at the exact spot that Laurie had camped when she first met Ron…

Yukon River Camp

Yukon River Camp – Ron’s place is just in those trees beyond

Whilst here and with the weather quite dreary, Jen and Laurie headed into Palm Springs for a day of shopping, leaving the men folk to relish in their absence, and enjoyable it most definitely was!

Desert Training Camp

We were camped at one of General Patton’s Desert Training Camps for WWII

It was very late in the day before they returned in possession of a brand new Dodge Ram!! Seems Laurie does take her shopping quite seriously! After we all stood there with mouths ajar for a spell contemplating the depth of the days purchases, it became apparent it was all a rouse with the intention of giving Ron a heart attack!

In fact, the truth of the matter was that they had driven Laurie’s Chevy the whole 50km into town that morning in limp mode. Upon departure, the Chevy’s computer had spat out a fault code that rendered the vehicle unable to achieve speeds above 40km/h on the Interstate where the limit of 120km/h is seen more as a minimum! After leaving it at a dealership for repairs they decided to have a bit of a laugh at Ron’s expense with the hire car… Poor bastard!

Happy endings however, as they returned the following day and retrieved the now repaired Chevy. The downside of course was the lighter load in Laurie’s wallet after the bill was paid!

Look at the size of these things!

Look at the size of these things! We are heading to the snowbird nest!

On the move again, we made for Quartzsite. This odd little town deserves a special mention! Grey Nomads in Australia are known as Snowbirds here! Well if you’re a Snowbird, it seems that this is where you will ALL be nesting during the winter months.

Acres and acres of RV’s occupied and for sale! The amount of money parked around this town is absolutely staggering. There are 4 areas known as LTVA’s (long term visitor areas), where for a small fee ($US180 so we’ve been told) you can park for up to 6 months in the desert just outside Quartzsite with services such as rubbish collection, water and sanitary dump points, making it the true nomad Mecca!

Motorhome and RV Mecca

Motorhome and RV Mecca

We had no chance capturing it with our camera as it really is a vast sea of RV’s in every direction.

The LTVA south of Quartzsite

The LTVA south of Quartzsite

They even have shuttle buses to transport the Snowbirds into town for events organised solely for the greying fraternity. From dances and shows, book signings, restaurant deals, expos and flea markets, along with RV repair shops and dealers the list goes on and on. Not to mention a strange little bookstore…

Cool Stuff in Quartzsite! Everything is for sale

Cool Stuff in Quartzsite! Everything is for sale

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Bought Vintage Snow Shoes Here...

Bought Vintage Snow Shoes Here…

One owner-always loved???

One owner-always loved???

A notorious local who owns the bookstore...

A notorious local who owns the bookstore…

There is also quite a lot of BLM land available in the area which allows up to 14 days free camping and gives travellers preferring the wide open spaces a little more choice over the fairly high density camping nearer the town.  No prize for guessing where we headed…

Saguaro Giant Cactus

Saguaro Giant Cactus

New Year arrived quite suddenly for us, as it seems calendars and even the date for that matter have lost more and more relevance the longer we’ve been travelling!

With the end of 2016 upon us, we thought we’d try and make midnight rather than end up in bed by 10pm and thanks to a little internet compliments of Ronald McDonald, we achieved that end after making a slight detour and found ourselves dribbling into the early hours of 2017 in the comfort of the 5th wheel with Laurie and Ron once again.

New Years and what do you know - back with Laurie, Ron and Jeff!

New Years and what do you know – back with Laurie, Ron and Jeff!

I think these guys are stalking us to be honest or maybe it’s the other way around?

KofA (King of Arizona) National Wildlife Refuge proved to be perfectly in sync with the way we love to travel – excellent 4×4 tracks amongst sensational scenery. Although we’d spotted the odd Saguaro cactus as we’d moved back toward Arizona this was our first taste of these terrific cactus in large numbers and we found them truly amazing and wonderful to camp amongst.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Trails in Kofa

Trails in Kofa

Spiky little things!

Spiky little things!

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With a multitude of cactus varieties in the area growing amongst the desert varnished rocks and ridges, the whole reserve has quite a unique persona.

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No hunting now that you are leaving the refuge???

No hunting now that you are leaving the refuge???

The area had also been a testing range for WW2 ordinance and signs recommending caution when out wandering were there for good reason!

Live rounds...

Live rounds…

Enroute to our border crossing into Mexico, we passed through Yuma Proving Ground where all manner of armament is tried and thoroughly tested!

Yuma Proving Grounds Display

Yuma Proving Grounds Display

Migs on sticks - choppers on sticks - same, same

After a restock in the town of Yuma, where we sat in the car outside a Starbucks for what seemed like hours sucking free WIFI, we spent our last night in the US camped on Sidewinder road, only made auspicious in our minds by the fact that our trip counter had just clocked 1000days of travel and coincidentally 100,000km as well since departing Vladivostok!

100,000kms on the trip!

100,000kms on the trip!

1000 days travelling

1000 days travelling

Just arbitrary numbers I guess but it held some value for us!

Sidewinder Rd Camp - Mexico tomorrow...

Sidewinder Rd Camp – Mexico tomorrow…

Mexico was beckoning us to become sunburnt beach bums so Baja here we come!!

Justin.

 

Do You Believe???

Generally we like to settle down for our camping experiences away from the generator crowd, a point I’ve no doubt made previously!

Meaning that if you see a caravan, 5th wheel, small camper van or “A” Class motor home (Winnebago style coach camper) pretty well anywhere in the US, then run the other way as the chances of them not requiring petrol powered electricity to run their coffee maker, microwave and hair dryer is rather slim! There are the exceptions however and they do seem to be growing in number.

So there we are, camped all by our lonesome near the Fish Lake Hot Springs when a cloud of dust appears in the distance – incoming visitors no doubt. Eventually the vehicle stirring up the dust appeared ahead of the dust cloud much like a passenger jet leading a jet stream. I use that analogy because the vehicle approaching wasn’t a lot smaller than a Russian Antonov!

We look at each other and sigh, “well it’s their country and we can’t very well tell them to go away and desist from damaging our calm now can we?”…

Closer now and our upside down smiles slowly recover to reveal a happier expression as we see the whole roof is covered in solar panels!

Laurie's Solar Wonder!

Laurie’s Solar Wonder!

And so it was that we met Cat Lady Laurie and Yukon Ron and of course their resident cats!

Laurie has been on the road pretty much full time since 2002. She’s a little smarter than your average RV’er and made the move early on to complete self-reliance through solar! Not only that but Laurie completes all the solar and electrical installations herself – right down to converting all her RV light fixtures to low draw LED technology!

Having a look at this installation quickly showed how fastidious she is and makes other off grid power systems I’ve seen look pretty second rate.

Anyway she has a massive solar setup with a battery bank of 960A/H and 1602 watts of solar, that’s 1.6-kilowatts! It allows them complete electrical freedom without requiring hookups or a generator EVER and yes – she can use the microwave!

If you just greyed out and that all sounded like gobbledy gook, I apologise. I just love solar power along with the freedom and peaceful camping experience that it provides. If you’re not overly savvy on solar systems, I’ll put it in simple terms – Laurie’s RV puts out more solar power than an average solar installation on a house!!!

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After a soak in nature’s hot tub, we all ended up drinking back in the 5th wheel. As it turns out, Laurie’s partner, Ron, has a gold mining lease in the Yukon where, until recently, he lived full time for the better part of the last 40 years. Hearing about the conditions he’s experienced during that time in the Yukon, I was amazed! Temperatures below minus 40°C in the winter, hearing your breath freeze as you exhale, the northern lights, panning for gold and living off the land. An easy guy to chat with, although it meant that we managed to run down both of our beer supplies rather quickly. Make of that what you will…

Laurie was a wealth of information regarding free camping and she shared a few favourite spots before we departed with tentative plans to catch up with these cool travellers in the weeks ahead.

Desert Sands in the Wind

Desert Sands in the Wind

We made a brief stop in Tonopah and with strong winds whipping the desert sands, we sought (at some length) to find a sheltered camp. However, nothing could stop the overnight temperatures diving below zero for the next few days, once to -8°C! The following days saw the wind abate slightly and we made a side trip to Lunar Crater, an interesting area of ancient volcanic activity.

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The volcanic landscape around Lunar Crater

The volcanic landscape around Lunar Crater

Lunar Crater

Lunar Crater

Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces

Enroute to the Extraterrestrial Hwy

Enroute to the Extraterrestrial Hwy

The Extraterrestrial Hwy came into view as we wandered across Nevada’s desert backcountry and skirted Area 51… this is what the crowd came to see!!! All in good humour of course….

The Little A’le’Inn is a mandatory stop if you’ve ever watched the movie “Paul” and had Jen tasting what may have been the smallest hotdog ever created – luckily she ordered a side of fries! Given the “super size” reputation of serves in the US generally, this came as a bit of a shock! The hotdog was made even harder to spot on the plate given that it wasn’t much larger than the fries themselves… No I’m not kidding!

Commencing the Extraterrestrial Hwy

Commencing the Extraterrestrial Hwy

Our Alien Guide

Our Alien Guide

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The Little A'Le'Inn - home of the worlds smallest hotdog!!

The Little A’Le’Inn – home of the worlds smallest hotdog!!

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On to the Black Mail Box, a supposed alien communication point, which sadly has become a rubbish dump for passers by, so often the case when sites are accessible to human degenerates without any real effort required!

The Black Mailbox

The Black Mailbox

It’s not hard to see why Area 51 is geographically located where it is, with large expanses of flat featureless terrain between jagged mountain ranges with only low vegetation and an obviously arid dry climate. It’s a first class area to test out your military aircraft or maybe encounter the odd crash-landed Alien Space Ship.

The whole area is an air force training playground including the real Top Gun training facility so it’s not surprising that you might see and hear a fighter jet or 2!

With eyes wandering skyward now and then to keep an eye on the jet streams, we could easily tell when the air force were out playing as you don’t often see commercial jets making knife edge turns, not to mention that the air force were out playing pretty much all of the time making the task pretty easy.

It had us enjoying our own private air show with sonic boom after sonic boom, dog fighting and low fly-bys!

Dogfighting Jets above complete with sonic booms

Dogfighting Jets above complete with sonic booms

The locals have really taken to the concept

The locals have really taken to the concept

So did this touring family...Alien Roadtrip!!

So did this touring family…Alien Roadtrip!!

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Alien Research Center

IMG_5663 IMG_5667Arriving at end of the Extraterrestrial Hwy and with the lights of Las Vegas once again easily visible during the hours of darkness we spent a few nights camped at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge!

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

I only make mention of National Wildlife Refuges as it has come to my attention that wildlife refuges don’t necessarily mean safe haven for animals! Remembering context here, we are in the USA, the land of firearms so yes, you can hunt in these refuges! Whilst there are restrictions, I’m not sure if the meaning of “refuge” has been lost somewhere in the vocabulary over here! Haha

Photo Courtesy of Pahranaget NWR Website - seriously!

Photo Courtesy of Pahranaget NWR Website – seriously!

With information from the helpful volunteers at the NWR visitor centre, we decided to wander a track known as the Alamo Road toward Vegas. Although not so far from Vegas, the whole area really has quite a remote feel to it. A couple of days elapsed as we wandered it’s length with only 1 other vehicle encountered, rather more relaxing than the Interstate and certainly rougher and dustier.

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees

Alamo Road Scenery

Alamo Road Scenery

More Alamo Road

More Alamo Road

Justin fixing a puncture

Justin fixing a puncture

You're never far from a bombing range in Nevada

You’re never far from a bombing range in Nevada

The outskirts of Las Vegas was next for a quick restock before we enjoyed a few of the scenic drives to the west.

Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas

More Red Rock Canyon

More Red Rock Canyon

Heading north-west now toward Death Valley National Park, we found free campsites pretty easy to find, although locating one not already occupied by a local practicing his quick draw routine with his Glock hand gun was a little more tricky! Truly you wander just off the Hwy around this part of the world and you’ll more than likely run into someone practicing his or her rapid-fire technique.

Laurie and Ron, mentioned earlier, had provided us with the location they would probably be at just outside Death Valley for a spell, so in the end we made for their site and found them camped up with another RV that they often travel with containing Jeff and Larry the Lynx Point cat! The drinks came easily and an invite was forwarded our way should we like to celebrate Thanksgiving with these guys!

Lunch was prepared by Laurie for the Thanksgiving celebrations and I can only describe it as bloody lovely! Probably made even more so by the amount of beer that Ron and I consumed as our entrée! It should be noted that Thanksgiving is generally a bigger celebration than Christmas here in the states.

Inside Laurie and Ron's Palatial 5th Wheel

Inside Laurie and Ron’s Palatial 5th Wheel

Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving!

Ron opted to skip the pumpkin pie and go straight for the aerosol cream!!!

Ron opted to skip the pumpkin pie and go straight for the aerosol cream!!!

Armed with another list of travel tips such as where to find cheap clothes washing and top up with water in Death Valley NP, we finally departed again! Might not sound like much if you’re at home with your Maytag idling in the background and your water dispenser on your fridge but for us that sort of info has serious value!

$8 was the requested remuneration for a loaf of bread in the town of Furnace Creek within the park – that’s $11 Australian. Unbelievable! Made even ruder by the fact that you’re only an hours drive from the nearest town with supermarkets, so knowing where to stock up can be handy when towns like Furnace Creek attempt to take you for a ride.

Jen and Laurie attended a stone tool making demonstration called flintknapping

Jen and Laurie attended a stone tool making demonstration called Flintknapping in Furnace Creek, Death Valley NP

Some examples of the tools

Some examples of the tools made from Obsidian using traditional methods

Cholla Cactus (Pronounced Choya)

Cholla Cactus (Pronounced Choya)

Beautiful California Barrel Cactus

Beautiful California Barrel Cactus

Desert Holly

Desert Holly

Snapshots of Death Valley

Snapshots of Death Valley

Death Valley NP is also a 4×4 friendly park with lots of off road trails as well as allowing wild camping in many places within the reserve. Given the size of the park however, it really makes sense to allow a little more personal freedom as quite a lot of driving is required if you wish to discover much of what’s on offer.

Cool Stew Mcgoo - a fellow traveller

Cool Stew Mcgoo – a fellow traveller

Stew Mcgoo's notes on Death Valley

Stew Mcgoo’s cool notes on Death Valley

From altitudes of 11,049ft (3367mtrs) at Telescope Peak (Death Valley’s Highest Peak) to the lowest point in North America at -282ft (-86mtrs) at Badwater Basin salt lake, you can encounter everything from snow to swelteringly hot weather within the parks confines, depending on when you choose to visit of course.

Badwater Basin 282ft Below Sea Level

Badwater Basin 282ft Below Sea Level

Lowest Point in North America -282ft

Lowest Point in North America -282ft

Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley

Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley

That's snow at the base!!!

That’s snow at the base!!!

Death Valley also holds the record for being the hottest place on Earth with temperatures as high as 134° F (Nearly 57°C!!!)

Badwater Basin Viewed from Dante's Peak

Badwater Basin Viewed from Dante’s Peak

Twenty Mule Team Canyon Drive

Twenty Mule Team Canyon Drive

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Always good to wear appropriate footwear

Always good to wear appropriate footwear

Artists Palette Drive

Artists Palette Drive

Titus Canyon was definitely a stand out for us in the park. A 60km one way drive with the first half being rather mundane washboard but followed by a lovely gradual descent thorough an ever-narrowing canyon back to the centre of the park.

Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon

Lots of 4x4 Trails

Lots of 4×4 Trails

Looking for a camp a bit later than normal

Looking for a camp a bit later than normal

This is isolation!!

This is isolation!!

Devils Golf Course

Devils Golf Course

Tricky Hikes

Tricky Hikes

Another park highlight is known as the Race Track. A long and very corrugated track leads to a salt lake at altitude, which had for years, been the subject of conjecture amongst geologists and locals alike! Large rocks leave tracks over the surface of the lake, as they wander aimlessly across the dead flat surface of the lake.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater

Teakettle Junction enroute to the Racetrack

Teakettle Junction enroute to the Racetrack

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The Racetrack

The Racetrack and it was bloody freezing!

IMG_6173The mystery was finally solved with the use of time-lapse photography. Seems that in just the right conditions, those being an almost frozen moist lake surface and a strong wind, the rocks are able to skid along the surface! I’m not surprised there are so many tracks given one of the ingredients for creating them is near freezing conditions as we spent a bloody cold night camped nearby! I love my camper heater very much I have to admit…

We opted to exit the Race Track area, and ultimately the park, via the Lippincott Pass 4×4 Trail. Glad we weren’t in anything larger than our Patrol or we’d be on our lid! A great drive but it certainly did require 4×4! After departing the park we wandered around all over the place seeing what we could see!

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Checking the track

Checking the track

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Apart from a couple of features, much of the landscape outside Death Valley shares the same odd geological components as the Park itself and gives some insight into just how large this arid sunburnt and often frozen landscape really is.

Remains of old tramway in Saline Valley

Remains of old tramway in Saline Valley

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Such an arid landscape

Such an arid landscape

More washboard!!! YAY!!!

More washboard!!! YAY!!!

Burro!

Burro!

We continued south and found ourselves camped in an odd landscape known as Trona Pinnacles – a filming location for over thirty film projects a year which are shot amongst these tufa (limestone) pinnacles, including series such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Lost in Space, and Planet of the Apes. But the highlight for us was the vivid sunsets and the resident Kit Fox.

Kit Fox

Kit Fox

Obviously quite comfortable in our presence....

Obviously quite comfortable in our presence….

Trona Pinnacles - filming location of "Planet of the Apes"

Trona Pinnacles

Our camp at Trona Pinnacles - not an ape in sight, except for Justin

Our camp at Trona Pinnacles – not an ape in sight, except for Justin

Sunset Pics - Trona Pinnacles

Sunset Pics – Trona Pinnacles

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Justin.

 

 

 

 

 

Make America Great Again!

Following our usual travel ethos, we followed a reasonable selection of back roads that eventually deposited us at the Boeing Factory car park where we enjoyed a tour of the facility. To be honest it wasn’t overly riveting, a bit like watching paint dry really and a lot of time observing workers making use of their smart phones!

Boeing Factory Delivery Lot

Boeing Factory Delivery Lot

The "large" Boeing Assembly Building

The “large” Boeing Assembly Building

The “Airbus” brand bashing by the tour guide did get a little tiring after a while, but left us in no doubt that he loves being part of Boeing! He was very well versed on the size of the Boeing facility and complex as well with a never ending stream of statistics about the facility. But to be fair, it’s pretty hard to zaz up watching a few pieces of a Boeing passenger jet come together when you only have a small window of time in which to observe the procedure. All in all however it was worth the effort and well organised.

A little more effort is required in securing campsites along the west coast as it’s intermittently dotted with high density population centres that make cheap overnight camping more of a challenge unless you are a Walmart or Casino Camper victim as mentioned in the last post! Since we’d broken the Walmart HooDoo, an overnight casino stop wasn’t much of a stretch.

Security at work in the Tulalip Resort Casino Carpark

Security at work in the Tulalip Resort Casino Carpark

Tulalip Casino car park proved quite interesting. The following morning as we enjoyed our coffee, we were entertained by the security staff as they did their best to explain the clearly stated rules nicely posted on a large sign at the entry gate to a small group of, shall we say, vagrant travellers. They didn’t seem overly keen to be moved on however!

Whilst a bit of a laugh watching from afar, it’s rather sad but I’m under no illusion, however, that for some it’s a lifestyle choice and not a reflection of the general state of things. Rather, it’s their chosen variant on what we may consider normal.

A detour to Snohomish, known for it’s antique shops, was worth the effort as it was quite a nice little town!

Snohomish Antique Stores

Snohomish Antique Stores

We entered Seattle from the north via an area known as the Gas Works, an old power station that’s been reworked as modern art and public open space.

Seattle Gasworks

Seattle Gasworks

It was a really nice way to enter the city, as we were able to view the city skyline from across the bay and watch floatplanes arrive and depart right alongside the city centre. We spent a little time in the area as we needed to source a new filter for our Seagull drinking water system and also have Jen’s quite expensive Pacsafe travel bag replaced under warranty and it just so happened that both of these tasks could be completed in the same area!

Seattle Skyline

Seattle Skyline

Seattle Residential Waterfront

Seattle Residential Waterfront

Along the coast and after a few U-turns on the south side of the city, we visited the Pacific Galleries Antique Mall recommended to us by Alison and David in Calgary.

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle

Seattle - Home of Starbucks

Seattle – Home of Starbucks

img_5025Renowned for it’s antiques, there were some very cool bits and pieces available within this huge building! Luckily we don’t have a lot of space which rendered our visit one of observation rather than purchasing! Next time maybe…

Pacific Galleries Antique Mall

Pacific Galleries Antique Mall

A late departure from the Antique mall and still being within the confines of suburbia meant our overnight camping options were once again limited and Muckleshoot Casino car park became our home for the night!

Muckleshoot Casino

Muckleshoot Casino

I have to admit that it’s a laugh staying in these car parks and watching the weirdo’s that we share the Earth with but not an experience I’d like to consistently indulge in.

Lunch on the beach

Lunch on the beach

Bridges along the coast drive

Bridges along the coast drive

Tsunami Evacuation Route

Tsunami Evacuation Route

Elk in the park

Elk in the park

Oregon Coastline

Oregon Coastline

Our next model???

Our next model???

We deviated inland from the coast to McMinnville in Oregon to visit the Evergreen Air and Space Museum, now home to Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose“ along with many other amazing aircraft and space related displays.

Spruce Goose

Spruce Goose

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Nick-named the “Spruce Goose” by the antagonistic media of the day (but actually made from Birch); this really is an outstanding looking aircraft. Clean lines and beautifully finished, it truly is a tremendous credit to those craftsman that constructed her under such difficult conditions – both due to the eccentricities of Howard Hughes and the ridicule he was bombarded with by the media, but also the lack of materials available for the construction of this amazing machine which prompted it to be made from wood in the first place.

It really was a little sad to see it hangered permanently – it looks ready to be fuelled and take to the sky- wouldn’t that be a fantastic sight.

Believe it or not this 747 has been converted into a waterslide

Believe it or not this 747 has been converted into a waterslide

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Another added bonus for those wishing to visit this Museum is that you’re able to camp in their car park.

Camped at the Museum

Camped at the Museum

Heavy rains made it imperative to make south. We clung to the coast most of the way to San Francisco. Enjoying a mixture of weather conditions! A few pics below of our varied campsites along the way, some of which were surprisingly isolated given the increase in population and infrastructure. There are good opportunities to get off the beaten path here and there with a network of rather dilapidated roads criss-crossing the highway allowing access to excellent coastal areas.

Not so nice weather

Not so nice weather

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California and the sun is out!

California and the sun is out!

Some locals got creative...

Some locals got creative…

Beach camping

Beach camping the day Trump was elected… What can I say

Make Russia Great Again!

Make Russia Great Again!

The Humboldt National Forest and Redwood National Park were standouts for us. Our first taste of the huge Redwood trees that so many come to see. Majestic and massive, these really are goliaths of nature not only in size but also in age with some surviving upwards of 2000 years.

This one is for you Jim...

This one’s for you Jim…

Redwoods

Redwoods

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Heavy traffic and you know you’re getting close to San Francisco but just before the Golden Gate Bridge you can exit the highway and head into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Traffic enroute to San Francisco

Traffic enroute to San Francisco

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Skyline

San Francisco Skyline

A huge area of walking trails and natural coastal landscape awaits with a smattering of now defunct coastal defence bunkers with westerly views to the Pacific and easterly views back across the famous bridge with the city beyond.

Pacific Coast

Pacific Coast

Driving the bridge

Driving the bridge

Downtown San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco

About 10km south of the City we checked into an RV park allowing us a little easier explorations of the area.

The Crooked Street

The Crooked Street

Some of the locals

Some of the locals

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Pier 39

Pier 39

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Cable Cars

Cable Cars

Chinatown

Chinatown

Eastward and over the Oakland Bay Bridge! These steel structures really do amaze me with double-decker lanes of traffic and not a gap between the cars day and night. The amount of traffic pulsing in and out of such large suburban centres is really staggering.

Oakland Bay Bridge

Oakland Bay Bridge

Not to mention the ridiculous antics that you witness whenever you are in heavy traffic. There is always one that thinks they are smarter than everyone else and it is not hard to see why multi-car pile-ups occur in such environments.

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El Capitan

El Capitan

Half Dome

Half Dome

We’d pushed along a little during our transit to Yosemite in the hope that the Tioga Rd, which travels east west through the park, would still be open. It always closes around the middle of November depending on when the first heavy snow falls begin. A really scenic way to continue travelling east, it also allowed us to visit the Ghost town of Bodie without a rather large detour. As luck would have it the road closed 2 days after our transit!

Tioga Rd Scenery

Tioga Rd Scenery

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The road will be closed soon

The road will be closed soon

Parked on Ice

Parked on Ice

More Tioga Rd Scenery

More Tioga Rd Scenery

Now over the Sierra Nevada Range, there is a distinct change in the landscape. Gone is the green and moist feeling encountered west of the mountains as they push against the incoming fronts causing them to release their store of rain. Replaced now by more reds and creams, the desert varnish has reappeared on the sandstone and the flora has taken on that more distinct form of arid shrub with skinny leaves and a more pale appearance.

Mono Lake view from our camp

Mono Lake view from our camp

Why is the engine getting hot???

Why is the engine getting hot???

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town

img_5419 img_5427 img_5456 img_5468The other stark change is the collapse in population – from metropolis to lonely backcountry in only a few hundred kms. Continuing on, we found our way to Fish Lake Hot Springs, emerging from what looks like a flood plain between small ranges it’s reached via about 10km of good dirt road.

Bull Dust

Bull Dust

Maintained by the local community, it’s favored as a camping area by ATV riders and other locals from mining ventures and the like in the area.

Fish Lake Hotsprings

Fish Lake Hotsprings

38 Degrees ... Nice!!!

38 Degrees … Nice!!!

The 38-degree water was extremely therapeutic. We soaked in the rudimentary concrete tub plumbed into the natural spring well into the evening. The “Super Moon” provided the natural lighting whilst we watched flocks of small birds take to the sky in swarms before they descended back into the small shrubs around the springs. Eventually they settled in for the night, as did we.

The Super Moon

The Super Moon

Next up the Extra-Terrestrial Hwy as we wander around Nevada.

Justin.