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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
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 …
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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…
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!
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!
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!
We had no chance capturing it with our camera as it really is a vast sea of RV’s in every direction.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
The area had also been a testing range for WW2 ordinance and signs recommending caution when out wandering were there for good reason!
Enroute to our border crossing into Mexico, we passed through Yuma Proving Ground where all manner of armament is tried and thoroughly tested!
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!
Just arbitrary numbers I guess but it held some value for us!
Mexico was beckoning us to become sunburnt beach bums so Baja here we come!!