Saturday, January 13, 2018

Finding Fun in Between

January 7-13, 2018
Thermal, California

Thermal is hardly a destination location, unless you're attending the Coachella Music Festival, which we're not. Instead, we're here because it's a good "in between" stop for a few days before we return to Valencia to get the large slide fixed.

It's still in our desert, it's close to Borrego Springs where we can visit with some good friends, it's close enough to good size cities where we can get errands done. 

Sunday we set up at Oasis Palms RV Resort. The concrete parking pads are level in large grass sites. FHUs with 50 amp and good water pressure. Nothing to block our satellite, and the park WiFi is fast and consistent. There is a small, clean fishing pond with nice palm trees, swimming pool and spa, clubhouse with games, and a community fire pit. We're right on Hwy 86 so there is road noise, and we're 20+ miles from anything. A Passport America park year round makes it a very reasonable option for this popular winter area.

More wiggle-room than most private parks.
I reach out to Pam and Sue about meeting up in Borrego Springs where they're staying for the month. Can't believe we haven't seen them since February!!

We join them at their side-by-side spots at a lovely resort on the golf course. As always, it's like no time has passed, and we enjoy getting caught up with all our year's adventures.

On the way to Borrego, the Salton Sea looks magical in the mist.
After a yummy lunch at the new Kessling's Kitchen we head for a Jeep run. Bill and I haven't been to Fonte's Point so we start there with oohs and ahhs at the amazing views. Stops at Five Palms and Pumpkin Patch give us historic and interesting things to see, and then the adventure really begins. Unfortunately Bill's upset stomach means less fun for him, but he hangs in there and still enjoys the trip.

Our return route takes us over several "blind" hills where I'm grateful to be following John so I can see which way he turns at the top. Because there's no way I can see the road from our steep angle at the top. One narrow (on both sides) section with tight turns is at the edge of my comfort level, but once through it I admit I'm having a great time! After a couple re-routes to find the main highway, with the sun getting very close to setting, we find our way over a couple rough and rocky hills to the end. 

Font's Point - wow!

I don't notice until I see the pic that Tessa is walking over the very edge behind John, Dave and Pam! Stops my heart.
The views are amazing.... all directions.
Bill finds his own point where he too stands way too close to the side edge!! They do this to me on purpose.....
Through the slalom course to Five Palms.

Dave and John scouting our next stop against darkening skies.
I fail to get a single pic of the palms, so I shamelessly "borrow" Sue's wonderful shot of Tessa zooming down the hill past Gramma Pamma!
Fascinating concretions seemingly scattered across a gray section of desert, called The Pumpkin Patch

Many of them show signs of extreme aging.

Tessa, Pam and Sue explore.

Fortunately the area has been protected with fencing, and covered picnic tables and pit toilets added to make for a nice stop while playing in the desert. Dave and John read the history.
We head back toward the glowing hills.

The azure skies are beautiful.

As we get into the more exciting section, this is the last photo I take.

Fortunately, Pam captures a few pics of Piper coming through the hills.

Crossing Mars under darkening skies.
When we arrive at the highway our guides aren't quite sure what reaction they're going to get as I jump out of Piper's driver's seat - OMG, what a blast!! Thanks again John, Pam, Dave and Sue for a very fun day in the desert. Can't wait to do it again :-)

Tuesday we realize we haven't had a "day off" in over two weeks so we veg-out all day watching movies and taking naps. 

After finding out that our service tech (for the slide repair) was on vacation for two weeks, and therefore not returning my calls, we hear back from her that the part has not arrived, and she has to get a tracking number from the parts department......okay. We can wait a bit more.

Wednesday and Thursday we run errands, getting Tessa a much-needed grooming, the Jeep washed, tires rotated, groceries, etc., etc. We venture into Coachella for dinner at a "very authentic" Mexican restaurant where we don't recognize most items on the menu. Tasty for sure.

When you're "tire-d" at work.....

When these are the chairs you know the food is the real thing!
Some of the most unique and beautiful art I've seen is on the streets of small towns.
Friday we make the loop around the Salton Sea. But first we have to return to the car wash where I forgot my camera bag!! Not a great area of town, I'm grateful for the integrity of honest people for turning it in.

What I'm not grateful for is the message I get from our service tech. The part has not been shipped because Lippert isn't sending them anything due to a "credit" issue. She can't tell me when the part will be shipped. My patient-understanding self takes a backseat to my pissed-off, why-didn't-you-know-this-three-weeks-ago-we-don't-know-if-the-slide-will-stop-working-any-minute-what-is-being-done-to-fix-it self! I manage to leave a not-too-much-of-a-jerk message, asking for a return call on next steps.

We share memories along Hwy 111 where we traveled to football and basketball games on team and pep club buses in high school, and where I drove to worksites as the union rep for this area in later years.

Our ultimate goal is Slab City and Salvation Mountain where neither of us have ever been. I've read several blog posts on the unique places, but I'm still amazed at both.

The concrete slabs that are now home to a community of off-grid living vagabonds began life as a military training base during WWII.

Leonard Knight's man-made mountain is described as "one man's personal religious intensity". He lived here and worked daily from 1984 until he could no longer live alone in 2011. He passed in 2014.

Freshly painted areas in front and brighter paint throughout the mountain show that work and maintenance continue here.

Photographers and models take advantage of the bright colors and clear blue skies.

Layers of painted tree branches 30 feet above the floor.

Columns and hay bale walls surround a meandering path.

Leonard's message.
Vivid colors throughout.

Windows and framed pictures break up the painted surfaces.

Only at the edge of the completed work does the fact that this is all just dirt and hay bales become apparent. 

Painted and "messaged" vehicle from tractors to a moped are scattered in front.

The boat may be new as it is the only unpainted surface at the site.

I love the painted tires.
Now you know - it's at the back of Slab City.

In addition to tattered blue tarps over crate furniture, Slab City has several homesteads with elaborate sustainable power.
I'm sure it's an elevator.....
In addition to the library and other "established" locations, the original concrete slabs are identified on Google Maps.

The original Slab City location - now surrounded by acres of homesteaders. And unfortunately also acres of trash which I choose not to photograph.
Although there is a new Phaeton and a couple other nice looking RVs at Slab City, this is a community stained by deep poverty. There is no water, no electricity, no trash pickup, and most disturbing, no sewer. Many residents have no means of transportation. Some of the sites are no more than shelters made of cardboard and metal sheeting. It's a rough life in the harsh desert.

But there is art everywhere, friendly signage, two music venues, several entrepreneurs, at least one church, a library, a clothes and goods giveaway site, clear roads, and lots of smiles. Although we aren't the only "tourists", there are no pan-handlers on the corner.

It is easy to come here and judge negatively, which I have seen from some on Facebook. It's a unique and interesting place where people live the way they want to - some raising children here. Would I want to live here? No. Am I grateful I don't have to make that choice? Yes. For the nay-sayers I would just say "Stay away."

On our way out I stop to buy a glass of lemonade from two beautiful young girls and their dad. The smiles are genuine, they're clean and look healthy. They all feel happy and safe. My day is better for my short time with them.

I make a quick stop in Calipatria to show Bill a point of interest he's unaware of, then it's a delicious dinner at another place I know about from my working time here. 

In Calipatria, California - sea level is at the top of the pole!

Few people know this geographic designation, on a small side street of this dying farm town.
We seldom eat red meat, but this thick T-bone at the Town Pump in Westmoreland is glorious. Seriously, they serve the best steaks I've had. Bill agrees :-)
I have a message from the service manager to call him back (my phone is not ringing for every call), but no message about any resolution. Of course they're closed on weekends so it will be Monday before we know what's happening, how long we'll be in Valencia again (starting on Sunday).

Saturday is NFL playoffs and getting all the laundry done in case we can't open the slide at our next stop.

At least if we're delayed due to the slide, we'll have more time with the grandbabies and our kids. It's not the hot and smoggy summer. We don't have any place to be until Superbowl Sunday. 

Fingers crossed the slide will open one more time :-)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2018 Begins With a Bang!

January 1-7, 2018
Desert Center, California

New Year's Day even more people from our little ghost town arrive in the desert to kick off 2018. About 1/2 mile off I-10 at the Desert Center exit, we gather among the rocks to visit, share snacks and drinks, and take a few rides in the dirt. Folks range in age from 7 to over 70. 

As the sun sets we head back to Lake Tamarisk for delicious eats around the fire. The weather is perfect and the smiles abundant. I don't take many pics, just enjoying our little community.

The older kids take turns at "look-out".

Jimmy, Tommy, Kevin, Stacy, Eric and Bridgette

Lots of Jeeps and trucks

Bill and Coy people-watch for a bit.

There are so many spots in this area that hold fun and crazy memories for all of us. Over our remaining days we visit several of them, returning to enjoy dinner together, either around a fire or just hanging on the patio.

Pinto Wells - once a swimming pond with tables and trees. Picnicing families and partying teenagers had many good times here. 

The dead trees now provide natural art in place of their shady branches.

Donnie scopes the area for wildlife.

None are visible, but there have been herds of mule deer and mountain goat over the years.

Anna and Stacy

Beautiful petroglyphs in the back of a long wash.

Walls of rock glow in the afternoon sun.

We all agree we didn't appreciate the beauty surrounding us as kids.

Strange freckled face in the cliffs.
Finding a concrete slab between the large boulders - a fire pit is built in the other side.

Tessa and Anna on the trail - you didn't see Tessa did you?
Weeping Woman - a sacred place 

From this side you can see her lap and legs.
Coy and Bill and Bridgette and that fluffy dog.

A new place for some of us, Elephant Rock, is a wonderland of massive rock formations.

A beautiful arch in the distance.

Darla and

Donnie and I scramble around the back to a magical area filled with greenery and amazing pockets.

A small wind cave at the edge.

The mold for chocolate bunnies - size Large.

A gorgeous formation with the arch on top.

Some people can't resist :-)))
I don't watch him come down - but he does make it!

Where the Metropolitan Water District aqueduct goes through the Coxcomb Mountains. Incredible engineering constructed in the 1930's still moving water to Los Angeles.

Kevin and Donnie check out items left at the flag pole of the Coxcomb Site, with help from Tessa and Lizzy.

This bizarre piece is paper mache' near the flag pole - not likely to survive long in this harsh place.

View from General Patton's training camp site.

The abandoned Totem Pole Ranch swimming pool.

We take a break for a snack and memories. 314 acres for sale - used to be a date farm, but the palms were all removed.

Maggie, Donnie, Kevin, Bill, Jimmy, Darla, Bridgette, me and Tessa. Thanks Anna!

Maggie, Bill and Donnie

Bridgette and Jodee

Bill, Donnie and Kevin - best friends for decades. So fun to all be retired with time for these wonderful gatherings.

Somewhere we picked up mice who were setting up home in our large bin with a couple nests. We take a day to clean everything out and set traps. Like every time we pull things out, we get rid of more stuff. Bill makes room for the large ladder!! Now he doesn't have to load and unload it from the Jeep. I can't help but think it will make evacuating quicker (hopefully never again).

We really like this nice clean site - and our nice clean bin space.
Being in touch with so many great friends from high school is rare after 40+ years, and we don't take for granted how blessed we are to still have these wonderful people in our lives. Now that most of our best friends are retired we're looking forward to sharing some travels together as well. 

What a great start to a new year!! Here's to a fabulous 2018 for all of us.