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 :-)


  1. Font’s point is a total WOW. Those are fabulous pictures. I guess we’ll have to beg someone with a jeep to take us there if we can ever get close enough. Sweet to meet up with John and Pam. Were Lewis and Tessa best buds? Great shots of Slab City. Love Leonard’s 27 year life’s work. But East Jesus is the best. Now I know where it is should I need to go there. Thanks! What a run around with your slide service. I’d be furious. Sure hope they get their act together.

    1. Ruby could probably make it to Fonte's Point, but no further. I'd love to take you!! Lewis stayed home for the day. Since we haven't had any issues with the rig in a year, I guess we're "due" - but being delayed because someone didn't pay a bill is more than irritating!

  2. It was a fun day getting lost (others say we were never lost) in the desert!! Thanks for making the drive to visit. I can't believe it has been a year! So glad you got the see Slab City and Salvation Mountain. I can't get over how bright and fresh all the paint is. See you in Feb!!

    1. I never felt lost - ignorance is bliss!! I was really surprised how bright the paint was, and how many people were there.

  3. Great desert shots! I'd also need someone to drive me around. Doubt our heavy and bulky F-350 would like it much. LOL Hopefully the slide is fixed soon. I'd be more worried that it couldn't come in once it's out. More time with kiddos and grand-babies is a good trade off though. Enjoy your family time :-))

    1. Yeah, the trails are a bit narrow and rough for a big truck! We can get the slide back in manually as long as nothing "breaks" that holds it out :-))

  4. That jeep ride must have been a blast! Emmi pulled that walk on the edge trick one time and now we leash her if we know it's a long way to the bottomr--made my heart stop!

    1. It was so much fun!! Oh man, I was ready to keep her in the Jeep after seeing that.

  5. You got some great shots of Salvation Mountain -- it kind of looks like a cake decorator went wild in your first photo of the mountain. And added action figures to the top of the cake in the second! :-)) Such a creative place, and also some real challenges for people who live there by choice or necessity.
    Hope your slide issue is resolved quickly! Glad you got some play time with P & J and S & D. :-))

    1. Great description! That's exactly what it looks like. I think they use auto paint so they must mix to get the pinks. It is definitely bright now!

      We always have such a great time with those four :-)

  6. Salvation Mountain is definitely interesting. We visited several years ago and Leonard gave us a tour of his creation. He was certainly proud of all the work he had done. Even though you're stopping to catch your breath once in a while, you still stay pretty busy.

    1. A tour with Leonard must have been so interesting. Not something we can ever do now :-( We always think we'll just chill somewhere and then end up on some new adventure - life is good!

  7. You do keep busy doing such fun things. And I believe you're getting better at the heights thing. I remember Leonard from decades ago, riding his bike into town and working on his creation. A time when the Slabs weren't quite as littered as now. Sure hope the slide parts problem gets solved soon but at least you're in a good location to explore from.

    1. I think I am too!! Still curls my toes though :-)

      The slide did come out again and we've heard from the service dept so hoping to resolve this week.