After a long break, a reveal of our 2017 travel plans

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Well, it’s about time I wake up from my blog slumber.  Several people have asked why it’s been so long since I last posted.  I just felt like I needed a break after posting summaries and fun facts following completion of our major retirement goal.  It felt good to just explore, enjoy and not think about tapping on my computer during the past few weeks.  However, the downside is that our new story lines are clogging my brain and it’s difficult to recall everything we’ve done lately.  Perhaps my photos will help jog my memory.

Its seems like ages since we bid goodbye to our family and friends in the Bay Area.  We got back on the road at the beginning of the year, meandering down far southeastern California.  Then, after a 10-day beach party detour to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, we headed into Tucson, AZ where we are currently hanging out for a while.

For now let me entertain you with some drive-by shots of the diverse California scenery we enjoyed as we headed toward Arizona:

Soledad, California

Vineyards in Soledad

Salinas Valley "the Salad Bowl of the World"

Salinas Valley “the Salad Bowl of the World”

Oilfields at Lost Hills, California

Oilfields at Lost Hills

Burbank, California

Orange groves near Bakersfield

Central Valley, California

A snapshot of the Central Valley, where much of that produce at your grocery store is grown

Tehachapi, California

Wind farm in Tehachapi

Part of a huge solar farm in Mojave

Mojave, California

Arid desert in Mojave

Highway 395 heading toward Apple Valley

San Gorgonio Mountains

Snow-covered San Gorgonio Mountains

Imperial Sand Dunes, California

Imperial Sand Dunes

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Cruising through California’s largest state park – Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

I’ll say more about our stops along that route in upcoming posts, but at this point let me reveal our 2017 travel plan.

Unlike the first five years where our routes were structured toward spending time in every U.S. state, this year will be a more “typical” travel mode and more laid back.  We’ll make extended visits to Prescott, AZ and Grand Junction, CO as possible permanent residences in the future.  We’ll also explore new places in Oregon and Idaho as our northernmost stops this summer, with sunny and humid Florida as our likely destination for next winter’s hibernation.

Below is our preliminary plan.  Everything up through Oregon and Idaho is pretty much set in stone, with the route after that being “unreserved” as we strive to arrive in Florida at the beginning of December.

newmap

One stop we’re looking forward to that got me really excited is Kanab, Utah.  As some of you know, hiking at Coyote Buttes North (aka “The Wave”) is limited to a lottery drawing selection and a few walk-ins each day.  I think the odds of getting in can reasonably be estimated at somewhere between 2% and 10% between April and October.  I applied for a permit online as an afterthought when I realized we’d be near there on Hwy 89 again.  I forgot all about it until I got an email on March 1st saying we had won 2 spots for June 4th. Woohoo!

So there you have it, and as usual we’d love to hear from you about any “must do’s” along our planned route so we don’t miss anything this time around.

Up next:  Our 2017 travels thus far… Part 1



 

Coming full circle – Pleasanton, CA

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Although I’ve been quiet in the blogosphere lately, we’ve been very busy since arriving here in November.  As you may recall, we cut short our stay in Ashland, Oregon and hightailed it to California due to sad news about our friends.  Nevertheless, our excitement and anticipation built as we approached Pleasanton, California, where our adventure began in March 2012.  Our 37,000+ mile, 58-month journey had brought us full circle!

Alta Mont, Livermore CA

Descending the last hill of our adventure on I-580 toward Pleasanton, CA

Understandably, we were very eager to see family and friends, some that we hadn’t seen for almost five years.  Our two-month stay here was a flurry of activities – bonding with family, socializing with old friends and revisiting old hangouts.  Our dentists, eye doctors, hair stylist and barber were all happy to see us again and had many questions about our travels.  Sadly, we bid goodbye to two dear friends who passed away.

Spending the holidays with family was the highlight of our return, and boy did they feed us!

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner with family – wow!

My adorable grand niece Hattie and grand nephew Jace

Sandalo Family

Just a fourth of my family on Christmas day

Sandalo sisters

With my sisters, half of the Sandalo siblings

It was an amazing 4 years and 10 months.  Life on the road was full of surprises, many good and just a few bad.  Our journey across the continent left us with so many experiences that linger on.  Mostly we felt fortunate to be able to see so many things for the first time, but we also faced a few fears, learned much about the country’s historical past, and most of all enjoyed the incredible beauty of the U.S.  And for those who wondered about the ups and down of being with each other 24/7 in a cramped space, you’ll be happy to hear that we remain best of lovers and best of friends!

Lichen

Lechon, a filipino roasted pig that can feed an army (and pretty much did)!

Where we’ve been

Adding a new state or province to our map was always a “red letter moment”, and our anticipation grew each year as it filled up.  Then, last September we jumped for joy when we finally covered the map as we headed into our last state, Idaho.  We celebrated that milestone, and dozens of crossings into and out of Canada and Mexico along the way were icing on the cake.

Map of our travels

Betsy proudly wears her completed map

Where we camped

The image below shows our stops from the beginning in March, 2012 through 2016.  The colored routes represent our travels during each year.  To see individual travel routes click here.

all_travels

We stayed at 47 City/State/Regional parks, and we chose some favorites that we recommend.  Clicking on them takes you to Steve’s campground review, or my blog that has information about the campground.  We picked them because of their location, hiking trail access, site spaciousness, great views and overall ambiance.

By the numbers:

  • Betsy’s miles traveled – 37,010 miles
  • Honda CRV miles traveled – 76,575
  • Diesel burned – 4,700 gallons ; averaged 7.8 mpg
  • U.S. states visited – 49 (couldn’t find a road to Hawaii)
  • Canadian provinces visited- 8, plus 1 territory
  • Mexico states – 1
  • Campgrounds visited – 318 U.S., 35 Canadian.  We also dry camped and stayed overnight at maintenance facilities several times
  • Number of City/State/Regional Parks – 47
  • Priciest RV park- $89/night – Perdido Cove RV Resort, Florida
  • Cheapest RV park with utilities – $14/night at Riverside Campground, Sac City, IA
  • Number of ferry rides Betsy took – 5  (Haines, Alaska; Outer Banks, North Carolina (2); New Brunswick, Canada; Port Aransas, Texas)
  • National parks visited – U.S. 34 out of 59 existing; Canada 7 of 40 existing
  • National monuments – 20 of 120
  • National seashores – 6 of 10
  • All American roads- 14 of 30
  • Border crossings – 26 times between US/Canada/Mexico
  • Time zones we lived in – 6  (Atlantic (AST), Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific and Alaskan (AKST)
  • Small airplane tours – 6 (Alaska 3, Texas 1, Arizona 1, Utah 1)
  • Aircraft museums toured – 9
  • Car manufacturing plants toured – 5
  • Caves or Mines explored   – 8
  • Miles hiked – we lost track 🙂 but many hundreds of miles
  • Big bodies of water we touched – 11 (Pacific and Atlantic oceans, all 5 great lakes and the gulfs of Alaska, California, Mexico and St. Lawrence)
  • Number of blog posts published- 422

It’s all about friends – old and new

We initially thought our journey would be a mostly lonely endeavor, since we had left our family and friends behind.  To our surprise this lifestyle was a perfect way to make new friends.  We met several at campgrounds, and many others through their blog sites.  Our travels also reconnected us with long lost classmates, former co-workers and several of my childhood friends.

Looking back, we can’t imagine how boring our journey would have been if we hadn’t met all of those good folks.  We thank all of you for enriching our lives and making our journey worthwhile.  We’ll cherish those memories and look forward to meeting you again somewhere down the road.

For those we have pictures of, here are memories of our get-togethers.  For those who are camera-shy or that I didn’t get pictures of during our visits – we love you just as much!

What an adventure it was!

Of course, our travels aren’t over and we don’t know when we’ll leave our life on the road.  But with our main goal completed there will be some changes in how and where we travel.  We’re still trying to figure it out ourselves, as we slowly head back toward Tucson for our late winter/spring break.

 

Next up: Fun tidbits from our travels



 

Sonoran Desert beauties!

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Northern Cardinal

We just realized we’ve been hanging around southern Arizona for two months now – how time flies when you’re having fun with friends in such a beautiful place!  Being here, you can’t help but take notice and admire the abundance of cacti, succulents, birds and other critters that make the this area unique.  The area is generally recognized as the Sonoran Desert, and includes the southwestern third of Arizona, a small area of southeastern California, most of Baja California del Norte and the western half of Sonora, Mexico.

Saguaro

Sonoran Desert is Saguaro central

It is during our many hikes and drives around town that we encounter these desert beauties in their natural habitat or being used as landscaping ornaments.  In particular, the ubiquitous saguaro, (pronounced SUH-WAR-OH) a  large, tree-like columnar cactus that develop branches (or arms) as they age.  The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States and the most famous plant in the Sonoran Desert.  It is closely identified with the imagery of the American southwest, and all of them are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.  This cactus is so important that moving, harvesting or collecting is strictly regulated!   Yet despite the saguaro’s popularity, the state plant of Arizona is actually the Palo Verde.

Some fun facts about this famous cactus:

It is slow growing and may take 10 years to reach 1 1/2 inches in height, and 30 years to reach 2 feet.

It begins to grow arms when it is between 50 and 100 years of age, although some never  grow arms.

Given the right conditions it can live for 150 to 200 years.

It  typically grows to heights of 40 – 60 ft.

It is more than 90% water content and when fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

The saguaro’s blossom is the state flower of Arizona, they blossom once a year, and the flowers open at night and stay open only 18 hours total.  Imagine how breathtaking the Sonoran desert would look with all of those blooms!

The woody ribs inside the plant have been used for fences and combined with mud and grasses to build homes.

Here are a few of the many desert cacti and plants:

The chirping and singing are everywhere with all these beautiful birds.  Here are just a few that frequently visited us at Catalina State Park. Click here if  you would like to see more of my bird pictures 🙂

Butterflies!

Lastly, when the sun is low here it gives a hue to the sky and mountains that is nothing short of spectacular.

Catalina Mountains

Orange glow at the Catalina Mountains before snow…

Catalina Mountains

…and a reddish-pink glow with snow

Table Top Mountain

Red-orange glow at Table Top Mountain, viewed from Casa Grande

Stay tuned as we return to Quartzsite to join the RV show madness!

Drugs and Dentists – Mexico!

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Algodones, Mexico

We arrived in Yuma thinking we could get away from a lingering cold snap in the area.  Yet, when we arrived here a freeze warning remained in effect for several days.  Yuma is in the far southwest corner of Arizona, sharing its border with Mexico and California.  And get this: according to Guinness World Records, Yuma is the sunniest city on earth – receiving sunshine an average of 91% of all possible daylight hours.  But wow, it can still get chilly here!  All that sun is the reason Yuma’s main industry is Agriculture .

Yuma

Fields of Dreams- farming is Yuma’s number one industry.

Fall and winter months are when Yuma’s population doubles with the arrival of sun-seeking snowbirds.  Almost all of the private RV parks are brimming with RVers, and driving around town we noticed an assortment of license plates from the northeast and northwest states, and Canada.  There are plenty of things to do here, but the current wind and cold are limiting our usual outdoor activities a bit.

However, we did socialize!  We drove out into the boonies where Paul and Nina of Wheeling It are enjoying the vast desert with a few other hardy souls.  You see, we have been following their blog since well before we began fulltiming.  From their stories we gained lots of useful RV tips and boondocking site locations that we had never heard of.  While talking with them over a glass of wine we traded tales of the road and got some recommendations about places to see as we head east.  They are enjoying the RV lifestyle to the max, and hanging out with them was a pleasure.  And oh, the best part is they have visited my hometown, Moalboal, in the Philippines for scuba diving.  Isn’t that something?  It’s a small world after all.

Wheeling It

Hanging out with Paul and Nina, the masters of RV Living.

But wait – we also came here to take a trip to the dentist – woohoo!  Say what ?  We had heard that tens of thousands of Arizona and California visitors cross south of the U.S. border for great bargains.  Bargains on eyeglasses, dental procedures and prescription drugs!  So off we went one early, very cold morning and headed down to Los Algodones, Baja California, only about 15 miles west and south of Yuma.

We parked our car on the USA side and nonchalantly walked across the border, along with hordes of other  tourists, into Mexico.  Don’t forget your passport if you want to come back home!

Immediately upon arrival in Los Algodones, dozens of street peddlers descend upon the tourists and prod them with offers to see a dentist or to get eyeglass or cheap drugs.  This town is said to have the heaviest concentration of physicians, pharmacies, dentists and opticians of any four block area on planet earth – and we believe it!  And they were absolutely right, they’re everywhere.  In heavy competition, the peddlers are here to get folks into whichever office is paying them, of course.  Sample bargains: $135 for a porcelain crown; $699 for a dental implant; 20% off any other dental treatment.  Steve was wishing he had more dental problems!  Alas, we only needed our teeth cleaned and paid a little on the high side at $35 each.  But, no wait and no appointment needed!

We initially went to the dentist recommended by the RV park but there was a wait there, so we walked a few feet to the next office and picked them because they had nice decorations on their window.  The $35 we paid for cleaning was 70% off the normal price of our regular dental hygienist.  After that visit we went from one pharmacy to another to get the rock-bottom best deal on Steve’s prescription.  We learned that prices do vary from one corner to the next.  This is competitive business at its finest.

Coming back into the US of A was fairly quick and easy, despite a long line and having to stand outside in the cold wind for a bit.  All purchased items must be declared and shown to the customs officers, but we owed no duty on any of our items.  Beware that all liquor is taxed, although we don’t know the rate since we didn’t buy any.

Drugs and Dentists can be had for a bargain south of the border!

Bright Smile

Here I am with my bright clean smile.  Oh, bring $5.00 to pay for parking in this lot at the border – someone is making big bucks here!

Is London Bridge falling down? – Lake Havasu

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London Bridge in Lake Havasu

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down,

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair Lady….

I’ll bet you were humming while reading the rhyme or imagining the game associated with it.  This rhyme is based on one of the most famous landmarks in London, the London Bridge, which underwent several rebuilds during its centuries there.  In the 1960s there was a plan to demolish the existing bridge last rebuilt in 1831, and replace it with one that would withstand the impact of heavier vehicle traffic.  Instead of demolishing it, the City of London put it up for sale in 1967.  The winning bid was made by Lake Havasu City founder Robert McCulloch in 1968, at $2.460M.  As the bridge was disassembled, each block was meticulously marked and numbered, then the whole thing was shipped to California and trucked to Lake Havasu City.  The bridge was reconstructed block by block and rededicated in Oct 1971 at its new home, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  The London bridge did not fall down, it got sold and moved!

London Bridge in Lake Havasu

The famous London Bridge at Lake Havasu City, AZ

 London BridgeLondon BridgeLondon Bridge

With its natural surroundings and open skies, biking and hiking trails are abundant and these are activities we never pass up.  We enjoyed the hiking trails at SARA (Special Activities Recreational Area) Park, where we hiked the trail through the “slot” canyon simply known as the “The Crack.”  This slot canyon was formed by water drainage that carved its way through mountains and snaked around ridges, then emptied into Lake Havasu.  On another day we followed the Lizard Peek Trail, a strenuous hike to an elevation of 1370 ft, where a lone picnic table was placed.  In addition to the fantastic 360° panoramic view of the Lake Havasu area, we also saw an 80-foot-long lizard geoglyph from up there.

With daily doses of sunny skies and clean air, we also hit the biking trails.  We took the 8.5 mile trail that parallels Highway 95 – a tough one for its gradual ascent when riding toward the south.  Another day we rode the 3.6 mile loop of the Island Trail.  Except for riding across the London bridge, that trail was not as scenic but we got a good workout by doing several laps around it.

And for the first time since we started living on the road, we went to the movies – not one, but three!  How could we pass up the $5 per movie deal?  We stayed here for 2 weeks, so there was plenty of time to get caught up on the current flicks.

On this stop we parked at Cattail Cove State Park, 14 miles south of Lake Havasu.  We liked it a lot and will tell you more about it on our next post.

A night in civilization, at a parking lot!

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After soaking in the natural hot springs and enjoying a therapeutic massage with Karin Pine (who managed to hit all the spots that needed healing) at Tecopa Hot Springs, it was time to get rolling again.  The view while on highway 127 W continued to keep a smile on our faces and the camera shutter clicking.

After only a couple hours of  landscape-gawking, we made a (diesel) pit stop at Primm Valley near the stateline of Nevada and California.  We thought it might be fun to hang out at the casinos there for a free night of camping, plus we could fill up Betsy’s 100-gallon tank with reasonably-priced fuel.

Desperado

Desperado We parked in one of the biggest parking lots we’ve ever seen, behind Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino where we had the place almost to ourselves that night.  It was so huge that Fedex and McDonald’s use it for a couple of hours a day as their transfer point for trucks heading east and west.  Steve was amazed at the show they put on as several tractor-trailer rigs arrived and then transferred one or two or three trailers to other trucks heading to their appropriate destinations.

Since we don’t gamble, why stop here?  Is there anything else to do other than gambling?  Oh yes!  Buffalo Bill’s houses the one-time tallest roller coaster in the world, the Desperado.  In fact, it made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest roller coaster in 1996.

Steve rode this coaster with his Dad soon after it was completed, and again with me in 2000 (it scared the bejesus out of me).  Since this was sort of along our route, he planned to ride it again.  This time he is doing it alone, no sir not me, I’m done with roller coasters, no thank you.  And so he did a tripeat alone on the Desperado and was happy as a clam after his exhilirating 2 min and 43 second ride.

Desperado2Across the freeway is another interesting attraction, if you know who the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were.  Personally I didn’t know anything about them until we went to Whiskey Pete’s Casino.  We visited the free mini-museum depicting their outlaw careers.  I learned that Bonnie and Clyde, in their early twenties, were a notoriously violent bank robbing couple during the depression.  The museum holds the actual bullet-riddled car they were in when they were ambushed by a police posse.  Also displayed were Clyde’s clothing and other personal effects.

Having been in the quietness of the desert for many days, this was a fun stop in the midst of the noisy casinos, at least for one night.  After purging our water tank of the Tecopa mineral water, we headed on to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State….back to the desert landscape we go!

Fascinating Death Valley – you gotta go here!

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The sand storm, the wind  and a little shower the previous night did not dampen our spirits, for we woke up to a beautiful sunny cloudless day at Stovepipe Wells.  However, due to an event – “The 63rd Annual Death Valley ’49ers Encampment” – the 12 full hook-up sites were booked for the rest of the week.  So, we moved  across the street and dry camped at the Stovepipe Wells NPS Campground.  For $12 you get a parking spot, no hookups.  No problem, let’s save some $$$!

Death Valley….what a foreboding name.  Why is the name so bleak ?  A group of Euro-Americans became stuck in the valley in 1849 while looking for a shortcut to the gold fields of California.  They gave the valley its name, even though only one of their group died there.  Despite its name this place is anything but deathly.  Its geologic history has created a diverse and extreme landscape that is quite amazing to behold.

In less than a year we are back at Death Valley National Park as we promised ourselves, and we continue to be fascinated by this unique place.   Though we’ve been to Wrangell-St Elias National Park (the largest National Park in America), the size of Death Valley (the largest National Park outside of Alaska) is still formidable at 5,300 square miles.  It is vast with its own assortment of  uniqueness and desert beauty.

Dantes Peak

Dante’s Peak at 5,500′ with a view of the 110 mile long Death Valley.  That big white area in the middle is salt, not water.

Death Valley is known for its triple superlatives: hottest, driest and lowest.  Officially the hottest place on earth holding the record at 134 F (57 C), the driest for it receives less than 2 inches of rainfall or none at all and the lowest dry point in North America at Badwater Basin – 282′ below sea level.  This is an unforgiving, inhospitable place but it is remarkably beautiful in its own way.  Winter months are really the time to come here, even the park rangers advise against doing so in the summer.

The park has a long list of attractions, and because there is little vegetation the full display of rocks, cliffs, badlands, peaks, sand dunes, salt flats and more are in your face.  Going from one place of interest to another left us enthralled and awed as none of them are the same and each has its own unique character.  While marveling at all these sights we also got some good exercise, as most stops require a fair amount of hiking.

StoveWells Pipe

Holding on to the Stovepipe that marked the waterhole.

But first, where did the name Stovepipe Wells originate?  There was only one known water source on the cross-valley road.  Because sand often obscured the waterhole spot, a length of stovepipe was inserted as a marker – hence its unique name.

Lets explore, shall we ?

Just beyond Stovepipe Wells Campground is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  We were told that sunrise at the Sand Dunes is one of the best times to catch that golden glow from the sun.  And true enough, I managed to catch that moment when the sun rays hit the dunes. These 150 foot high dunes are surrounded by mountains on all sides, with the primary source of sand being the Cottonwood Mountains to the north and northwest.

Mesquite Sand Dunes Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Also close to Stovepipe Wells is the Mosaic Canyon, where we walked through a narrow canyon with smooth, polished marble walls that enclose the trail as it follows the canyon’s sinuous curves.  We observed “Mosaics” of rock fragments naturally cemented together along the trail.  We missed this one on our first trip but checked it out this time.  Fantastic – a must see!

Mosaic Canyon Mosaic Canyon

Further north we followed the boardwalk along Salt Creek Trail.  It is a saltwater stream which is the only home to a rare pupfish which can survive in the salt encrusted water.  A salt-resistant pickle weed also thrives here.

Pickle Weed Salty Creek

If you have only a short time to visit the park, be aware that many impressive sights are toward the south end of the valley near Furnace Creek – about 40 miles from our base camp at Stovepipe Wells.  The key here is to start early to get a good flavor of what the valley has to offer and to give yourself time to drive between all of the points of interest.  To enjoy its assortment of uniqueness is to take time and explore.  We would estimate that 3 full days should be allocated to explore, 4 would be even better.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Here you will see landscape of vast salt flats. Walking on the salt flats you can hear the crunch of the salt….

282 feet below sea level Salt Flats

Next stop was the Natural Bridge, a medium-sized limestone rock formation that has been hollowed at its base to form a span across two rocks.  Getting to it is a half mile walk and at the end of the trail is a dry waterfall.

Natural Bridge Dry Waterfall

The Devil’s Golf Course is an immense area of rocky salt eroded by wind and rain.  It is called as such because it is incredibly serrated so that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.”  At first you would think it is a coral reef, but taking a closer look reveals gnarled crystalline salt spires.  We tromped through this strange and rugged terrain to get a closer look at the salt formations and found several holes in the surface with perfectly clear water shining underneath.

Devils Golf Course Devil's Gold Hole

We took the scenic nine mile drive to the Artist’s Palette, where we saw striking arrays of colors in the hills caused by the many different minerals in the earth there.  Note the sea green, lemon yellow, periwinkle blue, salmon pink and purple colors that are splashed across the barren background.  Exquisite and simply amazing!

Artist Pallete

The Golden Canyon Trail was another worthwhile hike that winds through a canyon of colorful rock walls.  At the end of the trail is beautiful Red Cathedral, formed by extremely steep cliffs.  It is composed of red colored oxidized rock.

Red Cathedral Colorful canyon walls at Golden Canyon

Along with its stunning natural splendor, Death Valley also has colorful human tales.  There were several mining ventures that boomed and busted in the 1800’s.  One of them was the Harmony Borax Works, where a 20-mule team hauled borax 165 miles from the desert floor to the railroad town of Mojave.  It only operated for 5 years.

Another story tells of a colorful character named Walter Scott, an ex-cowboy and prospector.  A beautiful mansion toward the north end of the valley called Scotty’s Castle is named after him – even though it was actually built and owned by his friend, millionaire Albert Johnson.  As the story goes, Scotty (a con artist) claimed that he financed the building himself from his secret gold mine, when in reality it was the Johnson’s vacation home.  Scotty’s Castle is currently owned by the Park Service and has 2 very good tours that can be taken there.  They also have several shaded tables which are perfect for enjoying a picnic lunch between tours.

The Timbisha Shoshone American Indian tribe lives and thrives in the heart of the valley by Furnace Creek.

Scotty's Castle Organ Room, Scottys Castle
Harmony Borax Refinery 20 Mule Team

The Furnace Creek Visitor center has recently been renovated and updated.  We encouraged you to stop by and check out their modern and interactive displays.

Next up, 4-wheeling in a Jeep around Death Valley.  How cool is that?

And here’s just a few of the many  striking desert scenery and colorful canyons as seen from your car window.

Devils Corn Stack

Devil’s Corn Stack

Custard Canyon

Custard Canyon

Red Canyon

Red Canyon

Golden Canyon

Golden Canyon

Traveling highest to lowest in one day!

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Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar historic marker

One of the things we did while at Lone Pine was visit the 814- acre Manzanar National Historic Site.  This was one of the 10 camps where over 100,000 Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II without due process of law.  The historic site preserves the many stories of the people who were relocated there in 1942 and enclosed by barbed wire fences.  There is a self-guided driving tour (free) and a pretty good museum – worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Replica of the entire Manzanar Camp

Replica of Manzanar Camp with Sierras as backdrop

Memorial at Manzanar

“Soul Consoling Towers”

Having heard of the high winds expected to pass throughout the slopes of the Eastern Sierras in Inyo County, we started to pack up and get going to our next destination – Death Valley.  We had planned to stay in the Alabama Hills one more day, since we loved the serenity of boondocking there.  Hoping the wind alert for the area wouldn’t pan out, we decided to make our way toward Death Valley anyway.  After driving only 8 miles east of Lone Pine we saw a huge dust cloud (like the one at the beginning of the movie “The Mummy”) ahead of us.  We immediately turned back to Lone Pine and took refuge in the Boulder Creek RV Park until it passed.  At least we would be in a tree-lined area out of the sand if the winds hit.  Driving through that dust cloud in the desert was not an option.

High Wind

Gusts of wind at 60 mph!

We learned that the warning was pretty serious. Schools were out and the town was on “Red Alert”.  A few minutes after hooking up we heard an eerie sound and then – boom! – Betsy was rocking and rolling in the wind.  The gusts of wind passing through were hitting 60 miles per hour!  All day and night we were rocking in the wind.  We didn’t sleep very good that night, but upon waking up the next morning we were rewarded with a beautiful day.  So we broke camp and took off again!.

Heading again toward Death Valley National Park, we left town near the highest peak in the United States (Mt. Whitney at 14,495′) and drove 90 miles east to Death Valley, where the Badwater Basin – at 282′ below sea level – is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.

Eastern Sierra Crest

Eastern Sierra Crest, showing the highest peak, Mt Whitney

The drive along Highway 136 and 190 was uneventful as we passed through sparse and barren landscapes with beautiful and colorful mountains in the background.  Betsy easily climbed over the 4956′ summit at Towne Pass, just prior to the descent into Death Valley.  The transmission and air brakes were put to the test that day during the relentless 4,900’+ descent.  Ah, the devine aroma of freshly cooked brake linings!

Towne Pass

Towne Pass summit

Towne Pass

Starting out on the haul into Death Valley

The afternoon we arrived in the park, the winds were picking up and by evening a sand storm developed with rain showers…gasp.  What?  Rain in Death Valley?  It was quite an interesting evening at Stovepipe Wells Village.

Sand Storm

-Sand storm at Stovepipe Wells

Wind, Sand and Rain

-Wind, sand and rain!