Last month we rolled out to southern California for American Adventurist’s annual Desert Rendezvous event. This time late February was chosen for the event, and with highs in the low 90s the change was much appreciated. Activities were as we’ve come to expect from an AAV event: smaller groups out exploring the area by day, followed by evenings filled with good food, great company, and plenty of cold beer. On Saturday, the volunteer clean-up removed 3.3 tons of trash from the desert…not counting the trash from DRV shenanigans. I enjoy catching up with old friends, making new ones, and partying in the desert for a good cause, but as always my main purpose for making the trek is the extra few days of wandering we get to enjoy taking the long way home. After an obligatory stop at my favorite desert taco stand, it was time to find a sunrise view. Salton View The Salton Sea Standard Oil   Desert Center Bill’s Town The U.S.-California Border Dinner Break… Desert Rendezvous
We head to California to see first-hand how teardrop trailers are built. – There’s no disputing the cult-like following “teardrop” trailers have managed to achieve, and placing the little campers onto an off-road chassis for some backcountry fun seems only natural. So we headed out to California to pick up the next Expedition Portal camper project, spend the morning touring the So-Cal Teardrops facility, and chat with Gabe Pari to find out just what makes these little trailers so great.… So-Cal Teardrops Link: Expedition Portal
This is the first time I’ve been in The People’s Republik since 2010… and then only off-pavement. When you’re subjected to a downward spiral on a daily basis it’s often easy to overlook just how far down things have gone. Remove yourself from the environment for a few years and the same fall jumps out in shocking detail. Such is the case on this brief excursion into California to fetch a Great Divide Edition Range Rover Classic as I travel east at a slowness well below the absurd state-mandated trailer speed limit of 55 MPH. The budget problems this state has been experiencing for the past decade are blatantly obvious with each pothole and stretch of completely missing pavement. Interstate 40 is in ruin. I’ve traveled better tarmac in Baja. As I cross the river into Arizona and throttle up to reach 75 MPH over the seemingly glass-smooth asphalt, I consider the freedoms we still have to flee a state fraught with corruption, mismanagement, and over-taxation for the greener pastures of a pro-liberty, pro-business society and it’s many benefits. Today, I am grateful to be in America.… Fetch the RRC
Morning blasted through the open window, brighter and earlier than any civilized day ever should. At least, that was Danielle’s feeling on the matter. Moments later she had figured out how to work the blinds and gone back to sleep. Meanwhile, I took a pre-breakfast hike to explore the abandoned RV park we pulled into not 5 hours earlier. I’m not sure what it is that makes me this way, but now I do know it isn’t the tent. Despite a very comfortable bed, we are “camping” so I am awake and ready to start the day before the sun. Death Valley Since I know we’ll be back on a future Death Valley trip, we moved quickly through Death Valley, stopping only for some much needed sarsaparilla in Panamint Springs. Owens Lake There isn’t much left of Owens Lake. Hot, powder-soft, wind-driven sand casts a gray haze over the valley—a relic from another ill-considered Los Angeles Department of Water and Power project. After a brief stop to admire the barren landscape, we rolled into Lone Pine on fumes and finally began our exploration in earnest… for diesel fuel. At first I was impressed—the GMC had hauled the Bigfoot over 460 miles on less than one tank of fuel. Then I realized this beast holds 40 gallons. Still, the Discovery couldn’t make that kind of range, and our faith was rewarded with prices a full two dollars per gallon lower. With a full tank and ahead of schedule it was time to wander. Manzanar Manzanar is a sad chapter in American history, which takes place in a breathtakingly beautiful valley bordered on either side by snow-capped mountains. This site was once an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Much effort has been spent documenting, preserving, and in some cases, rebuilding the history. The compound is massive, and the self-tour is done by auto—a good thing given the freezing wind bearing down on us. Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ Arriving in the town of Bishop, we set about finding the world-famous Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ. It didn’t take long: it’s the building in the center of town with a line of people stretching out to the sidewalk. Next we began the search for parking. This took longer (tip: park in the park, across the street). Of course, by the time we parked and crossed the highway the crowd was gone and there was plenty… Death Valley to Black Lake
My first “assignment” in my new position with the Journal is to move a Bigfoot up to San Francisco. A Bigfoot is a well-insulated, 3,000-pound “cabin” that sits in the back of a pickup truck, in this case a GMC 2500 Diesel. It needs to be there by the morning of June 3rd. Dani has joined me on this 1,200-mile test drive so we can evaluate the pros and cons of an “overlander” this large, though we will be sticking to tarmac for the most part. The plan is to retrace part of a trip we did back in June of 2000, and hit a few of the little places we missed last time—like Bodie and Yosemite. For sentimental reasons (and a luggage-free return flight) we’ve left most of our gear behind, and will figure the route out as we go using a paper map and our open eyes. We pulled out of Prescott far later than planned this morning afternoon, but we had already decided to skip the Route 66 part of the trip since we live right next to it. The campsites I picked out on Lake Mead and the Colorado didn’t look too appealing either so we pushed onward into the sunset. The first “pro” we’ve noticed with the Bigfoot is that no matter where we are, all we have to do is pull off the road and open the door—the kitchen, dining room and bathroom are always ready to use. After a quick bite to eat in the foothills northwest of Las Vegas, we made for the eastern border of Death Valley and an abandoned RV park I had only read about. What it lacks in shoreline, it more than makes up for in eerie silence and desolate beauty.… Prescott to Death Valley
I finally got a few minutes to go through the pictures from our visit to the Old Dale Mining District last weekend. The area is one of many overlooked southern Mojave gems, free of the crowds and nanny-state interventions often found in National Parks. This area sweeps from the rocky mountains at the edge of the Mojave, southward into the Sonoran desert and the Pinto Basin area of Joshua Tree NP, and is filled with mine sites and remains galore. We were joined by a small group of friends from OAUSA—Larry in the Crazy FJ, Jon in a 4Runner, and Nick in another FJ Cruiser. After a night of last minute installing, death-by-chocolate cake, and a sheltered “camp” at my folk’s place we headed out into the desert.… Old Dale Mining District
Off to Vegas for a celebration of our good friend Kay Passa’s 30th, but of course my best possible route to Sin City involves an extra three days zig-zagging over dirt track through Mojave National Preserve. Monsoon season has come late to the Mojave Desert this year, and has so far been somewhat disappointing for folks like us that are actually seeking thunderstorms. Still, the trip was well worth it and the clouds were beautiful… We also made a stop by Kelso Depot to visit The Beanery, and visited the still-missing Mojave Cross. The Beanery, the lunch room at the Kelso Depot, is once again open and serving food to hungry travelers. The smoothies alone are worth a detour. The food is ok… not great, but it beats a sack lunch.… Mojave National Preserve
Any trip that ends with your vehicle running better than when you started is a good one. Such was the case with this past weekend’s trek up the mountain, and the electrical gremlin that has plagued me since April has finally been found and eliminated. I’m not a big fan of letting computers look out for me, but this time the error code that popped up led me straight to the melted wire on cylinder 6 (these Magnecor “upgrade” wires have to go). A quick trail-side band-aid later the Disco is running nice and smooth again and the troubles with my Yaesu 350 are gone.… OAUSA SummerFest Pre-Run