Death Valley

Wed, Mar 15, 2017

Yesterday we decided to skip Furnace Creek since the campground doesn’t have any hook-ups.  That means no AC and the forecasted high today is 95 F.  But here we are.

I talked Carol into coming for one night since it’s smack dab right in the middle of Death Valley and I wanted to see it.  It also didn’t hurt that the temp drops quickly once the sun sets.  So that’s what we’re waiting on.

BTW, the resort is NOT dog friendly so we can’t go hang out at the bar and enjoy their AC.  Not with TiVo, we can’t.  So we’re sitting in the Airstream now at 4:30 pm waiting for it to cool off.

Earlier today, we did the easy drive from Tecopa Hot Springs up to Furnace Creek and it was nice, AC and all.  After setting up camp, we drove to two of the famous lookouts, Zabriskie Point and Dantes View.

Both look out into the valley.  Here’s Zabriskie Point:

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Right behind me were these beautiful hills with texture to die for:

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Then is was off for a 20 mi drive and 5,000 ft climb to Dantes View.  Darn haze ruined a beautiful view of the valley 😦

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Tecopa Hot Springs

Tue, Mar 14, 2017

We had plans to camp four nights in the RV park at the Furnace Creek Inn and Resort in Death Valley but the 95 F weather forecast had us more than just a little concerned.  So I called to ask if they could assign us to a spot with some shade.

After confirming the details of our stay, I heard the words that no RV’er ever wants to hear:  no hook-ups.  That means no water, no sewer and, most importantly, no power to run the air conditioner.  This is a nonstarter.

So Carol and I pulled over at the next town and started working the phones.  No vacancy in the rooms at the Furnace Creek Ranch Inn and Ranch.  And no hook-ups at any of the other campgrounds in the park.

So we kept searching and found the Tecopa Hot Springs.  Yes it’s outside of the park but it’s right on our way and there are three RV camps with FULL hook-ups.  And one of them had a satellite internet connection.  Yippee since there’s no phone service in town. All in all, not too bad and there’s a BBQ place within walking distance.

The high temp hit 97 F but it cooled off as soon as the sun went down.  And the overnight low of 53 meant we didn’t need the A/C.  Gotta love the desert for the day / night temperature swings.

Here’s a shot of the local terrain.  Death Valleyish, no?

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Calico Ghost Town

Mon, Mar 13, 2017

Carol and I woke up today at the Barstow / Calico KOA and were looking forward to a day of doing, well, next to nothing.  Just rest and relaxation.

What little ambition we had was to drive the 5 miles to the Calico Ghost Town.  A real tourist trap.  But the buffalo burger on the restaurant menu was all it took to get me to fire up the Cayenne and head over.

Calico was a silver mining town that was booming in the late 1800’s.  But the collapse in the price of silver killed it and the official population today is 8 people.

Overall, I was very surprised by how well preserved it is.  But then again, this is the Mojave desert.

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Hello USA

Sun, Mar 12, 2017

Carol and I crossed back into the US on Thursday.  Easy crossing at Tecate and then a weekend with friends in San Diego.

Three days blew by and then we packed up and headed up I-15 to Barstow, about half way to Death Valley.

When we passed through the Lake Elsinore area, traffic ground to a halt.  Turns out that there’s a super bloom of Poppies.  I took this photo out the window and wish I’d done a better job.  It was stunning.

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No Bad Days

Thur, Mar 9, 2017

There’s a saying down in the Baja that pretty much sums it up: No Bad Days.

Since I wholeheartedly agree, I couldn’t resist the bumper sticker. Stuck it on our Airstream right at the front door.

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Baja and the Left Turn Signal

Wed, Mar 8, 2017

There’s a rule of the road in Baja that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Left turn signals aren’t used to indicate a  left turn. If that’s what you want, you take control of the left lane, slow and make your turn. Traffic behind you passes unimpeded on your right. Simple, no?

So what’s the left turn signal for? It’s to indicate to a trailing car that it’s ok to pass. You are taking on some liability so you better get this right.

It was early in our Baja trip and one of the drivers in our caravan didn’t get the memo. So every time a car came up behind him, on went the blinker. Never mind whether he was in a passing zone or whether he could see if it was clear ahead. If a car came up, he turned on his left turn signal.

We somehow survived a very serious situation.

I was following our RV’er when a pick-up passed me so that he was between us. Our RV’er was driving a class A motorhome and pulling a full size pick-up so he was probably 60’ in length, i.e., a pass would need a lot of clearance and a lot of time.  Class A’s are tall like a bus so I couldn’t see anything in front of him.

On went the blinker and the pick-up started to go around.

A few moments later, a third car appeared on the far left coming in our direction with his right wheels off the road.  Yes, the pick-up trusted the left turn signal and yes, there was an oncoming car.  They were three wide on a road barely capable of two cars. And no shoulder.  How they avoided a collision I do not know.

My next thought was that the third car would come back on the road, cross the centerline and nail us head-on. Definitely a code brown situation.

Here’s a typical shot of the Hwy 1 with no shoulder.  Can you imagine a Class A motorhome, a pick-up and a sedan all side-by-side?  We saw it and that visual is forever stamped in my brain.

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Potholes on Hwy 1

Wed, Mar 8, 2017

You’d think that Mexico would be proud of their Federal Hwy 1 and do a good job of keeping it in shape. Not so.

Although there are sections of the highway that are in great shape with a wide shoulder, most of the road is very narrow and full of potholes.  And this is where a caravan with CB radio’s comes into play:  The lead driver calls then out as we drive along.

When you approach a section of chunky road, the strategy is to slalom around them but that doesn’t work when they cover the width of the lane. Then it’s across the centerline so long as there’s no oncoming traffic. If there is, just suck it up, go right over them and hope for the best.

One of the rigs in our caravan wasn’t so lucky as one of the leaf springs supporting his axels snapped. Luckily, he was only about 20 miles from a suspension shop and he was able to get it repaired.

Here’s a pic of some nasty ones.  Hit these at full speed and it’s a flat, bent rim or suspension damage.  Nice, eh?

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Oncoming Big Rigs

Tue, Mar 7, 2017

Our Airstream is 8’-8” wide and I’m told that’s the legal limit.  Big Rig’s are also 8′-8″ and that’s also about the width of Mexican Hwy 1.

Whenever we’d encounter an oncoming big rig, I slide to the right as much as possible trying not to let the Airstream wheels drop off the side of the road. This was not always easy as the Airstream wheels are wider than the Cayenne and I know they went off more than a few times.

Alternatively, one could hold your position in the center of the lane but that brings a side swipe into play.  No one suffered that fate but one person lost their side view mirror to a big rig.

Here’s a pic of our Airstream that does a nice job of illustrating the problem.

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Whale Watching or Whale Touching?

Mon, Mar 6, 2017

There’s whale watching and then there’s whale touching. Lots of the former in US territorial waters but for the latter, head down to Baja.

We are camped near the Pacific Ocean at the Malarrimo RV Park in Guerrero Negro.

Guerrero Negro is famous for its salt farm and for Scammon’s Lagoon, fertile breeding grounds for gray whales.

Whale watching is big business here and we were told that the calves will approach the boats so that you can pet them. And they weren’t kidding.

We entered the bay and the whales were everywhere. Never mind that we missed the peak as the Alaska migration was already underway.

As our pilot approached the whales, he cut the engine to coast in. We were told that tapping on the side of the boat would attract them and sure enough, the momma / calf pair came right in. Momma stays close by to ensure the safety of her baby and she bumped our boat a few times to let us know that she’s there and she cares.

Here’s a calf that put his/her head right on the rail within a foot of my hand.  I couldn’t resist to give her snout a touch.  Felt a bit like a neoprene wetsuit only different.  Here she is on the approach with momma just on the left.

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Here’s an adult with her snout covered in barnacles.  They all have them.

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Getting this close to whales isn’t without it’s issues.  Being mammals, they breath and it’s in through the nose.  And when the exhale, it’s out their nose.

If you are close to and downwind when a whale blows, you get, well, a snot shower.  Ask me how I know.  Face, coat, everything covered in salty stuff.  Oh well, no complaining here.

This wasn’t the direct hit that I experienced but there’s a reason this fellow has turned his head.

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Ironwood Carvings

Sun, Mar 5, 2017

Since Santispac Beach is 13 miles from Mulegé, vendors step up to supply the goods.  The fish mongers, veggie sellers, bakery goods, water suppliers, etc.  Another is a family that carves ironwood.

Copying from Wikipedia, Mexican ironwood carvings is a handcraft that began with the Seri indigenous people of the state of Sonora. The wood comes from Olneya tesota, a Sonora Desert tree commonly called ironwood . It is a slow growing important shade tree found in northwest Mexico and the southwest U.S. The wood it produces is so dense that it lacks air bubbles and sinks in water.

We met Carlos and his father on our way down but didn’t buy anything.  Now that our trip is about to wrap up, I thought is was high time to support the local merchants.

Carol was on board and wanted a 15″ palm tree with 14 leaves.  Each is removable for storage and it’s a beautiful piece.  We also picked up a small whale tail, always loved that phrase since it’s used to describe the spoilers on classic Porsche 911’s.

Our buddies also picked up a tree of quail, a scene with turtles, a whale and an eagle.  Beautiful stuff.

We visited his studio where I shot these pics.

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