Our last episode ended in Mojave, CA, after three nights in Death Valley National Park. From there we headed east toward the Colorado River again. Be sure to check the Maps post – Map 3 now includes the places where we stopped during the remainder of 2018.
Dec 8-10 (Saturday-Monday): We drove east across the Mojave Desert in central California, and we noticed a few Joshua trees among the desert scrub during the first 20 or 30 miles. (There will be much more about Joshua trees below.) We also saw some enormous solar arrays. Eventually we wound through the Sacramento Mountains to the Colorado River, crossing over into Arizona and then heading south to Lake Havasu City. Once there, we booked a 3-night’s stay at the Campbell Cove RV Resort ($24 per night with Passport America discount) with full hookups, restrooms and showers, laundry, clubhouse and lots of other stuff, but the Wi-Fi only worked near the office and not at our site, and you needed a cable box for cable TV, which we didn’t want to bother with. We did get a whole bunch of TV stations through our antenna, mostly featuring reruns of old programs like Star Trek and its progeny (which I found oddly addictive). Interspersed with some loafing about, we went for several bike rides around the area. This is the place where some clever folks relocated London Bridge when the Brits decided to replace it in the 1970s, so naturally we had to bike over to see that. To be honest, it didn’t look like much, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if only a few of the original bridge’s stones actually made the 5,280-mile trip from London – you just can’t trust these marketers and real estate developers to tell the truth, at least the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Anyway, it was kind of fun to see.
One day, we rode across the bridge and around a roughly 5-mile hiking/biking loop on a peninsula that juts into the Colorado River.
Another day, we rode to the local library (where we used the Wi-Fi since we couldn’t get it at the RV resort). The library just happened to be next door to a golf equipment shop, which we just happened to visit before proceeding to a cute little seafood and burger emporium in the tourist mecca adjacent to London Bridge. (I also just happened to order those new irons I’ve been pining over while we just happened to be visiting the golf shop.)
Dec 11-13-(Tuesday-Thursday): Tuesday morning we headed south, following a highway on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. For much of the first 40 miles, the road was very close to the river, winding up and down and around through some fascinating rock formations, affording some excellent scenery. Near Parker, we passed by a gorgeous golf course called Emerald Canyon, and I nearly stopped to play. But I had decided to forgo golf until the new clubs arrived so instead vowed to come back on our return journey. After Parker, the road veered south, away from the river and through the dull, drab desert until we reached Yuma, AZ. Our final entry into Yuma followed interstate highway I8 – as we exited the freeway to head into town, we entered California for roughly two minutes before finding ourselves back in Arizona again. After leaving the freeway, we meandered through Yuma to our next destination, Rolle’s Lynda Vista RV Park ($15 per night, cash only, with Passport America discount for full hookups, nice restrooms and showers, and the cheapest laundry facilities we’ve found yet — $0.75 for the washers and $0.25 for the dryers). This place is located in what some North Dakotan described in an on-line review as a “bad neighborhood,” but I found the surroundings quite fascinating as I biked around to explore the area and to get stuff at a nearby grocery store. There were at least 7 RV parks within a half mile, ranging from super fancy to rather seedy, and countless permanent resident mobile home parks with trailers that were for the most part, shall we say, less than pristine. Many of the mobile home park residents had pet kennels and chicken coops, and one even had an enclosure with half a dozen cattle. There was also a sizable farm stuck in the middle of all this which I think was growing lettuce. Our site was visited several times by chickens, cats, and dogs from the park immediately to our west. At about 3:30 PM each day, school buses disgorged scores of school kids throughout the neighborhood, and at about 4 PM an ice cream truck began trolling the park next door, blaring a tinny, annoying but addictive tune that made me want to jump the chain link fence and buy an Eskimo Pie. If I weren’t so old and feeble, I probably would have done it. But the place was very relaxing, we got excellent Wi-Fi and good TV reception (though half the stations were Spanish language) so I could watch more episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek TNG. Perhaps the highlight of our stay at Rolle’s was a bike ride to a tiny taco stand, set back in the trees alongside a busy street a few blocks to the south. The proprietress had limited English, and I have limited Spanish, but we managed to order and consume three delicious pork tacos that she fried up fresh on her grill.
Dec 14-15 (Friday, Saturday): On Friday, we headed west again, back into California, and drove to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. I was surprised to learn that the Salton Sea has only existed since 1905. In the early 1900’s, the concept of using the Colorado River for irrigation of farm land in California was in its infancy. One of the early irrigation canals proved to be insufficiently engineered to handle flood waters when the river swelled from rains and springtime snow melt, and the river flow poured through the primitive lock system and into the Salton Sink, a depression in the desert second only to Death Valley in terms of its below-sea-level elevation. Essentially the entire flow of the river poured into this depression for two years, creating the immense lake. While its contours have fluctuated considerably over its 100+ years of existence, the Salton Sea is currently 30 miles long by 13 miles wide, with an average depth of 25 feet (two areas are over 50 feet in depth). The Colorado River has subsequently been tamed by massive flood control projects such as the Hoover Dam, which created Lake Mead, and its waters are carefully controlled and distributed for agricultural use in California, Arizona, and Mexico. As a result, there is basically no inflow to the lake any more except agricultural runoff and some minor melt waters from the nearby mountains. Evaporation now exceeds inflow, so the lake is becoming continuously saltier. Its salinity is now 60% greater than the Pacific Ocean, though it is still less than the Great Salt Lake. In short, the Salton Sea is dying. Many of the fish species have disappeared, though the hardy tilapia still flourishes, and the bird species that feed on the fish are also disappearing. However, it is still a hauntingly beautiful place.
We stayed for two nights at an RV campsite near the main Visitor Center ($28 per night with Senior discount for full hookups, nearby restrooms but no showers, Wi-Fi, or other amenities). Of the 40+ campsites available, only 4 or 5 were occupied, so we practically had the place to ourselves. In addition to the campers, there were some day visitors, but all in all it was nearly deserted. There were nice paved roads and an accessible nature trail loop for biking, which we explored on Saturday. There was also a hiking path that was too sandy for bikes. We rode out to the beach area on the accessible loop, parked our bikes and walked along the beach for a mile or so, then walked back along the inland hiking trail.
Dec 16-19 (Sunday-Wednesday): On Sunday we drove to the Joshua Tree National Park, where we had reserved a campsite for three nights at the Black Rock Canyon Campground ($10 per night with Senior Pass for boondocking – no electricity, water, or sewer hookups). The entire area was very sandy and unsuitable for biking, so our main physical activity here was hiking. On Monday, we walked the 4.1-mile so-called “Short Loop” located a half-mile from our campsite. On Tuesday we hiked the “High View Nature Trail,” which was only 1.5 miles long but required another mile each way to get there and back from our campsite. Each of these hikes had significant elevation changes, from 4000 ft at the campground to high points of 4500 ft on the Short Loop and 4900 ft on the High View trail. The scenery was fantastic, with fascinating rock formations, thousands of the unusual Joshua trees, and beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Interestingly, the campground was very sparsely occupied with perhaps 10-20% of the sites occupied.
On Wednesday we left the campground and drove to the Visitor Center in nearby Yucca Valley, then drove into the main part of the Park to explore some of the highlights accessible from the main road. In contrast to the campground, there was a long line of cars waiting to get in through the main gate (where we obtained free entry with my Senior Pass), and we encountered throngs of people at all our stops. These included Quail Springs and Hidden Valley, two areas with amazing rock formations that make for a rock climber’s paradise. We stayed on the main trails, though, lacking the skills and the courage (or insanity) to join the myriad climbers we observed. Our final visit in the Park was to the Keys View overlook, which at 5185 ft elevation provided a stunning overlook of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountains. As we drove out of the park we both agreed that, like virtually every place we’ve gone so far on this trip, Joshua Tree National Park was a beautiful and rewarding place to see.
Dec 19-Jan 8: From Joshua Tree, we headed west and down into the Coachella Valley to our next destination, the Catalina Spa RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs. The RV Park and the municipality get their names from the hot water springs that bubble up through the desert floor in this area. The RV Park is one of those places where people come to stay for long periods – it has some 450 sites for RVs and several permanent cabins and many amenities including two naturally heated pools with adjacent hot tub/spa mineral baths, nice restrooms and showers, mail delivery, a store, pickleball courts, a mini golf course, a ballroom/dining hall, etc. We chose it because we were able to get a good price ($24 per night including Passport America discount for full hookup site plus the aforementioned amenities) for a three-week stay. The only disappointment was the somewhat falsely advertised Wi-Fi – not only is it not free, but we could barely even get a signal at our site, so we had to just rely on mobile data.
We wanted a long term stay for two reasons: 1) Pat needed to go back to Minnesota for a couple of weeks to deal with issues related to sale of the family farm, and 2) I wanted to stay somewhere I could golf my brains out. The new golf clubs were waiting for me when we checked in, so I took the old, poorly performing ones to a local used club store and sold them for $25. I dropped Pat at the airport on December 23 and immediately went to the Mesquite Country Club for my first round with the new irons. As of December 26, I’ve also played at the Cathedral Canyon Country Club and the Date Palm Country Club. (They may be called Country Clubs, but they all have let me play in my blue jeans, so they’re the super exclusive kind of country clubs, although at the last one I was told not to wear blue jeans if I come back again. Harrumph!) While I won’t bore readers with details, I will say I am very pleased with the new irons. And since my brains have not as yet fallen out, I must play more – much more – in the days to come.
So here we sit (actually only I am sitting here) in Desert Palm Springs until we depart for places yet undecided on January 9, 2019. Since we won’t be doing much of anything worth reporting until then, don’t look for another blog update until late January. Until then, I wish all my readers a happy holiday season. Moreover, I hope each and every one is also having an Excellent Adventure!