With plans to camp at Imperial Sand Dunes canceled, we find ourselves, late in the afternoon, wondering where we will spend the night. Fortunately, the ranger at Imperial Sand Dunes has some advice: check out Tumco Ghost Town in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains.
I had thought we would spend the night in Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area. What I hadn't anticipated was the park's extreme winds and camping permit prices.
Like all road trippers, we have a long, long list of places that we "meant to visit" but never quite made it in the past. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was one of those places for us for several years. I have a feeling that the anticipation will not leave us underwhelmed.
After spending all day wandering around Morro Bay, we have little time to travel to a campsite before dark. Fortunately, Montaña de Oro State Park is only six miles south of Morro Bay.
It is about lunch time as we approach Morro Bay. Without any particular plans for the day, we agree to pause for lunch by the water. Yet, it doesn't take too long for us to discover that we will be staying for a lot more than just a meal.
If you close your eyes and listen, you might think you are in the echoing halls of a labyrinthine restroom as the entire population of a broken cruse ship strive to handle food-poisoning. Yet, the sound of moist flatulence is actually coming from a different orifice and species.⠀
So, we've been raving about Big Sur a bit. But here is the down side: rock slides. I'm sure you've heard plenty about them. The slide between Mud Creek and Salmon Creek Station is expected to close that portion of Highway 1 through 2018. That means no through-routes of Highway 1. For trailers and other large rigs, that means Highway 1 is an in-out trip starting in Northern California. But we have a truck camper and are taking the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.⠀
After a few days to recover from our wintery detour, we are ready to go exploring. Our first priority is to enjoy the Amador County wine region. Could we go wine tasting in Napa? Sure. But that is crowded and overexposed. There is plenty of fine wine to be discovered across California. And our hosts are well versed in their local wineries.
We had a simple and scenic plan when leaving the Alabama Hills. We would trace the eastern Sierras up to Lake Tahoe and then cross over to the Western Sierras where friends were ready to great us upon our arrival. However, before we could even reach Bishop, highway patrol waved us over. There were extreme gusts along our route, we had to take a scenic detour through Nevada.
Sutro is a name that permeates San Francisco. Roads and civic works were named in commemoration of this mining engineer turned Mayor. But of all of these commemorative locations, there is a set that was our favorite place to take visitors when we lived in San Francisco and continues to be one of my go-to stops whenever I'm in town: Sutro Heights And Sutro Baths.
While we were on the other side of the bay, another box on my "to do" list was to hike Mount Tamalpais. The mountain towers over the bay with breathtaking panoramic views. Tamalpais towers 2,576 ft from sea level. It's summit is part of Mount Tamalpais State Park.
We had a list of places we wanted to visit before leaving San Francisco. And then we left San Francisco. We tend overestimate how much time we really have. So, we have a list of unvisited points of interest. Top of the list is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model. Two years later, here we are.
The Avenue of the Giants is is one of so many breathtaking and unique features that make California such an amazing state. Less than an hour ago, we were relaxing on the coast, now we are in the middle of towering redwoods—hearing them creak ominously.
Last night, the temperatures plummeted but this morning we woke up hot. The sun beat down on our truck shell giving us the extra spur to get up and head out early. The tide tables indicated that low tide would be at 8am. I must have read them wrong because it was high tide when we arrived at the shore. All the same, we trotted out to glass beach, an accidental oddity on the California coast.
With the fire behind us but on our mind, we were extra conscientious campers today. We headed due west for Mendocino. The drive spanned the temperature gamut: from 100 degree golden rolling hills, spotted with oak, to 56 degrees in the Redwoods, overlooking Fort Bragg. Our destination was Russian Gulch campground. Apparently, it was the destination of many, because the grounds were filled by the time we arrive. Fortunately, the ranger not only advised us on where to go instead but called ahead and arranged for the last spot to be held for us. We arrived in MacKerricher State Park campground 15 minutes later and happily paid for out camp site.
Bodie is the gold standard of ghost towns. Where other ghost towns have ten or so old buildings in varying degrees of disrepair or renovation, Bodie may only have 10% of its original structures but that still accounts for 110 structures preserved in a state of arrested decay. There is a stamp mill with it's original machinery literally falling through the floor, off kilter structures, and occasional doorways that lead to...nowhere.
It's hard to believe that just a few days ago we were sweating it out in Death Valley. Now, we are perched above June Lake, with a view that takes reservations to procure, and a smug sense of satisfaction. The only down side with the picturesque Oh! Ridge Campground, though, is the wind. It sweeps over the lake and hits us with a ferocity that I though was reserved for a response to the dozens. I haven't said anything mean about June Lake's mama, but the wind is certainly fierce.
After our hike, we were exhausted. Fortunately, I had already done the preparation work for tonight's dinner that morning. Now, with my dogs barking and my calves screaming, it was time to set up the fire and sit down to chop apples for another round of experiments in campfire cooking.
Cerro Gordo is not easy to reach. If anything, traveling there was a good reminder of the compromises we make with our living situation and the potential shift in mobility that comes with any change. The route to Cerro Gordo is 7 miles of rough road snaking sharply to the summit of Cerro Gordo Peak. Woe betide any unwitting driver that comes across a car in the opposite direction because most stretches of the road are a single lane with a mountain wall to one side and a cliff at the other. It is a route we never would have attempted with Dodgy I or even if Dodgy II had a top heavy camper. It is Dodgy II's light truck bed shell and 4 wheel drive that makes the road feasible.
I can tell you that we experienced 120°F, but I don't think a numeric measurement could convey what such heat does to a human body. Each step away from a cool air conditioned car winnows away energy, drive, optimism, and curiosity. The cool car becomes a recharging station, where one regains the will and ability to strive. The car is where a cool head can set priorities: how far I can safely travel and what pictures will I take. And when one comes to a point where cool air is no longer forthcoming, how willingly one will just give up.
The Center For Land Use Interpretation is part art, part research, and everything we love. I came across the site while researching one of our natural resource websites. The merging of land use and artistic analysis brings art to a realm which mostly consists of data parsing and number crunching.
The Mar Vista Time Travel Mart stands apart from its neighboring stores along Venice Blvd. Perhaps it is the pacifist robot in the shop window. Perhaps it is the reassuring gold window dressing reminding you that "Whenever you are, we're already then." Perhaps it is the robot toupee and dinosaur eggs for sale. Regardless, it's the place to go to outfit your pre-adults with "future adult" t-shirts with the warm knowledge that profits from this time travel themed market go to support an educational program for local children.
I remember visiting the Getty Center around 2004 and being blown away by the gardens. Certainly, the collection of art works inside the Getty represent noteworthy landmarks in art history. Yet, the garden was such a beautiful and deliberate journey that I couldn't help but be drawn outside.
We are meticulously law abiding. When we come to communities that have banned overnight parking in Walmarts such as Galveston, TX or Glen Springs, CO, we don't throw up our hands and attempt to stealth camp. As tired as we may be, we accept that this community does not want our business and we move on. So when we got a ticket for overnight parking in Pasadena, CA, we thought it must be a mistake.
Ode To A Grecian Urn by John Keats concludes:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
If such may be argued to be the case, then one need not concern themselves whether the displays in the Museum of Jurassic Technology are factual—they may or may not be but none of the museum staff will tell you. Instead, it is a maze of twilight truths. Darkened, mysterious rooms hold strange oddities that might have been picked out of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford or have been designed by an artist inspired by history and the occult. Rooms delve into ancient medical traditions, a tragic actress, trailer parks, early space travel, and a monk's studies into magnetism to explain the divine's intangible but powerful influence in the world.
We have always had greater ambitions for Dodgy than just a bed under a truck shell. You don't need a 3500 Dodge Ram truck to go camping in the redwoods. It's impressive. Maybe it might make some guys with the chromed out 1500s feel a little inadequate but that is their business, not ours.
After a delightful night in the Redwood Forest, we figured the rest of our return journey would be rather rote. It was time to dig in and get to our friend's house outside of Sacramento where we could take a break from traveling and get some work done. But little did we know what a truly beautiful remainder of a trip we had left. Well, we did rather know. I made a point to route us along the coast for a while before heading inland for a mountain pass. So I knew there would be beaches and sea side views. What I didn't expect was an elk crossing.
In keeping with our tradition of shoehorning additional stops into an already busy schedule, we extended our trip by a day to camp in Redwood National and State Parks. Parts of it are national. Parts of it are state. As far as we can determine, there aren't any drive in camping spots in the National park, so we found an ideal spot at the State Park. The site is flanked by massive redwood trees, within hearing distance of a sonorous river, and a hop skip an a jump from bathrooms that don't stink. To me, the perfect spot.
The Salton Sea is an interesting example of when humans take water away, give it back again, and then take it away, yet again. The sea was a long standing body of water until the Colorado River was redirected. When a levy failed, the redirected river returned to it's original path, replenishing the Sea for years while the levy was being rebuilt. It experienced a golden age as a recreational destination for Los Angelese's cramped denisens...until it started to sink. As more water evaporates per year than is replenished into the Sea, the Salton Sea retains little other than salt, farm runoff, and the resulting dead fish. Rent is pretty low.
While we had already enjoyed a short hike with friends while staying in Palm Springs, we decided to circle back to for a night of camping after we bid the crew adieu. After an awesome hike, we settled in to a small camp site, set up our newly acquired inflatable glamping* chairs on the roof of the van to eat Bahn Mi and drink wine, and watched the sun set. Unfortunately, we, yet again, forgot to consider the elevation we were camping at and quickly retreated into the van as soon as the light show was over.
Desert Christ Park is an early foray into biblically themed parks. It's not nearly to the state of gems you might find in Kentucky, but it has it's own charm as it attempts some earnest Greco-Roman styling in plaster and rebar. While it may not constitute very fine art, it's scale makes for some great group pictures.
Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum fills ten acres of "environmental statues" outside of Joshua Tree, California. Visitors wander down a dirt road to the yard of towering sculptures of found art. Toilets, bowling balls, hooks, rope, and scrap metal find their place in 3D collages and weird structures.
The Kabin may be part of the Kcymaerxthaere series of pieces by Eames Demetrios but it certainly stands on its own in drawing your attention into an alternate world. This dilapidated "Kabin" on the outskirts of a housing development in Joshua Tree, California feels as if we had crossed into an alternate timeline. The Krblin Jihn Kabin is a faux-historic preserve where religious dissidents were exiled. It is complete with explanatory panels and plaques outlining the historic context and traditions.
Did you know that California was split in two over the question of where Jesus walked: North California or South California? As plaques explain, how this was the homestead of the exiled Krblin Jihn, member of the Jihn Wranglikan sect. Inside are verses from Jihn's translations of the bible (ommitting the selatious "o" and "c", which the Jihn Wranglikan sect consider to be obscene) and mention of his work, Kmmentaries n Matthew.
Robolights has been the continuing project of Kenny Irwin Jr. since 1986. What was intended as a dystopian Christmas display of robots and found objects has become a block spanning marvel for visitors any day of the year. We happened to come by in January and were not disappointed.
Get ready to be jealous, because we are in Palm Springs. We are renting a house with a pool in the back. Thus, the first thing we attended to was cooling off in the water as the sun set. Along with the conventional walks through town, we spiced up out visit with attractions gathered from the Atlas Obscura. We visited a memorial structure preserved from the fictional civil war between north and south California. We trudged through a series of outdoor sculptures on the outskirts of a Joshua Tree suburb. And we enjoyed the crumbling remains of an early attempt at a biblical attraction with sculptures depicting religious scenes with heavy roman aesthetic.