Traveling Again

We’ve been on the road for almost a week, and already I’m way behind on blogging. We haven’t had much web access in that time, so blog updates have not been happening. This post will be an update of our path so far and hopefully I’ll be able to update a little more regularly in future posts.

Thursday March 15We did manage to get out of San Francisco on Thursday morning as we planned. It was a very busy several days leading up to it. Over the weekend, I attended the PhotoAlliance portfolio review for which I spent several weeks preparing. On Monday, I got the Lazy Daze out of storage and up to my parents house, 15 miles south of SF, to wash and prep. Tuesday was at home gathering everything we needed to load and running last minute errands. Wednesday, I returned to the folks house to pick up the RV and bring it up to the city. I also had to get downtown to pick up my new glasses that Lenscrafters had botched preparing the first time last week. My prescription is such that it takes a week and an half to fill. No “about an hour” for me. And when they make an error in either the prescription or the fitting of the lenses (which they seem to do regularly now), it means another week and a half to reorder. So it was this time. I told them the previous week that if they weren’t in by Wednesday, I wouldn’t be in for two months to pick them up. So I had to spend time getting there and back. I didn’t get to start loading till around 6:00 PM. Mary had been busy all the while though, so much was done before I got back.

Thursday morning went well. We have done this so many times over the past 6 years now, we have it down. I don’t think we have forgotten anything. Although we don’t tend to find this out until something needed is not there. The RV is running well. I managed to fix the endcaps that were beginning to come off. Some marine sealant form DAP Plastics and duct tape did the trick. Got it done on Monday actually, the day before the rain in the Bay Area started. I didn’t remove the duct tape holding the end caps on until Thursday at out first stop in Coalinga. It seems to be holding beautifully. I just need to paint the white caulk where it crosses the blue paint. Some of my handy Lazy Daze touch up paint will do the trick.

We arrived at the Almond Tree RV Park in Coalinga by late afternoon. It is located just off I 5, but off the highway enough so that there isn’t any road noise. We could have actually just parked in the large truck parking lot adjacent to the park and saved the 30 bucks, but Mary tends to feel better with the hookup especially on traveling days. Can’t say I mind that much either. We like this park mainly because it is situated on the edge of a very nice almond orchard. If we time our departure right, we can camp here when the trees are in bloom. We’ve hit it just right several times. When we do, it feels pretty special. Not only are the mature trees just beautiful to see, but the air is thick with the sweet scent of the blossoms. Because of the unusually warm winter this year and lack of rain, the bloom happened early – like two weeks ago – and we missed it. But the grounds are well kept and the operators and staff are friendly.

Friday March 16 – A night at Calico
We spent  the day driving  to the small town of Calico near Barstow CA. It’s a ghost town actually, and a regional park. We opted to stay at the campground here. It has a number of the sites have hook-ups and is alot cheaper than the KOA or other private parks in Barstow. Plus the camp fee includes the $10 entrance admission to the ghost town. It was very windy when we arrived – the forbearer of the approaching storms. We just hung out the rest of the afternoon and planned on checking out the ghost town in the morning. In the morning we did wander the town a bit. It’s kind of touristy, but still kind of fun to see. There are a lot of original and rebuilt buildings, so you get the feel for what it might have been like. There is a little train ride around the area, a cemetery, schoolhouse and the like. After a couple of hours, we were ready to move on.

Saturday March 17 – Vegas Baby!

Well, near Vegas anyway. We’ve woken up to morning of day 3 at Red Rock State Park in Nevada, just a few miles west of Las Vegas. Since the park itself has no campground, we are staying in a nice little BLM campground a little outside the park. At $15.00 a night, it’s a good deal. With our Senior’s pass it’s $7.50 – a great deal.Yesterday high winds blew in a rare rainstorm – or what passes for a rainstorm in Nevada. Most of the drive in from Calico, where we stayed our second, night was uneventful. It’s just flat desert. Clouds were gathering as we approached Vegas on I 15 and we wondered if what we were seeing ahead on the road was fog or mist. It was dust from the high winds that were largely blocked from the hills we were driving through. It wasn’t that bad though. Hardly felt the Lazy Daze get pushed around on the road. We did worry a bit that there would be no open spaces in the campground. Arriving on a Saturday can often be a problem, and on a St. Paddy’s day Saturday, we expected an overflow. Perhaps it was the wind and rain, but we did manage to find several open spaces, one of which gave us a really nice view of the rolling desert terrain. This place is a little bit of a throwback in that there are hardly any motor-homes here. As I look out over the area, I see a little teardrop trailer, one class A diesel pusher, and a couple of other small trailers. Everything else is tents – maybe 30 or 40 in all. There is a dedicated RV parking area, but it is relegated to an unimpressive side loop. I’m sure the wind made for a rather sleepless night for the tenters. As I watch people scurrying from tent to car in the wind and cold, I am reminded again why I don’t miss tent camping. This park, as it’s name suggests is all about the sandstone. Climbers have made it a haven for themselves, which helps explain the campground. Young climbers don’t do RV’s.

Sunday March 18 – Into the Valley of Fire we Go
Today we arrived at Valley of Fire State Park. It is located about 60 miles southwest of Vegas and seems to be one of the best kept secrets of camping. Mary and I visited here in 2010 but lost all the photos we’d taken when the power supply brick of the laptop fell and landed on the computer hard drive, killing it completely. So we are back and having a wonderful stay. It was still very windy and quite cold on Sunday when we arrived. I’d hoped this meant plenty of spaces available, and while there weren’t a lot, there were several. The one we took has a terrific view of the area, and water and electric for an extra 10 bucks. Because it is still quite cold, we decided to save our propane and use their electricity. It was too windy to do much the rest of the day, so we just stayed inside and read.

Monday March 19
Monday morning dawned calm and beautiful. Large puffy clouds were ambling by inviting us to get out and explore. After breakfast we went for a drive and later a hike. We headed first to a spot we remembered from the last visit in the Rainbow Rock Valley. The colors exist here in quantity and variety unlike anywhere I’ve seen before. There are reds, yellows, oranges, purples and whites. In layers, stripes, waves and solid masses – all sandstone. We easily spent a couple of hours photographing the area.

We moved up the road a bit to get to our hike, but were stopped by a Nevada Highway Patrol car blocking the road ahead with lights flashing. We approached slowly and when the officer got out and walked our way, we expected the worst. He began talking about some shooting going on and said the road would be closed for a few minutes. Seems a film crew is shooting a Volkswagen commercial through this cool landscape. So next time you see a Passat  on TV you’ll have an idea of what this place is like.

We eventually made it to the White Dome area where our hike was (along with the ten other cars who were waiting in line with us). We decided to first have our lunch and wait for the crowd to thin out before hiking. It was good to be walking again after 4 days of driving to get here. It was a short but lovely hike through sandstone cliffs. Either the sandstone was particularly slippery, or I’ve forgotten how to walk on it, but I managed my first fall of the trip. On the way down, I had a split second decision to make – land on my camera or my forearm – I now have a nice raseberry scrap on my forearm. I’m sure this won’t be my last fall. It’s just my style of hiking. I don’t tend to plant my foot on every step. Many of my moves are combination steps. That is I’ll plan several steps at a time – several of which I would fall over if I stopped. Instead, I just step, step, step in quick succession. It almost always works, but if it doesn’t and one step is a slip, it could mean a fall. Not always, in fact hardly at all. But once in a while…

We got back just before a light sprinkle, had some coffee and cookies and watched the interesting parade of tourist attire move by as they walked up to the trailhead then returned to their cars.

 On the way back to camp, we decided to see if we could find the old lone bighorn sheep a ranger had told us about earlier. Apparently, he is around 10 –  a real geezer in sheep terms – and not much interested in fighting or females. He just grazes in the area of the campgrounds, not much afraid of people. When we noticed a clot of cars on the main road, we figured we’d found him. His was indeed kind of scruffy – but still cute in an old dude kind of way. We photographed awhile, then returned to the Lazy Daze. In camp, another LD was parked in the site just above ours. He was gone for the day by the time we got up and about, but we eventually met and discovered he was a near full-timer. We had a nice conversation, and I photographed him inside his rig for my project.

Tuesday March 20
Each day has been slightly warmer than the one before by about 5 degrees. And less windy too. Today was warm and calm and we headed out for another hike. This one was up a wash which, according to our 4 year old guide book, promised a nice sandstone arch as a reward. There are small arches and windows all over this park, but most are not much to speak of. It was only about a 2 mile round trip hike so we figured what the heck. The rain of a couple days ago made walking in the wash quite easy. The wet-ish sand gave good traction and being so flat with just a couple of scrambles over rocks, made for nice walking. At about 2 mile in, and no arch, we turned back a little disappointed. On the way back about a mile in, we found what used to be the arch. Because of the angle as we originally walked in, it really wasn’t visible until we came back. Apparently if fell apart sometime in the past years. The ranger we talked to at the visitor center only said it’s been down the whole time he’s been there. Oh well, while it turned into a 4 mile hike, it was still pleasant.

Former arch.

Wednesday March 21
Made it to St. George Utah today. We’re here just to restock and laundry before heading for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This is a really nice campground and park. It’s mostly dedicated to ATV buggies and such, but a good section is for foot traffic only. That is what we are after. We will photograph the dunes over the next couple of days before moving on.

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