Updated on March 4, 1999.
Wednesday morning we were up and rigging the trailer once again for travel. Once again a friend gave us suggestions on how to get there, so I did not bother setting up the Co-Pilot (our GPS system). We headed south on Boulder Highway to Sunset Drive, then headed west. Unfortunately, we found that there were a large number of stop-lights, all out of time with our speed. Then there was a confusing turn in the road, and we ended up going north instead of west. As it turns out, it is pretty hard to get lost in the Las Vegas area, but my blood-pressure rose more than I wanted it too. We finally found our way back to Las Vegas Blvd and drove south for a couple of miles to the road that headed for Pahrump. With that experience in mind, I would suggest going around Las Vegas on the freeways, provided it is not during commute hours.
The weather had cleared from when we had driven over the pass a week before, so it was clear sailing for the truck and trailer. There was still a little snow left on the north side of the mountains near the pass, but nothing near the road. Once over the pass, we almost coasted the rest of the way down the hill to our turnoff to the SKP park.
After the short drive of 63 miles, we were both still refreshed after the drive. Setup was easy, but the breeze was brisk and the temperature seemed to be falling. The view of Mount Charleston was spectacular with its dusting of snow on top. Our neighbors warned us that the temperature was predicted to drop below freezing that night and that we should protect our water hose. I did not bother to hook it up the first night, and then a few nights later, it froze solid.
This picture was taken a couple of days later, the same night as the sunset behind our rig shown above. It was still a pretty backdrop for the campground.
After visiting with the lively group of SKPs at the happy hour, we decided to just stay in Pahrump and drive to Death Valley on day trips. It was a wise choice, especially since the weather turned even colder and cloudy. Boondocking in Death Valley would have been somewhat miserable.
On Friday, we did our first day trip. We drove to Soshone, CA, and then entered Death Valley National Park from the south. We had not realized how huge Death Valley is, and coming from that way gives you real appreciation for that fact. That day trip was over 200 miles.
We came down towards the salt lakes that form on the bottom of the valley through barren rock mountains. There were huge alluevial fans coming out from the mountains into the valley, and there were marshes once we reached the bottom. The lowest point in the valley is near Bad Water, 282 feet below sea level. Luckily, the road is several feet higher, else we would have had to drive through crusty muck.
Death Valley is huge, and the road just keeps going on and on. There are views of barren rocks all along the way. There is not much vegetation. At some points you can see where people have mined in the valley. The reports are that there was not much in the valley in the way of heavy metals like gold. There was mining for borax that was successful.
There were side roads to various trails. We took the drive known as Artist's Palette Loop and found one trail that went to the top of a nearby ridge. I am showing the trail because the fact that we walked up it was more spectacular than the view.
The whole area in Death Valley is one of intense vulcanization, and many of the rocks have been metamorphed to produce different colors. This loop showed large areas of the most colorful rocks. There were places where the entire sides of the mountains had taken on brilliant colors from the heat.
The road climbed a couple of thousand feet, and at the top we had a great view of the salty lakes below. The view gave us another opportunity to enjoy the huge expanse of the valley below.
We had planned to eat lunch on the road, but there was nowhere to stop until we reached Furnace Creek at 2:30 that afternoon. After checking in at the Park Headquarters, we drove back to the Furnace Creek Ranch and had lunch. It was good, especially because we were both so hungry.
We drove directly back from Furnace Creek to Pahrump. It was an easy drive, but the Co-Pilot did not know of the road's existence and kept trying to route us back through Soshone. Luckily there were road signs to follow.
The next day we washed clothes. I was able to spend a lot of time writing. It was very quiet around the park, except when the wind blew. There were a couple of storms that came in while we were there, and the wind blew very hard at times. The awning covers over the slides make the most noise, and we have learned to not worry about them.
On Monday we did another day trip to Death Valley. We drove to Furnace Creek then north. We visited the Harmon Borax Works, where the 20 Mule Team concept was invented. Alice is looking at one of the wagons. The wheels were taller than she is.
We walked down the small stream along side the borax works into the marshes where they mined the borax. This is some of what they were picking up and then purifying to extract the borax salts.
We drove to the north end of the park and visited Scotty's Castle and took the tour. Jack, our guide, was excellent at taking us back to the time when the crew was building the house in the 1930s and then when the Johnson's, who actually owned the property, came to visit. Scotty was quite a character, and some felt he was a scoundrel and con-artist. But the Johnson's enjoyed his company and the myth about his gold mine.
By the time we reached Beatty, NV, it was too late to drive down to the ghost town of Rhyolite. We are saving that for our next trip to the area.
Both Alice and I had a delightful time in Pahrump. The people at Pair-a-Dice are so friendly (but then all SKPs seem to be that way), and the peace and quiet was restful. We plan to go back and spend more time there in the years to come.
Thursday morning, we hooked up again and pulled the rig back over the pass to Las Vegas. This time I decided to go by way of the freeway. It was much easier.
We had made arrangements for our daughter Deb to visit with us while we were in Las Vegas this time. She drove down from Sacramento. Her email said she planned to leave by 6am, so we expected her by the evening. She arrived about 5pm. We went to Sam's Town for the buffet and then toured the strip. I drove Deb's car so she could just see the sights. She thought Las Vegas was all spread out, so it was not what she expected, and she took lots of pictures.
The next day we all went to Boulder Dam for the dam tour. Alice and I had driven over the dam a number of times, but this was the first time we stopped for the tour. It was all very interesting and impressive. You simply cannot comprehend just how big that structure is until you are inside of it, and even then it is hard.
This is the bank of turbine generators on the Nevada side of the dam. There is another set of the same size on the Arizona side. Most of them were running, and it was still relatively quiet.
We came back to the Railroad Pass Casino and stopped for lunch at their buffet. That was a big mistake, even though it was only $4 each. Guess you get what you pay for. That evening we went to the Excalibar to have dinner and see the jousting at the Tournaments of the Kings. It was fun to see the fine horsemanship again, and Deb loved it.
My sister, Rosemary, and her husband, Everett, arrived in Las Vegas around noon on Saturday. They were staying at the Hilton, so we drove over to see them. We all walked over to the Stratosphere and went to the top of the tower for drinks. You get a great view of Las Vegas from there, and we spent an hour trying to figure out if the tower was moving or not. It wasn't.
Returning to the Hilton, we had supper at BeniHannas. It was delicious, but too much. I was happy to return to the trailer and go to bed.
On Sunday we took Deb to the Boulder Station for brunch. It was quite good. That evening we went back to the Hilton. Deb visited the StarTrek Experience and Alice and I went with Rosemary and Everett to see Johnnie Mathis. From the sound of it, Deb had a really great time. I enjoyed the songs, but sort of wished I had gone with Deb to see Star Trek.
Monday morning, and it was travel time again. Deb was packed by the time we were ready to go. We expected to convoy as far as Barstow. Unfortunately, we got separated when she did not see us leave the TTN park, so we went our separate ways.
This time I drove south on I-515 to NV146, Henderson Highway, then west to I-5. That route was reasonably good, and once on I-5 we made good time. We stopped at the brake check area on Cajon Pass just after Victorville for lunch, then headed down the hill. Taking the I-215 cutoff, we drove through San Bernadino and Riverside to Sun City without problem. Maybe it was the time of day; I had not expected it to be so easy.
We drove two miles to the east and turned down the road next to the dairy farm that flanks the Wilderness Lakes TTN Park. It was quite odorous next to the farm, but it had cleared by the time we reached the park entrance. If the winds do not turn the wrong way, it will not be too bad.
We looked around a bit before parking, and finally found a spot with plenty of room where we could pull through. The park is in the middle of a grove of second growth eucalyptus trees on sandy soil (actually the whole valley is filled with decomposed granite). There are a series of canals running through the park, and the ducks provide a chorus from time to time. It is very pleasant and very quiet, a great place to do my writing.
On Wednesday we drove over to the Jojoba SKP park to check it out. We received a tour and had ice cream at their happy hour. It is a beautiful Co-op park set on the side of a hill looking towards Mount Palomar. It is to be our next stop.
We have been relaxing in Wilderness Lakes TTN Park. We have met several couples who are also full-timing. It is funny how we are getting able to pick them out from the crowd. We found a Wal-Mart in Hemet so Alice was able to refill her perscriptions.
They are building a new reservoir between Wilderness Lakes and Hemet. It will be quite large, and everyone who lives in the area seems excited about it. They make a point of saying it will be filled with Northern California water. It does give them an extra supply in case delivery from the north is interrupted.
We were able to get on the Internet several times and updated our web page just before we left.
On Tuesday we packed everything up for the 32 miles drive over to Jojoba Hills. Alice and I finally agreed before we got there that we would stay in the boondock area, and if things got too bad we would ask for a spot with hookups. We registered for one week in boondock at $2.50 per night. We pulled in and after looking things over decided to back in under the trees. That turned out to be a mistake, and we later moved over to the other side of the parking lot where we could make better use of our solar system.
The boondock area is very convenient. There is a restroom with laundry right next to it. The only problem is that it is downhill from the community club house where they have all the meetings and the hot tubs. We have not been good about walking up the hill.
We walked once around the park and admired all the work the volunteers had done in putting the park together. It is a beautiful place, well manicured and very neat. It is built on hills of decomposed granite with a significant supply of embedded boulders. They have built channels for water runoff and are in the process of building a water fall.
By Thursday it was apparent we needed to move the rig to get better access to the sun, so we pulled in everything, drove 100 feet and put everything back out. I set up my portable solar panel and hooked it up. The change in location and the addition of the panel made a tremendous difference in our power budget. We went from a max of 8 amps part of the day to 13+ amps most of the day. The portable panel is a little difficult to work with, and I worry about what will happen when the wind blows, but I believe it will be usable. In any case, we are handling the one week of boondocking very well.
We drove into Temecula a couple of times, and the second time had lunch. We ate at the Texas Grill in old town Temecula and had their chicken burgers. The food was outstanding. I heartily recommend you try them out. They are at the north end of the oldtown area.
Jojoba Hills SKP park has a small building they call their Cyber Center with computers and a telephone line. We have been able to make use of it to do some surfing and collected data from the web. It has been very convenient and helpful.
Sunday night we went to the potluck. There were only six couples, but the food selection was excellent. We made a number of new friends and stayed on for a game of Mexican Train.
The weather and peace and quiet have been an excellent environment for me to make progress on the book. Alice has also made progress on the financial books, and we will be sending our tax forms off early for the first time in years. This is one of our definite stops for next year.
Over the weekend we worked on our tax returns and finally got everything in order. Then we went back into Temecula to find a place to duplicate the return and then sent it off. While there we once again went to the Texas grill and had another chicken burger. They are habit forming.
Both Alice and I agreed that Jojoba Hills SKP Park has much to offer, and before we left, we put our names in to join the co-op there. We are currently number 20, and some of those with whom we talked said we might be in as soon as a year. We will see.