Monday, January 31, 2011

Blowing in to Borrego

(Borrego Springs, CA)  Originally, the plan was that JoAnn, Jo and I were going to go hiking this morning.  However, in the middle of the night the winds began to howl.

By morning, the winds were so strong that it didn’t surprise me at all when I received word from JoAnn that our trek was cancelled.  JoAnn is no stranger to boondocking in this area and said she had never experienced winds this strong.

So, as you would expect shortly after we cancelled the hike, the winds which were suppose to get stronger during the day, began to calm and Ken and I took a short walk with the dogs in the area.


Instead we drove in to Borrego Springs with JoAnn and Doug  to meet Jo and Fred for lunch at Calico’s.  Although it is called a bakery, this place is known for very good pizza and something called an egg pocket which is a combination of hard boiled egg, ham and mozzarella inside a puff pastry.  Ken and I had both and were really happy with the food.  However, the kitchen really isn’t organized to serve pizza since after Ken and I placed our order they told JoAnn that our’s would take a half hour and they couldn’t start one for her until ours was complete. 


I don’t think Doug was too disappointed though that they didn’t get pizza.  None of us had ever seen so much bacon on a BLT!!


After the meal, all six of us and Boo Boo jumped in to Doug and JoAnn’s truck to take a ride up the mountain on the other side of Borrego Springs where the mountain goats unique to this area are often found grazing.  IMG_2356

While we were not lucky enough to catch any of the goats out, probably because of the return of the gusty winds, we did have some really lovely views looking down onto the valley town.  Jo and Fred are taking this route over the mountain tomorrow on the way to the SKP Jojoba Co-op.  It has a lot of switchbacks and steep grades but as you can see from picture below is tackled by RVers.


I can’t say we were particularly surprised the Doug’s truck just steered itself in to the Fudge Factory where they also serve, yes, Blue Bunny ice cream!  We all enjoyed a mid-afternoon desert and then walked over t0 the state park and museum store where they had lots of interesting items on the area.

What we found most interesting was running in to another couple of SKP Boomers in front of the store.  Marlene and Richard Dopp are actually the folks that built the earth oven that is in front of our rig in the desert where we are parked. 


You can see what the oven looked like when Marlene and Richard, along with Laurie and Odel, built it 3 years ago, by clicking here.    The Dopps had been at Quartzsite with the Boomers when we were there but we really hadn’t gotten to know them then. They have been friends with the Dubrouillets for some time though and had dropped by our rigs earlier in the day but after we’d already left.  So now we are hoping that they’ll be coming by for happy hour tomorrow.  There is no end to the interconnections within the community of wonderful RVers.  As Doug said, you begin to run in to more friends at your next RV parking site than you do in your hometown.

The Dopps also mentioned that a grove just north of town had some really luscious grapefruit in their roadside stand.  So that was our next stop.   When they heard that Ken and I had never picked a grapefruit or orange before they were happy to let us get the photo op below.


After checking out all the various samples they had at the stand, we decided to split a bag of oranges and a bag of grapefruit with the Dubrouillets.  There were 2 dozen oranges in a bag a dozen grapefruit, with a bag costing $3.  Really, really great buy for Midwesterners on fresh, fresh off-the-tree citrus.

We made a brief stop at one of the dozens of  Galleta Meadows Sculptures that dot the countryside around Borrego Springs.  This was one of the most recent which depicts field workers who toiled here picking grapes prior to the historic United Farm Workers boycott in the 1960’s.




After seeing this one example, Ken and I are sure we want to head out in the next few days and find the rest of the dozen or more sculptures scattered around the area.



While I like to end with a sunset, tonight that was not to be.  Instead I leave you with a view from our rig looking back toward Borrego Springs where it they were obviously experience a rare taste of rain.


Hugs, C

Sunday, January 30, 2011

El Centro to Borrego Springs, CA

(Borrego Springs, CA) 

Tools of the trade for a travelling blogger:


My little Acer computer, my USB connection to my EVO android phone,  our Wilson cellular signal booster, and of course some Two Buck Chuck chardonnay. Ken has the same little computer so that we can swap out batteries if one of us over-extends and we also have the same phones making it easier to share apps, battery chargers, etc.,   We both use the PDAnet app for accessing the internet and have had very good luck to-date in having adequate signal.  I like use the signal booster anytime we don’t have max bars and I’m on the internet since it just makes things go fast.

Seated before this set of tools,  is how you would find me around sunset most days at Rio Bend RV Park. 

We really enjoyed just being at this park.  The neighbors were friendly,  it was a comfortable place to walk the dogs or let them play in the enclosed area for them.  So, we decided on Friday to make it a preparation-for-the-desert day rather than do any further exploring.

Our neighbors, Dale and Karen had invited us to the park fish fry that evening.  The food was very good and we really enjoyed the company.  It’s strange what a small world this RV community can be.  One of the gentleman sitting with us (and darned if we can remember his name!) had a sweatshirt on it that read ‘Thunder Bay’ had worked that summer with Linda and Howard up in Michigan, parked right next to them.

We were surprised to find out that Joann and Doug had driven all of the way to the park from Benson, AZ.  We dropped by their rig and made our plan for departure the next day.  They had a pretty tough travel day considering a variety of things that went wrong and a tough time finding any place with full hookups to stop for the night.  Since Rio Bend did not require checkout until noon we decided to make it a late departure on Saturday.

Once again we were in for a drive through spectacular scenery with Doug in the lead.


We were amazed at the RV’s scattered haphazardly across the desert.  Seeing this in Quartzsite was expected but we really hadn’t realized how many folks bookdock all over the Southwest this time of year.

We pulled over about 5 miles before Borrego Springs on Rockhouse Road, a dirt road headed toward the mountains. We unhooked the jeep and the four of us checked out the area and selected a spot.


The ground was a bit soft and so we did a lot of moving around until Ken was comfortable that we were level and solid. 

I’m not use to finding flowers like this on my walks in January!


We were invited to Jo and Fred Wishnie’s for dinner and took off for the other side of Borrego Springs just before 4pm. 

We had a wonderful evening.  The Wishnie’s provides a great tortilla soup with all the fixin’s, corn pudding and an absolutely wonderful homemade apple pie. We also met little BooBoo the adorable Wishnie shitzhu.  Before we left, the ladies made plans for a hiking trip on Sunday.

It’s now Sunday morning and Ken and I didn’t have a very good night’s sleep.  The winds became really gusty overnight and kept waking us up.   It’s suppose to get worse as the day goes on with 45mph gust.  Ken is thinking we are getting those already.

I’m not sure if the hike is still on but we’ll just play it by ear.  We certainly can’t complain if this is the first day all month where the weather impacts our plans!

As I worked on this blog, I shot this picture of the sunrise from where I sat at the table.


Ken was on the other side of the rig and got this shot of the rising sun setting the mountains to glowing.


Hugs, C

Friday, January 28, 2011

This is What I’ve Heard About California

Note: Our nephews, Alan and Brian Duesterhaus and Brian’s wife Peggy are currently in Brazil on an agricultural exploration put on by the local farmer’s co-op back in Illinois where Peggy works.  Peggy is writing a blog of this unique adventure.  I’ve added a link to Peggy’s Agri Amazon Trip on the left sidebar.


Growing up a Midwesterner, I thought that California was full of grapefruit, oranges, palm trees, earthquakes and some pretty eccentric folk.  I guess after Thursday, we’ve experienced them all, and at least, on the part of the earthquake, didn’t even know it.

Caltech has a website that tracks California quakes and apparently we’ve had repeated quakes while here, including a 3.3 quake centered only about 30 miles away in Calexico.  That one was 9:13am Wednesday morning.  We would have been in the rig at that time. Didn’t notice a thing!  In Illinois that size quake would make the front page!!

I also grew up with the idea that someday California would have such a major earthquake that it would fall in to the sea.  Ok, well, it sounds like the imminent ‘big one’ is still a reasonable expectation but I now understand that the tectonic plates are pushing in at California, not out, so it’s not logical that such movement would cause the land mass to move out but instead should move east and up. Never really ever took the time to do any reading on it until now!

While we have the grapefruit, orange and palm trees in the RV park, we decided to take a little drive today in search of those eccentric California folk.  

I’d heard many years ago about the quirky little place called ‘The Slabs’ and it was a place I always thought would be interesting to visit.  When we were at Escapade last fall, we took time out for an at-home movie night with Dee and Jim at their rig, watching Into the Wild.  A portion of that story takes place at the Slabs so it reminded me I wanted this place on my adventure list.  I highly recommend you find and rent this DVD.  It is definitely in our top-10 all time favorites.

I’d heard repeatedly that its really not much to see, just a scattering of transient shacks and long immobile RV’s sitting out in the desert in a loosely connected community.  We considered giving it a pass but then, when I was in a really restless mood this morning, Ken said, what-the-heck, it’s a nice day for a drive, no expectations, we’ll just see what’s there.

One the way, using my EVO, I found one review, for one restaurant, Ballesteros,  in the little town of Niland, closest to the Slabs.  We found it next to a pretty grungy laundromat with a homeless lady wandering up and down the street mumbling.  I was having my doubts that I was all that hungry.  But, as it turned out we had some really awesome burritos there and a great homemade salsa.  Even better, as usual, we got to know some of the locals. The owner has a son back in the Midwest at the Fort Leonardwood military base.  A milk truck driver sitting at the next table filled us in on the latest local news—that morning somebody snatched a whole case of whiskey from inside the grocery/liquor store  across the street.  He also explained a little about the farming activities we’d been passing.  

The Imperial Valley, despite having only an average 3 inches of rainfall per year, is a mecca of agricultural production, with two crop cycles per year.  The area has one of the highest agricultural yields in the world because of its extensive network or canals and irrigation networks, most coming off the Colorado River via the 80 mile long All-American Canal.  We frequently crossed this canal or one of its offshoots throughout our drive.  This area uses 2/3’s of all of California’s river waters, and as water becomes an increasingly precious commodity here in the West, this water use becomes a bigger point of controversy. 

It was harvest season along our route. Below we got a shot of harvesting romaine lettuce.


The large fires we saw in the fields had us perplexed.  Our dairy trucker friend explained that once harvested the fields are burned to remove the crop stubble before being plowed and replanted.  This is only allowed on certain days and apparently is the subject of some controversy due to impact on air quality.


He also explained that a huge crop here is alfalfa which has brought in a lot of cattle feed lots as well.  Some of these huge lots where the animals were packed in for as far as the eye could see were right along the highway.  While Ken and I are confirmed carnivores, we did find this kinds of production a bit disturbing.





The federal, state and local governments appear to be turning a blind eye to Slab City so the signage is rather unique along the way.






There are thought to be maybe 250 permanent residents of Slab City living in a wide variety of housing configurations. 

The folks below, for example, have their own little compound with netting to provide shade and keep away critters.   There are old sofas sitting everywhere, looking like makeshift front porches.





There is a unique artistic flair to the way they ‘create’ in this community!






Especially this time of the year, the community has temporary residents from across the country.  As you can see, these are not your down-on-your-luck vagabond travelers.


Weekend entertainment takes place on an open stage with some interesting ‘theater seating’.  Apparently they draw quite a crowd and there is some pretty good local talent that takes their time at the mic.  This place is also featured in the ‘Into the Wild’ movie so we stopped by to take a look.


Some folks make this a four-wheeling destination.  The man in the right of the picture below, came up to talk to Ken and me,  offering us a flyer for a special benefit going on that weekend.   As it turns out, he played in the movie ‘Into the Wild’ as the drunken dad of the girl Christopher took up with at the Slabs.  Now I have to go back and watch the movie again!!


The primary attraction of this place in the middle of nowhere is Salvation Mountain.


Leonard Knight had created over many decades his monument to one very simple idea “God is Love”.


Below, Ken walks the ‘yellow brick road’ up Salvation Mountain.





To the side of the mountain are caves Leonard has shaped from desert woods, mud, straw and donated old tires. 



The colors are so vibrant and uplifting.  It’s estimated that there are over 100,000 gallons of donated paints used.


There’s a saying that you can’t leave anything sitting around here too long or Leonard will paint it!

IMG_2274 IMG_2296






The highlight of 2011 so far has been getting to spend some time with this amazing little man, Leonard Knight.  You can look in to his eyes and just see love.  I found myself just reaching over now and again to touch him, he gave off this wonderful sense of enthusiasm and love.




When you ask him what he needs (eg., money, paint, etc.,)  he is quick to say that what he really wants now as he faces his 80th birthday is knowledge that his work and his simple message will last long after he is gone.   One step in the direction is that his mountain has now been named a ‘national treasure’ by Congress.


We were very lucky that there were few people around when we visited and so we enjoyed some unrushed time with Leonard.  I walked away feeling very refreshed and happy.

We took our time heading back to our RV park, checking out the 2-lanes we thought would be the best route to head to Borrego Springs with the motorhome.  We were back at the rig in plenty of time to enjoy our own private happy hour on the patio and then Ken grilled some really nice chicken breasts on the grill.

What an awesome day to remember!!

Hugs, C

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hanging Around Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort

(El Centro, CA) Yes, we are coloring in the calendar of states as we move the rig farther and farther west.

On Wednesday, having found an RV park to call home in California, we decided to take it slow and have mostly an ‘at home’ day.

After coming off a week on the desert, Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort.


The grounds are very well kept and the main club house appears to be almost new.


I spent a little time enjoying the sun with a book by the pool. The hot tub was not too hot and the pool was not too cold so I’d say they are being pretty attentive to those kinds of details.


The crowd here seemed to be a little younger, maybe because there are more outdoor attractions here such as golf and swimming.


There are a lot of Canadians in this park and some have a great sense of humor as you can see from their use of their snow shovel on the right here. I love the phrase ‘Lest we Forget!”

The landscaping here is a combination of desert cactus, flowering shrubs, palms and fruit trees hung heavy with oranges and grapefruit right now.


One of the things that some folks complain about here but we really enjoy is the fact that we are next door to a NAF El Centro , winter home of Blue Angels, a test/practice facility for a variety of aircraft. While we saw some pretty interesting formations, it was never when I had the camera.



We were not completely lazy all day. We took a trip in to El Centro to wash the jeep and to try out a recommended Italian restaurant, Cicinelli’s. This is a third generation little Italian restaurant with some really great offering at reasonable prices. The had an alfredo salad that was amazing. I really never considered serving cold alfredo noodles with lettuce or combining Italian and Ranch dressing but this was good stuff.

While Ken was working outside on the RV a man went by selling steaks and seafood out of his truck. He and Ken got to talking and found out that he went to school near our hometown, at my alma mater, Western Illinois University. Of course, we ended up doing steaks on the grill for supper!

That’s in for now. Tomorrow I’ll catch up with our visit to the Slabs. Until then I’ll leave with another shot of the signs in front of the various lots in this park, one that really fits the place!


Yes, Life is Beautiful!

Hugs, C

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quartszite, AZ to El Centro, CA

On Monday, Ken started the day in his usual form, shooting the breeze with some interesting and knowledgeable fellow Boomers, Ron and Sharon, parked by us in a bus conversion.  These folks have been on the road for 17+ years with this being their 3rd bus conversion.  Our experience has been that the longtime fulltimers,  are always wonderful folks to talk  to and a wealth of information. They tend to be a little less the social butterflies or cliquish, friendly but laid back in terms of attendance to all the group activities.  


The Boomers had another jeep trip going out and at last minute we decided that, instead, we needed to shop in Quartzsite since it was our last day.  Actually, in retrospect, I wish we would have done the jeep trip because it sounded like a much tougher trail and we could have enjoyed doing this with experienced drivers.  These jeep people were such a fun and helpful group.

In Quartzite, we  stopped in to La Mesa RV again to see if they got in any more used Tiffin units and were surprised to find Bob Tiffin there.


Considering the number of long-time RVers in Quartzsite this week, we think it really takes a business owner confident in his product to sit out here and meet people ad hoc.  What was really impressive what his unassuming presence.  We walked in to a new 2011 Allegro Bus on the lot and he stood up and introduced himself saying ‘Hi, I’m Bob”.  I wonder how many folks walked in to that rig, and talked to him without ever knowing they were talking to the owner of the company!  There are a lot of company CEO’s who could take a lesson from this man.

We met Sharon and Paul at the Mexican restaurant across from La Mesa for lunch. As usual, the food was good here and the company even better!

We split up again after that, as Ken and I headed over to the big tent.  I bought a colorful Nepalese long-sleeve T-Shirt, along with a couple pair of bifocal sunglasses which are really helpful when trying to do blogs or monitor maps when going down the highway.  They are also great for reading in the sun which I intend to do a bit more of on this vacation!! Ken bought ‘The Solution’ for dry-washing the rig, having gotten recommendations from fellow RVers.  He also bought an extension pole for cleaning the exterior from the ground.  I’m so lucky to have a husband who is particular about this stuff.

When we got back to the rig we found out that JoAnn and Doug were interested in doing some boonkdocking out in Borrego Springs,  California and invited us to join them closer to the end of the week.  With that we decided to try to find a spot in between there and Quartzite with full hookups for 3 or 4 days.  Since it was after work hours by the time we made this decision, we had to wait until Tuesday morning to locate our next stop.

That was not as easy as we had hoped.  While Ken was hooking up I started making calls.  What was especially frustrating was how few places actually answer their phones but simply ask that you leave a message.  We also were dealing with California being an hour later so we had to wait until 9am before anyone their would answer.  We were pretty flexible in where we were looking along I-10 or I-8, Yuma or something farther in to California. I tried 2 SKP Co-ops and both were full except for their boondocking areas.  I called several state and county parks, all of which were full.  Then we started listing private parks in various areas by preference and were not having any luck.   I was getting frazzled when Ken decided to take off with full tanks and no place yet that we knew of to stop for the night.  Luckily by the time we got to the main highway I was able to find Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort in El Centro, CA, with $25 per night Passport America rates and plenty of room. 

Ken was happy with this selection since it allowed us to drive mostly scenic 2 lanes, taking us down the east side of the Chocolate Mountains and


through the middle of the Imperial Valley Sand Dunes.


This area is sought out by off-road fanatics from all over the country.  You can see lots of tire tracks going up and down the dunes.



Once again we had their were scenes along this route where you could see three different types of terrain as you looked toward the horizon, desert, dunes and mountains.




My beloved saguaros were now replaced by palms.


We jumped back on to the I-8 in El Centro, CA, and then back off a few miles west to arrive at our new home, Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort.  We were very pleased with what we found.  The folks at check-in were very friendly and helpful. 

The sites are very nice but the streets don’t make it super easy to get in the first time because of the landscaping.  One of our new neighbors came over and helped us get positioned.  We are parked very near the fenced dog park and the pups were thrilled to be out and off leash after the drive.

We are located at the Southern side of the park and so have a really nice view out the front of the rig.  We are near the base where the Blue Angels practice and there is a mini-air show over our heads periodically.


With temps in the 80’s, we pulled out a big tub on to the concrete patio and gave our dusty, dirty furkids a much needed bath and then let them dry sleeping in the sun while Ken and I both took nice long showers.  We ran in to another couple who had just come off the desert who were doing exactly the same dog and people cleanup routine!  This is a very good place for that.

We had been invited to this RV community’s dinner event for the evening, a Mexican Fiesta.  We were made to feel very welcome and for $8 had a wonderful many course Mexican feast that included chips with a wide variety of salsas, an Mexican meatball soup, enchiladas, fish tacos, rice and refried beans, with flan for desert. 

I leave you tonight with the view from our patio at sunset.


Hugs, C