Friday, August 23, 2013

The Sierras and the deserts

Leaving San Mateo was pretty uneventful.  Most of the traffic was going into town, so we had no delays as we headed towards the general direction of Stockton.  Our route took us up highway 99 till we reached the cut-off for highway 4 which was a small road up and over the Sierras.

We expected beautiful scenery, which we got plenty of and not a lot of traffic.  We passed through some great little logging towns, Murphys, Douglas Flat and Arnold, as we headed up into the Sierras.  Some of these towns are having some sort of logging competitions during Labor Day weekend, so if you are in the area, it might be a fun trip.  Once thru the towns, the road got narrower and we came to a point where anything over 25feet was not advised.  Not to worry we think, Mr B goes easily on small roads.  That is why we have the B, so we can be off the main grid.  Oh my......We climbed all the way up to 8,900 feet at Ebbetts Pass.
Ebbetts Pass

The road was wonderful new pavement, with side stripes but no center line, so road condition was very good. The road had lots of ups and downs with sharp turns and with extremely little or no visibility of any oncoming cars.  Thankfully there were very few cars coming or going on this road.  Only once did we creep to a stop when we had an oncoming car and tree slightly into the road.    The views were incredibly gorgeous, with sunshine, high white clouds and blue skies.  

The descent was something else, a long 25% grade down.  I am not exaggerating- 25%.  Even though we were in 2nd gear, at one point we had to stop and let the brakes cool down.  
This drive took many hours, much longer than we ever expected. We ended up having to go into Nevada, almost to Carson City to avoid taking another road with another pass (as we were really "passed out") to get to highway 395.  After many false starts trying to find camping, we found a really nice place by 5pm.  Quite the day!

That road is one we can check off our list, not that it was ever on our list.  It is a car only type of road.

rainbow view from our camp site

The next day we took it easy and drove highway 395 south.  We had hoped to stop in Bodie State Park to visit, but the road was closed due to fires.  Bodie is a ghost town in the Sierras.  We have been here many years ago, so it was disappointing, but oh well.
Bodie Ghost town

Our road continued on down to Mono Lake.  We had a wonderful vista stop to get a good view of the lake.  This is a large migratory bird area, which we did not know before. Stormy looking skies gave the scene a special look.  

Mono Lake

We continued from there to Lone Pine, CA.  This is where lots of movies, mostly westerns, were made in the 1920s-1960s.  Sierra backdrop was a popular feature. Anyone remember the the opening shots of The Lone Ranger TV show?  Well he was riding over trail and rocks here in Lone Pine, with the William Tell overture playing  in the background.  Movies such as Bad Day at Black Rock, Tremors, Ironman (standing in for Afghanistan ) and others also had scenes filmed here. We visited the Movie Museum which is here and it was well worth the visit.  Lots of posters and memorabilia to see.  
Lone Pine is not for the faint of heart at this time of year as this is a hot area, with the high the day we were there of 104.  Once again, Mr B pulls thru with the AC and it is quite cool inside the van.  
Be sure to check out the travel opportunities offered by the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce in my link below.

Lone Pine, CA
Lone Pine Film Festival 2013

On our way to Joshua National Park, we stopped in Boron, CA.  This is where borax hand cleaner, which some of us older folks may remember, comes from the boran mined here.  The company has an interesting visitor center which tells you all of the things that are used with borax. It's an enormous open pit since 1956, but had first started out as an underground mine.  It is the largest boron pit in the world.

Boron CA history
Borax uses

Next stop was Joshua Tree National Park. We have camped many times in this park, but never at the top in what is called the Jumbo Rocks.  Not a lot of people this time of year, other than Germans on vacation and not all the camping open due to the heat.  Jumbo Rocks was open, so we were happy.  It is a series of 120 campsites spread out among the rocks.  The rocks help to give shade and some privacy depending on the arrangement of the site.  It was a very quiet night in the desert, this is part of the Mojave.  Unfortunately, not much in the way of star gazing since we had quite a bit of cloud cover due to storms in the area.  We sat out in the dark and watched lightning way off in the distance.  

breakfast table

Today we left California, after a week, to arrive in Wickenburg Arizona.  Not much here of interest that we saw as we passed thru town, though have to admit we were both hot and not too interested in sightseeing.  We are in an RV park just outside of town, which is just okay, but much better than the other one in town.  We need showers...need I say more.  Anyway, this is really more of a mobile home park for old folks, not us, I mean really old folks.  Fred says it's like being "in God's waiting room".  

Wickenburg history
Wickenburg current day views

Tomorrow we move on, with one more night in Arizona.  Then we head for probably two nights in New Mexico as we seek out good eating places for green and red chilies.  

Time for showers and then dinner.

Keep following as we travel the country for you!
Michelle and Fred