Posted on March 15, 2017
We are still in the process chronicling our travels during 2016-2017. This chapter of our blog covers the 3 months we spent as Camp Ground Hosts for the National Park Service at the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley National Park from November 1, 2016 to about January 25, 2017. You won’t read much about the actual time we spent working (4 days on, 4 days off, usually, and we worked hard.) Rather, this post covers all the great things we saw during our off time. This installment is a l-o-n-g one, so crack open a beer, kick back and take your time. We hope you enjoy the read and the pics.
Category: 2016-2017 Travels Tagged: Aguereberry Point, Beer, Big Pine, Butte Valley, Charlie, Cottonwood Canyon, Dante's View, Death Valley, Dylan, Eureka Dunes, flash flood, flood, Fremont Street, Furnace Creek, Furnace Creek Inn, Gauvreau, golf, Grapevine Canyon, Grapevine Road, Highway 190, Hunter Mountain, Landscape, Las Vegas, Marble Canyon, National Park Service, Nevada, Owens Valley, Photographs, Photography, playa, Racetrack Playa, Saguaro, Scotty's Castle, slot canyon, Stop Rock, Stove Pipe Wells, Teakettle Junction, Texas Springs, The Grandstand, Warm Springs Road
Posted on December 6, 2015
Our last exciting chapter left us still in the depths of Death Valley National Park, known to many at ‘The Magical Place.’ Gary whipped up a great Walmart Special turkey breast in his convection microwave (it was remarkably good) and Dee Dee made smashed potatoes (originals from our garden), gravy, peas (also from our garden) and a salad. Wahoo. I brought the wine and the Bloody Mary’s and the screwdrivers and the string cheese. The weather cooperated and the afternoon was delightful; we ate outdoors on a picnic table, next to a roaring fire. Lots-o-fun.
We took a day trip up to Beatty, Nevada, where we (once again) raided the Beatty Nut and Candy Company, and then had a really fine lunch at the little diner where we had eaten several times before. I should qualify this by saying that at one time it WAS a really good Mexican restaurant, then changed hands and went all to hell, then, about 4 years ago, a new family took it over and it is now back to being beyond good – and they still serve good Mexican food. Remarkable. Great cook, great service. Highly recommend; it’s located at the ‘Y’ headed south on Highway 95, just on the edge of town (sorta across from the newer RV park.)
We also stopped at Rhyolyte, a defunct mining town that was home to over 8,000 people in the early part of the 20th century. It pretty much closed down after the 1908-1910 financial crash. It had several banks, a Union Hall, train station, churches, assy offices, many restaurants and the requisite number of bustling brothels. It’s also home to a very intact ‘bottle house’ that has been successfully restored after being ravaged by mindless vandals over the years. The first time I visited it (the bottle house) was in 1969, in the middle of winter, on a road trip with 2 hippie buddies (Jim Barnaby and Jim Warren) from Ellensburg, WA to Tempe, AZ, and back in my 1964-push-button-shifting-transmission-4-door Dodge – investigating ASU as a possible graduate school (ended up going there.) Anyhow, in 1969 one could walk right up to it and it was is fine condition; today, it’s surrounded by a very high fence.
Spent another day driving up to Ubehebe Crater, near the north end of Death Valley, not too far from Mesquite Springs Campground. There were an amazing number of people there – the parking lot on the west side was totally full of cars, surprising since it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and most people had pretty much headed for home. One reason might be that Scotty’s Castle (which is just a few miles away) was completely closed due to the October floods, so perhaps people just diverted there.
On Monday, November 30, after spending two delightful weeks in Death Valley, we headed up the long grade through Furnace Creek Wash – Highway 190 – and made our way to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, after making that usual obligatory stop at the Area 51 Alien Gas Station on Highway 95.
So, as I type this missive, we are just wrapping up a week’s stay here at Sam’s. We really like this place and have stayed here at least 5 times in the past (we have also stayed at Main Street Station, near Fremont Street and in North Las Vegas – both areas we now avoid like the plague. Dangerous, dirty, crime-ridden and to be avoided.)
Sam’s Town: it’s been fun – cheap drinks, a multiplex theatre complex, great buffet, many good restaurants and free shuttle to both The Strip and Fremont Street. We had one both disappointing and yet exceptional evening: We bought tickets months ago to a show called “Legends”, at the Flamingo Hotel on The Strip , an evening that features impersonators of performing ‘Legends.’ We had front row seats – pretty cool except the chairs were like the kind you would find at a crappy buffet restaurant. The performances were just OK, (Michael Jackson, Madona, Taylor Swift (gag) and Frank Sinatra (yea).) What was not cool was that they also advertised Elvis and Celine Dion – both no-shows. We also paid for a dinner as part of the ticket…but they neglected to tell us the restaurant was closed that day – even though we called to check a few days in advance and were told it was open. No refund was offered (we did not even bother asking we were so pissed-off.) So, the evening semi-sucked – we have actually been to a few free cabaret shows that have been better. Not a total loss, but a big disappointment. (I went online and gave them a scathing review…check it out at http://legendsinconcert.com – assuming they have the guts to post it.) One thing worth mentioning is that we have seen several other big-ticket shows over the years and have always been treated like royalty. No more Flamingo for us.
HOWEVER, after the disappointing show, that same evening we decided to go to our most favorite place in Las Vegas, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. WOW! DOUBLE WOW! It was the best time we have EVER had there – by far (and we must have been there at least 4-5 times previously.) We had the best table in the house – really – and were right in the middle of the evening show. AMAZING! The performers were friendly and spent time talking with us – especially Adrian, the beautiful lady who comes down the slide and drops into the giant blender (right next to our table). She was incredibly gracious and so humble; must have spent about 5 minutes chatting with us (as she toweled off.) The drinks were good and quite potent. Dinner was acceptable.
So, a crappy event was balanced with an amazing one. See, good things can happen to good people.
We did a few other things while in the Las Vegas area: drove down to Lake Mead to take Charlie swimming, had lunch in Boulder City at a place we have enjoyed several times previously, drove across Boulder Dam, met some interesting people, found a new and very cool RV park (amazing and right on the lake.)
We spent a fun evening at Fremont Street, a place we never tire of visiting. Stopped at the Whiskey Licker Bar – a favorite of ours – and got the usual super-cheep, super-strength drinks. We tried to get on the new ZIP line that runs the 6-block length of Fremont, but the wait was over 5 hours, so (regretfully) we had to pass. Next time we will either try to get our tickets on-line or buy them sooner. If you are interested, as of this date they are $40 for the 90 second – or so – ride, but worth it (at least in our opinion).
You will note that in this edition of the blog there are lots of pictures of interesting people we had the pleasure of meeting during this leg of the trip. All of the shots were done with my iPhone; all I did was say to them, “Can I take your picture?” I was never turned town. Some asked “Why me?” My explanation was always “Souvenir of our trip; I like your looks.” All were flattered and very gracious.
Anyhow, enough words for now. Gotta go as the 2-for-1 Happy Hour is starting at The Waterfall in Sam’s…can’t be late – it only lasts for 2 hours with no limit on drinks!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Alien, Area 51, Beatty, Boulder Dam, Boulder Highway, Casino, Charlie, Death Valley, Dylan, Flamingo, Fremont Street, Furnace Creek, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Hoover Dam, Jimmy Buffet, KOA, Landscape, Las Vegas, Legends, Margaritaville, Michael Jackson, Nevada, Photographs, Photography, Sam's Town, Sinatra, Stove Pipe Wells, Tillman Bridge, ZIP line
Posted on November 20, 2015
Welcome to the first installment the blog chronicling our travels this winter season. If all goes as expected (and it usually never does…) we hope to post something about every 10 days or so, but that largely depends on where we are and the Wi-Fi connection situation. Most of the time, the Wi-Fi where we stay sucks, or is non-existent. Usually not a big problem as I can use the personal hotspot on my iPhone…but then I have to have some sort of signal from Verizon, usually ‘3 dots’ or more.
I post the blog text and photographs using some really elegant blog software known as WordPress. (You will see their logo at the very bottom of all the posts.) My usual process is to write the text in Microsoft Word, edit, spell-check, then upload it to a WordPress ‘storage’ area. Next, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit all the photographs that you see. I usually start with a 300-400, then cull that down to about 75-100, then cull again to get it to about 25-50, give or take. Before I upload those images, I watermark them with a copyright, then export them into Adobe Photoshop for some post-processing (color and contrast correction, some other ‘tweaking and then file compression), and finally upload them into WordPress ‘storage’ as well. Finally, I put it all together into a chapter, ‘tweak it a bit more, and, finally, post it. Posting it means that an announcement hits Facebook and, for those of you have email subscriptions, the installment is delivered to your email box.
All of this usually takes anywhere from 8-16 hours. But that’s OK…’cuz I love you guys…
Oh, and just one more thing…
Those of you who know me (and for those of you who don’t…) most of what I write here is somewhat the truth. Some of it is truth as I see it. And the rest of it is pretty much BS. Hay, it’s my blog.
OK, no more things.
It took us about 6 easy weeks to prepare for this trip; Dee Dee is very organized and makes lots of lists. So, getting ready to depart is pretty stress-free. Usually. In general, we have to shut the house down for the winter. This includes arming our very extensive security system, which we can monitor from our iPhones; we can view our place using several security cameras around the property. We also have a neighbor kid who keeps an eye on things (he is heavily armed…), as well as a few others who stop by on random occasions.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang. It was the great people at the Animal Rescue Shelter in Amargosa, California. This was the place where we got (rescued) Charlie back in 2010, when he was about 4 years old. Anyhow, it turns out that Charlie had another brother who had led a pretty tough life. He had been in and out of shelters (jail) and homes for the past 5 years. Lots of street fights. He had finally ended up in back in Amargosa. Anyhow, the Shelter people needed a place to foster care him for a short time while they tried to find him a new home. Could we please take him for a while?
I explained that we were getting ready to hit the road a while and, regretfully, could not do it. Well, it turns out that “Taco” (that’s his name) is a pretty good independent watch dog and could survive pretty much on his own at our place. Not a bad idea as it would certainly complement our security system. All he needed was a blanket to sleep on, and some food and water.
So, we agreed. They stuck him on a plane and shipped him up to us. After a tearful, bark-ridden reunion with Charlie, and a property orientation (guided by Charlie), we departed, leaving Taco in charge of things. It was a reassuring feeling knowing we had a constant canine presence. The Shelter people agreed to come and get him after a few months, so the whole deal worked out for everyone involved.
After a few days delay getting all this done, once again we were off…after we found Charlie, who decided that running deer through our woods was more exciting than leaving with us…
Day One of our travels ended after about a 225 mile drive to Arlington, Oregon, a little town on the Columbia River. We stayed at tiny RV park run by the City of Arlington. It only had about 10 spots, and shared the area with a grain storage facility. Also, and this was pretty cool, it had its set of train tracks, with its very own freight train that ran back-and-forth about every 15 minutes, sounding a whistle at a near-by intersection. Wahoo! A great way to nod off to no-sleep. Anyhow, we had driven by this place for years and had always wanted to stop (at least I did.) So we did. Once.
Next stop was Caldwell (near Boise), Idaho, where we stopped at the Country Corners RV Park, a place we stayed a couple of years ago. New owners, very friendly and very accommodating.
Still trucking along, our next stop was supposed to be Arco, Idaho, where we were going to spend some time at Craters of the Moon. Well, that got kyboshed when we ran into heavy snow on the way there. We chickened out and discontinued this route. We swung “The Boat” around and headed back down to the freeway (still Highway 84) and high-tailed it for Fort Hall, Idaho (near Blackfoot.)
The RV park were we stayed is on the Shoshone/Bannock Reservation, adjacent to a casino (slots only) and a pretty good size hotel…all of this seemingly in the middle of almost nowhere. The RV park as good one – clean, quiet and empty. When we pulled in it was still snowing pretty good, but it abated pretty quickly after that.
We spent the next 6 days there, the first of which we drove about 60 miles back up to Arco, ID, gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument. This is a very cool, visually rich, environment. And cold, very cold. We spent some time in the Visitors Center, and then walked the single trail that was open, as they were in the process of closing most of the place up for the winter. We also took a look at the campground – a good one, but older and designed mainly for tent campers.
Craters of the Moon is a place worthy of more time visiting and we would definitely go back again…when it’s a tad warmer.
The rest of our time in the area was spent up in Blackfoot, where we visited Dee Dee’s niece, Jennifer, her husband, Nick (here comes da Judge…) and their two delightful girls, Sami and Shea. Charlie loves these kids and they love him right back. Anyhow, they put up with our several visits and showed us a great time. Terrific folks and easy to be around. Bob and Nick played a round at the Blackfoot Golf Course (had to wait for the frost to melt off the greens). Dee Dee and Charlie entertained The Girls. Lots of fun.
November 9 found us in Wells, Nevada. Cold, snowy, but with clear roads all the way from Fort Hall. Not much in Wells to speak of. The folks at the Angel Lake RV Park were very friendly and helpful. We used their showers instead of ours and were impressed. Eternal hot water and great pressure.
Next day we made the relatively short drive (175 miles) down Highway 93 to Ely, Nevada. The day before they had over 14” of snow and the roads were still somewhat clogged. We stayed at a KOA about 3 miles south of town. The road in was a bit of a challenge, but we made it in OK. The maintenance guy had to go ahead of us to snowplow spot clear.
The lady in the KOA office told us about a local casino that would pick you up in a shuttle, and their restaurant supposedly (and it really did) had a great prime rib dinner, so we decided to go for it. They picked us up in a stretch LIMO and were super nice. Dinner was really pretty good (for casino food) and, because of this, I decided that I needed to contribute $75 to their Gamblers Relief Fund. Interestingly there are only two “live” blackjack tables in the entire town of Ely; all the rest of the casinos are entirely slots. Something to do with Nevada and Federal gaming laws. The upside of this downside was that we won ‘BIG’ on a slot machine.
We stayed in Ely for 2 days, waiting for the road going West, Highway 6, to clear of snow. The first night there the temperature dropped to 3 degrees. It was so cold that our propane regulators froze up, so we had no gas heat. We had to depend on the two 1500 watt electric heaters we carry, which could barely keep up. The next morning we drove into town and picked up another (third) heater, as well as some 60 watt light bulbs that we rigged up to warm the 2 gas regulators and keep them from freezing up. That night, we had a heat wave – it got clear up to 6 degrees! Everything worked like a charm. We had wonderful gas heat again.
After our 2 days in Ely, we headed down Highway 6 – a magnificent, scenic drive. And lonely. I swear, and no BS, that we saw less than 10 cars over the 150 miles that we drove on this road. And no services…hell, there was almost nothing but scenery. Delightful.
We finally hit Tonopah (a town that you want to pass through as quickly as possible), where we connected up with Highway 95, that took us through Goldfield (a really cool old mining town…Neil Miller would go ape in this place; it’s a visual smorgasbord.) From there it was just a short 65 mile jaunt down the hill to Beatty, Nevada, where we stayed at one of our favorite places, the Beatty RV Park…”always $25 per nite,” and it really has been for years. We have stopped there at least 5 times before and always enjoyed the hospitality of our kind host, Mike.
We spent a couple of days in Beatty where we visited their great candy store (at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company); we stocked up on sugar and “Really Good” beef jerky. We had a beer and local bar where we encountered their local bar dog, a not-so-friendly-critter…had some junk yard stuff in him. While we were still there sucking down $3.50 Miller Lites, some guy came by and gave Dee Dee a bird; I guess he did not want it anymore and figured that she did. Anyhow, the bird sat on her should for a minute or so, and before we even had time to give it a name, it flew away. Must have been the cat scent he detected on Dee Dee. Oh well, we stifled our grief and moved on.
While based in Beatty, we drove over Daylight Pass, into Death Valley – a “Magical Place,” if you allow it to be; we estimated that this was at least our 20th visit, starting in about 1976 – we love it! We headed out to Stove Pipe Wells, where we were Campground Hosts for 3 months in late 2010. Here we ran into Phil, the current host and a really cool guy. Mello, laid back and friendly…a perfect combination of traits for this job. We had a great visit and he comp’ed us a couple of camping nights (“Professional Courtesy” among present and former Stove Pipe hosts.)
So, we returned to Beatty and the next morning (it’s now Saturday, November 14th) and headed for Stove Pipe (quite a thrill going over and down Daylight Pass in an RV) where we dry-camped for 2 days. Very quiet (as usual), and it almost emptied out on Sunday. (The previous 4 days were more crowded than usual as this was when about 10,000 members of the “Death Valley 49’ers” convene each year…fortunately mainly in the Furnace Creek area, about 35 miles away.)
While at Stove Pipe dry camping, we decided to see if we could go for 2 days without running our generator. We made it about a day and a half, and then the inverter managed to suck enough juice out of our 4 big-ass house batteries and all the AC (meaning the refrigerator and TV) shut down…right in the middle of the ‘Chick-Flick’ movie we were watching. So, we woos’d out and fired the sucker up, for about an hour, to recharge the batteries.
One good/bad thing about our RV is that it has a full-size residential refrigerator; good if you are tethered to 50 amp power in an RV park, but not-so-good when you are dry camping. We do have a 100 watt solar panel our roof which usually provides enough juice to allow the batteries (powering the inverter) to keep up with the refer, but if the sun is not shining – which it was not at this time – the batteries drain more quickly.
Not that running our generator is a big deal, it was just a matter of ‘pride.’ Anyhow all of this was important to us, but probably not you…
Day One at Stove Pipe was magnificent. Day Two was not so good, sorta. The day started off with Dee Dee taking Charlie out into the desert for his morning constitutional. So, he pees, and then, you know. Then, he USUALLY just sticks with Dee Dee and they walk back together. But this time he makes a trotting bee-line back to the RV and waits by the door. Then, about 30 seconds later this big-ass coyote heads out across the same stretch of desert from whence Charlie has just crossed. Charlie proved, once again that he has great critter sense. Conflict avoided.
Next, starting in the afternoon, we has sustained 40 – 50 MPH winds, and the usual accompanying dust; this lasted for the next 36 hours, which a bit unusual, and the wind usually comes in fast and leave fast, the entire event lasting only an hour or 2. It was blowing so hard that night that, about midnight, we had to get up and pull in the slides. Not a big deal, really, just a minor annoyance. But, the animals were kind of freaked out by all the noise.
On Monday, November 16th, we bid goodbye to our new friend, Phil, and headed off to Furnace Creek, where we would be for the next 2 weeks. Here we met our crazy friend, Gary, and his even crazier brother, John. We have been enjoying the relative quiet (almost all of the 10,000 ‘49’ers have departed). We also made our ritual first-day trip to the Furnace Creek bar and had a few beers. What fun!
So far, we have spent some time showing Gary and John a few of the more popular ‘tourist’ sights (Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Bad Water, Artist’s Drive, etc.) We also drove up Highway 190, out of the park to check out Slab City, a possible dry-camping place. Turns out it has great access and is pretty large-RV friendly. Might be a place to stop and hang out at some point. Tomorrow we head out to see some more subtle places in the Valley; we have all chipped in to rent a jeep and intend to do a lot of off-roading.
Whew! That’s enough (actually, waaaay more than enough) for now. Hope you enjoyed the prose and the pics. The next installment should show up in about 2 weeks.
Over n’ out for now – we are off to spend more time in this Magical Place…
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Beattie Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Beatty RV Park, Blackfoot, California, Charlie, Coyote, Craters of the Moon, Death Valley, desert, Dylan, Fort Hall, Furnace Creek, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Highway 6, Highway 95, Idaho, KOA, Landscape, Manly Beacon, Nevada, Panamint Range, Photographs, Photography, propane heat, Stove Pipe Wells, Winnebago Adventurer, Zabriskie Point
Posted on December 5, 2014
So, after 5 days in Sin City, we were really ready to be ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’ We parted friends with the KOA People at Sam’s Town, even though this stay was a mild hassel. The drive to Furnace Creek in Death Valley was an easy one, with very little traffic. Better yet, by the time we arrived, the Thanksgiving Crazies had left and the park was quiet and almost empty. A great time to be here: post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas.
We experienced the same heavy rains as many other southwest US areas. Some roads here were closed due to washouts (Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Titus Canyon), and there was a lot of water flowing across asphalt roadways, flowing down washes and alluvial fans.
I played golf a couple of times at the Furnace Creek Golf Couse, a nice track in good condition with lightning-fast greens; the 2nd time I had the entire course to myself for the first 15 holes. Dee Dee took several long bike rides and got to know the area around Furnace Creek a lot better. This was a somewhat off-year for coyotes; I only saw 2, on the golf course, and Dee Dee did not see any. Charlie-The-Dog spent a fair amount of time smelling them. Dylan-the-Cat was kept on-lease; no coyote bait for him.
We rented a jeep one (very rainy) day and explored Hole in the Wall road, Echo Canyon Road to the Inyo Mine, Chloride City and Titus Canyon (our 2nd trip through). All of the roads required 4WD high-clearance vehicles. The road to Chloride City got pretty technical. Lots of big rocks and steep, slippery turns, due to exposed bedrock and the fact it was raining. That drive was white-knuckle all the way. (Ted and Mary Ellen, you would have loved it; I would have jumped out, only I was driving.) We were probably the last vehicle through Titus Canyon. It was raining hard and the road on both sides of the pass was starting to wash out. And, we never saw another person. The parking lot at the end was empty. This was one of the very best days we have had in our 40+ years and many visits to Death Valley…lots of excitement and we saw new stuff.
Last night (Thursday, December 4th) Dee Dee was outside and saw huge flames and lots of smoke coming from the historic Furnace Creek Inn. It looked like the whole place was on fire. This morning (Friday) we drove up there and found that it was the laundry building across the highway that had burned. Totally gutted and still smoldering; no damage at all to the Inn. The entire Valley was filled with haze-induce smoke from the fire, that must have taken most of the night to extinguish. When we got there, about 9:30 AM, it was still smoldering and they were still doing ‘spot-squirts’ on hot areas. The Park Service had closed Highway 90 in front of the structure and was routing traffic through the Inn’s parking lot.
Of course we had to visit the local saloon and have a beer (or 2) every day. Our theory is that beer is good for your health, at least in our book. We rode our bikes the mile up and back, so that balances off the beer (and some days French fries and blue cheese dressing dip.)
Tonite we are having dinner with our good friend, Shellye Poster, who was our NPS Ranger Supervisor when we were Campground Hosts at Stove Pipe Wells in 2010. Shellye has also published a wonderful book, “The Photographer’s Guide to Death Valley.”
OK…enough words…here are some images (and captions) for our latest installment. (Our next stops will be Bullhead City, AZ, the Grand Canyon, Prescott (where we are visiting our friends Gary and Debbie), and then Apache Junction (where we will meet up with long-time friend, Neil, who I met in graduate school at ASU, in the early 1970’s.)
(Sherry, this post is dedicated to you…not many words, lots of pictures, just the way you like it…)
Category: Photographic Adventures, Travelling To Florida, Uncategorized Tagged: Chloride City, Chloride Cliffs, Creosote Bush, Dylan, Echo Canyon, Funeral Mountains, Funeral Range, Furnace Creek, Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Wash, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Hole in the Wall, Inyo Mine, Jeep, KOA, Landscape, Las Vegas, Leadville, Mining Equipment, Photographs, Photography, Rain, Sam's Town, Space Aliens, Titus Canyou