My (Almost ) Daily Travel Journal   
I aspire to update this journal as often as possible so that my friends and family can track my travel progress and not freak if I don't post photos for a long time.  Sometimes I will forecast where I am going, as well.


 

04/18/15 WoW, what an adventure.  So much to write about.  It's difficult to condense.  After leaving My friends in Mena AR, I have sort of been focusing on touring New Mexico.  Today the Grand Calder, the day before; Bandelier National Park.  What a rush it is to step into Indian history. It's really too bad that they didn't have better immigration control.  Bringing bows and arrows to a gun fight, how sad is that?  If I had consulted with them, I would have set up toll booths on the various trails, then purchased guns and ammo with the proceeds.  Once the wagons were through the first Indian Nation, then the next Indian Nation could escort them back East and the whole process could repeat, like Ground Hog Day.  Only the Indians would benefit instead of the Europeans.

Yes, I spent an entire week at my friends in Mena AR, doing a list of projects I had asked them to line up for me, before my arrival.  They did not disappoint me.  Several productive days doing these projects: a 12x6 hole between two closets, installing two solar panels, but the most difficult one, the one that could have been a back breaker, was the lowering of the entry steps in the front of the house.  The best part of my visit though, was seeing my friend Stu, up and about after a really complex back surgery.  Not completely healed but able to walk and do things. Something all of us take for granted until, like Stu, we lose it and then spend months trying to inch our way back to what we use to have, lucky to get 90% back and 100% if we are really lucky.

Before getting to Mena, AR, I detoured over to "Fred's" house.  Fred is the father of my Son's wife, his father in law, so to speak.  What a fun time. For only spending one day with him and his wife Debbie, I learned a lot and enjoyed visiting with them immensely.  It turns out that both of them are expert pool players, and all three of us like Pizza.  Fred and Debbie are the only two human critters on my web pages, so to speak.  Their photos bring out the character in both of them.
04/14/15 Too late (at night) to update, sorry......
04/02/15

Opp's, so much for my intent on keeping a daily journal.  Sorry.

4/2 parked overnight in a WalMart, North of San Antonio

4/1 Yesterday, I took a long car ride on two beaches.  One was marked for four wheelers only and is 25 miles long.  I got nine miles into one beach before getting into the really loose stuff, making me too nervous to go any further.  The second beach was about ten miles long and not so much of a four wheel adventure as the other beach.  Both beaches produced the majority of my bird shots posted on Page 10.

3/31,30 were R&R day.s  Just explored and enjoyed the park.

3/29 broke camp (in Wal Mart, Brownsville, TX  lol) and set up camp in Padre Island National Sea Shore, Corpus Christi, TX

3/28 While in Brownsville, TX, I decided to cross into Matamoros, Mexico using one of three bridges over the Rio Grande.  This would be the International Bridge which the International Street, leads into.  Crossing the bridge by foot is very informal, no exit check point and on the other side, no immigration. There is a $1 (four quarters) toll to even cross on foot. When you get to the Mexican side, you just keep walking as far and as long as you like.

When I entered the bridge from the US side, I noticed a fortyish Mexican woman struggling with two heavy shopping bags.  She spoke no English but after negotiating with hand and arm movements, she allowed me to carry one of her shopping bags across the bridge for her (about a 1/4 mile walk).  On the Mexican side, she stopped by a telephone and I handed her bag back to her and motioned goodbye.  She said "Gracias." and we parted our ways.

About 100 feet later, I was pounced on by a very verbal and insistent person who said he would guide me through his city.  I declined about ten times and he finally relented and let me go on my way.  Another 100 feet later and he was back in my face with one last pitch (according to him) and I stood patiently waiting for him to finish and politely declined him again.

I was about to cross the next street and then this yellow FJ Toyota Cruiser came upon me.  (A top of the line, very expensive car.  It was discontinued in 2014.)  Imagine my surprise when the driver was none other then the lady I had helped cross the bridge.  I figured out that she was offering me a ride and I simply mentioned  'the Market" which was about three miles away, got in her car and away we went.  About 7 minutes later, she stopped, motioned and said Mercado, pointing to exactly the place I wanted to go.  So my good deed was rewarded by another good deed.  Her name is "Rosa." and she saved me walking the three miles to the market.

The market (Mercado) was a street/alley closed off to cars with lots of vendors ala street fair style.  Not much food, a lot of clothes (I purchased a cow hide belt decorated with roosters for fourteen dollars [195 pesos]).  A lot of CD and DVD vendors were there as well as the usual trinket vendors.

After leaving the market to return to the US, I got lost and ended up coming back across a different bridge (there are three bridges), but I did not go that much out of my way. I waited in line for about 45 minutes to clear immigration into the US.  Next time, I will plan my trip better and spend more time exploring this lovely and friendly and clean and tidy border town.  

Opps, I almost forgot, I used the public bathroom in Mexico.  It was attended and cost $5 (pesos) which ended up costing me 50 cents.  I gave the attendant a dollar and tipped him 100%.  (Big spender that I am.) I got enough toilet paper to do my business from the attendant,  did my business and threw the toilet paper in the trash can, along with everybody else's.  Probably the only repugnant thing about using a bathroom in Mexico.  Funny also, because my son employs a lot of Mexican laborers, it is not unusual, for them to throw their soiled TP in the trash at work even though in San Jose, they do not need to do so.  In Mexico, it lightens the load on the septic system so everybody throws their TP in the trash.  I was instructed in this bathroom etiquette years ago when I went to Tijuana to build shelters for the poor with a church group.

03/25/15 I'm an official wet back!  I crossed the Rio Grande (in a boat) and visited the town of Boquillas, Mexico.  A whole town that is literally, off grid.  To get there, you go through a US port of entry, board a row boat, and you arrive in Mexico after  crossing the Rio Grande, a minute later.  You are assigned a guide and escorted to the Mexican port of entry, about a 3/4 mile walk or a Burro ride if you so prefer, then get your passport stamped and after that you're allowed to freely roam the town of about 500 people, until you tire and wish to go back.

The guide I got was a 15 year old boy (El Pidio)who had a Dick and Jane vocabulary.  I asked him if he went to school and he replied "No."  Later, I found out from a bartender that the town only has schools up to the 8th grade.  No High School at all.  This after my 15 year old guide told me there are 16 students in his "High School." Speaking of the bartender, I asked him what the legal drinking age is for Mexico.  He said "18, but since there are no police, it is not enforced that much in this town."

OMG, On Tuesday (24th) I went on a 51 mile long "River Road." A four wheel only dirt road, after a series of harsh storms.  Some hazards and obstacles were expected but in a couple of areas, beyond even my wildest expectations.  One area of the road was flooded for about 100 yards with no indication whether it was hub cap deep or over the hood, deep.  It turned out to be hub cap deep but talk about being stressed.  The worst though, was an undulating camel back.  I dipped into it, stopped dead in my tracks as the underside of the car rested on the largest hump with the wheels sort of not turning.  I gunned it to the floor and all the car did was hum, like it did when I blew up the transmission in Pismo.  I was about to let off when I noticed the car was inching forward, then I actually made it to the other side.  Don't know what I was thinking, not another car on the entire stretch of road I was on.  If my car had hung up or broke, I wouldn't be here to write this.  I would be camping in the outback with no food and water.  Silly me.  

Then the road? turned up a gully wash area with no guidance as where to go.  I traversed this area three times looking for the exit, ending up in a dead end twice.  Still another 30 miles to go after this little heart attack.  Lost in a gully prone to flash flooding.  It was a good mile through this gully before the exit appeared.  Too much adventure, even for me.  What helped a lot was a twelve dollar detailed National Geographic's map I had purchased on a lark, of the Big Bend park.  It showed the direction I needed to go up the gully and where to expect an exit.

I did the Mine Hills Trail on Monday.  Pretty much ho hum normal but an interesting hike through the Chisos Mountains, where Bear are rumored to roam.  They growl in Spanish because they immigrated up from Mexico.  The original bears were all killed by the early settlers.
 
03/21/15 My original destination and what I aspired to do, was a repeat of Big Bend National Park, TX.  I had visited this park in January of 2014 but ran out of time and money and had to return home.  I arrived on Thursday night after staying overnight in El Paso in a Walmart parking lot on Wednesday night.  The campground I first went too, was full and it was late so I used a roadside pullout to spend the night on Thursday night.  On Friday, I found the "correct" campground, the one I stayed in last year, and set up camp for five nights due to leave on Wednesday, the 25th. I needed gas so I dropped the trailer and back out on the road, gassed up, and returned to my campsite.  Friday night was rain all night but my trailer behaved and I had no leaks.  Rain let up in the early morning and then it started to clear up so I went on a small five mile, 583' hike.  You can see and read more about that in my travel blog, page 7.  On Sunday, I am going to try a more difficult trail, called the "Mines Hill" trail.  More on that later.
03/17/15 As I anticipated, a fun visit with my friend Don Sherman.  I have always enjoyed visiting with him.  Lovely family and wife (52 years) to talk about.  What I like about Don is that he is always positive, except about Texans, uncomplaining and a bright outlook.

Besides that, got my ears lowered by a local barber.  He followed my wishes to the letter, with me ending up with a near butch style haircut.  He was charging $10 for a haircut while in San Jose, I'm used to paying $12.  Not a big difference.  Awfully nice barber.  Has worked in this area forever, previously with a tire company now fourteen years as a barber.  Go figure. Strange career path.  He has two older teenagers.

Tomorrow, cross through as much of New Mexico as I can stand.  Don't think I'll make it to El Paso but that is where I would drop South to hit the Big Bend parks.
03/15/15 Well, nothing strange happened to me on Friday the 13th.  How about you?  Did you survive the second Friday the thirteenth for two months in a row?  lol

I am making my way to TX, slow but sure.  Last night, I was camped in a very spacious desert park called Painted Rock, just a little North of hwy 8, AZ.  I tried a little night photography which I posted on page 5 and I went around the area looking for the Petroglyph that were suppose to be the main attraction.  I found them but didn't bother to photograph them because they didn't measure up.  

From the Painted Rock area, I detoured South under Hwy 8 looking for another campground that was marked on my AAA map.  Never did find it but had a wonderful Sunday drive through Arizona's outback. The only noteworthy observation was a hundred or so border patrol vehicles stationed all over the place plus two Border Patrol check points about twenty miles apart from each other.  I guess all of the complaining AZ did about the lack of border security finally got some attention.  I've been through three check points so far and they all scanned my car and trailer with a dog, anxious to bark at anything strange.  I was too paranoid to ask if the dogs were sniffing for humans or for dope.  Maybe both?

Tonight, I'm sitting in a County Camp Ground just West of Tuscon, AZ.  It is really nice and only $20 which includes electricity.  For once, I will be able to use my A/C and Microwave.  The lap of luxury.  It has been hot enough to use the A/C but this is the first park I've been in, that had electricity for a normal rate.

Tomorrow, laundry, Tuesday, a visit with a boy hood and fellow Air Force friend, Don Sherman.  It will be fun and interesting to catch up with him.
03/12/15 Sitting in a State Campground on the Salton Sea.  This place, except for the water level, is unchanging and apparently like Death Valley's aspires to do with the Rosewood area, also returning to the wilderness.  There is a movement afoot to "Save the Salton Sea."  But for what? It is good for making salt and little else.  There are claims that the recreational use would bolster the economy of the area.  Another claim is that without this lake, there would be a major disruption in the Pacific Flyway.  All this is trumped by the need for farmers to use the water that could be used to replenish the diminishing lake levels.  One brochure I read claims that a trainload of salt is left behind by evaporation everyday and then on the next page, they want to desalinate the Salton Sea.  Even if they took a trainload of salt out every day, they would just be keeping pace with evaporation, according to them. The true solution would be to find a way to make a rocket fuel out of salt, then there would be financial incentive to desalinate.

On Tuesday, I visited with my sister Bonnie and my brother-in-law Amon.  If you observed us, you would have called an ambulance to take us away.  All three of us had the gait of a wounded Elephant.  Amon is recovering from a back injury incurred a few months back, Bonnie is still mending from a recent knee surgery and me, I did something to my back that caused a lot of pain, while attempting to change a flat tire.  (I gave up and called triple A.)  So, none of us were doing a lot except sitting around and chatting, which is what I came for anyway's.

Monday, was the fateful day I found out that I can't change my own flat tire.  I tried early in the morning and then spent the rest of the day convalescing while laying down.  More pain then what I could deal with when walking.  I was pain free when immobilized so that's what I did for that whole day.

Then, Tuesday, when I woke up, I felt good, decided to do a trail and was fine.  5 miles and 1K feet.  I got in the car and when I arrived at my sister Bonnies, the pain returned and I spent the rest of the day chatting about this and that while with a hot pad on my back and a mega dose of Ibuprofen.

Today, Thursday, I am pain free except for getting out of the car.  It takes about thirty seconds for my body to catch up with what my mind wants it to do.

So, I am looking forward to another Friday the thirteenth tomorrow.  It seems we just had one last month.  Two months in a row, that has to be lucky, right?

Ohh, I have to mention the perils of tripping today.  I was in a residential section of Bonita and a car came shooting out in front of me from a shopping center.  The only reason I didn't hit the guy is because he saw me in time and gunned it out of my way.  I'm thankful he used the gas because if he had froze and not done anything, wham.  Then three hours later, 40 mile per hour sign, so I slowed down to 40, checked my speed, looked up and this rotund lady was jay walking right across my path.  I am thankful for anti-lock brakes as she would not have had the guts to do that a second time.  Splat!  Nor did she have any more speed.  She neither thanked me nor did she give me the finger so I guess, she didn't care if she were hit or not.  Maybe she picked me to walk in front of because it looked like I couldn't stop.  Who knows, besides the Shadow?
03/09/15 I left Death Valley today.  Man, is that place hard on gas.  There is no place to go that doesn't consume half a tank of gas or more.  I didn't move the trailer while there or else I would have went through ton's more gas.  

I am a skeptic and on Saturdays touring, I ran across a favorite road of mine which is kind of a backdoor into the West side of the park.  You can start from the city of Trona and go into or out of the Wildrose area of the park, on this road.  On the D.V. map, it is labeled "Closed, due to washouts."  At the Wildrose entrance, there was a big "Road Closed" sign but it was not blocking the road, so I thought I would try it and see how far I could get.  My reasoning was, If I have to turn back, I just end up where I started.  Long story, short; the road was open but dicey.  Definitely need the clearance of a four wheel vehicle.  One washout extended for half a mile with sometimes a lane of asphalt left, sometimes less.  Lot of rock debris on the road.  It appears this road is going to be returned to the wilderness.  At the Trona end, there was another "Road Closed" sign but no real attempt to keep cars out.  I did not encounter any cars on this road and I seriously doubt if I could have gotten service from AAA, if I had needed it. That seems funny to me, still sticking my neck out after all this time.  So much for getting wiser as I get older.  lol

Today's trip from Death Valley to Temecula would have been uneventful except for my tire warning light coming on.  So I checked out the tires and my left rear was losing air.  After AAA replaced the tire for me, they pointed out a screw that had impaled itself in the middle of the tread. Since I am parked in a Wal Mart, I purchased a tire plug kit for five bucks and repaired the tire.  Now it seems to be holding air but I am waiting overnight to make sure it holds air before calling AAA to remount it. It was interesting to nut out the tire replacement.  Toyota uses a clever cable system to hold the spare in place.  Very interesting making it possible to lower the spare from underneath the car without having to crawl underneath to do it.

Net of it is, I got permission from Security to park here overnight.  Cool.
03/06/15

I am camping in Death Valley's Mesquite Springs area.  Nice jumping off place for the North end of the park.  When I arrived at the camp ground, it was dark already and I took the first camp site I thought I could manage backing into. While in the process of setting up camp, a Coyote let out from very close by, what could only be called a classic "Howling at the moon." which of course there was a rising full moon.  How appropriate was that?  I love the call of the wild.

Also, this area is access to the dirt road going to the "Race Track." View my photo page for what that is.  When I returned, I had the bright idea of getting a Propane tank serviced in Beatty, NV.  Only problem is, at the juncture of 95 and the road I was on, a sign said that Beatty was 36 miles away.  My gas display indicated I had 26 miles of gas left.  So, the last ten miles to Beatty were spent with the display saying I was out of gas.  When I arrived in Beatty and gassed up, the car took 17 3/4 gallons while the tank has a capacity of 19 gallons.  I could have traveled another thirty miles.  So, I discovered that when the display says "zero," I can still go forty more miles before having to call AAA.   

I found another 2002 Casita owner.  This one is on his maiden voyage.  He is interested in my Solar modification, so we took pictures and discussed in depth, how to do on his trailer.

03/04/15 WoW! what an exciting trip already.  Especially fond of the thrift shops, one in Cayucos and one in Morro Bay.  21 CDs in Cayucos and 15 in Morro Bay.  Like do I really need anymore CD's? I spent all day Tuesday, wandering and photographing around the State Park where I was camping. I am very pleased with the results.  I got a chance to do what I like to do best, fix things. A fellow Casita owner was parked near me and we got to comparing this and that on Monday night, then on Tuesday morning, a knock on my door about their solar panel and if I could tell them why it's not charging.  Well, to make a long story short,the wires inside one of their connectors to the solar panel had pulled out and shorted the controller, causing it to fail and needing to be replaced.  I helped them find a replacement but it wasn't going to be available until Thursday. Not sure if they are going to wait around till Thursday to get the new controller but it felt like I did help them. I also gave them some solid advice on how to prevent a future mishap.  Then, off to the trails to seek out shots.  The photo page I posted is full of great stuff.  I hope you enjoy.

Today, I am enroute to Death Valley, with a stop over in Lake Isabella (on CA 178 between Bakersfield and CA 395), a reservoir at 1/4 of it's capacity.  I drove on the lake bed and found a flat spot to park and camp on (forest service land and free with a Senior pass). I am here for the night.  I was going to spend two nights but at first blush, this place is almost entirely void of things interesting to shoot.  About Hwy 178, they should have a (trailers not advised) sign on this highway.  Nerve racking sharp curves on a very narrow cow path that is called a state highway.  About the only difference is, that it is paved with a center line down the middle.  It follows the Kern River, literally.  Funny thing is, they have all these road side signs, "wear a life vest" when you can walk across the river.  Perhaps, the signs were needed in wetter times.

I had a spiritual experience on the way here.  My GPS routed me on CA 46 from Morro Bay to intersect with CA 5 by Kettleman City.  In the middle of my journey, the surrounding hills were turned to bright orange (poppies) and other flower colors, which were breath taking to see. Whole hillsides covered with a dense canopy of color, usually one type of flower sometimes two.  Bright enough to shine like a reflector hit by the high beams.  I was tempted to apply the brakes and shoot.  I resisted because, a truly breathtaking display such as I saw, needs to be seen in person. Besides that, my camera isn't big enough to capture the brightness and colors and meaning of what I saw.  Sorry.  To see for yourself, Take Hwy 5 South then go W on Hwy 41 to the intersection with Hwy 46.  Continue going W for about 5 miles and then hook a U turn, then go back up Hwy 41 and go home.  5 miles before the intersection and after getting back on 41, you can marvel at the acres and acres of brightly colored flowered hillsides.  You will thank me later.
03/02/15 I left San Jose at 12:30 PM, taking 17 to Santa Cruz, Hwy 1 through Monterey, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, and then I camped overnight in Morro Bay State  Park.  Don't know why, but I had the "urge to kill" several tourists on Highway 1 who were applying the brakes while going forty miles per hour in a 55 mile zone.  Then, a squid on a Harley, would gun it up to 55 as soon as he could and then slow to 35 in the next corner.  Meanwhile, ignoring me sitting on his fender while he was trying to negotiate a 55 mile per hour corner at 35.  Then, there was a car going forty MPH, which I eventually got a chance to pass and as I looked over at the driver, it was a white knuckled teenager, wondering why he was being passed by an old fart pulling a trailer, when he (the teenager) was already obviously going as fast as it was safe to go.  Rain, off an on, sometimes heavy, sometimes lightly tip toeing across my windshield just ahead of the wiper.  I also saw some Elephant Seals basking in the dark, just before Hearst Castle.  More Tourists, more watching for brake lights.  arrgh.





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