Travelog #5

29 Palms, Calico Ghost Town, Boron,
Mohave, Lancaster,
Kingsburg, Yuba City

3-2-99 Tuesday Place: Twenty Nine Palms, CA

Knotts Sky Park rv park 29 Palms, CaliforniaActivity: Our last day at Twenty Nine Palms. Withers, as mentioned, it was perfect. The RV park we were in was city-run at a city park and very pleasant. I finished up the previous section of the travelogue, did laundry and generally made preparations to leave. In the afternoon we took the powerbook to a computer shop and uploaded and downloaded email because we're never sure when we will be able to connect again.

You may remember that when we departed Salton Sea and traveled through Brawley on our way to Yuma we lost an angle iron support from beneath the rig. (Refer to the Salton Sea to Yuma travelog if you missed that part of the story.) While pre-tripping the rig here Steve found another support beam coming loose, so while we were in town today day we looked up a welder and made an appointment for the tomorrow morning so that we can go by on our way out of town. Art, the welder/fabricator, was not exactly excited about having to crawl under the rig in the sand, ants and heat, but he finally said he would give it a try if we came in the morning.

The wind pretty much calmed down this evening in the park at Twenty Nine Palms and neighbors hung around to visit a while instead of just walking their dogs and heading home. The park was home to a few construction workers employed at the Marine Base north of town. It reminded us of our days in Travelhome Park in Yuba City.

The moon was full, or almost, and during the night sometime a pack of coyotes ran through the wash between the park and the mountains, yelping and howling and upsetting all the dogs in the neighborhood. Although we expected that in the deserts of Arizona it never happened. It was certainly a surprise, here on the edge of a town. I'm glad I hadn't watched a Stephen King video before bedtime!


3-3-99 Wednesday Place: Twenty Nine Palms to Calico, CA

Art's Welding ArtWeather: Warm and Windy. Really Windy Activity: Got all packed up to leave as quickly as we could. We were to be at the welders some time before noon. Got there about 10:30 or 10:45 and Art, the welder in a one man shop, Plaza Welding, was busy with a job for another RVer. He managed to work with both of us and we were out of there by 12:30 p.m. Art makes great (fancy) iron security doors and gates. He had photos of some he had made and he had a couple of them laid out on his work table. He gets the fancy (leaves and squiggles) parts from Germany and then he makes the frames and welds the pieces together. They are really beautiful. The ones in the photos were sprayed white.


We have included tales of rig troubles along the way as well as the good times we've had because of an early apprehension I had about what we would do on the road if we had equipment problems. While Steve insists that I worry way too much, I'm sure that there are many, like me, who are 'concerned' rather than 'stressed with worry' about the possibilities of such occurrences. We've now had a blow-out on the fifthwheel*, catalytic converter problems with the truck, furnace failure on the rig, and these angle-iron support problems underneath. All of them were nuisances, of course, but none of them are terminal to our life as full-timers on the road. They must be coped with just as problems with a house-with-no-wheels would have to be solved. They may be frustrating; they maybe be inconvenient and they may be expensive, but you can recover from them. -- Fran

From Twenty Nine Palms we headed due east through a stretch level desert and then north up a gradual grade on Amboy Road. Most of the land between Twenty Nine Palms and Calico Ghost Town is BLM land. Desert. As we came down out of the mountains we had crossed, there was a huge dry lake and further on we saw some really strange, interesting piles of earth... connected piles in rows ... and huge ditches with earth piled beside them. We would like to have stopped and asked what sort of industry caused the unique configuration of land but the places we passed with buildings were marked no trespassing... and we wouldn't have fit into their small parking lots anyway with the house in tow. One of the places said it was a calcium chloride business. It surely would have been nice to find out more about what was happening there. Maybe another time.

Amboy Road junctioned with Old National Highway which is Route 66. A little yellow sign (made to look like an official highway sign) on the approach to Amboy had a single word in black on yellow: Ambiguous. We're not sure why. We probably would have stopped for gas and asked what it meant except regular unleaded gasoline was $1.99 per gallon. Another sign said the population of Amboy was 20. Some were apparently inside because we only saw three.

We turned around and headed west on Route 66. Off to the sides of the road were craters left by volcanoes... the Amboy Crater and the Pisgah Crater and their lava flows were visible from the highway. We stopped in Ludlow for gas ($1.55) and then got onto Interstate 40 to head west. Desert. Dry lakes. Along highway 40 we passed the solar plant in Dagget that had been on fire last week.

We cut across from the 40 freeway, under the 15 and on to Calico. It was getting late in the afternoon and instead of looking for another RV park we decided to stay at the campground at the Ghost Town. It's really a nice campground but the wind was horrific while we were there. It wasn't very crowded at all because it was not the right season. The people in the shops say the season starts in April.

Our House at Calico Ghost TownThe spaces are easy to get into and a nice size. Each has a small tree which probably has leaves for shade in the summer. We have electric, water and sewage for $20 per night which is senior (over 55 here) rates Sunday through Thursday. Weekends are $2 more per night. And regular rates are $4 higher. Admission to the mining town is included in the campground fees. Without camping admission is $6 per adult. I'm not sure about the kid price or senior price.

3-4-99 Thursday Place: Calico, CA

Weather: Chilly and windy. Warm in the sun. Cold at night. Activity: After breakfast this morning I had to empty my digital camera into the computer so I could take pictures in the mining town. Then we went up above (the RV park is in a canyon next to the ridge where the main street is). It's a nice place to visit. The buildings are all period, some of them being originals, some replicas. We went through the Maggie Mine which was pretty interesting. It's supposed to be about 65° all the time down in the mine. Then we walked through the town and snooped in the shops and watched a gunfight and just enjoyed the ambience. All the employees, shop keepers and crafts people seemed to be enjoying their jobs. Back at the campground we mostly stayed indoors the rest of the afternoon and evening because of the wind.


3-5-99 Friday Place: Calico, CA to Barstow to Boron to Lancaster

Weather: Pleasant. Could be hot in the sun. A bit breezy... keeps it cool. Activity: Knowing we didn't have far to travel today, we leisurely packed up and left Calico Ghost Town to head west on Highway 58 to Boron. We stopped at the Museum in Boron and spent some time viewing the exhibits and videos. The Museum is a very nice place to visit. We had intended to see if we could get a tour at U.S. Borax company but the wind was picking up and weather reports had warned of storms on the way.

After we left I read about some other things they had on the grounds outside but since Steve had seemed anxious to get going I did not press walking around the place or stopping to look up at the mondo big truck the Borax company donated to the Museum when they got an even bigger one.

As we continued along 58 to the west in the ever increasing wind we saw the U.S. Borax facility on the north side of the road. We will come back and tour it another time, when it isn't so windy. We fueled at Mojave and headed south on 'the 14' got off at Lancaster and proceeded to the house where our grandsons live with their parents. No one was home but they had cleared our spot for us so we made ourselves at home and got hooked up.

During the night the motor in the furnace we had to replace while we were in Spirit Mountain, AZ, began to act up making more noise than the old one ever had.


3-6 to 19-99 Place: Lancaster, California

B @ Stealth BomberWeather: Warm to hot in the daytime and cold at night. One night the water hose froze as it had in December before we left. Always windy... a normal for Lancaster.

Activity: It was two months to the day that we had headed south from here to the schedule-less life of winter in the south. While we had relaxed, the family here had not missed a beat. For the almost two weeks we were in Lancaster we were caught up in the activities of #1 son and his family. The opening of the pony league baseball season (I learned how to keep score); locating a new fan motor for the fifthwheel's furnace; cub scout den meetings and the annual Pinewood Derby Race; helping our daughter-in-law's family with their annual chocolate Easter candy operation; more baseball, baseball practice, baseball scrimmage; when any break in activity occurred we all helped with getting a lawn started in their backyard; backyard leveling, scraping, leveling, then rolling, raking, seeding, watering. I drive a mean lawn tractor!!

Sometime during the first day there we discovered that the refrigerator in the rig was not working. I moved what I could from the contents to the extra refrigerator Mark and Janette have in their garage.

During the first week there I emptied out my section of the house one day and we removed the sofa/bed and built a window seat/bed. We had a mattress made from 4" high density foam rubber and then I had to move everything back in.

The second week Mark had to go to Washington, D.C. early Sunday morning and didn't get back until Wednesday afternoon. Time literally flies in Lancaster because every possible minute of every possible day is scheduled with activity of some sort.


3-19-99 Place: Lancaster to Kingsburg

Weather: Windy, sometimes overcast, sometimes sunny.

Activity: Packed up and left Lancaster in the morning. Janette and boys had gone to Maggie's to do more chocolate. Mark was at work. It was about 12:15 when we left the Chevron station in Mojave after having refueled. The drive through the Tehachapis was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out most of the way. But the great part of it was that we had never... ever... been in these mountains in spring. Anytime I had ever crossed them they were dried out hillsides with thirsty, scrawny trees. This time the hillsides and valleys showed some green with some of the plants in bloom. The further west we traveled the greener the mountains became.

Approaching the Tehachapi Mountains from the desert on the east side you are treated to visions of the wind machines in staggered rows atop each ridge, but as you move on into the range where the hills are higher there are houses on top of the rounded peaks. I used to wonder why anyone would want to have their home there... so out of the way and so barren looking. But the spring makes up for the bleakness of the other months.

A favorite part of the trip for me is moving out of the velvety green rolling hills on the west side of the mountain range and catching the first view of the tremendous central valley of California. It is truly the valley of the jolly green giant. From our lofty lookout we could see patches of dark green citrus orchards, sprinklers soaking recently sown fields, dusty patches rising behind huge tractors pulling cultivators and truckloads of carrots traveling highway ribbons from the field to the scales ...all a part of the amazing agricultural industry that feeds a hungry nation.From highway 58 we took 99 north. Historic 99, as I recall it, was a 'main street' highway running northward through the small towns and cities of California. Now days the business sections are bypassed by the mostly four-lane roadway.

Traveling north on Highway 99 is a treat in the spring. Orchards are blooming ... pink, darker pink, white... beautiful. Orange, yellow, blue and white flowers grow in bright patches here and there along the road. California poppies and lupine are our favorites but the they all add to the ambience that gives California its reputation of being the golden state.

As we progressed northward toward Kingsburg citrus orchards gave way to fields full of neatly pruned rows of grapevines. Vineyards in this part of the state are for raisin' raisins... not wine. Alfalfa and other field crops were in various stages of growth from fields just being plowed, seeded, irrigated with growth on some that looked almost ready to harvest. Just like the country around Yuma, Arizona, I guess the land is used constantly year-round to produce some kind of food product.

I had never seen the grapevines in the spring and didn't realize that they were pruned back so severely. Probably the biggest part of agriculture around Kingsburg is grape growing. There is a SunMaid plant nearby. We checked out the visitor center there the last time we were through town, but tours of the plant need a couple of days scheduling so we haven't done that yet. Other orchards include nectarines, nectarines, persimmons, pears and some nuts such as almond and walnut. At Kingsburg we headed east from the freeway to 'Road 28' and Royal Oaks Park. We checked in and parked the rig in space 42 this time. We have never been here in spring either.


3-20-99 Place: Royal Oak Park, Kingsburg California

Weather: Cloudy. Nice rain early this morning. Calm wind. A patch of blue every now and then.

Activity: Without meaning to sound like a commercial for Royal Oak Park I have to say this place is primo. We won a membership at a RV show in Sacramento years ago and when the representative came to 'deliver' it he talked us into 'upping' our win by purchasing a 'charter membership' that had just become available. It was a good price and we were novices and we could deduct our 'win' from the total so we went for it. Now we can just drive up, present our membership card and park for two weeks at a time.

When we first came to visit the park a lot of it was covered in water as it was a rainy winter and we were way ahead of spring. Since then we have been here several times in the fall. It is beautiful then with golden leaves covering the ground, the calm river flowing by the edge of the park and all the peace and quiet you could want. Summer time, we are told, is bustling with campers, boaters, fishers and golfers, but we have been lucky always to find a moderately filled park with hook-up space for us. We pay a $200 per year maintenance fee and that's it.

A Coast to Coast membership came with this and we have kept up the dues in that but with increasing dissatisfaction. In Coast to Coast, like Good Sam places, a lot of the sales talk is just talk and the local parks don't honor memberships.

Spring at Royal Oak Park is beautiful... even when overcast as it is today. The lawns are turning green and the trees are all bursting back into life with blooms and fresh greenery. Green moss, thriving from winter's moisture, shades the rounded tree branches and tends to make them look like the palo verde trees we left behind in Arizona's desert.


3-21-99 Place: Royal Oak Park, Kingsburg California

Weather: Puffy clouds. Calm wind. Beautiful day.

Activity: Pretty much a stay at home day. I took a walk to see if I could find some fish to feed in the river, but didn't see a one. I did meet a nice couple from Vancouver who were headed for Washington state. He was interested in cowboy poetry so I shared the RV poem by Harold Drummond with him since they were non-computerized and couldn't access our web site.


3-22-99 Place: Kingsburg to Yuba City California

Weather: Nice travel day

Activity: Had to be out of the park by 11 a.m. and we decided to make a dash for it Monday because 'big storms' were due in the rest of the week according to the weather forecaster out of Fresno. Although at the start, the road was bordered by vineyards, the landscape gradually blended from rural to urban until we passed through Sacramento. People who never venture from urban status into the mountains or the deserts of this country seem to fear that all the agricultural space is going to have cities built upon it. There is still a lot of space out there... open, beautiful, unspoiled space.

We made one stop at a Flying J for fuel... gasoline for Hokey, the truck and hard boiled eggs and cold cuts for we people, and arrived in Yuba City about 3:15. We stopped to have RV Dave, a repairman, check out the information he would need to repair our ailing refrigerator and then proceeded to Steve's Mom's house. The backyard's gate is just slightly wider than the narrow driveway, but Steve got the rig backed in quite well without taking out the fence or knocking the mirrors off the truck!

So five months after leaving we had arrived back at our 'pivot point', Yuba City, in northern California. Winter was still here. -- Fran


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Last modified on: Sunday, March 7, 1999.