Full time RVing adventure 2000 Travelog -
Part 0ne - Boron, Borax Visitors Center, Barstow and more

Steven L Fletcher & Fran Crawford full time RVing Travelog: January 17 to January 21

We spent the holiday season with relatives in northern California so we were a little bit late in getting away from Yuba City this season. Monday, January 17 finally found us able to hit the road. Our Y2K standby status turned out to be totally uneeded so we upgraded to a wireless, same-rate-everywhere digital/analog phone, call forwarded our land line to it; gave my friend, Lorine, a handful of priority mail envelopes and initiated hitch-up procedures.

Travelhome Park owners Susan and David were to leave the same day for southern California. We only planned to make it to Kingsburg the first day, but we challenged them to a friendly, unofficial 'see who can get outta Dodge first' contest. They pulled out around 10 a.m. and we hit the streets about an hour later. We graciously conceded, but then WE didn't get up at the crack o' dawn!

First we went around the block to Ray's Tire Store and aired up the tires. Next we headed out to Morning Star Trucking's scale to check our weight... always depressing. By that time Steve had decided the brakes weren't right so I phoned RV Dave to see if he would be at his shop for a few minutes and we went by there. He made a minor adjustment and helped us get out of his crowded parking lot and we were finally on our way.

Rain was the descriptive weather word for the day. Spit and sputter mostly, but we did get a really good downpour or two. Even though we know the route well, I spent most of the time trying to get the new GPS to work. I had the route all laid out and just couldn't get any satellites to find us or get the little arrow to follow us along.

It's been less than a year since we last traveled this section of 'the 99', but it is still amazing to see all the new additions along the way. Lots of road work and the cities, especially Fresno, are going through tremendous growing spurts... in all directions it seems.

We turned off 99 at the Flying J by Ripon to get gasoline and try out my new Flying J discount card. It worked... a penny per gallon less! The folks at that particular Flying J are a bunch of 'nuts'... always jovial and kidding each other and the customers. The clerk told me how I could use my card to get the discount at the pump with an ATM card. I thanked him and said now I wouldn't have to come in and take all the abuse they dish out!

As we came out of Flying J and headed over the overpass to get on 99 south through all the construction going on there, we came to onramp crossroads down between huge mountains of dirt piled high so no one could tell where anyone else at the intersection was. The truck ahead of us pulled forward too far and stopped so that the truck coming from the right couldn't make a left turn. The one ahead of us (from Canada) had to back uphill on the wet pavement toward us!!! Steve finally got out to signal the driver as to how far he could come back without hitting us... there was a lineup behind us so we couldn't to back up. Finally the left-turning truck was able to make it around. Traffic was backed up to 99 on the exit ramp in one direction and back to the Flying J in another. What a mess!! But we all survived.

We arrived at Royal Oak Resort, in Kingsburg, where we are charter members, around 4 p.m. and promised the not-unfriendly, but definitely not a people person, man in the gatehouse that we would report to him immediately when we had selected a suitable site. We planned to stay there a couple of days.

When I set my plants out to air them it was a good thing I remembers to cover them... it rained hard during the night... off and on. I couldn't get an English speaking station on my radio, but found the weather channel on my scanner.

The forecast that night was not good. It was cold and was to continue cold and rainy with snow levels dropping in Kern County. We didn't know the elevation of the Tehachapi Mountains but we wanted to get east of them in case they were scheduled for snow so we decided to head out Tuesday morning.

It was around 11 when we pulled out. Small patches of blue were appearing in the southern and western sky. We got gas at the Chevron station in Kingsburg then headed south.

Again I worked without success at trying to get the GPS to register some satellites to show us how it would work. By Bakersfield I was overcome by frustration and gave up. So we listened to Sacajawea on tapes.

Crossing the Tehachapis went well except that because we are so overwight we slowed to 35 MPH on some of the grades. In the past we've never fallen below 45 MPH. The rain was gone and the sky cleared as we went up the hill on Route 58. The mountains are beautiful to see, no matter what season it is. The high desert is always different and interesting. That day all the wind mills on the eastern slopes were in perfect sync, gently churning out power for the wind farmers.

We refueled once again at the Chevron station in Mojave (spelled with a 'j' in California) and headed east on SR 58 thinking we might stop over in Barstow. We never know what we will do next!

Just east of Mojave on an airstrip we saw about a dozen bright, new looking Federal Express planes. There were other planes there also, unmarked so we thought it must be a workshop for putting graphics on airplanes. We'll have to try to find out more about it when we return to Lancaster.

The land State Route 58 crosses is flat but we felt we were gradually going up. The desert was dotted with Joshua trees. As we got closer to Boron we decided to stay there and take in the Borax Visitors Center. It is on the north side of the road just west of Boron. South of the highway and Boron is Edwards Air Force Base. The only part to be seen from this point, however, is the rocket development site atop the mountain behind the town of Boron.

A sign along the road advertised that the Arabian Trailer Oasis had full hook-ups for RVs for $12. Sounded good to us and even turned out better... they give a $1 off to Escapees! They are also good neighbors for C2C but heck, save your coupons for a pricier one! There were only a couple of spaces available and we backed into one of them and I went to the office to pay up.

The park managers are full timers from Tennessee who work in the winter and travel when it gets too hot to be here.

By the time we were connected to shore power it was dinner time. We needed a few groceries and while we were 'uptown' we decided to find a good hamburger. When we asked a woman leaving the grocery store where the best place to get a good burger was she said the 'best place' had just closed for the day. She knew, because she owned it! So we went to the K & L Corral (the 2nd best place) and had dinner. Good food. Fair prices. BIG menus... 8 pages, and included some town history. Seemed to be a popular place with local folks.

Steve looked at the GPS and powerbook and figured out that I had turned on Apple Talk in an attempt to get Charlie, my powerbook, to talk to Pinocchio, by big Macintosh and had neglected to reset it. Duh!

Small World Department: At the RV park we were told that some other folks from Yuba City were there. And then we met a couple from Ukiah, California. As we talked I found out that she was born and raised in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania... about 8 miles from whence I came! And probably about the same time.

Borax Visitor CenterWednesday morning we got a slow start because we were going to stay another night in Boron. I went to the office and paid for another night and Steve visited with the assistant manager who stopped by our space for a chat. Then we went to the Borax Visitors Center.

The Center is on top of a huge hill created with 'overburden' taken from the mine. It is the material that covers the borax mineral in the open pit. Each working day they dynamite it to loosen it up and then haul it off first, before they load up the borax and take it to storage piles near the plant. Had we arrived five minutes sooner we could have seen that day's dynamite exploding!! So much for casual easy going mornings!

The Visitors Center is interesting and the docents are anxious to tell everyone about the operation of the mine and plant. After viewing a short movie about the history and functions of the business the draperies at the rear of the room opened to give us a panoramic view of the plant and the open pit mine. Displays in the center show all facets of the operation from the ore that is brought up from the mine to the products that contain some form of borax. You would be amazed to know how many everyday items contain this valuable mineral.

Panorama of the Borax mine at Boron, CA
Click on this photo to see a larger version.

Outside the center is a giant tire from one of the huge trucks used to haul loads from the open pit mine, and a mule train display that includes original wagons. The Center itself is something to behold. It is constructed of giant steel culverts strong enough for the big trucks to drive over. There is actually a road over it that the trucks used in constructing the landscaping of rocks around it. On the road to and from the Visitors Center are Speed Limit signs that announce the speed limit to be 34.5 mph, or 14 mph.

Back in town we revisited the Boron Museum. It is expanding to add an aerospace section and will therefore be able to represent Boron's history and future.

When we got back to the park it was almost full again. Chatted with some folks from Vancouver and some from Oregon. They were headed south to find warmer weather.

Next morning we headed east again with scattered clouds and a slight breeze. The GPS was doing a good job tracking us and we traveled smoothing through the intersection of SR 395 to Ludlow where we refueled at the Chevron station. We cruised into Barstow on an almost-completed new freeway and out of Barstow on some really old sections of Interstate 40.

Over the mountains to Needles on Interstate 40 was a new way for us. We did not know what to expect of the mountains, but they are easy to cross. Almost all of the way you can see the railroad with trains coming and going and looking like a trail of ants heading for the pantry when they are far off. It boggles the mind how much stuff is transported from here to there and other stuff back from there to here by rail and by trucks on the highway. What do we do with all that stuff!!

The high desert between Barstow and Needles stretches desolate and seemingly endless in all directions. Small hills protrude upward here and there from the creosote covered flatness. Joshua trees were sprinkled here and there until we got up higher. When we crested the last ridge it is a great sight to see out over the Colorado River valley at this point. Needles on the California side of the river is at one end of this valley and Bullhead City at the other end on the Arizona side. As we crossed into Arizona we lost an hour. Highway 95 is being widened through Mohave (spelled with an 'h' in Arizona) Valley and was crowded with traffic as usual. After we got settled into space 4143 in Spirit Mountain RV Park we walked over to the casino to have one of their good hamburger specials. We dropped a few coins in the slots and for once in our lives came out with a few more dollars than we took in.

Back to our rig Steve worked out how to get our email downloaded and we spent the evening between catching up on email and checking on the eclipse that was taking place above us behind a thin layer of clouds.

Friday we traveled the now familiar to us Arizona Highway 95 downriver along the beautiful Colorado River through Lake Havasu City to Parker and then inland and south to Quartzsite. We eased through the traffic and checked in to LaPosa South LTVA, found our spot, unhitched and leveled. Then Steve sat down in a lawn chair and said "It's good to be home." And that's what it felt like.

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