Lake Havasu AZ: Craggy Wildlife

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The hummingbird, the fly and the BAT.

This isn’t a bear in the woods story. No, it’s actually two different stories, one cute, the other not so much.

I’ve been visited by a hummingbird every day that I have been here! He, or she (who can tell when they’re so small!) arrives at my chair while I drink my morning coffee, hovering at about my eye level approximately three feet away—until I speak to it!

That’s too much to handle, apparently.

So alarmed by the sound of my voice, off it speeds, sounding more like a buzz saw than a two inch bird, to sample the surrounding nectar from dozens of little flowers.

Love at first buzz.

I have come to love this little intruder because it presents a danger (from its noisy approach) but, it turns out to be a friendly, endearing and harmless encounter with one of God’s creatures!

It’s iridescent in color and has that swordfish snout that COULD be used to run my eyeball through but, really, I’m in its territory—and our daily rendezvous is always a thrill.

I now expect—and look forward to—hearing and visiting with my little hummingbird, if only for the dozen seconds or so that we meet, my daily soiree with a bird in the wild. That’s a big change from my initial, out loud “Whoa!” reaction!

The fly.

Every afternoon, especially after the sun raises the temperature to, well, hot, a rather large fly likes to fly in an oval pattern in front of my sliding side door. It has no concern with me moving around or even opening and closing doors. Zooming over and over and around again, I was thinking this little buzzer must be either patrolling its territory or performing an aerial dance for the ladies!

Turns out, it was the latter.

He had a taker day before yesterday and the two disappeared from my view for about ten minutes—before he returned to his routine, as always, of circular reconnaissance—alone.

The bat.

I’ve been seeing these little bats at dusk, all over the place! They haphazardly dart around appearing to be mad (the insane mad) or out of control!

But, that’s not what’s happening.

What they are doing is, searching for—and finding—flying insects to eat for dinner, snatching them out of the air in great numbers! Their regular fare must be pretty small, because I can’t see them or hear them.

Now, I must admit, there are few mosquitoes and no-see-ums here in the desert (I’ve only found a single mosquito–and I killed it!).

But, last night, the bats showed up a little before the sun was entirely set. And “same bat-time” wasn’t expected by my diligent, territorial protecting, multi-eyed little buddy, the fly.

You guessed it!

The fly’s buzzing ceased with a silent strafing run by one of the bats! Quite a large meal for a bat of his size, our flying creature crusader took off—not to be seen again for the evening.

And I sat there for a few minutes, in silence, aghast that my consistent buzzing companion was no more! Yes, I had witnessed the demise of the performing fly—an exceptional pilot—that had kept me both irritated and entertained for several days!

I can only feel glad that he had a little fling the day before he met his maker! And she’ll never know what happened to him!

It’s a bat-eat-fly world out there, kids. Although it may seem cruel, it’s not unusual—and that’s the way it’s always been!

And so, life in the desert continues its struggles. The fly is toast but, the bat is buttered! I now look forward to hearing my beautiful little hummingbird’s wings paddle the air, once again, right in front of my face.

Happy trails my friends!

Lake Havasu, AZ: Still Craggy

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The Desert Sings!

I know, it sounds crazy but, the wind in the desert makes music! As the wind blows, it vibrates the dried out stems of plants and creates an eerie, tonal song that changes pitch with the speed of the breeze.

It’s all around me at my BLM campsite in Craggy Wash, just north of Havasu City.

Imagine what the ancients used to think when these sounds were generated by the land! This was before any scientific knowledge of sound was penned—and even before stringed instruments, where they surely would have put two and two together to explain the phenomenon. For me, though, it’s great entertainment!

It’s hot.

Yes, it’s called a desert for a reason, Mr. Explorer! I keep out of the sun, mostly (although I am getting a pretty good tan). It’s sure to please my doctor who, at one time, asked me, “why are you so white?” Of course, I got the lecture about Vitamin D and why we need the sun.

Up to that time, I had a pretty good “studio tan.”

My little new sunshade umbrella is doing a bang up job and I always wear a hat to protect the bald spot—and the rest of my scalp—on my monkish head. I’m afraid I can’t really sit in the desert with my engine running and the A/C working; the Sienna is just not up to it without moving forward at a decent speed.

And my new battery-powered fan “is the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent!” Lately, though, I haven’t been using it in the evenings, as the temperature drops into the low 60’s the moment the sun goes down (even lower overnight). I’ll say this, however: I don’t need all of the blankets I’m carrying! Or the Mr. Heater I bought for Christmas in Oregon, when the thermometer dropped into the single digits—and below.

Dust to dust.

Wow, the desert is also pretty dusty! I’ve got a nice coating of dust on just about everything—including me. That’s okay, I invested in beaucoup packages of flushable wipes that I’ve been using to make sure I’m clean.

An extra benefit? They are saturated with some kind of liquid that is cooool. Pretty handy, if you ask me!

In N’ Out

I do have a stockpile of food—and water—with me but, there is an In N’ Out burger nearby and I’ve managed to visit my favorite hamburger place just about every other day. No apologies from me; since I’ve lost almost sixty pounds since I started my expedition, I figure I have some wiggle room to eat a few more big, fat, greasy burgers!

And every time I visit them, I get a chance to see the London Bridge again. I don’t know why that is exciting for me; it’s not Tower Bridge and it’s basically a plain stone bridge but, still, the history of the structure gives me some satisfaction to give it a look-see any time that I can.

More power!

Even I am astonished at the amount of juice just charging up my smartphone absorbs from the battery jumper I’ve been using as a general power supply. So, when I found a 12,000 MVH rechargeable battery at Walmart for a mere fifteen dollars, I snatched it quick! Now, I never seem to run out of phone power—and that’s gooood!

You’re going to what?

I know, I know, call me nuts but, I am waiting to hear about getting a job (a job?) in Phoenix doing the news again! I do miss my life-long vocation—and I might take a break from living in a minivan and seeing the western United States, if they decide to hire the old newsman.

Not that I’m not totally enjoying myself but, there’s something about chasing stories, meeting deadlines (the clock never stops!), and being competitive with other news outlets that’s difficult to purge from the system.

Once you’ve been bitten…

Oh, they’ll probably hire some young beginner to save some bucks—I don’t come cheap because I think experience has value. So, I’ll probably just be continuing my retirement and blogging the night away from the road. I just wanted to mention the possibility, in case it actually happens. After all, I still have that book to write, too (and progress on that is slow)!

Crater Lake, Oregon?

I just checked the weather at Crater Lake and it’s looking a little more palatable. Once I hear back from Phoenix, where I’m expecting to not get the job, I’ll probably head to a BLM campsite there and wait for the next eruption of the caldera—a painful yet quick death!

Thanks so much for reading my little hobby! I appreciate each and every reader so, please, pass the word along to your friends and neighbors about what I’m doing and that I’m rambling on about my travels here, on TheMinivanExplorer.com.

Happy trails my friends!

Lake Havasu, AZ: Craggy Wash

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Beating the heat!

Although someone stole my campsite while I was uploading my last blog entry yesterday, there are plenty more of them—and I found a great spot that’s a little more remote. I did decide, after all, to stay a few more nights.

A stop at the Walmart, right next to the McDonald’s I told you about, and I picked up some things to deal with the heat. First, a sunshade umbrella ($5) that attaches to my chair (it works great!).

What a find!

And here’s a real find: in the Clearance aisles, I found a rechargeable, battery powered 4″ fan ($10) that should, at least, keep the air moving throughout the evening inside the Sienna.

I know! Fantastic eh?

It says it will work for six hours on a full charge and it spun away for hours (I just need it to work until I’m unconscious!). I have added it to the devices that automatically recharge whenever the engine is running (along with the battery jumper, a Bluetooth speaker, my laptop and my phone).

I also snagged a couple one dollar boxes of all-natural fly and mosquito repellent-laced individual wet wipes (8 wipes each), of which I will hang two of them on cracked open windows. I am hoping they will create a barrier against any brave flying bugs thinking about coming in while I’m sleeping.

I’ll let you know if this works!

Um, do bugs think? Surely, my brain is more advanced than theirs, if true. And I have the advantage of not only forethought but, chemicals with which to wage war, too!

Who needs a microwave?

I’ve got a metal roof baking in the sun to heat a frozen sammich to scalding in less than an hour! That includes melted cheese and everything.

So, the metal box in the desert does have some advantages!

The stars at night…

You don’t have to be in Texas to have an amazing view of the universe above! I did some stargazing last night and found some stars I’ve never seen before with the naked eye! It’s nice to get away from the city’s light pollution and take in the stars on a crystal clear night.

It’s dark out here!

And just so I don’t stumble around without a reference point in the darkness, I got one of those solar, battery powered walkway lights to stick in the ground near the sliding side door ($2).

It charged all afternoon in the bright sunshine and lasted, I think, all night long (at least every time I checked on it).

Seeeeee?

Not as untenable a desert as I feared! Who needs air conditioning??

Happy trails my friend!

Lake Havasu, AZ: London Bridge

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London Bridge is not falling down!

Transported piece by piece from England and reassembled here a few years ago, the bridge connects the city to a small island with upper crust homes and country clubs.

Yes, the old childhood song is wrong. The people of Lake Havasu are driving over it with no restrictions on weight! I saw cars, semi’s, large RVs and plenty of people going over it—all at same time.

This photo is taken from the parking lot behind InN’Out. All right!! I am magnetically attracted to my favorite burger joint. And so, another delicious Double Double hit the spot for dinner.

Wicked hot.

It was searing hot in western Arizona yesterday (I had thought for a while that I had lost my A/C but no). I found an area north of Havasu City (just past the airport) owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that allows free camping nestled between some pretty interesting rock formations.

It’s a dry heat.

It’s all dirt roads but they are as dry as a bone so the Sienna is pretty dirty right now! I’m not going to fall for using a lazy man’s automatic car wash again, though. I think two CB antennas are quite enough, thank you.

Rut ro!

I was hearing a horrendous sound coming from the back when I was on the highway heading to “Craggy Wash” and when I hit the dirt about a mile later, the tailpipe fell off the muffler!

Pieces parts falling off the vehicle? I told you she’s an old lady!

A Google concensus says that, as long as the catalytic converter and muffler are still attached, you don’t really need a tailpipe (I’ll have to watch out for exhaust in the cabin when she’s running but not moving).

Of course, I checked with my expert mechanic, Antonio, and he tells me I don’t need a tailpipe! No expense there.

The desert has me.

Except for the daytime heat, I have a new appreciation for the desert! I adore the rocks and the quiet (not so much the bugs, mostly flies). The nights are nice and “just a sheet” cool, and the air is crisp. I haven’t had any allergies affecting me since I arrived in the Death Valley region.

No wonder so many old people move to the Southwest!

Of course, I reserve the right to change my opinion if I have a heat stroke, get bitten by a snake or stung by a creepy crawly (I am well aware of these dangers and act accordingly to prevent them—a watchful eye and plenty of water).

And to think I was so concerned about freezing to death and being eaten by a bear just a few weeks ago!

Don’t know about the people of Arizona though. While I was doing the speed limit, a pickup truck was tailgating me closely for miles before it passed me with both the driver and passenger giving me the finger from their open windows! Hey, I don’t make the speed limits around here!

They’ll be old someday.

And some young punks will do that—or worse—to them! That is the way the universe works, in my opinion. It bothered me for a couple of hours but, I forgot all about it when the tailpipe started dragging on the pavement long after these disrespectful asses sped past!

I may stay here for a few days if the heat during the day doesn’t get to me (BLM “officially” allows you to camp for two weeks!). Today’s high will be 93°, a bit “cooler” than yesterday.

What I need.

There’s 4G cell service here and a McDonald’s just down the road for a WiFi connection to read lots of news, check the maps for my next adventure and do website stuff.

Plus, I really like their cheap and very healthy egg burritos! Believe it or not, McDonald’s hot salsa isn’t bad. Even so, I carry a wood-capped bottle of Cholula with me (Cholula, in Mexico, is home to the largest pyramid in the world)!

It’s also a great way to snag a big cup of ice that will last the whole day if kept out of the sun.

Happy trails my friends!

Joshua Tree Nat’l Park

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This desert has lots-o-rocks!

This particular National Park is a bit peculiar. Although there are signs saying there is an entrance fee, there is no kiosk to collect it coming in from the south!

Like all U. S. Forest Service parks, the speed limit of 35 MPH goes for miles and miles (with no passing!) so, it’s slow going as you drive through it.

There was one unusual event: I was ushered past a strange sight by a park Ranger yelling at me to “keep moving!” An old airplane had landed on the main roadway and was just being pushed off to the side.

It looked airworthy from my vantage so, I’m thinking that it just ran out of gas and needed to set down. I hope that was all there was to it.

Full up.

Joshua Tree doesn’t really have a lot to offer, facilities wise. There are only three very small, very full campgrounds, each with a single loo—and no other bathrooms along the main road.

There’s myriad pullovers with a little educational display to explain the horizon features but, I think I breezed past the one building that must have had the gift shop so, no sticker for my back window!

I stayed the night in the parking lot for a little tent city so I had access to the single toilet there. Until sundown, there were lots of kids climbing the rocks but, the place settled into quiet once it got dark.

If you’re interested, my little butane stove is still doing a Yeoman job and some soup filled the bill for dinner. It was quite cool overnight as the desert is want to do.

A cool desert night.

I slept in my shorts and only pulled a sheet over me, albeit a flannel sheet—sometime in the middle of the night. A far cry from shivering with single digit temperatures on my earlier excursion!

My thoughts now go to the summertime heat, sleeping in an all metal box! I do have a 12 volt fan that I can power from my trusty battery jumper/portable power supply. But, there will be no air conditioning unless I want to start the Sienna up (which I really don’t want to do).

It may be wise to return to the northern border states when the sun starts to beat down on the face of the earth. I’m just thinking out loud, here!

The Sienna is definitely an old gal and I do worry about how she’s going to handle warmer weather! As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I am carrying extra automotive fluids like oil and coolant so, I am hoping for the best—and a quick fix on the road if I run into difficulties.

Where to now?

There’s no cell service in Joshua and I had to exit the park and locate a signal (yes, Mickey D’s; dos huevos burritos!) to make this post and to consider my next move.

I am thinking about London Bridge in Lake Havasu; I’ve never been to England and, since it was brought here, piece by piece and reassembled, now might be a good time to check out the history of what is one of the most famous bridges—if not the most famous—ever built!

Havasu is only an hour east of Joshua so, it makes sense for me to me to see it—before it falls down! Talk to you soon from the jolly old Lady.

Happy trails my friend!

The Salton Sea

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Man, this place stinks!

Literally stinks! You can smell the salt and the dead fish starting from miles away. And when you get closer, it’s overwhelming! I can’t see how anyone can live here with the stench so strong in the air.

Full disclosure: I didn’t even get out of the car or open a window (the photos are from Google)—and I have an outdoor air filter on my Sienna!

Short and not-so-sweet.

Yes, this blog entry isn’t going to be long—because there’s nothing to write about, except for the assault on my nostrils.

The dilapidated sign is an indicator of the total lack of care of the area. And signs for “Date Shakes” (“milkshake” type drinks made from locally grown dates) kind of made me vurp—especially with the smell of the place permeating the air.

I drove for miles upwind to Brawley to crash at the Walmart there. Better luck with my next stop, I say!

Happy trails my friends!

The Palomar Observatory

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A long and winding road.

I caught a quick nap last night by the entrance to the Fry Creek campgrounds in the adjacent Cleveland National Forest, just down the twisty road from the observatory (it’s closed for the winter despite being almost 80°).

I was surrounded by woodpeckers working way past the sunset and showing up for work just before daybreak (don’t they ever get a headache doing that?).

Plague!

I suppose it’s just as well—look at this warning poster! I’ve never seen one of these before!
 
It was good to make some dinner and morning coffee with my leetle Coleman stove. I think I’ve missed it, if you can believe that!

The people you meet!

By the entrance sign I met an astronomer-physicist, Jeff from Wyoming, taking photos of birds nearby (he was trying to get a bead on some elusive quail albeit unsuccessfully). Just goes to show scientists don’t venture far from “home” in their off-hours (we were in the shadow of the telescope!).
 
To my delight, Jeff educated me on some dark matter theories, one of which his, that I promised not to divulge (sorry)!
 
It’s truly amazing who you can run into and learn something from …in the middle of nowhere!

My childhood fantasy.

I think I have mentioned that I had a poster of Palomar on my wall when I was a kid—and I gotta tell you, it’s much bigger in person! Far from disappointing, although I wasn’t allowed to look through it (good thing since the daylight would have probably blinded me!).
 
The Observatory public relations guy, Steve Flanders, was kind enough to meet with me and show me around (I had called him before I left SD). I guess being a blogger counts for still being a journalist of sorts today.
 
Although there are many hoops one has to jump through to get into the actual telescope room and I didn’t manage to make it in there (you know I tried!), a viewing area—also accessible to the public—has a large glassed off room to spy on the goings-on inside (see photo, below).

My heart was racing.

What a day! I will spare you the exceptional history of the Hale Telescope here but, you can read more about it at the Caltech website. What I learned, however, is that the telescope—from its inception to today—has been entirely privately funded!
 
The Pyrex mirror, which I’m told is superior for maintaining its shape and made by Corning Glass in upstate New York, was shipped across the country on a specially-made rail car—after being poured and cooled for a year!
 
There were quite a few rich astronomy enthusiasts who made it happen and I thank them for giving me the impetus to “look up” for my entire life! Many thanks too, to Steve for taking the time to show me around—and answer a barrage of questions (I am known for doing that!).
 
The science continues at Palomar, once the largest optical telescope in the world. It still sees as well as the Hubble, even through the atmosphere thanks to upgrades to its CCD digital camera. May it continue to show us those starry frontiers in space for many years to come!
 
Happy trails my friends!

Roadtrip 2.0

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And we’re off!

In a few minutes from now (after one last indoor shower), I’m hitting the road again for a second roadtrip. “Excited” is the word! First stop: the Mount Palomar Observatory.

Boy, is it humid in SD this morning! Accuweather says it’s 90%. My skin says it may be 100%! As is the case in southern California most of the time, early morning humidity and, especially, fog typically burns off by mid or late morning.

I’ll be gone by then!

I’ve kissed the family goodbye and I’ll be missing them. Last night, I took them all to dinner at a local Thai place (Tamarind in La Mesa) and we all stuffed ourselves.

I am so proud of my nephew; while everyone else wimped out with a mild dish, ol’ Zeke ordered up a spicy hot dinner and didn’t sweat a drop (you know I did too!).

I’m O-W-T, out!

So, my laundry is clean, the Sienna is gassed up—whew! gas prices here are almost double that of what I’ve found elsewhere—and I’m grabbing my coffee kit (the fam doesn’t do coffee! what’s wrong with them?) and off I go into the foggy gray yonder!

I’ll see you right back here, most likely Friday afternoon or evening, with the details on my visit to the telescope I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid!

Happy trails my friends!

San Diego: Let’s GO—Again!

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Getting antsy.

Funny that! You would think returning to SD would calm my savage soul. But no! I am anxious to get back on the road.

My trusted and talented mechanic, Antonio, has changed my oil and fixed a cranky hood latch that threatened, someday, to send my hood crashing into my windshield!

And my doctor has given me a clean bill of health so, it looks like I’m ready for more exploration!

Drought despite the rain!

It’s been raining since I got here. And even though the streets were flooded until now—there’s mud everywhere—a news report just today says SoCal is still in a drought—that same report said our reservoirs are all full!

Phase Two.

Phase One, a complete circle that took me north through California, Oregon and Washington, east through Idaho and into Montana, south through Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona, and back west to San Diego, is complete!

Phase Two is about to begin—mid-month! I didn’t make it to the Mount Palomar Observatory last time—and you might already know I am an astronomy buff—so, I think the famous telescope is going to be my first stop! The Cleveland National forest, where Palomar is situated, is not yet open. But, the close-by Palomar State park camping grounds are. Ha!

Death Valley Days?

Wow-wee! Just the name should give any reasonable person pause. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to head there before the weather gets toasty hot? I thought you might agree with me on that one! So, I’m noting that one under “next,” after Palomar.

Las Vegas?

Ohh, you know I probably shouldn’t do Vegas! You have to be prepared to lose whatever you gamble—and I’m not exactly wealthy! I think I’ll stick to buying a lottery ticket every now and then. End of story!

Oregon’s Crater Lake is still calling my name so, I am going to “pencil that in” for the near future (gotta check out the weather when I get a little closer to the deepest lake in the country).

I’ll be updating you just before I have my Phase Two launch date! Until then…

Happy trails my friends!