Friday, July 11, 2008

Death Valley 2003

Hello friends and relatives.
Greetings from Death Valley, where I am attending the 49ers 54th Annual Death Valley Encampment.
The 49ers are a group which promote understanding and appreciation of this beautiful valley.


11-2-03
I arrived here at 2:30 PM. The sky is blue with a few white, fuzzy clouds. The temperature is in the lower seventies, just perfect. I hope it stays like this the rest of the week.










Click on the above picture. I am at the little campground in front. Sunset campground is in the distance.The Furnace Creek Ranch is where the date palms are.
I am camping across from the Furnace Creek Ranch, the famous hotel and resort. Because the lower campground allows the use of generators, I went to the upper one. The smell and noise from the generators does not make good neighbors. Most of the people up here have solar panels to charge their batteries, and the sites are larger too.

This is the first campground where I was able to pay with a credit card without another person involved. There is a machine, after you tell it how many days you stay, it tells you how much it costs and to put your credit card in the slot. It worked fine.


After sticking the receipt on the motorhome I went to the National Park Visitor Center and bought a Golden Age Pass. I did not like the looks of the rangers when I showed them my old pass with the name of Doreen Dawes on it. I am old enough now to have my own pass.



I called Doreen from the visitor center and she was at her favorite pastime, "Shopping". She probably would have come along if they had a shopping center here.
Then I went to the 49ers booth and joint that organization for one year. They gave me two buttons, of course I need only one, a schedule of events, and a little book about Death Valley. The program starts on the 5th. The money goes for good causes. The 49ers help make improvements to the park and give scholarships to children in Death Valley.
Back at the campground I ate dinner and then went over to the rental motorhome. I figured they were Germans and I was correct. It is a young couple from Hanover. They are touring this part of the country in four weeks. I had a nice long conversation with them and then did some computer work and some reading.

11-3-03
At 7:30 AM I walked down to the sign up booth for a tour of the historic Furnace Creek Inn. The tours for the whole week were filled. Some of the people have been camping here since October 1, and signed up early. The Visitor Center was open already and I walked there and spent some time at the Death Valley Museum.
From there I walked to the date grove and then to the General Store. This store is to expensive.
On the way home I walked through the lower campground. There were not many generators running. I noticed many people had solar panels leaning against the tires or wooden contraptions.
I ate lunch and then drove to the Old Harmony Borax Works. From there I drove up the mountains to Rhyolite, a ghost town near Beaty, Nevada. Rhyolite is known for its bottle house. This house has bottles instead of bricks as material for the outside walls. It is one of the few houses still usable.
10,000 people lived there from 1905-1912. When the gold mines closed down; the people left.
My next stop was the sand dunes near Stove Pipe Wells. It turned out to be a nice day; the weather could not be better.


In the evening I called Claudia's house and was informed that Claudia and baby are doing fine. They have to stay in the hospital a few days. Poor Nicolette has competition now.


11-4-03
I got up early today, cooked a big breakfast, put on my hiking shoes and climbed the mountain near Texas Spring. I thought I was early, but I met a person on the way up, he was on his way down.


I made it, but I had to take some breaks. The view from up there was worth the effort. The mountains on the other side of the valley have snow on top and were very beautiful with the morning sun shining on them.
The canyons away from the valley have colorful stone formations, from white to green, red ,yellow, blue and black.
When I got back to the motorhome I took a shower and then hit the couch. After a good rest I drove to the Visitor Center for a Ranger Patio Talk. There was nobody at the patio. I went inside and talked to the rangers and was informed that today is Tuesday. I had thought it was Wednesday.
So I went back to the campground and talked to my neighbors. The were sitting outside, enjoying the sun. He told me that he has been coming to the valley every year since 1925. His older brother had just bought a 1925 Chevy and they came together. He is 94 years old now and his wife 82. They attended all 54 Encampments.
They told me about the nightly entertainment in the lower campground. I had planned to go for the spaghetti dinner in the date grove, but changed my mind. At 5:30 PM I went down there and it had just started.
Under the awning of a large 5th wheel were the musicians. A quiet Honda generator provided the power for the lights and the instruments and speakers. They had six sites reserved for the audience. I counted the rows and how many people were sitting in a row and I came up with over 600 people. Some people were sitting in the street. Everybody brings their folding chair.
This is a lot of people for a concert which is not on the program. The musicians get together and are doing it for the fun of it. There were about 20 people on that impromptu stage. They have been playing for the last week and today is the last day. Tomorrow the official program starts.
Another group had a concert a few streets away. They have a smaller audience I was told.

11-05-03
Today was a super day. I got up early and hiked up the mountain with the gazebo on top. The last half mile I had to walk on top of a ridge which was only 12 inches wide. I had to put one foot in front of the other. I will not do that again. On both sides it went several hundred feet down.

When I got to the gazebo I took a rest and thought about what would happen if I fall down. Nobody would miss me and nobody would find me.
I went back another way, but I did not know whether it was only a trail to the cross on a lower mountain top. When I arrived at the cross I noticed the trail continued. I was lucky, I had my walking stick with me.
On the down slopes the stick helped me from slipping on the small stones on the trail. I made it down and got to the motorhome in one piece.
At 11:00 AM I went to the Patio Talk at the Visitor Center. A ranger was telling the story about the ordeal of the 49ers when they came through the Valley which they named Death Valley.
When I came back I talked to my new neighbor. She arrived yesterday. She set up a tent and I noticed she had a fancy rug in front of the entrance. I told her:" This is really fancy" She told me that is only the outside, and showed me the inside. She has a bed made from plywood, it folds into a small package. She has storage under the bed. She has great-grandchildren and is not young anymore. She volunteers for the
49ers and comes every year. When her husband was alive they had a 31 foot motorhome.
At 2:00 PM I went back to the Visitor Center where one of the 49ers gave a slide show of the Death Valley back country. When that was finished I went over to the Fiddlers Stage and put my chair down. I should have done it earlier because I ended up in row 20.
A 5:30 I went back to my chair for Songs Of The West. It started at 6:00 PM and lasted until 9:15 PM without any break. The entertainers were professionals and very good. The sound system was good and my seat was good too.
I had dressed warm and really enjoyed myself and noticed everybody was applauding too. I think today’s performance took care of the $20.00 membership fee, (which is actually a donation and is per couple) and there is more to come.

11-06-03
At 9:00 AM I went for a special screening of "Death Valley Days". I had never seen Death Valley Days on television and it was new to me. The program we saw was from the early fifties and was called: Claim Jumping Jenny.
At 9:45 AM we saw a video about the prospectors in Death Valley. At 11:00 AM I went to the Pioneer Costume Contest. Participants have to make their own costumes. The women can make their husbands outfits. It was very interesting and some women did an outstanding job.

At 1:00 PM I went to the National Park Visitor Center patio for Death Valley Songs and Stories.
Half the parking lot of the visitor center is being used for an art fair. Artists display their creations. One couple sells wild animals in bronze. They have a full size elk on a trailer. The prize is $ 65,000.
After visiting most of the displays I went home and took a nap. Then I took a shower.
I needed another chair to bring to the stage near the golf course for tomorrow’s Hootenanny Hoe-down Breakfast. I climbed on top of the motorhome and got a chair out of the storage box. My neighbors were sitting in front of their trailer and ask me whether I needed help. I reached the chair down to him and then I sat with them for a while.
At 5:30 PM I left for the Fiddlers Stage for the Coyote Howl. My chair, plus hundreds of other peoples chairs, was still there. I took my second chair to the other stage and came back for the Coyote Howl.
They started 15 minutes early because they had 50 acts and figured not everybody would get a chance to perform, and they were right. The professionals from yesterday were there too, but could perform only one song or one instrumental. Most of the performers were amateurs. There were groups and individuals. Most of them were very good.
I left at 9:30 PM because I was tired and a bit cold. During the day it is fine to wear shorts and T shirts, but by 8:00 PM it gets cool. I always have long johns in the motorhome and never got a chance to wear them. The last few days I put them on. I also wear my leather flight jacket.
This was another super day. This encampment is well organized. Everything is run by volunteers and they come from British Columbia to Arkansas, from all over. The directors meet six times a year.
The programs are held in two places, here at Furnace Creek and in Stove Pipe Wells. Stove Pipe Wells is 17 Miles from here.

11-07-03
At 6:45 AM I was at the picnic area ,next to the golf course, for the Hootenanny Hoe-down Breakfast.
It was scheduled for 7:00 AM, since the servers were in place and customers were waiting, they started early. When I sat down they lady across from me told her husband that I was wearing a MD-11 cap. He looked at me and told me that he, several years ago, was working for McDonnell Douglas on the MD-11.
We started talking about Douglas and Boeing. Later when I went to the stage and sat in my chair that couple came and sat next to me. They had brought their chairs last night too. We were sitting in the front row.
The band played a lot of cowboy music, they were very good and sold a lot of compact disks.

I usually do not buy music at those affairs, but I bought a CD last night. I like Kerry Christensen. He plays the accordion and has a super voice. I hope he comes next year again.
The master of ceremonies for the Hootenanny Hoe-down was Dick Hillary, a retired minister. He was funny and sang and told jokes. The oldest person at this gathering was a 101 year old lady. She will be 102 on Thanksgiving.


The show lasted two hours. After the show I went to the entrance of the Furnace Creek Resort and put a chair there for the arrival of the wagon train and the trail riders. I got a good spot. Then I went to the motorhome. I could have gone to the patio for more entertainment or to the auditorium. There is something going on every hour.
At 1:00 PM the wagon train arrived. They were on the road for five days, to cover the 100 miles through the desert. Men, women and children wore period costumes. They sat in the wagons. As I understand it pioneers walked along the wagons, only little children and sick people sat in the wagons.















At 2:00 PM the trail riders arrived. They had spent five days in the saddle and some of them showed it. They did not sleep in a nice soft bed in a motorhome. The desert floor can be hard.


At 3:30 PM I went to the patio for the" 49er Doc Denning Show", he sings and tells stories.
From there I went home and took a nap. Then I cooked dinner and at 5:45 PM I went to the Fiddlers Stage for a concert. There was also a concert at the Furnace Creek Resort Entrance at the same time. At Furnace Creek are three big stages and three small ones. Some couples have three pair of chairs and leave one pair at each stage.
At the breakfast table people were telling me that their camp ground neighbors do not attend anything. They are sitting next to their motorhome all day. He is a grouch and says he is not as stupid as the 5,000 people who go to the visitor center and the resort for the entertainment. I think there are not that many people. At the lower campground are 1,000 sites and all are filled. There are 200 sites at the
overflow and 200 sites in my camp ground. The camp ground where the entertainers are has 300 sites and there are also some motorhomes standing around in different areas. By my estimates there are 1,700 motorhomes and trailers here. This should be 3,200 people, since all motorhomes have two people in them. Iris, my neighbor, and I are the exceptions. In Stove Pipe Wells are less motorhomes and trailers.
I know there are some Convair people here. Chappy Chapman has been here before and wanted to come again. But his wife died and he sold his house and is moving in his new, smaller house. He usually came with three other Convair couples. Next year I will find out who they are.

11-08-03
Today was tournament day. There was the golf, and gold panning tournament and the horse shoe finals and the fiddle contest finals.
The parade was at 10:00 AM and I went to the staging area. The Red Hat Ladies had their dogs in costume too. I stayed a short while and watched the horse shoe players and then went to the gold panning contest.


Everything was held under the date palms, next to the golf course. This is a beautiful area. They have plenty of water and therefore grass all throughout the resort.
The art show was still on and there was an art auction for the scholarship fund.
I went to the area where the people who came with the wagons stayed last night. They were putting their wagons and mules and horses on big trailers and were on their way home. They belong to a club in the Los Angeles area. This is not a cheap hobby. Somebody had to bring the trucks and trailers here. The cost of the equipment and the costumes and feeding the animals must be quite large.
At 1:30 PM I drove to Stove Pipe Wells for the wheelbarrow race. They fill a wheelbarrow with water and the contestant has to push the wheelbarrow over obstacles. At the end the remaining water is measured and the time and remaining water are calculated. This was so much fun that I participated and I did pretty good.


The contest started 30 minutes late because Kerry the accordion player was performing in Stove Pipe Wells and the people would not let him go and wanted more music. He sold all his CD's and handed out ordering slips for mail orders. When he was done the audience came over to the wheelbarrow contest.
At 5:45 PM I went to the Old Time Fiddle Contest Finals.
The finals lasted until 10:00 PM and everybody had a good time. Kerry Christensen was back at Furnace Creek and was called on stage during a break in the judging of the fiddlers. He played three songs and the people went wild. I had talked to him several times. He noticed my accent and spoke in German to me. After high school he had moved to Germany and Austria and got interested in Yodeling. I told him that he should have brought a truck load of CD's. He never thought he would sell that many.
He had brought 800.
The 49ers tried to book him for next year but next November he is taking a group of people on a cruise down the Rhine River .
The cowboy band played at the other stage at the same time as the Fiddling contest was going on.
I am leaving tomorrow morning for Las Vegas. Tomorrow is the last day of the encampment. In the morning are two church services and in the afternoon is the annual meeting.
I had a super time. This is a family affair, but I kept busy and had no time to get lonely. I talked to my neighbors, at the campground, when I was between shows.
Anybody who goes camping should at least attend one 49er Encampment. With the $ 20.00 family membership one sees more shows and has more fun then one can imagine. The beautiful Death Valley sunrises and sun sets do not cost anything.
Some of the people have been coming for 40 years. My neighbor Iris since 1986. When her husband died she sold her motorhome and the last five years she has been camping in a tent.

11-09-03
I left Furnace Creek at 6:30 AM and arrived at the Elks in North Las Vegas at 9:30 AM. After setting up the motorhome I went to the lodge to pay. The bartender ask me whether I am a veteran. I told him that I was.
They had a big buffet line with all the meats and eggs, potatoes and biscuits and gravy. That took care of breakfast and lunch.
In the afternoon I drove to the Bellagio and tried their quarter machines. I think they are lousy and gave up in a hurry. Somebody has to pay for all the beautiful things they have. The lobby is out of this world.
I walked south on the strip past New York, New York, up to the Excalibur. Then I came back and watched the fountain at the Bellagio. On the way home I felt like eating spaghetti. I stopped at a Food 4 Less and bought some ground meat and some other items and went home and made spaghetti and meat sauce.
I had planned to go to the Fremont Street Experience, since it is not very far from here, but was to lazy to leave again.

11-10-03
I washed the car and then drove to the Mandalay Bay Casino and bought tickets for " Mama Mia".
It is based on the music of ABBA. Then I went for more sightseeing. It is sunny today with white clouds. Yesterday it was dark and it could have rained any minute. Mama Mia started at 7:00 PM. It is a good show but I had to put toilet paper in my ears because it was very loud.

11-11-03
I left Vegas at 6:30 AM and had planned to stop for two days at Desert Hot Springs and hang around the swimming pool. When I got to Barstow the weather was not for swimming and the engine acted up. It sounded like I was driving in second gear. I made it to the house and called Gary's RV for an appointment.
He told me to check the transmission fluid. I think he is right. The transmission was repaired just before I bought the motorhome and the pan has a leak since I have it.
I hope all of you are doing fine.
Take care.
Richard.

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