Friday, November 2, 2012

Death Valley 2012

We changed our plans. Frank and Rhonda decided not to hike to the Wave if they were given a permit.
They would have given it to me.
I talked to a campground neighbor who went yesterday. He thought the three mile walk was not easy.
If I would have gone alone I would not have felt good about it. We should have gone for the permit when we arrived here. It is also cloudy now, which is not good for taking pictures at the Wave.
So we left for the Elks Lodge in North Las Vegas.
We stopped for a short time at the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area off I-15. Barbara and Ron stayed there last month and I wanted to check it out.
After lunch and setting up the motorhome, at the Elks Lodge, we left to buy food for the dogs at Petco. The roads in the neighborhood were blocked off because the President is giving a speech at the college. We had to take detours. We have voted already. Doreen sent my ballot to Moab, so did Frank’s daughter, she sent his and Rhonda’s there too.
After Petco we drove to Walmart to buy groceries and other articles. By then the traffic was better.
From the lodge we can see the large casinos down at the strip. We also see the brown layer of pollution over the city.

We are now at the Texas Springs campground in Furnace Creek, Death Valley. The Valley is 190 feet below sea level, and it is a lot warmer than at the places we were before. The high today at Furnace Creek was 92 degrees F.
David and his wife, they are here every year for the 49er Encampment, took the camp site I usually have.
Near that camp site is a water faucet. Frank and I connected all our water hoses and came up with 135 feet, which was enough to reach both our motorhomes and fill up the fresh water tanks. The easier way would have been to go to the dump station when we arrived and do it there.
There is no cell phone service here, Verizon has a problem with their tower. Somebody told me that lightning hit it.
We went to the beautiful renovated National Park Visitor Center to get our camping stickers. There is a Grand Re-Opening celebration this weekend.
At 5:00 PM I went to the WIN circle meeting. So far 25 rigs are here.

I wore summer pajamas last night. This morning it was 63 degrees F. in the motorhome. The temperature is above normal now in Death Valley. During the day it should be in the mid seventies.
Early in the morning I walked up the hill and took some pictures. The sun was shining on the mountains.
It is always a pretty sight.

At 10:00 AM we went to the Visitor Center where we got the “Behind the Scenes Tour of Furnace Creek Building and Exhibits”. One ranger told us about the changes they made when they renovated the buildings. From $48,000 in electricity costs a year they went down to $13,000 and when all the solar panels are being used their electricity cost will be zero dollars.

The second ranger told us about the new beautiful exhibits. They did a fantastic job designing and building those.

At 1:00 PM the 20 Mule Team came by the Visitor Center. The demonstration of the mules going over the chain, when making a turn, did not come out very well. There were people on the street and the mules reacted to that.
I saw it at the Mule Days in Bishop and there it was flawless.

At 6:00 PM we went to the Sunset campground and enjoyed the jam session. The musician played for three hours without a break.
Late afternoon Rhonda and Frank had gone to the store and they saw Chappy and Dotie arrive at Sunset campground. On our way to the jam session we drove to their motorhome. Their Bronco was gone and they were not there. We found out later that they were gone to see us.
Since lightning knocked out the Verizon telecommunication tower we cannot call each other.

This was an odd day. Frank and I went to the Visitor Center and paid for our camping sites for the rest of the week. Then we drove to Chappy and Dottie’s motorhome and woke them up.
Chappy got dressed and told us about his drive to Furnace Creek. They had stayed the night at Shoshone after attending the Shoshone Old West Days.
Shoshone is a town about seventy miles south of Furnace Creek and has ten inhabitants. We went there today. I had my taste buds set on their deep pit mesquite BBQ. When we arrived there we found out that they had the BBQ only on Friday and Saturday.
Frank saved the day by driving home on highway 178, the Badwater Road.
We saw the wagon train in the desert, they had finished their twenty mile for the day and were resting.
They have five more days to go to reach Furnace Creek. We talked to them for a while. One lady must be at least eighty years old. The mules and horses were resting too.

Our next stop was the Ashford Mill Ruins. Here they did stamp the gold ore to small pieces.
We encountered two coyotes, at different places, begging for food.
They walk on the highway and when cars slow down they walk to the car and stare at the driver.
There is no fear of humans anymore. Some stupid people thought it is cute to feed wild animals, and the animals get used to it. Chances are great that the get run over by cars.

At Badwater we walked on the salt flats.

The colors of the Artists Palette did not come out right because the sun was too bright.

Back at the Visitor Center we attended the last part of the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, and the cake cutting. We missed most of the speeches but got the piece of cake.

Later I went back to the Visitor Center and finally was able to go on the Internet.
Verizon is still down. There are a lot of unhappy customers in Death Valley.
I do not get television here. Radio reception is bad, too much crackling and other noises.
Actually I am lucky. I do not have to listen to all the political advertisements. By tomorrow evening that will stop and we can go on with our normal lives.
Last night I sat with my neighbor David outside his motorhome and took some abuse. He is very funny, at least he thinks he is. He is a great story teller and has been around a long time. At 86 he is slowing down now, no more camp hosting in parks above 5,000 feet in altitude. His heart lets him know when he does not follow the rules.
He and his wife have been coming here for the last 40 years for the 49er Encampment. Another person I used to talk to is not here this year. He parked his motorhome at the corner before we enter the upper portion of the campground. He and his wife would sit outside and wave to everybody. Sometimes 20 people would sit with them. The wife is now 24 hours on oxygen and they had to stop coming.
Barbara and George, from Maine, are not here either.

We left at 9:00 AM for Scotty’s Castle. Since we were early we had time to go to the Ubehebe Crater.

At the castle Rhonda and Frank took the 11:00 AM tour.
Scotty did not own the castle. It belonged to Albert Johnson, a Chicago businessman, who invested in Scotty’s gold mine, which did not exist. Scotty was a con man, who worked for Buffalo Bill and traveling with the show through Europe and the United States.
He rented a train and raced from Los Angeles to Chicago in record time. He spent money lavishly and impressed people. The money was rolling in.
Johnson came to Death Valley to see the gold mine. Scotty stalled and Johnson knew that there was no mine.
Instead of getting angry he became Scotty’s friend and supported him for the rest of his life.
Scotty was a story teller and made Johnson laugh.

I have been several times and did some outside investigations. I went up the hill and visited Scotty’s and his dog’s grave. Windy is buried next to his master. With the view down the valley, and the castle, I sat at the bench up there and ate my lunch.

Because of the depression they could not finish the swimming pool. The beautiful, expensive tiles are stored in the basement.

We have a heat wave. It was 101 degrees F at the Visitor Center. People stood beside the thermometer and had their picture taken.
On the way to do my Internet work I visited Chappy and Dottie. Chappy’s friends Tim and Bob, and their wives have arrived too.
While sitting with them Jerry Sypkens came over. He had seen the WIN decal on my car. Roberta and Jerry have their motorhome near Chappy’s.

Today we toured the Historic Furnace Creek Inn.
Inn Manager Alex Cabana was leading the tour. Prices for staying at the Inn start at $350.00 per day. One has to add another $100.00 per person for food.
Most rooms have a view into the valley. It is a beautiful place.

From there we drove to the ghost town of Rhyolite, in Nevada.
An artist left some strange figures near the town.Since Beatty, Nevada was only four miles away we went there and I got gasoline for $3.79 per gallon.At Furnace Creek it costs $5.55

The bottle house is now protected.

The railroad station is still in good shape. The rest of the buildings are just ruins.

It cooled off a bit. The temperature is getting back to normal.

Our first stop this morning was Zabriskie Point. From this outlook one sees the colorful badlands.

From Dante’s View most of the valley can be seen. The view is breath taking and the air is fresh at 5,000 feet.

At 1:00 PM we went to the Visitor Center Auditorium and saw the program about the 20 Mule Team. Bobby Tanner, a teamster, who drove the team at the Rose Parade, talked about driving the team and showed pictures from the time the Borax Company used teams to haul borax out of death Valley.

At 6:00 PM we attended the ”Songs of the West” show at the Fiddlers Stage. I had brought the three chairs there at 12:00 noon. That is the time when people line up and wait for the signal to find their favorite spot. The chairs stay there for the rest of the Encampment.

Frank wanted to drive to the Charcoal Kilns. I told him about the last four miles of the road. It is actually a river bed.
We left early and stopped briefly at the Harmony Borax Works ruins. Here was borax mined and processed for a few years.

When we came near the kilns Frank drove slowly over the rocks and dips in the road. We made it.
An English couple, on a BMW with sidecar, just left the area. They were loaded with saddle bags and a spare tire.
We were above 6,000 feet in altitude and the wind was strong and it was cold. I put on my sweatshirt in a hurry.

When we came down to Stove Pipe Wells we rewarded our self with ice cream.
The English couple was there and I talked with them for a while. They are on their way to Florida.
At 1:00 PM we saw a movie about a trunk they found in a cave. The finder claims it belonged to one of the 49ers who came through the valley in 1849.
In the trunk was, among other items, china marked Made in Germany. In 1849 there was no Germany. Other clues also indicate that this is a hoax.
When we came out of the auditorium the wind was also blowing in Furnace Creek.
I have five flags on the side of the motorhome. The WIN flag was partially under the welcome mat. Somebody had found it and secured it.
Since I was in a hurry to go back to the Visitor Center I did not take the flags down. When I came back the German flag was missing and my chair was folded up and laying on the floor. One of my neighbors took care of that.
I followed the wind direction and asked people about my missing flag. A couple had found it .
Now I took all the flags down and put the chair in a storage compartment.
I had to close all the windows. The campground roads are asphalt and so are the parking spaces. The rest of the place is gravel, and very little sand, but little grains of sand are still flying around.
Because of the strong wind we could not go to the 6:00 PM talent show. I am sure it was canceled.

Last night’s show was not canceled. I have a feeling it was not fun sitting there with all that wind blowing.
I went this morning to the golf course for the Hootenanny Breakfast. Luckily I did not buy tickets for the breakfast. I only attended the 8:00 AM show. Breakfast was moved inside because of the wind, which slowed down the process. Some people could not come to the show, they were stuck eating their meal.
While I was setting up my chair a Navy helicopter circled the golf course and after a Death Valley fireman released a smoke bomb it came down next to where the entertainment was going to be.
The helicopter came from the China Lake Base. They fly Navy F-18 Fighters from there and this helicopter had a rescue team on it.
The Navy works with the National Park. They instructed the ranger who is in charge of park rescue operations. Standing there I learned about weight capacity of the bird, how high they can fly and the distance. It was very interesting.

Later four children came. The crew invited them to sit in the cargo bay. This made their day. Their parents came too and took a lot of pictures.
One boy volunteered to be strapped down. In a real emergency one of the team is strapped down with the patient.

At 8:00 AM the wind had calmed down and the show started.
Dave Stamey was the MC and sang too.

Mary Kaye was next. She has 10 children. She does not look like a mother of that many kids.

Belinda Gale sang slow cowboy songs this time.

South Coast is always a favorite.

Chaparral has been coming to the valley for many years and they are great.

At 12:30 PM the 20 Mule team came by.

At 1:00 PM the wagons arrived.

The riders showed up at 2:00 PM. I felt sorry for them. They had to sleep in tents last night. The wind must have kept them awake.

“Evening Music” at 6:00 PM was canceled. So we went to the other stage, at Old Dinah.
We were early for ”An Evening under the Stars”. They were still showing a movie about the Borax Company and Death Valley.
The film was finished at 7:00 PM. Instead of waiting thirty minutes for the music to start we went back to the motorhomes. Rhonda had gone already to the car because it got cold and windy.
A few days ago it was 101 degrees F. and now it is getting cold as soon as the sun disappears.
We had a different sunset today. There were dark rain clouds in the sky.

This is our last day at this beautiful place.
On my morning walk I love to see the sun work itself slowly up the mountains. The colors change by the minute. We had some terrific sunsets too.
I took a picture of the thermometer at the Visitor Center. Of course, I should have done this when it read 101.

The wagons and riders were ready to leave.

I went to see the parade.

The WINs were present too. All of them own kayaks; I am the exception.

At 7:00 PM we went to Ol’Dinah for western music under the stars. Chaparral never disappoints. They put on a good show.
Tonight we dressed for the cold night. I wore my parka and flannel lined pants. The weather is perfect during the day.
My neighbor David and his wife Vern are very happy; they have all their children with their families here. Three of the families flew to Las Vegas and rented motorhomes. One son lives nearby and has a big toy hauler.
One grandson took his girlfriend up the mountain to the gazebo and proposed. That was another reason to celebrate.
Tomorrow morning David will cook pancakes for the whole gang. I am invited but had to decline because I am leaving early.
I had planned to go with the WINs to Lake Mead, but decided to go to the San Diego area to go to Kaiser for some tests. There is nothing wrong with me but my doctor thought it would be a good idea.
It was fun to travel with Rhonda and Frank. Rhonda is quite a woman. She has MS but went on the hikes with us.

I left Death Valley at 6:45 AM and arrived at Tecopa Hot Springs at 8:30 AM.
My reason for coming here was visiting China Ranch Date Farm. It is an oasis in the middle of the desert.
A Chinese man, who worked at the Borax Works in Death Valley, started to ranch here and sold his products to the miners. The present owners planted date palms and is selling the dates in their store, and to other stores.

The ranch has plenty of water. An underground river surfaces nearby.
The dates do not ripen all at the same time. They are covered to protect them from the birds.

I checked out the hot spring pools and did not feel like sitting around with a bunch of old naked men.
Instead I vacuumed the furniture and floor of the motorhome. The wind had blown some sand through the windows and open door.
Then I took a shower. There is nothing to do in this tiny town. Without television and no cell phone service it will be a long evening.

I left early this morning and arrived at the Escapee Park, near Temecula,California, at noon.
My refrigerator is almost empty; I have to go shopping.

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