Tufas and Ghosts


Mono Lake Tufas

After our grueling journey through Death Valley, we parked the RV and jumped in the pickup with Dean and Terrie for a whirlwind loop of the scenic gems of Northern California.  First up Mono Lake, an alkaline lake where tufa towers once underwater are now exposed and protected by the park.  The calcium-carbonate spires and knobs (Tufas) were formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water.

View of Bodie Ghost Town from Cemetery Gate

View of Bodie Ghost Town from Cemetery Gate

After a leisurely walk on the Tufa nature path along the lake edge, we hopped back in the truck and headed towards Bodie State Historic Park.  This gold boom town established in the late 1800’s has been preserved in a state of “arrested decay” and is fascinating to explore.  Rusted out vehicles rest where they were last parked and stores are stocked with goods from the last day of business.  Storm loved that the old gold mining equipment was strewn everywhere and he was able to thoroughly inspect many pieces 🙂  Prepare to spend a lot more time here than you anticipate as your imagination is teased into filling the town with the hustle and bustle of a by-gone time.

Below are my favorite photos from this day.  I am trying a slideshow again and it may or may not work on mobile devices.

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Yea though I travel through the Valley of Death

Even though RVs were not invented during Biblical times,  it would be easy to believe that Psalm 23:4 was created by an unsuspecting wife on her way through Death Valley in a large RV.  I suggested to Storm that we skip Death Valley National Park in the RV on our way to California and take the interstate instead (the GPS agreed with me for once).  I reasoned that we could always visit this National Park later in our car when we were back in the area.  In spite of expressing his concern that our diesel pusher RV with a side mounted radiator would probably not do well in the Death Valley heat, when the time came to head west off we went through the Valley.  Sure it was fine while the road was flat but once we started uphill, so did the temp gauge on the coach.

Just inside the park - before it got hot and exciting!

Just inside the park – before it got hot and exciting!

I stopped watching the dash panel when the gauge turned red.  Storm assured me that if we went slow enough everything would be fine (he later informed me that the gauge was off and we were within the engine parameters…uh-huh).  My idea of fine is to go as fast as possible and get out of that 100+ degree heat (in mid-May for God’s sake) but that was NOT happening.  Storm was happy when we started downhill and the engine cooled off, but the downhill section was a never ending 9% grade and that was not good.  Storm noticed smoke off the brakes on his side and began shouting at me to check for smoke on my side … I shall fear no evil…I see no smoke…

Dean snapped this shot of us in the valley with 2 dust devils beside us

Dean snapped this shot of us in the valley with 2 dust devils beside us – I believe they call this “a sign”

Storm fought with the transmission to finally get us in first gear and we made it to the hill bottom traveling even slower than when we were going uphill.  Fortunately other travelers decided NOT to go this way so we didn’t actually cause any bad traffic jams by crawling along.  As the ground leveled out, our speed increased and the brakes and engine began to cool.  That is when we flew past the yellow warning sign* that said something about vehicles over 30’not recommended on the road what???  We are over 60′, should we be here?  Noooo!!!  Twisty, tight curves with barely enough width for our coach, more steep engine heating hills.  I kept watching rock walls get closer and closer to my window…For thou art with me…

Whether due to my praying or Storm’s skill (or a combination of both), we made it safely out of the Valley with no equipment damage.  Not many pictures from this ride as I had my face covered most of the time.  Terrie who rode in their pickup  (so no smoking brakes – though their engine also got pretty warm) told me that she thought the whites, browns and pinks of the desert looked just like ice cream sundaes and cupcakes.  Funny I thought it looked like a desolate, dry, hot place to be stranded in an RV with the wheels on fire and the engine overheating.

Cupcakes or disaster - what do you see in the desert?

Cupcakes or disaster – what do you see in the desert?

*We later learned that the 30′ limit recommendation was from the kingpin
Posted in Death Valley National Park | 8 Comments

Valley of Fire

After 5 weeks of almost continuous vacation with so many fun and adventurous things to do, Storm and I were running out of steam.  After we left Zion, I was looking forward to a quiet stay at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  Since the sites in this park are first come, first served with no reservations we knew we had to be there early.  With a net 2 hour drive ( a 3 hour drive and a one hour time setback to Pacific Time) we felt like we had a good chance of getting a site.  We not only got an excellent site but we got one that allowed us to park with the trailer attached – hurray!  Even though Storm fussed at me the entire drive from the east gate because the roads were incredibly narrow, curvy and steep from that entrance, he and the coach handled it just fine. Even I began to worry when we turned into the campground on a single lane road that became gravel.  No worries though as we set up quickly – so much faster when we can leave the trailer attached – ate lunch and settled in for a looong nap!

This park is quiet, remote and very peaceful.  Just the tonic for weary campers.  I was also able to take very short hikes from our campsite to check out some of the nearby sights.

For more pictures and info about this park – see my post from an earlier visit here with Jim: Valley of Fire

Posted in Nevada | 1 Comment

We love the hoodoos that you do…

The first time we visited Bryce Canyon National Park we were on our motorcycles in the snow. We loved seeing the snow capped hoodoos, but were leery of hiking down into the valley for fear that we would not have the perseverance to hike back out. With all of the hiking we have done recently we felt like we were in better shape to survive the steep uphill hike out of the canyon on this visit.  When we entered the park, a camp host stopped and gave Dean suggestions about our hike.   Dean explained to her that we really wanted to go down into the canyon and walk among the hoodoos, but we did not want to die trying to get back out.  She suggested that we hike down from Sunrise Point on the Queen’s Garden Trail, then decide once in the Garden if we wanted to continue on the Navajo Trail and come back out at Sunset Point for a total of a little over 3 miles of hiking or just backtrack to where we started – a slightly shorter hike.  Here is the good part, she assured us that going down was the hardest and since it was a slightly easier grade going down from Sunset Point we should do that and then go up at Sunset Point on the Navaho Trial- hahaha!  It is never harder to go down than up unless you have the ability to defy gravity (and I do not).  We did manage to make it both to the Garden and also back up to the top, but look closely at the switchbacks in the pictures below to see the nearly vertical ascent required to leave the canyon.  We also made a short video to document the hike posted below.

Mouse over pictures for caption or click to enlarge and start slide show:

Posted in Bryce Canyon National Park | Tagged | 2 Comments

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of my favorites (oh who am I kidding I love all the National Parks). This is one place where I really wish I was a better photographer because I can’t quite capture the majesty of this park in a photo. I will warn you that if you plan to visit try to come during the off season. This is a very crowded park that does not have a lot of maneuvering room. Sadly the Narrows (an extremely popular hike up a river in a slot canyon) were closed this time due to the danger of flash flooding so I did not get to hike in the water.

One thing that alarmed us was the aggressiveness of the squirrels around the trails in Zion.  Dean was trying to eat a sandwich at one of the bus stops and a squirrel jumped in his lap and tried to wrestle his sandwich right out of his hands.  Anyone with a morsel of food in that park was subject to attack from one of the circling squirrels and that was honestly a little frightening.

Here are the best of my pics and a short video that might give you a better feel for this area.  Mouse over pictures for captions or click to enlarge.

Posted in On the Road, Zion National Park | 2 Comments

Page, Arizona – A Dam Good Place to Visit

We finally dragged ourselves away from Moab and headed South to Page, Arizona.  Storm and I set up camp at  WahWeap Campground in Glen Canyon Recreational Area on Lake Powell.  Wow – what a beautiful place.  The campgound was spotless and easy to manuever the big rig in.  The spaces were a “little” close as we could shake hands with our neighbors through the slide-outs on one side, but as always the RVers in this camp were great neighbors.  While in Page, we ate at the Dam Bar and Grill which turned out to be a Dam GOOD Bar and Grill.

We hiked to Horseshoe Bend, toured the Glen Canyon Dam,  hiked to the nearby Hanging Gardens and visited the Antelope Point Marina.  Mouse over picture for captions, click to enlarge to full view.

We toured the Lower Antelope Slot Canyon.  Our guide was fabulous as you will see in the video below.  Sorry for the poor quality sound, I added subtitles to explain what he is doing.  He is demonstrating how the rain and wind formed the layers of sandstone in the area, then erosion moved soil away to leave monuments (like the ones in Valley of the Gods in previous post).


Posted in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area | 2 Comments

Update on the Coach – Stormy saves the day and the next day and the next…

Here is an update on the state of the motor coach for those of you who are interested. The leveling component that delayed our start because we next day aired it to the manufacturer to get it fixed before we left and they returned it UPS ground, worked for a couple of days into the trip then began to work only intermittently the farther west that we travelled. We would go to bed with the coach level, then wakeup the next morning and roll (literally) out of bed toward the front of the coach until we could hit the level button to manually level the coach. We could not get it to auto level every 30 minutes in sleep mode like it should. Not so much of a problem on the road, but it became more and more irritating and perplexing once we settled in Moab.  Storm, the HWH rep and I went round and round trying to determine the problem. Then one warm day we noticed it worked just like promised. Storm and I looked at each other about the 3rd time it came on to autolevel and simultaneously said “temperature.” Everything made sense then. The weather was warm when it worked, then the weather turned cold and no more autolevel. By the time we got our component back from HWH, it was warm again so it worked.  As we headed west and arrived in Moab it was downright cold at night. Storm called HWH and asked what they fixed when we shipped it to them and they admitted nothing was fixed because it worked in their shop. Did you test in a freezer he asked? No…

The guy helping us at HWH jokingly told us that with a nice coach like ours we should never go where it is cold. We agreed that is a good plan and that is part of our temporary solution until we can visit their shop in person for a permanent fix. The brilliant second part of the temp solution was conceived by Storm. He added a small light bulb in the component compartment to keep the system warm. Now we are more level than ever!

The second most alarming development on our trip was the ride itself. We thought our shocks had been adjusted as we requested before we left home, but the first pothole we hit proved that assumption to be wrong. After Storm peeled me off the ceiling, I learned to hold on to my seat tightly whenever the road showed signs of being rough (meaning not perfectly smooth).  Transitions to bridges proved to be particularly exciting as sometimes I cleared my seat by several inches when we crossed those. We could not keep the mirrors adjusted as the rough ride jarred them loose and the car actually jumped off the floor in the trailer so much so that a broom we had stored under the car wound up under the car tires.

We could not leave Moab with the coach ride so uncontrollable, but finding someone to fix it proved difficult. Storm to the rescue again as he got all the info from Country Coach for the repair then set out to find someone with tools and a willing mechanic that he could supervise. He found just such a place and was able to get the shocks adjusted in less then an hour per instructions from Country Coach.  Thanks to the nice folks at The Tire Factory for helping us out.

Unfortunately for Storm, while he was outside fixing our ride, I was inside wrecking havoc in the coach. Since the repair shop was so close to the grocery store, we had agreed that I would ride to the shop with him and walk to the store by myself while he worked on the coach. I wanted to look in the fridge to check on what we needed before I headed out, but I did not think about how out of level we parked to allow room to work under the coach. When I opened the refrigerator door, it fell off on top of me! When Storm looked inside the coach to ask me a question, he found me in the floor, covered with food and with a refrigerator door on top of me. To say he was not happy would be putting it mildly. I imagine he envisioned spending the rest of his days trying to catch up with my propensity for breaking things. Using a superhuman amount of self control, he calmly (ok somewhat calmly) helped me up, held the door so I could clean up, then helped me get the door back in the hole. I was left with the instructions to sit on the floor in front of the door and hold it in place with my feet until we could get home. Fearing another disaster we skipped the test drive that we had planned to check out the shocks and headed straight back to the RV park to work on the door issue.

Storm found that the door had been broken before and jury rigged (so it wasn’t all my fault) and that is why the door had never closed correctly for us and some of the reason that it fell off its hinges. He came up with an ingenious plan involving cotton balls, epoxy glue and masking tape that when completed not only fixed the door, but made it better than ever before. I have always known Storm is a brilliant mechanic but it has been a long time since I have seen him in action all to myself and it is amazing.

In the meantime, the DVD player decided not to open the disk drawer anymore so we could not watch any DVDs. Storm knew about this, but I really wanted to start being more of the solution (and less of the problem) so with his consent, I started trouble shooting the broken DVD player. Now I really am pretty good at trouble shooting, just no good at all when it comes to repairs. Give me the web and I will find out why something is broken and even how to fix it if only I understood what they were talking about. I determined that the drive belt was probably broken. Not even Storm wanted to deal with that repair so I began looking at my other options. Since this is a 2005 component in the coach’s sound system, there was no going to Walmart for a new one. It has separate wires for each of the speakers and components of the system instead of a single HDMI cable like modern systems. After reading about ohms and volts and all matter of meaningless info that had to be considered for a replacement, I determined that finding a refurbished one on Ebay exactly like what we have was my best bet. Storm agreed and one is now one the way for $100.

When it arrives, Storm has promised to teach me how to photograph the old hookup and working in a tight space, change out all of the wires. Sure hope he survives that experience. The good news is that when we got on the road again with the coach, the adjusted shocks totally fixed our ride. Now instead of feeling like I am on an insane roller coaster ride, I feel like I am floating on a magic carpet!

Posted in On the Road | 6 Comments