Yosemite has been on my bucket list as long as Glacier. It always seemed out of the way so I made sure it was a must-stop on the route. I have seen pictures since I was young and always heard about the infamous El Captian and the adventurous souls who choose to climb such things. I have to say that it was very different than I expected. I have seen a lot of canyons in various locations but never anything in Cali. The place is – if anything – a monument to this stunningly beautiful state.

We woke at 3 AM and started the 2 1/2-hour journey to Yosemite Valley. The route was a backtrack for the first part, including yesterday’s award-winning twisty path. Jake got car sick and threw up in my lap 😒. Poor puppy 🐶.

The drive in took us along a roaring Merced River. Several sections of the road were severely damaged but the detours were minimal.

Yosemite National Park

Once in the park were headed to s vista known as Tunnel View (it’s at the opening of a tunnel) to watch the sunrise over Yosemite Valley at sunrise! We arrived with mere minutes to spare.

The drive through Yosemite Valley is a one-way loop. In the beginning, there was a big operation to remove huge large trees that succumbed to the winter flooding. Our first stop on the drive eastwards was at Swinging Bridge. The area was really flooded, with giant trees standing in the water. It offered incredible views of Upper Yosemite Falls.

The bridge disappears under the floodwaters. Huge trees stand in the middle of the new lake.
Stunning view of upper Yosemite Falls

From there we drove around the loop and were now moving westward. We stopped at the Village to hike to Yosemite Falls.

At the base of Yosemite Falls. It was like a blowing mist and roaring loud!

The Falls were roaring with water – it was a moving sight! No one I talked to who had visited before had seen it flowing like it was. A stunning sight!

Yosemite Falls

The next stop was further east. I have heard about El Captain forever it seems. Apparently a big attraction for the scare-yourselves-to-death climbers. It is so big it’s really hard to believe. At least Jake thinks so!

Fuck – this thing is BIG!

If you look 180 degrees in the other direction is Cathedral Spires. Another magnificent view!

Cathedral Spires

The final stop (before looking for merch!) was at Valley View. This is another view you see quite often of the valley looking east. On the right side, you can see an excellent view of Bridalveil Falls!

Bridalveil Falls

After picking up some great collectibles, we headed home around noon. The line to get in was long – according to the markers a ten-minute wait. I can only imagine what it would be like on the weekend! The park was pretty crowded around Yosemite Village and lodges but you could still find parking spots.

A great day – another 2 1/2 hours home! In the daylight, this time at least, Jake didn’t get sick!

Yosemite Lakes

On day 2 we took off and did some housekeeping. After lunch, Jake and I did a short (but steep) hike on the other side of the river from where we were staying.

Campground on the banks of the south fork of the Tuolumne River.

The hike rose steeply to afford a great view of the campground and the south fork of the Tuolumne River. This is the river that flows out of Hetch Hetchy which I will visit tomorrow. We also saw many large trees with significant burn marks as well as others that suffered irrevocable damage.

Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy at Yosemite National Park

Jake got the day off on our third, and last, day in the Yosemite area. I was heading for Hetch Hetchy, another part of Yosemite only 20 miles from here. It is the reservoir for San Francisco as well as a power generating plant. No dogs allowed!

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Originally a canyon much like Yosemite Valley, it was converted in the early 1900s to a reservoir – much to the dismay of legendary John Muri who led an effort to keep it in its natural condition. The battle was legendary but the needs of San Fransisco came first at the time.

Before and After

After the earthquake and fires of 1906, San Fransisco’s infrastructure was badly damaged and they needed a new source of water. Eventually, Congress stepped in and passed an act allowing the construction of the reservoir in a national park. It was built out several times since with an 88-foot extension and power generating station. There is an active campaign to restore the site to its natural condition.

The trail on the north side of the reservoir. You can see the top of the dam in the background.

I had a good hike with my new REI carbon fiber trekking poles. Even did some scrambling over rocks. I was rewarded, much like the desert, with a rainbow of color from the wildflowers. I crossed over the dam, under the tunnel, and up to the Teleelala and Wapama waterfalls. They were flowing prodigiously, to say the least.

On the way back the sun came up and I got some great shots of the waterfalls.

Tueeulala & Wapama Falls ~ Hetch Hetchy @ Yosemite National Park
Tueeulala Falls
Wapama Falls

It was a great morning and felt good to have done a 4-mile hike with my new left knee. As a bonus, my right knee and back did not get very sore. I call that a win! Maybe I should quit while I am ahead!

We came, were hiked, and we are happy!

Check another one off the bucket list! As the last evening comes, thunderstorms bark lightning. Maybe we will see rain for the first time since Lousiana! Hopefully not while I am breaking camp tomorrow morning! Next stop – Reno and Lake Tahoe.

Mojave to the Mountians

Yosemite National Park is accessible from the east and west. The shortest (and most spectacular) drive would be to head north from Vegas and cross into the park on Highway 120 – Tioga Pass. Unfortunately, it remains closed due to the heavy snows of winter. So we backtracked our trip east last week to Bakersfield.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

I stopped to look closer at the Solar Electric Generating System over the California border. it is an impressive site. From there it was a repeat visit to the Mojave desert – in the opposite direction! It didn’t look much different 🤣.

Bakersfield River Run RV Park

We stopped for the night along the Kern River in Bakersfield—this time in a Thousand Trails campground. If I understand it, these are more of a time-share operation. It sits alongside the Kern River which is flowing nicely. Google Maps shows it as a dry riverbed.

The next day’s journey went through the heart of the central valley growing region. Then the fun began!

Kern River Valley. Over 20 miles of the twisties road I’ve ever driven!

We headed to the mountains and the windiest roads so far. We drove through spectacular California-style mountains, green from the winter rains. The road across the Kern River Valley was a roller-coaster ride pulling a 2-ton trailer!

Yosemite Lakes campground. Thousand Trails is a time-share racket but have some interesting locations!

The Yosemite Lakes campground was located inconveniently on Route 120 – Tioga Road – north of the Yosemite Valley. I only say this because the winter rains have damaged the entrance from this route, forcing me to drive almost 2 1/2 hours to get to the valley.

It is in a scenic area on the South fork of the Tuolumne River, very close to where we stayed. The river was full and flowing swiftly. There is a marshy area close by that we could explore – Jake could get all muddy 🐶!

Yosemite Lakes campground

We went to bed early that night to prepare for our 3 AM departure for a 2 1/2-hour drive to the Park. And boy, howdy – it would prove to be worth it!

Overlanding Las Vegas

Vegas 🎲 Baby

Bring your own supercar car in its own garage on wheels! The 2022 Ford GT starts at $.5M. Glamping at its best in Vegas, baby!

I took Jake on his very first tour of the strip in Las Vegas. He didn’t seem impressed 🤣🐶. We got in line with a bus-load of tourists (like ourselves) to take a selfie at the famous sign. Later in the week Dan, Maggie, and I went in to celebrate her birthday at Wynn’s famous buffet. I was stuffed!

I would guess that I’ve been to Vegas more times than anywhere else (if you don’t count Detroit – and I really would like to forget Detroit 🤣). In my many years of high-tech marketing Vegas is the place to go to keep the cohorts happy.

So I really didn’t want to necessarily visit Las Vegas again. On the other hand, there is a side to Vegas you don’t hear about as much – the Red Rock desert and mountains. After all the rain this year – the sights were epic!

Valley of Fire State Park

We toured Nevada’s first state park, Valley of Fire, early the first morning. It’s best described as an oasis of beautiful shades of red rock surrounded by desert. Deposits from an earlier time when the area was a river, the red rock has been since exposed and weather in a stunning display of the force of nature and time.

Valley of Fire 🔥

Very moving and yet another reminder of the star stuff we all come from. There is no difference where the elements that make up this rock and our body originate. Interstellar Overdrive, indeed!

Mother Nature at work since the time of our brother Dinosaurs 🦖

Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape. The rough floor and jagged walls of the park contain brilliant formations of eroded sandstone and sand dunes more than 150 million years old. Other important rock formations include limestones, shales, and conglomerates. [from Wikipeadia]

Prehistoric inhabitants of the Valley of Fire included the Ancestral Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi, who were farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley. Their approximate span of occupation has been dated from 300 BC to 1150 AD. They left us a message on the rock which has fortunately withstood the test of time.

Rainbow Gardens Overland

My friend Dan got into off-road driving and Overlanding a while back. He’s been working on equipping his awesome Land Rover with some serious hardware and taking lessons on technique. He demonstrated that superbly on the Rainbow Garden trail just east of Las Vegas. It was a blast!

Dan and his Land Rover LR6 with many modifications and added goodies 😎. A true offroad monster!

This was a vastly different landscape than we saw just a few miles north at Valley of Fire. The colors here were more varied with bright yellow and deep red showing together with some nearly white formations. Some of the hills were covered with an organism that had a grayish-purple color. Everywhere was evidence of the shaping forces of wind and water. Exquisitely beautiful and accessible thanks to Dan’s great driving.

Potosi Mine Overland to Goodsprings

Our second day of overlanding took us to Springs Mountian in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just west of Vegas. An old mine was the entrance to incredibly colorful desert scenery.

Patosi Mine Overland near Las Vegas

This route took us into spectacular scenery with Joshua Trees and many other desert plants that were in bloom. The colors – purple age, strawberry hedgehog cactus, yellow desert marigold – were stunning. The settings with the colorful plants and Joshua Trees were amazing. We even got lost a couple of times to test Dan’s skill and my fearlessness 🤣. The Land Rover didn’t care – it just kept on ticking!

At the end of the drive, we stopped at Goodsprings and visited the historic Pioneer Saloon for some merch. It was a great day’s ride!

We enjoyed our time here with our friends and got to see some splendid sights! We now start our two-day journey to Yosemite. Long on my bucket list, we have to go the long way around because of all the winter rains and snow in the mountain passes. Should make for beautiful sights at the park though!

Mojave Part II

A two-day drive back to the desert. We are heading to Lost Wages 🤩 to meet up with old friends Dan and Maggie Matheson. They got me into RV’ing several years ago and it will be our second meet-up on the road!

Jake and I drove the same route I took when visiting my parents and brother Dave in Lancaster from 1975-1978. The first part of the drive opened up after a mountain pass to a vast agricultural vista. Acre after acre of growing operations. Of particular interest were the Orange groves. Many of the trees were covered with a gauze-like fabric. This apparently keeps bees out when you are growing seedless fruit. I passed one vineyard that seemed to go on for several miles.

Windfarm near Mojave California (Google images David Bowman)

After that, it was back to the desert. I stopped for the evening in Boron, just east of Mojave. As I dropped into Mojave there was another very large wind farm. Some of the windmills were smaller, something I had not seen before. There was also a large ‘boneyard’ for jet airliners. Where aircraft go to die ☠️.

Twenty Mule Team Borax

Boron is home to the company Borax. I remember that name from my young childhood. They were sponsors of a TV program called Death Valley Days. Their tagline and mascots were Twenty Mule Team Borax. The plant sits right outside town and offers tours. They basically mine soap 🤣. Maybe next time!

Other than that Boron looked very lowkey. Edwards Airforce Base is also nearby more jobs. The trailer next to me had a multitude of cables running into their trailer and my phone was a full-tilt 5G hotspot. Wired ⚡️at least.

The second day was an easy – and interesting – one on the way to Vegas. I noticed a section of Route 66 that runs through Barstow and a Route 66 Museum! We stopped to take a look and pick up some merch! There were several museums there including one for Trains and even a NASA exhibition.

Back on the road, the traffic picked up, cars whizzing past me on some crazed mission. Everyone from SoCal was headed to Vegas for the Memorial Day weekend! Big Fun! I saw some near misses as people lost their tiny minds and drove like they were being driven by the Hounds Of Hell!

As we approved the state line I saw one of the most incredible sights of my life.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System – Photon Concentrator

This is a solar power generating station. I had seen pictures of it in the past but seeing it close up like this was breathtaking. The air around the mirrors and central collector (where it is turned into steam to run a turbine) was like something out of a science fiction movie. Boy, do I love science!

We pulled into Las Vegas KOA at Sam’s Town midafternoon to find out friends were already there and set up. The campground sits next to a standalone Casino & Hotel with a movie theater and bowling alley. Everything you need to keep everyone in the family entertained!

Seven Sisters

Driving around the area I was stunned at how beautiful it was. Something came back to me about Rome being built on seven hills. Sure enough, so were San Luis Obispo and Morrow Bay! I remember taking a hang gliding session while I was going to school. I was friends with an older student from New Jersey. I wish I could remember his name! Anyway, he and I experienced hang gliding on the side of one of these sisters. It was a rush!

SLO Town

Like every other place I have lived, I hardly remembered SLO town at first – except for the street names. Madonna, Higuera, Monterey – all very California names! The area I lived in seemed a bit familiar but that was about it. It still had a good feel about it – no high-rise office buildings or fucking outlet malls on the outskirts of town. Lots and lots of traffic though!

McLintock’s Saloon – cheap beer and eats for a starving college student!

McLintock’s Salon was still there. I vividly remember going down on Friday night for 25-cent sandwiches and 50-cent beers while listening to Fleetwood Mac Rumours 🤩 for the millionth time!

Student Project

Cal Poly had a reputation among the other Cali Universities of being a ‘safer’ place to send your kids—no alcohol on campus, stricter dorm rules, etc. When I went there there was no liberal arts program (there is now!). It started as an agricultural school and had many degrees around that including Home Economics. At that time this was a field dominated by teenage girls and had the reputation of being a fluff degree while they were working on the actual degree – an MRS! These girls were affectionately known as Poly Dollies!

Downtown San Luis Obispo on Higuera – the main drag where all the pretty Poly Dollies hung out!

One of my roommates went on to marry one of them. She eventually became the chief dietician for the state of California! No fluff there!

Morro Bay

In all my travels I have rarely seen something as striking as Morro Bay and Morrow Rock. The last of the Seven Sisters, at the end of the large bay, is a stunning sight 🤩.

View of Morrow Bay from Montaña de Oro State Park

Between my junior and senior years at college, I finally made some money working as a roustabout for Union Oil. I bought two cameras, a Canon SLR and a used Nikonos II underwater camera. The first picture (with my own camera) I ever took was on a dive in Morro Bay. The camera had a flash gun that used disposable bulbs. You carried a sack of them and changed the bulb after every shot. Can you even imagine? Anyway, I actually got a few great shots including this one.

Diving in Morrow Bay

I also dove several times off the rocks on the ocean side. Talk about a harrowing experience! You would wait for a lull in the wave action, jump in, and swim like hell. Getting out of the water was even trickier, as you can imagine!

No diving this time! We had an enjoyable walk around the park hoping for the fog to lift!

Elephant Seals & Ragged Coasts

We were hoping to spend a day driving the Pacific Coast Highway. This famous stretch of road goes from Morrow Bay to Monterey Bay and is by far the most spectacular drive along the coast I’ve ever driven. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains in Cali last winter, the road was closed just past Rgged Point.

Highway 1 was damaged by Winter storms

We drove up as far as we could stopping along the way to view the amazing Elephant Seal rookery. In several spots along this part of the coast, Elephant Seals come short to mate, give birth, and molt during different times of the year. This was the molting season. At the peak, it is estimated that over 18,000 individuals will occupy this stretch of the coast.

Adult males may grow to over 13 feet in length and weigh up to 4,500 pounds. Watching them move in an undulating fashion was a sight to behold – they can go pretty fast if they have to.

A very knowledgeable volunteer spent several minutes answering my questions. I was amazed to learn how far they range (middle of the Pacific), how deep they dive (5,000 feet), and how long they can hold their breath (100 minutes). Truly amazing animals!

Ragged Point itself is a large resort area with what be stunning views of the ocean. The last 5 miles of windy road wind up to a spectacular vista.

Mountains of Gold

Montaña de Oro (“Mountain of Gold” in Spanish) State Park was a short drive from where I was living in Los Osos. It was a fantastic spot to watch sunsets and offered a stunning view of Morro Rock and the surrounding Morro Bay and Baywood Park. As you can see!

View of Morrow Bay from Montaña de Oro State Park

I seem to remember trying unsuccessfully to dive there early on. The coastline is rugged – to say the least. It was originally a working cattle ranch and has a restored home on site that was very interesting. I met up with a group of photographers from the LA area that were very interesting to talk to (retired guys like me it seemed). It looked like fun.

Avila Beach

We returned to Avila Beach on our last day early in the morning. Nobody out but us dog lovers! As I mentioned earlier, I don’t remember there being much here before. The pier here was closed for repair, but a mile or so down the street in Port San Luis the pier is open for business.

It was great to be back 45 years after I graduated that sunny day in late May 1978. I left after that, got married, and went to graduate school in Seattle.

Cal Poly graduation 🤩

I had accomplished something that certainly shocked the hell out of me. I was still pretty much clueless – but now I was clueless with a purpose! I left never to return to the place where I first manifest my destiny.

Ventura Highway in the Sunshine – Indeed 😎.

Ventura Highway

We woke to a spectacular sunrise in the desert before starting our journey. We would skirt north of the City of Angels through Pasadena and Burbank / Hollywood before finally popping out on the coast at Ventura. It was a Saturday and we left early to beat the infamous SoCal traffic. Things got progressively thicker as we neared the coast. Seems like everyone was headed to the beach!

I vividly remember one of the first times I drove 101 South from Santa Maria to Los Angles. Around Ventura, the west side of the highway falls away exposing a fantastic vista of the Pacific.

Ventura highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine

Some 70s Yacht Rock Band

It wasn’t quite the same in fog and heavy traffic – but nearly 50 years later I had returned.

Ventura Hiway 101

The typical weather pattern for SoCal is early morning clouds from the cool Pacific that burn off by noon. We stopped at a 6-mile stretch of beach right along the coast where you can boondocks camp (if you get an early enough reservation, I learned!). There were a lot of surfers and billion-dollar homes on the ocean.

San Marcos Pass

As I drove into the mountains from Santa Barbara toward San Marcos Pass it all came back to me! When I first was living here I spent some time in the area with the people I was diving with. I fell in love quickly with California – there really is no place like it with its golden hue. You could see that it had rained a lot because everything was green. Later some of it will dry out and catch fire. Neverending cycle for Califonia.

Green California – I remember seeing this when I moved here around the same time of year. It all drys out in the Summer and turns a beautiful gold before catching fire!

We arrived at the Avila Beach KOA late in the afternoon. It is a stone’s throw from the beach and about 10 miles from San Luis Obispo. When we got there it was packed – the sites were full (unlike all the others so far) and jammed very close together.

Avila Beach KOA

After Sunday though it cleared out with less than half the sites full. The campgrounds suffered bad flooding from all the rain and winter weather but seemed in good repair. The pool had just been recently repaired and reopened.

Very close to the campground was the Bob Jones trail. This ran about 4 miles to the beach and was very popular. We walked part of it a couple of times. The first part has some interesting rock formations and there are some very large live oak trees precariously growing out of rock.

We drove the Avila Beach – again – it all came back to me. I remember diving on the oil pier for Halibut that first summer I got here. Lots of great memories! There is an off-lead dog beach just north of that that we visited. I read an article a couple of days earlier that the average home price in Avila Beach was $1.9M. A really far cry from the sleepy little town I barely remember when I lived here.

Shell Beach

My girlfriend had hooked up with the local dive shop before I got there. Honestly, the guy that ran the store wanted to get into her pants. That’s another story 🤣. They were up for diving though! These guys were hardcore spearfishermen and would go diving any hour of the day or night. We must have dove a dozen spots that summer including diving in the surf at Pismo Beach for clams! The shop they worked at was Dive West.

⁨Margo Dodd Park⁩ where we used to teach scuba diving. We would stage the exercises from the flatter rock on the left. There were seals everywhere and often they would come in for a closer look!

I also helped them teach classes. Shell Beach was our teaching spot. They were hardcore about teaching too. All of their time in the water was in the ocean rather than a pool. Their philosophy was that you needed to be able to handle the rigors of Pacific diving. This means rocks, an unbelievably strong tidal surge at times, wearing a bulky wetsuit (and climbing stairs!), and hand-numbing cold. It can be a bit overwhelming for some. They would also let you take as many classes as needed to become certified.

The area is now littered with million-dollar homes. Seems like Teslas are as common as old VW Beetles back in the day 😆.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach itself has blown up into a destination for everyone. Hotels, restaurants, and t-shirt shops are everywhere. Plenty of places to get rid of those cumbersome wads of cash 💰.

Pismo beach pier where I once went scuba diving for clams

One of the dives I went on with my new dive buddies was Pismo Beach. Here’s the picture: On a calm day you dive out in the surf, maybe 6 feet underwater. You take out your dive knife and poke around in the sand until you hit something. That would be the clam. Dig it up and stick it in a bag. All the time the surge is moving you back and forth!

Pismo beach pier where I once went scuba diving for clams

I had some yummy clam chowder though at one of the recommended restaurants near the pier. It was delicious but I seriously doubt it had any Pismo Beach clam in it!

Cal Poly

I seriously had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I had applied (and been accepted) at Florida State in their chemistry program. That’s how clueless I was because chemistry is not my thing! My Dad was big on going to the local community college and then transferring to a four-year school. I was able to get some CLEP credit and cut the time required at the community college to three semesters.


I was staying in Boston with my friend Billy the summer after graduation. My girlfriend calls to tell me her parents are moving to California. She also told me there is a great college called Cal Poly nearby. We decided to go to community college for 1 1/2 years and then move to California to finish at this cool school Cal Poly. I finally had a plan!

It ended up taking me another semester but I finally moved to Santa Maria in June of 1975. One of the first things I did was go to Cal Poly. I went to the admissions office to talk to someone. On the wall was a rack full of brochures about the various programs they had. I grabbed a bunch and took a seat to look through them.

I read the one for the Mechanical Engineering program. It said that Mechanical Engineers design and build stuff like cars, airplanes, and nuclear power plants. That’s all it took. I loved building stuff and was fascinated by how things worked.

Serendipity struck once again. it turns out that because I was an out-of-state resident I got a slot that was open for the Winter quarter. I started in January 1976. For the next 2 1/2 years I became completely absorbed in learning engineering. Nothing like that had ever happened to me. I would study for hours. I drank so much coffee I would periodically hallucinate! I finally found something I was good at.

Cal Poly

The Mechanical Engineering building was where everyone hung out. The department project was a Baja Dunebuggy that they would compete against other schools. More recently it has been solar-powered personal vehicles.

Old Mechanical Engineering building. I used to hang out there between classes.

While I was going to school, the big state power supplier Pacific Gas & Electric was building a nuclear power plant at nearby Diablo Canyon.

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant entrance in Avila Beach. No Nukes!

They were up against a strong anti-nuclear crowd led by Jackson Browne! Little did my fellow student know but Cal Poly had a very small research reactor in the back of the mechanical engineering building!

Research Nuclear Reactor was in the rear of the ME building. It came from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Nobody knew it was there! The water tank on the right was added after I graduated.

I tried to get into the dorms but there were no rooms available. Instead, I rented an apartment in town for the first year and a half on Toro Road. Most of the time I had a roommate. A thirty-year-old guy who had been going to school for like 8 years. I got to know the next-door neighbor John and his girlfriend Jane. The guy downstairs was an Iranian married to a Mexican woman. He made a mean shishkabob!

Toward the end of my junior year, I got to know one of the other engineering students Steve. I heard he had a room open in a house in Los Osos for next year. After a summer working in an oil field in the central valley near Fresno, I moved in there for my senior year.

We called it the Aspen because of the road it was on. It belonged to a family friend and was close to Morro Bay. It was a very cool place to spend my last year. I got so distracted I nearly didn’t graduate!

Baywood Park – The back bay of Morrow Bay

I loved living here and always thought I would move back someday. I tried to get a job in San Diego at an interesting company General Atomics but opted to move to Seattle and go to graduate school in Nuclear Engineering. By the end of the time I was there everyone in California was fleeing the state after going to shit economically. The saying was “Don’t Californicate Washington.” Too funny!


Our first stop for the Big Kahuna is in the southern desert of California. I had spent time in Southern California in the mid-1970s while going to school up the coast in San Luis Obispo. I fled Florida in the Summer of 1975 to be with my girlfriend, who dumped me about 6 months afterward 😖.

Shuttle Discovery Palmdale California ~ 1978
A shot of the team my Dad worked with as the first Shuttle was being built in Palmdale. Likely in 1978 before he returned to Florida.

I was then blindsided by serendipity when my parents and younger brother moved to Los Angeles only several months after I had left Florida. Rockwell transferred Dad to the area to work on the Space shuttle prototype Enterprise. They lived in Irvine for a short period of time before buying a house in Lancaster. Lancaster sits on the edge of the Mojave desert.

Mom when she lived in Califonia in the mid-1970s

I visited them many times while I was going to college. It was a reasonably short drive from San Luis Obispo to Lancaster. My brother Dave and I hung out. We made a notorious trip to Kings Canyon supposedly to do some camping. I managed to completely fuck up my Sunbeam Alpine sports car thinking I could take it off-road. I had to put my tail between my legs and ask Dad to come to get us with a towing trailer!

We crossed into California by crossing the Colorado River at Parker. This area sits south of Parker Damn. I was dumbstruck at the number of resorts and RV campgrounds along the river. The river itself was very nice with crystal clear water. Otherwise, it was 100% desert – hot and dry as a bone.

We then crossed a long, open stretch of road right through the middle of the desert. I was amazed at the sight of the mountains as we got closer to our destination. You could see a gradual rise in the sagebrush-dotted sand leading up to the mountains. Mellinia of blowing sand forming the dunes. Breathtaking!

South Mojave Desert

Civilization returned as we got closer to Joshua Tree National Park. Before long it was the Califonia I remembered again. Strip malls everywhere and Jack in the Box restaurants.

Palm Springs / Joshua Tree KOA

The KOA here was similar to the last 3. Fairly open gravel lots with a pool and hot tub. Lots of things to keep snowbirds occupied during the winter and families year-round.

Palm Springs was a destination health resort in the early 1900s. People from all over would come to visit the spas. Together with the climate, it was looked on as a source of relief for ailments of all sorts!

This one has three different hot tubs at different temperatures. They say it is fed by natural hot mineral wells. These seem to be everywhere in this area and must be a feature of the geography.

Desert Hot Springs KOA with Mount San Jacinto in the background

The KOA sits on the northeast corner of the Coachella Valley. The valley itself is dotted with wind turbines to harness the ever-blowing desert winds. Sand is frequently blown onto the highways. The highways themselves are like a roller coaster as they follow the contours of the dunes. Big fun driving in the X6!

Coachella Valley with Mount San Jacinto in the background. Notice the wind farm faintly visible in the right-hand side of the valley in the view.

To the southwest is the stunning Mount San Jacinto. To the northwest is equally stunning Mount Georgio. Between these mountains and Joshua Tree National Park is the Coachella Valley.

Palm Spring Air Museum

A friend had told me about the Palm Springs Air Museum. Situated just outside Palm Springs, it has five hangers with aircraft from different eras from World War II to the present day. The highlight, other than having a huge selection of modern and vintage military aircraft (many of which still fly), is a tour of a B17 Flying Fortress. I had to go! This was one of my favorite airplanes of the war – bristling with guns – to fly in a bomb the shit out of the Nazis. Maybe I can get them to drop a few on Tallahassee!

I could have spent a whole day at this place. There were dozens of super knowledgeable volunteers that knew the detailed history of the different planes. The tour through the B17 was a memory to last me a lifetime (what’s left of it that is!). I would always watch WWII movies and wonder if I had what it took to do the job that ‘The Greatest’ generation did. I guess I’ll never know.

Douglass SBD Dauntless. The airbrakes on the main wind surface had holes in them and were used to control the aircraft as it essentially dropped out of the sky.

I spent quite a bit of time learning about dive bombers like this one. I watched the movie Midway several years ago and was stunned at how the pilots would dive at a 70-degree angle to drop the bombs on the Japanese ships. You can see the airbrakes on the wings of the Dauntless above used to control the plane in its ‘drop’. Until this was developed, aircraft like torpedo bombers were notoriously bad at destroying their targets. Not the dive bombers, they had a near-perfect kill record.

Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk “Black Devil”

The last (and newest) hanger had the most recent acquisition – A F-117A Stealth Fighter built in utmost secrecy in the 1980s by Lockheed. It was amazing to see all of these aircraft and meet the many volunteers that work at the museum.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Several people in the past had mentioned to me how much they enjoyed Joshua Tree National Park. Interesting rock formations and forests of unusual Joshua trees and other odd-looking desert plants. The rock formations are a favorite for climbers and there were many places to camp in this spectacular setting. It was about a 60-mile drive from the visitor center in the northwest part of the park to the Cottonwood entrance in the southeast.

Spectacular rock formations and desert plantlife abound in Joshua Tree National Park

We got in right at sun up and explored the park before it got too hot in the afternoon. many of the spots featured almost comically large rocks a mere 50 feet or more in height. A literal forest of huge Joshua trees – especially on the drive to view the Coachella Valley.

Joshua Trees – Yucca brevifolia – Native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico

The Keys View drive went west until you could gaze down into the valley below. The two snow-capped peaks of San Jacinto and San Georgio in plain sight. It was quite a view.

Keys View with Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto in the background

As we drove east the rock formations changed and eventually we were back in the sand dunes and desert again. The final stop was to view a Cholla Cactus Garden. These nasty-looking plants had a bad reputation for inflicting painful wounds whenever possible!

Cholla Cactus Garden – apparently universally despised by early settlers!

I only wish I was in better shape to go back and do some climbing! Quite an unusual and beautiful area.

Palm Springs

For as long as I can remember there was always Palm Springs. I guess the proximity the LA and Hollywood in particular made it a common name when I was growing up. Movie stars playing golf in the desert 🤩.

Downtown Palm Springs

The downtown area had a Key West vibe with sidewalk bars and restaurants and lots of plan trees. They had a Walk of Fame for Hollywood types that lived there.

Sonny Bono was the mayor of Palm Springs from 1988 to 1992. He hit a tree skiing at Lake Tahoe six years later. …and the beat goes on!

Sonny Bono was the mayor of Palm Springs for a while. Then he hit a tree while skiing and that was the end of that 😵‍💫. At least he got a place on the Walk of Fame.

Downtown Palm Springs

The Art Museum is a big thing which one would expect in a monied-town like this. Highlights include a larger-than-life Marilyn Monroe and a rather spooky pit filled with a red fault line and very weird sculptures. Like right out the incredible file Brazil.

I also noticed that local people will often say happy trials instead of goodbye. It was a bit before my time but the saying was made famous by local Palm Springs stars Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans. When I was very young, before anything else I wanted to be a cowboy. Seems like this was the place to be.

San Gorgonio Pass wind farm

This was one of the earliest wind farms built in the early 1980s. I had graduated college in mechanical engineering several years earlier and developed an interest in power generation including solar and nuclear but had not heard much about wind power. I traveled to Northern Europe in the early 2000s and saw some of the massive wind farms in the North Atlantic. Since then I have seen many on our 2021 Excellent Adventure. It was cool seeing so many close up like this in such a stunning setting.

Exactly two weeks to the day since we left Florida – tomorrow we head further west to San Luis Obispo. Almost exactly 48 years ago my life was profoundly and irrevocably changed when I escaped Florida to move there to live my dreams and seek my fortune. I had barely a clue what I was doing. If I had only known!

Fade left

We fade from south to west on the second half of the drive.

Leaving on Day 6 from Sonora we drove through the remaining part of the Hill Country into Big Bend Country. The scenery changed pretty radially and it became flatter and dryer. At one point the signs warned of an 80-mile stretch with no services.

His dog riding on the back with his goggles on! They were easily doing 80!

We saw a guy riding a big road bike with his dog strapped to the rear seat. he was wearing a pair of goggles and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the ride. We passed them several times during the day (which is common – you get to know different rigs, etc). Finally, I was able to get a photo of him as he sped out of a rest area and overtook us at 80 mph!

We arrived in Van Horn and stayed at the Wild West RV Park! Not much to write home about but everything worked and we had a quiet evening there.

Van Horn is home to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launch operations. About 25 miles up the road Jeff and his buddies fly into space on his giant flying dildo 🤣. I suspect many of the people staying in the campground worked there. I doubt very seriously that William Shatner was one of them! I passed on the opportunity to visit. Maybe next time 😎.

We woke to a clear, cold (49 F) morning and headed out on Day 7 for the westernmost end of Texas. We were within range of the Mexican border for most of the drive which took us through El Paso and the New Mexico border. El Paso was not a pretty sight from the roadway – it looked like an endless sprawl in a hot, dry desert.

We stopped for the day at our first KOA Kampground of the trip. We will be staying in them for most of the remainder of the trip. I like the consistency and convenience of going through a single booking process for hundreds of campgrounds. This one was perched on a hill overlooking Las Cruces and Mesilla toward the Guadalupe Mountian range.

We are staying next to the town of Mesilla just north of Las Cruces. The place has an interesting history. It was settled in the mid-1800s. During the Civil War, it was occupied by Confederate soldiers and was named the capital of the Confederate Republic of Arizona for a brief period. Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to be executed in 1881 here before he escaped (only to be mysteriously shot several months later).

On our way there we stopped by the Rio Grande river at a park near Las Cruces. The riverbed was dry, affording an interesting view of the river, indeed! Jake had a blast running on the sand 🐶.

We started Day 8 out visiting Las Cruces and Mesilla before heading west to Arizona and our next stop outside of Tucson. This called for listening to Linda Ronstadt as we drove through the arid landscape! We came across several stretches of areas with bad dust storms. I am not sure I was encouraged by the roadside instructions!

…and pray there is not some idiot from Texas behind you 🤠

We ended the day in the middle of Tucson’s suburban sprawl in a huge KOA Resort. Resorts are KOA’s mini-theme park with lots of stuff for families and especially kids to do. This one had several hundred spaces and one section was covered (with a solar panel) to protect the spots below from the scorching Arizona sun ☀️. I like them because they generally have a hot tub. Unfortunately, the one here was lukewarm at best. Our spot was excellent though – Jake even had a little spot of grass he could lie in. It was hot but the low humidity and breeze made it feel a lot cooler.

Day 9 and our last overnight before our visit stop at Desert Springs and Joshua Tree National Monument in California. We drove from Tucson northwest and then made a detour to Gila Bend Arizona.

North of Tucson we went through Saguaro National Park and a stunning drive through Saguaro Cactii forests. I was stunned at how green it appeared in some spots like Pacaco Mountain.

Mt Pacacho AZ

Gila Bend Arizona

45 years ago this Summer I was traveling cross country after graduating from college. My finance Margaret and I made a round trip around the US. The last leg of our trip took us the same route I am going now except we were headed to San Diego. We were trying to get back to San Jose to get married and were making time.

Camping outside of Houston I was bitten by a bunch of ants. I had a reaction, took a bunch of Benadryl, and slept for a day. We stopped at Carlsbad Caverns. The next day we went by Alamagordo (without stopping), and made it all the way to Gila Bend. It was the beginning of August and the heat (in our non-air-conditioned Toyota) was almost too much.

Summer 1978 on my way back to California

We were basically out of money. We wanted to stay at the Best Western (now the Space Age In!) but it was too much. We opted instead for the budget strip motel down the road. We paid our money and went to the room only to discover the A/C had not been turned on! It was hotter in the room than it was outside!

Gila Bend AZ – 45 years later

Fortunately, they had a pool that was almost too hot to swim in but gave us a bit of relief. We went to take showers and left the cold water running for what seemed to be 30 minutes. The water never got any colder! Fuck it we said, and pulled the mattress off the bed and threw it in front of the A/C.

Gila Bend AZ – 45 years later

While we were going to sleep we turned the TV on and saw the weather. The hottest place in the United States that day? Gila Bend, Arizona at 117 F!

We woke up at 3 AM with our teeth chattering. While we slept the room cooled down to the point that we were now freezing! As I letter learned, once the sun goes down the desert can get quite chilly!

Gila Bend AZ – 45 years later

The next day driving into San Diego we passed dozens of cars on the side of the road with radiators boiling over as we drove over a mountain pass into San Diego. The temperature seemed like it dropped 50 degrees as we drove down towards the cool Pacific Ocean!

We stopped for the day at Salome Arizona near the Arizona-California border. It was a bit off the Interstate which gave us the chance to see the desert up close! The campgrounds were huge and mostly vacant after the snowbirds headed back north. They had a pool and a hot tub which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Day 10 – last day of our journey west – next stop California!

Excellent Adventure 2023 Begins!

Our 2023 Excellent Aventure has begun! We left at the crack of sparrow fart and had a mostly uneventful drive northwest to Brother Dave’s.

Home is Where Jake 🐶 Is!

We look forward to a leisurely drive west on I-10 to Los Angeles over the next 9 days!

Leaving Valhalla – Excellent Adventure 2023 Begins!