Thursday, May 3, 2018

Indio & 911 in 29 Palms

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It was tempting to be sad about having only five days in Borrego Springs, but considering all the rallies and planned travels, we were lucky to get there at all. So, having crammed as much as we possibly could into a short period of time, we were off to the Elks Lodge in Indio.

Like Borrego Springs, we have made several stops here and it's one of our faves. There are fruit trees all over the property and though we were a bit late in the season, we managed to get a few grapefruit and lemons.

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Indio Elks Lodge is surrounded by palm trees.

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Steven picks a few of the abundant lemons at the Elks Lodge in Indio.

Indio is always our stopover for provisioning, it seems we're usually heading off into either a remote location or an expensive one. Not that Indio is cheap, but it has all our favorites - Costco, Trader Joe's, etc. Also, it's a great place to meet up with friends who are passing through, as was the case with Clarke and Elaine Hockwald. They had spent the last few months working in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and were finally making their way back to their family in SoCal. Indio turned out to be the perfect stopover, which made us very happy! We had not seen them since the last time we were in Borrego Springs, which in our book was way too long!

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With Clarke, Elaine, Kelly and Bill at the Indio Elks Lodge.

Since there was shopping to be done, the girls headed out to go to the fun places, while the guys went to the boring Harbor Freight and Lowes. I mean really, there's no comparison, right? Kelly, Elaine and I found the most wonderful Thai restaurant for lunch and the guys had Mexican. In the end, we all had a great time and that's all that counts!

When we stayed at the Indio Lodge in 2015, Steven and I headed out looking for a good hamburger. He pulled up Yelp on his phone and said there was a place in Desert Palm called Billy Qs that had burgers, so off we went. Only when we got there, no one was eating burgers. They were eating pizza. We followed suit, and went back again the next day. Then a few months later, we went again, this time with Clarke and Elaine. I simply couldn't wait to go there again! So off we went, again with Clarke, Elaine, Bill and Kelly! I think they all agreed that Billy Q's has some mighty fine pizza. If you're ever in the area, do yourself a favor and go there!

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Eating at Billy Q’s. We can’t say enough good things about this place!

Clarke and Elaine are from Southern California and through the years have spent a great deal of time in the Palm Springs area. So while they encouraged the rest of us to take the tram up to the Mt. San Jacinto State Park, they did not want to repeat something they had done many times before. So it was just Bill, Kelly, Steven and me taking the making the trip up the mountain.

Riding the tram to the top to was awesome. It's a big tram that holds about 50 people. Maybe 30, I can't remember. But it was a lot! Kelly and I managed to snag a spot by the window but even then you have to hang on to your stuff, because the darn thing rotates. You can't hold on because it rotates, and if you set your backpack down where it touches the wall, it will rotate right away from you. So while you're enjoying the gorgeous scenery, you're also trying to keep track of your stuff and kind of hang on, even though you have to move your hands every few seconds.

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The tram ride up to the top of Mount San Jacinto was so much fun and fantastic views!

It’s so worth the effort! The views from the lodge overlooking Palm Springs all the way to the Coachella Valley were just gorgeous!

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The views of Coachella Valley from the top were just amazing!

We decided to do the a hike, just over one mile, with several lookouts in every direction. But first, we had to make our way down the steep ramp onto the trail. Since it had snowed and frozen overnight, the paths were like ice rinks. We held on to the railing for dear life and still kind of skated our way down. Having made it safely, we decided lunch was in order before carrying on any further. We found a picnic table and enjoyed our spread, then hit the trail.

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Fueling up for the upcoming trail hike.

There are five main overlooks along this trail and it is not well marked at all. You just kind of follow what looks like a trail, and if that disappears you look for humans and follow them. The first view was really spectacular, but as we sat there, the fog rolled in and it was the last view we saw. That didn't stop us from making the hike to every single lookout, we did, but we just didn't see anything. Still, it was a great hike!

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Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail  Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail  Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail
Occasional views emerged out of the fog but the hike was great and we enjoyed frolicking in the snow!

That evening the Elks Lodge was having dinner and dancing, the latter of which appealed to Kelly. The rest of us just wanted to sit in the bar and visit, which we did. And bless her heart, Kelly just chair-danced because no one would go out on the dance floor with her. Jeez, that girl loves to dance!

The next morning Clarke and Elaine dropped by to say goodbye. It was so nice to meet up with them again after so long. They are workcamping in Maine this summer and we wish them safe travels and a happy summer.

A couple of hours later, we pulled out followed by Bill in Copper pulling Queenie and Kelly in her Honda. We had a whopping 65 mile trip to make to the Elks Lodge in Twentynine Palms. Our purpose there was to visit with Bill and Kelly's Goddaughter who lives there with her husband and two adorable little girls. 

Since we had planned to stay two nights at the Elks Lodge, we decided that Steven and I would stay home and relax and give Kelly & Bill a night to visit alone. We'd go the next day for dinner. They decided to leave the front door of their rig open so Callie Kitty could have some fresh air. My only job was to peek out my blinds every now and again and make sure all was going well. Bill wanted to leave us a key just in case we decided to go somewhere, but we assured him we were not leaving. "I'll just leave it here anyway," he said. And thank goodness he did!

Soon after they left, Steven decided to take a nap, and I had settled in on the sofa with my computer. The air conditioner was blowing and I was looking forward to a little down time. But I was having a hard time getting comfortable and as time went on, I realized I was in pain. You know, it takes a while to figure out what's going on. I thought maybe I had strained a muscle on our hike. But nothing I did would alleviate the pain I was feeling on my right side and it seemed to be getting worse.

So I did what any of you would do, I summoned Dr. Google. I typed in, "pain on right side". Dr. Google replied, "Appendix." Yep, that had to be it. As I was reading the symptoms and what to expect, it said that the pain would worsen quickly and that very soon I would throw up. Great. I googled the nearest hospital thinking Steven could drive me there and went and woke him up. Then I threw up violently, like, I had no idea my body could expel anything with such force. I knew then the only way I was going to get to the hospital was by ambulance. So, Steven made a call to 911.

The EMS came right away, but because of a shortage of available ambulances, it took a while for one to come get me. Once it arrived, I insisted on walking to it and getting in by myself. Yes, I was in pain, but not so much that I didn't see the ridiculousness of them trying to get me onto a gurney and out the door of Scoopy. I wasn't crippled.

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EMS guys be like “Let’s get a gurney” and Linda be all, like, “Hold my beer.” Steven followed behind.

I was in the ER a total of four hours, and in that time I had a abdomen scan that showed it was not my appendix, but rather a 4mm kidney stone. Ugh. In the two years before we went fulltime, I was a surgery scheduler for a female-only urology practice. I've talked to many, many women suffering with stones. In the office, we all used to talk about how much we hoped we never got a kidney stone. But I guess it was my turn.

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Hooked up for four hours at the hospital.

They sent me home with a strainer and a script for some pain pills. I used the former for several weeks and finally got bored of it. I still have the pills, just in case. I don't know if that stone is still rattling around inside me, or if it somehow passed unnoticed, but I've had no issues since our stay in Twentynine Palms.

NEXT UP:  RV-Dreams Reunion Rally

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Into the SoCal Desert

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On the last day of the Boondocking Rally we bid farewell to most of our friends, old and new, and made our way back to La Paz Valley Campground with Bill and Kelly. Bill is now doing solar installs for RV Solar Solutions and he had an install following the rally. We stayed for four days just chilling until he was finished, then we headed off for a Southern California adventure!

Since we had all signed up to attend the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally in Pahrump, Nevada, (I know, right? Two rallies in a row!) we had about ten days to wander around. For us it was an opportunity to introduce Bill and Kelly to one of our most favorite places - Borrego Springs, CA. They were game for whatever, so we planned a few epic day trips to show them just a bit of what there is to see and do in this area and then they would know why we love it so much. We were very excited!

As Bill finished up his install at La Paz, Steven and I set off for Rockhouse Trail, one of our favorite boondocking places in Borrego. We scouted spots for our stay and before long, Bill and Kelly arrived and joined us. We had a perfect campsite with views all around us. You cannot beat Rockhouse Trail for boondocking! In fact, this is the first place we actually spent significant time after we got our solar, so we really earned our boondocking chops in this very spot!

But it's special to us for so many more reasons, not the least of which is that there is so much to do in the area!

RV Dreams Rally
Bill and Kelly arrive at Rockhouse Trail on a spectacular afternoon!

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Our fabulous site along Rockhouse Trail.

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Dramatic sunset as seen from our campsite in Borrego Springs.

On our first day we headed over the hills to Temecula to hit up the farmer's market and stroll through the cute Old Town area. We also met our daughter Tara, who drove from her home in San Diego, for a proper St. Paddy's Day lunch.

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On the way to Temecula. A rainbow on St. Patrick’s Day!!

The Temecula Farmers Market is small but mighty. A couple of years ago I bought a pineapple plant - I named her Pinelope -- and I really loved her. Sadly, she didn't last long and I have been on the hunt for a new one ever since. Twice I've been back to the farmer's market in Temecula in hopes of a replacement. Alas, no such luck. The plant guy seems to have disappeared! In spite of that, we found plenty of other great stuff to buy, which we did before we settled in for a yummy lunch at E.A.T. in Old Town.

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Good food and good company in Temecula.

The next day we stayed close to home. The scenery around Rockhouse Trail is just spectacular and we wanted to make sure we took the time to just chill and enjoy our surroundings. We took a hike into the nearby hills to find the stone snake, (not to be confused with the metal serpent, which we also visited) There is no marked path to the snake, but visiting it on your first stay at here is a rite of passage. You can actually see the snake on Google Earth, so in case you never find your way to the Borrego Springs area, here are the coordinates:  3.300654, -116.293109. 

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It’s a little bit of a challenge to get to the Snake but always worth the effort.

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Toadie and the Serpent.

After our hike we headed into town for lunch at Jillbertos. Also a must-do in Borrego, Jullberto's has fabulous Mexican dishes at very reasonable prices. We love eating there! We spent the rest of the day just tooling around town and then relaxing outside with happy hour and a little campfire in a can. :)

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No fancy plates at Jillberto’s but the food is great!

In anticipation of a longish day away from camp, we packed a lunch on Day 3 and headed out for a tour around the Salton Sea. The sea itself is fascinating, having had some success as a resort area in the 1950s. Today, most of the settlements have been abandoned, mostly due to the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff.

Massive algae blooms deprived the fish of oxygen and they died by the tens of thousands. Algae blooms, rotting fish and pollutants cause a horrible stench and of course no trip to the Salton Sea is complete without experiencing the smell and the crunch of bones under your feet! 

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Our route along the Salton Sea.

Our first stop of the day was in Westmoreland for a fabulous Medjool date shake! I didn't have one, but the others all agreed it was the best they ever had. Rich and creamy, loaded with dates for which the Palm Springs and surrounding areas are famous!

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Bill gives the thumbs up for Medjool’s date shake.

Our next stop was the Sonny Bono Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge. I am trying to find something positive to say about this place, but we managed to visit in the offseason when there was no wildlife needing refuge. So we walked a long way in the hot sun to see nothing. Well, we had a great view of the Salton Sea, so there's that. But we all quickly agreed to move on to our next destination, The Slabs.

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Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.

"Slabs" refer to the remnants of an old military installation long abandoned located about four miles outside of Niland, CA. It has become, at least in the cooler months of the year, a community of snowbirds, squatters, artists and others looking to live off the grid. Maybe there are a few lost souls. And then there are folks like us, who come here to gawk. I personally wouldn't come here to spend any time camping, but it's a fabulous place for a day trip.

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail
Slab City – The Last Free Place.

As you approach the Slabs, there on the right is Salvation Mountain. At 150 feet wide by 50 feet tall, it's really more of a painted mound. It's built from hay bales, adobe, window putty, and paint. Lots and lots of paint. Until recently, visitors were encouraged to donate paint and add a slap or two onto the mountain if they so desired, but lately that has become discouraged. I can say that from the time we first visited here in the fall of 2015 until now, the color of the mountain has changed significantly. So there's still some serious paintin' going on!

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Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail
Salvation Mountain has to be experienced. It’s hard to capture it in photographs.

Kelly, Bill and I managed to crawl to the top and back down, via the painted yellow steps, which for non-climbers seemed kind of daring! Steven stayed at the bottom to take pictures, most of which he is not allowed to share. Behind every great photographer is a wife with veto powers. :)

From Salvation Mountain we wound our way further into the Slabs to a section called East Jesus. An artistic community run exclusively on solar power, residents here attempt to reuse and recycle all manner of trash and discarded detritus. Everything from old cars to doll parts are put to good use here.

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Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail
East Jesus. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

In 2015 Steven was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the residential section of East Jesus and was shown the massive solar and battery array, which is substantial enough to run multiple air conditioners in the hot months. There was also a human skull, apparently. I didn't see all this, I stayed in the running car in case we needed to make a quick getaway. Actually, I just kept it running to I could stay cool. :)

The Slabs is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's worth visiting even if it makes you (me) slightly uncomfortable. It was just as interesting on our second trip here as it was the first time!

By this time we were starving so we made a beeline north along the shore to the Salton Sea Recreation Area to eat our picnic lunch. It was a perfect lunch spot to nosh as we gazed out on the seemingly beautiful blue waters of the Salton Sea. Oh, how deceiving!

A few more miles north and we turned into the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club. Sounds so inviting, right? The "beach" is covered in dead and decayed fish carcasses, bones bleached white and brittle by the unrelenting sun. And the smell!! Dead fish and polluted waters permeate the air to the point that it's impossible to linger. So back to the car we went, and finished off our day with happy hour back at camp!

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail

Borrego Springs - Rockhouse Trail
North Shore Beach. Thank your lucky stars this is not a scratch and sniff photograph.

As you can see, this was an all-day affair, and it's one of my favorite day trips. We did nearly 180 miles in seven hours and took in a good portion of all there is to see and experience around the Salton Sea. It's an amazing place!

On our last day in Borrego Springs we decided to keep it low key, so we traveled to the little mountain town of Julian. Surrounded by apple orchards, Julian is famous for its apple pies and is also a stop for those hardy folks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Apple pie is good trail magic, right? Signs in store windows made it clear hikers were welcome in Julian.

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Who can resist pie in Julian? Not Kelly!

Since my birthday was spent in Quartzsite, an area not known for it's shopping options, Steven spied and surreptitiously purchased a cute little ceramic chicken for me in Julian. Until last year, we have always traveled with a chicken, but decided to leave it with my Mom last year. So now we have a new one! YAY!

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Our newest pet.

These five days in Borrego Springs are some of my favorite since we've been traveling. It's great to return to places we love, but especially so when we can share it with others who also come to love it, too.

NEXT UP: Friends in Indio, Palm Springs and yet another 911 call.