After a night in Lancaster with the DogFather, and 3 nights in LA, we are ready to go to Baja! Or are we? The inflatable kayak has arrived in LA, we have our oars and life vests. We’ve even set up the kayak in our condo living room and practiced rowing (!) but have not been able to get the Mexican auto insurance. The price for what is going to be a 2 week trip was at least $150. Too much for the Frugal RVers.
So we just pack up anyway and head east from LA, back towards the Antelope Valley.
There’s a quick stop in Palmdale (Trader Joe’s for meat and veggies – you gotta love the washed and ready to use bags of stuff!) and Lancaster (AAA for maps of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico since we left most of that info at the ranch, and then Louie’s, a local burger place for 3 double burgers and fries.) After a quick stop at the DogFather’s to wolf down our lunch with him, we are back out on the road.
The greasy burger and fries are making me a bit queasy but I try to ignore it as we rumble down, not Highway 14, but Sierra Highway.
“Why shouldn’t we start our shunpiking right away?” says Big Dog. Unfortunately, the road runs out after Rosamond, before Mojave, and Big Dog is disappointed. “It didn’t used to!”
Sprockets cruises down the 14, through Red Rock Canyon with its fantastic, wind-carved baroque-ness, then off towards China Lake and Ridgecrest. Shouldn’t gas be cheaper here? It’s not.
It’s Inyo County and I can’t help but keep shouting, “Inyo face, mama!” every few seconds. Big Dog has tuned me out and does not notice that, now, as we go through Trona, I’ve switched to singing “My-my-my-MYYYY Trona!” It’s a funky, semi-company town with more museums than gas stations. Really. They love their history here. Even the Fire Department has its own museum.
Up and over the Panamint Mountains we and Sprockets go. It is Wildflower Time. There are little purple ones, orange and yellow ones, white ones. They glow, backlit by the afternoon sun and many are soon bright crimson. The purples are darker. Or lighter. And they are all over the place in an impressive display of color.
Down, down, down we go, into the Basin, into the Valley of Death.
The first campsite, Emigrant, is for tents only, so we keep going to Stovepipe Wells, right down there on the Basin, at sea level. It reminds us a bit of Quartzsite – the campground looks like nothing more than a giant parking lot. A giant, NEARLY EMPTY parking lot. One edge is for tents only and those spaces have tables and benches, but not the spaces for RVs. There are what seem like hundreds of spaces for RVs but only a handful are taken.
We pick Number 184 on the western edge of the huge parking lot. An automatic kiosk takes credit card payment. ($6 with Big Dog’s Senior Pass) There is no ranger station or visitor center – just one store where we buy a 6-pack of beer for $9.
It’s still a bit too early for dinner, so we check out Mosaic Canyon, 2 miles up a gravel road. Sprockets is christened with road dust on Day 1!
Mosaic Canyon is very cool. And almost literally cool – the canyon makes a nice refuge from the merciless sun and heat. The canyon walls are super smooth worn down marble – like a water slide! – with a bizarre layer of all kinds of rock bits held together with cement (probably some kind of lime mixture?) That’s the mosaic part that gives the canyon its name.
Going back down from the canyon to our campsite, Big Dog drives too fast and poor Sprockets is thrown left and right, rattling everything inside and kicking up too much dust. All sorts of latches open and crap starts flying out.
“Damn it!” I shout, catching the beer bottles that are flying out of the unlatched fridge before they can hit the floor and shatter.
First night dinners are always easy. I simply boil the raviolis and green beans we bought earlier, dress them with my homemade parsley “chimichurri” and toss together a salad. There are beers to sip with dinner and a berry tart (readymade, from Trader Joe’s) for dessert in the desert.
Lights attract flying bugs and although we have a makeshift screen over our back door, they find their way in and I spend the night mashing bugs that land on me with bare hands. Some are pretty chunky. Eeew.