Lunch with Zoot Horn Rollo (Aug 8 2016)

Today we are going to Eugene to have lunch with Bill Harkleroad aka Zoot Horn Rollo. Music buffs will know him as the guitarist for Captain Beefheart who played on seminal classics such as Trout Mask Replica. Big Dog was friends with members of the band during his teenage years in Lancaster, California, and some of them, including Zoot Horn Rollo, did the music for his documentary on the pyramids when they all lived in Humboldt County.

Big Dog has not seen Bill for decades – they both left Humboldt in the late 70’s – and so naturally he does not want to be late. We rush out of the campground, drinking our coffee along the way.

It seems that you can camp almost anywhere in Oregon, at least in these forests. I see several cars in turnouts, with tents in the woods. At one, I see people in sleeping bags, right on the ground, tentless.

OfficeCoveredBridge3LowellCoveredBridge1We pass more covered bridges, now spanning different forks of the Willamette River, and make it into Eugene around 11. With time to spare, I navigate us to the University of Oregon, my one-time college of choice. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea in my senior year of high school except I was really into forests then and the idea of living surrounded by forests appealed greatly.

College football fans will know them for their team, the Ducks. (“They’re famous for having the loudest fans,” says Big Dog’s father every time his team, Cal, plays Oregon.) Comedy aficionados may know it as the location for “Animal House.”

DuckCrossing2Lunch is at a cafe on the southern end of town and we get there a few minutes before Bill shows up. He is tall, intelligent and easy going. To me, he does not look like the guy who has done all that original, creative music. I mean, didn’t everything done by Captain Beefheart feel like Creativity on Steroids? He looks more like a…sports coach? He’s open and friendly and fun. Lunch is a gas for everyone, especially the two friends reconnecting after four decades. They trade stories about growing up in Southern California, the 70’s Humboldt scene, how their lives unfolded since then.

“Since you did that music, we expanded the movie and went to Egypt to shoot,” explains Big Dog. “We spent the night inside the Great Pyramid.”

“Did you make any money on the film?”

“Are you kidding? We lost tons of money. But I always tell people that if the movie were as good as the music, it might have gone somewhere.”

Big Dog is no longer making movies but Bill seems to be on a creative roll. He shows us covers from his new albums and promises to send us copies. It’s already after 2pm when we part.

We are haing dinner with Mrs. A, Big Dog’s brother-in-law’s mother who lives in Grants Pass, so we continue south on the I-5. Along the way, we are drawn by a billboard advertising the town of Cottage Grove and its covered bridges, and get off the I-5 for a look.

CottageGrove3

Buster Keaton filmed “The General,” a train wreck movie here, so there are many references to Keaton through the town. The big draw, however, are the covered bridges.

ChambersBridge2CurrinBridge1CurrinBridge3There are 7 or more concentrated in this town and we get the scoop at the visitor’s center. 3 of them are within walking distance — one being the only remaining covered railroad bridge in the West — so we walk to them, not realizing how far they really were — too far for flip-flops anyway and my feet hurt. Plus it is hot. And now, quite late.

On top of that, as well head south, our fuel lamp comes on for the first time. Uh-oh. I had found $2.19 diesel in the town of Roseburg but that was probably too far so we get off at Sutherlin for gas at $2.37.

GiftsfromOregon1
“Gifts from Oregon” along the I-5

It’s actually 6:30 or so by the time we reach Mrs. A’s house. She is as chipper as ever, once again entertaining us with stories about her wacky friends while we have dinner at Taprock. It is getting dark when we say goodbye, without having a clue as to where we will spend the night.

We find a park by the river, away from downtown, in a residential area. Big Dog chats with a couple of joggers about the area.

“Can you ladies tell me what this means?” he points to a sign saying it is unlawful to pass out anything from your vehicle.

“Oh, that’s to discourage pan-handling,” they tell him and they discuss the homeless problem in Oregon. Is there really a huge homeless population here? Or maybe they are not as used to it as Californians?

“Do you think it’s alright to park here overnight?” he asks.

“Sure.”

“I know some people park at Walmart but it’s full of bums and meth freaks there,” another lady adds.

We sit inside Sprockets looking out for a while — it is almost completely dark — when Bailey starts growling. I look out and can barely make out the silhouette of a grazing deer, until another vehicle pulls in and the headlights hit it. Did Bailey see it first? Hear it? Or smell it?

Just when we are ready to go to sleep, someone raps on our door and Bailey starts barking like crazy. It’s a policewoman who tells us we can’t be parked here. “Go to Walmart,” she says, and Big Dog explains how the residents thought it was okay here and how he was told Walmart was filled with bums and other unsavory characters, making us sound like decent folk who just needed a safe place to park for the night. Yeah, like sleeping in your vehicle is what decent folk do! (At least outside a campground.)

I guess I was wrong about “camp anywhere in Oregon.”

We find our way to Walmart – it’s right next to the I-5 – and see that we are not the only boondockers here. There’s a handful of small RVs as well as a couple of big rigs. I don’t see any dangerous types lurking about. They must all be asleep.

Advertisements

Into the Mountains (Aug 6 2016)

In the morning, Bailey walks in to greet J with lots of wiggy-wagging. We’d be wagging, too, for the great coffee and hot showers!

Cleaned up and caffeinated, we are ready to hit Silver Falls State Park, not too far from Salem.

It’s all stunning farmland on the way, with lots of Christmas tree farms.

XmasTreeFarm3

The Park charges $5 to get in and has campgrounds but the campground is full this summer weekend. They don’t allow dogs on the canyon trails — although there were a few people breaking the rules — so Bailey has to stay inside Sprockets while Big Dog and I go on the 5 mile loop that takes you by 7 of the 10 water falls. Some of them you walk under! Deep down in the canyon, it is almost a rain forest, with trees all covered in moss. Once again, I am impressed at how WET Oregon is.

SilverFalls14

This central part of Oregon is heavily forested but you can still see entire hillsides clear-cut of all the trees. (California tends to hide its clear-cut areas from highway viewers.) There are many active mills and you will see a few huge logging trucks as you drive through Oregon.

DetroitDam5

Highway 22 takes us to Detroit, site of a big dam. Oregon has lots of these, too, which makes sense. Lots of rivers, lots of dams, lots of lakes. As you continue towards Bend, winding through the forest, you sometimes get a peek of the snowcapped mountains – most of them one-time volcanoes – Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters… The road goes through Santiam Pass, near the Pacific Crest Trail (450 miles of it run through Oregon and most of the movie “Wild” was shot here), and then to the town of Sisters.

Sisters, a pretty little tourist town deep in the Willamette National Forest, is a mecca for skiing in the winter and has a sort of Aspen feel. The storefronts are 1800’s-ish Western architecture and pretty shops line the main street, lampposts festooned with flowers. It all feels kind of expensive and gentrified.

Sisters4Sisters6

The town of Bend is not too far from Sisters, both in the Deschutes National Forest, but the outskirts of Bend are pretty bland. We are thirsty and stop at the first brewery we see, Bend River Brewery, for a sampler of 7 of their microbrews. One is called “300 days of sunshine” which is a strange name until you find out that Bend is known for its more than 300 days of sunshine.

DowntownBend2
Bend Brewing Co. is in downtown Bend

Downtown Bend is several clean and tidy blocks. We cruise through, looking for a place to eat and settle in at the Bend Burger Co. for dinner. Since we are eating at one of the outdoor tables, Big Dog goes to get Bailey and once again, she is fawned over by locals and visitors. (All over Oregon, I’ve been impressed with how dog-friendly it is. Here in Bend, too, many places have set out water bowls for the animals.) After dinner, it’s a walk around Drake Park along the Deschutes River. It is gorgeous and there are lovely, nicely landscaped (and very expensive-looking) homes on the other side.

DrakePark4

 

A raucous group is pedaling a multi-passenger vehicle through town.

“Like Hobart Brown’s People Powered Bus!”

“If the vehicle were artier, it could be a kinetic sculpture!”

But this is not like any of the kinetic sculptures we’ve seen racing during the Great Arcata to Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race. It is a moving PUB. The passengers are also the engine (and driver?) as well as beer imbibers. Maybe other towns have these Cycle Pub Tours, too, but it seems to be popular in Bend.

cycle-pub-bend-or-3-lr
Not my photo — this one was taken from a site advertising Cycle Pubs

No idea where we are staying but it is too late to look around much so we just drive to a quiet neighborhood and park.

As we stroll around the ‘hood, the noisy Cycle Pub people appear. They are louder and happier than before. I guess with all the cycling, a little alcohol can go a long way.

We’re all ready to settle in for the night but the sudden burst of food in my stomach has woken up my digestive system. Uh-oh. Big Dog tells me there are porta-potties downtown so we start walking, but halfway there, we spot a porta-potty on the corner. There’s construction going on there, so it’s probably for the workers, but it’s after dark, the workers have gone home long ago, the porta-potty is unlocked, and most importantly, I am ready to GO, so without hesitation, I go in and do my business. Big Dog follows.

“You know, we were in the Old Mill section of Bend,” I tell him later. There were some cool bars, restaurants and B&Bs. We never did go into any of them. Just that porta-potty.

 

Heatwave at the Lakes (June 25 2016)

dsc06538Big Dog would be happy to stay in Arcata but we need to get back to the Ranch for the Fruit Season. Unlike last year, we are getting a bumper crop of peaches, nectarines and plums.

“Let’s go through Lake County and check it out,” he suggests.

“Are you sure you want to leave now? The Kate Wolf Music Festival is going on in Laytonville.” I’m imagining huge traffic problems around there.

Thankfully, it was right in the middle of the festival, so attendees were neither coming nor going and we slipped right by.

After filling up at the Coyote Valley Casino (“Howl Yeah!”), we get off 101 to Highway 20 and to the first lake in Lake County: Lake Mendocino.

dsc06524It’s small and pretty but very busy with the summer weekend crowd. Just beyond it, we take a stroll through a tiny, old-timey town, then to Clear Lake about the size of Le Mans in Switzerland. They even have a town called Lucerne on the eastern shore. Unfortunately, it is hellishly hot everywhere.

dsc06529dsc06532We drive around the lake, stopping at a State Park for a look around but all the campgrounds are taken.

“There’s a Walmart nearby,” says Big Dog. We had heard from many RVers about being able to boondock in the Walmart parking lot. Not the most appealing choice, but the easiest.

It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it is quite busy until they close, and then noisy with leaf blowers and street sweepers. It finally quiets down about the time the temps begin to drop and we can finally sleep. I feel like one of those homeless people living out of their car!

 

Boondocking in El Tomatal (March 5 2016)

Goodbye San Lucas!

DSC06002First stop is Santa Rosalia, for cash and food. It’s Saturday and many people are out, eating at yummy looking taco stands, standing around the church (a funeral seems to be in progress) and just enjoying themselves. There is no stop at the El Boleo Bakery, however. (“We won’t get fooled again!”)

DSC06005DSC06007We are nearly out of everything, but while shopping at Ley, we remember the agricultural check at Parallelo 28 so avoid getting much in the way of fruits or vegetables.

The road north of Santa Rosalia is terrible, with the worst potholes. In fact, some have just expanded into dirt/rock road. A wacko driver overtakes a truck at the crest of a hill and nearly runs into us, coming up the other side. Driving is such a thrill out here!

DSC06009Back through the basin behind the Three Virgins volcanoes, then up and down into San Ignacio. As we had promised ourselves on the way down, we go into the town this time.

DSC06013DSC06014Wow! This really is an oasis! The road down to the town is thick with date palms and foliage. There is a lake and things are lush and lovely. When the narrow road reaches town, there’s a pretty plaza with big trees and a church which might be one of the nicest in Baja. It’s more like one of the mainland churches – large, airy and well constructed out of stone.

DSC06015DSC06017

“This should be a Pueblo Magico,” comments Big Dog. All over Mexico, you find towns designated as “Magic Villages.” Some are truly captivating attractive towns while others are…not. Maybe they paid some official for the denomination. Todos Santos carried the nickname although we didn’t feel that much “magic” there. (Santa Rosalia was more “magico” than Todos Santos…) San Ignacio feels better than Todos Santos – like it is more of a real town, somehow.

DSC06024DSC06025Back on Mex 1, we are driving north towards Guerrero Negro. At the military checkpoint, one of the soldiers gets into the vehicle and starts opening cabinets. When he opens the back cabinet, Big Dog’s undies fly out. Good thing he didn’t open the opposite side or my undies would have exploded in his face.

The long, flat stretch before Viscaino is very windy and we get tossed around a bit. Some gusts are strong enough to send poor Sprockets wobbling. On top of that, a bee finds its way into the vehicle and onto Big Dog who gets stung while driving!

DSC06028We want to go back to Antonio’s fish taco truck in Guerrero Negro, but by the time we reach Viscaino, we are starving and stop at the first taqueria, “Señor Taco.” Mr. Taco only has asada and adobada tacos. There’s a tv on the wall playing a popular Saturday variety show. It’s silly and colorful and slapstick – just like a weekend variety show in Japan. We both order one of each kind of taco. They are only P10 each and super taaaaaasty! The best part is the homemade salsa which is full of umami and one of the best tasting salsas we’ve had.

Our hunger is sated, but when we reach Guerrero Negro we go back to Antonio’s anyway. He’s now got a really cute girl working with him.

“So, was it still the best fish taco?” asks Big Dog. On the way down, you thought so, but back then, it was only the second fish taco place we had visited.

“The fish is still awesome, though I like the way the Loreto gals fried theirs. Of course, their fish was different. It was lighter while Tony’s is meatier.”

“If Tony had Señor Taco’s salsa, his would be tops.”

“Or if the Loreto gals had that salsa, they’ve be tops.”

DSC06029Just north of Guerrero Negro is the ag inspection but today, there is no inspection, no spraying of tires. The inspection point looks deserted. Is it because it’s a Saturday? If there was going to be no inspection, we could have bought a bag of oranges. Drats.

DSC06030We are headed to El Tomatal, a beach one of the campers recommended.

“The turnoff is right there at the military checkpoint,” he said, and sure enough, after the “vehicle frisk/pat down” (as I’ve been calling these inspections) and a funny conversation about how to say “buenas tardes” in English, we ask about El Tomatal and they point to a dirt road, partially blocked by their cones.

Not knowing what it is like up ahead, we rattle down the road, passing wild burros and a ranch with some cattle. A ranch hand is there so we ask him if this is the road to the playa. Like, duh, what else is out there?

This dirt road is not too bad and it is short – only about 2.5 miles. As you approach shore, you see dunes in the distance, but just before that, a tiny oasis with a lagoon, palms, grass and clover.

DSC06037Nobody is here, so we just stop in the middle of the road, just before it gets too soft and sandy. There are dunes all around. It feels wilder here. The beach is round rocks, a few shells, but not an overabundance of them, like San Lucas, Bahia Concepcion or even Guerrero Negro. Surf is hard, pounding, rough and rolling. It smells like the Pacific.

DSC06033DSC06032On the highway, we saw purple and white wildflowers but here it is mainly thorny bush and low growing vegetation. It looks like sea asparagus. There are animal prints in the sand but the only creatures we actually see are…ants. Of course.

The setting sun casts a hazy glow. Not a bad place to boondock for a night.

End of Day Miles: 2347.3 mi

DSC06038

Pot Holy Land (Feb 6 2016)

DSC05331First it was very quiet… then the party gang showed up. We had watched 2 episodes of House of Cards on the iPad and were in bed by then. One group parked right next to us and there was loud mariachi music and squealing girls cutting the quiet night to shreds. The boys sang along to the music. It must have been a CD because they would skip through songs to their favorites. But why bother? It’s all the same song!

The manager of Molino Viejo who had come out to greet us last night had suggested we park further back, rather than waterfront for this very reason but at that time, it seemed so unlikely.

Other cars arrived and it got quite loud but strangely, I fall dead asleep. Mariachi Dreamland! In fact, I slept so hard I didn’t even know when they all left.

In the morning, the boat trucks begin arriving early to launch. I also hear gunshot from the waterfowl hunters. Time to get up and see what the place looks like.

DSC05332It’s a small bay within a bay. Across the water is the tip of the peninsula that curves around the bay – it’s lined with small volcanic cones. There are birds, shining water, and…quiet. AND in the boat truck parking lot, what do we find but PORTA-POTTIES! Yay!

DSC05335After some decent coffee and mediocre pastries from that Ensenada supermarket, we are off, back down the dirt road. Construction is going on in one part and Big Dog has to pass the big truck with millimeters to spare. Near the highway, a black dog barks and chases Sprockets but Big Dog suddenly stops, rolls down his window and shouts “Go home!” It does! That cracks me up. “Go home” must be universal dog language – all the dogs on our ranch understand what it means.

DSC05337The highway hugs the coast for a while – there are nice, long, surfable waves. It turns inland at El Rosario, a tiny town where we fill up on Mexican diesel. In Mexico, there is only one automotive fuel company: Pemex, which is government-owned. So no matter where you get gas, it’s the same price. Also, because it is not a private business, they don’t really care if you use their facilities without buying gas. We’ve also heard other travelers saying that you can always park overnight at a Pemex station. They are well-lit, (mostly) manned places, thus, relatively safe. Here, I fill up the plastic water cube with water from their outdoor tap.

The road keeps going further inland where it is deserty but very green right now with lots of cacti and desert shrubs. It’s spring and the tall cirios are leafy and flowering. These plants, also known as boojum trees, are native to this region. Tall and tapering, they might split into two or more “fingers” near the top. They are a member of the ocotillo family and have similar flowers at the top of the taper.

The yuccas are flowering and the palo verdes are…verde. There are big multi-armed cacti, cholla, big barrel cacti with red spines, a small flame-colored multi-armed cacti, thick sprawly cacti, things that look like Joshua trees but are not (they are datilillo.)

DSC05339Near Cataviña, the boulders appear. Big, rounded boulders. In some areas, there are mountains of piled up boulders.

“Someone left his toys out…”

“Wouldn’t it be cool to shoot a movie here about the Boulder Zombies?”

“Instead of blood or brains, they want your water!”

“And once quenched with all the water in your vehicle and body, they start growing mossy!”

DSC05352It is terribly windy up here – we are on a high plateau – and the road is super narrow with no shoulders. It is freaky passing anything, especially a big truck or bus. Instinctively, we both squeeze our knees together to make ourselves smaller.

That’s not the only hazard. The road is riddled with potholes. Some are gigantic. Some parts are so densely potholed, you have to pick your poison.

“This is Pot Holy Land,” says Big Dog.

“Ruled by the Great Potholio!”

“I feel like I’m piloting the Millenium Falcon through the asteroid mine field,” Big Dog references Galaxy Quest. I don’t know if in the movie it was an asteroid field or star mine field. Either way, I’m glad Big Dog is amazingly adept at this.

“White knuckle driving,” he says, showing me his sweaty hands.

This can’t be easy, not even for the Natural Born Driver.

At many points, the road will take a “dip” which is usually but not always announced by the “vado” sign – two vertical lines with three wavy horizontal lines in the middle – and in one vado, there is water running and date palms. It’s a real desert oasis!

DSC05356
NOT a Pemex Gas Station

We stop in the middle of Boulder Town for a lunch of granola and milk, then continue to the turnoff to Bahia de Los Angeles. Down this road, there are more cirios, cordón cacti and elephant trees. The elephant trees are short trees with smooth, wavy, tapering branches.

DSC05361Down, down, down to the coast we go, with layers of mauve mountain ranges in the distance, until we get to Bahia de Los Angeles. It’s the Sea of Cortez out there!

It’s kind of a ghost town. There’s not much to the “town” – a couple of stores, restaurants, hotels which don’t look like they are operating. A long sandy beach curves along the bay from town to Punta La Gringa.

Thinking we’ll “explore” the town a bit, we drive south but there is next to nothing there.

“This is Nurio North,” I sigh. Nurio was the zombie town next to Cocucho where they make cocuchas, the giant pottery storage urns. Nurio not only had nothing to offer, every building was shuttered and you would have thought it deserted if not for the one or two zombie-like indigeños standing or squatting in the street.

DSC05364Striking out on the south side, we go north, towards Punta La Gringa. Long ago, an American woman tried to build a campsite there, unsuccessfully. Could have been a hurricane, or finances, or boredom. Maybe she ran off with someone. We hear it’s a free camp today. And the road out there is newly paved.

Along the way, there are many other camp sites. “Daggett’s” is well advertised, but there are many others, too, offering showers, boats, and so on.

DSC05367When we get to La Gringa, we see one other RV there but closer up we see that it is either unoccupied or abandoned. There’s a shack that looks lived in, but no one is there. We find a spot behind this shack, on the other side of the knoll, where it feels a bit more protected from the wind, because it is very windy here. The entire area is deserted except for birds on shore and on the water, and a fleet of dolphins I momentarily espy.

Huddled in hoodies, we stroll the bay. There are hundreds of red starfish on shore.

“Starfish Varanasi? Do they come here to die?” wonders Big Dog.

DSC05368There are also lots of clam shells and birds picking at clams. It is lowtide and I want to get the shovel and start digging for clams in the tidal muck but it’s too chilly. We also come across remnants of the RV park – crumbling concrete pads, outhouses.

Back near the knoll, there’s a new truck.

“Hola!” we yell and a man comes out.

We ask if it’s alright to camp here and he says, of course, but it’s very windy. No shit.

DSC05375It’s a meager dinner of leftovers from LA with the last of the leftover wine, but the night is full of stars. And quiet.

End of Day Miles: 433.5 mi

DSC05374

The Old Mill (Feb 5 2016)

It got even colder in the early morning. Hopefully Baja will be warmer, but just in case it isn’t, we borrow an extra blanket from B who makes great coffee and even breakfast: seeded bread, fried eggs, sausage… T is out for her treatment and doesn’t get back until about 10:30 so it’s kind of a late start towards the border but the word is that noon is the best time to cross anyway.

DSC05309The border crossing at Tijuana? Unbelievably relaxed! You park for a moment while one of the customs officers looks through the RV, asking a few questions: Alcohol? (a big plastic bottle of vodka) Cigarettes? (one new carton) Drugs? (of course not) Medicine? (aspirin. “Just aspirin?” yep.) Pets? (nope) It was not a terribly thorough search and the vehicle did not get x-rayed like some travelers have told us theirs did.

After that, we go to Aduano (the immigration/customs office) to get our visas. You fill out forms, pay for the visa which is good for 120 days (US$23 or M$390 each), then get the form stamped. The whole process takes less time than it does to get through immigration at an airport because there are so few people.

DSC05311

Road signs are such that traffic is directed onto the toll road but we manage to find the free road. Navigating through Mexico can be tricky, but not for this Natural Born Navigator!

Topes (speed bumps) replace stop signs in many part of Mexico, but in Baja there are fewer topes and more stop signs, many which appear out of nowhere, or are posted in unfamiliar places so you have to be careful when you drive.

DSC05315

Rosarito seems busier and more built up than when we were last here in 2010 and it is a bit of a slog to get through. On the other side, the road goes inland, then through some nice green valleys around La Mision, then back to the coast at Ensenada.

DSC05316

DSC05314

Ensenada seemed so dead when we were there with Big Dog’s father all those years ago. Today, it is a bit like Cancun (not the hotel zone, but the actual town) – busy, messy and colorful. At one intersection, a man waves us to eat at their shop and since there’s parking right in front, we go in for some shrimp and fish tacos as we enter the town. After that, a drive through the even busier Centro to get pesos from a Banamex ATM (exchange rate is about P18:$1), a supermarket for juice and pastries and then back on the road.

DSC05318

The road goes inland again. This is the edge of Baja’s wine country and there are dozens of wineries throughout this beautiful green valley.

DSC05320DSC05321

Because of the late start, it’s starting to get dark but we push on, sometimes fighting strong gusts. By the time we get to Camalu, the road is at the coast and we can see the sun beginning to set as we drive through San Quintín. Where the heck are the RV parks? Dusty dirt roads lead to land’s edge, but which one to take?

Before we know it, the sun is gone and we are in Lazaro Cardenas. Huh? Did we miss all the signs? Big Dog u-turns back to San Quintín and to a Pemex gas station where someone who tells him about a turn off at a sign to Molino Viejo. Back in Lazaro Cardenas we do see a sign to Don Eddie’s RV park that we had read about on someone’s blog. The sign to Molino Viejo is just up ahead.

A dirt road goes a few kilometers to land’s end and Molino Viejo (Old Mill), a restaurant. Just before it is another RV park, but Big Dog doesn’t think it looks very appealing.

“We need to eat anyway, so why don’t we go to the restaurant and ask if we can park in their lot over night,” he says.

DSC05322The restaurant is all wood and high ceilings and ship helms. It’s divided into restaurant section and bar section, with a handful of customers in each.

Since they tell us it’s alright to park overnight, we go into the main dining area. This is a much fancier place than we normally frequent but the staff are laid back and friendly.

We have cold beers, a salad of lettuce, black olives, purple onions and queso fresco with a strange fruity dressing, a pasta soup (gratis) and their specialty, molcajete de mariscos. Molcajetes are the stone mortars they use in Central America for grinding grains and are made of porous basalt. Our dish is a tasty creamy seafood stew in a piping hot molcajete. Apparently the molcajete stays hot for a really long time due to its high thermal mass. Our stew was bubbling for a long time! What a terrific meal to start off our Baja Adventure!

DSC05326It’s dark outside now and we can’t really see what the bay looks like. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

End of Day Miles (from San Diego): 204 mi.

Honeymoon Revisited (Apr 22 2014)

BryceCyn80.JPGUtah’s an hour earlier than California but Arizona is the same time zone. It gets confusing as you cross the state borders again and again.

In the morning, we go up to Sunrise Point, and then to Sunset Point. Big Dog didn’t want to walk the Big Loop so we decide to just do the Navajo trail.

BryceCyn60.JPGBryceCyn61.JPGBryceCyn63.JPGBryceCyn66.JPGBryceCyn68.JPG

You can see it’s hard to stop taking photos!

BryceCyn62.JPGToday, it’s hoards of Koreans on buses and later, Chinese speakers (who also spoke decent English so maybe they were Malaysian or Singaporean or from Hong Kong.)

BryceCyn74.JPG“Wall Street,” a part of the trail, is closed til “spring.” Guess it’s not quite “spring” yet up here. That’s too bad, because it’s a narrow trail squeezed between walls of hoodoos and would have been pretty cool.

BryceCyn69.JPGThe Navajo trail switchbacks down steeply. Most of the mineral is red tinged with iron oxide but you see veins of yellow, indicating a presence of sulfur oxide. If you see green or blue it means there’s copper in the rock. Our geology knowledge and vocabulary are growing with every trip we take.

Coming back up from the trail, we run into the Swiss Family we met at Death Valley. They’d been to Monument Valley, Capitol Reef, Escalante and Kodachrome Basin.

“Yes, it is really great,” they said of Escalante and Kodachrome Basin, so after leaving the park we head that way, but it soon gets extremely windy. Gusts and gales are buffeting poor Sprockets as we stop at the Cannonville Visitors Center to get more information. Dust is swirling outside.

road2Cannonville1.JPG“Yeah, let’s save it for another time,” we say and go back towards Red Canyon and then beyond to Kanab.

road2Cannonville3.JPGBryceMossCave6.JPGDriving through the wind is no fun but the ride to Kanab is not too long. The road takes you through a beautiful long valley, pretty ranches on either side. Spring has just come and the tiny new leaves on branches give trees a feathery neon glow.

Kanab is where Big Dog and I spent our “honeymoon.” It was actually BEFORE the wedding because we wanted to get married on the summer solstice and Big Dog had to go to Europe for a shoot immediately after that.

I can’t remember much about that trip except for dancing in the Coral Dunes and spending a night in the “Joey Bishop Room.” Big Dog remembered how the road wound through the town of Kanab.

We stop at Little Hollywod, a shop with a “museum” out back with different movie props and sets. Kanab was the center of the Western film genre locations and the hotel where we spent our honeymoon was the Parry Lodge where the film crews stayed.

“What if it’s all dilapidated? I’ll be so sad,” I say, wondering if we should just keep it as a memory. But there it is, in the middle of town, looking spiffier than ever. The cabin and the very room where we stayed are still there, looking somehow nicer than I remembered.

Any other couple would have stayed there again, but being more frugal than romantic, we just cruise through the lobby and dining room, snapping a few photos of the autographed pictures on display.

Kanab11.JPG

After picking up some gas and groceries, washing the produce in the produce prep/work area at the supermarket (nobody said a thing) we go towards Jacob’s Lake.

It’s lower in elevation and warmer. Off in the distance are the giant “steps” of Escalante’s many eras. White cliffs gleam from the afternoon sun peeking through clouds. This is the Land of Gods. Brigham Young and Joseph Smith must have surely felt that God led them to this incredible land.

Who says age can’t produce great beauty?

From Kanab, Sprockets sprints across prairie land and into the Kaibab Forest. It looks thinned out – there are lots of stumps and burned trunks. Although there are a couple of big RVs, Jacob’s Lake is a CLOSED campground. Luckily, we find trailhead up ahead, with parking for horse trailers. With an unlocked pit toilet, too!

KaibabCamp4.JPG