Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Parting is such...

sweet sorrow when I leave Death Valley National Park. 

It's become a comfort zone for me. The out-worldly landscape, the sunrises and sets, and the miles of hiking devoid of nothing but skittering lizards. It's all good to me. 


Every now and then, I'll actually speak to someone who's even more eccentric than me. It'll usually happen in the Tollroad or Corkscrew bars. Fortunately, like me, they are harmless. 

For example: Larry. He's a smiling black man who wore a yalmulke, a mezuzah, corn row dreads 
and shades. I didn't ask if he was a Member of the Tribe. You know, don't ask, don't tell. His opinions were well grounded in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humans. He was an easy guy to like. He had a German girlfriend. 

His first question to me? "What's this place all about?" I laughed. I think the vastness of Death Valley unnerved him. I suppose it's not for everyone.

Tomorrow, I'll start to move south toward the Mohave Desert Preserve. But first a detour to get Barley the Van checked out by a Ford Dealer. This will be the third opinion from mechanical doctors. There's something just not right with my travel companion. A man knows his van!

Wish us luck. Hopefully, it'll be a quick outpatient surgery. The thought of an overnight stay in Vegas makes my stomach hurt.

Cheers from windy, sunny and mellow Shoshone, CA,

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dispatches from No Cell Phone...

Coverage Valley...

would be an appropriate name for Panamint Valley. Verizon and company has deemed the area as unworthy of a microwave tower. I'm OK with this "No Service" approach to remote.

This desert depression is a short raven's flight west of its famous neighbor-Death Valley National Park. After spending four nights there, I call it Death Valley Lite. There's canyons, mountains, ghost towns, waterfalls, sand, solitude, abandoned mines and one Panamint Springs Resort. 

The PS Resort is the Valley's population center (about 30). When campers and motel guests stay the night, the population quadruples. Naming this crash pad a Resort is sort of a misnomer. Toilets plug up daily, hot showers are problematic, wifi is in name only and litter blows freely throughout the compound. The unofficial slogan of the staff is, "we're not paid enough to care!" 

On the plus side, the restaurant has good bar food, smiling helpers and a beer selection that puts most  Biker Bars to shame. (In other words, heaps more than Coors and Bud Lite). Purchasing an IPA is on the honor system. Choose one of 130 titles from the Winnebago sized cooler, flick its cap and start drinking. Settle up with the bartender when you're done. I like the style. 

I met Evan, a part owner of the spread. He was in his late-twenties, wore camouflage pants, long hair and a beard. His shirt announced "Keep calm and return fire." He was a wealth of information about dirt bike trails but never heard of a canyon of historical significance just fifteen miles away in the National Park. Go figure. 

Ahh! But the views from the campground of the Cottonwood and Panamint Ranges are skip a heartbeat beautiful. Happy Hour sunsets are silently thrilling, except when fighter jets from nearby China Lake Naval Weapons Center flex their might and muscle at sand dune level. Oftentimes, the aircraft are heard but not seen. The fly boys and girls are kind enough to call it quits at nightfall, thus restoring peace in the Valley. 

BTW Thank you pilots for your service to our country. 

The other population center is thirty miles south-the one full time resident ghost town of Ballarat. From 1897-1917, this mining camp/supply center boasted a post office, a Wells Fargo station, a school, a jail, a morgue, three hotels and seven saloons. There wasn't any churches. Now, there's a sign proclaiming the town to be "free." Going so far as to say, it's OK to shoot your gun. 

Freedom has its limits. Don't drive over 15 MPH past the trailers, rusting mining equipment, blue-tarp roof outbuildings and General Store. You can camp there, but it'll cost you $3 a night. Don't forget to give your neighbors a wide berth and stay out of their line of fire. 

Besides being wild and remote, Panamint Valley is just plain out there. I hiked a few canyons, went high along some hills to old mines and spent the rest of my time taking in the views. 

One day, I'll be back to do it over again. I'd even camp at the Panamint Springs Resort. Maybe (touch wood) the plumbing will be repaired.

Cheers from somewhere else out there,

Monday, March 20, 2017

Scenes from a BUSY place..

There's 22 million humans in Southern California. I've never met most of them. I know Brad (brother from another Mother)

 I also know there was World Baseball Classic games in San Diego. That's two reasons to venture to a stupidly crowded landscape. I'll add a third reason to say those mellow Southern Californian Dudes make a very palatable, thirst quenching IPA as well.

To sum up the experience: The baseball was entertaining, the traffic scared me, Brad was fun to hang out with, the prices were earthshaking, the food better than average, the rest and relaxation was sparse, I caught another cold, the women are fit and beautiful, the hiking was non-existent, its 23 hours of noise with a one hour break,  and the weather was cool and clammy damp. 

I'm now a tired sloth. It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live here.

It was a unique week for me, but I'm ready to retreat to quieter places. Wont you take me back to your warm bosom Death Valley National Park?

Wish me luck on my drive...

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Land of Superlatives...

"Hottest, Driest and Lowest" are the oftentimes mentioned descriptors of Death Valley National Park. Those words are imprinted on gift shop T-shirts so it must be true. However, there's so much more to Death Valley. 

It's the largest National Park in the lower 48, contained in the most populated state in the Union, yet, you can find plenty of solitude. A whopping 92% of this stark jewel is designated Wilderness. Thank you, President Clinton. 

Now, I'm at a stage of my life when I see gaggles going right, I'll go left. If you are willing to walk a few miles further up a canyon or mountain (like I am) you'll have it for your own. It's quiet too. 

While I drive the low trafficked byways, I'm constantly scanning the scenery for a canyon or an obscure old road to explore. Oftentimes, the hike will lead me to an abandoned mine, complete with derelict cabins and discarded dreams. Most of the Diggers in DV never struck "pay dirt." I'm guessing making the Big Bucks might have been icing on the cake for these hermits. Many were probably attracted to the silence and the big wide open spaces. Same as us modern day tourists. 

Two of my favorite activities involve sunrises lighting up the Panamint Mountains and sunset Happy Hours while viewing the Amargosa Range. All I have to do is turn my folding chair 180 degrees while holding a hot or cold beverage. The sun does all the rest. It's a dirty retirement job, but someone has to do it.

Cheers from Dana Point, CA. 
Where did all these people come from? 
World Baseball Classic starts manana.
I knew there's a good reason why I'm here.


The last photo is my newest Real Estate scheme. Condos in the Panamints. I'll cut you a great deal.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My latest Fix-er-upper...

Sure it needs a thorough cleaning, but look at its Location! Location! Location!

Property comes with a modern kitchen, library and latest plumbing too. Out buildings are included for the same low price. 

The contorted Cottonwood provides ample shade in Death Valley's tepid summers. This picturesque parcel is just minutes away from the Bright Lights, Big City of Shoshone, CA. 

I'll part with it for a six-pack of Firestone Union Jack IPA. 

Such a deal! Operators are standing by. 

Maybe I should have been a realtor instead of a firefighter...

Happy Sunday!


Here's my itinerary for future Real Estate possibilities. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fido! I don't think...

we're in New Zealand anymore!

And we are not. Me, Barley the Van and my obedient Fido are now ensconced in the Death Valley, California region. En route from Phoenix, I noticed six announcements for upcoming Gun Shows, one "Hillary for Prison" sign, two Confederate flags, and one Harley Davidson rider (sans helmet) sporting a unconcealed pistol on his hip. Just like the mellow vibe of Kiwi-land, only different. 

Ain't America Great Again?

My cycle of life continues...despite a detour to the World Baseball Classic in San Diego, I'll concentrate my efforts on being in the "Big Wide Open." Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Mojave, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Escalante-Grand Staircase and Canyonlands, (not in that order), before I see my pot-smoking friendly home of Colorado again. 

Keep looking in, this ought to be a good roll. As my father Sid (May he RIP) would say, "God Willing!" 

From beautiful Downtown Shoshone, CA (population 31) Goodnight,