Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Years in the Slabs!

It was definitely about time to meet up again with some NuRVers and New Year’s Eve seemed the appropriate time. It was a year ago NYers Eve that we first connected with this fun group & we’d had quite the time all year meeting up with the different peeps we met at our month long rendezvous in Quartzsite, AZ. We were sad that Kev & Angie (the founders) couldn’t join us but Sam & Tracy and Maria & Brian were committed and Slab City was the perfect place for this group of derelicts to congregate. Maria & Brian had connected with Cheddar Yeti (Jeanette & Dennis) & they were coming too! We had all invited friends (non-rvers) to join  in the fun so between 12/29-12/31 we slowly assembled a fine group of revelers.  And talk about assembling! Jeanette & Dennis’ friends arrived with a truckload of plywood, a huge wooden frame & a bolt of some gorgeous turquoise chiffon material. We sat there, drinks in hand, watching them construct what was to be the highlight of our evening. But I digress,  I first must comment on the expedition to Slab City.

The last few days preparing to leave Palm Desert were a whirlwind – you’d think that because we’d known for 2 ½ months when we were leaving that we would prepare a little better, but NO! As usual, we had a ton of last minute shopping to do, mail orders to be made & dining coupons to use. Not to mention packing up after such a long stay in one spot. We did have a good time there, different for sure, but time spent with family means so much and will have to hold me for about a year…

Now if you recall, on our fateful trip to Pahrump a year ago we came out of a parking lot a little screwy & ended up with a broken bottle of olive oil all over the carpet. Post Burning Man we pulled up the carpeting & now have beautiful wood floors – the perfect place for a soy sauce incident! Oy the Soy! So upon our arrival to the Slabs we had several hours of clean up, thankfully, no carpeting to worry about but our catalytic heater was covered in it. Bill’s wonderful ADD tendencies had him painstakingly taking it all apart and cleaning up every little piece of it, including the “plates”. We weren’t sure if it would ever work again & just a little scared to fire it up without a fire department close at hand. Several days later we did just that, though, and aside from smelling just a bit like a Chinese restaurant for awhile, it worked great!

Salvation Mountain is at the entrance to Slab City and really sets the tone for the whole place. We visited here in November just to see what it was all about and the pictures just don't do it justice - here are a few pics of our friend Cindy (from Orange County) who joined us for NYers eve.

Maria & Brian’s friends, Kevin & Molly (with a truckload of firewood!), came from AZ and we found out Jenn and Johnny of ”Hitek Homeless” fame were parked close by & they came over to join in the fun. I had ordered glow-in-the-dark eye glasses for everyone & Maria & Brian brought these huge sparklers and the fun ensued; we all ended up at “The Range” for music and dancing - another memorable NYers eve on the road! 

Slab City reminds me of a real-life Burning Man. People of all ages, walks of life and living styles congregate together on this huge abandoned military base. This area was featured in the movie “Into the Wild”. There are no services out there – no water, electricity, plumbing, trash pick up – nada, nothing! They have a huge problem with trash but that does not take away from it’s appeal, at least to us. People are incredibly friendly and welcoming.  Most nights there is live music at one camp or another, with bonfires and even balloon makers. We were very lucky to connect with Jenn and Johnny as they had spent a lot of time here and knew where things were “happening”.
An area started by a burner named Charlie with a vision of making art out of the trash found at the slabs.

It was amazing how much there was to do and see in this area. Two large stage venues for music (plus all of the other impromptu spots), 2 libraries, an 18 hole “desert” golf course, numerous trips to “East Jesus”, the Oasis camp where one can get breakfast, lots of amazing conversation and even a hot spring.

Now, the latter we had heard and read about and from the descriptions we thought we might pass, but then we met Bob and Sini! Half our group had departed by then and Bill and I were sitting at our campfire when he noticed that someone was out walking with a flashlight and appeared to be looking for something. We went over to help and met Sini who had lost her reading glasses. I mentioned that I had recently lost my headlamp and guess what, they had found one. At that moment her hubby Bob called out that he had found her glasses and we all went back to their rig – I was sooooo happy to retrieve my fav headlamp! Now just a few days before our friends left they had met Bob & Sini and invited them to join our campfire,  Maria had commented that they seemed fun – and lucky for us, our paths were meant to cross. They had been full-timing ~6 months, out of Seattle, both retired and around Bill’s age – and they loved hot springs! We had so much in common and became fast friends. We met the following morning for a nice long walk at sunrise for our first dip in the hot springs– and YAY, so glad we made it there. We ended up extending our stay several days just to go again and have fun with our new friends. 
After 10 days it was time to restock our propane and dump our tanks. We will surely be back – and next time, for longer!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fun in Palm Desert

My parents have vacationed and/or lived in Palm Desert for most of my life but I have never been to Desert Hot Springs. The RV parks there are considerably less expensive than the parks in Palm Desert and the reviews of them sound pretty good but to hear the people in PD talk about this place you'd think it was the crime capital of the world. They are known for their hot springs, though, and Bill and I started our research on where to visit. The choices run the gamut from the "mom & pop" 50's style to the L.A. free love all night party type (yes, Bill definitely wanted to see what that was all about!) to the new-age, mellow kind of spa that was really more our type (yes, really!). We chose the Living Waters Spa which is in a converted 70's motel called the Kismet Lodge - it's clothing-optional and small, with only one hot-tub, a pool, sauna, two massage rooms, a communal room and the most wonderful staff around. They offer a "Sunday Special" which consists of a 75 minute couples massage, all day soak and happy hour drinks and appies. Now I have been lucky enough to have had a trillion massages in many different places but NO WHERE have I EVER had a massage like this. I can't really say more than that except we came back and will continue to whenever we are in the area.
Big Bear is only about 1 1/2 hours away and there lived Bill's roommate from his USAFA days - I have been hearing him speak about Bobby Anderson for years now and it was finally time for us to take a little drive to visit him; and of course what's a day trip all about without a little detour to the local brewery?! Big Bear reminded me a lot of Tahoe, which I sorely miss, and we were lucky to enjoy a little snow storm while there. It's a cute little town I could live in.

We did a little golfing in PD - we are truly "duffers" but we know how to have fun! This was just one of my amazing drives of the day:

We managed to attend the "La Quinta Blues & Brews Festival" which was a great day of sunshine, beer and excellent music!

We were lucky to see a few friends while in town & as always had a great time making new ones on our trip to Idyllwild - another fabulous town we must go back to. We did a little restaurant/bar hopping and ended up at a wine bar where we met two great couples; one of which we followed to another hot spot in town playing Celtic music. At the end of the evening we exchanged contact info & they actually checked out our blog & found out we had even more in common than we thought - they're "burners" too! 
We will definitely be heading back up the mountain to spend more time with them! 

Utah National Parks Whirlwind Tour - by Bill

After a wonderful visit to Orvis Hot Springs it was time to head back through Utah, stopping for the first time to visit several of the National Parks there. We started by visiting Moab, a small town on the Colorado River that’s home to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. We stayed at Ron’s Pack RV park on the south end of town. Ron’s is a rustic spot but has all the amenities and Ron, though a bit chatty, was full of good tips on how to spend our short time there. He suggested seeing the sunset from Island in the Sky @Canyonlands NP, so that became our first objective.

First stop though was at the Moab Brewery, where we had some yummy burgers and excellent craft beers. Best was the Scottish Ale, of which we should have bought much more.

 After lunch we headed to the north end of town and took the road along the Colorado River surrounded by towering cliffs of Navajo Sandstone to see the campgrounds there. We stayed on the road for about 15 miles and wound up at a Vineyard that Ron had told us about, unfortunately, the bar was closed so there were no cocktails or wine to be had. This area is where many westerns were filmed back in the day, and the restaurant was filled with photos of well-known actors in scenes from the movies they filmed here.

Next it was up to the mesa known as Island in the Sky. The drive up was spectacular with incredible views of mesas, cliffs, and vistas beyond compare. We stopped here and there to take in the sights, then headed to the Grand View Point to take in the sunset. We hiked along the cliffs overlooking Canyonlands NP which rivals the Grand Canyon for their beauty and size. The sun was getting low and the shadows and colors playing on the canyons below were amazing. We got to Grand View Point just as the sun was sinking below the horizon and were blessed with one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

The next day we were off to see the Arches. What a surreal place that is. The arches were pretty cool, but the whole park was filled with unique landscapes carved from the sandstone laid down millions of years ago when this place resembled today’s Sahara Desert. We took a couple of short hikes to see some of the Park’s famous sights and scared ourselves by looking down from the cliffs we were perched on top of. We saw several rock climbers scaling the towers in the park and it’s beyond me how they can do that.

Our next stop was Zion National Park outside of St George Utah. We camped overnight at Walmart (our first Walmart camping) and drove in to the park in the car. This park is basically a valley like Yosemite with steep cliffs and towering mountains all around. They have buses to take tourists through the park so we hopped on board and took in the spectacular scenery. We took a couple of hikes and on one, stopped to sit in the grass in a sunny spot to enjoy our lunch. Just another magical day on the road to nowhere in particular.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Colorado Hot Springs

September 29, 2011
We went to bed on Thursday night  with great intentions to get up early, go the Garden of the Gods and watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, getting out of bed in time to make that happen proved a bit too challenging, so we slept in and started working on a backup plan. Having set “visiting hot springs” as one of our top priorities for our travels, we set about searching for springs not too far from Colorado Springs. Turns out there are many, but the one that caught Debby’s eye was Valley View Hot Springs, about 40 minutes south of Salida, CO, which made it a 3-ish-hour drive from the Academy. On paper, the place sounded terrific. In person, it was awesome.

The journey there and back was just a bit longer than our stay. First stop on the way out was Safeway, where we restocked on Chaka Ummmm sauce, our favorite steak marinade. Ate those steaks tonight with cousin Rick. It would have been fun to have had them with us last night so we could have stayed longer at the hot springs. They have a huge kiosk with multiple grills and a fire pit that also has a grill, where we suspect much mingling occurs at night.

It was the perfect day for a drive through the mountains. From a distance, we saw towering peaks that seemed forever away and in the end we wound up in the foothills on the other side of them. It’s been a delayed fall it seems this year, but as the sunsets get earlier, the trees put on their show in spite of the warm weather. The mountainsides were awash in the glory of autumn; a perfect harmony of colors. We followed the Arkansas River through the Big Horn Canyon without seeing any big horn sheep, but we did see a lot of people—rafting in shallow water and fly fishing for the ever elusive trout.

Let’s get to the good part—the hot springs. Wow. Many times during our visit, we both said, “this is the best yet.” Picture yourself a few hundred feet up the side of a mountain, facing west, sitting in a shallow, gravel-bottomed pool looking out over a valley with a range of snowcapped 14,000 footers on the other side. Magnificent storm clouds over the distant mountains (but not over ours) made the afternoon sky vibrant. It was truly magical.

The spring’s source is about 300 feet above the entrance to the hot springs. There are a series of pools along the hillside that get warmer as you move up the hill and closer to the source. I think there are other “sources” downhill from what they call the “top pool” but in any case there are a good half dozen or more soaking pools that are built in the stream that flows from the top. Water temperature was not too hot in any of the pools, in fact I would have liked it hotter in the lower pools. All the pools had spectacular views and we found ourselves all alone, which is always nice. From the top pool, formed by a dam in the outflow near the source, you can look down and see three smaller pools cascading below, and the valley and mountains in the distance. When the sun set, it was clear that it was worth the drive. Can’t wait to go back and spend the night.

For our RV-ing friends, there’s about 7 miles of dirt road to get to the springs. Not the worst we’ve been on, but I wouldn’t take my rig there, mostly because there’s not really any space for a big rig at the resort. Class C would be okay. We saw some there. There are a lot of RV parks nearby though, and some BLM land that you may be able to park on. Also, some incredible tent camping sites within crawling distance of the pools.

October 12, 2011
It just keeps getting better. On our way from Colorado Springs to Palm Desert, we took a small detour to visit Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway, Colorado. Ridgway is located between Montrose and Ouray at the foot of the towering San Juan Mountains. The setting was incredible. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day and we were surrounded by the snowcapped peaks of the San Juans. The hot springs were just off Highway 550.

These springs were much more developed than the ones at Valley View. They had pea-sized gravel bottoms and the pools had concrete and stone walls that offered plenty of places to sit. The landscaping was very nice and there were several lounge chairs scattered about the lawn where you could chill, away from the pools. The large pool was about 4-5 feet deep and had a pipe waterfall on one end. I tried sitting under the fall, but the water was probably about 110° to 112° and it was hard to stay under it for long. This pool was by far the most popular and it seemed there were a lot of people there for the middle of the week. At noon the water was about 100° but it warmed up gradually throughout the afternoon. Sitting on the north side of the pool afforded awesome views of the mountains through trees afire with the colors of autumn.

There were several other pools on the grounds, including one that was connected to the large pool and had a cooler waterfall and a muddy bottom. The hot pool was super hot at about 110°. It was smallish with room for only 2 or 3 people. It was next to the sauna, which we didn’t use. There were two other pools that were smaller and shallow, one of which was for smokers.

The lodge had nice showers, lockers, and a kitchen for use by guests. We used the kitchen to heat up our chicken quesadillas and were told by one of the employees on our way back to our lounge chairs to be careful not to break our dish. I’m so glad he told us that or I probably wouldn’t have been careful. Dooh!

Colorado 2011

What a fabulous place to HAVE to go visit family, ha ha! Last year Bill's family had a big reunion in Colorado Springs - Bill hadn't seen most of his relatives in 30 years! We had a blast & found out we had a lot in common with his cousin Becky, who is now known as Rebecca... She is about my age and just recently married a guy who is Bill's age & he just happens to also be Jewish. We really had fun with them and definitely wanted to see them again and spend more time together; luckily for us with our lifestyle it's a pretty easy thing to arrange. 
They live in the Snowmass area in Aspen, up a windy, curvy road that definitely put Bebe to the test. Parking Bebe was a huge issue, and we eventually were ticketed but cousin Rebecca pulled her magical strings and got it taken care of. We stayed at their lovely home with their cute dogs, spent hours, cooking, shmoozing, and getting to know each other. We took a long drive out to their cabin along some great river in a beautiful area, the guys fished & Bill pulled a beauty out of the water - Andy put it on his smoker & it was yummy. 

Next we were off to Golden, CO for more visiting - this really happens to be my favorite part of rv-ing, meeting up with family and friends everywhere...

We were very excited to hook up with our Quartzsite NuRVer friends Kev & Angie, & Maria & Brian who were all converging in the Denver area. We had spent a little bit of time in Golden in 2010 visiting our Tahoe friend & Bill's co-worker, Jake, who had moved there and we really loved the town. We stayed in a great little city-run campground that was right on the river, walking distance into town & around the corner from the big city rec center - and oh, did I mention, stumbling distance from the GOLDEN CITY BREWERY?! 

Love, Love, Love Golden...met up with the NuRVers at the brewery & then for all you can eat pizza, much fun ensued...visited Kev & Ang at their campsite for a BBQ & discovered a new & improved way to make s'mores - must toast & melt the choc on the graham first!! Got to see Jake again & then off to CO Springs to stay at the famcamp at USAFA, Bill's alma mater....

We had some amazing fun with cousins, Mike, Gaye and Rick - lots of pool playing time with Rick! Maria & Brian met us again to sample a few breweries. 
The Air Force Academy rv campground was beautiful & except for the constant train whistles it would be the best ever...loved their gym & they had yoga classes every day. We got together with Bill's classmates TJ in the Denver area & Chuck & Shelly in CO Springs, he also got to see classmate & former Phillipines roomate Gary Grant who was visiting from Albuquerque - I got to see the cadets marching & even attended High Holiday services at the Jewish chapel on site. Bill visited a friend's grave there and found a golf ball on it! We'll be back next year for sure as it's Bill's 40th reunion!