I think it's time to tell the truth. Some of you have probably already figured out that this trip can't possibly be the walk in paradise, bowl of cherries, bed of roses I've been making it out to be. So I may as well share a few examples of things that have NOT gone right on this trip which is now into its seventh week.
Just after my last posting, we had to be towed from Joshua Tree National Park when Sweet Surrender's water pump broke down on a long climb to a viewpoint.
We were happy to discover a cell phone signal (rare in this park) and glad to have a roadside assistance plan to bail us out. Still, we waited almost three hours for a tow truck and, being a Sunday, of course no repair facility was open. The silver lining (there's always one) was that we got permission to spend the night camped in the secured lot of the repair facility and we were granted an early Monday morning appointment. The estimate included labor charges of $90.00 per hour (ouch!) but we were able to reduce the overall cost of the repair substantially by purchasing the parts ourselves at a nearby AutoZone store.
Speaking of costs, you've probably been waiting to hear me mention the high cost of fuel. We saw the highest gas price (so far) this week: $4.85 per gallon at Roy's Cafe on Historic Route 66 in Amboy. Of course, there are no other services for many, many miles in any direction. We didn't pay that price since we had just fueled at $4.05 (more typical of the prices we've been paying on this trip so far.)
Although California seems to have the highest fuel prices in the whole continental USA, we're consoled by the fact that, after the conversion, fuel prices here (other than in Amboy) are still consistently lower than in Canada.
We encountered a snake!
Don't worry, it wasn't a rattlesnake or even a sidewinder - not sure what kind. As we move into summer, our chances of encountering a poisonous desert snake do increase. A few more weeks from now we'll be moving to higher ground ourselves but, for the time being, we're extra cautious and extra noisy so as to warn them of our approach whenever we're hiking.
What about all those pretty photos of the desert in bloom? How deceiving is that? We all know the desert is full of ugly, mean, nasty, thorny plants. In this photo, Randy's "making nice" with a cholla cactus but, in truth, Randy and chollas hate each other. Why just last week he stepped off the trail and was "jumped" by one. It's not the first time these hitchhikers chose Randy for their ride.
This cactus is sometimes called a "jumping cholla" because it drops barbed segments which end up attached somehow (do they actually jump?) to the unsuspecting traveler's shoes, socks, or pant leg.
I may as well confess, as well, that sometimes, when you see photos of us, they aren't exactly natural. Sometimes we do "pose" for the photo and, when we mention "It's for my blog," we often find others are willing to pose too.
What about all those scenic free campsite photos? Yes, you've caught me there too. I only post the photos of the prettiest places we camp. Last week, we ended up camped on a dusty dry lake bed - not very pretty at all. It was a convenient free location on our route and a good place to do some van maintenance. However, if not for the topic of this blog, I would NOT be posting this photo.
Speaking of telling the truth and "getting real".....This week we attended a Reality Challenge, a cancer fundraising event, in Temecula, where various "stars" (former reality show competitors) teamed up with others to race through various tasks that had been set up throughout the city. For us, the event turned into a Reality Check when we realized we had triggered our stress levels by venturing closer to the big cities of San Diego and Los Angeles than we would like. On our way out of the city, the traffic was horrendous!
How did we end up in Temecula - doesn't appear to be a natural part of our desert route. You probably won't believe this but we actually spent three days last week (right after the water pump incident) at a posh RV resort. How we ended up there and our thoughts on the experience are topics for a whole other blog ... stay tuned.
And what about the weather? From my previous blogs you would think it has been sunny and warm EVERY day of this trip. Not true! In Joshua Tree the nights dipped below freezing. During one hike, strange white stuff fell from the sky for a few minutes and actually began to accumulate on the ground!
The worst part about the weather in the southwest, at this time of year, is the wind. They actually have a name for "her" - Mariah. What a pretty name! But, at least once a week, Mariah picks up, sometimes to highway speeds. During the day, vista views are hazy and, when she blows at night, we feel like little babies, rocked to sleep in our snug little camper, while we worry about our tenting neighbors and wonder if they're getting any sleep at all.
Having mostly sunny clear days has its downfalls too. Have you noticed a distinct lack of sunset photos on this blog? Without a few clouds, sunsets just aren't as pretty. We finally captured a great one this week at Amboy Crater.
Rain can be really bad if, like us, you're camped down desert dirt roads. Luckily, at this time of year, there's very little chance of it. A few weeks ago, we did get a sprinkling of rain - just enough to produce this splendid double rainbow, spanning the entire sky, directly over our campsite.
Despsite the "hardships" of the trip (which I'm glad I finally "fessed up" about), we know we are extremely fortunate and very thankful to be able to live the life we're living.
Happy Easter, everyone!
Days On The Road At Time Of Writing: 49
Camping Costs To Date: $70.00