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The Big Trip: Week Two

It's Monday and I'm just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona where it is not spring. There's snow on the ground, and I have a heater running at my feet to keep my and my van's pipes from freezing. I started a watercolor last night, this time using good paper...I've not done that before and so expect it to be more forgiving. Speaking of forgiving, Dakota (dog) would prefer more sniffing and less driving, so today's trek is only 100 miles.

Day one: I have to say that so far, the Homol'ovi State Park outside of Winslow Arizona is a cake topper. I could have spent the entire month there and still not had enough. The park is rustic, meaning that if you're not in to walking through a desert as far as the eye can see, it may not be for you. I would liked to have missed the storms as I'm sure it's a wonderful site for star gazing, but I'm not going to make that a wish as the desert sorely needs rain.

The park could use some volunteer help. The showers were clean but tiles were missing and the doors could use a coat of paint. I could tell that the rangers did their best as the campground and desert were pristine. No trash anywhere. On our way out of the park, we visited the Homol'ovi One and Two trails, which you can find here. Again, the sites were clean, but could use some volunteer love. Maybe on my next set of trips, I'll contact the parks and see if they could put me to work. Another way to give thanks.

Thanks to Trevor Huxham for this photo. Homol'ovi ancestral grounds, Winslow AZ.

Day two: We spent the night at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, Arizona. Most of the snow had melted from the previous storm, but there were still freeze warnings and so rather than hook up to their water, we just used what we carried. We did hook up to power and gave my little ceramic heater a workout. And...I have a dog, nature's heating blanket.

Our next stop was Kingman, AZ. Rather than take I-40, I decided to get my kicks on Route 66. I'm old enough to remember what that meant as my parents loved to travel and we spent quite a bit of time in Flagstaff and driving through the Mojave to Big Bear, LA, and then back to the San Francisco Bay area, where we lived. Driving the route between Seligman and Kingman today, I saw an assortment of rusted Studebakers, trucks, and a T-Bird left beside weather-worn honkytonks of the 50s and 60s: historic markers of a time before the Interstate.

It's interesting to watch the land change moving westward. I have to wonder if the early settlers questioned their decision to see California. Arkansas was rather pretty as was Oklahoma, but then as you moved across the Panhandle, the wind blew dreams into sand and red dirt that clogged your nose and eyes...the grit making its way into every meal. Then over the next ridge, mountains appeared. Red dirt and rock making way to blue grama, buffalo grass, and wheatgrass as they moved through New Mexico and Arizona. That's where I am now: at the foot of a towering mountain range with still visible crowns of white from the last storm. It's cool in the shade and the breeze, unlike the gales of New Mexico, sweet. But then it's April 29th and spring is in full bloom.

Kingman, AZ courtesy of The American Southwest

Day three: What's a trip through the desert without first visiting a ghost town? Chloride, Arizona was only about 25 miles north of Kingman and had the potential to be exactly what I wanted: weathered buildings and no tourists. What I found surprised me.

Chloride, like many of the early settlements in these mountains, was a mining town. At one point, there were over 75 active mines, and over 2,000 active miners. The town got its name from the silver chloride found in the hills along with turquoise, zinc, copper, lead, and a host of other sparkly minerals that lured easterners to make the trek across the Mojave. You can find out more about Cyanide Springs and the town of Chloride here. You may not want to drink the water.

After a quick trip through town, Dakota and I headed for our next stop: Barstow. We could have taken the easy route on I-95 south to join I-40, but no...we opted to drive across the mountain range joining the Mojave and Death Valley.

I was reminded of the years I lived in Texas, southern California, and New Mexico as Dakota tried to first sniff, then lick everything she encountered. You know that everything in the desert will try to kill you. The flowers are beautiful this time of the year., and tempt the wanderer to come closer. "No, Dakota, that's Oleander. Oleander will hurt a girl. No, Dakota, those are fire ants. Fire ants will hurt a girl. No, Dakota, that's a snake hole..." And so on.

I'll probably leave a review of all the campsites at the end of this blog series, but let me say that the KOA in Barstow isn't horrible. Yes, it backs up to the dump. Yes, it's right off I-15 and there's a lot of road noise from those excited to leave a deposit in Las Vegas, but it has the nicest and cleanest bathrooms and laundry I've encountered. And when your van has neither, it's a godsend.

Speaking of, I need to throw my sheets into the dryer. Off to LA and visit with sweet friends.

Day four: LA. My, my, my. I'm staying at the best (only, actually) RV park in the area, that area being Burbank. You can check out the surroundings here, and suffice to say it's...artistic. And loud in that we're on the departure/landing corridor for the Hollywood/Burbank airport. I like airplanes and so it doesn't particularly bother me, but Dakota isn't sure she likes those "big dogs" in her backyard.

It was so good to reconnect with my girlfriend and to meet her sweet husband. The years melted away, fifty one years to be exact, as we recalled stories of our youth and speed-talked our way through decades of decisions and adventures. There's something so very special about the people who knew you before life became complicated...the people with whom you've shared your soft underbelly, and who've held your heart in their hands with joy and respect. That's Judy. And I will always love her.

We're going to visit a local used of my favorite things to do as they're all different. I'm expecting a grand dose of quirkiness in the local establishments and, of course, bring home a hidden gem.

Day five. One of the things that strikes me this morning is how unaccustomed I've become to noise. Burbank is a symphony of sound from the aircraft departing outside (literally) my window, to the horns and brakes of drivers' impatient trek to their destination. There are also birds and the sound of a child's razor scooter, dogs and their owners barking from inside their respective RVs, and a ragged old man trying to manage a cup of coffee in one hand, while being dragged by a rusty brown Chihuahua not much bigger than his shoe in the other.

Yesterday's highlight was the Armand Hammer Museum on Wilshire Blvd. Not all the exhibits were accessible as crew readied for an event, but Hammer's private collection welcomed us to a lovely Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rembrandt, and others. It's not a large collection, but a sanctuary on a warm day. If there was a disappointment, it was that Leonard Nimoy's collection wasn't open. I love his photography.

Dakota and I are joining my friends for coffee this morning before heading back east...taking the long way home through Nevada, Utah, maybe Colorado...who knows. I'm embracing spontaneity.

Day six: Sweet husband said I should entitle today's essay "I left my shampoo on the counter in an old motel in Hollywood as the dust-filled hills faded into the morning sun" because I did and because it sounds like a country-western song. I picked up some cheap stuff in Barstow on the way to...another ghost town!

Who knew there were so many? I've been through this area a zillion times thinking there was no reason to slow to the speed limit as I zoomed through enroute to someplace else. To call the Calico Ghost Town that is a bit of a stretch. It's a 'restored' ghost town where you can pay top dollar for cheap jewelry, try your hand at smashing a geode, or take a train ride through abandoned mines. I opted for photos (free) and a sarsaparilla before joining I-40 to Needles.

I'm not going to talk about the wind anymore. At this point, it's a given. And to ensure I stop talking about the wind, the wind gods thought fit to tank the window regulator on my driver's side. Thankfully, it tanked in the 'up-ish' position, so with the aid of more Duck brand weather stripping, I only have a slight squeal instead of a roar in my ear. 5:49 pm at the Needles KOA, the temperature is 90 F and the winds are out of the south at 20 gusting 30. Up and at um early tomorrow in the hopes of seeing the Hoover Dam before finding a place to rest for the night. See ya next week!

Calico Ghost Town outside of Barstow, AZ

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Stay safe Dallas❤️


You have a concise and beautiful "eye" with your camera. Keep up the word pictures, Hemingway! 🖋️You're making my day! Continue safe travels.🚌

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Thank you, dear friend!


Good Sunday morning to ya Donna! Enjoyed reading about your travels ~ especially what you discovered along the road. Hoping the winds keep their distance!

Take good care ~ Love you dear friend ~ Joanie

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Thank you, sweet friend!

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