Thursday 13 March – Stayed another day at our BLM site and had a general laze. A bit of drama last night though as one of our camping buddies got bitten as he put a log of firewood on the campfire. Within a couple of hours his hand was numb and pain was moving up his arm. He got taken into the A&E and discovered it was an Arizona Bark Scorpion that had done the damage – not fatal except to the really young and old but can cause quite nasty side effects. Thankfully no lasting damage was done, but a salutary warning about picking up things without thinking. These scorpions are quite tiny and the colour of sand so very hard to see. The dust had mostly cleared by the afternoon and the mountains were once again visible.
Friday 14 March – Said goodbye to our camping buddies – two very nice couples with loads of great info to pass on to us so that we can keep travelling frugally. Destination today – Wickenburg via Phoenix. I don’t know which is more stressful – travelling on nasty mountain roads or the Interstate to get through Phoenix – six lanes of mayhem; cars/trucks passing you both sides at 75mph; cars cutting across in front of you with inches to spare and having to negotiate which lane you need to be in. It is heaven when you are finally able to get off.
Wickenburg was a neat little town – the Rodeo centre of the state and a very western cowboy feel to it. We camped in the Rodeo campground – people come in with their horse trailers, put up a temp fence for them and then stay for a couple of weeks at a time. We were told that a this time of the year this is a roping event on every day. There were quite a few unique shops – one guy making cowboy hats, boots and belts, another saddlery.
Saturday 15 March – We did a little walking tour of the town – very impressive – there were many lifesize bronze statues placed around the streets with little audio descriptions explaining a little of the history. Wickenburg is also a stopoff for the weekend motorcycle cowboys and wave after wave of bikes came through as we were walking around. We treated ourself to lunch in the town before heading off towards California and the Parker Dam. That was yet another experience – the wind had got up and as we were heading along the plains – we could see in the distance – swirls of dust forming and as we progressed along the road the wind picked up and the little sand whirls would pass in front of us. As well as the sand – there was also lots of tumbleweed getting blown over the road – made it seem very wild westish. The van gets buffeted quite badly in these sort of winds so it is not a very comfortable ride.
Made it to Parker and found our BLM camp about 5 miles up the western (Californian) side of the lake. The lake is populated on both sides by rows of lake houses, apartments and mobile home and rv parks. It is a boaties Mecca – the number of storage sheds was astonishing. The little BLM camp was tucked in amongst these and a nice little haven – about 16 sites and most of them full.
Sunday 16 March – Decided that we would do a little tiki tour today up to Lake Havasu. There is a dam across Parker Lake but it wont allow RV’s over so we went up to the dam and back and then up the other side to Havasu which is in Arizona. Had a lovely treat going up to the dam – finally got see some wild burros – really just cute little donkeys. Signs say that you shouldn’t feed or harrass them but nobody seems to have told the burros as they really wanted something to eat. I resisted and settled for photos instead. They all looked in really good condition and there were a lot of little ones. They seem to live quite happily in this part of the desert – the trees are a bit larger here and there seems to be enough green stuff around for them to eat.
Lake Havasu was not my idea of a nice place to visit – we got to see London Bridge which was taken down brick by brick in London – flown to here and then reconstructed. That was back in 1971 and it is still an attraction today. As far as Havasu goes it is a cross between Queenstown, Whangamata and Wanaka 0n steroids. There was a big beach party going on down one side of the lake with all the bikini clad babes wandering about. The only bonus was a swapmeet which happened to be in progress – Bob was really impressed with the huge range of cheap tools available and had to be restrained somewhat. Most of the stalls were junky but there was a good fresh produce stall so we filled up on nice fruit and veges.
The road to and from Havasu was interesting – it was hard to imagine that there was a lovely lake in the valley as it was so dry and rocky. Went back to the relative peace and quiet of our BLM campsite (except for the odd speedboat racing along in front of our camp).
Monday 17 March – Now fully back in California and our aim today was Joshua Tree National Park – we had been here thirty years ago but hadn’t seen all of it. The drive today was unbelievable. If we thought the drive a couple of days ago was bad – this took the cake. As we began our journey the road was nice and clear but after a little while we could see a huge dust cloud on the right hand side of the road while the left hand side was really clear. The wind built and built as we progressed and so did the sand storm – it started off just in little drifts coming across the road until we finally hit it right in the middle. Ferocious winds and visibility at times just a few feet in front meant it was quite a long journey and what a relief to reach Twentynine Palms and just a few miles further on was the entrance to Joshua Tree Park and our campsite for the night. What an incredible spot – finally out of the wind and up into the hills – the campground was surrounded by rocks – not ordinary rocks but amazing shapes. A haven for rockclimbers but we were content to just look.
Tuesday 18 March – Back to 29 Palms and into the park via another entrance. Had a great day exploring – stopped a couple of times to go on short hikes. The Joshua Tree is what inspired Dr Seuss in his books with the Lorax and they are quite a thing to see en masse. The rock formations are spectacular and the desert plants were so varied. The desert really is a beautiful place.
Are going to spend the night at the local Walmart – as we need to be in the local vicinity to get a service done on the RV which is booked for tomorrow morning, as we have clocked up 4,000 miles and in order for our warranty to be valid we must keep it serviced.
Wildflowers – as we have been travelling back through Arizona and now California the change into Spring has been really noticeable. Coming into Phoenix it was really quite green – the shrubs that just look like grey twigs when we went through 3 weeks ago had now come into leaf with that lovely fresh green. Along the road side the wildflowers had started blooming – first with waves of yellow, then orange and purple. As we walked around the desert in Joshua Tree we were able to see cactus flowers just starting and all manner of tiny desert flowers coming into bloom. Along with this also saw a hummingbird, a few little lizards and many little birds. The desert was really lovely and full of life.