Colorful Colorado (Part 1)

If I look at the lower 48 states of the USA, I see a large number of states I wouldn’t want to be buried in and a smaller number of states that I like to various degrees. For me, Colorado has always been an attractive state with beautiful scenery, great outdoor opportunities and a good standard of living. However, there is one thing wrong with Colorado, there is absolutely no access to an ocean. Over the last 4 weeks I am trying to answer the question whether I could live here?

We spent two weeks in Pagosa Springs, CO. I have never been to Pagosa Springs before but moving north from Santa Fe, NM the location of Pagosa Springs seemed to be just the spot for rest and exploration. When we settled in on the RV park things did not look well. It was cold, raining, hailing, snowing and there were still no leaves on the trees. What the hell is going on, after all it was early May? Pagosa Springs is located at an altitude of 7100 ft/2100 m.

The weather changed significantly within the first two days of our stay and all was good. One day after arrival we started delightful hikes in the Turkey Springs and Coyote Hill trail system through wooded areas interrupted by meadows with enough light for green grass to grow between the trees. It was there that Cooper caught, killed and delivered his 1st squirrel. The squirrel did not pay attention and once it realized the dog was coming it had absolutely no chance. Bad luck for the squirrel, good luck for Cooper. After all, he is a hunting dog and he clearly needs the thrill of a kill.

Driving on Piedra Road north, the road after 10 miles turns from pavement to a good gravel road leading toward the southern tip of the San Juan Mountains. Along the road one can find a large number of trailheads. We hiked the Piedra River Trail, the Williams Creek Trail and last but not least the Martinez Creek Trail. All of these trails are located in the San Juan National Forest and offer “out-of-the-world” vistas and very little traffic.

We have been traveling for close to 2 years now and I have gotten haircuts in local barber shops all over the country. The barber shop conversations always lead to the topic of me being houseless and living in a motorhome traveling across the country. Every time I mention these circumstances I hear people say that they want to do that at some time in their life too. I am convinced that this urge to live free is rooted somewhere in the American DNA.

This week marks what would have been the 100th birthday of legendary American physicist Richard P. Feynman. Feynman was one of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century. His most celebrated work were his contributions to the theory of Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED). QED is an advanced theory of electromagnetism that incorporates quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity. God’s speed Mr. Feynman, RIP.

Albuquerque

I never spent any significant amount of time in Albuquerque before, but I was always fascinated by the location of the city. On the eastside of town are the impressive Sandia Mountains reaching an altitude of 10619 ft/ 3234 m and on the west-side is the vast expense of a high featureless plateau reaching to the horizon. The contrast of the landscape is very stark. Located at an altitude of 5400 ft / 1650 m the city celebrates in 2018 it’s 312th birthday. As such, Albuquerque is older than the good old US of A. Think about it.

We stayed in Albuquerque because I had to travel to Germany and therefore we needed access to an airport. Other than evaluating two local breweries (Bosque Brewery & Canteen Brewery) we really did not do much in the city. However, we explored the trails of the Cibola National Forest and had a pretty good time. We especially enjoyed the trails on the southeast side of the Sandia Mountains near Tijeras and on the northwest side of the Sandia Mountains near Placitas.

There is one more thing to be said about Albuquerque; the weather sucks. The early spring season is characterized by high winds almost on a daily basis and the air is filled with dust. Due to the altitude nighttime temperatures can be quite chilly.

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From Albuquerque we traveled for one week to Santa Fe and then moved to our current homestead in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Are you enjoying the Trump show? What you see is a president and his band of loyalists getting stuck in their web of lies and being increasingly pressured by the special counsel. My advise to Mr. Mueller is to grab them by their balls and I predict their hearts and minds will follow. All of these folks will have to understand that the presidency is more than the person in the oval office and that nobody is above the rule of law. Get the popcorn ready, this will be a hot political summer.

Stay tuned

Moving along

Just because I have not blogged for the last 8 weeks doesn’t mean nothing happened. Actually, we moved through the south-western USA for about 1000 miles/1600 km since we left Desert Hot Springs, CA.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 5.21.11 PMA year ago, in January 2017, we stayed on the west-side of Tucson. While we found some outdoor playgrounds in the Brown Mountain area at that time, we also almost entirely missed out on the Santa Catalina Mountains on the east-side of town. Having learned our lesson, this time we stayed on the east-side of town, only 15 min from the Molino Basin in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The RV park we stayed in was absolutely not to my liking but the location was great. Thanks God, staying in a lousy RV park is not at all like staying in a lousy hotel. At the end of the day we still were living in our own stuff.

The Tohono O’odham people referred to the Santa Catalina Mountains as Babad Do’ag, the Frog Mountain. These people must have had a vivid fantasy, even after heavy drinking I was unable to imagine a frog in the shape of these mountains. It took the religious devotion of Eusebio Francisco Kino, an Italian Jesuit priest, to rename the mountain range in honor of Saint Catherine.

Being part of the Coronado National Forest, the Catalina Mountains provide a great playground for humans and dogs. The National Forest Service pet policy states that dogs have to be leashed in developed areas and on interpretative trail. However, there is no explicit special leashing requirement in general forest areas. Dogs are roaming free in National Forests. Due to a lot of snow and ice in elevations above 7000 ft/2100 m we only explored the lower altitude trails (Molino Trail, Sycamore Trail, Bug Springs Trail, Green Mountain Trail).

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_BDS2279-PanoI had a dental bridge in my mouth that badly needed replacement. The last time I asked my dentist in the San Francisco Bay Area for a cost estimate she talked about $4500 to $5500 for the replacement. Well, I went to a pretty top-notch dentist in Nogales, Mexico and got the job done for $1600.

While we stayed in Tucson America again experienced a mass shooting in Parkland, FL. This time, the voices of a very young generation are strong and relentless and they may change the narrative. Politics is unfolding downstream of culture.

At the end of our Tucson stay daytime temperatures reach an uncomfortable 85 F/30 C and it was time to leave. After moving approximately 250 miles/400 km east we reached the lovely 10.000 souls community of Silver City, NM. Located at an elevation of approximately 6000 ft/1800 m on the southern edge of the Gila National Forest the town offers a lot of charm, cooler temperatures, great access to outdoor activities and a population of friendly and quirky people.

The nearby Fort Bayard area located just 6 miles from the heart of town presented a nice assortment of well maintained trails including several displays of petroglyphs.

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One of the main attractions in the Silver City area are the Gila Cliff Dwellings about 45 miles/70 km north of town. The 600 year old homestead is definitely worth a visit and much less crowded than the Mesa National Park in southern Colorado.

Last but not least, when in Silver City, do yourself a favor and support the local Little Toad Creek Brewery. They offer some decent beers and they are frequented by an interesting bunch of people.

I will provide an update from our stay in Albuquerque, NM in the next days. Until then, stay tuned.

 

Snowbirds no more

We initially planned to stay for only one month in Desert Hot Springs, CA, but a complete breakdown of the drive moving the living room slide of the motorhome forced us to stay for one additional month. The gearbox and the shaft of the living room slide drive had experienced a total failure. It is hard to comprehend that the half-inch (1.3 cm) solid steel shaft moving the slide had been twisted like a candy cane. A torque limiter may be a viable solution to prevent that kind of costly fatal failure. Newmar, are you listening?

While the toolbox was already open, I fixed the motorhome furnace plus a gazillion other minor repairs and also performed generator and water-heater maintenance. At the moment most household systems – and there are many – are in a good shape. The solar system needs a thorough analysis. For unknown reason we don’t bring enough electrons into the battery bank, something may be wrong with either the panels or the cables or the charger. We will find out soon.

While we were in Desert Hot Springs we experienced two days of significant desert rain with plenty of water rushing down the washes. It was amazing to see how most of the water was rapidly moving on the desert surface instead of sinking into the very dry ground. We visited a date farm and sampled a variety of dates with different tastes and appearances. I have to admit that I didn’t even know that there are varieties of dates. We visited the Joshua Tree National Park and the decaying town of Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea. While we were in the Bombay Beach area we also again stopped by “the last free place” in America, Slab City.

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A visit to Palomar Mountain allowed us to not only enjoy some of the gorgeous southern California landscape, but we also saw the 200 inch (5.1 m) Hale telescope.

The dogs and I did a few hikes in the San Bernandino Forrest underneath the towering and snow-covered summit of 11503 ft (3506 m) Mt. Gorgonio with its enormous prominence of 8293 ft (2527 m).

On January 1, 2018 the consumption and sale of recreational marihuana has become legal in California. The city of Desert Hot Springs shows ambitions to become one of the big cannabis growing centers in California and partake in a multi-billion dollar business. A number of industrial cannabis grow facilities have started operation in and around town. Good paying jobs, sales taxes and property taxes will follow.

Btw, how cool was that SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, hu? There is a Tesla electric car orbiting the sun for the next few billion years displaying the immortal term “don’t panic” from the hitch-hikers guide to the universe.

At the moment we are boon-docking for a few days in the Scaddan Wash at Dome Rock Road in Quartzsite, AZ before we will move for a few weeks to Tucson, AZ. It is good to be moving again.

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Stay tuned.

Time

Ignoring relativistic effects one may say that time moves along constant and steady. On a human scale we establish points in time that break the symmetry and provide us a frame of reference. One of these points in time will pass tonight when the year 2017 ends and the year 2018 begins.

After 9100 miles of motorhome travel and 44 stops in 2017 we are at rest until February 2018 in the California desert.

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I wish all of you a happy, healthy and successful 2018. Stay tuned.

 

Moving to the Winter Playground

Today is Christmas and I have not blogged for about 7 weeks; it’s time for an update. We wish all of you a Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy the holidays.

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From Arcadia, CA we traveled to the San Francisco Bay area for a three-week stay on the Alameda fairground in Pleasanton. The fairground RV Park is essentially a big gravel parking lot, void of any architectural or scenic beauty with plenty of permanent residents. Folks staying there semi-permanently have to move after each 3rd week for a minimum of two days in order to comply with the maximum stay limitations of Alameda county. Being close to our former home, we had a full program of visiting friends, hiking in our favored regional parks, submitting the Honda Fit for a service to our trusted mechanic, etc.

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After more than a year away from the San Francisco bay area things we took for granted for more than 20 years appeared unreasonable during this visit. The traffic was just horrendous. After traveling on open roads across the country for more than a year the traffic in the San Francisco bay area was just too much. The amount of time Californians waste sitting in their cars is ungodly. Prices in general and fuel prices in particular are painfully high. The homeless problem in Oakland has grown significantly since our departure and large homeless encampments have been established in several parts of the city.

From Pleasanton we traveled for an extended weekend to Bakersfield at the edge of the Mohave Desert to wait out the busy days after the Thanksgiving holiday. There is nothing to report about Bakersfield, particularly nothing about the downtown area. It is fair to say that Bakersfield is a city of 370.000 people with not much going on. On a positive note, the dogs and I discovered and hiked the fantastic Wind Wolves Preserve about 30 miles southwest of town.

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Leaving Bakersfield to the southeast led us quickly into the Mohave Desert to the town of Ridgecrest. 20 miles east of Ridgecrest a bumpy and unpaved road leads to the Trona Pinnacles Monument, a truly bizarre desert landscape. We boon-docked at the monument for four days and had the place largely to ourselves. Daytime temperatures were warm but not hot and nighttime temperatures were cool but not cold. The dogs loved the place because they didn’t have to be on the leash at any time and we explored the monument in detail.

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After the days of tranquility in the desert we continued our trip southeast. Crossing the Colorado River into Arizona where we stayed for one week in Lake Havasu City. Aside from large gatherings of snowbirds there was not much going on in town. However, we found some nice hiking locations on the south side of town off highway 95.

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At the moment we are located in Desert Hot Springs, CA where we are currently scheduled to stay until early January 2018. We have some technical problems in the living quarters of the motorhome that need to be fixed before we move on.

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Yesterday we prepared Uszka (small dumplings filled with mushroom and rice) for our traditional polish Christmas Eve dinner.

You all have a happy and successful 2018 and stay tuned.

Redwoods, Six Rivers and the Trinity Alps

Marine fog layers from the Humboldt Bay deposit their moisture on the foothills of the Trinity Alps, which is one of the reasons the giant redwoods exist only along the extreme northern California coastline. Climbing east on highway 299 toward Willow Creek elevates us within just 10 miles/16 km above the fog and reveals a clear blue California sky and temperatures 20F/10C degrees warmer than on sea-level. This is a beautiful and bizarre landscape.

The Trinity River between Weaverville and Burnt Ranch has carved a deep and steep canyon that offers plenty of outdoor activities including rafting. The Trinity Alps Wilderness, the second larges wilderness in California, extends to the north providing a gazillion hiking trails reaching up to 9000 ft/ 2700 m. The Trinity River flows into the wild and scenic Klamath River which runs into the Pacific Ocean approximately 50 miles/80 km north of Arcata. Starting in Willow Creek, Highway 97 follows the Klamath River east for 130 miles/210 km to the town of Yreka. One can still see people along the river making a living by panning and sluicing gold. The landscape is varied and beautiful and does not conform with the California picture promoted around the world. There are no palm trees, no neon signs, no endless strip malls, no clogged highways and for sure no high-rises. This is California’s best, I love this place.

We checked out the Mad River Brewery in Arcata and enjoyed their Jamaica Red Ale and their Redwood Stout. Both beers were excellent and the food served was good. By chance I discovered a new seasonal beer from the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka; the Winterbraun. I always was of the opinion that the Downtown Brown from the Lost Coast Brewery is one of the best micro brews in the USA. Well, the Winterbraun is better.

On a hike in the Trinity Alps close to Willow Creek, our dog Dublin rolled in something better unknown, which left a truly disgusting smell. The dog however seemed to think that the smell was perfectly ok. A wash with the outdoor shower prior to entering the motorhome was required and he kind of carried a light touch of the aroma for a few days. But we still love him.

After more than one year of traveling across the country we know that a significant number of low-income families are living permanently on campgrounds and RV parks. While we can all agree that living in a recreational vehicle is better than living under a bridge, it is also clear that most of these people did not choose to live in these spaces. Their socio-economic situation has forced them to abandon more traditional living arrangements and a lot of them are not happy about that, in fact, they are angry. As such they contribute to the huge pool of angry people in this country.

In preparation for our stay in the Bay Area we learned that pretty much all RV parks are full. There are not a large number of RV parks in the Bay Area in the first place and the few that exist are full. Which is probably correlating well to the tight housing market in and around San Francisco. One place in Marin along highway 101 had spaces available and quoted us a price of $762 per week, approximately $3200 per month. Really? The fact that they got the stones to quote us such a price tells me that we collectively have lost our minds. Lastly we found a site on the Alameda Fairground RV Park in Pleasanton for a reasonable price and with connection to BART.

Last but not least, we took a walk through the cute Victorian community of Ferndale were we had a very dog-friendly lunch and saw a photographer’s shop that displayed a number of funny photo-shopped images. I liked these two:

Stay tuned.