Day 104: Yucca Valley to Mojave National Preserve

We got off to a late start today and after getting gas and propane, we drove northeast for about 100 miles into Mojave National Preserve. It’s the third-largest unit of the National Park Service in the continental US.  The drive took us though the Mojave salt flats and the interesting ghost town of Amboy, where we saw its shoe tree.

The Preserve’s newsletter, which I downloaded before arriving, said that dispersed camping is allowed on the access road to the Kelso Dunes, so we drove there.  We got there after dark, but here’s what our site looked like the next morning:


  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 103: Blood, Guts, and Joshua Trees

This morning we left the RV behind once again and drove about 5 miles to the nearby George Patton Memorial Museum.  Patton was known as “Old Blood and Guts” to his troops, hence the blog title.  It turns out that the BLM land upon which we are camping used to be the Army’s Camp Young, part of the desert training ground for US soldiers preparing to fight in World War II’s North Africa campaign.


The museum is an extensive collection of artifacts, relating to Patton in particular as well as the military in general.  There’s no particular flow to the exhibits, rather it feels like a collection of donated memorabilia and artifacts.  Nonetheless, it was very interesting:






Outside, there are over a dozen tanks on display.  Our son was a more enthusiastic tank driver than our daughter:





We returned to the RV, had lunch, hitched up, and drove north into Joshua Tree National Park, where we completed a short nature trail which had signs identifying various plants.  This one is helpfully titled “Dead Wood”:


Continuing north to Cottonwood Visitor Center, we dumped tanks, filled up on fresh water, dropped off some trash, and handed in the kids’ Junior Ranger workbooks so they could receive their badges:


As we continued north and increased our elevation, the Colorado Desert gave way to the Mojave Desert, and we finally started to see some Joshua Trees.  We also saw some fantastic Monzogranite piles, so we pulled into the Belle campground, parked, and climbed up and around these interesting formations.

Monzogranite in the distance:


Our son below to give a sense of scale:


Trish did some journaling while I was bouldering with the kids:


The proud Joshua Tree, a member of the Yucca family:





The family portrait of the day.  Aren’t those solar panels pretty?



The campsites were arranged around the rock piles:



We played on the rocks until sunset, then continued north into Twentynine palms, stopping briefly at the Oasis Visitor Center.  It turns out that the laundromat in town went out of business, so we drove 15 miles west to Joshua Tree to do laundry.  We then headed a couple more miles west to overnight at the Walmart of Yucca Valley.    See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 102: ATV adventure

Shabbos at our BLM camping site was nice.  The Arduino fan timer that our son and I built on Friday worked exactly as planned.  On a morning walk, I met a retired couple that is in their 9th year of full time RV living.  He’s quite the RV modifier as well, and has 12 batteries in his motorhome, compared to our two.  I’m only a little jealous.

While I was on the walk, the kids spotted a tarantula.  I’m very disappointed that I didn’t get to see it.

Today we left the RV and drove drove south to Salton City to rent ATVs.  Here’s everyone (except me) suited up:




The kids did a test run in the lot:



We headed out into the Ocotillo SVRA (State Vehicle Recreation Area):


Our first stop was an area of geologic interest called Pumpkin Patch.  These sandstone spheres are concretions; like pearls, minerals in the water come out of solution and deposit themselves onto a “seed”, like a bone or a small pebble.  Layer upon layer is deposited, and the concretions grow to the size shown here:









We were out for four hours and had a really good time!  Our daughter drove conservatively while our son was quite daring, leaving the ground over jumps several times. 

As I mentioned earlier, we were in the town of Salton City, CA.  The city is interesting because dozens of roads were built and paved in anticipation of houses that were never built.  Compare the map view and satellite view in Google Maps to see what I mean.   After we handed in our ATVs, we drove down to the shore of the Salton Sea, a massive ecological disaster that began with the inadvertent creation of California’s largest inland lake in the early 1900s.  Initially a desert paradise, Salton Sea’s salinity continued to rise as the lake shrank until in became the stinking, lethally salty body of water it is today.  There are many abandoned hotels around the lake as well as other artifacts of happier times in this area.  The lake’s transformation is the reason for the fully paved but sparsely occupied streets of Salton City.  We drove through block after block of signed city streets without a single house on them.

At first, the lake looks fine. if you can ignore the smell:


Walking out towards the shore, we encountered the victims of the lake’s ever increasing salinity:


There were many migratory birds to be seen, but otherwise it’s a sad mess.


With night approaching, we headed back to our RV on BLM land.  We’re exhausted, and I suspect everyone will go to bed early today.

Day 100: Happy anniversary!

Hooray, 100 days on the road!  We parked last night in a more open location on BLM land, and I positioned the RV so the Pallo Verde tree provided shade, but not so much that it cast a shadow over the solar panels.  It turned out to be significantly cooler today, only getting up to 76.  It was a beautiful day!


Since Shabbos starts at 4:30ish, homeschooling took up most of our day.  One of our son’s classes is microcontroller programming, and today we took a break from the textbook we’re using to build a thermostat for the 12 volt bathroom exhaust fan.  The fan cools the RV nicely, but leaving it on overnight uses up quite a bit of battery power, so we used an off the shelf thermostat as an input to the Arduino, which then uses a relay to turn the fan on and off, so when the cabin temperature falls below 70, the fan will turn off.  Here we are working on it, doesn’t he look excited?  He did both the wiring and the programming:


Here’s our daughter working on her math.  We later did our class on Scratch programming, and she worked on using events and messaging to allow sprites to interact with one another.


Just another day in our little homeschool!

Day 99: Biking and dumping in Joshua Tree NP

It was a beautiful morning on BLM land just south of Joshua Tree National Park:



I went for a sunrise ride into Joshua Tree, which began with a 5.5 mile, 1500 foot vertical climb:


I rode through the Cottonwood Springs campground and then continued north for another 10 miles:



After homeschool, we drove up into Joshua Tree with the RV, visited the visitor center to get our Junior Ranger workbooks, and used the campground dump station.  The moon was rising as the sun was setting:


It says a lot about a place when a dump station photograph is postcard worthy:


It was in the high 80s today, but with three fans in the RV we were comfortable.  Not that I’m complaining, I understand that it snowed this week back home.  The desert cooled quickly after sunset:


We headed back down to BLM land, as it’s free and there’s cell signal there, unlike the campground.

  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.