Day 176: Ferrous Giants of Anza Borrego

This morning, John and I went for a 31 mile ride with a 1,700 foot climb into the mountains on the West side of Borrego Springs.  We couldn’t see our RVs from the viewpoint where we turned around:


After lunch, we drove out to view the Galleta Meadows sculptures, an art installation spread over a wide area in the desert North of Borrego Springs:















After finishing our tour of the sculptures, we visited the Anza Borrego State Park visitor center:


We then stopped at the library and checked out some books.  Throughout the day, winds from the West have been intensifying, and during the drive back to the RV we had to slow way down as visibility was reduced to a few dozen feet due to blowing sand.

There’s something cozy about being in an RV during a storm, especially when the RV rocks slightly as the winds howl past.  We’re looking forward to the cooler weather these winds are supposed to bring.

Discovering Great Artists

We arrived at our new “home” late this afternoon, and rather than trying to squeeze some homeschool work into the remaining daylight, we opted for some relaxing artwork.  We recently ordered a really great book called Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl and Kim Solga.  The book introduces children to the great masters, some familiar like Picasso, van Gogh, and Michelangelo and others might be less familiar like Nevelson, Arp, and Hokusai.  Each page is filled with hands-on projects that focus on one artist and one style of artistic expression.  A brief biography and portrait of each artist is presented at the beginning of each project.  This book is an excellent resource for children as young as three as well as older elementary children.  The projects that represent each artist are easily imitated by all ages and abilities.  This is a must-have resource for anyone who wants to explore art with children.

The artist we chose for today is Giotto (ZHEE-O-TO), the once chief master of cathedral building and public art in Florence, Italy.  He lived from 1266 to 1337.  In his day, paints were made from grinding minerals, clay, berries and even insect into fine powder and mixing the pigment with egg yolk.  Apparently, the paint is very strong and long lasting.  We can still enjoy Giotto’s paintings today which are over 700 years old. 

We found some rocks around the campsite and used them to crush some artist pastel chalk for our egg paint.  We have recently visited several Native American historic sites that feature the mano and matate used for grinding.  It was fun to try our hands at this for our project. 



We mixed in the egg yolk/water mixture to make a smooth paint.  I have to say, grinding the chalk was messy fun! 



Painting with this egg tempera was surprisingly pleasing!  It went on the paper very smoothly, and could be layered a bit like watercolor. 



(For all my students back home in New York, this would be a great project to use up all that extra sidewalk chalk left over from the summer!)



Stay tuned for more projects from this great book! 

Day 175: Heading to Anza Borrego

This morning we got up a little late.  We bought a few supplies at Walmart, and by 10am when we left Walmart it was already approaching 80 degrees.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s January.

We drove Southeast towards the Salton Sea and Anza Borrego State Park.  The park allows dispersed camping, so we found a spot at a site recommended by WheelingIt.  There are about 50 RVs parked here over a very large area.  We deployed the new windsock and awning shade:


Once we unhitched from the RV, I drove out to the highway and went for a bike ride:


Almost immediately, I ran into John, who was returning from a 120ish mile ride to the Palomar Observatory and back.  He was moving along at a good pace, which told me he was a strong rider.  The fact that he asked if I wanted to ride tomorrow morning only reinforces this perception.  I told him I would see him in the morning.

Riding on alone, I headed East until I topped the local summit between here and the Salton Sea.  Bats raced along beside me as I rode back in the quickly darkening dusk.

We plan to hang out here for at least a week.  See the trip map for driving details.

Day 174: Ancient Roads and Modern Ruins

This morning we headed back to Los Algodones for Tricia’s glasses. The Indian tribe’s parking lot was quite full by 10am when we arrived:


We headed through the gates.  Once through the turnstile, there’s no returning without a passport.  I checked my pocket one more time to make sure the passports were there before heading through:




We picked up Tricia’s glasses and they seem to fit well.  We did hear another couple being told that their glasses weren’t ready, which made me wonder if perhaps the “they’ll be ready in 3 hours” promise is just something they say to make the sale.


One of the things I noticed about the street peddlers that came up to us and asked us to buy something is that all the peddlers of a given type had identical merchandise.  For example, all the men selling jewelry had the exact same jewelry, all the women selling wallets had the exact same wallets, etc.  I wonder if they are working for a company, or perhaps they just all get their wares from the same supplier.

Standing in line to leave, we could see that the security forces in Mexico want to have a visible presence here:



Today we managed to get through the line with only a 25 minute wait.  Heading back to our rig, we headed North to I-8 and drove West to the Grays Wells Road exit.  After a few miles, we reached the remnants of the old Plank Road.  The segments here are all that remains of a 6.5 mile boardwalk-like “road” built over the dunes nearly 100 years ago to allow travel from Yuma to San Diego.  A paved road would replace the plank road ten years later:



Farther along, the road disappears into the shifting, blowing sands:


We’re quite close to the border here.  The steel wall goes on in both directions to the horizon:


Looking back towards the RV:


The dunes are about 5 miles wide where the interstate cuts through:


Next we headed West and North to Niland, CA, and from there we briefly drove into and out of the Slabs, where 150 or so squatters called “Slabbers” live all year round in RVs, other vehicles, or in modified structures left behind when the Army base once here was torn down.  If you’ve ever wondered what life might be like after a Zombie Apocalypse, this is the place to visit:


Continuing North, we followed the Eastern shore of Salton SeaLast time, we were on the West side.  We stopped in at Bombay Beach, which was thriving resort town until the Salton Sea ecosystem collapsed and all the fish in the lake died as the lake salinity rose beyond that of the ocean:



Structures closest to the shore have deteriorated the quickest:



As on the West side, a horrible smell was in the air and the water was soupy with minerals:









We reached Palm Springs around sunset.  The locals didn’t seem to notice or care about the sunset:


After doing some food shopping and picking up a package shipped here for us, we retired to the Walmart of Thousand Palms, just a couple of miles from Palm Springs.  See the trip map for driving details.