Early January 2006

Seeing Some Of Yuma & The Area

- As I write this, we're spending a quiet Saturday evening at home. We've now been in Yuma a few days and while the weather has been phenomenally good, this isn't the most scenic spot in the southwest. Essentially, everything I've photographed has been back over the state line in California, but it's always interesting to see a new area.
    In search of something scenic in this part of Arizona, we can only go north, south, and east, so today we drove south to San Luis on the Mexican border and north as far as the army proving grounds and saw nothing that compelled me to pull out the camera, since the entire region around here is either military bases or agricultural, watered by irrigation from the Colorado River, and in general the mountains look like huge piles of dirt and are about that pretty. The floor of the desert is apparently quite fertile due to eons of flooding from the river depositing rich alluvial soil everywhere. Of course, this no longer happens due to the dam system on the river.
    Yesterday before sunset, I drove back over to the Imperial Sand Dunes in California and took a road I'd found on a map that runs through the dunes 20 miles further north. However, when I got there I found 'No Parking' signs posted along the entire stretch of road that runs through the dunes and no pullouts and no way to get off the road without risking getting mired in sand.
    There was one overlook that extended a short distance into the dunes, but it overlooked the area where dune buggies were everywhere churning up the sand, rather than overlooking beautiful pristine wind-sculpted dunes. However, I was able to get a pretty good view of Picacho Peak from there (first photo above), one of the more interesting formations around here, being the plug of an ancient volcano. Unfortunately, the road to it is very primitive and not one I cared to brave after seeing it.
    Happily, the hour long drive back through the Sonoran Desert to Yuma took place while the sun was setting and the moon was rising, so even the desert was alive with color (second photo above.)
    To read Sandra's account of the day, click here.

Now At Yuma, Arizona

- We're now located only 12 miles from the California border, but we're in Arizona and on Mountain Standard Time. So the time difference between us and the east is now two hours.
    We left Desert Hot Springs at 9:15am this morning, arrived here in Yuma at the Las Quintas Oasis RV Park three and a half hours later, having driven 180 miles over mostly expressway that had only light traffic. As tows go, it was almost enjoyable.
    Two hours later camp was setup and I still had enough energy left to want to drive 18 miles back into California and photograph the Imperial Sand Dunes we'd seen earlier on the drive.
    These are absolutely beautiful sand dunes that aren't covered with vegetation as most of them are that we've seen.
    The dunes were made even more beautiful in the late day light which brought out their detail in relief by the shadows they cast. It was definitely worth the drive back.
    These dunes were also one of the filming locations for the movie The Return of the Jedi.
    After talking with the person in charge at the dunes, who waived the $25 entrance fee if all I wanted to do there was shoot photos (nice guy), we drove back to the RV through town, stopping at their Visitor Information center, which was miraculously still open at 5:50pm, talked with the lady there who gave us some literature and told us where to find things in the area that would make a photographer happy.
    To read Sandra's account of the day, click here.
    We had a most enjoyable stay in Southern California, getting our first extended period of really good weather since Banff in September. We were in Southern California for nearly a month and it was a bit sad to leave, but there's a lot to look forward to in Arizona.

Last Day In California

- Today was our last full day in California. We're planning on leaving tomorrow morning for Arizona, probably somewhere around Yuma, which is to be the first small step on our long way eastward as we leave Southern California.
    So this evening in honor of our stay here we walked around downtown Palm Springs for a while and then treated ourselves to dinner out at a nice Mexican restaurant called The Blue Coyote where we had an excellent meal of enchiladas, served by an excellent waitress, Danielle, originally from Lyon, France, who took this excellent photo of us.

I See Some Flights

- Yesterday, while Sandra went to a flea market with some friends from the campground here, I just puttered around the RV and didn't do much of anything, except processimg photos, of course, while watching movies on TV as I slaved away over this hot laptop.
    Today was a different matter entirely. I was up and out before even a glimmer of sunrise was visible in the eastern sky, heading for a hot air balloon festival Sandra had found out about.
    This was the Ford Trucks Red, White & Blue Polo and Balloon Festival at the Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, a 30 mile drive from here.
    Actually, I didn't decide until it was time to leave if I would or not. I don't like driving in the dark and especially not in unfamiliar territory. But I've been wanting to photograph one of these festivals for several years and had never made it to one, so in the end my curiosity won out.
    My timing turned out to be right on. I got there just as they were preparing the first of about 40 balloons to be inflated. The photo above was taken a short while later.
    I was surprised at the large number of people who showed up, a number that had to be several thousand, counting crews, spectators, and myriad other photographers, many of whom felt it their sworn duty to butt in front of me. But I managed to work around them without being equally rude and was also surprised by how close the balloon crews let spectators get to the ballons as they were being inflated.
    Anyway, it was quite an interesting experience. I got some photos I'm happy with and not only was this my first visit to a hot air balloon festival, but also to a polo club. There were quite a few obviously well-off people in the crowd, probably even some famous ones considering the area we're in, but I didn't recognize anyone special.
    Then it was back to our humble abode here on the wrong side of Interstate 10, where my wonderful wife (unimpressed with me just having brushed shoulders with some of the region's upper crust) put me to work helping her wash the outside of the RV, something it badly needed, but the last thing I would have chosen to do, left to my own devices. Had I known ahead of time what her plans were for me, I'd have seriously considered staying and watching some polo with that posh crowd.

We See Some Sights

- Yesterday, we hopped into the truck and drove around the Palm Springs area a bit, going up a nearby mountain on a road that wasn't for the faint of heart.
    We ascended as far as a scenic overlook of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley and decided that was enough mountain driving for one day, went back down the mountain, stopped at a visitors center for that area, were just a bit rattled by a sign in the parking lot warning about the rattlesnakes that hung out there (fortunately they're inactive at this time of year...or so we're told), continued on our tour of the area, and ended up driving along the west side of the Salton Sea (photo above), a huge lake that's the result of an accident involving the Colorado River back in 1905.
    The Salton Sea has quite a history, but it's essentially a closed body of water since it has no outlet, so while water leaves by evaporation, what came in with the water entering the lake is left behind, which means pollutants accumulate and salinity increases and it will eventually become a dead sea.
    The area we saw looked like it had tried to be developed and failed as evidenced by the many rundown abandoned buildings we saw, although ironically, we saw quite a few houses being built. Be that as it may, Salton City had a lot of streets but very few buildings on them. Areas around the Sea were also quite malodorous, so all things considered it's easy to see why the area hasn't become the tourist mecca one would expect from a lake in a desert.
    For a female's view of the day, check out Sandra's Blog. For internet newbies, a 'blog' is the shortform of 'web log' or 'weblog' and is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author.

Now Back Near Desert Hot Springs, California

- Today, as planned, we moved from Twentynine Palms back near Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, California
    The trip was simply a backtrack of the one we made a week ago and we now once again reside in the Catalina Spa & RV Resort. We couldn't get exactly the same site, but are only a couple sites down the row from it, so I knew setting up the satellite antenna would be no problem.
    Being back here feels like déjà vu though. It's also kind of nice to be in what are now familiar surroundings.
    We had a good time in Twentynine Palms though, except for the two days of extremely high winds we had while there. I took a total of 989 photos in Joshua Tree National Park and will miss my daily drives through the park. I currently have processed 51 of those photos and have posted them to a pBase gallery which can be viewed by clicking here. The photo on the left was taken this morning as day was dawning on my last drive into the park. That's the Cholla Cactus Garden, an area I hadn't yet photographed at sunrise.
    We are signed up to be here for a week and then we'll be bidding farewell to California and heading for Arizona, maybe Saguaro National Park.

Moving On Tomorrow

- Tomorrow we are planning to move back to the Catalina Spa & RV Resort near Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs for a week's stay there before probably heading east to Arizona.

More On The Weather

Regarding my rant below about the lousy weather forecasting we've been getting, in all fairness I should point out that we did eventually get some rain yesterday. However...it was little more than a passing shower that fell from one dark cloud in an otherwise mostly clear sky. Hardly what the forecast was calling for.
    Further west though, the Pacific coast and higher in the mountains did get nailed badly, including Pasadena's Rose Parade which was rained on for the first time in 51 years. I guess the weather people thought we'd get the same weather here in the desert. Wrong!
    Pictured here is part of the cloud mass for that Pacific storm that mostly missed us. This was taken up in the park, looking to the mountains in the west. Pacific storms, while not being hurricanes, are something to behold anyway.

Best Jokes Lately...Weather Forecasts

- I hate to whine, really, but the weather forecasts lately have been so far off the mark they are a joke and I don't know why I even bother looking at them.
    For instance, last night before going to bed the forecast for today was to be cloudy with rain, so I wasn't expecting to be going out for my usual sunrise photo shoot up in the park.
    However, I've gotten so cynical about the lousy weather forecasting I can't say I was terribly surprised when I got up this morning, before the sun as usual, and saw it was mostly clear and the brightening horizon promised we would indeed have a sunrise worth taking the camera out for.
    So I jumped in the truck and dashed up to the park and was rewarded for the effort with some decent photos, the shot above being one of them.
    The wind in the park was quite high though, to the point I was doubtful the image stabilization in the lens could compensate for it (but it did, happily) and it was only a short time after I got back to the RV that the high wind reached it. The weather network says the wind was 33 mph, gusting to 45 mpy, but the tumbleweed blowing down the road was passing cars, so I suspect the wind speed was quite a bit higher than they were saying. Fortunately, it's now 3 hours later and it's calmed down quite a bit, but still no rain and lots of sun.

First Day Of 2006

- Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
    I've never been one to lose sleep over seeing in a new year. Some years I stayed up for it, but most years not. Last year I did; this year I got sleepy early and went to bed, as did Sandra a short time later, so no exciting dinner out or night on the town to report.
    But today we had some excitement, a short trip into the past. Since we had some sun early this morning, we hopped into the truck and drove to a place 30 miles west of here, Pioneertown - How the West Was Once - that looked like it might be interesting from the writeup I saw on the internet about it.
    Pioneertown (photo above) is a movie set and it looks like those are all we're going to find out West that really looks like how I think of the West. Typically everything out here has been modernized and towns don't look much different than towns back east or up north. Pity. The West has some interesting heritage and it's a shame it's only to be found in fake movie sets.
    Anyway, Pioneertown was fairly interesting for what we could see of it, but then clouds started moving in and that was the end of the photoshoot. The clouds were the leading edge of a Pacific storm front that's supposed to bring some rain tonight and tomorrow. Can't complain about the weather we've been having though. Just a touch on the cool side during the day unless we're in the sun, but very pleasant.

2005 In Review

I was going to write a synopsis of our past year, but Sandra beat me to it and has posted it to her own blog page which she just started. Click here to go there and see what she has to say about our year of 2005.


For Older News

To read details of our previous stops and camps, visit the News Archives.

Updated Monday, January 16, 2006

Copyright © 2005 by Gordon L Wolford .
All rights reserved.



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My avocation during our
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but Sandra is also taking
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Didya Know?

The roaring lion in the
MGM logo was named
Volney and lived at the
Memphis Zoo.

93% of prison inmates
are male, 7% female.

Tomato juice is the official
state beverage of Ohio.

A Spot 'O Humor

Q: What's the best auto
safety device?

A: A rearview mirror
with a police car in it.

Parting Thot

Promises may fit the
friends, but non-
performance will turn
them into enemies.

- Benjamin Franklin