Life on the Open Road (April 2006 - May 2008)

The continuing saga of a single fulltime RVer who travels the western US. This is part one of my journey, from April 2006, when the blog started, to May 2008, when the blog continues at

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I have been a full-time RVer for 18 years, primarily "boondocking," camping free without hookups, in the Western US. I am connected electronically with the world via satellite TV, phone and internet. My batteries are charged solely by solar panels. I welcome your comments and emails.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Big Morongo Valley Preserve

The surprise of so many dry desert valleys is to be found at its very bottom, where the occasional rain runs. Here in Morongo Valley's bottom is a nature sanctuary worthy of a visit. Solid boardwalks encircle the whole swamp, woodlands and grasslands. It's like a small chunk of Louisiana transplanted.

But this swamp sprouts the famous and deadly Sacred Datura, also called Jimsonweed, toxic in all its parts--leaf, flower, and spiny fruit. To touch it and then touch your eye can induce temporary blindness. Some seeking a high will down it anyway and hallucinate. It got the name Jimsonweed, a corruption of Jamestown Weed, because in 1676, colonists used the weed to poison British soldiers during Bacon's rebellion.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Joshua Tree National Park

We spent 4 days in Black Rock Canyon campground in the park. It is almost uninhabited during the week, but fills up on weekends.

We met an interesting guy in the campground, Philly Joe, who has challenged himself to circumnavigate the contiguous 48 states in a canoe. So far he has paddled from the tip of Texas, around Florida, and up the East coast to Maine, and will begin again in the Spring. Read his inspirational story .

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Land of the Free

Because I lived in a planned community, with all its rules and regulations, for so many years, I really love this area around Landers. This is freedom at its ultimate! If you want to fill your yard with folk art sculptures, you can.

Randy says that dry scrubland living screens out the timid and tame, leaving only tough, self-reliant, freedom-loving individuals--those that march to their own drumbeat. Eccentricity here is on public display.


P.S. Randy’s baby caught a fly–he’s so proud! In his continuing effort to reduce the weight of his trailer, he’s thinking about throwing away his fly swatter.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another Landers Surprise

And I thought there wouldn’t be anything to do in Landers!

Gubler Orchids,, one of the nation’s largest orchid nurseries, is located here. They have over 5,000 different orchid hybrids. It smells great, the moist air feels wonderful, and they give free personal tours to everyone, even RVers who have no room for plants!

One thing I found interesting–Since orchids don’t normally bloom for 4 years, they artificially accelerate the seasons here to make them bloom faster.

They also sell carnivorous plants. Randy bought a Venus fly trap and a Pitcher plant. We’ll see how long they last....


Saturday, October 21, 2006

The World's Largest Boulder

It’s a whopper! Seven stories high. Not surprising the Indians considered it "sacred." Far out in the desert near Landers it sits, keeping its secrets. Most intriguing to me is the fact that a German immigrant lived under it for about 10 years. Yes, he dug, chipped and carved a 400 square foot home under its western side. He died under there in 1942 in a dramatic showdown with the Feds, who thought he was a spy.

He was friends with the builder of the nearby Integratron, who then took over the rock, and took believers down under for meditation sessions, which he claimed led to UFO contacts. At it’s peak, the rock became the focus of yearly UFO conventions, with 11,000 folks showing up for "alien" inspiration.

I wish sometimes I could take the whole believing world on a "Holy Tour" of the multitudes of cults, sects, temples and churches, each claiming "revelation" from higher beings. Soon their ardor would cool and they would appreciate a huge rock as a huge rock. Wherever we go–cows or no cows–there is always bull.


(For the whole story on the rock, go to

Friday, October 20, 2006


Landers, CA is the American equivalent of Timbuktu, Africa: The end of the world, about 35 miles north of Palm Springs. Home of extreme individuals; get-away-from-it-all deep desert dwellers. Eccentricity is commonplace here.

Case in point: George Van Tassel, builder of the Integratron pictured above. He was telepathically instructed by extraterrestrials to build this temple exactly here, without nails, to this exact pattern. Its purpose is to capture and focus harmonic, healing, anti-aging energies for those seated at its exact center. George died anyway in 1978, but the healing continues by two nice ladies who will seat you and "wash you with rejuvenating sounds" for the low, low price of $10.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Kicks on Route 66

Today we took a trip on Route 66 north of Victorville. This is a very desolate section of the old highway. Along the way, we saw many old, falling-down motels and gas stations, one with amazingly low gas prices. We also stopped at the Bottle Tree Farm, an oasis of color in this barren desert. Thousands of bottles and other bits and pieces sit on metal tree trunks. It is the creation of folk artist Elmer Long, who has been collecting since he was a kid.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nomadic Quotes

Randy is reading Wandering God–a Study of Nomadic Spirituality by Morris Berman, a book claiming that travel is inherently therapeutic. Here are two quotes that impressed him:

"People wish to be settled;
but only as far as they are unsettled, is there any hope for them."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The second is a 5000-year old Sumerian poem describing nomads.

"A tent dweller buffeted by wind and rain
Dwelling in the mountain
The one who digs up mushrooms at the foot of the
mountain, who does not know how to bend the knee;
Who eats uncooked meat;
Who in his lifetime does not have a house;
Who on the day of his death will not be buried."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lone Pine

We've moved on to the Tuttle Creek Campground out side of Lone Pine, CA, a beautiful campground where every morning we are treated to a terrific sunrise.

This weekend was the annual Lone Pine film festival. Many Westerns were filmed in the Alabama Hills, just outside of town. Hundreds of pictures are set up among the rock showing scenes from the movies in the exact location where they were filmed. The theme of this year's festival is "Return of the Badmen." Lots of cowboys walking around town with black hats. (Yummy...)

On Sunday, Corrie and Brian stopped by on their way home. I gave them a quick tour.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two Lakes and the Valley Below

Lake Sabrina

North Lake

Up, up, up to 9,000 feet to Lake Sabrina, then over a scary road to North Lake, Diana's SUV hauls us into the high Sierra Mountains. Our timing is perfect, the aspens as yellow as the sun. The lakes--well, check out the pictures. We walk around awhile, looking down on Bishop, CA, and the Owens Valley below.

Thirty miles wide and 170 miles long, filled almost completely with colorful desert chapparel. Five thousand square miles with only a token population clustered in tiny towns along Hwy 395. The mountains make this a spectacular drive. The valley could have been a fruitful paradise. There's water aplenty; snowmelt cascading down the mountains. But----Los Angeles gets it all----almost all of it anyway.

Every citizen living here will tell you in bitter detail how smoothe-talking, money-flashing, secret agents of the LA Water Board quietly bought up all the valley farms and water rights. Then they sprung their trap, built the LA Aquaduct that carries away all the valley's water to thirsty Los Angeles. We see water company trucks everywhere, guarding, guiding their precious water south. And it IS great tasting water. I filched 10 gallons for myself!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Corrie & Brian Visit

Daughter Corrie and son-in-law Brian are taking a vacation in the area, so I took them on a hike in Little Lakes Valley. I never get tired of this hike. Lake after lake with a backdrop of the Sierras, and spectacular foliage.

Randy and I are staying at Horton Creek campground, where we were treated to a view of a new dusting of snow on the mountaintops.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Little Lakes Valley

Up the hill from Bishop, past Rock Creek Lake to the end of the road, is one of my favorite hikes, through the Little Lakes Valley. The trail goes past lake after lake with the beautiful Sierras as a backdrop. It starts at 10000 feet, and even though the trail doesn’t rise too much, it’s tough going. But according to my friend Lloyd , all my huffing and puffing was due to some kind of geologic uplift since the last time I was here. Well, thank goodness, I thought I was getting older!

We’re staying at Crowley Lake campground, with a view of the lake and beautiful sunsets.