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

My Photo

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is unique and beautiful, both for the vegetation and the rocks that climbers love so well.

Diana went on three short hikes as she toured the park. The first was Hidden Valley, whose rock formations enclose a valley which may have been a hideout for 19th century cattle rustlers.

The second hike was to Barker Dam, built in the early 1900s, but enlarged in the 1950s by William Keys. Needless to say, it was dry at this time of the year.

On the same trail was evidence of the earlier inhabitants of the Joshua Tree area. Unfortunately, these petroglyphs were defaced by a movie crew that painted over them in order to make them more visible to the cameras.

The best hike by far was the one to Wall Street Mill, the remains of a stamp mill operated by William Keys sporatically from 1930 to 1966 to process gold ore from his mines and the mines of others.

On the way to the mill, an old photogenic pink ranch house amused Diana.

There were lots of old rusted vehicles along the trail, and in the wash near the mill.

Also along the trail, which used to be the road, "Here is where Worth Bagly bit the dust at the hand of W.F. Keys, May 11, 1943." It's hard to believe the Wild West lasted so long here. Keys argued self-defense, but was convicted. He was paroled from San Quentin in 1948, and later pardoned, when his friends intervened and provided more information about Bagly's threats and antagonism toward Keys.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Side Trip to Babyville

Diana just couldn't wait any longer to see her new grandson, Jonathan, so while we were parked at Apple Valley, she made a quick trip down to San Diego in her car.

She went to a local pumpkin patch with the family, and found a miracle! Pumpkins growing on strawberry plants!

Mara quickly found just what she wanted, a white Ghost pumpkin, and hurried off to pay for it.

Jonathan slept through all the excitement.

That evening was Corrie's birthday party at Ken and Lora's house. Mara had the difficult job of putting all 32 candles on Mommy's cake.

She was soooo proud of herself!

She even helped Mommy lick the frosting off all the candles.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Deep Desert Denouement

We aimed our rigs toward a cluster of dying towns, south of Ridgecrest, CA, resolved to stay the night in one of them and get the story. We rolled into Randsburg in the late afternoon with no place to stay.

Randy relishes these challenges so we set the stopwatch and sent him on a charm offensive. It took him all of 5 minutes to get us invited to the private ghost town estate of Jack and Goldie Jackson. That's Jack on the right with Cowboy Bob.

Living people in dying towns tend to be extreme individualists and often super-gracious.

So we settled in just above town and toured on foot. Diana went off to photograph things. When she's proud of them, she puts them on Flickr. Randy interviews folks.

Can you imagine opera in a dusty desert town?

Randy engages Jeanne, a local artist. Some of her work dangle behind her.

A puzzler for both of us. What is a spizzerinctum?

Another of the old small towns in the area, Red Mountain, did not seem nearly as friendly. We're guessing Marge is the ex-wife!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Alien Landscapes

George Lucas was drawn here to the Trona Pinnacles as a backdrop for Star Wars. Many Sci Fi films use this area for its other-worldly ruggedness. Off we went 25 miles east of Ridgecrest, CA deep into the Mojave Desert to see this phenomenom.

Geologists explain that these are ancient lake-bottom stalagmites like the tufa of Mono Lake.

Enroute we passed this movie crew busily filming.

Another alien landscape is Fossil Falls. The mighty Owens River carved these surreal shapes as it cut through volcanic lava. The Los Angeles aquaduct now channels the river south.

Another adventure - Randy gets stuck. Diana to the rescue. Lesson to be learned: Low-slung vehicles and trailers should cross ditches at an angle - not straight across.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Owens Lake Drama

Once upon a time, there was a large beautiful lake in the Eastern Sierras, 110 square miles of water. Steamboats plied its waters. However, millions of thirsty people in Los Angeles wanted the water that fed the lake. So, with Teddy Roosevelt's approval, they took it.

The lake dried up. Dust storms blew through the valley, the locals got mad, filed a lawsuit, and won! Los Angeles will not give back the water, but will spend a billion dollars to stop the dust storms. How?

Phase one is to water the lake bed just enough to make hard mud, which resists the wind.

Phase two is to plant a tough grass that will eventually cover all 110 square miles. Thirty-one are already green. The dust storms have stopped.

We two curious travelers spent a night at lake's edge to feel the drama. This hot pool was once the focus of a lakeside spa, then later the washtub of grimy mine workers, hence its name "Dirty Socks."

We were surprised that 8 people came just to look into this pool; however, no one went into it. With the pool covered in algae, certainly understandable.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Keeler -- Town of Lost Souls

Randy is drawn to dismal extremes. The movie "Bagdad Cafe" awakened his fascination for lonely, remote, end-of-the-world towns where lost souls go.

Keeler, CA is such a place, a ghost town on a ghost lake on the road to Death Valley. A local ranger called it "spooky."

Time and decay eating away this once-bustling train station.

Cars without hope also come here to die.

"Street homesteading" - Even lost souls need shelter and it can be had here for free.

We wandered this silent town, seeing no one, only the evidence of perhaps 50 people hiding hunkered in scattered abandoned houses behind 20-foot walls of bamboo. Randy ached for an interview, but no one came out.

Junk, artistically arranged, is a hallmark of dead-end towns, as are harsh and whimsical signs.

Elvis might have sung:

When yo baby's left you
And you're feeling way low down
Take the road down to Death Valley
And stop at Keeler town

We're all so lonely baby, we could die.

Everyone here has fallen
Off the ladder of success
We're all equally defeated
At our Keeler town address

We're all so lonely baby, we could die.

There is comfort at the bottom
It is peaceful way down low
So come on down to Keeler town
The place where losers go

We're all so lonely baby, we could die.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lone Pine Film Festival

With our increased boldness, we parked beside a country road, less than a mile from the festival. Next to cell towers once more, we had perfect phone service and Verizon broadband internet access.

And with this nice view out Diana's big window.

These are the famous Alabama Hills, named by local southern sympathizers to celebrate the naval exploits of the wild Confederate ship, the Alabama, that sank 62 Union ships.

The arrow is pointing to Mount Whitney. This area is called Movie Flats because over 500 movies, mostly Westerns, were filmed here.

For the festival, hundreds of still photos like this are placed exactly where each scene was shot.

As you can see, the weather was a little chilly and windy Friday and Saturday of the festival.

Diana in one of the arches in the Hills.

Randy sitting on Froggie's nose.

Finally, on Sunday, the wind died and the weather warmed, just in time for the parade. This cowboy's horse is named Segway.

Lots of Western movie stars were in the parade, but this was the only name we recognized.

Oh, but wait! Here's John Wayne, Buffalo Bill, Paladin, and Walter Brennan!

All we need now is a band.

And here it is! Six intrepid musicians!

We really enjoyed ourselves in this small town celebrating a big history.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Heavy winds caught us at Independence, CA. We parked next to the Eastern California Museum and discussed where to spend the night. To Diana's credit, she said, "What's wrong with right here?" And so we did! No one troubled us. This experience has emboldened us and we are now willing to risk parking in more "iffy" areas.

The museum had lots of century-old farming machinery. Diana was particularly interested in this complicated mule-drawn threshing machine. Farming stopped in 1910 when Los Angeles bought up the entire valley for its water rights.

Molly admires the completed cabinet. It now has a back, and the heater has been attached. Diana is thrilled.

To refresh your memory, here is the "before" picture, showing the factory-installed dinette and the lack of floor space.