We are wild camping on BLM land near Ogliby and Sidewinder Roads, about three miles north of Interstate 8 and about four miles from the border with Mexico. We are actually back in California, just inside the border with Arizona. We arrived as a foursome and that lasted a couple days and then there were two. We sure do miss our foursome! Diane kept us in baked goods ( a blessing and a curse) and she also got our propane oven lit. We haven’t been able to get the darn thing lit for over a year! It was user error on our part! We had a lot of laughs, some great discussions about current events and she was very tolerant of my left wing, liberal bias! It was sad for us to see them drive off. We vowed to do some more camping together in the future.
Both Ralph and I have been sick with a cold that made the rounds from Ronnie, to Diane to me and then Ralph. I was glad it was only a head cold and didn’t go into my chest. Nothing a trip into Yuma for $60 of cold meds didn’t cure! Ralph’s been such a gentleman and sleeping on the jack knife sofa in the living room so we could both get some rest. With the coughing, sneezing, blowing and moaning from each of us at different times, it was impossible to sleep.
Ralph dug a fire pit and I gathered the rock for around the edge and we’ve had wonderful fires starting at sunset. It’s enough to chase the desert night chill away. We’ve been under a nearly full and full moon since we’ve been here. I’ve seen the moon rise in the evening in the east and set in the morning in the west. Jupiter is visible and we can see four of Jupiter’s moons with our binoculars. Venus is also visible in the southern sky. We are miles from a city so the night sky is spectacular. We can see the glow of the lights of El Centro, Ca (40 miles west) in the western sky.
We hosted our first RV Super Bowl party with chicken wings and beer, guac, etc. We had excellent TV reception, with one slight drawback, most channels are in Spanish. However, we did get NBC and the game. Ralph brought a satellite dish and our Directv receiver from home and worked to set it up for hours with Ronnie’s help. He did a practice session at home and everything went fairly smooth, however, out here we could not find the right satellite. Even with Billy Bob’s technical support on the phone. Oh well…we really don’t miss TV at all! We actually have conversations now!
I have an app, Roadside America, that lists all the sights in the area, wherever we are camped. This is how I found the Old Plank Road, the ghost mining town of Tumco and the small town of Felicity.
We are right on the edge of the Imperial Sand Dunes in the southeast corner of California on the border with Arizona. They are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state. Formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the dune spans for than 40 miles and is five miles wide. It’s very popular with the ATV crowd. And the fence between Mexico and California is clearly visible.
Plank Road is a wooden road that once spanned the Imperial Sand Dunes providing a means of transportation and commerce to the southern Imperial Valley. It is a testament to American ingenuity that produced it. It was the innovative, if not unusual, solution to the needs of early automobiles crossing the sand dunes. Construction began in 1915. The single land road was built like railroad tracks. Bolted wooden boards ran parallel to each other approximately the width of a car. The tracks were dragged out by teams of mules, then laid out end to end and secured with spiked crossbars. It was purposely designed so it could be moved when the desert sand shifted. A stationary road would be covered in sand in very little time. Here’s what’s left of the road.
Tumco, originally called Hedges, is an abandoned gold mining town and is also one of the earliest gold mining areas in California. It has a history spanning some 200 years, with several periods of boom and bust. Gold was first discovered by Spanish colonists as they moved north from Sonora, Mexico. According to the legend, two young boys came into their camp one evening with their shirts filled with gold ore. These muchachos cargados (loaded boys) were the namesake for the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, where the Tumco deposits occur. Numerous mines were operated by Mexican settlers for many years. In 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Yuma to Los Angeles line of its transcontinental route and a gold rush ensued. A twelve mile wooden pipeline pumped over 100,000 gallons of water from the Colorado River per day, and the railroad carried mine timbers from northern Arizona for use in the expansive underground workings. Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area. Today little can be seen of the old mining town, but during the boom time of the 1890s, it supported a population of at least 500 people and produced $1,000 a day in gold. The latest episode in history began in 1995 when the American Girl Mining Joint Venture began mining in the area again.
Jacques-Andre Istel has officially established the Center of the World in the town that he named after his wife, Felicia. And he has built a town around it to bolster his claim and he’s the 87 year old mayor. There is a post office and a few apartments and of course Jacques home. He also built a beautiful small church and had 150,000 tons of dirt trucked in and piled up into a hill on which to build the church. The church is modeled after one that he likes in Brittany. The Center of the World has also become the central point for memories. He has a series of two-inch think granite walls being inscribed with everything that he thinks is worth telling future generations. The long granite walls tell the stories of the history of French aviation, WWII, US Marine Corps Korean war Memorial, the History of Humanity, etc. It is all funded by Jacques and donors. You can have your name engraved and become part of the wall for a $300 donation. The center is only open from December to March, when the outside temperature won’t kill you!
Ralph went visiting our nearest neighbor, Bill, who is living in his pickup truck and carving beautiful canes out of local wood and inlaying stone he finds here in the desert. Bill had been living in the area and had a shop at the Gold Rock RV park until very recently. He was a wealth of local information.
This is not a quiet place. We are near a railroad track and it seems the trains run every hour and evidently, must blow their horns. I’ve noticed that the horns blow in different sequences and wonder what’s the significance of each pattern. We also have the very large helicopters that fly over periodically all day and half the night, which we assume are border patrol.
The weather has been very warm; 10 degrees above normal for this time of year. It will be in the high 80s for the next few days. We are going to leave our boondocking area and go to an RV park just up the road; the Gold Rock RV Resort. It’s quite a little, middle of nowhere, desert “Resort” . They have hookups and laundry. So we can dump, pump, run the A/C and do laundry all for $20 per night. The proprietor’s name is Candy Hooker. Great name, eh? There is also a museum there with photos of Tumco in it’s heyday. We will spend one night there and then head up a little north. See if we can find a little cooler climate. Getting close to 90 degrees here and this is not what we want. That’s why our vacation home is on wheels.
Here’s a little look at the “Resort”.
We are learning our way around Yuma and have enjoyed our time here. Ralph has been here twice for dental appointments in Los Algodones, Mexico
We’ve been allowing Feddy to hang out off the leash and he’s having a wonderful time exploring under the rig. He doesn’t seem to wander far and comes when Ralph whistles. We make sure he is in before dark. Coyotes, don’t cha know…
Speaking of coyotes…We were sitting under the awning near our campfire when Ralph says, very calmly and in a low voice, “There’s a coyote”. At that point it was about 25 feet from us and I didn’t see it. I ask, “Where is it?” Ralph pointed and said, “Right there!” I still didn’t see it; but right there was too close for me. Ralph said is was less than 10 feet from me. Now I move into action. That action being jumping up, making a lot of noise and running into the rig, fast! Then, I looked out the open door and saw it. In my mild panic, I accidentally let the cat out. Then I went out and started screaming “Fred!, Fred!” scaring the damn cat away. Ralph did get the cat back, but for a minute I wanted to vomit because I thought my cat was going to be coyote dinner! In my mind’s I see a large, male, aggressive coyote. In reality it was a very small (think large cat size) and it was slinking away looking like he hoped we hadn’t seen him either. The end of the story…Ralph sat outside, fearless, by the campfire and I spent the rest of the evening sitting in the dinette, with the window open and watching the campfire from the comfort (and security) of the rig. Yes, I am a coward! And I feel so bad for the poor little thing with absolutely no water and a mouse once in a while for dinner. This is a very harsh environment.
A sampling of desert sunsets. The photos have not been enhanced.
Until next time…