Hello everyone. I'm just back from Thanksgiving vacation. The grand plan was to drive to Joshua Tree National Park and do some rock climbing over the 5-day holiday. I had really high hopes for this trip, but that was not to be.
First of all, if you don't know what Joshua Trees are, see below. They are Yucca plants, part of the lily family. These exist only in the Mojave Desert area of the United States.
The fun started when we were ready to leave Wednesday morning and the truck wouldn't start - battery was dead. I took it down to Kragen and they wanted to test it before giving me a pro-rated discount on the next battery (since the bad one was only 2 years old). I was already late, so waiting an hour to see if it will charge was frustrating. I explained this to the lady so she courteously checked it after only 5 minutes and declared it dead. I don't know if it was, but I only paid $40 (about half price) for the new battery, so I guess I don't care. So, after I installed the new battery, we were only an hour late or so.
The drive to Joshua Tree is about 9 hours. The only way to make it bearable is to have the kids watch videos on a portable DVD player. Unfortunately, we found that the cigarette lighter power cord no longer worked. So, we next made a trip to the local Radio Shack. Despite appearing to have every power cord known to man, they did NOT have a cigarette lighter power cord. However, they did have an insanely expensive power converter, which converts a cigarette lighter into a normal plug outlet. In the interest of getting moving, I shelled out $45 for that. However, the plug-in power cord for the DVD player was back at home, so we had to go back again to pick that up. Another half hour late. But, Sue and the kids were in the back watching movies and Kona and I in front, so all was well. "Dog is my copilot." (religious dyslexics' motto)
On the trip down, we stopped about half way and found a cheap flea-bag hotel. Their sign said, "Rooms from $25.99." Our bill ended up being $45. I'm not sure how that worked, but was in no mood to argue.
Thursday we continued our drive and made it to our hotel near Joshua Tree and unpacked. Kira decided to check out the pool, while Jordan and I went for a bike ride. There are a lot of dirt paths to ride around there, so we had a lot of fun. Until I got a flat, that is. One of the hazards of the desert is that every freaking plant is covered with spikes. I ended up with quite a few in my tires, one of which went through to the tube. I had been planning to ride the Geology Loop trail inside the park one day, but now that was dashed, unless I found a bike shop. I was in no mood to go shopping, though, so scratch that. Oh, and Kira reported that the pool water was ice cold, so she didn't have any fun either. At least Jordan had a blast riding his bike in the dirt.
In the evening, our friends Karen, Lewis, and Lewis' daughter Georgia, who were camping inside the park, came to the hotel room for dinner, which we cooked out in the parking lot. We got some very strange looks from people coming out of the Sizzler next door. I gotta admit, I was pretty envious of them. But we had fun anyway. Lewis' wine may have helped.
Georgia and Kira are about the same age, so of course they had to have a sleep-over that night. Poor Jordan got picked on all night (and the next day and the next...).
On Friday, we arranged to meet at a rock outcropping called Thin Wall. The name really fit.. it was seriously like someone erected a wall of rock, straight up on both sides. It was really cool. Unfortunately, it was about a quarter mile from the car. Normally, not a problem. But today, Sue woke up totally sick and couldn't move far from the car/bathroom, and also a ranger came around to enforce the rule that dogs are not allowed more that 100 feet from the road (which we knew about, but had never seen enforced before). While Lewis and Karen finished up their route on Thin Wall, the rest of us drove to Trash Can Rock, which had some decent climbing and was right next to a parking lot. Sue managed to put up a couple easy routes for the kids before collapsing on Kira's crash pad and going to sleep. The kids were having a blast scrambling over rocks, so weren't really interested in climbing. And the bees. There were hundreds of bees flying around freaking me out. They were even bothering Kona, who tried snapping at them with her mouth, thankfully always missing. Lewis and Karen eventually arrived after a couple hours trying to free a stuck rope and put up a couple more routes. I got three good climbs in, and everyone seemed to have a good time, except for Sue. But even she managed to get two climbs in. Even sickness won't keep her from climbing! We ended the day back at the hotel cooking dinner again, then heading to bed.
Saturday, we woke up to a light rain, and Sue still feeling sick. Hoping it would clear up, we met at another climbing area. There were some great rocks, but it was cold and a little wet. Sue, Lewis and Karen scouted out some good climbs, while the kids scrambled on the rocks, and found a cool cave.
Kona and I went for a hike, exploring the area. She had a lot of fun, although a few times I had to pull cactus thorns out of her paws.
It finally cleared up a little, so Lewis put up a route.
Unfortunately, as he was finishing up, it began raining again. But Sue couldn't resist and had to try the route, while the rest of us stood in the rain.
We figured we had to adjust the difficulty of this 5.10a route a bit due to (1) rain, (2) temperature below 50F, and (3) climbing while sick. Sue fell once, but kept going and managed to finish the route.
Around noon we finally gave up, went into town for lunch at Santana's, and then explored the climbing and gift shops around there. Finally we went back to the hotel and spent some time at the nearby park. Dinner was leftovers and peanut butter tortillas. Uugh. Kira and Georgia had a sleepover party again.
The plan for Sunday was to meet up at 8am and drive to New Jack City to climb for a while there before heading home. However, we woke up Sunday morning to rain again. Are we in a dang desert or not? I mean, come ON!! Since the rocks were too wet to climb, we decided to bail and just head home. Traffic was slow in places, but not bad. We decided to take 99 north, instead of 5. As an added bonus, 99 parallels railroad tracks, so there were a couple trains to keep me interested.
As a final kicker for this disaster of a trip, the DVD player failed before heading home, so the kids had nothing to do for 9 hours. So, to break things up, we made a couple stops.
One stop I've been wanting to do for years was at the famous Tehachapi Loop where the railroad track makes a complete loop up and over itself. Check it out on this map:
Here is a train coming up hill, into the loop:
Here it is exitting the top of the loop, where we were standing:
And at a tourist-trap gift shop/restaurant/petting zoo:
Despite all the above, the trip wasn't actually too bad. I didn't have anything I was dying to do, so I wasn't too disappointed. And we got to relax and hang out with good friends Lewis and Karen. Sue might have a different answer, being sick for 3 days, however. Maybe we'll try again at Christmas and hope for better weather and health.