Travelin Tiger Archive

January 29, Portland OR

First trip of the year is behind us and we had a great trip. The trip was a total of 3654 miles over 15 days. We had about the worst mileage we have had on a trip at 13.9 mpg. Not sure what to attribute the drop of in mileage to, except more low speed back country driving and more city driving.

The highlites for the trip for me were Anza-Borrega Park which was a first for us. We spent more time in Death Valley and there is quite a lot to see. The Racetrack was a highlite and a lowlite. The valley that the playa was in was beautiful and the Racetrack was very interesting, the road to get there however was brutal.

We had two issues with the truck, the blown tire, that may have been attributed to the beating the day before on the playa, we were planning on new tires this summer, so ultimately we just ended up getting them sooner without the luxury to shop for price. The other problem was with our webasto heater. We have been having problems intermitently with it since taking delivery, after this trip Mark decided that we needed to change out the heater under warranty. While the webasto has been finicky from the begining, Mark and the folks from webasto have been very conscientious in trying to solve it. After this trip they agreed it needed to be changed out.

January 28, Sisters OR

Today was another travel day heading home. No adventures like yesterday, just a day getting used to how the new tires handled on Scout, amazing what a change in tires can do to how a truck handles and rides.


January 27, Reno NV

Today was supposed to be an easy day. We planned on a drive into Reno expecting to arrive there around 2pm, do some shopping and then stay in our normal Reno stopping point at the casino.

When we had arrived back to the campground yesterday Ron took a close look at the tires as we had worked them hard the previous two days. Our tires had about 30,000 miles on them and were starting to approach the end of their service life. But despite the tough workout from Titus Canyon and the drive to the Race Track they looked ok, the air levels were good and there were no signs of cuts or punctures.

When we got up it had stopped raining, but the valley was fogged in. It had rained steadily most of the night and it was amazing to see how quickly the plants around the camp ground were greening up.

From Death Valley to Reno the first 180 miles is thru the desert and there are only three towns with any services spread out about every 60 to 100 miles. We had been cruising for about 130 miles averaging about 60 mph when as we were leaving Hawthorne Nevada the front right tire blew and proceeded to shred itself. Ron wrestled the truck to a very narrow soft shoulder right at the edge of the town.


While it was a problem to lose a tire like that it could have been much worst. First we were actually in one of only three towns along the route. Second we were only going about 40 mph when the tire blew, for long stretches we were traveling at 70 mph and it could have been much worst to lose the tire at that speed. Ron got out to take a look at things, we were on a narrow shoulder on a fairly busy stretch of highway, while we were clear of the travel lane it was only by inches. The shoulder was extremely soft and Ron was concerned about the stability of the jack in the soft sand. At that point he decided that since we had AAA coverage he would call them to assist us.

Ron had just pulled out the card and was in the process of calling AAA when a young man walked up from behind us. He asked Ron if he was calling AAA and when Ron confirmed he was, he laughed and said he was AAA in Hawthorne. How is that for service? He said he heard the tire go and looked out of his window and saw us on the shoulder. So our streak of extraordinary luck continued. He had us on our way in less than a half hour.

So our easy travel day had a complication. After calling around we found a set of tires we had been thinking about as an upgrade at Reno Vulcanizing Works (had to get that name into the story) which is the oldest Good Year Tire Dealer in the world. And after a more exciting day than we had planned we were on our way to the casino for the night.

January 26, Death Valley NP, CA

Ron had always wanted to visit the Racetrack Playa. Ton was a little nervous as the park service puts out very severe warnings about the road and particularly mentions long stretches of sharp rocks. Ron had done some research and several other Tigers had made it out there, though all of the owners had complained about the washboard condition of the road.

We started the day by visiting Ubehebe Crater. The crater is about a half mile across and 700 feet deep and is a result of a recent magma explosion in the park. The crater is quite impressive and a reminder of how suddenly things can change on the planet.

We set out for the playa and Ron thought it could not be much worst than yesterdays drive thru Titus Canyon. In some ways he was right and in some ways he was wrong. The road itself was pretty straight forward with no particular narrow places or washed out sections of road. Looking at it it was a typical gravel road you find in the west. But the washboard was the worst Ron had ever experienced and really beat up the truck and the people inside. We creeped along at 10 miles along most of the way and still felt like we were inside a blender.


The valley approaching the race track is really beautiful and you feel like you are really on your own. For the day I think only about 5 vehicles including us went out to the Playa. About 6 miles from the Playa you come to Tea Kettle Junction where there is a tradition of hanging a tea kettle with your name on it. We were not aware of the tradition and did not have a tea kettle to leave.

Finally we arrived at the playa. How the rocks moved used to be a mystery, but apparently in November a group from the Scripps Institue were out there and saw the rocks actually moving. To make a short story of a long story it apparently takes a combination of a wet Playa, freezing temperatures that causes ice to build up on the rocks and high winds, and suddenly a 60 pound rock will move on it’s own.


The drive back was no more fun than the drive out there, but we made it back in one piece.

Right as we settled in to go to sleep it started raining. Death Valley only averages two inches of rain per year and we were there for a significant rainstorm.

January 25, Death Valley NP, CA

it was quite warm last night and we enjoyed a good nights sleep without a heater. After we got going we started the day by touring the Golden Canyon. It was a short walk but quite nice. Even at 8:30 it was starting to warm up a bit.


Next we went to the Devils Golf Course. It is on the valley floor and consists of thousands of small humps with salt deposits on the top. It was interesting but a little disappointing for Ron as he was expecting something with more of a golf theme.

We had visited Artists Point on our first visit about 10 years ago. We had enjoyed the drive so were looking forward to visiting again. This time Ron was a little disapointed with the drive. Ton pointed out that the light was much better in the evening and the last time we had been there in the evening.


The last thing we planned was to take the Titus Canyon road. This is about a 25 mile drive thru the Grapevine Mountains on an unimproved road. The last time we did it in a car so we thought it would be a relatively simple drive. It turned out to be much rougher than it must of been last time, because I do not think we could have gotten a car thru the road as it was today. Still it was great fun and Ton wore out the battery on her camera taking pictures, and Scout handled the road very well.

January 24, Death Valley NP, CA

We are getting used to the drive from Joshua Tree to Death Valley as this is the fourth time we have done it in the last couple of months.

On the way out of Joshua Tree we stopped at Skull Rock. The Skull Rock Trail is a short trail that highlights the non-cactus plants in the desert. Skull Rock really does bear an amazing resemblance to a skull.

We drove from Joshua Tree to Death Valley on a back road that passes thru Mojave National Preserve and Baker California. We were planning to fuel up in Baker as it had the cheapest diesal in the area last trip. Despite fuel prices dropping everywhere else on this trip, the fuel in Baker had actually risen to over $4 per gallon so we passed and drove on towards Death Valley, if we were going to pay an exorbitant amount for fuel we decided we would rather do it in a small desert community, then a large community right on the interstate.


Today we visited Dantes Peak in Death Valley which is an overlook above the main valley. From 5000 feet you are looking the length of Death Valley and can also see for miles back towards Las Vegas. We stayed up for sunset and Ton got some nice shots.

January 23, Joshua Tree NP, CA

We decided to revisit one of our favorite places Joshua Tree NP. We drove the backway over the mountains from Temecula to Indio. The last 10 miles is a steep downhill off of the mountain. When we pulled over at the vista point to take a couple of pictures, there were 3 guys with long skateboards. They left right in front of us going down hill at about 35 miles per hour. A little crazy but impressive. Unfortunately we forgot to get any pictures.


When we got to the park we went to the same vista point that we visited last time in the thick fog. This time the skies were clear and you could see for miles. Once again Ton was thrilled with the Joshua Trees and other cactus. Just before we got to the park we bought a couple of post cards with all of the local cactus so we could better identify them.

Again we were very impressed with the campgrounds and enjoyed the younger crowd compared to other National Parks.

January 22, San Diego CA

Today we started out at Torrey Pines State Nature Area. The Torrey Pine tree is only found in two places in the world, one grove near San Diego and the other on one of the channel islands near Santa Barbara. The Preserve has an interesting mix of plants in a small area. In addition to the Torrey Pines in the same area there are ferns and cactus. The micro-climate in the area allow this diversity in plant types.


From Torrey Pines we headed to La Jolla to see how the other half lives. It is a pretty community. Along the waterfront there were a flock of Pelicans sitting on shore, and a few Sea Lions sunning on the beach.


We went to small dive restaurant in Pacific Beach that was reputed to be the best in San Diego. The food was excellent and Ton pronounced the Ceviche as the best Mexican Ceviche she has had.

As I said yesterday we were spending the afternoons in Breweries so today we went to Ballast Point Brewery. This was by far the poshest brewery we have ever seen. The trend we noticed in San Diego was that the breweries seemed larger and more commercially developed then their counterparts at home. We sent our friends a picture from Ballast Point, and one texted back that we needed to visit Karl Strauss brewery. We figured it was our last day so why not. It was in what was clearly an old Japanese restaurant complete with a Koi Farm. Turns out this was not the original brewery. We did a taster tray and it was very good and the waiter was quite knowledgeable.


Ended the day doing our laundry and having a nice conversation about Scout with a Marine who was getting ready to retire. Ron got another reminded that he was an old Marine as the Navy newspaper was talking about the decomissioning of a 35 year old amphibious ship that was launced when he was a Lieutenant.

January 21, San Diego CA

The theme of the trip to San Diego is mornings doing touristy things and the afternoons visiting breweries. San Diego is a great town to look around and despite living only 80 miles away for 5 years we had not seen a lot of the city.

The morning we visited Balboa Park which is one of the best parks in the US. We were particularly impressed with the Prado and the Museum of Man. The buildings were built for an exposition in the 30’s and have been used for many purposes since, including a garrison and hospital during WWII. There are also many different types of gardens and fountains that are quite beautiful. Ton really loved the cactus garden though she would have like to seem some name plaques on some of the cactus that we were unable to identify.


After finishing with Balboa Park we headed out to Escondido to visit Stone Brewery. The facility was really large and impressive. The beer was ok, and the food very fancy. The tour was really good and the “beer indoctrinator” was really knowledgeable about beer and the industry. Stone brewery is quite large for a craft brewery and is in the process of opening a brewery in Berlin. I am curious how it will be received, there was a German couple on the tour and they thought it might go over ok, as there are actually not that many breweries in Berlin compared to the rest of Germany.

At the end of the day we decided that we wanted to see La Jolla and check out another brewery, luckily we were able to get the last spot available for tomorrow in the Navy RV park so we are extending in San Diego.

January 20, San Diego, CA

Well last night we had a talk about where to go next. Ton said there was a great road from where we were camped into San Diego. She had fond memories of a trip to Coronado Island we took about 20 years ago and wanted to see how it has changed.

We took California Highway 78/79 over the San Jacinto mountains and it was nice. A continuation of the high desert environment, with a few California Oaks occasionally. Not too hard of a drive and worth the effort if you need to go east to west versus I-8.

We were hoping to get into the Navy RV park on Coronado as it has a great view of San Diego Bay and all of the ships. Unfortunately it was full so we ended up staying at a RV park near the Junction of I-8 and I-15.


We headed over to Coronado to do some shopping at the Navy Exchange and Commisary. That taken care, of we went downtown where to Ron’s amazement things had change since he was last there in the Marines 20 years ago. We had a nice beer sampler at Coronado Brewing Company. It is worth a stop. Final stop for the day was a drive down the silver strand between San Diego Harbor and the Pacific. Great beaches some of them public and some belonging to the Navy.

January 19, Anza-Borrego State Park, CA

We woke up at dawn after sleeping at Fonts Point to catch the sunrise. It was not quite the party that sunset was as, there was only one other couple there. They drove out from San Diego just for the sunrise. The women in the couple asked where Ton was from and when she told her Thailand, the girl laughed and said I thought so, you have the exact same accent as my mother.


After cooking up breakfast we headed over to Palm Canyon. We walked up a wash for about a mile and a half to the classic oasis you would see in a movie. Water and a cluster of Palms. It was very impressive.

After returning to Scout we headed over to the town. On the two main entrances into town an artist has set out various sculptures in the desert. Not quite to our taste, but interesting none the less.


We then headed over to a feature in the badlands called the slot. Another interesting walk. Including a very steep descent that looks like it used by motorcycles and possibly even some off road vehicles. It would be very tricky to try and a mistake would be quite painful.


On our way to camping up for the night Ton mentioned a cactus trail. She said it was only a mile walk, Ron had a vision of a nice stroll along a manicured trail. Instead it was a rocky trail through a wash and up over the side of a ridge. Probably a two hundred foot climb. Ton enjoyed it tremendously as the cactus were magnificent.


January 18, Anza-Borrego State Park, CA

Today we reached our target to begin exploring instead of driving. We arrived at Anza-Borrego about 1:30 after driving about 250 miles. Enroute we stopped at a California Visitors Center in Yucca Valley to arm ourselves with some information about the park and other things in this part of California. While there we ran into a Canadian couple in a truck camper who had just come from Anza-Borrego. They told us to stop at the visitors center as the building was incredible.


When we arrived we made a bee line for the visitors center. Ton was not as impressed with the building as the Canadians, but she did enjoy the cactus garden. At the visitors center we asked for the best place for sunsets and they sent us to Fonts Point. The location was incredible overlooking the mountains, some serious badlands and a valley that stretched all the way to Mexico.


The sunset was indeed incredible, though initially spoiled by a group that decided to hold a cocktail party at the overlook. After the sun set behind the mountains the cocktail party broke up, and Ton and I were the last ones left at the viewpoint. Ton mentioned that it would be a nice place for sunrise too, so we are now camped in the parking area for Fonts Point to be ready for sunset.

On a whim we checked the TV reception not expecting much, but were surprised that it found 17 channels over the air. When we started cycling thru the channels they are all from Mexico. As I write this we are watching the Patriots v Colts championship game in High Definition with Spanish commentaries.


January 17, China Lake CA

Our plans have changed. After spending last night in Reno we decided to head straight to Anza-Borrego, and then begin working our way North.

Today we headed down US 395 following the east side of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains. Unfortunately for California this winter has again been mostly dry and warm. This road would normally have a lot of snow along it and today it was completely dry and the temperatures were in the high 50’s all of the way.


Since we covered al lot of this area in our October trip we only made one stop to take pictures. Tomorrow we should arrive at the southern end of the trip and begin the real exploring, after watching the NFL championship games.

Tonight we are staying at China Lake Naval Weapons Station. I was surprisd that they had a campground since this place is the Navy’s equivalent of Area 51. They had a weapons museum that included a bunch of aircraft that were in service when I first went into the Marines. As Ton likes to point out when I am surprised by these things, I am getting old.


January 16, Reno NV

Today we doubled back to Reno to take care of some things on the truck. Tonight we had a nice sea food buffet in one of the casinos and we are holed up at our normal casino RV park.

January 15, Walker Lake, NV

Today was another long driving day trying to push on to Death Valley to start the fun.

Tonight we are staying at Walker Lake in Nevada. Walker Lake is a large fresh water lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada’s near Hawthorne Nevada. We have passed by it several times cruising up and down the great basin and on trips to see our son in Las Vegas, and we have always said we should stop. Tonight we pulled into a nice BLM campground and were one of two occupants. Ton got some nice photos of the lake and is looking forward to getting up for sunrise, as our living room window is looking east across the lake.


January 14, Klamath Falls OR

Today nothing much to report. Driving south and stopped at our normal first night stop in Klamath Falls. We got here a little earlier than normal so we ran into downtown Klamath Falls to check out the local brewery Klamath Basin Brewery. The beer was very good and in a nice building that used to be a dairy. The town of Klamath Falls including this brewery uses Geo Thermal heating for various things so this is one of the few breweries in the world that use Geo Thermal heated water in their production process. We can attest that it makes great beer. travelin tiger 2013