How small things can change your whole life. 28 years ago, Ingrid at that time my little sister, took the Golden Pages and looked for a hotel which also offered horse-riding in Southern Belgium. If she had not taken this guide and I would not have gone on a solitary horse-riding holiday I would probably never have met Frank. And I would probably now not be doing this trip because I can’t imagine any other man I would like to do this trip with.
After a quiet night behind the gas station we are heading off to descend the Colorado Plateau.
Entering Yarnell we see signs for a Hot Shot shuttle service. 4 years ago immense wildfires, that threatened to overrun Yarnell, killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, firefighters from Prescott. It is an emotional story that shows the dedication of community service and the risk people take to save other people. This Sunday was the memorial day in the park created for these people who died during their service, just outside Yarnell, to commemorate their heroism. We read the story, stay silent for a while, but have to continue west.
Descending from the Colorado plateau, entering a totally different world of vast, hot plains.
Seeing the first Saguaro cacti. This typical cactus with its protruding arms only grows in the Sonoran desert, one of the driest places in the US. Did you know that after 50 years it is still only 2 meters high and that it only gets its first arms after 75 years?
They can become 200 years old and will weigh 4-8 tons by then. Read some more?
Wild camping in the middle of nowhere with the noise of wild donkeys (burro’s) in the distance.
Only next day we get to see them. It is getting hotter, especially during the day.
Within an hour Frank can start repairing yet another flat back tire and John stops to see if he can help. He is on his way to Parker, our goal in two days. On his way back he treats us on lunch with fresh fruit. Was such a surprise and sooo nice! Thanks John, it was a pleasure meeting you!
On or Off The Road
Riding CR62 is stressful, as 90% of the time there is no shoulder, but as traffic is not too dense we fall into a rhythm of informing each other: “on-coming traffic” -> “clear from the rear” or “car” or “get off the road”. The shoulder consists of loose sand we have to get into, to let trucks pass by. As this happens quite often it is not a relaxed ride, but it is still nice and sunny with a great landscape and no headwind! After a night at an RV site with the train almost passing through our tent we pass further through an area with agriculture, irrigate by water out of the Colorado or from wells.
Parker is a small “big” city with excellent omelettes. And we can have a drink on Peters birthday! We stay at a motorhome campsite but will never do this again before checking opening times of the facilities. Closed between 20:00 and 08:00 is not an option if you do not have a toilet in your tent!
California here we come!
Next day we cross the Colorado river and enter California!
Last state before flying home for Christmas. Now the driest stretch starts, 180 km without water source, we ensure to stock up with sufficient water. Long straight stretches of roads start, like drawn on the map with a ruler.
Shoes and Spiders
Along the CA62 we pass a place where there must have been a house and a shop in the past. All that remains are the foundations of the house and a sign that refers to “Pete’s Smoke Shop”. The strange thing about the place however, is the fact that on the fence surrounding the ruins, there are hundreds of pairs of shoes! No indication on how this was started, a former shoe shop, one person leaving a pair and others copying it, or a mad collector? The place has an eerie feeling to it.
Next we save a tarantula from being run over as he (probably) tries to cross the road. Seems the males travel for miles and will cross busy roads to find a female. After he has done his business, she kills him. Not very smart these guys 😊.
We do 2 nights of wild camping, what a solitude! Strange, but great to have cell service at one of those locations and being able to congratulate Denise with her birthday via video WhatsApp, but a short talk, as we have to save batteries 😊. We wonder why we have reception, no villages except one small one, far from the highway. Nothing 360 degrees around us.
Seems this is part of marines training area. After 6 days of camping we finally arrive at a small oasis, 29 Palms and treat ourselves on a 2 night motel recovery with healthy food, lots of water and dips in a cool (Frank says cold) swimming pool.
If we had known 30 days ago we would have been here, we could have applied for a visit at the Marines training base which is located only 5 miles from here. As you need to be screened there is no possibility for a last minute visit. Checked out the local bar, but no Tom Cruise, no Kelly McGillis either according to Frank.
We are ready for Joshua Tree! More in next blog.