Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fountain of Youth Spa & Salton Sea

Sat - Dec. 26th

The Salton Sea is in the Imperial Valley of California where the majority of the vegetables for the country are grown. It was created in 1905 when the Colorado River flooded unchecked for 18 months before they managed to get it stopped.
It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It has been three times as big, five different times over the past 1,300 years and completely dried up each time. It is 25% saltier than the ocean and continues to get saltier all the time due to evaporation and agricultural runoff. The salinity is threatening the fish life, which in turn will decimate the migratory bird population. 95% of the wetlands of the Pacific Coast are gone and the Salton Sea is one of the last remaining stopovers on the Pacific Flyway. The Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge is here and 18,000 year old Obsidian Butte, an extinct volcano. It is very near the San Andreas Fault. They have thousands of earth quakes each year, but they are so small they just go unnoticed. We watched some migrant workers harvesting vegetables. It looked like cauliflower. They were whacking off the tops and packing them in boxes to ship. The next picture is from the pool and hot tub area at the spa campground where we stayed four days over Christmas, a little holiday gift to ourselves. This is John walking back to our campsite. They had two pools, six hot mineral pools, two steam rooms and every other thing you could want. They had golf, tennis, table tennis, horseshoes, bocci ball, shuffle board, crafts, dances, line dancing, square dancing (and you know how John loves to dance), two laundry mats, library, hair salon, massages,
store, weekly farmers market, guided hikes, etc.
The Schwan's truck even stopped every week.

Views from our camper. The first three were on the hiking path directly behind our camper at the base of the Chocolate Mountains.

The campground is on a slope and we are at the top level. These views are overlooking the Salton Sea.

We went for an hour and a half bike ride today and checked out two other nearby campgrounds.

We will be leaving here Monday morning and heading south for Yuma and more new sights.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Slab City & Salvation Mountain

Wed - Dec. 23rd

When we reached the Salton Sea area, we decided to check out Salvation Mountain and Slab City, since we had heard so much about them.
Salvation Mountain was created by a man who was flying in a hot air balloon and crashed at this spot a few miles east of the Salton Sea. He decided it was a sign from God and he has been working on it
ever since (16 years). He thinks he has used approximately 100,000 gallons of leftover paint that people bring and donate to his project. He is technically trespassing on state land. Both the state and county have had plans to evict him and demolish his mountain in the past, but never got
it done. Over the years his mountain has become quite famous. There has been a documentary made and it has been featured in several books. It has become a world wide phenomenon. One of his trucks was actually shipped to Baltimore and shown in a museum as folk art. Leonard Knight's
Salvation Mountain covers five acres of a gravelly, weed strewn patch of ground on the outskirts of a World War II desert training base used by General Patton's tank corps. The Folk Art Society has declared it a national folk art shrine.

Also, on this training base is Slab City. People have been using the leftover cement slabs for free camping spots in the desert probably since the base was abandoned. It has just become a little come as you please, do as you please hamlet in the desert. As you can see from the pictures, there
are some very permanent run down, ramshackle places and some very nice motor homes and everything in between.

I especially liked this place with the fence made out of pallets. Remind you of anyone?

This place was run by the L.O.W.s (Loners on Wheels Club). You had to be single to camp in their area, but they provided this place to have a beer and socialize.

This was us camped to the right of a very nice, fancy motor home. You just pick out any area that looks good to you and move in.

Just an overview of one area. We weren't sure if anyone was actually living in the gray bus or if it was abandoned.

Some places were totally decorated for Christmas with obviously scavenged stuff.

We were told that this place has live music every Friday night. We met some very nice people, but we only stayed two nights, so we didn't get in on that.

Looks like homesteaders. We decided to treat ourselves for Christmas, so we moved a few miles down the road to a resort with natural hot mineral springs.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Oasis Date Gardens- Coachella Valley

Tuesday - Dec. 22nd

We tasted about a dozen different varieties of dates here and bought a few.

95% of the dates in the U.S. are raised in the Coachella Valley. They are irrigated with canal water from the Colorado River. There is one male tree to every 49 female trees and they must all be hand polinated. Only the female trees produce fruit, up to 300 pounds each. Dates keep one month on the shelf, 4 to 6 months in the refrigerator or they can be frozen.

Large amounts are sold each year for Ramadan, when the Muslims fast everyday for a month from sun up to sun down. Muhammad supposedly broke fast each day with dates and water, so it is tradition. Ramadan comes earlier every year on the western calendar, so the dates will not be ripe this year in time. They will have to use frozen ones from last year, which the date companies had anticipated, and froze a good supply ahead. Dates are the oldest cultivated tree in the world dating back to 3,000 B.C. in the Persian countries (Iraq, Egypt, etc.). They aren't started from seeds, but from shoots that come off the old trees. They got their start in this country in the early 1900s. The palm fronds are shaped like feathers, as are banana palms. Some palm fronds are more of a round shape like a fan with a long handle.
The dates are covered to protect them until they ripen. We are heading for the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains today. Who knew there were chocolate mountains? Sounds like heaven to me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Palm Springs Living Desert

Mon - Dec. 21st

We were here when they opened at 9:00 AM. We got to watch the feeding of the reticulated giraffes. Anyone who wanted to could feed the grain pellets to them. You just laid it on their tongues, which can be 18 inches long, and they wrapped their tongue around it and pulled it in. You might get
slimed a little, but the zoo keeper said it was clean slime. There was also a pair of ostriches in with
the giraffes.

Warthog. John says it is the animal he relates to the most, since his son-in-law referred to him as a grizzled old...... (what was it again? I forget).

Cheetah. They have a variety of animals here from Africa and America.

Mexican Wolf. It has very pretty colors. It is endangered like our wolves. They are currently introducing them back into the wild just like we did here in the U.S.

They have plant varieties from all the deserts in the world, bird sanctuaries and butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

I highly recommend this place. We spent six hours here with no breaks for lunch or gift shops. They have regular scheduled animal shows plus impromptu talks along the walkways where the keepers bring out baby animals to show. They also have an animal hospital you can go in and watch and ask questions. We could have easily spent the whole day.

They also had miniature trains that were amazing to watch. They had houses, businesses, cars, people, boats, planes, trellises, bridges, tunnels, etc. Anything you could think of, from outhouses to the Grand Canyon. Check out the last picture for Mount Rushmore just under the airplane.

Yesterday we went to a big flea market. We bought pistachio nuts, almond covered date treats, pineapple chunks rolled in chili powder and a couple Christmas gifts and had lunch.

Driving back to our campsite.
Moving on tomorrow.

Palm Springs Star Walk

Fri - 18th

Gene Autry is John's hero. He sang "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and John's favorite, of course,
"Back in the Saddle Again".

John posing with statue of Sonny Bono. He was the mayor of Palm Springs until he was killed in a skiing accident. Sonny, that is, not John.

We did the downtown celebrity star walk. Roy and Dale had the only double star together. They were in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum. We had free tickets to the museum that we got at the vistors center, so we went. It was very good. We enjoyed it very much. Not surprisingly, there are lots of art and cultural things going on.

Lots of streets are named after celebrities, too. There is a Kirk Douglas Way, Gerald Ford Drive, Dinah Shore Drive.... Who is that you say? Boy, you are young!

There is a sky tram ride up the mountain for a view of the city and surrounding area, but we opted to take a drive up to a view point. It was a lot cheaper.

Each car holds 80 people and takes about 10 minutes for the two miles to the top. The car rotates around as it travels to the top for a 360 degree view.

Here is our view from where we drove up. You might be able to see the casino we are camped by. It is the only tall building in the upper left corner. The cities are surrounded by mountain ranges in all directions, so there are great views every direction.