Fall 2022 Episode 6: Lake Havasu Part 2

Our two-week stay was too busy to pack into one post, so here is the rest of the story about our time in Lake Havasu City in October 2022.

We’re suckers for a parade, especially small-town parades like the London Bridge Days Parade. So we packed up our lawn chairs and headed to McCulloch Blvd. to celebrate the 51st Anniversary of the London Bridge. The parade theme was Life is Better at the Lake.

Hey, Mickey. Over here.
Side-by-side owners showed off their off-road buggies
A show of force by the Lake Havasu City SWAT team
US Border Patrol’s Horse Unit
Parker Marching Broncs

Later in the day, it was on to the London Bridge Marina to watch the costumed paddle boarders and kayakers navigate the Bridgewater Channel from Rotary Park to the bridge. It would have been fun to join the Annual Witches Paddle, but my wrist hadn’t quite healed enough.

Here they come paddling up the channel
Moms, dads, kids, and even dogs joined the event
Big turn out for the Annual Witch’s Paddle

It seemed like the whole town comes out for Lake Havasu Fright Night on October 31. We joined my sister Merri, her daughter Tracy, and her daughter Bobbi. I liked the idea of concentrating the trick-or-treating in one location. Given that many of the homes are built in hilly areas, and some are second homes and unoccupied full-time, gathering downtown worked out well for the kids and parents alike.

Outta my way. I’m here for the treats
Bobbi (dressed as Wednesday) and friend checking out the dragon
Hey, Garfield
Don’t look up
Bobbi tries the ring toss and gets a five
I’ll take one from this bucket, and another handful from that bucket
Isn’t that the red-headed witch paddler we saw a few days ago?
Turn around, Tracy and look at the sunset.

Parker Dam at Take Off Point

After a busy few days, my sister Merri needed time to herself to take care of chores, so Jon and I went for a drive along the California side of the river. We can’t drive that route when we’re pulling the fifth wheel because trailers are banned from crossing over Parker Dam.

Before crossing the river, we stopped at Take Off Point, where there is a boat ramp, fishing piers, shade structure, picnic table, and if the fish are biting, there is a fire pit to cook lunch or dinner. Parker Dam is close enough to capture a few photos of the lakeside of the dam.

View of the lake side of the dam
Darn, Jon left his fishing gear in the truck

We were lucky this great blue heron was unafraid of people. He or she posed for us from its perch on the rocks.

Great blue heron posed for our photos

BLM Rock House Visitor Center

Next, we crossed the bridge and stopped to take photos of the river side of the dam before heading south on Parker Dam Road. Boy, how things had changed. The Bureau of Reclamation used to give tours of the dam. Not anymore.

About eight miles south of the dam, we pulled into the BLM Rock House Visitor Center. Neither of us remembered a visitor center along the river. Signs appeared at the entrance of all the resorts along the river, noting that the RV resort or campground operates in cooperation with BLM.

Rock House Visitor Center

There wasn’t much to the center other than a few displays inside and a clean restroom. The facility host said it had recently reopened after having been closed for a few years. The landscaping looked okay out front, but in the back and on the side, the plants and hardscape were definitely in need of attention.

Rock House Visitor Center
Boat launch at Rock House Visitor Center
View of the Arizona side of the river

Oatman

My sister Merri hadn’t been to Oatman ghost town for a while, so we took the drive out there. This is a Route 66 attraction for those interested in traveling the historic route. It was a gloomy day and a bit windy and cold too. The burros were a no-show in town. It wasn’t until we left we saw them moseying toward town. We wandered around, stopped in a few shops, and raided the candy store.

Merri walks past Jenny and Jacks Artifacts
A tinkling sound of wind chimes came from Fast Fanny’s porch
The Oatman Hotel established in 1902.
A few facts about the Oatman Hotel
“Look, Jon. A candy store. Maybe they have the penuche fudge you’ve been looking for.”
Nope. It’s too short. Do you have a longer one?
Step right in for a whiff of leather

More sunsets

As the sun slips below the horizon, painting another awesome sky, we close out this post and say goodbye to Lake Havasu.

And to all a goodnight

And that’s a wrap of our Lake Havasu visit. What’s up next? Let’s see. We’ve been to the mountains, then to the desert. How about the sea? Join us next time for another stay at Pismo Beach.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 4: To the Desert and Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree was the next destination on our list. On October 18, 2022, we arrived at JT RV and Campground. The dirt and gravel lot comprised back-to-back full hookup sites running down the middle of the lot with shade trees. Electric and water sites lined the perimeter for tents and RVs not needing the sewer.

Joshua Tree Saloon

After setting up, it was time for a bite to eat. Joshua Tree Saloon served ribs, a variety of fried seafood, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and quesadillas. They also had a long list of wines and beers, on tap or in a bottle.

Such a happy face after a long drive.

The hidden entrance is around the back, through the patio area. The outside bartender showed us the way. Multiple TVs keep patrons entertained while waiting for their meals, and the corrugated steel panels and antiques contributed to the rustic appeal.

Acoustic live music in the patio bar area
Eclectic decor
A bar just isn’t a bar without TVs

Joshua Tree National Park

We didn’t plan our visit to Joshua Tree National Park on the same day we last visited the park five years earlier. It was just one of those flukes. Our blog post dated January 11, 2018, talks about our visit on October 19, 2017. It wasn’t until I was drafting this post that I realized the date matched.

Watch out for the cholla. They’ll latch onto the cuff of your pants and hang on for dear life.

We concentrated this visit on the west side of the park where the Joshua trees are more concentrated and where a few road pullouts include information panels that describe the terrain, plants, and history.

Contemplation

The arrangement of plants in the photo below looks like a professional landscaper had a hand in their placement. The rocks strategically piled in front of a juniper and flanked by yuccas have a balance to them.

Professionally arranged?

Joshua Tree National Park gained monument status in 1936 and national park status in 1994. What is unique about this park are the two deserts that meet within the park boundaries—the Mojave Desert on the west side and the Colorado Desert on the east side. The over 800,000 acres of both high desert and low desert environments allow a diversity of plants and animals to thrive.

At one stop there was no trail, so we picked our way around boulders, juniper and creosote bushes, and avoided the beaver tail and cholla cactus, stopping every few feet to take pictures behind us so we could find our way back to the truck. Then we followed other trails nearby and here is what we saw.

Not sure what this is called, but it was a pretty color
Love these little hedgehogs
Dinosaur teeth? No, that’s how the rocks formed under ground and after erosion.
Behind piles of rock, we found this valley
Joshua tree specimens
Seed pods once were beautiful pale-yellow blooms
Joshua trees come in all shapes and sizes
Beavertail cactus
Yellow wildflower
Juniper in rock
Don’t shoot. I’m only armed with spikes.
Time for a rest
Even dead trees can stand tall and majestic
I wonder what this Foo dog is guarding?
Climbers have several choices for scaling the jumbo rocks
I see a huddling raptor. What do you see?

Barker Dam Loop trail led us to Barker Dam and Lake. The lower portion of the dam was built by the Barker and Shay Cattle company, creating a lake from rainfall for watering their cattle. In 1949-50, the Keys family added the upper concrete layer. Although we saw a few puddles when we visited in October, apparently winter and spring are the best chance to see the lake full. Average rainfall currently is around 2–5 inches compared to 10 inches in the early 1900s.

Winter and spring are the best time to see water in Barker Lake
Barker Dam
Soaking up the view.
JT next to a creosote bush
Close up of creosote bush with fuzzy seed balls

From the Barker Dam trail, we took a spur that led to petroglyphs. Unfortunately, someone had the bright idea of outlining the drawings with paint. The paint makes them easier to see, but ruins the original art. What a shame.

Vandalized petroglyphs

Coming up next, we drive through the transition zone between the Colorado and Sonoran deserts to the south and the Mojave desert to the north. Our destination: Lake Havasu to see family and friends.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 3: To the Mountains and Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake fall season had arrived

Holloway’s Marina and RV Park

On October 6, trees flashed their flaming fall colors as we parked our trailer at Holloway’s Marina and RV Park, our home for seven nights. At Holloway’s, visitors can rent a pontoon boat, charter a fishing boat, buy marine parts, have service work done, or park an RV.

Big Bear Lake 17′ below normal in this photo

It would have been nice to rent a pontoon boat one afternoon, but the lady recommended not eating the fish due to Blue-Green algae, a bacterium that can be toxic. Shoot, no fishing for Jon and no trout dinner for us.

Plenty of boats to choose from

Then we eyed the Pirate Ship. Who doesn’t like an entertaining sail around the lake on a pirate ship? That didn’t work out either. The ship’s schedule didn’t match up with ours.

Ahoy, matey!

Although the boat rides would have been fun, the weather and nature entertained us with fog floating through the landscape and the sun kissing tops of trees and mountains.

Blue tarped figures are boats prepped for winter
Kissed by the sun

The main reason we chose Big Bear Lake for a visit was to meet up with our son, Kevin, and his better half, Bailey. They were attending the Adventure Van Expo over the weekend as vendors. While we waited for their arrival, the Big Bear Discovery Center and the Big Bear Alpine Zoo kept us busy.

Big Bear Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin is mostly geared towards children ages 2–7 years of age, with its Nature Discovery Zone that serves as an outdoor classroom with interactive play areas. Their website describes different activities that are offered, but there were none during our visit. The center is a large building with lots of space inside, but it was mostly empty, except for four volunteers at a desk and display tables with T-shirts and stuffed animals for sale. Perhaps they were renovating? The volunteers gave us a pamphlet that listed 13 hikes ranging from an easy 1/2-mile path to a difficult 10-mile trek.

Big Bear Discovery Center building
Discovery Center grizzly bear statue

We selected the 5-mile out-and-back Alpine Pedal Path from the Discovery Center to Serrano Campground for its gentle slopes up and down on asphalt pavement. The elevation of 7,000 feet was enough for us to contend with on our first day without worrying about Jon wrenching his knee again on a rocky surface.

The path links to the Cougar Crest and Pacific Crest trails
Over the bridge and through the underpass we go
Typical tree seen along the path
Crumbling rock formation

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

A zoo in Big Bear? How did I ever miss it? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly named Moonridge Animal Park) was established in 1959 after a fire scattered wildlife and a group of people got together to rescue some of the animals. It is owned by the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District, a Special District of the County of San Bernardino.

Look! A zoo in Big Bear

The Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, created in 1989 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization raises funds and coordinates volunteers to support the zoo. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. On snow days, they may open late or not at all.

Sturdy compounds house the animals

The zoo’s mission remains a 100% rescue facility. All of the animals on display came to the zoo for rescue, mended, but unable to live in the wild. Birds have missing or broken wings. A bear is missing a leg. And some of the animals have adapted too well to human contact, making it dangerous to release them into their natural habitat because they no longer know how to find food or hunt or protect themselves.

Wild Critters on the Playground

Animals currently on display include a bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, white pelican, great horned owl, grizzly bears, black bears, and a gray wolf. Due to the double fencing, it was difficult to get a good photo of the animals, but here are a few.

Sleeping fox
Bald Eagle
Gray Wolf
Coyote

Adventure Van Expo

And now, on to the Adventure Van Expo. Camping in a van is nothing new. Could it possibly trace its roots back to the covered wagon days when families loaded their possession to travel thousands of miles across the country? I didn’t dare slide into that rabbit hole of research, so I leave the question for others to answer.

Vans showing off their builds

More recently it seems, converting vans for camping or even living purposes has gained in popularity for at least the past 10 years or maybe longer. And where popularity grows, so do expos and cons. The fifth 2022 Adventure Van Expo organized eight expos in 2022 and has scheduled eight more for 2023. Over a two-day period, the events draw 60-80 vendors and up to 6,000 attendees, according to their website. Attendees can browse the many van conversions on display and for sale, and purchase all the accessories needed to enhance their #VanLife.

No remaking the bed everyday in this one, just pull it down from the ceiling
A sink, stove top, and microwave. What more can you ask for in such a small space? Oh, yeah. A fridge. There’s one of those too.

So, back to the product Bailey designed and curated for display and purchase at the expo. The CampIt includes everything required for the preparation, serving, and cleanup of a meal around the campfire or grill. Contained within a wooden box the size of a banker’s box and weighing in at around 23 pounds, are a tablecloth, cutting board, knives, spatula, tongs, serving spoon, roasting sticks, bamboo eating utensils, scrubber, hand sanitizer, soap, can and bottle opener, reusable plates, bowls, and cups, and much more.

The CampIt vendor booth

On Sunday, Jon and I manned the booth while Bailey and Kevin walked the expo to make contact with potential vendors. Videographer Van Haulen made a video of Jon and me talking to the videographer. Click here to take a look. It’s a long video, and we don’t show up until the end at 15.18 minutes, so zip forward.

To see Bailey in action, check out this video where she’s a featured new vendor. She shows up at 2.56 minutes. Of course, she’s the expert, knows her product well, and did a much better presentation than Jon and I did. All of the items that fit in the box are displayed. Or go to thecampit.com to learn more.

Next up in our fall adventure, we head to the desert. Join us while we explore Joshua Tree.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Saturday, October 8, 2022, we drove out of town, pulling the fifth wheel and heading south on Interstate 5. Our first stop in Castaic didn’t turn out as planned. When I checked in at the office, I was told we didn’t have a reservation, but they showed we had been there on Monday. What?

Turns out I had made the reservation for the wrong day. There went $60 out the window flying in the wind. Castaic had no open spots, and neither did any other RV parks within 85 miles along our route. We ended up driving all the way to Jon’s brother’s house in Fontana after a stop in Glendora to eat and let the traffic pass. We flirted with staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, but when I checked with the manager, she said they didn’t allow it. Jon wanted to stay anyway. I had visions of a security guard or policeman knocking on the door at 3:00 am to tell us to move, so I convinced my better half it wasn’t a good idea.

The next day, after a lunch trip to Vince’s Spaghetti in Rancho Cucamonga, we settled in at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park.

Hunter’s Moon hangs over Rancho Jurupa RV Park

Our goal while in Riverside was to check out the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark. We both had grown up not too far from the hotel and watched it change hands and go through various renovations over the years.

Welcome to The Mission Inn

Plus, I had recently finished reading Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. The book had mentioned the International Shrine of Aviators at the hotel, and I wanted to see it in person.

We found the atrium outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, where the plaques and the 10-inch copper wings are displayed and protected with a wrought-iron fence. The Flyer’s Wall was dedicated on December 15, 1932, and includes 160 names, including Amelia Earhart, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn.

Chapel door and stained-glass window. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel would be a lovely place to hold a wedding for up to 150 guests.

The shrine may seem small in comparison to statues and other monuments designed to honor historical figures, but I can’t help but think of the emotions that Amelia Earhart must have experienced as she signed her name on the wing. Finally, after risking her life for years and proving she could fly as well as any man, she stood in her rightfully earned place among them.

Flyer’s Wall
Amelia Earhart’s signed wings

The history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa begins in 1876, when a quaint 12-room adobe building served as a place for travelers to stay the night. Frank Miller is credited with expanding the humble beginnings into a full-service hotel with 200 guestrooms by 1903. Over the next 30 years, Miller expanded the hotel, incorporating elements from the 20 missions in California with historical architectural styles from around the world. He traveled extensively and brought back stained glassed windows, furnishings, artwork, and religious relics to decorate the inn.

After Miller’s death, the inn changed hands multiple times, was the subject of a bankruptcy or two, and closed in 1985. The current innkeepers, Duane and Keely Roberts, saved the property from the wrecking ball, bringing the Mission Inn back to life with a $55-million renovation and modernization project. The hotel reopened in 1992 to once again welcome guests to the iconic historic hotel.

Under the arches are seven of more than 800 bells Frank Miller collected

Since its reopening in 1992, the inn has received many awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today’s 10 best historic hotels, and Historic Hotels of America. AAA has also honored the inn with a Four Diamond rating.

What is in the domed building?
Chandelier in the lobby area

Annually, nutcrackers and Christmas lights decorate the inn for the Festival of Lights Celebration that continues into the first week in January. On opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, they switch on the five million lights, animate 200 figures, and delight the city with fireworks. “Hey, Jon. We’ve got to go see this. Want to make another trip to SoCal over New Years?”

When researching the inn, I learned that during the opening ceremonies of the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights on November 25, 2022, a fire caused by fireworks broke out on a roof. It was a good thing the fire department stationed crews on the roof. The fire was under control within 10 minutes, without injuries sustained or evacuations needed. For a photo, click the Festival of Lights link above.

Saint Junipero Serra O.F.M. established the first nine of 21 California Spanish missions from San Diego to San Francisco when the Spanish occupied the land known as Alta California in the Province of Las California, New Spain. Now known as the State of California.

One of many statues in the hotel

The Clock Tower is home to a 1709 Anton clock in Nuremberg, Germany. The original clock face is housed in the museum for safety. What we see on the tower today is a replica. Four figures rotate every quarter of an hour: Father Serra Juan Bautista De Anza, St. Francis, the California Grizzly Bear, and a California Native American.

Anton clock with rotating figures
Six-story spiral staircase of the International Rotunda which was constructed in 1931.

The initials in the metal railing shown below honor figures in early California and Mission history. PJBS refers to Padre Jose Bernardo Sanchez (1778-1883), who served California for 30 years and was the father president from 1828-1831.

Metal railing around the spiral staircase
Rooftop gardens overlook downtown Riverside city buildings
Eclectic mix of architectural styles
The courtyard where we ate lunch
At the corner of 6th and Orange streets

Having visited the Mission Inn, I want to go back and spend a night or two in one of their uniquely appointed luxury rooms, or maybe in one of the 27 suites, should we choose to splurge. Hmmm! Something to think about.

Until then, we will continue our Fall 2022 adventures. Next up is Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Safe Travels