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  • Steve

What Were we Thinking? California?!

Updated: May 26, 2020

My original plan was to avoid California as much as possible because I didn't want to deal with high diesel prices ($5.68/gal in Death Valley and $4.36 average for CA) and crazy drivers. Well, that went out the window after Lila read a book about Death Valley, and Jen REALLY wanted to go to Joshua Tree National Park. Let's just say I know where AC/DC got the idea for the title to their song, Highway to Hell.

We were going 65mph here . At least I left some space unlike those cars to the left.
Joshua Tree National Park

With all that in mind, we hit the road and headed for LA anyways. We were able to book a few nights at Thousand Trails Palm Springs, but we needed to find a place for our first two nights near there. Luckily, Jen's friend Anh, and her family were able to get a permit for us to park our trailer in front of their house, while we slept in their cozy spare bedroom. Bonus, we also got to take back-to-back showers that didn't run out of hot water like our 6-gallon hot water tank would in the trailer. We also took advantage of their washer and dryer and got caught up on laundry. In RV speak, this is called moochdocking. We tried our best not to truly mooch by buying dinner, dessert, and lunch the next day. We were also able to get another great dinner in at my sister's house just down the road.

Our "moochdocking" friends

After our great moochdocking experience, we headed to Thousand Trails Palm Springs. Once we got to the campground, we had to drive around and find a spot because they don't assign them. It was during the drive around that we realized how packed in you are. The park is set up in what seems like an old palm tree farm, and you have to squeeze your rig in between all these trees and narrow roads. I felt like it was tight for me, but then I watched these other people come in with long 40'+ rigs, and I just cringed watching them try to snake their way in.

It is even tighter than it looks here

On Tuesday, we went up to the South entrance of Joshua Tree to get our ranger books and go on a short hike. We left early because we had a dinner date with a couple that we met at the Aztec Monument in New Mexico. After talking with them for quite a while at Aztec, they said if we are ever in the area we need to stop by for dinner with them. They grew up in India and have been in the U. S. for 20+ years but said if we come they will make us traditional Indian food. How could we say no to that? I contacted them last week and mentioned we would be in the area. They set the day and time, and in our normal fashion, we arrived 20 minutes early.

They have a large backyard full of fruit trees and various other plants. They enjoyed taking us (but mostly Lila) back there to show her the pomegranate and guava fruits. They even picked some pomegranates and showed Lila how to properly peel it. We enjoyed fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice too. Yum! He also showed us his motorcycles, and Lila took one out for a spin (just kidding). They were so kind and welcoming to us, and they spoiled Lila with gifts, some from India and some from here. We really enjoyed our evening with them and hope we meet again.

She had a chance to take it for a spin but passed.

Mother Nature brought us some colder weather and rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, but just like in the PNW, you just need to get out there anyways. On Wednesday, we met up with some other friends that we met in NM as well and headed up to Joshua Tree NP. Brandon and Sydney have three kids, Emily (9), Wyatt (7) and Zoe (3). At one stop, I took Lila and their 2 oldest out on the rocks exploring while the rest of the parents hung out with their youngest and some warm blankets. It was pretty cold, but the kids weren't even phased by it for quite a while. The rocks look smooth and round from far away, but once you get up and touch them, they are pretty hard on the body. As their oldest told me, "It is like broken glass glued together". By the time we got done playing, I had cuts on both knees and one hand.

The day has finally come, my parents came down to see us. 😉 My parents thought for sure we would be home by now and done with this horrible idea of ours. In fact, my dad bet me that we wouldn't last 6 months. I don't think he is going to win this one (and he should know better than tell me I can't do something).

Opening presents from Avó and Avô

In customary Portuguese fashion, we went out for breakfast right away, then off shopping with their granddaughter. My mom said she needs to get Lila something for her most recent birthday and Christmas all right now. While they went shopping, my dad and I also went shopping so I could by Lila an early Christmas present too. Since she has been going on the golf course with me, I thought I would get her a putter so she can start practicing/playing too.

She got a new putter, but hasn't been able to try it out yet
Lila's present to Avô (Grandfather in Portuguese)

The following day we all planned to go to the golf course where my dad and I would play, and Jen, Lila, and my mom would ride/walk along. It was all good until the golf marshal said the ladies weren't allowed to walk on the course. 😞 So my dad and I played while they went shopping again. We met them later for lunch, then it was time for them to take off back to LA so they could beat some of the traffic.

We decided to stay one more night so that we could go back to Joshua Tree. We wanted to get in a couple more hikes since we didn’t really get to hang with the Joshua Trees much. Jen, Lila, and I hit the Ryan Mountain Trail first. The trail was 3-miles round trip. It was a pretty nice hike with lots of stairs. At the top, you get a 360° view of the North end of Joshua Tree.

Ryan Mountain Trail
View from the top

After we got done, we drove over to the Barker Dam trail to meet Brandon, Sydney, and the kids again for a shorter hike where the kids could run around and play on the rocks.

Playing house above Barker Dam
The Not-so-Jr. Ranger getting some study time at the Dam while the kids are playing

Our Friends, Brandon, Sydney, Wyatt, Emily, and Miss Zoe

By the time we got done and back to the truck, it was getting dark, and it was too late to go to the Visitor Center. We missed our opportunity to get our badges, so we headed home. Supposedly you can mail your Junior Ranger books in and they will send the badges to you.

Tomorrow, Lila is going to go over and play with the kids while we get the trailer ready to leave. Hopefully, we will see them again soon, but it probably won't be until next spring as we are coming back across from the East.

Arizona, cheaper diesel (Average $3.09/gal in AZ, Cheapest so far - NM), and less traffic here we come!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our USA friends and family!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving to our Canadian friends and family!

Thank you for keeping up with us and supporting us in our adventure! We look forward to seeing some of you on the trip, and most of you in less than 257 days.


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