Welcome to week two of our road trip with Beatrix the 2022 Toyota Highlander, and Marion the 1979 Trillium Trailer. Photos by Bill and Kate Poss
A week ago on April 11 wind gusts of 60+ mph sandblasted Beatrix, coating every surface in thousands of pinpricked raised dots. Oh no! We thought we’d need our windshield replaced. More about this later
Earlier in Bishop on that day we were caressed by the increasingly strong wind. Bill said it felt like he was charged up on high voltage. His smile reflected that. It could be the smile came from stopping in for giant meat sandwiches, jerky and bacon at Mahogany Meats, and for Volkern Bread, honey bran muffins, fruit bars, and cinnamon rolls at Eric Schat’s Bakery, Bill’s favorite place for goodies. The wind felt like a warm embrace, but it was a cruel lover.
The wind grew fierce and we holed up in Beatrix at our Keough’s Springs campground south of Bishop. Sandy granite gravel blasted the car and winds violently shook the trailer. Bill closed our front awning. It surely would have taken flight. A decorative flag friends gave us, ‘Bill and Kate Happy Campers,’ disappeared into the sagebrush desert, not to be found following the windstorm.
I did have to walk to the bathroom during this time and my legs were blasted with gravel. Back at the trailer while tiny projectiles flew through the air, we talked about getting in touch with Nelson BC, where we plan to camp in July. Bill had emailed and not had a response in a week. We bought an international calling card. Just as Bill went out in the gale to get his phone it rang, and there was Nelson BC calling him! Good synchronicity. We were able to get a coveted reservation in the creative city above Spokane.
After the ferocious winds died down we drove into town for groceries. We noticed about a hundred semis parked along the highway and side streets avoiding the heavy winds their travel was banned. We heard there was snow in the Carson Valley, where we had stayed with friends Carolyn and Pat the day before. We learned that two semis had blown over farther south on Hwy. 395, blocking southbound traffic for hours.
We love shopping with Bishop’s locals at Manor Market on Line St. As we approached the door we saw a senior aged gentleman in a dress wearing a beard and a mask. Heartening to know that diversity is alive and well here.
The day after the crazy windstorm we woke up to temperatures in the low 30s. The quails and starlings puffed up their feathers to stay warm. The country station, KIBS played songs about trucks, hay, whiskey, boots, dogs, and girls in short skirts.
Tuesday April 12 dawned clear with a cold north wind blowing. With humidity at 6 % our our skin became desiccated in the drying wind. We applied lip balm on the half hour and lotion to our skin.
Speaking of deserts, much of our love for this lonely beautiful country was inspired by Bill’s grandparents, John and Maree Poss. Before he goes to sleep each night of this road trip, Bill reads from his grandad’s memoir about his road trips. Grandad and Maree held us rapt, telling their camping adventures when we started visiting them at the age of 19. Their stories impressed us so much we decided we wanted to be like them when we retired. We remarked that we’re about their age now at 67 as we embark on our journey with Marion, named after Grandad’s daughter who left us with a largesse that brought us Marion the trailer.
Grandad and Maree traveled from the 1950s, through the 60s in Jenny 1 and later Jenny 2, and often camped in interesting places with rough roads and no amenities. Grandad wrote how welcoming Jenny was to return to after a day out exploring mines, researching history for articles he wrote and published, and historic stories he created with narration and slides for an educational company based in Chicago, the Society for Visual Education. Like Grandad was with Jenny, we are so grateful for Marion’s shelter!
We drove north of Bishop on April 12 along the Owens River. Ravens croaked as they floated by on the thermals beneath a blue sky framed by blocks of granite.
Along Chalk Hill Road we noticed strange creature-like boulders on the prairie whose surface seemed to be painted with chalk.
We reached the volcano tablelands along Fish Slough Road and walked among petroglyphs framed by the Sierra Nevada and White Mountain ranges. Created by ancestors of the Paiute-Shoshone people between 1,000 and 8,000 years ago, the art is open to the public. Sadly there has been a bit of vandalism, yet much of the art remains. We felt awed in its presence. We marveled at the hollow sound of the volcanic stone as we knocked on it.
As the sun glowed on the mountains we drove along Schober Lane as the late afternoon sun shone through the cottonwoods and willows. We have long loved this Los Angeles Department of Water and Power land east of Bishop, which carries canals of water to quench the big city’s thirst.
After an exhilarating day in the Sierras on Tuesday, Bill and I woke up the next morning expecting to feel the same Sierra ‘high.’ But the gods tested our faith and we had a kerfuffle over how best to clean and treat Beatrix’s dashboard. Her interior was coated in dust. We finally agreed on a mix of dish soap, vinegar, water, and baby oil. Who would have thought we’d argue about that? Yet the exchange left us feeling temporarily deflated.
We drove on April 13, west out of Bishop to the Buttermilks, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada that are popular for rock climbing. We crossed a creek and walked uphill to a mind melting 360° vista of our gods, the peaks Mt. Tom, Basin Mountain and Mt. Humphrey decorated in snow among their crevices. I could gaze at them for hours. We did gaze at them a long time, a welcome meditation for busy minds like ours.
Beatty NV, Burro Creek AZ, Las Vegas NV
Thursday April 14 we left Keough’s Hot Springs campground and drove south to Lone Pine where we turned east through Death Valley National Park. Big vistas and many colors in the surrounding mountains. For both of us Death Valley was interesting, but not soul-stirring.
Our souls were stirred when we drove into Beatty later that afternoon.
With a reservation at the Beatty Space Station RV Park, we were ushered to a campsite between a pair of RVs that dwarfed little Marion. TJ our host, had weathered brown skin, an ancient cowboy hat with the sides tied up over the crown, wore a biker rally T-shirt, and, most notably, sported a long knife sheathed in leather down the side of his leg. At first glance he appeared fearsome, but I intuited that he was a good man. Great-tailed Grackles walked about, their beaks in the air, their voices an imitation from what ever sound they fancied. On this day they decided to whistle.
We read that an interesting place to visit was the Goldwell Open Air Museum outside town in the mining ghost town of Rhyolite.
The moment we walked in, a couple of women drove up in a pickup and walked over to a white square rectangle topped with a pyramid shaped top.
One of the women was Amy Parlette, whose partner Emily Budd, created the piece. Amy works as a biologist and brought along a fellow biologist, Khushali, to share the story of the art.
“She made the sculpture to immortalize people who are different,” Amy explained.”You look up her name and there is a Washington Post article that describes the whole history of this piece.”
Memorial for Queer Rhyolite, a temporary monument to dreams in the dust, celebrates a gay mixed-race couple, who wished to buy the abandoned city and create a place of tolerance.
In an essay she wrote for the Nevada Humanities blog, Emily writes: “On November 2, 1986, Fred Schoonmaker and Alfred Parkinson, a gay couple with a small following, had just moved here as they began the process to purchase the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada. Located on colonized Western Shoshone land between Death Valley National Park and the Nevada Test Site, the abandoned mining town was the new prospect for their queer utopian vision. Stonewall Park, named for the Stonewall uprisings of 1969, was to be a place where queer people could live safely, free from discrimination during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”
We felt the synchronicity of meeting the two young women. Amy left us with the words, “Art lives on. Racism dies.”
After saying good bye and bowing namastes to each other, Bill and I walked through the park, admiring, on this Holy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper, a surreal sculpture of the Last Supper by Polish-Belgian artist Albert Szukalski, who created the piece, one of the first in the outdoor museum. The open art museum was organized following his death in 2000.
As the sun was setting and the nearly full moon rising, we walked over to a piece with with a curved rectangle resting on top of a rectangle depicting celestial cycles on one side, and ravens on another. We experienced a natural high, noting how the sunset could be seen inside the curve. On the opposite side we observed the moon cupped in the curve. The sculpture stood over a prayer wheel reflecting each of the directions. Strangely, Googling this sculpture yields no results about the author or the sculpture’s name.
We also admired the pink and yellow cinder block sculpture, Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada, by artist Hugo Heyrman. It was inspired by pixels.
The next night we camped at Burro Creek, an inexpensive BLM campground with flush toilets along Burro Creek and under its arched bridge, the Burro Creek Bridge. We admired the flowering yellow palo verde trees which smelled like orange blossoms.The campground was packed with big families and their loads of food and river floats.
The following morning, April 16, we drove through Las Vegas. I had not been there since 1987, when my family traveled there after being alerted that my brother’s body had been found nearby in the desert. Bob had not come home for Christmas in 1986 and we wondered where he was. Hikers had discovered the body, picked up his wallet and alerted the police. We believe he was murdered by the Mafia for gambling debts. So with this dark memory wrapped around me, I was heartened to see the upbeat nature at the Whole Foods market, where we ate an early lunch. We remarked on the variety of people and their friendliness. The bad taste of Las Vegas was finally washed away by this visit.
Usery Regional Park, Mesa AZ
While driving this stretch of the journey, Bill and I listened with great interest to a borrowed audiobook from Sno-Isle Library, Pompeii, by Robert Harris. With Michael Cumpsty’s excellent narration, we traveled back to AD 79 two days prior to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. We learned of the corruption in the town of Pompeii, and the heroism of an aquarian, an aqueduct engineer by the name of Marcus Attilius Primus. We grew to love the elderly naval engineer Pliny the Elder, and his recording events of the natural world on papyrus, his devotion to recording the eruption as he was close to death. The Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa makes a famous craft beer named Pliny the Elder. Our friend Bert Guenther enjoys the beer. When we told him of loving Pliny’s wisdom, Bert texted that he feels wiser after drinking a few Plinys!
Meanwhile, we will look at pumice with renewed awe, now that we’ve learned that when volcanoes like Vesuvius erupt, their magma is cooled and the result can be pumice, which floats on water. Pompeii was buried in eight feet of pumice.
Usery Regional Park, above the suburban city of Mesa, is a cactus eden. We camped near the immaculate bathroom and were lucky to meet a couple next door, locals, Kevin and Susan. Kevin is a retired trucker and he told us stories of being blown over and surviving. About a friend whose truck failed on the Burro Creek Bridge and the driver thrown to the river below. With a broken pelvis, the driver crawled to the campground for help. He lived. Kevin has lived in Mesa the past 64 years and loves this country. He and Susan and their Schnauzer Max enjoy traveling these days. We marveled that night at the full moon rising over the saguaros.
Easter Sunday we met with my brother Bob’s lovely daughter Renaya and her family in Mesa. Her sons Reid and Quinn, 14 and 13, are fun, interested in life and fully engaged in karate, film making, and Boy Scouts. Renaya made a lovely veggie and ham dinner. We caught up on family stories. Renaya and her then boyfriend Dan used to babysit our two kids so Bill and I could have a date in the 90’s. We love this couple who later married and are now a wonderful family.
As we were leaving, Dan, who is a car aficionado, suggested an alternative to replacing Beatrix’s windshield. We were bemoaning the pitting of her sparkly blue paint and windows over the entire surface of the car.
He suggested we use a lump of clay and car detailing spray to remove the sandblast pitting. He tried it on the windshield and on the hood. A smooth surface re-appeared. Yes!! We cancelled our insurance claim, the auto glass appointment, and made an appointment with a trusted car detail man Dan has worked with. Hooray!
Heading to Tuscon, we enjoyed early lunch, healthy rice bowls at Rubio’s Coastal Grill in North Tucson.
I am now sitting comfortably before a two story window looking out at Palo Verde trees in Tucson at the Flowing Wells Library.
Next chapter will detail our adventures in Tuscon.