Not all who wander are lost.

Posts in category Travel by MINI

30 Minutes in Desert Hot Springs, CA


Raleigh Sojourn

We have taken a little break from our wandering as we had to get some things taken care of back in Iowa.  We’ve been a little busy with that and the holidays so haven’t had much time for updating the blog or much else for that matter so we’ll be trying to catch everything up over the next few days.

Prior to our arrival in Palm Springs our plan was to spend 4 nights in a city about 20 minutes away, Desert Hot Springs, CA.  There was a hotel there that was pretty reasonable and had 7 natural hot springs pools so we were looking forward to staying a few days in the same place so we could get some laundry done, travel around the area, and at the end of the day relax the hot springs on the property.  That was the plan anyway…

One of the downsides to traveling is not knowing weather you’re going to be in a safe neighborhood or not.  When we arrived at the hotel it was clearly a little older than we’d realized but it seemed clean enough and they took pets, which is always something we have to consider when choosing where to stay.  We got our room keys and went to the back to park and unload the car and take our stuff to our room.  We both kind of wondered if we were in a safe area, but it seemed okay (plus all of those hot springs were calling our names!)  As we were unloading, Jason mentioned that we should probably store the bikes inside this time.  We had them locked to the car carrier and these bikes literally have traveled the country with us, many times being locked to the car carrier.  They had spent the night locked to our carrier in Vegas the night before.

We got everything in the hotel, checked the room out a little, and took a little time getting settled in.  We had a good few hours of daylight and of course everyone knows that bad stuff only happens at night….right?  When Jason decided to go down and get the bikes roughly 30 minutes later, they were GONE!  Nothing else to do at this point besides be instantly furious. What people that don’t bike don’t get is what the bike means to the biker and how much of their time, energy, and money goes into these things. We didn’t either until we had been biking for a little while and then worked hard to earn and pick out these two bikes that we’d used to tour the coast of Florida just a few weeks before.  They aren’t toys, they were a means of transportation when I didn’t have a car available.  Biking helped us get healthier after I had my stroke and we had to quit smoking and actually get out a move our bodies.  The best part about it was that we loved doing it so it didn’t feel like exercise! It was one of our favorite things to do together.  We typically chose our vacation spots that were bike friendly as it gave us another view of the places we’ve visited over the years besides flying by in a car. We painstakingly researched which bikes we wanted for our trip, then we spent more time and money customizing and adding to them so they would be perfect just for us. It took us longer to select bikes than most of the cars we’ve owned!  If it was feasible, we biked everywhere unless the brutal Midwest winter reared its ugly head.  So to have someone just walk up with a pair of bolt cutters, cut them off our carrier and toss them into his ugly, old, green, Jeep Cherokee without a license plate on the front as if he was entitled to them, creates a level of frustration that I just can’t explain!  Theft is one of those things that I have a SUPER hard time dealing with.  Its the epitome of selfishness and entitlement that seems to be of the way of things these days.  I’m sure that man didn’t know that most of what we owned was either in, on, or on top of that car (and in a tiny storage shed somewhere in Colorado.)  I’m sure he didn’t know that Jason had just lost his job which could make replacing them very difficult.  I’m sure that even if he knew those things, he wouldn’t have cared and he would have taken them anyway!

We went to the front desk to see if they had a security camera and they did.  It was pointed right where our car was and of course it had to be broken.  We called the police so we could get a case number to give to our insurance company and of course the first words out of his mouth were “yeah, you don’t want to leave things out in this town.”  Wow.  Ya think? That would have been good information to know..yesterday.  He was actually very nice and took all of the information we had to offer, but we knew that police don’t run around looking for stolen bikes as if they were a matter of national security as there are many other things they need to do that are much more important.  We decided that once we were done talking with the police, we weren’t staying another minute in this town.  I do have to say that even though the hotel’s cancellation policy states that we would have to cancel a minimum of 72 hours before our stay, the front desk clerk at Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel was very decent and refunded every penny.  Right before the police arrived, the hotel manager gave Jason a piece of paper with the description of the person that took them along with the details of the car, which is how we knew it was an old Jeep Cherokee. I just threw in the “ugly” part. I’m sure the man was ugly too!  A woman was working in her yard and watched the entire thing and didn’t bother to mention it to anyone until the hotel manager started wandering around asking people if they saw anything.  Thanks a lot, Lady!  We gave that to the police and at first we thought in a town of 20,000 people there would be a chance that we would get them back and thought we might even get a phone call in the next couple days while we were in Palm Springs, but as time goes by we know that’s most likely not going to happen.  I keep looking at Palm Springs Craigslist to see if they are for sale anywhere but I know we aren’t getting them back.  From what we understand, this city has a huge theft problem.  Apparently, the unemployment rate is high so they just decided to create their own jobs.  Here’s the problem though:  As decent as the hotel was to us, we will never go back there.  I’m pretty sure that the other people who have had things stolen will never go back there either.  So now, they aren’t just stealing our bikes, or someone’s car, or wallets.  They are robbing their community of other revenue that is appears to be desperately needed as well. Pretty sure that doesn’t help create jobs, does it?

We felt a little optimistic when Jason called the insurance company (which incidentally was our homeowner’s insurance and not auto insurance as one might think.)  Halfway into the conversation I hear Jason explaining to the adjuster about how he uses his Iphone app to keep track of mileage and such, and how he hooks up his blue tooth speaker so we can listen to IHeartRadio while we bike.  Let’s just say it really helps when your insurance adjuster is a triathlete. Even thought we didn’t get quite enough to cover all of it, he was able to get us pretty close even with our huge deductible.  See?  He gets it!

We’re back in Iowa for a couple more days and we’ve made a couple trips to the bike shop trying to decide which bikes to get.  As much as we loved them, we’re having a hard time spending that much money again. The ugly man that stole them doesn’t quite understand what he took.  The other issue is that these bikes aren’t being made anymore and they were a little hard to get the first time.   I do have to give a big shout out to Ron at Skunk River Cycles though!  He spent a great deal of time in the store with us showing us various bikes, he spent hours on the internet pricing out different options if we wanted to try to build something like what we had, and he made phone calls all over trying to find a couple of the same bikes that we had stolen.  Luckily he has one at his warehouse now and he was able to locate one in Tennessee. This is another person that gets it!  Looks like we’ll be stopping off in Nashville on our way to Florida to get our 4th new bike for the year.

Wandering Through the Desert

Today we decided to explore some of the weird and wonderful spots in Southern California.  It was a perfect weather day with the completely blue sky, no humidity (obviously…we’re in the desert) and the temperature was in the low 80’s.  We grabbed our travel companions and hit the road for a day trip.

I’ve read the desert was kind of a weird place and we certainly weren’t disappointed today.  It seems like you can drive for miles and miles and not see one person, a gas station, or any other kind of civilization.  It gets a little creepy getting low on gas and knowing that if you run out, there is nothing for miles and even road side assistance would take awhile to get to you.  I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the settlers as they pushed west not knowing how much further it would be before they found water, or anything else besides sand for that matter.

Our first stop of the day was the Salton Sea.  I was intrigued by this place when I first heard about it in a movie and since we were in the area, we had to check it out.  I only did a little bit of research so here’s the short story version to give you an idea. The Salton Sea is a huge man made irrigation project lake gone wrong in the middle of the desert between Palm Springs and Mexico.  Somewhere in the 1950’s vacation homes, hotels, and all the businesses that those bring, started popping up everywhere (think Okoboji type stuff). It was supposed to be the vacation spot for years and years to come.  Due to the heat, pollution, and many other reasons the lake became saltier than the sea and vast amounts of fish died and washed up on the beach.  There were also a couple floods in the 70’s that added to the troubles of the already doomed desert lake.  Soon, most of the people left and the businesses shut down and now it looks like something that might be a good set for the next zombie apocalypse movie. This lake is just huge! It goes on forever and when we looked out, we couldn’t see anything but water much like the ocean.  Driving by it we could see the mountain views in the background and the and sparkle of the water and it looks to be a beautiful place to spend and afternoon doing whatever people do on the beach.  Once we got there though, it was something entirely different.  Although it was probably a gradual evacuation, looking through the ruins of the campers and homes would seem as though everyone left suddenly.

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What was left were pieces of someones lives from years past slowly becoming part of the earth from which they came. It’s definitely an eerie feeling and I don’t know if its because it seemed like a lonely forgotten place or because we knew that over time, there could me many more places such as this if we weren’t careful.

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The next stop was Salvation Mountain.  We’d never heard of this place until we saw the movie “Into the Wild” and I knew that somewhere in our travels this was a place I wanted to see.  The mountain was created by Leonard Knight who, at age 36, had a spiritual awakening and dedicated his life to spreading a simple message, “God is Love, Accept Jesus into your heart, and Repent and be saved”  He created and maintained this mountain until he got too ill to take care of it in 2012, then passed away in early 2014. Now, the place is maintained by volunteers and donations and its free for everyone to come and enjoy.  I saw that they are hiring a couple to live on the mountain as care takers but I don’t think Jason will go for it.  We wandered around and climbed the mountain and went inside the structures he had built with mud, hay, and paint.  There was an area that was built with trees and he would have had to crawl up pretty high to paint them all, then looking up even further we noticed the glass windows he had installed.

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We spoke to a couple who were there with paintbrushes in hand, working hard to preserve Leonard’s work.  They were traveling around the country, home schooling their 5 kids, and were spending some time there as volunteers. They explained a bit of the history and how its being taken care of now.  We should have asked them how they were funding their travels given our recent situation.

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Religious or not, I don’t see how anyone could visit Leonard’s mountain and not be touched in some way by his dedication to spreading his one simple message.  It’s not up to interpretation, its pretty easy to understand what he was going for, which to me is how it should be.  As I stood around looking at all of his colors and verses, and learning how he spent over 30 years creating and maintaining this place just so people could come and wander though this wonderland of latex paint, mud, and hay, I experienced a quiet peace that I hadn’t felt for awhile. Maybe that was the whole purpose of it.

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Right next to Salvation Mountain is Slab City which was also featured in “Into the Wild.”  This place started as a Marine training camp called “Camp Dunlap” during WW2.  It closed, the buildings were torn down and all that was left were well…the slabs.  It is now home to about 200 full time residents (called “Slabbers”) and about 2500 during the winter months.  This is truly “Off Grid” living.  There is no water, sewer, electricity, or any of those other luxuries most of us have grown accustomed to.  It is entirely free to live there and literally anything goes at this place.  We just drove through part of it briefly because even though I was really curious about this makeshift city in the desert, we didn’t want to drive around snapping pictures of their chosen lifestyle as if it was a tourist attraction.  I loved the idea of the place, but one thing we’ve learned driving around in the desert this week is that it’s not the climate for us.  We love the warm weather, but looking out at the sand that goes on forever, almost looks like a construction zone to us.  I thoroughly enjoyed stopping at every place we went to, but I don’t think we’re ready for this level of “Off Grid” living just yet.

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Tomorrow we leave So. California and head towards Colorado to spend Christmas with the kids.  We plan to stop in Lake Havasu tomorrow so we can check out The London Bridge. Later in the week the plan is to see the Grand Canyon.  As many times as we’ve driven around that area, we’ve actually never seen it so we think its about time.  We’re still weighing our options and trying to figure out our plan after the holidays, but I think we’re leaning toward figuring out a way to continue to wander the country.  There’s still way too many things that we want to see and places we want to go.

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”



The Difference of a Day

It’s been a SUPER long time since we’ve posted anything.  This wasn’t our intention when we started this whole thing but there have been quite a few things that have not gone as we intended when we started this whole thing.  We’ve been dealing with something this last week and so far the major lesson we’ve learned is how to deal with set backs and still continue to run, or in some cases limp, toward our dreams.  We’re still out here, and we’ve finally started to wander again.

Last week we hit a big, tall, strong, brick wall that sent our original plans into a complete tailspin. When we started this journey the plan was that Jason was going to quit his job and do computer contract work from the road.  We would travel where the work was and move on when it was done.  When he gave his notice he and his boss were able to come up with a plan that would allow him to keep his job and work from the road, which was amazing and we were so thankful to have that part taken care of.  It was the final piece that needed to be in place that would allow us to live the way we wanted. By the time we actually left, he heard the company was most likely going to be sold.  The writing on the wall seemed pretty clear and we figured we would need to come up with another way to earn a living once everything was finalized.  We hoped that Jason would be able to continue to work for a least 2 or 3 months during the transition period and then we would have a little time to rethink our strategy and decide if we wanted to continue on our journey.  Well, he got the call we were dreading last week and by the end of this month Jason will no longer be working for AWS.  Of course the only way to handle this situation was to completely PANIC!  I can’t explain the range of emotions that went through both of us that day eventually leading to the feeling of complete and utter defeat.  That’s it!  After a streak of really cruddy luck, The Road had kicked our asses! We were going to have to sell the RV and the truck and go home and get jobs, a place to live, furniture, dishes, winter coats, you name it.  I was mostly depressed about the winter coat thing!  Since we left we’ve had the strangest string of bad luck and with each weird mishap we wondered if this wasn’t the time for us to pursue this.  We’ve been so very fortunate these last few years that we didn’t know how to handle these types of things.  But who really does?

We spent the better part of “Dreaded Phone Call Day” staring at our computers looking at jobs on Craigslist in Ames, Fort Collins, Boulder, Pensecola, and even San Fransisco. We looked at apartments in all of those places too.  We took a long look at our finances and once we figured out what Jason would get in unemployment benefits, we became even more down and our new friend, Panic, come back.  I don’t know who can survive on that  amount of money even for a little bit.  If we would have stayed in our house, we would have lost it for sure. I guess we’ll get to figure out what this Obamacare is all about too.  We ran through so many different scenarios trying to decide the best course of action and by the end of the day we decided we had no choice but to sell the RV and truck so we would have some cash to live on and free up some funds from insurance payments and the ungodly amount of gas we kept putting in that thing.  What we couldn’t decide was what the heck we were going to do after that.  All we knew was that we literally just started our travels and we couldn’t bear the thought of ending our wandering so abruptly.  We weren’t ready to go home and that is the only thing we knew with certainty.  We were also starting to feel like Iowa was becoming less like home and we wondered where home really was anyway.

After one day on Craigslist, we struck a deal with the first person that came to look at the RV.  When she left all I could think was “Damn that was fast!  Now where the heck are we going to live?” and “Crap! We should have listed it for more money!”  Luckily, we had a couple days to get our stuff out and figure out our next step.  Jason will get a paycheck through the end of this month. Plus we’ll have the proceeds from the house sale and the money we’ll get from selling the RV/Truck so we’ll have some funds to sustain us for a little while.  Once we close on the house, we will have very few monthly bills so aside from food, shelter, and car payment, we won’t have much else going out.  The idea of going back to freezing cold Iowa wasn’t good (that winter coat thing!) We didn’t get to see one tiny little smidgen of all the places we had planned to visit so we weren’t excited to stay in Colorado either.  We finally decided that just because our situation changed drastically, it didn’t mean we should have to give up on our dreams all together.  We just had to come up with another way.  Finally, we rented a small storage shed in Fort Collins for our most of our stuff, bought a roof rack for the car for the rest, and our Gypsy Wagon has become our beloved Mini Cooper with St. Christopher hanging from the mirror to assure safe travel, a big sleepy dog in the back , and the world’s smallest, feistiest wiener dog on our laps to protect us from highway robbers.

We decided to head West and visit all of the strange, wonderful, and quirky places that we saw in movies and travel books that gave us our case of wanderlust in the first place. Traveling by car will save us quite a bit in gas money and will allow us to move around a little quicker.  Finding affordable lodging is going to be the biggest challenge, but we figure if we choose spots during the off season we should be able to get some great deals.  In keeping with our recent luck, we made plans with the mechanic in Fort Collins that is working on our truck after the emergency brake blew apart. (I have to say that we have always been Ford people until we bought this one Chevy and it has been in the shop more in the last month than most of our Fords put together!)  Then we finally took off today and as I write this we are sitting in the Econolodge in Grand Junction, Co.    I get to check another state off my list as we head into Utah tomorrow where we’re hoping the weather is decent enough to check out Zion National Park.  We plan to hit Palm Springs, CA this week where we’ll spend a few days checking out places like Salvation Mountain, The Salton Sea, and whatever else grabs our attention along the way.  From there, we’ll head back to Colorado to spend Christmas with the kids.  We plan to use these couple weeks to figure out whether we want to settle somewhere and get jobs, or find a way to continue to travel the country and earn as we go.  I don’t know what’s in store for us or how long we’ll get to roam around our beautiful country, but I can say that I’m never happier than when I’m sitting next to my husband in a car on the highway, with music on the stereo, and miles of road ahead of us promising all kinds of mystery and adventure.