PrologueWhat we are doing, and why we're doing it!
We made what we hope will be our last stop in Southern California for a while. It was a chance to take care of some chores like getting a smog check and updating the sound system for the coach, consolidating our two lockers into one, and filing taxes. With the last of the chores done, we were back on the road again.
We started out heading to Indio (just east of Palm Springs), but we didn't even make it past the mountains that ring the L.A. basin. While climbing up a steep grade, the coach started losing power. At first we thought we were imagining it, but by the time we were limping along at 35mph, there was no denying that something was wrong. The "check engine" light wasn't on, and we couldn't hear any ugly noises. It wasn't until we stopped that we got a clue pointing to the problem: The temperature of the catalytic converter was almost 600 degrees! Catalytic converters should only heat up to somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees. It turns out that the catalyst had melted and was restricting exhaust gasses. Fortunately, it was easy to have replaced (mostly due to kind folks referring us to someone and then they to another kind person) and we were on our way.
We lounged for a couple of days at an RV park in Indio that had been carved out of an old date palm grove (as evidenced by the ladders permanently mounted to the trees). Indio's claim to fame had been to the groves of date palms. As Palm Springs expanded, the value of the land increased. This, combined with a new found value for the trees on the boulevards of Los Angeles and Los Vegas has all but erased the large groves from the desert.
Once we had taken some time to relax, we intended to head toward the Grand Canyon, but we didn't have a particular route in mind.
Our meanderings along historic Route 66 took us through an old mining town called Oatman. While there is still some mining activity in the area, it's tourism that keeps Oatman alive. It's the kind of place where you might be stopped while a mock gunfight is played out in the street on weekend afternoons. Another highlight of Oatman are the burros looking for handouts on the way into town. Even though old Route 66 doesn't see a lot of traffic, it does have it's share of traffic jams!
A cold front interrupted our plans to visit the Grand Canyon and prompted us to return to the Colorado River. It was a good excuse to stop by Hoover Dam and spend a few days at Lake Mead. The tour of Hoover Dam is memorable and worth doing. It includes a visit to the generator level at the base of the dam where you feel the sound of the turbines as much as hear it. The railway bed that was used to haul materials (including the massive turbines & generators) is still open. It's a broad, flat trail that passes through some tunnels that are easily big enough to drive the motorhome through. There was also the fun opportunity to stand at the state line in the middle of the dam/river so that one side was in Nevada and one side in Arizona.
Lake Mead is a large deep body of water that is a playground for nearby Las Vegas. The geology of the area is interesting, and it's a good place to hike. It's also beautiful in a stark way, especially at sunset. An old paddlewheel steamboat that hosts dinner cruises made a timeless view.
An errand that took us into Las Vegas prompted us to spend the night near Red Rock, just west of town. As the campground was full, we drove out to open rangeland deep in the mountains. We found what looked like a good dirt road leading away from the pavement and started looking for a place to camp. While the road wasn't rough, it was narrow, offering no room to turn around. As we proceeded, the road started following a streambed and deteriorated to the point that we didn't want to proceed but couldn't turn back. We were lucky to find a flat spot on a ridge where we could camp for the night and turn around in the morning, but the adventure wasn't over yet. The sound of rain and hail in the wee hours of the morning that brought visions of a washed out road in the streambed interrupted our sleep. Instead the morning brought magic as we awoke to a light blanket of snow covering the sage, creosote, and juniper trees.