Desert Dispatch

As I find myself in the middle of the desert without water or electricity, much less wifi, for miles, I'm phoning this dispatch in from the road, much like the reporters of yore. Special thanks to Ma for acting as stenographer. O, and once I find some wifi again I'll get up some new pics.

Here are a few highlights from week 4 on the road: meeting and hiking for a few miles with some through hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail; Pines to Palms Highway through San Bernadino National Forest; beating the heat with a midday movie in Palm Desert, CA (10 Oscar Nominated Shorts); free promotional Hagan Daaz ice cream cone; another spectacular campsite at Joshua Tree National Park; revisiting recycle man in Indio, CA who is completely boggled by my little adventure.

Traveling is fun.
Thursday May 17 2007File under: travel, road trip

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EPotM for May

I'm extremely excited about this month's environmental project of the month (EPotM). It syncs so perfectly with this little road trip that I am on.

This month, I've decided that I want to recycle enough cans and bottles from the side of the road to pay for my gas here in California. California has a cash redemption law on bottles and cans like many other states (why doesn't WA?). You would think that would discourage people from chucking cans out their window on the highway. Well, as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. So far, I've earned about $16.00 which gets Scoot Scoot quite a ways down the road.

The History Channel's Modern Marvel's episode on canning states that recycling one can saves enough energy to run a T.V. for 3 hours. While I find that hard to believe, it's obvious that there is some energy savings over having to make a new can from scratch. So besides beautifying the highways and byways of California and keep waste out of the landfills, my little project will help save energy. I won't even go into the carbon offsetting that must be happening. Really, I think this is the best EPotM to date.

(Oh, and since a picture is worth 1000 words and this post is windy enough, here's a few of this month's project in action: 1, 2, 3, 4 )
Monday May 14 2007File under: travel, road trip

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I had always heard skimboarding was different here in California and now I understand why. For one, skimming smoothly along the beach for long distances at a time just doesn't have the panache needed to make it here in SoCal, so they beefed it up by skimming down the beach into the waves and doing all sorts of surf-like tricks. Another reason they do it differently here in CA is less obvious; their beaches don't lend themselves to long smooth runs.

Yesterday, I went out and found myself a skimboard rental shop. In chatting with the folks there, I explained what I was looking for. You could tell they thought I was a little crazy for wanting the flattest beach around, rather than the one with the best shore break. They tried to help nonetheless and pointed me on my way. I got a couple of good runs in, but nothing like that time Smiley's flooded over. Oh well, I guess not everything is better in Califonia.

(Oh, and a big thanks to my action photographer Julie who took these action shots.)
Saturday May 12 2007File under: travel, road trip

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One of the things I like about traveling is seeing places that I've heard about. In China, for example, it was The Forbidden City and The Great Wall. In Italy, it was the Sistine Chapel and the Uffizi. Here in Southern California, there are places and things that fall into the same category; places I've heard so much about and wondered what they are like for myself (Huntington Beach, Orange County, and In & Out Burger just to name a few).

But it isn't all education-based, hurry-from-place-to-place, see-as-much-as-you-can travel. In addition to all the educational and cultural destinations, we've had time for afternoons in the park (where I was talked into an improptu juggling show), walks on the beach, geocaches, sunsets, and some of the tastiest homemade Vietnamese food ever (courtesy of Quynh Giao). Also, I've had time to catch up on a little internetting and give Scoot Scoot a little TLC that s/he has been sorely missing.
Friday May 11 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Best. Campsite. Ever.

The road from Henderson to Joshua Tree National Park is a piece of work. First, you cruise on the Joshua Tree Highway (no association to the park). There are joshua trees everywhere, ten times as many as in the National Park. Then you make your way through the Mojave Desert National Preserve, which, as you rise and fall in elevation, you go through strata of dense* vegetation of a certain type (e.g. a nice big cholla patch). Next, you reach a long stretch of road with no gas, even though the map has a number of towns listed. Who ever heard of a town without gas!? Then there is a nice little highway underpass perfectly suited for passing the time until the AAA man comes with a spare gallon of gas. Then you cruise into Joshua Tree National Park.

I've been through JTNP once before, but only for the briefest of visits. This time was longer, but only barely. There was time, however, to discover possibly the best campsite ever (pictured above). The campground was nearly empty, and I got in just after sunset. The spot I selected was nestled between two gigantic boulders. The temperature was perfect and there were no bugs around to disturb me and my Little Cesear's Pizza which I picked up in 29 Palms. Waking up, the campsite looked just as good (and the leftover pizza wasn't half bad either).

Yep, Joshua Tree National Park will need to be visited again. Then, I might even stay a whole day!
Wednesday May 9 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Colorado River Edutainment

The Hoover dam is one impressive structure. I learned all about it one morning (after enjoying a lovely, cheap, off-strip breakfast) as I sat in on the free video offered at a nearby casino. Then the opportunity for a more immersive learning experience presented itself, thanks to my hosts being so well connected. Emily and I found ourselves afloat the Colorado River just down stream of the dam on an oversized pontoon boat driven by the all-knowing, ever witty river guide Rick. We learned about the history of the river and dam, the geology of the area (including hot hot springs), the local flora and fauna, and so much more. We saw lots of big horned sheep, a peregrine falcon (which excited Emily more than should be normal), lizards, vultures, and more.

Since I have been in the desert heat all day, my mind-brain isn't working so good. I can't think of a clever way to fit in this picture and this one Oh wait, I just did. Does that count? Anyway, it was a good good time. If you ever happen that way yourself, be sure to do the trip and ask for Rick as a guide. You won't be sorry (except maybe when he gets going on the cow jokes...)
Tuesday May 8 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Oh, O!

The rematch between Vegas and me was epic, let me tell you. For those of you who put your money on Vegas, however, I have some bad news. Team Wren triumphed mightily in this second matchup. With the excitement of fight night, the magic of cirque du soleil, the teamwork of wonderful company, and the stresslessness of having it all figured out before hand, Vegas didn't stand a chance.

With all my circusy interests, I figured I couldn't leave Vegas without seeing a cirque show. The popularity of those spandex-clad body magicians is such that almost every casino has their own show, including Zumanity: The Sensual Side of Cirque at New York New York. We opted for O, one that I have been wanting to see for ages. Basically, take a cirque show, and put it in, around, and above a multi-million dollar custom pool, and you get O. Even before the pool was revealed, we were amazed by the spectacularness of the theatre. The show didn't disappoint (although did slightly suffer from a lack of juggling).

After the show, we wandered the strip gazing at the lights and people. We even caught 3 Bellagio water shows! The evening was just what I needed to counter the frusteration of the previous experience and put Las Vegas back in my mind as the amazing, unique, sometimes-sketchy/sickening/depressing-but-always-interesting place that it is.
Monday May 7 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Vegas -1, Wren - 0

While pondering this little blog post, I considered quite a few different headlines: Unlucky in Vegas, but it wasn't just about gambling; Vegas Failure, but that was that extreme. Plus, I'm hoping to have a chance to even the score tomorrow night.

The way it goes is this: last night, I stayed at the Sahara at the far north end of The Strip. Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory went well and we saw the Volcano at the Mirage on the walk back to the hotel. All in all, a good start. The morning, however, was a different story.

Determined to find a cheap all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, I set out early. Three urban, street-crossing, back-tracked, construction dodging miles later and still no cheap breakfast. Strike 1. On return to the hotel (after a repeat of said 3-mile trek) just before checkout time, I made some calls to find lodging for tonite. Not a single place in all of Vegas or Henderson for under $129. It's fight weekend. Strike 2. I hopes of finding better deals and other sage advice, I tried to turned to our friend the internet. "Free WiFi" the sign at the monorail station tauts. Well, not for my computer. Strike 3. Feeling rather dejected by it all, I turn to our friend public transportation. Getting to the bus stop, through the transfers, and to my destination cost me some nasty blisters on my feet*. Strike 4.

The happy ending to my tale is that I made it to a happy place where I smile more than I should and want for nothing. There were even cookies after dinner! Being taken in and treated as one of crew is so nice after the impersonalness of the big city.

Stay tuned for notes from the rematch.
Saturday May 5 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Road Food

In my experience, road trip food is rarely exciting and almost never healthy. I've done my best to combat both these things but eating from grocery stores (parking lot picnics with bagels and cream cheese or granola and yohgurt have been popular), but I admit I've stopped at a few greasy spoons along the way. Even when I try to cook for myself over my hobo stove, I end up getting something out of a can or box. Not to say there is anything wrong with this, but it can get a bit old.

Enter the oven. For the past few days, I've been hanging out with a friend who lives in Hendeson, NV. Last night, we atteneded a get together so I could meet some of her friends. It was to be a pizza party. Rather than more take out food, I volunteered to engineer the pizza, as I consider pizza one of the 6 or 7 dishes in my repertoire. We did a BBQ chicken with onions and a breakfast sausage with green peppers, both with only cheddar cheese. (Yes, of course it was on homemade dough.) The BBQ chicken esp. was met with smiles and rubbed tummies. As for me, I was happy enough to eat a meal that came from more than one package.

Next on the culinary agenda: the casino buffett!
Wednesday May 2 2007File under: travel, road trip

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See America!

I came across this postcard at the visitor's center at Lake Mead Recreation Area and I just couldn't pass it up. It fit so well with the blog post that's been brewing in my head over the last couple days that I promptly bought it and found a spot to scan it.

Why does it fit with what I've been thinking about?, you ask. Well, on my little road trip so far, I've been through about 10 or so National Parks, Recreation Areas, Forests, Scenic Areas, etc. I guess I never realized there were so many out there or how cool they are.

Take Crooked River National Grassland in Central Oregon. So cool. There are hikes, places to camp, view points, etc. I don't really know what the politics are of this particular one (e.g. who pays for it, who manages it), but all I know is that I am glad it is there.

A number of other such experiences made me really think about the National [Parks/Forests/Grasslands/...] and how lucky we are as a country to have that amount of land set aside. Sure it could be more, or it could be more accesible, or it could be better managed, but at least it is there, and this time, it served my purposes. In my internet meanderings, I came across this representation of the U.S. Budget. To see how little gets spent on public use lands like this compared with some of the other programs, it really makes me wonder how things could be...

Thanks Teddy*!
Tuesday May 1 2007File under: travel, road trip

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