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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Postcard from the Desert

Sunday April 29 2007File under: travel, road trip

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U.S. 395

When roadtripping, road selection is everything. Well, okay, maybe not everything. Who you are going with plays a big part too. But since I am stuck with little old me, road selection is key. The right road offers views, interesting local flavor, and something more than just McDonald's and 7-11s. When you are talking road trip on a scooter, add to that little traffic, frequent enough service stops, and slow speed limits, if you can manage. U.S. 395 between Carson City and Mammoth Lakes fits the bill perfects (except for the slow speed limits, but you can't have it all, eh?)

When thinking about this adventure and what routes I might take, Saxtor suggested 395. Not knowing anything about what I would be looking for in a route or road, I committed to nothing, but did commit the suggestion to memory. Through a funny occurrence of out of date maps, local suggestions, and weather, I ended up on 395. I can't say I've been on a more breath taking stretch of road.

Anyway, since I am sitting on a sidewalk in the town of Lone Pine, CA writing this with the most tenuous of internet connections, I'm unable to add the usual spice of wit and pictures. I'll write more soon.
Friday April 27 2007File under: travel, road trip

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Harry, I Cant Feel My Fingers

Last night, I camped near Eagle Lake, just NW of Susanville, CA. Elevation: 5000 ft. Pulling in just at sunset, I set up camp under a juniper(?) tree and fixed some Frito chili pie over my hobo stove. As I sat watching darkness slowly fall over this weird and wonderful landscacpe, I reflected on what diverse countryside I saw in just 1 day at 35 mph.

Flash forward to morning. Being able to see your breath while still in the tent isn't a lot of incentive to get up. Camping where you probably shouldn't be is. Lo and behold, it is even colder outside the tent than in. Heavy frost covers scoot scoot. Wearing almost every item of clothing I brought, I still had to stop every 20 minutes on the ride in to Susanville to warm up. Luckily, hot chocolate and hash browns were waiting at the local casino.

As the sun starts to rise and the elevation falls, it looks to be shaping up as a great day for my ride into Reno and beyond!

For those who don't get the picture or headline, listen to this
Thursday April 26 2007File under: travel, road trip

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The Columbia River

The Columbia River is just awesome. Not "awesome" in a "totally tubular" or "Mom, those were some awesome potatoes" kind of way. We are talking "awesome" like aweinspiring, full of awe, etc. Driving along the Columbia gives you vistas around every turn. Driving along the Columbia on a scooter surrounds you with the vistas as well as the sounds, smells, and even temperature and humidity changes (which do add to the overall feeling.)

As I proceeded east, the sky ahead was blue and the sky behind was grey, which is quite typical of east of the mountains vs. west. Having that great weather made for the morning's scoot all the more enjoyable. I crossed the river at The Dalles and before I knew it, I was out of beautiful river gorge country and into beautiful rolling hills grasslands country of Eastern Oregon.

(Oh, but just before I crossed the river, I came across this sign that I couldn't help but take a picture of.)
Tuesday April 24 2007File under: travel, road trip

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