Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stopping to recharge

We are at the Elks lodge in 29 Palms (map).

We had really wanted to spend another night in the Mojave National Preserve, perhaps out by the majestic 600' high Kelso Dunes. Unfortunately, we were out of water, and there really was no place in the preserve to get any. No water in Amboy, either, and so we decided to press on to 29 Palms, where we knew the Elks would have some.

The Elks here wanted $5 to dump (which we don't need, having just done it at Furnace Creek), $7 to dry camp overnight, or $10 for 30-amp hookups with water. Since we've not topped off the batteries since Shoshone on Valentine's Day, we opted to just spring the few extra bucks and spend the night with power. That also let us run our electric heaters, as it dropped into the 40's last night, and, as long as we have the power, I am taking the opportunity this morning, as Louise has already mentioned, to defrost the fridge, a process which uses extra power because (1) I use a heat gun to help speed things along and (2) the fridge then has to do a bunch of extra work to catch back up.

After we left our lovely little spot by the power lines yesterday morning, we coasted all the way to Kelso. The park service has done a fantastic job with the depot renovation and museum, and we spent a good hour or more there wandering around and going through all the exhibits. The gift shop was also well stocked with books about the area as well as about the railroad and its role in developing the west and even the park service itself.

We thought briefly about making a left along the tracks onto Cima Road, which would have taken us into other interesting sections of the park, but that would have meant perhaps 30 miles on a dirt road to find our way to one of the developed campgrounds (where water was available). We decided to return on another trip (entering instead past Mitchell Caverns), and just continue south on Kelbaker to Amboy.

The southern half of the park was beautiful high desert, and we really enjoyed the drive. We blasted past I-40, noting quite a few spots south of the interstate which would have been good for spending the night (but, alas, still no water, so we pressed on).

At Amboy we made the traditional stop at Roy's, which, to our amazement, was open and selling gas (and diesel). A bit pricey, but still not as high as, for example, Furnace Creek. I spoke with the attendant, who was sporting a duty belt with what looked to be a .40 Smith & Wesson, and he allowed that they had just been open two weeks. I am hopeful that the gas station is a harbinger of better days to come for the old joint, and certainly further along than our last visit.

I did ask about water, but, unsurprisingly, the running water there is briny and unfit for drinking or dishwashing (signs posted at the restroom taps warn of the danger), and all their drinking water is bottled. They do have a fridge full of cold bottles of water for sale to thirsty travelers.

After ending up here at the Elks, we looked into dinner options, and decided on the rather funky 29 Palms Inn, which is five miles away at the opposite end of town. No problem, we just pulled Chip out of the bay and swooped down there for what turned out to be an excellent prime rib dinner. Coming home, however, against the 35mph headwinds was another matter -- at one point going uphill, the best we could manage was about 37mph (in a 55 zone, yikes!). That wind was also pummeling us when we first arrived at the Elks, but we strategically parked Odyssey in the lee of the building, which made for a comfortable night.

Today we will continue south into Joshua Tree National Monument.

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