This Concludes the Desert Portion of Your Tour

Original Post: August 8, 2015

We headed out on Day 10, eager to be leaving Las Vegas.  (Hey, isn’t that a movie?)  A “quick” stop at McDonald’s for breakfast, but oh, that’s right.  That’s where we discovered, yet again, that nothing in Vegas is as quick as the reputation.  We got to the drive-through lane at 10:15, to be told when we got to the speaker at 10:30 to order that they were out of breakfast.  What?  How is this remotely possible at a McDonald’s? Now, we were stuck in the drive through, boxed in by curbs they have absurdly placed to lock you in.  It was after 10:45 by the time we were finally able to leave the McDonald’s parking lot…without food.  Nate, to say the very least, was in a foul mood.  (It was already bad enough that they don’t offer bagel breakfast sandwiches at McDonald’s after you cross the Mississippi River, but to have to wait a half hour, get no breakfast, and no real apology, well that was a whole new level of aggravation.)

But some mishaps are blessings in disguise.  Once on the highway to California, we passed more than one sign for the Ghost Town Cafe – “Serving Breakfast All Day.”  Seeing as it was nearly noon by this point, we figured ‘why the hell not?’ and followed the signs to the exit.  But, the cafe was actually located six miles from the exit and Nate, in his mood of Hangry Desperation, was ready to turn right back on the highway and forget it all. I managed to convince him that breakfast was worth it, and off we went, down a dusty, close-enough-to-dirt road for six miles.  And aren’t we glad we did?

We arrived at The Pioneer Saloon and Ghost Town Cafe in Goodsprings, Nevada, and it looked every bit what you would think.  There was a single car out front and Nate made a half-hearted comment as we entered that no one would ever find our bodies.  Once seated at the bar in the Ghost Town Cafe, we ordered a delicious, if greasy, breakfast and while we waited, the manager began to chat with us.  He asked how we’d heard of the place and we had to confess that we really hadn’t.  Signs on the highway had led us in desperation.

He seemed somewhat surprised and cued up the 3 televisions on the wall to play a recorded segment of Ghost Hunters.  It appears The Pioneer Saloon, established 1913, had a handful of ghosts and a dicey history.  Who knew?  (A few million people who watch Ghost Hunters, surely, but not me.)

After our breakfast, and our educational update on The Pioneer Saloon, we perused into the saloon to take a good look around. Sure enough, three bullet holes still remain in the original tin wall where a man was killed after cheating at poker.  The floor and tables are original to the building and there’s definitely a creepy ambience despite the friendly bartender and the patrons that were now wandering through the door for lunch.

Before we got back on the road, we used the restrooms, one of which was reputed to be haunted.  Guess which one?  The ladies, naturally.  So, yes, I peed in a haunted bathroom.  If I had any ghostly audience, they thankfully remained silent, but I still booked it out of there as fast as I could while still trying to maintain my “cool.”

Back down the dusty road, we encountered the biggest dust devil we’d seen to date, right before getting on the highway.  Truly fascinating and, well, just plain weird.  I wonder if that sight ever gets old to those who live in the desert area.

It was 108 degrees when we got back to the highway and I was incredibly relieved that by the end of the day our “Desert Tour” would be fairly well over and we would enjoy the coastal breeze.  But both Nate and I started to get a bit nervous when the temp was steadily rising.  In fact, the car registered that it was 115 degrees F around the time we passed the world’s largest digital thermometer (why is that even a thing?), reading 111 degrees.  And about five minutes after that, Nate noticed the radiator temp was beginning to climb.  Enough to make me nervous.

And ding!

There goes the alarm, letting us know that the car is close to overheating. We pulled over, opened the windows and shut off the car for five minutes.  Being stuck in the Mojave Desert was not my idea of fun and I hoped it wouldn’t happen.  Thankfully, once we started the car and got on the road again, the decision to drive with the windows down and no a/c proved to be a wise one.  We managed to keep the car from coming close to overheating.  A half hour later, we rolled up the windows and turned the air back on, but not near full-blast, and that seemed to be okay.  Whew.  If there was ever a time that I’d felt I’d dodged a bullet, this was it.  To the dozen people we passed on the side of the road in the next hour, I am sorry you did not think to do the same…  Yikes!

Aside from Independence Pass in the Rockies, this ranks as one of the scariest roads I’ve driven on.  The sheer vastness of the surrounding desert and the inescapable heat is terrifying.  To this day, I am very relieved we were able to keep from breaking down!

When we finally arrived at South Carlsbad State Park in California at 6 pm, we knew that we had to set up camp quickly.  I had managed to secure the very last spot (physically) in the camp about a year prior, so that we were on the end, facing the beach, with only one campsite near ours.  At the time I had booked it, it seemed ideal. But, as we navigated through the seemingly endless line of campsites, with oblivious children riding bikes and skateboards right in front of the car without even a glance, it was an excruciatingly slow drive to the end site.  Seriously, what was with these kids?  And why didn’t their parents seem to care?

When we finally reached the end, there was a truck parked in our spot.  The neighbors next to us (you know, the ONE site next to us) had parked their truck there since no one was there.  They were thankfully kind enough to move it quickly once approached, but it was obvious later why they had no room at their site.  Aside from their 30 foot RV and the truck they used to tow it, they had a tent (for the kids), two full 6 ft fold-out tables with pop up canopies, the picnic table provided by the campground, and about fifteen bicycles.  Okay, it was more like four.  But, still.  I can’t imagine traveling with that much junk!

We had the tent set up in ten minutes and, even though Nate didn’t want to get back in the car, even though it was the very epitome of what he dreaded the most, he got in anyway, and drove us to Scripp’s Pier in San Diego so I could get the photos I’d hoped for in Southern California.  I was certain that it wasn’t the right time of year where the sun lines up perfectly at the end of the pier, but I couldn’t wait to see the sunset from beneath the pier anyway.

As an east-coaster, there’s something almost magical about watching the sun set over the ocean, like I’m in a fantasy world on another planet or something.  Where I come from, that just doesn’t happen.  The sun doesn’t set over the ocean.  It rises over it.  Everyone knows that.

So, off we went, and got to the pier in time to illegally park in a 20-minute only parking zone at the institute…  Heh.  This was, perhaps, maybe the one time I didn’t yell at Nate for doing something we weren’t supposed to do.  I wanted my photos and I was game for whatever it took to get them.  Including gimping my way through the sand to get to the pier.

To my dismay, there was already a photographer onsite.  I had heard that this would happen.  I had read that photographers flock to the pier and that on any given evening, there could be a half dozen sitting beneath the pier, waiting for the sun to set.

I guess I should have been happy that there was just one.  I was also disappointed that it appeared to be a higher tide, so I was going to get wet and there wasn’t much way around it.  The bandage around my ankle didn’t stay dry for long.  And for the nearly 100 shots I took, I got a handful that proved to be decent.

I was just glad that the sun was visible at all, since it looked like this when we’d first reached the west coast:

 It was a good way to spend my birthday.  Yep, my birthday.  On the beach at sunset, breathing in the salty air and enjoying the sound of the waves.  The culmination of many years wanting, and a whole year planning, the vacation of a lifetime. Had it not been for the foreign photographer who was slowly and steadily creeping closer toward me and encroaching on my space, it would have been positively perfect.  To add insult to injury, his camera and his lens were both bigger than mine.  Jerk.

And where was Nate during this adventure?  While he had started by my side, he disappeared at some point to check on the car, and I began to wonder if he’d been arrested and had his car towed away.  When I texted him, I received no immediate response.  Hmmm.

After I’d put my camera away and dumped as much sand from my tripod as I could, I found Nate a while later, chatting with two guys who maintain the aquarium at Scripp’s Institute. It figured.  If there was a way to talk about fish, Nate would find it.  If there was a person alive who would want to discuss it, Nate would manage to locate him.

We headed back to car, to a (non-candlelit) dinner at Subway, and for a little grocery shopping.  Then, back to the campsite.  For Nate, a walk in the sand to hunt for anything cool in the dark on the beach.  For me, bed.  Plain and simple.  Bed.

Well. Sleeping bag.

Pure exhaustion had finally caught up with me after so many days on the road and hiking, pushing ourselves to the limit every day.  I passed out to the sound of the surf, a fabulous end to a fabulous day.

The sun isn’t supposed to set over the ocean. Everyone knows that!

Hauntings, Indeed
Day 10, part 2

Original Post: August 10, 2015

No, I don’t usually add to the blog once I have it all written and published, but this was one video that needed to be shared.  Nate and I finally sat down to look at some of the video we had taken along the trip.  Of all of the hours of video we captured, there was only one video that had a problem.  This one.

So much so that I had to record the computer playing it just to put it on the web.  YouTube wouldn’t load the original.  The file claims to be 0.4 seconds long, but it continuously loops and the blue progress bar on the bottom of the window jumps all over.  Nate tried to film The Pioneer Saloon starting at the bullet holes and panning around to the bar.  But, all we have are bullet holes.  And jumpy ones at that.  Creepy!  (And now you might have to share it with someone so you don’t die a horrible death.  No?  Not that movie?)

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