Joshua Tree National Park

Saturday April 8, 2006, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
At last we are doing what we came here to do. We have spent the last 2 days in Joshua Tree National Park, just north from the Palm Springs-Indio area. It is desert here, but a very vibrant and beautiful desert. We are out of mobile range and of course internet. The camper has a lot of the 'mod-cons' but we must conserve our water as there is no supply here. The campsites have so-called 'chemical toilets', - a bit like a composting toilet crossed with an old-fashioned 'long-drop', and I'm not really sure where the chemical comes into it. But there are no showers.
We had spent Wednesday morning getting the air-conditioning working at last - another trip to the radiator specialist and the auto-electrician. The cause turned out to be a corroded wire. Our truck seems to be showing its age, and maybe a lack of maintenance also. When we asked Mike, the auto-electrician what we owed, his reply was nothing, just have a great journey, or words to that effect! It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience meeting these people, even though Tuesday's bill wasn't so pleasant.
The weather on Wednesday wasn't so pleasant, so after we left the auto-electrician, we drove to a shopping centre and parked outside Starbucks to update our webpage and catch up with emails. We have our phone with T-mobile and also internet access through their hot-spots, most of which seem to be at Starbucks. I'm not that fond of Starbuck's coffee and it is also a little expensive if you have to buy coffee every time you need internet access. So we tried it out from our camper and it worked really well.
On Thursday morning we had an appointment to check out a noise in the front end - the mechanic checked it out and said we weren't in danger of anything falling off imminently, but suggested necessary diagnostics and obvious work to the tune of $1800. Not overly impressed, we decided to follow our original plan and come up to Joshua Tree, and spend a couple of days and think about what next.
The park is very beautiful and the campsites are well-planned. On Thursday we spent the day just driving in and looking around. We stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden, and then found a campsite at the Belle Campground. It was a very pleasant, quiet and relaxing environment, and we sat at our concrete picnic table, drinking a bottle of Frexinet and watching the sunset. At an elevation of 3800 feet - that must be somewhere around a 1000 metres - the temperature dropped quite quickly once the sun disappeared, so we went inside our camper to complete our liquid celebration. Our peace was disturbed at about 11pm by a group of rock climbers who were setting up camp right next to us, with never a thought that most people in the campground were already sleeping. In fact, I'm not sure they even realised that there were any people in the world other than themselves!!!
We woke Friday morning to 4.4°C outside and 8.1°C inside - thanks to Pete and Bec for providing us with a weather station that lets us know how really cold it is here! But just boiling the kettle on the gas stove for coffee increases the inside temperature somewhat - we haven't worked out how to get into our heater to light it yet! - and the sun rose to another beautiful clear day - not a cloud in sight and the sky so blue it almost hurts your eyes. Of course, one couldn't sit and enjoy breakfast at the picnic table without some extra posterior padding.
Our aim for the day was to find another campsite - the rock-climbers weren't leaving - and to take a hike to Ryan Mountain. The campsite was a bit difficult - our first 2 choices were full - but we finally found something at a third larger campground. Then we headed for the start of the walk. They mentioned it was 1.5 miles - they didn't mention that it was all up!!! It was extremely strenuous, and we are both a bit out of practice, but we made it to the top, and were treated to a 360° view - you can share some of it in our pictures. Needless to say, we returned exhausted, and were in bed by 8.15pm.
Today we will drive back towards Long Beach and try to find somewhere to park our house, and catch up with Suzy again. On Monday, we will attempt to get a second opinion about the noise in the front end - and a third and a fourth if necessary - and spend this week making sure all is well before taking off on further adventures.

Sunday, April 9, 2006, Malibu Beach, CA
Driving back toward Los Angeles yesterday was very tiring. There's not much alternative to the freeways and they seemed to be very crowded on this particular Saturday - maybe they are always like that. We drove first to Huntington Beach - there was some kind of car show going on and the streets were crowded. We decided to go on to Long Beach and see if there was space in the RV park there - there was a motorcycle Grand Prix happening in easy walk to the park, so all sites there were booked a year in advance! They suggested that Malibu Beach would be our best bet and called to check - they had plenty of sites. So we drove another hour and a half up here.
Juergen was exhausted from driving through the traffic in the truck and camper - I'm still a bit hesitant to try it where there is too much traffic. People here in L.A. are driving very fast and very much like "city drivers" all over the world: constantly changing lanes, passing really close, cutting in and out of traffic, and hardly ever indicating...
The Malibu RV Park is set into the side of the hill overlooking the ocean. The rates are quite reasonable and even the so-called 'mountain view' sites, have ocean view. This morning, looking out at the ocean, we have decided it was worth it and have just paid up until Easter Monday.

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