Dan, Emily and Josiah's Midwinter '99 X-country excursion

This page is finally being updated! I've now put up more pics of our trip, along with descriptions, down at the bottom of the story.

This trip was delayed for a number of reasons until we only had three weeks left to do it in, but it was still lots of fun. We drove through the ice storm that hit New England on the first night, which was a little bit crazy. At one point, we had so much water, slush and other crap under the hood of the car that something shorted out and it just stopped running. We let it drip dry for a bit, and then somebody stopped and gave us a jump and we were fine. It was pretty intense weather - the roads were covered with like 2-4 inches of slush, ice and water. The way trailer trucks drive in that crap is scary! They would blow by us at speeds that were WAY over what I wanted to be driving. I was impressed with the QSW in this stuff, though. At one point we pulled over into the snowbank to let a guy by, and we had no trouble pulling out again. Yay AWD! : )

We went down south, through Tennessee and through the top bit of TX, looking for warmth. We got out of the car in TN and it was so cold that I had to put my hands in my pockets. So we kept on driving, in search of warmth. We camped our first night (we had driven without stopping with one person sleeping in the back until then) in western New Mexico. There is so much empty land out there that it's pretty easy to camp wherever without people really noticing you or caring much. We pretty much froze that first night, though. It was really crazy cold. I figured out that if you cover up your face, it makes a big difference. I had a ground pad, and I was sleeping in a sleeping bag with another one on top, and a quilt, and a cloak. I had a hat on my head as well as the hood of my wool cloak. I was also wearing long underwear, wool socks, pants, several shirts, and a sweater, and I was STILL cold. It's not supposed to get that cold down South, damnit! : )

A couple of days after that, we found this really neat place out back of a couple hills, halfway out an access road to a radio tower. It was in the middle of a cattle range in south central Arizona. It was so nice that we decided to stay there for a couple of days and hike around.

Then we headed west again, and went to Joshua Tree National Monument, and stayed there for a night. Then to San Diego, where we stayed with Em's friend Tom and were exposed to Buddhism and Booze. Strange combination, eh? While there, I had to replace the rear pads on the QSW- one of the calipers had been sticking due to the fact that there was basically no pad left on the left rear wheel. Some moronic person who called himself a mechanic had replaced just the right side pads some time back. Hmmm. Well, $30 and a couple of hours' labor later I was all set, after ripping a dust boot. I guess I should replace that soon, so the caliper doesn't freeze. (It did freeze, later, along with the other one - I had to rebuild both of them, which I finally got around to in late August).

Then on to Death Valley. We camped just outside of the park for a night, and then got up in the morning and drove down a little dirt track that we thought would hook up with the main road going north-south through the park. We were wrong, but it was pretty cool anyway. It hadn't been maintained for some years, and consequently there were lots of gullies, ruts, potholes, etc, and I got to see that yes indeed those diff locks do work. I also scraped a bit of undercoating off the underside of the QSW. Oh well. We got out to this old mine- Ibex Springs Mine. We found lots of abandoned buildings, a spring (it was actually rather a small oasis-there were some green trees growing about and such), abandoned mine shafts, and a bunch of Talc : ). On our way out, we met a guy who we had seen camping the night before. He told us where the road we were looking for was, which we were glad of, since we were low on water and gasoline. He was also impressed that we had been able to get in there with our car, which he thought was a Subaru. Lots of people seem to think that. He was walking- said he had driven in there in years past, but didn't feel like doing it this year- it had gotten pretty bad, he said, compared to past years.

We then went up to my the house that my brother Aaron and his gf Lisa recently purchased in Truckee, CA. We hung out there for a couple of days and I got to take Lisa's Pathfinder off-roading on some of the OHV trails in the nearby National Forest. Now THAT's what SUV's are for. We also had lots of good conversation, and some good time in the spa that they have there, in their house. Lucky ducks! Oh yeah and some beer, too... that's always important : )

Then we went to Vegas, got a cheap hotel, wandered around the city, got drunk, and generally wondered at what a cheap, fake place it was. I got to see some cool live funk at the MGM Grand, though. It's really incredible to see thousands of people throwing their money away. Why steal when you can convince people to GIVE their money to you? Sheesh...

From there, we dropped Daniel off in El Paso so that he could go south and meet his brother Jason to study Spanish down there in Central America, and then we just drove straight home because I needed to get back here to school. It was a little rushed, driving straight, one person driving and the other sleeping, but it was definitely worth it. In any case, it was tons of fun and helped satisfy my travelling urge for a little while.

Click on the pics for large, 640x480 versions
This is a picture of us driving out through the icestorm. This wasn't the worst of it, not by a long shot.
A particularly nice sunset that I managed to capture a picture of while we were still driving steady, in search of warmth.
Dan and Emily, dressed warmly, eating some oats & brown sugar with milk at our New Mexico campsite.
Some empty country in Arizona. It's intimidating, beautiful and awe-inspiring to a New Englander like me who's used to being surrounded by trees and such.
A nice, fun, curvy road among some funky hills in Arizona, I think.
An Arizona campspot out in the middle of nowhere. I think one truck passed us on the road there in the foreground the whole time we were there.
Another beautiful sunset, this one over the previous picture's campsite.
Another campsite, this time in Western Arizona. We had some wind during the night, and Em and Dan had neglected to stake their tent. Ouch! : )
Our campsite in Death Valley, behind a radio tower. This was the night before we went on our little off-road excursion.
A BIG access road in Death Valley. Why I didn't take a pic of the smaller, washed-out ones, I dunno. Guess I was too busy driving and scraping the bottom of poor Sam (the QSW) over the dirt and rocks...
Some even more stark emptiness, this time in Death Valley. It's odd to see mountains that have NO vegetation on them whatsoever. It's very eerie, and more than a little scary at times. When explorers found this place, they must have been like "What the...." It's amazing how BIG the desert in the SouthWest is. It's no wonder a lot of miners died in this area... it's unforgiving country.
We found this neat little gulley at the edge of a main road that hid us pretty effectively from passing cars, and decided it was the perfect camp spot. There was a defunct small oil derrick (or maybe it was a water pump?) nearby. I also found, while doing some exploring, some dude's discarded luggage, which had obviously been there awhile and probably flew out of a car. It contained a CD player, a few CD's, some clothes a toiletries, and lots of porno magazines.
Another view, from the long end, of the same campsite.
An interesting collection of automobiles that we came across in a small town in California, I think (I have such a great memory).
My brother (and his now wife)'s house that we stayed in while in Truckee, California.
A camping spot off to the side of the highway somewhere near Joshua Tree National Monument in California. You can see a couple of Joshua Trees in the background.
Some Louisiana scenery, taken on the drive straight through back from El Paso. I would've taken some good pictures of the bayou, but it was dark when we were driving through real Bayou Country. Someday I'll go back - the bayou looks beautiful. So strikingly different from neighboring TX.
Emily driving north. We're getting closer to the end of our trip, as you can see by the snow in the background. This was the last picture I took.

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