The turnaround is really fast this time. We have only been home just over 2 months and here we are packing & planning. John has had the maps out calculating distances….a very ambitious route this time taking in Bryce Canyon, Week of Speed at Bonneville Salt Flats, Yellowstone, Yellowknife in Canada, then those Polar Bears, and ending our trip in Kansas City where GR2 will be stored in a huge limestone cavern. John packs our one case with the usual oil filters etc. No second case – instead a large box holding our new washing machine. Oh and yes we have already sent 6 new wheels as unaccompanied baggage.
It is a relief to touch down in Los Angeles early and find amazingly short queues and bags ready to be collected. We breeze through customs, despite the queries about the large box, collect our rental car and hit our first snag. Where do we collect those wheels? No answer on the phone number provided, so back to the airport. A sprint around the airport, then off to collect them. Paperwork to be taken for clearance, with the warning it usually takes a day or two. John heads off to customs while I snooze in the car. Apparently it took an hour – I have no recollection. Collect our wheels from the bond store, (apparently the first time anything has been released without a customs inspection. It must have been Johns smile! Haha. Johns comment not mine.) – The poor car is chookers. Dan Diego here we come.
GR2 is tucked into the corner at Draco Trucks (thank you so much for looking after her). John starts sorting out jobs to be done while I unpack – really I just want to crawl on the bed and sleep. Finally I can head to bed, after we collect some food & drop off the rental car.
The chores start on Thursday. First stop battery place. Time to get 4 new house batteries – very much reduced in price because of our contact with Draco Trucks. Second stop to get the new 24 volt to 12 volt convertor installed (another thing from our suitcase) Third stop a radio guy to install a radio – we have not had a radio working for a few years now. While there we get the call that our new tyres have arrived so…. Forth stop – the wheels & 6 new tyres. A huge day for GR2 and our credit card. Just enough time to stock up on more food before heading to Emma & Drew’s for a lovely dinner. Great to see their adorable kidlets. Finally we overnight beside the radio workshop ready for final installation of the radio.
Amazingly all chores are completed by Friday midday and we can head off before the long weekend that is looming. YAY!!! Time to hit the road. Definitely not the motorway – we will check out the back roads. We head east, skirting the border of Mexico. Lots of lovely desert scenery. Our destination Joshua Tree National Park. But first an interesting stop. Not a museum, but a massive holding yard full of old vehicles, all parked around an old feldspar mill (used to make porcelain). We can explore at will. John is a very happy boy. Finally the heat gets to him too & we head off into Arriza Borrego Desert State Park. Some magic driving until we find a great spot way down a wash at the mouth of a canyon – not a soul in sight. A great hike through the canyon ends another day.
More exploring the desert & badlands (I just love that name) before we reach the Salton Sea – It is an uninspiring, salty lake that has shrunk considerably in recent years, due to droughts. Follow the lake past date palm, orange & grape plantations. A drive through a box canyon & then in to Joshua Tree itself. Lots of great walks later we head to the campground (yes we are going to pay tonight) only to find it full. Try another one. It’s full, then another – it’s full too. Bother. We head the short drive out of the park to free camp in another wash right beside the Planetarium. We have lucked out again. There is a free show tonight. We get to see Saturn & lots of nebulae. The night sky is awesome.
Early back in to the Park to continue our exploration before the crowds get out of their tents. Sadly they do catch us up, but we still manage to wander around lots of rocks & look at quite a few trees. We enjoy the dirt track - Geology Tour Rd with very few cars. Finally we head off, deciding to detour to Pioneer Village – a must see in the Lonely Planet. Time they checked this one out! The village was an old movie set, & we even caught the very lame shootout (so bad we eventually left). The best thing was the great burgers at the local pub. Finally we head across the desert to Amboy to see the volcano we were told about. It is 5pm by now and it would make a great spot to camp, but it is still 40deg. Too hot to camp or even wander around the black, hot base. So we head off until we are at a higher altitude for a cooler sleep. Find a spot in the Mojave Desert with awesome views. Again BLM land – so free.
Now we are in flat, dry, desert country, so it’s definitely time to get a few miles under our belt. A few back roads (part of Route 66) & a few bigger roads - eventually reaching Nevada. At Boulder City stop for more groceries before heading off on our next scenic detour following Lake Mead (this way we will miss Las Vegas and our pesky cop!!) It is a gorgeous drive with some magical scenery. Not just the lake, but gorges & yes more rocks. Finally back onto the motorway, out of Nevada, in to Arizona. Yet another stunning gorge we actually passed through last time, & on to St George. Reach the Welcome Centre to check which tracks are open for our route through Escalante National Park. Route planned, we head out to find ourselves some more BLM land. This time beneath a red hill and overlooking Zion. Yes we are now back in Utah – so far one of our favorite states in the USA.
More scenic driving towards Kanab, but we see Pipe Springs National Monument and decide to pop in (after all we may as well use our America the Beautiful card as much as possible – it gives us entry in to all National Parks, Monuments etc) It wasn’t more red rock – which is what we expected – but an old Mormon Tithing Farm. The Mormon’s built a fort over the natural water spring to save it for themselves – those poor Indians.
Anyway Kanab here we come. More enquires let us know our chosen road is definitely closed, so another route is planned. We are also told about a slot canyon just up the road that we can get to with a 4x4. Slot canyons are definitely on my list this trip. So we head off. The track looks pretty sandy….maybe not. Then another 4x4 comes out and says “No you will be fine”. So in we go!!! Bad idea. We come to a very deep dip & don’t make it. Second go we get deeper in. While we are letting out more air from our tyres a group of 6 ATV’s arrive. They decide to pull us out – hitching 4 ATV’s in a row. They had way more fun than we did. Once out John did a recy – too many low overhanging branches so we turn around, negotiate the dip (no problems this time) and give this slot canyon a miss.
Back to Kanab, blow up the tyres & head to our back road through Escalante National Park. First section tarseal – so all good. Finally turn off on to dirt at Skutumpah Rd. First stop – the Lick Wash. Here there is another slot canyon. In we head as it starts to drizzle. Then lightening, followed by more rain. All the signs say “Do not enter a slot canyon in rain and thunder”. We must be stark crazy. As we race back out the rain gets harder. No slot canyon again! Rather than wait until tomorrow we decide to move on – these roads can get really bad in the wet (we have been warned that even 4x4’s can get stuck for days!) And yes the road has got bad in that short space of time – all sticky, gluggy & slippery. Time to call it quits for the day. We see another Overland vehicle and camp with them for the night. A fun evening chatting with Beat & Betti from Switzerland, who are travelling in their Landcruiser.
Coming soon – finally a Slot Canyon!