Flashback Friday #5

In the summer of 2000 Retta and I took a road trip to see the old growth redwoods along the northern California coastline.  In this northwestern part of the state there is an abundance of protected lands including Redwood National Park,  Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP.  These parks are all managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

One treasure that lies within this region is the  under-visited Prairie Creek Redwood State Park.  Besides the majestic coastal redwoods (the tallest living organism), this park contains two gems.  The first is a place called Fern Canyon, which is a lush, green canyon filled with ferns (aren’t I perceptive?).

Enjoying Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon is a beautiful place to spend a morning or afternoon enjoying the ambiance that only a fern canyon can provide.  As an added treat, in order to get to the trail head that takes you into the canyon, you have to drive along a stretch of land called Gold Bluffs Beach, which offers absolutely spectacular vistas of the coast and ocean.  But the real draw for photographers and nature lovers are the elk which inhabit the beach area.

Elk at Prairie Creek Redwoods SP

It’s funny how you can travel to a destination in order to see the expected sights, only to find something else entirely unique and unexpected.  This is what happened to us on this particular trip.  As we were driving along the Redwood Highway, we found an unoccupied rest area along a beautiful river. Pulling into the rest area for a some R&R, Retta and I got out our folding chairs and settled in to enjoy a little snack.  Not long after, we noticed a truck parking next to ours.  At the time, our truck was a 2000 Ford, shiny and brand new, looking as if it had just come off the showroom floor (which it had).  The Ford truck which had pulled in beside ours was about a half-century older than our truck, but it looked shinier and newer than ours did!

Which is the new truck?

Before long another vehicle enter the rest area, this time a sparkling Willys.  I believe it was a 1950 Willys Jeepster Phaeton, and it was immaculate.

1950 Willys Jeepster Phaeton

Being a car-guy at heart, I had to investigate these vehicles.  As I got up from my chair to walk on over to the parking lot, I saw several more vehicles enter the lot, each one more exotic than the last.  I talked to a gentleman who had just jumped out of this set of wheels –

Old Ford roadster

He explained to me that this was a vintage and customized car club out for their monthly weekend excursion.  Part of the rules of the club are that all members (which in this case are the cars, and not the people) must be ambulatory, and that to remain in the club, each vehicle must participate in at least 6 such outings per year, or be put on probation (whatever that entailed).

Before long, the entire lot was filled with all manner of unique and interesting vehicles, most of which I cannot identify with any precision, so I will not attempt to.  But here are some more of them.

Nice ride!

Gangsta sled

Big wheeled baddie

You can’t see it in the last picture, but the entire rear of this vehicle (I think a modified business coupe) has been altered to accommodate the massive 20″ wide rear tires!  There were probably about 40 vehicles in total that day, and the best part of it all was that Retta and I were treated to a “personal” car show.  As you may well imagine, each vehicle owner was eager to talk about their buggy, and there were many interesting tales that were told.  Alas, I only wish that I had taken notes, so I could remember all of the details.

Flashback Friday #4

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

In the early 1970’s I owned a Toyota Landcruiser (“Toy”) that I came to believe was jinxed.  While this vehicle brought me plenty of pleasure in it’s ability to allow me the freedom to explore rugged terrain, it also had it’s share of tempermental moments.   For instance, once on a trip to Oregon to visit my friends Craig and his lovely wife Linda, the three of us decided to explore a slough off the Willamette river.  Along this slough, there were numerous shallow puddles of standing water that we wound around and motored through.  The shimmering water in the afternoon sunlight was an enchanting sight to behold.  So much so that I lost focus on what I was doing and drove directly into a deep hole filled with water.  Darn jinxed Toy!  “Well, this is no big problem” I thought to myself.  We can just back out of this measly little puddle.  I believe Craig just chuckled to himself as he hopped out of the Landcruiser to snap a picture.  Linda was apparently confident at this point in time, at least as far as I can tell from the picture below:

We'll get out of this mess

Putting the transfer case into granny-low gear, I attempted to back the Toy out of the puddle.  We were sitting on a silty surface, however, and the vehicle tires promptly dug themselves into the mud.  Darn jinxed Toy!  “Well, this is no big problem” I thought to myself.  We can just get out the high-lift jack, jack the Toy up very high on the jack, and then push the Toy over to the side, thus putting the tires on a more solid footing.  I believe Craig just chuckled to himself as he hopped into the water to help me along with this scheme.

Hmmm - this doesn't seem to be working

This incident occurred over thirty years ago, and so my recollection of the exact events that transpired from here on may be a little rusty, but I think it went something like this.  Craig and I spend hours and hours trying out various schemes and methods in our attempt to free the Toy.  I recall Craig doing a lot of chuckling in the process.  I recall myself uttering a few curses.  And I recall that we were totally unsuccessful in freeing the Toy.  I had managed to flood the engine with water however, and now we had no power.  Darn jinxed Toy!  “Well, this is no big problem”  I thought to myself.  Actually, “this is now a problem” is what I really thought!

In this part of Oregon, at least back at that time, logging was in full swing.  Fortunately for me and the Toy, Craig pointed out that there was a saw mill located nearby.  It was now near midnight, and we figured (actually, Craig figured) that if we hurried on over to the mill, we might find someone to help us out of our predicament, as the mill shift change occurred at midnight.  Sure enough, we found a man with a four-wheel drive pickup sporting a winch (not an unusual sight in Oregon) who agreed to help us.  Soon, he and his winch had the Toy back up on solid ground.  This kind and helpful man even towed my now non-operating vehicle to a local service station, where we parked it for the night.

The following morning, Craig gave me a ride to the service station, where I learned from the mechanic that yes, he could drain and flush the engine, transmission, transfer case, front and rear differentials, but that it would be very costly.  Darn jinxed Toy!

The following year, while out exploring in the California desert with some friends, we had a little competition to see whether my Landcruiser F-40 could outperform their Jeep CJ5 over a rugged desert trail.  Up and down the hills and ravines we drove (in a designated ORV area, I should note) pushing our vehicles to the limit.  My Toy performed admirably in this battle of the 4WD’s, that is, up until the very last hill on the trail.  I was so thrilled over the prospect of a good showing amongst my Jeep driving friends that I lost focus once again, and drove over a large rock that I shouldn’t have.  My vehicle became high-centered on a boulder, and I was once again stuck.  Dang rocks!   Darn jinxed Toy!

When will I ever learn?

Later that same summer, I again headed up north, this time to the west coast province of British Columbia, where I was keen to do some hiking.  Along the way, in Washington state, I met a nice couple who were very interested in my Landcruiser.   After much discussion about the pros and cons of owning such a vehicle, we decided to do some day hikes together.  When they learned that I was headed towards the Canadian Rockies, they offered me the use of a cabin they owned in BC.  They told me that they had built a bridge over a river that runs alongside the cabin, and that the hiking from that point was excellent.  I took them up on their offer, and so they proceeded to draw a map directing me to their remote cabin in the woods.  When I arrived at the cabin, this is what I found –

 This is the place I'm supposed to stay in?

Parking the Toy, I investigated this old dilapidated structure.  From inside, you could see rays of daylight streaming through the roof.  There were all manner of creepy-crawlers on the floor and on the walls.  Droppings from vermin was everywhere.  This was not the type of accommodations I had expected, and I refused to stay in such quarters.  Exploring out back, I found what appeared to be some type of old storage structure, or maybe an old hog shed.  Whatever it was, it was clean inside and had a functional roof, so it became the base camp for my hiking.

A good place for shelter from the rain

Even though the cabin that the couple had told me about had not lived up to my expectations, the hiking that was available beginning across their bridge was some of the best I have ever encountered. 

A great place to begin hiking

After spending a week hiking and camping out in the hog shed, I decided that it was time to push onward in my journey.  As I loaded up the vehicle with my camping gear, I noticed a large puddle of fluid underneath the front of the Landcruiser.  Getting down on my hands and knees to investigate, I discovered that some critter had chewed through the lower radiator hose, thereby releasing all of the coolant from the radiator.  The vehicle was again non-operational, and I was stuck far from any village or town.  Darn jinxed Toy!  “Well, this is no big problem” I thought to myself.  Having the foresight to pack the always-essential roll of duct tape in the tool box, I proceeded to wrap the damaged hose with tape, fill the radiator with water from the river, and limp on over to the nearest town, where proper repairs were undertaken.

It was not until years later, after I had sold that Landcruiser, that I finally realized what wonderful experiences that Toy had given me.  And looking back, I can now see that I was the cause of most of my travails with that vehicle, not the vehicle itself.  So the lessons learned are A) look to yourself as the cause of your follies, and B) drive a Jeep instead of a Toyota!

Flashback Friday #3

About Bodie California

In 1859, nearly 150 years ago, gold was discovered in Mono County, California.  A mill was established in 1861, employing about 20 workers who were the founders of the town of Bodie.  By 1880, Bodie had grown to exceed 10,000 residents.  Like all boom towns that grew up around the gold strikes of the mid 19th century, the were saloons, hotels, brothels, thieves and scoundrels.  But there were also hard working, churchgoing, God-fearing people living in Bodie as well.  Again, as happened in other gold-induced boom towns, eventually the cost of extracting the gold exceeded the dwindling revenues generated by the mining endeavor.  The mine was no longer capable of supporting it’s workers, and this triggered the collapse of Bodie’s economy.  A fire in 1892 sealed the fate of the town of Bodie, and now it joins the ranks of other gold-rush era ghost towns.

Bodie is now operated as part of the California State Park system, and is opened to visitors (although the general public may not enter the buildings, except that select groups are allowed entry after-hours by special arrangement).   Mono County, where Bodie lies, is within the arid rain shadow of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountains.  The resulting dryness is ideal for the preservation of the surviving structures in the ghost town.

It seem obvious to me that pictures of a ghost town should convey a certain “ghastliness”,  so I have taken the liberty to doctor up the following photos.

Ghostly moon over Bodie

A haunted church?

How much was a gallon of high-test gasoline back then?

Freight wagons

Main Street

The mines at Bodie

Examining the ruins

Abandoned wagons litter the street

Carpentry shop