Jun 30, 2014

Far from home

I don't really know how to explain how strange the 212 mile desert drive between Rachel and Hawthorne is. It's a drive through the desert, open range cattle, dry lake beds and near zero traffic. There are 5 towns marked on our atlas, though only 2 are recognizable as actual towns...and I was a bit frightened to stop in either one. Instead, we were headed for Whiskey Flats RV park in Mineral County, just on the edge of another very small town CDP, Hawthorne. With a full hook-up, the most immaculate showering facilities, a reasonable rate, and an admirable attempt at growing trees along the property line, we were pretty content. But even before entering the city limits, things seemed strange.

As you roll into town on 95, you see miles and miles of underground bunkers, all arranged in a perfect grid across the valley. Hawthorne is built next to the Hawthorne Army Depot, the world's largest depot. This is where we store our ammo. As such, we have a lot, A LOT of leftovers. This is the reason that Hawthorne exists today, most of the residents are/were employed here. Look up this town on google maps, it's a peculiar sight from overhead. There are bomb casings everywhere, they're used as parking blocks, in landscaping, it's just all over. 

These bomb flowers in the park are my favorite. Wind power made from old artillery??? Problem solved! I found a striking message in this radical art, I wonder if it was intended, and is it lost on most people? I posted a video on my instagram showing them spin.

The first day of our stay, we went for a walk towards the mountains to the west. Pretty soon into our stroll, we noticed how strange our surroundings were. We were walking on a road with overgrown sidewalks on either side. We were passing adjacent streets, fire hydrants, your typical infrastructure, except there was nothing else there. We came upon a small parking lot and two large foundations...the sun was getting low and suddenly we felt the urge to GTFO lest we expose ourselves to anymore radiation or influence of whatever the heck happened here!

Turns out, we were walking through the former town of Babbit. A government housing facility used from the Cold War on up to the 60's when Day & Zimmerman Inc. "got rid of it" and sold off everything. It was once a CCC facility! 

Looking out over Babbit toward Walker lake. Watch out! We can't keep track of all our ammo, we've found some live mines in that lake, and assume there is more.

We found a few geocaches in Babbit, and it's a good place to fly kites! We did some stargazing out there (not too far out, it's really creepy at night) the first night of the Camelopardalids meteor shower. The first night was a dud, but we came out again the next night and saw a bunch of meteors.

Aside from other military services (such as demilitarization), from what we gathered in our two week stay, the main objective of the depot is to get rid of old outdated ammo. This ammo goes all the way back to World War II. This is done by taking it apart, or just exploding it somewhere out in the desert. Something, something, tax dollars...grumble grumble. Oddly, this seems to align with the story of another serviceman we met in Indian Springs, way down on the south side of this same test site in 2010. (“So what do you do on the base?” “I get rid of old bombs” “how do you do that?” “I don't know, hit it with a shovel?” lol, ok man. Not quite sure when that came up - we were buying each other drinks all night, and didn't question it)

So yeah, I'm just going to say it. Hawthorne is a weird weird weird odd place. It is full of very nice friendly people, and it is the weirdest town I've ever seen. The area has so much strange history, I can't even attempt to share all that we learned about this place and it's people. I've found some information online here, some neat photos here and an interesting interview here, though it hardly scratches the surface of this old wild-west-turned-military town.

This museum was great - could have spent all day looking around in there

Back in Indiana, we use charming old farm machines and tools as art in our landscaping. Out here, you see mining carts and stuff like this in people's yards - guess it makes sense!

 Poor guy looks like he's been stuck in this diorama for awhile now.

"Cafe dishwasher attemped managers ending, 1943"

 Old evidence from the old courthouse. Told you it was the wild west!

Hawthorne began as a mining town, and has experienced a number of boom-and-busts over the years. Presently, Hawthorne is home to the largest Army depot in the world, run by private government contractor Day & Zimmerman Inc.

Day & Zimmerman Inc. is ranked by Forbes as one of the largest privately held companies in the United States, yet Hawthorn has been experiencing a major bust ever since the first Day & Zimmerman contract.

So, there's your trickle down economics.

We first learned of this company from a Vietnam veteran we met after attending a Memorial Day service in Veteran's Park. We got to talk with him for quite some time. He thanked us for attending the service, and shared with us a bit of his history and travels, along with all the dirty (and I mean lowdown dirty) details about this private government contractor and their shameless corruption since day 1.

* * *

We've noticed that we tend to seek out a Checkerboard equivalent in every town we stop in. Joe's tavern seemed to fit the bill. The drinks are unbelievably cheap! Food is pretty pricey in the grocery stores, but the booze is more than affordable around here.

The whole town is painted red white and blue!

Most advertising in town is geared toward enlisted military personnel. And I quote a building advertising an apartment for rent: “HEY GUYS! Your girlfriend or wife would love to live here! Heck, there's even room for both!” cringe, cringe, cringe.

The El Capitan is right across the street from Joe's. There's a crosswalk connecting them door to door. This place gives you all the free drinks you want if you're playing the slot machines...it's a trap

This neon sign was restored and re-located to the Veteran's Park It even has this plaque placed below, explaining it's history. Finally, neon getting the praise it deserves!

 Pretty sunsets every night.

The Hawthorne Ordnance Museum is another fascinating stop in town.


That white one was an atom bomb. It's filled with cement now.

I forget what this one was called, we used it in the Korean War to shoot at the waves of oncoming foot soldiers. It's a bomb full of little nail-darts. The gentleman who gave us a tour of this place stated that "nothing in here was made to make anyone happy."

This is part of a computer used to control our drones in Vietnam. I didn't even know we had drones in Vietnam.

Here's our little campsite, on an an old Cold War radar station. This is where one my worst RV nightmares came true. There was snake. In our engine. That snake is now dead.
Buy me a drink (or five) and will tell you the whole story.

Jun 23, 2014

BLM and Little A'Le'Inn

We set out from Hurricane Utah, aiming for Yosemite National Park in California. We had the choice of either going southwest through Las Vegas, or Northwest through...the rest of Nevada. You see, there are only two ways to get around this giant military base/test site/air force bombing and gunnery range/area 51/who knows what else...place in the middle of the Nevada desert. It's big. We had taken the southern route through Las Vegas in our teardrop trailer in 2010 (and had a memorable night in Indian Springs), so with no particular desire to drive an RV through Las Vegas, we decided to take the northwestern route. 

                        Pretty drive through some Joshua Tree forests "where the desert meets the hills"

Nevada is something like 85% BLM land, which means free camping! This was our first time camping on public lands...the road we pulled off of was called Rattlesnake Road (no idea how I agreed to stay here). It turned out to be one of our coolest campsites yet. Remote, beautiful, and complete with ancient petroglyphs! Judging from the old drawings and campfire circle, it's been home to many travelers throughout the years.

I composed this design over a photo I took with my back to the sunset. Later that night (after stomping around the RV to scare off any snakes) when we turned out the lights for bedtime, it was pitch black. Couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Then just a few minutes later, even with our eyes closed, we noticed it suddenly seemed brighter...the heck? The moon! We saw the prettiest moonrise over these hills. It lit up the whole valley.


Joshua tree

Do you see Hodor peeking out? 

 Rainbow rocks

Our trusty steed

In the morning, we hit the road. Highway 375 is officially called the Extraterrestrial Highway as it runs just north of area 51. The only thing for about 150 miles of lonely road, is the town of Rachel, Nevada. Rachel is home to a church, a hotel/bar, and less than 100 people. It's not even technically a town, but a census-designated-place.

Rachel is a very curious place. It's an old mining town (the mine failed) founded in the late 70's. It lies just north of Area 51, and is a huge destination for sky-watchers and UFO enthusiasts. There is surprisingly a lot to do out there in the desert! People come from all over the world to explore old mines, ghost towns, hunt for geocaches, and of course – watch the sky. There are a handful of key places to survey the sky, especially looking toward the air-force base. Sadly, it was partly cloudy the night that we were there, but the stars we could see were BRIGHT. We didn't notice anything strange (in the sky), but after dark, (we were welcomed to boondock in the lot next to the Little A'le'Inn) Our RV was buzzed by a very low flying zoom-y, fighter-jet-sounding aircraft. People see and hear strange things in the sky all the time out here, and it makes sense when you're located just north of a super-secretive airforce base! Check out this site for an idea of the kind war games you can regularly observe, also www.rachel-nevada.com has a lot of interesting info such as this:

"Rachel lies underneath a major military exercise area, the Nellis Range Complex. Visitors are startled by the many loud sonic booms in the area, but most residents have gotten so used to them they hardly notice. Some people, like Ralph Grover, a former Air Force mechanic who spent his last years here, have enjoyed living here because they could see jets flying around all the time, but most residents only notice what goes on overhead when the booms knock pictures off the wall or when jets crash in their backyard."

It's yard art, right?

This place is very much like a stop on rt. 66! Traffic is sparse but steady. You will hear a number of languages and accents out here in this middle of nowhere roadside attraction. It's a strange little oasis in the desert, but everyone is very enthusiastic about being here :) There is a time capsule out front, placed in 1996 by the producers of Independence Day! (To be opened in 2050)

Check out this groovy hangout - it says "Groom Lake air traffic and yacht club"
(Groom lake is a dry lake on the air force base)

The gas station is closed. That truck towing a boat in the background was a friendly man who pulled over looking for gas, but ended up giving us a pretty great 20 minute lecture about land forms and weather patterns in the western half of the country.

We made lots of friends! We were lucky to roll into town just in time for the "Rachel Day" celebration. The Litte A'le'inn employees invited us over to the park for food, water balloons, and tug-o-war. After we took a walk around the town, we made our way to the park. We already knew half the people there because the work shift had just changed at the bar. Small town. I cannot stress that enough! We are now pretty clued into the gossip and who's who, and all that. I was roped into a game of tug-o-war, it was the ladies (5 of us, all quite small) versus a big guy who so boldly claimed he could beat us all. He had another gentleman (or two) jump in to help him and we still won, of course. High fives all around! (ask me to regale the whole story in person someday ;)

Fancy custom built bikes (LBD colors!)

One of the guys we met was from LA, his boss was featured on one of those custom chopper reality shows...I don't think he was satisfied with our reaction to this information, so we told him we live in an RV and don't have a television. Anytime it came up the rest of the evening, he explained this to everyone haha

Gorgeous sunset over Area 51

I would go back! I had heard about this hotel before, it's a known roadside attraction, but never ever thought I would find myself out there. It's a really fun place, and very interesting to see how people live waaay far out in a little settlement such as this. Puts your "small town" into perspective for sure.

Jun 19, 2014

Give Well - art fundraiser

I'm going out on a limb here, and trying to sell a piece of my artwork. This is a scary thing for me, but I figure what's the worst that can happen?

100% proceeds will go towards our Give Well fundraiser.

I will ship this one-of-a-kind, painfully-stylish, handmade-in-California, woven wall-hanging to the first person who donates at least $30 to our Give Well fundraiser. Just leave your name along with the donation on our fundraising page which can be found here. Then send your mailing address to edandcori@gmail.com 

We want to share our blessings. And we need your help! Our goal is to raise $5,000 to fund a well for a village in India through Living Water International in the next 53 days. Here is our fundraising page.

We are 33% of the way there. THANK YOU everyone for your contributions. Let's keep going!
Read more about this program in our last post from May 28th

Jun 18, 2014

Sand Hollow State Park

While visiting Zion every chance we got, we were camped out at Sand Hollow State Park for 3 weeks. It is located just outside of Hurricane (Hur-can), and is the best argument for a man-made lake that I've ever seen. 
This area is called the jumping rocks.

Red rocks!

It's a reservoir, and is connected to another reservoir in the area - a nice combo of form and function. The sandstone makes for an interesting collection of sandy beach sections that meet sheer cliffs above and below the surface. There are little hidden beaches and islands all along the side of the campground, it's kind of the coolest playground ever. 

There are zero trees, but the desert landscape in spring is fascinating if you just look a little closer.

tumbleweed trap

There is a mountain view in every direction, and incredible sunsets every night. It's hard to ignore the sky out here.

Hodor, all golden

Bowie, not caring

Ed, and the grab-bag of beer that we had to drive to St. George for. Utah has probably the most ridiculous liquor laws we've come upon.

More pretty skies