A Real Charmer!
Who wouldn’t want to live in that house? We saw several of those after we left Joshua Tree National Park and headed east on a couple of blue highways. Our chosen route included several back roads from Twentynine Palms to Amboy, and then Hwy 66 northeast up to Laughlin.
As we approached the Sheephole Mountains, yes, Sheephole, we saw a few other random buildings with no signs of life anywhere. It was a bit eerie, to say the least.
After crossing the crest of the mountains, we found ourselves looking down on a remote and strange valley. From a distance, it looked like the vegetation ended in a straight line. It didn’t seem possible and looked quite unnatural.
That’s Strange-Looking, Right?
This valley wasn’t used for farming or even habitation; it was just barren and brown. You can see the topography change abruptly in the photo above.
When we got closer, we saw there were strange chunks of soil everywhere. We couldn’t comprehend how it got like this. Then we came upon little hills, and wet and white clumps, it was just the most bizarre place.
What in the world was going on here?
It may be the least inviting plot of land we’ve ever seen. Who, or what would ever want to go there? Then we saw hundreds of those little white hills! Certainly, nature had no hand in this mess; some human had to have done it. There were many mounds with a uniform shape, size, and color – all in rows.
Now it seems obvious, but at first, it was curious. It looked as if no one had been there for decades. Just then, we saw this sign.
A sodium chloride mining operation. What a place! Who needs chloride? If we’ve ever used it, we don’t know about it. Now we know what happens in at least one desert landscape in Southern California!
Don’t these choices look interesting? East or West – your choice and have fun. Just kidding – stark and empty as can be!
Visiting Amboy Crater
Enough of all that, we had another place in sight – a black mountain off in the distance. My map said it was a crater. Oh, let’s stop and see what’s there!
Since it wasn’t too far out of our way, we did make a short detour to check it out. It’s a real place with a sign and everything. I guess I had noticed the area on the map south of Interstate 40 previously – now we know what’s there!
We saw one other human in the parking lot, other than that we had the place to ourselves. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, we didn’t walk all the way to the crater. Later on, we joked that the sign says “Needless field office.” There wasn’t much going on there.
We did a short walk around the place and found a seasonal pool. It’s about the only water around for miles.
It was nice to find some water in the desert, though. As we said, we didn’t get all the way to the crater, but we certainly saw lava rock everywhere.
Back in the car and into the closest town, Amboy. What a sight – one hotel, a post office, and one gas station. We also saw another sight common in this kind of town – a boarded up school building: huge, middle-school like thing. If it ever was full of students, where did they live? There is nothing around there for miles and miles. And where did they all go?
We’ll spare you the rest of our trip through more out-of-the-way places you don’t need to visit, ever.
At last, we reached civilization, of a sort – Laughlin, Nevada and a hotel room at Harrah’s. Since we had some time to kill, we’d made reservations for three nights.
A Bit of Laughlin
The photos above and below are from the Colorado River on Harrah’s property. Come summer time this is a hopping beach, but not so much in the winter.
We mentioned before that the Colorado River has one strange characteristic: someone upstream turns it on in the morning and shuts it down at night. We decided to go up that way and see what’s what at the Davis Dam.
This photo is from on top of the earthen dam looking south. Laughlin is maybe 20 miles downriver. We found out that the river is in fact turned on and off in line with the need for electricity. The engineers simply turn the faucet one way or the other as needed. That makes a big difference downstream and makes it look like the river goes on and off.
Happy New Year!
The rest of our time in Laughlin was not what the tourism board suggests – it was not fun, it was not a getaway, it was not exciting, nor was it anything we want to repeat. Oh well, that’s on us. We brought our plagues into town with us: drought and famine, along with our meager bank account. We are both inclined to melancholia and disaster scenarios; perhaps this is obvious to our regular readers.
To give you some background – we had seven open nights after completing the house sit in La Quinta and before another one began in Palm Desert. I thought I could fill that up with another house sit, at least partially. Indeed, we added a three-day house sit in Los Angeles, and that took us down to four open nights – no big deal, we’ll go camping. Hence the previous post in Joshua Tree.
While in La Quinta we found out that Jim’s son would be getting married in the fall (great news!) but it would be back east. That meant we had to plan a drive across the country with – hopefully – some house sits along the way. That sounded like a fun adventure.
It also meant we had to cancel a house sit in Oregon, something we are loath to do, but we had no choice. We got tons of maps and started laying out a route and timeline.
One more item, just before our stay in La Quinta began, the owner shortened it by three days. That took us back up to seven nights between camping and hotels in Laughlin. Okay, we’ll figure it out. Off we went camping one night in Joshua Tree then drove up to Laughlin for those free hotel nights.
Now, That You’re Up to Date
While in Laughlin, we were out at a park taking photographs when I got a message from the homeowner in Los Angeles canceling the three-day house sit scheduled for that weekend. Well, that’s seven plus three, or ten nights with no place to stay, less two nights that had already gone by, or eight.
Before we could react to that, in came an offer for a repeat stay in Petaluma, California starting almost immediately. We could do that but as we thought of the driving – adding 2,000 miles to our trip – that sounded crazy. Sorry, but no, we can’t do that.
Two minutes after that an email arrived from a homeowner in Washington asking us for a return stay at their place in the fall. We love that place and thought “great” until we looked at the dates. Yikes, the same dates as our planned trip across country for the wedding.
Oh, My God!
Before we continue that thread, we need to give you a sense of our immediate situation. Since Jim’s computer hadn’t been repaired yet, he hadn’t worked for at least a week which meant we had a cash flow problem, as in no flow.
That same morning, I got a notice from the bank that we had $30.00 to our name! We do run on some relatively minimal amounts, but that’s ridiculous. How do they figure that and what happened to the rest of our money?
The hotel had put a claim on our account for the full value of our stay, and our bank considered that payment. Ouch. We knew it wasn’t a payment, and the hold would go away, but when? Three business days after we checked out!
Check out! How were we going to check out of our free hotel with $30 when the resort fees alone were more than that? Yikes.
We couldn’t afford to check out, and until we checked out our funds were on hold so we couldn’t check out. There’s a technical name for that, right?
It Goes On and On
Meanwhile, plenty of new homeowners were contacting us about house sits, which is always great, but these were all in random, far-away places. How are we supposed to go there if we can’t check out of here?
Oh, and one more thing: we had reached the data limit for the month on our phone plan. That meant we couldn’t use our phones to look for new – and closer – house sits on the websites, or search for campgrounds to stay in if we ever did manage to check out of the hotel!
If we went over our limit, we’d get a $15 charge, and that would probably create an overdraft charge of $39 from the bank. We didn’t like how the math was going.
We were beside ourselves and in quite a panic. How could a couple of emails and a text change our life so much? At least that’s how it felt to us. And it wasn’t noon yet. We were used to challenges by then, but this was a bit much. We felt like we were being pushed under water again and again. Hey, how about some air!
My head started spinning, planning this and that, looking for options. I couldn’t stand that level of uncertainty and wanted to make decisions right away about what to do.
That was way too fast for Jim: he’ll be the first to say he needs pondering time for most decisions. He needed that, but I thought we didn’t have any time to spare.
Just then someone mentioned food, and we realized we hadn’t eaten anything yet that day. We didn’t have enough blood sugar even to worry properly. We drove back to our hotel room, ate something so we could at least sit down and bemoan our terrible fate.
A Few Solutions
The next day after weighing all the pros and cons of various scenarios, we decided we wouldn’t drive cross country, Jim would fly to the wedding, and we agreed to the house sit in Washington.
Also, Jim suddenly remembered that his daughter was taking a trip in a couple of days. He made a call – yes, we can stay at her place in Los Angeles for three days when we leave Laughlin. That meant three fewer camping days!
We squeaked by on the hotel bill after pleading for more discounts. We’ve never been so glad to check out of a hotel! Then, if we didn’t spend any money on food, looked for quarters under the seats, bought discount gas, then maybe just maybe we could get all the way to Los Angeles.
The plan still left us with four or five days with nowhere to stay. At least we’d be in pleasant weather and, as the saying goes, at least we had each other.
We understand that not everyone likes so much melancholia. We don’t either, but there you have it. Our moment of wonder and glee in that friendly little town on the banks of the Colorado River.
P.S. On our way out of Laughlin, we stopped for the sunrise you see in the photos – I thought it fit the story quite well.
What’s Next – hodge-podge near L.A.
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