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Monday, October 13, 2014

Road Trip Meanderings #2

       The Royal Peacock Opal mine is just a very few miles away from “The Black Rock Desert” where just a couple of weeks ago 50,000 people came together for the “Burning Man” festival, a cultural art and music festival of radical self-expression. Huge works of art are on display and at the end of the week it is all burned and the desert is returned to its primal self. Crews of volunteers go around making sure every speck of trash and glitter are picked up.  It’s on my next thing to do very soon list. LOL!!! 

The Epic Road Trip~ The Royal Peacock Opal Mine

            I had wanted to get to the mine early in the day and have most of the day to check the area out. As it turned out; I didn't get in until around 5 pm. I had stopped in Winnemucca for lunch and the last bit of civilization for the next 3 or 4 days, but that only put me behind an hour, maybe.  It took me a lot longer to get there than I had estimated.
       As I entered the campground/store area, I was first greeted by a big old black and white cat who was content to roll over on his back and let me scratch his tummy as he playfully boxed and bit at my hand, never once making contact. Out of a nearby house a young guy came out and greeted me and had me fill out some paper work. This young guy turns out to be Jake. Self-taught opal guru, archaeologist and local character, maybe 27'ish. The store was filled with fire opals, all gleaming bright and colorful.
       The camp store was surrounded by big colorful ceramic type flowers. The bathrooms out here all have signs on them to keep the doors closed to keep the snakes out.  The landscape is stark.  I try to imagine it 100 million years ago when this was a huge lake with trees growing all around. Then; the Yellowstone Volcano erupted and changed it to this. Creating the perfect place to dig for precious “Fire Opals”! 

     I soon have Camp Peacock looking good; settle down for a well-deserved adult beverage, a light dinner and asleep before it was good and dark. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Road Trip Meanderings #1

                    On my road trips, I often think about what other, earlier travelers may have gone through. Especially since being out west, I think of the pioneers. There were some people much like myself. Well maybe not like myself. I probably wouldn't have made it over the Appalachians! LOL! But there were hardier peoples, explorers and here is my theory. Some made it all the way across the plains, the heat, humidity, snakes and Indians. Only to reach where Denver is now and there before them were the Rocky Mountains.  They said; “Enough was enough!” and Denver was born. Other more intrepid explorers crossed those very same mountains to come to the Great Salt Lake and the desert beyond. They said “Freaking A!” and Salt Lake City was born. The travelers and explorers that made it all the way to Oregon after traveling through all those hazardous places must have thought they had found heaven when they came out of the deserts of Nevada and east Oregon and stood among the redwoods and caught the first whiff of the Spruce trees. I know that’s the way I felt!     

The Epic Road Trip~ from Parshall to The Royal Peacock Opal Mine

           I take off from Parshall heading west towards Steamboat Springs in a down pour. At the top of Rabbit Ears Pass, it’s pounding the snow. I have to pull over and put her in 4whl drive.  It soon switches back over to rain. When I get to the other side of steamboat there is a clearing and a cheer goes up, then another shower. Each time there is a clearing there is a cheer, each time a shower, no worries, I know the long term forecast. West of Steamboat I head north towards Baggs WY and interstate 80. This turns out to what seems to be the longest parts of the trip. I’ve only been this way once or twice before and it was several years ago.  I mistakenly think that Baggs is a WHOLE lot closer to the interstate. I’m outside Rock Springs taking my first break. Over the years I’ve developed a system for driving long distances. I don’t get motel rooms. I tend to want to sleep in and get late starts. Instead, I drive 4 or 5 hours then take an hour or so break. Every third break I take a 2 hour break and at least a 30 minute nap. So, I poke along driving and napping across America! Ha,ha!!!!! This trip I’m not worrying about making time, so at this point I take an hour nap. I take one more break before day light. Day light finds me crossing the Great Salt Lake, it shimmers all around me.
        It’s a glorious morning. Most of the rain has ended, but the clouds hang low over the desert, it’s as if you could almost reach up and touch them. They hang just above the big trucks. The highway is long and straight but everything is going well. “The Road Warrior” (the name I’ve christened the truck) is preforming beautifully and is very comfortable to drive and sleep in.  The miles go by. 
            Midafternoon finds me in Winnemucca. Winnemucca is a fair size town with bistros, and other restaurants and services. I think Johnny Cash was talking about the streets leading into Winnemucca being long and dusty because this looks to be an up and coming place.
       It’s another 3 hours out into the desert to the opal mine. The sign reads 178 miles to the nearest gas station. It is remote to say the least! If you ever head this way, you better have plenty of gas, food and drinks maybe two spare tires.

     I find myself finally at my destination, the Royal Peacock Opal Mne around 5pm PST

The epic Road Trip~ Pre-Trip

                          I love these long road trips to places I've never been before.
   A couple of years ago I took a road trip to the east coast. It was great. I saw a lot of family and friends
       It was a great trip! It was also in my little Jeep Wrangler. It was very cramped and tight. When I got to the pan handle and camped for a week at a state park, it rained almost every day. I was in my little two man back packing tent, which is a great tent, but it is over 10 yrs. old and I’m afraid it started leaking a bit, plus being cramped.
        I decided when I got back to Colorado that I loved making these trips; I just needed to be a little more comfortable and upgrade a few things for car camping instead of back packing and since this is my favorite mode of vacation, I decided to try to buy good quality, that would last a while.
     I like the tear drop campers and was kind of shopping them when I came across a used 1995 ford 150 XLT with fairly low mileage and in great shape as far as interior and body! I bought that last year.  Very roomy and comfortable.  Goes over bumps like a boat over waves. LOL! That was an essential part of the upgrade. My buddy; Dale built me a platform in the back so I can sleep off the ground and have storage underneath.  I know that a lot of times I will be staying at state and nat. campgrounds on these trips, so the other essential thing was a screen tent I could put up by myself that would fit over a picnic table. That way if it did rain, with the aid of a couple of small tarps for sides, I would be out of the weather. I was also tired of leaky coolers that didn't keep ice for more than a day or two but I thought there must surely something between a cheap O and the ones that run $500. I got a lantern and a chair that sits perfectly in the back of the truck so if the weather does get bad, I can close myself up inside the back of the truck and read or whatever.  There were a few other things.  Most of which I will review in other posts.
    It was busy at the ranch right up until the end.  The weather remained beautiful right up until time to pack the truck. Butters (my cat) figured out what was going on and was pissed! He acts like a dog and at times I wish he was. I know he would love to go but being a cat he can be pretty independent and I would have to keep a constant eye on him or keep him in a cage. Neither is a good option. He will hopefully get over it.  As I prepare to leaves he glares at me from his perch. It is storming and raining hard now as I load up and drive down the driveway headed to parts unknown and only sort of an itinerary.
        The trip itinerary has grown considerably. NOW, I've found out that there is GREAT rock hunting all through eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. I have an idea but not a set date to be back. It’s the 29th of Sept. and I’m looking at getting back between the 20th and 25th of October, depending on how long   the weather stays good. Right now the forecast for the next 10 days looks really, really good for this time of year.

       It takes me most of the morning and into early afternoon to get the truck packed. I take a nap and set out around 5 pm mst in a cold rain downpour.

Monday, October 6, 2014

"The Epic Road Trip" ~ Inception

             One of the things I love about the life I've created; is that if I save my money, I have at least a month and a half for vacation before the next seasons work begins. In a regular restaurant situation, you’re lucky to get a week off a year and then you can’t afford to do anything. Thanks to the Bar Lazy J Ranch owners, they help me save in a big way plus they take really good care of me. I have been able to take some stellar road trips and vacations.
         The last three years I have gone back east usually culminating in spending New Years with my Mom and a dear friend at a Gov’t Mule show and then doing the Coney Isl. Polar Plunge on New Years Day. GREAT FUN and the Polar Plunge is for a worthy cause!!!!
      First I want to say that I’m very lucky with the weather. The bad thing about taking vacations when I do is that the weather can be iffy. You almost have to be prepared for anything. The weather is usually chilly in NYC and last year it was downright miserable. It didn't help that my new North Face jacket failed miserably. They replaced it no problem, but I got soaked and wet. 
      I had already decided before last years trip that I probably wanted to do something else this year probably in the spring. I've already been thinking about things I wanted to check off my list. The owner of the ranch took me to Jazz Fest in New Orleans back in May. I want to do that again, but I wanted to do something else. I've been thinking about Memphis In May. I've had enough of crowds I think, I think it’s time for a long road trip, one where the road gets long, the spirit can soar and the mind can roam, where miles mean nothing and the landscape is ever changing.
      I started checking into things; I've wanted to go dig for opals for some time now but their season runs right with mine.  I've already decided I’m going to work more this winter. The hunting outfitter hasn't even mentioned “Hunt Camp” and I see him every week. “Screw it!” Its good money but it’s also hard. It was a great experience. I've met a lot of GREAT people; some who I remain friends with but I knew after last year on my birthday cooking breakfast at 4:30 am that I was ready for a change.  
    “ I’m going to the Nevada desert to dig for fire opals!!!! Let us see; you know that is right on the Oregon state line. Hmmmmm let’s see; you know what, the Oregon coast is just 8 hours away and the road takes me right through the Redwoods Nat. Forest. I've been reading and dreaming about the northwest coast and the redwoods since I was 10. Hell yea! I’m going! What??? Eugene; where my favorite author, Ken Kesey used to live nearby, legendary hippie town. ( not that I know anything about hippies) is only 4 hours and then Bend, which I've read so much about is only 2 hours or so east. Spend my birthday at my favorite brewery (Deschutes) Hey!!! and just below that is Crater Lake. LOOK!!!!!That makes a circle.”
         So the inception of the “Epic Rod Trip" is to spend 3 days digging in the remote N.W. Nevada desert digging for precious fire opals and then heading north west to the beaches of Oregon, first riding through the Redwoods Nat. Park. I’ll stay at one of two state parks for three or 4 nights then on to Eugene to visit a friend and check out the city for a couple of days. To Bend where I’m buying me something really special for my birthday, Deschutes brewery and check out the town. Then down Then down through the Deschutes Nat. Forest to Crater Lake working my way back to Parshall.
    That was the inception. As you will see in the next post it grew somewhat beyond this.       

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Clearing

     After seven years I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that in the mountains of Colorado we have monsoons in August. Never the less we do and some of the storms are incredible. Great deluges with lightning striking all around and hail that turns the ground white. A fellow was coming in the back door the other day when I saw a flash of lightning behind him followed by a big boom. I figure it must have struck in the river since nothing seemed fried.
    Luckily most of the storms are in the late afternoon or at night so it doesn't affect the guest at the ranch too awfully much.
    Tonight as I got home from a day off, after what seems to be days of cloudy rainy weather, the air seems dryer and cooler, above me the sky is clear, as I walk across the bridge that crosses the Colorado River and leads back to my cabin on the ranch, I am once again amazed at, as I am every time I see it, the milky way as it stretches above my head from one horizon to the next. As I am trying to pick out constellations I am greeted not by one but two shooting stars.
Its a Great Night