Author Archives: Dick Dorkin

Jim Bishop’s Castle

Jim Bishop’s plan was simple: buy some land in the San Isabel National Forest, then build a modest get-away cabin. A great idea, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Bishop has been building his “one-room” cabin in Central Colorado since 1967, but the project evolved into a castle with a tower 160′ tall, topped with a stainless steel, fire-breathing dragon. For many of the years he’s worked on the castle, Bishop was engaged in an on-going battle with government officials over the rocks he used in construction; specifically the rocks coming from the nearby national forest. Bishop felt the rocks were his for the taking, while the government thought differently.

The barbican, moats and signs are the first fixtures to greet guests to the castle. When visiting, it doesn't take long to figure out that OSHA has no idea the Castle exists.
The barbican, moats and signs are the first fixtures to greet guests to the castle. When visiting, it doesn’t take long to figure out that OSHA has no idea the Castle exists.
A constant work-in-progress, the Castle occupies two-and-a-half acres of land surrounded by national forest and Highway 165. Located at 9,000', the castle sees a lot of snow.
A constant work-in-progress, the Castle occupies two-and-a-half acres of land surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest and Highway 165.
Surrounding the castle, Jim Bishop has numerous signs expressing this thoughts on the government and our freedoms.
Surrounding the castle, Jim Bishop has numerous signs expressing this thoughts on the government and our freedoms.
The over-sized comfy chair in front of the Castle greets visitors.
The over-sized comfy chair in front of the Castle greets visitors.
The stainless steel dragon head adorns the top of chimney and occasionally belches fire and smoke from a downstairs fireplace.
The stainless steel dragon head adorns the top of chimney and occasionally belches fire and smoke from a downstairs fireplace.
The Grand Ballroom shows off Bishop's wrought iron talents, a skill learned in his family's steel business in Pueblo.
The Grand Ballroom shows off Bishop’s wrought iron talents, a skill learned in his family’s steel business in Pueblo.
Stained glass memorials, including: "In Memory of Joe Lopez, 4/29/60-9/11/01 Flight 175 We Love You Always."
Stained glass memorials, including a pane: “In Memory of Joe Lopez, 4/29/60-9/11/01 Flight 175 We Love You Always.”
Stairs in the castle are plentiful and Dr. Seuss-esque. Take your choice of stairs made of rock, steel or poured, but in all cases, not designed for the portly or claustrophobic.
Stairs in the castle are plentiful and Dr. Seuss-esque. Take your choice of stairs made of rock, steel or poured, but in all cases, not designed for the portly or claustrophobic.
There are outside walkways around three sides of the Castle. Bishop's family has a business legacy of iron work in Pueblo -- psychologically helpful information when using the walkway.
There are outside walkways around three sides of the Castle. Bishop’s family has a business legacy of iron work in Pueblo — psychologically helpful information when using the walkway.
If you are not comfortable walking on expansion grating, and being able to look straight down to where your body will plummet, it might be best to stay on the safety of terra firma.
If you are not comfortable walking on expansion grating, and being able to look straight down to where your body will plummet, it might be best to stay on the safety of terra firma.
The main tower of the castle is 160' tall (left of center). On the right, a temporary wooden scaffolding is in place for exterior work.
The main tower of the castle is 160′ tall (left of center). On the right, a temporary wooden scaffolding is in place for exterior work.
Despite the wobbly walkways, Daniel makes his way toward the main tower. Spoiler alert: he decided he wasn't ready for the ladder, and reversed rudder.
Despite the wobbly walkways, Daniel makes his way toward the main tower. Spoiler alert: he decided he wasn’t ready for the ladder, and reversed rudder.

Remote Toroweap

Toroweap is on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, but with more than 60 miles of dirt road to get there, it provides an uncrowded and remote experience, especially with 100º August daytime temperatures. The National Park Service describes the services available at Toroweap: “there is no water, gas, food, lodging, or phone service.” But the lack of crowds (there were none when we arrived) and the spectacular views of the Canyon made it well worth it.

We left Highway 389 west of Fredonia, AZ and drove County Road 109 across grasslands for 40 miles before entering the National Park. Recent rains had kept the grass and sage and piñons green and happy. The road was smooth, graded dirt which is negotiable with any truck or car. Of course if the road is wet, all bets are off.
We left Highway 389 west of Fredonia, AZ and drove County Road 109 across grasslands for 40 miles before entering the National Park. Recent rains had kept the grass and sage and piñons green and happy. The road was smooth, graded dirt which is negotiable with any truck or car. Of course if the road is wet, all bets are off.
After driving 20 miles within the Park, we passed the Tuweep Airstrip and Ranger Station. Soon after the ranger station, the road begins its slow degradation from smooth dirt to not-so-smooth dirt and rocks. The closer we got to the rim, the more plentiful the rock gardens. Bring your high-clearance vehicle.
After driving 20 miles within the Park, we passed the Tuweep Airstrip and Ranger Station. Soon after the ranger station, the road begins its slow degradation from smooth dirt to not-so-smooth dirt and rocks. The closer we got to the rim, the more plentiful the rock gardens. Bring your high-clearance vehicle.
Campsites at Toroweap come with a table and a nearby spotless pit toilet. There are no firepits since all fires (including charcoal) are prohibited. Steve does not make eye contact.
Campsites at Toroweap come with a table and a nearby spotless pit toilet. There are no firepits since all fires (including charcoal) are prohibited. Steve does not make eye contact.
Our campsite #8 was fairly well hidden, but with the lack of other humans, it mattered little.
Our campsite #8 was fairly well hidden, but with the lack of other humans, it mattered little.
The view to the east from our campsite. At night we saw an orange flickering glow, far to the east. A couple days later we found out that we were looking at the Stina Fire on the north rim of the Canyon, some 50 miles east of us, and 23 miles southwest of Jacob Lake. The fire was caused by a lightening strike on July 26.
The view to the east from our campsite. At night we saw an orange flickering glow, far to the east. A couple days later we found out that we were looking at the Stina Fire on the north rim of the Canyon, some 50 miles east of us, and 23 miles southwest of Jacob Lake. The fire was caused by a lightening strike on July 26.
Our campsite view looking south toward the Canyon in late-afternoon sun. Early evening temps had cooled off to around 90º, so we decided on a tasty cold chicken salad for dinner. We also had cold watermelon which remained chilled and non-consumed in the ice chest.
Our campsite view looking south toward the Canyon in late-afternoon sun. Early evening temps had cooled off to around 90º, so we decided on a tasty cold chicken salad for dinner. We also had cold watermelon which remained chilled and non-consumed in the ice chest.
Because we can.
Because we can.
Two river rafters approach Lava Falls in the early morning. The falls is rated a Class 10, meaning it is the highest degree of difficulty in the Grand Canyon, falling 37 feet in a few hundred feet. Rafters only pretend to be in control.
Two river rafters approach Lava Falls in the early morning. The falls is rated a Class 10, meaning it is the highest degree of difficulty in the Grand Canyon, falling 37 feet in a few hundred feet. Rafters only pretend to be in control.
Zooming back from the rafters, the view southwest toward Lake Mead and Las Vegas.
Zooming back from the rafters, the view southwest toward Lake Mead and Las Vegas.
Canyon visibility was hazy due to wildfire activity in California. This applied to Colorado and Utah visibility as well. And really, isn't it always California's fault?
Canyon visibility was hazy due to wildfire activity in California. This applied to Colorado and Utah visibility as well. And really, isn’t it always California’s fault?

Basecamp: Indy

We’ve been unintentionally staying at all the little towns which line California Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierras. Over the Martin Luther King holiday, we adopted Independence as our temporary home, a town which has been around since 1861. As always, our basic MO will be wandering, exploring and maximizing fun.

In an effort to kill time before hotel check-in time, we stopped by the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. When construction was completed in 1917, it was the largest and best equipped hatchery in California and could produce 2,000,000 fish fry per year. Unfortunately were were visiting during a time of year when tours are not available, so we wandered the exterior, peering into windows like a Peeping Tom.
In an effort to kill time before hotel check-in time, we stopped by the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. When construction was completed in 1917, it was the largest and best equipped hatchery in California and could produce 2,000,000 fish fry per year. Unfortunately were were visiting during a time of year when tours are not available, so we wandered the exterior, peering into windows like a Peeping Tom.
Our traditional "John Muir Wilderness sign photo" while hiking up the Baxter Pass Trail.
Our traditional “John Muir Wilderness sign photo” while hiking up the Baxter Pass Trail.
The Independence Cemetery -- a couple blocks from our motel containing former residents who were miners and ranchers and soldiers.
The Independence Cemetery — a couple blocks from our motel containing former residents who were miners and ranchers and soldiers.
For the long weekend, we holed up in our cozy cabin (read: compact) at the Mt Williamson Motel. The location gave us easy access to the Sierras and the White Mountains.
For the long weekend, we holed up in our cozy cabin (read: compact) at the Mt. Williamson Motel. The location gave us easy access to both the Sierras and the White Mountains.
Walking outside our motel room and looking west, we were greeted by this morning view of the Sierras: Mt Bradley on the left; University Peak on the right.
Walking outside our motel room and looking west, we were greeted by this morning view of the Sierras: Mt Bradley on the left; University Peak on the right.
Our destination for the day was Mazourka Peak, a 9410' hilltop in the White Mountains. Heading up Mazourka Canyon Road, we first crossed the only remaining 100' section of the Carson & Colorado Railroad at Kersearge Station. A simple museum, of sorts.
Our destination for the day was Mazourka Peak, a 9410′ hilltop in the White Mountains. Heading up Mazourka Canyon Road, we first crossed the only remaining 100′ section of the Carson & Colorado Railroad at Kersearge Station. A simple museum, of sorts.
Our first stop up the canyon was at the Diggin's, a semi-active mining claim with some left-over infrastructure. Water flowed from the locked-up mine, running past grape arbors and cottonwood trees. And that there is the Slim Princess.
Our first stop up the canyon was at the Diggin’s, a semi-active mining claim with some left-over infrastructure. Water flowed from the locked-up mine, running past grape arbors and cottonwood trees. And that there is the Slim Princess.
The guys at the Diggin's were creative -- they placed the sanitary facilities directly over an abandoned vertical mine shaft. Bombs away!
The guys at the Diggin’s were creative — they placed the sanitary facilities directly over an abandoned vertical mine shaft. Bombs away!
At the top of Mazourka Peak we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley.
At the top of Mazourka Peak we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley.
Along with hilltop communications equipment, we saw an EarthScope GPS monitoring station, keeping a watchful eye on our pesky tectonic plates.
Along with hilltop communications equipment, we saw an EarthScope GPS monitoring station, keeping a watchful eye on our pesky tectonic plates.
On the way back down Mazourka Canyon, we stopped to check out one of the many silver and lead mines in the area which had been worked for more than 100 years.
On the way back down Mazourka Canyon, we stopped to check out one of the many silver and lead mines in the area which had been worked for more than 100 years.
This mine went about 50' into the mountain, then dead-ended. Remember kids, don't try this at home -- you'll have to go to the desert and find your own abandoned mine.
This mine went about 50′ into the mountain, then dead-ended. Remember kids, don’t try this at home — you’ll have to go to the desert and find your own abandoned mine.
We took advantage of less-than-perfect weather to visit the Eastern California Museum in Independence. There were lots of cool exhibits including mining and ranching, and information about the Manzanar "relocation center." Very interesting and well worth the visit.
We took advantage of less-than-perfect weather to visit the Eastern California Museum in Independence. There were lots of cool exhibits including mining and ranching, and information about the Manzanar “relocation center.” Very interesting and well worth the visit.
Sunday night dinner at the Still Life Cafe next door to the market. The owners are not without personality and they serve great food.
Sunday night dinner at the Still Life Cafe next door to the market. The owners are not without personality and they serve great food.
On the way home we opted to take Foothill Road to the Alabama Hills, paralleling Highway 395. More fun because it's dirt!
On the way home we opted to take Foothill Road to the Alabama Hills, paralleling Highway 395. More fun because it’s dirt!

San Ignacio After Dark

The good news was that Carol and I got to spend Thanksgiving in Mexico. The bad news was we didn’t spend it together: she was in Loreto and I was in San Ignacio, 273 km to the north of her. I made the best of it by wandering San Ignacio like the village idiot, to end up at Victor’s Restaurant for Thanksgiving fish tacos and a margarita especial.

At 8 pm on a Thursday, San Ignacio was quiet. Some people relaxed on their front porch, while others stayed inside watching TV, with their front door wide open. The town felt relaxed and comfortable just like any small town.

Pre-sunset, Río San Ignacio.
Pre-sunset, Río San Ignacio.
Sunset, south of San Ignacio.
Sunset, south of San Ignacio.
Loncheria La Mision de Kadakaaman north of the Plaza Publica.
Loncheria La Mision de Kadakaaman north of the Plaza Publica.
A small house on Calle Valdivia Peña.
A small house on Calle Valdivia Peña.
Calle Fransisco I. Madero.
Calle Fransisco I. Madero.
A small tienda on Benito Juárez under a dog's watchful eye.
A small tienda on Benito Juárez under a dog’s watchful eye.
Restaurante Victor's in the Plaza Publica, the perfect place for Thanksgiving tacos and a margarita.
Restaurante Victor’s in the Plaza Publica, the perfect place for Thanksgiving tacos and a margarita.
Calle Benito Juárez.
Calle Benito Juárez.
A colorful house on Calle Hildago.
A colorful house on Calle Hildago.
As construction materials, you can't go wrong with corrugated steel and adobe.
As construction materials, you can’t go wrong with corrugated steel and adobe.
Over the door: "Fundada 1869"
Over the door: “Fundada 1869”
Calle Fransisco I. Madero.
Calle Fransisco I. Madero.
Miscelanea Castro is open for business.
Miscelanea Castro is open for business.
Anyone who's visited San Ignacio recognizes Tienda Fischer -- you drove within feet of it.
Anyone who’s visited San Ignacio recognizes Tienda Fischer — you drove within feet of it.
Looking southeast on Calle Venustiano Carranza.
Looking southeast on Calle Venustiano Carranza.
Loncheria La Mision de Kadakaaman, the early days.
Loncheria La Mision de Kadakaaman, the early days.
It's colorful. I see a couple street lights and utility poles. There's a few buginvillas in front of the blue building. The orange building is a mercado, open for business. ADA sidewalks.
It’s colorful. I see a couple street lights and utility poles. There’s a few buginvillas in front of the blue building. The orange building is a mercado, open for business. ADA sidewalks.

 

COPS Racing at the 50th Baja 1000

It began 50 years ago as the National Off Road Racing Association’s Mexican 1000, beginning in Tijuana and racing from Ensenada to La Paz. 68 vehicles started the race competing in four classes. This year, SCORE-International is the sanctioning body for the race named the Baja 1000, with a 1,134 mile run from Ensenada to La Paz with more than 400 entrants. (course map).

Racers have 48 hours to complete the course which means everyone will be driving through a night. The slower classes and cars with problems will be racing through two nights. No matter how you slice it, racing in the Baja 1000 involves a really long day.

Cops Racing Team entered three cars in the race: Trophy Truck #50 driven by Zak Langley, the Class 1 #150 driven by Morgan Langley, and the Mason Trophy Truck Spec #250 making its inaugural run, driven by Team Owner John Langley. Each of the three cars would have three drivers to move it down the peninsula.

But let’s back up a week and a half. The entire team departs for Baja, all equipment in tow, long before the race to begin …

Prerunning

“Prerunning,” aka “practice,” aka “course reconnaissance” — running the course in advance of the race to see what’s out there. Unlike race day, prerunning is much more relaxed and can include an occasional fish taco. Drivers make notations of the course on the GPS, marking areas which require special attention, such as big rocks, or surprise turns, or silt beds, or goats — the list is endless.

The COPS prerunners between Loreto and La Paz were essentially the same cars as the race cars. Once drivers got the feel of the race course in the prerunners, the transition into a race car was seamless.

Mike, Zak, John and Josh stopping for a bottle of water and a rest north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Friendly locals pass by with a truckload of hay. 30 minutes later, they passed by again in the opposite direction, but with an empty truck.
Mike, Zak, John and Josh stopping for a bottle of water and a rest north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Friendly locals pass by with a truckload of hay. 30 minutes later, they passed by again in the opposite direction, but with an empty truck.
400 miles down Baja, Mexicans have a slightly different vision than the President of the United States.
400 miles down Baja, Mexicans have a slightly different vision than the President of the United States.
John's Trophy Truck Spec prerunner -- very similar to the all-new #250 Mason truck he will be driving in the race.
John’s Trophy Truck Spec prerunner — very similar to the all-new #250 Mason truck he will be driving in the race.
Every time we stopped while prerunning, locals would show up, seemingly out of nowhere, to look at the cars and take photos. Of course, this gave us the opportunity to hand out steekers.
Every time we stopped while prerunning, locals would show up, seemingly out of nowhere, to look at the cars and take photos. Of course, this gave us the opportunity to hand out steekers.
Goat season in Baja. Here, a flock migrates from over there to over there, with little regard to highway traffic.
Goat season in Baja. Here, a flock migrates from over there to over there, with little regard to highway traffic.
Josh and Mark fueling the prerunners at the same place the race trucks will take on fuel during the race: the future location of BFGoodrich Pit #8 at Santa Rita, Race Mile 1013.
Josh and Mark fueling the prerunners at the same place the race trucks will take on fuel during the race: the future location of BFGoodrich Pit #8 at Santa Rita, Race Mile 1013.
Morgan makes a low-key departure after fueling. His destination is La Paz, 120 miles away.
Morgan makes a low-key departure after fueling. His destination is La Paz, 120 miles away.
A local videos John's equally stealthy departure after fueling.
A local videos John’s equally stealthy departure after fueling.
In the parking lot of the La Paz Hyatt, John shows off the tree he nailed while prerunning (among other things which we won't go into right now).
In the parking lot of the La Paz Hyatt, John shows off the tree he nailed while prerunning (among other things which we won’t go into at this time).
We celebrated our first night in La Paz with a team dinner on the beach at Stella's Cucina Al Forno & Beach Club, an exceptional Italian restaurant.
We celebrated our first night in La Paz with a team dinner on the beach at Stella’s Cucina Al Forno & Beach Club, an exceptional Italian restaurant.
Sunrise over Island Carmen offshore from Loreto. Our prerunning day begins.
Sunrise over Island Carmen offshore from Loreto. Our prerunning day begins.
 COPS arrived in Loreto before most other teams, but on the weekend prior to the race, the hotel parking lot was filling up with other teams' prerunners.
COPS arrived in Loreto before most other teams, but on the weekend prior to the race, the hotel parking lot was filling up with other teams’ prerunners.
Chickens, as it turns out, are big fans of COPS Racing.
Chickens, as it turns out, are big fans of COPS Racing.
Early morning in the parking lot of the Mision Hotel. Note the damage to the front right fender of the prerunner, and remember that damage. Time to use your short-term memory.
Early morning in the parking lot of the Mision Hotel. Note the damage to the front right fender of the prerunner, and remember that damage. Time to use your short-term memory.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.

The 50th Baja 1000

Let’s cut to the chase. Our race day started on Friday morning at around 2:30 at the BFGoodrich pits near the oasis/farming community of La Purisima. The three COPS cars left the starting line in 750-mile-distant Ensenada, 15 hours earlier. The #150 Class 1 and #50 Trophy Truck DNF’d and would not see Valle T or Loreto, respectively. On the other hand, the #250 Trophy Truck Spec was doing well, quite well.

The COPS #250, making its inaugural run, takes on fuel at the BFG Pits at Race Mile 750. Steve Hengeveld is a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class. Kash Vessels drove the first third of the race before handing the truck over to Steve. Once he arrives in Loreto, Steve will hand over the driving duties to John who takes it to the finish. Time to pull that damaged front right fender out of short-term memory.
The COPS #250, making its inaugural run, takes on fuel at the BFG Pits at Race Mile 750. Steve Hengeveld was a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class — my timing had to be off. Kash Vessels drove the first third of the race before handing the truck over to Steve. Once he arrives in Loreto, Steve will hand over the driving duties to John who takes it to the finish. Time to pull that damaged front right fender out of short-term memory.
The second of only two actual race photos. The #250 takes 27 gallons of fuel at the BFG Pits -- just enough to get the truck over the mountain and to the driver change in Loreto.
The second of only two actual race photos. The #250 takes 27 gallons of fuel at the BFG Pits — just enough to get the truck over the mountain and to the driver change in Loreto.

The view from the BFG Pits after sunup.
The view from the BFG Pits after sunup.
We dashed to the finish in La Paz, but that was after John Langley drove the #250 to a first place finish in class, and 13th overall. Of the 405 entrants, around 240 finished. We all met at Stella Restaurant for a celebratory dinner on the beach while John chats with the owner of the restaurant.
We dashed to the finish in La Paz, but that was after John Langley drove the #250 to a first place finish in class, and 13th overall. Of the 405 entrants, around 240 finished. We all met at Stella Restaurant for a celebratory dinner on the beach while John chats with the owner of the restaurant.
El Señor Vaca Muerta es amigo de Chupacabra. ¡Mierda!
El Señor Vaca Muerta es amigo de Chupacabra. ¡Mierda!
Driving up the peninsula, I came in contact with a cow (no, not Señor Vaca). The cow started walking onto the highway from the left side, but at the last second, thankfully, the cow turned away from me and I only sideswiped him, causing us to take a short, unplanned ride into the desert.
Driving up the peninsula, I came in contact with a cow (no, not Señor Vaca). The cow started walking onto the highway from the left side, but at the last second, thankfully, the cow turned away from me and I only sideswiped him, causing us to take a short, unplanned ride into the desert.
We spent Thanksgiving night in San Ignacio during the northbound trek. Who needs turkey and stuffing when you have fish tacos and a margarita especial?
We spent Thanksgiving night in San Ignacio during the northbound trek. Who needs turkey and stuffing when you have fish tacos and a margarita especial?
Early morning light on the Rio San Ignacio palms, Volcán las Tres Virgenes in the background.
Early morning light on the Rio San Ignacio palms, Volcán las Tres Virgenes in the background.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.

 

Video: Total Solar Eclipse July 11, 1991

The decision was made. Drive 1,000 miles south, to the tip of Baja to watch one of the longest solar eclipses ever: totality for six minutes, 53 seconds. The sun’s shadow traveled over Hawaii and then Baja California — most eclipse fans opted for traveling to Hawaii (which was overcast during the eclipse).

Eric and I camped near Punta Colorado on Baja’s East Cape to wait for the noon event. We’d done our homework on what to see, what to expect, but nothing prepared us for the sensations during the eclipse: much cooler, a noon-time sky with stars, and dusk 360º along the horizon. To say “surrealistic” would be an understatement.

Ahhhh … 1991 VHS quality!

Nine Days in the Eastern Sierras

Nine days to kill in the Eastern Sierra — what a great problem to have.

Of course there was the usual mountain biking, most likely relegated to Lower Rock Creek or other non-Mammoth Mountain locations. We wandered into the eastern side of Yosemite Park a couple days, and also hit a lot of other trails and creeks and lakes. We made one unsuccessful trip to Laurel Lakes.

As always, we got to see and experience lots of cool new things.

While driving north on CA-395, we stopped to see the Olancha Art Stuff - this piece apparently inspired by The Simpsons.
While driving north on CA-395, we stopped to see the Olancha Sculpture Garden — this piece apparently inspired by The Simpsons.
600 inches of winter snow in the Sierras translates to a ton of snow remaining in July. Creeks are flowing fast and full, and lakes crept into the forests.
600 inches of winter snow in the Sierras translates to a ton of snow remaining in July. Creeks are flowing fast and full, and lakes crept into the forests.
Saddlebag Resort was not open in July, and due to snow damage, would not be opening for the remainder of 2017. If you're looking to purchase a resort in the high Sierras, this one is for sale.
Saddlebag Resort was not open in July, and due to snow damage, would not be opening for the remainder of 2017. If you’re looking to purchase a resort in the high Sierras, this one is for sale. In the background is mostly-frozen Saddlebag Lake.
Non-plowed snow at the side of the road at Saddlebag Lake.
Non-plowed snow at the side of the road at Saddlebag Lake.

A photo sphere above Saddlebag Lake. Watch for pinkish Watermelon Snow.

And speaking of snow damage, the Tioga Pass Resort is also not opening for the season. Many cabins near the creek were still flooded.
And speaking of snow damage, the Tioga Pass Resort is also not opening for the season. Many cabins near the creek were still flooded.
The Tuolumne River flows through Tuolumne Meadows in eastern Yosemite. Much of the meadow is flooded.
The Tuolumne River flows through Tuolumne Meadows in eastern Yosemite. Much of the meadow is flooded.
Carol and I hiked a short section of the John Mu Trail in Tuolumne Meadows.
Carol and I hiked a short section of the John Mu Trail in Tuolumne Meadows.

Hiking around Convict Lake:

Suncups near the base of Mammoth Mountain Resort topped with road cinders. Suncups form during the ablation of snowy surfaces.
Suncups near the base of Mammoth Mountain Resort topped with road cinders. Suncups form during the ablation of snowy surfaces.
The top of Mammoth Mountain in July -- the smokey skies in the background are the result of burning wildfires on the western side of the Sierras.
The top of Mammoth Mountain in July — the smokey skies in the background are the result of burning wildfires on the western side of the Sierras.
Jan and Carol look at distant lakes from the top of Mammoth Mountain.
Jan and Carol look at distant lakes from the top of Mammoth Mountain.
Mammoth is planning to be open for skiing and snowboarding through mid-August. Not so good for us mountain bikers -- our only riding options were the baby trails at the bottom of the mountain -- not worth a day's lift pass.
Mammoth is planning to be open for skiing and snowboarding through mid-August. Not so good for us mountain bikers — our only riding options were the baby trails at the bottom of the mountain — not worth a day’s lift pass.

Hell yeah there’s skiing at Mammoth in July — Smokey more than adequately proves the point:

Back in Yosemite again -- this time on top of Pothole Dome, an easy hike with spectacular 360º views.
Back in Yosemite again — this time on top of Pothole Dome, an easy hike with spectacular 360º views.
Rocks on the top of Pothole Dome left behind from receding glaciers 20-30 years ago.
Rocks on the top of Pothole Dome left behind from receding glaciers 20-30 years ago.
The Tuolumne River experiencing a heavy flow this time of the year.
The Tuolumne River experiencing a heavy flow this time of the year.
Wildflowers near Dunderberg Mill.
Wildflowers near Dunderberg Mill.

Virginia Lake:

Lots of clear water flowing into Virginia Lakes -- let's celebrate by turning on our garden hoses!
Lots of clear water flowing into Virginia Lakes — let’s celebrate by turning on our garden hoses!
Any more, it's become a tradition to stop at the Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine. Awesome BBQ and even better BBQ sauce. Sorry foodies, no kale or tofu or keen-wah here.
Any more, it’s become a tradition to stop at the Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine. Awesome BBQ and even better BBQ sauce. Sorry foodies, no kale or tofu or keen-wah here.

No Love from Laurel Lakes

Time to take Dennis to Laurel Lakes — he’s never been there.

The 10-mile out-and-back road starts a little south of Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierras and climbs 2,700′, topping out a little over 10,000′. We were hoping to make our destination, but given the amount of snow the area received that winter, failure was a distinct possibility.

We press on …

After climbing the moraine at the north end of the valley, the road follows Laurel Creek through a meadow. Spring arrived at 9,000' in July.
After climbing the moraine at the north end of the valley, the road follows Laurel Creek through a meadow. Spring arrived at 9,000′ in July.
We stopped at one of the road's switchbacks to gawk at the waterfalls and scenery.
We stopped at one of the road’s switchbacks to gawk at the waterfalls and scenery.
The road to Laurel Lakes snakes up a classic, glacier-carved valley found many places in the Sierras. Travelers who suffer from high anxiety probably won't enjoy this road.
The road to Laurel Lakes snakes up a classic, glacier-carved valley found many places in the Sierras. Travelers who suffer from high anxiety probably won’t enjoy this road.
At 10,000' we hit big snow and we were done. The snow appeared to be an old avalanche, carrying varying sizes of tree chunks. At the bottom of the snowfall, smaller pines were semi-pushed over.
At 10,000′ we hit big snow and we were done. The snow appeared to be an old avalanche, carrying varying sizes of tree chunks. At the bottom of the snowfall, smaller pines were semi-pushed over.
When it became time to reverse rudder, we realized that the last turn-out was a long way down the hill. With Dennis' help, I spun the truck around in the width of the road, backing up against a tree for added peace of mind.
When it became time to reverse rudder, we realized that the last turn-out was a long way down the hill. With Dennis’ help, I spun the truck around in the width of the road, backing up against a tree for added peace of mind.
The waterfall is the outflow from Laurel Lakes, located on the other side of the smaller, closer saddle. The snowy road can be seen along the left, tree-free (but not snow-free) slope.
The waterfall is the outflow from Laurel Lakes, located on the other side of the smaller, closer saddle. The snowy road can be seen along the left, tree-free (but not snow-free) slope.

 

 

High Desert Wildflowers

Earlier this spring, Carol and I made our pilgrimage to the Mojave high desert to see the wildflower bloom. This part of the Mojave is located about 3,000′ elevation, so spring doesn’t arrive until April and later. Many people choose to visit the bloom at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a state-sanctioned wildflower viewing area — of course, this comes with fees and regulations.

Several years ago, we figured out that the poppies had a mind of their own and grew outside the preserve, free from The Man’s influence. We explored the north and south sides of CA-138  in search of flowers and this is some of what we found …

Red Clover shares the hillside with yellow Bigelow Coreopsis.
Red Clover shares the hillside with yellow Bigelow Coreopsis.
The California Poppy dominates the desert floor.
The California Poppy dominates the desert floor.
A Tiger Beetle enjoys lunch in a California Poppy.
A Tiger Beetle enjoys lunch in a California Poppy.
A somewhat rare yellow poppy hob-nobs with non-mutated poppies.
A somewhat rare yellow poppy hob-nobs with non-mutated poppies.
Poppies and sage share the slope-side.
Poppies and sage share the slope-side.
Many, many-acre solar voltaic panels line both sides of CA-138.
Many, many-acre solar farms line both sides of CA-138.
Poppies make everyone frolic. Like that part of the Wizard of Oz, where they're running across the field toward Oz, while it's snowing, falling asleep ...
Poppies make everyone frolic. Like that part of the Wizard of Oz, where they’re running across the field toward Oz, while it’s snowing, falling asleep …
Desert Dandelion co-exists with sage and fences.
Desert Dandelion co-exists with sage and fences.
For some reason we see lots of derelict boats in the desert. The result of global warming perhaps?
For some reason we see lots of derelict boats in the desert. The result of global warming perhaps?
Along side the wildflowers and solar farms, was FloDesign, a compact, jet-engine inspired wind turbine that is three-to-four times more efficient and significantly cheaper to produce than existing wind turbines.
Along side the wildflowers and solar farms, was FloDesign, a compact, jet-engine inspired wind turbine that is three-to-four times more efficient and significantly cheaper to produce than existing wind turbines.

Old Postcards

Uncovered from an archaeological dig in my grandmother’s old desk, this is a group of old postcards dating from the 1960s and ’70s — some even earlier. Beginning in the west then heading east.

On back: Although one of the older hotels in Waikiki, its unique architecture, surrounded by lush tropical foliage and famed Waikiki Beach at its back makes this Sheraton Hotel a favorite of many notables.
On back: Although one of the older hotels in Waikiki, its unique architecture, surrounded by lush tropical foliage and famed Waikiki Beach at its back makes this Sheraton Hotel a favorite of many notables.
On back: The Royal Hawaiian -- The Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
On back: The Royal Hawaiian — The Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
On back: The Golden Gate Bridge brings Northern California and the San Francisco Bay cities into closer and rapid contact. This imposing structure has the largest single span of any bridge in the world, 4200 feet. The total width of the bridge is 90 feet. It has two pedestrian walkways and six lanes for automobile traffic.
On back: The Golden Gate Bridge brings Northern California and the San Francisco Bay cities into closer and rapid contact. This imposing structure has the largest single span of any bridge in the world, 4200 feet. The total width of the bridge is 90 feet. It has two pedestrian walkways and six lanes for automobile traffic.
On front: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
On front: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
On front: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
On front: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
On Front: The Climb from Eaton's Canyon. Auto Road to Mt. Wilson, California.
On Front: The Climb from Eaton’s Canyon. Auto Road to Mt. Wilson, California.
On front: Arroyo Seco. Colorado Street Bridge. Pasadena, Cal.
On front: Arroyo Seco. Colorado Street Bridge. Pasadena, Cal.
On front: A shady nook in Laurel Canyon. Hollywood, California.
On front: A shady nook in Laurel Canyon. Hollywood, California.
On front: A modern Spanish Type home in California.
On front: A modern Spanish Type home in California.
On back: Bob Hope's beautiful Palm Springs, California home and swimming pool.
On back: Bob Hope’s beautiful Palm Springs, California home and swimming pool.
On back: This great Colorado River aqueduct carries the precious water that is the very life's blood of Southern California. This marvel of engineering crosses hundreds of miles of arid deserts and mountains before reaching Southern California. It passes across the desert a few miles north of Palm Springs.
On back: This great Colorado River aqueduct carries the precious water that is the very life’s blood of Southern California. This marvel of engineering crosses hundreds of miles of arid deserts and mountains before reaching Southern California. It passes across the desert a few miles north of Palm Springs.
On back: FUTURE LOOK ... Artist's rendering depicts the future look of the all new Desert Inn and Country Club. When completed, the resort will house a spacious new casino and lavish shops and luxurious restaurants. Completion scheduled for mid-1978.
On back: FUTURE LOOK … Artist’s rendering depicts the future look of the all new Desert Inn and Country Club. When completed, the resort will house a spacious new casino and lavish shops and luxurious restaurants. Completion scheduled for mid-1978.
On back: One of the most beautiful drives in the Southwest, is that going out North Central Avenue in Phoenix -- a palm-lined lane, flanked by stately residences and orchards.
On back: One of the most beautiful drives in the Southwest, is that going out North Central Avenue in Phoenix — a palm-lined lane, flanked by stately residences and orchards.
On front: A desert road, Arizona.
On front: A desert road, Arizona.
On front: Country Club Park, Phoenix, Arizona.
On front: Country Club Park, Phoenix, Arizona.
On back: MOTORCYCLE RACE, Daytona Beach, Florida, "Speed Capital of the World." World championships are decided annually in the 100-mile and 200-mile motorcycle races on the beach course.
On back: MOTORCYCLE RACE, Daytona Beach, Florida, “Speed Capital of the World.” World championships are decided annually in the 100-mile and 200-mile motorcycle races on the beach course.

COPS Racing at the 50th Mexican 1000

This is the daddy of all off-road races: the Mexican 1000. It started exactly 50 years ago by the National Off-Road Racing Association, the first sanctioning body dedicated to off road racing. The first event began in Tijuana and finished in La Paz, while this 50th Anniversary running would start in Ensenada and finish in San Jose del Cabo 1,264.10 miles down the peninisula. After leaving Ensenada, racers passed through San Felipe, Bay of Los Angeles, Loreto,  and then La Paz before the dash to the finish. Start to finish took five days, if you were lucky enough to make it.

If you’d like to follow along, here’s a map of course, from top to bottom.

Extra-credit reading and videos below the photos.

Contingency Row and Tech Inspection

For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That's COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That’s COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing's El "Galaxia de la Baja," a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing‘s El “Galaxia de la Baja,” a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Spencer Low's 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Spencer Low’s 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Dennis signs John's autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Dennis signs John’s autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 - 1975).
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 – 1975).
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF'd after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF’d after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
A '57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin' Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.
A ’57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin’ Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.

Day 1: Ensenada to San Felipe (200.20 miles)

NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike's dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike’s dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike's Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike’s Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
The first day of racing was uneventful -- the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.
The first day of racing was uneventful — the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.

Day 2: San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles (221.00 miles)

Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy -- he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy — he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Inside the #250's cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John's GPS.
Inside the #250’s cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John’s GPS.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
A mile south of Coco's Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers.
A mile south of Coco’s Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers. As we were leaving, I said to the driver “Be safe out there.” He replied with “It’s a little late for that advise.”
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I'd wager, did not know a race was underway.
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I’d wager, did not know a race was underway.
The entire team was housed at "The Castle" overlooking the Bay of LA.
The entire team was housed at “The Castle” overlooking the Bay of LA.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.

Day 3: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (396.70 miles)

Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur.
Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur. Due to logistics, this was the last time we saw the trucks or team until we arrived in Loreto.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues -- they were identified and fixed.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues — they were identified and fixed.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55's rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55’s rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.

Day 4: Loreto to La Paz  (293.30 miles)

Then the Shinola hit the Westinghouse. The #250 drove into a Grand Canyon-sized rain rut which hurdled them off the road, breaking tie rods and the rack-and-pinon steering. One of the #250’s rescue trucks hit a cavernous pothole on Highway 1, which fatally damaged its steering. At 10:30 pm, we received a text from Zak asking us to help in the rescue effort — we were looking at a four-hour commute to the Pacific side of the peninsula. Meanwhile, only minutes before the start in Loreto, the #55’s starter failed causing a one-hour delay in starting the race, knocking Zak from around fifth place to near 25th.

We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit -- it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit — it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It's always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It’s always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day's race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day’s race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4x4 Class.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 Class.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.

Day 5: La Paz to San Jose del Cabo  (152.90 miles)

Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.
Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.

A mile from the finish, the driver’s-side rear brake caught on fire, and neither Zak or Josh were aware of it until they arrived on the podium and a hundred guys came running at them with fire extinguishers. The COPS Racing #55 finished sixth in class and 15th overall.

Cameron Steele cinched the overall win in his Geiser Trophy Truck — congratulations to all!

After the checkers -- time for a beer and taco. Or two.
After the checkers — time for a beer and taco. Or two.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.

The 1200 Mile Drive Home

The race is over, so Friday morning we all pack up and start the trek back north — it will take three full days of driving to get home.

This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
We're heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
We’re heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí -- the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí — the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world's best margaritas.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world’s best margaritas.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. What we call "fun."
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. That, with sleep deprivation and hunger, is what we call “fun.”

Extra-credit reading and videos: