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Arizona-Southern California 2005


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Colorado River Bluegrass Festival          Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Relatives in Southern California        In Mesa AZ        Bluegrass in Parker


February 8, 2005 : Almost everything is packed and ready for my departure tomorrow for the Colorado River Bluegrass Festival at Bullhead City AZ, across the Colorado River from Laughlin NV. I attended this festival last year, and although the weather can be very windy there, the price is below average and the talent well above.

I will probably not be where I can start sending these notes till about a week from now, when I arrive at Joshua Tree National Monument. So instead of writing more now, I think I’ll finish getting ready.


February 9: As usual, I like to limit my daily driving to 350 miles or less, so I am staying tonight in Barstow (239 miles), where I have previously stopped three times. I arrived at 3:30, which gives me lots of time to work on this journal, read, watch TV, and fix dinner. The hills around here are green, not their usual color, evidence of the above average rains we’ve had all over California this year. For those not familiar with Barstow, it's located in the high Mojave Desert where State Highway 58 meets I-15 and I-40.

Tomorrow’s drive will be even shorter, about 180 miles, which will let me get a leisurely start, and arrive in time to unhitch, get gas, explore the grounds, and put in a request that the Weather Channel is wrong about rain on Friday and Saturday.

Weather today was mostly good – some light fog from south of Kingsburg to Delano (southern Fresno County to southern Tulare County). It was around 60 degrees most of the way, with a light breeze (55 at Tehachapi, 4,000 foot elevation). Until the sun got down low, it was pleasant to sit outside and read the paper here in Barstow.

February 10: I am in Bullhead City, and just like last year it is cold and windy here. Last year I said I would not come to this festival again, but the weather improved as the weekend went on, and they tempt you with an outstanding lineup, so here I am. But if it rains, I will never come here again! (Might have to reconsider, since next year’s tentative line-up is even better.) (May 2006 update: I did not attend the 2006 festival, not because of my vow, but because it just didn't work out. I heard it was quite cold, but not rainy.)

On the other hand, the rains have turned the desert hills green, and there are lots of yellow and purple wild flowers along Interstate 40 coming into Needles.

I arrived at Bullhead City AZ about 1 p.m., and after setting up, spent my time wandering around listening to people playing in the camping area, reading, and drinking bourbon and soda. It is now 5:15 and it is too cold for me to stay outside any longer, so I am inside reading, working on this journal, and getting ready to fire up the generator so I can watch TV. Like many festivals, this one is “dry camping,” meaning no hookups of any kind.

Thankfully I am not a gambler, since the lights of Laughlin are just across the river, and anyone with the itch to contribute to Nevada’s economy can zip over there very quickly.

It was cloudy and quite cool in Barstow this morning, but the temperature got warmer through the day, and was about 67 at Needles. It is cloudy, but not heavily overcast, so I am hoping the Weather Channel forecast for rain tomorrow and Saturday turns out to be wrong.

There is a lot of new housing construction around here, with the usual sign “if you lived here, you’d be home now.” Actually, if I lived here, I would be making plans to move!


February 11: The festival got off to a late start, due to rain that started around midnight, and continues to fall off and on now at 7 p.m. Today’s show was moved across the river to an auditorium in the Ramada Inn in Laughlin. Lots of slot machines to tempt you on the way in, but not good for the festival vendors, who could not pack up their booths and move over the river. If the rain stops, the festival will be where it should be tomorrow, which everyone prefers. Right now it’s not promising.

The camping area is dirt, so there is mud everywhere, although the ground is hard-packed and driving in and out isn’t a problem. Parking lot picking is pretty much out of the question, although some people were getting together and renting rooms at the Ramada. I am contenting myself with reading and TV.

Today’s groups were the “lesser lights” of the schedule, but still quite good. The sound in the auditorium was not as good as the usual outdoor setup, however.

February 12: The festival is 2/3 over already. Today was 100% better than yesterday, both in music and weather. The rain continued into the night off and on, but this morning there were streaks of blue sky, and the festival started on time at the right place. We had clouds and occasional cool breezes, but by the end of the day it was mostly clear, and much warmer than Thursday night.

All the groups today were great – some I had seen, and some I had not, but all were groups I had heard of. The best was Mountain Heart, who we saw at Mariposa in 2000, when they had been together about a year. They are all veterans of other great bands, and are now truly sensational.

Of course a major high point when you can see them is the Cherryholmes Family. My daughter Teri and I saw them at Parkfield in 2001, when they had been performing in public for about a year. In their own words they were still “rough around the edges,” but they have gotten better each time I’ve seen them.

They are a family band – dad, mom and four kids now aged 12 to 20. They started out picking in the parking lots around southern California, but were pleasing audiences on stage in short order. In 2002 they headed east to try their hand at making a living playing bluegrass – always a long shot. Since then they have performed on the Grand Ole Opry, appeared with major artists like Rhonda Vincent and Jimmy Martin, and won a number of awards. Twenty year old Cia is the reigning Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America (SPBGMA) banjo player of the year, and 12 year old Molly was a finalist as fiddler of the year. In addition, Molly performed a song she wrote on Rhonda Vincent’s last album. And they left behind their “day job” and are in fact making their living only from performing. Due to their success, we don’t get to see them as much in the west, but they will perform again tomorrow, and will be at the Huck Finn Festival in Victorville in June.

Another group that was at Mariposa a few years ago was Continental Divide. The lead singer, David Parmley, was part of a very popular California group back in the 1980s and 90s, the Bluegrass Cardinals.

Not long ago I read an article in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine about Lost and Found, a group that's been around for 20 years, although I had not heard of them. I was glad to find them on the schedule here. They exceeded expectations.

The biggest attraction for me, causing me to brave wind, cold and rain, was banjo player J.D. Crowe and the New South. After performing with well-known groups back in the 1960s and 70s, Crowe formed his own group, which soon became legendary as an incubator of top bluegrass talent, including Tony Rice, Keith Whitley, and Doyle Lawson.

When I first arrived, there was a young man next to me with a compact car, removing a car-top carrier and placing it in his site. He explained he was saving the site for his dad, who had just bought a new motor home, and who would be arriving about six p.m. the next day. In fact, dad actually came in about 3 a.m., waking up several of the neighbors. It seems they had spent six hours in nearby Searchlight NV, working on the carburetor. The motor home was in fact “new used,” and they spent the entire festival working on it. About the time the music ended on Sunday, they fired it up, sending a huge cloud of black exhaust smoke through the camp area, and filling my trailer and the one next to me with fumes. The neighbor complained, and they finally pulled the rig down the hill away from other campers. They worked on it a while, but finally left, and it was still sitting there unmoving when I left the next morning.

At this festival, I encountered my first Bluegrass A**hole. At every festival the M.C. reminds people not to talk during the music, and at every festival there is some talking. Usually a look, a “shhhhh,” or a polite request to take the conversation away from the audience area solves the problem. However, there were two couples behind me who talked continuously. During the intermission, I made the usual polite request. One of the men told me in so many words that they came to the festival to talk to their friends, and if I didn’t like it, I could move. The man next to me told them he would ask the festival staff to take action, but it did not prove necessary…they were mostly quiet the rest of the day.

This evening I am fighting a cold, so I plan to stay in, keep warm, and get to bed early.

February 14: The final day of the festival was the best, with mostly clear skies and warm enough temperatures to unbutton the flannel shirt. The festival concluded with the Cherryholmes Family joined on stage by members of three other groups that had performed that afternoon, so we had the pleasure of hearing five fiddles together at once, plus various other combinations, vocal and instrumental.

The time in this location is always confusing for groups from the east – they are attuned to Central or Eastern time, they are staying at the Ramada Inn in Laughlin where it’s Pacific time, and performing in Arizona, which is on Mountain time. Two groups were late due to the confusion, but others played longer or switched places, so no harm done.


Last night I set my watch back to California time, then got an early start this morning, hitting the road before 9. I headed across the Laughlin Bridge on Nevada Highway 163 to US 95, south to I-40, and west about 20 miles to a section of old US 66 that heads southwest from the Interstate and goes through Essex, Chambless and Amboy, three towns that were someplace in the hey day of Route 66, but are no place now – no gas stations, no stores, no restaurants. Just past Amboy I went south then east on Amboy Road into Twentynine Palms, where I will stay for three nights. Tomorrow and Wednesday I will make my first visit Joshua Tree National Park, which is just south of here.

There were light clouds all night and all day today – thin enough for the sun to shine through and make it fairly warm in the daytime, and to allow the moon to be visible as a hazy crescent tonight. No stars visible, however. (It cleared off almost completely during the night, but was cloudy again by morning.)

After I got set up here, I went into town and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, did some grocery shopping, and bought gas. This evening I enjoyed a rare treat – watching a hockey game. There is a lockout in the National Hockey League, but the American League’s All Star game was on.


February 15: I made my first visit to Joshua Tree National Park today. The weather was perfect – partly cloudy, cool, just right for walking. The park has two main sections, the Mojave Desert (3,000 foot elevation and above) where there are rock formations and Joshua trees, and the Colorado desert, lower, dryer, warmer, and with lots of flowers (so the visitor center attendant said). I spent all my time today in the upper part, and will return there tomorrow to see some places I missed.

There are miles of rock formations, composed of tan granite. In some areas they are house-size boulders, with a few bigger and smaller ones; in other areas the rock is extensively fractured. There are short hiking trails all over; I went on a 1.7 mile hike in the morning, then a one mile hike in the afternoon. The rock is weathered so there are some interesting shapes, but not like you see with sandstone.

There are lots of Joshua trees, plus piñon, mesquite, juniper and many other desert plants, including several species of cactus. I saw a number of birds including quail, as well as one possible lizard and one chipmunk. The highest point I visited is about 5,000 feet, and overlooks the Coachella Valley and the Little San Bernardino Mountains, but visibility was poor (southern California smog intrudes everywhere).

There were several areas where the land was mostly flat, and heavily covered with Joshua trees. In the rocky areas, there are fewer Joshuas. All in all it is a beautiful place, and I’m glad I decided to come here.


February 16: Today was mostly sunny with a light breeze, again very nice weather for walking. I went on one “official” loop trail, and a couple of “cross country” walks. It was a better day for wildlife spotting – I saw a redtail hawk, two jack rabbits, several chipmunks and a dozen or so lizards.

Joshua trees grow in the southwestern deserts at elevations of 3,000 feet or more – but they grow bigger if they happen to be in a spot where they get well watered. Two of the best specimens I’ve seen are growing in Oakhurst, at about 2,500 feet in the Sierra foothills, 15 miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. At first they seem out of place, but the similarities to desert conditions actually fit – hot summers with considerable cooling at night and cool winter weather with an occasional dusting of snow. The biggest difference is probably the rainfall, about 30 inches or more in Oakhurst – but Joshuas thrive with extra water.

Tomorrow I will be heading for Lake Elsinore, south of Riverside, to visit my uncle and cousin.


February 18: After a slightly roundabout trip in which a shortcut turned long, I arrived at Lake Elsinore about 1 p.m. Thursday. After I got set up at the RV park, I went to visit my uncle Herb Hall and my cousin Diane Davenport (his daughter), who lives in a separate house on the property. We had a good visit and ate dinner there.

The lake here fluctuates in elevation depending on rainfall. When my aunt and uncle first moved here, the lake was quite low, and had been so for decades. No one expected any significant rise, but about 20 years ago heavy rains and a drainage outlet that had been blocked caused the lake to rise many feet, to where it jeopardized homes. The Halls' house was at least a quarter of a mile from the lake when they moved there, but with the flood, they had to build a dike just off their back deck to keep the lake from getting under the house.

In succeeding years the lake dropped back close to its old level, but it is up this year. They opened the drainage line after the previous flood, so it’s not anywhere close to the danger point, but it’s a much closer walk than it has been for many years.

My aunt and uncle enjoyed the lake for many years – sailing, water skiing, wind surfing, as well as hang gliding, but the boats are sitting idle now. At 87, Herb doesn’t leave the house much (he passed away in the fall of 2005).

This afternoon I will drive up to Aliso Viejo in Orange County to visit my cousin Katie, her boyfriend Chuck and her daughter Shauna. It’s about 50 miles, over the Ortega Highway (state 74) to San Juan Capistrano, then up I-5.


February 20: When the weather is nice and traffic is light, the Ortega Highway is a beautiful scenic drive – over the coastal mountains through Cleveland National Forest, and down to San Juan Capistrano. My trip Friday was quite the opposite. A big rig had overturned a few miles above Lake Elsinore, so all traffic was halted at the bottom of the hill. A CHP officer announced what had happened, and said it would be about 15 minutes. Changing my route and finding out how to get to Katie’s a different way would have taken more than that, so I waited. The wait was more like 25 minutes, but finally a tow truck came down the road pulling the damaged truck.

The mile or so of bumper to bumper traffic started moving, but we soon had to stop for about five minutes, since only one lane was open. The truck’s cargo was a load of sacks of cement, and crews were still cleaning it up.

We finally got moving again, but as soon as I reached the top of the pass, it started to rain. The rain was more or less continuous the rest of the way, very heavy at times. This highway is narrow and winding, but just like the crazy drivers who don’t slow down in Fresno’s fog, many of the cars on the Ortega Highway wanted to go full speed. Those behind me were disappointed, at least until I came to one of the many turnouts.

Once I arrived at Katie’s, everything went well. Shauna had just started working at Chili’s, and was not at home, so instead of the planned barbecue, we went out to dinner at On the Border, an excellent Mexican chain restaurant. Shauna worked in the same shopping center, and joined us before we finished.

The next morning rain was falling, and it looked as if our plans to go down to the ocean would fall through, but it soon stopped, and we had blue sky and fluffy clouds the rest of the day. There was one small rain cloud that came over while we were in Laguna Beach, but we went into the lobby of a beachfront resort and waited it out. The ocean in that area was brown, due to runoff from creeks during the heavy rains of the previous night and that morning. Out about 100 yards there was a definite line where the water color changed to green, and beyond that, near the horizon, a strip of normal Pacific Ocean blue.

We had a nice walk on a path above the beach, then drove up the coast a ways and saw the spot where they placed the ashes of my aunt and uncle (Katie’s parents), who passed away ten days apart two years ago.

That evening we enjoyed the barbecue that had been postponed from Friday night. Both evenings we spent some time looking at home movies, starting when Katie served as flower girl at my wedding in 1963, and going through recent visits to her sister in Florida, as well as other vacation trips they’ve taken.

I had left the trailer at Lake Elsinore and stayed in Aliso Viejo Friday and Saturday night. I left about nine this morning, and had an outstanding drive back over the Ortega Highway – no rain, very little traffic, and lots of nice scenery, ranging from desert shrubs at the bottom to oaks and other trees in the upper section. I hitched up the trailer and left about noon. Following Chuck’s suggestion, I stayed on Highway 74, which goes through Perris and Hemet, and then climbs up into the San Bernardino Mountains, to just over 5,000 feet at the top. This was another scenic drive, with a number of unfamiliar shrubs at the mid elevation, and Ponderosa pines and oaks at the top.

The road then drops down to I-10 at Indio, going through Palm Desert and Indian Wells – and “drop down” is an accurate statement – Indio is just 17 feet above sea level, and the highway goes down to zero elevation just east of town. On the way down, there was some spectacular high desert scenery, with piñon, juniper, yuccas and other drought-tolerant vegetation, as the road travels through rugged canyon country.

Once on I-10 the drive was less interesting but required much less “active driving,” and I arrived at Blythe about six, as it was getting dark. From here to Mesa is about 200 miles, so I should get to the RV park where my parents spend the winter by mid-afternoon.


February 21: I arrived in Mesa about 2 p.m. after an uneventful trip. Since it’s a holiday, traffic was not as bad as usual through Phoenix. There was no rain during the day, and in fact, the sun came out for an hour or so this afternoon, but it’s been raining off and on since 8 p.m. There is supposed to be rain every day at least through Thursday. So much for the Valley of the Sun.


February 23: I’m set up here in Park Place RV Resort in Mesa for nine days, so not a lot to report. Yesterday Dad and Mother and I went out to an excellent Mexican restaurant, Macayo’s, which is about ten miles from here, on the west edge of Mesa. Today we had lunch at the Senior Center (not quite as good, but 1/5 the cost, including no margaritas).

Monday night when I went to bed I found a wet spot on the sleeping bag. No, not what you’re thinking, but rain coming through the roof. There was some leakage through a seam in the same spot last spring, and I had caulked the seam. Since it was raining, and bedtime, I duct taped a folded towel to the spot, and it absorbed everything that came in during the night. The next morning I borrowed a ladder and caulked the roof in that area again. Of course, there has been no significant rain since, so I don’t know how successful I was. (May 2006 update: Having stayed dry in the trailer through two more rainy bluegrass festivals after this repair, I guess the job was successful.)

We had a sprinkle yesterday while we were inside the restaurant, and it had rained about a mile west of here when we got back, but I don’t think there has been any rain here since early Tuesday morning. Today has been sunny with a few clouds, perfect Arizona weather, but I hear California is getting ready to send more storms this way. The forecast is for possible thunderstorms today and tomorrow, and showers Friday.


February 25: Well, it’s another day of sun with some clouds. The forecast has been for rain every day, and so far it has not rained in eastern Mesa since Tuesday morning. There have been some showers and quick thunderstorms around the area, mostly in the west. The reward for all the rain that had fallen previously is that the desert outside of town looks like pastureland – lots of green grass, an inch to a foot tall between the shrubs, plus many flowering annuals.

Yesterday we visited my mother’s cousins in Surprise, on the west side of the metro area, about a 60 mile drive. Although her entire family grew up in Ohio, she has two cousins who now live in the Phoenix area, and one in Tucson. Gloria lived in Omaha till about ten years ago, when she and her daughter Margaret relocated to Surprise. Like every city in the valley, it has grown from a few thousand to over 100 thousand people. Also visiting were Roy and Jeanette, who spent their working lives in the Chicago area. For their first decade or so of retirement, their trailer was their home, but they bought a house in Glendale about 12 years ago. Another cousin who still lives in Ohio has a daughter in this area, so they also come here for a visit in the winter. The Arizona contingent of the family is always increasing.

We had a great home-cooked dinner, and spent time looking at photos and discussing our genealogical research. Margaret is the official genealogist for her branch of the family, while I seem to be taking over that job for the Estel and Mason families (although mother did all the dirty work, visiting court houses and cemeteries in Ohio and Pennsylvania with her sister back in the 1980s and 90s).

Today we went to the big semi-annual rummage sale at the church Dad and Mother attend here. I didn’t need anything, so of course I came away with a couple of bags of stuff. Actually I bought three zippered tote bags, some books (Elmore Leonard and Kurt Vonnegut), Arizona Highways magazines, and some picture frames.

Mother still had a lot of stuff to look at, so I came back to my trailer for a nap and a little lunch, and to work on this journal. We’ll probably just laze around the rest of the afternoon.


February 27: We had lunch yesterday at Midwest Meats, a restaurant-bake shop-butcher shop down the road a couple of miles. Had an excellent NY strip steak – possibly one of the best tasting grilled items I’ve ever had. The place was full at 1:30 p.m. and getting waited on took quite a while, but the food came very quickly after that. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by the time we finished.

On the way in I made my annual purchase of Girl Scout cookies. I used to have a Girl Scout across the street, but she moved away (and then grew up). I also counted on fellow employees who were selling for their daughters or granddaughters, but I don’t have any fellow employees any more. So I have to come to Arizona, where I find Girl Scouts selling outside restaurants and markets.

Today was my annual hike in the Tonto National Forest. A drive of about 10 miles east from here brings you to Apache Junction, which marks the start of Arizona Highway 88, the Apache Trail. It goes into the mountains, to lakes on the Salt River, and destinations beyond, which I have never explored. About three miles from Apache Junction is Lost Dutchman State Park, which has a nice, short marked nature trail. Just beyond that is the dirt road to First Water Trailhead. It’s two and a half miles in, over a road that has previously been dusty, but this time had two running creeks to be crossed.

The trail goes into the Superstition Mountains, mostly following a series of shallow canyons, with views of the distant mountains to the north, and rugged, rocky hills and cliffs all about. There are lots of saguaros, cholla, prickly pear, hedgehog, and pincushion cactus, as well as mesquite, creosote bush, scrub oak and palo verde.

The small creeks that cross and run along side the trail have been just trickles in the past, but they are running quite strongly this year, and it is necessary to cross them several times on stepping stones. The plants in the desert normally have plenty of dry dirt in between them, but this year there is greenery everywhere. I saw a number of plants and flowers I’ve never seen in the area before – wild cucumber, brodiaea, and others. I believe the seeds lie there year after year waiting for the appropriate amount of rainfall before germinating.

I also saw a jack rabbit hopping up a dry wash (yes, not every drainage has water, even this year). On my hike I saw a cardinal and a number of lizards, as well as other small unidentified birds. It was a perfect day as far as weather was concerned – probably about 70 degrees with a slight breeze, mostly clear skies with some clouds around the horizon.


March 1: It’s the last night in Mesa, and I have done a lot of the “getting ready” stuff – emptied the holding tanks, put away the DVD player, washed and put away the dishes, filled the water tank. In the morning I will put everything that’s sitting on the table or counters into its “traveling location” (so it doesn’t slide around, fall off, get broken, etc.), then hitch up and head for Parker.

We didn’t do much yesterday. We went to lunch at the Senior Center, and I did some grocery shopping and got the truck washed. This seems to be a good place to be in the car wash business – they were very busy, and it took about an hour from when I drove in till the time I drove out. People getting a wax job were waiting three hours.

Today we ate at the Senior Center again (best meal of the three – chicken parmesan), then drove out past Apache Junction to Lost Dutchman State Park. We walked around the nature trail. It’s about a quarter mile or less, but a slow trip since Dad and Mother can’t go very fast. We saw another cardinal, as well as a number of doves and other birds.


March 2: I left Mesa about ten a.m. today, getting on Arizona 202 Loop, then taking Interstate 10 to Quartzite, where I turned north on AZ 95 to Parker.

Those of you who drive in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley are used to freeway on-ramps that take you almost in a 360 degree circle at 20 MPH, then dump you onto the freeway with 50 feet or so to get up to speed. In the Phoenix metro area, most of the freeways have merge lanes that are a half mile long. In addition, the newer freeways are beautifully landscaped. The 202 loop has miles of sandstone-red concrete fencing, and the overpasses are decorated with bas-relief lizards, birds, and Indian symbols.

After my right of way dispute with a cow in Utah last summer, I am alert for and aware of large animals near the freeway. Fortunately, the Interstates are fenced, and the cows I saw today were minding their own business, enjoying the rare lush grass, and staying on their side of the barbed wire.

Whenever I drive on Interstate 10 between California and Phoenix, I think of my trip with my older grandson, Johnny, about seven or eight years ago. We spent the night at a motel in Blythe, and happened to tune in to a “true crime” show on TV. It concerned a perpetrator who had cut up several bodies, put them in large cardboard boxes, and dumped them in the countryside. The next day we stopped along the highway so Johnny could get his first close-up look at a saguaro cactus. We were wandering through the desert when we spotted a large cardboard box about a hundred yards away. We headed toward it to investigate, then looked at each other, and mutually decided we really didn’t care to find out what was in it.

South of Parker the land is usually fairly barren, with a number of small creosote bushes, separated by dry dirt with nothing growing. This year there are plants all over that country, one to two feet tall. They hide the small bushes, and leave the large ones sticking up like islands. Since it hasn’t rained for a week or so, these plants are already drying out quickly.

I arrived at the bluegrass festival site in Parker, La Paz County Park on the Colorado River, about 3 p.m. When I was here two years ago, I arrived about the same time on a Wednesday and was able to camp much closer to the stage area. It looks like the attendance may be double that of the first year. There are no hookups, but I ended up close enough to a water faucet to connect to it. This not only preserves the water in my fresh water tank, but also eliminates the need to use the battery-operated water pump. I got set up, took my chair to the audience area, ate dinner, and did some reading.


March 3: Today I went hiking up a dry/damp wash that crosses the road about a mile from  the park, the same place I went two years ago. There is a good place to pull off the highway, where the wash comes out of the hills, runs under the road, and into the Colorado River.

It is easy walking most of the time, with a bit of rock stepping when it starts to rise. About 200 yards up from the highway, there was running water. In a number of places, water ran down over rocks, and disappeared into sand. I probably went up a half mile or less, taking a smaller side canyon at the end. There are lots of flowers, mostly a large yellow daisy, but also white and purple flowers, creosote bush in bloom, and others. There were lots of flowers that look just like the orange fiddle necks that are common in the Sierra foothills, but they were purple. There are also barrel and beaver tail cactus up on the slopes above the wash. As well, I saw a number of paw prints in the damp sand, not accompanied by human prints. Most likely the running water is the logical drinking spot for coyotes and other animals.

There are two ways to get past a thorny bush that blocks the way. The first way is to push the branch out of the way, then drag your arm through it after you’ve passed, resulting in punctures, scratches and blood. The second way is to hang on to the branch after you’ve passed, then grab it with the other hand, let go with the first hand, and gently move it back into place. I tried both ways, and I recommend the latter.


March 4: Day one of the festival brought the usual ups and downs – a group I saw three years ago that seems to have gone backward instead of getting better (best left nameless); a famous group whose CDs I have, but had not seen in person (IIIrd Time Out); a very upbeat family band who are reaching the pro level (Lampkins Family), and a completely unknown but excellent band from Tennessee (Blue Moon Rising).

The weather was also up and down – a few clouds in the morning, with temperatures warming up, then lots of clouds in the afternoon with intermittent showers and cooling off quite a bit by the end of the show. I had my poncho with me, and that was adequate to keep me dry with the light rain we had. Quite a few people left at the first drops. It’s still pretty cloudy at 10 p.m., and this morning’s forecast was for a greater chance of rain tomorrow, so I hope the weatherman was wrong.

I had a long conversation with my neighbors on either side. The people on the south have three cats with them, which bothered the dog belonging to the guy on the north, but they kept them apart. Dog guy is a full-timer (meaning he lives in his RV and travels where the spirit takes him). Cat couple live in South Carolina (maybe North, not sure) in the summer, and Arizona in the winter. She still works full time – as a nurse, she can get a job anywhere. During our talk we watched an absolutely sensational sunset, with bits of cloud sticking up on the horizon like flames, then cloud shapes changing and moving as it grew dark.


March 5: Today was another mixed day weather-wise. Up till about 3:30 it looked like there would be no problems, then a strong wind came up, and dark clouds headed our way. A mountain to the east that is normally clearly visible slowly faded and disappeared. Many people tried to brave the storm, but it was clearly going to be a harder rain than yesterday, and the promoter cut short the final performance, by an hour or so. It continued to rain for about an hour, but has stopped now at 7 p.m., although it is still cloudy.

When I came back to the trailer to have some lunch, I discovered that my belief that I still had one full propane tank was sadly misguided. Fortunately there is a mini-market about three miles away that sells propane, so I got a tank filled. Although I missed James King and most of the next group, I heard part of both, because they are broadcasting the festival on a low power FM station. It only comes in while you’re in or close to the park; it faded out quickly as I drove away.

The music today was all good – mostly groups I have heard before (including yesterday), and one that was new to me, the Wilders, a band from Kansas City that performs old-time music and country honky tonk. Also fun was Doodoo Wah, a couple of guys from northern California who perform mostly original humorous material.


March 6: Good news and bad news today. The music was great. Due to the rain yesterday, the U.S. Navy Band played only three songs, so they extended the program by an hour today and they played two sets, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. The other groups that I saw were all good. I missed James King yesterday, but saw his entire performance today.

However! I discovered last night that I had a flat tire. I have roadside service for the trailer, so I called Good Sam Club, and after going through a series of calls, including giving directions to the service man, I got the tire changed. I missed the first group of the day, but I had seen them yesterday, so it wasn’t too big a deal. However! My spare is also leaking. I think I can inflate it in the morning and get by.

The day was warm and mostly clear, but we also had our regular afternoon rainstorm, although it was really just a sprinkle. I never had to put on my poncho; I got by with an umbrella. People were raising and lowering umbrellas for about 45 minutes as the edge of the storm hit us. The really dark clouds that came at us yesterday went across the river to California today, so we didn’t have any problems.


March 10: As always, the hard part is getting this report finished after I return home, where there are so many other things to do, and so many distractions. At the festival, once the music is over, you can socialize, watch TV, read, or write. At home, the list is endless.

When I checked my leaky tire Sunday night, I discovered that it was leaking at the valve stem. Putting the cap on tightly seemed to hold it, and in fact, it did not go down during the trip home. However, it does lose all pressure over a two to three day period, so a trip to the repair shop is required before my next trip.

I got an early start Monday, but still thought I might take two days (actually more like one day and a couple of hours the next day). However, I reached Bakersfield, 105 miles from home, at 4:30, and it did not make sense to stop there, or anyplace closer. So I kept going, and got home about 7. That made it an eleven-hour day, which is more than I like, but I was really ready to be home. It was a warm, sunny day, and the weather got warmer closer to home (it’s been close to 80 in Fresno the last two days).

I stopped for lunch at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner near Barstow. It is one of those places with lots of 45 RPM records on the wall, plus photos of movie and music people from the mid 20th century, and also a couple of plastic Elvis statues.

--Dick Estel, March 2005


(Click to enlarge; photos open in a new window)

Bluegrass          Joshua Tree & Southern California          Arizona
Mountain Heart Cherryholmes Cherryholmes Fiddlers
Continental Divide Lost and Found J.D. Crowe 
Crowe - a true bluegrass legend The whole gang Camping area with Laughlin in the background
IIIrd Tyme Out Lampkins Family Blue Moon Rising
Bluegrass Brothers Bluegrass Patriots Wilders
Country Current (US Navy Band) Doodoo Wah IIIrd Tyme Out & The Navy Band
Joshua Tree National Park rock formations
Fractured rock Green grass in Hidden Valley Acres and acres of Joshua trees
View from Cousin Katie's back yard The brown, green and blue Pacific Laguna Beach
Cholla Cactus Ripe grass and stream Stream in Superstition Mountains
Lone saguaro Along Dutchman Trail Ocatillo in Superstitions
Superstition Mountain Wash near Parker Purple fiddlenecks
Related Web Sites
Cherryholmes Mountain Heart David Parmlee
Lost & Found J.D. Crowe IIIrd Tyme Out
Bluegrass Patriots Blue Moon Rising Bluegrass Brothers
Doodoo Wah More Arizona Photos Country Current (Navy Band)
More Joshua Tree photos Lost Dutchman State Park Tonto National Forest
Joshua Tree National Park L&S Promotions (Parker Festival) Southwest Bluegrass Association
Huck Finn Jubilee Superstition Mountain Museum Superstition Mountain

Dick's Bluegrass Links

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Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos


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Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2015 Part 2
Adventures of 2015 - February to May
(Goofy Smith Flat, Coast Redwoods & Big Sur, Pine Flat, Finegold Trail, Edison Point Trail, Nelder Grove)
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Colorado Springs Cousin Convention 2015 Las Vegas Commodore Expo 2015
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Adventures of 2016 Part 1 Rambler Hikes 2016 Page 1
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Travel Blog 2017 (an experiment) Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
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Updated August 24, 2020