Sunday, January 31, 2010

sand in my shoes and moderate sun

The a-go-gos love the beach, but we are not the sort to lay in the sun. We say, "good morning," to the ocean when we find ourselves there at dawn. We'll have breakfast on the cold damp beach and watch tiny crabs to kick the loose sand out their front doors. Early morning or not we don't linger when the sun is too bright. Overcast cool days are the ones to spend watching the waves.

For a Venice Beach ride we'll arrive when early-bird joggers and dedicated surfers are our only company, while the people who spent the night in their cars are still asleep. With so few people out we don't get the usual comments about our screwy lookin' bike helmets. Our ancestors come from the land that the sun forgot and we must work hard to maintain our pallor. We're usually home taking a nap by the time the sun worshipers are out. It's much easier to feel like you're the only one who knows about a place when there is no one else there. Arriving really early or going on cloudy, cool days makes the beach a new discovery. Sometimes the tide has been high enough overnight that yours are the first footprints. Cool days when the other primates don't want to be on the beach is when all the critters come out. Cormorants dive for fish close to shore and the kill deer stroll the lines of froth and sea weed.

Even when we visited friends in Maui for our honeymoon, we couldn't be bothered to sun bathe. I would be up early for a walk in the mornings, or we'd sit on the beach to wait for the sun to take its evening bath.
The sand makes for some fine jump pictures, and an early nap on a sand padded quilt is just that much better when you don't have to worry about sun burn. Sand dribble castles can stretch their ramparts across the beach when your construction efforts are not in the path of of the cell phone zombies and courting couples.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

cows on the beach, Valley of Fire, part four

Our nap was delightful but the heat of the day was still on us. More hiking was out of the question so we thought finding the edge of Lake Mead and taking a dip might be worth a try. On a map the lake is just a couple of miles West of the park so we were on our way. We stumbled into some messy road work and ended up driving on gravel whoop-dee-dos for a bit. Following the map took us to Overton Beach. Hmm... no beach. There is a boat launch there that is now at least ten miles from the edge of Lake Mead. Drought indeed. Water still filters down from Moapa Valley to the north and there is active agriculture in the area but no lake. The recent lake bed was green with grass and cows munching their cud stared us down.

We continued on to the town of Overton for a cold soda and lingered for pictures of freight train cars on a siding and a big red rooster on the roof of a biker bar. That used up enough of the hot day that we returned to the park. Our last stop on the way back to camp was the cabins, a collection of small stone and adobe lodgings. A didactic sign explained that they had been built as part of an overnight rest stop along a stage coach route. Small with ceilings blackened by soot they were almost cozy. If we had not been joined by some cell phone hosts I could have finished my John Ford moment. Sitting in the dark interior looking out at the painfully bright red landscape and blue sky I very nearly saw Ethan Edwards pause, standing on the threshold weighing... stay or go?Back in camp we spent the evening reading, playing ukes, and listening to the echo of Say's Phoebe saying, "fee bee?"

Up early again on our last day, we packed our junk and went out for one more sun rise and one more chance to catch the clouds.

Friday, January 29, 2010

paging Mr. Sprauge

White courtesy telephone please. Just on the off chance someone reading this knows how to contact Michael Sprague VP of marketing at Kia, could you ask him to come take a look. I'm sure he's a busy guy, but I am having the damnedest time finding a contact within the Kia marketing machine. We really like the Kia Soul and want to make it the center of our trip. Just on the off chance....


At least in title...
Go, Go America Go, Go America by Dan Yaccarino

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a fabulous picture book to introduce the United States to your tots. Filled with fun and quirky facts, I do believe we'll be using it for the BIG road trip! Thank's Dan!

(and yes, I did pick it up because it had Go-Go in the title, who do you think I am? oh and I LURVE Yaccarino's illustration style. Always have.)

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, January 28, 2010

winding road, Valley of Fire, part three

The road to the old film set is a dead end so we retraced our steps. By now the other apes were up and about and we wouldn't be so likely to have the place to ourselves. A site we had passed on our way in was Mouse's Tank. We had invested the dawn light and cool temperatures in our poking around other locations. The short hike to Mouse's Tank passes more petroglyphs on the canyon walls and seeing no one in the small parking area yet we decided to make the walk. The goal of the hike is a small natural water catchment in the rocks that had been named for a man named Mouse. He used the water collected there to survive in this desert in the 1890s.The sandy path had seen quite a bit of traffic from the previous evening's twilight until our arrival. The crossing tracks of chuckwallas, lizards, beetles, kangaroo rats, and snakes were not yet buried under sneaker prints. A few less timid lizards stayed near the path challenging each other with vigorous pushups. We were treated to a cloud show overhead and it was a nice hike, but the goal at the end was nothing to get excited about. Unless you are dying of dehydration, then Mouse's Tank would be heaven. There had been little fresh water running into the tank for some time. There were thunder showers the day before but none of that water made it to the ground or into Mouse's prize. The water was muddled with brownish algae, and every bee and wasp in a forty mile radius knew about this one bit of moisture. They lined the sandy edges and slurped up what they could to carry off to their brood. We heard their buzz before we saw the tank. The heat of the day was really on us by then and we needed a bathroom break. Fortunately the visitor center was near the junction of the film set road and the main park road. After taking advantage of the restrooms we lingered in the cool air of the natural history displays. There were some fine didactic illustrations of the geologic origin of the valley's colorful rocks and some taxidermy critters in diorama displays. All fairly typical and mildly interesting but we began to notice a few things were askew. Above a terrarium case containing some live examples of the local desert fauna we spied a decorated ceramic plate hanging on the wall. It had a color image of a calico cat in the glaze and was inscribed, "Mouse, the cat." More local fauna? Squinting at the label on the wall clarified that Mouse had been the visitor center cat for several years but the previously mentioned "tank" was not his. Looking further we found that the visitor center had an extensive gallery of artworks with the valley as their subject. All seemed to have been sent by previous visitors to the park. Then I spotted one of my favorite things, a miniature diorama depicting what was intended to be a typical day in the lives of the precolonization natives. It was sooooo cool. Tiny figures engaged in a mad flurry of activity all at once. Someone had imagined exciting things for all the tiny figures to do: two children caught in the act of shoving a third into a creosote bush, an elderly man squatting to poke a cooking fire, a hunter chasing a jack rabbit, and a woman waving her finger giving her partner a scolding... all at once! Gee, these people led very active lives.

The cool air in the visitor center was hard to part with but we had not found a place to nap off our early morning adventure. Remembering the wind worn crevices and holes we had seen the day before in the rocks near camp, we set out to find shade. A short search turned up a fine hole in the wall facing south. The rock was cool and smooth enough for us to have lunch and nap while hiding from the heat of the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

way outside the narrow li'l box

Ah well, it seems the folks running Ford's marketing campaign don't care much for our pitch. It was nice to get a message from an actual person rather than an automatic form letter, but I am sad that the message was a thumbs down.

As I mentioned in an earlier post a friend of mine had managed to put me in touch with someone who does product placement for Ford. I had not heard a response for some time so I sent a follow up query on Friday. The person I originally contacted had forwarded our idea to an upper division muckity-muck in Ford marketing (yes, I am consciously avoiding naming anyone) and that was who sent the rejection letter on Monday. The reason given was this:
Unfortunately, your project does not align with the marketing messaging for Transit Connect. We are focused on illustrating the truck at work with passionate entrepreneurs of small businesses in the confines of cities. I thank you for submitting your ideas and for considering our unique new truck.
A polite, "No thanks." It's good to have at least that so I can stop wondering if anyone had read my pitch. I replied politely, thanked them for their time and attention, and said I was sorry to hear that the marketing campaign for the Transit Connect was so gosh dern narrow. Ah well...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

flint and tinder at dawn, Valley of Fire, part two

Up with the ping-a-ling of my watch alarm, we scrambled into the car to drive a short bit to the center of the main valley. The stars had just faded, and we ate a breakfast snack waiting for the orange light. The new landscape is hard to catch and the photos that mrs. a-go-go took the next morning are better. Once the dawn was cooking we moved on to Fire Canyon after driving a side road that was originally laid to reach a film set location. Fire Canyon, Rainbow Canyon, and White Dome along this road all have contrasting layers and humps of red, orange, and white stone. We had the road to our selves well into the morning. Before we saw another car we had hiked through a small slot canyon, had a full breakfast, visited the ruins of the film set, taunted some chipmunks, and were ready for a nap.

All before 10 a.m.

Monday, January 25, 2010

red hot rock, Valley of Fire, part one

In May 2009 we made a two night outing to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada a startling landscape Northwest of Las Vegas. We do like our desert camp outs and you may have noticed that we have been visiting lots of dry places. Well, that is at least in part due to Los Angeles being surrounded by desert and most one or two days trips won’t take us anywhere but desert.

This was mrs. a-go-go’s first visit to the valley but I had traveled there years ago with my sister on a Southwest US ramble road trip. My sister and I were headed for Zion so we only stayed overnight in Valley of Fire. The dazzling colors of the dawn light on the rocks set the place in my mind and I knew I would be back some day. The valley did not disappoint on my return trip and mrs. a-go-go was delighted too.

The drive was not very impressive as we were on interstate 15 most of the way. The tiny town of Yermo had some excellent abandoned buildings and fence posts on the outskirts, but we had to wince our way through Las Vegas too. At last we turned south off the 15 and sprinted toward the Muddy Mountains (no kiddin’, that’s the name) on the valley road. Thunder heads were gathering and we had a light show over the distant mountains. The storm lingered but we didn’t see more than a few drops and some high humidity. The lightning stayed in the distance and rumbled and rolled on the horizon. The park road winds up to a pass and then rapidly descends into the wild red stone canyons. We found a walk-in-tent-only camp site and pitched our bundle.

It was late afternoon by the time we were set up and the rain clouds made the day hot and muggy. We ventured out to see petroglyphs for which the camp ground was named. Valley of Fire has several petroglyph sites but Atlatl Rock is the closest to the main road and requires the shortest walk. This has made it victim of some vandalism but the collection of old drawings is still impressive. The symbolism of most of the images can only be guessed at but there are human figures, big horn sheep and antelope, and what is presumed to be an atlatl, a marvelous tool that allowed a hunter to throw a short spear with great accuracy and force. At the time the petroglyphs were chipped into the stone reaching their cleft required a more difficult climb. More recently, hairless house apes came and cut stairs into the stone. This is likely when peoples' names in roman script were faintly scratched over some of the petroglyphs. Then more apes came and installed a steel staircase and viewing platform that stands some distance from the wall of the cleft and has a steel mesh and plexiglass barrier. This made the climb very easy and I suppose it helps discourage all but the very best vandals. Still very worth a visit, but I can't help shaking my head. The other petroglyph sites we visited in the park have had less trouble, and they are only visible from below. Binoculars help, and many are quite clear and large enough to to see with out aid or the need to climb the cliffs.

We returned to camp to cook up dinner and watch the bats wheel and turn in the humid dusk. The dense sticky air made me want to sleep nekid but I settled for boxer-briefs. We passed out early planning to be up before dawn the next day. Sunrise is a thing not to miss in Valley of Fire.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

plan B from outer space

Ur personal canvas indeed. Yesterday mrs. a-go-go and I went to have a look at some other vehicles that might take us across the country. We have not had any encouraging words (let alone discouraging, really haven't had any words at all) from Ford or their representatives so we're thinking it's time to consider plan B. Actually there are many plan B's. The idea of some car company being interested enough in our trip to want to make us a swell deal on a new car was a direct result of my fascination with the Ford Transit Connect and its unique features. The price tag of the new van (and that used ones are not yet on the market) was what drove the idea of getting help from Ford in the first place. We're used car people really. I've never bought a new car and mrs. a-go-go's investment in Rodney, a 1999 Rav-4, was an anomaly; her cousin talked her into it. Plan B is likely to be a low mileage used vehicle that could get the job done or to spend some dough on long term maintenance for Rodney. All the plan B's we could afford on our own would eliminate the possibility of (comfortably) sleeping in the vehicle, the initial goal. Eh... we're flexible.

Now that we have been bitten by the bug of sponsorship we feel the need to try again with another company (and vehicle) that would want to be a part of our weird little world of cooking on the engine and calico curtains. Call it plan A-and-a-half? After some internet shopping we decided to take a look at the Kia Soul pictured above, the Nissan Versa hatchback, and the Nissan Cube. All are priced low and the Soul and Cube are marketed to the young and the restless. That might work to our advantage considering our bizarre pitch. These smaller cars would require that we figure on tent camping as sleeping in them is out of the question except under dire circumstances like lighting storms. A roof cargo box would be necessary to keep the inside from becoming a sardine can.

First we headed out to the Kia dealership. It is wedged in a narrow lot near the LA river in Glassell Park. Traffic was nutty and the parking lot is tiny but when we walked in we were greeted right away and shown to the car we were after. The salesman left us alone with the car for a bit and didn't lay on the hard sell. Thumbs up. So far we really like the Kia Soul. The steering wheel seen above is from a fancy one with all the audio controls on the wheel, but we're likely to go for the base model. It's rated at 31mpg on the highway with a 5 speed stick. mrs. a-go-go isn't thrilled about moving to a manual but she will be brave if that's what we can get.
I did some measuring and the space is similar to what we have now in ol' Rodney with a little less height. If we get our hands on this car I would remove the rear seats and the cargo deck. With those out the space is down right cavernous for a li'l car although not long enough for a bedroom. The front seats are comfortable and we imagined ourselves driving all day in it. In a pinch the reclined front seats could be our dry, out of the wind place to sleep. Kia crams a bucket load of standard features even into the base model. Particularly the safety features like stability control, air bags all over the place, and anti-lock brakes. All thumbs up. For mileage, interior space, nice front seats (the back ones are good too but we wouldn't be using them for the trip) an MP3 plug, and a long warranty the Soul would do us dandy. Plus the exhaust manifold (the really hot part for cooking) is right in the front of the engine compartment, has lots of head room between it and the hood (no squishing), and it's a level surface! Our camp cook pots will fit perfectly. Hot water for tea? No sweat! Steamed potatoes and vegetables? Easy peasy!

Next we visited a Nissan dealer in Glendale. Erg... The sales guy looked at us like we were asking to use the bathroom and he couldn't wait to go somewhere else. I like being left alone for a while with the car I came to see, but he really seemed to want us to go away. The Versa is neither well laid out for our needs nor as comfortable as the Soul. The mileage is better but the engine has NO cooking room. Nissan capped everything under the hood with plastic that is supposed to make it look like a high tech race car under there. Poo. Plus mrs. a-go-go stabbed her hand on some mystery object when she tried to open the hood. The Cube is kookie enough looking to be appealing but it suffered from all the same problems as the Versa. Oh well...

There are a few other vehicles I have in mind as possibilities but for now the Soul looks good to us. We would like to go back and test drive the different engine and transmission options, but chiggers can't be boozers. If the Soul comes as a gift (or even a fabulous at-cost deal) from Kia we will take it with glee regardless of transmission or advertising plastered on its sides. So, how am I going to talk Kia into coming along for the ride?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

we jump in pretty places

and sometimes, not so pretty...

Taking interesting pictures while on the road isn't necessarily too difficult. Sometimes the view just presents itself and you snap, snap. snap away. If you head over to flickr and type in say...Mono Lake. You will suddenly find yourself faced with thousands of photos...forty-three plus to be exact(ish). Photo after photo of sunsets and sunrises behind those fabulous tufas. Since everyone else seems to have taken the very same (even better) picture, we a-go-gos jump.

Our first big jump was on the day we "eloped". We now do that same jump every year on our anniversary. Though, knowing that we're leaving L.A., I guess we'll have to find a new jumping spot...with fountain.

After that...I became a bit of a jumping fiend. Making poor Mr.a-go-go jump most everywhere. It's fun, it's different, it's a little bit tiring but it always makes for a great picture.

We've jumped in the Valley of Fire.

Death Valley.


In front of Circus Circus.

We've jumped together...


and with friends (some of whom we had just met)...

So, what say you. Will you jump with us?

Friday, January 22, 2010

lovely Lassen part three, King's Creek

After our hike to Bumpass Hell the day cleared and warmed up. We were treated to views of snow dusted Lassen Peak for the rest of the morning but the warm day took the frosting away by noon. The most popular features of Lassen Volcanic National Park are the volcano, thermal vents, and hot spring fed lakes, but there are wide meadows with meandering streams and varied forest landscapes resulting from past volcanic activity. From the winding park road we looked down through the sparse forest near the peak to see Upper Meadow and the King’s Creek area. The emerald patch was very inviting so we decided to have our second hike of the day on the creek.We stopped for lunch on the bank and some North American Dippers kept us company. They are entertaining small blue-grey birds that wade and dive into streams to catch food. They use their wings to swim under water too. Perched by the creek side they do a bouncing dance that is the origin of their name. For encroaching on their space the Dippers scolded us with a few bobs and sharp “zeets” then carried on searching for their own lunch.

mrs. a-go-go felt a mild cold coming on so we decided that we had had enough hiking for the day. We spent the afternoon exploring what we could from the road including the Devastated Area to the northeast of the peak. Lassen is at the southern end of the Cascades and has had its share of recent volcanic activity. The last major eruption was in 1915 and it was this eruption and pyroclastic flow that created the Devastated Area. The forest here has a different character due to its young age. The contrast is starkly visible in a patch of old forest that was shielded from the blast by dormant Crescent Crater on the flank of Lassen Peak. Strewn across the Devastated Area are sore thumb boulders laying where the eruption dropped them in 1915. The most fascinating are the puzzle stones. These black rocks are split into three dimensional jigsaw pieces that remain interlocked. Ejected from the volcano a puzzle stone’s surface cooled quickly while the center remained hot, and the outer shell split into wild shapes as it shrank. Near the road side we passed Hot Rock. B.F. Loomis traveling through the area in 1915 noted that this large boulder was still too hot to touch days after the eruption.

As our day was ending we decided to start for home and not stay another night. Many of the sights would require a hike we knew we wouldn’t have the energy, so the rest of Lassen would have to wait for another trip. On our way back to the south entrance we stopped for a snack in a clearing by the side of the road. There we had our once-in-a-lifetime sighting. The swinging arms, furry mane, and, “I’m getting outa here,” gait were a dead giveaway even from forty yards away.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lovely Lassen part two, Bumpass Hell!

The morning was bright with fast moving clouds dappling the sunlight. We rubbed our eyes and headed out early to hike to Bumpass Hell, a very active volcanic thermal vent area in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen Peak was frosted with snow or maybe a blanket of hail and we stopped along the way for a few photos. There were only two other cars in the trail head parking area when we arrived. The sky seemed to be clearing for us but the air was bitter cold. The chill and the altitude made mrs. a-go-go’s asthma kick in right away so it was slow going. A mile and a half hike at 8000 feet wore me out too. Fortunately we could hear the hissing steam of the big vent once we had walked to the top of a ridge.
Hearing the cauldron we could believe that it wasn't much further so we muddled through. The steam clouds smell like rotten eggs and the 4th of July. As we approached the constant booming hiss of the main vent became overwhelmingly loud. It sounded like a never ending blast from an enormous locomotive. It's a swell alien landscape with orange and yellow sulfur crystals and bubbling mud pots. The big vent is a howling furnace with a constant jet of supper heated steam. The cloud would blow over the board walk once in a while and the heat and steamy breath was surprising.

The thermal vents at Sulfur Works are well fenced, but the board walk at Bumpass Hell lets one walk close to the bubbling mud pots and hot puddles. Close enough that if the steam blows the right way it gets uncomfortably hot. The places are blanketed with warning signs that ask people not to leave the board walks, because too often some one tries to get closer and falls through the crust into boiling mud and steam. Mr. Bumpass himself (the namesake of the place) lost his leg after he fell through into super heated mud.
There were a few spots where enough sulfur condensed out of the steam to build a visible crystal crust. Mostly it looks like turmeric sprinkled around. The hot ponds were all odd colors from turquoise or green to orange and the milky stream flowing out of Bumpass coated its banks with white and yellow. Plenty of knuckleheads make the walk to Bumpass Hell. People had thrown junk into several of the mud pots to see if they would melt or corrode or whatever. There was a pencil, a water bottle, wadded trash, several obviously misplaced rocks, and many twigs and wood debris. There aren't nearly enough trees alive near the vents to supply all the wood debris, and the majority of it had to be yanked off trees from up the trail and thrown into the cauldrons. It’s sad that people insist on being dopes, but the strangeness of the place overcomes all the human wreckage. The day had begun to warm up so we hiked up from Bumpass Hell and out to see more of our cloudy heaven.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

road trip anecdote, lovely Lassen, part one

I had been curious about Lassen Volcanic National Park for years after reading accounts of how few visitors the park gets compared to the wildly popular Yosemite and Sequoia. So we decided to make it the destination for our summer trip in 2009. If you have been reading the previous posts you will have heard the stories about some of our stops along the way, the Bristlecone Pines and Bodie Ghost Town. We try to find things to do along the way on long trips to break up the route and shorten our drive times. We had been traveling for five days before we reached our goal, Lassen. Snow falls well into the summer in Lassen and the main road typically is not open until July 4th. We arrived in early August to find patches of snow still on the ground, and a warning from the ranger at the entrance station that a thunder storm was moving in for the night. The weather had been very good to us up to then, no wind or rain, not too cold (even at 6,000 feet) but now it looked like we were in for it. Clouds were filling the sky and a sprinkle of rain came down.

At our campsite we strung up a tarp and pitched the tent underneath. With three hours of daylight we took a drive up the mountain to see what we could before the storm. A modest wind was whipping mist and clouds over the road so we didn’t go far. Got a taste of the stink at the Sulfur Works thermal vents and we watched steam rise from a hot spring lake. Back at the campground the rain began in waves and turned to hail and cold wind. We ate our dinner in the car through the worst of it while the tent and tarp took a beating. Our plan was to sleep in the car if the thunder and lightning arrived, that being the safest place in an electric storm. I checked on the state of the tent, it was holding up well and was dry inside, so we bided our time and read books in the car until the sunlight faded. With no thunder we didn't feel the need to stay in the car all night and dashed into the tent when there was a slight lull in the rain and hail. We scrambled in through the tent flap and were warm and dry enough to survive the night. We went to sleep by the steady drip drop on the tarp and hoped that we’d see some sun in the morning.

a message to you, rudy (Ford update)

Last week a friend put me in touch with someone who works for an agency that handles Ford product placement. I sent an e-mail letter to briefly explain our plans in the hope that we could turn the ear of someone in a position to throw us a bone. So far I haven't had a reply, and I plan to send a brief query this week to beg for some response even if it amounts to, "Stop your fooling around." Even that would be helpful as I could move on to plan B since it's time to straighten right out and start digging for a used vehicle that we can afford. Anyhow, I thought I'd post my letter here (all names have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent). Let me know if you think I sold the idea well.

Mr. Kipling,

I am far from knowledgeable about marketing and I am a long way from having a formal proposal for Shere Khan, so I hope you will humor me and forgive my (possibly) knuckle-headed ideas. When the notion of the trip that my special-lady-friend and I (we are married but I hate the word spouse) are planning came up in conversation with Mowgli he was very encouraging and at least wanted to put us in touch with you. I have thanked Mowgli for the time he took from his ridiculously busy day for this and I should like to thank you too. Keeping that in mind, I will try to keep this message brief and include links to the on-line stuff that mrs. a-go-go and I have produced so you can look them over if you think it worthy.

Mowgli gave a taste of what he knows about our plans but I should expand on that. mrs. a-go-go and I have been wishing to make this cross country trip for some time. We regularly make road trip excursions but none have been more than a week. We would like to make this a long (several months) trip to cross the huge stretches of the US and Canada that we have never seen. mrs. a-go-go has been very active on-line for years producing blogs, educational materials, photo journals, and most importantly to her, friends all over the world. Nearly all these friends are people we have never met face to face. When we travel mrs. a-go-go makes a point of looking up who she knows from the internet world in that location and asking for face to face meet ups. So far every meeting has been a marvelous success and we come away feeling like old friends despite having never met in person. mrs. a-go-go loves to disprove the theory that an internet friend cannot be a close bond.

We began to seriously think out our trip when mrs. a-go-go completed her degree last June. While researching vehicles for our trip I stumbled on the new (to the US) Shere Khan Transit Connect and a light went on. The name just begged to be a part of our plans. We went for a test drive and I measured the inside of the little van and started dreaming in three dimensions about what I could do with it. We're a long way from wealthy and will be making this trip on a shoe string. Unfortunately this puts the new car price tag for the Transit Connect out of our budget. The natural next thought was, "Hey! maybe Shere Khan would want to help us out if our trip could popularize their van with people who miss the AM van and the Mestfalia conversions!" Yeah, yeah, swell idea, but it's not the sort of thing I know how to pitch. We started writing about our plans and I looked up Shere Khan's official sponsorship proposal submission web site. So far the responses have been form letters. That hasn't surprised me. What we want to do is a long way from the big organized events they seem to look for.

We don't have a monstrous amount of exposure to offer, but mrs. a-go-go has generated a significant following and over 600,000 views of her photography at:

The collection of our travel photos is at:

So, what do we want from Shere Khan? A free Transit Connect would be swell, but I realize that is probably a pipe dream. A super low price deal on one would do nicely even if it happens to be one that can't be sold as new for some reason. An auto show floor model with mileage and a bizarre paint job, something Shere Khan wants to unload... Uh-huh... hey! it's just a thought.

What can we do for Shere Khan? mrs. a-go-go is a fabulous photographer. We'd be taking their little van to some beautiful places. We'd be camping out in a unique little vehicle that people would want to ask about. We'd drive it all over hell and gone to cities, towns, and national parks (for six months if we can stretch it that far) and Shere Khan could have their advertising message on its billboard sides. Lastly we'd write all about it. Again, I doubt that we can generate what would be called huge numbers, but in the week and a half since we started goin' with the a-go-gos our stat counter has gone from 14 to 49 first time visitors per day. Not much yet, but we drew almost fifty new readers to a blog that is still wet behind the ears.

OK, I have blathered enough. I hope that all this will be of some interest to you, and perhaps to Shere Khan. It would be a huge help just to have the response of a real human telling me I'm crazy instead of an automatic form letter.

Thank you ever so much for your time and attention.
mr. a-go-go

So whadya think? What does a guy have to do to get Shere Khan to notice him?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

bodie, not so old ghosts

Another detour on our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park in August 2009 was Bodie State Historical Park just north of Mono Lake. It is well worth the three miles of unpaved road for those interested in the mining history of California east of the Sierras or for those just seeking something weathered and picturesque. Bodie ghost town is sold as a gold rush boom town (which it was) and a relic of the old west, but I was surprised to learn just how many of the remaining buildings are relatively recent. Several fires swept Bodie and the last one in 1932 obliterated most of the old town center. There are a few brick buildings that survived, but so much of the town built in the 1930s just isn't old west.

In one house open for visitors to walk through, the deteriorating floor reveals layers of art deco patterned linoleum. In the center of town stands the electric transformer building that stepped down the hydroelectric power wired in to run the stamp mills and the mine elevators. It was dark and dirty inside so I can’t show any pictures but the large transformers inside looked like they were plucked right out of a modern electric substation. Still, the place is intriguing.
The last three miles of rough unpaved road doesn't deter the summer crowd. The place was crawling with German and French tourists (and many 'mericans in flip flops, shorts, and visors). There was even a French tour group that had been outfitted by a rental agency with Harleys and black leather 'cycle duds. We arrived early enough that there was only about 15 other people wandering through town, but by the time we were headed out the dirt parking lot was over full and it started to feel like Disneyland.

One of the brick buildings that is relatively stable (or shored up) has been outfitted as a little museum for all the odds and ends found around the town; photos, bottles, two (!?) hearse carriages, signs, books, mine ledgers and maps, a few toys, clothing bits, some medical odds...
All that was fun to see, but again it was not all terrifically old. Not really gold rush but early 20th century small town. I was surprised to find that there are residents in at least three of the old houses. These had shades in the windows and relatively new roofs. They clearly were trying to keep the exterior of these houses looking old and weathered but they were definitely lived in. It's a state park and I know that one of the houses is where the full time ranger lives. I suppose someone has to stay there year round to keep out the looters. There was plenty of old stuff mrs. a-go-go was itching to steal. That said, I don't know what was up with the other residences. Volunteers to help with upkeep of the "arrested decay" of the town? People who still have a family claim to the house and want to live there? Who knows? There was no explanation in the little brochure after the note about the full time ranger. I listened in on one of the tour guides and it was reveled that the rolling green hills surrounding the town had been covered with a juniper and spruce forest before the miners consumed it all for fire wood. If the forest ever returns the town won't look so lonely, but I suppose by then the remaining buildings will have crumbled and the ghosts will be truly old.
more of mrs. a-go-go's Bodie pics


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