Friday, 24 June 2011

Bodie (and no Doyle)... to Meadowcliff RV Resort and Concentration Camp

Yes. Today was an interesting day. As I said, we headed out this morning for a trip to the gold-mining ghost town of Bodie, which is set above 8300 feet in the isolated hills near the Nevada State Line. The first 10 miles or so to Bodie is normally a paved road, but they were busy ' putting your tax dollars to work', so the entire stretch was a series of stops for roadworking crews and one-way sections. Eventually, the paved road gave way to a rough section of compacted ground, which is only available in the summer. This went on for about 3 miles up switch-back roads until reaching the town of Bodie.

For me, Bodie is one of the most interesting places we've ever been. History frozen. Looking through the windows of any of the 100 abandoned buildings reveals discarded beds, tables, clothes, cars, piles of gold, food and drink (just testing that you're reading every word). An astonishingly raw understanding of life in a late nineteenth century gold-rush town.

The old hotel is there, the bank (complete with safes), a school, general store, internet cafe, church (again...). Even the rusting relics of wagons,  mine lift-engines, and a few cars:

I loved the place. If you ever get the chance, don't miss it, before it rots away forever.

Fair enough. Done Bodie. So to speak. We now had to face the drive back out of the mountains, dealing with all the roadworks etc. However, as we drove out of the car park at about 12.30, the track continued to a different park exit gate, and a sign declaring that the State Line was 6 miles away, and a place called Hawthorne 20 miles away (or so, I forget...). Applying our usual theory of ' never go back', we decided to continue on this new route.

Very quickly, the gravel road started to get a bit more bumpy and stony. We had to slow down, especially as at the same time the road was becoming narrower, until it was unquestionably just single-lane. Just as we started to worry about what would happen if someone was coming the other way, it began to dawn on us that perhaps no-one would ever come the other way.

We arrived at a stream crossing the road (lets call a spade a spade... it was a track by now). The stream had cut deep gullies into the track, effectively cutting it in two. This meant that we should stop, and figure out a way to back up and/or turn the camper around (turning 11m of camper around in a track 3m wide was always going to be something of a challenge).

So I floored it. Hanging on to the wall of the mudbank bordering the track, and letting the tail of the RV slide behind. We were through!! Hooray.

For the next thirty minutes the road became narrower and narrower, and there were few places to attempt a turn-around, and even if I could, how could we cross the river again (I know, it was a stream, but after crossing it successfully it became a river).

In the next hour the track closed to high-sided rock-canyon walls, and little more than the two wheel-ruts. Even a shallow pool, which I explored by foot. We were in trouble.

I must admit to becoming somewhat concerned at this point. I even got a little angry that Sarah wanted to go and take photos of the stream that dogged our wheel-tracks :).

Still, never mind (we all thought together), lets just check the map and see where we are.

Oops. This was the only road/track for 40 miles. Lets see, 40 miles at 5mph, means we might get out of here by tomorrow morning. Oh shit.

Right, good. Let's not panic. Phone someone for help. Ring the bloody Rangers,

"Hello, I'm a female human being, can you help me? Breasts."

But.....  no network coverage.

Shit again. I think at this point we were all seriously concerned. We couldn't turn around, the track was more or less vanishing beneath us, we had no telephone, and we had run out of Coca-cola.

We decided to keep looking for a place to reverse, despite the risk of the river-crossing on the return, and within the next 5 minutes we all shouted at once. A car in the distance, at the bottom of this valley! There was a car--a pick up truck, surrounded by lots of cattle. Thank goodness, someone who could at least direct us!

We crawled forwards,  a bit like the unmistakeable sense of bowel-loosening in my abdomen. As we got nearer, things became clearer. Yes, there were cattle. A lot of them.

And yes, they were surrounding a fairly new-looking pick-up truck. But hopefully there was no-one who came with the truck. It was shot-up; scarred by hundreds of bullet holes and ricochets. The windows were smashed or crazed. The doors were left open, as if the occupants had attempted a quick escape.

It's amazing just how well an 11m RV does fit into a 3m track surrounded by cattle when you really need it to. And even more amazing just how fast it's possible to complete a three point turn if you delete two of the turns.

For all of these reasons, we do not have photos of the pick-up truck, nor the cattle, except the lone one above.  Though, for the record, as we turned around in a hurry, we noted that the track disappeared into a serious river-ford, and a slightly tardy sign that (mostly) read,

"4 WD vehicles only. Progress on minimum-maintained roads at own risk.
PS. Love you. Park Rangers."

Gee, thanks for the advice. Even without the freaky shot-up pick-up and the 'biggest cows Lewis had ever seen' (he quickly added a caveat to exclude school-mates), further progress was impossible.

We started our way back up the road, wondering just how we were going to get back, and considered our situation again. The last message we sent by FB, the day before, was that we would be out wild-camping in bear country, near Mono Lake. When would anyone start to miss us? Even when they did, they were unlikely to be looking in the wild hills of the California/Nevada State Line!

As stupid ideas went, this was one of the most exceptional. To quote Baldrick again, "Stupidee, stupidee, stupidee."

An hour or so of slow and hazardous driving brought us back to within sight of the river crossing (okay, shit, its a stream) - and we were not alone. We stopped short, and walked up to where a pick-up with horse trailer was stuck in the stream bed where we had narrowly escaped. There were another 6 vehicles and trailers behind, all waiting to cross.

In turns out this group of cowboys and cowgirls were from a company providing horse-riding adventures in the wilds. And they hadn't expected to get stuck! Using jack-lifts, wooden beams and an enormous pile of gathered rocks, we finally managed to shift their stuck trailer, accompanied by a great whoop of cowboy happiness! And the cowboys were quite pleased too.

Using the rock-bridge that we built, the remainder of the trailers crossed, and then the wranglers walked the horses over. Now it was just our turn. The boss of the crew kindly offered to wait as we attempted to go back in the opposite direction. Of course, after the caravan of trucks and horse-boxes, the track was in a worse state than the first time... and this was uphill!!

I'll post a video of the escape (one day), when we've got it available, but (obviously) we did get out (after roughly 5 hours all tolled!) and we did head out of Bodie and to an RV resort 50 miles down the road near Coleville. I have rarely been so relieved...  and we promised each other to never do that again!

In the end, the only damage was a broken rubber strap on the generator's exhaust pipe, which happened when I squeezed the RV up against the fence to allow the wranglers' vehicles to get past. It could have been so much worse.

But then became worse after all! When we met Hitler's long-lost cousin at Meadowcliff RV Resort and Concentration Camp....

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