We left Shady Lane and Barstow behind, and picked up the old Route 66 east. The plan being to head the long way around to Joshua Tree National Park, via Amboy (and Amboy crater - an old volcano), and 29 Palms.
This is one of those occasions where our lack of planning reveals its flip-side. If you don't do the research, you don't find out that the roads we planned to take were washed out by a big storm some time back.
The fifty or so miles of Route 66 between Barstow and this point are also in horrible condition. We were forced to drive about 35/40 mph, else we'd shake ourselves to pieces. When we stopped to get some local info on the closed roads (yes, sometimes we do ask - even if it's a bit late), we were told that California state is very unlikely to spend any more money on repairing the 66. The expectation is that they will let it fall apart. Why?
Well, most of the 66 is replaced in these parts by the I40; an interstate highway that crosses the middle of the Mojave desert. The theory, I suppose, is logical enough; why maintain two roads when you only need one?
But there is a very obvious reason why this logic is wrong: the iconic Route 66 is a tourist attraction in its own right. It seems ridiculous that the state of California would just let that classic association be washed away, season by season. That's not to mention the symbiosis between the 66 and the local businesses which are dotted along the route - now dead or dying as even the tourist traffic gives up on the bone-shaker option, and switches on to the I40.
The I40 is an anonymous slab which, although it gives some fantastic views of the desert at 55mph, has none of the charm of the Mother Road. Neither is it a good idea to try to stop on the emergency shoulder on the I40 to take it all in - the winds are ferocious, and the trucks (commonly driving 70 to 80 mph) regularly fail to hold their lane. No; the shoulder is suicide.
The true roadtrippers' route is the 66 - with all its twists, turns and dalliance. That's why we visit the frontier lands, right? What a shame if it disappears.
Of course, we were now forced into a similar choice; backtrack on the Route 66 and then south to Joshua Tree, or take to the I40 and head east. There simply are no other made-up roads through the Mojave.
On our trips, although we try not to plan too much, rather just let things happen as they will, we do nevertheless have some golden rules:
1. Never drive below 1/4 tank of gas
2. Never go back
3. Always talk to strangers
4. Never touch yellow snow
Applying Rule #2 made this decision easy - I40 it was. Quite a difficult drive all the same; the winds were threatening to drive us off the road without warning. Stops are difficult too; the rest areas are upwards of 75 miles apart, and as I suggest above, stopping on the shoulder is just stupid.
Still, we made good time, and arrived at the next town, Needles, before sunset. Needles lies on the great Colorado river, right on the edge of the Mojave desert.
In the summer, the daily high rarely drops below 100F - 85F is a cold day. At this time, at least when we arrived, the temperature was 75F. Very pleasant. Back in the summer? No thanks.
A fairly good place, although we weren't off to the best start. When we arrived at the gate, I spoke to the camp host, and told him that good internet access was very important. His answer was;
"Yes, we have internet."
I only have myself to blame for failing to read into that reply; turns out, they have ONE internet connection for each site. i.e. we were on site 23, and therefore we get one connection, regardless. I went to speak to the hosts again, once we had discovered this:
"Hi, err. There only seems to be a one-device sign up possible for the internet?"
"That's right. One site, one device, one internet connection."
"I see. Is it possible to get another sign-in, another connection?"
"So if we were a family of seven in our seven-person RV, how many connections would we be allowed?"
"Right. Is there any way around that?"
"No. One site, one device, one..."
"... internet connection; yes, I get it."
"Well, that's why so many RV parks have such poor wifi; too many people connected on too many devices."
"Or the bandwidth is too low?"
"Well look, if you dared to say to your campers - one site, one tv, one tv channel connection - what would they say?"
"Well, that's not the same."
"Is it not?"
"You'll just have to share. And by the way, on Christmas Eve, we are having a Pot Luck dinner. You're all invited!"
"All of us? Or just one?"
More on the Pot Luck Dinner soon. For now, Merry Christmas from a very quiet and otherwise perfect RV Park.
PS. I got around the issue by creating a local Bluetooth connection between devices, and sharing the internet connection with one computer. That put a smile on my face.
PPS. What's not so good, especially for Christmas Day, is that my computer is failing. I've erased and reinstalled OSX on the hard drive twice now; but I don't think it's going to last much longer. Sad face.