Monday, May 27, 2013

Williams, AZ and Kelso Dunes

On the way out of the Grand Canyon, we decided to stop in nearby Williams for a little small town Memorial Day fun. We’d seen online that there was a parade and rodeo and thought Wynne would enjoy both. None of the RV Parks – we needed some water, sewer and wireless after a couple days disconnected – got very consistent reviews other than being a convenient place to park your rig while you took the train up to the canyon. A neat idea, actually. We pulled into the first one we saw, The Canyon Motel and RV Park, and grabbed an overpriced spot in a gravel parking lot. Of course, all we wanted was the services and to get Wynne down for a nap. Still, [BEGIN OLD MAN RANT]  I didn’t really like the looks of the mohawked, pierced and tattooed dude crawling out of the military style pup tent about 3 feet from the side of our trailer or the fact that the sewer connections were all uphill of the sites. Don’t these people know $#!T flows downhill? (talking about the septic, I’m sure our site mate  “Blade” was a very nice fellow) [END OLD MAN RANT]

Like Winslow - another Route 66 town - had been, Williams is arranged along two parallel one way streets that run its entire length. While the woman at the front desk of the RV Park had no idea about any parade or rodeo, we did learn that there was a gunfight every evening at 7 on a different corner in downtown Williams. I know what you’re thinking, we have that at home in Oakland, but this is different. We headed downtown to poke around in the various touristy Southwestern shops but none had the exact feather and bead-adorned dreamweaver or shirt with airbrushed wolf in front of a sparkly moon that we were looking for. A few came close…

We did, however, find a western shop with a selection of kids cowboy boots. We immediately grabbed the smallest ones we saw, a pair of pink ones with tiny rhinestones, and held them up for Wynne. “ON! ON! ON!” she said dropping down onto the carpeted floor and lifting up a foot. They were still pretty roomy, but she did a good job shuffling around the store collecting oohs and ahhs from the other shoppers while her parents did the “Can we really justify getting those? Would we ever put them on her?” routine. We found a pair of brown boots in the same size and swapped them onto her little feet. She did a couple laps before noticing the pink ones peeking out of some tissue paper on the counter. “ON! ON! ON!” In the end, we had to crush her little spirit by going with the brown ones because, we rationalized, we’d be a lot more likely to put them on her and they could be used for other kids of either gender down the road. She seems okay with our decision, wouldn’t ya say?

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After dinner, we followed the general flow of walking traffic to the corner where the flyer we’d seen indicated the shootout would occur that night. I guess in a state that doesn’t require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, the Chamber of Commerce in Williams decided it was a good idea to give people a little warning of exactly where the gunfire would break out to avoid confusion. The little show/skit closed down a block of the street and was good kitchy fun complete with blanks in the guns that had most of the kids plugging their ears and the parents plugging the rest.



Plus, one of the local rednecks was nice enough to yell “Hey gurrrrrl!” out the window of a pickup truck at Ann which is always a nice ego boost.

Our plan was to head back into California to drive up the western side of the Sierras. That meant crossing the Mojave Valley, another lonesome stretch of highway with strong winds blowing huge dust clouds across the road and the temperature topping 101 degrees. At our lunch stop, Wynne and I ventured into the Vons just for some AC… and to do a little hat shopping.

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We’d scoped out the map for green sections along the route and after cross- referencing what we found with a Google “airstream” search (we’ve mentioned before that including the word “airstream” in searches for campgrounds and places to visit seems to refine the results a little more to our tastes for some reason), came across a Watsons Wander post about Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve. Thanks Tim and Amanda!

Ten miles or so down a deserted road and another three on washboard dirt, and we had the dunes pretty much to ourselves. With the prospect of seeing some friends and playing some music the following weekend, I actually got my guitar out from under the long storage compartment under the bed and played a little.


Honestly, I’ve gotten worse reactions from audiences.



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We really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. It was fun to let Wynne do some wandering.

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But mostly just lounging around…



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Sunset on the dunes…



The next morning, we set out for a little desert exploration. We noticed all kinds of little animal tracks in the sand and were trying to figure out what could have been making them. Then we saw this guy.



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A little baby prairie dog, obviously having trouble scrambling up the sandy slope. Ann said I was heartless for not helping it, but between not knowing where its mother was and a desire to spend the rest of the trip without the Bubonic Plague, I stuck to my position. By helping it, I argued, we were only supporting a weak genetic strain and in the process dooming the species to certain extinction while at the same time starving a nest full of baby hawks whose mother would have nothing to regurgitate into their waiting beaks. Peep! Peep! Why do you HATE baby hawks, ANN?

You see, a truly evolved rodent would have developed a more sophisticated method of communicating with its group. You know, like this video we found online after seeing a ton of marmots while riding a rented F800GS motorcycle over La Bonnette in the French Alps in 2010.  

We scrambled up the dunes as far as little legs would let us go. Wynne eventually got tired too.

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While there’s really NOTHING there, Kelso Dunes was an unexpected find along the way back towards the mountains. Especially when traveling with a little one, it’s really pretty amazing to be able to pull into an empty sandy pullout with nothing but a great view and feel settled and “at home” immediately. Just about every night on this trip, I’ve woken up at some point during the night and it’s taken me a second to remember where we were. I’d immediately know I was comfortable and warm and felt secure, but then gradually, the scenery outside the trailer walls – dangling Cottonwood trees or gnarled pinion pines, towering mountains or disappearing canyons, a row of trailers or no one for miles – would come into focus, and I’d feel perfectly content knowing I was “out there” but also “in here.”