Sunday 23rd April – Bye Joshua

No more water rations so we had oats for breakfast. My cold had taken a turn for the worst so I was on rest duty while Jon attempted oats making with my instruction. He did ok but he didn’t quite time it right, resulting in luke warm oats. They were still yummy. Paul wandered over again as we ate and showed us a video from last night’s gig. Apparently it had been a brilliant show in a magic setting. You could see the pride in his eyes for his son. Jon graciously accepted his offer of a freshly brewed coffee and we returned the favour with a cookie. We exchanged information before Paul went off for a morning trail run.

After brekkie, I was feeling much better so we racked up for a morning of climbing before heading out. Jon had his eye on “The Eye” (ha ha), a 5.4 grade climb just outside camp that ended at a small cavity at the top of the rock. We walked ourselves over there, clinking and clanking away and found the climb deserted. It was fully in the shade and caught the wind so we donned our jackets for the climb and belay. After looking up at the rock for a bit wondering where the route was supposed to be, Jon got right into it and climbed/scrambled through the first part before placing his first bit of gear and turning on to the right face. It was a heavily featured wall with plenty of gear placements that Jon took advantage of. He was quiet during the climb, fully focussed, so I remained the same. I switched between watching him and watching the few cars come and go near the campsite. Jon was only out of view for the last few moves and then while setting up the anchor but thankfully this time we could hear each other perfectly.

I took a backpack up with me carrying Jon’s shoes for the walk-off at the top and trialled hanging my water bottle off my harness. The climbing was fun, though the wind was a bit distracting. On the way up, Jon had taken advantage of a nut that had been left behind in the wall. When I got to it, I set about getting it out before I realised it was not Jon’s and had probably been where it was for a long time. It wasn’t moving, especially without a nut tool. Other than that, the climb was smooth, the gear placement good. The anchor Jon built at the top was pretty sweet too.

We enjoyed the view from the eye and I mucked around trying to do a human bridge over a gap, not having much success. It was a great place to end a climb, especially when it turned out to be our last in Joshua Tree. Jon didn’t feel like he had his “lead head” and my back was giving me trouble so we decided to cal it a day, but not before walking off the eye and finding a few boulders to play around on at the back.

There was a couple already there, trying super hard stuff as their three-legged dog watched on. We played around on some of the easier stuff, this time with no pants incidents. After a few problems and no topping out, we considered our time climbing in Joshua Tree over. We clinked and clanked back to the car which we’d moved over to the day-use carpark and set about sorting our gear. A young family had parked next to us and were laid out on their bouldering pads repairing a flat tyre from their stroller and we got talking to them as we both went about our work. We’d seen them around at camp the last few days, but had never exchanged more than a friendly wave. James from the UK, Mira from Sweden and their nine-month old Elliot were travelling around America for a month in an RV rental. They were super interesting people and easy to talk to. Elliot was also a beautifully behaved baby, quite happy to bounce around on Daddy’s lap while Mummy tried to find the leak in the pram tyre tube. Once our gear was sorted out, I made some lunch and we ate as we continued talking. It was nice that we all gave each other company while doing our tasks. James was very interested in my blog and noted it down before we left and said that if we were ever in Sweden, we should look him up for a free stay. Very nice of him!

With lifted spirits, we drove out of Joshua Tree, which already felt a bit like home after only three days. Jon did the driving as I consulted the Atlas on our way out. I’d decided that instead of driving over to Colorado through Arizona south of the Grand Canyon, that we should head north and skirt the southern end of Utah to get there since I’d done Arizona to death over the last month. Jon was happy with that so that’s where we aimed. We had a quick stop in at the Coyote Corner to refill our water, then it was just us and the road for a good couple of hours.

The road was straight and bouncy in parts, with dilapidated and abandoned houses along the way. At some point on the highway, we came across a section of fence that was entirely covered with shoes for no apparent reason and as the highway started following train tracks, we saw people’s names formed on the bank with rocks, something I remember seeing when I’d passed this way over seven months ago.

When we came across a funny looking building in the middle of nowhere just off the road, we drove down the dirt road to investigate. It was a normal-sized single story building with a giant white tower on top and we were both thinking something to do with direction. Sure enough, the sign on the door said VOR, which Jon later found out stands for VHF Omnidirectional Radio Range which is a fancy name for an out-dated navigation system for planes. We learnt something new!

As we drove, we continued playing the Odyssey-Astro game, me losing very poorly. I only wish my excitement level when I saw an Astro gave me extra points, but Jon wasn’t having any of that. He wouldn’t even let me count my own Astro! Because of my pathetic losing, we decided that we should start again when we left the state, to give me some sort of fighting chance. After driving through the barren desert valley, we reached the Colorado River that signified the border and the score was a demolishing 16-5.

At first sight of the Colorado, I was keen for a swim. We’d both been sweating in our seats the last couple of hours and at the first sight of water, my mouth drooled. Plus, it was the Colorado! Just across the border into Arizona is the town of Parker. We saw a sweet boat ramp just across the bridge and thought that would do for a swim so off we drove. When we came upon a security gate, it didn’t look good and we found out that we’d driven into a private community in which only the residents could enjoy the river. Righto then, we carried on. Just outside the community, there was a pull out on the side of the road so I figured we could swim there. I scurried down the steep embankment while Jon googled for a free swimming spot. I got access to the river down the embankment, but it wasn’t really the best spot for swimming so we went off looking for Jon’s spot.

At the Blue Water Resort and Casino, we read a very confusing sign that day use was $5 Mondays-Thursdays and $10 Fridays-Thursdays. Ummmm? On top of that, you had to pay at the guard house, which there was no sign of. Whatever, that was all too hard, so still we continued on our way. This time, Jon was sure he’d found a public boat ramp and sure enough, when we turned off the highway, there it was. No fees, no nothing. I drove on a bit, looking for more of a swimming spot and we struck gold. A dirt pullout with a path down the embankment to the water. A quick costume change and we were swimming in the Colorado. Across the river was a packed RV park and we were being watched by people in their holiday homes on our side. I swam out into the main channel to test the current and discovered it was quite strong as I swam back. We floated around for a bit watching the jetskis and power boats play around in the water then retreated up the bank feeling thoroughly refreshed and washed.

On the way out of Parker, we stopped in at Parker Dam, just to see what was what. It had security at both ends and there was no stopping allowed over the dam. It was an impressive structure, built in the 1930s, the same era as the Hoover Dam just upstream. This one, with four turbines, is the deepest in the world. Jon and I geeked out over the structure and had a nice chat to a security guard that came over to offer us a brochure. He told us that the gates of the dam had only been opened once in 1980, resulting in a 10 foot water surge when they’d expected only three feet. Whoops, many people lost their homes. He also confirmed our guess that security had only been in place post-9/11. Even though he carried a weapon, I’m sure he’d never had cause to fire it. Lovely guy.

Back at the car, just as we were about to pull out, four identical four-door Porches rolled in along with a Sprinter van. The Porches all had big antennas on the back and each car had two people in it. I immediately pegged them as a Porsche test trip. All Porsche engineers, out doing dust-intrusion testing in the desert and having a sweet old time while they were at it. Their plates were from Georgia so they’d come a long way in what I’m sure is perfect comfort! It took me back to my GM days. I snapped a photo and we were out.

Nothing to do but follow the highway north through still more desert, although it was nice having the blue/green Colorado in our sights for most of the way. Entering Lake Havasu City, we stopped for petrol and Jon changed my life by showing me that there is a specially designed bracket in the fuel filler door for the filler cap while up to this day, like a sucker, I’d been taking it off and placing it on the side step while I filled up. After all this time and I’d never wondered what that jutty-out piece of metal was on the inside of the door was. Jon had himself an icecream, then we were on our way. Just as we left the petrol station, the Arizona Odyssey-Astro score was 3-0, not in my favour.

I’d pegged a BLM camp forty-five minutes up the road so that’s where we were aiming. We stopped in at a rest area to see if that was any good, but decided the seclusion and possibility of a fire were more tempting so moved on. When we came upon a small pullout right in between the highway and the trainline, we were happy campers. It was about half an hour before sunset too, so perfect timing.

I got our chairs and table out, then went off for a wander to the train line. As I got there, I saw a train coming and stayed nearby the tracks to watch it go past. Jon joined me by the time it was about a mile away. The train driver honked his horn and waved as he sped by and we waved back, like little kids by the tracks, it was a cool sight!

We wandered back to camp, collecting firewood on the way. Jon got the fire going while I got dinner going (cave man make fire, cave woman make food). We sat down to dinner just as the fire started raging, the wind helping it along beautifully. We spent the rest of the night writing our respective journals by fire light and avoiding the exploding rocks emanating from the fire ring that Jon had built.

When I wandered off for a bathroom break and come back with a huge flat piece of ply, the explosions became violent, miniature rocks flying everywhere. When I heard the buzz of one flying past my ear, we both retreated well back from the fire, Jon sarcastically commenting that it was a such a nice fire that we could really enjoy. When we dared go near it again, one more explosion happened and the rock happened to hit Jon right in the clothes. He found the culprit rocks in the fire ring and pushed them out of the pit. Finally, after a bit of fiddling with a really big stick, we could relax by the fire until it was time for bed.

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