Last week, Kim and I took a road trip to the Silverado VW campout, swap and car show at Oak Canyon Park in Irvine, California. The campout was just a one-night affair, and as such, we decided to turn it into a bit of a micro-adventure by leaving early and camping along the way.
We left Wednesday morning and headed toward Yuma, Az via Arizona highway 238 through Gila Bend. This is a lightly traveled two-lane road, perfectly suited to the cruising speed of a standard VW bus. At one point we caught up to a westbound train, and remarked at the incredible artistry painted on the side of most of the train cars. The traditional graffiti words were common, but there were a few cars with robots, animals, and buildings that were really well done. I was too busy driving to get pictures, but trust me, it was there.
At Yuma we fueled up and headed North on US highway 95 into the desert. Highway 95 passes across the Gila river, and a glance to the left gave us a quick view of the bridge to nowhere.
Originally built in 1929, the highway was re-routed in 1968 and this bridge was decommissioned. The arid climate has been kind to it, and it is quite impressive.
Continuing north we found ourselves entering the US Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds, were it tests all sorts of new weapons, gear, and tactics. Guarding the main gate are these two bad boys:
With a little research I discovered one of these guns is a M65 280mm canon. It’s noteworthy because it was designed to launch a tactical nuclear warhead a distance of seven miles, which seems like an absolutely BONKERS idea today. I’m assuming it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Further North on US-95, and I couldn’t help but notice the vast numbers of Corvettes heading south, to which I deduced there must be a track of some variety out there. Moments later we passed by the General Motors proving grounds, which is where all the hot-weather testing on the new GM models takes place.
A bit further still and we entered the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. We found our turn-off, Palm Canyon Road, and went looking for a campsite.
The KOFA mountains are very imposing, and the refuge gives us an opportunity to see desert vegetation and wildlife in a virtually unspoiled setting. It’s a fairly well maintained road, but it’s still a good idea to be prepared for off-roading and desert camping if you try it yourself.
We set up camp and went on with the order of the evening, making dinner and drinking beer.
Thursday morning we made breakfast, packed up, and went on a hike up Palm Canyon.
After a half-mile hike up, around, and through the desert, we stumbled upon a side canyon, half way up the mountain that had a stand of palm trees in it. It was a bit anti-climatic, but it was a nice day and a pretty hike.
Once we returned to the bus, we loaded up and continued North on US-95 to Parker, AZ.
After visiting with our good friend Doug and dipping our toes in the Colorado River, we crossed the Parker Dam into California.
We stopped and checked out the Dam, the site of a water-war between California and the Arizona Navy during its construction. It’s an impressive piece of engineering and the deepest dam in the world. After learning all we could about the Dam from the info signs, we headed south on the Parker Dam Back Country Byway.
This is a beautiful, twisty piece of tarmac that parallels the Colorado river back to Parker, at which point we turned right on California Highway 62 and headed toward our destination for the day, Joshua Tree National Park.
A few interesting stops were made along the way to Joshua tree, one being a large directional sign covered in stickers and art.
Which way do we go? To the west of course!
We pulled into Joshua Tree and immediately set to the task of finding a campsite without a reservation. Most camp spots in Joshua Tree are first-come first-serve, but the place was packed! I didn’t expect it to be so busy on a Thursday. We somehow found a spot, and then proceeded to get sandwiched into our spot by people camping on either side.
The sheer amount of people detracted from the majesty of our surroundings, and we didn’t allow ourselves enough time to do anything but a drive-through of the park. I think if we were climbers or had enough time to hike, the place would have been a wonderland. We left the crowds in haste, and headed down to the Salton Sea.
Neither Kim or I had ever been to the Salton Sea, and when we arrived, we were blown away by the sheer scale of the place.
We pulled into the Mecca Beach Campground and almost had the whole place to ourselves. A very friendly camp host gave us a rundown of the area and after a lunch and a beer, I took a much-needed shower. We spent the rest of the day messing around the shoreline, reading, lounging, and drinking beer. Everyone says it stinks there, but I didn’t notice anything more pungent than the regular fishy ocean-smell.
Just before sunset a couple pulled in next to us and set up camp. We offered them some of our Dutch-Oven Jambalaya, they offered Jalapeño Cheese bread, and we made instant friends! They were out taking pictures and escaping the rigors of life in Metro Los Angeles. After the mess that was camping at Joshua Tree, it was really nice to spend a quiet night laughing around the campfire.
The next morning we awoke to a light drizzle. We packed up camp, said our goodbyes and headed toward the Silverado VW Campout, swap and show. The rain got heavier as we got closer to the event. We pulled in and set up camp with our friends Debby and Gary, and got to the task at hand, drinking beer and shooting the bull. Not long after, our friend Doug pulled in and set up camp. So many jokes cracked, so many stories told, so many memories shared.
The campout had an impressive amount of nice buses, most of which came prepared for rain and didn’t mind the moisture. ‘
It continued to rain throughout the night, but the morning was clear and the show cars came out to play.
There were many really nice cars in attendance, and before I knew it, the show was over, the campout was over, and it was time to go home. We packed up camp, said our goodbyes and headed back to Phoenix. Aside from a broken speedometer cable, we had no mechanical issues and arrived safely in the early evening.
Overall, we had a great time, and look forward to the next event. Thanks to Andy Kimball of Periscope Enterprises for putting this event together. Thanks to Doug, Debby, and Gary for the laughs and the memories. See you guys soon!