Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Island Hopping

The Turks and Caicos Islands are Nature's way of saying – come on down for a warm swim in crystal blue waters along pure white sand. An invitation like that is not one to turn down and most people don’t.

Ah - a warm beautiful beach - seems enticing!
Who would?

Besides the beaches, there are other places just a short distance from Provo (that’s what the locals call Providenciales) that are worth a visit. Something totally different than what most tourists would imagine. And that would be the islands of North and Middle Caicos.
First stop - North Caicos.

Welcome to the jungle, baby!

One of numerous ponds surrounded by lush jungle on North Caicos
This island, which is about the same size as Provo, is a must for those who want to venture off the regular traveled path and see what a nearly deserted island is all about. Yes, there are plenty of long stretches of bright soft sand to tread upon barefoot while sticking ones toes into the aqua colored water but there is also the intoxicating draw of the green and lush jungle.

North Caicos can only be reached by boat or small plane. And there are not a lot of amenities for the person who likes to travel in comfort and style. There are a few hotels but nothing like the luxury resorts located in Provo – the jumping off point for travel to the other islands.
J and L were excited as they arrived at the TCI ferry service marina departure point in Provo near Big Blue and across from Mangrove Cay at six a.m. for the thirty minute boat ride to North Caicos.

Step in an buy a ticket for island hopping

Now Sit back and enjoy the trip
When visiting North Caicos one should rent a four wheel drive Jeep. There are plenty of rental vehicles available but the chance to go off road onto the sandy beaches or the thick jungle is too much of a temptation. The explorer needs a machine which will take him or her where their adventurous heart desires.

That’s what J and L chose on their last visit to the British West Indies. A Jeep with the torque and ability to go where they wanted without complaint.

A Jeep is the only way to go!
A different day was planned while visiting this small piece of paradise in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Though it is thought the Turks and Caicos are in the Caribbean they are not, exactly. The forty islands and cays are actually located in the Atlantic Ocean, 550 miles southeast of Miami. But with the long history of early explorers and legendary pirates the Caribbean seems to fit the geographical term for this locale. It isn’t but does a precise location always matter?

For pirate treasure, yes – but for the rest, not so much.

Today - not so much
After getting our jeep – rather hinky at first when a gentleman named Roger strolled up to us as we disembarked and said our Jeep was waiting. J had never spoken to Roger but instead had made an inquiry with a woman named Maria the night before about renting the Jeep for the day. How did Roger know we were the ones he was looking for? Perhaps, as J likes to believe he has that certain look of a well-seasoned traveler and EXPLORER is etched across his ‘manly’ forehead.

Turns out Roger does this regularly with people coming over from Provo. He smiled, we smiled and within a few minutes we were off bumping down the road toward unknown adventure – of course we had a map given to us by Roger.

By the way – Roger didn’t know anyone by the name of Maria from Provo. Hmm. But he was the only man with jeeps -- so the deal was struck.

North Caicos has a population of around 1,400 compared to Provo which boasts nearly 24,000 residents - not counting the extra thousands of tourists who visit weekly.

But who is counting? It's the emptiness of the place which demanded the adventure begin. 
Not far from the docks is an abandoned resort - stopped in the middle of the real estate disaster in 2009. What was started was not finished and only the ocean breezes and buzzing insects occupy what would have been a first class destination. Very sad.

Very sad indeed for the developer
After leaving the would-be resort, we were off for breakfast at My Dees Restaurant on the Kings Road near the town of Whitby and marveled at the detail of preparation for our fare. Delicious and filling and a good start for a day of traveling.

Driving through the lush landscape emphasized the difference between North Caicos and Provo. Most times being able to see a yard or two off the roadway was impossible due to the growth of the vegetation. Stopping here or there to snap some photos showed us the countryside was alive with sounds of insects and the myriad of bird species was nearly uncountable as they winged here and there in the air near us.

It was the bats during the early morning that was really entertaining especially as we exited the Jeep for photo-ops and they seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them.

The Wade's Green Plantation was a must see since it was a Loyalist’s home after leaving the newly formed United States in the late 18th century. Long roads led the way through thick and thicker undergrowth – the place was alive with sound and the humidity was only making it more exciting.

Moved from the Colonies to TCI during the Revolution

Thick jungle background instead of barren rocky like Provo
After leaving the historic site of Wade Green Plantation a side trip was taken to Flamingo Pond – it is boasted in the guidebooks that this pond has the largest collection of flamingoes of any of the islands.

This is what Flamingo Pond is supposed to look like - but not when J and L visited
Thirty minutes later combing the pond and skies J and L ended up with a large goose egg – not one flamingo was seen. So much for guidebooks but the mosquitos were biting – back to the idea of complaints and not about the Jeep. Dozens of bites later – some probably sand fleas left J and L feeling like pin cushions.

Forgot to bring the DEET! Silly travelers.

After spending the better part of the morning exploring we found ourselves crossing the causeway into Middle Caicos (again about the same size of North Caicos with a population of nearly 280) and then to Bombara Beach.  (As L points out -- the one the rum is named after -- ah, perhaps that's the reason the rum's always gone.) A nearly deserted three mile long pearl white sandy beach begging to be laid upon. Only four other people were there in the hours we spent soaking up the late morning sunshine and enjoying a dip in the warm and shallow waters.

Forested jungle to water's edge

An island 1/4 mile away - water is only thigh deep

Sandy, wet and rested we headed back toward North Caicos.

Nourishment was needed after the activity of the day and so it was taken at the Mudjin Bar and Grill located at the Blue Horizon Resort. Another wonderful meal and views of the Mudjin Harbour just added to the delight of a late lunch.

Great food and terrific view from the Mudjin Bar and Grill
After a quick detour to view the Indian Cave dating back to pre-Columbus times which was awe-inspiring we were back on the road to the ferry on North Caicos.

Indian Cave - near Mudjin Bar and Grill
We made it with barely any time left before missing the last boat off the island for the return trip to Provo wondering where the time had gone.

So, on this last visit to the British West Indies J and L explored the wonders of two other islands in the world of Turks and Caicos.

It is always well worth it to do some island hopping when the chance offers itself – the sights and solitude was well worth it.

Lots of exploring to do while Island Hopping in TCI

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

March Field Museum

Come on in for a history lesson - J and Bob Hope presenting

Museums are always interesting venues to while away the hours while learning a thing or two. That thing or two depends on the museum but learning is always present while viewing various exhibits.

Lots of planes - we mean lots of planes
Literally - right next door to the March Air Reserve Base

A well-conceived and easy accessible air museum located in Riverside County in Southern California is such a place. Hundreds of different aircraft, housed both within the confines of March Field Museum and in the acres surrounding the main building, offer visitors every type of flying machine imaginable.

Walking or taking the guided tram tour, the latter of which we recommend, allow you the opportunity to relax and learn about the air field.

It has quite a history.

Located right next door to the March Air Reserve Base, formerly known as March Air Force Base, the museum offers guests the chance to learn the history which helped shape the United States Air Force to this day.
WWII poster to civilian employees

For all those who fight for our freedom in the air

Even memorials for our 4 footed soldiers

One of the oldest still active bases in the United States being founded in February of 1918 as the Alessandro Flying Training Field. It was renamed in March of that same year for a pilot who was killed in an air crash in Texas. Second Lieutenant Peyton C. March had only fifteen days as a Lieutenant prior to the crash. His father also happened to be the Army Chief of Staff at the time of his son’s death.

Rather ironic that the base would change its name to March during the month of March with no particular relation to that month.

Soon to be Marilyn Monroe as a Rosie the Riveter 

In preparation for WWI the Army decided to build a number of facilities across the country and turn out a new fighting machine.

“Put the Yankee punch into the war by building an army in the air,” so said General George O. Squier.

And that they did. But one had to be careful at all times!

Letter from Norma Jeane
The vastness of the museum is awe inspiring as are all the planes, uniforms, plaques, mementos, weapons, and the rest that spells out the importance such a place has in the evolution of military flight. In house films clearly depict the day the base opened and follows the history to the present.

There’s something for everyone – even a poster depicting a pretty young woman working as a ‘Rosie the Riveter’. Her name was Norma Jeane Doughtery and later Marilyn Monroe. She worked ten hour days inspecting pilot-less planes, the early prototype of drones during WWII. She won a contest at a picnic and photos were taken of her by a Private Conover for the military press and the man who assigned the photographer was none other than Captain Ronald Reagan.

Early training flights
Every time period of the United States Air Force is depicted at the March Field Museum. There is way too much to mention or show in a short blog - one must visit to truly understand the enormity of the place.

Korean Conflict

One special and large exhibit is depicting the Vietnam War where an entire section of the museum is set up as a base far from the main command. Walking through the camouflaged netting one can almost imagine being in a far off corner of Asia fighting a war that must have been a nightmare every single wakening day. 

Welcome home.

Home was thousands of miles away from 'home' in reality

Paul next to a helicopter within the shade
J - the smell of Napalm in the morning - what?

Say hello to my big little friends - right!
Though many may argue about Vietnam, one thing can not be dallied with - every military personnel who served abroad in the steaming jungles or on some  God forsaken outpost need our utmost respect.

Wars are not always popular and sometimes in the future deemed not worthy but those in uniform serve - they are nothing but heroes who keep us safe at home.

As the day moved along so did our understanding of what a great country the United States is and always have been thanks to those who made sure to keep her safe.

At the March Field Museum one can not but wonder why someone would put themselves in harms way to protect a life sometimes taken for granted and sometimes not appreciated.

But the men and women in all five branches do on a daily basis - that is why we must visit these places of honor and fully understand what fellow Americans have given up to ensure our way of life.

Not a political statement by J and L but simply an acknowledgement of those who have sacrificed so much.

It should be noted that J's uncle - Captain Edward Thornell was killed in Vietnam in 1965 while flying an observation plane over the jungles on his birthday.

Type of plane Capt. Thornell was shot down in.

And as stated in a previous blog - J's father, George T. Beyer served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

J with his father's flight jacket on display at the March Field Museum

After hours of touring a 5 star venue as the March Field Museum is the day was done and the rest is history. A well thought out and staged history in fact.

As with all museums the amount of time spent will decide how much is learned. When visiting the March Field Museum we recommend plenty of time to take it all in.

There is a lot to take in and every bit of it is as interesting as the next.

Paul says: "Take your time to enjoy or else!"

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day Four - Mojave Road Saga (Ends)

The Fourth day on the Mohave Road started with little sleep.

 A million mosquitoes from the Mojave River just to the southeast of the Afton Canyon campground kept the arms sweeping the air all night. That is not a way to sleep. Even a zippered tent didn’t alleviate the need of the flaying of the appendages. Each time one of the two boys went out of the tent seemed like a siege was going on with the annoying little flying beasts.

I just need the restroom 
Zip the door open and dozens of mosquitoes flew into the tent. OFF – GET OUT – and – WHAT THE HELL! was sprayed in the air and every crevice of the body but to no avail. 

Three in the morning found John rinsing his mouth with bits of chewed mosquitoes flowing out.

No photos here - obviously!

Gross – yes – it’s an adventure right? No, it was just disgusting.

The sun rose and so did two very tired guys. A quick breakfast while being chased around by two of the largest wasps known to mankind made the early morning that much less cheerful.

On the road – thankfully.

Road looking good from the passenger's side view 
The day’s driving was rather uneventful until the end while trying to locate the location of Camp Cady. It sounded like a great way to end the trip - a fort established in 1860 by the 1st U.S. Dragoons near the Mojave River. 

Through the years it was manned by soldiers, abandoned, manned by soldiers and then abandoned completely in 1871. We needed to find the spot where this mainstay of the Mojave Road had been crucial to soldiers and pioneers as well.

But there was a problem.Trying to figure out how to get out of the Mojave River and locate the Manix Wash and up onto firm land. Easy - just follow the deep sand, hang a right on the wash and it's done. Oops, the river bed ended suddenly into tightly knit channels which offered no way out of the river bed. 

Four days and this is was how it was to end? Back track - not even in the equation.

One more try up a dry wash west and suddenly there was a dirt track jumping out at us. It was the Manix Wash. We smiled.

Okay - where was this marker? Taken from the internet.
Two hours later the old site of Fort Cady could not be found. It's like Fort Mojave - is it there or there? 

Who knows but sometimes being near is as good as being there.

Tired, dirty and ready for some sleep, a good meal and just all around relaxing the boys decided to spend the last night at a KOA in Yermo. Pool, showers, snack shop and shade. What else did they need?

A good cigar - a cold beverage and the trip was over. Wonderful experience but an eye opener when traveling in the desert of the southwest.

Pool, showers, and shade - it was Heaven after 4 days of none of the mentioned.
What did we learn? Isn’t that research demands? And the exploration after that research needs to answer those demands if at all possible?

The following is in bullet points – easier that way.

·       *  Realize that sites aren’t always to be found – the general area is good enough many times. It’s the adventure that counts.

·      *  Bring plenty of supplies when traveling in the remote wilderness – overkill is not a thing to be ashamed of.

·       * Be prepared for an event which can turn lethal – sort of like the above point.

·       * Don’t travel alone on the Mojave Road – Casebier says that is not a good idea in his guidebook. It’s not.

·       * Carry good maps and a GPS.

·       * Don’t drive like a ‘Ricky Racer’ – the road or path dictates the speed not the mind.

·      *  Slow down and enjoy the scenery – there is so much to see and witness.
·       At night look up into sky – there’s a lot of stars up there.

·       * The deserts of Southern California are gorgeous and full of life.

·       Just remember – time on this planet is short so get out there and explore it.

A final side note – the day the trip was over the FJ’s starter went out. The vehicle would not start, granted a deep part of the Mojave River was crossed in Afton Canyon and may have led to the malfunction with water rushing through the engine compartment, but the point is if that starter had gone out two days earlier it may have proven fatal. Hot desert days, limited cell service, no full service auto shop, closet town dozens of miles away, and no vehicles seen in four days while on the road point to the direction of a dire circumstance.

You don't want this to happen out by yourself on the Mojave Road!
Enjoy, but do be careful.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mojave Road Saga - Day 3

One rule J and L stick to, most times, is never to have a cold adult beverage until the day is done. Sitting around discussing the day’s adventure is time to celebrate.

It was no different on the third day upon the Mojave Road, so when Paul and John started seeing gnomes, frogs, toy jeeps, and a plethora of eclectic plastic entities, a question arose: did the boys break with the almost constant golden rule?

They had NOT but the images below will surely make the reader understand why they questioned themselves.

Gnomes going on a trip to the Mojave Road

There's even solar powered 'Ribbet' sounds from some

Even bobble-headed sports figures

The White Rabbit - it explains it all

It seems the game of placing such items near a heavy steel Mojave Road Mailbox at mile 74 has become a fad – a rather large one. It began in 1983 being erected by the Friends of the Mojave Road so visitors could sign a guest book telling others about their trip.

Paul guarding the Mojave Road Mailbox

Proof the boys were there
Fascinating - albeit a bit creepy!

On the road again, as the duo took to the Cimacito summit at 4556 feet above sea level where the view of the desert valley was awesome. Mile upon mile of empty vastness reminded the travelers again of the excitement and danger such a remote road the Mojave is.

Three days and no other vehicle had been seen. Weird and spooky.

Coming across Willow Wash the guide book warned of soft sand at Mile 81.8 and it was more than correct. A steady hand on the wheel, steady touch of foot to pedal, and steadier eyes were needed to navigate the long stretch of sand.

Having driven through deep sand before was no problem, but the length of the wash rather took the fun out of the nearly 6 1/2 miles we had to maneuver. Of course, this was child’s play considering what we came across on a few hours later which was nothing but a white-knuckler. 

The day sped on and so did the miles. Around one in the afternoon the boys decided it was time for lunch. Taking out the ‘easy-up’ and erecting it on Soda Lake at a temperature a little over one hundred degrees seemed the best spot.

Perfect place to relax in triple digits
No wind and the sun baking down on top of the nylon man-made shade made for a wonderful lunch location. Hard boiled eggs, tuna on crackers, water, and a western view of the ancient dry lake bed was all that was needed.

Though – it was hot and getting hotter. Off to Afton Canyon to find a spot to camp.

The Travelers Monument - a collection of rocks in a heap with an American flag was the place was the place to stop. Photos were taken and then back on the road. Not really much to see actually and it was getting hotter by the hour.

Very Patriotic and well worth the stop.
After leaving the monument is when things got a little nerve whacking. 

Railroad bridge just east of the entry to Afton Canyon
Easy sand compared to earlier in the day
At mile 106.8, Casebier states in his book that there is a steep hill at Shaw Pass which then leads into a wash. This may have well said quicksand. 

The sand for the next 10 miles was brutal. Unbelievably soft from the daily barrage of desert winds bringing soft particles to lay upon one another. The wash was not a road - not in anyone's mind. 

No photos were taken since Paul was navigating by searching for the cairns to ensure the FJ stayed it's true course and John was gripping the wheel with all his might. 

The travel was fast but progress was slow. Each bend in the wash brought new challenges - deeper sand and wondering when the next cairn would turn up. 

At one point the boys lost sight of all markers and nearly made a fatal error (remember one vehicle, triple digit temperatures and sketchy cell phone service). Going north along the deep sand John was about to continue in the direction until Paul yelled "left - go left" and there on the edge of an island of river rushes was a cairn. The FJ careened on it's wheels, the steering wheel was yanked left and the tires shuddered to a near stop. But the 200 plus horsepower kept the momentum going. It was actually pretty close to being sunk.
Imaginations can soar like the cliffs here

What happens if a car gets stuck in the sand? With no back-up available a decision has to be made. Walk out of the desert to the nearest settlement over twenty miles away or wait it out - luckily the FJ performed as it always does. It didn't get stuck and we continued to the mouth of Afton Canyon.

Are those parapets with Knights with bows behind them?

A peaceful and gorgeous canyon of high cliffs and wondrous colors.
It had been exhilarating, exhausting, and educational.

The first night in awhile to sleep in a fixed campground. It was a sight for tired eyes - but again - no one else around.

View from Afton Canyon campsite
Now it was time for a cold adult beverage, a cigar and hopefully a good night’s sleep.

The cold drink and cigar proved possible but tons of mosquitoes and a very hot night inside a tent did not allow a good night’s sleep.

Oh well – that’s how many adventures go and to the explorer just another day on the job.