Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Motocaching the Grand Canyon State - Day 6

This was the first morning that the wind was already blowing upon departure.  And Mickey, old boy, if you think the wind was bad yesterday, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  My plan was to geocache the three southeastern counties of California so I continued west on I-8.  The wind out of the northwest was really serious today.  It was so bad I couldn’t even think of getting a geocache except in a sheltered area so I just passed by three.  I pulled off the Interstate to see if I could ride a frontage road so at least I wouldn’t get blown into another vehicle.  However, it was so rough that I gave it up.  Finally I got to a somewhat sheltered Rest Area in California where there was a cache for my first one in Imperial County

When I left the Rest Area thinking conditions could not get worse, it did.  Whereas before it was just the wind, now it was a dust storm.  I had planned to continue farther west on I-8 before turning north but I altered my plans and turned north at El Centro hoping I would get some relief from the storm.  As I was in pretty remote territory I decided to gas up in El Centro.  I stopped at an Arco station and couldn’t get my credit card to work.  I went in to see the attendant and was informed they didn’t take credit cards, just debit which I didn’t have.  Following my usual routine I had already unzipped my tail bag to stow my gloves when I pumped the gas.  Now out of my routine I forgot to zip it back up.  At my next stop a few miles up the road I discovered that not only was my favorite Geocaching cap gone but so was my notebook with all my geocache information that has each cache sorted in sequence and by county.  I had been traveling on a four lane boulevard with the wind still blowing 40 mph so I knew there was no chance of getting these articles back.  On top of all this, some time back I had noticed a little light on my instrument panel that said “lamp”.  At this stop I confirmed that I did not have a low beam light.

I continued north toward the Salton Sea where I could rejoin my intended route.  I don’t believe I saw any highway patrolmen in AZ or CA but there were plenty of Border Patrol agents with several mandatory stops.  I came to one of these north of El Centro but as usual they just waived me through.  However, they made the vehicle in front of me pull over for further checking.  This stop was at the intersection of Highway 111 and Highway 78.  I turned west on 78 and made a stop right away to pick up another desert cache for Imperial County.  I retraced my tracks back to 111 to continue north toward the Salton Sea.

Now for some reason I had the Salton Sea pictured as a beautiful sort of lake surrounded by trees.  Wrong – it was just mostly deserted wind swept desert and I don’t believe I really got close enough to see the water.  I was on the west side.  I wish I had taken the east side but with my notebook gone I wasn’t sure which county I was in and I didn’t want to miss one.  I don’t care to see that area again.  I did find one interesting cache that was in a birdhouse.  It required about a ½ mile hike across sand dunes to a little oasis.  I got another one for good measure that entailed a mile hike.
At the north end of the Salton Sea I turned northeast on Box Canyon Road.  This was a pretty nice ride.  The wind was still there but somewhat diminished as I was down in a canyon for about 20 miles.  Much of it was twisty and hilly with virtually no traffic so it was a pleasant change.  This road merged into Interstate 10 heading east toward Blythe, CA.

I picked up a cache for Riverside County before reaching Blythe that was much more difficult than I had anticipated.  First, it was on the wrong side of the Interstate so I had to exit and backtrack.  Then I had to park on the Interstate shoulder, climb about a 45 degree 50 foot dirt hill only to discover the cache was on the other side of a six foot chain link fence.  There was nothing to do but climb the fence.  Of course there was a dirt road just on the other side of the fence so there must have been a better way to get there that my GPS didn’t know.  After finding this one I returned to my bike and had to continue in the wrong direction until I found an exit to make a U turn.  At least that took care of Riverside County.

I continued east on I-10 and soon was back in Arizona.  I stopped just outside the town of Quartzsite to get a cache for La Paz County.  A little ways out of Quartzsite I left I-10 and veered northeast on US 60 toward Wickenburg.  I had been in desert country all day and I was still in desert country.  I stopped for a couple of more caches before Wickenburg which were Travel Bug Hotels but there were no bugs in them.    

I arrived at the Super 8 in Wickenburg about 4:00 pm.  It was a little different from most Super 8’s.  It was a western motif but very nice.  However, I now had a dilemma.  There is an actual physical cache on the state county challenges that you have to log after you’ve done each county in order to get credit for the challenge cache.  This one was located on the other side of Phoenix about 40 miles away.  I had all the counties except for one which I would get the next morning so I could sign the log and do the on line log after I had gotten that last county.  I had to do that for Nevada as well.  So I had to go get this cache now or early the next morning.  I decided to go for it now even though I was a little worried about not having a light except the high beam.  I hoped I might get back before dark which turned out to be very wishful thinking. 
I made the 30 miles to Phoenix quickly but it took forever to get to the other side through all the 5:00 o’clock traffic.  It kind of reminded me of Los Angeles when I was there as a teenager.  I never saw any actual big buildings like you expect in a city just miles and miles and businesses.

I finally got to the other side of town and went up a big hill toward the cache.  Near the end of the road was a locked gate with an open walk through entrance.  You could see up the hill a big mansion set on the very top of the mountain.  It reminded me of one of those fortified mansions owned by the villain in the old James Bond movies.  At this point the GPS indicated the cache was .38 miles up toward the mansion.  I started walking but when I got near the mansion grounds there was another locked gate.  However, at this point the GPS was pointing off to the desert canyon to the right of the fence.  So I started down into the beautiful desert canyon complete with big saguaro cacti.  As it turned out the cache was located up the other side of the canyon on a peak or point at the very top.  Most of these final state challenge caches are relatively easy since you’ve already done the work getting one in each county.  Not this one. Fortunately the cache write-up very accurately described where it was located and I had no trouble finding it.  I really felt good now even though night was fast approaching.  By the time I got back to my bike it was almost dark so I had to use my high beam all the way back to Wickenburg.

It was almost 9:00 pm before I got back to Wickenburg.  I went to a Denny’s for a fish dinner and then back to the motel where I logged all my accumulated caches on the computer in the lobby.  I was content but very tired having traveled 506 miles on the bike plus all the hiking on the final cache and in the desert around the Salton Sea.  I slept well. The picture after the birdhouse is the view from the first gate going to the final cache. [To be continued] M/W


Hallie said...

All these stories of wind, dust, and danger make the ladies worry!

Chris said...

Well, since Hallie brought it up...

Kathy said...

Yes, it is worrisome. In the beginning he wanted to motocache the adjacent states. I was fine with Washington, Oregon, and Montana. But as he has gained experience and confidence, he has expanded his motocaching goals.

Anyway, as he ranges farther from home, it does give me pause. If he needed me for any reason, I couldn't get to him quickly or without help. But Mike has never been one to let what might happen stand in the way of what he wants to do.