Blue Heart Springs

June 4, 2020

When we woke up in the morning, the 1:30 am group from last night were gone. We didn’t hear them leave in the morning, so we guess that they launched their raft in the middle of the night and floated down the river. It was a bright moon, so I guess there was enough light to see.

After packing up camp we drove further down the river. At this point the river isn’t in a deep gorge, so the road followed the river for the next 15 miles. Our destination was Branbury Campground. For a $5 parking fee, they will let you access the river from their boat ramp.

The plan was to paddle downstream about 1-1/2 miles to Blue Heart Springs. Blue Heart Springs is a large pool of very clear water, just off the Snake River. Even though it was downstream, there was a brisk wind blowing upstream, so it was still some work to paddle down the river and it took us 35 minutes to reach our destination. You enter the springs through a narrow path between the trees and brush. The water is crystal clear, with a slight blue tint from the minerals. We were the first ones at the spring this morning, but more kayakers showed up later.

After some time at the springs we started back. This time we had to paddle upstream. However, the winds had died down, so we didn’t have any help on the 50 minute paddle back to the campground.

Once back at the boat ramp we deflated the kayak and loaded everything up. We drove to the park in Buhl and parked in the shade to eat lunch. After eating we drove back through Twin Falls to cross the river and head north towards the Sawtooth Mountains.

We had planned to camp just north of Shoshone at Little Drops Recreation Area. It was a rough road out to the campsite in a desert that covered with volcanic rocks. The camping spot was at the edge of the Milner Gooding Canal. This was an interesting place. The canal is a 15 feet wide and 6 feet deep concrete trough that runs through the lava flows and volcanic rocks. Where we stopped there was a straight section that is several miles long. The water is about 4 feet deep and flows very fast down the trough. There were a lot of local kids there. They would jump into the canal and it would sweep them down the canal for about a mile to a spot where they would get out and walk back up a trail to do it again. Just the type of fun that rural kids get to have. In Utah County they would have fenced off the canal to keep everyone out. It look like a lot of fun, but I couldn’t get Eva to try it out. Unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures of the Idaho kids having fun.

We decided not to camp there for two reasons. First it was very windy, and second, the camping spot was the location where the kids got out of the canal and it looked like they were going to be having fun for quite a while. We looked at Google Maps and it showed a dirt track out of the area to the main highway. We drove down a very rough trail for about 3 miles. Just as we got within 400 yards of the highway the trail stopped at private property. We had to turn around drive all the way back to the canal. We ended up wasting an hour following the Google recommendation.

We drove further north on highway 75 to the Stanton Crossing campground. This is a free campground on the banks of the Big Wood River. It was a very nice spot in the trees. The trees were full of birds that singing all night long. There were a lot of other campers, but the sites are spread out, so it didn’t feel too crowded. We cooked and ate dinner while sitting in the shade of the trees. After dinner I set up the shower tent and we both took showers before it turned dark. The night was nice, except for the RV that ran their generator all night long.

Shoshone Falls

June 2, 2020

We left home around 3 pm and headed north on I-15 through Salt Lake and Ogden. Just north of Brigham City we took I-84, headed northwest into Idaho. Our destination for the night was McClendon Springs, a primitive campsite about 30-40 miles into Idaho. The springs were a key stopping point on the California Trail and is known as “The Oasis in the Desert”. We were the only ones at the springs and it was a nice warm night as we explored the trails through the area. The night was very quiet and peaceful.

We woke up early in the morning so we could drive the 1-1/2 hours to Twin Falls. The plan for the day was to kayak up the Snake River to the Pillar Falls and then on to Shoshone Falls. We wanted to get somewhat of an early start to avoid the afternoon winds.

During our drive, Alyssa let us know that they were planning a weekend trip to Bear World, near Rexburg, Idaho. We decided to change our plans so we could meet with them for the weekend. We now plan to be at Bear World on Saturday so we can spend some time with the little boys.

We arrived at Centennial Park, on the Snake River, at 9:30 am. The park is on the north side of Twin Falls. To get to the part you have to drive down into the gorge on a narrow switchback that ends at the waterfront. It is a very nice park with grassy areas, restrooms and picnic pavilions. The water front has several docks, including a roller launch deck, to make it easy to get your kayak in the water. You just put the kayak on the rollers, sit in the kayak and push yourself into the water. This was a lot easier than getting in from the dock.

We were on the water at 10:40 am and started paddling upstream. After about a mile, around the first bend in the river, we passed under the Perrine Memorial Bridge. This bridge is 1,499 feet long and is 486 feet above the Snake River. This is the only bridge in the US that allows BASE jumpers to parachute off the bridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anyone jump. We heard that the day before, 20-30 jumpers were on the bridge.

Paddling up the current wasn’t too bad, but if you stopped paddling, it wasn’t long before you started going backwards. Another mile or so past the bridge, we arrived at Pillar Falls. These falls flow through limestone pillars and shelves as it drops about 28 feet to the river. We beached our kayak on the right side of the river and carried the kayak around the falls, through the trees and rocks. If the river running high, the water can be flowing a foot or two deep on this 300 yard trail. But fortunately, it was dry for our passage.

Once we were above the falls, we launched the kayak back into the river and continued our upstream paddle to Shoshone Falls. Many of the kayakers and paddle boarders stop at Pillar Falls and the motorized boats have no way to continue upstream, so this section of river is much calmer and quieter. We saw ducks and other waterfowl on both sides of the river. It is about a 1-1/2 mile paddle to the base of Shoshone Falls.

Shoshone Falls is known as the Niagara of the West. It is actually 45 feet higher than Niagara at 212 feet high, but the water flow is less than Niagara. On this day the water flow was on the low side, so the falls did not spread completely around the cliffs, but it was still impressive. The noise was staggering as we paddled close to the base of the falls. The water pounding into the river made the surface choppy and the mist from the falls felt really good on this hot sunny day.

After taking pictures and paddling around the base of the falls, we floated down the river a couple of hundred yards to a spot we could beach the kayak and have lunch. The upstream trip had taken 2 hours, including carrying the kayak around Pillar Falls. We spend 30-40 minutes at the fall and another 20 minutes eating lunch, so we started the paddle back down the river at 1:40 pm.

We thought the downstream paddle would be easier, but just as we started, the wind kicked up and was blowing up-canyon. The wind was strong enough to offset the current, so if you stopped paddle, you wouldn’t move at all.

When we arrived at the upstream side of Pillar Falls and there were several groups of people portaging around the falls. We were glad we started early to avoid the crowds. It was an easy carry around the falls and we were quickly back into the water.

The final couple of miles down the river was uneventful, until we were within a quarter mile of the dock. The sheriff’s department boat “pulled us over” and did a safety check. We had our floatation devices and whistle, but we didn’t have an invasive species sticker that is required for Idaho. We did have our Utah permit (from 2019). Fortunately, due to some system issues, they weren’t enforcing the rule until the end of June. So we just received a friendly warning. Overall, the trip was 7.8 miles of paddling, with a little over 1/4 mile of portage.

We made it back to the dock and carried the kayak back to the van. The park had a nice grassy area to deflate, dry and pack the kayak. After loading up, we drove about 7-1/2 miles to the Shoshone Falls Overlook. This gave us a nice look at the upper falls, but we could only see the upper part of the main falls. Along the way we passed the Twin Falls Temple.

We gassed up at the Twin Falls Walmart and continued west out of town, through the many farms. This part of Idaho is very pretty with all the grain and alfalfa fields. Our destination for the night was the Cedar Draw Access Point on the Snake River. They allow camping at these access points for at least 48 hours. It was just a parking spot, and there were several cars of fishermen there when we arrived. But by 8:30 pm we had the place to ourselves. It was another warm night camping and we went to sleep quickly. However, around 1:30 am, a vehicle pulled up and spent an hour unloading and setting up camp down by the river. They were pretty quiet, but they kept us awake. After they finished, it was a quite night.

China Work Trip – 1992

This blog post is the story of my first trip to China in 1992. This was when I worked for Hughes Christensen, an energy technology company. HC sent three of us to China for over 3 weeks. The purpose of the trip was to complete a technology transfer with the National Oil Company of China.

The trip was one of the most interesting experiences in my life. As I look back on the trip almost 30 years later, I don’t remember it being as bad as I had documented it in 1992. However, everything I wrote on this trip was my feelings and experiences at the time.

Before adding this story to my blog, I softened some of my descriptions of the people I worked with in China, compared to what I first wrote in 1992. Over the past 10 years, while working with Becton Dickinson, I have worked extensively with other Chinese citizens. My experience with them was the complete opposite of those I worked with in 1992. It may the be difference of Chinese government employees vs. private company employees. Or the difference of people from the big cities (Suzhou) vs the rural areas (Jian Han). Probably the biggest difference is the changes in Chinese culture over the past 30 years.

I don’t take a lot of pictures on this trip, as it was long before the days of digital cameras. My camera was a compact 110 mm film camera and the quality was not very good. I also lost one roll of film before it was developed.

November 2, 1992

Day one of the China trip

I got out of bed about 5:45 am, showered and got ready for Allison to come and get me. She picked me up at 7:30 am and took me into work. I can hardly lift one of my bags because of all the food supplies that I packed. I will learn later that I should have packed some more.

After I arriving at work, I hurried around to get everything ready. I needed to put a lot of files on the laptop to take to China. While loading the files I called Eva in Texas to say goodbye. But because I was so busy with work, I said I would call her back before I left for the airport. However, I was too busy and did not get a chance to call her. I had Mike Gentry take me to the airport and had just enough time to check-in, get some travelers checks and jump on the plane. That is the way I like to travel. I also met up with Rick and Richard at the airport for the flight.

The first leg of our trip is from Salt Lake City to Anchorage. We were able to fly first class on this leg. The flight to Alaska was nothing special, however, I do like the service they give in first class. We got to Anchorage later than planned. If we had tried to make the connection to Hong Kong on that day we would have missed by 20-30 minutes. However, we had planned to spend a day in Alaska. We checked in at the Regal Alaskan Hotel. It is very nice hotel on a lake, that in the summer, serves as the busy seaport in the world. However, in the winter it was frozen solid and all the planes are parked on the side of the lake. There must be thousands of small planes in Anchorage. I would like to live in Anchorage and learn to fly. I think that is the only way to get around to some towns in Alaska.

The hotel is real nice and I would like to stay there some time in the summer, but I think it costs over $250 a night to stay in the busy season. We all went to our rooms to unpack a few things and shower before going out to eat. I called Eva and talked too long, so I did not have time to take a shower. By the time we went to eat it was already dark and very cold. I think it was about 17 degrees. And the wind was blowing. We were cold, but we could see that the Anchorage natives were all wearing either no jacket or a light jacket.

November 3, 1992

The next day we got up and drove to see the Portage glacier. It is about 50 miles from Anchorage. We drove along the Cook Inlet highway for most of the distance. The weather as we drove there was terrible. It was raining and very dark and dismal. When we arrived at the glacier it was raining so hard that we couldn’t see much. But we were able to see ice burgs from the glacier floating in the lake. They were a beautiful blue color. I was shocked by the color and beauty. We could not see the glacier very well because it was across the lake and it was to dark and dreary. However, it was well worth the drive to see those icebergs.

Portage Glacier
Blue Icebergs

After our drive to the glacier, we drove to the airport, boarded the plane and headed to Hong Kong. The flight was not too bad, considering we were on the plane for 13 hours. The weird part for me was boarding the plane on the afternoon of November 3, and getting off 13 hours later, and it was the evening of November 4. Because we crossed the International Date Line we lost one day. Because of that I have lost track of the days.

November 4, 1992 — The Hong Kong experience

Landing the plane in Hong Kong was quite an experience. They have to make a hard right turn just before landing as the plane flys between the skyscrapers. Hong Kong is the most exciting city I have ever been to. From what we could see, I don’t believe there was a single building less than 10 stories tall. The population density is over 5000 people per square mile.

It was 10 pm by the time we got checked into our hotel, and then Rick and I went out to the shopping areas. There are thousands of different shops. I didn’t buy anything because I didn’t want to carry it to China and back. I will probably buy something when I return on the way home.

November 5, 1992

We got up and ate our last good meal. The Kowloon Hotel has a great breakfast buffet. It was full of American food and I ate several plates of it. At this point we still didn’t know that eating in China would be very bad. After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the airport. The taxis in Hong Kong are very cheap, but they drive like maniacs. Things are not too bad on this trip so far. However, when we got to the HK airport things quickly started going downhill.

We flew on China Southern Airlines into Wuhan. Their check-in gate is in the run-down part of the airport. The line was full of pushy, crowding Chinese. My bags were overweight so I had to pay extra to get them checked. I was worried that I may never see my bags again. After checking the bags we went to the gate. It was in a part of the airport that made me think that we were not in Hong Kong anymore. It was what I thought China would be like. But I found out that this was a paradise compared to China.

We had to wait about an hour for the plane to come. When we finally went out to the plane I was scared to death when I saw it. It was an old 737 that was probably 20-30 years old. The inside of the plane was one color on one side and another color on the other side. It looked like they took parts from two wrecks to make one plane. The colors were straight out of the late 60’s. The overhead baggage doors were either falling off their hinges, or were not even there. They pushed all the seats closer together so they could add additional rows of seats. My seat had less than six inches of legroom. I could not sit in the seat and put my knees together. I sat on the entire flight with my legs spread apart, jammed in the gaps between the seats in front of me..

By the time they had brought the meal around I did not feel at all like eating. The smell of the airplane and the look of the food killed my appetite. The tray table had dried up food all over it. It was the weirdest flight I have ever been on. The people were not in their seats as we taxied down the runway and took off, and the flight crew didn’t care. Before leaving, I had changed seats so I could look out the window, but the window was so scratched that I could barely see out. I was concerned that we might crash or at least have an emergency landing somewhere. I had a was a real uneasy feeling about this flight and the whole trip.

I mostly read and slept a little on the flight. When we got close to Wuhan we could see the Yanzee River and the rice patties that surround it. It was quite a pretty sight from the air.

When we had landed things just got weirder. We were now in communist China and it looked stranger than anything I had ever seen. The airport looked abandoned. There was grass growing through cracks in the runway. They only have one runway and our plane stopped right on the runway to unload. The terminal building looked like it had been abandoned in the 1940’s. After disembarking the plane, we had to fill out a lot of papers in order to get out of the airport and get our bags.

When we exited the airport there was a group of Chinese from the manufacturing plant waiting for us. They put us in an old broken-down looking bus and we headed for Jian Han. It took us about an hour just to get out of Wuhan. It was the dirtiest, most filthiest place I have ever seen. It was dirty and scummy beyond imagination.

As we drove through I saw some guy vomiting on the sidewalk. It was ten times worst than East Germany, and 20 times worst than anything I have seen in Mexico. There were people everywhere you looked with trash and broken cars all over the streets. The bus ride was the worst ride I have ever been on. The driver continually sounded the horn and was swerving all over the road trying to avoid cars and people. The road had to be the roughest paved road ever made. This bus trip, like everything on the trip, is beyond description. It is impossible to convey the feelings I had on this trip.

It took us four hours to get to the hotel in Jian Han. The road was the same the entire trip. All the buildings were dilapidated and looked like they would fall down. If Russia is like this, then I can see how an earthquake could cause so much damage. If there was ever a slight tremor in this country, the whole place would be a pile of rubble. Even the new buildings and those under construction looked run-down. There were piles of rubble along the road the entire route.

There were also people all along the road. It was amazing how many people there were. I think the people just hang out on the road. They just sit there and talk or walk or sleep or eat on the road. The cars just honk their horn and swerve around them because they do not move out of the way. The road is filled with people walking or riding bicycles. There are also water buffalos, tractors, rickshaws, wagons and handcarts continually on the road. It was funny that all the tractors were on the road and none in the fields. I don’t think I have seen one tractor in the fields working, but they are all over the road. The also have a contraption that look like Troy-built tillers with a two wheeled wagon attached to the back. The would sit on the wagon and steer the tiller. This was a major mode of transportation.

The one good thing I saw was the gardens. They have the prettiest, greenest gardens I have ever seen.

During the entire ride to Jian Han I was thinking that I want to get out of here. I just wanted to turn around and go back to Hong Kong. And when I got to the hotel I really wanted to get out of there. The hotel is another one of those things that words can not describe. You have to smell the smells and get the creepy, eerie, clammy feeling. From a distance it doesn’t look to bad, but like everything else, it was dilapidated, dirty and falling apart. It is amazing how they go to the work and expense to build something and then before it is complete it starts falling apart.

Jian Han Hotel

The room is horrible; I did not like spending time in it. The first night I pulled down the bedding and saw a big blood stain on the sheet. So spent the first few nights sleeping on top of the bedding, until I could get them to change the sheets. The food is terrible; I do not want to eat it. I want to go home. This was the longest day of my trip.

November 6, 1992

This was the first day of work. The plant is just as run down and dilapidated as the rest of China. They have a huge plant with quite a few buildings. We were all assigned interpreters and we started working. My main task is working with the engineers to train them in oil drill bit design and how to use software for automation.

The plant bathrooms are quite interesting. The bathrooms are in a separate building that is sitting in the middle of a green grassy/swampy area. Since this is winter, everywhere else the foliage is dead, but the bathroom island is green and growing, so we can guess where the sewage ends up. To get to the bathroom you have to walk on planks about 20 ft, from the dry ground to the building.

Inside the bathroom the room is fully tiled, with three stalls along one wall. There is a water tank mounted to the wall at one end of the room. When you flush, the water flows into a trench that runs down the floor of all three stalls before draining through a hole in the wall to the outside. To use the bathroom you just put one foot on each side of the trench and squat down. If you are lucky you get the first stall, otherwise you get to see what the everyone upstream had for dinner as the “refuse” runs down the trench through the other two stalls and out the hole in the wall.

I think the interpreters are supposed to keep an eye on us and keep us out of trouble. I went to their computer center and they made us take off our shoes and put out slippers. I don’t know why because the floors were filthy and scummy. But work did go pretty fast, mainly because we take a two and a half hour break for lunch.

November 7, 1992

Another day at work. Fortunately they work six days a week, so we don’t have to spend Saturday at our hotel. The Chinese people have to be the laziest, most unmotivated people I have ever seen. We have the hardest time getting them to do any work. You give them a job and when you turn your back, they slip off to another room to either smoke, or stand around talking to someone. The also have to be told every single detail and cannot think for themselves at all. Tonight we did have a banquet and I can say it was the best meal I have eaten since I came to China.

November 8, 1992

It seems like we have been here for 6 weeks. This has been the longest time of my life. Today was Sunday so we did not go to work. The hotel is like a prison. We cannot leave without the interpreter and there is nowhere to go anyway. Jet lag is still with me so I wake up at 2:00 am every morning. This is going to be a long day. Fortunately, we did get a VCR and have watched movies. We burned up 5 hours today watching movies. I did also get to call Eva. That was the high point of the day. However, I don’t want to call again, because it makes me too homesick.

Today the weather turned really cold. They have no heat in the building so the temperature inside is about 40 degrees. The entire building is built from concrete, so when it gets cold it does not warm up.

I heard later from Eva, that after I had talked to her, she got another call from China. It was some Chinese guy that talked to her for about 10-15 minutes. She was worried something was wrong, but we finally decided that it was just someone in China that took our phone number and wanted to practice English. To make a call to the US we have to give the phone number to the interpreter and they go to the operator and arrange the call. We are sure that they are listening in on our call.

November 9, 1992

Today we got up and Richard told us he has kidney stones. He spent the whole day in hospital and in his room. The nurse was with him all day. After work we went to check on him and the doctor was with him. The doctor was giving him some medication, but she had our interpreter ask me to read the drug label. I was confused as I thought the doctor would know what medication she was giving. When I got the bottle of pills to read, I found that the label was in French, so I was no help with telling the doctor what the drug was.

Jian Han Hospital

Again it is freezing cold. It seems like we have been here for several weeks but it has been less than one week. I keep thinking that Eva is already home, but it will be a while before she and the kids get home from their trip to Texas. I miss them a lot.

November 10, 1992

Richard is still sick and did not work today. Rick and I wanted him to use this opportunity to go home, but yesterday he was in too much pain to travel, and we have not seen him today. There is no way that he will be able to finish his part of the project now. These people are so lazy and slow it is impossible to get anything done. They always act like they know everything, but they won’t do anything.

I can hear the toilet in Rick’s room running, it is broken and runs continually. Again today it was freezing cold. In the evenings we sit around wearing long johns, our coats and keep blankets wrapped around us to keep warm. We then sit in my room and watch movies and eat peanuts. I am afraid that my food supply will run out long before we leave, so I am trying to ration it out. But today at lunch I was so hungry that I ate two granola bars.

At dinner time we sit in the dining room and talk about what we are going to eat for thanksgiving dinner, when we get home. We also talk about being warm and stretching out on the couch without fearing to catch some disease from the furniture. It seems like forever since we have been back in civilization. And it will be weeks before we get back. I miss Evita and the kids a lot. I think about them during the day at work. I have decided that I am going to learn Spanish so I can speak it with Eva.

November 11, 1992

Today at work, things started to get ugly. They want me to give them technology I am not supposed to give them. I already have shared some stuff that I shouldn’t have. I got into an argument with the manager of the engineering department over this. The problem is that if you try to be nice they just take advantage of you and want more. So you have to be a jerk and tell them no more. The real problem is that no one at our company cares if this plant succeeds. We are told not to make much of an effort to help them, beyond what is in the contract. Hughes Christensen just wants us to fulfill the contract and get out of here.

Today went just like all the rest. I wake up at about 3:00 am and then lay in bed and rest or read until about 7:10 am. Then I get up and take a shower. I meet Rick and Richard for breakfast at 7:30. We eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, two boiled eggs, and a bowl of tangerines and a bowl of pineapple. The hotels has a menu we can order from, but they seem to just bring us what they have that morning. We leave for work at 8:00 in a van that pick us up in front of the hotel. More of the daily drudgery tomorrow.

November 12, 1992

Today both Rick and I had to sit through a 2 hour meeting, with a bunch of jabbering Chinese, discussing what are we doing. They still want everything from us and we don’t have much more to give. There are going to be a lot of mad people when we get back to SLC.

Here is more of the daily routine, when we get to work, the van drops me off at the computer center and then takes Rick and Richard to the manufacturing shop. At 11:15 the van comes picks me up and then takes us back to the hotel for lunch. The same food is served for lunch and dinner every day.

The meal consist of cold, sticky rice with some type of breaded meat that is fried. We always have two plates of french fries, however, the ketchup bottle has mold in it, so we have to eat the fries dry. We asked for a fresh bottle of ketchup but have not received it yet. There is also usually plate of fried stuff that I have not dared to eat yet. It looks real greasy and I think they put dog meat in it. On our way to Jian Han we saw skinned dogs hanging from the porches of the houses, so we are sure to look closely at the meat before we eat it.

They also bring us a big bowl of soup. But we have not dared to eat it yet. It does not look too good. One time we did get some pieces of fried beef. It was pretty good, but we did not see that again.

Lunch goes from 11:15 to 1:45. All of the Chinese, that are staying with us at the hotel, hurry and eat and then go to their room and take a nap. A few times we have had to go wake up the driver so he could take us back to work. But I don’t think anyone cares if they are an hour or so late for work.

November 13, 1992

Today we began our struggle to escape from China. The Chinese management team are willing to let me and Rick go home, but they want Richard to stay longer to help them finish building the eight core bits. The problem is that it will take probably 6 to 8 more weeks to finish these bits at the rate that they work. The president of the company came and talked to Rick and I about it and threatened to make Richard stay longer. I told them that they have to buy the tickets for all of us to leave next Saturday. However, we are at their mercy, because they have to make the reservations, provide the transportation to the airport and buy our tickets. We are unable to do any of that. After meeting with the president I spoke with my interpreter. I told him to go ahead and buy the tickets. We will find out tomorrow if he did as requested.

The rest of our daily routine is as boring as the first part of the day. We work until 5:15 pm and then the van takes back to the hotel. We must eat at 5:30. Dinner is exactly the same as lunch. Then about 6:30 pm we go to my room to watch videos. The VCR and tapes have saved us hours of boredom. We probably would have gone crazy if we did not have these videos to burn up the evening. We all get bundled up against the cold and the watch the movie the rest of the evening.

We have to be careful and ration the movies so they will last our entire time here. After the movie, I usually get in bed, because it is so cold, and read the rest of the evening. I go to sleep about 11:00 pm and sleep until about 3:00 am. The other night, we were all woken up by the rats running around in the ventilation vents in the ceiling. My vent has plastic covering it so I don’t think they can come in to my room, I hope so anyway.

November 14, 1992 (I think that is the date )

Today is Saturday, but that is just another day in the worker’s paradise. It was another day of fighting the Chinese on when they will allow us to leave. They just can’t get into their heads that we are leaving when we say we want to leave. The have lied to us and told us one thing, and then turned around and lied and told us something else. They are the most thick headed and stupid people I have been around.

Richard was sick again today, but he does not seem to want to go home, so I have not put up to big of a fight to have him go. If I were him I would have left a week ago. It seems like we have been here for months, and the past week has been the longest week of my life. Tonight I called Eva. The hotel was supposed to arrange the call at 9:00 pm, but the call didn’t get through until 11:30 pm. I was so tired that I didn’t feel like talking much, plus the phone was so screwed up that I couldn’t hardly hear her talk anyway.

November 15, 1992

Sunday is the only day off in this place. We went to a city called the ancient city. They have a museum that has a mummy that is 2000 years old. It was interesting but not worth the 2 hour ride on the roughest paved road ever made. We ate lunch in the city and then headed back to Jain Hun, arriving back around 2:00 pm.

On the way back they took us to the local bowling alley. It was just a building with a single bowling alley sitting in the middle of a big room. We think someone must have seen a picture or video of bowling and they tried to copy what they had seen. They knew that you changed shoes for bowling, but they gave us brand new rubber soled shoes to wear. Not too useful for bowling. The bowling pins were at the end of the alley, but they had ropes tied to to the top of each pin. After knocking down the pins they had a guy pull the ropes to stand up the pins. The problem was that the ropes were too short to actually knock down the pins, so there was no chance to have a real bowling game.

After getting back to the hotel we watched movies the rest of the day. There is just nothing to do in this place. The drive today was interesting; they spread their rice on the road and then the cars drive over it to husk it. There are too many other weird and disgusting things to mention.

November 16, 1992

Since they have been threatening to not allow us to leave China, we have been doing our own threatening. We communicated that we will not do anything that is not specifically in the contract. They keep holding up the contract to us so we shoved it back at them. I am starting to enjoy yelling and fighting with these Chinese. It sure makes the day a lot more exciting and fun.

We are to the point that we are sick and tired of the problems and crap that we have to put up with. I stopped several days ago trying to be nice and cooperating. They are the most ungrateful, disgusting, obnoxious, gross and uncooperative people that I have ever seen. At some point, I made a conscientious decision to stop trying to be helpful and nice, and decided to be mean and ornery. At times, I was afraid that I would end up punching one of them in the mouth. But now I look at it as just a game, and I am having fun being antagonistic with them.

Last night was a terrible night. The rats kept me awake most of the night and caused me to have bad dreams. This hotel room is as disgusting as the people in the country. We have decided that this experience must be just like prison. We are trapped in the hotel except when they take us to our work detail.

November 17, 1992

Today is Tuesday. Today Al James arrived and we had a meeting with all the company big shots. It was a big battle. They do not like Al very much and I don’t think he likes them. We had the president of the Oil Ministry of China, Madam Wong, in the meeting, but she didn’t have much to say. Mr. Mae and my interpreter, Mr. Wang, did most of the talking. The best thing that came out of it was that they were satisfied with Al staying two weeks to complete the eight core bits. I do not think that he will finish, but that is his problem. It is mostly his fault that this project was not right to begin with. They were happy with my work, so I decided not to do anything else, so they will not have a chance to find new things that they think are wrong.

I spent the afternoon looking at their CMM and working on the milling machine with Rick. I also helped Al by trying to keep some of their guys working. In this government company they are all guaranteed jobs for life, and so they do not work hard. They can miss up to 15 days in a row without calling in and still keep their job. They are at work for 6.5 hours but they are lucky to work an hour or two. The company provides them with their housing, transportation, medical care, recreation and everything else they need. It is a true communist society, and it operates like one.

November 18, 1992

Today I worked, or tried to work, with the CMM operators to help them measure a mold. They have to be the most incompetent, lazy people I have worked with yet. It was the most frustrating day since I have been here. The worst part was, they still don’t understand, and I may have to do it again tomorrow. I think I will tell the boss that they cannot measure molds until they hire competent people. They also took Rick and I on a tour of the rock bit production plant. It was interesting, but definitely Chinese.

The food is tasting better, but I am sick and tired of eating the same thing day after day. It looks good that we will leave for Wuhan on Friday afternoon. I turned in some clothes to get washed today, I hope I will get it all back by Friday.

November 19, 1992

Today was the most amazing day of all. In the morning I went to the shop to do a few things. I was intercepted by Lou and a QA engineer. I was utterly amazed by the incompetence of this engineer. I had to explain basic mathematics to him. I spent all morning trying to explain how to calculate the error between a measurement and the cutter data file. It was just addition and subtraction. After spending an hour explaining that, I spent an hour arguing with him about the process we used to measure the mold on the CMM. Finally I told him that was my advice and that is what they paid for, but they can do whatever they want, and then I stormed out of the room.

These people are ridiculous as well as incompetent. I then went out to the shop to watch Rick re-measure the mill. We were able to eliminate the majority of the error because the Chinese set up the mill incorrectly to begin with.

As we left for lunch they told us that we would not be traveling to Beijing until Sunday, instead of Saturday as promised. Well that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After lunch Rick and I went and laid into Mr. Wang. We were yelling at him, and of course he was yelling back louder, I kept telling him to shut up so we could talk to him. I think I got hotter than Rick during this session, but the next session Rick got the best of me.

The reason that we did not get a flight on Saturday was because they lied to us about a flight on Saturday. We ordered the tickets 2 weeks ago and they lied and said they only needed 5 days to buy them. A course they did not try to buy them until today. They had just given us the run-a-round for 2 weeks. We were pretty mad. The problem is that we have already bought our tickets for the flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and that flight leaves on Monday morning. So we will have to fly to Beijing on Sunday afternoon and then fly to Hong Kong Monday morning. However, we are going to try to get on a flight tomorrow night.

After resolving this problem, we went to the shop and got into a bigger battle. The past week have been nothing but battles with these people. They are writing a memo that they want us to sign, that is supposed to be a report on our work. However, they are trying to write it as an extension of the contract to provide them with all kinds of things that were not in the original contract. For example, they want us to provide a lathe post processor for mold profiles and shanks. They get this from a line in the contract that says we will provide lathe instructions for 2 bits in the next three years. This was the first that we have heard of this.

Another part of the memo was that I had not provided CMM programs, procedures, tolerances, etc. All of this because I said I would do them a favor and look at their CMM and try to help their incompetent staff. It has been like this the whole time, if you try to do a little extra and do a good job, rather than get some thanks, they just complain that you didn’t do enough, even though it was not required. The CMM is not even mentioned in the original contract.

Well, the meeting turned into a big shouting match. They were making up all kinds of lies, and we were very frustrated. If they would have got in arms reach, we would have probably belted them. They finally all went into another room and we stayed where we were. At 5:15 Al and Richard came in to the room. We decided to leave the building and start walking the 3-4 miles back to the hotel.

As we were walking towards the plant exit gate, the van with the interpreters pick us up, However, when we got to the gate, they stopped us again. This time the guards with machine guns came out and stopped the van. We sat there for an hour until they finally agreed to let us go.

The van took us to the hotel and they basically threatened (again) that if we do not sign this memo, then we could not leave for home. So Rick and I went back into the room and we worked until 7:00 pm rewriting the memo so that we could get agreement. Or at least we thought we were had agreement. They would take the memo to translate it and then they would bring it back to our rooms for review. When they came back to our rooms, the memo was completely different from what we had previously agreed to. So we spent time with Lou and we were able to hack out something that is close to the original agreement. But we will see the final version tomorrow, so who knows what it will say.

I think I did a pretty good job negotiating on this memo. Their management team operates like a bunch of bumbling idiots. There vice president in charge of the entire operation is not very bright at all, of course none of them are Einstein’s. It is amazing that Hughes ever worked a deal with them.

I am amazed at the way we have been treated on this trip. I told them that they will probably never get another person from our company to come there again. I ripped into them pretty good at the end of our meeting. Actually the fights and arguments have been frustrating, but they have been a good way to burn some time. Well it is 1:06 am and I better get to bed.

November 20, 1992

Well it’s finally Friday. Today Rick and I packed our bags into a Cherokee that took us to Wuhan. However, we did have to go to the plant to sign the memo, but surprisingly that was very easy.

They didn’t change any of the memo since the night before. We signed it and then started our trip to Wuhan. It was the usual 3.5 hour trip with a Chinese driver. We saw several wrecks, and two dead pigs. These people have to be the most idiotic, rude, inconsiderate drivers ever. They do more stupid acts per mile than American drivers do in a year. Several times during the trip I thought we would end up in a wreck. The Cherokee we rode in was made in China, so it was only slightly better than the bus we took on the way to Jian Hun. But there were three of us jammed in the back of the car, and we could barely move.

We arrived at Wuhan Airport at about 11:00 am. Then it was the same old thing of not telling us what was going on, and the Chinese being the jerks they have always been. We went to some dumpy restaurant for lunch and about three bits into the meal I found a dead fly in my food. This of course made me lose my appetite. I didn’t tell Rick until later, because if you don’t know what you are eating then it is a little easier to eat.

After dinner we went to some flea-bag hotel so the Chinese could take their afternoon nap. All this time they would not tell us what was going on, and they would not give us our passports or tickets. We were supposed to be flying standby, but we didn’t know if we were on the list or not. Lu kept telling us to trust them, and not to worry, but we’ve tried that before.

We finally got back to the airport about 4:30 pm. We knew a flight left at 6:30 pm, but still no information from them. After arriving at the airport and they told us to wait in the car. We sat in the car for another two hours with still no information. Then finally they came and told us that we had our plane tickets. We went in the airport and got in line and waited another half hour. They then told us our flight wasn’t until 10:00 pm.

We hauled our bags over to a bench, and the minute we sat down, they yelled at us and said to hurry and run and see if we can make the flight. So, we hurried and loaded the bags on a cart. We finally got our tickets and ran into the gate area, just to wait another hour. These people wait in line like they drive, total chaos. But we finally had that sense of freedom of being away from those Jian Hun people.

We finally got on the airplane. It was a real airplane, not like that one we flew from HK to Wuhan. The flight wasn’t too bad until the landing. It was the scariest time I have ever been on a plane. We came in on the landing approach and were real close to the ground and then the pilot pulls up again.

Apparently we were not close enough to the airport yet. We flew for another 60 to 90 seconds before starting to land again. This time the pilot though the ground was about 50 feet lower than it really was. We slammed into the ground very hard. Then after we were on the ground we started veering across the runway. I was scared to death. The plane was going faster that usual for a landing, but the pilot finally got the airplane stopped.

We were finally back to civilization. Beijing is like any modern city from what we have seen so far. We are staying at the Great Wall Sheraton. It was a wonderful feeling. I will have clean sheets for the first time in almost three weeks. I was also able to take a real good shower for the first time in three weeks. The good feeling I have is hard to describe.

Rick and I planned an extra day in Beijing for sight seeing. The first evening we were there we took a taxi to the Beijing Pizza Hut to have a real American meal. It was a great meal. The restaurant was filled with Americans and it felt like we were home.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet. It was the best buffet I have ever been to. After breakfast we scheduled a tour to the Great Wall with a local tour company. We rode a bus to the wall, a garden area, a factory where they made pottery and finally we went to Tienaman Square and toured the area. We also went on a tour of the Forbidden City. I was able to buy some souvenirs for the family.

Forbidden City in Beijing
On the Great Wall

We had about 12 other Westerners on our tour bus. Part of the tour was a lunch at a local restaurant. Rick and I were noticing how all the others were picking at their food, and one guy would not eat anything. However, Rick and I were so glad to see some decent food we just chowed down on anything they gave us.

After the tour we spent one more night at the Sheraton. The next morning we ate another great breakfast at the buffet, before taking a taxi to the airport for our flight home. We stopped in Hong Kong again for a night and did some shopping. The next day we boarded our 24 hour flight for home.

The flight home was uneventful, and we felt like kissing the ground when we landed in San Francisco. After the layover, our flight to SLC was short and we were finally home.

West Desert Roadtrip

West Desert Road-trip

We take a spring time trip through the Utah West Desert. Almost 300 miles of dirt road. We stop at a wildlife reserve, take a dip in several hot springs, look at funny shaped rocks and find a big hole in the ground.

Monday, May 4, 2020

We left home at around 10 am and drove straight west from Lehi for about 120 miles. After leaving the pavement near 5 Mile Pass, we were on dirt road for the next 220 miles. The first 90 miles of dirt were on the Pony Express Trail.

The minute we hit the dirt road, it was so washboarded that we could drive without shaking the van to pieces. So we stopped and lowered the air pressure in the tires. This made a huge difference and except for a few exceptions, we could drive 40-50 mph.

The trip along the Pony Express Route was nice and there was very little traffic or campers along the way. We probably only passed 4-5 other vehicles. It took us about 2-1/2 hours to drive to the Fish Springs Wildlife Preserve.

This preserve is in the middle of nowhere. It has over 10,000 acres of water and is pretty much the only water in the area. Therefore is it used by all kinds of migratory birds as a stopping point. I wish we would have brought a book to identified what birds we saw, but it was quite a variety.

Due to the pandemic, the visitor’s center was closed, but Eva was happy to see that the bathrooms were open. There were several houses where the rangers live, but we didn’t see any of them around. We drove out into the preserve and parked between a few ponds to eat lunch. We only saw one other pickup truck during out time in the preserve.

Unfortunately, it was a little too early in the year to be in the desert. I was hoping to see the green grass and wild flowers, but most plants were still dead from the winter, but near the water, the green was starting to come out.

From the preserve we continued west to Snake Valley and drove south through the valley. We continued through Trout Creek, which had a church and one or two other houses, and then through Partoun, where the West Desert High/Jr High/Elementary School is at. We heard from one of the ranchers that they normally have 1-2 graduates each year, but there were none for 2020, so they didn’t have to worry about canceling graduation due to the pandemic. There were several ranches spread out through the valley. Some look big and prosperous, and others not so much.

Our camp that night was at the Gandy Warm Springs. We arrived around 4:30 pm and had the place to ourselves. After getting camp set up we took a dip in both the lower pool and upper pool. Gandy is not a hot spring, but a warm spring. The water is around 80 degrees. It took a minute to settle into the water, but once you were in the water it was nice. The water is crystal clear and has none of the minerals or algae that many hot springs have. The upper spring is just below the hole in the mountain where the water comes from and is slightly warmer, so we spent most of our time there.

After soaking in the water, we sat around camp and Eva made fajitas for dinner.

May 5, 2020

Before breakfast the next morning we took a walk to up the canyon for a mile or so. It was a good way to stretch out for the morning. We ate breakfast and broke camp around 9:30 am. Our plan was to tour the Crystal Ball cave at 10 am. They require reservations, and I had called the day before, but was only able to leave a message. The cave is on BLM land, however, the Bates Family Ranch has contracted with the BLM to give the tours. The cave tours have been closed due to the Corniavirus, but had just opened a few days before. We drove to the ranch and talked to Gerald Bates. He is too old to give the tours now, so his kids lead the tours. They were out of town and did not get our message. So we will have to come back another time.

Gerald was glad to have some visitors so he talked to us for about 45 minutes and showed us the cabins and campsites that he rents out. He said he is usually full this time of year, but everything in slow due to the Cornavirus.

From the ranch we headed east along the old Hwy 6/50. It is completely dirt, but in nice shape. Our first stop was in Marjum Pass at an old Hermit Cave. The cave is a ways up a narrow and rugged canyon.

From the BLM web page: The Hermit’s Cave was constructed by a man named Bob Stinson. Bob served his country in World War I. Upon returning home from the war he learned that his girlfriend left and married another man. Heart broke he decided to travel to Delta Utah to visit his brother in 1929. While making his way through the Marjum Pass just 45 miles from Delta Utah; Bob’s house on wheels broke down. Looking for shelter Bob located a small natural cave in the side of a canyon. By using local rock, he enclosed the front of the cave which is now known as the Hermit’s Cave House, or Hermit’s Cabin. Bob was often called the Hermit of Marjum Pass. The government paid him to keep the pass clear of debris, as it was at the time the major east/west highway from Delta to Nevada. To earn extra spending money he trapped bobcats and coyotes, mixed poisons for the government to kill grasshoppers, and he even raised a handful of sheep. When Bob would have visitors, out of the greatness of his heart, he would offer them a glass of home brew. In 1951 Bob lost his road job when the new paved highway was built several miles to the south. Bob, then in his 70’s, moved into Delta to be near a few more creature comforts. At the age of 80 when Bob passed away he was cremated and his ashes were spread at the base of the rock house he built in Marjum Pass.

We drove another 20-30 miles of dirt road to the West Desert Sinkhole. The last 5 miles, Google maps took us on an ATV trail, but it was not too bad to drive the van on. We ate lunch at the sinkhole and then continued on towards Delta. After about 220 miles of dirt road, we were on pavement for the last 50 miles to Delta.

Before we got to Delta we stopped at the infamous RaPower-3 solar site. This is the site of a large scam against the government that made the owner millions of dollar. All that is left on the solar site are the decaying ruins of the solar collection towers, lenses, equipment and buildings. I am not sure how it was supposed to work.

We then drove to the site of the Topaz Internment Camp. The entire camp is surrounded by a fence, but nothing is there by sagebrush and foundations. There was a parking area in the north-west corner that had several monument that told the history of the site.

After getting gas in Delta we drove 20 mile north to the Baker Hot Springs to camp for the night. These springs were not a clear and fresh as the Gandy springs, but they were hot. There are three concrete tubs that had a small ditch of very hot water running down the side. You could regulate the temperature by opening or blocking the hot water inlet into the tub.

We took a dip in the hot tubs before dinner and it was real nice to soak in the hot water. There was only one other guy camped in the area and we only saw him later in the evening while we ate dinner as he walked over to the tubs.

It was a nice evening and a pretty warm night.

May 6, 2020

I went for a short walk this morning to try and find the source of the hot water, but the trail turned into a wet marshy area that I could not get through. We left camp around 9 am and drove to Delta. Delta has the cheapest gas we have seen, so we topped off the gas tank.

From Delta we drove south on the Pahvant Valley Heritage Trail. This is an all-purpose trail, through the west desert, that starts in Delta and ends near Fillmore. The first stop was Fort Deseret, just south of Hinkley. There is not much there, but the ruins of the adobe fort walls from an 1800’s era fort the pioneers built.

We then drove through the Clear Lake Wildlife Refuse to the Lace Curtain rock formation on the north side of Pahvant Butte. This was pretty interesting and we spent some time looking at the rocks and walking through the area.

Our next stop was the Devil’s Kitchen Petroglyphs. We had a little trouble finding the place. We had GPS coordinates from the internet, but they were totally wrong. It appears everyone on the internet copied the wrong coordinates. However, we passed a county sign on the main road that pointed in the direction of the petroglyphs. There were a couple of miles on the ATV trails, and no more signs. We finally arrived at the site and was able to explore the rock formations and the petroglyphs. After eating lunch we drove back to the Clear Lake road.

We continued south to the Meadow Hot Springs, however, there were a lot of people there and more were arriving, so we decided not to get in the water. It was about 4 pm, so we drove to our planned campsite near the Tabernacle Hill Lava tubes. The last 3-4 miles were pretty rough, but we finally set up camp on the mesa in the middle of the lava flows. We started to relax and read, but not long after setting up camp, the wind started to blow. It was blowing pretty hard and the weather forecast predicted high winds until midnight. So we quickly packed up and drove back down the road a mile to a spot that was in a small valley. The wind was much calmer there, however, it still blew for most of the night.

May 7, 2020

We were up early and drove to the hot springs. We hoped there would be no one there, but to our surprise, there were 10-11 campers/RVs in the parking lot. The last time we stopped at these springs there were No Camping signs in the area, but I didn’t see any this time, so camping must be allowed.

Fortunately, most of the campers were still asleep or in their RVs. When we got into the water, there were 4 guys from Park City, and a few others showed up later. It was not too crowded and for a few minutes there were only 3 of us in the water. We talked to several of the campers and it is amazing how many people live in their camper full time and just travel around.

After about an hour in the water we walked back to the van. Since we were driving on pavement the rest of the way home, I re-inflated the tires back to the highway pressure. We drove about 300 miles of dirt road for this trip. Nothing was too rough, and some of the roads were smooth enough to go 50-60 mph. But there were still a lot of areas of washboarded roads.

We drove home, but only for a few hours. We needed to meet Kayla and family at a campground in Morgan for the rest of the week. Since the van was so dusty and dirty I sprayed off the outside, while Eva wiped down the inside of the van. We both took showers and then we were off for the rest of our road trip.

China and Singapore, 2016

In December of 2016, I traveled to China and Singapore for work. This blog post will not say much about work, but will be a recap of the sightseeing we did on the weekend and evenings.

Eva dropped me off at the airport early in the morning for the first leg of my flight to San Fransisco. There was a 2 hour layover in SFO, but I was able to wait in the China Eastern Airlines VIP lounge. I was able to fly in business class where the seats were like little cubicles and the seat unfolded into a bed. It was pretty comfortable. I watched several movies and was able to sleep for about 4 hours of the 12 hour flight. I arrived at the Shanghai Airport at 6:30 pm where a driver pick me up for the 2 hour drive to Suzhou. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel, they did not have a reservation for me. I had assumed the manufacturing plant was going to make the reservations, but they assumed I would make the reservations. There were no extra rooms for that night, so I had to walk next door to the Lamborghini Hotel. It was a very nice hotel with a Lamborghini parked in the lobby. I was able to get a 3 room suite for $100/night.

Smog of Suzhou

We spent 2 days at the Suzhou plant with the plant manager and staff presenting their budgets and strategic plans. We also spent time touring the plant and talking to the people. China has changed a lot since I was there in 1992. Everything is much more modern and clean. It was really like most other large cities, except for the air pollution. It was so bad that you could not see more than ¼ mile before the view was fully blocked due to the smog. The population is so high is this part of the world. There was very little open space between Suzhou and Shanghi. It was like one large city. There is over 35 million people living in the area.

Later that night we had a large dinner at the hotel with people from all three China plants. They had a Chinese Opera show going as we ate. It was interesting, but we did not understand any of it.

The Chinese meal were just a lot of different dishes that were placed on the Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. You just rotated it around and took what you wanted. There was a lot of food, more than what we could eat. The Chinese natives at our table would translate to tell us what each dish was. It was mostly chicken and pork dishes, but I also ate duck tongue and drank corn juice. Neither were very good, but I wanted to try it.

Duck Tongue

Duck Tongue

On the weekend we flew from Shanghai to Xi’an. It was a couple hour flight. Unfortunately, Xi’an was just as polluted as Shanghai. Xi’an is pronouced Sian and is the capital of Shaanxi Province. It is one of the oldest cities in China and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

We first went to the world heritage site of Terracotta Army Museum and spent much of the day there. The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.

The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BC, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits near Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.

The main excavation area was in a huge building. There was one pit where they have uncovered 2000 statues. It was quite impressive. There were several other buildings where other excavations had taken place. There were also sculptures that had been removed from the pits and restored, so you could get a good look at them.

As we were leaving the museum a street peddler wouldn’t leave me alone and he followed me for a couple of hundred yards. I bought a box of 5 little soldiers from him. He started at 20 RMB for each and I ended up buying the 5 for 30 RMB (about $0.70 USD).

After the Terracotta Army we went to the emperor’s winter palace at Huaqing Hot Springs. There were a lot of hot springs and baths that have been used for centuries. The palace was build around 300 BC. We rode a tramway to the top of the mountain, but the pollution was so bad, we could not see anything.

After driving back to Xi’an we stopped at the old wall that surrounded the city. This wall is similar to the Great Wall of China, but only about 25 miles long. It was built around 600 AD. We walked to the top of the wall and rented bikes and rode around for about 1.5 hours. It was pretty smoggy so we wore masks like many of the other people. While we were biking Chinese guy stopped me and took a selfie picture of me and him. Later we saw him again and John Lim asked why he took my picture. He said it was because he thought I was such a handsome man.

Guard Tower on Wall

We ate at the hotel and then John Lim and I took a taxi to the open market area and walked around for an hour. I bought a few things for Eva and the kids.

From Xi’an, we flew to Shanghai and then to Singapore. We had a few days planned to visit their manufacturing plant for the budgeting and strategic meetings. In the evening we had group dinner a the fanciest and largest buffet restaurant that I have ever been to. It also happened to be Eva and mine 30th wedding anniversary. I sat by James Hui, who was the Singapore plant manager. He had also been married 30 years, but his was an arranged wedding and the first time he saw his wife was on their wedding day. They have 2 boys now and have been very happy.

The next day after work, I walked down to the shopping district to watch the street performers and see the Christmas Decorations in the city. It was a little strange to see Christmas decorations when the weather was 80 deg and humid. The next morning I boarded the plane for my 20 hours of travel to get home before Christmas.

Homeward Bound

Feb 24-25, 2020

From Lake Havasu City we drove north to Boulder Dam at Lake Mead. We ate lunch at the visitor’s center and then continued along the North Lakeside Drive.

This took us 40 miles along the north side of Lake Mead to Stewart’s Point on Lake Mead. We found a campsite down near the lake and sat outside enjoying the weather.

The wind really started blowing in the night and by morning the wind was blowing hard. It blew our chairs down the hill and we saw that someone’s tent had blown into the lake and was floating by us. Since the wind was so miserable we hurriedly packed up and left. We went north through Overton and Logandale to St. George. At St. George we stopped by the temple to see the reconstruction and then to Costco for gas and a hot dog. We drove the final leg of our trip to home and arrived home around 5:30 pm.

46 nights camping

4728 miles in the van

Arizona Warmth

Feb 19, 2020

We are not in a big hurry to get home because it is nice warm weather here in Arizona and cold and dreary in Utah. In Yuma it was suppose to get 80 degrees today. After eating breakfast we drove back to Yuma to visit the Yuma Territorial Prison. This prison is on the banks of the Colorado River and was built in the 1876 and was operated until 1909. Much of the prison has been torn down, but they have saved part of it and is now a museum. Interestingly, from 1910-1914 the prison was used as the Yuma High School and the school’s mascot today is the Criminals.

Yuma is an interesting town. The population is about 100K, but 80K snowbirds come to town each winter. The town is full of RV parks and RV dealers. Near where we camped there were large areas full of big motorhomes and trailers. We could see all the old retirees hanging out in the camp. Yuma is also very big in agriculture with thousands of acres of crops, mostly vegetables and fruits, but also a lot of alfalfa and grain.

After the prison we headed to Phoenix, but we stopped in Gila Bend to wash the mud and sand off the van. It was the first place we could find a self-service car wash. We spent $5 to get most of the dirt off and then continued towards Phoenix.

We stopped in Chandler to have dinner with Alan, Jinhee and the kids. They had a big meal of steaks, potatoes and salad. I was pretty stuffed by the end of the meal. Later in evening we drove to Peoria to Hilda’s house. We will be staying with her for the next few days.

Feb 20, 2020

Today Hilda had to go to work and Justin to school, so we were home all alone for the day. Eva spent the day doing laundry and I was outside washing the under carriage of the van and then did a complete exterior wash of the van, top to bottom. I also unpacked the kayak and inflated it. I then washed the salt and sand off. After the kayak was dry I deflated it and packed it on the back of the van.

All the work took most of the day so Eva made dinner for all of us and we just hung around the house for the evening.

Feb 21-22, 2020

We hung around Hilda’s house for the next few days. It was a nice rest. Hilda had to work Friday night so we went to dinner with my cousin Stacey. Her brother Mark was going to join, but wasn’t feeling well so he dropped out.

The next day we went to see some houses that Hilda was planning on putting offers on. After viewing them she put two offers down. The rest of the day we waited to hear back from one of the houses, but they went with another offer. Later in the evening we went to dinner at Red Robin with Hilda.

Feb 23, 2020

We left Phoenix around 10 am and drove to Lake Havasu City. We spent a couple of hours there at the London Bridge visitor center and walking around the area.

Around 6 pm we headed north about 10 miles to find a campsite. We had to drive about 3 miles from the highway to find a private spot to camps. Much of Arizona is covered by big camps of snowbirds and other campers. For about 10 miles before and after the towns there are large informal camps of snowbirds on the BLM land.

On to the Border

Feb 18, 2020

We were up early and left camp around 7:30 am. Just a few miles north towards Mexicali we stopped at Mi Ranchitos for a couple of menchaca burritos for breakfast. We continued up the highway until we were just south of Mexicali. From there we turned east on highway 4. This took us away from Mexicali towards San Luis Rio Colorado. We decided to cross there, rather than Mexicali, thinking it would be less crowded and we could get through easier.

Highway 4 took us to highway 40 where we separated from Kevin and Debra. They turned south on 40 towards Puerto Penasco where they will spend a few days. We turned north with Frenchie. It was only a few more miles to San Luis Rio Colorado. Once we passed through town we were able to get in the line for the border.

The line was shorter than expected, but we still waited in line for about 1-1/2 hours to get to the border. At the first entry point he kept asking me about my trip to China a few years ago. I think it is because of the Corona Virus issue that is going on now. We also mentioned that we had some chicken and carrots in the fridge. This was a bigger sin than being in China. He sent us to secondary inspection where they searched the van and made Eva and I wait in the building without our keys, phone or passports. At least in Mexico they let you stay with the car while they do the search. At the end of the search they had confiscated our chicken, turkey bacon, avocados, tomatoes and eggs. Since these were raw, and we had taken them out of the original packages, they were a risk for brining bacteria into the US. Overall it only took about 40 minutes and they explained why they had to take each of the items.

Since Frenchie sailed through the border, we had arranged to meet at the WalMart parking lot, about 2 miles up the highway. After our release we hurried and met up with Frenchie and said goodbye as he was heading east to is home near Albuquerque. It has been a pleasure to have such an experienced guide for our first trip to Baja. It was nice to just follow him through the country without having to worry too much about where we were going. He also had an extensive knowledge of Baja’s history, culture and geography. We had a good time with him and his stories.

We went into Walmart to replace our confiscated food, and also call the kids and let them know we were in the US. We then headed north to Yuma and found a campsite near a lake on the northeast side of Yuma. It is amazing to see the many square miles of farm land around Yuma. There are so many vegetables that were being grown and harvested. I could not guess how may thousands of acres of food are grown in the area. They were harvesting Romaine Lettuce and cauliflower and it was interesting to see the harvest process and the many fields that had been harvested.

We were surprised to see how many campers were in the area. It looks like a lot of snowbirds and maybe some farm workers living in RVs. We finally found a private spot above the lake. We both took showers and then enjoyed the evening.

Bahia de Gonzaga

Feb 15, 2020

We called the beach at Papa Fernandez Mark Twain Beach because of the rock formation at the south end of the beach that looks like Mark Twain. Today we hiked to both ends of the beach. On the south end I climbed a sand dune to the top of the cliff that saw the bay to the south. It was a very calm bay and I think I saw a whale swimming out of the bay. It was 3/4 of the way across the bay, but it was very large and I think I heard it snorting. On the north end of the beach, Kevin and I walked on the rocks around the point to the next bay. It had an old, closed restaurant and an abandon trailer. It would also be a nice place to camp.

Later in the day we set up the solar shower off the back of the van so we could both shower. It worked pretty good, except the breeze was a little cold. Together we used a little over 2 gallons of water. Another half gallon would have been nice. It was one of the best weather days we have had. It was warm and sunny, with only a little breeze. It did get cool as the sun went down, but it was still one of the warmest nights we have had. Now we are in Baja North we are back in the Pacific time zone. Also being on the east coast the sun sets around 6 pm and comes up at 6 am. So we are in bed early and up early.

Feb 16-17, 2020

We spent the next two nights at Papa Fernandez. The days were warm and there was no wind, so the days were perfect. The nights were warm enough that we didn’t need the furnace in the morning to warm the van. The only downside was the shrimp boats. They would arrive in the bay at sundown and then would cruise back and forth all night long. They were not too loud, but enough that you could hear them. In the mornings they would stop and float in the bay as the finished their work. We would watch the birds and sea lions circle the boats looking for the waste that they would through off the boat.

We left Papa Fernandez campground on Monday. It looked like another good day, but it was time to head further north. We drove highway 5 north. There were still several washed out bridges that had not been repaired from the hurricane that hit the area 18 months ago. When you arrived at the washed out spots, they had a bypass through the arroyo. I think there were only 5-6 spots we had to bypass. They had already repaired many more bridges.

We stopped in San Felipe for lunch and a little shopping on the waterfront. I had garlic shrimp and Eva had chicken enchiladas. We also bought a few things for the grandkids. We were only in San Felipe a couple of hours. As we head north the area becomes more tourist oriented and more commercialized. We found a camping spot in the desert just south of Mexicali. It was not a great spot, but good enough for the night. We heard coyotes howling through the night. Tomorrow we will head to the border.

On to Bay of LA

Feb 12, 2020

We left Laguna San Ignacio around 9 am and drove the 10 hard miles of washboarded roads until we made it to the pavement. Once we were on the pavement it was an easy drive into San Ignacio.

Today was a day of driving. Once we were back on highway 1 we headed north. Nothing interesting happened as it was highway we had already traveled. Highway 1 is the main highway that goes from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the peninsula. It criss-crosses back and forth from the Pacific coast to the Gulf coast to hit all the larger towns. It is pretty much one lane each direction for the entire length, except in the major cities it may expand to 2 lanes. I think it has only been 5-10 years when the entire length was paved. Some of the highway is newer, so it is smooth pavement and has a small shoulder. That is maybe 20% of what we have traveled. Most of it is rough, broken pavement with lots of potholes. There is very little shoulder on the side of the road. At best there is 4 inches outside of the white lines. At the end of the shoulder there is a 2-4 foot drop off. The road is so rough, driving the van is like riding a bucking bronco as the van jumps back and forth on the rough pavement. While I am trying to keep the van in the lane, there are semi truck blasting past us only inches away from hitting us. There is also the drivers that will pass on any hill or curve, regardless of if they can see ahead for oncoming traffic. About every mile there is a memorial for someone who has died on the road. Some of the memorials are just a cross and flowers, but most are small buildings, anywhere from 4 square feet to 15-30 square feet. They have flowers, pictures and candles inside the opening. Most are very ornate and are nicer and better maintained than most houses.

For lunch we just ate sandwiches at an parking lot. North of Guerrero Negro we turned east off highway 1 and drove about 40 miles to the east coast. The town of Bahia de Los Angeles is like most small towns in Baja. There are a lot of abandoned homes and buildings, but there were a few nice homes. This town has a lot of vacation homes for Americans. When we arrived school was getting out and all the kids in their school uniforms were walking home. We picked up a few supplies at the “tiende” and then continued through town to find a camping spot on the south end of the bay. The dirt road was very rough and bumpy, but after 5 miles we found a spot among the dunes, just off the beach.

And the Earth Shook

Feb 13, 2020

At 12:15 am, both Eva and I woke up to the van violently shaking. At first I thought it was a gust of wind, but the night had been calm and we could not hear any wind blowing. Eva thought maybe someone was rocking the van, but it would be impossible to rock it that much. We finally decided it was an earthquake. And in the morning everyone else confirmed that they felt it. We decided it was between a 3 and 4 on the Richter scale. I am a little worried in driving back into town as most of the buildings are ready to collapse without an earthquake. Later when we were back in town we found out it was a 4.3 quake centered on the island about 24 miles from our camp.

We ate breakfast as a group and then sat on the beach watching the water and enjoying the day. It was real nice in the morning, but around noon the wind started blowing and kept blowing until 6 pm. Eva and I spent the afternoon in the van reading and resting.

Later that evening the wind had stopped so we started a campfire and sat out there until 9 pm. Most every camp in Baja has been very dark and it is amazing how black the sky is and how many stars you can see. We saw several shooting stars. The past few weeks the moon didn’t come up until later in the night, so around 7-8 pm the sky was full of stars. It is different than the stars we are used to seeing. Orion’s Belt is alway just above us, and the Big Dipper and the North Star are very low on the horizon, that it is difficult to find them some nights. We went to bed about 10 pm and had another calm night in the van.

Feb 14, 2020

This morning was a very calm morning. We were sitting on the beach watching the water when we saw a few dolphins. As we watched they came in closer and we think there were between 20-25 in the pod. They put on a show for us for about an hour. They would chase fish and the birds would chase the dolphins. There were several times that dolphins would jump completely out of the water. As they fished they got closer to us until they were around 100 yards from where we were sitting. Unfortunately they were still to far away to get good pictures or videos, but I tried.

https://youtu.be/4rymqssit0c

After the dolphin show we packed up camp and drove the 5 miles of rough road back to town. It was Valentines Day so we stopped for a lunch at a restaurant. We all had something nice for dinner. Eva had the Mexican combination and I had garlic scallops. While we were eating a group of motorcyclist pulled into the parking area. There was one guy from Vernal. They had driven from the border over the previous two days and were spending 2 weeks riding in Baja.

After lunch we drove the paved road back to highway 1 and then to the new highway 5 that takes you up the east coast to the border. As recently as last year it was a winding dirt road, but now the first 20 miles are a new modern highway. It has been a lot of miles since we had such a wide smooth road. It felt great to drive it. After the new section, it was still a better road than any other in Baja.

We rode up highway 5 to San Luis Gonzaga Bahia. Fortunately the gas station was open as we were down to less than a quarter tank of gas. After gassing up we continued through the military checkpoint and about a mile later turned off the highway. There was a 2 mile dirt road that took us to Papa Fernandez campground. We were a little worried as the road was taking us through a junky shanty town, but once we passed through the gate and over the hill there was a beautiful bay with 20-25 camping spots. The cost was 100 pesos/car ($5.25 USD) There were two other groups camping there, but there was still plenty of space. We took some spots near the beach and set up camp. It was already getting dark by the time we got camp set up, so we spent the rest of the evening in the van.

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