Friday, April 8, 2011

Home Again, Home Again...

Today we make the trip home. The snowman has been changed several times by the kids, and has morphed into something small and cute. I am told the weed stuck in the top of his head is actually a sensor to alert N. to the presence of her cousin when they were playing Hide & Seek yesterday. Now she says offhandedly, "I turned the beeper off now though, so it wouldn't bother anybody." Good to know.

On the way back down south we make a few stops, as promised to the kid. First is the memorial in the nearby town to the crew of a firefighting plane that crashed years ago, it's interesting to see what people have left--firefighters, airplane manufacturing employees and police officers like to leave pins, stickers and T shirts. Other people like us also leave little rememberances.

Like...a tire iron?

A whole flock of new stickers adorns the round cover, including one smartass homemade one at the bottom center, with the rainbow.

It reads: 'Our fire crew sticker is better than yours!'

The sunlight is bright today and the snow along the roads sparkles like granulated sugar in the sun, it's dazzling. Further on, we stop at the overlook high above Mono Lake. The sticker crews have been busy. This guardrail is LONG, and is entirely covered with stickers, mostly of the ski/snowboarder variety but also numerous handwritten messages--but by unspoken agreement, no obscenities or tagging for the sake of tagging.

I find this kind of thing fascinating and would love to spend a few minutes reading them, but the outside temperature is 16 degrees WITHOUT the wind chill factor from the 20 mph winds that are blowing. It's freakin' freezing, and I don't get cold easily.

I especially like the 'Welcome Home!' in green.

The conversational flow of some of these reminds me of years ago when I took a road trip up Highway 1 to visit one of my sisters in Seattle. Back then, above San Francisco the 1 wound sharply, with no place to pull over, no shoulder and lots of those temporary cement K rail barriers in place of regular metal guard rails--they'd had lots of the highway wash away in the Spring mudslides. For about a hundred miles, people had taken spray paint and written slogans and arguments all along the cement rail--green paint for the environmentalists, red for the loggers. There were entire conversations with remarks shot back and forth that went for miles. Sadly I didn't dare stop to read them or take pictures since I didn't want to cause an accident, but damn, it was interesting. No people or houses for miles, just this weird, two-sided graffiti. Kinda fun to see freedom of speech in action like that, and both sides made excellent points without resorting to name-calling.

The 'Save Mono Lake' and 'Long Live Mono Lake' stickers have been around since I lived up here more than 30 years ago, they have been fighting the water wars up here against Los Angeles since the 1920's though. Locals and others who recognize what a unique environment and habitat Mono Lake is are fighting hard to keep enough water in it to sustain this important ecosystem.

Farther on we stopped at our favorite rest stop near Mammoth. Today they had the back part of the bathrooms taped off because this monster Snow Blob was threatening to slide off and bean someone:

LOTS of snow here, naturally! Very pretty among the big trees.

WHAT? Off the grass? On truckin'? The faith? TELL US!!!

The pet area was challenging to the smaller dogs.

This snow bank looked like The Blob attacking the dumpsters.

An innocent storage shed takes on a Dr. Zhivago Russian winter-like feel.

The kid saw those icicles and HAD to have one. I instructed her on how to grab one and get away clean without being speared by the others, she did it flawlessly.

The icicle briefly became a gun, and 20 seconds later transformed into an electric guitar, which it remained.

It had really cool patterns, (no pun intended) but her request to take it home was denied. Instead we left it near the drinking fountains so others could enjoy it.

You can just see the orange tip of a snow pole sticking out of this snowbank. After a little more snow play we continued on.

Very shortly after we left, we happened on this group set up in a snowfield on Smokey Bear Flat.

Honest to God dogsleds! I turned the car around and we stopped for a few minutes to watch them. While were there, this car parked in front of us and a family with three small boys piled out to play in the snow.

By this time the wind had stopped, the sun was shining and although there was snow on the ground, it was very nearly shirtsleeve weather--at most a heavy sweatshirt would suffice.

Ever see 'A Christmas Story', where the mother spends 10 minutes bundling the youngest kid up so that he resembles The Michelin Man?

Yeah. All three of those poor kids got the full parka-entire head ski mask-ski goggles-hat-gloves-boots treatment. It took forever and you could practically hear it sucking every last bit of fun and spontaneity out of the air. No part of their actual skin was exposed lest they get Nature on them. It was sad. The kids tentatively walked out maybe two feet into the roadside (dirty) snow and then went back.

More shots of the dogsled outfit. The dogs were so cute, doing that random barking thing at nothing for the sheer joy of being out in the snow and about to pull their sled.

After this we stopped in Bishop at two of our favorite places, Mahogany Smoked Meats (elk jerky, baby!) and Schatt's Bakery for cheesebread.

Mahogany Smoked Meats had this rather disturbing metal sculpture, I parked right next to it without noticing it and it scared the living Hell outta me when I got out of the car, grinning balefully at me with it's one eye. Jesus.

Schatt's was mobbed as usual, but fighting the crowd is ALWAYS worth it.

The kid got an awesome bunny cookie...

...and a cute old-time hollow purple sugar bunny with little candies inside.

But the REAL treat was being able to have THIS for lunch--Elk jerky and cheesy garlic chiabatta bread with CHUNKS of garlic.

Weep ye, who cannot go to Bishop for these wonders.

Farther down the road, having made a gigantic mess with lovely crackly chiabatta bread, we stopped at the Mt. Whitney fish hatchery, which I was dreading because rumor had it the state was closing it due to no funds. To our delight it was open, but something seemed...off.

We walked in the front door but the room that held the baby trout and hatchery equipment was closed and locked. We looked through the window and much of the equipment was gone. My heart sank as the woman working the conter told me what had happened...the state had given up on the hatchery. Local volunteers had taken it over to try and save it, aiming for a museum/interperative center thing, but for some reason the state, rather than turn over all the cool hatchery stuff to the volunteers, had instead chosen to take it to the dump and refused to allow anyone to save it or use it. The volunteers had saved what they could, but she said much of what they could have used was instead languishing in the landfill.

The state had also taken the existing fry (baby fish) and had just dumped them into the big trout pond out front as food for the adult trout there.

California, I am ashamed of you.

So today there were no baby fish for my child to see and experience. We did buy some things from the gift shop and made a small donation before we left, and got a bag of trout chow to feed the pond trout. We WILL be back and try and help as best we can to keep the hatchery going and accessible to the public, as it should be. The volunteer told me that soon they would be opening an interperative center.

So at the big trout pond the kid cast trout chow upon the waters, and the fish said yea, it was good. The large pump outlet was spraying fresh, icy water like mad, keeping the pond circulating with cold water, which trout need. It had some interesting ice build-up on it.

After we fed the fish we walked around the pond and watched these three guys, it took us a minute to realize what the heck they were doing...

...which was imagining that they were going all Bear Grylls and taking turns plunging their arm into the freezing water, trying to grab a trout.

It was really, really hard not to laugh out loud, especially when one would kneel down (they'd been at this a while), get an expression of terrified pain and obvious 'DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS' on his face, then brace himself and plunge his arm into the icy water, vainly grasping for a trout. After a few seconds he could no longer stand the cold and would yank his arm back OUT (no trout, naturally) and hold his nearly-blue frozenclawhand aloft, yowling, howling and practically sobbing in pain as he then clutched the frozen hand to himself--discovering that the SECOND round of pain comes when your hand starts to warm back up. Their clothing was getting soaked and they were getting really bitchy with each other over their trout-grabbing failure. They had to hold each other to keep from falling in (which I would have paid money to see).

I just glanced at them as we walked by and said, 'Dude, don't hurt the trout.' and continued on. I didn't actually worry at all about the fish, they were the smart ones in the group.

Southward we went.

In Lone Pine we stop at a rock shop but it's closed. We peer in the windows and promise ourselves 'next time' because it's full of cool-looking rocks and books, both of which we love. Just before Manzanar I glanced over at the field being watered, wondering what they planted that was blooming those pretty white flowers.

Then I realized the flowers were ice balls from the sprinklers, which were also making beautiful ice sculptures on the sprinkler wheels. It was gorgeous!

Soon we come to Manzanar...and they've change the approach to it, funneling you onto a frontage road instead of directly off the highway--a move backwards in my opinion, but oh, well. We find this treasure in the parking lot:

This guy has more causes than most Hollywood celebrities!

Some very pretty bushes were flowering, again I don't know what they were...

We have to skip the interperative center today if we want to get home at a decent hour, but we do go back to the cemetery.

Fresh strings of origami cranes are there.

And the standard offerings of stones and small coins.

Plus some more elegant items.  This particular strand of beads has hung here for years.

We leave our own as well.

They are adding on to Manzanar, some new buildings that are obviously a recreation of the old barracks stand near the interperative center. We don't have time to tour them today, if they are even open yet so we'll have to save those for next time.

A ways further south we find THIS wonderful thing, in the town of Olancha (I think it was Olancha, could have been Grant or Cartago). It's a nod to the nearby historical charcoal kilns, which are built in the same shape.

It's new but empty, I'm hoping some artist is opening a gallery/shop though. I hope it opens soon, I'd love to see the Owens Valley rejuvenated a bit. The little motel next to it is being either guarded or threatened by this guy on the roof, it reminded me of the movie 'Them!':

The motel also boasts an impressive fence decorated with strands of joined PULL TABS--not pop-tops from modern cans, mind you but old-school pull tabs!

That right there is years of hunting the desert for those babies, my friend.

Right next to the modern dino-lemon building is an old ruin from long ago.

Eventually we stop at the Coso Junction rest area for a few minutes, while we are there we see a couple of the ravens that live there enthusiastically having at an old strawberry ice cream wrapper. I guess it's only good when it is days old and dried out. They had leathery bits of pink stuck all over their faces, we gave them a few bites of Schatt's cheesebread which were cautiously accepted.

Weird cloud shapes abound, at one point N. bursts out, 'Scooby Doo!'
I pause, confused.
"You know the cartoon, 'Scooby Doo'?" She persists.
She leans forward from the back seat, pointing over my shoulder through the windshield ahead at the clouds. Damned if she isn't right, some clouds are forming the head and neck of Scooby Doo, complete with collar and diamond-shaped dog tag.

We are discussing some hawks we see wheeling above the mountains. The kid decides that what eagles need are jet packs strapped to their backs as both a hunting aid and for optimum coolness. I can only imagine the terror of their prey, seeing one of them screaming at them even FASTER than they already do. Poor lil' mousy would just toss up his little paws and say, 'Welp!'.

Leaving the Owens Valley, we head down 395...my daughter's favorite part of the drive, due to the long, straight stretch of road. We call it 'The Whee-Whee Road' because the road crews have built in dips and hills to not only allow for flash flood runoff but also to keep the truckers awake--the road is like a mild rollercoaster ride. You just have to be careful not to get stuck behind a slow-moving truck, because the Whee-Whee Road requires normal speeds to get the full, fun effect. So of course I pull off for a moment and wait until there are no large trucks ahead to get a proper run at the thing.

When we gas up in Kramer Junction we see this parked next to us...

Makin' do! Plus he was towing another small truck.

Finally, just outside Adelanto we spotted this sign...

Aw, 'coy-fish'-- they're just shy! The tiny message on the upper right corner reads 'You will save a life!'. Vaguely threatening, are they saying 'buy this fish or he's dinner'? Also the red splatters on the sign resemble blood spatters more than give it an artsy effect, especially given the ominous 'save a life' thing.

Today on our drive we've seen snow, sleet, wind and rain...luckily the minor hail we got was mushy, but did 'thok' nicely off the windshield, much to the delight of the child.

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