Monday, July 28, 2014

Anniversary Trip Day 1

July 24, 2014
Destination: Palmdale, CA

We were up bright and early this morning, excited because the vacation we had been planning for so long was finally here! We knew for a long time that we wanted to celebrate our first anniversary "big", and while our plans had changed many times over the past months, we had finally decided on a trip to Santa Barbara, CA and Joshua Tree National Park. What were the deciding factors? Letterboxes. Anyone who's been on Atlas Quest this summer has probably heard about the Summer of Eevil. My husband has been hard at work deciphering clues, and since there aren't any Eevil boxes in Arizona, we needed a chance to go somewhere where we could find a few. We also had heard about an event that took place near Joshua Tree, and knew there were many quality carves and series out there. There also happened to be a Whispering Giant statue on the way, which we HAD to see. We had already been to San Diego and definitely wanted to avoid Los Angeles, and so Santa Barbara seemed like the best option.

We left home around 8:30 that morning. It was already starting to warm up in Tucson, and we were really looking forward to those mid-70 temps on the beach. Of course, we wouldn't be there until the next day, but we'd at least be at higher elevation in California and closer to the sea…that should make it cooler, we hoped.

And so our trip West began. We took the Phoenix bypass route, which is God's greatest gift to mankind, though when we saw signs for "West - Los Angeles, East - Phoenix" we realized that Phoenix is actually the lesser of 2 evils. No offense to anyone in those cities, we just dislike big cities!

Curtis had a good amount of letterboxes to grab on our way. Unfortunately, the rest area for the first was closed. Our first stop was in Quartzsite, AZ. It was around noon when we arrived, and we set out looking for our first box. It was supposed to be easy, but we had trouble finding all the landmarks referenced…not to mention, it was noon and extremely hot with no shade! We gave up after trying longer than we should have. We decided to go try for one more though, and thankfully it was a success.

Stopped here for a box!

After boxing here, we continued driving West. We started to smell something that smelled like rotten eggs or something, and made some jokes on Quartzsite for that. We fueled up the tank before crossing the border, knowing that gas prices could only go up from here!

Crossing the Colorado river!

Check points going into California, but not for those headed into Arizona...

Welcome to California! 

Let's be real here. Everyone says California is sooo great, Arizona's just a hot desert, but may I point out that the majority of Southern California is just like AZ, but with higher taxes and gas prices? It's not all LA and ocean. Still fun to visit the Pacific, and someday we'd love to go to the parks in Northern California, but it might be pretty low on our list of places we want to be stationed with the Navy.

Our first stop in California was Desert Hot Springs to visit Whispering Giant #27. We saw our first Giant statue on our honeymoon, and it seemed appropriate to see another while celebrating our anniversary! As we drove into town, we started noticing the same rotten egg smell as earlier, and wondered if the entire sewage system for all of LA was out here somewhere.

BIGGEST disappointment of the day: The Giant is in a museum (the only attraction in Desert Hot Springs), and the museum is only open 9-1 Wednesdays-Saturdays from May-October! We parked on the side of the road to look and take pictures. But it just wasn't enough. We started scheming then how we could rearrange our travel plans so that we could come back and see it up close.

Heartbreaking "closed" sign!! After this, we went and got back in the car. We realized that while we were outside, it smelled fine, but as soon as we got back into the Yeti the egg smell was back. We realized it was probably something in the engine. It was around 3 in the afternoon, but it felt like it was hotter now than it was in Quartzite at noon.

Now, a little more concerned than before, we headed out for a second box, on a road West of Desert Hot Springs, to middle of nowhere. It required pulling over on the side of the road, and Curtis ran out to  retrieve it, came back, and we logged in. The box had been further than where he thought, so he wanted to drive closer to put it away, but when he tried to start the truck, it didn't turn on! After trying several more times, he went to check out the engine and called his dad. They diagnosed the issue as the water in the battery had evaporated, leaving just the sulfuric acid which was making the egg smell. We called his insurance to get a tow truck. Thanks to letterboxing, we were pretty clear with giving directions, however they didn't understand and even with exact GPS coordinates, they didn't get it. 

But fear not, there are still wonderful people in this world! While we were on hold, a great man pulled over and came out with two large bottles of cold water, and asked what he could do to help. He told us it was 113 degrees and we should NOT be out here! Curtis asked if he could help try to jump start the car to see if it would start, and it did! We thanked him, then headed back to Desert Hot Springs. We debated whether we should go there or head even farther South to Palm Springs since it was a bigger town and we had more chances of finding an Autozone or somewhere to buy a battery. Palm Springs won, and it took just 20 minutes to get into town. 

We drove around for a while, hoping and praying we would come across a place, but finally pulled into a Starbucks to use the internet to help. (Neither of us have smartphones so we were relying on a tablet. We're realizing smartphones have their advantages…and our phones are so dumb, both decided to run out of battery too. Awesome!) I typed in "auto repair" into Google maps and we again started driving around, hoping one could help us out. I now realize I should have searched for "Auto parts" instead, because now it was around 5 and most repair places were closing. Not only was the battery fried, our engine was also overheating at this point. We finally came to an open repair shop, and the owner was kind enough to direct us to an Autozone. Thank God they had what we needed, and Curtis is great with working with his truck, so our battery was replaced in less than a half hour. Whew!

Our concern now was that what if there was something else wrong with the car that caused the water in the battery to drain? Only time would tell if we gave a good organ to a dying car that no one could save. We also wondered if we could have fixed it by pouring water into the old battery…but in heat like this and on a weekend trip, we really didn't want to risk anything else. For now, we were happy that the car started and no longer smelled bad. Another way to look at this is that all this happened around the rush hour, which means we didn't have to drive around LA during what could be the worst possible time…we really don't know what we missed out on, but we were happy to not have to find out! It was busy enough even after 7 for us.

I got Curtis a Coke to help make it the rest of the way. Except they didn't have a "Curtis". Understandable…but how on earth did they not have "Jessica"?!? We had to settle for Alex. :)

We were hoping to get glimpses of the ocean, but LA is just too big. We were still 80 miles away from the Pacific. At least we saw a pretty sunset over mountains.

You might think we're crazy, but even after what we'd been through, boxers gotta box! Pulled over at another "middle-of-nowhere" to get our third box of the day.

Then we jumped back on the interstate, hoping to complete the last leg of the journey to Palmdale, but we missed the exit and had to go another 8 miles before turning around. No big deal…but they were 8 miles uphill, through a construction zone, stop and go traffic, engine started to overheat, couldn't use air conditioning… We were definitely ready to be done with driving for the day!

But God is good, we made it to Palmdale and even got one more box. We had much to be thankful for at the end of the day, but also had to trust that God would keep us safe through the rest of the trip. Yeti is a nice truck and still gets us to where we need to go, we just have to put up with little things…like no air conditioning. No big deal. ;)

End Day 1: About 530 miles driven; found 4 boxes

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