Camp Day at the Salton Sea

I’ve developed a bad habit of making a schedule and rushing to keep on schedule. This January, for the trip I’m on, I drove from NJ to Arizona, a distance if just over 2,800 miles in four and a half days. Last Fall, I drove from NJ to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, just over 1,000 miles, in about two days. I knew I was developing bad habits in thin thinking I could get quickly from one place to another. I also knew that with all the traveling I did last year, the best times were those where I fooled around with the RV and did close to nothing for a while.

I had a great time at the View Navion Rally in Quartzsite, AZ, and almost a better time with Michael Osuna, his wife Reneé, both from Texas, and Al Jaffa from Rhode Island afterwards. I camped with them in a small group at Quartzsite. I’ve known Al for a number of years, and Mike and Reneé are new friends. After leaving Quartzsite, we spent the night in a Casino Parking lot and on then on BLM land south of Joshua tree National Park after touring the park. We then headed down to the Salton Sea, took a peek, I made reservations for a campsite, and we drove to a place called ‘The Slabs’, an abandoned Marine Base where they taught Marines how to operate anti-aircraft guns.  Everything at the base was removed except the concrete slabs the buildings were constructed on.  Hence ‘The Slabs”. The place is inhabited by snowbirds, artists, counter culture individuals, and others. It was much cleaner than I anticipated, but there was a vibe of desperation, or the stuttering of an out of sync old fashioned film projector.  I definitely felt as Larry Ellison would feel in the worst neighborhood of Camden.

Everyone else took off on adventures, to Yuma, and I returned to the Salton Sea. The place was big in the 50’s and 60’s with developers and science fiction movie directors. The sea was created accidentally in the early 1900’s when an irrigation canal overflowed, broke its banks and flooded the then dry depression. My campground is 231 feet below sea level. The Colorado River came very close to changing its path and flowing into the basin, but the breach was finally diverted. There are several intermittent water sources that drain into the sea when it rains, but being a basin with no outflow, the water evaporates, and the salinity increases. As the salinity and runoff from the intense agriculture industry flows  into the sea, recreation on the water declines. I’ve been to Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake, and they’re OK, but the Salton Sea looks more like a sewage treatment plant primary treating tank. The sea is at the point where even the Tilapia can no longer live. As a result the Pelicans that used to congregate here, in the tens of thousands, no longer stay. You may occasionally see one passing through, but there’s not much to eat. 

The sea was used to train for WWII and seaplanes visited the area. There was/is a Navy/Coast Guard base at the south end of the sea. Somehow barnacles were introduced into the sea. As the sea shrank, benches were created on the shoreline, and there are several bench mounds of barnacle shells piled high in eight foot wide bands as far as the eye can see.

The quality of the water is poor, and there is a slight odor in the cool season. During the 120 degree summer the aroma is reported to be quite pungent. The view is beautiful, with mountains rising on the other side of the sea. It’s a great place to relax, and get things in order. I ended the last traveling season in a dead stop.  The RV needed to be washed and cleaned, and It’s generally a good idea to go through everything at least once a year. The last time I did that was last Summer in Maine, in Boothbay Harbor. I needed to do it again. Camp days are very wonderful.

I wasn’t thinking after I left Quartzsite, so I transported seven and a half gallons of water on the rear carrier. The roads were really rough, so I bent the 4” heavy wall steel post that connects to the trailer hitch and supports the tray and the box attached to the tray. I’ll need to replace it when I finally get home. All my tools were in the box, which added to the road. I had to move the tools off the rear, so they went to a drawer to the left of the side coach entrance. Stuff has been dumped in there since I’ve owned the RV. The drawer was cleaned out, I think for the first time. It was akin to conducting an archeological dig. Really? Who needs to travel with three blue tarps and a large ground pad?

The rear box was full of dirt and odds and ends from the summer touring, so that was cleaned, and only light stuff was placed in there. The last thing I need is to lose the tray and box. Murphy would be at his finest. The upper portion of the side cabinet was next. The lack of space in there was simply due to clutter. Everything was carefully put away, and surprise, there was plenty of room. The medicine cabinet, which I’ve been fighting with for the last to weeks, came next and succumbed to order.

The ‘all dirt falls through it carpet’, which replaced the faux grass mat I originally carried, was rinsed and hung to dry in the sun. With no humidity to speak of, things dry very quickly here. The junk drawer inside the RV was emptied, sorted, and just junk was discarded. In between things, I made a pot of vegetable barley soup. I had some celery that won’t last week and a half, so it was time. It came out great; I’ll have the soup for dinner with some salad. 

I like working on the RV when things aren’t broken. Little projects keep me busy and my mind active. There is no rush in tinkering around. If I tire of something I think needs to be done, I move on to another project. There is no pressure at all. I putter around, read part of a book, go back to the project. I like Camp days. 

On a sad note, the campground host was let go for helping campers. This campground, Mecca Beach Campground, looks immaculate. All the campsites are raked, the vegetation is periodically watered, and there isn’t a speck of trash. The Host Judy Stockmann is a gem, and the reason I moved from the other campground to the north where the staff was off putting (It was like they were all up to something and trying to keep it from the campers). Judy is from Canada, retired, and takes care of the place with her husband. They gave her 72 hours to leave and told her she can’t come back. So much for progressive discipline. I suppose that not being paid and being paid in California makes all the difference. Judy told me the reason for termination. The reason was the violation of an indeterminate rule (if that), and not for any rational articulable offense.

I’m a pretty good judge of people, and the woman is friendly, articulate, kind, and thorough. She maintains the campground with an effort that is unfortunately missing from most campgrounds. She’s been here for eight years. I’m sure that she’ll find another location, and I hope to find out where she and her husband are, and stop by. The person who let her go is a poor manager, and an ass.

So just like life, vacation can have it’s ups and downs. I was planning on coming here next year after Quartzsite because it’s pretty and had a great vibe. There are plenty of other pretty places. Without the vibe, not so much. All in all, even with a sad note, it’s been a great camp day.