Thirsty Thursday: New Idria Adventure

Rambler: Beth with some photo contributions from Terry
Drink at Hand: Rail to Rail Chardonnay

Thirsty Thursday here again. Time to pour something yummy and make those weekend plans. This week's post is an interesting one. Its the story of a trip we took about a month ago, but had to keep the story in quarantine until we were sure we weren't going to suffer any ill effects...and on that note, I'll dive right in.

About a year ago, we took a little afternoon road trip through rural Monterey and San Benito Counties. It was a gorgeous drive with some interesting photo opportunities. So when we still had a day left on a Borrow Lenses super awesome camera rental for a wedding we shot on New Year's Eve, we decided to go explore that loop again, only this time I pulled out my trusty (so I thought) DeLorme California Gazetteer. I found a new "red" road, so I was sure we had a fail-proof route through the rural backcountry of San Benito County. I mean, most of the paved roads that I knew of were red on that map, so I figured we were safe. Off we went!

Red Barn
Ellie Off Roads
Pine Cone
Pine Cone Road
Big View
Ellie Cruising
Death Tree
No Trespass
Worried T
Main Street
Old Truck
Four Sunset
Sunset Road
Crazy Sky

The day started off pretty typical with barns and fences and stuff. We headed into the Clear Creek Management Area, which had signs that said "Emergency Closure" but we never found an actual closed sign or a gate stopping us, so we just kept going. Soon we found ourselves driving through this odd lunar-esque landscape, which it turns out was an abandoned asbestos mine. Awesome (sarcastic tone there). At this point we were on this crazy double track fire road with no room to turn around, so we just kept following the road up and up and up. So much for that nice "red road" in the gazetteer. Terry noted that there were a lot of pine cones, as he said, "just chillin'" along the road. I don't know what else a pine cone does after it falls from a tree...perhaps Terry was inhaling too much asbestos dust. We popped over the top of the Diablo Mountain Range with a sweet view across the Central Valley to the Sierra (tough to see, but they were out there). We'd already made it this far, so why not keep going down our "red road"? Besides, according to the signs, there was a little town called New Idria just ahead. So down we went. The road quickly became more "intense". While the drive up the west side of this 4x4 park had been relatively straightforward, the east side descent was a 4x4 death road...barely wide enough for Ellie with big rocks, 1,000' drop-offs, and mud holes. While Ellie is equipped with 4-wheel drive, I would call her a 4x4. It just kept getting worse. The concerns about inhaling asbestos and dying quickly faded as we plowed on down this death road. My favorite part was the double track with the ditch down the middle. Terry had to get out and guide me. No idea how he snapped a photo of me smiling at this point. Every time we made it through some sketchy section, something more ridiculously loomed around the next corner. Then we saw this tree. We stopped and snapped photos and said, wow, that's a cool tree. How does it even hold itself up? Little did we know that as we rounded that corner we would say the same thing about our car! Just around that corner was a sharp little turn where most of the trail had washed down a 500' ravine, leaving me to drive at a ridiculously scary angle above the drop-off. I think there are permanent finger dents in the steering wheel and a wrinkle in the driver's side seat upholstery from puckering. I'm not even exaggerating. Death Road. We finally made it on down the Death Road to the town of New Idria. I was more than ready for a break. As it turns out, New Idria is a ghost town at the site of an abandoned mercury mine. Just to recap, the road trip had now visited an abandoned asbestos mine and an abandoned mercury mine. Awesome (there's that sarcastic tone again). Given my obsession with photographing old, rundown buildings, I was pretty excited about our little mining town find and quickly found my groove snapping photos of the weird stuff you find left behind in a ghost town. The town had a creepy sort of quiet quality to it. Just as I was snapping that last photo of the random 1970s cancer book (weird, right?), Terry calls out to me in a very concerned, very worried voice. "Hey hon, I don't think we should be here. We need to go now!" I'm thinking to myself, huh? Terry always wants to push the the limits of not trespassing to questionable levels. I was confused as to why he thought we suddenly need to leave the public road from which we were taking photos right this minute. Keep in mind that Terry speaks absolutely no Spanish, other than "pelota aqui por favor" which he had to know while playing soccer around here. He saw this sign in Spanish. He figured the words "virus mortal de Hanta", "mortalidad del 50%", and "no anti-virus" couldn't be good. Then we found the English version. While neither of us knew what the hell the Hanta virus was, we decided we should move along and Google it later. So we trudged back to the car, across a creek with water of a very strange shade of reddish-orange, and headed out of the death town. Fitting that the death road would end at the death ghost town. (Side note: later that night we we got home we Googled the crap out of Hanta virus and New Idria mine. The virus is deadly, transmitted through rodent feces, and rarely reported in the US while the New Idria mine is on the EPA's top 10 list of most dangerous post-industrial environmental disaster areas...awesome). Fortunately the road turned back to pavement and wandered through some pretty pastured hillsides...what we expected to see along the entirety of our trip through San Benito County. Lots of cows, an encounter with a local, and not a single other car for miles and miles. The sun was quickly bringing the day to an end, and we figured we were out of luck for finding a good sunset spot. Then out of no where the sky suddenly turned unbelievably colorful--pinks and oranges that we rarely see at sunset. Unique cloud formations. We pulled over and started shooting. Now it was dark and we were still 2 hours from home. We headed home and monitored ourselves for signs of Hanta for the next few weeks. We survived the death adventure! Unfortunately, this was one of those "get out there and do something" adventures that I can't really recommend to anyone, but we did get a couple of cool photos out of it...and one crazy story!

Thirsty Thursday: Road Trip

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: Peppermint herbal tea

I know, I know, that's a pretty lame drink for Thirsty Thursday. I have an long mountain bike race this weekend, so I figured a small alcohol taper was a good idea. Of course this race isn't nearby which means ROAD TRIP! Well, its not much of a road trip, just a few hours north of here, but we'll still be loading the car full of bike stuff and dog stuff and food and assorted unnecessary crap and hitting the road.

In honor of our first trip in awhile, I thought we could revisit our big-ass road trip from last fall. In September I decided I'd had enough of the Dirty South, so Terry rescued Massey and I from Lousyana and we drove back to California. Four days, five states, four National Parks, and six burritos later, we were happily home on the left coast. It was the typical road trip--dodgy hotels, hole-in-the-wall cafes, sad little towns, and miles and miles of road. We took a ton of photos on the road trip (gee, that's shocking!), but I found a few that said "road trip" to me.

Every road trip needs good weather. Blue skies and fluffy clouds.

Road trips are always filled with dusty, rusty old towns seemingly fading with time.

Much of our route followed the old Route 66 across New Mexico, Arizona, and part of California. This sign was in Moriarty, NM...home town of one of my good friends.

More lonely roads and more lonely roadside views. The telephone poles below mark the old road bed of Route 66. The road is long gone, but the relic telephone poles still stand in Petrified Forest National Park.

Every road trip needs a good navigator...maybe next time we can find one who doesn't slobber on the windows.

And the navigator needs breaks to stretch the legs and patrol the surroundings for dangerous creatures. She's clearly on high alert here.

Its definitely not a road trip without sampling the local cuisine. We didn't find a girl on a flat bed Ford in Winslow, AZ, but we did find the Brown Mug Cafe! Great mix of Navajo and Mexican flavors. Incredible.

And every road trip needs a diner and/or drive-in stop...and the Astro-Burger Drive-In didn't disappoint! We've been trying to find a way to get back to Boron, CA to get more tacos!

Mmmm, yummy yummy in my tummy carnitas at Astro-Burger.

The quintessential piece of any multi-day road trip: lodging. Ironically, we didn't stay at any of these establishments. Guess I just had a thing for motel signs on the trip.

Lonely California desert.

And then, finally, our first glimpse of the beautiful blue Pacific. After a year and a half away that thick, foggy marine layer never looked so beautiful.

The Great Road Trip, Day 4

Finally getting my final installment to you. We set out from just west of Dallas on Monday morning with a mere three hours to drive until we got to our final destination of Shreveport, and I swear it was the longest three hours of my life! There was traffic and silly drivers with huge motorhomes pulling pickup trucks and lots of semis and an accident. But we finally made it and found our way to Louisiana.g10-eaw-20090406-img_0777

Once we crossed the border it was just a few minutes to Shreveport and a few minutes to cross the big old Red River and we were in Bossier City. After unpacking the car and me riding my bikes around the parking lot to make sure they still worked, we were starving. Thanks to the technological wonders of things like Yelp on our iPhones, we found a little restaurant called "The Real Pickle". I have a thing for fried catfish, so I had to order the fried catfish poboy. For the uninitiated, a poboy is sort of like a sub sandwich, but it usually has some sort of fried seafood on it.


Now, for those of you keeping score at home, yes, I was in Louisiana for exactly two hours before the fried food found me. And it only took three hours for me to get an obnoxiously painful fried food headache, so fortunately I don't believe I'll have too many fried food cravings here! Meanwhile Terry flirted with the waitress like he normally does to find out what she liked and ended up with a fried oyster poboy. He loved it. Of course, now that we are in the south, Terry is smug as a bug since he can get sweet tea anywhere and everywhere. I personally find sweet tea disgusting since it tastes like tea-flavored pixie stix, but whatever. He loves it and drinks it like its liquid crack and it makes him happy so I don't argue. I stuck to beer. g10-eaw-20090406-img_0127 So that's about it. We've been looking for houses and I've had to go into work yesterday and today so we haven't explored the area too much yet, other than what our relator has shown us. Is it sad that I'm basing the location on where I can ride around my house?

The Great Road Trip, Day 3

We had about 30 minutes in New Mexico and then spent the entire rest of the day going 80 across the godforsaken abyss of west Texas. You would think that going 80 means it goes by fast but in fact, it NEVER ENDS! I don't even have much to say about it. Terry and I devised a huge plan to build a recycling center powered by wind turbines and serviced by bio-diesel powered trains. We'd build it right next to a huge federal prison so that we didn't have to force anyone to move to it...we'd just have the prisoners work at it. This is what you do when you're stuck in Texas for 8 straight hours...and we're still not done! We're only in Dallas, so we still have another few hours of Texas left in the morning. Oy! Rather than ramble on, I'll just give you a little photo essay of the day.

Crossing into Texas...


Slums of Juarez, Mexico across the river...


Part of Texas where things were still interesting to look at...


Terry put in some serious miles today, and with a smile on his face...


How the locals live...


We passed on this choice for lunch. It wasn't Mexican anyway...


The painfully flat start of I-20...


The authorities in TX are kind enough to make the drive an educational experience...


Wind farm and dust devil...


Oil tank thingies...


Another oil thingie with pretty clouds...


Farm action shot...


And a fun processing one...


The Great Road Trip, Day 2

Day two of the road trip is in the books. We started out from Indio, CA this morning with nothing to do put head east on I-10 for something like 693 miles. We crossed into was my first time really seeing much of Arizona. And I think I saw enough to keep me set for awhile.


We met up with Katie, one of my old college soccer teammates, in Phoenix. She was actually going to mountain bike ride with her hubby after lunch which made me a little jealous. But we had miles to drive and places to get to. And I didn't have any Stan's with me to fight off the inevitable goatheads.


So back in the car we went. I drove and Terry did his usual car shennigans, like sleeping and facebooking and twittering and learning how to make his own Choco-Taco. Meanwhile I sing along to whatever random music is on. Today I was on a big classic rock kick. When my family used to go on vacations from Iowa to Colorado my mom would copy their records onto tape and bring them along. I know every single word of every single song on the Meatloaf Bat Out of Hell album, along with several Jackson Browne, Eagles, Styx, and Journey albums. Oh, and a random Simon and Garfunkel one, too. We made our way across Airzona and into New Mexico, with me driving and singing my ass off to "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" and Terry studying how to make a homemade choco-taco.


Terry did have one job to do...grab the camera and take a picture of the New Mexico sign when we crossed the border. Its the co-pilot's job. He didn't do so well with one job.


At some point we decided that we were only going to eat Mexican food for the remainder of this trip, too. I don't know why we made this decision, but we actually had to skip out on dinner tonight in Las Cruces, NM. We were still stuffed from the late lunch and a quick ice cream stop that it didn't matter. We'll make up for it tomorrow in El Paso with some huevos rancheros. And now for a few sights from the drive...


Rocks in New Mexico.

g10-eaw-20090404-img_0706Crazy billboards...and why does every little tiny town in places like this have a Dairy Queen?? I think we passed roughly 273 DQ's today.

g10-eaw-20090404-img_0717A pretty little scene.

g10-eaw-20090404-img_0721Racing against the trains (this one's for dad...there was a UP mainline along I-10 for awhile...lots of trains)

The Great Road Trip, Day 1

Today we started our big bad road trip from Monterey to Shreveport. Well, technically we're going to Bossier City, Louisiana, but no one knows where that is, so Shreveport is easier. In fact, a lot of people don't know where Shreveport is, so if you're searching google maps right now, its in the northeast corner of LA, about straight east of Dallas. Anyways, I am moving there because the Air Force told me to while Terry gets to stay in Monterey and finish up school for the next nine months. I kidnapped him from school for a week and he's driving out to LA with me. Day one started out with a significant amount of swearing from me. I can't deny that I tend to swear more than any nice girl should, but certain things push me over the edge...this morning I had to go do my final bit of military checking-out stuff at another base (not at the school I attended) in Monterey. I rarely go there and usually only have to go to one particular building if I do, and it usually has a parking space or two available when I go there. But of course today, the usual parking lot I use was full, introducing frustration number one with me: why locate all the customer service angencies in a single building and not have ample parking available for the customers?? So I went over to another lot, parked my car at about 9:52, and walked over to my appointment. Turned in my stuff, signed off the necessary forms, back out to the car...oh, how sweet, someone left me a note on my windshield--must be a friend saying good-bye...wait a minute...are you f'ing kidding me?? A PARKING TICKET?? What the ?? (Insert lengthy profanity laced tirade).


Apparently I parked in some sort of staff parking lot. My own fault for not looking for a sign some where that must have stated that the parking lot was a staff parking lot. But seriously, did the guy watch me park my car? The ticket was written not more than 2 minutes after I got out of it. I was back out to my car in 10 minutes. And $45 for a parking ticket?? Ridiculous!

Fortunately my day quickly improved when I got to go grab sandwich from Randy's (the absolute best sandwich shop in Monterey, possibly anywhere!) before I went to pick up Terry from class so we could hit the road. And I got to see our friends, the goooooses, one more time before I left. A little background on the gooooses. First, yes, they are not geese, they are the goooooses. This is a word best said with a good Minnesota accent. There's one lone white goose at NPS who hangs out around the pond. Last year he had two lady goose friends of the candian variety and they made little goose babies. Adorable. The white goose would strut around with his two lady goose friends and watch over the little baby gooooses and it made us smile every morning. Then the baby goooses grew up and the lady goooses left the white goose all alone. I don't think the white goose can fly because he has a messed up wing. All summer and all winter the white goose was the only goose at NPS. We felt bad for him. He had no goose friends. Then about a month ago the white goose's lady goose friends came back. Supposedly candian geese mate for life. And the white goose strutted around all happy again. I would see the three of them sitting in on particular spot all the time. Today I found out why...brand new fuzzy little yellow baby goooooses. I had to take pictures.


That's the happy goooose family.


And there's one of the mommy gooooses with a baby goooose.


Terry likes to call the white goooose "Playa"...after nearly two years in California Terry still has not learned that "Playa" means "beach", not "ladies man".

Seeing the goooses was a good way to say so long to Monterey and get on the road. So off we went...down the 101 to Paso Robles then across to the 5. That road from Paso Robles to the 5 convinced me that I am definitely not missing out on a darn thing by never experiencing that silly Kern County Stage Race. I got thirsty just driving across that dusty wasteland. A tumbleweed attacked my car. The sucker waited in the almond grove, watching me come down the road and then at the last minute unleashed himself from the fence and flew at my car. There's even pieces of tumbleweed still stuck around my headlight. Vicious! Terry wondered if anyone actually drives out to the middle of no where in Kern Co. to check on the lonely cows out there. He also wanted to try to claim a grape vineyard that appeared abandoned. I told him we couldn't have a vineyard in Kern. And then there was this random place where one million oil derricks have been crammed into a square mile. What's that all about?



Fortunately we made it safely through Kern Co and on to the imfamous Grapevine and through LA and now we are in Indio. We missed all the traffic, stopped for $1 tacos in Pasedena, and breezed all the way here. Tomorrow the goal is to get to Las Cruces, NM, but we'll see what happens. I'll do another updated tomorrow...