Shoshone Village for the Night...

Wanting to take the road-less-traveled, at least for us, we found ourselves cruising through the Amargosa River Valley on our way to Death Valley.

First stop was at the history museum to learn what we could about this darling crossroads town of Shoshone Village. It has a surprisingly colorful history as a railroad town and a rich mining district.
Our super cool second stop was at Dublin Gulch, not your everyday ghost town. Most of the town is underground. In the early 1900s, miners and railroad workers carved out living quarters in the cliffs near town. The cave dwellings served two purposes: to escape the searing summer heat, and as insulation from the freezing Mojave Desert winters.
These caves were home, at one time or another, to people inextricably linked to the history of Death Valley.

Most of the cave dwellings have only one room. One of the more extravagant dwellings has several rooms plus a garage. Several of the caves were heated by fireplaces. Stove pipes can still be seen protruding from the top of the bluff.

Dublin Gulch was inhabited on and off up until the mid-1970s. Miners, hobos, hippies, and derelicts all called these caves home. When one person moved out or died another moved in.

Last stop was a brief visit to the cemetery. The first burial was a little boy in 1924. It was the perfect place to conclude today's history lessons.

We are camped in desert peacefulness. Tomorrow, Death Valley.

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Zzyzx Rd. Exit 239...

Growing up, everyone on a car trip waited patiently for this road sign to appear to become the victor of "The Alphabet Game".

We learned recently that this is more than just a road with an uncertain pronunciation. We found that those who take the Zzyzx off-ramp and drive the four and a half miles to the end of the dirt road are treated to an unexpected oasis with perhaps an even more surprising history.

Lush palms, pools, and several concrete structures comprise the sprawling Zzyzx compound, also known as Soda Springs, at the western edge of Soda Dry Lake. This desert retreat was the vision of Curtis Howe Springer, who operated Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort for 30 years, from 1944 to 1974. Who knew?

Springer, a radio evangelist and proponent of homeopathic health aides, emphasized the importance of following the Christian doctrine to become physically fit, mentally alert, and spiritually sound. Very long story short, he decided to seek out a California retreat center dedicated to healthy living. A guidebook he read mentioned Fort Soda Springs, a remote site composed of a long-abandoned railroad station and Army post.
It proved the perfect location for his Boulevard of Dreams.
Once he visited the site, he found that its remote location, access to water, and plentiful sunshine made it an ideal site for a retreat center. In 1944, Springer filed for mining claims on 12,800 acres of land for what was to be Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort -- named Zzyzx (pronounced "zi-zex") to be "the last word" in medicine -- with the understanding that after five years of mining activity he would have the option to purchase the land.

Once completed, Zzyzx offered visitors a healthy environment. There, folks had a chance to detox and abstain from alcohol, smoking and combative quarreling, and instead bask in sermons and sunshine, and restore with a special diet (largely of foods grown and raised on the property, such as rabbit's meat, goat's milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables), and soak in warm pools of "healing" mineral-rich water (that in actuality was heated water from the Mojave River whose terminus is Soda Lake). There might have been some quackery going on.

The resort was a hit until it wasn't. The compound could accommodate over 100 overnight guests at a time, and continued to busily welcome visitors until its closure on April 11, 1974, when Springer was forcibly removed from the site by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for unauthorized use of federal land. The court  found that the mining claims Springer had filed did not authorize occupation or development of the land beyond mining activities. There were more reasons than just the mining (false claims, untested treatments, etc) and possibly other motives, too.
Today, we could see the magic which made this place so special.
The locals supported Doc. He built roads, provided jobs and improved the environment but it wasn't enough and Zzyzx Mineral Springs was no more.

Zzyzx fell into disrepair and lay dormant for a period of time, while the BLM sorted out various ideas of what to do with the site, including the possibility of demolishing Springer's architectural contributions in order to return Soda Springs to its previous state. The BLM eventually worked out a deal with the California State University system to use the former resort as a desert studies center, and they reopened the road.
And that is how we were able to be here today. It is a CSU campus which is open during daylight hours to explore. A place that intrigues and confuses one's senses. To wander here is as if time stood still. As if one could hear the children in the pool and sense the hopefulness of those who came here to heal, who believed.
We both agreed that this detour, late in coming, was so worth the wait. If you can't get to exit 239 on I-15, we recommend you travel with Huell Howser as he shares this unique stop on this KCET video. Wow.

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The Giving Rack. For a Friend in Knead.

There exists a side rack at Great Harvest, our local bread company. It's not where one orders. I spied it in my periphery. When I read the sign, attached below the luscious loaves, I actually teared up.

"The Giving Rack. For a Friend in Knead. If you have been affected by the Government Shutdown, are out of work, or just plain struggling to put food on the table, please take a loaf for you and your family." Oh man, tearing up just typing that statement. Isn't that so cool?

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'Snow' in Temecula...

Everyone in Tahoe has been telling us about Snowmaggedon. They also agree we picked the perfect winter to be snowbirds in Temecula. I just found it a bit ironic when I went outside and saw this snow event (it's actually hail).

This was in our neighbor's yard. The snow was gathered from the solar panels on the roof. So dang cute.
In contrast, our Tahoe home is pretty buried (so I won't complain about a little SoCal whiteness). Bob and Jenny visited our cabin to check it out and photodocument it. It truly is a winter wonderland.
"Lake Tahoe is officially Febru-BURIED! Punxsutawney Phil may have guessed on an early start to spring, but winter has different plans for the Sierra Nevada. Over 8 FEET of new snow has fallen over the last 7 days on Heavenly Mountain, and more is in the forecast!"
“The very fact of snow is such an amazement.”
― Roger Ebert

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Safari Park with Family...

Steve and I, our older son, his wife, and her parents all gathered for a day of frolicking at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park. It was idyllic. Wow.

Walkabout Australia was new for most of this group.
I was excited to see the Wallabies and Kangaroos still with joeys in their pouches.

I will never tire of these magnificent marsupials.
The Big Cats are some of our favorites and usually they look like this lion, most of the time.
The volunteer at the exhibit said, "If you ever see a lion move, consider yourself lucky!"
I don't know what it was about today (cold, rainy) but all of the animals really put on a show. It was an exceptional animal experience for all of us.

The Giraffes, who are usually way out in the distance when we view them from the tram ride, were right next to our path... almost close enough to pet.

Even the rhino and her calf came to say, "Jambo!"

This committee of vultures cracked me up. Look at the higher perched bird in this photo and the one below. Do you see the difference?

And the baby elephants were as cute as ever! What a day.
Even the bats were awake and super active.
When this young gorilla wandered over to her mother's arms for an embrace, there was a collective sigh. So dang precious.

Even the flora and fauna performed for us in the fabulous show that was today at the Safari Park.

The End!

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