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Day 1: Phoenix, AZ to Palm Springs, CA

Loaded Blue and hit the road to rendezvous with Mom & Dad at McDonald's in Quartzite.  Got a late start because: A) The bra was a PITA to get on; a few of the tabs kept popping out when the doors shut.  B) At the gas station the pump asked if I had a Fry's Club Card (never used this station before).  I did, and ran around the van to get my wallet, knowing I had some fuel savings points.  Of course, in the few seconds it took to get the card, the dumb computer at the pump had moved on.  Thus began the time-wasting fiasco of trying to cancel and start over.  Pressing "cancel" didn't cancel!  Finally, it just timed itself out.  So, I start the whole process over, inserting my Fry's card when prompted and... "card invalid".  Say what?!  I realize it's an old card but the thing still works at Fry's stores, so Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!  Screw it; don't have time for this, just pump the fuel!  I got done pumping and am walking around to the door when a lady in a Dodge Caravan pulls up and says, "Is that a camper?" And thus begins a short conversation about how cool VW camper vans are.  I finally get on the freeway, look down at the clock and... oh, crap am I behind schedule!

It's still rather warm in Arizona, so was cruising down the highway with the windows down and music blaring. I'm cruising along and happen to see the phone light up.  It's Mom.  She begins telling me that... "wait a sec, I can't hear you; gotta roll the window up!"... the Porsche broke down and they were stuck on the side of the road for an hour.  That's not good; but there again, that means we'll meet up at about the same time! Turns out, they had both called several times to request I make a detour and I missed all but that last call... Oopsie!  From then on I kept the phone in front of the tach on the instrument cluster.

After a scrumptious lunch at McD's, we pressed on to Palm Springs.  The Porsche was still acting up, so we stopped in Blythe at NAPA and for fuel.  Only one 356 was seen en route... and it passed us! Apparently, going east, was a fellow Westy... it was a rather nice day so I was looking at the landscape and failed to see it.  I'm so embarrassed because I usually have radar for the things!

We arrived at the Riviera Resort, where the show was being held, around 4pm.  After the Porsche cooled down, Dad set about troubleshooting and found the problem: a teeny, tiny fiber had clogged one of the jets.

Day 2: Porsche 356 Drive

Time to take a Porsche cruise!  Two groups of 356s took a drive up to the quaint little town of Idylwild.  It was pretty neat seeing a train of 356s going up and down the mountain.


Day 3: Porsche Show

The organizers requested vehicles near the show area be moved (motorhome, pickup truck, etc.) for photos.  When asked if the Westfalia should be moved too he said, "Nah, it's German!"  Lots of beautiful 356s on display (sorry, no photos of 'em all).  The catered lunch was required to be ticket-entry only; i.e. you must have a ticket to get a lunch.  Well, the hotel staff didn't care and weren't taking tickets so we got free lunches!  At the awards banquet, they gave out four or five places for the 356C class.  Just like in Sedona in 2009, Mom's 356 got zilch... not even fifth place!  The guy who did win... let's just say it was a conspiracy and leave it at that.  We weren't the only ones thinking that too: Most of the audience was in shock that he got first place, given the other cars there.  Yes, it's not about winning and that's not the point. ;)

Day 4: Palm Springs to Salton Sea

It was decided, that instead of spending another night in the hotel hearing doors slam shut, we'd head for Joshua Tree (a place I'd never been despite growing up in SoCal).  Before doing so, however, we wanted to take a ride on the aerial tram.  The road up to the tram parking lots was long and steep.  Upon parking, Mom ran around and said, "Blue is smoking!" Oh, crap!  I looked in the mirror: No smoke out of the left vent; whitish smoke coming out of the right vent.  Looked underneath and didn't see fire (phew!).  Opened the hatch, pulled everything out, took the engine cover off, looked in and found... nothing.  No smoke, no steam, nothing.  Van didn't overheat either; temps were all normal for a hill climb.  Put everything back in, closed the hatch and went for a tram ride.  After having a delicious hamburger for lunch at the mountain-top restaurant (which doesn't have thousand island dressing, but they do have mayo and ketchup to mix your own), we went for a nature walk among the pines.  It wasn't getting any earlier, and we had already spent a few hours between the tram ride, lunch and the hike, so we thought it best to get back on the road... keeping a keen eye on Blue's vent.

After driving for 100 miles, we got to the turnoff to Joshua Tree on I-10, hung a left, and drove a hundred yards only to be met with a "road closed" sign.  Um, okay that's fine; storms have a tendency to destroy roads.  But W-T-F didn't the freakin' government put a freakin' sign out on the main highway?! Because that makes too much sense, that's why!  Had a sign been out on I-10, we'd have known driving westward two days prior that the south entrance to the park was closed, and we would've just gone straight to the north side without wasting all that fuel!  So, now what?  It's dusk at this point and we're in the middle of nowhere.  Well, closest campground is at Salton Sea (wanted to see it anyway, since I hadn't been there in decades).  Would you believe, while the federal government was taking many months to repair a washout, the state/county repaired Box Canyon Rd., a road that had been damaged from nearly start to finish in the storm?   Anyway, the drive through Box Canyon was lovely; the rocky canyon walls were washed in the rainbow glow of sunset.  We arrived at Salton Sea at dark.  Ah, yes, sleepless night this will be: Campgrounds are conveniently located along the main highway, which is next to the train tracks.  And mmm, nothing quite like that salty, dead-fish aroma.  Yep, we're at Salton Sea alright.

Day 5: Salton Sea to Joshua Tree

No surprise: sleepless night.  Well, not totally; sleep was had in between the train horns blasting, which came every 20 minutes.  As the sun rose higher in the sky, the flies grew in number.  While packing stuff up, taking pictures, and walking around, an air-cooled Bus drove in... and gave a wave!  We didn't stick around to make breakfast; instead, we ended up stopping at a Denny's before heading up the hill to Joshua Tree via highway 62.

Stopped in Twentynine Palms for a photo-op with Murtle the Turtle, a memorial to Al "Mr. Turtle" Mackin, then stopped in at the Joshua Tree visitor center to get a few trinkets and my passport stamped... and to give the NPS a piece of our minds about the lack of signs!


Joshua Tree was gorgeous and not too many people there.  After spending a bit of time stopping and taking in the sights, we headed for a campground before it got dark.  En route to the campground, we were followed by a white Westy Bus; it kept going rather than turning at the campground, bummer!  We drove all the way to the end of the last loop and found a great spot nestled among the boulders. Up the road a bit was a Eurovan camper, and one heck of an off-road camper imported from Europe.


Day 6: Joshua Tree

Went back and toured the areas we didn't have time to see yesterday.  By the time we were done, it was too late to drive out of the park, so we decided to stay another night... and good thing.  After walking the nearby nature trail, we arrived back at the van to see another Westy parked in the same loop.  The owner, Leah, stopped to chat with us; her Westy is her, literally, home on wheels.

Day 7: Joshua Tree to Alamo Lake

Brrr... cold, windy night and, therefore, not much sleep (in fact, Leah moved to another spot early this morning in the hopes that it'd be warmer).  Ate breakfast, loaded up and headed off to Parker where we stopped for some groceries and lunch.  En route we, of course, encountered some road construction which plastered the cars with road debris (i.e. rocks!).  Took a look while stopped in Parker: one rock was actually stuck in the van's bra... it broke through the top layer of vinyl and was being held in by the felt underlayment.  Well, that confirms it; this is the last trip for this bra (the door tabs kept popping out too).

It seemed like forever getting to Alamo Lake, but beautiful scenery kept the mind occupied.  Found a prime spot overlooking the lake just as the sun was setting.  After dinner, it was straight to bed; long day, and we were beat!  Before hitting the hay, I wandered over to the restroom; only one restroom was there and it was clear on the opposite side of where we parked for the night.  In rounding the end of loop 1, I heard some snorting... shined my flashlight out into the dark desert and didn't see anything.


Day 8: Alamo Lake to home

Woke up to Dad, who slept outside on a cot, asking if I heard the donkey last night.  Donkey?  What donkey?  "The donkey that wandered through camp!  You didn't hear it?!  It walked right by me!"  Hmm... must've slept pretty darn good last night because I didn't hear a thing!  And, that must've been what was snorting at me on my trek to the restroom last night!

After a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, we drove down to the dam for a bird's eye view of the lake and surrounding area.  Scenic, out of the way place; will have to go back with the kayak!  


Said adios to Mom and Dad in Aguila; they drove on to Prescott, while I headed back to Phoenix via Wickenburg.  It was to finally see the other side of Wickenburg (I've only entered via US 60), and it was a nice day for a drive: clear, blue sky and little traffic.  Brilliant end to another fun adventure!

In case you're wondering: It was determined, once back at home and with the help of TheSamba sleuths, that the smoke seen back in Palm Springs was due to a power steering leak.  Fluid was running down one of the hoses; going up that long, steep grade allowed the fluid to drip backward onto the exhaust pipe.  The smoke never reappeared after that instance at the tramway... and the leak has since been stopped with a power steering reservoir replacement.  Now, onward and upwards to Buses By the Bridge!

Total miles: 1,051

Avg. MPG: 16.85

Adventure 6: Porsche 356 Holiday & Joshua Tree N.P.                                              Oct. 27-Nov. 3, 2011