20151230 – Getty Adventures

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

There are a lot of people who are born and raised in Los Angeles that don’t know anything about their own city. Sure, they know to take visitors to Disneyland or to the LA Zoo but ask them about the Huntington Library, the Arboretum or the Getty and you sometimes get a blank stare. We aren’t so different I guess, I always leave town before I go to a museum or art gallery, which is strange considering the great places that we have locally. In my almost thirty years of living in LA, I had only been to the Getty Center once and had only heard about the Villa once or twice. We needed to change that so we decided to make a day of visiting the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, the Getty Center in Brentwood and round it all off with dinner somewhere on the Westside. If you are from the Westside then this may sound pretty pedestrian but to us hardcore East-siders this is a mini adventure!

The Getty Villa is in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles although they claim Malibu as their home. It is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty opened a art gallery adjacent to his home in Pacific Palisades. As his collection grew he added a second gallery, the Getty Villa, on the property down the hill from the original gallery. Inspired by the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, the Villa incorporated additional details from several different ancient sites. It was designed by architects Robert E. Langdon, Jr. and Ernest C. Wilson, Jr. and opened in 1974. Sadly Getty would never get to visit the Villa himself but upon his death in 1976 he left the museum over $661 million dollars.

20151230 002

20151230 004

20151230 005

Our friends Spencer, Cindy and Amy and her two kids.

20151230 007

The Getty Villa is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. The sculptures are truly amazing in detail and it boggles the mind to think that the flowing lines and soft curves are carved from stone. I find it facinating that these sculptures have survived and still retain their beauty.

20151230 008

20151230 011

20151230 014

20151230 015

In 1997, portions of the museum’s collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities were moved to the Getty Center for display, and the Getty Villa was closed for renovation. When the Villa reopened in 2006, the Getty Villa included a new architectural plan that included buildings that surrounded the Villa, which are designed to simulate an archaeological dig with its many layers.

20151230 017

20151230 022

20151230 026

To explore the Getty plan for at least two or three hours. The museum has so much to offer, it can seem overwhelming at first but take your time and wander around its gardens, listen to the fountains and drink in its views. Along the way enjoy an al fresco lunch in its informal, outdoor patio cafeteria. Soak in the atmosphere while strolling through the Roman herb garden and enjoy something that even J. Paul Getty himself never got to experience!


Our next stop is the Getty Center located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Center is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The Center opened to the public in 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum together draw 1.3 million visitors annually. The Center features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.20151230 033

The Museum’s collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large 134,000-square-foot Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Irwin was quoted as saying that the Central Garden “is a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art.” We got here a little later in the day so it was hard to get photos of the flowers themselves but the late afternoon sun looked great on the buildings!

20151230 035

20151230 036

20151230 037

More than 500 varieties of plant material are used for the Central Garden which is always changing and is never the same.

20151230 039

20151230 040

20151230 044

The Getty Center was designed by architect Richard Meier and all of the buildings at the Getty Center are made from concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminum cladding. Around 1,200,000 square feet of travertine was used to build the Center and although the travertine looks great at sunset, the aluminum cladding is starkly beautiful at night…

20151230 045

20151230 048

20151230 049

So now its time to get some dinner and where do we go? There’s a lot of options on the West Side but we decide on a San Francisco favorite! The Stinking Rose! Executive Chef and San Francisco restaurateur Andrea Froncillo opened The Stinking Rose in Beverly Hills in 1995 as a follow up to his North Beach restuarant on Columbus. The theme of The Stinking Rose is encapsulated in the restaurants’ official motto, “We Season Our Garlic With Food.”and they aren’t kidding around. If you don’t like garlic then you need to stay away from this place. From the exterior, it may be hard to tell what’s going on inside. They saved all the character for inside the restaurant, to the point of sensory overload. This place is literally devoted to all things garlic… decorations, t-shirts, bumper stickers, hot sauce, cookbooks, you name it and they got it with garlic on it, in it or about it. Understated and reserved it is not.. but the kids loved it!20151230_184604

Start off with an order of bagna cauda, literaly means “hot bath” and made with roasted garlic cloves in butter, olive oil and gasp! anchovies… shh! Just ignore that last item and try it out! Smear the garlic clove onto a warm roll and you’ll be in garlicky carb heaven. I could just eat these all night… the food here is suprisingly good and kid friendly. If you must you can always order “Vampire style” and they’ll prepare your dish sans garlic, but why are you here if you don’t want any garlic?? The pasta is perfectly al dente and none of the dishes are overpoweringly garlicky. They manage to use three tons of garlic each month and so they’ve learned how to coax the sweetness and other subtle flavors from the stinking rose. They even have a garlic ice cream, that although we did not get to try any this time, I have had it in the past and I love it! It is a unique dining experience in LA and the service is always excellent. The food is as flavorful as the decor and a must try for garlic lovers everywhere… and if you don’t like garlic well… I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to put up with the rest of us!

To see more pictures from this trip click here

20151028 – Family Central Coast Adventure

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

Our family is pretty spread out across California from San Diego to Sunnyvale so we don’t get together very often. We try to see each other at least a couple of times a year but this year I wanted to do something special. Irene and I looked at renting a house so that the whole family could spend time together. We have been spending a lot of time up in the Central Coast area and so Avila Beach was definitely in the front of our minds When we found Casa Contenta on VBRO.com we knew we found the right place. The home is a beautifully designed and furnished 3 bedroom Spanish Hacienda with a 2 bedroom guest house and a loft over the garage. This was the perfect place!

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 001

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 002

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 018

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 021

The plan was to stay from Wednesday to Sunday and have plenty of downtime to relax or pursue whatever adventure they wanted to indulge in. The area has plenty of activites from kayaking, biking, surfing, ATV’s, golf and of course, our favorite… eating! So the whole gang was able to make it and they all showed up on Wednesday afternoon. After a great dinner cooked on the grill on the patio, we planned for an excursion out to Solvang the next day. Breakfast at Paula’s Pancakes was on the agenda and we couldn’t wait to see my little nephew stuff his face with Danish pancakes. This place always has a line out the door and is very popular on weekends but it is a absolute must do when visiting the area.

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 025

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 026

Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish settlers and now is home to a number of Danish bakeries, restaurants and stores. The architecture reflects traditional Danish styles and there is even a copy of the Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen and the Round Tower or Rundetarn in the town center. We wandered through the streets after breakfast, hunting and gathering like our family does best. We found some stuffed olives, tapenade and smoked gouda to bring back to the house and we had to stop to try an abelskiver! Although we’ve stopped here in Solvang a few times, this was the first time to try one of these Danish treats. Fluffy and similar to a doughnut hole with bright red strawberry jam, they would go great with a good cup of coffee. Despite the name, they are not apple flavored as I thought and subsequently was disappointed… some warm apples in the center would have been perfect!

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 028


Later that afternoon, we decided to drop by the Kelsey See Winery to pick up my wine club shipment and visit the tasting room. This small family owned winery is located in See Canyon which was right next door to Casa Contenta. I fell in love with this place a few years ago while visiting the area and even considered buying property nearby. As always this friendly tasting room did not disappoint and I bought a couple of extra bottles to share. The grounds here are beautiful and inviting, combine this with great wine and couple of really fluffy dogs and peacocks running around the property and it makes for a relaxing afternoon.


TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 033


That evening we went down to the Harford Pier which is the commercial fishing pier in Avila. Built in 1873 for shipping purposes and to serve as Port San Luis before the train lines were built. It is one of my favorite places to visit in the area and although most tourists probably go to the Avila Beach Pier on the other side of the bay, I like to walk down this one! Sea lions are found most of the year, basking under the deck and many times you will hear their barking and grunts while you walk. The restaurant at the end, Olde Port Inn, is a nice place to grab some fresh seafood and a drink while enjoying the sunset. While we are mentioning places to eat, Fat Cats Cafe in the parking lot of the pier is a nice spot to grab a late breakfast.

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 039

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 042

Another of our favorite stops is the Avila Valley Barn located right off the freeway. This place used to be open only seasonally but has recently started staying open all year round. Stocking up on the seasonal fruit and vegetables at the open air farmer’s market or stopping by for an ice cream is something that we rarely pass up. Behind the market is a small petting zoo where you can feed, see and espeically smell some animals. The baby goats are always entertaining and watching little kids excitedly feeding the animals always elicits a smile or laugh from us. Unfortunately for us, my nephew wasn’t feeling well and had to end his trip early so we didn’t get to see him interact with any of the animals. That didn’t stop us from visiting them but the fun was diminished some.

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 047

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 050

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 051

Saturday night was the big event at Casa Contenta! My niece offered to prepare a turkey dinner and wow did she deliver! Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, green bean cassarole… and the yams… my god, the yams… I don’t even like yams but these were delicious! This girl can COOK, she most definitely is part of this family!

TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 062

After the awesome dinner and packing what will be the best leftovers EVER! We packed up to head back home. We said goodbye to each other and to the wonderful home wistfully thinking about the next time we can get together. Whenever our family gets together it is a true adventure, so until next time! Much love and happy thoughts!TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 072

To see more pictures from this trip, click here!

20151018 – Mojave Wander

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

With friends visiting from out of town, wanting to experience the solitude and peaceful beauty of the desert, we had planned an epic trip through Death Valley. Rhyolite, Titus Canyon, Scotty’s Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Racetrack Playa and then down through the valley proper to visit Badwater, Natural Bridge, West Side Road and finally out through the Harry Wade Escape Route… all for naught as the biggest storm to hit in centuries slammed into the park closing down the entire park. People got stranded all over the park and tales of unbelievable storm damage started trickling out. There we were, in Las Vegas… North Las Vegas at that… on Fremont Street… the exact opposite of solitude and peaceful beauty… what to do? Well, here is where our adventure begins!

We are staying at the Downtown Grand which was recently remodeled and very inexpensive and since we were meeting up with some friends that were on their way back from Yellowstone National Park it seemed like a good spot close the freeway. the hotel overall was nice and for the price its hard to complain but there were two things that will keep me from returning; 1) the noise coming from Fremont Street was pretty intrusive, now for some who are here for things other than getting a good nights sleep so you can go wandering through the desert the next morning it may be acceptable but for us it was difficult to drown out… 2) the showers have no doors, or curtains… just this half glass wall thing that is just plain stupid, EVERYTHING in the bathroom gets splashed. I realize I’m paying only $40 a night but hey, can I get a curtain please?? Okay, rant over… let’s find some food!Mojave Wander 001

We need to get some grub so we look up what’s close by and remember that our good friends Shaun and Bobby had eaten at a place close by.  This is Hash House a GoGo and their Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles. Our friend Kevin is pointing out the unbelieveable portions that are served here in the States and that people just cannot believe that Americans eat so much!  This could easily feed two or more and it was very tasty, although the serving size was a little over the top. We discussed options for the morning and decided that we’ll regroup in the morning after gassing up and figure out where to go. Everyone had a great attitude about the weather and we figured to stay flexible about where we go.

So the next morning, after some coffee and listening to weather reports and traffic reports we finally make the call that we have to give up trying to get into Death Valley. The northern route through Beatty was closed entirely and the road that drops in from the Bonnie Claire got completely wiped out. the southern routes through Baker remain open only to Ashford Mill and so the entire park was getting shut down as the rangers went out and made damage assessments. I made the call that we should head into the Mojave Preserve instead, that although they may have gotten hit by some bad storms, they rarely close roads and we would at least have a chance at finding a campsite and some interesting things to do. With that we all jumped into our trucks and headed south into Primm to gas up. The plan was to jump onto the Union Pacific service road at Primm and head down the Nipton-Desert Road to Nipton and then head into the Preserve at Ivanpah siding, visit Goldome Mine, Rock Springs and head down Black Canyon Road to find a campsite.Mojave Wander 003

Hey, this looks pretty good… not even that wet!

Mojave Wander 007

Oops, spoke too soon!

I’ve been driving down this service road and the connected Nipton-Desert Road for years and I’ve never seen it this badly damaged. Huge washouts, mud flows and standing water all along the route. It made for a mildly exciting drive with only one real washout that I needed to get out and survey before we crossed. But soon enough we reached Ivanpah siding and we headed up into the hills towards Goldome Mine. Only recently abandoned in the 1980’s this place was very well preserved when we first visited a couple of years back but now it seems that people are vandalizing the place. We spent awhile here exploring the place and burning off a little extra energy from the long drive but soon we wanted to find a nice place to make some lunch so we pushed onward.Mojave Wander 011

Mojave Wander 012

Down Lanfair Road and then over on Cedar Canyon Drive which parallels the Old Mojave Road as it passes through this area, near to where the two intersect is Rock Springs and Burt Smith’s cabin. Here under an old juniper tree is a picnic table with a great expansive view of the surrounding desert. we stopped here to make lunch and make use of the vault toilet that the National Park Service installed a few years ago.

Mojave Wander 022

Bert George Smith was a World War I veteran, who suffered the effects of shell shock and was a victim of poison gas. The Bureau of Veterans Affairs sent him to live in the desert with the hopes that he would live a longer life, due to the dry climate. He built this cabin in 1929, originally as a wood framed building adding the stone in later years. Despite his short life expectancy, Smith lived at his cabin at Rock Springs until the mid-1950s. He eventually died ina rest home in 1967. There is a trail behind the house that leads over to the springs, it’s a short hike but worthwhile to see a desert spring.Mojave Wander 024

Rock Springs is one in a series of springs that dot the Mojave Desert every 20 to 30 miles, forming a natural travel corridor. This route eventually became known as the Mojave Road. Native Americans from the desert regions around the Coloroado River used this corridor to trade with coastal tribes and later ranchers used it to water thier livestock. In the picture above you can see a dam was built to provide a little extra storage behind it. Today the spring was completely choked out by sand, the deep pools I had seen in the past were completely filled in. Most likely the large storms that passed over the area brought the sand and silt down from the upper basin and filled in the pools. It will take another storm or two to eventually wash out the sediment again.Mojave Wander 023

The upper inscription appears to be from the time when the US Army had an encampment here called Camp Rock Springs. Brigadier General James T. Rusling described the encampment in 1866, “Camp Rock Springs itself was a forlorn military post, consisting of one officer and perhaps a dozen men, guarding the springs and the road there. The officer was quartered in a natural cave on the hillside, and his men had ‘hutted’ themselves out on the sand the best the we could”. It was most likely a member of the 4th Infantry Regiment of California Volunteers, “Stuart” probably carved this between 1863 and 1866 when that regiment provided many of the troops to protect the Government Road. Records show at least one Stuart in that regiment during that period. Mojave Wander 028

There is evidence of earlier use of these springs as well, in the form of petroglyphs carved into the rocks. Many of these petroglyphs are very faint, indicating they are very old with the abstract style on the lower portion of the rock likely by the local Chemehuevi tribes related to the Southern Paiute Indians and the upper portion with the nonrepresentational geometric designs from a Mohave Culture indigenous to the Colorado River area and related to the Kumeyaay Indians from the south.

Mojave Wander 030

After hiking and spending some time around Rock Springs we headed down the Mojave Road to where it intersects with Black Canyon Road. From here we turn south and drive though the Mid-Hills area and pass by Hole in the Wall where we find our campground, just south of that area in a small turnaround above a small wash I call, Bachelor Wash in honor of our friend, David who spent his bachelor trip camped out in that very wash. Secluded and with a spectacular backdrop we setup camp and settle in for the night. As the stars begin to appear overhead we begin to think, maybe this change of plans wasn’t so bad after all!

The next morning we break camp and head over the Hole in the Wall to use the facilities and stretch our legs. Part of the group continued down the Rings trail while the rest of us hung out at the overlook.

Mojave Wander 045

Mojave Wander 046

Follow the sign for the Rings Trail down a few boulders into a narrow canyon. Here there are two dry falls on the descent into Banshee Canyon, named for the crying sound that the wind make as it blows through the rock formations. There are two sets of rock-mounted ringbolts which can be used as hand holds and steps to get down to the bottom of Banshee Canyon. This opening quarter mile stretch is the most exciting and many hikers simply turn around at the bottom of the canyon and hike back up over the rings for a 0.5-mile round trip hike. Otherwise, follow the path out the mouth of Banshee Canyon and turn left continuing along the Rings Trail as it wraps around the south side of a rock wall on a gradual course to a trailhead that returns to the Visitor Center.

Mojave Wander 050

group shot at Hole in the Wall

Mojave Wander 054

After our hike we feel like eating some lunch and we want to stop by Kelso Depot to see if the lunch counter there is open. The Kelso Depot was constructed in 1924 and included a conductor’s room, telegraph office, baggage room, dormitory rooms for staff, boarding rooms for railroad crewmen, a billiard room, library and locker room. The closing of the nearby Vulcan mine which employed over 2,000 and the use of diesel engines replacing steam resulted in the Union Pacific moving jobs and families out of Kelso. The depot function ended in 1962, although the restaurant and boarding rooms were still in use. The advancement of diesel technology led to fewer and fewer crew members needing to eat or stay overnight, so in 1985 the Union Pacific decided to close the Kelso Depot entirely.

After many years of being unused the Depot was passed into the hands of the National Park Service upon formation of the Mojave National Preserve. The building reopened to the public as the new visitor center for Mojave National Preserve in October, 2005. Former dormitory rooms contain exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert. The baggage room, ticket office, and two other dormitory rooms have been historically furnished to illustrate life in the depot in the first half of the twentieth century. Downstairs, the Desert Light Gallery features rotating fine art collections by local artists, focusing on the cultural history and natural splendors of Mojave national Preserve.

The Kelso Depot lunch counter, named The Beanery recreates the original lunch counter that was here in the 20’s and 30’s where you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee, cold ice cream, or a deli sandwich in this nicely restored and historic train depot. Unfortunately for us the Depot was closed that day due to some budget cuts and shortage in staff. If you are visiting, check their website for the current schedule. We hung out here, again to use the facilities (see a common theme here?) and then headed off to the Kelso Dunes for a quick hike!

Mojave Wander 058

The Kelso Dunes cover 45 square miles of desert with the tallest dunes over 650 feet. While a few if us hiked only to the base of the dunes, a couple went to the top. While they were up there the group on the bottom heard the booming noise that these dunes are famous for. The noise is caused by the sand sliding down the dunes. Only a few dunes on earth are capable of making this sound and we were lucky enough to actually hear it. I kept my eye on the impressive clouds that kept rolling past us as I didn’t want to get caught out in the open if a lightning storm decided to pay us a visit.

Mojave Wander 062

I kept my eye on the impressive clouds that kept rolling past us as I didn’t want to get caught out in the open if a lightning storm decided to pay us a visit. We were fortunate on this trip that the weather cooperated nicely and we didn’t experience any rain or high winds that are pretty common here.

Mojave Wander 069

We didn’t get any pictures of the ascent to the top of the mine but it was epic. Getting stuck several times in the deepy rutted and very loose rocky soils it took a lot of time to get up to the top. The Tundra? It walked straight up without any drama or problems.. and Irene was driving! I got out to spot on some tricky areas but she got the truck to the top without much trouble. Kevin’s full size Chevy hit a couple of snags but once in 4 low it got to the top just fine. Mark’s Tacoma… my old truck had some trouble. Getting high centered on the deeply rutted road once and then getting hung up on the spare tire mounted under the bed. Once we got it loose I offered my driving experience and got it up the toughest parts of the road. The one lesson I had was, “if in doubt, throttle it out!” The cinder cone surface of the rocks certainly was not kind to the older BFG Mud Terrains on the truck but without those and the rear lockers it never would have made it up. I gotta say, I still love that Tacoma, it still has been able to follow any 4wd anywhere!Mojave Wander 072

Mojave Wander 076

The Aiken Cinder Mine was abruptly shut down and abandoned in the 1990’s when the operators could no longer pay rent on the property. Millions of tons of cinder rock was mined from this ancient volcano and most of it is still in piles around where we camped for the night. The rest was shipped to a company in Las Vegas as road construction material. Although no remediation is planned for this area I noticed that more and more of it is missing everytime I go. Sooner or later this will start to return to a more wild naturalized state and most of the machinery and equipment will just rot away. The piles of mined cinder rock provided a nice sheltered area for our campsite and now I can say that my Tundra has been to the top of a volcano! Just like in the commercials!

Mojave Wander 086

The Mojave Lava Tube was our last stop of the trip and it is one of the most unique places to visit in the Mojave. Formed by flowing lava where the surface has hardened and cooled while the interior of the lava continues to flow leaving a hollow tunnel in its place. When we first found the lava tube there were no directions or even signs at the time. The nice landing and stairs weren’t there, just an old rusted ladder. Not much of a hike and the road leading is well graded dirt. This time was a little different as well with fresh mud flows coating the ground of the tube. It looked like a pretty good flow of water was in the tube recently and uncovered some interesting skeletal remains of local desert dwellers like rabbits and lizards. I really wanted to revisit another site in the nearby Black Tank Wash where a lava arch had formed due to the collapse and erosion of an old lava tube but the road was so rough due to washouts we decided it better to end our trip here.

Mojave Wander 083

So we head out of the Preserve on Kelbaker Road and head back to civilization. It wasn’t the trip I planned but overall it was a good trip, although I’ve never had a bad trip out to the desert to explore. We got to share some of the reasons why I love this area so much and why I spend so much time exploring out here. So until next time, wander and explore and find your adventure!

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

20060729 – Main Divide Road

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

Sometimes you just need to feel some dirt under your tires… I don’t know if it’s just me but I get that restless feeling and I just have to get off the pavement. In between Orange and Riverside counties are the Santa Ana Mountains and the Cleveland National Forest. Along the ridge top is the Main Divide road, a 35 mile trail running from Ortega Highway to the 91 freeway. Main Divide is a great outlet for anyone in the area that just needs to get away from the city even for just a couple of hours. Today I entered the Cleveland National Forest via the City of Orange and driving past the tiny little town of Silverado, named for the silver mines in the area, you head up the mountainside towards Santiago Peak.

0060 droppin into the creekbed

There are a couple of creek crossings at the beginning but they were dry when I went through the last few times. I’m sure with some rain they might have a little water in them but it’s nothing to worry about. Already the scenery starts improving and with more elevation you start to feel the stress melt away…


After just a few miles you really start to feel like you are far from the city. Generally a easy going road and rated a moderate trail you can stay on the well graded main trail but if you feel like a little fun there are several alternate routes that allow you to exercise your suspension a little. With some twisty parts as you head into the hills and some exposure as you climb in elevation this trail is great for a leisurely cruise. Remember to take it easy around the bends as there are moutain bikers, horseback riders and hikers in the area too!



The highest peak in Orange County, its top is covered in communications towers and microwave antennas. At 5,600′ on a clear day you can see the ocean and once in awhile during the winter snow can blanket the peak. The trail from Santiago Canyon to the 91 takes a couple of hours and is a great little trail for those who want to get out for an afternoon.



Got a chance to stretch out those springs for the first time, I was suprised at how much travel they actually allowed! A lot of people say that the Bilsteins that come with the TRD package are not worth the extra money but I disagree. The perfromance is much better than the non-TRD shocks and they come with a factory warranty. As long as you aren’t entering any offroad races these shocks are fine. That’s not to say that I’m not going to replace them with some better ones, I’m just saying it may not be needed depending on your needs.


Coming down from Pleasant Peak on the Main Divide Road, trying to find our way down before it got too dark. There are a few different ways to get down off the Main Divide so you can take a different route each time you go!


The suspension on the truck worked great and there was a lot more flex than I expected out of the stock TRD Bilsteins. On our second trip I got a flat tire just before Bedford Peak and needed to make a quick exit. Remember to be prepared for the unexpected and take it easy on those stock tires!


For more pictures from this trip, click here

20060523 – Parisian Exploration

La Défense  is a major business district of Paris located just west of the city. Europe’s largest purpose-built business district. The Grande Arche and esplanade is surrounded by many of Paris’ tallest high-rises.





Notre-Dame de Paris also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a historic Catholic cathedral in the fourth arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.




The Latin Quarter is an area in the 5th and the 6th arrondissements and is situated on the left bank of the Seine directly across from the Notre Dame. The area gets its name from the Latin language, which was once widely spoken in and around the Panthéon-Assas University since Latin was the language of learning in the Middle Ages in Europe.



The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world



Les Invalides, commonly known as Hôtel national des Invalides, is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, which was the building’s original purpose.


Several notable tombs are located at Les Invalides, the most famous is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to France in 1840. Napoléon’s remains were first buried in the Chapelle Saint-Jérôme in the Invalides until his final resting place, a tomb made of red quartzite and resting on a green granite base, was finished in 1861.


The Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides


Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte was the youngest brother of Napoleon I


The Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument in Paris. Considered by many to be a central landmark of the city.


Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.


The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement, 1.2 miles long and 230 ft wide, it runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located.




The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine and connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city and is classified as a French Monument historique.


The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.


Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

20060522 – Italian Lakes and Lucerne

Early in the morning we are on the road to our next destination, the Italian Lakes District and Lake Maggiore. Along the route we pass the Italian Alps and numerous waterfalls. This area is truly idyllic and so beautiful, it is a shame that we are merely passing through. Almost at every turn we are greeted with sights like these:



Along the way we also pass by many small villages that have a very strong Swiss influence, as evident in the architecture.


Eventually we get to our first stop at Lake Maggiore for a boat ride across the lake. It is fairly cool outside so the rest of the tour group is huddled up inside the boat while Irene and I get the entire upper deck to ourselves! Over 40 miles long and averaging about 2 or 3 miles wide. It is the second largest lake in Italy and the largest in southern Switzerland. Along its coasts are lined with picturesque villages and towns and the boat tour was a highlight of the trip.




Once we arrived at our destination we went along with the optional tour to the Stanserhorn, taking the funicular railway to the top. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us and the clouds have completely blocked off our view of the alps. We were assured that the view was spectacular but, oh well… it was cool to explore around the mountain and the ride up was really nice.DSC_0361



At least we got to see some snow!


Finally we arrived at our final destination for the evening, Lucerne, city in central Switzerland where German is spoken in this area of the country. Lucerne is the capital of the canton of Lucerne and part of the district of the same name. With a population of about 81,057 people, Lucerne is the most populous town in Central Switzerland, and a nexus of economics, transportation, culture, and media of this region.


Located on Lake Lucerne, there are many bridges in the area with the most famous, the Chapel Bridge, a 669 foot long wooden covered bridge originally built in 1333, the oldest covered bridge in Europe, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on 18 August 1993. Part way across, the bridge runs by an octagonal Water Tower, a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history.


After dinner we walked around the City and ran into these performers playing these Alpenhorns!




The City was truly beautiful at night!


The next day we wandered around the City and asked about Bertel Thorvaldsen’s famous carving of a dying lion, called the Löwendenkmal. The Lion Monument is found in a small park just off the Löwenplatz and not easily found unless you know what to look for. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when an armed mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. This was a really impressive monument and we were very happy to have found it. All too soon we were headed off again to our next destination.

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

20060520 – Venice Adventure

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

The next stop on our itinerary is Venice which was about a four hour drive through Italy. This unique city was established on a group of 117 small islands connected by bridges and canals. The ride over to Venice was nice with the Italian country side for entertainment, we passed a couple of walled cities on hilltops that really looked alluring. We hoped that someday we could return to explore these places. Our first stop was at the Venice Terminal where we were dropped off and quickly led to a vaporetto or water taxi for a quick tour around the city.



Looking down the Cannaregio Canal and the Ponte delle Guglie from our vapporetto on the Grand Canal.



After our quick tour around the city we are dropped off at the very popular tourist attraction of St. Mark’s Square. Here Irene had to brave her fear of birds to enter the square and I watched with much amusement as the bird seed vendors threw seeds towards her to encourage the pigeons to follow her! After hearing so much about this place I was in amazement at actually being able to walk around and take it all in. We joined a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. They do not allow pictures of the inside of the cathedral so you’ll have to take a tour yourself! The opulet gold mosaics and decor of the interior is impressive and you can see why the Doge’s kept the Basilica to themselves for so long, only after control of the Basilica was handed over to the control of the Patriarch of Venice did it become the City’s Cathedral in 1807.


After our tour we were allowed to wander the Square for a few minutes before we were led on a walk through the town. Our guide kept saying that we would walk “slowly, slowly” but then would take off at a quick stride leading us through alleys and squares. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


But soon we arrive again at the Grand Canal and for our gondola ride! While not the romantic gondola ride you so often see in the movies, it was an interesting way to see the city as you are much lower and closer to the water. Much too soon the ride was over and we were being rounded up to head back to our hotel located just outside of Venice. The hotel itself was located in the middle of farmland and we had the feel of being in the Italian countryside. I would have loved to explore more the area but by the time we got back and ate dinner it was late and we were exhausted from the rapid pace of the tour.



The next morning we were up and out early again, we caught another vaporetto to Piazza San Marco, more commonly called St Mark’s Square. The view from the sea was inspiring and I tried to imagine ancient sailors coming here to see the city floating on the sea. This view was very refreshing as it was a great change from the bus ride, although the coach style bus was very comfortable, especially considering the distances we were covering.



Can you tell that Irene was happy to be here?


Our first stop of the day was a Venetian glass blowing demonstration. I’m not sure why but I’ve always been interested in glassmaking. Ever since I was just a little kid, I loved watching the glassmakers at Disneyland. I would stand at the display window watching in awe as they transformed the molten blobs into figures or horses or birds. Murano glassmaking is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the art of glassmaking.

Murano glass is made on the Venetian island of Murano, which has specialized in creating fanatastic glassware for centuries. Murano’s glassmakers led Europe for centuries, developing or refining technologies such as the creation of crystalline glass, enamelled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

After the demonstration we are led to a Murano glassware store where we pick up a few souvenirs to take home. Once we secure our purchases we head outside and there we are, in Saint Mark’s Square, early in the morning before anything had opened up. We were left to our own devices until our tour of the Doge’s Palace begins. Fairly empty and with all the shops closed I decide that we should just sit and have an espresso at one of the cafes. We pick out a nice spot in the middle of the plaza and sit at one of the tables. We ask for an espresso and water and immediately the waiter begins delivering glasses, a carafe of ice water, the espresso and a biscotti. Could you ask for anything more? A real italian espresso, warm sun on our faces, watching people stroll by while we leisurely chat at our table. Well, as you could have guessed, there was a premium to pay for this experience! To date, that was the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had… live and learn, right?!




The Doge’s Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and is one of the main landmarks of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. The north side of the courtyard is closed by the junction between the palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, which used to be the Doge’s chapel.The rest of the buildings make up the administrative rooms and the Doge’s personal apartments.

Prior to the 12th century there were holding cells within the Doge’s Palace but during the 13th and fourteenth centuries more prison spaces were created to occupy the entire ground floor of the southern wing. A corridor leads over the Bridge of Sighs, built in 1614 to link the Doge’s Palace to the structure intended to house the New Prisons. Enclosed and covered on all sides, the bridge contains two separate corridors that run next to each other. The famous name of the bridge was supposed to refer to the sighs of prisoners who, passing from the courtroom to the cell in which they would serve their sentence, took a last look at freedom as they glimpsed the lagoon and San Giorgio through the small windows.


The infamous Bridge of Sighs


So that concludes our tour of Venice, we were quickly rounded up by our intrepid tour guide, Guy, who tells us to slowly, slowly follow him through the narrow streets and bridges to get back to the bus. So we quickly follow Guy over the cobblestone paved streets to board our bus to head over to our next destination. We say a reluctant good bye to Venice as we are whisked away to Switzerland!

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

20060519 – Roman Wander

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

Irene and I were celebrating our tenth anniversary and she had always wanted to visit Europe so we booked a tour with Trafalgar and after a nice flight to Frankfurt for a lengthy layover where I discovered that I could not make heads nor tails from the German public transportation maps, and an exciting cab ride from the airport to our hotel in Rome, we had arrived! Having missed our orientation with our tour group we barely made the bus to take us to our first stop of the day, Vatican City!


After a short but interesting bus ride over to the Vatican we were escorted quickly through a side entrance and through the massive Tuscan colonnades that circle the main courtyard of Saint Peter’s Square, wow what a reveal that was! Our tour guide quickly organized us into the queue to enter into Saint Peters Basilica… while waiting in line I took the chance to jump out of line to snap a couple of shots!DSC_0009

Saint Peter’s Square Fountain


I found it very interesting that this massive Egyptian obelisk stands in the center of the Square. Originally erected at Heliopolis, Egypt, by an unknown pharaoh, Emperor Augustus had the obelisk moved to the Julian Forum of Alexandria, where it stood until 37 AD, when Caligula ordered the forum demolished and the obelisk transferred to Rome and placed in the Circus of Nero, where it would preside over Nero’s countless brutal games and Christian executions. It is thought that the obelisk was a “witness” to the crucifixion of Saint Peter. Later, it was moved to its current site in 1586 by the engineer-architect Domenico Fontana under the direction of Pope Sixtus V.


One of the smaller domes next to St. Peter’s Baldachin


St. Peter’s Baldachin


The large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy over the high altar is intended to mark the place of Saint Peter’s tomb underneath. The dome overhead is the tallest in the world rising over 448 feet and over 136 feet in diameter. Everywhere you turn there is more to see and we were only allotted an hour inside the Basilica. Amazing works of art, frescoes, mosiacs, sculptures and tapestries were everywhere, it would take hours to be able to view them all. Before we knew it we were outside again in the Square.







The Apostolic Palace seen behind the colonnade is the official residence of the Pope, also known as the Papal Palace and Vatican Palace. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various government offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums and the Vatican library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartment.

We shuffled our way out of Vatican City while others in our group shopped for souvenirs we made our way out to do some exploring. The group set a meeting time and place and we took off. Walking down the narrow streets we walked along the outer wall of the Vatican where we found a public fountain where Irene promptly filled her water bottle… “Hey, it’s free water!” she quipped. We strolled along and made our way back towards the meeting point and passed by an impressive looking castle.




The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The popes converted the structure into a castle in the 14th century and connected the castle to St Peter’s Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. The fortress was used as a refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Soon it was time to move on so we boarded the bus to head to our next stop.


The Altare della Patria also known as Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. The monument holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, built under the statue of goddess Roma after World War I. The largest monument in Rome, although we did not stop here we did circle around allowing me to grab a picture. This ended up being a common technique for us to document some of the places we drove by. Finally we arrive at our destination, the Colosseum!


The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built and is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Unlike many other amphitheatres, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city centre, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome.

Construction of the Colosseum was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. According to an inscription found on the site, “Emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty.” Along with the spoils, an estimated 100,000 Jewish prisoners were brought back to Rome after the war, and many were used as slaves working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried, along with lifting and transporting the quarried stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome.

The history here is amazing and to see this huge structure still standing after all these centuries is hard to comprehend. We were unable to see the interior of the Colosseum due to extensive renovations that were underway as well as to the Arch of Titus that is nearby, but to be able to stand and see these structures for ourselves was impressive.



The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century A.D. honorific arch constructed in 82 A.D. by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus. Commemorating Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem, this arch has provided the general model for many triumphal arches erected since the 16th century, perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. From here we were supposed to meet up with our group so we headed off to the park where the bus was waiting for us. Once we got to the park we noticed that although there were several busses waiting, none of them were ours! We backtracked our way to the street near the Colosseum and tried to locate someone from our group but didn’t see anyone. Oh well, so I guess we need to get a cab! We start to walk our way back to the main street, when Irene sees our bus driving away! Luckily for us, some members of our group saw us walking on the street and told our tour director, Guy, to stop. We jump back on the bus and head towards our hotel. That evening we are given a choice to go on an optional tour or we would be free to wander on our own. We decide to go on our own so we hop a transit bus and head back into town…


Our first stop is the Spanish Steps, which climb a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Very popular with tourists and locals alike, we were interested to see the steps but didn’t feel the need to stay. Especially after falling prey to a “friendship” bracelet scam at the top of the steps. This scam involves locals welcoming you to Italy and claiming that they want to share a local custom of braiding a bracelet of string to your wrist. Of course, afterwards they demand payment for the bracelet. We paid a couple of euros to make our escape but we learned a lesson to not be so trusting of friendly strangers in these touristy areas. With all of the crowds and noisy vendors we quickly made our way down the narrow streets to see our last stop of the evening…


The Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi. Standing 86 ft high and 161.3 ft wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Another touristy area but this was something that we really wanted to see. Avoid the vendors hawking the cheap souvenirs and the scammers with the roses and just take in the beauty of this fountain, we especially liked the fountain lit up at night. We ended up eating at a very small restaurant close by the fountains. We had no idea of where to go, remember this was way before Yelp or Tripadvisor and so you kinda just had to go with your gut. Fresh tomato and mozzarella salad followed with pasta tossed in a fresh tomato and cream sauce. You could not ask for a better way to end our day in Rome, onto our next city! Venezia!

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

20060507 – High Desert Road Trip

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

So I’ve had my truck now for about a year but I have been so busy with my new job that I never had the chance to really take my truck out and try it out offroad. I had recently purchased a backroads guidebook, Backcountry Adventures by Peter Massey, and was looking at several options. One in particular that intrigued me was Calico Ghost Town and the remote Daggett Wash area that passes through the Ord Mountains. I couldn’t find very much information on this route online and the Backcountry Adventures book rated it as a 3 in difficulty so I was interested in seeing this area for myself.

The previous year had been awesome for wildflowers and our trip to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR was very memorable and Irene’s mom after seeing the pictures of our trip really wanted to go see the Reserve. Armed with a copy of Delorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer we headed out towards Lancaster with plans to see the Reserve with her parents and then Irene and I would go exploring on our own.

On our way to the Reserve we noticed wild poppies growing in the median of Highway 14 so our hopes were high but when we arrived at the Reserve we could tell that the bloom that year had not been as spectacular as the previous year.

003 AVPR First Poppies on the Trail

there were a few flowers alongside the walk path but not much else…

005 AVPR Where Are the Poppies

compare this picture in 2006 to


the year before in 2005

In the short loop hike that we took there were, in fact, very few flowers to be seen so Irene’s parents, disappointed, took off to grab lunch in Monterey Park. I don’t remember why but we decided to take a look outside the park in the surrounding fields and I am glad we did.

012 Outside the AVPR

010 AVPR Closeup on One Poppy

We were rewarded with a nice field of wild poppies just outside of the Reserve. After stopping to take a few pictures we headed out of the Lancaster area on Avenue G towards Barstow.017 Leaving Lancaster on G Avenue

At 200th Street we ran across this abandoned building once called the High Vista Diner, it seemed very out-of-place, way out here in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. There are some other interesting buildings here but I was more interested in hitting some dirt roads so I figured to head back there some time to check them out. I regret that decision as I have heard that in April of 2008 they bulldozed that diner. I have since learned to always stop and check things out if it catches your interest, it may not be there when you return!

020 Hi Vista Diner Sign Outside of Lancaster

Soon Avenue G turned to dirt and changed to Spirit Mountain Road with 25 miles of wide well-graded dirt until we reached Helendale where we picked up the National Trails Highway or Old Route 66 to Barstow.

022 No More Pavement on Shadow Mountain

023 Nothing But Dust Behind Us

After a good night’s rest at a hotel we are up early to grab breakfast and head over to Calico Ghost Town. Calico is located just three miles from Barstow in the Calico Hills north of the 15 Freeway. Founded in 1881 as a silver boom town it flourished until the mid 1890’s when the price of silver dropped and the area mines were no longer financially viable. Over 500 mines in the area produced silver and borax until around 1907 when the town was finally abandoned.

Walter Knott, who founded Knott’s Berry Farm, purchased the town in 1951 and began restoring and preserving existing buildings and made use of old photographs to rebuild others. Later in 1966 he gave the property over to San Bernardino County who turned it into a County Regional Park. It’s $6 to enter the park and the attractions like the mine tour and railroad ride are extra. In my opinion, you can skip the railroad ride as it is very short and there isn’t too much to see. Although if you have kids with you it would be hard to convince them otherwise.

031 Calico Main Street

052 Overlook to the South of Calico

Although it does have a tourist trap, amusement park feel to it, there is some historical value to Calico. The original buildings are remarkably preserved, there is plenty of authentic tools and equipment lying around, and you have the opportunity of entering a real silver mine without the very real risk of getting lost or buried in a collapse. There are a lot of stores with touristy items for sale so if you want an authentic ghost town experience you’ll need to travel to Bodie or Virginia City to get the real deal.

Despite the amusement park ambience, we enjoyed the Chinatown area of Calico if only for the novelty aspect of it. I doubt that this area of town was actually the area where the Chinese community was located. Usually they were located outside of the city in tent encampments. But for the fun of it we tried to envision Cantonese porters and railroad workers from Shanghai relaxing here after a long days work.

041 Jun in the Bathtub

073 House in Chinatown

We also enjoyed taking the Maggie’s Mine tour which was interesting. The first part of the mine was very dimly lit, I don’t remember if they suggested bringing a flashlight but I was glad I had more than one on hand. Why did I have more than one flashlight you ask? Several years back we visited the Burro Schmidt Tunnel and the one good flashlight I had overheated and stopped working on us while we were deep in the tunnel. I swore never again would I be unprepared without a backup! They had some nice displays of equipment, minerals, and dioramas that demonstrated how the ore was extracted from the mine. We found the tour interesting and it was a nice break from the hot midday sun.

043 Maggie Mine

Maggie Mine

044 Entrance of Maggie Mine

046 Exploitation of a Chinese Miner

Exploitation of a Chinese Miner

049 Exiting Maggie Mine

Climb back up to the surface

We rambled through the rest of the town and saw the schoolhouse and various buildings with the requisite souvenir shops inside. In the morning when we entered the park it was nearly deserted. We were able to explore the mine and ride the railroad alone but as the day wore on the park got more and more crowded so we made our way back out of the park.

059 Water Towers and Wooden Pipes

Water tanks and a shot of the water pipe made of wood and wire!

056 School at Calico

Calico schoolhouse

067 Miners House

069 Ore Cart

On our way out of the park we noticed some interesting rock formations so we drove over to the overflow parking area for a closer look. I wonder how many people drive right past this formation and don’t even give it a second thought. This entire area is of interest to geologists for the spectacular folds caused by shifting active seimic faults in the area. Seeing these layers of sediment makes my brain start spinning thinking of how much time is represented in these layers and what they could have seen! Also think about the massive amounts of force required to shape these rocks into these gentle bends.

078 Rock Formations at Calico
We made our way back down to the small community of Daggett where we drove south of Interstate 40 and found Camp Rock Road. Soon we were on dirt and headed south towards Daggett Wash.

079 Daggett Wash Road

Just outside of Daggett, CA

There really isn’t much information to be found on this 15 mile trail but it is a very remote location headed into the Ord Mountains and provides some excellent opportunities for remote backcountry exploration, camping, and rock climbing. There are old mining sites, cattle ranching operations and most likely ancient habitation sites located in these mountains but since Irene and I weren’t equipped to do much exploration on foot we left those for another time.

083 Dropping Into Daggett Wash

Daggett Wash

082 Truck and Bug Meet

Fancy meeting you here!

When we finally reached the 247 on the other side of the Ords we looked for the Slash X Ranch and stopped by for a bite to eat before headed back home. Built in 1954 for the ranch hands at the Slash X Cattle Ranch this cafe is adjacent to 58,000 acres of the Stoddard Wells OHV Area. On most weekends you will see dirt bikes, quads, and buggies lined up in front to get a cold beer and some bbq before heading back out to play in the dirt.

088 Slash X Cafe

Overall, I think that the Tacoma’s TRD Offroad suspension and tires held up pretty well but this trail was very mild other than some rocky areas at the beginning of the trail. With the tires aired down to about 20 psi and careful wheel placement, the sharp rocks were not a problem and with the rear locker engaged the sandy areas were not an issue either. Looking back now I am still impressed with this vehicles capabilities as a 2wd truck and it has proven to be a capable backcountry explorer.

Some things to keep in mind if you want to check out this area, this trail is very remote and I would strongly suggest being well prepared to survive for a couple of days if you run into problems. This means having plenty of water, extra gas, food, and some basic tools and equipment. We did not see a single person all day until we got back to paved roads again and so if you break down it may be some time before anyone comes along to lend a hand.

For more pictures from this trip, please click here!

20030518 – Trona Red Rock Adventure

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded for more adventures!

May 18th is our anniversary and in 2003 we celebrated our seven years together by going camping! No, I’m not talking about glamping it up in some resort or cabin… this was honest to goodness sleep in a tent on the ground style camping! Although we had each been camping before when we were younger we hadn’t camped as adults so off to Wal-Mart we go to buy a tent, sleeping bags, chairs, stove, etc. Some of our friends thought we were crazy and I know Irene had to explain to some that I wasn’t forcing her to go. What prompted this trip? Well my Dad had recently decided to get rid of his 1986 Toyota Van. Yeah, that’s right it was called “Van”… this was before the Previa and Toyota was much simpler with names back then… the Tacoma was just “Truck” back in the 80’s too! So I loved this thing, it was originally built as a limo and there were only two built at the time. The other was for the president of Toyota USA. It had two sunroofs, TV, VCR, mobile phone, Alpine stereo with a 5 disc changer, all the best you could buy in the mid 80’s but that wasn’t why I loved it. This van was my Dad’s work car and so although he took great care of it, it was beat up and I could care less what happened to the exterior. I put the biggest, fattest tires the rims could hold and I drove it like it was stolen. Nothing could stop this thing and I loved it! Irene suprisingly loved the Van too and it was her idea to go camping in it. So for our seventh anniversary, we packed up our new camping gear and set out for the California desert, something that I had always wanted to see and check out!


This was our first stop to gas up and I thought this was hilarious. Someone took the time to go out and color match the paint on this sign, drive out to the middle of nowhere, climb up on the sign and make a small but important edit… classic! We had seen a newspaper article about the Trona Pinnacles near Ridgecrest. The Pinnacles consists of more than 500 tufa spires that are formed as a deposit when hot springs interact other bodies of water. The spires rise from the bed of the Searles Lake as high as 140 feet. The spires vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate. They sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.


Here is the infamous Toyota Van!



The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series.


Parting shot of the Van from atop one of the ridges… getting late so better get to the campground!


Again inspired by a Westways magazine article we had decided to camp at Red Rock Canyon State Park. Red Rock Canyon features some very scenic desert cliffs and some spectacular rock formations. The park provides some magnificent views of the pristine desert landscape and has a small fee campground with vault toilets and water. Being our first visit we stopped by the Visitor’s Center and talked with a Ranger to get a campsite. She suggested a nice site towards the back of the loop drive along the cliffside that provided some privacy and a great backdrop for our tent!


Sorry little guy, we’re staying here tonight!






The rock formations here are amazing and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the area behind our campsite. These pictures were taken on my first digital camera, a Fuji FinePix 40, so the quality ain’t great but hey, these are only 1280 x 960!


We started up the fire and cooked our first dinner together on our little Coleman stove, this was a great day but now it was getting a little cold so we decide to turn in after watching the stars come out. Later that night I was awakened by what I thought was some idiot that pulled into our campsite. The whole tent was lit up and so I got up to yell at the guy to turn out his headlights. When I opened up the tent I was amazed by what I saw. The entire landscape in front of us, the cliffs behind, and the desert below was bathed in moonlight. The moon had started to rise above the horizon and it had lit up the entire campground. I woke Irene up and we both sat staring out over the scene. We had never seen anything like it before and for many years later I would recall my very first moonrise!





We awoke the next morning early with the sun and made breakfast… Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so good as bacon frying outdoors! We packed up the van and made our way down the loop and checked out the viewpoints around the park. The ranger told us about a place called the Burro Schmidt Tunnel and that it was a little ways off the beaten track but we should be able to make it. Go up the road until you see the billboards and the instersection with a dirt road headed off to the right. Take that dirt road up the mountain and you’ll see the signs for “tunnel”… How could we resist? So we headed up the road and sure enough we find the dirt road, exactly where she said it would be. I have since taken up this practice of giving directions in the desert myself…

“Go along the escape route until you see that it starts to bend to the north and look for the two track headed up the mountain on the left. If you turn north then you went too far and you should turn around… drive up the mountain until you see the square boulder and turn right, go across the gully and then head upstream in the big wash and look for the drop off to the right, if you pass the old Model T wreck then you went too far!”

These are the real directions to Salt Basin! lol… I digress…


The road going up is definitely challenging but not impossible for a 2WD vehicle, you need to be smart about the capabilities of your vehicle. It’s nine miles of rocky and sometimes sandy road that snakes its way along. There are signs but few and far between and sometimes literally nothing more than an arrow and “tunnel” scrawled next to it. I did notice that we passed very few people and they were in fully built jeeps or dirtbikes. Not many other cars in this area and definitely not any minivans! I got a few stares from people as I bounced happily by! If you decide to go please remember that you are in a remote desert area so please be prepared with water and some basic tools to change a tire. You should let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return and be aware of your surroundings.


The Burro Schmidt Tunnel was dug entirely by hand by William “Burro” H. Schmidt. Schmidt had come to the California desert from Rhode Island hoping to improve his health after losing his siblings to tuberculosis. He began his 38 year construction project in 1902, near the site where he had staked a mining claim. It is thought that he meant to use the tunnel as a short cut to carry his ore to a smelter on the other side but it seems unlikely since the tunnel emerged on a high ledge, in the middle of nowhere.

During the years he worked on his tunnel, Schmidt supported himself, not by mining, but by hiring himself out as a ranch hand every summer.  In fact, he never carried an ounce of ore to the smelter despite finding veins of precious minerals in the tunnel. Every fall, he would take his two burros, Jack and Jenny, and head back up to resume excavation of the tunnel. The tunnel was cut through solid granite bedrock and required very little shoring. By 1938 he had dug through nearly 2,500 feet of solid granite using only a pick, a shovel, and a four-pound hammer for the first initial section, and carefully placed dynamite with notoriously short fuses for the rest. It was estimated that he had moved 5,800 tons of rock to complete his tunnel.



Walking the length of the tunnel only takes about half an hour.  Although the tunnel is in good condition and you can walk upright through most of it, entering any excavations always carries some risk.  If you decide on a visit keep in mind a few things… you will need a good flashlight with fresh batteries, and as always in the desert, bring plenty of drinking water and sturdy shoes. Now my cautionary tale of the trip… In that first picture you can see that I am holding a little red mini maglite. Yeah, don’t use that kinda flashlight… this is a deep dark tunnel, so bring a real one! I had another flashlight but it ran out of batteries halfway thru. Okay, well we brought two flashlights so it’ll be okay. Although I’m starting to freak myself out a little thinking about snakes and earthquakes and getting stuck in a mine collapse… I hand the flashlight to Irene so she can see where she’s going and we keep moving. So you see the hat I am wearing? I loved that hat but it did cut off my vision above my head and especially when I ducked down to get through a low spot in the tunnel. So you can guess I ran right into a overhanging rock! I saw stars and stumbled back a bit and thought, “great… I’m gonna die in this tunnel…” Irene mentioned something about staying awake cuz she can’t drag me back out. Okay, let’s stop for a second and clear my head… I’m alright… so the lesson of the day was, “If you have one, you have none and if you have two, you have one!” To this day I always find myself preparing for the worst!



We finally get to the end and, am I happy to be out of that tunnel! The view from that ledge at the end of the tunnel is breathtaking and you can see for miles around. We sat there enjoying the solitude, eating a snack of trail mix and sipping water. Why would he dig this tunnel just to get stranded up here on the mountainside? We may never find out but the tunnel is a testament to his ferocious dedication and hard work. Burro Schmidt died in 1954 and his partner took care of the tunnel until his death in 1963. After that, Evelyn Tonie Seger began caring for the tunnel and lived on the site until 2003. Ms. Seger died a few days after we visited at the age of 95. William Schmidt and Ms. Seger are buried side by side in the Rand District Cemetary.


This trip kickstarted the last few years of us exploring and adventuring in the desert and all over the world! I began to realize that we needed a more capable vehicle and some better equipment but it all started here. On a high ledge, on the side of Copper Mountain in the El Paso Wilderness. Keep exploring, keep wandering and you’ll find your own adventure!

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded for more adventures!