March 25, 2012

Desert Rats

California!  Yes, we have made it to the west coast.  Our arrival in California on Friday morning means that we’re on the last leg of our journey.  We’ve been on the road for six months with less than three months remaining.  It’s been a whirlwind so far, and an amazing journey, but I’m confident that some of the best parts may be yet to come.

California, Here We Come!
We entered California at the extreme southeast corner of the state and drove through the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, the largest mass of sand dunes in the state.  They certainly were impressive, even just viewing them from the road.  We made our way north through the Imperial Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in California, and could see the Salton Sea in the distance.  

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
Fields in the Imperial Valley
Tim and I were on our way to the desert to meet Tim’s sister Alice and her husband Chuck.  Chuck has a desert getaway in Ocotillo Wells that he calls “Rancho Deluxe.”  It’s located on the edge of Anza-Borrego State Park, and that’s where we’re spending the weekend.  Chuck’s brother Arnie and his son Lucas joined us, and we spent Friday evening hearing stories about their adventures in this amazing place.

Kitty Tagging Along for a Ride on the Golf Cart with Chuck
Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park, but it is still a relatively undiscovered area. Adjacent to the park is Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, where Chuck, Arnie and Lucas spend much of their time.  It’s a mecca of sorts for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and is where people go to ride dune buggies, dirt bikes and other assorted vehicles.  Neither Tim nor I had even ridden a dune buggy, but that would change on Saturday.  We were here to enjoy the desert and Chuck’s “toys.”

Anza-Borrego State Park
After breakfast in Borrego Springs, we wandered through an art fair in town and then went off to explore one of the coolest features of the area.  Scattered throughout Borrego Springs are giant, welded metal sculptures of prehistoric animals that once roamed the area.  Dinosaurs, horses, camels, eagles and other assorted animals rise from the desert floor. Dennis Avery, a local resident, had a vision to populate the desert with art installations that everyone can enjoy.  All of the sculptures are located on private land, but anyone can drive to them and walk around and admire their beauty.  The latest addition is a sea serpent that spans both sides of the road.  What an incredible thing for someone to offer to the public.

TIm Said, "I Have Seen the Elephant"
Tim, Sarah, Alice, Chuck and Lucas with the Serpent
A Wild Ride in the Desert
The Grasshopper and the Scorpion
Chuck took me out for a ride on the dune buggy, and what a ride it was!  We ascended Blow Sand Hill and roared on toward Devil’s Slide.  I held on for dear life, and was sure we’d tip over when we rounded the hills, but the ride was exhilarating nonetheless.  What a thrill!  We stopped at Shell Reef to watch the bikers climb the dunes before heading back on Shell Reef Expressway.  I just love the names of the trails in the park.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever ride in a dune buggy again, but it was an experience not to be missed.  Arnie took Tim out for a ride later in the afternoon, and his experience seems to have equaled mine.

Sarah Is Stylishly Dressed for a Dune Buggy Ride
The View Coming and Going - Hold On!
Riding on Shell Reef
Tim, Lucas and Arnie Are Rready for their Ride
A Wild Ride
We’ve eaten very well in the desert, and Saturday was no exception.  Chuck grilled steaks and baked potatoes, and Alice prepared asparagus, and we feasted like we were starving.  

A Desert Sunset
We left the desert this morning and drove to Ramona, California, where Chuck and Alice live.  It was a beautiful drive, and we saw green hillsides for the first time in weeks as we crossed the mountains into the San Felipe Valley.  The wildflowers were also a nice treat, and the fields were a beautiful yellow.  Although I truly appreciate the beauty of the desert, I have to admit that I was excited to get back into the green hills.

San Felipe Valley
Beautiful Hillsides
Laptop Kat
Alice and Chuck had planned a party for the afternoon, and this gave us a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and friends who live nearby.  I was also able to sample Alice’s famous chili, which was even better than had been reported. 

Tim and I had a blast this weekend and had experiences that were new to both of us.  Chuck and Alice are so generous and welcoming, and have been so eager to share everything with us.  I had the luxury of getting to know both of them so much better these last few days, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this family.


  1. What fun!!! Those Carlson's know how to party! You look good in your dune buggy outfit. :-) LV

    1. LV, I agree that the Carlson clan excels at partying! They always seem to have a good time, and they make sure that everyone else has just as much fun. Thanks for the compliment. Sarah

  2. OMG! You are amazing "Sarah Is Stylishly Dressed for a Dune Buggy Ride"!!!!
    How much fun that must have been! :) AG

    1. AG, I had such a good time on the ride. As you may remember, one of my goals has been to have one adventure after another. This was such a fun adventure. Sarah

  3. I hope you were able to spend some time with Nick, Jamie and Huntar While you were with Alice and Chuck. I am so happy for you being able to do this. The pictures are wonderful. Love Cathy and Harold.

    1. Cathy and Harold, Yes, we were able to see Nick, Jamie and Huntar while we were in Ramona. Alice and Chuck invited everyone over for a barbeque so we would be able to visit with all the California relatives. I'm glad you're enjoying the photos. Sarah