Camper Shakedown and Quad Trip

Trip Report 20080121

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Nearly full moon as seen through clear desert skies in Borrego Springs, CA. Canon 1DsM2, 300mm at f5.6, 1/250

The Experience

The majority of the major actions on the refurbishment of our Alaskan Camper were completed. We had gutted the electrical system and replaced all the components, redid the plumbing and added a roof rack and ladder. Now we were itching to use it 'for real'. My buddy Kai invited us to join him and his family in the desert east of San Diego to ride our quads and camp. So, we packed and headed out.

The photos below show what happened.

Since we had been working on the rig nearly full-time every day, the preparation mainly consisted of filling tanks (gas, water, etc) and loading our stuff. This shot shows that the stairs up to the tailgate of the truck are steep and scary. We have a running bet as to who will fall first. I am guessing that given a dark night and a few cocktails one of us will be the first to take a 5 foot dive.

One of the bad by-products of adding the camper was the loss of cargo space. We regained some of it with the roof rack, but mostly we just elected to load it into the main living space and then unload it when we reached camp. Here you can see all the necessities for a modern camp -- sleeping bags, folding chairs, folding table, recliner, etc. What is missing is the beer.

We solved the beer dilemma by putting the cooler on our trailer along with the quads. In getting to the camp site, I came in later at night than Kai. I went too far and ended up traveling in a wash. When we spotted him, he said "turn right", which I did. But, it involved coming up a 5 foot embankment to get to the camp site without backing up in the dark with the trailer. I failed to have the differential lock engaged on the first attempt, but made it on the second try. Not too bad given the height of the embankment and the fact that I was pulling a full size car-carrier trailer and 2 quads. To make setup easier, I jack-knifed the trailer so we could use the stairs without having to uncouple the trailer. This worked fine but you have to be careful about going too far and ramming the spare tire against the frame of the truck.

One of the nice things about the Unimog is the fact that the bed sides fold down. All three of them in fact. This makes access to cargo much easier. Visible on this side of the truck are new 5 gallon gas cans that actually fin within the available space. Also visible is the new roof rack. The red spots are the high current switches that connect the battery array to the internal electronics.

We had a great day of riding. My only complaint was that there was so little wind that the dust from the riding hung in the air impacting your ability to see the trail. We had a great dinner that included Kathleen's from-scratch home made bread in the dutch oven. While cold, the night was calm and we all slept well since we were tired from riding. In the morning, we awoke to an odd buzzing. I went outside with the camera and caught this ultra light circling our position. In the photo above, 8,000 foot Toro Peak is visible in the left of the frame.

When he got closer, I caught him in the act.

Mark Mitchell joined us later in the day with his 1300L, trailer and quads.

That night, we were treated to clear, cold skies with great visibility. Above is a shot of the nearly full moon. This is a fully hand-held shot at 300mm. I could only pull this off due to the image stabilization of my lens and the fact that the moon is so bright that a fast shutter speed is possible.

The next day was "just another day in paradise" with lots of riding followed by beer, wine and plenty of good eats. Later in the evening, the wind started to blow. We had heard from friends that a weather front was approaching. The winds were strong all night, but the skies were clear. In the morning, we could see the cloud banks handing on the Laguna Mountains to our west. The high winds were generating interesting cloud formations over the crests of the peaks. I shot the interesting cloud formation above to the south of our position in the Borrego Valley.

To the west of our position, the clouds were hanging over the mountain front and dissipating as they came to the east. We spotted this rainbow that was due to the mist produced by the storm. It hung there for nearly an hour and moved as the sun rose in the sky.

The high winds oven the Santa Rosa mountains were causing these lenticular clouds.

As far as camping and quad riding was concerned, this was a great trip. The bad weather caused an early departure on the 3rd day. And, as fate would have it, it was a white knuckle trip home. Once we went up the grade out of the Borrego Valley into the mountains, the weather degraded quickly. There was heavy rain and thick fog. And, to make things more interesting, my windshield wiper motor died early in the trip, so most of the trip was made with impeded visibility. We made it home safely without incident and once we were out of the mountains, the weather cleared quickly.

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