Tripping off to Mexico Mañana

Me on Bob's fiddle
Me on Bob’s fiddle. Mom always said to clean behind your ears. I see why now.

Today is Laura and Barry’s wedding day. We’ve been hanging around Portal waiting for this day since the bridge was finished. An event well worth waiting for but, my, there’s not much going on when we’re not working or super hiking. I practiced some of my new Irish tunes this week. I read a book. Burt and I visited centenarian Bob again. A bear attacked the gNash. I saw a couple more tarantulas. We took a hike. A mouse landed on my shoulder.

Yesterday Mimi was dropped off at Dodie’s for her extended kitty B&B stay. I left Dodie with Mimi’s bed, food, snacks, bowls, litter box, litter, blankie, and more food. Mimi’s luggage weighs more than mine. We also left Dodie with our minds at ease because we know she won’t mind having an elderly stink ball as a companion. Mimi isn’t so sure what to do with all the floor space. When I left she was completing her 53rd circumnavigation of the living area. The gNash is soulless without our feline companion.

Two nights ago was the incident of the bear under the gNash. Just after 11:00 I was woken by two quick Olive barks. Olive has a sophisticated system of barks. These two barks were ‘I hear something’ and ‘GoAwayBear!’ I woke up and, with Ollie ears in tune new we were under assault. Olive was quiet and there was a dragging/grating sound emanating from just outside the window on Burt’s side of the bed. I leaned over and peered out blindly but thought I saw a very large and dark hump moving. I said, “There’s a bear” as I shook Burt. Like all husbands roused from sleep he yelled, “There is NO bear.” Insert murderer, robber, thief, rapist for bear and you have all men waking up to wife saying: There’s a …. Is this in their DNA or are they taught by their fathers or is it learned after millions of false alarms?

Clearly Burt hadn’t fully assessed the situation. Nor was he awake. Still I thought, maybe he’s right. It’s probably a mouse. Suddenly more dragging noises and I hit Burt again and I said, “There’s a bear.” This time he bolted straight up and yelled, “There’s A bear.” This was the first time in history that I feel Burt actually met or exceeded my level of concern for our physical safety. Wide awake he knew instantly what I did not. Burt knew the bear had found a stash of food under our trailer (Hellooo, Hell, no…) and now the bear knew our trailer was a flimsy tin can of filled with delightful food. Burt closed his window and the window over the dinette. I left mine open. Menopause, bear or no bear. Our noise making scared the bear enough so that noises stopped and we couldn’t see it. Not much sleep was had as we both envisioned the bear ripping off our grey water tank or stretching a paw in to find the dog food. The next morning the bear was still on the pile of dry beans (my zombie apocalypse supply) when Burt went out to check the damages. He chased bruno away. Our storage cooler had sustained minor bite damages and the rice and beans were spread all around. I presume that bear got a mean tummy ache from eating dry beans. Burt cleaned up the mess as best he could. We seal up the windows whenever we leave now but if a bear wants into a trailer it can make it happen. Today we are moving to a new location. Hopefully the bear doesn’t follow.

Also this week we played music for Bob. It was a kind of practice session. Whiel visiting Burt asked Bob if he had any of his instruments still. Bob still had his fiddle which he had inherited from his father. He showed it to us. I got it in tune and played some tunes on it that Bob’s dad might have played. Bob practically seized the thing from me and gave it a go himself. Despite his torn rotator cuff, deafness, long finger nails, and lack of practice the phrase of a tune came out. Bob commented that he liked my bow. You can see the video on Facebook. This private session was further rewarded when Bob left his house and came to our concert the next day. He doesn’t get around like he used to. He and his gal friend Gloria were all the audience we needed to make our day special. We made plans to have another jam session between our Mexico and Galapagos trips.

Another recent wildlife encounter happened when I decided to clean out a bird nesting box on the old adobe stage building where we are parked. I lifted the front of the box and it was packed full of bedding. Fearing biting bugs and the mites I’ve found in other nests I grabbed a stick to clean the place out. As I dug in a very alarmed mouse jumped out and landed on my shoulder. I screamed. She screamed. Then she ran down my chest, jumped to my knee, and then the ground. I stopped cleaning for fear of finding babies. The birds will have to battle it out come spring.

Bob on Bob's fiddle. Originally his father's fiddle.
Bob on Bob’s fiddle. Originally his father’s fiddle.
Barfoot view
Barfoot view
View of Barfoot lookout.
View of Barfoot lookout.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
Bob and Gloria made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
Bob and Gloria (front, far left) made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
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Hitting the Road

Burt and I are headed south of here.
Burt and I are headed south of here.

We will soon be out of touch for lengthy stretches of time. Starting Sunday we will be in Mexico for about a week. This jaunt is a scoping trip for some work we might do on the Northern Jaguar Project’s preserve outside of Sahuaripa, Mexico. It’s a very remote place. No phones, no help, nobody for about 20 miles and 6 hours of driving. Yes, 6ish hours to cover 20ish miles. I’ll be able to be more specific after our first time up the wilderness. The trip’s goal is to see if we can build some things for them. Challenges abound. We’ll try and answer logistical questions about food, lumber, hardware, roofing, power. No actual work is planned for this first trip. Olive, Elvis, Mimi, and the gNash will all be left behind.

After the scoping trip we return to Portal and then a few days later we catch a flight to Ecuador. Our first trip to the Galapagos! I have no idea what internet will be like in Ecuador. I expect none in the Galapagos. That’s another two weeks without reporting. I’ll be prepared to fill you in when I get back. Like our European trip, I plan to take handwritten notes. Again the rest of the family and our camper will be left behind.

Presuming all went well on the scoping trip we will then head back to the jaguar preserve in Mexico and work for a few weeks. It’s possible the pets and camper will come to Mexico with us for the second trip. Those decisions depend on what we discover during the first trip.

I’ll check in when I can. Wish us luck.

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Traveling to the next job

Yuppers. Cold and smokey.
Yuppers. Cold and smokey.

We’re living with a tyrant. She demands a sample of all food stuff, walks all over us and our belongings, bosses the dogs, and shows not one bit of appreciation. I’m talking Mimi. Recent near death experiences for her were met by hand feeding by us. Now, despite appearing fine, she demands food be brought to her. And not just any food. She’ll have what we’re having. Just yesterday she swatted a filet of rock fish out of Burt’s hand as he dredged it in egg. Fresh fish. Now. No please or thank you. She’s taken on a more thuggish appearance, too. Scraggly unkempt hair, jutting bones, cigarette hanging from her lips. Last week she had a seizure and ripped out a claw from the root. She never noticed the blood on her foot and she hasn’t cleaned it up. Add a bloody stump to her ensemble and you can see why we give her whatever she demands.

California coast and smoke.
California coast and smoke.
Mimi has become aggressive.
Mimi has become aggressive.
Dashboard clan.
Dashboard clan.
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Project Update

 

I found this very confusing.  Then Jolyn explained seeds are the new chewing tobacco.
I found this very confusing. Then Jolyn explained seeds are the new chewing tobacco.
There are some seed spewing anarchists out there. They are really messy on astroturf.
There are some seed spewing anarchists out there. They are really messy on astroturf.

I’ve been busy. Blogging about ZazzEuroVacay 2017, taxes, helping Burt kept me busy for a solid three weeks. This week things are slowing down. Burt has the work side of things well in hand. I occasionally help hold something or sweep up but there isn’t much for me to do. One of the tasks I took on was to try and fix our truck fan. I’m going to be very specific here in case somebody else is searching for the information. The internet gave me the information but there were a few hiccups in the road to repair.

We have a 2001 Dodge 2500 Ram Diesel Cummings. The fan only worked on high or setting 4 out of 4. No air blew on settings one through three. High works when it’s 101 F out there. High all day, every day isn’t fun. You can take that phrase to the bank. I searched on Google and found out the most likely problem was either a blown fuse or the blower resistor. I checked all the fuses. Internet rumors said the resistor could be found near the blower itself which is located under the glove compartment.

I got down in there (see photo) and looked but could only find the blower. I did not find a resistor. Burt came over and took out the blower. We could not see the resistor. Burt called a trusted mechanic and got a new guy at the mechanic’s shop. Burt asked where the blower resistor was located. The new guy said his truck had the same problem and the solution was to be found in the switch on the dash. The switch with the blower settings. Makes sense but was news to me. I (being a female) didn’t dispute this new idea. After all, the internet is frequently wrong. Trucks change. Maybe the people on the internet had different year trucks. Resistors can be anywhere on the path of electricity. So I proceeded to take apart the dash board and get at the switch.

Photos below show the switch assembly. I got it apart and I still couldn’t find a resistor. I figured it must be inside the assembly. I opened up the switch assembly and everything inside fell out. Not a reassuring sign. I could not put it back together. I put the dashboard back on and told Burt we no longer had an option for high. A few days later we went to a NAPA and asked for a blower resistor. They had it in stock. I’m skipping over the spousal disagreement of who had to go in the NAPA. I might be able to repair a truck but I can’t face a parts store. Eventually I entered the NAPA and looked at the blower resistor and said, “That won’t fit on the dash switch.”

Back to square one minus a working switch. So really I’ve lost ground. I used to have high. Now I have nothing. Burt ordered a used switch off eBay. It showed up two days later. I put it in. Miraculously it worked on high but it did not solve our problem. So I was back at square one for reals. Now you might need a ven diagram to follow this but try to keep up. Did I just buy a used switch with the same problem as my old switch or was the problem somewhere else? Like, maybe, was the problem in the hidden resistor? I was paralyzed for a day trying to decide what to do. Burt was ready to go to an auto shop.

I gathered my nerves and hit the internet again. This time I Googled: Where is the blower resistor in a 1991 Dodge Diesel 2500? How do you find the blower resistor in a 1991 Dodge Diesel 2500? How can I replace the blower resistor in a Dodge Diesel 2500? I got answer after answer that it was under the dash by the passenger side door. Finally some combination of search terms gave me a link to a video of a guy making the repair. I watched the video. The guy had the part (sadly, it was the part the NAPA tried to sell us). That was a bittersweet moment. The guy gets down under the dash saying now screw it back into place and CUT and then he says there it’s in. No footage. No peek under the dash. Nada. But he says this: you can see two screws behind the blower and you can follow the wire from the blower to the resistor. I had seen the wire. I got down under there again and followed the wire to where I could just barely see a screw. I could feel the second screw with my fingers. Phillips head in hand I got the puppy out. The ceramic insulation fell apart a soon as I freed it from its housing. This was feeling very auspicious.

Burt went to a different NAPA and bought a new resistor. I put it in. Our fan works on all settings. I feel like a rock star. A rock star that got mansplained out of my work process but still a rock star. I have a few advantages over Burt on this type of work. I fit under the dash and my hands can reach into smaller spaces.

I broke this.
I broke this.
Here's the back of the replacement. Don't open it up. It will break.
Here’s the back of the replacement. Don’t open it up. It will break.
The replacement part inserted.
The replacement part inserted.
This is the piece that was broken. Not by me.
This is the piece that was broken. Not by me.
Blower resistor back in place under the dash.
Blower resistor back in place under the dash. I stuck the camera up in there. You too can use your camera like a probe.
Me getting it done. Small hands and I fit under the dash.
Me getting it done. Small hands and I fit under the dash.
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Work Photos

Alsea Falls and Marla
Alsea Falls and Marla

The shock of travel keep hitting our systems. Leaving the Baja desert and going to Europe and then the Pacific Northwest wreaked havoc on my inner compass. I’m still waking up in the morning wondering where I am. I’d say we have earned our gypsy credentials in the last 2 month. We’ve been in the Seattle area for a little more than a week converting a garage into a painter’s studio. It is a very urban location but tucked away on a quiet street. The dog park is only a ten minute walk away and there’s a fenced backyard. Olive has managed to dig up the lettuce so she’s no longer allowed in the yard unsupervised. Despite that the job and location are great.

We plan to drive back to Alpine, OR via the Olympic peninsula in time to catch the solar eclipse. Flat earthers beware. I have no patience for such nonsense. Below are some scenes from Alpine. More to follow. I got the taxes done.

foundation
foundation
poppies
poppies
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
Tent platform frame.
Tent platform frame.
Hashtag and lunch
Hashtag and lunch. Best watermelon ever.
My new skill
My new skill
gNash parking
gNash parking
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At Jack’s House

Nine toed man shops for shoes.
Nine toed man shops for shoes.

We’re on the cusp of a leap across the Atlantic to see Spain and Italy. Dad’s footing much of our expenses and we are very grateful. Meanwhile we’re racking up some bills just so we don’t embarrass him or our niece and nephew with our shabby clothing. The Gypsy Carpenters have frequented the second hand stores for so long our wardrobe is, to put it mildly, distressed and distressing. Shabby chic departed a year ago. Even all the generous hand-me-downs from family and friends don’t cover the gaps in our attire. As we headed to Jack’s and the dog kennel on I-5 we passed a huge outlet mall. We stopped there and found Burt some shoes, shirts, shorts, and a pair of pants. I nabbed a new handbag and a dress. I think we are ready to summer on the Amalfi coast. Or at least week on the coast. We won’t be hip but we won’t be stained and ragged either.

I spent quite a bit of time informing our banks and credit card companies of our plans. Automated systems cannot understand SPAIN. Please tell us where you are traveling…You’re going to Maine? No, SPAIN. You’re going to Bahrain? No, Spain. You’re going to (I kid you not) Peru? Close, they speak Spanish there…I’m in pain yelling Spain. I should have used Spanish. This happened at two companies. Eventually the computer overheats and they put a human on. Both companies informed me all charges overseas are now subject to a 3% surcharge. Wow. Talk about annoying. It used to be credit cards were the cheapest way to travel. A traveler was guaranteed the best exchange rate for the billing cycle. Not no more. I’ll be applying for an international card when we return. I filed my annoyance with both companies. The Costco card person tried to remind me that I wouldn’t get a 1% cash back dividend if I changed cards. I didn’t take the time to point out the grievous math error.

I’m finding leaving the country logistically difficult. It’s weird. We live in Mexico half the year and everything is so easy. But then when we go there I have the dogs and my car and driver. I have the cards permanently approved in Mexico. We bring cash. Among the pre-trip prep work was arranging the airport shuttle. It’s $25 a day to park and the SFO parking lot versus $63 for two to get door to door service. We’re leaving our truck at Marla’s house in Marin County. Thanks, Marla. The dogs are $39 a day for two in a kennel out here in the boonies. Mimi’s care is free. Well, sort of free. Burt installed a new water heater for his dad. Add to that the $10 a day to make the phone work in Spain and Italy. There is no such thing as a free lunch but I am not complaining. We’ll be back at work soon and make up this deficit.

 

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Motored North

Recycled bottle art. This was a gift from Maria Jose.
Recycled bottle art. This was a gift from Maria Jose.

Just three days ago we were leaving Pescadero. Today I was at a two-story Bed Bath and Beyond with only pesos in my pocket. It all happened so fast I forgot to get U.S. dollars. Good thing I carry plastic. The drive was very easy. I slept. Burt drove. Years ago I used to sleep as soon as I got in a car. I traveled all over the south at napping pace. A couple of decades ago I lost the ability. Maybe the beauty and drama of the inter-mountain west was more interesting than the pine trees of the southeast. Now I suddenly can sleep again. It’s a nice way to cover the world. Burt puts in a book on CD. I check out. Every hour or so I have to wake up and change the CD. Sometimes Burt has to fill in the gaps in the story. This trip was Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Instructions. Entertaining science. Stupid plot. Poorly disguised science education. A for effort, Barbie, but if people don’t believe in climate change and the disasters that await this book won’t change any minds. It also irks me that Barbara reads her own work. It’s too precious. Her honeyed southern accent seems to self delight in her own wit. For crying out loud you sound too darn happy with yourself. Remind me to never read my stuff out loud. But maybe I will since this is fact and hers is fiction. I am writing about me after all.

Here’s some gross me stuff. I have been managing a bit of a female infection down there as we travel. A few days ago I was overcome by female troubles. I was gonna try and ignore it and see if it cleared up. Burt dragged me to the pharmacist. He helped me ask the pharmacist for the hongo medicine because I was too shy. The young man was totally professional. Silly me. The hongos were cleared and I realized I might have a UTI. Driving 1200 miles in three days with a UTI might be the definition of discomfort. Not exactly agony but always on my mind. I never peed my pants but I was reduced to climbing in the back seat with a Tupperware while stuck in LA traffic. The lyrics from two songs swapped back and forth in my head… ‘I drove all day and never even left LA’ and ‘if I ever get off of this LA freeway’ as I executed the move. Thank you yoga.

Today I called my BFF as I was waiting for an urgent care to open. I thought we’d catch up while I waited. When I told her where I was she said,”so and so’s here. Talk to him.” So and so happens to be my primary care physician and BFF’s husband. I try not to abuse our relationship but this was the perfect situation. Doctor hubby had me relay my symptoms and agreed with my diagnosis and sent a prescription to Costco saving me an office visit.  Do you have a urinary tract infection? Painful urination and cloudy pee (the Tupperware revealed this) are the hallmarks. I was doubtful because there was none of the urgency I remembered from my last infection some 20 years ago. I can blame this one on menopause and wearing a wet suit and my husband.

Rumpus room ready for the summer.
Rumpus room ready for the summer.
The truck packed and ready to roll.
The truck packed and ready to roll.
Sealed up rumpus room.
Sealed up rumpus room.
Some precious things. Insurance purposes.
Some precious things. Insurance purposes.
Good-bye bridge friends.
Good-bye bridge friends.
The bridge iguana
The bridge iguana
Olive wants to stop driving.
Olive wants to stop driving.
My heart can'ttake the heat. This nearly did me in.
My heart can’t take the heat. This nearly did me in.
Sand dollar.
Sand dollar.
Elvis at Pabellon.
Elvis at Pabellon.
Wind art in the sand at Pabellon.
Wind art in the sand at Pabellon.

 

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Starting Where I Am

This was an accident. I quite like it. Here I am.
This was an accident. I quite like it. Here I am.

Today’s encouragement in the journal/blog adventure of 2017 is to start where you are. Take it for what it is. This applies to you dear readers, too. I recall our mantra from the first few years on the road: You get what you get and you don’t get upset. It wasn’t meant to discourage true feeling because, face it, some things are worth getting upset about,  but to encourage moving forward with what life provides. The mantra came from a book on evolution called Your Inner Fish. Here’s another I remember from my childhood: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Here I am in Mexico. An ex-pat connected and disconnected.

The last twenty-four hours have been the kind of day I could only dream of in the US. Yesterday afternoon we hit the ocean. I immersed myself in salt water for the first time since we arrived. We played tunes and had dinner later. This morning I had a tennis lesson. Spanish class is next and then dinner and more music with Montana friends this evening. Tomorrow more friends arrive. All is perfect. Well, maybe not. I spent the post tennis morning knee deep in frass. With spray bottle of vinegar in hand I took on the black goo of insect feces in our bathroom. Guests require a degree of hygiene we have yet to achieve since arrival. Just when I thought things were under control I realized our trailer has an ant population. I’m not sure where we picked them up. They could be local. On top of that, last night I found my instrument cases saturated with what I can only hope is water. We have a full on ecological invasion of our lives and it is making me grumpy. The gNash is turned upside down as we try to air dry and find the ant source and lure. We’ve never had ants come inside in Baja. I need to move some spiders from the bathroom into the trailer. As so many say, “We are living the dream.” It’s a disgusting dream full of bugs and dirt but it’s our dream.

Resolved to take our lumps and be grateful the ants don’t bite we are moving forward. Friends await. Food and music. Glorious weather. So here I am.

And then there’s these flowers. Every year we arrive and our barrel cactus is heavy with yellow fruit. Until this week we had never seen the flowers. And then this. Glorious.

Barrel cactus bloom in our yard.
Barrel cactus bloom in our yard.
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Interwebz up and blogging continues

Disco Queens
Disco Queens

My style choice of black on charcoal paid off under the disco lights at New Year’s Eve. We had some fun making moves to the funky music. Our host’s tastes runs to the mid 80s so we share a lot of common musical history. Despite the fun vibe we only last 2 hours. Six to eight. The long drive from California and we are just plain old party-poopers. Go ahead, you can call us that. We’re not embarrassed.

Landing at our property is always preceded by worry about what we will find. Two years ago we arrived post-Odile’s the Cat 5 hurricane. That was a mess and a disaster and troubling. It took weeks of dirty effort by us and helpers to make the place livable. Since then we’ve had our neighborhood weeders come in before we arrive and it has made parking the trailer and getting down to real work of setting up house keeping easier. Day 1 was filled with Burt opening the rumpus room, bodega, and bathroom. Plywood covers all the windows and doors while we are away. Six months is a long time for a home to be empty. Nature moves in. We had quite a cop of roaches living in the bathroom. I did not know roach frass could accumulate to such a degree. In the arena of shit cleaning it’s much harder to clean the gecko droppings. Score one for roaches in the bathroom. Meanwhile, the rumpus room was full of gecko droppings. I think I see the pattern. Water in bathroom makes great habitat for roaches. Geckos visit the roach buffet and return to the dry and airy rumpus room to digest. Spiders were everywhere.

The next day I tool a broom to the rumpus room and got it presentable. Then I took a cloth and water and started on the bathroom. I have to develop a new plan and attitude to really get it clean. The roach poop will not come off. It’s sticky. Here’s to hoping white vinegar does the job.

Today’s big goal is Olive. The poor pooch is a walking sticker remover. She is wall to wall spines. Today I will give her a close cropped hairdo. It’s all the rage for the terrier set. This afternoon it’s bridge. This evening some fine dining.

Perfect blurrrr of Janet's hair
Perfect blurrrr of Janet’s hair
RR contemplates the green or is it the new year? Enigmatic
RR contemplates the green or is it the new year? Enigmatic
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Slab City for a Third Time

Macaroni Art made of spent munitions.
Macaroni Art made of spent munitions.

Burt and I busted free of Portal and all its charms on Friday a week ago. Our new transmission was installed in under three hours. Since we are in Mexico  we can conclude the job was well done. We got a new clutch, too. We were glad we got out when we did despite missing Christmas with our many friends because the temperature dropped and snow arrived. In slab City it was cool and dry. We set to eradicating the two months of window sill mold we’d grown since heading east in October. Burt and I spent Christmas day with a spray bottle of white vinegar and a roll of paper towels. It was beyond time. We were passing time waiting for Rosemary and Ed to get to us so we could travel the Baja together. RR and Ed were up in Death Valley finishing volunteer duties and managing their vehicle logistics. More on them later. In summary: we are safe in El Pescadero on our homey lot. All appears well. Some termites and cockroaches have had a good time in our absence.

Meanwhile enjoy some Slab City art. This is from a neighborhood called East Jesus. West Satan is next door. Slab City seems to be revitalized since the last time we visited this free, anarchist haven for snow birders, runaways, junkies, and artists. The library is reinhabited and restored. There are competing live music venues and a new hostel. You can rent an RV in Slab City and pretend you are one of the free for $25 a night. If you want to read about our previous visits and see more of the cool art just put ‘Slab City’ in the gypsycarpenters.com search bar. Brings them right up.

Happy New Year, Everyone. Stay kind. Stay connected.

Inviting gate of Stay Out.
Inviting gate of Stay Out. Check out his rules for life. Church of the Chocolate Martini.
This message is not safe for TV
This message is not safe for TV
Burt likes the roofs. Looks like The Wizard of Oz gone wrong to me.
Burt likes the roofs. Looks like The Wizard of Oz gone wrong to me.
Silver macaroni man. Textures are the game here.
Silver macaroni man. Textures are the game here.
Tower at Slab City
Tower at Slab City
Decoys die here.
Decoys die here. The Salton Sea is a big duck hunting destination. Some decoys get left behind.
Bottle wall and the munitions covered VW van.
Bottle wall and the munitions covered VW van.
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