"Ah, the dunes... They're lovely this time of the year! Tad and Buffy and the whole gang were there."
Diane (with kids: Sean and Debra) and myself (Sandman) left Simi Valley around 7:30pm, Friday night. We would have left earlier, but ants had made their way up the power cord to my travel trailer and found an open box of cookies... Simply amazing. Anyway, we got off to a fairly early start. I figured that we'd have camp set up just be- fore the main group got to Dumont. Two hundred and someodd miles later, we were at the Armargosa River, look-ing for Mickey and Charlie, who were supposed to already be there.
Since I was towing the Queen Mary, I sent Diane up the wash to find Charlie, which actually worked out pretty good, considering that she didn't have any idea what his Jeep or trailer looked like. Charlie came out to meet us and we stayed up for a while, waiting for the rest of the group. Well, there never was a "rest of the group", so the heck with them, we went to bed. Next morning, there was still no more group. Without a group of people for motivation, we kind'a took it real easy that morning. Walter, Stephanie and Elan (excuse me, MAGPIE) drove past the stream in their new Bronco. We got on the CB and zeroed them in on our 10-20. They'd been driving since 4:00 in the morning (Uugh!). Morning turned into after-noon and we followed Charlie over to Saratoga Springs. We hadn't been there before and I'll always go some place that I haven't been before. At the springs, Charlie's left rear tire was going flat, so he put his jack under the axle and we went for a hike around the springs (why do now what you can put off for later?). Considering the location (inside Death Valley), the spring was quite large. Three ponds large enough for flocks of aquatic birds to fly in and out of... Neat-0! Anyway, we continued around the Ibex Dunes (OFF LIMITS!) and looped back around to the main high-way. Note: there are definitely some mines and roads to be explored in this area, especially the mines next to the dunes.
We returned to camp and prepared to make a run to the dunes. One of the kids took the little quad, and off we went... approximately 100 feet before Diane's Jeep started clunk, clunk, clunking. After much prognostication, we decided that the front wheel drive part of the Dana 300 was skipping gear teeth (back at home, we found out that it was simply a matter of not having any bolts in the tranny mount). Well, we continued on to the Dunes. Diane's money pit, err - Jeep, seemed to be working okay in two wheel drive. It was already late, so we just played around on the big dune that has the big flat spot on it half way up. The mighty Ford and it's 460 made it to the top carrying kids and a snow, err - sand, saucer. They had more fun going down than I had going up. At sunset, we returned to camp and made dinner. Some of Charlie's homemade plum wine was passed around (don't tell them dern revenuers). Charlie recommended having only one cup full. He said it was difficult to walk to bed from the camp fire if you had more than one. I believe Diane had two and then went to bed around 8:30. I don't think that anyone stayed up past ten.
Sunday morning, we took a tour around the dunes, one time clockwise, with one of the kids on the quad again. At a big flat spot, we stopped to let Elan (excuse me, MAGPIE) try the quad. She took to it fast. At the same time, Walter took the other kids to the top of a slipface dune and tried the sand saucer again, with pretty good luck. We continued on and did fairly well at climbing up the back side of the biggest dune. Everybody waited at a big flat spot while the kids went to the top to try the saucer again. When Elan (excuse me, MAGPIE) took off, I noticed that when she leaned back, the little saucer slowed down, so I yelled to lean forward a little. What happened next was reminiscent of the snow saucer scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation..down about 200 feet of sand dune. By now the rest of the Kids, and an adult to watch them, were way down the other side of the biggest dune at Dumont, so I mustered up all the cubic inches that the Mighty Ford had to offer and popped over the top, picked up just as many riders as a pickup can hold (belted in, of course) and drove all the way around the dunes back to the group. From here, we continued around the dunes and back to camp and then to home.