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2007 DE Rendezvous Recap - Amboy

Rendezvous Retrospective - Amboy

by Allan Wicker

It was cool and windy when I left Claremont Thursday morning of the Rendezvous weekend.  I called ahead to let Bob and Nancy Dodds I’d be later than our appointed time to load tables from the Mojave River Valley Museum into the Dodds’ truck to be transported to the Amboy Rendezvous site.  By the time I arrived, all but two of the tables were sitting in the truck.   It was cold and windy in Barstow as well. 

 Bob said that there had been an accident east of Barstow on I-40, so we would need to take old Highway 66.  Our caravan to Amboy included Bob and Nancy in separate vehicles, with their truck and a trailer loaded with a generator, electrical cords, and other supplies.   They also pulled their camp trailer.

From Highway 66 we could see the backup of vehicles stopped on I-40.  An ambulance streaked toward Barstow.  We later learned that two people died in a multi-vehicle crash apparently caused by blowing sand.  Much of the I-40 traffic was diverted to Route 66, but it kept moving—for a while.  After we had passed by the spot, a second crash on 66 caused it to be closed as well. 

I learned of the secondary stoppage in a cell phone conversation with Jean and Sunny Hansen, who were some miles behind us on 66.  They were pulling a trailer, and had to retrace their route, then drive north to catch I-15, exit on Kelbaker Road, and then come back south to Amboy.   An extra 90 or so miles. 

When we arrived at the Amboy site, the wind was still blowing.  Don Sweinhart, who was already there, reported seeing one of the plate glass windows in the motel lobby blow out.  We unloaded the tables and with the help of Shirley Bolin and the Hansens, who arrived at mid-afternoon, began sweeping, dusting, and arranging furniture in the rooms in the motel office that we would use.  We were interrupted occasionally by dozens of honey bees who seemed attracted by our presence.   Bob put up a sign he had made to announce that our camping area was for Desert Explorers only.

The concrete patio east of the motel office offered shade and protection from the wind, so we established that as the site of our potluck and dinner.

Vehicles continued to arrive.  The wind had died down a bit, so I pitched my tent.  The evening entertainment included watching one of the Amboy employees climb nearly to the top of the antenna tower at the site to make a repair of some kind.   Among the arrivals were Bob & Sue Jaussaud and Toby, who were warmly greeted.  It was very good to have them back among us.  

I spent Thursday night in the Ludlow motel, leaving my tent set up to help mark the tent camping area.  The next morning, at the Ludlow meeting point for the Jaussauds’ incoming trip, Don Sweinhart told me that during the night the wind had nearly dismantled the tent, so he lowered it to the ground, for which I was very grateful.

The Jaussaud trip from Ludlow to Amboy exceeded even their high standard.  I won’t describe it here, in the expectation that photos and a report will tell that story.  The wind was not a problem by this time.

Upon our arrival at Amboy on Friday afternoon, we found that Alan Romspert had already set up the silent auction tables in the rooms of the hotel office adjoining the patio with help from sidekick Allan Schoenherr.   The other incoming trip group, led by Dave Given, pulled in and reported having had a fine time.   My good wife Ding, traveling with Nan Savage, arrived shortly after.  

David Roan, the BLM official with whom Debbie Miller worked to secure a permit for our event, dropped by Friday evening to meet some of the participants and assure that everything was in order.   Happily it was. 

No one at the Friday potluck left hungry, and the weather was near-perfect.  The only thing to mar the event was a fall by Associate Trip Coordinator Mal Roode, which left him with a painful right arm.  We later learned that he suffered a fractured bone in his arm.   Mal and Jean left the Rondy prematurely on Friday night so he could have the injury attended to. 

Vehicles continued to arrive into Friday night, swelling the number of vehicles to perhaps 50 and persons to around 100.   

Saturday morning was clear and without wind, perfect for the trips led by the 2 Al(l)ans, Dave Given, and Bob and Nancy Dodds.   Jim & Kit Neeld and their three charming children arrived in time to join a trip after their 5 a.m. departure from home.  The kids were even smiling when they drove up.  Trip reports and photos will tell the stories of these outings, all of which were highly successful and without negative incident. 

Our caterer, Lisa Hill, and staff from The Rib Company in Twentynine Palms, arrived at the appointed hour Saturday afternoon and served a delicious and generous dinner of barbequed ribs, chicken, beans, and coleslaw.  We will happily give Lisa and her crew the highest recommendation to anyone who should ask. 

Next came the program, Memories of the Trail, a.k.a. Get Neal.  The roast of Neal Johns began with emcee Ken Sears presenting the aging aridologist with a Top Gun cap donated by Bob and Sue Jaussaud.  About a dozen victims of Neal’s barbs spoke in retaliation and occasionally in appreciation.  Jay Lawrence translated some Neal’s trail descriptions into more accurate language.  Debbie Miller presented a group participation song.  Nan Savage put Neal’s antics in a mythological context:  he plays the role of a Trickster.   Sylvia Lawrence spun a tale that had Neal on his back with his legs up.  Emmett Harder took two turns; he was so funny most of us wished he would do another encore.  Mary Hughes had nothing good (or bad) to say about Neal, but said it anyway.  After others had contributed stories, Marian Johns (“She who must be obeyed”) admitted in a moment of candor that Neal was not her first love, nor she, his.   

To conclude the program, on behalf of the Desert Explorers I presented Neal and Marian with a “dinner out” in appreciation of their contributions to our amusement.  The dinner included two unopened cans of soup complete with their original labels, cans of Mountain Dew and Diet Coke, plastic champagne glasses to drink it from, three pouches of dog food for whichever Husky they happen to take on the outing, and reading material  to cap off their evening.  Neal was given the book, Listening and Caring: A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Marian’s book was Women Who Love Too Much:  When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change. 

Even new members who have not yet been provoked by Neal seemed to enjoy the program. 

The organized events ended with final bidding at the silent auction.  Thanks to Alan’s fine organization and the generous donations of many members, including some who contributed their own original art and craft work, we made nearly $800 to help sustain worthy causes. 

Saturday night provided some tent-flapping winds to modulate the sounds of the trains that frequently pass by Amboy.  But the morning was again clear, and the two announced trips, lead by Neal and Marian Johns and by Debbie Miller and Steve Marschke, departed as scheduled (see their separate accounts).   After taking a tour of the motel office building and grounds with the caretakers Danny and Larry to assure all was in order, Ding and I headed back to Claremont in time to attend an afternoon talk by former President Bill Clinton. 

By all accounts that I have heard, this year’s Rendezvous a successful event—some said one of the best.  The success is partly attributable to fortunate breaks in the weather, but mainly to major contributions of several individuals, and supportive actions of many others.   Jean Hansen was the chief organizer of the Rendezvous, carrying out numerous tasks even as she was working full time.  Her lunch hours and breaks were often devoted to making calls and running errands on our behalf.  Jean and Sunny deserve the gratitude of all who attended.   Alan Romspert again showed he knows how to run a successful silent auction.  Earlier inspection trips to the Amboy site were made by Sunny & Jean Hansen, Dave Given, Bob & Nancy Dodds, and others.  The Dodds, Emmett and Ruth Harder, and Alan Romspert furnished and transported needed equipment of various types.    Marilyn Martin and Debbie Miller provided publicity via the Newsletter and website, respectively, and Debbie secured permissions with the BLM.  Desert Tailings, the newsletter of the Mojave River Valley Museum, our parent organization, also promoted the Rondy, thanks to MayBelle Lipking and the other editors, Cliff Walker, Steve Smith, and Pat Schoffstall.  Ken Sears was the right man at the right time to emcee the Saturday program, and he aided in negotiations with vendors.  Neal Johns endured paybacks in relative silence and (we presume) in relatively good humor—in spite of his vows of revenge.  The trip leaders mentioned above allowed us to do what most came for—to explore the desert safely and in good company.  Some leaders did double duty.  Undoubtedly there are additional persons who deserve to be recognized; if you are one of them please consider yourself included in these acknowledgements. 

I have sent a letter on behalf of the membership to Albert Okura, owner of Amboy, thanking him for letting us use the site. 

As the above paragraphs suggest, our annual Rendezvous is a major undertaking requiring the coordinated efforts of numerous people.  A by-product of these preparations has been closer ties and greater appreciation of fellow participants.  The event itself provides an opportunity for us to encounter a substantial proportion of the membership, some whom we have only just met and others whom we know well from previous trips.  The Rendezvous is one of the things we do as a group, and it helps us define who we are.