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2009 Trip Reports - DE Rendezvous - Needles to Nipton Noodle

Needles to Nipton Noodle 

Thursday March 19, 2009

by Bob Jaussaud

This trip could have been titled “from chicken to ribs”,  but it really was a noodle.  Sue added her own touch to the “Tom Church” chicken  we enjoyed on the edge of the Colorado River the evening before the trip.  The  meal was complimented with Ron Lipari’s pasta, Betty Oliver’s bean dip and  Charles Hughes’ rum cake.  We were fat and happy and ready to venture forth in  our 4x4’s the next morning.  Ribs at the DE Rendezvous in Nipton were our  Saturday night appointment.  Add two traditional potlucks Thursday and Friday  and you know life was good, very good.

No, eating was not our only goal for the “Needles to Nipton  Noodle”.  The Jaussaud inbound trip for the 2009 Desert Explorer Rendezvous  included a lot of history and the desert was in bloom with zillions of  wildflowers.  No one got lost along the way and Neal arrived Thursday evening in  time to save us from Marian.  Whew!

Our first stop after leaving Thursday morning was the site  of Loma’s, a 40’s and 50’s Needles eatery known for its strawberry pie.  Loma  went on to establish the Hungary Bear, a popular Needles restaurant still in  operation.  From Loma’s we headed west along the railroad tracks.

The railroads are a huge part of desert history.  The  railroads completed the southern transcontinental route when the Atlantic and  Pacific (Santa Fe) from the east and the Southern Pacific from the west met in  Needles in 1883.  The Santa Fe gained control of the whole route in 1884.  Today  the Santa Fe is known as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF).  Early steam  engines required water and service frequently so the railroads maintained  inhabited sidings at least every 50 miles or so.  Early roads across the desert  followed the railroads closely to take advantage of the support these sidings  offered. On our “noodle” we visited the historic sites of Java, Klinefelter, and  Ibis while traveling on early alignments of Old National Trails and Route 66.

National Trails was the first southern interstate road and  the Auto Club installed their historic signs along it from Santa Monica to  Kansas in 1914.  Beginning in 1927, National Trails was eventually replaced by  Route 66.  In turn, Route 66 was replaced by Interstate 40 beginning in the  60’s.  During its life, Route 66 had several different alignments.  At Java we  could see a section of Old National Trails, the 1927 through 1946 alignment of  Route 66 and the later alignment used from 1947 until Route 66 was replaced with  Interstate 40.  It’s interesting to note that the last section of I-40 across  the Mojave (Mountain Springs Summit to Ludlow) wasn’t completed until 1973.  Sue  and I hauled our first mobile home to the river on Old Route 66 through Amboy in  1970 behind my brother-in-law’s 1956 Ford pickup.  We barely made it over Cadiz  Summit.

Before the roads, the Mojave Indians had trails all over  the Mojave Desert and they left their markings.  The “noodle” took us past  habitation sites, an ancient shooting gallery, petroglyphs and grinding sites.   Indian Trails are distinct from the later roads in that they usually travel the  shortest distance between water sources and are not necessarily the best routes  for wagons or railroads.  Whipple was following an Indian Trail through the  Mojave in 1854 when he was exploring the “35th Parallel Route” or  southern route for the transcontinental railroad.  The route eventually adopted  was a more moderate grade located by Palmer in 1868.  Palmer’s route was used in  1883 when the railroads met in Needles on the Colorado River and is still the  route used today.

Patton and his troops came to the Mojave Desert in 1942 and  several troop camps were established in the Mojave Desert.  We “noodled” through  Camp Ibis, one of the larger camps where the 81st Medical Battalion  left their insignia in rocks for us to find.  The 81st went from Camp  Ibis to the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and fought in what has become known as  the Battle of the Bulge.  At the center of the camp we found white stars made  from rocks.  White stars represent the national identification symbol.  We  located officer quarters and possible cantinas before Mary and Charles led us to  a bunker.  Sunny and Jean located the camp airstrip on their GPS and we followed  them to where it should have been.  It was no longer distinguishable on the  ground, but the following week Mal Roode googled our route and confirmed we were  indeed on the runway.

From Camp Ibis, we followed a very old road to a  significant Homer Mountain mine.  Our mine aficionado, Bob Oliver, descended  into a shaft while most of us checked out the ruins and debris.  The day was  waning, but on the way to our camp in Piute Wash we came to a very sad and  abandoned OX Ranch corral and water tanks.  The OX was formerly part of the vast  Rock Springs Land and Cattle Company formed in 1894.  The OX survived the 30’s  depression and the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, but was finally put out of business  by the infamous Desert Protection Act of the 90’s.  We were witnesses to a  vanishing part of Mojave Desert lore and posed for a group photo on the old  cattle ramp.  Later, we camped in the boonies and enjoyed wine, a desert  campfire and another wonderful potluck.

The Friday section of this narrative will have to wait  until the next newsletter.  As some of you may have surmised, Sue and Toby were  not with us on this trip.  We felt that a 4x4 trip and boonie camp would be too  hard on our old dog, so Sue and Toby elected to meet us at Nipton.  Toby did  enjoy his last Desert Explorer Rendezvous, but he passed away March 31.  I miss  him so that I am unable to continue writing for a while.