Saturday, December 28, 2013

Morongomobile gets a major repair

So the January trip to the Mojave National Preserve is still on!

Water pump went out Christmas Eve day, I had the repairs done at my favorite repair shop- Mitchell Tire Service in Anaheim the day after Christmas. The estimate when I brought the car in to replace the water pump, timing belt and tensioner was around $790. The final total was $687 and the car is running like a sewing machine again.

This video shows the car running in the parking lot at my work. Video filmed with my LG Motion smartphone.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The blog year in review and thoughts about the MNP

Happy holidays to everyone out there wherever you might be located.

Sorry for the lack of writing on this site, my old nemesis, writer’s block along with laziness had a lot to do with things around here.

This was a year where I abandoned this blog to try my hand at writing about
rare earth and stock investing, neither of which really worked out. I still write
and participate at a now “penny stock” forum, the stock going south and never recovering right after I bought in, down almost 82%.

This has been an interesting year, having moved in with my girlfriend in
April and still driving the shuttle bus, but not being able to visit the desert that much. I did visit the Big Morongo Canyon Nature Preserve a few times but that’s about it.

Plans have been made to take off for 5 straight days up to the Mojave National Preserve in mid January with the idea of spending at least one night out under the stars, and to visit several places there, including the Castle Peaks area if possible. That may not happen due to the higher elevation and possible snow accumulations, but there are still many places to visit at lower elevations.

Here is where the bang comes in.

In addition to being burdened with some sort of chest congestion issue which has hung on for weeks, now of all times that it had to happen, yesterday I finally got the official notice from a mechanic that the water pump is going out on my Chrysler Concorde, at 187k miles, right on Christmas eve. It will cost at least $800 and will require that the car be kept up to two days at the shop.

While it is horrible news, at least it happened here and not miles away from civilization and a cell phone signal, such as the Castle Peaks area of the Mojave National Preserve!

So first thing in the morning, I will drive it up to my mechanic’s shop in Anaheim and get the repair started. Before when I mentioned having the water pump and timing belt done(my choice and not forced upon me) he said it could be done in one day, we will see.

Let me tell you what I have been mulling over throughout this year, and you can see how this recent event has given me more to think about. In fact, it has shaken me a little.

I have thought about rv’ing part time after I turn 62 and still working p/t somewhere. Going out on some desert or mountain dirt road and getting away from all these people and finding some peace and serenity away from it all.
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In particular, I have thought of taking a cargo van such as my former company work van shown above, and putting in some shelves and a little cot, along with
a stove and some sort of water setup, and use that as my mobile p/t hard side “tent camper.” The photograph above taken at the beginning of Globe Mine Road in the Mojave National Preserve, with the awesome backdrop of the Providence Mountains, was taken at the start of a drive miles up winding dirt road and ending at the wilderness area markers. The high clearance 2 wheel drive was and is more than enough to meet my needs, and would enable me to get far out and setup camp in remote areas, far from the madding crowds.

Now I understand the risks though, always be prepared for a breakdown. While you may not be able to prepare for every possible misfortune, try to be ready for common ones that you might encounter, such as bogging down in sand or running out of gas or water. In my case, with the Chrysler, it also means not pushing the car beyond its’ limits, only ride on paved or known good dirt roads. Ask the rangers for the road conditions.

No promises about the future of this blog except two- no writing about renewable energy(burnt out) but I will write about places that I visit here. My thoughts on the paving over of the desert are well documented here and the same objections that applied to Ivanpah still stand for the rest of them. ‘Nuff said. Feel free to crib anything I wrote on the subject and remember that I am only speaking for myself in the posts that you may find. Sorry if I disappoint anyone that might be reading this.


Sunday, October 6, 2013


Is something that I have a tendency to resist but eventually surrender to.

This morning I deleted my Orbite Aluminum blog which was devoted to my foray into investing and which did not do well at all, down over 75% as I write this. I am just sick of the whole mess, including the stock forums. I’m out of there.

I did set up a shell blog, for now, entitled Inside Penny Stocks, which will look into some of the scams and outrageous practices that do occur daily in that world- there literally are thousands, millions of references to the subject online, a lifetime of research material to look over. In just minutes last night, I found several examples that I could write about, if I choose to do so.

One change that I have noticed is that I am definitely not interested in trying again to learn guitar playing. The other day I picked up my guitar and played a D chord, about the easiest one, and learned right away that my fingers are just not as nimble now, never were really, and that playing the guitar is just not what I want to do with my time, getting back to nature is on my mind for my “golden years” not banging away at the guitar, so it will be sold. Perhaps I will end up trying to learn how to play one of those flutes that the Native Americans used, I love the sound of it and it would require less of my hands.

Speaking of things changing, I sure hope that fall drops in soon. Almost 90 degrees F again today while I drive the shuttle bus, sure hope the AC works! I can’t wait for cool weather out in the desert, I intend to get a long car ride in soon, hopefully to the Mojave National Preserve! Maybe even do some car camping.

Before I forget, I had a very close call the other day down in Big Morongo Canyon. I went back to the preserve to see if the gas company had regraded the access road down by the Hangman Tree, the short answer is no but I did see where their truck did go “off roading” to check on their pipeline north of where their road ends. I expect the road to be done within a few weeks and sure hope that they don’t forget to try to do something to help re-route future flooding away from that gnarly old tree. I did see just about 20 or 30
yards north up the dirt road, a major flood channel that is already there and that could be utilized, just don’t put a dirt berm along the road there when it is bladed.

Here are a few shots that I took there in the vicinity of the Hangman Tree showing the gullying and the channels.
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The view walking down to the tree.
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The view from below the Hangman Tree, the tree is in the upper right corner and you can see the route that the water takes as it runs downhill to meet up with the main channel.
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If the edge of the road above is bermed and the other channel not bermed up the road, perhaps future flood waters might not be as bad through this section. It is worth a try don’t you think?
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Anything would be a help, I hope to keep seeing sights like the next one for the rest of my life.
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Almost forgot about that close call. While backing back up after just leaving the old tree, I walked along the edge of the ravine cut into the road by the recent flooding and it collapsed. Miraculously I was not not hurt, as there is no cell phone service and I was over 2 miles downhill from my car and help. Below is a photo, not exactly where I was but in close proximity, look at the drop along the edge.
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Hangman Tree at Big Morongo Canyon

This is a video that I shot while walking the canyon trail recently at Big Morongo Canyon. It documents the aftermath of the flash flood event in September 2013 as posted about recently here.

Will it survive another major flashflood?


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Visit to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve- flood damage- 9/2013

My visit took place on Tuesday, 9/10/2013. There had been a major rain event in the southern California desert about a week before which resulted in roads being washed out in the Mojave National Preserve and at Joshua Tree National Park. I decided to visit the preserve because I figured it also might have been hit with a flood event also.

Recently I have written here about my objections to Questar adding a 16 inch oil pipeline through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve to go with their gas line, an event like this one is one of the reasons not to build it. Based on the damage that I saw, I can only speculate what would have happened had an oil pipeline been already in place there.

Here are a few screen captures from the extensive videos that I shot yesterday while at the preserve. Note to representatives of groups with an interest in helping fight the pipeline, I will be happy to burn all these videos to a dvd and send them to you at no charge.

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The exposed gas pipeline section above has always been like this as far as I know, at least I have noticed it there before. The photo intent is to show all the debris left this time from this event.

The video screen captures above are from the marsh to a couple hundred yards south of the 1.5 mile marker. The rest of the screen captures will show damage done to the re-graded dirt road, controlled by Socalgas. These photos and a email regarding the damage have been forwarded to the person in charge along with a special favor request that they have their road grade operator try to divert the water flow away from Senor Cottonwood(the hangman tree as the gas company manager called it) and fill in some of the lost ground on the north side of the old and venerable tree. In my opinion, this recent flood event has set the stage for this tree to topple over if another major event occurs or two. Growing up in the dirt roads of Georgia, I know the wonders that a good blader(grader) can accomplish.

I might add that I was very impressed with the gas company manager and I want to say for the record that this road is necessary for their folks to come in and check on the pipeline, they have the easement and the pipeline has been there for decades, it ain’t going nowhere. They are being “good neighbors” here and if they can give the old “hangman tree” a few more decades or even centuries by doing a quick diversion cut with the road grader, then they have earned my respect.

I did tell the gentleman right up front that I opposed the Questar oil pipeline and not the gas company, I knew they had been there for ages and weren’t going anywhere.

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In the above photo, the power of the flood waters resulted in the new dirt road being washed out here to a depth of around 3 feet, exposing the buried main supply gas pipeline. This section has been buried here for decades and is located north of the “hangman tree.”

As I told the gas company, the road basically has been totally destroyed by the power of this recent flooding event. There is no doubt in my mind that if some gas company workers had been in their 4wd trucks riding this dirt road that day in the performance of their duties, they would not be alive today. Folks this was a well graded dirt road- just look at the photos above! What kind of flow rate could carve out a 3 foot deep gouge across this road? The power is just mind boggling. And this damage shown is miles below the preserve. Incredible!

I am no weather historian but I have been coming here off and on for almost 10 years and I am telling you that this flooding event could easily be called a “Ten Year flood” as I have seen nothing like it here. In fact, I will go so far as to say it might have been a 50 year flood. We are not going to be able to tame Mother Nature here who is doing her absolute best to kick us out of the canyon but at least we can try to work with her. I have seen how quickly nature worked to try to take back what the dirt road claimed, if they re-blade it in a year it will look more natural in the setting with plant life returning, I can live with that and the workers could still drive up looking over their buried pipeline, which has been trouble free, as far as I know. I see a need for it to be repaired, without question, but it may take a month for the permits needed. In the meantime, hikers be careful- it was like rock climbing in some spots.

In the videos up closer and within the preserve proper, I tried to make folks aware of how the proposed oil pipeline would fit in(it won’t) and what changes would be made to the natural landscape. Up there the canyon is narrower and the flood take the path along the wall of the canyon, so the pipeline would just have to follow the existing gas line. The problem is that an oil pipeline requires a clear cut wide road be kept open and in good condition along the whole route, in case of spills and for maintenance. That will be a problem in this nature preserve. Sure they could try horizontal tunneling under the marsh but how would that effect the natural geology? The water is only at the surface there due to the uplifting of solid rock to stop the underground river flow- ramming at least a 1 1/2 foot tunnel through the rock, what would that do to the ecosystem?

I reiterate my offer to burn all the day’s video to disk and to provide it free of charge to responsible parties who have a stake in the outcome with the Questar Southern Trails oil pipeline extension. Please email me with your contact information as well as your company or organization info. Here are a couple of videos from within the marsh area of the preserve itself.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The bighorn whisperer is back!

Yesterday I drove back up to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in Morongo Valley for a day hike, which ended up with my going all the way down to Indian Avenue via the Canyon Trail and then hitch hiking back up to my car. All told, I walked 8.1 miles per my smartphone gps app and rode about 3 miles with a nice guy, Armando, who stopped and asked if I could use a ride up the mountain grade. I had already given up on sticking my thumb out at that point. Good thing he stopped, because my Powerade and both of my feet were about done!

The purpose of this post is to show a couple of photos that I took of the bighorn who gave away their presence by kicking a rock down in my direction from up the canyon wall. This was about the 3.75 mile point down the canyon and I had long ago given up the quest in the desert sun and heat.

Another purpose of my trip was to document the flood damage to the preserve and the dirt road going through the ACEC, but that will be in the next post.

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Here is the video that I took when I found them, or they told me that they were there.

If one of them hadn’t kicked a rock loose, I never would have spotted them.

So the bighorn whisperer is finally back after a long absence with help from the bighorns, who obviously want the publicity!

Bonus video.

Saying goodbye to the bighorn herd.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

My co-writer

Sometimes it is hard to write around here.

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What, you got a problem with my last post?

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The boy who cried wolf

Guess that’s me.

Questar may run a 16” pipeline through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and judging by visitors coming to this site, nobody gives a damn. Do a google search for this preserve+ oil pipeline and my site comes up at the top along with the post I put up at the Google birding group, which has drawn no response.

Wonder how the birders are going to like it when their marsh viewing areas are disrupted by the clear cutting and heavy machinery laying around everywhere?
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Wonder how hikers are going to like it when they bring down some of the hundreds of year old cottonwoods to get heavy equipment through?
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I am just one person. This jewel of the desert needs help and it just seems like nobody cares. Not one other blogger has jumped on this, except Shaun over at the Mojave Desert Blog, which is how I heard about the Questar pipeline scheme.
If Shaun hadn’t written about, judging by what’s happened here, we wouldn’t know anything until the bulldozers showed up!

The fact is an oil pipeline once ran through the preserve and it got converted to natural gas use at Questar’s request. Imo, that does not give them the right to run a larger pipeline in just because one was there before. I can’t help but wonder though that perhaps the enviros might not want to take a stand here, just because pipelines do run through the preserve. In fact, I made a video about this about a year ago which I am unable to locate. At the time, I never dreamed that they would try to run a pipeline alongside what was already here, so I guess I need to think more out of the box as they say.

Here is the video that I talked about in the above paragraph. Please note that if the oil pipeline goes through the whole narrow point of the canyon there will probably have to be scraped bare to allow the pipe laying heavy equipment in to do their work and a wide dirt access road will replace the path.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

This video from the most highly regarded pipeline laying company in the industry foretells the future of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

Let the record show that the backporch recognizes the Michels Corporation as being the Big Dog of the pipeline business. I do not doubt their technological prowess or abilities or their commitment to the environment.

But having said all that, the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is too valuable and too delicate to withstand the clear cutting that is shown throughout this video.

This new oil pipeline must not be allowed to go through the BMCP, it must be re-routed and the best way to make that happen is to start talking about it now.

Just imagine that this work is being done across the marsh.

Let me give an update on my efforts to publicize this issue.

A message left at the rec.birds Google forum where folks have written about the birding at the BMCP
has received 4 page views and no response. My message left at a prominent desert protection website finally received a one sentence reply that mail was slow and that they were aware of the situation. To date, I have received no comments and hardly any page views- now let me clue you guys in on something- I know how to write and get good results with search terms. So I know that my site generally shows up in the first few pages on Google, if not the first page, when I write about a topic. I have finally come to the conclusion that people just don’t care about this nature preserve.

All I can say to that is we will see how much crying you will be doing in the future when they ram this 16” oil pipe slap down the middle of Big Morongo Canyon. Like I said in a previous post, when you chain yourself to one of those big cottonwoods to try to stop the caterpillars, it is all over but the crying.
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The old cottonwood tree in the above image has guarded the dogleg canyon down the hill from the BMCP for centuries, but its’ time may be about up as the oil pipeline may be routed right through it. Click on the image to see it full sized.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time to take it up a notch, if we are to save Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from Questar’s oil pipeline scheme.

Before the commentary, let me update you on the conversation I had with the Southern California Gas representative. I can’t spell her name so I will leave her name out of this.

Socalgas has 2 pipelines that go through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a 6” and 16”, both buried. As we know, the Questar Southern Trails gas pipeline also runs through and is also buried. Socalgas has the easement and SCG is the one that rebladed the dirt road a few months ago, that was verified by the lady that I talked to. She did not know which way the Questar route would take nor did she know which of their pipelines went where at that junction that I wrote about up near the marsh.

So I have pretty much reached the limit for what I can find out from them as an independent blogger.

Here is the choice that I face. I say “I” because to be quite honest about it, I am not seeing any results for this series of posts that I have done. That’s fine with me, I’ll keep writing but it ain’t so fine for the future of the BMCP. I would also like to mention that an email sent to one of the leading desert groups that fought to save the BMCP from the transmission lines through their website went unanswered.

I am not surprised by that last, perhaps it was lost in the mail.

I learned one thing from my involvement with the BrightSource Ivanpah SEGS imbroglio. The proponents of that project were in the driver’s seat from the very beginning; the opponents were playing catch up the whole time, always following the other side’s lead. They had the connections, the money, the bureaucrats, the remote location, the works. They seemingly had people on the inside, in the government and within the big environmental organizations, laying the groundwork and helping write the rules, years before the first earth was dug and the first tortoise was disturbed.

It is all so obvious now in hindsight. But this knowledge gained from experience out there and from observing the struggles with the Keystone Pipeline, will help those of us who wish to stop this latest pipeline from destroying the preserve that we love.

We need to start addressing this issue now, helping shape the future debate and the Questar course of future action. This pipeline needs to be diverted around sensitive ecological and environmental locations. It must be relocated, no matter what. We have to start now.

Those of us who think that this treasure must be saved have to begin a smart campaign now to get Questar to rethink the pipeline route now, before the plan starts becoming a reality.

We are early in this process. Questar told me that no decision has been made to either build the oil pipeline section or which route it would take. That is plain old B.S. Questar didn’t get to their prominent position in the pipeline business by not building pipelines, they got it by building them. Period.

This pipeline section will get built; the only question in my mind is will it destroy sensitive treasures or be built around them.

I believe the answer to that central question will depend upon us.

I have been told that quests like these are quixotic ones, that may very well be true. But I do not want to go to my grave knowing that I didn’t at least try to help the desert that I care about, this preserve that I care about.

The 3 gas pipelines are already there, that fact will not change. Questar made the decision around 2001 to take the existing oil pipeline and convert it to natural gas transmission, that should not give them the blanket right to add on a 16” oil pipeline lying adjacent to the existing one, one that would require up to a 50’ wide permanent clearing along the route, as well as up to 100’ wide clear cuts just to build it.

We don’t want the area below to look like the photo below it.
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In the photo above, the oil pipeline would likely run along the hillside behind the marsh, with a resulting 50’ clearcut in place in perpetuity, or until the shutdown of the pipeline in the future.


The photo directly above shows the clear cut area that the Keystone Pipeline crew made for access to the tree where the protestor’s were, in their attempt to stop the pipeline from going through a Texas nature preserve in October, 2012. This area is around150 feet wide, 50’ more than would be required at BMCP. Btw, the folks were arrested and the pipeline did go through the preserve.

Let me be clear. I am not looking to lead this struggle. I have some ideas yes but am not the type to lead this. My contributions will be money if I have it, site visits, photography and video of the area, internet research, this blog, my car for volunteers to ride up in, etc. I can offer some tactics and strategies gained from 59 years on this planet.

This fight needs to have youth involvement. After all, the young will inherit this world that my generation has done its’ very best to destroy in search of the almighty dollar. It’s not bad enough that we are sending them across the planet to fight battles for the corporations, now we must ruin every sacred place here for them as well.

Basta! Enough already!

This fight needs to start now. One way to start is to spread the word and to ask for help.

Here are a few things that can be done to get the word out:

BMCP is a world class birding destination. If you have contacts in the birdwatching community, tell them about the proposed pipeline.

If you are on mailing lists for environmental issues, pass this on to them.

Spread the word via social media as well. Get the word out. Get it out early so we can convince them to reroute this pipeline or stop it cold.

If this gets to the point where we must mount a blockade or camp out in a perch in a big cottonwood tree, it’s all over but the crying.

I need help here at this site. If anyone would like to try a guest post on the subject, I will put it up. Same with comments.

We need to learn the lessons that were taught to us at Ivanpah and at Greenpath North and stop this oil pipeline train before it leaves the station.

Just to show you that it can be done, here is a story out of Kansas regarding a nature preserve and the Keystone Pipeline. The difference is our job will be tougher due to the existing pipelines and the fact that an existing oil pipeline that ran through the preserve was converted to gas a decade or so ago.

Pipeline Rerouted Around Nature Center

Keystone Pipeline from Alberta Tar sands could Decimate 220 acre Kansas Nature Preserve

It is not too late if we start battling now.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Current pipeline map, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve area

From the Cartography unit at the California Energy Commission.

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So you can see that a 6” gas line and 16” are running through the preserve
and Questar would like to add another 16” line for petroleum. The bureaucrats
would look at this map and say no problem adding it.

It is just a map on the wall to them. When Questar finishes their survey and decides to run the pipeline this way, the bureaucrats will approve it, just like they approved Ivanpah and Blythe solar farms.

If something doesn’t change, this pipeline will be built right down the middle of BMCP. Questar is not going to want to go to the expense of routing this pipeline east of Joshua Tree when they already have the right of way here.

It will be up to us to persuade them to not route it through this priceless ecological treasure.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Coincidence? Couple of posts about an oil pipeline and look who visits the backporch.

This visit tells me to keep up the struggle to save Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from being “Keystoned.”

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Never heard back from the messages I left yesterday. Guess I will have to try again Monday.