Sunday, December 18, 2016

Been going droning lately

Think I just made up a new word.

Recently I bought a new drone, a 3DR Solo, from Best Buy, after reading about it as a daily deal from the Cnet Cheapskate. I got it for $379 which included extra propellers, one extra battery, a 3 axis motorized gimbal, plus a controller which uses your smartphone or tablet as the viewing screen. In addition, you use the phone to setup a wifi connection between the bird and the controller.

By the way, you can now get the drone and controller from the same outfit for $299. In case you are wondering why this is so cheap, it is because 3DR is out of the consumer drone market and now is a business provider for air surveys, etc. There is talk on the drone and RC forums that it may be the end of the line for them and parts may get hard to find to repair them. I will cross that bridge when it happens.

The Solo is not so much a plane to fly as it is a flying camera system. It was designed with integral help from Gopro to carry their action cameras and make aerial videos that used to require one person to actually fly the thing and one to control the camera.

I haven't got that far yet, I am still learning how to fly it around and make sure the camera is working, but I have hope that one day, I might get some decent footage.

I have got a decent crash video however, which the Solo survived without a scratch.
From the sun, you can see how it happened. I just couldn't see the screen and lost it in the bright sun. This happened after the train I was filming passed by and I decided to follow it. Flying at 23 feet, I failed to consider that the ground rising up would stop the drone in its tracks.

Most of my flights have been out in the desert away from people and their wifi signals. There is something about getting way the heck out of the city and being able to fly in a beautiful area. I have had other close calls as well but managed to luck out of hitting the obstacles as the photo below shows.
Here are a couple of other photos that might be of possible interest to some.

That's it for tonight. Except for this video showing how I managed to get the sun off my controller screen.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Perfect ending for a perfect day!

Said tongue in cheek, of course.

This will be a personal post in some ways, some might call it a rant.

First, a little background info.

About 4 or 5 days ago, my HTC One M9 cellphone quit charging. The mini usb port quit
working. Since I was out of warranty, having had it for a year and a few months, I looked into
having it repaired. I contacted HTC and was told it would cost anywhere from 100 to 250 dollars.

So I went to Sprint and decided to try another phone brand, LG and went with their new V 20.
This was a huge phone and its claim to fame was its music playing sound system. I got it along
with an Otter Defender case but had to turn it back in a couple days later due to its annoying
random rebooting events and knack for apps turning themselves on without my help.

So I went with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but without the Otter Defender case, as they, Sprint and Amazon don’t have any in stock. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get any insurance. You guessed it, today getting out of the Morongomobile, I dropped it on the pavement. I had it in my lap and forgot it before getting out of the vehicle.

You guessed it, it’s not a pretty phone anymore and will cost anywhere from 200-379$ to repair, on top
of the 792$ that I am contracted to pay Sprint over the next 24 months at $32.

It evidently landed on the pavement hitting the bottom right corner, landing face down.

This event led to a truly epic rant in the privacy of my bedroom which I am quite sure my
hard of hearing girlfriend could clearly make out in the living room.

Anyway, enough of that. Earlier I had gotten the news that at age 62, if I wanted dentures, it would
be around 10k and if I went along with the prosthodontist, getting around 6 implant teeth and  other work done which would a year and a half, it would be 20k. My dental insurance will only cover 3k.

So now you have the background, on to the perfect ending. Hint, I just walked off my job tonight after
4 years there.

I am a semi-retired shuttle bus driver. It is not a bad gig for somebody transitioning into full retirement.
Tonight when I got there, I was told I was being sent in for a random drug test, also known  as peeing in
a bottle. I was given two pieces of paper to take. I looked at the top one and rode down to the lab, four miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour, I had to go before I left the yard but figured it would just be a quick drive. I got down there and the place was closed, I should have went to place on the other paper.

Okay, in more traffic, I drove the 6 miles to the other. All in all, I got there an hour after I left the bus yard.
No one was at the counter and I waited there for 5-8 minutes before the dude came out. I said how long would it take as I needed to go. He was taking his time, said I needed to check in, I told him that I was an old man and couldn’t wait. At that point, I could care less and took the papers back and  ripped them up in front of him and walked out. A McDonalds was right next door so I did my business there and left, dropping
off the office key and my one paragraph resignation at the office before heading home.

A drug test is serious business in the transportation business and in effect, legally it could be argued that my actions constituted a refusal. But I didn’t care about that, I felt then and now, that I was up to my throat with stress and problems, and made an on the spot decision to quit forthwith which I did. It was just the icing on the crap cake I had been eating all day, and I had had my fill.

So there you have it, another, for the moment, unemployed blogger story.

Sorry to lay it on you, but it does make me feel better telling someone about it.

A  perfect ending to a perfect day.

I was getting sick of bus driving anyway.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Getting cooler, time to car camp in the desert Pt2

Guess I forgot to post about my car camping visit to the Mojave National Preserve and near the site of
the Mojave Cross.
This area is adjacent to the Cima Dome and is crisscrossed with old dirt roads that are from the mining and ranching days.
Behind Sunset Rock is the looming Kessler Peak and in front is Cima Dome and Teutonia Peak. The area where I was had
a great view of Kessler.
My overnight visit did not include any hiking. Really wanted to just get away from any and all humans. I get that way
sometimes. On my drive in I noticed an older man setup at one of the other car camping spots and waved at him.
This is a rough road which can be taken with a passenger car but I do not think an rv should attempt access. From either direction on Cima Road, access is via the dirt road on the north side of Sunset Rock. Just drive down the dirt road which
will meander through the Joshua Tree forest and pass at least two car camping locations among the rock outcroppings
on your left as you go. One of these sites is suitable for a large group and comes with a fire ring. You will end up with
the road dead ending into another north south running dirt road. Go right to get back to Cima Road or left if you would like to get to the spot that I stayed at.

Sorry for the poor quality as I took my cell phone only for this trip.Above is the fire ring for the campsite that I stayed at. Someone was kind enough to leave their trash in it.
I did not light a fire as there was a whole lot of wind and plenty of tinder to burn around me.
Told you there was a nice view of Kessler Peak! This was taken the next morning and you can see the ominous clouds building up.Below are a couple of photos around sunsetting time. By the wind, the wind kept going all night long here.

The view at sunup below of the area.

Sunrise Rock area the next morning as I headed back home.

All photos taken by me, William C Mcdonald, and are free for use with proper credit given. Taken 2016.

I really don’t have much in the way of camping gear but at least I did pick up a Thermarest pad which
really is an improvement.Unfortunately I had not bought it when this overnighter took place. I did use it later on my next camping trip which was back to the area off I-10 at Cottonwood Springs Road as mentioned in Part One of this series.
The more I do this, the more I like it. But I have gotten a little older and do not relish the idea of sleeping in a tent, on
the ground or a cot. So some sort of camper is definitely in my future.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Getting cooler, time to car camp in the desert

Summer is almost over so now is a good time to set out for the Mojave.

Now that I have taken early retirement with social security at 62 and have
cut the work time back to weekends only, it leaves 4 days a week for other
things such as viewing sunsets out in the desert or trying to break the video poker machines at one of the casinos.


One thing that is driving me is a desire to get away from the hordes of people in southern California where I live. That is pretty hard to do unless you are willing to drive a ways. No problem there. If you feel the same way, allow me
to introduce you to a couple of car camping(and of course tents are welcome too) spots out there.

First up is at the site of one of Patton’s camps where the soldiers practiced desert warfare, prior to being shipped over to north Africa to face Rommel and his army. You access this area by I-10 east of Indio, just turn off the freeway at the Mecca/ Twenty Nine Palms/ Joshua Tree National Park exit and head north about a half mile or so and turn east(right) at the dirt road, the one past the power line road.

Here are a few photos taken at the site, note the ornamentation around the tree itself. Not pictured is the fire ring, a dead giveaway that you are camping at a site long used for the purpose.

In this next photo, you can see the freeway down the slope. Now you can hear the sounds up at this site
but it is not too intrusive. Much louder was the sound of the desert wind. The moon was very bright as were
all those stars. No cloud cover all night.
And of course, the obligatory pic from inside my hard tent.
Sunset photo.

Services are available just up the freeway about 3 or 4 miles including fuel, food and the
famous George S. Patton Museum.

Next post up will be the car camping near the Mojave Cross.


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Thursday, February 18, 2016

New desert monuments created

Just wanted to send out a public thank you to President Obama and Senator Feinstein
for the creation of these 3 new national monuments. I am not going to rehash the details
which are readily available all over the net, nor the history that led to this executive

I prefer to talk about the one that appeals to me the most, the Castle Mountains one.

This will be the first on my visit list. Access can be made one of two ways via dirt roads, unless
you prefer to just hike cross country. You can either come in via Walking Box Road on the Nevada
side of the border or from Hart Mine Road on the California side.

From a reading of the drycyclist’s trip reports, my understanding is that there might be some issues
with the dirt roads coming in once you venture off from Walking Box Road. So the odds are good
that I might decide to come in instead from Hart Mine Road. Either way, once you get to parking areas,
there is still probably at least a 3 mile hike one way to get to the individual monoliths.

That is my goal, to actually hike among those monoliths.

I can’t wait. I have asked for Monday through Friday off, the first week of March. February 29 Monday
through that Friday. Now that is plenty of time to get up there and do that hike, which will be a solo one.

Solo that is unless someone would like to join me. I will be staying at either the Goldstrike in Jean
or one of the hotel casinos in Primm at the state line. Since my girlfriend may be coming we most
likely will be at Primm, her preference. She does not hike btw.

If any of my readers would like to join me, please comment below with your email and I will get back
to you.

William McDonald

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sand skiing near Palm Springs

Sans skis of course.

When I was coming down that impossibly steep and sandy slope Tuesday using my trekking poles, it occurred to me that I should try my hand at skiing down. In my naivete, I thought that I was the first to come up with such an outlandish idea, wrong! But it was sure fun regardless of whether I was the first or not.

This post is about the repeat hike that I made from the week before, this time with pictures and videos. Scratch the embedded video part as the new Open Live Writer has a problem with Youtube and Vimeo embeds. But I will put my Youtube Channel link in for you to head over and check them out if you wish. Also feel free to leave a comment and like or not like the video as you wish.

By the way, I have asked for assistance from the Blogger Help community with the video issue and hope that it can be resolved.

Some of you know that I have made several hikes out by the windmill area of Palm Springs over the years, mainly trying to hike up the ridgeline. Most of these hikes were made when I was, no other way to put it, huge.
Yours truly before my weightloss out in the socal desert.

Since I began my weightloss and avoiding diabetes regimen, I have went back to the area and hiked again. These last two hikes were very enjoyable, despite discovering that the recent rains in the area made the trail on the ridgeline disappear and the soil surface less stable. I can only imagine the damage done to the nearby Pacific Crest Trail as well.

First, here is the location and directions to the area if you are looking for a challenging and fun hike. Also see the screenshot and check out the link to my Viewranger hike info.

Using Interstate 10, you can exit at either Field Road or Haugen-Lehman Road, but it is closer to just get off at HL which is the last exit before the Hwy 111 turnoff to Palm Springs. Go right if you arrive from the west, left if from the east. You will just drive and park off the frontage road(on the Mt San Jacinto side)at the very first large highway billboard. It is okay to park there just don’t park next to the sign in case the workers need access to it. I always put a note on my car that I am hiking in the area with my name and cell number just in case a law enforcement officer decides to stop and check on the situation. Yes, I have been called by the Highway Patrol while hiking!

After parking, cross over the two railroad tracks to the dirt road on the other side and go left, following the road across the wash to the ridgeline. Or you can go crosscountry heading toward the end windmill up next to the mountainside and the road that heads up the switchback toward the left side of that ridge. Trust me, you can’t get lost and do not trespass onto the windmill property as they have an electric fence and security patrolling.
Park to the left as the sign is on the right side. Be very careful, watch for trains and watch your footing on that gravel. You could also follow the tracks going left as the downslope lessens that way on the other side of the tracks. The dirt road is very close on the opposite side of the tracks, follow it across the wash to the ridge and then head toward the mountain until you get to the switchback road against the mountain.

If you do choose to head crosscountry watch out for gopher holes which can cause a sprained ankle. The good news is your cell works here even up on the mountain ridge. Just follow the windmills! This is an interesting hike with photo opportunities around and check out the animal tracks in the wash. The recent rains have scoured the wash pretty good as well as that switchback road up the ridge. Do not try to drive even your tricked out Jeep up that road. I will post photos of the heavy damage that the road took recently. Remember, you have been warned not to drive up the road.
The view once you get to the switchback road. It looks good even for cars here but don’t do it. Here is why.
Up at the top of the picture is where only a dirt bike will be able to continue. Even Big Foot couldn’t go any farther!

No place to turn around, don’t you wish you had listened when Morongobill said don’t drive up?
The view after you get around the baddest spot and right before you top out onto the plateau.
The view from the plateau looking toward the way you came, note that dirt road crossing the ridge, you will hike right to left across it later if you follow this hike as outlined here.
After your little rest break, you will head up this Jeep trail. Be careful.
You were down there. See what I mean about having to be careful?
Now the fun really begins. Don’t put your skis on just yet however. You are about to go 500+ feet straight down the mountainside!
You also have the option of going toward the mountain and up the ridgeline. I found out though that the rains had made the trail almost impossible to follow and the soil felt unstable so I didn’t follow it this time as I did the week before. Instead I followed the road down the mountain.
The view further down where the dirt road becomes deep and soft sand. This time I chose to leave the road and walk on the left side of the road, right down the steep mountainside. Come on, if a formerly huge 61 year year old can do it, so can you! Just be careful!
Looking back uphill.
View once you get to the sandy part. It gets even steeper further downhill. At this point I got off the
road onto the left side and started going downhill. Remember if you don’t have trekking poles or a
sturdy hiking staff to plant your feet sideways to help slow your descent. Do the same on this sandy
road if you stay on it. It is a long way to the bottom, especially if you start rolling downhill!
View to the right.

My battery died filming video with this camera so from now on all photos were made using my cell and will have handshake issues  and lack the sharpness of the ones so far.

Let’s talk about the safe way to descend from the ridge on this very sandy surface. If you do not have a hiking staff or trekking poles along, I suggest that you go downhill placing your feet sideways,planting your feet carefully each time. Be careful as the sand could actually stop one or both feet in mid-fall which could result in a sprained ankle or worse. If you have the gear, you
should be able to work in a more normal manner, again being vigilant. Note, this applies whether you stay on or get off the road here. If you venture off the road, remember to aim for natural breaks such as creosote bush clumps which will stop you if you start rolling downhill! Now let’s get to the pics where you could start sand skiing! Technically I guess I really wasn’t skiing without the skis and only used my hiking shoes, but I was skiing none the less and it was a real hoot! I never felt like I was in any danger and never felt out of control.
I don’t know who or what made those tracks but it appears that they were going uphill.
This is the steep part that I mentioned earlier.
Looking uphill, those tracks appear to have been made by an animal of some sort.
Here I chickened out and quit skiing and started the sideways thing with my feet.
Almost at the bottom.

Once you reach the bottom then you turn left on the dirt road and start following it along the backside of the ridge you were just hiking and skiing on. It is easy and there is no chance of getting lost. After about a third of a mile you will come to some rocks where you can sit down and take a well deserved rest break as I am doing in this photo.

I continued further along the dirt road and came to a point where I could either go cross-country to go around the very lowest point of the ridge and from there cross the wash to make my way back to the car or I could go left and cross the ridge very dirt road as pointed out earlier, the road you could see down the ridgeline in the photo from the plateau.
To the left is the ridge and at the top is the plateau mentioned earlier. Let me add that once I tried going straight down this ridge in the photo and lost control and by a miracle caught ahold of a dead juniper tree limb as I went by, it didn’t break off, and my descent came to a screeching halt, enabling me to resume a controlled pace down the steep and rocky terrain without any injury whatsoever.
The view from the saddle of the dirt road both ways.
The Morongomobile is parked straight ahead to the right of the sign. From this point, I just headed cross-country toward the sign. Piece of cake after what I and hopefully you will have gone through to get to this point.
The Morongomobile right where I parked it. The billboard is out of the photo, stage left!

This completes the hike. I certainly hope that you try it and the sand skiing part, even if only with your hiking shoes on. My strong advice is that you carry trekking poles or a hiking staff if you go off that dirt road downhill. The trekking poles would be ideal. Skis are optionalOpen-mouthed smile

Here is the screenshot from my Viewranger page. The link is below also. To see the maps, choose from the many options. The options also include the topo which I used here. Note the elevation loss and gain and where 500 feet of that loss came from. Hint: where you need the skis.

My Youtube Channel:

Morongobill's Youtube Channel

I did put up one video which you can view here at this link:

Plus two others going down the slope from a week earlier:

Hope to see you out on the trail. Email me if you are in the area, I am off Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s go hiking!

Morongobill aka William C McDonald