The day after visiting Manzanar, we continued heading north on U.S. 395 towards the town of Bishop and the Volcanic Tablelands. We were excited about visiting Bishop and boondocking in the nearby BLM Volcanic Tablelands. It was still somewhat windy, but the weather forecast was for the wind to die down, so we forged ahead.
Island Girl climbing the washboard road up to the plateeau
With help from our friend Nina, we found a nice campsite on the tablelands (only a couple are suitable for big rigs). It had a 360-degree view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the west and the town lights of Bishop and lower mountains to the east. Absolutely stunning, see my review here.
That evening we stayed at our campsite and enjoyed the view.
On our last day in Lone Pine, a windstorm blew into the area. It began the previous night and by the next day had developed some pretty fierce gusts. And that is the day we chose to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site.
The site of the Manzanar National Historic Monument is in the Owens Valley surrounded by majestic mountains. Mountains that have stood as silent witnesses to more than one grave injustice.
About 1,500 years ago, Paiute Indians settled in the Owens Valley. In the early 1860s miners and ranchers who moved into the valley homesteaded Peiute lands and a few years later, almost 1,000 Paiute were forcibly relocated by the military.
Then in 1910, the town of Manzanar developed into an agricultural settlement. But the acquisition of water and land rights by Los Angeles, and the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913 diverted water from the town and ultimately caused its downfall.
At the start of World War II, the U.S. established the Manzanar War Relocation Center for the internment of Japanese American citizens and U.S. residents of Japanese descent. This was one of ten camps where almost 120,000 people were interned. These actions were driven by fear of possible espionage in “military areas” on the Pacific Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and fueled by racism.
We were in the perfect place for desert meanderings. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has several trails, but this desert also has many areas that are easily accessible from the road and have enough spacing between vegetation to comfortably walk around.
Be warned, however, that throughout the area in and around the National Monument, there are signs posted advising the public that “Smuggling and illegal immigration may be encountered in this area. Avoid encounters with suspicious groups” and other variations of the same message.
There is so much to do here! And we’ve enjoyed both the touristy activities and the “hidden gems”. A mix of both is perfect.
Continuing on the farmers market circuit, we visited the Little Italy Mercato. This market became our all time favorite. It’s huge with almost all of the vendors we’d seen at other farmers markets and then some. It’s open Saturday 8am until 2pm, but I recommend arriving early as it gets quite crowded and some foods sell out.
Once again we encountered more of the contrasts of New Mexico. White Sands National Monument is a beautiful place with soft white dunes and beautiful vistas. It happens to be surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, whose mission is to “provide Army, Navy, Air Force, DoD, and other customers with high quality services for experimentation, test, research, assessment, development, and training in support of the Nation at war”. In fact, the road leading to White Sands National Monument and between Las Cruces and Alamagordo is regularly closed due to due to testing of missiles and other scary devices. The Trinity SIte, where the first nuclear bomb was detonated, is located at the far north end of the missile range (closed to the public).
We waited for the warmest day (in the 40’s) during our visit to Albuquerque to drive out to the Indian Pueblos again, this time to visit Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier National Monument is a 33,677 acre U.S. National Monument preserving the homes and territory of the Ancestral Pueblo People.
Our next stop was Vicksburg, Mississippi. Our visit began with dinner at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, where we had the most fabulous fried green tomatoes I’d ever eaten. This dish takes a healthy green tomato, coats it with flour and other ingredients, fries it and covers it with a rich sauce. Only in the South can such a healthy food be turned into such a fattening (but delicious!) dish.
We wanted to explore more of the area and our timing coincided with the “biggest arts and crafts fair in Arkansas” in nearby Rogers, Arkansas. This sounded like a fun activity even though we are not in the business of acquiring more “stuff”. However, we did find some tie-dye t-shirts, more homemade jelly AND a really cute “Happy Campers” sign with an RV illustration that we were able to personalize with our name – “The Lopezes” which we now proudly display at each campsite.
No that is not Hector …
The fair was located in the War Eagle Mill, the only working mill in Arkansas. The mill is powered by an eighteen-foot cypress waterwheel, very cool! The mill store sells many products made on site and, although we don’t really bake, we did buy a couple of the (easy to make) flour products. I’m a sucker for natural, locally made food products.