Morongo Valley, California

5/26/2018 to 6/8/2018

Danny's SciArc Workshop

 Saturday 5/26/2018     Today is the first day of Danny's workshop.  We left Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA around 11 AM to drive to Morongo Valley which is about a 25 minute ride.  Danny and his group of Thai students weren't expected until 2 PM so we decided to make a Walmart run to pick up supplies.  It sounded like a good idea until we got close to Yucca Valley which is the main shopping district around here and ran into a detour around the main street.  It seems they were having a Memorial Day parade on Saturday and completely closed the street down.  The detour was on side streets which caused us to be stuck in traffic about 45 minutes.  Of course, Walmart was filled with people stocking up for their holiday parties which delayed us even more.  We headed back to the workshop site, the parade had ended thankfully, and we turned off the main road onto a one-lane dirt road around 2 PM.   The workshop is being held at Hidden Passage Guest Ranch which is owned by a kindred spirit of Danny's named Rex.  After driving over a mile down the dirt road, we arrived at the front gate to the ranch and waited for Rex to open the gate.  We walked a little up the road to decide where to park the trailer and thought we could make it up towards the right.  That was a mistake because the dirt road is so narrow and there are rocks on both sides which the truck and trailer couldn't pass.  We got about halfway up the road but had to stop because there was a particularly large boulder on the left side that the trailer was about to run into.  Rex decided to get a spud bar to dig it out but when his ranch employees showed up to help, they decided the boulder was too large to move.  The next step was to back the truck and trailer back down the road and come up the left side.  Sounded much easier than it turned out to be.  It took us about an hour or so to back the truck down and up the other side to park it.  The dirt road is very narrow and it was very difficult to maneuver the truck and trailer.  Once we were parked and set up Danny and his group arrived and the students started to set up their tents.  Since this place was new to us we walked around to check it out.  Danny and Rebecca have arranged for the evening meal to be catered and the menu for tonight was rice, shrimp, curry, salad, and bread.  It was very good and all we had to do was clean up - after about 35 people!  Later some of the group gave short powerpoint presentations and shared their talents with the group.  By this time, we were all exhausted and the students retired to their tent encampment and us to our RV,  (Danny and Rebecca stayed with us on cots).  Goodnight Moon...............


Sunday 5/27/2018     Last night was surprisingly cooler than we thought it would be in the desert. It was starting to get chilly before we went to sleep so we turned on our furnace. The low temperature was 55 degrees. We needed to wake up around 6:30 AM to help with breakfast. Rebecca is in charge of feeding the group of students and we offered our help.  It's no easy task and we have to give props to Rebecca for handling it so efficiently.  We basically helped cut up fruit and arranged the tables and chairs for when the students came to eat.  After meals, most people will wash their own plates and silverware, then we'll do most of the drying and putting dishes, etc. away.  After breakfast, several people put on another powerpoint presentation explaining what their workshops and projects are all about.  We then drove into Yucca Valley again to pick up groceries at Stater's and made a quick stop at Home Depot for a couple items Danny needed.  After lunch, they had a seminar on how to properly use power tools and their safety concerns.  They also trekked up to the site where they are going to build a project and were doing preliminary measurements.  Dinner was catered by the same person who did the night before.  It was pesto pasta, chicken, salad and homemade rolls.  Cookies and banana bread for dessert.  We spent quite a while washing, drying and putting dishes away.  Then it was back to the trailer for bed.

Monday 5/28/2018     Today started the first day of building the projects designed by the instructors and students. After breakfast, the students were divided into groups and sent out to begin their construction.  They have a site that is dedicated to cutting the wood, two other sites that they are beginning construction on and a fourth site that the instructors are beginning the project for the students to join later.  Danny was kept busy making sure everyone had the tools and supplies necessary.  He's also been making several trips to the grocery.  These kids love to eat. The weather took a major turn into extreme heat today and they couldn't work for long periods of time.  Had to take many water breaks and a siesta until it cooled off a bit.  Therefore, we didn't have dinner until 8 pm.  It was catered by a woman named Charlie and her helper, Julia and it was delicious.  They made baked chicken, mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, salad, and cornbread.  If you ever need a caterer near Joshua Tree, CA - call Charlie.  It really was good!  The cleanup, however, was a major chore.

Tuesday 5/29/2018     We began the day once again with early morning kitchen duty.  Danny was in charge of breakfast and lunch today because he wanted to give his girlfriend, Rebecca time to work out in the field with the students.  She hasn't had too much time to actually work on the projects and she really wanted to.  We cleaned up after breakfast and took a break until it was time to begin lunch and clean up.  After lunch, we went on a grocery store trip to get more supplies and also to pick up a birthday cake for one of the girl students who was turning 20.  We took a lap around the guest ranch to see the progress on the projects.  They've come a long way, we can now see the designs taking shape.  I think the students are much more enthusiastic also, now that they can see their hard work coming to life.  Later on, when the sun began to go down a bit, we walked up to the hill where men were working on their art/architecture creation.  There's a path that leads from there up to the top of the mountain that we decided to take.  We did make it to the top but not without a lot of sliding because the narrow path is mainly sand.  We made it down just in time for dinner, or so we hoped because it was catered by Charlie, lasagna night.  Sadly, it was delayed for about an hour but it was worth waiting for.

Wednesday  5/30/2018     We began our day early again with KP duty.  Rebecca sets the menu and we help her where we can in the preparation.  I believe today was several different types of cereal, fresh fruit salad, hard boiled eggs, sausage, and toast.  Most days we'll also have some ham and cheese slices. Some of the students will fry themselves an egg or two.  Most of the students will wash their own dishes and set them in the drying rack, then we'll dry everything and put them away.  Seems to be a never-ending process though, the students are always eating or drinking.  Today during their afternoon siesta the students found a Twister game and were having a great time playing it.  Danny is usually busy working on keeping the teams supplied with the proper tools, water and working on his budget spreadsheet or supply lists.  He gets around the compound on an electric golf cart visiting the three separate work sites.  Once in a while, one of us gets the fun opportunity to drive the golf cart to deliver some water or other items they might need.  It's a real treat to take the golf cart because walking up the slope in the heat isn't a lot of fun.  Tomorrow an artist is adding another site with a project that she is installing on the side of a mountain.  We visited the sites again today to see their progress.  Every day they are developing and changing.  The finished projects should be great.  Did I mention they were always eating?  Either Danny, Rebecca or ourselves have gone grocery shopping every day, and that's just for breakfast, lunch and snack foods.  The dinners have been catered.  Tonight was a mobile wood-fired pizza oven.  They made several different thin crust pizzas and set them in front of their oven and you just selected which you wanted.  They also made a caesar salad.  It was very good and the easiest clean up we've had yet.  

Thursday 5/31/2018     The morning began as usual - up early to help with breakfast but Rebecca and Danny do most of the preparation.  We are usually the cleanup crew.  I think there are at least 20 students from Thailand and about 15 other instructors and friends.  It's a lot of people to feed three times a day.  The instructors usually arrive first and help themselves and later the students from Thailand will start coming in.  We get to the kitchen about 6:30 am and breakfast is supposed to be between 8 and 9 am.  The students have started trying to push the start time so this morning Danny got a large kettle and a metal spoon and walked down to their encampment and started banging on the kettle.  That seemed to get them up and moving.  Danny says he'll do that every morning if he has to.  We aren't usually done cleaning up until around 10:30 am.  As soon as we were finished cleaning up with breakfast, Danny and Rebecca started preparing lunch.  Today was burritos which take a lot of chopping.  Rebecca also made salsa and guacamole.  Lunch is around 1 pm. Because the early afternoon is so hot everyone takes about an hour break. The sun is very hot that time of the day and some of the students (and the workshop organizer) catch a short nap.

Later Danny needed to make a run into Yucca Valley for building supplies and groceries so we drove him and Rebecca in the truck.  We've been going into town every day for groceries.  They also buy a lot of soft drinks and beer.  Yucca is about 20 minutes away and they need a great amount of food so it takes us quite a while.  When we returned and unloaded the supplies, we went for a walk to see the three project sites plus a new site that an artist Danny knows from Cooper Union created.  Then the Taco truck arrived.  He parked up in what they call the amphitheater and this is where they built one of their projects.  We carried the amplifier and speakers up to the amphitheater area and they played music, drank and ate tacos late into the evening.


Friday 6/1/2018       First thing in the morning me and Danny went up to the amphitheater and cleaned up from last nights party. There were beer bottles and pop cans everywhere. These people really know how to make a mess. After that the morning began in the usual way.  Preparing breakfast, washing dishes and cleaning off the tables.  Since most of the campers stayed up very late last night partying, they meandered into breakfast later than usual.  We delayed preparing for breakfast until 7:30 am and they didn't begin arriving until after 9:00 am.  We weren't done cleaning up until around 11:00 and then it was time to start lunch.  Peter who is from Hungary decided that he'd like to make Hungarian Goulash for everyone for lunch.  So he with some helpers started the cutting and chopping and creating the dish.  We didn't eat until around 2 pm.  During the morning we also helped Danny deliver water jugs to the project sites.  Later in the afternoon, we helped Danny deliver some flood lights and garden solar lights to the amphitheater in preparation for their celebration tomorrow night.  I also chauffered Lea and Daniel around in the golf cart.  She was interviewing the owner of Hidden Passage and Daniel was filming it.  The owner (Rex) was following behind the golf cart on his hoverboard answering Lea's interview questions as he was filming it.  It was pretty funny to watch.  After they were done filming, we took a hike up the canyon on the other side of Rex's place than we hiked the other day.  We didn't go too far as it was uphill and still pretty hot but it was a nice scenic hike.  The sun is extremely hot during the afternoon, so they've begun taking a longer siesta time so they can work until dark.  Dinner has been later around 8 pm.  Tonight was barbeque sandwiches, chicken, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and rolls.  It was another delicious meal.  Danny as always was exhausted, I think all the planning for months beforehand and now the actual workshops has been very tiring for him.  He should sleep well tonight.

Saturday 6/2/2018     We began the morning in the usual way although we did sleep in a bit - until 7 am and then we walked over to the kitchen to begin the morning breakfast shift.  After breakfast, we filled up the large insulated jugs with water and ice and delivered them to the two project sites.  Danny gave us a long grocery list and supply list for items he needed today so we drove into Yucca Valley again.  First, we went to Home Depot for paint, outside flood lights, extension cords, storage containers and even a hammock.  Yes, a hammock for one of the sites which you'll see in a photo below.  Next, we went to Walmart and bought loads of beer, soft drinks and some other misc. items they needed.  We also went to a store named Big 5 for a megaphone.  Tonight is the end of their projects celebration and Danny invited friends, classmates, school officials and other people who have an interest in architecture and art.  After lunch, we began setting up for the festivities.  They needed to carry up the sound equipment, drinks, garbage cans and other things they needed for the evening.  It was several trips up a short dirt path to the amphitheater where they were having the entertainment.  Around 5 pm the outside guests began arriving and around 6 pm Danny and Gian led the group around to all the construction sites and artists sites.  The project leaders and artists then explained their creations and why they designed them.  It was a hike all around the property to about six different sites.  Dinner was catered by the same person as last night.  It was Mexican night, so burritos and all the fixings.  Then the fun began.  It started with a "screwing competition".  A couple takes five screws each and a cordless drill and drill into a 4 x 4 piece of wood.  Each couple is timed and the winners take home a "screw champion" t-shirt.  The Hello Wood team won the championship but they gifted their t-shirts to the fastest student team.  After this, a four-piece instrumental band played for about an hour.  The best part of the entertainment was a half-hour video presentation created by Lea and Daniel.  The two of them spent the entire week filming everything that was going on and edited it beautifully.  We didn't get to see the full production, only a few minutes of several interviews with different instructors.  It was professionally done and Daniel even used a drone to get spectacular overhead views.  Hopefully, we'll all get to see the finished product one day.  Lastly, the DJ began playing music and that was our cue to walk back to the trailer and get some rest because tomorrow morning is surely going to be a big clean-up day.  Tomorrow it's time for the students and others to leave.

Sunday 6/3/2018     Today was the last day of the camp for the Thai students.  Since we knew they were going to stay up very late partying, Danny decided to have brunch catered by Charlie again.  She was the person who made the great lasagna and chicken dinners.  We were able to sleep in a little before brunch which was watermelon and grapes for starters.  Then she made homemade granola with yogurt.  The main course was frittatas with ratatouille on top.  It was also very good.  If Danny has another workshop next year, I know he'll have Charlie cater again.  After brunch, we took the golf cart up top to the amphitheater where the party was to clean up all the cans and trash.  We made several trips to bring down garbage cans, speakers, the subwoofer, lights and anything else that was dragged up there the day before.  Danny and his friends were gathering up all their power tools and other tools and trying to separate them into who's were who's.  They each brought so many tools of their own and then Danny had purchased quite a few also that will remain behind here in storage.  The students also had to take down their tents and pack their belongings up.  After they ate again (by raiding the refrigerator of leftovers) it was time for them to leave.  Danny and Gian each drove a 12 seater passenger van that carried them back to Los Angeles for their late night flight home.  Later on in the evening, the remaining instructors invited us out to dinner.  We drove out to Pappy's and Harriet's in Pioneer Town which is just about 10 miles away from here and highly recommended by Wendy.  When we arrived there it seems they were having a band that must have been extremely popular because we had to have parking attendants show us where to park.  Sad to say, he said we couldn't eat there because they were closing in 40 minutes and there was a two-hour wait.  We had to turn around and head back to Yucca Valley where we had a fine Italian dinner at Little Italy.  No regrets because it was excellent.  Afterwards, we just came back to camp and bedtime.

Monday 6/4/2018     Danny, Rebecca, and Gian spent the night in Los Angeles after they dropped the students off at the airport.  So, this was a very quiet morning and it was pretty nice.  A few people are still here but they were pretty much just recovering from the busy week.  We only had very little clean up to do this morning which was great.  After that, we took a drive into Yucca Valley again to price some new front tires for the truck.  Seems like the adventure getting into this place took a big chunk out of one of the front tires and the steel belt is exposed.  We went to two places and neither of them had the tires in stock so we ordered them from the least expensive place and need to return on Wednesday to have them put on.  Then we made a Walmart run for more water and some groceries.  We've gone through a lot of water this last week.  When we made it back to Rex's place Danny had returned but he was busy with the remaining people up the hill at one of the project sites.  We took a walk to an area known as "the oasis" because of the green trees and shrubs.  You just follow the small creek upstream maybe half a mile and there's a lot more greenery. It's pretty scenic for the desert.  One unique thing about the stream that flows through the property is the ash that was deposited after a flood.  Rex told us that there was a huge fire in the area about 7 years ago.  And then last year there was a huge rainstorm which caused massive flooding.  The rain picked up tons of ash from the mountains and deposited it in the stream bed.  Now that it's dried up it's almost as hard as concrete. We returned to the trailer around 8 pm and just had a peanut butter sandwich and some lemonade.  Danny did come visit for a few minutes but he had to get back to work some more.  Now it's just time to get ready for bed.

Below a short video I took from the roof of our RV. It's a 360° view of Hidden Passage Guest Ranch.

Tuesday 6/5/2018     The rest of Danny's friends left this morning and all that were left were ourselves, Danny, Rebecca, and Gian.  After a meeting with Rex about plans for future, we began the day wiping down the air mattresses, rolling them up and storing them in a plastic storage container.  We also stuffed the pillows into garbage bags and cleaned the tables and put chairs away.  They are going through all the tools, kitchen supplies and anything else to decide if they are going to be stored here or taken back to Danny's apartment or back to Sci-Arc.  Danny is hoping to buy a shipping container and leave it on Rex's property to store all his tools and supplies he used during this workshop to use again next year.  So far, the shipping containers have been more expensive than he was originally led to believe.  Danny and I also went up to the project sites and took some last photos with his 360-degree camera.  Around lunchtime, Danny took us into Yucca Valley to go to Home Depot and buy some more storage containers.  Just as we arrived at the aisle with all the containers a woman was buying every last one of them.  We managed to buy some similar ones in a different brand.  After that, we stopped at Steak n Shake for a quick lunch.  It's very quiet without all the students here so we are just slowly cleaning everything up and storing them, washing some clothes and cleaning up the kitchen.  There was also some relaxation time today, Danny and Rebecca went swimming and I did some research on the computer for future campgrounds.  Later on, they wanted to go out to dinner and decided on Sam's Indian Restaurant in Joshua Tree.  We arrived at 7:30 but they would not seat us because they close at 8 pm.  Never really had that happen before, when you're a half hour early and they still won't serve you.  So we drove a short distance down the road and stopped at the Joshua Tree Saloon.  They had a small band playing and the food was very good.  After that, we just drove back to Rex's and went to our trailer for the night.

Wednesday 6/06/2018     We had an appointment at 11 am today to have the new tires installed on the truck.  We left early so we could stop at an RV place because our refrigerator in the trailer hasn't been staying very cold.  I went in and talked to a serviceman who was very nice and told me that it was most likely just too hot. RV refrigerators aren't made to keep up with temperatures in the 90s, especially when a trailer is baking in the sun. He suggested that I put a portable fan at the vent outside behind the refrigerator to help circulate the air.  I attached it with a bungee cord but it really didn't seem to help much.  Hopefully, once we leave here it will get better.  Then we went to the tire shop a little early and he was able to put the tires on very quickly.  After we returned to Rex's - Danny, Gian and I went back down the hill to a place that sells used shipping containers.  They are going to put the container on one of Rex's properties and store all their equipment and supplies until next year.  Danny decided to purchase a 20-foot container and it'll be delivered sometime tomorrow.  Danny asked if we could drive the expensive scanner and other tools back to SciArc in LA because they needed the scanner.  He and Rebecca and Gian would stay here to finish packing everything up.  So, we began the drive around 1:45 and it wasn't too bad, the traffic wasn't backed-up yet.  We got to SciArc and found the person with the forklift to unload the heavy box of tools and also the man who needed the scanner and then we drove by Danny's apartment, just to see where he's living now.  The drive back had extremely heavy traffic.  We started about 4:15 and arrived back at Rex's around 8 pm.  On the way back we had to drive through Palm Springs again where all the wind turbines are. These things amaze me, and there are so many of them.  In the meantime, Danny, Rebecca, and Gian had finished packing and they took their rental car and drove back to Danny's apartment.  That leaves only the two of us here now.  It is completely quiet except for the hum of the crickets.

Thursday 6/7/2018     Today we have Hidden Passage Guest Ranch to ourselves and the morning was very peaceful.  Danny had arranged for us to meet the storage container delivery truck at 9 am down the hill at the lot where he checked them out yesterday.  We needed to pay for the container and then drive with him to Rex's other property on Big Morongo Canyon Road where it was going to stay.  But Danny texted us early and said the driver would be delayed approx. an hour and a half because his truck was needed at an accident site.  We did meet up with him later and drove with him to the property where it would stay.  He unloaded it and left, it really didn't take very long at all.  After that, we drove across the street to Rex's personal home that he is still in the process of finishing.  It's a very contemporary home with many inventions.  Part of the kitchen glides out to the outside deck to give you an open-air kitchen.  The living room completely rotates around so it can either be inside or outside.  He has many really unique ideas and is working on ways to use them.  After we left we drove to Pioneertown and stopped at a restaurant called Pappy and Harriet's.  Pappy and Harriet's is a honky-tonk, barbecue restaurant and music venue near Joshua Tree National Park in Pioneertown, CA. Wendy brought us there several years ago when she was living here and it's one of her favorites.  The reason we went is that they decorate their restaurant with old photos, posters and license plates which people have given them from all over.  Wendy wanted us to donate her old "Dxi Chic" license plate from years ago when she had personalized plates.  We first asked the waitress who we needed to talk to and she said to speak with the bartender and he would give to plate to owners to decide if they wanted to display it.  The bartender said they have probably 100 plates in the back from people who have either mailed them in or dropped them off.  He did say he liked Wendy's "Dxi Chic" and he would give it to the owners.  Hopefully, Wendy will return and see her license plate on the wall one day.  After lunch, we also walked through Pioneertown to take a couple pictures.  Later we went back to the workshop site and loaded all the storage containers, tools, and equipment that Danny, Rebecca, and Gian had packed up and we took them to the shipping container and unloaded them.  We have a second load ready to go for tomorrow morning and then most everything will be stored away.


Friday 6/8/2018     Since the truck was already loaded up and ready to go, we made one trip to Danny's shipping container and then headed to Joshua Tree National Park. We are leaving The Hidden Passage Guest Ranch tomorrow.

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