Trips & Pictures Spring Break 1998

Spring Break Highlights

(aka hydro-planing on Highway 5)

24 March 1998

Starting odometer - 97958 miles

Well, spring break hadn't been going all too well to this point. Although I had had a couple of days diving the previous Friday (2 night dives off Breakwater) and Saturday (Chocolate Abalone Dive), I had also caught a nasty cold, which had kept me at home doing projects (such as the"great closet reorganization") and at school working on odds and ends (not feeling motivated enough to actually start any of my major projects... That was supposed to happen LATER in break, after I had blown off some time having a good time first...). Now it was already Tuesday, and my spring break was fading, while at the same time the fear was growing that my reply to "What did you do over break?" would be something along the lines of "Oh, I mostly cleaned my apartment, reorganized my closet, and did school work..." - ARRGH! That, combined with an unfixable sidewall blow-out on my bike (that required a long walk to a phone for pick-up) and a cancelled ski trip somewhat explains the the spontaneous trip planning and execution that followed...

After getting home with the bike (around 6pm), I picked up the dive magazine and started calling around. Found a boat going out the next day (Wed.) in the Channel Islands, made a reservation, hopped into the shower, and afterwards started throwing dive and backpacking gear into bags and into the car. Less than one hour after the decision (around 7pm), I was underway, although it took me until 9pm to actually get out of the bay area, due to a friend's computer emergency. Ran into a nice storm on highway 5 and managed to do some nice hydro-planing going over the Grapevine, but still managed to pull into Ventura Harbor around 3:30am, to pouring rain.

The boat captain had told me that I could sleep on the boat, but I guess I didn't know quite what to expect. So there I was at 3:30 in the morning, prowling around a completely deserted dive boat (the 'Spectre') in the rain (the only thing running was a pump or generator of some sort), wondering what on earth I was doing. At this point, some of my friends almost received a sanity check phone call, since I was feeling VERY nervous about the whole thing at that point, especially at the thought of diving with a complete group of strangers (The captain had assured me that they would find me a dive partner, but...), in unknown waters, tired, ... Definitely questioning my sanity. But, I was so darn tired, that I figured that I would just wait and figure things out in the morning, and piled my stuff below-deck and went to sleep in one of the cubbies there.

25 March 1998

Woke up to slightly clearer skies, and divers drifting in to the boat. People seemed pretty nice, I was just plain tired, so I went back below to sleep some more as the boat went underway. Woke up though and rushed to deck at the announcement "dolphins spotted off the starboard bow." There they were, a whole pod (is that right?) of dolphins happily hopping through the swells towards us. As we watched, they turned in in front of us, and raced in front of the boat, jumping in and out of the water... Incredible - that alone made the trip worth it. After a while they got tired of us and took off elsewhere, but it was amazing fun while it lasted (too bad I forgot the camera downstairs in the rush...).

After about an hour and a half of travel through fairly heavy swells (I did take a Dramamine), we arrived at Ana Capa Island. At this point some of the people who had been hanging on queasily could take it no longer, and things got ugly over the side of the boat. My worries about finding a dive partner proved groundless - turned out that there was someone looking for a partner, who amusingly enough turned out to be a German from Heilbronn! (Which I have visited, since one of my mom's childhood friends lives there!) Although he had more dives under his belt, it turned out that I was actually the more proficient of the pair, as was shown on our first descent, when he had a lot of trouble getting below the surface. We did make it down eventually, but the surface current had by then pushed us far off-track, and we ended up going down in 70 ft water instead of the anticipated 30-40ft described by the divemaster on the boat. We did still find the reef, and had a good time checking out the reef, which was different from my previous locations (Florida and Monterey).

After the first dive, the boat cruised around the island in search of a calmer location, and went in for the second dive, which was fun but fairly uneventful - saw some huge crabs, and a nice variety of fish. The kelp was completely gone, as in Monterey, unfortunately, due to warm El Nino water. After we came up from the dive we were greeted by a BBQ chicken lunch on the boat, and got to look at the fish shot by one of the divers (a very anti-social, chain-smoking Asian lady with a drysuit and big speargun... weird).

The third dive of the day was by far the best - we got to explore a rockfall area right off the coast of the island that was teeming with sea life (nicknamed the "goldfish bowl"). Saw lots of Garibaldi (sp?), the state fish, smaller varieties, my first octopus (which spotted us, and jetted off with a squirt of ink!), and my first shark (a 3-4 ft leopard, hiding in the rocks). Pretty wild! After the third dive we headed back in, tired but happy from a good day of diving (except for those who got sick, and only got to go in once or not at all...)

Ana Capa Island...

After drying out my gear on top of the car and waiting for LA traffic to die down, I made a break for Anza-Borrego State Park and the San Diego Area, but only made it to Oceanside before I started to get really really sleepy. Slept in a rest stop for an hour, but even that didn't help, so I found a motel 6 and crashed for the night (after carrying all of my dive gear up into the room, so that I could hang it up to dry).

26 March 1998 Woke up late, and got to haul all of my dive gear back down to the car (still moist) - the only major problem with diving is that there is so much gear involved, all of which has to get washed thoroughly and dried out after each diving day... Headed east through Escondido towards the desert, stopping in the town of Julian (which according to itself is famous for its apples?!?!) for pie and ice cream. On the way it started raining again, giving me the chance to ponder on the intervals chosen for windshield wipers. Found myself wondering whether the interval was linear or non-linear (hey, I was driving by myself, and a bit bored, be nice!), and proceeded to time all of the options. Turns out that the manual settings are 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 seconds. Fairly linear. I wonder if all cars are like that, and who first decided that it should be so? (Go and check your own car! :))

Arrived in Anza-Borrego, which is a pretty impressive place. The only drawback is that the part doesn't feel so remote, since the town of Borrego Springs is in the middle. Checked out the ranger station, and hung out the scuba gear to dry again. I was disappointed to find that no one there had much curiosity - while a few people DID look at me funny, no one asked why on earth I had all my diving gear out in the middle of the desert. Anyway, after that had dried, did a context switch and went into hiking mode. Hiked up one of the canyons and saw some beautiful wildflower displays.


I had planned to drive into one of the more remote areas that night and backpack in to camp, but it got late faster than I expected. I did get into a remote area (making sure to stop before I hit the sand wash that the rangers warned me no 2-wheel drive could avoid getting stuck in (which I definitely didn't need)), but decided that I would just sleep outside. Until the coyotes started howling all around me, that is. Now if I hadn't been on my own, I probably wouldn't have minded, but as it was I was rather freaked out, so I decided to sleep in the car. Bad idea. I spent more time in the back of my car that night than I had to date before that, but I can't say that it was comfortable. Two positions worked - 1) lying straight with my feet out the window, and 2) lying on my side with my knees bent to 90 degrees. Each would only work for about half an hour before some part of my body would start to get numb from discomfort. So, basically, a long night of switching back and forth between positions. When I woke up at 5:30, all I could think about was that I couldn't take it anymore, and that it was time to move on...

27 March 1998

Very early start for me - drove out of Anza-Borrego, northeast past the Salton Sea, and into Joshua Tree National Park, which is now on my list of the most awesome places I have ever seen. The wildflowers here were even more stunning than in Anza-Borrego, and the Joshua trees were in bloom. Spent some time hiking in the mountains and in several dry washes, saw dozens of different types of wildflowers, and got my hand caught by a teddybear cholla bush (these things are incredibly prickly, and impossible to get out! Had to use my knife!) Unfortunately, I had to be home that night, so I couldn't not spend the night in Joshua Tree. But, I made the promise to myself to come back and do some backcountry camping there sometime soon.

Joshua Tree National Park blooms:

Cholla... These guys are dangerous!

Blooming Joshua tree

The view from on top of Mt. Ryan

Hit the road north around 1pm. Got lost between 29 Palms and Amboy, and ended up on a dirt road - this really is turning into a recurring theme, everywhere I go I end up lost on dirt roads! Strange. Arrived on highway 5 just in time to hit another rainstorm, and got to deal with too much water on the road and hydro-planing on the way back as well. Arrived in the bay area at 9pm, almost exactly 72 hours after departure. Goes to show that it really isn't that hard to cover a lot of distance and see a lot of cool stuff in a very short time... My friend John pointed out that if I assume 8 hours of sleep a night and an average speed of 60 mph for the 1400 miles traveled, the time divides equally into 1 day of driving, 1 day of sleeping, and 1 day of adventuring... I found that pretty interesting... Anyway, I can't wait until summer, for the next adventure... Until then, I have weekends.

Ending odometer - 99363 (1400 miles, 72 hours almost exactly...) Trips & Pictures Spring Break 1998