Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tiny Desert Cabins in the Middle of Nowhere

So we took a quick trip out to 29 Palms last weekend (left Sat. afternoon and back home mid-day Sunday, so truly was a quick trip).  Going out to the desert has become one of my passions, so I want to share some of the fun!

One of the really interesting things you see out in the 29 Palms/Wonder Valley area are the "Jackrabbit Homestead" cabins that dot the landscape.  Most are totally out in the middle of nowhere, and they are just little boxy things about 12' x 12'.  Some are occupied; some are being refurbished and renovated to their original '50s glory; but many are abandoned and in varying stages of decay.  And virtually all are photogenic!  You can't help wondering who owns (or owned) them?  What was their story?  Why did they walk away from them?  There's an excellent book that tells the history of these desert boxes.  The author is Kim Stringfellow and the picture below is taken from the website where you can order this book if you're interested.  It's quite good.

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Another interesting website is at  I think these are paintings, or perhaps enhanced photos?  Whatever, they do a great job capturing the lonesome, high-desert beauty of these cabins.

The wife and I went for a walk last Saturday late in the afternoon.  We turned left out of our driveway and took the short walk up to the rocks.  It's such a pretty area that I am constantly looking up at the scenery (vs. where I am stepping) and I dang near stepped on a tarantula!  Never seen one in the wild before.  This guy was pretty feisty and would raise up on his hind legs when you would get close.  He also put his butt up in the air as he walked toward you, and he (she?) looked to have a pretty good size stinger.  Not something you would want to have in your sleeping bag with you!

I told the wife to put her shoe next to it so I could get some perspective in the photo (plus no way I'm putting my foot near that thing!).  Here's what he looked like:

That was our excitement for the weekend.  Cheap thrills!  As we're heading back down the road, the sun is setting, the shadows are long, and things are getting interesting.  I snapped a picture of this homestead cabin that's a short walk from our place... appears not to have been used in many years.

Here's another one a few hundred yards from the last one.  I've named it "The Pink Palace", and it appears to be well maintained.

Here's one to the north of our place on the other side of Hwy 62 that's not so lucky (from a maintenance point-of-view). However, great location with an unbelievable view!  I took this photo about 4-5 weeks ago.

I'll leave you with this interesting desert factoid.  There are some HUGE ant piles in this part of the desert.  A grown man could fall into one! (OK, maybe not... just my desert imagination getting away from me).  Not sure why they are so large, but they are, trust me.  Here's one on our property:

So I have a theory.  Back in the '50s, some film producer from LA probably came out to 29 or Joshua Tree to relax for the weekend.  Who knows, maybe he stayed in a jackrabbit homestead cabin!  He saw these giant ant piles, and his imagination went crazy.  Slowly a movie script started to form in his mind... some kind of radioactivity... yes, that's it, the radioactivity could cause genetic mutations resulting in giant ants that have the potential to destroy the world!!!  If you've not seen "THEM!", and you like kitchy '50s Sci Fi, have I got a movie for you!  Added bonus:  You get to see James Arness and a quick shot of Fess Parker when they were very young.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spare Parts Project

So, one of my hobbies is playing guitar.  Seems like if you are a guitar player, you are always searching for that perfect tone and that perfect playing guitar.  It's a never-ending quest, which makes it a fun hobby.

7926051 Front LargeMy project I've been working on this week has been taking a guitar that started out as a Telecaster Affinity (a cheapie guitar, but made to look like a classic "butterscotch blonde" from the '50s or '60 that is ridiculously exensive in todays dollars).

To keep the price down, they use cheap parts, made overseas, etc.  But not a bad guitar for the price.  I've upgraded virtually everything on this guitar with the exception of the body, which is my next project!

Let The Games Begin...

So, I found a "Fender Baja Players Ash Body" for sale on e-bay.  I was the winning bidder at $125, which is, if the body truly is a good quality ash body as advertised, a steal.  Here's what was delivered to my door yesterday courtesy USPS:

Hmmm... there's a hole in my box!

Knowing that the wood guitar body I'd purchaed on e-bay was inside this box, I quickly figured the hole in the box could be a problem!!  Well, here's the body:

Sure enough:  A Ding!!

Long story short, it wasn't insured so I'm out of luck.  However, I have to give a shout out to the e-bay guy (Dave at DGB-Guitar)... he offered to give me a full refund, compensate me with parts, etc.  He did a great packing job, and none of this was his fault.  Really great, honest guy who I will do business with in the future.

Since I got since a good price on the body, I've elected not to return it.  I sanded the sharp edges and loose paint off the ding.  So, change of plans #1:  I'm now going for that "retro" look of a guitar that's seen a lot of action!  If anyone asks, I'll let them know somebody threw a beer mug and hit the guitar during a brawl when I was playing at a bar out in 29 Palms!

On To The Project (Get to the point already!!)...

The point of the project is to replace a cheap, overseas body, with a genuine Fender ash Tele body.  It should make for a noticeable sonic improvement.  Everything else on the guitar I like:  nice, comfortable neck (more on that later), good quality Semour Duncan pickups, upgraded vintage bridge, etc.  Should be a simple project... unsolder a few wires, unscrew a few screws, and just transfer stuff over to a new body.  Easy, right?

Unlike other blogs that go crazy with stuff like cutting the body from a block of wood, routering out cavities, etc. (, all my parts are already made.  Well, let me just say that few projects are as simple as you think they are going to be!

Carefully removing the "innerds":

Out with the old!

Change of plans #2:  Although the neck pick-up fit in the cavity of the Tele Affinity, it's too wide to fit in the new neck cavity!!  I cut the black pick guard specifically to fit this pick-up, and it's a great sounding pick-up.  I'm bummed I won't be able to use the pick up, or the black pick guard, but I'm not getting the router out!!

Guess I'll go with the white pick guard!

So, checking my spare parts "drawer", I have an old white Tele pick guard off the first Tele I ever bought (American Standard sunburst I still play).  I also have a Semour Duncan neck pickup in the spare parts drawer.  If I'm not happy with either of these, I can always change them out later.  Stay tuned for my next post.  I need to replace the plate-style jack with a cup jack (on order).  Looks like everything else should fit.  May be this project isn't so bad after all!