|Tecopa (California) Report|
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Tecopa, CA visit, 3/96 by anders tronsen
After reading about the Hot Baths (spas) in Tecopa Ca in N&N 15.2, my wife & I knew that was where we wanted to spend our next getaway. We arranged for a few mid-week days off from work, and made plane & RV reservations. The closest RV rental I could find was in San Bernadino, but they would pick us up at the Ontario airport for no charge, so O.K. Both Southwest flights were PACKED as most of them are these days, so reserve ahead. The flight home was overbooked; some travelers got paid for being bumped.
Anyway, after a minor tailpipe repair after renting the motorhome, we were on our way. Our route from the rental place was I-10, I-215, I-15 to Baker, CA 127 to Tecopa, about 200 ground miles. We stocked up with food at the "FOOD FOR LESS' in nearby Loma Linda before we left 'civilization'. Our main destination was Tecopa; with the mileage penalty on the RV, we did not bother going to Sandy's Castle or Death Valley proper. The terrain difference between Tecopa and Death Valley isn't much, I suspect. The chief difference is that in Death Valley one is in the bottom of a 'bowl' of mountains surrounding, I suspect. I.e., the mountains are closer.
Since the county of Inyo maintains two bathhouses, the first choice one makes is PUBLIC or PRIVATE. The private places are open to couples; the county facility is segregated. The baths are situated around a salt dome about a half-mile across. There is a 200 foot prominent hill in the middle; climbing it gave us a good prospective about the immediate surroundings. At the top, there is a rickety bench to catch your breath, contemplate the mysteries of the universe, or see over the walls of the patio of the men's half of the county baths.
We arrived in Tecopa about dusk. This place is really Remote. The place has only a 'country store'; rumors of its prices kept us away. There is no gas station there. If "B" below is fixed, might be a good place for a c-store (7-11?) if a desert motif could be done. Upon arriving in town, the first hint of things is the county maintained RV park. It was quite crowded. The trade-off was a cheaper hook-up price. We stopped at Charlie's Delight, the place pictured in N&N with the non-functional windmill as a landmark on the road through town. We asked if we could inspect the baths before paying, and the clerk(?) on duty, said sure, but not to take a soak unless we decided to stay & pay. So O.K. We drove the motorhome to one of the few vacant spots & walked over to the spas. Wife loved what she saw, no problems, no need to look further. After taking a first 15 minute soak, we went down to the home/office and paid for our first night. Then back to the MH to cook dinner. (Steak & potatoes). Since we have non-nudist teenagers at home, cooking & eating nude was a rare treat.
The person who checked us in gave us the rundown on the rules: Shower first, no kids, 15 minute limit per visit (no limit on number of visits) were his chief concerns. If you do go with friends, I suspect with a bit of discretion four can use each spa, even though the rooms are posted for use by two.
At Charlies, there are four soaking rooms, each named with a name designed to tip you off as to the temperature (Lobster Pot is the hottest). As guests go in, the custom is to arrange an "occupied" sign across the doorway. Each room is about 20' X 20', and has its own shower. The building(s) are very old, and do not give one a great deal of confidence regarding their structural integrity. The roof joists are often made of old 2X4's scabbed together. The original buildings were made of abandoned railroad ties. Not much has been rebuilt or remodeled since the 40's or so. The water is about 106 F. An old brochure lists the minerals (including sulfur, lead & arsenic) claimed to be in the water, all said to be 'within safe limits'. I doubt if these claims have been laboratory verified. There is a recreation room with a card table, piles of magazines, and a couple of old couches. Some old style exercise bikes complete the compliment.
The other highlight items our trip were: 1) Climbed the hill, & left when we discovered the view into the men's patio. 2) Made a picnic and walked to the outdoor pool on BLM (public) land. It is about 300 meters away from the closest home or parked MH, and has a couple of small hills that afford privacy; the pool itself has some small sheets of plywood that give some protection from the wind. Had great sex. The pool needs to be cleaned more often, as algae tends to take over. If you can take a 25' X 1-1/2" hose, you can siphon the cement pool empty. A scrub brush should do the rest. I don't know if something chemical to clean the pool walls is appropriate, but it seems needed.
Here are a few observations about the place: your perspective will be different, I'm sure.
A. Lots of retired folks in the area. A school bus (to where?) did roll through town, however. Retire, get a MH, park it, & enjoy. There were between 50 & 75 Rv's parked there, most of them looked as though they stay for weeks at a time. Lots of satellite dishes, a few "For Sale" signs in & out of the park. There are some cabins for daily rentals if you don't want to RV it; they don't look like much from the outside. The personalities of the retirees seem to be a bit more mellow for most folks, but cliques still form somewhat. You're ok if you're hooked on Wheel, Jeopardy & Jay Leno, the Vegas TV stations have repeaters on nearby mountains, but you have to bring your own set. Bring enough bottled water for your stay. If the other costs put you on the cheap, pack a carton with cooking implements & condiments, a couple of pillows, & what bedding you want; check it through to Ontario. This might save $50.00 or so. The longer you're going to stay, the more you want to spend on your RV.
B. The whole enterprise is in jeopardy because of a lack of sewage treatment. The whole mess goes right into the ground alongside the water that feeds the pools. How close they come to each other is anybody's guess. It will be interesting to see if the locals cooperate to protect the environment and their investments.
C. Summer will be too hot if you like to do any hiking, biking or anything else active (even for outside nookie during the day); plan for late fall, winter, or early spring. Check temps on the web for Palm Springs, Barstow, or Baker; they should all be close. Don't go in the summer unless you a) are impervious to a super-heated environment, or b) have dependable air conditioning.
D. Don't get the Strawberry pie at the BUN BOYS at Baker where you turn off the freeway. It's a rip off. Instead, get a meal or just a shake at the Mad Greeks. Gas closest to LALA, and Barstow. There is a factory outlet store including a Black & Decker at Lenwood, just South of Barstow for the guys. There is also a place to buy an excellent hamburger there. Hint: It's not MacDonalds.
If you're a rail freak like I am, try to arrange some time to do train watching at Cajon Pass (UP/BNSF) Newberry Springs, close to Barstow (about a 15 mile detour on I-40) is where the exteriors of the movie 'Bagdad Cafe' were done. If you want to borrow my tape of this excellent film, call me.
E. If swimming/outside nudity is your main deal, forget this place. Instead, go to the Morningside Inn at Palm Springs. It is a great nude B&B; lots of units have kitchens, and it has a wonderful pool & spa.
Tecopa is for being isolated, Palm Springs is for being in town with museums, tourist traps, and VERY TRENDY/EXPENSIVE RESTAURANTS.
We got our motorhome from El Monte Rentals for a three day minimum of $238 which includes 300 miles (we did about 425). Gas outside LALA is as much as .25 more. Airfare, MH rental, gas, RV hookup at $12.00/night, food and a few supplies was what it took for us. If you can, let El Monte know of your return times when you pick the MH up; that seemed to help avoid wasting time.
F. If both are petite, the rear lav on a 737 is a great place to join the mile high club.
Naturally, Anders Tronsen
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