The Desert Bar and Joshua Tree

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Wild burros in an RV park near Parker, Arizona

Wild burros in an RV park near Parker, Arizona

Last week we took a quick six day trip to touch base with friends in Parker, Arizona and Southern California. We’d never been to Parker, which lies south of Lake Havasu, so it was somewhat a new cultural experience, the Snow Birds. It seems Parker is a destination for roadies who live, or at least spend their summers in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. Then there are the burros, the wild burros.
Our friends, Kim and Robert, like many of the Parker residents, own an ATV, a jeep, a boat, and an RV—and a golf cart. Saturday we got a whirlwind tour in the jeep, automatic transmission, air conditioning, and comfortably seats four—seems profane. The jeep I had in high school, a war surplus 1942 Willys, had manual transmission, oil bath air filter, hand operated window wiper, canvas sides, and the gas tank under the driver’s seat. Gas tank under the driver’s seat makes you more cautious. In those days, we drove out to explore. Now days, off-roading is more about climbing steep hills and flying through the air. There are still some who explore, which has its dangers, drug dealers and their caches.
The volcanic upheavals, the Buckskin Mountains, make The Mesa west of the Mesilla Valley look like the Garden of Eden. Other than its barrenness the most prominent feature is the ubiquity of mobile homes. Nearly every residential structure came in on wheels. Some were set on foundations and are quite nice after a refurbishing, others set at the trailer parks along the river and are ready to move when spring comes up north. Not a bad lifestyle in my opinion.
We stopped at one of these RV parks on the California side of the river so that Kim could enroll for a yoga class taught by the park owner. Just outside the office, two wild burros were busy chomping down the daisies. We stopped to get a picture. Quick to spot a mark, the burros came to the window demanding a handout, which they didn’t get. Robert continued the tour. Snow Birds lined the road. Wild burros patrolled for handouts and carelessly placed garbage while pooping on the artificial tuff. Snow Birds just clean it up; the burros cannot be harmed, or you’re out of the park, and maybe in jail–the burros are protected by law.
Open sitting area near dance floor on the ground, yeah the ground,

The Desert Bar: Open sitting area near dance floor on the ground, yeah the ground.


Robert pulled back on the highway. Someone if front of us has stopped in the middle of Arizona 95 at hand feed a burro—so many thing wrong with that. We head north to an unmarked desert road. The excitement surges when we pull off. The adventure is on. We are headed for the famous Desert Bar, an energy self-sufficient outpost mainly frequented by off-roaders [Note: If you are anywhere near Parker this trip is worth doing. The Desert Bar is open only on weekends and holidays. Check their website before going. Although there are many extremely rough roads in to the Desert Bar, roads I would not have taken with my old Willys, the main road is passable for MOST highway vehicles. However, caution and common sense are always advised.]
The Desert Bar came from simple beginnings. Ken, the owner, built what might be called a basic lemonade stand in the middle of the desert to serve dirt bikers and other off roaders. Can you imagine sitting there on an ice chest waiting for a customer? I bet it was fun.
Desert Bar: From the bridge, a view of the main building and solar collectors at the back right.

Desert Bar: From the bridge, a view of the main building and solar collectors at the back right.


Then he got ambitious, crazy ambitious. Truckloads of construction supplies were hauled out and the first bar was built. Water was hauled in by truck. From there it expanded. Now there is a multistory bar, a gift shop, a grill with dynamite food, and a stage. The whole thing is solar powered and water comes from a well. You can read the full story at the website. We had lunch, hung around and soaked up the sun, the band, and the camaraderie.
Note a sedan is on the right.

The Desert Bar parking lot. Note a sedan is on the right.


The next day we headed west toward Twenty-nine Palms and a drive through Joshua Tree National Park. We spent about four hours in the park, poking around and taking pictures. The campgrounds were full for Christmas – New Year. It was a great time to be there and seemed like a great time of year to camp and hike. Generally speaking the temperature is moderate, even a bit desert cold, and, best of all, the rattlesnakes are asleep.
If you are headed east of Los Angeles in the winter, take the time to drive through the park.
There are several nice camping areas. This one is amongst the boulders.

Joshua Tree Park: There are several nice camping areas. This one is amongst the boulders.


Cholla cactus after bloom in Joshua Tree National Park.

Cholla cactus after bloom in Joshua Tree National Park.

2 thoughts on “The Desert Bar and Joshua Tree

  1. While you were in Parker, we were in Las Vegas where we stayed at a suite in the Palazzo courtesy of our daughter. We aren’t gamblers and don’t much like neon sunshine. We went as a family outing. Yes, you read that correctly, family outing. Our five-year-old grandson’s birthday wish was a plane ride. Las Vegas seemed about the closest place to go. He loved the Circus Circus rides and the Venetian canals. I read your travel adventure contrasting it with our getaway.. I think I like your trip better. In fact, Parker is now on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Time with the kids or grandkids is always good regardless of when. I would say Parker is a stop along a tour of the Southwest, unless you have an ATV or just want to hang out on the river. We are told the best times to go are spring and fall, then you can add Lake Havasu and the Colorado River to the entertainment.

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