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OTTUMWA — Roger Howell Jr. wasn't happy. A truck had pulled up across the lane and started spraying sewage on the empty lot — about 6,000 gallons.
Following a day exploring southern California’s Mojave National Preserve and overnight stays in Barstow and Twentynine Palms, we headed for Joshua Tree National Park. While the preserve and the national park are only 70 miles apart and somewhat similar in much of their terrain, each deserves a full day of exploration.
It’s a beautiful early-December day as we drive into California’s Mojave National Preserve during a two-week journey through the Southwest. Over the years, we have frequently traveled along the preserve’s fringes, but nearly always during the summer when temperatures in the desert were unbearable, at least for us. This can be a tough environment to visit, let alone live. When the weather cooperates, as it was this December, the Mojave is stunningly beautiful.
The Oregon Trail follows the North Platte River into southeastern Wyoming, where it heads northwest along the river’s southern bank. After crossing the river at Casper, the emigrants headed southwest following the Sweetwater, a tributary of the North Platte.
During the summer of 2010, the two of us drove from South Georgia to Rushville, Indiana, for a 50th high school reunion (David’s). Afterward, we headed west to Independence, Missouri, the starting point for a three-week, 2,000-mile westward journey following the Oregon Trail to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. After arriving in Oregon City, we spent several weeks exploring the Northwest before heading back east along the route taken by Lewis and Clark as the Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis.