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08 December 2014

Chasing After Tarantulas {Mojave National Preserve}

Does your husband ever slam on the car brakes and scream, "Tarantula!!!"

No? Well, count yourself lucky.

Here's what all the fuss was about. Cute and cuddly, just like a kitten, except with way too many legs.


Tarantula, Mojave National Preserve

Scott was positively giddy when he saw this guy scooting across the road in the Mojave National Preserve. The tires screeched as he pulled the car off the side of the road, he grabbed his camera and ran out to capture the little critter on film. I waited in the car and reassured myself that, while my husband can be a bit of an obsessive nutter-butter at times, at least he doesn't want to have any pet tarantulas aboard our boat. At least, I hope so. The minute he says we're getting a pet tarantula, I'll be getting a wallaby. I'm pretty sure you can litter box train them. (See here, if you need convincing.)

We drove through the Mojave National Preserve on our way from Needles to Death Valley. Have you ever been to Needles? If you're planning on passing through there, here's a handy tip - always check where the railway is in relation to your motel room. If the room seems too cheap to be true, you can be sure its due to one of three things: (1) they're making porno movies there; (2) the majority of the clientele have warrants out for their arrest; or (3) the train tracks are right next to the motel. 

After leaving Joshua Tree National Park, our original plan was to stay somewhere near Amboy on the old Route 66, but all we found were tired old places which were shut for the season, or perhaps for eternity.


Roys Motel Route 66

After a night dreaming of trains chasing us through the desert, we backtracked from Needles and headed through the Mojave on Kelbaker Road.



The Virgin Galactic spaceship had crashed in the Mojave desert a couple of days before we were there, so of course we were on the lookout for the debris scattered about. What we found instead may shock you.



Yes, there are polar bears living in the desert! I just can't get my head wrapped around climate change - icebergs melting and polar bears in the Mojave desert. What's next?

The tarantulas were a welcome distraction from the mystery of the polar bears. Male tarantulas go out in search of a mate during the autumn months, crossing the roads in search of that someone special. Some of these guys might want to be more choosy when it comes to hooking up. After the romance is over, the ladies have been known to kill and eat their mates. Then they go on to have litters of 500 to 1,000 little tarantula babies! Probably more than you wanted to know, isn't it? I don't know about you, but my skin is crawling just now. That's what you get when you spend too much time thinking about spiders - you start to imagine little baby tarantulas are crawling over you. Ick.

Time for a distraction. Here's what you see as you're driving along the road, dodging tarantulas and polar bears.






About halfway along the road, you come across the old Kelso Depot.



Oases fascinate me. You're driving along in the desert and then, all of a sudden, you see green grass and palm trees. 

It's kind of strange to see a railroad running through the middle of a desert. Once upon a time, Union Pacific constructed the railway through the desert in order to access the ports around Los Angeles. Back in the day, trains needed help from extra engines to get across the steep grade west of Kelso, so a depot opened up at Kelso in 1905, along with a post office, housing for railway employees and an engine house. Later, a Spanish Mission style depot with a clubhouse and restaurant was built to cater to train passengers. I bet it was quite the chi-chi place in its day. Union Pacific eventually closed the depot in the 1980s, but it has since been restored and houses the Visitor Center and a museum. It was a great little stop along our drive.




Old Building at Kelso, Mojave

After visiting Kelso, we continued our drive past the cinder cones and lava fields before exiting the preserve at the town of Baker. Wow, that's a crazy little crossroads town. You come out of the barren desert and find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a fairly busy road with motels, gas stations and restaurants. We had gyros, Scott haggled for firewood with an 80-year old lady (she won) and off we went towards Death Valley.

We drove through the Mojave National Preserve in search of tarantulas on 2 November 2014.

Linking up with Bonnie for Travel Tuesday.

18 comments:

  1. What a fascinating little trip!! The history & sights you can see in our own country amaze me!
    Oh & that tarantula is terrifying! Eek!

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    1. There is so much to see in the States and the National Parks are amazing! You could spend a lifetime traveling in this country and still only see such a small percentage of it. But, I'll be happy if I don't see any more tarantulas :-)

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  2. Yep, I've been to most of these places. Love Death Valley. It's teaming with life.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. It's amazing how much wildlife lives in a desert!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this :P The trip looks (and sounds) like a lot of fun.

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    1. It is a really interesting place to drive through. I wish we had more time to have spent there - it was really interesting! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Very nice account and fantastic photos! I can't believe how beautiful those dark blue mountains look against the desert. It must've been such a trip to see it in person! And yeah, wild tarantulas... no thanks. I would really like to explore this area though. Gotta be brave :)

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    1. Thanks Cynthia! It is a pretty amazing place! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. How did Scott notice a tarantula on the road? And what's up with the polar bears?

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    1. He is one very observant guy! I wouldn't be able to see them crossing the road - they just blend in. Not sure why those polar bears keep following us around and insisting on getting their picture taken :-)

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  6. Hmmmm - not sure if I would like to meet a wild tarantula or not?

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  7. Thanks for linking up to Weekend Travel Inspiration! I would love to visit the Mojave desert and a tarantula won't stop me, I'm no longer afraid of them after one wandered into my bag in Ecuador!

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  8. Coming from Australia, no little spider would stop us visiting the Mojave desert. A snake on the other hand ......Terrific that you are a part of #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. One of the things I loved about living in New Zealand and there really aren't any dangerous critters there. It seems like Australians always have to be on their guard :-)

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  9. Ellen, I love tarantulas...from the car window. My favorite time is watching their huge shadows as they amble across the road around sunset! Loved this post, and thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration!

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    1. You and my husband would get along very well - he loves to spend time tarantula spotting :-)

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