June 2015 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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 * Please contact owner Sean Patterson for information about visiting Cerro Gordo *



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Friends of

Cerro Gordo

The Friends of Cerro Gordo is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation established to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of Cerro Gordo.

Help support these efforts by becoming a member.

Click on the FOCG logo (above) for additional information and to join or make a donation.

Membership is only $10.

Now Available

Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com

It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.

Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Credo Quia Absurdum




Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway.

     Click your mouse through the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Check Your Radios for Summer Adventures

by Roger Vargo, N6YDT

Back in the days when Explore Historic California ran commercial four wheel drive (4WD) tours, we required all the vehicles in our group to have CB radios. The radios provided an easy and relatively inexpensive way to communicate from vehicle to vehicle while on the move. Our clients also learned that radio communication helped enhance the enjoyment and safety of backcountry travel.

Bill Halstead's Jeep was equipped with only a CB radio while Marty Cole, KB6OME, had both CB and amateur radio equipment in his Tacoma.

While we no longer guide commercial tours, we still use two way radios when traveling in the backcountry. Which radios we use depends on where we are going and who we are with. Many of our personal traveling companions are also amateur radio (ham) operators, so most of the time we use VHF amateur radio which offers greater range, better clarity and less interference than CB radio. We still use CB radio when traveling with non-hams as well as when traveling with other groups or clubs.

Regardless of the radio or radio service, there is some yearly maintenance that should be performed to keep communications equipment in good working order.

A basic CB radio such as this Uniden, can provide reliable vehicle to vehicle backcountry communication.

Your radio’s antenna is the link to the outside world. A poorly functioning antenna will reduce radio range and could possibly cause damage to the radio. Check for corrosion (and clean as necessary) around the antenna base where it connects to the antenna mount. An old toothbrush and pencil eraser work well to remove minor corrosion. More serious corrosion can be removed by the gentle use of a soft wire (brass) brush or Scotch Brite abrasive pad. Avoid harsh abrasives. After cleaning, the antenna base can be lubricated with liquid silicone to make it easier to remove. If your antenna uses locking screws to hold secure it to a loading coil or spring, make sure these are all present and secure as well.

The antenna is linked to the radio by way of a coaxial cable. The portions of the cable outside the vehicle are subject to detonation from long (years) exposure to sunlight. The black plastic jacket dries out and cracks which will cause the cable to corrode on the inside and work less efficiently. The cable usually connects to the antenna mount through a soldered and sealed connection. This is also subject to corrosion from water trapped inside, but may be difficult to inspect. Corroded connections should be repaired. Since coaxial cable can’t be spliced like ordinary electrical wire, detonated antenna cable should be replaced. Usually it’s easier and more cost efficient to replace the entire cable and antenna mount.

Inside the vehicle, the antenna cable connects to the radio with a special screw on connector. Check this connector at the radio to make sure it is tight and the cable isn’t damaged or pinched. Also check the back of the radio to make sure the power cables are in good condition and properly plugged in (although not all radios have a plug at the radio end of the power cable).

The (usually) red and black wires on the back of the radio connect it to the vehicle’s electrical system. The red wire is 12v positive and the black wire is negative.  CB radios draw about 2 amperes of current when transmitting, but higher powered amateur radios can draw 10 times as much current. Check the connections where your radio power wires tie into the vehicle electrical system to make sure the connections are free of corrosion, are properly insulted, and are secure.

Mobile amateur radios are approximately the same size as many CB's, but offer better voice clarity, higher power and more channel options. However, an operator license is reqired.

Inspect your radio’s coiled microphone cable for signs of wear. Sunlight will eventually damage the plastic outer insulation making it brittle and subject to cracking. Some microphones have cables that can be easily unplugged from inside the microphone housing for replacement. Others have to be unsoldered for removal and the new cable then has to be resoldered when installed. If you don’t have the soldering skills or equipment, replacing the entire microphone may be less contentious than taking it in for repair. At the opposite end of the mic cable is a connector at the radio. Check that the connector is properly seated and tight and the cable hasn’t deteriorated from bending near the connector.

Family Radio Service (FRS) handhelds are compact and easy to use, but don't work well from vehicle to vehicle.

Handheld radios are a bit easier to maintain than mobile radios. Check the battery contacts to make sure they aren’t corroded. You did remove the batteries when you put the radio away last season, didn’t you? Lightly corroded contacts can be cleaned with an old toothbrush and pencil eraser. If corrosion is extensive, the radio may be damaged beyond economic repair. Also check your batteries or battery packs and be sure to fully charge rechargeable batteries. Not all handheld radios have removable antennas. FRS/GMRS radios do not, MURS radios may, and most amateur radios do have removable antennas. Inspect the antenna connection to make sure it is free of corrosion and seats tightly. The antenna should also be free from damage. We have to be vigilant with our handhelds’ antennas because the dog and cats enjoy chewing on the antenna tips.

Amateur, CB, FRS/GMRS and MURS radios are well suited to backcountry and emergency communication because they can operate without connection to network infrastructure. Cell phones, on the other hand, must be connected to the cellular network to provide communications although some apps, such as GPS and compass, may have limited functionality without connectivity.

Cellular networks are well established in urban and suburban settings, but offer sparse coverage in the backcountry. Cellular coverage is also affected by regional topography such as mountains, canyons and dense vegetation blocking the cellular radio signals.

One way of enhancing cell coverage in poor signal areas is through the use of a cellular booster. Some older cell phones had tiny external antenna connectors, but modern 3G/4G devices only have complex internal antennas. These can be connected to a booster through a coupling cradle. Boosters cost several hundred dollars (and up) and offer limited effectiveness.





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