Tulips and Daffodils!

Even though we have been back from our annual extended travels for about a month (and came back from Mexico to nothing but rain, rain and more rain…), we thought you might enjoy our recent visit to the tulip and daffodil fields in the Mt. Vernon (Washington) area.  We stayed near Anacortes for several days in mid-April and spent a lot of time exploring the area – lots to see and do.  Needless to say, the flowers were at their peak and were spectacular: worth braving the crowds to walk through the muddy fields to enjoy them close up.  Not many words are necessary…the images speak for themselves…

We drove around the Mt. Vernon area looking for fields and came across this wonderful planting of daffodils. Dee Dee was happy. (Parking was pretty bad, though. Good thing we had the Jeep because we had to park tipping at a 45-degree angle, towards a ditch.)

As we were driving around looking for tulip fields, we kept seeing crowds of people walking around in the acres and acres of flowers. We finally figured out they were entering a huge operation, Roozengaarde (click on the link for more information.) Very well organized and friendly. And, as you can see, crowded. When we entered their (huge) parking lot, we had to wait about 20 minutes until a spot opened up. Fortunately, they had parking monitors, with radios, who directed us a great spot right near the entrance to the gardens.  It cost $7 per person to enter, but it was well worth it.

Walking around the Roozengaarde fields was a bit of a challenge – there was mud everywhere. No wonder most of the visitors were wearing rubber boots. (Except us…) We saw a small child fall into this pool; they had to dispatch the Whidbey Island Coast Guard to rescue him.

While in Anacortes, we met up with our old friends from San Diego, who now live near LaConner, Frank and Penny Rigoni. Always a real hoot when we get together, and never enough time to catch up.

We also met up with a couple of Dee Dee’s Oak Harbor High School buddies, Jim and Marsha Phay, who introduced us to a terrific restaurant in Anacortes – Calico Cupboard. One of the very best lunches we have ever enjoyed.

 

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

This is the last of three installments chronicling our 2016-2017 travels.  Once again we returned to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, in mid-February where we spent 10 warm, sunny days with old and new friends.

After leaving our 3-month stint in Death Valley, followed by about 10 days or so in the Las Vegas/Laughlin area, we headed down to Dateland, Arizona for a 3 day visit with our good friends, John and Betty Gallagher. We always have a great time with them, and they are very generous in allowing us to stash our bikes and other ‘stuff’ that we won’t be using while in Mexico.  BTW, Dateland is best know for it’s great date milkshakes; click for more information.


Entering Mexico at the Lukeville, AZ/Sonoyta, MX border crossing. Crossing this year was much slower than usual. The Mexican Border Agents were very courteous and friendly when they boarded us.  It took over an hour to get all 35 coaches across.


The guy on the right was in our Winnebago Puerto Penasco group. His dog went with him everywhere, including on his custom-designed Harley rear trunk. The helmet matched the bike color; the goggles (yep, really) were not shown.


Happy hour every day at 4 PM, in the Playa Bonita Beach Bar. Drinks were cheap and copious…


One of the tourist-trap shops at “The Dirt Mall,” so named because the road through there used to be dirt and was not paved until about 2 years ago. You can get anything you want here…well, almost…


We met up with some old friends and made some new ones in Puerto Penasco. This pic shows us, Matt and Gloria (old), Sharon and John (new) and MonaLiza and Steve (old) at the El Capitan Restaurant.  What a terrific view – highest point in town.  And if you ate before 4 PM, you ordered off their 50% discount menu…so we went there twice during our visit.


Dee Dee met a younger man in Mexico. We lost track of her for 4 days.


The girlz in front of the Shrimper’s Memorial Statue – Gloria, Sharon, MonaLiza and Dee Dee.


Dee Dee with the boys at Mr. Fish on the Malacon. Great place, very fresh seafood and they are all very friendly. We ended up bringing back 10 lbs. of monster shrimp and 5 lbs. of red snapper.


We took an all-day guided jeep trip to a very remote beach about 65 miles south of Puerto Penasco. We stopped just before the beach dunes so that everybody could ‘air down’ to about 20 lbs. tire pressure, for driving in soft sand.

Millions (really…) of these shells covered acres and acres adjacent to the sandy road we used to access the beach.

Headed up a hill just off the beach. It’s much steeper than it looks…took 2 trys to get to the top.

Charlie found a sucker in Steve. Once you throw him the ball, he owns you…

Pacifico’s on the beach with our good friends Steve and MonaLiza.

Dee Dee and Steve doing weird hand tricks on the beach.

MonaLiza with a sea cucumber that she found floating in the surf.


Beers with our buddies at the JJ’s Cantina out in Cholla Bay. Funky place on the beach, and probably the most expensive beer in all of Mexico. We only had one and then left.


Steve and Bob installing a Magnashade magnetic sun screen on our coach.  Very simple ingenious method to block sun and ensure a degree of privacy, while still being able to see outside.  Click here for more information on this product.


We met this lady on the beach one day. Turns out that she is from Canada and her family owns a popular restaurant in town called Frenchy’s. Which it turns out, is the name of their dog.  Click here for more information about Frenchy’s


Charlie taking a break from chasing a tennis ball and playing with every single little kid on the beach.


Back to one of our most favorite restaurants, Peggy Sues, not too far from Barstow, CA on I-15.


Dee Dee picking oranges near Bakersfield, CA.


We stopped for the night at Yreka, CA. Actually had to. I-5 from there to the other side of the Siskiyous Summit had a chains required/4WD restriction. But 10 AM the next morning the road was clear enough to safely pass.

At the top of the Siskiyous Summit, on the way down the steep hill into Ashland, Oregon.

Yreka Dog Butt.


We had a wonderful visit in Modesto with lots of old, old and very good, friends. What a great evening. Thanks to Derek Waring (on the far left) for setting this up. What a treat it was for us!


Remnant of Kubrik’s classic film, “2001 – A Space Odyssey.”


This trip was not without it’s problems, that essentially started as we were departing Mexico.  One of our slides got stuck open (for the 2nd time in 7 months), delaying us for about an hour while we did temporary repairs to get it back in, with the help of a bunch of good friends who were their with knowledge and tools.  We got back across the border into the US with no problems or issues – it was a very easy crossing, despite what we had garnered from others who preceded us.  (Since Trump took office, ICE has become very aggressive at the border.  Things have changed for US citizens travelling in and out of Mexico…and not necessarily for the better.  But, once we were in Mexico, it was all good.  The Mexican people are friendly, tolerant and welcoming.  It’s a wonderful country.)

The 2nd night back in the US, at Newberry Springs, CA, another slide failed, but we managed to nurse that one in.  For the remaining 6 days of our trip back north, we only had one functioning slide.  The coach was livable, but cramped.  Several months previously we made an appointment at the Winnebago West Coast Repair Facility in Junction City, Oregon, so we were able to take the coach directly to them on the way home (they are located about 4 hours south of us.)

So, as I write this, our RV is almost completed; it has been there for over 3 weeks.  We went back down there about a week ago to inspect what they had done so far and it all looked great…just one or two other minor repairs to be completed.  I am headed back down in a few days (March 24th) to pick it up.  Because of all the issues we have experienced over the past year, Winnebago has agreed to give us another year on the factory warranty, as well as having the Plant Manager and the West Coast Sales Manager present when we pick it up.  They have been very cooperative (albeit after a bit of ‘nudging’ from us), so we are generally pleased with them.

That’s it for now.  We are home for a bit, but have several small trips planned over the next months.  Then, probably in October sometime, we are off again for another extended (4-5 month) trip, probably to south Texas, New Orleans (again), Mississippi and the Florida Pan Handle, near our favorite place in Carrabelle.

Stay tuned…

 

Death Valley…Once Again…

We are still in the process chronicling our travels during 2016-2017.  This chapter of our blog covers the 3 months we spent as Camp Ground Hosts for the National Park Service at the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley National Park from November 1, 2016 to about January 25, 2017.  You won’t read much about the actual time we spent working (4 days on, 4 days off, usually, and we worked hard.)  Rather, this post covers all the great things we saw during our off time.  This installment is a l-o-n-g one, so crack open a beer, kick back and take your time.  We hope you enjoy the read and the pics.


Our Host campsite at the NPS Furnace Creek campground. Lots of tamarisk (non-native) trees for shade. This was our home from November 1, 2016 to January 25, 2017.


This cluster of dead salt cedars was directly across from us in the Furnace Creek campground. Woooooooooooooo…spooky..


The first beers (with many to follow over succeeding weeks…) at the Corkscrew Saloon in Furnace Creek. One of our favorite haunts – always a delight!

We have been going to the Corkscrew Saloon, in Furnace Creek, for beers since the 1970’s. Alas, by the time you read this post it may already be gone forever…a victim of ‘progress’ as it is being demolished as part of a massive remodeling project (by Xantera Corp., not the NPS.)


Near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, part of Death Valley NP, but not in Death Valley proper.  Located outside of the Park, on the way to Pahrump, Nevada.  It is operated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Extensive fencing to protect the rare Pupfish from human intrusion, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  Click to learn more.


A small herd of Mountain Sheep (all bucks) we spotted at the abandoned White Point talc mine on Warm Springs Road, at the extreme south end of Death Valley National Park. The white substance you see are talc spoils from the mine…not snow.


A portion of The Grandstand, a rock formation at The Racetrack Playa.  Twenty five miles of rough road to get here; multiple flat tires are not uncommon.  No country for Honda Accords…

Another view of The Grandstand, in The Racetrack Playa.

The Racetrack Playa…pristine and undisturbed, as it should be.  Click here to learn more.

The Racetrack Playa, violated by jerks who think it’s cool and macho to wreck the place for others. Driving on this Playa is a Federal offense, punishable by huge fines and prison time. Because this area is so remote, it’s hard to catch these idiots in the act. However, these guys WERE caught, thanks to advanced GPS techniques and good investigation by the NPS. And, after several years of these destructive activities, the NPS is finally creating a volunteer watchdog/educational position to be a presence at the site.

Dee Dee and the famous moving rocks, The Racetrack Playa.

More moving rocks at The Racetrack Playa.

Teakettle Junction, about 20 miles down the dirt road to The Racetrack Playa. This is one seasons’ worth, left by travelers down this road. The NPS removes all of them every year, to make room for new ones. Sadly, they are disposed of; volunteers have offered to collect, catalog and store them, but the wheels of Government approval grind at a snails pace…


Our friend Bob McNamara (aka, “Texas Bob), who knows virtually every square inch of Death Valley. He guided us to many new and exciting places during the 3 months that we were there this stint. Bob is a retired commercial photographer from Minnesota. He was a fellow Campground Host who worked the Texas Springs Campground (hence the name “Texas Bob.”) While there, he developed a bad case of shingles that, luckily, healed rapidly. This pic shows some of the scabs that developed. (Pretty gross, huh?)

Thanksgiving Day found us heading back to Marble Canyon, about 20 miles of rough road from Stove Pipe Wells, off of the Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Entering Marble Canyon slot canyon. Some of the most magnificent geological formations in all of Death Valley.  Their beauty will take your breath away.

 

Texas Bob demonstrating one of the narrowest points in Marble Canyon. Before the Stop Rock blocked the entrance years ago, you could drive to this point. Only small 4WD vehicles could make it through.

Back on the Cottonwood Canyon Road, after leaving Marble Canyon. What a magnificent way to spend Thanksgiving Day!


Aguereberry Point, arguably with a better and more expansive view than the popular Dante’s View, which is located on the eastern side of the Death Valley.  Dirt road for the last 10 miles, the last 1/2 mile of which is not for the faint of heart.  Look off in the distance and you can see the salt pan on the Valley floor.  Click here for more information about this place.


Texas Bob and I heading over Hunter Mountain. Yes, this is still in Death Valley, on the extreme western side. We made an elevation gain to over 5,500 feet. We encountered snow and ice, in some place treacherous (we almost slid into a bank on a bad curve.) The day after this pic was made, the road was closed due to heavy snow. Incredible country.

Coming down Hunter Mountain. The road is MUCH steeper than it looks.

Visiting an old mining camp, off of Hunter Mountain Road.

Inside the shack, pictured above. Many visitors pick up artifacts, but leave them here, as they should, so that other can enjoy seeing them.


Waiting at The Rio in Las Vegas to see Penn and Teller. Great show. And, we had great seats…4th row center.

This is Teller, of Penn and Teller. He is the one who never speaks while on stage. This was taken during one of their great magic tricks. And he DID talk to that fellow, who was sitting right behind us.


One of the advantages of an NPS Volunteer is that you get the opportunity to go to places in the park that are closed to the general public. The following 3 pics were taken on a trip back to the Keane Wonder Mine, that has been closed for several years due to safety concerns. By the time you read this, the NPS will have completed restoration work and it should be re-opened to the public. Get more information about the Keane Wonder Mine by clicking here.

Keane Wonder Mine. Dee Dee is bringing up the rear of the line as this guided group hikes to the platform you see pictured below.

Keane Wonder mine structure. The tramway you see at the top of the hill, behind, extends another 3,000 feet up the mountain.


We make another quick trip over to Las Vegas to ride the giant ferris wheel. We had tickets to the special “all-you-can-drink-in-30-minutes” car. It had a full bar and held about 10 of us. It was all we could do to down 2 drinks and a shot. In our younger daze, it would have been a different story… The wheel never stops moving, so you board on a long platform, and have to pace your entry with the car’s movement. Easy getting on, not so easy getting off after the drinks…

Us after getting off the ferris wheel. The drinks were still apparent. And yes, that is a full moon.


Dee Dee had to stop to barf.  Enough said. We did not take the opportunity to go into this store (he is always the opportunist, eh?), but odds are that most of the stuff in there was made in China. (Or Russia.)


At The Artist’s Palette with our good friends Mike and Gloria Hardcastle-Taylor, who we knew from our time living in Dan Diego. We spend a great 3 days with them and took them to see lots of stuff. Great time!


Scotty’s Castle, at the north end of Death Valley, was closed in October, 2015, due to catastrophic flash flood damage to Grapevine Road and portions of the Castle itself. The NPS has already allocated over $50 million for repairs, mainly for the road.  As we told you above, because we were NPS volunteers, we were given access to the area, through this locked gate. For more information on the Scotty’s Castle closure, click here.

Entering Grapevine Canyon, going to visit Scotty’s Castle.

Grapevine Canyon Road, or what’s not left of it. The flash flood damage was horrific. Look carefully and you can see that the elevation of the original road sits ABOVE the roof of our Jeep.

Entering the grounds of Scotty’s Castle. We had the whole place to ourselves. All furniture and antiquities have been be removed due to the lack of proper control of heating, air conditioning and humidity controls. They are being stored at a secret location in Southern California.

Another view of Scotty’s Castle, looking over the never-completed swimming pool. Click here for some more history of Scotty’s Castle.


We took another trip with our friend, Texas Bob, to the Eureka Dunes, located at the extreme north end of Death Valley National Park, and accessible by driving 50 miles of washboard road. Most people are familiar with the sand dunes near Stove Pipe Wells; the Eureka Dunes dwarf these. Their scale is incredible; very few people ever visit them.

Another view of the a portion of the Eureka Dunes. In the picture above, note the people standing on top of a dune, in the distance.

Dee Dee and Texas Bob walking the Eureka Dunes.

Our plan after leaving the Eureka Dunes was to keep going and take the pass over to Big Pine and Highway 395. However, it started snowing hard at about 7,000 feet, and we still had to gain another 1,500 feet to cross the 8,500 foot pass. We opted to abort and turn around…good thing, as we never would have made it. There was a blizzard in the Owens Valley that closed Highway 395.


Still another trip with our Friend Texas Bob was back up Warm Springs Road to the Geologists Cabin, located about 20 miles from the West Side Road, 4WD all the way, in some places serious 4WD. This pic was taken inside the abandoned White Point Mine.  You can learn more about this particular mine by clicking here.

On the way back to the Geologist Cabin…

Dee Dee and Texas Bob at the Geologist’s Cabin, located in Butte Valley. Striped Butte can be seen in the background. The rock cabin is one of the more famous overnight backcountry hostels in the Park. People treat it with great respect and most leave it better than they found it.

Texas Bob inside the Geologist’s Cabin. For more information about this place, click here.

Exploring a portion of Butte Valley, about 25 miles from the nearest paved road. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but those are some steep, gnarly hills in the background.

After we left Butte Valley, we headed back to the West Side Road and decided to drive about 50 miles out of our way to visit the Crowbar and have a beer. I had been here before, several times, and it’s worth the trip. This day, however, it was closed…


And so another chapter of our Blog draws to a close. We leave you with this great image of two fellas we encountered on Warm Springs Road. We were driving along slowly, and they seemed to be following us…


Wandering (Wondering?) Our Way to South Dakota

So, I bet you are all wondering, “What the hell happened to that Gauvreau blog thing?”  Good question.  Let’s just say that the intensity of posting most of last year got to me and I needed a vacation.

Or something…

Anyhow, for what ever reason for being gone, it’s back again.  Big yip, huh?

So, we are starting off by going w-a-y back to last September, when we began our next big adventure, heading off to South Dakota and the goal of seeing Mt. Rushmore.  So, here we go…

IMG_3585

We left our home in Silver Lake, Washington, on September 13, 2016, kicking off a 4-week trip to South Dakota. Our first stop was in Walla Walla, Washington, probably best known for the large herds of (now-extinct) Walla Walla’s that roamed the surrounding hills, eons ago. Today it is best known for over-rated $14 martini’s at a local bar, and an RV park run by an insane woman. Oh, and the chickens there are mighty big, too…


After leaving Walla Walla, we stopped in Spokane where we visited our little niece and nephew, Kim and Selby. We always have a great time with these two characters. We closed down the bar in the Elks Lodge one night; the 2nd night we headed out for dinner to a great place on the river, where Selby managed to eat something that disagreed with him – a lot. Enough so to cause them to miss our planned 3 days of camping with them in Montana. Even so, they did manage to drive over to see us for a few hours.


We ran across this odd truck on Highway 84, on the way to Walla Walla. I talked to the driver, who told me that is was a prototype design for Freightliner that he was testing. The complex graphic is actually make up of a peel-and-stick (no kidding…) material design to mask the lines of the truck. I guess…at least that’s what he told me.


With our (really) old buddies, Steve and Linda McCullough – from high school and college times. They took us ATVing up in the hills above Townsend, Montana. We spent a great 2 daze with them – such good friends and wonderful hosts. Charlie greatly appreciated their charming hospitality, at least the 2 lbs. of raw roasts that he swiped off their kitchen counter and ate all in one sitting. Oh, and Steve makes a MEAN martini.


With Steve and Linda, at an old cabin about 15 miles back in the hills. We had a great trip back there and it capped a super-fun day…only to be bested by Steve’s martini’s once we returned to their house; they have a full bar in the garage, and in the kitchen, and in the den, and in the living room and on the deck. You don’t need to walk for a drink when you visit.


Life would not be complete without a stop in Butte, Montana, where we had a great visit with our old Modesto friends and neighbors, Ed and Betty Banderob. Butte is the consummate mining town, and Ed is a veritable font of information about the entire area, since both he and Betty grew up there, and their families go back generations. We were really lucky to have Ed drive us around town in his old, but mint condition, Cadillac. What a treat! Such great hosts!


A tunnel under an open-pit mine access road, Butte, Montana. It led from a visitor information center to a viewpoint.


One of many abandoned mining ‘gallows’ in Butte. This one is fairly contemporary; many are decades old. All are part of the colorful history of the town.


Dee Dee just after we arrived at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. A cold, nasty day…we had this magnificent view all to ourselves.


Another view of Devil’s Tower the next day, complete with buffalo and a Texas Longhorn.


We hiked up and around Devil’s Tower. This is a view from the base of the Tower, looking back towards our campground. Close as a crow flies, but several miles by car. Did you ever see the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?” Portions of it really were filmed at Devil’s Tower. The production company was based at this campground.


And yet still another view of Devil’s Tower, taken from the trail around the base. You can’t see them here, but there were about a dozen or so climbers up there.


On the way down from our 3.5 mile hike around Devil’s Tower. There was a beer waiting just outside the frame…


After about two weeks of traveling, with many stops, we finally made it Hill City, South Dakota, our base camp for a week while we explored the area: Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Sturgis, Deadwood, and surrounding towns. This campground was a great central location; it had only 6 spaces, and 2 of them were occupied by work-campers who maintained the grounds and took care of several cabins on the grounds. It was a perfect location and the guy who runs the place is a total delight.


After almost 2 weeks on the road, Dee Dee and the Boyz are taking a much-needed break.


Dee Dee’s scratched one off her Bucket List when we arrived at Mt. Rushmore! This was the goal of the trip, and we made it. By the way, if you have seen the iconic Hitchcock movie, “North by North West,” part of it was filmed here…but don’t expect to see anything remaining from that time, except for the mountain. No longer can you drive right up to a viewpoint. You are now required to park ($11, no discounts) in a seven-story parking garage and walk about 1/2 mile to the viewpoint. The National Park Service has done a good job in developing the area. You do pay to park (no choice), but entry to the Monument is still free.


After Mt. Rushmore, we visited the privately (tribal) operated Crazy Horse Monument. This is a bigger-than-life-size mock-up sculpture located in the expansive visitor’s center. Work on this monument is largely funded by private resources and donations. It’s been going on for 2 generations and it is anticipated that it will not be completed for several more. In other words, your kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s may be lucky to see the final product. it is really unbelievable what is going into the development of this area…not just the Monument, but also an expansive regional educational center. Has to be seen to be believed.


Us at Crazy Horse Monument. You can see they have a l-o-n-g way to go before it is completed.


One of the many breweries and wineries in the Hill City area. No shortage of beer here. Lucky for us, we were here at the tail-end of the tourist season. Many businesses were literally within a few days of closing down for the winter. Things really start to taper off after October 15th.


We made it to Sturgis! Not much going on, but at least we have the picture of the Harley Dealership to prove we made it. And yes, we did get t-shirts.

There is a magnificent motorcycle museum in Sturgis. Totally supported by private funds and donations. If you are into bikes, and in the area, this place is not to be missed.

This is one of the many great exhibits in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. They had a whole series of Honda’s from 50cc circa 1964 scooters to contemporary Gold Wings. I owned a Honda 305 Super Hawk just like this one, in 1968. It was a great bike. Still miss it.


A portion of a Big Round Thing, on display in Leadville. It was part of a very important project, related more to nuclear science that mining. It just forget what it was part of… The diameter was over 15 feet.


Fall colors in a magnificent canyon between Deadwood and Sturgis. We were there at absolutely prime time.


“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the ANTELOPE play…” This was taken near a small town in Wyoming. Dee Dee and I were sitting in a local bar having a beer and we told a guy sitting next to us about this herd. “No way,” says he. “Antelopes (sic) have been extinct for over 200 years.” So much for local knowledge.


Storage silos, near Wall, South Dakota. We stopped at the famous Wall Drug (immediately behind where I was standing to take this pic.) It was OK. Great for kids. It’s still a monster tourist trap.


A herd of mountain sheep, blocking the road on the way to Badlands National Park, in Wyoming, about a 125 mile drive from our base camp in Hill City and about 100 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota. No, they (the sheep) are not as yet extinct, but then again, we did not inquire with the locals to be sure…


Entering Badlands National Park, just like the sign says…


Badlands National Park is a small, but immensely spectacular place. The geological formations were amazing. You could spend days here wandering around, exploring. You can actually meander through the entire park in about 2 hours, it’s that small. We were lucky, again, to be here in early October: good weather and few other visitors. It was a great time to be there.


More Badlands…


And even more Badlands…


…and here we leave you with a magnificent view of a portion of Badlands National Park. You have the bench all to yourself. Badlands National Park was the end of our long journey eastward, from our home in Washington to South Dakota.


The way home was not as enjoyable as the trip out. The end of good fall weather was upon us, and winter was rapidly setting in. We encountered nothing but wind and rain all the way back home. Many visitor places, such as RV parks and other campgrounds were closing down or were already closed, on the route home (South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.)

But we made it just fine, and our RV managed to survive the trip with no major problems or breakdowns. (We did have it service by a Freightliner dealer in Rapid City, South Dakota, while we were there.) We arrived home about mid-October, got unpacked, did some work around the place, and then took off again about 10 days later, headed for a 3-month gig as campground hosts at Death Valley National Park, and then some travels in Nevada and Arizona, capped by 10 days in delightful Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

But that’s the next installment of the Blog…stay tuned…

Maravilloso, encantador, amable Puerto Penasco, Mexico!

Maravilloso, encantador, amable Puerto Penasco!

(Translation: Wonderful, delightful, friendly Puerto Penasco, Mexico!)

Un saludo a nuestros lectores dle blog! Esperamos que disfrute de esta ultima (#7) la publicacion de los viajes de este ano…

(Translation: Greetins to our blog readers!  We hope you enjoy this last (#7) posting of this year’s travels.)

Dinosaurs

Wild dinosaurs still roam the desert near Gila Bend, Arizona. We were fortunate to find these fine species near the Shell Station as we were filling Das Boot with gas.

Playa Bonita Entrance

Entrance to the Play Bonita RV Resort in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. We spent 10 delightful days here and plan to return again, this time for a month, in February, 2017,

As you many have read in our last Blog installment, our travel plans changed whilst we were staying in Benson, Arizona.  As it turns out, this may have been one of the VERY BEST travel adjustment we have ever made!

Charlie Howling

The first day of our arrival in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Charlie bolted for the beach and sat there, howling in delight! It took about 5 days for his stitches (see last blog installment) to heal. He finally got to enjoy a few days running in the waves. Wahoo!

To make a long story short (well, sorta short), we ended up with this Winnebago-sponsored group of travelers on a caravan to Puerto Penasco, Mexico. We all (36 coaches of various sizes and shapes, almost all Winnebago) met in early February, in Gila Bend, Arizona, for a dinner and orientation.  We met a lot of wonderful people there, many of whom, as the 10-day trip progressed, became some new and very good friends.  (We learned once again not to rely on first impressions.  Many of those changed as we got to know people better.)

Winnie Pano

Our site in the Play Bonita RV Resort was about 75 feet from the beach. There were 36 coaches in our group. All very cool folks.

Anyhow’s, we traveled as a well-healed ‘pack’ and all got across the border (Lukeville, AZ/Sonoyta, Mexico) with minimal hassles by the kind and friendly Mexican Border Guards. Another 65 miles south of the Border, we landed in our very nice, almost-beach-front site at the Playa Bonita RV Park, which is conveniently attached to a nice hotel and beach-front BAR (an important factor for about 95% of this crew.)

Sue and Jerry

Our 2 most excellent trip leaders – Jerry and Sue, along with their neat aussie, Cooper. He and Charlie became best buds. Our 2 assistant leaders (not pictured) were Paul and Kathy. Also the very best!

Our professional hosts handled all the important marshalling details, border crossings, some meals and entertainment, RV Park arrangements, parking, etc. It was all a total piece of cake, thanks to all 4 of these fine folks.  And if you have heard that Mexico is dangerous and not a good place to be, forget it.  Our TOTAL experience was filled with friendly, helpful, smiling people.  We felt welcome and respected.  (And the drinks were cheap, too!)  Better yet, Puerto Penasco – although only 65 miles south of the Border, FEELS like Mexico – border and almost-border towns like Tijuana, Ensenada, Tecate, etc. all pale by comparison.

Within 4 hours of our arrival, Dee Dee and I had already committed to return next February for a month…this place is THAT GOOD. We made a deposit and then headed for the bar.  And once again, we beat all 65 of the others to Happy Hour.  We always strive for excellence!

Dee Dee and Sand Dollar Pickers

Dee Dee looking for sand dollars on the beach near Cholla Bay. A magnificent day to be out (but weren’t they all…?) Dee Dee scored several great finds.

The 10 days there found us with many beach walks (Charlie’s most favorite thing), a sunset cruise, sand-dollar picking about 10 miles up the beach at Cholla Bay, walking around the Malecon (Old Port) Plaza, shopping and bargaining with the locals – in the many shops off- and on-the beach, eating at several fine restaurants, playing golf at a magnificent Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course near the Mayan Palace development about 25 miles south of town, etc. Did I mention drinking?  Pardon my exclusion…

Pacifico Can

One of the GREATEST discoveries we made in Mexico was Pacifico in CANS. Never have seen that before. Before we left, there were no more to be found…anywhere. Really.

This ‘tour’ was actually a non-tour. Our hosts got us there and got us back to the States safely and trouble-free.  There were very few scheduled activities except for a daily Happy Hour and six SUPERB meals.  Other than that, you did what you wanted, when you wanted to do it.  Trips, tours etc. were done almost on-the-fly, and you could participate if you were interested.  If you wanted to sit on the beach all day long and suck down Pacifico’s, you could.

Bloody Mary's

Every day started, and most certainly ended, like this. Times like this are what stick and get you coming back…

We met some amazing, incredible, (generally) friendly folks. Many became fast future friends.  Many were from the Mid-West; being the compassionate people we are, we forgave them for that – Republicans or not.  (The ‘Bernie’ sticker on our RV was a point of much discussion.)

So, here we are back in California, on our way north to home in Silver Lake, Washington, wishing we were back in lovely Puerto Penasco. We will be counting the daze until next February 6, when we will be there again.

As usual, and assuming you even bothered to read the above (we have found most of our readers to be visual learners), following are some pics and captions.

Adios y mejores deseos, amigos!

Drink Bill

Our first bar tab – 3 jumbo (double) margarita’s for 180 pesos…$12. No wonder we drink…

 

Us with Steve and Mona Liza

With our new and very good friends, Steve and Mona Liza. We had some great times with them…a couple of characters, just like us.

Randy and Karen

Some more good buddies we made – Randy and Karen – really fun people. We liked them, even though they like Ted Cruz. We all can’t be perfect…

Dee Dee and Hats

Dee Dee doing her favorite thing in life – trying on hats. We bought a lot of stuff from local vendors on the beach in front of our campground. Everyone was soooo friendly, smiling all the time.

Beach Hat People

Portrait of all the ‘Hat People.’ So friendly, and so shy.

Matt and Gloria

This is Matt and Gloria, from Edmonton, Alberta. Matt was a total hoot and so much fun to be around. Gloria was his antithesis, but clearly the one in charge. You always knew when Matt was in the area…believe me!

Shy Taco Guy

The cook at Cabo Taco, an excellent tacos-only place we found. No one spoke English and the menu’s were only in Spanish. Amazing fare, ‘really real,’ and inexpensive. This fellow was extremely shy and would not look up for the picture. A fine young man, indeed.

Dirt Mall Wall Detail

Entering a local place called ‘The Dirt Mall’ (because the road running through it used to be dirt.) Lots of really good shops here – mainly tourist stuff, but if you looked hard you could find some treasures.

Dirt Mall Pots 2

Pots at the Dirt Mall.

Dirt Mall shop guys

Shop owner and employee at this very cool place we found at The Dirt Mall. Super friendly and we think they gave us a good deal…”For you, Senior, very cheap – almost free!”

Wood Carver Guy

An excellent woodworker we met on the beach in front of the Playa Bonita Bar. Extremely skilled (45 years a woodworker) and very shy. We bought this excellent carved ironwood pelican from him. We feel honored to own his work.

Whalebone Spine

Whale spine detail at the Land And Sea Center a bit south of town. En excellent endeavor to sustain the local flora and fauna.

Ugly Fish at CEDO

A species of fish on the endangered species list. Sorry, but I forgot the name. Found at The Land And Sea Center.

Roman the Condo Guy

This is Roman, a cool guy we met at the ‘free’ parking lot near the Malecon. Roman was selling condos at the Mayan Palace, which is located about 25 miles south of town. A neat guy, low pressure and friendly. Cool dude.

Dee Dee and Mr. Fish

Dee Dee and ‘Mr. Fish,’ who ran a fish stand on the Malecon. Extremely friendly – lots of people we met got stuff from him. We ended up with 6 pounds of jumbo shrimp and 3 pounds of scallops. All very fresh.

Harbor Dredge Pipe

The harbor in Puerto Penasco requires constant dredging. This tailings pipe ran from the harbor, around a point and back about 500 feet above the high tide line. It was about 16 inches in diameter.

Kites

Extreme kite flying on (as you can see) and extreme weather day. On the beach in front of our camp site.

Brian at Rey Sol Resturant

One morning we stopped for breakfast at the Rey Sol restaurant, on the way out to the Malecon. We always chat it up with waiters to find out their name and what they know about the area. Usually we encounter people with names like Jose, Roberto, Juan, Pablo, Jamie, Jesus, Estaban, etc. Meet Brian.

Boat Guy and Dee Dee

Dee Dee and the boat captain on the sunset cruise we took. (Seen one, seen them all…) Neat guy, crappy margaritas. No buzzzzz….

Beach T-Shirt Guy

The t-shirt guy, on the beach in front of our camp site. We bought two. Got really good deal, “For you Senior, very cheap…almost free…”

Dirt Mall Frogs

Frog pots at The Dirt Mall.

Beach Mobile Guy

The Mobile Guy, on the beach in front of our camp site.

Beach Table Guy

This guy made some beautiful hand-painted snack tables. We bought one. (Hell, we ended up buying A LOT of stuff on the beach.) All of it ‘A very good deal. Very cheap…almost free…”

Beach Scene

Late evening clouds and beach, in front of our camp site.

Steve and Monkey

Our new friend, Steve, with his latest beach-purchase. Never buy anything when you have been drinking…

Playa Bonita Resturant Head

You guessed it…then men’s restroom in the Playa Bonita bar…

Nick and Karen

More new friends, Nick and Karen, from Morro Bay. Funny and fun.

Gol Guys

My great golfing buddies when we all played the superb Jack Nicklaus course about 25 miles south of town – Terry, me, Doug and Dave…very cool guys.

Dirt Mall Pots 1

More stuff found at The Dirt Mall.

Us with Bev and Marilyn

Once we got back to Yuma, we met up with some long-time RV friends, Marilyn and Bev. We ALWAYS have such a fun time with these folks. We manage to cross paths every year, or so.

Big Ass Pipe in Gila Bend

I just could not leave out the photograph of this GIANT pipe I discovered in the Shell gas station parking lot in Gila Bend. It just looked very cool.

Moonrise ofver Beach

And finally, what a way to end this Blog but with a ‘Moon Rise Over The Beach and Ocean, Puerto Penasco, Mexico.” El Solongo, mis amigos…

NOLA: Nada

Hola!

When you are travelling for any length of time, measured either in the number of years you have done it, and/or the length of time you have allowed for a given trip, two of the fundamental concepts that should be at the top of your ‘whatever’ list are, ‘always expect the unexpected,’ and ‘roll with the punches.’

Things were going pretty much according to plan for us on this trip (well, more or less…) until we arrived in Benson, AZ. It was there that our travel plans changed.  It was actually all for the best, because Dee Dee, Charlie, Marshall Dylan and I are pretty independent and once we were back on our own.  We took the time to re-evaluate our initial travel plans to go as far as Lafayette and New Orleans, LA, and decided that going another 3500 miles (round trip) and dealing with what could very well have been some really snotty weather, was maybe not the best idea.

As we were drinking a beer and contemplating our next move, we got an email from WIT (Winnebago International Travelers – we are members) advising us they had some last minute cancellations for a 10-day trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and they were looking for people to fill the spots. YEAH!  So we immediately called them, but too late…they were already filled.  We were pretty bummed.  But, the story has a happy ending: they opened up a few extra spots and we got in.  YAHOO.

OK, now for the not-so-good stuff. I was taking Charlie out for an evening constitutional and noticed a black ‘something’ hanging from his butt.  At first it looked like a residual turd, but upon closer inspection it looked a like hemorrhoid that appeared to be bugging him.  We found a wonderful vet in Benson who got us in, and just in time.  To make a long story short, they got him in for surgery a few days later and removed it, and another (fatty) growth on one of his rear legs.  Turns out that first growth was cancerous, but they said they thought they got all of it.  We still have to watch him for a re-occurrence.

About a week later we were in Dateland, AZ, visiting some friends and noticed that one of the incisions had torn open (probably due to him licking the dissolving stitches.) Once again we found another great vet (we had to drive into Yuma) who got him in right away and closed up the wound.  Poor guy.  He never wants to see another vet again…all this has totally freaked him out.  Fortunately, Charlie found a job at Walmart as a canine greeter – $5/hour and all the kibble he wants.  He should have his credit paid off in about 3 years.

OK, those are the high/low points since our last installment. While waiting to depart for Mexico on February 9, we have visited some really great places:  Bisbee (where we DID NOT see the famous Juan Alvarez) and Douglas, Roper Lake State Park (near Safford, AZ), where we also drove over to New Mexico and blasted through Lordsburg (OK, that did suck) and then back into Arizona.  After we finally left Benson (after staying for a month in the same place), we headed for West Tucson and stayed near Old Tucson and the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.  In our (humble) opinion, Old Tucson was pretty much a waste of time and VERY expensive.  The Desert Museum was magnificent – we spent all day there and experienced about 10% of what there was to see.  And, we really learned a lot.  I thought we were fairly experienced ‘desert rats’, but discovered we had a lot more to learn about flora and fauna.

After 3 days there (where we scoped out some places to maybe stay longer-term next year as we really liked what the Tucson area has to offer), we headed off for a 125 mile windy drive on very narrow road to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (about 5 miles from Lukeville and the US/Mexican border) . Let me tell you that we have travelled to many places over the years and this place has to be among the top 3 we have ever experienced.  It’s magnificent!  Small, uncrowded, with incredible scenery.  The campground is well laid-out and every spot has an amazing view.  It’s totally dry camping (with very restrictive generator hours), but for old geezers like us, with our Senior Pass, entry is free and camping is $8/night.  You can’t beat that.

As I type this missive, we are parked in a fairly decent KOA (as far as KOA’s go) in Gila Bend, AZ, where all the other ‘Winnies’ in our travel caravan are marshalling for our departure tomorrow (February 9) down Highway 85 to Lukeville and then on to Puerto Penasco. It’s a one day, 160 mile, trip.

OK, as usual there are lots of pics for your viewing pleasure. Our next installment, hopefully documenting our time south of the border, should hit when we are back in the ‘States.  We plan to hang out in Yuma for a few days, visiting friends, and then meander back North to Washington, via Modesto to visit our many old and good friends.

Open Pit Mine

Open pit copper mine, Bisbee, AZ

Mine Detail

Excavation detail, open pit copper mine, Bisbee, AZ.

RV at Roper Lake

Our campsite at Roper Lake State Park, near Safford, AZ.

Flying Birds at Roper Lake

Flock of birds starting to roost in trees, dusk, Roper Lake State Park. I sat and watched hundreds of these birds descend on this and other surrounding trees. And – I KID YOU NOT – that night on TV I watched a re-run of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’ Sorta creeped me out…

Flying Birds and Roper Lake

Roper Lake State Park, near Safford, AZ.

Dylan

Marshall Dylan getting his heath certificate so he can travel to Mexico. Most excellent, friendly and compassionate staff at the Benson Animal Hospital. He is working on meowing in Spanish.

Charlie Collar

Charlie is not happy about his anti-lick collar. ‘Zen’ it is not…

Stanfords

With our friends Ed and Sharon Stanford, at dinner in Benson, AZ.

Horse Nose

We made a new friend in Old Tucson. We would have taken him home with us, but he would not fit through the door of our RV.

Horse Meeting

Horse meeting, plotting the overthrow of all cowboys. Old Tuscon, AZ.

Dee Dee in Coffin

Dee Dee was arrested, then shot by this handsome cowboy. We had to leave her there to be embalmed. (OK, not really…)

Dee Dee and High Chaparral

Set of the TV show, The High Chaparral, Old Tucson.

Stuntmen

Cowboy stuntman, Old Tucson. They put on a pretty good show. Very funny guys. At least their guns were not loaded…not the case in Tombstone.

Gila Monster

Gila Monster, Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.

Desert Museum Guide

Our fascinating tour guide at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. This guy really knew his stuff.

Backlit Yucca

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum – yucca plant.

Barrell Cactus and Palo Verde

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum – barrel cactus and palo verde tree.

Us With Chappell

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – with our friend John Chappell.

Teddy Bear and Ocotillo

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – teddy bear cholla and ocotillo tree.

Teddy Bear and Desert

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – teddy bear cactus.

Saguaro Foreground and Background

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro and organ pipe cactus.

Saguaro Close Up

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro cactus detail.

Organ Pipe and Cholla

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro and organ pipe cactus.

Dusk Organ Pipe Group

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – organ pipe cactus.

Cholla and Saguaro

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – teddy bear cholla and saguaro cactus.

Ocotillo Maze

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – leaving ocotillo cactus.

challenge2

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – cholla cactus.

Blooming Odd Saguaro

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – blooming, distinguished, saguaro cactus.

Saguaro in Center

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro cactus statues.

John and Betty

With our friends John and Betty, near Dateland, AZ.  (See what happens when you have a finger print on the lense of your iPhone camera?  Instant soft-focus.)

Salmon

Getting ready to poach some of the salmon we caught last summer near Tokeland, WA. Near Dateland, AZ, with our friends John and Betty Gallagher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where The Hell Is Benson?

Pano View of Superstition Mtn

OK….the VERY last panoramic view of Superstition Mountain, from near our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, AZ.

Cloudy Mountains

View across the town of Benson and the San Pedro Valley, with impending storm clouds over distant mountain range. It ended up snowing here…an extremely rare occurrence.

So, here we are in beautiful Benson, Arizona. For about a month.  Really?  Yep.

Actually, Benson is central to a lot of pretty cool stuff:

  • It has a half-way decent golf course with a half-way decent restaurant and bar.
  • 75 miles from Chiricahua National Monument
  • 8 miles from Kartchner Caverns
  • 30 miles from Tombstone
  • 60 miles from Benson
  • 80 miles to Douglas
  • 100 miles from Nogales
  • 45 miles from Tucson
  • 40 miles from the Pima Air and Space Museum
  • 50 miles from the Titan Missile Museum
  • 60 miles from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • 50 miles from Old Tucson
  • 45 miles from Fort Huachuca
  • 50 miles to Saguaro National Monument
  • And a whole lot of other stuff…

We are staying is this pretty nice place, up on a hill overlooking the town, the San Pedro Valley, with a magnificent mountain range in the background. It’s quiet and the folks here are generally pretty friendly. There are restaurants in town…all about the same, e.g., ‘Blue Collar Benson.’ Of course there is a Super-Wal-Mart, so how much more perfect could life be?

OK, each installment has to have either a funny story or rant in it, just to keep you all coming back:

While we were in Tombstone having lunch, we asked our waitress, Rei, when the gunfight in the street was scheduled.  “,Oh.  Well, they quit doing those a couple of months ago when one of the cowboy actors accidentally (?) had LIVE AMMUNICATION  in his sidearm and ended up shooting, and wounding, another one of the actors and two tourists.”  I kid you not!  True story.  Google it.  Only in Arizona, the home of open carry with no permit necessary.  Anyhow, she said they still do a reenactment down at the OK Corral (for which you now have to pay….the street gunfight was free before.)  They also have instituted new ‘bullet check’ policies.

I am keeping the verbiage to a minimum in this installment (Chapter 5); I hope you enjoy the pics that follow. So far, this leg of the trip has been fairly pleasant and everything we have done we have enjoyed…nothing much to complain about, really. None of the scenic areas here have been wrecked (like Sedona.) Quite the contrary – the wilderness here has been very nicely preserved. Hurray for south-east Arizona!

Rotating Palms

Yucca plant, near Benson, AZ,

Prickley Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus, near Benson, AZ.

Chir Pano

Panoramic view of rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Big View of Rocks Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Chirachaua Rocks Shade

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Rocks and Dead Tree Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Bob The Red Chir

Bob-The-Red and rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Dee Dee Rocks

Dee Dee and rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Flat Rock Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Console Titan

Dee Dee in the Titan Launch Control Command Center, Titan Missile Center near Tucson. This is where ‘The Button’ (actually 2 separate synchronized keys) is located. We are about 150 feet underground.

Looking Up Missle

Looking 150′ up the silo at the body of the Titan II missile that held the nuclear war head. During the Cold War, there were 24 of these active silos around the general Tucson area. This is the only one left (or so they tell us.) Scary.

Nose Cone Titan

Top of Titan II missile with a dummy nuclear warhead in place. If this missile was launched and detonated over Tucson, it would have totally incinerated everything in a 40-mile radius, not to mention the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of square miles of deadly fallout. If this missile was launched, it could not be stopped (there was no self-destruction mechanism for security reasons) ; it was only 33 minutes to Moscow. The things we did in the name of ‘deterrence.’

Missle Bottom Titan

Bottom of Titan II missile. The engines are not attached. (They were located outside in another exhibit); they were remarkably small when compared to the scale of the actual rocket.

Dopple Radar Titan

Security Doppler radar used to monitor the immediate periphery around silo that contained Titan II missile.

Cochise County Courthouse

Original Cochise County Courthouse, Tombstone, AZ.  A beautiful building that houses an excellent museum.

Rei at Palace Saloon Tombstone

Our most excellent server, Rei, at the Palace Saloon in Tombstone.

Bob, Carol, Dee Dee

With our good friend Carol, on a windy and stormy day in Benson.

Dee Dee and Amelia

Amelia and Dee Dee at the Pima Air and Space Museum, near Tucson.