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…

 

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 abruptly (disturbingly) 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 the people we were travelling with suddenly and without any warning or discussion (and pretty rudely) bailed out; let’s face it, they just did not travel all that well.  You can’t sit in your RV all day watching TV and expect to really enjoy your travels.

OK, 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 were much better off and a whole lot happier – the stress of our early travels had diminished greatly.   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.

 

 

Do Not Throw Old Clothes Or Shoes Out Of The Windows

 

Towards Goldfield Mtns Panorama

iPhone panoramic view of Goldfield Range, taken from the base of Superstition Mountain, Arizona. Note the squall lines moving across the valley below. It was a cold and windy day.

OK…here we are on Chapter 4 of our 2015-2016 trip blog and you are probably asking, “Where in the hell did THAT title come from?” Well, I dunno.  Someplace.

The end of Chapter 3 left us departing the wilds of the Las Vegas wilderness, headed for our friend’s place in Chino Valley, Arizona, where we stocked up on firewood for our stays over the next 3 weeks.. As always, when travelling with our friend, Gary, life is an ever-changing adventure.  His interpretation of ‘don’t worry, my house is easy to find’ was relative to the term ‘easy.’  Our GPS finally got us there, after we figured out that some of the streets (cow paths) were non-existent or ended where they were not supposed to.  It all turned out OK in the end, and we greatly appreciated their hospitality.

Delicate Bush Dead Horse

Delicate grasses, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona

Dead Hourse Sun Lit Trees

Cottonwood trees, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona

Dead Horse Tumbleweeds

Tumbleweed and cottonwood trees, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona

Dead Horse Clouds

Storm clouds near Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona

Bill Dead Horse Camp Host

Bill, our friendly, but skeptical, campground host at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona. “You ain’t gonna put this on the Inner-Net, are ya?”

The next day, we made the short jaunt over to Cottonwood, AZ, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park. I would label this place a ‘semi-urban’ park as it sits right on the edge of town.  Cottonwood is a burgeoning place, and it demonstrates all the trappings of urban sprawl.  However, the park itself is a pretty nice place with many camping loops and some pretty amazing views of the surrounding Verde Valley and the Verde River.  Our campsite was nice, with lots of open space surrounding it.  Why, it even included a ‘ghetto’ campsite right next to ours, complete with a small trailer that housed 2 adults, at least 5 kids and two big huskies who barked at everything that moved.  Everything.  We figured that these folks were homeless and moved from state park to state park, where the camping is fairly cheap, but the stays are limited to 2 weeks at a time.  We felt sorry for them, but their presence was fairly intrusive to all around them.  Their visit ‘timed out’ in the middle of our 1-week stay; peace and quiet returned.

Jerome Panorama

iPhone panorama view of Jerome, taken from the Jerome State Park Visitors Center.

Sunflower at Cleopatra Hill Jerome

Sunflower, a very friendly (and gregarious) clerk at a little shop called ‘Cleopatra Hill’ in Jerome.

Jerome Chairs

Blue chairs, trees and old buildings, Jerome, Arizona.

Concrete Wall Jerome

Wall detail, Jerome, Arizona.

Greg AT Mille High Resturant

Greg, the owner of the Mile High Restaurant in Jerome, Arizona. Super-friendly guy. This was a great place to eat (and drink.)

We spent a day up in Jerome, an old, historic and remarkably intact mining town about 15 minutes and about an 1100’ elevation gain from Cottonwood (3900’) – so do the math and the town is about 5000’ above sea level.

Clothes Sign

NOW you get the title of this chapter… (Sign seen in the Jerome State Park Museum.)

Despite the fact that Jerome has the usual touristy shops and eateries, it has still manage to maintain much of its original history and rugged charm. It literally hangs on the side of a mountain, a fact you quickly realize once you start walking (huffing and puffing) the steep streets.  Many of the original buildings still exist; several of them have moved down the hill over the years…some as far as 2 blocks.  The town still has about 300 residents, many of whom commute to Cottonwood for work.

I am generally skeptical about tourist places like Jerome, but this one has managed to maintain it’s character and ambiance (hence the title of this chapter, ‘Do Not Throw Old Clothes And Shoes Out The Windows.’) We met a lot of interesting people here, some friendly, some seemingly tolerant of our presence.  Gotta make a buck when you can.

Harry at Jerome Park Museum

Harry, our 90-year-old greeter at the Jerome State Park Visitor Center. “I can only do this job about 1 day a week for about 4 hours. I just get too tired.” Harry was a font of knowledge about Jerome and super-friendly.

Gary and Manuel The Barber

Gary and I got (badly needed) haircuts at Manuel’s Hair in Old Cottonwood. His shop doubled as an antique store; you literally had to walk through a tunnel of stuff to get to the barber chair. Manuel has been cutting hair in Cottonwood for over 40 years. We both got his ‘Senior Special’ -5 bucks.

Richard Hot Sauce Man

Richard operates a small shop in Old Cottonwood that sold only hot sauces. Neat guy with a neat product. (Tom, we picked up a bottle of ‘special stuff’ just for you.)

Adjacent to the downtown area is a wonderful state park with a museum that is worthy of a visit; very friendly and knowledgable volunteer staff and excellent exhibits.   There is a great 30 minute film that chronicles the history of the town and really helps to bring things into perspective.   We almost enjoyed it, but there was some total jerk right in front of us who held his iPad-Mini above his head – that’s right, ABOVE HIS HEAD – at least 5 times during the film so he could read his email.  I would have called him out, but he out-weighed me by at least 100 pounds, so I managed to exercise discretion and keep my mouth shut…a rarity.

OK, before you read the next few paragraphs, keep in mind that I am a self-proclaimed landscape photographer and a devout visual ‘purist’ when it comes to wild and scenic places; I find jet con-trails to be offensive. And I do admit I tend to be on the out-spoken side on occasion.

So, let me discuss the abomination Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona Traffic Light

Welcome to Sedona, Arizona.

The red-rock country in and around Sedona is some of the most spectacular one can ever see, but it is completely and totally despoiled by the urban sprawl that has engulfed the area. It is beyond horrible.  Good grief.  Houses and businesses are built right up to and against the magnificent formations.  Traffic jams everywhere.  Want to rent a ‘Pink Jeep’ tour?  Well, there are several to choose from.  I will admit that the town has tried to exercise some constraint evidenced by their zoning which dis-allows the use of garish signage by McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, etc., and does control the color and style of structures, but it’s too late.  The damage is done; a visual cancer has engulfed the area and the patient is dying.

Sedona Lasix Home

View of Sedona, Arizona, from the Church in the Rocks (Holy Chapel.). The monstrosity of a house you see near the lower center of the picture was built by Dr. Peyman, the guy who invented Lasik Surgery. Money gets you almost anything… Sure fits in with the environment, huh?

Sedona Cactus View from Church

View from Church of the Rocks, Sedona. Look right-center and you see encroaching houses.

Outside Sedona Church

Church of the Rocks, Sedona, Arizona. Turn around from this view and all you will see is houses and business.

Inside Sedona Church

Interior view, Church of the Rocks (The Holy Chapel), Sedona, Arizona.

Too bad that the State of Arizona, and/or the Feds, did not step in years ago to protect the area – they could have – and should have. It deserves the same status as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Big Bend, etc.  Seeing this place now makes one want to puke.

I guess I have made my point.

I will say that once you get into ‘old’ Sedona, now a very small part of the total picture, things are not as bad. It’s very quaint and not the visual obscenity as the rest of the town.  And, there is an extremely good Art Center there that is worth a visit.

Oak Creek Road Barrier

Small parking area, near the beginning of Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona.

Oak Creek Trees

Oak trees, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. We lucked out and found a FREE place to pull of the road.

OK, one more ‘grouse’ about this area. We took a drive up Oak Creek Canyon (on a road which eventually ends up in Flagstaff.)  The highway is narrow and twisty; it features some remarkable scenery.  However, the canyon has few turn-offs that support more than one car.  There are only two places where you are safely able to pull off – one run by the State and the other by the Forest Service – BOTH charge $10 to park.  JUST TO PARK! And they are both gated entrances. What a total rip-off.

OK…I’m done bitching…on to some better stuff. I guess the bottom line (in my humble opinion) is that if you want to enjoy Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, don’t bother going there…just buy a copy of ‘Arizona Highways’ and read it instead.  The view is better.

After a week at Dead Horse, (and after spending a Monday night at a restaurant in town that featured ‘Martini Monday’ – half-price martinis) we ignored our hangovers, mounted up and headed for one of our most favorite places to stay – Lost Dutchman State Park, located in Apache Junction, AZ and right up against the bottom of magnificent Superstition Mountain. The location is really beyond astounding – it’s extraordinarily visual.  The campsites are generous in size, fairly private and abound with a wide variety of flora and fauna.  Critters everywhere: cactus wrens, quail, LGB’s, cardinals (occasionally), coyotes, bunnies (Charlie’s favorites) etc.  You walk out your door and you are in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by giant Saguaro cactus, Palo Verde trees, Cholla (‘jumping’), Ocotillo and many more.  The Mountain literally looms over you.  (This place is everything that Sedona is not…)  The park is nice because you feel like you are in the wilderness, but are still only about 30 minutes from Mesa, and Phoenix.  So, you have the best of both worlds.  And the scenery is virtually unspoiled.

Gary and Mountain

Superstition Mountain and Gary, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Dee Dee Walking Towards Mtn

Dee Dee (yellow spot) hiking up a fairly steep trail, headed toward Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Palo Verde Tree

Palo Verde tree, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona. Sadly these trees are slowly being killed off my mistletoe, the seeds of which are excreted by birds. The State Park volunteers have attempted to eradicate this non-native parasite, but they just can’t keep up with it.

Dead Cactus

Dead Saguaro cactus and Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Cholla Falls

Cholla (‘jumping’) cactus. Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Cholla Close Up

Detail of Cholla, (‘jumping’) cactus, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona. They are also known as ‘teddy bear’ cactus.

Charlie and Sundial

Charlie and a friend he met while hiking with us. Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Cactus Panorama

Saguaro cactus in our campsite, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Cactus and Mountain at Dusk

Cholla and Saguaro cactus, Superstition Mountain. Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

We spent lots of time walking the trails and enjoying this incredible place. Charlie and Marshall Dylan love this place, too.  Marshall Dylan did have a bit of a traumatic experience, however.  Dee Dee takes him on several walks a day (yes, she has leash-trained him).  Shortly after we got here, they were out and Marshall Dylan walked just a bit too close to a Cholla and picked up a burr that pierced his fur and skin.  The cat totally freaked out.  We managed to get him to lie down and – remarkably – he allowed us to pull out the spines.  Poor guy, he was really hurting.  We were lucky to get everything out as the needles of this cactus have barbed ends and are difficult to remove.  Charlie is on constant ‘bunny patrol’, too.  Although we usually keep him leashed, he manage to escape once and took off like a bullet across the desert – in hot pursuit.  It was almost dark and we did get a bit panicked, but he eventually sauntered back, somewhat humbled by being outrun by a critter 1/5 his size.

Guys at Lunch

Rich, Terry, Neil and The Bob, part of the Moto-Geezer Death Ride contingent that met in Mesa to plan our next big trip to St. George, Utah, in Man 2106..

Neil and Morgan

Neil and his classic Morgan sports car. It’s over 20 years old and in perfect condition.

Rich and Honda

Rich and his fully restored 1975 Honda CB 500. The bike was absolutely immaculate. It took Rich over 4 years to restore – he tore it down to the last bolt.

Our stay will be 2 weeks, not nearly long enough. Since we are here for a while, we have decorated our place with about 500 Christmas lights (‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ – not ‘Happy Holidays’) rope lights, solar lights, flamingo lights and any other kitsch stuff we can find.  Two wreaths on the motorhome, too.

Christmas Lights

Our Christmas decorations and RV, taken at dusk, with Superstition Mountain in the background. Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dee Dee and I took a hike guided by a State Park Volunteer, from the campground, out of the State Park, on to Federal Land, and up towards the Mountain. The fellow who was leading us was really good and knew his stuff.  This place is full of interesting history – and drama – and legends – dating before Cortez in the 1500’s.  The elevation gain was pretty extreme (for men not everyone else), so I could not make it as far as was possible, but what we saw and heard was really great.  Learned a lot.

We took a drive up Highway 88 to Canyon Lake one day and were totally blown away by the desert landscape. Some of the most beautiful we have seen this entire trip.  And, even though the road was steep and twisty, there were lots of FREE places to pull over and enjoy the environment. (Ha ha.)

So, here we are until December 29th, and then we head off to Benson, Arizona for a few weeks.  I leave you now to enjoy the pictures of the area (way too many of the Superstition Mountain area, but it’s worth it) and vicariously experience some of the many good things we have been up to the past several weeks.  We continue to have a great time on our travels and are reveling in the people and places we have encountered.

And a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!

brushed

Merry Christmas from The Bob, Charlie, Dee Dee and Marshall Dylan, from Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

OK…just one more thing, my New Year’s Resolutions:

These are things I resolve NOT to do in 2016 –

  1. NEVER – ever – use that hackneyed word, ‘Awesome’ (except in this single sentence)
  2. NEVER grow scruffy facial hair; I know that’s not cool, but its getting really boring of seeing it everywhere…makes one look like they just woke up
  3. NEVER bitch any more about Sedona, Arizona…just ignore it.
  4. NEVER drink less beer than I do now…

See you all next year!

The Final Chapter…

The Final Chapter…

I bet you all have been wondering just what the hell happened to us?  Were we swallowed by a haunted bayou someplace in the wilds of Louisiana?  Or eaten by a pack of ravenous ‘gators?  Kidnapped by Crazy Canadians? Or did we just turn around and head back to Key West, to lay on the beach, drink margaritas and chill until all of our credit cards were maxed out or we ran out of Land Shark beer?

Well, none of the above, actually.  You can attribute this prolonged lack of our communication to just sloth and pure laziness on my part.  (The reality is that it take me about 12-16 hours to prepare each chapter of this blog and I simply just could not bring myself to sit down and get to it.)

Until now…

We made it home pretty much in one piece (well, some pieces got left and other pieces got added, but you are going to have to keep reading to figure out exactly what that means.)  We have been back home in Silver Lake, WA, since Sunday, March 22.  But, let’s go back several weeks to where we left off, near Lafayette, Louisiana…

We stayed a couple of nights at the Frog City RV Park, in Duson.  We had intended on going back to Prejean’s Cajun Restaurant in Lafayette one more time but decided to try this other place, near Duson (just down the road from Lafayette) on the advice of some locals.  Big mistake.  BIG mistake.  Deep fried everything.  And pretty bland.  And over cooked.  And mediocre service.  But, at least the beer was cold.  Oh well…we can always head back to Prejean’s on the next trip.

Entering Texas on the way back West - Mile Marker 899

Entering Texas on the way back West – Mile Marker 899

On the road once again, we passed through Lake Charles and then exited Louisiana on Interstate 10 and entered Texas…dismayed, but not surprised to note that the first mile marker we saw indicated ‘899.’  Gads!  (By comparison, from San Ysidro, near Tijuana, to the Oregon border –  taking The 5 all the way – is only 796 miles…so that gives you a sense of scale.)  It’s a l-o-n-g way across Texas on The 10 – it took us over 4 days of pretty steady driving.

After passing through Beaumont, the first major city we came to was Houston – and it’s one huge city.  We were on the beltway going around the major metropolitan area and were cruising along in fairly light traffic until we encountered this incredible traffic jam that went on for miles and miles.  Turns out there was some major bridge construction going on that caused a ‘funneling’ from 6 lanes down to ONE lane.  That delayed us by about 2 hours.  Oh well…

First overnight stop in Texas was at Columbus, where we stayed in a funky, but functional, RV park.  We had dinner at a pretty good Tex/Mex place nearby (Los Cabos) that evening.

Next day, back again on The 10 headed west.  We skirted San Antonio on the Beltway without encountering much traffic, and are now headed into the wilds of West Texas.  There just ain’t much out there.

At all.  Hardly anything.

Including RV parks.  Even Google Maps gets confounded when you do a search for them.  We ended up in Ozona, where we stopped at one of the few-and-far-between spots we could find.  This place did not even have a name, unless you call the giant sign by the freeway that said, in ten-foot-tall letters, ‘RV Park,’ a name.  Actually, it should have been called ‘Shit-Hole RV Park.’  It was raining and we were tired, so we pulled into the place and discovered that we had to walk a 2 blocks block back across the highway to a motel (a Super 8 – another dump) to check in.  Got a ride from some guy who dropped me off out front.  Went inside, no one there.  Waited 20 minutes.  Finally walked over to an adjacent restaurant and asked them where the guy was who runs the motel.  They called him and he showed up 10 minutes later, with no apology.  So I tell him we want to check into the ‘RV Park’ across the highway.  “Forty dolla,” says he, in his middle-eastern accent.  “Did you say ’20 dollars?’,” says I.  “No, 40 dolla, cash, no discounts,” snarls he.  “Not even Good Sam, AARP, AAA, anything?” says I.  “No.” says he.  “And cash.” says he.  So, I paid it, with a mental protest, plotting someway to get even (and I did…)  I walked back across the street to find a spot (“Stay anywhere you can find,” said he.)  The place was a total Shit Hole, like I said above.  A third world country.  Dirty.  Garbage everywhere.  And dog crap (That’s how Charlie and I got even.)  It looked like most of the spots were occupied by (fracking) oil workers (there is a major oil boom going on in Texas.)  We pulled into a spot, leveled the RV and retreated inside until morning.  Took the Glock with us, just in case.

The next morning, we could not get out of there fast enough.

OK, on the road again.  Still in Texas and still heading west on The 10.  Next stop was Van Horn, a dying West Texas town (somewhat reminiscent of the town in the movie, “The Last Picture Show”)  but with a remarkably nice RV Park – clean, friendly and big spaces.  And a nice dog run for the dog.  We headed out to get diesel for the truck and find a place to eat.  Found fuel, but no restaurant.

A day later, STILL in Texas, but FINALLY getting to El Paso and then crossing back into New Mexico.  Wahoo!  We passed through Las Cruces and stopped in Lordsburg.  Now, we usually avoid KOA’s like the plague (they are usually over-priced and under-aesthic’ed), but RV parks in Lordsburg were on the sparse side so we had to opt for this place.  I have to admit we were pleasantly surprised.  Reasonable rate.  Nice size space.  Friendly.  Clean.  OK, we’re happy.  Nearby was Kranberries Family Restaurant (when you see ‘Family’ in the name of a restaurant, it also means ‘no beer.’)  Dinner was pretty blah, with probably the weirdest nacho’s we have ever had: 50 chips-out-of-a-bag and smothered in at least a gallon of genuine Velveeta.  Oh, and 10 pepper slices on top, too.  Dee Dee told me to quit bitching about them and lighten up…it’s probably just a local custom, some sort of Tex/Mex thing.   But, the employees were, as in the custom almost everywhere in Texas, very friendly.

Bob, Carol and Dee Dee - old Modesto friends

Bob, Carol and Dee Dee – old Modesto friends, in Tucson

Back on The 10, headed out of New Mexico, into Arizona.  Passed through Benson (where we stayed with our friends Gary and Debbie a couple of months before, on the way East.)  On to Tucson, were we first headed to an RV park we found on the Inner-Net (and the Inner-Net never lies – never ever.)   Pulled in, drove around, and headed right back out.  It was ghetto.  Found another place near Old Tucson – Desert Trails RV Park.  The owner’s first name was Pericles and he was one terrific guy.  They had ONE spot available (it’s still high-season in the desert) and we got it.  This was a great place – outside of town in the midst of the Sonoran Desert and very peaceful.  Incredible landscapes and scenery.  We loved it.  While there we had a delightful visit with an old Modesto friend, Carol Lancaster-Mingus, who taught Television classes and was a stellar member of the faculty.  Such a great, gracious, lady who showed us around her home town and treated us to an absolutely delightful dinner in a restaurant where we watched the sun set on the Catalina Mountains.  Wonderful evening!

After departing the Tucson area, we were on to Mesa, where we checked into a very high-class RV park, called Mesa Spirit, where we stayed for FREE, courtesy of LaMesa RV, in Mesa.  Here is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the next part of the story:

Just picked up the new RV...leaving the lot at LaMesa RV in Mesa

Just picked up the new RV…leaving the lot at LaMesa RV in Mesa

Just picked up the new RV...leaving the lot at LaMesa RV in Mesa

Just picked up the new RV…leaving the lot at LaMesa RV in Mesa

Our new RV basking in the Arizona sun, a 2015 Class A Winnebago Adventurer

Our new RV basking in the Arizona sun, a 2015 Class A Winnebago Adventurer

Dee Dee waxing the new 'Winnie'

Dee Dee waxing the new ‘Winnie’

We had been talking on-and-off for over a year about possibly trading in our 5th-wheel for a Class A motor home.  While on this trip, we started doing lots of research on what we wanted, and once that was done, finding a dealer with the right price.  We talked to several in Washington and Oregon, but could not come to terms on either the trade-in value and/or the purchase price.  So, we finally settled on LaMesa RV (in Mesa) who gave us a fair deal and treated us well.  Plus, it was the end of the RV season for them, so they were unloading inventory.  So, on Saturday, March 7, (after closing the deal and spending the night in the LaMesa RV parking lot) we moved from one unit to the other; this was a long, stressful day that almost did us in, as it got very warm in the afternoon.  Plus, we had A LOT of stuff.

Our new rig is a Class A 2015 Winnebago Adventurer.  We opted for gas instead of diesel.  Yes, there are many pro’s and con’s regarding this choice, but we just could not justify the huge additional expense of a diesel pusher.  And, as it turns out, we have been very pleased with our choice.  It’s a great coach.

In 1970, when Dee Dee and I were living in a double-wide trailer out in Mesa, I built this sink for my darkroom.  When we sold the place and moved to New York in 1973, I sold it to Neil for $10.  And he still has it...one frugal guy.

In 1970, when Dee Dee and I were living in a double-wide trailer out in Mesa, I built this sink for my darkroom. When we sold the place and moved to New York in 1973, I sold it to my friend, Neil Miller, for $10. And he still has it…one frugal guy.

Neil, in front of some of his multitude of 'stuff', discussing a new group of prints

Neil, in front of some of his multitude of ‘stuff’, discussing a new group of prints

"Neil, I TOLD you not to tell THAT story..."

“Neil, I TOLD you not to tell THAT story…”

After moving all our ‘stuff’ across from the 5th wheel to the Winnie, we drove back to the Mesa Spirit RV Park and stayed another 3 days, once again compliments of LaMesa RV.   While we were based here, we headed down to Gilbert to have lunch with an old friend from my ASU graduate school days, Neil Miller, and his wife, Marilyn.  They have a great place and we really had a great time…especially seeing all of Neil’s ‘stuff.’  What a collector he is.

I spent the next 2 days about as close to death (and hell) as I ever want to come.  Somehow I either got a massive dose of food poisoning, or some kind of really virulent flu.  Whatever it was, it really tore me up for 36 hours.  Not at all pleasant.

At a Mariners game - Bob, Dee Dee, Gary and Debbie

At a Mariners game – Bob, Dee Dee, Gary and Debbie

Moment of the pitch, Mariners vs. Rockies

Moment of the pitch, Mariners vs. Rockies

Us in Peoria at a Mariners vs. Rockies game

Us in Peoria at a Mariners vs. Rockies game

As the ‘disease’ was beginning to wane, we limped back out to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction.  We had stayed there several months before, at the beginning of our trip and enjoyed it so much that we booked in for another 5 days.  Here we once again met up with our Prescott buddies, Debbie and Gary.  We took in a Mariners/Rockies spring training game out in Peoria (it takes 75 minutes, driving 60 miles an hour on the freeways, to get from Mesa to Peoria…the Phoenix area is huge.)  Seattle lost 4-1, but we still had a great time.  The Peoria stadium facility is very nice venue (heck, beer is only $7 for a 16 oz. can) and we chatted with lots of folks who come down here mainly to watch the pre-season games.  Everybody was having a good time.

Cook'n chick'n, watching the sunset on the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park

Cook’n chick’n, watching the sunset on the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park

The end of the day, just after sunset, Superstition Mountains

The end of the day, just after sunset, Superstition Mountains

Well, just as our last stay (in December) at Lost Dutchman was disrupted by a chronic truck problem, this one was no different.   The day after the game, Dee Dee and I were out getting diesel for the pickup (we did not trade this in on new RV) and we got a text message from Gary telling us he was in the hospital.  What the heck is this??!!  Turns out that about 11 PM the night before he started experiencing some chest pain, so he called the paramedics and they came out to get him.  The weird thing is that they were staying right across the road from us and we did not hear a thing!  And there was both an ambulance AND a fire truck!  So, we head right over to the hospital to see him.  He looks good, and is in fine spirits, but they want to do an angiogram to take a look at his heart, so he has to hang out for another day.

The day he was discharged was the same day we had to depart Lost Dutchman State Park and continue heading back home.  So, we worked with the Park to get his stay extended for a few hours to allow him time to get ready to leave.  We got his RV squared away and left.  Turns out that he felt well enough (even after the angiogram) to drive back to Prescott.  Debbie followed in their car.  (We talked with him the next day and he said he was really tired and pretty sore – felt rode hard and put away dirty.)

Dusk, Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction.

Dusk, Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction.

Whew.  Well, we have not given up on Lost Dutchman…as they say, 3rd time’s a charm…

So, we continue west, stopping at this totally cool RV park right on the river in Needles – Fender’s River Road Resort.  We had this HUGE spot with a great view.  Once again, we lucked out and got their last spot, due to a recent cancellation.  This is on our list of good places to stay if we make a return trip in this direction.

The view from our spot at Fender's River's Edge RV Resort.  Quiet place, lots of space and a place for Charlie to take a swim in the Mighty Colorado.

The view from our spot at Fender’s River’s Edge RV Resort. Quiet place, lots of space and a place for Charlie to take a swim in the Mighty Colorado.

By this time, the ‘free’ 1/2 tank of gas that La Mesa RV had given us was pretty much gone, so we headed out in the truck to find a place to re-fuel.  We had heard that gas prices in California were out of line with other states, but imagine our surprise when every gas station in Needles was over $4 per gallon!  We mentioned our dismay to our waitress at dinner (Wagon Wheel Restaurant, great place) and she told us to head back across the river into Arizona where it was about $1/gallon less.  What a difference a mile can make.  Turns out that Needles gas stations (greedy bastards) were an anomaly; the remainder of our gas stops in California were not that far out of line.

Next destination, Bakersfield, at a regular stopping place, the Orange Grove RV Park.  We stayed there for a couple of days to cool our jets (we had an absolutely ‘delightful’ meal at Sizzler…don’t ask why we stopped there…just dumb, I guess.)

(Really) old golfing buddies: Bob, Juan and Bill.  We had a wonderful day playing together again at the Spanos Reserve Course in Lodi

(Really) old golfing buddies: Bob, Juan and Bill. We had a wonderful day playing together again at the Spanos Reserve Course in Lodi

On to Lodi for 2 more days, where we stayed at this fairly nice, but W-A-Y overpriced place, Flag City RV Park, located near the intersection of Highway 12 and The 5.  I guess you could say the best thing about it was the 5 acre fenced dog run; Charlie was in Dog Heaven.  Here Bob met up with 2 really old and good friends and golfing buddies from Modesto Daze, Bill Woodard and Juan Alvarez.  What a great time we all had playing a round at the Spanos Reserve course.  Hard, but fair.  Re-kindled many great memories.  We also had a great dinner with an old water-skiing-and-drinking buddy, Daryl Verkerk, and his new girl friend, a delightful lady and lots of fun.  That was a nostalgic evening of reminiscing about days gone by.

We left Lodi on March 20th and now the ‘end’ is really in sight.  Next stop was Yreka at another funky place that we managed to squeeze into (also on our list of places to skip next time…).  Then on to Albany, Oregon, for a stay at the Blue Ox RV park, a bit hard to find, and sorta cramped spaces, but adequate…except for no dog run at all.

And then, down the home stretch to Silver Lake, where we finally arrived HOME at noon on Sunday, March 22, after a short 3-hour drive.  We made it down the driveway with no problems (I drove the RV all the way back from Mesa, with Dee Dee following in the truck.)  We pulled in and let ‘The Boys’ out to finally be able to run free after being pretty much confined for over 4 months.  They were pretty pleased about that.  The house looked great – just like we had left it.  Thanks to our neighbor, Karson, for checking it a couple of times a week and texting us that things looked good, and to our nephew Stacey and his wife, Lynne, who came down once a month to start the vehicles, water the plants and look things over.

So there you have it, folks.  The end of our 4-month, 12,000+ mile journey all the way to Key West and back.  We stayed at 50 different locations.  What a wonderful, memorable time we had.  We enjoyed sharing our adventures (and mis-adventures) with all of you and hope you had a good – vicarious – experience.  This installment to the blog, Chapter 12, is the last for this trip…but stay tuned.  There will be other travel experiences in our not-too-distant future that we will be sharing with you.  We have already started the preliminary plans for our next trip, which will probably begin around next November 1.  We might even head back to Florida…one never knows…

Following are the ‘Top 46’ most favorite pictures of our journey, since this post was somewhat devoid of visuals (too busy travelling…)

Steve, Big Al, Bob and Bud, long-time golf partners

Steve, Big Al, Bob and Bud, long-time golf partners

Dee Dee with a Rocker after the seeing 'Rock of Ages' in Las Vegas

Dee Dee with a Rocker after the seeing ‘Rock of Ages’ at the Venetian in Las Vegas

Charlie doing his most favorite thing at Lake Mead

Charlie doing his most favorite thing at Lake Mead

 

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash. Death Valley National Park

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash. Death Valley National Park

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Cool looking flowers, near our B & B, Key West, Florida.

Cool looking flowers, near our B & B, Key West, Florida.

Live Oak and palmettos, near the 'Shell Mound' area, Cedar Key, FL.

Live Oak and palmettos, near the ‘Shell Mound’ area, Cedar Key, Florida

Dee Dee and Peggy Sue at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner, near Yermo, CA

Dee Dee and Peggy Sue at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner, near Yermo, CA

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall, Death Valley National Park

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall, Death Valley National Park

Cloud inversion, canyon view, off of Hermit's Rest Road, Grand Canyou South Rim

Cloud inversion, canyon view, off of Hermit’s Rest Road, Grand Canyon South Rim

Giant cow, probably affected by CIA Area 51 'testing' in the 1950's.  Our truck and 5th wheel are there to give it some perspective

Giant cow, probably affected by CIA Area 51 ‘testing’ in the 1950’s. Our truck and 5th wheel are there, parked just a few feet away,  to give it some perspective

Marshall Dylan and Jeckle-The Raven, Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon

Marshall Dylan and Jeckle-The Raven, Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon National Park

Cockatiel, Oasis Bird Sancturary, near Benson, Arizona.  Pretty smart bird who gnawed away part of a protective barrier to get a better view

Cockatiel, Oasis Bird Sancturary, near Benson, Arizona. Pretty smart bird who gnawed away part of a protective barrier to get a better view

Dee Dee and Charlie walking the dunes at White Sand National Monument, New Mexico

Dee Dee and Charlie walking the dunes at White Sand National Monument, New Mexico

Dee Dee and her Boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Dee Dee and her Boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

View of Mexico, the Rio Grande River and Texas, Big Bend National Park.  Look carefully and you can see our 5th wheel in the left center of the image

View of Mexico, the Rio Grande River and Texas, Big Bend National Park. Look carefully and you can see our 5th wheel in the left center of the image

Beach cabanas, Mustang Island State Park, near Corpus Christi, Texas

Beach cabanas, Mustang Island State Park, near Corpus Christi, Texas

Yum yum!  Fried green tomatoes with shrimp sauce, Prelean's Cajun Restaurant, Lafayette, LA

Yum yum! Fried green tomatoes with shrimp sauce, Prelean’s Cajun Restaurant, Lafayette, LA

Two really honest, friendly, guys mooching for bucks, French Quarter

Two really honest, friendly, guys mooching for bucks, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

Bicycles, near Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bicycles, near Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

'Oysters Royal House', Hurricanes and stuffed mushrooms, on the second story street balcony, Royal House, in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

‘Oysters Royal House’, Hurricanes and stuffed mushrooms, on the second story street balcony, Royal House, in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Dee Dee and  her new friend, voodoo shop in the French quarter

Dee Dee and her new friend, voodoo shop in the French quarter

Historic Oak tree with moss, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

Historic Oak tree with moss, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans, Louisiana

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans, Louisiana

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Sunrise, from our spot at thee Ho-Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, Florida.  And it's like this almost every morning.

Sunrise, from our spot at thee Ho-Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, Florida. And it’s like this almost every morning.

Porch at the Sunset RV Park, Cedar Key, Florida

Porch at the Sunset RV Park, Cedar Key, Florida

Giant shell, Pensacola, FL.

Giant shell, Pensacola, Florida

Foam on the beach, near our site at the Ho-Hum RV Park, Carrabelle, Florida

Foam on the beach, near our site at the Ho-Hum RV Park, Carrabelle, Florida

View from our site, Ho-Hum RV Park, Carrabelle, Florida

View from our site, Ho-Hum RV Park, Carrabelle, Florida

Dusk, Carrabelle, Florida

Dusk, Carrabelle, Florida

Live Oaks, near 'Shell Mound,' Cedar Key, Florida

Live Oaks, near ‘Shell Mound,’ Cedar Key, Florida

Giant stone crab, Carrabelle, Florida

Giant stone crab, Carrabelle, Florida

Why did the chicken(s) cross the road?  Key West, Florida

Why did the chicken(s) cross the road? Key West, Florida

Having a Land Shark Beer at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Key West, Florida.

Having a Land Shark Beer at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Key West, Florida.

On air boat tour of the mangroves, Everglades National Park, Florida

On air boat tour of the mangroves, Everglades National Park, Florida

The attack of the giant crustaceans, near Marathon, Florida, in the Keys.

The attack of the giant crustaceans, near Marathon, Florida, in the Keys.

Bog-ass ' gator in sunning himself in the mangroves, Everglades National Park, Florida

Bog-ass ‘ gator in sunning himself in the mangroves, Everglades National Park, Florida

Key West - the end, and the beginning - of the trail for us.

Key West – the end, and the beginning – of the trail for us.

Our digs at the Chokoloskee RV Park, in Florida.

Our digs at the Chokoloskee RV Park, in Florida.

Palm trees on the shore at Chokoloskee RV Park, Florida

Palm trees on the shore at Chokoloskee RV Park, Florida

(Really) old golfing buddies: Bob, Juan and Bill.  We had a wonderful day playing together again at the Spanos Reserve Course in Lodi

(Really) old golfing buddies: Bob, Juan and Bill. We had a wonderful day playing together again at the Spanos Reserve Course in Lodi

Us, in the a mangrove tunnel, Everglades National Park, Florida

Us, in the a mangrove tunnel, Everglades National Park, Florida

 

All the best to each of you,

 

Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan

Leaving Arizona, Headed To Texas!

Point of Rocks RV Park, between Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona

Point of Rocks RV Park, between Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona

The last installment of the blog found us at the Point of Rocks RV park, a delightful, friendly and beautiful place located between Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona.  This unique place is nestled among large boulders.  The spaces are generous and there is lots of privacy.  Point of Rocks is an older park and it’s age is showing somewhat, but still and all, it’s a very cool place.

Debbie, Gary, Dee Dee and Thee Bob at an excellent post-Thanksgiving, Pre-Christmas turkey dinner prepared by Debbie.

Debbie, Gary, Dee Dee and The Bob at an excellent post-Thanksgiving, Pre-Christmas turkey dinner prepared by Debbie.

As usual, we had a great time visiting our good friends Gary and Debbie Paulson.  Had a nice post-Thanksgiving-Pre-Christmas turkey dinner at their place.  Also got to visit their latest land acquisition, a nice acre of land way out in the county, where they plan to build their teeny-weeny retirement home.

I mentioned in the previous post that the check engine light on our truck came on as we were pulling up the long hill in I-40, after departing Bullhead City, AZ.  We took it into the Dodge dealer in Prescott who did their best to get it fixed, but they were constrained by factory procedures.  Here is what we had to go through:

First trip to the dealer – they re-flashed the ROM.  That fix lasted about day.

Second trip to the dealer – they replaced a wiring harness.  That fix lasted about an hour.

Third trip to the dealer – they replaced the oxygen sensors.  That last about 3 hours. As we were leaving town, on our way to Apache Junction and Lost Dutchman State Park, it came on again. So, we spent almost 2 entire days, and a total of 3 trips back to the dealership.

View of Superstition Mountain from our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park

View of Superstition Mountain from our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park

Impending blooms, cholla cactus, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Impending blooms, cholla cactus, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Sunrise silhouettes Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Sunrise silhouettes Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Desert detail, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Desert detail, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Storm clouds over Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Storm clouds over Superstition Mountain, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Desert scene, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Desert scene, Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Every Arizona State Park we have visited has been excellent, and Lost Dutchman is no exception.  It’s a magnificent place, located at the very foot of the Superstition Mountains.  Large spaces, great views and a very friendly staff, largely consisting of volunteers.  We spent 3 days there and I had a great visit with an old ASU graduate school buddy, Neil Miller, who showed up in his vintage Morgan, a very cool automobile.  We would have like to have spent more time exploring the area, but, as outlined above, the truck check engine light continued to plague us.  I managed to get a local Dodge dealer to squeeze us in on a Friday morning, and act of pure kindness on their part since their service department was totally maxed out.  I showed up at 8 AM and they told me that it should be fixed by noon.  Noon came and I was told 3 PM as they were having a hard time diagnosing the problem.  3 PM came and went.  Finally, at 5:45 PM it was completed.  We had to spend the entire day at the dealership waiting, instead of being out walking the trails of Superstition Mountain.  Turns out the issue was a wire running to a sending module (which they also replaced) to an oxygen sensor  was not properly seated.  They blamed it on the Prescott dealer.  Anyhow, they seemed to have fixed the issue, as we have not seen the light come back on. (Knock on wood.)  Even though we had to miss a lot of Lost Dutchman SP and the surrounding area, we have already booked another 5 days in March (where are going to meet up with Gary and Debbie) and plan to do lots of exploring.  This is really a very cool place.

OK then.  From Lost Dutchman State Park we headed south to Benson, AZ., to meet up with our friends Gary and Debbie, and their brand shiney, new, spiffy, very cool  Winnebago motorhome.  And, just as we travel with our guys, Charlie-the-dog and Dylan-the-cat, they bring their African Gray parrot, Pepper – big cage and all.  We all stayed at this nice RV park, Cochise Terrace, which sits up on a hill, overlooking the town.  Nice views and plenty of space for the dog to run and the cat to skulk around.  We did a couple of day trips, the first to Kartchner Caverns State Park, where there are a series of ‘live’ caves (meaning that water is still present, causing features in the caves to continue growing.)  Kartchner Caverns (named after the original land owners) is very well protected; the groups that travel through them are kept small – our tour to the ‘Big Room’ was limited to 15 people.  They protect the delicate cave infrastructure in several ways: to enter the caves you pass through 3 airlocks and a ‘mist bath’ to minimize disbursement of lint.  This Arizona State Park is well managed and the tour is well worth the $23/person admission.  And, if we had the whole thing to do over again, we would have stayed at the campground in the Park.  Great views and plenty of space.  Maybe next time.

Gary, Dee Dee and Debbie with our very knowledgeable bird tour guide at the Oasis Bird Sanctuary north of Benson, Arizona.  She knew the name of almost every one of the 850-plus birds located there.  No kidding.

Gary, Dee Dee and Debbie with our very knowledgeable bird tour guide at the Oasis Bird Sanctuary north of Benson, Arizona. She knew the name of almost every one of the 850-plus birds located there. No kidding.

Dee Dee with our good friends, Gary and Debbie, at the entrance to the Oasis Bird Sanctuary, north of Benson, Arizona

Dee Dee with our good friends, Gary and Debbie, at the entrance to the Oasis Bird Sanctuary, north of Benson, Arizona

Cockatiel, Oasis Bird Sancturary, near Benson, Arizona.  Pretty smart bird who gnawed away part of a protective barrier to get a better view

Cockatiel, Oasis Bird Sancturary, near Benson, Arizona. Pretty smart bird who gnawed away part of a protective barrier to get a better view

Bright red Macaw, Oasis Bird Sanctuary, near Benson, Arizona

Bright red Macaw, Oasis Bird Sanctuary, near Benson, Arizona

Dee Dee and African Gray parrot, Oasis Bird Sanctuary, near Benson, Arizona

Dee Dee and African Gray parrot, Oasis Bird Sanctuary, near Benson, Arizona

Our second trip was (way) out to the Oasis Bird Sanctuary, which can be found about 30 miles north of Benson; the last 7 miles of the trip are on a dirt road.   This is a very cool place that houses over 850 exotic birds.  They end up here because they were abandoned by their owners (dick heads), caught by different Animal Control agencies, or just given up by their owners.  Also, this is the last stop for all the birds, many of whom can live for more than 50 years.  They are guaranteed a good home for the remainder of their life.  Although they get requests almost every day to adopt birds, they can only take in about 20 per year.  This is an amazing place that is composed of many aviaries sitting on several acres, well worth the visit.  It operates totally on donations from a variety of sources.  And, you must schedule your visit in advance.  They spent about 3 hours with us and we got to walk right into most of the aviaries.  What a great experience.  And, you have no idea how NOISEY birds can be.  After the tour, a donation is expected – they tell you this in advance. (Gary gave them the equivalent of $25/person.)  Finally, you must make arrangements in advance for a tour…you can’t just show up.

Dee Dee and her boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Dee Dee and her boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Dee Dee trying on hats at a store in Tombstone, Arizona.  A sign next to the hats said, "Hats are for buying, not for picture taking."  Guess I musta missed it.

Dee Dee trying on hats at a store in Tombstone, Arizona. A sign next to the hats read, “Hats are for buying, not for picture taking.” Guess I musta missed it.

After Gary and Debbie departed so Gary could go back to work (sucker!), we took another day trip down to Tombstone, about 25 miles south of Benson.  Pretty much what you might expect – touristy to a large extent, but still fun to walk around.  Big Nose Kate’s Saloon is pretty neat inside.  One thing definitely worth a visit is the old Cochise County Courthouse, which has been converted to an excellent museum.  Here, you get a real sense of what life was like when the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walked the streets.

Dunes, White Sands National Recreation Area

Dunes, White Sands National Recreation Area

Dune detail, White Sand National Recreation Area

Dune detail, White Sand National Recreation Area

Metals walkway over protected area, White Sands National Monument

Metals walkway over protected area, White Sands National Monument

Dee Dee and Charlie walking the dunes at White Sand National Monument, New Mexico

Dee Dee and Charlie walking the dunes at White Sand National Monument, New Mexico

Charlie's been here.  White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Charlie’s been here. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

From Benson, we head off to Las Cruces, New Mexico for a few days.  Las Cruces is primarily a military town, supported by the White Sands Missile Range.  It’s a very friendly, historic and rapidly growing area.  It also is the location of the worst Denny’s Restaurant on the planet.  No kidding.  Barf City.  It’s as if they actually try to provide the customer with world-class crappy service, long waits, cold food, botched orders, luke warm coffee and no utensils.  No Kidding.  (And we are actually Denny’s fans.)   To counter this experience, on Christmas Day we found another Denny’s in town (the ONLY restaurant in the area that was open); it was OK, so Denny’s partially redeemed themselves.

We also drove out to White Sands National Monument for the day.  Great wave-like dunes of sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The sand really is pure white and there is a nice drive right through the dunes.  Despite the crowds, we easily found places where you could walk where there were no other people and no footprints.

Merry Christmas from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Merry Christmas from Las Cruces, New Mexico

After Las Cruces, we headed down I-90 for Alpine, Texas, via El Paso.  It was cold and spitting snow as we passed through town.  Once we cleared El Paso, the real space of Texas started to reveal itself.  Texas is BIG, and you can really feel it.  It’s a long way from anything to anywhere.  We really like Texas.  One the way to Alpine you pass through Marfa, known for the fake Prada storefront just west of town.  It’s formality and shape stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding prairie.  We would have shared a picture of it with you, but by the time we passed it there was no room to pullover.  Bummer.

One of the notable features when you are entering Alpine is the old (but still active) railroad overpass on I-90.  Even though I-90 is a main thoroughfare, the clearance of the bridge is only about 13’ 4”.  The height of our 5th wheel is also 13’4”, so we decided not to risk and to take a well-traveled detour around it.  The locals tell a story of the time a large semi-truck/trailer passed under and didn’t quite make it.  Almost everyone in town showed up with their lawn chairs to watch as they let the air of the tires to lower the vehicle enough to clear.  Wahooo!

We stayed at this place called the Lost Alaskan RV Park, about a mile north of town.  One of the very best places we have stayed so far.  Extremely friendly and very spacious.  With a great fenced dog run, so it rates high on Charlie’s list as well.  It seems as if everyone in Texas we have met so far seems genuinely happy to meet you.  What a place.

After Alpine, we headed south to Big Bend National Park, located at the ‘Big Bend’ of the Rio Grande River between Texas and Mexico.  Several friends who are considering traveling to Big Bend NP have asked us for our opinion of the place, so here ya go…

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Detail, prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Detail, prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend is an immense and magnificent place.  ‘Spectacular’ is a fitting adjective.  Amazing, rugged mountains and beautiful desert.  Very remote in many ways (Alpine and Sanderson, about 100 miles away, are the closest towns.)  There is a lot to see and do in this place, but be prepared to drive a long way to anything to see stuff.  OK, that’s the ‘up’ side.  The downside (at least for some people) is that it’s an older National Park that has not really been upgraded for contemporary RV’s (some of you might see that as a positive.)  There are several campgrounds, but they are all geared for tent campers or very small RV’s – like under 24’ LOA.  Also, be prepared to dry camp (not really a bid deal – there are places to fill up with water before you enter the campgrounds) as none of the campgrounds have any services at the sites, except for one commercial operation located at the south end of the park in Rio Grande Village; it’s a total joke and we suggest avoiding it.  If you have ever stayed at an RV park in Las Vegas (known for cramming rigs into very small spaces), then you be right at home in this place.  It’s basically a converted parking lot and extremely narrow.  We drove through it and there was barely room even for our truck to pass through.  It’s a wonderment how any of the RV’s in there (the place was packed) got in there.

View of Mexico, the Rio Grande River and Texas.  Look carefully and you can see our 5th wheel in the left center of the image

View of Mexico, the Rio Grande River and Texas. Look carefully and you can see our 5th wheel in the lower right center of the image

Mexicans cross the Rio Grand and leave this little volunteer 'stores' and many locations along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park.

Mexicans cross the Rio Grand and leave these little volunteer souvenir ‘stores’ at many locations along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park.

Mexican cowboy crossing the Rio Grand to check on his souvenir sales

Mexican cowboy crossing the Rio Grand to check on his souvenir sales

Mexican cowboy who crossed the river on his magnificent palomino

Mexican cowboy who crossed the river on his magnificent palomino

Waxy cactus (I forget the real name) used for making candles, cosmetics, etc.  Big Bend National Park, Texas

Waxy cactus (I forget the real name) used for making candles, cosmetics, etc. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Reed detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Reed detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

We stayed at the main campground at the south end of the park in Rio Grande Village.  Beautiful sites, lots of trees and space in between.  But, only about 3-4 of them can accommodate RV’s over 30’ in length.  If you plan to go here, it’s imperative that you make a reservation on-line.  (If you want a suggestion as to which sites are the largest, feel free to contact us and we will give you a recommendation.)  We were lucky and had reserved a site that would fit us, but even then getting in was a bit of a struggle.  Also of note is a Texas State Park immediately to the west, and adjacent to, Big Bend National Park.   Dee Dee talked to a guy who had been there and was told the accommodations there were better.  Something to look into for next time.

We cut our visit to Big Bend National Park short for two reasons:  there was a nasty weather front moving in; getting out of there for our next destination, Del Rio, also on the Rio Grande/Mexico border, might have been problematic.  But perhaps the biggest reason was the mass of humanity that invaded the Park for the Christmas/New Year’s break.  There were just too many people; they were everywhere you went.  Traffic was awful.  And speaking of traffic, we encountered numerous DWA’s who really should not be allowed anywhere near a car or highway.  No kidding.

So, three days into our planned 6 day stay we left for Del Rio, Texas.  And a good thing, too, as we were literally about 3 hours ahead of freezing rain and impassible (several were closed) roads.  We stayed at this place called Broke Mill RV park.  Friendly and adequate, but about 6 miles from town.  Del Rio is actually a pretty big place (it has a super Walmart, so there ya go…)  You can take a cab across the border to Ciudad Acuna, but the guy who ran the RV park said it’s hardly worth the visit because ‘there was nothing really there.’  So we decided to skip it.  I forgot to mention (above) that as we were leaving Big Bend NP I started to feel sort of crappy.  Well, once we hit Del Rio, the flu set in pretty good.  I have not been really ‘flu sick’ in years, so this was pretty surprising.  So, most of our 4 days in Del Rio were spent with me being sick.  And, I was still ill as we packed up and headed for San Antonio, where I got worse with horrible congestion and a severe cough (but, the accompanying hallucinations were pretty good.)   As of today (January 6), I think I am on the road to recovery.  Dee Dee is fine – let’s just hope I have not passed this nasty thing on to her.

And so this chapter ends.  Stay tuned for the next installment…