Posted on March 15, 2017
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.
Category: 2016-2017 Travels Tagged: Aguereberry Point, Beer, Big Pine, Butte Valley, Charlie, Cottonwood Canyon, Dante's View, Death Valley, Dylan, Eureka Dunes, flash flood, flood, Fremont Street, Furnace Creek, Furnace Creek Inn, Gauvreau, golf, Grapevine Canyon, Grapevine Road, Highway 190, Hunter Mountain, Landscape, Las Vegas, Marble Canyon, National Park Service, Nevada, Owens Valley, Photographs, Photography, playa, Racetrack Playa, Saguaro, Scotty's Castle, slot canyon, Stop Rock, Stove Pipe Wells, Teakettle Junction, Texas Springs, The Grandstand, Warm Springs Road
Posted on February 25, 2016
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.)
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!
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.)
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.)
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!
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…
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.
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!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Beach, Benson, Big Bend National Park, Cactus, Charlie, Cholla, Dirt Mall, Dylan, Gauvreau, golf, Heceta Beach, Jack Nicklaus, KOA, Lukeville, Malecon, Mayan Palaca, Mexico, Mr. Fish, Ocean, Photographs, Photography, Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Rey Sol, RV, Saguaro, sand dollar, Sonoyta, Waves
Posted on February 8, 2016
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.
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, Benson, Bisbee, Cactus, Charlie, Cholla, Dateland, Douglas, Dylan, Gauvreau, golf, KOA, Lafayette, Lordsberg, Old Tucson, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Photographs, Photography, Puerto Penasco, Roper Lake State Park, Safford, Saguaro, Teddy Bear Cholla, Tucson, Walmart
Posted on January 9, 2016
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:
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!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Apache Junction, Benson, Cactus, Charlie, Chiricahua, Douglas, Dylan, golf, Gunfight, Kartchner Caverns, Lost Dutchman State Park, Nogales, OK Corral, Old Tucson, Photographs, Photography, Pima Air and Space, Saguaro, Titan Missile, Tombstone, Tuscon, war head
Posted on December 25, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
OK…just one more thing, my New Year’s Resolutions:
These are things I resolve NOT to do in 2016 –
See you all next year!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Apache Junction, bunny, Cactus, Charlie, Cholla, Christmas Trees, Church of the Rocks, Cottonwood, Dead Horse Ranch, dusk, Dylan, Gauvreau, golf, hiking, Jerome, Landscape, Las Vegas, Lost Dutchman State Park, martini, Nevada, Oak Creek Canyon, Palo Verde, panorama, Photographs, Photography, quail, rain storm, Saguaro, Sedona, Superstitution Mountain
Posted on December 6, 2015
Our last exciting chapter left us still in the depths of Death Valley National Park, known to many at ‘The Magical Place.’ Gary whipped up a great Walmart Special turkey breast in his convection microwave (it was remarkably good) and Dee Dee made smashed potatoes (originals from our garden), gravy, peas (also from our garden) and a salad. Wahoo. I brought the wine and the Bloody Mary’s and the screwdrivers and the string cheese. The weather cooperated and the afternoon was delightful; we ate outdoors on a picnic table, next to a roaring fire. Lots-o-fun.
We took a day trip up to Beatty, Nevada, where we (once again) raided the Beatty Nut and Candy Company, and then had a really fine lunch at the little diner where we had eaten several times before. I should qualify this by saying that at one time it WAS a really good Mexican restaurant, then changed hands and went all to hell, then, about 4 years ago, a new family took it over and it is now back to being beyond good – and they still serve good Mexican food. Remarkable. Great cook, great service. Highly recommend; it’s located at the ‘Y’ headed south on Highway 95, just on the edge of town (sorta across from the newer RV park.)
We also stopped at Rhyolyte, a defunct mining town that was home to over 8,000 people in the early part of the 20th century. It pretty much closed down after the 1908-1910 financial crash. It had several banks, a Union Hall, train station, churches, assy offices, many restaurants and the requisite number of bustling brothels. It’s also home to a very intact ‘bottle house’ that has been successfully restored after being ravaged by mindless vandals over the years. The first time I visited it (the bottle house) was in 1969, in the middle of winter, on a road trip with 2 hippie buddies (Jim Barnaby and Jim Warren) from Ellensburg, WA to Tempe, AZ, and back in my 1964-push-button-shifting-transmission-4-door Dodge – investigating ASU as a possible graduate school (ended up going there.) Anyhow, in 1969 one could walk right up to it and it was is fine condition; today, it’s surrounded by a very high fence.
Spent another day driving up to Ubehebe Crater, near the north end of Death Valley, not too far from Mesquite Springs Campground. There were an amazing number of people there – the parking lot on the west side was totally full of cars, surprising since it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and most people had pretty much headed for home. One reason might be that Scotty’s Castle (which is just a few miles away) was completely closed due to the October floods, so perhaps people just diverted there.
On Monday, November 30, after spending two delightful weeks in Death Valley, we headed up the long grade through Furnace Creek Wash – Highway 190 – and made our way to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, after making that usual obligatory stop at the Area 51 Alien Gas Station on Highway 95.
So, as I type this missive, we are just wrapping up a week’s stay here at Sam’s. We really like this place and have stayed here at least 5 times in the past (we have also stayed at Main Street Station, near Fremont Street and in North Las Vegas – both areas we now avoid like the plague. Dangerous, dirty, crime-ridden and to be avoided.)
Sam’s Town: it’s been fun – cheap drinks, a multiplex theatre complex, great buffet, many good restaurants and free shuttle to both The Strip and Fremont Street. We had one both disappointing and yet exceptional evening: We bought tickets months ago to a show called “Legends”, at the Flamingo Hotel on The Strip , an evening that features impersonators of performing ‘Legends.’ We had front row seats – pretty cool except the chairs were like the kind you would find at a crappy buffet restaurant. The performances were just OK, (Michael Jackson, Madona, Taylor Swift (gag) and Frank Sinatra (yea).) What was not cool was that they also advertised Elvis and Celine Dion – both no-shows. We also paid for a dinner as part of the ticket…but they neglected to tell us the restaurant was closed that day – even though we called to check a few days in advance and were told it was open. No refund was offered (we did not even bother asking we were so pissed-off.) So, the evening semi-sucked – we have actually been to a few free cabaret shows that have been better. Not a total loss, but a big disappointment. (I went online and gave them a scathing review…check it out at http://legendsinconcert.com – assuming they have the guts to post it.) One thing worth mentioning is that we have seen several other big-ticket shows over the years and have always been treated like royalty. No more Flamingo for us.
HOWEVER, after the disappointing show, that same evening we decided to go to our most favorite place in Las Vegas, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. WOW! DOUBLE WOW! It was the best time we have EVER had there – by far (and we must have been there at least 4-5 times previously.) We had the best table in the house – really – and were right in the middle of the evening show. AMAZING! The performers were friendly and spent time talking with us – especially Adrian, the beautiful lady who comes down the slide and drops into the giant blender (right next to our table). She was incredibly gracious and so humble; must have spent about 5 minutes chatting with us (as she toweled off.) The drinks were good and quite potent. Dinner was acceptable.
So, a crappy event was balanced with an amazing one. See, good things can happen to good people.
We did a few other things while in the Las Vegas area: drove down to Lake Mead to take Charlie swimming, had lunch in Boulder City at a place we have enjoyed several times previously, drove across Boulder Dam, met some interesting people, found a new and very cool RV park (amazing and right on the lake.)
We spent a fun evening at Fremont Street, a place we never tire of visiting. Stopped at the Whiskey Licker Bar – a favorite of ours – and got the usual super-cheep, super-strength drinks. We tried to get on the new ZIP line that runs the 6-block length of Fremont, but the wait was over 5 hours, so (regretfully) we had to pass. Next time we will either try to get our tickets on-line or buy them sooner. If you are interested, as of this date they are $40 for the 90 second – or so – ride, but worth it (at least in our opinion).
You will note that in this edition of the blog there are lots of pictures of interesting people we had the pleasure of meeting during this leg of the trip. All of the shots were done with my iPhone; all I did was say to them, “Can I take your picture?” I was never turned town. Some asked “Why me?” My explanation was always “Souvenir of our trip; I like your looks.” All were flattered and very gracious.
Anyhow, enough words for now. Gotta go as the 2-for-1 Happy Hour is starting at The Waterfall in Sam’s…can’t be late – it only lasts for 2 hours with no limit on drinks!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Alien, Area 51, Beatty, Boulder Dam, Boulder Highway, Casino, Charlie, Death Valley, Dylan, Flamingo, Fremont Street, Furnace Creek, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Hoover Dam, Jimmy Buffet, KOA, Landscape, Las Vegas, Legends, Margaritaville, Michael Jackson, Nevada, Photographs, Photography, Sam's Town, Sinatra, Stove Pipe Wells, Tillman Bridge, ZIP line
Posted on November 27, 2015
So, one of the problems with blogging while travelling is having to deal with crappy connections to the Inner-Net. I sit here at the Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley. It’s the Day-After-Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful for being here with Dee Dee and our crazy friend, Gary (whose back has gone out – he is really suffering, poor guy.) What I am not thankful for is the fact that every man, woman and child in the western United States is emailing, texting, browsing on their phones, most using Verizon. Access to the Inner-Net is non-existent…the Personal Hot Spot on my iPhone has puked… And, the camp ground here is packed with Thanksgiving visitors.
OK, enough whining!
I actually started writing this chapter two days ago, but suffered a brain-fart, probably due to that Bloody Mary I decided was an important element of the creative writing process. Maybe I can become a vegan and live solely on BM’s? Or not.
I have posted a few more photos of our Farabee jeep-rental travels; Titus Canyon (this was our 3rd trip through…that’s enough for a long while), Cottonwood Canyon (out of Stove Pipe Wells) and up Telegraph Canyon (near the Mesquite Dunes). Lots of fun…but made for a loooong day. I think everyone had a good time. BTW, John, Gary told me I had to mention your name in this post…so I did.)
We continue to delight in the wonders of Death Valley, sometimes travelling around, sometimes just sit’n and think’n. Except for Gary, who is always moving, moving, moving – we keep telling him his is now RETIRED and to lighten up. I think he is trying…but it’s a slow process for him. He keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure. We encourage him to relax, but our advice falls on deaf ears.
Last Sunday, we ventured over to Pahrump (sometimes pronounced ‘Pa-Dump’) where we blew in for shopping at their Super Walmart – mainly to buy ice and vodka for our Bloody Mary’s. I swear that this is the store where all those Inner-Net Walmart photographs come from! It was a visual wonderland. Gas in Pahrump was $2/gallon for regular, so we were happy about that.
I have enjoyed playing crappy golf at the Furnace Creek Golf Course. The course is good…I am not. Both times I have played I have been by myself, which is sorta fun. I have seen the occasional other hacker out there, but not many. No coyotes, either…which is unusual. Maybe they all headed up to Pahrump to visit their relatives for Thanksgiving.
On Tuesday (November 24th) we headed up over Towne’s Pass, across the Panamint Valley, up the other side towards the Owens Valley. It was a beautiful drive. We stopped off at Father Crowley Point, which has one of the more spectacular views of the Panamint Valley. Lots of tourists…just like us, I guess. While we were there, the United States Government (‘your tax dollars at work’) treated us to an absolutely spectacular air show. The mountainous terrain here is a training ground for fighter pilots. A couple of jets came blasting up the canyon in front of us, at a very low altitude, several times. On their last pass they exited the canyon right in front of us and climbed straight up doing spins and wing-overs, and flying upside down. Wow! The noise literally shook your rib cage. We had the feeling the show was just for us…and I bet it was. What a thrill.
On the way back from Fr. Crowley Point we stopped off at the Panamint Springs Diner for a beer and lunch. Still the great place we remember from our past 3-4 visits there. Panamint Springs Resort is in Death Valley National Park, but it’s an ‘island’ of private land, family owned. There is the restaurant, an RV park and a gas station ($5.50 for regular, but it’s the only gas for about 100 miles in either direction, so they sorta gotcha.).
As we departed Panamint Springs, the wind really started to howl. It was blowing so hard across the Panamint Valley that visibility dropped to zero and the road was almost impossible to see. The cross-winds were at least 60 MPH, and we were worried that the blowing sand and pebbles were going to pit the paint on the car. (Not the case, fortunately.) Once we started ascending Towne’s Pass again, the wind seemed to abate, but by the time we got back to Furnace Creek it was still blowing like Hell. Tents flying through the air. People running around trying to find all of their stuff that had taken flight. We had packed up pretty good before we left, but even so, a lot of our stuff was scattered around. We managed to find all of it…some was 3 campsites over.
The high winds lasted until about 4 the next morning and pretty much cleared out about 50% of the campground. We don’t know where they all went at 10 PM, but we assume either Pahrump or Las Vegas motels/hotels as all the lodging here was pretty full. And once again, we had to pull in our slide-outs as it was blowing so hard. Charlie and Marshall Dylan were pretty freaked out by all the noise.
We had a nice visit with our good friend, Shellye, who is a Ranger here in the Park. She is the one who hired us back in 2010 when we worked as Campground Hosts in Stove Pipe Wells. Shellye is a real hoot and fun to be around…and extremely knowledgeable about Death Valley. We always look forward to these visits with her.
So, there ya go, folks. A lot less words than last time. Enjoy the pictures. We are here for a few more daze, then off to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas for a week. One of our favorite spots. But all that is the next chapter…
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Badwater, camping, Charlie, Cottowood Canyon, Death Valley, Dylan, Farabee Jeep Rentals, Father Crowley Point, Furnace Creek, Furnace Creek Inn, Gauvreau, golf, jet plane, Landscape, Photographs, Photography, Raven, Stove Pipe Wells, Thanksgiving, Titus Canyon
Posted on November 20, 2015
Welcome to the first installment the blog chronicling our travels this winter season. If all goes as expected (and it usually never does…) we hope to post something about every 10 days or so, but that largely depends on where we are and the Wi-Fi connection situation. Most of the time, the Wi-Fi where we stay sucks, or is non-existent. Usually not a big problem as I can use the personal hotspot on my iPhone…but then I have to have some sort of signal from Verizon, usually ‘3 dots’ or more.
I post the blog text and photographs using some really elegant blog software known as WordPress. (You will see their logo at the very bottom of all the posts.) My usual process is to write the text in Microsoft Word, edit, spell-check, then upload it to a WordPress ‘storage’ area. Next, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit all the photographs that you see. I usually start with a 300-400, then cull that down to about 75-100, then cull again to get it to about 25-50, give or take. Before I upload those images, I watermark them with a copyright, then export them into Adobe Photoshop for some post-processing (color and contrast correction, some other ‘tweaking and then file compression), and finally upload them into WordPress ‘storage’ as well. Finally, I put it all together into a chapter, ‘tweak it a bit more, and, finally, post it. Posting it means that an announcement hits Facebook and, for those of you have email subscriptions, the installment is delivered to your email box.
All of this usually takes anywhere from 8-16 hours. But that’s OK…’cuz I love you guys…
Oh, and just one more thing…
Those of you who know me (and for those of you who don’t…) most of what I write here is somewhat the truth. Some of it is truth as I see it. And the rest of it is pretty much BS. Hay, it’s my blog.
OK, no more things.
It took us about 6 easy weeks to prepare for this trip; Dee Dee is very organized and makes lots of lists. So, getting ready to depart is pretty stress-free. Usually. In general, we have to shut the house down for the winter. This includes arming our very extensive security system, which we can monitor from our iPhones; we can view our place using several security cameras around the property. We also have a neighbor kid who keeps an eye on things (he is heavily armed…), as well as a few others who stop by on random occasions.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang. It was the great people at the Animal Rescue Shelter in Amargosa, California. This was the place where we got (rescued) Charlie back in 2010, when he was about 4 years old. Anyhow, it turns out that Charlie had another brother who had led a pretty tough life. He had been in and out of shelters (jail) and homes for the past 5 years. Lots of street fights. He had finally ended up in back in Amargosa. Anyhow, the Shelter people needed a place to foster care him for a short time while they tried to find him a new home. Could we please take him for a while?
I explained that we were getting ready to hit the road a while and, regretfully, could not do it. Well, it turns out that “Taco” (that’s his name) is a pretty good independent watch dog and could survive pretty much on his own at our place. Not a bad idea as it would certainly complement our security system. All he needed was a blanket to sleep on, and some food and water.
So, we agreed. They stuck him on a plane and shipped him up to us. After a tearful, bark-ridden reunion with Charlie, and a property orientation (guided by Charlie), we departed, leaving Taco in charge of things. It was a reassuring feeling knowing we had a constant canine presence. The Shelter people agreed to come and get him after a few months, so the whole deal worked out for everyone involved.
After a few days delay getting all this done, once again we were off…after we found Charlie, who decided that running deer through our woods was more exciting than leaving with us…
Day One of our travels ended after about a 225 mile drive to Arlington, Oregon, a little town on the Columbia River. We stayed at tiny RV park run by the City of Arlington. It only had about 10 spots, and shared the area with a grain storage facility. Also, and this was pretty cool, it had its set of train tracks, with its very own freight train that ran back-and-forth about every 15 minutes, sounding a whistle at a near-by intersection. Wahoo! A great way to nod off to no-sleep. Anyhow, we had driven by this place for years and had always wanted to stop (at least I did.) So we did. Once.
Next stop was Caldwell (near Boise), Idaho, where we stopped at the Country Corners RV Park, a place we stayed a couple of years ago. New owners, very friendly and very accommodating.
Still trucking along, our next stop was supposed to be Arco, Idaho, where we were going to spend some time at Craters of the Moon. Well, that got kyboshed when we ran into heavy snow on the way there. We chickened out and discontinued this route. We swung “The Boat” around and headed back down to the freeway (still Highway 84) and high-tailed it for Fort Hall, Idaho (near Blackfoot.)
The RV park were we stayed is on the Shoshone/Bannock Reservation, adjacent to a casino (slots only) and a pretty good size hotel…all of this seemingly in the middle of almost nowhere. The RV park as good one – clean, quiet and empty. When we pulled in it was still snowing pretty good, but it abated pretty quickly after that.
We spent the next 6 days there, the first of which we drove about 60 miles back up to Arco, ID, gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument. This is a very cool, visually rich, environment. And cold, very cold. We spent some time in the Visitors Center, and then walked the single trail that was open, as they were in the process of closing most of the place up for the winter. We also took a look at the campground – a good one, but older and designed mainly for tent campers.
Craters of the Moon is a place worthy of more time visiting and we would definitely go back again…when it’s a tad warmer.
The rest of our time in the area was spent up in Blackfoot, where we visited Dee Dee’s niece, Jennifer, her husband, Nick (here comes da Judge…) and their two delightful girls, Sami and Shea. Charlie loves these kids and they love him right back. Anyhow, they put up with our several visits and showed us a great time. Terrific folks and easy to be around. Bob and Nick played a round at the Blackfoot Golf Course (had to wait for the frost to melt off the greens). Dee Dee and Charlie entertained The Girls. Lots of fun.
November 9 found us in Wells, Nevada. Cold, snowy, but with clear roads all the way from Fort Hall. Not much in Wells to speak of. The folks at the Angel Lake RV Park were very friendly and helpful. We used their showers instead of ours and were impressed. Eternal hot water and great pressure.
Next day we made the relatively short drive (175 miles) down Highway 93 to Ely, Nevada. The day before they had over 14” of snow and the roads were still somewhat clogged. We stayed at a KOA about 3 miles south of town. The road in was a bit of a challenge, but we made it in OK. The maintenance guy had to go ahead of us to snowplow spot clear.
The lady in the KOA office told us about a local casino that would pick you up in a shuttle, and their restaurant supposedly (and it really did) had a great prime rib dinner, so we decided to go for it. They picked us up in a stretch LIMO and were super nice. Dinner was really pretty good (for casino food) and, because of this, I decided that I needed to contribute $75 to their Gamblers Relief Fund. Interestingly there are only two “live” blackjack tables in the entire town of Ely; all the rest of the casinos are entirely slots. Something to do with Nevada and Federal gaming laws. The upside of this downside was that we won ‘BIG’ on a slot machine.
We stayed in Ely for 2 days, waiting for the road going West, Highway 6, to clear of snow. The first night there the temperature dropped to 3 degrees. It was so cold that our propane regulators froze up, so we had no gas heat. We had to depend on the two 1500 watt electric heaters we carry, which could barely keep up. The next morning we drove into town and picked up another (third) heater, as well as some 60 watt light bulbs that we rigged up to warm the 2 gas regulators and keep them from freezing up. That night, we had a heat wave – it got clear up to 6 degrees! Everything worked like a charm. We had wonderful gas heat again.
After our 2 days in Ely, we headed down Highway 6 – a magnificent, scenic drive. And lonely. I swear, and no BS, that we saw less than 10 cars over the 150 miles that we drove on this road. And no services…hell, there was almost nothing but scenery. Delightful.
We finally hit Tonopah (a town that you want to pass through as quickly as possible), where we connected up with Highway 95, that took us through Goldfield (a really cool old mining town…Neil Miller would go ape in this place; it’s a visual smorgasbord.) From there it was just a short 65 mile jaunt down the hill to Beatty, Nevada, where we stayed at one of our favorite places, the Beatty RV Park…”always $25 per nite,” and it really has been for years. We have stopped there at least 5 times before and always enjoyed the hospitality of our kind host, Mike.
We spent a couple of days in Beatty where we visited their great candy store (at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company); we stocked up on sugar and “Really Good” beef jerky. We had a beer and local bar where we encountered their local bar dog, a not-so-friendly-critter…had some junk yard stuff in him. While we were still there sucking down $3.50 Miller Lites, some guy came by and gave Dee Dee a bird; I guess he did not want it anymore and figured that she did. Anyhow, the bird sat on her should for a minute or so, and before we even had time to give it a name, it flew away. Must have been the cat scent he detected on Dee Dee. Oh well, we stifled our grief and moved on.
While based in Beatty, we drove over Daylight Pass, into Death Valley – a “Magical Place,” if you allow it to be; we estimated that this was at least our 20th visit, starting in about 1976 – we love it! We headed out to Stove Pipe Wells, where we were Campground Hosts for 3 months in late 2010. Here we ran into Phil, the current host and a really cool guy. Mello, laid back and friendly…a perfect combination of traits for this job. We had a great visit and he comp’ed us a couple of camping nights (“Professional Courtesy” among present and former Stove Pipe hosts.)
So, we returned to Beatty and the next morning (it’s now Saturday, November 14th) and headed for Stove Pipe (quite a thrill going over and down Daylight Pass in an RV) where we dry-camped for 2 days. Very quiet (as usual), and it almost emptied out on Sunday. (The previous 4 days were more crowded than usual as this was when about 10,000 members of the “Death Valley 49’ers” convene each year…fortunately mainly in the Furnace Creek area, about 35 miles away.)
While at Stove Pipe dry camping, we decided to see if we could go for 2 days without running our generator. We made it about a day and a half, and then the inverter managed to suck enough juice out of our 4 big-ass house batteries and all the AC (meaning the refrigerator and TV) shut down…right in the middle of the ‘Chick-Flick’ movie we were watching. So, we woos’d out and fired the sucker up, for about an hour, to recharge the batteries.
One good/bad thing about our RV is that it has a full-size residential refrigerator; good if you are tethered to 50 amp power in an RV park, but not-so-good when you are dry camping. We do have a 100 watt solar panel our roof which usually provides enough juice to allow the batteries (powering the inverter) to keep up with the refer, but if the sun is not shining – which it was not at this time – the batteries drain more quickly.
Not that running our generator is a big deal, it was just a matter of ‘pride.’ Anyhow all of this was important to us, but probably not you…
Day One at Stove Pipe was magnificent. Day Two was not so good, sorta. The day started off with Dee Dee taking Charlie out into the desert for his morning constitutional. So, he pees, and then, you know. Then, he USUALLY just sticks with Dee Dee and they walk back together. But this time he makes a trotting bee-line back to the RV and waits by the door. Then, about 30 seconds later this big-ass coyote heads out across the same stretch of desert from whence Charlie has just crossed. Charlie proved, once again that he has great critter sense. Conflict avoided.
Next, starting in the afternoon, we has sustained 40 – 50 MPH winds, and the usual accompanying dust; this lasted for the next 36 hours, which a bit unusual, and the wind usually comes in fast and leave fast, the entire event lasting only an hour or 2. It was blowing so hard that night that, about midnight, we had to get up and pull in the slides. Not a big deal, really, just a minor annoyance. But, the animals were kind of freaked out by all the noise.
On Monday, November 16th, we bid goodbye to our new friend, Phil, and headed off to Furnace Creek, where we would be for the next 2 weeks. Here we met our crazy friend, Gary, and his even crazier brother, John. We have been enjoying the relative quiet (almost all of the 10,000 ‘49’ers have departed). We also made our ritual first-day trip to the Furnace Creek bar and had a few beers. What fun!
So far, we have spent some time showing Gary and John a few of the more popular ‘tourist’ sights (Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Bad Water, Artist’s Drive, etc.) We also drove up Highway 190, out of the park to check out Slab City, a possible dry-camping place. Turns out it has great access and is pretty large-RV friendly. Might be a place to stop and hang out at some point. Tomorrow we head out to see some more subtle places in the Valley; we have all chipped in to rent a jeep and intend to do a lot of off-roading.
Whew! That’s enough (actually, waaaay more than enough) for now. Hope you enjoyed the prose and the pics. The next installment should show up in about 2 weeks.
Over n’ out for now – we are off to spend more time in this Magical Place…
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Beattie Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Beatty RV Park, Blackfoot, California, Charlie, Coyote, Craters of the Moon, Death Valley, desert, Dylan, Fort Hall, Furnace Creek, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Highway 6, Highway 95, Idaho, KOA, Landscape, Manly Beacon, Nevada, Panamint Range, Photographs, Photography, propane heat, Stove Pipe Wells, Winnebago Adventurer, Zabriskie Point
Posted on October 24, 2015
Well, Dee Dee and I (and Charlie and Marshall Dylan) have pretty much got the RV packed up and we are ready to head on down the road again for our next adventure. We are departing on Sunday, November 1; our eventual goal for this trip will, once again, be New Orleans, LA. But with lots of stops along the way, which include Blackfoot (ID), Death Valley, Las Vegas, Dead Horse Ranch (AZ), Apache Junction (AZ), Benson (AZ), all the way across Texas to Louisiana and finally to The Big Easy. Most of the way we will be travelling with our long-time friends Gary and Debbie (and their African Gray parrot, Pepper). Should be a hoot.
So, keep your eye out for our hopefully regular blog postings (depending on WiFi connections), with lots of pictures, as usual.
If you would like to have each exciting chapter of our blog delivered directly to your email box, just follow these simple steps:
That’s it! (One caveat is that to join the email blog you must use a regular computer – you can’t use your iPhone, or equivalent. But once you have joined, you CAN use your iPhone, or equivalent, to read the blog chapters.)
Our first installment should hit in early November. Wahoo!
Posted on April 12, 2015
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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…)
All the best to each of you,
Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan
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