Death Valley…Once Again…

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Another view of The Grandstand, in The Racetrack Playa.

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

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

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

More moving rocks at The Racetrack Playa.

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


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

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

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

 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dee Dee and Texas Bob walking the Eureka Dunes.

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


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

On the way back to the Geologist Cabin…

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

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

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

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


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


Maravilloso, encantador, amable Puerto Penasco, Mexico!

Maravilloso, encantador, amable Puerto Penasco!

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

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

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

Dinosaurs

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

Playa Bonita Entrance

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

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

Charlie Howling

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

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

Winnie Pano

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

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

Sue and Jerry

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

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

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

Dee Dee and Sand Dollar Pickers

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

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

Pacifico Can

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

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

Bloody Mary's

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

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

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

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

Adios y mejores deseos, amigos!

Drink Bill

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

 

Us with Steve and Mona Liza

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

Randy and Karen

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

Dee Dee and Hats

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

Beach Hat People

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

Matt and Gloria

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

Shy Taco Guy

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

Dirt Mall Wall Detail

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

Dirt Mall Pots 2

Pots at the Dirt Mall.

Dirt Mall shop guys

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

Wood Carver Guy

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

Whalebone Spine

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

Ugly Fish at CEDO

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

Roman the Condo Guy

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

Dee Dee and Mr. Fish

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

Harbor Dredge Pipe

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

Kites

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

Brian at Rey Sol Resturant

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

Boat Guy and Dee Dee

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

Beach T-Shirt Guy

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

Dirt Mall Frogs

Frog pots at The Dirt Mall.

Beach Mobile Guy

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

Beach Table Guy

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

Beach Scene

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

Steve and Monkey

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

Playa Bonita Resturant Head

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

Nick and Karen

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

Gol Guys

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

Dirt Mall Pots 1

More stuff found at The Dirt Mall.

Us with Bev and Marilyn

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

Big Ass Pipe in Gila Bend

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

Moonrise ofver Beach

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

NOLA: Nada

Hola!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Pit Mine

Open pit copper mine, Bisbee, AZ

Mine Detail

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

RV at Roper Lake

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

Flying Birds at Roper Lake

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

Flying Birds and Roper Lake

Roper Lake State Park, near Safford, AZ.

Dylan

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

Charlie Collar

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

Stanfords

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

Horse Nose

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

Horse Meeting

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

Dee Dee in Coffin

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

Dee Dee and High Chaparral

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

Stuntmen

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

Gila Monster

Gila Monster, Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.

Desert Museum Guide

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

Backlit Yucca

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum – yucca plant.

Barrell Cactus and Palo Verde

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

Us With Chappell

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

Teddy Bear and Ocotillo

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

Teddy Bear and Desert

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – teddy bear cactus.

Saguaro Foreground and Background

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

Saguaro Close Up

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro cactus detail.

Organ Pipe and Cholla

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

Dusk Organ Pipe Group

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – organ pipe cactus.

Cholla and Saguaro

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

Ocotillo Maze

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – leaving ocotillo cactus.

challenge2

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – cholla cactus.

Blooming Odd Saguaro

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

Saguaro in Center

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – saguaro cactus statues.

John and Betty

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

Salmon

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where The Hell Is Benson?

Pano View of Superstition Mtn

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

Cloudy Mountains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rotating Palms

Yucca plant, near Benson, AZ,

Prickley Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus, near Benson, AZ.

Chir Pano

Panoramic view of rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Big View of Rocks Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Chirachaua Rocks Shade

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Rocks and Dead Tree Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Bob The Red Chir

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

Dee Dee Rocks

Dee Dee and rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Flat Rock Chir

Rock formations, Chiricahua National Monument.

Console Titan

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

Looking Up Missle

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

Nose Cone Titan

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

Missle Bottom Titan

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

Dopple Radar Titan

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

Cochise County Courthouse

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

Rei at Palace Saloon Tombstone

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

Bob, Carol, Dee Dee

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

Dee Dee and Amelia

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

 

 

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!

Las Vegas, Legends and Whiskey Lickers

Panorama of our companion RV's, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park

Panorama of our companion RV’s, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park.

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.

Gary, Bob and Dee Dee - Thanksgiving dinner in Death Valley

Gary, Bob and Dee Dee – Thanksgiving dinner in Death Valley.

Ricing bikes, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park

Ricing bikes, Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park.

Our very friendly waitress at diner in Beatty, Nevada

Maria, our very friendly waitress at a diner in Beatty, Nevada.

Waiter and bus-boy at diner in Beatty

Jim, the waiter and bus-boy at a diner in Beatty, Nevada.

Cook in the diner where we had a terrific lunch, Beatty, Nevada

Miguel, the cook in the diner where we had a terrific lunch, Beatty, Nevada.

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.)

Mr. Roadrunner, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley

Mr. Roadrunner, near Furnace Creek, Death Valley.  Friendly dude with almost no fear of humans…wonder why?

Furnace Creek Post Office, Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek Post Office, Death Valley National Park.

Warning signs marking big-ass drop off, near Rhyolyte, Nevada (just outside of Death Valley National Park)

Warning signs marking big-ass drop off, near Rhyolyte, Nevada (just outside of Death Valley National Park.)

Old bank building, Rhyolyte, Nevada

Façade of old bank building, Rhyolyte, Nevada.

The Bob and Rudolf's brother, Beatty Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Nevada

The Bob and Rudolf’s brother, Ned, Beatty Nut and Candy Company, Beatty, Nevada

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.

Dee Dee getting blown away at Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park

Dee Dee getting blown away at Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park. To get a sense of scale, it’s almost a mile to the other side.  One very big hole.

Road leading up to Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

Road leading up to Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley.

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.

The Bob, Gary and Dee Dee, with the Giant Cow, Armagosa, Nevada

The Bob, Gary and Dee Dee, with the Giant Cow, Armagosa, Nevada.  Some people have commented that the Giant Cow was ‘photo-bombing’ the picture.  Not true.  He was asked to join us.

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.

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, who did a terrific job washing our RV

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, who did a terrific job washing our RV.  A very cool, hardworking humble guy (his one flaw was that he did not like Russell Wilson…we pressed him as to why and he said he thought he was ‘overly humble.’  Hmmmm…

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, pressure washing our roof

Michael, from Red Rock RV Washers, pressure washing our roof.

Gary and his Giant Margarita, Mexican restaurant in Sam's Town Casino, Las Vegas

Gary and his Giant Margarita, Mexican restaurant in Sam’s Town Casino, Las Vegas.

Jocelyn and Alex, our friendly servers at Panda Express, in Sam's Town Casino, Las Vegas

Jocelyn and Alex, our friendly servers at Panda Express, in Sam’s Town Casino, Las Vegas

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.)

Frank Sinatra impersonator at 'Legends' show, Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas

Frank Sinatra impersonator at ‘Legends’ show, Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas.  We felt ripped off (see accompanying text as to why…)

Very tall man, evening show at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville in Las Vegas

Very tall man, evening show at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in Las Vegas.

Adrian, dancer at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Las Vegas

Adrian, dancer at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Las Vegas.

The Bob and his new friend, Adrian, the Margaritaville Girl, at Jimmy Buffet's

The Bob and his new friend, Adrian, the Margaritaville Girl, at Jimmy Buffet’s.

Gary and show performer, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Las Vegas Strip

Gary and show performer, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Las Vegas Strip.

Mark, our super-nice bus driver, Sam's Town shuttle to The Strip

Mark, our super-nice bus driver, Sam’s Town shuttle to The Strip.

Todd, our Sam's Town shuttle driver...very experienced and a lot friendlier that he looks

Todd, our Sam’s Town shuttle driver…very experienced and a lot friendlier that he looks.

Security guard, Harrahs Casino, Las Vegas

Security guard, Harrah’s Casino, Las Vegas.

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.

Dee Dee and The Bob, at Boulder/Hoover Dam; Lake Mead and 'bath tub ring' in the back ground.

Dee Dee and The Bob, at Boulder/Hoover Dam; Lake Mead and ‘bath tub ring’ in the back ground.

Tillman Bridge, near Boulder/Hoover Dam

Tillman Bridge at sunset, near Boulder/Hoover Dam.

Late afternoon light, Boulder/Hoover Dam

Late afternoon light, Boulder/Hoover Dam.

Four Korean tourists, from LA, we met at Bould/Hoover Dam. Talk about FRIENDLY!

Four Korean tourists, from LA, we met at Boulder/Hoover Dam. Talk about FRIENDLY!  I offered to take their picture with their camera, and then I said ‘My turn.’  They were so honored that I was interested in them.  What a nice group.

Friendly Harley trike guy, Boulder/Hoover dam; he must have had at least $75,000 tied up in the custom-built Road King conversion. Magnificent machine

Joe, the Friendly Harley trike guy, Boulder/Hoover dam; he must have had at least $75,000 tied up in the custom-built Road King conversion. Magnificent machine.  He told me he lives in Henderson, NV, and rides out to the dam 2-3 times a week.  He was very quiet and unassuming.  Very nice man – he was at least 75 years old.

Garty and our waitress, TC, restaurant in Boulder City, Nevada

Garty and our waitress, TC, at a restaurant in Boulder City, Nevada.  She was somewhat skeptical of my picture-taking motives at first, but once she saw my charming personality, quickly succumbed.

Restroom door, in back of restaurant, Boulder City, Nevada

Restroom door, in back of restaurant, Boulder City, Nevada.

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.)

Dee Dee, The Bob, 'Photo Bomber's', Gary and Debbie, Harrah's, Las Vegas

Dee Dee, The Bob, ‘Photo Bomber’s’, Gary and Debbie, Harrah’s, Las Vegas.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada.  We never, ever tire of this funny, funky, delightful place.  There is one of everything here.

The Bob with Fremont Street characters, Las Vegas

The Bob with Fremont Street Gunslingers, Las Vegas.

"My Girls', Fremont Steet, Las Vegas. I had my picture taken with them a couple of years ago. Cuties!

“My Girls’, Fremont Steet, Las Vegas. I had my picture taken with them a couple of years ago. Cuties!  (And this one was free…)

Dee Dee at one of our most favorite bars in Las Vegas, on Fremont Street. Very potent pours.

Dee Dee at one of our most favorite bars in Las Vegas, on Fremont Street. Very potent pours.

Last drink of the day, boarding the bus near Fremont Street for Sam's Town

Last drink of the day, boarding the bus near Fremont Street for Sam’s Town.  Too much tequila.

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!

Still In The Magical Place…

Badwater Shadows

Our shadows, at Badwater.

Badwater Flats

Salt flats, Badwater, 255 feet below sea level.

Weird Camper at Furnace Creek

We are thinking about upgrading to a new RV. This is a distinct possibility.

Marshall Dylan Sleeping

Marshall Dylan, the Sun Magnate.

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!

The Pointers at Bad Water

Holy Crap! Is that Superman??!!

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.

Telegraph Canyon Flowers

Delicate flowers in Telegraph Canyon

Outside Cottonwood Rocks

On the way to Cottonwood Canyon.

Farrabee

The REAL Farabee, owner of Farabee’s Jeep Rentals. A very cool guy.

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.)

Titus Canyon Back View

Looking east towards, Beatty, Nevada, from the top of Titus Canyon Road

Inside Titus Canyon

Inside Titus Canyon, entering The Narrows.

Coming out of Cottonwood

On the road to Cottonwood Canyon, outside of Stove Pipe Wells.

Gary Climbing Wall

Gary, risking his life wall climbing, a sport of which he has little knowledge. At this point, he had gone up about 100 feet.

Raven at Stove Pipe

Heckle, the raven, helping us eat lunch at Stove Pipe Wells. Jeckle, his brother, is just out of the picture.

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.

FC Hotel Martini

Martini’s on the veranda, Furnace Creek Inn. Miss Welch, our friendly waitress could not be convinced to give us more than two olives…a small request for a $12 drink.

Ranger Alan

Alan, an NPS Ranger, lead us on a very informative and interesting tour of the Furnace Creek in. This guy was a font of knowledge.

FC Hotel Pool

View of the spring-fed pool at the Furnace Creek Inn. Rooms here rent for about $350 – $450 per night. Believe it or not, summer is their busy time.

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.

Dee Dee and Gary by Fire

Gary and Dee Dee at Furnace Creek – while in Death Valley we had a fire pretty much every night. We hauled in a lot of wood.

Cooking Foil Dinners

Cooking Dee Dee’s favorite – foil dinners on the fire.

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.

Tourists at Father Crowley Point

Tourists at Father Crowley Point, on the western edge of Death Valley National Park

Jet at Father Crowley Point

Your tax dollars at work, entering a canyon near Father Crowley Point. Death Valley NP.

 

Photographyer at Father Crowley Point

Waiting for the jets, Father Crowley Point,

Lars at Father Crowley Point

This a Lars, an incredible bicycle guy we met at Father Crowley Point. He has just peddled up the hill – a steep one. He cooked the hamburger he was eating over his little stove, in the parking lot. A very neat guy.

Gary at Father Crowley Point

Gary and his new tourist friends, at Father Crowley Point, Death Valley.

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.

 

Dee Dee Victoria and Gary

Dee Dee, Victoria and Gary at the Panamint Valley Restaurant; Victoria is one of the owners.

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.

FC Thermometer

Nice and warm.

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.

FC Bar Popcorn

Another not-wasted day at the Furnace Creek bar. Love those ‘Stellas.’

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!