Puerto Penasco, Mexico

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Dee Dee picking oranges near Bakersfield, CA.


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

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

Yreka Dog Butt.


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


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


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

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

 

Death Valley…Once Again…

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Another view of The Grandstand, in The Racetrack Playa.

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

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

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

More moving rocks at The Racetrack Playa.

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


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

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

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

 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dee Dee and Texas Bob walking the Eureka Dunes.

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


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

On the way back to the Geologist Cabin…

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

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

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

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


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


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!

On The Road Again (Well, Almost…)

 

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

Two really honest, friendly, guys mooching for bucks in the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA.  We contributed to their noble cause. (February/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:

  1. Enter your email address where prompted (on the right side of this page)
  2. Shortly after doing that, you will receive an email verification from the Blog.  Click on the “Confirm Follow” box.

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!

 

The Final Chapter…

The Final Chapter…

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

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

Until now…

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

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

Entering Texas on the way back West - Mile Marker 899

Entering Texas on the way back West – Mile Marker 899

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

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

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

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

At all.  Hardly anything.

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

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

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

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

Bob, Carol and Dee Dee - old Modesto friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dee Dee waxing the new 'Winnie'

Dee Dee waxing the new ‘Winnie’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moment of the pitch, Mariners vs. Rockies

Moment of the pitch, Mariners vs. Rockies

Us in Peoria at a Mariners vs. Rockies game

Us in Peoria at a Mariners vs. Rockies game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dusk, Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction.

Dusk, Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie doing his most favorite thing at Lake Mead

Charlie doing his most favorite thing at Lake Mead

 

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

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

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

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

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Prickly pear cactus, Big Bend National Park, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dee Dee and her Boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Dee Dee and her Boys, Tombstone, Arizona

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Ocotillo cactus detail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

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

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

Porch at the Sunset RV Park, Cedar Key, Florida

Porch at the Sunset RV Park, Cedar Key, Florida

Giant shell, Pensacola, FL.

Giant shell, Pensacola, Florida

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

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

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

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

Dusk, Carrabelle, Florida

Dusk, Carrabelle, Florida

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

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

Giant stone crab, Carrabelle, Florida

Giant stone crab, Carrabelle, Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our digs at the Chokoloskee RV Park, in Florida.

Our digs at the Chokoloskee RV Park, in Florida.

Palm trees on the shore at Chokoloskee RV Park, Florida

Palm trees on the shore at Chokoloskee RV Park, Florida

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

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

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

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

 

All the best to each of you,

 

Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan

Death Valley

Our new best friends, wish us the best as we leave Las Vegas (look carefully to the right and you will see Dee Dee waving back)

Our new best friends, wishing us the best as we leave Las Vegas (look carefully to the right and you will see Dee Dee waving back…)

So, after 5 days in Sin City, we were really ready to be ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’  We parted friends with the KOA People at Sam’s Town, even though this stay was a mild hassel.  The drive to Furnace Creek in Death Valley was an easy one, with very little traffic.  Better yet, by the time we arrived, the Thanksgiving Crazies had left and the park was quiet and almost empty.  A great time to be here: post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas.

We experienced the same heavy rains as many other southwest US areas.  Some roads here were closed due to washouts (Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Titus Canyon), and there was a lot of water flowing across asphalt roadways, flowing down washes and alluvial fans.

I played golf a couple of times at the Furnace Creek Golf Couse, a nice track in good condition with lightning-fast greens; the 2nd time I had the entire course to myself for the first 15 holes.  Dee Dee took several long bike rides and got to know the area around Furnace Creek a lot better.  This was a somewhat off-year for coyotes;  I only saw 2, on the golf course, and Dee Dee did not see any.  Charlie-The-Dog spent a fair amount of time smelling them.  Dylan-the-Cat was kept on-lease; no coyote bait for him.

We rented a jeep one (very rainy) day and explored Hole in the Wall road, Echo Canyon Road to the Inyo Mine, Chloride City and Titus Canyon (our 2nd trip through).  All of the roads required 4WD high-clearance vehicles.  The road to Chloride City got pretty technical.  Lots of big rocks and steep, slippery turns, due to exposed bedrock and the fact it was raining.  That drive was white-knuckle all the way.  (Ted and Mary Ellen, you would have loved it; I would have jumped out, only I was driving.)  We were probably the last vehicle through Titus Canyon.  It was raining hard and the road on both sides of the pass was starting to wash out.  And, we never saw another person.  The parking lot at the end was empty.  This was one of the very best days we have had in our 40+ years and many visits to Death Valley…lots of excitement and we saw new stuff.

Last night (Thursday, December 4th) Dee Dee was outside and saw huge flames and lots of smoke coming from the historic Furnace Creek Inn.  It looked like the whole place was on fire.  This morning (Friday) we drove up there and found that it was the laundry building across the highway that had burned.  Totally gutted and still smoldering; no damage at all to the Inn.  The entire Valley was filled with haze-induce smoke from the fire, that must have taken most of the night to extinguish.  When we got there, about 9:30 AM, it was still smoldering and they were still doing ‘spot-squirts’ on hot areas.  The Park Service had closed Highway 90 in front of the structure and was routing traffic through the Inn’s parking lot.

Of course we had to visit the local saloon and have a beer (or 2) every day.  Our theory is that beer is good for your health, at least in our book. We rode our bikes the mile up and back, so that balances off the beer (and some days French fries and blue cheese dressing dip.)

Tonite we are having dinner with our good friend, Shellye Poster, who was our NPS Ranger Supervisor when we were Campground Hosts at Stove Pipe Wells in 2010.  Shellye has also published a wonderful book, “The Photographer’s Guide to Death Valley.”

OK…enough words…here are some images (and captions) for our latest installment.  (Our next stops will be Bullhead City, AZ, the Grand Canyon, Prescott (where we are visiting our friends Gary and Debbie), and then Apache Junction (where we will meet up with long-time friend, Neil, who I met in graduate school at ASU, in the early 1970’s.)

(Sherry, this post is dedicated to you…not many words, lots of pictures, just the way you like it…)

Storm clouds over the Funeral Range

Storm clouds over the Funeral Range

Creosote bushes, Echo Canyon Road

Creosote bushes, Echo Canyon Road

Dee Dee and Charlie at the Inyo Mine

Dee Dee and Charlie, Echo Canyon Road, at the Inyo Mine

Old mining equipment at the abandoned Inyo Mine, Echo Canyon Road

Old mining equipment at the abandoned Inyo Mine, Echo Canyon Road

Table at the Inyo Mine where travelers put stuff they found (rather than stealing it)

Table at the Inyo Mine where travelers put stuff they found (rather than stealing it)

Creosote bushes

Creosote bushes

The Bush and The Bob, Echo Canyon Road

The Barrel Cactus and The Bob, Echo Canyon Road

Eye of the Needle, Echo Canyon Road

Eye of the Needle, Echo Canyon Road

Exfoliating stone, at the end of Hole in the Wall Road

Exfoliating stone, at the end of Hole in the Wall Road

Mysterious symbol found at the end of Hole in the Wall Road, probably left by Aliens

Mysterious symbol found at the end of Hole in the Wall Road, probably left by Aliens

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek

Probably an Alien spaceship, commandeered by the NPS, near Furnace Creek

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall

Dee Dee and Charlie, at Hole in the Wall

Round the turn at the top of the pass, dropping into Titus Canyon.  We call this "Oh Shit Corner," because that what you say when you get there.  Although can't tell, it's an abrupt 180 degree turn going down a steep slope.

Rounding the turn at the top of the pass, dropping into Titus Canyon. We call this “Oh Shit Corner,” because that’s what you say when you reach this point. Although you can’t really tell from this image, it’s an abrupt 180 degree turn going down a steep slope.

Looking down, from top of pass, into Titus Canyon.  You had to be there to experience the sheer vastness of this scene

Looking down, from top of pass, into Titus Canyon. You had to be there to experience the sheer vastness of this scene

Beginning of Titus Canyon Road washing out

Beginning of Titus Canyon Road washing out

Charlie leaving his mark at Leadfield (on the Titus Canyon Road)

Charlie leaving his mark at Leadfield (on the Titus Canyon Road)

Entering the Narrows, Titus Canyon

Entering the Narrows, Titus Canyon

Sine wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash

Arterial wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash

Furnace Creek Wash

Furnace Creek Wash

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn Laundry Building

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn Laundry Building

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn laundry building (across Highway 90 from the Inn)

View of burned out Furnace Creek Inn laundry building (across Highway 190 from the Inn)

Dead mesquite trees, NPS Furnace Creek Campground

Dead mesquite trees, NPS Furnace Creek Campground

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash, about 4 miles above Furnace Creek

Side wash, flowing into Furnace Creek Wash, about 4 miles above Furnace Creek

'Exploding Bush,' Echo Canyon Road

‘Exploding Creosote Bush,’ Echo Canyon Road