On The Road…Again

Time to fire up our blog, which has been dormant since last (2017) spring.  This installment covers our travels from our home base in Silver Lake, Washington to our current location at a wonderful RV campground in Rodeo, New Mexico.

(Please note the hot-links to things we mention that you may wish to learn more about.  They are indicated in blue.)

We were planning to depart in early October, but were delayed for about a month due to the ‘installation’ of a pacemaker and defibrillator in Bob’s chest.  That necessutated a 30-day recovery period, so we finally got out of town in early November.  Because of the delay, we had to cancel out of a portion of the trip (Moab, Utah), but it all still worked out.  We plan to hit Moab next September (2018) when Dee Dee does a kayaking trip on the Green River with friends.

Our travels thus far have taken us first to Junction City, Oregon, for some minor warranty work on Harold, our Itasca Solei RV.  Here we met up with some friends and fellow RV’ers – Robyn and Gerry Gleim.  After that we headed to Seven Feathers in Canyonville, Oregon, where we met up with the Gleim’s once again.  Small world.  Then, on to Susanville, California and Reno, Nevada, where we hung out for week or so and met up with old friends Bill and Suzi Martin, and Maria Sheehan, both community college buddies.  While there, we spent some time in Silver City, before heading on to Williams, Arizona, where we met up with another old friend, Gary Paulsen.

From there, we spent some time in the magnificent Monument Valley area of Utah and Arizona.  Next, we headed to Tucson for about 5 weeks, including Christmas and New Year’s.  Finally, here we are at Rusty’s RV Ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico, which is right on the border of Arizona and New Mexico.  This is probably one of the very best places we have ever stayed in over 10 years of travels…quiet, friendly, HUGE spaces and magnificent scenery – we are very near the Chiricahua Wilderness Area.

So here we go…we hope you enjoy the pics and narrative…

We are packed up and ready to hit the road – Silver Lake, Washington, Saturday, November 4, 2017.

Susanville, California.

Coming into Reno, Nevada, our GPS took us on a wild goose chase that included crashing into some nasty low trees. We hit a branch that loosened the protective antenna cover on our weBoost cell signal boosting system. No major damage, at least nothing that a little silicon and some zip ties couldn’t cure.

Breakfast, Silver City, Nevada.  Yum yum…breakfast of champions – a great way to start the day.

No trip to Silver City would be complete without a visit to the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

Inside of the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

Breakfast in Reno with our old friend, Maria Sheehan. Bob worked with Maria for several years during part of his 28 year time at Modesto Junior College. Always a delightful person to visit.

We had dinner in Reno with some really old friends, Bill and Suzi Martin, from Quincy, California.  Very cool folks, even Bill…

One of our favorite stopping off points on the way between Reno and Las Vegas is the Beatty RV Park. We have been coming here for years…always $25 per night. We are on a first-name basis with the owners now…great folks. We love this place. It’s near gas and the largest candy store in Nevada.

Regular gas stop on Highway 95, on the way t0 Las Vegas.

The Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, Arizona. We stopped there about 11 AM and they were closed…some sort of problem in the kitchen, or perhaps they just ran out of opossum…

Lunch in Kingman, Arizona, near Blake Ranch RV Park, on I-40, included your own personal 1-gallon bucket of butter.

Men’s restroom at a place where we ate in Williams, Arizona.

At Goulding’s Campground in Monument Valley, Utah. Magnificent setting, friendly place. We spent about a week here exploring the surrounding area.

Iconic view down Highway 163, looking into Monument Valley. Probably one of the most photographed locations in the country. Also, this is the location where Forrest Gump stopped running.

Monument Valley at dusk. Once you enter the Park, there is a rough 17 mile stretch of dirt road that you can follow taking you down into the Valley. Not a place to drive in a Prius, although some did try…

Monument Valley, late afternoon.

Monument Valley, dusk – view from the campground.

Monument Valley, sunset.

The formation that gave the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, its’ name.

Driving through the Valley of the Gods, Utah. Located just north of Monument Valley, and almost equally scenic. Very few people travel through here. In the 12-mile stretch of dirt road, we saw only 2 other vehicles.

Valley of the Gods, Utah.

Valley of the Gods, Utah.

Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah.

Road sign, headed up towards the Moki Dugway, Utah. It does not lie.

Moki Dugway gravel road. This drive is better than an ‘E’ ticket at Disney Land. Driving our jeep up here was scary enough. We encountered a family from Germany who were driving their 30′ rental motor home down this grade. They made it because we ran into them again at a restaurant further down the road.

At the top of the Moki Dugway, Utah. We made the drive up twice and down once, on different days.

One day we followed a l-o-n-g dirt road for about 35 miles (out of the Monument Valley area), searching for a place called Piute Farms. It was supposed to be a tribal-operated marina at the very beginning of Lake Powell, on the San Juan River. During the drive out we saw only one other truck, and a single house. Then, the road just ended…nothing, there, not even evidence of the lake, which had receded substantially in the last 50 years due to drought conditions. It turns out the marina was destroyed by a flood in 1989 and was never rebuilt.

Photo ops at Four Corners…

Dee Dee standing in Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico…all at once at Four Corners. (Lighten up, we needed the pic for souvenir purposes…)

After leaving Monument Valley, we stopped at this nifty RV park on I-17 with this cool dinner and bar. After several weeks of cold weather, it was nice to be back in warmer climes.

Back to our favorite sport, drinking beer. In the same diner as pictured above.

We finally made in to Tucson for a 5-week stay at Western Way RV Resort. The first day there we headed across the street to Brat’s Bar, which was packed. Turns out we walked into a wake. It also turns out that the bar pretty much looked like this most of the time…lots of regulars (e.g., ‘bar flys)

While in Tucson we met up with our good friends Steve and MonaLiza Lowe (Lowe’s RV Travels.) We spent several days visiting and seeing some sights (and bars) around Tucson. Always fun with these great folks.

Beers with Steve and MonaLiza at the Barrio Brewery in downtown Tucson, in, where else, The Barrio.

We tried to visit the Center for Creative Photography on the University of Arizona campus, but they were closed. Bummer…we were really looking forward to visiting. Oh well…

Harold, our RV, was due for a serious wash and wax by the time we hit Tucson. We found these great guys who did a fabulous job. Not as cheap as in Mexico, but a very through job.

Out in the desert behind Western Way RV Resort in Tucson, where we spent 5 weeks.

We had a couple of great visits/lunches with our friend Carol, who lives in Tucson. Being a native, she gave us lots of great tips for places to see, not the least of which were some fine restaurant and the Tucson Trolley System.  A great person!

Desert scene, near Saguaro National Park.

Ocotillo cactus, near Saguaro National Park.

We went to the annual Tamale Festival in Tucson. Lots of fun, but extremely crowded. Unfortunately, the demand for tamales was so great that the quality really suffered. (At least those we bought were not that great.) We did get some street tacos that were delicious, and it’s really hard to screw up a beer…

We enjoyed a couple of craft beers after spending some time at Tucson’s annual 4th Avenue Street Fair. A great event, and extremely crowded.

Ceiling of the bar where we got the beers, above.

We took a day and drove up to the Kitt Peak Observatory, about 45 miles west of Tucson. Amazing place and much larger that we had imagined. They do several very good tours there. Our guide was smart, but he talked to the tour members like we were post-graduate astronomy students. Zoooom…most of what he said flew right over our heads.

What?! Another beer? Yep, this time at a very cool place in down town Tucson, Thunder Canyon Brewery. Excellent!

With some other good friends we met up with in Tucson, Ed and Sharon Stanford. We had a couple of great visits, and dinner one night at a local dive, Tiny’s on Ajo Way. Great hamburgers and plenty of beer. Tiny’s is a cash-only establishment. (Doolin, their dog, is just barely visible in the foreground.)

Our spot at Rusty’s RV Ranch, near Rodeo, New Mexico. Pretty remote, HUGE sites, fantastic views and incredible night skys, since there are literally no towns to speak of within 50 miles (Lordsburg, New Mexico being the closest. We love this place and have already made plans to return for an extended stay next year.

As soon as we got settled at Rusty’s RV Ranch, we managed to sniff out the Rodeo Tavern and Grill. Great local bar, super friendly, and of course they have our favorite beverage…beer.

Part of a huge solar panel array at Rusty’s RV Ranch.

A view from our spot at Rusty’s RV Ranch. The peaks in the background are the Chiricahua Mountains. Lot’s of history in those mountains – Geronimo, Cochise, Fort Bowie.

We met up with some friends we met in Mexico a couple of years back, Sandy and Craig Winn. They were passing through Lordsburg, on I-10, on their way to Mesa. We met at Kranberries family resturant that has decent food and lousy nachos. Always a fun time with these two characters.

We stopped at the Portal Store and Cafe for breakfast on our way through the Chricahaua Wilderness Area. Tiny little speck on the map (this is pretty much the whole town.) The restaurant is actually much larger than one would think from this outside view and they have one of the largest beer menus to be found anywhere!

Tree, Chiricahua Wilderness Area.

View, entering the Chirichua Wilderness Area from the Portal entrance.

Whales Tongue Agave, in from the the Chiricahua Museum, near Rodeo, New Mexico.

Incredible night sky, Rusty’s RV Ranch, Rodeo, New Mexico.

Well, that’s it for this installment.  If all goes well, we will be publishing another exciting and informative edition in a couple of weeks.

Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan.

 

 

Death Valley…Once Again…

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Another view of The Grandstand, in The Racetrack Playa.

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

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

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

More moving rocks at The Racetrack Playa.

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


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

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

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

 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dee Dee and Texas Bob walking the Eureka Dunes.

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


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

On the way back to the Geologist Cabin…

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

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

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

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


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


Wandering (Wondering?) Our Way to South Dakota

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

Or something…

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

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

IMG_3585

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Entering Badlands National Park, just like the sign says…


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


More Badlands…


And even more Badlands…


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


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

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

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

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!

Back To The Magical Place

We’re off!

Welcome to the first installment the blog chronicling our travels this winter season.  If all goes as expected (and it usually never does…) we hope to post something about every 10 days or so, but that largely depends on where we are and the Wi-Fi connection situation.  Most of the time, the Wi-Fi where we stay sucks, or is non-existent.  Usually not a big problem as I can use the personal hotspot on my iPhone…but then I have to have some sort of signal from Verizon, usually ‘3 dots’ or more.

I post the blog text and photographs using some really elegant blog software known as WordPress.  (You will see their logo at the very bottom of all the posts.)  My usual process is to write the text in Microsoft Word, edit, spell-check, then upload it to a WordPress ‘storage’ area.  Next, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit all the photographs that you see.  I usually start with a 300-400, then cull that down to about 75-100, then cull again to get it to about 25-50, give or take.  Before I upload those images, I watermark them with a copyright, then export them into Adobe Photoshop for some post-processing (color and contrast correction, some other ‘tweaking and then file compression), and finally upload them into WordPress ‘storage’ as well.  Finally, I put it all together into a chapter, ‘tweak it a bit more, and, finally, post it.  Posting it means that an announcement hits Facebook and, for those of you have email subscriptions, the installment is delivered to your email box.

All of this usually takes anywhere from 8-16 hours.  But that’s OK…’cuz I love you guys…

Oh, and just one more thing…

Those of you who know me (and for those of you who don’t…) most of what I write here is somewhat the truth.  Some of it is truth as I see it.  And the rest of it is pretty much BS.  Hay, it’s my blog.

OK, no more things.

It took us about 6 easy weeks to prepare for this trip; Dee Dee is very organized and makes lots of lists.  So, getting ready to depart is pretty stress-free.  Usually.  In general, we have to shut the house down for the winter.  This includes arming our very extensive security system, which we can monitor from our iPhones; we can view our place using several security cameras around the property.  We also have a neighbor kid who keeps an eye on things (he is heavily armed…), as well as a few others who stop by on random occasions.

Taco, Charlie's itinerant litter-mate, is watching our place while we travel far and wide this year. He's a nice, gentle boy, who does not take crap from anyone, as you can clearly see.

Taco, Charlie’s itinerant litter-mate, is watching our place while we travel far and wide this year. He’s a nice, gentle boy, who does not take crap from anyone, as you can clearly see.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang.  It was the great people at the Animal Rescue Shelter in Amargosa, California.  This was the place where we got (rescued) Charlie back in 2010, when he was about 4 years old.  Anyhow, it turns out that Charlie had another brother who had led a pretty tough life.  He had been in and out of shelters (jail) and homes for the past 5 years.  Lots of street fights.  He had finally ended up in back in Amargosa.  Anyhow, the Shelter people needed a place to foster care him for a short time while they tried to find him a new home.  Could we please take him for a while?

I explained that we were getting ready to hit the road a while and, regretfully, could not do it.  Well, it turns out that “Taco” (that’s his name) is a pretty good independent watch dog and could survive pretty much on his own at our place.  Not a bad idea as it would certainly complement our security system.  All he needed was a blanket to sleep on, and some food and water.

So, we agreed.  They stuck him on a plane and shipped him up to us.  After a tearful, bark-ridden reunion with Charlie, and a property orientation (guided by Charlie), we departed, leaving Taco in charge of things.  It was a reassuring feeling knowing we had a constant canine presence.  The Shelter people agreed to come and get him after a few months, so the whole deal worked out for everyone involved.

After a few days delay getting all this done, once again we were off…after we found Charlie, who decided that running deer through our woods was more exciting than leaving with us…

Grain Towers

Grain towers, Arlington RV Park, Arlington, Oregon

Marina Water

Marina on the Columbia River, Arlington, Oregon

Day One of our travels ended after about a 225 mile drive to Arlington, Oregon, a little town on the Columbia River. We stayed at tiny RV park run by the City of Arlington.  It only had about 10 spots, and shared the area with a grain storage facility.  Also, and this was pretty cool, it had its set of train tracks, with its very own freight train that ran back-and-forth about every 15 minutes, sounding a whistle at a near-by intersection.  Wahoo!  A great way to nod off to no-sleep.  Anyhow, we had driven by this place for years and had always wanted to stop (at least I did.) So we did.  Once.

Next stop was Caldwell (near Boise), Idaho, where we stopped at the Country Corners RV Park, a place we stayed a couple of years ago.  New owners, very friendly and very accommodating.

Still trucking along, our next stop was supposed to be Arco, Idaho, where we were going to spend some time at Craters of the Moon.  Well, that got kyboshed when we ran into heavy snow on the way there.  We chickened out and discontinued this route.  We swung “The Boat” around and headed back down to the freeway (still Highway 84) and high-tailed it for Fort Hall, Idaho (near Blackfoot.)

Fence and sky, at the Shoshone/Bannock RV Park in Fort Hall, Idaho.

Fence and sky, at the Shoshone/Bannock RV Park in Fort Hall, Idaho.

The RV park were we stayed is on the Shoshone/Bannock Reservation, adjacent to a casino (slots only) and a pretty good size hotel…all of this seemingly in the middle of almost nowhere.  The RV park as good one – clean, quiet and empty.  When we pulled in it was still snowing pretty good, but it abated pretty quickly after that.

Craters Bush

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Craters Bushes

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Craters Lava

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Crates Vertical Lava

Craters of the Moon, Idaho.

Arco, Idaho. Every graduating class since about 1920 has painted their 'year' on this mountain above the town. Or, as the locals told us, the numbers mark the high water level...

Arco, Idaho. Every graduating class since about 1920 has painted their ‘year’ on this mountain above the town. Or, as the locals told us, the numbers indicate the high water level…

Arco Motel

Motel in Arco, Idaho.

We spent the next 6 days there, the first of which we drove about 60 miles back up to Arco, ID, gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument.  This is a very cool, visually rich, environment.  And cold, very cold.  We spent some time in the Visitors Center, and then walked the single trail that was open, as they were in the process of closing most of the place up for the winter.  We also took a look at the campground – a good one, but older and designed mainly for tent campers.

Craters of the Moon is a place worthy of more time visiting and we would definitely go back again…when it’s a tad warmer.

Shut softly

Seen in a restaurant in Blackfoot, Idaho.

Here comes 'Da Judge...

Here comes ‘Da Judge…

The Girls

The Girls, Sami and Shea. Charlie’s Best Buddies.

Group in Front of Mexican Rest

What a great time we had with these guys – Nick, Jennifer and The Girls – Shea and Sami. Such wonderful hosts!

Shea and Glasses

Girls and Charlie

Charlie with his best buddies.

The rest of our time in the area was spent up in Blackfoot, where we visited Dee Dee’s niece, Jennifer, her husband, Nick (here comes da Judge…) and their two delightful girls, Sami and Shea.  Charlie loves these kids and they love him right back.  Anyhow, they put up with our several visits and showed us a great time.  Terrific folks and easy to be around.  Bob and Nick played a round at the Blackfoot Golf Course (had to wait for the frost to melt off the greens).  Dee Dee and Charlie entertained The Girls.  Lots of fun.

November 9 found us in Wells, Nevada.  Cold, snowy, but with clear roads all the way from Fort Hall.  Not much in Wells to speak of.  The folks at the Angel Lake RV Park were very friendly and helpful.  We used their showers instead of ours and were impressed.  Eternal hot water and great pressure.

RV at Ely

Ely, Nevada, at a KOA 3 miles south of town. They had to snowplow our spot so we could get into it.

Dee Dee and Charlie in Snow, Ely

Charley in Snow

Ely Snow and Tank

Next day we made the relatively short drive (175 miles) down Highway 93 to Ely, Nevada.  The day before they had over 14” of snow and the roads were still somewhat clogged.  We stayed at a KOA about 3 miles south of town.  The road in was a bit of a challenge, but we made it in OK.  The maintenance guy had to go ahead of us to snowplow spot clear.

Winning in Ely

Bob and Wine in Ely

The lady in the KOA office told us about a local casino that would pick you up in a shuttle, and their restaurant supposedly (and it really did) had a great prime rib dinner, so we decided to go for it.  They picked us up in a stretch LIMO and were super nice.  Dinner was really pretty good (for casino food) and, because of this, I decided that I needed to contribute $75 to their Gamblers Relief Fund.  Interestingly there are only two “live” blackjack tables in the entire town of Ely; all the rest of the casinos are entirely slots.  Something to do with Nevada and Federal gaming laws.  The upside of this downside was that we won ‘BIG’ on a slot machine.

Heating Lights

Our ‘Rube Goldberg’ heating system to keep our propane regulators from freezing up while we endured the 3-degree cold in Ely, Nevada. It worked great.

We stayed in Ely for 2 days, waiting for the road going West, Highway 6, to clear of snow.  The first night there the temperature dropped to 3 degrees.  It was so cold that our propane regulators froze up, so we had no gas heat.  We had to depend on the two 1500 watt electric heaters we carry, which could barely keep up.  The next morning we drove into town and picked up another (third) heater, as well as some 60 watt light bulbs that we rigged up to warm the 2 gas regulators and keep them from freezing up.  That night, we had a heat wave – it got clear up to 6 degrees!  Everything worked like a charm.  We had wonderful gas heat again.

After our 2 days in Ely, we headed down Highway 6 – a magnificent, scenic drive.  And lonely.  I swear, and no BS, that we saw less than 10 cars over the 150 miles that we drove on this road.  And no services…hell, there was almost nothing but scenery.  Delightful.

Beatty RV Park

Mike, our delightful, friendly host at the Beatty RV Park ('Always $25 A Night').

Mike, our delightful, friendly host at the Beatty RV Park (‘Always $25 A Night’).

Having Beers in Beatty

In Beatty, Nevada…we are finally WARM.

We finally hit Tonopah (a town that you want to pass through as quickly as possible), where we connected up with Highway 95, that took us through Goldfield (a really cool old mining town…Neil Miller would go ape in this place; it’s a visual smorgasbord.)  From there it was just a  short 65 mile jaunt down the hill to Beatty, Nevada, where we stayed at one of our favorite places, the Beatty RV Park…”always $25 per nite,” and it really has been for years.  We have stopped there at least 5 times before and always enjoyed the hospitality of our kind host, Mike.

Saltwater Candy

Red Candy

Dee Dee with Larry Zabel....who, coincidentally, we met at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company.

Dee Dee with Larry Zabel….who, coincidentally, we met at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company.

Dee Dee and Bird

Dee Dee and her temporary pet bird, seeing just as it was flying away, in Beatty, Nevada.

Angels Landing

Angel’s Ladies Whore House, almost right across Highway 95 from the Beatty RV Park.

We spent a couple of days in Beatty where we visited their great candy store (at the Beatty Nut and Candy Company); we stocked up on sugar and “Really Good” beef jerky.  We had a beer and local bar where we encountered their local bar dog, a not-so-friendly-critter…had some junk yard stuff in him.  While we were still there sucking down $3.50 Miller Lites, some guy came by and gave Dee Dee a bird; I guess he did not want it anymore and figured that she did.  Anyhow, the bird sat on her should for a minute or so, and before we even had time to give it a name, it flew away.  Must have been the cat scent he detected on Dee Dee.  Oh well, we stifled our grief and moved on.

Broad Death Valley View from Daylight

View of Death Valley, from Hell’s Gate.

Death Valley view from Daylight

Ridge view, from Hell’s Gate, Death Valley.

Phil, the Campground Host at Stove Pipe Wells (where we were hosts in late 2010). Neat guy.

Phil, the Campground Host at Stove Pipe Wells (where we were hosts in late 2010). Neat guy.

While based in Beatty, we drove over Daylight Pass, into Death Valley – a “Magical Place,” if you allow it to be; we estimated that this was at least our 20th visit, starting in about 1976 – we love it!  We headed out to Stove Pipe Wells, where we were Campground Hosts for 3 months in late 2010.  Here we ran into Phil, the current host and a really cool guy.  Mello, laid back and friendly…a perfect combination of traits for this job.  We had a great visit and he comp’ed us a couple of camping nights (“Professional Courtesy” among present and former Stove Pipe hosts.)

So, we returned to Beatty and the next morning (it’s now Saturday, November 14th) and headed for Stove Pipe (quite a thrill going over and down Daylight Pass in an RV) where we dry-camped for 2 days.  Very quiet (as usual), and it almost emptied out on Sunday.  (The previous 4 days were more crowded than usual as this was when about 10,000 members of the “Death Valley 49’ers” convene each year…fortunately mainly in the Furnace Creek area, about 35 miles away.)

While at Stove Pipe dry camping, we decided to see if we could go for 2 days without running our generator.  We made it about a day and a half, and then the inverter managed to suck enough juice out of our 4 big-ass house batteries and all the AC (meaning the refrigerator and TV) shut down…right in the middle of the ‘Chick-Flick’ movie we were watching.  So, we woos’d out and fired the sucker up, for about an hour, to recharge the batteries.

One good/bad thing about our RV is that it has a full-size residential refrigerator; good if you are tethered to 50 amp power in an RV park, but not-so-good when you are dry camping.  We do have a 100 watt solar panel our roof which usually provides enough juice to allow the batteries (powering the inverter) to keep up with the refer, but if the sun is not shining – which it was not at this time – the batteries drain more quickly.

Not that running our generator is a big deal, it was just a matter of ‘pride.’  Anyhow all of this was important to us, but probably not you…

Charlie in Desert

Charlie in the desert, Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley.

Coyote

Charile’s Coyote Buddy, in the desert at Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley.

Sunset, Panamint Range, near Stove Pipe Wells.

Sunset, Panamint Range, near Stove Pipe Wells.

Day One at Stove Pipe was magnificent.  Day Two was not so good, sorta.  The day started off with Dee Dee taking Charlie out into the desert for his morning constitutional.  So, he pees, and then, you know.  Then, he USUALLY just sticks with Dee Dee and they walk back together.  But this time he makes a trotting bee-line back to the RV and waits by the door.  Then, about 30 seconds later this big-ass coyote heads out across the same stretch of desert from whence Charlie has just crossed.  Charlie proved, once again that he has great critter sense.  Conflict avoided.

Next, starting in the afternoon, we has sustained 40 – 50 MPH winds, and the usual accompanying dust; this lasted for the next 36 hours, which a bit unusual, and the wind usually comes in fast and leave fast, the entire event lasting only an hour or 2.  It was blowing so hard that night that, about midnight, we had to get up and pull in the slides.  Not a big deal, really, just a minor annoyance.  But, the animals were kind of freaked out by all the noise.

Two RVs Furnace Creek

In the Furnace Creek Campground. Us on the left, Gary on the right. Twins.

On Monday, November 16th, we bid goodbye to our new friend, Phil, and headed off to Furnace Creek, where we would be for the next 2 weeks.  Here we met our crazy friend, Gary, and his even crazier brother, John.  We have been enjoying the relative quiet (almost all of the 10,000 ‘49’ers have departed).  We also made our ritual first-day trip to the Furnace Creek bar and had a few beers.  What fun!

Zabriskie Mud Hills

Hills at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Manley Beacon

Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Gary and Dee Dee

Gary and Dee Dee at Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley. Manly Beacon in the left background.

Dee Dee and John and Gary

Dee Dee, John and Gary, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.

Dee Dee and Charlie

Charlie and Dee Dee, Dante’s View, Death Valley.

So far, we have spent some time showing Gary and John a few of the more popular ‘tourist’ sights (Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Bad Water, Artist’s Drive, etc.)  We also drove up Highway 190, out of the park to check out Slab City, a possible dry-camping place.  Turns out it has great access and is pretty large-RV friendly.  Might be a place to stop and hang out at some point.  Tomorrow we head out to see some more subtle places in the Valley; we have all chipped in to rent a jeep and intend to do a lot of off-roading.

Whew!  That’s enough (actually, waaaay more than enough) for now.  Hope you enjoyed the prose and the pics.  The next installment should show up in about 2 weeks.

Over n’ out for now – we are off  to spend more time in this Magical Place…