19 January 2012

Q is

The first item on our bucket list for this year!!  Quartzsite, AZ, is a small town on I-10 in western AZ that is considered snowbird central in the winter time.  That is, snowbirds that travel in RV’s. 

A windy day!
They start gathering in Q in late Oct and continue to arrive through the winter.  January is the big RV event culminating in a very large RV show the last week of the month.  There are several RV parks in and close to town but the very vast amount of RV’ers boondock in the nearby BLM lands.  There are LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) with dump stations and water fill stations and STVA (Short TVA) with no facilities. 
Open parking!
Some folks cluster togather
These areas are each 3 or so miles square and have no hook-ups, you park where you want to.

Some folks park by themselves others in small groups.  We are with a group of about 15 or so RV’s, all members of the Escapees RV Club.  There are other groups of Escapees (SKP) in the area and tomorrow and the next day there is a Club Happy Hour sponsored in one of the campgrounds.  Our group, the Class of 2007, gets together every evening about 4 o’clock around the fire pit and socializes!
Pot luck for the Class of 2007
Queen Linda on the throne!
This evening we had a pot luck and of course more food then you can imagine.  And, later some of the guys had worked out a fun way to recognize the effort of the main lady that organized this 5-year reunion of the Class of 2007 - their 5th anniversary of full time RV life! Remember, this is an all volunteer organization with no real officers or charter.    Linda has certainly been key to this gathering, our first. 
So this evening there was a coronation making her Queen of the Class.  Tools suitable for her duties and a throne were part of the coronation.

Around the campfire!
Later at the coronation ball, we had campfire songs led by a friend of a friend of somebody from Canada.   

Tomorrow we will have a bar-b-q to enjoy some meat that has been in the smoker for several days now!  And, Friday afternoon we have an auction as a fund raiser for a special charity we all have an interest in followed by a chili cook-off!

Life’s tough for BJ and I, but we are managing to handle it!

The whole town turns into a huge flea market in Jan.  There are several large gem and rock shows sponsored by different organizations.  And, dealers show up for any and everything imaginable.  A very large circus style tent (3-ring at least) is put up for the RV show in late January, followed by a rock and gem show, followed in Feb by an Arts and Craft show.  However, the huge tent is only one venue, every square inch of Q has some vendors hawking something that might be of interest to the crowd!
BJ at the Rock Pile!

The surrounding area is all open desert and BJ and I have enjoyed some hiking in the mountains, as well as, across the desert!  It is all beautiful.  
Some of the RVs in the desert!
And, when you get some height up a mountain you see all of these little dots in the desert that are RVs spread throughout the desert – I have heard estimates of 12,000 to 15,000 RVs here.  Before we got here I thought it was just somebody’s wild overestimate.  However, now I believe it is an underestimate.  Yesterday we were climbed a mountain SW of town and we had a good look from about 500 ft above the desert floor and the RVs were just everywhere! 

A pretty cactus flower in the mountains!
A desert road with flood warning!!

View from the mountain!

Always at home no matter where we are!

13 January 2012

The Ultimate, Unlimited, Unorthodox RV

Welcome to YPG!
We are for a few days at Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG), a US Army base north of Yuma, AZ.  Nearby is the All American Canal and Imperial Dam and SW Arizona is one large RV Park after another and all full of RVs this time of the year!   
The proving ground was established in 1942 to train US armored units for desert warfare and General George Patton was the first commander.  They still do a lot of testing here and it is part of the California/Arizona Maneuver Area that extends several hundred miles north and east of the base.  It is part of a large coordinated DOD training area.  YMG only occupies about 13,000 square miles of it, a relatively small portion of the entire area. 

I visited the Heritage Center, a base museum, that was well done and I especially enjoyed the section on ordnance testing.  They have been part of the program to develop armor piercing projectiles, as well as, cannon to deliver them to the target. 

Another project in the early 1960’s was a program to develop an “overland train”.  It was intended to deliver a large amount of supplies over unimproved terrain.  It consisted of a control cab, two power generating trailers, and up to 13 cargo trailers.  The entire train was 565 feet long.   It was never fully deployed and it appears only one complete unit was every built and it was for test purposes. 

However, what remains is the control cab and it is on display across the street from the museum.  It can handle the living, sleeping and sanitary needs of the 6-man crew that operated the overland train.  There are a number of pictures of the entire training winding around the desert like a big snake. 

The ultimate RV
I am thinking what a cool RV that would be. You would be secure inside and great view from the cab.  Traffic would get out of your way.  And, think of all the room we would have inside.  BJ could have her own quilting room, I could have a workshop.  We could go just about wherever we wanted too!

Uh, we won’t talk about the fuel bill when we fill up with diesel!  There was some discussion about outfitting it with a small nuclear power plant and it would provide power for the base once it arrived at destination.  There was no evidence much serious work was done on that part of the program! 

But, what a great RV especially for the great, vast western outdoors that BJ and I are really enjoying!

Always at home, no matter where we are!

12 January 2012

Saguaro Cactus

The iconic saguaro cactus with its tall straight frame reaching out of the surrounding desert floor is a dominant characteristic of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona!  Most, but not all, have some “arms” reaching out from the main stalk.  And, who in my generation don’t remember the good cowboys in the Saturday matinee movies that were saved from certain death by thirst in the desert when they miraculously came across a saguaro in the desert and stuck their knife into its succulent flesh to receive life sustaining water, bountiful water!   
Saguaro cactus
Saguaro cactus and friends - wild burros
Standing tall in the desert!
Well, it turns out that is not as easy as they made it seem in the movies.  The flesh is truly succulent and there is space between the rows of sharp thorns (the Indians used them as needles for sewing); however just below the surface is the saguaro ribs – thick hard wooden “bones” that gave the saguaro the ability to grow and stand tall in the desert.  These bones long outlived the succulent flesh when a cactus was finally knocked over.  If it died from natural causes the “bones’ would be standing long after the succulent flesh was history.  They littered the desert floor where cactus were knocked over and slowly deteriorated. 
Some more saguaro ribs

Saguaro ribs standing and on the ground
At sunset

A little curves adds distinction
Friends in the desert!
Imitation is the best form of flattery!

Always at home no matter where we are!

10 January 2012

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Gila Bend Air Force Axillary Field
The Good – we finally found the real winter!  The warm one like it is supposed to be.  On New Year’s Day we moved from cold Phoenix to warm Gila Bend AF Aux Field, the burial spot for Old Man Winter.  Weather has been warm, sunny and very pleasant since we arrived.  I have finally switched back to my uniform of the day – shorts and sandals.

Old Man Winter's Final Resting Place

The Bad – Gila Bend is not a very big place and not many facilities.   There is one grocery store in town, two small restaurants and three gas stations with convenience store.   However, there are pretty mountains and desert all around. 
The 5-Old Crab's names are listed under the sign!
The Ugly – on our first visit to the lone grocery store, I noted they had no diet tonic and only two bottles of regular tonic; thinking I could pick it up later if need or I could maybe find some preferred diet tonic somewhere!  A few days later I went back to get the tonic as it was the only tonic in town! Gone – I immediately started increasing the gin to reduce the utilization of tonic!  Now I am forced to drink Martinis – we have plenty of gin and vermouth!  Life is tuff, but we will survive! 

Beautiful desert!
We are moving on west to Yuma for a few days and then up to Quartzite, the big RV gathering in the desert every January.  Some friends are already there and they report the party is getting started.  The last week in January is also a big Rock & Gem show and BJ is really hyped about that.  I am hyped on getting some diet tonic as soon as we hit Yuma!

A geocache location in the desert

A train winding thru the desert

Petroglyphs at the Gila Bend Dam Site


Always at home, no matter where we are!!

04 January 2012

Glorious Canyons - Part Two

After we left Capitol Reef National Park we headed SW to Bryce Canyon National Park.  We were fortunate to get a site close to the trails that lead into the canyon.  Bryce Canyon was formed millions of years ago when the area was at the bottom of a vast inland sea and as the sea receded softer material was eroded, leaving these tall columns called hoodoos!  Around the canyon rim you can look down on the hoodoos and you can also descend down into the bottom of the canyon and walk among hoodoos! 
Looking down on some hoodoos!
Walking among the hoodoos!

The hoodoos are each different as they have been formed over the millennia by the forces of nature.   

Looking down into Bryce Canyon from the rim

Hoodoos and more hoodoos

Road thru Red Rock State Park
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon
We also visited some other impressive locations like the Red Rock State Park several miles from Bryce Canyon. 

However, in due course all good things must come to an end.  And, we were getting concerned about being far enough south before the weather really turned to winter!  So we moved a little farther south to Zion Canyon Nationa Park.  It had gone through a different formation process at a different time and at Zion you started at the bottom of the canyon and worked your way up instead of at the top and work your way down as we did a Bryce!

Also, to access Zion from the east as we did you drove through a long canyon descending as you went, including a tunnel.  It was a magnifisent drive thru some beautiful canyon scenery. 
An alcove in the canyon wall
Interestingly, at Zion they had reduced traffic and its impact by using buses to transport visitors into Zion Canyon.  The buses would pick you up at the visitor center or several other places, including in the nearby town and take you to any number of spots within the canyon.  You did not have to fight traffic or parking problems in the canyon, just get off and on the bus where you wanted to go.  BJ and I both agree it was a great plan, well executed!

There was a stream running down the canyon floor and it was stream that for several million years carved the canyon by eroding away the softer material and leaving the harder rock.  You could see traces of the erosion throughout the canyon. 

Looking toward the mouth of Zion Canyon

The stream at the bottom of Zion Canyon

The lodge at Zion NP

As the first snow of the season was forecast after we had been there for several days we decided to move on south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, several hours south of us.  We did not expect to miss the snow nor was the snow going to be very heavy, but we figured we has seen a good bit of Zion and if we were already at the Grand Canyon when the snow fell we would be in a better position to see the canyon once the snow fall was over. 

So we moved on south and reached the north rim the day before the snow.  

Always at home, no matter where we are!

The Year in Review

2011 was our first full year on the road full time.  We visited 26 states and spent one or more nights in 16 of them.  We added 7,350 miles to Lucie, our trusty home on wheels and 19,400 miles on the Gray Ghost, some of those in some really beautiful and memorable off-road areas out West! 

Crossing the Geo Washington Bridge - one inch at a time!
We broke winter camp in the Florida Keys in March and headed up the East Coast.  We visited friends and family along the way to RI where the granddaughters and their handlers were.  But, we did not want to get there too soon as it was COLD.  We enjoyed again a stop in our nation’s capitol. Then we moved on north and spent a day in Philadelphia!   As we neared RI we decided to take the direct route through NY City versus the longer detour around the city.  We were slowed to a crawl as we neared the George Washington Bridge.  That was the time I got a terrible cramp in my thigh and could not sit behind the wheel any longer!  Fortunately, the traffic was stopped so BJ and I could swap positions.  I then walked and stretched in the RV as BJ inched us across the George Washington Bridge and out of NY City. Later that day we arrived in RI and saw Reagan and Addison and all was well!

Lechtworth St Prk in western NY
Spending a month with the girls, including a week in western NY camping with them was a great highlight of 2011 for us.  But, we also visited some great friends along the way and made some wonderful new friends.

Old Faithful at Yellowstone
The top of our bucket list (for CY2011) was Yellowstone National Park which we finally arrived at in mid-Sep.  It was all the we expected and more.  We decided early on that this was a matter of prioritizing what we would see this time and what we would see on a return engagement at some future date.   We spent a week there and then when weather turned wet and cool we headed south. 

We enjoyed a week in Ogden UT at Hill AFB FamCamp as we prepared to hit the canyons south of there, Bryce, Zion and Grand were on the bucket list.  By now we realized each would be like Yellowstone in that we would have to decide what we would see or do on this trip and what we would leave for the next!   When we left Hill AFB we were headed south, still talking about which of the several canyon parks we would visit first.  We knew Bryce and Zion would be last because they were further south.  We were headed toward Canyonlands National Park, but as we were travelling east on I-80 we saw the exit for Capitol Reef National Park and took it!  We would be closer to Bryce and Zion and reduce our travel time some as we were watching the weather now as it was turning cooler. 

BJ in the snow at the North Rim
We spent nearly a week each at Capitol Reef and Bryce and then headed to Zion.  After several days there they were predicting the first snow fall of the season.  We had in the meantime decided we would do the north rim of the Grand Canyon since it was significantly closer to us then the more popular south rim.   And, we further concluded we would be better off there in the first snowfall which was forecast to be light then at Zion.  So we moved to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the next day night got 2 inches of snow.  The first snow we had seen while living in Lucy!  The roads were cleared quickly and much of the snow was melted in a day.  So it was not a big impact and we got to see plenty of the north portion of the Grand Canyon.

However, we did decide at this point to move on to NM and get through there before the winter really got serious.  So we left and in beautiful weather traveled to Farmington NM in the northwest corner (4 corners area).  From there we went to a Corp of Engineer campground outside of Santa Fe.  Weather was bright and sunny both places and we moved on to Albuquerque.   After a week there we moved further south and spent some time at Holloman AFB then Rock Hound State Park in Deming NM.  BJ has taken up rock hounding and that was what the State Park was all about.  She had a ball and we stayed there for about 5 days.   I enjoyed some good hiking and some great off-road trips in the Gray Ghost.  Visited a couple of abandoned mines nearby, but did NOT venture into any of them. 

Finally, we left and moved into AZ, our final resting place (for the year)!  We spent about 10 days at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson and took a number of side trips, including one to a former Titan Missile complex.  The Titans were our largest ICBM with a single multi-mega ton nuclear warhead but some serious safety issues as they aged and were decommissioned in early 80’s after a particularly bad accident with one of the missiles.  So BJ got to sit in the launch commanders chair and was the queen of the complex for awhile.  Think about that – BJ with her finger on the nuclear trigger!  Sleep well, it was an inert training warhead!!
Lenore and BJ in beautiful Sedona
BJ in Steve & Lenore's backyard with some wild life!
BJ at the missile command desk!
We left Tucson and headed to Sedona for Thanksgiving week with our friends Steve and Lenore.  An unexpected delight was Lenore’s Mom was there from Melbourne.  What a great time we had.  And, Sedona was even better then we imagined.  Steve and Lenore’s wonderful house backs up to some beautiful federal land and we could walk out of their back yard into beautiful hiking and scenery.  And, we met many of their neighbors during a drop in on T-day.  It is a close friendly community they live in.

After that we moved to Phoenix and met up with some friends we had met in Aug at an RV rally and stayed at a park they go to every year for the winter.  It was in Buckeye a suburb west of Phoenix.  Weather was colder than we expected and windy and rainy!!  And we were told it was uncommonly bad weather for Dec.  Same think we had been told in the previous Dec in the Keys.  (It turned out that Dec 2010 was the coldest Dec since they started keeping records in the Keys!)

We enjoyed our time there despite the weather and moved on south to Gila Bend after  the New Year arrived. 

For 2012 the big bucket list item is summer in Alaska.  But, we are looking forward to traveling up the west coast seeing some friends along the way and, especially seeing Oregon, the only state I have not visited.  After Alaska we will start working our way toward Norfolk, VA where the girls are.  We will spend Christmas with them and then we will head for the Keys.  

Always at home, no matter where we are!