Saturday, March 29, 2014

What a difference 24 hours makes - Vegas, Death Valley, a movie location and SNOW!

March 26 Davis Country Campground - Bullhead City - $27 with power and water

We left Sedona on a different highway than we came on and saw more amazing red rock formations on the way to the Village of Oak Creek. Sedona was definitely been a highlight for me. We are on the Colorado River again across from Laughlin. We can see Casino buildings across the river through the cloud of dust that we travelled in today due to very high winds. Saw more parts of the Mongollon Rim which I will need to do some internet research on. Part of our travels today were on another section of historic Route 66. It was only 9C in Flagstaff and with the wind felt much colder. Jeans, socks and shoes today. By the time we climbed from 4300 to 7300 ft then dropped to 400 ft here in Bullhead City, it was up to 24C. 4 days ago we were on the Colorado River on the California side looking over to Arizona. Today we are on the Colorado River again, but on the Arizona side looking over to Nevada.

 March 27 Indian Springs Casino parking lot- $0
We drove through Las Vegas - and I do mean right down Casino Row past the Venetian, Bally's, the Bellagio. Daryl had read about free RV parking in behind Bally's but it was just a crowded parking lot so we headed off. Hit a outlet mall for a few hours and then continued on to Indian Springs north of Vegas. We had chicken fried steak for dinner at the small Casino. This town has 2 gas stations, a hotel with $20 rooms and a casino. When we left for dinner there were a few truckers and a few RVs. When we finished dinner the lot was pretty full so I guess this is a popular stop. Tomorrow morning we will enter Death Valley from the East Gate. Marach 28 BLM Lands Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA - $0 Short night as the freight trucks around us start up their engines early; like 4 AM. We were on the road at 7:45 and entered Death Valley National Park around 9 AM. It really does have an amazing variety of scenery. We drove to Badwater and the lowest point in North America; 282 ft below sea level.

Temperature changed dramatically too. It was only 7C as we neared the park, but as we descended to sea level and lower, it went up to 22C. Still cool for late March. Highest ever recorded temperature was 134F.
Leaving the park was a stressful drive as we climbed up to 5000 ft, descended to 1000 ft then again climbed to 5000 ft on a narrow road without pulloffs. Hard on the truck and driver and the steep grade downhill had me putting on the brakes even though I wasn't driving! I don't think we would take this route again.

 Our next camping spot is near the small town of Lone Pine, on a BLM site called Alabama Hills. Really spectacular scenery here and Holllywood has filmed several movies over the years. The wind is up still so it's a little cool as the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains have snow on them.   We have an amazing camping spot and the dogs are able to be off leash as there are no other campers in the vicinity. This afternoon we watched rock climbers across the valley using binoculars. It was a pleasantly warm day and overnight temps were mild too.

March 29th Super 8 - Lake Tahoe - $65
We left the BLM land and headed towards Reno with the plan to stay in a Casino Parking Lot in Stateline. which is near Lake Tahoe. This took us over mountain passes up to 8,000 ft elevation and temps down to 3C. As we followed directions to the Casino, we realized at the point of no return, that we had a problem; Stateline is over another mountain pass and the temperatures dropped to -1C and by the time we got near the Casino it was snowing. There are no RV parks open at this time of year, so I decided a motel was the way to go tonight. Snow is contenting to fall as I write.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


March 24-25 Forest Service Land - 10 miles south of Sedona - no services, $0 Out trip from Empire Landing to Sedona took about 2 hours longer than it should have due to my poor navigation skills. We ended up driving north to from Flagstaff and then south to Sedona instead of north from Cottonwood. This also meant we crossed the Arizona Divide at about 7300 feet and saw a 12,000 ft mountain with snow on it. We left the desert environment and have now seen lots of Ponderosa Pines. The narrow, winding Oak Creek Canyon road to Sedona was challenging driving for Daryl pulling the 5th wheel but offered some spectacular scenery down the red sandstone canyon. Sedona itself looks pretty, pretty touristy and very busy. We missed two campgrounds north of town, due to last minute signs and too much traffic behind us to go slow. So Plan B - dispersed camping on Forest Service land 10 miles south of town has worked out well. We can see 2 other campers a little ways away. We have a lovely view all around us and we can see some of the red rock formations in the area. Now that we're up about 5000 ft. it's cooler, about 24C at 5 PM, instead of 30C. We have privacy and the dogs can be off-leash (a bit). Just like at Kelso Dunes, other campers haven't seen fit to bury their feces and Daegan's nose leads him right to it and much to our disgust, he eats it. So, he has on a collar with a bear bell so we know when he's moving out of our sight. Last night Daryl was sitting out reading by headlamp after dark. Daegan was out with him. Daryl came in to go to bed and didn't realize Daegan was still out lying down. Around 11 PM I heard a few quiet wuufs outside- thought it sounded like Deagan, which was puzzling because both dogs sleep inside. I heard the dog again and decided to make sure both dogs were inside. Much to my surprise, only Keeva was there and when I opened the door, there was Deagan.! We put up an X-pen (like a fence) so he wasn't loose, but he was pretty happy to come in. Another Daegan story -- we had the dogs inside because they had been barking at other dogs and we were outside sitting in our chairs. The screen door has a latch to open it and there is also a cover on the inside that covers up the latch so the door can't be opened. We always close the oover because Daegan knows how to push the latch to open the door. Well, we watched him use his nose to gradually push to cover over first and then push the latch to get the door open. Took him about 30 seconds. He is a smart dog. We took in the sights today and WOW, was there a lot of spectacular scenery!!! The red rock formations are amazing and, if I were very rich, Sedona is a place I'd have a home - it is so beautiful.
It's spring here, daffodils, lilacs and iris are in bloom and many trees have the bright green colour of new leaves. This is an area of "vortexes" places where there the Earth's power is said to be strongly felt and believed to be a very spiritual centre. Sedona is the place to come to have your aura read; energy rebalanced; participate in spiritual yoga or go on groovy jeep tours with a metaphysical bent. Daryl wasn't into it. We drove through a subdivision of beautiful south-west style architecture on the way to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was built in 1956 by Marguerite Brunwig Staude in the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright. The foundation is built into red rock columns., quite stunning and great views of Sedona. Then we drove the airport road thinking we might go see a vortex. The parking lot was packed so we continued on to a viewpoint near the airport and overlooked Sedona. The small airport is built on a plateau hundreds of feet above Sedona and I would imagine would feel weird landing a plane on the runway. Had a fellow camper over for dinner last night. Really interesting man who was a professional ballet dancer. We checked the weather forecast for the Grand Canyon and to our disappointment, a cold front is moving in and low temps are going below 0C. Rain and snow are forecast. So, that means we are got going to see the Grand Canyon this trip. Tomorrow we will start west and north towards Las Vegas and then home. Must admit I'm ready and the dark clouds are arriving, but no rain yet.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mile High in Prescott, AZ

March 19-20
Yuma:  Sun Ridge RV Park - $25/night with water, pool, laundry, electricity and cable.
We are in RV suburbia.   Surrounded by acres of RVs.  Very little greenery and baking hot till the sun goes down.  On each row, people gather for happy hour at 3 and then go home for dinner.   Everyone is very friendly but I guess you'd have to be to live in such close quarters.   I can't understand why those who can afford a $200K motorhome would pick such a sterile spot to spend 3-6 months.  Lots of people here wanted to know what kind of dogs we had and when Daryl went to pay for the second night, the lady at the office said that she'd heard about our beautiful dogs.   We are in Yuma to get the broken generator dealt with and after getting it to a Honda mechanic who said it was unfixable, and then several phone calls to the place Daryl had bought it from, a new generator is being shipped to Blaine and Daryl shipped the defective one back.   Very stressful for Daryl who dealt with it on his 65th BD.   Quite a drag too, as we only got to use it for 2 hours on the entire trip.  Can't say anything about Yuma appealed to me.  Also had one of the RV batteries boil dry, so it needs to be replaced.   

March 21-22-23
Parker Strip- Empire Landing - $15/night, no services, nice washroom/shower
Another hot day and nice to be back at Empire Landing where the dogs can get in the Colorado River, cool off and have fun.  Tonight, as we took the dogs for their final pee walk of the night, Daryl found out his scorpion light works.   He spotted a 3" scorpion just under a bit of bush where Daegan was heading.   It reallly goes glow brightly with the Scorpion light!  There aren't many campers here which is surprising because it's spring break.  We had originally gone to Buckskin State Park on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, but it was full as was the next State Park nearby, so decided to return to Empire Landing.   This is better for us as the dogs can get in the water and we had the little beach all to ourselves.   It's hot in the daytime, around 30C and the sun is intense.   It stays warm longer after the sun goes down too.  Was still 22C at 10.   Down to about 10C though early morning.   We are able to get internet closer down by the river and Daryl checked weather on the coast and it doesn't look that good so we are going back to plan A:  the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas instead of Plan B:  the California Coast.  Heard the coyotes several times during the night and last night it was the wild burros making the burro sound!

March 24th -- We are on our way to Sedona and drove through Prescott National Forest where we left cactus behind and saw real trees after gaining 6100 ft elevation

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ajo, AZ

March 18th
Ajo Country Club & Golf Course
Daryl golfed 9 holes yesterday morning.  We got started early in the morning so that it was cool because I was walking along with Daryl and with the dogs.  They are allowed on the course as long as they stay off the greens.  Too bad we didn't have a harness so that Daegan could pull the cart!
The first day we were here and having lunch in the golf course lounge, Daryl was invited to play along with the Monday night Men's group.   He decided to do that, so golfed another 9 holes yesterday afternoon and then had beer with the guys afterwards.  They were a very friendly group and he had a great time.  This morning one of the men arrived at our RV with a dozens of grapefruits, oranges, tangelos and lemons from his trees.

We drove into town today and had a look around the town square which has a beautiful church and then toured the local museum that has a very good collection of antiques and local history.   The town was an open pit copper mining town for a very long time but it's no longer operational.   The town has gone from 20,000 people at its height to a town that doesn't even have a Walmart or MacDonalds. As we were sitting outside the RV this afternoon, I had a beautiful small red bird with brownish wings fly right towards me and almost seemed like it was interested in the cup I was holding that was blue, red, yellow striped.  I think it was a Vermillion Flycatcher according to my Peterson Bird Guide.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Southern Arizona

March 9-10
Casino Del Sol - Tuscon- free, no facilities.  Join the Casino del Sol club and get $10 of gambling money and a free buffet dinner!
We drove from Patagonia Lake State Park to Tucson going through Nogales which is on the Mexican border.   Stopped at Tumacacori National Historic Park and San Xavier del Bac Mission.   It was really interesting to hear the history about the Jesuits and the Spanish, why they came to the New World and how they treated the native Indians.   At San Xavier it was also Pow Wow festival.  

We are parked in the Casino lot with about 50 other campers, many BC plates.   It was really windy today all the way from Patagonia to here.   The next morning was warm and sunny and the wind was gone.   We found a laundromat and now have clean clothes, sheets and towels!  In the same strip mall, found Candy's Hair Salon and got my hair done.  Then we did some shopping at the largest wine/beer/spririts store I've even been in-8000 wines, 3000 spirits and 2500 beers - amazing prices.  So sad we can't bring more back across the border.  More groceries from Trader Joes and another unsuccessful look for RV locks that fit the outside locker doors.   Went to the Casino and used our free $10 and broke even.  Warmer evenings here and it was up to 28C.  

March 11-12
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land south of Why - Free, no facilities
Left Casino del  Sol this morning and drove south-west to Why on Hwy 86, a long straight stretch of highway through a large native reserve.   We stayed 2 nights at a BLM site with about 2 dz other campers.   The first night, just as it got dark, we heard 2 horses gallop by.  The noise set the dogs off and we wondered why people would be galloping so fast on a narrow dirt road without much light.  We are in an area very close to the Mexican border and have seen that the Border Patrol have a significant presence.   The dogs get to be off leash and out of their pen here as we don't have any immediate neighbours.  Really beautiful sunsets both nights.  
We took a walk this morning to see what other sites there are further off the highway and found many other nice sites that we could get to that are further in off the road.  Also found a white Desert Lily in bloom.
We would stay longer, but we are running out of water, so need to get to a site with some services, then we will probably come back.   Unfortunately, our brand new Honda generator is not working.  Down to about 10C at night and up to 26C in the daytime.   By 9 am it's close to 20C.  I didn't realize how close we are to the north end of the Gulf of California (or Sea of Cortes) until I looked at a map.   

March 13-14-15
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument - $12/night plus $8 park fee (no hookups, solar shower, sank-station and water.  
First afternoon we got here, we first of all filled up with water and dumped the black water and then got all set up.   Also took the dogs and a garden hose to a faucet and gave them a bath.  They were both so dusty from all the free time at the BLM.  Once we were sitting down and relaxing, we realized we had a problem with the toilet.   Daryl tried a few different things without success and in the end we had hook up the RV, take it back to the sani-dump, hook up our garden hose to the fresh water tap and stick the hose down the toilet.  I got to control the faucet while Daryl got the toilet end.   Fortunately that worked and we got set up all over again.    
The campsite is only about half-full and is quite nice.  There is an amphitheatre and they put on talks at night.   While we were there the talks were on desert tortoise, the geology of the area and an interesting talk by an archaeologist who has worked in the area of this park for 25 years.  The native people had been in the area since about 15,000 BC.  The next morning we drove the Ajo Mountain Drive and enjoyed the scenery and all of the Organ Cactii.  
I saw a number of flowering cactus, orange, rust, pink, yellow.   

Today's RV problem is that that shower tap is leaking and my Fido US talk-text-data package is not working.   So we need to find a town with free Wi-Fi, an RV repair shop and a Honda dealer.  We drove down to Lukeville which is on the Mexican border thinking they would have a grocery store, but there is only a gas station, small restaurant and convenience store.  At night, from our campsite, we look south to the border and there is a string of very bright lights illuminating the border and Border Patrol is very active.   We've been through 3 checkpoints now.  It's really windy again today, but it helps cool the temperature. down during the day.   Starting to think about a route back home again.   

March 16-17
Ajo Country Club - $3 a night! or free if you have lunch or golf (9 holes $10) use of the locker room facility and free Wi-Fi. 
We drove from OPCNM to Why, checked out an RV site beside the Casino which wasn't that appealing so continued on to a gravel road and checked out a BLM site we had heard about, but it wasn't nearly as nice as the last one we were at, so again continued on.  As we were on the gravel road, wondering where we were going to get the rig turned around on a narrow road, we pulled over to let some vehicles behind us pass. Turned out it was 3 US Border Patrol trucks.   The first one stopped to see if we were OK and told us to continue on a bit further to a place we could turn around which we did.   On the way back to the highway, we saw a car coming towards us with a canoe on top, so we stopped to let him know, kiddingly, that there were no lakes ahead.   (We are in the Sonoran Desert by the way!).   He laughed and said he hadn't had the canoe in the water much since he left BC.  Turns out he's from Powell River!   So, we got back on the highway, stopped in Ajo for groceries and then found the Ajo Country Club.   It's a small golf course and restaurant with a small airport beside it.   

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sunday morning in Nogales, AZ

March 4-5 Catalina State Park Left LDSP and made a stop at Gold Canyon to see if we could find Bob & Karen Martin and we did! Had a visit and then continued on to Catalina State Park. It's on the outskirts of Tucson, about 14 miles away; in a area called Oro Valley. We are parked in the overflow area and it's pretty nice. First night we were here there were only a few other campers but it has filled up. Met Serge from St. Eustache, Que and he came and joined us for dinner. He brought a delicious salad of mangoes, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, oil, salt/pepper. He usually adds fresh basil, but didn't have any so we substituted cilantro. It got quite cold last night, in fact our coldest night since leaving Vancouver; down to 2C. But by 9:30 it was 18C and now at 4:30 it's about 25C. The sun has a lot of intensity and it feels hotter than that.
The next morning we drove to Saguaro National Park and drove the 8 mile scenic loop, stopping often for photos.
Had no idea that the saguaro lives to be 200 years old and doesn't even get "arms" till age 75. This is part of the Sonoran Desert and it has 2 wet seasons, winter and summer. It usually snows at least once in the winter. Found another Trader Joe's which has become my favourite place to grocery/alcohol shop. Lots of different foods, organic and specialty items at great prices. In Phoenix I bought a N.Z. Sauvigon Blanc for $3.99 that was about as good as I've tasted, so was happy to find the same wine at the Tucson Trader's Joe's. I bought 6 bottles of wine, a French Brie, a mango, a jug of organic lemonade, mini heirloom tomatoes, persian cucumbers, a bag of lens, Italian Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato pasta and a bag of lemons for $50. March 6-7-8 Patagonia Lake State Park We left Catalina State Park and drove south to the Pima Air and Space Museum and spent about 5 hours there. It's the largest private museum in the US with 300 planes. Bob Andrews -- thought you would love this place!
The Smithsonian is the largest with over 400. They also have a "boneyard" and Daryl went on a tour while I stayed with the dogs. Then we drove to within about 18 miles of the US/Mexico border to the State Park. Passed through a Border Patrol check on the way although they were checking northbound vehicles only. Next day had a lazy day, going for a walk and reading in the sun and watched a beautiful sunset.
This area is important for bird migration and birders in the campground have spotted 74 different birds in the last 2 weeks.; Elegant Trogan, Northern Cardinals, various finches, flickers and more. We've seen lots of hummingbirds around. Today we're going to Sonoita and Elgin and touring wineries.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lost Dutchman State Park

Feb 28- March 1-2 Lost Dutchman State Park - really great site and view. 2nd night was a rough night - Keeva was whining most of the night to go out as she had diarrhoea while a storm came through and the wind shook the RV and whistled around the vents and slide-outs. We were up from 2-4 AM and then Daryl dozed beside Keeva. After breakfast we decided to head for an outlet mall since it was raining. Bought a few things and then came home, had dinner, and the rain started again and absolutely poured as we were heading to bed. The Phoenix area has been without rain for 70 days; of course it breaks while we are here! However, we are warm and dry, have water and electricity and even some TV through antenna. I didn't even know you could still get TV that way! We're going to watch the Oscars tonight with a nice bottle of wine from Trader Joe's - $8.

We left the park and headed south with a stop at Gold Canyon to see if we could find Bob & Karen Martin who are from CR.  We did find them, visited for a while and then headed south to stop at Desert Garden's RV Park for the night.  Beautiful sunset tonight.