The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #20

 Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #20

Thursday, March 11, 2010:  Left the Flying J Truck Stop, El Paso, Texas at 0830.  Traveled US-62 East, which is also called The Texas Mountain Trail, toward the Guadalupe Mountains.  Weather is sunny, cool and very windy with sand blowing across the roadway.  The truck and trailer are being buffeted around a bit. 

 After a few hours on the road we reached Guadalupe Mountains National Park and stopped at the visitors’ center.

 

 

 This little known national park is on the Texas-New Mexico border and, other than the visitor’s center with a small campground, is mostly undeveloped.  The big draw is that The Guadalupe Mountains at some 8,700 feet are the highest thing for miles around.  Pioneers used to use these mountains as a landmark during their western migration.  The trail up Guadalupe Peak is 5 miles long and reportedly from the summit one can detect the curvature of the earth along the horizon.

 Decided not to stay at the campground so we headed down the backside of the mountains staying on US-62 and then moved over to US-285 heading toward Pecos, Texas. 

 This part of Texas is desolate, and very boring.  The only thing of interest is the occasional tumbleweed that blows across the highway.  Here’s what it looks like out the windshield…..mile after mile.

 

 And here is what it looks like out the trucks left window…..mile after mile.

 

 And here is what it looks like out the trucks right window…..mile after mile.

But wait!  Occasionally you do come to a town!

Ghosts don’t even live in these towns.  I thought Kansas was long, flat and boring.  West Texas has them beat.

After driving through mile after mile of sand and scrub brush we decided to stay at a campground that celebrates sand and scrub brush.  Sand Hills State Park in Monahan, Texas was just such a place.

So you think that “Loose Sand” sign is necessary?  If it wasn’t loose sand wouldn’t it be called concrete?

After dinner I decided to enjoy my adult beverage on the beach but about went crazy looking for the perfect spot.  The place, although a bit sparse has a unique charm.  The setting sun caused the sand particles to glisten.  And the stars were brilliant in the night sky.  I guess what they say is true:  “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder”.

Turned out that other folks enjoyed the sand and dunes…..there were one or two others camping as well.

That windmill in the background is still in use for pumping water into an elevated holding tank for use in the park.

Friday, March 12, 2010:  Woke to clear, windy weather with temperatures in the 60’s.  Broke camp and was on the road by mid-morning. 

Decided to take I-20 toward Odessa, Texas then drop down to Farm Road 1053 through Fort Stockton, Crane and Mertzon.  If you want to see what this area of Texas looks like see the photos above…..booooooring.  We named these roads “pointy roads” because they were so long and straight that they appear to end in a point on the horizon.  However there always seemed to be water on the road up ahead but it kept flowing away from us…..we never were able to catch up with it.  There were a bunch of oil wells to break up the monotony but even they eventually blended into the blandness.  I guess the State of Texas being so big features one of the most diverse environmental bodies in the nation.  If so, then this area is likely the armpit.

Eventually we came to the beginnings of “Texas Hill Country” and the scenery became more interesting.  We pulled into a very nice Air Force Recreation Facility located on a nice lake sponsored by Goodfellow AFB.  Decided to stay at their campground for the next two evenings.

We learned early on last years trip that we needed to take a “down day” every week or so.  No traveling and no sightseeing…..just goofing off around the campsite.  That is what we did here.  The facility is incredible with large athletic fields (suitable for kite flying), a swimming pool, and motor boat, sail boat and jet ski rentals.  In addition we chatted with many of the fellow campers and met some interesting folks.  A nice spot to unwind and prepare for the next weeks activities…..whatever they turn out to be.

March 14, 2010:  Headed east on US-7.  It is clear, calm and near 80 degrees.  Passing through the town of Brady, Texas we noticed a banner advertising next weekends Goat Barbeque…..now I’ve attended, and participated, in many a Goat Cluster while serving in the Navy but looks like I’ll have to pass on this event as we will be long gone.

Hopped over to US-29 then US-71 through Llano and Dripping Springs, Texas and then took Ranch Road 150 on into Kyle for a return visit with Kit’s sister and her husband Donald.

We also visited with Rey and Darlene, seasoned RV travelers from Maine who settled in the area a few years ago.  They shared with us the exciting news that they are selling their home, buying an upscale fifth wheel trailer and hitting the road full time.

Kyle is a nice town south of Austin and we once again accepted their kind offer to dooryard surf spending an enjoyable four days visiting, eating, drinking and relaxing.  Great time with great folks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010:  Departed Kyle and headed east on The Texas Brazos Trail (US-21) under clear skies and temperatures in the 60’s.  There has been a bit of traffic the past few days then it occurred to us…..Spring Break.  Well another reason not to head south toward Padre Island as we had originally considered.

Leaving the Texas Hill Country we entered the Piney Woods Region and soon came to the small town of Dime Box, Texas.  We just had to stop and investigate.  The unusual town name came about when the small farming and ranching village located here in the early 1900’s did not have mail delivery.  So the folks built a central mail deposit box and whenever any of the town folks would ride their mule into the big city of Lincoln they would take the mail.  In addition some folks would leave note and a few dimes in the box requesting the next traveling citizen to pick up items they couldn’t grow or make…..such as chewing tobacco.  The town mail box became know as “The Dime Box” and years later when the State of Texas needed a name for the rapidly growing community the locals submitted Dime Box.  And a tourist hook was born.

There is a museum but it was open by appointment only.  Actually the whole town looked like a museum so we just poked around for a while.

Back on the main highway we started noticing signs that said:  “Hysterical Marker 1 Mile Ahead”.  There where dozens of them…..mile after mile.  So we took the bait and stopped at one.  What a disappointment…..the marker wasn’t funny at all.  Just a bunch of dumb history stuff.

We soon entered the Davy Crockett National Forest.  This was especially meaningful to me as Davy Crocket was my hero while growing up in the 1950’s.  I even wore a “Coonskin Cap” every day and usually to bed as well…..which irritated Kit on our wedding night however.  Since it was getting late we stopped at Crockett Campground for the night.

It was a very nice facility right on Houston County Lake which is known for prime bass fishing.  On the walls of the office there are many trophy photos of grinning angler’s holding huge bass by their lower lip.

  

That evening after dinner and our customary walk I signed onto the internet to check e-mail, the news and stock reports.  It was then that I heard the sad news of Fess Parkers passing.  What a profound moment.  Sitting in the middle of the Davy Crockett National forest on the day the greatest actor ever to portray the legend passes on.  Toasting my hero I proclaimed:  “To the king of the wild frontier, may you rest in peace”.  Other campers seemed to understand my pain as they looked my way and just shook their heads.

Friday, March 19, 2010:  On the road by 1000 heading south on US-7.  As we were enjoying our drive through the Davy Crockett National Forest we came upon this horrifying sight:

How could they…..Davy’s trees should be sacred and protected from such wanton vandalism.  As I pulled abreast of the offending truck I shook my fist at the driver…..he wagged his finger back at me.  I think that meant he understood and that he was trying to convey that I was indeed Davy Crockett’s number one fan.  So I backed off and let him motor on in peace.

Passing into Louisiana we noticed a large shadow envelope the truck and heard a loud roar.  As a B-52 Bomber passed over I noticed a number of other B-52’s circling the skies above Barksdale Air Force base.  I was able to snap this photo of the huge plane through the windshield.

The rest of the trip through the short part of Louisiana was fairly uneventful.  We stopped for fuel, lunch and a break but otherwise kept trucking.

As we passed over the Mississippi River it was getting late so we looked for a safe, flat place to RON (remember what that means?)  Soon we saw two motor homes in a Wal*Mart parking lot…..so we pulled in as well.

This Wal*Mart located in Vicksburg, Mississippi is open 24 hours and has a roving security truck who passed by every half hour or so.  Perfectly safe and the price was certainly right.

Saturday, March 20, 2010:  Woke to overcast skies and temperatures in the mid 50’s.  Walked into The Wal*Mart for coffee and a couple of breakfast sandwiches.  Who would a thought that The Wal*Mart store would feature a Bed and Breakfast option?

Hit the road early heading out on I-20 toward Jackson, Mississippi.  Soon we came to The Natchez Trace National Parkway and stopped at the visitors’ center.  This guy was parked along the entrance road which had a sign that said “No Parking” but I doubt that anyone would argue with him.

While at the visitors center I ran into this fella:

He may be an old shipmate of mine from my Navy days.  Or somewhere lies a box of Cracker Jacks missing its logo picture.  Either way he was interesting to talk to.

The Natchez Trace started as a heavily traveled wilderness road used by Indians and early pioneers.  The trace eventually extended 444 miles connecting Natchez, Mississippi with Nashville, Tennessee.  It was used to ferry trade goods until the advent of steamboats on the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers rendered it obsolete.  The National Parkway generally lays north and south so wasn’t really along the direction we were heading….but we took it anyway.

After about an hour of enjoying Natchez Trace we came to the Ross Barnett Reservoir and decided to head east once again and crossed the causeway that bisects the lake.  Entering into the little town of Canton we noticed a banner advertising an upcoming “Catfish Rodeo”.  Now that would be a sight to see!  I bet it’s really hard to stay in the saddle for the required time on those slippery suckers.  Also I bet those little Rodeo Clownfish in their bib overalls would be a hoot.  Too bad we can’t stick around.

Now we generally listen to NPR while on road trips and such was the case this afternoon as we headed toward Montgomery, Alabama.  Fully engrossed in the show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” we soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Birmingham…..yep passed right by Montgomery an hour ago.  Oh well…..our basic philosophy on these trips has been; sometimes on the way to a destination you get lost and discover a better one.  This 60 mile detour gave us a chance to drive through Selma, Alabama an important city during the civil rights struggle.  There where a few museums that would have been interesting to explore but we decided to leave them for another trip.  Selma still has the look and feel of the old south but also has pockets of a modern city.

Finally getting to Montgomery, Alabama we pulled into Maxwell Air Force Base and located their campground.  Since it was late the office was closed but the manager was kind enough to leave a note on the door listing the three open campsites.  First one we came to was full, as was the next.  Finally locating the third available campsite and discovered, much to our pleasure, it was open!  Road Magic surfaces its beautiful head once again.  While setting up for the night I saw the lights of another rig pulling in.  Great timing on our part.

Kit’s Corner:  After spending quite a bit of time in Texas and seeing the many areas of the state it indeed is quite diverse.  Of course, some parts are much nicer than others.  We look forward to exploring more of the state in the future.  They have wonderful state parks and we also want to spend some time in Austin and San Antonio.  

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

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The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #19

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #19

 

Friday, February 26, 1910 to Monday, March 8, 2010:  Still in Tucson and mom is continuing to recover from her stroke.  She has improved enough to return to Crossroads, the adult care home she has been living at for the past three years.  All in all, a positive outcome.  On one of our visits this week mom decided to dress up a bit and Kit found an appropriate hat to top it all off!

  Nice hat…..she looks like she could be the Queen Mother of The Red Hat Society of Crossroads Adult Care Home.

 The weather, for the most part has been great during our stay.  Day temps in the 70’s and down to the 40’s overnight.  It only rained one day and all the locals were ecstatic!  Rain in the desert is a cause for celebration.

 While traveling in the southwest, Kit and I shop at our favorite grocery store…..Trader Joes.  It is a regional chain with uniquely branded products in addition to fresh produce, local beer and quality wine.  And unlike some of the other “Boutique Grocery Stores” Trader Joe’s is not very expensive.  Now we hear that Trader Joe’s may be coming to Portland, Maine!!!!!   If true we can enjoy the same great products at home as well.  Our favorites are Trader Joe’s Granola Cereal, Joe-Joe Cookies, Garlic & Cheese Bread, Cinnamon Graham Crackers and Trader Joe’s Dark Beer.

 There are additional stores we like out here as well.  Savers, which is a re-sale shop with nice stuff and benefits Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization, Bookman’s Used Book Store and the local outfitter Summit Hut.

 One morning I went to the local Chevrolet dealership to get the oil changed on the truck.  While waiting for the work to be accomplished I wandered around a bit.  This place is huge…..it covered an entire city block and has about 40 service bays.  The waiting room looked like a Starbucks with complimentary coffee and pastries and the showroom had a number of high end cars and truck on display including this gem:

 

  It’s a $122,000.00, 638 horsepower, Corvette ZR-1…..and they had two for sale!  Being a car nut I spent considerable time drooling over this baby.  Also note the line of “average” Corvettes in the background.  Who says there’s no money in the desert?

 As I mentioned previously, Dewey and Bea’s neighbor is a Hispanic fella from Magdalena, Mexico.  In addition to all his other accomplishments he is an incredible gardener.  His large back yard is planted with an unbelievable array of vegetables and fruit bearing trees.  Although his name is Manual everyone calls him “Manny” because he shares his “manny” oranges, tangelos and grapefruit with his neighbors.  Being “Winter Neighbors” Manny shared his bountiful harvest with us as well.

 One of the days while in Tucson, Kit wanted to have a “Kit Day” and since Bea was working Dewey and I decided to do a little hiking in the mountains.  He suggested a trail that led to the summit of Anascosa Peak in the Coronado National Forest.  Dewey, accompanied by Bea and the pup’s had enjoyed this hike previously and he was anxious to show it to me…..so off we went.

 Driving toward the trailhead on a narrow dirt road we came to a line of Hispanic Folks sitting by the roadside.  As we got closer we noticed their hands were cuffed behind them with plastic zip-ties.  There was a Border Patrol officer on horseback guarding them while apparently waiting for a van to transport them.  It was a surreal sight; all the illegal’s looked frightened and confused and the agent looked majestic atop this huge horse.  During our two years of traveling about the southwest that is the first time we witnessed a Border Patrol apprehension.  Our tax dollars at work!

 Arriving at the trailhead mid morning we set off.  The trail was very well designed and maintained.  It immediately started to ascend the mountain by the way of numerous well placed switchbacks.

  

After a few miles we caught sight of the peak and the fire tower that sits upon it, yep still have some more climbing to go.

   The summit at 6249 feet offered views that were incredible…..here is a panoramic shot that Dewey took and then stitched together using Photoshop: 

 The mountain range on the horizon is in Mexico.  In fact while climbing up I received a text message on my cell phone that said “Welcome to Mexico, to make a call…….”  I guess the closest cell tower to the summit of Atascosa Mountain is in Mexico.

 The fire tower was in remarkable shape considering it isn’t being used by the government anymore.  Sine it was windy at the top we took shelter inside and enjoyed lunch and the views.

 

  The fire tower, and the trail leading to it, is maintained by the local hiking club.  It is outfitted so one can stay overnight and contains two beds, a woodstove, chairs, a table and various storage cabinets; some of which contain canned and dehydrated foods.  In addition there is a “visitor’s log” containing notes and names of all who made it to the summit. 

 Hanging on the walls are copies of old newspaper clippings about the very controversial author, Edward Abbey.  Abbey, the “Henry David Thoreau of the American West” pulled a tour in this very fire tower as a lookout for the US Forest Service in 1968.  While spending long and lonely days looking for smoke, Abbey had plenty of time to muse and develop his radical opinions.  Excerpts from his daily journal while on duty in the fire tower are posted on the walls.  Abbey went on to write many books; one of the most famous was “The Monkey Wrench Gang” which inspired the radical environmental movement. 

 I would have loved to spend far more time up on the summit but the day was growing late so off we went.  During our hike down the mountain I spotted something brightly colored off the trail.  Going to investigate I found what appeared to be an illegal alien camp.  There was discarded clothing, blankets, discarded cigarette packs, empty cans of beans and old water bottles and all the labels were in Spanish.

 Returning to the truck Dewey decided to take the Ruby Loop back to the highway.  This 25 mile dirt road meanders through the Coronado National Forest and goes by the ghost towns of Ruby, Oro Blanco and several abandoned mining camps.  Since it was getting late we didn’t stop but will one day have to return and explore these sites.

 Back at the highway and famished we stopped at The Cow Palace Restaurant in Arivaca.  I enjoyed the best hamburger I’ve had in quite a while.  Apparently The Cow Palace is the place to be for the retired rancher crowd.  Boots and cowboy hats were in abundance and there was a piano player entertaining the diners.  And what do you suppose they had hanging on the wall?  Nope, not a stuffed bull’s head, but the head of a moose…..honest!  A perfect end to a great day and a great hike…..Dewey really knows how to pick them. 

 As much as we hate to leave Tucson we will head out tomorrow.  Mom is doing well in her place at Crossroads and it’s time to leave.  But not before one more Doobie Resort Rooftop visit were we can toast our friendly and very accommodating host’s…..Dewey and Bea:

 

 

 Monday, March 8, 2010:  Woke early, made coffee and decided to work on the journal.  But first I signed onto the internet to check the weather, news and stock reports.  In Tucson at 0600 it is overcast and the temperature is 51 degrees.  Smugly I checked the weather back home in Maine.  54 degrees—–Yicks!  In a few years, with continued global warming, we should have a tropical paradise back home in Crabapple Cove.

 Reluctantly we parted company with Dewey, Bea, mom and Dan and headed out for the long trek home.  When leaving Tucson we generally stop by the local RV center to dump the holding tanks, fill up with propane and add water to the storage tank.  This time we decided to stop by Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to take care of all that.  Since it was getting late in the day and it looked like a storm was brewing we decided to stay overnight at the base campground.  Unfortunately they were full of fellow snowbirds so we were shuttled off to overflow.

 

  Fortunately we like being in overflow since it is less crowded and rarely are there those ginormous motor homes.  However this time we had some interesting neighbors:

 

  It is the famous “Bone-yard” where all the surplus US military, and some civilian, airplanes are stored.  Officially it is called AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group).  The area covers 2,600 acres of desert floor and contains over 4,400 planes and spacecraft.  This base was selected back in the 1940’s as an airplane storage facility due to the warm dry environment and the very hard subsoil called “caliche”.  There is no paved area for the planes to park on…..just a hard and flat desert floor.  Some of the mothballed planes are sold and others become candidates for spare parts.  There are intact planes and bits of planes stored everywhere.  Quite a site, I took a long walk around the fence perimeter, stopping often to take pictures.

   

 There was even a gaggle of P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol aircraft…..the kind that used to fly above our house in Brunswick. 

The feds told us that our airbase had to close because the threat of submarine invasion to the city of Portland, Maine was minimal.  So some of the planes went to Jacksonville, Florida; apparently a more favorable target.  And the rest of the planes came here because I’m sure that Naval Intelligence (no comment) has uncovered evidence of submarine activity lurking beneath the desert floor in Arizona.  Personally I believe the Navy closed our base and sent the planes to Florida because that is where all the retired Admirals go to retire.  They have to retire there…..it’s a Navy Regulation, or something.

 Tuesday, March 9, 2010:  Underway early and heading east on I-10.  Shortly, two Arizona Highway Patrol cruisers pulled up alongside, motioned for me to roll down my window, and asked us to increase speed a little.  Weird since the speed limit was 65 and I was in the right lane doing 55.  Then they stayed right alongside paralleling my increase in speed to 65.  After a few minutes the both turned on their lights, slowed abruptly and pulled off the freeway.  Not sure what that was all about.

 Traveled into New Mexico mid-day and went through Lordsburg and Deming.  Since there was not much to see in this part of New Mexico we kept on trucking toward El Paso, Texas.  Entering the outskirts of the city we encountered a traffic jam…..not unusual for late afternoon in a large city.  However this one was complicated by a huge wreck involving tractor trailer rigs and other vehicles.  What a mess…..both lanes of the interstate were open but the traffic was slowed by all the rubber necking.

 Clearing El Paso it was getting late so we looked for a flat spot to park for the night.  We pulled into a Flying J Truck Stop and settled in alongside a large motor home. 

 Another large motor home pulled in after dark and we felt like a “Weenie Trailer Sandwich”.  Taking a walk around the parking area, I discovered all the RV rigs parking for the night were from Quebec, Canada.  It felt like Old Orchard Beach back home….except for the absence of French Fries, Speedos and Canadian Sandals.

 The Flying J Truck Stop chain is a great place to RON (Remain Over Night for you non military folks).  It welcomes RV’s, provides flat and secure parking and features a store, restaurant, fuel and dump stations.  At some of the Flying J’s the RV fuel lanes allow you to fill the RV with gas while dumping the tanks…..at the same time!  A convenient but minimal place to campout but the price is right…..doesn’t cost a thing!

 Kit’s Corner:  So, as many of you know, Bill is “spelling challenged”.  Fortunately, he has a sense of humor about it.  I usually check the spelling and grammar prior to sending out the journal.  I checked this one, corrected all but one error.  Let’s see who can find it first!  Seriously, he has been doing a great job chronicling our travels.  In our upcoming “no go” years, we will have some good reading material to discuss and share a few laughs over.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #18

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #18

 

 Friday, February 26, 2010:  Woke to another beautiful Arizona morning.  Overnight temperatures were warmer, in the 50’s, than the two previous nights.  Opened the door and let the sunshine and warmth from the sun chase out the coolness inside the trailer. 

 Kit is feeling a bit better this morning but still a little run down.  I think her cold and cough is improving…..she certainly looks like she is feeling better.  

  Kit wanted to take it slow before getting on the road so Dewey and I walked into town and had breakfast at the Tortilla Flat Saloon.

 

  We did notice that the “dollar bill wallpaper” was a bit rough down at floor level and there appeared to be some spots where the dollar bills had “fallen” off and others where the bills were stapled one atop another.  In addition there were a number of foreign currency bills in the collection.

 We broke camp and were on the road by noon.  Traveling down through the canyon we stopped at the Lost Dutchman State Campground to poke around.  It was nice but we all thought Tortilla Campground was much nicer…..and a much better deal.

 Kit and I stopped in the first large town we came to, Apache Junction, in order to get some fuel and more meds for Kit.  We then hopped on US-60 and US-795 through Florence, Oracle Junction and on into Tucson.

 If you’re wondering about Mister Bill, yep he is on this year’s trip with us as well.  Anytime something funny happens I can always blame Mister Bill.  You know…..like: “Mister Bill must have stepped on a frog”…..stuff like that.  In addition he is very flexible and is content to ride along in his favorite spot atop the dash.  Except when the sun shines through…..then Mister Hand has to hide him in the Kleenex box.  Oh, the indignity of being made of clay.

 

  And that green plastic thingie hanging from the mirror…..it’s an Arizona Ice Scraper.

 Friday afternoon, February 26, 2010 to Tuesday morning, March 9, 2010—-Tucson, Arizona:  Arrived at the very accommodating “Doobie Resort” for our second visit this trip and was warmly greeted by the Lodge Masters:  Sam, Nile and Max.  If you really want to feel important in life…..keep a couple of dogs around. 

  We had originally intended to make one stop in Tucson this trip but since my mom had suffered another stroke we decided to head back here and spend some more time with her.  In addition we wanted to give my bruzzin Dewey and sisterzzin-in-law Bea and other brother Dan some reprieve from taking care of mom’s daily needs.

 Speaking of mom, she is doing much better.  Her time at the Skilled Nursing Facility, Handmakers, has improved her speech and motor skills to about 80% of pre-stroke levels.

She always has a smile on her face and that famous twinkle in her eye whenever we walked into her room.  We made it a point to stop in frequently to spend some time with her. 

We spent most of the eleven days in Tucson doing the following:

  • Visiting with mom
  • Attending to family business
  • Meeting with mom’s caregivers
  • Visiting with Dewey, Bea and Dan
  • Eating some incredible Mexican food
  • Taking care of truck and trailer maintenance
  • Enjoying home cooked meals
  • Playing Wii Fit.  Here’s a photo of “The Wii Brothers”…..no jokes now….. 
  •   Watching sunsets with a Margarita in hand from the rooftop deck of the Doobie Resort:

 

We did take a couple days to goof off however.  On one adventure we loaded up the kayaks and headed for Patagonia Lake which is down near Nogalas, Arizona just north of the Mexican border. 

 Kit joined us and as you can see she has pretty much recovered from her illness.  Come to find out she actually had bronchitis and after a few days on an antibiotic she was as good as new.

 Paddling up into the far reaches of the lake we felt as we were in a wilderness area.  Dewey turned to me and said…..

  …..do you hear banjo music?   Nooooo, I said…..but I do detect the faint sound of Mariachi Music and someone whispering “Squeal like a Javelina”.  We wisely decided to turn around and head back to civilization.

 After lunch we spent some more time on the water and really enjoyed exploring Patagonia Lake and its tributaries.

 

     

  We observed plenty of birds and spooked this fellow as we came around a bend.

 

  

A great day on a really nice lake with great friends!

 Kit’s Corner:  We thoroughly enjoyed our second stop in Tucson.  We were able to spend more time with Nana and Bill tended to quite a bit of family business that needed to be done.  Had a great time at Patagonia Lake, although I skipped the kayak part and took the time to walk around the campground area and explore.  Who knew they had such a nice park way out in the desert! 

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #17

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #17

 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010:  Still in Tortilla Campground in the Tonto National Forest.  Dewey and I were up early and took a walk around the facility.  We came across this little fellow busily building her nest amongst the spines of a Saguaro Cactus.

 

 She must be used to folks stopping and gawking as she paid us no mind as she went busily about her task at hand.  Why a she…..Kit says it had to be the mom as the other wren was sitting on the ground sipping the remaining drops out of a discarded beer can.

 Tortilla campground is in Tortilla Flat, Arizona.  An unincorporated community with a population of six full time residents.  It is Arizona’s smallest community and has its own post office and voter precinct.  Originally a mining camp in the late 1800’s Tortilla Flat developed into one of many stagecoach stops along the Apache Trail that were set up to support the workers building the Roosevelt Dam.  As tourists discovered the area in the 1930’s Tortilla Flat became an overnight stop on the long 38 mile trek from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake. 

 Dewey and I took the short walk into “town” to poke around and pay for our use of the camp sites.  The place is a bit run down but has a weird and quirky vibe to it. 

 

 Registering at the post office for our campground stay we were surprised that our National Park Golden Age pass was accepted and we only had to pay three dollars a night!  What a deal…..and    for full hook-up’s!  Disregarding the 14 day limit one could live in this incredible place for less than a hundred bucks a month!

 The small store, post office, saloon and restaurant are housed in a structure that was authentically rebuilt following a fire in 1988.  A unique tradition that began in the 1950’s was for every visitor to sign a dollar bill and then tack it to the wall.  According to the proprietor there are approximately 130,000 dollar bills on the wall…..and that is just since the 1988 fire.  The estimates on how many dollar bills were stuck to the walls before the fire was 300,000!  Yep…..all up in smoke.  Wonder how you insure a 10,000 dollar building with over a quarter million dollar bills used as wallpaper?  Anyway, being traditionalist Dewey and I followed suit and added our autographed dollar bill’s to the collection. 

   

  Kit was a bit under the weather with a cold so she “strongly encouraged” Dewey and I to go off and “play” to give her some rest.  Without the trailer attached to my truck we decided to tackle the rest of The Apache Trail.  A short distance past Tortilla Flat and after crossing the Salt River…..literally……

…..the Apache Trail turned into a narrow, steep and winding dirt path.

 

  

 The road was fun to drive but did take some concentration.  Apparently some folks were too distracted by the beautiful scenery and paid the price.

 

 We stopped frequently to “safely” enjoy the surrounding views.  That white line you may notice in the photo is the Apache Trail…..which we will be driving on very soon.

 

  

 After an interesting drive we arrived at Theodore Roosevelt Dam which was built in 1904 to provide water to the new town of Phoenix.  However the engineers misjudged the capacity of the impounded lake and the original masonry dam was frequently breeched by the annual monsoon rains.  So in the 1980’s the dam was refaced with concrete and raised an additional 80 feet adding hydro power capability.  In addition a new bridge to carry the traffic formerly crossing the dam was built.

  Retracing our path we drove back down The Apache Trail to see the sights from the opposite direction.  Arriving back at camp a bit tired we enjoyed dinner and cocktails and restful sleep.

 

Thursday, February 25, 2010:  Today brought clear skies, puffy clouds, warm weather and mild winds…..the birds were out in force letting their presence known…..a beautiful morning!

 

 Kit is feeling better but didn’t want to push it.  A relaxing day in the lawn chair was in her plans so she insisted Dewey and I find somewhere else to play.

 We decided to drive down canyon paralleling the river and drop by Canyon Lake.  The water was calm and surprisingly sparse of other folks so out came the kayak. 

 

  The lake meanders into a number of side canyons which we explored.  At one point my paddle touched both walls of a narrow canyon…..pretty weird; I had to back paddle a ways to get back out into the lake.

 

  Paddling up the main canyon I came to some quick water so I beached the boat and hopped the rocks up river.  After rounding a bend in the canyon I caught this sight out of the corner of my eye.

 

  Yep, a group of young folks doing what young folks do…..daring each other to take chances and documenting it all on film.  Not sure how those kids got so far up the canyon; hiked I guess.  I snapped the picture and quickly retreated not wanting to witness a Darwin Moment. 

 Returning to the take-out I noticed Dewey had hiked to the highest surrounding point and took the following picture.

 

 

 Returning to camp we built a fire, mixed some cocktails, put on some steaks and sat around swapping stories while the coyotes howled in the distance.  Fortunately, Kit was feeling much better and was able to join in the merriment.

 

  

Kit’s Corner: Spent most of this time napping, which was very nice, for a change.  Sent the guys off to do whatever it is “old geezers” do when given their “kitchen passes”.  They both seemed to enjoy their time and did lots of fun things.

Life in Retireeville is indeed good!

 Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #16

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

 The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #16

 

 Sunday, February 21, 2010:  Reluctantly, we leave Las Vegas and the kids.  Had a great visit but it’s time to mosey on down the road.

 We decided to make a stop at Nellis Air Force Base and stay at their campground in order to dump tanks and re-supply at the exchange and commissary.  Driving in we were greeted by a “Welcome Race Fans” banner and a very crowded park.  As it turned out there was a big NASCAR race coming up and all the race fans had pulled in as the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is right next door to the base.  We were able to get a spot in overflow which suited us just fine as we were only going to stay for two nights.  Imagine our surprise when a couple we had met while in San Diego at Admiral Baker Field campground were right next door to us.

 Monday, February 22, 2010:  Kit had an appointment at the base beauty shop so I decided to visit the USAF Flight Demonstration Team “The Thunderbirds” as their hanger was open for tours today.  I was escorted by a nice female staff sergeant who had just been assigned to the team and part of her 21 day indoctrination was giving tours.  I was allowed into the maintenance hanger where the crews were getting their F-16 Fighting Falcons ready for the upcoming show season.

 

    Leaving the hanger I drove along the flight line where I saw some F-15 Eagles painted up to look like Russian planes.  However, they weren’t rushing anywhere…..just sitting there on the tarmac.  As it turned out they were part of the “Aggressor Squadron” that participates in air to air combat training against the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor (a fine Lockheed Martin product) Fighter aircraft.

 Poking around further I noticed a very large solar array system.  I then learned that Nellis Air Force Base powers one quarter of its installation by solar power.

 

  The Solar Farm consists of 140 acres of land covered by 70,000 solar panels, each capable of independently tracking the sun.  The system in full operation can generate 14,000,0000 watts of power.  Pretty impressive.

 Back at our campsite we had dinner and took a walk around to take inventory of the many states represented by campers…..a frequent evening activity of ours.  I know…..we are certainly a wild and crazy couple.  However, not another New Englander in the bunch!  I guess most New England Snowbirds still follow the law that says they must go to Florida for the winter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010:  Underway early for points southeast.  It is 54 degrees and sunny….perfect traveling weather.  Normally we would head to Boulder City and cross the Colorado River passing over the Hoover Dam.  However since 9/11, trucks, buses and RV’s are prohibited from crossing the dam.  The government is building a ginormis bridge up river but it will not be finished until later this year.  So we jumped on US-95 then US-163 toward Laughlin, Nevada.  Not much of interest along this stretch however as we left the city of Las Vegas we did see another one of those camouflaged cell phone towers.  This one was dressed up as a palm tree…..a bit more appropriate for a desert environment.

 

 Gee….you can hardly notice it.

 We crossed into Arizona and headed east on US-93 through Wickenburg and then took US-60 around Phoenix toward Apache Junction.  The scenery did get a bit more interesting in these parts.

 

   

 

We stopped in Apache Junction to get fuel, lunch and pick up some DayQuil/NightQuil for Kit…..It appears she is coming down with a bit of a cold.  Hope it doesn’t develop into anything worse.

 Leaving Apache Junction we took US-88 (also called The Apache Trail) up into the Tonto National Forest toward Tortilla Flat.  I find it kinda odd that Tonto got a whole national forest named after him and the Lone Ranger…..Nada!  Maybe he wasn’t such a Kemo Sabe after all.

 The Apache Trail was built in 1904 along an old Indian trail (Apache Tribe, I think).  It was then improved into a “haul road” during the construction of the Roosevelt Dam which now impounds the upper Salt River valley creating, appropriately enough, Roosevelt Lake.

 After navigating the steep and winding road we finally arrived at Tortilla Campground late in the day. 

  Fortunately, my “bruzzin” Dewey (remember Dewey?) was already there and had saved us a nice camp spot right next to his rig.

 

 The campground is very nice and sits on a tributary to the Salt River and in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains.

 Kit’s Corner: This was quite a nice campground.  We had a great site and the weather was perfect.  Since the guys had some hiking and kayaking in mind, I decided to take a couple of days just having some quiet time to read and/or nap.  As luck would have it, I picked up a bit of a cold the last couple of days in Las Vegas which developed into lots of coughing.  So, with my heavy duty cough syrup, I managed to nap most of the time at this campground and just hang out during our entire time there.  We had no cell or internet service so things worked out just fine…. 

 Tomorrow we explore!

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #15

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure

 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #15

 

 Saturday, February 13, 2010:  Vegas Baby!

   Well, actually it should be Vegas Big Boy’s as Jack is now 5 and Tucker is pushing 3.  Although…..not to digress too much, Vegas Big Boy’s sounds like a name for a Las Vegas back up band.  You know, like: “Barry Manifold and the Vegas Big Boy’s”.

The kids all live in a very nice development a few miles south of the strip.  In fact we frequently forget we are actually in Las Vegas until we peek over their backyard wall and see the lights off in the distance.  Their place is a very good “dooryard surfing” opportunity.

  

SPOILER ALERT…..this journal is pretty much about our grandkids.  So, if you don’t like kids, stop reading now and patiently wait for Journal #16.

 Jack and Tucker are two of the five greatest kids in the world.  We had a blast with them for a week.  Even let their folks go off for a couple days while we let them get away with murder, their house will never be the same again…..grand parenting is so much fun.  In fact had I know grandkids were going to be so enjoyable, we would have had them first!

Here are some more photos of these adorable munchkins:

    

 

     

 

And here are a few of the things we did over the eight days we were in Las Vegas:

  1. Played Super Hero’s
  2. Swing on the backyard swing set.
  3. Made up new ways to swing
  4. Lunch (Peanut Butter, Mayonnaise and Jelly) in the backyard fort
  5. Played at the “Fish Park”
  6. Blizzards at DQ
  7. Walked the dogs around the block
  8. Enjoyed great barbeque at Memphis Championship Barbeque
  9. Played pranks with plastic dog doo
  10. Pulled the (red) cushions off the couch and played Red Rock!
  11. Enjoyed cookies and ice cream for breakfast
  12. Dumped all the clean clothes on the floor and made forts
  13. Shopped for toys at Savers
  14. Watched the movie Spiderman 1, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3………
  15. Ate at Burger King for the Spiderman toys in the Happy Meals
  16. Camped out in Guma and Poppy’s trailer
  17. Peered through the airport fence at Air Force One (Obama was in town)
  18. Ordered takeout from Polo Loco
  19. Enjoyed the best breakfast ever at Blueberries Restaurant
  20. Played on the boats and four wheelers at the Silverton Casino / Bass Pro Shop
  21. Fixed stuff for mommy and broke some stuff…..sorry mommy
  22. Taught the dogs (Toby and Rosie) how to drink out of their water dish
  23. Hugged the trailer at least once a day
  24. Played in Guma and Poppy’s Wreck Vehicle (RV)
  25. Picnicked at Discovery Park
  26. Practiced “Stop, Look and Listen” on our daily walks
  27. Built a cardboard box clubhouse
  28. And otherwise just goofed off

 Since I know you can’t get enough of these great kids here are a few more photos.  

Jack “a-madoodle”, age 5:

 

  

And, Tucker “Malarkey”, age 3:

 

 

 

 And in case you were wondering who the other three greatest kids in the world are we have three other grandchildren back home in Maine. 

 Our oldest grandson Joe plays varsity hockey for Brunswick High School and while we were in Las Vegas his team played their last game of the season.  We were sad to miss his final high school game; however most of the Maine family was able to cheer them on to victory.  Our honorary daughter Laurie (daughter by another mother and father) was kind enough to take some photos and send them along.

 

  Left to right…..Katie age 14, Christopher age 10, our son Joe, our oldest daughter Kim, Joe Balz age 17 and Laurie.

 Katie and Christopher are also involved in sports and live with their parents on The Tucker Ranch in Gorham, Maine.  Kim and Joe Balz live in Brunswick and have the responsibility of looking after the house while we are on this excellent adventure…..thanks guys!

 

And just so the Las Vegas parents don’t feel left out here are photos of our daughter Suzie and son in law Kevin:

 

      

OK….I know I sneaked pictures of the grandkids in on that last on…..I couldn’t help myself.  Oh by the way the little dog is Rosie.                                                                                                                            

 

Kit’s Corner: Best part of trip, so far!!  Love spending time with all of our grandkids.  They are all growing up so fast and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all their activities.  However, we are so very fortunate to have 5 of the BEST!  Joe, Katie, CJ, Jack & Tucker!!  Looking forward to seeing the older ones when we get home and having any and all of them out to camp with their friends this summer.    

Thanks for hanging in there…..stay tuned,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #14

Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure 

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #14

 

Thursday, February 11, 2010:  This morning dawned cool with temperatures in the 50’s, blue skies and puffy clouds. 

We discovered last night while poking around the Furnace Creek Visitors Center that the tallest mountain we observed yesterday was called Telescope Peak.  The mountain received its unusual name because “One could see no further from the top even with the aid of a telescope”.  The summit of Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet was less than twenty miles from Badwater Basin which sits at 282 feet below sea level.  Quite a dramatic altitude extreme in a relatively short distance.

Today the plan is to head north on the Scotty’s Castle Road to, um, well…..Scotty’s Castle.  I love these road names…..absolutely no ambiguity.

So we popped the Ken Burns National Park CD into the player and enjoyed more spectacular scenery on the trip through the northern part of Death Valley National Park:

    Scotty’s Castle is an interesting place with an unusual history:

 

Actually, its proper name is “Death Valley Ranch” and was built by a Chicago millionaire by the name of Albert Johnson. 

Walter Scott, better known as “Scotty” was a huckster who after being fired from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in the 1890’s set up camp in Death Valley’s Grapevine Canyon.  Scotty dreamt up a fictitious gold mine then passed the rumor around that he had struck gold in the area.  As proof, Scotty used a chunk of high grade gold ore his wife had been given some years earlier.  Back in Chicago, Mister Johnson was looking for a good investment and gave Scotty a “grubstake” in consideration for the profits from his gold mine.  After a while Mister Johnson became suspicious and visited Death Valley to see the mine and gold for himself.  Discovering no mine and no gold but liking the area he decided to buy 1,500 acres and build a western retreat for him and his wife.  Mr. Johnson forgave Scotty for his fraudulent scheming and the two became friends.

Death Valley Ranch was completed in 1922 at a cost of 1.4 million.  It was very innovative for its time with an evaporative air cooling system, hydro power for electricity and passive solar power providing the domestic hot water needs of the house.

 With Mister Johnson spending most of his time attending to business in Chicago, Scotty claimed that he himself had built the castle with money from his gold mine, and it became known as “Scotty’s Castle”.  He lived in a small room in the castle and put in regular appearances to entertain the Johnson dinner guests with his stories…..spinning unbelievable tales about his life and his gold mine.  Mister Johnson did nothing to discourage Death Valley Scotty, as he came to be known, regarding the stories as cheap entertainment.

Death Valley Scotty told everyone that the entrance to his gold mine was under his bed and he slept with a pistol and shotgun at the ready.  He drilled a hole through the outside masonry wall and affixed a “shot splitter” over the hole:

 

That way, with one shotgun blast, he could get anyone standing at the door or trying to come through the window…..or both.

After Death Valley National Park was established, Scotty’s Castle was sold to the government.  Albert Johnson died in 1948 of cancer. Walter Scott died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking “his castle”.  The smaller plot to the right contains Scotty’s dog “Windy”.

 

After an interesting and informative visit to Scotty’s Castle we returned to our campsite.  There we enjoyed a meal of homemade quacamole, carne asada, fresh tortillas and Margarita’s.  Life is good.

After dinner we took a walk around the campground and visited with some friendly and interesting folks from all over the US.  What a great stay at Death Valley National Park!

Friday, February 12, 2010:  This morning we reluctantly pulled out of our site at the Furnace Creek campground and headed for Nevada on US-190.  Crossing the border we turned onto Daylight Pass Road toward the town of Rhyolite, Nevada.   

Rhyolite is a ghost town…..with an interesting past.  It all began in 1905 when gold was discovered and several mining camps sprang up.  During the ensuing gold rush thousands of speculators, developers and other folks flocked to the area and the town of Rhyolite was born.      By 1907 Rhyolite contained 4,000 souls and featured concrete sidewalks, electric lights, water mains, telephone and telegraph lines, newspapers, police and fire departments, a hospital, a school, railway depot, three banks, an opera house, 50 bars and two church’s.

Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. The gold played out in 1911 and the workers moved away.  By 1920 the population fell to zero and Ryolite ceased to exist…..except for the many buildings.  Hollywood discovered this ready made “set” in the 1940’s and many westerns were filmed here.  Some of the scripts called for explosions which resulted in damaging some buildings.  Others fell to the ravages of time.  What remains of the town of Ryolite is now under protection of the Bureau of Land Management.

 

 A particularly interesting building in Rhyolite is the “The Bottle House” which is constructed with 51,000 beer bottles held together by adobe.  The builder, Tom Kelly and being a good Irishman, helped empty many of the bottles used in construction.  Old Tom chose to build with bottles because as he put it; “It’s very difficult to build a house with lumber from a Joshua Tree.”  Most of the bottles formerly contained Busch beer and the home has held up pretty well.  About 10 years ago some restoration was completed to keep this unique structure standing for many more years.

 

    

Oh, and if you don’t know what a Joshua tree is here is a photo of one in town: 

It is said that the Joshua Tree could have been created by Dr. Suess…..Yea, I can see that.

Underway once again we headed south on US-160 through Pahrump, Nevada.  Being that the road was flat, no curves, there was no wind and little traffic I figured it would be a great spot to check my fuel economy while towing my 7,000 pound home. 

I do this about once a year to while away an hour or two while driving through a flat desolate place.  I generally take readings over a ten minute period at five different speed levels.  It is not very scientific but likely pretty accurate under real life conditions.  Here are the readings from today’s fuel economy run:

At 50 MPH = 15.6 MPG

At 55 MPH = 13.5 MPG

At 60 MPH = 11.9 MPG

At 65 MPH =   9.8 MPG

At 70 MPH =   8.4 MPG

 As an “oh by the way”, We generally travel between 55 and 60 MPH because we are usually on two lane back roads and very rarely in any kind of hurry and…..it is a heck of a lot cheaper!

It looks like the folks in Nevada are sensitive to the intrusion of cell phone towers maring the landscape as some of them are camaflauged to blend into the natural environment.  The photo below shows just such an example.  One can hardly notice this “pine tree-cell tower” nestled amongst the castus and sage brush of the surrounding countryside. 

 

Being Friday afternoon, we noticed an increase in traffic.  Mile after mile of RV’s, heading north, pulling trailers loaded with Jeeps, sand rails, four wheelers and other motorized toys.  And the traffic going south were mainly sedans full of hopeful folks heading for the promised land.

 

 

VEGAS BABY!

Kit’s Corner:  I totally enjoyed our time in Death Valley.  It was much nicer than I could have imagined.  However, I was very excited and anxious to get to Las Vegas to see Suzie & Co.  After all, a big part of these winter “getaways” are all about family and we never seem to get enough time with our two youngest grandsons, Jack and Tucker.  Onward to Sin City!!

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit