Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #9

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

The ideal is to feel at home anywhere and everywhere.

Geoff Dye

 

Saturday, February 4 through Tuesday, February 7, 201NAF El Centro, California:  Woke to “The Sound of Freedom”!

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Yep, Naval Air Facility, El Centro is the winter home of the US Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team, the incomparable “Blue Angels”!  And a real thrill was their daily practicing in the skies above the campground, followed by a complete practice show routine in the afternoon.  The morning sessions were interesting as you could always pick out the newest member of the team as they were frequently out of position.

Another thrill while in town, was to connect at a local Mexican spot with our childhood friend JoAnne and her husband Ron.

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They are eastbound on their own RV adventure and stopped in El Centro to spend the day with us.  Had a great time catching up on our lives and swapping RV stories…thanks for making time for us folks…look forward to seeing you in San Diego whenever we all make it!

El Centro, a city of 44,124 folks, sits at an average elevation of minus forty-two feet making it the only town in the United States that lies completely below sea level!  El Centro is the population center for the Imperial Valley, and the valley is an important element in the growing and distribution of food crops to the American and world markets.  Irrigation that turns the Imperial Valley desert into fertile farmland comes from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal, at 80 miles it is the longest aqueduct in the world.  Agriculture in the valley is a billion-dollar industry, thanks to 350 days of sunshine a year, and over half the population is involved in farming.

A short drive in any direction from El Centro and one encounters farmland.

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And driving down any of the farm roads you are likely to come across bee hives placed in close proximity to the crops for the pollination effort.

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You can’t tell by the photo, but millions of bees were swarming about the truck as we slowly crept past.

And a bit further afield there is miles and miles of miles and miles.

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Which, I imagine, is the way this part of the Sonoran Desert has looked for thousands of years …well, except for that ribbon of asphalt with the sand blowing across.

Other than sand, scrub brush, cactus and the occasional hardy residents, this desolate place has little else…which makes it a prime location for America’s finest men and women to practice their craft.

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The instructions to “do not stop” is pretty much a given, especially with the skies harboring weapons laden fighters and bombers from the surrounding military bases.

And on the outskirts of the military bombing range, appropriately lies Salvation Mountain.

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This lifetime work of one man is a lasting symbol of his faith and devotion to God.  Kit and I have enjoyed this unique piece of folk art in the past and noticed that there is now an historical marker in place to honor the man that created Salvation Mountain.

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Of particular interest to me was that one of the sponsors of the tablet was E. Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization in the west that seeks to honor overlooked historical sites.  Founded in 1849, and currently numbering 50,000 “Clampers”, this secret society can only be joined through invitation.  Their motto is Credo Quia Absurdum, which is Latin for “I Believe It Because it is Absurd” and the organizations leader is known as “The Supreme Grand Humbug”.  So, why do I wish to join this Fraternal Organization?  Well, they are dedicated to the principal of not taking anything too seriously, especially themselves…which has long been my personal philosophy as well.  So, if you happen to know a member of E. Clampus Vitus, please put in a good word for me…thanks!

Right next door to Salvation Mountain lies Slab City.

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Which is another desert institution that I reviewed last year.  If you’re interested in my ramblings on Salvation Mountain or Slab City, whey can be found here:

https://bilnkit.com/2016/02/29/bill-and-kits-2016-excellent-adventure-journal-9/

At the far end of Slab City, one comes to a fork in the road.

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Where a decision must be made…veer left toward West Satan, or head right toward East Jesus.  Being pious folks, and not wanting to take chances, we took the road less traveled toward East Jesus!

Where a world of folk art, whimsy, and unusual characters awaited.

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The first to greet Kit and I was a fella named Mopar, or as some call him…The Wizard.

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Being a slow day, Mopar gave us a personal and in depth tour of the art garden.  A dynamic display that is added to daily by the various residents of East Jesus…some who actually live in their pieces of art!

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Everything in the art garden was built form castoffs of modern society.  Rather than bury this trash in a landfill, the artist recycles it into these amazing and thought provoking sculptures.

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An example is this wall of words made from familiar items that seem to become obsolete at a very rapid rate.

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Yep, the wall above is indeed a stack of old televisions and computer monitors with their screens painted white to provide a suitable canvas.

Then there is a wall of bottles imbedded in adobe that serves to separate the public art space from the artist’s homes.

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The residences are made up of scrap, trash, and abandoned vehicles.  Many decorated with art as well… such as this old tour bus.

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Many other resident artists were milling about but not as eager to talk or have their photo taken…such as this barefoot fella with a piece of duct tape for a bandage. And, yep…he’s wearing a dress.

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Unusual place, but fascinating as well…there are a lot of fringe element folks living in the California Desert and making art.

Last issue, I alluded to a “huge rotating kiddie barrel from our early family travel days” an item of nostalgia that Kit became obsessed with finding.  Well one afternoon we were on the hunt for information of the huge rotating kiddie barrel…first stop was Bucklin Park, the huge rotating kiddie barrel’s last known location.  Searching the grounds, we found no evidence of a huge rotating kiddie barrel or any knowledge of a huge rotating kiddie barrel amongst the pigeon feeding geriatric set sitting in the park.  Next stop, El Centro Parks and Recreation, where the thirty something clerk was amused and confused about our inquiry until an age appropriate director came out of her office and verified the existence of the huge rotating kiddie barrel in Bucklin Park!  Then pay dirt at our final stop…El Centro City Hall.

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Where more stories of youngsters from yesteryear playing in the huge rotating kiddie barrel, and a vintage photograph emerged!

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This pre-litigious playground apparatus was made of wood and features a huge rotating kiddie barrel propelled by said kiddies running inside hamster style.  Whoa be the child that tripped because they soon found themselves on their bellies sliding along the splinter encrusted floor… wasn’t childhood in the 1960’s grand!

Well, tomorrow we continue west toward the land of the setting sun.

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Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017: Woke to strong winds from the south with predicted gusts into the 50 MPH range.  Since our travels are westerly, the winds from abeam would likely make driving hazardous, so we decided to spend an extra day in El Centro.

Spent the bonus time off the road in taking care of correspondence, straightening up the inside of the camper, and just lazing about.  Kit made a nice roast beef dinner and we enjoyed a glass of wine before retiring to read in bed…again, goodnight!

 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017:  Up and on the road by 1042 hours under sunny skies with a temperature of 76 degrees, and most importantly, very light winds from the west.  Headed out on

I-8 through the desert and toward the coastal mountains of California.

We noticed that alternative sources of energy are very popular out west by evidence of the miles of solar panels that line both sides of the interstate.

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The two million solar panels of the Tenaska Solar Energy Center can supply up to 44,000 homes with clean power when generating at full capacity.

Not to be left out, the wind turbine electricity generating complex further to the west is up and running as well.

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The 112 turbines scattered over 10,000 acres of land generates 315 megawatts of power at full capacity.

These two projects are in response to a California congressional mandate that electric utilities produce 33% of their power from renewable sources.  Makes sense…the politicians have an abundance of hot air to efficiently operate the solar and wind systems!

Pulling off I-8, and onto California Highway 94 where a lot of road maintenance was going on.

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This winding and guardrail less mountain road can be a bit treacherous, especially when pulling an 8 ½ foot wide by 30-foot-long camper, so any improvement is welcome to the RV traveler.

At 1222 hours, we pulled the rig into Potrero Regional Park…a favorite camping opportunity of ours.

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And set up in a very nice site for the next few days.

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Following dinner and a nightcap, we turned in for the evening enjoying the silence of the East San Diego County mountains as a full moon shown through the bedroom skylight.

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Goodnight!

 

Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11, 2017-Potrero County Park, California:  Located in the Mountain Empire region of San Diego County, the small town of Potrero, population 656, lies 45 miles Southeast of downtown San Diego.  A rural and remote country location, the closest city is Tecate, Mexico, a mere 5 miles to the south.  Potrero Park features a picnic area and campground situated on ancient pasture land festooned with centuries old Live Oaks trees

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There is an abundance of wildlife in the surrounding hills, but the only wild resident we encountered was this cute little fellow.

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A Western Fence Lizard, (yep, didn’t make that up) and a frequent target of my brother, my friends, and I for capture and enslavement in our pockets.  Great fun to find and apprehend one of these guys during a walk to our elementary school…not so much fun for the teachers however.

The park and campground features hiking and walking trails, some with exercise equipment arrayed alongside the path.

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Something is just plain wrong with a mechanical walking apparatus within inches of an actual walking path!?!?

A short distance away is the town library, a favorite stopping point for Kit, and a great photographic opportunity for me.

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The libraries sign was originally accompanied by a cactus garden, but native wildflowers have taken over masking the transplanted vegetation, much to the chagrin of the library staff…but not to the pleasure of color loving passersby!

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One change to the area since our last visit was a wildfire that blanketed the area last June and forced the evacuation of the entire Potrero community.  The fire blackened over 7,600 acres and was brought under control by a combined force of 1,937 fire personnel.

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There were a few structures lost but fortunately no fatalities, and the fire was halted within yards of the county park.  Eight months later the charred section is regenerating and signs of thanks spontaneously put up by residents popped up as well.

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As mentioned, Potrero is just a stone’s throw from the Mexican border town of Tecate…the home of my childhood best friend Rodney and his wife Gloria.  As in the past, they graciously invited us south of the border to spend the day with them, so we headed through the rural countryside toward the south.

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Where Rodney met us for the short trip through the town of Tecate.

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To their beautiful compound in the heart of the city.

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After an enjoyable few hours of visiting, Rodney and I walked into town to his favorite “Street Taco” place.

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The menu was classic Baja Mexico, and very reasonable.

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And everything was freshly grilled and prepared on site.

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The sight, sounds, and aroma emanating from this open front taqueria were incredible!

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Thanks, Rod and Gloria for treating us to an excellent meal and for your hospitality…next time it’s our treat!

We’ve mentioned in past Excellent Adventure Journals of our 1965 trip from San Diego to Key West Florida…well much of that trip was pre-Interstate days and was made by following US Highway 80 toward the east.

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US-80 parallels the Mexican border before as it travels through the towns of Manzanita and Jacumba.

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You’ll notice in the photo above that the existing border fence ends where the mountainous terrain becomes steep…good luck building a wall in this rugged terrain!

All too soon, Historic US-80 get gobbled up by Interstate 8 but not before we snake under the massive ribbon of asphalt and head out on In-Ko-Pah Road toward the Desert View Tower.

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This stone tower was built in the 1920’s by a real estate developer who was trying to lure customers to his new projects in the area.  Sitting at 3,000 feet elevation, the three-story tower can be ascended by a central spiral stairway made of native wood.

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Where a commanding view can be enjoyed of the surrounding countryside.

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Adjacent to the tower is a sculpture garden called Boulder Park.  Built into the huge boulders, the park features many whimsical creatures that were carved from stone by an unemployed engineer during the great depression.

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A maze of tunnels and stone steps takes one up into the stack of boulders.

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Where more sculptures await discovery.

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Desert View Tower has been honored as a California Registered Landmark with the help of my new favorite fraternal organization, E. Clampus Vitus.

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Those guys really get around!

Speaking of getting around, there are repair shops in America for most any mode of travel…cars, trucks, motorcycles, aircraft, boats, etc.  And if you arrive in the area via spacecraft and happen to breakdown near the Desert View Tower, you’re in luck!  Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrieval and Repair Shop has your little green self covered.

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Well, with that, we head back to Potrero County Park in time to enjoy a nice sunset.

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Goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s:  We didn’t make many miles on this trip, but we enjoyed every bit of it.  So many times, over the last 50+ years, we’ve blown through this area and never had time to stop and explore anything.  Rather than making a beeline for an amusement park, we seem to seek out the weird and unusual things.  Who knows why??  I suppose the good thing is, we enjoy every minute of finding and exploring these strange sights.  We meet up with the nicest people, who are eager to share their knowledge of the local area and their experiences with us.  A fun (but strange) way to travel the countryside of the USA!

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Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #8

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

 We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017:  This morning, we reluctantly leave the home of Dewey and Bea, but not before a nice breakfast courtesy of our accommodating hosts these past twelve days.  It’s been a great visit but Kit and I need to move on and continue our trek toward the left coast.  Besides, Bea’s sister and her partner are coming into town for the Tucson Gem and Mineral show so we wanted to give our host a few day’s relief before the next camping couple arrived.

Departed at 1108 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 67 degrees.  A half hour later found us pulling into Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and checking into the Agave Gulch RV Park.

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This stop has become traditional for us as it creates a bit of down time to take care of chores that would otherwise be difficult given our rather nomadic lifestyle.  Every 60 days or so, I like to flush out the grey and black water waste tanks, and sanitize the fresh water tank.  In addition, we thoroughly clean and vacuum the interior then clean and lubricate all suspension components, hitch system, and leveling jacks.  Besides it is an excellent opportunity to resupply and get caught up on correspondence and family business items due to the campgrounds robust and free Wi-Fi.  All these chores and more will be attended to over the next few days.

But for this evening, after a walk about the park, we settled in for a nice meal and some Wine-Time before retiring.

 

Thursday, January 26 through Monday, January 30, 2017-Agave Gulch, DMAFB, Arizona:  Kit and I originally had no plans to stay at this military RV Park more than a few days…but when the opportunity came for us to move from the dry camping overflow area to a nice full hookup site we jumped at the chance, and began extending our stay on a day by day basis.  Desert Eagle has one of the fairest rotation policies in the military campground system…first come, first serve, then after 21 days you rotate to overflow and give someone else a chance for full hookup.  Normally we stay in overflow one day, but with the Gem and Mineral show in town, we stayed a little longer…however, in three days we were able to rotate to this site.

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So, what did Kit and I do during our stay?  Well, in addition to the previously mentioned items, we did a pile of laundry, washed the truck, got caught up on journal writing, took care of online banking and investment business, and other routine chores of the road that I seldom mention in these journals.

For some reason, this park attracts some of the friendliness folks around.   Kit and I met some very nice people from Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, and Saint Agathe, Maine!  Had a great time visiting, getting to know each other, and sharing our various RV travel adventures.

During the stay, a local RV dealer put on a barbeque and mini RV show in the park.  We met some of our new friends and enjoyed grilled chicken, potato salad, desert and drinks before walking through the newest trailers and motorhomes on display.  This exposure piqued our interest and the following day we paid Lazy Day’s RV a visit to peruse these beauties.

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About ten years ago, shortly before retiring and while in the planning stages of our dream RV adventure, Kit and I strongly considered an Airstream brand travel trailer.  These iconic and instantly recognizable campers have been continuously produced since 1936.  They are well built, efficiently laid out, light weight, easy to tow, and expensive…which was a deal breaker for us.  Just couldn’t justify spending close to six figures for a camper we only intend to use for six months a year.  I mean, come on…that would have been three times the cost of our first home!  However, it’s still fun to visit the dealer, see the latest models and dream.

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On another day, one that Kit badly needed some “Kit-Time”, I took the opportunity to visit the Pima County Air and Space Museum, which is located just to the south of the air force base.

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The campus covers 127 acres and houses 300 aircraft.  In addition to all the standard historic aircraft that many museums feature, this place has some unique and one of a kind artifacts…such as the smallest propeller driven biplane ever flown.

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At 9 feet 4 inches long and with a wingspan of a minuscule 6 ½ feet, the 85 HP engine can propel this 725-pound aircraft to speeds of 180 MPH!  It was built for one sole purpose…to break a world’s record, which it did in January of 1984…and the record is still standing!

And then there is its cousin, the smallest jet ever successfully flown!

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At 12 feet 9 inches long and with a wingspan of 17 feet, the 200 thrust engine can propel this 860-pound jet to speeds of 320 MPH.  The aircraft was commercially offered in kit form but proved too difficult to control by anyone other than an extremely skilled pilot so very few were built.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have the largest paper airplane ever flown!

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Well, what’s left of it!  At 45 feet long and with a wingspan of 24 feet, the 800 pound glider reached a speed of 98 MPH for about 30 seconds, before disintegrating and crashing into the Arizona desert.  The paper airplane was designed and built by a cadre of local high school students as an inducement to consider aeronautics for a career choice.  It was towed aloft by a helicopter to 2,700 feet before being released on its maiden and final flight.

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Then, there is the B-36 Bomber, a 10 engine (six piston engines and for jets) behemoth designed after WWII to carry the nations newly ultimate weapon…the nuclear bomb.

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The piston engine pusher-prop bomber was becoming obsolete as the planned 384 aircraft were being constructed by Convair Astronautics in 1948.  Some were converted to surveillance aircraft and others continued to prepare and train for the anticipated nuclear war with Russia.  The Bomber’s contribution to the military vernacular was sealed with the flight engineers report to the pilot concerning the operating status of the mixed power plants… “All engines turning and burning”.

My fascination for weird and useless historical military hardware was further piqued by this pink jet fighter.

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However, as silly as it looks, this is a serious warbird!  The Jaguar Fighter-Bomber was built by the French and is currently being flown by the Indian Air Force.  Not the Native American Indians, but if so, that would add a whole different dynamic to the Standing Rock Reservations beef with the Dakota Access pipeline folks!  These aircraft are flown by the country of India and the strange hue is an exact match to the color of the sand in the Arabian Gulf which makes it harder to detect when on the ground…in the air however, I bet it sticks out like a big pink sore thumb!

There were three historic bombers in the collection from World War II.  A B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, and a B-25 Mitchel.  All have been restored to military specifications and remain on display to celebrate the workers that produced the bombers; as well as the crews that flew them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day spent at the museum…it is, in my opinion, the finest non-military museum in existence, and better than many military supported museums!  If in the Tucson area, treat yourself to a visit to the Pima Air and Space Museum!

Another chore we accomplished was to research and purchase Kit a new laptop computer.

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After years of struggling with an older Toshiba PC, Kit is now the proud owner of an Apple MacBook Pro!  Note the ear-to-ear smile in the photo above!

Well, even though Kit and I spent more time at Agave Gulch than originally anticipated, we did get a lot accomplished…and had a bit of fun as well!  Tomorrow, we plan on pulling chocks and continuing our trek to the west.

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017:  Underway at 1005 under sunny skies and temperatures in the 70-degree range.  We hopped on the Ajo Highway heading southwest, then drove through the Tohono Odom Indian Reservation toward the tiny Arizona town of Why.

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Why?  Well, that’s the only way to reach our new next destination, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument!

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Where Kit and I scored one of the nicest camp spots in the park!

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We are positioned at the end of a row, which places the campers window laden left side toward the open desert…this is the view from our dining table.

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As the sun sets across the desert landscape, Kit and I are looking forward to a great couple of days in one of Americas great National Park units!

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Goodnight!

 

Wednesday, February 1 and Thursday, February 2, 2017-Organ Pipe National Monument:  This morning, as I sat at the dining room table, the sun peeked over the Eastern horizon.  Opening the window and sticking my camera out netted this interesting photo showing the sun reflecting off the dining room window.

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This is our second visit to this underutilized National Park facility…so we decided to leave the truck and trailer connected and just enjoy the peace and solitude of the winter time desert.

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The cactus to the left in the photo above is an Organ Pipe Cactus.  This region, hard up against the Mexican border, is the only place in the United States that the Organ Pipe Cactus naturally grows.  The park, which encompasses 517 square miles, is honored as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve as it is one of the few remaining pristine tracks of the Sonoran Desert.  The Mexican border is 5 miles to the south, and the nearest US town is 22 miles to the north, this and its ruggedness, makes the area prime for illegal entry.  However, the US Border Patrol is everywhere and a visitors’ biggest safety concern is traffic accidents…not violence by folks crossing into the US illegally.  Kit and I felt perfectly safe enjoying the hiking trails that spider web out from the campground into the open desert.

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At one point, we found our way to the visitor’s center, where we encountered this stout fellow.

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Looks can be deceiving.

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Yep this tiny Organ Pipe Cactus is all of 5 years old.  But his nearby brother is at least 40 years old!

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That too is deceiving, as its height is a mere 7 feet tall…yep cacti in the arid desert grow extremely slow!

Most days, the Rangers assigned to OPCNM hold talks on the history, terrain, vegetation and animals of the park.  Today, was a special talk by two agents from the US Border Patrol.  We learned that the Border Patrol Service (BPS) is responsible for the area between the Points of Entry, better known as the border crossings, while the US Customs and Immigration (ICE) agents control the legal border crossing.  An interesting factoid is that the 1,933 mile US/Mexican border has 9.3 Border Patrol agents patrolling per mile, while the 5,525 mile US/Canadian border, which is the world’s longest international border, only has 2.6 agents per mile.  To augment protection, the border surveillance is enhanced by manned helicopter and remote control drone flights.

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As well as monitoring towers bristling with cameras, infrared sensors, and ground vibration monitors.

High tech equipment atop this pole is used to see and hear illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S.

All folks that serve in the Department of Homeland Security deserve our respect and gratitude for their effort in trying to keep America a safe place to live…Thanks guys!

Back at the campsite, Kit took the opportunity to get some reading in.

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While I sat the newest member of our traveling family out to enjoy the sunshine and hobnob with its brethren.

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Many RVer’s travel with pets, by the latest survey up to 70% of them do.  As for us, we are far too nomadic to attempt that, at least not without some compromises.  So, I purchased the above specimen as a substitute and ceremoniously presented it to Kit!  Traveling with a live cactus presents a thorny (pun intended) problem…how to care for the thing!  Yea, I know…very carefully!  Anyway, Kit was quasi delighted to receive the little fellow and was very happy the surprise gift wasn’t a live 18-inch Desert Tortoise!  That was an incident that has gone down in Bill and Kit family lore…ask her to fill you in sometime!

Pirating of cacti from public lands has grown into a big problem.  So, a valid receipt is given the purchaser to prove the cactus was legitimately bought from a nursery.  And if the cactus is going to travel beyond Arizona, an Agricultural Certificate is issued as well.

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Evenings around camp were spent watching the sunlight fade from the surrounding countryside which flooded the higher elevations in a rosy hue.

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Then as the sun dropped below the western horizon, the sky exploded with vibrant color.

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After which it became very, very dark and millions of stars sparkled in the cool desert sky.

Goodnight from the Sonoran Desert!

 

Friday, February 3, 2017:  Up at 0630, coffee and breakfast, then on the road by 0900!  Today we are continuing our trek toward the west.  We have just contacted some friends that winter over on BLM land north of Yuma, Arizona and arranged to meet them for lunch.  So, with excited anticipation we headed north on highway AZ-85.

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Kit and I were only on the road for a few minutes, when we encountered a pop-up Border Patrol Checkpoint.

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Exchanging pleasantries with the agents, and successfully answering the same basic questions asked of all travelers, we were waved through.  But before accelerating, I thanked the agents for their service…I’ve decided this is something I’ll do from now on when passing through a checkpoint.  The agents seemed surprised and happy that there are some Americans that appreciate what they do.

Just south of Ajo, we encountered remains of the New Cornelia Mine, the first mine to discover copper in Arizona.  Delivering hundreds of tons of high grade copper, the yield eventually dwindled and the poorly producing open pit mine was shut down in 1985 when union miners went on strike.  However, the Tailing Pile remains as an environmental testament to early mining technology.

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The colors are a result of the various minerals that have been released from the earth during the mining process.  You may notice some green streaks in the pile…that is from copper particles that were too small to economically capture.

The town of Ajo still survives and has showcased the wealth of its glorious mining past by restoring many ornate buildings that were built with copper mining dollars.

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Just north of Ajo lies Gila Bend and our access point to Interstate 10.  Heading west, we soon rolled into the town of Yuma and found our way to Famous Dave’s Barbeque to meet up with John Roger and Karen.

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Kit and I had a great time visiting and getting caught up on the news of our lives.  And, as a bonus, the brisket was plentiful and very good!  After a few hours, it was time for us to hit the road, and for John and Karen to return to their camper up on Snowbird Mesa.  Till next time folks, thanks for making time for us, stay well and travel safe!

Back on I-10 heading west, we crossed into California at 1504, and promptly gained an hour thanks to Pacific Standard Time.  At 1620, we came upon the town of El Centro, and wound our way northwest to the El Centro Naval Air Facility, where we scored a campsite for the next few days.

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Learned of some quirky places to explore in the area, and Kit is obsessed with finding the huge rotating kiddie barrel from our early family travel days…stay tuned for those stories, and more, in the next issue of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure!

Kit’s Bit’s:  Once again, our stay at Organ Pipe Cactus NM was awesome!  This park is so beautiful and serene plus, the hiking opportunities are abundant.  The park seems to attract a wide variety of campers from all over the US.  We’ve seen the smallest tents to the largest motorhomes!  Also, we thoroughly enjoyed our short visit with John Roger and Karen in Yuma.  We always enjoy their company.  We’re trying to get used to having a new “family member” along for the ride.  Since Bill is the one who acquired it, how come I continually “remind” him to take it out for some fresh air???  It resides behind his Lazy Boy recliner and needs more attention.  We are NOT good candidates for having a pet…sorry, folks…we are working on it, though.

Oh, and I’m still dreaming of one day owning an Airstream!

 

Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #7

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.

Aldo Leopold

 

Saturday, January 14 through Tuesday, January 24, 2017-Tucson, Arizona-Phase #2:  Kit and I had so much fun spending time with family and seeing the sights in and around Tucson that it took two editions of the journal to adequately cover it all!

Tucson, a city of 520,000 folks inhabiting 236 square miles, sits at an elevation of 2,389 feet.  The cities name comes from the Tohono O’odham people and means “sits at the base of a black mountain” …can you tell why?

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In fact, Tucson is surrounded by majestic peaks, some of which exceed 9,000 feet in elevation and remain snowcapped for much of the winter.

There are five official seasons in this part of the American Southwest.  The four we are all familiar with, and the fifth known as the North American Monsoon Season…the intense rainy period in mid-summer that dumps 11 inches on the city in a relative short period of time.  Since the “monsoon’s” only last a few weeks, the city’s streets are built to double as drainage conduits leading to the various wash’s, which are normally dry river beds.  The frequently flooded streets, then leads to rainwater pooling in low lying underpasses before draining into the wash’s.   At these times, the affected street is barricaded and motorist are encouraged to detour.  However, every year there are a handful of knuckleheads that drive around the barriers and try to ford the pond, and then become stuck.  Recently a traffic ordnance was put into place called “The Stupid Motorist Law”…yep, it’s actually called that!  Under this municipal ordinance, if you get stuck due to your own negligence, you pay for the rescue…up to $2,000.00!

Kit and I love Tucson…so much so that it has become our de facto winter home!  However, as nice as this area is, the best part are these folks!

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Hosting Kit and I for these couple of weeks are Dewey, Bea, and brother Dan, who celebrated his 53rd birthday during our stay.

Dan’s special day started with a nice breakfast followed by playing with some of his cool toys!

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We all had a go at trying to make the quadcopter drone maneuver about the tree and cactus strewn backyard…some with more success than others!  Dan actually has three drones, and one of them was advertised as “indestructible”.  Well, we took that claim as a challenge…the drone and a half dozen cacti will never be the same again!

After a fun filled day, the family retired to a nice Mexican restaurant down in the city where we sipped Margaritas while deciding what to order.  As usual, I was snapping photos of the interior décor and the folks at our table.  Soon a young Hispanic fellow walked up and offered to take a group photo of us enjoying the evening.

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After squeezing off a couple of shots, he quickly turned and bolted out a side door…WHAT THE????!!!!  We all sat in stunned silence, while I internally stressed over losing dozens of photos stored on the camera. Within a few seconds, he reappeared with a huge grin on his face, saying “gotcha”!  I had to turn the camera on him to document the perpetrator of one of the most unique restaurants pranks I had ever seen.

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Turns out he was a member of the family that owned the place, an accomplished musician, and an unabashed player of practical jokes!

Everyone’s food was fabulous…I had the Steak Fajitas which were excellent.

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I also enjoyed a second Cadillac Margarita, my new favorite style with Grand Marnier, which was also very good.  Hey, don’t judge me…I needed it and after that prank, and I’m not driving!

On another day, returning from taking care of some family business, Dewey, Dan and I detoured to a plant nursery.

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Or as they are known in Tucson, Cactus Farm’s.

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Many species and sizes available for adoption.  Also, a variety of colorful containers for sale in order to, very carefully, repot your new friend.

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The establishment even features the famous “Southwestern Foamcupabilious” cactus….which only blooms during periods of cold weather.

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This regionally unique practice of cold sensitive plant protection is prevalent throughout the area whenever overnight temperatures are predicted to fall below the freezing mark…cheap and effective protection for some very expensive cacti.

Last year, Kit and I decided to give up on trying to make the lounge chairs that came with the camper more comfortable…so we splurged on two Lazy Boy brand recliners.

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One for Kit, and one for Kit’s stuff…as for me, I have to make do with an upturned milk crate in the corner.

As has been our tradition, we leave Maine in the dead of winter with a native Christmas wreath zip tied to the back of our camper.

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Then, after some time in the Desert Southwest, it dries to the point of spontaneous combustion, so must be removed.

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It has been a tradition to ceremonially burn the wreath in Dew and Bea’s backyard fire pit.

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Where it erupts in a flash of flame and sparks which summons the native spirit of the Doobie’s, whose image appears in the smoke above the burning Maine wreath.

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Yea, I know, I have a rather weird mind…but that photo above was kinda bizarre!  I didn’t realize that Dew and Bea, affectionately known as “Doobie”, who were standing on the far side of the fire, would show through the thick smoke and appear as a ghostly image.  It was only after downloading the photos on my laptop did I see their expressive faces, so I just had to weave this photographic phenomenon into the story somehow!

On one of brother Dan’s rare day’s off, he and I set out for an adventure of our own.  We drove up to his childhood hometown of Oracle, 26 miles to the north.

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Oracle, a small town of 3,686 souls inhabiting 16 square miles, sits at an elevation of 4,524 feet.  The town was settled by an early miner that had travelled to California in 1870 on a ship named Oracle…which was built at a Maine shipyard!  He later traveled to the Arizona Territory and filed a mining claim which he named after the ship that had brought him to this rugged and remote area of the country.

We have some family property up here so it’s been a tradition to drive up to see how it’s fairing, poke around the village a bit, and grab some fine Mexican food at one of the local dive’s.

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Casa River Café is as small as it looks, and half the interior space is taken up with kitchen!  However, the food was plentiful, inexpensive and delicious!

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Can’t beat authentic Mexican food cooked by authentic Mexicans, using authentic Mexican ingredients!

After lunch, Dan wanted to explore some of the countryside of his youth, so we lit out on the old Willow Springs Road heading toward the Western mountains.

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For miles and miles, we were the only inhabitants on this dusty and winding road, until we came around a bend and spied this fellow.

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He gave us the old “stinkeye” so I brought the truck to a screeching halt.  Not sure if he was going to cross in front of our path, but I did not want to take any chances…could have been a bad day for us, as well as the male bovine, and we are not within cell phone range!

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Then I noticed the sign indicating he was the “Cattle Guard”…but, we didn’t see a badge or weapon, so believe it was just a bunch of bull (pun intended)!

After about an hour, Dan and I “had to take a break” so I pulled into an open field, where the truck posed for a classic “Southwestern Cowboy Cadillac” photo.

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And we poked around the scrub brush and cactus to find any artifacts from days gone by.

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However, much to our chagrin, it doesn’t appear that Mister Artie Facts ever set foot on this beautiful but desolate land.

A great day spent with a wonderful young man in an area of the country few tourist take time to explore.

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Thanks for spending the day with me brother…love you!

On another day, while Kit and I were out running errands, I spotted this unique homemade tiny home on wheels.

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The rear looked to be a rollup door and the whole thing couldn’t have been longer than fifteen feet, and it’s for sale if anyone is interested?!  Wanted to see inside, but the owner wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Dewey and Bea have an active social life, that is until we show up.  However, against their better judgement I’m sure, they invited us to a nice restaurant to meet some of their friends, George and Diane.

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We enjoyed a great meal and lively conversation…and I was very careful to not embarrass anyone!

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Well, we reluctantly need to move on and continue our westerly trek…some folks can drive from Maine to San Diego in about five days, it takes us over two months!  But before we depart Kit and I wish to thank these two wonderful people for their hospitality and generosity with their time.

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Hope to see you on the road at some point this winter, but until then, stay safe and keep smiling…love you guys!!

As we view a last spectacular sunset from the rooftop perch of the fabulous Doobie RV Resort…

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…Kit and I lament the end of our Tucson Adventure and bid you all a goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s:  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Tucson with Dewey & Bea, as always.  They are such gracious hosts, we never feel as if we’re in the way.  Nice that we have our own “space” and they, of course, have theirs.  Some days, they’re busy with daily activities and we have things to tend to, as well.  It’s almost as if we’re “neighbors”.  Thanks, Dewey & Bea for having us, we so appreciate our stay with you folks.