We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Wednesday, February 7, 2018: Leaving the Coachella Valley community of La Quinta after an enjoyable stay at lake Cahuilla Regional Recreation Area.
Kit and I made our way through a variety of towns until intersecting Interstate 10 and continued toward the East.
At 1323 hours we entered the state of Arizona after crossing over the Colorado River…an hour later found us in the town of Surprise, and our ultimate destination of Sunflower RV Resort.
This is an adult, full featured, destination facility of 1,203 sites…many of which contain 400 square foot, park model style trailers.
Sunflower a huge common area containing pools, hot tubs, a tiki bar and dozens of fully equipped shops for woodworking, jewelry making, pottery, sewing, stained glass, etc.
Most folks stay here for the winter season, however there is a small section for overnighters off in the corner of the sprawling facility.
And that was where we stayed…for $78.00 a night!
The town of Surprise is primarily a retirement community to the west of Sun City…the rock star of retirement enclaves in the Southwest. The city was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler who named it Surprise as she exclaimed at the time: “I’ll be surprised if anyone else lives in this god forsaken spot”. Well, the surprise was that Surprise grew to a city of 132,677 folks…and most of that growth occurred within the past ten years! The largest non-municipal employer in the city is Walmart and Surprise is the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and The Texas Rangers…surprise!
However, this visit has sad undertones as Tommy passed away last September. A retired Television and movie actor, Tommy had a personality that far exceeded his stature, and was very entertaining to be around. His zest for life and devotion to Martha, was an inspiration to all who knew him. A few years ago, we hosted Tommy and Marti at our home in Maine.
And it was one of the most enjoyable visits we have had! You will be missed old friend, but your spirit lives on!
However, Kit and I were pleasantly surprised to find Marti’s brother, and my best friend from high school, in town! We had a great time reminiscing about old times in the old neighborhood as all four of us, Kit, Marti, Rod and I grew up a few blocks from each other in the Sierra Mesa portion of San Diego, California.
The first day we enjoyed take-out from a local gourmet burger place, and on the second day Marti and Rod treated us to a backyard barbeque with grilled pork chops and all the fixings. Marti’s home backs up on a golf course, and her yard contains two mature orange trees.
She handed me a bag and said; “take what you want” …so I harvested about a dozen ripe juicy Navel Oranges!
Kit and I had a great time visiting with Marti and Rod. We plan on seeing Rod and his wife Gloria again soon when we make it to San Diego in a few weeks.
While in Surprise, our truck was due for an oil change, so off I want to Sands Chevrolet. Nowadays, most dealerships have a nice customer waiting room with internet, snacks and drinks, but Sands has an added attraction…part of the owner’s classic car collection displayed in the showroom!
Which mainly consisted of Vintage Corvettes!
The white 1957 model has factory fuel injection, producing 283 HP from its 283 CID engine…a very rare, and very valuable, automobile!
In talking to the receptionist, she shared that the owner has many more vehicles in his private collection and rotates them through his dealership showroom to keep things fresh. Many of these were acquired at the Barrett-Jackson auction which is held annually in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona.
Kit and I spent one day just hanging around the RV Resort, walking about the vast park, and getting our laundry caught up. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and the staff was accommodating as well. As one might imagine in a retirement community, a number of fully outfitted, landscaped, and completely furnished, units become “available” …and they are, for the most part, very reasonably priced. If we wanted to settle down near a large city (which we don’t) and live in a retirement community (which we don’t) this would be a great place to winter over!
On the final day of our stay I caught wind of a classic car show a few miles away, so leaving Kit to enjoy some peace and quiet, I headed to Sun Valley West…about ten minutes away.
There were a few hundred collector cars in attendance such as Hot Rods…
…land yachts from the 1950’s…
…classic muscle cars, like my buddy Jeff’s…
…drag cars, like this very nice Gasser…
…and cars modified with crate motors.
In the example above, the owner hinged the crate back so one could get a glimpse of the massive 94 horsepower engine.
Of personal interest to me was this 1968 Mercury Cougar.
Which, except for the shade of green, is the car Kit and I drove until 1972 when three toddlers could no longer be squeezed into the back seat.
It was a nice show, and being in Sun City, most all the cars were owned by old retired guys!
On the way back to the RV resort, I noticed this uniquely named business.
I guess it’s my weird sense of humor, but if I was running this place, during a memorial service I would very faintly play the melody “Pop Goes the Weasel” while watching everyone stare at the casket in horror.
Say goodnight, Bill.
Sunday, February 11. 2018: Departed Sunflower RV Resort at 1100 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 82 degrees. Kit and I then headed northeast toward the town of Mesa, Arizona….
…and, a few minutes later, stopped at a conveniently located shopping mall where Kit noticed a Kohl’s store.
While she enjoyed an hour of Retail Therapy, I spent time working on this journal and walking laps about the vast parking lot. Now normally, an extended stop on a travel day, for most any reason, would drive me nuts…however, our destination is only 58 miles to the east, and check-in time isn’t for another two hours, so this is as good a place as any to hunker down.
Back on the road, we soon left the Phoenix megalopolis and passed through the bedroom community of Mesa before turning north toward the Tonto National Forest.
And within minutes, arrived at Usery Mountain Regional Park located in the Salt River Valley.
This very popular park, close to a major metropolitan area, is normally booked solid…. however, due to someone’s late cancellation, we were able to get in for a few days. The stipulation was that we had to move sites. So, the first night we stayed on the north rim of the park with a great view of Scarface Cliff.
And enjoyed the sunset across the desert landscape as the waning light illuminated the hillsides.
And, with that, we bid you a pleasant good evening!
Monday, February 12 through Wednesday, February 14: Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona: Woke to partly sunny skies with temperatures in the 60’s as we relocated our camper to our second site, which we will occupy for the duration of our stay.
This site is located on the South rim of the campground and is surrounded by desert vegetation, such as this beautiful Palo Verde tree.
You may have noticed the two orange colored objects on the barrel cactus to the left of the tree in the photo above. Those are my offerings to the many songbirds that greet us each morning.
Where back home, folks put out bird feeders, here in the desert it is common for folks to place sliced citrus fruit on spines of cactus! The birds were too quick for me to get a good photo, however both halves of the arrange were gutted in a few hours! And yes, those are from Marti’s backyard citrus trees. The birds only enjoyed the one, as the Navel Oranges were so juicy and delicious we ate the others in short order.
This area is on the border of a National Forest; however, it doesn’t resemble most folk’s idea of a forest at all.
Landscapes of the United States come in different forms and they all exhibit their own beauty.
On one morning during our stay it dawned dark and gloomy…
…with badly needed rain in the forecast.
So, since we were close to the city of Scottsdale, Kit and I decided to pop over for a visit…and what did we find? A new Airstream dealer!
This place was unique in that every model of this iconic travel trailer was inside a massive, climate controlled, showroom. Additionally, they sold properly equipped tow vehicles as well, mainly Range Rovers, and Escalades! So, for a mere $200,000.00 one could drive off on their own camping adventure. Oh, and the orange Porsche 911 shown in the above photo, that’s the owners personal car driven on the Vintage Sports Car Racing Circuit.
Leaving the dealership with the knowledge that a new Airstream trailer is a bit out of our budget, we came across a nice little family restaurant called Habanero’s Mexican Grill, so pulled in for lunch.
Where Kit and I enjoyed the special of the day…Carne Asada Quesadillas.
Then, while walking out of the restaurant with full bellies, Kit spotted a Goodwill store…this is shaping up to be a great day!
While Kit ran amok in the housewares department…I headed straight for menswear and started mining Hawaiian Shirt Gold!
The above is a representative sample of my bounty, and each shirt was in great shape and priced at only $4.50…with the old folk’s discount!
The best US location to find tropical vacation castoffs has historically been in the Southwestern portion of the US. Many of my finds, I’m sure, were donated by cowboys returning from an island vacation and too embarrassed to wear their impulse purchase at the rodeo. As of today, I have surpassed the point of owning over 50 Hawaiian shirts’…all of which were amassed over our 10 years of adventure travel! Perhaps I should start an eBay business in gently used, authentic Leisure Wear!?!?
Returning to the campground, I spotted this camouflaged and masked automobile up ahead.
Many auto manufacturers operate proving grounds in the area to assess their future models on hidden test-tracks. When testing requires driving on city streets, the car exteriors are obscured by body wraps and covers to disguise the shape of the yet to be released vehicle. This subterfuge is supposed to help minimize industrial espionage, or the unauthorized release of future car images. The irony is that in this era of automobile monotony, and year after year model consistency, these “new models” sporting such obvious camouflage, and affixed with Michigan manufacture license plates, draw more attention than if they just drove the thing around naked…perhaps, that’s the real reason America’s big three, Ford, GM, and Fiat go to all the trouble!?!?
Motoring down the access road back towards Usery Mountain Regional Park we noticed this unusual image.
The 1,063-foot-long directional sign was created by a Boy Scout Troop back in 1950 as a navigational aid by the suggestion of their scoutmaster, a general aviation pilot. Constructed of painted rocks, each letter is 100 feet high by 12 feet wide and took 430 gallons of white paint to cover. Constructed as a Boy Scout Service Project to assist trans-continental pilots in the location of the Phoenix Regional Airport, the massive sign remains as a piece of 1950’s graffiti.
Back at the camp, the rain had subsided, and the fragrant smell of damp mesquite trees permeated the air.
A great opportunity to take a walk down one of the many hiking trails to experience the rare sensory opportunity of a rain-soaked desert.
As Kit and I prepared for the mornings departure, and enjoyed an evening glass of wine, the sun set below the overcast on another great day!
Kit’s Bit’s: As always, I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Phoenix area. Best of all, was seeing Martha and Rodney. We spent a good bit of time talking about the crazy things we did as kids and remembering lots of kids and crazy pranks from the neighborhood. Next best thing was touring the Airstream trailers! They are so sleek and beautiful! Every single time we see one on the road, we’re like kids as we blurt out “Airstream” and point to it! So, we probably should have popped for one at the beginning of this retirement adventure. We actually looked at them but talked ourselves out of it since our plan was to be “half timers” rather than “full timers”. The other issue was, I was all for finding an old one to modify and Bill wanted a brand new one. It’s still fun to look at them from time to time.