Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #12

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
J.R.R Tolkien

Thursday, February 27, 2020: Up at 0600 hours on the morning we had chosen for departure from Potrero County Park in The Mountain Empire section of San Diego.

Where we are camping next door to these two fine folks.

Overnight, we had experienced a very windy and tumultuous evening. In checking the wind velocity apps we discovered why.

Yep, that red graph shows sustained winds in the 30 MPH range and gusts of over 50 MPH!!

In checking other nearby locations, it was discovered that at lower altitudes the wind velocity appeared to be more manageable. So, The Nomadic Maniacs mutually decided to head out and stay at as low an elevation as possible…ironically, this led us to travel Historic US highway 80 once again.

Where there was a higher level of wind than we are normally comfortable with, but fortunately the wind was from the east which resulted in minimal effect on the handling of our rig’s.

Within about a half an hour we were out of the mountains…

…and descending into the Imperial Valley where wildflowers lined the highway. Once at this lower altitude, it felt as if someone had thrown a “wind switch” as the wind velocity dropped significantly.

A few minutes later we all stopped for a break at a rest area near El Centro California, and were treated to a mini air show…

…by the US Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team…The Blue Angels. Based out of NAS Pensacola, Florida, the “Blues” train and practice at NAS El Centro during the winter months.

Back underway, and traveling east on I-8, Jeff took over leading the way…

…and I’m sure we enjoyed a much nicer view than they did of us.

At 1138 hours we crossed the border into Arizona and entered the Mountain Standard time. In Yuma, decided to stop for food at Frye’s Grocery, then pulled into the Yuma RV Parts Superstore for some needed items and walking around time.

Back on the road at 1430 hours, it was decided to call it an early day by overnighting at Gila Bend Air Force Base…

…a facility that is virtually in the middle of nowhere! Situated hard alongside the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, this base is a divert field for the pilots flying out of Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix…and, due to the inexpensive nightly rate, very popular with snowbirds.

The base is so remote that the campground uses individual reverse osmosis water purification systems to provide drinking water to each camp site.

But, being in the Mojave Desert, the sunsets are pretty nice…


Friday, February 28, 2020: Pulled chocks at 1034 hours, and headed south on AZ-85.

Through the town of Ajo…

…and pulled into Organ Pipe National Monument (OPCNM).

I knew we were getting close to the visitor’s center when I noticed this sign…

…that had my name written all over it.

At the campground kiosk, I was surprised that contrary to past practices, OPCNM required reservations through their website, where in the past camping was first come first served…Yikes!

Fortunately, our traveling karma was in overdrive as there were two sites available large enough for our rigs so…

…Kit and I pulled into this one…

…and Jeff & Catherine set up “two doors down” on this site. Love it when serendipity travel works in our favor!

Since we were set up by noon, the four of us decided to capitalize on the bonus time to drive some of the jeep trails that wind about this 517 square mile park.

OPCNM shares its southern border with Mexico, and the South Puerto Blanco Drive parallels that international boundary.

Within minutes, we viewed the parks namesake…the Organ Pipe Cactus.

These majestic cacti only grow in a small region of Southeastern Arizona and the northern state of Sonora. We also came upon this…

…which is one of the many pieces of the equipment to build this…

Initially authorized during President Clinton’s administration, the original Mexico-United States Barrier, as its officially called, was constructed of surplus helicopter landing mats from the Vietnam war, or basic vehicle barriers made of old railroad rails…

…like depicted in the foreground. These old vehicle barriers were cast aside and replaced with the new vehicle/pedestrian barrier wall.

Since the early barriers proved to be ineffective, each succeeding administration developed their own “wall” concept except Obama who shifted the focus of border protection to using advanced technology. Currently, The Trump Wall, as it is known, consists of panels 30 feet high imbedded in concrete. And since the wall is to extend uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, which includes some very rugged terrain, special employee busses were purchased to travel cross country.

I wonder if those machines will be sold as government surplus when the wall is complete…might make a pretty nifty RV!

Driving further on the north side of the border we came across another section of the earlier barriers.

The white house in the photo above is in Mexico, and the iron fence in the foreground straddles the US-Mexican border…this is the style of border barrier I grew up with.

However, in this same area we detected entry by some illegal aliens.

These undocumented, and hungry looking feral hounds were so cute…

… one has an overwhelming desire to aid their immigration into the US.

Before heading back to camp, we continued south to the Sonoita Port of Entry.

I’m guessing this is where the workers installing the wall come to be paid for their materials and labor by the Mexican Government.

Back at camp, it was time for a community meal, some adult beverages, and a spectacular sunset.


Saturday, February 29, 2020-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona: I was up early to watch the sun rise in the east…

…which illuminated the desert floor in a golden glow.

Today, we decided to cruise the Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21-mile dirt road that loops around Ajo Mountain and shows off some of the most scenic areas of OPCNM.

It’s one way and wide enough for vehicles to pass, so one can travel at their leisure…as an example, it took us close to four hours to drive the 21 miles, of course we made numerous stops along the way.

For those who think the desert southwest is devoid of color I offer these examples of flowering plants and Cactus we came across including…

…some that are unusual, and…

…some more familiar.

All along the route there were gorgeous landscapes to be enjoyed.

And as the road steeply climbed into the foothills…

…we came to a unique rock formation…

…an arch, not unlike those in southeast Utah, however these hills are more volcanic where in Utah mountains consists primarily of sandstone.

Near the end of our excursion…

…we noticed a large stick in the middle of the road, and, it was moving!?!?

Showing the above photo to desert wildlife experts the rattler was identified as a Mojave
Rattlesnake, one of the world’s most venomous snakes! Fortunately, we were in the truck, and fortunately, the rattler wasn’t coiled up for a strike, and fortunately, he/she appeared to have little interest in us, possibly due to a recent emergence from its brumation period (Google it).

Back at camp we shared another great meal and drinks as the sun set over the desert of OPCNM…


Sunday, March 1, 2020: Departed the park at 0954 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 62 degrees.

Then headed north on AZ-85…

… to the town of Why Arizona, with a population 167 souls.

Following a brief stop for fuel, we turned right on AZ-86, the North Tucson-Ajo Highway.

So, why is Why called Why? Well, the intersection of the two highways roughly resemble the letter “Y”, and the towns founders lacked a bit of creativity so just named their new enclave, “Y”. At least until they discovered that state law required Arizona town names to contain at least three letters…hence the name Why.

At 1240, and all getting hungry, there was a consensus to stop for lunch at a restaurant in the town of Three Points, Arizona, called the 3 Points Restaurant…yep more unimaginative naming!

However, the service was friendly, and the food was great.

I enjoyed a Greek Omelet which was one of the best I’ve experienced. For a small dusty town, The Three Points Restaurant was an outstanding find!

Well, sadly, this is where the Nomadic Maineiacs part ways.

Jeff and Catherine are proceeding east, and we are going to stay in the Tucson Area for a while. Its been great camping with you folks this past two weeks…safe travels, see you in Maine!

Kit’s Bit’s: Sad to see Jeff & Catherine head home, but we will see them again when we arrive home. The last couple of weeks have been fun, showing them some of our favorite spots. The winter season is very nice in the desert, with all the cactus blooming, very colorful. We always enjoy staying at Organ Pipe, the views are spectacular, and we like to drive along the border to see what’s going on. An added bonus this time was seeing the rattlesnake! I had never seen one before. Needless to say, I stayed in the truck!