Friday, November 13, 2009

Finishing up with Big Bend

Sunday did turn out to be a football day, but we really needed it because Monday we took our most ambitious hike of all.  The Lost Mine Trail starts from the highest elevation the Chisos Basin road gets to, around 5,700 feet, and climbs 1,100 feet in two and a half miles to the top of a ridge where there are magnificent views of the basin and the surrounding desert.


The trail has nature markers and a booklet describing things to provide reasons to stop every few minutes, but it is still up every step of the way.  Thank goodness we had worked our way up to this one, and thank goodness we had rested the previous day.  It was a good hike and we spotted a white tailed deer in the trail on the way down.


Tuesday we recovered from the previous day's hike with just a short hike on the nature trail that starts in the campground.  Unfortunately the start of the trail was washed out in the floods last year so we had to hike a circuitous route around the beaver pond instead of taking the boardwalk over it.  The trail climbed a small hill near the river that had nice views.  That evening we gave ourselves a treat.  We rode up to the Basin Lodge and had dinner at their restaurant.  The food was OK, not great, but the views were worth it.

Wednesday we took our leave of Big Bend, having given it a pretty good look over for almost two weeks.  We feel like we know it pretty well.  We drove to Pecos, TX were we stayed in an RV park so we could do laundry.

Thursday we traveled east on I-20 to Midland, TX where I spent a couple hours touring the  Permian Basin Petroleum Museum.  I found it interesting but Dianna stayed in the truck and read.  Afterwards we motored north to a small county park north of Andrews, TX for the night.  Today we will move further east somewhere, and probably spend a couple days getting to Denton where we plan to spend the holidays with Dayna and her family.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Exploring Eastern Big Bend and Terlingua

Thursday we did some exploring on this side of Big Bend.  First we went to the visitor center here at Rio Grande Village, then rode out to Boquillas Canyon where the river again cuts through a mountain in a spectacular gorge, then on towards the center of the park at Chisos Basin.  On the way we stopped at Dugout Wells where a small community sprang up around a well in the early part of last century.  The only school in the area was located there.  It is now a pleasant oasis in the middle of miles and miles of desert.  We continued on to Panther Junction where the park headquarters is located, along with the largest visitor center.  We then headed up the steep and winding road into the Chisos Mountains to Chisos Basin.

The Chisos Basin in considered the heart of Big Bend NP.  The Chisos Mountains rise from the desert floor in the center of the park to a height of 7,832 feet.  The developed area is in a bowl located within the center of the mountain.  It feels similar to being inside a volcano.  There is only one opening, called the window, with a view of the desert below.


There are very tame deer wandering around and one of them approached to within 10 feet of us as we ate a picnic lunch.  After lunch we took the Basin Loop Trail through the pines.  It was only about 2 miles but it gave us a good feel for the area.  It is just barely in the pines at about 5,400 feet, so there is a combination of trees and cactus but it was much cooler than down by the river.  We had a pleasant afternoon and plan to return to do another hike in the area, as well as have dinner at the lodge some evening.

Friday we returned to Boquillas Canyon and took the short trail into the canyon.  It ends where the rock walls come down to the river.  Just before arriving at the end there is a cave high on the wall with a steep sand dune leading up to it.  The angle of the sand is extremely steep.  It took us 10 minutes or so to climb up it, but only 20 seconds to come down.

Along the trail we discovered Mexican trinkets lying on the rocks, with prices marked and jars for money.  Mexicans living across the river come over in canoes when no one is watching, and leave the items, hoping to make a little money.   As we were hiking in we were suddenly serenaded by a Mexican on the other side of the river.  We then came across jars with signs the read "Donation for Mexican Singing."  Dianna did buy a nice walking stick from one of the displays since the prices were about 1/4 of the cost for the same ones in the gift shop.  Whatever it takes.

Yesterday we decided to attend the Terlingua Chili Festival.  We had seen reference to the festival posted on the walls of some BBQ restaurants we have been in, and some of the people here in campground mentioned they were here to attend.  Terlingua is a tiny desert town just outside the park boundaries about 50 miles from the campground.  At one time it was a mining town that produced most of the mercury mined in the US.  It is now pretty much a ghost town that has become a haven for some artists and others who like to live away from it all.  It reminded us of Jerome, AZ without the mountains.

We didn't know exactly what to expect but even so, it was not at all like we thought it might be.  While there was some judging and cooking going on, only the participants and judges were paying any attention.  In fact, unless you were a participant or judge you could not even get into that area.  Mostly what it was was a couple thousand people getting together in the desert for four days to drink beer and party.  It reminded us of a biker gathering.  It was certainly not our cup of tea and we only stayed an hour or so.  We did get some free chili and some Buffalo Wings, but they were not worth the $20 admission fee.


On the way back we filled up the scooter with gas.  Since the speed limit in the park is only 45 MPH we got the best mileage ever -- 70.5 MPG.  Wahoo!

We still have a few things we want to see and do here.  Today may be just a football day, but who knows.  Soon we will start heading for Denton.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three Hikes in Big Bend

We decided to spend another day in the western part of the park so we could do a few more hikes.  They were all relatively short.  First we rode up to the Burro Mesa turnoff and parked at the Burro Springs Overlook Trail.   Information about the trail was not posted on the sign but it looked like it was just a short hike to an overlook.  We didn't even take water with us as we thought it would only be a few minutes.  Wrong.  It turned out to be 3/4 of a mile each way to a rather disappointing view of some greenery in a small canyon.

We then rode another mile or so up the road to the parking area for Burro Mesa Pouroff.  Pouroff's are places that would be call falls if water continously ran over them, but they are dry except when it rains.  It is a spot where water that falls on Burro Mesa during a rain storm "pours off" the mesa.  The hike was less than half a mile each way, and the formation itself was interesting.


On the way back to the scooter we saw a tarantula crossing the trail.


We then decided to try the Santa Elena Canyon Trail again.  When we were there a couple days ago the water levels were so high that it was not possible to cross Terlinga creek to get to the start of the trail.  The water levels had gone down some so we figured we had a chance.

When we arrived we watched as some European tourists waded across the creek in knee deep mud.  It looked like it was time for some adventure so we followed suit.  Yuck!


The canyon itself was very narrow and the hike was cool and pretty.  We watched several river rafters as they floated past.  The canyon itself is about 8 miles long but the trail ended in about half a mile where the canyon rock walls drop all the way to the river.   It is strange to think that the walls on the other side are in Mexico.


On the way out we met some other hikers who had found a rope attached to a tree farther up Terlinga Creek where you could pull yourself up the 10 foot sheer embankment.  We searched it out and used it to get back with dry feet, although Dianna needed a little help rappelling.

Three hikes in one day was plenty, especially because it was quite warm.  But we had a good time.

Wednesday was move day.  We relocated to the Rio Grande Village Campground on the other side of the park.  After setting up camp we did laundry and then settled in for a few days of exploring this side of Big Bend National Park.

All the photos are in the gallery.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Big Bend National Park – Day 1 thru 3

We continued south through a couple small towns, lots of open desert, small desert canyons, and open vistas with larger mountains in the distance, seeing lots of Border Patrol vehicles along the way.  We finally entered Big Bend NP at Study Butte and took the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road turnoff to Cottonwood Campground.  We dropped a couple thousand feed as we drove the 21 miles and found ourselves in a pretty grass covered primitive campground along the Rio Grande River.  There are no hookups of any kind so we will be relying on our solar panels, and since there is no cell service we will rely on our satellite internet and TV for entertainment and connection to the outside world.  After setting up camp we kicked back and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  It was quite cool and the furnace ran a lot during the evening.


We awoke to a temperature of 27 degrees, but bright sunshine soon warmed the day.  We set out to explore by scooter.  Our first stop was the Castolon Visitor Center where we learned about the history of the area.  This area has always been sparsely populated.  Even Native Americans avoided the place.  It was not until the late 1800’s that some very hardy ranchers arrived in the area.


Our second stop was at the end of the road where the Rio Grande carved Santa Elena Canyon through the mountains.  The river was too high for us to take the trail into the canyon and we are hoping that the water levels drop before we leave so we can return.  It is supposed to be one of the highlights of the area.  The canyon itself is impressive.


We continued our ride back toward the main road, stopping at each of the roadside exhibits.  Some explained the geology of the area, telling of the volcanic origins of most of the land, then the uplifting and mountain building, followed by ongoing erosion that left what we see today.  It is not what I would call spectacular scenery, but it is interesting and very pretty.  The center of the park is in the Chisos Basin area of the almost 8,000 foot Chisos Mountains that dominate the area.  We will explore that area later.


Yesterday we took a hike to Mule Ears spring.  The hike was only about 4 miles, but it was hot and lacking shade all the way.  The area around the spring where we had our lunch was a real oasis in the desert.  The small stream from the spring disappeared into the wash within a couple hundred feet but along its banks and in the pools were bulrushes, cattails, frogs, tadpoles and dragon flies.  There were tall cottonwoods and many smaller trees.


Today we didn’t do much.  We did ride a few miles up the road to Tuff Canyon overlook.  We had stopped at the overlook two days ago but had only looked.  Today we took the trail down to the bottom of the canyon and hiked as far up it as we could without rock climbing.  It was a relatively short trip but just what we needed to get the kinks out after yesterday’s more strenuous hike.


The rest of the day we just sat around, played on the computer, read, watched TV, napped and watched wildlife.  There are several coyotes who call the campground home, as well as a herd of 15 or so javalina, several road runners, woodpeckers, and a great horned owl.  All are accustomed to people and will pose for photographs as long as you don’t get too close.  The campground is very peaceful since even generators are not allowed.  It is a quiet and pretty place to spend a few days.


Pictures are in the gallery.

Monday, October 26, 2009

That doesn't look like Texas!

I know we told everyone we were headed for Big Bend National Park in Texas, but you never know with us.  We are still headed that way but we made a small detour.  Can you tell where from the photo?

We have had satellite internet for about 8 years now.  Setting it up involves erecting a tripod mount, mounting the dish, installing the arm, cabling everything together, and then aiming it at the correct satellite.  It usually takes me only 20 minutes or so to get online, and about 10 minutes to get it all disassembled and stowed, but it feels like it takes longer and gets heavier each time.  I finally broke down and bought a used automatic dish that mounts on top of the trailer.  All it takes is a push of a button and the dish unfolds, searches for the satellite, and locks on.  Stowing for travel is just another button.

So, what does all that have to do with the picture above?  Well, the man I bought it from lives in Ouray, Colorado.  We made the deal Saturday morning and decided to go get it.  Part of the deal was that I would help him remove it from his RV.  We decided to make an adventure of it, and left the trailer in Deming, NM, taking only the truck.  We didn't get on the road until almost noon after a stop at the bank to get cash.  We are very familiar with New Mexico and headed north to Hatch, NM where we joined I-25, past Elephant Butte Lake, Socorro,  through Albuquerque to Bernalillo where we left the interstate and headed up to the northwest corner of the state.  It was well past dark by the time we got to Aztec, NM where we decided to spend the night in a hotel.  Afterward we kind of wished we hadn't.  We paid $83 for a room that was worth less than half that, but there were no other options in town.

Sunday we headed north into Colorado, stopping in Durango for coffee, and then up over Molas Pass and down into Silverton at an elevation of about 9,300 feet.  There was not a cloud in the sky in Durango but by the time we reached Silverton the mountains were all covered with fresh snow and the roads were still wet and icy in places.  Beyond Silverton the road is one of the most spectacular in the world.  By spectacular I mean that it hugs the sides of magnificent mountains, has uncountable twists and turn, climbs to well over 11,000 feet, and has no shoulders or guard rails.  It has no guard rails because there is no room for them.  In many places the  edge of the pavement is the edge of the several thousand foot drop off.

I love such roads but Dianna does not.  We sit up very high in the truck and when we are on the outside of the road, all she can see is the canyon below when she looks out her window.  That and the fact that the road was wet and slushy in places, and that it was still spitting snow occasionally, really frightened her.  She became so nervous and scared that she finally moved to the back of the truck where she could just close her eyes.  I reminded her that she has ridden millions of miles with me, including hundreds of miles on similar roads, and that in all those millions of miles I have never driven off the edge of the road.  Not only that, but given the  consequences of driving off the road in those mountains, I was acutely aware of the situation and would not let that happen.  Didn't make any difference.  She was scared.

Anyway, we arrived in Ouray, had lunch, met the man selling the dish, drove up his extremely steep and muddy driveway,  removed the dish from his rig and headed back.  Except for a short distance, we were on the inside of road most of the way back, and Dianna felt somewhat less uncomfortable.  We continued over the mountains, back into New Mexico, and all the way back to Albuquerque where we slept in the truck in an Indian Casino parking lot.  Today we drove back to Deming with just a stop in Hatch for some green chile.

So, that was our weekend.  1,100 miles.  Snowy  11,000+ foot mountain passes.  Beautiful scenery.  New toy waiting for me to install it.

P.S.  All the scenery pictures on on my gallery.

From Tears to Cheers

Dayna called yesterday to tell us that Deidra had been involved in a road incident. It was dark so no one really knows what happened. An 18-wheeler passed her and then the next thing she knew she heard a noise that sounded like someone had hit her. It wasn't until she got home and they looked at the car that they found some of the damage. (She and her three friends who were with her were really freaked out by the time they got home.) The windshield on the driver's side is totally spidered, there is a huge dent where the windshield and roof meet and scratches and dents along the roof. Later they found a major scratch right above the driver's side headlight. When we realized how close Deidra came to being seriously hurt it brought tears to Mom & Nana's eyes. Needless to say her car is parked until they can find the money to fix it.

Dayna has been studying and taking pre-tests for her CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) license for months. It is tough and similar to a CPA exam as it is in multiple parts with about 800 questions all together. She finished the actual exam this weekend and heard this morning that she passed! So now she is well on her way to being able to fulfill a life-long dream to work for the FBI or possibly Homeland Security!! A former supervisor has friends who work for H.S. and told Dayna he'd call them this evening to see what he could do for her.

She called later to say Deidra (after months and months of putting in applications all over Denton, Aubrey and Providence) has been hired at her first job. She started tonight as a hostess at a small Mexican restaurant near their home. Her first comment was, "Now I'll be able to afford to fix my car!" Her bubbly personality ought to bring in lots of customers!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We saw a Cherry Cow today!

That title will mean something to only 5 other people, and they will know exactly where we went today.  The rest will have to read on.

We left Apache Junction Tuesday about 11, and drove only 150 miles to Roper Lake State Park near Safford, AZ.  Our original plan was to continue east yesterday, but just didn't feel like it.  Instead we rode the scooter up Mt. Graham.  The road is very scenic, but also very winding.  Most of the way the speed limit is 25, but many, many turns required slowing to 10.  The road is paved to a little over 9,000 feet and we were plenty cold by the time the dirt road started.  We don't enjoy dirt roads on the scooter so we turned around.  The trip up and back only took a couple hours and was a lot of fun.  The views on top were incredible.  We could see the Chiricahua's, the Dragoons, Willcox, the Rincons, Safford, and a lot more scenery that I used to know the names of.

It was seeing the Chiricahua's from the top of Mt. Graham that gave me an idea.  Instead of leaving today, why not make another trip down memory lane?  So that's what we did.  First thing this morning we loaded the scooter on the back of the truck and headed south, through Willcox, past the Dairy Queen where we used to eat banana splits and I first had Dilly Bar's, and south to Chiricahua National Monument.

For those who are not familiar with Lafferty family history, we spent 2 or 3 weeks camping there in early 1959 after Mom sprained her ankle.  The camping we did there in the old school bus is one of our favorite family memories.  During that time there, Dale and I hiked every trail in the park, some of them multiple times.

We parked the truck at Faraway Ranch, the original homestead in the area which has been preserved as it was in the 20's or 30's, and unloaded the scooter.  The roads in the monument are narrow, with overhanging trees, and I didn't want to add a new sunroof.  We stopped at the visitor center, then rode up to Masai Point at the end of the road.  On the way we rode through the campground were we had spent that time years ago, but I could not remember which site we camped in.

We ate our lunch at a picnic table at Masai Point, and were quickly visited by some old friends.  Chiricahua Jay's are a kind of blue jay, although the visitor center called them something else, and they are notorious camp robbers.  Dianna couldn't resist tossing them a few small pieces of bread.  They were totally brazen, and came right down to the table.  I remember them well from years ago.

After eating lunch at a picnic table we rode down about a half mile to the Echo Canyon Trail  parking area where we parked the scooter, put on the rucksack, and headed down the trail.  The formations were even better to view from up close as we walked through them and down Bonita Canyon. It was a pretty steep descent, but the loop back up to the parking area was a little more gentle.  Regardless, this little 3.2 mile hike was much, much tougher than any of the trails Dale and I took back in 1959.  I wonder why they made the trails so much steeper and more difficult?

We rode the scooter back down to the truck, loaded it up, and returned to Roper Lake, getting home just about 5:30.  It was great fun.  The place looked different after 50 years, as I only have general memories of the places and trails.  I had forgotten most of the details and would not have been able to describe much of the roads, campgrounds, visitor center, Masai Point, or any of the other places.  But it sure felt familiar and good.

And now, for those who have never seen a Cherry Cow, here is the story.  One day in early 1959, when camping at the campground there in Chiricahua, we all watched a white tail deer wander through the area.  On of my young siblings asked, quite innocently, "Is that the Cherry Cow?"

Today, shortly after arriving and unloading the scooter, the Cherry Cow pictured below came wandering through.

The rest of today's photos are on my gallery.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The Road Again, Again

After 6 months camphosting at San Onofre we are once again on the road to places elsewhere.   The campground closed on the 1st of October and we spent a couple quiet days getting ready to move.  Sitting in one place for six months results in lots of things to put away.  All was ready by this morning and we hooked up and were on the road by about 10 AM.  We drove south on I-5, around San Diego and then east on I-8.  Up and over the mountains, down into the Imperial Valley and across the desert to Yuma we went, with the winds pushing us all the way.  I'm sure glad we weren't headed west today!

We'll be here for a couple days to get some dental work done, then it's off to the Phoenix area for a couple weeks, and a big family reunion.  We'll be staying in an RV park in Apache Junction this time.  Normally we like to boondock near the river but it's still warm to be without air conditioning in the desert.

Our long range plans, which are cast in Jello, are to spend another month or so getting to the Denton area for the holidays, then back to the Arizona desert for three months until our season starts again in April next year at San Onofre.  We have been thinking about only staying there for 3 months next year.  Six months in one place starts to feel like a job about half way through, and by the time we are ready to leave there, the summer is over in the mountains where we love to spend time.  Maybe we will find another park somewhere to volunteer for the other three months, or maybe we will just travel and explore.  Who knows.  Like I said, Jello.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Family Update

I decided it is time to catch you all up on our extended family's comings and goings for the past few months. We're just sitting here cool and comfy at the beach.

Deidra went to her first prom in May. (They're just good friends.) This was Maurice's senior prom.

 Deidra Prom

The Jennings are going on a Caribbean cruise this summer. They are thrilled to be able to go swimming with the dolphins and manta rays among other exciting excursions.

Dayna was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia last week and had her esophagus dilated this morning. She came through the procedure with no problems. She's anxious to see if she can swallow better now. Before the dilation she was having trouble swallowing her food and sometimes it wouldn't go down at all.

Daddy is having more cancer surgery on Aug. 7th. He has four spots on his scalp and one on his ear. He will have it under a local and the surgeon will shave the spots. We're hoping this will get it all and he won't need general surgery. But, knowing him, that won't be the case.

Go Trojans! Our niece, Michele, was chosen as one of the four twirlers with the USC band!! She received a scholastic scholarship as well as one from the band. Here's her graduation picture - so look for her on TV.

Her sister, Patricia, is going to Cambridge for college this coming school year. She is interning with a pharmaceutical company this summer.

I'm sure glad the rest of my family is doing stuff to write about. Our lives are the same, day in and day out for the next three months.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


For some time now I have been  concerned about adequate backups for our computer data. Since everything we own is in our RV, even though I backup to an external disk on a daily basis, a fire, theft or some other catastrophe could wipe it all out. I have way too much stuff to write it to DVD's and mail them off somewhere, plus that would be an extreme hassle.  It just would not get done.  On a weekly basis I have always copied some of my most critical financial files to my web site using FTP, but that does not protect all our digital photos (12,000+), my music library and dozens of other important files.  Putting 20 Gig of data on AZNB's servers was not an option.  Plus, it is a manual process that requires me to stay on top of it.

I decided to look into the online backup services and used Mozy's free 2 GB plan to do some testing. There are several providers who all do about the same thing for the same price.  My primary concern was the FAP issue.  I use a HughesNet satellite system for internet access.  In order to provide equitable access to all their customers, Hughes has a Fair Access Policy (FAP) that limits the amount of data that can be downloaded during any 24 hour period.  If you exceed the limit, your service is slowed to approximately that of a dial up connection for 24 hours.  This is a very unpleasant penalty!   While everything I read on Hughes' website was careful to qualify the FAP limits in terms of download, I also read many posts in various forums where it was stated that FAP limits included uploaded data.  I decided to test it for myself.

I have the HughesNet Pro plan so my limit is 375 MB per 24 hours. I chose a day before a planned travel day, so if I got myself into FAP it would not be a big deal. I installed their software and fired up the initial backup with about 1.3 GB of data, and let it run. My system sent about 90 MB per hour to the Mozy backup servers. I let it run almost continuously. It never entered FAP and worked like a champ.  I was able to upload the entire test data in less than 24 hours, including stopping and starting it several times.  I also tested the recovery process and found it worked great.  Mozy keeps previous versions of each file for 30 days so it was easy to retrieve an older version.

Since the test worked fine I decided to sign up for an unlimited account for $4.95 per month. I have now completed the initial backup of over 17 GB. I have scheduled the Mozy Backup process to upload changed files automatically every night.  It takes only an hour or two on a normal night.   The 90 MB being uploaded every hour is very slow compared to most DSL or Cable connections in homes, but it works fine for me at that slow rate.

If I ever need to recover a file or two, the downloading of that small amount would not be a big deal in terms of download FAP limits. Of course, that would not work if I needed to recover everything. In that case, for a fee Mozy will send me everything on DVD. That would obviously be a lot faster anyway.

I use our desktop system as our main "server" and installed Mozy on it.  Most of the time Dianna and I use our laptops but we keep the really big stuff on the desktop system.  It has RAID 1 which means that all data is duplicated on two identical disks.   All the photographs, music and family videos are there. Our laptops contain the stuff we use on a daily basis.  This includes our e-mail, financial software (Quicken), investment tracking data, and Dianna's genealogy files among other things.  To back up all this data I have an external disk attached to the desktop system.  Every night I use Cobian Backup to save everything from all three machines to the external disk.  I keep three copies for each system.  I keep a daily copy and copies of everything from the past two Sunday mornings.  All three systems are networked and the backups run over wireless G from the laptops to the external disk attached to the desktop.  This local backup provides very good recoverability of data as long as I do not have a catastrophic loss of my entire rig.

I also wanted to back up certain files from our laptops to the Mozy online backup servers.  To install Mozy on each laptop would require $4.95 per month for each of them.  To avoid that cost I created two folders on the desktop system and set up another Cobian Backup  task to make copies of the desired data from the laptops into the folders on the desktop.  The Mozy backup task that runs on the desktop includes those two folders.

So there you have it.  I can now sleep a whole lot better than I used to.  I know all my data is secure and will not be lost through a personal catastrophe.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Busy Week in the Verde Valley



After spending two weeks at Phon D Sutton recreation area at the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers just north of Mesa, we moved up river.  We were on the road by about 10:30 and took the 202 to the 101 to I-17, and then north to the Verde Valley.  We pulled into Dead Horse Ranch State Park about 1:30 and were shocked to find that the place was full!  It turns out that this is spring break in much of the Phoenix area and families are taking advantage of it.


They put us up in the overflow area for the night.




I rode the scooter through the campground at 8:30 this morning looking for a vacated spot.  I found one and left the scooter in the site while I walked back to the entrance station to pay for four days.  I hate having to move two days in a row.


After getting set up we rode the scooter into Cottonwood so we could buy a few groceries and get Dianna’s prescription filled at the new Super Wal-Mart.  While we were waiting we had lunch at the McDonalds there.  We usually order off the dollar menu.  We each had a McDouble, small fries and senior soft drinks.  The burgers are just about the same amount of meat as a quarter pounder since they have two patties and cheese.  So, for less than $3 apiece including tax, we had lunch.


After returning our groceries to the trailer we rode about 3 miles up the road to Tuzigoot National Monument.  We passed through old town Cottonwood, which is now a real tourist trap.  


Tuzigoot was an interesting place.  The Verde Valley is a very desirable place to live, and people have been here for thousands of years.  It is warmer than the areas north of here, cooler than the desert south of here, and it has a constant supply of water.  One of the most interesting things about it is the visitor center.  It is one of the few visitor centers that were built by the WPA in the 30’s that is still unchanged and in use.  The National Monument is very small and it takes only about an hour to see everything.


We returned to the campground, had dinner, took a short walk, watched TV and went to bed.




Today we rode up the hill to Jerome.  It was a major mining town at the turn of the 20th century, but all the mines closed by about 1950 and it drifted toward being a ghost town.  Hippies started moving in during the 60’s and turned it into an art gallery/tourist town.  It is perched on the side of the mountain and is still made up of old buildings, some of which have been restored.  It was interesting, but there is really no reason for its existence besides being a tourist trap.


After looking around town for an hour or so we continued up the mountain toward Prescott.  We reached the top at Mingus Pass in about 7 miles and were just above 7,000 feet.  There was still snow on the ground in shady spots, although the temperature was in the 70’s.


We then returned to Cottonwood and stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries and buy me some new jeans.  We watched TV and turned in.




Today it was Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monuments.  Both are just a couple miles off of I-17 and they are only about 5 miles apart.  We arrived at Montezuma Castle and pulled into the parking lot behind 4 or 5 busses loaded with elementary aged school kids.  Yikes!  The place is not very big and there were kids everywhere. 


Montezuma Castle has nothing to do with Montezuma.  It’s just that the Spaniards who first saw it thought the natives could not have built anything so grand, so they gave Montezuma credit for it.  It is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the country, built into a limestone cliff alongside Beaver Creek.  It is small, but except for some stabilization it is almost completely preserved in its natural state, which is amazing when you consider that the inhabitants left in about 1400. 


Montezuma Castle is worth a stop when you consider that half an hour is all you need to see everything.  Montezuma Well just up the interstate will take at least an hour and is much more interesting.  It is located on a bluff above Beaver Creek.   It is a collapsed limestone cavern that is kept filled with water from an underground spring.  A lot of water.  About 1.2 million gallons a day!  And it was a big cavern.  The pool is about 300 feet across. There are trails down to the waters edge where you can see cliff dwellings and the location where the water disappears into the side of the cliff.  You can then hike back up to the top, then down the bluff to where the water again emerges from the rock just above the creek.  Here the ancient natives built a mile long canal to water their crops downstream.


On the way back to the campground we stopped at a gelato shop in town.  It was delicious & inexpensive - always a plus!




This is our last day here so we took our longest trip today.  We left at 10:30 and rode through Sedona and into Oak Creek Canyon.  Sedona is a beautiful city in a spectacular area, but it is also an extremely overpriced, yuppie, tourist trap.  Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful and lots of fun on a motorcycle.  As we climbed up the Mogollon Rim the temperature dropped and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground as we stopped at the scenic overlook at the top.


We then rode into Flagstaff and had lunch, then did something I had wanted to do for a long time.  We visited Lowell Observatory and took the tour.  We got to see Lowell’s 24 inch refracting telescope.  We also saw the telescope Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto.  We were even able to look through the comparator that he used to find it in the photographic plates for the first time.  I know it’s not a planet anymore, but a dwarf planet is still pretty important just the same.  It was an interesting time.


We left Flagstaff about 3:30 and retraced our route, arriving home about 5:30 including another stop at Wal-Mart for stuff we won’t be able to find in Quartzsite.  TV tonight and travel tomorrow.




Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nostalgic Drive

As I mentioned in the comments to my last post we decided to stay in the Artesia area one more day to let the wind die down.  Friday dawned to no wind and clear skies so it was a perfect day to travel.  We left Artesia and headed west over the Sacramento Mountains through Cloudcroft.  I have a vivid recollection of stopping in Cloudcroft when we made the trip west in the winter of 1958.  We stopped the silver and blue bus at a pull out or service station there and the white sands were visible in the valley below.

Yesterday we did not stop in Cloudcroft and the area is quite a bit more built up than it was 50 years ago, but the view is the same.  We dropped down through Alamagordo and stopped at White Sands National Monument for lunch.  It sure was fun driving up to the gate and showing the ranger my Senior Pass.  He gave us a brochure and waved us through.  I think I am going to like this!  I think I remember having birthday cake while we were there about 50 years ago.  Was that Donnie's birthday? (I know you are Don now but you were Donnie then.)

We had lunch in the sand dunes and took a short walk, then continued west to Deming where we spent the night in an Escapee park.  This morning we got started late and only drove 150 miles to Roper Lake State Park near Safford.  It is a very nice location and will leave only another 150 miles to travel tomorrow.  We came this way in November so it will be nice to see Globe from the other side.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good News and Bad News about Carlsbad Caverns

We decided to spend a couple days at an Escapees RV park between Artesia and Carlsbad, NM.  Today we went to Carlsbad Caverns since it has been a few years since we were there.  We always enjoy caves and Carlsbad is about as good as it gets.  We hiked in the natural entrance and then rode the elevator up to the visitor center for lunch.  Then we rode it back down for our stroll around the Big Room.  We had a good time but three hours of walking on steep grades wore us out.  Obviously we are out of shape again.

So, what's the good news and the bad news?  When we got there I walked up to the counter and told the Ranger that I had good news and bad news.  The good news is that I am now 62 and for $10 I get the lifetime Senior Pass that covers the entrance fee for me and up to three others to all National Parks, BLM parks, COE parks, etc.  It also provides half price for most other fees like camping and tours.

The bad news?  I'm 62................

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Official Senior Citizen

Yep.  That's me.  I start drawing social security as of next month (the month after your 62nd birthday) and will receive my first check about the 15th of April.  Whoopee!  At last I get some of the money back that I have paid in all these years.

I also can now take advantage of the one time $10 purchase of the Golden Age Pass (or whatever they are calling it now) that will provide free entry into most National Parks and Monuments, as well as half price camping in federal campgrounds and many state facilities as well.  That will actually help when we visit Phoenix since it will only cost $3.50 per day instead of $7 to park out by the river.

We will be here only about another week.  We plan to leave on Monday the 23rd for points west.  It will take a few days but we will be in Arizona eventually.  Our travel speed will depend on what route we take, what we stop to see along the way, the weather, the wind and what we feel like at any point in time.

Thanks to all who remembered my birthday and sent their wishes, congratulations or condolences.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chris fell down & broke his crown.....

We just found out that during the ice storm last week Chris slipped on the ice when he went to retrieve their mail. His head bled a lot and he was knocked out for a few seconds. Dayna took him to the emergency room ..... very slowly & very carefully ..... and it turned out he did have a concussion. He has some memory loss from the day but it doesn't look like it did any permanent damage, thank God.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice Storm

I guess it's time to make a blog entry, although there is not a lot to talk about.  We stayed in TN until the 15th and then drove home in one day.  It is about 850 miles but the weather had turned cold and we did not want to sleep in the truck because it would have to idle all night.  That is a lot farther than I like to drive, but the big truck is made for covering long distances.

Since arriving home we have not been very busy.  We have both gotten our Dr. appointments out of the way and I have finished a couple projects around the house, but nothing noteworthy.

One of the interesting things about North Texas is that it is located where Arctic cold fronts battle with warm onshore gulf breezes and moisture.  It results in wild swings in temperature during the winter.  We have a few days of high 70's followed by days when it does not get above freezing.  This week we had one of the freaky weather conditions that happen occasionally.  A front brought very cold weather on the surface, but with warm, wet conditions above the cold layer.  The result is freezing  rain when the drops fall through very cold air which causes them to super cool and flash to ice when they land.  It results in an ice coating on everything.

Yesterday we had such a storm.  There were some icy spots in the morning, but by late afternoon it got worse and continued until about one AM.  When these storms hit everything comes to a halt.  Schools were closed yesterday and today.  Almost everyone stayed home from work and we did not leave the trailer at all Monday and Tuesday.  We finally ventured out this afternoon after the sun had melted the ice everywhere except some shaded underpasses.

I have lived in winter climates and have no problem driving in snow.  Ice storms are a completely different story.  It is not even possible to stand up, much less drive in these conditions.   If you have never experienced one, my recommendation is don't.

We plan to be here until the 23rd.   We will make our way to Phoenix again for a few days, and then most likely out to the Quartzsite dessert.  If Don and Betty can get away for a few days we may have a Lafferty Boondock Party.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tennessee Trip

We are in Cleveland, TN to visit Darin and Diane for a few days.  We brought our boat to him since we just don't use it much anymore.  It needs some work done on it that he will have to do before he can use it.  I bought new tires before starting out (the ones on it were 20 years old) but he will have to do the rest.  Much of the wood in the seats and engine cover has rotted, so he will have to repair or replace it.

We both had Dr. appointments on Thursday.  Dianna had her annual woman's exam at her usual clinic, and I had my first annual checkup with the VA.  They have a very nice facility in Denton and I was impressed with  the care I received. The best part is that it did not cost me anything.  Well, nothing more than 3 years of my life.

We left Friday in the truck and spent the night in Jackson, MS at a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Since we do not have the trailer with us it is much easier to find places to stay.  Wal-Mart is a good choice since we can use their restrooms and there is always something we need to buy.

We are parked in Darin's driveway while we are here.  I ran an extension cord to the truck so we can plug in and run the little electric heater to keep warm.  It is cold today and not supposed to get a lot warmer for the next few days.  It is supposted to get even colder in a couple days with lows in the upper teens.  No fun.  We need to get to warmer country, and soon!