• The Desert!

    Life on the road…

    Welcome to “HELL”…..today’s forecast…..a balmy 108 degrees and not a cloud to be seen for the last 5 days….yuk! After spending several pleasant weeks in the mountains and higher altitudes, I am at 500 feet elevation at Fort Mojave near the Mojave desert and it is HOT…HOT…HOT! I’ve always heard that desert/dry heat is different from Florida/humid heat, I now have an opinion on that. In the desert you don’t sweat much so there is really no cooling effect. In Florida you sweat a lot but it helps cool your body. I have to say, I don’t care for either one. I want to pack up and go back to the mountains where the air is cool and there are big GREEN trees…but it is getting cold up there so I shall persevere and stay the course.

    After leaving Williams and the Grand Canyon behind, I settled in Golden Valley for 3 days and spent my time riding my bike through desert washes in search of anything that wasn’t brown. Brown desert, brown mountains, brown bushes, brown birds…..everything is a shade of brown. They don’t even grow grass here….just dirt lawns. The most exciting part of my stay was the roadrunner who visited me each morning just outside my “window to the world”. He seemed to be inquiring about a coyote named Wile E. But since I don’t speak roadrunner…all I could offer was a lame “ Beep Beep”. After all the activity in Williams, it was nice to just relax and avoid human contact for a few days. Solitude is not just a word.

    Fort Mojave doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of attractions. I drove through the Mojave Indian Reservation and crossed the Colorado River into Nevada for a day but that’s about it. Plenty of casinos…if you’re into that sort of thing. The fun didn’t begin until I discovered Oatman…

    Oatman is an old mining town about 20 miles up into the mountains from Fort Mojave. It started as a tent town in 1915 after 2 prospectors struck a $10 million gold find. (Today’s equivalent…about $800 million!) It’s 10 degrees cooler and about as rustic as anything I have seen so far. They have wild burros roaming the streets. Not just 1 or 2 but at least a couple dozen….and the baby burros have stickers on their forehead warning the tourists not to feed them because they are still nursing…..I wonder where their moms got the stickers….. The burros were brought here as pack mules for the mining expeditions and when the mine shut down they just wandered off. They stroll into town around 9:00AM every morning, spend their day eating hay cubes that everyone sells to the tourists (and pooping everywhere), get their picture taken about a million times and then wander back into the hills at night. It’s pretty cool.

    The mine was ordered closed by the US Government during WWII because the war effort required other minerals. All the miners were sent to other mines and the town all but died. But, historic route 66 goes right through the center of town, so it eventually became a tourist attraction and now sees over a half a million visitors a year. With a population of somewhere around 80 souls and no police force, it is truly a place right out of the history books. They even have gunfights daily at “High Noon” on Main Street. With the price of gold at all-time highs, some of the mines in the area are reopening and the town is seeing new life.

    On my first visit to Oatman I met a woman who sells handmade jewelry from a vender spot along Main Street. During the course of our conversation she mentioned that the spot directly across the street from her has RV hookups and is available for rent. Well, considering that I am looking for a place to winter and the price to rent the space is comparable to most RV parks, it certainly piqued my interest. I could set up my canopy and table, print and frame some of my 1000’s of nature photos and become an entrepreneur/hawker. And with Mojave County being the second largest gold producing county in Arizona, I could also explore my interest in gold prospecting. Old abandoned gold mines are everywhere. I could even incorporate that into my new endeavor by setting up a gold sluice and selling bags of dirt to the tourists, giving them the opportunity to do some actual panning. Of course I would need to create a character to go along with my new enterprise. So that means no shaving and no haircuts for a while….and buying a cowboy hat….have to have a cowboy hat…and suspenders…and cowboy boots…and a gun and holster…and… Check out the photos and don’t hesitate to tell me how crazy this idea sounds.

    Today I made my shortest move to date, traveling only about 6 miles to a spot closer to Oatman and with way better Wi Fi. I am going to stay in the area for another week while I try to decide what to do next. I am either going to stay here for the winter and head for the northern states in the spring or head up through California now and winter in northern California or Oregon. I have put out feelers for camp workers at some of the RV parks here in Arizona but all they offer is a free spot for doing about 15 hours of grunt work a week. It works out to about $9 an hour. I have also been offered a position as a leasing agent for an upscale resort near Phoenix that would pay a pretty good salary plus commission but I’m not sure I want to get back into that rat race just yet…and the voice in my head keeps repeating the same phrase…”Go Hang With The Burros In Oatman”.

    The Adventure Continues…..


  • Grand Canyon, Bearizona and lots of hiking

    Life on the road…

    A 65 mile train ride to the Grand Canyon, hiking in the Kaibab National Forest, driving through Bearizona Wildlife Park….Throw in a junior rodeo and you have the recipe for another awesome week.

    Grand Canyon day started at the depot in Williams with an old fashioned shootout between the “Sheriff” and the “Cataract Creek Gang”. Then it was “all aboard” for the trip up to the canyon. I rode in a reconditioned 1930’s Pullman car that did not feature air conditioning. So we had all the windows open, which added to the thrill. The ride took more than 2 hours and was a masterpiece of nature’s beauty. From flat, level prairie to rugged mountain canyons…..and lots of wildlife, from prairie dogs to large elk….and cows…lots of cows. The cows were the highlight though. They would be standing near the tracks and when the train came along they would take off like a bunch of scared kids, running every which way. Our “Steward” told us the company has to pay market value for every cow the train hits so we didn’t travel very fast…. The Grand Canyon was magnificent. Talk about a huge hole in the ground! The photos are pretty good but until you stand on the edge looking over…Yes Flannery, I did go to the edge where there was no guard rail and peeeek over the rim. It was a major adrenaline rush… While there we were treated with a Navaho sacred dance display. Check out the little guy in the photos, he was a real show stealer. Interesting fact…..The most common injury to humans at the Grand Canyon is squirrel bite. Yes folks, its true…..the squirrels are more dangerous than the canyon itself… They have more signs warning of squirrel bites than death tumbles…..and some of the tourists are real daredevils, standing on the edge for photo ops. After about 4 hours walking the rim and taking over 200 photos, it was time to board the train and return to Williams. Oddly enough, the “Cataract Creek Gang” miraculously recovered from their death wounds and stopped the train to rob all the passengers. It really was quite a fun experience…. Enjoy the photos and if you have never been……..GO!

    The Kaibab National Forest is part of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the United States. Needless to say, the hiking is awesome. I walked so far into the woods, I actually felt myself becoming detached from civilization. It was so peaceful I could have laid down and taken a nap in the pine needles…..I would need my pillow though…can’t sleep without my pillow. Now I know how Rumpelstiltskin felt.

    Before I talk about Bearizona I would just like to say that I am not a fan of wild animals in captivity. Having said this, I realize there are many people who devote their lives to caring for these animals who in most cases would not be able to fend for themselves in the wild. When I talked about this with the people who work there, I was left with mixed feelings. The animals are not kept in cages, yet they are not free either…..they are kept in their respective areas by electric fences. OK, enough said about that. Bearizona is a drive through wildlife adventure featuring animals from the surrounding area including wolves, bears, bison and others. It was pretty cool having a huge gray wolf standing in the road in front of the truck. I had to wait for him to move on before I could. They actually have monitors in booths near the edge of the wolf area to make sure people have their windows rolled up. The wolves are not the least bit afraid of the cars and they just walk right up to you. Same thing with the bears. Monitors at the edges of the area and bears that walk right up to your car. They also had a walking area where they kept other animals and featured a birds of prey show that was kinda fun. In one of the photos you will see a very large falcon fly right at me….very lucky photo.

    OK, the junior rodeo. What a special treat for me. They had kids as young as 4 years old riding full size horses through what they called “Pole Bending”. Picture the national dog show where the handler is walking the dog through a simple back and forth maneuver through a line of posts….Now picture a 4 year old kid on a horse racing through that same line….incredible! And there were more girls competing than boys. The only difference between a junior rodeo and a baton competition is the smell…and the animals….and all the kids wear cowboy hats and cowboy boots…and the smell…did I mention the smell. In all fairness, I’m kinda getting used to the smell of livestock. I kept thinking about all the years and money involved in Chandler’s (1 of my 4 daughters) quest for a national title in baton twirling….all the traveling, hotels and gymnasiums……at least I didn’t have to buy a horse… :):)

    I am now heading for Golden Valley and a temperature change of about +40 degrees….out of the mountains and into the low desert. I plan to visit an old gold mining town and mine. Hoping to stimulate my “Gold Fever”.

    The Adventure Continues…..

  • So This is Arizona

    Life on the road….

    Have I mentioned how magnificently, breathtakingly, spectacularly beautiful this country is….every bend in the road exposes new wonders.

    I spent an entire day hiking through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, took over 250 photos, came home and wanted to throw them and the camera out into the desert. You CAN NOT feel the intensity of this place by looking at photos. To stand on the top of “Blue Mesa” and look out over millions of years of geological history is for me, a life altering experience……I know, they’re all life altering experiences. I guess I’m just a consummate nature lover.

    Petrified wood is created over millions of years by trees that have died or been blown over by wind and then buried by layers of sediment. The logs soak up ground water and silica from volcanic ash and over time crystalize into quartz. Different minerals create the rainbow of colors seen in some of the photos…..Not your average campfire wood.

    The “Painted Desert” covers approximately 7,500 square miles and is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region. As I walked through the area I was surprised by how soft the layers were to the touch, when to look at them they appear to be very hard. You can easily dig through what on the surface appears to be “as hard as rock”. The odd contrast for me was when you think about wood, you don’t think of it as being as hard as rock and when you think about rock…..well, you expect it to be hard……Quite the opposite here.

    I also visited the Navajo County Historical Museum, the Painted Desert Indian Center, an old abandoned motel on Route 66 and The Wigwam Hotel, where you can stay in what appears to be a “Pre-Fab” wigwam…..I’m sure someone will see the irony in this.

    Last week I talked about 2 dogs that wondered around the RV park. This week it was 2 chickens. A rooster and a hen. Oddly enough, the rooster was multi colored like the male dog and the hen was white like the female dog…..I swear I am not making this up!!!. The hen followed the rooster everywhere, just like the female dog followed the male. Of course the rooster could not tell the difference between sunrise, sunset and mid day. Whenever he felt the urge, he would start crowing away. It was really quite fun…..except the fornicating outside my door. There is a definite difference between the sound of a rooster “crowing” and the sound of a rooster “CROWING”…if you know what I mean.

    We had a sad incident a couple of days ago when someone let their cat out to explore the area. A coyote snatched her and drug her into the desert. The cat (who had been declawed) was no match for the coyote….although by looking at the area, she put up quite a fight. She was saved by someone who heard the commotion and ran the coyote off. The poor cat was rushed to the vet and she will survive….but she will be a long time recovering. PEASE do not have your cat declawed.

    The new water heater arrived and has been installed. I had to modify one of the drawers in the sink cabinet to make it fit but it was well worth it. I now have electric hot water and am taking hot showers in my own tub. To celebrate this I painted the outside of my “home”. (see pics) I figured since I am now in Arizona, land of the mammoth known as “Land Yacht”, I should clean up my act. It looks so much different that a couple whom I met at Enchanted Trails showed up last night and asked about me, knowing I was coming here. They didn’t recognize the old girl and only when they saw the kayak did they realize it was my RV.

    Tuesday I head over to Flagstaff for a few days. I’m going to ride a train up to the Grand Canyon to spend a day. It is a 2 hour ride that looks like my kind of adventure. After the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

    The Adventure Continues…..

  • Questa, New Mexico

    Life on the road….

    I just spent what will go down as one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. Trout fishing and hiking by day and campfire sitting by night…..and naps….plenty of naps.

    I stayed at the Questa Lodge and RV Park in Questa, New Mexico. It is tucked in the mountains along the Red River where the sound of the flowing river is the only sound you hear….no highway or train noise up here. At night you lay in bed and let the river and occasional coyote call lull you to sleep. I showed up on a Thursday and Elaina, the friendly woman who runs the place, informed me that Thursday was “pot luck” night at the gazebo….I have the best luck when it comes to “pot luck”……So we had burgers and hot dogs and beans and potato salad and…..some stuff I didn’t even recognize…..but it was all GOOD. The weekend brought in a large group of campers and the campground had a movie and popcorn night. The movie was displayed on a big canvas drop cloth in the gazebo and I sat behind it near the campfire and watched. What a way to enjoy a movie…..what an AWESOME way to enjoy a week. The park was about as rustic as you can get, featuring a log cabin that was built in 1933 and available for rent, as well as some more “modern” log cabins. The campground also had 2 resident dogs who wandered around the area. One of them was a “feral dog” that would not allow anyone to come close to her. Johnathon (Elaina’s husband) told me they tried to befriend her but she just doesn’t like getting close to people…..which means she hasn’t had a bath in a while. The interesting thing was, she never left the side of her companion “Petey”. They were always seen walking through the campground together. Petey belongs to Elaina and Johnathon and seems to take it all in stride. Quite friendly and a real hot dog lover.

    Questa, New Mexico is part of New Mexico’s “Enchanted Circle” which includes the ski resort towns of Red River and Taos. It is an 85 mile scenic wonderland filled with rugged mountain views, lush green valleys, (white in the winter) aspen and pine forests……and plenty of places to stop and stand in awe of it all. The photos of the green ski slopes were taken from Main Street in Red River. Imagine what this place looks like under 6-10 feet of snow. Another beautiful place in the summer…..but OOOOOHH those winters.

    I met a couple of interesting people this week. Gary, who is retired and from Dallas, Texas comes to this RV park every year for a month or more to fish and relax. He taught me how to catch the trout, drove us around in his NEW Chevy diesel truck…..while listening to “Willies Roadhouse” on satellite radio (all old country hits), showed me the best place to get a great, mouth watering, cheap burger and even invited me for steaks on the grill with his “famous” potato salad. Someone who I will probably never see again but became lifelong friends with. Thanks Gary.

    The other interesting fellow I met was by his definition a “gold prospector”. He was panning for gold along the river and offered some interesting insight into what may become my next “JOB”. With gold prices at over $1,000 per ounce, prospecting seems like a great way to generate income while living life in the great outdoors. Imagine being camped along a stream fishing for dinner and panning for gold……enjoying the fresh air, wildlife and tranquility …..and making money! My new friend, Brian, claims to make about $900 per month just doing it part time……he has a regular job that he goes to daily! I may have discovered a way to keep the adventure going indefinitely….or at least until the gold runs out. I hear there’s lots of gold in the streams and rivers in California and Montana and Wyoming and….everywhere!….if you know where to look…we shall see…..

    My last 2 nights in New Mexico were spent at the Enchanted Trails RV park just west of Albuquerque. It is the first RV park I have been to (14 so far) where there were travel trailers older than mine. They had a collection of old trailers that were refurbished and used as rentals…..and a couple of old cars to add to the nostalgia. It was another case of RV park shock for me though…….going from quiet mountains to camped right next to I-40. While there I visited my first volcano. The “Albuquerque Volcanos” were formed more than 130,000 years ago during a series of eruptions that caused a 5 mile crack in the earth’s surface. I climbed to the top and the views of Albuquerque were breathtaking.

    I am now in Arizona camped about 20 miles from the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Sounds like perfect places for hiking! I plan to stay here through Labor Day because it’s cheap and the Wi-Fi is pretty decent. Plus I have to install the new water heater when it arrives Monday or Tuesday. Being a different design than the original, it may involve removing the sink cabinet and reworking the drawers. Looking forward to the project….and hot water again.

    The Adventure Continues……

  • Northern New Mexico

    Life on the road…..

    HELLOOO New Mexico!
    So I finally managed to tear myself away from Colorado. I Absolutely loved it and if it weren’t so cold in the winter, I could live there.

    The RV resort near Pueblo was right next to a huge pasture that had 2 horses in it. The cool thing about the horses was that they would race with me down the fence line when I was riding my bike. If I walked over and tried to call them, they would just ignore me. But when I showed up on my bike, they would come trotting over and stand waiting for me to take off. One even stomped the ground as if to encourage me to GET GOING! Picture if you will……a 60 year old man racing down a fence line on a bike in the company of 2 horses…Quite entertaining for my fellow campers. Now I’m no “Horse Whisperer” but I think we made quite a connection .

    After spending a few days in the Pueblo area and enjoying Lake Pueblo, I moved south to Mt. Blanca and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are the tallest in North America rising 750 feet above the floor of the San Luis Valley and covering 19,000 acres. After trudging to the top of the dunes (finally getting used to the thin air) I made my way up the side of the mountain bordering the dunes. It was here that I was inspired to give myself an Indian name….”Ho’ëvâhtamëhnęstse”…..I don’t have a clue how you pronounce it, but the Cheyenne meaning is “Earth Walker”. I know what you’re thinking….Must be the “Rocky Mountain High”. But I have logged many, many miles hiking since this adventure began and I think it is a fitting tribute to my efforts.

    OK, campground challenges…..The Blanca RV resort….if you could call it that, was right next to the 2 lane highway that goes through the mountains. No problem, I’ve camped next to the highway and been all right. The problem was, the big 18 wheelers coming down the mountain use what is called an “exhaust brake” to slow them down. Most towns that I travel through in the mountains have signs prohibiting the use of this braking method through their town because it is so very loud…..Not Blanca…..Those trucks would hit that brake about 500 feet up the road and ride it right past my window. Oh well…..no problem….I love being on the road…..I can handle it…..Oh wait!…..what the hell is THAT sound!…..it seems that the other side of this little hole in the road RV resort is bordered by a train track with a conductor who just loves blowing that God forsaken horn all the way through town…..We’re talking so close the ground rumbles as the train goes roaring by….I’m watching the cords on the mini blinds do what appears to be a tango…..Fortunately this only happened twice a day….unfortunately one of those times was 5:00AM. Oh well…I love being on the road….right?…..ARGH…

    Travel Trailer woes…The road has been tough on my 22 year old “home”. The water heater started leaking and it keeps getting worse. Fortunately, the water is running out the bottom near the wall and not getting inside. I am now down to turning on the water only when necessary….and no hot water. Of course being up in the mountains the nightly temperatures are in the mid 40’s so the walk to the camp shower and back is quite invigorating. I ordered a new electric water heater (changing out the gas heater) and I am having it sent to the RV resort where I will being staying on Route 66 in Arizona, but that’s another week away…Oh well…..I love being on the road…right? Also, the old girl seems to be settling some on her frame…she might be turning into a “Low rider”.

    I am now in Questa, New Mexico and the trout fishing is awesome (see pic). I was only planning to stay for 3 days but I’m going to spend a week….or more. The scenery is fantastic and I’m camped next to the Red River…..it’s cold in the mornings (mid 40’s) but mid to upper 70’s during the day and almost zero humidity (we’re at over 7,700 feet). Also, the coyotes and other wildlife is kinda neat to listen to at night….and my neighbors claim there is a black bear who likes to visit the campground occasionally. Maybe I’ll get to meet him.

    Did I mention…..I Love being on the road!…

    The Adventure Continues…….