October 30 Yuma

Peggy and I both woke up early and initially had no idea why until we noted that the wind had come up and was creating rocking motions of the Invader along with little plopping noises from vegetation being separated from the trees and dropping on the Invader’s roof. The wind must have been doing about 25 or 30 miles an hour and, as a bonus, picking up massive amounts of soil from the surrounding farmland and depositing it elsewhere.
Yuma is a city of some 90,000 persons and the primary and maybe only activity around here may be farming. There are some low rock mountain ranges visible in the distance but most of the land around our RV park is dead flat. Where crops are not currently being irrigated and growing, the fields are bare dirt and those not recently watered have taken to the skies in the breeze. We took a long time to get going today because we really had nothing to do except make it to a store to pick up a half gallon of milk.
Once we finally got on the stick, we drove first to the Yuma Territorial Prison parking lot. The then-territory of Arizona housed some 3500 prisoners here back before 1900 although they must have been here at different times because the facility is very small. It is a masonry structure built by the inmates and looks like it could not hold more than maybe 150 people at any one time. It must have been a bleak existence being sentenced and doing time here.
From there we drove to a strange store called the Peanut Patch. This place apparently serves those with a liking for nuts of almost any variety along with peanut brittle, trail mixes, some chocolate candies and religious books which are prominently displayed right inside the front door. We picked up some nuts, shot glasses that look like Saguaro cacti and some Roadkill Chicken Rub. I have no idea what the last item might be used for unless it is to revive fowl hit by cars.
We made short stops at a Fry’s grocery and diesel station before returning to our RV park for cocktail hour. Yuma has been found to be slightly less than fascinating so far. We noted that Arizona must get their share of the Colorado River water because most of the irrigation here is by inundation from large irrigation canals. Some folks have sprinkler arrays which in today’s breeze seem to force water into the air to have it evaporate in the low humidity. There is a lot of water going to waste here although Yuma is the largest producer of winter veggies (mostly lettuce) in the U.S. The folks in California would love to have the water going into the sky here.
For some pix of this horrible, unremarkable place, go to here

October 29 Ajo to Yuma

We gathered up our stuff, dumped the tanks and departed Ajo Heights RV Park headed for Yuma, Arizona. The drive north from Ajo to I-8 is very scenic through tortured terrain. About 20 miles north of Ajo the road crosses through what seems to be a tiny mountain range with hundreds of little rock minarets dotting the landscape that is pretty neat but further north the road flattens out and crossing the terrain gets to be a drudge. Once we got to westbound I-8, the mountainous terrain disappeared into the distance to be replaced by flat ground with few redeeming features other than some enormous cattle feedlots surrounded by large expanses of dirt with some creosote bushes and palo verde trees.
There were a couple little passes over some minor mountain ranges separated by long stretches of nothing until we reached Yuma at the Colorado River and the border of California. We pulled into an RPI RV park called Yuma Lakes RV Park about 2:30 PM Arizona time. Arizona time is hard to determine because the state is in the Mountain time zone but this state alone does not observe daylight savings time so, in the summer, the clocks are set the same as those in the Pacific time zone. After this next Sunday when the clocks elsewhere go to standard time, the clocks in Arizona will be back on Mountain time. Weird.
Yuma Lakes RV Park has nice large spots, full hookups, wi-fi, our dreadful phone works and there is a lake, albeit a phony, man-made one. The town of Yuma is not far away for those that might have some reason to go there. The weather today was clear and pretty hot but the humidity is zilch so if you stay out of the withering sun, the conditions are quite pleasant.
We have been hauling a satellite receiver for Dish TV with us for 16 months but today was the first time we tried to hook it up. It was the usual first time headaches but by evening, we succeeded in getting the thing to work although we are thoroughly confused about what to do with it. Changing channels was about the only thing we mastered. Dish has elected to call channels from their satellites by different names than anyone else so NBCSC is NBCSP on Dish’s guide. We will eventually figure out the mysteries associated with this new form of TV reception but I think progress will be unremarkable.

October 28 Organ Pipe National Monument

Today we went about 25 miles south on AZ-85 to Organ Pipe National Monument. The monument is named for a distinctive type of cactus that grows only there on this side of the border. There are lots of them in Mexico, specifically in the area referred to as the Sonoran Desert.
We started at the visitor center where we picked up some maps and bought some of the national park / monument postcards we have decorated the Invader’s innards with before we watched a short movie about the area. After a short stop at the restrooms (at our age, passing available restrooms is unwise), we hopped back into Charlotte for spin on Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21-mile loop road through the monument. As soon as we left AZ-85, the road turned to dirt and gravel and sometimes big stones. Fortunately, not many folks use this one-way road so the only vehicle we saw during our exploration was one Ranger vehicle. We went very slowly because the road is crummy and the scenery is spectacular.
At the beginning, we saw few organ pipe cacti but as we continued more and more were visible from the truck. The flora in this place has to be very tenacious because this is a very harsh land and does not suffer fools. Without a couple gallons of water, humans are going nowhere and will soon die. All the plants have rotten taste or chemical defenses or very nasty spines or a combination of the three. Other than cacti, there are palo verde trees (no leaves most of the time), mesquite trees (nasty spines), ocotillos (very prickly) and some hardy flowering shrubs (shitty taste). The organ pipe cacti sort of look like saguaros without arms growing in clumps with pointy defenses.
We drove past 3 separate arches in the rock areas of the loop. We did not expect them, particularly the big one which must have been about 30 feet high and maybe 50 feet across with a big nothing in the middle. The terrain is tortured by the elements but is very unique and quite stunning. The loop road takes visitors through and around some small mountain ranges over surfaces that resist fast driving and it took us better than two hours to complete the loop.
This monument has some very pretty scenery but wandering away from the road is quite likely to be fatal either from dehydration or blood loss from wandering amongst the well-defended plants. Charlotte did a great job keeping us cool, traversing the terrain and getting us back out. This monument is adjacent to the U.S. / Mexico border so on the drive back to Ajo we got to stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint in the desert but we were sent on our way quite quickly.
This is a pretty extraordinary place but if I ever return, I would prefer to be riding in a very well armored 4 wheel drive to traverse the dirt monument roads. There are no paved roads here except the road to the monument campground. This area suffers from a substantial illegal immigration impact although it is hard to believe anybody would select this country to cross on their way anywhere. We did note where some folks have left water for the crossers, if they make it this far. The monument has signs warning visitors that human smuggling is prevalent here and to be aware of the dangers of encountering desperate folks, their guides, snakes, poisonous critters and treacherous terrain. We had a great time but I wouldn’t want to walk through this part of the world.

October 27 Tucson to Ajo AZ

We bundled up our stuff and left Catalina State Park in Tucson. Tucson is an area Peggy and I both have come to enjoy, preferring it to the enormous concrete hell of Phoenix.
As we were finishing our departure routine, Peggy started waving her arms and giving me funny looks from her guard post at the back of the trailer. I bailed out of the truck cab and hustled back to the rear of the trailer to see what was making her so excited. Sure enough – there was an enormous spider climbing up the back of our trailer’s rear window. It wasn’t a tarantula but it was bigger than some tarantulas I have seen before. One good thwack and he was on the ground near the trailer proceeding with his frightening endeavors. We do not allow hitchhikers to ride with us.
We drove west on Tangerine Road for about 10 miles and then turned northwest on I-10 back toward Phoenix. About 35 miles later, we turned west on I-8 back toward San Diego and our former home. We continued on I-8 for a bit more than an hour before turning south on AZ-85 toward the bustling metropolis of Ajo, population about 3,000. AZ-85 passes through what must be a terribly bleak wasteland when it is dry but recent rains have made the area into a very green wonderland rivalling southern California where they cheat nature and use irrigation to transform that ugly portion of the world into a garden, albeit a parched one.
After about an hour on AZ-85, we pulled off at the Ajo Heights RV Park which is much nicer than I expected. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, the wi-fi works, they offer free cable TV, the spaces are large with full hookups, roads within the small park are very well maintained and the folks greeting us were very nice. We came here to see Organ Pipe National Monument, a cactus garden that is still about 35 miles further south.
It is a bit too warm for me outside and hooking up the trailer generated some sweat so I hustled until I could get on the shady side of the Invader and get some respite from the incinerating rays of the sun. We will go to Organ Pipe tomorrow, hopefully early so we can miss some of the benefits of the midday weather. There are lots of birds here.

October 26 Tohono Chul II

Our destination for today was a small private botanical park right in the midst of the city named Tohono Chul. We went there last January when we passed through Tucson and felt compelled to return. This is one of our favorite places even though it is situated in an urban area. The park is just gorgeous with a variety of desert environments accessible by paved and gravel pathways.
We started in their hummingbird garden after we discovered that passage through both the facility gift shop and restaurant was required to get there. We cozied up on a bench and watched the birds and particularly the butterflies as they flew between the flowering plants looking for the good stuff. There are also a couple varieties of small lizards living in the garden. They were cute.
We continued through the Children’s Ramada, a colonial courtyard with some outdoor sculptures, the Children’s Garden, an ethnobotanical garden, a sinagua garden (sinagua in Spanish means “without water”), a butterfly garden which was just spectacular, a tortoise enclosure, a riparian section with nice benches along the stream, some performance gardens and a cactus and succulent garden before calling it a day and heading for the exit.
On the way back to the gate, I decided to have a seat on a nice bench shaded by an enormous mesquite tree amidst the gorgeous desert flora and fauna. Pretty soon after sitting down I noted some rather nasty insects that were not pleased with my seat selection and they attacked. The foul yellow jackets only stung me a couple times before I finished a quite athletic dance complete with spastic flailing, shirt wiggling and head slapping motions culminating in a quick exit down the path and away from the miserable little bastards.
We left the park and drove down the road to a Home Depot where we blocked traffic and got a propane bottle refill for the barbecue. After a short fuel stop, we headed back to the Invader for the evening. Sunsets here are pretty grand. We leave tomorrow for Ajo, AZ, near Organ Pipe National Monument.

October 25 The Saguaros

We elected to go see both units of Saguaro National Monument today. The west unit is northwest of Tucson so we started there. Not long after you leave the developed part of town, the Monument starts. The road must go along a park boundary because there is some residential stuff on the way in but mostly it is just gorgeous.
We continued west for a bit before hitting North Sandario Road where we turned south onto one of the lumpiest roads known. The paving is okay – the road surface goes up 10′ and then into a swale and then up 10′ a bunch before reaching Kinney Road which takes you right through the center of the Monument. It has been a wetter than normal summer here and all of the varieties of cactus are very happy. There are flowering plants putting on a show, the palo verde trees are green with foliage and so are the Ocotillos which normally look like spiked sticks. Prickly pears, mesquite trees, chollas, yuccas and barrel cacti are all demonstrating how gorgeous this place can be when it gets a little water.
We left the north unit via Gates Pass Road, one of our favorites. It is a narrow, steep pass over a small range of rock mountains that are covered with forests of saguaros. Once you reach the top, it is a short spin back into Tucson which we crossed northwest to southeast on good city streets. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at Saguaro National Monument east unit and took another spin through the park loop. We took this same drive back in January when we passed through Tucson.
The east unit showed us more proof that water is good for desert plants because all the flora was in the peak of health, ready to impale fools who might attempt to cross this terrain without Kevlar. Even the mesquite trees have formidable thorns awaiting the opportunity to snag the scalps of those reluctant to duck far enough.
It was getting dark so we headed back home, stopping at a Bev Mo for some medicinal alcohol. They may have a great selection but their Jack Daniel’s is overpriced.

October 24 Phoenix to Tucson

The time had come for us to end our purgatory in Phoenix so we gathered up the stuff, dumped our garbage and holding tanks and left Paradise RV Park. The park was okay. Phoenix was sort of a surprise. We had no idea Phoenix was so massive. There isn’t much to do unless you are a golfer or imprisoned within one of the myriad raisin farms and death ranches. It is hot, even in late October. A good place to die, I suppose.
We were directed out of town by the Garmin and were soon scuttling across the desert landscapes of southern Arizona. It has been a rainy summer here and the plants look very healthy but no less dangerous. Flora and big, nasty spines go hand-in-hand in this part of the world. We took I-10 south from the Phoenix metro area and pretty soon we passed through Casa Grande, a place we decided not to visit again when we passed through here last January. A bit further and we pulled off the freeway, onto Tucson streets and into Catalina State Park.
It costs about $25 per night for a 50 amp electrical and a water hookup. Sewer is at a dump station. The park spaces are large and just east of the campground the Catalina Mountains pop out of the flats giving us a great view. I understand the park is at full occupancy tonight. I’m glad we made a reservation.
After arrival we went to a Trader Joe’s to buy some food that is healthy and probably more that isn’t. It was great. Peggy said I was almost tolerable in the store and might let me go again someday. After hauling our loot home, we tried the local TV using the trailer’s ancient antenna technology and, strangely, we were able to get about 10 channels. Two featured bible thumpers and crummy reception and a few more were Spanish-speaking channels. I speak only Bad Spanish so they were out. We ended up with four channels, none with contemporary programming but two with old movies so we are okay.

October 23 Another day in Faux-Nix

We are malingering in Phoenix because we did not realize we had made a reservation through today until we looked at our RV park schedule we created. I can’t explain why I was confused about our departure date except to attribute it to an ancient mind that is deteriorating. So far today, we have had breakfast, imbibed some fortified coffee and taken a short cruise to get milk and thread. The milk is for drinking, the thread for Peggy to fix my beloved boots which seem to have failing eyes for the laces. Only a year and a half of continuous wear and they are crapping out. Foreign crud performance and old U.S.A. manufacture.

October 22 Hanging in Phoenix

Last night there was a really great lightning show to the north of us but it never got near to us, choosing instead to inundate portions of the city there. For a little bit, we could spot lightning going off every 4 or 5 seconds, elsewhere.
Shopping was on the schedule for today. We found a Costco not too far from our RV park and drove over. Right inside the door we noted a great Kirkland product line addition of Irish Cream costing $15 for a 1.75 liter container so we bought a case. From my standpoint, things went downhill after that but we ended up getting out for a mere $335. We have enough food on board to keep us fat and happy for a bit.
After Costco, Peggy sprung some unannounced shopping on me and made me accompany her to the parking lot of a big, fat, tall guy’s store. I was a crybaby about it, refusing to engage in complicity with her and remaining in the truck in the shade while she engaged in her maniacal efforts to clothe me so I look less like a bozo. She is strange that way. Baffling. After a whirlwind of T-shirt scrutiny and selection, she returned to the truck with exactly half the shirts being the correct size. She bought two. Another flurry of activity resolved the situation and we headed home with our loot. We pull stakes here and go to Catalina State Park in Tucson tomorrow. I liked Tucson the last time we were there in January 2015 and think I’ll take Peg to their great outdoor museums after we arrive.
Uh oh. I just checked the schedule and it turns out we get to stay here another day. It must be correct because Peggy told me I am very anal about the schedule and, therefore, it only has a 50-50 chance of being screwy. We’ll get to Tucson just a bit later. Tucson was one of the first places we stayed in Arizona back in January, 2015, and pretty much closes the loop on this year’s wandering.
Since our departure on this loop of the U.S., we have traveled I-10 from the west coast to the east coast, followed I-95 from Florida to Maine, kept close to I-90 from New England down the St. Lawrence Seaway, through Ohio to Kentucky and then north to the Upper Peninsula before turning west to the Rockies. We continued south along the front range to New Mexico and west to Arizona. It has been a gas.
As defective as my memory might be, I think we have traveled through the following states on this trip: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C. (not really a state), Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York (twice), Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire (twice), Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico (again) and Arizona (again). No wonder the miles are stacking up on Charlotte’s odometer.

October 21 Phoenix Desert Museum

We started out the day by drinking fortified coffee before mutually voting for breakfast out. A quick perusal of options on the internet sent us to a place called the 40th Street Cafe in the city of Phoenix. We soon found that Phoenix is substantially larger than Sundance, Wyoming, or Chamberlain, South Dakota so driving across town takes a while. We must have gone about 30 miles without leaving Phoenix.
The 40th Street Cafe was okay. I continued my dedicated but plainly unhealthy quest for the best chicken fried steak obtainable. It is not, however, obtainable here. Peggy had a Denver Omelet and she said it was great. Prices were very good and so was the food even if I can get better heart walloping fare elsewhere.
We jumped back in the truck, loaded up the Garmin with the coordinates for Phoenix’s Desert Museum and set out. We only got sent the wrong way one time before regaining our course and finding our way into the parking lot at the Desert Museum. I got a cadaver discount of $2 so we parted with $42 instead of $44 and strolled into this neat place. The museum is almost all outside, consisting of flora and fauna of the deserts of the world. There are lots of cactus-like things from all over the planet that have been collected and planted here. A variety of African and Asian cactuses or plants that have evolved such that they can survive in hellish, arid climates are featured as you make your way along the pathways through the facility. The plants were pretty happy since it has been raining and lots of stuff was blossoming. We spotted some Gambel’s Quail, Curved Beak Thrashers, lizards of several types, Cactus Wrens and a variety of butterflies. The paths are arranged so there are shady spots along the way so morons like me can find shelter from the incinerating rays of the sun.
This facility is a pretty good desert park but, unfortunately, it is no match for the Desert Museum in Tucson, where we will be in a few days.