The Trick is to Die Young, as Old as
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail
away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore.
"When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over"
Cindy's November 2007 Blog
Feel Free to browse
past blogs for plenty of travel ideas and many of the places we've been
in our first 11 months on the road.
Well-behaved women seldom make history
Wednesday October 31st
El Malpais National Monument is located just outside of Grants, New Mexico, set not far from the interstate and only a short hike to enjoy the beauty close up. We were actually able to climb up into the very center of the spectacular La Ventana Arch and get some great pictures.
When we left La Ventana Arch, we drove for a few hours down some more New Mexico dirt roads, which I just love (NOT) to get to the Big Lava tubes area which are estimated to be 3000 years old.
This area of New Mexico reminds me so much of Hawaii that all I am missing is the crashing of the Pacific in the background and a few palm trees. We had no idea what to expect on this excursion of .4 miles to get to the Caterpillar Collapse in the center of the large mounds of Lava. Lava Tubes are formed when the Lava on the outside of flow hardens while the inner lava remains warm and flowing. Eventually the outer layer of the lava collapses which forms a huge cave.
We brought the dogs with us which was so stupid!! They loved the hike even though the ground was so incredibly unforgiving, Pat had talked to a Park Ranger about hiking on the lava and she told him that when she guides hikes full time through the summer months, she goes through a pair of hiking boots per month!. Thankfully it was a short trip and when we got back to the truck, both dogs wanted to continue to hike.
Our trip back to the BLM Campground that we were staying at was sooo long. Pat decided to take a scenic road which was 2 1/2 hours longer than it had to be. I joked with him that we should leave the light on for the trick-or-treaters coming by back at the camper. In reality we hadn't seen any one for hours either on the road or any of the hikes we took. We had the whole National Monument to ourselves; that's the beauty of traveling to places out of tourist season.
Make sure to visit the El Malpais Gallery to see some cool shots from our Visit.
Thursday November 1st
Today we made the mistake of going to what is called The Ice Caves, notice it is plural. It costs nine dollars to enjoy the 400 foot path to the sensational view of this ONE hole in the ground with some green water in the bottom. When we asked the person behind the counter," What is this like?" and her response was something like "I don't know, I've never seen it." That should have been our first clue as to the dismal display we were going to see.
We saw some post cards on the wall that showed the enormous 12 foot wall of ice that covered the entrance to the cave. We decided this would be really cool even though we haven't had to pay more than five dollars for any National Park entrance fee since we've been here. All I can say is that I didn't even take one photo. Pat found the ability to shoot something while I sat on the bench and waited for him just steaming mad at how stupid we were to be wasting our time at this rip off when there is so many other cool things we could be seeing.
As we exited the hole in the Lava , I didn't say anything to Pat about my disappointment. Pat said "We spent 10 minutes in there for nine dollars, We spent hours at the Arch for free, you should go ask for our money back."
I did go into the gift shop and let the woman know that they need to update their post cards which she replied, "I know, there is no ice in there now, only water." Shouldn't they change the name to the cold pool?
Friday November 2nd
Today we made the trip to El Morro National Monument which is a part of history that everyone should have the chance to view. The short 2 mile hike around the Monument was easy climbing, incredible views and crisp, clean air blowing from all directions. El Morro is also located just outside of Grants which to me made this area a super vacation spot if you are into outdoor activities and historic landmarks.
The history of El Morro is documented by ancient 2000 year old ruins on the Mesa Top, engraved Indian carvings of big horn sheep, Spaniard's leaving their arrival date all the way back to the early 1600,s, followed by the early American settlers crossing the unforgiving land to make a new life out West.
The carvings are still very legible, with the three dollar entrance fee the Park also loans you a laminated copy of the different sights that you will see which explains them all in great detail.
Fortunately we had the luck of meeting up with one of the rangers named Lee Ferrill. He walked with us for a while, explaining the different formations and the history of the huge sandstone cliff with some personal information that might not be in the guide. Lee also told us a story of his family history and how he ended up working in this area. With the downsizing of Corporate America, he left a job that had dried up. After volunteering at El Morro for a while, he had the opportunity to work at the Park. Taking this job was a far cry from his suit and tie sort of job, but in his eyes, very fulfilling.
Lee had received a message from his father-in-law that his family name was also on this wall. Granted, Lees family was unsure of his move so far away from Missouri where he had come from and this discovery had made the move make more sense to the family.
Lee's father-in-law read a letter from his wife's great uncle which stated that in the middle 1800's he had carved his name on the rock to leave the family legacy to be seen for many years to come. The Great Uncle had explained the spot to which he left his mark and sure enough there it was, still available for us to read clearly. It makes me think, everything happens for a reason.
Make sure to visit our El Morro Gallery to see some neat shots from our day spent exploring this unique National Monument.
Saturday November 3rd
Pat and I have not done laundry in two weeks, since we have been boondocking for that long. We took some time out of hiking and exploring while in Gallup to catch-up on the laundry, groceries and the web site, you know the domestic things that we like to put on the back burner.
We are staying in USA RV Park, which is just off the I-40 exit on another section of the Mother Road, historic Route 66. Surprisingly it is pretty quiet, it has all of the amenities that we are looking for and not over priced.
It has cable TV, which is a funny thing for us. When we lived at home, we never watched television at all. Our daughter used to say we lived like Amish because we didn't even own a TV for many years. Working at the Red Dog with 11 televisions on at all times, the last thing we wanted to do was come home and sit in front of the Idiot Box.
Now, when ever we pull into a full service campground and it advertises Cable, we both get excited like a couple of kids. We can sit in front of it for hours just watching everything.
We even joke that we don't mind the commercials, just because we never see them, so they're all new to us. After a few days of vegging out in front of the TV, we've usually had our fill and are ready to get back to the Boondocking lifestyle that we're used to.
We will be heading out on Monday towards Arizona and finding some things to do there. It will be hard to leave New Mexico because it is so diversified and filled with wonderful history, biking, hiking and bright blue skies during the day and starlight skies at night.
Monday November 5th
Pat has asked his parents to send our LCD screen to Chinle Arizona, General Delivery, so off we go to Northeastern Arizona. He didn't realize that Chinle is a Navajo Reservation, so we are hoping that the mail system is the same there as any where else in the US.
We ended up looking for the Cottonwood Campground which is supposed to be right beside the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Given the fact we were pulling in just after dark, we finally gave up and stayed in the visitor center over night, figuring that we would be able to find things better in the daylight. In Chinle there are no street lights, which makes the stars at night glow although making it very hard to find an unfamiliar place.
Tuesday November 6th
We got up early this morning for fear that we weren't supposed to stay at the visitor center. As we got out of the camper, we noticed that the parking lot was filling up with locals and we were unsure why. Pat went inside and found out that the only way to get into Canyon de Chelly (which is actually pronounced Canyon de Shay) was with a Navajo guide riding in your vehicle with you, hence the local guides getting ready for work.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, we laughed when we found the campground entrance less than 1/16th of a mile from the Visitor Center. If it had been light enough to see anything, the parking lot we slept in was actually overlooking the campground. Chalk one up for Pat's stupidity.....I have to blame it on him don't I?
We pulled into the rustic campground and found a nice spot which would allow the solar panels to soak up the suns rays. Pat struck up a conversation with our neighbors right away about their solar panels they had sitting out and ended up sitting with them for a long time. I asked him when he came back if he had worn out his welcome which made him laugh. For those of you who don't know him, he's a talker.
I started to take the dogs for a walk around the free campground and noticed that they both started limping. It didn't take long to figure out that this place was loaded with sand spurs. Every step the dogs would take ended up with 4-6 spurs in each paw.
Our walk turned into a short walk on the pavement only. So much for our daily ritual of multiple long walks, this stay would keep us close to the camper.
We took the truck for a ride around the canyons South Rim, following all of the signs warning us not to stray from the main road. Apparently this Reservation is very secluded and does not want strangers on their land. The views were incredible and all Pat kept saying is that he wanted to go into the Canyon and see that perspective for photographs. We made a mental note to do that before we leave.
Wednesday November 7th
The only hike that is available without a Navajo guide while at the National Monument is to the White House Ruins. This hike is a man made trail on sand stone mountain sides which varied in color from light grey to a deep red. The trip down was a very easy mile and a half, surrounded by native flowers, cactus, caves, and water worn sandstone.
The bottom of the Canyon is filled with giant Cottonwood trees, reaching 75 to 100 feet tall. All of them are just reaching their peak seasonal color change which means that this is the third month that we have seen fall thru seven different states. The cottonwoods were all a deep golden color which stood out brightly from the dark blue Arizona sky.
We stayed for a while and took quite a few photos before turning back to face the walk up. Actually this hike has been our easiest yet. We practically sprinted up the hill side, with out having to put my head between my legs as not to throw up. I honestly felt like I could have done the hike a couple more times and think that maybe we are getting used to this elevation.
We got back just in time to drive over to the North Rim of the canyon and catch the sunset. The glow and the shadows that the dropping sun lay upon the canyon was breath taking. We sat for a long time after the sun went down until the air became to brisk in our light jackets.
We got home and retired for the night at 7pm. How is it that the days are getting longer for us? We are still in a state of confusion about the time here in Arizona.
Between the daylight savings time change and the fact that Arizona does not recognize the time change, unless one is either at the Grand Canyon, a National Park, or some Navajo Reservations, I think, we are just guessing what time it is.
Basically if it's dark, and we've had a full day, we go to bed. The other night, Pat woke up to get a drink of water and laughed when he announced it was only 10pm and we had been asleep for a few hours already. This is a stark contrast for two people who have worked in a bar for the last 10 years. 10pm is normally when we're just getting busy, and way too many times did we watch the sun come up while attending some after-hours party.
Thursday November 8th
He has asked some of our neighbors, whom have taken the Canyon tour, what to expect and he is ecstatic about the challenges he might have in the sand and steep grades.
As I mentioned earlier, the only way to go into the canyon is with a Navajo Guide. We pulled into the visitor center, filled out the proper paper work and within a few minutes Alice was sitting in the front seat. Alice is 69 years young and has been guiding since she was 20. Her father and mother before her were also guides, although they used a buggy lead by a two horse team instead of a four wheel drive vehicle.
Like most of the Navajo that we have come across so far, Alice was not very talkative. I think she warmed up to us after I started "Yahooing" in the back seat when we would go down a decline, through a stream, then back up again while in 4-High, all the while hearing the winding of the turbo struggling to make the grade that this ancient path offered.
Man, driving in this type of terrain is fun. It isn't like the stuff in New Mexico where at any point I thought I would watch our big blue truck turn into a ball of crushed metal, while rolling hundreds of feet down a mountain side. This had it's difficulties but no worries of plunging to our deaths at anytime.
Alice explained most of the ruins that we saw, as she was trained to from the Navajo Nation. She also explained some of the meaning to the Petroglyphs that have been left along the Canyon sides. Which of the symbols mean the medicine man, the hunters, the rain dancers and many more. I wanted to get to know Alice a bit more while learning about her heritage.
After a half hour, I started asking Alice about herself and by the end of the trip, she was laughing and poking fun at me just as much as Pat was. I'm not sure if she was laughing at me or with me but it was great fun all the same. I found out that she was born in a cave in 1939 in part of the canyon floor owned by her father. Apparently her mother could not reach the medicine man so her father aided in her delivery.
She explained that she has had 15 children, including the abandoned ones that she took in and treated them as her own. Her father had just passed away at the age of 103 and her mom is currently in a local hospital, at the age of 97. She has 4 sons that are also guides which she is proud to say, she taught them everything they know.
She also explained to me that the Navajo are a different type of people. She told me that I am pretty and that I should not fall for someone trying to befriend me. She explained that if one person could get my attention and distract me, that 10 others would come from nowhere and abduct me. She said they would rape me and throw me over the canyon side and no one would tell who did it.
This was a little disconcerting to me especially when she told me that it had happened to her niece a few years back. She warned me to not walk alone around the campground because it just wasn't safe. WOW! Ok, I am now officially freaked out!!!! Pat had heard what she said and also had a look of disbelief on his face when I looked up at him.
I had asked Alice if she would be able to disperse some clothing that Pat and I wanted to get rid of, she explained that she would like to have them but she had no car and had to walk home from the Visitor Center. Pat offered her a ride home and we sent her with 6 bags of stuff that we just don't wear. When Pat came home we both agreed that as soon as the LCD screen comes in, we are leaving the Reservation and heading for more friendly land.
Make sure to check out the Gallery we put together from our Canyon Drive.
Friday November 9th
Pat went early in the morning to check on the mail, hopping that this would be our departure day. Our box had actually arrived the day before, although since it did not have our name on it, they did not know it was ours. Apparently Pat's mom had forgotten that part of the address, thank goodness she put the name Bonish on the return address.
We packed everything up, said goodbye to our neighbors, Earl and SP whom had found an abandoned puppy and are going to find it a home. They had a bit of a misunderstanding as to what exactly they had planned for this three week old cutie.
Earl had found a local family to adopt the pup to later find out that SP had other plans for the cutie. After a neighborhood search for the little guy by the Park Rangers the pup was returned to SP and all was well.
On the way out of town we saw the most disturbing sight I think I've ever seen. First let me preface the story by telling you how many dogs that we saw, just walking the streets, running the fields and pacing the middle of the highway. At least every 100 feet it seems like we saw a malnourished dog lingering, waiting for food. Signs are posted through out the town stating not to feed the dogs, that this is how the Navajo treat their dogs and that they do have owners.
As we drove on the outskirts of town, Pat pointed out a couple of dogs and some ravens in an area in front of what looked like a dirt mound. As we got closer we realized that the dogs were eating the remains of a fallen horse which didn't look like it had been there long. The stomach had been gnawed open and the heads of the dogs disappeared into its body cavity. I will save you the nightmare of seeing any photos, which we did not take, all I can say is "Get me to the next town PLEASE!"
We arrived in Holbrook at just about dark and checked into the OK RV Campground which has full hook ups and seems to be in a populated town, not a Reservation. We will stay here for the next couple of days and catch up on our web site, laundry and some dog walking, without bleeding paws.
Monday November 12th
We have arrived at the Petrified Forest National Park today which is really cool. We have had so many people suggest that we visit this park and I must say that I'm glad we did. We simply drove around the Park this afternoon, getting the lay of the land while soaking up some of the incredible remains of a world which thrived so long ago.
It is hard to even fathom the thought that at one point in time, this barren desert land could have been a tropical rain forest with creatures a plenty, all of which we have never seen in our life time. When I look at the dense remains of these petrified trees I can see layers upon layers of sand, stone, ash and creatures that have condensed inside of them to fill the rings of the tree with a new life form.
Approximately 225million years ago these trees were swept thru a heavy flowing river to be water logged and sunk at the bottom of the river for centuries. Silica, produced from volcanic ash, has allowed the process of turning these giant trees into beautiful stones filled with quartz, gypsum, amethyst and other incredibly hard, semiprecious gems.
The trees which once stood up to 200 feet tall, look from a distance as though some one has come through and attempted to clear the land and let the trees fall where they may. The bark of these monstrous trees is still intact and has helped to form a layer of protection to allow the new elements to turn this dead wood into lustrous stone.
The array of colors ranges from a pale pink to deep purple with hints of rust color and browns, highlighted by shimmering silver and white flakes of quartz.
We are staying in a small campground which is provided, free of charge by the adjoining Crystal Forest Museum & Gift Shop. If we needed to be hooked up to eclectic the nominal fee of ten dollars is required. The place is so quiet, its almost eerie. After 6pm no cars even drive down the roads that are so busy during the day with people entering the park.
Tomorrow we will be taking a hike or two to see what else we can find, off of the beaten path.
Tuesday November 13th
After a big breakfast, we drove into the park and ventured into the Rainbow Forest Museum which is just about a mile into the park. In the museum we watched a short film explaining how this incredible Petrified Forest came to be. I guess that every state in the US has petrified wood it's just that this part of Arizona has the largest display of this resource in the world.
The Museum had quite a few dinosaurs on display as well as some of the actual bones which have been found in the park. The ranger told us that in the past six months the paleontologists here have discovered 6 different species of dinosaurs in the Park that they never even knew existed. It's funny to think that even now, after all of the research and studies that have been done, many species of new animals are still being found, some alive and some which are part of the past.
Behind the museum is a trail which has most of the petrified wood in the park located at it. The enormous girth of the trees is just shocking to me. Some of the remains are intact for the full length of the tree with a break in the log every yard or so which gives away the fact that it is stone.
Our hike today took us to the Blue Mesa, which is a one mile loop through the "Badlands" part of the park. I can tell you that is seemed as though I was in another world or on some movie set which I would soon here "Warning Will Robinson" coming from a distant direction. I will show you some photos, although I am sure that they will not do the Blue Mesa justice.
The different layers of sandstone, which basically tell the age and the era of the earth, are each a different color. The natural elements of the earth are basically chipping away at the exterior of the previous mountain rocks and turning them into large sand piles. Petrified wood is scattered about the floor of the sand piles, being newly uncovered as the wind and rain tear away at the woods protection.
The whole time that we walked this trail, we couldn't hear anything but our selves tromping along the compacted bentonite clay trail. This could easily be where they supposedly hoaxed the landing on the moon. I am just kidding all of you astronauts out there.
After the short hike, we decided to call it a day and have some good vittles back at the camper. I made some homemade beef pot pie tonight with some left over beef stew, boy was it good. I seriously can't believe how easy it is getting to cook in such a small space. Sometimes when I have no room to put something or I get frustrated, I just have to take a deep breath and my aggravation usually goes away. This is a far cry from the first few months when I would just throw something or curse at Pat since of course it would be his fault.
Tomorrow we are going to follow some of route 66 until we get to Winslow Arizona. We are going to be "Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see." (HE HE HE)
Wednesday November 14th
After reading about all of the historical, cool things to do in the flyer that we received from Holbrook, Pat and I decided that we should go back there to see all of this stuff. It was after all only a half hour drive to catch some historical homes and a saloon called the 'Bucket of Blood' which was named after a bloody shoot-out from the wild west days of Holbrook.
We couldn't figure out how we could have missed them the first time but thought we'd give it another shot.
We arrived back into Holbrook to look for these historic places that we had read about in the flyer and low and behold, they are not really preserved at all. They are in a very bad part of town and closed to the public, except for the Blevins House which had a famous gun fight in 1888 and is now the local senior center. Nothing to tour, and not really that interesting at all?
We then decided to take a nostalgic trip down Route 66 absorbing some of the history left on The Mother Road. After getting on and off of I-40 numerous times due to the many places where development has taken over Route 66, we ended up in Winslow, Arizona.
We stopped on the corner made famous by The Eagles, which was clearly marked and were back in the truck within 15 minutes. I think Pat's comment was "Ok, now what is your next bright idea?"
Like it was my fault that progress has taken over Route 66 which once held so much character only to be left with strip mall after strip mall.
From Winslow we continued out Hwy 87 south towards Payson. The terrain in Pine and Strawberry, two small towns on the way to Payson, is unlike anything we've seen in Arizona. It seemed as though we had been transported from the desert climate of the Southwest back into the lush forests of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.
The towering Ponderosa Pines which blanketed the surrounding Mongollon Rim was just amazing to us. Apparently it is the largest Ponderosa forest in the world with the trees reaching hundreds of feet in height. The 14% grades on the roads were a bit scary but the guard rails looked real sturdy here even though I did see quite a few crosses mounted on the railings with the date of the loss of a loved one.
We saw a campsite located right along side of a beautiful flowing mountain stream and decided to try and find a camping spot, if it wasn't already full. The ride down the side of the mountain to reach the camping area was quite rough but Pat is an excellent driver.
I saw the camping sites on the left and told Pat to stop, that this was the turn for the camping area. He decided to pull ahead for some reason and cross this little bridge with no guard rails to see where it would take us. On the other side of the bridge the dirt road climbed straight up and the narrow road became very washed out, not suitable for a trailer to climb.
I had actually said three times "Stop here" but he wouldn't listen. The end result is that he had to back all the way to the spot where I had asked him to stop the first time.
When he said "Get out and guide me so I don't roll over the side of this one lane bridge", I about killed him.
We were the only ones in this free campground except for an old tent which seemed as though it had been abandoned some time ago. We parked the camper in such a way that the water quit pumping after about the third use. It also allowed everything that I cooked to flow to the front of the pan.
I thought it was real funny when I woke up at 5am on top of Pat as he was clinging to the side of the bed so he wouldn't roll off. Every time I turned over, I had to climb my way back over to my side of the bed.
Thursday November 15th
Just a few miles from our lopsided camp site is Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. We had no idea what this place had in store for us, even after we had walked out to a couple different view points. At first we walked this short trail which lead us to an area covered by ferns and tropical looking plants on one side of the canyon and desert cactus and rock facing on the other side. A delicately flowing waterfall came from the side of the mountain, covering the ferns with cool mountain water, keeping the cave like structure as green as an unkempt aquarium.
We took a gander at another one of the four view points which were available to hike to and saw a large travertine structure with some water fall coming from the top of it. This too was enjoyable to see but not overly impressive.
We took yet another hike which led us down the rocky side of the open canyon only to be wowed by the enormous cavern of growing rock at the bottom of the trail. Travertine is nicknamed 'The Growing Rock' and is said to grow an inch per year, due to the mineral deposits that build up, forming extensive caverns, caves, different colored molten shaped rock formations and indescribable beauty.
We continued on the marked trail all the way though to the other side of the Natural Bridge. While we sat in the center of these rock formations, we could here the gentle fall of the water from atop the bridge down to the pooled blue water at the bottom. I can see "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" being filmed here or maybe "Land of the Lost" with the aquatic creatures that became friendly after a while.
In the picture to the Left, I put an arrow so you could tell where Pat is in the shot. That is just an indication of how big the underside of the Natural Bridge was and how big the boulders we were climbing around on were.
Pat and I sat under the arch relaxing, listening to the water falling and imagining that it was raining. After an hour we decided to leave before someone woke us up at nightfall because our dogs were barking in the vehicle.
When we stepped out from the protection of the Natural Bridge, we realized that is was raining after all. This is the first rain that we have seen since early September in the Apostle Islands of Minnesota.
If you're ever in Arizona, don't miss the Tonto Natural Bridge. It's only a short hike to some of the most incredible scenery that I have ever seen.
We ended up in the town of Payson where we shopped at Wally World for a few items, did our grocery shopping at Safeway, which I love, and had a bite to eat at a local restaurant. We retired for the night in the Wally World parking lot, falling asleep at 8 pm, man we are crazy partiers!!!!
Friday November 16th The Ride of my Life
As we pulled out of the parking lot in the Morning, I stated to Pat that we needed to be on 87 North and follow it to 260 West. Pat replied that we were already on 87 so we should be fine. While we were driving, I noticed that the road sign said 87 South and 260 East.
I pointed that out to Pat and he freaked out, screaming that I should try and drive this thing and that I am the one who is supposed to tell him where to go and BLA BLA BLA. I just giggled under my breath and that made it even worse.
It was like I was a kid again, getting scolded by my mother, then getting caught silently mocking her when she wasn't looking.
We turned around, not quietly, and started going in the right direction. Pat wouldn't talk to me for an hour after which was fine because I got in some good nap time. We got to a nice camp ground right along this quite road with no one else in the park except for the campground host.
We filled the camper up with water and spoke to the real nice lady for about an hour. I thought this place was beautiful and commented a couple of times on the clean water and the huge Sycamore trees and how much I liked them. Pat decided to push on to the next site since it was......, I'm not sure why he wanted to go further.
We had two choices to get to the next campground, a paved road which was 17 miles at 50 mph or take a short cut down a dirt road which was only 8 miles. We passed the turn off for the dirt road and drove for a couple of miles. At this point, I thought we were going to take the paved road at 50 mph and be at the campground in 10-15 minutes. Pat then decided he wanted to take the dirt road!!!!! So we turned around and drove a couple of miles back to the turn off for the dirt road.
This to me was a bad decision but after the earlier outburst, I thought that I should just let him make his own decisions.
Can I just say that this was the worst washboard road this poor little camper has ever triumphed over. The whole time we were driving, I tried not to say anything.
Finally I just started cracking up to the point that I was crying. Pat followed with loud laughter, almost so loud that I could no longer hear the rear axle going out.
Of course when the washboard is this bad, ask any man and he will tell you to go faster. Apparently this really helps because this way your vehicle will stay on top of the bumps, not go down into them, which makes for a smoother ride.
So instead of the 8mph that we were going, Pat decided to go 30mph. We were bouncing all over the place and all I could do was laugh and envision what the camper looked like on the inside.
When we finally arrived at the next campground, we made one loop around the small 10 campsite circle and it was full. I was at a loss for words at this point. As we were about to pull out, the campground host stopped us to let us know the a camper had just pulled out and we could have his spot. After squeaking us into the available spot, Pat told me that I had to see the inside of the camper for myself.
All of the stuff, keep in mind that I had just shopped for two weeks worth of food, that was in the freezer was on the floor and the freezer door was wide open. The clocks were off of the walls, the microwave had lost two screws and was barley shoved into its cubby, the little bit of water in the bottom of the toilet was sloshed all over the floor, all of the beer and soda in the fridge was dented and shaken up, the kitchen table had come apart and was lying in pieces on the floor, the bathroom medicine cabinet was open with all of its innards on the floor.
I could go on for another paragraph but I won't. I told Pat this was his idea and I was taking the dogs for a walk. I let him and his macho attitude clean up the mess.
Just as we got everything put away the camp host came around to collect the nightly fee when Pat told him we came down the dirt road, I thought he was going to laugh his head off. We had a one log bonfire and were in bed by 8pm again.
Saturday November 17th Exploring the V Bar V Ranch
We were up early to walk to the V Bar V Ranch which is the site of ancient Petroglyphs left here by the Hopi Tribe. As we walked to the office to pay the entrance fee, we looked around and saw more recent history left by the previous owners which is just as interesting to me.
On the walls of the office hung pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, one of the previous owners of the ranch, standing in front of their home which still remains on the property. The photos were from the late 40's through the late 80's some in color but most in black and white.
The ranch was taken over by one more family, the Zinks, in the late 80's before it was traded to the University of Arizona College of Agriculture in 1994 for land farther south of the V Bar V Ranch.
The volunteer guide told us that the free standing chimney we could see on the property are the remnants of the first home built on the property. He also explained that when the Zink family wanted to trade the property with the University, the deal was unable to go through because the old house contained asbestos.
With remarkable timing, lightning stuck two weeks later and burned the asbestos house to the ground, leaving only the decorative chimney.
As we walked to the petroglyph site, we saw remnants of gardens and the irrigation systems which the Sullivan's had planted and maintained. Even though the gardens are over grown now they are still lovely. Within a few hundred yards we arrived at a fenced in area where we were greeted by another volunteer guide.
She explained to us the importance of this find and also how the numerous previous owners had kept these treasures a secret from the public. This site is specific to the Hopi Tribe which means through out the centuries, no other tribes have left their marks in this area, leading archeologists to believe this was sacred ceremonial ground.
The government purchased the property in 1994 although it wasn't until 1996 that the University unveiled V Bar V Ranch to the public.
As usual, we were the only two people asking questions, trying to soak up as much knowledge as we could about the culture of the Hopi.
We were walking back to the campsite when we stopped to look over a bridge, leading to the entrance of the campground. As Pat looked down he said "Holy ****, you have to come and see this." As I looked down all I could see were dozens of rainbow trout swimming in schools so thick they had to be touching each other to make it though the water.
We took a trail beside the campsites that let us to a great swimming hole which I am sure is filled with people in the heat of the summer. For today however, we saw a husband and wife teaching their eager 3 year old how to fish for the first time.
Sunday November 18th
I was awakened this morning around 2:30am by Pat, all excited because of a meteor shower that he had been outside watching. I got dressed real quick and sat under our -10 degree sleeping bags and enjoyed Gods light show while sitting back in my reclining lawn chair. I have never seen a meteor shower and thought of it more as dozens of falling stars which were coming from all directions.
We really haven't ridden them since we were in Michigan over the summer.
We rode a trail which is right behind our camper in Dead Horse Ranch Campground, we rode for just over two hours. We stopped at a couple of spots to stand back and look at the different landscapes that are available in this park. We followed one trail into a marsh area which also had a viewing deck.
The trail and deck were both built by the local Boy Scout Group, that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to think of the guys working so hard so other people can enjoy this place. While we were standing on the viewing deck, we saw a few ducks swimming but then heard some strange noises coming from the opposite direction.
As we looked over to the other side of the pond, we saw 5 otter playing around a group of logs, knocking each other off of them, only to get back up and start the fun all over again. We couldn't believe that we didn't bring our cameras, although it was nice to just enjoy the youthful play of the shiny little guys without having the task of framing in a shot.
On our trail we also came across the ruins of Tuzigoot (say it three times really fast) which we put that on the list of parks to enter before we leave here. We hadn't brought any of our gear or money with us since we had no idea we would be out this long. Pat started getting tired so we headed back to the camper.
Pat stopped in the middle of the road when we were half way back to our site. I asked him what was wrong and he said he had a huge spur in his tire. I said "Don't pull it out or you will loose air." Just then I heard the Psss of air coming from the tire. Pat said he thought it wouldn't have punctured that deep and we both took off before his tire was completely flat.
By the time we got to the camper, his front tire was flat to be followed by mine also being flat within the next couple of hours. We thought we would try another method of transportation and brought down the motorcycle to take into Sedona.
This was such a good idea since gas prices are so high and the weather was so perfect. Something about riding on the back of a motorcycle that makes the 360 degree views seem much more vibrant. I have pretty much gotten over the extreme nervousness that I used to get when I would ride on the back. I guess because Pat is such a cautious driver and doesn't go fast like he did when we first got the bike. I guess that the constant feel of getting the Heimlich Maneuver while driving fast broke him of that habit..
We stopped at The Hideaway Restaurant for lunch and we sat outside on the patio overlooking the Red Rock formations. After we sat for 15 minutes, I asked Pat if he would mind sitting inside because everyone on the patio was smoking and it smelled awful.
How weird is that? We have to go inside to get away from smoking? I found it amazing that three smokers could move me indoors when I used to be surrounded by dozens of smokers every night at the Red Dog and it never bothered me one bit. Maybe being out of the bar life for a full year and only breathing clean fresh air has changed my sensitivity to certain smells.
We had ridden into the Oak Creek Canyon which was beautiful especially after the sun fell behind the mountains. I asked Pat to pull over so that I could grab the other jacket out of my backpack but Pat was already wearing it. Being the gentleman that he is, he insisted that I wear his leather jacket. I put his leather on on and warmed right up since it blocked the windy cool air.
After 20 minutes of riding with Pat only wearing a lightweight Polartech jacket, I could feel him shivering so bad the bike was vibrating. I made him pull over and we traded so that I had two Polartechs on and he had the leather jacket since his body blocked most of the wind for me. We scurried back the 25 or so miles to the camper where we warmed up by the heater for a while. The cold night air put a chill in our bones but it didn't much matter as the day was great.
I like when we actually go "On a Date" every now and then. It is difficult to do when we are on such a tight budget but what the heck, we have to splurge sometimes.
Monday November 19th
This morning, we decided to get an earlier start on the motorcycle and I brought some extra layers so that we didn't freeze on our way home this afternoon. We went to a small town on the side of the mountain called Jerome. This is an old mining town that at one point housed over 15,000 people. Then the mines dried up, which dropped the population down to 50, which is why the town became known as 'The Largest Ghost Town in America'. Boy I bet those last few people were lonely!
Pat found an outdoor, clothing, backpacking, jewelry selling, book store sort of place called Ghost Town Gear. This place had everything that a big outdoor store would have even though it was very small. The clothing they carried ranged from backpacking gear to nice hand knit sweaters. Some of the clothing I could tell was one of a kind, hand made designs. I could really do some damage on the budget in here if I didn't get out quick.
I know that I can't buy something unless I get rid of something since we have really cut back on the things we carry. I ended up with a pair of hiking socks which were very reasonably priced. Pat had monopolized the poor guy behind the counter so I ventured on down the road by myself.
I ended up in an art gallery of a local artist named Tom Narwid which had great displays of his work from the Arizona areas. He and I talked shop for a while and he shared some thoughts about the best places to go and what time of the year and day to take the best photos.
I thought that I had probably missed Pat some how since I was in the gallery for at least an hour. I said bye to Tom and thanked him for his tips, then went looking for Pat. I walked back to the Ghost Town Gear and there he was "Sir Talks Alot" rappin' away at the fellow who was very helpful and seemed to enjoy Pats company.
It's funny how when we walked down the street together again, we both compared notes on where to go and the different recommendations that each of the gentlemen had made to us. This hour was the first time we had been apart in at least a month maybe even more so we had to fill each other in on what the other hadn't heard. How's that for quality time together?
As we were walking up through town, we overheard two men talking about a ghost town that was further up the street and into the mountain a bit deeper. We got back on the bike and rode up a dirt road at the end of town until we reached the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town.
This was a real treat for both Pat and I since we both enjoy antiques and old cars. As we walked around the place we entered a dentist office, the local store, the shoe repair shop, the blacksmiths and many more buildings that had been set up for display. Don't get me wrong and think that this place is a pristine, polished well put together replica of a "Don't Touch" kind of place. It looks as though this is exactly how it was left when the residents decided to pack up and find a more prosperous place to live back in the late 1800's.
The floors of the old shops are dirty and disheveled, covered with items from the past life of the miners. The wood roofs are old, showing wear and look real close to leaking. Every inch of this place has some sort of history to it, which made my imagination run wild.
Pat went down the hill to see more vehicles which are displayed in various stages of road worthiness, while I chose to go up the hill toward the 1914 Whitte saw mill. Two gentlemen were working on the old noisy mill, cutting some wood and keeping her running for the tourists to watch.
We had arrived at the ghost town at 4:15 and the place closed at 5:00. We didn't have any idea just how much time we could spend here, looking at the intricate details of the vehicles that are displayed and by luck, we met the owner Don, which our conversation kept us way passed closing time.
We had such a great time with Don that neither one of us wanted to leave. He explained to us the inspiration that he had gotten over a quarter of a century ago to rebuild this ghost town. He has put his entire life into this place and loved every minute of it.
Basically all of these cars, trucks, motorcycles, saw mills, and every other thing one could think of with wheels on it are his projects. I would have to take a guess that he has hundreds of different vehicles to keep him occupied, not to mention the mules, goats, guinea hens and bobcats that he deals with on a daily basis.
Don brought out a photo of a bobcat which had been eating his hens and chickens. He used a live trap to catch the wild cat so he could release him further up into the hills where no one lives. I can't imagine being that close to something so wild and beautiful. The closest I've ever gotten to a situation like that is when my daughter and I accidentally caught a skunk in a live trap instead of the ground hog we were hoping for. That is a whole nother story.
Don invited us into his home to see his latest accomplishment, a 1955 Harley Davidson Flat Tracker, which he has completely refurbished to mint condition. He and Pat talked a long time about the different aspects of bike rebuilding while I just listened to the passion that Don expressed for his work.
We were interrupted by Pedro, apparently he wanted Don to make him some Dinner and stood at his fence very persistently until one of the workers brought him some hay. Pedro is an old sway back mule that doesn't take lightly to being ignored.
After taking up way to much of Don's time we said our good byes and wished him well. Walking out of the ghost town, I asked Pat if we could come back tomorrow with all of our camera gear to get some better shots of this once in a lifetime find.
Make sure to check out the Gold Kind Ghost Town Gallery for some Awesome Shots of the Classic vehicles Don has at the Ghost Town
Tuesday November 27th Thanksgiving Wrap-up
For anyone who follows along on our web site, it is probably known by now that I'm not quite as diligent about maintaining my blog as Pat is when we are visiting friends or family. Mark this Thanksgiving Holiday as another one of those times. The reason for this is because, when we are visiting with people, I am usually sharing a cup of coffee, a beer, a movie or some good conversations with our hosts.
This rang true for this weekend as Nancie and I enjoyed all of the above, as well as making some great meals in between our socializing.
When ever I have the chance to get away from our fulltime living in the RV, I take full advantage of it and the computer is the last of my worries.
I would like to say that I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving Holiday and got to enjoy it with someone they love. It was sort of hard for us being without our family this year. Our daughter was very missed since this is our first year ever to be apart on Thanksgiving.
We used to have Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother and Fathers Day at The Red Dog when we owned it. We would close down for every holiday and 30-40 of our family members would gather there to enjoy each others company. I am sure that Christmas is going to be heartbreaking for me although we are going to see our Daughter after the first of the year, it just wont be the same.
While saying our prayers at dinner, I thought about how thankful I am that my relatives are all safe somewhere and I was able to contact them by phone and wish them well and say how much I missed them.
I said a prayer for the soldiers whom might not be able to contact their families on this day. I hope they are able to give thanks and share some companionship with their comrades during this Holiday. I am also Thankful to them for the sacrifices they are making for our country so you and I can be safe and free.
This year has been filled with many blessings for Pat and I which made Thanksgiving a different kind of holiday altogether and very special.
This past week Pat, Nancie and I did some great hiking which left me sore for days, shared some great meals and met some fantastic people. We were shown a bit of the night life in Scottsdale, filled with people watching and also some quality home life with Nancie, loaded with relaxation and lots of excellent food.
I managed to sneak in some much needed clothes shopping, grocery shopping and also get my hair done. A real nice girl, referred to me by Nancie named Chelsea. She also is an awesome artist as I got to see some of her art which was displayed at her salon. She can paint portraits from photos and her website is chelseaspaintings.com and I know she does things through the mail if anyone is interested in a real unusual Christmas present.
We are headed further south for the next couple of weeks or maybe even until we are going to pick up the kids back in Phoenix. The winter weather is upon us even this far south. It is getting into the high 30's at night but it usually climbs back up the low 70's during the day. I can't complain since back home in Michigan it has been in the 20's and they have already gotten their first snow.
Forgive me for my neglect of our site for my socialization skills are much better that my typing, besides Pat has all of the details on his blog. We had no conflicts to speak of over the weekend so I don't need to vent. We did meet up with a very nice couple who has been keeping in touch through email because they are planning on going fulltime in their RV and have been using our website as a learning tool. Don and Denise Wessel were so nice, and suggested a really cool country bar in the foothills of Scottsdale to meet at, Greasewood Flat. We all spent the night getting to know one another, which wasn't hard because of how friendly they were, and by the end of the night, we seemed like old friends. We're heading towards Tucson and they had plans to take a weekend getaway, so we might even meet up with them on the road, which would be a lot of fun.
Again I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and God Bless.
Wednesday November 28th
After leaving Scottsdale we noticed the cactus becoming much more plentiful, dotting the sides of the large eruptions in the earth from a long ago volcano. Not being familiar with the different species of cactus, I thought that the Saguaro cactus was the Organ Pipe cactus this whole trip. Not until we arrived at the Organ Pipe National Monument did I realize my mistake after I purchased a cactus info book at the visitor station.
Pat had struck up a conversation with a gentleman about photography and I spent my time looking though the books and photo journals they had for sale. I wanted to go and interrupt Pat and say, "Look how dumb I am, I totally had the wrong cactus!" but I thought better of it and waited the hour until he was done talking.
We ended up staying at the Organ Pipe Campground for two nights, imagining that we would have sunshine filled days, as we have for so long now, to hike around and see the sights. We took a 21 mile scenic drive around the park the first day, giving us the opportunity to see the different landscapes and the many species or plants and animals.
We didn't see any animals except for big eared rabbits however, we saw so many different birds we couldn't count them all. This would be paradise for any bird watcher, even without binoculars they come so close to people you can see every detail on their feathers. The book that we had bought led us through the 21 mile loop and pointed out the many types of plants and cactus that are plentiful here. At one point, we got to see a double arch, something that I've never seen before!
Most of the day was in and out of the truck snapping one shot after another. By the time the loop was over, we were being accosted by huge, heavy rain clouds. We ended up going back to the camper and getting our fill of the warm breezes which came with the heavy overhang of gray.
Thursday November 29th
Today was a lazy, do nothing sort of day. The winds blew strong and cloud coverage was extremely heavy for the entire day. Pat worked on the computer and I read an entire novel!! A stupid novel at that however, I am out of books to read so I must go to find some new ones. If anyone can suggest a good read for me, I would appreciate it.
At one point we were sitting outside and a herd of quail came right up to us. I say herd because there had to be at least 30 of them bobbing along with each having a mate to keep them company. They entertained us for a while, with the constant gurgling sound they make when they are moving about, looking for food. We both went inside after the temperature got a bit cooler so we could get back to our laziness.
Make sure to visit the Organ Pipe Gallery to see some images we captured from our Visit.
Friday November 30th
We woke up this morning to find a gray sky looming over us like a blanket filled with cotton balls. It is very strange here in the Organ Pipe National Monument how the clouds never seem to move, never being blown by the wind or traveling as the world rotates. I think the same cloud formation was above us when we went to sleep last night.
Pat and I were saying how cool it would be to see a storm during the monsoon season when all of the washes are filled and the cactus can get their fill of H20 so that they can bloom and grow. Apparently, the amount of rain expected in these parts for this month is 0.14 inches. We had written off the thought of seeing a heavy rain and just thought it might drizzle.
Since we don't have a TV signal and we only have satellite radio, it is hard to keep up with the local goings on around the different areas that we are in. So we were unaware that a big rain fall was unexpectedly expected. As we were driving out of the park, it started to sprinkle and progressed to a normal rain fall. By the time that we were settled in for the night, it was pouring buckets of rain. We happened to get one local channel on the TV and watched the constant weather alert warnings. We also heard a newscaster speak of a swift water rescue, due to vehicles being swept away by the water surge!!
When all was said and done, the area around Tucson received a bit over an inch of rain in 24 hours. Fortunately, we found some cool stuff to do indoors that kept us busy all day.
Pat and I ended up at the San Xavier Del Bac Mission just a few minutes south of Tucson. There is no admittance fee to enter and we must have spent 2 or 3 hours, walking around and reading all that we could about the beginning of the Mission and also the more recent restoration. If anyone wants to enjoy the fabulous structure, I would recommend that the free video, which takes about 20 minutes to watch, is a must.
After we had went through the entire place, we found the room where the video was being shown, after watching it we went all the way though it again so we could see the different things that the video pointed out. The structure was beautifully hand crafted over 300 years ago by Spanish Missionaries who wanted to convert the Natives to Christianity. It is said that they wanted to make the place of worship so incredible that the Natives would have to come to see it and all its ornate carvings and over 50 statues.
The whole time we walked around the grounds of the Mission, we could smell a delicious aroma coming from some Tohono O'odam Indian vendors in the parking lot. We walked out in the pouring rain and saw that they had Fry bread with chili, cheese, onions and all sorts of goodies to top this delicious native food. It was pouring at this point so I asked Pat to get me one with everything and some plain Fry bread so we could have it for later.
Pat waited in the line while getting soaked by the out of season rains, for 10 minutes before he could order. As he ordered 4 Plain and two with everything, the vendor told Pat that he only had one left, Pat said "Fine I'll take it." Just then a woman spoke up and said she had already paid for hers and never got it. Pat came back to the camper, wet and empty handed with the thoughts of how good the native food would have been.
We found a campground just outside of town and settled in for the night and listened to the rain coming down in wind blown sheets until well after 1am. I can't wait to see if the cactus look greener or less thirsty in the morning.
We did put together a little San Xavier del Bac Gallery for your viewing Pleasure