Sunday, November 30, 2014

Boondocking



Today I moved to a new neighborhood in which I expect to stay only a few days. I'm going to see how I do at boondocking for more than just an overnight stay at WalMart.   For those not familiar with boondocking, it's living in an RV without hookups - no electric, no water, nothing. It has been very nice here during the day, warm without being hot. Nights, however, are down into the high 40s, which is quite cool.

My traveling friend Robin also moved today, but went north to the Phoenix area. She is volunteering with a group of other RVers for the next three weeks to do some work on a woman's shelter up there.  This is typical of her - very caring and giving.  We had fun traveling together and I hope we meet up again. It was funny, when we would be discussing something and I'd tell her what I thought we should do, she would say that it was just what she was going to say. That happened many times between us, almost like mental telepathy. 

When we checked out this site last week, a Canadian couple told us the land is owned by the railroad and campers were allowed to stay two weeks. Arizona does not have the great deal on their state parks that New Mexico does, they seem to be the same price as a regular RV park. Since I'll be paying more for camping in Arizona, I figured I could offset some of the cost by boondocking once in a while. I do have a little Honda generator I can use to charge the battery, use the microwave or whatever else I need - except the air conditioner.

I got here before noon, unhooked my 5th wheel and had lunch. Then I went around collecting garbage and trash other campers had left. I now have 3 large bags of it in the back of my truck. I'm almost sure RVers didn't do that - if they did, I'm shocked.  RVers appreciate areas for boondocking and they appreciate nice clean campsites. I don't think they would trash it up and possibly lose privileges for themselves and others by having areas like this fenced off and closed to public use. For all campers, the message is clear - please clean up your campsite when leaving so that others can continue to benefit from the use of these camping areas.

By the time I was done with that little project and had my area nice and clean, I noticed that the sun had moved and was now beating down on the side of my RV where the refrigerator is. Since I was now running that on LP, I decided to find another campsite where the refrigerator would be in the shade in the afternoon. I found a nice little site and moved - it's much easier when you don't have water, electric and sewer hooked up. As a bonus, the new site I found was clean so I didn't have to collect more trash.

 

I spent a good part of the afternoon reading and relaxing in the shade. I was being lazy like that when a truck pulled up and a woman came around to talk to me. She said she saw me pull in here earlier in the afternoon and that she had a house with a fenced horse area that had electric and water.  If I wanted to, I could come stay at her house. I told her that it was very generous of her to make such an offer and explained that this was my first experiment in trying to live without hookups. She understood and told me she knew RV parks in this area were expensive and thought I was trying to avoid paying. She stayed for a while and we talked about RVing, her parents and others in her family have traveled like that. We had a nice visit and before she left, I thanked her again for offering her facilities to me.

When it got close to sunset, I climbed up the hill near the campsites to take sunset photos. When I finish with this experiment, I'll let you know how it went.
 

 

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 
 

The day before Thanksgiving we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and ended up spending over 6 hours there. This museum has everything - birds of prey flying free less than a foot over our head, all sorts of animals, desert plant life, walk-in aviaries and lots of educational exhibits. And, of course, exhibits of snakes and other reptiles. I'd much rather see them behind the glass than out on a hiking trail. So far, I've been lucky.



The first thing we saw that was totally impressive was an exhibition of birds of prey free flying to different perches in an open desert environment. The bird handlers would put a little a piece of food on a branch of a dead tree and the bird would swoop down from another tree, within inches of our heads. All these birds were adopted when they were separated from their mothers due to various reasons. They were taken care of by humans, and as such, did not know how to hunt or take care of themselves in the wild. They only let one bird out at a time, or multiples of the same breed. At one time, they had four hawks out at the same time. They had Peregrine Falcons, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Harris Hawks and more. This was a highlight of the day. Several times as they flew over the crowd, I could feel the breeze stirred up by their wings - what an amazing display!

 

They had a cactus garden and in spite of the time I've spent in the desert so far, there were varieties I had not seen. Some of them were imported and rare, but others can be found in this area. It isn't time for cacti to bloom, but I did see one with blooms on it - rare for this time of year.

 

There was a pond with an otter and a beaver as well as fish. We could view the otter and his antics through an underwater window to his world. I think he enjoyed playing with the humans that were on display. The coyotes, wolves and javalinas refused to pose for photos but the bighorn sheep didn't care. For such a large animal, they are very light on their feet as they pranced around their rock mountain.

 

There were two aviaries, one strictly for hummingbirds and the other for jays, parrots and other birds. Of course by then, I had used up my camera battery and had no power to take more photos, unfortunately. It was great to see those little hummingbirds zipping around through the trees and plants. They didn't seem bothered by the humans that were watching them, but came up to them within a foot or so.

 
And, of course, cats - this was one of two and the only one awake during the afternoon. 
 

 
Anyone who is in the Tucson or southern Arizona area should plan to visit this amazing place.

 
 
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Casino Time!

 
 
For anyone who knows me, they will know what a departure this is for me.  My traveling friend, Robin, said we just had to go to the casino.  OK, I was game (pun unintended) for an outing.   We went in and registered, were given a card with a $10 credit on it - plus a receipt for a free buffet.  Nice, I like food!  We decided since we had just had lunch, we would save it for another day when we would be prepared to face a buffet. 
 
Last time I visited a casino, it was with my sister-in-law (Hi, Mary!).  It had been so long since I'd been in one before that, I was depressed that there wasn't a handle to pull.  I couldn't get used to the concept of just hitting buttons.  No more cups of quarters either, you just put in your card, feed it paper money and keep playing.  It's really easy to get into playing too much if you're not inclined to be paying attention to how much you're feeding the machine.  We didn't stay long and I walked out of there $15 richer than when I went in.  Not bad, but not great.
 
 
Today we were out and about and ready for lunch, so we stopped at a different casino for food.  This one gave us $10 to play with, but no free buffet.  We do get a 5% discount on whatever food they had, plus free soda or iced tea.  Robin did pretty good, she got on a couple machines that allowed her to keep playing for quite a while.  I tried a few machines and only found one that made it possible for me to play for a short time without feeding it.  In all, I played away the $15 I had won the first night before and I also put a few dollars into the machine.  When I cashed out, I got back 18 cents!  I'm glad I cashed out on a machine, not with a human cashier!   That would have been embarrassing.
 
We had pizza for lunch and after a while, we decided to go back for dessert.  We both have a really bad sweet tooth (or teeth!).  Robin saw it first - a giant ├ęclair - the biggest one I've ever seen.  We decided it was too much for either one of us alone, so we decided to split it.  I don't usually take photos of my food, many people do, and then post them on the internet.  But - this time, this dessert was worthy of a photo.   See below - and that's a regular sized plastic knife next to it!  Yummmm!
 
 
 
 Tomorrow we go back for our free buffet.  This should be interesting......

 
 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

San Xavier Mission at Tucson, Arizona

 

I love old buildings and this mission was first started in the 1600s, but was finished in the 1700s.   They are doing restoration on it, you can see the left side has been beautifully restored and they will be working on the other side soon.  The photo below shows the inside of the main church area, which they are working on - you can see the scaffolding up near the altar.  There were some alcoves off the main area containing statues, candles and the like.

 
 
You can see from the outside view that there is a large dome, and the view of the inside of the dome is found in the photo below.  This dome is intricately decorated and contains four windows.  
 
 
This building is massive and has been built to withstand any type of weather.   As you can see from the photo below, the walls of this window area are about 3 feet thick.  From information contained inside the museum, we found out that the walls in the main towers are 6 feet thick.  

 
 
We wandered around the grounds, and found one of my favorite little critters, the roadrunner - beep, beep.  He hung around quite a while and I got to take lots of photos of him.
 

 
We then went on to other adventures for that day, which will be in my next blog.
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

 
This park is actually in two sections, east and west, on each side of the city of Tucson. We visited the east park and were amazed at the saguaro cacti that were dotted all over the area, both in a valley and up to a mountainous area. Of course, there were numerous other cactus species in the area, some I haven't seen before.

 
The photo above shows the area and an example of saguaro. The photo below is me leaning on the cactus (only kidding - they're not cuddly) and that cactus could be over 150 years old.  It takes them 35 years to grow to 6 feet tall, and that's when their first flowers appear. It will take them 60-75 years to reach 16 feet.  There were numerous holes in some of them where the desert birds had made homes in them. The cactus keeps them warm in winter and cool in summer. Some birds make the holes to nest in and other birds take over the nests after they are abandoned and then they nest in them. We did see some nests that were built on the outside, between the arms of the cactus.

 
 
One of my favorite is a cholla, and I found out they are available in purple as shown below - called Staghorn Cholla. They bloom in the spring and I'm planning to be in an area where they bloom. I have seen some photos of cactus blooms, and they are gorgeous. I'll have a field day photographing during that time!


 
 
Another type of cholla is the teddy bear cholla, they have so many spines that it appears to be furry. Most of them are small, but this one looks like a tree.
 

 

Following are some interesting ones, but I'm not sure of their names, the triple one is intruiging, but I think it's out of the ordinary.


 
 
 
 
I will be looking forward to seeing the west section of this park when I move near Tucson in a few days.  


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Non-tourist Days

 
 
This is a departure from my usual travelogue-type blog post, since I haven't done much touristy stuff the past couple days. That doesn't mean I wasn't busy.

But first, a photo from an area called Dragoon Mountains an area with granite rocks that are sitting all over, perched on each other and somehow staying there without tumbling down. It's an amazing area and, unfortunately, hard to get to. The interstate goes right through them and you really can't stop and take photos, except at the rest area. The photo above is the same area, I'm sitting near a little cave created from the boulders.

 
 
Everyone says to get rubber roofs on the RVs checked each year and it's been just over a year since I had mine checked. The mobile repair guy came out and checked it but will be coming back to do some work on it. Seems that some of the bedding compound that has been up there has a few cracks in it, so he will be fixing those. That happens with age and the sun out here in the west is pretty intense, especially at high altitudes, which is where I was pretty much all summer. 

  The pocket door between my bedroom/bathroom and the living area has been off its track for months. The part that rides on the rails to make the door slide broke and another one has been ordered. After that's installed, I'll be able to have a door to close if I want to.

Yesterday I had to take the cat to the vet - she has a recurring tumor on her back and this vet has suggested possible medication vs surgery again. The poor kitty is 15 years old and she still has lots of spunk, as the doctor found out - she does NOT want to be touched by anyone but me. Typical feral cat behavior. I'm still waiting to hear what she's found out from her research.

Tomorrow, my traveling friend Robin and I will be back in the tourist mode, visiting Kartchner Caverns. Unfortunately, they don't allow cameras down there, so I will not be taking any photos. I'm going to feel incomplete, going somewhere new and not taking pictures. It will still be fun.

 

 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tombstone, Arizona


 
The old-time saloon shown above is where we had lunch on the day we played tourist in Tombstone, Arizona which is famous for the "shootout at the OK Corral". 
 
The Tombstone newspaper back in the 1880s was named the Tombstone Epitaph and their office now has an exhibit of old newspaper equipment.
 
 
As we walked around town, we saw many stagecoaches.  This just happens to be one of the nicer ones.  
 
The old buildings have been well-maintained and they look really nice.  Tourist-related stores and shops are housed in most of them, along with restaurants.
 
 
As with many tourist towns, there are street musicians and performers.  This town had one of the more unique performers, dressed to be noticed.  He had music playing, and he kept time with bells on his feet that rang when he danced.  He had some kind of bones or sticks in his hands that he clicked together in time to the music.  He seemed to be a happy guy, grinning while he danced in time to the music.
 
 

Of course, we had to tour Boothill Cemetery.  The marker below tells of a man wrongly hanged and the town admitting the mistake. 
 
 
A few others below give an idea of how the wild west was in those days.  Some markers told if they were killed or murdered, apparently there's a difference, and by whom.  Those who committed suicide were labeled, and they seemed to be mostly women.  Some markers named the person who killed or murdered the victim, or if it was done by Indians, the sheriff or a chinaman.


   
 
  
 
 

 
We spent most of the day in town and were tired by the time we left, but we sure enjoyed the day.  Don't forget Tombstone if you're in the area - it's just a little south of I10.
 

 
 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bisbee, Arizona


Bisbee is an old mining town, they have the original older section and then the newer area. A friend and I visited the older area, with narrow, winding streets and old well-built buildings.

The photo above shows a hotel from years gone by, built right in the middle of downtown and nicely maintained, still serving their guests. There was one building that had at least a dozen solar panels on the roof and also had a sign on the outside wall about watching the meter turn as the sun was soaking the panels with energy. Each store/office in that building had a sign on the door stating that it was fully powered by solar energy. A great idea for an area that has many sunny, cloudless days.

 
Driving around town, we saw an eclectic collection of homes, some nicely painted and decorated, such as the one shown below.



Bisbee has creative people, as evidenced by a sign on an old flight of concrete steps, they call it the Bisbee 1000 Steps.  It didn't even look like even 100 steps to me, but maybe it's named that since it probably feels like 1000 when you're climbing them!

 

The Peace Wall is also nicely done and done on a standing rock wall that stands along the road.


Outside of the little town is the Lavender Mine, one of the copper mines active in the 1950s. There were 2 other mines adjacent to this one that were started earlier. This mine stopped production in the 1970s, below is a photo of the mine pit as it exists today.
 

 
 


Bisbee is an interesting area to visit and a very pretty drive to get there.  The Copper Queen Mine, active starting in the late 1880s, is located near the town, and they give tours down into the mine.  Take a jacket if you do the tour - it's about 47 degrees down there!
 
 
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lowell, Arizona

 
I finally was forced to leave New Mexico and go to Arizona. That Polar Vortex or whatever weather system that has made the entire country frozen got to New Mexico.  So, about 175 miles later, I was in Benson, Arizona and the weather was milder. My traveling friend is a member of a club called Escapees and they have a nice RV park there, so she called and they had openings and would take a non-member (me). We arrived and then they told us they had a special going on - $50 for a week. That's a really great price for a week, so we decided to stay and do day trips to areas we wanted to see. And that included today's trip to Lowell.

We found this little town by accident, we thought it was part of Bisbee. Signs on the old buildings all said Lowell, established in the 1880's. We parked and got out of the car to take lots of photos. I made a comment that it looked like people just locked up the shops one day, left their vehicles there and walked off. The town had a Greyhound station right next to a gas station where the gas was $.31 for regular and $.34 for premium.


 

A gas station across the street had an old Jaguar sitting right outside the Chevrolet dealer.


There was a Harley-Davidson shop and a shop specializing in Indian motorcycles.

 

Outside the auto parts store were more gas pumps, Gulf this time. An old Buick in nice shape sat waiting for a fill. This was all near Bisbee, an old mining town, which could account for all those fuel pumps. Plus, there was another gas station and auto repair around the corner.

 
 
  

The police station was down the block, with a patrol car out front, just waiting for all those cars speeding past.


 
 
We had a fun time looking at this little town with all the fuel pumps and old cars. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day Trip to Mexico

 
 
A day trip to Mexico?  Why not, especially when you've been staying at a New Mexico State Park called Pancho Villa State Park, just 4 miles from the border and there's a Mexican town right across the border. A friend and I had been hearing of people going over for dental work, eyeglasses and just general shopping. There's a large store/restaurant called The Pink Store - and it is painted pink - a Pepto Bismol pink! They have wonderful Mexican pottery and glassware as well as the woven rugs and blankets, jewelry and some clothing. Unfortunately, most of their items were pricey.

 


Since I had not seen a dentist since I left Florida about 7 months ago, and my friend needed to get hers cleaned, I decided to get brave and get my teeth cleaned. The dentist was a woman who knew very little English, but any time she had to relay any information or answer any questions, she had a translator come into the room. They are set up to service lots of Americans, especially RVers.

The pharmacies have a full stock of medications and most can be obtained without a physician's prescription, even if one is needed in the States. I went found that a medication I take was cheaper than in the States, so I bought a small supply. This is typical is most countries and I always got great deals in the Caribbean on anything I needed.


We had lunch at a tiny local restaurant, not at all in the tourist district. The waitress/cook didn't speak a word of English. I didn't recognize some of the food items, since it's different from the States, but we knew the basics. I had a burrito and Coke for $2 and my friend had 4 beef tacos and Coke for $5. Great prices and the food was good too.

Robin wanted sunglasses, so she brought her prescription to one of the stores and she had glasses made while we explored town and had lunch. I had a pair of old prescription sunglasses that I only used a few times, so I had the lenses changed to non-prescription sunglasses for spares. That cost me only $20, when WalMart had given me a price way over that.

 
We had a very interesting day, and I really enjoyed walking around town and seeing all the shops and trying to communicate with people with my limited knowledge of Spanish. It reminded me of some of the places I saw in Venezuela.  After going through Customs, we headed home to our park.