Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone.   In the Caribbean islands, New Year's Eve is called Old Year's Night, which seems appropriate.  I have always liked their little phrases and sayings that are a bit different from ours.
The sign above is posted right as you come into the park I'm staying at, usually parks allow us to drive 10 MPH.  But, during the past year, I have learned to drive much slower so I don't mind.  In late March of 2014 I set off in my truck towing my 5th wheel trailer.  This was the first thing I have ever towed and I had towed it very little before the day I left.  I find that even now just driving my truck, I tend to move along at whatever speed feels comfortable, which is usually under the speed limit.  I usually want to look at the scenery instead of whizzing along.
I am going to end up staying in this park for a month, a record for me, but it's very reasonable and the people are friendly.  I can go wandering around in the desert any time I feel like it, seeing all sorts of things, like the burro family in the photo below.  Besides, it's about as south as I'm going to get in Arizona.  I'll move further west in January sometime.
Thinking back over the year, I have seen some very interesting places, have been on lots of hikes and have taken thousands of photos.  I have enjoyed myself, except for a few technical problems with my rig.  I have come to find out that I want to avoid big cities because I don't want to deal with the traffic and the crowds.  I'm missing some of the museums and other sights, but have decided it's not worth it for me.  There are museums I have seen in small town that are gems. 
Right now, I have a woodpecker that is perched on the hummingbird feeder and since he's so heavy compared to the little hummingbirds, he's rocking back and forth on the feeder, curled around to get his beak in the plastic flower.  This was taken through my back window since it's cold and rainy out there, and I'd scare him away if I opened the door to go out.  This was probably dessert for him.
There are inconveniences, such as the lack of good wifi, but that was the same in the Caribbean.  I have been without phone signal in some unpopulated areas, sometimes for days - but I got used to that too.  I didn't have a TV for about 15 years until I moved into my 5th wheel, but did watch some shows in the computer while I lived in Florida for the past few years.  Since I moved in, I have watched more TV, since it replaced wifi.  There are areas where there hasn't been TV either, but I always have my books.
I am happy to have this opportunity to travel leisurely and see all sorts of wonderful things, even though I do miss some things (and people) in Florida.  And I still miss sailing in the Caribbean, that will always be in my blood.  The gypsy spirit lives on!
The New Year will bring more places to see, more hikes and more people to meet.  I'm looking forward to all the places I've researched while I've had internet these past couple weeks.   I have vaguely planned my trip for this year, starting when it gets warmer.  I'll be ready!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ajo Art - Ajo, Arizona

Ajo is a small town in southern Arizona, about 40 miles north of the Mexican border.  It's a nice little town and apparently there have been some artists living here.  The sign above is a mosaic that greets you as you drive into town.
The photo below is a painting that wraps around the corner of the building housing a clothing shop.
The lizard sculpture below is on the wall of a home in a residential section.

This painting is on a commercial building on the mail road through town.  The artist starts on the left side with upside down images that morph into images right side up.

Below is a painting on a garage door belonging to a man who worked for the railroad for many years.
And the mosaic below is on the steps of a residential house. 
The following photo is on the newspaper/book store building. 
An interesting community, but I'm not sure why they gave it a Spanish word that means garlic.  One theory was that the Spanish thought they were using the word for paint that the local Indian tribe used for the area where they got their red pigment.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ajo, Arizona

Ajo is a town just north of Why where there are even more RV parks, and there are stores and other businesses that visitors may need.  It seems like a nice, quiet town with a central plaza that used to be the train station and now houses the Visitor Center and other shops.  
Across from the plaza and park area, there are two large churches, both stark white and very stunning.  The one below is the Catholic church.

The next photo is the church for most of the other religions, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.  We learned this in the historical museum from a couple of very knowledgeable guides.

The photo below shows an open pit copper mine that operated for years, but mostly from 1914 through 1984.  There was also gold and silver brought out of the mine.  The mine is 1.5 miles across one way and 1.25 miles the other way and 1100 feet deep.  The terraces as seen in the photo below are 40 feet high, which can give you some perspective.  However, as I stood there and looked at it, I had a hard time believing that it was that big around and that deep.  One of the guides at the museum down the road felt that it may be opened again in the future.  Because this mine is impossible to fit into a photograph, I did a little video clip which can be seen at
At the museum, there were numerous displays of photos, historical papers and displays as well as a collection of rocks and minerals from this area, as well as other areas.  However, my favorite display, aside from the rocks, was outside the building - an old safe........
One of the most impressive buildings in town was the old school  as shown in the photo below.  There is a large center section and two wings on each side, only one of which is shown below.  It's a massive building and very well maintained.  The museum guide told us that it has been sectioned off into apartments and is now a residential building. 
During our tour of town and the museum, we had lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.  Good thing both Robin and I like Mexican food! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why, Arizona

The town of Why is not much more than an intersection in the desert, with a gas station, a locally run restaurant, some residences and other buildings.  Plus, there is a huge complex for the Border Patrol, which has a huge presence in the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico.   The reason it's called Why is because they wanted to name it Y for the form it made on a map, the intersection of 3 roads coming together. The state told them the city name had to be at least 3 letters long - so they just lengthened the name to Why.

There are multiple RV parks in the area and it's one of the areas that Rvers come from Canada and northern states to live for the winter. Some of them leave their rigs year-round and just drive a car down. There's lots of hiking, a few trails, but you don't really need trails, there are big hills around and you just have to go up a few feet, look around, and get a bearing on how to get back to the park.  There are a quite a few hikers in the park; I met 2 out there in the desert today, they were collecting rocks, as I do when I see something interesting.  These burros are a different group than I saw the other day - they were just standing there staring at me as I passed.

I found the remains of an old Ford pickup truck, in pieces - it had been there quite a while.

There are 2 gas stations - the one on the main road is called Why Not? The gas station across the street is closed and up for sale.

Next to the gas station is the one and only restaurant - Granny Mac's.  I haven't tried it yet, but Robin, my traveling friend, will be here over the weekend and I'm sure we'll check it out. 

The other operating station is at the casino, most likely the smallest casino in the state. The casino shares the building with a convenience store and I think the store has more space. 

Along with another old gas station that is closed and up for sale, and a few homes in the neighborhood - that's the grand tour of Why.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hiking in the Desert

These photos are from the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and taken on my hike this morning.  Most people think of the desert as a barren wasteland with nothing of interest, just hot sand and prickly bushes.  OK, maybe for some people, that's what it is.  But if you look around and get into it, there are all sorts of things going on.  Plant and animal life.

I'm not sure what that bird is, but I do believe he's some sort of woodpecker.  He's sitting way up, probably 30 feet, on my favorite cactus, the saguaro.  I find it amazing that these creatures can land on a cactus and not get spiked.  Of course if you look at the spines on these things, see photo below, then you can just imagine that they land on one spine of it and don't touch another one.  Somehow. 

I heard these burros were in the neighborhood so I hiked around until they found me and kicked up some noise to get away.  I spent quite a bit of time sneaking up to them and managed to get a few shots of them.  These are 2 of the 3, the leader was ahead of them and when they started to move on, I saw the leader kick his hind legs at the little one.  Probably punishment for posing for photos.

Then I climbed a hill and got the view below.  I had been following arrows etched in the dirt, wondering what I was going to find, and this was the view.  The little patch of white near the center of the desert is the RV Park I'm staying at.

And this next one is a pretty bunch of cholla cacti with the rock hill in the background.  There were a few rabbits running around, but they are so small and quiet, there was no way I could get a shot of them.

And then there's the sunset, some nights more interesting than others.  Tonight's sunset was really pretty.  But when the sun goes down in the desert, so does the temperature - rapidly.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

Just a few miles west of Gila Bend is the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, which is on BLM land and is a protected area.  There is also a camping area close to the area of these petroglyphs, but no hookups are available.  Still, it's a nice area in the desert and would be relaxing to camp there.

For some reason, all these boulders with petroglyphs are located in a mound, even tough the area is quite flat.  It also seems that most of the petroglyphs are on one side of this mound.  It seems that the people who were passing through or living there just left messages in one area. These rocks were easy to etch forms on because they were covered in "desert varnish" which is a coating that turns the rocks dark from wind, rain, sand and other elements.  They just scratched this coating away to show the lighter color of the rock.
Some of the larger boulders are so loaded with these historic writings that they seem to overlap.  No one really knows what meaning some of them are, but there are recognizable ones, such as a snake, lizard, man,  and other animals.

If you're in this neighborhood, it's worth a trip out to see these ancient messages, maybe stay a couple days at the campground.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


After having lived with solar panels (as well as a wind generator) on my sailboat down in the Caribbean islands, I know solar energy is a wonderful thing! Bright sunny days gave me lots of power from my 3 little panels (75 watts each, small by today's standards). With the tradewinds, the wind generator took up the slack and I had a nice bank of T105 Trojan golf cart batteries for storage. As long as it was breezy and bright, I was fine!

People who have been living on land have not embraced solar or wind generation the way travelers have, including some RVers. I was in west Texas before I saw those giant wind generators, multiple generators in a large field. New Mexico had some wind generators and I also saw some large solar arrays.

Now that I'm in Arizona, I have seen many areas with hundred of solar panels set up facing the strong sun. This southwest weather is perfect for solar since most days seem totally cloudless. I have yet to see any wind generators here, but I'll be looking.

Today I saw the most amazing array of solar power gathering equipment. The giant panels I saw today didn't even look like regular solar panels, they looked like curved mirrors. When I first saw them, they looked like the photo above, facing the morning sun. The entire complex was fenced in with 6 foot chain link fences topped by rows of barbed wire. When I drove by a few hours later, they had been tilted facing directly overhead to get the full benefit of the sun. The rows of panels seemed to go right to the mountain at the horizon.


I stopped at the security gate and found out that construction on this started in 2010 and was not completed until last year. The guard I talked to had no idea of the cost of the project. The complex covers over 6 square miles and produces 280 megawatts, most of it going to Arizona Power. I did a quick search and found out that California is starting construction on the same type of system. This is a seriously impressive system.


I'd like to get some for my 5th wheel, but installed flat on the roof is not the most efficient way.  One of my boondocking neighbors had 3 that he set out and they traveled in a nice box on the back that he built himself.  I'm still thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gila Bend, Arizona

Today I moved to Gila Bend in Arizona, a small town on Interstate 8 going west.  The drive started out with a dusty desert scene, little scrubby bushes and mountains in the background.  I was disappointed and thought it would be a boring drive, but shortly there was more vegetation, palo verde trees were along the highway as well as a few saguaro cacti.  Then I started seeing more of the saguaro and bushes with little yellow flowers along the road.  It ended up being a pretty drive because the vegetation stayed with me through some hills. 
The saguaro shown above and in the photo below is very special because it's got a crest on it.  They are known as a crested saguaro and are quite rare.  Somehow, something goes wrong with their growth pattern.  It makes it very unique among the others, which just end with the tapered top. 
The Palo Verde tree is the state tree and has multiple green trunks.  The following photo shows one taken close to sunset, which gives it a golden color.  When I first saw them, there were only a few around and I thought they were rare, but now they appear all over the landscape.

And just because I think these are pretty, below is a colony of golden cactus.  I have usually seen them as single cactus or a couple together, but this is an entire family.  It's a beautiful shade of golden yellow - and very spikey.  There are some very interesting cactus in this area - such a variety!

I spent the last few days with a couple other solo women RVers, one of whom I met in Florida before I left.  Robin, my caravanning friend, came down from her volunteer work for a couple days to visit so she got to meet some other solo women.  We had a good time together, but then it became time for us to go our own separate ways again.  Hopefully we will all meet up again somewhere.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Casa Grande National Monument, Arizona

This national monument is an ancient pueblo built in the 1300s and inhabited for about 100 years. The Sonora Desert people farmed the land, creating irrigation ditches throughout the area to direct the flow from the Gila River to their farmlands. They had little equipment and used sticks and their hands, they didn't have any equipment, horses or other animals to help. Historians believe they left because heavy rains and floods destroyed their farm lands and they couldn't recover from the loss.

In the 1600s Spanish explorers found the ruins and named it Casa Grande - Great House. The main structure was 60 feet long and 4 stories high. Some of the walls were 4 feet thick, tapering in width as they rose to the higher stories. It was made out of caliche, which is a mix of sand, clay and limestone.  The struture has endured centuries of visitors who damaged the site with graffiti, as well as other ways. Presently, the structure's remains stand under a shelter built in 1932, a giant steel affair that protects the ruins of the Great House from most of the hot desert sun and summer monsoons. In 1892 the area was declared the first archeological reserve and subequently was declared a National Monument.

The area included several compounds surrounding the Great House and a ball court. There would have been shelters called ramadas, which were wooden frames with small tree branches laid on top for shade. What is left of the compound area now are some low walls with a few portions of higher walls in a couple places.
It's amazing when you see what these people accomplished in ancient times.  There are ruins of great structures all over the world from ancient times that we now visit in awe.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Boondocking Survival

I survived my days of boondocking, and have convinced myself that it can be done easily. The first 24 hours I only lost .04 of my battery power - of course I have LED lights and the only other thing I used was the water pump. The second 24 hours, I used .13 from my battery. I did take a shower and I'm assuming that the water pump drew the extra power, as well as charging my phone with the 12 volt outlet.

I discovered that my water heater comes up to temperature much faster on propane than it does with electric. I tried to get my Honda generator running so I could turn on the furnace for a little while, but it kept stalling. So, I also discovered that I will survive if the room temperature isn't a nice toasty temperature. It's not fun stepping out of the shower into a cold room, but it's fun being clean! I do believe my fridge runs more efficiently on propane than on electric. It does seem that my drinks are colder, but I need to take temperatures to confirm my theory.

On my third full day (I arrived about noon on the first day, so I'm not counting that), I decided to play with the generator a bit more and I got it started and it kept running! I was so excited that I just plugged into the RV and turned on the breakers and the furnace because it was overcast and chilly that day. As soon as I did that, I realized that I had not gotten a reading on the battery. It was only a couple minutes after I plugged in and started things that I got the reading. I found that it was only barely under 12 volts. Obviously, I'm not used to scientific experiments and exact protocols.

I had planned on leaving on my third day, but decided to stay an extra day since I had no firm plans. Since I had only planned for a couple days, I only filled the fresh water tank with what I thought I needed for a couple days.   Just on schedule, I ran out of water. I still stayed the day since I had a jug full of water I could use in the bathroom and enough drinking water. Next time, I'll fill the tank with more water than I think I need.

During all this, I'd been talking to a very nice Canadian couple who have 3 solar panels that provide power for almost everything - when the sun shines. We had a couple days of overcast weather and he was running his little generator. Nevertheless, I was really envious of their panels since I had them on my cruising sailboat and know how much power they generate. It's a wonderful thing!

This experiment certainly was not very scientific and everyone's rig will be different. I have all LED lights, so they use very little power. Of course, there was no TV, stereo or microwave going during these days. The stereo would work, but the TV or microwave would require power from the generator. I'll be trying this again, with more water on board, as well as a generator that will cooperate. There are some nice areas in Arizona to camp out in the wilderness. 
A good amount of the land available is under control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  Some national parks have campsites that are not developed, so that would also be boondocking.  The campground I used was BLM.