Saturday, February 28, 2015

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

This is a Borrego, a bighorn sheep that inhabits the park.  They are endangered, so some of them have been tagged for monitoring, as seen in the photo below.  They are amazingly agile and climb around the rocks of the hills in the park, making them very hard to spot on the slopes because they blend in so well.  
This desert habitat must be different from the areas I've been driving in, because there were blooming cacti here.  I was so happy to see them because I thought I'd be out of the desert area by the time they would start blooming.
The flowers below are on the barrel cactus, very long spines.  One species of barrel cactus is called the fishhook barrel cactus because the longest spines are hooked on the end and the spines are a dark red.
The ocotillo is very different and usually they look like spindly sticks with spines, but in the spring they bloom with sprays of red flowers on the tips.  This one didn't have many leaves, but when it rains, tiny leaves cover the branches within 48 hours. 
My four mile hike took me to an oasis in the middle of all this rocky desert area.  There was a small stream of water with little water falls and a grouping of various palms, a surprise out in the middle of the desert.

There were numerous little wildflowers of all colors blooming.  The one below is a tiny grouping that was no bigger than 2 inches across, so pretty sitting there in the sand.

The park covers over 600,000 acres and there is no way to see it in a short time.   They have numerous hikes and I may end up going over there again for different hikes. 
The ride home from the park was a unique experiment - a real honest-to-goodness dust storm like they show in the movies.  I went through a couple spots of it with sand drifting across the highway, the air thick brown with blown dust.  My visibility was down to probably 10 yards on the twisting, turning road out of the park. 
When I got back to the RV park, I decided I deserved a soak in the spa before I took my shower.  Then I had some fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It's a rough life, but somebody has to do it!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Moving Along After 2 Weeks of Boondocking

My past two weeks of boondocking went quite well, although I did have to charge my battery every day with my little Honda generator. I am researching solar panels and hope to get a smallish one on a frame that I can take out and aim at the sun when boondocking. I may get a small inverter, but don't expect to get one large enough to run the microwave or television. I have learned to live quite well without either, although I use them when I'm in a place with hookups. I never had either of them on the boat and I survived for years without them.

One Rver who has been coming down to this area for the past 10 years or so showed me his system – with lithium batteries and two solar controllers and large inverter, he has 1000 watts of solar panels on the roof of his Class A. He obviously has power for everything he has in there – probably all at once for hours on end.  It's a very expensive system, way out of my budget - and needs.  This is a very reasonable place to stay for the season, but I wouldn't want to stay any longer than I did. I need a change of scenery.  The desert areas in Arizona and New Mexico are much more interesting than here in southern California - there's no cacti here!

My first stop today was an RV fixit place since one of my 5th wheel hubs got quite warm coming over to my boondocking campsite. I had them greased a few months ago, but I wanted to have that one wheel checked out to see what the problem was. They checked both bearings and found them good, it was still full of clean looking grease.  The only thing he found was the washer that had the tabs that go in the castle nut didn't have the tabs in it.  Of course, that got me wondering if it was just a fluke - the guy who put it on he got interrupted or he just didn't know it worked that way.  So, I had them pull the other wheel on that side.  The tab was inserted into the castle nut, but it was a bit loose, so he tightened it up and put the tab back in.  For a full hour with three of them consulting each other, he charged me $40.  He forgot to charge me for the new seal in the one hub until I reminded him - and then he gave me a cash discount for it.  It's great doing business in these small towns.  After driving for an hour and a half, the hub wasn't warm when I finally got here. 

The photo above is the pond in the middle of the park I'm in - with full hookups.  I arrived in enough time today to do two loads of laundry, get into the spa and take a hot shower with unlimited water!  There are orange trees all over the park and we are allowed to pick all we want - I already picked a few and got a glass of really good tasting juice.  
There is some good hiking around here, so I'll be doing that in the next few days, although it's supposed to rain this weekend.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Perfect Marshmallow?

While camping, I like to have a campfire if at all possible, and that includes toasted marshmallows. I like mine done lightly brown with the center all liquid marshmallow. I don't like mine burned at all, I'm very particular about how mine are done.

While I was at the store the other day, I saw the giant size marshmallows – they're huge - they have to be about 5 times larger than the regular size. And they're only 90 calories – each! OK, I'll try them, just for a change. If you like to have fun with your food – you have to try a bag of these!

The first night I tried them, I got it all toasty brown all the way around and tried to get it off the stick. The toasty brown part came off the rest of the marshmallow that was still on the stick. This isn't something you can just pop in your mouth like the regular size marshmallows. No, this requires multiple bites, with the gooey liquid marshmallow oozing out both the top and bottom. It oozes a bit more with each bite, so, by the time I finished eating that part, it was all over my fingers. Not to mention a few sticky specks on my chin. But just like fried chicken – it's finger licking good!

The next marshmallow came off the stick with more inside, and of course, left more goo on my already sticky fingers. Somehow, there was a chunk of it that was still raw inside – I mean it was still solid. Did I mention that I don't like raw marshmallows? Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense.

By this time, I not only had gooey marshmallow substance all over my left hand, but it somehow got on my roasting stick and in turn, got some on my right hand. Then a breeze picked up and I felt a couple strands of hair fly in my face. Yep, you got it – now I had marshmallow goo in my hair. The whole thing made me giggle, I felt like a kid roasting marshmallows for the first time. At least this bag of marshmallows provided some good laughs – the bag advertises that they're perfect for S'mores but I can't even imagine the mess that would make! And be careful to put them on the stick perfectly in the middle. If they're off center at all, as they roast, the weight of them will make them slowly sag off to one side and you'll probably lose the entire thing.

Reminder to self – do not buy any more giant marshmallows. Stick with the more cooperative regular size!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Salvation Mountain at The Slabs - Niland, California

The Slabs is an area in the Imperial Valley of California, just outside the small town of Niland. At one time, this area was a military installation, but all that's left of that are some concrete slabs where buildings once were. And that's how the area was named.

This area has been a site for camping for years. In 1984 a man by the name of Leonard Knight took up residence in the area and started a monument dedicated to God and love. The monument has been named Salvation Mountain and is still a work in progress, even though Mr. Knight passed away last year. He made this work of art out of adobe and paint and there are excerpts from the bible, paintings of flowers, trees, a waterfall and more. There is a plaque in one area that states the monument was designated in 2001 by the Folk Art Society of America as a “National Folk Art Site Worthy of Protection and Preservation”.

Mr Knight worked on this art project for decades and when he realized that his health was failing, set up a corporation and volunteer board of directors to ensure that the project would be maintained and continued. He continued to be active at the site until his death last year.
This colorful mountain is what you see first when you come into the area known as The Slabs. Further on are many dirt roads in the desert (and a couple old paved ones) where you'll find motorhomes, 5th wheels and trailers of all kinds. Some people have decorated their areas or fenced them in. One man had a yard sale set up and a sign at another area advertised solar panels sold and installed.
As with much of the desert land in this area, some snowbirds have been coming back to the same places year after year. The camping area is laid back and simple, although I did see an area set aside near some big Class A motorhomes advertising an internet cafe. I've been told that there is usually music one night a week and other get togethers planned. I would imagine it's a big reunion at the beginning of each winter season.
On the way out, the sign below on a small building reminds you that all is not all fun and games in the real world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

California Oasis

There are a few things that California does right. When I towed my 5th wheel into the state on Route 8, the speed limit was 70, which has been typical of most states.   I have never towed that fast and I don't want to.   Imagine my reaction when the next sign stated that anyone towing anything has a maximum speed limit of 55!   Great!!   I like that!   I usually don't tow over 60, but I'm happy doing 55.   It was so nice not having the huge tractor trailers zooming past.

Across the street from the BLM land where I'm staying are the hot springs that this area is named for.  I walked over there yesterday and I was a bit disappointed after seeing hot springs in New Mexico – but of course, some of those were in really nice areas.   These hot springs are 2 concrete lined square pools, one about the size of a bathtub and the other about 5 times larger.   There was also a long pipe spraying multiple jets of water out over a concrete area so that one could stand there with hot water pummeling their body.   I was told that the larger pool is the hotter one, and the smaller one is about 118 degrees, which sounded quite hot to me.

I walked out of the gate and took a path around a shaded area with tall palms.   As I walked down this path, I came to an opening and saw a small pond nestled in the palms.  Wow, that was a surprise!   The signs stated that no swimming was allowed, but there was a couple swimming.  They claimed that it was just for liability reasons and that everyone swam in the pond.   I checked and it was chilly, certainly not the same hot spring water supply!   Amazing to have two totally different water sources so close together, especially in the desert where it's surprising to have any kind of water at all.

The pond was pretty with all those lush palms, they were not the typical palms that were in my area in Florida.   The water, however, looked like something you'd see in Florida rivers, meaning mostly dark water, and I expected to see an alligator silently raise his head out of the water. With that in mind, I know I won't be taking a dip in that pond.

The sunset my first day at this campsite was pretty, typical of desert sunsets. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Boondocking at Hot Spring California

I took off from Yuma today about 11 and headed toward California.  Hot Spring is a Long Term Visitor Area as designated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  There is a 14 day limit on stays in this area and the fee is $40 for those 14 days.  Of course there are no facilities at all except for trash pickup.  As I drove in I could see everyone with large arrays of solar panels, which made me jealous.

It's a massive area and everybody was parked every which way.  As I drove around looking for a spot, I tried to figure out where the sun would be during the day so that I could park with my refrigerator facing the opposite direction.  I found a pretty nice spot and stopped and walked around a little bit.  I didn't really see anything much better except for when I got back to my rig I saw a little back-in spot that would be perfect.  I've never been really been very good at backing up but I figured I could use the practice and I really liked the little area that I would be backing into.  I hadn't set myself up to back into the spot, but I decided I'd just give it a go instead of going around again.    So I backed right in -  just like I knew what I was doing!  I just love it when there's no audience!

So I'm going to be wandering around the desert exploring.  There's a little town nearby to explore and I plan to go to the Imperial Sand Dunes that are nearby.  

This was done on my phone and I have no idea why it won't let me have the picture at the top.  But, anyway this is my campsite.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Museum of History in Granite - Felicity, California

Felicity is a tiny town in California just over the river from Yuma, Arizona, but it does have it's very own exit from Route 8.  There isn't much to the town, although there is a Sheriff's station there.  This museum is very different from almost every museum I've ever been in.  It's not in a building, except for one exhibit, the Official Center of the World!  This center is housed in it's very own building, in the shape of a pyramid.

If you look to the right of the pyramid housing the Center of the World plaque, you'll see a tiny chapel up on a hill, which is also part of the museum.  The view from the chapel shows the layout of the rest of the museum.

The rest of the museum consists of giant triangular shaped displays faced with granite and engraved with pictures, illustrations and text.  According to information at the site, the museum is only 26% finished as of the end of last year.  The granite panels are about 3'x5' and there are 30 panels on each side of these long triangular shaped displays.  There are many such display areas, but I estimate that more than half of them are either blank or are being worked on.  The one shown below is a memorial for the Korean War, although I did not see any for either World War.  One side of one of the displays was dedicated to the history of French aviation.  Others were dedicated to the early history of man.  California and Arizona history took up one entire display.
This staircase is from the Eiffel Tower, which was installed in the late 1800s but proved to be too heavy for the Tower.  A 500' section was removed and a lighter stairway was installed as a replacement.  This short section was purchased in 1989 by the Mayor of Felicity as a reminder of his home city of Paris.  It was then installed at the museum.
Below is a sculpture installed as a sundial.  When I first saw it, I thought the time was wrong, but then I realized I crossed the time zone when I came over from Arizona!

This is certainly a different concept for a museum and I'm not sure that I would prefer more museums to be like this.   I can't imagine there's much traffic here in the summer when it's 90 - 100 degrees out.  But it was a pleasant visit, and certainly a unique experience.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Marine Corps Base, Yuma, Arizona

Sometimes, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.   Today I was driving to the store and noticed quite a few vehicles in the parking lot of the fairgrounds just across from the airport of the Marine base here in Yuma, and everyone was staring across the street.  I looked to the other side and saw a couple of the aircraft shown above with rotors running, so I turned into the next entrance of the parking lot and grabbed my camera.  I take my camera with me almost everywhere I go - I might forget to bring the phone, but I have the camera.

As they approach to land, they look like they could be those little remote control toy planes - or would they be called helicopters - or would it be heliplanes.  Well, the mystery is solved, I sent a photo to my son, who is a pilot and he identified it as a Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey.  There is more on Wikipedia about them, even showing that their blades/props can be tilted forward to look more like a conventional airplane.

As I stood there waiting for them to come back to base, I saw this four-engine airplane.  Interesting enough, but not as intriguing as the other airships.
When you're traveling, you never know what you're going to see!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Peanut Patch and other fun.......

Yesterday I visited the Peanut Patch, which has been in Yuma, Arizona for years.  Yuma used to be a big peanut farming area, until the white fly came in and destroyed the crops.  Now, the Peanut Patch imports their peanuts from Texas and Oklahoma.  They have all kinds of nuts, plain and with coatings, as well as dried fruits and other candy.  By the way, this is not an advertisement, it was just a fun place to join the tour to see how peanuts are grown and prepared.  Then we got to see the kitchens where peanut brittle was being made!

This is a piece of peanut brittle before being chopped up into smaller pieces for sale.  They make it in a huge copper pan and then pour it onto this marble slab that's about 3' x 5' and probably 6 inches thick.  It cools there quickly and then gets broken.  We also saw a huge pot of melted chocolate with peanuts being scooped onto sheets to harden up for candy.  As we left, we got samples of peanuts and fudge.  They also have ice cream -  cones or in a cup. 

As I left and headed home, I decided I should have more fun after lunch.  I almost never use my awning and decided I needed to clean it.  When I unrolled it, I could see that the dirt/mildew had gotten on various areas both on the top as well as the underside.  I had my bucket of soapy water and a soft brush on a telescoping handle that was just the right size for the job.  Doing the top part of the awning wasn't bad at all, but underneath, the water kept dripping on me and drooling down the handle of the brush and then down my arms.  Luckily, the weather here has turned warm.

So, now you know that RVing isn't all fun and games.  But I did spend some time in the pool and hot tub here this afternoon.  And then I had tamales delivered to my door by a Mexican man whose wife makes them - right in time for dinner.  Can't beat that!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sidewinder Pass, California

Since California is just across the river, I have been doing a bit of exploring over there.  I went down a nice road and came across this sign, which was bit odd.  I expected a little community, but every little dirt road off to the side didn't seem like it led anywhere.  I guess there was no community, because right after the sign shown below, the road dead-ended into a dirt road which looked like it lead to the mountains off in the distance.

I was a bit amused at the neighborhood watch program, since any house that I could see was so small that they probably couldn't even see the road.  It was a bit spooky, and made me think I was the "suspicious person" for taking photos of these signs.
I guess that's just like California - just a bit strange......