Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman, Arizona is on old Route 66 north of the tiny town of Topock and south of Kingman.  Route 66 is a two lane road that winds over mountains in the desert, as you can see above.  It was a fun road to drive on, and since it was early morning, there wasn't much traffic.

All buildings in town are old, mostly wooden, with creaky, well-worn floorboards.  Most of the buildings are now gift shops and tourist shops specializing in T shirts, hats and leather goods.  The hotel shown above has a good restaurant that was crowded by lunch time.  The walls and almost every vertical surface in the restaurant were covered with dollar bills that had been posted with the names of patrons.  There were probably thousands of dollars in bills stuck to the walls and ceilings, an amazing display.

By the time it was lunch time, the bikers started moving in, parking their bikes in rows along the sides of the streets in front of the town's two restaurants.

One shop had a small museum on the second floor, a small collection of Harley motorcycles and a few other antiques.

There were quite a few murals painted on the walls of the buildings, similar to the one shown below.  Murals have been popular in New Mexico and Arizona. 

The town is famous for the burros that wander through town.  I was there for three hours and never saw any of them.  There was evidence that they'd been there, piles left on the streets.  When I started driving home, they were wandering up the road to town.  They were going from car to car to see if anyone would give them a treat.  They created a little traffic jam, but I don't think anyone cared, since people got out of the cars and took pictures. 

And as I was driving out of town - an old car by the side of the road, announcing an art studio. 

This was a fun place to visit - more of my photos of town are shown in a slide show at

Friday, March 27, 2015

Happy Anniversary!

Today, a year ago, I left Port Orange, Florida and started heading west.  It doesn't seem like it, but it has been a full year that I've been traveling in my 5th wheel.  I traveled 6 hours that first day, something I have not done since, and what most seasoned RVers warn against, since most of us are not on time schedules.  
I have seen all sorts of interesting sights, parked overnight in WalMart parking lots, have been on amazingly poorly maintained main roads, and have been stuck on the side of the road waiting for tow trucks.  I have met all kinds of people, mostly very nice, and some are amazed that a woman would go exploring like this on her own.  I have been surprised that in the past year I have met quite a few women traveling in all sorts of RVs.  I have met many more solo women than I have men who travel alone, which surprised me since I found solo men sailors in the Caribbean outnumber solo females.

I have stayed at RV parks that were wonderful, with a pool and hot tubs and all sorts of amenities and activities.  But, I have also stayed in parks that were not much more than a run down trailer park full of long-term residents who didn't do much maintenance on their homes.  Since I am now in the southwest, I have been boondocking, camping on public lands with no facilities.  I'm beginning to like that more than being crowded in and hearing your neighbor sneezing.   When looking for a place to stay in a new area, I research available public lands first.  These photos were taken during last week's stay near Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
There were two other solo women there, which is surprising since it was a small campground.  We went on hikes together out in the desert, searching for cacti that had just started blooming.  In the evening on a few nights, we were invited to a campfire where a man was playing a guitar and singing.  We all got to meet some new people and had a great time under the starry skies.
Now I'm embarking on another year of exploring wonderful places to visit.  I'm looking forward to all the places I have planned for this next year.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

The drive up to Lake Havasu City was up a two lane road, with passing zones on one side at a time and then the other. There was one stretch of road that was gorgeous scenery, rock mountains - sometimes you could see the Colorado River as the road snaked between all the rock formations. I found myself wishing I had a chauffeur so that I could sightsee and take lots of photos. Unfortunately, there were very few turn-offs on my side of the road. I did manage to get a quick shot of one area shown above.

The main draw of the city, besides the lake, is the London Bridge. It was purchased in the 1960s for almost $2.5 million, then disassembled and brought over here to be re-assembled over a short span of the river. Contrary to what the old song says “London Bridge is falling down......”, it seems to be a solid bridge, as you can see from the construction.

In addition to the bridge, there are a few other items from London, such as one of the old red phone booths, and a statue of some type of mythical animal with wings on a stand that says “City of London”.

The ornate gate leading to the plaza, then down to the river and the bridge has a date on the top, 1862, the date the original bridge was completed in London.

The circular fountain in the plaza has multiple stone lions seated on the sides looking toward the fountain itself.

The bridge itself has flagpoles along each side with alternating British and American flags. There are also bronze lanterns spaced out on each side.

The city has done a nice job on the area, but it was Spring Break. I had gone down early in the morning, but wanted to be home by noon to miss all the traffic. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Solar Power!

With all the boondocking I've been doing, I have been using my Honda 2000 generator daily, which did the job for me. But, I had to take it out of the truck box, haul it to the back of the 5th wheel, gas it up and yank on the cord a few times to get it to start. I had to have smelly gas cans in the back of the truck. When I was done, had to get it back up on the truck tailgate and back to the truck box to get it in there. Not much fun. Plus, I had to listen to the noise for an hour or so every day.

I met a solo female Rver in Yuma last month. She had just bought a solar panel kit in Quartzsite, Arizona - 160 watts, 2 panels on a hinge with brackets to stand it up. It came in a nylon zipper bag, complete with controller. She was happy with it. I saw her again near Thermal, California a few weeks ago and we discussed solar again, among other things. 

When I got here in Quartzsite, I visited the two solar panel shops. I decided on a similar unit, but only 120 watts, with a digital controller that tells me battery level, how much is being input and how much my rig is drawing. It's a little smaller than the one my friend had, and mine came with a molded case, which gives it a little more protection than the fabric bag. 

I've been using it almost a week now. I leave it where it will get the most sun, usually full sun by 11 AM. By about 3 or 4 o'clock, my controller is telling me that the battery is full. I bought a little inverter so I can charge my camera batteries, computer and phone. I could even watch TV if I wanted to.  I don't worry about lights being on and I can listen to the stereo as much as I want now.    As a bonus, I don't have to listen to a generator making noise!

There's only one thing I have not gotten used to with boondocking. When I fix a meal and I need to warm something up, sometimes I forget I'm not connected. I have it all on a plate, ready to go in the microwave and raise my hand to open the door and notice the screen is blank – no power. Oh, yeah. I didn't get an inverter large enough for that, which is fine with me. I lived on a boat for 10 years with no microwave, and I got along fine without it all that time, but I've been spoiled living on land again.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying boondocking and the quiet since I don't have the generator on anymore.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Quirky Quartzsite, Arizona


Now that I've been in Quartzsite a few days, I have had time to do a little exploring. I have found that it's a quirky little town, as evidenced by some of the signs around town.
I got here mid-March and RV season is almost over. Actually, the town has really cleared out, which is good because I didn't want to be in a mob scene with lots of traffic. Rvers come here from all over, especially Canada. Some of them set up shop and there are numerous places where they can rent spots with hookups and have their little flea markets. About this time of year, people leave and the town shrinks dramatically in population. Summer is hot here and there are about 3600 permanent residents then. Some people close their shops until the next winter. 
The town has multiple RV shops, some are mobile fix-it people who come to your location. They do a great business in the winter as do the people who sell solar systems. 

Since there is a good amount of BLM land here, a great many Rvers set up residence in the desert for the season. You can buy a pass at the Long Term Visitor Area for $180 for 6 months, or $40 for 2 weeks. Those are the areas that have some type of facilities, such as rest rooms, trash pickup, etc. There are no hookups available. Other BLM areas are free, but there's a limit of 14 days. Then you're supposed to move at least 25 miles away, although I've been told that most times no one checks on the time you've been at a spot. 
Because there are so many large RVs here in the winter, there are a few places that offer towing, and they have the big rigs that can handle any size RV.
There is one area that sells reverse osmosis water and deep well water, as well as an RV wash and propane fills. This sign was on a building around the corner, but I think they're out of business at least in this location......
And, of course, they have numerous restaurants. There is one in town that I need to visit before I leave - a Yacht Club in the desert!

I do believe this is a town with a sense of humor. I have not been to the used/trade bookstore yet, but I hear the man who runs it is quite the character and runs the store wearing the least amount of clothing he can legally get away with. I have been told that he plays piano brilliantly and does volunteer work for the town, as well as being a well-read individual. 
They even have a park set aside for those who want to fly model planes. I saw a disc course as well as a skateboard park and a regular town park. Not bad for a little town with a small population.  And the Laundromat actually has better wifi than the library!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Camels in the Arizona Desert?


Yes, apparently back in history, camels were imported to this area in southwestern Arizona.  In 1857 the U S Army thought it would be a great idea to use camels in the desert. A Syrian born man known by the nickname Hi Jolly was hired as a “Camel Herder” for an experimental expedition in the desert.

There were a total of about 40 camels that were taken with wagons from Fort Defiance to California and apparently worked out well. Unfortunately, when the camels were brought back to what is now the Quartzsite area, the Army scrapped the project and the animals were left to their own devices in the desert. The official Army statement was that the project was a failure, but some of the officers felt that the project was not given a fair chance. Unfortunately, the animals did not thrive in this area and the population slowly dwindled.

The tomb of Hi Jolly, in the cemetery named for him, has a marker in the shape of a pyramid, with a statue of a camel on the top. There is also a time capsule, which is said to contain the ashes of his favorite camel. This pyramid marker is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

It just happens that the BLM land I'm staying on has been named Hi Jolly. Before I got here, I wondered about that name.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Going Back to Arizona

A couple days ago I drove back into Arizona from California. I really had not planned on seeing any of California this year, but there was a BLM campground with hot springs that I thought might be fun while I waited for the weather to get a little nicer (meaning warmer, especially at night.).

So, I went to that area and camped for the 14 days I was allowed. Then I decided to visit the Salton Sea area. Then I figured I was so close I might as well go visit the Joshua Tree National Park, which I highly recommend. The northern area of the park is more interesting than the southern area and is well worth a visit. By then I needed some special medication for my cat, so I went over to Blythe to get it. 

I hadn't figured on spending that much time in California, but it just worked out that way and I enjoyed it. However, I'm not sure why gas was $3.55 and more in that area of California – when right across the border in Arizona it was $2.65, only 3 miles away. Then, 20 miles further into Arizona, it was down to $2.41! That's more than a dollar difference. This is the largest price spread I've ever seen on gas. I don't know if California taxes cost $1.00 per gallon or not. This is one great reason to be in Arizona!

California also charges a deposit on plastic, glass or aluminum drink containers. I'm sure it's to prompt people to do more recycling, and I do that whenever I can. However, I did not see anywhere to recycle drink containers except in one park I was in, as well as the Joshua Tree National Park. It's not really a deposit where you get your money back, like when you used to be able to bring soda bottles back to the grocery store and they would give your deposit back. So, I don't understand the logic of that extra charge. It is a separate line item on the bill, so I'm sure the stores have to pay it back to the state. Maybe this doesn't have anything to do with recycling, it's just a way of taxing to get more revenue. I guess I should do some research on that, just because I'm curious on the reasoning.

One thing I did notice is that if you have any service work done, such as vehicle repairs, they don't charge sales tax on labor, only the parts. In Florida, sales tax was always charged on the full bill, parts and labor. That was a nice surprise.

One thing I really liked about California is that the speed limit for any vehicle towing something is 55, while everything else is mostly 70, at least on the interstate. So that means all the tractor trailers that passed me were speeding. I think I'm the only one who drives that slow anyway, I usually keep under 60. On California roads, I had a good reason for being a slow-poke!

I'm in Quartzsite, which looks like an interesting little town. I have some exploring to do here in the next week or so.  Sorry there aren't any photos to this, the library is so slow it took me over a half hour to download this.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park - California

The Joshua Tree National Park is amazingly large, over 794,000 acres, of which three-quarters is designated as wilderness. This means no roads, no human involvement. From the visitor center on the south end to one of the two visitor centers on the north end is almost 60 miles. The park has two distinct desert areas – the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert.  I think the Mohave Desert is more interesting because this is where the Joshua Trees reside, as well as piles of gigantic rocks. There are multiple roads through the park as well as multiple campgrounds. In order to fuel up, you must go outside the park at least 15 miles.

The area is so vast that even though they have the Bighorn Sheep here, I didn't get to see any of them. There are also mountain lions which I didn't see, haven't seen one in the wild yet. Because this area lies near the San Andreas Fault, and there are smaller fault areas within the park, where there are a few oases with stands of palm trees. Most of the park is over 3,000 feet in elevation, making the temperatures colder than at sea level. Because of this, most of the cacti weren't blooming yet, although the some ocotillo were just starting. The Joshua Tree was still blooming, as seen in the photo below.

The roads winding through the park were fun to drive, lots of twisting, hilly roads. And of course, the scenery was spectacular.

If you look closely at the photo below, look directly over the small Joshua Tree in the middle to see a distant snow-covered peak. Since the sun is so hot here, even though the temperature may have been low 70s, it was warm that day. I just love seeing those snow-covered mountains, mostly being happy I'm not in snow!

I did a few hikes through the area, one to the old gold mine, The Wall Street Stamp Mill. Unfortunately, no access to the mine is available for safety reasons, and by the photo below, you can tell that someone has already found the treasure........

Below is some of the mine equipment that looks in great shape for being in the desert for decades.  Of course, someone has boarded up the mine opening.

A hike through the desert just isn't complete without coming across the remains of an old automobile, and I found a couple on that hike.
The one below had the complete engine, but the other one in the above photo was missing the engine. Surprisingly enough, after decades in the desert, the one with the engine had bolts on the heads that were still shiny. They must have been some pretty good stainless steel. It also had aluminum for part of the body work and that was not corroded or damaged, the paint had just been removed. Even the headlight housing was still shiny and reflective. They just don't make them like that anymore.


This area has lots of drainage areas for water to come down from the mountains, they're called arroyos, ditches, or washes.  Along the main roads in California, all the ditches are labeled with names and numbers.  The one in the following photo was in the park and takes the cake for names - it should have been chocolate cake or apple pie instead of.........


I enjoyed the park, but after a long weekend there, it was time to move on.  I'm in Blythe now, headed to Quartzsite in Arizona in a couple days. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Box Canyon Hiking in California

Yesterday I took a trip to Box Canyon for hiking.   This area isn't like others I've been in.  This area is mostly rocky, shades of brown in the hills and not much vegetation.  It was a very stark area, so when I climbed the hill and saw the view shown in the photo above, it was one of those "oh, wow" moments.  If you look closely at the left side of the photo, you can see the Salton Sea and the mountains in the background, covered with clouds.

Much of the area looks like compacted mud with rocks imbedded in these formations.  In one of the small canyons where water flows through with heavy rains, there are small trees and a few other bushes surviving.  It apparently flows quite rapidly through the canyon, as some of the canyon walls were undercut.

I have to admit that southern California scenery is not that impressive.  It must be the agricultural area, as well as the fact that the desert is different from the deserts in Arizona and New Mexico.  So, I will be moving to another area near here before I head on back to Arizona for more exploring there.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Salton Sea, California

This is the view that's just outside the park I'm staying at.  If you look closely at the lower peak just above the line of clouds, you can see little bits of white - that's snow from all the rain yesterday.  At least lower elevations didn't get that!
Today I visited the Salton Sea and a couple of the small neighborhoods that have been built near the Sea.  Unfortunately, the Sea, as well as the neighborhoods, have deteriorated during the years.  The Sea was created in the early 1900s by canals dug from the Colorado River and has since been polluted by all the agricultural runoff.  The Sea is quite large, about 15 miles across and about 35 miles long, but is shallow. 
The water level has dropped quite a bit, the photo below shows a boat ramp, which is obviously no longer used.

There were a few boats in the area, but obviously none have been used in quite a while.

I imagine there are no zoning laws because some of the lots had homes, some just had trailers like the one shown below - some of these residences were abandoned, but some were still being used.  One lot was fenced in and had four trailers crammed in it, all inhabited.

A small motel and an RV park were actually in good condition, but a couple of the restaurants have long been out of business.

Four homes on one street were partially built, but there was no evidence that any progress would be made on these in the near future. 
There is still a vast amount of land available, but I doubt that any more will be sold in the area, although there were some very nice-looking homes mixed in with the abandoned ones.  Some homes had been burned down, with the rubble still left on the lot.  I have a feeling this area will be a future ghost town.  It was sad to see the decline of these neighborhoods because the Sea has been so polluted and is in such a state of decline.