Thursday, March 31, 2016

Quartzsite, Arizona | Camping in the Desert

I came to Quartzsite because of a propane leak and I knew the RV season here would be ending and the fix-it guys would have time to deal with it.  I made contact with one of them before I left Tucson and he was on the job first thing Monday morning.  Great not to smell the leaking propane.  Since my refrigerator had been running on propane, I had turned it off the night before I drove over and then went into a park to hook up so I could run it.  I am impressed - the ice was still frozen as well as other items in the freezer, and that's after being off for almost 20 hours. 

I have no idea what the story is on the photo below, but it's interesting.  This was on the way out to desert camping.

At Dome Rock, I feel I'm in the middle of  nowhere.  The first photo above shows a campsite that was decorated with the quartz rocks this area is named for.  Desert dwellers have lots of time on their hands!

As for me, I'm hiking (actually wandering around the desert), reading, relaxing and doing a few projects, like doing my tax return.  And enjoying the solitude and scenery, as you can see below.

A month ago this entire area was full of RVs.  This area is home to many winter visitors, it goes on for miles and you can see hundreds of rock fire rings that have been used.  On my hike today I thought the RVers did a great job of picking up and keeping a clean area.  Considering that probably thousands of people were in this neighborhood, I only found a water jug, a plastic wrapper from firewood and a Coke can.  And what's in the following picture which has been there for ages.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Two Years of RVing

This week I am celebrating the fact that I have been traveling in my 5th wheel for two years now.  It was a big learning curve in the beginning and I still find challenges, such as finding the perfect boondocking areas!

After my trek from San Carlos, Mexico, I landed in the first casino after the border.  Easy to find and get into and about midway between Tucson and Green Valley so that I can get to either place in a few minutes.  I got here on Monday and will be leaving on Sunday, which should be a great time to get through the Tucson area.

This casino is not as large as the one where I stayed for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last year and the food isn't as good, but it was great to be able to stay here for the week. 

I was able to do some errands,  get my computer in to get serviced because it refused to let me install the latest antivirus, and to get a few things I couldn't find in San Carlos.

These are a few of the plants that are around my parking area.  Not much is blooming yet except for the Palo Verde, the tree with the yellow flowers above, and the ocotillo below.  The Palo Verde has green trunks and branches, very unique.

I've had mostly great times, but some frustrating times also - for the most part, it has been well worth it!  And I've met some great people along the way!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mexican/US Border Crossing | Leaving San Carlos

A couple days ago, I left San Carlos headed for the border. Compared to most of my towing days my 5th wheel trailer, this was one of the longest. The road is in poor condition in some spots and it turned out to be the bumpiest trip I've been on. It's at least a 6 hour drive, so I had to stop for fuel along the way. The first time I stopped, the attendant told me it was cash only. I didn't have enough pesos to pay for the fuel I needed, so I went to the next station up the road. Luckily, I usually stop for fuel when I my tank is half full unless I'm almost at my destination.

There were numerous times that traffic was directed onto two lane sections of road (both directions) because of road construction, so that tended to slow down my progress also. The new road looks like it will be really nice - and smooth!

There was a Mexican inspection about halfway from San Carlos to the border. I'm not sure what they were looking for, possibly weapons or drugs. In any case, the young agent went in my trailer and looked in most of my little cabinets and even under the bed. He was very curious about my solar panel. When he got finished with the trailer, he went into the truck box in the bed of my pickup. Then, he went into the truck to look under and behind the seats as well as the glove box. 

I thought it was all over until he motioned me to go into a small building, where he directed me to put my purse on an x-ray machine similar to what you'd find in an airport. After that, he put my vehicle on his list and told me he was done with me and I could continue on. The whole thing must have taken half an hour.

What took a long time was the border itself. When I got close, I could see long lines of tractor-trailer trucks. I was allowed in a lane separate from them and then separate from cars also. Further on, when I saw the multiple lanes of multiple cars, I was really happy that I was towing an RV since RVs were afforded their own lane! There were only a few ahead of me.

This is where they can inspect your vehicle, and the towed vehicle for vegetables, meat and fresh fruit that are not allowed over the border. I had gotten rid of everything - I thought. When the border patrol agent opened my freezer, there were two pieces of leftover pizza in there - with pepperoni! She confiscated that and I went on my merry way.

When I pulled away from that inspection, I was back in the States. I'm surprised that there was no other inspection similar to the Mexican one, but that's fine with me.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the border crossing. I knew better than to take any there. Last year, a friend and I walked across the border to one of the little Mexican towns. On our way back, we were taking photos of the border when one of the agents came up to us and informed us that we were not allowed to do that. He made us erase the photos in the cameras and then checked each one to be sure we had done so. Luckily, no one uses film, or he would have confiscated that.

I went up the road another hour to a casino that allows RV parking in one of their lots. I was so tired of sitting all day, I walked over to the casino for dinner. They usually have decent food that is reasonably priced.

While I have been here, I've been getting my mail and wading through that as well as other things I haven't been about to get done from Mexico. When I leave here, I'll be set for exploring this spring and summer.  For those of you wondering if I'll return to Mexico next winter because of the road conditions or the inspections, the answer would be a definite yes.  After all, I saw all those miles of new roads being built and they look great!

I'm back in the land of the saguaro cactus.  This is the Sonora Desert, as was the area all the way down to San Carlos.  However, somehow, these cactus are less prolific down there.  I'm enjoying seeing them again and wish they had been blooming already.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

San Carlos, Mexico | Castaway Kids Benefit


On my last day in San Carlos, there was a huge benefit with music by various local performers and a BBQ.  I left after 4 hours, after hearing multiple groups, since they were only given time enough to do 3-4 songs each. For two of those hours, I volunteered to sell tickets, so I kept busy.  They were still going strong when I left.

This is only part of the crowd, and inside the restaurant was packed.  The photo below shows a great way to attend, except I don't think they got any food!

One of the groups performing was the Steel Pan Band of Esperanza Azteca Sonora, school children who have been trained on the steel pans.  One of the players was probably only 6 years old, so they start young.  As always, great performance by them.
I was able to get this shot of the bass player for Assterisko from the ticket sales table - nice to have a good zoom on the camera!

There were only one or two solo singers, this guy has a great voice.

The dance troupe also gave a performance.  Unfortunately, I missed some photos while I was selling tickets.  However, the event was well attended and everyone enjoyed it.

Of course, the vendors were outside the restaurant, just waiting to sell all sorts of goodies to anyone willing to buy.

Anyone wanting to find out more information about Castaway Kids can check out the website at

Friday, March 18, 2016

San Carlos Mexico | Time to leave

It is time for Semana Santa next week - although I'll be leaving to escape the madness.  There will be an influx of locals to celebrate this religious time.  Many of the local residents will not be leaving their homes very often until it's over.  These two guys have been all over, one banging his drum and the other with a cup for donations.  Their belts are made of bamboo pieces and when they move, the pieces knock together in rhythm.  We were in a restaurant recently, with the band on stage between songs.  These two guys came in, wandered around while the band waited for them to leave so they could continue.  They were able to get a few donations from the crowd.

I have been in San Carlos now for over 4 months and it is the longest I have stayed anywhere since I started traveling in my RV.  I have had lots of fun and have met wonderful people, but now that the weather is getting warmer, I'm ready to hit the road and explore.

San Carlos is a small town, but there's most everything here that's needed.  For other things, Guaymas is only about 10 miles away and has most anything you'll need. 

While I was here - I got to know many people in the community and joined them in my ceramics group, volunteering at the ambulance service's thrift shop, going out to eat in the local restaurants and listening to the many talented musicians who call this home.  I went to many of their events benefitting the animal population as well as some of the less fortunate families around the area.
I was lucky to have a friend who has been here a few years now and she introduced me to the area, the great restaurants and the people. 

I'm not looking forward to the long drive out of here. but it's nice enough here that I'll probably come back here again next winter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Remains of pueblos in this area date back to about 1000.  By the time the volcanos in the area stopped erupting, these people had moved on to another region.  During the time they inhabited this area, they built pueblos to live in, using the red rock that is found in this area. 
The construction of these pueblos is impressive, some were three stories tall.  Large boulders were incorporated into walls, depending on the terrain.  After all these years, with weather and vandalism, there is quite a bit left of these structures.


The photo below shows a large area that has been reconstructed, probably a meeting area for the community. 
One of the pueblos included a large open area that had remnants of walls that were rounded in shape, to enclose the open area.   It is thought that this area was for socializing and working on projects, such as pottery making.
This little guy was sitting in the middle of the trail when I was leaving.  He let me take a few pictures of him and then I got this shot from the other side.  Colorful little guy, and seemingly unafraid, he probably knows he can outrun me.

Some of the pueblos were miles away from this main area, and built on the edges of a small canyon, which was probably a water source at the time.


Balcony House - Mesa Verde National Park

I have heard of Mesa Verde from everyone - a must see, do-not-miss type of warning. And they were right - it's an amazing National Park. It has been on my list since before I set out.

When I got to the Durango area, I found the campground where two of my fellow solo female RVer were staying. We have been meeting up off and on when our paths cross. It just so happened that the day I got there was their last day at that camp.  When I arrived that morning, they invited me to go to Mesa Verde for the day. Sure - sounded good to me!


The park covers a large territory and the roads wind up and down the mountainsides. We had time to do only one tour - Balcony House. At the appointed time, there were about 20 or so people gathered for the tour. After a short briefing, we started down into the canyon by a series of steel stairways. The trail was only a quarter of a mile long, but during that time, we climbed a 32' double ladder to the first rooms. This photo of the ladder was taken after everyone had safely arrived at the top.

The next area was visible through a window between the two living areas.

After a briefing about the first area and the construction, the next area was accessed by a skinny tunnel......

The next area contained two kivas, areas that had multiple purposes in the puebloan peoples' lives - ceremonies and socializing. Kivas are always round and sunken. When they were in use, they had ceilings.

During their construction of all these cliff dwellings, they used the existing rock formations and caves as part of their construction, as seen below.

This was the final area of this little neighborhood and we had to exit through a tunnel. This tunnel was so small, we all had to crawl through it, only a few feet until we could stand and then another crawl area for a few feet.

After that, the fun continues, there were steep steps carved into a rock heading up the hill. These had been carved over 800 years ago. They are so steep that, to prevent mishaps, the park has installed heavy chain railings and a safety net on the downhill side.

After a couple of short ladders, the tour was over. Such a great place, such an experience to see how these people lived more than 800 years ago. For some reason, they moved out in 1200 - no one seems to know why.


I will be back to do more of their tours of the cliff dwellings and to further explore the park. There is much more to see here.


Negro Bill Canyon Trail, near Moab, Utah

Before I got to Moab, a friend told me that I had to hike this trail.  The sign says it's 4 miles round trip, but plan on 4 hours.  I knew then that it's not an "easy" hike like the sign said.  I got up early one morning and got on the trail at 7 AM.  Luckily it was cool and most of the trail was shaded.  Unluckily, it had rained the day before and the trail had wet bushes that infringed on the walkway, so I kept brushing the leftover raindrops onto me as I meandered through the winding trail.  The trail (the easy part!) is shown below, but it doesn't show the poison ivy that was in a couple spots.  It's been long enough that I can say I successfully avoided those patches!
The small stream that went along the trail had to be crossed at least 6 times during the course of the trail.  The first time was easy, no wet feet.  After that, I got my feet multiple times both ways.  Some of the rocks in the river were slimy and slippery, so that didn't help.  I had to wash out my hiking boots when I got home!
The photo below shows a small sign in the corner - trail is that way.  Trail?  It's all rock about waist high!  After I check out the situation, I decided I could make it up - very carefully.  I put my camera and water bottle on the ledge and hoisted myself up. 
A short time up the trail, the reward is the Morning Glory Bridge off in the distance.
My hiking stick was definitely helpful on this trip - it's great for balancing on those rocks going across the water.