Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas!

To all our friends old and new, Chris and I would like to wish everyone a very safe and Merry Christmas. We hope the season brings you great joy.

We are currently hanging out at one of our favorite locations; Mittry Lake Wildlife Area just north of Yuma, Arizona.

We are actually just outside the actual wildlife area which is managed by Arizona Game and Fish. They have a camping area down near the lake but restrict the length of stay there to 10 days/ calendar year. We are actually up by one of the irrigation canals a couple hundred yards from the lake and about 40 feet higher up. This area is managed by the federal Bureau of Reclamation and apparently doesn't have any set restriction on length of stay. At least no-one seems to bother us up here and others have stayed here for several months.
It seems this is also one location where we tend to meet and make new friends. Our first time here, we met up with a group of folks who we now hang out with regularly and introduced us to the Escapees organization. Last year was a few more people who, while we haven't seen them since, we keep in touch via Facebook. This year, we met a young couple with 2 adorable kids. They hit the road full time about 2 years ago in a converted tour bus. I have enjoyed comparing notes with Eric on RV systems and solar. They have a to-die-for solar system with a huge Lithium battery bank.
We have had a bit of change in the weather again.  Sunday morning I caught this stunning sunrise.

Later in the day though, the clouds built further and Monday we had a few showers. Today, other than a brief light shower first thing, turned into a really nice day.
As I mentioned a while back, I had twisted my right knee somehow and it has been taking its sweet time healing. While it isn't quite 100% yet, I think it is well enough that I can get back to doing some of the things I have been missing. So today I though it would be a good day to go on a hike.
On one of the hills nearby is a big microwave reflector. I have wanted to get up to it every time we have been here. Today was the day.

This is what it looks like from where we are camped. Straight line distance it is only a little more than a half mile away and about 300 ft higher but to get to it is quite a round about route and in a couple of places some serious climbing. The views from up here are quite spectacular and made it a worthwhile endeavor.

This is the view of Mittry Lake from the top of the hill.

This is the old Laguna Dam built between 1902 and 1905.

Looking back toward our camp at the maximum my iPhone would zoom. Our rig is on the left in this shot in behind the 2 buses. At the top centre, you can see where the irrigation canal comes out of the first of two tunnels.

Just a small part of the vegetable fields in the Yuma area. They grow all sorts of vegetables here; broccoli, cauliflower, multiple types of lettuce, onions and even cotton. There are always many fields being harvested.

Oh, and of course, this is what the back side of the reflector looks like from close up. The front was covered in graffiti so I didn't want to put that up.
Tomorrow is Christmas day and we are expecting a bunch here for our Christmas dinner pot luck in the afternoon. We aren't sure exactly how many but probably 15 to 20 or so. Some are already here camping out with us and a few will be making the trip from the Escapees park in Yuma for the day. Regardless, it should be fun.
Those of you that get this blog via email will likely see it tomorrow, so we wish you all the best for Christmas.
I have also made another small change if you want to read this on-line. The old web address of http://robandchristravels.blogspot.com has been changed to a much shorter and more personalized version. It is https://rctravels.rmcd.ca. Give it a try.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Thanksgiving, Imperial Dam and a catchup

Well, it has been a while since my last entry although I haven't had a lot to relate.
We were just going into Thanksgiving down here and the weather had just started to change; and change it did! We went from clear, sunny days with temperatures in the high 20's and low 30's to cool, cloudy, windy and rain! We had been hoping for nice weather for Thanksgiving but alas it was not to be. Our group was 12 for turkey day and about 2PM it started to rain, so we all gathered in our rig as we had the most room. It was a bit crowded but we made do.

We had a good spread and this year several decided the theme would be deserts. We had pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, apple pie and pecan pie!

A bit before dinner, one of the guys found this little guy just hoofing it down the trail. He brought it to camp but several others ruled out asking it to stay. This is a desert tarantula. They are basically harmless unless provoked or threatened and even then their bite is only about the same as a bee sting.
On Friday Chris and I made a shopping trip into Indio to take in some Black Friday sales. Other than a few clothes, we didn't really buy much.
Saturday, we decided to pull up stakes and head over to Quartzsite for a couple of days. I had ordered a part for the trailer and had it shipped to a business there that acts as a mail and parcel drop for the visitors. They were closed until Monday so we parked in our usual spot at La Posa south. Chris went into town on Sunday and did some laundry and I pretty much just hung around camp.
Monday morning we packed up once again and headed into town to pick up the parcel then carried on south to the Imperial Dam LTVA. We have stayed here several times in the past and enjoy the location.
Friday, we headed into Yuma and met up with friends, Lyle and Barb Linney. We hadn't seen them since summer when we spent a bit of time back in Kamloops.
The weather had been slowly improving and had become quite pleasant again but yesterday, once again, the clouds rolled back in and by mid afternoon it had started to rain. It rained off and on through most of the afternoon and evening.
This morning, although cloudy, at least it hasn't rained. Tomorrow though is supposed to go back to sunny and warm; hope so.
We are staying here for a few more days, then moving over to Mittry Lake for the stretch through Christmas.

Oh, one other thing. A few entries back, I mentioned we had made a detour over to Okotoks, Alberta on our way south. The reason for that was for an interview for a possible job next year as camp hosts at the Okotoks Lions campground. We had heard about this place last year from a couple we spent some time with down here. They had been summer camp hosts there for several years but had decided to go on and do some other traveling. That left a potential vacancy at the park. They gave us the contact info for the park manager and we sent off an inquiry. She did get back to us but didn't have any openings for last season and honestly I had almost forgotten about it until I got a phone call late last summer. They had an opening for the 2020 season and wanted to know if we were still interested and if so, could we come by for an interview. We did that right after Canadian Thanksgiving and I guess we did OK as a few weeks ago we got word that we have the position! Their season is from May 1 through Sept 30 and we will have to be there around mid April. It should be interesting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Hanging out near Joshua Tree NP

We pulled out of Death Valley last Monday and headed further south. Chris and I had planned to spend a week or so at a spot we found on our first trip down 2 years ago. A BLM area just outside the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. This time, 2 others we had spent time with at DV decided to join us; Vince and Wendy and Rick and Janet. After dumping our tanks and filling water we were on the road about 9:30 or so.
We retraced our steps back to Death Valley Junction then turned south on CA-127 following it to Baker where we stopped for lunch.
In Baker, there is a Greek restaurant right at the junction with lots of parking.

While not quite 'fast food', it's not quite a normal restaurant either and the food was quite good. I had the fried Calamari which was among the better I have had. Everyone else was also pretty happy with their orders although Chris's was a bit on the slim side. Definitely would stop here again.
After lunch, we continued south on Kelbaker Rd and our next stop, the ghost town at Kelso. This little town owes it existence to the railroad. It began in the early 1900's as a water stop on the main line between Los Angeles and Utah. Today there isn't much here other than a railroad siding and the old station that has been restored and turned into nice little museum.

We probably spent an hour or more here exploring the museum and grounds before continuing on to our stop for the day at Amboy.
Amboy is another California ghost town. This one owes most of its current existence to the historic Route 66. Today there isn't much left except an old gas station and many deserted buildings. The last census shows a population of 4!

While here, we were able to see a gorgeous full moon rise. I took a couple of shots with my iPhone but I like the last one which Vince took. There were also a bunch of other travelers who also stopped to capture the sight. One couple took several hundred pics with a couple of cameras that probably cost more than my models!

Vince Hall captured this image just as the moon cleared the hills to the east
Tuesday morning we pulled out and finished our trip to Joshua Tree. We found a spot with lots of room for our 3 big rigs and got ourselves set up.
Our plan was to stay here for about a week and then head down to Borrego Springs where we were to meet up with a larger group for US Thanksgiving. This was the same place we spent Thanksgiving last year. Just the other day though, we received word that the property there had recently been sold and the new owners had kicked everyone out! As this was a popular boondocking area, this affected literally hundreds of campers!
Chris and Wendy, who is here with us, are the organizers of the Thanksgiving gathering so that meant some scrambling to try and find another location on quite short notice. After quite a bit of discussion, we are going to try and do it here at JT. The space will be a bit tight but we're all friends so hopefully we can make it work.
Pretty much since leaving Twin Falls several weeks ago, the weather has been what is known in the aviation industry as 'severe clear'. Basically no clouds! While this has made the days beautiful and nights clear and great for star gazing, it hasn't provided for much in the way of sunsets. Last night however that changed. It started to cloud over and by sunset, the colours started to appear.

Later on, we received a couple of good rain showers and a couple of thunderstorms passed us by, fortunately quite a ways away. The forecast for the next few days is cooler and more clouds which should be a nice change from the hot, dry weather we have had for the last couple of weeks.

Just a quick reminder that you can click on the individual photos to view the full resolution version. Also any Bolded BLUE or PURPLE text is a hyperlink that will take you to a page with more information about that particular subject.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Pahrump and Death Valley

After leaving Flagstaff we retraced our steps back to Henderson where we fueled up and then carried on to Pahrump. We planned to spend a few days at the Pair-a-Dice Escapees Co-op park there and get a few trailer items knocked off our to-do list. We were also planning to meet up with Vince and Wendy who we spent the night with just prior to our Grand Canyon visit.
They wound up running into a minor problem with their rig and were delayed a bit which gave me a bit more time to do what I needed to do. Their problem was a pair of dead batteries which Vince asked for my help to swap out. Their batteries are double the size and weight of ours and mounted in a tray that makes working on them somewhat difficult. That project took us most of a morning and as a result we didn’t get away en route to Death Valley until after lunch.
The drive to Death Valley took a little over an hour and we got settled into the Sunset RV park at Furnace Creek in the early afternoon. The national park service had a pair of astrophotography seminars scheduled for the afternoon and I was able to get the trailer set up in time to make it over for the first one at 3PM. After supper and after dark, was the second session which was at a spot just out of town. Myself and another Boomer here headed over there where I found that my old SLR camera was a little too old to get decent photos of the nighttime sky. I did get a couple of so-so shots but not nearly as good as I was hoping. The night skies here are incredible and Death Valley is one of the few true Dark Skies areas in the country.

One of the draws of Death Valley is its history. One aspect of this is the mining of borax in the late 19th century. You have no doubt heard of the 20 Mule Teams that were used to transport the refined Borax ore to the nearest rail line over 120 miles away in Mojave, CA.
A couple of days later, Chris and I went back during the day to the Harmony Borax Works which was active in the 1880’s.
Here are a couple of shots of the wagons you can see in the nighttime photo above.

They have a couple of brand new reconstructed wagons that I understand they will be using in a parade in a couple of days. At the start of a busy day yesterday, we went up to check them out.

After having a look at the wagons, Chris and I took a drive about 17 miles south to a place called Badwater Basin. There is a spring there fed from runoff water from the mountains to the East. The reason it is called Badwater, is that all the salt minerals in the dry lake bed turns the water very salty.

As most of the valley bottom is here, this area is about 282 feet below sea level. They have mounted a sign up on the cliff face to indicate where sea level is.

After Badwater, on the way back to camp, we took a side road up to a place called the Artists Palette. The rocks here are so colourful with the various minerals exposed in the formations. My photos don't do it justice.

For the last 30 some odd years, a group of people have been reenacting part of Death Valleys history in the form of a wagon train. They start about 100 miles south of Furnace Creek and make their way north, planning their arrival during the annual Death Valley 49ers Encampment. The last couple of years they have been inviting a select group of people, Escapees among them, to join them at a spring about 20 miles out. They have the wagons circled and the animals tethered and each wagon crew prepares some sort of dish that would be typical of life on the trail. The rest of us bring a pot luck item and our appetites. Some of the choices were roast Bison, Elk lasagna, Sourdough bread and of course beans! After a delicious meal, they light a central bonfire and a small group of musicians entertains everyone with cowboy and western style music. All in all we had a wonderful time.

This morning I struck out on my own to do a hike that looked interesting. Just south of Furnace Creek is a canyon named Gold Canyon. There are several trails but the one I wanted to do was to a place called Red Cathedral. It is about 1.5 miles in and a constant climb of about 500 feet vertical. It took me about 90 minutes round trip and was a good workout.

We plan to be here a few more days and then head further south to a spot we found on our first winter down here; the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.

A few more random photos

A few of us out for Chris's birthday dinner in Pahrump. That is Vince and Wendy behind Chris.

The fuel price in Furnace Creek. Believe it or not that Diesel price equates to about CDN $1.94 per Litre! And I thought Canadian fuel prices were bad!

The Boomer gang here in DV at Happy Hour.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Howling wind!

I wasn't going to post anything for a few days but had to pass this on now.
We left Grand Canyon this morning on our way to a spot just east of Flagstaff. When we got up we noticed it was a bit breezy at the canyon and the forecast was for strong winds over much of northern Arizona. Not thinking too much of it, we packed up and hit the road about 9:30 or so. Heading south back towards Williams it was a bit breezy but nothing too crazy. The truck and trailer were handling it just fine. Once we turned east at Williams and got out and away from the trees and back to a more open desert type terrain, things really got windy. To top it off the wind was blowing almost directly across the road from right to left. The trailer was bumping around a bit but didn't seem too bad. We carried on to the Twin Arrows Casino, which is about 20 minutes east of Flagstaff, where we unhitched and went inside to check on staying over night. That was when we realized just how strong the wind really was. Walking to the casino and back, there were times we were almost blown backwards. The wind had to be gale force at least!
After checking in we got back in the truck and carried on to our planned days activity (without the trailer). That was the Barringer Meteor Crater. This one one of the sights I have wanted to see for a while.
The crater is only a few miles further east so it only took a few minutes to get there.  

We saw this cute sign on the way in.

This is more of a panorama shot from the viewing platform. Click on any of these to display the full size photo.

There is a private company that runs the displays and the info centre here. I found their displays and information interesting, but I am not sure they warranted the $34 admission for the 2 of us.  Most of the same information can be found on-line.
We did find out while we were there that the weather station at the crater had recorded a peak wind gust that morning of 93 MPH and was recording sustained winds in excess of 50 MPH! Those translate into a force 8 or 9 gale with hurricane force gusts! Yowzers!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Grand Canyon

After leaving Craters of the Moon, we headed to Jerome. We have friends who live in Twin Falls which is just across the river. We had stopped here on the way north last spring and wanted to stop again on our way south. Leaving Craters we drove through another good snow storm however fortunately nothing was sticking to the road and we made it to Jerome without issue. This time we decided to overnight in the Walmart which worked well. Monday we ran a few errands in Twin Falls then met up with Eric and Suzanne for a nice visit then carried on to Thatcher and a visit with another couple we originally met 2 years ago, Vince and Wendy.
They have spent the summer on a piece of property owned by Wendy's daughter and son in law. They also had a spot for us with a power connection which was nice. We spent another nice afternoon and evening visiting with them. They have a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.

The next morning we carried on. We will meet up with Vince and Wendy again in 10 days or so. This leg took us as far as Mesquite, NV. Again Walmart provided us a place to spend the night.
Wednesday it was onward. Our next stop is Grand Canyon National Park.
This turned into another fairly long day. I believe our travel time was about 6 and a half hours. We took highway 93 and I-40 between Vegas and Williams. The only comment I can make here is that it isn't the greatest road for towing. While it is a divided highway for most of the distance, it is in pretty rough shape. Rough being the operative word!
We arrived later in the afternoon with a pretty good idea of where we wanted to stay. There is a short gravel loop road just south of the main park gate where boondocking is allowed. There are only about 2 spots that would be suitable for us but luckily we were here early enough and managed to get the best one. It was a bit of a tight squeezing between a couple of pine trees but we managed to get in OK.

We even managed to get enough southern sky exposure to get the dish up and locked onto the Shaw satellites.
After setting up we didn't go anywhere Wednesday except the info centre in Tusayan where we grabbed some brochures.
Thursday, we headed into the park and made our first stop at the main visitor centre on the south rim. After spending some time there we walked up to the rim at Mather Point for our first glimpse of the canyon.

There is a very good, paved path along most of the south rim in the park so from here we just wandered around a while and took in the sights.

Even this late in the season, there are a surprisingly large number of people around. We got in fairly early so at first it wasn't too bad, but a bit later it started to get a bit difficult to get 'guard rail' time to be able to get photos.

This was early on. Later on it started to get quite crowded in places.
The weather on Thursday was a bit cool and there was a good breeze blowing but full sun so wasn't too bad. The days high was only around 10 or 11 or so.
The south rim is about 7,000' above sea level and both Chris and I were noticing the altitude. Especially when climbing uphill! Nothing serious but it was noticeable.
Friday, we headed to the East end of the park and spent some time exploring around the Desert View Watchtower.

There aren't too many areas in the park where you can see the Columbia River that created the canyon, but this spot has a pretty good view of the river.

Up until now we have been doing our sightseeing in the middle of the day. Later on Friday we went back to see what the difference would be with afternoon lighting and waited around until the sun set.

Even after the sun had set, the change in lighting was quite spectacular. If anything some of the colours were even more vibrant.

While this is Chris's first time here, I was here back in the 70's with my family. While I don't remember too many of the details, I do notice a lot more development this trip. Also a lot more people. Not that that is a bad thing. Some of the interpretive displays are more informative than I recall as well.
Anyway, this has been a pretty long post. We are here for one more day, then on to our next stop.