Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring 2013 Trek: Baker City to Tucson

Scroll down - new entries at the bottom!!!  
TUESDAY, February 26:  
TRAVEL DAY:  Baker City to Battle Mountain, NV, 383 miles
Click HERE to see all of today's pictures

     We are off!  We pull out of the driveway around 8am to clearing skies and cold!  The bikes have a dusting of snow on them in the bed of the truck and we are glad we never did pull the ends out on the trailer while packing.  No need – you can’t put anything in there anyway! 
     Rick ends up driving the whole way today.  Said he was doing fine and doesn’t mind cruising along at 60 mph on two lane highways!  And except for the 70 miles down to Ontario and Exit 3 inside Idaho, and then 55 miles from Winnemucca to Battle Mountain on I-80, we were on the blue highways of the west the rest of the day! 
Mountains nearing Jordan Valley
Steens Mts
     We gas up in Ontario at the Pilot, still disgusted that gas prices have risen nearly 40 cents a gallon in the last three weeks!  Ouch!!  So much for my initial estimate for auto expenses….especially since the truck manages to average 9.2 mpg today!!  We think perhaps we are heavy, we fought a bit of a wind at times, and there was CONSIDERABLE up and down!!!    Gas has been an issue for today….just how many opportunities are there between Ontario and Winnemucca – a 255 mile stretch.  If we average under 10 mpg, we can’t travel more than 200 miles MAX before we run dry!  Rick knows there is a station in Jordan Valley.  We also discover two stations in McDermitt, (one 11 cents cheaper than the other….we won’t discuss which one we stupidly stopped at!), another at Orovada, and another at the junction with Paradise Valley.  Why aren’t these on Gas Buddy or AAA?  So….no worries.
     Mostly today was a panorama of snowy mountain ranges – beginning with the hills bordering I-84 enroute to Ontario, the pass into Jordan Valley, the Steens, and then mountain upon mountain in Nevada. Some completely snow covered, others with dustings which brought out the multi-layered textures of the hills.    This stretch is soooo much prettier this time of year! 
Paradise Wilderness area south
of McDermitt
     At McDermitt, after buying gas for 4.01 because we didn’t see the Texaco around the corner for 3.89, we grabbed a few goodies from the fridge and kept on ‘truckin’!  Good thing Rick only put 8 gallons in to make sure we could get to Battle Mountain. 
More mountains south of McDermitt
     I nearly completed the needlepoint on an entire camel today! 
     We find the RV park in Battle Mountain, but the attendant doesn’t arrive until 4, so we take a walk around the area to stretch our legs.  (We had arrived at 3:30).  It is cold….high 30’s.  Forecast for tonight is chilly – originally in the teens, but Rick heard a new forecast for 21!!!  A warming trend!  We both shower and after doing the dinner dishes, Rick heads back out to disconnect the water and sewer lines and put them away.  No sense in taking any chances with freezing!!! 
Our spot at Battle Mt. 
     Quiet evening reading, puzzles, typing (that would be me!) and playing a game.  I had internet connection earlier, but as evening has come I can’t get back on.  Probably the unsecure network is overloaded!!  It was free afterall!  I’ll try again in the morning to post things. 
     Another adventure has begun!!! 

WEDNESDAY , February 27:
TRAVEL DAY – Battle Mountain to Beatty, NV     304 miles
 Click HERE to see today's pictures

    BRRRrrrr!  I just got up at 6:15 and checked the thermometer I stuck on the outside window:  22 degrees.  But as I opened the shade I also saw the beauty of the full moon in the western sky just before it slipped into some scattered clouds above a snowy ridge.  I didn’t go out to take a picture.   (I have no shoes on, it’s cold out there, and the view was obstructed by power lines and other trailers anyway!  Excuses, excuses!)  Thank you God for the wonderful sight!  
    We slept warm enough and I probably slept more than I thought.  We opted to only bring one heavy sleeping bag, knowing as the spring warms up we won’t need them and will be just storing it away somewhere.  But last night we had all four light blankets and the sleeping bag in our bed….and slept close!  My feet were getting cold at times, but overall, not too bad! 

Shoshone Mts. southeast of Battle Mt. 
     Back again from a glorious day of mountain views!  Settled now into Beatty RV Park, after driving past it once, checking out other parks in Beatty, and deciding what I had down was indeed our best bet at $25.  However…..while it advertises free internet, the speed is so bad I can’t get connected.  So….night #2 with no internet at a place that advertised such service.  :(  I hope I don’t get grumpy!!! 
View from Austin Summit, looking down on town and valley
     The mountain vistas between Battle Mountain and Tonopah more than made up for the high gas prices and poor mileage!  We paid $4.19 in Austin, NV!!!  Burned again as we passed another station about 15 miles down the road at an obscure intersection for much less.  Who would think?    Fortunately, Rick only put 5 gallons into the tank.  When will we learn??  In Tonopah, we turned onto our highway and found a station for over $4 also.  We knew better!  Turned around and saved 30 cents a gallon.  In Beatty, with prices in the 3.89 range, we decided to just fill up with the extra 5 gallons we had been carrying, and get into Vegas where prices are moderately more reasonable!  As I write we have spent $250 for gas to travel 688 miles.  Ouch!! 
Little church on Austin hillside. 
     But, the mountains, ah the mountains!!  Snowy mountains on our left, on our right, down the road in front of us.  Craggy peaks with snow, rounded knolls etched with snow patterns.  HUGE broad valleys of grasses.  Mines, often abandoned.  I remembered a description of Austin from reading William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways – and it matched perfectly, although I imagined a town down on the flats, not an old west mining town tucked into a narrow notch dropping down to the valley floor.  From Austin we pulled up over Austin Summit at 7400’, the highest we will cross this part of the trip.  Snow all around, but clear roads.  After the summit the road curved around through the pass and then dropped down into the Great Smoky Valley – again lined with mountain ranges on both sides. 
Carvers Roadside Park
     We stopped in the old mining town of Carvers at a county park, roadside rest for a potty stop and a bite of lunch.  Icy snow along the road in patches, the park was ringed in cottonwood trees.  It would be a nice oasis in the heat of the summer. 
     Tonopah is NOTHING to write home about.  What a dumpy town.  Did have a classic old courthouse with a silver dome that looked like an observatory. 
     Another 110 miles from Tonopah to Beatty – and our mountains lost their snow for the most part.  We dropped down into a yucca forest.  The kind that look like miniature Joshua trees.  I can’t remember what kind they are – I need my southwest cactus refresher course.  Also could see dry lake beds and alkali flats in the distance, as well as the mountain range that divides Nevada from Death Valley National Park. 
     One other town to note: Goldfield.  It made Tonopah look good.  Every building seemed to be falling apart, the old tuffstone school sagging.  Debris scattered everywhere.  A mining boom town gone bust.  So sad. 
Blackbirds in the trees at Beatty RV Park
     Beatty is pretty well kept.  It is the major Nevada junction for traffic into Death Valley.  We arrived around 3:30, checked out the parks, bought sandwiches for dinner at Subway, and then backtracked north of town to Beatty RV Park.  Only 5 other rigs here, pull-throughs so we can make a fast get away in the morning.  The park was inundated with starlings when we arrived.  Evidently they live here.  They are gone at the moment and it is quiet, but they will probably be back with sunrise in the morning!  The attendant also said we could expect the caws of large ravens, quail, and a few coyotes wandering through the park! 
     We eat our Subs and then take a walk about a mile up the highway north, just getting some exercise and taking in the flora and fauna!  Showers in the first RV Park bathroom that I have ever photographed!  A beautiful tiled walk in shower stall – private like bath.  Amazing.  Quiet evening.  Could be nearly as cold again tonight, so we don’t even bother hooking up the water since we have no dishes to wash and a good shower otherwise. 
Sunset on mountains west of Beatty. 
     We had a major condensation problem last night because we forgot to leave an air vent in the trailer.  Basically our condensation froze on the canvas above the bed, and as the sun came up it started to drip, drip, drip.  We traveled today with the mattress folded up on the couch unit, and all the bedding with it.  I wiped up the last of the puddles when we set up and we have better ventilation set up for tonight!  Lesson learned!! 
     Hopefully I will get a chance to post all this soon!!  In the meantime, sunshine!!!  PS.  Completed my first camel today – to the point where it is waiting for stuffing and the final gusset stitching!  One down, five to go!!  

THURSDAY, February 28 
TRAVEL DAY:  Beatty, NV to Wickenburg, AZ     361 miles
Click HERE to see today's pictures

         Wow!  What an eventful day - in many ways!!  I hardly know where to start.  We pulled out of Beatty at 8:10, with a beautiful sunny morning to lead the way.  The birds were NOT too noisy or too early this morning.  We slept much warmer as well. 
Death Valley NP mountains in distance
     Relatively uneventful drive through high desert mountain ranges toward Las Vegas.  Shortly after leaving Beatty, we passed two trailers which had seen better days set out in the middle of scrub land: the sign said NAKED WOMEN and we commented….typical Nevada in many ways.  I am not used to seeing Borellos openly advertised! 
     In the distance to the west we could see the mountains on the WEST side of Death Valley at 11,000 plus feet.
Mountains west of Las Vegas
     And the 11 thousand foot mountains just west of Vegas were a surprise – complete with ski area!  We passed under an Air Force testing area north of Vegas and saw a drone land!  We got turned around trying to follow Hwy 95 through the northwest end of Vegas and learned – just stay on the freeway….it IS Hwy 95!!  But we made it through the big city relatively painlessly.  Stopped for gas in Henderson and rejoiced that the mileage continues to creep UP!! 
     Rick had been looking forward to driving over the new bridge at Hoover Dam.  We saw it ‘in construction’ the last time we were through.  A disappointment….no pull-offs or viewpoints, and you can’t SEE the bridge as you go over!  We did get a few views of Lake Mead as we descended down from Boulder City. 
We made it to Arizona!
     My highlight upon entering Arizona?  WILDFLOWERS!!!  Yellow and purple flowers covered the area along the freeway.  Mostly just around the dam area, but a welcome sight! 
     From the dam down to Kingman, we cruised through desert vegetation and sage brush, trying to refresh our desert vegetation knowledge once again.  Arrived in Kingman around 12:30, intending to gas up, grab a bite, and move on! 
     Well,….we got off on Old Route 66 by mistake, so we stopped at the Visitor Center to use the restrooms.  I got directions to cheap gas and we followed the Old Route for about 3 miles back to the freeway where we found the Flying Jay was only $3.53 a gallon!  Thirty six cents cheaper than what we saw entering town!  Hurray!
Trailer gets new tires at the Big O in Kingman! 
     Our biggest blessing of the day occurred next.  A man named Ben came up while we waited to get gas and said our trailer tires were going bad.  He worked for a tire shop.  Granted, his story may have been contrived and he was out drumming up business, BUT ….the tires WERE bad!  Ben was a little TOO helpful and quoted us a pretty high price for new ones.  We said we need a little time, went in and asked for a phone book and called a Big O Tire Store, which provided two services: confirmed the need for new tires AND a reasonable price for new radials.  Again, this is a case of poor quality installed on new vehicles/trailers.  Anyway, an hour plus and $220 less, we were on our way!! 
Sajuaro Cactus! 
    The stretch of Highway 93 from the interstate down to Wickenburg is called the Joshua Tree Forest Highway.  Mostly we saw sajuaro cactus for the first half of it!  Many of them in all sizes and shapes.  They are so cool.  The southern half of the drive we found the Joshua trees.  They are beautiful right now with white spikes emerging from each arm.  We had forgotten how much this stretch goes UP and DOWN, over and over! 
     The good news???  Somewhere in here, Rick announced that our mileage had crept over the 10.1 mark average for the trip!  The new tires might just help. 
     I had selected Desert Cypress RV Park for the night, but it proved to be most unaccommodating with only one remote site available and high prices, so we left.  We were running a little late because we forgot about the time change into Mountain Standard time.  Stopped at MacDonald’s for a bite, fortunately right ahead of a tour bus loaded with senior citizens….ok, most of them were probably our age! 
I clicked a quick picture of the sunset just as we were
setting up the trailer. 
     We drove the two miles out of town to Horspitality RV Park, which I had originally discounted, to find hospitality plus!!  We are settled in one of the last remaining sites, have no idea what we are paying because we are to settle up in the morning, but the people were great, the internet actually WORKS, and the sunset behind the palm trees was stellar. 
     Tonight was Lectionary Bible Study in Baker City where Katy often begins asking, “Where did you see God this week?”  I emailed Katy earlier with my response:
1.  Mountain range upon mountain range of glorious snow capped peaks. 
2.  Our first view of the season's wildflowers as we crossed over Hoover Dam and into Arizona.  
3.  Our first peak of the majestic Sajuaro cactus, and then more and more and more!  Joshua trees blooming with white spikes out their many tips.  
4.  A man named Ben who came up to us in Kingman and said, "Your trailer tires are bad.  I work at a tire store.  You probably are only 100 miles from a blow-out.  While we didn't go to Ben's tire store, we did buy new tires at a Big O, and avoided what could have been a nasty accident. They confirmed Ben's analysis! 
5.  Gratefull that the tires didn't go as Rick wound his way through the traffic of Las Vegas and narrow busy lanes. 
6.  Because we arrived at McDonalds BEFORE a full tour bus, we were able to arrive at the RV Park BEFORE they closed at 6 and obtain one of their last two sites for the night.  
7.  Grateful for the campground hosts who stopped closing down to get us fixed up. 
8.  Internet that WORKS for the first time this week!  
9.  And finally???  A beautiful sunset behind the silhouettes of palm trees from our spot here in Wickenburg.  
10. Today was the day I switched to short sleeve shirt and felt HOT in the sun on the truck!  Tomorrow could be shorts! It is 50 degrees outside as I type (and dropping quickly as the sun goes down, but nevertheless!)
11.  A chorus of music last night from blackbirds, ravens, coyotes, burros, pidgeons and quail.  

FRIDAY, March 1
TRAVEL DAY:  Wickenburg, AZ to Tucson   192 miles
Click HERE to view pictures  (There aren't many!)

     I almost hated to leave Horspitality with its wonderful internet connection and friendly people, but Tucson is beckoning!  We pull out around 9am, deliberately waiting abit so we don't get into Phoenix at anything close to rush hour!  
     And we find ourselves in the outskirts of Phoenix in just 30 minutes!  We opted to stay on Hwy 60 until Rt 101 which was a mistake in hindsight.  We ended up with nearly 10 miles of stoplight highway!  UGH!  (Next time - take 303 down to I-10)  Did find a gas station along the way (probably not the cheapest, but it WAS convenient!), so when we hit 101 we were ready to get on the freeway and stay on it!  Let's just say that Rick was glad to be done with both Vegas and Phoenix!  However, I think both still rate higher than Salt Lake City for cities to drive through!  
Picacho Peak
     We enjoyed the sights of Picacho Peak south of Casa Grande and all the GREEN of the desert at the moment.  Also amazed at the amount of crops being grown in the area.  
     We pulled into the CHRPA lot around 1pm - and finally found Lorene and Walter.  It took us awhile to get the trailer jockeyed into the spot because a couple cars were parked preventing us from just pulling straight through.  But we are now all settled in - finally with both ends pulled out, and items out for the first time for a more lengthy stay.  
Set up at CHRPA headquarters
     FINALLY - at 2:30 - we opted to just eat dinner, since we had basically skipped any lunch!  It was warm - I switched to shorts and flip flops (Rick started the day in shorts!) so we just had salmon mixed into the salad and ate up!  
     Late afternoon we were ready to explore a little.  Rick reminds me now that Friday afternoon during rush hour is NOT the time to set out on the major throughfares of a major city!!  We did run into a little traffic!  We found the site of our Bountiful Basket pickup for tomorrow morning, and then I weighed in at Weight Watchers (and lost 1.6 pounds!).  A little shopping at Walmart and Joann's and we were driving back to CHRPA to a beautiful sunset in the west.  
     Tomorrow morning after Bountiful pickup at 7:45, Rick and I have been invited out to breakfast with Lorene and Walter.  Our CHRPA experience begins!  
The CHRPA PVC sign Luke helped create still graces the front of the office.
Click HERE to view all the pictures

     Today up to pick up our Bountiful Basket.  Group does the entire distribution out in the middle of a park next to a middle school.  Do they do this all winter long outside?  A different system than we are used to - which involved more pre-work on their part, but the check-in and out was quick and at once!  Each basket was numbered and all 'extras' had already been placed with the basket.  We were divided into four groups alphabetically.  So....late getting started, but quick to leave!  And a good 'haul'!
     Didn't want to be too late because Lorene and Walter were taking us out to breakfast!  We went to a little Mom and Pop Pancake house - good meal at reasonable prices.  We sat for some time visiting with the Goods and getting to know more about the SOOP program and CHRPA.  Lorene and Walter have been coming to work in the winter for 16 years from Illinois.  For the past few years they have just left their motorhome parked behind the CHRPA shop rather than drive it back and forth.  
Ginger near the visitor center
     It was 11am and the sun was warming up considerably by the time Rick and I headed off for Saguaro National Park's eastern Rincon Mountains district - about 7-8 miles from CHRPA HQ east.  We visit the VC quickly to gather some materials, and then select a trail for the day.  Short, as it is going to be in the low 80's and the sun is intense!  An 8 mile loop road winds through much of the 'cacti forest' one way.  About 3 miles in a dirt road heads off a short distance to the Mica View picnic area and trailhead.  Mica Mt. is the highest point in the park at 8,666' and still has a little snow on the northern slopes.  
Classic saguaro
     We have much to learn about the Saguaro "forest".  We mostly observe and ask questions of each other, finding most of our answers later as we get around to reading the park brochure.  We learn much!  We can identify prickly pear and barrel cactus.  Fish-hook looks like barrel, only with hooked spines.  There are lots of different cholla varieties, but on this trail we mostly see teddy bear (fuzzy looking), a plain cholla, and one with LONG spikes.  Not much ocotillo on this hike, but we see alot later on the rest of the drive.  We figure out three different bushes/trees: palo verde (easy with its bare green branches), mesquite (larger with pinnate leaves), and creosote (smaller with tiny almost oily looking leaves).  And everywhere???  Saguaro cactus in all stages of growth.   Ten interesting tidbits we learned (and so I won't forget!):
     1.  Saguaro cactus grows VERY slowly, maybe only a half inch in their first year, 12 inches in 15 years, 7' in 50 years. 
Saguaro forest and Mica Mountain
     2.  The cactus don't bloom until 30 years, and produce their first arm buds after 75 years.  
     3.  A saguaro is 85% water and may weigh over 8 tons. 
     4.  You spell it with a G not an J!  (I just had to correct all my spellings!)
     5.  The cactus only blooms after sunset and the blooms last about a day. 
     6.  Each saguaro fruit holds over 2,000 seeds. 
     7.  The spines not only protect the plant, but also shade the skin. 
     8.  Each plant may produce as many as 100 blooms over a period of time. 
     9.  Saguaro roots are only 3" below the surface, but run underground as far as the cactus is tall. 
Prickly pear and another pair!
    10.  In a single rainstorm, a cactus can absorb 200 gallons of water - enough to last a year. 
     And all this...not to mention the unique personalities and character inherent in each cactus!!  
     Once we completed the 2 mile Mica View Trail (so named because it is the only place in the park where you can see Mica Mt.), we finished driving the loop road.  At one point the view expanded across the city of Tucson to the Tucson Mts. in the west and the other unit of Saguaro National Park.  (We visited part of that park with Luke two years ago.)
Watching the sun go down through
 the mesquite trees. 
     It was warm....very warm to us Northerners!!  We returned to the trailer, got a snack, and relaxed in the shade of the trailer!  We talked for awhile with a gal from Michigan who is visiting a college friend living in the VS house.  They are Methodists!  
     Dinner sitting on the west side of the trailer watching a beautiful sunset.  Again...the temperature drops quickly as the sun sets!  
There is something classic 'west' about this picture!  Near the Mica View trailhead. 
 SUNDAY, March 3
 Mennonite Worship and More....
      What a gorgeous morning!  I sit out in front of the trailer and read for awhile after showering for church.  It is nice to have almost a lazy feel!!  We have decided to just stay here and attend worship with our new friends, Lorene and Walter Good, at the Mennonite Church just 50 feet away!  
     Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, which is the parent church for the Mennonite Volunteer Services house (VS house of mostly young people, similar to YAVs) and CHRPA headquarters and shop.  Church was full with many new volunteers having arrived.  We seem to be the only ones staying at "Resort CHRPA", as others are residing in the SOOP house or in RV parks of their own choosing.  All of us were introduced!  
      The service was casual - the opening song was one of the theme songs from General Assembly - "Here in This Place".  I was surprised to find the Mennonites follow the Common Lectionary!  The service was contemporary at times with a little praise music, drums and guitar, as well as screen and projector, and very traditional at others. It was comfortable!  
     We didn't stay for what they term "Second Hour" or Sunday School.  The rest of the SOOPs were going out to lunch, but Rick and I said we would see them at our gathering this evening.  They were fixing for Asian, and I had promised Rick a Mexican restaurant!
     We found a little place called Poco & Mom over off Kolb Rd and drove over.  It was busy with few tables, but we signed our name and waited.  A young couple came in after us with a little 4 mo. old baby girl.  When our table came up it was for four, so Rick invited them to join us so they didn't have to wait any longer with the baby.  (The table was also in a corner and perfect for the high chair.)  As anyone who knows Rick can imagine, within 10 minutes he had that little girl in his arms!  The waitress gave Rick a hug of appreciation!!  And to top it off, the food was great and prices very reasonable!  We shall come back!  
     Afternoon spent doing laundry, catching up, and Rick took a walk (with the bike road map in his back pocket so hopefully he doesn't get lost!)  
     Tonight all the SOOPs met for a couple hours in the SOOP lounge - puzzles, a round of Chicken Foot dominoes, and plenty of light treats.  Nothing too fancy.  We were joined later by the three living over at the 27th street Mennonite house.  Dwayne and Bonnie are probably leaving on Tuesday - hoping Dwayne gets a clearance from his heart doctor.  (He had to have emergency heart surgery in January!)  Walt and Loreen will be here for a few more weeks, as are Bruce and Marj from Ontario.  
     I didn't take ANY pictures today, other than 'scanning' my drawings via the camera!  


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