Tuesday, February 24, 2015

SPRING SOUTHERN SWING: Part 1 - Trek to Tucson

Tuesday, February 24
Baker City to Jackpot, NV
296 miles

            We are up and on our way to crystal clear skies and brisk temperatures!  But at least the weather will be clear sailing after a month of Spring-like conditions.  Luke drove over for a quick hug goodbye (he was going to stop after Open Door, but overslept…my text woke him up!)  We pulled away at 8:10 am. 
            Had a little excitement yesterday when Rick went out to gas up the truck and found it deader than a doornail.  The auto locks wouldn’t even work!  Luke arrived to pick up a package between Les Schwab, so he got us jumped and going again, but when Schwabie got there and tested the battery, it was on its way out.  Still had at least two years on the warranty so they gave us a new one for 50% off.  Glad that’s taken care of! 
Hondie and Feather all alone.....
            The trailer doesn’t seem as packed, but since we aren’t doing any Habitat work this trip, our tool supply is considerably less!  Doesn’t help the gas mileage, however, as the hilly country between Baker and Ontario still takes its toll and we only get 8-9 mpg on that section. 
            Rick drives to the rest stop east of Boise (I didn’t want to drive through all the construction mess on I-84 in Boise!).  I drove to Mountain Home where we gassed up ($1.99!).  We took a new route cutting down to Jackpot this time, which seemed to shorten the trip by about 25 miles.  We stayed on the freeway until Exit 157 and then took Hwy 46 south to Buhl and around the Twin Falls bypass and on to Jackpot. 
The casino in the distance...and lots of empty RV slots!
            All along southern Idaho the mountains of Central Idaho poked there lofty peaks above the horizon – snow on the peaks, but the lower elevations are fairly bare.  We have a pretty good tailwind much of the way, but when we turned south we started battling tumbleweeds for awhile! 
            We stopped in Buhl for gas and then pulled over in the side parking lot to grab a bite to eat from the trailer.  Rick then took us the final hour into Jackpot, while I called to confirm that Cactus Pete’s Saguaro RV Park had plenty of room and to check on the status of TV, wifi, etc.  She assured me there would be no need to make a reservation, no water was turned on except in the restroom, and the price would be $20. 
            Rick and I had to laugh as we pulled into the ‘lower lot’ – we were the only rig in sight!!  So we took a spot near the restroom/laundry.  Walked up to the casino/hotel to register and pay (and get the code for the bathroom!), extended our walk a little to stretch our legs.  We played a little Frisbee for awhile and then some Frisbee golf while the place was empty.  (By that time one other trailer had pulled in!) 
Didn't get much of the sunset, but it lit up the sky for awhile!
My pinecone flower. 
            Evening now and there are 5 of us in this lower section.  The upper section is closer to the casino and cheaper, but there are no restrooms there!  Must be at least a dozen rigs in that section. 

            We had the first of the four frozen soups I brought from our freezer at home for dinner.  Tomorrow we will drive straight down the middle of Nevada to the RV park in Alamo, about 90 miles north of Las Vegas.  All two lane roads!!  

Wednesday, February 25
Jackpot,NV to Alamo NV
350 miles

     Brrr!  It was brisk last night – probably in the 20’s – but with a good gusty wind going much of the night.  At least I could hear the flaps of the bed rippling at times. 
Sunrise to the east.
            I was up at 6….8 hours was enough sleep!  And I had been drawing a picture in my mind for the last half hour….it was time to get up and put it to paper!  The sun rises early this far east and still on Pacific Time!  I saw the beauty right as I got up.   Eventually we got going, ate some oatmeal, and pulled out of the campground around 8:10.  We weren’t the last to leave….one other rig was still there! 
Mts. west of Hwy 93 between Jackpot and Wells. 
            Rick drives the scenic 70 miles down to Wells – on I-84 – where we stop to gas up at the Flying J.  The route gently climbs west of China Hat Mt and then descends down to Wells.  There are a number of wildlife crossings – two tunnels and two overpasses.  It is barren, high desert land with snowy peaks in every direction. 
Mountain range near Wells, NV.
            Southwest of Wells lies a major mountain range which includes the Ruby Mountains.  Peaks over 10,000 feet and spectacular cliffs, cirques, and ridges.  Rick obliged by taking a few pictures as I was driving the 135 miles down to Ely, NV. 
Rick's photo!
            I enjoy driving through Nevada, especially this time of year when the peaks still have plenty of snow.  The groundcover is rather drab – willows were showing color only in a few places and everything else is some shade of brown.  But the mountains are everywhere! 
Go Pony Express rider!
     About 40 miles north of Ely we stop at a rest stop built on the Pony Express Route.  Good interpretative signs of the short-lived but essential communication link for the country in the late 1800’s.  The railroad rendered the Pony Express obsolete, but for the years it operated a message could travel from coast to coast in 10 days. 
            Stop in Ely for more gas (while the prices are greatly improved over a year ago, the truck STILL needs a good drink every 175-200 miles or so to be safe!  We try to operate on the top 2/3s of the tank!  Lunch at the Subway located right at the junction with US Hwy 6.  I tried calling the Alamo RV Park to verify campground options but also to verify gas was available in Alamo, as we can’t make it clear to Las Vegas….and options are VERY limited on this stretch of road!  The number had been disconnected.  Hmmmm….we push on regardless with Rick driving the final 150 miles.   
Ward Mountain views on 318 south of Ely, NV.
            Hwy 318 was recommended to us 21 years ago the first time we drove down to Benson, AZ to visit Rick’s folks.  It shaves 40 miles off the Hwy 93 route and takes you down the White River Valley, Narrows, ranches, horses, cattle, and mountains on either side.  We saw a cowboy riding along the road in one spot who looked very ‘authentic’!     
            We find gas at Ash Springs for $2.45 – prices have been higher since we left Idaho.  Even Las Vegas is in the $2.30 range.  (Still beats the $4.15 we paid in Austin, NV two years ago!)  And then the final 7 miles down to Alamo.  The RV park is still in operation with new managers and owners.  Name change, phone change, etc.  All settled in to site 3 (close to the bathrooms!)
            We take a walk around the town – only church we saw was the LDS, lots of mobile homes, a beautiful new children’s park, nice new high school, etc.  The little Mexican restaurant right next to the RV Park comes highly recommended, but we ate out at lunch!  Maybe next time we will plan on it!   
            Leftover SouperBowl Sunday soup for dinner.  Tasted just as good as it did a month ago when Luke brought it over after church for us!  (We were home sick that Sunday.)  Quiet evening.  Tomorrow??  New highway, as we plan to head down 95 toward Blythe (although the price of gas on the California side of the border is horrible.  Example:  Needles, CA $3.69; Bullhead City, AZ $2.05.  Go figure!!! )  Our ultimate goal is Quartzsite or Tonopah, AZ.  If we can make it to Tonopah, it will be an easy day into Tucson on Friday (Rick wants to beat the afternoon rush hour traffic and we have to go to the east side of town!)
            TV, reading, drawing, writing, crosswords and Soduko round out the evening!   

Thursday, February 26
Alamo, NV to Tonopah, AZ
383 miles

            Today we traveled new highways!  We entered Mountain Time zone (for good!)  And we paid a high gas price (hopefully for the trip!)  We knew we had a longer day ahead on desert roads plus a time change, so we were up and on the road shortly after 7 am. 
            Rick drove down the Pahranagaset Valley toward Las Vegas.  The morning was clear at first, but as we neared Vegas clouds seemed to form on a ridge of snow dusted peaks.  Such jagged ranges of mountains.  But we did see our first Joshua trees and soaptree yuccas – welcome to the southwest!
            Down into the chaos of Las Vegas – of note is a spectacular ridge of high mountain peaks in the distant west.  Otherwise….lots of traffic, smog, and noise!  We gas up at the Craig Road Pilot and head down the east side of town toward Boulder. 

            Just before Boulder, we veer off familiar highway and head south of US 95 toward Searchlight, NV and Needles, CA.  The first section of the highway is a long gradual uphill draw, but straight as an arrow and divided four lane.  That lasted until the turn off for Laughlin and Bullhead City – MAJOR snow-bird areas.  Then 95 became a two lane, but still fairly straight as it cut down a broad valley toward Needles.  I started driving in Searchlight, where we also gassed up again (getting gas when we can today) – we messed up and paid $2.89 for our gas instead of the cheaper $2.74 station down the road, but we had trouble getting the truck and trailer into the latter, so we decided to just eat the whole dollar more we paid for 6 gallons! 
            I didn’t even look at the price of gas in Needles.  We just drove through and kept on going.  South of Needles 95 is a windy wavy highway – curvy and lots of dips.  I think Jed might have gotten car sick on the drive!  The sun was getting warm and by the time we got to Vidal Juntion (just west of Parker, AZ) I was ready to quit.  Only 103 miles, but not the easiest to drive.   We pulled over there and grabbed some lunch and Rick put on shorts – he was hot! 
            Parker, AZ sits rights on the Colorado River and across from the tiny town of Earp on the California side.  (The Earp brothers came to this area after leaving Tombstone and the OK Corral fiasco.)  We crossed the river on a lower bridge next to an old railroad bridge.  There wasn’t much river below as Parker sits between two of the major dams and lakes. 

            From Parker it is about  100 miles to Quartzsite and then Tonopah, located on I-10.  The terrain is much like southern New Mexico -  dry desert with rabbitbush, creosote, mesquite, palo verde trees, yucca, and…after leaving Parker, sajuaro cactus!  We also saw some familiar yellow, orange, and purple wildflowers along the road.  In the distance are jagged rocky peaks of varying elevations.  The formations are pretty cool in places, but such a hot area. 
            Quartzsite was nice to see, but I wouldn’t want to stay in this RV haven of the southland!  So many places where you can just boondock out in the desert, as well as the 20 some RV parks in the area. 
            If Saddle Mt. RV Resort wasn’t located in Tonopah, I’m not sure why the town would exist.  It is a little crossroads on the freeway with a couple gas stations and cafes.  But down the road is a huge resort for RV snow-birds!  We were a little intimidated and if the price had been too high, we would have gone on down the road to Buckeye.  But full hookup for the night was only $28.80 and the park is meticulously maintained.  I think there is a palm tree growing at every site!  Lots of recreation facilities – Rick took advantage of the weight room, I walked around talking with Luke on the phone, and then just sat and watched a gorgeous sunset light up the sky.  Tonopah is about 30 miles west of Phoenix.  We will cut down tomorrow at Buckeye and avoid the Phoenix mess! 

Sunset reflected in front grill of
            We tried calling and emailing Scott today, but no response to date.  Hopefully all will be good for our arrival tomorrow, but CHRPA is closed on Friday so we were hoping to get a few questions answered.  Ah well.  We’ll figure it out!  
            I forgot to mention a major breakthrough yesterday.  I backed up the trailer – first time!  And it wasn’t far – maybe 20 feet, but I went into reverse!!  (I had pulled too far forward thinking there was a space at a rest stop on the other side of a truck, but no….thankfully NO ONE was behind me in the parking lot!)   End result?  We got parked, but I probably need considerably more practice! 
Sunset in Tonopah

Friday, February 27 
Tonopah to Tucson, AZ
185 miles

            Ah!  It is wonderful to waken to the sound of birds chirping and then watch  the glow of the sun rising as I sit in my trailer corner.  This can be a more leisurely morning as we have less than 4 hours to travel to Tucson. 
            We gas up at the Shell station for $2.59 credit card price – not cheap, but the coffee refills were only 75 cents each, so we saved the difference there!  I took the wheel first this morning (to avoid the Tucson traffic later!) 
            East on I-10 to Hwy 85 south toward Gila Bend and I-8.  The highway is flanked by the jagged ridgelines of mountains arising out of the desert.  As we travel we start to see more and more saguaros dot the horizon – their arms reaching out to embrace our return to the southwest?  At one point Rick fingers the sky and we see six skydivers floating down to the earth!  After turning east on I-8 toward Casa Grande we pass through Saguaro National Monument.  We are delighted to see all the different personalities of the plants.  I am surprised that I have a long gradual uphill climb to get to the top of a small pass.  There we find a picnic area and a spot to switch drivers, use our own potty, and take some pictures!! 
            Near Casa Grande and south of Phoenix (we missed it all!) we pull over to a Flying J just to top off and arrive in Tucson with at least a half tank of gas.  Prices seem to be dropping now as we near Tucson.  I am amazed with how green the desert is – a carpet of tiny green grasses, the rabbit brush flowering and greening, yellow bushes everywhere, and in spots what looks like bluebonnets alongside the highway!  Bluebonnets!  And lots of orange desert mallow. 
            There is a lot of traffic going through Tucson – trucks especially it seems – but Rick guides us safely through and with ONE try we swing into our spot at the CHRPA RV Resort!  (All 5 spaces of it and we fill the final spot!)  We are exactly where we were last year – in the second spot along the side.  Ali drove in shortly after our arrival and delivered the BEST news….Walter and Loreen are here!!   Sooo good to see them, as we visited for awhile later in the afternoon with Walter and then went over to see Loreen.  Ted and Eleanor from New Hampshire are still here; Duane and Bonnie will be leaving on Sunday (we barely met them last year as Duane was recovering from a heart attack!)  The last trailer is occupied by Marj and Bruce’s daughter and husband from the Yukon.  They are working for CHRPA while enjoying visit time with their folks.  So…we see some familiar faces which is fun! 
            Our first business is food!  It is now nearly 2 pm and time to eat some lunch!  We decide to do our grocery shopping at Neighborhood Wal-mart and visit the El Sur restaurant next door.  One of our Tucson favorites.  Less than $14 later (including tip) we are full, and I have enough to take home for dinner! Good food, good service, and great prices! 
            Now that we are here, we stock up our supplies and fill the fridge, etc.  We hadn’t oversupplied the trailer before the trip. 
The mesh screen sunset
            It feels good to be settled in one place for three weeks – we are able to pull out the front bed and suddenly have ‘sprawl’ space – food can be left readily available, I have work room for drawing etc., and we have hot water in the trailer!  (We hadn’t bothered lighting the water heater gas for the short stops coming down.)
            Our reward?  Promptly at 6pm the sun sinks below the west horizon and for the next 45 minutes the sky swirls in shades of red, orange, gray, and blue.  I pop outside three times for pictures and then give up and just let the screen squares of the window mark my photos.  This is one of my favorite parts of the CHRPA ‘resort’ – An unblemished view both east and west for sunrise and sunset glory! 
            A weekend to explore closeby!  (We are done driving for abit!)
Tucson Sunset #1

Saturday, Feb 28  (End of the month!)
Saguaro National Park East & Thrift Stores!

Click HERE to view all our Saguaro NP photos

            Ah….a day to relax and recreate after a week of travel.  We aren’t too ambitious too fast this morning and we have fairly modest goals for the day: a hike and thrift stores! 
Poppies in bloom!
            We take off around 10 heading East toward Saguaro National Park East and a couple thrift stores on 22nd enroute.  We never find the first one, but spend a little time at the second.  I find a pair of good jeans and a book.  Then the surprise that everything is 50% off today!  Hurray! 
            It doesn’t take long to drive out to the park as it is right on the edge of town.  A quick visit to the Center and we start the loop drive around to the Loma Verde Trailhead.  Rick found an easy 3.8 mile loop trail that has a viewpoint near the middle.  Sounds good!  We just need to stretch our legs after sitting so much. 
            I won’t give a play by play but it was a good hike.  The desert seems very green right now with fresh grass growing, the ocotillo is covered with thin green leaves, flowers are blooming.  The only cactus blooms right now are the fishhook cactus with bright yellow fruit showing, and the bright red tiny fruit on the pencil cholla cactus.  But we found fields of yellow flowers, poppies, orange mallow, and several different purple flowers that I couldn’t identify.  Prickly pear, teddy bear cholla, pencil cholla, saguaros, fishhook, hedgehog cactus, plus lots of mesquite and palo verde trees.  It is a very different kind of beauty, but when you get into a thick clump of saguaros, you feel a kind of reverence like walking among the giant redwoods.  These cactus are so tall and so old. 
Rick looks so small in comparison. 
Camoflage prickly pear!
Cool designs on the top of a young saguaro
Panorama of the GREEN desert!
    It was nearly 2 pm when we got back to the truck and we decided a small treat was in order to tide us over to an early dinner!  We found a MacDonalds and I had a small cone while Rick had a McFlurry!  Then stops at three more thrift stores along Broadway and Speedway – Rick is looking for some work pants and we have a mission to find Andi and Dan some Spanish children’s books.  Well, Rick struck out, but at the last shop we found three books for Andi! 
Tucson Sunset #2

            Back to CHRPA resort for dinner!  We cooked up the trout Conklins gave us prior to leaving and the asparagus left from Bountiful Baskets a week ago.     A little sweet tater and we were good!   To top off the evening, another pretty sunset, although this one was much shorter – done in 20 minutes.  I went looking for the prickly pear behind the office where I took pictures last year, but it is a jungle back there right now and the cactus looks like it lost a couple of arms.  L   

Sunday, March 1
Shalom Mennonite Worship

      You can't get a much more relaxing day that today!  Rick actually took a walk, but I have to admit I never left the Shalom complex today!  The weather was a perfect 70 degrees, albeit windy in the afternoon.  I worked on drawings, writing, and read the first 'book' in the Reader's Digest Condensed edition I picked up in Alamo.  I probably got a little color on my arms and legs in the sunshine!  We did laundry, talked to our moms.  I wrote some postcards to mail on Monday morning.  And finally, we gathered with many of the SOOPS in the lounge for games and puzzles from 6-8 pm.  
      Worship this morning was a large crowd - the parking lot was the fullest I have ever seen it.  Eleanor said it is because many of the usual Mennonite snowbirds haven't left for parts north yet - several of them declared their home churches didn't have worship this morning because of deep snow left last night.  The poor East coast!  
      I enjoy worship in this church for many reasons, but the music is a huge part.  There is no piano player or organist - just a flute and a couple of guitars in this instance.  One nice surprise was to see Mike Virga, a former CHRPA employee, playing guitar with Dan Regier (Dan is a permanent CHRPA worker who is very active in the Shalom fellowship).  There is no choir because the congregation is the choir.  We sang a familiar hymn in the middle of the service and all they played was the opening 4 notes and suddenly four part harmony echoes in the room.  Dan introduced another song as we added the layers of harmony one at a time.  The effect is so magical....and spiritual.  A good stirring sermon on the meaning of the word Shalom.  
      I took a few minutes in the afternoon to complete my Lent challenge today - cleaning up some litter around the complex.  But few pictures, other than to run outside during puzzle time to snap a quick panorama of tonight's sunset!
Tucson  Sunset #3
     Tomorrow we start CHRPA work....end of this post enroute.  We are here and work begins!!

No comments:

Post a Comment