Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Parker (AZ) to Mesquite (NV) - 265 miles

March 22-26, 2012 - We drove out of Arizona on Thursday to begin our trek home.  It was a beautiful drive through the Lake Mead Recreation Area in Nevada.  We stopped near the lake for a long lunch break.  The 45-mile drive on Northshore Road was gorgeous with its red boulders and rock formations.

When we got to Mesquite (NV), we tried to find a hotel room for Thursday night.  The casino hotel was "sold out" due to a golf event.  Another hotel only had a suite for $179/night!  We ended up at the casino RV park.  We were so disappointed.  We had really wanted a room for the night.  We've been living in 160 square feet of RV space for so long.  This would have been our first night in a hotel since we got to our RV in Tucson at the end of January. 

We stayed with Tom's brother, Paul, for the rest of the weekend.  It was great to visit with him.  We really enjoyed spreading out in his home!  Even the cats loved the open space!  We spent four days eating at great restaurants, hiking along the Virgin River, golfing (Tom and Paul, not me!), star gazing miles outside of town on BLM land, and reading family journals.  The journals were written by Tom's dad when he was drafted into the army in mid-1940, through his cancelled Christmas furlough after Pearl Harbor, and then his army time in 1942 and 1943.  We're not sure if there was a 1944 journal, the year he got married.  Tom's dad died last year.  This was the first time that Tom and his brother knew about the journals, so it was interesting to listen to the journal entries as they each took turns reading them aloud. 

Tom and I are on our way home now.  We're watching the weather reports and road conditions to help us plan our drive through the mountain passes along the way.  We left Mesquite on Tuesday morning, taking advantage of clear roads to go through Utah's mountain passes.  We're hoping to be home by the end of March, but that may change if we have to wait a day or two before going through the Blue Mountains in Oregon.  I'll email to let you know when we get home.  

Winnebago and Subaru on Lake Mead

Tom and Paul at Cedar Pocket along the Virgin River

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Big River (CA) to Parker (AZ) - 22 miles

March 19-21, 2012 - We moved to Havasu Springs Resort on Monday morning.  This RV resort is on the Colorado River just above the Parker Dam where the river widens to create Lake Havasu.  It caters to those who buy a membership into their resort.  We stopped to ask about their $10/night special advertised along the highway.  By attending a 90-minute presentation to explain their membership program, we got an RV site for three nights at $10.00/night and a $40 coupon toward dinner at their restaurant.  Even though RV resort membership is not for us, we enjoyed the use of their facilities to launch our kayaks, sit at the beach to watch the sunsets, and eat at the Springs Restaurant.  We ordered the halibut and the salmon dinners - a touch of the Pacific Northwest! 

During our stay here, we also hiked at Buckskin Mountain State Park, ate a great catfish dinner at Bobby D's Diner in Parker, and kayaked in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.  We've enjoyed the quiet side of the Colorado River, but the season of high-speed motorboats is about to begin.  We're leaving at a good time!

We're heading to Tom's brother's house in Mesquite (NV) next.  He has not entered the computer age yet, so we will not have internet access while we are there.  I'll catch up with you later.

Tom paddling in the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge

A view of the desert mountains across the Colorado River from our RV Resort

Herons on top of a Refuge island at dusk (taken from the kayak)

Pat relaxing on a day hike at Buckskin Mountain State Park

Pincushion cactus ready to bloom at Buckskin Mountain

Kayaking up the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rio del Sol RV Haven (CA) to Big River RV Park (CA) - 4 miles

March 17-18, 2012 - We moved the RV to Big River RV Park Saturday morning, the same RV park that my parents spent their winters at twenty years ago.  Our RV is parked on a site right on the Colorado River.  We have a great view!  I've been imagining my mom and dad spending time here.  It's so great that Tom and I are staying here now.  I've called my mom a couple times to talk about their winters here.

We got to this RV park in time for a weekend storm.  We spent a lot of time in the RV as the winds blew, temperatures dropped, and rains fell.  Tom baked cookies one night.  We've done a lot of reading.  Also watched several Northern Exposure episodes on DVD.

Dark skies over the Colorado River

Chilly temperatures for the weekend

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mesa (AZ) to Big River (CA) - 194 miles

March 14-16, 2012 - On Wednesday, we visited Tom’s family, Ruth and Wayne, at their winter home in Mesa.  It was a beautiful afternoon to have drinks and snacks on their back patio and grilled burgers for dinner.  They live close to the Superstition mountains.  We’ll have to plan our time better on our next trip so we can spend more time exploring the area with them. 

Thursday was moving day again.  We stopped at a Ford dealer to get the oil changed in the RV.  Then we were on our way west.  We stayed on the Colorado River for two days at Rio del Sol RV Haven in Big River (CA).  RVs were packed in tighter than ever there!  The temps were hot, but we discovered that it was much cooler by the river with breezes blowing over the cool water.  So, we spent some time relaxing at the river with books and drinks.

On Friday, we drove up the California side of the Colorado River and down the Arizona side, crossing the narrow Parker Dam that forms Lake Havasu.  We found a national wildlife refuge where we can launch our kayaks.  We also found the RV park that my parents spent their winters at twenty years ago.  We plan to move to that park for the weekend.

Ruth, Tom and Wayne - Tom's family in Mesa (AZ)

Wild burros along the road near the Colorado River

Pat at the Colorado River

Sign at the Rio del Sol RV Haven

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mesa (AZ)

March 13, 2012 - The weather is absolutely perfect in the mornings here in the Phoenix area.  It has been getting really warm by the afternoon, though.  We decided to tour Taliesin West this afternoon.  Taliesin West is Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona home and work space, designed and built to blend in with the desert landscape.  We got the 90-minute guided tour and it was excellent.

Frank Lloyd Wright did not graduate from high school or college, but learned on the job with other architects.  He was a Wisconsin native and built his first home and architectural school in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  That home is called Taliesin, which means "shining brow."  Wright's technique was to locate a building below the ridge or peak of a hill or mountain, not at the top, so that it did not detract from the landscape.  Wright built Taliesin West in 1938, when he was seventy years old.  He lived to be 92.   He was on his third wife, who was about 30 years his junior.  Tom wonders if this is why he lived so long.

We stumbled onto a great restaurant on Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.  The Green Chili Corn Chowder at the Blue Adobe Grille was superb.  Tom got an Ancho Pulled Pork Sandwich with the best slaw topping I've ever tasted.  The homemade salsa was fantastic, too.  I'm coming back here again for the food!

Taliesin West near Scottsdale (AZ)

Frank Lloyd Wright's work space

Quote carved into a wall at Taliesin West

Monday, March 12, 2012

Amado (AZ) to Tucson (AZ) to Mesa (AZ) - 164 miles

March 8-12, 2012 - We spent a couple nights at the Gilbert Ray Campground, our favorite campground in Tucson Mountain Park.  We ran into cool and windy weather there.  It was so windy on Friday that we went to the Tucson Mall to escape the constant gusts of wind that were rockin' the RV and making outside activities unpleasant.  Lunch was great at an Italian restaurant, Brio Tuscan Grille, which was followed by dessert at The Cheesecake Factory.  The winds died down for the weekend.  We moved to a quiet site at the Western Way RV Resort in Tucson where we just relaxed by the pool and watched 'geezers in golf carts' rolling up and down the streets all weekend.

Today, we're up in Mesa at a huge RV park (about 800 sites), the Val Vista Village RV Resort.  It has been really warm here today - low 80's.  Tom and I wandered a bit to find the pool area and showers.  When we returned to the RV, Tom rolled out the awning, for the first time ever, and we had drinks and popcorn outside on our concrete patio.  We even took the cats out with us on their leashes. 

We've explored as far south in Arizona as we had planned.  Mesa marks the start of our return trip home.  We'll be taking our time as we travel north to Sequim.  It feels good to know that we'll be on the road to home.  I've been a little homesick lately, missing my home and friends and routines.  We love to travel, but it's so nice to go home, too!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Amado (AZ)

March 5-7, 2012 - Tom woke up with a cold Monday morning, so we spent two days hanging out at the RV listening to him sniffle.  I did make Chicken Noodle soup for him.  We’ve been reading and napping and planning new adventures. 

On Wednesday, we drove 20 miles to Arivaca Lake to spend the afternoon and have a picnic, but it was so windy and cool that we came back to the RV.  While we were at the lake, we did spot two Vermilion flycatchers, so we felt like real "birders."  There are a lot of Birders down here with their binoculars and massive lenses on their cameras.  We came through a Border Patrol station on our way back.  We've been through so many of those now that we're getting more comfortable with them.  It's fascinating to watch the drug-sniffing dogs at the major patrol stations.  Those dogs work feverishly to detect something illegal.  They must get some kind of grand reward for finding those drugs!  We spent the rest of the day in the RV because it was so windy and cool.  I'm feeling cramped in our 160-square-foot home.

We've decided to go back up to Tucson Mountain Park.  We really like the Sonoran desert there with the Saguaro cactus and Ocotillo and Prickly Pear.  So, we'll be leaving the high desert here in Amado today.  We're hoping to get back into the Gilbert Ray Campground, which means we won't have internet access again.  We'll catch up with you later.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Amado (AZ)

March 3-4, 2012 - Spent the weekend exploring the small towns of Tumacacori and Tubac just a few miles south of here.  There is a National Historical Park at Tumacacori preserving an old mission that operated in the 1700s.  We were lucky enough to be there when tortillas were being made over a mesquite fire in the courtyard.  They were so fresh and good filled with refried beans and salsa.  A presidio (fort) was built at Tubac in the 1700s to protect the missions in the area, but is now a cluster of galleries and artist studios with several great restaurants drawing tourists to the small downtown.

We walked on the Anza Historic Trail for a few hours one day and saw a Bald eagle soaring above the trees along the Santa Cruz River.  We also saw a Cooper's hawk and several bluebirds that day.  We also spent a lot of time relaxing and reading back at the RV.

Mission at Tumacacori National Historical Park

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs -- Tumacacori Antique Shop

Pat in Tubac courtyard with metal cactus fountain

Trail sign along Anza Historic Trail

Metal sculpture on top of signpost on Anza Historic Trail

Cooper & Teva waiting patiently for us to feed them

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tucson (AZ) to Amado (AZ) - 46 miles

March 2, 2012 - Moving day again... We're heading south, but we couldn't get away from Tucson Mountain Park, the large recreation area near Tucson where we've been playing for the past week and a half, without another hike.  Tom parked the RV at one of the pullouts and we hiked one more trail.  We were fascinated by the rock art we found.  Someone had created "Rock People" with beautiful rocks scattered everywhere along the trail.

We are now settled into the De Anza RV Resort at Amado (AZ), about 40 miles south of Tucson (AZ).  We'll be exploring this area for the next week.

"Rock People" art along the trail

The skeleton of a Saguaro cactus

More "Rock People" art along the trail

Tucson (AZ)

More pictures from Gilbert Ray Campground...

Tom at Petroglyph site - Saguaro National Park West
Close up of one of the petroglyph rocks
Saguaro National Park West vista from the Cactus Wren Trail
Wildflower along the trail
Teva looking out RVwindow at a bird on a cactus

Tucson (AZ) Gilbert Ray Campground - 6 miles

Feb. 28 - March 1, 2012 - We spent three nights at the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park.  This place is lovely.  We were surrounded by cactus and mountains and trails.  It was so nice to have open space around us!  The pictures tell it all... 

Tom relaxing at our camp site
Planning our Arizona adventures with Arizona Highways magazine at our outdoor rock coffee table
Lost sunglasses gracing the face of a Prickly Pear cactus
Tom behind a topiary-looking Cholla cactus

Beautiful rocks on the Brown Mountain Trail

Pat with a droopy Saguaro

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 27, 2012 - We drove south to Madera Canyon this morning to do a little hiking.  Madera Canyon is a popular birding destination about 20 miles south of Tucson that starts at 5,000 feet in elevation and goes up to about 9,500 feet.  It was nice to get to a higher elevation to hike among real trees.  There is still snow on the peaks of the Santa Rita mountains.  We’ll be returning to this area to spend a week hiking the trails in this national forest.  Today, we were just checking out the many hiking possibilities.  We also found a nice RV park nearby where we can stay when we come back.

Today, we will be moving our RV a few miles north to Gilbert Ray campground in Tucson Mountain Park.  We will not have internet service at this site.  I’ll be back in touch by the weekend when we get settled in the RV park near Madera Canyon.

Pat hiking in the mountains at Madera Canyon

Tom by a Sycamore tree near a creek in Madera Canyon

A pretty mountain shrub we found at Madera Canyon

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 26, 2012 - Today we drove up the road to Saguaro National Park West to hike and check out the Visitor Center.  Along the way, there was a man at one of the pullouts with his car hood raised.  (Tom says it wasn’t just any car - it was a 1973 Datsun 240Z.)  We stopped to find out if he needed help.  Sure enough, he was glad to be able to use our cellphone to contact AAA for a tow.  After a quick stop at the Visitor Center to get a trail map, we hiked up a wash to see the colorful display of blooming wildflowers.  We found a shady, CCC-constructed picnic shelter for a rest, then connected with other trails to make a loop back to our car.  It was a really pretty hike with wildflowers, cactus, rocky cliffs, and even an old mine.  We returned to the Visitor Center to look at the displays and watch the park movie.  After the movie, the curtains parted to show a full view of the outside desert.  What an ending!

Poppies and Lupines in the wash

Flowers and rocks along the trail

Tom and I went back to one of the pullouts in Tucson Mountain Park near sunset to watch the desert change in the cool of the evening.

Saguaro skeleton at sunset

Prickly Pear (with flash) at sunset

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 25, 2012 - We went back to downtown Tucson this morning to check out the 17th Street Market.  We thought it was going to be an outdoor Farmer’s Market spread out along 17th Street, but it was an indoor, specialty grocery store.  We bought a few special groceries (like Wisconsin summer sausage!) and took off in the car to explore the desert.  We made a big loop, going south through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, east toward Green Valley, and back up to Tucson.  Ate dinner at Los Nopales, a Mexican restaurant across the street from our RV park.  Tom ordered fish tacos and is ready to go back again for more.

Pat outside Los Nopales Mexican restaurant

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 24, 2012 - This morning we went to the El Presidio historic district of downtown Tucson.  A small Spanish fort was built here in 1775.  Now the streets are home to shops, restaurants, museums, government offices, and park areas.  We wandered through the streets and ended up at Enoteca, a pizza and wine bar, for lunch.  We sat at the bar and had a great conversation with a Milwaukee transplant to the Tucson area.  She talked to us about places we might want to see while we’re in southern Arizona.  She also told us that we had stumbled into one of the best restaurants in town!  I love sitting at the bar in small restaurants.  We always strike up a great conversation with anyone else sitting near us.    

We fell into a heat-induced state of laziness when we got back to the RV.  Temps reached 80 degrees today and the RV was very warm.  Charles J. Brady states, “The real measure of a day’s heat is the length of a sleeping cat.”  Our cats were stretched out to their full length.  It cools off nicely at sunset, though.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tucson (AZ)

Feb. 23, 2012 - We spent the day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  It is one of our favorite places to go when we're in Tucson.  The Desert Museum is a zoo, a natural history museum, and a botanical garden, all in one place.  We love watching the outdoor raptor shows where trainers bring out owls, hawks, ravens, and even a roadrunner to allow them to move in free flight.  They always come back for a tidbit of food tucked into the crevice of a branch or the fingers of the trainer's leather glove.  The Desert Museum is an awesome place to learn about the plants and animals of the Sonoran desert.

Gray Hawk at Desert Museum Raptor Show

Great-horned Owl at Desert Museum Raptor Show

Trainer "calling in" one of the hawks in flight

Roadrunner at Desert Museum (This gal is in training!)

Taking a break from the heat in the Desert Garden

When we got back to the RV, I discovered that I had left a cupboard door open in the bedroom.  Cooper and Teva, our bored cats, had pulled a bag of catnip out of the cupboard and had a great time of their own this afternoon.