Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making it back to Missouri

We finally officially left the Southwest by going east in New Mexico all of 16 miles to Texas & Central TimIMG_5425e, ending up at Roaring Springs Camping Club (a private golf & camping club in the Coast to Coast network), somewhere east of Plainview TX. There were six or seven different camping areas, some up on a butte, some along a stream, some in a canyon, & some next to the golf course clubhouse (which is where we parked). I could pick up a screaming fast wifi from the clubhouse, but had to walk up near it to make a phone call (standing in one spot, facing a specific direction). There was lots & lots of green grass (Kira loved that) & lots of mesquite trees & blooming redbud trees, while still allowing for a satellite signal. Really nice campground . . .except for that no cell phone signal.











While hanging out in the golf course, we drove north an hour or so to visit Caprock State Park, the southern end of the same geologic feature that created Palo Duro Canyon to the north (which we stopped to visit last spring on our eastern migration). It has some spectacular red cliffs & rocks for Texas, but once you’ve seen southern UT, it takes a lot to beat those big red rocks. The park also has a huge herd of bison.

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We got a phone call on the day we left from a chiropractor’s office which the VA in Branson referred Jeff to. Great, fantastic — except they wanted to see him Monday. . .4 days before we were planning on getting back to Branson. So, we stirred the jello & traveled for three days straight (something we’ve learned gets real uncomfortable) instead of hanging out for several days of recuperation.

We stopped for the night at the campground in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton OK & Ft Sill. And there really were mountains there in the OK plains. It must be really pretty when all the trees get leafed out. The refuge has a large herd of bison, plus wild turkeys & longhorn cattle.



The next we morning, we hustled off to another Coast to Coast campground near Eufaula Lake OK, also a private campground connected to C2C. A huge storm area was heading toward us, so we actually pulled out of camp at 5:37am the next morning so we could stay ahead of the rain. Every time we stopped that morning, sprinkles caught up to us. Once we got to Ft Smith AR tho, the rain continued east & we headed north. We pulled into Compton Ridge Campground in Branson at 11am — nicely ahead of the rain that arrived early evening. Yeah — we’re home!!

That was 3 weeks ago & since then Jeff’s had several chiropractic treatments that are helpful & Kira had surgery to remove the worry wart from her side (a fatty cyst diagnosed last summer). That place annoyed her all winter & she was continually chewing it raw. Turns out it had become cancerous, & since dogs can smell cancer, she knew it didn’t belong on her side. She handled the surgery, stitches, huge area shaved on her side, & the cone around her neck extremely well for two weeks. I continue to be so in awe of how well animals cope with unexpected events — mainly since they don’t have the kind of expectations that we humans have. However, that first evening, she was definitely working on giving us poor puppy-dog eyes.

The only significant thing to happen besides Jeff’s chiropractic treatments & Kira’s surgery since returning to Branson is that I finally decided to replace my Windows 7 heavy, hot, bulky laptop that has a new keyboard that has once again developed keys that don’t work. Makes for very difficult typing. And as much as I LOVE my Samsung Galaxy S5 smart phone, typing, viewing, & editing photos on it just doesn’t work well for me. After much research & sleeping on it, I finally selected an Asus Aspire Switch 10, a 10” screen 2-&-1 Windows 8.1 computer that has a decent enough keyboard with a detachable screen making it a handy little tablet. Besides the learning curve getting used to Win8.1, I’m really happy with this inexpensive, not terribly fast or powerful but lightweight, versatile, & runs cool computer. I can once again create blog posts using Windows Live & view/edit photos using Picasa (the main things I want a Windows computer for). Haven’t gotten back to spreadsheets yet, but they are my original passion on computers. I still prefer reading email & playing solitaire & Sudoku on my phone, but using an external USB 500G hard drive attached to the keyboard, I can back up every & anything & keep the zip-drive-style 64G hard drive in my computer’s screen from filling up. And I really, really like the touch screen even when the keyboard is attached.

Seems April has been cooler, cloudier, & windier than usual, but that’s what jackets are for. I’m just hoping we can escape the hot, humid muggies of summer in the Ozarks by going somewhere cool & dry (north and/or up in elevation).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary & Pie Town NM

Location: Roaring Springs, United States

We had wanted to visit Pie Town NM back in January on our way to AZ, but after the frigid, snowy experience near Albuquerque over Christmas, we didn't make it until March - a much nicer time for northern NM & AZ.

There are now THREE pie bakeries in Pie Town. The original Pie-O-Neer is only open Friday thru Sunday. The 2nd bakery is open Sunday thru Wednesday. And we arrived on a Thursday. Thankfully, the latest bakery - Danc-Syn Windmills - on the north side of the highway, at the east end of "town", had just opened for business the day before. An old, 2-room log cabin is the pie & curio shop. Six to eight old windmills, some intact, some wooden, are in the front area along Hwy 60.

And the little pot-pie sized pies were FABULOUS. I got a pecan & a berry supreme (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, & strawberries), & Jeff got apple & another berry supreme. OH MY - so worth the wait!

The other NM stop on my bucket list was a visit to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, north of Pie Town a couple of hours. I know some people think wild wolves should all be exterminated (mainly big-money ranchers & hunters with political clout), but wolves (& hawks) touch my soul. Plus I distrust anyone who is so ignorant, arrogant, damaged, and/or greedy to think they have a right to kill or torture any animal, wild or domestic. It’s the worst of human nature if they can't feel compassion, respect, & kindness towards all animals.

So I had an hour & a half walking tour of the huge wolf pens, each containing a male & a female - all neutered. The sanctuary also had coyotes, singing dogs, hybrid wolf-dogs, dingos, a red fox, & a few regular dogs (up for adoption).

The best part was hearing the entire hillside of wolves HOWLING. Even the coyotes tried to howl (they can only yip.) The whole valley vibrated with the howls.

We spent the night dry camping, & left early the next morning for the 2 hr drive back to Hidden Valley RV Campground, east of Albuquerque where we experienced our week of winter weather during Christmas.

We passed right by El Morro National Monument on Hwy 53. Mighty big chunk of white rocks.

When we got to Hidden Valley, I just HAD to mention the half dozen issues we had previously, & since I had my arguments & logic all planned, the office staff was as nice as could be. He returned the money the washing machine ate that I couldn't get because we left before the office opened, & didn't charge us the $3/day extra since we left 3 days early before which we had paid for. We even got to pick the site we wanted, & chose one of the few back in sites so we didn't have traffic driving past us all around. And the weather was definitely much nicer this time. It’s the only Coast to Coast campground in all of New Mexico, so chances are good we'll return.

From Albuquerque, we returned to Oasis State Park near Clovis NM (16 miles from the TX border) to use our NM Park Pass one last time. It expired the end of March 2015. Last year when we got it March 1st, we spent all month in NM, & again all of December 2015, so it definitely paid for itself. There's nothing hard about  $4/night for electric & water hookups. And nearly every site at every park has shelters over picnic tables.

After 3 months of Mountain Time in NM & AZ, (with a week in CA on Pacific time), then 3 weeks of Pacific Time in AZ when Daylight Saving Time started (AZ changes time zones, not time), then four nights in Mountain Time back in NM, we finally returned to Central Time in TX. It’s SO nice having my cell phone keep track of the local time (& time zones), but Kira's "feed me" time doesn't adjust as easily when changing time zones tho. Hard to explain it to a dog!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Congress AZ BLM

Well, catch-up time again. We left Quartzsite for a 4 - night stay in another Coast to Coast campground near Salome AZ. We really are trying hard to get as much benefit from this rather expensive camping club. And since cloudy days & rain have dogged us & our solar panels all winter, we keep needing to plug in.

The KOA campground was nice enough - for a gravel parking lot, but all the winter residents drove ATVs or UTVs around daily. Not a lot of peaceful time.

We're waiting for winter to finally end in MO, so decided to check out the BLM camping north of Congress AZ instead of heading to NM yet. We also stopped in to say "Hi" to AL & Kelly of The Bayfield Bunch blog on our way up Ghost Town Road. They came out to visit with us a few days later. And that Phoebe dog is so precious.

We made a couple of trips into Wickenburg, & although we've been thru it before, we're really feeling comfortable in the area. Phoenix  (Walmart, Lowes, Trader Joe's, PetSmart, & a few other toy stores) is just an hour away, & yet Wickenburg has a comfortable, western town feel. There are realistic statues around town depicting its history. And learning about the mainly mining history of the area is becoming more interesting to me than anywhere else. Yet it's a real western town with lots of cowboys & girls & horses.

Overall, we were very happy & content with this camping area, & especially our spot next to a couple of palo verde trees. And the young but big saguaro right in front of our door was always a pleasant view. Mountains ring the canyon around us, & all the campers are spread out. A live rattlesnake was spotted in front of another RV the other afternoon tho, so these higher than normal temps this month have the snakes stirring earlier than usual.

There are two cemeteries nearby: a modern one & an old pioneer cemetery. The old one was intense.

We took a drive up to Yarnell where the Hotshots were killed. Didn't see too much evidence of the fire, but lots of new houses. Huge boulders litter the area west of town with houses backed right up to them. Amazing.

The divided road up/down the side of the mountain is fantastic - & the views of the valley are awesome.

Also trekked down a dirt road to another BLM area near Stanton, but not as big, flat, or easy to get in & out of. Lots of big, mature saguaros I couldn't resist photographing.

Oh, & there's the big rock along Hwy 89 painted green because it resembles a giant frog.

Of couse, the AZ sunsets continued to be awe inspiring!!

Unfortunately, Jeff's back was hurting extremely during a rainy weekend, & he finally decided to try chiropractic treatments. After four adjustments from a Wickenburg chiropractor, he was feeling much better. Seems last year's bulging disc is caused by both vertebrae above & below it twisting & squishing the disc out to touch his sciatic nerve. Made a lot of sense (finally) since he's had a history of this causing one leg to be shorter & backaches.

Because of his back, I got (was forced) to learn how to handle dumping our tanks (with our macerator pump & a hose down a gopher hole in the sand, filling our fresh water tank from the water bladder on top of the pickup cab, charging our batteries with the pickup during rainy/cloudy days (we're looking at maybe getting a small, quiet, lightweight generator for those cloudy spells), switching propane tanks, & moving/stowing our solar panels. What a way to get exercise (& needed experience)!! We hope the VA will authorize chiropractic treatments for Jeff when we get back to Branson in April.

Since the SW heated up earlier than normal, we decided it was time to head north, & eventually east. After 5 weeks at this lush, quiet, unattended BLM spot, we reluctantly moseied off to Phoenix for a couple of nights parked on the street in front of my cousin's house. The cacti are bursting with blooms in Phoenix.

Finally we headed north on I-17 to spend a couple on nights boondocking on Crown King Rd before getting into Camp Verde RV Campground  (another Coast to Coast campground) for a few days to refresh our tanks, water, & batteries.

Before reluctantly leaving AZ, we spent a few days parked next to my cousin's cabin near Heber, way up on top of the Mogollon Rim. It’s usually 25-30° cooler up there than in Phoenix. Gorgeous country!!! but the elevation over 7,000' is slightly uncomfortable.

So finally we headed east to NM, nearly a month later than previous years. We've really fallen in love with AZ this winter & are not looking forward to Spring in MO with the humidity, bugs, & tornado risks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valley of Fire SP, NV

Location: Surprise, United States

After seeing Hoover Dam, we drove north toward Valley of Fire SP, just south of Overton, NV, & right next to the northern edge of the Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area. About 2 miles beyond the Park entrance is a free boondocking area. I don't think it's actually BLM, just no one's cares. It’s called Snowbird Mesa & is a couple of fingers of land (flat, gravelly  mesas) above Overton, NV & the Virgin River just before it becomes Lake Mead (the same river cutting thru Zion NP). The highway dips down sharply past the entrance to the area, so the edges of this area are pretty high. Nighttime viewing of Overton's lights was fabulous. It wasn't crowded & everyone was spaced out. Didn't talk to any neighbors & only saw a couple of campers to wave at.

We spent about 3 hours mostly driving thru Valley of Fire SP. There is a $10 self-pay station near the entrance, but the highway comes out on the west side at I-15.

This place is amazing to see & intriguing from a geological point of view. The red Aztec sandstone formations (old sand dunes turned to stone) are younger than the grey, limestone tops of some areas. Very strange. The wind erosion has created awesome formations, including lots & lots of arches (tho none as big as at Arches NP).

We had a pleasant, sunny 2 - night stay here, & Jeff got to watch the Super Bowl as well. We drove into Overton also to the only grocery store in the area. Nice selection & prices weren't bad.

On the way back to Quartszite for the Fiberglass Rally, we took the AZ route into Kingman. South of Hoover Dam is a scenic view where the Colorado River makes a sharp cut west thru the mountains. Pretty spectacular. There's a road down to the River & some kind of recreation area we didn't go see.

We stopped at Walmart on the north edge of Lake Havasu City & spent the night at another Coast to Coast campground in Earp, CA (across the Colorado at Parker AZ). I wanted to do some laundry but the campground was working on the plumbing so the laundry was closed. At least the sunset was awesome.

We made it back to Quartszite on Wednesday & the Rally officially started Friday. Got laundry done finally on Thursday. Met old friends & made a few new ones. Officially had 104 fiberglass rigs show up. Nice weather finally for good solar. We didn't leave until Tuesday cause that 10-day trip up to Death Valley & Hoover Dam & back had us needing to vegetate for awhile. I guess leaving Q means we're now on our way east to MO finally. Boy, the winter everywhere north & east of AZ has just been brutal at times, so once again, we are OUTRAGEOUSLY grateful for the chance to enjoy this winter in the SW. I just love having wheels on my bed!

Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

Location: Surprise, United States

We left Death Valley in the rain & low clouds over the mountains, drove thru Red Rock Canyon in the gloom, & decided to stay at the commercial side of Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation Area (the other side of the camping area with a senior pass discount is dry camping) to replenish our batteries with electricity, fill up with water, & dump our tanks. Plus it's located on the west side of Lake Mead with a good view of the main body of the Lake, & only a few highway miles actually from Hoover Dam.

Although walking along Hoover Dam is free, parking in the multi-story parking garage is $10. Not a bad overall charge for the visit, I guess, & we didn't want to walk all the way down hill (& then back up) from the free area on the east side of yhe Dam. The visitor center charged to just go in (like the one at Gettysburg), & I don't think that's right - so I didn’t go in!

The road to the Dam has gorgeous views of the Bypass Bridge south of the Dam, but the sides on the Bridge are too high to get even a glance at the Dam driving over it. The red rock walls are very tall above the very narrow canyon cut by the Colorado River, so it was a perfect location for the Dam.

There are several nice statues & plagues on the west side of the actual dam. And it was fascinating to see how the concrete edge of the Dam meshed with the sides of the canyon.

And the view from the Dam looking DOWN to the Colorado River nearly gave me vertigo!

The water intake towers are massive, & even more so with the lake so low.

The kewlest part almost was the plague & marker for the Arizona - California border. Jeff has a foot in each state.

We're really glad we made the effort to see Hoover Dam. We've watched numerous documentaries thru the years on the building, dangers, & struggles of building this dam, so now we know up close what a triumph it was.

The Lake must have been even more beautiful when it was fuller. That bathtub ring is rather distracting. The National Recreation Area is on both sides (both states) of the Lake & runs north beyond the Lake area, plus along both sides of the Colorado River until just north of Bullhead City, NV, almost to the southern edge of NV.