Monday, February 25, 2019

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Lukeville; Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson; Kartchner Caverns Campground, Benson, Arizona

From Lake Mohave and Katherine's Landing we head back towards Quartzsite, Arizona.  On the way is a quick stop in Fort Mohave for an oil change for Lady Blue and haircuts for Jan and Bruce. A quick one night stay on BLM land in Quartzsite and we head out to Buckeye, off Route 10 for groceries and a bank stop. A short distance south on Route 85 to Gila Bend and a one night stop at KOA Journey( a wonderful laundromat). Then on our way further south through Ajo and Why to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument , one of our favorites!

Jan wants you to know that Organ Pipe cactus look like----wait for it----organ pipes.  Of course now we realize that many people have no idea what organ pipes look like. So here is a link to pictures of organ pipes  Organ Pipe pictures
Oh, and if you are not sure what organ pipes do-- here is another link for that--not too many people get to see or hear real organ pipes any more. 
Organ Pipes  and a listen.
The following link was a great discovery of a video made of the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia --the largest functioning musical instrument in the world.  Video of the the Wanamaker Organ

The first picture above was of our camping spot at Organ Pipe.
On a hiking trail to the Visitors Center Bruce has found a huge Saguaro. Either that or he shrunk.

It may be desert, but there are many signs of life around.
These flowers are close to the ground and only a few inches tall.
This video was on that walk when we came across a large number of Teddy Bear Cholla cactus.
This is a year that we have seen many European camping vehicles. Most of them have been high clearance , wilderness type of vehicles. This link will show some pictures of this German vehicle.  Some of the pictures look like adapted versions of dump trucks and others like something from an adventure movie.
Ormocar Images

Another small flowering plant . Looks like a poppy, but is a type of desert mallow.

Experimenting with panoramic pictures.
The problem here is that the view goes on further than the normal panorama picture width.

Jan likes this one----a younger organ pipe.

This has to be one of the oldest. The older parts die off and younger ones start at the base.

Some other flowers on bigger bushes.

This small trailer, a variation of teardrop campers, is outfitted to go with the back country Jeep that was with it.  The circle emblem is for Coachella Valley Overland. That is a group of thousands that enjoy using Jeeps on the off roads and backroads of the West.

Everything on the desert takes time. The ocotillo wait for rain and then produce leaves and flowers for a short time. The saguaro grow ony 1 to 1.5 inches in the first years. They take 50 to 70 years before they grow arms. In a more extreme dry climate they could take 100 years. An adult is usually 125 years old and they can live up to 150 to 200 years and weigh 6 tons or more.
How Saguaros Grow

Always on the lookout for RVs.
This example was at Organ Pipe. A Host truck camper on a dually truck.  One thing about truck campers is that you will see some units that are stretching the weight limits of their trucks. A half ton truck with two rear wheels( one each side-think F150) is designed basically to carry a half ton or 1,000 lbs. But you have to subtract the weight of passengers and add the weight of water, waste tanks, food, all other personal stuff to the weight of the camper. Now--the camper above is a great looking camper-- it weighs dry about 4,000 lbs. Hence the dually(4 rear wheels)truck Think Ford 350 or higher--a one ton truck plus.

From the back you can see that there are 3 slide outs, and good storage underneath. The entrance is on the right side.
Check this link for the Mammoth 11.6. Look at the pictures -- a top of the line truck camper. Scroll down under the pictures and click on the red rectangle that says Images Gallery
Web page for Host Mammoth 11.6 ft. Truck Camper

Jan caught this video from the outside campground loop looking north.
Some of the older Saguaro have holes in the arms.

The cactus wrens are just starting to think about nesting. You can see this is and was a popular nesting spot.

Okay.  You have to click on this video and turn up your volume.
You can see the Cactus Wren on top of the Saguaro.
What a singer!!

Lady Blue in our second spot at Organ Pipe.
The hoods are open to try to keep pack rats that live in the Prickly Pear Cactus from finding things they like under your hood---like insulation and wiring.

The Teddy Bear Cholla
Looks soft and cuddly?

A little closer.
Not so soft and cuddly.

And close up.
You want to avoid these!!
Couldn't resist the full moon and sunset colors on the far mountain.

Or just the moon over a nearby Saguaro.

So-------we knew a storm was coming. We had headed up Route 85 and then northeast on route 86 towards Tucson. This was Thursday. We woke up at Gilbert Ray County Park on Friday morning. The temperature was about 33 outside. It was supposed to be raining, but this is what we saw outside.  It snowed into the afternoon. 
It continued into the afternoon. This was the same day that the entire area around Tucson and Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon received quite a lot of snow.  Flagstaff recorded 40.3 inches of snow in the storm from late Wednesday through Friday.

On Saturday, this was the view on Route 19 heading towards Route 10 in Tucson. That should be Mt. Lemmon, elevation 9,157 feet. For comparison, our campsite in Gilbert Ray, nearby, was 2,627 feet.
A short detour west on Route 10 gives us this great view of downtown Tucson, high rises,  with snow covered mountains in the distance.

As we head east on Route 10 the elevation increases, and there is snow everywhere. Very unusual for Tucson area. New Englanders will find this unusual. This is the day after the snowstorm. The temperature is in the 40's now. Yet, driving on the Interstate, that was plowed, the snow on the side of the highway was still pure white. Super clean.  
Look at the foot of the hill and you will see about 25 cars of one of the sometimes 100 plus car trains.
So strange to see cactus covered with snow.
As we come off the hill , rolling northeast into Benson, Arizona. 
The view is northeast to some peaks over 7 to 8,000 feet.
Note the exit for Route 80 which takes us to Kartchner Caverns Campground and then continues down to Tombstone.
Just a light covering entering Kartchner.

Jan and I liked these signs from Kartchner Campground.
Looks like someone had etched a Roadrunner picture and more into the wood with a router and then painted everything and sealed it.
Same thing with a log cabin , ocotillo, and more.

In case you were wondering.
Having some fun with our mini-MG from our 50th celebration.
Yeah---we're probably losing it.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Salton Sea, California; Quartzsite, Arizona; Midland LTVA, Blythe, California; Katherine's Landing, Lake Mohave, Arizona

So, we have sidestepped the Salton Sea a few times. This time we decided to stop and see(the sea) and what it was all about.  Not much happening these days because the sea has been evaporating and turning quite salty.  But--back in the 1950's or so, the highway was crowded with vacationers and weekenders with swimming gear, boats, and fishing gear.  Even the migrating birds are now finding it hard to find fish that have survived the super salty water.

This is the beach area and the sea is well beyond.  The Salton Sea is still the largest lake in California , even with the evaporation. It was created by a break in a canal back in 1905. The water flow created this 340 plus square miles of saline lake. For years it was a stop for millions of migrating birds. But now, because inflow from some sources has been diverted and from evaporation, the salinity has all but stopped migrating birds and killed off the fish , like tilapia, that they fed  on.

Things we don't think about.
The San Andreas Fault line passes through this area.
And the fact above--Mt. San Jacinto at almost 11,000 feet and 
the Salton Sea , only 45 miles away at 232 feet below sea level.

Whenever we meet with western RVers, we often have heard about Slab City.  Everyone seems to say that you need to see Slab City.
Well we stopped by. A very unusual place . An old military base now inhabited by boondocking citizens. 

There are some artworks.

The most notable is Salvation Mountain, created by one man and has become an icon for Slab City. But these days the area is looking more trashy than ever.  We visited, but decided not to stay.

Heading north from Salton Sea, a few date palms.
It was so great to see friends once again at Quartzsite, Arizona LTVA.  The last time was two years ago.  Above is a small section of our Lazy Daze group.  Over 21 units this year. Still some great pot luck dinners and evening fires. Thank you to Roger again for hosting.
When we arrived the LTVA was officially closed because of the government shutdown.  However, with the help of volunteers and the town of Quartzsite, campers were welcome and the water and dump station and dumpsters were functioning. Before the week was done , the government reopened and most of the campers paid their $40 for14 days of camping with access to water and dump station.

Heading to the RV show tent . This year it is an antique Jeep.

I have a hard time telling the year on Jeep vehicles, but this one was definitely older.

Over by the Tyson Wells section of vendors is this rugged unit.
It is built on a Fuso truck body. Fuso is based out of Japan, but is now mostly owned by Daimler, a German company. They do distribute in the U.S. 
This is a very high clearance boondocking RV. This might be classified as a Class C or a Truck camper, but the camper body is permanently fixed to the frame.  Note the top is similar to a popup truck camper. Also comes with storage over the cab, a winch, and probably much more.

This monster tractor truck was attached to an equally painted and huge trailer. The main idea of the vendor was displaying some very large and polished diesel engines.

The newer units of displayed RVs are the newer Hymer Class B RVs
Jan checks out the loft of the model that is similar to the Volkswagon Westfalia
The link below is to a very thorough walk through of a Hymer.

While we are on newer RV models, let us throw out another design. Jan and I keep looking at trailers that we might set up---down the road a ways---in a campground on a more permanent basis. For example , we  might--in 5 years more or less-- decide to place a trailer in the Northeast for summers and keep Lady Blue for use in the South for winters.  Who knows????
So, it feeds one of my favorite pastimes of looking at newer RV's to see what has changed.  This year we looked at a number of Travel Trailers that would provide a good sized summer comfort. For instance the following link is to Grand Design manufacturer and a lighter model called Imagine about 30 feet long.
Once on the website, click on the Gallery and then click on each picture to see.

What we like--Comfortable seating, including ample room for family and friends ,  full sized refrigerator, kitchen island with good amount of prep room, walk around bed, good storage.

Let's see, maybe a 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible

How about a 1927 Ford pickup?


There were 3 or 4 of these Vixen motorhomes.
These are rare motorhomes made in Pontiac , Michigan from 1986 to 1989. Similar in some way  to the classic GMC motorhomes of the 1970's . also from Pontiac( we had shown the GMCs in our blog from this past summer --here is a link to that blog posting  GMC 1970's motorhomes link ), but not as tall.
This link will give you some more history
History of Vixen Motorhomes
 One of our Lazy Dazers, Bob, owns this boondocking Jeep. I always love to check what's new and take pictures.  
Bob is a dedicated member of the Chuckwalla Jeep Club.  They love to travel the off road trails in the Southwest. 
Note the shovel on the roof, a shower bag, water jug, and adjustable spotlight.
A link to pictures from 50 years ago in the Chuckwalla Club.
50 year pictures from Chuckwalla Jeep Club
Some of the additions to Bob's Jeep. A heavy duty bar and winch. We asked Bob how often he gets stuck. He answered "never", but he is always saving ATV's and novice 4 wheelers who do not plan ahead or are not at all careful.
Note 4 powerful spotlights and a jack secured to the hood.
An awning is also attached to the roof rack.
Bob mentioned that he also has a trailer that he takes on some long off road travels. The trailer has a tent.

On the back are orange plastic skid boards for getting out of soft sand, gas cans, trash bag(the group is very environmentally friendly), spare tire, and more.

Speaking of VW Westfalias.
This one was on the north side of Quartzsite.  Note that the unit to the right is a trailer that is the rear end of another Westfalia

A picture of Lady Blue at Midland LTVA BLM land in Blythe, California.  We had never been here, but is a beautiful and quiet patch of BLM land. Back in the 1960's, this area was used as a training ground for the military. This was during the Cold War and the area became Fort Irwin. The exercises involved over 100,000 military.  During the war games more than 32 lives were lost.

Above is a little video of our spot at Midland.
Jan and Bruce enjoying a walk and the views at Midland.

Even in early February, some of the desert plants have started blooming.

Looking like daisies, but very small flowers on the desert brush.

Where are you Lady Blue?

Coming out of Midland, we checked out the Mayflower County Park along the Colorado River.  Not far from downtown Blythe, this dry camping section has beautiful water sites.

We are in California, and Arizona starts across the river.

From Midland, we head north on California Route 95 to Needles.
This route is quite remote.  There is a sign in Vidal that indicates no services for 49 miles. And there were none  for the 50 miles or so from Blythe to Vidal.
We cross the line into Arizona and head north through Bullhead City with the Colorado River on our left and then towards Davis Dam on route 68 . 
We are back at one of our favorites, Katherine Landing National Park Campground. Part of the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. This is one of 7 National Park Service campgrounds from here , above Davis Dam, to Boulder City above the Hoover Dam.
The campground is dry camping and is $10 per night with our Senior Pass---cash only--no credit cards or checks.
This map helps a bit. You can see Katherine Landing at the bottom. This section is known as Lake Mohave. Then it is a 60 mile trip  up to the Hoover Dam( which makes this a popular spot for houseboats, fishing boats, and speedboats). There are a lot of coves and stopping points on the way up to the Hoover Dam.  
Lake Mead starts at the Hoover Dam(where you see Boulder Beach in large letters) . Lake Mead stretches north and east. But the Colorado River only stretches east from there to where you can see the small letters for Grand Canyon National Park. The river actually heads south for a little bit and then north through the  Grand Canyon.
A quiet little marina now.  
But we understand this marina is quite busy and sometimes noisy come Spring.

A video from the marina looking south towards Bullhead City and then north towards Hoover Dam
One thing we never noticed before.
A gentleman at the marina pointed out the mountain called Indian Mountain. We actually could see it from our campsite. If you look towards the mountain, you see the white necklace on the left. the figure is on its back, so you see the chin first, then the mouth, nose , eyes, and headdress.