On the Road Adventures

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb 22, Loomis

Home again, home again. We pulled in Saturday, just in time to get rained on. It's amazing how much longer it takes to unload Cleo than it does to get her ready for a road trip. I'm still fishing stuff for dinner out of her fridge instead of bringing everything in. But speed kills, you know, and it will get done eventually. We came home to things that need fixing, as usual for a long trip. A gate is down and Gerry's out digging holes to remount it. Tree roots broke an irrigation line and the yard guys were up to their hips in mud when we pulled in. The roof blew off the storage building down the hill, which is cause for quiet celebration. I've been trying to get that pulled down for almost 20 years. Finally!

There's a silver lining to everything, though. We also came home to a California February spring. There are only a few geese left in the pond and I suspect these are year-round inhabitants, the lazy ones who don't go farther north but just hang out here, raising their babies and living the good life. Some of them will nest here in the pond, and it's worth a dog's life to go wandering down there in another month unless it likes being chased by angry and fearless geese parents.

The valencia orange trees are ripening, so there's fresh-picked-off-the-tree orange juice for breakfast. Other things are blooming nicely. The almond trees are gorgeous, the camellias are flourishing and the early iris are coming out. The magnolia tree in the front is in bloom and we're lucky to be here for that. Usually it blooms and there's a wind storm, then blam, everthing falls off the tree and we just have large, waxy pink petals all over the ground. I take the same pictures of the blossoms every year. I just can't help myself.

For those of you in colder, snowier, rainier climes, take heart. There will be spring!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feb 19, Lodi

Yesterday we discovered a little store, The California Fruit Depot, just barely a mile from the RV park where we usually stay when we go through Bakersfield. They have oranges, dates, all kinds of nuts and assorted other yummy things and is run by a group of women who laugh a lot. It’s going to be a must-stop from now on. Check out their site at http://www.calfruitdepot.com/
For geo-cachers, the cached called "Crazy 9 to 5" is located there, so that’s an added incentive to stop.

We took a leisurely morning and finally set off north, up I-5. If I-50 is the loneliest highway in America, then I-5 has to be the most boring. Brown hills, blah, blah; fruit orchards a solid mass of uniform green or dead-looking bare branches, blah, blah, blah; acres and acres of desert and tumbleweeds with angry orange signs saying “Desert created by Congress.” I always dread this stretch every time we come this way.

This time, though, it was a totally different highway. This time it was blooming. All those blah orchards? Diamond white, palest pink blush, lavender, and screaming hot pink as far as you can see. Some of the farmers planted different kinds of trees in alternating rows, so there the trees made light and dark rows like corduroy lying across the land.

The orchards close up are a multi-sensory pleasure. Gypsy and I took a walk over to a nearby orchard of almond trees when we stopped for lunch and took some pictures. First there was the pleasure to the eye of white blossoms in orderly rows and the beauty of the delicate individual blooms. Then as we got closer, there was the pleasure to the nose of an almost tangible fragrance that was heavy enough in the still air that a mouth-drawn breath left a taste of honey on the tongue. And finally, pleasure to the ears of the song of industry and satisfaction hummed by a symphony of bees.

The hills were covered in a dozen different shades of green with spray-painted accents of lemon yellow mustard blossoms, oranges and golds of poppies, and blue lupine that look like small ponds clinging in defiance of gravity to the sides of the hills. The fallow fields still have their angry signs, but the ground is green and lush right now, and many of the fields host flocks of sheep with fat mamas and their tiny white babies with pogo-stick legs.

The journey along the highway passed much more quickly than it usually does, with lovely things to look at all along the way. I may never love I-5 for most of our trips along it, but in February it is a beautiful road.

Tomorrow, home and all sorts of wedding projects for Darling Lizzie's June wedding. Fun!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb 18, Bakersfield

We spent a few more days at Cattail Cove, doing some geo-caching with our new friends, Tom and Barbara. They are much more experienced with this hobby and opened our eyes to a lot of different ways of hiding a cache, some of which are positively diabolical. I still like looking for the big ammo can - there are only so many places you can hide one of those!

The area around London Bridge is pretty cute. They call it London Town, and it's very kitschie but then that's appropriate for the surrounding of a bridge transplanted from the Thames to the desert of Arizona. The lake is beautiful and we agreed that if the water wasn't so cold it would be a lot of fun to take a boat out on it.

Now we're on our way home very slowly. We stopped at the Tehachapi Loop today and watched a train wind around the mountain, crossing over it's own tail. The Loop is an amazing engineering feat and it was a nice day to sit there and watch the scenery. Now we're in the Orange Grove RV park and tomorrow we'll move up the road a little. We have to sneak up on this going-home thing, you know.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Feb 14

What a beautiful morning! Not a cloud in sight and pleasantly warm. We did some geocaching, including one find that required us to hike through a drainage tube under the freeway. Fortunately, the tube was about 8’ high, and it made a nice Bernoulli effect that cooled us down. Unfortunately, in Gypsy’s mind there must have been, at the very least, the potential for terrible dog-eating monsters in

there and it took some persuasion to get her in it, and then she ran to the end of the leash and bounded against it until she got to the other end. In the unfathomable way a dog’s mind works, coming back again was no problem at all.

Another cache took us to the very top of a hill with a great view of the lake and surrounding mountains, so the searching was almost an after-thought.

It was another night of fireworks, and I’m sorry, but this time I took video of the show and not very many still photos. I thought the last two nights were awesome, but this show topped them all. We’ll be here again next year!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb 13, Fireworks!




The pictures aren’t anything to write home about, but to be honest I was much too busy looking to fiddle with camera, so I have a lot of off-center, too much exposure, not enough exposure, and way too much light because I was watching the spectacle and forgot to release the shutter.

But it was quite a show, indeed.

Shane, these are for you. Just look at all those pipe bombs lined up neatly across the field just waiting to go off!

And the second one is one of the explosions where they light off a drum of gas with a blinding, ear-aching whomp. Way cool! I thought for a moment that this picture broke my camera. It got so scared I had to turn everything off and back on.

More show tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feb 12, Cattail Cove

This morning was dedicated to geo-caching in the area around the camp ground. We tried for 3, only found one. The guy who hid the others is diabolically clever, or someone made off with the caches. Once again, we went up hills and slid down slopes on the seat of our pants, got hot and sweaty and in general ended up going places I would not ever have attempted and had a great time.

Then the big event this evening – the fireworks display at Winter Blast in Lake Havasu. The fireworks designers are showing off their wares to possible clients and giving the amateurs a chance to blow things up. How much fun is that? Tonight’s show was the short show. The little show. All I can say is I can hardly wait for the big show after seeing this!

They started off with a bang and just got louder. At one point, they even set off big drums of gasoline in great special-effects fireballs. We could feel the heat from the viewing stand across the field. There were fireworks of all shapes, colors and intensity and a couple of times there were so many fireworks in the air at once that it felt very surreal, almost as if we were in the middle of the fireball. The pictures do not do them justice. I’ll try to do better tomorrow night. That last shot? Yes, that's really what the sky looked like. Breathtaking!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feb 11, Cattail Cove State Park

No photos today. The past two days have been travel days. First we went up to Tucson from Bisbee, because it was going to snow on us if we’d stayed any longer in Bisbee. We spent the night at the Davis Monthan Fam Camp, where we saw some planes overhead we didn’t recognize. We learned from the news that night that the British Air Force was flying some of their planes here. That’s how you know it’s a military town, when so many people call the tv stations to ask what those strange planes are that they announce it on the evening news.

Yesterday we traveled to Quartzsite again, just for the night this time, and this morning came into Cattail Cove State Park on Lake Havasu. We met up with some friends from the Quartzsite events, and tomorrow night we’ll go see fireworks. The fireworks designers show off their wares here to such customers as Disneyland, so we are expecting great things. I don’t know if I’ll get any worthwhile photos of the display, but I’ll try tomorrow.

Oh, yes, it’s warm here. Much nicer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feb 8, Bisbee

Yesterday we woke to clouds and cold. We had planned on taking a jeep tour but given the iffy weather, we decided to go to Tombstone instead. Tombstone. When I was a kid we’d go to Knott’s Berry Farm, which back then was a reconstructed ghost town with the mandatory gunfights and madams. Tombstone reminds me of that, not only for the touristy drama but also the “charge you every time you turn around” philosophy. While we were there it started to rain and a bitter wind blew up, so we checked out the museum and then headed back to Cleo, where we snuggled up and watched the Superbowl game. We really thought it would be warmer here!

The car this morning was covered with white ice and I had to put my shoulder to the door to get it open so I could take Gypsy on her walk. But at least the sun was shining, so we went to find the rest of the local geo-caches. These involved more driving but also took us up on top of some remote roads that had great views of the mountains. We also did some scrambling up the side of hills and turned over lots of rocks. Geo-caching is hard on the fingernails.

In the afternoon we took the jeep tour we’d planned for yesterday, where the jeep got to do the hill climbing. The gal driving the tour had some good stories about the town of Bisbee and we discovered that there are indeed some roads up those hills. Not many, and they are one car wide even though they’re two-way streets. I was glad she was driving.

We got to look at some of the top-of-the-stairs houses from the hills across from them. The most interesting one was a new house that was built one level higher than the stairs went, so all the construction materials were hauled up by hand first up the stairs and then up a steep path to the building site. I just can’t help thinking about those moments when you discover you’re out of Rocky Road ice cream at 10 at night. I’d just hop in the car and run over to the local grocery, but if I lived in that house, I’d decide I’d settle for a piece of toast and worry about the ice cream another day.

This is the Lavender Pit, named not for the color but for the mining engineer who first designed the plan to mine this lode. They took 8 Billion with a B pounds of copper out of this 1,000' deep pit.

Feb 6, Bisbee

It’s a lovely day in Bisbee, with no clouds at all in the sky that’s the color of Bisbee turquoise. We spent the morning doing some geo-caching around the town. The very first one was just a few hundred yards from the RV park. The thing with geo-caching is that it is seductive. The next cache is a quarter mile down the road, the one after that is only a tenth of a mile, and so forth. Before you know it, you’re a couple miles into the walk, and in Bisbee, that means uphill. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s all uphill in both directions. Gasp, gasp, gasp. The other thing about Bisbee is the stairs. Back in the late 1800s when Bisbee was the
biggest city between Chicago and San Francisco, it just grew in every which direction, but mostly up. Severely up. So the houses cling to the sides of the hills and there aren’t roads anywhere in sight. Just stairs. Over a thousand stairs. Of course, the last cache of the morning was at the top of one of those flights of stairs. I kept trying to convince that infernal GPS that there had to be an easier way, but it kept pointing resolutely up those stairs. I would never have intentionally set off to climb up the stairs, but since we were on the hunt, up those stairs we went and successfully located the cache. Then we had the two mile walk back to Cleo. Uphill all the way, of course.

In the afternoon we went on the tour of the Queen Mine, a hard rock mine of 39 levels and hundreds of miles of tunnels. We look so cute in our hard hats and yellow slickers. The guide acted like we were trainee miners until one of the people on the tour, a tiny bit of a woman, started sassing him about it and it turned into a comedy duet between them. I took some pictures which are very strange looking. They’d be good examples of photos in a “where in the world is this” contest. The photos are of us in our miners' suits, taking the tram into the mine, the rock tunnel and a sample of real copper ore.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feb 5, 2010

It was a lovely day yesterday, sunny and light wind. We downloaded a batch of geo-caches in the area and spent the morning having a great time tracking down the easier ones. We passed on the one that was only a mile away as the crow flies, but it was zig-zag back and forth up a rather sizable hill. The view would have been great, though. Here's Gypsy near one of the caches.

We did the second tour of Kartchner Caverns in the afternoon. It was fun to watch the docents get so excited about seeing water in places that had been dry for so long. There is a formation they called a fried egg that has a small bowl in the center of the stalagmite where the water drips in and splashes out, depositing the calcite around the rim. All the ones we saw had water drip, dripping in and splashing and the docents were oohing and ahhing over each one. As the grand finale, we all sat in the main chamber watching a light show highlight each of the spectacular features of the room. Just beautiful.

Today we moved down to Bisbee. I pictured this town as a typical desert town, all flat and squared off. It is anything but. It’s in a narrow canyon and the town follows the contours of the hills. It was the major source of copper for decades and there are mines in every direction. In fact, the RV park where we’re staying is on the tailings of one of the biggest mines, the Queen Mine. We’re going on a tour of the mine tomorrow. Dow the road is the Lavender open pit mine which was the source of Bisbee turquoise as well as copper. There are cute little Victorian houses and lots of galleries and houses way up the sides of the hills that can be reached only by long flights of stairs. I’d hate to have to drag groceries up those steps. We picked up a big stack of hand-outs on things to do in Bisbee and visited the local mining museum. We’ll stay here for a few days.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feb 3, 2010

Yesterday we visited the gallery and home of the artist DeGrazia. It’s a lovely old adobe he built many years ago when he was the only person who wanted to live way out of town in the foothills under the Catalina Mountains. Now, of course, cities being what they are, there are car dealerships and malls all around his homestead, but the house and gallery are still a small island of beauty and sanity in amongst all the trappings of so-called civilization.

You’ve seen DeGrazia’s work – he’s the archetypal SouthWestern artist, with his round-faced children and flowing lines. While I’ve always thought his work was interesting, I didn’t realize how powerful it is in real life. The prints don’t convey the energy of the palette knife strokes and layers and layers of paint. And his house is so lovely. I can see how it would be easy to paint there.

Later in the afternoon, I went to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, in part for the plants, but mostly for the butterflies. They have a butterfly house that has exotic butterflies flitting around right in front of the visitor’s face. Or, in my case, hitching a ride on my hat. They were like mobile flowers, so fragile and yet with so much energy.

Today we moved down the road to the Kartchner Caverns State Park. We have reservations for a tour of the caverns tomorrow and there’s a nice campground here so we thought it would be nice to be close by. Kartchner Caverns were discovered in the 1980s and were kept a close-held secret for the next 14 years while the family who own the land negotiated a deal with the state of Arizona to make the caverns a state park so they would be protected. Too many caverns have been irreparably damaged by being “loved to death” by uncontrolled access, so the family wanted to protect these. There are two chambers, the Rotunda and the Big Chamber. Our reservations were for the Rotunda tomorrow so after we got set up we went to the museum to check it out. While we were there, the ranger told us there was a Big Chamber tour just leaving, so we quick signed up for that, and had our introduction to the cavern a day ahead of schedule.

I love caves, at least, caves that have nice walk ways and lights. This one is just lovely. The walls and floor are festooned with all types and colors of formations. I can just imagine how amazing it must have been for the first discoverers to set eyes on this wonderland. Sorry to say, no cameras are allowed, so tomorrow I shall have to buy a postcard and take a picture of that. If you'd like to take a tour of the cave, check out the website at


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feb 1, 2010

Today was all about airplanes and the desert. We started with a few hours at the Pima Air Museum. We’ve been there before, but it’s always fun to go back and see the old (and some not-so-old) birds. There are a lot of fly-boys who retire here to Tucson who volunteer at the museum and they are eager to talk about “their planes” which makes it all the more interesting. In fact, I have to say, I go more to hear their stories than to see the planes at this point.

Then after lunch we drove out to the Saguaro National Park, looked at the forests of saguaro cactus and got our permanent park pass. Then just down the street is the Arizona Museum of the Sonora Desert and we spent the rest of the afternoon there, enjoying the cactus gardens and the wildlife they have there. I especially enjoy the aviaries. They have one for hummingbirds and another for a lot of the local bird life. So instead of describing them, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

1. Saguaro Cactus with lots of arms
2. Cactus Wren on a yucca branch
3. Costa hummingbird
4. I'm not sure what kind of hummingbird she is, but she's sitting on her nest
5. Pyrrhuloxia (southern cardinal)
6. Lilac crowned parrot
7. bobcat

(P.S. As I was preparing this blog entry last night, I learned that a deal friend of mine had died the night before. Dee Churchill was a delightful person, a tiny imp of a woman filled with so much energy, love, wisdom and joy that her frame could not possibly contain it all, so she spilled it out on all of us who knew and loved her. She was the one who told me I needed to start a blog so she could follow along on our journeys, so here's to you, Dee. I hope you keep checking in on us and enjoying the trip. Knockers up forever.)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan 31

Yesterday was an upkeep day for us. Three loads of laundry, vacuuming, dusting, grocery shopping, repacking the basement compartments to put things back where they belong, and a loooooonnnnnggggg, hot, soapy shower. I don’t mind going for a while with “tea-kettle” showers (important if you are dry camping and don’t want to run out of water or fill up the grey water tank.) But there comes a time when a half-hour shower with tons of hot water is just the best thing ever.

Today we drove about 60 miles north of Tucson into the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, where they are skiing up at the top while we're in shirt sleeves here below. How civilized! We were going to tour Biosphere 2. You’ll remember this from the early nineties when it was built as a completely self-contained and closed system and an 8-person team along with some chickens and goats went to live inside this structure that has its own ocean, rain forest, savannah and two deserts that cover over 3 acres of totally enclosed space.

Even then, it felt like the whole experiment was straight out of a science fiction book. The team was in there for two years before the experiment was canceled because of problems with the environmental balance and now it’s a research center for the University of Arizona.

What a fascinating place! Even though it is no longer completely sealed off from the outside world, it’s as much a living organism as the Earth (Biosphere 1) itself. It even has lungs. They don’t grow crops there any more, but the deserts, ocean and rain forest are still there. The engineering to build and keep this place running is incredibly impressive. It's a one-of-a-kind place that's well worth seeing. This is a shot of the rain forest, which was appropriately steamy and lushly overgrown.

Then we came back and had dinner at the Texas Roadhouse. I’m stuffed!