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Wandering California, Nevada & Arizona 2009
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Thanksgiving, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009, Thanksgiving Day: Who says you can't have Thanksgiving in the desert. It was a warm 80° so we set up our many portable tables under an awning provided by Al and Ellen's motor home. They provided the delicious turkey and the rest of us brought over vegitables, salads, cranberries, potatoes, yams, dressing and all the other good things which go along with Thanksgiving. We all left the dinner stuffed.
Solar oven baking the potatoes Potatoes in the oven
The potatoes and yams where cooked in Frenchy's solar oven. The polished panels concentrate the sun's rays on the black box behind the plexiglass door. In the left photo, the door is clouded with steam. After the steam is wiped from the door it's easy to see the potatoes cooking at nearly 300°. I did see 300° later in the day but no higher. The potatoes cooked just the same. Oven near 300 degrees
Mines dot the desert landscape Sunday, November 29, 2009: While riding my mountain bike in the desert, I'm often seeing old mines in the area. Most are nothing more than a short dig with apparently no mineral success. I've seen two which are substantial holes, I'm told several hundred feet (I don't go into these mines). This mine is about 20 feet deep then may branch. Click the photo to see an enlarged view.
Monday, November 30, 2009: When we arrived 16 days ago, the sky was black but full of stars. Now we have nearly a full moon, and the desert seems as much alive at night as it is during the day. Full moon on the desert
It's crowded in the desert
Tuesday, December 1, 2009: It's getting crowded in the desert. Our friends Kathy and Terry have joined us on our island. They have an interesting fifth wheel with a "garage" in the back. They keep their fullsized, on-road, motorcycle in the garage. When they arrive at a location, they unload the motorcycle and then have an alternative transportation to driving their tow vehicle. Besides that, it's fun to drive a motorcycle. Kathy and Terry will be spending a couple of weeks with us in the desert. Gwen and I are enjoying showing them around the area. As it turns out, they already know several of the other folks camped near us. Click the photo for a wider view.
Taco night at the Occotillo Lodge Wednesday, December 2, 2009: Wednesday is taco night at the Occotillo Lodge in downtown Bouse, Arizona. The Occotillo Lodge is a bar, restaurant and motel. The atmosphere is very local and the food is good. Tacos are $1.70 and taco salad is $4.95. Kathy and Terry enjoyed the food and atmosphere with us. Click the photo to see the items tacked to the far wall (this is essentially a bar).
Thursday, December 3, 2009: We drove into Parker, Arizona today for some shopping. While leaving Walmart I notice "Camper Jim" leaving the area. I had seen him earlier in the center of Parker but not had a chance to photograph or talk with him. I took this photo from a distance but Camper Jim noticed and called me over to him. Camper Jim wanted a donation to his "enterprise". That gave me a Camper Jim walking through Parker, AZ
chance to talk. Camper Jim says he's not a prospector but a "wanderer". You can click the photo to see a different view when Camper Jim posed for me. The tan dog is "Wolfy" because Jim says he IS a wolf. All the animals looked healthy although both mules were snacking on the Walmart bushes while I was trying to take a photo. There is NOT much forage for pack animals in this part of Arizona. Jim says he came from southern Oregon this summer but I didn't recognize any of the places he mentioned. I think he was thinking of southern Colorado. He certainly looks the part for rural Arizona.

By the way, this is also the night of the Oregon Civil War football game between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. The winner goes to the 2010 Rose Bowl game and plays against Ohio State University. It was telecast on ESPN which we don't receive but we DO have satellite radio so we were able to listen to the game. The final score is OSU-33, ORE - 37 so the Oregon Ducks go to the Rose Bowl. I'm a bigger fan of Boise State so I'll remind you that the Ducks first game was at Boise State where the Broncos did NOT allow the Ducks a first down for the first half and won that game. The Broncos are STILL undefeated.

Friday, December 4, 2009: Yikes! Escapees has just notified its members that the Forest Service is proposing to reduced the Senior Access Pass, Disability Pass and Golden Age Pass discount to 10% for all concession run campgrounds. You can see the actual text of the proposal here. I happen to be a firm believer in "use tax". Those who use the service should PAY for the service. In this case, I believe I am already paying for camping even though I may get a 50% discount due to my age. Where a camper younger than 62 may camp one night, I will camp two nights. The concessionaire still gets the same amount of income because I may stay twice as long as a younger camper. I don't want additional concession profits coming from MY pocket. Remember, these are campgrounds without hookups. Water may be available at some distant faucet to carry back to your campsite, otherwise, this campground will usually have a table and firering, that's it. Turning 62 was an exciting day for me because it was that day when I qualified for the Senior Access pass. Hopefully it means as much to you. Click here for a copy of the Escapees News Release and email which will give instructions of how to comment on the proposal. Comments must be made before February 1, 2010.
Hummingbird outside our window Saturday, December 5, 2009: We have a desert visitor. We continue to wonder where the desert wildlife find food and water but were told that there were hummingbirds in the desert. We've hung our hummingbird feeder and we were visited today. This is a relatively large bird with green body and purple neck. Click the photo for another view.

Sunday, December 6, 2009: We drove five miles into the desert near Parker, Arizona to visit the Desert Bar. This is a unique cultural experience.

We have been told of this unique experience and with friends, decided to see for ourselves. You must drive 5 miles off pavement into the desert just north of Parker, Arizona to arrive at the Nellie E Saloon. The drive to the site is half the reason to go. It's a relatively good road as desert roads go.

The Nellie E Saloon

Gwen sitting in a horseshoe rocker Chapel facad made entirely of steel
Desert road into the bar On the edge of the parking lot
After driving through the desert, we first spot the cooling towers. The bar is not open during the summer months but they still need cool air during hot days. The pads at the top of the towers cause cool air to flow down from the top and into the living space. In the parking lot is a solid steel chapel facade (no actual place for people inside). It was built in 1996 to be the focus point of the parking lot. After crossing the bridge you have a choice of the eating or the drinking bar. They grill hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch (the bars are open only noon to 5 pm). The adjacent bar is for liquid refreshment. The live music is found in the eating area.
Horseshoe cactus The eating bar, note the fullsize buggy hanging from the wall
One of the areas we were told to investigate was the women's restroom. That's where Gwen, Kathy and Carol headed after arriving. It has an open air view so I was able to video some of their experience. The videos will be here once I get the chance to upload. There are a total of 3 videos. Number 1 is the experience of the desert road to the bar, number 2 is the bar experience, and number 3 is the Mojo Band. You find the ladies restroom in video 2. Most of these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. Entrance to the eating, drinking and music area across the bridge

Leaving our favorite desert location
Saturday, December 12, 2009: Rain is predicted tomorrow so we have decided to leave our favorite desert location a day early. We plan to visit Mexico for dental and eye glasses (it's what snow birds do) on Monday so planned to leave Sunday with Kathy and Terry. They already have a dental appointment on Monday and we will accompany them to Mexico. But we have a challenging hill to climb out of our island. This is where 4 wheel/low range is handy to pull 15,000 lbs out of the desert. Click the photo above for another view. Kathy and Terry are following us as Tery and Kathy are following us out of the desert
Camped 5 miles south of Quartzsite we turn onto asphalt. Gwen took the photo out the passenger side window. We drove only a short way, to 5 miles south of Quartzsite, parking at the Roadrunner 14 day free camping area. Click the photo to see the KOFA National Wildlife mountains on the far side of the trailers.
Sunday, December 13, 2009: his was a short travel day, only 65 miles to the Imperial Dam Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) about 20 miles north of Yuma. The LTVA is a BLM area where the fee is $40 for two weeks or $180 for 7 months. The BLM provides garbage pickup, water and a dump Camped at Imperial Dam LTVA
station at a central location. The Imperial Dam LVTA is a popular area with hundreds of RVs in the area. We have several friends already camped here and have stopped to great them after arriving. Dick and Doris allowed us to use their vehicle to explore the area for a campsite so we wouldn't have to unhitch to explore. There are many LVTA's in the southwest desert but this one is very well organized with many activity groups, an exchange library and Citizen Band radio coordination of activities and support. We found an area with great views on a ridge but it's likely to be windy here. We wanted to be in an area where we don't have to worry about letting Morgan or Annie outside without a leash. We also don't want to be near RVers using generators. Click the photo to enlarge.
Visiting Mexico
Monday, December 14, 2009: We visited Los Algodones, Mexico today to find a dentist and optometrist. It's something that snowbirds do to save money. This wasn't our first visit to Algodones but it was our first time to be looking for dental or eyewear. The practice is to park your car in the USA in a large parking lot then walk across the border. The above photo is the scene you will first see, hundreds of cars parked on the USA side of the border. We went into Mexico with our friends Kathy and Terry. Terry mentioned that the large three story unfinished building you see in the distance will remain unfinished because the building owner does not have to pay property tax on an unfinished building. Several large retail shops are located in that building and operating on the first floor.
Leaving the USA Kathy and Gwen are walking toward the border. Snowbirds usually visit this area of Mexico for four reasons: 1)dentist, 2)eyeglasses, 3)Mexican manufactured booze, 4)medications. All at much cheaper prices than those found in the USA.
The first few blocks in Algodones are filled with dental, optical and pharmaceutical offices. Along with those offices are hundreds of small retail operations. These stores are built over the sidewalks with barkers at each end of the store trying to push you into their stores. Actually, I would compare the experience with shopping at Walmart or Winco Foods. The only difference is that those two USA stores are slightly cleaner. If you put a barker at the ends of every isle in Walmart where they are calling out the items on their isle and asking you to buy ending every sentence with "almost free", then you've got the same experience with trying to walk the sidewalks of Algodones. Retail Merchants surround the sidewalk
My friend Monty tunes my CB radio Tuesday, December 15, 2009: My friend Monty visited today to tune the antennae on my CB radio. While camped at the Imperial Dam LTVA we will participate in the volunteer CB communications system. The campers here have a very well organized winter activities group. They publish a newsletter, have daily activities with special interest groups and have their own communication system on CB channel 12. Each evening at 7pm is a roll call for campers for the purpose of making sure everyone can hear each of the radios. In the case of an emergency, transmission is made on channel 12 and help is on the way in seconds. Last night there were about 100 answering the call. After roll call, announcements are made. Last night the announcements included a pie run to Yuma, request for auction items to benefit the newsletter, locations to pick up the newsletter published today, Christmas singing at 2:30 pm on Sunday, light
parade on Saturday and a dinner and light show caravan on Friday evening. The announcements vary with the activities for the week. We've owned this CB radio for a short while but just now getting a chance to use it. Monty knows how to tune the antennae to the radio for best operation. It's great to have friends who are willing to share their knowledge and talents.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009: Gwen is about to enter an old Airstream trailer which is used as the LTVA "Liberry". Yes, to be cute, they misspell Library. The Liberry is kept by a team of volunteers. It is very clean and well organized. You have a choice of exchanging books with the Liberry, take a book and donate a book. Or you can borrow a book on the honor system. There is no staff on duty, it's entirely on the honor system. Gwen exchanged a couple of books but I'm still in the middle of The Other Boleyn Girl so don't want any more books at this time. While we were visiting, Dorothy, another LTVA camper popped in to check out a book. There are lots of Louis L'Amour books so Terry should be happy about that. He's a L'Amour fan. Gwen about to enter the Liberry
Interior of the Liberry
The office of Dentist Carlos Lastra

Thursday, December 17, 2009: Today was a busy day in Mexico. We returned for three of the four reasons I quoted above. About four weeks ago, I broke a molar on homemade granola (an almond) so I needed a new crown. I'm use to paying $1,000 for a gold crown in the states. Following a recommendation from a friend I visited Dr. Carlos Lastra in Mexico on Monday. Dr. Lastra was able to see me immediately and prepared the molar for a crown. He charged $400 for a gold crown or $200 for a porcelain crown. I chose the porcelain. I returned today to have the crown installed. Everything went well so now I have a new porcelain molar. Now I'll be the one giving out recommendations for Dr. Lastra.

Update: July, 2010: The crown broke. I can't say it was due to poor dental work but I can surely say that it was a big mistake to get a porcelain crown, I should have opted for the gold crown. I doubt that I will try a Mexican dentist again. The "diplomas" on his was were from Loma Linda University in California however, looking at them closely, I discovered they were "certificates of attendance".

Gwen had an eye exam and ordered new glasses on Monday. She picked those up today. Gwen ordered two pairs of glasses. One pair was to be mounted

into her old frames, progressive lenses with transition to darker lenses in the sunlight. The other pair was also a progressive lenses but full time sunglasses. The total charge including the exam was $188. Apparently it was the transition lenses that really bumped the price. Without the transition feature and the price was only $98.

Finally, we went to the pharmacy and purchased several medications.

Our timing was perfect. There is normally a line of snowbirds waiting to get back into the USA. The line can be two hours long or more but our wait today was about five minutes.

Dr. Lastra and Dale
Christmas light tour Friday, December 18, 2009: Today was an unusual tour of Christmas lights. It was unusual because it started with dinner at a local restaurant with about 40 other campers from the LTVA. Many also joined us after dinner to form a caravan with 14 cars and trucks in
the caravan. We were all connected to CB channel 20 with one leader and one tailgunner. The leader would narrate the route and tell about the areas we drove through while the tailgunner made sure everyone in the caravan made the correct turns and reported the progress of the end of the caravan to the leader. This is an annual event for those camped at the LTVA but it was our first time to see the lights. Both the narration and light show made the drive through remote areas of Yuma worth the price of the diesel. I had to show you the yard below left, note the tumbleweed snowman. The Farris wheel is pretty cool too.
Christmas lights tour Christmas lights tour
Sunday, December 20, 2009: After attending the Christmas Cantata last night, we chose to attend the Christian Worship Service Center this morning which is only 2 miles from our campsite. It is open all year but many of the snowbirds attend services here since it is so convenient. This is a new building and I noticed the walls are at least a foot thick, I'm sure to keep the heat out during the summer months. Christian Worship Service Center
Later in the afternoon, Gwen, Morgan and I go for a hike in the wash and hills behind our campsite. We have an incredible view out the back window to the many valleys and washes toward the west and the mountains. These trails are mostly made by the wild burros in the area. Only a few of the trails have been made by humans.
Hiking in the wash behind our campsite
Tuesday, December 22, 2009: Yes there is wind in the desert, especially in the Yuma area. Today we had a wind storm which affected much of California and southern Arizona. I had my HughNet tripod tied down and had even parked my truck to block the wind hitting the tripod and dish. Still, a gust took the tripod over and snapped one of the tripod legs. You can click the photo to get a closer view of the broken leg. Tripod leg broken
I suspect that I should have dug the legs into this hard ground better. The ground is so hard, the tips of this surveyor's tripod did not get a good footing which caused the tripod to collapse. Also, this was the original surveyor's tripod I got with the system. It has worked well for four years but likely a $100 tripod (medium grade) when looking at the metal that tore, I expect a $200 - $300 tripod would have withstood the gale. Glenn, my installer has supplied me with the name of the distributor so I will likely be able to replace the broken part and continue on for another four years. So currently we have no home Internet access but must go to the nearby Army base for WIFI access. I am happy to say that my solar panels where unaffected by the wind.
Wild burros out our back window Wednesday, December 23, 2009: We got a glimpse of the wild burros in the area today out our back window. We keep seeing signs that they are around but today was our first time to see them. Click the photo for another view.
Thursday, December 24, 2009: One of the traditions at the Imperial LTVA is to decorate your car or truck with Christmas lights, then parade through the campground. For those that participate, it means about ten miles of driving each night of the parade. Click the photo to see a video or click here. Imperial LTVA Light Parade
Christmas brunch potluck Friday, December 25, 2009: Christmas day in the desert. We have friends also camped at the Imperial LTVA. Doris and Dick sponsored a Christmas brunch and the weather (wind) cooperated so we had a great brunch with great food. Click the photo to see the brunch table.

Becky (closest to the camera) and Janis are sampling the great food selection in the photo above when you click the brunch table.

Dick got a special Christmas gift called Farm Fudge. This gift is especially meaningful to Dick since he sponsors the most popular event at the balloon rally, the Cow Pie Toss. This fudge is titled, "Pasture Pattie", "Dairy Fresh" and it's in the shape of a real "cow pie". Dick really likes cow pies, especially when they are made of chocolate. Pass your pointer through the photo to see Dick take a bite. Click the photo to see a close-up of the box.

A special Christmas gift for Dick, cow pie fudge
Yuma Proving Ground Chapel

Sunday, December 27, 2009: We started our day with worship at the Yuma Proving Ground Chapel, the nearby Army base. This service was well attended and a refreshing start to the day.

In mid-day Gwen fixed a great fried chicken dinner then we watched a bit of football. In the early evening, we went back to the YPG base for a free movie. A cute Sandra Bullock movie, All About Steve. We went with John, Monty and Becky.

What does it take to get a salad to your dinner?

Monday, December 28, 2009: What does it take to get a salad to your dinner table? There are thousands of acres of vegetables planted in this area which come to your table as a salad. Look at the amount of labor involved in getting lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables packaged and to your grocery store. Note that these workers pick, cut, trim, put the item into a plastic bag and then into the final shipping box which is then stacked onto a pallet on a flatbed trailer. The trailer is pulled to a central shipping area where it is loaded onto a long haul refrigerator trailer and delivered to a distant grocery chain. Our friend Kathy's daughter is a long haul truck driver. She visited with Kathy only a week ago while waiting for her load. It was a load of lettuce packed immediately from the field into her refrigerator trailer where she was taking it to a Walmart store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She and her partner drove non-stop so the folks in PA would have the freshest lettuce possible. I doubt that any of these laborers speak English and only hope they are all in the USA legally. You won't find many American's willing to do this kind of labor and we need these laborers if you want fresh lettuce. I purchased a head of Romaine lettuce today with the same brand name as was on these boxes. It cost me 88¢. I don't know how they plant, grow, pick, pack, ship, display and sell that lettuce for only 88¢ and still make a profit. Click the photo to see another view.

Sunday, January 3, 2009: We have questions about the agriculture we see as we travel around eastern California and western Arizona. For example, it's difficult for us to recognize the plants in the field, how does the irrigation work, what are the shiny flags for that surround some fields at 20 foot intervals? Gwen mention this in your blog and today received a suggestion from Ann of the visitor information center.

Imperial LTVA
Tuesday, December 29, 2009: Here is an overview of the main areas of the Imperial LTVA. If you click the photo to enlarge, you will see an arrow on the left showing our campsite. You'll also find another arrow marking the location of the Liberry (yes, that's the way it is spelled here at the LTVA). The check-in area, garbage, water and dump stations are in the center of the photo. You can also catch a glimpse of the water stored behind Imperial dam. I've also made a 360° video from our campsite. Click here to see it.

Sunset view of the Arizona desert out our back window
Wednesday, December 30, 2009: How can you miss this sunset view out our back window. Gwen's knitting lamp is in the center of the window. It's unusual when we have clouds but when we do, this is the sunset we get. Click the photo to see a daylight view looking back toward this window.
Blue Moon rise over the Imperial LTVA

Thursday, New Year's Eve, December 31, 2009: To begin this New Year's Eve, the blue moon rises over the LTVA. Click the above photo to see another view.

The traditional "Dog Burn" began at 6:30pm where folks brought their hot dogs to roast then stayed for festivities. There were about 100 in attendance. Pass your pointer through the photo at right to see the daylight view. This is the last event for this series of pages. I'll start a new series tomorrow.

Dog burn fire
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