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Arizona and New Mexico, 2010
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Organ Pipe national monument campground
Monday, February 8, 2010: We've moved today to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Only 45 miles to the south of Ajo, Arizona is this beautiful national monument. They have a very well maintained and organized campground with concrete pads for only $6 per night with a senior access pass. The sites are very large with a feeling of privacy even with other RVers in the adjoining spaces. Note, we are in space 81. The large cactus in the center of the photo is an Organ Pipe.
This is an Ocotillo. It normally looks like a bunch of thorny sticks. However, 48 hours after a rain storm, leaves appear all along the stems. The lack of rain will cause the leaves to fall. This conserves water since the leaves transpire water in hot weather. All the Ocotillo in the park are leaved out from the recent rain storm. Click the photo to see a close up of a branch. Ocatillo have received rain lately since it has leafed out.
Gwen hiking the Victoria Mine Trail Tuesday, February 9, 2010: Today was a nice 4.5 mile hike to the Victoria Mine in the Sonoran desert. Morgan was not allowed on the trail. We took the hike more to see the desert than to see the mine. We hiked through several kinds of cactus, Palo Verde trees and Creosote bush. The trail was well used and we passed other hikers all along the way. The mine was dug in search of gold and silver. The round trip hike including photography and exploring the mine area was 3 hours. Click both photos to enlarge.
The Victoria Mine with the Sonoran Desert in the background
Wednesday, February 10, 2010: Believe it or not, this was a rainy day, a perfect day for a tour on the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Road. The tour was provided by the National Park Service free of charge. As with most tours like this one, the desert interpreter knew about all the desert plants, animals and mountain geology and explained as he drove the 21 mile loop. A free desert tour provided by the forest service
The group stops to check out the desert folage Our desert interpreter
Gwen is pointing to a strange growth pattern in a large Organ Pipe Cactus

We found plants and cactus we would never have seen if we took the tour in our own vehicle. We also found several trail heads with trails leading into the desert for more exploration.

The final photo shows the "Bull" above the Bull Pasture trail. It is one of the most popular trails and one we will have to explore next year. The interpreter explained that Pancho Via's men would meet at "the Bull" and this is the location they were speaking of. If you are having trouble seeing "the bull", think of the face of a long-horn steer.

Tomorrow we are driving into Mexico then leaving Organ Pipe for Tucson on Friday so there's no more time for hiking the trails of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

An arched rock in the Ajo Mountains Close up view of the arch
A view of the Ajo Mountains
The "bull" where Pancho Via's men would meet.
Thursday, February 11, 2010: Today was a day we did something for the first time, drive into Mexico. Last night I purchased one day Mexican auto insurance for $33.79 to cover our daylong trip into Mexico. We crossed the border at Lukeville, Arizona in the fog. By the time we reached Puerto Peñasco the weather was clear and about 60°. Puerto Peñasco is on the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez which separates Baja California Entering Mexico on a foggy morning
The coast at Puerto Penasco from the old fishing village
Downtown Old Fishing villiage On a bench at the old fishing village
Local fishing boat Public restroom at the Old Fishing village, toilet paper outside, tip expected to get the paper
Negotiating for the best price on shrimp Having lunch in downtown Old Fishing village
An example of a Mexican retail store
Stop sign and mainland Mexico. Ralph and Janet, our friends from Escapees Chapter 37, went with us. It was their first time driving into Mexico too. I tried to get Ralph to drive his pickup so I could ride in the back seat but Ralph and Janet thought better of the idea. As soon as we arrived we all needed to visit the baños. The ladies learned that the toilet paper was located, folded, on a table outside the baños and they were expected to tip the baños keeper when retrieving the paper. We visited the retail shops, negotiated for shrimp and ate lunch at the Blue Marlin. Then we drove across town to the sandy beach area and the location of the high
Beach front condos and resorts
Ace hardware in Mexico Shopping for a special tool
rise condos. February is the slow season for this area so we were offered lots of items from walking and street vendors. Note all the RVs parked near condo in the foreground. We needed to be back to Organ Pipe early in the afternoon to take care of our dogs. We found an Ace hardware store in Puerto Peñasco on the way out of town. Ralph needed a tool to make a repair to his truck so we stopped. When we pulled up to the store we noticed a soldier in full camo including mask. All we could see were eyes peering through the mask and the M16 the soldier was holding. The soldier appeared to be guarding the store. When we walked into the store, we found another soldier in the same gear and a third soldier apparently buying merchandise. That Returning to the USA through customs
didn't stop Ralph and I from searching for the tool he needed. He found it for $68.75 pesos. Ralph paid $6 USD. We were expecting to be hassled by US customs agents since my pickup has a tool box (the Transfer Flow toolbox and fuel storage tank) and a very large ice chest. Since we bought shrimp, they were in the ice chest. Surprising everyone, the customs agents copied our passports and sent us on to our campsite. The one day Mexican auto insurance policy expires tonight at midnight and so far we have not needed it. Visit Gwen's blog to get her comments on this special day.
Our parking spot at Snyder Hill
Saturday, February 13, 2010: This is the Snyder Hill BLM area about ten miles from downtown Tucson. Click the photo for a panoramic view of this small BLM area. We are allowed to park here 14 days free. We seem to be surrounded mostly by Canadians. In this view, you can see the solar panels and my new anemometer off the back of the trailer. There are NO services here, just dirt to park. We parked close to two other fifth wheel trailers which had solar panels hoping to avoid generator noise. As it turns out, even the generator used by the motor home on the left edge of the photo can't be heard. It's a nice Honda 2000 like the one we sold last June. We have several duties to take care of in Tucson, one of those is a large collection of laundry which we did today. Gwen wanted to check the Tucson Visitor's Center and I wanted to shop at Lowes for some speciality hardware to make my solar panels easier to erect. We ended the day with the Winter Olympics.
Snoopy er ... Morgan Monday, February 15, 2010: We visited the Pima Air and Space Museum yesterday. At one time I was a private pilot so this was especially enjoyable for me. Morgan was allowed to take the tour with us since most of the exhibits were outside. Our friends Ralph and Janet had purchased a coupon book for Tucson attractions and used only a few before leaving Tucson and giving us the book. We were able to tour for half price with the book. Morgan plays the part of Snoopy at a museum photo prop. There are hundreds of planes at the museum, I took photos of some of my favorites. In my preteens, I had built plastic models of many of the planes I saw today so I already knew the names of many of the military planes.
TWA Air Force transport
How did this plane ever fly? Incredible B36
B52 Statofortress The plane which ended a war ... B29
Thursday, February 18, 2010: Before leaving Tucson we visited the Sonora Desert Museum. This is by far one of the best experiences we have had in the desert. Plan to spend an entire day exploring. We arrived in the afternoon because they DO NOT allow dogs at the museum or locking in vehicles. We had to take Morgan back to the trailer then return. As we approached the entrance we were greated by a volunteer holding a Screech Owl. She told us about this owl and allowed close-up photography. Click this photo and many of the other photos below to see an additional, larger view. This museum details all elements of a Sonoran Desert, plants, reptiles, birds, soils and animals. I took all my photos of the animals since we rarely get this close to any of the desert animals. We also paid attention to the cactus and learned more about the Cholla and Barrel Cactus then buying a cactus description book in the gift shop. It was information overload but such a good experience it is worth returning another day. The entrance to the Sonora Desert Museum
Gwen tries bat ears These folks are looking at a mountain lion perched over a pool
Wolf Gwen next to a blooming Agave
Mountain Goat In the bird house
Ocelot Javelina
Coyote Prairie Dog
The view from the museum
Friday, February 19, 2010: Here it is, one of the better boondock locations we've found. This is BLM land 8 miles east of Safford, AZ. Safford is located at the base of the Pinaleño Mountains with Mt. Graham at 10,720 feet it's highest peak. The Pinaleños and Mt. Graham are just behind our trailer. This is our first time in Graham County and to visit Safford. I was expecting a small town but have found Graham County to be well developed with all the fast food restaurants, Safeway, Bashas, Wal-Mart Super Center plus many family owned businesses and restaurants. There is Boondocked 8 miles east of Safford, AZ on BLM land.
much to see and do so our plans may change to add more time in Graham County. Click the photo to enlarge. When you enlarge the photo, you will see that our friends, Dick and Mary Ellen have joined us and we expect Ralph and Janet to join us on Monday. Also in the enlarged photo you will see my anemometer pole leaning toward the north and clouds over the mountains. The lean is from a 30 mph wind in an approaching storm on Saturday morning.
Dick shares a generator on a cloudy day. Saturday, February 20, 2010: OK! I'll just have to admit, it was a mistake to have sold our Honda generator last June. Today was a cloudy, stormy day starting at 10am and since the Olympics are on, we wanted to see what was happening. Dick is happy to loan us one of his two Honda generators. Of course he takes advantage by making fun of my useless, expensive solar panels on my roof. I get even by making Dick beg to watch the Olympics since he doesn't have DirecTV.

Dick, Mary Ellen, Gwen and I spent the morning and much of the afternoon exploring Safford and having breakfast at one of the many Safford restaurants before returning to our rigs in late afternoon. I checked my weather station when returning home to learn that we had a 48.6 mph wind gust in mid-afternoon. A bit of rain with this storm, but with a strong wind, the wind

chill temperature was in the low 20s and it felt that cold too. Be sure to click the photo to see a view of the mountains during the storm. Compare the stormy view with the clear sky view in the February 19 post.
Monday, February 22, 2010: On a rainy day in Arizona, Ben and Kim sent photos of my new Granddaughter Chloe. This is my favorite. If you click the photo you'll get to see the color of Chloe's eyes as she intensely studies the camera. Granddaughter Chloe
Visiting the Mills Collection Tuesday, February 23, 2010: As a group of six, Dick, Mary Ellen, Ralph, Janet, Gwen and I visited two very special places in Safford. We first explored the Mills Collection of Indian pottery from the period 950 - 1450 A.D. This collection is at Eastern Arizona College. The college is actually located in Thatcher, a small community to the northwest of Safford. I enjoyed exploring the college campus as much as seeing the pottery collection. This is a beautiful campus, one of the oldest two year colleges in the United States. You can see the glass front of the student services building faces the Pinaleño Mountains. One of the college deans, Mike, gave us a short tour of the collection and it's importance.
The view at Eastern Arizona College Harry teaching us about astronomy
A wonderful mural inside the Discovery Park Gallery The clock tower at Eastern Arizona State College
We then visited Discovery Park Campus which is an educational facility also part of Eastern Arizona College. The focus of the park is the natural environment as well as astronomy study. We were met by Dean Harry at the door as if he was expecting us. He took us on a detailed tour of the facility then sent us off on a 13 minute Disneyland-like ride through the solar system. Again, a very impressive facility with wonderful exhibits. The photo above of the clock tower is my first vertical panorama. It is actually FOUR photos pasted together to get the entire tower into one picture. If you click this photo, you will get a close up view of our happy group.
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