Feb 28, 2008

Dinner with Kin Folk

This is our last day in Mesa before moving on to Santa Fe. I have 2 cousins who live in this area. Both on the Randall side. Scott and Pam Randall and daughter Erica have lived here for around 16 years. Mike, Kelly and their 2 boys Troy and Nathan have lived here for almost 2 years.

I talked with Mike earlier in the week and he suggested we all get together for dinner. Scott and Pam were our hosts at their home in Mesa. It is beautiful home with an in ground pool, orange trees and even a small patch of green grass. I didn't know any of the yards here had grass.

Mike's wife Kelly made lasagna and a chocolate brownie dessert. Pam set a beautiful table and made Caesar salad and garlic toast. Great meal with great company.

It was fun learning about their lives and talking about our pasts. I hadn't seen Mike in over 2 years and it's been at least 25 years since I last saw Scott. The evening went quickly and since they all still work and have kids in school we made an early night of it.

We have had a great time here and this was a perfect way to end our stay. Santa Fe is next.

Feb 27, 2008

Hiking Wind Cave Trail

Today was another beautiful day and another great day for a hike on Wind Cave Trail. We drove the short distance over to the parking lot near the trail head to begin our ascent. This "moderately difficult" trail is the park's most popular trail and is 1.6 miles one way with a steady 800' ascent.

The trail ends just before reaching the south peak of Pass Mountain. There were plenty of switchbacks and rocky terrain and it was difficult at times. Glad we had our hiking shoes and poles with us.

Spring has come early to Arizona. The wild flowers are beautiful. It sure made the climb more enjoyable.

After we arrived back down at the trail head we looked back up at Pass Mountain with awe and amazement. We could hardly believe what we had just done.

Feb 23, 2008

Hiking and Craft Show

Today was another beautiful day in the desert southwest, and a great day for a hike.

After breakfast we drove over to the trail staging area and joined the "Hiking 101 for Anyone and Everyone" hike at 10am. This is just one of the many activities offered here at Usery Mt. Regional Park.

Park hosts Bob and Madge led the hike. Originally from Minnesota, they have been hosts here for 5 years. We were joined by 3 other couples and with walking sticks and water bottle in tow we headed for the Blevins trail, a 2.9 mile loop.

Bob and Madge were good guides as we made our way along the trail, pointing out various cacti and flowers and were willing to answer any questions.

Surprisingly, we walked at a very brisk pace and even worked up a sweat and by 11:30 we came to the trails end. Great hike!

While eating breakfast this morning we had the tv on to a local station and someone mentioned that the 'Great Fair' arts and crafts show was going on this weekend in nearby Fountain Hills. So after our hike, we drove back to the rv for a quick lunch of turkey wraps and then drove over to Fountain Hills to check out the fair.

What a huge fair and huge crowd. After finally finding a parking space we began wandering past the many booths. Our two purchases were for Judy. She found a hat that will be great for blocking the sun while hiking. It's made by the Oregon based company SUN DAY AFTERNOONS and has 50 UPF coverage. She also found a small unique leather purse crafted and designed by leather artisans Tom and Shawn Thomas from Texas. The long strap will be great for hands-free shopping and traveling.

After walking around the fair for over an hour we still hadn't seen everything, but we were ready to leave. We were ready for dinner,and specifically, Mexican food! John had seen an ad for Rancho de Tia Rosa that sounded good so we thought we would give it a try. It turned out to be a great choice. John had chicken Mole Poblano and Judy had grilled Mahi Mahi with mango salsa. Both were very delicious. John thinks this was the best Mole he has had. The restaurant has been voted best Mexican restaurant 3 years in a row.


Feb 21, 2008

Camping at Usery Mountain Regional Park

We are enjoying being here at Buckhorn Campground in the Usery Mountain Regional Park. This is another park with the 'it' factor for us. In fact, we would rank this in the top 10 best parks we have ever stayed. Each site is large with a lot of privacy, and has electric and water hookups.

The park is located a few miles NE of Mesa and is on the edge of a mountain region. There are over 3,500 acres in the park that include the campground, a day use picnic area, and nearly 30 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

It's also a bird watchers paradise. We set up our bird feeder pole when we arrived and we have had plenty of bird activity ever since. We love sitting outside watching them feed and listening to their constant chatter.

Mollie loves it here too. She enjoys sniffing around the campsite as well as walking with us around the campground. She also enjoys scrunching up the rug to make herself more comfortable.

Last night we were treated to a concert of coyotes. There were 2 groups so I guess it was in stereo. This morning on our way to our hike we spotted one of the performers but he was shy and didn't want to pose for pictures or give us his autograph.

This morning we hiked the short( about 1 mile) Merkle/Vista trail which took us up and over a small mountain. The desert is lush and green because of all the recent rain. In fact the desert flowers are just beginning to bloom and will be gorgeous before too long.

This is the desert, so of course there are cacti everywhere. Prickly pear, Cholla, Barrel, and Hedgehog cacti, are just a few that dot the landscape. Most notable however is the Saguaro, which doesn't begin growing arms until it is between 60-75 years old, and can live for 200 years.

It's also protected by the U.S. Government and the blossom of the Saguaro is the state flower of Arizona.

Feb 17, 2008

Water and Oil

This past week I experienced first hand just how dangerous working in the kitchen can be. We've all heard the dangers of cooking and frying. In fact, many years before I was born, my great-grandmother died as a result of a kitchen fire that happened while she was canning applesauce.

We don't usually fry fish( after all, we're suppose to be dieting!!) Instead we broil, using the convection oven or we use the small portable grill we carry with us. While staying at the fairgrounds in Casa Grande, we only had 15 amps electrical hookup so using the convection oven wasn't an option. The outdoor grill wasn't set up and we were hungry and impatient so frying the fish on the stove was our method of choice.

I heated up a little olive oil in the skillet ( very little oil, only about 2 tablespoons...really!!) and began placing the defrosted fish fillets into it.
First fillet in, no problem. Second fillet in and a mixture of oil and water splashed up on my arm. And yes, I did pat the fish with paper towel before I put it in the skillet but apparently there was still some moisture left.

Well the blisters broke the next morning, and I've been faithful about putting antibiotic ointment on and keeping the area covered with the biggest bandaids John could find at Walgreens.
Trust me, you don't want to see what's under the bandaid!

I've been cooking for over 40 years and this is the first time I've had a serious burn in the kitchen. The truth is, it doesn't matter if you are preparing a meal in a large space or a very small space like we have here on the motor home. I learned a valuable lesson. Hot oil and water don't mix.

Feb 15, 2008

Mud, Mud, and More Mud

It never rains in Arizona? Man, it pours!

With the forecasters predicting rain during the night, John stowed the patio mat, folding chairs and table before we went to bed. Are we ever glad he did. Let's just say...what a difference a day makes. What was dusty hard clay yesterday was gooey mud this morning and it was still raining.

Of course Mollie needed to go outside first thing so John carried her outside and let me tell you, she was not a happy camper. At least it didn't take her long to do her duty :)

We hadn't planned on leaving very early this morning since we were just driving up to Mesa. So we had breakfast and discussed our strategy for leaving. The rain had stopped so we decided to run into town and take care of a couple of errands, hoping that while we were gone some of the ground would dry a bit. But, the ground didn't look any different when we got back. We pulled the jeep up behind the rv and hooked up, got the hoses stowed, pulled in the slide and rolled out. What a muddy mess!!
The trip up to Mesa was safe and uneventful and took us about 2 hours. We'll be here at Desert Vista RV Park until Monday then we'll be moving a few miles over to Usery Mountain Park.

Feb 14, 2008


Happy Valentines Day to all of our family and friends...we love you!

The weather here has been great this week while we've been attending the 2nd annual Western Gypsy Gathering Rally put on by the Gypsy Journal . There were over 250 rv's ( motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers of all types and sizes) here and almost 500 people attending.

We are in tight cozy rows in the middle of the Pinal County Fairgrounds. Most people here are fulltiming (this is their only home) while others live in their rv's part of the year.

We have had limited hookups here so we sort of feel like we're boondocking. We only have 15 amp power so we have to be careful with running small appliances but we are hooked up to water so that's been nice. Even though power is limited some people go to great lengths to stay connected. Note that this RV has 3 satellite dishes. The 2 large dishes are for internet and the small one for TV.

At most rallies there are good seminars and then there are some that are just ok. This rally was no exception. There were seminars on everything from the Frugal RVer to traveling to Alaska.

But it's the people we met here and friendships we made here this week that made coming here worthwhile.

One couple we spent time with are parked right next to us and are originally from Brooklyn, Michigan. Greg and Judy sold their home a year ago and began full-timing in their very nice Hitchhiker 5th wheel last April. They were very gracious and invited us over for a tour of the inside of their rv. It's very nice and spacious with it's 4 slides and has a very homey feel. We had lunch with them today at a nearby restaurant and we've enjoyed getting to know them this week.

And speaking of touring rv's. Yesterday two other couples we had met invited us to see inside their rv's. One being a new Allegro Bus and the other a new Allegro Pheaton. Both are beautiful and with 4 slides they have a lot of room inside. Love those slides!!

Tonight was the last night of the rally and tomorrow there will be a mass exodus of rv's. Some have already left. Tomorrow we are heading over to a rv park in nearby Mesa for a few days so we can get laundry done and do some shopping. We are also looking forward to enjoying longer showers instead of the 'navy' showers we have to take when we aren't hooked up to sewer connections.

Feb 9, 2008

Dateline: Dateland

We are enjoying this little oasis in the desert. Dateland is 65 miles east of Yuma and miles from anything else. But it has the 'it' factor for us. We're staying at the small Dateland Palms Village RV park. Situated between the expressway and the railroad tracks, It's far enough to not be noisy but close enough to watch the world go by in a constant stream of cars, trucks and RV's. We are only a couple hundred yards from the railroad tracks. That's ok with us; we enjoy watching trains go by, usually about every 30 minutes.

What you won't find here is hundreds of other RV's squeased in around us, constant commotion, and numerous activities going on around us. There are only a few other Rv's here -mostly extended stays. In the late afternoon, usually 2-3 rv's arrive, pull into sites and then leave the next morning.The weather has been nearly perfect since we arrived, sunny and warm. A wonderful tonic for the soul . We've enjoyed a daily walk, being outside, and having our windows open. Even Mollie loves the sun and has enjoyed being outside when she's not helping with Judy's knitting.

There's even a large strip of grass across from the RV so she is especially happy about that!

Across the street is a date farm. Tall, beautiful date palms are lined up in rows.

Date shakes are very popular in this area and "world famous date shakes" are served in the small restaurant that's across from the RV park. They are very good... we had to try one!!

Dateland also has a memorable past. We found what appeared to be an old military base and air field. Upon further investigation we found these plaques that explain a little of Dateland's past.

The Datelan Airfield encompassed over 3200 acres and was built in only 6 months. It started out as a gunnery training base and eventually converted to B-25 bomber training, logging a total of 11,000 hours of flight training during World War II. The airfield later was also used as an Italian interment camp.

The base was reduced to caretaker status in 1945 with one officer and 12 enlisted left to maintain the base.

In 1957 the main hanger and other flight line buildings mysteriously burned down. During the investigation, it was discovered that B-25 parts were missing. The officer in charge was court martialed, and the base was permanently closed in 1957.

Dateland was also the site for two of General Patton's desert training camps. The area south of Dateland is still being used to train troops for desert warfare before going to Iraq.

Feb 6, 2008

Camping in Slab City

Monday we drove down around the east side of the Salton Sea and arrived in Niland, Ca turning down a dirt road towards Slab City. 

Slab City is a former military base used during World War II, is still owned by the government, and all that remains of the buildings are concrete slabs. A community has formed here made up of......  sorry words fail me here.  As we drove closer we could see Salvation Mountain looming in the distance. Leonard Knight arrived here in the 1980's and felt led to construct Salvation Mountain.

It is built from clay, straw, tires and lots of colorful paint. Slab City is isolated, with wide open spaces and FREE. You simply find a spot that you like and claim it.We drove into the 'City', past much trash and less than desirable structures.

We found an area we liked and parked for the night. 

Mollie prefers grass and never adjusted to Slab City desert dirt. I guess she didn't like being watched by all the neighborhood dogs roaming free and all the strange smells.

As darkness approached and stars apeared Mollie decided she needed yet another walk. As I stood outside with her admiring the stars listening to the strains of electric guitars.... yes guitars, remember this is Slab City, I realized what a strange place this was.

With military and border patrol vehicles driving by morning and evening, we did not find this a particularly peaceful place. I guess you have to be here a while to understand the real ambiance of this desert hangout. Maybe some day we'll give it another try, but for now it's time to move on.